Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.
For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
At the centre of my portrait of grace would be the image of a 17 year-old kid, who didn't think he needed God in his life, sitting in the corner of the ballroom at the Sheraton Brock motel in Niagara Falls, Ontario, on Good Friday, 1977. If you looked closely you would see an open Bible as the the youth leader from Emmanuel Baptist Church, explained the way of salvation. This was THE defining moment in my spiritual journey, when I surrendered to my life to Christ and received His grace and mercy.
When the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. (Titus 3:4-5)
As you moved out from the center of my portrait you would see other snapshots of grace, moments when the Lord Jesus poured out more of His love and favor. You would see a picture of my baptism in July of 1977, the day I married Janice in April of 1982, my graduation from Central Baptist Bible college in the spring of 1988, holding our daughter Lisa in September of 1988 at the back of the auditorium at Centennial Baptist Church as it is announced I had been called to become their next Senior Pastor.
There would be moments of great joy, but also moments of saddeness, when our gracious Father revealed Himself as the God who is our refuge and strength. You would see me standing with my mom and the bedside of my grandfather shortly before he passed away or sitting on the side of the road, trying to hold it together after the unexpected death of Janice's dad. You would see a moment in time when I stood with the parents of a four year-old as the doctor tells them, 'I'm sorry we did all we could' or standing beside a grieving mother as a police officer informed her that her 25 year-old son had been murdered. In those moments I experienced the fullness of God's sustaining grace.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Around all of those moments of grace discovered in times of joy or sorrow, would be images of those times when God met me along the path -- defining moments in my spiritual journey. You would see me kneeling in a moment of surrender at the Clergy Conference in Atlanta; an historic event in which nearly 40,000 pastors from around the world gathered. In that moment God's calling in my life was re-affirmed, leading to a season of growth in our church in Hamilton as many came to Christ and were baptizied over the next year and half. You would see a picture of Janice and I sitting in our living room in Orangeville, Ontario with 25 of our closest and most-trusted friends surrounding us, praying for us and cheeering us on during a difficult period. That moment became the catylyst for change that would eventually lead us to serve here at Valley.
All these moments were times when God broke into my life, to reaffirm His covenant of love, to reassure me of a truth He put on my heart shortly after intercepting my life at the age of 17: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
My portrait would include numerous times when God stepped in my way, came alongside to walk with me or took me by the hand to lead me, reminding me that His desire is to break into my life and lead me in ways that are consistent with His calling for my life and reflective of His sheer goodness.
On the outise of my portrait would be the faces and names of those God has placed along my path as a means to pour out even more of His grace; friends and co-workers, Christian leaders and brothers and sisters in the Lord who have blessed me and built me up in the faith. I think of John and Sandra, Don and Audrey, Bruce and Sue, Ray, Mark, Don, Glen and Kim, John and Mary to name only a few; men and women who came along side us at particular times in our journey, who were agents for God's grace at the time. I have been incredibly blessed by a host of brothers and sisters in Christ who have been gifts of grace!
In all of this, I think of the words of Hebrews 12: Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. (Hebrews 12:1-2)
We are all portraits of grace! I wonder what would your portrait reveal?