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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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).

Book Review – God of Creation: A Study of Genesis 1-11

God’s been impressing a lot on my heart these last few weeks, as I’ve been studying the book of Proverbs, so I figured I should get this book review on God of Creation, by Jen Wilkin posted while it’s still somewhat fresh in my memory.

I tend to be somewhat wary of studies created by, or directed towards, women. Mostly, because I love expository teaching of the Word, and most women’s studies tend to be a little more expressive; and I really just want to know more about the Word. But after finishing this study, I felt like I really do have a better understanding of Scripture, and I felt like even my husband would enjoy this!

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God of Creation is a 10-week study on Genesis, chapters 1-11. “But I know what happens in these chapters, why would I want to do this study?” Here’s the thing, before I begin any study, I pray that God will reveal something new to me. I mean, I’ve read and learned about Genesis 1-11, since I was a little girl. However, it’s incredibly important as believers, that we never stop learning, and seeking God’s wisdom and insight. And no matter how much we study the Word, God always wants to reveal something new to us. I always say the Bible is like an onion, with endless layers; which the Holy Spirit peels back, one layer at a time.

This study covers creation, the fall, Cain & Abel, the flood, and more. Some of my favorite aspects about it are its lack of fill-in-the-blank notes and its use of open-ended questions. I love the questions because they encourage the reader to think for themselves; and thinking critically about the Bible is an important skill that all believers should strive to acquire.

Some things I learned from this study are the importance of repetition in the Word; to pay attention to how things are ordered in Scripture; and to not just skim over genealogies, because they have a purpose, and not just for scholars.

I’d recommend this study to anybody, really; and I’m looking forward to Jen Wilkin’s continuation of Genesis in God of Covenant: A Study of Genesis 12-50 which is supposed to be released in January 2019.

Lean Not on Your Own Understanding

FontCandy (12)When I was little, I learned a lot of Scripture through song, and the verses to the left are an example of that. I do most of my private Bible study in my Amplified Bible (AMP), because it provides additional phases of meaning included in the original word, phrase, or clause of the original language and clarifying words or comments; I also like the English Standard Version (ESV, which is more of a word for word translation). But most of the Scripture I have memorized, is either in the King James (KJV) or New International (NIV), since that’s what I grew up with.

Therefore, when I come across familiar verses such as these in my AMP Bible–I sing the song, lol–and take notice of the additional words used that I might gain greater insight into the text.

Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths. ~ Proverbs 3:5-6, AMP

Recently, I’ve noticed Facebook posts including Scripture, and then people stating their personal opinion regarding said Scripture. Basically, they attempt to void the Scripture, with their opinion. However, if something is found in the Word of God, it’s not opinion, it’s Truth. We have opinions, but God sets the standard. If our opinion goes against the Word, we’re in the wrong; and we’re being rebellious.

But…but…the are no buts. As the Bible tells us, we’re not to be relying on our own understanding of how we think things should be, because God doesn’t think like us. It’s us who should be striving to see the world as He does! If the Bible says something that we don’t understand or agree with, then we should pray that God change our heart (and mind) and help us to see as He sees, or to help us be obedient in that area, even if/when we don’t understand.

I guess what it comes down to is, are we confident that the Lord is good (perfect), and that His ways and plans are higher and greater than our own? Are we dependent upon Him for direction and revelation? Do we trust Him, fully, completely? If so, then we have to trust that what He says in His Word is true, whether we agree with it or not.

Furthermore, sometimes we simply don’t agree with something because it’s being taken out of context. This is one reason why I say the Bible needs to be read in its entirety. You may find that in one book you’ll find something that you think contradicts another verse, but in reality it simply gives us greater understanding and insight into what God really meant. The God of the Old Testament is the same God in the New Testament, with the same love for humanity, but He’s also holy, righteous, sovereign, and oh-so-wise.

So, let’s keep our eyes on the path ahead, and not turn to the right or left (Proverbs 4:25-27). Let’s remember that His Word is truth and our opinion, just that, our opinion. We don’t see the big picture as He does, but if we’re believers, the Holy Spirit can help us not to just see, but also to walk in obedience, trusting in the Lord every step of the way.