The Choice

Pastor Jay continues the series “The Question, Mark” with this week’s sermon “The Choice” from Mark 10:17-31.

Mark 10:17-31 (ESV)

The Rich Young Man

And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

We all claim that we want eternal life.   

Parent Connection Questions:

  • What things are hardest for you to give up in order to love and follow God better?
  • Why are those things so difficult for you to give up?
  • How is eternal life with God better than anything else?
  • Why should we be content with everything that God has given us?

Loving What God Loves: A Perspective on Divorce

Pastor Jay continues the series “The Question, Mark” with this week’s sermon “Loving What God Loves: A Perspective on Divorce” from Mark 10:1-16.

Mark 10:1-16 (ESV)

Teaching About Divorce

And he left there and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan, and crowds gathered to him again. And again, as was his custom, he taught them.

And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

Let the Children Come to Me

And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.

The gospel of Christ moves our heart to love what God loves.   

  • The gospel moves our heart to love God’s work in marriage.
  • The gospel moves our hearts to love Him like children.

Parent Connection Questions:

  • Name some things that you love.
  • Why do you love those things?
  • What do you love about God and what He has done for you?
  • Why do you love those things about God?

Salt Principles

Pastor Jay continues the series “The Question, Mark” with this week’s sermon “Salt Principles” from Mark 9:30-50.

Mark 9:30-50 (ESV)

Jesus Again Foretells Death, Resurrection

They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he did not want anyone to know, for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.

Who Is the Greatest?

And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”

Anyone Not Against Us Is for Us

John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. For the one who is not against us is for us. For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.

Temptations to Sin

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

We can be salty followers of Christ.   

  • See that it’s all about the gospel.
  • Forget focusing on you.
  • Serve to be great.
  • Recognize your value is in your identity with Him.
  • This is not a competition.
  • We have a heavy obligation to protect the spiritually vulnerable.
  • Eternity must be our priority.
  • Expect a path of suffering.
  • Pursue potency as the goal.

Parent Connection Questions:

  • What uses do we have for salt?
  • Who should our focus be on as far as the Gospel is concerned?
  • Why is it important that we choose not to focus on ourselves?
  • Who should we find our true identity in? Why?

When All Else Fails

Pastor Jay continues the series “The Question, Mark” with this week’s sermon “When All Else Fails” from Mark 9:14-29.

Mark 9:14-29 (ESV)

Jesus Heals a Boy with an Unclean Spirit

And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”

Jesus is our only hope, because everything else has failed.   

  • Jesus succeeds where we faithlessly fail.
  • Jesus succeeds at delivering us from the power of the devil.
  • Jesus succeeds when our weak faith makes us feel hopeless.
  • Jesus succeeds where death appears to have won.

Parent Connection Questions:

  • Describe a time when you have experienced someone letting you down.
  • Why is Jesus there for us even when we fail?
  • When have you seen Jesus get you through a difficult situation?
  • How does Jesus give us hope even when we feel hopeless?

Upcoming Sabbatical

2016 Senior Pastors Sabbatical


Over the last couple years the elder board and I have been talking about and planning for my first sabbatical at Grace. Years ago, Grace, like many churches, established a sabbatical policy for its pastors. (See attached documents at end of this post.) Based on the biblical word “sabbath”, the concept is for the pastor to have an extended time away from ministry to refresh, study and recharge his spiritual, physical, mental and emotional batteries.

Pastors’ schedules are different than many other professions. Weekends, in the normal sense, don’t exist. Most pastors work some part or all of 6 days a week, are always available in emergencies, stay busy during the holidays, and rarely experience a three day weekend with their loved ones. Burn-out has been a very real problem across all church denominations. Sabbaticals are a kind of biblically inspired maintenance to avoid such problems.

Our policy speaks of the Sabbath falling “in the seventh year”. Having passed the eight-year mark, I am officially starting my ninth year of ministry here at Grace. I love this ministry, the community, and especially the people of our congregation. A sabbatical is not meant to be an escape from the joys and challenges of ministry. Its meant to be a way of enhancing and preserving the freshness to continue that work.

To be transparent and direct, this is not a time for me to seek different opportunities. Nor is it a kind of disciplinary action or correction. This is really as simple as availing myself to the policy of rest established by the elder board in 2002.

During my sabbatical, I have plans to get away, read, pray, study, write, rest, relax, maintain physical exercise, see family and maybe even do some golf and scuba. Everything will be in place here for the board of elders and the other pastors to provide continued leadership and to cover my various duties.

When I began the recent sermon series on Mark, I planned for it to go through Easter of 2016. This would allow me to begin my sabbatical around April 4th 2016 and go through June 27th. Our policy is for the senior pastor to take 12 weeks.  During that time I will be mostly out of town and not readily available.  When in town, I will not be at our services.

The church wisely put this policy into place long before my arrival. Lord willing, my plan is to be at Grace for many more years and to continue being your pastor. Pray for me as I prepare for that time. Pray I can use it wisely–for maximum benefit to God’s purposes for me and for the church.


(The following was adopted by the board of elders, Nov 12, 2002)

Sabbatical Policy

Of Grace Community Church

An Evangelical Free Church

  1.  Sabbatical leaves may be granted to full time pastors in their seventh consecutive year of full time service at Grace Community Church.


  1. Purpose:  The purpose of the sabbatical leave is to provide a new perspective to the ministry, provide a change of pace for the pastor, and thus also to enhance the ministry to people.


  1. Sabbatical leave will normally be limited to twelve weeks for Senior Pastors and six weeks for Associate Pastors.  Vacation time will be limited to 2 weeks in a sabbatical year and will not be taken in conjunction with the sabbatical time.


  1. No more than one pastor shall be on sabbatical leave at the same time.


  1. Pastors will normally be granted full salary and benefits (vacation defined in 3 above).  Any additional cost may be considered at the time of application.


  1. Formal application must be made to and be approved by the Board of Elders.  Sabbatical should include a balance of physical rest, personal recreation, intellectual stimulation and spiritual renewal.  Application should be submitted one year in advance, and should include purpose, plan, time, and cost of educational expenses.


  1. The pastor will report to the Elder Board and the congregation after the completion of the sabbatical to indicate how the time was invested and what benefits were realized.  The Elders should also participate by indicating the congregational and leadership benefits the church received.


  1. The Board of Elders reserves the right not to grant sabbatical leave if not merited, if leave would not enhance the pastor’s and church’s ministry, if economics forbid, of there is not a reasonable expectation that the pastor will continue at Grace Community Church for at least one year after the sabbatical leave.


  1. The understanding of the sabbatical is that the pastors relieved from all routine and emergency duties during the time granted.  The church leaders will handle routine and emergency matters.


Pastor Jay continues the series “The Question, Mark” with this week’s sermon “Altered” from Mark 8:27-9:13.

Mark 8:27-9:13 (ESV)

Peter Confesses Jesus as the Christ

And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him.

Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection

And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.”

The Transfiguration

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.

And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.  So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead might mean. And they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” And he said to them, “Elijah does come first to restore all things. And how is it written of the Son of Man that he should suffer many things and be treated with contempt? But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him.”

Coming to grips with Jesus can alter your perspective a bit.   

  • You have to alter your frame of reference about what matters.
  • You see His glory as your defining truth.

Parent Connection Questions:

  • What are some things that you love most?
  • Why do you love those things?
  • Who should matter the most to us?
  • Why should we love God the most?