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Thursday, April 23, 2015

He Giveth More Grace

I love my local church. The family members for Sunrise Community Church are very dear to me as I hope those on your local branch of God's family tree are dear to you. Sunrise, I want to share something that moved me on your behalf this week.

Our local branch is spending Sundays in April considering the hope and wisdom God's Word offers for different seasons of life, each of which possessing inherent obstacles to our human limitations. For parents: Lack of sleep resources for those in the early years and lack of time resources as the kids get older (very soon for Katie and I: lack of money resources as they ask to go places with friends and off to university Lord willing). For spouses: The constant threat of war when two sinners get married and vulnerably open themselves up to another. Lack of unconditional acceptance you want him/her to change to be more like you (though you don't really want this) and lack of forgiveness because he/she should first say sorry...and maybe even grovel a little. For singles: Lack of clarity with regard to how one should utilize his/her time and lack of self-control to keep returning to God with occasional or regular loneliness  For those advancing in years: Lack of feeling valued by others and purposeful for God. 

Annie Johnson Flint
We have a resource to carry on and through these seasonal obstacles in the God-man Jesus Christ. When fighting to stay faithful for God and live different lives than the world, James reminds us: "But He gives more grace" (James 4:6a). Annie Johnson Flint (1866-1932) took hold of this promise and drank of it deeply throughout her life. Her mother died when she was just two and her father passed away three years later. She trusted her life to Jesus at age 8 and years later began teaching. She taught for 3 years until arthritis (as a teenager!) made it impossible to continue. Within two years, she was unable to walk. She had to give up her dream of being a concert pianist as her body was now twisted up in chronic pain. She spent her remaining years as an invalid, but through it all remained outward-focused, large-hearted in generosity toward others, writing poetry to the glory of God and benefit of others - often enclosed in letters to struggling sojourners like herself. Here is one of her poems that I hope reminds you of the manifold graces available to you through Jesus:

Grace is God's love made active through an undeserved gift. The ultimate grace we have is God himself - God, indeed, is the end goal of the gospel. So when a person trusts Jesus, they are forgiven by and reconciled to God the Father and receive God the Holy Spirit to live with and inside of them (Acts 2:38). The best and leased deserved gift - God Himself!! From Whom flows every other gift. 

My dear friend, in the midst of your seasonal trial: Boldly approach God and ask Him for more grace (Hebrews 4:15-16). Consider: Have you only assumed or actually asked? Grace may come in the form of a provision that reminds you of His presence, an answer to prayer that reminds you he hears not only the formal prayers but the terse and inarticulate grunts, a spiritual gift that sneaks up on you as you serve others (such that someone else has to point it out), a member of the body of Christ generously providing an encouraging word, an unexpected gift or a thoughtful offer of help, a sunset or ocean breeze gift-wrapped for you to enjoy (consider also the burrito and gelato!), a reminder of the cross to help you recall: "Yes, I forgive you again."  

Now that you've asked, take care to pay attention, because James also indicates that gifts are easy to miss because we just consider them normal or, worse, deserved. "Do not be deceived my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift comes from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like the shifting shadows" (James 1:16-17). So pay attention to every good and perfect grace He is puts in your person or presence. And respond by fully pouring it out as an offering back to him through the thanksgiving of your lips and your service toward others - that He might giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

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