As God has been unveiling a tiny piece of the beauty and magnificence surrounding such an intangible concept, I sit awe-struck in the stands. It’s so incomprehensible that all of humanity can’t wrap their minuscule brains around it. It’s so beautiful. So totally unexpected in the story of mankind throughout history. It’s so beyond us, far above anything we could have ever come up with.
I mean, really, would you have come up with the concept of ‘grace?’ Treat un-respectable people with respect. Treat unloving people with love. Treat anti-God people with the gift of God. Our whole flesh nature cries out for justice, for fairness, for consequences and rewards. At least most of us can understand the concept of sin and the separation of unholy beings from a Holy God. That makes logical sense — if we are willing to admit it.
But Grace? It’s a twist in the entire plot. It’s a fourth dimension exploding our three-dimension world.
Stooping down to lift us up out of our sinful humanity, our utter depravity, our desperate rebellion. Releasing us from our sin, by taking our place so we would have the option to never pay the PENALTY. Forever.
That astounding mercy is great enough. But Grace doesn’t stop.
Letting us out of our dungeon. Forever. To be free from the PROBLEM of sin and live in HIS FREEDOM.
Wow. And Grace keeps going.
Welcoming our filthy existence daily into HIS PRESENCE.
BAM! Even if I could possibly comprehend the cross, I would never imagine in a million years that He would ever want to see us again. Saving from sin, maybe, but saving us to Himself? I mean, really? Daily put up with us?
Not only that, but ADOPTING us as HIS CHILDREN. Identifying HIS holy and precious name with our dragged-in-the-mud title.
It gets better. The privilege and honor of Him COMMISSIONING us to be HIS IMAGE-BEARERS to a lost world. Flat out GIVING His precious name to US. Wow. What responsibility and trust.
And not only that, but promising to GO WITH US, to DWELL INSIDE US and be our STRENGTH, our INNER CORE, our PROTECTION, and our GRACE TO OTHERS.
We can’t even give others grace. We have to borrow His grace to give. Get that.
In class this summer, one of the girls repeated a quote from the book we’re reading through: “Love that goes upward is worship; love that goes outward is affection; love that stoops is grace.”
I attached to this quote, but something about it rubbed me wrong. And then I realized: it correctly defined what I give others as Not Grace. Hardly affection, at best. Often more bordering worship. I love in order to be loved.
The reason is because I’m not stooping. I’m on the same level as the rest of humanity. Each one of us, made in Christ’s image. Each one of us, blind and desperate without Him. I deserve nothing, so can’t demand any rights to be respected by others. The love I give others is usually barely that. Selfish love. Not grace.
Only God truly gives Grace.
And maybe that’s why it remains so pure, marvelous, and beyond my wildest dreams.
Here is a taste of how the Lord has used the books we read to change my heart over the last 7 months. Hope you enjoy them!
The Jesus Style:“Humility is simply seeing ourselves as we actually are, not higher or lower.”
The Calvary Road: “Perhaps someone annoyed me, and I was irritated. God wants me to see that it was not the thing that the person did that matters, but my reaction to it. If I had been broken, I would not have been irritated.”
Have a Mind to Suffer: “… being willing to suffer is not the same thing as suffering itself. It simply means that before God I have a desire of being willing to endure hardship, difficulty or trial for the Lord….Whoever has this mind may not in fact suffer, yet in his mind and heart he has committed himself to do so gladly for the Lord.”
Learning to Pray:“We are talking to a Father who is closer to us than our own thoughts. He is near, so near that no words can describe it.”
Before You Hit the Wall:“He [God] doesn’t want Christians to be carbon copies of each other, but unique expressions of Him.”
Touching Godliness Through Submission: “We cannot say we submit to God and at the same time, on the inside, live a life of insubordination and rebellion toward the authority God has placed over us.”
“God is our refuge and strength a very present help in trouble.”
This is a verse that my little sister wrote out for me on a piece of cardboard before I left home. It has been sitting on my desk since I got to Gospel For Asia but it was only today – more than a month later – when I realized that this is what God has been teaching me for the whole time I’ve been here. Whenever I mess up or feel homesick, God is with me. I think that He has let me mess up so much while I’m here simply so I will rely on Him and remember that I am here for His glory – not because I am qualified. He is always so near to me. I am learning to listen to His voice and to accept His grace and peace.
His grace is His loving favor even when we continually mess up. He cares for me so much that he made a way for my sins to be forgiven. When I would be guilty before His throne – unable to have a relationship with Him – doomed to eternal hell, He sent a sacrifice. His son died for me that I might stand before him even with my imperfections. He can no longer see that I am not perfect.
Matt said in class this week that often we go before God and ask Him “How can You love me when I have done this sin?” He said that God just looks at us and says “Why are you bringing that up again? I distinctly remember forgetting that.” Our God keeps no record of our wrongs or our shortcomings. He only wants us to be able to live life to the fullest through being made into the likeness of His Son.
It sure does feel strange to be graduated from the School of Discipleship and right between coming back on staff with GFA, and not gone yet. I’m glad for the chance to stay here longer to help out in the office during the craziness of the new data change, and to help train the new student that will take my place in the Volunteer department. But it doesn’t leave much time for processing all that has happened this year and the last few hectic weeks of class. So I was re-reading my latest Owley Report (Newsletter) and here are the things I wrote about.
The Bonsai House! This is my last newsletter while living in the Bonsai house. I’m going to miss my roommates that became like sisters. I’m sure glad we will spend eternity together! Check out some stuff we did on Youtube! Just search “Ninjacat12890”
We went evangelizing for the third of July.
My entire School of Discipleship class. We had a bunch of fun together and learned a lot from God this year. I’m glad I got to go through it all with them. I’m never going to forget this year that we spent together.
We got the chance to challenge ourselves by participating in a ropes course together. Some of the challenges were trust exercises, jumping off a 25 foot pole onto a trapeze bar, and climbing a 30 foot rock wall followed by a zip-line. It was awesome! Not to mention the fact that we saw an armadillo! Alive!!!
We have one more week of classes left! Recently we finished the book Stoked, by Danny Lehman. It was very challenging, and I enjoyed it. Next we go through one of Uncle KP’s booklets called Stay Encouraged. Before we go through that though, we had to give 10 minute speeches on a verse or passage in the Bible that God used in our lives this year. I gave mine on Romans 8:28.
On July 20, 2010 the August School of Discipleship class of 2009 graduated. It was an amazing ceremony, Uncle Gayle Erwin, author of The Jesus Style spoke, and the students each shared a parting gift of encouragement and thanks to the staff and families of GFA. This has been an amazing year full of growth, laughter, and love. Four of us are coming back on staff after we go back for support raising. The other three are all going home to see what the Lord’s plan is for them. Please be praying for each of us in our journeys with God. 🙂
Even though those last weeks were packed full of lessons from God, fun activities, and lots of cleaning, it was awesome to spend it with my class. Our class really did become like a little family unit within the GFA family, and I will continue to pray for my amazing friends/brothers/sisters.
In class we went through a book called the “Pursuit of God.” Then we had to share in front of our classmates what we thought and learned from the book. This is what I shared, in teaching format. (Sorry if its a little long)
Who is God to You?
Is He like the president? Some one that you know is there and is high and important, maybe one day someone you think it would be cool to meet; someone that passes laws that you can or cannot choose to follow?
Or, is he like your favourite movie star or singer? A person you greatly admire and dream of meeting one day but, you know it will probably never happen. A person you love and respect and do some of the same things He does, but, all in all your lives are almost completely different. OR…
Is God your best friend? The person that you spend most of your time with; Someone, who you would go to the moon and back for if they asked; Someone that you talk to on a daily basis and he\she talk back.
My whole LIFE, Up until a couple of years ago God was the president! I didn’t pay much if any attention to Him, like I do the prime minister of Canada, but I followed the rules and behaved well. Then 2008 in my senior year of high school God totally revolutionized my Life. He became a personal, loving God, a God that gives good gifts to His children, a friend. That in essence is what the book “The Pursuit of God” is all about. God can be known as much as you and your friends know each other. He can be felt, and loved as if He were your spouse. And the best part about all this is He desires that kind of relationship with each and every one of His children. Praise God! Doesn’t that sound great?
However… This Kind of relationship does not come without a cost. If you truly desire a close relationship with Christ then everything else in your life must take second place. God is not pleased to give Himself fully to you, unless you give yourself fully to Him. Paul said it well in the third chapter of Philippians.
Paul, a man of the Law was blameless, a Pharisee of Pharisee’s. He was looked upon as a righteous man, respected by all. Everything he had a Pharisee though, he gave up. Look what he says in verse 7and 8.
“But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may Gain Christ. Christ is worth your whole life, and more.”
The book put what I have been feeling into words, and strengthened my resolve to seek God, to expect great things of Him and to make Him my all, my everything. I want to be able, with Paul to say. I have counted all things as rubbish that I may gain Christ. How is this done? Some practical steps though that are sure to help.
For one, if anything in our life is important to us, we must ask ourselves. If God asked me to give this up, would I be able to? If God asked me to sacrifice my very own son like he did to Abraham would I be able to? Even if you don’t have children that can apply to many things. Money is a big one, food, clothes, friends, family, yes even your very self. If God asked you to go to a foreign country to preach the gospel, in which you would probably die. Would you? I know I wouldn’t, and that’s why we need this second step.
We must be constantly asking the God of the universe to change us, mould us and give us the strength to give up everything for Him. You just can’t do it alone. Philippians 2:13 says, “For it is God who works in us to will and to do for his good pleasure.” Cry out to God, it is the only way.
To end, I would like to share this quote with you written by Brother Yun and a Chinese House church leader.
“I had experienced so much in those four years, but God had been faithful. I’d suffered some horrible tortures, but God had been faithful. I’s been dragged in front of judges and courts, but God had been faithful. I’d been hungry, thirsty, and had fainted from exhaustion, but God had been faithful.
Through it all, God was always faithful and loving to me. He had never left me nor forsaken me. His grace was always sufficient and he provided for my every need. I didn’t suffer for Jesus in prison. No! I was with Jesus and I experienced his very real presence, joy, and peace every day. It’s not those in prison for the sake of the gospel who suffer. The person who suffers is he who never experiences God’s intimate presence.”(The Heavenly man, pg 187)
Have you experienced that presence? Who is God to you?