Mercy And Compassion 

Proverbs 11:17
“The merciful man does good for his own soul, but he who is cruel troubles his own flesh.”

Mercy is often defined as not getting what we deserve. While that is true, the word carries a greater meaning. It also means to show compassion and kindness to those who are in need or distressed. We see it evidenced in the life of Jesus. When He heard the leper calling out for Him, we read Jesus was moved with compassion, reached out His hand, touched the man, and cleansed him. Mercy stirred the heart of Jesus to touch the untouchable, and restore what leprosy had destroyed (Mark 1:40-41). When He felt a tug on His garment, He turned to see a woman who had been struggling with an illness for 12 years, without any hope of healing. Mercy stirred Him to heal her sickness, and reward her great faith (Luke 8:43). When He arrived on the scene of Lazarus’ funeral, and heard the wailing of his family and friends, mercy stirred the heart of Jesus, to weep with those who wept, and to intervene by raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-17). Over and over, page after page, person after person, we see Jesus expressing His mercy, in compassion and kindness, to those in need. Nowhere, is this seen more clearly than in the cross. Our need was much greater than that of a woman with a blood disease, a man with leprosy, or even a family with a dead brother. Our need was caused by sin, and the only cure was the death of God. Jesus saw our condition, and bore the weight of all our sin, as He hung on Calvary’s cross. Mercy was extended as His blood was shed.

Mercy is something we are to receive and to spread. Solomon stated, it is the merciful man who does good for his own soul. Jesus said we are blessed when we are merciful. Just as Jesus looked for, and aided those in need, we should be looking for ways to express the mercy of God to others. Mercy is expressed in forgiveness. When we choose to forgive someone who has wronged us, and treat them as though they had never acted that way, we are expressing mercy. When we choose to be kind to someone, not because they have been kind to us, or in hopes of being rewarded, we are expressing mercy. When we go out of our way to show the love of Christ to others, whether it be in word or action, we are expressing mercy. This mercy will benefit the receiver and the giver alike. Those who receive mercy are learning something of the nature of God, and those giving it, are doing good to their own soul.

Pastor Jim

 

Bands Of Love 

Hosea 11:4
“I drew them with gentle cords, with bands of love, and I was to them as those who take the yoke from their neck. I stooped and fed them.”

God uses many different means to get man’s attention. Paul spoke of His kindness leading us to repentance and Jude wrote about saving some with fear of what is ahead, if they fail to come to Christ. Here, Hosea refers to the gentle love of God drawing Israel to Himself. Clearly, God desires all men everywhere to be saved. I wonder what we would discover if we looked at our lives through the lens of God? How many ways has He expressed His lovingkindness to us, as a means of drawing us to Himself?

Israel was hand selected by God, given great and precious promises, and then watched as the miraculous hand of God fulfilled these promises for them. They were redeemed from Egypt, protected in the wilderness, given the land and blessed with the very presence of God in their midst. The same is true of us. We were hand selected by God; Scripture speaks of us being chosen from before the foundations of the earth. We were redeemed by he precious blood of Christ and brought into a relationship with God, where He lives within us and reveals Himself to us. Daily, as we walk with Him, he drives things out of our lives that are harmful to us, and replaces them with things that glorify Him.

Sadly, Israel lost sight of the loving hand of God, and was drawn into the worship of other things. They soon drifted from God, and instead of being the recipients of His gentle love, they began to experience His chastisement. Instead of experiencing blessing, they felt the discipline of God, and soon lost the land of promise, and became slaves to their sin.

Don’t allow sin to draw you away from the blessing of living under the gentle love of God. Whatever temptation you are facing, it is not worth losing the living water that flows out of being in sweet communion with Christ.

Pastor Jim

 

Add To Your Faith . . .

2 Peter 1:5-7
“But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.”

Building a healthy relationship with the Lord is made up of a number of elements, the first of which is faith. In Hebrews 11, we are told that without faith it is impossible to please God. We might say, faith is the currency of the Kingdom of Heaven. It is the means by which we receive from God. The gift of eternal life, the promises of the Word, and the work of the Spirit are all received by faith. For anyone to begin a relationship with God, it must start by entrusting your life to Christ, and becoming His follower.

Just like Matthew rose from his tax office and began to follow after Jesus, we must leave our old life behind and trust our lives into the care of Jesus. When that is done, a relationship with God begins. But notice, Peter makes it clear that receiving Christ is not the finish line, but the starting gate. He exhorts us to add to our faith. His list is not exhaustive, there are certainly other things that can be added to our relationship with Christ, that will ensure our spiritual growth, but these seven things are a great place to start.

These 7 Things:

To faith add virtue – Virtue was defined in ancient times by Socrates as “doing something as well as it can be done”. Paul wrote, we should “do all things heartily as unto the Lord” (Colossians 3:23). The Christian should seek to do all things well as a testimony to the world, and as an offering of worship to the Lord.

To virtue add knowledge – Knowledge is both information and experience. As Christians, we should be good students of the Bible, seeking to get to know the Word of God. This does not mean, we are searching for hidden meanings in the Bible, but we are learning to take the Bible at face value, and apply the truths to our lives. This word ‘knowledge’ also carries the idea of experience. It is not just information about the Lord that is important, but that we are getting to know Him better, by walking with Him day-to-day.

To knowledge add self-control – To exercise self-control, the Christian must learn to deny or say no to himself. Not everything we desire is healthy for us, or helpful in walking with the Lord. There are times when the flesh is tempted toward things that will lead us away from Christ. We must resist the devil and draw near to God.

To self-control add perseverance – This means simply to press on. Wherever you are currently in your relationship with Christ, it is not the end. Paul reminds us, there is a day when we will complete the race and be in the presence of God, but until that day we must keep pressing forward.

To perseverance add godliness – There are many aspects to godliness, one of which is the idea of reverence. This is a word which has sadly lost its place, not only in our vocabularies, but in our culture. It is rare to see people acting with proper reverence. The word carries the idea of having a healthy fear. When people enter the ocean without proper fear, they are often swept away by large surf or caught in rip tides. When we do not have a healthy fear of God, we will toy with sins that should have been cast aside long ago.

To godliness add brotherly kindness – It always amuses me when the New Testament writers have to encourage Christians to be nice to each other. You would think we would realize we are all saved by grace, all are adopted into the family of Christ, and we should be kind to each other. But just as a parent has to break up the bickering between siblings, we must be reminded to be kind to one another. Don’t forget the world is watching how we treat each other.

Finally, to brotherly kindness add love – As faith is the starting point of a relationship with the Lord, love is the chief evidence. Paul stated, upon receiving Christ, the love of God would be shed abroad in our hearts. As Christians, our lives should be marked by love, and that love should be categorized properly. First, love is toward God. We are to love Him with our heart, soul, mind and strength. Second, love is to be toward others, Finally, we are to fall in love with the things that God loves.

Pastor Jim

 

Bitterness

Hebrews 12:15
“. . . looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; . . .”

Bitterness is the byproduct of being unwilling to forgive. We are warned against allowing bitterness to take root in our lives, thus springing up and defiling us. Roots, for the most part, are the unseen part of the tree. We understand for a large tree to be able to support itself, its roots must go deep and spread wide. Bitterness begins to develop its root system in us the moment we choose to keep record of wrong, rather than forgive the wrong doings of others. While we are able to continue on for some time unaffected by it, this unforgiveness will soon spring up and bitterness will reveal itself.

It seems to me, bitterness may have been one of the chief causes behind Moses’ failure, which kept him from entering the promised land. Scripture records that the children of Israel once again complained about their circumstances in the desert. They were thirsty, and rather than trusting in the provision of God, they looked to Moses and began to complain that their needs were not being met. Moses went to the Lord with the problem and was told to speak to the rock and water would be provided for the people. Instead of speaking to the rock, Moses unleashed his fury on the people, then in his rage he struck the rock. God, in His mercy, provided for the people. However, Moses was disciplined for his disobedience; he was forbidden to enter Canaan. The punishment might seem severe if we do not keep in mind that the spiritual leaders must rightly represent the Lord to the people, or they will develop a wrong view of God. This was not the first time God provided water in the wilderness, He had done it years earlier, and in response, Moses named the place “Meribah” meaning contention.

This has always struck me. Moses took a stick, struck a rock and water, enough for two million people, was provided in the desert. Rather than naming the place “God is Awesome” or “Great Provision”, or something else that would forever remind the people of how amazing the Lord is, Moses chose to remember the failure of the people. Now we find him, years later, facing similar circumstances. His unforgiveness has birthed bitterness, and his bitterness springs up as he lashes out in rage against the people.

While bitterness is the byproduct of being unwilling to forgive; forgiveness stems from looking at the cross and realizing all that Jesus has forgiven you. The forgiveness of God is complete. Paul wrote, our sins were nailed to the cross never to be brought up again. Forgiveness means to treat someone as though they had never done the thing that hurt you, or that has made it hard to be kind to them. Choosing to forgive is sometimes very difficult, but being unwilling to forgive has much greater consequences. If there is anyone who you are harboring bitterness toward, take some time right now and pray that God would help you to forgive them and treat them as though they had never hurt you in the first place. Do it now before the roots take hold of you.

Pastor Jim

 

Watch Your Mouth

Job 27:4
“My lips will not speak wickedness, Nor my tongue utter deceit.”

Most of us understand there is certain speech that is ungodly, and therefore unacceptable. We realize gossip, backbiting, coarse jesting and profanity should never proceed from the mouth of a follower of Christ. Yet, we also realize that at times we are all guilty of this, in one way or another. When we do fail, we usually have an excuse for it. We used profanity because the situation called for it, or our emotions got the best of us. We talk about a person behind their back because we feel the need to “get it off our chest”, or vent our frustrations. I think we might be able to learn a little something from Job.

Job was suffering great physical and emotion pain. His situation was aggravated by his friends trumping up charges against him and maligning his character. Certainly, if anyone had a justification to utter words of wickedness, it was Job. Yet, he states, he refused to use his tongue in an ungodly fashion. James wrote, the tongue is like a wild animal that cannot be tamed. He explained that we are all guilty of using the tongue to bless God and curse men. James wasn’t excusing this behavior, but was pointing out the reality of the struggle. If we are going to win the battle of the mouth, we must determine beforehand that certain speech is unacceptable, and will not pass from our lips.

If you have a tendency to speak harshly of others, allow me to suggest that a cure for that is to pray for them, instead of venting about them. Take what bothers you about another to the Lord, instead of spilling it out on those around you.

Pastor Jim