A Look At The Astounding Way God Sees Himself

How Do You See God?

I encourage people to pray the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” I have found this simple prayer to be key to communing with God whether in solitude or in daily activities. One huge benefit of constantly praying this prayer is a growing understanding and experience of the mercy of God. In asking for it, God provides His mercy.

My spiritual journey includes a movement towards knowing God’s mercy and away from perceiving God as an angry, vengeful, wrathful God. The journey includes a growing experience of a loving relationship with a merciful God vs. thinking I am at enmity with God – we are at odds with one another – and therefore I must act in ways that lessen His disgust with me.

So, for the past few posts, I’ve been exploring God’s mercy as it relates to our lives. New discoveries about mercy are happening. Most Christians have heard of God’s mercy but have spent little time exploring it or seeking to experience it more fully.

One prominent reality has emerged from my small exploration: God is mercy and is therefore merciful in all He does. 

There are a few places in scripture where God’s view of Himself are recorded. One of the most prominent is found in Exodus 34 where Yahweh Himself describes Himself using His own words:

 The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast lo the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation. (Exodus 34.6-9)

What’s amazing is that God says this after the people of Israel have sinned by disobeying, making a golden calf, worshipping this idol, and acting in rebellion. Many suffer the consequences of their sin in death. Yet God is always merciful. 

We learn this from the very lips of God Himself

  • God is merciful/benevolent.
  • God is gracious.
  • God is slow to anger.
  • God is abounding/abundant/overflowing in steadfast love.
  • God’s steadfast love (hesed) never ends. It lasts to thousands of generations (a way of expressing endlessness); “keeping” means “to guard, maintain or protect out of a sense of responsibility.” God guards and maintains His steadfastness.
  • God forgives every kind of sin.
  • God will not “clear” (the guilty). The words “the guilty” are not in the original text; they don’t exist. Could anyone be inserted here? The context would imply that “the people of Israel” should be inserted. Then the word “clear” makes sense – God will by no means release Himself from who He is – mercy, forgiveness, steadfast love – no matter what people do. God is always merciful!
  • God visits the sins of every generation. “Visit” means to look after or to care for. This is not a negative word but a positive promise – God will take action to deal with the sin of His people resulting in something beneficial. He will forgive the sin of each succeeding generation. His mercy is available for all generations of people.

Do you see whats missing? God does not describe Himself as angry, vengeful, full of wrath, or eager to punish. I am not saying that God doesnt at times act in wrath towards HIs enemies. I am saying that He is always merciful even in His wrath. He is not schizophrenic. He is always merciful to His own. 

“God, who are you?” “I am Steadfast Love.”

“Father, I have sinned.” “Child, I forgive you.” 

“God, I’ve messed up again.” “My own of My own, My mercy is yours.” 

God sees Himself as mercy. Is that how you see God? 

Dr. K 

Experience The Joy Of Living In God’s Mercy

God's Mercy for Those Who Recognize Their Need of It

Many people think that grace is getting what you don’t deserve and mercy is not getting what you do deserve. This statement presents an inadequate understanding of grace and mercy. Bad cliche. Pitiful theology. There is a richness and depth to grace and mercy that no cliche can capture. I’ve been focusing on mercy the past two posts. I continue today.

Review

  • God is mercy. Mercy is innate to the Trinity. Mercy resides in the Trinity and only comes from the Trinity. Mercy is God’s loyal and healing lovingkindness working in the life of every human being.
  • You need mercy. You are not making it in this life without it. God alone loves you enough to do everything He can to save you and draw you to Himself. You cannot do that on your own.

How to Live In Mercy

1. Ask for it

Churches that are liturgical are comfortable praying, “Lord, have mercy.” These words have been integral to worship for centuries. As a result, their adherents often pray “Lord, have mercy” frequently during the day. In the Eastern tradition, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (the Jesus Prayer) is repeated regularly as a means of communing with God moment by moment.

These words are never far from the heart or lips of those who understand the necessity of mercy for their own lives.

Frederica Mathewes-Green writes:

The problem is not in God’s willingness to have mercy, but in our forgetting that we need it. We keep lapsing into ideas of self-sufficiency, or get impressed with our niceness, and so we lose our humility. Asking for mercy reminds us that we are still poor and needy, and fall short of the glory of God. Those who do not ask do not receive, because they don’t know their own need. The Illumined Heart (p. 73)

2. Show it

Jesus teaches that those who show mercy receive mercy (Matthew 5.7). Are you merciful to others? I’m afraid I know more Christians who are quick to criticize and judge than to show mercy. Their ill-will towards others blocks God’s mercy from being activated. Yet, it is in the showing of mercy that mercy is received from God.

To receive mercy, show mercy. To show more mercy, receive more mercy. It’s a wonderful cycle of God’s work in and through you.

3. Participate in it 

Mercy is yours right now. Yet, to experience it, you need to acknowledge your inadequacy. You need to become an empty vessel so that God’s mercy can fill you (Romans 9.23). Be like the publican who “would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, saying, ‘God be merciful to me, a sinner.’”

Living in mercy can be summarized as follows:

It is the continual reception of the mercy of God and nothing else which empowers the soul to good works. And it is only the merciful who attain mercy from God. For all eternity man will be at the disposal of God’s mercy. At whatever stage of development he will reach, man’s prayer will always remain the central prayer of the Church: Lord have mercy on me a sinner! The holier the person, the greater is his sense of sinful unworthiness, the stronger is his dependence on the mercy of God, and the more he is merciful to the weaknesses of others. (from unknown source)

Will you live today in God’s mercy? Ask for it, show it, and participate in it. It will revolutionize your life.

Share your thoughts below.

Dr. K

Your Life Situations Are Great Opportunities To Pray for God’s Mercy

God's Mercy is Astounding!

I have a friend whose wife is frustrated with him because he is primarily praying for God’s mercy in their various family situations. She wants him to ask for specific outcomes in his prayers. Something like, “Lord, help Jimmy get a good grade on his test today.” “Jesus, help us sell our house by next Friday.” “Dear God, Sarah wants to get a tattoo. Intervene and stop her. Thank you.” “Almighty God, send down your power to revive Johnny’s heart, he is so far from you.” There may be times when these kinds of prayers are appropriate. Yet, his wife might think differently if she better understood mercy. When you understand and experience God’s mercy in these kinds of situations, you find there is no better prayer than the prayer for God’s mercy.

Think of your life situations as opportunities for God in His lovingkindness to permeate. You don’t really know what outcome is best. But God in his mercy does. Ask Him to be merciful because mercy is healing, life-producing lovingkindness.

Here are some ways to understand God’s mercy:  

  • Mercy is God’s faithfulness to you. God is  loyal to every human being and His own. The sun rises on the just and the unjust.
  • Mercy is God’s compassion to you. He only acts towards you for your good (and He knows what is good).
  • Mercy is God’s lovingkindness to you. In the Hebrew scriptures this is the marvelous word “hesed” meaning, among other things, a love that perseveres to save the beloved. Because your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise you (Psalm 63.3).
  • Mercy is God’s tenderness to you. He is tenderhearted and always acts in tenderness towards you and your life situations.
  • Mercy is God’s endearing to you. You are of great value to God. He is doing much to draw you to Himself. He is seeking to win your affection. He wants you for Himself. How is He working in your life situations to bring this about?

Like the blind man who cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” so he could experience God’s mercy in the healing of his blindness. Mercy is healing, compassionate, tenderness towards all.

You need mercy every moment, every day, every circumstance.

Think of one life situation in light of these descriptions. What difference would God’s mercy make in that situation? Ask God’s mercy for _____________.

You need to ask for it. I’ll examine why in the next post. But here’s a hint —  You ask for mercy not because it won’t come to you if you don’t ask. But you ask so that you might enter into it when it is present. 

Do you have any thoughts about mercy in your life? Are you being challenged with new experiences of God’s mercy? Are you praying for God’s mercy? Share below.  

Dr. K 

How To Pray More Simply & Effectively

Pray For God's Mercy & Let Him Work Out The Details

People are often surprised when I invite them to only pray for God’s mercy in most situations. They want to get into the details about how their prayer should be answered. They believe it is a more truer faith if they spell out to God what He should do for them. However, if they really knew God and His mercy they could entrust all their concerns to Him and let Him deal with the details. If God acts in mercy on the people and things that they’re praying about, then all is well. Confidence in God’s mercy comes when you understand it both intellectually and experientially.

What is mercy? 

God is Mercy. Mercy is intrinsic to the nature of God. Each member of the Trinity lives in and radiates mercy. It is a word describing God’s basic disposition of love towards others. In other words, His actions are only for our benefit, for our good. His perpetual and inexhaustible mercy is not theory. It is not even a principle to guide our beliefs and conduct. Mercy is what God is and how He acts.

So, when you ask for God’s mercy,

  • you ask Him to be who He is
  • you ask Him to act according to His nature
  • you ask Him to do His will (which is your will also)
  • you ask Him to demonstrate His beneficial love for whomever or whatever you’re praying for
  • you ask Him to control the outcome of your prayer since you know the outcome will always be according to His mercy

I Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Mercy!

Many people do not pray for mercy because:

  • they like to be in control…even in their prayer requests. They are used to telling God how He should do what they ask.
  • they do not realize how utterly broken they are. They cannot fix themselves by themselves. Yet, they keep trying.
  • they lack an ongoing experience of mercy. They may understand mercy as the solution for their sins but good for little else. They don’t see mercy as a moment-by-moment elixir for everything in their life.

Mercy for Everything & Anything

Are you sick? Ask for God’s mercy.

Are you anxious, fearful, confused, stuck, uncertain, lonely, happy, content, wavering in your faith, broken, repentant, ignorant, or clueless? Ask for God’s mercy.

There is not a situation where God’s mercy can’t reach.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life… (Psalm 23.6)

I will continue to write about God’s mercy in the next few posts.

In the meantime, in every life situation you face today, ask for God’s mercy.

Share your thoughts below.

Dr. K 

3 Hallmarks To A Fulfilling Marriage

Realities To Live By

For the past few months our family has been in wedding prep mode. During the final three weeks the preparations became intense. A week ago we were setting up for the rehearsal and dinner. Six days ago the beautiful event took place without a hitch. As a result of all of this, I’ve been thinking a lot about marriage. Add to this that Rhonda and I celebrated 39 years of marriage in June. In all this focus on marriage I’m discovering, with the help of others, new aspects of this unique relationship.

Here is what I’m discovering:

Marriage is Mystery.

Mystery implies something strange and marvelous. It cannot be figured out. It cannot be solved (like a murder “mystery”). How is it possible for parents to give up their children (whom they’ve known and loved for decades) and for the newlyweds (who have known each other for only a few years or months) leave everyone else and join themselves to each other? How can such oneness take place? How can marriage be a picture of Christ’s union with his church? This is not merely a human accomplishment. Every relationship is transformed. Everything changes when two people get married. And the changes never stop. If they stop, the marriage is in trouble. Marriage is a mysterious work of God to transform all of us into His likeness. The newlywed’s home is a monastery where its occupants learn to love and live in God’s life together.

Marriage is Martyrdom.

It is the venue where you show up to die. Marriage is not for your self-fulfillment (unless you understand fulfillment as dying daily) but for your self-crucifixion. Here is where you learn to check your ego, keep your mouth shut, serve, sacrifice, suffer, and embrace it all in Christ’s love. Here is where you plant yourself in the ground, die, and experience new life. At times you will be treated poorly, misunderstood, taken for granted, or dismissed. Yet, as you allow these realities to shape your heart, not reacting in ego-driven anger or shame, a better you will begin to emerge. Death brings forth life. Marriage is the crucible where new life takes place. (Ephesians 5.22, 25)

Marriage is Morality.

It is in the beautiful bond of marriage that chastity is preserved and cultivated. It is not just the “avoidance of immorality, but integrity of the person, body and soul, and direction of oneself towards holiness” (Catharine P. Roth, Introduction to On Marriage and Family Life; St. John Chrysostom). “Due to the temptation of immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman here own husband,” writes Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 7.2). One purpose of marriage is to make you chaste – to set a limit to your desires; teaching you to keep yourself for one person only. In marriage you can become more holy, pure, clean, sanctified (Ephesians 5.25 – 26).

There is so much more yet to be learned and experienced in marriage. There are no experts (some try to be) in this most intimate of human relationships.

As wonderful as our experience has been to watch two young people fall in love and get married, Rhonda and I are also close to a couple battling through an awful divorce. The first couple is aiming to live out their marriage with the guidance of these three realities. The second couple did not know about these realities let alone live them out.

A greater concern for me, however, is how I’m living out these realities. With Rhonda, am I growing in oneness, learning to die, and becoming more pure in my relationship with her? I can’t control the marriage of others but I certainly can do something about myself within my marriage.

Of the three realities above, which one resonated with you the most? What can you do about it? 

Dr. K 

P.S. My thoughts on marriage have been stimulated by the writings of St. John Chrysostom (349-407) some of which have been captured in On Marriage and Family Life, St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1986. His thoughts are relevant to us today.

Reflections on a Beautiful Relationship & Wedding

Loving Relationships Are To Be Celebrated

A few days ago I walked my beautiful little girl into the arms of her new love. It was a tearfully proud moment for this father.

So many family and friends joined together to celebrate and support Jenna and Brian. Everything (and I mean everything) went smoothly thanks to the help of many. THANK YOU!! The wedding gave us cause to celebrate many dear relationships we deeply cherish.

Beauty was everywhere. You could see it in Jenna, Jenna & Brian, people, organization, planning, ceremony/service, conversations, music, and public comments. There was no drama or problems. Jesus Christ was present. Marriage was honored. People were lifted up.

With marriage as the main focus of the past months and after celebrating 39 years of marriage myself, I am becoming aware of some new realities about marriage. I will share these in my next post.

For now, here are some quotes that captured my attention in light of my relationship with Jenna. Perhaps you can relate to some of them or all of them.

Father-Daughter5

 

Father-Daughter4                                       Father-Daughter2

 

 

Father-daughter                             Father-Daughter1

I hope you can take these to heart. Today, celebrate your deepest relationships. Don’t take them for granted.

As James Taylor says: “Shower the people you love with love.” (Click on link to hear it live.)

She grew up so fast. Love your child in every stage of life because tomorrow you walk her down the aisle.

Which quote(s) resonates most with you? 

Dr. K 

 

 

5 Significant Lessons From Someone “All In”

Michael Brown, Guest Writer

What does it mean to be “all in” with God? If you’re tempted to think you’ve given all to Jesus, be challenged by St. Antony. If you wonder if you can actually live closer to God, be inspired by St. Antony.

If you are like most people, all you know of St Antony is that he was some old Christian Saint who has hospitals or a local church named after him.  Here is, as they say, the “rest of the story.”

Antony was born to wealthy parents around A.D. 250 in Middle Egypt.  Around the age of 20, his parents died leaving him with both wealth and the responsibility for his younger sister.  Some months later, while at church, he heard these words read: “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”  These words recorded in Matthew 21:19 are from Jesus to the rich young ruler, which Antony now was.  Not wanting his wealth to impair his journey with God, he gave his land and belongings to the locals keeping aside only a small sum for the care of his sister.

Shortly thereafter, again in church and again from Matthew, Jesus’ words were read: “do not worry about tomorrow.”  Believing this was spoken to him, he gave away his remaining money and left his sister in the care of some local pious women. Antony left the comfort of his wealth to pursue the ascetic life.

He first moved out of the family home and began practicing asceticism under the guidance of an old man in a nearby town.  Antony performed manual labor to support himself, giving away money to the poor. He prayed and read scripture. He helped those around him. He sealed himself in a nearby empty tomb, receiving only occasional bread from friends. He often sought guidance from pious men. 

Sometime later Antony had himself sealed in an unused tomb where he prayed, meditated, and battled temptations and demons. This was his life for 15 years.  Nearing the end of that time, God appeared to Antony promising never to leave him in times of trial and to make him known throughout the world.

Following the vision, Antony left the tomb to move deeper into the desert to an old fort. Friends, either worried about his welfare or who wanted to copy his ascetic lifestyle, would try to contact him. But Antony would shoo them away without ever opening the door. They would hear him singing. Finally, after 20 years, they broke down the door. Athanasius tells us in his biography of Antony that he emerged from the fort and his friends were “astonished” at his appearance, looking as fit as he had 20 years earlier.

Now in his mid-fifties, he moved yet deeper into the desert to continue to live the ascetic life.  However, he would receive those who sought him.  He also traveled to encourage fellow monks. He engaged in an early rhetorical battle against the Arian heretics.

After emerging from his fort sanctuary and for the remainder of his life, he never was far from his desert sanctuary. At the age of 105, Antony died in the desert. For over 1,500 years, Antony has been known as the father of the monastic movement.

 What You Can Learn From St. Antony 

  1. The lives of saints, such as Antony, are ones of inspiration not imitation.  Antony’s life and path with God were his, given to him by God.  You can learn much by reading about the saints and you should be inspired in your own struggles, but don’t take on the guilt of not living their lives.
  2. Focus more on God.  Watch one less TV show a week and spend the time in prayer and reading scripture and a book about a saint.
  3. Rejoice in all things.  Learn to see every tribulation, temptation, failure, sadness, tragedy and joy as an opportunity for prayer, which is an opportunity to approach God.
  4. Don’t be too quick to engage in ministry.  Jesus spent 30 years at home in a very small village and then 40 days in the desert before beginning his public ministry.  Paul was in the desert for 3 years and then exiled to Tarsus for some time before being called to ministry by the Apostles.  Moses lived the lonely life of a shepherd for 40 years before leading the Hebrews to freedom.  Our world is 24/7 and performance-driven.  Learn to live life at the pace of a desert-dwelling monk.
  5. Focusing on your own transformation is not selfishness.  It takes both good soil and time for a strong tree to grow and bear good fruit. Too many Christians have publicly fallen as they worked hard for God. Spend your time with God cooperating with Him as He transforms you. Then, like Jesus, only do what you see Him doing. But remember, only those with a pure heart see God. For most of us purification is a long, slow, painful struggle.