Friday, May 25, 2012


Have you ever been curious what God wants from you? Now we can definitely look to the List, the 10 Commandments, and get a good idea of what God wants from us. The 10 Commandments are great, but let’s face it, most of us are probably painstakingly going through that list trying to find the loopholes. Well, God wasn’t specific about this. He said I was to honor the Sabbath and the Sabbath is all about rest, so I’m not even going to get out of bed today. Or if we focus too much on the list of the big 10, it becomes more of a thing of ritual; which is not what God wants at all.

But when it comes down to it and the rubber meets the road, what God really desires of us is far more basic than all of that.

If I told you I had pinpointed exactly what God wants out of each and every one of us, would you like to know?

Micah 6:8: “No, O people, the LORD has already told you what is good, and this is what he requires: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

The good news is that this passage lays out three important things God wants from each of us—to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly.

Right now we are going to take a look at the second, and perhaps most crucial of the three, God wants from each of us—to love mercy. It seems to me the other two are an outflow of this one; for that reason I will save those for later.

This idea to 'love mercy' gets at the very heart of Jesus message. Perhaps you recall an encounter Jesus had with the religious leaders. This particular time they were asking some very leading questions in order to get some dirt on him. The Pharisees asked Jesus what the greatest commandment is, and Jesus replies,“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it, Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Right there in just a few words Jesus sums it up. He says, "You want to know what God wants? Here it is. Listen up. God wants you to love him and love your fellow man." And we pick up on the second of these commandments, to love your neighbor as yourself. When it says we are to 'love mercy,' that is what the passage is getting at. To 'love mercy' has a direct correlation to how we interact with our neighbor.If we read through Scripture, we see this idea of 'mercy' jumping off every page. The word we translate as 'mercy' appears 253 times in the Old Testament alone. Now, I don’t know if you’re picking up what God is laying down. But in case you aren’t, this whole idea of mercy is pretty important to God! If Scripture brings it up that many times in the Old Testament alone, He likely wants us to take notice.

Now, before we jump into how we can 'love mercy' I’m going to spend a little time laying a foundation.I’m a word guy and wholeheartedly believe the Bible doesn’t waste words. The first thing I want you to notice is that this Scripture doesn’t say we should HAVE mercy, it says we are to LOVE mercy. There is a big difference between the two. The first one I can fake. I can go around doing things without my heart being in them. It’s much easier to do acts of mercy than to actually love doing those things. To 'love mercy,' means we aren’t merciful out of obligation or compulsion. Rather, it means we do these things out of the overflow of our heart. We 'love mercy,' because God has shown us mercy and this is the only proper response to the sacrifice He made for you and me.

So let’s dig a little deeper and take a look at the word 'mercy'. It is the Hebrew word kheh’-sed. In the Bible, this word is also translated as goodness, kindness, steadfast love, unfailing love, loving kindness, or I especially love this one--zeal toward others. If that doesn’t help, let me give you a more precise definition: compassionate treatment; a disposition to be kind and forgiving; to alleviate distress.

How often do we love the idea of something, but not the actual thing itself? We love the idea of patience, but not what it takes to develop. We love the idea of relationships, but not the work they require. We love the idea of being a pro athlete, of making it on the big screen, etc. but more often than not, we don’t love the work required to make those things a reality.

If I were to ask how many of us love mercy, most of us would probably raise our hand in agreement. Sure, we love mercy. Especially when it’s shown to us. But when we bring someone else into the picture and they are the ones in need of mercy, it’s an entirely different story altogether.

If I’m honest with you, mercy is not my strong-suit. 9 times out of 10, when someone wrongs me, my response is not one of compassion and mercy. I’m much more of a justice guy; I kind of delight when people get what’s coming to them (unless I'm the one getting what's coming of course).

All of this leads me to two key thoughts.

The first key thought is this: I can only be as merciful, to the extent I have received mercy.

Luke 7:47- “I tell you, her sins--and they are many--have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love."

If I have not accepted God’s mercy, it is going to be pretty difficult for me to extend that mercy to others. If there are areas of my life I am still keeping hidden and not turning over to God, I’m going to struggle to showing others mercy in those particular areas. 

The second key thought is this: Extending mercy to others is the way we demonstrate our love of God.

1 John 4:20- “If someone says, I love God, but hates a brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don't love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we have not seen?”

This means I can no longer turn a blind eye to my neighbor in need. Every time the Bible talks about church, it talks about helping those in need. Every time the Bible mentions compassion, it is followed by action. It doesn't do us or the world any good to sit around a table, discussing the truth's of the Bible unless we actually do something with them. And this means we have to actually seek out the lost (a term I have really come to despise, but I will go with it), interact with them, live life with them and extend mercy to them.

I look forward to the day when as Christians, as followers of Christ, we are no longer known for the things we are against and the things we don’t do. I would much rather we, as followers of Christ are known for what we do. And what we do is "love mercy!"

Monday, May 14, 2012

JESUS, Part 4

What is your view of Christ?

What are the non-negotiables for you?

Do you view Him as many of the Jesus films portray him? A calm, cool, collected, politically correct individual with blonde hair, blue eyes, and a pale complexion? (This physical description is not accurate, because, afterall, Jesus was a Jew living in Israel.)

Do you think of Him as a Santa Claus or a genie that will be there at your every beckoning?

Do you view Jesus as predictable?

Do you think Jesus is safe?

Before you answer that, let me define “safe.” Small. Predictable. Easy.
Perhaps you view Jesus like those of the Jesus Seminar, who sought to set aside all misinterpretations of Christ and get to the real Jesus. The true Jesus. The historical Jesus.

I first learned about the Jesus Seminar my freshman year of college. We were given an article, on the Jesus Seminar, to read and write a reaction paper on. I began reading the article and thought to myself, "this is going to be good; Christianity needs more individuals like this. More people reading through the Bible and trying to find the true, historical Jesus." After a few minutes of reading I was appalled.  Before I tell you why, let me give you some information on  The Jesus Seminar. It is a group of New Testament “scholars” (I use that term loosely) who have been meeting periodically since 1985. The initial two hundred has now dwindled down to about seventy-four active members. They focus on the sayings and actions of Jesus within the four Gospels--Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John--to determine the probability of His actually having said or done all that is attributed to Him. Each scholar would offer his/her opinion on each Jesus statement by voting with a different colored bead. (I know what you're thinking, this sounds very technical and scientific).

Red: Jesus undoubtedly said this or something like it
Pink: Jesus probably or might have said something like this
Gray: Jesus did not say this; but the ideas are close to His own
Black: Jesus did not say this; it represents a later tradition

Here is what they concluded. Over 80% of the statements Jesus supposedly makes in the Gospels are gray or black—Jesus probably didn’t say them. This means that only 20% of Jesus’ statements (in the Gospels) are likely to have been spoken by Him.

Perhaps this shocks most of us. It should. But think about it and let it sink in. Isn’t that what many of us do? We read through the Bible and pick out what we like and add it to our theological buffet. We like the part about Jesus healing people, but we’re not so sure about the part when he overturned the tables in the temple.  We're into the fact that he turned water into wine, but we're not so sure about that whole turning the other cheek bit. The thought of Him going to prepare a place for us sounds pretty sick, but to think he actually says we may have to endure hardships and suffer is tough to swallow.

We will gladly buy into the things that fit our view of God, Jesus, or Christianity. The things we find easy. The safe things. The things we will do without hesitation. Those are the things we believe about Jesus.

What the Jesus Seminar came up with was a kind, gentle, politically correct, Mr. Rogers-like Jesus. They concluded that Jesus was not a miracle worker. He could not prophesy. And He would never make the extraordinary claims the Bible associates with Him (how dare God’s Word).

The Jesus Seminar came up with a Jesus who is safe. A Jesus who is tame. A Jesus who is predictable.

I am sure that a majority of Christians living in such countries as China would quickly inform us that Jesus is not safe. If He were safe, they wouldn’t face so much persecution. They wouldn’t be thrown into jail (at the very least) or killed for simply uttering His name. If that doesn’t convince you, perhaps Paul, the Christian persecutor converted Apostle, could help. Just read the eleventh chapter of Hebrews that he authored. You will find some shocking truths about what following Jesus might look like. Following Him may mean you have to give up everything—something most Western Christians (including myself) cannot even fathom. If this is a picture of what safety looks like, then I guess yeah, Jesus is safe. But we all know that fearing for your life on a daily basis is quite the opposite of safe—or at least I hope we do.

Several years ago, on Christmas Eve, I was watching a show on the Discovery Channel titled “The Miracles of Jesus.” In this show they set out to put Jesus’ miracles to the test. Christian and non-Christian alike put everything on the line and set out to see if Jesus’ miracles could be proven by science or illusion. They scrutinized His many miracles and came to the conclusion, without directly saying it, that the only way they could have been accomplished is if He was in fact who the Bible tells us He is.

So…who is Jesus? What picture of Jesus does the Bible paint? I say the Bible, because that's the best and truest account we have of His life. It is only there we can discover who he really is!