Monday, July 20, 2009

Who Is GRACIOUS Like Our God?

We spent our Teaching Time unpacking the tremendous declaration of God's glory and the proclamation of the name HWHY. This week we looked at God as gracious. Let's review our Scripture: Then the LORD came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the LORD. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation." Exodus 34.5-7 (NIV)

Now let's remember the scaffolding we are using in this proclamation of His Name: Moses saw God's glory (heard the proclamation and saw God's real Presence) then he returned down the mountain. The people below saw a glow on his face -- a sort of residual Glory. So each week we will look at the Glory contained in the declaration and then look for ways we might Glow with a reflection of God's character in our daily lives in the following week (and beyond.)

The Glory of "the...gracious God..."

The fact that God is gracious means at least three things. He shows favor, grants blessings with no cost and gives gifts. He shows favor. Who do you call when you need a favor? Only someone with whom you have a vital relationship will "do you a favor." The favor of God is similar. Because of His tremendous love for you and me, God sits on the edge of His throne waiting for our request. He longs to bless us with the things that will make our lives holy and whole. But some things will never be ours experiencially until we ask. The gracious God shows favor.

Our gracious God also grants blessing. While I was in college I became very aware of the difference between a grant and a loan. Both may have conditions (ranking in graduating class, certain score on a test, GPA and so on.) But loans must be repaid to the one lending the money (plus interest for the privilege of using the lender's money a while.) Grants, however, did not have to be repaid. Our gracious God stand ready to supply our needs. He blesses us without any expectation we will repay Him. He knows we never could. Part of His grace is pouring into our lives these things we could never have on our own or repay once we are granted them.

We might have to meet conditional criteria, though. He blesses us with many things but allows us to enter into partnership with Him in these blessings. We might disqualify ourselves from the grant of a beautiful day in which to enjoy the outdoors by sitting in our rooms, blogging or surfing the internet. We might disqualify ourselves from the long life God grants to those who honor their parents by disrespect, disobedience and literally cut our life short. The gracious God grants blessings.

Not only does the gracious God show favor and grant blessing, He also gives gifts. Gifts are undeserved and unearned. Even when it's a holiday or special occasion, gifts are not required. They are free expressions of the giver's love, appreciate or affection. Our gracious God gives things undeserved and often un-asked-for. These gifts form the most precious facet of His gracious nature. Just think, "God loved the world of people so much that He GAVE His One and Only Son..." John 3.16 Our very relationship to God through Jesus is a gift. Can't be earned or worked for, just received with gratitude. God sends sunny days on the "good, the bad and the ugly." It rains on my garden if I'm a good boy or bad boy. The gracious God gives gifts.

The Glow of "the...gracious God's" People

Now that we, like Moses, have seen some of the glory of the Gracious God, others should be able to see the glow of Him in us and our living. Colossians 3.5-14 forms the basis for the Wesleyan-Arminian view that salvation is more than just fire insurance for eternity, but that it is the grace of God changing us in the present world. We ...have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

We are to ...put on...compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Last week we were to imulate the compassion of our God. This week we are to clothe ourselves with kindness which is a practical expression of being gracious.

Being gracious means putting others at ease. Treating them like guests. Seeing to their needs first. Smoothing over the awkward or even embarassing moments between us. Gracious people help others feel as if they are welcome, that they belong, that they have something to contribute.

Some examples of being gracious might be yielding right-of-way to someone in traffic jams, waiting quietly as someone violates the 20 items or less lane at the store or sitting with a guest at Worship.

One of the most convicting phrases in the entire Bible comes from Colossians 1.10 live a life worthy of the Lord... If our God is the Gracious God, we must be a gracious people. It must be one of the characteristics that sets us apart from the herd. We must glow with the glory of our Gracious God in our kind interactions with all we meet in the course of our day.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Who Is Like Our God? Summer Series

We began a new Summer Teaching Series. It attempts to unfold the declaration of God about Himself in Exodus 34.5-7. We are trying to spend a week with each concept. While we talk about God in general terms, I have never preached a series on His character specifically. We are looking to take "Eight-weeks to proclaim the Name of God, to expand our understanding of Him,
to be shaped into His Image."

In order to scaffold this exposition, we will use the narrative surrounding the proclamation of the name, HWHY (LORD). First Moses was exposed to the Glory of God and heard the proclamation. Then he returned from the mountain to the people gathered below. His face glowed from the exposure to God's Glory and he put on a veil. So we will spend our time looking first at THE GLORY and the specific characteristic for the week. Then we will look at how that characteristic of our God might GLOW or reflect in our living for the week. We need to "be holy, for God is holy." "Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away...And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect[a] the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3.12 & 18 (NIV)

Judaism calls this proclamation of the name, HWHY, the "Thirteen Attributes of Mercy." It is to the character of God found in this declaration they appeal for forgiveness. We have reduced the discussion to 9 weeks, not 13.

More posts will follow...

Burn, Baby, Burn

We are campers. Even in the pre-kid days, Lisa and I would spend as much time tent camping as we could. We have been known to spend a week or two in May camping by night and going to work straight from the tent!

Lisa's family camped practically every state park in WV. Lisa's dad has all types of Coleman cook gear.

I spent a lot of time in a tent as a kid. We boys lived in the woods and thrived on building fires there.

We recently bought a fire "pit" and put it in our back yard. There we burn a little fire just for the atmosphere of camping. The past few evenings we have gathered wood, carefully started and tended our fire.

Simple pleasures are the best!