Yes! I made it with only five miles left to go until empty. Blinking , yellow gas warning, you will not get the best of me. Probably not the wisest decision considering my four and two-year-old were in the car with me at the time. But, wake a baby from a nap on an eight-hour car trip? No thanks, I’ll take my chances.
“Mom, why do we have to stop and get gas?” an irritated four-year-old yelled because her beloved movie had stopped. She was anxious to zone out and let the entertainment guide her through the Virginia mountains. “Our cars need gas to run properly, and if we do not put gas in them, they will stop working, and leave us stranded on the side of the road,” I replied. She sat for a minute, “And then we might die?” Hmmm. . . okay, a bit extreme, but what can I say, she is her mother’s daughter. “Well, no, but it may do permanent damage to our car, and we might find ourselves in a very unpleasant situation.”
My mind replayed the conversation with my daughter, making me remorseful about waiting until the last few miles to stop. What if we had come across bad traffic or the weather had quickly shifted? Was my own comfort so important that I would neglect my responsibility to keep my girls safe? Romans 12:1 popped into my head, and I just kept saying these words over and over, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God- this is your true and proper worship.” Then the Holy Spirit immediately convicted me; I am careful to make sure that my physical tank never goes dry, but what about my spiritual tank, which often hovers just above E.
Paul was writing to the Church in Rome, as he did to many of the early churches, to encourage them and give them guidance about how to live their lives in Christ. These new Christians were in two camps, Jewish and Gentile. Self-righteousness and superiority that was steeped in religious tradition caused divisive “issues” — not a lot different from issues in our churches today. (Of course, Baptist tradition is the best, Amen? Joke. Joke.) The point is, Paul wanted all of these early Believers, both Jew and Gentile alike, to know that salvation comes from Jesus Christ alone, not through religious traditions or obeying all of the Old Testament law (commandments), which was impossible to do. God’s plan was the same for all of His children. I love the MSG translation of this verse, “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life — your sleeping, eating, going to work, and walking around life and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you do for him.” Well, Paul, why didn’t you say it that way to begin with?
Your “ordinary” life, not your extraordinary life. Your everyday, mundane, coffee with two sugars, carpool, report generating, casserole making, brush your teeth routine of a life. In everything that we do we should be giving ourselves over to Him to be used for His glory. I recently scribbled the words, “Use Me,” in my journal. As quickly as I penned this simple but powerful phrase, the weight of these words washed over me. Do I really mean for God to use me? Or do I go to Him with an empty tank, stopping when I fall below the half-way mark? No, God I don’t need a full tank of “premium,” that will cost too much. I’ll just fill the rest of my tank with “regular” to engage with my family, my friends, my job, my shows. I recently confided to my husband that while my soul ached to be at the feet of Jesus, I fear where He might take me. My life might not be nearly as easy as before — the little luxuries and “security blankets” — what if they were stripped away?
Personal sacrifice smacks right in the face of the world view and what it tells us we should be doing with our lives. The internet is filled with self-promotion, ways to get ahead, and tips and advice that focus on the most important person, YOU. The early church struggled with this very same mindset, which is why Paul admonished them: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will able to test and approve what God’s will is his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12: 2
Too frequently we run nearly on empty, living on fumes to get through the day, and then wonder why we aren’t experiencing the optimal Christian life. We attempt to fuel our spirits with a quick prayer over our lunch, Sunday morning worship and reading a Bible verse or two, but it isn’t enough. Paul tells us in EVERYTHING we do, we must give ourselves to the Lord.
If we really understood what God has done for us, His grace and mercy, would we change how we lived our lives?
We hear a good deal about grace, but what, exactly, is mercy? In the Hebrew and Greek it’s known as compassion and loving kindness and carries the concept of pity on the sinful, miserable and condemned. When one stands before a judge and throws himself on the “mercy of the court,” and actually receives it, this is truly an “event to be grateful for, especially because its occurrence prevents something unpleasant or provides relief from suffering,” which is a more secular, modern way of defining it.
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus our Savior. Titus 3:4-6
Oh, right, this is how God showed me mercy — He did not spare His perfect, holy and righteous, only begotten son in order to save me, condemned to die because of my sin. Yet, I get wrapped up in the importance of me because I fail to see myself as He sees me — needy and wretched and deserving of death and Hell, even when at my best. Strong words, yes, but Truth which Satan wants to keep us from fully realizing. How foolish and blind am I to “negotiate” with God about what I will or will not do for Him and to resist surrendering my life to Him, although He laid down His life for me.
Looking at who we are now, through the lens of God’s grace and mercy, changes how we conduct the symphony of our lives. At least it should. It determines how we speak to our husbands, how we interact with co-workers, and what we do when no one is around to see us. When we are filled with God’s Truths by keeping an open dialogue with Him through prayer and meditating on His Word, our spiritual tanks will be filled to the brim, overflowing and impacting lives around us for eternity.
Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for his mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness! Lamentations 3:22-2 (CSB)
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