Good morning. It is Tuesday (post-Monday), February 17, 2015. Only three more days until pitchers and catchers report! 48 more days until Opening Day! Also, today is what is known as “Fat Tuesday.” Which makes tomorrow “Ash Wednesday.” Easter will be on April 5, this year.
Today’s word of the day is week. I know what you’re thinking. Well, maybe I don’t. But this “week” has nothing to do with seven days. It is defined as, “Representing a short high-pitched sound, esp. as made by a pig. Freq. reduplicated.” If you think about it, it works, doesn’t it? “Week! Week! Week!,” said the pig.
Today is Random Acts of Kindness Day. I think you know what to do.
So what did I do on my day off? I went to have lunch with Christi (and our insurance agent/financial advisor), I bought Kristy Kreme doughnuts on the way home, as well as drinks from Sonic, I practiced the trombone, I played baseball on the Xbox, watched a silly movie, and then cooked dinner. It was a nice day. Christi and I watched the premier of The Slap, last night. I think it came on last Thursday. We won’t be continuing this series. It’s too uncomfortable in several ways. And it looks like it will continue to be more so. After that, we watched The Mentalist. Sadly, there is only one more episode of that show left. Next Wednesday will be the series finale.
Today, it’s back to work, and then I have Huddle tonight. Today is also, as mentioned above, “Fat Tuesday.” The culmination of Mardi Gras. Traditionally, the idea is to indulge in as much sinful activity as possible on this day, because “Ash Wednesday” is tomorrow, which signifies the beginning of Lent, the period of fasting that is to occur before Easter. Mardi Gras (along with Carnival in other countries) has just become the world’s biggest party, and my guess is that a large percentage of the people who participate have no clue what the meaning is. They’re just along for the party. Personally, I believe the whole idea is ludicrous, and shows a deep misunderstanding of what the Gospel is all about. And since I’m not Catholic, I don’t really observe any of it, anyway. I don’t “give up” anything for Lent, either. The whole idea of gorging yourself on Tuesday and then giving something up for the next forty days, well, it kind of baffles me. It’s like pigging out the day before you know you’re going to fast. It defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?
. . . when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.
But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace,
Today’s reading is “The Sweet Designs of God.”
“Ponder the conversion of Paul, the sovereignty of Christ, and what Paul’s sins have to do with your salvation.”
Note that Paul says that God set him apart before he was born (see the verse from Galatians, quoted above). Then, when Saul was on the Damascus road, God called him, “by his grace.” So, between Paul’s birth and his Damascus road experience, he was an “already-chosen but not-yet-called instrument of God.” This also means, and pay attention to this, that “Paul was beating and imprisoning and murdering Christians as a God-chosen, soon-to-be-made-Christian missionary.” We need to think about that for a little bit.
“As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?'”
This was the moment. Paul was chosen before he was born, and now, God was taking him. “The word of Christ was sovereign. There was no negotiating.”
And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’
This is important. “Damascus was not Paul’s final, free will yielding to Christ after decades of futile divine effort to save him. God had a time for choosing him (before he was born) and a time for calling him (on the Damascus road). Paul yielded when God called.”
And here is something that is even more astounding. In fact, I know some people who would run away screaming at this point. “Therefore, the sins that God permitted between Paul’s birth and his calling were part of the plan, since God could have done Damascus sooner.” What?? Could sin actually be a part of God’s plan??? God is sovereign. If God is sovereign, there are no accidents.
What do the sins of Paul mean for you and me? Consider them. Paul, as Saul, murdered dozens of Christians. He was on hand, giving his approval when the religious leaders stoned Stephen to death. He persecuted Jesus Christ by killing his followers. These sins “were permitted for you and me — for all who fear that they might have sinned themselves out of grace.” Here is what Paul says about them:
Formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy . . . for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.
1 Timothy 1:13, 16
“O how sweet are the designs of God in the sovereign salvation of hardened sinners!”
O, Father, I praise you for your sovereignty! I believe that you also chose me before I was born, and, at the appointed time, you called me. My life is very different from Paul’s, and many sins have threatened my relationship with you since the time you called me. However, since you are sovereign, and no man can snatch me out of the hands of my Savior, here I still am, trying my hardest to love you, follow Christ, and share the kingdom. I am so grateful for your sovereign grace! I thank you that you have placed me where I am, right now, unexpectedly leading an intercessory prayer ministry. I pray for your Spirit to help me understand, to teach me more and more about prayer and what it accomplishes. And I thank you for the example of Paul, not that I can feel better about my sin (I never murdered anyone, you know), but so that I can see the marvelous expanse of your wonderful grace!
I pray for this day. May our trip to work and home be safe. I pray for Christi’s work day, that it will be productive, and without stress or anxiety. I pray for my work day, that I will not be too far behind after being off yesterday. I pray for Stephanie, that you would show your great love to her, and that you would give her understanding. I pray for you to show her future to her (and to us, as well).
Your grace is amazing, Father!
God is sovereign. His grace is amazing. You cannot sin your way out of God’s grace. If he has chosen you, he will (if he has not already) call you. We may not all be “Paul,” but God has a plan for us, and he will work that plan!
Grace and peace, friends.