the GRACEfull Life
We are members of GRACE Lutheran Church and School so it is only natural that we use the word GRACE often in our day-to-day lives. When is the last time we gave serious consideration to the meaning of that word?
GRACE and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 2 Peter 1-2
What a profound statement. Doesn't it say everything we need for a joyous and purposeful life? Think about it for a moment. Ephesians 2:1-10 . We are saved by the GRACE of God.
The dictionary defines GRACE as the freely given, unmerited favor & love of God. the influence or spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate and strengthen them.
How often do we need regeneration and strength? The ability for us to accomplish this is right before our very eyes. God has a plan for our lives if only we were wise enough to use it. We plan for the simple and mundane elements of meals, chores, purchases, vacations, and the list goes on and on. Why wouldn't we use God's perfect plan for us? It is free and it works!
The dictionary defines Full : not lacking or omitting anything; complete.
How does God's GRACE guide us and give us a roadmap as we travel through life? That is what the GRACEfull Life is all about.
Letter from Pastor Loughran
Dear friends in Christ,
I've often remarked when teaching Bible Studies that each of the Congregations that I've served have had everything needed for the work of God in that place. For example little Messiah Lutheran Church in Wolcottville, Indiana with 75 folks attending church weekly had a wonderful young couple that assisted in leading the youth, a very competent treasurer who was a recently retired CPA and a farmer's wife who played the organ quite nicely. Most importantly these folks loved serving because they recognized that they were recipients of God's grace – His "freely given, unmerited favor and love."
That in a nutshell is what this year's Stewardship Emphasis, the GRACEfull Life is all about. In fact much as God provided (and still does) for the Saints in Wolcottville He provides for us here at Grace this time in the form of a dedicated Board for Stewardship that has worked to develop the GRACEfull Life themselves, just for Grace Lutheran Church and School. They've done it because they are recipients of God's grace – His "freely given, unmerited favor and love."
Beginning this weekend we will be focusing on varying aspects of the Christian life through lay talks, sermons, prayers and even in some cases studies to assist us in living out our faith. The theme will change monthly over a period of 8 months. Some of the themes such as Thanksgiving, Giving and Service will be very familiar to those of us who have been through a Stewardship Emphasis in the past. But others such as Worship (the place where God meets us and fills us with His Grace) Love, Celebration and Stewardship (using our resources effectively) may be new. Regardless Pastor Hartman and I are excited about the opportunities that our Board for Stewardship is creating to assist in proclaiming Christ and in so doing leading all of us in living the GRACEfull life.
So dear brothers and sisters of Grace this is an opportunity for you to do something different. Come to be fed rather than to just sit in the pew (or worse to avoid it altogether by staying home). You will hear about the blessings of living God's plan. Our premise here is that you need to receive more of what God has to offer you and that as you receive from His hand you will truly start to live the GRACEfull life.
Your servant in Christ,
Our Lord speaks and we listen. His Word bestows what it says. Faith that is born from what is heard acknowledges the gifts received with eager thankfulness and praise. Music is drawn into this thankfulness and praise, enlarging and elevating the adoration of our gracious giver God.
Saying back to him what he has said to us, we repeat what is most true and sure. Most true and sure is his name, which he put upon us with the water of our Baptism. We are his. This we acknowledge at the beginning of the Divine Service. Where his name is, there is he. Before him we acknowledge that we are sinners, and we plead for forgiveness. His forgiveness is given us, and we, freed and forgiven, acclaim him as our great and gracious God as we apply to ourselves the words he has used to make himself known to us.
The rhythm of our worship us from him to us, and then form us back to him. (LW Introduction)
At Grace we are blessed to receive God’s gracious gifts in a glorious space that reminds us that when we call upon God’s name we have one foot in heaven with the other here on earth. The story told by our windows, the songs from the hearts of our musicians and the preaching from our pastors’ lips remind and reassure us that God is in charge always leadings us heavenward by His Word. The calming presence of Jesus reaching out over us from the cross of salvation depicted in the center window resonates throughout our time spent in this sacred space.
As we contemplate Psalm 100 let us remember to bring a glad heart when we worship. Even with the burdens we face during our lifetime we have the exquisite joy of God’s GRACE.
Shout for joy to the Lord all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.
Your Board for Stewardship prays that our WORSHIP of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will shine with new vigor as we reaffirm our faith and seek His will for our lives, remembering always to live
The GRACEfull Life
2 Corinthians 4:15 All this is for your benefit, that the GRACE that is reaching more and more people may cause THANKSGIVING to overflow to the glory of God.
Most people eagerly anticipate the Thanksgiving feast. People travel to see loved ones and across the country families and friends gather around a bountiful table. It is easy to reflect and give thanks when we are safe, comfortable and healthy.
Perhaps, as we examine what it means to live a GRACEfull life we should add another dimension to the concept of thankfulness.
Are we able to honestly answer that others are thankful for our presence in their lives?
Read Philippians 1:3-6
Have we extended the hand of friendship to a "difficult" person? Sometimes those are the people whose hearts are hurting and troubled. God's healing can take place in all places...the body and the heart.
Have we helped someone who may have taken advantage of us in the past? God tells us to give and not count how much or how often.
Have we showed kindness to someone who is overwhelmed and negative? Perhaps that person is tiresome and trying to be around but in need of God's reassuring message.
In Matthew 25:31-40 Jesus tells a parable about Sheep who are surprised about what happens to them on judgment day. In the parable these Sheep are held up as a model of the Christian life because they have performed thankless acts of love or Thanksgiving to God by loving others in Jesus' Name. These others are exactly those who are most difficult to love.
GRACEfull Thanksgiving is the act of loving neighbor as self regardless whom that neighbor might be that God puts in your path. In the same way God has loved you as the Scripture says, "While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8
Father, as You freely love us, let us love one another without demand or condition. Amen
LOVE is all around us...certainly at this time of year but most of us use the word on a regular and ongoing basis. We are surrounded by loved ones. Our spouse, our family, our friends all know how we feel even if we don't say the word LOVE. We know the intense wonderful feeling of loving and being loved. We as members of Grace know the LOVE of Christ...the LOVE that never fails us.
When considering the subject of LOVE for this month's GRACEfull Life we couldn't help but reflect on the staggering statistics of drug and alcohol use across our country; even here in our own community. What are these people looking for?
Clearly there is something lacking in their lives. With almost no exceptions humans need LOVE. They need to feel accepted, appreciated, embraced, valued and loved. They may not be willing or able to articulate these needs but odds are they would respond in a positive way if only they could feel these things in a tangible way.
The question is why are people seeking what they need in destructive lifestyles? Do they not understand that everything they could want to lay the groundwork for a path to joy, peace, hope and LOVE exists right here in GRACE Lutheran Church? Perhaps if they understood these truths the pews would be full each & every week.
Is it our failing as a congregation that the word is not out that we have the answer? Do we "sell" the truth to everyone within the circle of our everyday lives? Do we use the word LOVE to describe our Savior, our church and its' congregation? Sometimes less is more. Perhaps just inviting people to come and experience the LOVE is all that is needed. When they enter our sanctuary they will understand the LOVE found here is forever.
We each have a responsibility when there is a new face in our midst. It isn't just up to the Pastors to welcome and cultivate a relationship with that person. Each and every one of us must seek out and extend warmth, friendship and inclusiveness to a new person. We must step out of our comfort zone to accomplish this. Of course, it is so easy to only hug and greet our fellow congregants but Jesus demands more of us.
Are we prepared to ignore His will?
"Let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4:7-8