Eyes of Mercy

During this time of waiting, God has used many things to encourage me. Some of the things that have been the most helpful are songs about Him. I became acquainted with another song this past weekend which has gotten into my heart. The song is “Mended” by Matthew West, and what I’m going to do is take a phrase from that song and talk about how God has used it to encourage me.

The phrase, if you haven’t guessed it by now, is “eyes of mercy.” God looks at all of us with eyes of mercy no matter what we have done or what is going on  in our lives. Everything could be going great, or we could be having the worst day ever, and He would still look at us with eyes of mercy. We could be doing everything He asks of us in Scripture, or we could have lost our strength to resist temptation, and He would still look at us with eyes of mercy. He loves us all enough to have sent His Son to die on a cross for us so why would He not look on us with eyes of mercy.

I listened to this part of “Mended”, and it bolstered my heart.

“I see my child, my beloved
The new creation you’re becoming
You see the scars from when you fell
But I see the stories they will tell

You see worthless, I see priceless
You see pain, but I see a purpose
You see unworthy, undeserving
But I see you through eyes of mercy”

Sometimes, I don’t feel worthy of the love God has spilled out on me. I don’t feel like I deserve it because of the bad things I’ve done, or because I haven’t contributed to God’s kingdom in the way I think I should. (in everything, not just money)

Then, I listen to something like this, and I realize it is one of the main things God wants me to do. To look on others with the same eyes of mercy that He does with me. To show His love to someone else when I feel like I’m the lowest of the low. To walk with others when they hurt, and to let others walk with me when I hurt. In other words, to be honestly present in other people’s lives. The only way I can do this is to have God in my life. I can’t do it by myself, and I won’t do it perfectly until I am with Him. God wants me to start now though–to look at others with eyes of mercy as He looks with eyes of mercy on me.

God’s blessings on all of you today!

 

Advertisements

Screw the Messages

So, you’ve looked at this post, maybe because of the title I chose, and wondered what I’m going to say. 🙂 I promise, there is something of substance in my comments this morning and not just because I have what might be considered a controversial title for a Christian blog.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve shared a bit about my family situation and my feelings about what’s going on. Today, I want to talk about the messages Satan sends all of us. Once we’ve accepted Christ as our Savior, Satan goes on the attack and tries to minimize our impact on the world around us. He tells us how we can’t possibly be any good to God or to Jesus and that we should just stay quiet in church, not reading the Bible or sharing any of the gifts God wants us to share.

If none of those work and we start getting knowledgeable and participatory about the faith we’ve claimed, Satan goes even more on the attack. Bad situations, or trials, come into our lives, and we focus more on those than we do our faith. It’s understandable that we do. For example, if we are fighting an illness, especially one which has the potential to be terminal, there are doctor’s visits, treatments, and just the general fatigue and uncertainty of what it all means. Another example is job loss which comes with a concurrent loss of income. Searching for another job to replace the one lost becomes paramount in our minds, and other things in our lives get reduced to the sidelines. Now, I’m not saying this happens to everyone, but it happens enough that the example is relevant.

There are people though who remain strong in their faith through their trials and tribulations. Examples from Scripture include Job who lost everything, but refused to blaspheme God even though his friends were telling him to, and David who used many of the Psalms he wrote to lament the situations he was in.

For those people, I believe Satan gets inside their head and sends them messages from their past. These messages could be anything which would prevent God from working through them. That’s where I am now with the situation my family is in. I’ve been at a low point for the last few days and stuck at how I could get out of it. This is not a good thing for a person with depression. Satan has used this waiting time to screw with my head about how much God loves me and how much other Christians love me. I had been thinking I was ok with how much God loves me, but struggling with the other. Then I realized I was really struggling with both. And this was because of the messages Satan was sending me from my past. Messages that say I’m not loved because this situation hurts, because I don’t know when it’s gonna end, because I feel deficient as a Christian, and because I feel I’m gonna be rejected  for showing hurt and pain.

God says it’s ok if I ask these questions though, and it’s especially ok if I ask them out loud. A lot of people in the church don’t. They feel like they have to maintain a veneer that other people can’t see through. And it’s my belief that we make it easier for Satan to repeat these messages over and over in our brains if we maintain this veneer.

I don’t want to maintain a veneer; I want people to see the person I am, even in the church, even with all my insecurities. God made me to be the person I am, warts and all, and I’m starting to think this is the gift He wants me to share, my honest presence, no matter how uncomfortable it might make people.

It has also helped that I’ve had someone tell me they were willing to pray with me every single time I needed them to through this situation. In previous churches I’ve been in, the general consensus has been to ask for prayer once and then never mention it again. I can’t do it that way. This is a situation that will be ongoing for a while, and I need to know people are praying for me, praying for my family.

Back to the beginning of this post and my title. What did I mean? I needed to get to a point where I could say something to what Satan was whispering my ear–the messages from my past–and get back to living for my Lord and Savior. I can say it now. SCREW THE MESSAGES, you are whispering in my ear, Satan! I am not listening to you anymore! I will live for my Lord and Savior during this time of waiting!

God’s blessings on all of you today!

Shame and How it Relates to Telling Our Stories

This is a word that makes all of us uncomfortable, but we have all felt it at one time or the other. It is defined as “a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.” Another definition is “a loss of respect or esteem; dishonor.” It is also defined as “a regrettable or unfortunate situation or action.”

These definitions have things in common. They all involve pain, loss, and the consequences of sin. Feeling shame makes us aware of our need for Jesus which is a good thing, but Jesus doesn’t want us to stay in the pit of shame.

I struggle though with shame in my life because I want to speak about the uncomfortable things. I feel overwhelmed when I keep having the same prayer request over and over, and I feel ashamed when I ask one more time. My heart hurts because of what is going on in my life, and I don’t feel like I can display that hurt within the church. Or maybe I should say I feel uncomfortable displaying that hurt within the church. Tears, tears, and more tears. God is using this pain to sharpen and define me, this I know, but does this involve displays of emotion? Should I feel shame because I hurt?

This is a question for the ages I think, and a question that is not well-defined by the church. I’m exploring this further today because of some things that were said last night when I was at church. Things I’ve heard said before, yes, things that are a part of church culture, but things that were brought into sharp focus for me yesterday because of what we’re going through right now.

It was a program about missions. A team from my church had gone to another country earlier this summer, and they were talking about their experiences during the trip which was to a Third World country. Two things, in particular, were said which were true, but also gave me some things of my own to think about.

The first was how appreciative the people there were of the little things they were given and of life and worship in general. They were content with what they had, and in comparison to the Western world, what they had, was very little.

Then, there’s the second thing, the thing that gnawed at my heart. I am not wanting to be too specific because my intent is not to hurt feelings, but just to describe how I felt.

A comparison was made between these people and some people in the United States who have a certain sense of entitlement about life, in general, and in what they should be given. Now, before anyone posts nasty comments, I said “some people” not all.  🙂

Anyway, I listened to these stories, and my shame was hot. Shame that I needed to ask for prayer; shame that my heart hurts; shame that my family was hurting right now because we don’t have a visual form of provision. I think that might be why so many people in the church stay silent about their own pain–because they’re ashamed of it and because so many have it so much worse.

But, we can’t stay silent about our pain. We all need to tell our stories if, for nothing else, to hear the collective, ‘me too’. Jesus is not ashamed of us. He died for us on the cross. We need to tell our stories of pain, illness, job loss, addictions, and faith struggles and not be made to feel ashamed. For we are all broken, and Jesus recognizes this. We have His gospel and His hope, and that is the strength I have amidst this time of waiting.

Romans 1:16 states, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes; first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.”

Here is another one from Romans 5:5. “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

So, I will not be ashamed of my circumstances right now, and I will not quit telling my stories! They might make some people feel uncomfortable, even in the church, but isn’t that what Jesus calls us to do–to feel uncomfortable?

God’s blessings on all of you today!

God’s Reassurance

I’m going to do something a little bit different today. Because of the waiting period we’re in right now, I find myself needing reassurance of God’s truths. Therefore, I am writing some of them out so I can remember them when my heart hurts.

Zephaniah 3:17 says, “The Lord your God is with you. the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”

Though what we are going through right now feels like a rebuke, I know there is an end in sight because God is always with me.

The next one is long, but states such a fundamental truth, I feel compelled to include it. From Ephesians 3:16-18, “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.”

Christ’s love is everything. He died on the cross for me. When my heart feels empty and alone, I can go to Him and He will fill it back up with His love. That love surpasses any love that is found in this world. It even surpasses the love of other Christians though we are supposed to try to live it out while we are here.

The next reference is from I Peter 5:7. “Cast all your anxiety on him because He cares for you.”

This is a hard one to do especially if we can’t see what is coming next. Jesus longs to take our worries away and carry our burdens, but He can’t unless we let Him.

Finally, this verse is from Jeremiah. Verse 3 says, “The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.'”

Everlasting means forever, and that means God’s love is still there even when I can’t feel it. I don’t know what’s going to happen during this waiting period, but I know God will be with me in the pit, in the pain, and in the joy. So thankful for my Lord and Savior!

God’s blessings on all of you today!

 

Grieving with Hope

The last eight days have been a perfect storm for my family. Not only have we lost the instrument through which God was providing for us, I lost a precious friend on Tuesday. Her daughter is one of my best friends, and I have known the family for almost thirty-one years. I mention that because I don’t have a lot of those kind of friendships which have stood the test of time since I moved around a lot as a child. So, losing even one of those friends is painful.

Since I found out on Tuesday, I’ve spent a lot of time by myself trying to process this punch to the gut I was feeling. Losing this precious lady hurts a lot. She was like a second mother to me. But as I thought and wrote and did all the things I usually do to process something painful, I realized I had embers of hope stirring in my heart. Words that said this lady was okay now and that we would all be okay too. What words were those? She was a Christian like me so she is now with Jesus and celebrating having a whole and healed body. Would I really want to take her away from Jesus? Of course not. I am looking forward to seeing Jesus one day myself.

But, the pain, the pain of grief can be overwhelming. In addition to this lady, several friends of mine here have also lost loved ones this week. There is a loss involved with someone going to Jesus. The people they were closest to will no longer have them in their lives. They will no longer be able to call them or spend time with them. Their absence will be noticed at holidays. A void will be present that was not present before, and this void is painful.

I don’t think we, as Christians, know what to do with grief. In general, I don’t think people know what to do with grief. They think the person that is grieving should take the proscribed amount of time off from work and then not talk about it anymore. We are uncomfortable with people who show the emotions of grieving, and most of us don’t know what to do to help them. Yes, we have hope in Christ, but there is also pain, a dichotomy to be sure.

God knew we would have pain though, and there in an example in Scripture showing us that Jesus experienced pain in loss too. It was when He lost His friend Lazarus. The story is told in John 11 with verses 32 – 35 showing His sorrow.

“When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved and troubled. ‘Where have you laid him?’ he asked. ‘Come and see, Lord,’ they replied. Jesus wept.”

They ended up taking Jesus to the grave where he called for Lazarus to come out of the tomb which would seem to negate His pain. That’s not the point though. I think God was wanting to make sure we knew that He understood our pain because He had experienced it Himself.

We will have pain in this life, but those of us who believe in Him have hope too. A tether to hold onto, I think. A rope to bring us out of the deepest recesses of the pit. And we have someone too, who stays with us until we’re ready to take a hold of that rope. Jesus understands our grief, in a way no one else can, and that is why I can grieve with hope.

God’s blessings on all of you today!

An Attitude of Thanksgiving brings Trust and Peace

I started something on Facebook yesterday in response to events last week that have affected my family. We’re in a position now that there is not an obvious avenue of provision. Of course, we all know or we should know that God is our ultimate provider. He just chooses instruments on this world through which He delivers it. As of last week, the instrument that was providing for my family is no longer there, and it would be easy to let worry and depression slip in. In fact, I would be remiss if I didn’t admit that some of it has already slipped in. It’s natural for it to do so since we are human.

But, we are humans who have hope, and I, especially, have been wanting to make sure I reflect that hope to the ones around me so they would know what and who I stand for. Trying to do that though is tough when the avenue of provision is not obvious. So, back to what I started on Facebook. I was thinking about all of the things I’m thankful for and the attitude I wanted to adopt, and then something came to me. I need to talk about what I’m thankful for. I started yesterday, and the words flowed. In fact, it could be said that they overflowed. There was more for me to be thankful about then there was to be worried about. When I set my heart on that truth, trust and peace filled my heart. Now, that doesn’t mean things have changed. We still don’t have an obvious avenue of provision, but setting my mind and my heart on an attitude of thankfulness has helped my heart as we are living in the waiting.

A focus on Scriptures that talk about thankfulness has helped my heart as well. Colossians 4:2 says, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”  Praying about our situation while concentrating on the things I am thankful for has been a great way to lock worry out of my heart.

I especially liked Hebrews 12:28. “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.” God’s kingdom cannot be shaken no matter what happens in this world. That is more than enough reason to be thankful though our circumstances look bleak.

Colossians 2:6-7 were also good verses on this topic. “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”

And finally, I Thessalonians 5:16-18. “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

I cannot do any of these by myself. It is only because I have God in my heart that I have the strength to be thankful during this trial in our lives. Praying that we all will experience His joy, strength, and peace as we focus our lives in prayer and thanksgiving for what He has done for us!

God’s blessings on everyone today!

 

Worry and God’s Provision

Living in this world can give us a lot of reasons to worry especially if they have anything to do with money. Between the commercials that want us to buy things, the messages that say we should save money, and the actual bills we have to pay, it would seem that money–earning, spending, and saving it–is the thing we spend the most time thinking about.

We worry about saving money for retirement; we worry about having enough money for healthcare costs; we worry about our losses in the stock market;  we worry about sending our kids to college; the list goes on and on. It makes it hard to live in the here and now when we think our source of money might dry up in the future which makes job insecurity another thing we worry about. I’ve had reasons to worry about all of these things, and when I get caught in that cycle. it is very hard to get out of it.

God has a lot to say about worry and about provision too in Scripture. In fact, Jesus’ words in Matthew 6 are very clear about the matter.

Matthew 6:25 – 34

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do now sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you–you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

This is a big section, but the message of these words is clear and to the point. God tells us not to worry. He will provide for us just like He does for the birds , for the flowers, and for the grass.

What do we do then when we continually hear messages that pull our thoughts in the direction of worrying about the future? The solution is simple and Scripture related. God knew I would need simple. 🙂 When my thoughts are pulled in the direction of worrying about the future, God said I should ask myself some questions. Do I have enough food and drink for today? Can I pay my bills today? Do I have clothes for today? These questions have one word in common. That word is today. If my thoughts about these matters don’t involve the word today, I should put them out of my mind and trust Him. Seems deceptively simple. I started doing that this morning though, and my sense of peace increased dramatically. Maybe, if others do it as well,  we can quit worrying about the future and start to live in the here and now. And then, maybe, we can get down to the real business God wants us to be about–the business of showing others His love and telling others about Him.

God’s blessings on all of you today!