Tag: family

Community Matters: The Importance of LifeGroups

One of my favorite questions that I’ve heard over the past few weeks has been “When do LifeGroups start back up?” I love this because it shows the love that the people of Grace Life have for one another, the desire to step into deep community and to both encourage and be encouraged by the family into which God has brought us. This week resumes that practice of gathering together outside of Sunday morning, perhaps sharing a meal, and definitely sharing what Christ is doing in our lives and the struggles that come in facing this fallen world. So, as we get back into the weekly routine of LifeGroups, I want to remind you of why community matters and encourage those of you who maybe have not been a part of a LifeGroup lately (or ever!) to join in.

Gospel community matters because we are designed to do life together.

Genesis 2:18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

From creation, man was never meant to be alone. Adam had all of creation to name, and communion with God, and yet God says that it is not good for him to be by himself. The directives that come to Adam and Eve as well as Noah after the flood are to populate the earth with more human beings. Humans need other humans! And Christians need other Christians, which why the writer of Hebrews says this:

Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

To neglect to be with God’s people is a loss not only of how you might be encouraged and stirred up to love and good works, but also that you miss the opportunity to do that for others. This is one of the basic functions of the church.

Gospel community matters because we need to be reminded of the Gospel.

1 Peter 1:22-23 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.

The family of God we enter is connected solely through the Gospel message of salvation through Jesus Christ. Who else can you talk to about such spiritual things if not spiritual people? The world seeks to confuse us, to ridicule us, or perhaps to leave us to our own “foolish” devices. But the community of fellow believers shares the perspective of seeing the truth about our world and how it works. God’s people are not exempt from struggles, and in those difficult times, the church reminds us of God’s ever-present help in those times. We get to share the reminder of God’s promise of new mercies every morning, of no condemnation for we who are in Christ, that God is working everything out for our good and His glory.

Gospel community matters because we need a place to confess and repent of our sins.

Galatians 6:1-4 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor.

We are not perfect people. We mess up. We do harm to others, whether intentionally or unintentionally. And we need to have a place where we can seek forgiveness without judgment. The beauty of being saved by Christ means that another who is also saved has seen their own deep faults and can offer forgiveness in light of that.

But the other side of the coin is that we have to be willing to forgive others in our faith tribe as well. We have to take stock in the great sin that seeks to destroy us and realize just how good Jesus is in forgiving all of those thoughts and actions known only to God. And from that realization, there is no offense to great that man can put on us that we cannot forgive, and to do so in a spirit of gentleness.

Gospel community matters because God calls us to be there for each other.

Colossians 3:12-15 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

This is not a suggestion, or just a good idea. We as the church are called locally to a people gathered together because of what Christ has done in our lives, and the picture of how we treat one another is found in the way in which we strive to love each other as Christ has loved us. This doesn’t mean that we will connect deeply with every single person, but it does remind us that whether we know a fellow believer a little or a lot, our posture should always be one of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forgiveness, and love.

If you feel alone, if this type of community is tugging at your heart, if the Spirit is calling out your fear of being known which is causing you to miss out on the joy of being loved, join a LifeGroup. The imperfect people of God come together in a way that no other community can. You can find more information about LifeGroups by clicking here.

Love in Christ,
Pastor Ben

The Beautiful Body of Christ

I’ve recently taken up teaching piano lessons, and between that and being a vocal coach, I am continually amazed at what our bodies can do.  For example, when we rotate our arm as though we are opening a door handle, the internal movement of our bones is not one solid unit that just turns but actually two separate bones that follow around the circular shape of the rotation (if you put your hand on your opposite wrist and then rotate, you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about).  The position of our tongue creates different vowel shapes.  We can actually teach ourselves to wiggle each toe individually! I don’t know why one would want to, but all this to say, the way God designed our bodies is incredible.

And this picture of a body, with all its different functions, is an analogy that Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 12 to describe the way that the church functions and serves one another. Throughout this letter, Paul is addressing a lack of unity among the believers in Corinth on various topics, not the least of which was the structure and daily function of the church. Reminding them that salvation comes from Christ and Christ alone, he addresses in chapter 11 that Christ is the head of the body, not a church leader.  And as he goes on to how that plays out then for the rest of the church, he states:

1 Corinthians 12:12-14 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 

So first, we see that we serve because Christ has called us to serve. The local church is not a place where people come to “get” something in exchange for goods or services. No, the local church is a people who gather frequently and serve one another. We are connected through the commonality of the mission Jesus has given us to go and make disciples, and the presence of God’s Spirit in us is what binds us together. When we look around and see all different backgrounds, interests, life stories, preferences, it’s a picture of the unique nature of a local body of believers. And each person is designed by God for something special. Paul continues-

1 Corinthians 12:15-21 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.  And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 

We serve because we are all uniquely made by God for different functions. If we were a church full of people who just love greeting people, it’s a great sentiment, but no one would ever make it into the front door. If we were a church full of people who love caring for babies, the nursery would not be able to contain the bodies of all of us, let alone the love! We are each given different inner desires and gifts, different life experiences and positions, and we each have a role to play in the daily function of the church.  Whether it’s teaching in KidLife or cleaning the bathroom, every part of the local church function has great value in God’s eyes.

1 Corinthians 12:22-27  On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it,  that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 

We serve out of a heart captivated by the love of Christ. Paul goes on in chapter 13 to tell us that these gifts of service are meaningless without love. And so regardless of how we might feel about our gifts and abilities, God has a place for everyone in His church to provide a vital function in the encouragement and edification of the local gathering. The people of Grace Life are not an accidental or random collection of individuals, but a beautiful body of believers called to serve one another in love as we live out what God has called us to. 

If you’ve been wondering where you fit in, talk to Pastor Matt or myself about the areas that the Spirit is pressing into your heart as you seek to build and be built up in the body of Grace Life Church. You can also sign up to join any of our serve teams here.

Love in Christ,
Pastor Ben

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

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


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