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Friday, February 29, 2008

Lone tree on Lake Huron shoreline (photo by Howard J. Blichfeldt)
Lone tree on Lake Huron shoreline
Photo by Howard J. Blichfeldt (used by permission)

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"Better Than I Deserve"

"He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.  For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him" (Psalm 103:10,11).

Here in America we often greet one another with the common expression, “How are you?”  When we meet one another face to face, in our conversation over the phone, or when we write a letter to a friend we regularly ask the question, “How are you?”  It’s so common that, at times, I have taken a phone call and out of habit responded with the customary, “Fine” only to realize after doing so that I answered the question before they even asked it!  Occasionally I respond with such phrases as "I'm doing great" or "I'm blessed" attempting to give a more genuine response to the customary greeting.

I recall a few friends, dealing with some emotional ups and downs in life, responding with a very candid admission, "I'm gonna make it" or “I’m overcoming.”

But the other day I read of a true expression which can also be a thought-provoking response to the typical greeting. It also provides an opportunity for a witness, assuming you have the boldness to use it and opportunity to explain it.

Next time someone asks you "How are you doing?" respond with, "Better than I deserve."  I've been doing that recently and the reaction has been quite interesting, although it may take a few seconds for the words to sink in.

In one sense I consider the phrase as a counter to the whiny, entitlement outlook that permeates our culture. It seems so many, no matter how full the cup is, focus on the half empty view. They center on that which is lacking in their life and what they feel they’re entitled to.  Politicians are great at pandering to this attitude with promises such as "Help is on the way."  Incredibly it's a sizable voting constituency.

But it's the spiritual application that really blesses me.  Consider just the first phrase in the daily text: "He does not treat us as our sins deserve."  That's a portion of Scripture verse that you can memorize as you repeat it to yourself throughout the day.  In fact you may want to personalize it, "He does not treat me as my sins deserve." 

What do our sins deserve? The Bible answers in a simple Scripture phrase you should have memorized upon first coming to Christ. "The wages of sin is death."  That is: spiritual death, separation from God, eternal judgment, hell.  Not a popular theme in the modern church, infiltrated with the "I'm OK, You're OK" doctrine launched in the 70’s.

Probably the most famous sermon in American history was preached by the 18th century theologian, Jonathan Edwards, where he focused on that which we truly deserve.  He wasn’t concerned with making believers “feel good” when he titled his sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” or when he preached the message God gave him regarding the penalty of sin.

The next time you’re asked, “How are you?” consider the great love the Father has for you and gratefully respond, “Better than I deserve.” It might lead to a discussion that takes you beyond a surface level to a conversation of the heart.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily Prayer:  Father, we are thankful for Your great compassion and enduring patience; that You do not treat us as our sins deserve but with Your never-ending mercy.  From everlasting to everlasting Your love is with those who walk with You, who keep Your covenant and obey Your precepts.  Amen.

Stone marking location where Jonathan Edwards preached "Sinners in the hands of an angry God"
Stone marking the location where Jonathan Edwards preached
"Sinners in the hands of an angry God"
Click on photo to enlarge
I took this photo about ten years ago when we visited the very site where this sermon was preached in Enfield, Connecticut.  (The church building has long been gone.)  We were in the area for the wedding of Joel and Adrienne Charest, a young couple who had served in our church for several years, and are now on the mission field in Africa.

As I was completing today's message I visited a favorite photo blog by Doris High. Her latest post relates to today's message with a pictorial perspective of half-full, half-empty. (Scroll down to the photos of the glasses and read her perspective.)

Steve Cornell is a pastor here in Lancaster Country and a prolific blogger.  He provides a deeper perspective on today's topic.  Here's his blog post which prompted the idea for today's message.

If you care to do so you can read Jonathan Edward's sermon here.

Although we have prepared these messages most weekday mornings since October 1996 (11 plus years) this is only the second message prepared on February 29!

Today's Suggested Music and
Supplemental Resources

Mystery song  See if you recognize this old hymn you just don't hear much these days that really blesses me in light of the daily topic. (Instrumental audio)  More instrumental piano hymns.

"Praise To The Lord The Almighty!"  (Audio)  I like the phrase "Ponder anew what the Almighty can do, if in His love He befriend thee."  From this site.

"How Deep The Father's Love"  (Audio)

Today's photo is by Howard J. Blichfeldt and is used with his permission. His website is here.

Info about multi-media files used on daily encouragement.

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission; and the King James Version.
Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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