Friday, November 8, 2013

November 9, 2013

"Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!  I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate."  Luke 15:11-24

I believe one of the big obstacles to having a thankful heart is an inability to embrace God's mercy and grace.

What do I mean by that?

Let me illustrate with the familiar story of the Prodigal Son. The Prodigal Son is not grateful at the beginning of the story but becomes thankful and is rejoicing by the end of the story. How does that happen?

Well, to my point, when we first see this young man we see someone who doesn't know how to handle grace or mercy.

First, he abused the graciousness of his father by demanding his inheritance. His father was not obligated to grant this unusual request but he chose to do it because he loved his son.  By doing this he broke tradition and social custom, bringing disgrace to himself and dishonor to his father.

Also, he abused mercy.

How did he abuse mercy?

The inheritance system was set up to protect young people from getting too much wealth and responsibility too soon in their lives. It was a form of mercy.

When you consider how he abused grace and refused mercy to get his own way, you know it is not likely to end well. He was ungrateful in his demand, and he was ungrateful in what he received so how do think he is going to turn out?

Once his demand was met and he got what he wanted from his dad, he took the money and ran! He ran to spend it on wild parties and wild women. unfortunately, when his money ran out so did his friends. Soon he found himself broke and lonely and hungry. He was in a world of hurt scuffling with swine for their scraps.

What if this young man had been grateful in the beginning?

What if he had honored the grace and mercy of his father from the start?

Imagine how much different the story would have been!

A truly thankful heart has learned to receive the mercy and grace of his Father.

November 8, 2013

 "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus."  Ephesian 2:1-7

There are two planks that form the foundation for true thankfulness! Having a thankful heart results from being amazed by God’s mercy and grace in your life. Mercy mercy is God sparing you from judgment you deserve and grace is God sharing with us blessings we don’t deserve. When you are able to grasp the significance of God's mercy and grace in your life, you will have a thankful heart.

The daughter of a well-known local judge was stopped for speeding and given a ticket. She knew she would have to appear before her father in his courtroom. 

When her father found out his daughter would be appearing before him he assured her that he would judge her according to the law as he would with any other citizen who would come before him.

Indeed, when she came before the bench he declared her guilty of this traffic violation and slammed his gavel as he sentenced her to a $100 fine.

But after he had pronounced the sentence he laid down his gavel, stood, took off his robe and went down to stand next to his daughter as a father, not a judge. After he hugged her he pulled out his wallet and paid her fine in full. 

This girl received grace from her father but not mercy.

A wonderful example of how to practice the lifestyle of grace comes from an incident in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, on October 2, 2006, when a man entered an Amish schoolhouse and murdered 5 girls while wounding 5 others before killing himself. As horrific as this was, the greater story was the response of the Amish people in expressing their love and forgiveness to the shooter’s family. Ann Curry of NBC news, wrote: "I realize I did not know what forgiveness was until now."

Perhaps the most telling comments came from the pen of Marie Roberts, the shooter’s widow, in a note to the Amish. "Our family wants each of you to know that we are overwhelmed by the forgiveness, grace and mercy you’ve extended to us. Your love for our family has helped to provide the healing we so desperately need. Your compassion has reached beyond our family, beyond our community and is changing our world." Isn’t that the goal of the gospel of grace?

Receiving mercy and grace from these grieving families brought this sincere expression of from the killer's widow.

The two planks of thanks are mercy and grace.