Truly Thankful For Mercy

I have not concealed thy loving kindness and truth from the great congregation. Withhold not thou thy tender mercies from me, O Lord: let thy loving kindness and thy truth continually preserve me.” (KJV)
Excerpt from Psalm 40:10b-11

One Sunday, an irate woman announced to some members of the congregation that she would be leaving our church and changing her membership. When she was asked why, she responded: “Because the Pastor here does not preach enough about sin and judgment.”

Maybe this woman was missing the good ‘ole days when people came to church to have right and wrong clearly delineated for them. Many believe that the world was a better place when sin was sin and right was right and only those who entered into the kingdom through the straight and narrow gate would be saved. Everyone else (and this would include the vast majority of the world’s population) would be condemned. Eternally.

I remember those good ole days. But I don’t remember them as being quite so good. I remember that there was much confusion between eternal truth and temporal church tradition, partly because no one was allowed to question the Bible and there was no real Bible study – only prescribed Bible commentary. I remember people proclaiming things in church that they did not practice outside of church. And I remember people who did not meet the standards of religious ethical behavior being ostracized, publicly humiliated and spiritually damaged.

I could not really argue with the woman who left our church because she did not hear enough about sin and judgment. The truth is, that like the Psalmist, I can only give to others that which I have received from God. The Psalmist draws a direct correlation between the loving kindness and truth that he has proclaimed to his congregation, and the loving kindness and truth that he has received from God. To be sure, there is acknowledgment of sin and sin’s consequences in telling the truth, but the essence of the Psalmist’s message was the loving kindness of God. That loving kindness opens the door to true confession without coercion, making us truly thankful for mercy instead of judgment. Others may feel compelled to expound upon sin and judgment. I’ll just stick with loving kindness and truth. That’s what I’ve received and that’s what I need.

Dear God, we thank you for giving us not what we deserve, but what we need. Now help us to take that which you have given and give it to others.  Amen.


Don’t Hope…Decide

“But at the beginning of creation God made them male and female.’  ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”
Mark 10:6-9

Michael Hargrove tells about a scene at an airport that literally changed his life. He was picking up a friend. He noticed a man coming toward him carrying two light bags. The man stopped right next to Hargrove to greet his family. The man motioned to his youngest son (maybe six years old) as he laid down his bags. They hugged and Hargrove heard the father say, “It’s so good to see you, son. I missed you so much!” “Me, too, Dad!” said the son. The oldest son (maybe nine or ten) was next. “You’re already quite the young man. I love you very much, Zach!” Then he turned to their little girl (perhaps one or one-and-a-half). He kissed her and held her close. He handed his daughter to his oldest son and declared, “I’ve saved the best for last!” and preceded to give his wife a long, passionate kiss. “I love you so much!” He said to his wife softly.

Hargrove interrupted this idyllic scene to ask, “Wow! How long have you two been married?”

“Been together fourteen years total, married twelve of those,” the man replied, as he gazed into his wife’s face.

“Well then, how long have you been away?”

The man turned around and said, “Two whole days!” Hargrove was stunned. “I hope my marriage is still that passionate after twelve years!”

The man stopped smiling and said, “Don’t hope, friend . . . decide!”

And that’s it, isn’t it? For most of us it comes down to a decision. “Till death us do part.” It doesn’t happen in every relationship, but that is still the ideal that Jesus gives us.

Lee and Wendy Perkins had buried two spouses. However, when they met and decided to marry, they said they were going to make this marriage work no matter what. It was a happy third marriage for them both… it was a marriage that lasted 42 years.

When we step before the altar to wed what have we decided… to make it work at all cost? Or to see how long this will last? Let me suggest to decide together that you will make it work… which means give and take on both sides as you grow and move together to become one.

Don’t just hope it will work. Decide it will work. And then stick to it.

Dear Lord, I thank you for my marriage of 52 years. I thank you for all the good times and even the difficult times. I thank you for the love, wisdom, and understanding of my wife. I thank you for the blessings of all these happy years together. Lord, it has been a hoot. You really know how to pick ’em. In and through Jesus. Amen.

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