What’s the Point? – Teaching

Next week we’ll begin a short series of the Bible leading up to Easter that corresponds with The Bible mini-series being aired on The History Channel beginning 3 March 2013 at 8:00 PM EST.

We spoke last week of denying self – voluntarily giving up those things that are inconsistent with the glory of God or for the good of our fellow-man. This week, as we enter the second week of Lent, and in preparation of the mini-series, we’ll examine what our Christian faith really means to us – and we’ll delve into the deeper question…What’s the Point?

Quote

Within the small sphere of our life,
we can stare into the past.
But, only our future is within our control.
~Numb3rs Episode

Thoughts

Many of you were with us when we watched the movie “To Save a Life.” To refresh your memory, and to let those who may not have seen the movie know what we’re talking about, let me set the stage. I found a wonderful website that gives the following synopsis: (www.thesource4ym.com/movieclipdiscussions/discussion.aspx?id=240)

Ever since Jake was a kid, he was the type of guy you couldn’t help but like. For Jake, life’s good. He has a ton of friends, a basketball scholarship, a beautiful girlfriend and a really bright future.

Jake’s childhood best friend is Roger Dawson. But Jake’s growing popularity has pushed Roger away. Tired of being an outcast, Roger walks onto campus with a gun in his pocket and pain in his heart.

Jake is devastated by what Roger has done, and something in him changes. In seeking answers in his own life, one question plagues him the most: Could I have saved him? He finds himself deeply compelled to reach out to kids on the fringe – kids who aren’t viewed as cool enough. But this decision among other things, threatens Jake’s world. He may lose his friends, his scholarship and even his reputation by asking “What do I want my life to be about?”

In the scene being described, as part of his quest, Jake, an all-star athlete, finds himself attending a youth group.

Chris: You know, they did a survey to find out the places that people least like to be. And some on the top of the list were the DMV, the dentist, the principal’s office. But you know what the number one place was? Church. Boring. Judgmental. Hypocritical. Why is it that so often we can be the exact opposite of what this teaches? That’s not how it’s supposed to be guys.

This is supposed to be a place where you don’t have to pretend like you’ve got it all together or that you don’t have any problems. A place where you can come and be who you really are and not feel judged. I want to take 30 seconds right now – 30 seconds of silence – and I want you to ask yourself the question: Who have I judged?

(Jake looks around the room and notices all the side chatter from the other kids not paying attention to the question Chris just asked them to ponder. One kid is asking about the game. A few girls are whispering amongst themselves. Jake even sees two kids exchanging what appears to be a bag of marijuana. It all gets to be too much for Jake.)

Jake: Dammit! Didn’t any of you hear what he just said? My girlfriend came here today and she left because she felt judged. And no one even noticed. Roger walked into school and started shooting. I knew him. He wasn’t crazy. And did anyone ever stop and ask why? I mean, how did it get to the point where his only option was to shoot himself? There are people killing themselves and you’re chugging soda through a sock! I mean, what’s the point of all this if you’re not gonna let this change you?

Chris: What do you think we should do Jake?

Jake: I don’t know.

Andrea: We could all hang out together at school.

Danny: Loser.

Jake: That’s a good idea. Hey, why don’t we all have lunch together in the quad?

Like Jake, many of us might answer Chris with, “I don’t know.” Like Andrea, some of us might propose a thought or idea. And, some of us might respond like Danny – judgmental.

Exercise

Tying all of this back to the main topic – What’s the Point – I’d like us to take a look at Jake’s question…”What’s the point of all this if you’re not going to let it change you?” I’d like for us to spend the next 60 seconds in silence, and ask ourselves that same question. What’s the point of proclaiming ourselves to be Christian? What’s the point of coming here to church, or to our Bible study when it starts, or to any of our events? What’s the point of studying Scripture if we’re not going to let it change us?

After our service, I’d like our discussion to center around our thoughts. For now, let’s take a few minutes to review some Scripture.

Guidance

As we prepare to celebrate the very foundation of our faith – the death and resurrection of Jesus – we should take time to examine what it means to be Christian. There are a number of Scriptures we can turn to for guidance.

James 1:19-27 says, “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls. But don’t just listen to God’s Word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the Word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it. If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.”

Luke 6:32-42 reads, “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”

Ephesians 5:4 reads, “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.

Colossians 3:5-10 speaks directly to the change we should experience: “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”

Ephesians 4:31 reads, “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.”

And finally, my favorite two:

2 Corninthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

And, 1 John 2:4-6 reads, “Now by this we may be sure that we know Him, if we obey His commandments. Whoever says, ‘I have come to know Him’, but does not obey his commandments, is a liar, and in such a person the truth does not exist; but whoever obeys His word, truly in this person the love of God has reached perfection. By this we may be sure that we are in Him: whoever says, ‘I abide in Him’, ought to walk just as He walked.”

Closing Thoughts

Scripture clearly provides us with guidance in how to become “new in Christ.” The question is…how much of it do we take to heart? How well do we live up to our profession of faith, of being Christian? As we progress through the Easter season, it’s the perfect time for self-reflection; for spending time in evaluating for ourselves what it really means to us to be Christian. And, beyond ourselves, what does it mean for the world around us? Do we just show up on Sunday because it makes us feel good, or because we’re “supposed to?”; only to leave here and spend the week with filth and evil in our hearts; expressing bitterness, anger, gossip, lies, and deceit; spewing vile obscenities; telling off-color jokes; making fun of others – building ourselves up by tearing others down; and treating others in unloving, unkind, and unforgiving ways?

Paraphrasing the website referenced earlier…Maybe we’ve been mean or bullied someone, maybe we’ve lied or spread rumors about others, or maybe we’ve just ignored that person we thought of as weird. Maybe we’ve been struggling with alcohol, or drugs, or anger, pride or lust…the list goes on and on. No matter what it is…God loves us and wants us to change…for the better.

Thinking back to the man in the mirror in James (1:24) – “Are you going to be like a person who looks in the mirror and then immediately forgets what they look like, or are you going to allow God and His Word to change you?” Today, right here, right now…this is the mirror. For many of us it is clear what needs to change. The question is, are we willing to give whatever it is over to God and let Him change us?

We can’t change our past. But, with Jesus, we can control our future. I invite you to spend time this Easter season giving serious thought to our original question – If you’re not going to let this change you…what’s the point?

Scripture

  • James 1:19-27
  • Luke 6:32-42
  • Ephesians 5:4
  • Colossians 3:5-10
  • Ephesians 4:31
  • 2 Corinthians 5:17
  • 1 John 2:4-6

 Discussion

If you’d like to share your thoughts, please feel free to post your comments. And, if this message resonates with you, please feel free to share it with others.

What’s the Point? – Quote

Next week we’ll begin a short series of the Bible leading up to Easter that corresponds with The Bible mini-series being aired on The History Channel beginning 3 March 2013 at 8:00 PM EST.

This week, as we enter the second week of Lent, and in preparation of the mini-series, we’ll examine what our Christian faith really means to us – and we’ll delve into the deeper question…What’s the Point?

Quote

Within the small sphere of our life,
we can stare into the past.
But, only our future is within our control.
~Numb3rs Episode

Join us Sunday for worship and fellowship.

Possible Scriptures include: Mark 4 – Parable of the Seeds; James 1:26; Luke 6 32-42; Ephesians 5:1-7; Colossians 3:5-10; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:26-31; James 1:19 & 20; 1 John 2:4-6.

We are a community of Spiritual Growth and Healing where all are welcome!

Less is More – Teaching

This is the first Sunday of Lent, the beginning of the Easter season. Most of us have at least a cursory knowledge of the Lenten season, and that acts of self-denial are typically included during this time. I thought that today we might review the season of Lent, and delve deeper into the Scriptural meaning of self-denial. Is it really just about giving up something we enjoy, like coffee, smoking, or alcohol, for 40 days? Or does it actually have a deeper meaning – one that extends beyond a specific number of days and translates into, and thus transforms, our very lives?

Quote

American minister and author, Gardiner Spring (February 24, 1785 – August 18, 1873) had this to say about self-denial:

“Self-denial is the result of a calm, deliberate, invincible attachment to the highest good, flowing forth in the voluntary renunciation of everything inconsistent with the glory of God or the good of our fellow-men.”

With this in mind, let’s talk for a moment about Lent, the concept of self-denial as it’s typically practiced, and, perhaps, an even deeper meaning.

Thoughts

What is Lent?

In the Liturgical (Church) calendar, Lent is the period of time, approximately 6 weeks, leading up to Easter Sunday. Generally, Sundays are not counted in the “days of Lent” because they are considered mini-Easters. In the West, Lent usually begins on Ash Wednesday and continues through Maundy Thursday (38 days excluding Sundays) or Easter Eve (40 days excluding Sundays).  This can vary slightly depending on denomination. We can talk more about Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, etc. during our discussion time following our service.

The “40 days” is representative and commemorative of the forty days that Jesus spent fasting in the desert, enduring and resisting temptation. One of the aspects of commemoration is fasting. During His 40 days in the desert, Jesus fasted. And, in Matthew 9:15, Jesus told his disciples, “…But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.” Presumably, the disciples fasted in mourning the death of Jesus. It is in this light that many Christians fast during Lent. Such fasting takes on different meaning depending on church doctrine, and even then, exceptions were made. For instance, one doctrine holds to a fast abstaining from any animal product (meat, fish, eggs, and dairy) – basically, a vegan diet; while others hold only to the elimination of meat, eggs, and dairy, but allows for fish. Some feel only one meal a day is appropriate, while others feel one larger meal in the evening with two smaller meals during the day, with the two smaller meals totaling less consumption than the larger meal. Regardless, the practice of fasting is part of the commemoration of Jesus.

Another act of commemoration often included in Lent is that of self-denial, or giving something up. Some regard this as a form of fasting. We’ve all heard, “I gave up _____ for Lent.” It is felt that, in giving up something we enjoy, we deprive ourselves of that small pleasure and offer it as a sacrifice to God.

This is also, in some small way, an act of commemoration of the temptation. In giving up something we enjoy we resist the temptation and thus commemorate Christ resisting temptation in the desert.

But, is this what it’s really all about? Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t commemorate Jesus’ 40 days of fasting and resisting temptation. If, as intended, these acts actually bring us closer to God, strengthen our relationship with Jesus, then by all means, do them. All too often, though, people do them for the sake of doing them, or because the church told them to. When this is the case, as with anything done without being done from the heart, they are done in vain.

Not Just For A Season

I would submit that while, if done from deep within the heart, our acts of commemoration are an important part of strengthening our relationship with God and with Jesus. I would also submit that it goes much deeper – and lasts a lot longer than 40 days. Indeed, it should last a lifetime.

Celebrating Lent, in and of itself, is not a biblical mandate. It’s something we choose to do because it has deep meaning for us. Fasting and abstaining from something we enjoy are, quite simply, forms of self-denial. So, what does Scripture say about self-denial?

In Matthew 16:24, Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” Luke 9:23 has Jesus go even further, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.”

In Matthew and Luke, Jesus says we must deny ourselves and take up our cross in order to follow Him. Not just during Lent, but daily – always.

One of the Greek meanings of deny is to abstain; and one of the meanings of the cross is an exposure to death, meaning self-denial. In this meaning, Jesus is saying that when we truly follow Him, we must be willing to, as Mr. Spring puts it, “voluntarily give up those things that are inconsistent with the glory of God and or for the good of our fellow-man.” Jesus carries this even further in Luke 14:26 when He says,

“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” Now, this one can get tricky. Is Jesus, who constantly taught about love, actually saying we’re supposed to hate our parents, our brothers and sisters, our friends, and even ourselves? If one tries to impose a literal translation, yes – and then we hit a wall. All of His teachings on love are thrown out the window. All of the lessons taught by Paul – meaningless. However, if we look deeper, beneath and beyond what our translations and our attempt to literalize them, we will see His true message. The Greek word for hate, misĕō (mis-eh’-o), means to detest, but also, by extension, means to love-less. This is also a form of self-denial. We are to love Him, and follow his teachings, even more than our families and friends, more than our own lives.

And finally, in Romans 15:1, Paul says, “We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples (infirmities) of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” In the Greek, strong means capable; weak means unable; bear means to take up or carry; and infirmities = scruples of conscience. Scruples mean the uneasy feelings arising from conscience or principle that tends to hinder action. In Chapter 15, verse 2, Paul goes on to say, “Let each of us please his neighbor for his good…” All this comes down to helping others who are struggling, especially in matters of faith; not to make ourselves feel better, or because we get something out of it, but because it makes their lives better.

Closing Thoughts

As we enter Easter season, and specifically, the season of Lent – let’s take time for self-examination and reflection. If it resonates with you, and helps to bring you closer to God, then practice an act of fasting, and even “giving up something for Lent.” In the process, let’s also reflect on Jesus, His teachings; His life, death, and resurrection; and what it means to be one of His followers. And let’s take the time to examine how we might go about making it real in our lives today. If we are going to call Jesus our Lord, and if we’re going to commemorate Him during Lent, and if we’re going to remember and celebrate His life, death, and resurrection, then surely we ought to spend time giving thought, not just for 40 days, but each and every day, to what that means. And, more than just giving thought, we must also put His teachings into practice – every day, in every situation. Our behaviors, or words, our actions must reflect and live up to the teachings of Jesus. We must lay aside our own base desires and behaviors so that we, too, can bring about a “calm, deliberate, invincible attachment to the highest good, flowing forth in the voluntary renunciation of everything inconsistent with the glory of God or the good of our fellow-men.”

Scripture

  • Matthew 9:15
  • Matthew 16:24
  • Luke 9:23
  • Luke 14:26
  • Romans 15:1& 2

Join the Discussion

Please feel free to share your thoughts and comments. And, if this message resonates with you, please feel free to share it.

Less is More – Quote

As we enter the season of Lent, many will be choosing to “give something up” – practicing self-denial. I thought it might be interesting to take a look at Lent, and what we really mean by self-denial. Is it really just giving up something we enjoy – like coffee, or alcohol, or smoking, for 40 days?

Quote

American minister and author, Gardiner Spring, had this to say:

“Self-denial is the result of a calm, deliberate, invincible attachment to the highest good, flowing forth in the voluntary renunciation of everything inconsistent with the glory of God or the good of our fellow-men.”

Join us Sunday for worship and fellowship as we discuss our concept of the Lenten Season and what it really means to us today.

Possible Scripture:

  • Luke 9:23
  • Matthew 16:24
  • Luke 14:26
  • Romans 15:1

Peace Within – Teaching

We hear a lot about peace. We pray for peace throughout the world. There’s even a popular song that proclaims, “let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.” We even begin our service each week with “The Peace.”

Quote

President Ronald Regan said:

“Every new day begins with possibilities.
It’s up to us to fill it with things that move us toward progress and peace.”

Thoughts

Sounds good…but, where do we start? I believe we must start by fostering a sense of peace within. We start by becoming still, turning inward, and letting God work through us. Then, we can ‘let go and let God.” The first step is to let go of our worries. In fact, one of the five Reiki principles is, “Just for today I will not worry.”

The Daily Word put it this way, “Rather than worry, I choose to focus on positive possibilities and trust God for right outcomes. Becoming still in prayer, I see beyond any seeming setback to the activity of God within the situation. I know that all those involved are enfolded in God’s love and guided in every way. In the Silence, I release any need for a specific outcome and open to a spiritual solution. As I transform my thoughts, I am relieved of any worry. I trust God in all things, and I am free mentally, emotionally and spiritually.”

This is the essence of Psalm 37:7 – “Rest in the Lord, wait patiently for Him.” And, this is the essence of the Hebrew words for peace. One, shôlôm (shaw-lome’) means safe, well, happy. The other, the root of shôlôm, is shâlam (shaw-lam’), meaning to be safe in mind, body, or estate (a state or condition of peace). Remember, the Hebrew words used had a deeper meaning – conveying a deep feeling and emotion. Hence, shôlôm and shâlam carried meaning than simply ‘peace’. They convey a feeling of complete and perfect contentment, well-being, and harmony.

It is in this light that we read Numbers 6:25-26 with a deeper understanding – “…the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.”

In our stillness we release our worry and we wait patiently for God; and it is in this stillness that God brings us complete and perfect peace – enfolding us in His love and guiding us on our way.

For those of us who follow the Christian path, we have an “ace in the hole.” In Greek, ĕirō, peace, means a state of quietness and rest. In Hebrew, Jesus was called Sar shôlôm – Prince of Peace. Remembering the deeper Hebrew meaning of shôlôm, and the Greek meaning Jesus is the Prince of complete and perfect contentment, well-being, and harmony. In our times of worry or trouble, perfect peace is always available to us through Jesus. This is exactly what I believe John means in Chapter 14 verse 27 when he quotes Jesus as saying, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid,” and also in Chapter 16 verse 33, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

When we can let go of our worries and our fears, when we release our need for specific outcomes, and we truly “let go and let God”; and when we rest in the Lord, we experience true inner peace. That, I believe, is what we mean by ‘let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.’ True peace must start within each and every one of us. Only then can it radiate out and impact the world around us. It is then that we are living examples of Isaiah 57:19 – “…’Peace, peace to him who is far off and to him who is near.’ says the Lord. ‘And I will heal him.’”

Again, referring to The Daily Word, once we achieve a state of perfect peace within, we become an example of peace in our world. “With 7 billion people on Earth, I wonder what I as one person can do to make the world more peaceful. The challenge may seem daunting, but I know prayer is powerful. So I pray each day to find more ways to unite, partner, and work with others. Despite differing cultures and beliefs, we are one. I pray for all people to see our unity and seek positive solutions for all. I also foster world peace by demonstrating peace in my personal life. I am calm in stressful situation. Taking charge of my thoughts, I relinquish any worry, fear or unforgiveness, remembering that with God all things are possible. I contribute to a better world as I choose to be a living example of peace.”

Closing Thoughts

True peace is a spiritual state of being. Regardless of our circumstances, or what’s going on around us, with Jesus we can live in a state of perfect completeness, well-being, contentment and harmony. When we release our need for specific outcomes, and trust God to guide us to the right and perfect outcome, our worries disappear. It is in this state of peace we become an example of peace to the world around us.

As I ponder Ronald Regan’s quote, I wonder if he even realized how closely his words tied to Scripture – it’s up to us to fill every day with things that move us toward progress and peace.”

Compare his statement with Romans 14:17-19, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.”

Scripture

  • Psalm 37:7
  • Numbers 6:25-26
  • John 14:27
  • John 16:33
  • Romans 14:17-19

 Join the Discussion

If you’d like to share your thoughts, please feel free to comment. And, if this message resonates with you, please feel free to share it.

Peace Within – Quote

We hear a lot about peace. We pray for peace throughout the world. There’s even a popular song that proclaims, “let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.” President Ronald Regan said:

“Every new day begins with possibilities.
It’s up to us to fill it with things that move us toward progress and peace.”

But, where do we start? I believe we must start by fostering a sense of peace within. Join us this Sunday for worship and fellowship as we explore developing a sense of peace.
Potential Scripture passages include:

Psalm 37:7
John 14:27
John 16:33
Romans 14:17-19
Numbers 6:25-26

Stand Firm – Teaching

No matter what challenges we face, we have the power to overcome them – if we stand firm in our faith.

Quote

“Faith makes things possible, not easy.”
~Author Unknown

Thoughts

We all face challenges every day. When the challenges come, it’s quite easy for our faith to be shaken. But, if we turn inward, and connect with the Spirit of God, and we let God guide us, we can overcome any obstacle. As our quote says, it may not be easy – but it is possible.

The Daily Word

Let me take a moment to share thoughts from a passage in the Daily Word titled I do no pray for faith; I pray from faith!:

“Faith perceives the substance of Spirit. I activate the power of my faith by choosing to see challenges as spiritual potential. From this vantage point, I zero in on dynamic thoughts that reveal divine possibilities not yet visible to me.

When I enter into prayer, I do not pray for faith. My praying indicates I already have faith! I claim that faith as I affirm: Challenges have no power over me! The power and strength of God within shifts, shapes and illuminates all aspects of this situation, to make my way clear.

I am not shaken or swayed by impatience, doubt or the skepticism of others. I plant my feet on a foundation of Truth – and stand firm in faith!”

Faith Will Light The Way

When I think of challenges, and how faith can light the way, I think of the movie The Soul Surfer. It’s the story of champion surfer Beth Hamilton. At the age of 13 she lost her arm in a shark attack. After the attack, she had to relearn how to do virtually everything – how to dress herself, how to fix her hair, how to cook, clean and do dishes. And, she had to learn a whole new way of surfing – paddling out to the waves, “catching” the wave, keeping her balance. Through it all, she never lost her faith. She trusted the Spirit of God would guide her. And that Spirit, coupled with her own determination and drive, would ‘shift, shape, and illuminate all aspects of the situation, to make her way clear.’

Do we all have challenges? Most assuredly. But those challenges need not defeat us. They only defeat us when we give up, when we quit trying. We can choose instead to view them as doors that open us to new possibilities. It won’t always be easy. But, if we stand firm in our faith, we can overcome any challenges. One of the best lines of the movie is, “I don’t need easy, I just need possible.”

All Things Are Possible

In Matthew 19:26 Jesus said, “…With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” When we stand firm in our faith, we receive the promise of the Spirit (Galatians 3:14). With the strength of Spirit, our challenges have no power over us. However, we must do our part. If we want things in our lives to change, we must be willing to change as well. We must be willing to put the time and effort into making the changes necessary to accomplish what we desire. Not only must we talk the talk, we must walk the walk. Our actions and our behaviors must demonstrate and be a product of our faith. James 2:14 reminds us, “What does it profit…if someone says he has faith but does not have works…?” and James 2:17 says, “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” Our faith will illumine and guide us, but we must also do the work.

Most importantly, we must spend time in prayer and meditation. How else can we open ourselves to the guidance of Spirit? It is when we spend time in prayer with God, that His spirit reveals the possibilities we might not have yet seen. He will guide our hearts to make right decisions. Those decisions will then direct our actions. It is through our faith that God becomes our lamp, lighting our path. Psalm 18:28 reminds us, “For You will light my lamp; The Lord my God will enlighten my darkness.” And Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

Closing Thoughts

The message today is short, but to the point. Our faith sustains us. We don’t need to pray for faith because the simple act of praying is indicative of our faith. It is through our faith that we pray. It is through our faith that we know that our challenges will not defeat us. It may take a lot of hard work on our part, it may not come fast, and it may not come easy. But it is through our faith that we know that God will light our path, guide our decisions, and guide our works.

Scripture

  • Matthew 19:26
  • Galatians 3:14
  • James 2:14
  • James 2:17
  • Psalm 18:28
  • Psalm 119:105

 Join the Discussion

If you’d like to share your thoughts, feel free to comment. And, if this message resonates with you, please feel free to share it with others.

A State of Grace – Teaching

I’d like to talk today about living in a “state of grace.”

Quote

In a speech given in New Mexico in September 2010, President Barack Obama said:

“But what we can do as, as flawed as we are, is see God in other people, and do our best to help them find their own grace.”

Thoughts

We’ve all heard phrases like “there but for the grace of God go I. ” But, what do we mean by ‘grace’? The dictionary defines grace as:

  • unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration (spiritual renewal) or sanctification
  • a virtue coming from God
  • a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine grace

Sanctification simply means setting apart for a divine purpose. Regeneration means spiritual renewal.

The word grace appears approximately 166 times in Scripture. The Hebrew definition, as used in the Old Testament, grace means kindness, favor, or mercy. The Greek definition in the New Testament is ‘Divine influence upon the heart and its reflection in life’.

Looking at our modern definition, as well as how the word was used in Scripture, grace is God’s assistance given to us, moving us toward a life of kindness, favor, and mercy. His grace renews us and influences our hearts in fulfillment of His divine purpose.

The Daily Word

Recently, I was blessed with a gift – a subscription to The Daily Word. I love this little book – it provides me with thoughts for the day, things upon which to reflect, and it’s a wonderful source of daily inspiration. This week, one of the passages moved me. The passage for January 23rd opens with “I open my whole being to divine grace.” Let me read you the thought for that day…

“The classic Unity book The Quest, says, ‘Grace is God’s goodness given to you in greater proportion than you give of yourself to God.’ I picture myself rowing a canoe downstream with the current. As the flow carries me faster than merely the result of my efforts, I experience the extra speed and motion as unearned ‘gifts.’

Grace is this kind of gift. It is the activity of Spirit at my back. I am in the flow of divine grace as I go about the activities of this day and grow in spiritual understanding throughout my life. Grace is always flowing, and in its flow, I am carried forward. Divine love and goodness bless my life.

I open myself to divine grace and accept the gift of unconditional love.”

The scripture referenced for the day is Titus 2:11, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has been revealed to all men.”

A Great Gift

Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Grace in and of itself is a great gift. It is through our faith and through our willingness to remain open to, and accepting of, God’s grace that we are able to receive God’s greatest gift – Unconditional Love. When we are in a ‘state of grace’ we are completely in tune with God, we feel His love flowing in and through our lives, and we are free to love ourselves and others fully, completely, and unconditionally.

Many of us feel, at times, that we are not worthy or deserving of love. Nothing could be further from the truth. God loves everyone – even with our flaws. The source of love is God. Indeed, it is not only a ‘trait’ of God, love is God’s very being. Remember 1 John 4:7 & 8 tells us, “…love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God…for God is love.” God’s love is universal, complete, and unconditional. It can’t be anything else because God is love.

I was talking with a friend about this last night and he commented that it reminded him of a roller-coaster. Like a roller-coaster, our lives have ups and downs. A roller-coaster’s first climb may seem slow, but as it tips into the first downhill it builds speed and momentum; and that momentum propels it further and the next climb is easier and doesn’t seem so slow. Then, it tips again and gains even more speed. As it moves faster and faster the energy created surrounds it and, as the energy builds, flows outward all around it. Like the roller-coaster, and like the rowboat in the Unity passage, as we flow in God’s grace, it propels us in our faith. Through our faith, we feel the full force and power of God – His unconditional love. That love enfolds us, surrounds us, and flows through us outward to others. We begin to grace others, assisting them in the strengthening of their faith, and showing unconditional love, mercy and kindness. In turn, we help them to find their grace and the cycle continues.

As my friend and I continued talking about grace and faith and love, he brought up an interesting and important point often missed. I hadn’t really thought about it in this way, but my friend’s point seemed so obvious I wondered why I hadn’t seen it before. His point was this…In Matthew 27:39, Jesus tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves. We often think of the part that tells us to love others, but we often miss the part about ‘as ourselves’. God’s love is unconditional, regardless of our past mistakes and our flaws. Our love to others is to be unconditional. Just as important – our love of ourselves is to be unconditional. Whether we “feel” worthy or deserving, God tells us that we are.

Closing Thoughts

Like my friend’s roller-coaster, let God’s grace propel you and strengthen your faith, let your faith assure you of God’s love, let God’s love fill your life and let that love flow to others. When our lives are so focused and powered by God’s love, we will truly live up to the statement in Psalm 23:6: “Surely [your] goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…”

Love Made Manifest

As mentioned earlier, attributes of grace include kindness and mercy. That can be made manifest in our lives in many different ways.

Let me share a story of a real-life example of the gift of grace, manifesting as kindness. This story was reported by Fox News in December 2012.

Hayden Carlo, 25, was pulled over by Plano police because he had an expired registration, Fox2Rio.com reported. He said he told the police officer that he was struggling financially. He said he had to choose between updating his registration and feeding his kids.
Carlo recalled their conversation. He flatly said he doesn’t have an excuse for the expired registration except he can’t afford a new one.
“I don’t have the money,” he told the officer. “It was either feed my kids or get this registration done.”
The police officer then handed the driver a citation, but when Carlo unfolded the paper, he saw a crisp $100 bill.
He said he “broke down” in his car. “What else can you do?” he asked.
The charitable act would have gone unnoticed, except Carlo’s grandfather was moved to contact the department about the gesture.
Carlo took the money and was able to update both his and his wife’s registration with the money.
The officer does not want to be identified. But a department spokesman said he is 43 and has a family. He apparently has a past of doing good deeds at his old post at another police department, The Dallas Morning News reported in an editorial. His coworkers are reportedly planning on honoring him for his generosity.

Now obviously we can’t all afford to go around stuffing hundred dollar bills in folded up pieces of paper. But the flow of God’s grace doesn’t have to result in big gestures. Being kind to ourselves might include doing something for ourselves that uplifts our spirit, or we might make a change in our habits to be healthier. Being kind to others might include sharing our talents or gently used items with others in need; we might volunteer our time; we might simply share a kind word, a smile, or a hug. Acts of grace flowing in our lives happen all around us, all the time. God’s grace propels us forward, and in that flow we are blessed with Divine love. When we see God in others, and we let God’s love flow through us out to others, we are extending God’s grace to them as well, and we help them to find grace. And so it is that we live ‘in a state of grace’.

Scripture

  • Titus 2:11
  • Ephesians 2:8
  • 1 John 4:7 * 8
  • Matthew 27:39
  • Psalm 23:6

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