a blessed life

Wealth, Fame, and Accolades: A Blessed Life – Tim Swensen

We’ve invited three of our own to post on the blog from the prompt, “what does a blessed life look like?” We hope you enjoy their reflections and are driven to reflect on God’s goodness to you as well. Thanks for reading.

I was in a grocery store recently, idling in the check-out line with my chewing gum, refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough, and—owing to the legacy of B.F. Skinner and my dustbowl, empiricist education in the finer points of operant conditioning—a package of iTunes cards, today’s ultimate specimen of a secondary reinforcer. As I stood in line, I spied a popular weekly magazine with a photo of a highly acclaimed actor splashed across its cover, grinning like a feline who’d just consumed one of the planet’s feathered creatures. A millionaire several times over, dozens of awards keeping vigil on his mantel, the subject of both critical and popular renown, “I FEEL BLESSED!” he proclaimed. Read more

artificial lights

Artificial Lights: A Blessed Life – Libby Lehman

We’ve invited three of our own to post on the blog from the prompt, “what does a blessed life look like?” We hope you enjoy their reflections and are driven to reflect on God’s goodness to you as well. Thanks for reading.

Manchester Road is one of bustle and brightness, and it led us straight to the entrance of our St. Louis apartment. It has four lanes, is dotted with stoplights, and lined on both sides with businesses and restaurants and such, all competing for attention with their signs and colors and lights. Our daily routine would take us mostly to school and work, each of these requiring the most travel on none other than Manchester Road. Between the stoplights, the businesses, the lights of the other cars, and street lamps, there was no lack of bright lights, even at night. It was constant.

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Definition of Worship

Toward a Definition of Worship

Being that there is a great deal of romanticism surrounding the idea of worship, it is important that we get down to a definition of what worship is.  Otherwise we may be prone to worshipping worship itself, rather than the God who deserves our praise.

“there is a profound sense in which excellent worship cannot be attained merely by pursuing excellent worship.  In the same way that, according to Jesus, you cannot find yourself until you lose yourself, so also you cannot find excellent corporate worship until you stop trying to find excellent corporate worship and pursue God Himself. Despite the protestations, one sometimes wonders if we are beginning to worship worship rather than worship God.  As a brother put it to me, it’s a bit like those who begin by admiring the sunset and soon begin to admire themselves admiring the sunset.”[1]

Ironically, we have a tendency to make worship more about us than it is about the God to whom it should be directed.  Perhaps some Biblical grounding will provide the humility to stop this tendency. Read more

worship

Worship: Deeply, Outward, Upward

If you read through the Old Testament, you find that there are entire chapters devoted to describing what Israel’s worship was to look like. There are sections detailing what they priests were to wear (Ex. 28), who is to offer sacrifices and when, what qualifies as an acceptable offering (Lev. 1-7), the dimensions of the tabernacle (Ex. 25-26). This is just a small sampling of all that was laid out for the Old Testament worship to take place.

When we turn to the New Testament however, we find a surprisingly small amount of instruction in regard to our gathering.

We’re called to preach (2 Tim. 4:2), be devoted to the public reading of scripture (1 Tim. 4:13), and sing (Col. 3:16, Eph. 5:19). Read more

idolatry

Uncomfortable Idolatry

The first commandment was first for a reason.

Martin Luther wrote on the first commandment in his larger catechism:

“That is: Thou shalt have [and worship] Me alone as thy God. What is the force of this, and how is it to be understood? What does it mean to have a god? or, what is God? Answer: A god means that from which we are to expect all good and to which we are to take refuge in all distress, so that to have a God is nothing else than to trust and believe Him from the [whole] heart; as I have often said that the confidence and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol. If your faith and trust be right, then is your god also true; and, on the other hand, if your trust be false and wrong, then you have not the true God; for these two belong together faith and God. That now, I say, upon which you set your heart and put your trust is properly your god.

Therefore it is the intent of this commandment to require true faith and trust of the heart which settles upon the only true God and clings to Him alone. That is as much as to say: “See to it that you let Me alone be your God, and never seek another,” i.e.: Whatever you lack of good things, expect it of Me, and look to Me for it, and whenever you suffer misfortune and distress, creep and cling to Me. I, yes, I, will give you enough and help you out of every need; only let not your heart cleave to or rest in any other.”

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New Church Campus Plans

Sunday night at our church family meeting Jodi and I announced (with the support of our elder team) that we would like to plant a church campus in a surrounding area. For reasons, which I intend to explain in this post, we want to extend Greenville Grace to another community within a 20-30 minute radius of Grace within the next 1-5 years.

I know that this likely leaves many of us with a great deal of questions; where? When? How? Unfortunately, we don’t know the answers to those questions yet. In fact, we want to get word out about this plan because we’re inviting feedback. We want to start the discussion concerning sending people and resources to another community with a view to starting another church there. We thought you might be able to help us find a few of those answers. Read more

The Danger of Assumption

You don’t know much.

Sorry, but its true. As much as we value education and knowledge in our world, we really don’t know much of anything.  In fact, it seems at times that our continued search for knowledge only leaves us knowing that we have more to learn.

Now, throw this lack of true knowledge into a sinful heart and we have a recipe for disaster. There is an endless world of speculation available to us, and the sinful motive to always assume the worst in those around us. If jumping to conclusions were actually a work out, we would be iron-men.

Let me provide an example; you’re at work and run to the water cooler to get a drink. On your way Jimmy stops you and says “hey, those TPS reports were due on Friday, remember?” without looking up from the manila folder that was holding his attention.  Read more

bradshaw-sabbatical

Random Thoughts From Our Sabbatical

When I was growing up, pastors were given extended vacations, known as “sabbaticals” (try saying that term to someone outside the church and see how they look at you), for two reasons. Either they were writing a book or some other task that would dominate a period of months or they had screwed up somehow and the church didn’t know what to do with them. When I was 15, the senior pastor at my home church was given a 6 month forced sabbatical. In my mind, that seemed like a lot of time to go fishing. Read more

worship

Trinitarian Worship

I remember a college professor saying that worship should only be directed toward the Father and Son because the Spirit’s role was to remind us of Jesus. While it is true that the Spirit’s role is to glorify Jesus (John 16:14), it is equally true that the Father glorifies the Son (John 17:5) and the Son has glorified the Father (John 17:4).

The truth is that from the beginning of time there has been an amazing activity of glorification amongst the members of the Godhead. Dan Cruver writes; Read more

worship

Building Music Ministry on the Gospel

Just as Jesus is both the sacrifice and the priest, so the gospel is both the means and focus of corporate worship—that is to say, the Godhead’s work in the gospel is our central focus and we are capable of such worship only through the access we have in Christ.

It is vitally important for us to plan our services with the gospel at the center as this is ultimately the point of scripture—we see Jesus’ work in every page.  From the need created in Gen. 3 to the Lamb’s book of life in Revelation 21, God’s purpose is to show us Jesus (Lk. 24:44). Read more