Posts Tagged ‘mercy of God’

Deuteronomy 30:1-10

A Call to Return to the Lord

Have you been watching the liberal world’s reaction to the Trump presidency? No matter what Trump does, they are going to consider it a failure. There was a meme that was floating around on the internet and Facebook a few weeks ago that was hilariously funny. It showed on one side of the picture, a liberal railing at Trump about why he needed to do something for the poor, defenseless people of Syria. The next frame beside it is after Trump has bombed Syria and the liberal is railing at Trump for having done something. It seems no matter what Trump does, whether it is good or bad; the liberals just jump all over it even if their protests one day are contradictory to their protests the next day. They just don’t like Trump. They are not willing to give him a chance. They are not willing to let this non-politician evolve into his job. Sure, Trump never does himself any favors by his unpolished style and saying what is simply his opinion and not always what is wise to say on the world political stage that he now occupies. However, for all his faults, he is actually trying to do a good job and he is doing his best to surround himself with people who know what they are doing. The world has not ended because of the Trump presidency yet.

 

He was, from Day 1, not giving the honeymoon of 6 months to a year that most presidents get right after being inaugurated where they are not roundly criticized. They are usually given that time for us on both sides of the aisle, liberals and conservatives alike, to see what patterns of behavior a new president and his administration will display. People typically withhold judgment for a while. Trump has not been so lucky. Sure, I voted for him because he was the only Republican option. I did not hate Hillary but her political leanings were just amazingly too far to the left for me. So, the only electable option other than Hillary was Trump. I felt then and still do now that Marco Rubio would have made a far better President than Trump or Clinton. However, my party went nuts over the loudest voice. They fell in love with the celebrity and braggadocio of Trump and not his substance. Given that, I am not sitting here at my laptop writing this as some staunch Trump supporter. However, I think we should give the man some time to evolve into his job. We have elected outsiders before. Jimmy Carter was a Washington political outsider. We as a nation gave him a chance for about a year or year and a half before we realized that he was inept and unable to effectively run the presidency. He was given time to prove himself inept and a bumbling fool when it came to the presidency. Not so with Trump. He has been branded the devil by the liberals and no matter what he does; he is wrong. He is forever branded an enemy of the liberal cause and even if he created the free education, $20 minimum wage, government programs for everything, socialist state that the liberals want, they would not accept it because it would have been Trump who did it.

 

It is almost like the girl from the book, The Scarlet Letter, who was forever branded with a red “A” on her clothing for having committed adultery at one point in her life. She was forever branded by New England society. Never to be treated with dignity ever again. It is like the McCarthyism of the 1950s. Peoples lives were ruined by the Communist hysteria created by the McCarthy’s witch hunt. Many notable Americans at the time were branded as Communists by his US House of Representative subcommittee, the House Committee on Unamerican Activities, and their lives were forever ruined by that committee. Once branded a communist, you could never find work or even a life of peace again. It trickled down to main street America and there was a nationwide paranoia about being communist. It was an ugly time for America. It was unfair. People were branded with Scarlet C’s and nothing would ever change them back into people of worth to the nation even if they were proven innocent. The accusation of being a communist was enough to end their lives as they knew before the accusation. They were branded as enemies of the nation and that never changed. Trump is being given the same treatment by liberals. They have decided from Day 1 that he is the devil himself and nothing that he will ever do in his presidency will be acceptable to him, even if He does good things for the nation.

It was that contrasting idea of how the liberals in America treat Trump that came to mind when I read this passage about God’s promise of redemption of Israel as long as they returned to God. My thought was what if God was not that way. What if we were permanently branded as an enemy by God? Let us read this passage together this morning:

 

30 When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come on you and you take them to heart wherever the Lord your God disperses you among the nations, 2 and when you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, 3 then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes[a] and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you. 4 Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back. 5 He will bring you to the land that belonged to your ancestors, and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your ancestors. 6 The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live. 7 The Lord your God will put all these curses on your enemies who hate and persecute you. 8 You will again obey the Lord and follow all his commands I am giving you today. 9 Then the Lord your God will make you most prosperous in all the work of your hands and in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your land. The Lord will again delight in you and make you prosperous, just as he delighted in your ancestors, 10 if you obey the Lord your God and keep his commands and decrees that are written in this Book of the Law and turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

 

Here, in this passage, Moses told the Hebrews that when they were ready to return to God, he would be ready to receive them. God’s mercy is unbelievable. It goes far beyond what we can imagine. Even if the Israelites deliberately walked away from God and suffered the consequences of their sin, God said He would still take them back. God would give them spiritual renewal. God wants to forgive us and bring us back to Himself too. Some of us will not learn of the love and mercy that God has for us until we have hit rock bottom and our world has crashed in around us. It is often the greatest testimony of the a forgiving and redeeming God is a person who had wrecked their life before coming the Christ. The sorrow and pain that they have gone through provides new insight into what God had been saying to them all along. No matter how far we have wandered, God promises a new beginning when we come to Him with a truly repentant heart and beg for His forgiveness through His Son, Jesus Christ.

 

When we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, our past is no longer held against us. Our scarlet letter is removed and we are restored to good standing in God’s society. When we accept Christ as our Savior we are no longer branded a friend of Satan. Our past becomes our testimony not our sentence to prison. Our past speaks of how a just but loving and merciful Father can redeem His children. By all rights, the accusations of sin against us are real and worthy of branding and worthy of punishment in hell. We deserve to be separated from God forever. We deserve to be the Trump to liberals – forever disdained, forever branded as an enemy, forever unforgiven. In the sight of God, we violate all that is pure and righteous and we deserve to be permanently separated from God. By His justice, we should be forever tainted and unworthy of forgiveness or mercy. However, we know that God is equally as merciful as He is a God of justice. He gave His Son for us so that He could redeem us. We had to have a substitute to take our place in the Hunger Games. Jesus Christ has taken our place in the reaping so that we could live. He took on the punishment for our sins that we rightfully deserved and He made us right again with God. No longer branded as deserving hell. No longer excluded from God’s family. We are made new. Our slate of sin is wiped clean. We are given new life and never condemned for who we were before Christ.

So, maybe, in this world today in which politics are polarized and people are forever branded one way or another. Maybe, in this world, where you won’t listen to someone because of what political label you have forever branded them with. Maybe, we should look at how God forgives us and rips the label of sinner off of us by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. Maybe, we should be less stringent about our political beliefs and not see the label and see the person. Maybe, that would lead to working for what is best for the nation and not this you’re the devil and if I work with you on anything I will explode mentality that has seized our nation now.

 

Let us remember that God redeems us from our sins through Jesus Christ when He could by all rights and in His Sovereignty caste us to hell. Let us reflect His merciful nature in our dealings with others. Let us be willing to give others a chance to show us that they are not the devil incarnate. Let us not be a people who permanently brand others as enemies and never ever forgive them. Let us be merciful.

 

Amen and Amen.

Deuteronomy 10:12-11:7 (Part 6 of 7)

A Call to Love and Obedience

Receiving mercy when we should receive severe judgment. Unexpected and undeserved mercy is a gift beyond all proportions when you are in that position. You know that you should be judged harshly. You know you deserve it and you expect it.

 

That was my story when I was a teenager just after my dad was transferred to Travelers Rest, SC as the pastor of two United Methodist churches there. For the previous two years, he had been serving as the associate pastor at a large church in Anderson, SC. While in Anderson, I had sort of come into my own as a teenager. No longer was I simply an attachment of my parents. I had a life of my own. I was a big man on campus at Lakeside Middle School. I was popular. Played on the junior high football team. Was a star on the church league basketball team at church. All the girls thought I was cute. Then, the world shattered. My dad was moved. He was ready to be a solo pastor again and not just the second guy in command. It was good move for him and his career as a pastor in the United Methodist Church in South Carolina. It was great for him but it was the end of a great run for me.

 

Moving to Travelers Rest was a bad thing for me. I had the perfect situation in Anderson. Why change it? I was angry at dad. I was angry at the bishop of the South Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church. About a month after we moved to Travelers Rest, I got to have my best friend from Anderson come up and spend the week with us, in the middle of which we are going to get to Six Flags as part of a youth group trip. When Donnie got there, we were to hang out at the parsonage while my parents were at work and just do what we used to do back in Anderson when our parents were at work, except for the whole Lake Hartwell thing. Donnie lived right on the lake so we spent a lot of time in Anderson, swimming, and exploring the woods around the lake. In Travelers Rest, the lake was not an option but everything else was the same. Listen to music, ride bikes around the area, explore. This scenario of life used to not be a big deal and we stayed out of trouble. However, this one day in Travelers Rest, SC, proved to be different. We decided to go around “downtown” Travelers Rest seeing what we could get away with. We stole bubble gum and candy from the town drug store and we got away with it. That gave us a rush. Being the generally goody gooderson kids that we were, it was wild to get away with stealing. That emboldened us. As we were walking around town, something told us it was a good idea to vandalize the local elementary school. It was nothing to me since I was going to be a freshman that fall at the high school. For some unknown reason as we were plunking around the old school (it was pretty old – it was a one time the high school – built way back in the 1920s), we decided that it would be a good idea to yank the telephone wires out of the junction box for the phones in the office. This was where the wires came in from the road, up the side of the building, into the junction box, and then from the junction box into the office and its various phones. As we were yanking the wires out, the janitor saw us do it. Yelled at us. We took off and ran to this old school grocery store/convenience store down the street and hid out. However, the janitor had called the Travelers Rest police and they cornered us in that little grocery store. We were arrested.

 

Needless to say, my dad and Donnie’s dad were none to pleased and there was much grief to pay for our misdeed. The rest of the summer was hard labor for both of us (me in Travelers Rest, Donnie in Anderson). Then, there was the waiting to see what the justice system would do to us. Our fear was that we would be sent to juvenile prison in Columbia, SC (the state capitol) for how much time you get for vandalizing public property. I don’t know how it works today in 2017, but at that time in the fall of 1976, Greenville had started this new thing called the pre-trial intervention program for youthful offenders. You would meet with a juvenile probation officer instead of your case going to trial. He would decide whether your case would be accepted into the program or whether our case would be released into the court system. He was, thus, our judge and jury. He would decide our fate. We dreaded it. We were hopeful that he would have mercy on us, since we were generally good kids, maybe just too much attitude.

 

So, it was during that monumental meeting with the juvenile probation officer. I remember he was a former cop. He was a black man and was a rough, gruff, older guy who instilled respect from you as soon as you met him. For the life of me, I cannot remember his name now, but I remember his face. His intent was to scare us silly and he succeeded. However, it was during this meeting that it was revealed that my dad and Donnie’s dad had paid the price for our crime. They had split the cost of repairing the phone system at the school in hopes that the School District of Greenville County would not press charges against us and to make things right. It was during this meeting that we found out that the school district did, indeed, agree to not press charges us against us and that because of that, and the fact that we are not of age, the arrest would be permanently expunged from our records. There would never be any public record of the arrest.

 

OK so we avoided the prospect of jail. We avoided even having a record. That was all well and good, but what about our dads? Avoiding punishment from the court system was one thing but avoiding punishment from our dads was a whole ‘nother story. On the way from the Greenville County courthouse offices in downtown Greenville to Donnie’s home on Lake Hartwell in Anderson, SC takes about almost an hour. There was complete silence. We did not know what to expect from my dad. This whole thing had disappointed him greatly and I am sure he was angry at us. Silence for an hour for two boys who, when together, could talk the ears off a donkey. We knew that when we got to Anderson there would be this big pow-wow between the four of us (me, my dad, Donnie, Donnie’s dad) and that they would possibly tell us that we could never see other again or something. That would have been fate worse than death to us at the time. They might have agreed to put us to hard labor back and forth between Travelers Rest and Anderson for a year or something. We knew we deserved that or something along those lines. The mind boggled at what our real fate was to be.

 

However, when we got there, we were told to go put our swim trunks on. Donnie’s dad already had my dad’s boat fueled up and ready to go. We then spent the most glorious day (on a September school day for both Donnie and me) skiing on Lake Hartwell. Donnie and I were really good water skis. Summers in Anderson are spent on the huge lake that Hartwell is. We were water bugs on skis. This day was perfect. Since it was a weekday and during the work hours for most people, the lake was virtually empty and the water was perfectly placid like a pristine sheet of glass (before we came plowing through). It was the perfect dad-son day. The four of us. Donnie’s dad and my dad talking about who knows what all day up in the boat and Donnie and I having the time of our life doing what we did best at the time – water ski. I still remember that day to this day. Not because of the water skiing or skipping school but because we had been set free when we expected the worst. We expected at the worst to be sent to juvenile prison for six months. We find out that our dads had paid the price for our sentence for us. We expected some kind of punishment from our dads that would be almost as bad as going to prison. We got a day at the lake. After that day, the whole matter was never really mentioned again. If it was, it was only as the punchline for any joke about being scared to death. My dad or Donnie’s dad never truly held that whole episode against us ever again. That freedom from certain punishment is still a memory to me as an adult some forty years later. I remember that freedom felt on that lake that day like it was yesterday.

 

The idea of a parent having all the right in the world to punish a child for some grievous wrong but giving them freedom instead of punishment was what I thought of this morning when I read through this passage. With that idea of mercy and withheld justice, let’s read Deuteronomy 10:12-11:7 together:

 

12 And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?

 

14 To the Lord your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it. 15 Yet the Lord set his affection on your ancestors and loved them, and he chose you, their descendants, above all the nations—as it is today. 16 Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. 17 For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. 18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. 19 And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. 20 Fear the Lord your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name. 21 He is the one you praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes. 22 Your ancestors who went down into Egypt were seventy in all, and now the Lord your God has made you as numerous as the stars in the sky.

 

11 Love the Lord your God and keep his requirements, his decrees, his laws and his commands always. 2 Remember today that your children were not the ones who saw and experienced the discipline of the Lord your God: his majesty, his mighty hand, his outstretched arm; 3 the signs he performed and the things he did in the heart of Egypt, both to Pharaoh king of Egypt and to his whole country; 4 what he did to the Egyptian army, to its horses and chariots, how he overwhelmed them with the waters of the Red Sea[a] as they were pursuing you, and how the Lord brought lasting ruin on them. 5 It was not your children who saw what he did for you in the wilderness until you arrived at this place, 6 and what he did to Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab the Reubenite, when the earth opened its mouth right in the middle of all Israel and swallowed them up with their households, their tents and every living thing that belonged to them. 7 But it was your own eyes that saw all these great things the Lord has done

 

In this series of blogs, we are talking about how we should relate to God. Today, we will talk about the mercy of God and how we should be eternally grateful for that. In this passage, Moses is saying that the Lord is the God of gods and the Lord of lords. Moses was distinguishing between the true God and the local idols worshiped by the peoples of the region. Then, Moses when a step further, calling God “mighty and awesome.” He has such awesome power and justice that people cannot stand before Him without mercy. Fortunately, His mercy toward His people is unlimited. When we begin to grasp the extent of God’s mercy toward us, we see what true love is and how deeply God loves us. Although our sins deserve severe judgment God has chosen to show love and mercy to all who seek Him with all of their heart. He knows that we deserve punishment and we know it. We deserve to be cast away from Him into the lake of fire, but when we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, God sees that Jesus has already paid the price for our sin. He has taken the punishment that we deserve. He sees the perfection of Jesus and not the sins that cover our skin. He shows us mercy through His Son. He loves us that much that He would send His Son to be the ransom for our sins. As a result, we get to ski on the lake of freedom instead enduring eternal punishment.

 

Just like the freedom and joy that Donnie and I felt on the day of our darkest hour. We were set free because our parents had paid the price for our crime and we were set free to live our lives in freedom as symbolize by two boys having the time of their lives on a day that should have seen great justice levied upon us, so too is the life that we have in salvation in Jesus Christ.

 

Free when we deserve punishment. Loved by a God whose Son has paid for our crimes. Reconciled to Him and the crimes are wiped clean from our slate never to be mentioned again or held against us ever again. What joy is that? Are you living in that joy?

 

Amen and Amen.