How far do you want mercy and grace to extend? Past your latest sin? Past your struggling weakness? Past your worst failure? Past your past? We’re all in when God stoops down, writes something in the sand, and forgives the woman caught in adultery. We love when Jesus cleanses the heart of the woman who has had five husbands and is living with a sixth man. But the real challenge comes when we must be like Jesus; forgive, extend grace, and show the mercy to others as he has done for us. What I’ve found is that it is much easier to receive mercy than to extend it. We hold on to grudges, are judge and jury, and hold on to pains that someone else caused. Is it possible that what made David a man after God’s heart wasn’t that he was perfectly Holy or righteous, but that he extended the same grace that God had extended to him to others? David had been pursued by King Saul for years, but when given the chance to exact revenge, he exhibited mercy. Saul is pursuing David and comes into a cave where David is hiding. David has the perfect opportunity to take Saul’s life, but instead, he cuts a corner off Saul’s garment and extends mercy. In another moment, Saul and his men fall asleep and David walks into the camp unnoticed. Standing over the problem of his life, instead of taking his life, he takes a few utensils and a sword and walks away. As we start this year, I encourage you to forgive, show compassion and extend mercy to those who have hurt you or have caused you pain. Why? Because if we want grace and mercy to go beyond our failures and shortcomings, we need to make sure it goes beyond what others need also.
Your heart matters. In fact, God is more concerned about your heart than anything else. While I’m not here to diminish the importance of living Godly and Holy, it is the inside that God looks at and it is the inside that will produce a true Christ like lifestyle. In 2 Chronicles 30, Hezekiah’s heart is to bring His people’s lives and families back to God. The problem is no one is qualified to bring them to repentance and they had missed the Passover. Hezekiah’s hunger is a month late and would have to be performed by an unclean person. God has a dilemma. He has people who have hungry hearts but don’t have it all together. Hezekiah confesses the errors of his people and asks God, “will you hear our prayers, will you heal us?” In one of the more amazing moments in the Bible the scripture said that “the LORD hearkened to Hezekiah, and healed the people (2 Chron. 30:20).” What a moment of grace! Grace that is still available today. Five husbands and living with a sixth man, not a problem. Caught in the very act of adultery, not a problem. Thief and murderer breathing your last breath, not a problem. Grace showed up at a lonely well, at the screams of judgmental accusers and at the cross of a guilty man. Need grace today? Give Him an honest heart and His grace will show up.
Under Construction. It’s a sign that we hate to see when we’re traveling. Whether we’re headed to work or on a trip we know it means long waits and rude drivers. See the sign on a building and you know there’s temporary lights and walls and plenty of dry wall dust. While we hate to see those “Under Construction” signs, they are a sign of life and progress. It means something is growing, there is expansion going on or improvements being made. While we hate the process, we love the results. Whether a road with smooth pavement, a new shopping environment, or spacious addition, they all bring expectation and excitement. We’re willing to except that in real world life, we’re often less accepting when it comes to the human factor, but the fact is, we are all under construction. In reality, we should all have signs, maybe t-shirts, that say, “pardon our mess, under construction.” God hints at it in Jeremiah 29:11 when He says, “I know the plans I have for you.” Plans, that means a project, that construction is coming! Paul puts it another way in Philippians 1:6, “He who has begun a good work in you shall perform it.” What is Paul saying? You’re not finished yet. You are in process. So, pardon my mess, put on a hard hat and help, stop judging me in the middle of my construction. God is in the middle of making something awesome.
Have you ever mopped or painted yourself in a corner, got trapped in a car or been locked in a freezer? Odd questions, I know, but our family has experienced all of these scenarios. Painting a floor, I painted myself in, ended up taking my shoes and socks off to get out of the corner. Our son Gentry had a car where the front passenger door would lock and you couldn’t get out, talk about an uncomfortable feeling. Mary called one day from work and her and a co-worker had got locked in a freezer. Fortunately, someone freed them. Why do I bring up these moments? Because there are those who have painted their life in a corner, locked themselves in a life of bitterness. How? By holding on to unforgiveness. When we choose to hold onto unforgiveness, we build our own jail cell with bars made of bitterness, anger and hurt. When we choose to let bitterness and hatred live in our life, it doesn’t impact those who have hurt us, it hurts us. We become bound to emotions and feelings that steel joy, peace and happiness. There is only one who can free you from this jail cell, you! The moment you let it go, forgive, the door to freedom opens. You get a new lease on life, fresh joy, peace and happiness. Free yourself today, forgive. Let it go!