The first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church is a marvelous statement of God’s grace in calling us into a relationship with Himself. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,.. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us.” (1:3,7&8) Unmerited, undeserved redemption through the blood of Jesus…complete forgiveness…blessed with every spiritual blessing…all lavished upon us. Read the whole chapter slowly and consider your own calling by God into our faith in Jesus Christ. If we truly take this seriously we are completely humbled by the depth of such love. We are thankful beyond measure for this grace. Our lives become ones of grateful service, not to earn this great salvation, but to share this greatest of all gift – the gift of life now and eternally. You have begun a new day. Whatever this day holds, live it in the joy of this amazing grace.
I have mentioned before about being a woodworker. I have learned a lot about life and about our Lord through this craft. Over the years I have made a lot of different pieces of furniture and cabinetry. A number of those pieces are in my house. One thing I realize is that there is something of me in each of the pieces. I know the steps each piece took in order to be completed, and the ease or difficulty of those steps. I know the hours invested and the thought required. If a piece would not be used or treated properly I would feel bad about it. So what has all this to do with our Lord. There is a verse in Luke 13:34 where Jesus laments, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it!” Think about that. God made us in the beginning, male and female, together reflecting His image, who He is. Think about the investment God has in us, something of Himself in our being. When we sin we sully that image. We misuse our bodies, minds, and spirits in ways God never desired for His intended good and our intended blessing. We hurt God, our Maker, causing Him to lament even as Jesus did in the above verse. We are in the Lenten Season, this time humility and repentance. We take seriously who God is and who we are before Him. Don’t take this lightly. This is the deeply serious nature of our life. We bow before Him trusting in the grace His has so wonderfully provided in His Son, Jesus, our Saviour.
Since I took a look at the Psalms yesterday I’ll continue today with the next one, number 106. The Psalms are very human expressions of both the good and the bad in people. Psalm 106 has a series of lessons about how God cared for His people, Israel, and how they soon forgot His care and rebelled from Him. I think of that today as some people will see the flooding that wipes out homes and livelihoods, tornadoes that destroy whole towns, senseless killings that take too many lives, and they ask the question “how could a good God of love allow these things? He’s not a god I want to believe in.” But those same people seem to forget the years of providence, of blessings, and of good that God has given. They seem to think that the good is somehow of their own intelligence and ability, while the bad is blamed on God. On the contrary, the fault is all ours. We are sinful and rebellious people to the core. It is this that has broken our world. Any good that exists is purely of God’s grace, and the greatest of that grace is seen in the redeeming sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. It is only in the light of that grace that we can understand anything in our broken world. Let’s not be those who forget.
On Jan 16, 2019 2:11 PM, "IRVIN STAPF" <istapf> wrote:
Many a sermon has begun with the words of Psalm 19 verse 14, "May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer." It also seems to me that this prayer is a good way to begin each of our days. We will speak many words in a variety of situation throughout each day. Some in the context of our faith. Most in the normal secular activities of the day. Some well thought out for a specific task. Others, will be in casual conversation, or a spur of the moment response. The Lord is our Rock, the foundation of our lives. We desire that all that comes from us reflects the grace He extends to all people. That doesn’t mean that everything we say is solemn and pious. Our Lord is a joy. All He did was for the good of others, and that is our desire. Whether our words must be hard in giving direction or correction, or if they are to please and build up another, or just plain good fun, our words build up and not pull down. May God’s grace be upon you and undergird you in all you do today.
Many a sermon has begun with the words of Psalm 19 verse 14, “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” It also seems to me that this prayer is a good way to begin each of our days. We will speak many words in a variety of situation throughout each day. Some in the context of our faith. Most in the normal secular activities of the day. Some well thought out for a specific task. Others, will be in casual conversation, or a spur of the moment response. The Lord is our Rock, the foundation of our lives. We desire that all that comes from us reflects the grace He extends to all people. That doesn’t mean that everything we say is solemn and pious. Our Lord is a joy. All He did was for the good of others, and that is our desire. Whether our words must be hard in giving direction or correction, or if they are to please and build up another, or just plain good fun, our words build up and not pull down. May God’s grace be upon you and undergird you in all you do today.
Jesus had a number conflicts with the religions leaders of His day, especially over the Sabbath laws. He couldn’t break through their religious legalism. Something that hangs on to this day in a number of Christian denominations. They complained about His healing on the Sabbath. He countered with the question of whether it was right to do good or to do evil on the Sabbath. The doing of good superseded strict adherence to the written code. He told them “if you had known what this means, ‘I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT A SACRIFICE,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.”(Matthew 12:7) He was quoting from the Old Testament prophet Hosea which they should have well understood. We have many decisions to make concerning what is right or wrong in various situations. At time we are not 100% sure which is right, but I think Jesus is saying that it is better to err on the side of grace rather than on the law. That doesn’t mean that we can ignore God’s laws. Our Lord does give us a way of life that is for our best, but we grow into that best by small steps. Sometimes it means that we can let one issue go if it means helping a person grow a little closer to the Lord now. Parents know this well. Our kids are not always where we want them to be, but some battles are not worth fighting just now if we can help them grow little in a more important area. We are God’s kids, and we are all seeking to grow more fully in His grace.
On several occasions Jesus remarked to His followers, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.”(Luke 17:6) And there were several people who displayed that kind of faith. The woman who said if only I touch the hem of His robe I will be healed.(Mark 5:28) The Centurion who wouldn’t allow Jesus to come to his house but only asked Him to say the word to heal his servant.(Matthew 8:8) The Canaanite woman who said that she only needed a crumb of the Lord’s mercy to heal her daughter.(Matthew 15:27) I’m realizing something more and more, that I don’t even have that mustard seed faith apart from Him. With every prayer I pray, with every intercession I make for another, I am totally dependent upon His grace. I truly don’t know how to pray as I ought.(Romans 8:26) So prayer begin by kneeling before Jesus for His mercy, and trusting one’s self to His grace. Apart from this I have nothing.
Life is difficult. That’s not great revelation. There are a lot of things we enjoy among family, friends, and various activities, but we all face trials in this broken world. When sin entered the world it touched every aspect of life. Sin is a nasty word and perhaps seems to general. What is it? God had a plan, a purpose, a good direction for the world and the people He created, but we had other ideas. We thought we could do better on our own. So we rebelled from God. We broke the good relationship we had with Him. Rebellion from God’s good will entered and infected all parts of life. But something else was there, a depth of love that we have never been fully able to comprehend. God’s love for all people. In that love God refused to let sin be the final word, the end of the story. He dealt with sin in the atoning sacrificial blood of His only Son, Jesus. Some might say that all this is ancient history, so what. But it really is as current as our life today. God’s love in Jesus Christ is the declaration that this sin, this trial, this disaster is not the final word. There is more. There is life, good life, now , in our future, and eternally in turning again to our Lord. Our Lord always has the final word, and it is good.
On Tuesday I wrote about seeing life as a gift from God. That doesn’t mean that everything is exactly as God wants it. In a world full of sin many things are wrong, and not God’s desire for us. Why was there another tragic shooting yesterday? This is only one more in a long list of “why” question that have no satisfactory answer. Yet there is a truth that remains beyond all the questions. God has not and does not abandon His creation. We’ve just entered the Lenten Season, a season of humbling one’s self before God in repentance. It is a season that culminates with the truth of the atoning death and glorious resurrection of God’s only begotten Son. This is a gift, an act of the greatest love and extreme grace from Almighty God for mankind. It is an act assuring us that in spite of all our unanswered questions, things will be set right. God can be trusted to bring all things to their right conclusion. And in the midst of the day to day struggles He is there. His grace is sufficient for all our needs.
Some years ago I was walking over a piece of wooded property with the man who owned it. Wanting to appear somewhat knowledgeable I remarked that this was a nice stand of pine trees. He responded saying “Oh, their not much yet”. The difference was that I looked at the tree and saw their beauty. He was looking at the trees for their commercial value when they were cut down and sold for lumber. It seems that a lot of life is viewed with one or the other of these perspectives. Especially the way one looks at other people. Are they only useful for their utility and what they can contribute, or are they beautiful as ones whom God created and for whom God’s Son gave His life. I guess I was trying to be smart with my woodsman friend, but I think there is a need to look at life more with the eyes of grace rather than utility.