God’s Mercy


Jeremiah 12-16 (NLT)

Discovering His heart: He longs for repentance rather than judgment

Remember being 13 years old? Help! I remember it well, and I would never ask God for a do-over because once in a lifetime is more than enough. Life was an emotional roller coaster, where one day I thought I was ready to take on the world and the next day I wanted to play with dolls. Laughing and carefree one moment, and crying and depressed the next. I’m not sure why God created us with that year of upheaval in our lives, but I’m sure of this — it’s only because of His mercy that we make it out alive! Jeremiah was just a few years older than this when he found himself prophesying in Judah, but he was flooded with emotions just the same over the assignment God gave him.

Jeremiah’s emotions during this time period seemed to run the gamut. When prophets speak the truth, listeners often get angry. After Jeremiah discovered the plot to kill him because of his truth-telling in Chapter 11, he was angered by these wicked men and called for justice. Why didn’t God just take them out? “Drag these people away like sheep to be butchered! Set them aside to be slaughtered!” (12:3) While swift justice seemed appropriate in this case, do we really want God to respond so quickly to all wrongdoing?

@ Jeremiah 14
Judgment was coming, but God gave Israel yet another opportunity to repent by sending a drought to the land. They responded by crying out for help to the God but did so without a heart of repentance for their rejection of Him. “Our wickedness has caught up with us, Lord, but help us for the sake of your own reputation.” (7) They took the first step by acknowledging their sin, but they did not follow through with repentance and refusal to sin. God wasn’t interested in saving His reputation; He was interested in saving their lives!

So God rejected them. Jeremiah went on, “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Do not pray for these people anymore. When they fast, I will pay no attention…Instead, I will devour them with war, famine, and disease.’” (11-12). It seems to be human nature to run to God for help with our problems, but then refuse His Lordship in our lives. This is where mercy is valued over swift justice when we think of those we love who are in this place of disobedience. Unfortunately, God’s patience and mercy for Israel had ended and judgment was finally at the door. It could have been stopped had they been willing to repent. Hopefully, we understand the value of this lesson.

Jeremiah’s anger now turned to compassion as he appealed to God on behalf of Judah and Jerusalem, God’s Holy City, but God’s mind was set. Jeremiah’s response was to become filled with remorse and self-pity. Was all the pain and rejection he had endured for nothing? Now these evil people would take him down with them. He felt like God had rejected him too.

God called Jeremiah to come up higher, “You must influence them; do not let them influence you!” (15:19) He also offered restoration to Jeremiah and promises of protection for him. Because of God’s mercy rather than swift judgment, Jeremiah was given the opportunity to change his attitude. He then prayed with confidence, “Lord, you are my strength, and fortress, my refuge in the day of trouble!” (16:19)

There are times when my emotions can run this same gamut over a situation – all in one day! But, I cry for mercy for myself and for others, not swift justice, repenting when needed and relinquishing my thoughts and cares to Him. I join with Jeremiah, “Lord you are my strength and fortress, my refuge in the day of trouble!”

Moving Forward: Regardless of the situations I face today, I’ll guard my emotions and trust the One who is my strength.

Tomorrow @ Mark 9-10

I Corinthians 5-6 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: Out of love, He disciplines His children

The other day I saw a mother duck with four little ducklings preparing to cross the road.  I think the word adorable comes closest to describing the scene.  She gathered them in, and as if giving instructions, she nodded and quacked.  I am almost sure that she pointed to the road, but I’m not sure.  She lined them up behind her, and off they waddled, stopping traffic until they had safely crossed the road. Simply adorable!

It’s the nature of most of God’s creation to protect and defend our young.  While my children did not always consider my actions to be adorable, nonetheless, I did my best to keep them from harm, and I disciplined them when necessary.  I made careful observation of their friends, and when I found those who were not a good influence, they were no longer a part of my children’s lives. That’s the role of a loving overseer whether it brings popularity or not.  Paul found himself in this role as he addressed the Corinthian church – lining up those ducks. 

@ I Corinthians 5
“I can hardly believe the report about the sexual immorality going on among you – something that even pagans don’t do. I am told that a man in your church is living in sin with his stepmother. You are so proud of yourselves, but you should be mourning in sorrow and shame. And you should remove this man from your fellowship.” (1-2)  Help! This isn’t the happy, good news or comfort that I like to share, but then what kind of a mother duck would I be if I didn’t share it? Rhetorical question – no response required.

Paul went on to say that he wasn’t addressing unbelievers, where we make every attempt to lovingly teach and direct towards holy living.  He was referring to believers who knew how they should live, yet disregarded it to satisfy their own desires.  “It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning. God will judge those on the outside; but as the Scriptures say, ‘You must remove the evil person from among you.’” (12)

It’s easy to get a bee in our bonnet, so to speak, about what someone within the church says or does that isn’t to our liking.  Paul is not talking about this. Throughout his writings, he encourages us to be patient, loving and kind to one another (I Corinthians 13).  Nor is he talking about judging the motivation behind what other believers do for these things will be aptly judged by Jesus Himself. (I Corinthians 3:3) Paul is talking about sin in the life of a believer within the church, plain and simple.  Rather than being enablers of sin by ignoring it, our right response when done in a spirit of love just may save the eternal life of one who is living a sinful life. (James 4:19-20)

No one wants to talk about church discipline. It’s not friendly, warm or cuddly. Jesus, however, felt it important and started the discussion in Matthew 18, providing the first steps to keeping the body of Christ protected. (See February 18 @ Matthew 17-19). After the establishment of the church, Paul continued with these instructions in Chapter 5. Not wanting to leave the matter in a hopeless condition for this man who had sinned, Paul followed up in 2 Corinthians 2:5-8, “Now, however, it is time to forgive and comfort him. Otherwise, he may be overcome by discouragement.  So I urge you now to reaffirm your love for him.”  This is always our goal because it is the heart of the Father – repentance, and restoration.

Had the mother duck not loved and cared for her ducklings, she would have allowed them to wander off as they wished; and in the heavy traffic of life, they would have been lost forever.  “For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.” (Hebrews 12:6)  So, don’t feel only disciplined by these words today by Paul, but know that we are loved by the Lord as His children. The thought of it is far beyond adorable. 

Moving Forward: My goal is to do nothing that requires His discipline, but I’m so thankful He loves me enough to do so if needed.  Doing my best today to keep those ducks in a row… 

Tomorrow @ Genesis 40-43

Matthew 20-22 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He is mercy and grace

My first real job out of high school was working in the stenographer’s pool at a large bank while I attended college.  Different departments throughout the bank called the steno pool when they needed someone to take dictation, do filing, answer phones, etc.  The goal of everyone in the pool was to eventually find a permanent position somewhere in the bank.

One employee who had worked there for a long time was a source of irritation for most of us as we waited for our escape because of her poor work ethic.  On occasion, I thought how great it would be to file my nails, make personal phone calls or in my case do homework while on company time.  It seemed unfair that she was paid for 40 hours each week like the rest of us, but for some reason a measure of grace and mercy was given to her. This was bothersome to us because, in the natural, we don’t want grace for others as much as we want justice!  Thankfully, we’re not God. 

@Matthew 20
In Matthew 20, Jesus shared a parable about grace and mercy, “For the Kingdom of Heaven is like the landowner who went out early one morning to hire workers for his vineyard.  He agreed to pay the normal daily wage and sent them out to work.” (1-2)  Normal pay for a normal day sounds reasonable.  Throughout the day the landowner added workers, even up to the final hour of the workday, and a conflict arose when their pay was divvied out.

“When those hired first came to get their pay, they assumed they would receive more. But they, too, were paid a day’s wage. When they received their pay, they protested to the owner, ‘Those people worked only one hour, and yet you’ve paid them just as much as you paid us who worked all day in the scorching heat.’” (10-12)  I feel their pain. I’ve heard these simple definitions of mercy and grace:  Mercy is not receiving what we do deserve; grace is receiving what we don’t deserve.  Matthew 20:1-16 is all over this.

In the same way, it may seem unfair that someone with a death-bed conversion to Christ who lived a pleasure-filled godless life will spend eternity in Heaven with God and with all those who lived submitted and obedient lives to Him. But it is really unfair?  Would any of us be so bold as to say we deserve eternity in Heaven because of our righteousness?  That any of us will spend eternity with the Lord is only because a righteous God spared us from what we deserved and gave us what we didn’t deserve through our acceptance of Jesus Christ – plain and simple.

As far as my co-worker from so long ago, one day I realized that she had missed the point.  She was still in the steno pool long after the rest of us had moved on to a better position in the bank.  Mercy kept her employed and grace kept her paycheck coming, but she missed out on all that she could have achieved and enjoyed along the way.

Those who come late in life to the Lord miss out on the abundant life He offers here on earth, and even more so, they miss out on the pleasure that comes from a lifetime of pursuing His purpose for them.  God is merciful, but waiting to come to Him does not secure the abundant life on earth He has offered us.

I am ever mindful that God has given each of us assignments to accomplish while we tread this sod, but our purpose, both on earth and in Heaven, is something much different.  He has given us life, our very next breath, for the purpose of fellowship and intimacy with Him. Obedience and self-denial may be our path to Him, but anything we surrender is insignificant compared to the pure pleasure of His company! 

Moving Forward:  I approach this day with a greater understanding and thankfulness for His mercy and grace on my life.  Before I accomplish the myriad of things I must do today, I first will pursue the pleasure of His company.

Tomorrow @ I Corinthians 1-2

Judges 12-16 (NLT) 

Discover His Heart: He is the God of mercy, patient beyond measure

Unlike all my friends, I wasn’t waiting with breathless anticipation for the day I would be licensed to drive a car.  I must admit I didn’t mind at all having my mom or friends drive me where I needed to go, and I guess this doesn’t speak well of my character.  But I think my greatest hindrance to being licensed was the driving test.  I knew I would be all over the written test with ease, but the driving test with its parallel parking portion was worrisome to me – where was the Mini Cooper when I needed it?  The thought of crunching one of those orange cones filled me with anxiety until someone explained to me that if I failed, I could take the test again!  Mercy!  I just love mercy! And I love the mercy that God extends to each one of us as He did to Samson in our reading today.

The story of Samson, a judge in Israel, is heart-wrenching. Samson was born and dedicated to God’s service as a Nazirite with a calling to deliver Israel from the Philistines, but he resisted his purpose.  Although Samson wore all the outward signs of one set apart, with his long hair and brute strength, he so often did not bear the heart of one.

Samson certainly showed faith in God’s Spirit in him when he took on the lion and 30 Philistine men, but he revealed himself to be self-centered and willful when he married from the very group he was sent to destroyThe word audacity comes to mind when I read Samson’s story, yet all of us are attracted at one time or another to the very thing that will do us the most harm.  Just a side note, the fact that Samson called his wife a heifer, well, that pretty much nailed his coffin for me.

@ Judges 16
Each willful decision brought Samson closer to destruction.  The playful cat and mouse game with Delilah ended badly for him, “Delilah lulled Samson to sleep with his head in her lap, and then she called in a man to shave off the seven locks of his hair. In this way she began to bring him down, and his strength left him. Then she cried out, ‘Samson! The Philistines have come to capture you!’ When he woke up, he thought, ‘I will do as before and shake myself free.’ But he didn’t realize the Lord had left him.” (19-20) Samson lost his hair, his strength, his eyes, but more importantly, He lost the Lord’s presence in his life.

To wake up one day without the nearness of His presence is a thought that drives me to my knees.  I cry with David, “Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.” (Psalm 51:11-12)

Fortunately, Samson’s story doesn’t end here because hair grows back and God forgives when we repent of our sins.  Samson’s hair came back and so did his strength, but it was his prayer that got God’s attention.  “Sovereign Lord, remember me again. O God, please strengthen me just one more time. With one blow let me pay back the Philistines for the loss of my two eyes.” (28) And Samson “killed more people when he died than he had during his entire lifetime.” (30)

Samson’s life was filled with disobedience and selfishness, but somehow he garnered the privilege of rubbing shoulders with the Biblical greats in the Hebrews 11 Hall of Faith through his renewed faith in God’s mercy. Though the road to his purpose had its share of potholes and detours, Samson was given one more opportunity to accomplish what he had been born to do when his death began the deliverance of Israel from the Philistines.  A life of folly was transformed to a life of faith when he prayed, “Sovereign Lord, remember me again… 

Moving Forward: I will run from the attractive things that seek to do me harm and rob me of my spiritual strength.  If I fail, with its consequences, I will run to the God of mercy and cry with a heart of repentance, “Sovereign Lord, remember me again.” 

Tomorrow @ Psalm 21-23

Psalms 6-8 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He is merciful because of His unfailing love

I loved to visit the neighborhood park playground when I was little.  I would run to the swing set and swing what seemed like hours, back and forth, getting as high as I could.  This fun always came to an end when a train came flying past in front of me and I would get sick – the double motion got me every time.  Then I’d find a friend and run to the teeter totter, the up and down seesaw, and I’d feel like I was flying myself.  The seesaw, however, was the most fickle of all the equipment on the playground because when I sat dangling high in the air, my safety was at the mercy of my friend.  On more than one occasion through the years, a distracted playmate left her seat and sent me crashing to the ground.  Somehow I lived through this.  David’s struggle in our reading today reminded me of the seesaw, where mercy or judgment takes the other seat. 

@ Psalm 6
We don’t know David’s sin on this occasion, but we recognize a cry for mercy when we see one, “O Lord, don’t rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your rage. Have compassion on me, Lord, for I am weak.  Heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony. I am sick at heart.  How long, O Lord, until you restore me? Return, O Lord, and rescue me.  Save me because of your unfailing love.” (6:1-4) David sat dangling, staring judgment in the face; but he asked for mercy to take the other seat.  My heart’s cry every day is for mercy, don’t give me what I deserve – give me mercy. 

@ Psalm 7
Now the tables are turned as David’s accusing enemies have risen up and are dangling high because they have touched God’s anointed.  Because revenge always seems to be so sweet at the time of our pain, David may have desired to slip right off the seat and send his enemies crashing, but instead, David called on God to bring justice.  “Arise, O Lord, in anger!  Stand up against the fury of my enemies! Wake up, my God, and bring justice!  Declare me righteous, O Lord, for I am innocent, O Most High! End the evil of those who are wicked, and defend the righteous.” (6,8-9) When we ask God to avenge us rather than to take matters into our own hands, we  place Him at the center, the fulcrum of the seesaw and ask him to determine the outcome.

“Wake up, my God?”  Did David actually think that God was dozing?  Probably not, but we often think God has taken too long to bring about justice to those who have caused us pain.  His hesitancy to bring judgment to all of us, for which I am thankful, comes because of what David himself said, “You look deep within the mind and heart, O righteous God.” (9)  He isn’t asleep; He sees man’s heart and He is merciful. 

“If a person does not repent, God will sharpen his sword; he will bend and string his bow.  He will prepare his deadly weapons and shoot his flaming arrows.” (12)  Our merciful God waits for repentance, longs for the contrite heart of David to fill the hearts of our enemies so that He can seat mercy rather than judgment.  But without repentance, the evil deeds of our enemies fall on their own heads. (16)

In the natural, because of our nature, we would never extend this mercy, but when we allow God to sit at the fulcrum of our hearts, our enemies just may repent.  Regardless, when it’s all said and done, God will rule with justice, “I will thank the Lord because He is just; I will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High.”(17)  Sometimes it’s rough out there on the playground of life, and it may feel safer to withdraw and stay inside.  But we need to remember that we have Someone watching over us, observing all that is happening, Someone who is just and plays fair.  Come on, I’ll race you to the slide! 

Moving Forward:  I’ve determined that in the situations I face today, I will allow God’s justice to rule. 

Tomorrow @ Job 5-6

Joshua 1-5 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He is willing to save anyone who calls Him Lord

Whenever I’m visiting a city for the first time anywhere in the world, I make it a point to find a travel book on the city or visit the local Visitor’s Center for maps and local information.  But when I get down to the nitty-gritty about where to eat, shop and hang out, I talk to the locals.  Yes, the hotel concierge is helpful to a point, but when I want to find the best seafood or barbeque ribs in town, I have a little chat with some of the locals, especially those who look like they’ve eaten a rib or two.  Joshua’s two covert spies that entered Jericho must have had this same strategy; but, unlike them, I must admit I’ve never chatted with a harlot…to my knowledge. 

@ Joshua 2
“Scout out the land on the other side of the Jordan River, especially around Jericho.’ So the two men set out and came to the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there that night.” (1)  Help!  What were two nice Jewish boys doing in a place like that!  Well, I imagine it might be a good place to gather information from the locals.  We are uncertain of their reason for stopping at Rahab’s place and they may have been unsure themselves, but we do know that God was in it.  After all, if God can use a talking donkey, an ungodly Persian king and a stubborn Pharaoh to accomplish His will, He certainly can use a prostitute.

Rahab gave just the information the spies needed to know, “We are all afraid of you. Everyone in the land is living in terror. For we have heard how the Lord made a dry path for you through the Red Sea when you left Egypt. And we know what you did to Sihon and Og, the two Amorite kings east of the Jordan River, whose people you completely destroyed. No wonder our hearts have melted in fear! No one has the courage to fight after hearing such things. For the Lord your God is the supreme God of the heavens above and the earth below.” (9-11)   Most agents of espionage only hope to have intelligence like this handed to them!

Rahab’s actions that night not only spared the lives of the two spies when the king’s men came searching for them, but also provided them with valuable information to report to Joshua. “Then the two spies came down from the hill country… and reported to Joshua all that had happened to them. ‘The Lord has given us the whole land,’ they said, ‘for all the people in the land are terrified of us.’” (23-24)  Victory was at hand!

Through her encounter with the spies, Rahab and her entire family were saved.  As a relative of Boaz, she is mentioned in Matthew in the lineage of Jesus, imagine that.  And because of her faith, Rahab is included with the Heroes of Faith in Hebrews 11.  When God chooses individuals to use for His purposes, we would be wise not to question the validity of their credentials.  God saw a hungry heart in Rahab who recognized Him as “the supreme God of the heavens above and the earth below,” and, sadly, many of the Israelites never made that leap of faith.  Rahab the prostitute was a hero.

There are individuals connected with us at work, in the neighborhood or even in our families who we feel are the least likely to ever find the Lord as their Savior, but because they are in our lives, we are probably wrong.  God sees their hearts and, like the spies, we are expected by God to follow His leading to their heart’s door with the message of Jesus.  Who knows how God will use them to bring victory in our own lives.

Moving Forward:  Because He knows each heart that is open to Him today, I’ll follow Him wherever He leads me, regardless. 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 1-2

Esther 6-10 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He is keeping perfect records of our good deeds and acts of kindness

While Tom and I served as youth pastors many years ago, I was also the church bookkeeper.  Being somewhat dyslexic with numbers, this was a challenge for me.  The dictionary says that dyslexia is not caused by low intelligence or brain damage, which is a great relief to me.  I also admit that I was always just a little over the top on balancing the books each month to the penny – no mercy – to the penny!  Over the years, I spent several all-nighters searching for that penny or two so that I could close the books for the month.  I’m not sure what this disorder is called, but any free analysis is appreciated.

I’m happy to report, however, there is Someone who is keeping the books on each one of us, keeping track of all that we do and say, and He has no disorders or phobias.  His books are balanced to the very second, they never fall short and are disclosed at the perfect moment in time.  This truth is vividly portrayed in the life of Esther’s uncle, Mordecai.

@ Esther 6
“That night the king had trouble sleeping, so he ordered an attendant to bring the book of the history of his reign so it could be read to him.  In those records he discovered an account of how Mordecai had exposed the plot of Bigthana and Teresh, two of the eunuchs who guarded the door to the king’s private quarters. They had plotted to assassinate King Xerxes.” (1-2)  The Jews in Persia were on the verge of being annihilated by the king’s evil assistant, Haman; and out of the blue, the king discovered this valiant act by Jewish Mordecai that was buried in the Persian history books.  Imagine that.

My mom was the Sunday School teacher for sixth grade girls at her church for 20 years.  During that time, every girl that attended her class heard an anointed teaching every Sunday, material she had studied, prayed and even wept over at times.  Every girl in her class heard the message of Jesus and was given an opportunity to accept Him and receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit as well.  Times had changed and younger voices were desired so mom retired from her position.  She cared nothing about this, but I observed that little appreciation was expressed to her at the time.

As she stepped into eternity a few years ago, however, I know the One who keeps the books met her with the only words of appreciation she ever wanted to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21)  In recent years, I’ve reconnected with some of the girls who sat in her class Sunday after Sunday, and they have expressed their appreciation to me for the testimony and example my mom was to them.  I probably needed hearing their words more at that time than my mom ever needed hearing them.  God has a way of disclosing the books at the perfect moment.

The recognition of good deeds and right living often has a way of falling through the cracks with little notice or so it seems; but when those deeds are done with the right motive, we really don’t care whether or not they are noticed or appreciated.  There is a satisfaction that comes just from doing the right thing.  However, God is keeping the books on all our deeds; and whether they are disclosed during this lifetime or in eternity, the reward will come at just the right moment.

“Mordecai the Jew became the prime minister, with authority next to that of King Xerxes himself. He was very great among the Jews, who held him in high esteem, because he continued to work for the good of his people and to speak up for the welfare of all their descendants.” (10:3)  Now today as we celebrate the birth of Jesus, we honor as well the good deeds of Mordecai and the selflessness of Esther, an Old Testament type or example of Jesus. Their faithful deeds are ministering to us today at just the right moment. 

Moving Forward:  I’m thankful that I’m no longer a bookkeeper but most thankful for the One who is keeping the books on my life.  His books are balanced right to the very second, they never fall short and are revealed at the perfect moment in time. 

Tomorrow @ Psalm 149-150

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