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Blog Archives: January 2018 — December 2018

What Does Advent Mean For Me?

December 27, 2018
Tom Breeden
By this point, the gifts have been opened. That turkey or ham has been carved and the leftovers are packed up in the fridge. The Christmas decorations are still up and Christmas music is playing, but only for a few more days. Soon January 1 will come and, while we might not rush to take the tree down, we all know it’s only a matter of time. Christmas is behind us; the New Year is before us. Dear Christian, don’t move on too quickly! We don’t pack up the incarnation with the decorations. Through Christmas is for but a season, its message is ...

Was Mary Really a Virgin?

December 19, 2018
Rich Brown
“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” Luke 1:26–28 (ESV) For many of us who have grown up in the church, the phrase “the virgin birth of Christ” is familiar to our ears. You’ve probably heard scores of sermons on the birth of Christ. And you’ve seen pictures and displays of the nativity scene: Mary, ...

Word of the Week

December 18, 2018
Don Ward
Word of the week: Community Last night I was at one of the ever-present Christmas parties this time of year. This one was a different, as there were only six of us plus some young people. At one point several of the people found themselves on the couch. They hadn’t connected in a while, and soon they were deep in conversation. They were so deep in conversation that I couldn’t peel one of them away to leave. They weren’t talking about their favorite Christmas tradition, the latest in decorations, or the recipe for a great Christmas meal side ...

Why Did Jesus Have to Be Born?

December 13, 2018
Don Ward
Why did Jesus have to be born? The short answer is that Jesus had to die, and then be raised from the dead. Of course, the answer is more nuanced and complicated than that, but I don’t think my first statement is too far from the truth.  Let me give you a few things to think about in answer to the question. To hear a sermon about the remarkable conception of Jesus of Nazareth, and why that is important, please click the link to this past Sunday’s sermon. Jesus was born to die as a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice. God promised that ...

Word of the Week

December 12, 2018
Don Ward
Word of the Week: Community Whew! We got worship in on Sunday just under the wire before the snowfall really started coming. Here is an odd thing you might not think about: It’s a hard decision to cancel church. If we had cancelled Sunday, I would have been kicking himself if I’d been at home at 9:30 and there was no snow coming down. I give a big shout out to deacon of the day, Paul Parmiter, for helping to make the decision and staying at the church until everyone left. We were able to worship together and have the Lord’s supper. It was ...

Why Do Christians Celebrate Christmas?

December 05, 2018
Tom Breeden
If you crack open your Bible, you’ll notice a myriad of holidays and festivals. This is especially true if you turn to the Old Testament. But if you keep going, you’ll notice less and less of them as you approach of the New Testament. Even most of these are references to Jewish holidays that were still being celebrated, such as Pentecost rather than descriptions of holidays that Christians would go on to celebrate. One thing’s for sure – you won’t find any mention of our Christmas celebrations. So why do we celebrate Christmas? 1. We ...

Word of the Week

December 05, 2018
Don Ward
My New Calling At the end of our trip to Malawi, Africa in July 2018, Duncan Nyozani, the Malawi Team leader, asked me a pointed question: “So Don, are you God’s man for Malawi?” At the time I told him I didn’t know the answer to that, but I expressed my desire to ensure that capable pastors return annually to train leaders in Malawi. My sense was that in a few years I would leave Grace to work full time with Equipping Leaders International. However, several moments this fall changed my time frame. The ELI director let me know they’d ...

What Does It Mean to Grieve the Holy Spirit?

November 28, 2018
Rich Brown
When you look back at the story of your life, what particular things have stood out to you the most? Perhaps you can recall particular events that have shaped who you are as a person. How about employments that have strengthened you and allowed you to use the gifts and talents God has given you? Or loved ones who have been with you for the long haul, or those who have come and gone? Perhaps you can recall broken relationships that seemed to be beyond repair. What was once healthy had, in time, become disjointed and fractured. If we were ...

Word of the Week

November 28, 2018
Don Ward
Word of the week: Wonder Do you remember the last time you had a sense of wonder? Can you think of the last time that something really amazed you? Perhaps someone in your family has a new baby and you held the child over Thanksgiving. Or this year you traveled to some amazing place and paused to be amazed at the sights and sounds. Wonder and amazement bring joy to us and enhance the sense that the world has beauty and order beyond easy explanation. I remember my childhood Christmas celebrations as times of wonder. It was when the tree ...

What Does It Mean to Be Baptized in the Holy Spirit?

November 14, 2018
Tom Breeden
Usually I don’t answer my phone if I don’t recognize the number, but this time I did. It was a deacon at a small Baptist church not too far away from where I lived. They were currently without a pastor and looking for someone to fill the pulpit for an upcoming Sunday. Was I interested in doing the service for them? I was still in seminary and it was only the second time I had been invited to preach a service anywhere before – of course I was interested in doing the service! When I got there on Sunday morning, I realized we had very ...

Word of the Week

November 14, 2018
Don Ward
Word of the Week: Wonderful Some things are just wonderful to see. When you are going through some sorrows (as our family is), sometimes something beautiful and wonderful is just the medicine for the soul which God prescribes. Last Sunday we watched Steve Hohenberger baptize his little grandson. Many of their family was there for this special occasion. That in and of itself is beautiful, as we recognize God’s grace to this family and his covenant promises to all generations. But this was a special moment because there is a bigger story ...

Who is the Holy Spirit?

November 07, 2018
Rich Brown
Evangelical Christians across America were asked a series of questions recently through Ligonier Ministries concerning basic Christian teachings. It turns out that 56% of those surveyed believe that the Holy Spirit is not a Person, but rather some kind of mystical force or movement! In other words, when they think of God, they probably have a decent understanding of God the Father and God the Son, but the Spirit is some mysterious energy that empowers Christians. While time would fail us to go into all the various passages that describe the ...

Word of the Week

November 07, 2018
Tom Breeden
Word of the Week: Potentate When was the last time you used that in a sentence? Well, if you were in worship with us on Sunday, you used it at least once. In “Crown Him with Many Crowns,” we worshipped Jesus as the “Potentate of time.” Crown him the Lord of years, The Potentate of time, Creator of the rolling spheres, Ineffably sublime. So, what’s a potentate? It’s a ruler or someone in power (think “potent”). Jesus is a ruler, but not like any other. He’s the Ruler of time itself! He’s the Creator of the planets and stars ...

What Matters Most

November 01, 2018
Don Ward
Grief and loss are times of clarity (Ecclesiastes 7:2, 4). Things that seemed so urgent or important suddenly don’t matter at all.  A struggle during times like this is to be patient with those who are caught up with the world’s normal fusses and fights. When you are watching a beloved mother slip away from you, so many things are shown to be an obvious waste of our time. On the other hand, there are some simple things that I take away from the last few draining days that I pray God will keep near to me: I learned a lot of high-sounding ...

Word of the Week

November 01, 2018
Don Ward
Word of the Week: Spent Hi, church. By now many of you have heard that Caron and I suffered a great loss - the loss of Caron’s mom, Phyllis. A few of you remember her visiting our church and even attending a women’s retreat! We don’t need anything right now other than your prayers. I’m thankful for those who are praying and were praying. God has heard and has been very kind to us. I’ll mention some of that in the blog for this week. Grief and loss are both physically demanding (late nights, hours of intensity waiting for a person to die), ...

Why Join a Group? – To Be Accountable

October 23, 2018
Tom Breeden
I’m a really gracious personal trainer. Granted, I only have one client – me. But I’m willing to give that client a pass on just about anything. Long day at work? You can skip the gym this evening. Need a little extra sleep? It’s fine to set your alarm a little bit later. Feeling a little sore from yesterday? Just take it easy today. While being so easy-going is nice for my mood, it’s not nice for producing results. In fact, I’ve never been any good at getting results when I set out on my own. It wasn’t until I started exercising with other ...

Word of the Week

October 23, 2018
Don Ward
Word of the week:  The Big Picture A common figure of speech that I love is the phrase, “The big picture.” I don’t know its exact origin, but I imagine someone looking at a huge painting in a famous art gallery. The great artists painted with such detail that it would be easy to get close to the painting and notice a minor sub theme of the work. An even closer look would show the brush strokes along with the use of color at a stroke by stroke level. I have no idea how someone does that. I assume that a master artist has a grand plan of some ...

Why Join a Group? – To Find Support

October 18, 2018
Rich Brown
We live in the age of Always-Connectedness. Growing up in Seattle, WA in the 90s, we learned to type by the age of 7. We knew that personal computers were becoming more than just a tool to play The Oregon Trail at school or pretend to be secret agents on the computers running DOS at the library. (DOS stands for Dinosaur Operating System, for those too young to have experienced this!) Personally, I love keeping up with the latest trends in technology as a hobby. Ask me about anything Apple-related, and I can probably give you at least an ...

Word of the Week

October 17, 2018
Tom Breeden
Word of the Week: Impatience “Green means go!” I’ve said that more than once this week as I sit stuck behind a line of traffic that doesn’t seem to realize the light has turned green. Red means stop, but green means it’s time to go! I have places to go. I have people to see. Can we get this show on the road already? I wouldn’t say I’m an aggressive driver (you may beg to differ), but I’m certainly an impatient one. I have a destination in mind and I have little tolerance for delay. At some point this week it struck me, “Isn’t it good ...

Why Join a Group? – To Get Connected

October 10, 2018
Don Ward
Adult life can be a lonely place. In high school we had our group of friends. For me, college was amazing. I was growing in my faith. My Christian brothers and sisters were always close by, and after a while every meal was shared with someone from our group. For two of the years I lived with other Christian men. It was nearly constant friendship and fellowship. I grew as a Christian because of my connection with other growing Christians - day and night. Adult life is very different than that. One men’s ministry expert says 90% of Christian ...

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