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The Impacts of Grace: #2 My Perception of Myself

Posted by donna on October 1, 2019

The Roman poet Ovid wrote about Narcissus in Greek mythology. He was very handsome and very proud. When he saw his reflection in a clear still pool, he could not stop looking at himself, nor pull away. There he died of thirst or starvation, depending upon the version you read. The term narcissist is a word often used in today’s selfie-focused society. Perceived external beauty triumphs over inner beauty, integrity and character. To make ourselves better in all ways, we grace 2.jpgjust need to compare ourselves with someone “less” and believe the lie that we are better.

Grace has a way of bursting that bubble. As we saw last month, grace first impacts our perception of God. When we see who God is, when we understand His nature and His character, our focus on self shifts.

In the Parable of the Prodigal the elder son was angry at his younger brother’s return. He would not celebrate, he would not go into the party, even when the father came to him. He responded to his father with selfishness and self-focus;

“Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat that I might celebrate with my friends” (Luke 15:29). There is a great deal of self-focus in this verse. There is a lot of entitlement. Grace has a way of shifting the focus away from self.

Grace impacts our perception of ourselves in three specific ways:

  1. Grace gives us a correct tool for measurement and comparison – the nature and character of God
  2. Grace exposes our failings at being the centre of the universe, a legend in our own minds
  3. Grace gives us hope, despite ourselves

Too often today, we fall head-first into the “Narcissus trap.” We begin to believe in the reflected image of who we see ourselves to be, rather than who we are in Christ. We begin to believe the “Narcissus lie,” that it is outer beauty that really matters. And, if we are not careful, we morph into Narcissus himself, we become narcissists and justify the trap and the lie we have bought into.

Grace helps us see beyond our own reflection, no matter how beautiful we may think that reflection is. Grace helps us see who God is and who we are in Christ. Grace helps us see the hope we have, that everyone has, in Christ.

Did you notice that it was the father who went out looking for the elder son in the parable? Even when rejected and an argument was made for entitlement, it was the father who responded with grace.

In this age of body-image fascination and online virtual avatar living, we may become societally pre-programmed towards narcissism, but we need not go there. To the beautiful, grace gives a better image to focus on. To the unlovely, grace gives a beauty no mirror or still pond could adequately reflect. The beauty of Christ, living through a transformed life, reflects that same grace to others. Grace impacts our perception of ourselves. “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Living in grace, despite myself,

Bill Allan first name.PNG 

Bill Allan
AGC President


The Impacts of Grace: #1 My Perception of God

Posted by donna on September 9, 2019

What sets Christianity apart from any other religious system is the relational nature and character of God. He wants to be in relationship with us. We were created to have relationship with Him, and He celebrates when we do. Jesus tells us, “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7).  Sept blog.jpg

The Parable of the Prodigal as told by Jesus is about grace and highlights how grace impacts us in three ways. First, it impacts our perception of God. We all easily identify or self-identify with one of the main characters in the parable. If we are honest, it would be with the elder son. Too often, our perception of God is that He is only pleased with us when we obey the rules and "colour within the lines” as required by religious obedience and observance and, therefore, we are deemed a good person. 


Grace Rejected - Part 2

Posted by donna on August 1, 2019

grace.jpgThe apostle Paul when writing to a very complicated and problematic group of believers in Corinth used these words to describe love; Love is patient, love is kind, love does not envy or boast, it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful. It does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things; believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends (1 Corinthians 13:4-8). The same can be said of grace. Grace is never intrusive in our lives; it is a gift that was paid for by another and is freely offered to each of us.

The Parable of the Prodigal highlights the contrast between hedonism and moralism, and the failure of both in the face of grace. The hedonist easily recognizes this failure. After coming to his senses, the hedonist realizes his waywardness and the waste of his life and resources, and he eagerly accepts grace extended. The moralist, on the other hand, has much more difficulty in accepting grace extended. Enter the elder son, part two.


Grace Rejected - Part 1

Posted by donna on July 4, 2019

blog.jpgThe Parable of the Prodigal, as told by Jesus in Luke 15, is not primarily directed to us as believers. It is not just a story of a wayward son who came to his senses and returned home to a loving and forgiving father. Nor is it a story that primarily focuses on the younger son as representative of sinners in need of grace. It is a parable with a point, which Jesus directed to the religious leaders of that day.  He was speaking to those who saw themselves as better, as superior, as “good” because they, unlike the younger son, obeyed the rules including all the religious requirements of their day. They believed that they somehow deserved better.

Enter the elder son … “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.” But he was angry and refused to go in” (Luke 15:25-28a).


A Tale of Two Deaths: Grace Unexpected

Posted by donna on June 13, 2019

june blog.jpgEveryone loves a story with a happy ending; boy gets girl, the ranch is saved, Timmy gets rescued from the well, Superman defeats Lex Luthor . . . you get the picture. But what happens when the story doesn’t end like we want it to?

Last month, we saw a father’s joy in the Parable of the Prodigal when the lost son returns; “For this my son was dead, and is alive again, he was lost, and is found. And they began to celebrate” (Luke 15:24). It’s a story with a happy ending. We won’t get to the part of the story about the older brother just yet, that would be jumping ahead. Let’s take a side trip to the times when life does not turn out as we expect, for it is there that we find grace unexpected.                                                                                                                                                                                                              


The Celebration of Grace

Posted by donna on May 2, 2019

Every family celebrates. Be it birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, or some other significant event, we celebrate. To celebrate is to recognize something special, something unique. To celebrate is to acknowledge the occasion with some social gathering or enjoyable event.

“But the father said to his servants, bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fatted calf and kill it and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again, he was lost, and is found. And they began to celebrate” (Luke 15:22-24).

prodigal 2.pngIn the Parable of the Prodigal, the father not only received his son back and restored him into the family, he also threw a party! Remember the son’s confession, that he was not worthy to be called his father’s son?  He said to his father, “make me like one of your servants.” All of that faded as he was welcomed back with a grand celebration. Why would you celebrate someone who had so dishonored and rejected you? Because of GRACE.


Grace in an Empty Tomb

Posted by donna on April 1, 2019

empty tomb.pngWe often see and feel the grace of the Father as it relates to us as individuals. We joyfully experience the result of the Father’s grace. Yes, we know there was a cost. There was a high and terrible cost, but did you ever think about how the cost of grace affected our Father?

The Prodigal son rejected his father, literally wished him dead when he demanded his share of the inheritance. He failed to see or even care how this would affect his father’s emotions and well-being, or how his father’s standing in the community would be shame and embarrassment. His reputation sullied.

Why would the Father subject himself to shame, embarrassment and pain?  In the parable of the prodigal, the father waited, anticipating and longing for the return of his child … his errant, rebellious, ungrateful and self-centred son. Regardless of everything the father endured because of his son’s actions, this was still his son, and he, being the father, had another plan. In the same way, our Heavenly Father had a plan that was formed long before Jesus told this parable of an earthly prodigal and his father.


A Father's Grace

Posted by donna on March 6, 2019

prodigal.pngI read a story about a little girl who bought cheap plastic pearl necklace from a dollar store. She wore it everywhere and every day. Her father came to her and asked if she loved him, and then asked for the pearls. Oh, no, daddy, the little girl replied; “I love you, but love these pearls too much. Day after day the father asked his little girl the same questionreceiving the same answer.  

One evening, the little girl came to her daddy with tears in her eyes and said; I love you daddy, and handed him her precious, and by now very dirty and broken plastic pearl necklace. The father reached into his pocket and handed her a little box containing a beautiful real pearl necklace.


Finding Grace at the Bottom

Posted by donna on February 5, 2019

homeless.jpgThose caught in addictive behaviours, be it drugs, alcohol, sex or even prosperity and materialism, often fail to see the destructiveness of that lifestyle until it is too late. It deeply impacts not only them, but those around them. What happens when you hit rock bottom, when you can’t fall any further?

“. . . and there he squandered his property in reckless living . . . and he began to be in need . . .. And he was longing to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs ate, but no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself . . . I will arise and go to my father.” (Luke 15:13-18)


A Theology of Grace

Posted by donna on January 2, 2019

prodigal.PNGI have a framed print of Rembrandt’s famous painting “Return of the Prodigal Son” hanging on the wall in my office. For me, it is a daily reminder of grace. Grace that is demonstrated. Grace that is extended. Grace that is received. Grace is so much more than God giving me what I don’t deserve. Grace reminds me of who I am and why I need Jesus and His grace each day. 

In our current culture which includes a “me-first” sense of entitlement we may be tempted by our title, positionauthority or accomplishments to think of ourselves in grandiose ways. 
Grace gives us perspective. Grace reminds us of who we really are.  I have chosen the theme of “grace for this new year because we need to understand, develop and practice a theology of grace in all that we do.