Err on the Side of Mercy

couple talking while moving in new apartment

It took nearly 6,000 years for people to come up with the phrase, “passing the buck,” but it happened in the first marriage, ever! Sadly, (for me) it was the man who did it. Even worse, when it comes to wives, we men haven’t learned much in 6,000 years!

The First Marital Squabble

We find the first marital squabble in history in the 3rd chapter of Genesis. What? You don’t believe me!? Without reviewing all of the serpent, fruit, sin parts of the account, here’s the Scripture. We find it in Genesis 3:12, “The man replied [to God], “It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it.” You don’t think Adam got an earful from Eve for the next 900 years!

Susan: Stan, why was our debit card declined at Kroger’s? Do you have any idea what I had to go through to pay for OUR groceries?

Stan: Well, Dear, you need to understand. Everyone at work uses Bluetooth headphones, so I had to buy a pair. And Apple has the best, so I had to get an iPhone to work with my AirPods, and then there were some options I needed since I had an iPhone 11 Pro. It wasn’t my fault!”

We will just let Stan and Susan work through their misunderstanding, while we go back to Adam.

Vandalizing God’s Image

Adam was created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). However, when Adam sinned, the impact was far more significant than a married couple’s argument; the image of God was vandalized by sin. So, for the next 6,000 years, not a single descendent of Adam saw what the sinless image of God looked like, not one! That is, not until Jesus (1 Peter 2:22).

It’s not acceptable what people did from the time of Adam up to the time of Jesus – creating idols, sacrificing children, mutilating themselves, marinating in every imaginable sin. Humanity’s lust for sin knows no bounds; still, until Jesus, no one observed how a sinless person behaved (1 Corinthians 13:12).

On rare occasions, a person would turn to God, but the memory of the one true God coming drifted into the mist, no longer remembering Adam’s account of “Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day. (Genesis 3:8)” Yes, Enoch pleased God (Hebrews 11:5). Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD (Genesis 6:9), and Abraham was called God’s friend (James 2:23). Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph acted in faith in God (Hebrews 11:20-22). I could name others, but it would be a short list compared to the full genealogy of Adam.

Jesus Steps Into the History of Humanity

When, after millennia, Jesus, the Son of God in the flesh (John 1:14), stepped into the history of humanity, people didn’t know what to think of Him. Even His cousin, John the Baptist struggled (Luke 7:19). Christ’s apostles, too, struggled with the sinless Son of Man: 

Now they had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. And he [Jesus] cautioned them, saying,Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread. And Jesus, aware of this, said to them,Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? – Mark 8:14-17

So, the next time you or I read, see, or hear of a person doing something profoundly awful, we should ask ourselves, “I wonder if anyone demonstrated Jesus to that person?” In the constant tug-of-war between nurture and nature, we need to remember that everyone is born with a sin-nature; none is righteous, no not one (Romans 3:10). 

If Jesus is your Lord and Savior, then don’t hold that in. Let it out! Allow the lost to see Jesus in you. Let the whole world know that Jesus Christ is Lord.

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Scars Contain a Story

I have a large scar on my arm. Many years ago, my wife and I were in what should have been a life-ending vehicular accident. At a high rate of speed, and then a sudden impact, I was thrown through the windshield which tore a gash in my arm and left me on my back, unconscious, in an open field. I give thanks to God for my scar because I could have easily lost my arm, then I would not have had a place for my scar.

Scars usually come with a story; it is a package deal. If I had to guess, I’d guess that you have a scar or two, and you have a story for each of them. Am I right?

It is human nature for us to have a story for our scars. Also, as humans, we want to hear those stories. How did you come by your scars? Did anyone die? Do your scars bother you? Have you learned to thank God for your scars?

Sometimes, we will establish a rapport with a scarred person just to learn their story. Often, their scars testify to an accident or a tragedy where God’s mercy sheltered their life.  

See My Scars

“…See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 

Luke 24:39-40

Jesus must have experienced boundless joy when He showed His scars to His apostles. Jesus, the Son of God, came from heaven to earth (John 6:38) to have a body to bear the scars of sacrifice. Without the body of Jesus, there would not have been a place for those scars.

As you know, blood bursts forth from wounds. However, the wounds of a dead person do not heal; their bodies never grow scars. Our Savior’s body was fully human (Hebrews 2:17) so, His body did bear the scars of His sacrifice, for His body did not see corruption (decay) (Acts 13:37) and He rose from the grave (1 Corinthians 15:4). 

Christ’s blood paid the price for redemption, His scars attest to His resurrection. As the Son of Man, the Second Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45), Jesus is the first of many that will be resurrected (Colossians 1:18). 

Thankful for Scars

It may seem odd to be thankful for scars, but I am so very thankful for the scars Jesus bears on His body. Do those scars make me happy? No. For if we that were created in the image of God had not turned against Him then He would not carry those scars. Those scars testify against us, but they also testify to the body God prepared (Hebrews 10:5) for our redemption, regeneration, reconciliation, and resurrection.  

I am thankful and full of immense joy for the scars of Jesus. The scars on the body of Jesus are more beautiful than all Creation for those scars are the receipt for Salvation which Jesus purchased.  

Image by Hans Braxmeier from Pixabay

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Rest Easy

cat resting on a person

In the observable universe, there are an estimated 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars. That’s 1 billion trillion. And that’s not counting planets, moons, and so forth. We can’t truly comprehend that number, yet each celestial object is unique. Here’s what our God said about this starry host:

Isaiah 40:25-26 (ESV)
“To whom will you compare Me,
or who is My equal?” asks the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes on high:
Who created all these?
He leads forth the starry host by number;
He calls each one by name.
Because of His great power and mighty strength,
not one of them is missing.

Indeed, God is beyond our understanding, and yet He knows everything and everyone in the universe! He knows you, and He knows me, and He knows what we need and what our hearts desire.

Thanks to Jesus, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16 ESV)

We have joy, mercy, grace, and peace in God through Jesus Christ. Rest in Jesus, no matter what you need!

Photo by Chris Abney on Unsplash

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Give me the boot!

Person on edge of cliff dangling their boots

“Don’t look down!”, the actor says with quiet assurance. Well, within my limited experience, that is what someone says to a person precariously positioned on the edge of a precipice. 

Once, as a young man, when I was climbing a cliff with a couple of friends, my footing gave way, and I started uncontrollably sliding towards a precipice that had a vertical drop of at least 100 feet. At first, I wasn’t at all concerned. I was young and stupid. Oh, and I was always sufficiently agile to avoid any significant damage to my body.

A Boot Came Into View

However, as I failed time and again to secure a handhold, I became concerned. I slowed my tumble significantly, but still, I continued to fall. All of a sudden, a boot came into view. One of my friends had followed after me. He had secured a firm handhold and now dangled his leg down for me to grab. It worked. And yes, he exclaimed, “Don’t look down!”

Indeed, my friend snatched me from almost certain death. Likewise, as Christians, we are reminded to snatch the lost: “Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.” (Jude 1:22-23 NIV)

How quickly our opportunities evaporate if we aren’t attentive to the Holy Spirit in our lives. If my friend hadn’t acted immediately, I probably wouldn’t be writing this devotional. Likewise, we must hear, assess, and respond in a heartbeat. How wonderful Jesus is to trust us in His work.

Photo by Andrew Ly on Unsplash

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Watching God’s Creation Dance

I spend most of my time at home, which is fine. I have a great view of our backyard where I watch birds and squirrels, and all manner of Gods creation. Still, for me, outside in wide open spaces is where I see God’s creation dance.

If we look back to the time of Adam, many believe they lived a nomadic life. A life outside, in God’s creation. An experience not unlike that of Adam’s descendants, Abraham, Issac, and Jacob.

But, when we visit Adam, we also should visit Cain. You see, Adam’s son Cain was the first person to build a house or city. Why? Because of fear, and that fear birthed a need for self-sufficiency rather than trusting God. For Cain, he seems to only trust himself.

Genesis, Chapter Four

Genesis 4: (ESV)
8 …Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him.

10 And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. 

13-17 Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden…Then the Lord said to him, “Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him. Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden. Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. When he built a city, he called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch.

[Cain’s Enoch not the Enoch that God took]

Keep in mind that Cain was the first murderer (v.8). Still, one of Cain’s biggest fears, when confronted by God was, “and from your face I shall be hidden.” (v14) So, even while Abel’s blood is crying out to God (v.10), Cain desired God and God’s heart of mercy is present in His judgment of Cain.

Out of God’s mercy and desire to remove Cain’s fear, God places a mark on Cain so everyone would understand that if you mess with Cain, then you were messing with God. (v15). We don’t know what the “mark” was, and it doesn’t matter.

Now, Cain wanders (i.e., Nod) towards the east (v.16). He finds a lovely place, he builds a family, and unlike all of his relatives, Cain builds a city (v.17). Why? God has given Cain a “mark” to protect him but he still doesn’t seem to trust God.

Seth Gets Cain’s Inheritance

It is worthwhile for us to know that all the chosen people by God are from the lineage of Seth. Seth was the son God gave Adam and Eve after the death of Able (v.25).

All of the great things God has done through humanity should have traced back to Cain, the first-born son of Adam and Eve, but because of Cain’s anger, he lost it all. Uncontrolled anger is a drug more damaging than any chemical we can abuse.

Perhaps, the next time you walk outside, you can take a moment to thank God for His marvelous creation. And, in your heart, determine not to put your trust in a house or a city and don’t allow your anger to cost you and your descendants everything God desires for you and them.

In your heart live free, live unencumbered by this world, live joyfully; live a Christian sojourner’s life, and watch God’s creation dance.

Photo by Jyotirmoy Gupta on Unsplash

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I know my redeemer lives

Below is an article from Open Doors USA about Christian churches that remain in Syria. How can people stay in such an oppressive environment? And, even so, how can they dare to serve Jesus?

You know the answer. We find it in the oldest book of the Old Testament; the book of Job. Here’s what Job said. It’s what motivates our brothers and sisters in Syria and it is what motivates us, here in our ever increasingly oppressive environment.

Job 19:25-27 New International Version (NIV)
25 I know that my redeemer lives,     
and that in the end he will stand on the earth.
26 And after my skin has been destroyed,     
yet in my flesh I will see God;
27 I myself will see him     
with my own eyes—I, and not another.     
How my heart yearns within me!

As Bombs Explode, Syrian Pastor Makes Dangerous Choice to Bring Hope – Open Doors USA

Throughout Syria, churches have stayed open and become Centers of Hope–led by men and women of deep faith.

While you may think that churches ceased to exist in the region, through your prayers and support throughout Syria, churches have stayed open since the war started. Led by men and women of deep faith like Father Abdallah and his wife, Aghna, several churches have even turned their buildings (or rented new spaces) into Centers of Hope where they can feed the hungry, dress the needy, comfort the weeping and share the gospel. Below, Pastor Abdallah looks back at the last eight years and shares what’s happening now.Learn more here:

As Bombs Explode, Syrian Pastor Makes Dangerous Choice to Bring Hope – Open Doors USA April 2, 2019 byLindy Lowry in Middle EastStories of Persecution

Who sinned?

John 9:1-3 (NIV). As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

From “Vincent’s Word Studies” we learn, “It was a common Jewish view that the merits or demerits of the parents would appear in the children and that the thoughts of a mother might affect the moral state of her unborn offspring.”

I know men and women who have struggled with guilt because they have a child with a malady. I hope these next few paragraphs help.

First, notice that Jesus, “saw a man blind from birth.” Typically, the sick and lame came to Jesus. This time Jesus sought the blind man. Then, His disciples asked Him who sinned. Jesus says, “Neither.” Therefore, here’s a person in a tough place due to a serious disability who was in that condition “that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

For this blind man, God was displayed through a miraculous, creative act. For other people, God is glorified in ways we may never know, such as Trophimus, who Paul “left sick in Miletus.” (2 Tim.4:20)

I have a precious mentor who is now elderly. She is deeply committed to demonstrating Christ in this world. Recently, we were talking on the phone about our ailments. In passing, my mentor mentioned how so many people want to call her aside and pray for her healing. She’s blessed by this and she knows they mean well, but she said, “If it were God’s will, she probably would have been healed a hundred prayers ago.” Of course, this reminded me of Paul’s “thorn in his side.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9)

It is a Biblical mandate for us to pray in faith for the sick and lame; God still heals. Nevertheless, we need to remember that God may have other plans. For the blind man, his purpose was to give Jesus the opportunity to show God’s love in action and to help the world understand that things whose purpose is not apparent to us may exist for a reason.

It’s no wonder that life is complex for life’s Creator is complex.

Photo by 张 学欢 on Unsplash

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