Active Mercy

The first four timeless principles are more “inner” principles (poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness) ; the last four are the living out of those inner principles, or the outward signs of the inner change.

The poor in spirit recognizes his or her need for mercy and, because they have received mercy from God, strive to show mercy to others.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy – Matthew 5:7

Mercy is often talked about. It is talked about from the Old Testament to the New Testament in the Bible, to TV shows, movies, news programs, books, magazines, and person-to-person in struggles and triumphs. But what exactly is MERCY?

Mercy is usually shown with the attitude, “You give it first” or the expectation that if I show you mercy, you will show it in return. Selfish people don’t help and don’t show mercy unless something is in it for them. Jesus, as He usually did, upends this selfish, self-serving attitude and says in Matthew 5:43-47 that I should love those who won’t love me back and pray for those who mistreat me (not praying for them to be judged or God to take vengeance on them, but that Jesus would be merciful to them). Think of Jesus on the Cross. He asked God the Father to forgive the people who were putting Him to death. That is loving and praying for those who treat you wrongly.

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end – Lamentations 3:22

Mercy is the same thing as lovingkindness, or hesed, which is literally “compassion in action.” Mercy is meeting people’s needs. It is not just FEELING compassion, but it is action-oriented in feeling. It is not sympathy, but actually lending a hand and helping out. “Mercy is giving food to the hungry, comfort to the bereaved, love to the rejected, forgiveness to the offender, companionship to the lonely” (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Matthew 1-7, p. 190).

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-by grace you have been saved… – Ephesians 2:4-5

What is the “reward” for showing mercy? You will receive mercy from God. You showing mercy to others brings mercy from God. There is a reciprocity here that is only between God and human, not human to human. You or I may never receive mercy from another human being, but if we show mercy toward others, God will certainly reciprocate that and show mercy to us.

Whether others deserve it or not, show mercy. Actively live out mercy. See someone in need, and do what you can to meet that need even though you might be in need yourself. Show mercy because you have been shown mercy.

Remember that you are poor in spirit, that you NEED the mercy of God and, because He gives it to you, who is undeserving, you can give it to others even if they don’t deserve it. Live out mercy today.

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Influence and Response

Every single one of us is a leader. In some way, we each lead where we are. We can be a leader with our friends, leader with our family, leader of our siblings, leader in a youth group or church ministry, leader by job description or title. Really, leadership, as John Maxwell describes it, is influence. We each influence others every day. Whether by our action or inaction, we are influencing the people in our lives every day.

This morning for our Tuesday Morning Encouragement I want to share a small, simple leadership principle. It is one that is often a struggle to live out, and yet if we live it out it can bring great blessing.

I really enjoy football. Whether watching an actual game, listening to it on the radio, watching highlights, or even watching or listening to people talk about football, I am a huge fan of the sport. It excites me. It is currently the postseason for the NFL, and recently I’ve seen a few postgame press conferences where players are blaming other people for their loss. Now, there may be some truth to what the players are saying, but blaming other people never solved anything. It never brings resolution and it really doesn’t help you to become any better of a player or person.

leadership-is-influence

The leadership principle I want to share today is this: “As you influence others, you cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your response.”

Blaming and complaining becomes easy when something unfortunate, unplanned, or negative happens to us. But the leadership principle is to control your response to whatever happens to you. It may be something you hate, something you don’t agree with, something that doesn’t make any sense. It could be someone else’s fault. The world may say that you are right to be angry and want retribution or retaliation. But the thing is, being a follower of Christ and someone who influences others every day, you are challenged to live different.

Today, when something happens to you, remember that you have the power to influence the people around you. When you control your response to whatever uncontrollable thing happens to you, people take notice. Your children take notice. Your friends take notice. Your boss or co-workers take notice. And you just became a great leader and a great example of a Christ-follower because you were self-controlled in the way that you responded.

My prayer for you from this morning on is that you would be able to control your responses and reactions from the first moment that something happens to you, and that this response would shine a light on the Name and Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Christians are…

This morning I went to search something on Bing. What did I want to search? I typed in, “Christians are” and then waited to see what suggested results came up. Here is what I found:

Christians are

Being a genuine follower of Jesus Christ is frowned upon by so many in the world today. Why? Jesus Himself claimed that the world hated Him and so would hate His followers too (Matthew 10:22)! There is a crucial balance between being in the world and not of the world that often we misunderstand for being in the world and tolerant with the world’s desires.

Being in the world does not mean condoning what the world does. It does not mean engaging with everything the world says is good and okay. Our culture says that you do what you think is right, I’ll do what I think is right, and we will never say the other is wrong and we will never tell the other how to live his or her life. This leads to a neglect of moral standards, there is no absolute morality, and it concedes that truth and moral uprightness are in the eye of the person acting it out.

For example, if you think pornography use is good for you, but I disagree, I will continue to not engage in pornography, but I will also not bring up to you the relational consequences of pornography, the brain chemistry changes that come through extended porn usage, and the other harmful long term effects that come as a result of pornography. I will not spare you from these consequences because for you it is right, though it is not right for me. Truth and morality become subjective.

This is the world we live in. Right and wrong is not black and white.

 

It is into this world that we have been commissioned to share the Gospel and to live out the Good News of Jesus Christ in our words and actions.

In Acts 18:9 (NLT) we see Luke write about Paul’s experience:

“One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision and told him, “Don’t be afraid! Speak out! Don’t be silent!”

This is the kind of courage we need to have. In a world and a society that tells us as Christians to be silent, to not speak out, we must learn to not be afraid. We will be hated, we will be wronged, and you know what, we will do wrong! We are human and we don’t always control our words or actions well. We will certainly at times be poor examples of Christ.

But, when we err on the side of not being afraid and err on the side of speaking out for our faith in Jesus Christ with love and humility, we are definitely heading in the right direction.

So today, do not be afraid. Pursue Jesus Christ with all that you have and make Him known in the way that you love others, in the way that you show compassion and concern for Christians and non-Christians alike. Do not be afraid to humbly, boldly, authentically live out your faith. Don’t be a hearer only, but be a fearless doer of the Word.

Pointing the right way

What are you really good at?  What is something you really like doing?  It must be a part of human nature, right?  That we all have such a great desire to communicate to the people we are around, whether our family or people we work with or friends, what we are good at. We enjoy doing the things we are good at, and we often talk about our “greatest exploits”! It’s just something that comes naturally.

If you catch a huge fish, why wouldn’t you tell everyone about how awesome that was and how big it was?! If you make a great goal in soccer or score a touchdown in football or make first chair in band, why wouldn’t you tell everyone you know about it? Those are proud moments where you did something pretty awesome and want others to know about it! I am the same way! It’s fun to succeed in things and then point to that success and tell everyone you can about it. But are we pointing in the right direction?

Jeremiah 9:23-24 says, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.'”

This verse reveals the things we should boast about, and the things we should tell everyone about, doesn’t it? We should boast about God, that we know Him, that we have talked to Him, that God hears us, that He speaks to us in His Word, that God is real and we have a relationship with Jesus Christ, His Son. These are the things to boast about because when we really think about it, these are amazing, life-changing things. The Creator God cares so much about us that He sent Jesus Christ to live on this earth, to experience temptations and evils in this world, and He was victorious through them, sacrificing His perfect self on the cross so that we could experience victory and freedom from the cost of our sins. It’s an amazing thing! What is more incredible than this to boast about?

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 10:17-18, agreeing with Jeremiah, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord. For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.”

So what does this mean? It means that we can remember our priorities in life; that God is greater than our athletic skills, our musical talents, or our intellect. If we are going to brag about something, why not point the way toward Jesus Christ?

We have the blessed opportunity to be a light in this world, to be salt that seasons and gives flavor. We can point everyone we see or talk with toward Jesus Christ just in the way we talk. It’s a big responsibility, but we are all capable.

 

The challenge? Go and do it. James 1:22 says, “but be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” So we should go and live out God’s Word. Go and boast about who God is and what He has done in your life.

Pursuit versus Avoidance

A couple of years ago I was preparing a lesson for a group of college students, and a principle from Scripture came out so clearly to me, and it has been stuck in my head for awhile, as I think and talk with people about dealing with different life issues.

 

avoidance

This idea came to me, as I’m sure many others have thought of before, but it was so powerful. It’s so easy, and so common, to try to “not” do things. Right? We avoid things. It is just natural. We avoid awkward situations (though some, like me, sort of thrive in those environments, but most aren’t big fans). We avoid going outside of our comfort zones; we many times avoid too many risks or “outside of the box” ideas.

Especially in Christian groups, we often avoid talking about certain topics for fear of offending (as even saying this may offend some…oops) or making others feel awkward. We avoid confrontation. We even sometimes avoid calling sin what it is.

Here’s the kicker: we even avoid encouraging and lifting up others. We sometimes avoid being confident because it may be interpreted as pride or arrogance.

 

When I thought about this, it kind of made me sad. Many of these ideas of what we avoid just now came to me, they weren’t fully formed a couple of years ago. But, I think it is true we avoid a lot of things. My question is this: WHY?

Especially some of those more positive things we avoid…WHY? Why avoid encouraging? Why avoid being confident in who you are and what you are capable of doing (after all, isn’t it spiritual to be confident because God gifted you and made you talented, so why not have confidence in how He made you??)? Why avoid confrontation, done in love and with the right attitude, but why so often avoid it?

Many of the things we tend to avoid can be so beneficial to our lives. They can bring more joy and fulfillment. They can bring more unity and wholeness to our lives. They can bring a greater sense of purpose and passion in life when we confidently understand that we are capable of changing this world.

 

pursuit

There are some things in the Bible that we are instructed to avoid. For sure. But, there are also many things in the Bible that we are told to pursue. It is so easy to focus on the negative isn’t it? I know it’s easy for me. But, we are in a battle of pursuit every day. We all pursue something, or someone. For many, these things change and vary.

 

But there are some incredible things the Bible tells us to pursue. One of these lists comes from 1 Timothy 6:11:

“But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. PURSUE righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.”

Now who wouldn’t want to pursue, or chase after, living right, imitating God, trusting in the Creator of the Universe, love and a habit of patience, as well as an attitude and a focus dominated by gentleness and compassion? This would be one pretty awesome person who lived all of these out. And the great thing is that it is possible! Paul, the writer of 1 Timothy, did not write here for people to pursue something that could never be attained… but he writes it so we know what to pursue and we know that it is possible to live such a great life, even an abundant fullness of life like Jesus promised in John 10:10.

 

So, I don’t know where you are at in life right now. But make a conscious choice right now to pursue these things. And explore the Bible for other things to pursue, like the fruit of the Spirit or wisdom (the entire book of Proverbs talks about pursuing, chasing, getting wisdom. Check it out.).

 

The Christian life is not passive. It requires a daily pursuit. So, live in this struggle between avoidance and pursuit. Recognize it. Own it. And instead of avoiding doing certain things, pursue Jesus Christ and see where He takes you. He often takes me into places or circumstances I would normally want to avoid at first, but then the blessing is so much greater than I could ever have experienced doing something under my own power… Try it out. Pursue Him.