Amazing Grace ~ A Hope and A Deep Challenge

1374033_79721327This Sunday we talked about grace. Grace is a tricky and a challenging thing. It’s a tricky thing because true grace is so difficult to actually practice, but it is absolutely necessary, because grace changes people.

We looked at the parable of the Unmerciful Servant in Matthew 18. And in this parable there are two really important principles or truths for us. The first, a deep deep encouragement. And it is this: that God is a God of grace. We see the King as a metaphor of God, forgiving a deep debt. A debt so big it couldn’t be payed off. This is grace, unmerited favor, forgiveness, and who our God is. God is a God who forgives impossible debts, because of the surplus of his love.

The second thing we see though is a challenge and a warning. We see the man who has the debt payed off, not changed by the grace that is given, and he goes and strangles a man for a minor debt. The king in the story is enraged and throws the man into prison until he can pay off the debt. And Jesus ends with the saying, “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.

Now Jesus is not saying that the Father is unwilling to forgive to the unmerciful servant. This is a shallow reading that contradicts the first part. The King is willing, able, and actually does forgive the debt the man owes. The change in response of the King is because of the lack of response from the unmerciful servant. It is as if Jesus is saying as long as you seek to live according to the law, ledger books, and counting of sins and slights you will not be able to experience the grace of God. This isn’t because God isn’t willing to give it, he is. The first part of the parable is clear about that, but you will be unable to receive it because you will be living counter to God’s kingdom.

The point is that to really receive grace, we have to also be willing to give grace. Giving grace to others around us is a demonstration that we have been transformed by  God’s grace. Giving and receiving go hand in hand. The challenge then for us as Christians is to give grace, and not trying to earn it or track the sins for and against us.

So we ended up with both an encouragement and a challenge. An encouragement that God is a God of grace. And a challenge, that to truly enter into a relationship with this God at a deep place, we have to be willing to let his grace change us and flow through us. So we ended with this challenge: give grace. Give grace. And I think that’s a good challenge for us all.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: We can live with ledger books or we can live with grace

Take Aways…

  • Grace is central to theology and the Christian faith
  • If you don’t live by grace, you run the risk of not receiving grace.
  • The debt was so large it could never be paid off, only forgiven.
  • For each and everyone of us, there is grace available for us
  • This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart. – Jesus
  • God is a God of grace
  • No matter how much you owe to him, big or small today you can owe nothing at all.
  • How unutterably sweet is the knowledge that our Heavenly Father knows us completely. No tale bearer can inform on us, no enemy can make an accusation stick; no forgotten skeleton can come tumbling out of some hidden closet to abash us and expose our past; no unsuspected weakness in our character can come to light to turn God away from us, since He know us utterly before we knew Him and called us to Himself in the full knowledge of everything that was against us. A.W. Tozer
  • God knows you completely, so he can accept you completely
  • That if we seek to live by the law, we will die by the law.
  • An unwillingness to give grace, Often shows a heart that grace hasn’t touched
  • We can live with ledger books or we can live with grace
  • Its okay there is grace
  • We need to give grace to keep our hearts soft
  • Give grace this week

Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new? Why do you think grace is so hard to give? Why might it be incredibly important to actually give? As you think about grace, who do you need to give grace too? Take time to look at the last post that includes a quote from Jay Bakker. What parts of it challenged you, did you disagree with, did you agree with? What parts do you think you need to put into practice?

Discussion Questions for Young Families: Rather than discussing the sermon with your kids this week, find a way to practice it. This week when your kids make a mistake or screw up – instead give grace and talk about it. Maybe you take their punishment for them, you clean up the mess, or you let them off the hook. Just make sure you share with them why you are doing it and why it matters.

Challenge for this Week: Give grace this week

 

Throw a Party ~ Be Like Jesus…

This Sunday we talked about how God’s Kingdom is like a party.

But not just any party a great party where different people mix, connect, and are invited. God’s Kingdom is like a great banquet where invitations go out to the unlikely, unnonticed, and unwanted. It’s this party where everyone gets great food, where lonely people connect, where people who are down have fun, where boundaries are crossed and life begins. And you’re invited not because of who you know, but Jesus who knows you. This is a picture of what God’s Kigndom is like.

So my challenge to you this week is simple: throw a party.

Throw a good party. Throw an awesome party. Invite friends, neighbors, and people would never get invited. Get great food, great music, and have a great time. Samir Selmanovic  “Christians know how to talk about life, but they don’t know how to love life”. Let’s prove this statement wrong this week. Let’s love life and help others to love it too by our grace, generosity, and inclusion. Throw a great party, and watch as God’s Kingdom surprises you all around.

Following Jesus means throwing parties…so get busy loving life by throwing a party…

Still Stuck on Grace

Here it is Sunday morning and I’m still thinking about last Sunday where we talked about grace. I’m still thinking it all through. Something that has really lasted this week was what we began the sermon with last week – a quote from Mrs. O’Brien in Terrence Malick’s new film “Tree of Life”. She says this:

“There are two ways through life, the way of nature and the way of grace. You have to choose which one to follow. Grace doesn’t try to please itself. It accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked. Accepts insults and injuries. Nature only wants to please itself, and get others to please it too. It likes to lord it over them. To have its own way. It finds reasons to be unhappy, when all the world is shining around it, when love is smiling through all things. They taught us that no one who loves the way of grace ever comes to a bad end. I will be true to you, whatever comes.”

The more I reflect on this quote the more I think it’s a challenge of the Kingdom. In Matthew 20:1-16, Jesus clearly shows that he runs his Kingdom on Grace. The challenge is that he is clear that if we don’t live by grace, we may find ourselves at odds with his Kingdom. As Malick says, making an illusion to Jesus, there are two ways through life, grace and nature and we must choose our path.

I believe that is the question for you and for me that I am still reflecting and grappling with. That, if the Kingdom truly runs by grace, if its rule is grace, its way of life is grace, then the implicit challenge is: are we living by grace?

Would your friends and neighbors say you give grace? Would your family characterize your life as a life of grace? What about the people who meet on the road driving to work? What about the cashier?

There are only two ways through life, one of grace and one of nature. And Malick is right, “No one who loves the way of grace has ever come to a bad end”. Because Grace is the way the Kingdom runs…

A Kingdom Hidden in a Friendship

Last Sunday we talked about where you can find the Kingdom of God. We discovered that the Kingdom of God is hidden in plain sight all around us in relationships. You discover the Kingdom in the friendship, relationships, and connections you have. It’s a treasure waiting to be discovered, to be valued, and to be experienced.

So my question for you today is simple. Who in your life holds the Kingdom within them? Who have you experienced God’s Kingdom because of them?

If God’s Kingdom is found in relationships, and in the connections we have with others. If it can be spontaneously found where joy, grace, and laughter are discovered. Then who in your life consistently share Gods’ Kingdom with you?

Why not tell them today. Tell them they are a source of love and joy for you. And maybe through that they might experience the Kingdom as well.

For me I often find God’s Kingdom in this little dude…and when I get home I’m going to tell him too!

Discussion Questions from the Sermon

  • Adult Questions
  • When have you experienced God’s kingdom in a unexpected place or way?
  • How can you keep “your eyes open” to discovering God’s kingdom in the everyday?
  • What does God’s Kingdom look like? How do you know when you’ve discovered it?
  • Where can you look to find God’s Kingdom this week?
  • Questions for Young Families
  • Children can teach us about the Kingdom. Jesus says that in the Gospels. So ask them when do they have the most fun? Where do have the most happiness? My guess is that the Kingdom isn’t far from that place. So do what makes them happy and watch the Kingdom grow.

Weekly Challenge: Watch for the Kingdom and share with one person this week where you found it…


Where in the World is the Kingdom of God?

This Sunday we are exploring another aspect of God’s Kingdom. Last week we talked about how God’s Kingdom grows slowly, but can be spread through us. We can plant the Kingdom, and are called to be patient while it grows.

This Sunday we want to explore a different aspect of the Kingdom. If we can plant sees, and if the Kingdom grows all around us the question is where?

  • Where do you find the Kingdom?
  • If you were to look for it, where could it be found?
  • In what places are you most likely to discover it?

Those are the questions we want to tackle on Sunday.

But what do you think? Where and when have you found God’s Kingdom? Where do you think it might be found? If someone was to ask you, “I find Jesus’ parables about the Kingdom compelling, challenging, and so inviting…but where do I actually find it? How can I discover it?”

What would you say…?