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January 31, 2021

10:15am I Facebook Live

The Need to Know

Question of the Week

In a culture swimming in conspiracy theories, how are you cultivating a sober and discerning mind?



As a kid, my mom would often have the radio dialed into the local conservative Christian radio station. Through the various programs I came to understand the world as a very dangerous place for Christians to be, that the country we lived in, America, had been founded by God and Christians as a refuge from evil forces and was the lone bastion of freedom. America was portrayed as surrounded by other countries who had either been compromised or were actively seeking our destruction.


When I got old enough, I even started supporting some of these groups with my own money, reading their literature and buying into their messages. I remember feeling powerful with this knowledge, knowledge that I was assured was true by those who proclaimed it and a major part of the evidence that it was true was in how much those who opposed it said it was wrong.


I remember how this made me feel special, included on some special secret that one day would be revealed and everyone would be forced to admit it was true. It felt good to be so certain, it felt powerful to have such knowledge, it felt comforting to have the sense of control it provided. 


And, of course, it was all wrong.


It would take years to see that, to deal with the implications. I’m still dealing with much of it today. But it’s worth it, because only when we let go of the conspiracy theories, false narratives and perverted promises of exceptionalism can we then begin to encounter the truth. 


But this is not a new problem, or a uniquely American one. It’s a human one and one God has been addressing for a very long time as we will see in our text this week. So let’s all lay aside our tinfoil hats for a bit and dig into what the Word has to say about these things, shall we? 


Grace and peace y’all,

J.Ray and the teaching team

The Big Idea: The invitation to follow God is an invitation to live by faith in God.


Take Away: Conspiracy theories, special knowledge and supernatural sign seeking are all ways of shunning truthful encounters with the living God and the invitation to live by sacrificial faith. These things must be recognized and rejected for the dangers they present.


How does this fit into our culture Belong Become Believe?:

The seductive allure of huddling up in a group of select people who all share a “secret” knowledge is remedied by the consistent practice of radical hospitality and inclusion. Through this practice everyone involved is invited to experience a generous and panoramic encounter with the complexity, humanity and worthiness of all humanity in a way that shapes our formation in healthy ways. All of this leads to a strengthened faith in the message of the Gospel.


Relevant Verses:

Isaiah 8

What next?:

Pastor Ruben Nuno of Church of the Living Hope in NYC teaches on the Isaiah 9:1-7


How to Think by Alan Jacobs

A Guide to Loving your Conspiracy Theorist 

Love Rules the World, not Conspiracy

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January 24, 2021

10:15am I Facebook Live

Understanding Hope

Question of the Week

What are you currently facing in your life that seems impossible to overcome, understand or endure?



Back in the ‘80s, when my family's restaurants were riding a wave of popularity, we hired a former Longhorn football player to work as a manager for one of our stores. But this just wasn’t any former Longhorn football player, he was a star from the 1969 team that won the National Championship. His name was legendary among that group.


I was star struck at meeting him, but also confused. How was this legend working for us? And why in such an entry level position more than a decade after graduating?


I soon found out.


One night my dad took a bunch of us managers out to an Oiler football game. We had a rented box with all the free booze and food you could want. All of us dug in and ate and drank heartily, but the new guy, the former football star drank until he was sloppy drunk. It was tragic, but I’ll never forget looking over and seeing him slouched over with food spilled down his shirt. I don’t think it was even halftime.


I later learned his alcoholism had cost him everything since finishing his football career. Jobs, a marriage, friendships. My dad had given him the job at the request of friends as kind of a last ditch effort to help him out. I don’t think he lasted 6 weeks. 


We human beings are really great at making idols of all kinds. Some are made of wood and stone, some of football players and movie stars. And if we make idols outta people, we are especially adept at keeping the real, actual God out of the mundane, the nitty gritty of real life.


For some reason we like the vast separation of “the real” and “the spiritual". God has God’s area, and we have ours thank you very much. 


This is not a new problem people, we’ve been dealing with it since we left the garden. Let’s jump in this week and see what we can find. 

Grace and peace y’all, 

J. Ray and the teaching team

The Big Idea: God always show up in surprisingly human ways.


Take Away: Unlike other religions and philosophies, the God encountered in the Bible refuses to be reduced to a “force”, God’s Word refuses reduction to abstract formulas, God’s presence is always “incarnate”


How does this fit into our culture Belong Become Believe?:

At Grace Church we start with belonging, with welcoming very real, every human people into our fellowship. Not people as they should be but as they are. This allows all us, everyone in the fellowship to work together on becoming who we are created to be, individually and collectively. We do this as an expression of what we believe, that God is imminent, with us, alive, active and present among, in and through us.


Relevant Verses:

Isaiah 7

What next?:

Isaiah Chapter 8


Background on Ahaz

A journey of theological formation

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January 17, 2021

10:15am I Facebook Live

What have we gotten into?

Question of the Week

What are we trusting in for our deliverance?



On January 3, Peter Meijer was sworn in as a freshman Republican Congressman from Michigan. He ran after serving a tour of duty in Iraq and working for an NGO. He came in, as many new members do, eager to make a mark and do good for the people who elected him.


Just three days later, on January 6 we all saw what happened in our country’s Capitol. I don’t have to recite the details here, but I think it’s safe to say it is NOT what Congressmen Meijer, or any other member of congress signed up for when they ran for office. 


What about us? What are our expectations when we respond to God’s grace towards us? I’m not saying God purposefully causes chaos as a response to our “yes”, but so many times we are invited into situations that look nothing like we imagined they would look. Let’s see how we encounter this in Isaiah. 


Grace and peace, y’all, 

J. Ray and the teaching team.

The Big Idea: Responding to God’s call on our life often leads us into situations very different than what we initially imagine. This is God’s deal, not ours.


Take Away: How are we responding to the situations we find ourselves in as a result of saying yes to Jesus? Saying yes to pledging all our affections, allegiances, associations to God and God’s Kingdom?


How does this fit into our culture Belong Become Believe?:

Welcoming others into full fellowship of the Church is a holy act, not based on their, or our, righteousness, but the righteousness of God. This is the root of radical hospitality. As we participate with God in this we start to be transformed more and more into the image of God, we become more like God. This experience of transformation, the promise of it even when we don’t feel it or it offends us or confuses us forms our confession of belief.

Relevant Verses:

Isaiah 6

What next?:

Isaiah Chapter 7


Commentary from Working Preacher 

Isaiah for Everyone

January 10, 2021

10:15am I Facebook Live

The Isaiah Overture

Question of the Week

Consider this week, what are the things that really offend God?



Not too long ago they added a new trail up in Bentonville called “Hammer Drop.”  It’s a roller coaster that has a couple spots so steep you can’t see the trail until you are dropping into it.


Now the natural and even logical thing to do in that situation is to slow down and be cautious. The problem, though, is that after the trail bottoms out,  it shoots up an equally steep section,  and if you don’t have enough momentum, you may not make it to the top.


Right after Christmas a group of us from the teaching team gathered on Zoom and started reading through the book of Isaiah, preparing for our series that starts Sunday. Wow. This study is going to be so good! But it starts with a precipitous “drop.”


The people are hurtling down a steep path to destruction and it’s almost like God is encouraging them to pick up speed. Now I’m not saying the way to break free of sin is to chase after it, but there is something about God letting us hit rock bottom that allows God to bring us back up that other side.


There is so much for us to contemplate, understand and apply from this book. Buckle up y’all. 


Grace and peace, J.Ray and the teaching team

The Big Idea: Holiness is a dynamic; orienting and integrating of how we live, work and worship: what we think, how we feel, act,  and present ourselves.


Take Away: Are we willing to really consider what makes God angry? Not just as a project of our own prejudices and preferences, but with honesty, humility and a willingness to repent? If not, quit this study now.


How does this fit into our culture Belong Become Believe?:

At Grace Church our whole practice of following Jesus starts with belonging: the practice of identifying ourselves as integral parts of this community and welcoming others to identify as part as well. We do this as part of becoming more like Jesus, practicing seeing the imago dei, the image of God in ourselves and each other. This also enables us to see what isn’t of God, is broken, ignorant, sick or rebellious. This leads us to believe in the promises and power of God as expressed in the Gospel message.

Relevant Verses:

Isaiah 1-5

What next?:

A Deep Dive into Isaiah Chapter 6


Pick up a copy of Isaiah for Everyone to enhance your study of Isaiah


Eugene Peterson (and the Bible Project) on Isaiah

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