Love God–Starting Point

Pathway Points

Stepping Up for Jesus

In last week’s GraceNotes, I started us out on a journey through Grace Church’s Discipleship Pathway. The basis for everything that we do at Grace is God’s love, so it makes sense that “Love God” is the foundation for our Pathway. The leadership at Grace also recognizes that everyone is at a different point on their faith journey, so each of the three parts of the Pathway are divided down into “Starting Points, Next Steps, and Going Deeper.” While the descriptions are not meant to be exhaustive (nor are they meant to be judgmental), they are intended for self-evaluation, and, with the Holy Spirit’s guidance, as a set of suggestions to help you better understand what each step on the Pathway looks like in the life of a believer.

For example, in the Love God part, a believer that is just starting out on their faith journey would probably attend worship at least once per month. In terms of self-evaluation, look at the frequency that you attend worship at Grace. If you’re pretty new to your faith and all you can manage is one per month, don’t beat yourself up too much. Remember, this is a faith journey and new habits are not easy to cultivate. On the other hand, if you’ve been a Christian for a while and you’re still only managing once or twice per month, perhaps it’s time to challenge yourself to take the next step on the pathway.

For discussions on the importance of attending worship in the first place, check out these articles:

Why Attending Church is So Important
Three Reasons to Attend Corporate Worship

Stepping up with you in His strength!

Monica Lebsack

Creative Ministries Director

At Grace, one of my responsibilities is to publish a weekly article in our e-newsletter, GraceNotes, about discipleship. Specifically, about the various components of our Discipleship Pathway and how a person could journey along it. This is my most recent article.
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And, How Exactly Am I Supposed To Do All of That?

Pathway Points

Stepping Up for Jesus

Last week, I defined the terms “Means of Grace” and “Spiritual Disciplines” for you. If you missed the article you can find it here. Today, I want to encourage those of you that were a bit overwhelmed with the prospects of incorporating them into your daily habits. First of all, I want to remind you that grace is a gift, not something to be earned. So, while spiritual disciplines are an important part of your journey as a follower of Christ, practicing them cannot earn you grace nor does failing to practice them deny you grace. The means of grace are the activities that we do, or the means, through which God can poor out his grace on us, helping us to become the persons that he wants us to be. That said, as you begin to incorporate these activities into your life, the article Quarters offers an encouraging perspective for you.

Stepping up with you in His strength!

Monica Lebsack

Creative Ministries Director

At Grace, one of my responsibilities is to publish a weekly article in our e-newsletter, GraceNotes, about discipleship. Specifically, about the various components of our Discipleship Pathway and how a person could journey along it. This is my most recent article.

Jargon Translated…I Promise

Pathway Points

Stepping Up for Jesus

As Methodists, there are a couple of phrases that are used (in the Pizza with the Pastor class, for instance) that may or may not make sense to the average person in the pew, or chair as it may be. Our founder, John Wesley, used the phrase “Means of Grace” when talking about “Spiritual Disciplines.” The easier of the two, and slightly more universal, is “Spiritual Disciplines.” These are the things that we do as Christians to learn more about God and to deepen our relationship with him, as well as sharing him with the world around us. These include reading the Bible, praying, going to church (specifically, worshiping), and participating in mission projects.

Wesley categorized these activities as “Means of Grace.” Just to make things perfectly clear, grace is getting what we do not deserve. So, the means of grace are the activities that we do, or the means, through which God can poor out his grace on us, helping us to become the persons that he wants us to be, not activities that we do to earn grace. God can and does give us his grace anyway he wants, these are just some of the activities through which Christians find it easiest to recognize and respond to that grace.

As we look at the means of grace today, they can be divided into works of piety and works of mercy.

Works of Piety
Individual Practices – reading, meditating and studying the scriptures, prayer, fasting, regularly attending worship, healthy living, and sharing our faith with others
Communal Practices – regularly share in the sacraments (baptism and communion), Christian conferencing (accountability to one another), and Bible study

Works of Mercy
Individual Practices – doing good works, visiting the sick, visiting those in prison, feeding the hungry, and giving generously to the needs of others
Communal Practices – seeking justice, ending oppression and discrimination (for instance Wesley challenged Methodists to end slavery), and addressing the needs of the poor

Stepping up with you in His strength!

Monica Lebsack

Creative Ministries Director

At Grace, one of my responsibilities is to publish a weekly article in our e-newsletter, GraceNotes, about discipleship. Specifically, about the various components of our Discipleship Pathway and how a person could journey along it. This is my most recent article.

Rest

Pathway Points

Stepping Up for Jesus

As you journey along this Pathway, spending time with God in worship and rest is very important. This Sabbath rest, as it’s called, is a rhythm that God set into motion right from the beginning. (See Genesis 2:1-3 NLT) Kerri Weems gives a beautiful description of this in her article Sabbath: God’s Metronome. So, enjoy your weekend of rest and don’t forget to join us for worship on Sunday! 

Stepping up with you in His strength!

Monica Lebsack

Creative Ministries Director

At Grace, one of my responsibilities is to publish a weekly article in our e-newsletter, GraceNotes, about discipleship. Specifically, about the various components of our Discipleship Pathway and how a person could journey along it. This is my most recent article.

It’s Friday, but Sunday’s Coming!

Pathway Points

Stepping Up for Jesus

Today is Good Friday. Oftentimes, today is a day of quiet reflection and mourning. For us, looking back through the lens of Easter, Good Friday really is good. For the disciples however, it was anything but good. For them, their beloved teacher and friend is gone. They’re in hiding, literally and figuratively, fearing for their lives and filled with shame. They’re also dealing with extreme disappointment. In their minds, Jesus was supposed to overthrow Rome and bring back the glory days of Israel. Everything was supposed to get better, not worse.

Once again, the disciples missed the point. Like us living in the “already, but not yet,” they wanted Jesus to hurry up and fix it all and make their lives paradise. Jesus, on the other hand, wanted more than just them in that paradise; he wants everyone! Oh, if only I could go back in time and tell them, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming!

Stepping up with you in His strength!

Monica Lebsack

Creative Ministries Director

At Grace, one of my responsibilities is to publish a weekly article in our e-newsletter, GraceNotes, about discipleship. Specifically, about the various components of our Discipleship Pathway and how a person could journey along it. This is my most recent article.

Who Do You Think You Are? The Queen of…

Pathway Points

Stepping Up for Jesus

My small group is finished until after Easter, so I started an Esther Bible Study  on my own, keeping the habit going. For those of you that are unfamiliar with the story, Esther is a young, Jewish girl living in exile in the Persian Empire. She is unwillingly entered into a beauty pageant where the winner is to become the next queen. As the heroine, of course she wins. During her time as queen, an irrevocable decree is passed to annihilate the Jews still living in the Empire. Up to this point, she has kept her identity as a Jew a secret. Given her position in the court, her cousin asks her to intercede. Her first reaction is self-preservation, so she says, “No.” Her cousin replied, “Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14) There’s a happy ending with the bad guy being executed, the Jews being allowed to fight back during the attempted genocide, and Esther and her family being celebrated even today by Jews during the holiday of Purim.

All of that said, I started thinking about identity. When asked, “Who are you?” The automatic response is your name, but if someone were to dig a little deeper and ask for a description, what would you say? How early in the conversation does “a Christian” show up? For me, “a Math Teacher” used to come up right away. It was my identity, kind of like Esther’s identity was Queen of the Persian Empire. It’s a long story that I don’t have room for here (feel free to ask if you’d like to know, I tell it freely), but I lost the identity of Math Teacher.

God used that time to press into me my true identity of “a chosen child of God.” He pointed out that having an identity in anything other than him was to be of the world, not of His Kingdom. He also pointed out that he had placed me here, in this moment, for a purpose, that hiding my identity was not serving him anymore than Esther was by hiding that she was a Jew. The journey to accept that identity has not been easy, but in the end, the joy found in my Kingdom identity far surpasses the fickle security of my worldly identity.

So…who are you?

Stepping up with you in His strength!

Monica Lebsack

Creative Ministries Director

At Grace, one of my responsibilities is to publish a weekly article in our e-newsletter, GraceNotes, about discipleship. Specifically, about the various components of our Discipleship Pathway and how a person could journey along it. This is my most recent article.

Going…Going…Gone

Pathway Points

Stepping Up for Jesus

Holy cow! You folks are awesome! I was checking the Lenten Devotionals at the Welcome Center and after the first week, two-thirds of them have been picked up. Hopefully, you all remembered to start them on Ash Wednesday. If not, no worries just start today!

If you forgot to pick yours up (or, like me, prefer to see them on your phone), here are a few suggestions for online devotionals:

Redeemer – Lenten Devotionals These are devotionals written by the staff at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. You can view it each day through this link, or there is an app.

The Gospel of Mark Online Bible Study If you’re looking for a slightly more intense study, here is a study on the book of Mark. There is a workbook to purchase, but it’s a great online community to support you through the six weeks.

Featured Plans: Prepare for Easter, Find Jesus, Rediscover Tradition, and more This one is my personal favorite because, with the Bible App, I can set a reminder on my phone so I don’t forget. I’m working through Preparing Our Hearts for Easter: A Lenten Devotional and Lent: Journey According To Luke.

Stepping up with you in His strength!

Monica Lebsack

Creative Ministries Director

At Grace, one of my responsibilities is to publish a weekly article in our e-newsletter, GraceNotes, about discipleship. Specifically, about the various components of our Discipleship Pathway and how a person could journey along it. This is my most recent article.

Smudges with Meaning

Pathway Points

Stepping Up for Jesus

Last week, I introduced Lent as a time of introspection and reflection in preparation for Easter. We as Christians use this time to focus on our need for a Savior—our sinful natures, His perfection; our stubborn grip on earthly things, His patient pursuit of us anyway. One of the ways that we can do that is by using a devotional to guide our Bible reading, thoughts, and prayers. (Hint, hint…pick one up at the Welcome Center on Sunday.)  Continue reading

Holidays, Holidays, & More Holidays

At Grace, one of my responsibilities is to publish a weekly article in our e-newsletter, GraceNotes, about discipleship. Specifically, about the various components of our Discipleship Pathway and how a person could journey along it. This is my most recent edition:

Pathway Points

Stepping Up for Jesus

It’s that time of year again. You know where one holiday barely ends before the next begins. First, it’s Valentine’s Day, then Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, and then St. Patrick’s Day (because…you know…green beer), and Palm Sunday, and…wait…you don’t feel the pressure? I know it’s not Christmas, but nothing? Perhaps a bit of review is in order. After all, there’s no point in Christmas if there’s no Easter and Easter is forever intertwined with Lent and Holy Week.

Let’s begin with the end in mind. Candy hearts and green beer aside, Easter is the big holiday on the horizon. It’s the day that we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It’s the whole reason that Christmas happened in the first place. So…it’s pretty amazing that Jesus rose from the dead (the resurrection) but if that’s all that we focus on, we completely miss the point.

Just like with Christmas, we have a season of preparation for Easter. At Christmas, it’s a time of celebration called Advent. Starting March 1st, it’s a time of introspection and reflection called Lent. We as Christians use this time to focus on our need for a Savior; our sinful natures, His perfection; our stubborn grip on earthly things, His patient pursuit of us anyway.

Join me each week as we dig a little deeper into this holiday season and what Easter really means. Also, be on the lookout for Lenten Devotionals coming soon to a Welcome Center near you!

Stepping up with you in His strength!

Monica Lebsack

Creative Ministries Director