Monday, June 17, 2013

Grace Awakening

I want to talk to you this morning about a grace awakening.  What is a grace awakening?  It is simply being awakened or experiencing a fresh understanding of the amazing, undeserved, unmerited favor of God in our lives.  We all need to experience it, be empowered by it and extend that grace.  The beauty of it is when someone new comes to your church and says they have experienced it here as someone spoke to me the other week.

When John, Bryan and I were away at the D’Elia’s for a couple days last month, we were struck by the power and enormity of grace and all its facets in 2 Corinthians.  We were also so blessed by a couple of people, Bonnie and Perry who are living examples of beautiful grace.  They run a bed and breakfast in Niagara-On-The-Lake but they also have a cottage that they have also renovated for people to seek time away to refresh their body and spirit.

It’s a vision that we have shared with the LB and some of our ministry leaders as well. 

1.      A new vision for Grace built on a time and place where love abounds

2 Corinthians 9:8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; NASB
We are built for outward flow.
John 17:15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. NASB

We are called to be missional.

The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.  John 1:14 The Message
Jesus became flesh and blood to all those around Him.  He was real and went to where the people were.  He lived among them, He cried with them, He prayed for them, He brought healing to their lives.
We are called to the same thing.
We are called to be real with all those around us, to cry, to laugh, to pray for them and with them as the Spirit leads.  We are called to bring healing to the lives around us .

As one LB member shared, God has called me to serve and meet the needs of my boss who is going through a very difficult time.
The statement:  People living everyday grace in our community
Why is ‘grace’ so powerful.  Charles Swindoll in Grace Awakening

Christ died for us on the cross. He was raised from the dead for us at the tomb. When we believed in the Savior’s death and resurrection, we were dipped into the same scene. Our identity was changed. We didn’t feel it, we didn’t see it, we didn’t hear it, but it occurred, never the less. When we came to Christ we were placed into him as his death became ours, his victorious resurrection became ours, his “awakening” to new life became our “awakening”, his powerful walk became our powerful walk. Before we can experience the benefits of all that, we have to know it.  Chuck Swindoll

       Our mandate   - A shift from an internal focus to an outward focus. 
The word internally for us at Grace will always be love and the word externally as we focus looking outward will be grace.

I want to take you to a passage which I believe speaks into our vision and gives us our mandate.
2.      The vision is rooted in the transformation of our community.  Jeremiah 29:4-7; 1 Peter 2:11,12

4This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. 7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

So, what was going on here?

Israel as a nation was to represent God’s goodness to the other nations.  They were to be a lighthouse to them, to reveal a nation that followed hard after God, but they were stuck.  They had forgotten their purpose; they had completely forgot where they came from.  They were once slaves in Egypt, they were oppressed and they experienced deliverance, but as soon as they became “self-sufficient” they forgot God and worshipped and ran after other gods.  They were the nation that was oppressing other nations.
Here is the account of the forced labor King Solomon conscripted to build the Lord’s temple… 1 Kings 9:15

In a nutshell, they became all about preserving what they have with their land and possessions instead of a nation that is bent on giving away and blessing those around them. 

So they are stuck and now God must act.  

This very nation was called to be his hands and feet in the world; however they looked just the same as everyone else.   In fact, it was worse…they looked anti-God.

God is looking for people who care about the things that he cares about and he blesses so that justice and righteousness can be upheld. 

Unfortunately at the height of their blessing, Israel misinterpreted everything as entitlement and favoritism.  There  is a word in the Bible for when you have been giving all sorts of blessing, wealth and influence, but completely forget why you were given it in the first place. 
It’s called Exile.
Exile is when you forget who you are; its when you forget your story.  It isn’t just about getting kicked out of a location but it is about of state of your soul.  It’s about when you find yourself as a stranger to the purposes of God.  This is the place from which Jeremiah is speaking to us about.

So what?

Israel as a nation could have just looked at this time  as exiles in a foreign land (“we’re here for a short time…let’s huddle up and protect ourselves and wait for God to get us out of here…whatever you do, don’t make friends with the enemy and don’t get involved in any of their world”)…….. and then, how God actually directed them to live (“you’re going to be here for 70 years, so settle in, get to know people and bless and transform their culture by living among them as God’s people”)

It’s also a place to rediscover your story in a fresh, new way.

Is this just another twist on an OT mandate for a nation or is this for us?

1 Peter 2:11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

Our real home is heaven, but we have been assigned by God to live in this “Babylon” for the foreseeable future, so settle in, get to know people and live out God’s grace so as to bless and transform the world around us by living as God’s people should live.

How do we start living this out?

Matt Naismith, just recently stepped down as the youth pastor of Lakeside moving into the Ward to begin a church plant to reach out to people there.

The move IN – West Willow Woods – reaching out to another need filled community.  James Bast.

Seek the prosperity of the city we are told in Jeremiah 29.  We are called to  pray for it and extend grace to the people living there.

An action plan for this summer!

·        Open your homes and backyards and be hospitable  - It can be really simple.

The power of invitation is an amazing thing.  Go to your street party and if there isn’t one, make one up!  Last night was our street party and it was the 3rd year in a row for us.  It was a rich delicacy of foods from every continent from samosas to noodles to vegetarian, deep fried from Africa!  We brought pulled pork!

·        Open your hearts and make new friends (name some new ones by end of summer)

     It is because of opportunities like this that I not only know their names, but I now know a number of the names of their children as well.  It’s after midnight and Sharon is still out there having great conversations!

·        Open your hands and do good to people around you

I met some people from Grace as I was out on the garage sale loop with Sharon and one couple said after their neighbourhood garage sale they were having a community BBQ. 

·        Open your mouth (if an opportunity arises) and speak of your faith in Christ

Bonnie D’Elia who I mentioned in the introduction does this with such great ease.  She shared with us how she spoke to the man renovating a meeting area doing renovations at her home.  She said I could just let them do their job or choose to reach out.  So she does and over a meal or a coffee and God is giving her great opportunities to share her faith.

Live your life in such a way that it demands an explanation.   Francis Chan

3.      The vision is intentional in discovering God at work in us for our community  Jeremiah 29:11-13

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
And for most people, the memorizing of this passage ends here.  However, there is something very important and not to be missed….
 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord
We really need to be asking God what are your plans for me today?  Why? Because He already has laid the blueprint out for your day. 
Ephesians 2:8-10….look at what kind of grace v7  incomparable riches of His grace.

You can’t give what you don’t have.  I am praying that the vision today will be a grace awakening in all of us.  I pray that you will experience the incomparable depths and riches of His grace!  May it be just like the song, How He Loves, where grace is an ocean and we are all sinking in its depths!
As opposed to a closed community where we cloister ourselves away, we want to build more intentional relationships in our community.

Let’s recommit ourselves to our neighbours and friends and discover and experience the incomparable riches of His grace.

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