the blessing of mercy

Those of you that know me will know that several of my favorite bible verses are found in the Gospel of Matthew. I want to talk about one of those verses today.

Matthew 5:7 say “blessed are the merciful for they will obtain mercy”.

I really like those kind of verses. The ones that give an instruction and then offer a promise of some kind. I know for instance that I’d like to have a lot mercy in my life. I mess up pretty regularly and when you do it’s nice when the people affected are merciful to you. I like that a lot. Being merciful feels good (at least it does to me) and it comes with the great benefit of getting it back.

I was thinking about that today and I thought what a beautiful thing this really is. Isn’t being merciful a great witness for a Christian to have? What a great world we would live in if we were all as merciful as our Heavenly Father. In a way mercy is the flap of the butterfly’s wing that caused the storm. Your mercy, your kindness, your forgiveness could be the cause of a storm of the same.

One of the fastest ways to change a difficult situation is to show mercy or kindness or forgiveness. I know that many times our impulse is to lash out when we’ve been hurt or wronged in some way. Sometimes we are just looking for an offense to take. It can feel pretty good to lash out in the moment. That impulse though will usually lead to more difficulty rather than some good resolution.

Your small action, your little kindness though can have a massive positive impact. I mean I know that love is mean, love is judgmental, love always gets it way, insists that it is alway right, love takes revenge, love walks away. That’s why it’s so easy to love your neighbor right? No that’s not right but to often that’s how we “love” each other. Mercy stands our impulses on their heads. Even without the promise of Matthew 5:7 mercy is really it’s own reward.

Mercy is like a muscle, a spiritual muscle. The more you work it out the stronger it becomes. The more you exercise it the stronger all of your spiritual muscles grow. Paul doesn’t list mercy as a Fruit of the Spirit but really can you have any fruit without it?

So spread mercy and see love , joy, and peace flourish all around you. And who doesn’t want that?

I pray that you find mercy abundantly in your life. That you supply it endlessly and receive it ceaselessly. I pray that the roots of mercy anchor your life in the goodness of God and supply abundantly all the spiritual richness He has for you.

love in the balance

As a young person I was often accused of being out of control. I remember whenever the Bible study would get Fruit of the Spirit I would get sideways looks from various people when the reader got to the self-control part of the verse. It was kind of embarrassing for me. I would dwell on it in my mind and say to myself that I need to master this thing if I want people to stop noticing me.

Over the ensuing years I cultivated an almost Vulcan like disdain for my emotions. Don’t get me wrong I still feel deeply but I have learned to seriously repress things in the name of self-control. At least I think I feel deeply, maybe I’m fooling myself.

But there has been a price to pay for this. The other day somebody told me that I was less than human because I didn’t cry during a commercial on TV. There are times I wonder about my emotional state. I ask myself if I’ve repressed things for so long that maybe I’ve broken myself. Is that even possible?

This even has affected how I think about love. I taught my daughters that love is just a decision that you have to make. I taught them not to trust that feeling as it will come and go and during each of those times you’ll make bad decisions because you are out of control. I liked to say that love is an act of will and felt clever at my turn of phrase.

I think now that I was only partially right. I was focusing on the willful part and in so doing missed out on the passion. In all things balance right?

I’ve got a ways to go to fully develop this thought. Being stoically in control comes naturally now. The times when I get emotional are still embarrassing for me. But hey Jesus wept so why shouldn’t I too?

Father God help me to produce all the Fruit of the Spirit in both my head and my heart.

the struggle is real

It’s been quite a while since I posted anything. The past few months have really put me through the ringer. But God uses times like these to show you just what it is you’re made of right? I keep forgetting that however. The past week or so has been particularly difficult. I really felt like maybe it was time to just go ahead and give in to my old pal Worthless.

I was feeling down on myself. I even wrote a poem that was surely the darkest thing I’d written in a very long time. No I won’t share it with you so don’t ask. But then God came through for me in a mighty way on Sunday and turned things around. Worthwhile stirred and poked his head out of the dog house, saw that I was feeling a little better and came over to remind me of something that I’d not thought about for a while.

Jesus is in the boat with me. What do I have to worry about? Whatever storms may be beating against me He can overcome. There’s no way I should feel defeated. That’s just a lie from Worthless. How can I have so little faith and be filled with melancholy when Jesus is along for the trip?

So watch out old enemy you may have pushed me to the edge of the cliff but I didn’t jump and now I’ve got a new victory to celebrate. There’s plenty of fight left in me and I’ve got the best cornerman around.

volunteers make the church work

At the beginning of the year I put out the call for volunteers at the church where I pastor. I made a list of needed help and called the church to pray for the right people to come to us and fill the roles that had been identified. I don’t know if anyone is still praying over our list but we did see some results and I’d like to publically thank those that stepped up to help out.

Brian thank you so much for taking on the task of maintaining our grounds. It is a very important task and I know that it takes up a lot of time. How the property looks is the very first impression that people have of our church and we want that impression to be a good one. Without your efforts that wouldn’t be possible. Paul and Junia I know that you have also pitched in and your help is very much appreciated. You two were also instrumental in the ongoing remodel of the new classroom. It was your efforts that really got that project moving again after it had gotten stalled.

Good first impressions continue because Sandy came forward and volunteered to take on the task of keeping the sanctuary, bathrooms, and other spaces clean and tidy. Your personal touches in those areas have really made a huge difference in the way members and visitors alike see our facility. I don’t know if anyone has thanked you personally but several people have asked me who has been cleaning because the place looks great. It feels like somebody actually loves it and wants it to look it’s very best. Your servant’s heart really shines through the work that you do.  I pray that God bless you abundantly.

Stan and Kathy have continued to keep the kitchen and coffee room clean and tidy. I always know that you’ve been there even if I didn’t see you because of the smell of Pine-Sol in the air after you leave. You two have been performing this task for several years and it’s about time you got a public thank you for it.

Papa G, Stan, and Dan have done a lot of work in our new classroom and I am really happy to let you all know that we will be opening up one side of it this Sunday for use. These men have worked very hard to present to you all a building that you can be proud of. They’ve done demolition, put up Sheetrock, textured and painted. They’ve dug trenches, run wires, installed a bunch of stuff. Been up and down ladders countless times and made numerous trips to a variety of home improvement stores. Their work has been done with excellence and love. There is still a lot more to be done but I know that these men will be there to do the job and do it right. Thank you thank you thank you.

In one sense a church is just a bunch of people that get together once in a while and do church. If that’s all you get from it God bless you and expand your thoughts. Because really a church ought to be like a family with all that implies. A family does things together with a common goal and so should a church. I am certain that if you are attending a church somewhere that there are plenty of opportunities for you to serve. It is my prayer that you find that spot and fill it because you are necessary and important no matter what you think. God will use you if you make yourself available for use.

I know that I have not mentioned every person that volunteers in our church. Fear not I see all and so does God. There are many more blogs to write.



Ban violence I say

So I have an idea. I’ve been taking in some of the news from this weekend and seeing a lot of video of various marches that took place. I’ve seen plenty of passionate speeches, songs of protest and the like as well. The topic is gun violence and what ought to be done about it. Most of the ideas that I’ve heard are honestly to me pretty stale. You know ban this gun, expanded background checks blah blah.

As I thought about the things I was seeing and hearing I started to consider the problem. I like to look at words and phrases and break them down and pick at them to see just what is really being talked or written about. The phrase here is gun violence.

Why are we focused on the gun part of the phrase? If it weren’t for the second word, the violence part there would be no need at all for there to be a gun. Okay I know that is not completely true. The gun is a weapon for self defense but it is also a tool of providence. It can also be used recreationally. But for the purposes of this discussion let’s agree to consider the self defense aspect.

My thought is whatever we do with the gun won’t eliminate the need for self defense because we still must deal the more important word. Even if every gun was gone tomorrow there would still be violence and the need for people to be able to defend themselves. There would still be all of the problems that afflict our society. Nothing would change except how we go about hurting each other. Human history is proof that guns aren’t necessary for the killing or oppressing people. We don’t need more gun control or a gun ban. What we need is a ban on violence.

If you really want to change the world then this is how you do it. Ridiculous I can hear you say out there. There will always be violence. It woven into our very nature. Almost everything we do is saturated with it. The news we watch, the stories we read, it’s everywhere. I believe that without the violence most of you out there would be pretty bored. I just went and saw a super hero movie over the weekend and liked it very much but it was an extremely violent affair. I really believe that as long as we are willing to be entertained by this we will continue to see violence carried out in real life. As they say art imitates life.

We don’t have a gun problem or really a violence problem. We have a heart problem. Our hearts are selfish and filled with conflict. Our society is divided in a thousand different ways and the powers that be seem to like it that way. Conflict sells and we’re buying. Our appetite for it is insatiable and it’s only getting worse.

This is what we need to be talking about.

Today I pray for wisdom in our leadership. I pray for some speck of unity. I pray that we stop being double minded, sending confusing mixed messages to vulnerable young people. I pray that we stop exploiting terrible events and the people involved in them to push forward political agendas. I pray for peacemakers.

Be the bigger person

If God were easy to follow everybody would be doing it. If God always made you comfortable, if there were never any trials in your life because Of some kind of supernatural intervention there would not be any need for faith. I think that I like that He lets us face difficulty, that our decisions matter and we are made to face the consequences of the decisions that we make both the good and the bad.

It seems to me that today many people think that it is actually good to let themselves off the hook for the things that they do or think. I hear people say things like all ideas are good or that all lifestyle choices are equal. This seems absurd to me. One person says that it is society’s responsibility to take care of everybody and another says that each person is responsible for his own wellbeing. Those are quite opposite and can’t both be true. I know that is a extreme example but it makes the point.

This kind of thing gets truly evil when people think that they ought to be able to get away with stuff but you over there ought to be punished for the same thing. The more polarized we get the more that this mindset seems to rear it’s ugly head.

I know I’m being a little vague here by not pointing out some real world examples but I really want to stay a bit neutral while I think this through. I know that the us and them mentality has always been around I know that. I also know that long ago people were deeply divided by a lot of things that led to very extreme behavior but I thought that perhaps we had outgrown some of the really terrible ideas that had ruled interaction between people. I thought we had learned to be at least civil with each other, that we could share problems and solutions and be able to come to some kind of consensus. But Solomon was right. There really is nothing new under the sun.

So now I need to look into my own life to see if there is any of that in me. I don’t want to be the man that is shouting down somebody for what they did while excusing myself for my own misdeeds. I want to be the man that can listen respectfully to someone that I may disagree with and be able to have a reasonable discussion about it. I don’t want to be the man that looks past someone’s problems because I happen to agree with some of his or her thoughts or ideas. I want to be the man that is able to discern truth but not be filled with hate. I want to be the man that can be persuaded when I am wrong to see the error and make the appropriate change. I want to be the man that will gently but firmly hold fast to those things that I am confident are the truth. I want to be the man that is persuasive not belligerent. Mostly I want to be the man that loving and merciful to those around me wether I agree with them or not.

Lest I am misunderstood let me state that I will not tolerate evil. I do believe that there is real evil in the world and it must be opposed. But I must not allow myself to be evil to oppose it. Opposition must still come from a place of love and yes even mercy.

It is my prayer that after you read this you will join me in this self examination to find the condition of your heart and then follow me and make the commitment to love even those that you find youself opposing.

You’ll never catch up if you don’t get started

As I came to the end of 2017 I checked my stats and saw that during the year I had published 21 blogs. I felt ok about that because when I added that to the rest of the writing that I had done I felt that my output was adequate. But I challenged myself to increase my blog posts to reach a minimum of 30 for 2018. I felt good about that number. It seemed like an achievable goal.

But of course life has its own ideas and they don’t always coincide with mine. So now I find myself in the position of being behind having posted exactly zero blogs for the current year. Looking at my situation I began to despair of posting anything at all. Of course upon further reflection that notion is ridiculous. I have plenty of time to write these short reflections if I do just a little bit better managing my time.

Do you find yourself in a similar spot? Did you tell yourself that you were going to accomplish some goal during this year or month or week or whatever? Maybe you’ve missed the mark so far. I know that I have and Worthless is having a field day with me but as usual Worthwhile has come in with a last minute save and here I sit writing my blog. Post #1 for 2018. At least 29to go right?

Don’t beat yourself for getting behind. Instead set your thoughts on the goal that you originally set and start doing whatever you need to do to move towards it. Goals are a great thing to have. Reaching one will give you a sense of accomplishment and help you towards the next one. Evaluate your goals and make sure that they are reachable. A few posts ago I told you to look to your expectations if you were feeling unhappy. I wanted you to be sure that you were being realistic in them and I want the same thing for you now. Set goals that are reachable in the time frame that you set them in. Then as you reach each one you will feel good about yourself and be in a better state to reach the next one.

If your goal is big then try to break it down into smaller more achievable segments. That way you won’t feel overwhelmed when you think about it. But the most important thing is to get started. If your goal is to be able to ride your bike 20 miles go out ASAP and air up the tires and oil the chain. Then tomorrow put on your helmet and ride around the block. You get the idea.

If you are doing great at reaching your goals that’s awesome please pray for those of us that have struggled so far. If you are one of the struggling then my prayer is that you will see this as the encouragement you are looking for and I further pray that you will do what ever you need to do to start reaching your goals. Remember that you set them for a reason and the reason was probably important.

I can get caught up and so can you.

don’t let Worthless win

Worthless oh Worthless why do you vex me

Why do I let you hold me back

A voice in my head mighty and strong

Quick to point out all that I lack

Worthless oh Worthless I hate what you say

You’re downbeat and hateful

Each and every day

But I continue to listen

Although I know better

Your trap is perfect

You know me to the letter

Worthless the lion Worthwhile a sigh

How do I feed the good voice inside

Worthless oh Worthless you think that you’ve won

Worthwhile bounce back and the battle’s begun

How can a sigh beat a lion you ask

The sigh’s not alone he has help with the task

The helps name is Jesus Savior and Lord

He wins the battle with just a word

Worthless I’m saved, redeemed, and empowered

Worthless return to your den you’re a coward

I can do all things through Christ he’s my strength

He never gives up He’ll go to any length

Worthwhile he listens and changes a sigh to a roar

He listens to Jesus and wants to know more

We open our bible our mind and our heart

Me and Worthwhile we make a new start

It happened for me it can it can for you too

Jesus can make all things brand new

I have a feeling that we all struggle with inner voices that tell us we are failures or we are inadequate in some way. This has been an ongoing struggle in my life. I find that when I’m feeling bad about myself that it impacts just about every area of my life. Relationships feel strained or empty, pleasant things seem to lose their appeal and tasks become harder. When this happens if I don’t become aware of it soon enough it feeds itself and becomes stronger and stronger, continually getting harder to bear.

I thank God for the Holy Spirit who will always remind me that the failure Worthless says I am is a lie. I thank Him for the Word that speaks truth to me and teaches me who I really am and what I am truly capable of accomplishing.

It’s a cliche I know but breakthroughs only come after you hit an obstacle. So when you feel disempowered or out of favor, when your prayer life seems listless don’t quit. This is the time when your Worthless is pressing in, press back. Your breakthrough will come and you’ll look back at that previous time and all you’ll see will be the broken bits of what ever it was that was holding you down.

The Bible tells us that every battle is spiritual. I believe this is true. If you are going to win spiritual battles you are going to need spiritual weapons and defenses. You need a robust prayer life, the Word of God, and the indewlling power of the Holy Spirit. If you are a believer you already have the latter of those if you’re not winning your battles go and get the rest. You never have to fight alone.

I pray for all of you my friends that you get this. The Word tells over and over that God will never leave you to fight alone. He leads you forward, He’s got your back. You are fully equipped. Go fight, go be victorious, give glory to God.



Be the answer to someone’s prayer

Do you ever think about how God answers our prayers? I know that I do. I do so because I get asked quite often to pray for or about a person or situation. After I pray for something or someone I will monitor the situation or circumstance as at I am able because I really like to know how my prayers are being answered. I think that is reasonable and I think also that lots of other people do,the same thing. We all ought to be looking for our prayers to be answered because that is one of the best ways we can build up our witness.

God uses people to answer prayers.

A lot of times my prayers are for people or situations that are far away from me and so my prayers are often a request that God move someone “over there” to act on behalf of whatever I am praying about. It occurs to me that there are likely people far from me making the same kind of prayers about people or situations near to me. In that case there is a possibility that God may try to move me to be the answer to that prayer.

God uses people to answer prayers because it build faith and testimony in three different people. In the one praying, the one answering, and the one for whom the prayer was offered.

For the believer being a co-laborer with God in these situations is privelage that is not to be taken lightly. Being an answer to prayer may take courage or boldness. It may include the possibility of persecution or danger. It could expose you to difficult circumstances. It could even lead to emotion or spiritual stress. But along with these come certain blessing and great joy a well.

If you want to be used by God as the answer to someone else’s prayer (and you should) there are a few things you’d better know because while He is sovereign and can use anyone he prefers to use the qualified. So what makes one qualified?

First you must be available. If you are self absorbed paying attention only to yourself and your concerns it will be hard for you to be used purposefully by God. Selfishness is a barrier to a meaningful prayer life. It is something that God dispises. Paul reminds us in Romans 12 that we are to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice as our duty to God. We are to lay ourselves on the altar and by doing so we become ready for his use. The word to use here is holy, that is set aside for his purposes. Again Paul says in his letter to Timothy that a vessel that is to be used for honorable purposes must be clean.

Second you must be listening. God speaks to us in any number of ways so in order to be used we ought to be paying close attention to Him. We need to be praying. Remember that prayer is a two way conversation with God. All too often we get so caught up in our requests that we forget to be listening. We forget to pause and give Him a chance to say something to us. He also speaks to,us through His word so keep reading scripture. This is the best way to understand His mind and ways. He will also speak to you through the people around you so pay attention and be sensitive when talking to others. Be a good listener.

Finally you must be willing. God is a gentleman. He won’t force you to do things. He may make it difficult to refuse. He may use circumstances or hardship to help you understand His will but you always get the option to opt out. Like Malachi told Ester you if you refuse God will find another way for His will to be achieved but you will miss out on the blessings that would have been yours.

What an honor we have as believers to be workers in God’s kingdom. Don’t be so self-interested that you miss the opportunities out there to be His answer to someone’s plea for help. Don’t miss the blessings that are to be yours because you are unavailable or unwilling to answer the call when it comes to you. Your testimony is your best witness and your testimony comes by answered prayers.