Mercy Mercy

Mercy Mercy

James 2:13        Mercy triumphs over judgment.

At the start of this year I challenged myself to read through the entire Bible as quickly as I could. I had to read big chunks of Scripture, not verses or chapters, but books at a time; the Pentateuch over a weekend and the Psalms in a day. Reading the Bible, not as a bunch of individual stories compiled together, but as one big continuous story, has been a life-changing experience. I have come to know the God I’ve believed in most of my life in a whole new way. Instead of seeing God in different facets, one of the Old Testament and one of the New Testament, one being God of war, requiring perfection and dealing harsh punishment, and the other an incarnate God of grace and sacrifice, I saw one God. His character is consistent all throughout. His hand is evident in every story, weaving his eternal plan for humanity. I was left with one overwhelming theme, constantly reinforced with each page I turned. Our God is a god of mercy; overwhelming, never-breaking, constant, abundant mercy. In every punishment he dealt, every nation he set for destruction, every prophecy, psalm, and story, Jesus’ death and resurrection, the persecution of His Church, even in the very existence of the Bible, his mercy shines through!

God is the one making every effort to relent the destruction his people deserve and we are the ones refusing his offer. When the first sin is committed, God doesn’t wipe out humanity, but mercifully spares them, clothes them, and more than that, he immediately promises one day to conquer the Tempter. He hears his people’s prayers and sends manna and quail to the Israelites, opens the barren woman’s womb, stops plagues, and sends rain on the dry land. He mercifully sends his prophets to warn the wicked nations, to call them to repent; but they refused to turn from evil. He gathers his people back to their homeland after exile and ensures generous protection and provision. He set aside his divine privileges and spent 33 years on this fallen earth. He healed the sick, raised the dead, and fed the hungry; all undeserving. Above all, He died and bore the sins and guilt of ALL of humanity! But this is just a tiny fraction of the merciful acts of God. The best part is God’s wealth of mercy didn’t run out at the end of the Bible. It’s available for all if we just raise our empty hands and accept it. He loves us. He wants us to pursue Him. He will do whatever it takes to draw us closer to Him. He wants us to be filled, satisfied, flowing over with joy! We! who are daily sinners, traitors, immoral, rebellious, hurtful and corrupt. Is this not the greatest demonstration of mercy? Let’s not keep this to ourselves. The world is out there hurting, longing for mercy and we only need to show them that it is here for the taking.

Luke 6:36
Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Habakkuk 3:2
I have heard all about you, Lord.
I am filled with awe by your amazing works.
In this time of our deep need,
help us again as you did in years gone by.
And in your anger,
remember your mercy.

Matthew 12:7b
“I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.”

Ephesians 2:4-5
But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),

Hebrews 4:16
Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Psalm 145:9
The Lord is good to all,
And His mercies are over all His works.

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The Importance of Memorizing the Word

from Proverbs 2
My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding…discretion will watch over you, understanding will guard you, delivering you from the way of evil

Sin is so powerful and incredibly devious. As children of God, with the Spirit of God dwelling in us, I wonder at the ease to which we so quickly fall into sin and not just once, but often the same sin repeatedly. Without putting the blame on the Spirit (because it is obviously a lax in our own flesh and not the Spirit failing to do its job), I wonder: where was the Spirit in that moment or moments when I was committing the sin? Where was the conviction, the feeling of guilt that should have stopped me at least after the first time? In Acts 7:51, it says the Jewish leaders who killed Jesus were resisting the Holy Spirit and that is what we are doing when we habitually sin. We have pushed the Spirit aside, closed our ears to his guidance and left our hearts open to the deceitfulness of the world, our flesh, and the devil. The world, the flesh, the devil; it’s overwhelming how much is just waiting to bombard us if we let our guard down for even a moment. So what can we do? How can we choose not to resist the Holy Spirit, but rather guard our hearts at all times? In Proverbs 2 the answer is clear: if we “treasure up [God’s] commandments” we will be delivered from the way of evil! Again in Psalm 119:11 it says, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” Knowing the words of God and memorizing them so we can always be reminded of their truths is so important! Scripture memory shouldn’t just be an old Sunday School practice we did as kids, it should be central to our everyday walk! We fill our minds with so much meaningless information every day, imagine if we overloaded it with the very words of God instead? How much harder would it be for us to be okay with committing that “little” sin, if we had just been meditating on the pure word of God? Followers of Jesus, let’s be like Jesus and be ready to fight the temptations with Scripture. Use those extra five minutes to memorize a verse, fill your mind with truth before going to bed at night, and let the words of God be overflowing into the lives of those around you. How better to ensure we are thinking eternal, than to have the everlasting Word engraved on in our minds.

Psalm 119:9 “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.”

Daily Denial

Luke 9:23

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

I memorized this verse in Sunday School years ago, so I know it well. Unfortunately its ultra familiarity causes me to quickly gloss over it and not allow it much thought. It is a bit perplexing what it means exactly, taking up my cross and such. But for whatever reason (God knows), it has recently come to mind, I have meditated on it, and been challenged with a fresh meaning.

I recently decided to read through the whole Bible as fast as I can. I don’t recommend this regularly. Consistent, slow meditation is likely much more beneficial, but it really has provided some awesome insight into God’s plan and story of the Bible that I just didn’t get reading a chapter at a time. To my surprise, what I’ve really become aware of is the challenge of giving my time towards Bible reading and not towards other things I usually fill my days with. I have routines, routines I like; such as listening to podcasts while driving to school, watching a cooking show while making dinner, and reading a novel before I go to sleep. All these I have chosen to set aside so I can devote that time to reading and listening to God’s Word. In doing so, I have become much more aware of how strong the desires of the flesh are in my life. I know reading the Bible is what I should be doing and what will truly be more productive, but my flesh battles that and tells me I will be happier or more relaxed doing other things. Of course, none of these “other” things are inherently bad and I haven’t completely stopped them forever, but I yearn for my heart to be one that loves the things of God more than anything in this world. I want to live for eternity and not for the moment. This doesn’t come naturally for me (or for anyone for that matter – Jeremiah 17:9). When I come home from a full day of work, I hardly feel like plopping on the couch and reading Leviticus. But this is where God led me to Luke 9:23. Each time I choose God’s Word over worldly pleasures, I have to “deny” my flesh, but in so doing I am choosing to come after my Lord and Savior.

Jesus says we are to “follow him”, and where did Jesus end up? Giving up his life at the cross. Jesus really didn’t want to go to the cross, but he denied his personal comfort and accepted his suffering because God called him to and in so doing he accomplished the greatest work ever, atoning for the innumerable sins of the world. So we also are called to deny ourselves, our fleshly desires, our schedules, our ideas, our life plans, and be willing to do the hard thing, to bear our cross. Of course, my experience with Bible reading is small and insignificant, but the verse says “daily”! We aren’t going to be giving up our very lives every single day, but I know there are things in all of our daily lives that we can give up and replace with something more pleasing to our Father. Certainly our humble Savior in making himself “nothing” (Philippians 2:7), was daily denying himself the smaller pleasures in life he being God had every right to enjoy, even just the simple comfort of a warm place to lay his head at night. Can’t we also, who have been so abundantly blessed with more than we could ever need, deny ourselves, daily take up our cross, and follow the leading of our King? Instead of seeking to satisfy our desires in the moment, Jesus calls his followers to think eternally. We must deny ourselves every single day and instead choose to do something that maybe we don’t want to do, or isn’t the easiest option, but we know will bring glory to God and display his worth to those around us.  While I know I have barely unpacked the full richness and meaning of this verse, God has given me this piece for such a time as this and I hope you too can see the value in our call for daily denial.