Sunday, February 27, 2011

Mercy for the merciful

Just a brief note on some connections I've been making recently. For the next few weeks, we'll be studying spiritual gifts in the Jr. High Sunday School class. This week we started off looking at 1 Cor. 12:4-7, where the gifts come from, what their purpose is, etc. To wrap up the class and lead into next week's class, I had my students start working on a Spiritual Gifts Survey. I completed the survey the night before, and as expected, I was strong in certain areas (teaching and administration) and weak in others (mercy and exhortation). This was no surprise to me, particularly in my weak areas because I am very aware that my first and natural tendency is not to build others up, but instead to tear them down and build myself up. (Praise the Lord His love for me is based on His holiness and steadfastness and not my own or I would be without hope!)

After taking the test and thinking about the results more this morning, I began making some connections that I wasn't too keen on...not because they were bad connections but because they require repentance and change on my part. The last several weeks, I continue to go back to and think on Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. The portion that stood out to me recently is Matthew5:7, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy." The merciful, huh? Well, that excludes me, at least most times.

Though my spiritual giftedness is not characterized by mercy, I still must extend mercy for God calls His followers to exhibit the character of Christ. Christ's life was characterized by mercy. Mine should be as well. Though it is not something I am naturally inclined to do, I must extend mercy to those people I feel do not deserve it...especially if I wish to be the recipient of mercy myself. And boy, do I!

This all connects back to my struggle to love the unlovable, as I wrote about in a previous post. I must extend mercy to that person who has wronged me and those around me. I struggle tremendously with this...and I'm afraid that I must admit that thus far, I have been disobedient. Hopefully by posting these things publicly on my blog and Facebook (though few will read it), I will be held more accountable to follow through with this requirement of obedience.

Lord, my heart longs to be pleasing to You but my flesh desires to satisfy itself through prideful actions and an unmerciful attitude. Please break my stubborn spirit so that my thoughts and actions bring You glory.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Graduation Pictures

I’m just checking this Windows Live Writer thing out to see if it actually works and if it is more user-friendly than the BlogSpot interface. In the meantime, enjoy these graduation photos from our family’s visit in December when Kyle and I earned our Masters degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

And I attempted to make a quick video using Windows Live Movie Maker.  Same photos, just put to music and a bit snazzier transitions.

Graduation Video, 2010 Tags:

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Loving when there's no desire to do so

I feel that I must always start my blog posts with an apology concerning my posting delinquency. But then I think...hey, no one is relying on me for current news, words of wisdom, or posts of any scheduled nature so relax.

I've been feeling particularly reflective and introspective the last few days. When I feel that way, it usually turns into me discovering areas of my life that are far from where they should be. Such is the case today. I do not write this post for anyone to pity me or try to "encourage" me that the situation is otherwise for I know the state of my heart. I would covet your prayers though for my further sanctification and diligence in obedience and removal of anything in my life that is not of Christ.

Though, by the forgiveness that Christ offers through His sacrifice, my sins have been removed and His righteousness accounted to me, I still struggle with my old flesh (Romans 7). The particular plight of my heart as of recent is my inability to love a certain person. While I would greatly enjoy (for the gratification of my spiteful flesh) delving into all the legitimate reasons I have for not loving this person, that's not the issue.

The issue is this: I'm disobeying God because I am not seeking to love this person as He commands. Instead, I'm seeking to find further reason to dislike this person at each turn...and my searching is always fruitful. But legitimate my dislike for a person may be, no matter how abhorrent this person's actions, no matter how dishonorable the person is to the name of Christ has no bearing on this situation. God's command is to love, period.

My recent study of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 keeps bringing this to the forefront (see Matthew 5:38-48 at the bottom). God calls me not to retaliate when I am the victim of personal injustice. Instead of retaliating, I am to be generous and...ugh...loving. I am so conflicted in how to love this person. First is my obvious battle with fleshly desires. This person doesn't deserve love so I'm more than reluctant to give it. Secondly, there are real and serious issues of immorality, disobedience, and blatant disregard for God that must be addressed. How can I love in such a way as to show God's gracious and merciful character while not endorsing this person's actions and lifestyle? These two reasons intertwine to cause a great problem for me: I do not speak to this person because I know the only thing I will say will be rebuke. How can I show love to this person when I can't even bring myself to speak to the person?

This situation of my disobedience is all the more dire when I recall 1 John 4:20-21: "If anyone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother." If I am to say that I am a Christian and that I love God, I must love this person. This person proclaims to know Christ, and though living in willful disobedience to God's commands, I am still commanded to extend love to this person. I post this to ask that you, dear friends, join in praying for me that I can do this.

Oh, LORD, you know my struggle right now. You know how my only desire is to give this person "what for" for the wrong they have been doing to me and others. I have no desire to show this person compassion or love. I don't even know where to begin. But you do. You are the perfect example of steadfast love of those who don't deserve it. You love me in spite of all that I say, think, and do. Please allow me to love through your power for if I must love through my own, I will certainly fail.

Matthew 5:38-48

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.