Archives For Mercy

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“And such were some of you.”

Paul wrote those words in the context of a list of sins inconsistent with inheriting the kingdom of God. It isn’t an exhaustive list but a list nonetheless that helps us capture the picture. He names the sexually immoral, the idolaters, the adulterers, the practicing of homosexuality, the thieves, the greedy, the drunkards, the revilers, and swindlers. In this broken world, Paul illuminates our collective brokenness but doesn’t leave us hopeless in our brokenness. Instead, Paul composes a way forward to ultimate healing.

“And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God.”

This side of wholeness is a difficult place to advance. Our sins often work to claim us and shape us. It is a never-ending battle. A battle against the voice that speaks to you, “It is who you are, give in, give over.” However, there is another voice that speaks, a groaning in us. A groaning of the Spirit of God inside of us. A groaning that calls us onward to a day in the future where there is no more sin. A place where our sins that live on this side of wholeness will be buried forever, never to tempt us or disfigure us again.

Take time today to read that list of sins found in 1 Corinthians but don’t focus on the sins with which you have no struggle. Instead, concentrate on the one’s you know you have lurking in your closet. Only then can you identify with the struggles of others who fight a different sin from yours.

Truly Live

April 27, 2014 — Leave a comment

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I breathe, yet my soul is still heavy. I laugh although my soul is unrested. I battle, but the fight is never without only within. I thirst for significance discerning it’s not the goal of life. I’m just like you…waiting on the shore hesitant for my ego to die that I might truly live.

Guilt Can Be A Good Thing

January 6, 2014 — 2 Comments

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Guilt can be a good thing if it’s helps you to see you have sinned against God. However, please hear this…guilt will never forgive you or heal you. The goal of course is to break free from the sin that so easily entangles you. After all, our calling is to be conformed to the image of God. God is shaping our character to reflect Him and His kingdom virtues. We are supposed to be salt and light to a world crying out for healing. We can’t be salt and light while living in open lifestyle sin.

When you sin against God and ignore the leading of the Holy Spirit you grieve Him. Since our path is narrow according to scripture, any other path leads away from God. To surrender to temptation is to choose to walk a path not intended. The aftermath of that choice is often guilt. Guilt only becomes bad when it leads you away in self-pity and self-seeking healing. Runaway Guilt is Adam and Eve running and hiding from God. Convicting guilt is from the Holy Spirit and leads to life.

What then is the answer after the fall? The answer is conviction. Conviction is the voice of the Holy Spirit. Conviction is the voice of reconciliation. Conviction draws you toward God to receive forgiveness from any and all sin committed. I’ve often said there is a difference between a man facing the cross and asking God to forgive him, than the one who is facing away from the cross trying to hide it all.

Hiding leads to guilt in the shadows and the weight of sin remains. Guilt that faces the cross leads to life and forgiveness. A great example of facing the cross is Peter. When Peter sinned, he confessed, and God forgave him. Adam on the other hand blamed God while trapped in guilt and tried to hide it. The desire of God is for each of us to bring our guilt to him. On the cross, Jesus died for your sins. He was the innocent for the guilty, so it is only at the foot of the cross that guilt is relieved. Now drop that fig leaf and be healed.

1 John 1:9 (NKJV)

9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

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Samuel Hamilton in East of Eden once wrote, “Two stories have haunted us and followed us from our beginning. . . . We carry them along with us like invisible tails—the story of original sin and the story of Cain and Abel. And I don’t understand either of them. I don’t understand them at all, but I feel them.

Original sin is the story of the fall of humanity. Adam and Eve disobey God and death had a birthday. The story of Cain and Abel is the story of violence finding its first platform of death and destruction.

Brian Zanhd in his book, Beauty Will Save The World, teaches that the picture of individuals going wrong is seen in the story of Adam and Eve and the picture of civilization going wrong is seen in the story of Cain and Abel.

Separation from God and violence was never God’s plan for us as individuals or for civilization. We were created to reflect the image of God. We were designed to take care of each other. Violence is not the way of the kingdom of God.

God’s rule and reign in the here and now is not through violence and power. His rule and His reign are through the work of the Holy Spirit working not only in us, but through us toward others by the power of love.

Love is the greatest power ever known to man. Love was perfectly demonstrated on the cross. When violence taunted Jesus to fight back, He fought back with love and not violence. He took all the sins of the world and its violence upon himself and said, “It is finished!” He defeated it with love. So must we!

We can only love like God when we move toward God in submission. We must not be violent to get our way. The Gospel was never gifted to us to force upon the sinner. It was gifted to us to love the sinner to the foot of the cross. Violence will always and only be seen as corrupt in God’s sight. (See Genesis 6:11-13)

The Church is called to be God’s new humanity in the world. We are not called to call down fire like James and John wanted to do when Jesus was rejected. They asked to call fire down, and Jesus warned them that they knew not what spirit they were being lead by.

When we live God’s peace to the world, we show forth His lordship. The world system cannot bring peace. Only God can do that, and He did it by the cross. When we follow the politics of forgiveness and redemption, we find that we are following Jesus.

When you and I answer the call to deny self and take up the cross and follow Christ, we are baptized to the imperative call to love our enemies. Christ sending His sheep out among wolves is about love and never about retaliation. I’ve heard it said many ways and it is true…the beauty of love and kindness is most strikingly seen in the darkest of places.

We are called to be light. We are called to walk in His love. Both are done in the darkness, and both cast darkness out. Now walk bold today my friend. Walk in love. You will find you are walking in the footsteps of Christ Himself.

Transforming Wolves

August 21, 2013 — Leave a comment

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When we live God’s peace in the world, we show forth His lordship. The world system cannot bring peace. Only God can do that, and He did it by the cross. Love was manifested on the cross and was given to the world while we were yet sinners.

When I follow the politics of forgiveness and redemption, I find I’m following Jesus. When you answer the call to deny yourself and take up the cross and follow Christ, you are baptized to the imperative call to love your enemies.

Christ sending His sheep out among wolves is about love and not retaliation. The beauty of love and kindness is most strikingly seen in the darkest of places when they are demonstrated and not just spoken about.

Where are you shining the light of God’s love and kindness? I’m sure you shine it among the believers, but do you shine it among the wolves? We must never forget the wolf can be transformed. At last, “In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together;…” Isaiah 11:6a

 

 

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The only prophetic voice that spoke on Golgotha was from the middle cross. The man on the left cross-needed the man on the middle, and the man on the right cross-needed the man on the middle also.

The only redemptive work taking place that day was from the man in the middle. He was 100% man and 100% God. God in the middle was showing the world the only way to eternal life. Choosing the man in the middle makes you the only alternative society that has the right answer.

In a world of ugly, beauty can only be seen through the lens of the cross and what Jesus accomplished by willfully submitting to His Father’s will. Only by following the suffering of the cross can we live as sheep among the wolves of the left and right.

The only thing that will ever change the world is when His followers simply follow Him. When we choose the left we are not choosing Jesus. When we choose the right we are not choosing Jesus. Only when we choose the man in the middle do we choose the path that leads to Heaven and Earth coming together.

The cross of Christ takes away resentment and fills our hearts with hope. Down through the centuries, resentment and power have crucified many. However, resentment and power met its match the day it confronted Jesus.   Resentment and power  was confronted by love and love won forever!

Jesus took the dreadfulness and ugliness of a Roman cross and painted it with the beauty of God’s own blood so that humanity could be free from evil forever.  Freedom comes when you choose the man in the middle. Once we choose the man in the middle, we are called to a different way of living. We are no long left or right. We are now the middle. As the writer Brian Zahnd says, “We are to model what it means to be Christ-like in a Caesar-like world.”

Along with Paul, we cry out, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Gal 2:20)

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Don’t mute Jesus. Excel in making Him known through loving the unlovable. Jesus never chose sides. He loved the world. He hung on the middle cross loving both the one on the left and the one on the right. He chose them both, but only one chose Him that day. He chooses everyone that everyone might have the chance to repent and turn to Him in surrender. 2 Peter 3:9b teaches that God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

The only division Christ came to bring was to a division that points all of humanity to a decision for Him or against Him. He did so because choosing Him or rejecting Him is the only eternal choice that really matters in this age, or the age to come. You must point humanity to the middle cross every day of your life through your actions and your words. People in our world are hungry to belong. They are hungry and thirsty to be heard, valued and love unconditionally.

Pointing humanity to the left or to the right will never satisfy the hole in their lives. Pointing them to the middle cross is the only answer. In John 6 Jesus speaking to the crowd said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” Jesus is still offering that call to the world today. He doesn’t offer it through himself (his physical presence) anymore because He sits at the right hand of the Father waiting to return. However, he still offers it through us, His children by the power of the Holy Spirit.

As Christ followers,  you and I have the Spirit of God living on the inside of us seeking to serve and rescue the world. The rescuing of the world doesn’t happen by following the media, or by choosing the left or right. Rescuing happens by choosing to obey the command of love, and pointing the world to the middle cross where Jesus stretched out His arms wide to embrace everyone who would hear.

Will you obey and follow His leading, or will you be a quencher of the Spirit? Will you mute Jesus today by choosing the left or the right or will you live for Him and promote Him today by choosing the middle? The middle cross is still the only answer for the world because Jesus used it to defeat evil forever. Jesus turned an ugly cross of Rome into a vision of beauty that rescues the world.  His crucifixion was the greatest act of love ever accomplished for humanity, and it’s still the only path that leads us home.

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I’m not a big fan of cursing the darkness. As a Christ follower,  we should be primarily concerned with being salt and light. While it’s true, the Bible calls us to reprove the works of darkness, reproving darkness and cursing the darkness are two different approaches entirely.

Cursing the darkness is throwing condemnation at those who are outside of Christ, while reproving darkness is shining our light as to awaken the sinner from their sleep. The first is done in the same spirit Jesus rebuke James and John for when they wanted to call fire down on those who rejected Christ. (See Luke 9:54)

The latter is done in the Spirit of love that understands that those outside of Christ are under condemnation already, and we have no need to throw more their way. (See John 3:18) If we are to win the world to Christ, we must do so in the greatest power know to man, which is the love of God.

Hate never reached or rescued anyone, but love has proved time and time again to rescue the most hardened heart. Jesus died to prove love real. We are called to do more than talk about grace; we are called to demonstrate grace to everyone. Yes, Even the ungrateful and evil. (See Luke 6:35)

In Ephesians 5,  we are called to take no part in unfruitful works of darkness. We are told to expose them. We expose them by  letting our light shine, and be visible, not by trying to curse the darkness and win a religious argument. When we love like Christ, His light shines and awakens the sleeper from darkness to light.

Many Christ followers need to return to trusting in the love of God to win the lost. We need to  stop trying to win them by persuasive arguments of men, arguments of condemnation.

Allow me to say it again, Hate never reached or rescued anyone, but love has proved time and time again to rescue the most hardened heart.

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God has no rival when it comes to His lavish kindness to the ungrateful and wicked. In our own power,  we are not capable of loving the way He loves. He is love. He is Kindness. We are but mere reflections that only get it right when we allow Him to love through us those that position themselves as unlovable, unreachable, ungrateful and wicked.

We can’t love our enemies without submitting to the Spirit of God that lives on the inside of us. Yes,  you will be hurt loving like God but remaining gracefully vulnerable after being burnt time and time again is a bi-product of God’s love through you.

We are called to observable and working love for our enemies. The love that Jesus wants to operate through our lives is not abstract. It’s not a concept hidden in the treasure chest of your mind as just another hopeful idea. His love demonstrates itself by radical counter-culture actions.

The supreme absolution of all is to convert an enemy into a friend of God through the God pattern of kingdom love. When you love like God you’re not losing your mind; you’re imitating His heart and causing God’s kingdom to break into the world.

Matthew 5: 43-45
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

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Authentic worship shapes the Christ follower into God’s image. Whereas; counterfeit worship run the extreme risk of shaping God into our preferred image.  We are called to live authentic lives of worship that is free from the smell of the counterfeit worship of religious array.  For His glory; for our good, and the hope of others, we must live authentic lives of worship before the world.

It’s easy to have a form of godliness; but a form of godliness will never awaken the world from its zombie like apathy.  Authentic lives of worship shows  the image of God in a world that desperately wants their own way instead of wanting and embracing what they truly need.  As Christ followers, we are called to awaken the dead by living and giving them the true life of Christ.

We awaken the dead when we turn the other cheek. We awaken the dead when we move beyond being regularly offended at everything the world does and simply reflex God regardless. We awaken the dead when we feed the hungry, cloth the naked, give water to the thirsty, love the unlovable, visit the sick, take in the stranger, and go to them which are in prison.

We are called to help people see God. However, in order for us to help people see God we must not live lives that show  the idolatry of shaping God into our own images. There must be a daily death of self and a daily obeying of entering the harvest field of the walking dead.

Humanity that has long suffered in darkness calls to us to be awakened. Light has come into the world by Jesus Christ and His light is the only light that defeats darkness and awakens the sinner.  We must show them Jesus and not our religious routes. Jesus is the only way. We must show them Him. In John 14:9 Jesus proclaimed the amazing by saying, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”

Let’s show them the Father! Let’s awaken the world from their sleep! Let’s show them the redeemer and lover of their souls. It’s our call; it’s our duty; it’s our grand privilege, and it can’t be done with religion.

The awakening can only happen when we start showing the world the true Jesus that is beyond the religious version that idolatry tries to shape. There is an echo from the future calling to us, “Well done good and faithful servant.” Let’s answer that call!

Let’s go awaken the dead!