November 29, 2018

Dear Friends,

None of us deserves God’s favor. The very definition of grace is that it is undeserved and unearned.

I hope that’s not a new idea for you. Our understanding of God’s grace is foundational to our understanding of the gospel, the central message of our faith.

But let’s be honest. Somewhere, over and over again in the back of our minds, there is a tape playing that tells us “you really do deserve God’s favor more than most.” Or there’s a tape playing that says “God’s grace is conditional, so you’d better stay on your toes and do the right thing, or God’s grace may run out.” Or there may be a tape playing that says, “God’s grace is limited and conditional, and let’s be honest – you just don’t have what it takes.”

All three of those messages come from the pit. They undermine the essence of grace. God’s favor is given freely to those who don’t deserve it. It is not based on any goodness in you, and it is not forfeited because of any lack of goodness in you. God extends His grace to all who follow His Son, because of the perfect, incorruptible goodness of Jesus.

We find grace hard to fathom because it is so contrary to our own way of thinking or acting. We don’t pour out our favor on our enemies. We are quick to withhold loving kindness or care from people with whom we disagree.

I had a treat this week. I was able to spend a few hours talking to a remarkable young woman named Jackie Hill Perry. Jackie is a 29 year old mother of two from Atlanta who has written a compelling book that is part memoir, part exploration of how we should understand our identity as image bearers of God. Her book is called Gay Girl, Good God. You can read her story here. It’s powerful.

Jackie told me that when she came to believe the gospel as an 18 year old and surrendered her life – and her sexuality – to God, there were two friends that she called first to tell about her decision. They were the two Christian friends who knew she was gay and who continued to love her and care about her and treat her like a friend anyway. She knew these Christian friends didn’t agree with the choices Jackie was making. But that disagreement didn’t keep them from spending time with her or caring about her or just treating her like she was a human being.

Theologian Fleming Rutledge says that because God’s grace is unearned and undeserved, we should be quick to recognize that every person we encounter may be a child of God who has yet to experience the unexpected, unmerited favor of God in their lives.

It is that awareness, Rutledge says, that should govern how we interact with every person we come in contact with today. Every person is an image bearer of the God who created him or her. And any person may ultimately turn out to be an adopted son or daughter of God, just like you.

As a father, I am aware of and protective of how people treat my kids. I expect others to treat my children with fairness, kindness and respect.

It may be that the person in your life who annoys or irritates you the most is one of God’s kids. God not only cares about how you treat His children (with dignity, fairness, kindness and respect). But He also gives you the grace to make it possible for you to do what your flesh does not always want to do. He gives both the command and the power to obey.

If you are a child of God, that means He has extended His grace – His unmerited favor – to you. And He expects that you will be like Jesus, overflowing with grace for others and offering unmerited favor to everyone you meet today.

There’s a lot happening down on David O Dodd at the site of what will soon be our church home! Here are a few pictures:

My excitement is growing for how I believe God is going to expand our opportunities for ministry through our new church home. And I’m praying that God will provide extra funds for us this year that will enable us to equip the new church with a needed, updated sound system and other audio/visual gear. Maybe even an outdoor playground for our children.

Mary Ann and I have recently begun to pray about giving a special year end financial gift to help us be able to move forward with some of these extra building projects. Every December, we look back on what ministries and organizations have been used by God in our lives to help us grow spiritually over the year. And we make sure that along with buying Christmas gifts for family or friends, we also do some year end giving to those ministries that have had an impact on our lives.

If Redeemer has been used by God in your life this year to help you grow in grace, I want to ask you to start praying now about a possible year end donation to support the building project and the ongoing ministry of our church. Everything that happens at Redeemer happens because you give. Thank you for your generosity through the year and for thinking about a special year end donation.

We have a few things happening in December. First, we’re just a few weeks away from the annual Women’s Christmas Tea. Have you RSVP’d? Here again are all the details:

Second, you should have heard from your small group leader about how you can be part of our upcoming outreach to the teachers and staff at David O’ Dodd Elementary School on December 17. We’ll be hosting a special Christmas lunch for the staff. We’re looking for help with desserts and for servers who can help with the meal. Contact Matt Gurney if you have questions or if you’d like to pitch in and help on the 17th.

And remember to make our Candlelight and Carols Christmas Eve Service a part of your holiday plans. Invite friends to join you as we prepare our hearts for the celebration of the birth of Jesus. More details soon.

This next part is for the guys. Ladies, you can skip to the end.

Men, it’s time for us to have a serious, man to man conversation about a tough issue. Virtually every man I know is in one of two groups. You’re either looking at pornography regularly or your battling the temptation.

And I think we need to get together as men to talk about the battle and how we can learn to fight.

So I’m setting aside three Monday nights in January, before the Women’s Bible Study starts up again. On January 7, January 21 and January 28, we’ll be meeting at the church at 7:00 to watch a new three part documentary series on pornography called Brain, Heart, World.

Showing up for these three sessions doesn’t mean you’re telling everyone you have a porn problem. It means you want to take the issue seriously.

I want to strongly encourage every man at Redeemer to set these three nights aside now and plan to join me for this series. Let’s do battle together.

The series is open to anyone. Dads, if you have teenage sons, bring them with you.

I’ll be there. I hope you will be too.

Some of you may be aware that Laura Rackley is hoping to go to East Asia in January of 2019 for a three month missions trip. She’s been hard at work raising money to help cover her expenses, and she’s almost half way to her goal of raising $3500. She didn’t ask me to do this, and neither did her parents, but I wanted you to know about her plans and to have the opportunity to be part of her support team. You can find out more and make a donation by clicking here.

Please keep Laura and this trip in your prayers.

Haman is dead. And Esther and Mordecai are safe. But the Jews in Persia are still facing grave danger. So once again Esther puts her life on the line with King Xerxes.

We’ll find out more as we continue our study of Esther this Sunday.

See you in church.

Soli Deo Gloria!
Pastor Bob

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