Wednesday, October 18, 2017

I desire mercy not sacrifice...

Some people see Jesus hanging out with the wrong crowd (sinners and tax collectors) and the Pharisees say, "Why is he hanging out with THOSE people (Matthew 9:9-13)?" Jesus response? Go read your Bible. In Hosea, the prophet says from God, "I desire mercy not sacrifice."

That may not seem like a big deal, however, when sacrifice is how your sins are forgiven, God is telling the people that the Creator cares more about compassion and forgiveness than doing that which allowed God to forgive their sins.

Jesus is reminding the Pharisees that it is more important that we love people than anything else, and all are worthy of our time, our love, our hope for redemption. Whoever you think that God has moved to the margins and excluded from God's grace, they are not. There is a place for that person, just like there is a place for you in God's kingdom. God does want us to change, to sin no more, but don't ever imagine there is a person who is past saving. No longer worthy of our action.

Too often we look at people who are struggling with poverty, with addiction, or with past mistakes and we say that person is not worthy. The funny thing is when we are the ones who have struggled we want mercy. When it is someone else, we want judgment on them. God says, "I desire mercy not sacrifice." Are you seeping yourself in the form of religion (sacrifice) without the heart of what it means to follow Jesus (mercy)?

Yesterday I went to a ministry called Reveal Ministries, an incredible group of people who are living out mercy. Are you looking to serve, to make a difference? This is one opportunity to grow in mercy!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Walking in her mother's shoes

This morning, while I was getting ready, Amelia and Sophie were trying on Michelle's shoes.

It has always amused me that our little girls always want to wear their mom's shoes or dresses or jewelry. Then, one of the scriptures from this Sunday popped into my brain:
"Israel, Listen! Our God is the LORD! Only the LORD. Love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your being, and all your strength. These words that I am commanding you today must always be on your minds. Recite them to your children (Deuteronomy 6:4-7)."

And this one:

"Train your children in the way they should go; when they grow old they won't depart from it (Proverbs 22:6)."

Just like little girls like to try on their mom's shoes, they want to be just like their parents (at least early on). Our little ones are watching us! Even if you are not a parent, the young ones in your church are watching you. The scriptures tell us that it is our job to teach them about the faith! It is vital that we teach them what it means to follow Jesus, to love God with all their being, strength and heart. If you are only talking about God on the days that you worship, then know that is not enough. You are their biggest influence and they need you to teach and to model what it means to be a Christian.

1. Read your Bible together as a family. If you have small kids, then read storybook Bible together.
2. Practice what you preach: Show kindness, commit to a life group, show up (nearly) every week for worship, be generous. Do all these things because your kids are watching!
3. Talk about what it means to follow Jesus! Be honest

If you don't have kids then make it your priority to do these things so that you will grow in your faith.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Jeremiah 29:11

There is an extremely popular Bible verse, Jeremiah 29:11 that says, "I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the LORD; they are plans for peace, not disaster and to give you a future filled with hope." This might be a little controversial but

Take a moment and read the entire scripture from Jeremiah 29:1-14. Hit the link, don't worry I will be here waiting when you get back.

A little context for Jeremiah: the people of God have worshipped other Gods and now they had been taken to exile by Babylon and King Nebuchadnezzar. A prophet named Hananiah had told them this was a temporary situation, but it wasn't and Hananiah had died because he was a false prophet. Now Jeremiah is letting the people know they need to settle in: build homes, have children - let your children have children. Basically, you will be here a while. He even tells them, "Don't pay attention to your dreams"?!? This is the scripture we put on keepsakes to give to college students? So what is it really all about and what does it have to do with today?

First, God is reminding them that even though they have been separated from the land of their birth and the Temple that God resided in, that God is still their king and in control. This is not the kind of control that means that the Lord is micromanaging every moment, but rather God's providence is guiding the overall course of events. The Jewish people would suffer as a result of their choices, but after their period of exile, God would provide a way home. God does have a plan, one for peace and to give a future; however, they are not quite the plans that the people were expecting. Part of that plan was to prosper the very people who took them into exile! How radical. Where we want to kill and destroy our enemies, God is saying pray for them because their well-being affects your well-being. Pray for them because we are all interconnected.

Here are the actions steps that Jeremiah tells them:
1. When you call me and come pray to me I will listen. (verse 12)
God listening does not mean God gives us what we want. God's promise to us, just like to them, is that God will be present if we are. Want God's plan for you? Spend time with God!

2. When you search for me, you will find me. I will be present for you. (verse 13-14).
We all say we want a deeper relationship with God. The promise is that if we even try, we will find God. Find Christ. What is holding you back from doing so?

Jeremiah 29:11 is a tremendous scripture but it should not be taken away from its context. What it tells us is that God doesn't always take away our pain and suffering, but God is always with us. IF we seek the Lord; IF we search out our savior. This is so important today! I don't know any Christian, no matter what your background is, is happy with the way our world is today. We are not in exile to a foreign nation but we have allowed ourselves to be exiled by our worship of idols and our sin. God wants us to come home, every person has a place in God's kingdom. As we deal with yet another mass shooting, if you are like me, you probably are at a loss as to what to do. So follow Jeremiah's advice: pray and seek God. Then we will know the plans that God has for us and maybe we can figure out a constructive way forward.