Monday, November 26, 2012


Week 48:

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

In order to talk about mercy, we must first recognize the difference between mercy and grace. Basically, mercy can involve a pardoning or forgiveness. Mercy also includes compassion and kindness shown to others. Grace may include mercy but is not always the case. Grace is the giving of an undeserved gift. In our case, God gave us the gift of eternal life when we were sinners and totally undeserving. In fact, we deserve eternal punishment.  

I can receive mercy on a daily basis from others. There are people who show compassion and kindness to me in light of whatever situation I might be experiencing in my life. I receive pardons for transgressions I commit against friends and loved ones. I receive forgiveness when I have wronged one close to me. These are some examples of how I receive mercy.

So, how am I to be merciful? I am to give the same consideration to others. I need to be compassionate and kind to those who are dealing with life’s harshness. I have often thought of mercy only in terms of forgiveness when I have been wronged. Recently, I have noticed that blessing others with compassion and kindness is a form of mercy. Letting a person know I am praying for him is a form of mercy. Checking back with a person and asking how her recent situation is coming along is a form of mercy. Withholding or eliminating my judgment of a person is a form of mercy.

To be shown mercy, I must be merciful. This reminds me of the verse later in Jesus’ sermon from Matthew 7:1-2, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the same measure you use, it will be measured to you.” What stands out her for me is the ‘measure’. I notice in many of Jesus’ teachings he uses cause and effect. There are measures, consequences for actions, firsts and lasts, and judgments.  

We have to be careful not to misuse mercy. There are times when we have been wronged and we grant mercy out of fear. We may fear that we will not be liked or someone my think badly of us. There are also times where if we were to not show mercy, someone may call us ‘unchristian’. There are times where showing mercy for wrongs only allows a person’s behavior to continue instead of calling him on his behavior and giving him a gift of seeing how he hurts others. This is a form of hiding behind mercy because I may fear my boldness will create a conflict. I don’t believe Jesus wanted us to misuse mercy in this way. And, even in the calling out of the wrong, we are merciful by walking alongside the person as he adjusts his way.

I want to revisit my initial thoughts about mercy growing up…where I equate mercy with forgiveness. To forgive is to show mercy as well. To receive forgiveness, I must be a forgiving person. I think of the parable of the unmerciful servant (Matthew 18:21-35) when it comes to this form of mercy. He had been forgiven a large debt by his master. He turned around and demanded repayment of a small debt from a friend and was unmerciful as he dealt with his friend. In turn, the mercy shown by his master was rescinded. To receive mercy, I must show mercy.

Lord, help my heart to be more merciful every day. Thank you for the mercies you have shown me.


1. List some ways you have received mercy?
2. In what ways have you been shown the mercies of kindness and compassion lately?
3. In what ways have you shown compassion and kindness lately?
4. Where in your life and to whom do you need to show kindness and compassion as mercy?
5. Whom in your life do you need to extend forgiveness?
6. Who in your life needs to be called on a continuous behavior? Are you willing to do this in a merciful way?
7. Look for and take opportunities this week to show the various forms of mercy. Keep notes on how that happens for you and what God does in your life around these mercies.

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Monday, November 19, 2012

To be filled...

Week 47:

Matthew 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.  

To hunger and thirst for righteousness is something I would like to improve in my life. I read the Psalms and see that the writers, especially David, hungered and thirsted for righteousness often. David had a love for the word, the law, and God’s righteousness. That is where I long to be.

I have had spurts where I longed for God’s word and righteousness, and like the verse promises, I have been filled. There are other times where I do not even know what hungering and thirsting for righteousness looks like. I sometimes confuse this with self-righteousness. It does not take long in the midst of self-righteousness to find out that is not what this verse is talking about. When I am in the middle of a self-righteous run in my life, I find myself critical, judgmental, and miserable.  

Throughout the Psalms there are examples of hungering and thirsting for righteousness and the rewards that come with that longing. In Psalm 1; blessed is the man who does not walk in the way of the wicked but delights in God’s law. In Psalm 19 the man who delights in God’s law finds several rewards. In Psalm 37 we are not to envy the wicked but commit to God’s righteousness. Psalm 63 is a beautiful discourse on seeking, thirsting, and longing for God and his righteousness. Psalm 119 is full of language around the love for God’s law and how it fills a man. When I wonder how do I hunger and thirst for righteousness, all I have to do is open the Psalms and read the language of the Psalmists.

Is the example of righteousness only following God’s law? I think it is deeper than that. We are to love the good and do what is right. James 4:17 talks about knowing the good I ought to do. If I do not do it, I sin. Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.”

Jesus further expands on righteousness in other teachings. He tells the people to seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness (Matthew 6:33). In Matthew 5:20, Jesus talks about our righteousness needing to surpass the righteousness of the Pharisees. This brings us back to self-righteousness which is what the Pharisees were practicing. Jesus wants us to follow God’s righteousness.  

To become righteous, we are to follow the standard of God’s righteousness. To hunger and thirst for God’s standard of righteousness is twofold; work on ourselves, and incorporate God’s standards into our everyday lives. We want to be careful that we do not make this a checklist. That is what the Pharisees did. To draw ourselves to hunger and thirst for righteousness I believe we must love the good, love the word, and make righteousness a daily goal in our lives.

As we hunger and thirst for righteousness, God will fill us with His love, His knowledge, and His grace and mercy. We must avoid the checklist and make righteousness a part of us.


1. In what ways have you hungered and thirsted for righteousness?
2. In what ways have you made this goal a checklist?
3. In striving to be righteous, in what ways have you become self-righteous?
4. In what ways has God filled your hunger and thirst?
5. This week, meditate on Philippians 4:8 and see where God fills you.
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Monday, November 12, 2012

The meek...

Week 46:

Matthew 5:5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

What does it mean to be meek? I believe that our society judges meekness to be weakness. In fact, I recall not too long ago in a commercial a line that said, “The meek will not inherit the earth.” There has been such a push in our ‘have it now’ culture to outdo, out work, be number one, climb to the top…that to be meek would be an insult.

I am here to argue that meekness is not weakness. In fact, I believe that it takes great strength to be meek. When I look at the general definition of meekness I see gentleness, patience, humility, and submissiveness. I know that in my life it really does take great strength for me to practice those parts of meekness. I had a friend describe meekness as great strength and power under control. In other words, to practice meekness one does not misuse his/her power for selfish gain. That alone takes discipline.

I see two types of meekness and feel that the Lord blesses them both. First, I believe that there are those who are naturally meek. Their personality is just ‘laid back’. As I watch this type of person, I see one who is naturally humble, patient, gentle, and submissive. This type of person is not a pushover as the world would label him/her. This type of person does not need to fight for what he needs; he just naturally harmonizes with those around him. When I see this type of person, I notice that he/she is just naturally blessed and everyone who comes into contact with him/her seems to leave a better person. These are the people who when all is chaotic around them, they are still at peace and they come out on the other side strong, humble, and…meek.

The second type of meekness is what I call a practiced meekness. This is the person who is not naturally meek but feels the call of the Holy Spirit through scripture to practice meekness. This requires great discipline and intentionality. As I describe this kind of person, I do not want to leave the impression that this is someone who represses his/her power in order to be meek. That does not work. That type of person is a poser, and the false meekness he/she displays will unravel at some point. The person I am talking about is the one who has taken great strides through prayer, study, and practice to become meek in everyday life. This person can be assertive without damaging relationships. This is the person who has put into practice two scriptural philosophies; the practice of doing good to everyone and if it is up to him, to get along with those around him.

Neither of these types of meekness requires that a person give up his/her character and become a pushover or a self-martyr. This person has confidence in the abilities that God has given her and does not in any way feel slighted or like a victim. Those who are meek approach life with a joy of knowing that God has blessed them. And God will continue to bless them.    

Meekness is not what the world describes it to be. Jesus was the picture of meekness. It took more strength than I could muster to die the death that Jesus died…for sinners.

”Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”


1. What are some of the worldly descriptions of meekness you have heard or seen?
2. How do you describe meekness?
3. Would you describe yourself as naturally meek, or do you have to work at it?
4. When you read this passage, what comes up for you?
5. Make a commitment this week to take one measurable step to lean into meekness. Put it into practice and watch what God does in your life.
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Monday, November 5, 2012

Those who mourn...

Week 45:

Matthew 5:4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

I believe we live in a culture that makes it hard to mourn and grieve when one suffers a loss of any kind. Think about how much effort so many of us make to not be sad. I know I do not like to feel sadness and I will jump through all kinds of hoops just to avoid most forms of sadness.

Briefly, I would like to describe some ways we as a culture avoid mourning and grief. First, when a child loses a pet, what is the first thing a parent will say? It may sound something like this, “Don’t be sad, we’ll get you another one.” We try to replace our loss hoping we will feel better. Do we really love the replacement pet as much as the first? No, we have not grieved the loss of the first one. A second form of grief avoidance is the idea that “time heals all wounds.” Time does not heal, God heals. Time allows for healing to take place. However, if one does not grieve properly, time will only create a wound that will fester and cause other problems in life. A fourth form of grief avoidance is to bury it and move on as if life is normal. As a culture, we have taken a virtue like perseverance and created a “push through all things” mentality. This only creates a powder keg ready to explode at any time. The final grief avoidance practice is a “don’t let them see you cry attitude.” This type of avoidance teaches us to cry alone. Healing for grief comes from community. Grieving alone prolongs the sadness.

How God wants us to handle grief is opposed to what our culture advocates. I believe, according to this passage, to be comforted, we must feel our sadness to completion. One sociologist believes that if we try to numb the emotions like sadness, anger, and fear we will also numb happiness, excitement, and tenderness. We cannot selectively numb the emotions or we will not be able to feel what we consider positive emotions. In order to feel joy and happiness, we must feel sadness to completion. I believe this is part of what God is saying that we “will be comforted.” When we feel our grief and sadness, we are released to feel joy and happiness again.  

Although death tends to be the most severe or traumatic form of loss, it is not the only form of loss one can experience. Divorce is a form of loss that also needs grief or mourning. In fact, divorce is difficult in a different way. Because the loss does not have a finality like death, constant reminders of grief can last for years because in a lot of cases, the other party is still around. The loss of employment requires grief and mourning. These are two major areas besides death that cause grief, but there are many other areas where grief and sadness need to be felt to completion.  

I invite you to look at places in your life where you have not mourned or grieved loss. Reflect on how you handled your emotions. Do you need to spend a time period in grief so that God can heal you, comfort you, and release you to feel more joy and happiness in your life?  

Here are some steps you can take to mourn and grieve properly. First, ask God to be part of the process. Second, admit that you have a loss in your life. Third, admit the emotion of sadness and maybe even fear and anger around this loss. Fourth, find someone or a group of people who can support you through this time. Finally, feel your loss to completion and allow God to fill your heart with what is needed for you.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”


1. Describe a time of loss in your life.
2. How did you handle that loss?
3. Describe how you handled the emotions around that loss. What were some consequences for you handling the emotions in an unhealthy way?
4. Do you see a connection between a lack of joy and some loss in your life?
5. This week, think about a loss in your life you did not face with grief and mourning. Ask God to come in to your heart and help you to work through that situation.

Note: It is never too late to go back and grieve losses. In my own life, I never really grieved the loss of my Grandmother whose life was taken by a drunk driver. Many years later in therapy it was revealed to me that I had not grieved that loss. I spent some time in grief then and was comforted and released to feel joy and peace in my life. I invite you to walk into that place in your life and gain healing that you may not know you needed.
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