The Beauty of Grace

by Julie Farren

grace2Grace is the greatest gift we can ever receive. It is unearned, undeserved. Because of God’s pure unconditional love for us, we receive so much blessing, both temporal and eternal. As I ponder the grace of God to me, I am overwhelmed by a love so dear, personal and intimate, but also all encompassing, absolute and complete. It is the macro and the micro of His love entwined together. He who is Creator of all that is good, is also Accepter of the flawed individual. The Perfect and Holy Creator of the universe bends low and bestows His favor on us who are undeserving. My question is this: are we exhibiting the same grace to others that we enjoy?

I make mistakes. Many mistakes. Sometimes, I make the same mistakes over and over, seemingly never getting past them. I hang my head in shame as I confess them to the Lord, apologizing once again for coming up short. In that moment, I need to be reminded that His love is agape, unconditional. His grace, sufficient. I am invited to come boldly before Him; to embrace that truth which enlivens the joy within me and dissolves the shame. I may be insignificant, flawed and slow to learn, but I am deeply loved, cherished and always invited to come into His presence. This identity in Christ never changes. It isn’t based on what I do or my ability to please, but emanates from His character. He IS love. And His love is agape. In Christ, we are accepted as we are. What joy! I fall on my knees in gratitude over this knowledge. It never gets tiresome, never grows old; it forever sustains and strengthens. So I accept His grace with gratitude.

But do I also offer, with outstretched hands, that same grace? Giving that unearned acceptance to those in my reach, in my circle of influence? Am I keeping a list, perhaps mentally, of wrongs suffered and hurts inflicted? Am I holding on to them, allowing bitterness to take root in my heart? Or am I quick to forgive? I’m not saying it’s easy, far from it. But we can make progress.  Scripture transforms our thinking and through our thinking, our actions and attitudes. We are meant to reflect the love of Christ.

Consider Luke 6:38, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” When my kids used to spill their milk all over the table, so much so that it poured off the sides of the table in streams soaking into the carpet and pooling on the seat of the chair, I had a choice in that moment how I would react. But if I paused for second I could recall my own clumsy hands and the many times I had made messes in my hurriedness. Or when I had broken things because I did not take care to be more careful with my surroundings. This enabled me to extend grace and reassure them that it was okay. It was no big deal and easily cleaned up, made right again. But there were times I remember, times when frustration overwhelmed me. When they did something that evoked anger in me, I could lash out in that anger, an anger which surprised even me, bitterly griping and complaining about the extra work that I didn’t have time for. Those are times I regret. Now that my children are grown up and moved on to their own families, I cannot go back and correct my lack of grace.

There are times in our lives when a friend will speak unkind words that wounds our hearts. We may feel unfairly judged, not given the benefit of the doubt. The temptation to close up our heart, so as not to be hurt again may be too hard to resist. We may be tempted to decide she doesn’t deserve forgiveness. But isn’t this just the place where grace shines the brightest? When it is so completely undeserved that it is a blessing and a balm that binds two together again. Whether it is within your family or amongst your friends, when we choose to give back grace for hurts or trade kindness for anger, we reflect God’s loving heart.

The prodigal son did not deserve mercy, yet his father ran to him. Picked up his robe and RAN! He showed undignified mercy and grace: a love that exceeds what is right and acceptable in man’s eyes. God’s love is not like that of the world. It is forgiving, kind, patient, and an endless source of acceptance. And that is God’s love to us. It never exhausts itself, never runs dry. Always there is more and more grace.

Let’s be clear: we’re not talking salvation here, we’re talking sanctification, that process by which we become more and more like Jesus Himself. Here’s why: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us,” Titus 3:5a. In other words we are saved by grace alone. God’s work, though, is not finished in us by His redemptive act on the cross. We are being renewed and transformed day by day: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2. Your salvation is not based on your obedience, but your rewards may be. Sanctification is a day by day work of God in our lives, a yielding to His Holy Spirit to obey. And part of that Holy Spirit’s work in us is to teach us to give grace when it is needed, even when it is difficult and may seem impossible to give. But He will strengten us to do so. It will bring us good and will bring Him glory.

Yes, “grace” has got to be the most beautiful word in the human language.

We will bury my Aunt this week. She lived 95 long years on this earth. That is a long time in human terms, but merely a moment in God’s. Each one of us will come to the end of our days on earth. Life is too short to waste on harsh words, demanding one’s own way, keeping lists that should be stamped “paid in full”. If God can hold us in high esteem who fail to keep his laws, how can we hold one iota against anyone else? Give and it will be given to you. What measure will we choose? Give grace every chance you get – you won’t regret it! How will I be remembered? How will you be remembered? Choose well. Give grace.

  “The Color Killer Cat” 

by Deborah GarnerScreen Shot 2017-06-03 at 9.56.45 AM

Kind of a catchy title, isn’t it? But I didn’t make it up. With his storyteller’s imagination, my grandson wrote it as the title for his sci-fi short story.

The premise of his story is built around a cat with Dracula–like superpowers. When the color killer cat enters a room, he drains everything in it of color.

He described the cat in the story with the usual colors that represent mayhem and evil: coal black with burning red eyes.

I doubt my grandson has a lot of scientific knowledge about the color spectrum, but choosing black for the cat with color absorption powers was perfect.

In very condensed scientific terms, color is the wavelength range of visible light that the human eye can see. Each color has its own specific measurable wavelength except in the case of black and white. In a unique way, any object we see as colored black has actually absorbed all of the other color wavelengths around it. It does not have a specific wavelength of its own. So the black that we see is really only a perceived color because it is minus any reflection of light.

The color we see as white contains all visible wavelengths, it is a sum total of all colors but again does not have a wavelength of its own and so it also is a perceived color. One proof of this is that when viewed through a prism, white separates into a rainbow of color.

God, our Creator infused everything visible to our eyes in heaven and on earth with a vast array of every imaginable color. Just to try and catalog the shades of green of the huge number of plants, grasses and trees in my yard and the adjoining field would be mind-boggling. When I visit aquariums I am beyond amazed at the colors of tropical fish, brilliant yellows and blues, some even luminescent. And then there are the sky colors at sunrise and sunset and the deep blues and aquamarines of the oceans. The Lord’s color palette is endless.

I think it’s hard to understand how the color we see as white is a fusion of all colors. But if the scientists have it right, how fitting that dazzling bright white is the color that is described as radiating from the images of God the father and Jesus the Son.

Psalm 104:1-2 says: “You are clothed with splendor and majesty; The Lord wraps Himself in light as with a garment.”

To continue the thought, the appearances of God the Father and Christ the Son are described in numerous verses in the Bible as blinding white, both in their person and their countenance. The color that represents the purity and essence of God originates from a totality of all of the created color that he Himself has made. It testifies to His genius. There is not an iota of darkness in the white light of God’s presence. How fitting that the Creator of everything vibrant and beautiful should be glorified in this way!

The flora and fauna of the earth were made first by God but then he went on to create humans with an eye capable of seeing and identifying every individual color of the spectrum and yet also able to recognize the absence of color as black and the amazing composite of color called white. As the hymn says, “To God be the glory, for great things He has done…”

My sincere hope is to be able to continue meaningful conversations with my grandson as he matures. It’s imperative that He learns to discern the difference between the one who masquerades as light and the One who is the True Light of this world. I want him to know the Originator of all things good and to be able to recognize evil so that he can keep the “bad cats” out of his life.

From now on, I too, am going to be on the look out for color killer cats- you know, the ones that take the joy out of living; those sneaky black cats that skulk into the room and drain the happy orange and pink colors of laughter or the serene peaceful colors of blue and green from our souls. I can contain or loose those cats by my reaction to personal struggles and grief in my life or to the tragedies in the lives of the ones I love or even to the catastrophes reported in the world.

I’ve decided that the best way to defend myself against the dark moments in life is to stay in fellowship with Jesus, the true Light of the World. He has promised that He will bring the color of joy to our lives.

**So when I begin to glow in happy neon colors, you will know that all of my cats are back in the bag.

Wound Care

By Anne de Martimprey

Screen Shot 2017-05-22 at 10.33.43 AMI don’t do so well with blood, and when I saw my five year old son crying with a bulging purple lump under his eye and blood dripping down all over his cheeks mixing with his salty tears and splashing down onto his shirt it made my heart shudder and my knees shake. Three stitches were needed to sew up the wound that day. Since then many weeks have passed and his face has healed nicely. Only a small scar remains.

It pained me to see him wounded at the time, and it pained me to think of him carrying a scar with him all of his life, but as I thought about it I decided that having three boys as I do, I had better get used to seeing wounds and scars because I am sure it won’t be the last! I am constantly watching out for my boys’ physical safety but I can’t control everything. My boys are going to be hurt. As I let my heart feel this truth, I realized that the wounds and scars on their skin are the least of my worries.

It’s the scars on the inside of a person, on their soul, that are truly painful. So I still pray for the Lord to protect my sons, their hands, and feet, and eyes, and brains, and spines…but more than all that I pray for the protection of their hearts. When they get a serious wound on their skin, there are doctors to stitch it up, and there are popsicles to distract, and I can hold them and comfort them. But heart wounds are harder. God is the only one who can truly heal those. So I pray for protection, I pray that they will live lives with hearts that are full and free in Jesus, and I know that if their hearts are wounded along the road that only God can truly heal. I hold them now when they cry over a cut or a bruise, but he will hold them always and comfort their hearts when I cannot. It reminds me of Zephaniah 3:17 “The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”

It also reminded me of a poem I wrote once…

Be Still

Little sleeping body rests against my chest,

Breath flowing gently, lifting, falling,

Calms me

Like ocean waves rushing in, and sighing out,

Peaceful,

Yet powerful too.

I stare into this great depth.

A soul sleeps here in my arms,

One I will help to shape, and hope to direct,

But in the end is untamable

To all but the One who created it,

To Him who said to the

Stormy peaks of salt and sting,

Be still

And speaks this to our hearts also,

As with an ancient lullaby

He calls us back to his arms,

Asks us to be that sleeping child, breathing heavy into His chest,

Lifting, falling,

Lifting our eyes to Jesus,

Falling deeper in love.

 

Creating New Beginnings 

By Kay Kattke

Evcropped-river.jpger feel like all the plans you’re making are failing? It’s hard to hold onto hope when we fail. It’s usually only when the hard times pass that we see Gods plan of success for our lives. Changing our perspective on failure is a must if we want to see the new beginnings God has for us.

Pain and hardship have their purpose in ways that God works out for our good. The Bible tells us, “…for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Daily we are faced with choices. We can choose to be resentful and bitter about our circumstances, or we can trust Gods got our back and remain faithful even in the midst of the most treacherous of circumstances.

I was encouraged just yesterday as a dear sister in the Lord shared her life story with me, after years of treacherous abuse, she surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ and she is now seeing new beginnings! God is restoring all the years of her past, they are dead and buried with Christ. Yet, because Christ rose again, she is experiencing new life and new beginnings (Romans 6:4)! How cool is that?!

Through Gods strength we can leave the old chains in the past and choose new life each day! Seeing Gods purpose for our lives through these new beginnings is only one choice away. Sometimes making the choice to submit to God is really hard…that’s why there are fellow believers in Christ that are willing to come along side of of us to keep us encouraged.

Like the friend I spoke of earlier, she has encouraged me greatly to keep up the good fight of surrendering to the Lord through the choices I make daily. If you are searching for new beginnings and desire this kind of encouragement, please post in the comments, or just come join us at Grace Community Church on Sunday mornings. We’ll get you plugged into a group that will encourage you toward new beginnings. 

May God accomplish every good purpose He has for your life through Jesus! 

Footsteps in Our Lives

By Deborah GarnerIMG_7979

Not too long ago I was chatting with my young granddaughter. She began to describe how she had awakened from sleep the night before and was so frightened to see a towering figure standing in her bedroom doorway.

As it turned out, she hadn’t heard her dad walk down the hallway to her room. So when she opened her eyes to see his imposing 6 foot 5 inch frame in the darkened doorway, he became an apparition. We laughed at how Daddy had inadvertently scared her witless.

She went on to describe how she can recognize each member of her family as they approach her room by the sound of their footsteps. Brother walks fast, maybe even jogs, feet full of energy. Mommy walks slower but lighter than the heavy measured footsteps of daddy.

Later I thought of how I could have told her that as she grows up, the steps of many people will leave footprints as they walk through her life. There will be people who will quickly walk on by instead of stopping to be a friend or who will carelessly stomp on her feelings or crush the fragile flowers in her field of dreams.

But then there will be those who will walk along beside her, encouraging and supporting her. People who will pray for her and hold her up if she falls. Theirs will become the footsteps she will long to hear.

I then thought of how I could have told her that most importantly, she could learn to recognize the footsteps of her Savior. The Bible says the Lord hedges us in from behind and before, above and below. Surely He then walks with us each step of the way. If we will invite Him, He will make our path straight and help us over obstacles and through dark valleys and then corral the prowling lion and the wily serpent that seek us out.

I could have explained to her that when our burdens are heavy and we can’t carry them anymore, He asks us to pile them in the cart and to step into the yoke with Him. Because He is so big and we are so small, the weight of the yoke is on his shoulders, we are only required to be in step with Him.

Or I could have read her the poem that tells of Jesus and a friend leaving footprints in the sand and that when His friend became exhausted; He carried her, so that two sets of footprints became one.

I do so want her to know the Lord says He will never leave us nor forsake us. It’s a promise. Our Savior never walks away from us. In the Bible story of the prodigal son, the Father runs toward his child with open arms and welcomes him home.

In my mind I can see pictures of firefighters carrying children out of burning buildings, of soldiers carrying their dead comrades in their arms or mothers cradling an infant that has been maimed by a bomb, tears running down their faces, and I then think of how the Lord holds us as we weep. He knows our pain. He is well acquainted with grief and sorrow. I want to be sure and tell her that.

And then I will implore her to always walk away from the shadows and toward the Son so that His footsteps will be the ones that echo in the corridors of her mind and leave footprints across the landscape of her heart.

 

Making it …

1 tim 4-12By Georgia Phipps

As parents send their children off to college, a first thought is “I hope they make it”. As a new college student myself, I had the same thought…I hope I make it.

I’m going to stop right there. Making it in the quote-unquote “real world” should not be summarized in a passing “I hope I make it” feeling. It should be solidified in the KNOWLEDGE that Jesus Christ wants us. He wants us to love Him, follow Him, believe in Him. He wants our hearts. That is where it starts. Our hearts.

From a very young age my parents strived to capture my heart instead of stifle my strong will. That perspective has helped me deal with being out side of my Christian bubble. I have recently started college. Unlike some of my other friends who decided to go to a Christian college, I elected to go to a secular one. I am an audio engineering major. For those of you who are not familiar with that, it is in the music industry. All the stigmas that are related to the industry are true. Almost all of my class mates are heavily into drugs and drinking. They go out partying. I’ve been invited to these outings many times. I have even been offered drugs after I said strongly that I do not do them. Never once have I been tempted to give in to peer pressure. Not just because the Bible says to be sober minded but because my parents sought to capture my heart and have me take on these standards as my own. This perspective will last far longer than that of the “do’s and don’ts”.

My desire is to be a light in the industry of secular music. To make a difference, for people to see me as different, but in a good way. I am surrounded daily by people who have learned to hate Christianity. Surrounded by the self declared “tolerant” public. They are blinded by their ideals of what they think I am. Which ironically is something they claim to strive for.

My fellow Christian students, what I hope you take from this is to stand strong in the face of the “nice wicked” that Pastor Paul so rightly put. They are attractive in the way that you “think” that you can relate to them and change them. Only God can do that. And to the parents; coming from a child who knows what it is like to have strong, wonderful, non-judgmental, and supportive parents, be that to your children. It is the best feeling to know that I have a safe place with FAMILY that loves me unconditionally and can come along side me and be the best kind of support system.

Memories


By Kay Kattke

Recently memories of the days of old have been triggered in the spaces of my mind. Like an old hard drive glitching in and out, these memories Screen Shot 2017-04-25 at 6.13.05 PMbreeze through the secret places of my mind. Some of these memories smell as sweet as a rose, and some wreak of the bitterness I’ve once struggled with. The enemy of our souls is like that. He creeps in when we are least expecting it, when we feel we’ve overcome, and when we are weak. He tries to rob us of our peace and joy, but guess what? We’ve got ammunition! And on this particular evening, I was geared up and ready for battle!

From the time I was nine years old, I have trusted and understood that Christ died for my sins, He was buried, and was raised from the dead three days later, according to the Scriptures in 1 Corinthians 15:3-7. From this marker in my life, I’ve grown to understand how much the Lord loves me. Of course I’m much older than nine now, which draws me to the mental process of understanding just how incomprehensible God’s love is and was even way back then! The more I’ve gotten to know the Lord Jesus Christ, the more I desire to follow hard after Him! The more I follow hard after Him, the more I understand the incredible power that lies within me to conquer the enemy!

So that recent night, when the breeze was blowing thick through my mind with the lies of the enemy, and those old bitter thoughts were triggered, I instantly grabbed those thoughts and said in my mind to the enemy, “God did not give me a spirit of fear nor a spirit of timidity, but He gave me a spirit of power, of love and a spirit of self discipline!” God’s Word has taught me to “get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.” (Ephesians 4:31-32)

Now this is where it gets exciting! This is where the rubber meets the road so to say. When the enemy picks at us (something we all know he does, and does well), we can allow him to ruin our attitude and perspective, or we can grab that thought and pronounce it as the lie that it is, and stomp that old enemy back in his place! That place is called “defeated”! The enemy is not welcome here! Or there! Or anywhere! We have victory and power over the enemy as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, because the Holy Spirit dwells within us (Romans 8:9-11).  This power may be something you never realized you had as a believer, but you do. As I’ve grown to understand and experience this great power, I strongly encourage you to not waste another day without tapping into this powerful weapon! We can daily be tapped into this and be living the abundant life God gives now! The enemy comes only to steal and kill and destroy our lives, but Jesus came that we may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10)!  So I say, Let’s get tapped into what already lies within us! Remember it’s there if you’re a believer in Jesus, all we have to do is utilize it for all it’s worth!

Here are some simple applications to help pave the journey for you:

BELIEVE!

Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved (Acts 16:31a). This next verse I learned when I was nine years old, John 3:16, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” This Truth never grows old for me!

KNOW!

Get to know Jesus! The best way and place to do this is through reading the Bible. This world wide best selling book, the Holy Bible, has already been proven to be historically true, and researched by many former atheists to be found true, so there is no need in this day and age, to question whether or not the Bible is true, it is. The only logical thing left to do is read it for yourself. You can begin anywhere, but if you don’t know where to begin, start in the book of John, then go back to the beginning and read through the book of Genesis. These are just ideas to get you reading. The main thing to do is, READ IT. Read it so you can get to know who Jesus was and is. Get to know His character and personality. Get to know Him as your savior. As you get to know Him and believe the truths about Him, you will find you are wanting to stretch yourself to be more like Him. Sooooo…

STRETCH!

Stretch yourself to not just to know and believe in Jesus, but use what you are learning in real life. “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” (Hebrews 4:12)  “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” (2 Timothy 3:16)     Let God stretch you. No stretching or training is enjoyable while it is happening–it’s painful! But afterward the Bible tells us “there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.” (Hebrews 12:11)

As I look back over the years, I see a lot of wasted time and battles with the enemy that I did not win. My hope and prayer is that you will be encouraged to not wait so long! Gear up to fight now! Battle strong, walk boldly with God and finish well! (Ephesians 6:10-18)

Blessings,

From Our Kamp to Yours!