God's Grace

I’m sitting on the swing in the front yard this evening as the sky dims blue-slate-violet. A woodpecker has found itself a temptingly hollow log, and I can hear him rat-tat-tatting his way through his evening pursuit. Goats are moseying down the hillside back to their evening pen. A couple cows moo in the distance.

This is grace for me. Why?

My wife and I just moved into a small house on her parents’ farm. Jerusalem Ridge Farms is a place where God’s grace has abounded to Ray and Stephenia, which you can see by checking out the link above. I’ve just finished The Divine Conspiracy and The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard. Some lost and struggling people I work with have come to me this week seeking answers, ideas, help for their lives.

Six months ago, I could not have answered them. Not with anything but a hug, maybe an encouraging word, and a promise to pray for them. Now, I have answers. I have ideas. I have concrete things in the Gospels to which I can lead them and say, “This is who I’m following” and, more importantly, “this is how I’m following Him, and this is how you can start following Him, too.”

God has given me a small, grace-enriched spiritual hub at Myrtle Avenue.

God has given me a wife who understands and loves me, even at my lowest points.

God has given me a retreat, a place abounding in His blessings, where I can reach for Him.

God has given me a calling that I cannot ignore.

Can you see now why this is grace to me? The confluence of God’s work that began long before I came on the scene, and will continue long after I’ve passed from this place.

God has good plans for the future of creation. Willard writes, ” ‘The kingdom of heaven is now available, turn in to it!’ (Matt 3:2, 4:17). Now all humankind is invited to live in a family, made possible by Our Father in heaven, whom we address in prayer. When the gospel of this family kingdom has been adequately presented in the lives of Christ’s people, the end of human history as we are familiar with it will occur (Matt 24:14), for humankind will fall under the effectual leadership of those who stand in the Kingdom and upon the earth as judges (1 Cor 6:2).”

God, please let me face this challenge as your man. Give me the courage to stand, and the grace to speak love and truth together.

in HIS love,
Nick

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About Nick Gill

orphan-poet-adoptee-soldier-prodigal-servant-husband- counselor-desperate seeker after my Father's face "I feel my body weakened by the years as people turn to gods of cruel design. Is it that they fear the pain of death, or is it that they fear the joy of life?" - Toad the Wet Sprocket

Posted on 31 May, 2006, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Nick,I’m thankful for the grace you’re receiving from a God who gives and gives and gives! Willard introduced me to the gospel Jesus taught, not the one I’d always heard, and certainly not the one I’d been preaching for several years. I think I was sort of stunned for a long time after reading Divine Conspiracy, and through that being introduced to Richard Foster, Renovare’, and a whole genre of Western literature having to do with spiritual discipline; later I found some of the Eastern Orthodox material to be a robust source of grace, though a bit more mystical (to say the least!). Have you read Renovation of the Heart yet? Wow! I’m glad I read Divine Conspiracy first. Renovation provided me with a more profound grasp on what it means to be a human, how we are composed, etc., than anything I’ve ever read. It really provides a foundation to build the disciplines upon–one that makes great sense in terms of seeking grace to renovate our broken spirits.One final note. I pray you stay out of the ditch that I fell into. I let Satan turn the disciplines into a set of works–legalisms. It happened over a year or so, slowly, and without me ever really noticing it had happened. I was using disciplines (not as means but end) to become a good person, rather than simply allowing God to work in me, allowing His gifts to pour into me via disciplines. I allowed the means to become the end and it nearly cost me my soul. What I thought should happen more easily, and almost over night, I’ve learned happens in with great struggle and in God’s time; that is, He reshapes us in His image at a pace that we can stand. Maybe we should all plaster Ga. 3 on our foreheads. Did we receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith . . . Does He who supplies the Spirit to you do so by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Trust. Trust that comes by hearing God is His means of supplying the Spirit. I allowed Satan to turn my trust from God to a handful of works (disciplines). They became a magic bag of spiritual tricks. I had one for everthing. I had tamed the Lion and knew how to get our of Him exactly what I needed. But the Lion is never tamed. He will not be managed. He is jealous of all gods, especially the idolatry of self exaltation. The Spirit is supplied (O, what grace!) by hearing with trust. As long as trust isn’t misplaced, the disciplines are a wonderful way of receiving more and more grace. When trust is misplaced, the disciplines become a horrific prison for egos that crave credit for God’s work!May God’s grace abound to us all, and may He flood you with (and us all), with His lavish gifts. And, as Willard often notes, may He never allow us more gift than we have character.Ben

  2. Hey Ben, Richard Foster gives us exactly the warning you offered me in the first chapter of the newest edition of Celebration of Discipline. He doesn’t offer your unique solution of branding ourselves with Paul’s words to the Galatians. Maybe I’ll email him with it πŸ™‚ Seriously, though, I also praise the Father that he has put experienced and passionate counselors like you and Dobber and Bobby in my path. I fear the opposite extreme from what you described: that I will have all the knowledge from all these great writers, but be too lazy or fearful or content or apathetic or undisciplined to practice, to “exercise myself unto godliness.” It is really hard sometimes, not to try and “do what Ben’s doing at his apartment complex” or “do what Bobby’s doing at Southside” or “do what John’s doing at Central.” I am learning that I’ve got to let the Kingdom take the shape that FRANKFORT needs, and to do my best to conform myself to THAT.Nick

  3. Nick,I think you’re touching on the need for trust, something all of us need desperately, but something that somehow isn’t nutured the way our intellect is, or our kingdom “vision” is, or our speaking skill is, or our writing skill is, etc. For me, exercising myself unto godliness is a matter of trust. And I always feel my faith is inferior. But faith is bound up in hearing, and I’m constantly tempted, and more often than I’d like to admit I give in to the temptation to make cultivating faith through hearing less than top priority. O, how I want to do better by His grace! So let’s pray for each other that we will hear God, and as we hear Him through both the voice of creation and the words of scripture, our trust in Him will increase, as His Spirit fills us with all good things, blessedness, infinite happiness in the warm blanket of His dazzling gifts. The way that shakes out for me, Nick, is a need to really be still and hear God. The most important thing you do today might be to set on the hillside and watch the goats as you remember the mighty works of God. It is in absorbing that divine energy that we find His strength to be the husband, co-worker, counselor, etc., that we ought to be. But it feels like a waste of time primarily because everyone signals to us that our time could be better spent “DOING” something PRODUCTIVE (so-called). As a minister in Christ, 1 Timothy 4 is essential medicine. Shoot it into your veins like a heroin addict. Meditate, study, public readings, giving yourself entirely to those things will open us up to Light that can then radiate into broken lives; souls God will save through our love for Christ and His creatures. He is shaping and forming us and (this is scary) delegating to us the responsibility to decide what direction to go. In His Kingdom, we have a bit of kingdom power. As you glance at the spiritual landscape of Frankfort, you are being given some ability to act and influence and shape the kingdom of our Beloved. May God grant us the wisdom and the love to avoid the tempation to bury our kingdom influence in the ground for safe keeping; may He give us the strength of heart and soul to risk self in order to allow His light to explode out of our lives in the routine of this thing called life. Rejoicing in Him,Ben

  4. Ben, you are exactly right. Trust. Simple, childlike trust. Not perfect faith, but the faith you have today directed toward the One who is full of grace and truth.Remember those who questioned Jesus saying “What can we do that we may do these miraculous works of God?” His answer is the answer for our questions, “How can I do ministry the way you want it done?” “How can I really love my neighbor?”The answer is always just what Jesus answered 2000 years ago, “This is the work of God, that you believe on Him whom He has sent”. (my paraphrase)A weak faith will get a Peter out of prision, a halting faith will get a sick child healed, and a plea to God saying “Lord I believe but help my unbelief” will get the ear and heart of God for His children.Without faith (trust) it is IMPOSSIBLE toplease God.

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