Grace to Grace

Pastor Mark unpacks the Jerusalem Council where Gentiles are told they don’t need to be circumcised to be saved but are to still abstain for pagan rituals. Though foreign to our cultural context, we learn from this passage that you don’t have to change for God to accept you, but God will change you once you’re accepted.

Scripture: Acts 15:1-29

Living in Brokenness and Vulnerability

Brokenness and vulnerability are two traits that are not only part of being an emotionally healthy person, but also to following Jesus. While our culture may say that resumes of success matter most, the resumes of Scripture tell a much different story. Some of the most influential leaders–like David, Moses, and Paul have had their fair share of failures and brokenness. Listen as Pastor Rachel explores how Paul saw his weaknesses as opportunities to rely on God’s strength and power, and how that invitation is available to each of us today–even in the midst of our thorns and setbacks.

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

 

The Longest Sentence

The ancient letter to the Ephesians is divided in half. In the first three chapters, Paul describes who Christians are “in Christ.” That is to say, followers of Jesus find their identity in what Jesus has done for them: He has chosen them, adopted them and redeemed them. In light of this reality, in the second half of this letter (ch. 4-6), Paul instructs them to then live out their identity in Jesus – to become who they already are in Jesus.

To set the stage, Paul writes an extremely long sentence in his introduction to praise God for the lavish grace He has blessed the Ephesians with in Christ: being chosen, adopted and redeemed. Over and against what our culture says is our identity, we are to remember the gracious blessings we have in Christ. Indeed, to become who we already our in Christ: chosen, adopted and redeemed.

Scripture: Ephesians 1:1-14

The Vine

Throughout the Old Testament, the ancient people of Israel were often referred to as a “vine” or a “vineyard.” The only problem was that Israel couldn’t live up to her calling to be a good-fruit producing vineyard. The good news is that Jesus is the True Vine and did what Israel should have done, but couldn’t. Jesus is the one who produces good fruit.

Continuing the metaphor, as the vine Jesus calls his followers the branches. And, of course, the goal of any plant is to grow and produce good fruit. The way that we as humans – as followers of Jesus – grow in bearing fruit, flourish, and become fully alive is by staying connected to Jesus (the vine) and allowing God – the gardener – to prune us.

The impactful, fruitful, lives of great character that we long for even in the midst of all our failures is available to us through Jesus – our vine – by staying intimately connected to him.

Scripture: John 15:1-8

The Problem with Meat Lovers

Upon first glance, this passage seems rather foreign and irrelevant to our modern day culture. Yet, for the early Church this was a huge issue: should followers of Jesus eat meat in a temple that was sacrificed to local pagan gods…even though these idols didn’t even exist?

In response, Paul warns some of the Corinthians to not use their freedom to eat idol meat in a temple because this may encourage some of the ex-pagans in their own community to fall back into sin.

Though a different time period, we face the same principle today with issues such as alcohol, how we dress, gluttony and many more. Paul’s point is clear: love those in your community by not causing them to sin through exercising your own personal rights of freedom. By dying on a cross, Jesus shows us that loving people is more important than our exercising own rights and freedom.

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 8:1-13