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Christmas and the Gift of Grace

Posted by donna on December 2, 2019

The perfect gift for the person that has everything! That’s what the commercial said as it went on to describe why everyone, especially the person who has everything, would need one of these special super-duper gizmos. I didn’t buy the sales-pitch, and I didn’t buy the super-duper gizmo. If a person has “everything,” why would they need something else?

gift.jpgA gift is often unexpected, undeserved, valued and treasured because of the thought that went into selecting and presenting it. As it is with the Gospel. It’s the greatest gift of all time, for all people. We could do nothing to earn it ourselves, even though we often tried. It was undeserved because of our sin. It is valued and treasured because of the cost Jesus paid suffering and dying on a Roman cross. And it was, and still is, freely offered to all who would receive it.

At Christmas we often think about gift giving, trying to find that special something for that special someone. God had similar thoughts. We are His special creation, created in His image and we bear His image. Yet sin, violence, anger, hatred and conflict has marred that image and separated us from our Heavenly Father.

I believe Jesus had similar thoughts when He told the parable of the prodigal son in Luke chapter fifteen. The pain the father felt at being rejected by both his sons. One wanted money … a give it to me now attitude.  He wanted his inheritance, his right, his entitlement. The other wanted prestige and position, after all, he had obeyed all the rules. Both despised the father in their own way and were separated from him through their actions. Yet, the father offered the gift of grace. He offered it to a wayward son that, when coming to his senses, returned expecting to become a servant.  Yet, a ring was put on his finger, a symbol of belonging, and he was restored as a son. To the moralistic son he offered an invitation to come to the party, to celebrate, because all that the father had was his.

The gift of grace enables each of us to be restored as image bearers of our Heavenly Father, our “signet ring” of belonging is our salvation, sealed with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the guarantee of our belonging. The Gospel changes everything. For by GRACE you have been saved, through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Eph. 2:8-9).

I’ve been challenged as I’ve looked at grace over these past months. I’m learning to see grace in a new way and experiencing it in a more vibrant way. Grace is not something we hide and keep to ourselves; it must have a continuing outward expression as we now move out as His image bearers sharing this same good news that we experienced personally. The grace of the Gospel is the greatest gift of all time, for all people, and it’s still freely offered to all.

The greatest gift this Christmas is the gift of grace. Paid for dearly and given freely by a loving Heavenly Father to each of us. All we need do is receive it.

 

Praying that the gift of grace impacts your life this Christmas, and into the new year!

Bill Allan first name.PNG 

Bill Allan
AGC President


The Impacts of Grace: #3 My Perception of Others

Posted by donna on November 4, 2019

bottle shoes.pngBefore you judge, walk a mile in my shoes . . .    Grace impacts our life at times in ways we wished it didn’t. We all find it easy to rush to judgment based on outward appearances, rules, and our own sense of right and wrong. Judging others, in some way alleviates our own guilt until we’re confronted by grace. Why is that? Grace impacts our life.

If the impact of grace on my life first begins with my perception of God, then moves to my perception of myself, then the most logical next step is that: it impacts my perception of others. And therein lies the conundrum we often face. Before I judge, walk a mile in their shoes.

Re-enter the elder son. In the Parable of the Prodigal as told by Jesus in Luke chapter 15, the elder son was upset by the younger son’s return. It’s not recorded whether he was just as upset when his younger brother left, or whether he was upset when he received his half of the inheritance. But he was angry when his brother returned. He would not reconcile with his brother. He was angry at his father; he judged his brother’s actions and totally disregarded his own sin of moralism.


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;


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.