Tag Archives: mercy

Seek First

Matthew 6:33

33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

It is so easy to get my priorities messed up. It seems life throws things at me so quickly I have trouble deciding what should come next. Even now, when I am not working full time, my time is in high demand from so many projects. It seems I flutter around like a honeybee goes to various flowers, trying to get a little from each one to take back to the hive. He never spends too long on one flower, and wants to get to many flowers before he heads back. This is me, project after project, one at a time for short amounts of time.

I have considered setting up some kind of schedule now that I am home all day, but have not come to any determination on that. The following things would have to fit into that schedule:

respond to email
respond to text messages
writing projects which include
Poetry when the Lord gives me something
This blog from the sermon on the mount
My next book project, which is about my cancer battle
Working on the maps that I update (this is my paying job right now)
Building my web site
Worship service for church each Sunday – this has several pieces:
Choosing the songs
Pulling sheet music
Printing up a word sheet (we do a lot of choruses)
Power point for the big screen
Checking Facebook
Taking care of our puppy – inside and out (he does not like to be left outside)
Fixing meals (my wife works 2 jobs, so I fix most meals for my granddaughter and me)
Laundry
House cleaning
Grocery shopping

Now, let’s see, what am I forgetting? Oh yes, time with God. How could I forget that!

It’s easy to see how I could forget that with all the other things I try to work on each and every day. I am not even working again yet, and I am lost in a sea of constantly doing something. What is going to happen when I get back to my job as an independent insurance agent for Aflac? How will my time work out then?

Believe me, if I could afford to, I would not go back to work. God has blessed me with the ability to write, and much of that will have to be forfeited when I am on the road again. I can’t see how I will have the time. Right now, my days goes from 4:30 to 9:30 or 10 each day. I do take about 20 minutes each morning to spend in the word, dong a bible study with a friend of mine. We work out of the same book and text our thoughts back and forth, with a little prayer, every day. I am utilizing scripture many times in my writing through the day. My mind is on Him, praying or just meditating even as I go through my daily tasks. But is this putting Him first? Is my schedule designed to make sure God gets priority in my life each day? I am inclined to say no, it is not. I am inclined to think I should make a more precise schedule which would keep me on task each day. It might look something like this:

4:30-5:30 – Time in the word. Praying, reading, meditating on God and His words
5:30-6:15 – Take out the dog and check email, play a couple games
6:15-7:15 – Breakfast and time with my wife watching news
7:15-9:15 – Working on maps
9:15-9:30 – take a break
9:30-10:30 – Chores and errands, take dog out
10:30-11:30 – work on maps
11:30-12:15 – fix lunch for my wife and I
12:15-1:15 – writing
1:15-3:15 – work on maps
3:15-4:30 – email, games, talk with a friend, take dog out
4:30 – 5:00 – time with wife between jobs
5:00 – 6:00 – fix and eat supper
6:00 – 8:00 – work on maps or write
8:00 until bedtime – relax, take dog out

Would this work? Maybe. Maybe I should try it. I never have scheduled myself that thoroughly. I have some elements missing even from this. Exercising, whether it’s walking or riding my bike, will have to be fit in once the weather improves around here (March). More time with the Lord is something I need to work on and there is no room for that. Poems come up at all sorts of time and I need to write them down when God gives them to me or I’ll lose them. Phone interruptions come often.

And what will happen if and when I get back to my Aflac work? All this goes out the window and has to be condensed down to early morning and late evening hours. Aflac has to take primetime from 8 to 4 or 5 each day. Then there will be paperwork to do at night. It will all become quite a blur. I have thought about just ding Aflac part time but if I did it would not provide the income I need right now.

Why do I tell you all this? It is simply to say that life is busy for all of us. I am not working full time and I don’t have the time for anything extra. Much of this stuff that I do now I was not doing before I came down with cancer and stopped working Aflac. God has repurposed my life. Now I need to find ways to put Him first amidst the chaos of my day. How do I do that? How do you do that?

If you don’t schedule like the above (which I don’t) it is still critical that you do schedule time with God each day. It can be anytime of day you desire, but I recommend first thing in the morning. There are several reasons for this thinking:

If you don’t take time now and you are busy, you can just set your alarm earlier to take time with God. It is easier to do that than to try to squeeze Him in somewhere in the middle of the day, or stay up later to do some reading and praying.

Taking time first thing in the morning seems to make the whole day go better, at least for me. God’s word is an uplifting influence no matter where you study. It will set the stage for your whole day, and you can carry the things you learned and read with you all day long.

If you are scheduling time in the morning, it is unlikely anything will interrupt that time. If you schedule during the day or evening, it is very easy for interruptions or other options to come up, and then your time with God will be diminished.

But seeking first the kingdom is even more than this. It is keeping Him in your thoughts all day long. The word tells us to rejoice in the Lord always (Phil 4:4), pray without ceasing (I Thess 5:17) and acknowledge Him in all our ways (Prov 3:6). There should never a moment pass when we are not mindful of His mercy and grace toward us. There should never be a moment that we are not ready to praise Him, pray for others, or give an account for the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15). We must be instant in season and out (2 Timothy 4:2), ready to give a word to someone who needs to hear it. We must be ready, willing and able to show mercy whenever confronted with someone who needs mercy, as Jesus did. We musty make sure our words and actions are there to minister grace to those who hear and see them (Eph 4:29).

You see, putting God first is more than just scheduling Him into your day. It is more than just taking time to read scripture and study a book. It is a lifestyle. It is our “conversation” as the KJV puts it. Everything we do and say comes from our relationship to Him. If we are close to God, our words and actions will speak of Christ and His love wherever we go. My best friend has been close and has been drifting in His life. I can always tell when he is drifting away again because His language starts to get bad again. I will tell Him when I see this happening and sometimes he gets mad and defends Himself, and sometimes he takes the word of rebuke and thanks me for it. In either case, I will always tell Him. It is my duty as His friend and brother in the Lord.

We are to be a light that shines in the darkness (Matt 5:14-16), lighting the way so others will be drawn to the Lord. We are to be salt (Matt 5:13) making others thirsty for the things of God. We are supposed to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, take in the stranger, clothe the naked and visit those in prison (Matt 25:35-36). We are to love one another because that is how we show we are His disciples (John 13:35). Everything we do or say reflects our relationship to God. Putting Him first means putting others first (Phil 2:2-4).

Not only are we to minister to others as a way of putting God first, this verse says we should seek out those opportunities to touch others for the Lord. We should seek out the lost and lead them to Christ, we should seek those that are sick and pray for them, or those in prison and minister to them. We should seek opportunities to feed the hungry and provide shelter to the homeless. There are opportunities to do these things all around us every day. Jesus travelled hundreds of miles during His ministry seeking ones who needed to know about the kingdom, preaching, teaching, healing and delivering every step of the way. He was our example, sent from God to show us the kingdom. He said the kingdom was here within us! When we first seek His kingdom, the rest of our needs will not be near as concerning to us. We will be walking as he walked, in harmony with God, knowing that others are being touched.

So do not think about seeking God first as putting Him into your schedule. I spent a lot of time on that just to show the futility of it. Think of putting Him first as your lifestyle, as a result of everything you do during each and every day. Seek Him in those you come in contact with and minister to those who have a need. Do take time in His word, in prayer and in meditation on the things of God, but don’t do only that. There is so much more to His kingdom.

Jesus said we cannot even see the kingdom of God unless we have been born again (John 3:3). He said except a man be born of water and of the spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God. It is wonderful to seek the kingdom, but we will never find it if we have not done what Jesus told us to do, be born again. We have to put off the old man, and put on the new man (Ephesians 2:22-24). How do you do that? It is very simple.

Romans 9:9-10

9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Romans 10:13 says that anyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. Come into the kingdom today, seek Him first above all else and your deepest needs will all be met

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Are You Forgiven?

Matthew 6:14-15

14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Jesus has just finished giving His disciples a prayer that will last through the ages.  He tells them how to pray, and still today many churches recite this prayer in every single service they hold  It has become a sacred prayer for all, and is learned by children from a very young age.  We call it the Lord’s Prayer.

After such a powerful, heart-felt prayer, what is the one thing Jesus pulls out of that prayer to expound on?  Not God’s holiness, not the kingdom, not God’s will, not provision, but forgiveness.  The wording in the Lord’s prayer is very interesting to me, and I believe many of us miss this.  A good friend of mine pointed this out in a comment on my last post, and it is worth taking a deeper look at.

When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we are asking God to forgive us in the same measure that we forgive others. “Forgive us our debts AS we forgive our debtors”.  That word AS means in the same way, or to the same extent.  We are asking God to look at our track record in dealing out forgiveness, and asking Him to give us the same amount.  This begs the question “Are You Forgiven?”

While it is true that God promises forgiveness all through the Bible, these words of Jesus should be a wake up call to all of us.  Isaiah 1:18 says that our sins, which are scarlet, shall be white as snow.  ! John 1:9 says if we confers our sins God will forgive us and cleanse us.  Ephesians 1:17 says through Him we have forgiveness of sin. Isiah 43:25 says he blots out our transgressions. Psalm 103:12 says He removes our sins as far as the east is from the west.

Think for a moment about what Christ has forgiven you of!  Let’s start with the Ten Commandments.

  1. No other Gods before Him.  I have put plenty of things before God in my lifetime.  I have made many things more important than God.    Guilty as charged!
  1. No graven images. I have worshipped other things,  Drugs, alcohol, bowling, Toastmasters.  They have been like images I worshipped.  Guilty as charged,
  1. Do not take His name in vain. Thousands of times Guilty as charged!
  1. Keep the Sabbath Holy. I still struggle with this one today.  Guilty as charged.
  1. Honor Father and Mother. I rebelled as a teenager and disregarded my Mom for many years.  Hated my date for decades.  Guilty as charged!
  1. No murder. How many people have I said I wished were dead, or treated with such disregard they were dead to me.  Guilty as charged!
  1. No adultery. Before marriage, yes.  After marriage, with my eyes I did for many years.  Guilty as charged!
  1. Don’t steal. Over and over and over again.  From money out of the till when I was  a teenager to officer supplies as an adult.  Guilty as charged!
  1. Bear false witness. Who reading this has never lied?  Guilty as charged!
  1. Do not covet. Our lives are filled with covetousness, and I succumb to some of those enticements. Guilty as charged!

I would be in a world of trouble if not for the atoning blood of Jesus Christ!  I have been guilty of all 10 commandments and many other laws of the Bible.  Yet in His mercy, He gave His blood as an atonement for my sins, paying the price for me.  Not only that, He separated that sin from me and it is forgotten, and removed as far as the east from the west.  In God’s eyes, I am as white as snow.  He sees no sin that I have repented from and have covered with His blood.  He only sees Christ’s righteousness in me.

Isn’t that the kind of forgiveness we desire?  A forgiveness that removes all past transgressions and forgets about them,.  A forgiveness that will not remind us of our past, but only spurs us on to the future? A forgiveness that holds no ill-will against the sinner and only wishes the most for them?  Of course it is!

Now let’s go back to the Lords prayer.  “Forgive us as debts as we forgive our debtors”

Is this the way we have forgiven out debtors?  Forgotten the transgression?  Put it in the past?  Never brought it up again?  My intuition tells me we are a far distance from that model.  I know I am at times.  First there is the forgive and forget part of it.  I think all of us would admit that we are truly glad God forgives us and forgets it.  But do I do that for others?  Most of the time I think I do, but there are just some things I have real difficulty forgetting.  I hear it said all the time that a person forgave someone else, but they certainly won’t forget it.  Yet we expect God to forget our previous sins.  Jesus says God forgives to the extent we do.  How many people are in your life that you have something you have not forgiven them for?  Or maybe you have forgiven them, but you have not forgotten it?  Is this the kind of forgiveness that you want from God?  I am sure it is not.  God does expect us to forget those past hurts – to put them behind us and move on.  He certainly does that with us!

The second point is that we never bring that offense up again.  If we have forgotten it, we will not bring it back up.  But if we have not, we should never use that past hurt against them.  We should never bring it up to them again if we have forgiven them.  Imagine if God brought up all your past sins to you!  That is the devil’s specialty, my friend.  The devil is real good at reminding us of our past mistakes.  When we do that to someone else, we are on his side, not God’s!  Make sure you are never bringing up past hurts to someone, but instead spurring them on to good works.  Speak only those things that will minister grace (Ephesians 4:29).  Don’t help the devil out in his attempts to destroy someone else.  Instead, help God out in forgetting those past hurts and being a minister of grace.

The third point is that we hold no ill-will against the person that has hurt us.  If we have forgiven them (and hopefully we have) and forgotten that hurt (hopefully we have), than we have no reason whatsoever to hold ill-will against them.  We are commanded to love one another, and we must do that.  It is not a matter of choice.  Unforgiveness gets in the way of loving our brother.  I have heard people say “I love them but I just can’t forgive them for what they did.”  I say those two things cannot go together.  If you love them, you will forgive them and forget the incident.

The church just has to get in touch with these simple verses.  There are so many arguments in the church because of unforgiveness.  It ruins our marriages, our families, our churches and our witness.  If we would forgive those non-Christians who offend us, imagine what a great witness that would be!  Forgiveness is a key to truly loving people as Christ loved us.

If you have people in your life that you have not forgiven, do it today.  Don’t wait any longer.  If you do not, bitterness will set it.  Bitterness will eat you alive.  It will rob you of peace and joy eventually.  It will destroy your witness, not only to that person but to everyone else.  Bitterness can cause you to become argumentative and a complainer in all areas of life.  And it all stems from unforgiveness.  We are not talking about being sorry here.  We are talking about asking them to forgive you, and forgiving them.  Saying the words “I forgive you” is very powerful.  It frees the other person up.  Being sorry is the easy way out!

If you have people in your life that you have forgiven, but have held onto the hurt, I would first ask you to reconsider whether you have truly forgiven them.  If, with all your heart, you believe you have, then bring that hurt to God and ask Him to help you forget it and put it behind you.  There are times that only God can take away that hurt.

Examine your life and make sure you are walking in forgiveness toward others. Then you will be able to say “A am forgiven.”

 

Silent Mercy

Matthew 6:1-4 KJV

Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.
Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory ofmen. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:
That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.

Let’s face it.  We all like people to know what acts we do for others.  WordPress is full of such instances.  We love to read stories of heroic acts, good deeds and exploits that help other people.  We also like to write about the things we do because it makes for good reading and it makes us feel good.  It also brings nice comments from those who read our blogs.  I for one certainly do not want to see you stop posting these wonderful stories.

Jesus tells us at the beginning of Chapter 6 that we should not tell others of our good deeds, called alms in the KJV.  These acts of mercy are not supposed to be done for the eyes of men.  Jesus equates this to the hypocrites of His time who did their good deeds in the synagogues and streets.  They actually sounded trumpets before they accomplished their acts of mercy so that men would exalt them.  One can only surmise that Jesus was talking about the Scribes, Sadducees and Pharisees but He does not mention them by name.

So what is the difference between the good deeds that are mentioned in the first paragraph and those mentioned in the second paragraph?  There are two distinct differences that I see.  First, the writers of blogs on WordPress do not tell us what they are going to do by trumpeting the merciful act before they accomplish it.  The ones I read tell about the act after it has been done.  This way they are not drawing attention to the fact they are going to do something.  Second, the blog writer always turns their story back to glorifying God and teaching us something about His ways.  The hypocrite of the second paragraph does his acts to bring himself glory. This leads to pride, which is one of the things God hates (Prov 6:16-17)

Jesus tells us that the man in the second paragraph has received any reward he might get here on this earth.  He received the praises of men.  That is his reward.  Maybe he even gained financial means through his good deeds.  Maybe other things came his way because he helped people and told others about his merciful ways.  Whatever the case, they have received their reward.

Then Jesus makes an interesting statement.  He tells us not to let our right hand know what our left hand is doing.  How can I do that?  After all, both hands are controlled by the same brain, so it is next to impossible for one hand to ignore what the other is doing. The idea here is that we should forget the good deeds we do after we do them.  This will prevent us from bragging about them afterward.  No one needs to know what we did for our neighbor, or who we support with our tithes, or what foods things we have done for our church.  Our left hand doesn’t even need to know!  When we keep this things in secret, the Father is glorified and we will receive our reward from Him.

What kinds of rewards will these be?  I believe these rewards can range from financial blessings to good health to peace and joy.  God can give us anything we need and He will give it to us in His time.  When we do things that glorify Him, He does things that help us grow in our relationship with Him and with others.  He always knows exactly what we need.  Why would we ever want to boast about our good deeds and receive our rewards from men?  It is very reminiscent of the Pharisees who would not acknowledge Jesus because “they loved the praises of men more than the praises of God (John 12:43).  Wouldn’t your much rather receive what God has in store for you when you glorify Him?

To those who blog about their good deeds, please don’t stop.  It is very obvious that your intent is not to draw glory to yourself, but to give the glory to God.  We are all blessed by your wonderful stories and how you relate them so poignantly.  Your wonderful words fill our hearts with praise and thanksgiving.  I for one can remember times that I was brought to tears by the unselfish compassion you showed, and how you bring God the glory.  Keep it up!  As long as your motive is not to bring yourself glory you are doing the will of the Father, and that is always a good thing.

The silent mercies we do need to remain silent, both in our own minds and in the minds of others.  There is no reason to talk about these merciful acts unless our intention is for God to be glorified.  There is no reason to bring it back up to the recipient again.  That person knows you have shown them mercy.  It is not something you hold over their head to make them feel indebted to you.  We are to put them behind us and move on.  Do not let the left hand know what the right hand is doing, or has done.  It is finished and it is time to move on in pursuit of Christ (Philippians 3:11-12)

I know someone who fits the second paragraph.  He is always telling other people about gifts he is going to give them or someone else ahead of the fact.  I would call this the trumpeting part.  Then after the deed is done, he tells people that it was accomplished and wants to receive praise from them.  I know this because I am one of the one he tells.  He also keeps bringing up the good things he has done for me and others.  It’s almost like he wants to receive our praise again, or like we now owe him something.  I often want to tell him how wrong this is but am reluctant to because I do not want to hurt our friendship.  And I know how stubborn he can be to others advice.   Do you know anyone like this?  Did you confront them, and if you did how did you handle it?  I would really like to know.

 

May Christ be Exalted

Children of the Father

Matthew 5:45-47 King James Version (KJV)

45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?

47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
Children of the Father! Isn’t that what we all want to be. Here in Matthew Chapter 5, we learn what it is to be Children of the Father. It is not just the previous few verses that are referenced here. It is the entire chapter in my mind. All of Chapter 5 teaches us to treat others with a proliferation of gentleness, mercy and justice. We are to treat all the same, Christian or non-Christian, friend or enemy. No matter what their race, sex, religion, favorite football team or what type of car they drive. We treat all the same, because our Father in heaven sends rain on all, not just some. I have never seen God single out just one field of a farmer to rain upon, or one house to keep protected from the rain. God has the ability to do that, but He does not. He rains on all. He brings the sun up for all, and He paints a beautiful sunset for all. He brings the flowers out of the ground to bloom, puts the birds in the air to sing, brings the wind to cool or warm. He places the stars at night, makes the moon take flight and makes the sun shine bright. He does this for everyone, good or bad, evil or righteous, if our Father in heaven treats all the same, why should we treat them differently?

We have a responsibility as Christians to show people who our Father is. Our choices are simple. We are either children of God or children of Satan. When the Scribes and Pharisees said the did not believe Jesus, He said they were of their father the devil (John 8:44). It’s simple a matter of who they believed. The same goes for us. If we believe God, we will do what God asks us to do. If we do not believe God, we believe the devil and that makes him our father. It all goes back to Adam, where the serpent convinced them God lied to them and was withholding something that was good for them. In fact, he convinced them that they could be just like God if they would listen to him. They listened and soon found out they had made a big mistake. Boy, I’ll say they did. It has been carried in the seed of man since that day, passed down from generation to generation every time the seed of man impregnates the egg of a woman. The only way we rid ourselves of that seed of sin within us, that seed of disobedience, is to accept the sinless sacrifice of Jesus Christ. He was born without the seed of sin because Mary was impregnated by the Holy Spirit, not by man. The seed of sinful man was never a part of Christ’s body as it is in every one of us. He came as the sinless Lamb of God, gentle, loving, full of mercy and grace, healing all who came to him regardless of who they were. He died on the cross free of sin, but took on your sin that you might be free. Free to love as He loved.

We miss the mark so much when we don’t love all those around us. Not just those that love us, but those that do not as well. Our love needs to extend to all, and it is expounded beautifully in Matthew Chapter 5. Be humble, mourn over sin, be meek, be hungry for doing right, be merciful, have a pure heart, be a peacemaker and don’t get rustled by persecution. As we put all these things into practice, we become the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Jesus said He is the light of the world, and He also said we are the light of the world! We must shine that light brightly and at all times for all people. This is our testimony and our witness of the Father. It will draw people to Him.
We still have a responsibility to follow the commandments, not get angry, seek reconciliation and do all we can to stay away from any offenses. We must keep our most sacred covenants of marriage just that, and not fall into adultery with our eyes. We must not commit ourselves to things we won’t fulfill and instead do more than is expected of us. That is what love is – all of the above. Jesus has outlined in this short chapter how we can be Children of the Father. Lesson after lesson, line after line brings us closer to that achievement. All we need to do now is to follow what He has told us. The Children of the Father do what the Father asks, just as Jesus did. His will must prevail in our lives, not our will.

This is the defining different between whether we are His children of not, Do we do His will? Many will ask what His will is. I would say it’s pretty well defined in the Bible and showed to us by Jesus life on this earth. His will is mercy. Mercy for all, not just the pure and just, but for the downtrodden and ignorant. Jesus had mercy on all, even the religious rulers who came against Him. His words against them were to draw them back to God, not to drive them away. It was to encourage them to consider their ways and return to the heart of the law. It has always fascinated me that the second greatest commandment is buried in the middle of the book of Leviticus (19:18). It is not in a place where it stands out for all to see. It’s in the heart of the 5 books of the law. Love your neighbor as yourself. Simple and to the point. This is the will of God.
I wrote a chorus last year that expresses my heart in relation to doing God’s will and am going to link you to the music. Not the best production, but you can see my heart. Here are the words:

Wherever you ask me to go, I’ll go
Whatever you ask me to do, I’ll do
Whatever you ask me to say I’ll say

Whatever you want me to give, I’ll give
However you want me to live, I’ll live
Whoever you want me to love. I’ll love

Because I am yours, all yours
I have given all my heart and soul to you
Eternally yours, all yours
Help me live my life to glorify your name

Love Your Enemies

Matthew 5:43-44 (KJV)

43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

There is an interesting shift here that I have not caught before. In the last three cases where Jesus says “Ye have heard it hath been said”, the references He gave were all scriptural from the Old Testament teachings. But there is nowhere in the Old Testament where they are told to hate their enemies. Instead, we are told to not take vengeance, to consider their afflictions and to help them when we can:

Leviticus 19:18
”You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord,”

Exodus 23:4-5
“If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey wandering away, you shall surely return it to him. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying helpless under its load, you shall refrain from leaving it to him, you shall surely release it with him,” 
Proverbs 25:21
“If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink,” 

One has to wonder who was saying to hate their enemies! It is true that the Old Testament commanded them to rid their land of all who were of other religious, but it was not out of hate that they did this. It was to keep themselves pure before the Lord and avoid turning to those idols themselves. They failed miserably at this most of the time though! They regularly would turn back to the groves and idols of the heathen and God would have to step in with judgement to turn them back. It was a continual process in the nation.

This seems to be a continual process for many of us in the church, me included. There are idols in our lives that we turn back to over and over again. An idol is anything that we worship more than God. It can be an area of disobedience in our lives that we keep turning back to, or just a part of our loves that pushes God out. When this happens to us, God will allow things into our lives that will cause us to turn back to Him if we will but listen and open our eyes. We are not to bring hate into our lives to get rid of the sin. That will only draw attention to the sin. The way out of sin is to love God and turn to Him, because that automatically turns us away from our sinfulness. If we try to get rid of sin by hating it, we concentrate on the sin and not on God This is a critical lesson we must learn before we can move forward. Love is always the answer!

The command is to love our neighbor as ourselves. It is not love the neighbor that is good to you, or that is a Christian, or that has similar likes and dislikes. It is your neighbor. Any neighbor. When Jesus is asked who our neighbor is, He gives us the story of the Good Samaritan, where the enemy of the Jews is the neighbor who does good to the Jew, his neighbor.

Have you ever noticed how sometime non-Christians are much more loving and helpful than Christians? They will go out of their way to help you out while the committed Christian always has an excuse not to help. We have had this happen numerous times in our lives, especially during this cancer crises the last two and a half years. Almost all of our transportation has been provided, most of it by those we would call nominal Christians if really saved at all. They go to church, but do not really live a committed Christian life. However, when it comes to helping someone in need, they are there quickly. This has been such a blessing to me and my wife. I am not their enemy, but you get the idea here. We as Christians always need to do the best we can to help our neighbors when they ask.

Our enemy is even more important to love. If we show disrespect to them, or try to get revenge, or come back at them with some snide remark, we are no better than the world. We bring ourselves down to their level of communication, and the word tells us that our mission is to edify those around us (Eph 4:29). We are to lift people up. We are to be a light in this dark world. Shining brightly with love and compassion. We are to be the salt of the earth, seasoning it with good flavor and preserving it for heaven. We are to be humble, meek, mournful over sin, merciful and peacemakers. We are to endure any persecution that comes our way, any hurtful comment, any gossip, and wrong, and only return love.

We are also told to do good to those that use and abuse us. Don’t recompense evil with evil, but overcome evil with good (1 Peter 3:9). We overcome the wrongs done to us by returning good to those who have hurt us. A loving remark said to someone who says something hurtful really throws them for a loop. Most can’t understand that kind of love. It gives us a stage to witness down the road. But more than that, it keeps us from getting bitter over the situation. Our anger is removed by love. We will start to love them despite their hurtful ways, and our heart will be more aware of what is going on.

The truth is that we do not know exactly what is going on in a persons life that they would say or do hurtful things to us. They may have a situation in their life that is dragging them down so they need encouragement. They may have been hurt deeply and want to lash out at someone and you just happened to be the target. Whatever the case, we should be agents of love to them. Saying things that would only lift them out of their problems and help them see the brighter side of life.

On top of that, we are to pray for those who hurt us. Earlier in these studies, I shared with you the Mercy prayer . This prayer is perfect to use for those who have wronged you and offended you. It prays mercy over that one who has hurt you and it works to change your heart as well as theirs. The power of prayer cannot be overlooked in our human relations. It is the most powerful force in the universe because it brings into action the power of God Himself. I would urge you, if you struggle in this area, to go back and print out that prayer. Keep it handy for future use. It will change your life. This world can be hurtful enough. Let us rise above and be the agents of love to a lost and dying world.

Jesus, worthy of our praise!

Blessed are the Merciful

Matthew 5:7

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

 

What is it about being merciful that is so hard for the Christian to understand?  I see more and more cases of mercy being thrown out the window by people who call themselves Christians.  A lack of mercy shows up in the form of backbiting, gossiping, blaming, envy, jealousy, strife, contention – the list goes on and on – within the church.  This is a direct result of the world invading the church.  How has this happened?

First, let’s take a look at what mercy is.  Webster’s defines mercy as “compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one’s power.”  or “a blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion” or “compassionate treatment of those in distress”.  I like all three of these definitions, and all three should be applied by us.  When we look st Strong’s Concordance.many different words are used for mercy.  All of them focus around having pity and compassion on others.  It is both a noun and a verb and when used as a verb the text is always mercy that is shown.  In other words it is an action taken that someone else benefits from.

A study I just went through, called “What the Bible says about Mercy” by Rex Andtews (I highly recommend this book which is readily available on Amazon) describes mercy as God’s supply system for every need.  I love this definition.  By His mercy, He supplies us with the things we need in life as we follow Him and ask for those things.  He also supplies the answers to our prayers through mercy.  When we pray mercy for others, God goes into action.   Especially when we pray mercy for those who have wronged us or hurt us.  This is the ultimate intercession – asking God to have mercy on our enemy.  Jesus told us to bless those who persecute us, which is a giving of mercy.

Mercy is to have compassion on someone else, pure and simple.  It is an action, not just a feeling.  Mercy helps someone in need, prays for someone afar off, provides for someone when they are down, visits the sick and those in prison, clothes the naked, and takes care of the fatherless and the window.  Mercy is a calling on every Christians life.  If you want to walk in the will of God, simply do mercy at every opportunity.

In Exodus 34:5-7, God describes Himself:

And the Lord descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord.  And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,    Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.

God says He is Merciful, Gracious, longsuffering, good and true.  These are the primary attributes of God, and thus should also be our primary attributes.  We are  made in the image of God (Gen 3:26)  This image is His spiritual image.  The calling on all of our lives is to be more like Jesus, right?  Jesus walked as an ambassador of God.  He was God in the flesh.  And what did He do while he was on this earth?  He healed all who came to Him, He fed the hungry, He visited the outcast.  He showed mercy everywhere He went.  And we should too.  It is not an option, it is a requirement.

Micah 6:8 says

He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”

God requires that we do justly, love mercy and walk humbly before Him.  To do justly means to act without prejudice, bias or anything else that would deem one person less worthy of our mercy than another.  To love mercy means that we share it wherever we go.  It takes walking in humility to do this on a consistent basis because we have to put the other first and consider their feelings above our own.  These three things are intimately tied together and they are required of those who love God.  How are you doing with these three things?  I still have a lot to learn, but I strive to do my best.

This is a direct result of the previous lesson, hungering and thirsting after righteousness. In fact, since we haven’t talked about this before, the beatitudes build on one another.  They are put in this order for a reason.  Jesus never speaks just to put words out there,  He spoke lessons that come with a certain order, and this list at the beginning of Matthew Chapter 5 is a great example.  Above all, we must be poor in spirit, or humble, to even begin to see the rest of the list begin to work in our lives.  Next, we must mourn about our own shortcomings and sins.  To do this takes humility.  We must also mourn over the sins of others to the point that we want to see them saved.  Jesus mourned to the point of death over my sin.  Then in meekness we can walk in the power of God without being overbearing or confrontational.  This meekness is a result of the humility in out heart and the grief over our own sin.  It allows us to speak and teach with authority while maintaining civility.  As we walk in this meekness, we start to hunger and thirst to do the right thing – for righteousness.  This righteousness in our lives then shows itself as we do mercy,  Do you see the progression?  Have you taken the steps accordingly?  

The wonderful result of being merciful is that we will then obtain mercy. In Exodus 33:19 we read:

And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.

God decides who He will show mercy to, not us.  And He says in Matt 5:7 that those who are merciful will obtain mercy.  I desire God’s mercy every day of my life, don’t you?  This is a guaranteed way to receive it.  Don’t get me wrong, though.  Having God’s mercy working in your life does not mean you will be free from trials or test.  These will still come.  These are the perfecting agents for our faith (see my study on Patiently Perfected).  But in the midst of our trials, we can see God’s mercy being poured out if we just look for it.  In the midst of our struggles we can still do mercy.  Doing God’s mercy in the midst of our own battles is what will carry us through.  Mercy is always available to us, in every situation, at any time.  I depend on it daily.  And I show it all I can.

My hope and prayer is that the church will rise up and start to carry out the second greatest commandment.  Thou shalt love the neighbor as thyself.  This is mercy enacted.  No more bickering and clamoring.  No more argument and strife.  No more backbiting and gossiping.  Preach the word of God and not man’s doctrine and these things can be accomplished.  Show mercy at ever opportunity.  The first and most effective way we show mercy is by the words we speak.  Ephesians 4:29 eloquently puts it this way:

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

That your words will always minister grace to the hearers.  That is showing mercy.  That is the call of God and the road to mercy for you.  Start today to live out this verse, and we will see it become contagious, spread through our churches and bring unity once again to the body of Christ.  A unity of mercy!

To close this lesson, I would like to share with you two other things from Rex Andrew’s book.  The first is his full definition of mercy:

Mercy is God’s supply system for every need everywhere
Mercy is that kindness, compassion and tenderness which is a passion to suffer with, or participate in, another’s ills or evils in order to relieve, heal and restore.
Mercy accepts another freely and gladly as he is and supplies the needed good of life to build up and to bring to peace and keep in peace.
Mercy is to take another into one’s hearts JUST AS HE IS and cherish and nourish him there.
Mercy takes another’s sins and evils and faults as its own and frees the other by bearing them to God.

This is the Glow-of-Love.

This is the Anointing.

The second thing is called the Mercy prayer.  This is a prayer that should be prayed for anyone who comes into our mind, especially those who we are offended, hurt or angered by or upset with.  It is a powerful prayer that God will answer and helps diffused the situation.

MERCY PRAYER

 

  • Lord, I thank you for _______________ .        

         I thank you for saving him.  I thank you for what you      

          have done and are doing in his life

                             Eph1:16: Phil. 4:6, Col 1:3, 1 Thes 1:2: 5:18; 2 Thes 2:13

 

  • Make ______________ to know Jesus.

       Help him to increase in the knowledge of God.  Destroy speculations and every lofty thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God and help him to bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

                John 17:3; 2 Cor. 10:5; Col 1:10; 2:3; 3:10

 

  • Make ________________poor in spirit.

      Bring him down, Lord, but please do it gently.  Help him to see his neediness.  Help him to see himself in light of you.  Put him in his rightful place.

                Ps. 51:17; Matt. 5:3; Prov. 29:23; Isa. 66:2; 1 Peter 5:5

 

  • Fill ________________ with your Holy Spirit.

      Immerse him in your spirit Lord.  Come to him in power and might.  Baptize him in fire Lord.

                Luke 3:16; John 1:3; Gal 5:16; Eph 5:18; Acts 2:17, 18, 38

 

      Life him according to your Thy loving-kindness.  Pour out your life giving mercies into his soul.

                Ps.  80:18; 119:25, 37, 50, 88, 107, 149, 154, 156, 159, Ps. 143:11; Ro 8:11

 

  • Bless ______________________.

      Lord, bless him in everything he touches.  Bless him spiritually, physically and financially.  Bless his loved ones.  Do for him, Lord, instead of me.

                Gen. 12:1-3; prov. 10:22; Matt 5:44; ro. 12:14, 20; I Peter 2:23; 3:9

 

  • Mercy ________________________.

      Flood him with need- filling mercies. Pour them out in super abundance.  Find and meet every need in his life. 

Flood the one I am looking at in my heart and mind with fulfilling mercies, filling all his need.  As you have mercied me, so mercy him.          Ps. 86:5; Hosea 6:6; Matt 9:13; 2 Cor 1:3

My suggestion is that you pray about these two passages from the book and incorporate them into your lives.  Mercy will come alive to you when you do.

 

Be Blessed!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Restore Your Brother

Galatians 6:1-2 (KJV)

1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.
2 Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

Is there anyone reading this who has not, at one time or another, been overtaken in a fault? I would guess at one time or another, we have all stumbled in our walk with the Lord. The Greek word used here is paraptóma, which means a falling away, lapse, sin or trespass. In the KJV, it is usually translated offence, while in other translations it is commonly trespass. It is from the root word that means to side-step or fall back. The meaning we can take from it is that this person has fallen back into a previous sin, or has become wayward in their walk with the Lord. This person has been overtaken and needs help.

Throughout the Bible, God warns His people about this kind of condition. In the Old Testament we see this addressed several times. In Deuteronomy 28:14r, Moses tells the people not to turn aside from the commands of God, not to the right or the left to serve other idols and other gods. After finishing their wandering in the wilderness, they are told not to veer to the right or to the left from God’s law (Joshua 1:7). In Proverbs 4:27, turning to the right or the left is equated with doing evil. In every case, we are looking aft a person who has wandered off the path toward God. And Paul says it is our duty to restore them!

I’m going to get very personal now because it is the best way I can tell you how this works. In the past, I have had a problem with pornography. It got so bad that I was looking at things on company computers. I had they keys to our various locations, and I would travel there early to fulfill my lust. I even printed things out on our top of the line copiers. To top that off, I am the one who wrote the company policy the dos and don’ts of computer usage. My actions were the height of pride. I thought myself above the very rules that I had written.

When it was discovered what I had been doing, I was immediately terminated. Twenty years down the drain. When I got home, I called my wife and asked her tom come home early from work. I then spilled it out to her. She said we needed to get with my Pastor, so we did that as soon as he was available – the next day. I had lied to him too, and he was deeply hurt. He said to give him a little time to think about what to do next. I had disgraced him and his church.

The result of his inquiries was a place called Pure Life Ministries. PLM was a destination for people with sexual sin, especially those in leadership in a church. I would have to raise a lot of money up front, be gone for at least 6 months, and leave my family behind. But my Pastor said I would never set foot in his church again if I did not go. With the full support of my wife and family, I went and it was the best thing I have ever done for myself and for my family.

Meanwhile my wife decided to go back to a church we had gone to before for 10 years. They accepted her in with open arms, and when I returned they accepted me as well. No questions, no love lost, no regrets. I told the Pastor at that church why I had been gone and it did not phase him in the least. They loved us back into God’s grace. They strengthened my wife so she was strong enough to see the whole thing out. This was 10 years ago.

Today, we are still at that church. I am back in ministry and free from the sexual sin that had made me turn to the right and the left. My wife and I will be celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary this November. While our marriage suffered tremendously, we still love each other. My kids are all wonderful and loving. Had it not been for those people who restored us when the world came tumbling down around us, we would have tumbled along with it.

This is what Paul is talking about. There is a saying that the church is one place that eats its own wounded. I have seen this happen as well. Someone falls into sin, and the church turns its back on them. They want top cast out the person who has sinned. Yes, Paul does talk about this in Corinthians, but he is talking about continual open sin. Not a slip or fall. Jesus tells us to go directly to a person who is overtaken in a fault. If that does not restore them, we should take someone with us the second time. If that does not work, then bring it up before the church. Finally, they should be asked to leave the church. Without following the right steps, we are walking to the left or the right of the law ourselves.

The other danger is that we will be drawn away into our own pitfall. If we allow pride to set in, and turn against the one who is struggling, we are guilty as well. That is why Paul says we should restore them in the spirit of meekness. Meekness helps us to understand it is God who is doing the restoring, not us. As we allow the spirit of God to work through us, and put our own thoughts and ambitions behind us, all of us will be the better for it. Don’t allow yourself to fall into the trap!

Bearing each other’s burdens means we uphold each other, encourage each other, forgive each other and love each other. I love Ephesians 4:29 in this context:

29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

That it may minister grace to the hearers. That is what we are supposed to be – ministers of grace. We were given an incredible amount of grace. We should be giving that grace to others. How do we minister grace? We walk in the Spirit, displaying the fruit of the spirit at every turn. How do we do that? We stay close to God ourselves, not turning to the right or the left.

The end of verse 2 says that by doing this, we fulfill the law of Christ.  You might wonder how obeying these two simple verses fulfill the law of Christ.  There is so much more that we can do.  What about winning souls?  Opening blind eyes?  Praying for the sick?   Feeding the hungry?  Clothing the naked?  How does this fulfill the law of Christ?  It’s really quite simple.  The law of Christ can be summed up in one word – Mercy.  When we show mercy, we are doing the work of Christ.  His whole mission was Mercy.  He was Mercy in the flesh.  When we are doing the Father’s business, we are doing mercy.

My mercy guide your every thought, word and action.  Let everyone see that you are all about mercy.  Let mercy be the deciding factor in every decision you need to make.  Let mercy reign!