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Posts Tagged ‘God’s Grace’

 

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Nicolas Flamel (ca. 1310-1418, pictured above) looks like he could be St. Nicholas, with that full beard and impish face. In fact he lived long after and far away from the well-known saint. Flamel was a French scribe and manuscript seller. He also dabbled in alchemy.

Alchemists were those who, especially during the Middle Ages, experimented with various materials and procedures to turn ordinary metals like lead into gold.

Another dream of theirs was to discover an elixir of life—a potion that would provide eternal life.

 

Sir William Fettes Douglas The Alchemist 19th cent.

“The Alchemist,” by Sir William Fettes Douglas, 1855

 

By the seventeenth century, legends had developed around Nicolas Flamel. Some claimed that he had discovered the Philosopher’s Stone, the alchemical substance that would turn lead into gold and produce the elixir of life.

But the only immortality he achieved is in print. Victor Hugo mentioned him in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and R. K Rowling in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

Nicolas Flamel is buried in Paris at the Musée de Cluny.

By the 1600s, alchemy was, for the most part, abandoned.

Alchemy simply did not work in the physical realm.

However! In the spiritual realm, with God exercising his supernatural power, the alchemy of grace (1) performs great wonders:

 

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The lost become found (Luke 19:10)

Darkness becomes light (John 8:12)

Death becomes life (Ephesians 2:4-5)

Mourning becomes joy (Jeremiah 31:13)

Ashes become beauty (Isaiah 61:3)

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Hatred becomes love (Acts 9:1-2; Philippians 4:1)

Discouragement becomes hope (Romans 5:1-2)

Fear becomes peace (John 14:27)

Striving becomes resting (Exodus 33:14)

Weakness becomes strength (2 Corinthians 12:9)

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No doubt we could mention many more magnificent facets of transformation that occur because of God’s alchemy of grace—a transformation even more miraculous than turning lead into gold.

To appreciate just how miraculous, consider what happens when we’re left to our own devices:

 

Darkness begets depression

Hatred begets ulcers

Fear begets paranoia

Striving begets stress

Discouragement begets self-pity

 

Would it be disrespectful to say that Jesus is our Philosopher’s Stone? He is the one and only Way to experience the alchemy (and grandeur and wonder!) of God’s grace (2).

 

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Do you find your heart swelling with gratitude and praise?

“Trace the roots of grace, or charis in the Greek, and you will find a verb that means ‘I rejoice, I am glad” – Phillip Yancey (3).

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Holy Father, how astounding to consider that we are being transformed into the likeness of your Son with ever-increasing glory. Thank you for the alchemy of your grace that transforms our leaden lives into lustrous, 24-carat gold! 

(2 Corinthians 3:18; Job 23:10)

* The “alchemy of grace” is a phrase borrowed from Charles Spurgeon.

(1) Grace is undeserved love, manifested in unmerited favor.

(2) John 14:6, Acts 4:12, 1 Timothy 2:5-6

(3) Phillip Yancey, What’s So Amazing about Grace?, Zondervan, 1997, p. 13.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.wikipedia.org (2), http://www.theodysseyonline.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.biblehub.net; http://www.pinterest.com.)

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dew

 

Gently, silently,

In quiet faithfulness

The Lord of heaven

Sends refreshing dew

On the mist of morning,

To all things rooted in the ground.

Miraculously,

Withered leaves uncurl,

Shriveled petals unfold,

Drooped stems and grass stand tall, and

Freshly washed hues

Gleam in sparkling splendor.

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Gently, silently,

In quiet faithfulness

The Lord of heaven

Sends the refreshing dew

Of his grace and blessing

Upon all people rooted in his love.

Miraculously,

Withered souls blossom,

Shriveled hearts unfurl,

Drooped spirits revive, and

Freshly washed attitudes

Gleam with gratitude and praise.

 

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“His favor is like the dew on the grass,”

His multi-faceted grace, a sparkling jewel,

Providing manifold blessing:

Enduring hope that renews our strength,

Overflowing joy that isn’t dependent on circumstances,

Deep peace that defies explanation,

A God-enhanced life

That gives rise to satisfaction and fulfillment,

Firm security that God will never fail us, and

The absolute truth of his Word that guides us rightly.

All this and more bestowed upon us like the dew—

Unearned and undeserved.

 

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(Deuteronomy 33:12; Hosea 14:5; Ephesians 3:17; Proverbs 19:12b;

Psalm 62:5; Psalm 16:11; John 14:27; Psalm 128:1-2;

John 10:10; Lamentations 3:22; Psalm 119:137-138, Ephesians 2:4-10)

How has the dew of God’s grace refreshed your life this week?

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Photo credits:  www.pinterest.com; http://www.metoffice.gov.uk; http://www.pinterest.com (2).

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(The Lord is compassionate and gracious,

Slow to anger

And rich in faithful love.

–Psalm 103:8, HCSB)

 

Oh God,

As I skim through the memories of six-plus(!) decades, I see much evidence of these attributes in my life: 

Compassion

I praise you that you’ve always looked upon me with compassion, not condemnation. Not one moment of struggle in my life has slipped by your attention unnoticed. And with that attention has come your sympathy. You’ve completely understood every situation I’ve faced, and shared in the physical pain, emotional hurts, and spiritual battles as they’ve come.

How comforting to know that you see my circumstances and sympathize. But even more precious?  Your love compels you to express that compassion with encouragement, strength, and support. Each day you bestow new mercies. You never give up on me.

 

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Grace

Oh, how thankful I am that you are a God full of loving kindness. What relief to know your gift of salvation is not based on my effort but on your grace.

Your blessings flow continuously, not based on my faith, but on your benevolent nature.

Even more wondrous, you dwell within me, bestowing peace, joy, wisdom, and more—not because I am righteous and deserving, but because you are righteous and dedicated to my highest welfare.

 

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Patience (Slow to anger)

One evidence of your grace is patience. As a parent and teacher, I’ve learned a little about the attribute of patience—mostly how difficult it is! Little ones can ask countless silly questions, frequently test the limits of acceptable conduct, and behave quite selfishly.

How shameful to admit I still demonstrate such traits. I, too, ask frivolous questions. When troubles assault, I want to know Why, God? I test the limits of your grace with my shallowness, failings, and stubborn streak.   And as for selfish behavior, that tendency hasn’t died yet either.

Some Bible translators have used the word longsuffering in place of patience. You have suffered long as you’ve trained me! Step by laborious step you gently guide me toward maturity. And one day my character will be complete, lacking in nothing because of your great forbearance with me.

 

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Love 

How can I begin to thank you, God, for the treasure of your undying love? You brought me to faith in Jesus as a child, gave me a place in your forever family, and bequeathed to me an eternal inheritance in heaven. As I wait for that reality, I revel in your faithful love that:

  • Expresses itself continually, day after day
  • Attends to what will be in my best interest
  • Willingly and patiently endures the pain of rejection and disappointment, because of my rebellion
  • Disciplines me as any loving parent trains his/her dear children
  • “Perseveres until it perfects” (Philip Yancey)

 

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I praise you, Holy Father, that day after day you manifest these attributes in my life.  I am encouraged by your compassion, blessed by all facets of your grace, guided by your patient Spirit, and strengthened by the richness of your faithful love.  I can never praise you enough for your magnificence!

 (Art & photo credits:  www.pinterest.com (3); http://www.dailytimewithgod.com; http://www.pinterest.com.)

 

 

 

 

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“Grace and peace to you from God our Father

and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” 

–Romans 1:7b

 

With those words the Apostle Paul greeted the Christians of Rome in a letter.

Turn a few pages in your Bible to Paul’s next epistle, 1 Corinthians, and you’ll read:

“Grace and peace to you from God our Father

and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 

–1 Corinthians 1:3

 

Notice any similarities?! In fact, all thirteen letters written by Paul and included in our New Testament begin with the same or similar greeting. Sometimes the wording changes a bit, but he always expresses the desire for God’s grace and peace to be upon his friends.

Was there purpose behind his choice, or was he simply following polite protocol for the day, much as we might say, “Hello, how are you?”

grace

GOD’S GRACE

Perhaps Paul’s intent was to highlight for his readers, first and foremost, the foundation-truth of God’s grace. It is only because of his loving kindness toward us that he:

 

“Grace is the overflow of God’s total self-sufficiency.”

–John Piper

 

And I would add, toward those with no sufficiency in themselves.

We deserve none of his benevolence.

“We’ve compiled a long and sorry record as sinners and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us” (Romans 3:23, The Message).

 And yet, his goodness to us, his grace, is mentioned 104 times in the NIV translation of the New Testament—that’s how overarching it is–woven throughout scripture; woven into every day of our lives.

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GOD’S PEACE

In addition to grace, Paul includes peace in his greetingspeace that indicates a state of untroubled tranquility, harmony, and well-being.

Peace is surely an aspect of God’s grace, one of the blessings he bestows upon us out of his loving kindness. So why did Paul choose to mention it separately?

Perhaps because we fail to appropriate it.  Paul wanted to remind his readers that God’s precious gift of peace is always available:

  • Peace with ourselves as we place our wills, our hopes, and our futures in his capable hands (Philippians 4:6-7).
  • Peace with circumstances, as we affirm that his perfect peace is available to those who think on God and trust in him (Isaiah 26:3).
  • Peace in our relationships, as he provides the grace to love as he loves (Romans 14:19).

GOD’S GRACE WITH YOU

As already mentioned, Paul began his letters with “grace and peace to you.” Turn to the end of each letter and you’ll read his signature closing: “Grace be with you.” For example:

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“The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.” 

–1 Corinthians 16:23

Now why would Paul make that slight change? Is it important?

Perhaps he wanted his readers (including us!) to be mindful that God’s grace is always with us—day and night, in trouble or triumph, through the ordinary as well as the extraordinary. Maybe Paul chose the phrase as a worthy send-off.  After his listeners and readers had paid careful attention to the instructional content of his letters, came the time to apply it…

…by God’s grace, which was always with them.  And just as surely, God’s grace is always with us.

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Thank you, Heavenly Father, for the unmerited favor of your grace that has brought us salvation, strength, kindness, and incredible riches in the spiritual realm. All of your grace is always with us—no matter who we are, no matter where we find ourselves. In fact, you long to be gracious to us, to rise and show us compassion. You astonish us!

(Titus 2:11; 2 Timothy 2:1; Ephesians 2:7; Isaiah 30:18)

Art & photo credits:  www.suggestkeyword.com; http://www.knoxchristian.com; http://www.www1.usw.salvationarmy.org; http://www.inbetweenthepinesamightyoakgrows.files.wordpress.com.) 

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Morning-mist

O God of Creation, who

Drapes morning mist across the hillsides,

Paints the dawn with ever-changing hues, and

Scatters sparkling crystals of dew on grass and flower,

I worship you with incredulous wonder.

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O God of Salvation, who

Gave your precious Son, the King of kings,

To die a cruel, criminal’s death for my sin, and

Provide the way of eternal life,

I worship you with overflowing gratitude.

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O God of Restoration, who

Now considers me righteous,

Making possible an intimate relationship with you, and

Granting perfect peace and effervescent joy,

I worship you with a humbled spirit.

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O God of Affection, who

Mercifully withholds the punishment I deserve,

Graciously bestows blessings I have not earned, and

Carries me close to your heart,

I worship you with overwhelming love.

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O God of Revelation, who

Gave us your timeless, trustworthy Word, that

Offers infallible wisdom, inspired instruction, and

Encouraging promises to lead us and lift us,

I want to worship you with my obedience.

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O God of Transformation, who

Actively pursues my best interest,

To mold me into the image of Jesus

With ever-increasing splendor,

I want to worship you with my submission.

This VLT image of the Thor’s Helmet Nebula was taken on the occasion of ESO’s 50th Anniversary, 5 October 2012, with the help of Brigitte Bailleul — winner of the Tweet Your Way to the VLT! competition. The observations were broadcast live over the internet from the Paranal Observatory in Chile. This object, also known as NGC 2359, lies in the constellation of Canis Major (The Great Dog). The helmet-shaped nebula is around 15 000 light-years away from Earth and is over 30 light-years across. The helmet is a cosmic bubble, blown as the wind from the bright, massive star near the bubble's centre sweeps through the surrounding molecular cloud.

O God of Distinction,

There is no one like you.

Your greatness is beyond human comprehension.

I stand in awe of your splendor and majesty, and

I worship you with all that is within me.

(Revelation 17:14; Philippians 2:8; Romans 5:17; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Revelation 3:20; Romans 14:17; Micah 7:18; John 1:16; Isaiah 40:11; Psalm 119:160, 130, 50; Romans 8:26-29; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Psalm 145:1-5.)

Photo and art credits:  www.macgardens.org; http://www.renewaldynamics.com; http://www.crossmap.com; http://www.waysoflife.info; http://www.stokethefire.org; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.stream.org.

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My first teaching job was in a small community southwest of Lexington, Kentucky. Although the school included first through sixth grades, there were only five teachers. Second grade was divided, some students included in first, the rest with third. I was assigned the first/second split.

The first morning of school went by quickly as we read stories, played a few learning games, and completed a class chart of favorite summer activities. Soon it was time to march to the cafeteria for lunch.

The children lined up to receive their plates of food, and then were instructed to pick up napkins, utensils, cartons of milk, and straws – all without benefit of trays. Little hands struggled to hold so many items–much less carry them all without accident. (And why were the first and second graders seated farthest from the serving line? I never had the nerve to ask.)

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So began my habit of standing at the end of the counter, wrapping utensils and a straw in a napkin, then perching a milk carton on an empty corner of the plate as the students passed by.

One second grader, Ricky, was much too manly to use a straw. Each day he would proclaim, “I don’t need no straw.”

Each day I would patiently correct him: “I don’t need a straw.” Ricky would repeat it again after me.  It almost became a joke between us, as the exchange occurred day after day, month after month.

One noontime in March, while focused on wrapping the next set of flatware, I heard Ricky’s voice proudly proclaim, “I DON’T NEED A STRAW!”

My eyes popped, Ricky’s twinkled, and his broad smile indicated his pleasure in remembering–all by himself–how to correctly form his request.

A quick hug, a few pats on the back, and an “I-am-so-PROUD-of-you!” let him know how I felt.

It never occurred to me to say, “Well, it’s about time, Bud! You DO realize we’ve repeated this little ceremony over one hundred times, don’t you?”

No. This was a moment to celebrate! Our perseverance had paid off. And perhaps this one little grammatical victory would prompt Ricky to conquer the next. I was thrilled.

Do you suppose that’s how God feels when our “practice makes perfect?”

When:

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  • Our quiet time with him finally becomes a near-daily habit?
  • We remember to express gratitude and praise to him throughout the day?
  • We’re able to think before we speak more consistently?
  • We forgo some purchase for pleasure in order to supply someone else with necessities?
  • We put aside our agenda to do a favor for someone else?

Yes, I believe God is thrilled with our steps of progress, just as I was with Ricky’s effort. If God withheld his pleasure until we reached perfection, we’d never experience even one good thing (Psalm 84:11). He’d always be in discipline-mode.

But Isaiah tells us: “The Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion” (30:18).

David reminds us that out of his grace and compassion he guides our steps and takes delight when we follow his way (Psalm 37:23).

Another psalmist proclaimed that the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love (147:11).   No mention of delight reserved only for those who are perfect.

Ah, but what about Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5:48:   “Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect?”

Yes, that is the standard, but God does not disapprove of us because we have not achieved that goal.   He knows perfection this side of heaven is impossible. What he does approve of is effort—to press on like Paul to “receive the heavenly prize for which God through Christ Jesus, is calling us” (Philippians 3:12-14).

When we stumble, we keep going. When we fall, we get up and try again.

But listen closely.  You’ll hear God celebrating our progress (Zephaniah 3:17).

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We praise you, Heavenly Father, for being a gracious, compassionate God,

who is slow to become angry and always abounding in loving-kindness.

Even as we strive to be more like you,

we can rest in the knowledge that you will not condemn us

when we stumble and fall.

Thank you for your readiness to forgive and your everlasting love.  

Thank you for continually drawing us closer to you and your perfection. 

(Psalm 103:1-2, Romans 8:1; 1 John 1:9; Jeremiah 31:3).

Photo credits:  www.pinterest.com; http://www.grist.org; http://www.neabscobaptist.org; http://www.untilsheflies.com.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Whether I heard it or read it, I don’t remember. But the words caught me by surprise, and I jotted them down:

“What was uppermost in Jesus’ mind as Good Friday approached?

“Joy.”

Do you find that surprising, too?

Yet at least three times on the eve of his crucifixion Jesus spoke about joy (John 15:11; 16:22, 24; 17:13)–a most unusual topic and completely unnatural.  Who thinks about joy when they know that catastrophe is about to strike?

Jesus, that’s who.

Within the next twenty-four hours he would face excruciating pain, total abandonment by his Father, and the most horrific death ever devised.

But his concern was for his disciples, not himself.  Jesus wanted them to remember the important principles of love, obedience, and joy–an empowering joy that no one could take away from them.

Perhaps you remember the scene. Jesus and his disciples had just finished their last Passover supper together. After the meal, he taught his final lesson.

The first mention of joy came near the end of his teaching about the vine and the branches:

“I have told you this

so that my joy may be in you

and that your joy may be complete”

(John 15:11).

The word, “this,” refers to the ways Jesus had just mentioned that will contribute to joy:

1.  Live close to him and produce much good in and through your life (vs.4-8).

2.  Live in obedience to Jesus and experience the warmth, peace, and care of His love (vs. 9-10).

 Note that Jesus wanted his joy to be in the hearts of his disciples. What characterized his joy, compared to that of others?

  1. Strong awareness of the Father’s love for him, and his own love for the Father (vs. 9-10).
  1. Absolute surrender and self-sacrifice of himself to his Father, and the joy of doing what his father had sent him to do. Even during his great travail in the Garden of Gethsemane, his one desire was to do his Father’s will (Luke 22:42).

Jesus’ joy coexisted with the profound sorrow of his impending suffering, because he was already well-acquainted with the satisfaction and fulfillment of obedience.

  1. The understanding that joy deferred to the future is anticipatory joy in the present. “For the joy set before him he endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2).

And finally, Jesus told his disciples that he desired complete joy for them. What does complete joy look like? It is:

  • Not so much an emotion as it is a conviction (Keith Krell, “Moment by Moment,” http://www.bible.org).
  • Inner contentment, resulting from continually cultivating an intimate relationship with Jesus.
  • Constant, not dependent on circumstances.
  • Enduring, day after day. Indestructible.
  • Perfect—the perfect, joy-filled fulfillment of the destiny for which God created you, even when a portion of that destiny is suffering.

I’m thinking of the martyrs–Stephen, Polycarp, Ignatius of Antioch, William Tyndale, John Wycliffe and countless others who demonstrated complete joy even as they died in anguish.

Polycarp, disciple of the Apostle John and Bishop of Smyrna for many years, refused to revile Jesus. For that he was burned at the stake.

But before the flames rose up, Polycarp prayed:

“O Lord God Almighty, Father of thy blessed and beloved Son, Jesus Christ, through whom we have been given knowledge of thyself…I bless thee for granting me this day and hour, that I may be numbered amongst the martyrs, to share the cup of thine Anointed and to rise again unto life everlasting…”

Such devotion, courage, and supernatural strength are impossible to fathom apart from the enablement of the Holy Spirit.

Can you hear the grace in Polycarp’s voice as he blessed God for the privilege of dying a martyr?

That is complete joy, only experienced by those who trust in Jesus implicitly.

Complete joy that Jesus purchased for us at Calvary.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

We marvel, Heavenly Father, in the extreme paradox that is the cross. Out of the evil unleashed upon your Son comes your holy, righteous goodness–upon us. Out of the horror of the crucifixion that Jesus endured comes inexpressible and glorious joy, to those who put their faith in him–not a temporary feeling of elation, but deep, abiding, abundant joy. 

All praise to you, our loving, gracious God!       

(Acts 3:13-16, 1 Peter 1:8, John 6:47, John 10:10)

 

(Photo credit:  www.rejesus.co.uk.)

 

 

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