Monday’s Coming

Resurrection Sunday can be a spiritual “high” of sorts. We rejoice in a risen Savior, we rejoice in our salvation and we rejoice in a victorious God. But then comes Monday and we move right back to the here and now. Pastor Donald Shirk gives biblical teaching to not only what happened on that Sunday 2,000 years ago but what we need in light of it to face Monday. Here is a sample of his sermon from Resurrection Sunday (click here for the full message).

India Work Moves Forward

Because of the generosity of the people of Grace, work moves forward on H.C. Stephens’ ministry center in Manipur, India. Pastor Donald Shirk, Mike Charvella, Hans Foeller and Pete Hollands spent 10 days in India this past February (read about their trip in the Baptist Bulletin) assisting our mission partner H.C. with Bible teaching and construction work. Our men were able to get a project started at the ministry center and leave H.C. with the funds provided by Grace to finish it. Here are few updated pictures of the ongoing work.

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Noah, Heaven And Follow The Money

I can’t recall such a season of “Christian” themed films gracing the vast frontier of the silver screens of America. God’s not dead at the box office, apparently. NoahChristians, atheists and whatever else one may call themselves are debit and credit card swiping away to America’s pastime (sorry baseball) in faithful numbers to drift away for a few hours into a non-reality that shapes their reality—no, really. From The Son of God, to Noah, to God’s Not Dead, to Heaven Is For Real, to (still to come) Exodus, nearly the entire Bible is covered in movies. Is this some sort of sign of spiritual renewal in America?  Is the Bible breaking through to Hollywood? Is the great experiment to redeem the arts for Jesus finally showing signs of fruit bearing? Nah, there’s just lots of money to be made. Oops, I let it slip.

Movies are made to make money. What about artistic expression and grand storytelling you say? Meh, those films lose money (most anyway). Movies are a business just like your local mom and pop shop is. At the end of the day movie studios have to make profits just like any other business does. They need to find ways to get customers to spend money on their product. Movies are made for that express purpose. Just throw away your grand thoughts of movies being insulated from a business plan. They’ re not. Movies are a business plan — snarky but true.

Let’s think this through with some of some of the current movies out there. Noah? Now that there film was made to make money. Big budget, big name actors and a cutting edge director tackling the Bible? Ooh this ought to get media hype, which means…wait for it…money. Heaven Is for Real? Out of this world receipts await at the “pearly gates” of Regal theaters. A little boy, heaven and a feel good story– why that is the stuff of box office Trinitarian theology. Why? Because Hollywood knows the Christian community (and there are millions of them!) is hungry and yet a bit hesitant for a reason to go to the movies. But…they also know they can’t make a truly biblical movie because the rest of America won’t go (or so they have themselves convinced). So the business plan is to make a movie that is just “Christian” enough to draw the religious types and yet worldly enough to let everyone else know it is o.k. to be seen at a movie that bears the name of a biblical book or deals with a biblical idea (heaven). In other words, the business plan is to try to have the best of both worlds and apparently, it is working.

Where does this leave the Christian? By Christian, I mean a born again, God-fearing, Bible believing, church going dude (or dudette). Are we supposed to have the best of both worlds? Are we supposed to be about the Bible and yet worldly enough to let everyone know it is o.k. to hang out with us? HeavenWell, about that. In the case of the two movies mentioned: Noah and Heaven; they are not biblical. Let’s just be honest. They’re not. So, they leave people with a misunderstanding of God, his Word and His heaven. Is that what we are to be as Christians? When people hang out with us will they see Jesus clearly or will they see our “artistic interpretation” of Him that somehow just doesn’t quite line up with the Jesus of the Bible?

You see, movie studios are free to dabble in both worlds. It is good business. At the end of the day they control the content and they have your money. We are not free to dabble in both. I do not mean we are not free to go and see a movie. We have liberty to do such. I mean we do not control the content of our faith. We are not free to alter the Word of God. We rightly understand that we lose more than our money if we do so; we lose our soul. That understanding needs to be carried into any theater we may go into. We are free yet bond servants the Apostle Peter says. Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Mammon (money).” Make no mistake, the movie studios are not serving both. Neither should we. Always follow the money.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday Frivolity

A merry heart does good…

I can promise you this will not happen at our Good Friday service tonight.

Spring Break?

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“So, what did you do with your spring break?” That question will dominate conversations next week in area public schools, but for a group of teens from Grace their answer will be quite unlike the rest. In fact it might sound something like this: “I went to a bunch of workshops. I helped rake the property of a church with some elderly folks. I drove around a beat up old downtown of a city that nobody wants to move to and heard a twenty something year-old share his passion to minister to the poor and needy of that city. I went to New York City and handed out business cards for a new church that is trying to get started in the heart of the city. I had an awesome spring break.” You call that an awesome spring break?

Yes, we do. It’s called “Radiate.” A four-day ministry intensive put on by Baptist Bible College to challenge teens to reach out instead of vegging out with their spring break. In addition to everything in the above answer; the teens also spent 4 nights on the campus of BBC mixing in with college students and attending college chapels. An incredible, purposeful way to spend a spring break! Enjoy some pictures from various members of the Radiate team. Here is BBC’s write-up of the Radiate as well.

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Is “Heaven For Real” For Real?

Is heaven for real? You can bet your (eternal) life it is. But, the question of our day is,  “Which heaven is the real one?” You mean, there is more than one? No, there is only one, but there are these days no shortage of differing claims to the real heaven. Does a 4 year-old boy have the real heaven? Does the Bible have the real heaven? Because the two don’t seem to agree on the real heaven. Hmm, to borrow a line from another popular movie; “Houston (shall we say Heaven) we have a problem.”

The movie “Heaven Is for Real” is in theaters as of today. Undoubtedly it will draw millions in paying audiences. But will it draw people closer to the real heaven? Pastor David Platt doesn’t think so and challenges Christians to be discerning on this matter of what heaven is really like. Here is the video shown here at Grace this past Sunday morning.

Raising Generations!

The first ever Raising Generations Today (RGT) Conference took place this past weekend at the Radisson Hotel in Corning, NY.  Spearheaded by September McCarthy, RGT is a unique conference designed to inspire, encourage and give hope to moms. The fact the event sold out in it’s inaugural year speaks to the validation of September and her leadership team’s vision for such a conference. A group of ladies from Grace enjoyed the refreshing getaway with “motherhood” flavored spiritual feeding. Charissa Tosh provides a little look at the event.

 

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Jim Kelly And The God Of Irony

God is such a God of irony.

Jill Kelly was the beautiful girl from little Attica, NY, just trying to find her way in life. Our paths crossed some years ago while she was dating my step-brother. I taught her a golf swing and how to hit a whiffle ball, typical stuff of idle summer days as restless youths. Life was waiting for us and we were in no hurry to live it.

Jim Kelly wanted to win a Super Bowl more than anything else in this world. Known as a tough competitor who was so intense about competing he would throw up before games; Jim  was about finishing first, he was about winning it all. But it was never meant to be; it was all just a bit too far wide right to ever come true.

A short time after Jill and my step-brother broke up; she was introduced to Jim. Being married to a all-pro quarterback was not on Jill’s life to-do-list. “Small Town Girl Marries the Big Time Quarterback” is the stuff movies are made of but not necessarily one Jill wanted to star in. But God….He knew what would lie ahead. They had to get married, it was in His script.

So was heart-ache. The marriage was rocky and their son was born with a disease that would take his life by age 9. For Jim and Jill life could not get any harder. Super Bowl glory and lazy summer afternoons swinging at whiffle balls were a distant past now. Eternity was the present. What was the point in all this pain and loss? Why? Why us?

God’s kingdom is upside down. The first shall be last and the last shall be first. Sometimes God has to turn our lives upside down to get our souls right side up. Jim chased after football glory with all his might and never found what he was looking for. His one and only son was never able to call out any signals or even take one snap. But God…He was working in Jill’s life. He was about to turn their lives right-side up.

The loss of her son led Jill to discover her need to embrace another son who died; the Son of God. Emptiness is a place where we find God. Loss is primer for victory. You see, only the blind rejoice at being able to see. Only the broken know they have been made whole. Jill saw her sinfulness and her need for a Savior. She trusted in Christ and was born again. Life was waiting for her again, this time she couldn’t wait to live it.

Jim saw his wife’s faith and as the Apostle Peter counseled; Jill’s conduct and faith would be used by God to help bring Jim to saving faith. Together they began to heal and pick up the pieces of their lives together.  They were going to live happily ever-after. But God…was merely preparing them for another heartache. This time though, they would have God to go through the trial with.

Jim was diagnosed with cancer in 2013. He had surgeries and treatments and it looked as if he was finally about to beat his biggest opponent. But that is not how it goes when you are Jim Kelly. Cancer has come back after halftime with all the tenacity of a much hated rival. The game is back in doubt.

Here is the irony; Jim has already won. He is a champion because Jesus is his champion. The man who has endured so much loss and heartache is, in reality, the biggest winner in this thing called life. Super Bowl rings are of no help in the fight for life, but faith guarantees the victory. The last will finish in first.

Pray for Jim, Jill and their girls. Pray that God would be their hope and strength in the coming days and weeks. Pray that the God of irony would use the Kelly’s to show that real meaning and victory in life comes not from gain but loss. Jesus said; “For what does it profit for a man to gain the whole world but forfeit his own soul?” Ironic indeed.

Pray Today For Tomorrow

The Supreme Court will hear arguments from Hobby Lobby & Conestoga Wood. These corporations are owned by Christians who state, “their religious beliefs prohibit them from providing health coverage for contraceptive drugs and devices that end human life after conception.” Such “healthcare” is of course mandated by the Affordable Healthcare Act (ACA); also known as Obama Care. The case is drawing massive attention and here is why; because what is at stake far exceeds the nature of the details of this case. What is at stake is the broader nature of religious liberty and the State’s encroachment upon it. The State increasingly demands that it be given more and more say over matters of conscience. You MUST bake a cake for a wedding you do not think is a valid wedding. It is not that we endorse doing so and think it is a nice thing to do; instead, it is you MUST or face penalty. You must pay for abortions. Not, it is an option you can make available to your employees; but rather you MUST or face penalties. This is nothing more than simple coercion of the worst kind; mixing matters of conscience with the power of the state.

Religious liberty is a hallmark of our nation as well as Baptist history. Our founding fathers were very aware of the danger that comes when the state tries to play the role of church (and vice versa!). Power feeds the desire of men to think they are in the place of God and they begin to think they alone can dictate conscience to the masses. The strength of our nation has not come from our government deciding conscience; but protecting the freedom of the people to decide and live by their own conscience.

Power is easy to get drunk on. There are three things that happen when one is drunk with something.  They cease to think clearly, the conscience becomes seared, and we do what we otherwise never would. This is why nations rise and fall. Our founding fathers were wise to this. They understood the need to protect the nation from itself by limiting the power government could have over the conscience. This is what is at stake in the case before the supreme court.

So, pray today for what we will learn about tomorrow. Religious liberty is a disappearing freedom and if God wills it disappear even more from our nation, so be it. God is sovereign and his plan will not be denied or even thwarted by any government. My hope is not in a Supreme Court, decision but in the blood of Jesus. But I prayed today for my country and for my freedom of conscience, nonetheless.

Friday Frivolity ~ March Madness Style

A merry heart does good…

March Madness is here and we’ve uncovered the biggest (or shall we say tallest) story out there. Frivolity presents to you the amazing story of the Ivan brothers.