Monday, February 28, 2011

Mercy

Titus 3:4-7

Last week I began looking at Micah 6:8 which says, "He has shown you, oh mortal, what is good.  And what does the LORD require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."  I had started out by looking at the context in which this was written and discovered that the author was wondering what to bring to God.  The author mused with a few ideas of what gift would be appropriate and finally revealed that God wants us to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God.  I explored justice for a few difficult days last week, and this week I want to dig into mercy.  After praying about it, I really felt that in order to understand how to love mercy, we need to remind ourselves of God's mercy for us.  Please look up Titus 3:4-7.

I think it is really easy for us Christians to forget that we cannot do anything that will justify ourselves before God.  The only thing that will make us right with God is His incredible mercy.  Talking about justice and even showing justice will not fix all our sin; only Christ's amazing love for us could bring Himself to take our punishment.  Please let the truth of His mercy wash over you right now.  He knew that we would hurt Him and that our hearts are disobedient, yet He still chose to show us mercy.  We have no right to the hope of eternal life, yet we have been extended the beautiful gift of His mercy.

Dictionary.com defines mercy as, "the discretionary power of a judge to pardon someone or to mitigate punishment."  When we believe in the cleansing power of Christ's blood, we are given a pardon from the punishment of death and are given the hope of eternal life.  I never want to forget His mercy; I do not want to take my salvation for granted.

Do you remember the mercy God has extended to you?

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Cause of the Needy and Poor

Jeremiah 22:13-17

The scripture that I am looking at today is just as convicting as the reference I looked at for a few days in Isaiah. As God convicts our hearts, we begin to look at verses such as these in a whole new way.  They no longer apply to a disobedient Israel or selfish kings; we see how God looks at their hearts and behavior and how those are very issues that plague us today.  Please look up Jeremiah 22:13-17.

This section of scripture is what God said to King Jehoiakim, king of Judah, son of Josiah.  God was unhappy with him because he chose live lavishly while he ignored the needs of the poor and unfairly oppressed his people.  God told him that riches didn't make him great; doing what is right and just and defending the cause of the poor and needy is what God wants to see.  I don't believe that God was wanting him to live in rags; however, God was pointing out that he was more consumed with his personal comfort and gain that he neglected the very people that needed his help and protection.

We as a church family need to be very careful of our own attitudes when it comes to justice.  This may mean that we have to do church differently and sacrifice our personal preferences and comfort to do what is right.  Think of the fact that according to WHO-UNICEF approximately 884 million people in the world do not have access to clean water (this works out to be about one in eight of the world's population).  I once was in a planning meeting at church where we were going to spend a significant amount of money until someone mentioned that it was the same cost of drilling a well in a community.  It changed our focus and we were willing to do without so another community could have a well.

God wants us as a church to ask, where are we putting up ceder walls instead of defending the cause of the poor and needy.  Where are we willing to sacrifice our comfort to provide a basic need for someone else?

Please watch the following video:

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Abuse

Isaiah 58:6-9

The more I write about justice, the more difficult it becomes.  I am finding myself convicted on so many issues that I think are bad, but I haven't really done much to help.  I am by no means suggesting that one person can change everything that is wrong; however, imagine what kind of world this could be if the church as a whole began doing what Jesus called us to do and introduced the world to Him.  Imagine if the church sacrificed its comfort to fight against injustice.

Today's topic is near and dear to my heart: child abuse and exploitation.  I feel that child abuse not only has effects on the child but it also has long-term effects on society.  We could look at this as strictly a law enforcement issue; however, there are a lot of ways the church could step in.  There are many causes for child abuse, but there are many ways the church could step in and work on prevention.  It could be to come around the parent who is struggling with the day to day and helping him/her learn coping techniques.  The church could provide parenting classes or family experiences.  The church could be helping the single-parent families rather than heap judgement on the parent.  The list can go on.

Will the church be able to eradicate this injustice?  As long as there is sin in this world there will be injustice, but the church can fight this injustice as hard as it can.  Why does the church need to be involved?  Because God wants us to!

What are other injustices that the church needs to open her eyes and see?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Addendum

I forgot to mention that the organization, Women At Risk, helps women to build marketable skills in the recovery process. One of the skills they teach is jewelry and apparel making. They are based near Grand Rapids, Michigan and have a boutique that people can visit to buy the jewelry. You can also shop their website and support women who have been taken out of slavery and is being brought to wholeness through Christ.  While these women are healing and learning their trade, the workers are sharing Christ with them.  I have bought a few pieces from them and it touches my heart every time my daughter and I wear them.  People comment on my necklace and I can then share the wonderful work that Women At Risk does and share about human trafficking.  Please support them by buying something you would buy at the store anyway!  They have a wide range of prices on their items.

Yoke of Oppression

Isaiah 58:5-12

Justice can be a hard pill to swallow.  I am not talking about the kind of justice you see in a court, but the kind of justice that means to treat others fairly; to treat people the way you would want to be treated.  There are many injustices in our society and world that quite frankly are addressed by a few people and it is time for the church to open her eyes and see what pains God.  My 12 year old son approached me a few days ago about wanting to fast so he could grow in his relationship with God.  I was so proud to hear him say that, but then it got me thinking about fasts.  God doesn't want a fast to be just something we do and then move on with our lives; there needs to be a heart change in the process.  Today, I read a section of scripture that isn't always easy to read because it can be very convicting.  Please look up Isaiah 58:5-12.

Wow, those are some difficult verses to read because those offences that God wanted to see the Israelites do away with are still with us today.  He wants so much more from us than just go to church and small group; He wants us to live it out. We have homeless and hungry people right in our own backyards.  We have people who need clothing.  And we have oppression - slavery.

One topic that many of us are hearing about more and more is human trafficking.  I used to think that was something that happened mostly in Asian and African countries, which is wrong.  Human trafficking happens here in the U.S. and in at least 160 countries in the world.  I attempted to find statistics on human trafficking in the U.S.; however, I found such a wide range of statistics that it is hard to find accuracy.  Part of the problem is the fact that we just don't know how much trafficking happens because so much of it goes unreported.  What I can say it that thousands of women and children are trafficked in the U.S. every year.  I read estimates of 700,000 to 4 million women and children are trafficked around the world every year.

What can we do?  First and foremost we pray - we pray for wisdom in this situation, we pray for the oppressed, we ask God how we can help.  We can spread the word and become more aware of the signs of human trafficking.  I remember the shock I felt a few years ago when I found out that there was a human trafficking sting just a few miles from my home in Michigan.  Through prayer and finances we can support Christ-centered organizations that fight human trafficking and minister to those they rescue from human trafficking.  Maybe God is calling you to work with such an organization.

Here are a few websites I found that you can look up to help you understand how overwhelming the situation is what is currently being done:

International Justice Mission
World Hope
Women At Risk International

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Justice

Romans 13:9-10


As I explored Micah 6:8 yesterday, I thought about what it means to act justly.  According to dictionary.com, justly means, "in a just manner, honestly, fairly."  God's definition of fairness can sometimes be different than ours.  I think Romans 13:9-10 sums fairness or acting justly very well.  Please look it up.


The second half of verse 9 says, "...and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"  If we love our neighbor as ourselves, we will be fair or just toward one another.  Verse 10 says, "Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law."  Love does no harm to a neighbor!  Love is the ultimate act of justice.  When we are loving others, our eyes will be opened up to injustices in our world.  Tomorrow I will focus on human trafficking (slavery) as a huge problem and injustice not only in the world, but in the United States as well.


Sometimes, justice requires us to look at other people first rather than our own "rights" or comfort.  If we are loving others as ourselves, we will consider how our actions may be affecting someone else.  For those of you who are parents, think of how you react to your child.  Your love for them will make you get up in the middle of the night with them when they are sick even though you prefer sleep.  Your love for your child will cause you to play with your child when you would much rather have some time to yourself.  Love will cause us to be inconvenienced at times.


Where would God like to see you show more love?

Monday, February 21, 2011

What Do We Bring The King?

Micah 6:6-8

As I have shared in previous posts, God has been turning my world upside down.  Isn't that just like Him to make sure we don't get too comfortable and set in our ways?  I love the fact that God loves us so much and so desires us to change and grow that He is constantly flipping what we thought we understood upside down and giving us new perspective.  Today I am blogging about one of my favorite verses; however, I'm including a little more context to the verse.  I know I recently blogged about this verse, but please look up Micah 6:6-8 and pray for a new perspective.

The author is writing in response to the Lord's message and asks the question, "With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God?"  Have you ever asked that question?  The author continues to list some things that just don't seem to measure up to the King of Kings.  Actually, the answer he finally writes in Micah 6:8 almost seems simple:  act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.  But I think if we examine those items closely, we can see that really isn't a simple answer.  It is extravagant.  To act justly isn't easy because we are not looking at justice from a human's perspective; we are looking at God's perspective of justice.  Loving mercy is definitely against our human nature.  Mercy requires us to let go of the bitterness and anger towards those who have hurt us, and some wounds go deep and mercy isn't the natural human response.  Walking humbly with God also goes against our human nature because we often think of ourselves before we think of God.


This is the ultimate gift God wants us to bring.  We sacrifice our human nature to bring our loving God something so much better.  When we bring Him justice, mercy, and humility we have brought Him our new hearts that are changing the world around us.  I plan to spend time exploring justice, mercy and humility for a while.


Are you ready to sacrifice more of yourself to become more of what God wants you to be?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Super Granny

John 10:1-21

As I was watching the news on Wednesday morning an article came on about a lady the Today Show dubbed as the "Super Granny."  A woman, who is often in a wheelchair due to arthritis, saw six men creating a commotion on the streets of London.  She first thought that they were beating up someone and she ran over to help and as she got closer, she realized that they were attempting to break into a jewelry store in daylight.  She was not going to stand by and let them do that and wielding only her handbag, she began swinging it and hit the robbers.  The robbers ran away; however they didn't get far and four were arrested.  During her interview, she explained that she was upset that they were trying to rob a jewelry store during the day which caused her to move boldly.  When asked if she would do it again, she said yes.

Keep in mind her bold actions!  She has arthritis that often has her in a wheelchair; however she ran across the street to confront the robbers.  She was not going to allow this crime to happen in her neighborhood.  Her son explained that she has spent years keeping drugs and crime out of her neighborhood.  This made me think of a parable Jesus told about who the ultimate robber is; please look up John 10:1-21.

Our enemy wants to keep us from knowing our Savior; he wants to keep us from growing through oppression.  Christ tells us that He laid down His life so that Satan would not have victory in his theft.  Please remember that this is the ultimate robbery.  Lately I have been thinking about how our actions as Christians need to be radical and bold just like the "Super Granny."  Just as she didn't think about her physical limitations or the danger and ran in and fought the robbers, we need to be willing to react to the lies and oppression in a bold way knowing that we are not alone.  We need to be grounded in the Word and in prayer and in spiritual friendships so we are ready for battle.  We can't think of our limitations because we know that God's strength is made perfect in our weaknesses (2 Corinthains 12:9).  We need to be swinging and fighting when we see him trying to rob us or others of their relationship with Christ.

The video is a little long, but please look at the interview of the Super Granny.  Watch how she keeps swinging until she has accomplished her goal.  We need to keep swinging!


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Comfort?

James 1:22

Do you ever feel like God is turning your world upside down?  I have been dealing with that for a while (probably since preparing and going to Zambia) and it seems that God is now turning up the heat.  I like to consider myself an obedient person; I want to obey the rules to the best of my ability.  I have failures; however, I try to live my life in a way that I feel the Bible is telling me to live.  But God has opened my eyes to new things that I really don't want to have to deal with, such as the way I cling to comfort.  I felt I had let go of comfort pretty well throughout my entire trip to Zambia until the day we left and I began feeling ill and I couldn't control whether or not I would be comfortable.  I have to admit that I really don't like having to consider the fact that I don't just enjoy comfort; I depend on comfort.  Yet, the Bible tells us that our walk with God isn't necessarily comfortable.

Please look up James 1:22.  I have been having to ask myself and pray to God how I have been deceiving myself.  Where am I only listening or memorizing and not doing?  If you haven't read yesterday's post, please do - I have included a video clip where Francis Chan will challenge you to do what Christ says, not just listen or discuss what He says.  So, if you are unsure of where you are not doing and only listening, I would challenge you to pray.  I know that if you sincerely ask God to show you where you need to take action, your prayer will be answered.  For me, God is challenging my need for comfort.  Am I willing to be uncomfortable for Him?  Am I willing to step out of my ability to control my level of discomfort and just be willing to let God take me where He wants me?  Am I truly opening my eyes to what is breaking His heart?  What does God want me to do to see people come to Him?

Are you listening or doing?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Love as Jesus Loved


I love how God put pieces together to form an over-arching theme in our lives. Over the last few days He has been showing me that as Christians we are not going to be comfortable if we are to live the lives that Christ modeled for us. Of course, today as I logged on to blogger to begin writing my post, the verse of the day jumped out at me (which was yesterday's verse by the time this is posted). Please look up John 13:34-35 and see what God was putting in front of me. I do not look at this as merely coincidence because this is a theme I keep finding in front of me for the last week. A week ago today, I was in the bookstore and saw a book that caught my attention. It is the book, Radical by David Platt. I read some of it in the store and became intrigued to the point where I finally ordered it late last week and I should have it in my hands tomorrow. The basic premise is that we try to fit Christianity into the American Dream, which doesn't work so well.

John 13:34-35 isn't a new idea to me; in fact, I have even posted about it when I was blogging about love during my study on the Fruit of the Spirit. It is just that God has taken me new places since then and even though I still agree with what I wrote about before, I understand that to love the way Christ loves requires radical behavior and radical change. God has shown me the people He loves that are hungry, impoverished, and ill. How can I love them? What can I do that is radical?

I came upon this awesome video clip by Francis Chan where he challenges us into action. Christ didn't say to sit on our couches and think about loving; He said to go and love people. Please watch the following video:

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Elephants


Numbers 22:21-35

My last post referred to how God will use everyday events to help us learn and grow closer to Him. He will use those events to make us more like Him. He will also take radical steps to change us such as a change in job or environment. In the book, Wild Goose Chase by Mark Batterson, he writes how in order to follow the Spirit's lead we sometimes need to make a radical change in our environment (such as my trip to Zambia). Other times, God will put a road-block in our path and force us to wait. This reminds me of another story about Zambia.

Our group leader explained how when we got back, most people just want to hear surface details about the trip and there will be very few who actually want to hear the stories that broke our hearts. There would be some people who would be satisfied just to hear that we saw elephants while in Africa. So, for those of you who want to hear about elephants, here you go!
This was our last full day in Zambia, and we went to Victoria Falls to see one of the seven wonders of the world (it is breath-taking to see God's creation). On our way back to Livingston, we were stopped because elephants were crossing the road. When you see such large creatures getting ready to cross the road, you know that playing chicken with them would not be wise and you are much better pulling off to the side and waiting for them to pass. We were amazed by seeing elephants out in the wild and enjoyed the experience. We didn't mind the delay.

God will put elephants in our path sometimes. We could choose to continue moving forward; however, that wouldn't be the wise thing to do. It is best when an elephant is crossing to stay out of the way and let him pass. God puts us in situations where we just need to pull over and wait, and possibly change course. This reminds me of the story of Balaam, where Balak was paying him to curse the Israelites in the desert. Please read Numbers 22:21-35 to see what God put in his path. God wants us to follow His direction, not our own or other people's.

Has God put an elephant in your path lately? Have you asked God why?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Lessons


If you're anything like me, some of the biggest lessons you've learned have come out of mistakes and frustrations. It can be exasperating learning that way; however, those moments can bring great growth because you will never do the same thing again. But there are also moments when we learn smaller lessons just in day to day interactions and "stuff" that can make a huge difference. I have learned that God can use anything if we are willing to follow His lead. Proverbs 16:4 says, "Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and He will establish your plans." I think there are a few different ways to look at this verse; however, reading it in context changes how it sounds. The verse just before talks about the difference between what we see as humans and how God views at the motives. With that in mind, it seems that the author of this proverb is saying that when our motive is to commit whatever we do to God, He will direct us to succeed in what He will plan what we should be doing.

Sometimes that means being open to learn subtle every day lessons that He wants to teach us. Whether that means learning patience during a frustrating time, or opening our eyes to the things that matter to Him. We need to be open to what God wants to teach and where He wants to guide us. We need to let go of the personal plans we have to see what God has for us.

Please watch the following video by Francesca Battestelli that talks about learning what God wants to teach us through every day events.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Hurry Up and Wait

Lamentations 3:22-26

This week I had an experience that took me back to Zambia in a sense. My husband and I had our day off as usual; however, we didn't go out to Toronto like we wanted to because we had an appointment with the cable guy. Now, we were told that he would arrive any time between 12 pm and 4 pm. When I asked if they would call first, the customer service rep. told me that he would just show up at the house. Okay, that's a little annoying, but I can handle being at home and relaxing. When 3:25 pm rolled around, I had to leave the house to pick up my daughter from play practice while my husband stayed home. That didn't seem like that would be a problem. WRONG! While I was picking up my daughter, the cable guy called my cell phone to see if we were home, and for some reason my phone didn't ring the call through. It registered as a missed call with "Private Number" for the call back number. Hmm. He tried again and once again the call didn't go through. He decided not to come to our house and finished up for the day. I was furious, because my husband called the company to tell them we were indeed home and they told us we would have to reschedule (even though it wasn't 4:00 p.m.). I verbalized my frustration with my family enough that my children have already made jokes about how they better listen to me or I'll treat them like the cable guy. At least I'm smiling now...even though I still don't have internet.

This reminded me of Zambia because we did a lot of waiting while we were there. We were constantly at the mercy of the bus driver or our guide or the unpredictable electricity. There was nothing we could do but wait, even if we rushed through breakfast to be ready on time. Even after waiting, we saw that things still didn't necessarily go as planned; the electricity wasn't going to return just because we were prepared and did everything on our end the right way. We learned that our American rushed life isn't the way the rest of the world lives, and that may not be so bad. In fact, there could be value in learning to wait; there are many scripture references to "waiting on the Lord." Please look up Lamentations 3:22-26. "It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord." You see, we can't do anything that will improve our status with God. We wait for His mercy, which He promises to those who believe.

Has the Lord been wanting you to wait?