Thursday, February 2, 2017

Heavenly Compassion (a/k/a Mercy)


Throughout the past several months, God has been so gracious in directing each of us (His beloved Church) toward what love really looks like.  This is for us, and also for us to show others.  God has given us the secrets to the Kingdom of God, and He is showing us how to become more like Him.  The Church is being brought into the true light in order for us to also be a reflection of His light.

In the messages we have been given, God has taken us back to the foundational teachings of the Beattitudes and the Sermon on the Mount.  Personally, I'm afraid we have allowed the term "...attitude" to direct us away from how we should truly treat these passages.  These are not just good ways to live by, but are directing guides and commands from God in order to show this world what is required of us.  Yes the word "blessed" gives each of us hope in knowing how God feels for each of these "attitudes", but we are truly only blessed when we take action on the command.  And, the action is a blessing for us and a blessing to this world.  This is shown directly after the Be-commands (aka. Beattitudes) when Jesus immediately tells us “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house." (Matthew 5:14-15).

The Church is to be the light of the world, as cities set upon hills which can't be hidden.  Our lights will be seen by all those around us, and this light will be either light or darkness.  Jesus explains this further by reminding us "No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light" (Luke 11:35).

So, as we travel back to the foundation of the Be-Commands, we see that we are to be merciful unto this world, for we will receive mercy.  Let's look at our heavenly example for confirmation in this passage.  In Matthew chapter 9, we see Jesus reclining at a table in a house and tax collectors and sinners joining him, and they were reclining as well.  When the Pharisees (the religious leaders of that day) saw this, they questioned the disciples of Jesus as to why he was not only associating with these "dogs", but also reclining at table with them.  Having fellowship and community with them.  When Jesus heard this, he responded by telling the Pharisees that the well need no physicians, only the sick.  And then he states, "Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners" (Matthew 9:13).  God truly desires mercy over sacrifice.  Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

I truly believe that mercy can be defined as "providing heavenly compassion in the eyes of eternity without repentance."  Forgiveness is given when repentance is present, but mercy is providing compassion and love in the eyes of eternity.  Who are we modeling our lives after?  Are we still of the opinion of the Pharisees in certain areas and with specific people in our lives?  Do we require these people to provide some sort of sacrifice before we are merciful?  Or, can we say, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do?"  It's not about being right in our daily arguments, it's about showing others how to be right in the eyes of a Holy and loving God.  It's truly about loving others no matter what, and letting God do the rest.

In closing, there is a paradox to this whole matter.  God is telling us that we must love Him with all our might, and to love others as ourselves ... loving others as He has loved us.  Becoming the actual neighbor and everyone else to be the focus of the story of life.  And I must confess to you, we can't do it.  There is no way you and I can determine in ourselves enough to love like this command ... it's impossible.  But, it's not impossible with God.  For all things are possible to Him.  And so how do we accomplish this?  Well, this is truly to glory and wonder of God ... we are to ask.  For Jesus teaches us that everyone that asks - it will be given, for everyone that knocks - the door will be open, and for everyone that seeks - they will find.  "If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” (Luke 11:13).  Wow!

There we have it Church, God is asking us to love like He loves ... a task that is truly impossible for us in ourselves, but if we ask/seek/knock for His Spirit ... He will fill us with His Spirit.  Praise God!  We must be willing to get out of the way and let Him who holds the world in His hands to do it all.  We must be crucified with Christ, living, not us but Christ that is living and moving within us.  By doing this, we can then truly live our lives by and say ...

WE DESIRE MERCY, AND NOT SACRIFICE!

By:  Heath Brown

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Long Drive Home

One Saturday afternoon almost three years ago my wife, Pam, and I were driving home from church.  As far as I can remember the drive was relatively uneventful and quiet -- neither of us really wanted to talk.  We were both, I am sure, exhausted and to an extent lost in our own thoughts.

The route we took is the same one I take five or six days a week, so it is more than familiar to me.  And, there is one intersection in particular that is a bit odd, and so I normally approach it with a little extra caution.

For some reason, despite a clear dotted line on the road, drivers occasionally get confused -- thinking they can enter the middle lane on Denton Tap from the right of two left turn lanes coming off the 121 frontage road. (See the picture to the right).  So, when I turn properly into the middle lane from the left turn lane I always watch for confused interlopers.

On this particular Saturday my mind was definitely elsewhere, but nevertheless I fortunately noticed the dark SUV that wrongly, and illegally, encroached into my lane as I turned left.  The cars never actually came all that close to colliding, but even so the lady in the SUV was furious.  She began honking her horn at us and yelling words I can only imagine.

In a way it was almost comical at the time -- to see someone so angry and also so completely unaware that she was the one in the wrong.  How could she be so angry about such a trivial matter?  I mean, no harm was done to either vehicle -- they never even touched.  What in her life could have caused such an overblown reaction?

And then I wondered -- Pam and I both wondered -- how that lady might have felt about the way she was acting if she had known that we were driving home from our son's memorial service.  How might she have acted if she had known we were just trying to make it through the worst week of our lives?  She was angry because she thought I had violated her space on the road.  Our entire world had been destroyed.  She was worried about her rights.  We were worried about surviving the worst disaster any parent can imagine. 

On this one occasion, at least, Pam and I were on the receiving end of insensitivity -- indeed an insensitivity beyond anything this woman at the time could possibly have imagined.  At the end of the day, though, she didn't need to know what was going on in our lives in that moment in order to do the right thing.  She only needed to know that her duty -- if she was a follower of Christ -- was to love us -- to be patient and to show us kindness.  I suppose there is a lesson in this for all of us.