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What about Grace?

Our Family  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  42:26
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Intro:

Abraham Lincoln had a favorite riddle he used to put to his colleagues. It went like this: “If a man were to call the tail of a dog a leg, how many legs would the dog have?”

“Five,” was the usual reply.

“Wrong,” Lincoln would say with a homely smile. “The dog still has four legs. Calling the tail a leg doesn’t make it one.”

—C. R. Anthony

The point of Lincoln's illustration is obvious: just because people say something, it doesn't necessarily make it true.
There have been many things said lately about our church. Perhaps you have already heard some. These rumors center around the uncertainty of the future and usually start in question form and are not uncommon for our situation we find ourselves in today. These are questions like, "What is going to happen to Grace?' "Who is going to be the next pastor?" "Is Grace changing now?" and even I heard, "Is Grace closing their doors?" There is nothing wrong about asking questions, and it is very appropriate at this time. It's how people answer these questions that the unknown facts can become rumors. In fact, I was out in the community and another area pastor had approached me saying, "I heard Grace was closing--when is that happening?" Of course, my answer was, "Well, sorry to disappoint you but you heard wrong!" (Don't bother asking me which Pastor that was, I'm not going to tell you because it really is irrelevant since that rumor is not true and I set that record straight with him). But this situation really got me thinking perhaps I should spend some time with the congregation explaining what really is going on and what we do know and even what we don't know.

We are not changing

Hear me: our church is not changing!

Our constitution is not changing

Ted Jensen and I have been in many meetings both with Pastor as well as without pastor, taking hours upon hours discussing this transition for over a month now and one thing has been clear from the start of these meetings: we are not changing who the Grace family has always been. How we will protect that is by not making any changes to the Constitution. The Constitution, alongside the Bible, is like our guide, and even our guard rail to ensure that we don't veer off course from what we've always been. Plus, the Constitution is also what we all agreed to bind ourselves by when we became members so that there is unity within Grace Baptist Church.

Our beliefs are not changing

God, His Truth, His standard of righteousness, the nature of sin, the basic desires of men and women, and the means and method of salvation do not change. Again, our constitution outlines in Article 4: the Articles of faith--we have our beliefs spelled out. So you see, all the members are in unity and agree with the same beliefs about the doctrine of the Bible, the doctrine of God, the doctrine of Creation, the doctrine of Man and Sin, of Salvation, the doctrine of the Church, the doctrine of Stewardship, the doctrine of Missions, of Separation, of Civil Government, Satan, Spirits, and finally the doctrine of Future Things. Grace Baptist is one in our beliefs
You know what makes Grace so different from any other church of like-faith in this area? What makes this church so different is our belief in loving others, just as Christ loved us. How do I know? It is see in our deep love for each other, our deep compassion to care for one another. How when strangers and visitors come walking through our doors, we greet them immediately with a smile and welcome them as one of us. When one of our own is struggling, we come alongside and bear the burden together.
Our essence, our distinction, our reputation, is not and should not change! My second major point:

We are changing

Hear me: our church is changing! Change will come at us whether we like it or not. You might be here today saying, “We don’t want our church to change!” Well... too late.
In the Past:
From Northland faculty/staff & students to all community
Do you realize that we've had a "change" in the pastoral position at least three times in Grace's history? Neal Cushman was a co-senior pastor of Grace with Wynne for the start of Grace. Then Neal left to work full-time for Northland. Matt Williams was the Associate Pastor when Mary and I first came to Grace, but Matt left a little over a year after we joined Grace. And since Mike Glanzer was the next Associate Pastor, he made the third change in a pastoral position.
Current:
From Wynne to no Wynne, From Vickie to no Vickie--and we are morning the loss:
Today and at least for the next few months, it will mostly be me you see and hear up here (I hope you are okay with that). It is pertinent to note that Wynne and I are two different people. Wynne has a different personality, different mannerisms, a different preaching style that I can only hope to one day attain. Now, I do intent to get into verse-by-verse expository preaching here within the next month, but for now I believe topical preaching is necessary for our congregation. While he was preaching here, his schedule was different than what my schedule is now--he was on a day shift, me...not so much. He is of a different age, and of a different maturation level--both physically and spiritually-- he has more education, more experience than me. What does all this mean? This means inevitable, unavoidable change for Grace--yet this kind of change can be healthy and can mean opportunities exist in some areas where they hadn't in the past.
A local church is more organism than organization. Grace Baptist Church is a living thing. We were born as a church in 1993, we have a certain level of maturity at this point, and eventually we will die. It is interesting to note that the average lifespan of a local church is about 70 years – roughly the same as a human life. All living things change continually. When a living thing stops changing and growing, it is dead. Our church is changing as each day goes by, for better or for worse--I believe for better!
While God, His Truth, His standard of righteousness, the nature of sin, the basic desires of men and women, and the means and method of salvation do not change, the Bible is equally clear that cultures change, eras change, and individuals change. The calling of Abraham, the Law of Moses, the captivity of Israel, the work of Christ, and the grafting in of the Gentiles to the New Covenant were all events that marked dramatic change--all as a direct act of YHWH.

We will be stable

Why? because our Leader never changes!

Christ is the head of the Church

Christ is the head and we, as the church, are one, unified body in Christ. What would happen if our physical bodies were not unified?
Matthew 21:42 ESV
Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “ ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?
In Matthew 21:42, we have our lord Jesus himself telling us that he fulfills the prediction in Psalm 118:22 being the Cornerstone to the church. As you may already know, the Cornerstone was the most stable part of the building not only that but the rest of the walls were measured by that Cornerstone. You cannot get more faithful than The Cornerstone--our Lord & Savior Jesus! Would you suppose one of the primary reasons that we are in the situation we are now is so that Christ can confirm to us that He is the head of Grace Baptist Church?
Hebrews 13:8 ESV
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Jesus is God and we know that:

God does not change

Who is more faithful and unchanging than YHWH Himself? YHWH will never leave will never forsake us. HE is Immutable. Psalm 102:26-27; James 1:17
Psalm 102:26 ESV
They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away,
Psalm 102:27 ESV
but you are the same, and your years have no end.
James 1:17 ESV
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
God is sovereign! He is still on His throne! Perhaps this change here at Grace is a gift from the Creator of the Universe.

We will continually change

The work of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit upon the human soul – the process of sanctification – is change. Repentance is change. Spiritual growth is change.
Justification is the one-time event when we come to Christ and to submit to Him as our Lord and He justifies us before the Father, but sanctification is a continual change process to Christ-likeness. We have a one-time event at justification of repentance from our sins, however as long as we are living in our corrupted flesh, we will continually need to repent daily. In Pauline Theology, it is dying to ourselves daily. Or, in other words, keep short sin accounts with our Savior! Repenting is changing from our old habits and agreeing that God's ways are our ways.
And although all this change happens within a believer, the believer remains unified to Christ, and as the church is the body of Christ, so too must we remain unified to be of any use to our Creator.
The command to repent (change) is directed at believers and churches almost as much as at unbelievers in the Scriptures. The often quoted Revelation 3:20 states, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock . . . .”
Revelation 3:20 ESV
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.
If you look at the context, you'll see it was directed to a local church in Laodicea, a wealthy church that was perhaps only 40 years old and had the best things money could buy. In fact, the admonitions of Revelation 2 and 3 are directed at local churches that were not very old. They had started well, but despite some virtues and achievements, they had changed for the worse and offended Jesus Christ. They were in need of some serious changes. I'm not saying that Grace is in need of serious change but what I am saying is that Jesus is mandating change in these local churches.

So What?

So how would you react to this change?
The Challenge of Change (Acts 27:1-44) from BMW's Tradition to Transition
The Apostle Paul found himself on a voyage to Rome that brought radical change into the lives and plans of those on the ship. This intriguing story reveals a variety of approaches to changes happening to and around us.

THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM (27:1-13)

Just when things seem to be calm and we have the appearance of success, we relax. But there is often a storm looming. Paul’s plan to go to Rome, where he would appeal his case before Caesar, was finally underway. All of the stresses of saying goodbye to believers, appearing before various judges, and wondering if he would really see Rome were finally behind him. The seas were calm, but somehow Paul has understanding that the voyage would not be as calm as might then appear in verse 9 & 10. Acts 27:9-10
Acts 27:9–10 ESV
Since much time had passed, and the voyage was now dangerous because even the Fast was already over, Paul advised them, saying, “Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.”
The centurion leader refused to believe what Paul had said in the next verse, preferring to trust in the calm before the storm.

THE CALAMITY OF THE STORM (27:14)

Out of "nowhere" a change in their plans hit them. Isn’t that like the challenge of change? Sea captains were aware, of course, of the potential for sudden wind shifts; nevertheless, this somehow caught them by surprise like most changes in our environment. The name for the wind is from two Greek words euros (east wind) and the εὐρακύλων Latin word aquilo (north wind). It is a strong dangerous wind feared by all who sail on the Mediterranean Sea. Acts 27:14 Here is the change:
Acts 27:14 ESV
But soon a tempestuous wind, called the northeaster, struck down from the land.

THE CHOICES THAT WERE MADE (27:15-20, 27-30)

What could the leaders have done given this dangerous change of events? A careful study of the Scriptures shows that there are at least seven responses they could have taken to the change coming upon them.

1. DO NOTHING: Let it drift (v.15)

One option is to ignore the storm and continue with business as usual. It is not uncommon for leaders to carry on as if the climate around them is going to remain the same. In this case the sailors let the wind drive the ship, hoping the wind would calm down so that they could continue on their voyage with no further problems. The role of leadership is to look over the horizon and identify the coming storms that will challenge status quo.

2. DEMAND CONTROL: Tighten things up (vv.16-17a)

In a storm during Bible times, sailors would put supporting cables under the ship and winch them up tight. This practice of “frapping” the ship was intended to hold the ship together during storms, and this is what the crew did, believing that no big changes in their plans were necessary. When a group falls into a decline there is a tendency for some to shift into a “command and control” mode by “tightening things up.” This actually intensifies the crisis.

3. DRAG YOUR FEET: Resist change (v.17b)

Acts 27:17
Acts 27:17 ESV
After hoisting it up, they used supports to undergird the ship. Then, fearing that they would run aground on the Syrtis, they lowered the gear, and thus they were driven along.
The term, "lowered the gear" or in some translations, “struck sail” means to “let down the sea anchor.” This was intended to slow down the ship by letting an anchor out the back. It is not unusual for at least one person in a team to view his role as always voting “no” simply out of fear of change. The default position can be to resist all change because we want things to remain as they have always been, "just like the good old days." We are reminded in Ecclesiastes 7:10 that we are to:
Ecclesiastes 7:10 ESV
Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.
Scripture says we are not to be stuck in our pasts!

4. DUMP THINGS OVERBOARD: Recklessly jettison (vv. 18-19)

During the storm, the sailors decided to jettison the cargo and the tackle. A key to success in the local church is knowing what programs and practices should be abandoned and which should be retained in order to move forward.

5. DISCOURAGEMENT: Give up hope (v. 20)

Another response, and one that is quite common when massive change comes upon people, can be that of discouragement.. The tendency at some point in a crisis is to lose hope that there is even a possibility of a good future.

6. DELAY THE INEVITABLE: Just hope something good will happen (vv. 27-29)

As they approached Malta, it seemed like a shipwreck was inevitable. So instead of being proactive, everyone just waited for bad things to happen. The lesson here is clear: at some point we must act. Just hoping that things will get better will not solve the problem.

7. DESPAIR: Abandon ship (v. 30)

Some of the sailors decided to look out for themselves and just leave the others to fend for themselves. People can be tempted to simply leave and look for greener pastures.

RESPONSIBILITIES IN TIMES OF CHANGE (27:21-25, 31-36)

As a prisoner, Paul could have succumbed to any of these responses himself. He was a prisoner and in chains! Instead of saying, “it’s not my job,” Paul demonstrated solid principles of leadership in responding to massive change that he neither sought nor started. We all can learn at least 4 things from his example when in the midst of our change.

1. Lead from where you are (v. 21).

Acts 27:21
Acts 27:21 ESV
Since they had been without food for a long time, Paul stood up among them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and incurred this injury and loss.
It is the responsibility of leaders to take charge and take responsibility. In the middle of a storm, someone has to lead. Paul was the least likely person on the ship to lead. Yet he stepped forward and led. He is a classic illustration that leadership is not always a position.

2. Define Reality (v. 22b)

Acts 27:22
Acts 27:22 ESV
Yet now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship.
The leader’s role is to clearly state things as they really are. In this instance Paul said, “The ship is going down.” One of the ways for Positive Change is to simply do something different and garnish support by helping others to see things as they really are.

3. Be optimistic (v. 22, 24, 25)

If the first responsibility of leadership is to define reality, then the second responsibility is to offer hope. It is irresponsible to only be negative without offering direction and optimism for the future. Paul did that. We have the hope of eternal life! and hope that He'll never abandon us! And finally...

4. Trust God (vv. 23-25)

Acts 27:23-25
Acts 27:23–25 ESV
For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told.
Paul told them of the visit by the angel and demonstrated he had faith in what was told to him. Today we don’t have similar revelation; but godly leaders, through prayer and wise counsel, must reach a point where they have identified a course of action that they believe God would have them follow and then model faith in God, trusting Him for the resources and the results. Ted and I have faith that we know the course that God wants us on right now!
Conclusion:
It is possible to go through massive change and come out alive. All 237 people on board made it safely to land. While they lost some material possessions, they survived with stories to tell of God’s deliverance in their lives. Their lives would never be the same (Acts 27:37, 41-44).
The shipwreck resulted in people on the island of Malta hearing the gospel. This would never have happened without the major change initiative of a shipwreck. Now don't get me wrong, Wynne Kimbrough is wonderful at giving the gospel wherever he may be, but what I am driving home is that sometimes change lends more opportunity than if no change occurs. In our passage here, Paul would have sailed right by if God didn't bring about change. Ultimately, the reason for change is to serve Christ by impacting more people than previously possible before the change initiative (28:1-10).
So what are the opportunities now at Grace? What doors have been opened? You answer that for yourself, God always equips you for whatever He calls you to do and He is always faithful.
Good things can come from change. Embrace it! Stay unified! Fasten your seat belts and enjoy the ride! A day will come when you will look back with joy as you testify of God’s special work in your life and ministry during this time here at Grace.
Let us PRAY!
With your heads still bowed and your eyes still closed, who here this morning would say, "I needed this, I needed the reminder of a right response to change?" May I see your hands?
And again, With your heads bowed and your eyes closed, who here this morning would say, "Josh, I don’t know what it is like to trust in The Cornerstone, I cannot live without anxiety (at least, not yet) because I haven't met the Christ personally, but I want to, I want this peace--even in storms--to dominate my life" May I see your hands?
The Leadership here and I are ready and willing to introduce you to the Savior--and we can right after the service! Let us point you to the life that promises eternality. As Pastor Kimbrough has said before, "I am just one beggar telling another beggar where to find the living bread."
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