New Every Morning

Lamentations 3:22-23 (NKJV) 22 Through the LORD’S mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. 23 They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.

This week I have been sharing what the Lord showed me as my theme for 2017. This is something I believe God wants me to study, grow in understanding of and walk in for this new year. I believe it is also the foundation for the message I am called to bring to the body of Christ in 2017.

We have looked at the beginning of this chapter in which we found out that Israel was once again in a dire situation due to their own sin. The prophet Jeremiah was ministering at that time and in verse 20 we see that he has lost hope because he remembers just how ungodly Israel has been. In verse 21 he remembers something that changes everything. Since they have not been utterly destroyed, God’s mercy is still at work. Because of this, Jeremiah can hope again.

We also learned that hope flows from God’s compassion. Compassion is the aspect of God’s love that moves him to meet our needs. The Hebrew word carries the idea of a mother protecting an unborn child. God’s compassion led him to extend mercy to Israel. Mercy is the aspect of God’s love that does not give us what we deserve. It does not excuse sin, but it allows God to continue to love us and deal in our lives even when we do not deserve it. Israel could expect God to move because God’s compassion moved him to extend his mercy. So can we.

As I was praying about the actual theme it was the next verse that the Lord brought to me. We are going through a time of transition here at Living Word. As I have said, my wife and I will be handing over the local duties of pastoring in Greene to my son and daughter-in-law. We will be traveling in an apostolic role to build up the body of Christ around the world. This is a new thing for all of us and it can be unsettling.

As I continued to pray, I realized that in the United States of America we are also undergoing an historic time of change. Some like the results of our latest election and some hate it. Nevertheless it has happened and there is no doubt this time that something very different is coming to our government. Since the policies of the US Government affect the whole world, this change is going to extend far beyond our borders.

For many, particularly in the American church, believe that this election is a reprieve from judgement, many others do not. In either case we know things are going to change. What is it we need to know about this change? I believe we need to know what Jeremiah realized.

For those who know and trust I God, we will not be consumed. This is not true because of any deservedness on our part. It is true because of God’s mercy. His mercy is extended to us because his compassion will never fail. He will continue to love us. He will continue to protect us.

That brought me to verse 23. Both God’s compassion and his mercy are new every morning. As we see change we need to remember this. As we face a new beginning in a new year, we need to remember this. The devil will condemn us with our mistakes from 2016 but God’s mercy is new in 2017. He will bring up the sins you committed in 2016 but God’s compassion has not failed. They are both new for 2017.

God spoke it to my heart this way. If you have a bank account and you spend all the money that is in it, the account will be empty. However, imagine is someone refilled your account every morning with enough money to do anything you need to do every morning. Your account would never be empty.

I believe we need to learn from our mistakes. Although we should never walk in condemnation, it is important to remember them so you do not repeat them. I believe in repentance from sin. 1 John 1:8-10 make it clear that when we repent God is faithful and just to not only forgive but cleanse us from unrighteousness. We are not sinners saved by grace, we were sinners who got saved by grace. Unfortunately, we do still sin and sin causes problems. We need to remember what we did and learn from it so we do not repeat it.

Having said all that, it is just as important to remember that his compassion, mercy and grace are new every morning. Our account is refilled every time we wake up. There is enough to cover all our mistakes and honor all our repentance. God is for us. He was for us yesterday and he is for us today. He does not carry over to today our failures from yesterday!

As I have been praying I believe what I need to do this year is to remember that each day is a new beginning. This year is a new beginning. There are many new things happening in my life and in the world. They carry a great deal of uncertainty. However, uncertainty can also be seen as expectation. We can expect new provision for new challenges. We can expect a deeper understanding of our relationship with the Lord. We can believe that all the new experiences we will face this year will cause us to grow in faith, love and the knowledge of God.

This point of view is possible for us just as it was for Jeremiah because God’s compassions do not fail. God’s mercy never runs out. They are both new every morning. Our compassion, mercy and grace accounts have been refilled for 2017 and for every day of the coming year.

Here are some things God said to me for this year. I would like to extend them to you.

· Every day you wake up God’s mercy is waiting for you

· With his mercy comes hope for new things

· 2017 is a blank slate upon which God’s mercy is writing new and wonderful possibilities for your life

· We simply need to believe it to see it

Here is a link to a song I wrote a number of years ago. Maybe you would like to give it a listen. The Album “Shepherds Eyes” is available on Amazon. Cut and paste this link into your browser to play the song. https://db.tt/UTfDSb8dqz

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Mercy Flows from Compassion

Lamentations 3:22-23 (NKJV) 22 Through the LORD’S mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. 23 They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.

Yesterday I began sharing what I believe is the theme God gave me for 2017. I have been on a journey over the last few years and it led me to Mark 9. God is still dealing with me that anything is possible if we believe. As I was praying for this year, the Lord led me to the book of Lamentations 3:22-23. As I read the chapter, I realized that Jeremiah was putting another key in place that would enable me to believe that all things are possible.

We found yesterday that this period in Israel’s history was another in which they had rebelled against God. They were under judgement that had been brought upon them by their own sin. We find in verse 20 that Jeremiah does not see much hope for their future. Hope and possibility are closely related terms.

In verse 21 Jeremiah has a revelation that changes everything. They have not been consumed despite their sin! The only explanation is that God’s mercy is still in play. Mercy is not getting what we deserve according to justice. They were in captivity. However, because they were not consumed they still had hope. Understanding God’s mercy is a key to believing that all things are possible. A new year is a good time to remember that God’s mercy is still active in our lives.

In verse 22, Jeremiah reveals from where this mercy flows. He is merciful because his compassion does not fail. In English, this word means sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others. God is sympathetic to and concerned about our sufferings. In the New Testament, we see this same characteristic applied to Jesus.

Hebrews 4:15 (NKJV) 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.

In the ministry of Jesus, God’s compassion finds its deepest expression. When John the Baptist was beheaded, Jesus went to a secluded place to morn. A crowd followed him looking to receive something from him. I have often thought of how Jesus must have felt. He was grieving. John had a connection to him like no one else on earth. He was his physical cousin but more than that he was a prophet. He recognized who Jesus really was.

Jesus might have been moved by many things. He might have been moved by grief and withdrawn even farther from the multitude. He might have been moved by anger and sent them away. Would it be too much to ask for a few days alone under the circumstances? Instead he was moved by compassion. He was sympathetic to and concerned about their need. Compassion overrode every other concern and caused Jesus to meet their need even in the midst of his own grief.

God’s compassion is that part of his love that moves him to meet our need. The Hebrew word adds another layer of meaning. According to Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary, this word carries the idea of cherishing a fetus in a womb. I found that interesting.

Is there any purer form of protecting love than that of a mother toward her unborn child? She will do anything to protect it. She will even give her life if the child can survive. God’s compassion is like that. He covers us. He protects us. His feelings for us can be closely compared to that of a mother protecting her fetus.

That is a powerful image alone, but if we connect it to his mercy it is even more powerful. An unborn child cannot earn anything. It has done nothing good and it has done nothing bad. The child may grow to be a great person or it may grow into a monster. None of that matters to the mother. This is her baby.

God’s mercy is independent of anything we have or have not done. It flows solely from his great love for us. It is important to remember that sin often produces consequences that God will not always eliminate. There are good reasons for this. However, that does not change his capacity for mercy. This is evident in Israel’s situation and it is that realization that causes Jeremiah to hope again.

Jeremiah realized what Israel deserved. They deserved annihilation. There was nothing in their behavior that should have kept them from destruction. Nevertheless, they were not destroyed. They were punished. That was unavoidable but God preserved them. He gave them mercy and not the justice they deserved. That mercy is what gave Jeremiah the courage and faith to hope that something good could come of their situation.

The Believer’s Study Bible commentary makes a statement that I believe is very important. “Jeremiah’s realization of Judah’s defilement in the presence of a holy God moves him to one of the more poignant expressions of the grace of God found anywhere in the Bible. The wonder to Jeremiah is not that some are lost, but that any are saved. All would be consumed were it not for God’s mercies. The word “mercies” is a translation of the Hebrew word hesed, sometimes rendered “lovingkindness” (cf. Jer 2:2, note). The word captures the spirit of the term “grace” in the N.T.”

There is only one proper response to mercy. We must understand that we do not deserve it. I think that we sometimes forget the reality of God’s mercy as we look at God’s grace. Where mercy is not getting what we do deserve, grace is getting what we do not deserve. Sometimes we think grace made us deserving. It did not. Mercy opened the door for God to do something wonderful for us. However, mercy came first. We did not get what we deserved so that God could give us what we do not deserve.

We do not deserve salvation. God’s compassion moved him to have mercy on mankind. In his mercy, he took upon himself our sin nature through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. We did nothing to earn that. We are saved by grace (Ephesian 2:8.) However, it was mercy born of compassion that gave us that grace. If we do not remember his mercy, we may think grace makes us deserving of salvation and all that it entails. This is not true. We do not deserve grace or mercy or compassion. God gives them anyway.

This is important because if we do not understand how great God’s mercy is, we will feel entitled. This puts us in a position with God that is not healthy. We are worthy of what Jesus did for us because of his work not because of anything in us. We are righteous in Christ alone. This is why Paul points out in Ephesians 2:8 that there is no room for anyone to boast. We have nothing to boast about. All we have is because of God’s compassion which moved him to mercy which resulted in the manifestation of grace called salvation.

Everything we have from God is because of his compassion and mercy. Even when we do what is wrong, we can repent because of his mercy. Even if some physical circumstances cannot be avoided, his mercy always provides an open path to his grace and his forgiveness. Because of his mercy, we can hope. We can believe that anything is still possible.

We may have done something wrong or made a mistake that opened the door to something bad. That does not negate God’s mercy. We may deserve judgement but God’s mercy is there to enable us to believe that God can do something to help us. It may not be exactly what you want. It will not be what you deserve. It will be what the loving Father knows you need.

Mercy and Possibility

Lamentations 3:20-22 (NKJV) 20 My soul still remembers And sinks within me. 21 This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. 22 Through the LORD’S mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not.

Greetings and happy New Year. It is 2017. Each of us will greet the new year in a different way. Some will wave goodbye to 2016 and say good riddance as it has been a difficult year. Others will say 2016 was a good year and they only hope 2017 will be better. For me, 2016 was both difficult and blessed at the same time. Either way, are here! It is 2017 and God has something special for you this year.

Since I began as Pastor of Living Word Christian 29 years ago, I have always prayed for a theme for the year. The last 7 years, I have felt that the theme God gave was a word of the Lord for my ministry as well as our church. On February 24 of this year we will hand over the local responsibilities of the church to our son and daughter-in-law. I was praying as to whether I should continue seeking God for a yearly theme. I believe he did speak to me about 2017.

Last year my theme was taken from Mark chapter 9 concerning a man and his sick son. Jesus said to this man, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” As I focused and preached on that thought it changed my life and ministry. Anything really is possible if we believe. I spent most of my time in this space talking about God’s possibilities and how they provide us with possibilities for our lives that go beyond what is possible for us in the natural.

Each theme seems to flow from the last. If all things are possible was the theme for last year, what would God say for this year? He led me to the scripture above. This is an interesting chapter. If you read verses 1-20 you see that God’s people have once again fallen into sin and rebellion. The northern Kingdom, called Israel, had been taken into captivity some time before. Now the southern and more spiritual kingdom, Judah, has also been taken. Jerimiah has been carried by some of his people into Egypt where he will continue to minister to the remnant of Judah.

As he writes this book he is struck with the reality of his Judah’s condition. He does not blame God. He goes into great detail about what Judah’s has brought on their own heads at God’s hand. He starts in verse one by saying that he is “a man who has seen affliction by the rod of God’s wrath.” He knows that what has happened to Judah was because of their rebellion and sin. He goes on to list many things that none of us would desire for our lives. Jeremiah says that each affliction comes from God’s hand.

I do not believe that God actively brings evil into the life of his children. James tells us how these things really works.

James 1:13-17 (NKJV) 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.

Every good gift comes from God but sin opens the door to the bad things in life. God will not override our choice. We can repent and God immediately goes to work for us, but bad things do happen. The devil is always the source of evil but often we are the ones that open the door through sin and mistakes. That is the problem for Judah. Because of this, Jeremiah does not see how God will come to their rescue since it is their fault that they are in such terrible circumstances.

Last year I focused on the difference between the possibilities we can see and the possibilities that are available through the hand of God. When we are without hope in the natural, we can do what Abraham did and “hope against hope” or hope in something that is greater than what we can see. Here, Jeremiah believes that their sin has caused even the supernatural possibilities that come from God to be cut off. They have no basis to expect any good thing in either the natural or the supernatural. That is where we find Jeremiah as we come to verse 21.

In verse 20 his soul remembers the terrible things that have come upon them. In verse 21 it is as if something has dawned on him. He remembers another truth about the God of Judah. The first memory robbed him of hope. The second restored hope. What was it that Jeremiah remembered that restored hope in the face Judah’s condition?

Jeremiah remembered that God is a God of mercy! Young’s Literal Translation says it somewhat differently.

Lamentations 3:22 (YLT) 22 The kindnesses of Jehovah! For we have not been consumed, For not ended have His mercies.

In this version, it is as if Jeremiah realizes that with all the bad things that have happened in Judah, they are not consumed. Judah still exists. Jeremiah is still alive. If the trial they have brought upon themselves has not destroyed them, there is reason to hope. Jeremiah further understands why they have not been destroyed. It is because of God’s mercy. Since God has been merciful to see to it that they are not destroyed, Jeremiah can believe that the same mercy will provide a path to redemption.

One of the main ways the devil robs us of believing for God’s possibilities in our lives is to focus us on what we have done wrong. Sometimes these things are real. Judah had rebelled against God and their captivity was their own fault. Sometimes we sin. Sometimes we make mistakes and foolish choices. Those things can result in trouble for us. If that is the case, this truth should cause us to hope again just as it did Jeremiah. Even when we are at fault, God’s mercy will give us a way back.

More often the devil uses condemnation to convince us that we cannot expect God to move for us because of our past. What happened before salvation was washed in the blood of the lamb. It is irrelevant to your current situation. What we do wrong after salvation is washed away by that same blood and we receive cleansing as soon as we come to him in repentance (1 John 1:8-10.) Many things the devil accuses us of we never even did. He is a liar. If he is telling you that you are not worthy of God’s mercy that is a good indication that you are!

In either case, God’s mercy is greater than our failure. There are sometimes consequences in the natural that cannot be avoided. Judah went into captivity but God’s mercy kept them from being consumed. Since they were not consumed, they eventually returned to Judah and fulfilled their destiny to bring forth the Messiah of the world, Jesus.

One of the things I believe we need to walk in this year is the awareness that God’s mercy is there and that it does not run out. Mercy is not getting what we deserve. Grace is getting what we do not deserve. Mercy comes first.

If it is necessary, that we repent we should do so and as quickly as possible. If the devil is simply lying to us, we need to rebuke him and replace his lies with the truth of the Word. Either way, let 2017 be a year of mercy for you. God is not giving up on you! Do not give up on yourself. 2016 is over. What you did or did not do is over. You have not been consumed so his mercy is at work. Expect even more as this year continues!