Psalm 122: 6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May those who love you be secure. 7 May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.” 8 For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, “Peace be within you.” 9 For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your prosperity.
The expression “glorious burden” describes the privilege that those in places of authority have to seek the good of those under their care.
Pastors have this as they shepherd and preach to their people.
Parents have this as they raise and teach their children.
Teachers have this. Politicians have this.
Essentially, all who have the privilege to care have this.
In reading David’s prayer in Psalm 122, you see a clear love for His people. He wanted their security. He wanted their peace. He wanted families to be safe. He wanted the prosperity of all of the people of God.
Today, each and every one of us bear this same glorious burden. It is neglected at times as we seek our good above others under our care, but we must always right ourselves to the heart of Jesus.
Hebrews 12:1b And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Our perseverance in loving and caring for others comes from Jesus’ love and care to joyfully endure the cross for our sake. So then…
Pastors, pray for the ongoing needs of your people asking God for mercy at every turn.
Parents, pray for the safety and godliness of your children in a world where both are rare.
Spouses, pray for each other as the road of lifeline companionship is fraught with obstacles.
Business Owners, pray for your employees to serve with dignity in an environment that you have created that enables it.
Teachers, pray for learning and appreciation in what you teach.
Children, pray for you parents and their perseverance in the long road of caring for you.
Pray for all who you love and even your enemies that they may be blessed.
I have been blessed with an amazing father and father figures throughout my years. And while every man sits under the influence of his father (good or bad), I know that I would not be who I am without their influence, and by God’s grace, I am thankful. But in less than a 4 year period of time, my father, my mentor, and my father in law have all passed.
I have written much since Thom Duncan passed in 2012. Truly a great, talented, Godly man, “Sam,” as I affectionately called him, was amazing. An accomplished pianist, interior designer, floral designer, teacher, and pastor, Sam had more gifts than most collections of people could hope for in a span of generations. When he died, I could not remember 5 arguments between us, though the few that came to mind were memorable. I was corrected by him countlessly, but the arguments were either rare or have faded from memory. In an amusing re-telling, one of our more serious conflicts was resolved by theologian RC Sproul when I convince RC to say hello to my dad from the PCA General Assembly floor from a cell phone. Sam was an amazing father in that he wanted so many things for me but allowed me to pursue them at my own pace and with little meddling. When I was ordained as a pastor, it was one of the happiest days of his life. At his passing, I could only look back and reflect on his unwavering love and approval of me despite my many sins and flaws.
In 2013, my mentor, Terry Traylor, passed. He was the closest to Superman as any man that I ever met. Wise beyond his years, respected by nearly everyone he knew, and ridiculously strong (physically and spiritually). While I wouldn’t have been a Christian without my father, I definitively know that I would not have been a pastor had not Terry confidently said, “I think you should be a church planter. Let’s get you into seminary.” Terry gave me ear anytime I needed despite his insane schedule. He gave me wisdom, often without even realizing that he was giving it (and without me even realizing I was receiving it). Like my dad, I had few conflicts with Terry, though the few were epic. Unlike my dad, his death was sudden. 24 hours prior to his passing, I had a lunch and a bull session with Terry that was filled with his usual big laughs and big wisdom. At his funeral, all I could do was confess that I didn’t deserve a father figure like him. Even in death, Terry displayed grace.
And on New Year’s Day of this year, my father in law, Jack, passed. Now, Jack and I knew how to fight, but we also respected and loved each other. While Sam and Terry entrusted me with mission, Jack entrusted me with his daughter, my wife, Amy. Because of that, I have to think Jack had more faith in me than the others. There were times we wanted to strangle each other, and on Christmas Day, I literally had to chest compress him back to life after a heart attack. But just like Sam and Terry, I know that I would not be a pastor without Jack’s influence. Soon after meeting, he encouraged the bible study I was leading to come under his church’s accountability. He asked me to lead worship in singing at his church alongside Amy. He loaned me countless books, and I do not have a number of the John MacArthur tapes he gave me. Even his funeral inspired me. I walked away thinking, “I want to be more Godly.” His passing hurts as it turns the page onto yet another stage of my life, as well as my wife’s. She could easily write, “I am a fatherless daughter,” as she shared similar relationships with all 3 men.
So, at the young age of 45, my formative mentors have passed. Others are beginning to take their place, and I am growing into the role of being father figures for younger men. To my dread, I pray that I can father the young men who marry my daughters.
But my true comfort is this verse from Galatians:
Galatians 4: 6 Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.
No believer in Jesus is fatherless. In fact, the fatherhood of the Christian is inseparable and more intimate than any earthly relationship. Our faithful brother, Jesus, has made us children of God, and the Spirit of God moves in our heart (my heart) to cause me to cry out, “Abba Father!” – the most intimate name of God of all. And now, because of that inseparable security, we live not as slaves to sin or this world, but as heirs to God.
Thank you Sam, Terry, and Jack. I know that I am the man that I am and that I am set on a course that is far more joyous and great than any other that I would have chosen.
In the book of Ezra, as God returns His people from a time of exile, we find that God sends thousands of them back home to begin rebuilding the temple. In chapter two, there are 70 verses of names. These are the people who are sent back to start that difficult work.
Why in the world would God include 70 verses of almost unpronounceable names?
Well, determining why or why not God would do something is a dangerous game. However, we can take away a couple of important principles. Including these names shows the value and dignity that God gives each individual as they make up the people of God. In the midst of those thousands, God wanted the individuals and families to be known. God was working among His people, but He was stirring individuals first. And we give those names honor and dignity in their reading.
The inverse is true as well. Yes, we are saved into a personal relationship with Jesus as we cry out in faith for the forgiveness of sin. That personal relationship is also part of the larger work that God is doing within the church.
But what application should this have for our worship? Worship removes our anonymity.
No Christian, no child of God, should ever be nameless or faceless in the church. The church should be the one place that understands that each person is valued. As any person enters our doors or enters into our communities, they should be treated with dignity, and they should be on the progression of being known and known well – not as a number, but as a person.
Does this mean that larger churches are getting it wrong as they have so many thousands to get to know? No, reading the book of Acts and seeing the thousands coming to know Christ would argue against that. However, the church (and especially our worship) should be about each person becoming known as they are known by Christ. We should reach out across socioeconomic (and pretty much any other lines) to know each other well. So, big or small, the church’s emphasis must be about bringing people to deeper intimacy with Christ first and then deeper intimacy within the church.
These things must be grounded in a worship of Jesus creating a thankfulness for His work that draws us out of the loneliness and deserts of our lives. Worship should be an eye to eye experience of the many becoming one in lifting up the name of Jesus. That should mean that the focus of our worship cannot be about us. The focus of our worship must be on the name of Jesus as He alone is what unifies us. No mission, no takeaway, no benefit will ultimately unify us and remove our facelessness. Jesus alone will give us a true name and a true face.
A lonely person among the people of God should be an oxymoron.
We are known well by Christ as we cry out to Him. Our worship should be moments where we engage each other in an act of unity, and all the other elements that go into the functions of the church should move people towards deeper relationships under the name of Jesus.
You may ask, “But aren’t there portions of the service that do create isolation and alienation like the Lord’s Supper?” In our next post in our worship series, we will wrestle with how a worship service can speak to both believers and non-believers without creating an unnecessary alienation for those who don’t believe.
The thought is that as Evident Grace grows in communication, we will grow in loving and serving one another, and we will grow in learning how to love and serve our community.
This is what we want as we see our sermons and bible studies talked about and applied in our lives. This is what we want as we learn how to help each other serve our neighbors. This is what we want as we grow in serving our community as a church. So towards those ends, we have established a few new avenues for us to communicate with each other.
We have a created a physical church directory that you can pick up on any Sunday worship.
We have updated our website http://www.evidentgrace.com with a ton of new information.
Audio of our sermons is now available in two places: at http://evidentgrace.com/worship/sermons/ and at https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/evident-grace-fellowship/id873994915?mt=2http://evidentgrace.libsyn.com/rss
Our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/evidentgracefellowship is continually updated.
You can now follow us on Twitter at https://twitter.com/EGFellowship
And we have launched the Table Project which is an online home to enable person to person communication. If you would like to be part of the Table project. Send a request from https://evidentgrace.tableproject.org/
Our goal is that these things will help us get to know each other and learn how to serve.
We are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, and God went so far to insure that we become like Christ that He mapped out the whole plan for you to His glory. This is an incredible hope for us to trust in, but sometimes, it feels ephemeral and far off.
I enter in this lightly, but let me attempt an illustration.
Most everyone loves going to the beach, but going to the beach as a parent is not like what it was when I was in college. In college, all it would take was a couple of folks saying, “Hey, you want to go to the beach today?” 15 minutes later, we were on the road.
But now, with kids, it takes coordination with the NSA, FBI, and Homeland security to get out the door. You have to pack bathing suits, towels, sunscreen, flip flops, paddle balls, umbrellas, coolers, juice boxes, food, and pretty much every other device imaginable. And why do parents do all of that? Pretty much so the kids can have hours of fun and you as a parent can enjoy the beach for about 30 minutes. Maybe you are able to get a couple of cool pictures to post on Facebook and Instagram, but even that is not guaranteed.
That’s a shadow of what God has done for you. Just as God chose you before “let there was light” was even declared, God also prepared beforehand that you would grow in good works and obedience. Your obedience is just as sure as your salvation because God prepared for it.
The good news is that God never tires and He always enjoys the good works of His children. Parents often wonder, “Why are we doing this” when they apply the tenth layer of sunscreen. But your obedience is planned by a never tiring Father, your growth is secured by the work of Jesus, and your growth are essential elements of the masterpiece that God is creating in His children’s lives.
So, today, as you grow weary in wanting to mature in Christ, as you are tempted to give up, remind yourself that God has already made plans to grow you. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus provide for both a sure forgiveness and a sure maturity for you.
There will be struggles, and there will be setbacks, but the Gospel of what Jesus has done, provides hope.
At Evident Grace, we create a unique children’s bulletin customized to each service and sermon so that our younger children can track along with what we are talking about each Sunday. And as some of our kids get older, they can do those bulletins quickly and then they must begin learning how to take in the sermons as a maturing believers in Jesus.
When it comes to taking notes, everybody has their own system. There isn’t one fool-proof way to digest what is being talked about. My good friend, Jonathan Grauel sketches his notes into beautiful works of art. My wife, Amy’s notes are quotes and observations written in various sizes and on various areas of the paper in a way that enables her to remember better.
My form is pretty boring. I write down what I hear and casually make observations. The good thing is that there is no right or wrong way to note taking. What works, works.
Recently, my daughter, Meredith, has developed her method as well. It involves pictures, writing in 3-D, and creating ways in which she can emphasize what she is learning. She uses different colored markers to make her the notes her own, and when I talk to her about her the sermon, I can tell she is learning and taking in lots of good stuff.
Landry, my second of three daughters, wanted to understand what Meredith was doing, so graciously, Meredith created a template so that Landry could begin to take notes and understand more of the sermon herself.
I can’t tell you how excited I was when I found out all of that was going on. So this past Sunday, I asked Landry to give me examples of her notes. In Landry fashion, she has taken in the guidance of Meredith and made the process her own. Even my youngest daughter, Emma, is beginning to tinker with note taking. I couldn’t be happier.
The big takeaway for me is that I need to be more actively mindful when I’m listening to sermons, teaching, or instruction. I don’t remember everything like I used to, so actively engaging the sermon would be a good idea for me. I won’t be able to be as creative as all you see above, but I do hope to recreate a more active participation in what I’m learning.
Your mindset may be, “Well, I’m going to assume the worst, and that way I won’t ever be disappointed again. Because if I hope for things and I don’t get them, I just get more disillusioned. I am a realist.”
There are a lot of folks living this way. A lot of you. But here is something I want us all to wrestle with. The bible gives us every reason to have hope, so much so, that we are actually commanded to have hope.
The excerpt above is from this past week’s sermon at Evident Grace Fellowship where we explored how hope in Christ is so secure, God’s commands, and we can count on it. The devotional pdf’s, kindle, and audio are up.
You can download the pdf’s for free at:
And audio for Philippians 1:15-18 is here.
Audio for Philippians 1:19-21 is here.
Also, we are making all of our devotional pdf’s available on Kindle as well. Because these are available at places other than Amazon, we have to charge $.99 for these, but all proceeds go back to Evident Grace. You can find our Kindle devotionals at:
Thanks for taking the time to look over these with us. Join the conversation either by worshiping with us on Sunday, getting together with us throughout the week, or discussing these online or at Facebook.
If you are interested in worshiping with Evident Grace, we meet each Sunday at 1030am at the comedy club above Liberty Lanes off of I-95 exit 126 in Spotsylvania, VA.
How can God command us to have hope? He would have guarantee something wouldn’t He? Join us this Sunday at Evident Grace to find out. We meet at the comedy club above Liberty Lanes off of exit 126.
When asked by the Fredericksburg Examiner about why Evident Grace meets in a bowling alley, the following article resulted
New churches meeting in schools, civic buildings, and town auditoriums are nothing new. Church plants, as they are called, don’t normally build sanctuaries, and many don’t even desire one long-term. But finding a workable space for worship, nursery, and visibility is often the first big challenge of most new worshiping communities. Every now and then, a new church finds that perfect spot, and that spot is off the beaten path.
Meet Evident Grace Fellowship. As of April 21st, they began meeting at Liberty Laughs Comedy Club above Liberty Lanes Bowling Alley.
When asked why a church would meet at a comedy club, they gave several answers. Pastor Gordon responded with, “Well, it shows we don’t take ourselves too seriously, I guess.”
That answer may be humorous, but there are actually more specific, purposeful reasons for meeting at a comedy club. EG’er Erica K explained it this way. She said, “Just the air of curiosity for the public causes people to ask what’s happening up there.”
Asking what is happening is one thing. Something actually happening is another. EG’er Nathan T provided that. He said, “I think it gives the church the ability to not become complacent. We aren’t hiding from the world in our safe and separate little area. We are out there in the community looking for ways to serve and bring people in. What better opportunity for outreach than to worship in the midst of the people we hope to reach out to?”
So, the Examiner went asked. Does a church meeting in a comedy club provide those things?
Emma R from Connecticut gave this impression. She said, “It’s a great representation that God is everywhere, and church isn’t about wearing a suit and tie in a fancy building. God is in real life, real places with no per-requisites.”
With those things in mind, Evident Grace Fellowship is taking a slow and steady approach to growing and serving. They hope to eventually offer several services to the community, but they want to take them on in a way that they do them well.
With that in mind, they will offer a nursery for members and visitors, but that nursery will not be open until May 12th which is fitting Mother’s Day. Additionally, they have undertaken a ministry with Young Lives, an organization that helps, supports, and encourages single, teen moms. Doing that fits their mission of wanting to serve and comfort their community as an expression of how God has served and comforted them.
If you would like to join Evident Grace Fellowship, as they mentioned, they meet at Liberty Laughs above Liberty Lanes at 1030am each Sunday.