Archives For Mercy

live-like-jesus

The latter part of the verse found in Luke 6:35 rocks my world and I think it will rock your world if you read it slow enough for it to read you. Jesus of course, if you will remember, is talking about loving your enemies.

Jesus is saying things like, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” He then goes on to take His grace and mercy to deeper extremes that often causes our flesh to cry out, “INSANITY!”

I can’t speak for you, but if I wrote those verses myself, it would have to read something like the following to make sense to me. I would write, “Crush your enemies, do the worst thing to them before they can do something bad to you, don’t pray for them that abuse you, they deserve what they have coming.” I think you get my point.

It’s deep in us to seek revenge on those who mistreat us, and to point the accusing finger at the unjust and evil people of the world. However, the latter part verse 35, found in Luke 6 deals the ultimate conviction to the soul.

Luke 6:35 says, “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, (THEN HERE IT IS) for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.”

Yes, that is correct! You read that right. God is KIND to the ungrateful and the evil. Now that is love. That is God’s love, and it should be our love. If He can love like that, then He can still love like that through us if we submit to His control and leading.

Anyone can have a ‘invite a friend to church Sunday,’ but can you have a ‘invite an enemy to church Sunday?’ Now that would change the world- don’t ya think?

I know you can love the loveable, but can you love the unlovable, the ungrateful and the evil? God does and I’m convinced that you and I can also. It’s hard but not impossible.

I challenge you with the words of N.T. Wright,“Think of the best thing you can do for the worst person, and go ahead and do it.

God has called us to be like Him and being like Him means you must love and seek to do good to the ungrateful and the evil. I bet if you do, you just might smell a little bit like Jesus.

Serving Jesus can’t be detached from serving others; otherwise you are not serving Him at all. Also, serving Jesus without serving your enemy is not serving Him at all also.

Peace

MountDiabloEmilieHike

You were not meant to be alone and isolated from people. You were never meant to say, “All I need is God and no one else.” God created us for fellowship with Him and fellowship with others. It’s God’s perfect plan.

I once had a friend who began to pull away from the body of Christ. He became disenfranchised for many reasons and finally allowed things to pull him away from those that loved him. He didn’t leave God, but he did say over and over to others, and me “All I need is God and no one else.”

Somehow, he had bought into the lie that he could do it with just God. By cutting off the flesh of humanity, he thought his life would be richer and fuller. Over the next several months,  he systematically cut off his best friends also. I was among that number, and it hurt and grieved me horribly.

He would touch base with me by phone from time to time, but it was shallow, and I could hear in his voice that he was slipping over the edge. The fellowship of the body of Christ had been traded in and replaced with a pseudo kind of Christian fellowship that consisted of just him and God.

It sounds good on the surface to say, “All I need is God and no one else,” but the fact of the matter it’s impossible to have true biblical fellowship cut off from the body. You and I were designed to have a vertical relationship with God and a horizontal relationship with each other.

My friend came up with a thought in isolation away from the body because he said he heard the voice of God tell him to do something. He didn’t run the voice through scripture to see if it contradicted anything and he didn’t run the voice by any believers for accountability. He simply “heard a voice,” and obeyed the voice.

The story is long;  therefore I will make it short and more bullet point for your reading.

  • He said he heard God tell him to drive out to the Mt. Diablo and climb to the top to be alone with him for many days. (Temperatures can reach high 90’s and above)
  • He was told to tell no one and to take only water
  • He drove his truck to the park and parked it at the bottom of the mountain.
  • He took his keys and threw them into a pond and threw his cell phone into the pond also.
  • He hiked up the mountain and found a place to worship and talk with God.
  • He used up all his water before reaching the top and over the next few days he dehydrated and began to see things.
  • He saw and heard angles telling him to do things and many other things that would be just too strange to share with you.
  • Finally, with the heat being too much to handle he unclothed himself wholly and lay down to die. That’s correct, he was naked on the mountain.
  • He was found the next morning almost dead. He was hanging on to life by a thread.
  • “All I need is God and no one else,” had taken him to a place of death and not life.

He finally made a full recovery in the hospital. His parents, family and friends were all happy he was alive. I would love to say he fully learned his lesson, but it wasn’t over night. Even after almost dying, he still had a grudge against the body of Christ. Over the years,  he has slowly worked through his issues, and last I heard he was doing well.

Pastor Rick Warren once said, “Why is it important to join a local church family? Because it proves you are committed to your spiritual brothers and sisters in reality, not just in theory. God wants you to love real people, not ideal people. You can spend a lifetime searching for the perfect church, but you will never find it. You are called to love imperfect sinners, just as God does.”

paint

I learned my first two cuss words in the second grade. Yeah, I know that’s early, but it’s how I roll. Anyway, I was sitting in class, and the teacher had to go out for a while and said she would be back in fifteen minutes. She put a monitor in charge and out the door she went.

Two of my best friends were sitting next to me, and one of them without warning got up and walked right to the chalkboard. He picked up a stick of chalk and wrote two cuss words on the board. I was shocked! The class was shocked! I didn’t even actually know what they meant, but I knew they were bad.

I was sinfully intrigued. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and reading. My friend took his seat, and the class just kind of looked at him in disbelief. No one moved, and no one was saying a word. The teacher soon came back and was shocked and blown away. She ran to the front of the class and erased the words. However, it wasn’t erased from my mind.

Our teacher interviewed a few kids and finally got the name of my friend. Needless to say, he got into big time trouble. The day finally ended, and I took the bus ride home. I couldn’t get the words off my mind. I knew they were wrong, but I was being pulled in. Once I got off the bus I made my way to my dads shop to do my after school chores. He always had me clean up the tool room and sweep.

While doing my chores, I came across some black spray paint. Now don’t ask me how I connected black spray paint and cuss words, but I did. An idea was birthed faster than a squirrel moving out of the way for an oncoming car. Before I could think it through, I had the can in my hand and had found my way behind my dads shop to perform my first and last graffiti project.

I stood there, and I could feel my heart beating in my chest. I knew it was wrong what I was about to do, but I couldn’t help myself. I had my own metal chalkboard in front of me, and I wanted to feel what my friend felt when he wrote those cuss words. I shook up the can and began to write both words. I painted them tremendously big, and when I was done I stepped back to view my handy work. Everything was quite as I looked at what I had just done.

Suddenly the silence was broken by the voice of my Father calling my name. I went into full panic mood! I threw the can away in the bushes and took off running in what I thought was the opposite direction of his voice only to run headlong into him. I looked up and there he was looking back at me with the eyes of a Father who know something was up.

I was breathing heavy and sweating from running. He asked me, “What were you doing back here Stevie?” “Nothing Dad,” came my reply. He then took hold of my hands and pulled them up toward his face. He then asked me, “What is this black paint doing on your hand?” I began to cry. I knew I was caught. I also knew my punishment would be much worse than what my teacher did to my friend.

He took me by the shoulder and turned me around and said, “Show me what you painted.” I was horrified but knew I had to show him. As we made our way back to the wall I had painted my heart was racing, and I was crying even more now. Shortly we came to the spot and there it was for the whole world to see. My two cuss words I had painted stood big and tall on the metal wall.

I felt my dads hand tighten on my shoulder. I knew an old fashion country woopin was a coming. I deserved it! I had it coming. I knew I had done wrong, and punishment was the right thing to do. I was going to have to man up and take it. However, what happened next I will remember forever.

My dad’s hand loosened from my shoulder. He bent down beside me and whispered in my ear, “You spelled one of the words wrong.” I felt my heart melt. I looked him in the eyes, and he looked back into mine. I felt my tears drying up, and I felt grace and mercy for the very first time in my life. It felt better than anything I had ever experienced.

That day my Father showed me the grace of his Father, which was Christ. My Father died when I was 18, but I will never forget that day. Maybe you have done something wrong today or yesterday, and you need grace and mercy. You will find it with the Father. He knows what you have done, and He is ready to forgive if you will just turn to Him.

Romans 5:20

20 Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more,

God’s Mercies

March 4, 2013 — Leave a comment

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Lamentations 3:22-23

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; 23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

“New every morning” I love those three words. There is something remarkable about starting over each day. There is something extraordinary about how God faithfully wakes us up with His mercies.

If I were left alone to greet only myself in the morning, it would be mostly with guilt and shame. I would surely over analyze my obedience and faithfulness toward God. However, God doesn’t work with guilt and shame. He works with His mercies.

The moment I open my eyes and hear my heart beating, and hear the sound of my breathing, I can feel God kiss me with His morning mercies.  He doesn’t do it because of my works of righteousness, but instead, He wakes me with His mercies because it is who He is.

His love is steadfast and never ceases; His mercies have no end. His mercies are new each morning because of His faithfulness and not our own. As beautiful as a sunrise is more beautiful are the mercies of God, for they are the merciful sunrise that God allows to rise in our souls each and every day.

Godthere

I’m convinced that nothing in the hands of God can fall apart. He is the creator and controller of all things. His sovereignty can’t be thwarted. Now, I must confess. There have been times in my life, those first three sentences seemed like a cruel joke. I’ve had things appear to fall apart and fall to the floor of my life. I would say to myself, “How can things this bad happen to me- a follower of the Christ?”

I’m not sure how to answer that question perfectly, nor am I convinced I even need an answer for trouble finding me. I’m just sure God has not lost control. Ephesians 1:11 says, “…He works all things according to the purpose of His will….”

I find comfort by looking back on the last days of Jesus. Everything in the Gospel’s read like His life was out of control. His friends forsook him. He was attacked by loneliness. Those in power falsely tried him. He was physically and emotionally abused and tortured. He was crucified. All of this took place, and He was innocent.

No events in the life of Christ were beyond God’s authority. From a human view, they seem random; they seem like bad luck, or a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. However, that’s just not the case. God was in control at all times. Likewise, none of the events of our lives are out of God’s control when bad things are happening to us. You must not relate bad things happening to you as proof God is not there. He is the God that is never absent in your life.

Yes, “Bad things” happen to the lives of those who follow Christ. However, He has promised to always be with us. He is mightier than anything that comes against you. Psalm 93:4 says, “Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea–the LORD on high is mighty.” Yes, we live in a world where bad things still happen, but have hope, for God is at work in your life to accomplish His plans in and through you.

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

jesus-friend-of-sinners

Technology is always changing. Technology seems to change faster than we can buy the latest update. We buy the latest computer or smartphone, and before we walk out of the store, the next big thing is being hinted at. The only solace is the fact that you and I, as consumers, understand the new will get old and then the new will replace it once again. We know this will occur over and over.

In Luke 5:27-39 Jesus doesn’t speak of technology. I don’t think He had an iPhone on him, but He does speak of things changing. In fact, He speaks of things changing that will never go back to the way they were. The reality is, it’s impossible for the newness He is bringing to fit in the old way of life.

In the time of Jesus, they had a hope that God would deliver His new age, and it would never have to be updated again. In other words, His new age would never be outdated. Everything that was old would fade away, the newness of God would arrive, and that would be that! There would be no repeating of the process.

Jesus is sitting with tax collectors. They were hated, and considered by many, the worst of sinners. The religious kept their distance from people like them. However, Jesus enjoyed their company and brought newness and hope into the middle of their lives. I’ve said before, “You can’t be a doctor and not hang with the sick. Likewise, you can’t be a Christ follower and not hang with sinners.”

Just like Christ, we also must wait among the sinners and share the story that the world truly changed with the coming of Christ and the achievement of His calling. He died for the sins of the world, and He resurrected, thus opening the door of the new creation for us to live new forever.

Jesus broke into the world of sinners, bypassing the strict old ways that keep the sacred away form the unholy and He touched them with His grace, love and compassion. This new way of life was the calling of Jesus for all of us. The old had to be abandoned forever, and the followers of Christ must never return to the old.

In Luke 5: 36-39 we read, “36 He also told them a parable: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. If he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. 37 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. 38 But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. 39 And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.”

The new covenant brought forgiveness walking. His name is Jesus! We must walk the same way among the broken of the world. When we do, we will upset the religious and the old system. That’s okay, the old has passed. Go and walk anew!

people

Those outside of Christ have a perception of you. They know you are a follower of Christ; but how do they label you? Do they define you by all the beautiful life-giving things you are for, or do they define you by all the things you are against?

I once heard it said, “It should break our hearts that often we are known more for what we are against than what we are for, for who we have excluded than for who we have embraced.”

Years ago when I gave my life to Christ, I became part of the youth group at the church where I surrendered my life to Christ. It was an enthusiastic group of kids. They loved God very much. However, there was one thing that confused me much.

They spent a lot of time after the message in the altar praying. Now of course there was nothing wrong with that but it was some of the prayers I heard that confused me. The prayers didn’t confuse me because they were wrong. I think they confused me because they seemed incomplete. The prayers were one-sided prayers.

I would often hear prayers of repentance over sin they had committed in their lives. Of course,  there is nothing wrong with that because it’s the right thing to do. However, I would also hear prayers of repentance over things that were not sin. I’m not sure why they did that, but I can only assume it was motivated by the desire to be holy and closer to God. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with that, other than you’re repenting over something that doesn’t need repentance.

The thing that was missing were prayers that would accompany them out of an altar into the darkness of their world with the love, grace and mercy of Christ as their battle cry. Instead, I often saw these same kids walk into the darkness preaching their convictions onto those outside the faith. Therefore, many of them became known for what they were against, instead of what they were for.

I once heard Billy Graham say, “It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge, and my job to love.” I love that! I don’t have the ability to convict anyone. I do have the ability to bring guilt to someone but that not the same as the conviction the Holy Sprite brings. I much rather leave the task of drawing the heart of the outsider to Christ in the hands of the Spirit of God.

I don’t have the right to judge the outsider. That’s the job of God when He sees fit to do so. (Judging one another in the church is for another post) However, I will share just one scripture. 1 Cor 5:12, “It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning.”

It’s my job and your job to love! When we love and show God’s love to the world it melts and convicts the heart of the outsider. When people met Jesus, they didn’t walk away with an opinion of what He was against. (Well, the religious Pharisees did because they needed to be shook up) When people encountered Jesus, they walked away hopeful because of what He was for.

So, allow me to ask you one last time. Those outside the faith, Do they define you by all the beautiful life-giving things you are for, or do they define you by all the things you are against?

Live like Jesus. Love like Jesus and He will change the world through your witness.

Invisible-People-5-600x600

Philippians 2:19-23
19 But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state. 20 For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state. 21 For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus. 22 But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel. 23 Therefore I hope to send him at once, as soon as I see how it goes with me.

Paul looked around his spiritual table and saw in Timothy a heart that was faithful, available and teachable. Paul saw a heart in Timothy that noticed the unnoticed of the world. Paul was confident in Timothy that he truly was a man that could see the invisible of the world and love them with the love of Christ.

When you first read this portion of scripture it looks like ordinary traveling plans, but when you lift the hood and look into the engine that actually drives this passage you see the heart of God that is undivided beating inside Timothy. Timothy didn’t seek  his own interest first; he first looked after the things of God. Paul said, “I have no one like-minded…” In other words, when he looked for an undivided heart around his table he found Timothy.

Let me ask you a question today. If you were sitting around Paul’s table would he have picked you? At first, it’s easy to answer yes, but don’t be to quick to pat yourself on the back-myself included. We are called to see the unnoticed and to respond with the love of Christ. In order to see them and love them with action, we must have an undivided heart of obedience.

Have you ever noticed a person that is outside your circle and alone? You see them and know in your heart they need someone to reach out to them but instead of taking a few moments to encourage them, you pass on by. Has that ever happened to you? You know God is leading you to talk with them, but you go in another direction, thus untimely saying no to God.

I’m always amazed at how demons obey God; nature always obeys God, but man struggles with it. I challenge you today to make a commitment to obey God and notice the unnoticed of the world around you. I challenge you today to see the invisible and love them with the love of Christ. I challenge you because I challenge myself to do the same also. It’s just too easy to walk on by, and as Christ followers we must change that quickly.

God is looking around His table for an undivided heart. He is looking of a heart for the invisible.  Will He choose you today? Will you obey?

trusting

Life is beautiful because it’s a gift of God, but at times life seems to run completely out of control. We run into things and things run into us. We can’t fix it; we can’t get out of it, or even around it. We can’t get over it or under it. As desperate as we might try…we can’t even heal it. The refuge of our humanity reveals just how thin and useless it really is.

It’s in those times that you come to understand that God is the only true refuge that you can trust. You know deep in your heart that you must immerse yourself completely in His presence. It’s in those times that you must embrace His lordship in your life like never before. You must remind yourself that goodness and mercy surrounds you because He has promised it.

A.W. Tozer once said, “What we need very badly these days is a company of Christians who are prepared to trust God as completely as they know they must at the last day.”

In the last day,  we will stand in completely trust of His judgment and final rescuing of our whole lives. However, we can stand that strong and confident right now! We don’t have to wait until the last day. We can trust Him right now…today.

Trusting in God doesn’t come naturally. Learning to trust in God is as I heard one pastor put it, “a spiritual crisis of the will.” It’s in times of spiritual crisis we must allow our faith to truly wake-up and live in spite of all the war of doubt that is raging in our hearts.

Allow me to close with a couple of Psalms, and an unknown quote for you to meditate on.

Psalm 91:2, “I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in Him will I trust.”

Psalm 37:5 “Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass.”

“God didn’t promise days without pain, laughter without sorrow, sun without rain, but He did promise strength for the day, comfort for the tears, and light for the way. If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it.”

Called To The Gap

December 6, 2012 — 2 Comments

bridge-the-gap
As Christ followers, we follow Christ. That being said, never forget that Jesus is also found walking in mission fields beyond North America and we must follow there also.

You may not be able to travel to mission fields far away, but you can give to them. When your giving is done with God’s love it becomes a demonstration of His grace, mercy to the world beyond your shorelines.

God has called each of us to fill the gap between North America and the rest of the world. As I mentioned a moment ago, you may not be able to travel abroad, but you can give to them. Your money can travel.

God has His missionaries placed throughout the world. They are His servants that live the message of His love out every day in some of the poorest places on earth. They need your help to stay there. Deep in your heart you know they are out there and deep in your heart you can feel the commitment calling you to give more.

2 Corinthians 9:7
tells us, “Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver”

I give to missions. I’ve been on the mission field many times. Yes, there are works to be done at our own doorstep, but our doorstep also opens to the entire world. We have in North America the funding to completely change the world if each of us would do just a little.

I’m sure you have a desire to give, but maybe there is something standing in the way of your giving. You have a life to live. You have bills to pay. You have dreams to accomplish. All of those are fine, but missions should be part of that plan.

When you invest in missions, I’m convinced that God smiles. We must remember that God has called us to the world that is beyond our local world also.

I end with the following quote from David Livingstone who said, “God had an only Son and He made Him a missionary”

Will you follow? Will you go? Will you give? I know you will because all of us are called to the gap in some way or another.