Yesterday’s Congregational Chat…

…THANK YOU, all who attended, for a great congregational chat after worship yesterday!  The reason have these “chats” is to provide regular times for congregational conversation in an informal setting, where we can discuss our concerns and thoughts about our dear church without the encumbrances (and, to be honest, intimidating nature) of a formal business meeting.  No formal decisions are made: we just talk with each other, nicely and honestly.  I like to think of the chats as wonderful opportunities for us to learn how to speak and listen to each other in a way that pleases the Lord Jesus!  So, here’s what I took away from our chat yesterday:

1.  Our congregation notices the sometimes lack-luster quality of our PA system when I preach, but it doesn’t bother the church as much as it bothers me as I preach.  You understand that I need to do something to resolve the issue (Knute’s helping me with this), but don’t want me to get too obsessive about it.  All is well.  Cool.

2.  Our elder team needs to move a bit faster in welcoming people into membership of the church.  We’re slow about that, sorry!  We have a very unique situation here in downtown Portland, in which every single week we have first-time visitors, non-members, etc., to the degree that we always have more people in attendance than the total number of members of the church.  We’re used to that, and grateful for the weekly opportunity of gospel-witness, but know we need to integrate people better into the fellowship.

3.  We’d like our welcoming team to consider its ministry to begin at the sidewalk of our church, not on the inside of the doors.  So, they’ll give more attention to stair-safety, and helping folks get into the church who may have some trouble with our (steep!) steps!  Roger is on top of this…

4.  We’ll continue to have coffee-snacks after almost every service, and will begin a 3rd Sunday soup lunch, all to provide opportunities for our members and friends to develop more friendships, and to provide opportunities for any of our neighbors who might be in need of a meal.  Thanks for bringing this up, Emanuel!

5.  Like all churches, yes, we need more money to make budget each month, but…., as reported by Pastor Keane, we’re doing better all the time, and have a growing number of members who have committed to giving more regularly (weekly), as a weekly part of their worship.  This seems to have had a wonderful effect on our congregation!  Thank you for being creative and committed!  God will provide the resources for His will!

6.  Pastor Keane and Milena continue to make plans for future ministry, and are growing in the conviction that God has called them to a new ministry endeavor–in East County.  Personally, I break out in a cold sweat at the very thought of losing this dear family, and my irreplaceable, beloved partner in this ministry, but….  there is the bigger picture here!  God is at work, and we are joyful He’s let us in on what He’s doing!  We look forward to the Holy Spirit including Grace Bible Church into this vision, and enlisting us as partners!

7.  Next week, another Congregational Chat, and then on Dec. 16 we’ll have our Annual Congregational Business Meeting to approve next year’s budget and other issues related to our church in 2013!

Again, thanks for sticking around to chat!  What a privilege and honor it is to serve you, dear church!  Blessings, Pastor Ken

Thanks for a great birthday celebration!!!!

We have been blessed with 138 years of continuous ministry here in downtown Portland!  What a great celebration today, with a great potluck dinner after worship, and an infant dedication to boot!  Sharon, you put together a marvelous feast and celebration!  And to the many who helped out; before, during and after the party: THANK YOU!   I’ll post some pics here, but have more of them that I’ve already put up on FB (Grace Bible Church, Portland).  Blessings, Pastor Ken

Congratulations Pastor Keane!

On Sunday Grace Bible Church unanimously approved the change of title and position of Keane Collins to that of Associate Pastor!  This is a very, very significant event in the life of any church, the equipping of leaders and recognition of their particular gifting and passion for ministry.  What the Spirit of Christ has made abundantly clear to our church members is now official, formal, and public:  Keane is a pastor, called to serve the Lord Jesus in caring for His precious Bride, the Church.  Welcome, Keane!

 

 

Great day at the river, Grace Bible Church!

Thanks, all, for a great day at George Rogers Park.  Thank you, everyone who helped make it all work out!  Nate and Luke, great job with music!  Annie, great job with food and organization!  Cliff, thanks for the doves–they were stunning, as usual!  And Seth, congratulations on your baptism, brother! Here’s a few pics…there are plenty more on our FB page.   Pastor Ken

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Matthew 5:33-37: The truth, only the truth, always…

Jesus continues His exposition of selected portions of the Mosaic Law, and His correction of how it had been taught to His listeners.  In these verses He explains the importance of truthfulness and integrity regarding disciples keeping their word in all situations, and corrects their misguided attempts to call in God as a sort of co-signer on their promises.

Big Idea: Truth is the only language of the kingdom of heaven—anything less is the language of hell. 

33 “Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.’ 34 “But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 “Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 “But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; and anything beyond these is of evil.

I.          Don’t lie, do what you promise to do. 33

They had been taught since childhood, “Do not lie, deceive, or fail to do what you promise you’ll do.  In the culture of the ancient near east, words carried a greater power than they do in today’s culture.  Words made things happen—they were seen to have an intrinsic ability to accomplish what they said, simply for having been spoken.  Words are just as important today, really.  Like Jesus’ listeners, we simply do not treat all of our words as being important!

II.         Don’t “back up” your word to make it more believable. 34-36      

Although there have been some Christians who believe it God’s will to refuse to take any oath at all—under any circumstances, the evidence of Scripture argues that there are at least some conditions under which a believer can swear an oath.  In the Bible, oaths were sworn by Abraham, Jacob, and Paul, for instance.  Jesus Himself responded to being placed under oath when on trial before the High Priest, who demanded, “…I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said it yourself…” (Matt 26:63-64)  An example of legitimate vowing today might be when a person is called on by the court to swear that their testimony will be truthful, or when two people vow to have one another in marriage.  What Jesus was addressing was the tendency of His listeners to use God, or specifically, words that alluded to God (heaven, earth, Jerusalem) as a sort of back-up to their word.  They might also swear to do something using their own lives as collateral on a promise they’d made.  Such practices were simply illogical and mistaken.  They were illogical in that none of the things being sworn by were actually in the person’s control anyway.   Heaven, earth, Jerusalem, even a person’s own head—no one has ultimate authority over these things by God, anyway.  To swear by such things was also theologically mistaken, in that they presumed that God could be summoned to back up a promise or a vow, as if He weren’t the primary reason that any promise could be kept—for God providentially provides the conditions by which the promises and agreement that people make, be they believers or not, can be kept.  Bottom line: Don’t call God in to co-sign on your word, which leads to Jesus’ application:

III.        Speak the truth, and stand by your word—anything more is the language of our Enemy, Satan.  37

The first words recorded in the Bible of Satan were words that cast doubt on the clarity of God’s Word, and His intentions behind giving people His Word (Gen 3).  His primary means of continued rebellion against God is through the deception and lies that he routinely casts into human history, leading people themselves to remain in rebellion against God.  In fact, if he lost his ability to communicate, Satan would be robbed of most of his power!  When we are any degree less-than-truthful and trustworthy, we are speaking the language of hell, and not of our true home, heaven.

How can we go about becoming people who are absolutely truthful in all our speech, every time, and all the time?  Here are a few suggestions…

First, Spend deliberate time in the Word of Truth, facing its Author and submitting to His commandments and teachings.  Jesus said that God’s Word “is truth”, period, so we can trust it! (John 17:17)

Then, speak less, listen more.  Practice speech in which you stop at “Yes” or “No,” and do not go on campaigns to convince people of the sincerity of your speech.  In time, they will note your sincerity, and treat you differently than every other speaker in their lives.

Finally, In view of the impossibility of actually changing ourselves, we must ask the Spirit of God within us to alert us when our speech is more “of the Evil One” than of the Lord Jesus.  And when He speaks to us—we must ask God to give us the will to OBEY Him!

Let’s expect the Lord to work on these areas in our lives, this week!

Pastor Ken

An audio recording of this sermon is available on our “Grace Sermons” page, above. 

 

 

 

 

 

ESL Friends

Our friends that we’ve met through ESL (English as Second Language) had a great time at the Washington Park Zoo today!

Matthew 5:7-10 Kingdom Hearts, Part Two

Whereas the first four of the beatitudes seem to deal mostly with the relationship between a person and God, the last four emphasize the character qualities that should mark a follower of Jesus in his relationships with others.

7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

Mercy is the quality of both being moved at the suffering or troubles of another person, and then moving into action to address their condition.  Such mercy requires divine empowerment, for it not only shows generosity and tenderheartedness to those who suffer, it is also expressed in quickness to forgive the sins of others when they have hurt or insulted us.

8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

A heart that is pure is expressed by a person who has a character of openness and sincerity.  Jesus tells us that the result of such purity in heart is that the person would “see God,”  an astounding claim given the transcendent holiness of a God whom “no man” could see! (Exodus 33:20 “No man can see Me, and live!”)

 9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

We are very familiar with peacekeepers, those UN soldiers from various countries of the world who are dispatched to warring regions to keep hostile groups from killing each other, rarely with any success.  But a peacemaker is different.  To make peace is to bring together hostile people and groups in such way that their very hearts are changed, and they no longer even wish to fight with one another—an impossible task without divine empowerment!

 10 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus states that His followers are actually to be commended with they are treated with hostility and animosity in their desire to live lives in which both people and God are respected, and shown proper obedience.  Such righteous living exposes the shabby and shallow modes of relating in our culture, and therefore often creates tension that leads to persecution of those seeking to live righteously.  (Perhaps we Christians should not worry so much about whether we might have to undergo persecution as we should why we don’t face much persecution, at least here in America!)

It is notable to me that at this point in His sermon, Jesus does not give any developed principles of how to develop or gain any of these beatitudes—He simply states the blessed-state of those who possess them, and the (mostly future) assurances associated with them.  And for the most part, they are quite impossible for flawed people like you and me to attain!  In following His example, I will simply suggest that the best way for us to discover and gain such wonderful, godly qualities of character is to follow the example of those who heard Him preach that day on the mountainside, repent of our sins (4:17), follow Jesus, and look to Him alone to save us, to heal us, and to make us into the people we long to be!

Blessings, Pastor Ken

Kingdom Hearts, Part One (Matthew 5:1-6)

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones commented that “the Christian gospel places all its primary emphasis upon being rather than doing.  The gospel puts a greater weight upon our attitude than upon our actions.”  The introductory portion of the Sermon on the Mount is really a presentation of the character qualities that should be found in the hearts of those who follow Jesus…

1 When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. 2 He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying,

It is notable that while the sermon seems initially directed to “disciples only,” by its end it has been listened to with rapt attention by “the crowds” (Matt 7:28-29). This sermon is for anyone, at all stages of spiritual interest, who decides to draw near enough to Jesus to hear what He has to say…

 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

People who see themselves as spiritually destitute, and therefore completely in need of mercy and grace, are considered “blessed” by God.  It doesn’t make sense to me to interpret the word “blessed” as “happy,” as some have doneHappy is a feeling, a great feeling, but still, a feeling.  People who endure pain, suffering, and spiritual famine are NOT happy.  But the word blessed might be better understood as commended.  It is commendable to see and acknowledge your spiritual inadequacy and incompetency, but in doing so you gain God’s favor and commendation; in doing so you swing the door of your soul wide open to receive King Jesus, along with His kingdom.

 4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

People mourn when they have lost something or someone.  This commended mourning of a follower of Jesus has to do with the sense of sadness, regret, and sorrow we experience when we come to terms with our own sinful actions, thoughts, and words, and when we suffer as a result of the sin of others.  It is commendable to have such a view of sin, and opens the door to a better Day, when a perfect comfort will be given.

 5 “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.

Gentle (also translated “meek”) people do NOT inherit the earth, or much of anything else!  But in this new kingdom of God, this quality of gentleness gains a great promise of future power, possession, and influence—in and eternal kingdom!  Meekness does NOT mean weakness, either!  Jesus described Himself as “gentle and humble of heart” (Matt 11:29), and He demonstrated it in two ways.  First, He refused to use His divine power for personal vengeance or gain, never “getting back at” those who attacked and maligned Him.  Second, He unleashed His divine fury against those who mistreated the young, weak, poor, sinful, and marginalized.  (i.e., Mark 10:13-14; 11:15-18, John 2:13-22; 8:1-11)  Mean people really didn’t like it when Jesus came around!  They still don’t today, I think.

 6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

This quality of the heart describes a person who craves an increasingly obedient, God-pleasing life for themselves.  They are sorely aware of their own failures, and feel an ache in their soul for a deeper walk with God.  They are not embarrassed let everyone know that they interested in living lives of purity, godliness, chastity, holiness, submission, and the like.  Also, they long to see the righteousness of God fully, and finally, made known on the earth.  The day approaches when these folks will certainly be satisfied—filled to the full!

So, what does this all mean for us today?  I noted as I prepared this sermon that these kingdom-heart qualities are simply descriptive of character qualities and their rewards, and not given as commands to be followed.  Jesus did not provide any steps, processes, or principles on How to Develop a Kingdom Heart.  He simply listed the qualities, period!  I suspect the implication is that the only way to begin to develop these kingdom qualities is to stay needy for them, and to stay close to the King!

 

Grace Bible Church, Portland, and the Gospel…

I’d love to hear your input regarding some things I’ve been thinking about lately, especially as I’ve had some extra time for reading as I go through treatments!  I’m doing fine, miss my BELOVED church, and look forward to seeing you all soon!  Thanks for your prayers for me and my family while I’ve been away!  Here’s a little blog piece that I’ve written, just for thought and conversation….  http://downtownpastor.wordpress.com/2012/05/05/the-church-the-neighborhood-the-gospel/

Blessings!  Pastor Ken