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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R-E-S-P-E-C-T

A few weeks ago I was listening to a message about biblical manhood and womanhood, and how the two intersect, by Matt Chandler (which you can find here if you’re interested). Chandler begins this series by talking about how we’re made in the image of God; known as the Imago Dei. The term has its roots in Genesis 1:27, wherein “God created man in his own image. . .” Most Christians believe this scriptural passage refers to the fact that humans are in the image of God in their moral, spiritual, and intellectual nature.

Remember how I just finished Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples? Well, Francis Chan wrote that God has given humanity the responsibility to reflect Him to the world (Chan, pp. 144-145). (This can be found in the Word, as well. Check out Genesis 1:26-27; Romans 8:29; Colossians 3:10; and Ephesians 2:10, 4:24.) Chandler’s message reminded me of something that I remember studying a while ago in a Wednesday night Bible study: because we’re all made in the image of God, we all deserve to be treated with respect and should treat others with respect.Fish Pic

Interestingly enough, this is considered countercultural in the world we live in now. The world tells us that respect is earned, but the Word tells us that respect is given because God created us in His image. This means that everyone is to be treated with respect, regardless of who they are, what they believe, or what they do or don’t do. I have this little metal fish on my desk at work with scripture cards and I flipped the little card this week (side note: I actually began this post two weeks ago.) to the following scripture: “Do to others as you would like them to do to you” (Luke 6:31). As I meditated over this scripture I noted that this doesn’t say, treat others as they treat you. It says you treat them like you want them to treat you! To me, that means being gracious, generous, kind, loving, and compassionate regardless of how they treat you. Recall that Jesus said the following in Luke…

If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return. Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for He is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate. ~ Luke 6:32-36

I love how verse 36 reminds us that God is “kind to those who are unthankful and wicked” because so often I feel that we treat people based on what we think they “deserve.” However, I’m reminded of Jonah—we were studying the book of Jonah last week in our ladies’ Bible study—and how he didn’t believe the people of Ninevah deserved God’s grace and mercy, but upon their repentance, God granted just that!

Some of my favorite verses this year can be found in Exodus; in 33:19 God tells Moses that He will have mercy on whom He has mercy and compassion on whom He shows compassion. Peter says something along these lines in Acts 10:34-35 when he says “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism. In every nation he accepts those who fear Him and do what is right.” As does James in James 2:1, “My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?” God desires that we treat all people with equal love and respect!

In the end what will we do? Be angry like Jonah because God shows love and grace? Or will we realize that God extends that same love and grace towards us, though, we too are undeserving? The truth is, we’re all on equal standing before the cross…not one of us “deserves” His grace; in fact, the amplified Bible defines grace as free and unmerited favor. Unmerited meaning undeserving, unwarranted, and unearned. We must remember that just as Paul wrote to the Corinthians “…whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me—and not without results. For I have worked harder than any of the other apostles; yet it was not I but God who was working through me by His grace” (1 Corinthians 15:10, emphasis added) and we are saved by our faith in Christ Jesus, not based on ourselves or anything that we do (Ephesians 2:8-9).

In conclusion, we must remember that we were all made in the image of God. Therefore, we are to respect those around us and treat them as we want to be treated; and remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:44 and Luke 6:28, where He tells us to love our enemies, bless those who curse us, and pray for those who persecute and/or hurt us. I’m going to end with the famous “love is” passage from 1 Corinthians. For some reason we tend to believe that this passage only applies to marriages, but it doesn’t; it describes what love is and how we are to apply it in all areas of our lives.

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” ~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Recalling Our Example: Christ

Over the last couple weeks, I’ve observed a number of people express their feelings towards others, in a way that can only be described as un-Christ-like. The funny thing is that every one of these individuals claims to be a Christian. Therefore, I decided to remind us all what being a Christian ought to look like.

I’ve been reading the epistles of Paul to the churches at Rome, Corinth, and Galatia, and as I’ve mentioned before, I’m really fascinated by Paul, and I really I love reading his letters. He was such a wonderful writer, and I see so much of my style in the way he wrote. Usually his words have me praising God in agreement and/or laughing because I just get a kick out of his use of sarcasm.

Paul intrigues me because he was a man that grew up in the church. He was incredibly knowledgeable of the Word, and practiced what he preached. He was so firm in his beliefs that when the first Christian believers began sharing the news that Jesus was the Messiah and had raised from the dead, he whole-heartedly believe they were blaspheming and attempted to snuff them out. He thought he was doing the right thing. But on the road to Damascus, his whole world was changed. He came face-to-face with Jesus Himself! The very person whom he had denied! (You can read more of his transformation, beginning in Acts 9.)thCA0DHMHN

His combined knowledge of the Word and his relationship with Christ could have made Paul prideful. However, it had just the opposite effect. Paul recognized that it wasn’t his knowledge of the Word or his actions that saved him, but the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for our sins.

God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. (Romans 3:25-27)

Now, Paul wasn’t saying that our faith in Christ trumped the law that God established in the creation of the 10 Commandments, but was making the point that we can’t do anything to save ourselves. Jesus did all the Work!

Therefore, it angers me to see certain individuals (I’ll call them P1) believe that because they’ve lived the “right way” their entire lives (or so they think), look down on those who’ve sinned in the past (I’ll call them P2), even after P2 has accepted Christ as their Lord and savior has been allowing God to transform them day by day! The truth is, as Paul said, we have nothing to boast about, because we didn’t save ourselves! Even if we never broke any of the commandments—which only ONE individual could ever honestly claim—we were still born into sin, because sin is passed on through our father’s bloodline (Romans 5:12)!

This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:22-24) [emphasis added]

How dare we believe that we are any better than any other individual, when Christ died for us all!

Okay, so that was just part one, of what I have say (lol). Here’s part number two…Just because we are saved by faith and not by works, does NOT give us the excuse to not follow the law. Jesus Himself said that He didn’t come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17)—and He actually had even higher standards (Don’t believe me? Read Matthew 5:21-48)!  And Paul states in Romans that the law is not nullified by our faith, as well (Romans 3:31).

The purpose of the law is to show us our sin, the purpose of Jesus dying on the cross is to save us from that sin, but we’re not supposed to go back to wallowing in our filth one once we’ve been redeemed of it (Romans 6:2)!

    • For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. (Romans 6:6-7)
    • Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? (Romans 6:16)
    • But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:22-23)

Furthermore, Jesus and Paul, both explained to us, very clearly, that while we can (attempt to) uphold the law and have an established relationship with God, the greatest commandments aren’t actually explicitly written in the law. And ‘what is that?’ you might ask. L-O-V-E.

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40)

This request that we love, doesn’t nullify our faith or obedience, it enhances it. The fact that God loved us in our sin enough to send His Son to die for us, reveals just how great His love is for us. Our natural response, once we come into the knowledge of Christ and establish a relationship with Him, should be to lavish upon Him with a grateful heart full of love, and obedience.  And the stronger our relationship with Him grows, the more our hearts are transformed by the love of God, then the more our love ought to overflow into the lives of the people around us! (For more on this topic you may want to check out some of my other posts: Multiply: Week 3, Burning One, and All-Embracing Love)

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

A mistake that we often make, is believing that we can have faith in, and love God, without allowing God to penetrate our hearts and make any sort of change in us. Then we go around telling the world that we’re a believer, even though James explicitly states that faith without deeds is dead!

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2:14-17)

Basically, James says “we have a group of people, who say they have faith and believe, but where is the proof of their faith”?! He goes on to talk about Abraham who had so much faith in the promises of God that he circumcised  himself and all the male members of his household (he took action!), before he even had evidence that God would accomplish all that He said He would (James 2:21-24; Genesis 17). We must ask ourselves, what do our actions and lifestyle say about what we believe?

Of course, we are also reminded in 1 Corinthians 13, that we can do all sorts of goods things in this life, but if our actions don’t stem from love, then it’s all meaningless. This is why we have to humble ourselves and allow God to change us from the inside out. Because, if we try to do things out of a desire to earn God’s grace, rather than out of love for God and people, then our faith and works are useless.

And lastly, although, He loved all, Jesus really made it a point to reach out to those in the most desperate of circumstances. He reached out to those others ignored: women, children, tax collectors, the sick, the poor, and even those who openly lived in sin. Jesus lived during a time when it was taught by the teachers of the law that those who struggled in lowly circumstances suffered because of sin in either their lives, or the lives of their parents. (Which is funny if you think about it, since practically all of Israel worshiped idols at some point or another.) But, there He was, God-in-the-flesh, meeting sinners right where they were. And what was His response when the Pharisees asked Him about His actions…”It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:13).

Mercy. What is mercy? Mercy is showing compassion, kindness, and understanding towards others.

Many believers have fallen into the trap of surrounding themselves with nothing but other believers, much like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. This is not completely wrong. Our closest friends, those we go to for advice, to whom we turn when we’re in need of accountability, prayer, and encouragement should be fellow believers. However, those who need to hear God’s truth don’t ever get to experience the goodness of God’s love unless we tell them and show them! We cannot completely separate ourselves from them. God calls us to shower them with love, compassion, kindness, and to show understanding as we speak Truth into their lives (**Note, that we cannot leave this last part out**).truth_in_love[1]

For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:12-15)

Jesus told us to go into ALL the world and preach the gospel; a command that was issued not to just a few isolated believers, but to all who believe; so that we might reach men and women from every nation, every background, and from every circumstance, showing no partiality (Mark 16:15; James 2:1-9).

The Power of Love

Funny how God uses basic every day experiences to teach us invaluable lessons. I’ve been watching that show, “Once Upon a Time,” on CBS. The show is based on all the fairy tales/characters that have been passed down from generation to generation, for the past couple hundred years. In the season finale of season one, the main character, breaks a curse over the town with a kiss of true love which she bestows on her “dead” son (think Snow White). And it really hit me…how obsessed the world is with LOVE. From sacrificial love, such as found in books/movies like Harry Potter, Johnny Q., and Man on Fire, to romantic love like that in Twilight, The Notebook, and Romeo & Juliet…our society is truly obsessed with love.

This idea is definitely not new to me, I’ve been studying love for a long time now, but for some reason this idea really stood out to me as I watched “Once Upon a Time.” Especially because the characters have stated on more than one occasion that “love is the greatest magic of all” and “it has the power to break even the strongest curse.” Wow! Love has the power to break even the strongest curse; what a statement!

So, what’s the one thing that most, if not all, of our love stories have in common? There’s always some force trying to separate or prevent love or goodness from occurring, correct? That’s because, there is no greater curse than separation from love.

When man fell in the Garden of Eden at the beginning of creation the curse bestowed upon all of mankind was just that, separation from love, more specifically, separation from God, because God is love (1 John 4:8). The world recognizes that there’s power in love, but they still haven’t grasped just how much power.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son [to be] the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:7-10)

And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. (1 John 4:16)

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

God loves us so much that He sent His Son into this world, to die for us, so that the curse—our separation from God—might be lifted!

God provided the greatest—NONFICTION—love story ever told, when He sent His Son into this world as a sacrifice for our sins. His love affected ALL mankind, past, present, and future, regardless of our own actions or character. He died not just for those of us considered “good” but the dirtiest of dirty, the murderer, the rapist, the drunkard. His love provided us all with the opportunity for restoration of our broken relationship with God.

I’m sure you’re confused…”the opportunity”? Yes, because God provided the opportunity for a restored relationship with Him; a gift offered freely to us, known as grace. Yet, we must receive the gift; we must accept it. Grace is there for the taking, but we still have a choice in whether or not to take it; and as we take it, we must acknowledge the sin in our lives, become truly repentant before God, and turn away from those sins. This is why God’s word says that no one can come to the Father unless they are called…because true repentance and sorrow comes only when the light of God shines into every nook and cranny of our lives and we recognize how filthy we are in the light of His glory. And true repentance and sorrow is not being remorseful about the consequences of our actions, but being repentant for our actions, period.

God’s love is more powerful than any earthly love, and yes, His love does have the power to break the strongest curse. His love conquered the grave and defeated death! His love restored our broken relationship with Himself, and allowed us the opportunity to spend eternity with Him! What an amazing God—full of love, mercy, and compassion—that we serve! A God full of power and justice, and yet full of such tenderness and grace.

Learning to Be the Light

I’ve had this song–Learning to be the Light by NewWorldSon–in my head since I woke up this morning. Usually when that happens I post it as the “Song of the Day” on my Facebook page and let that be it. But when I went to do that this morning I wound up putting the song on repeat a few times; I was captured by the lyrics of the song…

Learning to Be the Light

When the stars came crashing down
In tiny pieces to the ground
I was all alone down here
Trapped beneath the atmosphere
Then I, thought somebody called my name
I spun around and caught a flame
I gave into a God I didn’t know
And now everything is falling into place
A brand new life is calling and I owe it all to grace

It’s so much brighter living in your world
Savior, what you did for me
You gave me something I want everyone to see
When we struggle and it all goes wrong
Only you can make it right
So I say
Oh oh oh oh oh
I’m learning to be the light
whoa, whoa
I’m learning to be the light
whoa, whoa

When a heart is cold as ice
You can’t melt it with advice
No one wants to listen to
A list of things they shouldn’t do
So I build a city on a hill
And I light a candle on the sill
Knowing you’ll be always knocking at the door
Oh God I just want to love on everyone
All I have is yours to give so let the people come

It’s so much brighter living in your world
Savior what you did for me
You gave me something I want everyone to see
When we struggle and it all goes wrong
Only you can make it right
So I say
Oh oh oh oh oh
I’m learning to be the light
whoa, whoa
I’m learning to be the light
whoa, whoa
I’m learning to be the light

that makes the shadows hide
the light that breaks the curse of pride
the light that takes the weary in it’s arms

When it all came crashing down
There was only darkness all around
But in the distance I could see
A Flame

It’s So much brighter living in your world
Savior what you did for me
You gave me something I want everyone, I mean everyone to see
When we struggle and it all goes wrong
Only you can make it right
So I say
Oh oh oh oh oh
I’m learning to be the light
whoa, whoa
I’m learning to be the light
whoa, whoa
I’m learning to be the light
whoa, whoa
I’m learning to be the light
whoa, whoa
I’m learning to be the light!!

Oh, where do I begin?! First off, it describes our walk with God. He’s constantly calling out to us and when we finally catch a glimpse of  Him and we accept His sacrifice for us…we don’t even know what we’re getting ourselves into! In order to understand Him and get to know Him we study His Word, pray, attend church, and worship Him. As we get to know Him more, we come to appreciate Him more. We find hope, love, mercy, and grace in His arms and it begins to overflow from us; and we want to share it with the world!

The line that really struck me as I listened to this song was, “When a heart is cold as ice/You can’t melt it with advice/No one wants to listen to/A list of things they shouldn’t do,” because it reminded me that we can’t just tell people about God and His love, grace, hope, and mercy, because non-believers don’t want to hear it; sometimes all we can do is show them…

 And finally, we’re not perfect and we never will be. We are going to struggle and things are definitely going to go wrong at some point, but all we can do is keep our eyes on Christ and learn to be the light that He’s called us to be, by studying His Word and walking daily in His presence.