Tag Archive: Mercy


Seldom do I venture into mixing politics and faith.  Jesus separated the two.  He said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesars and give to God what is Gods.”  The two alone can become vicious between two debaters.  I imagine together they can bring death and destruction.  Today, I’m going to dip my toe in.

As our government roles deeper into the shutdown and the sides continue to play tit for tat, as a believer, I’m saddened.  Regardless of our views on welfare and political parties and border control, in the sad game are real people.  People who are at the mercy of powerful and often arrogant leaders on both sides of the issues at hand.  Who is going to care for those caught in the middle?

I was having this discussion with a friend who reminded me the employees will be paid once the shutdown is over.  I reminded him that many of those in these positions are pay check-to- pay check.  It won’t take long till mortgages and rents are missed, electric and water bills become critical, and credit cards become maxed out.  In the meantime those in authority play games with national audiences.

I don’t have the answers to immigration, and I don’t have the answers to the holes in everyone’s political platforms.  What I do know is people – white, black, yellow, young, old and still to be born, are trapped in a world where the weak are used as pawns for a perceived cause, and my Bible does speak about that!

In the Old Testament, God set out his people to be separate.  They were a holy people to be used by God for his holy intentions.  Their purity was important to God.  Along the way, they forgot the source of their purity.  Their purity was to be founded in listening to and following the words of God.  Instead, they took a few words (law) ,built power centers (Pharisees, Sadducees and Scribes), and created a means to judge others instead of loving others.  

They forgot they were not to take advantage of the disadvantaged.  They missed the words about taking care of the alien and stranger in the land.  They disregarded the teaching about making a profit off the backs of the weak.  They were reprimanded but changed nothing when the prophet Micah said, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”  Instead, the rich and the proud distorted justice, had little mercy and forgot God.  Sounds familiar. The Bible is relative to our world as it was to theirs.

When we, as a people, have little compassion for the weak, we have lost the heart of God.  Micah did say love justice.  It’s not about letting life become a free for all.  However, the three elements of what God requires are connected at the hip.  As I grow older, I discover they cannot be separated.  They are the heart of God.  

Psalm 41:1 says, “Blessed is the one who has regard for the weak!”  First of all notice the exclamation point.  It was used to emphasize an action of a believer.  The word used for regard is not a passing glance.  It was used to describe someone “who has the ability to know what to do and how.”  How do we develop the ability?  Micah answers that one.  He said, “…walk humbly with our God.”  

Jesus came from his position at the right hand of the Father and walked among us for 30 years, giving his very life to give us life and give us a mediator who knew us personally.  It’s an amazing feature about Christianity.  God with us!  His Holy Spirit makes that possible every day, no matter where we go.  Humility with God is recognizing he didn’t have to leave the throne and walk among us, much less die for us.  His justice demanded our death!  Instead of death, we are given mercy and He calls upon us to remember it (Lord’s supper) and be the touch of Jesus to the weak.  

It’s time we quit fighting about which party best fits the Christian faith.  We are not called to pick the least of two evils.  We are called to live separate of that.  It’s a life that considers “others better than ourselves” according to the Apostle Paul in Philippians 2.  Now we not only have a weak people (immigrants) dying to come to this land of prosperity, we have our own who will not be paid by the richest government in the world while the proud make their points.  It’s been this way for years (Regan amnesty) and won’t get fixed quickly.  

Where do we start?  Walk humbly with our God.  He is the only one that can melt the heart bent on judgment and destruction.  I’m going to say it!  Donald and Nancy, put your sticks down, walk humbly with Jesus, figure out how mercy and justice work together and don’t forget to take care of the alien as well as your own brother and sister.

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Don’t look now but Christmas Day is looming.  Right about now, we realize we forgot someone on the gift list.  It’s also possible we received a Christmas card from someone we left off our list.  For younger readers Christmas card lists used to reach into the hundreds.  Now we hope to get a mention on Facebook.

The world will begin to close down around noon tomorrow.  In a few hours we can begin to slow down.  We can begin to focus on “peace on earth, goodwill to man.”  Yes, there are toys that need to be put together.  If I may give a hint, since I’m now in the grandfather stage, don’t kill yourself putting them together the night before.  There will be plenty of time later.  Putting toys together after Christmas extends the day.  Instead, enjoy your family and focus on the importance of this one day.

This one day is so much more important than a manger scene, three kings, a baby, a star and much more.   It is the day we set aside to celebrate the birth of Jesus.  I can’t help but remember the scene from Talladega Nights when Ricky Bobby says grace to the baby Jesus.  It borders on sacrilegious for sure.  The satire points out the truth written by Michael Kruger when he says, “Sometimes our picture of scriptural stories is shaped more by popular perceptions and modern retellings than by the text itself.”  Often we look at Christmas by focusing on the story line and miss the deeper truth of Christmas.

It is the day that God became personal.  I didn’t spell it wrong.  Yes, God became a person.  More than that truth, the concept of God went from a bit of a  mystic concept to a personal God leaving us with no excuses.  We can’t leave the baby in the manger.  It’s sweet for sure.  But God can now be defined in a personal, human sense.

The idea of a personal God is very important.  Many will talk about God from a distant perspective.  But when the name of Jesus comes up, it is amazing how it makes people squirm.  Why?  Jesus connected man to God and God to man.  It is somewhat easy to leave a belief in God somewhat up in the air, since, God is not embraceable.  But Jesus, that’s a different story.  The beauty of the story isn’t that we can embrace Jesus.  It’s that he embraces us.  

He invades our world.  He doesn’t just show up in the little town of Bethlehem.  He appears bringing God into understandable measure.  Man would never be the same again.  

Kings fear.  Wise men trail long distances to find him.  Shepherds are invited to the appearance bringing the marginalized into fellowship with God.  It gets better.  The lame will walk.   The blind will see.  Demons know him and fear.  Lepers become whole.  Gentiles are adopted.   Storms are calmed.  The dead walk.  Women are elevated and respected.  Cultural boundaries are erased.  The guilty are forgiven.  Hope is restored.  Grace abounds.  Love prevails.  Mercy is granted.  Jesus is here!  

What did we do?  Killed him.  Those who cannot move past the baby in the manger can only depend upon man himself.  The self-righteous stay on the outside looking in.  Instead of humility, their pride keeps them from the embrace of a personal God.  

As the baby became a man of whom John the Baptist said, “He must increase and I must decrease,” the grave could not contain the personal God.  The resurrection guarantees the truth that this child is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and came proclaiming, “Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Man.”  

The God who we struggled to get our minds around had embraced his fallen creation and came in the form of a human baby.  We can now relate.  We can now communicate.  We can now have a relationship.  There is no magical prayer mentioned in the Bible.  There is no special action.  All Jesus would ask is “Do you believe?”  Do you believe that Jesus, the Son of God, is the way, the truth, and the life for man or woman no matter their past?  

Honestly, it was not a silent night at all.  It was a thunderous night.  God has come and now we can relate to him as never before.  The world would never be the same again.  “Joy to the World, the Lord has come.”  It ain’t no baby.  It’s God!  

Here we go!  Thanksgiving has just passed and we are on our way to Christmas.  Not counting Christmas Day we are 29 days away.  That’s right…29 days.  I don’t know what is or is not a shopping day anymore.  I think they all are. 

I wish Thanksgiving could be more than one day.  It is our family’s favorite day of the year.  There is no pressure of gift giving or expected custom other than to be at the table when mom told us to be there.  No schedule other than the Dallas Cowboys game.  I’m not sure anyone was awake at 4:00 p.m.  That’s the joy of Thanksgiving.

We are going away for a few days.  With the grandkids we have tickets to go on the Polar Express Train.  It is inspired from the popular book by Chris Van Allsburg about a magical train ride on Christmas Eve.  I think it’s quite funny we are going on a train ride when Christmas is like a locomotive going full blast through our lives.  All Aboard! 

As the train called “Life” gets going we can get caught in the rush and miss so many and much around us.  Yes, it is a time for family and friends.  Yes, we buy a present to show our love or admiration.  We might do some special things for special people.  However, in the process we can get caught in the rat race of the holidays.  Sometimes it feels like the rats are winning.

Our lives are crazy enough without 3 back-to-back holidays.  I meet so many people who are working hard just to keep their nose above the water line.  I meet many fellow weary travelers on the exhausting road of life.  Now, with the season it gets ramped up.  I’m concerned we are over stimulated and some will break under the pressure.

As a chaplain for the Bluffton Police Department we are very much aware the holiday season can be rough.  Some have experienced loss and grieve their loved ones.  Others have serious  struggles and cannot relate to the “joy” of the season.  It leaves them feeling isolated and alone.  For a few the season propels them deeper into their depression and hopelessness as thoughts of suicide deceive them into grievous actions.

As we hustle and bustle though the season slow down a bit and look around.   There are plenty that not only need to hear of Jesus, they need to see him.

Consider:

  allowing someone to go ahead of you in the long lines

  asking a waitress how you can pray for her as you say grace

  saying “thank you” to everyone who fills our many needs

  actively forgive someone this season you hold blame against

  inviting someone to a meal or a cup of coffee

  being a bearer of peace in times of chaos

  do something out of the ordinary for someone in need

  baking an extra pie and give it away

  buying a few Walmart gift cards, stand out front and give them away to someone who 

looks like they are in need

  doing the outrageous

  making it a point to talk to people instead of walking by them every day

  giving double tips (I’m sure they could use it)

  being gracious, extending mercy and loving others including your enemy (Jesus   

didn’t give us an out)

The greatest gift you can give those around you is to slow down and enjoy them.  Even our kids have enough stimulation from outside sources.  They don’t need more.  They need us.  

There was a young man who I knew many years ago who at the ripe age of 15 was already wound around the axle.  We were walking in King’s Dominion and he was so bent on not being able to ride certain rides for the 3rd or 4th time.  I looked at him and with his parents around bellowed, “Dude, you need to slow down and smell the roses.”  I didn’t realize we were actually in an area with beautiful red roses everywhere.  

This holiday season, slow it down instead of speeding it up.  Say “No” to some parties.  How many do you need to go to anyway?  How many useless gifts litter our shelves?  Instead, make time to look someone in the eye and talk with them.  

Impart good tidings on them.   Let the hustle and bustle of consumerism be drowned out by the love, grace and mercy we can bestow on others as it has been given to us by the one we celebrate on December 25th.  

I appreciate it when someone asks me to write about a certain topic or event.  That takes the weekly guessing game out of the equation.  It also allows me to focus on one topic instead of rumbling around on several hoping one rises to the top.  

There is a men’s study/conversation group that meets on Friday mornings.  We generally open the Word and focus for a few minutes gaining insight from each other as to the Scripture’s application.  It’s an eclectic group.  Most are from different denominational backgrounds.  Nobody hijacks the meeting.  We all come from different backgrounds.  That leads to a discussion that usually has many turns and twists.  Some days, it’s quite challenging.  I don’t say that negatively.  It’s good to be challenged.  As we learn from Proverbs 27, “iron sharpens iron.”  

I was telling the guys a story from my youth ministry days.  We realized that very few of our students were touched, literally in a positive affirming manner.  Few were touched at all.  They lived isolated lives.  Mom’s and Dad’s have become so busy chasing the rabbit down the rabbit hole that kids were seldom spoken with, seldom encouraged and never affirmed with anything such as a hearty pat on the back.  

Often we would come across students who did not hear encouraging words.  They didn’t hear them because they were not spoken.  We heard story after story of homes where parents only spoke when they were disciplining.  From time to time they only touched their child out of anger and frustration.  No wonder the word “love” is confusing.  

As a youth ministry team, we learned to touch every child and offer words of encouragement as often as we could without placating them.  The touch might have been a light squeeze on the elbow or a soft hand on their shoulder.  For the guys, patting a guy on the back while we played games in the gym was highly encouraged.  We could tell the new kids.  Their look when we touched them would stop a speeding locomotive.  

Along with a proper touch, we wanted to encourage them along the way.  The Bible talks a lot about encouragement.  The writer of Hebrews (we don’t know who it was) implored the believers of the day to “encourage one another daily.”  Why?  It’s a discouraging world, and don’t for one second think we live in encouraging days.  We live in a critical society.  We now have forums where anyone can be critical of anyone at anytime day or night.  

Proverbs 4 says to be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts.  Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “You are what you think all day long.”  Live in a world of criticism and that is who you become.  

Recently, I was with a group discussing ministry.  I asked, “Is your ministry a place of calm or chaos?  Do you purpose to energize or deflate?  Do the people around you find ways to encourage or micro-manage life to the point where nobody can do anything?”  I don’t have the space to write their answers, so I will sum them up in a few words.  They hoped they were positive in nature but when we went to the next level and asked them to give examples the room went silent.  

Sometimes when an individual stands up and leads with the purpose of encouraging the troops to move forward they are seen as an extremist. The words are muttered that I have heard way too often over the years, “You are too passionate.”  

Jesus walked into a very critical culture.  The basic laws set forth in the Old Testament had been misused and multiplied.  Last time I checked ,the law was not encouraging.  The law is critical, and we think making more laws will make a difference.  The law separates people instead of binding them together.  That was Jesus’ world.  So what did he do?

Jesus focused on his love, grace and mercy.  Against those, it says in His Word, “there are no laws.” 

Touch a life with encouragement.  Touch a weary soul with peace and patience.  Provide a sense of calm in a world of chaos.  Bring hope where there is fear and doubt.  Be a peacemaker when war breaks out.  Be kind when everything in your mind roars to be critical and mean.  Practice self-control in a world that has very little.  Against these characteristics of God…there is no law.  They also have a way of driving criticism out the door.  It’s amazing what a smile can do, a touch can calm, a word of encouragement can energize.  

What did the AT&T jingle say, “Reach out, reach out and touch someone.” 

I came across an article by Dr. James Emory White in which he listed the top 10 books that helped shape his faith.  I’ve written that one before.  I must be a slower learner.  My list of 10 is really about 18.  

At about the same time I read Dr. White’s article a dear friend dropped off a worn copy of Rembrandt’s Prodigal Son picture.  He and I are constantly discussing the amazing story Jesus told to give a picture of his great redemption.  We talk about how we often demand our lot from God and run away squandering it.  Rembrandt’s rendition catches the attention of  both of us.

I don’t want to list the top 10 books that almost everybody reading this article will not read.  If you want to know email me.  I don’t want to list my favorite verses.  Why?  They are mine not necessarily yours.  I would like to talk about the Prodigal Son story.  Tim Keller, author and theologian, calls the story the Prodigal Father.  He’s right.  Prodigal means “wild.”  It’s not about the wild son.  It’s the wild nature of the Father who welcomes his son back to the family with no questions or demands.  The Scriptures are fulfilled in this story where we read in Psalm 103:12, “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us,” and Hebrews 8:12, “For I … remember their sins no more.”  

Rembrandt’s picture details the love, grace and mercy in such forgiveness.  It is consuming and mysterious at the same time.  Henri Nouwen, author, had an opportunity to sit for hours with the original painting.  It humbled him and inspired him at the same time.  

The hands of the father bring comfort to the weary son whose shoes and feet reveal his troublesome paths.  We like to think we can hide the paths we have taken.  If only our feet and shoes could talk!  So often those paths are far from a loving God.  We like to think we know better than the young boy.  But, it’s the hands of dad that bring safety, drawing the smelly, stained and broken boy to his bosom.  

The eyes of the Prodigal Father look downward with compassion at his long lost boy.  He isn’t looking for a response from the onlookers.  He isn’t rolling his eyes as if to say, “What do I do now?”  No, they look to his boy.  His son!  Yes, “all we like sheep have gone astray.”  But, He, as the Good Shepherd welcomes the wayward one home.  No questions.  No demands.  The safety of His embrace is all that is needed.

Meanwhile, the onlookers are watching every move.  The older jealous brother of the prodigal is shadowed in the darkness that surrounds the embrace.  Their faces speak volumes of questions.  Those questions often like ours are not ones of redemption but rather ones of judgment.  

Can you hear those questions?  Where has he been?  What is wrong with the father?  Will he not have to give account?  They go on and on.  All questions whose answers cannot satisfy the one asking.  After the questions come the comments.  We have all heard them.  He must pay!  He is not allowed in the house smelling like a pig!  He needs to take a bath?  His father is out of his mind!  

From the Father come no words. His actions are more important than his words.  Few understand it is not the actions of the son that are the center of this story. It is the actions of his father that are the emphasis!  For his actions say more than words can.  Anybody can say, “I love you.”  What they do in the name of love will reveal them as true or not.  

Of course this picture and story reveal the nature of our faith in Jesus Christ.  Christianity has forgotten that the faith is not about the Christian.  It is about the Christ.  HIs love transcends the expectations of a fallen people.  HIs grace is limitless.  HIs mercy is so profound a wayward son can’t help but be on his knees.

Left in the shadows is the brother.  His attitude and words reveal that he doesn’t understand the heart of his father as well.  He thought it was about obedience.  His love of the law kept him as well from the love in the heart of his father.  So, he stays in the background.  He should be on his knees as well.  

Our world is full of questions.  It’s full of condemnation and criticism.  What will it take to turn it’s focus as in the Rembrandt masterpiece, to the love, grace and mercy of the Prodigal Father?  We know the answer.  In the end of the Good Samaritan story, when mercy was given,   Jesus gives a simple command.  He says, “Go and do likewise.”  As we embrace the love of the Father, the words echo again, “Go.”  There’s more.  “Go and do.” Nope we are not there yet.  “Go and do likewise.”  Like whom?  His name is Jesus.  We can’t be known for our obedience.  But we can be known for our love, grace and mercy of which the Father through Jesus gives immeasurably to us and desires for us to give to others.  

The recent events politically and culturally have left a very divided society.  Adding social media to the mix, where anyone can offer a critique at any given time leaves us with a critical spirit and a divided nation.  This cultural phenomenon has occupied my thoughts for some time now.  Maybe I can share a few since it potentially has a tremendous impact on all of us.

Back in 1973 Paul Kurtz and Edwin H. Wilson wrote what we know as the Humanist Manifesto II.  The Church did not pay much attention to it.  The movement actually began in 1933 with the writing of the 1st Manifesto.  We paid no attention to it since Christianity dominated the scene.  However, it was a religious humanism that began to infect the education system and even the church.  

It is important to take notice of this movement.  In 2003 the humanist expression went from individuals to groups with Humanist Manifesto III.  It’s not a movement.  It’s a faith expression.  It is a faith in man and science.  Man is assumed to be basically good.  As Wikipedia says, “humans are the integral part of nature and working to benefit society maximizes human nature.”  These two elements fuel dissension with the Christian faith.  Unfortunately, the Christian faith has been influenced with a man -ocused expression dominated by a prosperity teaching that is far from the Biblical Jesus.  

Am I boring you yet?  I have stated often that Christians like to talk “what” and don’t pay enough attention to “why.”  The humanist movement has dominated higher education.  Man is good, and getting in with the crowd for the betterment of society is the end result.  If you are not with the in- crowd you are ostracized.  Who between the ages of 16 and 25 wants to be ostracized?  And we wonder why our children and grandchildren raised in the faith walk away in their late teens and early twenties.  It is that age when the philosophies of the world that we paid little attention to become practical life.  

On the other hand, Christianity says man is basically evil, and the hope for a better society is by faith in Jesus Christ.  That doesn’t gel well with the humanist movement at all.  For a young believer in the college scene it doesn’t take long to grasp that the two don’t mix.  Few are prepared and fewer survive.  

The religious humanist movement has been patient and quiet.  They don’t need big people.  All they have done is influenced young minds since 1933.  That is 75 years.  To understand the mess consider the impact.  The last generation dominated by Christian morals and beliefs was the Baby Boomers.  With the generations past them (Gen X,Y, and Z) came the tsunami of humanist educational faith.  That is correct…faith.  Everyone believes in something, and our culture now believes in man as our hope.  Religious humanism is now a practice not a philosophy.  With the last general election Baby Boomers (the last faith-based generation) have lost the voting block.  They are now outnumbered.  The religious humanists are now not only in control of the education system; they now have the popular vote.  God is out in education.  He is out in our politics and barely alive in our families.  

No wonder we are at odds in our country.  The belief in separation of church and state from the humanist view (no God anywhere and anytime) has now impacted all aspects of culture.  Remember, they believe the only hope is man to be working together for the benefit of society.  The question is “Who determines what is a benefit?”  The voting populous does.  

I have just scratched the philosophical and historical basis of an anti-Jesus society.  We didn’t think it could happen in good ole America did we?  It isn’t a coming tsunami.  It’s here.  

So what do Bible believing, Jesus based people of the faith do?

Some are in a separatist mode.  They are isolating and ruing the day all hell breaks lose.  

Others have compromised.  They have allowed religious humanist beliefs to impact their expression of the Christian faith.  In one aspect they have tried to meet the enemy half way.  It doesn’t work.  The Scriptures say we are battling an adversary who is a “roaring lion seeking who it will devour.”  The enemy takes no prisoners.  Compromise will lead to being devoured with anti-Biblical thought and practice.  Again it’s not coming; it’s here.

Jesus entered the same type of world.  Nothing has changed in the history of man.  We either depend upon man or God.  Take your pick!  The methodology is not what we tend to think as well.  Jesus said to love your neighbor.  He didn’t give us an out.  He included our enemy as well (Matthew 5:44).  Christianity is not a spectator sport, and you won’t hear the bugle sound retreat.  As Jesus encouraged, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” All is not lost.  Love well.