Introduction to the Course

 

Introduction

Playing “no touching ground tag” with my brother in the living room sure was fun . . . until the antique love seat—the one handed down from my grandmother, the one my mother loved—cracked down the middle from the weight of our jump. The fun ended, the fear began. Of course my parents were not home, so we waited for their return, wondering what their response would be, wondering how we could or should greet them. It wasn’t easy. We met them with our piggy banks in hand, offering our guilt and sorrow. I don’t even remember the consequences, for they surely happened, but I remember being forgiven—what a relief! Real Grace brings forgiveness and freedom from guilt.

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My sister Trudy lay sick, dying of Leukemia in the hospital. My parents left the mission field to bring our family to Bethesda, Maryland because of a research hospital there. My mother sat by my sister’s bedside praying for comfort, trying to ease the pain. All the while she laid her concerns at Jesus’ feet—“God, how will we feed our six other children through this time, how will you provide?”

My father, not finding good work, but needing to feed the family would drive past the hospital, longing to be by his daughter’s side. He’d look at the window of her room with tears in his eyes, begging God for release from this nightmare, begging for my sister’s life, praying for good work.

Groceries would show up on my parents’ doorstep. Neighbors and church members would help. People were praying. God later used these difficult times of Trudy being sick and dying to allow my parents to minister to other parents whose children had died. Through the pain, God restored. Real Grace helps us through the traumatic times of life.

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My son—when he was not yet my son—a few days old and just a few pounds of struggling life, lay in a hospital bed with tubes in his nose, grey looking skin, shaking for the need of more drugs to ease the pain of the addiction he lived through during pregnancy. God had His people watching over him—a doctor from our church delivered him, a nurse from our church cuddled him and loved him and cared for him in his first hours of life, and social services asked my wife and me to take him into our home. God and God’s people sustained us for the next three to six months of 24/7 care during withdrawal. God healed him, mind, body and spirit. Now he is our son—legally in the eyes of man, as well as God—and a happy, healthy, energetic part of our family. He is one of the greatest joys of our lives. Real Grace reveals God’s protection, love and blessings for us.

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 We live in an awesome and beautiful world where there is so much potential for happiness. We also live in a world broken by sin: addictions, broken relationships, loneliness, poverty, hunger, disease, injustice, and death. Jesus came that we may have life and have it to the fullest (John 10:10). He died to pay for our sin and give us victory over sin. He calls us to let His Grace and His Word guide us into wholeness and then become restorers, bringing a message of hope to a broken world. I can think of no greater privilege than to bring light into the darkness—Real Grace brings restoration to a hurting world and helps us understand the good gifts of God.

“I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ” (Philemon 1:6).

As you read and share Real Grace, God will change your life forever. It is unavoidable. God knows the joys and the pain of your life. When you come face to face with our God, who loves and knows you to the depths of your being, scum and all, you cannot help but be changed. When God speaks, light pierces darkness, violent storms become peaceful, worlds are created, bodies are healed, death is conquered, bitter winter turns into spring, captives are set free, and life begins. This book is full of God’s powerful Word. The Almighty God of this universe cares about you and He wants to bring His restoring presence into every area of your life. God has a plan and purpose for us through the struggles and victories of life.

God gave His very life to pay for our sins, to bring us into relationship with Him so that we can enjoy a relationship with Him and pass His blessing on to others. Until I understood that sharing Christ’s love and life and investing significantly into the lives of others was a part of God’s great plan for me, my Christian walk was becoming a stagnant pool instead of a flowing river. I loved God and I knew Him, but my relationship with Him had grown old. I didn’t enjoy church anymore. I felt like reading the Bible and prayer was more of a routine than a conversation with God. I was missing out on the Real Grace that God intended for me through investing in others’ lives as Jesus did.

Real Grace will help you grow in your journey with God. If you do not know much about God, you will be amazed at what He has in store for you. If you have grown up in the church and know God and His Word well, but have not learned how to communicate God’s great plan in the context of meaningful relationships, you will be blown away as God’s life in you flourishes. If you have already been investing significantly into the lives of seekers and believers, you will be blessed with another great tool to share with others.

It is quite amazing that the God of this great universe doesn’t need our help but He calls us to participate with Him in building His Kingdom.  We have the honor of participating in breaking the power of sin and darkness by sharing the life-giving good news of hope in Jesus Christ with a hurting world.  Not everyone is interested in numbers.  Maybe it’s a guy thing because we have this drive to make an impact.  Maybe it’s the math teacher coming out in me, but it boggles my mind that if one Christian disciples just one person a year and that person turned around and discipled another person each year (and this would keep duplicating), in thirty years, over five million people would deeply understand the love, grace and purpose of our God. Do the math, check it out! That is just with one person helping one other person grow in their walk each year.  What if one person in each city or each church grabbed hold of Jesus’ call to make disciples?  Real Grace is a tool to help us live out the Great Commission and participate in transforming lives!

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).

How to use Real Grace

Real Grace is two books in one. Book one is: Real Grace for Life’s Journey. It has practical, user-friendly lessons that were written and intended to help you start discussions in the context of relationships that will help reveal God’s plan and purpose to transform our lives. Each lesson is packed with passages from God’s Word. The lessons in this course follow a biblical model laid out in 1 Thessalonians chapter 2 for helping seekers and believers:

  • First, understand the transforming power of God’s grace and love.
  • Second, discover how God’s guidelines bring true freedom.
  • Third, learn to live out God’s call in our lives to share Real Grace with others.

This book was written to be shared with a friend (or small group) who desires to grow in his or her walk with God. Pray and ask God to show you with whom to meet: someone new to your church, a friend, a neighbor, a co-worker, or a relative. Ask them to partner with you once a week for a few months for 30-60 minutes, either over the phone or in person. Distance does not need to be an issue.

As you meet together, you can:

  1. Share what has been going on in your lives.
  2. Pray about specific concerns and joys that you want to bring before God.
  3. Review the lesson from the previous week—one or two review questions from the previous lesson.
  4. Listen to the recorded mp3 audio lesson download found at www.realgrace.org or you can listen to the audio lesson on your phone. These lessons are 3-8 minutes long. For phone calls, use the phone index and instructions after the introduction.
  5. Discuss the lesson you read this week. Ask questions and share how the lesson applies to your life. Then plan to continue with this lesson or assign a new lesson for next week. During the week, you can read the lesson for your next time together.

Book two, Sharing Real Grace, was written to help Christians understand in greater depth about God’s plan and purpose through disciple-making. It outlines why God wants us to make disciples, how to get started, a biblical model for disciple-making, and strategies for successfully investing in the lives of others. If you have been a Christian a long time, you may want to first study Sharing Real Grace individually or in a small group and then use Real Grace for Life’s Journey with a friend or small group.

It is my hope and prayer that this book will equip you and your church to more effectively carry out the Great Commission. May God bless you abundantly as you read this book and explore God’s adventure for you in making disciples of all nations.