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His Abundance

“To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”  Colossians 1:27

Father God, your riches are boundless, your love endless, and your provisions unending!  While I go throughout my day today help me to take my thoughts off the world’s insufficiencies and turn my eyes to your plentiful ways.  Amen

It was only a short time ago that most of us worried about the scarcity of one product – toilet paper.  It was a man-made problem borne out fear and selfishness.  In fact, one day while at a home improvement store I witnessed a man and woman gleefully overloading their pickup truck with hundreds of rolls of toilet paper.  I’m sure their plan was to sell most of it and their excitement was over the thousands of dollars they would make.  A small part of me hopes they still have a garage full of toilet paper.  My husband’s solution to this dire 21stcentury problem was to install bidets in our bathrooms, therefore eliminating the need for toilet paper. Two points-of-view to the same problem. Scarcity vs. abundance.

We humans have a tendency to always worry about not having enough, whether it be food, water, fuel, trees, love, friends, money, work, or even toilet paper.  But God’s plan for us is so completely different.  He is always wanting us to model our lives, actions and thoughts to His kingdom—which He shows to be the opposite of scarcity thinking.

"Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens,
    your faithfulness to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,
    your justice like the great deep.
    You, Lord, preserve both people and animals.
How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!
    People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house;
    you give them drink from your river of delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
    in your light we see light."  Psalm 36:5-9

You might be thinking, “that all sounds good but what about droughts and food shortages and waning oil reserves?”  To that I say, trust God first for He is always about abundance.  Throughout scripture, especially in the letters to the churches, we are reminded about the basic lesson of childhood – sharing.  (Something the folks in the pickup truck forgot)  You see, God provides.  He may provide more to you than you need so that you can give to another.  He also provides others with knowledge and skills to discover new ways for God to meet our needs.  Abundant thinking is always solution-based rather than fear-based.

I learned a valuable “point of view” lesson once from Dr. Laura Schlessinger about marriage.  If you always have the perspective that divorce is not an option then you will always find new solutions to marital problems (barring issues with violence and other abuses).  It’s the same with God.  If we always have the perspective that God is a god of abundance – overflowing with unending love and grace and mercy for us – then we will seek ways to see Him at work.  We will see our own abundance as His tools to serve others. 

Friend, God’s kingdom is overflowing with milk and honey.  When we see the world in a panic over the latest scarcity-based fear we need to turn our eyes to God.  His kingdom of abundance is open to all who call Him Savior and for that we should give Him all glory and honor!

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I Will

So her husband, Joseph, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her publicly, decided to divorce her secretly. Matthew 1:19

We left off our study of new beginnings with a cliff hanger of sorts.  There sat Jonah on a hill wishing he were dead.  And God reminding Jonah that He cares for all people of the earth, especially the ones “who cannot tell their right hand from their left.”  Thank goodness for that because there are many days I feel and act like one of those foolish people!  If left to being helped out of my fiery pit by unloving, sleepy Christians, I would surely find myself in the depths of hell.  But for God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  And those that submit themselves not only to their will but do so out of love.

So, we leave the Old Testament with many more stories of new beginnings than I have shared.  And with hope that Jonah finally grasped God’s message of works without love is empty and useless.  But here’s the thing about our guidebook for life, the Bible, God’s holy Word, there’s 1000s of connections back and forth between the ancient stories in the Old Testament and the newer history of the New Testament.  Which leads us to the first new beginning we encounter in the book of Matthew.  Another Noah.  Another servant of God who is the way maker for the world’s new beginning.  The connector from the old ways to the new.  A man who, like Noah, was considered “righteous” and faithful to God.  But first, let me share with you a modern story of another righteous man who helped shepherd in a new beginning for one small child.

Epworth’s Children’s Home received this first-hand account from a foster parent in 2017 about his experience in becoming a foster father:

“Our family has been fostering a boy since October 2017. Yesterday our foster child had a court hearing to determine what step to take as far as his custody goes. I haven’t shared a lot about the whole foster experience because I have been afraid, to be completely honest. Afraid because fostering has been a lot harder for me than I thought it would be. Not because the child is difficult – it has been hard because of my heart. Ever since he came into our home, I have been terrified of becoming too attached and having my heart broken when he would eventually leave our home. I have been terrified of giving him all of my love, my energy, my grace and my compassion. I was sitting in the courtroom listening to the different parties discussing and debating the best course of action for the child’s future, when I started shaking. I began to realize this is the moment! The moment I decide to completely expose my heart to the potential of pain, or keep my walls up. It was absolutely terrifying! I started hearing a small voice inside that I could no longer ignore, and it was telling me to fight for this child. I realized I was willing to do anything for him.

“My walls started to crumble around me. Then I heard the judge call my name. He wanted to know if I wanted to adopt this child. I wanted to scream “Yes! He is my son!”, but I think I said something a little less dramatic like, “Yes sir, we are working on becoming licensed for adoption for this child.” I then heard the judge say that he is ordering termination of parental rights and opening this case for adoption. The weight of this decision is not lost on me, but it was one of the most powerful experiences that I have ever had.”

But after he had considered these things, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1:20

Joseph was our Lord’s foster father.  As a devout follower of the Mosaic Law, he had every right to not only publicly shame Mary for her “adultery” but also to have her stoned to death!  Before the angel even spoke to him, however, love, kindness, compassion took over and he decided to quietly divorce her.  Think of how Jonah would’ve responded.  Surely God would’ve had to intervene to save Mary’s life from Jonah’s anger.

After Joseph obeyed God’s urging to complete his marriage vows to Mary, his troubles surely were not over. Like Noah, he would’ve faced public humiliation.  The knowledge of Mary’s pregnancy in the small village of Nazareth would have spread like a wildfire.  And yet he stayed the course.  He stayed faithful not only to Mary but to God.  He didn’t, by all accounts do it begrudgingly like Jonah.  He took up the mantle of “foster father” and protected his family, raised his son as his own.  His new beginning was as father to someone else’s son.  An earthly role model.  A shepherd, like Noah, for what was to be all of humanity’s new beginning.

Joseph and the unnamed servant girl who helped Naaman (2 Kings 5:3) also have a lot in common.  They were faithful.  They had a heart for God.  They stepped up to help when they could’ve taken a different path.  Their small steps were a gift to many.  And they both are but a few lines in our history.  Joseph’s last mention of him doesn’t even use his name.  Jesus is 12 years old, immersed in the teachings at the temple and his parents are frantically looking for him.  His mother chastises him and says, “Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you!” (Luke 2:48)  After that, Joseph fades away.  Most likely, he passes before Jesus begins his adult ministry.

And yet we remember him each Christmas for his shepherding, protecting, and faith.  We should all add a bit of thanks to Joseph each day we pray in Jesus’ name.  Because like so many faithful servants of Christ, He obeyed out of love.  He didn’t ask or require that “thanks.”  He didn’t harbor ill will for having to endure hardship.  He put his head down, his hands out and his heart lifted and said to God, “I will.”

I want to share with you the rest of the letter written to Epworth Children’s Home by the foster father:

“I will end with this. This is especially for you guys and fathers. If you feel God tugging at your heart to become a foster parent, listen! There will always be a reason to not become a foster parent, but if your main reason is that you are scared your heart will be broken, then you especially need to do it. Foster children need someone who will be heartbroken over them. They need someone who is going to stick by them when things get hard. They haven’t experienced that. They need someone to love them and be gentle with them when they come over and hit you in the face with a maraca and break your glasses (not that I have ever had that happen, that is completely hypothetical, of course!). They need someone who is going to be faithful to them and strong for them in their weakest moments. I am by no means perfect in any of those, but I am strong in my faith, and it provides me the love, strength and grace that I need. Fostering has made me more dependent on God, in everything, and that is good. Ultimately, I am a foster child who was adopted into His family, and I am fully loved.”


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The Sword of God

Life Lesson #15: Our best defense against false teaching is to stay rooted in the Word of God.

But even the archangel Michael, when 
he was disputing with the devil about 
the body of Moses, did not himself dare 
to condemn him for slander but said, 
“The Lord rebuke you!” 
Jude 1:9

We find ourselves at the end of the Tiny Yet Mighty series appropriately enough with a lesson on defensive strategy against false teaching.  False teaching comes in many forms.  We may initially think it’s just a televangelist telling followers if they pray hard enough all their financial woes will be eliminated.  But the world of false teachers reaches so much farther than our Christian leaders.

You’ll notice in our Jude verse today that even the archangel didn’t take up an argument with the devil using his own words or knowledge.  He relied on God’s Word.  And when unbelievers or doubters take verses out of context it’s our opportunity to use the truth of God’s Word in reply.

But we can’t stand for a God we don’t know.  

Too many Christians are not Bible scholars.  And yet, it is our greatest comfort and weapon against the devil.  I, for one, in the first 10 or 15 years of being a Christian rarely even opened a Bible.  During one season of sermons at my church we tried something “out of the box.”  The pastor wanted each of us to take the pew Bible and mark it up as he spoke.  You could see the hives break out on people instantly!

I’ve been in plenty of Bible study groups where more than half the people didn’t read any of the study, hadn’t been to church the Sunday before to hear the sermon, or hadn’t gone on-line to hear the sermon being studied.  And somehow we expect to be filled with the Word of God.

No soldier, no athlete, no surgeon, no salesperson would ever enter their arena of expertise expecting success without first preparing.  So why, as Christians, would we expect any different?

Put on the full armor of God, 
so that you can take your stand 
against the devil’s schemes.  
Ephesians 6:11

The full armor includes the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness given by Jesus, the shoes of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit – the word of God.  Without any of these we are left to the evil devices of false teachers.

But let’s back up and start at the very beginning of false teaching.

"Now the serpent was more crafty than 
any of the wild animals the Lord God 
had made. He said to the woman, “Did 
God really say, ‘You must not eat from 
any tree in the garden’?” 
Genesis 3:1

We were babes in God’s glorious garden when the first false teacher spoke to Eve.  He tried to weave his way around God’s Word and deceive her.  One of the ways I’ve personally experienced this is concerning how God communicates with us.  How often have you heard someone say they received a directive from God but yet claimed God doesn’t “speak to them.”  I’ve heard famous preachers dismiss the idea of God actually speaking, using words, to speak to people.  We seem to have the need to define God “speaking” as someone standing before us speaking out loud.  This unfortunate definition has led so many people to feel as though God is ignoring them. 

I have a friend who has frequent interaction with God through others, music, signs, etc, and yet she spoke with sadness that she had never heard God speak.  The parsing of God’s messages, directives and laws to find the “out” or the “exception” is the devil’s work.  

“You will not certainly die,” the 
serpent said to the woman." 
Genesis 3:4

Sure, Eve wasn’t going to physically die (although she couldn’t know that for sure) but the death she was to experience would be much harsher.  Satan was relying on Eve not trusting the Word of God.  

In our modern times sexual immorality has become our apple in the Garden.  “What’s the big deal?”  “God didn’t actually say a man can’t marry a man.”  Like the statement to Eve of death, this one is true on its surface.  But God does, throughout the Bible state that a man shall take a woman for his wife.

That is why a man leaves his father and 
mother and is united to his wife, and 
they become one flesh. 
Genesis 2:24

But the Bible was written long ago and cultures change and we evolve, right?  There was only one great change in our Christian history – Jesus.  He did not come to remove the laws of God.  He came to fulfill the law.  God’s law reveals our sin, our brokenness.  We can never completely fulfill the law through our own means.  Jesus gives us the grace and righteousness needed to be right with God. 

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday 
and today and forever. 
Hebrews 13:8

These are but a few examples of how both believers and non-believers twist and turn the truth of God’s Word.  It’s all an attempt to live in the world of the flesh.  We are called to be a people set apart.  To know God as best we can.  To stay in constant communion with Him.  

To him who is able to keep you from 
stumbling and to present you before 
his glorious presence without fault 
and with great joy— to the only God 
our Savior be glory, majesty, power 
and authority, through Jesus Christ 
our Lord, before all ages, now and 
forevermore! Amen. 
Jude 1:24-25

When we find ourselves in the midst of false teaching it is Jesus Christ who we can draw on, both in Word and Spirit, to keep us from the fire.  Stay close to Him and the devil cannot strip you of God’s blessings.

I hope you enjoyed this series, “Tiny Yet Mighty!” Stay tuned for my next series, “Fresh Fire — 25 verses to invigorate your faith,” starting March 29. Just in time to celebrate Jesus’ sacrifice and amazing resurrection!

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Grip The Promised Path

And a highway will be there;
    it will be called the Way of Holiness;
    it will be for those who walk on that Way.
The unclean will not journey on it;
    wicked fools will not go about on it.
No lion will be there,
    nor any ravenous beast;
    they will not be found there.
But only the redeemed will walk there,
and those the Lord has rescued will return.
They will enter Zion with singing;
    everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
    and sorrow and sighing will flee away.
Isaiah 35:8-10

For many years my favorite vacation was to travel to San Francisco and hitch rides on the cable cars.  I can still remember the smell they make when the cable operator would grip the underground cable and off we’d go!  We would hop on and off at various famous stops and drink in the beautiful vistas of the bay.  But did you know that unlike its counterparts, the trolleys, cable cars don’t have motors? 

The San Francisco cable car system is made up of miles and miles of undergound cables which all intersect at the large cable car powerhouse.  There you will find giant wheels operating the cables.  Each cable car has a grip which clamps down on the moving cable.  It’s the cable itself which moves each car.  When a cable car needs to stop it releases the cable and applies its wheel brakes.  Without the constantly moving cable, the cars are motionless.  

I’m fascinated with how so many everyday activities in our lives reflect our relationship with God and His Holy promises.  Without Him operating without ceasing, keeping our lives safely along His chosen path for us, we can so easily find ourselves stuck, a cable car without power.  

A good friend of mine and I were out walking one day and we were discussing how easy it is to lose our grip of God’s promises.  We get so distracted by the fears, anxieties and paths the world puts on us.  The things we “should do” because the world expects it from us.  But lately I’ve decided I need to be like the cable car operator – pulling back on that long lever and gripping the life-giving cable of God.  And gripping it tightly.  

As so many people know San Francisco is also famous for it’s steep hills.  And the cable car operators find many challenges in navigating those hills.  They need to know exactly when to grip at the right amount in order to make it up the hill or else they must release the cable and slide backwards to try it again.  And on the downward slope they need to apply the right pressure on the cable while using their wheel brakes.  Each operator must become an expert, not only about the cable car operation, but the individual pitfalls of each hill.

And like those operators, as Christians, we need to be as well versed on the character and promises of God.  He promises to lay out a clear path for us.  We need to place our full effort and attention on Him and that path.  His path doesn’t remove us from the dangers of the hills and valleys, rather He helps us to weave our way up and around and down them. 

I have given them Your word; 
and the world has hated them 
because they are not of the world, 
just as I am not of the world. 
I do not pray that You should take 
them out of the world, but that 
You should keep them from the 
evil one. 
They are not of the world, 
just as I am not of the world.
John 17:14-16

When we wrestle with God, at best, or at our worst completely ignore Him, we will find ourselves stuck at the bottom of our great hills.  Or, plunging recklessly toward the bottom.  The “highway is there” for us.  It is the way of His righteousness.  

A cable car operator who cannot successfully operate his car, and therefore protect his or her passengers, no longer has the privilege of that esteemed and famous job.  And when we refuse to pay attention to the promised path which God provides for us and grip a hold of it, we miss out on the joy and gladness.  The covenant of a promised path requires us to study His Word and hold fast to it.  

Cable car cable grip

In reading up about cable cars also discovered that all the miles of cable have a “sacrificial lubricant” that allows the grip to not wear down the cable itself.  The lubricant wears away similar to a pencil eraser wearing down, rather than the paper it’s being used on.  It’s that burning lubricant that gives the San Francisco cable cars it’s unique and memorable smell.  

Jesus is our “sacrificial lubricant.”  He ripped the curtain away and opened up our direct communication with God.  He sent the Holy Spirit to walk with us at every moment.  His teachings, when gripped, help us to live on the promised path set out for us.

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The Amazing Act of Choosing

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.

 Matthew 6:24

This week has seen many opportunities to make a choice.  To choose the amazing peace given to us by Jesus or chaos.  To choose to take our amazingly ordinary selves and be transformed by God into something extraordinary.  To choose between demanding our will or God’s amazing will be done.  To be double-minded or single-minded in our quest for closeness with the Holy Spirit.  

When Jesus stepped up to preach on the mountainside to the believers, He laid out a series of directives intended to help us understand and attain true righteousness.  As Bible scholar Warren Wiersbe says about the Sermon on the Mount:

The religious leaders (at the time) had an artificial, external righteousness based on law.  But the righteousness that Jesus described is true and vital righteousness that begins internally, in the heart.

Warren Wiersbe, The New Testament Bible Commentary

He goes on to state the lessons Jesus preached in Matthew 5 through 6 were not for the unsaved world at large but rather for individual believers.  Which brings me to the concept of choosing.  Throughout our faith journey we are continually called to choose — God or an idol of our own making — as we reach for that true righteousness.  The testing of our choices may seem to take place every single minute of the day at times.  Other times in our life we seem to be easily cruising along with Jesus and then a serious trial interrupts our lives and we are faced with choosing our faith over our fears.

I have a very good friend who is not a Christian.  The day after the election we went to lunch and she said something amazing to me.  My friend: “During election night I started praying.  I knew you were praying too.  And I know that God will probably listen to your prayers over mine and I took comfort in knowing you were praying.”  I was slightly stunned.  I’ve been much more open about my faith this year when talking with her.  Showing her how I rely on Jesus’ amazing peace to keep me together during hard times.  But I was shocked that she was praying.  I told her God listens to all our prayers.  We then went on to another topic.  Later, while at home, I felt called to send her a text message.  This is the conversation:

Me: “You said something today that I don’t think I paid enough attention to. You said you thought my prayers would hold more weight with God. God is for all of us whether we believe in Him or not. He wants to be our “go to” for peace and grace and trust — no matter where we are along our faith journey. The only difference is that as a follower of Jesus I am held to different expectations. I know His Word. I know what He expects of me. I know He wants me to be obedient and turn all my worries over to Him and not trust in anything else. So, He expects me to act accordingly— and I fail many times over. But because I know I have failed I also know to ask for His grace and forgiveness. He won’t answer my prayers any more than yours if they don’t come from a desire to do His will. It’s frequently at times of great worry and distress that people turn to God. However, He considers those “friends” and “faithful” who rely on Him at all times and thank Him for His for blessings. I hope this doesn’t sound all Jesus Freaky but I think it’s important to understand how much love He has for every single person — Christians and not yet Christians 😂

My “non-yet Christian” Friend: “Thanks!  I hope all our prayers help! “ 

I’d call that pretty amazing.  Friends, as followers of Jesus, we are expected to choose Him over our idols of fear, worry, earthly kings, money, relationships, our political stances, and anything else from which we think we artificially gain righteousness.  We are expected put our eyes and our hearts and our minds squarely on the Lord and slough off the world from our backs.  Because God has mightier plans for us.  He has solutions we can’t even imagine.  He is fighting our fight for us in the spiritual realm.  And he expects us to choose Him and act here on earth as His faithful friends. 

Madison and I will see you again on Monday! Have a blessed weekend friends!

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Our Flappy Rudder

I sat there as only one of two women coaches in the room.  There were about 20 of us, coaching girls softball ages 7 to 15.  We had recently finished the fall season where I had told my assistant coach to never step foot on a field where I was coaching.  He constantly undermined my authority, which came to a head one night where he threatened me with physical harm.  Yes, this was kids’ sports at its finest.  So back to this meeting.  We were all there to be confirmed as coaches for the Spring season.  That assistant coach was also present.  He asked to speak before we were voted in by the board.  He went into a tirade about me and how if I were to be confirmed as a coach, he would go to the city parks and recreation board and have our field permit rescinded.  He and the president of the association got into a few aggressive back and forths.  I, however, spoke not a word.

He finally sat down.  A vote was taken and I was still a coach.  Afterwards, a number of the other male coaches came up to congratulate me – for being so brave and not getting into a yelling match.  They were very impressed.  I was escorted to my car where I sat for a minute and finally took what seemed like was my first breath after the hours long meeting.  I hadn’t spoken because I could barely even breathe.  I had been so scared I couldn’t speak.  I didn’t know it then but God was protecting me.  He knew had I spoken up among all those men, my “hero” status would’ve instead turned in to “shrill siren.”  By keeping my mouth shut I accomplished so much more.

“The tongue is a small part of the body but it makes great boasts.  Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.”

James 3:5

How many times have we looked back at a conversation or disagreement and thought, “if I had just kept my darn mouth shut, I wouldn’t be in this situation?”  I don’t know about you but I don’t have enough digits to keep track.  While others may struggle with not knowing what to say, others of us say too much.  

“Set a guard, Oh Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips.”

PS 141:3

This needs to be tattooed on all our foreheads so that when we are talking (or yelling) to each other we can “get” the message.   I read recently the concept that words are just the outward expression of our hearts and minds.  When you see someone screaming in a police officer’s face these days, I think how shriveled their hearts must be.  They are literally out of their minds spewing hatred to another person.  When we have a false sense of righteousness, not true righteousness from the Truth of God’s Word, we get into areas of entitlement, judgement, self-worth, and envy.  

Our words matter and we shouldn’t use them to just fill up space or hurt people or say things to make us feel better.  I once worked with a man to whom silence was a way of life.  It made me very uncomfortable; my youthful self always needed to fill that void.  A topic or question would be thrown out and he would go silent.  Meanwhile, I’m across the table babbling away.  I definitely did not have spiritual maturity at the time.  Through life experiences and a pursuit of God’s wisdom I am learning to enjoy a bit of silence.  A bit.  As a parent, I struggled with this powerful tool.  As my kids got older, I realized silence could sometimes be scarier than a mom yelling on and on.  And when I yelled, filling that void, I said hurtful things.  Things that I can never take back.  

“With our tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.”

James 3:9

That last part needs repeating – when we are cursing others, we are cursing people WHO HAVE BEEN MADE IN GOD’S LIKENESS.  And when we yell, scream, say hurtful things we do so with lack of grace, mercy and forgiveness.  But if we are faithful over small things – like our tongue – and use them to bless others then God has promised to make us rulers over bigger things.  If we can’t stop corrupting our whole body — hardening our hearts and going out of our minds– because we can’t control that little flappy part in our mouth, then why should God give us more?

I heard a pastor give a challenge the other day called “What If?”  It goes like this:

  1. What if we decided to stop cursing, right now, forever?
  2. What if we decided to never say another negative thing?
  3. What if we decided here and now to never complain?

I bet a whole lot of people around us would be blessed.  But that all sounds sooooo difficult!  Not when you have God by your side.  Not when we walk in the steps He wants for us.  Not when we decide to live the life He calls us to.  Yes, we will be tempted.  Yes, there will be trials and tests.  Because without those how do we know we are victorious?

“This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.”

1 Cor 2:13

In other words, when we live in God’s world, accept and practice His teaching, and turn to Him for guidance and prayer, it will be His Words spoken when we face trials and temptation.  Or maybe, no words at all.  We have the mind of Christ inside us.  We need to stop pushing Him aside and let Him rule that little, flappy rudder in our mouth.  And only then will be sent on the right journey He has called us to.

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Lord, I Cry Out For Mercy

She was rarely “late.”  With each passing day she began to worry more.  She and her boyfriend knew better but they were young, just 15 and 16.  They frequently met up for sex while his mother was at work.  And they didn’t use protection.  So, five days after she should’ve started her period, she found herself sitting on the toilet, with a small Tupperware bowl waiting to catch her urine.  She had never been to a clinic before and had called to see if they could do a pregnancy test.  As she sat there, she prayed.  She wasn’t a church-goer.  In fact, her parents never spoke of God.  Yet she regularly was moved to pray.  She didn’t know what it meant to trust God or receive justification through faith in Jesus.  She just knew she needed to pray.  She had prayed for a lot of things over the years.  For her mom to stop hitting her.  For her dad to speak to her.  For her brother to stop tormenting her.  She didn’t know if God was listening but she kept praying. 

As she sat there praying for mercy – because that’s what would have to happen – she swore she would change her ways.  She made empty promises, begging to not be pregnant. And just as she began to capture a sample, her period started.  God had not only granted her mercy but also mercy on her potential child.  For had she been pregnant she most assuredly would have aborted it.

That girl was me.  I didn’t deserve His mercy.  I was living in sin, regularly.  I created my own set of rules – a false sense of “righteousness.”  I deserved the punishment.  I deserved to have to face a difficult choice and live with it for the rest of my life.  But He showed mercy.  I’ve remembered that day for the past 39 years like it was yesterday.  But how many times have I failed to show others that same mercy?

“Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgement without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.  Mercy triumphs over judgement.”

James 2:12-13

I was recently listening to a podcast by Joyce Meyer.  She spoke about not being mediocre.  Mediocre is halfway between being a failure and being successful.  The work of not being mediocre is constantly seeking knowledge, constantly improving ourselves.  So, the other day I set about creating a Christian definitions list. We sit in church, listen to podcasts, read devotionals but how many times do we hear buzz words or theology that we just don’t grasp?  Here’s my starting list:

Righteousness: our outward appearance of God’s truth.  Our actions and our words.  It’s important to note that without the ingredient of God’s truth we create a “false, man-made righteousness.” (2Tim 3:16)

Sanctification: the process by which the Holy Spirit molds us into Jesus’ image (1Thes 4:1)

Justification: when we pronounce our faith in Jesus Christ and we are instantly saved. (Gal 2:16)

Grace: simply put, God’s favor and kindness towards us. And He shows us grace in different ways:

  1. Salvation Grace: is when our freedom was purchased through Jesus’ blood (Eph 2:8)
  2. Numerous Grace: God forgives me each time I sin (Rom 6:14)
  3. Forgiveness Grace: When God helps me to forgive others (James 4:6)
  4. New Grace: each day I have the opportunity to begin again (Heb 13:25)
  5. Freedom Grace: I am free to forget about other people’s opinions and just be me (1Cor 15:10)
  6. Future Grace: God has promised to be with me at all times (Heb 4:16)

Mercy: when we are not given the punishment we deserve. (PS 40:11-13)

When I wrote all this down I received clarity of the amazing work God, through His Holy Spirit,  does in each of us.  But most of all I thought about mercy.  I understood that God forgives us each time we fall into the traps of sin.  We all have been in the situation Paul lamented when he wrote the following:

Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.  What a wretched man I am! 

Romans 7:21-24

Each and every day we find ourselves sinning – worried about money, hoarding our gifts, being judgmental and unkind to others, unforgiving of our loved ones or even strangers.  Gossiping, stealing, or even hating or causing injury to others.  There is only one being to have ever walked this earth that didn’t need God’s grace, forgiveness and mercy – Jesus.

Charles Spurgeon wrote in his prayer “Deliver Us From Evil about mercy.

“We come for mercy, great God.  It must always be our first request, for we have sinned against a just and holy law of which our consciences approve.  We are evil, but Your law is holy and just and good.  We have offended knowingly.”

Charles Spurgeon

I knew having sex outside of marriage was wrong.  I knew having unprotected sex outside of marriage was stupid.  And yet I did it time after time.  God gifted me with mercy over and over.  He also gifted me with mercy when He delivered the right man to me to become my husband.  I didn’t deserve him.  I was a mess.  After 31 years of marriage I still thank God my husband has stuck with me as I erase the ways I learned while outside of God’s justification. And I know now, it’s time for me to pick up my part of the bargain.

Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy.

Matthew 5:7

I’m grateful that God flipped this admonition.  He has done it with so many of us.  He has shown us the mercy we didn’t deserve.  We need to pass that glorious gift along to others.  There are those in our lives that we hope to fail, that we wish ill will, that we hope will “get their just due.”  Aren’t we thankful that God doesn’t think the same about us?

For about two years I worked as a substitute in a high school office.  I job-shared for a woman who was completing her counseling certification.  There were two positions like mine.  When the other position was filled with a young woman I was encouraged by her enthusiasm.  She was full of ideas and brought a cheery face to the job.  And then she started being late every day.  At times she wouldn’t even show up.  When she did show up, I would find her on Facebook or on personal phone calls.  Her failings impacted my job.  I became bitter because, hey, I was just a substitute.  Why should I have to make up for her issues when she was an actual employee?  I found myself driving to work dreading what was to come.  I actually prayed she would get hit by a bus so I wouldn’t have to deal with her anymore.  Yes, I did that.

The turmoil got so bad I considered quitting.  But I knew that would leave others, whom I considered friends, in a difficult situation.  Three months in, I sat at an intersection on the way to work.  It was a long red light.  The Holy Spirit descended on me in the car.  I had my Perspective Change Moment.  What I should have been doing all along was praying for God to intervene positively in her life.  I could have left her to do two people’s jobs and/or complain endlessly to the supervisor, but I needed to show mercy and love.  So, I prayed every day for the next week that God would resolve the problem.  For God to help her.  For God to take control.  The peace that came over me was amazing!

After that one week she resigned.  And a good friend of mine who had been a finalist for the job previously was hired.  God is good.  God is forgiving.  God, thankfully, is merciful.   I love this quote by Christopher Columbus about mercy:

I am a most noteworthy sinner, but I have cried out to the Lord for grace and mercy, and they have covered me completely.  I have found the sweetest consolation since I made it my whole purpose to enjoy His marvelous presence.

To whom do you need to show mercy?  How has God been merciful to you?