Mercy

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August 9

Monday, August 9th, 2021

Okay…slap me with a wet noodle. I didn’t post last Friday. We made a quick trip to Ohio and left Wednesday morning and returned Friday. Rather than throw a devotion together AND try to do it on my phone, I decided not to do anything. But if I was going to post, the following was on my mind.

As followers of Christ we are told to:

Hurt when others hurt.

Cry when others cry.

Laugh when others laugh.

Rejoice when others rejoice.

Love because we are loved.

Show grace because we have been shown grace.

Comfort when others hurt.

The reality is that God often puts us in hard places or takes us through hard moments so that we will be ready when others go through hard moments. When their heart cries out for comfort, we are ready, because our hearts once cried out for comfort.

I think of Mordecai’s words to Esther: “For such a time as this…”  And who knows? All the junk we went through; all the pain we experienced; all the tears; were not wasted just on us. Perhaps it was for us to have a heart that hears and listens and responds to another’s heart cry. Lessons learned were never meant to be kept to ourselves. They are sometimes a path for us to guide a fellow struggler.  Don’t waste the pain or the lessons by keeping them to yourself.

“Father, may I be open to using my pain and heartache to help someone else experiencing that same difficulty.

June 28

Wednesday, July 28th, 2021

I’m always skeptical when I hear someone say, “Jesus told me (fill in the blank)” or “God told me to do (ditto).” That is especially true when what they say Jesus or God told them to do is so far off base, so whacked, that I want to say, “No way! God would never ask you to do something so vile, so repulsive, so stupid, so hurtful to others.”

I’m not speaking of those-like the Muslims from 9/11- who say, “God (Allah) told them to hijack a plane and fly it into two towers and kill thousands.” There is a place for them alright, but it’s not with any vestal virgins.

I’m also not speaking of those who take an Uzi and open fire on a crowd of innocent people. Or the one who kidnaps another and tortures them to death.

No…that’s not God.  But we must also realize God does speak into our lives-through a still, small voice we hear in our heart/mind. He “speaks” to us through His Word, through circumstances, and other people. It is that latter one I want to focus on for a few moments.

What do you hear from others? Is it a voice of shame? A voice of condemnation? A voice of “you can’t do this or that”? A voice of “you’re nothing”? A voice telling you that you are worthless? A voice of insecurity?

If so, it is high time to change that tune, to change that voice speaking into your ear or your life.  I like what Bob Goff wrote:

We need to give the microphone to those who speak hope and joy into the world.” (p.250)

I would also add “those who speak hope and joy into your life.” We need to stop letting negative voices carry the megaphone. We need to listen to the voice of Jesus, not the dissenters or naysayers.

“Father, tune my ears to hear your voice.”

July 27

Tuesday, July 27th, 2021

For the past couple of years I have often thought that if I was to ever start a church (which I have no desire to do), I would call it “Second Chance Church.” I know. Even as I write that it sounds a bit cheesy. Corny. But please hear me out.

Having been a pastor for close to 50 years, I have seen many broken lives. Train wrecks. Twisted beyond recognition. Mangled. Messed up. Even hopeless (as in giving up). I will even admit to being close to that feeling a time or two myself.

Getting broadsided in my car- as I was recently- does not carry the same picture of a car wrecked so badly it is unrecognizable and the “jaws of life” have to be used. There are some people whose lives are dented, smashed into, even put on the shelf temporarily. Then there are those whose lives are truly a disaster. Addiction. Poor choices. Loose morals. Alone. Destitute.

No matter which…we all need second chances (in some cases third, fourth and fifth). One of the biggest roadblocks to that second chance is shame. I want to be able to help people get past shame. I want them to realize there are always second chances. Shame doesn’t have to hang around and keep us where we are; God wants to take us “onward and upward” (to borrow C.S. Lewis’ words in the Chronicles of Narnia).

Second Chance Church. Sounds like a great name. But even without that name, that is exactly what a church should be about.

“Father, my life is a testimony to second chances. May I be your church here on earth offering that to others in Your Name.”

July 14

Wednesday, July 14th, 2021

In this day and age of “justice this” and “justice that;” of riots; revenge; senseless killing and getting even, we need to hear and use and practice another word:

MERCY

Jesus once said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.” Please read it again. Is it saying the same to you as it is to me?

Those who show mercy will be shown mercy.

Mercy is a God-promise. Lamentation 3: 22-23 says, “The Lord’s acts of mercy indeed do not end, For His compassions do not fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.” What does the word they refer to? Acts of mercy. Everyday God’s mercies are new. Mercy is a God theme.

Imagine if we would practice mercy instead of justice. God’s mercy runs throughout Scripture. Would there even be an Israel, a Jewish nation, if God only exercised justice and no mercy?  How many times do the Israelites merit justice but instead receive mercy? On the cross Jesus didn’t say, “Zap ’em good Father.” No. Instead He said, “Father, forgive them.”

I’m in that same boat. For each sin. For each wayward look. For each idolatrous attitude. For each angry thought or word directed toward Him or someone else. Justice deserved; mercy given.

According to Lamentations 3 God’s mercy will never end. It will never cease and grace will never disappear. Each and every day I/you experience God’s mercy. EACH. AND. EVERY. DAY.

And get this! It is not warmed over, stale mercy. Every day it is new!! Can’t beat that!

“Father, each day Your mercies are new. Remind me over and over of that truth and then to absorb it. Help me to live in the light of that mercy…with you and with others.”

Two notes: First, don’t think for a minute that I don’t believe there is a place for justice. I do, but that is a topic for another day. Two, all Scripture is from the NASB 2020 translation.

June 10

Thursday, June 10th, 2021

We are forgiven to forgive.

We are given grace to give grace.

Those are just a couple of sayings that we will hear and that ran through my mind this morning.

Tragedy: it is too easy to forget and too often done.

My thoughts were piqued this morning because of the Scripture in Matt.18:23-33.  (I’d like to suggest you stop now and read that passage). However, just in case you are short on time, here is a summary: Jesus tells the story of a man who owed a massive, unpayable debt; begs forgiveness; the debt is cancelled; and he moves on. He moves on to a fellow slave you owes him a small debt-payable over time- who asks for the same grace and forgiveness just offered to the other. The other man refuses to forgive and throws the man in jail. (I’ve always wondered how that will help pay the debt). Anyway, the result was not good.

It is important to remember that the grace I have been given is to be given to others. The massive “forgiveness project” which took place from God to me should stand as an example for me to follow when dealing with others.

Think about this with me for a moment. The best person to reach an addict is a recovering addict. The best one to show forgiveness is the one who has been shown forgiveness.

“Father, help me to learn from Jesus’ parable.  Help me to be the one who shows extraordinary grace and forgiveness to someone else because I have the recipient of that same grace and forgiveness.”

March 16

Tuesday, March 16th, 2021

There are some people who are “fixers.” No, not fixer uppers. 🙂  You know the kind: they want to “fix” everyone’s problems.  It used to be said (and probably still is true to some extent) that most men tend to be fixers. You know how it works! The wife comes to him with an issue and instead of just listening to her, he wants to give advice, i.e. he wants to tell her how to fix the problem.

So…how did that work out?

Not very well I suspect. I found out several things: 1) Jo didn’t want me to fix her problem. She just wanted me to listen; and 2) I have enough trouble fixing my own life/issues let alone trying to offer advice on how someone can fix theirs.  Long story short: not a wise thing to do.

When Abram came away from a battle against 4 kings, he met Melchizedek. Abram was tired and worn out.  He didn’t need fixed; he needed a friend. And he got one.  Check out Gen. 14: 18-20 for that story.  Mel didn’t try to preach to him; he ministered to him with food and drink. Just what Abram needed at the moment.

I cannot fix people who come my way, but I can be a friend.  And that may be all they need. I can love them and listen to their hearts. I can pray with them if they let me.  And I can send them off with a blessing. The greatest blessing I can give them is to bring to them the ONE who is the source of every blessing.

I’m going to stop trying to fix people. I’m lousy as a fixer upper on a house. I think the same can be said about me and people. I am going to bless people with my love and by listening to them and hook them up with the One who is the source of all blessing. How about you? What will you do today to be a “lover” and listener?

“Father, help me to step aside and let people see You in me. Help me to stop trying to fix everyone and simply love them and listen to them and ultimately point them to You.”

February 19

Friday, February 19th, 2021

Prequel: I had pre-posted the previous two posts because I had no clue what the day (Wednesday-the day of surgery) would bring. I knew I would have to leave for the hospital about 5:15 so my March 17th post was ready to go. Yesterday’s post was also ready simply because I didn’t know what to expect in the way of recovery. So here’s the scoop:

The surgery was successful. They removed my gravel pit of a gall bladder. Pictures do not lie! He also did a hernia repair I did not know I had. It was all done laparoscopically so I was able to come home. Big whoop whoop on that!!  I can ride inside in 2 weeks and have a weight limit of 15 pounds lifting. All in all a successful day. I’m grateful to all of you who prayed.

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Now for today’s main attraction. Okay…it is the devotion. 🙂

Bob Goff wrote something rather insightful when you stop to think about it:

We’ll be known for our opinions but remembered for our love. (p.59)

Someone may be a well-known pastor/preacher. Entrepreneur. Plumber. Teacher. Writer. Theologian. You name it. But I have conducted enough funerals to know while that may be true, the real legacy “bragged about,” talked about, reminisced about, laughed about, preached about, is the legacy of love left behind. The kind word. The out-stretched hand. The “secret” slight of hand which had money in it. The shoulder to cry on. It is our kindness not our qualifications that is remembered.

In my Bible reading yesterday I read John 11, where Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. But a verse stuck with me: “He lived in Bethany with his sisters, Mary and Martha.  This is the Mary who later poured the expensive perfume on the Lord’s feet and wiped them with her hair. (Vv.1-2) Emphasis mine.

Fast-forward to my Bible reading for today and John 12:3- “Then Mary took a 12 ounce jar of expensive perfume made from the essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair.”  (Emphasis mine)

Interestingly enough, Judas complained because she could have not bought the perfume, but put the money in the treasury. He liked that arrangement better, you know, because he used to embezzle funds for himself.

Jesus came to her defense, as you would expect. Mary is known for her kindness and act of love, not her opinions. Judas? Well…’nuff said.

Seems to me we would be wiser to do than to talk. Many talk a big game, some play it. When my legacy is considered I want to be remembered for way I loved, not for the way I talked. I want to be remembered for the outstretched hand, the big shoulder, the loving arms, the grace-filled approach, rather than my (often unsolicited) opinions.

What will you be known for?

“Father, help me to be known for my love, not my opinions. Opinions die (except for the damage left behind); love lasts.”

August 19

Wednesday, August 19th, 2020

After yesterday’s post, I felt I needed to say something more. In all this talk about social justice, it is easy to forget what really is the task of the church-which is, in fact, tied to social justice.

We spent time last week with our grandson. Man, I love that dude and would gladly give my life for him. I’ve lived 67 very good years; he only 13 (soon to be 14). His mom and dad have split up and no reconciliation is in sight. At all. I/we have watched him grow from birth to be one of the lights in our world.  Our time with him is all too short, and I realize someday he probably won’t want to spend time with us. There are times I want to be closer but that is not to be. And I’m okay with that because I am in God’s will right now.

Children were loved but not really valued in Jesus’ day. He changed all that. When others were pushing them away, Jesus was saying, “Bring the children to Me.” He welcomed the lame, the blind, the deaf, the outcast, the demon-possessed, the diseased, and the poor with no qualms whatsoever. Who the person was or what his “deal” was, Jesus never shrunk away. He reached out. In that way, Jesus left us an example on how to treat others. In that way, He showed us what social justice was: doing for the “least of these.”

But notice what was missing? Protesting. Loud rhetoric. Inciting hate. Getting His message out for His cause. He wasn’t a warrior, least not as we think of one. He was an example of how it is to be done. All kinds of people fell under the loving eyes and touch of Jesus.

I find it interesting when reading about Paul’s life that I was directed to read Galatians. In Gal.2 Paul writes about seeing James, Peter and John where he and Barnabas were offered the right hand of fellowship.  They were sent out to minister to the Gentiles with one word of advice: “They desired only that we should remember the poor, the very thing which I was also eager to do.” (2:10) Hmmmm, social justice in action. The mission of the church to get the Good News of Jesus out. Our work with people is simply an outgrowth of that mission. It is not to be the only thing we do.  Social justice must never take the place of preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is not just helping someone; it also to be used as a springboard to present Jesus.

“Father, help me not to forget others, especially those in need. And help me not to forget why I do what I do.”

May 29

Friday, May 29th, 2020

I always have mixed emotions. I struggle between compassion and hard-heartedness. You don’t find them in our little town because we don’t have an intersection going to an interstate. Or coming off one. People who panhandle. They have signs designed to catch your attention and tug at your heartstrings. Are they really in sorry shape or are they playin’ ya? As the pastor of a church we get calls for help. One guy called and he was staying at McCormick’s Creek State Park’s Canyon Inn. Expensive, even in off-season. He said his car broke down and he was having to stay the night and would we help him by paying for his room for another night? We have a much cheaper-priced hotel in town.  Aaaahhhh No.  About a week later the same voice called asking for gas for his moped to get to work. $25? I asked him if he called last week because I recognized his voice. It was the only honest thing he said. Answer: No again. Awhile back Jo & I were on our way to Ohio and stopped for gas. A guy was sitting at a pump and asked if I had money for gas. First mistake: I should have offered to pay for gas. Second mistake: giving him money for gas. He got in his car and drove away without getting gas. (Smack my head). Ironically, we were driving the interstate and maybe 20-25 miles later and guess who was in the middle with his hood up?

I’m torn because the Bible talks about helping others. About entertaining angels unawares. It tells me to give without expecting anything back. So I struggle with helping or turning my head or just saying no. Stats show many of the panhandlers work together and shuffle around and do rather well. We shouldn’t give to get; we should give to be rewarded; we shouldn’t give to get on God’s good side.

What about you? What do you do? What do you think?

“Father, give me wisdom and discernment to know if I’m being snookered or truly helping someone in need. Help me not to become jaded to helping others.”

April 15

Wednesday, April 15th, 2020

Did you know on this date in 1912 Titanic sunk?  108 years ago. Okay…on to other things.

As I write this-April 15, 2020- our lives are being “determined” by the COVID-19 virus. I use the word determined in quotes because while some people see it that way, I don’t.  I still see God in control of this whole scene and firmly believe my steps-all steps- are determined by the Lord.

One of the safety steps we are told to take is social distancing. At home it is called self-quarantine. Do not expose yourself to anyone nor allow anyone to expose themselves to you. It, for many, has become a lonely existence, a lonely time. Sure, there is social media if you use it. There is texting and phones. But interpersonal interaction in minimal, at best. I was reminded of the Apostle Paul in 2 Timothy. He is in prison with his life soon to  be snuffed out when he writes this letter to Timothy. He asks Timothy to come to him soon (v.9). He’s alone, deserted (v.10). Bring Mark with you and join me and Luke (v.11). Oh yeah, bring my cloak with you also and my parchments (v.13). Is Paul feeling sorry for himself? No, I don’t think so. He is simply gathering his friends around him for one last hoorah. How do I know that? Several reasons:

  1. “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering and the time of my departure has come. I have fought a good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith…” (4:6-8)
  2. “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” (4:18)

Paul may have been in isolation in a dingy prison cell. But the last thing on his mind was defeat. On the contrary, his lips were filled with praise (v.17). In spite of our circumstances, we are not alone. Not by a long shot. God knows and provides all we need. If you are feeling alone, isolated, or just plain fearful, reach out to Him and also reach out to people as Paul did. In this age of social distancing and isolation and self-quarantine, you are never alone and you don’t have to be isolated.

“Father, help me to find ways to reach out while respecting others’ need for space. If I’m lonely or feeling isolated, please bring someone into my life whom I can help.”