COVID-19: A Response

If you are reading this, your life has been turned around, upside-down, and sideways by a virus that we didn’t see coming. Some of us are handling this better than I am… but most of us are still trying to get our feet underneath us as new information comes out every day that feels like it can rock our world at every turn.
As you interact with your own journey through the COVID-19 crisis, I would love Grafted to be a people that can walk along with you. We can gather our turned around, upside-down, and sideways lives and find ways to make it through together.
One of the keys to finding the light at the end of the tunnel is to know two basic truths: God is good and God is in control. These two truths can create a tension when we look out our windows and the world doesn’t look either good nor in control. Living in this tension can be difficult, but if we do it together, it makes it just a bit easier.

In order to be socially responsible, loving to the physically vulnerable among us, caring for those who are caring for the sick among us, and love our neighbors, Grafted is going to not meet physically on Sundays until a time when we can do so safely for everyone. We are going to rely on the suggestions of the CDC, the Minnesota Government, and the United State Government to know when that time comes. Until we can meet together physical and worship God together face to face, we will be gathering online on Sundays on Facebook to worship God through song, to look at His word, and to hear a meditation from one of our Elders. If you would like to have access to the privately streamed service: contact Pastor Dave and he will do his best to figure out how to get you connected!

Our Small Groups are still going to be the bread and butter of our church! We may not be able to meet in person, share a meal, or hug each other in excitement or sorrow, we can still check in on each other, we can pray for each other, we can study the Bible together, and we can remind each other of the love God has shown to us through His Son. Some of our Small Groups meet using Facebook, others with Zoom, but all of them are trying to care for everyone in the group. If you would like to get connected to a group, Pastor Dave, is once again the person to go to in this time. He will get you in contact with one of the small groups so that you can have someone to walk with you during this time.

In all of this, we are trying to do our best to distance from each other physically. But this is a wonderful time to connect with each other, to pray for each other, to connect with God, and to connect with ourselves. If you would like to talk more, Pastor Dave is one resource, but there are so many other Grafites with whom you can connect. Don’t be afraid to reach out!

Thank you for continuing to be the church while the church building may be shut down. We might not know exactly how to do everything… but we are working on getting better and better at being the Family of God even as the times change!

Philippians: Christ at the Center

The letter from Paul to the church at Philippi was written from a jail cell, to a community that had sent aide in Paul’s time of need. It contains a wonderful encouragement to both see Jesus as exalted, and to press the reality of who Jesus is and what He has done for the Philippians into their lives. Come join us as we journey through this letter, seeing how this ancient wisdom is still practical for us today.

To listen to the sermons that have been recorded, click here.

What Child is This?

For the 2019 Advent Season Grafted Community Church will be attempting to answer the question, “What Child is This?”

Often during the Christmas season people gather together and sing hymns that have been sung for many generations before us. One of these popular hymns is “What Child is This?” Its lyrics bring up some wonderful questions and themes that we will look into during this short 4 week sermon series.

We hope to see you there; but if you cannot make it, we will be uploading the sermons so that you can listen online here. As always, if you have any questions, please reach out and Pastor Dave would love to talk through anything these sermons bring up! (Or really anything at all, he loves to talk.) You can email him at dave@graftedc.com.

Is That Pain Good or Bad?

I have been thinking a lot about the process of growth lately (mostly because I am watching three little minions grow up right under my nose and there is absolutely no way to stop them!) One of the byproducts of their growth has been growing pains in their knees and pain in their hearts as their favorite clothes and toys get put into the donate or hand-me-down piles.

Seeing this pain has me thinking about how I experience pain when I am growing as well. Sometimes when someone brings an idea to me that pushes against by previously established norms, it hurts. And when it does, I am forced to consider if what they are bringing my way is making me feel the pain of fear-based shame and guilt, or is this idea causing me to experience the pain that accompanies growth?

While followers of God are called are called to fear Him (even see Isaiah’s description of Jesus in Isaiah 11:1-3), we are not called to fear punishment, nor be shamed or guilted into performing in a different way (see 1 John 4:16-18 for a discussion about the difference between fear and love). But in all of this I am starting to come to the conclusion that God’s Love is going to cause pain in our lives as it grows a new identity in us.

Which makes sense if we are to trust what the Bible says about what is happening inside of those who have put their trust in Jesus as the Christ, the one who can rescue them from the power of sin, sickness, and death. The Apostle Paul talks about putting the old self to death and putting on a completely new self (Colossians 3:1-10), and even talks about followers of Jesus having their hearts circumcised (Romans 2:29). This renewal of the heart language that Paul uses is not a new idea! The prophets Ezekiel and Jeremiah talked about God performing heart surgery hundreds of years before Paul or Jesus were on the scene (Ezekiel 11, 36; Jeremiah 31).

I looked up what open heart surgery entails (not being as familiar with it as a craniotomy), and found that what the body undergoes in order for the heart to be operated on is something else! (See https://www.healthline.com/health/open-heart-surgery#procedure for the full article.)

This is what healthline.com says goes into the 3 to 6 hour surgery:

  • The patient is given general anesthesia. This ensures that they will be asleep and pain free through the whole surgery.
  • The surgeon makes an 8- to 10-inch cut in the chest.
  • The surgeon cuts through all or part of the patient’s breastbone to expose the heart.
  • Once the heart is visible, the patient may be connected to a heart-lung bypass machine. The machine moves blood away from the heart so that the surgeon can operate. Some newer procedures do not use this machine.
  • The surgeon uses a healthy vein or artery to make a new path around the blocked artery.
  • The surgeon closes the breastbone with wire, leaving the wire inside the body.
  • The original cut is stitched up.

After the anesthesia wears off, I cannot imagine that the healing process from a surgery like this would be painless!

So when someone brings a idea to you that rubs against your previously established norms about how life should work, and it causes some pain in you, don’t dismiss it out of hand because it hurts. Look into the Bible to see if the idea has Biblical backing, bring the idea to God in prayer, and discuss it with other growing believers to see how they interact with the idea. It might be that you are feeling the pain of shame, guilt, and fear that can lead you away from a right relationship with God. OR it might be that you are feeling the pain of growth because the idea has pointed to an area of sin in your life; and you are feeling shame for that sin’s presence, the guilt that accompanies going against God’s design, and the fear of God that is written on your heart by the very hand of God.

Is your pain bad? I don’t know. But I do know that there is some pain that is, and some pain that comes about as we grow more and more into the likeness of our Lord and Savior.

So. Many. Distractions!

I feel incredibly lucky to live in a time where, relatively, there are a ton of Christians around me all the time. So many, in fact, that all the Christians that live in the cites of Minneapolis and St. Paul don’t fit into a single building to gather for worship on a Sunday. So many, in fact, that the sum total of all the good that our family does on a given week is incredibly difficult to calculate. So many, in fact, that it is easy to find a Christian or two with whom you disagree about something…

And there are healthy reasons to disagree: one church may want to reach out with the gospel north of 694, while another may want to focus south of 494 in their outreach, and a third may want to be a faithful witness in North Minneapolis specifically. But there are some things to which every single Christians is called, no matter where God has uniquely called their church: every single Christians is called to love God, love their neighbor, and call Jesus their Savior and King. I already commented that there are many ways and locations to love God and love neighbor, but I think that we sometimes forget that at the very center of Christianity is a Christ. We gather around the reality that Jesus is the King of our Kingdom, who died to rule over His people, saving us from the rule of Sin and Death and bringing us to His rule of Forgiveness and Life Everlasting!

There are a ton of different areas where I can get into arguments (sometimes even with myself): from theology to mission, from location to church ethos, from church polity to the family economy… But I know that if I were to spend the rest of my days focusing of Jesus instead of everything else that so easily distracts me, I would not find an end to my search, nor be disappointed by all of the wonder I would find.

I want to be faithful and consider how Jesus has designed me to Love Him and Love my neighbors uniquely, but I don’t want this consideration to ever replace my adoration of my Savior and King.

My Toenail Reminded Me of My Walk with God?

Earlier this week I was waiting for something to start, or end, or whatever… I had my shoes off and noticed how my toenails look a bit odd. This is a result of the many years I spent when I was younger jamming my feet into soccer shoes and beating my feet up on a soccer pitch, or scrunching my feet into rock-climbing shoes (which are typically worn a couple of sizes too small), or showering off in public showers where athlete’s foot tends to spread like glitter given to a 2 year old. They just aren’t the prettiest toenails in the world.

I noticed the middle toenail was doing something funky and I thought it was going to create an ingrown toenail situation, so I preceded to do a little trim… with my fingernails as the only tools I had available to me. I ended up ripping off a third of my middle toenail on my right foot. It split from the end of the nail down to the quick and so I just pulled and off it came. It didn’t hurt that much while I was pulling, but once the sensitive skin under the nail was exposed to the air, and I put my shoe back on and had to walk on it… let’s just say that it stung a whole lot.

It is starting to heal a bit now and doesn’t hurt quite so much all the time, so I have to chance to look back and think about what I learned from my stupidity. Two big ideas come to mind: (1) Use a nail clipper to remove unwanted nail length, and (2) Ripping off you toenail is a little like sin.

Often when we walk contrary to how God wants us to walk (loving Him and the people around us is a pretty good summation there), most of the time it doesn’t hurt too much. I mean, it might sting a little bit while you hurt another person, or, contrarily, it might even feel good while you make yourself feel better at the expense of thumbing your nose at God or at other people… but in the end, when we walk against the way that God asks us to walk, there is always a cost that is incredibly hard to bear in the long run. We may experience the pain immediately, or maybe a few years down the road, or only in the world to come… but somehow our actions always have consequences.

And this is where I love the fact that my toenail reminded me of my walk with God. Because all of my misdeeds, all of my sins, all of my brokenness has resulted in a whole pile of consequences with my name on them, but,

21 God made him who had no sin[, Jesus,] to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:21

Jesus became my sin and took my consequences for me. Then God gifted to me a right standing before Him. I may see some of the consequences for my sins this side of eternity, but in the end all of my sins have been paid for when Jesus took on death and destroyed the power of sin and death so that I might be called a child of God.

Sometimes making a huge mistake, like ripping off part of your toenail, can help you end up thanking God for everything that He has done for you!

How Do We Use Sundays Well: Part 5

To start off: Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4, were written in February and March of 2018. It is currently September of 2019… But as I was considering writing this post, I realized that it fit really well with the other four posts; so here I am picking up right where I left off over a year and a half ago!

I have been thinking a lot about a section of Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth that the NIV translation has labeled “Correcting an Abuse of the Lord’s Supper”. You can find it in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34. But all of it kinda sums up into the last couple of verses:

33 So then, my brothers and sisters, when you gather to eat, you should all eat together. 34 Anyone who is hungry should eat something at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment.

And when I come I will give further directions.

1 Corinthians 11:33-34 NIV

Paul is pretty frustrated with the Corinthian church because when some people come to celebrate the Lord’s Supper they are feasting and leaving very little for those who come in late. There is a socioeconomic piece here where often the people who would arrive early enough to eat more than others were the rich folks, who didn’t really need the nourishment that the Lord’s Supper could provide, and who didn’t have to work late in the fields… where as those who didn’t have as much financially, who had worked a long day in the fields, and who needed the nourishment the bread and wine could provide were the ones who got very little.

But how does this relate to our Sundays? Every week we gather to be reminded of who God is and what He has done so that we can be Spiritually Nourished (I have no clue why I capitalized that…). And when we do, there are those of us who know how to feed ourselves at home through spiritual disciplines like prayer, sleep, Bible reading, meditation, service, fasting, study, or confession. And there are those of us who have yet to learn how disciplines like these can help us remember that we are free to follow Christ because He has saved us.

If you are still learning and practicing how to implement your own spiritual nourishment, coming to a Sunday Service running on empty makes perfect sense! Come each week and be refreshed by the good news that God loves you in spite of your open rebellion against Him!

But if you know how to feed yourself, but you aren’t… why? You could be in a season of life where someone in your family is incredibly sick and your bandwidth has dropped to next to nothing. You might have recently experienced a huge transition in your life and you are working on putting all the pieces back together. You might be just be being lazy.

If we know how to feed ourselves, have the ability to do it, and don’t… when we come to church expecting to be fed instead of coming to church expecting to serve, we are putting those who don’t know and/or don’t have the ability to right now at a disadvantage and doing them a disservice. From season to season everyone is going to move from one group to the other, but I think that 1 Corinthians 11 is encouraging us, as often as we can, to serve our brothers and sisters by eating at home so that we can be nourished when we come together through acts of service.

Part 2 of this series finishes with the line:

How can we use Sundays well?  By recognizing that most of our worship takes place during the rest of the week.

I want to end Part 5 this way: How can we use Sundays well?  By recognizing that most of our spiritual nourishment can take place during the rest of the week.

 

Identity: Who I AM.

What does it mean to be a Christian?
Where is a follower of Jesus supposed to be heading in life?
How is a Christian supposed to react to everything that is happening?
What is the point of life?
Who am I?

These are really big questions and they often have really big answers! But all of the answers begin with a simple idea found at the beginning of the Hebrew Scriptures, “You are an image bearer of God.” You are built to be a reflection of who God is.

The Fall of 2019 the Grafted Sermon Series will be looking at just who God is and considering who He is calling us to be.
Come at 4PM in the All Nations Baptist Church building to join us, or you can listen to sermons as they get uploaded here, as we take a look at Identity: Who I AM? We hope to see you there!

The Smell Was So Bad…

I was putting out my recycling earlier this week and as I walked by my trash can the stench was so pungent, that it felt like it was reaching out of the closed lid and grabbing my nostrils and punching my olfactory glad repeatedly. I was so confused because this smell was so far outside of the range of “normal trashcan smell”. What had I put into the trash this week?

And as I walked back inside I realized that there was a carcass of a chicken and a bunch of overcooked vegetables on top of our usual weekly garbage decomposing in the hot, full, black trash can. I had noticed earlier the week before that our chicken stock stores were running low and our small group had just done a round of freezer cooking… so it was time to make some broth!

Broth is amazing stuff. Put a bunch of stuff that would usually just go in the trash with some seasonings and spices and put it in a pot on the stove overnight and all of a sudden there is this wonderful liquid that contains so much wonderful protein and other nutrients that a glass of it can easily substitute for a lunch! Through a specific process, trash can become beautiful and life giving.

And as I walked back inside from that incredible smell, I was struck by how similar I am to chicken broth. Hang with me here. Left to my own devices, I am a whole bunch of trash that cares about himself and only cares about others insofar as I can use them to make my life better. I am a pile of rotting trash that is repulsive to anyone else. But through a very specific process, I have been transformed into something beautiful and life giving. Because of the love of God, demonstrated for me by His taking the penalty for and my very sins themselves onto Himself on the cross, I have been made new.

The Gospel is wonderfully good news for me, and for everyone around me. And it it good news for you and everyone around you as well!

Paul said it this way in his letter to Titus (chapter 3, verses 3 through 8)

3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. 8 This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.

My prayer is that these excellent and profitable things would find their way into our hearts and minds so that our hands might be devoted to doing to good to which we are called.

Prayer in the Midst of Busyness: Part 2

So… how did it go?

A month ago I asked all of you to take a plunge with me and find time to pray a simple prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Risen Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” (You can read the post here.)

How did it go? I have been considering how deep that little prayer over this past month… and I don’t think that I have found the bottom of the rabbit hole yet!

Here are a couple of thoughts:

“Lord”

Yep, I got one word into the prayer before I needed to stop! In the time of Jesus, the statement, “this-or-that-person is lord,” was a treasonous statement, because the phrase should have only been applied to one person: the Cesar. “Cesar is Lord,” is the way that phrase should have gone… but Christians say it about Jesus… And this phrase has so many implications.

  • If Jesus is Lord, then no one else is.
  • If Jesus is Lord, then He gets to rule how He wants to.
  • If Jesus is Lord, then even when earthly rulers change, the true ruler has not changed.
  • If Jesus is Lord, then I need to submit to Him and what He wants.
  • If Jesus is Lord, then I need to ask myself, “is He my lord?”

“Living God”

I really would like to break down every single word in that prayer, but we can do that in person over a cup of coffee, tea, beer, or whiskey if you like! The idea that God is alive and active in this world takes my breath away every time I think about it. This world is incredibly complex! It only takes a couple clicks of your mouse, or a few taps on your screen to find some good videos online about the beauty of the way that the individual cell in a human body works. And only a few more to find something about the vastness of the cosmos. But God is alive and active in ALL of it. And so it humbles me that He would love a broken person like me.

“Mercy”

I have a tattoo on my right arm that holds the Latin phrase, “Simul Justus et Peccator.” It roughly translates to, “simultaneously justified and sinner.” It was how Luther understood the crazy reality that humans are totally wrecked by sin (their own and others) and at the same time totally righteous in God’s eyes. And it is because of God’s act of mercy, by dying for us while we were still sinners, that we can find ourselves in this wonderful state! God interacts with us through mercy because He is a God of mercy… and it still blows me away.

 

What about you? Did this short prayer impact you over the last month? If you didn’t get a chance to try it out, there is no reason to not use this next month as the one where you dedicate yourself and your life to praying a bit more often! I am going to keep doing it, because there is more to mine in this simple prayer. Will you join me?