Discovering Spiritual Truths & Celebrating God's Grace in the Every Day Happenings of Life.
The sidewalks around our neighborhood are a mess. Throughout the neighborhood, areas of concrete are being tore up and poured again. This has been an unending process. Even though they were all newly poured within the last two years, much of them have cracked and crumbled when faced with the snow, ice, and salt of this past winter. There must have been some flaw or inconsistency in what was originally poured. Regardless of the reason, multiple days this week, our neighborhood has been flooded with workers replacing large fragments of the sidewalk. This is how it has gone for us, in a new development and in a new home. It is still a work in progress. There are still things to fix, things to improve, things to add. This is not unique to a new build. No doubt your homes have the unending, ever-present “work in progress” list of chores of and upkeep.
In the Bible, Paul writes “… And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” (Philippians 1:6) Paul uplifts and encourages the young church by reminding them that they are a work in progress. Until Jesus returns or calls us home, not one of us will ever be perfect or without blemish. The conditions of this life’s more difficult seasons, will leave us cracked and crumbling at times. To put it bluntly, sometimes we are just a mess. But God promises us many things—that we are loved in spite of our flaws, forgiven for all of our mistakes, and that He is always picking up the pieces of our lives and making us to be a new creation. This is the gracious work of God towards us; that though we are sinners, He doesn’t give up on us. He sees us as a work in progress. God is constantly remaking us, tearing up the old and pouring in the new.
“I am currently under construction. God is not done with me. Thank you for your patience.”
Summer is here, and that means it’s time to break out the flip-flops, sunscreen, and charcoal. What do you enjoy most about this time of the year? Baseball games and family hikes. Afternoon drives and trips to local ice-cream places. Pool parties and trips to down to the Jersey Shore. Cold drinks, yard games, and summer BBQ’s. Summer is definitely my favorite season of the year. It provides us with ample opportunity to step outside and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation.
Not too many weeks ago, while taking the dog for a walk, we walked past a beautiful purple flower. I probably would have walked right by and not noticed it myself, but Buddy stopped in his tracks to literally smell the flower. However, this flower wasn’t growing in a pot, front flowerbed of a neighbors' home, or even in woods. It was growing up from in between the concrete sidewalk and black, cracked black-top of a neighbor’s driveway. Somehow, in the middle of that gritty high-traffic area, this flower had been able to take root, grow, and thrive in the midst of less-than-idea circumstance. In spite of the hot, steamy surroundings, this unknown purple flower (probably a glorified weed), stood out with beautiful color. I only noticed it on that one walk; it was gone the next time we went by. But it caught my attention long enough to stop our stroll and enjoy.
There is beauty in the world right around us, and sometimes we don’t even realize it. Walking down the street there are signs of God’s creation growing at our feet. Whether we are in the city or the country, the suburbs or the farm, God’s creation envelopes us every day. The heart of summer is a wonderful time to experience the Creator. We feel the summer sun, the heat, and remember how God created “the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night.” We see and smell the deep green vegetation around us and enjoy the produce of planted vegetable or fruit gardens. Indeed, God has provided all we need. We see deer scampering in the fields, encounter fox or groundhogs in backyards, and hear the twitter of birds; we feel ourselves surrounded by all creatures great and small. We feel the cool water of the pool, the lake, the hose, or the stream and know that God has washed us in living waters. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” (Psalm 19:1f) Step outside this summer. Breathe in the fresh air. Appreciate what is around you. This is the handiwork of the Creator. All of creation testifies, “God did this!”
“When I look at God’s beautiful creation, I am reminded that since He is powerful enough to do that, then I can trust Him with my life as well.”
Now that the selections have been made, the All-Star baseball season has begun. 12 of our best 10 year-old players are ready to represent our town in local and regional tournaments. Another great group of kids with an inspiring love for the sport and natural talent and baseball intuition that makes me jealous. They are ready to take the field and play in games that matter. But wait just a second! Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Before they are allowed to play, there are all kinds of red tape to cross. As a coach, I have to collect all sorts of “official” documentation for each player—original birth certificates and proof of residency, just to name a few. They need more “official” documents than there are weeks in the month-long season. Fortunately, the powers-that-be stop just shy of hair samples and blood draws…for now! After all documents are collected, in addition to another fee (of course), they are taken to an authorized Little League representative so they can validate and affirm each kid’s participation in the All-Star season. It’s ridiculous. All they want to do is play and all we want to do is coach! But rules are rules, and these are the requirements. Plus such rules are in place to ensure a level playing field and the integrity of youth sports and Little League sportsmanship and competition. So, in spite the incredible nuisance of it all, we do what we are told.
A couple of weeks ago, we reflected on how God is gracious to us all. In spite of our imperfections and flaws, we are “all stars” in the kingdom of God simply by His grace, not by our effort or credentials. Can you imagine if our salvation came with strings attached? With papers to fill out and forms to file? This is the way it is in many other religions of our day. You may not have to show a utility bill from 4 months ago or present an original birth certificate, but make no mistake your eternal well-being is completely dependent on making sure you have all your affairs in order. Did you do enough? Did you please the right people? Did you pay enough dues? The metaphorical forms of your life’s work better be filled out and accurate; they better have the t’s crossed and i's dotted. What added stressed and uncertainty these works-righteous religions present.
Praise God that we have a God who has fulfilled all the necessary requirements on our behalf. Leave your pens and papers at home. If your tempted to look at your own credentials, tell the Devil to take his paperwork and shove it. Jesus has it all taken care of. His cross covers the entry fee. In baptism, we have the seal of God’s Holy Spirit. This is our proof and declaration that we belong to God and His church. By His grace and mercy, our names are written in the Book of Life. They are signed into everlasting certainty with the very blood of Jesus. Clothed with the righteous robes of Jesus, we are ceaselessly spared from His wrath and judgement; we will enter our eternal rest in His eternal city to worship Him. (Rev. 3:5, 13:8, 17:8, 22:19) It is a beautiful, refreshing thing to know we are in God’s hands.
He has removed the red tape, He has taken care of it all!
“The grace of forgiveness, because God Himself has paid the price, is a Christian distinctive and stands splendidly against our hate-filled, unforgiving world. God’s forgiveness gives us a fresh start.” (Ravi Zacharias)
Pastor Steve Vera