The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

God’s mercies are new each morning.Mercy1

This phrase really stuck out to me this past weekend.  I not only heard it more than once, but read this phrase in a book I had started last week.  It’s almost as if God was trying to teach me something.  And I think he did.  Mercy, as simply as I can define it is: not receiving the punishment of evil that one deserves.  Here is what I have come to realize:

Mercy is necessary.  Mercy is necessary in order to have a properly functioning family.  If a family does not show one another mercy, then it will ultimately implode.  A family without mercy is a family that is constantly pointing out each other’s flaws and failures; a family where encouragement is desperately lacking; and a family where frustration with one another will ultimately give way to apathy towards each member.

Mercy is necessary in society.  A society or even a large group of people that do not show mercy, will struggle with the constant battling against one another.  Small missteps turn into huge outrages while unthinkable acts go unmentioned or unchallenged.  The battle that a society like this would face would either be a war on one another, or a war within each person trying to find acceptance and love anywhere they can, at whatever cost.

Mercy is necessary in church.  A church is both a family and a group of people.  The lack of mercy within a church would be detrimental.  Not only would they be deprived of the love that one expects from family, but there would also be a battle against one another within the church.  The church would be so preoccupied with itself, that it would not consider anything beyond its own doors; it could not.

Mercy is necessary in a relationship with God.  If mercy was absent from this relationship, it would simply be an acquaintance between the Judge and the guilty.  No other aspects of the relationship would be worth noting.  We, as the guilty, cannot implement mercy into this relationship for we were not mistreated, we mistreated God.  Only God, the perfect Creator and Sustainer, is able to implement mercy into this relationship.  He alone is able to indemnify our violation of his law through his Son.  In fact, he is able to pardon our disobedience completely!mercy2

But God does not work as man for his ways are higher (Isaiah 55:9).  Man may show mercy to one another.  But this mercy runs out.  Eventually we get tired of showing mercy to people only to have them require it more and more.  In all simplicity, we get fed-up!  But God has a never ending supply of mercy.  This is where Lamentations 3:22-23 really hit me. (The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.)  Many times I come to God asking for mercy for the same transgressions over and over and over.  In fact, I become weary from asking for mercy let alone giving it.  But God does not become weary.  He gives mercy forever and all time.

Because of this, because of the access to an unending supply of mercy, families can show one another mercy when it becomes tiresome.  Societies can show mercy to one another when the desire to become judge creeps in.  Churches can show mercy when no one else will.

Do you struggle with asking for mercy?  Receiving mercy?  Do not become weary, for God’s mercies never end.  Ask him to remind you of this each morning. mercy4

Battle Ready

We have come to our last blog about battle.  We have been talking about this war that is raging, how we are to stand firm against the devil but fight the good fight of the faith.  And we have been talking about all of this in a collective, large-group type style.  But I wanted to end by looking at our own individual battles.

Everyone has a story.  Everyone has a reality that is slightly different from everyone else.  And because of that, not everyone’s battles are the same.  Each person has internal battles that they must deal with.  Battles that are raging against our souls.  It makes me think of Spider-Man 3 and Venom.  Venom, the evil, attaches to Peter Parker and it feels good, but he tells another character that when Venom takes over you begin to “lose yourself.”  Just as Spider-Man battled Venom taking over his internal state, we have to battle our selfish desires.

1 Peter 2:11 “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.”  Peter acknowledges that we have this war against our soul.  But did you notice how he addresses us?  Sojourners and exiles.  This is an important identifier before recognizing the war against our soul.  As Christ-followers we are awaiting the day when we truly go home.  Therefore, if we continue to think in terms of the battle theme, we are on duty waiting to go on leave.  We are away from home.  We do not want to jeopardize our eternal homecoming, with decisions we make in a limited time on earth.

Our internal battles cannot be won with blanketed statements or a generalized plan of attack.  Just as each internal battle is different, so are the ways in which we battle them.  There are some that need to remove themselves from the battlefield in order to have victory.  What I mean is 2 Timothy 2:22 “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”  There are internal battles that have to be won by removing ourselves from the situation.  We best do that, when we have others that are willing to do that with us.  It is much easier to live a lifestyle, when you know other people around you are living the same lifestyle.  So too, it is much easier to remove yourself when we know others are making that choice as well.  This is usually the way sexual temptations are handled best.  1 Corinthians 6:18 “Flee from sexual immorality.  Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.”  We have to be willing to be bold enough and have enough courage to remove ourselves from situations.  I heard a speaker tell a story of a guy who struggled with pornography and most often it would be at night, in his room, on his phone.  So the speaker looked at him and said, then don’t have your phone with you at night!  Change the situation.  Fight for goodness.  But I think we struggle with that because we believe it isn’t normal, or that it is a sign of weakness that we struggle with it.  But all struggle, and most find strength in knowing that others struggle too.

Another big sin, what C.S. Lewis believes to be the original sin, and what almost every guy struggles with is pride.  Pride can be a virus that we don’t even recognize.  The focus of pride is always ourselves.  Proverbs 29:23 “One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.”  Pride lifts us up.  It takes into consideration other people only to reaffirm our loftiness in comparison.  It focuses on the number of followers, friends, likes, and comments on social media, only to again keep track so that comparisons can be made.  If you are unsure whether you struggle with pride or not, consider how much the pride of others bothers you.  This can give us an insight into how much of the spotlight we truly desire.  But pride is not easily defeated.  We cannot flee from ourselves.  We must combat it with something, but what?  The opposite of pride is humility.  The best way to experience humility is to live life as a servant.

Jesus spoke on this.  Matthew 20:26-28 “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many.”  To combat pride we must place ourselves is the role of a servant.  Many of the New Testament authors referred to themselves as a bond-servant.  A bond-servant is one who held a permanent position of servant, but did so voluntarily.  Take Paul as an example again.  1 Corinthians 9:19 “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them.”  What is needed is a more constant mindset of being on mission…in our hometown.  See, missions puts us in a servant role.  Rarely, if ever, do we go on missions so that we may be gawked over.  We go so that we may serve and speak of Jesus.

This should be a daily habit, not a summer activity.  Serving continually reminds us that we are not God nor are we the center of the universe.  We are moons.  We do not create light.  We cannot create light.  We only reflect the light of the sun.  So too we only reflect the light of Jesus.  We are not good, for only God is good.  We simply reflect the goodness of God to others.  With this mindset, there is little room or time for pride.

The last one I want to specifically mention is self-esteem.  I think as guys a lot of time we go from pride, to depression, without stopping in the middle ground.  We believe that in order to be godly, we must be lowly even in the sense of self-worth.  We forget the value, the care, and love God has for each of us.  We look at others more highly than ourselves, which is good, but at the cost of seeing ourselves as less valuable to God.  Jesus again tries to build us up in holiness by reminding us of our value.  Matthew 6:26 “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they?”  We do have value.  We are cared for.  But how much?  1 Corinthians 6:19-20 “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.”  What was that price?  That was the price of a life.  A human, and divine life.  God himself came down, to live a humble life and die a criminal’s death, so that our debt would be paid.  Valuable things are paid for.  The higher the value, the more the cost.

These are just some of the ways in which we battle internally.  But there is commonality in all of them.  Evidence of these stems from Scripture.  If we do not know the Bible, then we would not know the value we have, or the service we are to give to others.  We will only last a few days fighting like this.  But we need to be nourished.  We need to be filled with substance.  We have to know the Word of God.  Knowing the scripture is huge.  As is our prayer life.  Our life-line to God.  Take advantage of the ability to speak to God directly.  He will guide you.  Often times not with audible words, but with internal nudges.  If any internal nudge does not blatantly go against God and his Word, take it.  Do it.  See where God is trying to lead you.

Lastly, internal battles, though our own, are best fought with brothers.  Brothers in Christ lift one another up, enable them to serve God well, and correct them in love when needed.  Do you have that?  Are you that?

Battle Ready

There is a war.  An evil that is fighting against us.  Each of us have a responsibility in this war.  We are to stand firm.  To allow God to use us as tools and instruments in the ultimate victory that is inevitable.  We are not called to fight against the enemy with anything but the word of God in this war.  But there is another fight going on.  Not an evil fight, but a good fight.  One where we are called to action, to do more than stand firm, to initiate a cultural change.  Paul charges Timothy to fight this fight.  1 Timothy 1:18-19 “This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophesies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience.”  This is a good fight.  An honorable fight.  A necessary fight.  But it starts in an unlikely fashion.

Let’s take a look further into the book of 1 Timothy.  1 Timothy 6:11 “But as for you, O man of God, flee these things.  Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.”  Paul urges Timothy to resist the desire of wealth and the tickling of ears to pursue these positive attributes that are listed.  We have already established that a war is raging.  But how often do we contribute to the war?  How often do we create unnecessary battles among one another?  These battles stem from pride, selfishness, humor, and the putting down of others to make ourselves look good.  This ought not to be.  We should be fighting alongside one another as brothers in arms!  Ready to fight the battles with one another.  Did you know there are television shows dedicated to how bad you can put someone down?!  We are in the war together.  Battle brings men together, so as soon as we realize that we are battling together, I think we will begin to work together.

1 Timothy 6:12 “Fight the good fight of the faith.  Take hold of the eternal life of which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”  There is a good fight we wage.  It is not a fight of killer blows, haymakers, and knockout punches.  It is a positive and uplifting fight.  Don’t get me wrong, there is a fight full of those things, but those are coming at us not from us.  The fight that is coming from us is full of righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, and gentleness.  We all start out fighting the evil fight.  We come out of the womb ready for this fight.  But fighting the good fight comes from a conscious decision.  Did you see what Paul said?  The good confession was made, and that is when we took hold of eternal life.  That is when we became equipped with the Fruit of the Spirit.  Before then we were stuck with the vegetables of the flesh.  Now, we have the ability to participate in the good fight, the honorable fight.  Do too many of us choose to continue in the evil fight though?  I don’t know, maybe.

Paul then charges Timothy.  He doesn’t just tell him to fight he gives him specific instruction.  1 Timothy 6:13-14 “I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Paul charges Timothy to keep the commandment.  But before that, he reminds him of Jesus’ interaction with Pilate.  This is when Pilate is asking him about being king of the Jews and Jesus tells him that what he has said is right.  Taking in consideration that Jesus accepted and acknowledged his role as Messiah, even in the face of death, means that we can as well.  This commandment that Paul speaks on is the command to fight to good fight of the faith.  To remember that command and not to let go of it.  Not to become comfortable or loosen our grip on it.

It is like the person who had to use a port-o-potty.  They really had to go and they were going to be in there more than a couple of minutes.  While in there they got their phone out to check their Instagram and play a game to help pass the time.  At first they were very concerned with keeping their phone firm in their hand so as not to let it fall.  But as the seconds and minutes went by, they became more comfortable.  Wouldn’t you know it, as they were getting up to leave, cur-plop!  The phone falls.  What do they do?  Well, they go in for it, only to have their phone, and now their hand covered in a bright blue stain.  As they exit the port-o-potty, everyone that sees them is able to know exactly what happened without them having to say a word.

When we begin to loosen our grip on fighting the good fight, we fall into the evil fight, which stains us.  It becomes obvious which fight we are fighting and in order to get back into the good fight, it takes time and a lot of cleaning power.  We keep fighting the good fight because we know that Jesus will return.  When he does, we do not want to have been fighting our whole lives a fight we were never meant to fight.

Paul gives us insight into what happens when we fight the good fight and our time comes.  2 Timothy 4:7-8 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.”  Fighting the good fight, though not our nature, is worth the fight.  There is no comparison to the reward of the good fight and the reward of the evil fight.  One we cannot win, the other we are given grace, forgiveness, and the strength and power from God to complete.  We get to replace our helmet for a crown.  See how different they are?  One is open and signifying position while the other is simply protecting from force.  The good fight ends with a position that we do not deserve and that we will ultimately give back to the one truly worthy.