Friday, September 30, 2011

Mercy Always Comes Running!

"So, what's your spiritual gift?"
We were in a ministry team strategy session with two new team members. Each one of us had taken a spiritual gifts inventory "test." Now we were sharing the results and planning for ministry together.
"Mercy, yes, mercy is my spiritual gift." The gift of mercy is on the Romans 12 list, verse 8.
What is the gift of mercy? What does it do?
One definition I found that is helpful to me:

Mercy: "The special ability that God gives to certain members of the Body of Christ to feel genuine empathy and compassion for individuals (both Christian and non-Christian) who suffer from distressing physical, mental, or emotional problems, and to translate that compassion into cheerfully done deeds which reflect Christ’s love and alleviate the suffering."
This gift is a practical gift. Those with this gift find themselves visiting and assisting those in need, and often feel the pain of the person they are helping within themself. People with this gift find it extremely difficult not to help those who seem less fortunate than themself. Those with this gift generally enjoy helping those with physical or mental problems and do well in ministries involving visiting hospitals, nursing homes, prisons, and shut-ins. ... Note: The gifts of Helps, Mercy, and Service are often confused. Helps focuses on Christian works and freeing others to accomplish their God-given ministries. Mercy focuses on people in distress and reflects God’s love and compassion. Service focuses on accomplishing little tasks that may otherwise go undone in order to move the greater goal of the ministry or church toward completion

Time passed. We continued together as a ministry team and I saw how this "mercy gift" worked. It was all about the person with the "gift"! It only worked in public venues so everyone noticed! It wasn't so much about getting under the load of another person's pain as it was about getting the details of that person's pain.

That was a long time ago. Over the years of continuing ministry I have contemplated the gift of mercy. John and I are "neck deep" in church planting ( with a special heart for families and individuals with special needs. That - more often than not - gets us almost over our heads in the deep waters of loving and serving others. It means a lot of "mercy-comes-running" ministry!

"Mercy-comes-running" ministry doesn't happen on a convenient schedule.
"Mercy-comes-running" ministry is messy!
"Mercy-comes-running" ministry is exhausting and breaks our hearts!
"Mercy-comes-running" ministry is a heaven-sent privilege to participate in the pain of others - mostly behind the scenes, unheralded.
"Mercy-comes-running" ministry is that often secret and frequently seemingly impossible mission Jesus modeled so well and calls us to join Him in being and doing.

I love Pastor Tullian's phrase, "Mercy comes running!" Mercy DOES come running! That's what Jesus did! That's what He calls us to do! That's who He calls us to be - little mercy-givers who come running!

Lord Jesus, help me to be "mercy-comes-running" in skin today for You!

*title "borrowed" from Pastor Tullian Tchividjian's blogpost on 9/26/2011.
(1) from Gifted2Serve and

Thursday, September 29, 2011

God's Heart for Me

The amazing truth that liberates and baths my heart in grace is that I don't have to work and struggle to reach up to God. I don't have to strain and stress over getting my own heart where I need to be before the face of God. I don't have to scratch and scrape around the "barnyard" of God's Kingdom finding my own way, meeting my own needs for life and purpose. NO! ALL God wants from me (and you) is for me to reach up to Him with an open heart and empty hands. He does ALL the rest! His heart is reaching for me long before I reach for Him. His heart longs for relationship with me! He draws my heart to His so that even when I turn to seek Him I find He's already seeking me!
Jesus came to make a terrible trade - my sin for His right-ness! Jesus brings me the double cure - a full pardon forever from both the guilt and power of sin's choke-hold on my heart!
Wow! I think I can live in that truth toady with His help! HE is enough - no matter what!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Footprints on the Heart

I don't think I would have ever stood in line to be part of a "disability ministry" even in spite of the fact that my doctors and I could make a pretty good case for my being disabled but it's in that area called "hidden disability." AND before my friends, family or even my not friends quickly say - you mean, mental - no, that's not it but enough of that!
However I find myself deeply immersed in disability ministry! God gave my husband a vision for a church intentionally started with the core value of reaching out particularly to individuals and families with special needs. I'm not the philosophical type so much as a relational servant. I spend a lot of time with the special friends I have met and come to value and love in this ministry and in my life. My life and heart are forever altered by the precious treasure of these very, very special friends!!!
Disability ministry grabs the heart! It may be costly in terms of time and energy but the joy of participating in another's struggles and pain is priceless!
These special friends have left their indelible footprints on my heart! AND that's a God thing! God sent them into my life to bless me FAR more than I can ever think of serving any of them! It is an incredible "hug" from God that my circle of friends is filled with broken people like me!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Exposure of Your Heart

Through difficult relationships and circumstances, God works to expose your heart so you will seek the grace that can only be found in Him.
--Paul Tripp
This is the day, this is the day, this is the day the Lord has made! I will rejoice and be glad!

I woke a number of times in the night fractured and worried over an email from the mother of a student yesterday criticizing my assignment (FROM LAST THURSDAY BUT NOT ADDRESSED by this parent UNTIL LATE YESTERDAY!) for today's class. "Her student isn't ready for this concept. It's too hard....................."

What happened to the days - way back when - when parents gave the teacher the benefit of the doubt almost no matter what??!! My mother even invited my 1st grade teacher - who hit my hand with a ruler because I coughed in class after she told us to be quiet - to Sunday dinner at our house! Now THAT was almost the ultimate betrayal! I couldn't believe I had to make nice with Miss Tiller and it wasn't even a school day.

Well, that day and this day and all the in-between days are days the Lord has made!

My focus THIS day is going to intentionally be: This is the day the Lord has made! I WILL rejoice and be glad! After all, I don't have to rejoice in particular circumstances. Some things that happen just stink! But knowing Jesus walks with me thru this day and that this same Jesus is also Lord of all Creation makes all the difference in the attitude of my heart!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Sunday, September 25, 2011

I love to work in my yard. I enjoy the results - the flowers, the tomatoes, the healthy shrubs and trees! However in my little corner of the earth - "Steeler Land" (surburban Pittsburgh) there is a HUGE problem with gardens! O, it's not with the plants and what they grow. It's with the deer that are literally EVERYWHERE who spend their insomniac lives slithering through my yard in the night eating wherever they like.
I finally got so disgusted this summer that I resorted to moving all the hanging baskets off their hooks around the patio every night and stashing them behind the couch against the brick of the house where the deer can't get to them. They demolished an entire gorgeous basket of impatiens in one night. THEN every morning while I wait for the coffee to drip I put them all back on their hooks!
BUT they kept coming and getting whatever morsels they could find so now I have deer netting covering all the blooming borders in my flower beds! What I haven't figured out how to do yet is how to stymie the bold obese groundhog that lives under the shed next door. He loves chrysanthemums and is growing fatter by the day! Maybe he needs to get on the government's new obesity initiative! Now there's a plan................
All that to say that one thing I'm learning in all this doing battle with deer, rabbits and groundhogs is that I notice my flowers more and do whatever I can to protect them. It is the process of the battle that gives me a greater appreciation for the beauty that is left! I think there's a parable in here somewhere...........!

What's on Your Refrigerator?

Do you ever wish God would just send a plane pulling a message banner across the sky?
Do you ever think how it might be if God would rent a big billboard so you could read what He wants you to do about something or where He wants you to go?
Do you ever check to see if God left a post-it on the refrigerator for you to read for the day?
NEWS FLASH! God did better than any of that! He wrote you a very long letter that you can spend a lifetime reading and learning about God's thoughts for you! He also sent His only Son to "put on our skin and move into our neighborhood." (The Message, John 1:14) AND then - when Jesus went back to heaven - to sit beside God and wait to hear and answer our prayers, Jesus sent His Spirit to stick closer than our skin and blood for all the ticks of our time!
So, what's with the refrigerator? Refrigerators are for kid art and grocery lists mostly - O, and also for your magnet collection!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Unconditional Love

The greatest single cause of a poor self-image is the absence of unconditional love.-Zig Zigler

..may you feel and... KNOW God's truly unconditional love today! God CAN love us unconditionally not because we're so great to love but because we can hide behind His Son!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Prone to Wander

Come, Thou Fount of ev'ry blessing, tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise. ...
O to grace how great a debtor daily I'm constrained to be;
Let that grace now, like a fetter, bind my wand'ring heart to Thee.
Prone to wander - Lord, I feel it - prone to leave the God I love:
Here's my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above.
--Robert Robinson, 1758

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Caring Heart Matters!

"People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."
--Rick Warren

A Broken Heart

Dr. Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision, met a little girl in China more than 60 years ago. Her name was White Jade. She heard about Jesus for the first time from Dr. Pierce. She asked Jesus to be her Savior. Then White Jade rushed home to share the wonderful good news of Jesus with her family. Her family was excited too but not with joy. They were angry and horrified. White Jade's father threw her out to make her way on the streets of Shangai. She wandered until she found an American missionary. White Jade begged to live with her. Six children already lived there. So the missionary said to Bob Pierce, "Give me $5 a year and I can take White Jade into my home too." Bob Pierce handed her $5.
Bob Pierce's heart was torn and challenged by White Jade. He returned to America. White Jade was the catalyst behind the founding of World Vision.
Over his years of ministry Bob Pierce visited China again and South Korea. He saw Christians over and over again going far above and beyond their means to care for other "White Jade's."
The suffering he saw moved his heart to write in the fly-leaf of his Bible, "Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God." That short sentence was the theme of Bob Pierce's life and ministry.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Jesus Lives in My Heart!

There was a little boy who had a desperately “sick” heart. He needed surgery urgently.
Tomorrow morning, the surgeon said, I’ll open up you heart …
You’ll find Jesus there, the boy interrupted.
The surgeon looked up annoyed, I’ll cut your heart open, he continued, to see how much damage has been done …
But when you open up my heart, you’ll find Jesus in there
, said the boy.
The surgeon looked at the boy’s parents who sat quietly, When I see how much damage has been done, I’ll sew your heart and chest back up and then I’ll plan what to do next.
But, Doc, you’ll find Jesus in my heart. The Bible says He lives there. You WILL find Him in my heart!
The surgeon was getting really irritated, I’ll tell you what I’ll find in your heart. I’ll find damaged muscle, low blood supply and weakened arteries. AND I’ll find out if I can make you well.
You’ll find Jesus there too. He lives there!
The boy bravely insisted. The surgeon left the room.
The next day: The surgeon sat in his office recording his notes from the surgery: …damaged aorta, damaged pulmonary vein, widespread muscle deterioration. No hope for transplant; no hope for cure. Therapy: Pain meds and rest. Prognosis: (Here he paused.) death within one year.
He stopped the recorder but there was more he needed to say: WHY? He asked aloud. God, why did You do this? You’ve put him in this pain! You’ve cursed him to an early death! WHY?
God answered softly speaking to the surgeon’s heart: This boy was not meant to live in this world long. Soon he will be with Me forever. Here he will feel no pain and he will be with Me! His parents will join him here someday, too.
The surgeon wept hot, bitter tears. His anger was hotter still. You created this special little boy. You created his heart. He’ll be dead in months! WHY? The surgeon wept…….
Later the surgeon sat beside the boy’s bed. The boy awoke and whispered, Did you cut open my heart?
, said the surgeon.
What did you find? asked the boy.
I found Jesus there! said the surgeon.
(Author unknown)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Being Restored Heart Learns to Listen!

A sign you're growing in grace: You talk slower & interrupt people less, because U're not as important to U as U used 2B !
--Scotty Smith, Twitter

Monday, September 19, 2011

"Fair-weather" Heart for Marriage?

Last week TV evangelist Pat Robertson said that he could understand why a man or woman would divorce his or her marriage partner after that partner develops Azheimer's disease. I don't know what part of "... in sickness and in health as long as we both shall live" he doesn't understand!
My own mother is sinking deeper and deeper into a world beyond her mind. She is confused. She is angry sometimes. She is sad. My dad is her anchor - he and Jesus! When she dreams scary dreams my dad comforts her in the night. She sits and holds his hand. He loves her beyond words and thought - much like in this YouTube story of the McQuilken's! It would never cross my dad's mind to do anything as long as he has life BUT be there for and with my mother. In fact his love for her sometimes gets in front of logic and wisdom simply because his heart of love for her is so totally enduring!
Check out this link and be prepared to cry and also be prepared to have your heart impacted:
Marriage is neither for the faint of heart or the fair-weather of heart! Marriage is forever TILL DEATH DO US PART!
I wonder what part of "till death do us part" Pat Robertson has forgotten or doesn't understand.
Granted this is a terrible, heart-wrenching disease! But life-long, sacred commitments are forever! God never promises to take away the pain or the heart-wrenching difficult or the desperate loss. What He does promise is His presence and that, my friend, MUST be enough! And it is - even in the deepest, darkest night of pain and loss!
Pat Robertson said, "I know it sounds cruel, but if he's going to do something, he should divorce her and start all over again, but make sure she has custodial care and somebody looking after her." Stunning!
The other Robertson as in Robertson McQuilkin made a vastly different choice and for all the right reasons. His reward is in heaven! Robertson McQuilkin has no "fair-weather" heart for his Muriel!

Getting What You Want May Not Be a Good Thing!

We never imagine that getting our heart's deepest desires might be the worst thing that can ever happen to us.
--- Tim Keller

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Dancing Heart!

Wish I had written this but I'm glad I follow Scotty on Twitter so I got to read this:

About Scotty Smith
Scotty Smith is Founding Pastor of Christ Community Church in Franklin, TN and a Council member with The Gospel Coalition. More… Scotty Smith5:01 am CT

A Prayer for a Dancing Heart, and Feet

You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever. Ps. 30:11-12

Lord Jesus, was there ever a king more into dancing than King David? His victory over Goliath was the inspiration for singing and dancing by many in Israel (1 Sam. 21:11). When the ark was returned to Jerusalem, he danced before the Lord with all his might, and very little modesty (2 Sam. 6:14). It’s obvious he wrote this psalm as a dancer for other dancers, whose joy at the dedication of the temple was simply uncontainable.

But Jesus, you’re the real Lord of the Dance. Though King David didn’t realize it, his work and joy point to yours. You’re the only monarch who can turn the wails of our sin and brokenness into the dance of hope and joy. You’re the only ruler merciful and mighty enough to replace our hearts of stone with hearts of flesh. By your cross, you’ve removed the filthy garments of unrighteousness that we might be clothed us with the white robe of your own righteousness. Astounding . . . astonishing . . . and so very true.

How can we not sing and make music to you in our hearts? How can we possibly remain silent and still, in response to who you are and everything you’ve done for us, Jesus? Forgive us when we, like the elder brother, remain smugly on the outside of the house of redemption—off the dance floor of your reconciling love (Luke 15:25).Cause us to hear the Father speaking to us right now: “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours” (Luke 15:31).

Indeed, Lord, forgive us for confusing reverence with rigor mortis. Forgive us for giving you ardor-less order when we worship you. Forgive us for living more by our temperament tests, Myers-Briggs profiles, and personality types than by the lyric, music, and dance of the gospel. Free us from giving you a measured response to a measureless gospel.

One day, King Jesus, we will give thanks to you with all our might. All personal inhibitions, cultural limitations, and ecclesiastical prohibitions will be gone. May that great day of liberation have much greater impact on this day’s celebration. So very Amen we pray in your grace-filled and gladsome name.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

God's Roving Eyes

Think of "roving" with a positive connotation - 2 Chronicles 16:9 describes God with "roving eyes"! 9 "For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. ... .”
Where is my heart today? (And what about yours?) This is an unbreakable promise from the heart of God and He always keeps His promises! When my heart is fully committed to Him - when my eyes are fixed on Him, when my heart is committed to Him - then He, the God Who sees and knows all AND Who is ALL-POWERFUL promises to strengthen me! Wow! Awesome! I'm counting on that today!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Chicken and the Pig and Suffering

Tim Keller describes God's heart for the problem of pain in all its forms when he says, "God so loves us and hates suffering that He was willing to come down and get involved in it (suffering)."

"Get involved" is SUCH an innocuous term when THAT involvement was the death of God the Son!

There is a HUGE difference between the chicken's and the pig's "involvement" with the breakfast menu. The chicken is involved in the process of producing an egg to contribute. The pig is committed to the bacon. Bacon is a life-altering event for the pig!

Jesus' death was INVOLVEMENT to the max in our sin and pain! His commitment went far beyond involvement! His death and resurrection are life-altering events for you and me because He was willing to be committed to the cross!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Heart Repossessed!!

"It is by grace that your sins are forgiven, and it is by grace that the wandering allegiance of your heart is reclaimed."
---Paul Tripp

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Land of the Free and Brave Heart

9/11/2001 - To quote a famous president, "A day that will live in infamy"

The image of the plane flying straight into the towers on Good Morning America that Tuesday morning is seared into my brain! And then the images rolled past - each one more horrible than the last! American mourned! The flags flew proudly! We were a nation united in a common cause - defeat evil - that evil that the "average" man or woman had little clue about until suddenly planes were crashing out of the sky: one, two, three, four... and were there more??!!

This morning on my way to pick up a friend for church I passed a well-known fast food place and noticed the American and their chain flag both flying at half mast! At first I thought, "O, 9/11 - honor the dead!" And as I continued to drive and reflect suddenly I was slammed with the thought, "NO! While we do mourn the dead killed in terror by Islamic radical terrorists, we should be flying our flag high! This is the land of the free and the home of the brave!"

The terrorists want us to cower. They want us to lower our stars and bars! They want to destroy us forever!

Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

--Francis Scott Key, 1814

Our star-spangled banner will yet wave as long as our God is the One in Whom we trust! We are the land of the free and home of brave hearts at His discretion! To God be the glory!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Difference between a Proud Heart and the Opposite Humble Heart

Hubris = God, I'm so glad I'm not like people who don't get the Gospel.
Humility = God, I'm so glad the Gospel got me!
WOW!!! Thanks to Scotty Smith for this tweet.
God, work humility in my heart so I don't slip back into thinking I'm special because I get the Gospel. Give me constant focus on gratitude that "the Gospel got me"! AND then help me to quickly repent and find forgiveness when I jump back into my broken default mode!

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Two-Faced Heart

Like Janus, the two-faced Roman diety - facing both forward and backward from whose name we get January - our hearts can face in two directions.
I ran across a sermon by J.C. Ryle on Lot's wife. The bottom line of the sermon is that unless the Holy Spirit is deeply at work in our hearts to change how we think and act that we will "look back" and be drawn back into sin just like Lot's wife.
Our tendency is to think that Lot's wife was "bad" to disobey and cast a quick over-the-shoulder glance at the city of Sodom which obviously had left its "hooks" in her heart. We turn our spiritual noses up and look down them at Lot's wife. The truth is that our hearts are no less "hooked" to the sin patterns deep in our hearts.
We are all broken and need God's renewing power to change us from what we are to what Jesus died, rose again and now reigns to ensure we can and will be as the Holy Spirit works the on-going process of sanctification in our hearts.
Dr. Ryle says, "[All of us] need the grace of the Holy Spirit. ... The same fire that melts the wax hardens the clay; the same sun which makes the living tree grow, dries up the dead tree and prepares it for burning. Nothing so hardens the heart of man as a barren familiarity with sacred things."
Only God can turn our hearts to face Him and move toward Him alone!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Prone to Wander

"It is by grace that your sins are forgiven, and it is by grace that the wandering allegiance of your heart is reclaimed." -- Paul Tripp

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A Dangerous Heart on the Move!

Jim Elliot, Wheaton college student turned missionary martyr in Ecuador, wrote in his journal:
We are so utterly ordinary, so commonplace, while we profess to know a Power the Twentieth Century (OR 21st Century!) does not reckon with. But we are "harmless" and therefore unharmed. We are spiritual pacifists, non-militants, conscientious objectors in the battle-to-the-death with principalities and powers in high places. Meekness must be had for contact with men, but brash, outspoken boldness is required to take part in the comradeship of the Cross. We are "sideliners" - coaching and criticizing the real wrestlers while content to sit by and leave the enemies of God unchallenged. The world cannot hate us, we are too much like its own. Oh that God would make us dangerous!
My prayer for my heart today: God, give me a dangerous heart attached to feet in "sandles of peace" as I move through this day!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

"Shovel Ready" Heart Work

"The hardest work you will ever do is heart work. Don't attempt it apart from the grace of God." --Scotty Smith
I put down MY shovel today and asked God to get His "shovel" ready to work on my heart! This should be a great but painful day!

Monday, September 5, 2011

What the World Needs Now!

Men despise religion; they hate it and they fear it is true. (Blaise Pascal, French Christian who was also a physicist, 1670)

As far as it goes this is an interesting and thoughtful observation by Pascal. The kink is that religion is despicible! What matters is Jesus! It's a real relationship with Him that the world needs and that my heart needs! It is the Gospel of grace that reaches my heart and the hearts of the watching world because He is the Way, the Truth and the Life!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Dicotomy NOT! Fusion YES!

We arrive at truth, not by reason only, but also by the heart.
--Blaise Pascal, French Physicist and follower of Jesus Christ, 1670

It is still the truth! God made us with heads and hearts for a significant reason! It is NOT a dicotomy but rather fusion!

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Gospel at Work!

"No pain, no gain?" Nah, "No pain? Then you're probably disconnected from relationships and your own heart. Love hurts!" --Scotty Smith

"The Gospel, in short, must be used to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable."
--Tim Keller

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Gospel Heart-Deep Hurt - A Good Thing?!!!

God's grace is not a desensitizing anesthetic. As the Gospel penetrates our hearts, we will hurt deeply but redemptively!
-- Scotty Smith

Is this what the world calls "masochistic" thinking? Maybe but the truth is NO WAY! NO HOW! Knowing God's grace, experiencing God's grace deeply into the crevices of my heart is a good kind of heart hurt. As the Gospel changes me, it also compels me to live out the Gospel to the watching world one life at a time and sometimes that brings unimaginable hurt. The key is that hurt is redemptive both for me and for the person I love with "Gospel love"! Only eternity will reveal all of what that means so - for now - it may prove painful to the max! BUT it's worth it to have the Gospel penetrate my heart!