Category Archives: conviction

the triumph of mercy

 

Mercy triumphs over judgment.

These were James’s words to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations some 2000 years ago. These are God’s words to me today.

More fully …

“Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!” –James 2:12-13

Notice, judgment and mercy are not separated here. They co-exist. Accordingly, there can be reasonable judgments made, but they must be triumphed by mercy … coated, bathed, and lavishly immersed in grace.

Why?

Because this is how Jesus lived. This is how Jesus loved … loves. He is the God of both – judgment and mercy. No mercy can be applied to a heart if a heart hasn’t first crossed the line requiring it.

Accordingly, we should follow Christ’s lead – mercy enough to bathe judgment. We should not offer mercy as a way of gaining the upper hand … of somehow thinking that our generous grace towards others places us in God’s higher regard. Instead, we should offer mercy because the upper, outstretched hands of Jesus Christ have extended wide and long and high and deep on our behalf. When we forget this, when our offers of mercy are motivated by personal pats on the back, then we’ve missed the grace of God entirely. It becomes all about what we have done rather than about everything that Christ has done for us, in us, and ultimately, through us.

In this day of doing faith and living grace, there will be someone who crosses your path in need of mercy. Judgment abounds (and in many cases rightly so), but judgment without the cross of Jesus Christ standing as a guiding light to monitor your responses will never advance the kingdom. At least, not through you. Not through me.

So I stand here today, close to the cross. Leaning into it, clinging onto the splintered, bloodied beams knowing that without this mercy-laced judgment, I am left as I am, incapable of loving the most excellent way.

That excellent way?

Mercy triumphing over judgment. If I’m going to live anywhere, let me live there. Let me grow there. Let me love from there.

Keep to it, faithful pilgrims. It’s a good way … the grace-way to move the kingdom forward. As always …

Peace for the journey,

 

messy and mad . . .

 

Messy and mad.

Life is. I am.

Messy life. Mad me. There’s no prettying up this one, not enough shine and polish to make it less obvious to others. Anyway, what’s the point of a cover-up other than to possibly fool someone into thinking I have it altogether?

I don’t. On my best days, I’m always one step away from behaving badly. My flesh doesn’t consistently keep pace with my faith. Today has been one of those days for me.

The messiness that surrounds me creates a terrible ache inside of me for calmer days, although at the moment I’m having a difficult time remembering what they look like, feel like . . . live like. Accordingly, a less than gracious display of emotion bursting forth onto the pavement in front of me and into the lives of those who sit most closely to my influence.

My influence. I type those two words with a penitent heart and with a few questions to the Father about why he has allowed me so much of it, especially on days of amplified tension. This wasn’t supposed to be this hard. Or so I think. But my supposition doesn’t change the facts.

Life is hard, messy too. And every now and then, living within these constraints gets the best of me. Perhaps you understand. Perhaps you know something about the “hard and messy” of life.

We don’t get too far in our walks of faith and not experience the push for transformation. God will bring our “hard and messy” to the surface so that we might accurately assess the condition of our hearts. His assessment is always clear; we, however, are sometimes a bit slower in recognizing the inward ticking of a sometimes veiled reality. And while I’m not a fan of painful disclosure, I am a fan of fleshing out the hidden contents of my heart in the safe and loving presence of Father God.

Honestly, I just wish we’d already taken care of this years ago.

Messy and mad.

Life is. I am.

Gracious and loving.

God is. God does.

And therein I find my compass.

Anchor Verse 2013 ~ Reconciliation

 

I read his words in the early morning hours of 2013, beginning words about new things, new hopes, new desires (especially as it pertains to those who busy themselves with resolution list-making):

“They believe that a good intention already means a new beginning; they believe that on their own they can make a new start whenever they want. But that is an evil illusion; only God can make a new beginning with people whenever God pleases, but not people with God. Therefore, people cannot make a new beginning at all; they can only pray for one.” (Bonhoeffer, God is in the Manger, pg. 80)

And so, I bow my head and heart and pray for one . . . a new beginning, knowing that anything I might conjure up impulsively will ultimately fail if God is not in it. I ask for a new heart, a new approach to living with the older history that resides inside my aging flesh. And I pray for eyes to see this new beginning as it arrives, to lay hold of it, and to fully live it, even when it’s uncomfortable . . . especially then. To receive a new beginning from God only to reject it in the end is to squander the blessing—ultimately, to make a mockery of the gift so earnestly sought after, so divinely given.

Don’t ask for a new beginning from God if you don’t want one, because to receive one and to waste it is irreverence at the highest level.

Accordingly, I tread humbly, yet willingly toward the Father on this first day of 2013 as I ask for my “new.” I cannot perceive it, not yet. I can only believe that it awaits me, knowing that as I ask for this bread, my Father will not respond with a stone. He will answer me with his “much more”—good gifts from his God-heart (see Mt. 7:7-11).

Along these lines, and for the past several years, I’ve made it my practice to choose an anchor verse that would serve as a foundational guideline for my comings and goings throughout the year—a “go to” word from the Word when other words fail . . . when my heart and soul lose focus. Last year’s anchor was rooted in Phil. 3:12-14 and the phrase “movement wins.” I cannot begin to chronicle for you the many ways these verses and that phrase have pushed me, fortified me, and encouraged me in 2012. Movement wins stands as forever strength for me going forward. I pray the same power to be present in and through the anchor verses that I’ve selected for the New Year. For the past few months, I’ve known that these would be God’s watchwords for my 2013.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” (2 Cor. 5:17-20)

The ministry and message of reconciliation—the Greek word katallage meaning “exchange, adjustment of a difference, restoration of the favor of God to sinners that repent and put their trust in the atoning death of Christ.”

God has placed me, placed all Christians, in the middle of a sacred exchange between himself and his created, between his holiness and man’s sinfulness. He has commissioned us to stand as a bridge linking the dying, fear-filled soul to the living, faithful God. What trust! What responsibility! What privilege!

Accordingly, I tread humbly toward the Father on this first day of 2013. To be a reconciler in the kingdom of God—to no longer regard anyone from a worldly point of view—is to ratchet up faith’s commitment. With the responsibility comes accountability, of this I am certain. And so, I cannot ask for this “new” with only good intentions to fuel my well-doing. God must be the energy behind this undertaking. He is the author and finisher of my faith; it all begins and ends with him. So must my bridge-building. Bridges built by good intentions will ultimately collapse. Bridges built by God’s intentions will stand forever, eternally upheld by the heart and hands of his love.

This is where I am this morning, kneeling on a bridge, and praying for strength enough to be one of God’s. He, alone, knows where these verses and this prayer will take me in the next twelve months.

What about you? What is the prayer of your heart on this first day of 2013? What leading from God is leading you to ask for your new beginning? What strength do you find in his Word? What anchor will be your “go to” word in coming days? I pray one finds you—a verse or an entire chapter of holy writ that will work its way into your soul and serve as a strong foundation for your faith in coming days. Think on it; pray on it, and as it arrives, inscribe it upon your heart.

Don’t waste your new beginning; live it like you mean it. I’ll meet you on the road, and I’ll link arms with you in prayer for the steps ahead.

God will see to it all.

the man I’m voting for . . .

If they could be like him, then I’d be feeling better about casting my vote in a couple of weeks. If President Obama and Governor Romney would spend a day with him, they would learn a lot about life, about truth, and about how to walk humbly through this world with their God. If they knew him—really took the time to stop, look, and listen to this man—then they would better understand the human condition.

They would know that governing the United States is a privilege, not a right. They would understand that no one person deserves to hold so much power.

They would humbly and gently make their declarations, realizing that no one person has all the answers.

They would find their knees every day, knowing their limitations and reaching out in prayer to the One and Only God whose boundaries are limitless.

They wouldn’t be afraid to touch the unlovely. Instead they would reach their arms into the mangled mess called humanity to offer hope, to extend courage, to present faith, and to bestow love.

They would worry less about their clothing and, instead, relinquish their threads to the naked, the exposed, and to those who cry out for the covering of mercy.

They would stop taking our money and, instead, buy us dinner on occasion.

They would value life instead of taking it. They would give up their own lives so that the one entombed in the womb might have the chance to live and breathe and make his/her own pilgrimage of grace.

They would stop lying and start confessing, knowing that what has been done in the dark has not been done in secret.

They would stop patting themselves on the back. Instead, they would lend their backs to the broken road and carry the bricks and mortar of restoration.

They would easily forgive, because they have been forgiven much.

They would speak less and listen more.

They would laugh more and smirk less.

They would sit on the porch swing instead of sitting at fundraisers.

They would create make-believe stories with good endings instead of creating real stories with bad endings.

They would ask deeper questions and be content to live with some mystery.

They would make each day count, each encounter significant, instead of planning for the next four years.

They wouldn’t hide behind the Oval Office. They would run to the front lines to protect my freedom.

They would give, give, and then give some more, because they would realize that all they’ve ever had was never really theirs to begin with.

They would work late, play less, pray more, and God-bless.

Yes, if they could be like him, then I would feel better about casting my vote in a couple of weeks. If his name were on the ballot, then I would feel safe and secure when pulling the lever. Instead, I feel sad, disabled, and removed from the process. I’m no longer confident that my voice will be heard and that my vote will be tabulated. The corrosive nature of what we’ve become . . . what we’ve allowed, saddens my spirit and has me longing for a season from my yesterdays.

A time when the greatest fears I held were based on the imaginary, mysterious creatures lurking underneath my bed. A time when the greatest peace I felt was when my daddy came through the door, checked under the bed, and prayed my fears away.

No, I don’t suppose Mitt and Barack will ever have an occasion to spend some time with my dad, but if they could, I have no doubt they’d walk away from that encounter wanting to be more like him. I know I do.

Chuck Killian for President! Now there’s a man deserving of my vote. Somehow, just thinking about him today brings peace to my soul.

I love you, Daddy, and for the record, I’ll take a ride on the porch swing with you any day over a state dinner at the White House. You’re the real deal. I trust your heart, and no matter the results of the upcoming election, I will always feel safe with you in my life.

moving the Kingdom forward in the next sixty minutes . . .

Movement wins. If you’ve been a regular reader at my blog in the past year, then you know that I chose this phrase to serve as my “anchor word” for 2012. Forward movement is a worthy pursuit, whether in the physical or spiritual realm of advancement. When we make the deliberate decision to move forward in faith, then it’s a win, not just for us but for the kingdom of God as well.

Along these lines, I’d like to offer you a challenge today—a single way that you can move your faith forward, thereby advancing God’s kingdom. It may sound simple, but I imagine it might be harder in practice. That’s what we’re going to do . . . practice our faith in a practical way. Practice is often the conduit for transformation. Great teaching will only take us so far, but great teaching applied in earnest unlocks the sacred potential in all of us to move forward in our perfection. So if you’re willing, let’s apply this one change to the way we spend our next hour (whenever this hour arrives for you).

Two steps are required. First, listen to the Word. Second, do the Word. Ready? Then listen up:

“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.” –2 Corinthians 5:16

Now, do this one thing: No longer regard anyone from a worldly point of view.

Translation? Stop looking at the people in front of you from a worldly perspective. Stop viewing them as flesh and blood. Instead, view them as soul and spirit. See them not as temporal beings but, rather, as the eternal children of God. Look deeply into the faces of those around you, those who’ll cross your path in the next sixty minutes, and find the face of God. Notice Jesus and his pulse as he hovers around them. Recognize a single human life for what it is—a created being fashioned and formed in the image of God, a life worthy of Calvary’s investment. Grace’s investment.

With the Holy Spirit’s help, you can do this, friends. We can do this. In doing so, we move the kingdom of God forward. We may not be privy to the results of our investment or feel the earth move beneath our feet, but we can be certain that the heavens are marking our paces and turning the pages of the kingdom calendar in great anticipation of the arrival of its King.

This is not the time for weak faith and shoddy investments. This is the season for bold faith and Jesus investments. No, God doesn’t need us to move his kingdom forward, but because of his great love for us, he offers us the privilege of sacred participation. He gives us the opportunity and the occasion to see his people, all of his people, from his vantage point.

No longer regard anyone from a worldly point of view. The souls in front of us cannot afford our negligence. So get busy; the clock’s ticking. Fifty-seven minutes and counting. Make them count. As always . . .

Peace for the journey,

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