Grace

CONNECTING GOD’S GRACES

Boy Playing in Rain

 

God gave me an unexpected grace.

While I was praying a few weeks ago, God began to unfold in my mind the best way to approach the sermon text for that Sunday. 

I had been struggling with how to best organize and present the truths contained in the passage. Some weeks this is especially difficult. I may have a few clear thoughts in my mind, but I don’t know how to bring them together in a cohesive message. Ideas bounce around in my brain and seem to willfully resist coming together.

When I realized God was graciously bringing the message together for me, I was obviously thankful to Him. I began to praise God for his goodness of stepping into my struggle and filling me with his thoughts. 

A few minutes later, it suddenly struck me, this thankfulness was not enough. I also had the responsibility of connecting this grace from God, to the other struggles of my life. This particular grace did not arrive in isolation, it was part of a ceaseless flow of mercy and goodness from my Heavenly Father.

The lesson here is not to compartmentalize God’s graces to us. Rather we should use a grace manifested in one area to encourage us where we are not seeing grace in another area.

God does not stop and start with his graces. They do not stall out. The opposite is true, they are part of the “living waters” which Jesus declared flow like a river through our lives!

If we are to honor God as he deserves, then we must accurately see that he is continuously and overwhelming gracious to us. God does not haphazardly drop random graces into our lives. In Christ, all of our moments take place within a flow of grace, which runs from the cross into eternity.

 

Image by © Ed Bock/CORBIS

MESSY GRACE

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“Messy Grace” is an unusual story

The author, Caleb Kaltenbach was raised by a militantly lesbian mother and a homosexual father.

“Messy Grace” is an unusually helpful story

Caleb helps us to think about how Christians come across to those who are outside the church community. You will be challenged in how God uses you in the lives of those who are broken.

“Messy Grace” is an unusually powerful book

If you have a heart to reach people with abundant grace and uncompromising truth, this book will help you. And if you are not interested in those things, then you probably should read it twice!

I benefited by reading “Messy Grace” and I have been recommending it ever since. One of my small groups found that this book stimulated wonderful and needed conversations.

Buy it

Read it

Use it

THEY ARE JUST THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG

Sunday morning as I was walking through our church, I noticed three people praying together

Then several steps further I overheard a young woman discussing how she was encouraging a friend to become more rooted in her own church

Then a reality suddenly struck me

I was surrounded by graces of God

Not just the amazing graces of God toward me, but also the countless evidences of God’s active grace and works in the lives of his people!

My heart easily becomes mired in the discouragements of this world

A world that has turned itself upside down

The messy half-heartedness of many who claim to love Christ

Believers who are under immense burden

My own weaknesses which are ever on display

These realities seem to slap me in the face each day

Yet, these are not the greatest realities in this world or in my life!

God is ever sovereign over all things

Christ has already conquered sin, death and Satan

The Holy Spirit is actively preparing each believer to be glorious images of Jesus

Sometimes these realities are submerged under the flow of events and my own activities. So I must seek them out. Every believer is called to glorify God, which means we are responsible to look for and hold up the evidences of God’s glorious grace at work

The Holy Spirit not only freshly reminded me that he is abundantly at work; he also freshly convicted me that I need to live with greater awareness of his graces around me

God deserves that I do this

My soul needs me to do this

Gospel mission impels me to do this

As God’s people, may we look for and celebrate the graces of God in us and in each other. Although they may seem small and at times mundane – they are actually marvelous evidences of our God wonderfully at work

When we see an evidence of grace – exalt it in your heart and praise it with your lips

But don’t stop there; let’s get in the habit of identifying those evidences of grace to one another as a way of fulfilling 1 Thessalonians 5:11 which instructs us to “encourage one another and build one another up”

Let us exercise faith as we celebrate these evidences of God’s grace, for they are just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. For God is working at a level that will eternally display his transcendent standard of glory!

OH, WHAT GRACE!

amazing-grace

Think about grace.

It is such a sweet word.

Oh, what implications exist in the proclamation of grace.

Particularly God’s grace!

Grace is the name of the treasure box in which all the gospel’s goodness is held.

“In (Christ) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us” Ephesians 1:7-8

“When we were dead in our trespasses, (God) made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved” Ephesians 2:5

Believer, in Christ you are never without grace – lavish and rich grace.

Grace sets us free from all the guilt and eternal consequences of sin

Grace brings us into an unblocked relationship with God

Grace keeps us in that relationship – forever

Grace completes us so we can fully enjoy that relationship

Take a moment and bring to mind the weaknesses or limitations that tend to discourage you.

God’s grace is in those weaknesses or limitations, so they no longer need to be discouraging. God tells us:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

What are the circumstances that burden you? God’s grace is with you to find rest; for you are his and all his wondrous intention and promise remain true for you. It is a theological impossibility for anything to enter your life (even what is sorrowful, hurtful and evil) without God ensuring that his grace is attached to it.

“For those who love God all things work together for good” Romans 8:28

We have grace upon grace

God’s grace doesn’t drizzle on us – we have been immersed in it as fully as we are by the air around us. Grace shapes our destiny even more than our skin shapes our bodies.

John 1:16 tells us that “from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace”

2 Corinthians 9:14 speaks of the “surpassing grace” upon us

“Surpassing grace” means that grace surpasses everything else that we know, that we can imagine, and that touches us!

Grace so Full – deserves careful attention in our minds. It should dominate all our thought processes.

Grace so Real – deserves to direct the actions of our lives, however big and however ordinary.

Grace so Wondrous – deserves to bring praise from our lips with the same constancy with which it pours forth from God’s heart to us.

TESTIMONY OF A CHANGED LIFE

On Easter, Mike Frampus who grew up in Greentree and then drifted far from church and God, gave this testimony of God’s grace to save him. Mike has a history of significant problems with anxiety – so just standing before everyone to share his story was a wonderful work of God!

Good morning,

Dana called me a few weeks ago and asked me to come up here and give my testimony. She had prepared me beforehand and let me know that she would do that one day, so of course I said yes.

After I hung up the phone, I began to search online out-of-state job sites, because now that someone had asked me to get up and speak in front of the church, obviously it was time to pack up my family and move as far away as possible to begin anew somewhere else.

You see, I have something that I’m sure some of you know a little about….fear of man. Not only that, but Satan desires for me to be ineffective for God’s kingdom, and so I wanted to give 10,000 reasons why I could not do this.

But then I thought of Moses and Jonah and all the other sinful men that God used for his glory, and the only thing I could say in my heart was: “Here am I. Send me!” So I’m here this morning to give you a very brief glimpse into the power of God.

I grew up attending Greentree Church as a child and being in Sunday school. I was even baptized as a teenager right here behind me, which by the way was the last time that I ever fit into a tub. It wasn’t long, however, until I decided that I wanted to take control of my life and do things my way.

I began at an early age to experiment with alcohol and marijuana, and these things helped me to become more comfortable in a world where I felt as if I didn’t really belong anywhere. I began to believe whole-heartedly that every moment of every day was meant to be lived for my pleasure. So I ran hard after sin towards death until God was no longer even an afterthought.

Initially I was convicted in my heart as I did whatever I thought might bring me joy, but as I graduated to harder drugs I was able to quiet that voice inside a little more effectively. The more I tried to run the more broken I became.

My partying lifestyle began to affect every area of my life, as I began high school getting straight A’s only to struggle just to pass my senior year. I couldn’t wait to get out and really start living…or dying as it turns out.

I used heroin for the very first time when I was 17 years old. Although it was not necessarily love at first sight, in just a couple of short years I would be sticking a needle into my veins, and experienced a rapid downhill decline. I began committing crimes to support my heroin addiction, and I began to steal from the only ones in my life that cared about me.

I have experienced overdose, been through treatments, been to jail, I’ve been robbed and pistol-whipped, and I even sailed across an interstate highway and off the shoulder of the road at more than 75 mph. There have been literally thousands of times in my life where I could have easily died one way or another, and at times in my life I even wished for death.

But God, in His great love and mercy looked upon my helpless state…and led me to the cross. By His amazing grace I have not used drugs and alcohol for over ten years. I am now married to an awesome wife and have three wonderful children.

It is God who sustained me and continues to do so each day. He opened my blind eyes to see that Jesus has already paid the penalty for my sins and for any who would trust in Him. Through the blood of our precious Savior Jesus I have been brought from death to life and I have been made a new creation.

If, this morning you have a loved one that you’ve been praying for who you know is enslaved by this or any other sin, or perhaps it is you that are caught in this vicious cycle….cry out to the only one that saves. He is faithful.

LADIES WE HAVE A CONFERENCE FOR YOU!

Sovereign Grace Women's Weekend

by Debbie Huber

Sovereign Grace Church of Marlton, NJ has invited the women of Greentree to attend a special regional Women’s Weekend Conference with speaker and author Nancy Guthrie.

The theme for this conference is “Oh For Grace To Trust Him More”. Pastor Warren Boettcher and his wife Kim of Sovereign Grace Church are dear friends of Kyle and mine and I am confident that the Greentree women will feel warmly welcomed!

Nancy is a prolific author, Bible study teacher, and international conference speaker. She also offers companionship and biblical insight to the grieving through Respite Retreats that she and her husband, David host for couples who have faced the death of a child, through books and through the GriefShare video series. She has also written a series of books, “Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament”.

I first heard of Nancy Guthrie a few years ago through her testimony that appeared on a blog. Nancy and her husband had two babies born with a rare metabolic disorder who both died before they were six months old. The sadness and suffering that they experienced touched my heart, but her response to this great loss was what stood out to me. She learned that God allows suffering into our lives for a purpose, “instead of running from it, we can embrace it, and look around for God in it”.

Nancy’s message to those who are hurting:

“Instead of urging them to pray away their suffering, I want to encourage them to look for God in the midst of it. If God has allowed suffering into your life, it is for a significant purpose. So rather than just focusing on getting rid of it, seek to discover God’s purpose in your pain, to submit to his plan and his purpose, to please him in how you respond to adversity. You have an incredible opportunity to glorify God just by your simple trust in him during these dark days. He will bring you from the darkness into the light, so look for him in the darkness.”

The conference is November 13-14, 2015. It should be a wonderful weekend of refreshment for us with strong Biblical teaching, worship and time for reflection, as well as food, skits, and prizes. There are a block of hotel rooms available at a discounted rate.

This conference is close enough that you can drive both days to avoid hotel costs. Or you can invite a friend to stay with you and enjoy a ladies fellowship getaway!
Whether you stay over or just attend the teaching, consider someone new in our church you can invite to share the experience with us

You can find out more and register here at our website. Remember the deadline for registration is November 1!

SO YOU THINK YOU KNOW ENOUGH ABOUT GRACE?

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“Law feels safe; grace feels risky. Rule-keeping breeds a sense of manageability; grace feels like moral vertigo. After all, if all that we are is by grace, then there is no limit to what God can ask of us”

This is how Dane Ortlund introduces his book “Defiant Grace”.

This was my first experience reading Dane Ortlund (although I have thoroughly enjoyed hearing his father preach). And I found myself happily highlighting his book more than what is normal for me. He is excellent at producing deep truths in crisp thought provoking statements.

You might think that you know all that is necessary about grace. But the reality is – all of us need to think more deeply about God’s grace. We need it for our minds and we need it for our hearts.

MOUNTAINS OF GRACE

If we have come to faith in Christ, we know grace. In fact we are immersed in grace. This grace never stops showering our lives, and more is piled up in eternity waiting for us.

Yet, somehow we all can find ourselves forgetful of this grace.

When we doubt God

When we become impatient with others

When we think we our life stinks

When we envy the lives of people who “have it all”

When we think God is asking too much of us

When we think we don’t have enough in us to serve others

When we think a sin doesn’t matter

When we wallow in self-pity

When we don’t feel like praising God

Grace is minimized when we focus on ourselves or on the temporal circumstances of this world. We say to ourselves: “I know that I have received some grace”. But compared with our frustrations, it just doesn’t seem like that much.

In those moments we not only fail to see the magnitude of grace received, we fail to perceive how insulting such an attitude is toward God who has provided and continues to provide abundant grace.

The book of Ephesians is my favorite reading on grace. The first 14 verses of chapter 1 alone present an awe inspiring description of the grace we have “in Christ”.

When grace looks a little thin to you, take the time to peek under the circumstances of life to see what mountains of grace are even now keeping you afloat. Take joy in knowing that soon all that is hidden will soon be manifest and stand forever in all its majestic glory!

 

A STORY OF LIFE WITH CANCER

the-hardest-peace-Kara-Tippetts-oatmeal-smiles

Kara Tippetts

. . . was the wife of Jason and the mom of four beautiful children

. . . cancer was not imagined as part of her story

. . . neither was it invited in

. . . yet it invaded Kara’s body and the lives of all her family

The Hardest Peace is Kara’s story about God’s grace which came along with the invasion.

Kara opened her heart and life so we could see the hard and gritty, as well as the lovely and gracious. Woven through every part is her clarity about Christ and her abiding trust in Him. It is an excellent book.

This is how Kara describes writing “The Hardest Peace”:

The writing of this book helped me through the diagnosis of cancer finding more and more corners in my body: my brain, my bones, my liver, my lymph system. The writing of this book caused me to look at my story and seek the grace to walk this hard path with cancer.

On March 22, 2015 Kara left the dust of earth to breathe the air of Heaven. Shortly before her death, Kara wrote:

My little body has grown tired of battle, and treatment is no longer helping. But what I see, what I know, what I have is Jesus. He has still given me breath, and with it I pray I would live well and fade well. By degrees doing both, living and dying, as I have moments left to live. I get to draw my people close, kiss them and tenderly speak love over their lives. I get to pray into eternity my hopes and fears for the moments of my loves. I get to laugh and cry and wonder over Heaven. I do not feel like I have the courage for this journey, but I have Jesus—and He will provide. He has given me so much to be grateful for, and that gratitude, that wondering over His love, will cover us all. And it will carry us—carry us in ways we cannot comprehend.

You can read more from Kara about this journey with life and cancer via her blog ‘Mundane Faithfulness’. 

MESSY PEOPLE

We know the world is filled with messy people. Well, we should know this since we are one of them – if only on a part time basis.

With a world so messy, it should not surprise us that the church is in the thick of this messiness. And if our church is never a messy place then either we don’t know the people in our church or it’s basically empty.

Rather than be surprised or offended by the messiness and exhausting behavior of fellow church members, we should thank God that they have come within reach. The church, like the gospel, exists to work in the lives of sinners.

Churches or Christians that are too “pristine” to bother with sinners, are only clean on the outside. Our place in this world is to labor with rolled up sleeves as we engage ourselves with the kinds of people that Jesus welcomed.

Rather than want to keep messy people at bay, we should be asking God in his grace (to them and us), to draw them into our churches. And while we are at it, we might think of inviting them too.

Stephen Altrogge wrote a blog at The Blazing Center, “Church is for Messy People”. In this article, he gives us helpful suggestions for how we can be part of the answer rather than adding to the mess.