Tag Archives: mercy

A Gift for You

​A tree was planted in Israel in memory of my wife.  The words get blurry as I type that…  I received a notice in the mail about that wonderful gift and stood, transfixed, as I tried to imagine what sort of tree and where it was planted.  Then, who would one day find shade beneath it.  These days my mailbox is almost entirely stuffed with junk mail.  But that gift notice was a precious exception.

Here’s a gift notice for you, if you would like to have it.  It’s for everyone who follows Jesus in faith.  It’s not very long, but warrants spending a bit of time trying to imagine all the what, when and where implications.

Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love.  (2 John 1:3)

Toss the envelope if you want, but hang on to the gift tag.  You’ll want to go back and reread it from time to time…

Draw Near

Direct deposit of your paycheck is convenient, but it lacks the personal touch between you and your boss.  Imagine how different it would be to stand before him and have him ask how things are going and then open his wallet, pull out a few twenties and settle up with you. That would feel different.  How would it feel to ask your boss to pay you for work that you had not done – perhaps you had gotten sick or maybe just couldn’t accomplish what he wanted?   You go stand before him and ask him to please pay you anyway.  There are some things about that interaction – both awkward things and good things – that could not happen by direct deposit.  

It strikes me that when it comes to receiving mercy and grace from God, it’s not a matter of direct deposit into our accounts.  It’s not impersonal.  God invites us to draw near to Him in the throne room.  Not hesitantly or fearfully, but confidently.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  (Hebrews 4:16)
It’s personal, this mercy thing.  Face to face.  It’s not, “Check’s in the mail” or, “You don’t need to ask, I’ve got you on autopay.”  It’s, “Come on in, I’m glad to see you.  Let’s talk about how you are doing.”  That’s a bit of why you hear people say, “God is so good…”

For Sure

Here’s the truth for Ann Maree, things she knows with certainty in Heaven:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

                                                           (Psalm 23)

Just Sayin’

It is a good time for those of us who follow Jesus to remember His example.  In His day, the most highly respected people were the super-religious, the ones who made a lifestyle and outward display of doing everything they thought God wanted them to do.  The least respected people were prostitutes and tax collectors (generally considered to be traitorous and dishonest).  And yet,

“Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.  –  (Matthew 21:31b)

Make no mistake: it was not that Jesus approved of the things such people were doing.  To the contrary, He had compassion on them, knowing how much they were hurting inside.  He did not condemn them or marginalize them; He loved them and offered them a new way of life.

Whoever you believe are the lowest and least respectable, the type least likely to be welcomed into religious circles, those are the people among whom you would have found Jesus.  When He engaged in angry rhetoric, it was against those who puffed themselves up with religious pride and looked down upon those who were suffering from destructive choices.  If we become known for angry rhetoric against the ones Jesus came to seek and save, we do not represent Him well.

Jesus Would Have Loved It

You can’t touch the Queen of England.  That is a strict rule of etiquette and tradition.  But back in 1991, there was an African American woman whose childcare facility got a royal visit.  Maybe she didn’t get the memo.  More likely, that rule didn’t compute for her; when you welcome someone in her culture, you give ’em a warm hug.  So that’s what she did!  Everyone gasped, but I’m guessing the Queen loved it…  Best hug she’d had in years, no doubt.

Everyone gasped when Jesus’ disciples picked some heads of grain to eat on a Sabbath day.  The Pharisees were quick to criticize but Jesus told them to back off and get a better understanding of God’s Word.  He said:

“If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.” (Matthew 12:7)

To paraphrase what He meant, God would much rather have us adopt the attitude of His heart than try to earn brownie points by coldly following all the religious rules.  God would rather have you hug Him than stand at a distance and genuflect.  He wants us to have hearts of “mercy.”

“Mercy” weakly translates the Hebrew word, hesed, which is rich with deep meaning.  “Hesed” describes a savory stew of faithfulness, compassion, grace, loyalty, and love all expressed in the context of an intimate relationship.  “Hesed” is the word that is used to characterize the heart of God.  “Hesed” is what He wants most for us to hold in our hearts.  “Hesed” is how God wants us to treat each other.

A group of us were visiting the birthplace of Jesus in Bethlehem.  As we waited in line, someone, who could not contain her joy, began to sing: “Joy to the world, the Lord is born!” Others joined in and our harmonies began to fill the lofty stone arches of the cathedral that had been built to honor this wonderful birth.   But the priests on duty there were having none it.  They descended upon us, scowling and scolding and wagging their fingers.  “No singing in here!”   But I couldn’t help think…

“If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.” (Matthew 12:7)

I couldn’t help think, “Jesus would have loved it.”




Cool New Stuff

When you update an app, you expect it to work better, right?  Sometimes you don’t notice any difference but sometimes your updated app does cool new stuff.  When you trust Jesus, you get more than an update. You get a whole new operating system – the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit definitely comes with cool new stuff.

Like mercy.  We humans are not naturally wired to extend mercy, but God is.  When He described Who He was and what He was like to Moses, God started out with mercy:

And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness…  (Exodus 34:6)

Mercy is the character of God, 101.  Bob Dylan writes songs; God extends mercy.  So, when a person receives God’s Spirit, Who begins to transform how he operates, one cool new result is an increased capacity for mercy – to give it and receive it.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus began by  preaching hope for those who knew they were spiritually bankrupt, for those who mourned their condition and hungered for a soul that worked right (See the previous 4 posts).  He told them they would be comforted and filled, hinting that He would give them the Holy Spirit.  But then Jesus switched gears and began to speak of what happens in a person who is comforted and filled by His Spirit – what the cool new stuff is.  He said:

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.  (Matthew 5:7)

That’s cool new stuff 101.  Those who have the Holy Spirit notice a growing capacity for mercy – to give it and receive it.

It’s not that being merciful earns us mercy from God.  Being merciful in a genuine way shows that God’s Spirit is living in us.  In that condition, we are enabled to receive God’s mercy.  This mystery is repeated often in Jesus’  teaching.  The unmerciful are unable to receive God’s mercy.  The unforgiving are unable to receive His forgiveness.  It’s not that they don’t deserve it; nobody deserves mercy and forgiveness.  If we are deserving, it’s not mercy or forgiveness.  It’s that our souls are unable to receive God’s forgiveness and mercy, to really accept them in a settled way, unless they have been brought to spiritual life by His Spirit.  When we receive mercy, we naturally extend it.  And vice versa.

It’s cool new stuff from our new operating system.