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-- © GodSpeak International 2005 --
-- Do not republish without written permission from <copyright@godspeak.org> --

Author: Rodney Hogue <rodhogue@aol.com> http://www.icgrace.org
Editors: Teresa Seputis, Earlene Bown
Transcribers: Sharon Farris, Rita Joyce, Erma Kummerer, Fred Pekkonen

Prayer-School Course #32

Grace and Christian Values

By Rodney Hogue

Lesson 1

I want to use the word "Grace" as an acronym to talk about five very important values in the body of Christ. These are not the only Christian values that a given congregation might hold, as God puts His own unique calling and signature on each local body according to His plan and purposes. But these values are pretty universal and you will find all five of them in most congregations, possibly along with some other values.

Let me share a bit about how this teaching came about. We have recently changed the name of our own church to Community of Grace. This is because our old name just did not seem to identify us -- we were named after the street that our church is located on. But God has not called us just to this street or just to the local neighborhood we are in. Our church is called to impact and transform our whole city and surrounding geographical area. So it seemed like a good idea to change our name to better identify who we are and what we are about. We looked around at what the Lord was doing in our body, and everywhere we looked, we could see His grace operating. We could see His grace in our children's ministry. We could see His grace in our adult recovery program. We could see His incredible grace in our food pantry and outreach to the needy. We could see His grace operating among our intercessors. We could see His grace operating among our youth. In fact, we looked at the many interpersonal relationships in the church, and saw that in general our people tended to forgive each other quickly and restore friendships instead of letting offense take root. Everywhere we looked we saw God's grace operating.

Since God seemed to be anointing grace in our midst, we changed our name to "Community Of Grace." Conveniently, the word grace also serves as an acronym for five of our most important values.

I want to talk about those five values in this teaching series. They are local to our own church as our primary values, but they are also universal values in the body of Christ. Your own congregation may have a specific call of God on it that will put some other values in the list, and maybe at a higher spot than any of these. If so, that is fine. Each local body should pursue its unique calling and position in the body of Christ, that the kingdom of God may advance. But as believers, we tend to hold some common values, and I believe most congregations will share in these five values. That is why I am going to teach on them.

I am going to talk about five values relating to G.R.A.C.E. These aren't things that I just thought up, I didn't get a "pick-list" and say, "here are the five I like the most." Instead I looked around and saw what God was already doing in our midst as well as in the midst of many other congregations in the body of Christ. That is important. It is a really good idea to identify and understand what God's agenda is, so we can conform to it. Jesus said, "I only do what I see the Father doing; I only speak what I hear the Father saying." He did nothing on His own initiative, He only did what He saw the Father doing. And these five values are things that God is doing in His church today. Of course, this applies directly to my own church, but God is not just doing these things here. He is doing them in the body of Christ at large.

What are these five things He is doing that we should value? They are:

G - God's Presence. (E.g., going after the presence of God.) This means becoming seekers of God's glory. Tommy Tenney coined a term for this: "Glory Seekers".

R - Restoration. (E.g., restoration of souls to fulfill their destinies.) God has a purpose for everyone's life. And restoration includes forgiving one another, which is very important to God, as well as receiving forgiveness from God.

A - Advancing the Kingdom of God. That's a high priority -- the rule and reign of our Lord. It's more than building the local house, more than just building a church. God's agenda is to build and advance the kingdom of God, and we are to do this with Him. His agenda and His priorities must become more important in our lives than pursuing our own agenda and priorities.

C - Character-Based Leadership. This is where you lead with integrity, lead with intention, lead with initiative. Christian leaders are to be godly, taking care of the sheep and not abusing them or using them for their own purposes. And they are not to lead people towards their own goals and agendas, but towards where God is going and what God is doing.

E - Extravagant Worship. God deserves worship and all glory, and as His creation, this is one of the few things we can actually give to God. Therefore, we want to be extravagant in expressing our worship to God.

Again, different churches will have different specific calls on them, and those calls will reflect in their church's values. I am not trying to say that this list of five values is the only five values that a church should hold. But what I am trying to say is that these five values are basic and fundamental in most churches and that is why I want to talk about them.

We will start by talking about God's presence. Some people might think, "Isn't extravagant worship the same as 'going after the presence of God?'" Well, yes, extravagant worship is one of the ways to go after the presence of the Lord, but it is not the only way. It is a good way, and in our local church we put a high priority on it. We want people to know that when they come to our church, we are going to be extravagant in our worship of God. We are not going to rush it so that people can get out early for lunch. We are not going to make it about this performer or about that singer -- we are going to put our focus on God, together as a congregation. We are going to spend a good long time worshipping Him and making Him the focus of our attention and adoration. That is because worship is one of the ways that we pursue His presence in our local church. The Bible says that God inhabits the praises of His people, so we expect Him to "show up" when we praise and worship Him. We look expectantly to Him in worship, and He often meets us during this time.

However, pursing God's presence is more than just worship, it is much broader. It is pushing into the presence of the Lord. It's pushing into intimacy with God. It must be a priority in believers' lives, because if you don't have His presence, what do you have? Not much!

The sad thing is, for a lot of people, God's presence is not a priority. For many, they think it's normal to be without His presence. But that is not what God intends for His church.

Let me just say this to you: what you feel is "Truth," may not really be the truth; it is just "truth" to you. So, you may think that you are at a certain level of understanding in the intimacy with God, but God may want to break you into some other realms that you're not fully aware of. You think of where you are with God as what is "normal." But God may want to revise your definition of "normal."

A lot of times, we have gotten so used to living without the presence of God. We think that is normal, and we settle for it. The sad thing is that some churches pursue their existence without pursuing His presence. They put their priority on this ministry program or on some building program; they go about their business and they don't look for God to be present in it. God wants to change that; and God wants us to be agents of that change, because He wants everyone in the house to be passionate about His presence.

Today is the day to be open and honest with God. Are we content with what we have, or are we passionate? Can we put aside what our perception of what we think is Truth, and let God speak to us according to His standards? The Word of God says that if we compare ourselves to ourselves, we look pretty good. But there is a standard by which we compare and understand truth, and that is the Word of God.

-- © GodSpeak International 2005 --
-- Do not republish without written permission from copyright@godspeak.org --

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