When I was growing up, one of the rules in our house was that we weren’t allowed to go to bed angry (Eph. 4:26). All our fights and disagreements had to be resolved. The companion to that rule was this bedtime ritual: Mom and Dad would say to my brother and me, “Good night. I love you.” And we would respond, “Good night. I love you too.”
The value of this family ritual has recently been impressed on me. As my mother lay in a hospice bed dying of lung cancer, she became less and less responsive. But each night when I left her bedside I would say, “I love you, Mom.” And though she could say little else, she would respond, “I love you too.” Growing up I had no idea what a gift this ritual would be to me so many years later.
Time and repetition can rob our rituals of meaning. But some are important reminders of vital spiritual truths. First-century believers misused the practice of the Lord’s Supper, but the apostle Paul didn’t tell them to stop celebrating it. Instead he told them, “As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes” (1 Cor. 11:26).
Rather than give up the ritual, perhaps we need to restore the meaning.
Lord, when we observe the Lord’s Supper, help us avoid the trap of letting our observance grow routine. May we always be moved with gratitude for the wonderful gift of ritual.
Any ritual can lose meaning, but that does not make the ritual meaningless.
On the evening Jesus celebrated His last Passover with His disciples, He also established His own memorial supper. The unleavened Passover bread symbolized the exodus from Egypt, and the cup echoed the Old Testament promise, “I will redeem you.”
In many countries, health laws prohibit reselling or reusing old mattresses. Only landfills will take them. Tim Keenan tackled the problem and today his business employs a dozen people to extract the individual components of metal, fabric, and foam in old mattresses for recycling. But that’s only part of the story. Journalist Bill Vogrin wrote, “Of all the items Keenan recycles . . . it’s the people that may be his biggest success” (The Gazette, Colorado Springs). Keenan hires men from halfway houses and homeless shelters, giving them a job and a second chance. He says, “We take guys nobody else wants.”
Luke 5:17-26 tells how Jesus healed the body and the soul of a paralyzed man. Following that miraculous event, Levi answered Jesus’ call to follow Him and then invited his fellow tax collectors and friends to a banquet in honor of the Lord (vv.27-29). When some people accused Jesus of associating with undesirables (v.30), He reminded them that healthy people don’t need a doctor—adding, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (v.32).
To everyone who feels like a “throwaway” headed for the landfill of life, Jesus opens His arms of love and offers a fresh beginning. That’s why He came!
The power of God can turn a heart From evil and the power of sin; The love of God can change a life And make it new and cleansed within. —Fasick
Salvation is receiving a new life.
The religious leaders accused Jesus of blasphemy for claiming divine attributes for Himself (Luke 5:21). Blasphemy is showing contempt or a lack of reverence for God or something sacred (v.20). A violation of the third commandment, it was punishable by death (Lev. 24:15-16).
Pressed into service in the Royal Navy, John Newton was dismissed for insubordination and turned to a career trafficking in slaves. Notorious for cursing and blasphemy, Newton served on a slave ship during the cruelest days of trans-Atlantic slavery, finally working his way up to captain.
A dramatic conversion on the high seas set him on the path to grace. He always felt a sense of undeservedness for his new life. He became a rousing evangelical preacher and eventually a leader in the abolitionist movement. Newton appeared before Parliament, giving irrefutable eyewitness testimony to the horror and immorality of the slave trade. We also know him as the author of the lyrics of perhaps the best-loved hymn of all time, “Amazing Grace.”
Newton described any good in himself as an outworking of God’s grace. In doing so, he stands with these great heroes—a murderer and adulterer (King David), a coward (the apostle Peter), and a persecutor of Christians (the apostle Paul).
This same grace is available to all who call upon God, for “in Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:7).
Amazing grace—how sweet the sound— That saved a wretch like me! I once was lost but now am found, Was blind but now I see. —Newton
Lives rooted in God’s unchanging grace can never be uprooted.
Here in Ephesians 2, Paul contrasts a person’s life before being saved by the grace of God to life after salvation by grace through faith. The first contrast is in verse 1: We were once “dead in trespasses” but have been made alive. Another contrast is in our behavior. We once “walked according to the course of this world” (v.2). Now, as believers, we walk according to good works prepared by God (v.10).