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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ADORATION

I have an ever present desire to understand and more deeply worship the God who loves me. During Sunday worship last week this word came to mind, adoration.  I wanted to be sure of what this word actually means so I looked in the dictionary.  I found these words to be most enlightening, “to regard with reverent admiration and devotion.”

I find reverent admiration when I take time to see the wonder of what God has created.  A morning walk or an evening stroll always helps me to settle my mind and peruse his wonders.  King David wrote in Psalm 8:3-5,

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?  You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor

I kindle my devotion when I remember all that God has done for me since I surrendered my life to him.  Psalm 103 reminds me that he has forgiven all my sins, and pulled me out of the pit that my life had become.  He loves me, and he has satisfied my desires with good things.

Adoration is already a part of my worship when I remember to stop and take the time to think of whom he is and what he has done in my life.

CONCEPTION TO ETERNAL LIFE

When we die life as we know it is over.   Now think about this.  When we are born life as we know it is over.  In the womb we live in a dark fluid filled container.  This is the only environment we know.  It is our existence, and we have no idea of change.  Then one day the plug is pulled, so-to-speak, and our fluid world ceases to exist.  Our head is jammed into a tunnel at the end of which is a shocking never before experienced thing, light.

From the trauma of this transition we enter into a new world of existence.  This world now becomes our place to grow and explore.  There is good and evil in this world, and we experience varying amounts of both, but it becomes our home.  This is what we know.

Then we are faced with the change from this world to a new one.  We are faced with death.  The new world is vast and peaceful place where the struggle between good and evil no longer exists.  Most of us want to stay in this life though the new life is far superior to this one.  We want what we know to continue even though a better existence is ahead.

When we are conceived, birth is inevitable.  Once we are born death becomes inevitable.  Our time in the womb, as well as our time here on earth, is important for our growth, but we were never meant to stay in the womb, and we aren’t meant to stay in this life.  I think that this life is like another gestation period leading to the eternal life that God intends for us.

 

What does God intend for us?

 

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him. (1 Corinthians 2:9)

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.

Climbing the Wall of Self

Get over yourself!  Has anybody ever said that to you?  Did you know what they meant?  Well I’ve been asking people what this statement means, and have gotten some rather puzzled looks.  One young lady shared that it’s being obsessed with yourself.  Most agreed that it’s thinking only of yourself and your self-importance.  Yet, isn’t this the challenge for all of us?  Don’t we all need to get over ourselves?

When I think of getting over myself I envision this masonry wall that I have to climb over.  On the other side of the wall I find much more happiness.  For when my focus is on others, and I lose the self-concern, I feel fulfilled.  But, that wall of self is hard to get over.  It’s a difficult climb that requires self-discipline. It sounds contradictory, but self-discipline is the way to get over yourself.  We need to get on the other side of the wall of self, but, as I said, it’s a difficult climb.

This is how the Apostle Paul said it to the Philippians:

            (Philippians 2:3-4, MSG) Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top.  Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead.  Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage.  Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

Paul was simply telling the Philippians to get over themselves, and I believe the message is also for us.  So, I’m passing the message on, with all love and empathy, exclaiming, get over yourself!  Be assured, I’ll be right beside you sharing the challenge in our attempt to climb that wall of self.

 

Dear friends, I will need to begin cancer treatments soon.  I appreciate your loyal sharing in my thoughts each week, and I intend to continue sharing during my treatments.  Please forgive any deviations in my posting schedule.  No need to be concerned the prognosis is very positive.  Please pray when I come to your mind.  God bless each of you who read this.

Love to you,

Al Vredenburg

THE REAL ISSUE

 What is the real issue that Christians need to concern themselves with?  This question arose from a conversation I had last week.  A close friend and I were discussing the changes in morality that we’ve seen in our life time.  As we talked, it dawned on me that, though I’m saddened by the moral decline in America, this is not the real issue.

Jesus didn’t charge us with fixing the sin in others, and he warned us not to judge others (See Matthew 7:1-5).  However, he did charge us with two things.  The first is to love one another, and the second is to make others disciples.  Our job is to love our fellow humans, and bring them to him.  He’ll take care of fixing the sin.

Sin and evil are all around us, and this has been true since the fall of Adam and Eve.  Jesus has the only cure for sin.  So the real issue is do you know Jesus?  As Christians, loving sinners and bringing them to Jesus is the issue that should occupy our time.

THE NARROW GATE

Jesus died on the cross to pay the debt we owed for our sins.  He rose from the grave to demonstrate the new and eternal life he had purchased for us.  The cross is our place of entry into God’s eternal Kingdom.  It is the gate that Jesus prepared for us. We can come to God by no other path.  Salvation is found only at the cross. Our old life is left at the foot of the cross, and there we enter into our new life in Christ Jesus.

In the story of the Good Shepherd found in John chapter 10,   Jesus refers to believers as the sheep.  He makes it very clear that he is the gate for the sheep to enter.  He says, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep (verse 7).”  Many have looked for other ways, but the only way is through Jesus.

In John 10:17-18 (The Message) Jesus explains:

This is why the Father loves me: because I freely lay down my life.  And so I am free to take it up again.  No one takes it from me.  I lay it down of my own free will.  I have the right to lay it down; I also have the right to take it up again.  I received this authority personally from my Father.”

God the Father gave Jesus the authority to redeem us.  No one else has been given this authority.  He alone is our redeemer.  Yes, the gate is narrow, but it leads to redemption and eternal life.