Mercy Pursues You

I’m not the only one with good ideas. Obviously.

It’s one thing I love about Bible study. When we open the Word, insights come flying of the page, and your insights will probably look different than mine. The same message will apply differently depending on the given day, moment, season, or struggle in life, along with the sure and certain message that transcends time and space – that hits home for the hearer in the First Century and is exactly the same for the hearer 2000+ years later.

I am convinced that one gigantic benefit of the Body of Christ is the gift of connection and insight. When we gather to be vulnerable and share what we hear from the Word for our own lives, we also reach across the table in a way we cannot completely understand to touch the life and offer insight for the person in study with us.

Last Fall, one of the women in our Bible studies at I Love My Shepherd shared with me a simple insight, passed along from her pastor to her years before, to those of us in the Word that day –

Mercy pursues.

Open your Bible to Psalm 23:6 –

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever. (ESV)

The Greek root word for follow here is radaph. It can mean to follow, to pursue, to chase, or even in certain circumstances, to persecute. Context helps translators choose which are most usable in Biblical translation. Look at the character of God, according to the Psalm as a whole:

He shepherds.

He leads.

He disciplines. 

He comforts.

He prepares.

And it is in His nature to pursue, as well as follow.

How many of you have had a situation in life that you can point to and say, “Mercy pursued me? He was after my heart, my mind, my soul, all of me.”

God is patient. He is loving and kind.

He is also jealous for His children. He sent Hosea to chase after Gomer. He sent the spies into Jericho for Rahab, among other things. He handed His mother to John from the cross. He found Saul on the road to Damascus.

He has a plan. He has a great big awesome plan that involves Mercy in your life, with a capital M.

Sometimes He sits and lets us do our thing. Sometimes we wonder what in the world He’s doing, where in the world He is. Sometimes we wonder if He’s even listening, but He has a plan. He is active, when we cannot see Him. He is active when we cannot feel Him.

His plan is for our good, for mercy to come in, for loving-kindness to infiltrate, and He knows just the right time. His plans are always best and oh so worth the wait.

In all of this He is always, always pursuing us; never for a moment are we not on His mind and in His heart.

Some days, friends, I need to know that I’m worthy of pursuit. Because God calls me Child, He also calls me pursued. When I look to other people to seek after me, to honor me, and deem me worthy… I can look around and find His mercy, which was the only thing that ever mattered all along.

So, what do I do with this insight? I shared it with my friend, Melissa, and we created a reminder. This Summer we’ll be coming out with the Mercy Pursues line on the I Love My Shepherd Products with a Message page.

Someone needs to know Mercy pursues them, so let’s tell them.

Here’s a downloadable Facebook Cover, which is also a sneak peek at our new line. Orange suns, grey and white goodness – clean and simple.

Free downloadable Facebook cover

 

Christ Jesus pursues me.

Christ Jesus pursues you.

Today, know that Goodness and Mercy is after you, because you are worth chasing after. Radaph

Mercy pursues.

 

Ministry Moment: Good Gifts Prayer Walk

“One day we went to Guatemala and my prayer life was transformed.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still very much a work in progress. But once upon a time, 11 years ago we were invited to partner in mission work with those working in and around the Guatemala City garbage dump. I went to teach VBS. Who doesn’t love a good VBS? That’s my gig. I can easily organize a chaotic group of kids to sing and play and discover the promise of Hope in the Word of Christ Jesus. No problem. I was shocked when one day the missionary walked us through a shanty village and abruptly stated, “Now we will pray.”

Before I knew it we were knocking on doors and entering homes by the invitation of warm, but weary, residents. We introduced ourselves and said who we were with. We asked one question – “Is there a way we can pray for you today?”

I expected resistance. Heck, I was surprised anyone even opened their door. I expected small things, practical prayers, based on physical needs – the need for food, clean water, a better home than their current cardboard and corrugated metal shanty, or more money…any money…

What we got were prayers for healing after the loss of a stillborn child named Emilio, prayers for strength and others to walk alongside in the battle of alcohol addiction, prayers for a teenage son to know the Lord among the voices of friends who would only share with him darkness, and prayers for hope after a child had been kidnapped from them while they slept in their beds.

No where on this earth do we have less struggle, less concerns.

No where are we more desperate for the love and hope of Jesus. We all NEED it. We needed it yesterday, we’ll need it today, and by golly, you better believe that whatever tomorrow brings we are going to need it.

I realized that praying is a simple kindness with deep roots. Praying together is the sharing of the burden with one another so that together you can place it on the shoulders of Christ Jesus, the only one who can really hold it anyway.

I literally groaned with one mother, selfishly thinking of my 18-month-old, praying together for our children by the Spirit grace of a Spirit who intercedes when there are no words, no words (Romans 8:26-27). The beautiful thing is that groans of a fellow mother overcome the language barrier like few other things can.

Praying with others on this trip wasn’t about me and what I would learn and do, but isn’t it always like God to refine and teach in every moment? When we returned back to the States my conscience poked and prodded me. Why don’t I do this more? What is holding me back? So I made a concerted effort to pray with people like mad. And I mean like mad. I had to rip a Band-aid of distrust and embarrassment off like you would not believe! I still do, every day. I just have to do it…or I won’t. Every day it’s a battle of the Spirit in me against the Prince of Darkness –

“Pray with them…pray for them…just ask…I am with you…”

“What can your little prayers do?! Don’t humiliate yourself! They don’t want your prayers anyway!”

Thank goodness there is confession and forgiveness, and He doesn’t really need me to do His work, He just invites me to be a part of it all. Praise God that even prayer holds the same grace as every other piece of life lived with a Savior and Redeemer.

So, as part of our study of James, I created a prayer walk. It’s usable, whether you have studied James recently or not. Use it in your individual prayer life, in your small group Bible study, in your women’s group, at a prayer breakfast, anywhere! Here’s some ideas to get you started.

Some ideas for using the prayer walk:

Get up and walk! 😉 It’s good for us. Walk around your neighborhood, your church, your work place, anywhere and let in a little Gospel light by silently or quietly praying as you go.

Use the prayer walk for a “walk through James” as you sit in your chair for quiet time with the Lord. Spread the prayer walk out over multiple days, and pray one segment a day. You could do it on repeat for a season as well.

Journal your prayer journey with the prayer walk in your journaling Bible, prayer journal, a notebook, or scrap pieces of paper. Post it notes and 3×5 notecards are a personal favorite. Just get it out of your brain and into open space to share with the Lord.

Host a prayer breakfast or luncheon and work through the prayer walk (sitting or walking) as part of the program, or all of the program.

Use the prayer walk as an intentional time of prayer in your marriage. Use it every night for 9 days, or spread it out for 9 weeks, or whatever works.

Got another idea? Share it with us in the comments so that we can learn and grow together. Did you do something that works? Feel free to share that in the comments as well.

Pray, praise, and give thanks. Ask. Seek. Knock. Let the Spirit dwell richly. Watch and see what He has in store. He gives generously…

Click here for the free printable prayer walk

I am covered


We so often talk about forgiveness, but what about restoration?

What about the brother who has wandered off? What about when we are Peters of the faith and the rooster crow taunts us with our faithlessness?

The empty tomb is the message of our shame buried and our new lives covered in grace. It is the message of victory over death and anything that would tell us otherwise in this world. We are fully and freely restored in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Let’s study the ways he works that restoration into our every hour, our every relationship, our every need.

I am covered – the Good Gift of restoration.

Thank you so very much for studying with me! It has been such a blessing to hear from and connect with you all. I hope you won’t stop now. Check I Love My Shepherd out on social media. Leave comments and questions there and here on the blog. You all are a treasure to me!

Looking ahead…

The reveal of the I Love My Shepherd podcast this June!

Two new Products with a Message lines coming soon!

The print and kindle release of Casting Stones: A Study of Ecclesiastes 3 in June! And…

Stay tuned for the announcement of our Fall study, which will run September 18-October 31. Gather a group, organize your friends, put it on the church calendar -I hope you’ll join us! Let’s get one more woman in the Word every day.

 

Video study notes:

Click here for the I am Covered free handwritten printable

Look for the Prayer Walk downloadable – next week on the blog!

Please take a moment to give us some feedback. This 8 question online survey will help me provide resources based on what you need and the needs you see around you. There’s a coupon code at the end – score!

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*Take “the other” to lunch, Ted Talk link, Elizabeth Lesser

 

Set the world ablaze

Yesterday, we talked about making waves.

Today we’re going to talk about setting a blaze.

Read James 3:5-8, below:

So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind,but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

Notice the connecting piece between our segment yesterday and what we are studying today. One tiny verse –

So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

Write that verse out somewhere if you can. What is the connection between the tongue and boasting? How does the tongue find trouble on it’s own sometimes without our help? Our friend, the tongue, needs to be steered or bridled.

James points out another reality – our tongues can also set the world ablaze. The Greek word for unrighteousness in our translation is adikias, from the root word adikia, meaning unrighteousness, but also injustice, and hurt. That hits the nail on the head. How is our tongue down right hurtful sometimes? Fires can be glorious and also destructive.

Let’s look at another passage that speaks similarly about waves and wind, selfish words, and growing out of them.

Ephesians 4:14-16:

…so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

We are not tossed by waves, but we are driven by the Holy Spirit and God’s Word. In Christ, we are not left to idle in a sea of doubt and chaos. We have Hope. Let us start a fire, a fire for Christ, firm in the Holy Spirit and the Word that we are given!

God’s Word says that 2 things ignite – truth and love. So we can ask ourself this question before we open our mouth…

Am I speaking truth in love?

It sounds too simple. But God knows that it’s just so easy for us to speak one without the other.

Am I speaking truth with no love?
Am I speaking love with no truth?

Brothers and sisters, if we are aiming for setting the world on fire for Christ, we are intended to speak both as one.

I fail miserably at this. Dear children, pick up your toys! Dear husband, plan a date night! So many necessary commands, that definitely speak truth. I unfortunately forget to include the love. It’s easy when we are in a conversation with a friend about their struggle with sexual sin to speak only love and care – “It’s ok! It’s no big deal!” – without the truth that they so desperately need in order to see Christ’s forgiveness and love.

Where do you have the hardest time sharing truth with love and love with truth?

We’re in this together. Reread James 3:8 and hear the comfort there…

but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 

Did you find it? Don’t blink or you’ll miss it. Dear friend, you are not the first, nor will you be the last, to struggle with tongue taming. It’s a daily work of sanctification. Christ’s mercy was given to us on the cross. It works in us every day, to set fires that point to His Life, rather than death and destruction. We will daily struggle with this, but it’s a good work, a good walk with our Savior who knows boundless grace.

Work that good Grace in us today, Lord. Truth in love and love in truth – we leave it at Your feet every day. Set some fires around us in Your name, for Your glory. Amen.

 

Discussion:

What areas of your life do you struggle with your tongue the most?

What examples can you point to of speaking the truth without love?

What examples can you point to of speaking love without the truth?

 

I hope you’ll join us for Good Gifts Live at its special time today, 2pm CST, on the I Love My Shepherd Facebook page. The topic for tonight is I Am Covered. Find out more tonight, and if you can’t be with us live, catch the archive tomorrow morning right here or on the I Love My Shepherd Youtube channel.

Making waves


I love the ocean’s roll.

Sitting on the beach, with my feet dug into the sand, the waves reaching up to lap my toes. Waves are calming and predictable – coursing in and out, in and out.

Waves aren’t just pillowy and pretty. They are powerful and majestic. They are driven by an unseen force, governed by gravity and the laws of physics. However, we’ve all seen instances where even the laws of physics can’t contain the ocean’s power. They are ruled by Someone greater. Someone who even the wind and waves obey.

Let’s explore what waves have to do with James.

Open to James 3:2-5:

For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

If you peek at James 3:1 in your own Bible, you’ll note that these instructions from James are actually given to those who teach the Word in the church. I didn’t include this verse because I didn’t want to trip you up. It’s easy when instructions are given to one group to think – “Eh, I don’t teach, so I’m just going to skip over that part.” But let’s be honest – we all have someone to “teach”, someone to influence, someone with whom we share wisdom, life experiences, and God’s Word.

James never actually talks about waves, he actually talks about rudders. Rudders make waves. Ships make waves. When boats pass through the water they churn up all kinds of stuff. We are foolish if we believe that we impact no one as we move through life. Your impact, my friend, I guarantee you is bigger than you think!

We each have reach and possibility and many relationships in our lives. Our tongue guides so much of it. How do we even begin to steer it in the right direction? How do we find a direction that creates safety and spreads the message of Hope, instead of fear and the message of judgment?

The question is not, are we making waves with our lives and words? Rather, it’s –

What kind of waves are we making?

Are we drowning others? Are we saying what we want, when we want? Are we letting emotions of the moment and satisfaction in our “rightness” steal hope from someone else’s soul? Are we ruled by our tongue, or do we let the Spirit guide our words, even when we are hurt, angry, tired, or hungry?

Are we slowly eroding the beach? Are our words not often harsh, but edgy, sarcastic enough, selfish enough, to tear down rather than build up, over time? Do we avoid, rather than seek opportunities to speak up for others?

Or are we moving change in a dark world? Do we give care, affection, or grace, through our words? Do we let the Spirit speak to whomever He brings into our life? Do our words roll up and reach out to someone’s shore, lapping their feet with the warmth and love of Christ?

We won’t be perfect. Our words won’t be perfect. But we are learning to entrust the refining to Him along the journey.

Lord, show us where You are leading us and show us where our ship is plunging ahead without Your mercy and grace. Thank You for Your wisdom and truth, as well as Your forgiveness, always there for us.  Fill us with Your Spirit, for the adventure of each day. In Christ, we give all our words to You. Use them for Your glory alone. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

*photo credit to pexels.com