Saturday, November 9, 2019

Dear Mom...


Dear Mom,

I want you to know how much I enjoy going to church.  Really, I don’t go to church.  I am a part of the church.  The church is that group of people who follow Jesus.  I learned that and like it.
I wanted to say thank you for letting me go.  I will probably go a few more years before I stop.  It’s not a thing that older people do.  It can’t be for real or you would go too, but it’s fun for now.

I believe in God and in Jesus and that he died to take away my sins, but that can’t mean too much or you would lead me to worship him.  It can’t be that important.

We make it to most of the ball games and town events and never miss a weekend of binging on movies.  We go to the lake and never miss a game on the big screen.  If this worshiping God was important, we would do that too.  I trust you that it can’t be that important.  I trust you!

I know that your life is tough, and you are tired most of the time.  I guess that is what I will be soon, once I stop this Jesus stuff.  Really, what’s the point.  You have your reasons not to go.  I will just use your reasons in a few years.  I will be just like you.

I really enjoy the Christmas presents and other cool stuff that you get me, but all of that stuff just wears out over time.  They tell me that Jesus wants us to live forever with him.  I wish that were true, but I’m sticking with you and not buying this God loves me stuff.

I will keep going to worship and classes for now so you can have a break, but don’t worry.  One day I will be just like you and skip all of this God is love nonsense.  I know it can’t be true.  You tell me that you love me and these church folks tell me that God loves me.  I want to believe but I won’t betray you.  I will be just like you and start making my list of reasons not to give up my Sunday mornings to worship God.

Don’t worry.  One day I will have a standing list of reasons at the ready as to why I can’t go or participate or serve God in any way.  I may take some of those excuses and expand them for work when I have a job or for my own kids to use at school when some teacher challenges them to be their best.  Don’t worry, I will be faithful to what you have taught me.

Just to make sure that I don't backslide into the ways of the church, I will criticize those who beckon me to come and worship the Lord or challenge people to respond to God's grace by love and obedience.  I won't fall into that trap.  I will stay on the sidelines with you and fight to remain apathetic and ambivalent about life.

If you don’t mind, I would like to keep going for a little while longer.  These people who are the church are always kind and loving to me.  They smile when they see me.  Most give me a hug.  They know what God says about just about everything.  They actually believe what God says.  It’s really cool stuff, but don’t worry, I won’t let you down.  I will stay away and be content in my reasons for not going soon enough.

I want to be just like you.

Love…

Dear Dad...


Dear Dad,

I want you to know how much I enjoy going to church.  Really, I don’t go to church.  I am a part of the church.  The church is that group of people who follow Jesus.  I learned that and like it.
I wanted to say thank you for letting me go.  I will probably go a few more years before I stop.  It’s not a thing that older people do.  It can’t be for real or you would go too, but it’s fun and fulfilling for now.

I believe in God and in Jesus and that he died to take away my sins, but that can’t mean too much or you would lead me to worship him.  It can’t be that important.

We make it to most of the ball games and town events and never miss a day of hunting season.  We go to the lake and never miss a game on the big screen.  If this worshiping God was important, we would do that too.  I trust you that it can’t be that important.  I trust you!

I know that your life is tough, and you are tired most of the time.  I guess that is what I will be soon, once I stop this Jesus stuff.  Really, what’s the point.  You have your reasons not to go.  I will just use your reasons in a few years.  I will be just like you.

I really enjoy the Christmas presents and other cool stuff that you get me, but all of that stuff just wears out over time.  They tell me that Jesus wants us to live forever with him.  I wish that were true, but I’m sticking with you and not buying this God loves me stuff.

I will keep going to worship and classes for now so you can have a break, but don’t worry.  One day I will be just like you and skip all of this God is love nonsense.  I know it can’t be true.  You tell me that you love me and these church folks tell me that God loves me.  I want to believe but I won’t betray you.  I will be just like you and start making my list of reasons not to give up my Sunday mornings to worship God.

Don’t worry.  One day I will have a standing list of reasons at the ready as to why I can’t go or participate or serve God in any way.  I may take some of those excuses and expand them for work when I have a job or for my own kids to use at school when some teacher challenges them to be their best.  Don’t worry, I will be faithful to what you have taught me.

Just to make sure that I don't backslide into the ways of the church, I will criticize those who beckon me to come and worship the Lord or challenge people to respond to God's grace by love and obedience.  I won't fall into that trap.  I will stay on the sidelines with you and fight to remain apathetic and ambivalent about life.

If you don’t mind, I would like to keep going for a little while longer.  These people who are the church are always kind and loving to me.  They smile when they see me.  Most give me a hug.  They know what God says about just about everything.  They actually believe what God says.  It’s really cool stuff, but don’t worry, I won’t let you down.  I will stay away and be content in my reasons for not going soon enough.

I want to be just like you.

Love…

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Sprinkles on a Cupcake



The world took hold of us and conformed us to its model.  We were lost but God had mercy upon us and sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world but to save it through him.  The Law and the Prophets pointed us to Jesus. 

At some point, we rejected the world and walked away from it.  We repented and believed the good news of life in Jesus Christ.  We were—we are saved!  That should rate a chorus of hallelujahs.

But how have we lived since then? Is loving God and loving one another chief among our core values and redeemed character or is responding to God’s mercy and grace by being his love just something we work in when we can?

Is he our all in all or just sprinkles on a cupcake?  How can we answer that?  Please consider two very direct commands from Jesus.  The first you know well.  Love one another.  The second is more than a command, it is a commission.  Go into the world with the good news of life in Jesus Christ.

There is much more to living in response to God’s grace, but take some time this week to see where you stand in relation to these two very direct commands from our Savior.  Then, ask yourself, If I was accused of following Jesus, would there be enough evidence to convict me?

Are we known by our love?  Do we trust in the Lord with all of our heart?  Are we on the sidelines criticizing other believers when we should be sharing God’s love in our every encounter?

There is a line in the Casting Crowns song Courageous that reads:

May the watchers become warriors
Let the men of God arise

Isn’t it time that our Christian life was more than sprinkles on a cupcake?  Isn’t it time that we get off the sidelines and become known by our love?   Isn’t it time to be known by our love?   Isn’t it time?


God delights to show mercy



What else can we say about mercy?  God has mercy on us.  We are to have mercy on others.  Hallelujah, amen, pass the potato salad.

Let’s put this mercy stuff in the books.  We’ve got it.  Hey, we had a video and words on the wall special.  We’re good.  We understand mercy.  We’ve done our hour.  Let’s call it good and go home.  OK, maybe we should sing one more song but what more is there to say about mercy?

Let’s try this one on for size.  The world wants mercy without God.  The world wants us to be merciful to them.  The world wants God to be merciful to them but the world does not want God messing up their lives.  God is such an inconvenience.

That was the story of Israel and God took action against them.  They were his people.  They should have and in fact, did know better.

That has always been the story of the world.  The world wants all the blessings it can get but just without this one true God stuff.

The prophets told their people and tell us that one day, Israel will return to God’s ways and the other peoples of the world will come humbly before them.  They will be so humble as they approach God’s Chosen People.

God’s prophet speaks for Israel saying that I know we have sinned.  We receive our punishment.  We are getting what we deserve, but one day we will be restored.  God disciplines those that he loves and God’s people received judgments and discipline due to their apostasy, but God delights in mercy.

Imagine owing a million dollars in back taxes and then every cent of that debt was forgiven.

Imagine having sinned more than any offering could cover and then being forgiven.

Imagine God delighting in your forgiveness.

Imagine a God who delights in mercy.

The world wants all the goodies but doesn’t want the God who provides them; yet God has mercy in store for everyone who seeks him.

There is a whole bunch of that mercy still in storage.  God is delighted to go into that storeroom and break out another helping of mercy with each and every person who comes to him.

God has mercy stored up for every soul on this planet but most of it remains in storage.

I am not a packrat.  I don’t save everything because one day I might need it.  But I do keep a few books on hand that I delight in giving away.  Years ago, I bought 10 or 15 Handbooks for Writing.  Most set in storage for years, but I only have 1 left.

Whenever there was a student, usually a college student, that had an English course and I knew about it, I delighted in giving them a book.   If I met someone who was a writer and serious about it, I delighted in giving them a book.

There is a whole world of Americans out there who would think that I despised them if I gave them one of these books. 

I got all of the English I wanted in high school.  Why would you give this to me?  I write good and have went and done all the grammar a man can take.
You want to give me something, then give me a case of beer or an RV, something that I can use.

I know that most people don’t want what I put on my shelf to give away, but I delight in giving them to some people who are seeking something more.

I worked with inmates for a couple years.  They were excited about their release date.  I was delighted when sometime before that date, some of them actually understood what they must do to live on the other side of the fence and committed their lives to it.

Most just wanted to get out.  I delighted in a changed life.

So, we hear the witness of God’s people again as found in God’s holy word, but what does it mean to us?

God is merciful and we are to be merciful as well.  In fact, we should love mercy, not just for us but as a part of our character.  Hey!  We’ve got this!

We are coming into basket season.  We eliminated the sign-up process a few years ago.  It was a transactional process in what should have been a transformational opportunity.  Sign ups got in the way of ministry.

We still give out food to hungry people all year long.  We have given out more food each year for the past decade.  We will give out more in November and December than the rest of the year.  There will probably be a few gifts thrown in come late December.

We will feel good about ourselves for a little while.  We will feel like we have been merciful and compassionate and that feeling will last for a while. The food and gifts will last for a while and then they are consumed or worn out.

It’s still a little transactional, but it gives us a feel-good fix for a little while.


We are still in many ways conformed to the patterns of the world.  Give stuff get a little satisfaction, a little feel-good, warm fuzzy emotion for a little while.

Do you know why that feeling doesn’t last?

It’s not about who we are.  We take Christ to the world.  We take good news to the world, and we delight when someone or a family, receives God’s mercy by professing Christ and committing to being his disciple.

We get to delight in his mercy, and then when we help one of these families, we delight even more.  It’s more than a temporary feel good.  We know that God has claimed these people for all eternity.

We help them with their urgent needs and their abundant life needs, the latter coming under the umbrella of discipleship.  Let’s follow Jesus together.

God delights in being merciful.  He has a storeroom packed full of mercy.  Let’s help him move some inventory.  Let’s do our part so God can delight in his mercy more and more each day.

God delights in his mercy.  There is a whole world of folks who will not know his mercy on their present course.  We have been given our part.

Do you remember the gospel account of the paralyzed man being brought to Jesus and Jesus said, “Your sins are forgiven?”

The Teachers of the Law were furious that he would say such a thing.  They who were most qualified did not see that the Son of God stood before them and the first thing he did was practice mercy.

Your sins are forgiven.  Jesus had not yet gone to the cross, but this man’s sins were forgiven.  Even the paralyzed man probably did not recognize the mercy that he had received.  I’m sure his human nature was hoping to be healed in his body.

Jesus then after asking a question to the religious leaders that dumbfounded them, said to them and to the crowd gathered, “So that you know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins, get up and walk.” He did.

The world wants God to get right to the healing—physical ailments, financial distress, easier days—but those conformed to the world are not seeking his mercy. They seek some sort of universal relief without seeking God. They do not desire to change their lives.  The world has blinded them to the truth.

We must deliver the truth to a blind world and rejoice—delight—when some come to know God through Jesus Christ and commit to being his disciples.

We will still practice compassion and generosity, but we like our Lord, should delight in his mercy.

We must delight every time that we help someone come to know Christ because God delights in his mercy.

God delights to show his mercy.

God delights in mercy.


Amen!

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Message for Yvonne Wall Howard's Service


Message for Yvonne Howard’s service, 2 November 2019.

We are here to worship God and celebrate the life of Yvonne Howard.  Worship and celebrate.  You can do both at the same time.

If there are folks here than you don’t see every week or month or even year, spend time with them and share your memories.  Share what you experienced because there are some who will only know Yvonne by those memories.

Yvonne was a lady that spent most of her life in western Oklahoma.  I don’t know if she ever went to a place where the wind didn’t blow 360 days a year.  But she had a full life in this part of the country where life still has meaning and there are many ways to contribute to your family and your community.

We don’t get to choose our circumstances.  Stuff happens.  Life is good then it’s tough, then sometimes it is just really tough, but for those of us who know Christ, we know that the pain and struggle and hurt will not compare to what is in store for us.

Eye has not seen.  Ear has not heard , and no human mind can conceive what the Lord God has in store for us.

God’s Spirit that lives within believers gives us a glimpse of what awaits us, but it is still more than we can imagine.
The apostle Paul wrote that he considered our pres
ent suffering to be of little significance to what God has in store for us.

But life has hardship and struggle and pain.  We get that.  We are not stoic and just let it roll off as if it does not affect us.  It does but we have the promise of life eternal with a God who not only created us but who loves us more than we can conceive.

What can I say about someone who I did not really know?  I will use a brief analogy.

I have brothers whom I have never met and many that pass away daily.  I am talking about my Marine brothers and sisters.  I never met most of them, but I knew them.  We went through the same indoctrination, chewed much of the same ground, served together in different times and places and even generations, fought those who opposed our nation and our way of life.  I knew them.

They were my brothers and sisters.  I knew them but never met most of them.  And when I get notices online that they have passed, a simple Semper Fidelis is how I say goodbye.  I knew them but never met them.

So when a fellow believer passes, I can say with certainty, I knew her.  We serve the same mighty God.  We believe on the name of Christ Jesus.  We want to be known by our love and in so doing, people know that we are Christ’s disciples.

So what can I say about Yvonne?  She worked out her salvation as she thought best to bring glory to God.  She did her best to walk in the truth, and when she wasn’t everything that she thought God wanted her to be, she knew that he was and is faithful and just to forgive.

She knew God to be a God of love and mercy and faithfulness.  She is now in his presence.

I like to put Paul’s words which he gave in the first person to use in Yvonne’s life.

She ran the good race.
She fought the good fight.
She kept the faith.

And there is now in store for her a crown of righteousness which the good Lord has broken out of storage and given to her.

Yvonne is now seeing what eye and not seen and ear has not heard and no human mind can conceive.

She is just fine.  She is fully healed.  She is in the presence of the Lord.

So today is for those of you gathered here.  Nothing that I say or do here will impact Yvonne.   If I mispronounced somebody’s name when I read the obituary, it does not detract from the glory that she knows at this moment.
Today is a reminder that for those who seek the Lord and know Jesus Christ, there is in store for you a crown of righteousness.

Rest assured God has fulfilled all of his promises to Yvonne and will fulfill them with us if we will seek him.

And know this, God grants you a peace that goes beyond anything that you can understand.  We all want to understand what happened.  Why not five years from now?  Why not two years ago?

We like to rationalize and make everything fit into our rationale.  It’s seldom an exact fit.  Our minds have dissonance.

But God says, even though you can’t figure this out now, you can still have peace.  You can receive the peace that goes beyond our human understanding.

The world knows only sorrow and mourning and hurt and sadness when a loved one dies.  God grants us peace that we can’t figure out.

God guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  He protects our hearts and minds from doubt and worry and anxiety.  We can know peace and not know the why of everything. 

Today is for you.

My charge to you is to celebrate the life of Yvonne Howard and receive the peace of God that transcends all understanding.

Celebrate her life and receive his peace.

Amen!

Love Mercy



Will the Lord of all the earth not do right?

God is good.  He is righteous.  He is just.

God is just.  Without God, there would be no justice.  Right and wrong emanate from our Creator.  For those who think that this whole thing is just a cosmic accident put into motion without a creator of any sorts, then justice in incomprehensible.

How can justice derive from accident and coincidence?  If we all evolved from single cells in the ocean then survival, not justice becomes our core value.

But it seems that almost all of us want justice at some point in our lives.  Usually, it’s right after the call goes against us and the blind referee—some would say that I am being redundant—is marking of 15 yards against our favorite team.

Even Superman was for truth, justice, and the American way.

We like to think that justice is blind.  We like to think that there is equal justice under the law.  What do we say at the end of the pledge of allegiance?  Isn’t it liberty and justice for all?  These are lofty goals, American goals, and on occasion, even achievable goals.  Often, they are just out of reach.

Justice is a unique concept.  When we look at everyone else, we want justice.  When we look in the mirror, we much prefer mercy over justice.
Isn’t that our nature?  We want liberty and justice for all, and some mercy for me.

We have discussed the mercy that we know.  God is merciful.  He is also just but we seem to be a lot more thankful that he is merciful.  That’s who God is, but what about us?

What does God require of us with regard to justice and mercy?

The two qualities are not exclusive of each other.  God doesn’t seem to have a problem with justice and mercy.  His heart is full of mercy but he administers justice. 

The prophet tells us to seek justice but to love mercy.  Being fair and just and doing what is right must always be a part of who we are, but mercy must be the desire of our hearts.  We must love being merciful.

What’s the point of following all of the rules if there is no mercy in us?  God’s Chosen People went down this road a few times.  Their sacrifices and offerings were empty.  Sure the grain or the goat was present, but the heart of the giver gave way to some perfunctory performance. 

The people were going through the motions.  They just existed day to day without much life in their life.  They just didn’t want the sorry end of the stick when justice was being handed out.

What a pitiful and passionless way to live.  I just don’t want to get hit by lightning or lose my crop or go to hell.  How many goats and buckets of olive oil must I bring to save my sorry self from the fires of hell?

Surely the roots of many eastern religions come out of this thinking.  The purpose of my existence is the elimination of suffering.  Life is suffering and victory in life is reducing suffering, especially my own.

Life is suffering.  The goal of my existence is to reach a plane of nonexistence.

What a way to live!  Yet, God’s people were on this track of minimizing their suffering at the expense of truly serving a God who designed them to truly live.

Yeah, God’s there.  I know it, but I’ve got bills to pay and kids to raise and Facebook posts to make.  I just don’t want to lose what I have.  I don’t want things to get worse.

What a way to live!

Have you ever watched a football team lead all of the way through the game and then start playing not to lose?  It’s a pitiful sight.  They had the upper hand for most of the game and then they changed they way they played so as not to lose the game instead of playing the best that they can every minute.

God’s message to his people throughout time is that he wants them to live.  He wants them to live a good life and bring glory to his name.  When we make mistakes, he wants us to confess to him and receive his mercy.  When we do this we can get back to living.

God, who is infinite in his wisdom, created us to live a finite time in these bodies.  Eternity is in store for us, but every moment in this life is precious.  How we live, especially those of us with Christ in our hearts, is a precious commodity.  We use phrases such as work out your salvation, walk in the truth, and number your days to focus on how we are to live.

Justice is important.  Loving mercy more than justice makes us more like our Creator.

Which brings us to Karma.  We like justice.  We are good with mercy, but we love karma, right?

What?

The universe has a scorecard and soon enough, you are going to get paid back for all of that mean stuff you did, especially for the mean stuff that you did to me.  That’s karma right there and it has been growing in popularity even among believers.

To seek justice is noble.

To love mercy is godly.

To want karma to do its thing is human.  I have read the Bible more than once or twice or however many times.  Some books get read more than others.  I’ve studied a lot of the original words and phrases trying my best to find the best fidelity to the original intent and the full biblical witness.
In all of my studies, I never found a single verse about karma.  Judgment, yes.  An accounting, yes.  Karma, not so much.

It would be so much easier to practice seek justice, love karma.  That’s more our inclination but the direction is to seek justice and love mercy.

We are to desire justice but love mercy.  I desired to go to NBA games when I lived in Orlando, Florida and I did go to several, but I would have loved to go to one and seen Michael Jordan play.  I checked for tickets every time that the Bulls came to town but they were sold out.  Occasionally, there would be a single ticket in the nose bleed section for several hundred dollars.

I could pay the rent for the next two months or go see Jordan.  I even thought that I could get Christopher a single ticket at an out of mind price just so he could say he saw Michael Jordan play, but decided that I didn’t want to send him in with 20,000 other Jordan crazed nuts by himself.  Besides that, the O’Rena was right next to OBT—Orange Blossom Trail—the place where the junkies and prostitutes hung out. 

My wife was never to happy that after the games that we did go to, I would take my son to the Church’s Chicken on OBT.  You want some good chicken, go to a place where a junkie needs to make enough for his next fix and he will cook you some good chicken.

I sought out tickets to other games but would have loved to have seen Jordan and got some chicken.

We are called to seek justice but to love mercy.

All things considered we would like everyone to play by the rules.  When there is an infraction, we think there should be penalty or correction or some sort of sequel that provides justice.  That’s fine.  That’s a good model, but we are called to love mercy more than justice.

Let’s put it this way.  Justice is transactional.  It works as far as regulating a civil society goes, but it is transactional. 

Mercy is transformational.  Mercy is not constrained to do certain things nor restrained from others.  Mercy crosses boundaries.  Mercy forgives that which does not deserve to be forgiven. 

When we have run awry of justice, we desire mercy for ourselves.  Last week we examined David’s petition for mercy in Psalm 51.  We already love mercy for ourselves.  We get that part.  We already love mercy for ourselves.

But we must love mercy for others.  That’s a bit more challenging.  It requires us to set aside our human heart and live out of God’s divine heart.  When we think of being made in the image and likeness of Jesus, think of living out of his heart.

We must love mercy more than we love justice and we think justice is a good thing.  Loving mercy does not lessen the need for justice, it just goes beyond what justice can achieve.

A transformed heart is a greater victory than someone paying for their trespasses by being thrown into debtor’s prison.  A renewed mind is a greater victory than one that only memorized the rules so he or she could better get around them.

Justice is transactional.  Mercy is transformational.

When we seek justice and love mercy there is a unique balance in life that lets us walk humbly with our God.  When we seek only justice, it’s hard to walk with a God of mercy.

When we seek only mercy, we deny that God is just.

When we dispense only justice, we become void of mercy.  But when we seek justice and love mercy, then we can live harmoniously in the favor of God.  We can navigate this life.

God wants us to desire what is right, what is good, and what is just, but he wants us to have a heart given over to mercy.

The prophet gave us some very concise words for good living.

Seek justice.

Love mercy.

Walk humbly with your God.

The prophet lived before the time of Christ.  Resurrection and redemption were things to come, but the prophet’s counsel survives the atonement that we received in Christ Jesus and is still good counsel for how we respond to the grace and favor of God.

Seek justice.

Love mercy.

Walk humbly with your God.

Amen.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Mercy


Read Psalm 51

We are going to spend a little time on the topic of mercy.  Mercy is a recurring theme in God’s word.  Mercy is a quality of God and a quality of his people.

If you follow Jesus, then you are called to be merciful.

So mercy is just another word for grace or forgiveness, right?

Sort of but not exactly.  Precise definitions are elusive, but let’s take a short at this.   Mercy is God not giving us what our sins deserve.  Mercy abates God’s punishment.

That mercy is rooted in forgiveness and grace.  It’s all about who God is and not what we did or did not do.

Grace extends God’s favor and blessings to us even though we don’t deserve them.  Mercy delivers us from judgment and grace extends God’s lovingkindness to us.  Neither which we deserve based on anything that we did or did not do.

Mercy, like grace and forgiveness, is about God’s divine heart.

David—a man after God’s own heart—had surrendered to his lust with Bathsheba.  That lust resulted in pregnancy and the sequel here is that David arranged for Bathsheba’s husband to get killed in battle.

Just when he thought he had put all of this in his past, Nathan who was both prophet and friend to David, showed the king what he had done.

When David realized just how far he had fallen, he was broken.  He had disqualified himself from living in God’s goodness, at least at first glance.  But in the course of his relationship with God, David learned that he was a God of mercy.

God’s desire was not punishment.  God was not looking for more sacrifices.  God did not want David walking around in ashes and sackcloth for the next 7 years.  God’s desire is mercy.  God is merciful.

So, David called out to God to have mercy on him.  In this request, David acknowledged his sin.  In fact, he said that he couldn’t get away from it.  It was always there right in front of him.

David’s request was to blot out his transgression, take his sin away, create in him a clean heart.  David knew how terrible his sin was but he also knew that it was not game over.

In verses 11 and 12 we see David seeking mercy and grace.

Do not cast me from your presence
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

That’s a bold request.  Head hung low in shame asking God not to punish him is one thing but to be so bold as to ask to have the joy of salvation and sustenance was another. 

To understand mercy, we must understand that God not only wants to forgive us but he also wants to bless us and pour his favor out upon us.

So why ask God for a half-measure of anything?  When we seek his mercy, follow David’s example and seek his blessing and favor.

What’s our part?  Repentance.  We must desire to turn away from and leave behind that which is not of God.  That doesn’t mean leave all of your worldly stuff at the pawnshop and get a receipt.  Leave it all behind.  You are not coming back for it.

We did this when we turned away from the world and professed Jesus as Lord.

We became a new creation.  I am crucified with Christ.  Christ lives in me, but the old creation just won’t go away and if we are not diligent, it takes a shot at getting its old job back.

We are his disciples.  We are known by his love.  We press on towards the goal.  We are running a good race, and then we slow down or stop and take a breather in our race of faith and start focusing on others and what they are or are not doing and our eyes are no longer on Jesus.

It happened to Peter as he took a few steps on the water and then started focusing on the storm.  So much for walking on water.

That’s when that old creature can get its hooks in us, when we lose sight of where Jesus is leading us and start focusing on everyone else.

The disciples struggled with this.  They saw some people driving out demons in the name of Jesus and so they told them to stop.  Why?  They were not part of the group.

Jesus admonished them noting that they could not do this and the next moment become his enemies.  If they are doing this and not against us, then we are surely on the same team.

The disciples were not quite ready for what would happen after the death and resurrection of Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit.  Their tight-knit little group would launch similar events all over the known world. 

We do this too.  We stop running our race.  We stop following Jesus and we start judging other believers for how they respond to God’s grace.  Who am I to judge another man’s servant?

When this happens to us, let’s repent.  Let’s ask for God’s mercy.  Let’s ask to receive God’s blessings as we get back in the race.

We know that God doesn’t want to hear our excuses.  He wants to hear our confessions.  He doesn’t want our apologetics for our divisiveness.  He wants us in one accord in his love and mercy.  He wants to give us his mercy.  He wants us to know his heart.  He wants us to live in his favor.
But first comes mercy.  We have all fallen short of the glory of God.  That’s a familiar scripture most know from Romans, but understand that we all need mercy to rescue us from that fallen state.

The dictionary defines mercy as compassion or forgiveness given to someone who is within your power to punish.  Before we live in God’s favor, we need merciful forgiveness.

When we ask God for mercy, we must first repent.  It’s not, God forgive me so I have a clean slate and can do this sinful thing again.

God grants us mercy knowing full well that we will likely sin again, and soon.  It is our human condition.

God has always been merciful.  He has the absolute right to judge and condemn but his divine heart is one of love and we know that love in his mercy.

His mercy is so great that his own blood was given in sacrifice.  The mercy seat in the Old Testament was that place above the ark of the covenant—between the two golden cherubim—when God would appear in the Holy of Holies.   Once each year, the high priest would enter with the bull’s blood and atone for his own sins and those of the people.  Some translations read those that the people committed in ignorance.


The blood of bulls could not give people a clear conscience.  The people had made their part of the prescribed sacrifice, but atonement was not complete.

Only by the blood of Jesus are we free of our sins.  Only by the mercy of God, can this atonement be for eternity.  Only in this New Covenant can we truly live.

All of this comes from God’s divine mercy.

When we truly examine our lives with eyes to see granted to us by the Holy Spirit, then we see that the difference between what we deserve and what we receive is mercy. 

I am going on record today saying that I am a big fan of mercy.  It is so intertwined with forgiveness and grace that we often see them as one, but know that it all began with God’s mercy.

As we move forward in our exploration of mercy, know with certainty that God created no one for the purpose of condemnation and eternal destruction.

As we move forward, know with certainty, that God knew we would fall short but that mercy not sacrifice was and is always his first choice.  External rituals—even though they came from his own directives—give way to mercy.

There was sacrifice, but God in his mercy and compassion, make this sacrifice himself.

I know that mercy and grace and forgiveness are tightly intertwined, but this week set your thoughts and prayers on God’s mercy. 

God is merciful.

Amen.