Our life is like a house…I know, I know, many of you have heard this from me before, but I think it is worth hearing again. Before we know God or understand the concept of God we are on the front porch of the house and God is wooing us to come to the front door. This is something called Prevenient Grace. This is the grace that goes before all human beings. God wants all human beings to freely come to be in a loving, free relationship with Jesus. God is always calling everyone into that relationship. Sometimes God even using people like you can me to in this calling of other people. When we finally tune into that call, we open the door to the house and step inside, that is called Justifying Grace. Justification is a realignment of the life of a person with God. I believe that for many this is as far as they get in their relationship with God. To continue to use the overused metaphor, we open the door to the house, but fail to enter the house. We fail to move through the door. But we have to move through the door. We have to from relative to real, from something God does “for us” to something God does “in us,” from our outward relation to God to our inward relation to God, from the restoration of us to the favor of God to the restoration of us to the image of God. This movement from the outside to the inside allows us to move into the long journey of sanctification. In our image of the house, it is a moving from room to room, moving deeper and deeper into the house. Sanctifying Grace is the ongoing movement towards Christian freedom found in loving God and neighbor and involves the practice and acceptance of the means of grace.
Read the scripture and then join me in the video for a special message!
Prayer: Thank you God for this Fall Bible Blog, for this chance for us to have come together as a community to study together, while scattered apart. Help us now to rest and refocus as we get ready to settle into November and soon Advent. We love you. Amen.
Here is the thing about God’s grace. It is the same for everyone. Some of us learn about Jesus and God’s grace at a young age. We become great friends with Jesus and grow in grace and love, become strong Christians. Others of us grow up hearing about God and maybe even going to church, but never really doing anything to get to know Jesus. Then one day, something happens in our lives that propels us into a relationship with Jesus and we go all in, growing in God’s grace. Then there are some among us who take nearly our whole lives to finally look at Jesus through serious eyes. However, the grace and love that God offers is the same for all of these people. One is not loved more than the other, God celebrates with joy whenever someone
There are certain passages in the Bible that I believe God inserted to purely keep Jim Divine humble. Luke 15:11-32 is one of these!
At a surface level it is the simple story of the prodigal. Like many of us, it is the story of someone treading down a personal path of destruction, only to realize their lost state and return to find redemption and acceptance.
Then we read it again, and like the peeling off of a layer of an onion, a new and more aromatic scent emerges. New depth and fresh understanding. Sometimes a sweetly robust scent and at other times strongly pungent, even to the point of tears.
To start this study of the Prodigal I first invite you to listen to one of the first songs (and singers) that I got into as a young Christian over 30 years ago.
Take time to rewrite this story using your own words in today’s setting. Who would you identify with, The Prodigal or the Son who stayed home?
How has the Father’s grace been offered to you?
Have you accepted that Grace and are you eating at the celebratory dinner? If not, confess your need for God’s grace and ask today to receive this amazing gift of love and acceptance and then let me know about it, I want to celebrate with you!!!
Prayer: Lord Jesus, may we all today know your amazing grace and walk in your undeserved love. And, may we celebrate with you at your grand banquet of salvation. Amen.
So, I have a video for you to watch that I wish I had shown you yesterday. It is all about the Holiness of God and about how Jesus heals our sin sickness. How Jesus heals us. So please take a moment to watch this video to better understand how Jesus fixed what was broken in the world.
Now that you have watched that I bring you back to the idea of the Grace of God. Yesterday I said it was a free gift that is given to all and that there is nothing that any of us can do to earn it. We all have access to this healing relationship with Jesus, this life of holiness. All we have to do is receive the gift of grace.
Read the story for the day and imagine Jesus reaching out and extending grace and holiness to a person who was considered unclean.
No questions today, just one more video to watch about grace. Have I mentioned that I love Bible Project videos? I think they are about the best videos out there to teach about the Bible and Bible concepts. Enjoy.
Prayer: God of wonder, help me to see other people as you see them and to extend love to those around me. Amen.
So what exactly is grace? We use that word a lot in the church but it is a word that all of us might not really understand. Before I went to seminary I had no idea what grace meant when it was used in the church. For me grace was either the prayer you said before a meal or it had something to do with treating someone nicely, usually when they had done something well, as in someone could be in your good graces. However, I really had no idea what it meant when someone talked about grace of God or if the pastor said “thank you God for your grace”. Then to make things even more difficult pastors would often talk about the Means of Grace. What in the world did that mean?
The church father Augustine of Hippo defined grace in his writing by saying, by saying, “This grace of Christ, without which neither infants nor grown persons can be saved, is not bestowed as a reward for merits, but is given freely, which is why it is called grace.” In other words, there is nothing anyone can do to earn this grace, it is God’s free gift to humanity.
Aha, so I was pretty close before seminary, not with the prayer said before the meal thing, but the other part, it was about being in someone’s good graces, but I was wrong about the “usually when they had done something well”. There is actually nothing we can do to earn the grace of God. It is a free gift to us! However, if it is a free gift to us, what is it about these Means of Grace? Well, this is exactly what we will be talking about this week! But first let’s read our scripture for the day and I will see you in the video.
Today is our last day to explore the things of laity. I would like to end with a call to encourage you, as the laity to love. We have talked this week about how we all have the Image of God in us and how we are part of the Body of Christ. This all mean when we go out into the world we are truly the hands and feet of Christ. When people look at us and see us in action they are seeing Christ. When I think of this and think about what I want people to know about Jesus I, above all, want people to know that Jesus is Love. I believe most of us have hear the song “They’ll Know We are Christians”, but my prayer is that it will be more than a song for us.
I hoped you started out by watching the Apple Color Flood video. It is one of my favorite advertisements that Apple has ever done. I like it because for me it is perfect illustration of how we behave as the Body of Christ. We are not all called to be one color. Some of us are called to be purple (that is me, I am called to be purple), others of us are called to be red, then there are some of us who are called to be green, yellow, pink, etc. We are all called to be different. How boring would it be if we were all called to be the same color? Could you image a world that was all purple? I love purple, but I think I would get sick of it if the whole world was purple. I am glad that the world is made up of all different colors, each color important in its own special way. In the same way, I am glad that the Body of Christ is made up people who are different, each with their own special gifts. Each person special and important in their own way, each person worthy of space. Spend some time reading the scripture and then I will see you in the video for some additional thoughts.
Do you remember a time when you had a deep sense of awe? I remember our daughter’s birth and that deep sense of awe that enveloped me. The great miracle of new life. 10 fingers, 10 toes and lots of staring and wonder at that wonderful event. The same happened when our youngest son was born.
2020 has been a difficult year, not just for us in our own circumstances, but around the world. We have spent most of this year being somewhat reclusive, protecting ourselves and others around us, wearing masks, and keeping safe, which we needed to do. As I read today’s scripture, I can’t help but miss the sense of awe that comes over me whenever the body of Christ gathers in unity and love. I like to hug people, I like to shake hands, and I like to see people’s faces––I miss that. I have missed seeing many of you and I miss meeting newcomers and making them feel welcome to our congregation.
This year has made me realize that for most of my life I have taken for granted the ability to be physically part of the body of Christ, celebrating and worshipping together. What a crucial and vital aspect of my life has been the opportunities to join together with brothers and sisters in Christ. As I lament this difficult year, though, I am reminded of a book I read a couple of years ago, “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp. This book challenged me to everyday discover that sense of awe in whatever the day brings to me. I just have to open my eyes and look at the way God is working around me.
In the last few weeks I have heard of people sending cards to others, we have collected food for those in need, we sent an ERT team to help those affected by the hurricanes, we have shared prayers requests, we blessed the animals, and countless other ways that we have continued to be the body. So, today, I am thankful for each of you. I am thankful for those who I have not seen for a long time, but I know you are out there. I am thankful that going through this difficult time will help me appreciate being part of the body of Christ even more.
What do you lament more about going through this pandemic?
Is there something that you can be thankful for today?
Find a way to send a blessing to someone that would cheer them up.
Prayer: Lord God, allow that sense of awe to come over us as we cherish the gift of being part of the body of Christ. Thank you that you are with us today. Help us to be a blessing to those around us. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen!
I remember well when I first started to attend New Covenant UMC. I had come to the church with the idea that my family needed to be in church but that I was not going to get involved. I was far away from God and angry at God. After a few weeks at NCUMC Pastor Dan asked me if I wanted to volunteer with the Children’s Ministry. I said, “no thank you”. He said, “okay”. After another month he asked again, and I again said no. This pattern followed for a few months until Pastor Dan and the Holy Spirit finally convinced me to say yes, and I am glad that I did say yes. Saying, yes to serving in the church was my first step into being an active part of the laity of the church. As United Methodists we are called to be active in the church, we are called to be both receivers and givers.
Is there something you are saying “no thank you” to that God might be calling you into?
Do you have story of a time when you were greatly fed by being a giver in the church?
Prayer: God, remind us to be both receivers and givers. Help us to use the image you put insides us to go boldly into all situations with the assurance that you walk with us and that you will guide us in all we do. Amen.
When I was the Children’s Minister I taught a lesson about shining our light to the children that was a lot of fun. I look the kids into a big room that had no windows and we turned out all the lights. After I got the kids all settled down I had my helper shine a light on me with the flashlight. And as I sat in the light that my helper was shining on me and talk about how we are all created with the image of God inside of us and that we all have the ability to shine that image to the people who we come in contact with during the day. Then I took out a mirror and reflected the light towards another one of my helpers and they also had a mirror and they reflected the light towards one of the children. It was a wonderful visual image of how we are all called to reflect the light that we have inside of us out into the world, to shine the light of Jesus that we all have towards the people that we meet.
The challenge is the same for adults as it is to children. We are created in the image of God and have the ability to reflect God’s image to the people we come in contact with every day. Will you reflect God’s image?