The Grace Givers

Grace Givers
There have been people in my life who have had an influence and set an example of what it means to be a real, authentic Christian. They have at times, when I have not deserved it, chosen to see the good in me, instead of the bad. They have looked beyond my failures and seen something else maybe I did not see. They understand what Paul meant in Romans 7 versus 18 – 19, And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway (NLT). They have chosen to extend what has been extended to them, The Gift of Grace. They have in many ways been like Jesus who was full of grace and truth.
Grace is a fascinating gift that God has given to each one of us who have experienced salvation. Something we did not deserve or earn has been given freely to us. The question now is what do we do with this grace? As I see it we can a couple of things, we can live in that grace, embrace the grace God has given to us. Or we can withhold grace. We can give this grace out to others or we keep it to ourselves.
As we extend grace to others we become more like Jesus. When we come into his presence, we are amazed at his grace. Because of this, there is within us a need, a desire to connect others to this grace, for them to enjoy this grace. Grace causes our hearts to overflow into other peoples lives.
Chuck Swindoll in his book The Grace Awakening recalls an incident involving the then President Thomas Jefferson and a group of companions were traveling across the country on horseback. They came to a river which had left its banks because of a recent downpour. The swollen river had washed the bridge away. Each rider was forced to ford the river on horseback, fighting for his life against the rapid currents. The very real possibility of death threatened each rider, which caused a traveler who was not part of their group to step aside and watch. After several had plunged in and made it to the other side, the stranger asked President Jefferson if he would ferry him across the river. The president agreed without hesitation. The man climbed on, and shortly thereafter the two of them made it safely to the other side. As the stranger slid off the back of the saddle onto dry ground, one in the group asked him, “Tell me, why did you select the president to ask this favor of?” The man was shocked, admitting he had no idea it was the president who had helped him. “All I know,” he said, “is that on some of your faces was written the answer ‘No,’ and on some of them was the answer ‘Yes.’ His was a ‘Yes’ face.”
When the father was running toward the prodigal son he had grace, when Boaz allowed Ruth to gather grain in his field he extended grace, Ruth could only respond “Why have I found favor in your eyes”. When Jesus came into our lives he had grace. We are always amazed by grace when we see it in action. When Grace happens it can not be restricted, it is generous. It spills over in lives of those around us.
I need to remind myself of this grace. There are times in my life when I forgotten just what grace has done for me. There have been times when I have failed to offer grace, times when I have forgotten that grace cost Jesus, “Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:6-7)
In the parable of the prodigal son there are three people. The prodigal son, the father and the older brother. When the prodigal son returns home and the father extends grace, we have a picture of someone standing on the outside withholding grace. He saw the fatted calf being killed, he saw the joy, the party that was being thrown and it angered him. Here was someone who should have been in there, enjoying the party. He should have been full of grace, grace was no longer flowing in his life. That is what happens when we no longer walk in grace, we find it hard to extend grace to others.
Someone has once said “Grace changes everything” and it is true. Grace changes who we are, Dl Moody once said “Grace isn’t a little prayer you chant before receiving a meal. It’s a way to live.”
One the best things to give someone is grace. To be a grace giver. We give grace as it has been given to us, undeserved.

Strength will rise as we WAIT

“He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭40:29-31‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I recently heard an ex SAS man say something that made me think. Bearing in mind this is a man who has been there done it, bought the T shirt. He has ran mile after mile, endured pain and been pushed to the limit and then some. When asked about the qualities of what makes a man able to make it into the SAS he said, someone who never quits and knows when they are weak.
He said this on a show that is putting ordinary guys (civilians) through what some would describe as the toughest job interview ever, to get into the SAS.  With their shiny gym memberships, Lycra-clad mountain biking gear, marathon training and Tough Mudder weekends, that today i know some people measure their fitness and how tough they are through. It quickly became apparent to see how little this counted for absolutely NOTHING in the face of a heavy backpack, the Brecon Beacons, a posh bloke giving some hard stares and a Scottish guy shouting at the top of his lungs “Do you give up?”
What they are trying to do is strip away a facade, an image that the guys project that makes them look better than they are.  
This reminded of this scripture verse
He gives power to the faint
To him who has no might He increases STRENGTH
I am so glad I don’t have to pretend I have it all figured out, that i have all the answers or that I am some kind of superman. What I need to know more and more, is that when I weak then I am strong.  
I know many people who are weary and exhausted in life, and there is hope for you. You see, not only does and can He increase our strength but He renews our strength. Basically what happens is, as we come before Him in his presence on His terms a divine transaction takes place. He replaces our puny, feeble strength with his divine strength.   
I don’t want a tiny god for the good times, I want a big God for the times when I have no strength. 
 If I were to walk into a chemist with a prescription and hand it in, the chemist would give me what is prescribed to me, there and then. Sometimes the danger is to think today, that God somehow dishes out strength and encouragement the same way, NO. Do you know what He does? He gives us himself. That is so much better. 
Paul was on a ship that was bound to sink but he was able to stand before the rest of the crew and say “This night the Lord stood by me”. Three hebrew men were faced with the fiery furnace and they stood before it and said “Our God whom we serve is able” and the Lord stood by them in the fire. Job was asking why is this happening to me God? Did God answer NO! but what He did do is give Job a deeper revelation of who He was and is, so that Job could say, “Though He slay me yet will I trust Him!” 
However it takes us to do something WAIT. That’s is the hard bit. You see when I am waiting on something I don’t feel in control, and thats the point sometimes. I need to know he is in control, that his hand is on the thermostat, that is he is sovereign and over all. 

One of the ways I can wait on him is in my worship. The word worship in the Old Testament means, literally, to bow before. It’s the idea of actually pressing your forehead right to the ground. In other words I come to him acknowledging He is who He says He is. That I pour my praise to Him, that if He never does another single thing for me again, that He has already done enough. That is He is more than enough.  

Sometimes I am guilty of trying to figure it all out, putting on a face that I am strong when the reality is I am weak and He is strong. I need to get back to that place of surrender and submission and just wait on him believing that STRENGTH wil rise as we wait upon the Lord.

The Prodigal Daughter

Philip yancey
What’s do amazing about grace 
Quote from book

A young girl grows up on a cherry orchard just above Traverse City, Michigan. Her parents, a bit old-fashioned, tend to overreact to her nose ring, the music she listens to, and the length of her skirts. They ground her a few times, and she seethes inside. “I hate you!” she screams at her father when he knocks on the door of her room after an argument, and that night she acts on a plan she has mentally rehearsed scores of times she runs away.

She has visited Detroit only once before, on a bus trip with her church youth group to watch the tigers play. Because newspapers in Traverse City report in lurid detail the gangs, the drugs, and the violence in downtown Detroit, she concludes that is probably the last place her parents will look for her. California, maybe, or Florida, but not Detroit.

Her second day there she meets a man who drives the biggest car she’s ever seen. He offers her a ride, buys her lunch, arranges a place for her to stay. He gives her some pills some pills that make her better than she’s ever felt before. She was right all along, she decides: her parents were keeping her from all the fun.

The good life continues for a month, two months, a year. The man with the big car-she calls him “Boss”-teaches her a few things that men like. Since she’s underage, men pay premium for her. She lives in a penthouse, and orders room service whenever she wants. Occasionally she thinks about the folks back home, but their lives seem so boring and provincial that she can hardly believe she grew up there.

She has a brief scare when she sees her picture printed on the back of a milk carton with the headline “Have you seen this child?” But by now she has blond hair, and with all the makeup and body-piercing jewelry she wear, nobody would mistake her for a child. Besides, most of her friends are runaways, and nobody squeals in Detroit.

After a year the first sallow signs of illness appear, and it amazes her how fast the boss turn mean. “These days, we can’t mess around,” he growls, and before she knows it she’s out on the street without a penny to her name. She still turns a couple of tricks a night, but they don’t pay much, and all the money goes to support her habit. When winter blows in she finds herself sleeping on metal grates outside the big department stores. “Sleeping” is the wrong word-a teenage girl at night in downtown Detroit can never relax her guard. Dark bands circle her eyes. Her cough worsens.

One night as she lies awake listening for footsteps, all of a sudden everything about her life looks different. She no longer feels like a woman of the world. She feels like a little girl, lost in a cold and frightening city. She begins to whimper. Her pockets are empty and she’s hungry. She needs a fix. She pulls her legs tight underneath her and shivers under the newspapers she’s piled atop her cloak. Something jolts a synapse of memory and a single memory and a single image fills her mind: of May in Traverse City, when a million cherry trees bloom at once, with her golden retriever dashing through the rows and rows of blossomy trees in chase of a tennis ball.

God, why did I leave, she says to herself, and pain stabs at her heart. My dog back home eats better than I do now. She’s sobbing and she knows in a flash that more than anything else in the world she wants to go home.

Three straight phone calls, three straight connections with the answering machine. She hangs up without leaving a message the first two times, but the third time she says, “Dad, Mom, it’s me. I was wondering about maybe coming home. I’m catching a bus up your way, and it’ll get there about midnight tomorrow. If your not there, well, I guess I’ll just stay on the bus until it hits Canada.”

It takes about seven hours for a bus to make all the stops between Detroit and Traverse City, and during that time, she realizes the flaws in her plan. What if her parents are out of town and miss the message? Shouldn’t she have waited another day or so until she could talk to them? And even if they are home, they probably wrote her off as dead long ago. She should have given them sometime to overcome the shock.

Her thoughts bounce back and forth between those worries and the speech she is preparing for her father. “Dad, I’m sorry. I know I was wrong. It’s not your fault; it’s all mine. Dad can you forgive me?” she says the words over and over. Her throat tightening even as she rehearses them. She hasn’t apologized to anyone in years.

The bus has been driving with lights on since Bay City. Tiny snowflakes hit the pavement rubbed worn thousands of tires and the asphalt steams. She’s forgotten how dark it gets at night out here. A deer darts across the road and the bus swerves. Every so often, a billboard sign posting the mileage to Traverse City. Oh, God.

When the bus finally rolls into the station, its air breaks hissing in protest, the driver announces in a crackly voice over the microphone, “fifteen minutes, folks. That’s all we have here.” Fifteen minutes to decide her life. She checks herself in a compact mirror, smooths her hair, and licks the lipstick off her teeth. She looks at the tobacco stains on her fingertips, and wonders if her parents will notice. If they’re there.

She walks into the terminal not knowing what to expect. Not one of the thousand scenes that have played out in her mind prepare her for what she sees. There, in the concrete-wall-and- plastic-chairs bus terminal in Traverse City, Michigan, stands a group of forty brothers and sisters and great-aunts and uncles and cousins and a grandmother to boot. They’re all wearing goofy party hats and blowing noise-makers, and taped across the entire wall of the terminal is a computer-generated banner reads “Welcome home!”

Out of the crowd of well-wishers breaks her Dad. She stares out through the tears quivering in her eyes like hot mercury and begins the memorized speech, “Dad, I’m sorry. I know …”

He interrupts her. “Hush, child. We’ve got no time for that. No time for apologies. You’ll be late for the party. A banquet’s waiting for you at Home.”

Philip Yancey- “What’s so AMAZING about GRACE” (pp.49-51)