Sunday Devotional: Zechariah 7:8-10

“The word of the Lord came to Zechariah:  “The Lord of Hosts says this: Make fair decisions. Show faithful love and compassion to one another.  Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor, and do not plot evil in your hearts against one another.”  (Zechariah 7:8-10)

Zechariah was a prophet of the Lord.  He was given the task of sharing the words of the Lord to the people after their return from exile in Babylon.  Some of these words are in the passage here.  The Lord wanted the people to remember these things.  To be fair in their decisions.  To have love and compassion for one another.  To not be oppressive to those hurting or those in need.  And to not plot evil against one another.

These words, written down thousands of years ago, still hold true today.  God still wants those that love and worship Him to do these things.  He wants us to “make fair decisions”.  He wants us to “show faithful love and compassion to one another.”  He wants us to “not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor” and to “not plot evil” in our hearts towards one another.

We see today much anger and hurt and sin around us.  There was much anger and hurt and sin in Zechariah’s day.  But just as God called the people in Zechariah’s day to this standard of fairness, compassion, love, grace and mercy, we are called to do the same.  So this week let us not be about anger and hate and division.  But let us be about fairness and love and compassion and hope.  And we are able to have those things because of Jesus Christ.

Sunday Devotional: Titus 3:4-7

“But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love
for mankind appeared,
He saved us—
not by works of righteousness that we had done,
but according to His mercy,
through the washing of regeneration
and renewal by the Holy Spirit.
He poured out this Spirit on us abundantly
through Jesus Christ our Savior,
so that having been justified by His grace,
we may become heirs with the hope of eternal life.”  (Titus 3:4-7)

In conversations this week I was reminded again of God’s grace on each one of us.  It is by God’s grace we have the opportunity to be forgiven our our sins.  It is not by anything we can do to earn salvation.  Jesus did all the work on the cross to pay for our sins.  He’s the one that makes us justified before the Father.

And the scandalous thing is this grace is open to anyone and everyone who repents and believes.  In God’s lovingkindness and mercy, He offers this grace and mercy to any and all.  He pours out this grace and mercy abundantly to all people.  No matter how sinful, if one only repents of their sins and trusts Jesus as Lord and Savior and follows Him, salvation is there.

This week, let us remember how much we have been blessed.  We have been blessed by a loving and merciful God who has shown us much mercy and grace.  We have been blessed that we have someone in Jesus Christ, who knows what we’re going through and loved us so much to die for our sins and gave us the opportunity for new life.  And we are blessed with the Holy Spirit to remember these things and to help us to keep pressing on being faithful to the calling of following Jesus.

Sunday Devotional: Luke 6:27-36

“But I say to you who listen: Love your enemies, do what is good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.  If anyone hits you on the cheek, offer the other also. And if anyone takes away your coat, don’t hold back your shirt either.  Give to everyone who asks you, and from one who takes your things, don’t ask for them back.  Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them.  If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.  If you do what is good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.  And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners to be repaid in full.  But love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is gracious to the ungrateful and evil.  Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.”  (Luke 6:27-36)

Jesus shared this words to His disciples as well as the large crowds that gathered to hear Him speak.  These words are a part of His Sermon on the Mount (also found in the book of Matthew).  He made a point to tell His disciples that being a follower of Jesus meant loving others even your enemies.  Loving one’s enemies goes against what people think and feel.  People who are one’s friends are to be loved, people who are one’s enemies are to be hated.  But Jesus made it a point to so say “love your enemies” and to bless them.

When He said this, there was no guarantee that the enemy would love back.  In fact, He says to “expect nothing in return”.  Those enemies may keep on hating, may keep on taking, may keep on being ungrateful and hurtful.  Yet, as followers of Jesus, we are called to love them.

We live in a day and age where divisiveness is prevalent.  Hate is almost celebrated and anger is cheered.  Yet even in the midst of this, Jesus’ calling for us to love our enemies still rings true.  We are still called to love our enemies.  We are still called to bless those that curse us.  We are still called to do what is good and lend expecting nothing in return.  Because that is what Jesus would do and being a follower of Jesus means doing what He would do.

This week let us demonstrate that love to others.  Let us show love and let us show mercy.  This world needs that desperately.

Thursday Quote Day: Tim Keller

For this week’s “Thursday Quote Day” here is a quote from pastor and author Tim Keller:

“…God’s grace and forgiveness, while free to the recipient, are always costly for the giver…. From the earliest parts of the Bible, it was understood that God could not forgive without sacrifice. No one who is seriously wronged can “just forgive” the perpetrator…. But when you forgive, that means you absorb the loss and the debt. You bear it yourself. All forgiveness, then, is costly.”  (Tim Keller)

Vengeance and Luke Cage

Like most everyone this past weekend or so, I started watching the Marvel Netflix series Luke Cage.  And while I haven’t binge watched it all the way through like some (I’m still a couple of episodes from finishing), I have watched a good amount of episodes since its release.  (FYI, there maybe minor spoilers but nothing major ahead)

luke-cage

And while there are a lot of things to think through with this series, there is one that my mind keeps going back to.  This is due in large part to one character in the series.  That character is one of the major villains of the series by the name of Willis Stryker aka Diamondback.  Many times throughout the episodes that Stryker is on screen he is either quoting Scripture or he’s holding a Bible in his hand.

The backstory of both Stryker and Luke Cage are linked due to the fact of both of them having the same father.  That father also happened to be a preacher who had an affair with his secretary which led to the birth of Stryker.  Stryker resented Luke and the “sins of the father” would later come to terrorize both Luke and the people of Harlem.

Stryker is unfortunately a reminder that you cannot separate the story of the Old Testament with the New Testament.  Much of what Stryker quotes is Old Testament.  He seems to live by the code of ‘eye for an eye’ or even more so a perverted sense of justice.  He hasn’t really known much about the New Testament and grace.  I would imagine the Bible that he carries around Him doesn’t get opened much around the Gospels.

To translate it from the small screen to real life, I think a lot of us live with the sense of wanting vengeance.  When we are wronged, we want justice.  It is that reminder that deep down there is a true moral right and standard.  However, because we all have a sinful nature, it tends to skew it sometimes away from justice and more towards vengeance.  The Apostle Paul reminds us in Romans 12:19 “never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine I will repay,’ says the Lord.”  God is the only one who can rightly judge in the end.  We are to called to forgive, even when we have been deeply wronged.

One of the hardest things in the world to do is forgive.  We see that in stories in TV shows like Luke Cage and in books and movies.  We see it in real life.  When we’re wronged, the default in being hurt is to rage and want revenge.  But like for Willis Stryker, it consumes you and you lose out on all the good that you can be.  Watching this series has reminded me of how much grace and forgiveness is needed in this world today.

Sunday Devotional: Psalm 123

“To you I lift up my eyes,
    O you who are enthroned in the heavens!
Behold, as the eyes of servants
    look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a maidservant
    to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the Lord our God,
    till he has mercy upon us.

Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us,
    for we have had more than enough of contempt.
Our soul has had more than enough
    of the scorn of those who are at ease,
    of the contempt of the proud.”  (Psalm 123)

Many of the psalms are songs of prayer and this is one of those.  The writer in these short verses knows where to lift his eyes to as he prays and sings, it is to the Lord.  He know the one who shows mercy and that is the Lord.  The writer sings to the Lord asking for mercy because he is going through a rough time.  He knows the Lord provides mercy and trust that the Lord will deliver.

Many of us may be going through tough times.  We may be struggling and hurting.  We may feel scorned.  But we know that God brings grace and peace.  He will bring mercy and love to us.  Let us call out to Him and trust that he will provide mercy and grace this week.  And let us be sure to share with others that God provides for all who call upon Him and trust Him.