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Posts Tagged ‘God’s Grace’

Late summer abounds with color. Produce bins overflow with jewel-toned peppers, butter yellow corn, curly green lettuce, and deep purple eggplant.

 

 

Flowerpots and planters proffer cascades of royal plum petunias, lemon drop begonias, hot coral geraniums, and more.

 

 

Even our clothing this time of year can dazzle the eyes with such hues as sunflower yellow, Caribbean blue, and Calypso orange.

 

 

We are surrounded by color in the physical realm.

In the spiritual realm, we are also surrounded—by the shades of God’s grace. Every moment, his love for us inclines him to bestow a plethora of benefits, even though we’re completely undeserving.

Those shades of grace include the following:

 

Red for Jesus’ Blood

 

 

In the alchemy of God’s grace, our sin-blackened hearts become as white as snow (1).

And from the day we each invite Jesus to perform that transformation, we become the sons and daughters of the Ruler of the universe, with all the privileges of his kingdom, including his comfort, security, and peace.

 

Orange for God’s Countless Blessings

Every day begins with the sun’s fiery appearance and ends with its glowing departure. All day long everything on earth benefits from its light.

 

 

Similarly, all day long we benefit from God’s countless blessings—especially if we’re attentive and grateful.

 

“Let the thankful heart sweep through the day and,

as the magnet finds the iron,

so it will find, in every hour,

some heavenly blessings.”

–Henry Ward Beecher

 

On Monday I worked in our foliage/flower beds and tried to be a magnet, finding heavenly blessings while on my hands and knees in the dirt.

I collected the following gifts:

  • cooler temps and less humidity
  • only a few weeds to dig up
  • a cute little worm doing aerobic wiggles
  • refreshing sips of ice water
  • the undulating, soft strum of cicadas (Is there a more quintessential sound of summer?)
  • a few birds in a serenading mood

 

 

Even working in the dirt offers transcendent moments of awe.

 

Gold for God’s Word

 

 

What other book offers such a treasure trove of instruction and inspiration, encouragement and comfort, strength and hope—as well as a place to become acquainted with God himself?

 

“The Holy Scriptures are our letters from home.”

–Saint Augustine

 

Green for Growth

 

 “God loves us just the way we are,

but he refuses to leave us that way.

He wants us to be just like Jesus.”

–Max Lucado (2)

 

 

Growth happens slowly, however. We sometimes wonder if progress is happening at all. Perhaps the four stages of spiritual growth described long ago by Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) will provide a useful measuring tool:

  1. Loving ourselves for our own sakes
  2. Loving God for our own sake, for what God does for us
  3. Loving God for God’s sake, unselfishly, and
  4. Loving ourselves for God’s sake, in awareness of God’s great love for us

Phillip Yancey added a fifth state: Loving others for God’s sake (3).

 

 

Wherever we find ourselves on the continuum, our God who started this great work in us will “keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears” (4).

(And just in that one verse alone, we have an example of the inspiration, encouragement, comfort, and hope we find in scripture!)

 

Blue for God’s Character and Heaven

 

 

The color blue symbolizes loyalty, wisdom, intelligence, truth, and heaven (5).

Interesting that the first four qualities describe God. Out of his grace, he is: loyal to us, wise in his dealings with us, intelligent in his governance over the universe, and the source of absolute truth for us.

As for heaven:

 

“If heaven were a beautiful place only,

it would not be enough.

But heaven is also a blessed place—

a place that receives the fullness of God’s favor.”

Anne Graham Lotz (6)

 

Think about that: the fullness of all God is, all the glorious shades of God’s grace, exist in heaven and will one day surround us there—forever.

 

Notes:

(1) Psalm 51:7; Hebrews 10:22

(2) Just Like Jesus, Thomas Nelson, 2012.

(3) Reaching for the Invisible God, Zondervan, 2001.

(4) Philippians 1:6 MSG, emphasis added

(5) http://www.color-wheel-pro.com/color-meaninig.html

(6) The Vision of His Glory, Word Publishing, 1996.

 

(Photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.com (2); http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.canva.com; http://www.pixnio.com; http://www.flickr.com (Kenneth Konica); http://www.flickr.com (Jim Killock); http://www.wikimedia.com’ http://www.flickr.com (Jose Luis Pelaez);  http://www.pixabay.com.)

 

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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.

 

love-is-patient

 

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.

godspeace0711

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:

1-corinthians-16-23

“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.

*     *     *     *     *    *     *     *     *     *

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.

prodigalSonReturns

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.)

lunch

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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