Amazing Grace – Teaching

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceAmazing Grace – Introduction

Most, if not all of us, have heard the phrase, “There but for the Grace of God go I.” Today I’d like to explore what the Grace of God really means.

Spiritual Quote

I do not at all understand the mystery of grace – only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.
~Anne Lamott

Thoughts

Our hymn today, Amazing Grace, speaks directly to the redemptive and restorative power of God’s grace in our lives. But, what do we really mean when we say, “the Grace of God,” or when we sing of His Amazing Grace?

In ecclesiastical terms, thefreedictionary.com defines Grace as:

a)     The divine assistance and power given man in spiritual rebirth and sanctification

b)    The condition of being favored or sanctified by God.

c)     An unmerited gift, favor, etc. granted by God.

Biblically, the Old and New Testaments each encompass one or more of these aspects of Grace. The Old Testament word in Hebrew is translated as kindness or favor. The New Testament Greek word has a more spiritual meaning: the divine influence on the heart and its reflection in the life. (Strong’s Concordance)

The usage in the Old Testament generally implies grace is something we can earn. If we are good enough, or righteous enough, we earn God’s kindness and favor. It ties back to the mindset of the time – if we’re “good” God gives us wealth, land, status, power, good health, etc. If we’re “bad” God takes it all away, inflicts us with sickness, etc. For instance:

Numbers 32:5 says, “…If we have found favor in Your sight, let this land be given to Your servants.” In 2 Samuel 14:22, Joab knew he had earned the king’s favor when he said, “…Today your servant knows that I have found grace (favor) in your sight, my lord, O king, in that the king has fulfilled the request of his servant.” And Proverbs 3:33 & 34 says, “The curse of the Lord is on the house of the wicked, but He blesses the home of the just. Surely He scorns the scornful, but give grace (kindness, favor) to the humble.”

Throughout the Old Testament, God’s Grace, His favor, His kindness, was something to be earned.

For those of us who are Christian, the New Testament offers a much different view. God’s Grace is amazing because it cannot be earned – it is freely given to all who believe. And, rather than wealth, land, good fortune, and good health, the New Testament shows how God’s Amazing Grace is the gift of a changed heart – and a changed life. For instance:

Romans 11:6 tells us, “And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.”

Ephesians 2:8 & 9 tells us, “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.”

In other words, our works do not earn us grace. Grace is freely given.

In the New Testament, Jesus never spoke of grace – He lived it and taught it. For Him, grace, i.e. kindness and mercy, is something not earned but freely given. Take a look at the parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard found in Matthew 20:1-16. In His parable, Jesus tells us of a landowner who went out early one morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He offered to pay a denarius for their work, and they agreed. Throughout the day the landowner went back periodically and, finding more workers each time, offered them same pay. At the end of the day he instructed his servant to call all the workers together so they could be paid, starting with the last hired and continuing to the first.

As promised, he paid the last hired a denarius. As the payments continued, the first hired were a bit excited because they thought that, since they had been there all day, and had worked more than the others, they would be paid more. Their excitement, however, turned to disappointment when they received the same denarius as the others. In fact, they got pretty upset and started grumbling about how unfair it was that those who worked less got paid the same. The landowner, overhearing their grumbling, calmly reminded them that they had, indeed, been treated fairly – they were paid the amount that had been agreed upon. He also reminded them that it was his money to do with as he pleased, and he could be generous if he wanted to be. He even asked them if their “eye was evil,” were they angry and jealous, because he chose to be good?

In this parable we see the correlation between grace, kindness and mercy. We also see that kindness and mercy are not earned, they are freely given. As Romans and Ephesians told us, grace isn’t earned by our works – it is a gift that God freely gives through our faith. And, in the meaning of the original Greek, grace is a change in our hearts that is reflected in how we live our lives, and in how treat others.

Of course, parables were metaphors Jesus used to illustrate a point. What’s His point in this parable? The landowner is God; we are the workers, and His kingdom is the payment for our faith. Grace is the spiritual change in our hearts that occurs as a result of our faith, and it is reflected in how we treat others.

Conclusion

When we accept Jesus into our hearts, when we are born again in Him, His Spirit living in and through us should change us. His Grace, or Divine Influence, teaches us how to live, and that teaching is reflected in how we live and how we treat others. it is through Jesus that we truly experience God’s Amazing Grace. In the words of Paul to Titus (2:11 & 12), “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly.” Jesus is God’s Grace.  His love, His teachings, and His guidance, are freely given to everyone; to save us from ourselves, and inspire us live and love as He did – fully, completely, and without compromise. And, like our parable, it doesn’t matter whether we’ve been believers for many years or we’re brand new to the faith – God’s Grace is the same for all.

In closing, I’d like to share today’s passage from The Daily Word. I hadn’t read this passage prior to writing today’s message; but, coincidentally, or not, the top of the page is titled “Grace.”

I Accept Grace With A Grateful Heart

Grace is woven into the very fabric of my being. it is the goodness of God at work in my life. I accept grace as the redeeming, uplifting, and transforming power of God working in and through me now.

Grace is an expression of God’s love, and I receive it every day with a grateful heart. I experience grace as a nudge to pay attention…as a second chance…as unexpected good or a better-than-expected outcome. When I allow room for God’s grace, good blossoms in my consciousness. Forgiveness, generosity, and love come naturally, and I am blessed.

Life is easier when I am open to God’s grace. Following Spirit’s lead, I no longer paddle against the current, but flow with the stream of divine life.

Finally, I’d like to leave you with the Scripture passage cited for the day:

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. – Philippians 4:23

Scripture

  • Numbers 32:5
  • 2 Samuel 14:22
  • Proverbs 3:33 & 34
  • Romans 11:6
  • Ephesians 2:8 & 9
  • Matthew 20:1-16
  • Titus 2:11 & 12
  • Philippians 4:23

Join the Discussion

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

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We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

Amazing Grace – Quote

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceAmazing Grace – Introduction

Most, if not all of us, have heard the phrase, “There but for the grace of God go I.” This week I’d like to explore the meaning of “The Grace of God.”

Spiritual Quote

I do not at all understand the mystery of grace – only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.
~Anne Lamott

Planned Scripture

  • Numbers 32:5
  • 2 Samuel 14:22
  • Proverbs 3:33 & 34
  • Romans 11:6
  • Ephesians 2:8 & 9
  • Matthew 20:1-16
  • Titus 2:11 & 12
  • Philippians 4:23

Join Us!

Join us Sunday at 10:45 AM for worship and fellowship.

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

 

Agents for Change – Teaching

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceAgents For Change – Introduction

Tomorrow is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day – a national holiday set aside to remember one of the greatest agents for peace in our nation’s history. Today I’d like to examine a few of Dr. King’s quotes, some of their ties to Scripture, and, in remembering him, we’ll discuss how they might apply to us today.

Spiritual Quote

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?'”
~Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thoughts

Most, if not all of us are familiar with the life and work of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Today, I thought we might spend just a little time remembering his work as an Agent For Change. And, with tomorrow being Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I thought we might discuss ways in which we can celebrate this holiday beyond what is for some, just having an excuse for a day off.

To begin, I’d like to share a little history that I found on History.com:

Martin Luther King Jr. and the Montgomery Bus Boycott

The King family had been living in Montgomery for less than a year when the highly segregated city became the epicenter of the burgeoning struggle for civil rights in America, galvanized by the landmark Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision of 1954. On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks (1913-2005), secretary of the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People chapter, refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a Montgomery bus and was arrested. Activists coordinated a bus boycott that would continue for 381 days, placing a severe economic strain on the public transit system and downtown business owners. They chose Martin Luther King Jr. as the protest’s leader and official spokesman.

By the time the Supreme Court ruled segregated seating on public buses unconstitutional in November 1956, King, heavily influenced by Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) and the activist Bayard Rustin (1912-1987), had entered the national spotlight as an inspirational proponent of organized, nonviolent resistance. (He had also become a target for white supremacists, who firebombed his family home that January.) Emboldened by the boycott’s success, in 1957 he and other civil rights activists–most of them fellow ministers–founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), a group committed to achieving full equality for African Americans through nonviolence. (Its motto was “Not one hair of one head of one person should be harmed.”) He would remain at the helm of this influential organization until his death.

King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference

In his role as SCLC president, Martin Luther King Jr. traveled across the country and around the world, giving lectures on nonviolent protest and civil rights as well as meeting with religious figures, activists and political leaders. (During a month-long trip to India in 1959, he had the opportunity to meet Gandhi, the man he described in his autobiography as “the guiding light of our technique of nonviolent social change.”) King also authored several books and articles during this time.

In 1960 King and his family moved to Atlanta, his native city, where he joined his father as co-pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church. This new position did not stop King and his SCLC colleagues from becoming key players in many of the most significant civil rights battles of the 1960s. Their philosophy of nonviolence was put to a particularly severe test during the Birmingham campaign of 1963, in which activists used a boycott, sit-ins and marches to protest segregation, unfair hiring practices and other injustices in one of America’s most racially divided cities. Arrested for his involvement on April 12, King penned the civil rights manifesto known as the “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” an eloquent defense of civil disobedience addressed to a group of white clergymen who had criticized his tactics.

King Marches for Freedom

Later that year, Martin Luther King Jr. worked with a number of civil rights and religious groups to organize the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, a peaceful political rally designed to shed light on the injustices African Americans continued to face across the country. Held on August 28 and attended by some 200,000 to 300,000 participants, the event is widely regarded as a watershed moment in the history of the American civil rights movement and a factor in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The march culminated in King’s most famous address, known as the “I Have a Dream” speech, a spirited call for peace and equality that many consider a masterpiece of rhetoric.

Standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial–a monument to the president who a century earlier had brought down the institution of slavery in the United States—he shared his vision of a future in which “this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'” The speech and march cemented King’s reputation at home and abroad; later that year he was named Man of the Year by TIME magazine and in 1964 became the youngest person ever awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

In the spring of 1965, King’s elevated profile drew international attention to the violence that erupted between white segregationists and peaceful demonstrators in Selma, Alabama, where the SCLC and Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) had organized a voter registration campaign. Captured on television, the brutal scene outraged many Americans and inspired supporters from across the country to gather in Selma and take part in a march to Montgomery led by King and supported by President Lyndon Johnson (1908-1973), who sent in federal troops to keep the peace. That August, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act, which guaranteed the right to vote–first awarded by the 15th Amendment–to all African Americans.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s Final Years and Assassination

The events in Selma deepened a growing rift between Martin Luther King Jr. and young radicals who repudiated his nonviolent methods and commitment to working within the established political framework. As more militant black leaders such as Stokely Carmichael (1941-1998) rose to prominence, King broadened the scope of his activism to address issues such as the Vietnam War and poverty among Americans of all races. In 1967, King and the SCLC embarked on an ambitious program known as the Poor People’s Campaign, which was to include a massive march on the capital.

On the evening of April 4, 1968, King was fatally shot while standing on the balcony of a motel in Memphis, where he had traveled to support a sanitation workers’ strike. In the wake of his death, a wave of riots swept major cities across the country, while President Johnson declared a national day of mourning.

James Earl Ray (1928-1998), an escaped convict and known racist, pleaded guilty to the murder and was sentenced to 99 years in prison. (He later recanted his confession and gained some unlikely advocates, including members of the King family, before his death in 1998.)

After years of campaigning by activists, members of Congress and Coretta Scott King, among others, in 1983 President Ronald Reagan (1911-2004) signed a bill creating a U.S. federal holiday in honor of King. Observed on the third Monday of January, it was first celebrated in 1986.

Agents For Change

Rev. Dr. King was one of the greatest agents for change in American history. And his ideals were deeply rooted in Scripture. I’d like to share a few of his quotes, and some Scripture that not only supports his statements, but can be used by us today so that we, too, can be Agents For Change.

  • John 13:34 – “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
  • MLK – “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”
  • Matthew 7:12 – “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
  • MLK – Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others.'”
  • 1 John 2:9 – “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness.”
  • MLK – “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
  • Romans 10:12 – “For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him,”
  • MLK – “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
  • Romans 2:11 – “For God does not show favoritism.”
  • MLK – “Red and Yellow, Black and White…We’re all precious in His sight.”

National Day of Service

Rev. Dr. King truly lived by the principles taught by Scripture. So can we. We just have to set our minds to it. If we simply remember these few Scriptures, and apply them in our lives every day, we too will be Agents For Change. One of the ways we can do this is by commemorating Martin Luther King Day as a Day of Service. How many of us here today even knew that there is a National Day of Service in honor of Martin Luther King Day? Well, there is. In answer to the question posed in our opening quote – What are you doing for others? –  Americans across the country come together each year on the King Holiday to serve their neighbors and communities. The MLK Day of Service is a part of United We Serve, the President’s national call to service initiative. It calls for Americans from all walks of life to work together to provide solutions to our most pressing national problems. It’s a chance to start the year off right by making an impact in your community. (Note – you can read more here.)

Conclusion

As a church, we already do a lot – and I commend you all. Let me share just some of the ways we already serve our community:

  • First and foremost, our worship services are open to everyone – red, yellow, white, black, brown, straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, those who are housed, those who are houseless, those who are dressed up and those who are dressed down, believers and non-believers alike.
  • Our monthly drum circle provides an opportunity for our community to come together and celebrate this wonderful life God has given us, regardless of our particular faith traditions.
  • Our monthly LGBTQ Coffee Social and Game night provides an opportunity for members of the LGBTQ community to gather and socialize in a safe, welcoming, and supportive atmosphere.
  • Our movie night provides the opportunity to bring the community together, to break down barriers, and to examine topical issues from a God-centered perspective.
  • Our Military Family Readiness Group provides support to the families of our military who are, or who will be, deployed.
  • By opening our doors as a warming center, we have provided warmth, shelter, and food to over 125 people in just the past four weeks.
  • And finally, through our Community Give-back Program we will be sending out over $2,500.00; providing assistance and services to paralyzed veterans, food for the hungry and needy, education of our youth, funding children’s cancer research, and providing assistance to Christian ministers worldwide in times of trouble or disaster.

As we gather for fellowship after our service, I’d like us to talk about even more ways in which we can be of service to others, individually and collectively, tomorrow and in the days, weeks, and months to come. Will it always be easy? No. It wasn’t for Dr. King, either. But, if we walk close to Jesus, as Philippians 4:13 tells us, “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”

I truly believe it is when we answer Rev. Dr. King’s question that we live our lives as examples of Christ’s love shining through us, and we, too, will be Agents For Change.

Scripture

  • John 13:34
  • Matthew 7:12
  • 1 John 2:9
  • Romans 10:12
  • Romans 2:11
  • Philippians 4:13

Join the Discussion

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

Support Our Ministry

We are a very small church doing wonderful things within our community. In order to continue doing the work God has put before us, we need your help. Please consider making a donation, or sign up as a monthly pledge donor. All gifts large and small are greatly appreciated. Simply click the Donate link in the upper menu. Thank you, and may God bless your generosity.

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

Agents for Change – Quote

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceAgents For Change – Introduction

Tomorrow is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day – a national holiday set aside to remember one of the greatest agents for change in our nation’s history. This week, we’ll examine a few of Dr. King’s quotes, some of their ties to Scripture, and, in remembering him, we’ll discuss how they might apply to us today.

Spiritual Quote

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?'”
~Martin Luther King, Jr.

Planned Scripture

  • John 13:34
  • Matthew 7:12
  • 1 John 2:9
  • Romans 10:12
  • Romans 2:11
  • Philippians 4:13

Join Us!

Join us for worship and fellowship on Sunday at 10:45 AM.

We Are A Community of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

Teach Us To Pray – Teaching

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceTeach Us To Pray – Introduction

When people are first coming to faith, one of the questions often asked is, “how do I pray?” The Gospel of Luke tells us the disciples asked the very same question of Jesus. This week, we’ll explore the question, too – using Scripture to teach us to pray.

Spiritual Quote

“I don’t pray for God to take my problems away, I pray only for God to give me the strength to go through them.”
~Jose Lozano

Thoughts

Last week we spoke about doing away with New Year resolutions and recommitting our lives to Jesus; and developing a deeper relationship with Him. We also spoke about one of the ways we can further our relationship – through prayer.

For some of us today, this may be “old news.” Even so, with the hustle, bustle of our everyday lives we have drifted a little of course, and the message bears repeating. Others may be new to the whole concept of prayer, and may truly be wondering, “where do I start?”

First, let me remind you that we should be taking everything to God in prayer. Philippians 4:6 tells us, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” Notice the verse doesn’t say to only pray for or about certain things. It doesn’t tell us that some things are too great, or too small. The statement is clear – we should take, what?, EVERYTHING – to God in prayer.

Okay, you might say, but how? Are there any guidelines? Guess what – the disciples were unsure, too. Luke 11:1 tells us, “…one of His disciples said to Him, Our Lord, teach us to pray…” What follows is Jesus’ response, and it is one of the most known prayers of the Bible – The Lord’s Prayer.

Who can recite the Lord’s Prayer now? (Recite the prayer as it is known.)

Now, before we go too far, I want to point out a few things. First, many of us have heard slightly different versions. For instance, some versions use “debts,” some use “sins,” and some use “trespasses.” Those differences are neither here nor there. Second, some have recited this prayer for so long, and from such a deep-seated memory, that the words have become empty and shallow, without any real meaning. Third, there is great debate among Christians as to whether or not we should even be saying the Lord’s Prayer at all anymore. Some say that since the Kingdom of God is already here, there is no need. Others say the Kingdom of God is not here yet, and so we should be reciting the prayer in earnest. That debate is a much bigger topic – one that is best set aside for another time. Finally, there are some problems with the standard translations.

For example, they all include the statement, “Lead us not into temptation…” But, James 1:13 tells us, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither does He tempt any man; but every man is tempted by his own lust; he covets and is enticed.” Since God does not tempt, it makes no sense to pray and ask for Him not to lead us into temptation.

With this in mind, I’d like to offer an alternative. The version I prefer is from “The Holy Bible From the Ancient Eastern Text,” a translation from the Aramaic. In this translation, Luke 11:2-4 reads:

“Jesus said to them, “When you pray, pray like this (Matthew says “in this manner”), Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth. Give us bread for our needs every day. And forgive us our sins (Matthew = offenses) for we have also forgiven all who have offended us. And do not let us enter into temptation; but deliver us from error (Matthew = evil).”” Matthew goes on to include, “For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.”

No matter which version you prefer, there are some basic things to keep in mind. Foremost is that Jesus did not command we memorize and recite this exact prayer. Notice He said, “in this manner” or “like this.” He provided His disciples, and us, with a template, a recipe, if you will. In His prayer, He has given us the ingredients to use in our own prayers. Let’s break it down…

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed by thy name” – Our prayers should always be addressed to whom? – To God, our Father. His name is Holy, and we should be worshiping and praising Him.

“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, as it is in heaven, so on earth” – Heaven, indeed His kingdom, is a spiritual realm of true love and peace. This line reminds us to pray that the perfect love and peace, God’s will, be made manifest through us and our actions here on earth.

“Give us bread for our needs every day” encourages us to focus our prayers on our needs, not on selfish desires. It can also be viewed from a spiritual aspect. John 6:35 tells us, “Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”” When we hold Jesus in our hearts, when we focus our lives on living in a relationship with Him, He will fulfill all of our spiritual needs each and every day.

“And forgive us our offenses, for we have also forgiven all who have offended us.” Here we are reminded to confess our errors to God, that they may be forgiven. It also implies we live a life of forgiving others. Notice it doesn’t say we will, or we might someday forgive others. It doesn’t say we forgive only those who we deem worthy of forgiveness. It states quite clearly that we have already forgiven ALL who have offended us.

“And do not let us enter into temptation, but deliver us from evil” is our plea that God’s Holy Spirit guide us away from those things that would separate us from Him.

As we can see in the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus gave us a beautiful example of how we should pray. The Lord’s Prayer isn’t necessarily one we must memorize and recite over and over again. Can we? Yes! but, as with all prayer, what matters is that it comes from the heart. If we simply memorize and recite the words, without truly feeling them in our hearts, they are simply shallow words devoid of meaning. Remember, God doesn’t care what words we use. He is far more interested in having a deep, heart-felt relationship with us.

Closing Thoughts

As we begin a New year, and we recommit our lives to Jesus, or perhaps commit our lives to Him for the first time, let’s also make a commitment to utilize our most powerful tool in developing and deepening our relationship with Him – prayer.

As most of you know, my favorite Christian-themed movie that we’ve shown on movie night is To Save a Life. in the movie, the main character, Jake, is completely new to faith. When it came to prayer, he had no idea where to start. He simply prayed:

“God, I don’t know if I’m allowed to be mad at you, but I am.

All this has happened to me, and I’m trying my best to do the right thing,

and everything around me just keeps getting worse.

Chris told me I could ask you for help…but I don’t even know what that is,

but I know that I need it. I don’t have anywhere else to turn.

All I know is that I can’t do this by myself.

God, please, just give me the strength to do what’s right.”

Jake’s life was completely falling apart. His parents were getting divorced, his girlfriend was pregnant, he was in jeopardy of losing his basketball scholarship, his childhood best friend had committed suicide, and he had lost all his popularity and status at school. To me, his prayer, in all its simplicity, hit the main points of the Lord’s Prayer. He glorified God, and he wanted God to guide him and give him strength to do what’s right. Like our quote, he didn’t pray for specific outcomes. He prayed for strength to make it through, and to do what’s right. What a beautifully simplistic way of saying ‘feed me spiritually, forgive me any wrongs, and help me forgive others’. Did Jake use all the words of the Lord’s Prayer? No. But was he sincere, and was his prayer from the heart? Yes! And so it can be for us. Whether you’re new to prayer or prayer is part of your everyday life, if you choose to recite the Lord’s Prayer, by all means, do so. Just do it from the heart and make sure you mean it. If you choose not to use the exact words of the Lord’s Prayer, that’s okay, too. Like Jake’s, your prayers can be very simple. Just remember Jesus’ formula. The more you do, the closer to God you will feel, you will truly experience Jesus living in and through you, and the deeper your relationship will be.

Scripture

  • Philippians 4:6
  • Luke 11:1
  • James 1:13
  • Luke 11:2-4
  • Matthew 6:9-13
  • John 6:35

Join the Discussion

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

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

 

Teach Us To Pray – Quote

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceTeach Us To Pray – Introduction

When people are first coming to faith, one of the questions often asked is, “how do I pray?” The Gospel of Luke tells us the disciples asked the very same question of Jesus. This week, we’ll explore the question, too – using Scripture to teach us to pray.

Spiritual Quote

“I don’t pray for God to take my problems away, I pray only for God to give me the strength to go through them.”
~Jose Lozano

Planned Scripture

  • Philippians 4:6
  • Luke 11:1
  • James 1:13
  • Luke 11:2-4
  • Matthew 6:9-13
  • John 6:35

Join Us

Please join us on Sunday at 10:45 AM for worship and fellowship.

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

Promises, Promises: Beyond Resolutions – Teaching

Innocence, Gentleness, PeacePromises, Promises – Beyond Resolutions

Introduction

Another year has ended and a new year has begun. New Year’s resolutions have become commonplace. We all want to make promises to ourselves about how we will change or what we’ll do differently. Rarely, though, do we actually follow through. This week we’ll look at some promises we can keep, and how we can move Beyond Resolutions.

Spiritual Quote

“Don’t make promises you can’t keep, especially those you know you will break.”
~Unknown

Thoughts

Yes, another year has ended and a new one has begun. For many, this is a time of reflection; and it’s a time filled with possibilities – new hopes, new dreams, new plans for the future. At this time each year we have the opportunity to take inventory of our lives. Like a warehouse, we have the opportunity to review our past inventory and to decide what we choose to keep for the future. Like clearing out old stock, we have the opportunity to release the things we’ve been storing up that no longer serve a purpose in our lives. And, like deciding on what new inventory to bring in, we have the opportunity to decide what it is we want to bring into our lives over the next year.

That’s where resolutions come in. Unfortunately, many of us don’t really look at the past, we simply put together a long list of what it is we think we want. We make promises to ourselves, usually around unrealistic resolutions. Either because we can’t or we really had no intention of keeping the promises in the first place, we rarely keep many, if any, of the resolutions we make. This often leads to feelings of failure and guilt. Then, our New Year Resolutions, rather than being inspirational, lead us into despair and depression.

As I say, we often make resolutions that are unrealistic, or worse, ones we know we have no real intention of keeping in the first place. This occurs year after year, and it becomes a vicious cycle.

Now, some of us here today might be looking forward to the new year and its myriad of possibilities. Others of us might have feelings of fear, worried that this year will just as bad, or worse, than the last. I believe that a large part of how we react, both to the year that has passed and to the year that lies ahead, is based on our attitude.

There is an old story that has been going around for years. In fact, Kenny Rogers recorded a song all about this story. A happy little boy went out into the field wearing his baseball cap and carrying his bat and ball. He was confident and determined. Cocking the bat, he tossed the ball into the air saying, “I’m the best batter in the world!” As the ball came down, he swung, and missed. “Strike one,” he called out. Again he tossed the ball into the air saying, “I’m the best batter in the world!” And again, as the ball came down, he swung – and missed. “Strike two.” He checked his bat, made sure there was not a hole in it, adjusted his cap, took up his stance, and tossed the ball into the air, again saying, “I’m the best batter in the world.” He swung, and missed…”Strike three.” Instead of being discouraged about his failure, he proudly exclaimed, “Wow, I’m the best pitcher in the world!”

When we look at the past year, and when we ponder the new year to come, do we see ourselves as batters, or as pitchers? We all must face our past, and we all must look toward the future. Our attitude about both will make all the difference.

Looking at the past is important. It’s our past, the failures and the victories, that have brought us to where we are today. Deuteronomy 4:9 tells us, “Be careful and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your hearts as long as you live.” So, with this advice in mind, we reflect, and we ponder. We may want this new year to be a fresh new start. But, it doesn’t start in a vacuum. That’s one of the reasons we end up making promises we can’t keep, or have no intention of keeping in the first place. If we don’t know where we came from, how can we know where we’re going? And though we reflect upon our past, God doesn’t want us to live there. But we can use the past to guide our future. And, if we don’t take an honest look at the past, we may end up just repeating the same old patterns, and the next year will be but a mirror image of the last. As we think about the last year, and the new year that’s just beginning, let’s think about the following:

  • What can we be thankful for?
  • What is there to be happy about?
  • What came easily?
  • What was difficult?
  • What did we learn?
  • What habits would we like to break?
  • What new habits would we like to develop?

Remember Paul? Paul knew all about having a past. He had been a persecutor and an executioner of the first Christians. Rather than wallowing in guilt, he used his past to illumine and guide his future. He didn’t dwell on his past, he looked forward to living in a deep relationship with God, through Jesus. In his letter to the Philippians (3:13 & 14) he wrote, “…forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

When it comes to resolutions, especially failed resolutions, many of us get caught up in the past failures and mistakes so much that we spiritually paralyze ourselves. We must remember that we’re all human, and we all make mistakes. It’s not our mistakes that define us, and they don’t have to define our future. But they can help us to focus our future. The question then becomes, what are we aiming for?

Where do we start?

As we ponder the new year, and we think about the changes we’d like to see in our lives, perhaps it will help if we get our priorities straight. Think about your priorities this year. Perhaps you want to lose weight, quit smoking, or exercise more. Perhaps you want to eliminate unhealthy relationships, or develop even stronger relationships with your spouse, partner, family, or friends. Whatever those desires, perhaps, like Paul, our greatest priority should be to develop a stronger relationship with God through Jesus.

First, forgive yourself of your past. Remember, in Matthew 22:37-39 we are told, “…You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Loving ourselves means being able to forgive ourselves for our past mistakes. And then, by placing our priority on loving God, we can rely on Him to guide us. When determining what we want the next year to bring we can heed the advice of Psalm 37:7 – “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him.” And Matthew 6:33 tells us, “…Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

When we place our priority on getting closer to God, when we first seek His Kingdom, He will guide us. Perhaps this is the only “resolution” we should be making – to seek His Kingdom and to strengthen our relationship with Him. Instead of resolutions, make a commitment to spend time with Him in prayer and meditation every day. Make it realistic – 15 or 30 minutes…whatever it is you know you can commit to. Spend time reading your Bible and letting His Word guide you. Then, with His guidance, make realistic plans and set realistic goals. Take things one small step at a time. Remember the old saying – How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Use your time with God to come up with step by step plans on how you will accomplish each goal – one bite at a time. Write them down so you have a checklist and so you can monitor your progress and make corrections as you go. Don’t let yourself get bogged down if you stumble. Remember, you’re human. Maintain the right attitude. Instead of thinking you’re the worst batter, think of yourself as the best pitcher! And, don’t try to do it all alone. That’s why we have a community of faith. We can be a source of strength and support for each other. Share your plans and your goals with people you are close to; people who will support you, ask how it’s going, and who will encourage you. And, be that support person to others.

Closing Thoughts

We often wonder if the lessons and teachings of the Bible have meaning in our lives today. This, to me, is a perfect example of how we can apply the principles in our lives. New Year doesn’t have to be a time of unrealistic and failed resolutions. We can stop making promises we won’t keep. We can look honestly at our past, and we can forgive ourselves. We can choose to be batters or pitchers. We can break the vicious cycle. Most importantly, we can make the decision to move into a deeper, more meaningful relationship with God, through Jesus. He will guide us every step of the way, if we just remember to be still and wait patiently for Him. And so I invite you today to examine your past, give thought to the future, decide whether you’re a batter or a pitcher, live in the present, and, above all, to seek His Kingdom, and with His guidance, move Beyond Resolutions.

Scripture

  • Deuteronomy 4:9
  • Philippians 3:13 & 14
  • Matthew 22:37-39
  • Psalm 37:7
  • Matthew 6:33

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Promises, Promises: Beyond Resolutions – Quote

Innocence, Gentleness, PeacePromises, Promises: Beyond Resolutions – Introduction

Another year has ended and a new year has begun. New Year’s resolutions have become commonplace. We all want to make promises to ourselves about how we will change or what we’ll do differently. Rarely, though, do we actually follow through. This week we’ll look at some promises, and how we can move Beyond Resolutions.

Spiritual Quote

“Don’t make promises you can’t keep, especially those you know you will break.”
~Unknown

Potential Scripture

Still Working

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Jesus is Alive and Well – Teaching

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceJesus is Alive and Well – Introduction

Over the past few weeks I have been completely overwhelmed by the faith and the love demonstrated by those who God’s Holy Spirit has brought into this church. The feelings within me are so deep, so profound, they have become a jumble of thought and emotion. So much so that I find it hard to even put them into writing. I am so moved by how God is working here, in this place, that I know, without an ounce of doubt, that Jesus is Alive and Well!

Spiritual Quote

“The whole being of any Christian is faith and love. Faith brings the person to God, love brings the person to people.”
~Martin Luther

Thoughts

I have no structured message today. Instead, I’d like to simply speak from my heart.

The opportunity to serve:

  • Providing Christmas Dinner for St. Vincent DePaul Kitchen
  • Hosting a Beautiful Christmas Party
  • Providing warmth, food, and shelter to the homeless in below-freezing weather

Generosity of Others:

  • Our Church Members Answered the Call to Action
  • Community Support

Changing the Face of Homelessness:

  • I’ve Been There
  • Speaking From Experience Rather Than Concept or Theory
  •             John and Alana
  •             Lyric and Lorri
  •             Family of 5
  •             Jerry
  •             Terry

These folks have replaced the abstract “them” with real names and real faces. They are people with needs and feelings. They are people filled with an amazing faith. They are not some abstract “problem” that must be cured. They are real people with real challenges who simply want, and deserve, kindness, respect, and just a little love.

(Intelligent, Polite, Gracious, Thankful, Considerate of Others, Unselfish)

I John 4:7-21 tells us, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.”

I’d like to share a paragraph from a sermon by Pastor Michael McCartney:

“John tells us in I John 4: 7-21 that those who genuinely know God walk in His love. Their life is filled with acts of love toward others. They love because they themselves have experienced the love of the Father through Jesus. This love encounter has transformed their lives and their minds and they therefore live a life of love so as to please their Heavenly Father. John tells us as Christians that we are to love because of the experience of love. He also tells s that God is love so when we live the way of love then we are acting and being like God. This is why Paul in chapter 12 (1 Corinthians) called this the most excellent way to serve God. John goes on to warn the church of Jesus Christ that if they do not live lives of love then the Lord is not in their life. He at the end of his section says, ‘Whoever loves God must also love his brother.” John makes it clear that love is not an option it is a must. We are to love one another in the church as well as the lost of this world. If we choose to forsake the path of love then we chose to forsake God himself.”

Closing Thoughts

Paul says in I Corinthians 13, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

Words cannot express how blessed I feel to be part of such a wonderful community – a community based on love…love for God, love for Jesus, and love for each other. The Holy Spirit has truly guided the right and perfect people through our doors. And through the generosity of you, and of others, many have said what we’re doing has been a blessing in their lives. I want to say, today, that in all actuality, it is we who are blessed. The “homeless” have enriched me and touched me in ways that words cannot describe. Our faith has, indeed, brought us to God. And it is His love that has brought us to each other. It is through all of you, and through all of “them” that I am convinced that Jesus is Alive and Well. Our hymn today could not be more true – There’s a Sweet, Sweet Spirit In This Place! Thank you – for your love, your support, your generosity, your faith. I pray that the Lord shower each and every one of you with an abundance of blessings in the coming New Year.

Scripture

  • I John 4:7-21
  • I Corinthians 13

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

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!