“As soon as the music starts, you are to bow down and worship the gold statue that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Anyone who does not bow down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.” Daniel 3:5b-6 (Good News Bible)
“Always remember what you have learned. Your education is your life, so guard it well.” Proverbs 4:13 (Today’s English Version)
Most people don’t care what we believe. But there are a vocal few who want to belittle our faith. Daniel gives us an example of someone who was indoctrinated against God’s teaching for three years, yet he grew in God’s wisdom and understanding. His advice was ten times better than all the king’s other advisors (see Daniel 1).
Proverbs 23:23 tells us to “invest in truth and wisdom, discipline and good sense, and don’t part with them” (Contemporary English Version). Good counsel for all God’s life long learners.
“Lord, I want to live a blameless life, but how I need your help Lord, especially in my own home, where I long to act as I should.” Psalm 101:2 (Living Bible)
One of the hardest places to show love and mercy is within the walls of our own homes. There, we're being seen 24/7 for the person we really are. So family members can hurt, and are hurt by each other, in ways that are especially challenging.
Nevertheless, we can show love and mercy at home, by -
overlooking irritations and offences,
being kind even when others don’t deserve it,
letting go of past hurts, and
believing God is working in the lives of others.
“… all the foundations of society are being shaken to the core.” Psalm 82:5 (Living Bible)
Sometimes our world feels like it’s being turned upside down as we encounter injustice, idolatry, and immorality. Of course none of it is new! Scripture shows us that these kinds of situations happened to God’s people many times throughout history.
Nevertheless, in a rapidly changing world God wants us to “keep on” – not just surviving, but thriving.
So we shouldn’t be surprised by adversity, but instead look at how God could use it for good, and trust God for the situations we don’t understand.
We live in a world in which the winner takes all. Consider the Olympic swimming. As little as one hundredth of a second can separate gold from silver in the final.
But we only value the gold medal. We only remember the gold medalist.
Yep, it’s definitely a winner–takes–all world we live in, because the one thing that this world values above everything else, is success.
And who doesn’t want to succeed at whatever you turn your hand to. You start a business, you embark on a career, you enter into a marriage relationship, you bring children into this world. Is there anyone amongst us who doesn’t want to succeed at those important things?
Of course not!
And yet there’s something about ambition that can get real ugly, real quick. There’s something in each one of us that wants to shy away from ambitious people.
Think about it, how much do you value the quality of “ambition” in other people. It’s not up there in your top ten is it? Even in your top 20?!
In any case, didn’t Jesus say that “if you want to be first, you have to be last?”
So now, we have a dilemma. We all value success, yet we don’t much like that “ambition” label. But don’t you, at least to some extent, need to be ambitious in order to be successful?
Well, this Sunday, we’re going to take a look at the rights and wrongs of ambition.
From a different perspective. From the Bible’s perspective. From God’s perspective.
“You will be my witnesses.” Acts 1:8 (New International Version)
God’s mercy towards us is never-ending. However, the world is becoming more unkind, less loving.
In a mean world, our greatest witness is to show mercy.
As Christians, we’re called to be agents of mercy. We don’t have to convince everyone, just tell people about the many times God has helped us.
“A new day will dawn on us because our God is loving and merciful.” Luke 1:78 (God’s Word)
Easter means it’s a new day of mercy “because our God is loving and merciful”.
Two questions we’re going to explore today are -
when do we need God’s mercy, and
what happens when we accept it?
we need God’s mercy when we’ve messed up. God’s mercy forgives and frees us from guilt.
we need God’s mercy when we don’t have what we need. God’s mercy makes the impossible possible.
we need God’s mercy when we’re facing death. God’s mercy will save us for eternity.
There’s a lot going on when Jesus enters Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.
He knows what He’s getting into, and we know He’s not exactly thrilled about it (“My Father, if there is any way get Me out of this” - Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane). But He’s determined to go there.
When He arrives, He’ll disappoint His followers. They’re ready for a military/political victory.
Jesus, on the other hand, was ready to take up His cross. And die.
He was a great disappointment to many who laid so many expectations on Him.
He went anyway.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” Matthew 5:7 (New International Version)
Jesus showed us love in action by giving mercy to a leper and willingly entering into his pain and suffering. He told us to do the same to outcast, lost and broken people today.
God promises to bless those who are compassionate to others who need it most.
As followers of Christ, we are His body here on earth and if we’re willing to be used, He will pour out His love, mercy and kindness through us.
“Jesus saved us, not because of the good things we did, but because of His mercy.
He washed away our sins and gave us a new life through the Holy Spirit.” Titus 3:5
The miracle of mercy is how much we matter to God. God gives us new life in Christ through the Holy Spirit not because of the good things we did, but because of His mercy.
When we’re spiritually lost, we lose our direction, God’s protection, our potential, our happiness and our home in heaven, but we don’t lose our value!
God’s mercy in salvation rescues us from ourselves, recovers our value, and reconnects us to God. We connect to God’s mercy when we get fed up with our lives, own up to our sin, and offer up ourselves to God.