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Are We Merciful People?

Are We Merciful People?

One would think at my age (which I refuse to reveal) I would not be surprised or shocked any more at what people do and say. Yet, I find myself speechless at what people will say and how they will act. And the people who surprise me the most? Christians. Or at least they claim to be Christians.

There are some sinners who behave better than many Christians I know. I have worked as a Church Business Administrator for nineteen years and with other positions I’ve held I have worked for Christians. I currently work for a nonprofit organization that is based on Biblical principles. So for the majority of my career, I’ve worked for and with Christians. The longer I work with Christians, the more hypocritical I find us to be. And yes, I said “us.”

There’s a saying that states “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.” But does knowing we are forgiven for past sins and that God will forgive us now when we ask for forgiveness give us the right to judge others? The Bible says in Matthew 7:1-2 “Do not judge and criticize and condemn others, so that you may not be judged and criticized and condemned yourselves. For just as you judge and criticize and condemn others, you will be judged and criticized and condemned, and in accordance with the measure you [use to] deal out to others, it will be dealt out again to you.” (Amplified Bible)

Rather than judging and criticizing and condemning others, shouldn’t we offer mercy and grace instead?

Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines mercy as “kind or forgiving treatment of someone who could be treated harshly; kindness or help given to people who are in a very bad or desperate situation.”

God is a God of mercy. We read this in scripture over and over again. If God is a God of mercy, then we, who want to grow more like Jesus, should be people of mercy. And as the people of mercy gather as one within the four walls of what we call “church,” it is, or should be, a place of mercy.

“Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom(V) prepared for you since the creation of the world.(W) 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,(X) 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me,(Y) I was sick and you looked after me,(Z) I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matthew 25:34-56 NIV)

Those are strong words Jesus spoke to his disciples.

So how can we, as merciful people, turn anyone away from the four walls of what we call the church? What if a homeless person, dirty, smelly, and hungry came to the church on Sunday morning just as service was about to begin? Would he or she be turned away? Or an alcoholic, who went on a binge the night before, staggers into the sanctuary after service has started? Would the ushers help him leave? Or a prostitute, still in her “working” clothes? Would she be shunned and turned away?

 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ (Matthew 25:45)

Selah.

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A Lesson Learned from a Frustrating Day

This has been one of the most frustrating days of my life!

My husband, Dave, and I flew to Jacksonville yesterday for an appointment at The Mayo Clinic. The appointment was scheduled last May. Yes, almost six months ago–that’s how far in the future they are booking appointments.

Some of you know that Dave has suffered with several back and nerve issues. For the last six to seven years he has been in constant, unrelenting pain. He has seen orthopedic doctors, orthopedic surgeon, a spinal specialist at Emory Hospital, and two pain management doctors in Newnan. Not one doctor has been able to give him an absolute, definitive diagnosis, much less recommend a course of treatment. This appointment at Mayo was pretty much our last option.

When the appointment was scheduled, Dave was told to plan on being here two to three days. He would see different specialists, have any tests performed they felt necessary, and we’d have a recommended treatment plan presented to us before we left for home.

We saw the first doctor this morning who basically left us with the impression that a) he didn’t care about Dave’s case; and b) he really didn’t think Dave has a serious problem–if a problem at all. He had his nurse schedule Dave for a consultation with the pain management doctor here at Mayo. Naturally, we assumed it would be sometime this week. After all, that is what we were told. Right? Oh, no. Not at all. The appointment is for Tuesday, October 28. We are finished here for the week. But we’ve paid for the hotel room for three nights, flights tomorrow (Thursday) to Atlanta are full and some are overbooked (we fly standby) so we are staying here until Friday.

It was an incredibly frustrating situation that I allowed to really get to me and I complained for hours.

Finally, God had heard enough. He spoke softly, but with authority. “You think this has been a frustrating day? That you have it bad? This has been nothing. What about all the women you have seen with scarves covering their heads because they lost every single hair on their head during their chemo treatments? Or what about the young girl in Registration this morning whose legs were prostheses and whose hands were stumps? What about the wizened little man who joked and laughed with you, but his color and his body language says he’s losing his battle with cancer? These people are fighting the battle of their life while today’s situation for you was an inconvenience. It was a test and you failed completely.”

I was broken. Completely broken. I cried and asked for forgiveness and cried some more. How could I be so self-centered when there are people all around me, not only here at Mayo, but also in the world, who are suffering unimaginable diseases, abuse, poverty? How could I pass these people by without silently lifting a prayer for them, or reaching out and speaking, offering encouraging words? May I never reach this point of self-centeredness again.

God was gracious, as always, and extended mercy and forgiveness to me and I thank Him for that. But my prayer is that He will help me to always be aware of people around me, that He will even put people in my path and i will know beyond a shadow of doubt that the person and I have crossed paths for “such a time as this.”

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Day Eight: The Gift of Forgiveness

                                                  THE GIFT OF FORGIVENESS

Psalm 86:5
For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.

Psalm 32:1
Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.

Today’s gift is forgiveness. One of the most precious gifts God has given us, for without forgiveness, there is no relationship with God.

I love the two verses at the top of this blog. The first verse assures us that when we go to God in prayer and repent of the sins we’ve committed, He is waiting and ready to forgive. I can almost see Him in my mind’s eye. He is standing, watching me as I kneel and He is silently encouraging me to come to Him and repent. When I do ask for His forgiveness, I see His face break out into a huge smile as He grants me forgiveness.  Of course, you realize there is nothing really scriptural about what I see in my mind’s eye, but I still like to visualize it. It helps me realize how eager God truly is to forgive me.

I think the main reason God is eager to forgive me because until there is forgiveness, our relationship is not as it should be. We cannot commune together like we normally would.  I am not able to praise and worship as I’d like to and I am not able to receive His ministry until that sin which stands between us is forgiven and wiped away.

There is a condition to forgiveness. Matthew 6:14-15: For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

That is really a strong statement – God will not forgive us if we do not forgive others who have sinned against us.

I can hear some of you saying, “but you don’t know how deeply wounded I am.” Yes, actually I do, because I’ve been deeply wounded. So deeply wounded that even though I knew I must forgive, it took me a very long time to forgive and mean it. The Bible says that God knows our heart – so he knew that I realized I had to forgive this person, but I wasn’t ready yet. So, He waited until I came to Him, repented of my part in that situation and He forgave me. There is, honestly, no better feeling than to be forgiven and restored to God.

If you have sin in your life today, I encourage you to go to God and ask for forgiveness. He is waiting for you.

Dear Father, I repent today of sins of omission and sins of commission and ask for your forgiveness. Thank you God. Thank you for the freedom found in forgiveness and the restoration of our relationship. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.