Monthly Archives: December 2015

A NEW DAY!

As most of you know Cheryl and I were school teachers for many years before entering the pastoral ministry. One thing that I really enjoyed about teaching was that every year was a new year… you could always get a fresh start. For example, if you struggled in an area, you could work on that particular area of teaching and enjoy a new beginning! As for my coaching experience, if I had a down year, I could always anticipate winning more games the next year! With 2016 before us, we should adopt this mindset! Maybe 2015 was not a good year for you; you can move into 2016 with a new view of God and what He has for your life! We certainly do not want to move into 2016 looking back with regret! Let the Lord use you as He sees fit in 2016 and see what happens! Look forward… move forward… if you fell down in 2015… get up and run into 2016 begging God to do something special for you and yours! HE WILL DO IT… HE’S GOD! 

Our NEW SESSIONS are almost here! Beginning this Sunday evening at 5:45 PM, Jamin Shelby and I will begin a NEW SESSION called 9 Marks of a Healthy Church. Michael and Julie Adams will be offering a family oriented class called The Art of Marriage. Cheryl and I taught this class during Vacation Bible School this past summer. It was awesome… the best class on marriage that we have ever led. Even after 40 years of marriage our take away was huge! You and your wife should take this class. Do it and you will thank Michael and Julie before it is over. That, my friends, is a promise! Jason and Martha are planning a Bible study for our college age and young adults. It will begin on Sunday evening, January 17. Don’t miss these classes… they are crucial for your spiritual growth.

Thank you for your faithful love and support throughout 2015. Cheryl and I love you and deeply appreciate your care for us. Even knowing our weaknesses, you continue to love us! Amazing!!! We love you too! I am asking the Lord to make this our best year yet! The future is bright… Jesus may come today! Keep your head up and your knees down… Jesus is coming soon! Revelation 22:20-21  He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. 21 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

See you Sunday for a new beginning!

Mike and Cheryl<><

EXCELLENCE for the glory of God

3 Ways to Pursue Excellence for the Glory of God

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Why pursue excellence? Biblically speaking, we should pursue excellence not because we’re motivated to boost our ego or to achieve success, but because our glorious, excellent God deserves no less, and because he’s created us for excellence and has called us to pursue excellence for His glory.

How Should We Respond to God’s Excellence?

What’s our proper response to God’s excellence? I believe Scripture tells us that we can do so in primarily three ways: (1) proclamation; (2) imitation; and a (3) committed, conscious, and deliberate pursuit of Christian virtues.

  1. Proclamation:

When Peter, in the second chapter of his first epistle, talks about the church, he writes that God called it into being so “that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). So the first way to pursue excellence is simply to pursue God, and to reflect on his character, and to proclaim his excellent character traits to others. God is awesome! He has so many wonderful attributes, and he is so worthy of our worship and praise. Let’s not overlook this first important aspect of our pursuit of excellence, the contemplation and worship and praise of God himself.

  1. Imitation:

Paul writes in Eph 5:1: “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.” And Jesus said, “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:48). Second, then, God calls us to imitate him. We’re his children. You’ve heard the saying, “Like father, like son.” Or, “Like mother, like daughter.” God made us in his image, that is, in his family likeness. And as his redeemed children, we’re being restored to that image in Christ. By his grace, God calls us to become like him and to shine for his glory, so others see our good works and praise our Father who is in heaven (Matt 5:16).

  1. Pursuit of Christian Virtues:

The third major way to pursue excellence, besides proclamation and imitation, is our conscious, deliberate, committed pursuit of Christian virtues. In 2 Peter 1:3-11, Peter writes that in Christ, God has given us everything we need to live a godly life and to pursue excellence (v. 3).

What’s more, Peter urges us to “make every effort” to supplement our faith with excellence and a series of other Christian virtues such as self-control, endurance, godliness, and brotherly love (vv. 5-7).

In this way, we’ll be neither useless nor unfruitful in our Christian lives (v. 8). We’ll also confirm our calling and election (v. 10) and safely enter God’s eternal kingdom (v. 11). Wow! That’s amazing! God expects us to grow in excellence of character and conduct, yet he himself empowers our efforts in Christ!

Excellence: The Pursuit of a Lifetime

God is the grounds of all excellence; it’s His excellence we must proclaim and strive to emulate. We are called to pursue excellence. In fact, God has given us all that we need to do in and through our relationship with Jesus Christ. But it’s you and I who must make every effort to pursue excellence.

The pursuit of excellence is a habit, the pursuit of a lifetime, a commitment that must be continually renewed. Break it down into the pursuit of a series of distinct but related virtues. Apply it to your particular calling and vocation. Rely on the Holy Spirit. Live your life holistically and recognize the need for balance. Be a witness.

Conclusion

Over the past 20 years, I’ve had various people in my house – plumbers, carpet people, wood floor installers, etc. Some did a great job; they were committed to excellence. Others, however, did sloppy work, arrived late, or charged too much. Let’s make sure the work we do, and the people we are, is marked by excellence, for the glory of God.

Merry Christmas 2015

Merry Christmas to you and yours! 2015 has been a year of Christ honoring ministry at Grace Church. The Lord has blessed us in numerous ways! His abundance of grace, mercy and peace has been poured out upon us over the past twelve months! Thank you for your love and support. Seeing the church Jesus died for move forward is overwhelming… His mercy is everlasting and His truth endures to every generation! Paul marveled in Romans 5, “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound!” He spoke these encouraging words to his brothers and sisters at Corinth in 2 Corinthians 1:2, “Grace be to you and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” So as we approach Christmas 2015 and peeking into 2016… we love you and your families! We are praying for 2016 to be your best year yet! Maybe, just maybe, in 2016 Jesus will come again! Revelation 22:20-21, “He which testifies these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.”
 
Christmas Eve Communion begins at 5:00 PM. Feel free to invite your friends and family members. Our Christmas Eve Communion Service is a great opportunity to focus our hearts on the Christ of Christmas. The shepherds focused on Jesus, the wise men focused on Jesus and angels near God’s Throne, focused on Jesus as well. We certainly can’t do less!!! Join us if at all possible… we would love to see you!
 
From me and Cheryl, Michael and Julie, Jason and Martha, Lee and Christy, & Ray and Kay we wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas! We love and appreciate you!
 
1 Corinthians 16:24, “My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.”

Pastor Mike <><

Theology defined…

The Goal of Theology

The study of theology is considered by many to be dry, boring, irrelevant, and complicated. But for those who want to know God, the study of theology is indispensable.

The word “theology” comes from two Greek words, theos (“God”) and logos (“word”). The study of theology is an effort to make definitive statements about God and his implications in an accurate, coherent, relevant way, based on God’s self-revelations. Doctrine equips people to fulfill their primary purpose, which is to glorify and delight in God through a deep personal knowledge of him. Meaningful relationship with God is dependent on correct knowledge of him.

Any theological system that distinguishes between “rational propositions about God” and “a personal relationship with God” fails to see this necessary connection between love and knowledge. The capacities to love, enjoy, and tell others about a person are increased by greater knowledge of that person. Love and knowledge go hand in hand. Good lovers are students of the Beloved. Knowledge of God is the goal of theology.

More than Knowledge

Knowledge without devotion is cold, dead orthodoxy. Devotion without knowledge is irrational instability. But true knowledge of God includes understanding everything from his perspective. Theology is learning to think God’s thoughts after him. It is to learn what God loves and hates, and to see, hear, think, and act the way he does. Knowing how God thinks is the first step in becoming godly.

Many would like to think that just being a “good” person and “loving” God, without an emphasis on doctrine, is preferable. But being a good person can mean radically different things depending on what someone thinks “good” is, or what constitutes a “person.” Loving God will look very different depending on one’s conception of “God” or “love.” The fundamental connections between belief and behavior, and between love and knowledge, demand a rigorous pursuit of truth for those wanting to love God and to be godly. Hebrews 5:11–6:3 teaches that deepening theological understanding equips one to be able to differentiate good from evil, and it exhorts believers to mature in their knowledge of God and his ways:

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity. (Hebrews 5:12–6:1)

A Commitment to Truth

Good theology is based in the belief that God exists, is personal, can be known, and has revealed himself. These presuppositions motivate theologians to devote themselves to a passionate pursuit of knowledge from God’s Word. Unfortunately, the word “theologian” is used almost exclusively for vocational theologians rather than for anyone earnestly devoted to knowing God. On one level everyone who thinks about God is a theologian. But a believer whose life is consumed with knowing his Lord is most certainly a theologian, and theologians are committed to truth.

Loving God means loving truth. God is a God of truth; he is truth. In Scripture, all three persons of the Trinity are vitally related to truth. In light of this relationship between God and truth, it should be no surprise that the Great Commandment includes loving God with one’s mind: “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30, quoting Deuteronomy 30:6). Fully loving God and obeying the Great Commandment requires actively engaging the mind in the pursuit of truth.

A Commitment to Your Neighbor

The second half of the Great Commandment—love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:31)—also requires a great commitment to truth. Love, kindness, and compassion must include profound concern that people understand the truth, since their lives depend on it. God meets man’s greatest need of relationship with him through an understanding of truth: “Of his own will [God] brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures” (James 1:18; cf. 1 Peter 1:23). Sanctification also happens by means of the truth: “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17; cf. Romans 12:2).

Authentic discipleship is marked by knowing and obeying truth: “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31–32). Therefore, loving others involves having a deep desire that they understand truth. This is the reason the Great Commission has a vital teaching element. Making disciples of Christ involves teaching them to observe all he has commanded (Matthew 28:20).

Jesus wants people to understand and obey truth and thereby find life in him. Failure to care whether or not loved ones understand the truth is failure to care about their abundant and eternal lives.

 

The GLORY of Christmas!

Over the past few weeks I have found a home in the first three chapters of Luke’s Gospel. Luke’s Christmas story is packed with nuggets of truth. For sure, the supernatural is the headline on his front page. In chapter 2:13, Luke highlights “a multitude of the heavenly host praising God.” It seems like angels are everywhere! There is a good reason for that; angels glorify God and this whole story is ultimately about the glory of God revealed to us through JESUS! Angels, singing, praising, and great joy all accompany the glory of God! John 1:14 describes it in these words, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld HIS glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” In a very real sense, when it comes to Christmas we are on holy ground, with glory all around! Think of it this way! Every time we share the Gospel the glory of God abounds through CHRIST, THE LORD! Let the glory of God shine this Christmas… make it all about JESUS!

A few weeks ago I challenged everyone to finish strong in 2015. My challenged touched on these three areas of Christian living: attendance, giving and witnessing. Take some time and think about your life. Ask yourself, “How is God using me?” Let the Lord use you in these three key areas… Bring a friend or family member to church with you, bless someone with a gift expecting nothing in return or ask the Lord for boldness to share your faith with a coworker, friend or even a stranger! Grace Church, let’s make much of JESUS and finish strong in 2015! God bless you and yours!!!

Luke 1:32-33 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David: 33 And He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end. (JESUS is mentioned 6 times in these two verses.)

CHRISTMAS!

CHRISTMAS! God has spoken! In His time, to us, GOD HAS SPOKEN! This is CHRISTMAS! In Galatians 4:4 Paul speaks of the “fullness of time.” Yes, just at the right time on God’s heavenly clock, HE SPOKE! God’s message is for all of us! Yes, He has a message for you and for everyone you know! This message is the Gospel… the Gospel of God… the Gospel of Christ! Paul describes it this way in Galatians 4:4 “God sent forth His Son.” The Father sent Jesus, His Son at just the right time! Aren’t you thankful that GOD HAS SPOKEN? CHRISTMAS is all about the coming of Jesus! I John 4:14 is crystal clear about His coming, about the CHRISTMAS we celebrate! It says, 1 John 4:14 And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. Brothers and sisters, let’s not let this CHRISTMAS SEASON pass without making much of JESUS! Point others to Him while you can! Jesus is coming again, many of our friends and family members do not know our Christ! This may be the best time of the year to share JESUS! Worship JESUS today with all of your heart and then make every effort to share HIM with those around you! Luke 2:11 says, For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

An Uptown Christmas begins tonight at 6:00 PM at the Greenville Town Commons! Pray for Pastor Jason, our Worship Team and Choir as they prepare for Greenville’s first ever out- door Christmas presentation at the Town Commons! I will see you tonight at 6:00 PM… be prayed up and bring your family and friends! Let’s give the Lord all honor, glory and praise! Luke 2:14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.