Category Archives: Mercy

No Need for Stripes

Proverbs 19:29

“Judgments are prepared for scorners, and stripes for the back of fools.”

Reality Shows

Have you ever watched reality television? “Reality shows,” as they are called, are television programs that seek to entertain the viewer with the craziness of other peoples’ lives. Reality television is usually anything but true reality, however. But what happened last night while I was preaching was anything but fake.

Before I get into the details of this post, it has been pointed out by more than one person that our family needs to star in its own reality TV show. The only problem is that no one would believe it.

It Happened During Church

(The following happened in 2013) Just after 9 p.m. I got a phone call from a concerned church member: “Pastor, are you all right? You OK?” “Well…yeah…I guess,” was my reply. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

Come to find out, a lady across the street from our church wrote on Facebook that bounty hunters had shot at a man, chased him, and arrested him in our church parking lot – while church was going on! No one inside the church knew a thing! But what is even more amazing is that the man had come to visit our church, and his wife was in the sanctuary. She never knew her husband was taken away!

Why did all this happen? Evidently, the man was wanted for a parole violation, and they followed him to church. He and his wife had been in trouble many times, but they had visited Sunday morning and felt that it was time for a change. That is why they came back last night.

Judgments and Stripes

There is more to the above story, most of which is sad, but I told it in order to help make a point. You see, actions have consequences. Sin has a price. Even though this poor couple realized that they needed God in their lives, judgment caught up with them.

All is not lost, however. Many times God’s judgment is what it takes to open the eyes of the sinner. As I prayed with the woman whose husband was hauled away, I reminded her that the road ahead would be very hard, but that God loves her, and her husband.

By His Strips

This might be a good time to point out that wounded people need to be loved. Too many people feel unworthy to come to church, and it’s all because they feel like they will be judged, like everyone else is “better” than them. The fact is that we are all sinners, but Jesus bore the punishment for our crimes, so our job is to love each other as Christ loved us.

This man and woman may have to pay a temporal price for the sins they have committed. It may mean jail time. But there is no need for them, or you, to suffer the eternal penalty for sin – separation from God. Jesus took upon Himself our sins and bore them to the Cross (1 Peter 2:24). There He was “wounded for our transgressions, and by His stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:5).”

Don’t continue to be a “scorner.” Don’t be a “fool.” 

“This is real love–not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” – 1 John 4:10 NLT

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:9 KJV

 

 


Subject to the King

Proverbs 19:12 

The king’s wrath is as the roaring of a lion; but his favor is as dew upon the grass.

Of Earthly Kings and Princes

I was intrigued to see a video posted on Facebook in which Prince Charles spoke very favorably of the church in the UK. He was referring to a particular event called The BigChurchDayOut, but the positive manner in which he described the church was most encouraging. Prince Charles is not yet King Charles, but he is next in line to the British throne, and his favor is definitely worth having. In fact, Prince Charles has bestowed his favor on many through his involvement with various charities through The Prince of Wales’s Charitable Foundation.

While Prince Charles is unlikely to display wrath, many of his ancestors were skilled in anger. Before the monarchy became constitutional, the Kings and Queens of England were the most powerful individuals in the land, and their subjects were wise to avoid their wrath. Anger the king and you might up in The Tower of London, facing torture and execution. Not even the rich and famous were safe. It seems amazing that the great explorer Sir Walter Raleigh met his end not during some dangerous expedition, but at the blade of the executioner’s axe.

King of Kings

Psalm 47:7 states: ‘For God is the King of all the earth; sing to him a psalm of praise’ while in Revelation 19:16 God is referred to as the ‘King of kings and Lord of lords.’ God is King above all kings, but unlike other kings He does not demand our allegiance. The King of kings gives us a choice. He doesn’t threaten us with His wrath, but instead promises favor that is like dew on the grass, or icing on the cake (to bring this proverb up to date). But while God’s wrath may not fall on us now if we turn our backs on Him, there will be a day when all humanity will be required to stand before the King (Matthew 25:31-46).


He Says “Come”

Proverbs 19:7

“All the brethren of the poor do hate him: how much more do his friends go far from him? he pursueth them with words, yet they are wanting to him.”
“The poor are shunned by all their relatives– how much more do their friends avoid them! Though the poor pursue them with pleading, they are nowhere to be found.” – NIV

Poor and Lonely

How sad is it that when a person has nothing, even his own family will avoid him? This happens a lot, especially to people who are in need. Nobody seems to want to hang out around people who are poor. Being poor and needy can make one awfully lonely.

I know some people who need family and friends. They need support and encouragement, but none can be found. Why? The family and “friends” say, “The only time they call is when they want something.”

In reality, many of the poor in this world are poor as a result of their own unwise choices. But there are also many more who are needy out of no real fault of their own. They are the ones that could truly benefit from a caring family member or friend.

Closer than a Brother

In reality, a real friend or brother would not run from one in need. “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” – Proverbs 17:17 KJV

All I know is that I am thankful that the richest one in the universe never ran from me. Jesus is a friend that sticks closer than a brother and understands what it means to be rejected.

“For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” – Isaiah 53:2-3 KJV

I am so thankful that I serve a loving and generous God who not only knows my needs and doesn’t run away, but calls all men unto Himself…

“Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink– even if you have no money! Come, take your choice of wine or milk– it’s all free!” – Isaiah 55:1 NLT

 


Repentant Sinner vs. Unrepentant Christian

Proverbs 18:23

23 The poor useth intreaties; but the rich answereth roughly. (KJV)
23 The poor plead for mercy, but the rich answer harshly. (NIV)

This could easily be about the differences between the wealthy and those in poverty.

This could easily become an indictment against many parts of the Church around the world.

Instead, this is based more on the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14), and it is a call to follow the Greatest Commandment (Matthew 22:35-40).

Unrepentant Christian

When one has believed they have become saved by grace through faith in the redeeming work of Jesus Christ through the cross, it can become easy to forget those humble beginnings: you were a sinner in need of a Savior.

The danger comes when we change everything in our lives to cut off any attachments to our sinful lives before Christ. It is not that we have removed any danger of temptation and sin, rather that we surround ourselves with Christians. Sometimes this is to the point that we do not know any non-Christians or Christians from other churches/denominations. We surround ourselves only with the riches of God’s mercy, grace, and love.

This is dangerous, because we can forget how to act around non-Christians. We see the sinful behavior, the effects of sin, and dangerous lifestyles and choices. We see the ways of living and interacting with others that remind us of our own sins or what the Bible says about certain sins.

And we judge them and thank God we are no longer like them. Which is good … to a point …

… but we forget to love them.

Repentant Sinners

What is easy to forget is that non-Christians, and even some who were raised in the Church, are pleading, sometimes begging, for a demonstration of mercy. They have not partaken of the riches of God’s mercy, grace, and love.

They may be painfully aware of how their lives are not perfect. They may understand what they are doing is wrong.

They do not need more reminders.

They need mercy, grace, and love.

And all we seem to show them is distaste and superiority. We seem to show them they do not deserve what we have been given.

Saved Sinners

May we remember that we are sinners saved by grace. We are the saints of God having been washed in His blood.

May we remember that God has entrusted their salvation to us.

May we remember to show the same mercy, grace, and love God has shown to us and not hold onto these riches to the detriment of those around us.

Merciful God rich in grace and love, remind us that we need You every day. Help our hearts to long for You. Remind us to share Your love and mercy every day. Help us to not answer harshly to the lost as You have not answered harshly to us.


What Makes a King a King?

Proverbs 16:12

“It is an abomination to kings to commit wickedness: for the throne is established by righteousness.”

A king detests wrongdoing, for his rule is built on justice. (NLT)

I have never met an earthly king, but I have often wondered what makes a king a king, or a queen a queen. The history books tell us that many kings and queens built their rule not on justice and righteousness, but on evil and by instilling fear among their subjects. There are countries in our world that continue to be ruled in this way.

Jesus was born into poverty in a land ruled by terror. A foreign king ruled the land with the help of a local puppet king. Neither covered themselves in glory in the way that they ruled. Compare Caesar and Herod to Jesus. The fact that Jesus was different was evident after His arrest when He was interrogated by Pilate, the Roman governor for the province:

Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
“Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”
“Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”
Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
“You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” (John 18:33-38 NIV)

Did Pilate understand what Jesus was saying? Here was a King like no other. A King who is holy and perfect in every way that we are not. A King from another place who cannot be compared to any earthly ruler, but a King who considers every human welcome in His Kingdom. It is not us that this King judges, but our wrongdoing. His rule is built on justice, and the forgiveness made possible by His sacrifice.

Before Jesus all human beings are equal, and all are equally welcome. He hates the wrongdoing, but He loves the wrongdoer. What a King!


Are You Afraid?

Proverbs 15:33

“The fear of the Lord teaches a man wisdom,
    and humility comes before honor.”

What is Fear?

We see lots of mention of fear in the Old Testament. It’s a word that doesn’t fit well with our modern mindset, and so many people who speak about these verses reduce fear to something else. They tell us it is more like awe or respect. Yet even these words have been diluted by our present culture.

When I was a child and did something wrong, I feared the consequences, I feared my parents and the discipline they would bring, the telling off I would receive. Today children seem to fear very few things, and the ideas of respect and awe are replaced by individualism.

Real Fear

But what if fear means fear? What if there is reason to fear God, and this reason makes the grace He shows us all the more amazing?

In the Old Testament the Israelites were afraid to approach the mountain that God met Moses on, Jacob comments on how he came face to face with God and lived.  Maybe fear is the beginning of all wisdom because when we realize that God could do anything He wants at any time, He could make our lives miserable and full of suffering, He could punish us for our sins.

And yet he doesn’t.

Instead He pours grace upon us, and in Jesus shows us how humility comes before honor.


Don’t Confuse His Emotions

Proverbs 15:9

“The way of the wicked is an abomination unto the LORD: but he loveth him that followeth after righteousness.”

Abomination

Have you ever stopped to really ponder the word abomination? Do you ever use that word in your regular speech? Probably not. However, you’ve probably used words like “disgusting,” “revolting,” or said something like “that makes me want to gag!”

To abhor something is to be disgusted with it, revolted by it, and it should make you want to gag. It’s like the feeling you might get when a loved one might uncover a bandaged wound and show you the oozing infection.

It’s also the type of feeling you should get when made aware of a man brutally raping a young woman, a parent beating and killing her infant, or a scumbag scam artist stealing the life savings from a little, old lady.

These things are abominations, and so is the “way of the wicked.”

“Loveth”

Who can justly deny God’s love for man? The merciful One who puts up with our unrighteousness on a minute-by-minute basis could rightfully call for our lives to be extinguished, yet he graciously gives us opportunity after opportunity to repent.

Of all the nations in the Old Testament, was there any the Lord would have destroyed had those nations repented of their wickedness, asked for forgiveness, and followed after the one true God? Doesn’t the book of Jonah make it perfectly clear that God wants to forgive?

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. – 2 Peter 3:9

Yet, one could read Proverbs 15:8-9 and come to the conclusion that God only loves those who do what He wants, that He really doesn’t love everybody, for He’s disgusted with – abhors – sinners.

And you would be so wrong!

Attractive

If you will look closely, the comparison between the wicked person and the righteous person reveals the actions of each. It is the actions that determine God’s response.

And what is the response? That He will love the lovable and hate the ugly? God forbid! No! This verse describes what is pleasurable, what is attractive, what is a beauty to behold, and what brings a smile.

Are you a parent? Do you love your children any less when they are dirty, infected, or coughing up phlegm? No, you wince, you fight your gag reflexes when you clean them up, but you love them so much you’d die for them.

But when they smell nice, wear clean clothes, do their homework, ask if they can do the dishes for you, and then sit down next to you on the couch just to be close… don’t you “love” that?

God abhorred the way of the the wicked so much that He gave His only begotten Son…

God loved the world so much that He gave His only begotten Son…

Christ manifested, He proved His love for even the ungodly when He humbled Himself to the horrors of the cross…

But it brings a smile to his face when we seek to do His will.


Carpenter King

Proverbs 14:35

“The king’s favor is toward a wise servant: but his wrath is against him that causeth shame.”

I only know one King. He is not an earthly king, in fact he was born into poverty, apparently while his parents were accommodated in a stable. While He was still quite young, this King was exiled from His homeland. When He returned home this King learned a trade, and qualified as a carpenter. Some years later, but while He was still a young man, the carpenter King became an itinerant. He had no palace, in fact He had nowhere to lay His head.

Somehow the itinerant King gathered a band of followers, twelve of whom became so special to the King that He called them His disciples. These disciples weren’t exactly servants, and they struggled to understand their King at times. The King rejoiced when His disciples exhibited wisdom, but often felt frustration at their lack of understanding. While they may have let him down from time to time, only one disciple disgraced the King, and walked away from His favor.

It seems incredible that this disciple rejected his King, turning the King over to the authorities of the day for a financial reward. In a disgraceful, shameful act of betrayal this disciple led soldiers to his King. He planted a kiss on the King’s cheek to identify Him. The King was taken away, interrogated, tortured, and sentenced to death. Although the King was innocent of all charges, He was publicly executed by being nailed to a wooden cross. As He hung on that cross He accepted the wrath and the shame that should have been levied against His subjects.

Lift up your eyes to the cross of the King! While He is long gone from that cross, the cross reminds us that our shame has been replaced by His favor, because He took the shame and made it His. That is His gift to you. Favor instead of shame. Are you a wise servant? Will you accept this gift from the King?


Giving is Honoring

Proverbs 14:31

“He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor.”
“Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.” – ESV

Do You Hate God?

It’s as simple as this: if you take advantage of or mistreat the poor, you hate God. End of story. On the other hand, if you love God, then you will have mercy on the poor.

Do you remember old Scrooge? Remember how he despised the idea of giving money to help the poor and needy. At one point he said, “Are there no prisons? [The workhouses], are they still in operation?” Yet, when he got the “Christmas spirit” he had a change of heart and gave more than anyone else?

Beware the Blowhard

Don’t let any pompous blowhard convince you he loves his Maker if he never drops a dime in a Salvation Army kettle. Never trust a religious deacon who raises the rent on his commercial property in order to keep the single moms away. The lottery promoter who makes huge profits on the backs of those who can barely afford to put food on the table…well, he might as well spit in the face of Christ.

His Hands and Feet

We are the hands and feet of Christ in this world. We are to help those who need help as if the Lord was here in the flesh doing it Himself. That is what it means to be Christ-like. Of course, there are needs which will never be met, no matter how hard we try. But showing mercy is a sure sign we are honoring the one who showed greater mercy, giving us everything in the gift of His Son.


Poor Friends

Proverbs 14:21

He that despiseth his neighbour sinneth: but he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he.”

This verse goes with yesterday’s, and David did a great job with the lead.

Here are the ways the verses work together:

Hating the Poor Neighbor

The poor is hated even of his own neighbour“. A poor man is hated by his neighbor, because many people immediately think about those who borrow money or things with promises of returning them but never do. In other words, they see the poor, even friends of theirs at times, as moochers and robbers.

Is it fair? Sometimes, in the case of those who really are moochers and robbers. However …

He that despiseth his neighbor sinneth“. As mentioned previously, when asked by an expert of the law about loving your neighbor, Jesus’ answer essentially was that all people are our neighbors. Regardless of how people live their lives or their level of prosperity (or lack thereof), we are to love them.

Friends to All

… but the rich hath many friends.” Many rich people seem to give money to make friends, buy their friends, if you will. I posit that this is not the intent of that verse.

… but he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he.” This verse explains why the rich have many friends. It is the person who looks on that friend down on his luck and helps. It is the person who looks on the person in need and is there.

Jesus is the Answer

Anyone is capable of doing merciful things for others. Jesus basically said so in Matthew 7 and Luke 11.

The difference for the Christian should be love. Not just any love, but the love of God as expressed through Jesus Christ. We must be willing to sacrifice for others. 1 Corinthians 13:3 (NIV) says “If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

We can all make friends, but, to use a phrase that has been over-used in recent times, the best friend to make is Jesus. Most people come to meet Him through our mercy and generosity.

Merciful Lord, thank You for loving us through Your richness of grace, mercy, and love. Though we were poor in these, You reached out for us. Through Your Holy Spirit, increase Your grace, mercy, and love in us, that we may reach our world for Your glory.