BE MERCIFUL

“Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear – hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.”

 Jude 22-23

 

The Church, the Body of Christ, has throughout the ages frequently missed the basic tenet of being merciful.    On the other hand the Church has been an instrument of mercy in society since its beginning.  It’s been a mixed bag.  In Luke 6:35-36 Jesus says,

“But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.  Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

God has shown us mercy, and he desires us to be merciful.  I believe our ability to be merciful depends on our ability to receive mercy.  Humility is the key.

 

To receive mercy, I must first recognize my need for mercy.  When I know that I have sinned against God, there is then the recognition of the debt I owe to God.  Secondly, I need to humble myself and become aware that there is nothing I can do to repay this debt.  God is willing and has made the way to grant me mercy by forgiving my debt.  I don’t have to work for it.  It’s free.  That is hard for me because in my pride I want to do something to earn forgiveness.  However, by holding on to this idea of earning forgiveness, I will never even understand mercy.

 

Now you can see why it’s a mixed bag for the Church.  Our pride often gets in the way.  In Matthew 9:13 Jesus says to the Pharisees, “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’”  And again in 12:7, “If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.”  The Pharisees were caught up in a ritual of sacrifice that fed their pride allowing them to condemn others rather than show them mercy.  They were trying to pay their debt to God on their own merit.  They were blinded by pride and did not understand mercy.   Therefore, they could not extend mercy.

 

Mercy proceeds from a humble, forgiving heart.  This is God’s nature and his heart toward us.  By surrendering my will to God and allowing myself to be forgiven, I take the first step in understanding mercy.  I feel the burden of gilt lifted and the exhilaration of being free.  But, I must remember that I’m free and not fall prey to the lie that I must do something for this freedom.  That lie feeds my pride.  I must remain humble. Then in humble gratitude, I live under God’s mercy.  A life that is continually bathed in mercy emanates mercy.

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GOD WANTS US TO COME TO HIM

Hosea 11:1-4 When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.  But the more they were called, the more they went away from me.  They sacrificed to the Baals and they burned incense to images.  It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realize it was I who healed them.  I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love. To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek, and I bent down to feed them.

This passage of Scripture moves me to the heart of God.  I clearly see that what God wants from me is to come to him.  He is calling to his child, “come to me”.  Jesus said, “Come to me”.  He wants me to come every day into his presence.  He wants to hear what I have to say, and he wants me to hear his words for me.  However, I often go off on my own way and ignore his call.

Forgetting to come to Jesus every day is indicative of my human frailty.  I go on my way feeling unloved and unwanted falling for the devil’s lies.  I forget that the reason Jesus calls me is because he loves me.

I find it very comforting to know that Jesus won’t condemn me, but he will always reach out to me when I come to him.  Thank you Jesus! I am so rewarded when I answer his call.  I gain peace and perspective just by being in his presence.

REBEL, THE RETURN HOME

Mrs. Grady’s eyes sparkled when she saw James standing in the doorway of her pantry.  “Come in James,” she said with revealing enthusiasm.  “I heard you were coming.  Have a seat here at the table.  Just so happens I’m making some of those cherry tarts you’re so fond of.  The tea’s ready.”

“I’d love a cup, thank you.”  James said with warm appreciation.

Time passed quickly as Mrs. Grady seemed to have an endless supply of James’ favorite foods and sweets.  He was also enjoying her flow of conversation.

When the servant let James know that the package was ready, he looked at his watch and realized he’d been there quite some time.  He thanked Mrs. Grady for her kind attention and headed out to the carriage.

“Come back soon,” Mrs. Grady said with affection in her voice.”

James turned and smiled.

The carriage was ready to go when he arrived at the stable.

“You’re all ready to go James,” the servant said.  “The master offers his apology for the wait.”

“That’s okay,” said James. “The time passed quickly.”

The servant gave him a knowing expression then said, “The fog’s beginning to set in, so be careful.  It’ll be especially thick near the river.”

James took his place on the carriage seat, gave a nod of thanks, and he was on his way.

The long trek to the river progressed well.  The two horses managed the road smoothly.  Rebel seemed to follow Josh’s lead without concern.  The sun was getting low in the west, but it still gave plenty of light.  The dappling of the light from the trees along the road produced a peaceful feeling.  As they progressed the fog began to appear first as a light mist then ever thickening.  They approached the river just as the sun set.  The fog was dense and visibility was minimal.  As the fog thickened Rebel’s trust began to thin.  James could see his uneasiness.  Near the bridge Rebel tried to bolt.

James stopped the carriage, gave a moment’s pause, and then proceeded slowly.  Josh was so familiar with this foggy bridge crossing that he moved ahead with confidence.  Rebel, not being able to see where he was going, was apprehensive and skittish.  Trusting Josh was out the window.  He felt on his own and afraid.  Rebel inched forward jumping at every sound and rearing at every dip in the footing.  James was patient, allowing the team to move as slowly as they needed.

On the descent from the bridge, the fog was especially thick.  James couldn’t even see the horses in front of him.  Fortunately, the road was wide and flat here.  They moved forward cautiously.  Josh could feel the edge with his hooves, and he was able to keep them on the roadway.  Eventually the road began to ascend, and with the ascent, the fog thinned.

Barney greeted them as they approached the stable.  “Good to see you finally home,” He said.  “We were worried.”

“There was a three hour delay at Grantham Estates,” James offered.  “I had to wait for the package.”

“Mrs. Grady take good care of you?” asked Barney as a friendly dig.

James just smiled.

 

Epilogue 

 

I had two scripture passages in mind as I wrote this little story.  Like Rebel I struggle with trust issues.  These scriptures delight my soul and challenge my flesh.

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Matthew 11:28-30

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

 

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct you paths.

 

I recognize that Rebel has trust issues, and I see that his journey would have been easy if he was able to trust in Josh’s knowledge of what lies ahead.  Being yoked with Jesus requires trust, but the rewards of that trust are peace and contentment.  I’m working on it. How about you?

REBEL

This is a repost from November of 2016.  I hope you enjoy it.

 

The groomsman backed Rebel into position and commenced hitching him to the carriage.  This was a new experience for the brown brindled and white colt.  He had never been pared with another horse.  The wildness in his eyes reflected his inner apprehension.

“Hey Barney,” greeted James the carriage driver.  “So the master wants to try this guy in a side-by-side.  You think it’ll work?”

“We’ll see,” replied Barney.  “Rebel is well named.  He always wants to go his own way.  I’m hoping Josh will keep him in line.

James smiled, “I’m headed down the old river road to the Grantham Estates.  That road will test the mettle of a good pair, but Josh knows the road better than I do.  If Rebel’s gonna make it, Josh is his best hope.”

Barney looked on as James took his seat, “God be with you.”  He waved goodbye and said, “I’ll see you in a few hours.”

James backed the carriage a few feet then swung to the left.   With the forward command, Rebel jolted forward.  Josh on the inside of the turn anchored the swing.  Rebel looked silly as he lurched forward and then stopped like he’d hit a brick wall.  Josh, twice his weight and probably twice as strong, held the inside of the turn.  He was in control, and Rebel had to conform.

They headed down the hill toward the junction with the river road.  Rebel had a hard time adjusting to Josh’s steady pace, but eventually he fell into rhythm.  Then they came to the right turn onto the river road.  This time Rebel had the inside of the turn.  Josh quickened his pace on the outside, but Rebel failed to slow.  For James it was a nightmare trying to keep control.  When they finally settled down from the turn, James chuckled to himself.  “He’s learning.”

The team ran along rather smoothly until they reached the bridge.  Rebel had never crossed a bridge.  He bucked and started as they approached.  James finally set the wagon’s brake and went forward to comfort Rebel.  He patted and stroked the horse till he settled.  “You’ve got to learn this too, young buck.  Just follow your lead.  Josh’s got this.”

Josh stood like a rock, stable and sure.  James return to the driver’s seat and gave the command for forward.  Josh slowly moved up the rise to the bridge. Rebel moved ahead tentatively.  At the sound of their hooves on the planking of the bridge, Rebel gave another start.  James let them hesitated for a moment then moved them on.  By the time they reached the other side, Rebel was reasonably settled.

The rest of the trip to Grantham Estates went as expected for a horse in training.  He had his own idea for each bend in the road and how to negotiate the ruts.  Josh held position, and Rebel conformed, mostly.  It was a long trip over the rolling hills to the estate.  As they neared their destination, James could see that Rebel was settling and beginning to trust Josh’s lead.

Upon arrival a servant greeted James with the news that there would be a several hour delay before the package he came for would be ready.  “We’ll take care of your horses,” he said.  “I’ve got some oats and water for them, and I’ll put them in that small corral for the wait.”

“Thanks!” James responded.

“Mrs. Grady has some tea and biscuits for you in the pantry,” the servant added.

“Thanks again,” James said with a noticeable smile.  He loved Mrs. Grady’s cooking.

 

(Next week the return home)

FATHERHOOD

This Sunday during worship we sang the song “Blessed Be Your Name” by Matt and Beth Redman.  I was taken by this line, “You give and take away.”  My immediate thought was that any good father understands this responsibility.  When you’re raising your children, you give to them good things, and you take away the bad things.  Children don’t always like what their father does for them, but a good father does what is good for them regardless. 

As a father I carried this responsibility, and now I watch my son shoulder this responsibility.  He’s a good father willing to make the tough, though at times unpopular, decisions.  I recognize that none of us human fathers do this perfectly.  Just ask our children.  But our Heavenly Father, now there’s the perfect father.

Even though God is a perfect father, his children often complain.  I think it’s because we don’t like the answer no.  I know he’s a perfect father who cares for me, but it sometimes tries my faith to trust him when things don’t go my way. 

I’m glad God is my father.  He’s led me to a fulfilling life.  He holds the line even when I kick and scream.  I just have to trust him and remember that he has my best interest in mind.

PSALM 32 CONCEALED SIN

All humans have this in common, sin.  If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8).  The question then is how do we deal with our sin?  In Psalm 32 David wrestles with sin.  He talks about the anguish of his hidden sin.  The weight of guilt is heavy upon him.  Have you ever experienced the torment of trying to keep a sin concealed?

David writes in Psalm 32:5, Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.  I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord” – and you forgave the guilt of my sin.  Confession is David’s answer.  It is amazingly freeing when we bring a hidden sin into the light and receive God’s forgiveness.  We can trust God.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

Concealed sin separates us from God; confessed sin restores us to God.  The universal and eternally most important thing is to be restored to God.  The significance of Christmas is that Jesus came to earth so we might be restored to God.  God has made the way for us.  Don’t miss out!  Confess your sins and receive God’s great gift of forgiveness.

TROUBLE

John 16:3 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”

James 1:2-3 Considerate it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.

1Peter 4:1-2 (The Message) Since Jesus went through everything you’re going through and more, learn to think like him.  Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way.  Then you’ll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want.

I think these passages make it clear that “In this world you will have trouble”.  Since we will have trouble, it is not about the trouble; it’s about how we handle it.  I see two options: one trust in self and the world’s ways, or two trust in God.  In my early life, I chose option one; but now I’ve had enough years with the Lord to relish option 2.  The longer I struggle with these options, the easier it gets to live under option two.  The Apostle Peter in the above scripture paints a clear picture of how working through troubles frees us from the pursuit of our selfish will.

As a father, I have watched my adult children walk through many of life’s troubles. It was painful.  I helped when I could, but circumstances didn’t often allow me to intervene.  I learned that they are God’s children, and I need to allow him to be their father.

Now, how wonderful it is to see my children maturing in the Lord.  I am truly blessed, and so is our Father.  As I trust him, he is blessed; and as my children trust him, he is blessed.

Now he and I get to see my adult grandchildren go through the troubles of this life.  It will be at times painful to watch, but I know God and I will be blessed.  It’s his promise to me.