Have Mercy!!

HaveMercyI have several very good friends whose lives are all about showing mercy. Three of them, in particular, stand out for me. Adrienne Livingston, my colleague and our mission’s Director of Anti-Human Trafficking Initiatives & Brian and Deb McIntyre who lead West Africa Mercy Ministries. These dear friends of mine serve the least of them: the forgotten, the weakest, the lonely and the ones we don’t see. They do good work and I am proud to know them and have some small part in what they do.

It occurred to me that often we leave care for the needy to the big organizations. We feel like what we have to give is not enough to make a difference. We feel like we cannot make a dent in the problem. We feel like we are ill-equipped for the task.

Our God cares about the marginalized — it is the reason He sent His son to Calvary; for us – the marginalized! Do you know what desperate state we were in before Calvary? We were lost, homeless, alone, destined to fail, empty, wicked, orphaned, imprisoned; and then Calvary found us and cleaned us up; gave us a new home; ensured that we would never be alone; gave to us a hopeful future; filled us with the Holy Spirit; forgave and cleansed us; made us children of God and joint heirs with Christ and set us free! Hallelujah!

I pray today that each one of us will have a heart for the marginalized that are all around us. May we desire to bind up the broken hearted. May we desire to heal the hurting. May we desire to care for the lonely. One person at a time we, the Body of Christ, can make a difference in this world. We don’t have to wait until the holiday “giving season” we can start today!

“He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing.” Deuteronomy 10:18

The Least of Them

What if we really saw themCaring? What if we chose not to look past them? What if did not criticize them in order to make our disregard of their presence okay? What if we trusted God with their motives? What if we didn’t sidestep them on the sidewalks? What if we didn’t ignore their phone calls? What if we didn’t pass on the opportunity to touch their lives? What if we chose to empathize? What if we carried their burden with them? We are in a season where seeing them is considered okay — but what if we made the choice to see them every day?  Who are they? They are the ignored, the marginalized, the forgotten, the hurting, the needy, the lost, the sick — all of those that need something from us that they can never pay back. We have been given the ministry of reconciliation — leading the lost back to a right relationship with our King. How can they hear the message of the cross when they have not seen a good picture of His love for them?

When my sons were small boys (and even today as men) they had such compassionate hearts. When Joe was 8 years old, he cried when we drove through a skid row type area in Dallas; he wanted us to bring the homeless home with us. When Jeremy was around that same age, he saw a family’s house burned to the ground on the news and felt that we should clean out our whole house and give it to them. We nurtured their compassion and we were careful to teach them that this compassion was a necessary part of the gospel message. It is not by happenstance that they both care deeply for the souls of people AND for the lives of people.

For all of us the truth is that all we have and all we are – can be credited to The One who made us; who provides for us; who has gifted us. So to complete the message of the gospel it is necessary that we not only live holy before men, but we live before them in a way that says that we love them. We are not autonomous beings, though we live like it most of the time. It is not okay for us to hand out tracts to people and then treat them like they should fend for themselves. It is our duty (and it should be our joy), as a part of the gospel message that we see them — really see them. “They” might need money; food; clothing OR they might need love, a hug, an encouraging word; prayer — but whatever the need is we should be standing at ready to give or to be a connector as we preach the salvation message of the cross.

The Body of Christ is powerful – we have within us the power to change the world; to bring life, hope and peace into the world. We should live our lives fully for Him – as a blessing to the world; as messengers of both hope and salvation – so that when the end comes we will have exhausted the resources He placed in us to be a blessing in this world. What if I was ‘they’? What if you were ‘they’? What if HE were ‘they’?

The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ (‭Matthew‬ ‭25‬:‭40‬)

Giving Ourselves Away

UnReservedlySelf preservation – to some degree I’m sure it is a valid concern. I hear believers say things like, ‘I am available to help, but I’m not giving them all of my time’ or ‘They don’t need to know everything about me’ or ‘We are in the same small group, but they are not in my inner circle of friends’. Well, you probably have never said any of these things – or statements like them – but I certainly have.

The fall has made us selfish, fearful, distrusting, stingy, self-seeking; we all have the tendency to look out for number one. That Is Not God’s Way For Us! When we placed our lives under the Lordship of Christ – we effectively gave up our right to our lives and laid our lives out as tools for Him to use for the furthering of His Kingdom. The King that we serve intends that we all live selflessly, always giving others preference, always available to lend a hand, always ready to meet a physical need, always ready with a Word from the Lord for a situation, always ready to serve. Rest is necessary – and if you’re an introvert like me – alone time may be necessary; but we don’t have the right to shut people off because of inconvenience.

I believe that we hold back some of ourselves from others because we are holding back some of ourselves from God. [OUCH! – that hurt my own heart!] We want His salvation, we want His favor, we want His blessing; but we’d rather that He not have complete control. If we give ourselves to Him at His discretion – we would more freely give ourselves to one another. If we give ourselves to Him at His discretion – it would mean that He could do with us and in us as He chooses. If we give ourselves to Him at His discretion – it would mean that He is our Lord! And there lies the rub — is He really our Lord?! I can’t answer for you — but as for me, I need to begin again this morning the process of laying my life before Him.

I want Him to be the Lord of my life, my heart, my time and my resources; not only the God of my salvation. With fear and trembling this morning I ask Him to take my life and use it to His glory. I want it to be said of my life that I gave my very life for the sake of others with no regard to what it cost me. I want His presence and power to be evident. I want people to see Christ in my love and service to them. Giving up control is not easy but with fear, trembling AND great faith in Him — I come ….

and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God. (‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭8‬:‭5‬ NASB)

Bearing One Another’s Burdens

Recently a good friend made a very touching public statement about how we, believers, should bear one another’s burdens as the law of Christ demands (Galatians 6:2). My friend was talking about our caring for one another is relates to physical, spiritual and emotional needs. He was saying that we should care enough about one another to know about a need, meet the need if possible, and walk with one another through to the solution (whether or not the need was met by us personally). In other words – taking another’s need as our own.

When read in context, the Galatians text is probably talking about us bearing with one another as we deal with the enticements and battles that we will face as Christians living in a fallen world. While the scriptural context my friend used was not perfect, the sentiment was right on target!

In James 2 we are asked this question, “If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, Go in peace, be warmed and be filled, and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? “

John 15:13 asserts, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”

In Romans 12 we are admonished, “be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality”

In Philippians 2:4 are found these words, “do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”

As I reflect on these scriptures, being the cynic that I am, I found myself thinking – do we really bear one another’s burdens? And I said NO – not unless it is a burden that:
1) We feel is worth bearing/something we deem as worthy to be called a burden
2) Will not cost us anything financially
3) Will not cause us to have to inconvenience our time/schedule

I know – I know – those of you who read this and know me well will say, “Jan, that’s just how you think!” But I want you to think about your life just over the last year.
• How many times did you make yourself available to a friend contemplating suicide? (I mean, did you even give them enough attention to know that were contemplating suicide);
• How many times did you give money that you earmarked for something else in order to ease another’s burden? (Not money from your savings, retirement, etc. – I mean sacrificially giving that ‘last 2 dollars’ so that someone could eat, sleep, be seen at the doctor, etc.);
• How many times did you commit to talk with some weekly about a problem/issue until it was resolved? (And did you keep the commitment?)
Maybe an easier question is:
• How many times did a person who calls you friend share a need, a serious need, with you and you chose to ignore it or better yet you chose to tell them ‘be warm and be filled’ without doing a thing tangible to help them or to make it better.

It’s not that we can’t do it – but will we do it? Will we allow our hearts to feel another’s pain and share in another’s joy in a real way? Or will we continue to say to one another be warm and be filled?

Love requires that we care! Next time you tell a friend – take a load off – mean it!!