So, this old earth has made another trip around the sun and in a few hours we will see ‘22 morph into ‘23. When you think back over the last year is there sadness, joy, regret, celebration, accomplishment, missed opportunity, peace, or anxiety? As I prayed and thought about the closing year one phrase filled my mind – grace encounters. Just as He has done in the past, the Father again met me this year with His great grace, giving me a life that I do not deserve. Before you say the word “lucky” let me quickly say that my life is not without sorrow, loss, or disappointment. However, even in the dark moments, there is a grace that fills me with gratitude, hope, and love.
When I look back over the decades I see that God’s grace guided me, even through the darkest moments. In a season of bitter disappointment 35 years ago, He met me with grace and led me to serve a small church in New England, a place where I knew some of the greatest joys of my life with that congregation. In a time of deep depression, He graced me with friends that prayed with me and loved me until the light shown again, and I learned that His grace is constant even when I cannot perceive it.
I am living proof of the words of Paul that wonder at God’s grace: He “made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:5-7, NIV)
My friend, His grace is not just for some. It is not reserved for those who are ‘good enough,’ smart, beautiful, or rich. Jesus, when He announced His mission using the words of Isaiah, closed by saying that He came “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4.19)
His work was to restore the relationship with our Father, to give us back the rights of inheritance lost to sin, to free us from the grasp of evil; yes, to give us grace gifts of salvation! Don’t make salvation just about ‘getting to Heaven,’ though that is our great hope. We are ‘saved’ so that we may live in a state of grace, enjoying the Father’s love, able to enter His Presence confidently to “receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16, NIV)
As the year closes, present yourself to God, in faith, and receive the grace given freely through Christ Jesus. Seek HIM, not just His blessings. Open your heart and mind and thank Him for grace that is ours through Christ, the Lord.
In your tears, find the grace of His comfort.
In your sins, find the grace of His forgiveness.
In your successes, find the grace of humility
that recognizes that ‘every good gift comes down from the Father.’
In your fears, find the grace of peace.
In uncertainty, find the grace of knowing that
He holds all our tomorrows in His hands.
One of most widely known hymns reminds us of God’s Amazing Grace. “I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind, but now I see.” John Newton, the author of those words, had been captain of a ship that engaged in the slave trade. He was ‘a wretch,’ but somehow, grace reached him. He became a pastor in 18th century England, a vocal opponent of the slave trade, a man who knew grace (God’s undeserved favor). You can know that grace, too. Receive the Giver of Grace by faith and let the Spirit of God transform you, too, from sinner to saint. He will, graciously!
My favorite benediction fills my eyes with tears and my heart with gratitude. As 2022 comes to a close, I offer it to you today.
“I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:14-21, NIV)
Amazing grace how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost but now I’m found
Was blind but now I see
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed
My chains are gone I’ve been set free
My God my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy rains
Unending love amazing grace
The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures
The earth shall soon dissolve like snow
The sun forbear to shine
But God who called me here below
Will be forever mine
Will be forever mine
You are forever mine
Chris Tomlin | John Newton | Louie Giglio
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