Tuesday, May 29, 2012


(It is interesting to note that the first 21 times mercy is mentioned in scripture is in the context of the mercy seat...hmmmm...a study all to itself...)

"Nothing from that which is put under the ban shall cling to your hand, in order that the Lord may turn from His burning anger and show mercy to you, and have compassion on you and make you increase..."

"For it was of the Lord to harden their hearts, to meet Israel in battle in order that he might utterly destroy them, that they might receive no mercy, but that He might destroy them, just as the Lord had commanded Moses."

"In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them; in His love and mercy He redeemed them, and He lifted them and carried them all the days of old."

"Indeed, as often as I have spoken against him, I certainly still remember him; therefore My heart years for him; I will surely have mercy on him," declared the Lord."

"Lord, I have heard the report about YOu and I fear.  O lord, revive Your work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy."

"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy."

"Have mercy on me, Son of David!"

"Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is a lunatic and is very ill..."

"Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you."

"And His mercy is upon generation after generation toward those who fear Him."

"I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion."

"So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires."

"Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost (of sinners), Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life."

"May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you."

Mercy - a gift or a replacement?  Yes, freely given, but definitely put in the place of what is actually deserved.  In these few examples (few because there are about 100 references for "Mercy") the picture is being drawn of God granting something that is not deserved - extending but not without exceptions. A few of the passages indicate that it is within His character and ability to withhold mercy - it is not required of Him to extend.  Hmmm...interesting and scary all at the same time...

Has God been merciful toward you?  Please do not give me the Sunday school answer.  Do you understand what He has taken away from you?  Do you own it? Because if you don't think you need mercy, then it's not very precious to you and you take advantage of the giver.

Does your soul cry out for mercy?  For some reason this song is in my head and though it doesn't have the word mercy in it, it sure cries out for mercy.  I love the words, but if you don't like edgier music, then you might want to skip the link...enjoy.

Dry Bones

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Precious Grace

"The Lord gives grace and glory; no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly."

"Though He scoffs at the scoffers, yet He gives grace to the afflicted."

"I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced..."

"For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace."

"For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ."

"For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many."

"For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace."

"But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace."

"Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly..."

"But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me."

"And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed;" (I think this is my new favorite 100% word verse!)

"And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me."

"In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace..."

"You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus."

"The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen." (the last verse of the Bible)

Grace is a busy gift, isn't it?  It saves us from the Law, it is poured out upon us daily, it comforts the hurting, it gives us the tools to deal with sin, it provides spiritual gifting, it is sufficient to overcome our weaknesses, and it comes from the Lord.

These are but a few observations of the powerful gift of grace.  What exactly is grace?  It is the free and unmerited (unearned) favor of God.  Our favor in God comes through Jesus - not I, but Christ.  Our good works, anything good at all is not us but Jesus.  We have favorable standing because of Jesus. We can be a light in this dark world because of Jesus. We can love our husbands and care for our families because of Jesus.  We can endure hardship because of Jesus.  The grace - the unearned favorable standing - that He freely offers is a power source beyond measure and if flows abundantly.

But we have to know it's there.

A simple word study.  Above are fifteen verses out of 125 that have the word "grace" in them.  Search on a word, reach the context and figure out what grace looks like in your own life.  Trust me - it will be  time well spent.

www.biblegateway.com  Type in "grace."

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Fear Not

"Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great." to Abram

"What is the matter with you, Hagar? Do not fear, for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is." to Hagar

"I am the God of your father, Abraham; Do not fear, for I am with you." to Isaac

"Do not fear him, for I have given him into your hand, and all His people and his land." to Moses

"Do not fear or be dismayed! Be strong and courageous..." to Joshua

"Peace to you, do not fear; you shall not die."  to Gideon

"Take courage, fear not.  Behold, your God will come with vengeance."  to Judah through Isaiah

"Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God." to Judah through Isaiah

"But as for you, O Jacob My servant, do not fear, nor be dismayed, O Israel." to Judah through Jeremiah

"You drew near when I called on You; You said, "Do not fear!"" to Jeremiah

"So do not fear; you are more valuable than sparrows." to the disciples

"Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men."  to Simon

"Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me...I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you...Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you' not as the world gives do I give to you.  Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful."  to us

I am writing this primarily to women this morning, though I do think men have fear.  Fear is such a debilitating emotion and it stems from a wrong view of God.  Just look at the comfort that God has given His children through the ages!  He is bigger than us, He is completely involved and in control and He wants us to live in that comfort and care, rather than in fear for what the day may bring.

How do we turn from fear?  Enlarge your knowledge of God.  Turn to Him, let Him be bigger.  He absolutely must increase in our lives and we must decrease.  As we set our minds on Him, our fears will dissipate because we have confidence in His character, His will and His presence.

Don't feed the fears today - feast on the Word, let it richly dwell within you and be comforted.

Friday, May 18, 2012


"Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
and our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
smitten of God and afflicted."

Isaiah 53:4

The description of our Savior continues in Isaiah 53 and is incredibly accurate, considering it was written hundreds of years before Christ was crucified. Some believe that Isaiah is misdated because of the accuracy, but the Dead Sea Scrolls put that belief to rest.

Katherine and I were talking about this verse a few days ago and we both mentioned that "He Himself" and "we ourselves" were definitive terms. They are repetitive for a reason. Let me explain this way:

You go to your husband's company Christmas dinner at a fancy restaurant. As you are leaving, a co-worker of your husband leans over and says, "Be sure to thank Jerry (the company accountant). He paid for this dinner." Well, of course he did - he probably has the company credit card, right?  But if your friend said, "Be sure to thank Jerry - he paid for this himself..." that would mean something completely different.

When Isaiah adds "Himself" to "He," he makes it personal.  Jesus Christ, Himself - personal and alone - bore our griefs and carried our sorrows.  Take a minute and think about that.  What are our griefs and sorrows?  This encompasses way more than just when we cry over the death of a loved one - it means the grief and sorrow that comes as a result of our sin. The consequences of our sin cause great grief and sorrow - broken relationships, loss of reputation, loss of integrity and trust, shattered dreams, embarrassment, broken fellowship with God - the list goes on and on. This is the grief and sorrow Jesus bore and carried.

So what did that look like?   II Cor. 5:21 says that God made Jesus become sin who knew no sin that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. When Jesus took on our sin it affected Him. He bore it. He carried it. He knows the weight of sin and paid the price for our guilt and shame.  He did it Himself.

When Isaiah says "we ourselves," he makes this personal as well.  Jesus didn't die for the sins of humanity. He died specifically for our sin.  And when we see how Jesus was ridiculed and treated, bearing our sin, we have to personalize it and take ownership of the sin He bore.

I also think it's interesting that as Jesus was dying for me, I was looking at His misery and justifying it as God's judgment on Him, rather than God's judgment on me placed on Him.  It was as if I was self-righteously pointing my finger at Him and saying, "Look at how miserable He is. He gets what He deserves. You reap what you sow and God is dealing with this self-proclaimed false messiah."

Ugh. I didn't even like typing that, but it's a reality. Isaiah makes this too personal to ignore. It reminds me of Job's friends condemning him because of the great tribulation he found himself in. How often do we look at other's afflictions and think they are cursed of God?  "Oh, Kristen, I never do that - that would be so presumptive!"  But we did it with Jesus - that's what Isaiah tells us. Ugh again.  I really hate this reality.

Until we see the ugliness of our sinful state before a holy God and OWN it, we'll never taste the sweet goodness of mercy and grace in its fullness.  

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Will you look?

"And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him."

Isaiah 53:3


But accurate.

I looked up the word "esteem" and it basically means respect.  He was despised, hated, and we didn't respect Him.  We couldn't even look at Him.

As I'm working through this passage with my daughters, I got stuck on this verse - what does that first line mean?  What does it mean to be a person that men hide their faces from?  That's a strange line.

At first glance, I was thinking that often people turn their faces from a particularly deformed person - maybe like the elephant man or a face with horrible acne.  Then naturally my mind went to the great disfigurement that happened while Jesus was scourged.  Is this what the author is talking about?  We turned our face from looking at His crucifixion because He was so disfigured?

But I don't think that's it.  

I just got home from speaking at a local Christian high school's chapel. It's not a long talk - only about 15 minutes, and for those who know me, I am hardly started at the fifteen minute mark. So I had to be short and sweet.

Most of the girls were very receptive, but there are those who "hide their face" when I teach. They don't make eye contact. When I ask questions, they shift behind a head in front of them so I won't call on them. 

This is what I think the passage is talking about - Jesus was the light of the world, but men loved darkness rather than light. They shifted their gaze because they didn't like His message. His words cut to the heart and they were convicted by His presence.  So they hid their faces - they didn't make eye contact.  Jesus was despised - He was hated for the message He brought and we didn't have enough respect to even look at Him while He talked.

I can remember asking my mom if I could sit with friends during church - I was probably in seventh grade. She said yes, but make sure I was looking at the pastor during the sermon - it would be disrespectful to have your head down (drawing or writing notes or snoozing...). Now I get it.

We hid our faces from Him, despised Him and disrespected Him.

I love Isaiah - he nails it on the head.  He doesn't say "You despised Him" - he says "we."

This is our sin. We have to own it.  When we look at Jesus, we see His holiness and it shines a light on our sin. Are you willing to look at Jesus today? Oh dear friend, lift your head, remove your hands and look upon the suffering Savior and cry out in victory!  Because He doesn't suffer today - He intercedes...

Isaiah 53 is a great one to meditate on...

Friday, May 11, 2012

Chosen Vessel

"He had no stately form or majesty that we should look on Him, 
nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him..."

Isaiah 53:2

My daughters and I are memorizing Isaiah 53 and I have been meditating on this verse this week. Once again I am amazed how sin has infiltrated every inch of life, including the mind.  It's funny how we read the Bible and judge the characters, but truth be told, we make the same choices - we're just fortunate our choices haven't been written down to be read for ages to come.

Sorry - I'm rambling. Let me explain - when the Israelites begged for a king, God gave them exactly what they wanted:  a tall, good looking soldier.  But appearances can only take you so far and when his character failed, God replaced him with...well...what my children would call a "ginger" - a redhead.  Because, just as God told Samuel while he was looking for God's king, "...man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."

We do the same thing today - outward appearance is what opens doors.  But Isaiah 53 tells us that Jesus' choice of vessel wasn't spectacular. There was nothing about the shell He wore that would make our heads turn or would even draw us to Him.  But we know that what was within that fleshly body was God Himself. When He spoke, the world changed.  When He cried, creation groaned. And when He died, He bore God's wrath for humanity's sin - it didn't matter what He looked like on the outside at that point, right?

It's not what you come in, it's what's inside.  Take those plain vases above.  In my upper cabinet in my kitchen I have my vase collection.  I have a few bright and colorful vases, but for the most part they are plain glass and not overly fancy. These are the vases that the florist sends your arrangements in.  They don't have to be spectacular because what the florist puts inside the vase is really what matters.

We spend so much time worrying about the vessel.  Let's be a people who focus on what we put in the vessel and what comes out of the vessel, rather than what the vessel is made of or how it looks.  Does this make sense?  

"For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.  But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that just as it is written, 'Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.'"  
I Corinthians 1:26-31

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

"...seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence..."
II Peter 1:3

It's happened to all of us.  The phone rings, you check your email or read a text and find that a friend is finally reaching out.  Maybe you didn't expect it to be this person.  They had it all together and you're shocked there's trouble.  Or maybe you knew it was just a matter of time before they would ask you for help.  Or maybe they're asking you to help a friend of theirs...

Really?  Just because you're a Christian does it mean you have the answer to everybody's problems?

You cringe and immediately search for your pastor's email to pass along to your friend.  He'll have the answers and you're off the hook. 

But they don't want to talk to someone else. They want to talk to you. So you offer to pray for them, maybe even with them to encourage them but that's as far as you feel comfortable to go.

Again, really?  Just because you're a Christian does it mean you have to answer everybody's problems?

Well...I guess if I have to be brutally honest with you...my answer to the above question is...yes.

Who else has the answers in the world?  Psychologists?  Doctors? Academics?  Media?  Philosophers? Atheists?

Or Jesus?
  • Jesus said He is the Light of the World.  When the light is turned on, it's much easier to see, right?
  • Jesus said He is the Bread of Life.  When hunger is taking over, doesn't bread hit the spot?
  • Jesus said He is the Way, the Truth and the Life - who can get to the Father without Jesus?
In his second letter, Peter encourages the church that in God's divine power (love and grace) God has given us everything we need for life through the true knowledge of Jesus. How do we know Jesus? By the illuminating power of the Holy Spirit working through the written revelation of Jesus.  In other words, through the Bible.

Friends, we have the answers.  We really do.  The world does not. And if we don't share the answers, then what hope is there for the hurting and the lost?

When crisis hits, that is an opportune time to share the Way, the Truth and the Life with your friends - and even complete strangers.  But you cannot share the hope of Jesus if you don't know Him deeply yourself. So making yourself available to help the lost and come alongside the hurting demands a commitment to spiritual growth.  I know it sounds hard and maybe even scary, but the benefits outweigh the fear factor.

This weekend at Harvest Spring Lake we are doing a discipleship training conference. We are going to get you started on this calling of discipleship and answer questions like:  
  • What does it look like to come alongside a hurting friend with the hope of the gospel and the Word of God?  
  • How do you get started?  
  • Why is homework a valuable tool in counseling?  
  • What is an advocate?  
  • Can you really do this?
We'll also hit gender specific topics, as men work with men and women reach out to women.  

Friday night - 7-9 p.m. 
Saturday morning - 9 - Noon
There is no babysitting but there will be donuts. :)