BY JORDAN MAYER
"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ - by grace you have been saved..."
During this season of Thanksgiving, it’s no surprise that it’s a time marked by giving thanks. We often think about family and friends, the food on our table, the house over our heads, and our Good Father who blesses us with all these things. It’s common to think about and be grateful for what we’ve been given. But how often do we find ourselves being grateful for the things we haven’t received? in the context of the Gospel, we see God's mercy and grace on full display, revealing that what we deserve is not what we find.
Let’s begin with God’s mercy. Simply put, His mercy can be described as God not giving us what we truly deserve. The Bible makes it abundantly clear that we have all fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). We have not and cannot meet His holy and righteous standard, and because of this, we stand condemned. Our sin has racked up a debt that we can’t possibly hope to repay. We stand before the court guilty as charged. And, as Romans 6 tells us, the wages for our sin is death. It’s a startling and devastating reality for each and every one of us.
But let’s return to the Ephesians 2 passage. The chapter begins with the same bleak reality. We were dead in our trespasses. By our nature we were called children of wrath. “But God!”, how sweet these words are! In the very depths of our misery, God extends His mercy. Though we stand condemned in the Law, Christ came in fulfillment of the Law to satisfy its requirement. He is our great advocate who enters the courtroom and willingly pays our debt (Colossians 2:13-14). At the Cross, God lavishly pours out the riches of His mercy through the sacrifice of His own Son on our behalf.
If we did not deserve His mercy, neither do we deserve His grace. But not only does God not give us what we deserve, He also gives us what we don’t deserve. This is His grace, His unmerited favor. In canceling our debt, Christ also provided the means for relationship with God. We deserve death, we are given life. We deserve condemnation, we are given justification. We are redeemed, renewed, and restored. The dividing curtain that separated us from God was torn in two by Christ’s work on the Cross. So then, we don’t sheepishly enter into the presence of God. Rather, we draw near to this throne of grace with confidence and boldness to receive His grace and mercy (Hebrews 4:16).
As we approach this Thanksgiving holiday, let us all thank God that He gives out of the abundance of His mercy and grace. We thank Him that “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him…” (Psalm 103:10-11).
BY MARY SPENCE
I have a favorite coffee cup. I got it from a potter in North Carolina when we were on vacation there with our family. It looks like sand with the surf rolling up on it. It's big and the perfect shape to fit my hands on a cold morning, when full of hot coffee. I absolutely love that mug. I paid $40 for it! Yes $40; for one coffee mug. Every time I used it I could almost feel the warm seaside sun on my face and the ocean wind blowing through my hair. But guess what? It's broken. Chipped in one of its trips through the dishwasher. Please don't tell my artist daughter that I put pottery through the dishwasher. I know, I deserved it. But anyway...I do not love that mug any less for its imperfection. It still fits perfectly in my hand when it's full of hot coffee. I still smile every time I use it, thinking about the memories of frolicking in the ocean surf with my grandchildren.
God is a lot like that. He knows we are cracked, chipped and broken. But He still loves us. In fact, He takes those broken things in us, and uses them to help others who are walking through similar challenges. In my own life I lived through a lot of broken relationships, had many hurts inflicted on me by others, and learned over the last 50 years to put up walls around my heart to protect myself. Walls to keep those who would harm me at arms length. But God needed me to break down those walls and let people in so He could use me as He planned for my life. I had to "unbecome" the person I had grown into, to become who God needed me to be. And I learned that He uses us even with our chips, cracks and dents. Maybe even because of them I guess. I believe that each time He holds us in His hands like my beloved coffee cup, He smiles. It doesn't fix that we are imperfect or blemished, or stubborn or plagued by sin. He loves us.
Remember Ephesians 1:4-6? "For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will - to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves".
He loves us so much He made a plan from the beginning in the Garden to be reconciled to us by allowing His son to be crucified for our sin. He created us and knew us before we were born in our mother's womb and there is no sin so large that we can cause separation from our God. So rest assured, my friends, that God loves your cracks and dents. Even if you can no longer hold coffee. There is a place for you. And you are valuable to Him. "For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God
prepared in advance for us to do." Ephesians 2:10 NIV
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for your love for us. You knew us before we even existed and loved us enough to design a way for us to be in relationship with You. Thank you for your grace and your mercy. Nothing we have done in our past is too great for us to bring to you and be forgiven. Please continue to help us repair our broken places and move out of our comfort zone to be who you have designed us to be; living and serving you as you have planned. In your precious son's name. Amen