Author: MattMacNaughton

Annoyingly Bold with the Gospel

It’s summer time in Florida which means we are dealing with the influx of mosquitos. The mosquito is the most annoying species in the world. There are over 3,500 different species of mosquitoes, all of which are annoying. They fly around your ear, bite your ankles, and ruin your cookouts and send you inside before you’re done with the outdoors. 

When I think of the word “annoying”, I think of the mosquito. I think of the people who take too long to turn. There are hundreds of habits and mannerisms that are annoying to me and I’m sure there is something I do that annoys other people. In fact, I can tell you exactly the habits I have that annoy my wife and my kids. I can’t help it. It’s who I am. I am the mosquito to someone.

The dictionary definition for annoying is “to irritate someone” or “to make someone a little angry” and this is how the Jewish people labeled the teaching of Peter and John in Acts 4.

“And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand”. – Acts 4:1–4

It did not take long for Peter and John to irritate people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Shortly after Jesus ascends into heaven, Peter, empowered by the Holy Spirit, stands up on the Day of Pentecost and proclaims the death and resurrection of Jesus. Thousands place their faith in Jesus Christ and are added to the church. The Gospel has broken free.

This must have been exhilarating for Peter and John because they keep proclaiming Jesus. In the name of Jesus Christ, they heal a lame man who stood up and started praising God with them. We don’t know the lame man’s name but “all the people saw him walking and praising God, and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.” (Acts 3:9–10)

But not everyone responded this way. The religious leaders were greatly annoyed because Peter and John were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. This is how we should be labeled.

Sharing the Gospel with someone is intimidating, mainly, because we know the Gospel is offensive to those who do not believe (1 Corinthians 1:18). Yet, over and over again in Scripture we are reminded to be bold and to not be ashamed of the Gospel (Romans 1:16). Even in the books of Acts (Acts 4:13), the disciples are said to have shared the Gospel with boldness, meaning, they knew sharing the Gospel was offensive and intimidating, but the good news of Jesus must be proclaimed. The eternal life of the sinner is at stake.

In love, let’s proclaim the message of salvation. Let’s be so bold in our proclamation of the Gospel that it irritates people. But let’s not be irritating in our presentation. It’s the message of the Gospel that is offensive, not the presenter of the Gospel. Peter and John had such a passion for Jesus that it annoyed people, but more importantly, it led many to Jesus. Take every opportunity to share the hope of salvation and the forgiveness of sins with someone. It may be annoying to some, but it will be life changing to others. 

How can we be annoyingly bold with the Gospel?

Take every opportunity to share the Gospel.

The Gospel, in short, is the good news that Jesus Christ died and rose again for the sins of the world and through belief in Jesus, you can have eternal life. This is the message we share. Not our opinions. Not just an invitation to church. Jesus has called us to “Go and make disciples” (Matthew 28:18-20).

Romans 10:13-17 asks the question, “How will people believe on Jesus if they have not heard about Jesus”? Most likely, when sharing the Gospel, the questions you are asking yourself internally are, “Will they say no?”, “Will they still be my friends?”, or “What if I don’t have the right answers?”. You’re probably not asking the question: “What if this is their last opportunity to hear the Gospel?” Or “What if no one else tells them?”.

This is what Romans 10 is telling us to consider. Consider every encounter as a last opportunity to share the Gospel with someone. “How can I do this?” you may ask. God desires to use ordinary men and women, like Peter and John and like me and you, to proclaim the extraordinary message of salvation in Jesus Christ. 

In love, let’s proclaim the message of salvation. Let’s be so bold in our proclamation of the Gospel that it irritates people. But let’s not be irritating in our presentation. It’s the message of the Gospel that is offensive, not the presenter of the Gospel. Peter and John had such a passion for Jesus that it annoyed people, but more importantly, it led many to Jesus. Take every opportunity to share the hope of salvation and the forgiveness of sins with someone. It may be annoying to some, but it will be life changing to others.

By His Grace,

Pastor Matt

A Back to School Prayer

Today is the official first day of school for K-12th grade students in Clay County. It’s pretty remarkable how quickly a summer flies by us. Now, we trade in our beach chairs for school desks and our summer vacations for scheduled routines. As we head into the new school year, I want to offer this prayer on behalf of our children. This is the prayer from our Sunday, August 7th gathering and can serve as a prayer for you to pray over them as well.

 

Gracious Father,

With boldness we come before your throne as your children (Hebrews 4:16), welcomed into your presence by the righteousness of Jesus that has covered our sins. You Jesus, our king of kings, Emmanuel our God with us, are magnificently beautiful and you are the radiance of the Father’s glory (Hebrews 1:3). 

In you Jesus, we have redemption through your blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which you have lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of your will, according to your purpose, which you have set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in you, things in heaven and things on earth (Ephesians 1:7-10).

Your Word says in Proverbs 3:5-7, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil”.

As we head into another year of school, another year of activities, another year of busyness, Father we lift our children up to you. You have blessed us with these little ones, some of which are not so little anymore, and you have entrusted their care to us. There are moments when we’re not sure how to parent them and even how to protect them, so Father help us to do so in the way that you have cared and protected us. 

We pray that as our children head back to school, that you will protect them from evil. Protect them from evil attacks and evil ideologies. Protect them from the schemes of the devil that seek to take them away from you. Care for them when they are out of our care.

Lord, we pray that our kids will trust in you with their whole heart. That the faith of their parents will become their faith. Stir within their hearts a need for salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Convict them of their sin and regenerate their hearts. More than anything in this world, more than wealth, or comforts, or prosperity, we long to see our kids come to know you as their Savior. Help us Lord to point them to Jesus in all things. To disciple them along the way. To show them the incredible truths from your Word. Help their hearts to not be anxious, but to trust that you are with them every step of the way.

Lord, we pray that our kids will not lean on their own understanding, but in all their ways acknowledge you. The world believes the knowledge of Christianity is foolish and seeks to take a generation of kids with them. Help our kids to see the foolishness of sin in this world. Help them to lean into your understanding. Help them to live according to your good and beautiful design. We know your Word never returns void. We know your Word is true and right and sufficient. Holy Spirit, remind them of the Words of Scripture. Remind them that the Words of God are far better than the words of this world. We pray that our kids will acknowledge you in private and in public. That they will stand bold for the gospel as they face peer pressure. 

Lord, we ask that you go before our kids. Direct their paths. Only you can make them straight. The plans we have for them, the plans they have for themselves are nothing compared to your will in their life. We know your will for them is their sanctification and that they live their lives for your glory and your glory alone. We pray that no matter if they are eating or drinking, they will glorify your name. Help them not to be wise in their own eyes, but to fear you in all things, to see your greatness, to see the beauty of your eternal salvation.

Lord, we pray that you will help us as parents to carefully shepherd our children. Be with us as we send our kids to school, off to college, or keeping them at home to teach them. We ask that you give patience to every home school mom and dad, give them rest and wisdom, and the support they need. We ask that you be with every mom and dad fighting the anxiousness and worry of dropping off kids and helping them navigate new schools and new friendships. Help us as parents to trust in you as well. Help us to know you are directing our paths and making it straight.

Thank you Lord that we are your children and you care for us and love us far more than we will ever realize. Help us to seek you, knowing that you came to seek and to save us. Help us to live out your Word all the days of our lives. Thank you for your sovereign care over us all.

In your holy name we pray,

 

Amen

Redeeming the Sunday Morning Car Ride to Church

For close to seven years, my family drove in separate vehicles to our Sunday gatherings at Grace Life. I left early for setup and Julie came a little later with the kids. The roughly 20 minute drive was an opportunity for me to “preach” my sermon to the empty car and spend time in prayer. But that all changed when we moved into our new space. For the first time, my family rode together to church.

It took some time for everyone to get adjusted to our new routine. What I mean is, it took me a while to get adjusted to making sure the kids were ready to get out the door. It also changed the car rides for me. I was no longer a pastor headed to preach, I was now a dad taking his family to church. I had to repurpose our time in the car on Sunday mornings.

In Deuteronomy 6, the LORD tells his people the importance of keeping the truth of God’s words front and center and teaching them to your children.

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. [5] You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. [6] And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. [7] You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. [8] You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. [9] You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. – Deuteronomy 6:4–9

There’s a line here that’s relevant to this conversation: “When you walk by the way”.

In the Old Testament, people mostly walked when they needed to go somewhere. Today, we go places in our cars. No one, no matter how much they want to, can escape the moving car. The doors are locked and seatbelts are in place. It’s the perfect time to spend time in prayer and help your children love and value the local church gathering. You have an opportunity to prepare their hearts for church. Here’s what this can look like, but first, a few encouraging notes on “Ride to Church Discipleship”.

Anyone can do it. No matter how far along you are in your Christian faith, no matter how old your children are, and no matter if it is just you or just you and your spouse, anyone can participate in “Ride to Church Discipleship”.

Get your children involved. It’s easy to take charge of reading or praying, but reading isn’t advised while you’re driving. Getting your kids involved is easy and safe!

You only need a few minutes. Is your ride to church five minutes? That’s fine! You can accomplish “Ride to Church Discipleship” in just a few moments. Is it 20 minutes? That’s okay too! Find a landmark and begin “Ride to Church Discipleship” when you pass the landmark each week. This will also help establish a routine for your kids.

Here is what “Ride to Church Discipleship” looks like:

Have someone read the Scripture for the sermon.

Every week, we’ll share the text of Scripture for the next sermon so you can read ahead. (This coming Sunday’s sermon text is from Hebrews 11:23-30.) As a church, we gather together to hear God’s Word preached so we can know Jesus more and the power of His resurrection in our lives. Reading the Sunday morning text helps prepare our hearts for the gathering.

If you have a child who can read, have them read the text. The Bible is written in such a way that even new readers (with a little bit of help) can read. If the driver is the only reader, you can use the Bible Audio from The Bible App, read the text in the driveway before you leave, or when you are stopped at a red light. Even if your child is preschool or younger, reading Scripture to them is a great practice and the routine will be normal when it comes time for them to read.

 

Ask, “What are you most excited about gathering with the church this morning”?

It’s very easy to speak negatively about the church. It’s a tool the enemy uses and what he’s doing is using negativity about the church to bring disinterest to children. Many kids grow up to be non church attending adults because parents either spoke negatively about church or they didn’t make church a priority. Don’t let this be the case for your family. 

Talk to them about singing and praying and preaching and friendship. Explain the importance of the church as the people of God. Jesus did not establish the church for people to check off and check out. No, he wanted people to grow together in friendship and in their faith. Going all in in the life and mission of your local church is essential to the discipleship of your children.

 

Pray Together

Once again, have one of the kids pray and then follow it with a prayer of your own. Of course, praying with your eyes open is certainly acceptable! Be sure to pray for the preacher. (This week, pray for Lawrence Wilson as he preaches). Pray for our band as they lead us to sing to Jesus. Pray for their KidLife teacher. Pray for Grace Life Church. Pray for the Elders. Pray for people who the Holy Spirit places on your heart. Pray for missionaries around the world. The prayer doesn’t have to be perfect, but as we go by the way, we are showing our kids the importance of talking to God.

The car ride to church can be spent listening to the radio, sitting in quiet, playing with toys, watching videos on a device, or we can redeem those few minutes by spending time in prayer or disciplining our kids to love the church, the people whom Christ died for.

By His Grace,

Pastor Matt

Practicing our Faith

Practice is a word that has come up a lot for me in the past few weeks.  Now, it’s certainly not a new thing, being a musician and all, but the contexts of practice have so much greater application than we might imagine.  I feel like the pendulum swing in this is either that we don’t do the hard work of practice and expect to slide by, or we give ourselves no room for error and expect perfection immediately.  Both fail to recognize that we need to practice.

So, perhaps the questions we ask ourselves are, “How come I have to keep doing this?” or “Why can’t I do this yet?” Both lead to frustration. And in the context of living by faith, as we have been studying in Hebrews 11, what are we to do in those tough times? Practice. Look at Philippians 4:4-13:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.  Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity.  Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.  I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

There’s a recipe contained in the first part of this passage.
-Rejoice in the Lord, always
-Let your reasonableness be known to all
-Do not worry, but in prayer with thanksgiving cast your cares on God

And what comes from this recipe? The peace of God, which passes all understanding. Paul further elaborates on our thought life, aligning our minds to think on this list of qualities rather than being concerned with the circumstances we are facing. At the end of the passage, he reveals this truth that not only has played out in his own life but also is currently his situation, as he is writing from jail!

But the easy part to miss is what is sandwiched in between there. Paul calls us to practice what he’s been teaching.  And practice is a beautiful word, because it means that we can increase our skill level in those areas.  So when we say, “How come I have to keep doing this?” Because we are called to practice our faith.  And when we say “Why can’t I do this yet?” Because practice is not a means to an end, but a way of life.  And there’s so much we can practice.

Practicing dependence instead of worry.

Practicing thankfulness instead of complaining.

Practicing reasonableness instead of reacting.

Because remember, circumstances do not lead to joy.  Philippians 4:13 is not a magic phrase that means that whatever we set our mind to, God will accomplish for us or through us.  It means that we can face any circumstances and remain content in Christ.

Whatever.  Wherever.  Our circumstances don’t control our reactions.  We, in our free-will, have the opportunity in every moment to make choices.  Sometimes it means we have to learn how to adapt to our good bad brains in order to make the best choice.  And it also helps us see why self-control is a fruit of the Spirit.  But ultimately, we don’t get better at it without practice.

So, practice.  The things that you aren’t good at? Practice.  You want to be more patient with your kids?  Practice.  You want to be better at being on time?  Practice.  You’re tired of beating yourself up? Practice. And give yourself the room to make mistakes, to learn, to grow, not giving up when it gets hard, and not over-expecting that change happens instantly.  It takes time.  And remember that for those who believe, God works in us as we work out our salvation (Philippians 2:12-13).

And also, I’m saying this to myself, too.

Practice.

Love in Christ,

Pastor Ben

 

God our Provider: An update from the Lynn Family, Missionaries to Ethiopia

The very first check we wrote as a church was to the Lynn family in Ethiopia. Early on, before our church even gathered on Sunday mornings, we knew we needed to be committed to partnering with Gospel-centered churches around the world. Global and local gospel partnerships must be a part of our DNA. It’s been a joy to be partners along side the Lynn Family. They have been faithfully serving and making disciples in Ethiopia and your generosity continues to help them accomplish their desire to proclaim the hope of Jesus to the people Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. On top of monthly financial support, Grace Life has given them several one time gifts, including $5,000 towards their Permanent Light land and building purchase. We want to continue to be a blessing to them, which is why you should attend Bingo Night and bring a donation with you!

As you read this update from Jeremy and Karissa, will you commit to praying for them daily? Pray they will be encouraged and provided for as they serve the Lord by making disciples in Ethiopia.

Thank you church for supporting and partnering with this Gospel Work! Be sure to check out the video below.

By His Grace,

Pastor Matt

 

GOD OUR PROVIDER

When we moved to Addis Ababa, we considered the question, how do you start a church planting movement in Ethiopia? Our desire was to begin by pursuing personal relationships with Ethiopians that lead to Jesus. Ultimately, we wanted to make disciples that could go and make disciples. We also knew it would be important for those who believe in Christ as Savior to have a place to be equipped and fellowship with other believers. Meeting in homes is restricted and renting a property is expensive. Therefore, we began to take the steps necessary to purchase land.

One of the hurdles when purchasing land in Ethiopia is income. The average household today makes, “a per capita gross national income of $890”. With salaries this low, a church that has 100 people giving 10% of their income would have to save for approximately 26 years to purchase land. Knowing this, we began the Permanent Light project and asked churches to join Bethel in pursing this goal.

We praise God for the body of Christ joining hands with Bethel in giving and praying! He has provided land, and we look toward the next steps of being a Permanent Light in Ethiopia. Building, like everything else in the world, is far more expensive than it was just a few years ago. When we began this journey, the cost for the building was around $250,000. Now we face a bill well over $900,000! We shared this with our sending Pastor(admittedly we were overwhelmed with the cost), and he responded candidly that God is more than able to provide. We know we must trust our Provider as we embark on this phase. Therefore, we have made our request known to God and share the need with His bride. Would you ask God what He would have you do as an individual and as a church? May we seek Him first as we trust His provision. Let’s Build Together!

Jeremy and Karissa Lynn

 

 

The Gospel for Everyday Life

We’ve all been there. We walk into a room to grab an item only to have that needed item escape your memory. “Why did I walk in here?” we say to ourselves as we bumble around aimlessly, trying to remember what we knew just moments prior. It’s a reminder of another reality we often forget about: we are finite creatures with an inherited tendency to forget the infinite God who redeemed us.

The Bible teaches us that each and everyone of us have inherited sin from Adam (Romans 5:12). We are sinners, plain and simple. There is no one righteous; not a single one (Romans 3:9-12). The sin that dwells within us is, as Theologian R.C. Sproul states, is “Cosmic treason against God”. The sinfulness of man is the single greatest problem in the entire world.

Because of sin, we deserve death (Romans 6:23). We deserve hell. Yet, as we read in last week’s post, God is marvelously gracious. He shows us this marvelous grace, this eternal love through His Son Jesus. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Jesus was condemned to die in our place in order that we would not face condemnation. His death canceled ours. His resurrection sealed our eternal victory. Christ, and Christ alone is our hope.

This is the message of the gospel. The Gospel is the good news that a holy God sent us His sinless Son Jesus Christ who, through His death and resurrection, has graciously saved us from our sin, delivered us from eternal hell, and has called us to live holy.

It is the gospel of Jesus that has saved us from our sin! But it is also the gospel of Jesus that sustains us in the here and now. This is why, beginning July 20th, we will be hosting a four week study called, “The Gospel for Everyday Life”. 

The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:1 reminds us of the gospel that saved us, the gospel we’re standing on, and the gospel that sustains us. Why do we need a gospel reminder? Because as stated earlier, we are finite creatures with an inherited tendency to forget the infinite God who has redeemed us. Paul says it this way in his letter to the Galatians:

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ”. (Galatians 1:6–7)

We need to be reminded of the Gospel everyday. We need to be reminded of the hope of our salvation that is only found in Jesus. We need to be reminded of His redeeming love. We need the reminder because we are prone to wander, prone to leave the God we love.

Our goal in “The Gospel for Everyday Life” is to help you know the gospel deeper and how this good news sustains us every day. We’ll focus on four aspects of the gospel:

  1. What is the Gospel? (July 20th)
  2. The Gospel and our Personal Holiness (July 27th)
  3. The Gospel in our Relationships (August 3rd)
  4. The Gospel is our Mission (August 10th)

My prayer for you is that your affections for the Lord will grow as you grow in the grace of the Gospel. Each and every one of us needs a gospel reminder. As author and pastor Tim Keller said, “The Gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.” 

So come and join us as we remember how the power of the Gospel is for everyday life. Register Here.

By His Grace,

Pastor Matt

Marvelous Grace

On our way out of town for vacation, Julie and I took the kids on a slight detour past our first apartment in Knoxville, TN. It was the first time we had been there since we left in a Penske truck back in 2008. It looked just like we remember it. 

We then drove the winding road back towards the highway, a road I traveled quite a bit for classes, work, and church. We drove up the hill where I spun out the winter of my freshman year. I hadn’t learned how to drive in the snow yet. We drove past neighborhoods where our friends used to live, places we used to eat, and stores we used to shop at. Finally, we drove past the college and church I attended for close to four years.

With memories flooding back of the different places and people from those years in Tennessee, there is one word that explains how thankful I am for this short time in my life: grace.

Those four years were quite difficult to say the least. Everyday I fought the legalistic posture of my heart. I was working so hard to please God. I tried doing everything right and still didn’t feel like it was enough. I couldn’t keep the rules of the school the way they were intended to be kept. I was often scrutinized, questioned, and ridiculed. After an accidental rule breaking, I was asked a question that I didn’t have an answer to at the time: “What would Jesus think of you right now?” 

“He’d think I was a failure”, is how I wanted to answer. But I didn’t. I didn’t know at the time how much Jesus truly loved me. It was around this time I realized I was never going to be able to do enough to be good. I was never going to be good enough. I was never going to be righteous. 

Legalism is a deadly weight. It devalues the finished work of Jesus and elevates our filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). It is an unbearable task to earn any favor with God. There is nothing we can do to earn the righteousness of Jesus. No matter how often we keep the rules, no matter how “good” we are, no matter how churchy we appear, legalism is a lie from the pit of hell. Legalism continues to yell, “Do more! Do more! Do more!” while Jesus lovingly declares, “It is finished!”

It had been close to 10 years since I had placed my faith in Jesus Christ for the salvation of my sins, but in the Rocky Mountains of Tennessee, I learned and came to appreciate the grace of Jesus. While I was never going to be able to do enough to be good enough, Jesus did. While I was never going to be righteous, Jesus was and now through His grace, His righteousness covers me (2 Corinthians 5:21). We are so underserving of the grace of Jesus. His grace is truly marvelous.

The good news of Jesus reminds us that we are saved through faith in Jesus Christ. It is faith that pleases the Father (Hebrews 11:6), faith in His Son, Jesus. While our natural tendency given to us from Adam (Genesis 3) is to cover ourselves, there is freedom in knowing that we can’t. Our sin covering, our standing before God, only comes from the finished work of Jesus on the cross. Our joy comes from the victory we have through His resurrection. And none of this was deserving. When we fell short of God’s standard of righteousness, Jesus measured up (Romans 3:23). It is all because of grace. 

As the old hymn says, 

“Marvelous grace of our loving Lord, grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt! Yonder on calvary’s mount out-poured, there where the blood of the Lamb was spilt. Grace, grace, God’s grace, grace that will pardon and cleanse within; grace, grace, God’s grace, grace that is greater than all our sin!”

If I were to be asked the question again, “What would Jesus think of you right now?” I’d respond with great joy, “He loves me as His own, not for what I have done, but for all that He has graciously done for me”. And it is this grace of Jesus that frees us to live in obedience to all his commands.

A Statement on the Historical overturning of Roe v. Wade

A statement from the Elders of Grace Life Church:

There are moments throughout history that have long been forgotten and there are moments that will be remembered in history books. On June 24th, one of those historical moments occurred when the Supreme Court overruled Roe vs. Wade with a 6-3 vote. 

Six weeks ago, a SCOTUS opinion was leaked of this incredible possibility. The document showed the Supreme Court had voted to strike down the landmark decision. And this past week, they in fact did! To God be the glory!

Justice Alito writes in the document, “We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled. It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”

Roe v. Wade is the name of the lawsuit that led to the landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision establishing a constitutional right to abortion in the United States. The majority opinion found an absolute right to abortion during the first trimester of pregnancy.

For close to 50 years, abortion has been a legal option for unwanted pregnancies and has resulted in the deaths of approximately 63 million unborn babies. While Roe v. Wade stated abortion is a justifiable course of action, God’s Word deems otherwise. Abortion is a heinous and sinful act of murder; it is the taking of an innocent life created in the image of God. And thanks to this most recent ruling, abortion is no longer considered a constitutional right. In fact, to call it a right to begin with is in complete contrast to the teaching of God’s Word.

In 1973, the issue of abortion was taken out of the hands of the people. Now, it returns to our hands so we can continue to speak against abortion at the voting booth. The striking down of Roe is something we have prayed for and worked towards for many years. And frankly, it’s something many of us never thought we would see in our lifetime. We praise God that we were witnesses to this historical moment. 

The Word of God has much to say about life. 

Jeremiah 1:5 Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Psalm 139:13-14 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

These verses reveal to us that life begins at conception and that every life is intricately knitted together by creator God in the mother’s womb. This is why every Bible-believing Christ follower should stand for life. All human beings are made in God’s image, and God is not pleased with the killing of humans and the destruction of that image.

Genesis 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Genesis 9:6 Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.

We must be careful that we do not see this ruling primarily as a political victory, nor that we miss the opportunity to speak into the lives of those around us. We may know people expressing a feeling of hopelessness in this situation, and what an opportunity to speak the true hope of Jesus into this discourse. Because our hope is not based on a law, or a government, or an elected official, but on the person of Jesus Christ Himself and He alone.  So let us encourage you to respond in the following ways:

1. Pray. Pray for our country. Pray for our world.  Pray for our leaders, from local and state authorities all the way to our national and even international leaders. We know that God establishes all authority.

Romans 13:1-5 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.

2. Take care of the widows and orphans. In our local context, we support First Coast Women’s Services and some of you are or have served there. We can get you connected with them to be involved directly, or you can give to our Special Offering Fund to support them financially.

Exodus 22:22 You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child.

James 1:27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

3. Share the Gospel. It’s not our job to convince people to take on our entire set of beliefs nor to expect them to act like Jesus if they don’t know Jesus to begin with. Let us not get caught up in arguments and instead tell people how Jesus has changed your life and reveal everyone’s need for salvation from sin.

Our Scripture verse for the next few weeks is Isaiah 6:5, which says

“And I said: ‘Woe is me! For I am lost; 
for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; 
for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts’!”

Let us not forget what it was like to be lost, and to see the weight of our own sin but also the freedom we have in Christ from being bound to it, and let that speak into our dealings with the world.


4. Show Christlike compassion. We pray that our response will be Christlike in approach, boldly standing in the face of this depraved act while also sitting with those reeling from a decision they may regret. We extend grace, patience, and love, just like the Savior has extended grace, patience, and love to us.

 

Let’s take a moment to pray today for our country and to celebrate the providence of God and the end of Roe vs. Wade. 

By His Grace,

Your Elders; Pastor Matt and Pastor Ben

Church Membership at Grace Life Church

What is church membership, and why does it matter?  For the people of Grace Life, our partnership covenant is birthed out of our love for the church body and her individual members whom we hope will experience the fullness of joy which is found in the presence of the Lord. This helps us with three things:

  • To clarify the biblical obligations and expectations for both the elders of Grace Life Church and the individual members of Grace Life Church body.
  • To establish teaching and doctrinal parameters for Grace Life Church body.
  • To serve as a tool for reflection and growth toward holiness.

Each of these functions is in accordance with our overall vision to provide an accessible explanation of the Scriptures in hopes that Grace Life Church would grow in the grace and truth of Jesus Christ.

But first, we must answer a few questions. What is the church?

The church is an embassy that represents the kingdom of God on this earth. 

An embassy is an institution that represents one nation inside another nation. It declares its home nation’s interests to the host nation. And it protects the citizens of the home nation living in the host nation. The embassy does not make us a citizen, but it officially affirms it.  In this case, the church represents the heavenly kingdom of God while we are here on earth. Like an embassy, the church must approve those who are a part of the Kingdom.

The church exists to display the glory of God because all things exist for His glory. Those of us who trust in and follow Jesus are caught up in something much bigger than ourselves. We have graciously been invited into God’s redemptive purposes in the world.

Since the beginning, God has been creating and calling forth His people for the display of His glory in a grand narrative of redemption and reconciliation. Though creation now suffers the curse of Genesis 3, the gospel is the means by which the world is being made right. The gospel also carries with it the promise of ultimate renewal, a restoration even more glorious than Eden, and thus believers eagerly anticipate the return of Christ. The Church universal (i.e., all believers, everywhere) is the means by which God is fulfilling His purposes in the world (2 Cor. 5:17-20). The Church universal is being used to write God’s beautiful and dramatic story of redemption and reconciliation. In light of this reality, the opportunity to join a local church body (i.e., a particular group of believers in a particular locale) is much more than a commitment to consistent attendance or active involvement in community. It is also a sacred call to be involved in the redemptive work of our sovereign God to push back the darkness of a fallen world through the power of the Holy Spirit with the light of His Son, Jesus Christ. 

So then, what is a church member?

A church member is someone who is formally recognized as a Christian and a part of Christ’s universal body.

There are two qualifications for being a church member in the New Testament: salvation and baptism. There is freedom to pursue ways to determine if someone has been redeemed. At Grace Life Church, we believe that baptism is a symbol of what Jesus has done for us and that it is a baptism by water immersion after a person has placed their faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. 

Church membership matters because God calls His people into covenant, not only to Himself but also to each other. 

He calls us to a life of sacrifice, generosity, service, and radical commitment to the good of the body. This happy obligation is most readily pursued within the context of a particular body—a local church. In light of this reality, membership is not merely a responsibility but a blessed opportunity to covenant with a particular people to live out the gospel together.

Membership is not about privilege or prestige. It is not some elevated level of access with secret insider benefits. It is not a legal document or means of control. Membership recognizes and responds to the call of discipleship in the context of gospel-centered community. It is an affirmation and agreement to contribute to the good of the body rather than consume from it. It is a formalization of that which already implicitly exists. It is an obligation to sacrificially seek the good of others in the body of Christ by taking the general call toward service and incarnating it within a particular people. 

Christians commit themselves to each other in the context of the local church in countless ways. At Grace Life, the current process for partnership involves participating in a class, reading a book, and completing a questionnaire. Far from mere formality, these expressions are important representations of the formal commitment that members make. So if you have not yet committed yourself to the local body of Grace Life Church, plan to attend The Intro on June 26th after the morning gathering to learn what the next steps are towards becoming a member.

 

In Christ,

Pastor Ben

What our kids need to know.

“Dad knows everything”. That was my dad’s response to me and my siblings almost anytime he said something impressive. We would be sitting at a red light and somehow, Dad had this incredible ability to know exactly when the light would turn green. He’d count down and say “green” right when it turned and we would, in awe, say “How did you know that?!”

“Dad knows everything”.

I don’t know how long it took for me to realize it was all a schtick and my dad was just watching the crossing sign countdown, but nevertheless, eventually I learned my dad actually didn’t know everything. And now as a dad, I find myself playing the same game at red lights with my kids and giving the same answer when they (for now) are shocked, “Dad knows everything”. Soon, they’ll realize I don’t know everything. Soon they realize that I’m not perfect. And that’s okay. 

While we as parents don’t know everything, there are certain things we do know and we should desire to teach these truths with certainty to our kids. And we should want them to know them deep within their souls. 

 

They need to know how much Jesus loves them.

There is no greater truth than the message of the gospel. The life changing power of Jesus Christ and Him crucified is what I long for my kids to know. I want them to know that they are sinners and God sent His only Son to this earth to die for them, conquer death for them, and to give them eternal life. (John 3:16)

Taking every opportunity to share the gospel message with our kids demonstrates the importance of the message. We share with them this gospel message because it is real to us. We’ve been covered by the blood of Jesus and our sins have been forgiven. This incredible reality is what we long to see in our kids. 

We tell them how much Jesus loves them. Jesus loves our kids so much He gave His life for them. Jesus loves our kids so much that He took on their sin so He could place His righteousness on them. No matter how much we love our kids, Jesus loves them more. Only Jesus can give them eternal life and I want them to know it. 

 

They need to know how much we love them.

While I teach them that Jesus loves them more than I do, I’m going to demonstrate that through loving them like no one else on this earth. Both of my kids are uniquely made by a powerful Creator (Psalm 139:14). They have different personalities and different interests. Loving them means knowing them. It means knowing their little hearts, ambitions, interests, and fears. Loving them means often doing things that are of no interest to me but I know will make their day.

Loving our kids means we take the time to teach them the truths of the Bible (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). Family discipleship is the responsibility of the parent. The church is to come alongside the family and help, but at the end of the day, we as parents are to be intentional in making disciples within our homes. We take time throughout the day to point our kids to Jesus. We take moments in the car, at the park, and getting ready for bed as opportunities to teach our kids the goodness of our God. What great privilege then to teach our kids about God! As one pastor said, “The greatest contribution we make may not be something we do, but someone we raise”.

Loving our kids also means there are good and necessary times to tell them no and to stick with it. Parenting is hard work and the good work means we have to do the hard work. That often means sticking with our no’s (Matthew 5:37). God has placed our children into our care and we are to steward that responsibility well. We are to love them in such a way that that brings them up to know the Lord (Proverbs 22:6) and at times it requires a stern voice that knows what is best for them.

 

They need to know that following Jesus in all things is absolutely worth it.

As we have recently learned from our sermon series in Ecclesiastes everything in this world is empty and meaningless and not worth holding on to. There is far more to this life than money and materials and entertainment and status. Yet, we must be careful that we are not raising our kids to find their joy and satisfaction in these pleasures. 

Jesus promised to us a life and life abundantly (John 10:10). It may not be filled with wealth or a nice home or even good health, but a life with Him is far better than a life without. The joy and satisfaction that they will grow up to search for can only be found in Jesus. A life in Christ is worth living, and this is a truth we must remind them everyday. Jesus is better than anything this world has to offer. 

If there is one truth we must instill in our children, it is that Jesus is better. We teach them this and pray the Holy Spirit will bring them to the knowledge of Jesus for the salvation of their sin. I don’t know everything, but I do know that I love my kids and I want them to know how much Jesus loves them and that following Him with their lives is absolutely worth it. Let’s commit to making sure they know Jesus, and let’s pray that we too will know Him more each and every day (Philippians 3:10).

 

By His Grace,

Pastor Matt

Making Jesus-Centered Disciples For God's Glory


Sunday 10am | 3180 County Rd 220 Suite 1 Middleburg, FL 32068

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