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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How can we be known for our love?

Jesus says in John 13:34-5:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

As followers of Christ, I think we are called to be known more for what we are for than what we are against. I’ve written about this before, but I think it cannot be overstated how important this is. Too much of the world knows the church for a religious, legalistic center who is against many things. That’s not what Jesus was known for. That’s not what His disciples were known for.

They preached Jesus Christ and Him crucified rather than a complete set of do’s and dont’s. The young adult group from Calvary is in New York City right now, and were able to visit Hillsong NYC on Sunday evening. While there, one thing was very clear. They did not take political or societal stances. They stood on the side of Jesus and gave an invitation for people to surrender their lives, their pride, their selfishness, and give it all to Jesus Christ.

There were homosexuals and transgenders in the crowd feeling loved enough to show up to church. And they heard the full Truth of the Word of God, that we are all sinners in need of a Savior. The tone was grace and truth. We need a Savior, His name is Jesus, and He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

How can we be known for our love for others?

The key is to love God.

Love Him first and most.

The more we love God the more we will love others. The more we love God, the more He gives us the desires of our hearts.

I think that the more we love God, the more we will love others because we will love them as God loves them.

We will see them as God sees them; we will want what is best for them, which is not always what they think is best for them but what is actually best for them.

We’ll be determined to not give up on them, but will constantly be willing and able to show grace, love, mercy and forgiveness.

If we love God and pursue Him, we will become more like Him. If we want to be known and defined by our love for others, we must first love God.

Our love for others is not blanket acceptance or approval of actions, but it is all-encompassing, truthful, grace-filled love. The same type of love that God has shown us we are called to show others.

What do you need to do today to start being known for the love of Christ that is evident in your daily actions?

God loves you

God loves you. Did you know that? I think we all want to know and believe that is true. I think we want to believe it in the depth of our heart. But He doesn’t just love us so that we can do whatever we want to do. God loves us and wants us to know Him. He wants to have a relationship with us; He doesn’t just want to be a salve or a bandaid we put on our wounds.

God is not someone who only wants to be contact when we are in pain or when we are sad so He can make it go away. He wants to walk with us through the good and the bad, and have us realize that we can’t do really much of anything at all on our own. We can only breathe because God is constantly sustaining His creation. God wants us to be in relationship with Him when we are thankful, when we are happy, when we are in need, when we are sad, when we are in pain, when we are in tears, and when we are in laughter.

God-loves-youThat is what His love is there for. He wants us to know that He loves us. He wants us to know Him, be known by Him, and spend our lives getting to know Him more. God sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, so that we could know God as our Heavenly Father. This is an intimate knowledge, more than some big guy in the sky, or the man upstairs. God sent His Son to show us His love. Romans chapter five verse eight says that God demonstrates His love toward you and me in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

 

God knows we are not perfect. He created us. He knows we’ll mess up, that we have messed up, and that we will never fully arrive in getting it right all the time. But God still loves us. He wants us to know Him, but more than that He wants us to follow after Him. He wants us to see the example of Jesus Christ in the Bible and to follow it. He wants us to follow His commands because that is the most abundant and blessed and fulfilled way to live.

To follow Him means following a different Way… a better way. It is a way that is not easy and is often uncomfortable and selfless, but it is much, much better than the normal way of the world. God’s Way is a Way of fulfillment, satisfaction, and wholeness. It is a place where love and forgiveness abound. It is a place with a high calling to live life in the right way and to tell other people about this different Way. It is a challenge, for sure. But it is well worth the struggle.

What’s holding you back from following The Way?

What is it about the bare minimum?

I think we often do only what is asked of us. We don’t do less than what is asked, but we also don’t try to do more than is asked. We settle for mediocrity in most things. What if that’s not what we should be doing? What if we aren’t here, still breathing, still living, just to be okay at something? What if the reason we are still living is so we can excel and be great at something we have been born and specifically created to do?

There was this lawyer, and he wanted to make sure he was doing the right things. He had money and popularity. He was skilled at his job and had plenty of clients. But he wanted to make sure he wasn’t missing anything. So he went and asked Jesus a question about how he could inherit eternal life. The question and response is recorded in Luke 10:25. Jesus responds telling him to follow two commands with a central theme of love (first loving God and then loving your neighbor). Jesus told him to do these things. The lawyer, wanting to make sure he gets it right, asks, “Who is my neighbor?” He wants to make sure that he does enough to inherit eternal life, but he isn’t keen on going much further than that. He could really be asking, “Jesus, tell me who specifically I need to be loving toward so I can just be loving toward them and not have to worry about the others.” He essentially is asking Jesus what is the bare minimum I can get away with in “loving my neighbor”?

Jesus asks big of the lawyer. He tells the story many of us are familiar with, The Good Samaritan, and reveals to the lawyer that gender, race, age, and/or belief don’t matter in defining who is your neighbor. Everyone is your neighbor and deserving of love and value.

Today lets not settle for the bare minimum. Let’s not settle for just getting by or just doing enough to be a “good Christian”.

Let’s not only love and care about and have compassion on a fewDo more people we really like. We can treat everyone we come across with dignity and respect, we can add value to every life we encounter. We can do this even if we disagree with their political views, religious affiliation, or sexual orientation. Christians should be known for their love, not their hate or judgment or condemnation. Jesus was known for His love and for going to where the lost hang out. But know this, too, love and approval are not the same thing. Let us be known for our love, for speaking the truth wrapped all over and around with grace and love.

Go above and beyond the bare minimum in loving your neighbor today.

Are we able to have a conversation with someone outside of our “group”?

“This splintering and polarization of American culture has made it more difficult than ever to have a good conversation, especially about faith,” says David Kinnaman (President of the Barna Group).

I recently read the article quoted from above, and just had to write a post about it. Barna is a research powerhouse, and one of their recent studies found that evangelical Christians “have a particularly difficult time talking to those outside their group.” In fact, the research found that 9 in 10 (87%) would find it difficult to have a natural or normal conversation with someone from the LGBT community, while only 6 in 10 (58%) from the LGBT community felt the same way toward having a natural or normal conversation with someone from the evangelical community.

Reading this, it struck a chord in my heart. Jesus consistently, often, controversially spent much time with people outside of his “group.” He spent so much time with people outside the religious community that the religious community questioned him on the topic:

“And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?'” – Matthew 9:10-11 ESV

The Pharisees, the religious elite, could not understand why Jesus went outside of his “group” and hung out with them, ate with them, valued them and cared about them. Jesus had no difficulty having natural and normal conversations with people very different than Himself, and actually people outside of His group wanted to be in His group because of the way He treated them. He was contagious to be around. Why aren’t followers of Christ today contagious to be around? There are certainly many reasons, including because we believe and state emphatically that Jesus Christ is the only way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).

However, I think one of the biggest reasons Christians are not contagious to be around is because we can be harsh. We can be off-putting and sometimes just downright mean. Truth without grace and love can simply be mean. We must balance truth with grace and love. We must extend love. We must allow people to belong before they believe. We must allow them to be in our community before the Holy Spirit convicts and they are converted from their old life of sin and death to a new life of freedom and life.

This post can by no means deal with all of the varying viewpoints and all the theological, social, political, and relational intricacies of what it means to love the lost, but it is something we must do. We cannot hold the world to the behavioral standards of a Christ-follower because they are not Christ-followers. The only way to go and make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19-20) is to go into the brokenness, go into the lostness, with the love and grace of Jesus Christ. Loving the world so much that we can’t help but proclaim with love and compassion the necessity of repentance of sin and belief in Jesus Christ, while at the same time journeying with them as they work to figure this out and understand the implications of a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Let’s be the light and the salt, not the judgment. Let’s bring Christ with us wherever we go, living out our faith and changing the world around us as we are known for Who we are for rather than what we are against.

Christmas Colors

I was standing in line at Starbucks to get a free refill of my black coffee (because it’s the cheapest option, and Starbucks is a great place for me to read and study—I like the background noise of a coffee shop!), and I saw all around me the red and green colors of Christmas. While I was waiting, I was trying to figure out in my mind why the colors are red and green—who decided these are the main colors of Christmas? Why these colors? What do they mean?

Christmas Red and Green lights

As I was thinking about these colors, I came up with my own understanding of what the colors could mean. I don’t know if this is by any means accurate, but I think it is just a cool thought about what the colors could mean, and I think this could give us all a greater anticipation and excitement as we recognize what this Christmas season is actually all about.

GREEN

What better symbolizes something new, vibrant, and growing than the color green? As winter fades away and the April showers bring forth May flowers, the world again around us turns green, teeming with life. There is a newness to the season, a new air and attitude that Spring or Summer has arrived. Winter is passed, trees are coming back to life, and grass is growing again. Green lawns; green trees; green everything symbolizes this new birth of the new season.

Likewise, the coming of Jesus Christ was like the coming of the new season. Jesus coming was like the greenery revealing new life and new birth. Jesus came down from heaven to be born as a human child, 100% God and 100% man, so that we could identify with Him and have the opportunity for relationship with Him. The name “Immanuel,” prophesied in Isaiah 7:14, literally means, “God with us.” God came to live among His creation, which dispels any argument that God the Creator is some distant, uncaring God. John 3:16 (HCSB) says, “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”

The green equals life; the new, perfect, sinless life of Jesus Christ.

RED

Jesus Christ was born into this new, perfect, sinless, human life in order to set straight the broken relationship between us and God. Jesus died so that we could have eternal life with God through faith in Christ.

Jesus was literally born (green) for the purpose of sacrificially dying on the Cross (red) for your sins and for my sins. Hebrews 2:9 (NLT) says, “What we do see is Jesus, who was given a position ‘a little lower than the angels’; and because he suffered death for us, he is now ‘crowned with glory and honor.’ Yes, by God’s grace, Jesus tasted death for everyone.” So Jesus was born to die, but He was born to die so that you and I may live.

As we go through this Christmas season, let us pray that we will not lose the wonder of the Christ’s birth and the reality of Christ’s death in the consumeristic lifestyle it is so easy to fall into. Let us pray that we will be able to share the Good News of Jesus Christ this season with those in need. And let us pray that we may serve our Heavenly Father as well as Jesus Christ, who said, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My will, but the will of Him who sent Me”; let our prayer be to do the will of our Father in heaven, and not our own wills.

“So don’t be afraid…” (Matthew 10:31)

So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Matthew 10:31

This passage comes after Jesus described how two sparrows are sold for a cheap price (one penny), and yet our Father in heaven cares for each individual sparrow.

The idea here is that if our Creator God cares about a sparrow, which monetarily is worth little, and probably has little impact on the surrounding world, how much more does He care about you, an individual created in His image?

There is a lot of news and media attention right now with the inoperable brain tumors and right to die campaigns. But, what if we understand that every single person on the face of the earth, every single human being whether healthy, deformed, maimed, in pain, with cancer, with no limbs, with limited function, with psychological disorders, with emotional disorders, with mental disorders, is made in the image of God and therefore contains inherent worth and value.

You matterYou have valueYou are loved. Not because of who you are, but because of Whose you are!

Our Heavenly Father desires relationship with us because He created us in His image for a purpose. There is a reason we are where we are, we are who we are, and we are going through what we’re going through. Nothing is without purpose. But a life lived not understanding there is a purpose, not understanding you do matter, will probably lead down a path toward wanting the right to die, or squandering whatever life you do have.

Life lived without purpose seems to me to be a low quality kind of life. Not the kind of life that Jesus promises to those who know and believe in Him. He says, “…I have come that they may  have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10, NIV).

When we understand how much our God loves us, how He desires to have relationship with us, we have no reason to be afraid. We don’t have to be afraid because of His grace and love and truth. We don’t have to be afraid because of His protection and forgiveness and healing. We don’t have to be afraid because of Who He is.

“God has not given us a spirit of fear…” (2 Timothy 1:7)

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

This is a simple and straightforward verse. When we are in relationship with God, through faith in Jesus Christ, we are able and equipped to live in the truth of this verse.

What does it look like to not live in a spirit of fear or timidity? We are able to live in a spirit of power. We don’t have to be afraid of anything or anyone. We don’t have to fear the opinions of others, gossip, expectations, etc. We can live in power, through the power and strength of God, our Creator, Savior, and Lord.

What does it look like to live with a spirit of love? I think maybe it looks like giving people the benefit of the doubt, treating them like Jesus treated people, and showing love even when we don’t feel like it. If you were to go through Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in the Bible and look at how Jesus Christ treated people, it is incredible! He showed so much love and care and compassion, and so much purpose and intentionality in relationships with others, always desiring to give them what they need (though it wasn’t always what they wanted!!).

Moving on, what does it look like to live with a spirit of self-discipline? I think this is pretty much what it says. We live a life of discipline. This doesn’t mean anything legalistic, but we use our time wisely, are good stewards of all the resources we are given, and live a life committed to walking in God’s ways.

What does your life look like right now? Does it look more like a life living through a spirit of fear? Or a spirit of power and love and self-discipline? What choices or decisions maybe need to change in your life to begin living through a spirit of power and love and self-discipline?

Where is the Love?

There is so much evil in this world. I woke up this morning to seeing yet another news article about a school stabbing and a hit-and-run at a daycare killed a child and injured 13 others. There are so many things that happen in this world that just don’t make sense. All of the school shootings and stabbings, killing little kids like at Sandy Hook, kidnappings, cyber bullying leading to kids committing suicide, and on the depressing list goes.

 

The world seems so lost and evil and sad. So many people are searching for something but have no idea where to find it. Some find pleasure in killing because of what has happened to them, reciprocating the cycle. Some find it in causing other people anxiety and stress and pain in the kidnapping of a child. Others find it in doing something crazy to be the next viral story or video. I wonder if all of these things could somehow be avoided or at least decreased in frequency if follows of Jesus Christ lived out every single day the selfless, sacrificial love Jesus Himself lived out and calls us out to live. This, in fact, is a defining marker of a follower of Jesus Christ: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35), and the second greatest commandment, “…Love your neighbor as yourself…” (Mark 12:31). 

 

The world needs love. Not condemnation. The world needs hope. Not criticism. The world needs Jesus Christ. Not feel-good religion.

 

Everyone you see, everyone you meet, everyone in your life is going through something, has been through something, or will go through something difficult and painful. Don’t judge a book by its cover, don’t give mean or disdainful looks, don’t use hurtful words, but instead try to love them as Jesus would love them.It was Jesus Christ, not the religious crowd, that hung out with the lowest of the low, the people no one else cared about.

 

Today, and everyday, if you have a relationship with Jesus Christ, live it out to the fullest and love the people around you so they can see Jesus Christ in you and regain trust and confidence that the media has taken away from the Christian name. We are called to love, pure and simple, because Jesus Christ loved us first (1 John 4:19).

 

And, if you’ve never made a personal commitment to follow Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, send me a message or comment and it would be my absolute pleasure to talk to you about the One who has given me purpose and made my life worth living!