A Personal Revelation

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Photo credit to Madeline Tejano Mostrales.

 

“…that the living may know that the most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomsoever He will, and sets up over it the basest of men.” Daniel 4:7

 
You would think that Nebuchadnezzar would have learned already. I mean, there was Daniel to interpret his dream that no one else in the kingdom could even tell, let alone interpret. What did Nebuchadnezzar gather from that? Well, he worshiped Daniel, fell prostrate before him. That’s definitely a humbling experience for him, but pretty much a “no-no” according to God. Yet he did come to the conclusion that Daniel’s God “is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets” (Daniel 2:47) That’s good to know and it’s good to put God at the top of the list, and know that God can do what the other gods can’t. But it’s also still saying that there are other gods even though God is the Top Dog. It seems as though Nebuchadnezzar still was giving himself lots of choices to run to, although Daniel’s God was the best of the best. It’s a step in the right direction, but it’s not arriving at the destination at all yet.

 
After that lesson, he raises up that larger than life image. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refuse to bow down and worship it, are thrown into the fiery furnace, and come out unscathed. Nebuchadnezzar announces how their God “sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in Him…and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God.” Now that was a novel idea for this polytheistic kingdom. These guys worshiped one God and only one God, while the world around them worshiped many. But what did the king learn? Obviously not that God was the only true God. But he did learn that there was “no other God that can deliver after this sort.”

 
Now, I don’t want to fault King Nebuchadnezzar more than any of us. Sometimes we are just as thick-headed and dull as he was. Sometimes, I suppose, it’s much easier to hedge our bets, and hold onto what we’re used to. Sometimes it’s easier to stick with tradition and not rock our boat or anyone else’s. Sometimes it’s easier to let someone else be bold and make a stand and just be the one to commend them. Sometimes it’s just easier to accept it all than to count the cost and take a side. Sometimes it’s just easier to stay where we are because it’s comfortable and we are in control. I mean, who really wants to admit that I’m really not in control? Who is ready to hand that control over so easily to a God who is all powerful and may decide to do things differently? Might as well hold on to the control. Then I can decide, right?

 
So now we come to chapter 4. And Nebuchadnezzar starts off by saying he’s telling this story and that he wants to tell about the wonder and might of that high God in his own personal life. We find that God sends another dream to Nebuchadnezzar. This time again, none of the counselors can interpret the dream except for, guess who? Daniel came in, yeah, Daniel is his real name, because the king admits he changed his name to Belteshazzar after the name of his own god. Maybe he was starting to realize the irony of that act. Because here was Daniel’s God continually showing Himself.

 
Now Daniel hears the dream. And what was his reaction?  He was devastated. It really bothered him. For an hour he was handling within himself what he knew. And the king saw but told him not to worry, but to interpret it. So Daniel told him that as great as he was, and as great as his kingdom was, that God was saying he was going to be driven from men and live among the beasts, not by other men, but by these angels, these watchers of the dream. He would be like a beast of the field, eating grass like the oxen, wet with dew, for seven years, until he acknowledged that God rules in the kingdom of men and gives it to who he will. And at the end of the seven years, when the king learned this lesson, he would be returned to his kingdom’s rule.

 
Did Nebuchadnezzar stave this off? Daniel counseled him, “break off your sins by righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor.” But 1 year later the king was walking and thinking of his kingdom and shared, “Isn’t this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honor of my majesty?” Boom! A voice from heaven, (yes, this is dramatic! but God is that way) “O king Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken; ‘The kingdom is departed from you…” And the dream was fulfilled that same hour. Nebuchadnezzar was driven from men, ate grass like the oxen, his body was wet with dew, his hairs grew like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds claws.

 
Thank goodness he had good counselors that kept his kingdom during this time. Maybe Daniel was in charge and reminding them, “This is only for seven years and God will return him to his position. Let’s just keep everything going till then.” But at the end of those seven years, Nebuchadnezzar looked up instead of to himself, and became a thinking man again, and remembered God and blessed the most High, and “praised and honored Him that lives for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation.” So what else did he learn? “All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and He does according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and no one can stay His hand, or say unto Him, ‘What are You doing?’ He learned that God is the King of heaven, all His works are truth and His ways just, and that those who walk in pride, He is able to abase.

 
And this is where we are left with Nebuchadnezzar. But maybe the question is, where does that leave me?  Am I left like Nebuchadnezzar acknowledging that God is the best choice among lots of choices? Do I acknowledge the wonderful things He does but refuse to surrender to Him alone? Do I keep seeing His hand in my life and lives around me, but I refuse to worship Him? Am I excited and living for moments and miracles instead of living for the One True God?

 
Daniel knew God. God shared things with him. God shared things with him in a way that flowed out to others. Nebuchadnezzar knew about God. He watched from the other side of the fence as God interacted with Daniel. But I even wonder if at the end, when Nebuchadnezzar felt the touch of God, if he just looked up or if he became His like Daniel. Was God his Counselor? Or did he remain his own final counsel?

 
Back in Daniel 2 the king had told Daniel, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery.”  Jesus, in both Matthew and Luke declares, “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.” The beauty of revelation is that even in the Old Testament to this pagan king, God was doing everything to make Himself known, not for His sake, but for the sake of Nebuchadnezzar and all the people under his influence.

 
I think of Paul, who was a persecutor of believers, who was like Nebuchadnezzar only puffed up in religious pride. But then God humbled him also, this great man by the world’s standards and probably his own. And he makes this statement, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Philippians 3:8) And he’s not talking about knowing about Jesus. He really means KNOWING Jesus, and knowing Jesus so much that he would be found “in him, not having righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith- that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death…I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own…Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.” (Philippians 3)

 
Yes, God uses even the basest of men and women, boys and girls. He puts us each where He wants us and for His purposes. I can’t explain it all and I never will be able. But I know that You, Lord, give every one of us the opportunity to know You if only we would humble ourselves before You. People may be angry, they may ask, “God, what have You done? What are You doing?” What’s the answer? “I’m trying to reveal myself to you, if only you would get it. Child, I’m doing everything just to reveal myself to you.”

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No Better Cake

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“…and I will save them by the LORD their God…” Hosea 1:7

 
Hosea was a prophet of God over a pretty long period of time, like maybe 70 years. That’s a whole average life span today! He shared the words of God over the reign of four or more kings, both influencing Judah and Israel. As I spend time going through Hosea, chapter by chapter, I really want to think about it. I want to think about what was going on and why. I want to think about what life was like for Hosea as Your representative during those times. I want to think about the things You required of Hosea and his attitude to Your requirements. I want to look at Your heart and Hosea’s heart and the people’s hearts and my heart.

 
Right at the beginning of Your words to Hosea, Lord, You help us to see his wife and children. You tell Hosea to go out and marry a whore. Wow, that’s strong language! What a requirement! What does Hosea do? He does it! You told him “Marry a prostitute, and have children with that prostitute. The people in this land have acted like prostitutes and abandoned the LORD.” (Hosea 1:2) So Hosea marries Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim. Do you know what Diblaim means? It means “two cakes.” I can’t help but think of that expression, “have your cake and eat it too.” So I guess his daughter, Gomer, liked multiple cakes at the same time too.

 
Why would Hosea do that? Why would he marry a known prostitute? Why would he choose someone who was already unfaithful? Was it just obedience to You, God? Or was it more? Was it just fear of You? Or was it more? Could Hosea have truly understood Your heart for people and could it have been the heart that filled him for them also?

 
Hosea took Gomer as his own despite her background. Don’t You do the same with each of us? Didn’t we all start out as sinners; men, women, and children who prostitute Your ways and run after others more than You? Are we that far off from Gomer and Israel? All I can think of is how much love and mercy and patience this prophet Hosea must have had. He could have despised Gomer just as You could despise Israel or us. But Hosea took Gomer unto himself. And isn’t that what You do for us? You take us unto Yourself to make us Yours and make us holy in You.

 
Hosea doesn’t despise her but is intimate with her. From the fruit of that intimacy comes a son. God names him Jezreel, “God will sow.” All along, God is using this family as a picture to the people. It’s a picture of the reality of who Israel is, running after other gods, other “loves,” other pleasures. It’s a picture of our own hearts. It’s a picture of Your faithfulness, God, in the midst of when we don’t deserve it because of our lack of faithfulness. It’s a picture of unconditional love and love beyond imagination. It’s a picture of warning and long-suffering. You reap what you sow. But God is the Final Sower. And in the midst of all the junk we throw around in our lives and at God, You’re busy sowing love and patience and seeds for repentance and a return to relationship and forgiveness and restoration.

 
But there’s a price to pay. We can’t stay the way we are. Our strength in ourselves and our pleasures has to be broken. So that’s not so bad to be named Jezreel, and to be a warning to Israel, is it? But then Gomer conceives again and bares a daughter. Hopefully this is from Hosea’s loins. But wherever she was from , God named her Loruhamah. Now that’s a sad name. It means, “not pitied.” Why? Because this is how God would act toward Israel; no more mercy. He’ll take them “utterly” away. Can you imagine having a name like that? Ow!

 
But again, You will have mercy on Judah, and here’s the great part I got excited over- You will save them by the LORD their God, not by bow or by sword or by battle or by horses or horsemen. It’s so easy to look towards things to save us. “Oh, God, send Your angels to watch over me!” “Oh, God, do this or do that…” But You don’t need bows or swords or armies or horses or horsemen. Maybe we look for salvation in all the wrong ways and all the wrong places. Maybe salvation is in You and You alone. Maybe salvation is in our relationship with God who gave Jesus so He could take us unto Himself and make us His very own.

 
What if life isn’t about my mission or my job or my ministry or my family or my wealth or my whatever? What if life is all about who I am in God? What if everything else is effected by that relationship? What if true living is getting that relationship right? What if Hosea was successful despite the “crazy” things he had to do because he understood the One He was listening to? What if Hosea is a great man not because He was a great prophet but because he walked with God in relationship step by step no matter what? What if that is why God chose to speak to him? What if that is why we’re still reading about him today? And what if that walk and that relationship is what makes the stories of Gomer and her children a beautiful story of love and redemption by a man who got it because he understood the God who gives it and is it?

 
And if this family doesn’t seem sad enough, another son is born and God names him Loammi- not my people. And not being God’s people implies that neither is God your God. But this is not without hope! God says that in the same place where they were called Loammi- not my people, one day it would be said again there that “You are the sons of the living God.” And in that day there will be a great gathering together of Judah and Israel and they’ll appoint themselves one head. I think that head is more than a ruler but that head is One Source. That these sons of the living God will understand together that they have become sons because of Jesus, the Son of God who sacrificed His life to restore them to His Father. There is coming a time when those who ran from the Creator will run to Him in awe.

 
That word for head in Hebrew is rosh. It’s the same word used in Rosh Hashanah which is the Hebrew new year. And it’s all about recognizing and acknowledging the Source of everything. As a matter of fact, Rosh Hashanah begins the time period on the Hebrew calendar known as the Days of Awe. And I think, Lord, that’s pretty much where You were trying to lead the people during Hosea’s time, back to the reality of awe in You, not because it was ritual but because You are so worthy of awe. We are nothing without You. The problem is that we are so prone to forget the truth.

 
Here You are, King of the Universe, Creator of everything, and yet we won’t even give You the time of day. Sometimes You just have to blow Your shofar loudly enough for us to hear it and be startled out of our self-induced slumber. And sometimes a shofar isn’t loud enough so it takes hard things in life to wake us up. We need to remember who we really are and we can’t remember that until we remember who You really are and that we wouldn’t exist without You. According to rabbinic teaching, “the sound of the shofar, then, is meant to stir the heart to fear and to inspire teshuvah (repentance).” Here in Hosea, Your story through the words and through Isaiah’s family was like a shofar. It was sounded to turn people back to You, to draw Gomer to Hosea and to You, to give his children a hope and a heritage, to give the people a way to return.

 
But it’s not just for Hosea, and Gomer, and Jezebel, and Loruhamah, Loammi, and Judah, and Israel. This is for us too. This is for me and this is for you. I’m just as much in need of redemption as Gomer; we all are. Jezreel isn’t the only one who will reap what he sows. And I’d rather reap what You sow, Lord. I can choose to live my own way and not accept Your pity. But I don’t want to. I want to be a Loruhamah who runs to You to receive the pity that You want to show me. Once I was not Yours, just like Loammi. But that was then. Now, I am Yours and You are mine. And if there is hope for me, then there is hope for anyone. I guess what happens is determined by how we respond when You blow the shofar. I just know that I want to wake up and listen. I want to wake up and hear. And I want to go even farther. I want to do what the shofar is signaling. I want to run to You for safety and salvation and belonging and purity and love and security and power.

 
Salvation is getting back to the relationship in the garden before the fall. It’s getting over me and never getting over You. You are the wonder of salvation. Jesus personified You for us but You are so much more. You are so much more that Jesus can change us and fill us with Your Spirit. You are so much more that You can be there in the midst of a prison or country where we are stripped of everything, yet we are not stripped of You. Our hope is not in any thing. Our hope, our reality, is in You. It is You. Oh, Lord, why do my eyes look at lesser things when You are every thing? You are It. That’s all I know. And maybe that’s all I need to know to think rightly.  You can choose your cake and eat it too.  But as for me, there is no better cake than Jesus.

Slicing the Pie and the Valley of Decision

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Photo credit to http://www.freeimages.com

 

“…for the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.” (Joel 3:14)

 
I suppose we as humans think that it’s a great gift to be able to make our own decisions. Deciding is a right and we cherish it. But I’m not so sure that deciding is a right. I think it’s more of a responsibility. Because with my decision, with every decision, comes consequences. So, if I really think about it, this whole “deciding” thing can have some nasty teeth to it.

 
Now, this verse which actually says, “Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision,” isn’t such a wonderful day for the multitudes. It’s actually a day of judgment. That Hebrew word for decision is charuts. It carries meanings like properly incised. You know, that means to cut. It can mean a trench that’s dug. Or it can refer to gold as it’s mined. It can also refer to a threshing sledge with it’s sharp teeth. So, yes, figuratively it can mean determination, or decision, or diligence while at the same time represent pointed and sharp things. It doesn’t seem like our idea of decision, does it?

 
We’ve been thinking about the choices that Israel made, like the choice to focus on things other than You God and Your ways and Your desires. I guess they layed Your ways out against their ways and when they took the threshing sledge of decision, they threshed Your ways out of there and kept their own. And now we’re looking at the choices the invading nations made. And it seemed like they chose to cut things the same way. They chose to run the knife down so as to slice You right out of the picture.

 
You ask Tyre and Sidon and Philistia this question, “Are you paying Me back for something?” Well, that’s a dangerous slice of pie to cut. Because Your reply is, “I will return your payment on your own head swiftly and speedily.” What goes around, comes around. Is that really a surprise?

 
Well, maybe you say, “Oh, what kind of God is that! That’s terrible!” Really? Listen to decisions the nations had made, to the cuts they had decided to inflict. They had “traded a boy for a prostitute, and have sold a girl for wine and have drunk it.” Do you really think that anyone has the “right” to do that? Is that their decision to devalue another’s life like that, to cheapen it so, to be the blade that cuts it off and scars it for life? Like this is only an ancient problem? Like there aren’t too many people to number who are still taking boys and girls and selling them for their own gain and for the children’s harm and other’s perversions?

 
“For you have taken My silver and My gold, and have carried my rich treasures into your temples.” Do you really think that God, who owns the universe, was concerned over silver and gold? Don’t you think that God was concerned over His people and that they were His silver and gold being carried away from Him and His presence? Sure, the silver and gold were taken from the temple. But You are concerned with the people You created. You care. You even care about the invaders. But the invaders have to come to care about You. And they have to make that cut before the day of the valley of decision, because that’s the day You make the cut.

 
Here’s the thing, all the other nations could have stopped and heard what Joel was saying. I’m thinking that somehow, in that day, Joel said this in a way that they could hear. But instead of really listening and understanding, like Ninevah when Jonah came, they decided to keep slicing things the way they always had. And that’s a decision each of us can also make. I can decide to keep slicing things the way I always have. I can not listen to anything You say. I can mock everything I want. I can keep slicing the piece of pie to whatever portion I want. Yes, it’s my choice. But it’s not my right. It just may be that I’m slicing up my own way to destruction.

 
The truth is that I can make any decision I want. I have that freedom. But I don’t think that making the wrong decision is freedom at all. Because you and I aren’t the final judge. There is One who created us and He alone is the final judge of our “decisions.” Slice that as we may, but there will be no way of slicing our way around that day. And it won’t just be a few that don’t meet the slicing requirements; it will be multitudes upon multitudes!

 
Well, that’s harsh! If that’s so harsh, why don’t the multitudes pay attention now? Why don’t we change our ways and slice our lives and choices differently? Why don’t we choose to slice the way of the One who wants to give us eternal slices of life instead of destruction? Why did the the multitudes turn away from Jesus and say that His ways of thinking were too much for them? Why do people mock Scripture without ever really looking into it to see if it bears truth?

 
Joel 3 ends with these words, “for the LORD dwells in Zion.” Despite all the cutting of the invading nations, despite all the straying of the people of Zion, and no matter who was inhabiting Zion, You were there God. It wasn’t that You dwelt there. It wasn’t that You would dwell there. In the midst of it all You dwell there. And in the midst of all the cutting against You we do with all our decisions, You are still here calling us and waiting for us to turn to You. Jew or Gentile, You are “not slow to fulfill [Your] promise as some count slowness, but [You are] patient toward [us], not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)

 

That’s kind of funny, but not in a “ha-ha” sort of way. But that word for repentance is metanoia. And it’s partly about, reversing your decision, so I suppose it’s a reversal of your cutting plan. Instead of cutting things my way, I decide to cut them Yours, Lord. And that’s a privilege which leads to life.

 
In truth, when we see the wrath of God upon man, let’s look at the many years that God called out and suffered the pains of watching and waiting patiently before retribution came. He literally suffers through the waiting as He affords people the opportunity to repent. I don’t know of any person outside of Jesus Christ who would suffer as much for as long and still love so fully. And then we want to fault You for that?

 
Jesus could have decided to cut us all off with one slice. But He didn’t because God is love. But God is also righteous and holy and judge and has to do what’s right. Yeah, it’s my decision and I can slice it any way I want but God will be the final judge of my slicing. He created the whole cake, not me. He gave Himself for it through Jesus. It’s His decision and not mine. I only fulfill my purpose when I line my slicing up with His. Lord, may my decision resemble Your decisions more and more every day so that when the day of the valley of decisions comes, You’ll recognize me as Your own possession, Your silver and Your golden treasure. Really, I don’t want to wait for then for You to recognize me. I want to be that recognizable treasure now!

Living the Vision

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Photo credit to Psyche Angelik Mendoza Villacillo-Zuhura

“‘Return to me,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the Lord of hosts.”  Zechariah 1:3

It was the eighth month in the Jewish calendar.  It was the second year of Darius’ reign.  Zechariah was thinking.  You speak to him.  Your word came to him not only for his benefit but for the benefit of all those he spoke it to and for those who would come after and hear the word also.  “The Lord was very angry with your fathers.”  Maybe You told Zechariah, “I was very angry with your fathers.”  Or maybe You told him, “Tell the people, ‘The Lord was very angry with your fathers.”  I don’t know.  I wasn’t the one that day that You spoke directly to.  I’m getting to hear it indirectly but it’s from You just the same.  There are things we do that make You angry.  There are things we do that bring on consequences.  There are things we do that shouldn’t be done.  And we have to realize that.  I have to realize that.

But the good news is that there is a remedy.  You told Zechariah to say more to the people.  You told him to say, “Thus declares the Lord of hosts, ‘Return to me,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the Lord of hosts.”  There are two words that stand out to me here. Return is one of them, represented in the Hebrew word shub.  The other is the repetition of the the title Lord of hosts. 

If when Jesus repeats something twice, it’s important, maybe this three-time repetition in one verse is something to be payed attention to.  What is a host, this Hebrew tsaba?  Strong’s says it is a mass of persons or things, especially regularly organized for war, like an army.  But it’s not just about a host or an army.  It’s about the Lord of this army.  The Hebrew word for Lord here is Jehovah.  It’s about the Self Existent One, the Eternal One, who is LORD, who is Jehovah who IS.  This is who is in control of an army and of every army.  There are armies that stand against Him yet He still controls their destiny.  But there is an army that fights for Him and their destiny is in Him.  But the problem is that sometimes, His soldiers forget whose army they are in.  Sometimes they forget where their destiny lies.  Sometimes they forget the heart of their existence.  Sometimes, Your host has to make up their mind to turn back to You in order to experience real life, real existence, real victory, real joy, because it only exists in You.  Sometimes we forget that.  Sometimes we turn to something less.

And that’s what had happened with Jerusalem.  And that can easily happen to me.  And when it does happen, we can get stuck there if we so choose.  Or we can come out and come back home.  It happens.  We get lost or we lose ourselves on purpose and by our own choice.  Sometimes others take us captive against our will and before we know it, we’re caught up in what we ought not be caught up in.  We’ve forgotten.  We’ve been influenced by another or by the war or whatever.  But You are warning us.  “Don’t be turned away from me by evil.  If you’ve taken your eyes off of me, turn them back.  Choose Me and stop choosing evil.  Listen to Me and stop listening to evil.” 

If You repeated that You are the Lord of hosts as an important reminder to us, then You want to emphasize even more so the importance of turning unto You, shub.  You share this more than 1050 times in Scripture.  Jerusalem couldn’t change her past.  She had made a choice, many choices, and was reaping the consequences.  But she could change her future.  And so can I.  Just like hers, my destiny can be in the Lord of hosts.  I can change my destiny by surrendering it back into Your hands because You are the One who designed it.   There’s only one way I can live out my true destiny.  I must “turn away from evil and turn toward good.”  And the truth of the matter is that only You are good. 

So if shub is all about turning away from one thing and turning back to the Lord, and turning back to my Starting Point and that is what repentance is, I need to be ever mindful of this.  To not turn also guarantees my future.  On the one hand, I can have a future of fulfilling Your plans for me by living in Your authority under Your miraculous command.  My future is assured and amazing and my path is guaranteed in You.  But if I don’t turn, I just have my self and I don’t have the power to bring things to pass.  No matter how much I might try to be god, I can’t succeed because I’m not and I never will be.  So if I don’t turn, what do I have? 

But as I think about it, this forgiveness that You offer, no matter how lost I’ve gotten, this turning away from whatever I’ve gotten caught up in and turning back to You, is probably not a one time deal.  This is something I have to be careful of not letting happen again.  Because I will always be confronted with things and ideas that are contrary to all that You are.  I must continually choose to turn from evil and turn to You.  Repentance isn’t a one time deal.  Neither is forgiveness.  Whenever I have turned away, You call me to turn back.  You remind me that I am one of Your host, I belong to You, I am Yours and You are mine- You are my Lord, my authority, the One who leads and takes care of me and gives me authority under You.  Because the truth of the matter is the same today as it was for those of Jerusalem in Zechariah’s day. “But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not overtake your fathers? So they repented and said, ‘As the Lord of hosts purposed to deal with us for our ways and deeds, so has he dealt with us.’” There is only one Lord of hosts and what You say, was, is, and will be.  Your words and Your ways will either overtake us as we joyfully live them out, or we will be overtaken by them as You pronounce Your judgment upon us.

I am so grateful that You forgive.  I am overwhelmed by Your long-suffering.  Your patience and love has no compare.   Time and time again You call us to Your hope and not despair.  Though we were lost yet You give us the privilege of one day saying, “‘I am the Lord’s,’ another will call the name of Jacob, and another will write on his hand, ‘The Lord’s,’ and name himself by the name of Israel.”  You are the Lord, the Lord of hosts, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, and my Redeemer.  You are the First and the Last, and beside You there is no god.  You are God alone.  There is no one like You.  You have chosen us to be witnesses to You.  Though our transgressions are like a thick cloud and our sins like a heavy mist, You wipe them out.  I can live in that truth, that glorious truth.  I can turn from the lies.  I can violently turn and run with everything in my being to You instead because You alone have redeemed me.  By Your stripes I am healed.  By Your death I am cleansed.  By Your life, my life is made new and eternal.

Zechariah was given a vision about four horns.  Horns represent strength and power and dominion.  We can surrender to wrong dominion, we can be taken over by power that isn’t meant to be, or we can turn to and run to the protection of the “horn of salvation,” Jesus.  It’s interesting that the four horns, the ruling powers that would be part of Israel’s judgment, were overcome by craftsmen.  Maybe some of these were military leaders also, like Cyrus who was instrumental in the rebuilding of the temple, or Alexander the Great who used debris of the old city to build a causeway, and maybe even Rome was a type of craftsman.  But the Ultimate Craftsman has come, a Jewish carpenter named Jesus.  This craftsman also called us to repentance, to turn to Him, for in Him is the Kingdom of God.  We are called to be a part of this kingdom that will never be destroyed and never left to another people.  We are called to be the host of a kingdom that shall stand forever in You.  What will I do about that?  Where will I turn?  Lord, I want to turn to You and remain in You.  I want to be among Your host all the days of my life. I want to live out Your vision for me.

The Evidence is in Our Preaching

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Photo credit to Advancing Native Missions.

“The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.”  Matthew 4:16, Isaiah 9:2

It’s so easy to always think the story is about someone else.  David thought so.  Nathan went to David with a story about two men, a rich man and a poor man.  The rich man had many flocks and herds and the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb that he loved.  A traveler comes to visit the rich man and instead of using his own flock, he takes the  poor man’s lamb, kills it and prepares it for the food for the traveler.  The story infuriated David.  How could someone do something like that?  He should be punished greatly.  And then Nathan points the finger of God right at David.  “You are that man, David.”  And David realized he was that man.  And though he had chosen to walk himself right into darkness, through true repentance, light sprang up again.

It’s so easy to point fingers at other people.  It’s so hard to face the truth in our own lives and hearts.  It’s so easy to sit in darkness and choose to stay there where we think we’re comfortable.  It’s so easy to play in the shadow of death.  I mean, after all, this is life and we get used to living in the shadow of the distress that comes with it.  Walking through life means walking through a hard place and heading to an eventual place I know nothing about, you know, that place called death.

David thought about it.  That’s why he wrote Psalm 23.  “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures: he leads me beside still waters.  He restores my soul: he leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.  Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies: you anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over.  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”  David wasn’t just focussed on death.  And he wasn’t just focussed on the thick darkness of life circumstances that could surround him.  He thought about Sheol.  He knew deep distress, or he would know it soon enough.  He could visualize it as a shepherd thinking back to the times when he had walked the “deep ravines, darkened by over-hanging briars,” leading and driving his sheep to new and better pasture.  And just as he had brought his sheep safely through, so the Lord would bring him through.  And so the Lord will bring us through.

Now, back to what was going on with You, Jesus.  John the Baptist, who had been preaching You, proclaiming You in the wilderness, has just been arrested and imprisoned.  It’s time for Your preaching to begin.  It’s time for Your light to shine in the darkness.  So what do You do?  What is the first thing You began to preach?  Here are Your words, “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  I think I really need to think about this and to meditate on it.  Because maybe this is what preaching is all about.  Maybe this is what I ought to be concerned with proclaiming.  And maybe my proclaiming ought to line up with Your proclaiming.

It’s so easy to think that preaching is done by a preacher.  But the more I read Your Word, the more I see how that is not Your design.  It’s so easy to think that preaching is all about the Gospel, the good news of You, Jesus, and about winning souls to You.  And it’s not that it’s not about that, but that’s not all of it.  I mean, think about it.  How did You lead into preaching?  “Repent.”  The kingdom of heaven is at hand, but to enter, you must understand repentance.  Why “Repent” first?  Why not “Believe”?  Maybe we can’t really believe until we repent of our old ways of thinking and acting first.  Maybe we have to realize that there is a better way, that there is an only way, and it’s not our way.

Paul understood what preaching was.  He urged Timothy to “preach the word, be urgent in season, out of season, reprove, warn, encourage with all long-suffering and teaching.”  That wasn’t just about salvation.  Paul was urging Timothy to teach the people how to obey the word of God from the Old Testament on.  Timothy was learning and teaching others to obey the will of God, to be changed and transformed by His Word.  The more deeply I know Your Word, the more I will see a need to repent and conform to Your Word.  It’s so easy to fall into this dark valley where I think I get it all and I start going my own way instead of Yours.  And then there I am all wrapped up in briars and lost in the dark of night.

Repentance comes with correction.  I need exhortation.  I need to be taught.  It’s not natural for my earthly thinking to understand the ways of God.  Days change.  Circumstances change.  I have to be urged to stay faithful.  Sometimes I have to be reproved.  Sometimes I have to be warned.  Sometimes I don’t heed.  So I need more reproof and more warning.  Sometimes I need encouragement.  And I need so much long-suffering on God’s behalf and others around me, because sometimes I’m just hard-headed and slow to understand or slow to submit.  And the minute I ease up on listening and searching out sound teaching, is the minute I make that wrong turn again.  Yes, this is true preaching.  It gets down and dirty.  It tells me things I don’t want to hear about myself, but I must.  But it doesn’t leave me on my own.  It doesn’t leave me beaten and battered.  It walks through it all with me.  It leads me and protects me as it shepherds me.  Preaching of anyone who is really preaching leads me into a deeper understanding of You and Your word.

James reiterated this point.  “For in every city from ancient generations Moses has those proclaiming him, having been read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.” (Acts 15:21)  Why would James care if Moses was being proclaimed?  Shouldn’t Jesus be the one being preached?  But when we teach what obedience to God looks like, what faithfulness resembles, what delighting in God looks like, by teaching His Word, aren’t we doing that?  Isn’t that a precursor to being able to know Jesus?

Here’s James’s point.  Proclaiming Jesus doesn’t open some door to license because of grace.  Believers are connected to the truth of Jesus by the teachings of God’s Word.  Jesus doesn’t usher in a chance for error because we aren’t to throw out the baby with the bath water.  Loving and trusting Jesus means studying and obeying the Word of God.  I am to be listening to and studying the Word.  Those who are involved in preaching are to be fully explaining the relationship of God’s Law and Grace to me.  I’m to be pursuing that understanding.

Let’s face it. Jesus’ words aren’t just the words He spoke in the New Testament.  Jesus quoted so much from the Torah, or Old Testament as we call it.  Even this verse that started today’s thinking was a reminder from Isaiah.  Jesus wants us to know all of God’s word.  I need to know.  It was a part of being educated in godly living before Jesus, during Jesus, and now.   Jesus didn’t change that.  He came to show us how to live that and make a way for us to fulfil God’s desire for us to be His again and live out His image, to be His image bearers.  Jesus came to make us able to be obedient to God and live according to His plan.

The truth is that I’m not transformed by some magical, mystical belief in Jesus.  I am transformed by the renewing of my mind by the power of Christ through His resurrection and by the power of the truth in the words of God.  There is so much I need to repent over.  And it’s not just things I do.  It’s repenting over the way I think.  Yes, I must present my body a living sacrifice, holy, and acceptable unto God.  That’s the least I ought to do.  But I must also repent of where my mind goes.  I must not conform to this world’s thinking.  I am to be transformed by the renewing of my mind.  Jesus, by His death and resurrection, has made me able to be renewed.  When I surrendered to Him as my Lord and Savior, He gave me a new heart, a heart of flesh instead of stone.  He gave me the ability to think like Him, like God, because now I have the mind of Christ.  Repentance is renewing my mind.  It’s teaching my mind, moment after moment, day after day, year after year to approve that which is good by Your standards, God.  It’s coming into full agreement with You.  It’s accepting what You choose as acceptable.  It’s only settling for Your character as my character.  It’s doing whatever it takes to learn and live out Your will instead of mine.

So, who is a preacher.  It’s the one who leads this way and teaches others how to get here.  It’s a leader who plays by a different set of rules, by God’s rules.  This preacher heralds God’s word for people to hear.  Lots of these preachers don’t even have a degree.  But they are called and they are gifted to proclaim the truth.  They are compelled.  They couldn’t stop if you tried to stop them.

They are the first to understand the value of repentance.  It’s real.  It’s necessary.  It’s constantly there.  And because they understand the value  they know that it’s the “life-blood of a relationship with Jesus.”  There’s never going to be a time when we outgrow it’s need.  There’s never going to be a time when we need to stop proclaiming it.  Before the lost can be found they need to hear the message of repentance.  And the found should never stop remembering their own need for repentance.

And the truth is, it’s not just up to “preachers.”  Paul wants every believer to share about repentance, redemption, and hope because we’ve all got a personal story to share of how we have encountered them in Christ.  We don’t need a theological degree, we have something more.  We have the Logos, the Word incarnate, demonstrated in our own lives.  Let’s tell people what He has done for us.  Let’s tell people how His word speaks to us.  Let’s live like Jesus intended us to.  Let’s obey Jesus like the demoniac who had no theological degree.  Yet Jesus chose him to appoint him to “go home to your friends, and tell them how great things the Lord has done for you, and has had compassion on you.”  (Mark 5:19)  And the demoniac did just that and more.  He preached.  Man did he preach.  He left and began preaching, kerusso, proclaiming, publishing, in Decapolis, this major intersection of 10 cities, how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men marveled.  So what’s my excuse?  Maybe I need to consider repentance in my own life.  After all, he or she who is forgiven little, loves little, right?  But the one who realizes how much they’ve been forgiven and set free from, well they love back just as much, right?  Where do I stand?  I guess the evidence is in my preaching.

Are You Ready?

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“…And even now you are not ready, for you are still of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?”  (1 Corinthians 3:2,3)

So I’m back looking over that older devotional journal of mine.  And I’ve read my meditations.  But now I want to reread Your Word again that I read that day.  And I want to meditate on it more.  It’s so pertinent.  It’s so absolutely necessary to not only understand it, but to live it.  It’s not enough to know doctrine.  It must become who I am.  It must become my life.  Why?  Because Your Word is not a set of rules and regulations and precepts to only follow.  These words You’ve given us are a part of You that You have given us.  It’s what You look like.  Your Word is alive because You are in it and it is of You and You are alive.  So, how alive is Your Word in me?  How alive are You in me?

That’s really the question that Paul is asking the Corinthians here.  “How alive is Christ in You?  How alive is God in You?”  The problem is that these believers weren’t acting at all like believers.  Anyone looking at them and their lives and their actions would have thought that they looked and acted just like the other “pagans.”  And that’s the problem.  Believers aren’t supposed to be the images of mere men, they are supposed to be the image of God.

If we go back to the beginning, in Genesis, we see that man and woman, anthropos, were created in the image of God.  Therefore, it seems to me, that the purpose of any man and any woman is to bear that glorious image.  But I think that this is more than a mirror image that is just supposed to reflect the looks of it’s host.  “And God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness’…So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them…And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.”  (Genesis 1:26,27, 31)  See, we were created in the image and likeness of God.  We were created to be His living models in the world, before all of creation, angelic, human, and animate and inanimate.  This is Your purpose, God, for us.

But then the problem arises.  We were created for this purpose, but we chose another.  We were created to reflect the image of God in all of our being, but like Satan, we wanted our own image to have meaning and significance on it’s own.  We wanted it our way, not Your way.  Instead of glory in Your image, we chose a faulty image, a broken image, our own way, the way of the created instead of the Creator.  We chose sin.  We chose self.  We chose a false idol.  We chose lust.  We chose to turn away from Glory and to turn to ourselves.  We chose wrong.  Oh, so wrong.

This is sin.  But notice what sin really is, it’s denying who I was created to be.  It’s denying the glory of God in my life.  It’s turning away from glory.  It’s choosing to turn away.  It’s choosing to deny the truth.  The truth is that humans were created in the image of God, to be true reflections of God in this world.  Humanity, therefore, isn’t being fleshly.  True humanity is being Godly, resembling His image.

Paul is calling the Corinthians and us to repentance, to return to God.  See, repentance isn’t about our humiliation.  On the contrary, it’s about being reaffirmed in the image of our Creator.  Repentance is about returning and realizing who we were in the first place.  It’s all about coming back to You, God, and accepting and reclaiming our image in You.  It’s about realizing who I’m really like.  Sin put a crack in that image, a really giant crack.  When people see us through sin, they no longer see a glorious God.  They no longer see humanity as God designed it.  So, I suppose “sin makes us less than human.”  Scripture tells us that all homosapiens have sinned.  That makes every one of us “less-than-human,” well, except for Christ.  Skip Moen continues, ” Doing what I want instead of doing what God wants reduces the image of God in me, and consequently, reduces my humanity.  Of course, the world doesn’t present being human in this way.  The world suggests that being human is an ontological fact of my existence.  I am human because I am homo sapien.  But the Bible has a different point of view.  Man was formed human because Man was invited to participate in the divine image – an image that is the dynamic interplay of actions that reflect God.  Sin does not reflect God.  It reflects rebellion against God.  Therefore, sin is the antithesis of being human.  To repent, to return to the image of God, is to recapture my own humanity because unless I have an open, cooperative, obedient relationship with Him, I do not share His image.”

Now let’s go back to what Paul is saying, because he could be saying this to us.  This is my paraphrase.  “Hey, I couldn’t talk to you like you understood the spiritual, supernatural things of God.  I had to talk to you like all you understand was fleshly stuff, stuff that mere men think about and understand.  You should have understood the things of God, but you were immature and simple minded.  But that’s not what you should have been.  I’ve been feeding you like babies and even now you have no idea how to handle real food.  I suppose it’s not just that you don’t know how to eat and chew real food.  It’s that your digestive system doesn’t even have the power to do it.  But why not?  You’re old enough to digest real food?  What’s keeping you from maturing?”

What keeps us from maturing?  What keeps us from our true and full identity in You, Lord?  Sarkikos.  I just want what I want.  It’s all about me.  It’s not about You, it’s not about Your image, I’ve made it all about me.  I envy, I strive, I argue, because I want it my way.  I choose to live like a mere man instead of like You.  I choose to follow mere men instead of You.  I choose to acknowledge mere men instead of You.  I look for satisfaction in mere man and not in You.  I look for love in mere man and not in You.  I look for acceptance in mere man and not in You.  I look for approval in mere man and not in You.

But the truth of the matter is that every human was designed and endowed to be a colabourer in You and with each other.  We were created in Your image to build Your kingdom, not our own.  Each of us is Your handiwork.  Each of us is God’s building.  No single brick makes a house.  And when bricks and stone are made by hand, which is what You are doing, Lord, then they need to be cut and chizzled and ground to fit perfectly in the right place.  It’s the grace of God that called Paul as a wise masterbuilder in charge under Him to help us understand how God was fitting us together.  But even that is initiated from the grace of God, given to each us, the grace of the wise Master Masterbuilder, who knows how each of us fits.  And only You know, Lord.

Now here’s the caution.  Am I taking heed to the building process?  Am I letting the right One form me?  Am I yielding to a foreign builder?  Am I taking over the building process myself?  Who is really building my house?  Do I think about that moment by moment each day?  When I am faced with decisions, when my heart cries one thing and my spirit another, am I thinking about who my Builder is?  Am I yielding to my fleshly desires and allowing something to be added to my life that makes me an unfit stone?  Or am I surrendering to the Master’s chisel and allowing Him to remove that which would keep me from a perfect fit in the body of Christ?

Maybe my work isn’t about what I do.  Maybe this work, this labour is about how I yield and how I allow You to form Your image in me.  I can add more of You to it or I can add more of me to it.  Because I don’t think You are the One laying a foundation of hay or stubble to be burned in the fire so nothing is left of it.  But I might do something like that.  And the truth is that You tell me that the truth of building will be made known, it will be manifest for all to see.  There’s a day, and not necessarily the day I stand before You, but a day which could be today on this earth, where I’m going to be made manifest, where people will know what image I really take after.  Am I ready for that day?

Am I ready for fire?  Because, whatever it takes to make me fit is what You will do.  And if You have to bring pain and suffering to burn away the chaff, to chizel the malformed pieces of stone that are me, You will do that.  What is my work?  What is my labour?  What if it is to live life in Your image, every moment of every day?  What if that is what really counts?  What if whether I wake or sleep, that is my purpose?  Do I have anything in my life that is contrary to that purpose?  Is my flesh controlling me in any area or are You in every area?  Am I the human I was created to be, fully reflecting and exhibiting You and Your power in my life?  Or am I less than human?

Am I ready?  Am I living in Your purpose for me?  Am I living out the image of God?  Or, am I about to be exposed?  Maybe now is the time to examine every area of my life that is setting forth a false image.  I want to fulfill my purpose.  I want to live in the image of my Maker.  And I don’t want to tarnish my Maker’s image because I know how much He loves me and how much He has done for me and I deserve none of it.  Lord, by Your power, make me ready.  I want to live in Your image, wholly, not partly, because there’s no such thing as a partial image of God.  In Isaiah 30:15 You said, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” But Isaiah said that Israel was “unwilling.”  I don’t want to be like that.  I don’t want my own way, and even when I do, I really want Your way.  I want to be one who returns and rests in You, who returns and rests in who You created me to be.  And Lord, if I’m not as ready as I think I am, then make me ready.  I mean if You can help a father’s unbelief, You can certainly help me be ready to receive and ready to live to Your glory and in Your image.

Only the Needy Receive

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“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”  Matthew 5:7

Even before looking into some treasure words here, I’m taken this morning back to a story, a true story.  I’m taken back to a time when You, Jesus, were invited to a Pharisees house for dinner and You went.  As was the custom during the day, You were there, reclined at the table.  And this woman from the city, this woman “which was a sinner” shows up.  Now, most scholars think this woman was a known prostitute in the city.

A known prostitute shows up with an expensive box of ointment, standing at Jesus’ feet and weeping.  And the Pharisee recognizes her.  People knew her and what she did for a living.  And I wonder how she got to be that way?  I mean, a prostitute doesn’t become a prostitute without partners, does she?  And I wonder how a prostitute ever gets to stop being a prostitute if all she ever is in the eyes of the community around her is a prostitute?  Just thinking.

But I digress.  So she is standing at Jesus’ feet with this ointment and weeping.  And she begins to wet His feet with her tears and to wipe His feet with her hair.  And it doesn’t stop there.  She’s kissing His feet, you know, with her lips!  And anointing them with that ointment.  And this Pharisee who had invited Jesus over for dinner is watching and thinking to himself, “How can you be a prophet if you don’t even know what kind of sinner this woman is?  How can you even let the likes of her touch you?  How can you let her sin soil you like that?”  Well, I’m kind of reading into his words there, but that’s the gyst of it.

Now, I don’t personally know this woman.  And I don’t personally know this Pharisee.  But I do personally know the One who was there with them both.  And it seems to me like that woman realized who Jesus really was and that the Pharisee really missed it.  He was just standing in front of a prophet, another man of God.  But she was kneeling before her Savior, before the throne of God Himself.  Because, if I don’t see Jesus as God, well, I look pretty good before those standing around me.  But if I see You Jesus as God, I’m just as much a sinner as the prostitute.  And my offering You dinner and my religious position are pretty insignificant and soiled in comparison.

Now I don’t know why, but I find it interesting that up to this point, we don’t know the name of the Pharisee.  But in verse 40, Jesus knows his very thoughts and we hear Jesus call him by name.  “Simon.”  Simon had expectations for Jesus.  Jesus was a prophet.  He was supposed to be a messenger of God.  Messenger’s of God were supposed to act a certain way in his eyes.  Letting this tainted woman touch Him was ungodly.  Why?  “This woman touched his feet (a potentially erotic gesture in those days).  She let down her hair (the equivalent of bearing her breasts).  She put herself in a submissive position before a strange man (a posture with sexual innuendo).  And Yeshua allowed her to do so.  He didn’t reject her.  He didn’t rebuke her.  He wasn’t offended.”   (Skip Moen)

And at the point of Simon’s offense, Jesus says, “Simon.”  Now, I just learned that it was Simon’s “responsibility to protect the honor and dignity of his guest.”  Was he stepping up to that responsibility?  How did he act to do so?   Did he step in to stop this woman?  How did he try to prevent what was happening?  How was he honoring Jesus?  He wasn’t.    

Who are we socially responsible for?  Are we protecting their honor?  Would we snatch someone from the fire to protect their honor or just let them burn?  Would we rather stand and pass judgment and blame or would we rather show mercy, justice, and compassion?  See, Jesus has different expectations.  He doesn’t do what’s proper.  He does what’s right.  He does what’s merciful.  He snatches us away from the flames.  He redeems and renews.  He gives life and life abundantly to those who don’t deserve it because frankly, none of us deserve the life He gives.

So I want to listen to Your words, Jesus, to Simon, because they are to me, also.  You could just as well be standing here, saying to me, “Sharon”.  And you do and you are.  “I have something to say to you.”  “Say it, Lord.”  “A certain moneylender had two debtors.  One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.  When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both.  Now which of them will love him more?”  “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.”  “You have judged rightly.”

“Simon, look at this woman.  I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet  [a responsible host would have done that, it’s part of honoring your guest], but she [this sinner prostitute] has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair [has honored me as you should have].  You gave me no kiss [I’m thinking someone honoring him or a friend would have], but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet.  You did not anoint my head with oil [refreshing the guest with fragrant oil was a custom- Easton’s Bible Dictionary], but she has anointed my feet with ointment.”  So if it was the first duty of a Hebrew host to make sure that his guest’s feet were washed, and even this was ignored, then what was this saying about Simon’s feelings toward Jesus?  Jesus calls him out on this.  “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven- for she loved much.  But he who is forgiven little loves little.”(Luke 7)

Jesus is merciful.  He forgives sins because He has the power to forgive sin.  Jesus is merciful.  He forgives sin because He came to do so.  He came to call sinners to repentance.  Why?  Because sinners know they need to repent.  Sinners know they aren’t worthy of accolades, but worthy of condemnation.  He came as light, so that I wouldn’t remain in darkness.  He came so that I would know the Truth and know the truth about myself and be saved from it.

I guess it all has to do with me understanding what mercy means for You, Jesus.  The Greek idea saw it as a weakness of emotion.  I feel sorry, so I release someone from punishment.  But that just proved that my emotions were weak.  The Hebrew idea of mercy, “hesed”,  carries the idea of a stronger one coming to the aid of a weaker one.  It’s a sign of Your covenant promise.  God loves so He shows mercy.  That mercy is the consequence of grace.  When I’m loved in this way, when I understand this measure of love I’ve received, then I too want to display this love to others.  Mercy in me is an overflow of the mercy that Christ has shown me by His demonstration of love in my own life.   

“Happy the merciful, for they shall find mercy.”  The ones who practice mercy, know what it looks like, they know what it feels like, they know what it acts like.  The one who does mercy, is filled by the love that provokes mercy.  This kind of mercy isn’t a common, normal thing.  And maybe that’s the point.  Maybe mercy takes an encounter with our loving God in order to show it.  And I can’t experience it, I can’t receive it, until I recognize it in the first place.  So maybe those whose eyes have been opened to recognize it, those who see their own need, extend it to others.  And because they understand that need, Jesus fills that need.  I can’t explain it.  But somehow, we see that Jesus is merciful.  We come to Him in need.  We understand the need to show others mercy because we are in such dire need for mercy ourselves.  And who showed us this need?

The One who satisfies our need is the One who showed us our need in the first place.  I can’t explain this one.  It’s more than me receiving a blessing and being shown mercy to because I showed mercy to someone else.  I mean, how did I first learn how to show mercy?  It absolutely doesn’t come naturally.  But when I practice following You, Jesus, I’m enveloped in Your love which is accompanied by Your mercy and grace.  And as I live in that, I receive more and more of it myself.  But it’s not just for me.  It’s for me to give to others.  I become merciful because You are merciful and I am in You.  And I am happy in You, regardless of what rights I must surrender to be merciful to others.

Oh, Lord, help me to learn this.  I don’t want to learn a head knowledge.  I want to know what this looks like in all the hard situations in my life.  I want to know what it looks like and acts like in me to be merciful to those who aren’t merciful to me.  How does it translate in my real life, that when others put me down and ridicule me, I’m merciful instead to them?  What does it practically look like?  How does it translate in real life?

You were merciful to both the prostitute and the Pharisee.  I know the prostitute understood.  Did Simon ever understand?  I’ve been forgiven much.  Am I forgiving much?  How needy am I?  Because it’s the needy who see their need.  It’s the needy who receive.