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Grace Upon Grace

Title: Grace Upon Grace
Materials: Hand-lettering
Description: 
What exactly is Grace? What does Grace mean to you? ow have you personally experienced God’s grace in your life?

Here are a selection of quotes about “Grace” which were done at a recent handlettering jam session in Singapore. May it encourage, provoke, and move us to give praise to the giver of Grace.

 

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Grace to me is something God gives freely to an undeserving person like me. I believe that God’s grace is sufficient for someone who’s insufficient and weak like myself. There were times where I felt completely defeated in my own circumstances but because God is a God of grace, He gives strength to the weak. Only His grace can meet my needs and it is available all the time for me. – “Grace is the power to fulfill what we lack” (David Guzik)

Artwork by Esther (@doodleswithjoy)

 

 

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My chains are gone, my debt is paid
From death to life, and grace to grace
– Grace to Grace, Hillsong Worship –

I love this song because it reminds me that I am nothing if not for the Cross. Without Jesus, I would be hurt, broken and barely just going through life. But because of Jesus, the author and finisher of faith, I can live with purpose.

Artwork by Wan Ting (@tingthepro)

 

 

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I’m not the best at my studies, but God was there. I’ve given into temptation on many occasions, still, He was there. With His gentle whisper and reminder of His grace, I was able to make a change. I’ve made a big step in my life’s direction at the age of 21, but God never left. I know I’m living in grace each day. I’ve been through heartbreak and heartaches, but God allowed for it. so that I could feel His grace. Without God’s grace, there is really nothing I can do.

Artwork by Vania

 

 

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Everytime I see my limitations and failures, I always feel disappointed with myself. I think I will never be good enough to do a significant work. This quote reminds me that God’s grace is enough to use a broken person like me in a meaningful way.

Artwork by Meliana Sari Dewi (@melianasaridewi)

 

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Living as a Christian in a fast-paced life can be exhausting at times. At times, we find ourselves being overwhelmed by tasks, deadlines or perhaps – expectations from people around us.  Sometimes, we forget that the Holy Spirit is the source of our power and find ourselves in a place where our well-intentioned diligence has become striving.

Yet, whenever we are put in a situation like this, we can be reminded that God has given us His unmerited favor- grace. We can be assured that His grace is enough for us, even when we feel so powerless, simply because His grace made us stronger in our weakest moments.

Artwork by Ika (@scriptography)

 

 

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During the good and the bad, when I’m weak, hurting or struggling, His grace is always enough. And because of His grace, I have the reassuring peace and hope in knowing that He is always in control, in every situation of my life. Only by His unfailing grace can I get through every day. His grace is sufficient for me, for His power is made perfect in my weakness.

Artwork by Janelle (@thehopeletter)

 

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“Why am I not perfect? Why do I have this flaw?” When in lack, I’m always reminded of the fact that I’m like clay, being molded to perfection but not destroyed, because of God’s abundant grace.

His grace empowers me to carry on. It brings me to a place of recognizing my lack at the feet of the cross. Moreover, when I experience the abundance of His grace, I can never remain at the same place. I draw closer to Jesus, and I draw closer to perfection.

Artwork by Faith (@chffaith)

 

 

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I do what I do, because of what I’ve received. The experiences I’ve gone through, people I’ve met and divine revelations I’ve experienced, screamed for a voice. Sharing these lessons through brush lettering gave me that voice. This ability was, and still is, a gift of grace and there is no better way to respond to such grace than by sharing it with the community, so that it multiplies. I do what I do, because I have received by his grace.

Artwork by Alicia (@alyletters)

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How A Preacher I Didn’t like Convicted me

“But if not for the grace of God, I am finished!” said the speaker at my church one Sunday.

I couldn’t agree more.

I knew the speaker (let’s name him Dan) on a personal level; he was someone who had a rather abrasive personality. Having had a few run-ins with him in the past, I didn’t always look up to him as a Christian example. When he uttered those words at the pulpit, memories of all my past unpleasant encounters with him resurfaced. I couldn’t help but think how right he was—about himself.

So I began to listen carefully to every word he preached—and found myself going “yup, that’s you!” at various points of his sermon. It seemed like a message he was preaching to himself, and I even wondered how much he would change after his message.

In my church, it is a practice to share with the person seated beside us our reflection on the message and to spend time praying for one another. When it came to sharing time that Sunday, a sister-in-Christ shared with me how Dan’s message resonated with her. She had recounted all the times in her life when God had saved her from the messes she made, and realised how, if it hadn’t been for the grace of God, she would indeed be finished.

Listening to her, I felt overwhelmed by guilt. Instead of focusing and reflecting on what the Bible had to teach me that Sunday morning, I had allowed my judgmental feelings towards Dan to get in the way. As I reflected on this incident, I felt the Lord leading me to remember three things:

1. We are all in need of God’s grace.

There were many times when I, too, had been ensnared by sin and God had been gracious to me. I’ve lost count of the number of times I had sought the Lord’s forgiveness for my sin, only to eventually plunge right back into a sin-filled life.

Despite the many times I lived as though I had given up on Him, God never gave up on me. Who was I, then, to assume that God could not have also worked in Dan’s life? At least he was honest about his struggles. We are all in need of God’s grace.

As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; (Romans 3:10)

 

2. We need to focus on removing the plank in our own eye.

I was so focused on Dan’s faults and shortcomings that I failed to allow God’s Word to examine my own life and to change my heart that morning. Focusing on how others ought to behave or change without first considering what I need to do with my own sin-filled life is, as the Scriptures describe, hypocrisy.

I have come to acknowledge that despite being saved, all of us are still very much work-in-progress.

You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:5)

 

3. We need to remember God’s grace and mercy for us.

Over the recent Easter weekend, I was reminded of the disastrous state my life would have been in if not for Jesus. Jesus’s death and resurrection was God’s ultimate display of both His grace and mercy for mankind.

Remembering that truth helps me to firstly recognize my deep need for a Savior. Being a recipient of God’s grace and mercy should then lead me to extend it to another—like Dan.

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. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

 

Among the many things I may disagree with Dan over, I do agree with him that if not for the grace of God in my life, I would be finished.

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3 Ways Discomfort Discomforted Me

Not again. I was at my wit’s end. A good two and a half weeks had passed since I had finished my second course of antibiotics, but as I gazed at the ceiling that night—awake, alert, and anxious—it felt as though I was back to square one.

For weeks, I had been experiencing a mild case of urinary tract infection (UTI). It was not the first time I had it; but unlike the first time, when a round of antibiotics easily cured it, the symptoms were relentless this time.

In most cases, UTI manifests as a frequent or intense urge to urinate. On some nights, I would go to the toilet as many as seven times before going to bed. On other nights, anxiety about having to visit the toilet in the middle of the night would plague me the moment I lay on the bed. I would end up tossing and turning for a couple of hours—and on some occasions, the entire night.

That night, I had just made five trips to the toilet within two hours. As I flopped onto my bed for the fifth time, I could feel my heart racing and a sense of dread setting in. I couldn’t help thinking about what else I should have done to ensure a faster recovery.

Take antibiotics, probiotics, and cranberry juice? Check. Drink a lot of water? Check. Pay a visit to the doctor? Check. Twice. Seek divine intervention? Big check. I even “formalized” my plea to God on three separate occasions by recording my prayers in my journal when the symptoms seemed to much for me to bear.

But none of these things seemed to work.

“Maybe this is the thorn in your flesh God has given you,” my brother finally said on one occasion after hearing me lament for the umpteenth time and trying unsuccessfully to cheer me.

That’s when it hit me. What if God had no intention to remove this “thorn in the flesh” from my life for the time being? What if the whole reason why I was going through this was that God was trying to teach me that His grace was sufficient for me—but I had just been too preoccupied to see it?

When I finally turned to scripture to read about Paul’s struggle and response to his thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7-10), I felt rebuked by my own less-than-ideal response. That’s when I discovered three things about myself.

 

 1. I tend to rely on myself.

As much as I know my life is in God’s hands, I almost always resort to human means to address my problems. If I’m falling sick, I make sure I get enough rest and eat the right food. If I don’t achieve positive results at work, I try to put in more effort. If people don’t respond to me, I look at what I should or shouldn’t have said, and try to make up for it. Everything in life can be “fixed” with the right solution, and so can my health.

While there is nothing inherently wrong with these actions, I realize that it’s only when I exhaust all human means that I turn to God, delve into scriptures, and pray actively and fervently for relief. This is exactly what happened in my recent case of UTI.

 

2. I tend to focus on myself.

In the grand scheme of things, I knew that the physical discomfort I was experiencing wasn’t that bad. For one, it would hardly constitute the kind of suffering the Bible talks about (Romans 5:3-5). Also, aside from having to make frequent toilet trips, I didn’t feel any physical pain and could function perfectly well. I could eat, work, sleep, and play. As long as my mind was distracted by something else, I wouldn’t even feel the symptoms.

But I certainly made a big deal out of it. Whenever the symptoms became more pronounced— especially in the evening when I was resting at home—I would throw a pity party for myself and invite my family members to be a part of it. I also made sure those around me—my colleagues, church friends, and close friends—knew I was “suffering” and would never fail to request for their prayer.

I’m ashamed to say I don’t always remember to pray for friends the same way, especially if they share about their “minor” problems like cough and cold. In fact, I even secretly frown on those who keep harping on the same issue, such as when my mother kept asking my brother and I to pray that God would remove the itchy sensation around her neck. It was only when I had to go through a prolonged period of physical discomfort myself that I realized how “non-issues” like these could so easily affect and discourage me.

That realization made me more sympathetic to others going through similar discomfort. I decided to consciously pray for others every night as I prayed for my own relief. And that’s when God really put my problems in perspective. Compared to the aunty at church who was having a relapse of lymphoma and a friend who had just suffered a serious viral attack that almost took her life, what did I have to complain about?

 

3. I tend to focus on this earthly life.

Though I know that this world is not my final destination, I tend to live my life as though I’m going to be here for eternity. It’s only in moments of helplessness that I’m reminded of the truth that I should not be holding on to anything in this life.

Discomforts and setbacks of any magnitude or nature serve as reminders that we live in a transient—and broken—world. Our physical bodies are not built to last; over time, they will naturally wear down and malfunction. How comforting, then, are the words of 2 Corinthians 4:17-18, which tell us that the suffering we go through in life now is preparing us for eternity: “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Though we see trouble and suffering on every front, we know that these are but signposts that there is something so much better ahead of us; difficulties and suffering in life will come to an end. And while there’s nothing we can do to escape problems in life, we can certainly change how we choose to respond to them. American pastor Charles Stanley once said that nothing attracts the unbeliever like a saint suffering successfully. Based on how I had been responding, I’m pretty sure I looked more like a saint suffering sorrowfully. Still, I thank God for using this episode to correct the way I have been viewing and responding to “suffering”.

As I write this article now, I’m thankful that God has stopped my UTI from flaring up in the past week. I’m not sure it will recur, but this experience has given me the determination to do these three things the next time I’m faced with any form of “discomfort”:

  1. Commit my discomfort to God and ask Him for strength and wisdom to respond to it.
  2. Remember that there are many others around me who are facing similar discomfort—if not worse—and pray for them.
  3. Thank God for giving me the discomfort, because it is a reminder that this earthly life was never meant to be a comfortable one.
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Have I taken God for granted?

Written By Leslie Koh

After spending a number of years in the media, Leslie finally decided to move from working with bad news to good news. He believes in the power of words (especially when they’re funny). He works as an editor in Our Daily Bread Ministries.

I’m back in court again.

No, not that one. This one is an internal court of conflicting thoughts and feelings about my faith and my actions. It’s where I have to face accusations, and it’s where I sometimes try to defend myself. It’s a court I visit often.

I’m there again because I’ve just read yet another article warning me not to take God for granted. Yes, one of those pieces filled with stern warnings:

“Don’t take God for granted.”
“Don’t think you can get away with sin just because salvation is yours to keep.”
“Don’t test God’s patience.”

Et cetera, et cetera.

To be honest, I don’t like these warnings. I don’t like them because . . . I know I’m guilty. I know these warnings are meant for me. I don’t like them because they inevitably send me on a guilt trip—which I then try to escape by defending myself:

“Won’t I risk thinking that I need to earn my salvation by trying to be holy?”
“Isn’t God merciful if I repent sincerely?”
“Isn’t salvation mine to keep? If not, then what does grace mean?”

And that’s where the court proceedings begin.

 

Guilty! I do take God for granted . . .

First, the accusations:

You take God for granted. You go ahead and sin and sin and sin, thinking that it’s okay because you can be forgiven the moment you ask for forgiveness. You do this because you think salvation is yours, and that excuses you from trying harder to live a holy life. You think you can simply fall back on God’s mercy and grace, and get away scot-free. What about your responsibility to resist temptation and sin? Aren’t you testing God’s patience? Aren’t you devaluing grace?

I nod, remorseful. “Guilty! I know I’m guilty!”

I’ll be honest and confess: Sometimes (far more often than that, in fact), I do think that I can get away with sin because God will forgive me. I take His mercy for granted. I quote Jesus’ instructions to His disciples to forgive 490 times, and cite the Bible’s description of God’s endless mercies. And so, at the back of my mind, I excuse my behavior and proceed with my sin, thinking, “I’ll repent sincerely later, and it’ll be okay.”

I’m also guilty of not putting a lot of effort into being holy and living the new life that Jesus has given me through His death and resurrection. That’s because I hold on to the idea that I shouldn’t try to change on my own strength. After all, isn’t God the one who will transform me? And so I proceed as usual, doing what I normally do. Of course, I do take precautions to avoid I what think are “worse” sins, but I’ll readily admit that deep inside, I leave it to God to help me overcome the “small” ones. That makes me guilty of forgetting that my walk with God is not just one of faith, but a journey of discipline too.

And finally, I tend to forget that things like my life, my relationship with God, the open access I have to Him, and my salvation are privileges. Oh yes, I’m well aware that I don’t deserve them and that God has given them to me out of His grace. But like I do with most gifts, I’ve come to see them as mine to keep forever—no matter what I do. I forget that they remain a privilege and they didn’t come cheap—it cost Jesus His life, and God, His Son. I fail to treasure these gifts and make the most out of them.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”—Matthew 7:21

 

Not guilty! I’m doing all right—really . . .

But then the little defense lawyer inside me stands up and responds:

God’s grace and mercy are boundless. Don’t make the mistake of being legalistic about your faith. Yes, you must seek to live a holy life. But you shouldn’t doubt your salvation whenever you fail (for you will, inevitably). If you keep going back to the fundamentals, you’ll never be able to step forward in your faith. You’ll end up hobbling your spiritual growth. You need to accept God’s forgiveness, and forgive yourself. You need to move on.

I raise my head, hoping that he’s right. “Really? Am I not guilty after all?”

Isn’t it true? If I were to doubt God’s forgiveness even after confessing and repenting, then I would be doubting His character as a merciful and forgiving God, His promise to forgive, and the effectiveness of His Son’s sacrifice on the cross. Of course, I need to ensure that I am sincere in my confession and repentance. But if I keep holding on to my shame and guilt, wouldn’t I be belittling Jesus’ sacrifice and the power of the cross? Don’t I need to move on, relying on the fact of God’s unconditional love and mercy?

Besides, if I focus too much on trying to be holy and being a “good” Christian, I may fall into the trap of legalism. Now, that would be cheapening grace. I may forget that I am saved by grace, not by any works I can do. Oh yes, I am called to put aside my old self and my old sinful habits. But I shouldn’t confuse that with trying to win God’s favor by being good. Only He can make me holy and righteous in His sight. What I need to do is to submit to His transformation.

And, finally, my favorite defense: There’s no doubt that I’m flawed and far from perfect. And I still struggle with sin and holiness. But the very fact that I still battle with guilt and feelings of inadequacy shows that I don’t take God for granted; it shows that my conscience is still very much alive—kept alive by the Holy Spirit in me. If I was really guilty of taking God for granted, then I wouldn’t even think twice about going ahead with my sins, nor about whether I need to live in a more holy manner, right? In fact, I won’t even wonder whether I’m taking Him for granted. So the very fact that I’m worried about taking God for granted . . . shows that I’m not. You know what I mean!

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.—Romans 8:1-2

 

And the verdict is . . .

I hate to leave it hanging, but the answer is . . . I can’t tell you for sure. Only the judge can decide, and in this court, God is the judge. Only He can determine whether or not I’m guilty of taking Him for granted.

To be honest, I haven’t heard a clear voice telling me the final judgment. But I personally believe that it is . . . BOTH. Guilty—because I have taken God for granted. And not guilty—because He is always ready to forgive me, and Christ’s death has paid for my sin. It’s almost as if God is saying:

Yes, sometimes you ARE guilty of taking Me for granted. That’s why I send you reminders and warnings, and My Spirit fills your heart with remorse. But I don’t want you to just feel guilty; I want you to do something about it. And I want you to repent and move on, so that you become NOT guilty. And that’s why I send you comfort and assurance, too. I want you to know that when you truly confess and repent, it puts you on the right track.

So what does that mean for me, the accused? It means that I’m going to have a constant struggle with guilt. And it means that I’m going to be coming back to this court, again and again, to hear the same accusations and defenses.

But maybe that’s the whole point. A friend once told me something that has stuck in my mind, and it is simply this: Christianity is a struggle.

If we stop struggling, then something’s wrong. Yes, we shouldn’t allow doubt to whittle away at our faith until nothing’s left. But we also need to keep checking ourselves to make sure we’re not becoming complacent in our walk with God. The constant questioning, reviewing, and wrestling with spiritual issues—all these show our faith is alive.

Perhaps that’s why Paul urged believers to present themselves to God as a “living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1)—the thing about a living sacrifice, you see, is that it can crawl away. Every day and every moment, we face the temptation to crawl away from the altar and to seek our own desires and ways; it takes a conscious effort to stay there. But it’s a struggle that I believe God appreciates.

So now I’m out of court. I’m guilty, but because of Jesus, I’m not guilty. Guess I’ll be back again soon.

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?  And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test.—2 Corinthians 13:5