Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God

Approximate Notes for Sunday Message; Face2Faith with God’s Grace; 18-August-2013

Scriptures:  Acts 11:19-30; Luke 6:43-45

You can read these Scriptures here:   NIV2010  // CEB

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During the summer months we talked about concepts of faith that most of us understand but have difficulty explaining in vernacular. We can use words like “Soul,” “Grace,” “Evil,” and “Heaven” in a sentence but most of us have a difficult time explaining what these words mean in a such a way that our unchurched neighbors, or even recent Christian converts, can relate to or understand what we are talking about.

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We live in a Fallen World. In our time and in the place where God planted us it manifests itself as an increasingly secular society. In the culture that we live in, the Image of God becomes less and less defined and pronounced; interaction with God and God’s Creation becomes less and less recognized and understood or welcomed.

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One of many examples of this is that we are forced to use adjectives to describe our relationship with God; there are many adjectives associated with the word “Christian.” To give you an example, when somebody tells me that they are a Christian I may hear something like, “I am a progressive Christian.” I may hear adjectives like “evangelical,” or “conservative,” or “liberal,” or “born again,” or one that I find difficult to even comprehend is “theologically conservative with a liberal social interpretation.” Try to say that three times fast. These adjectives result in divisions and bickering within the body of Christ, the Church. Instead of keeping our eyes on Jesus, we focus instead on what divides us. What makes it even worse, we revel in these divisions, we delight in pointing fingers at each other.

We totally ignore the fact that the differences that divide us are not as important as common bonds that unite us… When we see God face-to-face that becomes evident and it empowers us to find common language and joint mission.

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Our faith is rooted in our relationship with God and we gain our first understandings of God based on the stories and truths that are gleaned from the Bible somewhere along our Christian journey. That is why all of us have complex and nuanced reasons for why we have faith and how we live our faith and devotion to God. Add to this the reality that our culture drowns our very souls in a cacophony of materialistic noise and the result is that we are no longer challenged to think about our faith and our place in God’s creation. We have faith, we just don’t think about it much. Instead we try to fit our infinite God into our finite brains.

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These are just some of the reasons why God gave us God’s Grace, and that is what I want to talk about today. We tend to use “God’s Grace” as a catchall when we don’t know what else to say; i.e. someone tells us about something that happened yesterday and we don’t know how to respond so we say, “God’s Grace was with you.” In reality maybe it was a miracle, or maybe it was sheer, dumb luck, or maybe God has plans for us, or maybe God is using what happened yesterday to shake us up and get us to start thinking about our lives and our relationship with God, NOT in superficial but in REAL terms.

{Illustration}

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So what is God’s Grace? I understand divine grace to be an ongoing, relationship-building energy that connects God and God’s Creation; that energy is at work everywhere and at all times; it is ALWAYS there. When we make a choice to accept God’s grace, when we make a conscious choice to plug into it; we consciously experience a connection to God, and through God, to each other. As a result communities grow stronger, lives are transformed, bad habits are resisted and there is harmony and tolerance in the community. Divine grace is God’s empowering presence in the lives of God’s human children, enabling us to be the best version of what God imagined us to be when God created us. Divine Grace magnifies and illuminates for us God’s hopes for our lives as we live them. God’s Grace empowers us to be the best stewards of God’s Creation at the time and place where we live our earthly lives.

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God’s Grace manifests itself in our lives even prior to our knowing or accepting God’s existence. God’s Grace that guides our lives prior to our turning to God is usually called Prevenient Grace. Prevenient grace invites us to recognize that all of us are sinners and that Jesus paid for our sins and transgressions; prevenient grace prepares us to recognize and to become conscious of God’s presence in our lives (“Cloud of Witnesses” Hebrews 12:1).

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In the life of every individual there is at least one moment when we recognize our sinfulness, when we recognize God’s presence and God’s role in our lives (who among has not had our heart broken at least once).

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That is a “moment” of justifying grace; sometimes it is called the moment of conversion; sometimes it is called the moment when we are born again of the Spirit from above (John 3, Jesus’ heart-to-heart with Nicodemus). The “moment” of justifying grace is usually followed by a period of time (or a process) when we come to fully comprehend what the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ actually means to EACH ONE OF US as we live our lives and as we prepare to face eternity.

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Sanctifying grace results in our desire to foster an ever-growing, vibrant and productive relationship with God through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as we serve God in all aspects of our lives.

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Experiencing God’s Grace does change us. In 1992, Steve Martin stared in a movie Leap of Faith where he played the role of a shady traveling “evangelist” and “healer,” who conned people out of money. In that movie he encountered one – just one – REAL CASE OF HEALING THAT CAME FROM GOD and that experience changed him. In that healing, the character played by Steve Martin experienced God. The very next day he left the circus and changed his life. This example is very-very old, the movie was released over 20 years ago.

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Experiencing God’s Grace does change us.

{Illustration from the personal practice of ministry}

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Experiencing God’s Grace does change us.

{Illustration from the personal practice of ministry}

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Experiencing God’s Grace does change us. This year I spent three weeks as a Spiritual Life Coordinator (someone who leads Bible studies) at Camp Pecometh. I saw hunger for God while there. {Illustration from the personal practice of ministry}  

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These are just three experiences when I looked straight in the face of God. In these experiences I saw God’s Grace. In these experiences I saw God’s Love and Energy flowing to God’s Creation, and by that Grace I am here to tell these stories.

Jesus came showing his love to his bellowed people and to the Church as it was in his time and in the place where his earthly ministry took place. Jesus came to show that every generation needs new thinking and new blood to confront the future that it faces. That is what God’s Grace is about.

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Luke 6:43-44: “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. … For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

Where and when have you seen God’s Grace in your life? Is your heart full of God’s Grace? How has God’s Grace changed the way you live your life? What do you do with that wonderful knowledge?

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{Open the Altar}

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