Tag Archives: Mercy

LETTER TO PRISON.112416

paper plane gets stuck in barbed wireVince,

I’m really glad that you’re enjoying the Kairos small groups.  I’m just certain that small groups are the key to maintaining your relationships with God and with others.  You can be a Christian with just you and your Bible and prayer with God; but you can GROW as a Christian, and move from being a spectator to being a participant (even a leader) in the process of making disciples, if you’re involved in regular meetings with other brothers where you talk about what God is doing in your lives.  Praise God for what He is doing in your life.  I’m always astounded when I think that God has picked us out, before the foundation of the earth, to BE HIS.  Whoa!

I hope you get to work as a servant on Kairos #5.  I will be there, and maybe we could spend a little time visiting together.  At the very least, you can come to the closing.  I’m looking forward to seeing you.  You’re right; being a servant on a weekend is almost better than being on a weekend the first time, because you know more and you get to see more and understand more.

When you talk about your daughters, not being hungry or homeless, it makes me think about my kids; they’re not perfect, but they’re not on hard drugs, they’re gainfully employed; they’re in their 40’s and not still living at home.  (And a couple of them are serious trusters in Jesus.) What more could I ask?

So here’s the main reason I’m writing you back so soon.  I want to answer the question of “Why bad things happen to good people (particularly to little kids and/or innocent people).  What is the point?  Why does God do this? Or maybe better “Why does God let things like this happen.” Especially to people who don’t deserve it.

I don’t know.  I’m not in charge.  In the Book of Job, God says to Job, near the end of the book, “Who are you to question Me?  Where were you when I created all this?”  In Romans 5:3-5, it says, “3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” NLT Continue reading

JESUS AND THE SINNERS: 090216:

A fondue dinner with friend on a beautiful place

In Luke 5:27-32, is the story of when Jesus called Levi (Matthew), a tax collector, to be His disciple, and Levi had a big banquet at his house with Jesus as guest of honor, and invited all his friends (mostly tax collectors and sinners).  The Pharisees asked the disciples, “Why do y’all eat with sinners?”  Jesus heard what they thought, and said, “The healthy don’t need a doctor, but the sick.  I didn’t come to call those who think they’re righteous, but those who know they’re sinners.” NLT

In Matthew 9:9-13: speaking of the same episode, Matthew (yes the same as Levi), tells the story like this: Jesus said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, sick people do.”  Then He added, “I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.  For I have not come to call those who think they’re righteous, but those who know they’re sinners.” NLT

And in Mark 2:13-17: Same story; same comments, except this time it says, “There were many of this kind [tax collectors and sinners] who followed Him.”

‘Course the real revelation in this story comes in Luke 15, where it begins with, “Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach.  This made the Pharisees complain that he was associating with such sinful people – even eating with them.” Then Jesus told this story (actually 3 stories).  First He told of a man who had 100 sheep, lost one, then left the 99 to go search for that one sheep till he found it; then he had a celebration.  Just like, “There is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and turns to God, than in 99 righteous people who haven’t strayed.”

Second, Jesus talks about the woman who lost a coin: she searched high and low till she found it, then she called all the neighbors and had a party to celebrate; just like “there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.”

Third: Jesus told the story of the “Lost Son”, the one we know as the “Prodigal Son”.  We all know the story, how the younger son takes the father’s money and goes way off and wastes it on wine, women and song.  Then, when he’s feeding pigs and starving because Jews don’t each pork (or pork feed either), he “comes to himself”, and goes home to repent and become a servant in his father’s house.  But the father won’t have it.  He dresses him in velvet; puts a ring on his finger, kills the fatted calf, and has a gigantic party, because his son, who was lost, is found; the one who was dead, is come back to life.”  The story then addresses the older brother, who is unforgiving (he’s the one who is often equated with the Pharisees.

If you look back to the beginning of these episodes, the Pharisees are complaining about the sinners, and Jesus tells these stories, TO THEM.

What ‘moral’ can we draw from these passages about tax collectors and sinners on the one hand, vs the Pharisees on the other?  What does Jesus think?  If we’re disciples (students/followers) of Jesus, if we have Jesus’ Spirit living in our hearts, what are we supposed to think?  Let’s see. Continue reading

CAN PEOPLE CHANGE? 072716

Jesus and the Woman taken in AdulteryIn John 8:3-9 is this story: “Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught[b] in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned.  But what do You say?” . . . He said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”  . . . Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last.  . . . ” He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours?  Has no one condemned you?”  She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”

So here’s my question: Can people change?  And if they can, how do they do it?  How do we stop following the traditions of men and start to follow Jesus?  It is not a choice between truth and love; it is finding the place of truth AND love.  (Sorta like Jesus did in this story.)  We can’t  seek a forever solution (we want one, but people just don’t have it in them).  We can only do what God tells us to do today.  I don’t have the right to cast the first stone.

In the traditions of the Jews the person who witnessed the wrongful act and testified against the wrongdoer had to be willing to cast the first stone when they stoned the person to death.  That’s a pretty hard task, when everyone is going to see.  You had to be sure of what you were accusing someone of; and sure that you weren’t just as guilty as that person, of that crime or some other.  It’s like they had to put their integrity where their mouth was.

We never get clean BEFORE  we turn from our sins, only after, we are converted (changed).  We are changed, we surrender and turn to God, THEN we are cleansed of our sins.  When we’re hooked on drugs or control or sexual sin or pride, no one can help us, ’cause we don’t think we need help. But when we’re injured, damaged and suffering, we suddenly become vulnerable and open to be comforted and changed.  Then we suddenly change from rocky to fertile soil; ready, even willing, to receive the Good Seed of God’s Word.  Praise the Lord!

Whad-a-ya-mean Love?072216

TROOPS ON PARADE.072216“Be ye kind one to the other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another …” Eph 4:28-32

When my two oldest sons, Sam and Andy, were in high school, they went to military school in New Mexico. Secretly, they said they wanted to go to military school because there was less discipline there than there was at home. I don’t know. Maybe. All in all, I think they learned a lot there, both in education and in life experiences. Not all good, but certainly some was. They made good grades; they excelled in the military training; and they responded well to the military discipline (probably learned that at home?). ‘Course they weren’t perfect angels, but who is? Both of them got in some trouble from time to time, partly because they were a little resistant to authority. Can’t imagine where they got that. As a matter of fact, both of them got kicked out for various reasons, but both of them got back in and graduated.

This little story is about Sam. One day, for some unknown reason, he decided he’d stick the fire hose in the window of the Tactical Officer’s office (Tach Office) and fill it up with water while the Tach Officer was away doing his rounds one night. When he came back, the tach office was about 2½ feet deep in water (up to the bottom of the windows), and when he opened the door, the water knocked him down flowing out the door. He was a little hot.

Because there is a “secret code of honor,” nobody squealed on Sam for several hours. Finally, the officers devised a way to put enough pressure on everybody that someone finally gave in and told them who did it. That was maybe 10:00–11:00 in the morning. Shortly after that, the Officer of the Day called me on the phone in our hometown, maybe 6 hours away. His first words were, “Come and get the sumbitch; we don’t want him around here.” After that, he gave me a short version of what happened and then told me that Sam and all his belongings would be waiting for me out on the curb, whenever I was able to get there. He knew how far I was away, and he didn’t care. Then I said, “I want to talk to Sam.” The guy said, “He doesn’t want to talk to you.” But he put him on. Continue reading

THE PRAYER OF ST. FRANCIS.070516

Saint Francis

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace, Where there is hatred, let me sow love; Where there is injury, pardon;  Where there is doubt, faith;  Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; and  Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; To be understood, as to understand;  To be loved, as to love. For it is in giving that we receive,  It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and  it is dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen”

I don’t know much about St. Francis.  I’ve heard a few stories.  I’ve read a few passages from him and about him, about how he was so in harmony with nature and with people; how he was totally surrendered to his place and time; how he, more than most, fulfilled the Golden Rule (see Matt 7:12)   He probably did a better job of following Jesus (of being like Jesus) than anyone I know of.  You know why?  Because he had the attitude of Jesus, the attitude of a humble, obedient servant. (Philippians 2:5-8)  His prayer, cited above, is a clear indication that he got it.

Like Jesus said, “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, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven . . “ Matt 5:43-45.

PRESENT YOUR BODIES (as a living sacrifice).051016

Salt and LightRomans 12:1 says, “I beg you, brothers and sisters, to present you bodies as a living sacrifice ….”

Romans 12 is a great message about “If you’re going to claim to be a Christian, act like it.”  For me, ‘present your body’ means to show up, be available, be willing to be obedient to serve and to do what God tells you to, one moment at a time.

So here’s my revelation for today: If you are a ‘true’ believer in Jesus, one who is steadily focusing on God, trusting Him and obeying Him, seeking His Face, surrendering to Him on a daily basis; you have the Spirit of the LORD GOD ALMIGHTY living in your own personal heart.  That is what it means to ‘be a Christian’.  Now, if you have God’s Holy Spirit in you, and you show up anywhere, work, school, a kid’s soccer game, a band concert, a walk in the park, a flood rescue effort, you are presenting your body as a living sacrifice, for God to use to touch other peoples lives.  You are making yourself available to do and to say exactly what God wants you to do and say.

Are y’all ready for this?  You know where it says, “You are the salt of the earth.”  “You are the light of the world.”  If you have God’s Spirit in your own heart, then you ARE doing what salt does.  You are flavoring and keeping the world from corruption and decay, just like salt flavors food and keeps it from decay.  You ARE God’s shining Light in the world, to show people the way, to comfort them, to keep them safe and sound.  You don’t even have to try; or plan; or prepare; or get a special education; or have a special degree, or ordination, or anointing.  You already ARE anointed.  You have the Spirit of the Living God in your own little heart.  You just can’t get any more anointed than that.  All you have to do is SHOW UP!

So I’ve been reading the whole 12th chapter of Romans, and bringing those things back to the first sentence of the chapter.  In verses 3-8 it talks about how God has given each of us a special gift (or gifts) to help the Body of Christ.  There’s a lot of talk about learning what your gift is, so you can do a better job of using it for God’s honor and glory.  I think it’s great to focus some attention on understanding what God’s plan is for your life, so you can do a better job of serving Him and others; but you know what I really think?  I think if you really trust God, and you surrender your whole self to Him on a regular basis, it doesn’t matter whether you know what your specific gift is or not.  If you SHOW UP when God tells you to, He will use you and your gift(s) in miraculous ways, even if you don’t know exactly what they are. Continue reading

WHO DO YOU TRUST? (REALLY) 042716

Eroded beach with house, Pititinga, Natal (Brazil)

So we were talking about obedience; and we were talking about ‘building your house on the sand’ as a metaphor for ‘basing our lives on principles and practices that shift and change’.   We should touch on another aspect of this obedience.  If, as we alluded to earlier, obedience is about doing what God tells us to do; then what about the First of the Ten Commandments, “Thou shalt have no other gods before (besides) Me.”  We’re back to that question about who or what do we worship (or serve)?  Who do we really trust?  Who do we really turn to when we’re in dire straits with nowhere to turn?

Well, I’m good about saying that ultimately I trust God; not my job, nor my employer, nor my network of friends and relatives, nor my piddly bank account or my credit cards.  But do I really?  I say that; but every time I get in a bind, I’m steadily calculating where I’m going to go to stay afloat for another few days or weeks.  Funny thing is; usually something “falls out of the sky” that I was completely not expecting, so clearly that it just had to be God.  It’s happened over and over so often that I just can’t deny that God really has delivered me from evil or destruction or punishment when I didn’t deserve to be delivered.  God’s mercy.  (You know ‘mercy’: that’s when God loves you and takes care of you, even when you deserve to be punished.)

Problem is, we all have been in that position, when to our logical mind it looks like there is a logical man-made explanation for how we got out of that trap; and we don’t give the credit to God.  Somebody comes by and says, “You know that just couldn’t be God; that was your boss, or your rich uncle, or just the luck of the draw.”  And the sad thing is we let it slide and agree by omission.  We don’t say, “You may think that, but I know it was God.”  Just so you’ll know, nobody else may think a thing about it, but God didn’t miss it.  The true miracle is that God still loves me (and you) anyway.  Some people go for years, running in the bushes, worshipping those idols of ‘other stuff’ taking care of them, growing more and more calcified in their position of trusting something else besides God, acknowledging something else besides God is our real god.  (Often it’s our selves.)  The really sad part is that we’re not only worshipping idols, but we’re getting more and more used to trusting in “the house on the sand”; getting closer and closer to the time of ‘great was the fall of it”.  That’s dis-obedience and the fruits (the results) of disobedience all rolled into one.

In case somebody didn’t get it; trusting in something else besides God to take care of you is not only 1] building your house on the sand (basing your life on shifting, shaky stuff); but it’s also  2] worshipping idols; serving other gods than the One True God.  That’s disobedience of the first order.   That’s the exact definition of what Jesus was talking about when he said, “Everyone who hears My words, and does NOT do them is like a foolish man . . .” Only an idiot would do that.  I guess if you want you can join me as a ‘recovering’ idiot.  You know, like members of AA talk about being a ‘recovering alcoholic’.  We never completely grow out of it.  We have to get up every morning, turn ourselves over to God and say, “One more time Lord, I’m turning myself over to You; I’m dying to myself so You can live Your eternal life in me.  I love You.”  From Out o’th’ Bushes, © 2016, by Tex Tonroy