Have Mercy

I am not exactly sure what was happening in the above picture, but I love the example of sacrificial service on display by my mom as she was leading a game with the 4-to-6-year-old children Wednesday evening. Marsha and her (and several other amazing volunteers) serve our church family by ministering to dozens of children on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. They do so with very little fanfare and certainly little (if any) appreciation from the children, who do not yet know how to express much appreciation.

Effective children’s ministry, much like most Christian ministry, requires a lot of mercy and grace. Those children (just like the rest of us, by the way) do not deserve the time and effort volunteers put forth week after week. Ministry, especially children’s ministry, is utterly exhausting, very demanding, and extremely underappreciated. When I see some of the things our church volunteers endure (the spitting, kicking, screaming, pouting, scowling, yanking, pulling, tackling, throwing, etc. – plus all the things children do ;-)), I am amazed more volunteers do not burnout and run away.

Here they are, though, faithfully serving the Lord and His church week after week, year after year. Praise God for their Christlike examples!

WHY?

Why do these faithful volunteers (and so many others) endure the difficulties of ministry? Why do they have and extend the mercy and grace that ministry requires? The simple answer to that question is because they have received and experienced that mercy and grace from the Lord. Once you experience such amazing mercy, you cannot help but have mercy.

A changed life leads to a desire to see the lives of others changed. Thus, disciples of Jesus want to help others know and follow Jesus. Disciples make disciples who make disciples who make disciples…

Those who have experienced much will give much.

HOW?

How, though, can people serve so faithfully when there is so little gratitude and appreciation and reward? The simple answer is that they are able to do these things by the same grace and mercy of God that saved them from their sins. These incredible volunteers are not super-humans (although they look like it sometimes), and they are not super-Christians with some extra measure of faith that others cannot experience. Rather, they trust and depend on the grace of God that is necessary for anyone to do anything good.

They have experienced the mercy of God, and as they continue to trust His mercy and grace, they have mercy and compassion for others. The same God who opened their hearts to turn to Him is the same God who enables them to serve Him and His church so faithfully?

WHAT ABOUT YOU?

Have you experienced God’s mercy through Christ? Are you extending that mercy to others? In what ways can you better demonstrate God’s mercy in and through your everyday life?

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching from Luke 10:25-37 on “Giving Mercy.” If you have received mercy from the Lord, then you will have and give mercy to others. How we treat others is the evidence of our relationship with God (see HERE and HERE, for example). Even when others are not kind and gracious to you (just like preschoolers who have kicked and hit volunteers), embracing God’s mercy and grace leads to the extension of that mercy and grace to others. See Luke 6:32-36 for a great example of this.

Let us know Jesus (in receiving mercy), and let us make Him known (in giving mercy). Have mercy to the glory of God!

To understand and embrace the mercy of God in and through a saving relationship with His One and Only Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, check out The Story and call upon His name.

Endurance Requires Grace

There are countless occasions in life that require endurance or else that result in failure and/or destruction. We learn about the importance of pushing forward and not giving up early in life, as even children are scolded (often rightly-so) when they do give up and quit.

To finish a race, you have to endure. To win a game, you have to endure. To get your degree, you have to endure. To be successful, you have to endure. To maintain a healthy relationship, you have to endure. To raise children, you have to endure. The list goes on and on, does it not?

THE NECESSITY

What is so often explained as the necessity to having such endurance? Hard work, discipline, commitment, patience, etc. could all be traits that help answer that question. While all of those characteristics (and many others) are good and should be pursued, they do not produce endurance that endures. In other words, the best character and greatest behavior will go a long way, but we all eventually fail.

An even greater necessity is required – grace (the gift of God that none of us deserves).

To do so many things, requires endurance. Most importantly, to follow Jesus until the end of this life, requires endurance. If you are not careful, though, you might fall into the trap of thinking that your hard work and discipline will be enough to ensure such endurance. None of us is good enough, hard-working enough, disciplined enough, or committed enough to endure until the end, though.

We need grace. All of us need grace – the grace of God – in order to endure. And, only those who endure until Jesus returns will be saved for eternity (Matthew 24:13).

If we rely on our own goodness and commitment to press on, we might last for a while, but failure (and resulting destruction) will come. If we trust the Lord, though, for the goodness and commitment we need, endurance will be the result.

Grace is the necessity, and the character traits that are associated with endurance will not only be found with those who seek and receive God’s grace; those traits will last. Endurance will result.

THE PATH

To receive such grace that results in faithful endurance, we need only humble ourselves and turn to the Lord. The Bible calls this repentance and faith – turning away from our sin and trusting in the Only One who can make us right with God. The gospel is the Good News that saves us from our sin and changes our lives now. Endurance results.

Have you surrendered your life to Jesus Christ? Are you experiencing the fruit of endurance? Are you trusting in His grace to push through the difficulties of this life?

The path to endurance is not found by trying harder but by surrendering all. Then, you will desire to try harder, and even your effort will endure.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching on the “Grace to Endure” (2 Peter 3) with patience and hope until Jesus comes again. Apart from God’s grace, none of us endures. Let us trust Him not only to save us from our sins but also to enable us to press on until He returns!

If you want to learn more about the grace of God that leads to lasting endurance, please check out The Story.

The Most Important of Warnings

On our way to our vacation destination last August, I was driving through a construction zone with very little traffic and no construction workers on site. The interstate on which I was driving was down to two lanes (one in each direction) with no ability to pass. Unfortunately, I was behind a semi, and I am not nearly as patient as I should be, driving or otherwise.

Of course, when you are going through a construction zone and trailing a semi, cruise control really is not an option, as speeds can fluctuate so much. Thus, I found myself creeping up on the semi, slowing down, creeping up, slowing down, etc. Meanwhile, an Illinois State Police officer pulled out of his observation spot and was following me. I knew he was behind me but did not think much about him, as I could hardly speed or do much, and there was nearly no one else on the road.

Well, as soon as the construction zone ended, the trooper put his lights on and pulled me over. Great! What did I do wrong? Apparently, I did two things wrong. Multiple times, my speed got up to 65 miles per hour in the 55-mph construction zone, and I was following the semi too closely. Looking back, I can recognize the officer was right, and I was guilty of both offenses. Still, I was frustrated.

I cannot really remember what I said to the officer, but what I do remember is that he let me off with a warning. Phew! Perhaps my sweet wife and five scared children sitting with me in the van helped. They certainly helped more than my driving did! One thing I am certain I did not say in response is, “Oh, no thank you, officer. Please give me the full force of justice and the maximum penalty for my offenses.” Instead, I was obviously grateful for the warning and thanked the officer. I am not sure how much he could have penalized me, but I imagine that, especially because I was driving through a construction zone, the fines could have been steep. Praise the Lord for warnings!

ETERNAL IMPORTANCE

Of course, there are no more important warnings than those found in the Word of God. Over and over, the Bible warns us of our need to turn away from sin and trust in Jesus Christ for forgiveness and salvation. Sin has consequences, and so we are warned of our need for atonement, which only comes in and through a relationship with Jesus.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching through Titus 2:11-14 on the “Second Chances” that only come by the grace of God. The greatest of all warnings points us to the greatest of all graces.

For the grace of God has appeared with salvation for all people, instructing us to deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age, while we wait for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for Himself a people for His own possession, eager to do good works.

Titus 2:11-14

STANDARD OF TRUTH

If I told that state trooper, “But, I didn’t KNOW I could only go 55 miles per hour here,” would that make me innocent? Of course not. As a driver I am responsible for knowing and obeying the law. Likewise yet more importantly, as God’s creation, we are responsible for knowing and obeying His Law – the Bible. Are you seeking to know His Word and heed His warnings?

If I told that state trooper, “Well, maybe it’s your opinion that I was following that semi too closely, but in my opinion, I was just fine. I was comfortable with what I was doing. That’s my truth,” how would that have gone? Not well. The law is not based on my opinions or feelings and abilities. The law is based on standards, regardless of how I feel. I have no right and no ability to change the law, at least not in that moment. Even more so, we can never change God’s Law. His law is perfect and enduring. His standard of truth never changes because He never changes. Thus, we have no right and no ability to pick and choose which parts of His Word we obey. Are you asking for God’s help to walk in humility and obey His Word? Do you have relationships of intentional accountability to help you grow in your relationship with Him?

By God’s grace, He has given us warnings throughout His Word, and He has given us chance after chance to repent and believe. Let us not fail to know and embrace the most important of warnings! Let us trust His grace for salvation and trust His grace for sanctification. To God be the glory!

Receive the greatest and most important of all second chances by trusting in Jesus Christ to make you right with God. Learn more by checking out The Story.