Thursday, September 11, 2014

“Mercy triumphs over judgment!” ~ James 2:13

I've struggled a lot with this post. I tried to write last week, and several times this week, but for one reason or another I haven't been able to write. Honestly, part of it is fear. This topic strikes close to the one that caused us to leave our last church. There is fear about what people might think. There is fear about rocking the boat.

“The fear of human opinion disables; trusting in God protects you from that.” ~ Proverbs 29:25

I know I shouldn't be afraid. I know what God has shown me in His Word and the study He's had me on for the past years. I know that people's opinions aren't as important as God's opinion. I probably should read my post about fear and being afraid again. Here's the link in case you struggle like I do. More important than my fear or worry is the truth of God - He is loving, He is merciful, He gives grace. These things are true - amazingly wonderfully true - all the time!

"Among the lost souls in hell there is not one that can say, "I went to Jesus, and He refused me." It is not possible that you or I should be the first to whom Jesus shall break His word. "This man receiveth sinners," but He repulses none. We come to Him in weakness and sin, with trembling faith, and small knowledge, and slender hope; but He does not cast us out. We come by prayer, and that prayer broken; with confession, and that confession faulty; with praise, and that praise far short of His merits; but yet He receives us. We come diseased, polluted, worn out, and worthless; but He doth in no wise cast us out. Let us come again today to Him who never casts us out." ~ C.H. Spurgeon

This idea that Jesus will accept us if we go to Him, confess our sins and ask forgiveness, and allow Him into our hearts and lives - I always believed that. I've known that since I was 4 years old and accepted the Lord. I've never questioned that belief or wondered about it. But...the following idea was raised by someone in a position of authority..."It doesn't matter if we accept Christ, but if Christ accepts us." It immediately raised concerns for me. It immediately upset me. It immediately caused me to question and doubt even more strongly the words this speaker had been saying for months.

“God told them, ‘I’ve never quit loving you and never will. Expect love, love and more love! And so now, I’ll start over with you and build you up again,’” ~ Jeremiah 31:3

“God’s arms are always extended; we are the ones who turn away.”
~ Philip Yancey

God loves us and seeks a relationship with us. His arms are open wide and willing to accept us if we just let go and give our hearts to Him. We don't have to be afraid that we are too bad, too broken, too messed up or too sinful. If we confess, God will forgive. It is as simple, as profound, as incredible as that. He is in charge but we have to humble ourselves. And once we ask forgiveness, that sin is gone, forgotten, never to be brought up again.

“When God forgives, He never casts up at us the mean, miserable things we have done. ‘I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins.’ A cloud cannot be seen when it is gone.”
~ Oswald Chambers

“Cry for help and you’ll find its grace and more grace.” ~ Isaiah 30:19

Sometime in high school, I learned a simple description of the difference between grace and mercy. Grace is getting what we don't deserve. Mercy is not getting what we do deserve. These meanings have stuck with me and while I probably have sometimes taken their importance for granted, in the past few years I have been so grateful and humbled by God's amazing grace and mercy for us. He doesn't have to give grace, but He chooses to. We deserve judgment for our sins and our disobedience, and yet He has incredible mercy. Such amazing love!

"Meditate a little on this mercy of the Lord. It is tender mercy. With gentle, loving touch, He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds. He is as gracious in the manner of His mercy as in the matter of it…It is great mercy. There is nothing little in God; His mercy is like Himself—it is infinite. You cannot measure it. His mercy is so great that it forgives great sins to great sinners, after great lengths of time, and then gives great favours and great privileges, and raises us up to great enjoyments in the great heaven of the great God…It is unfailing mercy. It will never leave thee. If mercy be thy friend, mercy will be with thee in temptation to keep thee from yielding; with thee in trouble to prevent thee from sinking; with thee living to be the light and life of thy countenance; and with thee dying to be the joy of thy soul when earthly comfort is ebbing fast." ~ C.H. Spurgeon

Here was part of my struggle - someone in authority was telling me that I was a terrible sinner who could not be assured of my salvation, that it was only through strict obedience to described interpretations of Scripture and essentially hard work that I could try to prove my faith and even then it might not be true faith. This contradicted everything I had been raised to believe, everything I had come to believe in my own walk with God. But it sounded so true and Biblically supported. I was conflicted and I was lost and I was upset.

"It seems to me that we are far too willing to short sell grace in order to obtain a set of rules that will "prove" our devotion."
~ Darlene “Dee” Parsons (in this article)

"Look back over your own history as revealed to you by grace, and you will see one central fact growing large: God is love. . . . In the future, when trial and ...difficulties await you, do not be fearful; whatever and whoever you may lose faith in, let not this faith slip from you:
God is Love." ~ Oswald Chambers

The best thing that came out of this time of confusion and anger and hurt was my deeper faith and trust in God. I sought truth in God's Word. I prayed and I listened for God's direction. I sought the guidance and wisdom of strong Godly men and women that God had placed in my life. And I looked to the truth of what I already knew - God loves me, God saved me...I am His and He is mine...I am accepted in the Beloved...I am a child of God and nothing can change that truth.

“I'm not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don't get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus.” ~ Philippians 3:12-14

God has done the true work. I am nothing without Him and His wonderful grace and mercy. I am a sinner who doesn't deserve anything but judgment...and yet God is gracious, He is merciful and He loves me. He loves you. No matter what you've done, no matter what you think about your worth - God is waiting for you to see His wide open arms of love and to confess your sin and let His truth and grace and mercy fill your heart.

“He has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.” ~ 2 Timothy 1:9

“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
~ Hebrews 4:16

I'm not perfect and my relationship with God is a journey that I will be on forever. I've learned that just because someone is in a position of authority doesn't mean that they are the ultimate authority...the ultimate authority is God. I've learned to depend on God study His Word and seek His direction in my life...I'm learning to not be afraid. I've learned what I believe and why I believe it. I've learned that growing involves struggle and conflict. I've been reminded how much God loves me and it makes me want to be sure that you know that God loves you too.

I heard this song for the first time at my cousin Brandon & his wife Leyate's wedding last September. Theirs was a beautifully heartfelt rendition by their friends during a time of worship in their wedding ceremony and I just sobbed as I was reminded just how much God loves us.
He does love us...oh how He loves us.

Dear heavenly Father, thank You, thank You, thank You for how much You love us. Thank You for Your amazing grace and Your incredible mercy. Thank You for the many things I've learned about You. Thank You for teaching me and surrounding me with people who help draw me closer to You. Help me to do the same for others. Please help me to not be afraid. Help me to place my complete trust and faith in all circumstances. I love you. Amen

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