“Lost and Found” by Greg Olsen. Used with Permission. www.GregOlsen.com
Road to Damascus Women’s Retreat
Definition of Grace:
Courteous goodwill. This is when we admit something like, “Well, he had the Grace to admit he was the one who made the mistake.” This is a Grace I am all too familiar with as a person who has made his fair share of mistakes – unknowingly of course.
There is a simple elegance or refinement of movement. My oldest daughter is a dancer since she was 3 years old – she is now dancing in Europe at the age of 30. I can remember sitting time after time sitting through dance competitions and watching girls dance across the stage – and they were good. But then, this absolute angel would come and glide across the stage with all these hops, jumps and flights through difficult music and movements. With her there was a particular way of moving that was just different. That girl is the one who is living her dream in Europe today.
That isn’t the Grace I am here to speak about today. A prominent Old Testament word describing God’s grace is chesed. This word speaks of deliverance from enemies, affliction, or adversity. It also denotes enablement, daily guidance, forgiveness, and preservation.
The New Testament word is Charis. It focuses on the provision of salvation. God’s Grace – without which we would not exist. Imagine that – without God’s Grace we cease to exist. That Grace is defined as an unearned gift of God’s love. Another way to say it, grace means God’s love in action towards men who merited the opposite of love.
Grace means God moving heaven and earth to save sinners who could not lift a finger to save themselves. Grace means God sending His only Son to descend into hell on the cross so that we guilty ones might be reconciled to God and received into heaven. ‘(God) has made him, who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him’” (2 Corinthians 5:21).1
What does the Bible say in reference to Grace?
“This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:22-24).
God doesn’t care what religion or faith you practice. Where is Carol? Carol, does this sound familiar? This morning after the morning reflection Carol and I were speaking about how we, as believers, think everyone understands all that we do. The first thing a seeker hears as they come into a community is, “’We are all sinners’ – for we have all sinned and fall short of the Glory of God.” These people walk into a first time experience to hear they are sinners? Many of them are living very good lives but we tell them they’re sinners. Is it any wonder many choose not to come back? I can admit as a Catholic we are all about the “deep end” of the pool (knowledge). But most visitors are “shallow end” (little understanding) of the pool. So to have the first thing you hear is that you’re a sinner even though you live a very good life – serving others, righting wrongs – I can understand why it’s so hard to feel welcomed. Even if the deep enders are right and we are all sinners – none of us are perfect – that’s not the message to greet shallow enders with, is it? We all fall short but if that’s the drum, beat we may never hear the Grace in God’s love. Because it is only by His Grace we are healed.
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace” (Ephesians 1:7).
If God didn’t love us we would all be doomed. If Jesus didn’t lay down on that cross – we would never see heaven. Only through his love, His Grace, are we redeemed.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:8-10).
How can I possibly brag of what I’ve done when it is only because of his love in forgiving my past that I can do what I do?
“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).
The Law of Moses is the armor of the ones who cannot recognize the gift of Jesus.
“For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!” (Romans 5:17).
Adam’s choice of worldly things is a fall from Grace for all of us but through the Grace of God we have someone who loves us enough to go to the cross time and again. Every time we sin we nail him to the cross once more. And still he does it willingly.
So, it’s not my daughter dancing across a stage nor is it my willingness to admit when I’m wrong. But something beyond anything we can really understand. It’s a mystery we can’t explain.
My name is Deacon Kenneth Stanley and I attended Journey to Damascus #5 way back in the Spring of 2001 in Corpus Christi.
John 1:14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Let me share with you a moment of Grace. And you will notice that Faith and Grace have always been sisters walking hand in hand.
I remember awaking from a very deep sleep. It was the middle of the night I knew due to the darkness of the room. At first I had no idea where I was.
As I lay there I wondered what it was that woke me. That’s when I heard it. That still, small sound from down the hall and this indescribable joy washed over me – a complete and utter feeling of love. One of my favorite moments in my life had arrived.
We had two children at the time; Sarah, a beautiful little blond angel of 3 years and Aaron, her little brother of less than a year. Their mother, a teacher, became a stay at home mom when Aaron was born, which explains why she was sleeping so soundly.
I had started my own air conditioning company which got me up very early – before the children were awake – and brought me home very often after they were already in bed.
As I rolled out of bed to go to that little voice, I was wide awake. The house was very dark and as I stepped around the end of the bed to the doorway I could see, like a lighthouse guiding me to my home, at the end of the hall the open door of my son’s room. It helped me to navigate the troubled waters, actually it was the toys left strewn everywhere by the sea monsters in the form of my two children.
I stopped at the first door down the hall to check in on Sarah. She was a very independent child who didn’t like anyone to even lie down with her except to read her a bedtime story. Once finished you were told to leave (which is a nice way of saying she told us to get out), but now she was sleeping peacefully and almost a photocopy of her mom.
So, seeing she was fast asleep I proceeded down the hall to that little voice drawing me ever onward like the siren’s song. I stopped just outside the door, at the edge of the light so I could just take a moment to enjoy the scene before me.
The door was partially open and I could see him – standing at the bedrail with his stuffed gorilla in a very earnest conversation. Looking up expectantly from time to time at the door – almost like he knew I was there – knowing by faith that I soon would be. As I watched him I gave into the moment – that God given moment of Grace, a moment of surrender to something greater than I could ever understand. He was just as beautiful as his sister.
As I stepped through the door his body stiffened with excitement and that smile that would light a thousand homes spread over his face. This child loved me even though I had done nothing to earn it.
Think about your first love and how you would sacrifice anything to be with them and keep them safe. Think about how they made you feel. In that moment in that room with that little person – it was better than that.
So I reached in and picked him up and we walked over to the corner of the room where we had a glider, not a rocker, to glide him to sleep. As we sat down and began to glide back and forth slowly – he just sat there and continued to jabber on and on in that language little ones speak. I think it’s called angelic. It was a language I didn’t speak – at least not any longer. But, he believed I understood him and I guess in a way I did as I listened with my heart. Everything I was experiencing was total love between a father and son.
He spoke with such a serious look on his face and I fell deeper in love. Finally, as always happened he got tired once more and began to get sleepy and turned his tiny body just so, allowing his heart to meet my own as he fell asleep.
That sisters is a moment of Grace. God gifted me this child, this love, this moment even though I had done nothing to deserve it. Even though I had actually done many things that should have negated this experience.
I laid my head back against the back of the glider and thought of the absolute faith he had shown as he waited for the man down the hall he knew as father. Knowing without any doubt that I would come through that door. And the Grace in that moment which showed me how much – through that little person in my arms – God loved me.
We had a history, my son and me, of this happening from time to time. Well, it happened all the time but it was still a beautiful thing to me. It is a beautiful history that had been passed down from my dad to me, his dad to him, my grandfather’s father to him and on back to the time when Jesus laid his heart against his Father’s heart and died on a cross and with that saved us all. That is Grace. But without his faith in the man from down the hall coming to him, there would not have been that moment of Grace.
In the Gospel of John, Chapter 1: 1 we read, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
When John the Evangelist speaks of the Word he is speaking of Jesus. The scripture continues and says that everything came to be through him, Jesus, so without Jesus, there would be no life, no space, no time.
Jesus is the proof of God’s Grace.
Colossians 1:6 In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world – just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace.
Another moment of God’s Grace in my life.
My 15 year old daughter (at the time) and her mom were in Los Angeles for the summer. One night she called me all excited about 9 pm my time, well past my bedtime. She said, “Dad, I just wanted to tell you I had a ‘dad moment’.” I don’t know how to properly describe the utter terror that swept over me upon hearing she had a “dad moment”. You see, I’m very familiar with the man she knows as “dad”.
Then, she explained, “I went down to the store (close by where they were staying) and bought an ice cream. When I was coming back I saw this guy standing there holding a guitar and a sign that said he was homeless. He looked about Aaron’s age (her brother, 20 at the time from the story above) so I went over and gave him the change I had left. When I got home, I couldn’t stop thinking that I could have done more. So, I went over and cut up some fruit, made a couple sandwiches and got a drink from the refrigerator and took it to him. HE said, he had been there all day and no one would even make eye contact with him until I have him the money. He said it may have only been a couple of dollars but that was a lot when you’re homeless. Then he said when I brought him the food it was like God saying he wasn’t forgotten. He hadn’t eaten in a couple days. Dad, it made me feel so good.”
I don’t know that I’ve ever been more proud as a father than in that moment. This has now become a part of our “Beautiful History” – of father and daughter. Only 15 years of age and she was so far advanced from what I was at that same age.
There was a time when I sat in a restaurant eating alone and when I finished I went to pay. The cashier told me that my meal was paid for already. When I asked by whom she said she didn’t know. My daughter’s “dad moment” was in reference to the times after when I paid it forward. At a stop sign where someone is asking for money – we may not give it at that moment but down the road if God acts strongly on me I turn around and give them what I can. In a drive through line we would pay for the person behind us. IN a restaurant we would decide if there is someone we feel like is having a bad day and pay for their meal.
A young man sat by his broken down truck on the side of the road as I passed by. He gave me a halfhearted wave – disappointed with no expectations – and I passed on and as I crossed the overpass I had the overwhelming feeling I needed to go back. I kept a $100 bill in my wallet for emergencies and as I pulled up you could see a look of disbelief cross his face. When he came over I gave him the money. He thanked me profusely and asked for my contact info. I told him not worry about paying me back but when he saw someone hurting to help them. All of this from one anonymously paid for meal.
God speaks to us – if we listen – and tells us “This is one” – feed my sheep. A moment of Grace.
I have to say, sadly, I haven’t always been that way. There have been too many times in my life where I only thought of myself. Unworthy of God’s love.
While I may have always been a good Christian on the surface I wasn’t always a good Christina inside. You know that secret place, deep down inside that no one else can know? Know what you think, what you feel or what you fantasize about? Guess what? Someone else does know. HE is there and no matter how deep a hole we can dig ourselves – it is never so deep that Jesus can’t come and get us.
There are many things about this world that draws us like moths to the flames; the bright, shiny things that draw our attention like sex, drugs, alcohol, gambling, cheating, stealing, material wealth and the other things that take the place of God. Those things actually can become our gods.
Then we can’t hear that small, still voice because we have all the noise of the world pounding in our ears. That is the work of the Evil One but Evil can’t win unless we allow it. When Jesus lay down upon that cross he died for every sin – every sin that had ever been committed and every one that would ever be committed were covered by the blood of the Cross. But if we refuse to hear him, eventually, just like the moths drawn to the flame, all that awaits us is death, and not just physical but spiritual.
When it’s all said and done, I can talk away here giving you doctrine, theology, definitions and personal stories – but it all comes down to this:
Where you recognize His Grace is up to you. If you struggle with proof of God, I believe it’s in the story of my daughter and her listening to His Voice on the streets of Los Angeles.
Do you hear it? Abraham heard it. Jonah heard it and tried to run from it. Job heard it from the mouth of Elihu. The prophet Elijah heard it and understood. While on Mt Horeb hiding from Jezebel in 1 Kings 19:10-13 the Lord asks him why he’s hiding in the cave. And he tells God that he’s afraid of Jezebel killing him. So, God invites him to the mouth of the cave.
There is a great wind but he knows that’s not God. Then a great fire. But he knows that’s not God. Then an earthquake but still he knows it’s not God.
Then, a still small breeze. Elijah fell to his knees and covered his face because he knew God was passing by.
Grace is in the small things. A moment in the night with a child. A child recognizing Christ in a musician on the streets of LA. A breeze passing the mouth of the cave.
Hebrews 4:16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Where is your moment of Grace? If you’ll allow, it can be right here – this weekend – among your new sisters.
Open your hearts. Let go your hurts. Forgive yourselves and let God’s Grace flow over you.
I know it happens because I once sat right where you sit now.