GCAZ Blog

Welcome to the blog! This is our latest step in fulfilling our desire to communicate better. Our Elders want to be able to post here about issues of the day and about developments in the church, and gradually build up a useful resource for people to come back to over time. Email and text messages definitely have a place, but important notes get lost very easily in the ocean of other items in our inboxes! So this should become a great place to look for that post we made on a significant topic, or that update on one of our ministries! Over time, there will be opportunity to interact with us here by leaving comments. These should all be edifying in nature, and to that end, they will be moderated prior to posting.  Enjoy!

Jesus – Don’t Ignore His Better Message!

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It’s a good job we will have eternity in which to praise King Jesus, because (as hymn writers have rightly said) even eternity is too short to utter all His praise! Here He is, the Anointed One, the Son of God, the Son of David, the Prophet like Moses (but better) the Priest like Melchizedek (but better) and the promised better King in the line of David! There are just a few of the honors and titles ascribed to Him in the opening chapter of Hebrews. This is holy ground indeed – how blessed we are to have such a Savior and the Bible by which we may know Him!

LOOKING BACK

On Sunday we saw that the angels are mighty, and the scriptures tell us that they were the ones God sent to deliver the Law to His Old Testament people (Hebrews 2:2, Acts 7:53, Galatians 3:19)! The original readers of this letter were tempted to leave Christ and put themselves back under that Law, so the writer shows them in Hebrews 1:4-14 that Jesus is greater even than the angels. 

We saw that Jesus has inherited a greater name than the angels – He is the Son of God! To prove this, the writer shows:

  1. Jesus, not the angels, is God’s Son, a title that is peculiarly His due to His resurrection (Hebrews 1:5a, Acts 13:32, Romans 1:3-4). Also, this Son of God is the Son of David, the everlasting king promised to David (Hebrews 1:5b)
  2. Jesus is worshipped by angels and not the other way around (Hebrews 1:6)
  3. Jesus is sovereign, angels are servants (Hebrews 1:7-9, 14)
  4. Jesus is eternal, angels are creatures (Hebrews 1:10-12)
  5. Jesus is in charge, angels are not (Hebrews 1:13)

Like the first readers of this letter, we shouldn’t swerve from Jesus, because there is no-one and nothing else to go to that is better than Him. We were called on to search ourselves for signs that we might be drifting away from or else downgrading Him, and urged to return with all our hearts.

LOOKING AHEAD

At the start of chapter 2, the writer will deliver his first warning to his readers based on the contents of chapter 1. Since the law declared by angels was trustworthy and those who departed from it were justly punished, how will those escape who depart from the salvation that was introduced by One far greater than the angels – the Son of God Himself? The ministry delivered by the angels (the Law) is called a ministry of death in 2 Corinthians 3:7, and its glory is described as fading. The Law revealed and condemned sin – which is all it can do for sinners. The ministry of Jesus, in contrast, is the ministry of the Spirit and of righteousness – the ministry of life – and its glory is permanent and surpassingly dazzling. What a terrible sin to leave the ministry of Jesus and return to the ministry of the angels!

Furthermore, the writer goes on to speak of the destiny of Jesus Christ. Quoting from Psalm 8:4-6, the writer shows that Jesus – the Son of God, Who created the angels and is eternally greater than them, was actually made lower than them “for a little while” when He took human flesh to make our salvation possible (what an unimaginable stoop!). However, this Jesus is now crowned with glory and honor because of His suffering death to save His people, tasting death for everyone. As a result, in the world to come, says the writer, everything will be put in subjection to Him (and not to angels). The passage has a strong undercurrent that if we are joined to Jesus in His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension, we will be joined with Him also in His rule. Although we were made a little lower than angels, by God’s grace we will be lifted up in Jesus, crowned with glory and honor and will reign with our King of kings, even judging the angels (1 Corinthians 6:3)!

Click here to watch the sermon related to this post!

Jesus – Better than the Angels!

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Hello Friends —

What a joy to worship King Jesus with you all last Sunday! We always strive to have Jesus at the center of our preaching at Grace. That is true whatever passage we are preaching on! Hebrews makes that easy for us when it’s so focused on the supremacy of Christ.

LOOKING BACK

The message of Hebrews reminds us that in a world swirling with noise and questions:

1) God is the one Who is speaking to you through Jesus in the Word

2) He speaks with authority that is unmistakably clear, since He has appointed Jesus to be the True King, the True Prophet and the True Priest

3) Therefore, you can trust the voice of God in Jesus, because Jesus is the superior revelation

We need to listen carefully to what the true Prophet, Priest and King says to us in the Word because no one in this world has more to say. We also need to stop listening to those voices around us that would pull us away from Jesus, because to move away from Him is always to move from the best to something far less worthy.

LOOKING AHEAD

You might think that any topic following last Sunday would be a letdown, but in fact the writer takes it up a notch! He’s going to pile Old Testament verse after verse to prove that Jesus rightly holds the esteemed title that is greater than the angels. 

If you watched the introductory video from the Bible Project, it suggested that whenever the writer of the letter to the Hebrews quotes from the Old Testament, we should go back and read that passage to see it in its context. As we all get ready to hear God speak to us through His Son this Sunday, take a few moments to prepare and look up the verses referenced in Hebrews 1:4-14. It will be a blessing to your soul and you will understand more fully the force of the argument the writer is making to his largely Jewish readers for the supremacy of Christ. 

Here are the passages to look at:

  • Psalm 2:7
  • 2 Samuel 7:14
  • Deuteronomy 32:43 (note that “gods” in the ESV in this verse is translated “angels” in the version the letter writer quotes from in Hebrews 1:6)
  • Psalm 104:4
  • Psalm 45:6-7
  • Psalm 102:25-27
  • Psalm 110:1

Again, I am excited to be with you again and to immerse ourselves in our Savior as He is lifted up in this amazing letter!

Click here to watch the sermon that relates to this post.

Jesus is Better! The letter to the Hebrews

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We know that the whole Bible is special beyond words – a book that God has written to us, so we may know Who He is, what He has done to save us from sin, and how we should live in light of grace. Yet for most of us, there are books, chapters or verses that are extra-special – perhaps because God has used them to bless us richly at one time or another.

For me, the letter to the Hebrews is like that. Let me give you just a few of the reasons why:

First, one of the overriding purposes of the book is to show how surpassingly great is Jesus, our King. Greater than the Old Testament Prophets, greater than the angels, greater than Moses, greater than the Old Testament priests, greater than all the sacrifices that were made in the days of the Old Covenant. The same is true for us today. Jesus is greater than anything else in this life.

Second, the letter shows that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament. He is greater than all of these because He is the One they all pointed to – they all find their fulfillment in King Jesus!

Third, the letter to the Hebrews is all about treasuring Christ. From its opening to the last verse is all about lifting Him up and showing how excellent and how beautiful He is and how perfectly He meets our need for a Savior! In other words, it is a perfect book to help us with our mission at Grace.

Usually when we start a series on a new book of the Bible, we like to spend some time giving background about who wrote it, under what circumstances, what are the major themes that the book contains and so on. This helps us look at the book in its proper context and to get a road map for where we will be traveling as we study it together. I still want you to have that information, but Hebrews 1:1-3 (the first passage we will study) hits the ground with its feet running. It is overflowing with awesome truths that we need to hear!

So I have a special request to make: 

I am including below a short link to an 8-minute video that introduces and lays out the whole letter to the Hebrews very clearly as a preparation for our series. Would you please watch or listen to it as we begin to study this book together? 

Overview: Hebrews

I would like us all to have this foundational information so we can plunge right into the amazing content of the first three verses of chapter 1!

I can’t wait to get into this study with you because I know it will help us treasure Jesus.

Chris

NOTE: The sermon that accompanies this blog post is now available by clicking here

If You Want To Be Healthy, You Have To Stick To The Basics

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I know it sounds basic because it is. Physical health is improved with the combination of a nutritious diet and exercise. The same is true for your spiritual health. We saw yesterday from 1 Timothy 4:6-10 that a solid diet of sound doctrine from the Word mixed with regular exercising of discernment between good and evil produces maturity. Here is a 30 Day Training Program to building strong muscles:

Take in a regular dose of the Word (cardio)

Set a regular course of Bible intake. When evaluating a decision ask these three questions:

  • What does the Word say?
    • Not just imperatives, but indicatives.
  • What does wisdom say?
    • It might be permissible, but not beneficial
  • What does my conscience say?
    • Am I training myself to respond when my conscience says no?

Work one specific muscle group at a time

Pick one area you want to grow in your discernment and set one realistic goal of application for yourself. 

What is God calling you to do? What is He calling your forsake?

Why? (What Scriptures come to mind)

What does success look like to do it/forsake it?

What do you need in order to be successful?

When are you going to start?

Whose going to encourage you in the goal and help you be accountable?

August Updates

August is almost upon us and with that comes the restart of school. We are praying for all the families of the church — whether homeschooling, charter, private, or public — as each option will have its unique challenges this fall. May God give you all grace if you are in the schooling year!

Four thoughts as we move forward into this month:

  1. If possible, take a break!
    We are created for rhythms of rest. We’ve all been under a lot of stress in managing family relationships, finances, and new ways of operating in the world. Don’t overlook the benefit of taking some time away from the normal rhythms (if you can) to get some rest. Your long-run self will thank you.
  2. Take a break from social media
    The constant noise of opinions can drown out the one voice we need to hear the most — God’s. Maybe you are in need of social media or digital detox! (I’ve deleted Facebook from my phone for a season and it’s made a huge impact on my ability to focus on Christ, though I can still access by the computer when I’m wanting to intentionally post something).
  3. Don’t skip your Bible reading/prayer
    We hear God’s speaking to us as we read His Word. There are no substitute words that can replace what God says in His book through His Word. It doesn’t have to be a deep dive into the Greek syntax — just put your eyes on what God says and trust that it will profit your soul. Read Titus for a short book, Romans for a longer one.
  4. Read a book that refreshes your soul
    I know, reading a book is so old school! You should try it though sometime 🙂 I recommend “Gentle and Lowly” by Dane Ortlund on the heart of Christ for us. What a wonderful book, unfolding Jesus’ love for sinners like me! I read it over vacation and I found my heart more amazed at the relationship I have with God because of Christ. You’ll enjoy it, I promise.

Pastor Chris

Image Bearers, Lament, and the Church

While we were working to navigate the waters of COVID-19 and formulate a plan for our church to re-gather, the horrific video of George Floyd’s death began to circulate. The outrage that has spread across the nation (and even the world) is palpable. People are trying to come to terms with what has happened, why it’s happened, and what should happen next. You know this already because you are all experiencing it every day.

While I’ve had private conversations with many, I haven’t yet spoken more broadly on the topic of race and justice. This hasn’t been out of reluctance or unwillingness (though perhaps I should have directly spoken sooner), but there is a complexity to these emotionally charged matters that is not easily communicated in a social media post or a short 3-minute video.

The hard work of processing these complexities is vital, and we will do it in the weeks to come, but for today let’s start at the beginning.

A Biblical Foundation
As a believer, I am unequivocally for the sanctity of life and the inherent dignity of all men, women, and children because God has stamped them with his very image (the Imago Dei – Gen 1:26-27). Black lives matter to me because Black lives matter to God. The Imago Dei is indelibly written on their souls and I share in that inestimable privilege with them. All peoples have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, yet amazingly God is redeeming people from every nation, tribe, and tongue for his heavenly praise (Rev 7:9).

A Historical Context
This means that when my fellow image-bearer — a Black man — is murdered on video, it causes God’s heart to shudder! Sin is grievous to God’s heart. I am grieving for the heartache that the Black community is facing as this is my nation, too. It’s affecting my city. It’s my friends who are hurting. And it’s not simply this one incident; it stands against the backdrop of historic, systemic unrighteousness, some of which has changed over time and some of which still needs to change, but all of which compounds the pain of these times.

A Beginning Response of Lament
I begin with love, listening, and lamenting. Are there broader issues and concerns that are also significant to address? Absolutely. (i.e. Critical Race Theory, confessing the sins of generations past, BLM organizational ideology, looting/rioting, etc). But for today I can speak to loving those who are hurting, listening to understand their grief, and lamenting the broken conditions of our world. Scripture calls me to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15).

Ecclesiastes 3 says there is a time and a place for everything under the sun — there is a time for grieving. For lamenting. For crying. For listening. For praying. For understanding. When a friend experiences death, they need comforters around them. People who will listen to their cries and their anguish and their fear and their hopelessness.

Listening does not require agreement with every careless word spoken in grief — it absorbs the sobs and the curses and the temporary hopelessness. It hugs and it holds and it communicates that you will still be there when the shaking is over. Can we be those kinds of people while also upholding the Word as the truth? I think that would be a faithful witness of the love of Jesus.

In John 11, Jesus shows up four days after his friend Lazarus dies. Martha and Mary are grieving and they blame Jesus for not doing enough — “If you would have been here our brother would not have died.” While true, it’s not a compliment. It’s spoken as an accusation against Jesus in a time of grief. What is the response from Jesus as he surveys the scene and he feels the grief of Mary and Martha and the others?

33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34 And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” — John 11:33-36

Amazing! Even though Jesus knew he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead in mere moments, he first enters into the experience of grief with his friends. Jesus bawls his eyes out. Can you picture him standing at the grave of his friend and being overwhelmed at the destructive nature of sin!? It wasn’t his fault Lazarus was dead. He wasn’t morally responsible for it. But he grieves and laments for what he sees.

Keeping Many Truths Together In Tension
Here are a few thoughts that come to mind as important starting points for thinking through tragedies of any kind, but especially situations that can seem irredeemable:

  1. As Christians, we lament the evil in the world and recognize it as the result of sin.
  2. As Christians, we see that our own hearts are easily guilty of the sins we condemn, justifying ourselves with our own self-righteousness, and fully in need of the gospel as much as anyone else.
  3. As Christians, we are committed to exegeting the truth of the Scriptures to know God’s heart and mind and His saving plans in the gospel.
  4. As Christians, we are committed to exegeting the culture in order to apply the Scriptures wisely and with discernment to our context.
  5. As Christians, we listen to the experience of others and we weep with those who weep, even those with a different worldview or perspective.
  6. As Christians, we preach the ultimate source of deliverance in the gospel while we work toward true justice and reform where needed — to love our neighbor and reflect the glory of God.

These are not exhaustive but represent the need to hold together many principles at the same time.

And Let Us Love One Another
As I have spoken with many of you, I am aware that the temptation to division is formidable. We are a diverse body with varied political leanings, cultural backgrounds, and lived experiences. We support different causes, parse public statements in different ways, and bring our own hopes and fears to bear in each situation.

Yet, we each profess a shared love for Christ and his gospel! A unifying power that only God can provide.

I want to implore each of you: love one another. Be patient with one another. Bear each other’s burdens, even if you do not understand how they are burdensome. As we interact let us reflect the same love and patience that we experience from God with each breath we take.

Now is not the time to pull back from each other with suspicions, but to graciously press into our shared union with Christ and learn from each other. We are a church — bought with the blood of Christ. We are different and that’s good. I don’t expect us to see things all the same way. We are learning the way of Jesus together. Thank you for your patience with me as I know I am imperfect myself.

As we process these things together (and there will be more to come in the future) I’m asking us all to commit to the kind of unity with each other that Jesus died to achieve — differences of opinions and all. Jews and Gentiles. Black and white. Red or Blue politics. One in Christ.

I love you all!

With support from the Elders at Grace,

Pastor Chris

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