Tag Archives: James

The Power of Words – A Poem

As a general rule, I love words. I love arranging them to express a thought or idea. But strung together in the wrong way, words can hurt another person far worse than any physical harm.

Words are powerful. Let’s use their power for good, and not for evil.

The Power of Words

Sticks and stones
will only break bones
but words cut hard and deep
crushing heart and soul
when cruelly we speak
leaving scars no one can see

Sticks and stones
can make buildings and homes
but words sink soft and deep
lifting heart and soul
when lovingly we speak
healing scars only God can see

Take care with your words
use encouraging ones
let the cruel ones remain unspoken
shower kindness and love
offer mercy from above
in a world already too broken

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. James 3:9-10 (NIV).

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A Voice for the Voiceless

One of my favorite verses in the New Testament is James 1:27: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” In Biblical times, orphans and widows were the voiceless victims of society. Unless someone spoke up for them and looked after them, they had no recourse for their helpless plight.

God has always been concerned about the voiceless and needy. “He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing.” Deuteronomy 10:18 (NIV). He calls His people to do the same.

There have long been those who would take advantage of the voiceless, who seek to crush the orphan and the widow. The Psalmist reminds us of what such people do:

They slay the widow and the foreigner;
they murder the fatherless.
They say, “The Lord does not see;
the God of Jacob takes no notice.”
Psalm 94:6-7 (NIV).

In our society today there are many who defend the cause of the widow and the orphan. Our laws protect these citizens who historically have been voiceless. Our churches have risen up to provide food and clothing to those in need. We have a long way to go to reach the point when the cause of all has been defended, but we have as a people heeded this call of our God and do our best.

Still, there is another voiceless segment of our society that does not enjoy the protection of our laws. There are even some groups within the church who do not defend their cause. They need someone to be their voice, to defend their right to live.

Today’s voiceless are the unborn who have no legal right to life. Even though an unborn child has her own heartbeat, her own internal organs, and can even have a different blood type than her mother, she has not been given the legal right to live if her mother decides to have an abortion before she is born.

I understand the right of a pregnant mother to choose. As I mentioned in a recent post, I used to be strongly pro-choice. I also understand that there are circumstances when the rights of a pregnant woman to not have to carry the child of her rapist to term or to not have to carry a child to term when her health is at risk might outweigh the right of the unborn child to life. The decision of whether to have an abortion is not an easy one, and it shouldn’t be. It is a balancing of the rights of two individuals who are connected by a bond the human mind cannot fully understand.

What bothers me about the pro-choice stance is that it claims that there is only one person with rights to be considered. I agree that a pregnant woman has and should have rights, but those who are zealously pro-choice cannot pretend that they have not made a moral decision that her rights are greater than that of her unborn child. Her child is not just a lump of tissue, like a cancerous tumor, that should have no rights and can simply be discarded without consequence.

Each unborn child is a voiceless human being. God has called us to defend their cause. If we are going to make a choice, let’s be honest about what that choice is.

Note: I wasn’t going to write this post. My post about abortion last week was going to be my first and last. I’d said my peace and thought I was done. But then I kept seeing cartoon posts on Facebook suggesting that if Mitt Romney were elected we would be setting back the rights of women by 50 years because of his pro-life beliefs. I was particularly surprised because a number of these posts were by friends who are Christians. I couldn’t seem to set aside my frustration that anyone would reduce this difficult topic to a one-liner cartoon. It is an issue that deserves more.

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If You Can’t Say Something Good

We just got home from a great weekend with family out of town for our belated Christmas gathering. We had a lot of fun, but it was a long weekend away from the comfort of home.

For some reason this morning the song “Nothing at All” by Third Day came to mind, and it’s popped into my head several times throughout the day.  In the car on the way home it popped into my head while listening to a couple of songs my son wanted to play from his iPod. They were video game songs, I think by a band called Crush 40. Not my favorite and I started to make a comment about them, but then the line from “Nothing at All” popped into my head: “If you can’t say something good don’t say nothing at all.”

I find this is very good advice. Often thoughts pop into our heads that serve no beneficial purpose, and it’s probably better to just keep them to ourselves. I’ve decided that one of my goals for 2012 is going to be to try to live by this advice. It’s based on James 3:5-10 (NIV):

5 Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

 7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, 8but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

 9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.

As a reminder to me, and to all of you, to hold our tongues rather than say something that isn’t very nice, I decided to post this great Third Day classic.

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Manna for the Day

When the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, God provided them with food called manna. The word “manna” is a Hebrew word that literally means “what is it?” The Israelites didn’t know what it was, but they discovered that it was nutritious and filling. They were instructed to gather only as much manna as they needed for each day, except the day before the Sabbath when they were to gather enough for two days. They discovered that if they gathered any extra it would spoil. See Exodus 16 (NIV).

Gathering only as much as was needed was a definite test in trusting God to provide. Because He is faithful and trustworthy, God always came through and there was always enough manna.

This past year of blogging, I have discovered that trusting God for what to write is kind of like trusting Him to provide manna in the desert. There have been times when I thought I would write ahead, spend a Saturday writing for the following week. Occasionally this worked when I really wasn’t going to have time to write the following week, like before we headed off to vacation. But other times I just couldn’t seem to think of anything to write ahead.

Last week, for example, while I was off work for the week before Christmas I was going to write this whole week’s worth of blog posts so I didn’t have to do any writing this final week of the year. But for some reason I just couldn’t get it done. I was left to trust God to provide something to write. So far He has come through, and knowing how faithful and trustworthy He is I know He will provide for the remainder of the week.

This is just one of many lessons in trust that we can learn from the story of the manna God provided in the desert. We all go through desert times. We all have times when it seems we can barely get through each day as we wander in seek of the promised land. It is during these times that we must trust in God to provide. I’ve discovered for myself that He always does.

But the Israelites didn’t wander in the desert wilderness forever. Eventually they reached the promised land, which was flowing with milk and honey and an abundance of good foods. Although they still were called to trust God, it was more of a “big picture” trust and not a daily food thing.

I think it is the same for us. Sometimes God takes us through wilderness experiences so we learn to trust daily for some basic and distinct need. He uses these times of intense trusting to teach us about big picture trust so that we will not forget Him when we emerge from the wilderness into the promised land.

We must always remember to trust God in and for all things. As James reminded us, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17 (NIV). Whether we are in the desert wilderness or the promised land, our faithful and trustworthy God will provide for what we need.

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Being Mindful of Waste and Those in Need

Last night my sister and I were chatting on Facebook. The discussion started because of a link she posted to a co-op type farm in Tennessee where people buy a “share” of the farm season in the spring, and then they get a box of produce every week throughout the summer and until October when the season ends. The idea was to get people to eat locally, as well as to provide healthy organic foods for those who participated. This system also helped to sustain small farmers who otherwise might not have the capital to plant in the spring and await the harvest.

I had commented on her post that my only problem with this was that I didn’t see green beans on their list of produce, and I gotta have my green beans in the summer. Also, there were an awful lot of greens on their list, and I’m not a big fan of greens. The idea of eating cooked collard greens kind of makes my stomach turn.

As we chatted we both agreed that we are quite picky about not only our produce but everything we eat. It could be in part because when we were kids we had a huge garden in our backyard and that is where a lot of the vegetables we ate came from. We like fresh, and even the tiniest bit of rust on lettuce will cause us both to throw it away. I am actually embarrassed by the amount of produce I throw away because it just doesn’t quite live up to my standards of perfectly fresh produce.

So why am I telling you this embarrassing fact about myself? Why am I confessing that I am super picky, sometimes (often?) to the point of being wasteful?

I am writing this because as we chatted the discussion turned to those who have little or nothing to eat, and how happy they would be to have what we throw out. I am writing this because I want to change my habits and pickiness, and be more mindful of how blessed I am to not ever have been in a position of being truly hungry and not knowing where my next meal would come from.

I am reminded again of the words of Jesus:

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. . . .  I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.
Matthew 25:35-36, 40 (NIV).

I’ve posted a few posts lately with this passage in mind, conveniently avoiding the next part of this parable of the King. This being the positive side of the equation, I suppose it is good that this be our main focus. But I think we avoid the next part of the parable at our peril.

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me’. . . . ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
Matthew 25:41-43, 45 (NIV).

As I was writing this, my son asked what I was writing about. I said, “About wasting food and all the people who would love to have the grapes we throw out because there is one moldy grape in the bunch.” Sounds random, I know, but just last night he was going to eat some grapes until he saw there was a moldy one so he decided not to. His response to me just now was, “Then package it up and send it to them.” This reminded me of when I was a kid and didn’t want to eat something, my parents would say to eat it because there were starving kids in China who would love to have it. My response was the same as my son’s.

I know packaging up what we don’t intend to eat is not practical, but caring about the homeless in our own city or the starving kids in China or Africa can still lead us to action. We can be less wasteful, but that isn’t enough. If that is all we did we would still be one of those who did nothing “for the least of these.” But being less wasteful does leave us with more disposable income that we can use to donate to organizations that have distribution systems in place to feed the hungry. Or, as my sister did just last week, we can put together sack lunches and deliver them to the homeless in our own city. We can carry a stash of gift cards to local fast food restaurants and hand them out to the homeless who stand on street corners or freeway on ramps asking for help.

So what are you doing for the least of these brothers of the King? What am I doing for them? It’s an important question we all need to ask ourselves. Our world and our eternity depend upon the answer.

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27 (NIV).

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Everyday for Christ

A new year is just around the corner. I can’t believe it is going to be 2011! I’ve been thinking this week about blogging in the new year and what my goals will be. First and foremost my goal is to continue to share the love of Jesus and His gift of salvation in the weeks and months ahead. But a comment one of my fellow bloggers made on my last post made me realize the great responsibility I have been given as I choose to blog about faith. She said that what I had posted helped her grow in her Christian faith. She learned something from what I wrote about the Christian walk. I realized that makes me a teacher, and that got me thinking about the responsibility of teachers.

James wrote, “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.” James 3:1. That is a somber thought, indeed. I reminds me that I must be careful about what I write and how I write it. Jesus told His disciples, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” Matthew 18:6. This reminds me that I need to make sure what I write about Jesus is accurate. I don’t want to provide false teaching that will cause a fellow Christian, one who comes here to learn, to sin.

Today WordPress posted an entry about a new blog called The Daily Post at WordPress.com. This new blog is designed to encourage bloggers to post every day in 2011. I’m thinking about signing up for this challenge, since I already blog almost every day. If I do, I will probably start making Sunday “Psalm Sunday” instead of actually writing a post that day. As I thought about signing up, I realized that the quantity and frequency of my posts is not what is important. It is the quality of the teaching and encouragement that I provide. I know that sharing Christ daily is definitely something that would please our Lord.

So I pray today that the Holy Spirit will grant me wisdom and perseverance to post each day in 2011 something that helps another Christian on their walk with Jesus, encourages at least one person to hold onto or strive more towards faith in the One True God, and is always consistent with the character and teachings of Christ. I ask all of you who read this to keep my in your prayers as well. I also ask that you test what you read here, and let me know if you think I have ever missed the truth, even by a hair, so that I may correct what I have written.

As many of you know, I love music. There is a song we sing in church that sums up what I want 2011 to be here on my blog and in my daily life. It’s called “Everyday” by Hillsong United:

Everyday, Lord, I’ll
Learn to stand upon Your word
And I pray that I
That I might come to know You more
That You would guide me in every single step I take, that
Everyday I can
Be Your light unto the world

Everyday, it’s You I live for
Everyday, I’ll follow after You
Everyday, I’ll walk with You, my Lord

I have thoroughly enjoyed my blogging journey in 2010, especially the opportunity to meet so many other Christian bloggers and develop wonderful new relationships. I hope and pray that 2011 will be even better and that we will all grow to be more like Christ each day!

Peace and a Blessed New Year, Linda

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A God of Surprises

Christmas Day is more than half over. The presents are all opened and some have been tried out already. We’ve eaten our Christmas “dinner” of glazed spiral ham, garlic mashed potatoes, cornbread stuffing, and rosemary cauliflower and carrots. There’s still pecan pie for dessert, but I’m still too full.

Last night we attended a wonderful Christmas Eve candlelight service at church. It is my favorite service of the year. We always close by singing Silent Night as each person lights their candle from the candle of the person beside or in front of them. All the other lights are dimmed and by the end of the song the place is lit mostly by candlelight. It always amazes me how all of those small flames can add up to such a bright light. It is a wonderful reminder of how we each carry the light of Christ in our hearts and together we can light the world with His love.

We had a guest speaker, Steve Halliday, who shared a message of the surprise of Christmas. Even though God foretold the coming of the Messiah, with at least 100 Old Testament prophecies regarding His birth alone, when it actually happened Jesus’ birth was full of surprises. Instead of the King coming to earth into a rich and well-connected family, He was born to a young peasant girl and a carpenter. Instead of being born in a posh hospital, He was born in a lowly stable. Instead of announcing His birth to royalty and aristocrats, the angels brought news of the Messiah’s birth to lowly shepherds. Nothing was what you would expect; it was all full of surprises.

Steve shared a story of how when he was a child his older sister always tried to guess what her Christmas presents were. She would shake, squeeze, and hold presents up to the light trying to figure what was in the box. She didn’t like to wait and wanted to know what the surprise was. His story reminded me of the time, when I was 9 or 10, that I really wanted to know what was in my presents. One day before Christmas, when no one was home, I carefully peeled the tape and opened every one of my presents, discovering what each one was. Christmas was not the same that year. There was no surprise on Christmas morning (though I had to feign surprise so as not to be found out!).

The rest of the Christmas Eve message was that God still has surprises for us today. We might have some idea what He is going to do because He has told us in His Word. He will give us wisdom if we ask. James 1:5. He will answer our prayers if we pray in His name. John 14:13-14. He will take care of all our needs. Matthew 6:31-33. The real question is how will He fulfill these promises. Therein lies the surprise. And if the incarnation is any indication, all of God’s surprises will be wonderful, indeed.

I often complain that I wish God would let me in on His plan. Seems my tendency to want to know what my presents are ahead of time is still there. But I think I’ve learned my lesson. As I thought about the promise of God’s surprises and the disappointment I felt that Christmas morning when I knew what all my presents were going to be, I realized that it is best not to know ahead of time what God has planned. It is better to have faith that the fulfillment of His promises will be better than I can ever imagine. Then when His surprises come I’ll be delighted by the wonder of His glorious gifts.

On this Christmas Day, I wish you all the wonder and joy of the surprises God has in store for you!

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Anger Does Not Bring Righteousness

Recently I have been frustrated and upset by statements on blogs and in the media, as well as comments in both places, that show a hatred of Christians and Christianity. Some of this comes from ignorance about what Christians truly believe or how Christ has called us to live in the world. We are called stupid and intolerant, even hate mongers. Our beliefs are ridiculed as myth or worse, and it is suggested that no one with half a brain could actually be a Christian and believe that the Bible is really the Word of God.

My first instinct is to respond with my own comments about how wrong those who attack Christianity are. I feel angry, but I know bitterness and an angry response would not be pleasing to God. So I slow down and seek the counsel of wise Christians who remind me that what I am called to do is love even those who hate me and are my enemies.

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:27-28.

Then I pray and ask God for wisdom. He reminds me that He warned us this would happen:

[Jesus said,] “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. John 15:18-21.

I am also reminded that being hated because I cling to Him is not a bad thing in the long run. In His famous beatitudes, Jesus said:

Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets. Luke 6:22-23.

Sometimes the lessons I must learn are difficult and challenging to my heart and soul. My sinful nature tries to take over and wants to pay back what has been dished out to me. My pride swells up and I become indignant over the accusation that I am not intelligent because I believe in God. I did, after all, graduate from law school cum laude. I went to a very prestigious college and graduated in the top 11% of my class. I am an excellent writer, and my logic and reasoning skills are superb. How dare someone suggest that I am stupid because of what I believe about the origin of the universe and who Jesus is! They are the stupid ones and I could prove them . . .

But that is not the Godly way. As James pointed out, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” James 1:19-20. This verse is actually my screen saver on my computer at work, and for good reason because I need to be reminded of it regularly. What I need to remember, too, is that those who attack Christians are lost. They don’t know God, but God knows them and wants to have a relationship with them. “The Lord . . . is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9. My own pride and indignation will not further His goal. Only love can accomplish it.

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Overcoming Doubt and Unbelief

Last night I read John 15. It’s not next on my Bible-in-a-year schedule, but a woman of God named Ruth Handy told me I needed to read it, specifically John 15:16. But she said I should read the whole chapter and truly believe it. Speaking to His disciples, Jesus said: “You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name.” John 15:16 (NLT). This passage holds true for not just the first 12 disciples, but for all who follow Him when He calls.

As I read this I felt so blessed that Jesus would choose me. I wondered if I am really producing the lasting fruit He has appointed me to produce. I want to, and I call on Him to help me produce lasting fruit through the sharing of His wisdom each day. I am very conscious of trying to produce this fruit in my life for Him. I have, in comments to this blog and in other ways, seen evidence of the fruit I have produced by the power of His Holy Spirit.

But the thing this woman of God focused on, when she was talking to me, was the last part of this verse. She was reading to me from the Amplified Version, which translates the second half of the verse as: “so that whatever you ask the Father in My Name [as presenting all that I AM], He may give it to you.” She told me there are people I have been praying for, asking that they come to know the Lord or have a closer walk with the Lord, and that I need to believe that when I have prayed for them in Jesus’ Name, God has heard my prayer and will answer.

Believing is so important. Next to being sure what you are praying for is within God’s will, believing is key, really, to receiving that which we pray for in Jesus’ Name. James said:

But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does. James 1:6-8.

And yet when I pray for others, especially for their salvation, I know that they have freewill. Even if Jesus chooses them, like He chose me, their ability to reject Him because of their freewill leaves me with just a tiny bit of doubt. Perhaps that is why the answers to those prayers have so far been “not yet.” I am reminded of the account of when Jesus healed the boy afflicted by an evil spirit recorded in Mark 9:

“How long has this been happening?” Jesus asked the boy’s father.

 He replied, “Since he was a little boy. The spirit often throws him into the fire or into water, trying to kill him. Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.”

 “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.”

 The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:21-24.

And so like this father I will pray, “Lord Jesus, I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!”

On the way home from the meeting at which I spoke with this woman of God, my friends and I were talking and one of them said a little rhyme that fit well with this post. I said I would turn it into a poem for today’s post, not realizing how well it would fit with the rest of what was on my heart today. So here is another of my lame attempts at poetry to fit the occasion:

He and me

If He and me
Could just agree
Oh what wonders
I would see

Less of me
More of He
Will overcome
The doubt you see

Prayers all answered
For friends in need
When we agree
He and me

I do realize this poem is not grammatically correct, but it’s poetry and so poetic license has been taken. Anyway, I’m trusting and believing in answered prayers. How about you? Have you been praying but doubting He can accomplish what you have asked? Join me in asking our dear Jesus to help us overcome our unbelief and doubt. If the Father could raise Jesus from the dead, surely He can do whatever we ask in Jesus’ Name.

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Mercy Triumphs Over Judgment

Mercy is something we don’t see much of in our world today, but it is something we desperately need. According to the Random House Dictionary online, mercy is “compassionate or kindly forbearance shown toward an offender, an enemy, or other person in one’s power; compassion, pity, or benevolence.” The opposite of mercy is judgment.

As Christians, we are called to be merciful. James admonishes us:

Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment! James 2:12-13.

In His sermon on the mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” Matthew 5:7. But  mercy was not a new concept when Jesus came on the scene. There are numerous references to God’s mercy in the Old Testament. One of the minor prophets wrote:

Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. Micah 7:18.

Throughout the Psalms David called upon the mercy of God. In Proverbs 21:10 we are told, “The wicked man craves evil; his neighbor gets no mercy from him.” By contrast, the righteous man is one who shows mercy just as God does.

But mercy is sometimes a challenge. We want others to get what they deserve when they hurt us or do wrong. But what if we got what we really deserved? What if we had to pay the penalty for every sin we have committed? I am grateful that because of Jesus, you and I do not get what we deserve. We get God’s mercy, which is much more than we deserve.

Third Day sings a great song called “I Deserve?” The lyrics are few, but profound:

I tasted fruit that was forbidden
I murdered trust that you had given
And now I’m living in a place that’s not my home
The pain in your heart made you regret
The moment we spoke, did you forget?
Will my transgressions bring us all to our sweet end?
Maybe I’m just being too hard on myself. I don’t know
Or is it that your mercy is much more than I deserve?
Betrayed by more than just a kiss
I did much more I must admit
Instead of letting it all end you bring new hope

My son just asked me what I was writing, and I told him I was writing a blog post about mercy. He said, “Did you write that no matter what we go through in life on earth, whatever pain and suffering we experience, it is not because of God, it is because of our own choices? But if we walk in God’s ways and mold ourselves to be like Him, He will grant us the ultimate mercy one day in Heaven.” I couldn’t sum it up any better. And if God grants us the ultimate mercy that is much more than we deserve, shouldn’t we grant mercy to others and also point them towards God’s great mercy?

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