All Good Things Must Come to an End

Every ending is a new beginning.

Last week I wrote a blog about getting the most out of life and maximizing our productivity for God’s specific calling on each of our lives. In the post, I shared my own understanding of what God is calling me to in this season including following him, loving my family well, pastoring the people of Transformation Church, and completing my doctorate.

Unfortunately, I have also come to a point where writing this blog twice a week is no longer the best use of the resources of time and mental energy that God has given me. I will continue to write occasionally and post clips from sermons at my personal website, DerwinLGray.com and invite you to join me there.

I am very thankful to Christianity Today and editor Mark Galli for encouraging an important discussion of multiethnic churches and for their continued commitment to reflect Christ in our world through this website and magazine.

Thank you for joining me on this journey. I hope you were encouraged and challenged by the posts I have written over the past nine months and will continue the conversation by reading my new book, The High-Definition Leader: Building Multiethnic Churches in a Multiethnic World, available September 15.

Marinate on that.

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The Source of True Joy

Joy is not found in our circumstances.

In Biblical times a person showed sorrow and suffering by putting on sackcloth. In Psalm 30:10–12, David describes how God had removed his sackcloth and exchanged it for joy:

“’Hear, Lord, and be merciful to me;
Lord, be my help.’

You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
Lord my God, I will praise you forever” (NIV).

Joy isn’t rooted in our circumstances. It is rooted in God. Our hearts can sing praises to him even if our mouths cannot.

As Psalm 32:1-2 says, we can have joy because our sins are forgiven. We have joy because at the end of the day God says, “I forgive you.” We can’t determine if God loves us based on good or bad circumstances in our lives. We determine God’s love for us based on the cross and the resurrection.

Joy is found in knowing that our record of guilt has been cleared and that he has fully forgiven us.

“Oh, what joy for those
whose disobedience is forgiven,
whose sin is put out of sight!
Yes, what joy for those
whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt,

whose lives are lived in complete honesty!”

(Ps. 32:1-2, NLT).

Watch the rest of the sermon here.

Marinate on that.

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How to Get the Most Out of Your Life

Six keys to being more productive in life and ministry.

Pastors have a lot going on. We have to be present mentally, emotionally, and physically in many circumstances throughout each week. We often have families that are, or should be, a priority. We have responsibilities that pull us in many directions daily.

As the lead pastor for a church as well as a speaker, author, and doctoral student, I’m often asked, “Pastor, what is the key to your productivity?” Here are some principles I like to remember in order to be productive and try to maximize my God-given potential.

1. Know your calling

We are all first called to receive, embrace, and live from the life of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. In response to the love of God, through the Holy Spirit’s power, we grow in our love for God.

For me, after that, I am called to love my wife and then my children.

I am called to serve and shepherd Transformation Church.

I am called to influence and encourage other pastors.

I am called to be an author.

I am called to complete a doctorate in the New Testament in context.

The specifics of your calling will differ, but by knowing and stewarding our callings, we can be free of the “tyranny of the urgent.” Once we clearly define our priorities, then if it’s not on that list, we really need to consider if it’s the best use of our time and other resources.

2. Simplify and declutter your life

A lack of productivity in people’s lives is often the result of not knowing our calling and having a cluttered life, filled with activities but not production.

In our 21st-century world, choices are everywhere, and we often clutter our lives with too many options because we are afraid we are going to miss out on something. ...

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Your Day in Court

His case is so convincing, so true, that it is beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are guilty.

Once you surrender your life to Christ, from that point on, when God looks at you, he sees Jesus—not your past failures or even your accomplishments. He sees Jesus in you. God’s grace is just that amazing.

It seems too incredible to believe, doesn’t it? This is why the gospel means “good news.” Because of our union life with Jesus, we are no longer sinners. Instead, we are made free from the penalty and power of sin.

We just need to learn how to walk in the freedom that has already been won by Jesus.

Picture in your mind a courtroom.

You are on trial for treason against God.

You are sitting on the left side of the room, alone. The prosecuting attorney is seated on the right. In front is a Judge whose righteousness is so blinding you can’t see his face; all you can see is his glory.

The well-dressed prosecuting attorney approaches the Judge. He turns on a 20-foot, high-definition television. For hours he assaults you with everything you’ve ever done. His case is so convincing, so true, that it is beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are guilty. You are guilty of being a sinner.

As you stand to receive your well-deserved sentence of eternity in hell from the Judge, the creaking sound of the door opening echoes through the courtroom. It’s your defense attorney. He’s wearing a ripped-up, blood-soaked robe. You notice he has holes in his wrists. As your attorney approaches the bench, a hush descends over the crowded courtroom, and under the silence you hear, “He’s never lost a case.”

The prosecuting attorney objects to your defense attorney representing you. He tells the Judge that he wants you to represent yourself.

The Judge speaks. ...

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Seeing Red: A Picture of Grace

How God’s great grace blots out our sin.

In Romans 1:28–32, Paul describes most of human history outside of Jesus. From envy and pride to disobedience and evil, we all struggle with these issues in ways large and small. You might be surprised how much. Take a moment of truth and watch the clip above as we walk through each of the items in Paul’s list and ask where we stand. Like me, you might find that you fit the description, too.

Now let me tell you about the truth that sets us free because Jesus loves us. Because of the atonement, through the shedding of his blood, he covers over our sins. He literally blots out our sins, past, present, and future. Because we are unable to forgive ourselves, God says he is going to forgive us. It is his great grace that transforms lives.

Watch the rest of the sermon here.

Song credit: John Mark McMillan, 2005 Integrity's Hosanna! Music, Integrity Music Inc.

Performed by K.J. Scriven & Gregory Cox

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The Church Is The Greatest Movie Trailer Ever

How the church can be a foretaste of heaven.

The purpose of a movie trailer is to give highlights of a forthcoming movie, creating “buzz” about it. And the ”buzz” compels people to see the movie. For example, the trailers for Avengers: Age of Ultron were incredible. They were so enticing that I couldn’t wait for the movie to arrive in theaters.

The church is a movie trailer

Did you know that the local church is to be like a movie trailer for the eternal church? The apostle John describes the eternal church in Revelation 5:6–12:

“And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, reach holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying,

’Worthy are you to take the scroll

and to open its seals,

for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God

from every tribe and language and people and nation,

and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,

and they shall reign on the earth.’

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice,

’Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,

to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might

and honor and glory and blessing!’” (ESV).

The eternal ...

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The Great Omission Becomes the Great Commission

How God used the great church destroyer Saul to become the great multiethnic church planter.

The last words of someone are important, especially if that someone is the eternal Son, the second person of the triune God. Before Jesus ascended to heaven so he could function as his people’s great high priest, he commissioned and commanded his twelve Jewish disciples to be his “witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). These early Jewish believers disobeyed Jesus and his Great Commission by staying in Jerusalem among Jews. They had a bad case of ethnocentrism, believing that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was only for the Jews because God had given them the Law and circumcision as a badge of God’s covenant. They forgot that as Jews they existed to be a light to the Gentiles.

But Jesus would not let them disrupt his mission to reach the Gentiles, fulfilling his promises to Abraham. (See Genesis 12:1–3; Galatians 3:7–9; Romans 15:8; Ephesians 2:1). And, in order to force the homogenous church in Jerusalem to scatter on mission to reach the Gentiles, God allowed persecution to free the early Jewish church from the sin of ethnocentrism.

God used Saul and other enemies of the Church to free it from the sin of not reaching the Gentiles and move it toward becoming multiethnic:

“And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison” (Acts 8:1–3, ESV).

God is calling local ...

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Marriage Is Like a Garden

How to cultivate love and root out weeds in your marriage.

Marriage is like a garden. It needs intentional care and cultivation. When weeds grow, they must be pulled up from the root immediately. If we don’t pull up weeds by the root they will continue to grow back, eventually overtaking and killing the garden.

So how do we care for and cultivate our marriages?

1. Let the Gardener (God) care for and cultivate your garden by letting him plant it. (See Eph. 5:25–33).

It is important for husbands and wives to realize that their marriages are a picture of Jesus and his church. The husband represents Jesus and the wife represents the church. The husband loves and sacrifices for his wife, and in response to his love, the wife respects and follow her husband’s leadership.

2. Let the Gardener care for and cultivate your garden through the work of Jesus.

God cares for our garden by applying his grace to our lives through Jesus. In Christ,

  • We are forever forgiven (Eph. 1:7)
  • We are as righteous as Jesus (Rom. 5:9)
  • We are loved (Eph. 1:5)
  • We are reconciled to God (Rom. 5:10)
  • We are regenerated with the life of Jesus himself (Gal. 2:20)
  • We are God’s dwelling place and temple (Eph. 2:19–22)
  • We are sealed and filled by the Spirit (Eph. 1:13; 5:18)
  • We are the body of Christ (2 Cor. 12:12)

The nutrients of grace, when received and acted upon by faith, keep our gardens green and healthy.

3. Grow your garden by working on it.

A great marriage takes great work.

  • Read books on marriage.
  • Attend marriage conferences.
  • Get marriage counseling.
  • Date each other.

4. Pull up weeds immediately!

In 15 years of counseling married couples, I have seen that unforgiveness leads to a pattern of unhealthy behaviors, bitterness, and contempt. ...

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Marriage is Like a Garden

How to cultivate love and root out weeds in your marriage.

Marriage is like a garden. It needs intentional care and cultivation. When weeds grow, they must be pulled up from the root immediately. If we don’t pull up weeds by the root they will continue to grow back, eventually overtaking and killing the garden.

So how do we care for and cultivate our marriages?

1. Let the Gardener (God) care for and cultivate your garden by letting him plant it. (See Ephesians 5:25-33).

It is important for husbands and wives to realize that their marriages are a picture of Jesus and his church. The husband represents Jesus and the wife represents the church. The husband loves and sacrifices for his wife, and in response to his love, the wife respects and follow her husband’s leadership.

2. Let the Gardener care for and cultivate your garden through the work of Jesus.

God cares for our garden by applying his grace to our lives through Jesus. In Christ,

  • We are forever forgiven (Eph. 1:7)
  • We are as righteous as Jesus (Rom. 5:9)
  • We are loved (Eph. 1:5)
  • We are reconciled to God (Rom. 5:10)
  • We are regenerated with the life of Jesus himself (Gal. 2:20)
  • We are God’s dwelling place and temple (Eph. 2:19–22)
  • We are sealed and filled by the Spirit (Eph. 1:13; 5:18)
  • We are the body of Christ (2 Cor. 12:12)

The nutrients of grace, when received and acted upon by faith, keep our gardens green and healthy.

3. Grow your garden by working on it.

A great marriage takes great work.

  • Read books on marriage.
  • Attend marriage conferences.
  • Get marriage counseling.
  • Date each other.

4. Pull up weeds immediately!

In fifteen years of counseling married couples, I have seen that unforgiveness leads to a pattern of unhealthy behaviors, bitterness, and contempt. ...

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How Extreme Is Your Love?

The world needs people who love their enemies like Christ.

If you read the news or watch TV, you cannot escape the rise of extremism in the world. There are Islamic extremists, Hindu extremists, and even atheist extremists. Violence and hatred often mark the presence of extremism, but what if it was faced by something even stronger —love?

Maybe we need to see the rise of Christian extremists who use love to change the dark places. The world needs to be overrun with Christians who are driven, shaped, and compelled by Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:43–45: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (NIV).

Christian extremists are those whose hearts are so filled with the love of Jesus that they supernaturally love their enemies. The apostle Paul describes this extreme love in Ephesians 3:16–21, saying:

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (NIV).

America and the world need Christian extremists who love so beautifully ...

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