It’s Not Because of the Work

by Sarah Langness

I’m not a big birthday person. I’m okay with your birthday and his birthday or her birthday. Just not mine. And it has nothing to do with the fact that a birthday means I’m older. It’s all the attention. What are you supposed to do when a group of people sings “Happy Birthday” to you? Opening up presents in front of other people? That’s one of my least favorite things to do. And really, it’s just my birthday. Frankly, I didn’t do anything. My mom did all the work; I was just . . . born.

Mother’s Day, on the other hand, I like. Yesterday I celebrated my second Mother’s Day (and my little man’s first birthday- hooray!). I suppose if you applied my same “anti-birthday” logic to Mother’s Day, you’d think I didn’t care for this May holiday much either. But it’s much different in my mind. Sure, there’s attention – but it’s not all on me. There are LOTS of people being celebrated on Mother’s Day. There’s no song in which you sit awkwardly in front of a cake and stack of presents. And Mother’s Day – I feel like I earned it. Like it’s a day of recognition and appreciation for all I do as a mom. And I think it’s a pretty great idea!

I guess, what it all boils down to is this: I didn’t work for my birthday, so the love and greetings I receive seem undeserved. But for Mother’s Day – yeah, I do a lot of work. So I guess I feel like I deserve to be appreciated and loved. Make sense?

As I was sorting this through in my head last night, I couldn’t help but compare my “anti-birthday” and “pro-Mother’s Day” stance to God’s love and His abundant grace and freely given salvation.

God loves us. But not because of anything we’ve done. His grace extended towards us is not a payment for deeds completed. Salvation is given not because of the hard work I’ve put in at the church or the long hours at the food packing facility. I do not work for His love, His grace, His mercy. I am given His love. I am given His grace. I am given His mercy.

He loves us because we are His (Isaiah 43:3-4).
In fact, He loved us when we hated Him (Romans 5:6, 8)
He saved me as a gift. Because of His grace. He gave that which I do not deserve (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Because of His love – not because of anything I have done – I am a child of God(1 John 3:1)

I think that’s pretty awesome.

“But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved usnot on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” – Titus 3:4-7 (NASB, emphasis mine)

ALL Things

by Sarah Nelson

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing,  that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,  holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.”   Phil 2:14-16  (ESV)

It’s a small word, the word, all.  Yet it is so enormous in it’s meaning.  It’s a tiny word with a big challenge.  The above passage encourages us to do ALL things without grumbling or disputing.  What a tall order.  An order that even with the best of intentions I fail at daily.  It’s easy enough to not grumble when I’m doing what I love, such as reading, writing, or enjoying a good latte.  Switch me over to picking up dirty laundry for the umpteenth time, or re-organizing the fridge that I just had made neat and tidy the day before, and well, I’ll admit it – grumble.  If I’m not careful, that grumbling quickly carries over to disputing with my family members about whose dirty socks were left on the table and who made the decision to put lettuce in the fruit drawer. Such small things that make grumbling all too easy.

Are we not to grumble or argue simply for our own benefit?  No.  The exhortation carries far more purpose than that.  Our lack of murmuring, whining,and arguing about personal preference, ultimately serves to shine God’s grace in and through our lives to a culture and people desperately in need of God’s truth and love.  Does this mean we will never trip up in our desire to live peaceful, contented, and joyful lives among a lost world?  No.  The good news is that Christ’s forgiveness is ready and waiting for us every moment of the day.  When we do “lose it” as we live out our lives, it is so important that we admit our wrong, ask for forgiveness from those whom we have hurt with our grumbling and disputing, and continue on living in God’s grace.

May I encourage you as you prepare for summer happenings to commit these verses to memory?  As we plan VBS weeks for our churches, perhaps attend family reunions, or receive guests into our homes, let’s be sincerely thankful for all of the moments – the ones that go as planned, and the ones that do not.  May our actions and our reactions reflect the peace and joy found in Jesus, the One who gave His ALL.