Grace and Mercy

Hebrews 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

Recently, my wife asked me the difference between grace and mercy.  She said that she has gone over this before but still has trouble distinguishing between them.  I know that they can be confused as they are so similar.  As in the verse above they are used in the same sentence and the difference is not readily understood.   At one time I heard this explanation and it stuck and I have been using it ever since, as it made it clear to me.  Grace is getting what you don’t deserve and mercy is not getting what you do deserve.

I remember when I was growing up that there were times that I messed up and came under the judgement of my parents.  I was confronted with my fault and there was a time of discussion followed by some punishment which was then followed by my dad taking me in his arms and telling me how he loved me and that it was harder on him than it was on me.  I never understood what was so hard on him because I was the one facing the music.  This came clear to me as a parent and on the other end of the situation.  The purpose of the discussion was to make sure that my understanding was clear so that I would be able to make a good decision next time.  The punishment was never for the purpose of me paying for my transgression, but to turn me from such actions.  Had it been for punishment it would have been much more severe.  That was mercy – not getting what I deserved.  Then when it was all over and he would take me in his arms and tell me how much he loved me – that was grace- getting what I did not deserve.

So often, people do not want to come to God to be confronted with their transgressions out of fear, not knowing the heart of God.  Perhaps  no one does, but I have found that it is necessary if we are to our relationship with Him.  This is also true between individuals as well.   No matter how good the relationship was before, when a breach of that relationship happens, it is never the same again.  That does not mean that it cannot be repaired and even become greater than it ever had been, but in order for that to happen, there must be a confrontation between the offended and the offender.  If it is only dismissed or ignored then the relationship cannot continue until it is repaired. 

When the confrontation happens, then the offended must cancel the debt in some manner.  It will include both grace and mercy.  There will be a forgiveness of the debt (grace) and the holding of the person in greater value than the offence (mercy).    Whenever  the offended is not big enough to extend both grace and mercy then the offender is unable to get past the breach and will carry it from then on and it will stunt his growth in future relationships.  It will either cost you something or you will forfeit something.  So the end result is that the offender and the offended have an opportunity to grow or both become handicapped because of the offence.  It is really up to those involved as to which path they will travel. 

Forgiveness

F

Matthew 6:14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:

2Corinthians 2:7 So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.

1John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Forgiveness is a concept that is often misunderstood and has therefore not brought the peace and relief that was intended.  We hear phrases like “Forgive and Forget” or “God will forgive us because He loves us”.  Though these type of phrases are well intended, they do not properly represent the truth about forgiveness.  You do not have the power to just forget.  You will still remember long after forgiveness has been given.  Forgiveness does not wipe the memory, but it justifies the memory.  Further, God’s forgiveness is not based on his pity or compassion for us but it is based on the death of His Son, Jesus Christ.  If we reject His Son and His work on the cross, we also reject His forgiveness and we remain condemned.

Forgiveness is not excusing the trespass but accepting the cost of the trespass for yourself.  Forgiveness is not discounting the trespass as though it doesn’t matter for it does matter.  Forgiveness is not overlooking the trespass for the barrier it has brought will continue to grow until it is addressed with forgiveness.  Forgiveness is understood as ‘giving forth’ or giving to the extent of the need.  Forgiving will cost you something.  It not only hurts but also requires something from you that is beyond your human ability.  To forgive requires that you go to God to receive the grace and mercy that is required by the offence.  It is not a natural thing but is a supernatural response of the Holy Spirit to reach the heart of the offender and to reconcile man to God and man with man.

When we shut up our forgiveness several things happen.  First there is a conflict between you and God.   To refuse to forgive is a slap in God’s face for what He has done for you.  Second, your concern for the offender should be cause enough for you to forgive him.  To withhold forgiveness reveals a lack of love for your fellow man as well as a lack of faith in God.  Third, when we withhold forgiveness it causes a barrier for us in our growth and we become bitter and the longer it goes on, the more bitter we become.  Further, it hinders our spiritual life is every way and we open ourselves up to the tricks of the Devil.  There is every reason for us to forgive as it exposes God who lives in us, to the world, it improves our relationships and people skills and equally importantly, it not only improves our disposition and attitude but also settles the war inside of us, restores our joy and peace and builds us in multiple ways.  We are all on a journey to our eternal home so lets enjoy the trip.

Update 2.17.2019

Here it is the middle of February and Spring is just around the corner.  As the farmer prepares the field for planting, we are preparing for some planting of our own.  The Great Commission is our Lord’s instructions on how to sow the seed of the gospel of Christ to the world.  Today I am only speaking of the sowing to the ends of the earth. 

We have a missions committee meeting in just a couple hours from now and we will be working on plans for a mission trip to Japan, as well as a number of other mission trips and activities.  Concerning the trip to Japan, pastor Takeshi has invited us to join him and several other churches in Japan to a Bible Training Convention there in Japan in October.  Our role in the program is not defined at this time but we are sure that this is the beginning of a work in Japan that is just now opening up to us.  As of right now we already have 4 leaders who have indicated their desire to go on this mission trip.  Pastor Takeshi has shared with me that there are several churches there that will be in attendance.  I also know that good Bible Training is so rare there and the need is so great. 

I got the idea of possibly putting together a Bible Training institute there where we could contribute in an ongoing way.  I have contacted my alma martyr about this possibly and was told by President Fox and his staff, that they not only would like to be a part of that effort, but that they already have all of their courses available on the internet and that if they coordinated their time, that they could video conference directly into the class time.  This is a tremendous opportunity to make the Bible training available to Nations that have no Bible training available to them at this time.

This would also open up multiple opportunities for additional involvement from churches here in the USA to carry out the great commission on a scale that was not possible just a few years ago.   Instead of bringing the pastors here for training, they could get the Bible training and would be much closer to their own country and culture.  There is so much work to be done but that is the story of Acts, Crossing barriers with the Gospel?  The early church crossed the language barriers, culture barriers, racial barriers, distance barriers, etc. and we can too.  The opportunity is ours and we are endeavoring to follow the Lord in this Great Commission.

On another note, we are also looking at the possibility of another trip to China this year and we need your prayers once again.  Last year I made a trip to China and saw the hunger for the gospel and the commitment of believers to stand in the face of persecution.  Since then, the Chinese government has increased its persecution of the church and many churches have had their leaders imprisoned and members interrogated.  Their possessions have been confiscated and their careers have been blocked.  The Chinese government calls the church darkness, but in Joh 8:12 Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.    He went on to say that in    Mt 5:14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 

I amasking each of you to be a part of what the Lord is doing for us to carry out this work. Many of you have supported our efforts last year and we saw the Lord do amazing things.  This year we are requesting your prayers and support once again.  Will you do your part?  It takes all of us to see this work carried out.  All of you can pray so will you be a part of our prayer team?  We can support the work in many ways, even as simply as financially or materially.  We can go,  for the commission is as you are going and not when you go, or to put it another way, where ever you go in your Jerusalem (domestic), your Judaea (local), Samaria (territorial) and the uttermost part of the earth (everywhere else).  Go where He goes and do what He does.

Honesty

A young church of about two years since it began, called a young preacher as its pastor.  It was his first pastorate since graduating from school and he was eager to see his church grow and do well.  Things were going along well for the first few weeks but then came his first challenge.

At the first business meeting he discovered that there was a problem with the finances.  There was no one taking the funds but there was a shortage and the budget wasn’t being met.  He began to investigate to find out the cause of the shortage and he found that the church budget looked fine.  Everything was paid except the mission giving and nothing had been paid toward it. It was a modest budget and included the items you would expect to be there.  They weren’t wasting any money and they certainly weren’t over paying the pastor, in fact he was working to subsidize his income to provide for his family.

He decided to do nothing until he could investigate this further so he told the church he would look into it and bring back his recommendation at the next meeting.  He searched further and in talking with the church treasurer he asked the question as to why nothing had been paid toward the mission.  The reply was most revealing.  “After we paid all of the bills, there was nothing left.” This was a well-meaning church and were following the same system of finance used by the world system.  Their priority was to pay the bills first.  The problem is that the Lord must have first place and our method of operation is to be by faith in Him and not in what we think. 

At the next business meeting, the pastor poised the proposition that honesty is a necessity for a church, to which everyone agreed.  He then stated that it was not honest to declare that they wouldl give 10% of our income to missions and not give anything.  He further said that the church should make the adjustment in the budget that properly represented what they truly believed what would be the proper giving amount.  If it was zero, then that is what the budget should say.  If it was more than zero then that is what they should do, and since this was a commitment to God then it should be given before anything else.  This would be the true expression of faith in the Lord.  He then offered that the church discuss what that true amount would be and he would return when they had come to a decision.

When he was called back, the church had decided to reduce the amount to 5%.  The pastor further reinforced the commitment by asking them if they understood that it would be paid before anything else was paid.  They responded that they did and then he further clarified that that included even his own salary.  They weren’t happy about this further clarification but finally agreed, reluctantly.

The very next month there was enough to pay the mission giving and all the other expenses, with a little bit left over.  This continued for the next two years of always having enough to pay everything and the mission giving never lacked.  Then one month there came a shortage and the mission giving did not get paid and the pastor took his check and gave it back to the treasurer and said he would not accept a check until the mission giving had been paid.  The treasurer disagreed and insisted that he take the check as he needed it for his family, but the pastor stood his ground and refused the check.  Finally, the treasurer took his check, paid the mission commitment and monies came in to more than cover the pastor’s salary as well.  In fact, during the 4 ½ years he was there, there was never a time when there was another shortage, even though they had increased their mission giving to 14% and had doubled in size and budget.  In fact they even built a new church building on nearly 3 acres of prime real estate, and their total indebtedness’ was only $34,000.  Honesty is truly the best policy.  God honors them that honor Him.

Prioritizing to Reduce Time and Stress

There’s one truth about time- it’s always passing us by. Unfortunately, we don’t always know or have any control over what happens during that time. Ineffective time management, or even just ineffective planning, often leads to situations where an entire day can pass without us understanding what we did the whole time. Or even worse, we know exactly what we did all day, and not a single one of those tasks was something that mattered in any tangible, long-term way.

While this situation is all too common and all too frustrating, you can begin to reverse the problem by simply paying close attention to where exactly your time goes.

One way to understand where you spend your time is to journal it. By simply keeping track of what you do and at what times and for how long, you gain a precise idea of where you’re spending time wisely and where you’re wasting it. And once you accumulate this data for a short period of time (a week or so) you can begin to implement intelligent, informed changes to your schedule. As the saying goes- what gets measured gets managed.

Keeping a log of your day’s activities is easy. Your log can be extremely simple, or you can make it more detailed with more metrics to keep track of. For instance, all you really need to know is what you’re doing at what times. So, the simplest way to keep a time-log is to simply note what you’re doing once an hour. If you want to take a little more information, you can note the exact time you start and complete a task. Of course, your journal can get more and more complicated, incorporating notes and priority assignations if you want. If you want to be really detailed about it, you can even incorporate non-work tasks such as watching tv in the evening. Ultimately, what really matters is keeping track of what you do, and how long you do it for.

Once you’ve accumulated a couple days to a weeks’ worth of data, you’ll be ready to start making some assumptions and changes. A good way to get started deciding what to cut and what to spend more time on is to start prioritizing the things you’ve done. Look over your time logs, look at what you’ve done, and rate their priority on a scale of one to three. Priority One items are the necessary items that have a positive and tangible long term impact. Priority two items are items that might have a positive long term impact, but definitely have a positive short term impact. Priority three items are all the mini-crises that dominate most peoples days, who ultimately don’t seem to have much impact at the end of the day regardless of what happens. The next step is, of course, to start weeding out the priority three items and start spending more and more time on the priority one and two items. A good way to do this is to do the priority one items first thing in the morning. Get them complete and out of the way before you even take anything else into consideration. Once they are done, start work on the priority two items. Finally, at the end of the day, when all the real work is complete, take care of whatever priority three items you have time to deal with. Ultimately, I think it’s beneficial to completely remove the priority three items from your schedule and to focus fully on the priority one and two items, as these are the things that will ultimately make a real difference- both in your work, and how you feel about your day. Putting out small fires day in and day out makes you feel busy, but dealing with real work all day makes you feel like you’re actually making progress.

Management of Time

God’s Economy works in every situation, under all governments and at all times.

Everyone has the same amount of time in a day – 24 Hours.  -Budgeting

You will never do everything you want to do, make choices.  –  Setting Values

The main thing is to let the main thing remain the main thing.             –  Prioritizing

Learn the power of the word “No”.                                                     –  Self Discipline

Now where did I put that ???? . . .                                                            –  Organizing

“I need to concentrate!!!!”                                                                           –  Focusing

Interruptions, Delays and other “Problems”  –  Buying up the opportunities

There is no end to my workload.                                          – Resting and recreating

            Time is a very misunderstood concept in today’s environment.  We rarely give much thought as to the responsibility to manage it in much the same manner as we would manage any other resource that we may have.  Money is much easier to manage than time because it is seen and can be handled whereas time is invisible and cannot be handled in the same way.  Still it is an extremely valuable resource and carries with it a responsibility to be managed in the right way. 

            Because it is invisible, it is often overlooked as having great importance in our lives.  Most folks want to live a long time but their reasons for long life seem to much less clear than their desire for longevity.  What difference would it make if you were granted an additional 20 years of life if you did not have a purpose for those 20 years?  Sure, it may be comforting to have your loved ones around but what of the quality of life they are living.  In the book of Ecclesiastes we find this statement; “there is a time to live and a time to die”.  To every person is given a measure of time in which they are to “live”.  We never know how long that time is but we know that it is short – even if we surpass the century mark.  Someone noted on a headstone that the date of the birth was recorded and also the date of the death and that there was a dash between the two dates; and that was the time he was allotted.  Someone else commented that is was also correct that it was a dash – and went by fast.  The Bible puts it this way, Man is like a flower that appears for a time but soon passes away. (James 1:11)  Whatever time you have (remaining) needs to answer this question, “For what purpose have you been given this time?”  Time becomes meaningless until it has purpose.  Once the purpose has been clarified, then the use of time makes sense.

            Those who have not come to the point in their lives where the use of time is important will use their time just reacting to the events and circumstances around them and the “pressures of life” will consume all of their time.  They will constantly be heard to make statements like, “I never have enough time” or I wish I had time to . . .” or “I’d like to do thus and so, but I just don’t have the time.”

            Those who have come to the point in their lives where time is important will be overheard to describe it with terms like, “precious”, “valuable”, and like terms.

            In a world where there are differences in everyone’s lives, one thing that is alike in every life is that we all get exactly the same 24 hours a day.  No one gets a second more and no one is shorted even one second.  Time moves along at the same rate for everyone.  It is not a question of how much time we get but rather, how we use the time that we have. Another important point is that once that measure of time is spent, it cannot be exchange for any other purpose than what it was spent on.  The choices we make on how we use our time define our values, priorities, desires, needs and a whole lot of other things that go together to produce a quality of life.