Only God’s Mercy Makes Us Worthy

Survival of the fittest. The strong eat the weak. Only the strong survive. From marketing campaigns, sports teams, to climbing the corporate ladder, strength is one of the highest values in our culture. Mercy, on the other hand often doesn’t make the cut. In a society placing more and more emphasis on power, mercy has almost become a foreign concept. So what is mercy all about and should it even matter to us?

Mercy is helping others in the midst of a need. It is about extending to someone something they don’t deserve. The merciful see a need and do something about it.

In reality, mercy is a true picture of strength being used as a blessing and benefit to others in need. This is at the heart of why Jesus came for you and for me. The challenge for us is not wanting to admit that we have a need. To truly understand mercy, we must first recognize our true need.

The Bible shows us that the need we have is great. We all fall short. We need someone to step in – we need a Savior. We need a Savior who sees all our actions, thoughts and deeds, but doesn’t give us what we deserve. Instead, He took what we deserve upon Himself and gave us mercy. He saw our true need and did something about it. It is His mercy that makes us worthy. As a result, we are set free to live a life of mercy toward others.

So how can I become merciful? It is really quite simple. Recognize your need for mercy. Those who have drunk deeply from the well of mercy and grace love to offer what they have freely received. When you have really experienced the grace and mercy that comes through Jesus, mercy can’t help but spill out.

If you feel unworthy or disqualified, you are perfectly positioned to experience the gift of God’s mercy and grace. And God does not stop there! As the mercy of God floods into your life you’ll find yourself capable of extending mercy to those around you.



WORDS OR THE WORD

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
Psalm 119:105

We inherit much of our lives. Our parents and our upbringing, the environment we grow up in, and the people we’re surrounded by all play a part in determining our path. Yet as we grow and mature we’re able to make our own way through our collective decisions and actions. But when it comes to shaping our future, the words we use are just as important. 

Whether it’s a careless slip of the tongue or a moment of weakness when we’re angry, in an instant our words can ruin a relationship, forever damage someone’s fragile self-image, or even shatter a dream.

Likewise, our words can speak love and encouragement. They can bring out the best in people, build hopes and dreams, and even inspire movements.

Our words can destroy or they can build anew; either in someone else’s life or our own. But as powerful as they are, there’s one thing we cannot do with our words: we cannot use them to speak anything into existence. Only God’s Word is that powerful.

If you’re unhappy with any aspect of your life, lean on those around you who will speak to you positively and lift you up. Look in the mirror and tell yourself what you need to hear. But most importantly, look to God’s Word and what it means for your life.

There is no problem or pain that the Bible does not address. His Words are perfect, unchanging, and more powerful than we can comprehend. There’s no greater example of this than Genesis 1:3 where God says, “Let there be light” and then there was light. He literally spoke the universe into existence and with the same power and authority, He speaks directly to us through the Bible.

And these words are not simply a story about God, it is the Word of God. Hebrews 4:12  says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

When we’re searching for the right words to motivate and inspire us down the path of life, the only words we should truly rely upon are those of God. He knows exactly who you are and what you need to hear.

Do you actively read your Bible? Do you know what God is trying to speak into your life today? 



A Scary Prayer?

Sometimes when you’re reading a book, a single phrase jumps off the page and catches your attention.  It happened to me this week.  I was reading Jill Briscoe’s book The Deep Place Where Nobody Goes, and the phrase that stood out to me was in the middle of a conversation that Jill was having with God.  The phrase? Simply the words “Spend me.”

I thought, “That’s a very courageous request to pray to God—that phrase, ‘Spend me.’  Who knows what God will ask a person to do who prays that? Do I really want God to ‘spend me’?”  And yet, the idea is intriguing.  What would God do with our lives if every day we truly offered every single part of them to Him to use as He wills? What if our only thought in the day was “Lord, take this moment, this energy I have, and use it any way you wish”?

Actually, I don’t know any verse in the Bible that commands us to pray that God would spend us. But the Bible does say that Christ died for all, “that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them” (2 Corinthians 5:15). “You are not your own; you were bought at a price” (2 Corinthians 6:19-20).

When you think about it, isn’t it really a privilege to offer ourselves to God for Him to spend?  Just to think that the great God Who has everything and needs nothing would use puny, insignificant us for His divine purpose!

Okay, so maybe it’s scary for you to think of praying that prayer.  “That means I won’t have any say over what happens in my life,” you reason. Yes, that’s right, for God will be in charge. But don’t think you’ll be wiped out like a sentence the teacher erases off the chalkboard.  If God spends your life, you’ll achieve the purpose for which you were created.  Nothing wasted. Nothing lost.  Everything gained. Yes, Lord, spend me!



Act on God’s Word

Peter risked becoming the joke of his hometown when he rowed out in broad daylight to the deep waters of Lake Gennesaret and let down his net to catch fish. Everyone watching him from the shore must have thought he’d gone mad. Even a small child could have told him that if he wanted to catch fish, he must do it at night and in shallow water.

But this was a moment in Peter’s life when he did the right thing first. He had just listened to Jesus teaching the multitudes from his boat. It must have touched the heart of this fisherman so deeply that he was willing to forsake all his professional expertise and go about fishing in all the “wrong” ways, just because Jesus told him to do so.

He could have politely said to Jesus, “I respect You for being a great teacher and an excellent carpenter, but believe me, Your knowledge about fishing is really off. Take it from an expert—what You suggest will never work.”

Instead, Peter replied, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net” (Luke 5:5).

That day Peter discovered that when he abandoned his own thoughts and acted on God’s Word and God’s thoughts, he experienced a wonderful miracle.

How Do We See God’s Promises Fulfilled?

I am often amazed when I read in the Gospels how the experts in the law of Moses—the Pharisees and Sadducees— rarely, if ever, experienced miracles in their lives. At the same time, common people who knew very little—Peter, the Roman centurion whose slave was sick and the widow whose only son had died—witnessed the most incredible wonders. Surely these theologians in Jesus’ time had sickness and urgent needs in their families just like everyone else. What prevented them from seeing God’s promises fulfilled?

I believe it was pride causing them to cling to their own clever thoughts. Pride wouldn’t allow them to humbly acknowledge that they could be wrong and that God’s thoughts and ways were so much higher than their own.

By the way, we see the same thing happen in our day as well. Young national missionaries and simple believers on the mission fields of Asia experience a book-of-Acts-type of Christianity on a daily basis, whereas many of us “Bible experts” seem to miss out.

You see, the foundation for learning to walk with the Lord, for serving Him and for becoming a blessing to others begins with the humility to act on God’s thoughts instead of our own.

Peter, the centurion and the widow (like those simple believers on the mission field) had nothing to hold on to. Unlike those religious leaders, they were not preoccupied with protecting their reputations or guarding traditions and someone’s teaching. That’s why God’s Word could flow freely into their lives and become the basis of their thoughts and faith and, in turn, their actions.

We too must come to God with the same humility and submission, telling Him: “Lord, I don’t know; I want to learn; I want to change.”

And, by the way, we cannot use psychology, carnal reasoning or philosophy to bring about these changes—to pull down wrong thoughts, imaginations and anything that causes us heartache and cripples our faith.

God’s Thoughts vs Our Thoughts

God’s Word clearly says that this very real battle has to be fought with spiritual weapons: “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4–5).

The most important factor in abandoning our thoughts is to look in the Bible and see what God says about a matter. Then we must determine to act on His Word rather than on our own thoughts or those the devil may whisper into our minds.

For example: If I think, “No one loves me,” God’s thoughts on the same subject are, “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3).

If I say to myself, “I failed,” God’s Word says to me, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world” (1 John 5:4).

If my thoughts are, “I am weak,” the Lord says, “Let the weak say, ‘I am strong’ ” (Joel 3:10).

If I am convinced that “I can’t do it,” God’s truth is that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

Life in the Context of Scripture

How can you learn to apply God’s promises to your life and in turn experience His blessings? When you face troubles, problems or uncertainties and you don’t know what to do next—stop for a second. Ask yourself: Am I thinking the thoughts of God? Am I doing what the Lord would do in this situation? Am I making the decision? What does the Lord say about this? How can I respond to it?

If you don’t know the answer, go to your Bible. Check your concordance or ask someone to help you find God’s thoughts concerning your problem. See if you can find an example in God’s Word in which someone faced a similar situation.

Then pray over the Scripture portions you find. As you do, the Lord will enlighten you. The verses will no longer be abstract to you but instead will become living words for your situation.

Put your life in the context of Scripture. Start thinking God’s thoughts about your situation and act on them in faith. As you daily practice and develop this habit of applying God’s promises, it will become second nature as you grow in following the Lord.

Abandoning our thoughts and humbly taking God’s thoughts as our own truly honors Him and revolutionizes our faith.



When Something is Taking More of You

“‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say — but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’ — but I will not be mastered by anything.” 1 Corinthians 6:12 (NIV)

For the past several weeks I’ve been doing my best to make my phone a tool, rather than a part of my life. This realization came one day as the phone was plugged in a mere 10 feet away, yet I felt tugged several times to pick it up.

Why was I so pulled?

The truth was my phone had been in my hands more often than not for a while.

Sometimes I woke in the night and reached for it, which made going back to sleep that much harder. However, like a courtroom defense attorney, I listed all the reasons why having my phone nearby or in my hand was acceptable. It’s my calendar. It’s how I stay in touch with family and friends. Social media allows me to minister to others.

Even as I listed those bullet points, I felt the Holy Spirit tugging at my heart. My phone had a greater hold on me than it should.

In today’s key verse, the Apostle Paul is teaching the church about things that can have a hold on us. This is a common theme in Paul’s teaching. He often brought it to a heart-level as believers debated about the right thing to do — whether it was the choices they made with their body, what they ate or drank, or the day they chose to worship.

“‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say — but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’ — but I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12).

Paul encouraged them to look past the reasons they could or could not do something, asking one question: Is this beneficial?

Another question might be: “Is this God’s best for me?”

As I shared my dilemma with a few friends, several admitted they’d also struggled. One had her phone in her hands when with her children, and she often didn’t hear what they were saying. Another told a story of attending an important event. When she left, she’d missed a lot of it because she was otherwise engaged with social media and texts. One confessed she became anxious if her phone wasn’t in plain sight.

That day we made a pact to make a plan.

My plan was to put it on ring so I could hear if someone called, but otherwise to leave it at a distance. I chose not to use my phone for social media (unless traveling) but to use my computer instead. This made my time on social media much more intentional. I quickly realized that what I called a bad habit was more of an addiction. I itched to have my phone in my hand. I longed to scroll through social media, to read books through my e-reader app, and to check email and news apps and so much more. There were times I picked it up without thinking, and an hour later, I was still online.

Yet I persisted. After two weeks of sticking to my plan, the pull eased. My phone became a really great tool again, rather than a lifeline.

When something — no matter what it is — takes more from us than it gives, we are wise to put it down. We are wise to give it less of us, so we have more to offer those around us.

As we do, we lean into God’s best for us, and that’s a gift.

Father, that thing that has a hold on me, I can make excuses for it. I can even reason it away. Today I put aside my excuses, and I choose Your best for me. Thank You that You lead me toward what’s beneficial and away from those things that potentially have power over my heart. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.



Cry With Hope

At the start of this year, the youth ministry director at my church gathered all of the middle school small group leaders.  He wanted to check in on how we were, hear how our groups were going, and encourage us.  He shared how, when he has worked at Christian camps, everything is designed to help kids experience great moments, “highs,” and you have a very focused time with each group of kids to bring those highs about.  In contrast, in congregational ministry, there are many distractions, and kids often are weighed down by day-to-day concerns.
Each type of ministry has its challenges, but how do you handle all the distractions and burdens kids bring week after week and month after month?  Our youth director had wise words.  He said you love the kids, let them know how much God loves them, welcome them with all their challenges, and pour yourself out for them.  Then, when you get home at the end of the day, you cry with hope.
Cry with hope!  What a beautiful phrase to express the hardness and goodness of Christian ministry.  We cry because there is so much pain even as we hope because God is good.  Cry with hope is an especially fitting expression for the ministry of Inheritance of Hope.
 


No Artificial Ingredients Needed

Have you ever looked at the ingredients on some of the food you eat? If you’re like me, you can’t pronounce most of them let alone know what they are. When you taste something with artificial ingredients, it doesn’t taste the same as the real stuff. The same goes when we start to add things to God’s Word that weren’t there originally. It feels fake. We are drawn those products that say “All Natural no artificial ingredients needed.”

Deuteronomy? ?4:2, 24?

You must not add anything to what I command you or take anything away from it, so that you may keep the commands of the Lord your God I am giving you….“For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.

The Subtle Trap

False teaching permeates the church. It’s subtle, but some of what Christians say just isn’t supported by Scripture. Take for instance, “God helps those who help themselves.” Sounds Biblical and right on but it’s not found anywhere in the Bible. In fact, God helps those who can’t help themselves. No one can save themselves only Jesus can.

No Artificial Ingredients Needed

We are to take God’s word for what it is. We cannot edit it or add to it. We can’t remove a verse that we disagree with or embellish a verse that we cherish. God’s word is perfect as it is. Either we accept the whole Bible, or we reject it all. Some churches like to add traditions and regulations on top of God’s word. God tells Moses not to add anything to His Word so that people can obey him. If we change it at all, we run the risk of sinning against God.

Consuming Fire

God also told Moses that he is a consuming fire, a jealous God. Moses is making a point that if God didn’t spare him when he sinned, he wouldn’t spare them if they turned to other idols. God is jealous for us. He doesn’t want to compete with idols. He will take action to remove them from our lives so that our communion can be pure.



The Christian’s Walk

Ephesians 4:1-2
After placing trust in Jesus, a person should begin to walk in a new direction. Believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and therefore have real purpose; it isn’t fitting for Christians to live aimlessly. The apostle Paul presents a dramatic contrast between who we once were and who we’re to be after coming to faith. (See Eph. 4:15-24.) Formerly, we might not have felt too bad about sin, but now that we are one with Jesus Christ, our mind is being renewed and our behavior should become increasingly God-pleasing.
As God’s children, we’re also to walk weighty—that is, leaving an imprint and an influence wherever we go. When we understand who we are in Christ and commit to walking in holiness, we begin to reflect the Lord Jesus to others. The joy we have in Him becomes an expression of His presence in our life and evidence of our relationship with Him.
So think of all the people you cross paths with each day. You might be reflecting Jesus to some who have been blind to the truth of God. In addition, your oneness with the Lord and your unity with other believers make you an asset and an encouragement to the body of Christ, too. You have no idea how many lives might be touched by yours. 
I’m certainly one who believes in the value of sermons, but God’s people must do more than simply sit and listen. Our life must change so that everybody who meets us will meet Christ in us. Our old life—how we lived before meeting the Lord—was self-centered; our new life is Christ-centered. Is that becoming more evident in you?


Sin Sensitive

“No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.”

1 John 3:9

The mark of a healthy body is a healthy immune system. God designed our immune system to keep harmful germs out of the body and to destroy any that do get in. The immune system is made up of a complex network of cells and organs, which are designed to protect the body from infection. When infection is detected, a healthy immune system will release lymphocytes – a certain type of white blood cell – into the body to fight the infection. A compromised or unhealthy immune system leaves the whole body open to attack.

Just as a healthy immune system will want to fight infection and rid the body of sickness as soon as it’s detected, a healthy Christian spirit will want to rid the heart of sin as soon as it is detected. You see, when you give your life to Jesus Christ, God’s Holy Spirit comes to live inside of you. From that moment on, there is a constant internal war raging between the Spirit and the flesh…between the new heart and the sinful flesh. Trusting in Jesus doesn’t make us immune to sin, but it does make us more sensitive to sin. It may not always eliminate the urge to sin, but the Holy Spirit will – over time – increase our desire to please God rather than ourselves. God’s Spirit becomes like a spiritual immune system, detecting the threat of infection and teaching us to protect our hearts from sin.

The ravages of physical disease are evident to most of us. We have watched someone we love suffer…or maybe ourselves have suffered…the effects of earthly diseases like cancer, HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s, or Parkinson’s. We have studied the devastating historical effects of epidemics like small pox and the plague. But how many people truly understand the even more devastating and far-reaching ravages of the worst epidemic in all of mankind- sin? How many of us fear its consequences in the same way? Shouldn’t we, after all, since those consequences are eternal? Eternal death. Eternal judgment. Eternal separation. Eternal punishment. If we never force ourselves to see the reality of sin’s destruction, we will never be able to fully appreciate the depth of God’s love and forgiveness.

All of the ravages of sin have been answered in Jesus Christ. He satisfied every righteous requirement and then He overcame every eternal consequence. In Jesus there is eternal life. Eternal pardon. Eternal fellowship. Eternal forgiveness. One of the marks that you are healthy in your relationship with God is in how sensitive you are to sin and how quickly you want to rid your life of it when it enters.

God, thank You for saving me from the ravages of my sin. Thank You for giving me Your Spirit to make me sensitive to sin in my life. Show me any sin that is hidden in my heart so that I can confess it to You. In Jesus’ name, amen.



God’s Grace in a Savior

“May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”  Psalm 19:14

We can actually come into the presence of the God of the universe and be pleasing to Him, and accepted by Him, because of our Rock and our Redeemer. Do you know who the psalmist was talking about in Psalm 19:14? Jesus. Jesus is the Rock of Ages. Jesus, by dying on the cross, became the Redeemer of the human race. God has spoken in many ways. He has spoken in the skies. He has spoken in the scriptures. He has spoken in the soul, but He saved His best word for last when he spoke through Jesus.
In Jesus, we discover all of God we can know and in Jesus we have all of God we need.  We see the glory of God in the skies, the guidance of God in the Scriptures, the goodness of God in the soul, but we see the grace of God in the Savior.
 
Jim Irwin was one of the astronauts who went to the moon. After he got back he said this, “When I looked out and saw the earth, about as big as a little marble, I thought, ‘How big am I?  I am just a speck of dust – if that big – compared to the universe.’ Yet, this little speck has the capacity to know God! To know the One who holds the universe, to know His love, and have His direction.  For the first time, I saw – felt God’s love for the earth… I realized then that God loved that little blue marble, that little blue planet. He loved all the billions of people on it, and He loved me! I realized at that moment that my relationship with Jesus Christ was the most precious thing I had.
”Irwin was right. Whether you are on earth looking up at the moon or on the moon looking back on earth, God is here, there, and everywhere and you can find Him at a cross and an empty tomb where He is ready to meet you anytime.
 
God, thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus, to die on a cross for me, and to be raised from the dead so I can have eternal life. The Psalms talk about how You reveal Yourself to us in many ways—in creation, in Scripture and also in the Person of Jesus. As you reveal Yourself to me, help me to know You more closely and obey You more fully. In Jesus’ name, amen.