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May 30, 2021

10:15am I Facebook Live & In Person at Vesper Point, Mt Sequoyah in Fayetteville

Watch last weeks message here

 

Title: Justice and Sabbath

 

Question of the Week

Many people are crying out for justice in ways that may challenge us. Where does your idea of justice come from?

 

Intro

As a young kid growing up I really hated Sundays. Most of them started with having to get dressed up for Church (I really didn’t mind Church all that much, Sunday School was fun and we usually went out to eat after, but dressing up stunk) and then we came home to… not much.

 

Sunday’s were quiet. Nothing was on TV (remember when I was growing up there were only three channels and PBS). We didn’t shop because most of the stores were closed. We didn’t play sports because back then that didn’t happen on Sundays. I hated it. I hated the quiet and the lack of things to do. Most of the adults I knew took naps or quietly worked on hobbies. Sunday afternoons and evenings just felt like a long wait for Monday and the week to start up again. 

 

I know Sundays are different now. Stores operate seven days a week and the internet never sleeps. Team sports take no notice of Sundays or holidays. Even work obligations crowd in. 

 

It’s never quiet. Ever. There is always either invitation to go and do or demands for what must be done. 

 

But we can’t escape the fact that as Christians we are to be Sabbath people, people who rest, people who cultivate “quiet space” in our lives. And it’s not just for our own sake but it seems clear that somehow this is tied up with our ability to also be just people, people who pursue justice of others. 

 

Let’s dig in this week and see what Isaiah has to say about this. 

 

Grace and peace y’all, 

 

J. Ray and the teaching team

The Big Idea: 

Kingdom of God Justice is rooted in the very nature and character of God and the recognition of what God has done for us. Sabbath practice is an integral part of understanding and pursuing justice in a way that brings true wholeness.

 

Take Away: Pentecost was just the beginning.

Only when we practice Sabbath can we also seek justice in a way that brings the wholeness and deliverance that Jesus offers.

 

How does this fit with "Belong, Become, Believe"? 

The practice of belonging is rooted in the practice of of Sabbath. Sabbath is an indication of our welcomed and accepted position in relationship to God and each other. Through this practice we are formed into a Sabbath people, people who exemplify the concept of rest and justice, faith and practice. All this informs, strengthens and deepens our faith.

Relevent Verses:

Isaiah, chapters 56-59

What next:

Isaiah 60

Resources

How justice and sabbath work together 

An essential book for everyone’s library

Contact Grace Church NWA here

 

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May 16, 2021

10:15am I Facebook Live & In Person at Vesper Point, Mt Sequoyah in Fayetteville

Watch last weeks message here

 

Title: WOW 1999

 

Question of the Week

Has there ever been a time you feel God has forgotten about you?

 

Intro

One of the big hits on WOW 1999 was Jennifer Knapp’s “Undo Me,” which talks about hurting and pushing away the people we love, whether on purpose or unintentionally. It’s a song that acknowledges that she is broken, and sinful, and prone to the shortcomings of human nature. It’s got depth. But ironically—and unintentionally—it was placed between Michael W. Smith and Martin Smith, both singing pop love songs about Jesus. Jennifer Knapp’s song was out of place and lacked continuity with the whole. But for an album where VeggieTales is the lead-in to Nicholle Nordeman and Rich Mullens, any notion of thoughtfully curated storytelling goes out the window.

The Big Idea: We approach life fully awake, we are able to better see things in their own context, not as one of several highlights or greatest hits. Each of us has a story that is important to God—and we need to “expand our tent” to make room for more stories.

Take Away: When we make things about us, when we hold up an idea of what Jesus is supposed to be, supposed to look like, how he’s supposed to operate, and he doesn’t end up meeting those expectations, we miss him.

How does this fit with "Belong, Become, Believe"? 

This is why, as a church, we believe that belonging comes first. When we see and accept others for who they are, without condition, that’s how we welcome Jesus.

Relevent Verses:

Isaiah 51-55

What next:

 

Resources

Contact Grace Church NWA here

 

May 23, 2021

10:15am I Facebook Live & In Person at Vesper Point, Mt Sequoyah in Fayetteville

Watch last weeks message here

 

Title: It’s Pentecost, time to Party

 

Question of the Week

Where in your life are you most experiencing the presence of God the Holy Spirit? Where do you desire to experience God the Holy Spirit more?

 

Intro

I read an interesting comment the other day that really got my imagination going. I want you to imagine that we as humans continue to live on this planet for another 10,000 plus years, that, in spite of the long odds, we somehow manage not to destroy ourselves during that time.

 

Now imagine a Church historian looking back from that perspective, somewhere in the year 12,021 writing about the early Church. Guess who that historian would be writing about. Us. We would be part of the “early Church” from the perspective of someone that far in the future.

 

As I indulged my imagination in this I wondered how it might change the way I thought about and practiced my faith. Instead of thinking of our current understanding of God and Christianity as the pinnacle of practice and theology and all of us living in “the end times”, what if we are only still in the beginning stages, just out of the starting gate? 

 

What if we could learn to live with both the expectancy of God’s imminent return AND the energy of the early Church? 

 

I think we can, and I think Acts chapter 2 is a great place to understand this. Let’s dig in this week and see what we can find. 

 

Grace and peace y’all, 

 

J. Ray and the teaching team

The Big Idea: Jesus' life, death, resurrection and assession makes possible the fulfillment of all the promises of the Old Testament. It ushers in the Kingdom of God and is the foundation of the Church. This is all made evident at Pentecost.

Take Away: Pentecost was just the beginning.

How does this fit with "Belong, Become, Believe"? 

The fact that God the Holy Spirit filled everyone that day, all who were gathered in the Name of Jesus, opens the door for us to do the same, to welcome everyone seeking Jesus into our community of belonging. But this takes practice, it’s not something we can do just by will power or our own effort. It’s by practicing this radical hospitality in the power of God the Holy Spirit that we ourselves become more and more like Jesus. This is formed by and informs our faith.

Relevent Verses:

Acts 2

What next:

Back to Isaiah, chapters 56-59

Resources

Father, Son and Holy Spirit: Why what we believe about the Trinity matters

If we are to truly be a Church for all people, we need to learn how to be culturally competent

Contact Grace Church NWA here

 

May 9, 2021

10:15am I Facebook Live & In Person at Vesper Point, Mt Sequoyah in Fayetteville

Watch last weeks message here

Making sense of it all

 

Question of the Week

Has there ever been a time you feel God has forgotten about you?

 

Intro

As a kid growing up in Austin, I remember taking field trips to the Elizabet Ney Museum. Ney was a pioneering woman sculptor and I was fascinated by the marble sculptures and statues she created. And I was really intrigued by the death masks of famous people on display, at that time in my life when I was really scared of death. It wasn’t that I was scared of dying, necessarily, I was afraid of being forgotten. I was afraid I was going to die without having done anything memorable. I would obsess over monuments and gravestones and wonder if that was the way to be remembered, to do something worthy of a statue, or even having my face memorialized after I died with a stone death mask. 

 

We all long for our lives to have meaning, to do something that transcends our fragile and finite state. While we might out grow the adolescent longing to have a statue created in our honor, we never truly are without the need for our lives to have meaning. 

 

In our test this week, Isaiah is giving a commissioning of sorts that gives just such a transcendent purpose to his life. And its not just for Isaiah, but for all of us. Let’s dig in and see what we can find. 

 

Grace and peace y’all, 

 

J. Ray and the teaching team

The Big Idea: The more we understand that God is the Hero of the story, the one working, the one who saves and brings order and justice, the more we can properly understand our own lives. Jesus, as the ultimate witness, shows us the way.

 

Take Away: God is working and has called us, both as individuals and as the Church, to be witnesses and messengers of God’s saving and restoring work. To be “icons” of the eternal God and Jesus the Messiah. This purpose is to permeate every aspect of our live and being.

How does this fit with "Belong, Become, Believe"? 

We primarily bear witnesses to God in what we do, how we interact with others, especially those not “like” us. One of the primary works of the Church is to be a reconciling community, where people who formerly ignored, took advantage of and even hated and killed each other come together in love. This starts with extending hospitality that creates true belonging. Through this practice, both the person extending and the person receiving are transformed. Our faith is then formed and strengthened as we experience more and more the presence of God among us.

Relevent Verses:

Isaiah 49-50

What next:

Isaiah 51-55

Resources

What does it mean to bear witness?

Contact Grace Church NWA here

 

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May 2, 2021

10:15am I Facebook Live & In Person at Vesper Point, Mt Sequoyah in Fayetteville

Watch last weeks message here

What Makes an Idol?

 

Question of the Week

To a people caught up in idolatry, God asks this question: “To whom can you compare and liken me? Tell me whom you think I resemble, so we can be compared!” Take time throughout this week to consider this question as if it were being asked to you.

 

Intro

As a young kid, I was really into playing “war” as we called it. I lived in a neighborhood full of other kids so we had some days long epic battles. We’d all grab our toy guns, split into sides and the rapid “Bah-dah-dah-dah” of mouth made machine gun sounds would commence. Of course there were major style points for how dramatic you could be when you were “shot” and often heated arguments over who shot whom first and who would have to “play dead” for the appropriate time before rejoining the battle. Suffice it to say there were no real casualties, other than scraps and bruises from diving for cover. 

 

It was all fun and games because it wasn’t actually war. The guns were fake. We weren't real soldiers. There was no real enemy or threat. It was all “make believe". 

 

But we know it often doesn’t stop there, does it? If we carry on with that imagination, as we are want to do as humans, the toys become more realistic looking until they are replaced with the real thing. The choosing of sides becomes more and more critical until it becomes permanent. The fake deaths turn into real deaths. 

 

Now hear me out. This is not a polemic against kids having make believe battles, but it is a sober reminder for us to stop and consider what happens when we lose sight of who we really are, who others really are, and what is going on in the first place. 

 

Because when we don’t, the consequences can be deadly, as we’ll see in our text this week. 

 

Grace and peace y’all, 

 

J. Ray and the teaching team

The Big Idea: Creating idols springs in part from a failure to deeply consider the meaning of our own createdness.

 

Take Away: Making idols or all shapes and sizes, recognized and unrecognized, happens as a natural result of failing to deeply understand our own createdness and how that createdness binds us to our Creator in very specific ways.

How does this fit with "Belong, Become, Believe"? 

Understanding that each of us in created by God, in the image of God, and for the glory of God leads us to extend hospitality, a place at the table to everyone. Living into our “createdness” also gives form to our becoming, our further and ongoing formation more and more to reflect the image of God we are created in. The confession that we are in fact created, not creator, worshipers of the true God and not the idols that we create forms our faith.

Relevent Verses:

Isaiah 46-48

Context:

The people of Israel lived in a time when idols were everywhere and the temptation to create them pervasive.

What next:

Isaiah 49-50

Resources

The Redemption of Justin Bieber 

Kids keeping the faith 

Bonus: Reflections on adoption and forgiveness

Contact Grace Church NWA here