Worship Pastor / Composer Travis L. Boyd and his wife, Cynthia, provide inspiration and resources for the worship community and all believers through sharing the blessings of worship, faith, family, ministry, music, love, & life. We also share information about Worship Sounds Music, which can be found on our Worship Sounds website at worshipsounds.com ~ Downloadable Choral Anthems * Solos * Orchestrations * Worship Songs * Accompaniment Trax

Loving Mercy…

Praying handsIt can happen at any gathering on any ordinary day. You’re glad to be together and thankful for God’s provision of a meal, so everyone pauses to give thanks. As soon as “Amen” has been spoken, they make their presence known.  The “prayer police” are compelled to report their findings.  “He had his eyes open the whole time!’, one will announce.  Another “official officer of offense” makes his case by adding, “Well, she didn’t even bow her head!”   The prayer police are in the building.

prayer  call on HimOur family includes Dad and Mom and six boys who are ages 8 to 20, four of whom are still in elementary school.  There’s plenty of competition in everything, and sometimes there are far too many “reports” about something a brother has done.  If no one is hurt, we generally don’t respond to most of the picky spats of the moment.  Our boys know we expect them to work out most squabbles among themselves.  However, we draw the line at any kind of put-downs or judgements passed concerning the faults of another.  We are trying to make our home a place where we are all on the team and have each other’s best interests at heart… even when we disagree.  That’s why we have banned the prayer police from making their reports.  Sometimes they “forget” and jump back into officer mode, requiring a reminder that prayer police pronoucements are not welcome at our table.

FamilyPrayerWhen prayer police reports first began to occur in our household, we tried the obvious question, “How do you know?”, thinking that it would be enough to imply by suggestion that a totally pious pray-er would not have been able to see someone else’s open eyes or unbowed head.  However, the question alone was not sufficient with our bunch.  A total ban on prayer police reports has been necessary.  At some point, our boys will take to heart the knowledge that a person can pray with eyes open or closed and in every circumstance.  This is a truth that they already know, but my husband and I do bow our heads during prayer times with our children as a sign of reverence for God (and in recognition that in our household, eliminating distractions during prayer is desireable at this point in time).

As our boys grow in their faith and in maturity, our prayer for them is that they learn to focus on what is truly important.  The importance of a prayer posture of any kind is far less meaningful and significant than having a thankful heart.  Certainly, the focus and condition of our hearts matter most to God.  Any external posture or demonstration of reverence or piety is meaningless to Him without our true devotion and genuine gratitude.

We can see the truth about what is really important easily when dealing with our children’s spiritual understanding, but what about our own?

 

Are there areas of life, worship, and Christian growth

where we, who know the Lord,

who have been redeemed and given new life,

often focus on form and function

and on the symptoms of sin sickness and spiritual death

rather than on the heart attitudes

and awakened hearts and lives

and true love for the Lord

that are most important?

 

pleasing words and thoughtsThe answer is… YES! 

We, too, deal with a tendency to become…

the prayer police,

the sin spotters,

the style seekers,

the soapbox spouters,

the commitment captains,

and the pet peeve pronoucers.

 

Often, our tendencies to notice the behavior rather than the heart need of others (or the style rather than the substance) are revealed by what I’ll call “Hollywood Action Movie Syndrome”.  In the extreme scenarios often found in the plot lines of movies like superhero flicks, the bad guys are depicted as heartless machines whose sole purpose seems to be mayhem and pain.  Movie goers are relieved and even happy to see these bad guys “get what’s coming to them” as the hero stops the madness by destroying the bad guy.  In our own lives, we can be quick to label others as unredeemable “bad guys” with statements that get a lot of “likes” on facebook.  For example, I’ve seen several posts by sweet Christian people who state that they are “sick” of the behavior of a celebrity who seems to be seeking attention by being self-destructive or choosing to do things that many people would consider shocking.  In other words, our first reaction is often disgust and even extreme dislike rather than broken heartedness over the spiritual need that is being manifested as bad behavior.

Perhaps we need to consider God’s attitude toward us… and toward our bad behavior, as revealed through scripture.

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved.”  ~ Ephesians 2:4 &5

The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”  ~ Psalm 145:8

“For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.”   ~  Psalm 100:5
(note:  in some translations, lovingkindness is everlasting and faithfulness endures)

“For you, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy to all them that call on you.”  ~ Psalms 86:5

“The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.”  ~ Psalms 145:9 

“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost”  ~ Titus 3:5

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy has begotten us again to a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”  ~ 1 Peter 1:3

What, then, should be our response to people and situations that we feel are less than they should be? 

“Be you therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.”  ~ Luke 6:36

 

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?

~  Micah 6:8 NKJV

 

The Creator God of the universe, who is holy and good and yet who is so often talked about disrepectfully, as people whom He loves and was intimately involved in creating blatantly choose to go against their God-given conscience and intentionally do what is wrong, loves mercy.

He wants me and you to love mercy, too.

He loves justice and goodness and holiness, but He loves mercy even more.   For a while, He is delaying His judgement and the fully realized reign of His holiness over creation…. because He loves mercy.  He is no less holy and no less just even as He is allowing the free will of man to sometimes cause pain.  He is always holy, always just, and yet, always merciful.  He wants to show mercy to us, whom He loves.  He wants us to experience and know His mercy and to choose mercy for others.  His mercies are new every morning because He chooses mercy over righteous anger.  If He did not choose mercy, all of mankind would have been consumed by the intensity of His wrath against sin, against wrong, and against our rebel hearts, which cause us to hurt others and even to hurt ourselves.  The pain of life in a fallen world would be eliminated by God’s final judgement NOW if it were not for mercy, chosen in every moment as the sun rises on another part of the world around the clock.  It is a very good thing for all of us that God loves mercy and that human beings are not our final judge and jury.

Have you ever noticed that it can sometimes be difficult to read certain Psalms?  I cringe as the Psalmist asks God to judge those who are his “enemies” or who are simply referred to as “the wicked”.  And yet, because God is the righteous judge and is no respector of persons, He is the only one who can judge with perfect fairness.  He says, “Vengeance is mine, ” not just because He will someday make everything right but also because we would never be able to be as impartial and fair and just as He will be.  He wants us to trust Him, knowing that there is still injustice in this world but that at some point He will make everything right.  And yet, God delays the final judgement… because He loves mercy.

In Psalm 73, the Psalmist Asaph speaks of being confused by the prosperity of the wicked.  He talks about how they almost seem free from care and begins to wonder whether his own efforts to live for the Lord, walk with Him, serve Him, and do what is right are all in vain.  However, he does come to his senses in these verses:

15 If I had spoken out like that, (questioning whether loving and serving God is worth it)
I would have betrayed your children.
16 When I tried to understand all this,
it troubled me deeply
17 till I entered the sanctuary of God;
then I understood their final destiny.

Asaph realizes once again the goodness of God and that fact that His mercy will not delay judgement indefinitely.  At this point, he begins to actually view the wicked with compassion, and his perspective completely changes.  He realized that he, himself, is rich in what all of money amassed by the wicked could never purchase… salvation.  Asaph realizes how senseless his earlier comparisons have been and what he has possessed all along.

When my heart was grieved
and my spirit embittered,
22 I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you.

23 Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.

How can we do anything but rejoice in the fact that God is choosing mercy even for those who have wronged us, just as He chose mercy for you and for me.  He is a merciful and loving God.

In light of God’s mercy, what are we to do?  As we seek to focus on what is really important and to lay aside our tendencies to get caught up in what we observe, what frame of mind should replace our tendency towards judgement of others?  Here’s one answer, from Romans 12:1-2.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.

When we read the phrase, “in view of God’s mercy” in the scripture above, we need to think about what that really means.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters,

…even though the world is filled with injustice…

…even though people prey upon and use other people…

…even though good people will sometimes be victimized…

…even though people we love may be hurt…

…even though the thoughtlessness of others breaks our hearts

…even though the evil of this world distresses and disgusts us

I urge you… in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice,

…to offer your hurts…

…to offer your confusion…

…to offer your right to take revenge…

…to offer your all… even when life doesn’t make sense…

…. a sacrifice… holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship.

(In choosing to make this sacrifice, you are also choosing to trust Him with everything because you know that He is good and merciful and just.)

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.

So, when we feel the tendency to judge someone else without calling upon God’s mercy on their behalf and praying for their salvation…  when our expectations are disappointed…  when we have been hurt…  when we or someone we love has been victimized…  when we feel powerless over injustice…  when innocence is abused…

Let us always remember the final destiny of those who reject God, and let us desire His mercy even for these…

Because God loves mercy. 

Let us fight the tendency in our lives to focus on the unimportant, and let us be transformed through the renewal of our minds.  Let us keep moving forward in this journey toward Christlikeness, and let us choose mercy.  Let us choose God’s mercy and grace toward others rather than becoming mired in our own opinions, which would only result in continual disappointment and stall our growth as Christians.

To that end, these are the things that I want to focus on in order to avoid becoming more caught up in what I believe is right than in the mercies of God.

love is a verb*  I want to avoid assumptions, realizing that we often don’t know the challenges that others are facing.

*  I want to have the mind of Christ, looking beyond the sad and shocking and even disgusting behavior to the person in need of a Savior.

*  I want to employ grace with fellow believers, realizing that we are all in the process of becoming more like Christ and that it is a long journey for all of us.

*  I want to learn to love mercy.  When it comes to my own behavior, I am required to behave justly and “do” justice.  However, when it comes to the behavior of others, the requirement changes.  In regard to others, I am required to love mercy, recognizing my own need for mercy and the fact that I was undeserving of the mercy that I have personally been shown by God, based upon my own actions in choosing my way over His.

***  Most of all, I want to remember these things:  ***

*  Relationship with God, love for the Lord, and thankfulness are more important than any posture of prayer.

*  Connecting others with a message and an experience of grace is more important than perfection.

*  Style (in music, clothing, or anything else) is less important than the heart of worship and the hearts of people.

*  Opinions (and even deeply held convictions) will not reach hearts like the love of Christ.

*  Only God can work in the hearts of others to draw them to a place of deeper spiritual relationship and commitment.   Conviction of the heart over one’s wrong-doing or lack of love is the Holy Spirit’s job, not mine.  (I’m too busy dealing with my own spiritual mess.)

*  Finally (and most importantly), what bothers me about this world needs to be turned upside down…

love like Jesus…  so that I become

more and more bothered

by my own lack of concern

for the eternal destiny of others

than by the stinking graveclothes of sin and spiritual death

that have often prevented me

from seeing the person

rather than the actions

and words and attitudes

of a lost soul that needs Jesus

or a fellow traveller,

who, like me,

has encountered some bumps in the road

on the path to Christlikeness.

Love gives

 

Love is the cross

The Prayer of a Forgiven Heart

Lord, may my first thought be love.
May my second thought be a prayer.
May my actions demonstrate grace and humility.
May my heart be broken by the brokenness in this world… and in my own life.
May my opinions matter less than my desire to bring You glory.
May my life be given to serving others and lifting up Your name.
May my heart be given to You.
May my mind be transformed by Your Spirit.
May my time and talents and resources be committed to Your plan for my life.
And may I always be mindful that You are the Giver of all good things,
the Lover of my soul,
the Joy of my heart,
the Fountain of mercy and grace,
and the Source of pure and sacrificial love.

In Jesus’ holy and powerful name,

Amen

Carry eacvh other's burdens

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This post, including “The Prayer of a Forgiven Heart” was written by Cynthia A. Boyd.

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