Mercy denied is our worst offense

Nothing makes me more interested in mercy than a deepening awareness of my sin. Considering how God should treat me, mercy makes no sense and yet all the all the sense in the world. It makes me cling to God and live according to His judgments because I have seen the unmistakable beauty of His character acting upon me from yhr beginning.

If we misjudge mercy as a little thing we have committed a crime worse than all the sins that first thrust us upon this quality of God. On the other hand, if we assume that mercy is to high a judgment to bridge the gap between us and God, than we do not really have any idea of how much better God is than us.

Where mercy is provided we must not question its relativity but throe ourselves head-long upon it. If there is no hope of it being applied to us, than we truly have nothing else.

If mercy be withheld from us, then we would be back to relying on the merits of our own behavior. If this is what we have to go back on, then our cause is already death — all of our work having already been set as further evidence against us. Sinners born and sinners condemned were ever only sinners dead.

But regardless of our demerrits, mercy stands ready to release us from what we deserve and prepare us for grace which delivers what we don’t deserve. Mercy is guaranteed to we who seek it because Sinless Judge has a Son who is just like Him. The Son needed no mercy from His Father, but chose to step into the place of judgment, taking our position and our vile punishment by declining the mercy so freely available to Him.

Mercy does not depend us but to be welcomed. It cannot be obtained in any other place but where judgment is passed down and carried out not on us but on Christ. We will miss it entirely if we try to find other than on our knees, bending low before the cross that put the death-opposed in the grave for us. There we discover that we are free and now alive when we receive the One who rose from the depths of hell to introduce us to His Father once our Judge but now our closest Friend.

Spotting the blessed life hidden in the pages of a Book I’ve never lived

Are you looking for the blessed life? So am I — yet, as much as I want it, I really don’t know much about what it looks like or how one gets there. But, God knows we want it, and He is determined to show us all that we need to know about it so that we can experience it. He sat me down tonight and began to reveal a few things to me through the words of Psalm 119 — what I would normally look at as a very intimidating chapter of Scripture for both its intense admonitions and exceptional length. Tonight was different, though.

Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the LORD (verse 1).

It does not say, “blessed are they whose way is bleakest” as I usually like to think. The world pities the sinner whose “lot” in life is tough and so I gladly put myself in that place to  receive whatever it can give me. I hope to soon be recognized as patient and deserving of a raise in position and profit, but God expects so much more in a blessed designation — one that brings primary glory to Him and not the troubles swirling in my life. He is eternal, but they are in no way His competition for endurance or significance.

Here we see that Scripture does not automatically recognize the down-trodden as the deity-toting. He clearly judges our hearts, detecting the sin that keeps us from honoring Him, even when our earthly audience would just as readily offer us a prize for just living through a hard time.

Trouble and sorrow are no guarantee that God will intervene and turn things around for a person. How often do we assume we know God because we have some divine idea of what good should look like in our rebel-addicted lives!

Yet our confident assumptions do nothing for us when it comes to getting us near the truth and freedom from the bondage of an un-blessed life.

The truth — being far above anything else that is pleasing in this world — is what gets us beyond the hopeless realities of our world. A fresh taste of what attention, popularity, recognition or sexual pleasure can do for us promises instant happiness that only runs skin deep. Each of these things leaves us feeling more tense than when we started their joy-ride if they must bear the weight of all our expectation of bliss and fulfillment. After all, they make poor substitutes for what we were meant to have in lives centered on the undying pleasure and ever-increasing peace of knowing and relating to Christ.

Now, the blessed life has another characteristic that holds the first and the third (upcoming) characteristic in check for us. We find it in the second verse of Psalm 119:

Blessed are they who keep his commandments and seek him with all their heart.

A lot of times in my life I have heard the encouragement to seek God, but with no idea of where to go with that. The words didn’t sink into me very deeply because they had no weight in knowledge and conviction to pull them down to the lowest places of my soul — what makes up who I am and the way I do life.

The Word of God didn’t accomplish a lot of change in my life because I needed it to correct my heart to be something I could see as being truly “good” for me. Correction may not sound like the mark of any blessed person that you know, but without its strength and unshakable ability we would never be able to obey God. It is only when we obey God that the blessings of the holy life are borne out in us by the Holy Spirit with fruit that is described, in our third and final snapshot, this way:

They do nothing wrong; they walk in his ways. You have laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed. Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees! Then I would not be put to shame when I consider all your commandments. I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws. I will obey your decrees; do not utterly forsake me (verses 3-8).

When ugliness of the soul is revealed, Christ may still be glorified

I was sitting in my room listening to Kutless and talking to God in preparation to seek Him before I read the Bible. I began journaling a little, trying to reflect on how mighty God is to turn anything and everything into something that brings glory to Him.

I thought of some of the things I have done lately that I have worried over the rightness of. Sometimes I do things or say things that I feel God leading me to do or say, but that doesn’t always mean that it goes over really well. Often I go away feeling like I have learned more than I knew I needed to; I end up believing that maybe the interaction was really more for my mind to be jolted and my heart to be brought in tune with God’s than anything else. The brilliant ideas of glory streaming from the very pores of the moment that I do what God tells me to do, are not really consistent with the need that God was addressing with the direction He gave me. Rather He had prepared a new way for me to see the pitiable state of my glory and potential so that my eyes might be lifted from this seat of self-endorsing glory.

God throws the spotlight on redemption when He speaks and instructs me to do something. I readily believe this at the outset, but I am thinking most naturally of the redemption of the other person. Only when I have passed through the opportunity, and look back, always with some measure of doubt, I question God as to the good He can bring out of the unmistakable evidences of my insensitivity and arrogance. Yes, there is love there, and more importantly, the power of the Holy Spirit is at work throughout the engagement, but I seem to be the neediest sinner in the exchange. How are You glorified in that, Lord? I ask in distress.

And He answers, Look, child. The whole thing was a glory to Me because it showed you both that I am “what it’s all about.” It was My idea to move you out of your comfort zone and speak the words that I gave you, but to see that they do not need your power of eloquence or persuasion — where there is nothing to carry them, they carry both the speaker and the hearer; thus you both need them, and I am the One who gets appreciated and profoundly recognized.

Therefore, do not grieve over seemingly unfavorable reactions, or unsightly errors in your character, that is why I came to save you. What I did for You in my death and continue to do for you in My life is too important for you to forget, so I remind you by the only thing that will build your faith knowledge that comes from Me of who I am and who you are.

This seems to make such a beautiful concept, until the shadows of my sin loom large in my recognition, and I cry, “But God, this stuff is just ugly! I am so ugly. This disgusting pride stains everything I do and say, everything I am. I am a sinner, what hope have I that I can do anything good even when I want to be involved in everything that You do?”

I know, My child. You know, none of this surprises Me. I saved you like this, and I keep saving you. I am not turned off by how you are, who you are — I am your Savior, it’s who I am.

Even in this I am letting you know the depths of My grace by the demands of your sin. There’s nothing of you that I can’t handle. So, don’t worry what others will think — it will give them a clearer vision of their own sin and their identification with you. You do not need to be great in the eyes of another for them to be turned to Me, the only contingent here is that I be great. If that be true, than every man is a lying sinner who needs my mercy and forgiveness more than he knows. And that is the only thing that anyone needs to take away from the actions and arguments of life.

Who writes your eternal status updates?

It’s a curse that we follow gods of wood and stone. That we should be satisfied merely with the appearance of having everything and knowing the fullness of what life has to offer. As beautiful as all these things appear in all the forms they take, the truth is that they are nothing if they can only boast of what the eye can see.

If they are nothing more than exciting illusions that deceive our eyes to the emptiness that lies beneath, then they do not enrich us, but play the part of showing us each to be the fool. In the end, no matter how majestic their construction or the projection of their worth, they are just elements that will not withstand the heaviest heat.

They can protect us from rain and sun and meddlesome neighbors, but what hope are they against all too familiar threats of hurricane, tornado, flood, insect infestation? What can they offer us in the form of emotional, mental and spiritual support when our tears fall like rain and our troubles beat down upon us like the sun and our conscience becomes to us more meddlesome in our affairs than any neighbor ever was?

What happens when we realize that the most put-together “cover” or “spread” does nothing to cover up our insecurities or spread about peace and love within our souls? If none of these things that we call great can penetrate our own empty interior with joy or satisfaction do they really deserve all of our attention?

This is life: Search for the ultimate in existence, and finding it, live for it — even wisely sacrificing what now seeming like crucial aspects of status to hold onto it. Just in case you are getting tired of searching for even the beginnings of an answer, let me share it with you.

Jesus Christ is the answer you are looking for in all of your earthly and spiritual escapades. Not sure? He will make you sure! No, not by making you accept something that makes no sense and forcing you to act by it. He has a different way — a far more engaging and dignifying way.

He lets us make the choice for or against Him, but He won’t let us make it ill-informed. He is intent on showing Himself to you that you will know what you are accepting or rejecting. Not only do we get a revelation of who God is and how He is witnessed to us by the whole universe, but we get a tour of our own souls — a tour no one else would ever give us. By this I mean that He will show you what you are looking for and how that proves that He is what you need in all respects.

We need life that springs up from within us, yet is not dependent upon us or subject to the  threat of any impending physical disaster or mental degeneration. We need light to see that everything that we have known in such short years on earth is not all there is. We need love that is mighty enough to remove each and every obstacle that stands in the way of us having what we really need to live.

We need a new vision and destiny that are over and above the fleeting joys of worldly significance and interest. For, having the entire world’s approval for our pithy measures of success is a dangerous happiness so long as it prevents us from leaving its comforts to find more. What can never really change who we are inside, cannot deliver us from our true poverty and distress: spiritually bankruptcy.

Some good in our lives can enable us to deny a lot of evil in our hearts, but we should not fail to consider the reward we will receive for this: aiding and abetting the lies of our Adversary Satan will only be shown to kill us in the end. In facing the truth we gain agreement with the One Hero who can superimpose His righteousness and legacy of peace on our wickedness and legacy of discord.

So, if your statuses have been the lessons of heartbreak or numb disillusionment, let me encourage you that your status doesn’t end with you. There is so much more to it than that. If you have been feeling disconnected it is not wholly summed up by the blank pages in your date planner or the absence of a deeply romantic relationship or a loved one who was once the rock of your existence. These things are all temporary alerts — whether in their abundance or absence — of how much you need to be satisfied in the pits of your soul.

There is so much more you want and it is still out there waiting for you…even if you’ve become disillusioned by your search. God is out there and He is more ready for you to find Him than you are to move beyond the common-blues of knowing nothingness. Lord, reveal Yourself to me, that’s all He’s asking of you in this moment.

After all, none of us can make any feat of impressing God — we please Him when we realize that only He has a handle on what can profoundly impress because He runs the show of history and includes us in the fun of making it happen. He fills us in on our parts and how we are to join the whole-production beauty when we relate to Him on the basis of His perfect (and we-perfecting) cues.

Maybe the destruction the storm brought was necessary

Are the waves too rough to awe you?

Sometimes mighty waters are too rough for us to recognize the wonder of them. The destruction they bring upon us seems too devastating a mess to be attributed to anything but a serious mistake.

Yet, even with all of our complaining neither the winds nor the direction of the vicious current turn away from us. Mercy doesn’t come to us in the way that we would expect.But, maybe calm does not come to us because we are at odds with the Master of the Malaise.

Perhaps understanding and peace would come if we would turn to God and let Him teach us to reverence Him when it would really change who we are — storm or no storm. After all, wild water is many times the only thing that can touch, change or move substances that refuse to budge under the power of anything less than this wet and widowing wonder.

But, this is no reason for us to be intimidated or disheartened, for the heart of Him who winds the seas about us knows what He is working at when He tests us; knows the parts of our soul that need a calm that can only be discovered after the storm about us has expelled the tremors from our within us. Arduous tests pave our pathway to the heart of God with reformed interest and understanding.

Count yourself lucky, how happy you must be— you get a fresh start,
your slate’s wiped clean.

Count yourself lucky—
God holds nothing against you
and you’re holding nothing back from him.

When I kept it all inside,
my bones turned to powder,
my words became daylong groans.

The pressure never let up;
all the juices of my life dried up.

Then I let it all out;
I said, “I’ll make a clean breast of my failures to God.”

Suddenly the pressure was gone—
my guilt dissolved,
my sin disappeared.

These things add up. Every one of us needs to pray;
when all hell breaks loose and the dam bursts
we’ll be on high ground, untouched.

God’s my island hideaway,
keeps danger far from the shore,
throws garlands of hosannas around my neck.

Let me give you some good advice;
I’m looking you in the eye
and giving it to you straight:

“Don’t be ornery like a horse or mule
that needs bit and bridle
to stay on track.”

God-defiers are always in trouble;
God-affirmers find themselves loved
every time they turn around.

Celebrate God.
Sing together—everyone!
All you honest hearts, raise the roof!

Psalm 32

Backdoorsman evangelist turns guide to the great outdoors!

My whole personality has been dictated by a fear of being judged and rejected/denied love and acceptance. My patterns in living have been for the self-seeking purpose of staying alive and keeping within the edges of boundaries that made it okay to be apart and unassociated with anyone who may appear dangerous to me.

Needless to say, this approach has not previously led me into contexts or subjects of conversation that enabled me to share my faith with anyone — unless I could be sure that I would not only be well-received but eagerly welcomed.

Yet all this time God has had in mind for me speaking to far more people about Him than this severely restricted group. I knew this in the back of my mind, but I couldn’t conceive of it being reality for me — at least any time soon.

Still, the sweetest reality of my existence is that God doesn’t live according to my poor vision and timetable. He has big purposes and the best possible means for bringing them about in my life.

Just recently I have been seeing how this is true in ways that are new to me. Everyday avenues of communication and socialization have taken on a greater purpose for me. God has put them before me, inviting me to let Him make of them nothing less than portals for presenting the gospel to the people around me. As wonderful as this experience is, this blessing didn’t come overnight; instead, it has come upon me slowly, as I have personally learned to let God come and inhabit every part of me — becoming everything I know and enjoy of existence.

I have learned who He is and how that identity plays into my life — how the character of God can become the very anchor of my soul and delight of my days. Because God has become accessible and extremely valuable to me through the continued work of certain trials, the burden for Him to be known by others has grown in heart.

To be honest, the catalyst to this “backdoorsman” evangelist becoming a guide to the great outdoors was nothing less than the love of God. This which comes from Him and runs back to Him. Love that makes us a drive-through along the way. A stream that must continually pour through us. The rushing, slowly corroding, and yet life-infusing waters which our heart terrain must embank. It is this everlasting flow running deep and wide within us that will not be able to be stilled or kept from overflowing to those who are still thirsty on the river’s edge.

Thank God for His miracle mercy to we, the children He loves

Oh, thank God—he’s so good! His love never runs out.
All of you set free by God, tell the world!
Tell how he freed you from oppression,
Then rounded you up from all over the place,
from the four winds, from the seven seas.

Some of you wandered for years in the desert,
looking but not finding a good place to live,
Half-starved and parched with thirst,
staggering and stumbling, on the brink of exhaustion.
Then, in your desperate condition, you called out to God.
He got you out in the nick of time;
He put your feet on a wonderful road
that took you straight to a good place to live.
So thank God for his marvelous love,
for his miracle mercy to the children he loves.
He poured great draughts of water down parched throats;
the starved and hungry got plenty to eat.

Some of you were locked in a dark cell,
cruelly confined behind bars,
Punished for defying God’s Word,
for turning your back on the High God’s counsel—
A hard sentence, and your hearts so heavy,
and not a soul in sight to help.
Then you called out to God in your desperate condition;
he got you out in the nick of time.
He led you out of your dark, dark cell,
broke open the jail and led you out.
So thank God for his marvelous love,
for his miracle mercy to the children he loves;
He shattered the heavy jailhouse doors,
he snapped the prison bars like matchsticks!

Some of you were sick because you’d lived a bad life,
your bodies feeling the effects of your sin;
You couldn’t stand the sight of food,
so miserable you thought you’d be better off dead.
Then you called out to God in your desperate condition;
he got you out in the nick of time.
He spoke the word that healed you,
that pulled you back from the brink of death.
So thank God for his marvelous love,
for his miracle mercy to the children he loves;
Offer thanksgiving sacrifices,
tell the world what he’s done—sing it out!

Some of you set sail in big ships;
you put to sea to do business in faraway ports.
Out at sea you saw God in action,
saw his breathtaking ways with the ocean:
With a word he called up the wind—
an ocean storm, towering waves!
You shot high in the sky, then the bottom dropped out;
your hearts were stuck in your throats.
You were spun like a top, you reeled like a drunk,
you didn’t know which end was up.
Then you called out to God in your desperate condition;
he got you out in the nick of time.
He quieted the wind down to a whisper,
put a muzzle on all the big waves.
And you were so glad when the storm died down,
and he led you safely back to harbor.
So thank God for his marvelous love,
for his miracle mercy to the children he loves.
Lift high your praises when the people assemble,
shout Hallelujah when the elders meet!

God turned rivers into wasteland,
springs of water into sunbaked mud;
Luscious orchards became alkali flats
because of the evil of the people who lived there.
Then he changed wasteland into fresh pools of water,
arid earth into springs of water,
Brought in the hungry and settled them there;
they moved in—what a great place to live!
They sowed the fields, they planted vineyards,
they reaped a bountiful harvest.
He blessed them and they prospered greatly;
their herds of cattle never decreased.
But abuse and evil and trouble declined
as he heaped scorn on princes and sent them away.
He gave the poor a safe place to live,
treated their clans like well-cared-for sheep.

Good people see this and are glad;
bad people are speechless, stopped in their tracks.
If you are really wise, you’ll think this over—
it’s time you appreciated God

Psalm 107

How low is your spiritual battery?

Are you noticing an absense of "life"?

I tried using my iPod today, and couldn’t get anything out of it. It wouldn’t work — not even the screen would come on. Now, this has happened to me before, so I knew what to do. It’s not that it no longer operates — its just that the last time I used it I wore down all the battery power without realizing it. The simple solution — which I’m employing now — is to plug it into its power source and leave it alone (let it be still) until it is restored to its original grade of usefulness.

This is also the case for our spirits. They are our life-batteries that must be regularly powered up and kept in good working order. If you looked at your spirit at this moment, would you be able to discern whether your God-capacity — otherwise known as being spiritually on-charge — is full, low or essentially empty?

If you are like me, you may have no idea because you have been so busy and you have learned to rely on other things instead. My low-battery consciousness was dull regarding my iPod because I have gotten used to relying on the music and video streaming capabilities of other things. This worked fine for a while, that is, until the day that I needed it again. I wanted to check my contacts for a friend’s number, and had to wait till it was sufficiently charged. In this case the wait was too long.

One day, you may find yourself in that place. Your personal charge is insufficient, and there isn’t time to bring it up to serve you for the case that it is needed. Either you will face the end of your life here and have no life of your own with which to claim access to heaven, or you will face tragedy that doesn’t wait until you are firmly established in what you believe before it shakes you to your core.

I pray that when each of these days comes for you — as they surely will — that you will not be empty and ashamed. I would hope that you would be strong and healthy on the inside for whatever you face on the outside. Surely the time you have before you has been given that you might learn to diligently charge up and maintain this spirit which is your only access to Life and Love.