Taking Advantage of Misfortune Is Not Okay.

I am not sure why I feel the need to write this post; and we are in a weird time in history when simple truths need to be repeated.

We live in a time where so many people have so many different misfortunes. Financial, emotional, psychological, social, relational… the list goes on and on.

In these times, some would use them to their own advantage and gain from the misfortunes of others. While it is easy to see how those whose gain is personal from taking advantage of those whose fortunes have turned for the worse can be simply be labeled malicious, what about those who would seek out those who are hurting and use their pain to help expose their need to be in right relationship with their Creator?

We, as followers of Jesus, could use this situation, and the people in it, to make “gains” for the Kingdom of God. And while these gains may appeal to some in the short term, what people are won with, they are won to. If people are won to a God who can bring them respite from their pain, what happens when the source of their pain has been soothed? What happens when the Shelter in Place orders have all been lifted?

Now is the time to put into action the words of Paul, written to the church in Rome:

15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

Romans 12:!5

By this, if people see the good that our relationship with the Creator of all things is to us, and they start a relationship of their own, they will have been won with actions that mirror the heart of God who met each of us in our hour of need by stepping into our situation and being Immanuel, God with us.

Meet those in need of support and love in this time of uncertainty. Meet them during a walk around your neighborhood, meet them on social media, meet them in your household, meet them while looking in the mirror… But when you meet them, don’t be afraid to cry with them for the pain that you both share as things don’t quite go the way that you had hoped this spring would go. And then enjoy the relationship that grows from there!

On Saturday, We Wait…

Guest Post by Jordan Hirsch

Hey all.  I wanted to share something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately and that I finally found words for today.

I spent part of my afternoon today mixing our compost before it maybe snows tomorrow.  This mostly just involved removing the winter’s worth of food scraps from the top and mixing those in with the layers of yard and garden waste from this fall.

I went from rake to shovel to gloved hands, digging to the bottom of our homemade bin.  There were our non-decomposed, mostly dried flowers from Valentine’s Day, lots of moldy but still intact spaghetti squash skins, bits of brussel sprouts and carrot peels, and an embarrassing number of eggs shells.  I dug, and I dug, and I dug, and finally, under a layer of last year’s late leaf drop, I found something I wasn’t expecting: new composted soil.

This past winter was long and hard, mostly emotionally (weather-wise, we’ve had much worse), and even though it’s been sunnier and warmer lately, Staying at Home due to trying to slow the spread of COVID-19 feels like a kind of winter of its own.

But friends, I want to remind you of something, especially today, Holy Saturday.  Christ’s death and suffering bring new life. Christ conquered death, bringing reconciliation to us, bringing near those who were once far away.  

Sometimes that death and suffering is a short-term thing: the heat of August turns our food scraps to usable soil pretty darn quickly.  But sometimes, it takes a whole lot longer for that to happen–a whole winter for a few shovelfuls of compost.  

I can’t imagine what it was like for Christ’s disciples on the Saturday after His death, how long it must have felt while the One they thought was the Messiah, the One who had declared Himself God, was dead and in a tomb.  But Sunday did come, family. The tomb was opened, Christ defeated death, and He brought not just life, but everlasting life and life to the full.

Here’s the thing, though.  In many ways, it’s still Saturday.  The New Heavens and New Earth aren’t here yet.  We’re still waiting, and sometimes that feels like Good Friday when death and suffering are right before us; sometimes that feels like Easter Sunday when we find healing, restoration, and freedom; and sometimes that feels like Holy Saturday: a long, slow wait for what’s been promised, wondering if winter will ever end.

And here’s the thing that hit me while I was in onion peels and decomposed weeds up to my wrists: in many areas of our lives, we won’t reach Sunday until we get to heaven.  Our compost bin produced some soil for our garden beds this winter, but there were still plenty of apple cores and sweet potato peels and pine needles that winter had left nearly whole.  Christ has conquered death, but He hasn’t returned yet. We’re still waiting for His final victory.

Until that comes, Saturday is going to be part of our reality.  Suffering is still here, sin is still a struggle, and death and sickness still happen.  We’re still waiting.

So praise God for the fresh soil He makes in you through hard times, and trust that He’ll keep doing so.  But sit with those things have yet to be made new, hoping that they will be soon and knowing that if Sunday and new life don’t come until you see God face-to-face, it will still be worth it.

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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!