God’s Mercy vs. our Failures

July 29, 2014

…& mercy shall follow me all the days of my life...”  (Psalm 23:6)

Mercy is the unconditional love of God. This word is found 366 times in the Bible. (Perhaps God wants us to know we need His mercy & unconditional love every day of the year – & He covers Leap Year!)  Many people think we don’t hear about God’s mercy until the Sermon on the Mount; however, we find 280 mercy references in the Old Testament.

King David concludes Psalm 100 with the observation that God’s mercy is everlasting.  But my favorite Old Testament reference to God’s mercy is found at the end of Psalm 23.  David’s greatest Psalm ends with the declaration that he is positively certain the mercy of God will follow him always.

The Hebrew word he uses for ‘follow’ can also be translated as ‘pursue.’  David brings the most profound description of the relationship between God & man to a conclusion by declaring the unconditional love of God will pursue him all the days of his life. By application this is true for all who confess, “the Lord is my Shepherd.”

There are many ways to fail. However, when we understand the meaning of God’s mercy we should realize that we cannot possibly out-fail His mercy.  No matter what your failures have been God has sent you a message wrapped in this five letter word “mercy.”  The amazing message is that you did not win His love by a positive performance and you do not lose His love by a negative performance.  God’s love and acceptance of you is unconditional.  According to David, the mercy of God is not only there like a rock for you, but like a hound of Heaven God is pursuing you with His unconditional love and forgiveness.

Dick Woodward, Happiness that Doesn’t Make Good Sense

 


A Spiritual Cardiogram

January 14, 2014

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts.  Point out anything in me that offends You, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”  (Psalm 139: 23, 24 NLT)

Jeremiah wrote that our heart is “… deceitful above all things…”  He asked: “Who can know it?” Then he answered his own question by writing that only the Lord knows our heart.  (Jeremiah 17: 9, 10)

Jesus described serious heart pathology when He taught: “For from within, out of a person’s heart come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness …”  He then declared that all these evil things and more come from within our heart and not from outside influences. (Mark 7: 21, 22) Jesus agreed with the Proverb: “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)

The Apostle Paul wrote: “When the Lord comes, He will … reveal our private motives.” Then we will receive praise, or the opposite. (1Corinthians 4: 3-5)

Consider the amazing wisdom of David when he prayed his Psalm 139 prayer that I label A Spiritual Cardiogram.  To paraphrase and summarize, David was asking God to take the lid off his mind and show Him the thoughts that should not be there.  Then he asked God to take the lid off his heart and show him the motives that should not be there because he wanted to walk, looking up, with eternity in his perspective.

We should not wait until judgment to have a spiritual cardiogram any more than we would wait for a heart attack before having a medical cardiogram.  We should ask God to take the lid off our thoughts and motives now while we can address the challenges we find there.


That Means Me!

May 1, 2013

“I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions, and like a cloud, your sins.  Sing, O heavens, for the Lord has done it! Shout, you lower parts of the earth; break forth into singing, you mountains…”  (Isaiah 44: 22, 23)

When one of the greatest men of God who ever lived committed the sins of adultery and murder, filled with remorse and contrition (which means exceedingly sorry for sin), he prayed a great model prayer for forgiveness.  If you have sinned and you don’t know how to confess your sin read Psalm 51.  Make it your own prayer and you will do a great job of confessing your sin.

In the original Hebrew David actually asked God to un-sin his sin.  Any devout believer who has really sinned will resonate with this prayer petition of David.  The spirit of the prayer petition is: “Oh God! If You could only make it as if it had never happened!”

That introduces us to one of the most beautiful words in the Bible: “justified.” This word means “just as if I’d never sinned” and it means “to be declared righteous.” David uses this word in his prayer of repentance.

Sunday school children are taught a song that summarizes these Scripture verses:  “God has blotted them out, I’m happy as I can be. God has blotted them out, I’ll turn to Isaiah and see. Chapter forty-four, twenty-two and three.  He’s blotted them out and I can just shout! For that means me!”

They may be merely singing words when they’re children but when they grow up and become people who sin they may shout with tears when they read these verses and remember that song.

When you sin can you shout, “That means me?


Why Do You Want to Live?

March 21, 2013

“Who is the man who desires life, and loves many days, that he may see the good?” (Psalm 34: 12)

When David was a fugitive from King Saul many other fugitives joined him hiding out in caves.  About 400 who were in debt, in distress and discontent joined David (1 Samuel 22:2).  Psalm 34 gives us little summaries of sermons David preached to those fugitives and failures that turned them into the mighty men of David.

He began by challenging them with questions like: “How many of you want to live?  How long do you want to live?  Do you want to live so you may see the good?”  When we are asked how long we want to live we almost never give a precise answer like a specific number of years, months, weeks and days.  We just answer, “Many!”

In that culture “seeing the good” was an expression that meant a person was convinced there was something good in this life and they were going to find it.  David preached that the Lord was the good thing they were seeking.

After telling them about the most humiliating and frightening experience of his life, his great battle cry to them was: “Magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt His name together!”  (v. 3)

David identified with the weakness of these failures.  He then preached that the greater their weakness the more they exalted the name of the God they served when He used them.  Finding the strength of God in their weakness made them the mighty men God used in mighty ways.

Have you learned how to find God’s strength in your weakness?  Have you discovered how the greater your weaknesses – the more you can magnify the Lord?


To it or Through it?

March 16, 2013

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”  (Psalm 23:4)

The great Shepherd psalm of David is the most familiar chapter in the Bible.  It is loved by Jews, Catholics and all the shades and grades of Protestants.  Psalm 23 is the greatest description ever written of what the relationship between God and man can be.

After declaring that his God makes him lie down in green pastures and leads him beside still waters David also declares there to be times when he finds himself in a valley that is so dark it is like the shadow of death.  However, he is comforted by the staff of his Shepherd.  He is referencing the confidence he has in the ability of his Shepherd to lead him through that valley, not just to that valley.

He is also comforted by the rod of his Shepherd.  The rod of a shepherd was a defensive weapon used to keep predators away from the sheep.  David is saying here that he has great confidence in the ability of his Shepherd to protect him from anything he might encounter in that valley.

The bottom line is that David knows his Shepherd God can not only lead him to a valley but through that valley.

Are you in a valley right now?  If you are, realize your Shepherd God wants to lead you through that valley.  Trust His perfect ability to lead and protect you all the way through your valley.

Faith nearly always involves choices.  The choice is yours. So, which is it going to be?  Is it going to be “To it, or through it?”


A Beautiful Word

August 28, 2012

“Surely Your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life…” (Psalm 23:6 NLT)

Mercy is the unconditional love of God.  This beautiful word is found three hundred and sixty-six times in the Bible.  (Perhaps God wants us to know we need His unconditional love, every day of the year – and He even covers Leap Year!)  Many people think we don’t hear about the mercy of God in the Bible until we get to the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew.  However, two hundred and eighty of these references to the mercy of God are found in the Old Testament.

My favorite Old Testament reference to the mercy of God is found in the last verse of the Twenty-third Psalm.  David ends his greatest Psalm with the declaration that he is positively certain the mercy of God will follow him all the days of his life. The Hebrew word he uses here for “follow” is a word that can also be translated “pursue.”  David brings the most profound and eloquent description of the relationship between God and man ever written to a conclusion by making the declaration that the unconditional love of God will pursue him all the days of his life.  By application, this is true for any of us who will confess our sins.

There are so many ways to fail.  When we understand the meaning of the mercy of God, however, we should realize that we cannot possibly out-fail His mercy.  As I place my failures on a scale, I like to place all those times the Bible uses the word “mercy” on the scale opposite my failures.  I invite you to do the same thing no matter how horrible you think your sins are.


The Great Shepherd

April 22, 2012

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”    (Psalm 23: 1-3)

These are some of the most familiar words in the Bible loved by Protestants, Catholics and Jews.  They describe our relationship with God.  They tell us that when God is our Shepherd we have green pastures, still waters and a full cup that never empties.  This is because our great Shepherd makes us lie down.  He may use problems we cannot solve to make us lie down.  However, since we are creatures of choice we can choose to get up again.  When we do our green pastures turn brown and our cup empties again.  He then restores our soul by driving us into the paths of righteousness that restore us.

Many devout souls also love this psalm because they see in it a description of a believer’s death.  To them death is the great Shepherd coming into a life for the last time making a devout person lie down so He can give them the green pastures that never turn brown and the full cup that never empties in the eternal state.  The only way He can give us these eternal blessings is to make us lie down in death.

The key to these eternal blessings is found in the opening words of the psalm: “The Lord is my Shepherd.” Meditate on these words one word at a time.  They are the key to living here and in the hereafter.  Can you say that He is your Shepherd today and always?