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Greeted by Grace

God's amazing grace and his robust peace go hand-in-hand. The peace of God is really not totally understood, or experienced, until one has an encounter with the amazing grace of God. Grace is like a pathway to peace - know grace and you will know peace. Don't ever think peace means the absence of anything disturbing, though. We will still find many a 'disturbance' in our lifetime, but we don't have to face those disturbances without absolute and lasting peace. We will 'rest' even though the demands are great. We will 'abide' even when the pressures try to move us out of that zone of peace. Peace isn't a place, or even an 'achieved ascendance' - it is a person - Christ. Know Christ, live in him and walk close to him, and you will know peace.

I, Paul, together here with Silas and Timothy, send greetings to the church at Thessalonica, Christians assembled by God the Father and by the Master, Jesus Christ. God's amazing grace be with you! God's robust peace! (I Thessalonians 1:1)

Paul opens this letter with these two awesome reminders - God's amazing grace WITH us and his robust peace IN us. We cannot grow in grace until grace begins to live inside us. We cannot experience peace in any circumstance until we are walking hand-in-hand with the one who navigates through those circumstances with all authority and power. The make-up of many of our everyday associations today is what scripture would have referred to as Gentiles - those who are worshiping other gods - not yet realizing their true need for the one true God. God's hope for all of us is that we will live pure lives. Think about it for a moment and you will likely agree - where there is impurity, grace and peace are oftentimes not all that frequently observed. In fact, impurity is the very reason we need grace! Where grace has been introduced, impurity begins to be displaced. These two things are interrelated, but are not co-inhabitants!

God's amazing grace be with you! The important thing for us to see here is that salvation begins with grace - it is our starting point! God's amazing grace - it is capable of doing within man what nothing else can do - setting straight what sin corrupts. For this reason, it "amazes" those who receive it - inspiring awe, surprising us with the thoroughness of its touch, and overwhelming us with its drawing power. Herein we find an assurance given to us of something we can count on - God's robust peace in us! As I have already indicated, peace is an outcome of grace. Try to experience peace when you stand in need of grace and you will find it impossible to truly know peace. Sin sets us at odds with a holy God - grace brings us close to him again. Sin produces chaos - grace restores peace. Peace is the outcome of being free - grace gives us our freedom and helps us to understand peace where chaos once existed.

Sometimes we try to get peace in a circumstance. Peace is something which comes "IN" us as a result of what has been done FOR us in the work of grace. We'd do much better asking for grace - being set free from the binding effects of the circumstance. When we ask for grace first, we are asking God's guidance to see the circumstance for exactly what it is. He will either help us walk through it with peace which passes all understanding, or he will deliver us totally from it! Either way, we have peace because of his grace! We often skip the opening words of a letter such as this, thinking they really don't say much. If we ponder each of Paul's greetings to the various churches he writes to on his missionary journeys, we find some interesting things:

- To the Corinthians he writes: I send this letter to you in God's church at Corinth, believers cleaned up by Jesus and set apart for a God-filled life. I include in my greeting all who call out to Jesus, wherever they live. He's their Master as well as ours! He celebrates their salvation (being cleaned up by Jesus) and reminds them of their calling (set apart to live a God-filled life). He points them toward living full lives - absent of the vacancy sin produces. Celebration is a result of understanding - understanding is a result of grace.

- To the Galatians he writes: So I greet you with the great words, grace and peace! We know the meaning of those words because Jesus Christ rescued us from this evil world we're in by offering himself as a sacrifice for our sins. God's plan is that we all experience that rescue. A reminder of grace and peace again - but also the emphasis being on the tremendous "rescuing" power of grace and the invitation of grace being experienced by all. An invitation must be accepted, though. If we attempt to find grace by any other means than to accept the invitation to receive it, we will be sorely disappointed with the outcome.

- To the Ephesians he writes: I greet you with the grace and peace poured into our lives by God our Father and our Master, Jesus Christ. His purpose is to remind them of the bountifulness of God's grace - it is poured into our lives. Grace is not something we experience in dribbles - it is a gushing, overflowing infilling, given from a generous heart of a merciful and compassionate God!

The openings are similar, yet they each have a different revelation of God's grace and peace. We'd do well to never discount these words - they are seed thoughts which contain great hope! Great peace isn't known without being embraced by greater grace! Just sayin!

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