O Mercy Me

Welcome to Journey 9 – O Mercy Me

Continue your Omniallinfinitude™ Journey Here

 

O Mercy Me is the ninth of the twelve Omniallinfinitude™ Journeys.  Each Journey is presented through 16 blog posts.  Even though we are now pausing or blogging a different Journey,  we highly recommend completing the journeys in order at your own pace.

Each Journey is made up of Journey Elements  (click for more information).  You can also view or download the PDF version of this Journey by clicking the O Mercy Me graphic at the top of the right sidebar.

 

Here’s how to participate:

  1. Read each blog post in the order they were posted.
  2. Complete the Journey Elements contained in each post.  Each Journey covers one attribute group and one spiritual practice.  All of the Elements relate to these in some way.
  3. Return to the Blog Post – we encourage you to comment based on the specific assignment.  Read other’s comments and engage in an online conversation.  These posts and comments are ongoing.
  4. For more information see How Does This Work on the Main Omni page.
  5. Then move on to the next post.  You can access the individual post pages from the top menu bar under Journey Elements,  or by or by clicking the links below in this post.
  6. When you complete a Journey – move on to the next Journey.  The format and Element structure will be the same in all the Journeys.
  7. Each Journey will also have its own blog,  and each post will have its own page,  in addition to appearing in the complete blog.  This will make it easier to complete the blog at your own speed,  as well as for others who start later.   We will eventually have 12 active blogs with people participating in all of them at the same time.

 

Complete the Blog Posts below in this order:

Click on the links to go to the individual blog posts with their respective comments.  Once you click to the Journal pages,  scroll up to get to the beginning of the blog post.  Each Journal post will also appear on the Journey Element Page that it follows.  For example,  Journal 9.1 will appear on the same page and directly under Remember and Read.

 

O Mercy Me: What comes to your mind?

O Mercy Me 1: Remember and Read

O Mercy Me 2: Journal 9.1 – But Wait, There’s More!

O Mercy Me 3: Analyze – Word Study

O Mercy Me 4: Journal 9.2 – A Hand Up

O Mercy Me 5: Investigate – Mercy and Grace and 10 Things

O Mercy Me 6: Journal 9.3 – A Hand Out

O Mercy Me 7: Practice – Community and Why?

O Mercy Me 8: Journal 9.4 – Ungracious

O Mercy Me 9: Inventory – Your Money

O Mercy Me 10: Journal 9.5 – It’s All about the Dash

O Mercy Me 11: Adventuring – Breaking the Ice

O Mercy Me 12: Journal 9.6 – The Crossroads

O Mercy Me 13: More Cool Stuff – What Just Happened?

O Mercy Me 14: Journal 9.7 – Nitty Gritty

O Mercy Me 15: Lyrics

O Mercy Me 16: Closure

 

While we encourage you to leave Comments,  we totally understand if you want to participate anonymously.  This format also works well for small groups meeting in person.  It’s ok to print out the PDF – just remember to keep a copy on your computer so you can use the links.

 

Credits for quotes,  music,  lyrics and videos appear in the Credits section in the back of the PDF.   Omniallinfinitude™ material may be reproduced as long as credit is given.  There is no fee for using this material.

 

Enjoy the Journey…..take your time….but take the Journey!

 

O Mercy Me – What comes to mind?

 

What comes to your mind?

 

From the cop who lets you off with a warning,
To the teacher who lets you hand in your work late,inside-of-a-prison-cell

From the boss who lets you go home early when you’re sick,
To the person who lets you go to the front of the restroom line,

We are all thankful for small mercies!

 

It’s uncomfortable being at someone’s mercy,
Especially the One sitting on the Mercy Seat.

We throw ourselves on the mercy of the court.
We beg for mercy from our foes when we’re out matched.
Invoke the Mercy Rule!
Let us go with our pride in tact.
Don’t resort to mercy killing.

 

We’d rather be in someone’s good graces
Instead of at their mercy.
We say Grace before meals and
Address some as “His or Her Grace”.article-new_ehow_images_a07_tj_aq_there-grace-period-paying-rent-800x800
They respond graciously saying,
“Grace be with you”.
And maybe even give us a grace period to pay our bills.

 

Graceful musicians play grace notes,
While others show up late….
Thinking they are gracing us with their presence.
Others prove courage really is grace under pressure
As they fight……not to fall from grace.

Eventually,
We all realize,
We are in need of Saving Grace.

 

Amazing Grace,
Grace that is sufficient,
His Grace,life-ring
Mercy and Grace,
The Grace of the Almighty God.
Rescue,  Life,  Forgiveness,  Freedom,

 

Bringing us to the place where we can finally say,
“There but for the Grace of God,  go I.”

 

COMMENT:

(In your own journal,  the downloadable PDF for this blog,  or in the Comment section for this post)

Before you begin Journey 9,  what comes to your mind as you ponder O Mercy Me?

 

O Mercy Me 1: Remember and Read

remember

Ephesians 1:7

 

In him we have redemption through his blood,  the forgiveness of sins in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.  (NIV)

 

Additional verses to remember :

Matthew 5:7 – Blessed are the merciful,  for they will be shown mercy.  (NIV)

Hosea 6:6 – For I desire mercy,  not sacrifice,  an acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings.  (NIV)

2 Corinthians 12:9 – But He said to me,  “My grace is sufficient for you,  for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  (NIV)

Ephesians 2:8-9 – For it is by grace you have been saved,  through faith,  and this is not of yourselves,  it is a gift of God,  not by works,  that no one should boast.  (NIV)

 

We always begin by memorizing the theme verse for each journey (including Book, Chapter and Verse).  Think of this as the necessary foundation for future excellence – like practicing scales on the piano or doing wind sprints or swimming laps,  or taking your vitamins,  or eating your vegetables.

What is that I hear? – OH NO!  Not memorization….

We actually recall or remember all kinds of things we’ve memorized without really even trying.  Can you think of any?

How about your phone number,  email address,  street address,  zip code,  social security number,  birthday,  names of your family,  how to get to work,  how to drive a car,  that secret recipe….or how to spell or multiply,  song lyrics,  movie scenes,  jokes,  what someone was wearing,  what car they drove,  sports statistics,  what chocolate tastes like, what the ocean smells like,  and on and on.

That’s why we call this element Remember – it’s the remembering that is important.

 

Why do we remember what we remember?

Actually,  recollection is just the tip of the memory iceberg.  Within our marvelous and mysterious brain the memory works in collaboration with us and the world – it uses all our senses and emotions.  We associate smells,  colors,  places,  rituals,  symbols,  landmarks,  even people,  with memories and when we sense the trigger,  we remember.

For now you will just have to take my word for it – there are tremendous spiritual benefits from Remembering Bible verses:

  • Strengthens our faith
  • Shapes how we view the world
  • Makes God’s Word immediately accessible
  • Guards our minds

Here are some hints to help you get started.  We all learn differently – so don’t be afraid to try some of the more unusual methods.  Plus – some of them are just plain fun.   And not only do we need to remember the verse,  we need to remember to work on remembering the verse….double whammy!

Write the verse on several post it notes or index cards and put it where you will see it such as the car,  the bathroom mirror,  the kitchen sink,  a bulletin board,  your computer screen saver,  your cell phone,  your Facebook status,  by your bed…..Or use one of the many Scripture Memory APPs now available for phones and tablets.  Scripture Typer is one of our favorites.

  • Make plans to spend five minutes,  twice a day (usually as you get up and before bed) to review.  Review often…..
  • Say it slowly,  15 times in a row,  emphasizing each word.
  • If you have already learned it in another translation,  review that one.  Once you know it in one,  look it up in a couple of others to see what is different.
  • Review it when you are waiting in line,  or on hold on the phone.
  • Sing it – make up a tune to go with it,  or say it with an accent.
  • Rap it,  paint it,  draw it,  doodle it,  or diagram it like in Pictionary
  • For extra credit,  add the verse before and the verse after.

I like to think of this remember process as Texting or Tweeting My Brain and then having my brain Text or Tweet me back.

 

Also,  remember there is a downloadable PDF available for this Journey – click on the graphic at the top of the right sidebar.   You can download it and save it on your computer where it will link to the online Bible,  a dictionary,  the videos and the songs for this Journey.  You can also type into it and of course you can print it out.  We highly encourage – however you chose to record your discoveries and experiences – everyone to periodically comment online and read each other’s comments.

 

COMMENT:

 (In your own journal,  the downloadable PDF for this blog,  or in the Comment section for this post)

Don’t forget the REMEMBER verses from Journeys 1,  2,  3,  4,  5,  6,  7 and 8 – What were they?  Keep reviewing them daily.  Try to use them in conversation and to encourage others.

 

read

Philippians 2-3,  Galatians 5,  1 Thessalonians 5

(you can change translations after you click the blue chapter links to read in other translations)

 

Please read through these four chapters in one sitting,  on three separate days; once from a modern translation,  once in a modern paraphrase,  and then finally with a pad and pencil by as you record your thoughts and observations.  It is also helpful to read the selections aloud.  As you read,  underline words that describe who God is or the names He is called.  The blue Bible Chapter links above will bring up an online Bible and you can change the translation to whatever you want.

This element is about reading what it says – try to put aside any preconceived ideas about what you think it says,  or what you may have concluded based on other studies or classes.  We are not saying those ideas are wrong,  but for this Element,  we just want to read it as if for the first time.  Please read for the storyline – and see if you can then faithfully retell it in your own words.

 

Since you cannot type into this blog – we suggest you record your answers in a journal or download/print the PDF version.

First Reading:  Modern Translation – which one did you use?

Second Reading:  Modern Paraphrase – which one did you use?

Third Reading:  Reading Notes

Philippians 2:

Philippians 3:

Galatians 5:

1 Thessalonians 5:

Descriptions of God:

Names used for God:

 

COMMENT:

(In your own journal,  the downloadable PDF for this blog,  or in the Comment section for this post.)

Share with us any names or descriptions of God you discovered.  Also share any personal observations or experiences from just reading to see what it says.

Our next blog post will be O Mercy Me 2: Journal 9.1 – But Wait,  There’s More!

 

O Mercy Me 2: Journal 9.1 – But Wait, There’s More!

 

After discovering the very bad news…..
The fact that not one of us,  on our own,  can escape the punishment for our sin,
That the holy,  righteous wrath of God must be satisfied,
That evil and sin and all the heartache and suffering they cause must be punished,
Eternally in Hell,
And how horrifying that is….

We now turn our focus to the mercy and grace of God,
Who through His own Son,  Jesus, provided the solution to our sin problem.
Jesus came to earth as a man,  and died in our place on the cross.
The perfect man provided the perfect sacrifice for all mankind,  for all time.

Jesus died in our place,  paid our ransom,  saved us.
He saved us from eternity in Hell without Him
And for eternity in Heaven with Him,
Real life,  life forever with Him,  the Good Life.

This is the Good News,  the Gospel.  It is our only Hope!

 

We can only really understand the Gospel when it sinks into our souls that Jesus actually received God’s wrath for all the sins ever committed;  past,  present,  and future – including ours – and how horrifying it was for Him.

And getting even more specific,  we deeply understand we are literally saved from Hell.
And just as the glory of Heaven is beyond our imagination so is the horror of Hell.
While the Justice of a Holy God demands we get what we deserve – Hell,
Thank God,  there is more to this story and our journey,
More than we could ever imagine.

 

The Merciful God,  who provided a way for us to escape what we deserve – thru Jesus,
Is also a Gracious God who then adopts us as His children and lavishes us with benefits we could never deserve or imagine.

Our struggle is we have a hard time believing we are that bad.
That we need saving at all.
Our sin blinds us to our need and we try to save ourselves…..this_way_out
We are sure we can do it,  we are just that good.

 

Until we’re drowning,  helpless,  with no way out.
Our self sufficiency cracks wide open
And Jesus has been waiting for us all the while.
He offers us a hand up and then a hand out.

 

We just have to take His Hand and Believe.

 

COMMENT:

(In your own journal,  the downloadable PDF for this blog,  or in the Comment section for this post.)

What are some ways people try to save themselves?

Describe a time you needed someone else to help or rescue you.

Our next blog post will be O Mercy Me 3: Analyze – Word Study.

 

O Mercy Me 3: Analyze – Word Study

analyze

Word Study

 

Pick one of the Fruit of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23  (love,  joy,  peace,  patience,  kindness,  goodness,  faithfulness,  gentleness,  self control)  and answer the following questions.  You will need to have access to a Bible Dictionary or Encyclopedia and a Concordance.  You can use these online at no charge at www.biblegateway.com,  or www.biblestudytools.com.

 

1.    What word did you choose?

2.    What is the current day definition using a regular dictionary?

3.    Are any different words used in other translations for this word in this verse?

4.    Look up the word in a concordance,  Bible Dictionary,  Bible Encyclopedia,  or Word Study book and find the original word in its original language  (probably Greek in this case).  What was the original definition?

5.    Where else is this word used in the Bible?  How many times,  in what books,  etc?  (You can find this in a Concordance)

6.    Look up some of the other verses this word appears in.  How is the word used in these verses?  Is it similar to our verse above, or different?  In what ways?  Does it expand the definition?  Does it give you a greater picture of what the word meant then?

7.    Restate the definition of the word with the new information you discovered.  Does this give you any more insight into how to apply this to your life today?

 

This list below gives you a little head start by recapping all of the Fruit of the Spirit.

Love: agape
•    Outgoing love
•    Sacrificial actions totally focused on well being of the beloved
•    A response – not a feeling

Joy: chara
•    Delight in discovery of Christ in all situations
•    Surprising
•    Restorative

Peace: eirene
•    Tranquility,  serenity, at rest
•    One – reconciled,  in harmony
•    Peace of mind
•    Peace with God
•    Authority brings peace
•    Not world peace

Patience: makrothumia
•    Longsuffering in response to antagonistic persons
•    Self restraint before proceeding to action
•    Refraining from revenge
•    Delaying judgment
•    Forbearance
•    A different word is used to describe patience in regard to adverse situations and trials not involving people.

Kindness: chrestotes
•    Compassionate and tenderhearted spirit
•    Actions and deeds,  not just internal disposition toward others
•    Delivery system for goodness

Goodness: agathosune
•    Concerned with moral good as end product
•    Activity on behalf of good of others
•    May include rebuke,  correction and chastising
•    All for greater moral Kingdom good

Faithfulness: pistis
•    Same word used for faith
•    Trustworthy,  reliable,  true,  fully persuaded
•    Day to day working out of faith in a sovereign God
•    Giving credit where due
•    Not referring to saving faith

Gentleness: praotes
•    Meekness before God
•    Acceptance of all He allows to come our way
•    Humility,  Submission
•    Does not fight against God
•    All things work together for good….

Self Control: egkrateia
•    Temperance
•    Controlling the power of the will by the Spirit of God
•    Restraining passions and appetites given by God so they are not abused
•    Matter of mastery,  authority and boundaries

 

COMMENT: 

(In your own journal,  the downloadable PDF for this blog,  or in the Comment section for this post.)

Share your definition of the Fruit of the Spirit you studied as well as any new insights you gained.

Our next blog post will be O Mercy Me 4: Journal 9.2 – A Hand Up.

 

O Mercy Me 4: Journal 9.2 – A Hand Up

 

The Mercy of God decrees we will not receive what we deserve.
When we do wrong – someone else is punished.

Because God sees the sinner as pitiful and in need of saving,  He feels sorry for us
and seeks to provide assistance,  shortening or lessening the severity of our pain and suffering.

 

We are a mess,drowning_0
As well as in a mess,
And unable to rise above it.
He takes pity on us,
Gives us a Hand Up,
Rescues us even while we are totally undeserving.
He lifts us up out of the mire and sets our feet on solid ground.

 

Only by looking back do we see what we have been saved from.
We often have no idea how bad it could have been.

We beg for mercy and throw ourselves on the mercy of the court,  the mercy rule in sports calls the game when one side gets too far ahead,  and heads of state use their prerogative of mercy to grant pardons for convicted felons.

 

God,  in His goodness,  mercifully constrains His Wrath and confronts human suffering.

whipping-boy1Because of God’s tender mercies, Christ was sent to earth, not unlike a whipping boy.  A whipping boy,  in feudal times,  was a boy of the same age,  but lower rank,  raised with a prince or nobleman as a playmate,  who was whipped in his place when the young nobleman (too high in standing to be beaten by anyone below his father,  who was often unavailable) misbehaved or slacked in his studies.  This was carried out as a psychological indirect punishment,  hoping the young nobleman would feel bad his playmate was being hurt and change his ways.

 

In our case – the status was reversed – the nobleman,  Jesus,  whose Father is always available,  took the punishment for the lowest rank,  us,  at His Father’s bidding.

Jesus is our greatest teacher of mercy.
He commanded his followers to give and forgive,
Walk another mile,
Turn another cheek,
Give another coat.

From the Prodigal Son to the Good Samaritan,  to the Woman at the Well,  to the Blind,  the Lame,  the Hungry,  and the Demon Possessed,  He alleviated both physical and emotional human suffering. (Luke 15:11-32, Luke 10:25-37, John 4:7-26, John 9, John 5:1-13, John 6, Mark 5)

 

Unfortunately,  the very sin that calls forth the Mercy of God towards us,  will blind us to it,  as we begin to take it for granted,  expect it,  and demand it.  But God will not respond to those who presume upon His mercy.  To receive mercy you must know that God is merciful.  His mercy is boundless, free and available at all times through Jesus, even in our present situations.

 

We’ve all seen those stories in the movies where the guy is hanging off the balcony, hanging on for dear life.  He’s just killed someone and while trying to escape out the window,  miscalculates and falls off the side of the building.

helping-handsSomeone reaches down and says – “Take my hand,  I’ve got you.”
So he reaches up to take the hand with one of his hands but hangs on to the balcony with the other.  What if they aren’t strong enough to bring him up?  What if they drop him?

Then he notices his rescuer is the father of the man he has just killed.  What if he drops him on purpose?

At some point he has to let go of either the balcony or his rescuer’s hand.

How long can he hang on by himself?
How long can he survive in this situation?
What will his rescuer do to him when He gets him safely inside?

He knows for sure he will eventually fall to his death if he chooses to hang on to the balcony. So, he lets go and clings to the Hand.

Mercy is the hand that reaches down.

 

Blessed are the merciful,  for they will be shown mercy.  Matthew 5:7

His mercy extends to those who fear him,  from generation to generation.  Luke 1:50

For I desire mercy,  not sacrifice,  an acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings.  Hosea 6:6

Have mercy on me,  my God,  have mercy on me,  for in you I take refuge.  I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.  Psalm 57:1-2

He has shown you,  O mortal,  what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.  Micah 6:8

Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.  Micah 9:13

Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man,  I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.  I Tim. 1:13

But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior appeared,  he saved us,  not because of righteous things we had done,  but because of his mercy.  Titus 3:4-5

Judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.  Mercy triumphs over judgment.  James 2:13

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  I Peter 1:3

 

COMMENT:

(In your own journal,  the downloadable PDF for this blog,  or in the Comment section for this post.)

Share a time when someone was merciful to you.

Share a time when you acted mercifully toward another person.

Our next blog post will be O Mercy Me 5: Investigate – Mercy and Grace & 10 things.

 

O Mercy Me 5: Investigate – Mercy and Grace & 10 things

investigate

Mercy and Grace

 

Define:  Please write a brief definition for each word below in your journal or the PDF using a regular dictionary,  not a Bible dictionary.

j0387790(Click on any word to link to dictionary.com for the word’s definition)

 

       Grace

      Gift

      Mercy

      Compassion

      Unmerited

      Undeserved

      Kindness

      Relief

      Help

      Assistance

      Aid

      Pardon

      Leniency

      Forgiveness

      Pity

      Absolution

      Blessing

Now write your own definition for O Mercy Me.

Share it as a COMMENT.

 

Review:  How did God show mercy in the following passages?

(Click on any verse to link to an online Bible to read the verse.)

Genesis 3: 14-24

Genesis 4: 10-16

Genesis 16 7-16

Nehemiah 9: 16-21

Lamentations 3: 22-26

Hosea 3: 1-5

Micah 7: 18-20

Matthew 15: 22-28

Matthew 20: 24-28

John 8: 3-11

John 11: 33-44

Acts 9: 26-30

 

Read the following verses and note what you learn about grace.

John 1: 17

Acts 20: 24

Romans 3: 24-25

Romans 5: 15-21

1 Corinthians 15: 10

2 Corinthians 12: 7-10

Ephesians 1: 5-7

Ephesians 2: 8-9

2 Timothy 1: 9-10

Titus 2: 11-12

Titus 3: 7

 

Conclude:

How do mercy and grace complement each other?
How are they different?

 

COMMENT:

(In your own journal,  the downloadable PDF for this blog,  or in the Comment section for this post.)
Share your definition for O Mercy Me Then share some of your answers to the questions in the Conclude section for this post as well as any other insights you gained from investigating the verses above.

 

10  things

O Mercy Me

 

1.    Yahweh Shalom is the Hebrew name for God that means “the Lord is Peace”.  It signifies a relationship with God as the One who brings us back into a harmonious relationship with Himself,  a covenant relationship.  He then provides for our deepest needs and restores our relationships,  allowing all to be well with our souls. 

2.    Mercy is not getting what you do deserve,  and grace is getting what you don’t deserve. 

3.    A. W. Tozer – “In olden times men looked forward to Christ’s redeeming work;  in later times they gaze back upon it. But always they come by grace,  through faith.” 

4.    Bruce Shelley – “Human achievement and pride are forever eliminated from salvation by God’s grace,  his surprising love for the unlovely.” 

5.    Phillip Yancey – “Grace baffles us because it goes against the intuition everyone has that,  in the face of injustice, some price must be paid….Paul stressed a price had been paid, by God himself.  God gave up his own Son rather than give up on humanity.” 

6.    J. I. Packer – “The grace of God is love freely shown toward guilty sinners,  contrary to their merit and indeed in defiance of their demerit.  It is God showing goodness to persons who deserve only severity and had no reason to expect anything but severity…To mend our relationship with God is beyond the power of any one of us.” 

7.    A. W. Tozer – “As mercy is God’s goodness confronting human misery and guilt,  so grace is His goodness directed toward human debt and demerit.  It is by His grace that God imputes merit where none previously existed and declares no debt to be where one had been before.” 

8.    Phillip Yancey – “Grace costs nothing for the recipients and everything for the giver.”  

9.    Arthur W. Pink – “It is through or because of the tender mercy of our God that Christ was sent to his people.  The merits of Christ make it possible for God to righteously bestow on his elect,  justice having been fully satisfied…”  

10. Stephen Charnock – “That mercy which makes God ready to embrace sinners,  makes him willing to bear with them in their sins,  and wait their return.”  

     References for the above quotes can be found in the back of the PDF version of O Mercy Me.

 

COMMENT:

(In the PDF,  your journal,  or the Comment section of this post.)

Pick one or two of the above quotes or statements and share any insights or challenges it presents to you.

Continue to review the Remember Verses and make sure you are up to date on all the prior postings.

Our next blog post will be O Mercy Me 6: Journal 9.3 – A Hand Out.

 

O Mercy Me 6: Journal 9.3 – A Hand Out

 

Mercy and Grace are often confused or used interchangeably.  In God they are one,  but as they reach mankind,  they are seen as two.  While Mercy could be defined as not receiving what we deserveGrace would then be receiving what we don’t deserve.  Instead of punishment we get an inheritance,  gifts, life – all the benefits and gifts that Jesus deserves,  we receive.

If Mercy reaches down to give us a hand up and out of our helpless situation,  then Grace is the hand that gives forgiveness and new life once we are back safe inside and off the ledge.  Grace and Mercy work together,  often seamlessly,  like two sides of the same coin.

 

Grace is love freely shown to sinners – that would be you and me – contrary to our merit – we deserve punishment and yet we receive grace.  Mercy provides Calvary as a solution to our sin problem,  grace then steps in to provide merit where there was none.  Instead of Hell,  which we deserve,  we are granted access to Heaven,  which we could never earn.

 

imagesGrace tells us how our Judge turned around and became our Savior,
How He offers us a Hand Out,
Merit where none previously existed,
Undeserved favor,
Bestowing of heavenly benefits,
And forgiveness of human debt.

 

Grace baffles us because it is free – It costs us absolutely nothing,  but it costs the Giver everything.  (Eph 2: 8-9) It cannot be earned by good works or claimed as a right.  All that is required to receive it is faith.

Just like the Prodigal Son (Luke 15),  we return to find a party waiting for us,  with presents,  instead of condemnation and prison.  All the Father sees,  when He looks at us, is His Son.  Not only are we declared Not Guilty  (Mercy)  but we are also declared Righteous  (Grace).  We get to move from the line of the condemned,  waiting for our terrible death sentence,  to the line of an heir,  waiting for a fabulous inheritance.

 

The Grace of God comes to us through the work of Jesus Christ,  and can only be received by those who have believed or placed their faith in Him.  Since Grace can only operate after sin has been dealt with,  when Christ rose from the dead the banishment from the garden was removed and access to the Grace Benefits was restored.

 

What are the Grace Benefits?  Here are just a few.

 

When we accept the Grace of God He moves us from:grace

  • Darkness to light
  • Bondage to freedom
  • Death to life
  • Enemy to friend – Reconciliation
  • Evil to Holy- Sanctification
  • Condemned to redeemed – Redemption
  • Guilty to Not Guilty – Justified
  • Sinner to a Child of God
  • Punishment to Rewards
  • Object of Wrath to Object of Righteousness
  • Access Granted – To the Throne of Grace – Now and forever.

 

Grace imputes merit where there is none,  it declares there is no longer a debt where one existed before.  That is why we cannot earn our salvation.  There is no other way to be saved except by grace.

Since Grace destroys self-righteousness,  nothing in grace is attractive to fulfilling the requirements of the pride of man.  There lies the battle.

 

The only obvious response is overwhelming gratitude as the fear of punishment disappears along with self-pity and bitterness.  We are loved,  valued,  highly esteemed.

All we need do is accept His Hand Out.

 

But when grace is shown to the wicked,  they do not learn righteousness.  Even in a land of uprightness they go on doing evil and do not regard the majesty of the LORD.   Isaiah 26:10

…to the praise of his glorious grace,  which he has freely given us in the One he loves.  In him we have redemption through his blood,  the forgiveness of sin,  in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.    Ephesians 1:6-8

For it is by grace you have been saved,  through faith,  and this is not from yourselves,  it is the gift of God,  not by works,  that no one should boast.  Ephesians 2:8-9

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others,  as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.   I Peter 4:10

But He said to me,  “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”   2 Corinthians 12:9

In the same way,  the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world – just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace.   Colossians 1: 6

 

COMMENT:

(In your own journal,  the downloadable PDF for this blog,  or in the Comment section for this post.)

Share a time you were the recipient of something you felt you didn’t deserve.  How did you respond?

Or perhaps,  share a time you didn’t receive something you thought you deserved.  How did you respond?

Our next blog post will be O Mercy Me 7: Practice – Community & Why?

 

 

O Mercy Me 7: Practice – Community & Why?

practice

Community

 

The Spiritual Practices put us in a place where we are better able to interact with our environment and God.  God can then reach inside our spirits and transform them.  Just as our body needs to eat,  breathe,  exercise,  drink,  sleep,  etc.,  so our spiritual self needs to make sure it is being sustained,  cared for,  and trained.  The results include spiritual growth,  a life controlled by the Holy Spirit,  evidence of the fruit of the spirit,  and the ultimate goal,  living life like Jesus did.

The Spiritual Practices are not:

  • Meritorious laws that earn favor with God
  • A way to show how spiritually mature we are
  • Unpleasant or difficult

Instead, they are:

  • Intentional
  • Activities we do that when practiced allow us to do activities we cannot now do.
  • Adaptable to work with our temperaments and gifts
  • Adjustable according to the rhythm and seasons of our lives

 

There are two kinds:

Abstinence – when we stop doing something that is perfectly normal to allow ourselves to focus more on God,  His Word,  and growing in godliness.  These also help us resist our tendency toward sins of commission  (when we do something we shouldn’t do).  We withdraw to breathe in all that God can provide to us,  breaking the hold that the world has on our lives.  Practices of Abstinence help ready us and create room for the Practices of Engagement.

Engagement – when we do certain activities that help us grow in Christ and obey his commandments.  The Practices of Abstinence have opened up the time and broken up the preoccupations so we are now free to learn of,  focus on,  and practice those things that God commands us to do.  These assist in keeping us from our tendency toward sins of omission  (not doing the things we should do).  We engage to breathe out all that God commands us.

This Journey Element requires more time than most to complete so break it down into sections.  The two opportunities to Comment provide obvious breaking points.

 

Community

Living in Relationship

 

From the very beginning,  even in the perfection of the Garden of Eden,  God said that it was not good for humans to be alone.  We are not meant to go it alone in this life.  If we try,  we soon discover the truth that No Man  (or Woman)  is an Island.  We need relationships.  We need each other.  We were not designed for,  nor will we fully develop in isolation.

The basis for Christian Community comes from the perfect community shared between the three persons of the One and Only Triune God;  The Father,  The Son/Jesus, and  The Holy Spirit.  Since God is communal and we are made in His Image,  we are also made to be in relationship,  with Him and with other people.

God is relational and missional,  not just focused on Himself.  He is at work restoring all of creation to its original state and every person to a right relationship to Himself through Jesus.  He desires to be in relationship with each of us,  to commune with us,  and for us to commune with other believers.

God is all about relationships.  But,  as we all know,  relationships can be messy.  Sometimes it seems easier to go out on our own.

 

Credit to Visions of Kai. 2008

Credit to Visions of Kai. 2008

On Your Own

What happens when you are on your own?

Isolation,  fear,  loneliness,  depression.  We shrink in size,  losing our perspective and passion for life.  We stop caring,  our basic relational needs go unmet and we become ingrown,  focusing completely on ourselves.  We stop growing and learning,  any hope we had fades away.

 

People need people.  We only grow through connection,  we can’t do it by ourselves.  We don’t have all the skills,  answers,  or wisdom necessary for growth.  All people have the basic needs to be seen and loved,  to belong and be brave.  Scientists have even discovered our brains actually need three things to work properly;  oxygen,  glucose and relationship.

 

Societies naturally form into groups,  sometimes they come and go,  many lasting only for a season of our lives.  Some groups we have no choice in belonging to,  from family groups,  to work and neighborhood groups.  Others,  we either choose to join or are asked to join.  And some groups reject us altogether.

We group based on common experiences,  values,  struggles,  activities,  education,  likes and dislikes,  fears,  and goals.  Other groupings revolve around political,  racial,  religious and community matters,  as well as sports,  business,  charitable and travel endeavors.

 

Local Church Community Fellowship

The practice of living life together with other Christ Followers as the Church is often called Fellowship as the community of Believers seeks to obey and model the New Testament examples and exhortations.  Jesus lived in Community with others,  especially His 12 Disciples.  (Mark 12:33, John 13:34-35, Acts 2:42, Romans 12:10, 1 John 1:7, Heb. 10:25)

 

In the Local Church Community we engage in the corporate spiritual practices of worship,  study,  prayer,  celebration and service.  Members of the Body must be in contact with each other if they are to be sustained by God.

 

The gifts of the Spirit are given to believers to benefit the entire Body and cannot be practiced in isolation.  The Body is lacking and not as effective as it could be if you are not an active part.  A certain level of joyous life is obtained together that is impossible to reach alone.

Our spiritual development is enhanced and encouraged as we learn to live with others who are not like us,  or on different paths,  with different gifts,  life stories,  struggles,  and strengths.  We refine each other as we learn to live in unity with humility,  putting others needs above our own.

 

Christian communities will not all look the same.  The important thing is that they are focused on the mission of Christ to reach out to a world in need,  meeting those needs while sharing the gospel message.  While accomplishing this,  they will fulfill the needs of their members,  with the intention that everyone becomes like Christ himself.

Fellowship is often confused with social activity – potlucks, and picnics…..when in reality it is a relationship.  It is sharing together a common life,  a devoted alliance between individuals who actively participate in a mutual spiritual heritage.  We share the same life source – Jesus.

 

Benefits of Local Church Community Fellowship:

  • The goal of fellowship is to encourage one another towards Christlikeness and spiritual growth.  It is God’s gracious means of preserving our spiritual lives.  We cannot grow alone. (Eph. 4:15-16)
  • Keeps us from spiritual malnutrition which leads to apostasy. (Heb. 10: 24-25)
  • Fellowship is the life jacket to weather the storms of life,  to talk us back off the ledge. (Jude 23)
  • Keeps us from the deceitfulness of sin. (Prov. 15:22, Ps 1)
  • Restraining influence so we avoid distorted views and twisted interpretations to justify sin.
  • Ministry flows from relationship and relationship flows from Fellowship.

Many think they don’t need to participate in a church community to be Christ Follower.  If you stop meeting together you will run out of passion.

 

Stages of Community Development

Community cohesiveness doesn’t just happen overnight.  It requires intentional application of the One Another commands listed below.  Most thriving communities have worked through the following stages.

Honeymoon – Idealistic and committed – bonds are formed,  everybody on the same page.

Disillusionment – Problems emerge,  Relationships deteriorate,  missions and goals conflict.

Reality – Problems worked out,  true community begins.

 

10-11-2011-2With One Another

The exercise of the One Another commands is what allows Christ Followers to enter into the Reality of True Community.  These are the antidote to our natural sinful human desires that seek only our own good and survival at the expense of all others.  Only through the power of the Holy Spirit can we obey them.

A local church is not built by one person,  or even a few people,  but by every believer being actively involved in ministry through evangelizing the lost people in their lives and serving their fellow Christians.  A quick glance at the practice of the New Testament church reveals that they thought very little about programs and very much about relationships.

 

Consider the community fellowship that would naturally take place in the life of a local church if every believer would practice the loving,  one-another ministry that the early churches first read about in the instructions they received from the apostles:

The Christian life is all about relationships.  It’s God’s design for our personal growth,  which then translates into church growth—the real kind.  Loving one another is a powerful evangelistic tool,  as Jesus says:  “By this all men will know that you are My disciples,  if you have love for one another”  (John 13:35).

 

testimonialKoinonia

Christ Followers are commanded in the Bible to share with and relate to each other.  The term used in the New Testament is the Greek word,  koinonia,  which describes a partnership or sharing in something in common.  That “something in common” is the Triune God  (I John 1:1-4) and sharing in Him creates Christian community.

Community allows us to connect with other Christ Followers in authentic ways that encourage growth in Christ and engage in transparent relationships that cultivate,  celebrate and make evident Christ’s love for the world.

 

We need each other for life.  We need each other to grow up in Christ.

 

Wherever two or three are gathered we contain more of God than many scattered.  Coals left alone on the hearth die out,  while coals together in the fire,  burn hotter and brighter,  feeding off each other.  Members of the Body of Christ,  which is all believers,  must be in contact with others if they are to sustain each other.   Christian life and power are greatly diminished if you are on your own.

God has given each of us gifts and talents for the benefit of others.  We have what they need,  and they have what we need.  (I Cor. 12:7-11)

The local church or Body of Christ becomes our family,  providing mission and purpose.  (Matt. 18-20, Eccl.4:9-12, Acts 2:44-47)

Christianity cannot be practiced in isolation.  Jesus has removed our sin so we can have fellowship with Him and each other.  Our reconciliation with Him brings us back together with each other.

 

Ways to Begin to Practice Community

  1. Pray for God to lead you.
  2. If you are not currently connected to a Community,  look for a group of Christ Followers to join:  a home group,  local church,  neighborhood bible study,  a campus group.  Search online,  drive around or ask around.
  3. If you are already connected to a Community,  or once you find a group,  then explore ways to join or interact with other members.  Start with a smile and introduce yourself.
  4. Take the initiative,  give it time.  Look for groups with easy access and lots of newcomers.
  5. Here are some possibilities for entry level community experiences:
    • Small groups or classes
    • Short term service opportunities
    • Seasonal commitments – music,  drama,  events
    • Practice the Spiritual Practices in a group setting – prayer,  study,  confession,  service
    • Trainings for life situations – recovery,  children, f amily,  aging,  women,  men
    • Retreats
    • Sign up and Go!
  6. The above options will get you in the door and help you make some initial connections.
  7. It gets messy.  Some communities or small groups may be hard to break into and some groups are open only by invitation – especially leadership groups.  Other groups have been together for a long time with lots of history,  and although they may welcome you,  you still need to prove yourself,  earn the right,  develop trust.
  8. Manage your expectations regarding community.  Don’t romanticize it.  It’s hard work that requires intentionality,  commitment,  forgiveness,  humility and time.
  9. Remember,  a Community of Christ Followers should never let people leave feeling unwelcome,  unnoticed,  or unloved.
  10. Here are some ways to begin to develop Community relationships.
    • Personal encounter – say hello,  start conversation
    • Sharing concerns, joys,  feeling understood
    • Firm friendships – giving of self to one another
    • Recognition of common mission,  love for Jesus and each other
    • Make a friend,  be a friend,  get to know one another
    • Pray together
    • Be hospitable and generous
    • Be responsible
    • Take the initiative
    • Follow up

 

Spiritual Friendship/Mentoring

One of the most intimate types of community stems from a relationship with a Spiritual Friend or Mentor.  This is another Christ Follower you meet with regularly or as needed to discuss spiritual things,  your struggles,  praises,  someone who will hold you accountable,  can give mature advice,  will pray for you and support you in times of need.  This person should be loyal,  patient,  discrete and spiritually mature.

 

Every person needs at least one essential friend to share their heart with and to be encouraged by in their relationship with God and in life.  This is someone you feel safe enough with that you can share honestly about your struggles and growth,  your hurts and your hopes.  Companionship can also result,  spending time just having fun,  hanging out,  but that would be an added benefit,  not the primary purpose of the relationship.

 

This may not even be a person from your usual circle of friends,  but someone more mature,  a mentor of sorts.  The goal is to have a sounding board,  someone to make sure you aren’t wandering off,  someone who asks about your spiritual life,  how it is going with you and God.  The person may not even be in your immediate area,  as much of this fellowship can now be done over the phone or email.

 

What does a Spiritual Friend or Mentor Look Like?

  • Have faith in you
  • Believe God is at work in you.
  • Empathetic Listeners
  • Model openness,  honesty,  vulnerability
  • Regularly spend time,  talk,  connect in some way with you
  • Intentional
  • Passes on more than just information
  • Farther down the road than you,  but going where you want to go and are willing to help you get there.
  • Lives will not be perfect,  but will be able to provide experience responding in a Christlike way to difficulties and joys of life. 

 

Benefits of the Relationship:

  • Push us to be more than a sum of our failures
  • Drive us to direct our lives in ways that honor Christ more and more each day
  • Show us our blind spots and areas of self deception
  • Provide guidance,  wisdom,  cautionary tales,  first hand experiences
  • Focus should be to encourage you to depend on God and not the mentoring relationship
  • Provide godly input and prayer
  • Someone to listen to you
  • Confirm what God is doing in your life
  • Provide assurance everything will be ok
  • Allow you time to take it all in

 

Ways to Begin to Practice Spiritual Friendship/Mentoring

  1. Start praying about who it could be.
  2. Pray about your own motives.  Pray for an increase in your own desire for spiritual growth,  and maturity, vulnerability,  humility,  respectfulness and responsiveness to a mentor.  Look for an older,  wiser believer;  a good listener,  someone who asks good questions and offers discernment.  Approach the person and explain your short and long term needs.
  3. Make a commitment.
  4. Plan when to meet and what you will do.
  5. Evaluate and recommit if an ongoing friendship/relationship is already in place.
  6. Aspire to live your life in such a way that others will desire to walk the same path.
  7. Desire to use whatever God has given you in your spiritual journey to benefit others.

 

Personal Reflections on Community:

1. Read the following verses and share what you learn about the practice of Community.

Acts 2: 42-47

1 Cor. 12: 12-21

Heb. 10: 24-25

I Thess 2:5-12

Phil 2:1-4

Matt. 7:12

2 Tim 2:2

Luke 24:13-35

 

2.  In which communities or groups do you currently participate?  What responsibilities do you have as part of these communities?  What benefits do you receive?

3.  Developing a spirit of community takes intentionality and time.  What forces work against healthy participation in fellowship or community – within or outside the church?

4.  Everyone is different.  What aspects of community or fellowship are meaningful to you?  Which ones cause you to struggle?

5.  Biblical communities focus on Living Life together with a focus on Christ.  How should Biblical community or fellowship be different from a secular community experience?

6.  What are some reasons communities fall apart?  Why don’t some people want to be part of a community?

7.  Because Community is a Spiritual Practice it requires that we must work at it or practice it.  What are some ways you can practice Community with other Christ Followers?

8.  Please watch the  Not Good to Be Alone video linked here.  In what ways do healthy Christian Communities challenge and help us grow?   What benefits do we receive?

 

COMMENT:

(In your own journal,  the downloadable PDF for this blog,  or in the Comment section for this post)

Share your answers to the Personal Reflections on Community questions.  Also share anything you learned from practicing Community.

 

why?

Community

 

John White – “I cannot have true fellowship with you unless both of us have fellowship with God….It is only in making our relationship with Him primary that our relationships with one another will be what they should be.”

David Watson – “The more we live as members of the Body of Christ,  the more we shall experience the gifts of the Spirit to edify that body.  The manifestation of the Spirit is given only for the common good.”

The Hebrew“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Let us not give up meeting together,  as some are in the habit of doing,  but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.“   Hebrews 10:24-25  NIV

Solomon“As iron sharpens iron,  so one man sharpens another.”  Prov. 27:17  NIV

Spirit led listening is at the heart of the relationship.  This is a time set aside for each participant to speak about what’s in her or his heart and mind while the other fully listens.

Luke“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship,  to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  Everyone was filled with awe,  and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.  All the believers were together and had everything in common.  Selling their possessions and goods,  they gave to anyone as he had need.  Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,  praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.  And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”   Acts 2:42-47  NIV

Dallas Willard – “The fire of God kindles higher as the brands are heaped together and each is warmed by the other’s flame.  The members of the body must be in contact if they are to sustain and be sustained by each other.”

Ray Stedman – “Superficial sharing usually occurs when an individual is afraid to risk anything of great depth…..Since the sharing of personal hurts is apparently risky to many,  they find they can still participate by sharing someone else’s burden,  like Aunt Mary’s issues, etc.  Although these are legitimate concerns,  if this happens too often,  there can be no bearing of one another’s burdens.”

Dan Kimball – “Our goal should not be to get people to “go to church’.  We should be inviting people to participate in the life of the church community and to participate in the activity of God….. We need to understand the difference between ‘belonging,  then believing’ and ‘believing,  then belonging’….In today’s culture,  people don’t come to have trust and understanding until they feel they belong.”

References for the above quotes can be found in the back of the PDF version of O Mercy Me.

 

COMMENT:

(In your own journal,  the PDF,  or the Comments section of this post)

Pick one or two of the above quotes or statements and share any insights or challenges it presents to you.

The next post is O Mercy Me 8: Journal 9.4 – Ungracious.

 

O Mercy Me 8: Journal 9.4 – Ungracious

 

Grace and Mercy,
Dispensed by an Almighty God
Towards the hopeless human race desperately in need of rescue….
This was a brand new,  countercultural idea in the very ungracious Greco Roman world.

And we have the same problem today.

picture-114-410x310

Rebellion is the impetus behind every manifestation of the world spirit.
From the Fall to present day,
From the Flood,  to Babel,  to Sodom and Gomorrah,  to the Red Sea,
Through the Wilderness and the Exile and countless events of history,
The ungracious world system has been rebelling against God’s gracious authority.

 

“We will not have this man rule over us” is the continuous cry of a defiant humanity.

 

Christians believe man is sinful.
The World believes man is good.

Christians believe God will judge sin and evil.
The World ignores sins,  sweeps them under the rug,
And thinks God is just like us and will look the other way.

Christians believe man is spiritually unable to mend this breach in their relationship with God.
The World believes more good deeds than bad makes you respectable enough.

Christians believe God is sovereign and not obliged to save us.
While the World believes God must forgive,  love and help – no matter what.

 

The world operates in ungrace.
Everything depends on what we have,  what we do,  who we know,  what we look like….
We must earn everything we get,
Get to the top at all costs, even if we have to lie,  cheat or steal.

imagesWe must shine brighter,  be better,  even if it means sabotaging others for our own self-promotion.  Our self-centeredness and pride lead us to oppress others and we either become very bad at breaking the rules (evil) or very good at keeping them (self righteousness).

Tolerance,  Pragmatism,  Lawlessness,  Pride….
The world is after pleasure,  profit,  power,  and privilege,  and so are we!

It’s all about performance,  and winning,  and results,  no matter what the cost.
We seek to be our own Savior and Lord – doing what we want to do – living the life we want,  trusting in our own goodness rather than in Jesus’ standing with God.

 

When Jesus came,  He turned the world on its ear by modeling “The First shall be Last Servanthood.”

Through Him we learn to turn the other cheek,  walk another mile,  give our last nickel,  wash each other’s feet,  forgive seventy times seven,  humble ourselves,  and love one another.  (Matt 19:30, Mark 9:35, 10:31, 44-45, Luke 7:28, 13:29-30, 22:25-27, Matt 20: 27-28, 1 Cor. 15:9, Rom 12:1-3, Phil. 2:6-8)

The Beatitudes in Matthew 5 describe the lifestyle and character God blesses,  while the Woes of Matthew 23 describe the evil and hypocritical character and divine pledge of judgment on those who refuse to recognize and do the full will of God,  if those lives continue in their wickedness.

 

Grace looks like humility and repentance,  sorrow for sin,  hope for the future,  gentleness,  unselfishness,  nonviolence,  a desire to be right with God,  helpfulness,  mercy,  forgiveness,  pure motives,  reconciliation with God,  understanding,  compassion and sacrifice.

Ungrace looks like arrogance,  dissension,  scheming,  self-righteousness,  self-sufficiency,  pretense,  impurity and blasphemy,  preference for power,  privilege and possessions,  exclusion,  pride,  rebellion,  evil and hatred.

beatitudes23If we don’t truly understand the Holiness of God,
The depravity of our sin,
And the horror of our judgment – eternity in hell,
We will not be impressed by His mercy and grace.
It will be no big deal,  in fact,  we will feel entitled to it.

People who know more of God’s mercy will be merciful.  Christians sometimes think they deserve the grace they have received,  and then become intolerant of others,  even judgmental.  The reality of our own spiritual condition and God’s provision must never be forgotten.

 

God doesn’t accept us because of our efforts,
He accepts us because of what Jesus has done.
We do not define ourselves by who we are not,  but by Whose we are.
We discover the Gospel takes away our self-issues – the need to compare,  to criticize,  and correct because now our image management is no longer up to us,  but God.

We are all living for something.
And we are all controlled by whatever that is – the true Lord of our Lives.
If it is not God – it will endlessly oppress us.

Grace and Mercy are communicable attributes.
They take away self-pity and bitterness and lead to a life of graciousness towards others.

We not only receive His grace and mercy – we then,  in turn,  can provide it to others.  This is how we become the conduits of his grace and mercy becoming the final example and evidence of His Proof of Life……

Allowing His Grace and Mercy to continue to shine brightly in a very Ungracious world.

 

COMMENT:

(In your own journal,  the downloadable PDF for this blog,  or in the Comment section for this post)

Share some examples of ungrace you notice in your culture.

In what circumstances do you find it hardest to show grace to others?  Why do you think that is?

Share one time someone showed grace to you.

Our next blog post will be O Mercy Me 9: Inventory – Money.