Mercy

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January 16

Thursday, January 16th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Forgotten vs Adopted.

I was reading today about adoption. What a beautiful thing! I know of several folks who have adopted-both here and in foreign countries.

  • My brother and his wife who adopted a baby girl from China (Lea) over 16 years ago.
  • A couple from the church who had just adopted a baby from China when I moved here in 2005 (Annalei- whom you may read about someday as an Olympic diver), and another in 2010 (Meilynn was about 7 or 8 and was a phenomenal gymnast now cheerleader with one of the prettiest smiles you will ever see).
  • Another couple adopted Lucy as a baby with severe clef palate damage. She is now in high school.
  • A former blogger, Jason, and his wife adopted a young man from Japan.
  • Zee (a blogger friend from Ukraine) and her husband, Sam, who have adopted Zhora (George) and Zhenya (Jenny), who sure look ornery but also a ton of fun in their picture. They are about 6 & 5.
  • Others who have adopted children in the states and those who want to. (The system is broken).

I cannot even begin to tell you how much I respect those people. Adopting someone not only means that couple taking a step forward, it also means giving a child a new life, a life they would have never known. Bought out of less than desirable circumstances and brought into a situation that says, “Family. You are wanted. You are loved.”

Can there be a much better picture of our welcome into God’s family? Our existence screamed, “Lost! No home! No love!” Ephesians 2 uses two words “But God” to show the line of demarcation from what once was to what it became and is now.  We are saved from and shown to. We are saved from a life of lostness and given a life to meaning, hope and purpose.

Then I read more this morning. It also says we are given a “spirit of adoption.” I was reading in Ezekiel and 36:26-27 says,

And I will give you a new heart, a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

Can there be any better description of adoption? A new family. A new heart. A new spirit. All the rights and privileges of a natural member of the family.

“Thank you, Father, for adopting me into Your family. For rescuing me from no life to a life that is far more than I dreamed. Thank you for my new heart and my new life.”

December 25

Wednesday, December 25th, 2019

You SHOULD NOT be reading this today! You should be with your family and friends, not on the computer.  🙂  And I know what you are thinking: “If I should not be reading this you should not be writing this.”  True that. Except for the fact I still got up early to have my Quiet Time and to get my “mind juices” flowing before starting my day.

This morning the church I pastor will be offering a hot breakfast to the community. We typically have less than on Thanksgiving, but as Jo and I talked yesterday, it is a “crap shoot” to plan on how many to expect. We will still deliver breakfast to those who have requested it, plus to the civil servants and gas station workers who have to work this morning. At this point, we have about 30 deliveries to make to individuals and the number of workers is usually in the 30 range. So my drivers (I’m in charge of deliveries) will stay busy. We have generally served close to 20-30 on a typical Christmas morning. Who knows today?

Why do we do it?  For several reasons actually. One, several years ago I was asked by the Chamber of Commerce (of which I’m a board member) if the church does anything for Christmas. The local UMC does a lunch so we certainly weren’t going to reinvent the wheel. Don’t need two churches competing over that. So we offered a breakfast. Two, it had already been on my heart to do something so I took it as confirmation we were to take this step. Three, and this is my motivation: I don’t believe anyone should spend Christmas alone. For various reasons people do. I want to give them an opportunity to not be. Some are down and out on their life situations and are alone because of loss or because they have no family left locally. NO ONE should spend Christmas alone. And four, I believe it is what Jesus would do. His famous words “When I was hungry, sick, in prison…” motivate me to reach out. Those who help, those who give up some time on Christmas morning to help, are showing that same spirit.  I’m not opposed to but am not part of the social justice crowd. I prefer to do it one person at a time.

So very soon I will be heading off to the Lion’s Club where we offer the breakfast. It is right in the heart of the town and can be easily accessed by walking.  If you happen to be reading this, I would appreciate your prayers for safety for my drivers and for someone to not feel so alone this Christmas.

And I pray God’s blessing on your day of celebration of the birth of our Savior.

December 12

Thursday, December 12th, 2019

THIS IS NOT A CHRISTMAS DEVOTION!!! You can check my #ChristmasChallenge devotion on my other blog.

My title for this devotion is Love vs Wrath/Justice.

I’ve been reading the past couple of weeks in the book of Jeremiah. (Yeah…zzzzz). Least at times it felt like that. I’m not denigrating God’s Word; it’s just that some parts of it are hard to stick with. But in between these seemingly incredibly long moments of sheer boredom are nuggets of gold.

For instance, one of the hardest qualities for people to grasp is God’s wrath and justice. “Give me a God of love!” we say. And while I prefer the God of love, I’m also highly aware that God is a God of wrath and justice.  He has to be. Just like a parent needs to be a parent of love, he must also be a parent who disciplines and is not happy with some of the actions of the child. Sometimes discipline is called for, even punishment, if rules are broken or hurtful actions are taken.

Let me give you an example from Scripture. “Behold the storm of Lord! Wrath has gone forth, a whirling tempest; it will burst upon the head of the wicked. The fierce eyes of the Lord will not turn back until he has executed and accomplished the intentions of his mind.” (Jer.30:23-24)

Then just a few verses later in Jeremiah 31:3 God says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love, therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.”

Wrath. Justice. Love. They go hand-in-hand. And most definitely they do in God’s case. I’ll let you work that out in your own mind.

“Father, you are a God of wrath, of justice, and of love. There is no contradiction there. Help me to see how they work in tandem in my own life-helping me to make right choices, correcting me when I don’t, but always loving me.”

December 9

Monday, December 9th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Lasting vs Passing.

It is not unusual to hear or say-and I have-that Thanksgiving should be and is to be more than one day out of the year. Thanksgiving should be 24/7/365. The inference (although it is more than just inferred or implied) is that the spirit of Thanksgiving is so dominant in us that it weaves its way into every day of the year.

What would that mean if I said, “Christmas ought to be every day of the year? Does that mean we ought to have candy and cookies and eggnog and gifts and the other trappings of Christmas all year ’round? (I can say you will have a hard time with me saying no when it involves chocolate. But I digress… 🙂 )

In all seriousness, what does that mean? Seemingly endless shopping? No. Lights and decorations all year ’round? No. A tree in the foyer or living room? No on all counts. To say Christmas all year ’round is to have the attitude we find in Philippians 2: “Have this mind (attitude) among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” Paul had just been talking about doing nothing out of selfishness or conceit. But instead, we are to look out for the interest of others.

THAT’S the spirit of Christmas! Humility. Selflessness. Who couldn’t benefit from an attitude like that displayed? Giving our lives away for the sake of the Gospel.

“Father, may my life exhibit the Christmas spirit of humility and selflessness all year ’round. May Christmas not be just a once a year event but a lifestyle of giving myself away on a daily basis.”

October 24

Thursday, October 24th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Meeting Jesus vs Rejecting Jesus.

I’ve always been intrigued by and enjoyed reading the story of the Gadarene demoniac in Mark 5. I read it again this morning.  And once again I was captivated by its lessons.

  • This man was so strong, so “possessed,” that nothing could keep him chained. Call him the Hulk; call him the Mummy; call him the Werewolf; call him uncontrollable.

Then he meets Jesus…

  • The demons that controlled him found themselves face to face with the greatest force they had ever met and then found themselves laying flat on the ground at the feet of Jesus crying out not to be tormented.

Then he saw Jesus’ power…

  • They were cast out of the man and into a herd of pigs. I’ve always found that interesting. What were Jews doing with a herd of pigs?

Then he received Jesus’ healing…

  • The people heard about the pigs and came to see what all the commotion was about. The man was clothed and in his right mind. Can you imagine the looks on their faces when they saw this man no longer a madman but sitting at the feet of Jesus and in his right mind?  But…but…but…

Then he received Jesus’ words…

  • Jesus was leaving and he wanted to go with Him. Who wouldn’t? Especially after what Jesus had done for him. But it was not to be. Jesus told him to stay at home and tell the people how much He had done for him and how He had mercy on him. He does exactly that. (v.20)

This changed man did what all changed people-including me-are to do. Tell how and WHO changed my life.  The most powerful testimony is the changed life. “I once was blind but now I see.”

“Father, I have been changed by You. Your love. Your mercy. Your grace.  My response should be the same as this man-go and tell. Help me to do just that-to tell of all you have done and of Your mercy which has been shown to me.” 

October 22

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019

My title for this devotion is Concern vs Aloofness.

Proverbs has many ideas and themes running through it. It is a collection of sayings. I recently journaled about the stream of verses dealing with speech. Another theme, which hit me as I read Chapter 22, was the concern about rich man/poor man and its impact upon daily life.

It actually started yesterday when I read Proverbs 21:3- “To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.” That sounds strangely familiar to Micah 6:8- “What does the Lord require of you but to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.”

Then as I read chapter 22 more verses emerged:

“The rich and the poor meet together; the Lord is the maker of them all.” (v.2)

“The rich rules over the poor; and the borrower is slave to the lender. Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity…” (vv.7-8a)

“Whoever oppresses the poor to increase his own wealth, or gives to the rich, will only come to poverty.” (v.16)

“Do not rob the poor because he is poor…” (v.22)

The mistreatment of the poor has taken place since time immemorial. That’s no excuse.  It was addressed by Paul in I Corinthians 11 concerning the observance of the Lord’s Supper and the “haves” eating and taking advantage of the “have not’s.” And I’m certainly not wading into the whole immigration issue here. What I am saying is oppression of the poor is spoken against. Condemned.

Micah 6:8 is very clear. Proverbs 21:3 is also very clear. I am to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. To do that is much more important than all the “religious things” I do. They are worthless if I don’t treat others as Jesus would. The question comes down to concern vs. aloofness.

“Father, is there concern for others or is there an aloofness I have developed?  Do I show the love of Jesus to those who are less fortunate than me or do I turn my back and walk away? Help me to have the heart of Jesus for all people.”

September 27/Weekend Extra

Friday, September 27th, 2019

I leave today for St Louis where I am performing a wedding for a young man who attended the church I pastor while in high school. He went to Maryville College where he met his soon-to-be-wife. His mother still attends the church. I will not be taking my computer so I wanted to post this before the weekend.  I actually wrote this while on our cruise and was waiting to post it this weekend.

My title for this devotion is People of Means vs People of Meaning.

While on the cruise we have met all kinds of people. Some I’d just as soon not remember; some I wish I could know more. We have seen rude people-push, dour, treating others like they are all that and more. I have seen impatient people. I have seen sour people. I have seen those who refuse to acknowledge even with a head shake. I have seen old folks in canes and walkers and carts. I have seen young couples in love. I have seen families-one we met on the train ride who were an absolute delight and continue to acknowledge us. I have seen a crude dude ask for a picture then give the finger to the photographer and then use salty language. I turned away in disgust. We have also seen a number of followers of Jesus take the time to pray for their meal. We met a couple from Houston yesterday on the train and are having supper with them tonight.

All kinds of people. Probably most like us-down home and ordinary. But I can’t help but wonder how many are hurting. Thinking of taking their life. Grasping at straws. Trying to save a marriage. Searching for meaning. Think they have the tiger by the tail.

Sad. The answer is right at their fingertips. Right on their lips. One Name. Jesus.

“Father, help me to never lost my heart for people. Even the disgusting or power hungry. The gay or the lesbian. The rich or the poor. The lost or the saved. Please give me a heart that always seeks yours and look for others.”

July 26/Weekend

Friday, July 26th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Arrogance vs Repentance.

I think one of the things-bar none-that turns most people off is arrogance. When someone does something or says something or just acts a certain way where he/she is impressed with himself/herself and also wants others to be, it is a big turn off.

But repentance is something else. Repentance involves one characteristic an arrogant person doesn’t have: humility. Repentance involves a willingness to lower oneself, even admitting wrong.

The story of David in I Chronicles 21 is an interesting one. After stories of victory over giants, seemingly out of the blue comes David’s request for Joab to number Israel. Against Joab’s better judgment, David orders it done. David finds out soon that God was displeased with his actions and gives him three options. David chooses Door #3: Three days of pestilence. Soon David sees the distress it brings on the people and cries out for mercy on them because it was his fault! He took the blame. His repentance rings out loud and clear. About the same time, he is at Ornan’s threshing floor and sees the angel with his sword drawn. But David is sincere in his repentance and asks Ornan to sell him-at full price-a sacrifice. Ornan offers free to David the oxen and all the fixings (wood, wheat, etc) needed for a proper sacrifice. David says, “No he will not offer the Lord what belongs to Ornan, nor offer burnt offerings which cost him nothing.” So he paid full price and offered the sacrifice to God. God stayed the angel’s hand of judgment.

David’s arrogance/pride got him in trouble; it was his humility that rescued him.

“Father, may I be a man of humility not arrogance. May I be a man who is willing to admit my faults, and when it is my fault to repent with a sincere heart.”

Note: I’d like to thank each of you for being patient with me as I have been in and out in consistency with this blog. As I wrote on my other blog, there is a light at the end of the tunnel as far as going to Ohio and cleaning out the apartment.  This Monday that end of the saga will be over.  Both Jo and I say, “It can’t happen soon enough.”  We have seen a lot more of each other over the past month or so. It may change her mind about me retiring! 🙂

July 3

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2019

I’ve been in Ohio helping Jo close up and clean up her sister’s apartment so I have been unable to post my devotions early in the morning. Nor have I been able to even post them since there is no internet there. I find myself at McDonalds using their wifi to post the past two days and today’s devotion. I guess I can’t tell people I don’t go into Mickey D’s anymore. 🙂 Anyway, here it today’s devotion.

My title for today’s devotion is Patience vs. Insolence.

I was thinking this morning (I know…dangerous) as I was reading the Scriptures how patient God is when man’s insolence is involved. I’ve been reading in 2 Kings the past few days, and while my head is spinning in my inability to get a hold of all the kings and then they lived, etc, one thing I haven’t had trouble doing is seeing their disobedience and insolence so prevalent in the kings. Just this morning starting at 2 Kings 10:32 and stopping at 13:21, my mind is boggled by the number of kings and their disobedience.

But the fact that God hung in there with them is a testimony to His faithfulness and grace. Then I read these words from Psalm 116:5- “Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; our God is merciful.” How appropriate a description. 3 words:

  • Gracious
  • Righteous
  • Merciful

They sure describe God during the kings period. And they sure describe Him during this time of our history. I am truly amazed at God’s graciousness with His people.  If it wasn’t for grace we would be toast.  Our approval of abortion, homosexuality, ungodliness and other sins has to hurt His heart. But His grace continues. His mercy continues. His righteousness is everlasting, but someday it will all end as it did with Israel and Juday.

“Father, may I not be the one who shows insolence toward You-Your grace, righteousness, and mercy. Help me to be true to you.”

June 10

Monday, June 10th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Selfish vs. Generous.

We hear different kinds of statements: “Pay it forward.” “It’s more blessed to give than to receive.” “I get more joy out of giving than I do getting.” “God loves a cheerful giver” (in reference to (mostly) church-giving).

I am a (naturally) generous person. I say that, not as a brag, so please don’t think it that way. I learned it from my mom and my grandfather. And ultimately from my Father. I like doing things for people. I like buying small things and giving them as a kind gesture. For example, I like getting a book and giving it to a colleague. Or a meaningful book and giving it to someone in the church. I have no clue how many copies of New Morning Mercies I have given away. When Jo was working, I felt much freer doing this. Now that she is retired and money is tighter, I can’t do it as often. I miss it. 

It is part of my DNA.  God has blessed me with so much I want to share it with others. I’m careful as I say that lest it be misconstrued as a selfish thing: “He wants blessed so he gives.” No, not at all. That really isn’t my motivation. That’s not saying I don’t benefit. Proverbs 11:25 says, “Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and the one who waters will himself be watered.” What a word picture I get with the verse! I picture two people having a water fight with one starting it with a hose only to get drenched himself. 🙂 🙂

Something happens-to the recipient and the giver-when generosity takes place. I have found God uses a fire hose when I use a garden hose. But I will never experience that until I give the first squirt.

“Father, you have a generous heart. It all started with you giving Your Son. May I be like you-not for the purpose of getting back-but simply to follow your example. Please give me a generous, giving heart.”