Pile of pine cones at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Love mercy

When someone wrongs you, how do you respond? Do you get angry at them? Do you hold a grudge? Do you respond in kind? After all, if they’ve been mean to you, it’s only logical that you should be mean back, right? An eye for an eye?

Well, that’s not what we’re supposed to do. It feels right to reciprocate when someone does wrong to us, but it’s not the way we’re supposed to live. And it’s not what God expects from us.

Pile of pine cones at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Pile of pine cones at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Micah 6:8.

No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
    and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy,
    and to walk humbly with your God.

Yesterday we talked about doing what is right, and today we’re going to talk about what it means to love mercy. I would love to tell you that I have this figured out, but I don’t. Actually I struggle with this one a lot. Because I don’t have a problem loving people who are kind to me. It’s loving buttheads that comes hard.

If someone is unreasonable with me, I tend to think they’re just being difficult because they can. If someone is rude to me, I tend to think they’re stuck up and snobbish. If someone acts hateful or treats me like a lesser life form, I tend to treat them the same way. But that’s not what loving mercy is about.

Mercy is withholding just punishment. It means you don’t get what you deserve. The best example is what Christ did for us on the cross. He died a brutal, savage death in our place–in my place. I deserve to go to hell, but because Christ loved me and gave Himself for me, I don’t have to. That’s mercy. That’s God not giving me what I deserve.

God loves mercy. And God expects us to love mercy too.

God gives us mercy every day. I mean, unless you’re perfect all the time, you need mercy every hour. I do. Maybe you’re a better person than I am, but I think things I’m not supposed to. I think hurtful things. I think dangerous things. I say mean things. And each one of those expressions of discontent or attitude or pride demonstrate that I love making myself feel better more than mercy.

If loved mercy like I was supposed to, I would jump at the opportunity to forgive someone for how they hurt me. Loving mercy is being kind especially to the people who don’t deserve our kindness. And I’m not talking about running out your door and finding someone who you barely know and looking for ways to be kind to them. You can do that if you want, but I’m willing to bet that there’s someone in your life–someone you already know–who could use some mercy.

People are people everywhere. I know a couple of people who drive me insane. I just want to throttle them half the time, and the other half of the time I usually just try to ignore them. But neither response is very merciful.

And please don’t misunderstand. There’s also a verse in scripture about throwing pearls before swine. You don’t want to waste your time and effort investing in someone who is just going to turn around and attack you. But whether they attack you or not, whether they waste your time or not, you can still be kind in your dealings with them. And that’s what it means to love mercy.

So that’s my goal today. I want to love mercy. I want to focus on being kind to people around me, especially if they don’t deserve kindness. I want to look for opportunities to extend mercy to people around me, and then I want to be brave enough to tell them why. Because if you’re just being kind to people without them understanding why, what’s the point? But if they can wrap their head around the fact that you are choosing mercy over how the world says to live because you believe in Christ, you never know how that might change someone else.

Focus on what matters. Love mercy.

Bolivar Island lighthouse from the Galveston Ferry, Galveston, TX

Do justly

I’ve only seen a message in the clouds once. I can’t remember what the airplane was writing with the smoke against the blue sky, but I remember seeing it and wondering why God couldn’t make His instructions so clear.

Do you ever feel that way? Do you ever wish that God would just tell you what He wanted you to do? Someone I work with has this habit of leading a conversation toward what he wants to communicate, but he won’t tell us what he’s thinking because he wants us to guess. And it irritates the fire out of me because I won’t have an option anyway; whatever he wants us to do, we have to do. So why make us guess?

I feel that way with God sometimes. And then I read a verse like today’s verse and I kick myself because I remember that God is always clear and concise and it’s me who gets things muddled up.

Bolivar Island lighthouse from the Galveston Ferry, Galveston, TX

Bolivar Island lighthouse from the Galveston Ferry, Galveston, TX

Today’s verse is Micah 6:8.

No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God.

It honestly doesn’t get much clearer than that, does it? Do what’s right. Love mercy. Walk humbly. But hang on a second. Think about those three things.

Do what’s right. Love mercy. Walk humbly.

What do they actually mean? What is God actually telling us to do? How is He telling us to live?

I’ve never done this before on this blog, but I’m going to do it now. I’m going to take three days and focus on the same verse because those three things are important. This month I’m trying to get my perspective in order and focus on things that matter, and from the language in this verse, these three things matter. So I want to make sure I understand where God is coming from.

So…the first one…do what is right. Sounds easy enough.

Those of you who read my ramblings regularly (say that three times fast) know that I’m not a Bible scholar, so I often check other translations. This is the same verse in the Amplified Version:

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, and to love kindness and mercy, and to humble yourself and walk humbly with your God?

Do justly. Do what is right. Seems straightforward except for one little question that plagues 21st Century postmodern cultures: What is right?

This whole topic of there being no absolute right or wrong has been really damaging to people, I think. I’m not an expert on the subject, but even I can see the holes in it. Because if right and wrong depend on the individual, there will never be any order. Societies that adopted that kind of culture didn’t last very long. Unfortunately, that’s where America is heading.

But that still doesn’t answer the question. What is right? If there is an absolute right and an absolute wrong, what is it? Where do you find it?

Well, check out the beginning of today’s verse: “The Lord has told you what is good.”

Do you think we have the Bible just so it can gather dust on the coffee table? I’m pretty sure that’s not how it was intended to be used.

Some people get upset about the Bible, calling it a book of dos and don’ts, but let’s be honest here. That’s kind of what it is. Yes, it’s much more than that, but the Bible is an instruction manual. It’s like a roadmap. The Bible is full of stories and examples of how to live and choices and consequences and what’s real and what’s not, but if it sits unopened and unread on our shelves, how will we know what God is trying to tell us?

The Lord has told us what is good. He’s told us what’s right. And He expects us to do it. Can you call yourself a Christ-follower and do what’s wrong? Sure. But why would you?

So what is right?

Love God. Love people. Remember that from yesterday? Yeah, pretty much the basic answer for nearly anything.

Is it easy? Absolutely not. Doing what is right is sometimes the hardest thing you’ll ever do. It’s so much easier to do what’s wrong. It’s so much easier to give in to rumors and gossip. It’s so much easier to lie. It’s so much easier to steal. It’s so much easier to think only of yourself. And you can absolutely do all of that, and God won’t love you any less or any more than He already does.

But each of those choices has a consequence you’ll have to face at some point. If you gossip, eventually you’ll have to face the person you’re talking about. If you lie, eventually you’ll have to face the truth. If you steal, eventually you’ll have to face repayment. And if you only think of yourself, eventually you’ll have to face yourself and you’ll have no one to blame but yourself.

Read the Bible and learn what is right, and then focus on doing it every day. Eventually doing what’s right will become a habit, and it’s a good habit to have because just as poor choices have bad consequences, good choices eventually have great rewards.

Do what’s right. That matters to God, so it should matter to us.

Sunset at the farm

What God expects from us

I am a people pleaser. I like to make people happy, and I like people to be happy with each other. But in order to please people, I have to know their expectations. It’s impossible to please someone until you know what makes them happy. And that holds true at work, at home, or wherever else you go, no matter what relationship you’re in. If the other person in your relationship, whether it be a friend or a family member or a coworker or a boss, never expresses his or her expectations for you, you’ll never know how to please them. You’ll never know how to meet those expectations.

Sunset at the farm

Sunset at the farm - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Micah 6:8.

No, O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

Have you ever been frustrated with God because He can’t talk to you? Or because you can’t see Him? There are days when I really wish He would just appear so that we could talk face to face and get a few things out in the open.

Some days I just want to get a clear answer from Him so I know what He is expecting from me.

Does He just want me to have faith? I know that having faith is what pleases Him (Hebrews 11:6). But there are many different ways to have faith. Does He want me to keep working where I’m working? Does He want me to keep living where I’m living? Does He want me to pick up everything, sell all I own, and go somewhere else? All three options require faith, so which one is the right one? Which one will make Him happy with me? What does He want from me?

Micah, who wrote the Book of Micah, was an Old Testament prophet. And if you’ve never studied the Old Testament prophets, you should that these guys were hardcore. They usually ended up in really dangerous situations because of the things God commanded them to say. They faced kings and queens and delivered messages of doom from God. They stood up for what was right in the times when doing right wasn’t popular. Well, beyond that, I guess. They just stood up for what was right, even facing down kings who usually did the right thing but sometimes strayed. Like David and the prophet Nathan (2 Samuel 12:7).

We live in a world where doing the right thing is difficult. We live in a culture where good has become bad and bad has become good. I laughed at something I saw on Facebook yesterday about one of the presidential candidates, a list of six things people needed to know about him. It was presented as though every item was evil, and I have to say I probably agreed with every one of them. Maybe that makes me a “bad person” as far as the world is concerned, but each item on that list was a biblical response to something in our culture that the Bible says is wrong.

And it’s getting worse every day. The world and our people and our culture are all slowly circling the drain. We aren’t going to go on like this forever. And when we’re all called to account after everything is over, we aren’t going to be able to tell God that we didn’t do what was right because we didn’t know.

We all know. Because God has told us what is good. He’s told us what’s right; He’s told us what wrong; and nobody has an excuse.

No, God hasn’t appeared to anyone I know and explained the intricacies of His expectations, but He did give us the Bible. And as much as possible, He presented it to us in a way that leaves no doubt of its authenticity.

I have encountered many people who want to argue about the Bible. They want to discuss it and disprove it — but they’ve never read it. How can you discuss something you’ve never read? How can you disprove something if you’ve never studied it? Maybe this is wrong of me, but I refuse to have a discussion (let alone an argument) about the Bible with someone who won’t read it. Because until they read it, they are merely regurgitating other peoples’ opinions about it.

Evidence is abundant that the Bible is true. If you doubt that, go study it. But you can’t deny that God is clear in Scripture. He tells us what He expects from us in Scripture, over and over and over again. It’s our choice to read it and hear it and do it.

Do right. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God. That’s what God expects.