Grace and Mercy

Good morning. Welcome to February. It’s February 1, 2012. This morning, it’s 53 degrees, with a projected high of 72. Nothing like last February 1, which saw a week of Arctic ice hit north central Texas and close schools for 4 days straight! No complaining here, that’s for sure. I like this kind of “winter.”

It’s also Wednesday, which means I will go to weigh in for the “Biggest Loser” contest where I work. Last week, I came in 17th out of 44, with a 1.65% weight loss. I have lost 7 pounds, since then, which is more than the previous week. In total, I have lost 12 pounds since January 15. I’m very happy about that.

Stephanie had a good session with her trainer last night. He even showed us a few tips on using some other types of resistance machines. She is doing very well, and we are very proud of her.

My Utmost For His Highest

For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 1 Corinthians 1:17

“We are nowhere commissioned to preach salvation or sanctification; we are commissioned to lift up Jesus Christ.” Oswald Chambers…always making radical statements like this. But what did Jesus say in John 12:32? And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself. We cannot draw people to Christ. We can only lift him up. He does the drawing. “It is a travesty to say that Jesus Christ travailed in Redemption to make me a saint.” We are constantly saying, “Jesus died for ME!” But Jesus came to redeem the world! Now, at this point, Chambers makes a statement that I’m not sure about. “We tax His energies from morning till night for things for ourselves–something for me to be delivered from!” While I agree that the average Christian spends most of his prayer time asking God for things for himself, can it really be said that anything truly taxes God’s “energies?” God does not grow weary. However, I think it speaks of spiritual maturity when less of our prayers are about ourselves. I’m sure I haven’t reached that point yet.

Paul’s passion was one thing. The Gospel of God. The only reason he ever even cited personal experience was just for illustration, and I recall one instance where he even said he was speaking as a madman as he rolled off a list of his experiences. Paul’s one passion was the Gospel of God. He preached Jesus, not sanctification. He lifted up Christ and let Christ do the drawing. It’s not about me. It’s about Jesus.

Tabletalk Magazine

The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love… as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:8, 12

The first ten questions of the Heidelberg Catechism deal with the subjects of our fallenness and God’s wrath toward sin. This is an appropriate starting place, because it is necessary to understand the plight of man in this world. When we understand that we deserve only condemnation, it gives us a better understanding of what the Bible means when God is referred to as being “merciful and gracious” (see above Scripture). All around us, today, people want to talk about God’s mercy and grace, but without laying the foundation of the truth of our sinfulness. “Grace is the unmerited favor of God toward undeserving creatures, and mercy is His decision not to pour out wrath on all people but to provide for the forgiveness of some.” If we are not aware of the depth of our sinfulness, mercy and grace become either something we are owed, or something we don’t even need. After all, if we have not “committed cosmic treason in our sinning,” why do we need grace? “We must know the bad news about who we are as sinners before we can receive the good news of the gospel.”

Question 11 of the Catechism says, “Is not God then also merciful?” The answer begins with “God is indeed merciful.” Then there’s a “but,” because God is also just, and sin requires punishment. That punishment was taken by Jesus Christ, he whom we are to lift up (see the above reading from Chambers). So, in his mercy, God does not forget or ignore sin. He chooses not to hold it against us if we repent and believe.

The Bible Panorama

Matthew 21:1-22; Exodus 27-28

In Matthew 21, Jesus fulfills “Prophecy” (1-11) by riding into Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey. As the crowds spread palm branches in his path, we have the beginning of what we now called “Palm Sunday.” This is also referred to as the “Triumphal Entry.” Jesus then goes to the temple and removes “Profanity” as he casts out moneychangers (12-13). Many people take this to mean that nothing can ever be sold in the church building, but the context dictates that the sellers were ripping people off. Jesus calls them robbers. When the people gave Jesus “Praise” (14-17), the religious leaders were indignant. As Jesus heads for Bethany, he does something that leaves his disciples (and even people today) “Puzzled” (18-22). He sees a fig tree that us unfruitful and curses it. It immediately withers. The immediate context became one of faith and answered prayer. “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”

Exodus 27 begins with an “Acacia Altar” (1-8). This would be the altar for the burnt offerings. The “Curtained Court” of the tabernacle is described in verses 9-19. “Olive Oil” (20-21), pure and freshly pressed, is to be the source of light. The priests must make sure it never goes out.

In chapter 28, we see the “Calling of Priests” (1) Aaron and his sons are called out to minister before the Lord. The rest of the chapter describes the sacred “Clothing of Priests” (2-43), including the ephod, the breastplate, the Urim, and the Thummim. I believe the key thought in all of this is engraved on a plate that is to be attached to the turban: “Holy to the LORD.”

Father, as I pray to you today, I find that I don’t want to ask much for myself. Yet, I am still very needy. I have far to go on my journey with you, that I will acknowledge. I have not yet attained the level of spiritual maturity that I seek. I am far from it. Nevertheless, I feel the need to lift Christ up and exalt his name. He said that, if lifted up, he would draw people to him. Are we not lifting him up enough? Are we too busy preaching personal benefit? Are we too busy preaching about relationships? I pray that I would lift up the name of Christ in all that I do throughout each day. Let my speech be salted with grace. Let me obey the teachings in Philippians 2, doing nothing out of conceit or for personal gain, and treat others as better or more significant than myself.

I praise you for your grace and mercy. I know full well the depth and extent of my sin. Or perhaps I don’t. There is no way I could possibly see my sin in the same way that you do. I’m not sure I could handle it. It might just drive me insane. But you have shown grace and mercy toward us sinners, Lord. And I praise you for that. May I walk worthy.

I pray for this day. I pray for Christi’s work day. I thank you that she is feeling better. I pray for Stephanie’s day today, as she meets with her teacher. She is getting closer and closer to finally being finished. I pray for Jennifer as she continues her schooling and has finals coming up. Help her to complete this course, Lord.

Your grace is sufficient.

May we truly understand our need for God’s grace and mercy, and, thereby, appreciate it all the more.

Grace and peace, friends.

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