Immanuel Community Church
Now you are the body of Christ. (1 Cor. 12:27)

Sunday Sermon by Dr. de Vries "Giving Grace" to God

To bad that Thanksgiving comes after Election Day!  The act of thanksgiving to the Lord gives such great perspective that could help people be far more wise on Election Day.  A sincere "Thank you, Lord!" reconnects the individual mortal human to GOD, the Creator, the Redeemer, the Vibrant Source of all goodness, truth, and wisdom. When the attention properly shifts to the Lord, then personal prejudice and partisanship lose much of their power over people's thinking and their behavior casting ballots.  Let God be God.  You are not God.  Your favorite candidates are not God either.

Our lives are so utterly complex! So many things to get right!  So many responsibilities for each of us to fulfill.  It is hard being human... It is hard being a responsible human.  However, the core values are not up to us to invent or revise.  We are created to be God's images, and so the joy of reflecting his awesome values and grace elevates us, even as voters, to levels of true hope and redemption.

GIGO [garbage in, garbage out] is a splendid reminder of an obvious truth: If you put worthless data or other garbage into a computer program, you will receive worthless results.  Much more useful is the divine GIGO: grace in, grace out.  We all receive God's grace in so many forms.  The best way to continue to receive grace in abundance is to continue to "give grace."  To "give grace" includes helping to pour out God's favor into other people's lives, but "to give grace" also means to thank personally the living Lord for the amazing grace he has poured into our lives and into the lives of others around us.   

Giving grace -- giving thanks to God -- is an awesome theme of the Scriptures.  With so much of our lives utterly dependent upon God, it is always appropriate to give thanks, to "give grace".  It is a primary reason why the ancient people built altars.  Most importantly, thanking God is a splendid opener of a more extended conversation, and for a growing vital and vibrant relationship.

Thanks matters!  In the first chapter of the Letter to the Romans, Paul states that we all have awareness of God and his priorities.  However, we are distracted, and the most elemental expression of that distraction is our refusal horizontally (a)to praise God among other people and our refusal vertically (b) to give thanks to him.  From these two simple refusals to either praise or thank the Lord, all kinds of evil are empowered.

The Hebrew Prophet Micah lived in a time of tremendous turmoil.  During the 700s BC, Israel was divided into two parts, and the northern  kingdom was horrified and hammered by the terrorist group of the 700s, the Assyrians.  The legendary Assyrians were then based in present-day Iraq and Syria.  The Assyrians were then using terror techniques that would make the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) proud.  The Assyrians wrote the "book" on extreme terror that ISIS is now actively following.

As Micah outlines the evidence against the ancient Israelis, he mentions the use of sorceries and fortune-tellers (5:12), the worship of sex gods and goddesses which included sacrificing human babies (5:13-15), crooked business practices (6:10-11), public deceit (6:12), political corruption (7:3), and other severe moral ills.  What is utterly profound, though, was that in an imaginative cosmic court proceeding where Micah announces that the Lord has a case against the people of Israel, the only charge is their lack of gratitude!  (6:2-5).  In the sentencing phase of that cosmic trial, the people of Israel feel so very guilty for their lack of gratitude to the Lord that they offer to pay very severe penalties.  The people propose their punishment to be an offering to the priests a thousand rams, and also  everyone sacrificing their first-born -- "The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul," they said (6:6-7).  God's sentence for their guilt is full of grace.  God's sentence requires people to be restored to the way life should be lived:  And what does the Lord require of you?  Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.  

In the Prophet Micah's time, the central sin was ingratitude.  As a sentence, as a punishment, God forgives us and puts us back on the restored track for justice, love, mercy and accountability.

In our own time there are many sins, public and private.  A central contemporary transgression is ingratitude, because if we do not even say, sincerely, "Thank you, Lord," our relationship with God is truly broken.  And a grace-filled "punishing" sentence the Lord speaks to us is the same 10 word decree:  Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God. 

Let us give God thanks every day.  And while we are talking with the Almighty, let us also listen for the Lord's amazing grace and moral direction.  Sometimes a 10-word "sentence" is all the punishment and prophetic guidance that we need. 



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