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*Special thanks to Shila and Pragna for their encouragement and inspiration*

Grace Has A Name

Ephesians 2 - 4 > 9: “But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 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. 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”.

John 1 - 17: “For the law was given to Moses, grace and truth came through - Jesus Christ”.

Grace doesn’t have multiple names. There’s no other name on the landscape of life offering this heavenly substance. Just One. But oh what a wonderful One! His name is Jesus!

The gospel writer John describes Jesus as being: ‘’Full of grace and truth”. Well, if you are filled with something there’s no room for anything else. Established as always existing from eternity past to eternity future, Jesus left the glory of heaven and came down to us knowing we couldn’t make it up to Him. The chasm between His perfection and our lack was too wide so He came to bridge the distance by hanging on a cross. We now stand as His righteousness, by grace!

This altogether lovely one Jesus, is and always has been grace personified, and glorified! At this very moment choruses of “Worthy Is The Lamb’’ are being sung throughout heaven and we the redeemed join in, for it was grace that bought our liberty! The “unmerited favor of God” being poured out on our lives from a cross, will never be an understood by us truth so we are left with only one option of response. Euphorically overwhelmed, which is fitting of those who deserved nothing and yet got everything! You see Jesus is “everything” and “everything” is incorporated in Him.

Colossians 1 - 16 & 17: “For in Him all things were created: Things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities: all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things and in him all things hold together”.

Revelation 4 - 11: “You are worthy our Lord and God to receive glory and honor and power for you created all things and by Your will they were created and have there being”.

The Apostle Paul expressed his rather emphatic conclusions in Philippians 3 - 8: “What is more I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord for whose sake I’ve lost everything. I consider them garbage that I may gain Christ”.

Paul doesn’t leave much to the imagination nor should we. Jesus is that surpassingly wonderful folks! Amazing Grace from an Amazing Savior, all wrapped up in an Amazing Love! A love that can’t be fathomed nor measured but one that transcends “all things” and graciously qualifies “all things” as being worthy of its touch. Grace and Jesus are one in the same. As inseparable as living and breathing! You can’t have one without the other. Indeed, grace has a name!

Damascus Road

By its mere presence, grace transforms lives! Grace is not a dormant theory that we mull over in our spare time, as to its relevance. It’s not to be intellectualized in an effort to relegate it to understandable status to satisfy our mortal finite minds. Grace is in fact, an undeniable game changer to the extreme!

Its earth shaking, life changing, magnitude simply can’t be measured but is as real as real gets! It hits us where we are most vulnerable and most needy. Our hearts are its target as if being a missile launched from heaven. Grace alters everything dramatically! Simultaneously it informs us of our need, our lack, and our greatly loved place in God’s heart.

“It was grace that taught my heart to fear and grace my fear relieved”! The exact same grace operating from two different but necessary perspectives. Imagine the dreadfulness if God only informed us of our state and left out our available standing through the cross of Jesus.

There was one such shockingly surprising, biblically documented life, that was considered by our Lord as amazingly worthy of His amazing grace. Based on this life’s background, it stands out radiantly above most others regarding its magnitude and impact.

This is certain: No one in their wildest imagination would have expected it! The most un-likely candidate for grace got a visit from the Giver of grace!

Saul, better known as Saul of Tarsus. Even more infamously known as a hater in good standing of all and any followers of Jesus.

He persecuted, arrested, imprisoned, and at times killed many of those who had pledged their hearts to this post-crucifixion, post-resurrection and post-ascension Jesus, as their Messiah and Lord. Stephen is widely thought of as the first martyr of Christianity. Saul was in attendance and the joyful overseer at Stephen’s being stoned to death! Although specifically un-documented as to numbers, one can only imagine the amount of lives that were terrorized at the hands of Saul as his reign of assault continued with the intent of eliminating all remnants of the earthly life of Christ. In short: A valued patriot of the temple and a devoted enemy of the cross!

There are many profound landmarks highlighted in the bible. Based on its spiritual content, “The Damascus Road” would qualify in the category of the more elite geographical locations.

Acts 9 - 1 > 5: “Meanwhile Saul was still breathing our murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus so that if he found any there who belonged to “the way” (early church descriptive of Christians) he might take them as prisons to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute ME”! “Who are you, Lord”? Saul asked. “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting”, He replied”.

God’s “gracious” intervention in a life is always intimately personal. For Saul, dramatically so. You’ll notice Jesus didn’t say why are you persecuting My followers, or My church. His specific infliction: This is between you and Me Saul.

We pick up the story in verses 6 to 9 with Jesus speaking. “Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do”. The men travelling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind and did not eat or drink anything”.

The story of Saul goes on to reveal many other super-natural, grace imparted, interventions in his life including him getting his eyesight back, but his never to be forgotten day one would be the game changer complete with a name change to Paul. More accurately: The Apostle Paul! A man who would become one of the most influential followers of Jesus to ever walk this planet.

Our Lord’s grace was amazingly “sufficient” for a man named Saul. A once fearfully renowned killer of Christians, would himself be eventually executed for being a Christian! The passionate hunter of Christians would become the hunted. The once hater of all things pertaining to Jesus, would become the most prolific writer of our New Testament scriptures.

It is he who first introduces the early church to the revelation of grace as a reality in need of embracing within the context of the gospel of Jesus Christ. How ironic, but maybe not. You see Paul, on a dusty road, as he made his way to Damascus, met the giver of grace Jesus. He heard in the non-judgemental tone of his Lord’s voice his need for grace. It was the same voice that stated at an earlier time: “I haven’t come into the world to judge the world but that through Me the world might be saved”.

God’s implementation of gracious intervention depends on the person’s heart being spoken to. We don’t all experience what Paul did. God’s needed dramatics to get out attention can differ based on where we are in life. One should never discount their needed provision of grace based on a far more subtle approach by God than what Paul encountered.

God’s point of interest is to get our attention by whatever means is necessary. But be sure of this: Whatever those necessary means are, the application of them will always be in love and applied with a massive dose of healing grace from His amazingly gracious heart!

While thinking of Paul, I wonder if this might be a good time to reflect on those who we have deemed as hopeless and perhaps re-think our conclusions?

Our Lord’s grace was amazingly sufficient for Paul and is equally so for all others! Paul stated, he considered himself to be the worst of all sinners, which means whoever your loved ones are or whatever they may have done, they will have to line up behind Paul in the category of least worthy recipients of grace, and to be honest, ME! So third worst they are, at their very worst! I’m so very thankful that Jesus didn’t exclude ME when He said: “Whosoever will may come”.

Markham Road

We all have a divinely pre-destined road. The spiritually interesting aspect of that truth is: We don’t know we’re on it until after the fact. Until Paul encountered Jesus, he had no idea that the Damascus Road was his place of intersecting with heaven. In Paul’s mind, his sojourn on that piece of geography had a very different intended purpose than what would become his reality.

Mine was Markham Road in Scarborough Ontario. It was the summer of 1975 on a warm and seemingly uneventful Sunday morning.

Sunday mornings to me had become my well established recover time from the night be-fore’s activities. That I would crawl out of bed strangely early was only the beginning to what awaited my unexpected purpose for the day.

After being visibly absent from my sister Cathy’s life for a long time, I strangely decided that a visit to confirm my ‘’still breathing status” was in order. To be clear: Cathy was a Christian and my absence was considered by me as best for her. I simply wasn’t the most inspirational sight to behold at the time! Why abuse my sister with that face to face confirmation, I thought. We did chat on the phone occasionally with me thinking for the most part I had hidden what she didn’t need to know.

Well, my strange idea, which should have quickly been dismissed by me as foolish, took on a life of its own. Showered, shaved, and dressed with a second look in the mirror to check if the more obvious tell-tale signs of my life were sufficiently masked, off I went to “have a coffee” with Sis. That was my intention: A quick coffee and chat with my sister.

The thoroughfare I travelled, while being completely oblivious to the name of the day, sported the title of, Markham Road. You see to me, it was just a day like any other day.

What got strangely lost in my memory bank was: Cathy and my brother-in-law Paul, pastored a church in their town. Hello! It’s Sunday Bill! It strangely didn’t cross my alleged mind, so much so that I drove directly to their home and was perplexed that they weren’t there!

After sitting in the driveway four about ten minutes the light of revelation hit me! OH CHURCH! Well, I had driven forty five minutes to get there so I certainly wasn’t going to head back home, thus I went in search of what I remembered spoken of as a “small white church”, not to attend but rather simply and uncomplicatedly announce my arrival, seeing as I had strangely forgotten to call ahead to let them know of my “have a coffee” idea.

A quick left followed by another left and there it was, a “small white church” with my sister standing outside the front door greeting people. At the time, I with the spiritual insight of an ant, didn’t register that finding the “little white church” instantly was just a little strangely amazing! Oh how God takes full advantage of our obliviousness to enact His will in our lives! Next idea: Sit in the parking lot quietly until church is over. Say nothing to no one as to avoid the likelihood of embarrassing my sister, seemed like a solid approach going forward.

Once recognizing that her brother was strangely sitting in her churches parking lot, Sis went into one of those extremely energetic, animated, “come hither” waves of encouragement!

I politely waved back from my car, trying with a pleasant smile to confirm my comfort level with waiting and perhaps in doing so, my discomfort level with anything other than waiting, without actually having to say it.

Well, the waving continued to the point of my embarrassment so I proceed to the front door to explain myself along with my strangely sudden appearance and my most innocent of intentions. Folks, I just wanted to have a coffee with my sister and say hi.

How innocent and simplistic was my desire. I wasn’t even sure why I had it, but it was becoming more complicated by the minute!

Sis suggested I should come in and enjoy the service. “You must come in’, she said.

I’m thinking; Sis you are so close and yet so far way. I mustn’t come in, is the brutally obvious truth! I don’t belong here, was my well founded conclusion. I’m not like you and I’m like them whoever they are.

Those were my thoughts without words attached. All I could actually say was “No thanks, I’m more than glad to wait outside. I’ll be here when you’re finished and we will have a little time together if you’re free to do so”.

Loving sisters have the power of persuasion folks! With me thinking, I might be able to fake my way through an hour of church if I could sit in silence as to not say anything stupid in the light of where I was, accompanied by my sisters hauntingly sincere tone as she presented her desire for my inclusion, I relented and agreed to walk through those church doors, almost expecting that very old roof to fall on my very young, twenty-seven year old head, upon entry.

It wasn’t that I believed in God, but if there was such a One as God, that roof was coming down! You see as much as I didn’t know Him, I knew me! As previously mentioned: I didn’t belong!

Well, twenty minutes or so into the service, with the roof still intact, I felt confident my plan for the congregations survival of my unexpected visit had proven itself to be successful. We could all, in short order, go home safe and sound with no one the wiser as to the type of person I was. The mask that I was so careful to check before leaving home had seemingly endured. Not long now until my initial intent would come to fruition: ‘’Quick Coffee Time” and home!

And then it happened! How to put that day’s experience into the “written word” has always been a struggle for me to be honest. Painting a ‘’word picture” of the indescribable is the task at hand without the needed vocabulary to meet the challenge. How does one explain concisely and appropriately their sacredly intimate introduction to God, especially when it’s obvious to the recipient that it was God doing the introducing without invitation?

Perhaps that’s why they call it an intervention without invitation. Perhaps it’s God having something of divinely textured importance to declare whether we want to hear it or not. Perhaps it’s God saying; My intervention without your invitation is Me answering someone else’s prayer on your behalf . Personally speaking: I often wonder if perhaps my introduction was less about me and more about God’s faithfulness to someone else like my Mother.

When I get to heaven I’ll have all my maybe’s answered if I care to ask, but for now this I know as being emphatically true: My Lord’s introduction was wrapped in the warmest blanket of grace imaginable!

So, there I was or more accurately stated, then they weren’t! One minute I was keenly aware of my complete surroundings including the people and the time left remaining until I could exit the white door I had entered. Then in a second, as if an internal switch had been flipped, none of them or time mattered as if not existing.

In the natural I should have been shocked but strangely, I wasn’t afraid as I became deaf in an instant to everything that was being said and sung. I sat completely and comfortably immersed in a warmth that was foreign to me in every way. While having no understanding what this was, I knew instinctively it was good and personal and may I add powerful. I couldn’t talk as if having been put on alert to only pay attention. To be honest I had no desire to talk as my once known reality was being replaced rapidly by something else. Something much bigger than me!

My best description: Having the controls of my all-inclusive life suddenly taken over for a period of time but not frighteningly so. A sense of being drawn into a place of immeasurably attractive love.

Jesus speaks! I know that thought is intimidating to some but the truth is He does. And on this day He did! Few words, considering I would have listened all day but perhaps he didn’t have all day to update me. Those few words changed my life forever. The sweetest words my ears have ever heard, said with the sweetest tones!

“Bill, I am Jesus and I love you. I want you to know that”. And in a second everything went back to normal, except me!

In a building full of strangers, I broke down and cried my heart out uncontrollably for hours but not out of sadness, but rather euphoric gladness. Considering what I had just heard, how could I not be overwhelmed?

I haven’t been normal since that introduction! I’m convinced that train has permanently left the station! He knows my name folks, which amazingly means He knows yours too!

The Apostle Paul would concur: Whether it be the Damascus Road or Markham Road isn’t the point. On every road of our lives there stands an amazing Savior who encompasses and offers an amazing grace for the taking as a free gift. Free to us but not free to Him. Thus free but not cheap! It can only be received but never earned. You see if it could be earned, it wouldn’t be a gift! Two thousand years ago Jesus spoke these words into each of our hearts from a cross of His choosing:

I am Jesus and I love you. I want you to know that. Amazing Grace - Amazing Savior, indeed!

My Ministry Into Our Ministry

Mark 6 - 38 & 41: “How many loaves do you have He asked?” “Go and see”. When they found out they said, “Five and two fish”. Taking the five loaves and two fish and looking up to heaven He gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to His disciples to DISTRIBUTE to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all”. ( Five thousand plus, were fed that day! )

In the biblical story of the “fishes and loaves”, I so clearly see three dynamics in play to achieve the desired completion of the heavenly orchestrated equation. The young boy GAVE what little he had, our Lord then MULTIPLIED it, and the disciples then DISTRIBUTED it.

It’s interesting to note that Jesus, after the multiplying didn’t say, “Come and get it”. What He did say was, “Everyone find a place to sit on the grass and I’ll bring it to you, through my own”. Folks, He loves to involve us. He loves to make us matter! We are blessed beyond measure to be written into, His stories! Just imagine: Invited by Him to participate in His plans for others!

From the inception of the idea of writing books to be made available to “all freely”, there has never been a moment when I haven’t been aware of its ministry context. I could easily be seen as the “young boy” in the story. Jesus has most certainly multiplied my meager offering to Him.

So may I invite and encourage you to be a distributor of that which He has multiplied, thereby elevating “My Ministry” into “Our Ministry”, thus completing “His Ministry”. There’s something about that idea that sounds “perfect” to my heart!

We all have friends, family, work mates, school mates, etc. I’ve included a simple directional on “how to find” the “fishes and loaves”. Please feel free to share “what you eat” with others. You have no idea where it could lead to! That young boy’s mother could never have dreamed, what that little lunch she had prepared for her son on that fateful morning, would produce!

Thanks in advance. Bill Taylor

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