Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘mercy’ Category

We all have them and we are all on them – people lists. Our genealogy/family list, friend list, favorite people list, not my favorite people list, enemy list, contact list, … You can find them in the Bible as well, and, the last one listed is the most important of them all, “The Lamb’s (Jesus Christ’s, God’s) Book of Life” (Revelation 21:27, 20:12&15, parenthesis mine). Although many have tried and are still trying to write their name into this book, on that list, only Jesus can put your name there. If your name is not on that list, you remain on the list of death and hell. We have to be erased from the latter in order to be on the former, no one will be on both, and, only Christ can transfer you from one to other, from death to life, from certain judgment to complete forgiveness.

Are you in the “Lamb’s Book of Life?” Many have said, “Nobody can be certain that they are.” The Apostle John didn’t think so, he wrote, Whoever has the Son (Jesus) has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life. I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life” 1 John 5:12-13 (NLT2, parenthesis mine). You can’t be in God’s book of life without believing in and following Jesus,  “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” John 3:36 (ESV). That, of course, raises another objection, “So somebody can just profess belief in Jesus and live like hell, be a most selfish bugger, be downright evil and be in the book of life?” If that is your qualm or your reality, please, take a minute and read Revelation 20:11-15. You will notice that in God’s final judgment not only the “Lamb’s” list is reviewed but also the record of each one of our lives. Even though no one can be saved without completely relying on the saving mercy and grace of God in Christ, how we live matters, and everyone will be held accountable. Those who are on the “Lamb’s” list should live like it. I think that’s why the Apostle Paul exhorts us, “… work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” Philippians 2:12 (ESV), even when no one is looking.

Keeping the above in mind, our believing in and following Jesus should change and impact the people lists we are on. We should be moving off the pain in the butt, dishonest, cheap talk, lazy, immoral, unkind, unreliable, no good, miserable, foul-mouthed, prejudiced, stingy, self-absorbed, stuck-up, arrogant, undisciplined, heart and headache, hypocrite, … list, and be transferred to the blessing, integrity, godly, kind, generous, just, Christlike list. We should be on the list of those who hated Jesus for who he was and what he did and we should be on the list for all that Jesus stood for and was loved for. From the day Jesus saved you and me and transferred our names from the book of judgment and death into his book of life, we should be living in such way that our names are erased from all the wrong lists and be transferred to all the good and right lists. So, besides asking yourself if your name is in the “Lamb’s book of life,” ask yourself how your name appears on people’s lists? And, are you on the move on those lists? Everyone in Jesus’ book of life should be.

To God be all Glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”
He answered them, “What did Moses command you?”
They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.”
And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
Mark 10:2-12 (ESV)

 

Sklerokardia, hardness of heart was the reason Moses acquiesced to write a soft divorce law into the legal code of ancient Israel. Of all the tough and strange laws Moses proposed this is the only objection mentioned and, according to Jesus, it was a straight argument against God’s design.

 

The disciples give us a clue as to what went on in their ancestors’ hearts when they responded to Jesus’ answer on divorce with, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry” Matthew 19:10 (ESV). “Too hard,” they cried, “What if s/he turns out to a bum/ette? Or a nag? Or worse?” “That’s just not realistic!” Contrary to Moses, Jesus didn’t budge. Keep in mind that marriages in Jesus time were arranged marriages.

 

The difference between a hard and tender heart is amazing. One will keep track of every offense the other won’t even remember. One will be stuck on self while other serves. One will build bulwarks of defenses and excuses the other keeps trying. One will refuse to be merciful and tender the other refuses to give up on faith, hope, and love. One will cry, “Too hard!” the other will dare to move mountains. No wonder the wisdom book of the Bible  tells us to, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life (and marriage)” Proverbs 4:23 (NLT2, parenthesis mine), and Jesus described “… from the (unguarded, hard) heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander” Matthew 15:19 (NLT2, parenthesis mine).

“S/he won’t change!” “What’s the use?” “Believe me, I tried.” “I don’t love him/her anymore.” “There are no feelings left.” “I don’t know if we were ever really meant to be together.” Words spoken on the way out, words that originate from a hard heart. Words that say more about the person saying them than the one s/he is talking about, words that reveal much about their faith and their heart.

Isn’t it interesting that God is so inflexible about permitting us to walk out of a marriage? The most intimate of human relationships is meant to last, to reflect Christlikeness like no other relationship (Ephesians 5:22-33), to shape our hearts, our love to be like Christ’s.

Hard hearts don’t have to stay hard, although they surely want to be. A good place to start is to pray, “O God, please change my hard heart,” and follow that with the most loving action towards whom your heart has grown heart without expecting a particular response, and then do it again, and again, and …

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:36 (NIV)

It is tough to be merciful with a hard heart and it is impossible to be godly and Christlike with a hard heart.

It is a lot easier to accuse everyone else of wrong, of hardness of heart than to address our own heart condition.

At the Sabbath (church) service they were hoping Jesus would do something they could nail him on (sad). You can be sure your heart is hard when you’re waiting for people to mess up. What would he do for the man with the crippled hand? Would he break the man-made Sabbath interpretations and regulations? If he did, they were ready to pounce, to accuse, to raise a stink – something hard hearts love to do.

Jesus didn’t disappoint, in fact, he called the disabled man up front, had him stretch out his crippled hand (the thing he was hiding) for all to see, and healed him. However, before doing so he asked a question, “Is it lawful on Sabbath to do good or to harm, to save life or to kill?” (Mark 3:4). That’s an easy question with an easy answer, but they didn’t want to answer, hard hearts hate to be exposed to be cornered, to answer questions that prove them wrong.

Their hardness of heart made Jesus angry and it grieved him. They were willing to let a man stay crippled for the sake of their man-made rules, their authority to enforce them, and their way of life. You know your heart is hard when there is an opportunity to do good and show compassion and you bypass it not because God’s law is hindering you, but because you love your own way, rules, opinions, and politics more.

Jesus healed the crippled man. The Synagogue should’ve exploded with cheers and praise, but hard hearts have a hard time cheering for those who expose them, even when they do incredible good. Instead, there is an eerie silence in the synagogue following the healing. I have to believe there were some who wanted to cheer and clap, but, to their shame, they let themselves be held in check by the hard hearts of their leaders. They were waiting to see what their leaders, their group would do and then, regrettably, fell in line with the silence when “Hallelujahs” were in order. Silence produced by hardness of heart is never good.

Rather than change those religious hard hearts “went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus” Mark 3:6 (NIV). Hard hearts find each and encourage each other (as do tender hearts). Can you see Jesus at any border hiding behind man-made rules? Would Christ applaud Captain Carola Rackete who steered Sea-Watch 3 filled with refugees into an Italian harbor although she was ordered not to and was promptly arrested? Who have you been criticizing, deploring, so much so that you can longer see any good they do? Are you staying silent both in the face of wrong and good because that is not what your group, your party, opposes and does not cheer? Towards whom do you have a hard heart?

Porosis is the Greek word used here by Mark. They had porosis of the heart, “moral ossification” (Robertson), the hardening of muscle tissue, meaning that which was meant to be soft became hard. The other word used in the New Testament for hardness of heart is sklerokardia. Maybe you have heard of osteoporosis – bones becoming brittle or arteriosclerosis – hardening/thickening of the arteries. You can go to the doctor for these conditions, although they are not necessarily easy to treat. Who do you go to with hardness of heart? God. You and I can trust him when he says, “And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart” Ezekiel 36:26 (NLT2).

Don’t live another week with hardness of heart.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

Read Full Post »

Of all the times, it started Easter weekend, sewer problems. The first sign, a smelly wet-spot behind the house. Digging up said spot revealed a collapsed pipe, which means there will have to be a whole lot more digging before this problem is rectified.

I knew we had a septic system, but I never knew exactly where it was, I do now. It has communicated, visibly and olfactory, saying, “You have used me, but you have not appreciated me. I have served you, but you have neglected me. Quite frankly, I have put up with you stink for decades but the way you have treated me really stinks!”

We, humanity, have always had a waste problem, we still do, moreso than ever. Often, we don’t pay any attention to it until it starts talking to us in our back yard. When the septic pumper guy opened the lids to the septic tank, the stern talking turned to a nauseating scream. Wow! And, Ugh! Close the windows, quick. Whatever Jeremy is getting paid, it isn’t enough.

At least there is a solution to this septic issue, other waste is much tougher to deal with. Some waste takes decades to decompose, some centuries, and radioactive waste like plutonium 239 has a half-life of 24,000 years, I-29 has a half-life of over 15 million years. But the most toxic and long-lasting human waste is produced by our sin, not nuclear power plants. Sin has eternal consequences, even a single careless word (Matthew 12:36), one bite of forbidden fruit (Genesis 2:13).

It would be nice if we could simply drop our sins into the toilet and pull the handle to flush it all down. It would be nice if we could drop it off at the landfill on toxic waste days, even if we had to pay extra. There is no place to take it, there is no one to can take it and render it harmless, transform it into something pristine and see-worthy like Glass Beach.

Actually, there is a place and someone. The place: The cross of Christ. The person: Jesus Christ. Only there and by him can our sin be disposed of, detoxified, disarmed. Only there and through Jesus can we be washed clean of the stench and filth of our sin. Only there and through him can a sinner be transformed into a saint. Only there and through Jesus Christ can the power of sin be broken, and sinners find forgiveness and eternal life.

So, a broken septic system fits perfectly with Easter, when God in Christ addressed our greatest need, our filth, our sin and offers us a chance to be clean. Which makes ignoring Christ and his cross the greatest foolishness, the most consequential decision of them all.

“But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away.” Isaiah 64:6 (NKJV)

 “God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NLT2)

“Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD (Jesus Christ) will be saved.” Romans 10:13 (NLT2, parenthesis mine)

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

Read Full Post »

Mercy needs time. Being merciful requires, besides compassion and action, time. Those who need mercy today need both someone who will show mercy and time. All who are crying out for mercy around the world, the aliens, refugees, oppressed, mistreated, those deprived of justice, those who’ve made mistakes, and those who are repenting of wickedness and evil, are also hoping for time. Enough time for things to change, time for life to be better, time to have another chance to be better. The dilemma is that the very time those crying out for mercy need also gives evil, evildoers, corruption, and sin more time.

When it comes to mercy, Jesus left no doubt as to how he, God, wants us to function in time. He commands us to be merciful, expects us to be merciful, and blesses us when we are merciful, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” Luke 6:36 (NIV); Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” Matthew 5:7 (NIV). He wants you and me to become answers to those crying for mercy. He wants us to be the men and women who understand and live James’ point, Speak and act as those who will be judged by the law of freedom. For judgment is without mercy to the one who hasn’t shown mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment” James 2:12-13 (HCSB).

It would be a grave mistake to conclude that since mercy triumphs over judgment that judgment has been rendered obsolete and is abolished. Mercy is not mercy if leads to a perversion of justice, the abolishment of judgment, “… it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” Hebrews 9:27-28 (ESV). The cross of Christ is both the most merciful and the most just act in all of history. It did not bypass the justice of God but rather satisfied it completely and doing so it enables the mercy of God to save even the worst sinner.

However, mercy does not buy evil, wickedness, and sin unlimited time. It does grant a sinner time to repent and in doing so give him or her a chance to do even more evil, but it will also not ignore the cries of those suffer that evil. The evil doers and merciless who died comfortably in their plush beds will not escape justice, “God has warned us that he’ll hold us to account and make us pay. He was quite explicit: ‘Vengeance is mine, and I won’t overlook a thing,’ and, ‘God will judge his people.’ Nobody’s getting by with anything, believe me”
Hebrews 10:30-31 (MSG); “… the day of the Lord (the day of God’s judgment, of Christ’s return) will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.  … “So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled”
1 Thessalonians 5:6 (NIV, parenthesis mine).

Today is a day of mercy, a great day to respond to God’s mercy, a terrific day to be merciful. Today is also a day God in his mercy has said to many, “Your time is up, time for judgment.” Only believing in and following Christ will prepare you for that day.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

Read Full Post »

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:36 (NIV)

I have been intertwined in a long-term love affair. We have been carrying on for almost forty years and have no intention of breaking it off anytime soon. Early on, like most hopelessly in love lovers, and regardless of what anyone thought, we decided that we wanted this to last, and amazingly it has.

It would be great if all it takes is being smitten and wanting things to last. But our love hasn’t sailed this far and for this long on mere passion. Passion doesn’t know how to handle the storms, fix the leaks, bail the water, and recalibrate the route when blown off course, for that, among other things we have needed compassion, grit, teamwork, and mercy.

She did tell me what would sink the boat, burst the bubble, flush the dream. No second chance for cheating, no tolerance for violence and abuse, and no license to let myself go and turn into a slob, “You’ll get the hook!” she said. I have always loved her strength and self-respect.

Forty years is a lot of life, a lot of challenges, struggles, disappointments, frustrations, mess-ups, and unexpected. All that initial madly-in-loveness did not eradicate my bad habits, iron out my flaws, and cure my weaknesses. All that startup passion did not produce instant maturity, reliability, and the ability to handle things right. Hesch! I couldn’t even say “I’m sorry” (I’m still not very good at it – ask her). Without mercy, all this relationship tinder would have ignited a long time ago and burned everything into a smoldering heap of ashes. It was the practice of mercy, the being merciful that checked hurts, granted forgiveness, allowed for trying again. It was mercy that checked the anger, prevented the bitterness from spreading, and reigned in self-righteousness. These forty years of love she has blessed me with mercy, with being merciful without being an enabler, without compromising herself.

The crucified Christ, the greatest expression of God’s love, reminds us that great, real, and enduring love stories are never written without mercy. So, it is no wonder he counsels and commands us to be merciful in all of life, and especially as lovers.

Happy Valentines. Pastor Hans

 

 

Read Full Post »

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
Luke 6:35-36 (ESV)

Mercy does give second chances but it does not abolish judgment or pervert justice, nor does mercy ignore what is wise and prudent. If you are familiar with the Bible (God’s written revelation) you know that God pushed the reset button on the human race once. Before he flooded the earth in the days of Noah people lived incredibly long lives, but, The LORD observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil… I have decided to destroy all living creatures, for they have filled the earth with violence’” Genesis 6:5, 13 (NLT2). However, the judgment God announced to Noah did not come for many years, years which God gave to Noah and his family to construct an ark (ship) and to preach to everyone the impending judgment and how to escape it (2 Peter 2:5). God in his mercy gave time for people to hear the truth and to repent, he “patiently waited” (1 Peter 3:20), but he also stayed true his word. Then, after the flood, God limited the human life-span to around 70 to 120 years (Genesis 6:3, Psalm 90:10); and, history has proven that we are capable of doing plenty of evil and violence in that time frame. There is a line when mercy becomes merciless. Giving a wicked man or woman a chance to repent and change is mercy, allowing him or her to go on and on enables him or her and is anything but being merciful to the victims. In fact, there are many instances when 70 to 120 years seems far too long to us.

God has set a cutoff time for each one of us, “And just as it is appointed for people to die once—and after this, judgment” Hebrews 9:27 (HCSB). And, God has set a final cutoff point for all of humanity and evil (2 Peter 3:3-18, Revelation 20:7-15). In the meantime God is amazingly merciful and confusingly merciful, seemingly giving evil and violence far too long a leash, far too much opportunity, giving people too much time to do unspeakable wrong. But, O how glad and grateful I am for every chance, for every opportunity his mercy has afforded me.

How are you responding to the mercy of God giving you time and opportunity? Are you taking that time and opportunity to enable you in your selfishness, your sinfulness, and wickedness? Or, are you the time and opportunity God’s mercy gives you to repent, to do good, to honor God, and to be prepared for the judgment? Your clock is running.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: