Tag Archives: James

Building our Christian foundations: 5. Grace & grace with accountability

given on Sunday, February 8, 2015

5.  Grace & Grace with accountability

Building a new home takes knowledge, planning, and supplies in order to create a structure that is durable, safe, and functional. Adding the touches that turns a house into a home depends on those living within the walls of that structure. A home, built on a solid foundation, becomes a source of comfort, provides security, and reflects the personalities living there.

Building our Christian foundation can be compared to building a house, also. Yet, without Christ in our lives, we are empty inside. We can attend church and show that we know who God is—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; but living our faith honestly takes grace.

Grace is the intangible quality of unconditional love that God provides each and every individual, even every living creature living here on earth beside us. He accepts us as we are; He comforts us when we hurt; He provides us the security of eternal life; and He grants us the gifts that make us who we are.

Why, then, is grace so hard to understand? Grace from God is free, arrives with us even as we are born, cradles us as we grow up, and catches us whenever we make mistakes. God’s grace is a constant we can count on.

How come we, as his children, do not accept that grace? How come we do not model that same grace in our own lives? Why can’t we use grace automatically like God does? Among all the wonderful gifts and traits that we are born with, why do so many seem to have missed the grace gene?

Really it does not matter, what does matter is that we accept God’s grace and work on all the essential pieces that do build our Christian foundation. As we read and study the scriptures, we find example after example of God’s grace. As we study the gospels and learn how the Holy Spirit baptizes us into God’s family, we experience God’s grace. As we join in the universal church, we begin practicing that grace by unconditionally accepting our Christian brothers and sisters also.

Grace is part of Christianity. Grace is part of the DNA of Christians around this world. God’s grace is reflected in each and every one of us. All the ways that we share God’s love, without reservation, demonstrates the power of grace even in the worst circumstances imaginable.

John Wesley identified grace as a core term for Christians. In his notes, he provides insight into the application of grace in our lives:

Grace is actually a relational concept: God’s active presence and transformative power in our lives. The name Emmanuel speaks to this reality—God with us. We perceive the divine presence by the results of the divine energy working within us, enlightening, convicting, forgiving, liberating, assuring, chastising, empowering, strengthening, comforting—assisting us to become what God intended humankind to be, faithful creatures whose love for God and their neighbors is manifest through works of piety and mercy.

 

God’s grace is ours for the taking; but once we take it, we must use it. We are to be accountable to God in how we use grace in our lives.

As God’s missionaries, we are to use grace with accountability. This phrase is key to working with one another. And yes, the phrase is even used in schools. In fact, one behavior system BIST has developed in the Kansas City area and is used at the Ozanam School and Crittenton, a treatment approach to managing student behaviors. BIST’s key phrase is “grace with accountability.”

God’s grace is given and when we accept it, we agree to provide grace to one another. The human element of grace is accountability. We are accountable to God in how we use grace with others, but we are expected to use it responsibly. We are commissioned to share God’s Word so others, too, may join in relationship with God, accepting love and grace.

Our baptism into the Christian family includes a promise to be accountable. We are to love one another as God loves us. We are to offer grace to others just like God offers it to us. We are to do all that we can—as you so often hear said—to all we can.

If God can demonstrate grace to Saul, the Jewish Pharisee who was persecuting the earliest Christians, then we have no reason to doubt that he offers the same level of grace to us. Saul was struck blind in order for God to get his attention, but upon accepting Christ, Saul—now Paul—became accountable by demonstrating grace to others even from the prison cells. Paul knew what grace with accountability meant.

The letters we have from Paul share how to accept grace and how to use grace with accountability. In the letter to the Ephesians, we learn the formula in that first chapter, verses 7-8:

He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.

The connection to another essential in building Christian foundations is referred to in these two verses: The Triune God. Wesley wanted to make sure Christians understood that connection in explaining the core term grace:

Grace is a Trinitarian concept, grounded in the love and mercy of God the Father; especially manifest in the life, death, and resurrection of God the Son: and experienced through the work of God the Holy Spirit in our lives.

 

Grace is essential in our Christian foundation. Grace is the mortar used to create the brick walls, the screws and nails connecting all the pieces, and even the wires running throughout the structure carrying all the energy to all the places it is needed.

As Christians, we accept grace and we must use it with accountability. Paul never gave up on any of the young Christian churches he planted throughout the Mediterranean area over 2,000 years ago. His own methods of communicating and demonstrating grace kept those young Christians accountable just as he does today as we study the scriptures.

James, too, Jesus’ own brother, taught the early Jewish Christians how to be accountable with grace:

So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.

Each one of us must work to maintain the Christian foundation God has provided us. We have all the instructions needed in the scriptures. We have the gift of the Holy Spirit. We have the skills and talents God has given us. We have grace for all the times we make mistakes because God loves us so much he gave his son so that we might have eternal life.

God’s grace is the essential element that takes us and makes us the hands and arms of God in this community in which we live. We are accountable for how we demonstrate grace to one another. We are Christians filled with grace.

Closing prayer

Dear Gracious Father,

We arrived this morning with weariness in our souls.

We have had un-Christian thoughts and made poor decisions.

We even questioned whether or not we believe.

Thank you for your grace.

Thank you for unconditional love.

Thank you for our Christian family.

Renew my faith through today’s worship.

Renew my spirit with the hope you provide.

Renew my resolve to offer grace to others.

Help me to be accountable to you and to others.

Help me to trust in the Holy Spirit to guide me.

Help me to share your Word

so others, too, may experience your grace.

–Amen.

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5th Sunday Worship with the Word and Song: Prayer

This is the script from Sunday’s service.  Focusing on a theme, PRAYER, the service design is to use scriptures and hymns to carry the theme.  Having used the book, 100 Favorite Bible Verse, by Lisa Guest, I have been able to weave the verses into three sermons.  Thanks to her for the effort she has put forth and her comments.  They have certainly spoken to me during this winter month.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

**Opening scripture & thoughts:  Psalm 100a psalm for giving thanks.

Shout to the Lord with joy, everyone on earth.
    Worship the Lord with gladness.
Come to him with songs of joy.
I want you to realize that the Lord is God.
He made us, and we belong to him.
We are his people.
We are the sheep belonging to his flock.

Give thanks as you enter the gates of his temple.
Give praise as you enter its courtyards.
Give thanks to him and praise his name.
The Lord is good. His faithful love continues forever.
It will last for all time to come.

         “God is like a shepherd who, 24/7, protects and provides for His stupid sheep.  It’s not a flattering description, but like sheep, we find our selves drawn to unhealthy waters.  Sometimes we get ourselves turned upside down and can’t get right side up without the Shepherd’s help.  . . .          God has been faithful to generations before us, He shows Himself faithful to us, and He will be faithful to every generation to come.  Clearly, we have no excuse not to obey the Psalm 100 command!  Let us worship the Lord with gladness!”  (p. 215)

 

*UMH Hymn 437:  This Is My Song

 

**Scripture & thoughts:  Philippians 4:6-7

Don’t worry about anything. Instead, tell God about everything. Ask and pray. Give thanks to him. Then God’s peace will watch over your hearts and your minds because you belong to Christ Jesus. God’s peace can never be completely understood.

 

UMH Hymn 496:  Sweet Hour of Prayer

 

The Congregation’s Prayer:  from Guest’s notes

 

Prayer is an amazing privilege, Lord, yet too often I take it for granted.  Forgive me, and fuel in me a desire to establish and maintain an ongoing conversation with You.  I do want to learn to pray always and about everything and to do so with thanksgiving.  Please teach me, so that each day I will see You more clearly, love You more dearly, and follow You more nearly. 

“. . . Pray.  Pray about everything.  Pray all the time.  Pray with thanksgiving.  . . . Knowing that worry is our default mode, Paul urged God’s people to pray for God’s presence with us and for the people He puts in our paths.  . . . Don’t worry, pray about everything, and experience God’s peace.”  (p. 35)

Private Prayer:

  • Remember to pray daily for relief from the drought
  • Remember your own supplications and praises

Lord’s Prayer:  Please join in the prayer Jesus taught us using trespasses.

**Matthew 6:9-13:  “This is how you should pray.

“‘Our Father in heaven,
may your name be honored.
10 May your kingdom come.
May what you want to happen be done
on earth as it is done in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 Forgive us our sins,
just as we also have forgiven those who sin against us.
13 Keep us from falling into sin when we are tempted.
Save us from the evil one.’

 

   Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.

   Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done

   On earth as it is in heaven.

   Give us this day our daily bread.

   And forgive us our trespasses,

   As we forgive those who trespass against us.

   And lead us not into temptation,

   But deliver us from evil.

   For thine is the kingdom,

        the power

             and the glory, forever.  –Amen

 

OFFERING:  Guests should not feel the offering is their responsibility.   Members prayerfully give to support the church’s ministry.

 

*DOXOLOGY no.  95: Please stand as you wish and sing.

 

*PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING:                                             the Pastor

Thank you, God, for allowing us to share our offerings with you.   May these offerings work in your behalf as we continue to share your love.   –Amen

 

UMH Hymn 600:  Wonderful Words of Life

 

Scripture & Thoughts:  Psalm 46

 

God is our place of safety. He gives us strength.
He is always there to help us in times of trouble.
The earth may fall apart.
The mountains may fall into the middle of the sea.
But we will not be afraid.
The waters of the sea may roar and foam.
The mountains may shake when the waters rise.
But we will not be afraid. Selah

God’s blessings are like a river. They fill the city of God with joy.
That city is the holy place where the Most High God lives.
Because God is there, the city will not fall.
God will help it at the beginning of the day.
Nations are in disorder. Kingdoms fall.
God speaks, and the people of the earth melt in fear.

The Lord who rules over all is with us.
The God of Jacob is like a fort to us. Selah

Come and see what the Lord has done.
See the places he has destroyed on the earth.
He makes wars stop from one end of the earth to the other.
He breaks every bow. He snaps every spear.
He burns every shield with fire.
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be honored among the nations.
I will be honored in the earth.”

11 The Lord who rules over all is with us.
The God of Jacob is like a fort to us.

 

from Guest’s comments:

         God is able to call forth powerful winds, part a sea, ad ravage a nation with plagues.  Yet He calls us to know Him not in the spectacular and loud, not in the dramatic and powerful.  He calls us to be still.  We are to find quiet—internal as well as external—is we are truly to know that He is God.  Faith grows during our quiet communion with Him.”  (p.55)

 

UMH Hymn 395:  Take Time to Be Holy

 

**Scripture & Thoughts:  James 5:13-16

 

13 Are any of you in trouble? Then you should pray. Are any of you happy? Then sing songs of praise.

14 Are any of you sick? Then send for the elders of the church to pray over you. Ask them to anoint you with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 The prayer offered by those who have faith will make you well. The Lord will heal you. If you have sinned, you will be forgiven.

16 So admit to one another that you have sinned. Pray for one another so that you might be healed. The prayer of a godly person is powerful. It makes things happen.

 

from Guest’s comments:

         “The power of prayer is one of the mysteries of our faith.  We go through dry seasons when God seems distant and prayer seem pointless, so we skip it all together.  We may feel discouraged from praying for a specific person or situation for months, if not years or decades.  We may also enter a season of great pain and loss when we simply can’t pray, and we rely on the faithful and faith-full prayers of our sisters and brothers in Christ.

         “Then come those prayer times when God seems to be in the same room with us as we pray.  . . .

         “In between these two extreme experiences are those regular prayer times, those acts of disciplined obedience that we do out of love for our Lord.  We pray because He calls us to; we pray because we love Him. 

         “. . . pastor David Jeremiah points out, “The surest way not to get an answer to prayer is not to pray!”  (p. 49)

 

UMH Hymn 527:  Do, Lord, Remember Me

 

Closing Prayer: 

 

Thank you for the privilege of prayer, and forgive me when I take for granted the awesome truth that I am able to speak to You, the sovereign King, the Creator of all, the Healer of my soul, anytime and from anywhere.  I am grateful for those seasons of prayer when You answer quickly and obviously, and I am grateful that you understand those dry times I go through.  So, Father God, please keep me disciplined and expectant as I pray.  (p. 49)

 

The Benediction:  Go in peace & be the Church for others.

 

**All the scriptures were from the New International Reader’s Version (NIRV).

 

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