Category Archives: Prayer

Learning True Mercy

ItHappens

As I read through Luke 6 and 7 I knew immediately that I wanted to write about Luke 6:36. That verse jumped off the page as if it was written in neon lights. It reads: “Be merciful just as your father is merciful.” I have struggled with this verse for two days now and have not moved past it, a clear indication that mercy is something I have an issue with and just hadn’t realized it. As I’ve struggled with this here are the two things that I’ve learned: I’m not as merciful as I think I am and I not sure that I really understand the true meaning biblical mercy.  

I used to go to a church that sort of referred members to service groups based on spiritual gifting. This isn’t necessarily a bad concept, people should serve where they are gifted and/or talented. Anyway, one of those groups was the Mercy committee. Any “acts of mercy” that needed to be performed fell in their laps. Loved it! After all, it was very convenient. I never had to do anything. In all my years there I never had to get my hands dirty in service. What I did develop was a very bad habit that I am just now realizing. I have equated mercy with giving money. Had you asked me 48 hours ago if I exercise the gift of mercy I would have emphatically said “yes, of course!” I sponsor a World Vision child, pack multiple Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes, and give to charities I love. That’s mercy, right? Hosea 6:6 has really challenged this belief, “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God not burnt offerings”. I have been giving God sacrifices (money) and calling it mercy. This is certainly not being merciful as my Father is merciful. Not even close.

So what is His mercy and how do I do it? In his book ‘Relearning Jesus’, Matthew Paul Turner* has a great chapter on mercy. He says Jesus’ type of mercy, is “alarming and peculiar. It gives and gives and gives with out expecting anything from me in return. The mercy of Jesus catches me off guard at times. And I believe it’s the kind of mercy that’s most effective in this world – the kind that leaves me standing back saying what just happened.” (p.94). I love that explanation. It illustrates how amazing a merciful Jesus really is and it makes me realize how far I have to go. 

I haven’t fully unpacked this topic in my head yet but in terms of application here’s one thing I can say for sure; I need to be less selective with the mercy that I give. I recently had an email conversation with Tal,** who I referenced in a previous post. He and I were discussing our frustration with people who have a manufactured point scale for sin. All sin is equal, none more or worse than the other. This has been a huge issue for me as I often complain that christians miss the mark by treating certain things as ‘big’ sins. Drives me crazy. Reflecting on Luke 6:36, I think I do the same thing with mercy. I have a tendency to give mercy and forgiveness when it is easy for me. When I don’t have to go to far out on a moral limb. And, worst of all, when I decide it’s justified. I pray that I will learn to grow in the understanding of and ability to freely show mercy, mercy like the kind the Father has shown me. 

I hope you comment on mercy and what it means to you. I have a lot to learn from your thoughts.

Tomorrow I’ll be reading Luke 7 and 8

Here are two links for guys I’m learning to know and hope I can someday call friends:

* ‘Relearning Jesus: How Reading the Beatitudes One More Time Changed My Life” is a great book. I highly recommend it. Matthew’s currently offering this book for free, for a limited time, if you purchase his other book ‘Churched’ (hysterical!) through his site. http://jesusneedsnewpr.blogspot.com/

** One more shout out for Tal. He’s a cool (and merciful) guy with an inspiring story and great Sirius show that will challenge you. http://www.talprincelive.com/templates/System/default.asp?id=41919

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Filed under Bible, blog, born again, christian living, christianity, church, Evangelical, faith, God, inspiration, Jesus, Luke, Prayer, Uncategorized, worship

Carrying Each Others Mats

images We have lived with the pain of addiction in our household for many years. The process of recovery has been life giving and spiritually defining for both my husband and I. However, the road of recovery has been a long, narrow, rocky pathway full of peeks, valleys and sharp turns. I’ve learned that at it’s root addiction, any addiction, is an adulterous relationship with self desire. And that selfishness is a jealous, stubborn lover. While actively engaged in this relationship you lose all control over your body and your senses. This is what I was thinking about when I was reading about Jesus healing the paralytic, a man who has lost all control over his body. 

17One day as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there. And the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick. 18Some men came carrying a paralytic on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. 19When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus” Luke 5:17-19

 

In this passage the paralyzed man, the man who had lost total control of himself, clearly needs the healing power of Jesus. Despite any desire he may have to seek recovery from his affliction and forgiveness for his sin (v.20) he has become a prisoner to his body, locked in by his disease, unable to move past himself to the place of healing. I know this feeling, we have been there. 

 

Here’s the cool part. Jesus gives us the perfect illustration of the recovery process as he designed it. “Some men came carrying a paralytic on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus”. In all of our experience with addiction recovery the one thing that stands out over and over, in almost every addicts story is the thought that recovery is a puzzle to be solved alone. But Jesus shows us that healing comes when we share our burden with others and they draw along side us, leading us on the path to healing when we don’t have the ability to get there ourselves. I especially love the persistence and tenacity that these guys show in verse 19. Even though they are met by hurdles (it’s too crowded, I relapse, this guy is really heavy too carry, I relapse) they don’t give up until they are in the presence of the Lord. It is impossible to experience recovery alone.

 

Unfortunately, the shame of addiction locks people out. It actually repels help from the outside. While addiction is a lonely condition, recovery from addiction only happens within the context of community. It only happens when you are honest with others about the reality of your condition (you are paralyzed by the grip of addiction) and are ready to allow some really good guys in. Guys, or girls, who are strong enough in character to pick you up and not let go until you are in the presence of hope. 

 

If you have a story about addiction or the recovery process please feel free to share it along with any comments about Luke Chapter 5. Sharing our story is the first step in picking up the mat.

 

Tomorrow I’ll be reading Luke 6 and 7


Looking for a good group of folks to help carry your mat? Try these links:

 

Alcoholics Anonymous: http://www.aa.org/?Media=PlayFlash

Narcotics Anonymous: http://www.na.org/

Celebrate Recovery: http://www.celebraterecovery.com/

Mark Driscoll’s free e-book on pornography and masturbation http://relit.org/porn_again_christian/

Every Man’s Battle: http://www.everymansbattle.com/

In the Detroit area The Woods addiction support group: http://www.wwnazarene.org/ministries/groups/support.php#addiction

 



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Filed under Addiction, Bible, blog, born again, christian living, christianity, church, Evangelical, faith, God, inspiration, Jesus, Luke, Prayer, Recovery, restoration, worship

Microwaves, Slot Machines, and Prayer

microwave-oven-old-school1 A large part of the message at my church this Sunday was on instant miracles in an instant culture. Pastor Gocha* used the illustrative concept of the microwave and the crock pot and applied it to prayer life. The thought was that we want instant answers to prayer (and might I add affirmative answers to prayer) and we expect God to respond like a microwave-God. Petition, Zap, Blessing. I think he’s right. At least for me he’s right. It is difficult to wait for the slow simmer of a crock pot when I am in the middle of life. I replayed this in my head today as I read through Luke 4-5. 

In Luke 5:1-11 Jesus is speaking to the crowd and asks Simon to take him away from shore so he could teach from the boat. After he has completed his teaching he asks Simon to drop his nets into the deep water for a catch. Simon replies, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything [In my head that reads: Really God, you want me to do that again? I’ve tried that a million times and it hasn’t worked]. But because you say so, I will let down the nets” (v. 5). I love the obedience of this verse. Even though I’ve ‘been there, done that’ I will follow your command. I’ll confess that some of my prayers, especially those of the microwave variety, are: “God why do I have to keep doing this over and over. Do it my way. Now. Because I say so.” Sad isn’t it?

 

Here’s what really made me pause. When Simon obeys Jesus he is blessed beyond his imagination. Verses 6 and 7 read, “When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in another boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.” Amazing! Belief, obedience, blessing: a very un-microwaved approach.

1385slot_machine

 

I strive for that level of belief and obedience in my walk. I also strive to receive a blessing the way Simon demonstrated in verse 8: “When SImon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, ‘Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” What a humbling response. So, here’s confession number two: If my approach to prayer sometimes resembles a microwave, my response to an answered prayer often resembles a slot machine. I pray (Come on lucky sevens!) and sometimes I hit the jackpot. Response: “Yee-ha, Jackpot!” Insert next request and pull the lever again. 

 

I pray for the humility to fall on my knees in desperation and longing whenever I approach Him in prayer, knowing that I may not get the response I want in my time. And that’s ok. I also pray that I will develop the level of spiritual humility to fall on my knees when prayers are answered, with total gratitude for my undeserved gifts.

 

*Looking for some aspiring crock pots to worship with in the Detroit area or would you like to hear a podcast of this message? Check out The Woods at http://www.nazarene.org/

 

Tomorrow I should be reading Luke 6 and 7 but I really want to comment on Luke 5:17-26. So, I guess this is now a 41 Day study :)


P.S. This has nothing to do with anything but I had to share. When I did a Google image search for a picture of a slot machine it returned this: The Jack Potty (actual name!) available at many fine retailers including Walmart and Sears (no, this is not a joke). This is wrong on so many levels I had to share it! Discuss…Jack_Potty 

 

 

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Filed under Bible, blog, born again, christian living, christianity, church, Evangelical, faith, God, inspiration, Jesus, Luke, Prayer, Uncategorized, worship