GCAZ Blog

Welcome to our blog! We want to be able to post here about issues of the day and about developments and activities in the church, gradually building up a useful resource for people to come back to over time. 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.

You can filter the blog posts by click on the tag links just above the actual posts below.  Enjoy!

Jesus – Emmanuel Has Come!

0
,

We’re taking a break from the letter to the Hebrews as we enter the Advent season leading up to Christmas. But we are most certainly not taking a break from our focus on Jesus, the Son of God, come to earth to rescue His people and to open for them the possibility of entering His rest!

We’re going to look at the message of Christmas from some of the very familiar songs (or carols) that we hear all around us at this time of the year, and most likely will sing if we go to church. Each week, we’re picking a carol that will prepare us for the message we will hear in our worship service the following Sunday.  This week, we are looking at O Come, O Come, Emmanuel:

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here,
until the Son of God appear.

Refrain:
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, thou Lord of might,
who to thy tribes, on Sinai’s height,
in ancient times didst give the law
in cloud and majesty and awe
.

O come, thou Rod of Jesse, free
thine own
from Satan’s tyranny;
from depths of hell thy people save,
and give them vict’ry
o’er the grave.

O come, thou Dayspring from on high,
and cheer us by thy drawing nigh;
disperse the
gloomy clouds of night
,
and death’s dark shadows put to flight.

O come, thou Key of David, come
and open wide our heav’nly home;
make safe the way that leads on high,
and close
the path to misery

Wow – from one point of view, this looks like a strange song to be singing at a time of celebration, doesn’t it? You could read these words and become seriously depressed! The people speaking in these verses are in deep, deep trouble, and they know it. They know, also, that they cannot get themselves out of these difficulties, and they’re calling out to someone Who can help them.  Let’s look at the awful situation they were in, the help they needed and the One they were calling to come to give that help – the only One qualified to do so.  Spoiler alert – the problems these people were facing are problems shared by everyone born into this world. These are your problems too, so you need this One to come to your help as much as they did!

The awful situation Israel was in. We are in the same trouble ourselves by nature.

I have highlighted in red above the causes of the anxiety, grief and great need the people were conscious of:

  • They were captive. Adam and Eve had been created free, but they had rebelled against God and their freedom was lost as they were justly placed under a curse by God. They soon discovered that all their descendants, including Israel, were bound under the same curse, which had several consequences addressed in this hymn:
  • They were in lonely exile. After their rebellion, Adam and Eve were thrown out of God’s presence and lost their close communion with Him. Israel could not enter God’s presence easily either.
  • Israel had been given the law by the Lord of Might, but they couldn’t keep it and so far from saving them, the law condemned them instead. 
  • They were under Satan’s tyranny. Adam and Eve became enemies of God. They soon found that all the promises Satan made them were lies. Instead of being like God, they had become captive to Satan – but not unwillingly, this was exactly what their now corrupted hearts wanted. Israel also had rebellious hearts that rejected God’s rule in favor of a life of sin and wickedness.
  • They were destined (justly) to die eternally, sent to hell as a consequence of their rebellion and sins against God.
  • They were in darkness, living under the clouds and in the shadows of death even as they lived.
  • Their lives were being lived out in misery, and on a path to eternal misery.

Here’s the thing we need to understand from this sad and gloomy picture: we’re born into the world under exactly the same curse and facing exactly the same consequences. We are exiled from God, condemned by His law, children of Satan and not of God, justly condemned to death and destined for an eternity in hell. We’re incapable of keeping God’s law righteously, and are condemned by it as Israel was. We live in spiritual death, darkness and misery here and we face eternal and infinitely more painful misery and anguish when we leave this world. WE NEED HELP!

The Help Israel Needed. We Need That Help, Too.

 I highlighted in green above the help that those in Israel who could see their problems realize they needed:

  • To be ransomed. A ransom had to be paid to free them, corresponding to the infinite offences they had committed against God.
  • The appearance of a Deliverer. It was beyond Israel’s ability to fix their problems
  • To be freed from Satan’s tyranny
  • To be saved from hell and granted victory over death
  • To be brought out of darkness and gloom and into the light of life
  • To be qualified to enter heaven, and to be brought safely there (rather than hell). It wouldn’t be enough simply to have their debt cleared. They needed to be kept from returning to sin and running up new debts. They needed to be protected from Satan, from whose clutches they would be released

The Only One Who Could Help Israel, and Who Can Help Us

Was there someone who could save them? Is there someone who could save us? Yes – there is! This is the message of Christmas.

On what basis did those in this hymn cry out for Helper? Was it just a fond wish that things might somehow get better and all these nightmarish problems might magically disappear? No! The people are calling out to God and pleading with Him to keep the many, many promises He had made (beginning as soon as Adam and Eve had rebelled in the garden) to send Someone who would set things right, Who would do for His people everything necessary to save them from their sin, from Satan and from death. But Who would this person be?

I have highlighted in Purple the names given to this Savior who is being called upon in this hymn to appear:

  • Emmanuel. This name means “God with Us”. God had promised that He Himself would come to rescue His people.
  • Son of God. When the angel visited Mary, she was told that the child to be born of her (Jesus) would be the Son of God (Luke 1:32, 35). So God was coming as a man to rescue fallen mankind
  • Lord of Might, giver of the Law. This majestic Son of God and Son of Man would keep on behalf of His people the Law He gave them, and would receive on the cross in their place the infinite punishment their sins deserved. Then the justice of God would be satisfied, the condemnation of the law removed, the cause of death (the wages of sin) taken away. 
  • Rod of Jesse. A title given through the prophet Isaiah in Isa 11:1 (in the King James version of the Bible). According to this prophecy, this One would (among other things) strike the earth with the rod of His mouth and the breath of His lips, kill the wicked and usher in a time of unsurpassed, worldwide joy, peace and glory. Satan’s tyranny will most certainly be ended at that time!
  • Dayspring. Zechariah prophesies at the birth of John the Baptist that John will prepare the way for this One who is coming (Luke 1:76-79), Who would be a spiritual sunrise for those sitting in darkness and the shadow of death. 
  • Key of David. A reference from Isaiah 22:22, Which finds its ultimate fulfilment in Jesus (Revelation 3:7). It speaks of the unchallengeable authority of this coming One – what He opens, no-one will shut and what He shuts, no-one will open. So if this One opens the way to heaven, no-one will be able to close it again!

In summary, since we face the same spiritual crisis as Israel, and have the same need as they did for deliverance, we need to cry out to God for a Savior, as they did.

The big difference between Israel’s situation and ours, though, is that they had to look forward and to plead with God to keep all the promises He had made to send the Savior in the future. These promises were to be a cause of hope, and of rejoicing to them (as the hymn notes in the refrain) that they could be delivered by trusting in the One Who would come according to the promise of God. On the other hand, we can look back and see that God has indeed kept His promise and has sent the promised Deliverer – His only Son, Jesus, our Emmanuel! We can be delivered by trusting Jesus to pay the ransom for us on the cross to set us free; to deliver us from sin, from death, from hell, from Satan, and resting in Him completely to keep us unfailingly until we arrive in heaven! 

It is the coming of this Savior, Jesus, and the amazing work He did on earth that we celebrate at Christmas, and that is why this is such a wonderful hymn to sing at this time!

Jesus – Our Great High Priest

0
,

The writer to the Hebrews has a skill that only the Holy Spirit can give. He expresses glorious and mind-blowing truth in just a few short sentences. We will never unpack everything these verses contain, even when they form the delightful subject of our thoughts and praises in heaven. It’s so good we get to spend this time considering them now!

LOOKING BACK (Hebrews 4:12-13)

We have already seen that faith is the key that opens the door to God’s rest. How, then, are we to get that faith so that we don’t “fall by the same sort of disobedience” (Hebrews 4:11) as Israel did, hardening their hearts in the deceitful unbelief of sin and being unable to enter? The answer is provided in these verses – Faith comes by encountering God in his living Word.

We saw that the word functions as a two-way mirror. On the one hand, we saw that:

  • The Word is living, in the sense that it is imbued with God’s life and power.
  • The Word is at work. It is not passive when we read it; it works to change us, either softening or (if we are not careful) hardening our hearts. It works to accomplish the eternal purpose for which God sends it out.
  • The Word is a surgical scalpel – it cuts as deep as necessary to expose our maladies, and then if we do not reject it, it cuts to remove them and to heal us.
  • The Word is a spotlight – it shines on us to expose our sinfulness. We cannot hide from its searching beam.

But on the other hand, the word shows us Christ dying in our place, taking our guilt and shame, becoming to us a healing balm for all our wretched sin and rebellion and restoring us to a right relationship with God.

How we need Him! Verse 13 reminds us that not only does God know us through and through, thoughts, words, secret sins and all. But in addition, God is going to require an account from us for all these things unless we have trusted ourselves fully to Jesus. That is where we get faith – as we see that God has comprehensive knowledge of our hopelessness and our sinfulness but that He sent Jesus to take away our sins and to give us hope.

LOOKING AHEAD (Hebrews 4:14-16)

I hope you are excited to look into this passage! Verses 12-13 are intended to lay us open and to make us feel our unworthiness. We are born on the wrong side of an infinite and holy God.  He knows and keeps a record of every impure and selfish thought, every word that arises from hatred and jealousy, every lie that attempts to persuade even ourselves that we are good enough for God, every deed that seeks to belittle others and exalt ourselves. And we must all face a day of reckoning for even the smallest of these offences. We naturally run away from such thoughts, but it is good for us to be faced with these hard truths, because they make us run all the faster and cling all the harder to Jesus.

Note, though, that the writer at the end of Hebrews 4:13 seems to personify the word of God: “And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” Who is the One that God has appointed to be Judge on the last day? It is Jesus, the Word of God:

Acts 17:30–31 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

Jesus is God. Jesus knows our every sin and imperfection. Jesus has been appointed Judge. Where is the good news in this? It is in Hebrews 4:14-16, because this same Jesus has been appointed by God as our High Priest! He came to this world as a man so that he could become experientially familiar with our condition and our temptations (while remaining sinless). He offered Himself as a spotless sacrifice for us and entered the heavenly temple by means of His own blood to make full atonement for us! This means that our Judge has now become our friend and our brother, our advocate (who now uses His intimate and personal knowledge of our circumstances in our defense) and the one who pays our debt in full so we may go free. 

Paul says the same thing in Romans 8:

Romans 8:33–34 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

The answer to the question, “Who is to condemn?” is “the Judge whom God has appointed for that purpose”. And that Judge is Jesus. But, Paul reminds his believing readers, God has justified us – this same Jesus died, rose and ascended for that purpose! Now we find that the Judge, Jesus, has become our Savior and is at the right hand of God, pleading the merits of His own blood in intercession for us! He cannot condemn us if He is actively engaged in and working for our acquittal! Amazing gospel! 

And this is where we get faith. We look to God’s right hand and we see a great High Priest and we trust Him to save us from ourselves and from our justly-deserved day of reckoning. We see Him lay aside His judge’s robes (for us and others who have this same faith) and stand before God, making a perfect plea in our defense, on the basis of His own life and His shed blood. We can come to Him in complete confidence in the light of His heart of love toward us. And we enter into God’s rest, because if God is for us, who can be against us?

Do you have this faith?

Where high the heavenly temple stands,
the house of God not made with hands,
a great High Priest our nature wears,
Jesus, the Son of God, appears.

He who for us our surety stood,
and poured on earth his precious blood,
pursues in heaven his mighty plan,
eternal God and Son of Man.

Though now ascended up on high,
he bends on earth a brother’s eye;
partaker of the human name,
he knows the frailty of our frame.

Our fellow-sufferer yet retains
a fellow-feeling of our pains;
and still remembers in the skies
his tears, his agonies and cries.

In every pang that rends the heart
the Man of Sorrows has a part;
he sympathizes with our grief,
and to the sufferer sends relief.

With boldness, therefore, at the throne,
let us make all our sorrows known;
and ask the aid of heavenly power
to help us in the evil hour.

The Word of God – a Two-Way Mirror for our Blessing

0
,

Many of the clothes that the High Priest and his assistants wore when they ministered before God in the tabernacle are described as “skillfully woven”. That is an idea that also fits many sections in the letter to the Hebrews, except that with God as the author, describing His dealings with His people throughout the Bible, “skillful” doesn’t come close. Here, the weaving is done with infinite perfection and as we come to understand more of what He has done and how He has done it, we can only catch our breath and gaze with wonder and admiration. Last Sunday’s message was a case in point:

LOOKING BACK (Hebrews 4:1-11)

We saw that the idea of “rest” runs as a strand throughout God’s Word, beginning with God modeling “His rest” for us on the seventh day of the creation week. He didn’t need to rest Himself but He established a pattern for us. Then we saw the promised land of Canaan as a type of the rest that God had for His people. Israel under Moses couldn’t enter it, because they had no faith. Israel under Joshua did enter but their hearts were still prone to disobedience. But then years later, writing Psalm 95, David indicated that God’s promise of rest did not finish with Joshua and Israel. Rather, the writer to the Hebrews shows, the promise still stands to enter THE rest that all these other mentions of “rest” (in the creation week and in Canaan) were pointing to – the rest that Jesus would bring, which is entered by faith. This is an “already but not yet” rest which we can know today but for which the full experience lies ahead. This rest is a place where we put our own labors and strivings down and (like John at the Last Supper) lay our Heads on Jesus’ breast in utter trust and joyful resignation. Here there is no worry, no anxiety, no fear, no effort to try to justify ourselves to God, no eternal danger to us. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords and has promised that those who trust Him will always be safe and always will know His presence with them. This is the rest that Jesus invites us to enjoy – and it is received and entered into only by faith:

Matthew 11:28–30 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

We reflected on these truths under the following headings:

  1. The Role of Faith in Entering God’s Rest (1-3) (We enter God’s rest through faith alone in Christ alone by grace alone)
  2. The Nature of Entering God’s Rest (3-5) (It’s not the same as taking a nap, but rather a deep and abiding peace knowing that God is on our side, so who can be against us and succeed in harming us?)

The Urgency of Entering God’s Rest (6-7) (The promise of entering rest is for “today” it’s too risky to leave it until “tomorrow” when none of us knows for sure we will get out of our beds in the morning – so take God up on His promise today! Also, this rest is something so precious that it is worth striving for until we possess it.)

LOOKING AHEAD (Hebrews 4:12-13)

“Today” is a very important day in the life of everyone who has professed to be trusting in Jesus Christ for their salvation. In fact, “today” is mission-critical. Why?

The promise of entering God’s rest remains as long as it is called “today”, so believing in the gospel and resting in Christ can’t wait for another day that we may not have. But on the other hand, we are still plagued by sin, which is deceitful, and we have hearts that are easily led astray. For us, “today” could be the day we make a soul-destroying mistake and fall away from Christ, which is what the original readers of this letter were tempted to do. Therefore, “today” is always the right day to make every effort to confirm our calling and election, and “today” is always a day on which we need to exhort our brothers and sisters in Christ (“as long as it is called “today”) so they might not be hardened into unbelief.

But how can we rightly judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart? How shall we expose sinful thinking and the folly of the sins we are being tempted into? How shall we stand firm and enter the fullness of God’s rest in glory? The writer answers that question in this passage: we may do this by immersing ourselves in the environment of God’s Word. We must read it, meditate on it, hear it preached, memorize it, have it close to our hearts and ready on our lips so that we can search ourselves accurately and exhort others too. We’ll see that the Word is like a two-way mirror to help us. As we look into it, we see our reflection in its pages. The Spirit shows us what we are really like in God’s sight, using it to humble us and convict us and send us running to Jesus for help. But then as we look again into the same Word, we see Jesus through its pages. The same Spirit reveals Him to us, fully able and (hallelujah!) fully willing to save us and bring us into His perfect rest – all accomplished at immeasurable cost by His suffering on the cross!

Beneath the cross of Jesus
  I fain would take my stand,
The shadow of a mighty Rock
  Within a weary land;
A home within the wilderness,
  A rest upon the way,
From the burning of the noontide heat,
  And the burden of the day.

Oh, safe and happy shelter!
  Oh, refuge tried and sweet!
Oh, awesome place where heaven’s love
  And heaven’s justice meet.
As to the holy patriarch
  That wondrous dream was given,
So is my Savior by the cross
  A ladder up to heaven.

There lies beneath its shadow,
  But on the farther side,
The darkness of an awful grave
  That gapes both deep and wide;
And there between us stands the cross,
  Two arms outstretched to save,
Like a watchman set to guard the way
  From that eternal grave.

Upon that cross of Jesus
  Mine eye at times can see
The very dying form of One,
  Who suffered there for me;
And from my smitten heart, with tears,
  Two wonders I confess,
The wonders of His glorious love,
  And my unworthiness.

I take, O cross, thy shadow
  For my abiding place;
I ask no other sunshine than
  The sunshine of His face;
Content to let the world go by,
  To know no gain nor loss,
My sinful self my only shame,
  My glory all the cross.

Jesus – The Hope of a Better Rest, Part 2

0
,

In His great love for the readers of the letter to the Hebrews (both the original audience and us, too), God gives warnings and examples that should be taken seriously and learned from. We considered such a case in this passage, under the following headings:

LOOKING BACK (Hebrews 3:7-19)

Learn from a Deadly Example.  Despite all the love God had shown to Israel when He brought them out of Egypt and (through Moses) led them through the wilderness, and despite all the blessings He poured out on them along the way, their hearts were hardened and they grumbled and complained against Him. Their unbelief was especially demonstrated when they rebelled against God’s command to go in and take possession of the promised land. They had heard a bad report about it from several of the spies they had sent ahead, and they refused point blank to obey. Rather than believing that God would be faithful to His promise, they decided in their sin that He actually brought them out of Egypt to destroy them at the hands of the current occupants. Their unbelief brought dire consequences upon them from God. Only Joshua and Caleb believed the promise of God and entered the land – the rest of that generation perished in the wilderness. We need to be careful when we encounter trials and difficulties in this life not to harden our hearts against God and to disbelieve His promises to us.

Look Carefully at the Condition of Your Heart. Saving faith is more than knowing certain facts and believing them to be true. Always, always, always it consists also in resting ourselves entirely upon those truths – trusting in them alone – for our salvation. But sin is deceitful and we can easily believe lies about God and about one another, giving ourselves over to hardness of heart.  To keep ourselves tender-hearted, it is critical that we exhort each other daily in the church, so that we can be careful to avoid the danger of an evil heart, hardened in unbelief, that turns away from God. We can do this in the church as we learn to exhort and encourage each other boldly, expressing God’s heart for us by watching over each other in love

LOOKING AHEAD (Hebrews 4:1-13)

The writer seems to anticipate some questions from his readers and answer them in this section:

  1. Since Israel didn’t enter the rest God had promised them in Canaan, through their own sinful rebellion and unbelief, does that make the promise defunct? Not at all, he responds, the promise of entering God’s rest still stands for those who united the message of good news with faith in the promise.
  2. But then Joshua did actually lead Israel into the promised land some time later. Does that mean that the promise is now exhausted so that there is no future rest to look forward to? Again, the writer emphatically demonstrates that this is not the case. David says that as long as it is called “today”, if those who hear God’s voice believe in the promise, they will enter God’s rest. And David wrote this in Psalm 95 long after Joshua led Israel into Canaan! So there remains the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise of rest (of which Canaan was just an earthly shadow), and to enter that rest we must hear and believe the message of the gospel. When God created the heavens and the earth, says the writer, He enjoyed a Sabbath rest on the seventh day of the week. In the same way, those who believe the gospel message work in this world to help build God’s house (the new creation) and then enter into their Sabbath rest in heaven.

The rest that lies ahead is so wonderful that it is worth striving to make sure we will enter it. It takes effort to enter God’s rest! God’s Word is a very important element to help us in this task. It holds up a mirror to our hearts and reveals unbelief and sin so we can turn from them. We can use the Word to exhort and encourage each other in the church so that we don’t fall away in unbelief and rebellion, as Israel did, and so fail to enter God’s rest.

 

Jesus – The Hope of a Better Rest!

0
,

It’s so great to spend time in a book that brings Jesus into sharp focus for us in every passage, and highlights in how many ways He is better than anything in this world – indeed, that He is the best! 

LOOKING BACK (Hebrews 3:1-6)

The readers of Hebrews were looking over the fence and seeing greener grass – life might be easier for them if they returned to following Moses under the Old Covenant rather than following Jesus under the New. The writer reminds them who they are in Christ, and then sums up his counsel to them in just two words: “Consider Jesus”. This, he knew, would help them hold fast their confidence and their assurance in their hope. We unpacked this passage under two headings, with the big idea being that we should keep our confidence squarely placed on Jesus:

Our Confidence is Bolstered by Our Identity – we are holy brothers and sisters who share in a heavenly calling

Our Confidence is Grounded by Considering Jesus – It wasn’t that Moses was bad and Jesus wasn’t (and therefore was better). Moses is commended for His service in God’s house. But Jesus is commended as the Son over God’s house, and by implication as the builder of the house itself – and is therefore better than Moses and worthy of more glory. Furthermore, the faithfulness of Jesus is emphasized. He will never disappoint those who put their trust in Him.

We were challenged not to give up on Christ to seek an easier life, given how wonderful and faithful He is. We need to grow our confidence in Him by remembering what He has made us (holy brothers and sisters with a heavenly calling) and by considering Who He is and what He has done to bring us into this relationship with Him!

LOOKING AHEAD (Hebrews 3:7-19)

The second warning of the book follows on from considering how much greater Jesus is than Moses – “Don’t fall away from God through unbelief”.  The writer shows us, shockingly, that this is precisely what so many followers of Moses under the Old Covenant did. Even though they were redeemed out of Egypt by the blood of the Passover, even though they heard God’s voice at Sinai and lived, drank the water from the rock and ate the Manna from heaven (all pointing forward to the coming Messiah), their faith was essentially fake – they were just along for the ride, grumbling and complaining whenever they were hungry or thirsty or threatened by enemies or ran into any other test from God. Time and again, they gave voice to the desire of their hearts – “If only we were back in Egypt”. They showed that throughout their journey from Egypt to the border of the promised land, they were not resting in God and in His promises to them. So God declared they would never enter His rest, and they died outside all the blessings that God had prepared for them in Canaan, the land He had promised to them. Moses and his ministry – especially the way he foreshadowed and prophesied the coming of Christ – could do them no good while their hearts were gripped in unbelief. 

In the same way, the writer warns, his readers can’t just be along for the ride with Christ but with true longings of the heart still in this world. They need to have their confidence squarely on Jesus. They needed to be resting in Him already if they were ever going to enter His eternal rest, the glorious hope that Jesus introduced, and of which the land of Canaan was just an earthly shadow. 

True believers in Christ have entered into and become God’s house by opening the door with the key of faith. They rest in God here and enjoy a foretaste of glory – which is a confirmation to them that they have been qualified by God to enter and enjoy His eternal rest. 

“Don’t harden your hearts and die in unbelief as so many who followed Moses did (the very Moses you are thinking of leaving Jesus for)” says the writer, “because those who don’t rest in Jesus here will never rest in Him eternally”

Are you resting in Jesus right now as your only Hope for heaven?

Trunk or Treat!

0

We are excited to be together as a church family on Saturday for some fun times! For those who have not done a trunk or treat, here’s how it’s going to work:

  • Bring candy with you to give out! Bring as much as you want! A 10 dollar bag will do or bring more if you want!
  • 4:00p-5:00p: Arrive for your parking spot. Trunks will be facing the center of the property.
  • Decorate your car onsite. That will help it not get destroyed on the drive over! We’ll give away a prize for the best decorated car!
  • 5:00p-5:45p: Dinner will be served. We are catering BBQ: Pulled pork, Shredded Chicken, Mac and Cheese, Potato Salad, Green Salad from AZ BBQ Catering! Cost is $5 per person, $20 max per family, until supplies run out! Venmo @gracechurchaz, give on Church Center app, or you can bring cash.
  • 5:45p-6:15p: Candy give away. The kids can walk from car to car to get candy. You can either stand by your car to give it away or you can bring a bowl to put out on your trunk. Bring a bag for your own kids to collect!

A couple of other things to know:

  • We will have a bounce house running! Woohoo!
  • We will have a port-a-potty bathroom onsite.
  • Costumes — please consider keeping your costumes on the lighthearted, fun side. We want to make it inviting for everyone with different convictions and sensitivities
  • Text us at 623-526-1660 if you have any questions!
  • Address is 8822 W. Deer Valley Rd., Peoria, AZ 85382

PLEASE REGISTER YOU’RE COMING SO WE CAN PLAN PARKING AND FOOD: https://gracechurchaz.churchcenter.com/calendar/event/90984157

Jesus – Better than Moses!

0
,

LOOKING BACK (Job 36:24–37:15)

Last Sunday, we reflected on the harmony between our faith and a proper application of scientific inquiry. A great scientist of the past, Johannes Kepler, said “Science is the process of thinking God’s thoughts after Him.” 

We saw in the case of electricity that it has been present in lightning storms since the world was created, but the investigation of how it works (motivated by fear of God) has, in the faithful love of God, led to all kinds of beneficial innovations that are powered by electricity. At one time, some thought that to try to mitigate the effects of lightning was, in effect, to attempt to subvert the sovereignty of God who unleashes the storm from which they come. However, God is still sovereign over the effects of every lightning bolt, even if we use our God-given talents to understand how His lightning works and then find ways to avert the disasters they otherwise may cause.

We applied this principle to all scientific inquiry, essentially seeing that Kepler was correct in his definition. We saw:

  1. Every lightning bolt is shot from the hand of God, never misses its target, and never fails to accomplish its divine purpose. 
  2. Lightning is mediated through atmospheric “channels” set in place by the Creator.
  3. The normal habits of lightning, not understood, destroy. 
  4. Lightning’s channels are eventually understood by humans, a discovery driven by fear of harm. 
  5. Lightning, understood and redirected by human innovation, still obeys God’s will. 
  6. Harnessed lightning becomes harnessed electricity.
  7. Electricity, harnessed and employed by man’s innovation, showcases God’s love to us in his design of lightning.

We were encouraged to renew our awe in God, and to admire His faithful love in the blessings that are ours as we learn to think His thoughts after Him, to understand and to harness the power which courses through His creation in so many amazing ways.

LOOKING AHEAD (Hebrews 3:1-6)

We’re going to be back in Hebrews on Sunday, following the encouragement of the author to consider Jesus (meaning to give very careful thought to Him). His original readers were thinking a lot about returning to follow Moses, certainly the “celebrity” of the Old Covenant. This was appealing to them as a way to avoid some of the difficulties that following Christ had resulted in.

We, too, face lots of temptations to leave off from following Christ in favor of something we think is easier, better or “cooler” in the moment. But what do we see when we carefully consider Jesus in comparison with Moses?

Moses…

But Jesus…

Introduced the Passover – God ransomed Israel from their slavery to Egypt through the blood of the sacrificed lamb

Is Himself the Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7), Who ransoms His people from slavery to sin by His own sacrificial blood

As the people thought, gave the people manna to eat and water from the rock to drink (It actually came from god)

Is Himself the Bread of Life and the Living Water to His people – fulfilling the shadows that were ministered to the people through Moses

Mediated the Old Covenant, receiving the Law of God on Sinai (from angels, apparently) and sprinkling the people with the blood of the covenant (Exodus 24:6–8)

Mediated the New Covenant by fully satisfying the righteous demands of the law throughout His life and shedding His own blood at the cross (Mark 14:24)

Instituted the ceremonial law with its animal sacrifices system that cleansed the people outwardly so that God could dwell AMONG them

Instituted the law of love, offering Himself as a sacrifice that cleansed His people inwardly so that God could dwell WITHIN them

Exercised a ministry that was essentially a ministry of death (exposing and condemning sin) that has transient and fading glory

Exercised (and continues) a ministry of life (setting His people free from slavery to the fear of death) that has transcendent and eternal glory

As a prophet, foretold One “like Him” whom God would send, to whom the people should listen

Is Himself “The Prophet” Moses foretold – we should listen to Him!

Was a creature – brought into being by God

Is the Creator, through Whom all things were made that have been made

Is therefore a servant IN God’s house

Is a Son OVER God’s house – and we are that house if we hold fast to Him!

Therefore, Christ is in every way better even than the “celebrity” Moses, who really did great things in God’s house and yet whose glory was totally eclipsed by that of Jesus. 

Who or what would you think is worth deserting this Jesus to follow? Who is better than Him, or more worthy of your trust and your loyalty?

Stealing God’s Thunder!

0

LOOKING BACK (Hebrews 2:9-18)

We followed the writer’s argument as he showed us all that Jesus became, and all He successfully undertook in order to be our Perfect Savior. We broke the passage down under these headings:

    • Jesus the Substitute (v9)
    • Jesus the Trailblazer (v10)
    • Jesus the Brother Maker (11-13)
    • Jesus the Satan Crusher (14-15)
    • Jesus the Sympathizer (16-18)

We were comforted to realize that there couldn’t possibly be a better Savior than the One we have, and to be reminded just how much He cares for us, given what He went through to be our Perfect Savior!

LOOKING AHEAD (Job 36:24–37:15)

We’re looking forward to having Tony Reinke bring God’s Word to us on Sunday – please pray for his preparation and delivery of the message!

Also please pray for our elders as they are on retreat this weekend, seeking to know the Lord’s will in the life and ministry of the church.

 

 

Jesus – Our Perfect Savior!

0
,

LOOKING BACK (Hebrews 2:1-9)

Our eyes were lifted up to see the amazing grace God lavishes on His children. We broke the passage down into these sections:

  1. God’s Big Plan for Little Man (v5-8a)
  2. Little Man’s Big Rebellion (v8b)
  3. Big God Rescues Little Man (v9)

God has planned to do more than restore us to the place where we were before we rebelled against His loving rule (Adam and Eve were made a little lower than the angels). He intends to put this world in subjection to us, crowning us with glory and honor! He is able to do this because Christ came into the world to fully experience death for everyone and to lift us up from the pit of our sin to sit with Him in glory! We are joined to Jesus in His death to sin, in His resurrection, ascension and heavenly reign, when all His enemies will be His footstool! This union with Jesus is called being “in Him” in the Bible. Our glorious destiny and His are linked in a way that no-one can uncouple, because we are “in Him”! As the hymn-writer said:

In Him the tribes of Adam boast
More blessings than their father lost

LOOKING AHEAD (Hebrews 2:10-18)

We covered some of the material in this passage in last week’s post, but here are a few more things for us to ponder as we prepare to hear God speaking to us in His Word this coming Sunday;

There is an appropriateness (or a rightness) about the plan God has executed to rescue us. The writer says (v10) that it was “fitting”, or “right” that Jesus should suffer in order to be the founder of our salvation, Who makes us holy (sanctifies us). Jesus was made lower than the angels for a little while (without giving up any of His “Godness”, He became also a man) so He could die for His people. We mentioned last week that since man had offended God, man had to pay for the offence, but that man’s life had to be of infinite value if many sons would be brought to glory.  So Jesus had to die as a God-man to rescue us. Here are some of the ways, expressed or implied in the passage, in which this suffering of Jesus is gloriously fitting:

  • Jesus was able to stand fully in our place to receive the punishment that should have been ours
  • Jesus fully identified with us – He has become bound to us eternally as a man – He will never give up the body that He dwelt in here on earth but will keep it forever
  • Therefore Jesus is our brother. God has become Father to Jesus the man in the same way that God is our Father. Also, in Jesus, God has become our Father in the same way He is Jesus’ Father. 
  • Therefore also, Jesus is perfectly suited to be our high priest, because in His body He has sinlessly endured all the temptations we face, has lived among sinners in a corrupt world and has a fellow-feeling for all our weaknesses. He grew tired, He wept, He was persecuted. He knows what it is like to be us.

So there is a Divine symmetry, purpose, elegance and genius to God’s rescue plan – it was completely “fitting!” I hope your heart is warmed by the depth and the richness of these truths. They reach far beyond our ability to understand, but we should expect that when we are studying the heart and the purposes of an infinite God, and thank Him for the wonderful things we are able to see, understand, and even sense!

Lastly, the writer tells us that Jesus was made perfect through His suffering. This can’t mean that Jesus wasn’t perfect until He suffered – as though there was some blemish or sin in Him that His suffering cleaned away. All the Scriptures tell us that He knew no sin and no-one could ever find sin in Him. Rather, I think it means that by becoming a man and being made like us in every respect, by coming to dwell among us in a sinful world, by dying as our substitute and for our sins, by joining Himself  with us so intimately and eternally as our brother, Jesus is perfectly suited to save to the uttermost all who put their trust in Him. This is what the writer is saying here – Jesus is intimately acquainted with our condition. Jesus has done everything that is needed to rescue us, so no one who comes to Him for salvation can possibly be lost! Everything He experienced and suffered makes Him the perfect Savior for us!

 

Jesus – Made Like Him, Like Him We Rise!

0
,

Is your life this week more like being afloat on a river or on a lake?

In spiritual terms, we need to be careful that going with the flow of the river of this world doesn’t cause us to drift from Jesus. Instead, we need to remain close to Him, moored to Him, and not moved away by anything in the world (a bit like being anchored on a lake). If we do this, we will share in the glorious inheritance He has prepared for us! 

LOOKING BACK (Hebrews 2:1-4)

God challenged us to make sure we are not drifting from Jesus, warning us in the light of Who He is:

  1. To pay “much closer attention to what we have heard” (the “great salvation” in the gospel) because:
    • It comes from the incomparable Jesus Himself.
    • It (or He) is the good news that everyone needs
    • It is credible
  2. Not to Drift Away from Christ but to remain anchored to Him. Drifting from Him is dangerous. It generally happens gradually, but unless it’s stopped, the end is tragic. We took some time to examine the cause (the “journey syndrome”, compromise and laziness) and signs that we may be drifting now (self-centeredness, self-deception. self-sufficiency. self-righteousness). 

Finally, we were shown the antidote to drifting away from Christ – paying close attention to the gospel we hear, so we will remain firmly anchored to Him.

LOOKING AHEAD (Hebrews 2:5-18)

Why did Jesus become a man? 

Man had offended God infinitely, so man had to pay for that offence. But to pay for an infinite offence requires a sacrifice of infinite value, which only God could offer. So Jesus (Who is God) was made like us in every way except for our sin. Like us, He was made lower than the angels for a little while in order to become the sacrifice (and the merciful High Priest who offered it) that could fully atone for the sins of His people. Through His death, He destroyed the one who has the power of death – the devil – and delivered us from the lifelong slavery that was ours through the fear of death. That is the good news – the gospel! Because He tasted death for everyone, He will be crowned with glory and honor, and the world to come will be subjected to Him by God.

In this action, Jesus has joined Himself so closely to us that in a wonderful, but mysterious sense, we have God as Father in the same way He does. Just pause and think about the honors and titles that rightfully belong to Jesus, and the power that is His (see Chapter 1) and then read verse 11 again: 

If you have trusted Him to save you, He is not ashamed to call you His brother or His sister! 

The outcomes of our union with Jesus are staggering:

  1. Having been made like us, He is perfectly suited to be sympathetic to us as our Great High Priest during our time in this world – when He was here, He was tempted in every respect as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15).
  2. Since we are joined to Christ in His Life, Death, Burial, Resurrection and Ascension, in the world to come (which will be subjected to Him) we shall surely be joined to Him in His reign! It would be staggering audacity and even blasphemy for us to suggest such things, if God had not made the truth of them very clear in His Word (Romans 6:1-11, 1 Corinthians 6:3, Colossians 2:12, 3:1, Ephesians 2:4-7, 2 Tim 2:11-13).

 

Songs:

How Deep The Father’s Love

Man of Sorrows

Sovereign

My Worth Is Not in What I Own

 

Click here to watch the sermon related to this post

Menu