Tag Archives: faith

Mercy, Not Sacrifice

Hosea 6:6, ESV

For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

Mercy, not sacrifice. Steadfast love, not burnt offerings. An act of the heart not just an act of obedience.

This verse is breaking my heart this morning, echoed by Christ in Matthew 9:13

Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.

The whole Church, the Body of Christ needs to ask – what are we giving, mercy or sacrifice? Where is our heart? What is our concern – showing love or saving our own skins? What is the purpose behind our actions, our legalism, our quest for purity, our understanding of forgiveness?

We have been forgiven, cleansed, made new, all by the work of Christ with no effort on our parts beyond acknowledging when the Spirit opened our eyes to see it. So what do we do with that? We offer sacrifice – time and prayers and money and ego – all in hopes someone will see and acknowledge and validate us, that our mansion in heaven might be a little bigger, a bit better furnished. Where do we show mercy? Where do we acknowledge that it is by grace we are saved – us and everyone around us.

Mercy. Not sacrifice. Grace, forgiveness, following the example of Christ to seek out the sinners and what – yell at them about how evil they are? Tell them they’re destined to an eternity of torment? No, that’s not how Christ treated the sinner. Mercy. Grace. Forgiveness. Christians should be active in the work of restoration – renewal and healing and the journey toward wholeness.

Mercy, not sacrifice. God give me strength.

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And Then There Was Joy

I just had one of those moments where suddenly I understand things and I can’t believe how foolish I was for missing it in the first place. Some background:

  • my church has been going through the book Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas. A few weeks ago we finished looking at the Traditionalist pathway
  • We’re also, as a church, celebrating Advent with a reading and lighting of the candles each week. There’s also daily materials that I forgot existed until now.
  • I’ve signed up with my local multicultural association to help as refugees start pouring into my city – training starts tomorrow.

Now, I love the advent season, I celebrate solstice (in the sense of taking time to reflect on the darkness and celebrate the return of the light) and Christmas is both a cultural and a spiritual celebration for me. I understand the history, the richness, the excitement and the depth of this time of year – holy days and sacred times. However, this year it’s all felt really flat to me. Maybe I’ve been too busy, maybe I’ve been too distracted by the cultural rituals (shopping, wrapping, hearing my kids say they want a ton of things) – whatever it was, something was missing.

Then I read this post and suddenly my heart swelled and tears were in my eyes and I understand it more. It’s not just the rituals (spiritual or cultural) or knowing the significance of the celebration, it’s taking the opportunity to feel it. To feel the anticipation, the hope, to understand the longing and the fear that comes in the waiting – what if it doesn’t get better, what if the light doesn’t come, what if we miss the Messiah – and then choosing to hope regardless. Choosing to celebrate, to feel joy. Choosing to prepare and anticipate and believe that God is bringing something that will forever change everything and that you are part of it.

I have an extra special opportunity to understand Advent this year, and I almost missed it. I almost didn’t connect the experience of helping new people settle here with the excitement and anticipation of advent. Suddenly things feel different, I’ve got that anxious excited fluttery feeling and I can’t wait to see what happens, to experience what is coming. I am so thankful to be a part of it.

Abundance

A common theme in conversations and thoughts and in my heart and soul for the past few months has been abundance – abundant life and living in the Kingdom and all the good that we’re supposed to experience – now and for eternity.

What I’ve come to realize is that I don’t understand this concept at all. When I’m feeling cynical I blame it on the traditions I’ve been raised in and the culture of fear and shame that Christianity sometimes creates – how can I believe I can live abundant life when it’s so clear that I fail God over and over again, when I am obviously still a slave to sin, when I’m supposed to be humble and patient and gentle, when I’m reminded over and over again that I’m one choice away from losing my salvation.

When I’m in a more honest mood I can admit that my inability to understand abundance comes from fear. What if I’m not really saved, what if the promise of abundant life isn’t really for me. What if I am weeds and goats and bad trees. I don’t live in the Kingdom because I’m still scared that I don’t belong in the Kingdom.

The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.

Luke 14:15-24 has been in my head a lot. There’s layers of truth there, but the one that most often sticks out at me is the truth that I *don’t* belong in the kingdom. The banquet wasn’t prepared for me. I wasn’t invited based on my accomplishments or achievements or honour or status. Yet I am welcome. More than welcome, I am compelled. And there is still room for more.

I don’t need to hoard or hide away the good in my life. I don’t need to be afraid that any minute it could all turn to dust. I don’t need to be scared of being found out – and I don’t need to put on airs to try and fit in somewhere I don’t belong. I do belong, both as I am and as I am being transformed to be. There is no limit to GOd’s grace ,not for me and not for anyone around me. I can share it – all the oy and excitement and wonder and awe and blessings and good and mystery and everything else. I can share my questions and my (mis)understandings. I can share my strengths and my weaknesses. I can share my self and my time and above all I can share love. There is no limit to the love that I can share to those around me, in whatever form they are open to receiving it.

To live abundant life is to live knowing that there is more – more joy and love and wonder and more of God to know and experience and be in awe of. To know there is more and to be aware and experiencing what is in each moment. I still know that I don’t really understand the concept, but I’m trying.

Fighting Grace

I was struck last night by a thought. I’m not completely sure where it came from, but it was there, clear as day.

One of the most common and constant struggles for those who believe is the concept of grace.

How bizarre is that? We who are saved and called sons and daughters of the Most High God struggle with the truth of our identity, with the reality of our salvation. I think if most of us were in the garden, the serpent wouldn’t ask “did God really say” but instead “are you really saved?”

There are different theologies of salvation, of course, each one with it’s own focus, with it’s own slant, giving us as individuals differing degrees of responsibility and agency when it comes to our salvation. I’m not really talking about theology here though, I’m talking about the day to day living out that salvation – and how often we question this overwhelming grace that covers us.

Human nature looks for boundaries and limits and wants to know where the lines are. Human doubt then analyses and wonders if we’ve crossed those lines, and how many times, and how we’ve made up for it or grown or turned back or moved on. All with lip service to the God of all who is the beginning and the end, who knows all things and has saved us by his great love through sending his son.

Grace. Even for us.

Slowing down.

I’ve had sick kids the last few days. Sick kids means kids at home, means time spent getting water and fixing blankets and cuddling up on the couch. It’s wonderful, but at the back of my mind I’m still aware of the chores and the to do lists and the things I had planned to get done that just don’t seem to happen when there are kids in the house.

I admit I don’t always make the best nurse in these times. I tend to get anxious about what isn’t happening. I feel frustrated and put upon and am constantly going through the lists in my head and trying to figure out how to shuffle things around so it will all get done.

I tried a different approach this time. I cleared my schedule. I sat on the couch with my daughter’s head in my lap. I nurtured her. I played games with my son and we laughed together. I took a breath, I let go of the lists and I experienced life as it was.

I’ve been reading more about slowing down. From blogs by busy moms to a book about worship to the story of Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet to Jesus himself taking time away from the crowds. Changing my mind from seeing “quiet time” as another thing to add to my list to realizing it means being in the moment, being present where I am and finding the quiet there, the lessons, the whispers of the Spirit, the refreshing of my soul.

Fresh

I’m tying to put together words to make sense of all of the things going on in my head. Generally this is an easy process for me, but today, it’s not. There’s too many ways of looking at it and I’m not sure just where this is going, so forgive me if it comes out a bit disjointed.

For most of my life I have believed things about myself that were not true. Those beliefs affected my actions and my relationships and the way I saw the world around me. Even with healing and therapy and good, strong, healthy connections to people I still struggled with this internal world. At my best I felt slightly less than that others thought I was. At my worst I felt….awful.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1

No matter how many times I read that verse, I couldn’t believe it was true for me, because I kept proving to myself that it wasn’t. That I was still broken and marked and cursed and awful. I hoped that some day I could do better, or at the very least that the grace of God would stretch that far.

What can wash away my sin
Nothing but the blood of Jesus
What can make me whole again
Nothing but the blood of Jesus

When we think of washing, of being cleansed, there’s this sense of taking away what is bad and wrong, removing the corruption, But people don’t work like that. There’s consequences and effects and bits of us that change. As good as it is to think about instant cleansing and everything going back to perfection, that’s not how people work. We remember, we build habits and beliefs and hold on to things, even when we know better.

That’s why I like the imagery of the blood of Christ. It covers our sin. It doesn’t matter about the lingering marks because they are covered, filled in, owned and taken care of. There is no condemnation for me from God because God sees only the blood of Christ. There is no condemnation because I am filled in and made whole, and those bits of me that were wrong – the habits and thoughts and actions all influenced by years of holding onto lies – those are being changed. I am being made new, day by day, growing and getting better. Even in the process, even when I struggle and fall back on old habits, I am still covered and under the blood of Christ.

First response

I have this…trait. A habit? Not sure what category it falls into (although I’m sure “character flaw” would probably be on the list). I respond to things.

Almost any time an opportunity is given for me to react or voice my opinion, I’m there ready to give it. I like to think it’s because I was raised in a home where discussion and sharing one’s opinion was encouraged. I can even say it’s because I’ve got a wide range of topics that interest me and that I enjoy dialogue.

Really though, sometimes, it’s just because I want to have my say.

I’ve been feeling this pull lately toward silence and stillness and reflection. To not being the first voice, to giving pause before I speak or react or share. It’s not my natural tendency (not that my natural tendency always works in my favour).

Proverbs 29:11
A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back

Sometimes I think I’m so wise. All this knowledge and understanding and reading and thinking that I’ve done gives me this sense of entitlement when it comes to sharing my thoughts and ideas and opinions. I want to change that. I want to listen. I want to reflect and understand. I want to feel comfortable in quiet contemplation. I want to stop this constant need to have my thoughts validated.

So writing here may seem like a bit of a contradiction.

I am going to try to learn the difference between sharing for growth and speaking in order to hear my own voice. I have a feeling I won’t always get it right, but that is my goal. I want to spend more time reading and reflecting and taking in the words and thoughts and experiences of those around me. This is a place for me to sort through those things and wrestle with my own thoughts, but also a place to show restraint – not filling the page with every word that runs through my head.