Mercy

King David has always been someone I’ve admired. I know, he was far from perfect; he lied, he coveted and committed adultery, he murdered, and he failed to act when it came to disciplining his children. Yet, he’s remembered for being a man after God’s own heart. Why? Because he was a repentant man, who sought God’s glory and hated wickedness.

But in all honesty, he wasn’t much different from us. As I continue to read through the Psalms, I take note of how David repeatedly prayed regarding his enemies. Like so many of us, he often prayed in a way that Jesus Himself spoke against in the New Testament. I get it. David’s heart was hurting. People were talking badly about him, he was being physically, mentally and spiritually attacked; and he wanted justice. He wanted to see his enemies suffer and he wanted them shown no mercy.

David believed, as we often do, that God should show up on his side, and destroy all his enemies. As though God had something to prove to them. But God is God. He moves in His own will and time, and He does things in His own way. He shows mercy to whom He desires to show mercy (Exodus 33:19) and His justice may not be seen in this world, but the next. Lastly, don’t miss the irony here, David, whom God had poured mercy upon repeatedly, was asking that God not grant mercy towards others!

In Matthew 5:43-48 Jesus tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. To pray like David did so often in the Old Testament, that our enemies would suffer for their wickedness, is not exactly what God had in mind. Perhaps, instead, we should pray that their eyes be opened to the error of their ways. Perhaps, we should pray that they come into the saving knowledge of Christ. Perhaps, we should pray that our own hearts would be softened and filled with love for them.

We often expect that God will show us mercy, but don’t always want that same mercy poured out on those who’ve hurt/wronged us, or have done some other immoral thing. I mean, look back at Jonah. He didn’t want God to show mercy towards the Ninevites, so he became disobedient, and refused to preach salvation to them. When he finally went to Nineveh and God poured out His mercy upon them, Jonah was angry. He acted along the same lines as the Pharisees did when Jesus chose to preach, teach, and eat with “sinners” and tax collectors (I had to put “sinners” in quotes because we’re all sinners, according to Romans 3:21-25). So often, those claiming to be followers of Christ find themselves in the same boat, and it’s sad. I get it; it’s not easy to forgive those who’ve hurt us, but that’s why God gives us supernatural power–the Holy Spirit–to help us in impossible situations. (For more examples you can read the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, the prodigal son, and the unforgiving servant, in Matthew 18:21-35 & Luke 15.)

San Diego, Ca. Beach 1God calls us to behave in ways that are completely contrary to the ways of this world; and I think we’ve walked with the world for far too long. Christ died so that we ALL could have an opportunity to have relationship with God, not just a few of us; and He asks that we show others the mercy He’s shown us. When the world sees our love and respect for each other–even for our enemies (and those we don’t see eye-to-eye with)–they’ll recognize something different, something real in us. 

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. ~ Matthew 5:7

P.S. This post is somewhat similar to a post shared back in 2015, titled R-E-S-P-E-C-T, if you’re interested in checking that out.
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WedWorship – Another in the Fire

Today’s worship song is “Another in the Fire” by Hillsong UNITED. Recently, I read Psalm 105 and noted that verses 1-4 were written almost as a “how to worship:”

Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon His name;
make known His deeds among the peoples!
Sing to Him, sing praises to Him;
tell of all His wondrous works!
Glory in His holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!
Seek the Lord and His strength;
seek His presence continually!

The rest of the chapter goes on to describe the many marvelous deeds that God did for the Israelites; from the covenant God made with Abraham, to the placing of Joseph in a position of authority. The sending of Moses to rescue His people from captivity; the plagues released on Egypt; and His provision of water, quail, and manna while in the desert. So, it’s no wonder that this song, “Another in the Fire,” would strike a cord with me.

I feel like this song does just what Psalm 105 states…It gives thanks to the Lord, talks about His marvelous deeds, and glorifies His holy name. It also makes me recall Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace (Daniel 3); Moses and the Israelites crossing the Red Sea (Exodus 14); and Paul and Silas behind those shaking prison walls (Acts 16). Lastly, it’s a beautiful reminder that whatever we may face, this same God–this all-powerful, all-sufficient, everlasting, Light of the world–sent His Son to die for our sins, and promises to never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6; Hebrews 13:5).

There’s a grace when the heart is under fire
Another way when the walls are closing in
And when I look at the space between
Where I used to be and this reckoning
I know I will never be alone

There was another in the fire
Standing next to me
There was another in the waters
Holding back the seas
And should I ever need reminding
Of how I’ve been set free
There is a cross that bears the burden
Where another died for me

All my debt left for dead beneath the waters
I’m no longer a slave to my sin anymore
And should I fall in the space between
What remains of me and this reckoning
Either way I won’t bow
To the things of this world
And I know I will never be alone

There is another in the fire
Standing next to me
There is another in the waters
Holding back the seas
And should I ever need reminding
What power set me free
There is a grave that holds no body
And now that power lives in me

And I can see the light in the darkness
As the darkness bows to Him
I can hear the roar in the heavens
As the space between wears thin
I can feel the ground shake beneath us
As the prison walls cave in
Nothing stands between us
Nothing stands between us

There is no other name
But the Name that is Jesus
He who was and still is
And will be through it all
So come what may in the space between
All the things unseen and this reckoning
I know I will never be alone

There’ll be another in the fire
Standing next to me
There’ll be another in the waters
Holding back the seas
And should I ever need reminding
How good You’ve been to me
I’ll count the joy come every battle
‘Cause I know that’s where You’ll be

Book Review – The Cross and the Switchblade

I read The Cross and the Switchblade, by David Wilkerson, a long time ago–which is why it can be found on my resources page–but I picked it up again recently to re-read. It’s a true story about the beginnings of the Teen Challenge ministry; a ministry originally dedicated to bringing inner-city youth into relationship with Christ.

There’s so much to learn from Wilkerson’s prayer life, and his obedience to the Holy Spirit is one to aspire to. I love to see his prayers answered in unexpected ways, over and over again; it’s an amazingly beautiful, and powerful testament to the power and authority of God.

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While this book is great for any believer to read, I feel if you have an interest in urban missions or with those struggling with addictions, this book is particularly for you. It’s an honest representation of the challenges and hard work you may encounter. Although, written in 1963, I don’t think much has changed, as far as gangs and drug use goes; if anything, it may have gotten worse over time. I know when I was working on my master’s just a few years ago, I learned a lot about at-risk youth, and the things which they face is heartbreaking. Not to mention, there’s also the ever-growing problem of human trafficking, in addition to drugs, violence, and poverty. So, if you haven’t checked out this book, be sure to find yourself a copy!

Lifter of my Head

My life makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble and afflicted hear and be glad. ~ Psalm 34:2

Day 2 of my Cookie Girl being sick with what appears to be the flu (update, she has strep)…I read some scripture, and then began to peruse through my bible study notebook, and came across something I wrote a while back but hadn’t shared. It seems pretty fitting for the moment.

I’ve been reading through the book of Psalm for a while now. The verse above had me asking, “what does this mean?” It means that my life–everything that I do, everything that I have–declares His glory. Even those of us who feel like we have, and/or are, very little, have much to boast about in the Lord.

Here are some examples of things we may have been blessed with: life, health, love, a home, peace, family, hope, grace, food, redemption, salvation, life-everlasting, a job, clothing, freedom…

Ther Word goes on to state that when we need and seek the Lord He hears us and delivers us from our fears (Psalm 34:4). I’d like to note, however, that is not always the situation that He delivers us from, but our fear and anxiety.

I know it’s easy to boast in the Lord when all is well, and all our needs are met, but what about when we’re in need? The humble and afflicted need to see that even when things don’t go as we wish, when we’re struggling– physically, emotionally, financially–we still have so much to boast in.

He walks beside us. He never leaves us. He strengthens us when we are weak. He’s the lifter of our head; our strong tower of refuge. He envelopes us with peace and love during the most trying of circumstances, but only when we call upon His name, and allow Him to take those burdens from us.

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 in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. ~ Matthew 11:28-30

What will you give up to Him today? I know one thing I’m constantly asking Him to take away is fear regarding my children’s health. It’s practically a daily struggle; but they are His and I have to trust Him.

Living Beyond the Ordinary

I just finished up a post on being a servant and having the heart of a servant, and instead of sleeping I’m thinking about how God designed us for the extraordinary and supernatural, but we settle for the ordinary and mundane. There’s an old Switchfoot song that says, “We were meant to live for so much more. Have we lost ourselves?” And I can’t help but think we have.

Filled with Power from on High

The Prophet Ezekiel talked about the Holy Spirit in chapters 11 & 36 when he shared a vision that God gave him; in which, God spoke, “And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God” (Ezekiel 11:19-20). Luke tells us that after Jesus’ resurrection, Christ told His disciples to wait for this “power from on high” before continuing His ministry (Luke 24:49). In John, Jesus described the Holy Spirit as an advocate, helper, and Spirit of Truth (John 14:15-17). And throughout the book of Acts–and the remainder of the New Testament–we see the results of being filled with the Holy Spirit, as a group of frightened disciples is filled with the power of the Spirit and transformed into a fearless group of messengers bringing the Good News of Christ to everyone they encountered! 

The Holy Spirit is the power of God alive and at work on the earth; and every believer is filled with this same power from the moment we accept Christ as our personal Lord and Savior. His Spirit is what enabled the disciples to face persecution head-on, with joy! His Spirit is what gave them the ability to cast out demons and heal the sick. His Spirit gave them boldness and authority to preach the Word to the nations. It’s the same Spirit that’s at work in us today! Yet, we’re content with just getting from one day to the next. Even unbelievers can do that!

Gifts of the Spirit

The Holy Spirit empowers us to do things far above and beyond that which we could ever do in, and of, ourselves. He helps us all to live lives full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). This means that regardless of our ethnicity or background, the Holy Spirit gives us the supernatural ability to treat others with love, gentleness, and respect; even when the world tells us we have the “right” to be angry and/or react offensively. It’s inexcusable for believers to site their ethnicity or background as an excuse to behave poorly or unkind. If we’re a believer, it’s Christ’s blood that runs through our veins, and that’s the only thing that matters.

The Spirit also empowers us with other gifts and abilities; although, different for each believer, they’re all equally important. These gifts include gifts of wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment, speaking in tongues, and interpretation of tongues (1 Corinthians 12:4-11); as well as teaching, helping, and administrating (1 Corinthians 12:27-31).

Lastly, let’s recall my last post in which we discussed how we were created for the purposes of God. Each of us were created with intimate precision and care (Psalm 139:13-16), and God provides each of us with giftings and talents that we’re to use to bring Him honor and glory.  Reinvesting the gifts and talents that God has given us into establishing His kingdom is what He designed us for (Matthew 25:14-30)! But the talents that He gives us will never be used to their full potential until we allow the Holy Spirit to work in us and through us to. Only once we abandon all selfish ambition, will God be able to take us above and beyond all we could possibly imagine or conceive, yet not for our own sake, but for His (Ephesians 3:20-21)! Because God’s Spirit makes the impossible possible! He brings the dead to life. He brings healing to the broken and sick. Provision to the needy. Hope to the hopeless. Joy to the hurting. Freedom to the oppressed. He does what we could never do in our own strength and abilities.

A Servant’s Heart

But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. ~ (Mark, 10:43-44, ESV)

God desires that each of His children have a servant’s heart. However, we currently live in a self-obsessed culture, that doesn’t often see the needs of those around us; including the needs within the church. But I believe if every individual served in some capacity, in the church, every need would be taken care of within; and we could focus on doing even more minstry and outreach outside the church.

Sadly, the excuse used most often, is that we don’t feel called to a particular type of ministry. Unfortunately, we can get so caught up in the idea of being “called” that we never act, and miss the God-given opportunities, standing right in front of us. The Word tells us to serve (Matthew 20:26-28, 1 Peter 4:10, Philippians 2:3-8). The Word tells us to preach the Gospel (Mark 16:15). The Word tells us to make disciples (Matthew 28:19). The Word tells us to take care of widows, orphans, and the poor (Luke 12:33, James 1:27). The Word tells us to pray for the sick (James 5:14). The Bible gives us many (more) commandments, yet we wait for further instruction, without being obedient to what He’s already called us to do. We must first be faithful with the areas of responsibility He’s already placed in our lives, before He will give us more (Matthew 25:14-21).

Years ago, I heard Christine Caine speak at a Passion Conference. She spoke about (King) David, and how there was so much time between when he was anointed as the next King of Israel, and when he actually took the throne. Yet, David didn’t just stop working because he’d been anointed. David continued to tend the sheep and protect them from bears & lions. He played music before King Saul. He battled against Goliath, and won! He was a warrior and commander in Saul’s army. And later, when he was on the run from Saul, he became the leader of a rebel group of 600 men. Christine described his experiences as a “dark room,” where David was developed (like film). More recently, I heard a message by Andrew Scott, head of Scatter Global, and he said “We’re not ‘called’ into the Purposes of God; we’re created for the purposes of God.” In other words, God develops us little by little, through experiences, time, and the power of the Holy Spirit that we might display His glory. This doesn’t just happen over night!

If we want to know what God’s purpose for our lives is, we need to begin stepping out in obedience and faith (James 2:26). We should be serving both within and outside the church in some capacity. Even if it means being behind the scenes (which, is often where the most help is needed), taking care of little ones, or tearing up and breaking down equipment. We can’t ask God to do big things in us and through us, and remain in a constant state of “waiting.” We must do something. We must ACT.

There’s an old review on a book titled I Will, by Thom Rainer, that I shared two years ago, which describes the modern-day believer as a consumer instead of someone who serves. (If you’ve never read the book, I recommend it.) I don’t know about you, but when I read the New Testament, I see an early Church who served, and preached, and gave all that they had to the church and the cause, because they believed so strongly in the truth of the gospel. They weren’t focused on self, they were focused on establishing God’s kingdom! As should we!

 

A Wise Man’s Words

According to Proverbs, the power of life and death are in the tongue (18:21). Therefore, everything we speak should be truthful (Proverbs 12:19, 22:20-21), gentle (Proverbs 15:1, 15:4, 25:15), gracious and pure (Proverbs 15:26, 22:11). Because our words are powerfully influential (Proverbs 11:11) they should impart knowledge (Proverbs 15:2, 15:7) and wisdom (Proverbs 10:11, 10:13, 10:31), and should feed and guide others (Proverbs 10:21). Our words should heal (Proverbs 12:18, 16:24), build up (Proverbs 14:1), and correct (Proverbs 19:18, 28:23); and yet, we should save our rebuke and correction for those who would listen (Proverbs 9:7-9).

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We should not speak falsehoods (Proverbs 6:16-19, 12:22, 26:28), gossip or spread secrets (Proverbs 11:9, 11:12-13, 20:19), sow strife or contention (Proverbs 20:3, 25:23-24, 26:17, 26:20-21), harp repeatedly on the mistakes of others (Proverbs 17:9), or speak rashly (Proverbs 12:18). We should not speak perversely, or contrary to the Word (Proverbs 6:12, 10:31-32), mislead or deceive (Proverbs 4:24), or slander (Proverbs 10:18, 26:22-26).

Elsewhere in the Word, we’re told that from the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45); and that both blessings and curses ought not come from our mouths, because both fresh and bitter/salt water can’t come from the same spring (James 3:8-12). If the words that come from our mouth are an expression of what’s in our hearts, what do our words reflect about us? Are we wise or foolish? Are we full of love or hate?

I think one of the most important things for us to do, is stop and think before we speak. We’ve talked about this before, in the Characteristics of the Wise post, that we ought to be slow to speak. Our words have the capability to steer others (and ourselves) towards, or away from, the Father; to ignite a fire between friends (or brothers), according to James 3:4-6. And we will eat of the fruit, or bare the consequences, of what we say (Proverbs 12:14, 18:20).

For teachers of the Word, it’s even more important that we’re not misrepresenting the Word of God and teaching things that are untrue, for we’ll be judged by an even higher standard than others (James 3:1)!

We’re not perfect, and we will all stumble, and say the wrong thing at some point. However, we should do our best, relying on the Holy Spirit, to lead and direct us. And when we do fail, we should aim to correct, or apologize, when possible. Lastly, when others fail in their speech, we should pray for them, and ask God to help us extend grace towards them (Proverbs 12:16, 17:9, 19:11).