Wednesday, May 25, 2016

To Love Mercy

King David once asked an important question when he asked, “Is there anyone from Saul’s house I can show kindness to?” David had a grateful heart. We know that from the many Psalms that show his gratitude to God. We also know that he had made a promise to his dear friend Jonathan that he would show kindness to his descendants. A search was made, and someone was found. His name was Mephibosheth, and he lived in Lo Debar. He was Jonathan’s son, and he lived in a barren place, most likely trying to stay as far away from the new king as possible. When David discovered him, he had him brought to him and told him not to be afraid. David assured him that he had been brought for the sole purpose of showing him kindness and not retribution. David returned all the property that had belonged to his family previously and appointed people to take care of it. He then asked Mephibosheth to live in the king’s palace and eat at the king’s table (2 Sam. 9:8-13).

Mephibosheth was crippled in both feet, but that didn’t matter to David. I like that about David. Mephibosheth sat at the kings’ table and ate with the king’s family and invited guests, and the table cloth covered his feet. The whole story is a story of grace and mercy. God has shown mercy to all of us, and he expects us to show mercy to others, even to those who may not deserve it.

Such is the case of Joseph who was sold into slavery by his brothers and even betrayed by others. Despite the setbacks, Joseph experienced God’s grace and mercy and eventually became the Prime Minister of Egypt. The reuniting of his brothers and their families along with his father is a tear-jerking story. Joseph gave them prime real estate in Egypt, and they prospered. However, after their father Jacob died, they came to Joseph unsure that Joseph would continue to show them kindness. They wondered if Joseph might hold a grudge against them for what they had done to him. They begged for forgiveness. When Joseph heard their words, he wept. Joseph’s response is beautiful, "Don't be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don't be afraid. I will provide for you and your children" (Genesis 50:15-21). Joseph showed his brothers mercy.

I encourage you to stop and consider who you might show kindness to today. It is what God desires for his children that they would show mercy to others around them. After all, how could we do anything less after all the mercy God has shown to us?

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Real and Lasting Joy

We are all emotional human beings—some more than others, but we all have real emotions. Emotions are important and allow us to experience some of life’s greatest feelings. However, sometimes our emotions influence us too much, and we later find out that emotionally motivated decisions are usually shortsighted. Emotions make things feel very real, but can give us a false sense of security if we fail to apply logic and reason.

Recently, I was showing the 1933 version of the story of The Three Pigs to Madelyn, my youngest grandchild. It’s eight minutes long, and she loves it as did all my grandkids. As we were watching it, a simple illustration of life emerged.  The three pigs all build their own houses in their own ways. The first out of straw and the second out of sticks and the third out of bricks. The first two pigs are done right away and go to playing. They tell their brother that they are done while he still is working away and has no time for play. They sing a little song about their brother that says, “He don’t take no time to play. All he does is work all day.” The hardworking pig responds, “Play, laugh and fiddle, but don’t think you can make me sore. I’ll be safe and you be sorry.”

The two playful pigs are full of emotion and feel that life is good. They aren’t afraid of the wolf despite the fact their brother has warned them that only brick houses are wolf-proof. Feeling confident that they could handle the wolf if he appeared, they sing about what they would do to him, “I’ll punch him in the nose, I’ll tie him in a knot, I’ll kick him in the shins, and I’ll put him on the spot.”

Then suddenly the wolf appears, and they are overwhelmed with fear. All their boasting about their courage goes up in vapor. They do nothing of what they proposed to do and instead run for their lives. The prophetic words of their wiser brother come true as the wolf blows their houses down. They are only safe because they run to his brick house.

The 70 disciples in Luke 10 that Jesus sent out into ministry returned with glowing reports of success. They were joyful that miracles had occurred and demons had been subject to them. They were kind of like the gleeful little pigs so infused with positive emotions of their success that they forgot tough times could come at any time and life could return to humdrum. Jesus responded by saying to the disciples, “I’m glad things went well for you and that you saw people healed and demons cast out, but be careful thinking you have it figured out. I saw the greatest devil of all cast out of heaven, but you don’t hear me bragging about it. I will tell you however, what you can rejoice about and that is that you belong to my father and that you have a home in heaven (Luke 10:18-20).

All too often we are like the little pigs when things are going well, and we like to make sure we get the credit for our accomplishments. Jesus says remember your perspective is very small and you don’t know when things will change, therefore boast about what will never change. Emotions are a gift from God, but they are never to be solely relied upon without logic and reason. Your position in Christ is supported by your emotions and your reason.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Dependent on God

The term codependency is used to describe a person who is very needy emotionally. They literally draw their motivation and enthusiasm for life from those around them. If things go well, they feel good, but if things don’t, they are usually depressed. Codependent people who are this way often feel responsible to make the people around them happy and try to meet their emotional needs. They feel most important when they are needed and very insignificant when they are not needed. They are dependent on the reactions and responses of others to meet their needs. Codependency is dangerous and is an impossible mission to fulfill, and that’s why codependent people are mostly unhappy. Codependency often begins very early in our lives.

Mothers, you are the first person with whom your child forms a connection. It is a God ordained—vital connection that we call the maternal bond. In those first two years approximately, you are the center of that child’s life. However, as the child grows into childhood, it is so essential that you diminish that bond that has become so strong. At around age two your influence over that child is almost omnipotent to the child. As a mother who wants her children to flourish, you deliberately begin to pull back and watch the bond grow with the child’s father and extended family and other children. The infant and small child has been completely dependent on you, but now you want the child to learn to be independent. Additionally, as a believer you want your child to learn dependency on God. Codependency with another person is harmful, but learning to be dependent on God is a good thing.

You begin to carefully watch and observe the child and pray that God will help you grow the child’s own autonomy. You want your child to develop their own personality and not be a copy of you. At the same time you want them to learn discipline, respect and self-control. That only happens as the child respects your parental authority. You do the child no favors if you are raising them without the slightest bit of self-restraint and discipline in their life. If, however, you teach them discipline and encourage their own bent to come to life—you will experience the greatest satisfaction a mother can know.

David said that the Lord was his strength and because of that he was helped (Ps 28:7). When we look to people, even our mother or father or spouse for our strength, we will be disappointed, but when we look to God, we will never be disappointed.