This is not a name we generally associate with mercy.
In Genesis 18:23-33, one reads a conversation between Abraham and God. God decides to share with Abraham the divine plan to destroy the city of Sodom because extreme wickedness has been attributed to the inhabitants of that place. In response, Abraham wonders aloud if God would destroy the good and honest people who just happen to live in Sodom. In the conversation, Abraham asks the question: "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?"
As the conversation progresses, God tells Abraham if fifty righteous people can be found in Sodom, the city will not be destroyed. Abraham, knowing his nephew Lot lives there, bargains God down to ten.
That was an expression of God's mercy.
In other words, if ten righteous people could be found in the city (historians estimate the population of the city was between 600 and 1200), God would not destroy it. For the sake of ten righteous people, God would allow at least several hundred unrighteous to continue on.
That is the height of mercy. That is a massive expression of love for the righteous and tolerance for the unrighteous.
As many of us who are familiar with the story know, when angelic visitors arrive at Sodom to evaluate the situation, a series of events unfold:
1) Lot convinces the visitors to spend the night at his home. Originally, the visitors planned to spend the night in the town square. Visitors spending the night in a town square was a common practice at that time.
2) A mob (all of the men of the city, says the text in Genesis 19:4) gathers outside of Lot's house, demanding Lot bring out the men for sex.
3) Lot refuses, offering his virgin daughters to the crowd as sex substitutes in place of the angelic male visitors.
4) The mob, enraged by Lot's offer, attempts to enter Lot's house by force.
5) The visitors securely return Lot to the inside of his house and strike the mob with blindness. Lot is warned the city will be destroyed.
Lot then attempts to warn the young men engaged to his daughters that the city will be destroyed by God, and they must soon make their escape. The young men refuse to come with him. The text states they thought he was joking. Genesis 19:14: "So Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, 'Up! Get out of this place, for the LORD is about to destroy the city'. But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be joking."
By dawn, the visitors were urging Lot to get out of town. It is possible Lot was completely disoriented by the events of the previous twelve hours.
In verses 15 and 16 of Chapter 19 of Genesis: "As morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying 'Up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city'. But he lingered. So the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the
hand, the LORD being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city."
Another expression of mercy.
Lot was warned to escape to the hills. In response to this, Lot complains he can't get that far, and asks if he could instead escape to a smaller, nearby city. The angelic visitor responded "...Behold, I grant you this favor also, that I will not overthrow the city of which you have spoken. Escape there
quickly, for I can do nothing till you arrive there." (Genesis 19: 21 and 22).
Another expression of mercy.
Lot finally makes it to the small city of Zoar as the destruction of Sodom is underway. Lot's wife ("behind him" says the text in Genesis 19:26), looked back at Sodom and became a pillar of salt. She was destroyed, having met the same fate as those who physically remained in the city.
Some have said the destruction of Sodom wasn't very merciful, but was a picture of the actions of an angry, unloving God.
I suppose one could read it that way. Still, I am mindful that ten righteous people could not be found in a city of several hundred or a thousand. I am mindful that even the few who escaped had to be dragged away (did not go willingly or quickly) and one of them (Lot's wife) stayed so far behind (physically or emotionally)that she was consumed in the destruction she turned back to witness.
Finally, I believe God showed much more mercy than many of us have shown to those who act wickedly. Do you doubt this? Read the comments section of any major news source when a horrendous crime is committed. There you will find no shortage of cries to "hang them", "fry them", and other suggested punishments I won't recite.
Actually, God shows much more mercy than we show to those who have done the wrong thing.
It did not end well for Lot. Read the rest of chapter 19 of Genesis. After the escape from Sodom, Lot fell into drunkenness and incest with his two daughters. Sodom left its stain on them, even though they escaped physically. Those who remained behind were destroyed. But in each case,
destruction was a result of the choices made by those who could have chosen good over evil.
Mercy was offered, even at the gates of Sodom.
From 2 Samuel 22:26-28:
"With the merciful you show yourself merciful;
with the blameless man you show yourself blameless;
with the purified you deal purely,
and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous.
You save a humble people, but your eyes are on the the haughty
to bring them down."
I've noticed increasingly strident and even angry blog posts and opinion pieces recently regarding the question of what the true church can or should do in days of apostasy. For some reason, many seem to believe we are in a time of extreme apostasy. I am not certain this is true, but once again the topic has arisen. Here are some thoughts on the subject.
Like many, I watched video of family members of the Charleston Nine (Emanuel AME Church members murdered in a mass shooting at the church this week) express forgiveness to the confessed shooter during a court hearing.
It has been suggested it is too soon to forgive. What does that mean? Why does it matter?
It is never too soon to affirm the intention to forgive. That's where forgiveness begins--with intent. From intent, we may move to the deep, emotional freedom that comes with true forgiveness. That true forgiveness frees us from the poison of an offender's words or actions. That's why Jesus taught his disciples to forgive. It all begins with intent.
When I watched a sobbing woman lament the loss of a loved one in open court and heard her broken voice proclaim forgiveness, I knew I was watching a true disciple of Jesus Christ.
This woman was not proclaiming damnation for the mass murder. No words were spoken about God's vengeance and hate, or Hell and suffering. This woman was following the example of her Lord, who spoke forgiveness while suffering a torturous death on a cross. This woman was speaking the words her loved ones, now worshiping with the Church Triumphant, would want her to speak. Through her tears, she was affirming the power of hate would not dominate or claim her goodness and take it away. She was affirming an eternal truth: the acts of the spirit are greater than the acts of the flesh.
All of this matters because what is said now will determine how well the survivors heal, continue their lives, and honor the memory and legacy of those who are gone from our view.
It all begins when forgiveness is spoken. Forgiveness does not minimize or rationalize away or excuse the horror and injustice of what was done. Forgiveness does not mean anyone should have warm, fuzzy feelings for the shooter.
Forgiveness means the survivors have taken their power and decided to reclaim their true selves from the pain and injury of what was done. Forgiveness means they begin to cancel the power of hate. It all begins with intent. It is not something any of us naturally do. The power to forgive is a gift from God.
(c) 2015 Deborah Evans
National Association of Non Custodial Moms: www.facebook.com/NANCM.org
Parental Alienation Awareness Organization: paawareness.org/
Have you heard of these groups? When you learn a woman does not have custody of her child, do you assume she is an addict of some type, or mentally ill, or morally unfit to raise her child or children?
If you make these assumptions, you are wrong.
Many noncustodial moms lost a legal battle with a well funded or abusive ex husband or ex partner. Perhaps this mother trusted someone who promised to take care of her child during a crisis, but that someone was simply creating a pretext for taking custody of that child. Perhaps this mother fled an abusive situation (taking her children with her) and was unable to finance the legal battle to maintain custody.
Yes, there are some women who are not ready or willing to raise their children. But, there are many who were not able to prevail in a court system that favors the well connected and well funded. Mother's Day is always a challenge for these women.
Perhaps you have custody (full or part) of your child, but you have been a victim of parental alienation. I have written about parental alienation elsewhere on this blog: watch out for the unexpected alienator, how to reunite after parental alienation, when to give up the legal battle in court . You have your child with you, or have access to them on a regular basis, but you are struggling with negative brainwashing that has been imposed on your child. You and your child once had a close, loving relationship. Now, that child disrespects you, doesn't appreciate you, destroys your property, and says they hate you or wish you were dead.
There is no rational basis for your child's beliefs, but the beliefs are deeply held. Your child insists these are their own thoughts, that he or she was not programmed or brainwashed by anyone.
What happens on Mother's Day when this is your story? What can you do when your children are not physically or emotionally with you?
Allow yourself to choose how you spend the day. Don't mask your grief by accepting dinner invitations or invitations from friends who insist you should not be alone. Perhaps you would prefer to spend the day alone looking at old photo albums, watching a movie you once happily shared with your children, or cooking a favorite meal all of you once enjoyed together. Allow yourself these pleasures if they make you happy. If you truly don't want to be alone, accept invitations from people who will enjoy your company and not judge you or try to preach to you.
Celebrate your own mother if you had a good relationship with her. Let this day be a day you remember, recall, and celebrate your own mother or grandmother if you had a good relationship with her. This could involve anything from visiting church, strolling in the park, planting flowers, taking a drive to a special place, or sleeping late and giving yourself a mani-pedi. If your mother is still living and you can enjoy your time with her, plan a visit or phone call or Skpye connect time.
Gather friends and recreate the meaning of the day. Give yourself permission to get together with friends and do something totally unconnected to the meaning of Mother's Day. It can be a challenge to go out and have fun on Mother's Day when you are surrounded by seemingly happy families of moms, dads, and kids. See what's going on in your local area--check newspapers or local event websites-- and find something that will affirm your goodness and bring joy and happiness to the surface of your life. If you have no one to share the day with, your local public library or a nearby museum is a place you can visit on your own and still be in the presence of others. Stroll the galleries or read a stack of magazines or a good book. Spend a few hours enjoying yourself.
Because this is a blog about faith, I will add that if you have a faith tradition, see what it says to you on this day.
If you are feeling beaten down by the judgments of others, remember no one has the right to judge unless they know all of the facts. There is One Who Does. Do not leave this day without connecting with God in a special way.
Free yourself from the negative judgments of others and seek to live only under the judgment of God. Remember you are beloved of God not because of what you accomplish, but because you are a creation of God. You are a spiritual being who will live somewhere forever. Temporary judgments are not final rulings. Allow your challenge to become your triumph. You are never beyond the reach of God's love, and neither are your children. Be who you need to be in this time. Seek help and accept it when it is genuinely offered. Get enough rest. Find two or three things that bring joy to you and hold on to them. Finally, understand that others do what they do because of who they are. You can only change yourself. You cannot change others.
Have a happy day. Know that your mothering was not in vain, nor could it have been in vain. Keep the eternal viewpoint. Live well and be blessed.
(c) 2015 Deborah Evans
Scripture tells us very little about what happened with Jesus and his disciples between the time of the Resurrection and the Ascension. He appeared to them, and to many others, after his return from the dead. For the disciples, he breathed the power of the Holy Spirit onto them and into them. He gave them a life altering commission, or charge, and then returned to the heavenly realm. He was not absent, but he was out of physical view.
As Charles Wesley put it in his hymn, Rejoice the Lord is King: "When He had purged our stains, He took His seat above." This doesn't mean Jesus sat back and watched history unfold with caring or participating. This means he returned to the heavenly realm of honor he had before coming to Earth. Jesus always cares. If you invite him, he always participates.
Based on the accomplishments of the disciples after the Ascension, we can imagine a few things that must have happened for Jesus' followers. We can learn from their experiences, and find new paths for ourselves after our hearts have been broken by life's events.
The disciples had to rethink what was real and possible. No one, before or after, has ever returned from death to live on Earth. Jesus did. That first Holy Week had been a real roller coaster ride for them. After they saw Jesus was alive---physically, in his body---they had to accept many new possibilities for what life could mean. They were then ready to accept the Great Commission. They saw their leader was more than they had ever imagined or originally believed. When Jesus heals your broken heart, he will show you possibilities and a future beyond what you imagined in your past.
The disciples had to accept new and different responsibilities. During his ministry on Earth, the disciples expected Jesus to remove Roman power, restore the Davidic kingdom, and bring prosperity. They also expected to help him carry out that mission. It didn't quite turn out that way. Jesus gave them a new purpose and direction. The disciples carried it out very effectively. But it wasn't what they'd originally planned. They were willing to change. Ironically, the change Christianity brought to the ancient world did eventually bring down the Roman Empire, but it happened one person at a time.
Much of what God does is done one person at a time. He heals broken hearts one at a time.
The disciples found a worthy purpose: to spread a message of personal salvation+freedom from sin (sin = whatever makes us less than what God created us to be), a message of goodness defined as holiness-happiness-purpose. They found a purpose worth living for and dying for. If we have a purpose worth dying for, we must choose to live for that purpose. If we do not have a purpose worth dying for, it is time to find a new purpose. The difficulties the disciples faced were nothing compared to the eternal value of what they did. Tradition says most of them suffered a martyr's death. Have no doubt that where these disciples are now, they would not say God asked too much of them. They found a purpose to carry them past their pain. We can do that as well when we listen to God and follow him.
(c) 2015 Deborah Evans
Did you leave somethiing or someone behind in 2014?
Did something or someone leave you behind in 2014?
Release with love.
When you release with love, you no longer look back with frustration,
regret, or resentment. You no longer ask these questions: "why did they do that?", "what were they thinking?", or "how can I get even", or "God, how could you allow that?"
When you release with love, you no longer need explanations.
When you release with love, you accept others as you accept yourself: imperfect, but striving; flawed, but still seeking; wounded, but still alive and growing.
Perhaps this is what Jesus meant when He taught His followers to "turn the other cheek": release with love, go in a new direction, and trust Me to make it work out.
You can easily become the thing you fight. So do not fight unless you seek to become like your opponent. Instead of fighting: pray, plan, speak, and act.
Release with love.
(c) 2015 Deborah Evans
Recently, I viewed (for the second time) the D. Channsin Berry/Bill Duke documentary "Dark Girls." It was a painful view, but I felt compelled to watch and listen carefully because I could identify so deeply with much of what was said.
This message rang through the film: there is something ugly and unpleasant about being a "dark girl". This does not mean dark girls are ugly or unpleasant. Still, much of what is presented in this film shows how differently dark girls experience life. Generally speaking, these differences are not considered positive ones. I think there was much truth and painful honesty in this film, but a part of the story is missing.
Since Lupita Nyong'o won an Oscar, made a famous and well-documented speech, and appeared on several fashion magazine covers, I have listened and watched many women describe how triumphant Nyong'o's story is: she is the manifestation of dark beauty, her confidence and poise are enviable, her skill and preparation have won out over the color prejudices that dominate much of Hollywood. Many, many dark girls are cheering for Lupita.
No one says "I wished I looked like Lupita." I have yet to read or hear that comment.
It's hard to be different. Dark girls are a minority within a minority. We may have been the "original woman", but now we are often sidelined and rejected by those who gave birth to us, raised us, and shared our childhood homes. Society has labeled us as second class, and often we are not strong enough to resist and overcome that programming until we have lived much or most of our lives.
When I watched the film for the second time, I was able to see and absorb a lot of the spiritual pain expressed by the women interviewed. Most of these women were pretty, and some were very beautiful. A sadness lingered in the eyes of almost all of them, even those who stated they have grown into an appreciation and gratitude for their looks. The injury of rejection by family and friends--and society at large--did not fade away with increased awareness and personal growth. This pain seemed to be persistent across generations, classes, geography, and personality types.
Is there a remedy? I am always looking for a reason to hold hope close to my heart. Will dark girls have to wait for society to change before we can be happy, fulfilled, and joyful?
As I thought about the answer, I remembered the Bible verse that tells me: "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." (Romans 12:2, NIV)
My default position is to be conformed to the world, to see myself as others who appear powerful choose to define me, to live within those limitations, and to fear moving beyond them. My default position is to absorb what is sent my way, even if that message is destructive and limiting to me, even if that message causes me to dislike my appearance or even my very existence
When I move from conformity to transforming renewal, I am embracing the God who is powerful enough and loving enough to smile at me and say "you are beautiful because you have been created in my image." New thoughts and images appear in my mind. When I live in transforming renewal, I am able to "test and approve" God's good, pleasing, and perfect will. In my own experience, God has never failed a test. In transforming renewal, I am expecting and approving of God's ability to bring into my life those who will also smile at me with loving kindness and joy.
In transforming renewal, I release and forgive those unable to see me as whole and lovely, because their short-sightedness does not limit what God will do in my life.
In transforming renewal, I remember God's will is good, pleasing, and perfect for me, not just for God alone.
In transforming renewal, I begin every day smiling at myself in the mirror, happy with what I see, knowing that I am an intentional creation of God and not a result of random chance. I no longer wish God had made me someone else, or something else. I approve of God's choice to form me as I am. I trust and know God has prepared something good for all creatures He has made.
In transforming renewal, I expect more than what I can see today.
For dark girls, and for all people, gratitude for self begins by knowing and living the truth that we are intentionally made by God, for his joy---and ours---and we can live in the transforming renewal that changes us from objects of scorn to beautiful channels of grace. That's the truth.
(c) 2014 Deborah Evans
Love Divine, All Loves Excelling.
and no one can do it for you. No one "inherits" Christianity.
It cannot be passed down like money, property, or heirlooms.
You may inherit the practice of certain Christian traditions, but
you cannot inherit the status of Christian. As someone has said,
"God has no grandchildren, only children."
where you made a conscious choice to turn over
the reigns of your life to God, a time when you admitted you had
a sin problem you could not solve, a time when you asked God to
solve it for you. In most cases and barring certain illnesses,
we remember major events of our lives: finishing school,
getting that first job or joining military service, marriage,
It's perfectly reasonable that we remember turning over control
of our lives to God, the most important decision we will ever make.
Those can be positive experiences, but they do not substitute for salvation
because salvation is a totally personal "you and God" experience. Perhaps
you were baptized as an infant, in which case that baptism wasn't your choice.
Perhaps you joined a church because you were lonely, or liked certain social
activities the church offered, or because a spouse or parent belonged to that
church. Those aren't necessarily bad reasons to join a church, but those
reasons don't address your relationship with God.
prosperity, health, and what the world generally calls "success."
Trust me, it's not true because Scripture doesn't teach this and
history disproves it.
avoid Hell (which, by the way, I believe is a real place), but fear never
motivated anyone to consistent goodness or greatness. If Hell, or avoiding it,
is your focus, you have missed the entire reason why people have sought
a relationship with Jesus for over 2,000 years.
constantly taught against pride, judgment of others, and haughtiness.
He never invited anyone to follow Him based on feeling superior to others.
In fact, during His time here, He often sought out and embraced those
who were on the outskirts of society: the poor, the rejected,
the weak and the lonely.He had wealthy followers as
well---and still does--but they are not "better" followers
because of their material advantages.
you have received a glimpse of this truth: "Jesus, you are all compassion,
pure and wondrous love you are."
allegiance and faith.
It is only to someone like this should you hand over the reigns of your life.
Only God is powerful enough to be "all compassion" and only God is
generous enough to express to us "pure and wondrous love." Whoever you are, and in whatever condition you find yourself, Jesus waits to express these things to you and will wait for you as long as you live and will
never withdraw His offer of compassion and love.
That is the reason to become a Christian.
(c) Deborah Evans 2014
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