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Midweek Meeting

“I told a story in my book The Jesus I Never Knew, true story that long afterward continued to haunt me.  I heard it from a friend who works with the down-and-out in Chicago.

A prostitute came to me in wretched straits, homeless, sick, unable to buy food for her 2 year old daughter.  Through sobs and tears, she told me she had been renting out her daughter—two years old!!  --to men interested in kinky sex.  She made more renting out her daughter for an hour than she could earn on her own in a night.  She had to do it, she said, to support her own drug habit.  I could hardly bear hearing her sordid story.  For one thing it made me legally liable—I’m required to report cases of child abuse.  I had no idea what to say to this woman.

At last I asked if she had ever thought of going to a church for help.  I will never forget the look of pure naïve shock that crossed her face.  “Church!” she cried.  “Why would I ever go there.  I was already feeling terrible about myself.  They’d just make me feel worse.”

What struck me about my friend’s story is that women much like this prostitute fled toward Jesus, not away from him.  The worse a person felt about herself the more likely she saw Jesus as a refuge.  Has the church lost that gift?

How do you personally define the concept of God’s grace?

1.       ______________________________________________________

2.       ______________________________________________________

3.       ______________________________________________________

How have you experienced that grace in your life most recently?

How have you extended God’s grace to someone else most recently?

David Seamands writes:

Many years ago I was driven to the conclusion that the two major causes of most emotional problems among evangelical Christians are these:  the failure to understand, receive, and live out God’s unconditional grace and forgiveness; and the failure to give out that unconditional love, forgiveness and grace to other people . . . .  We read, we hear, we believe a good theology of grace.  But that’s not the way we live.  The good news of the Gospel of grace has not penetrated the level of our emotions..”

How are we saved?

Do you think that we ever become confused in this area.?

Does forgiveness mean the same coming from God as forgiveness that we extend to each other?

One of Paul's most important teachings... is the doctrine of what we call "justification by faith".  It frequently appears to the non-Christian mind that this is an immoral or at least unmoral doctrine.  Paul appears to be saying that a man is justified before God, not by his goodness or badness, not by his good deeds or bad deeds, but by believing in a certain doctrine of Atonement.  Of course, when we come to examine the matter more closely, we can see that there is nothing unmoral in this teaching at all.  For if "faith" means using a God-given faculty to apprehend the unseen divine order, and means, moreover, involving oneself in that order by personal commitment, we can at once see how different that is from merely accepting a certain view of Christian redemption...  That which man in every religion, every century, every country, was powerless to affect, God has achieved by the devastating humility of His action and suffering in Jesus Christ.  Now, accepting such an action as a fait accompli is only possible by this perceptive faculty of "faith".  It requires not merely intellectual assent but a shifting of personal trust from the achievements of the self to the completely undeserved action of God.  To accept this teaching by mind and heart does, indeed, require a metanoia ["transformation"], a revolution in the outlook of both heart and mind.

         ... J. B. Phillips, New Testament Christianity [1956]

Are we as friendly as we think we are?  What do we need to have in place in order for us to be a truly “friendly” church?

Does “grace” relate to the way we approach others?

Like summer seas that lave with silent tides a lonely shore,

Like whispering winds that stir the tops of forest trees,

Like a still, small voice that calls us in the watches of the night,

Like a child's hand that feels about a fast-closed door;  gentle, unnoticed, and oft in vain:

So is Thy coming unto us, O God.

Like ships storm-driven into port,

Like starving souls that seek the bread they once despised,

Like wanderers begging refuge from the whelming night,

Like prodigals that seek the father's home when all is spent;

Yet welcomed at the open door, arms outstretched and kisses for our shame;

So is our coming unto Thee, 0 God.

Like flowers uplifted to the sun,

Like trees that bend before the storm,

Like sleeping seas that mirror cloudless skies,

Like a harp to the hand, like an echo to a cry, like a song to the heart;

For all our stubbornness, our failure, and our sin:

So would we have been to Thee, O God

 William Edwin Orchard

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