Thursday, April 02, 2009

God’s Merciful Heart

Big Idea:
As citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, we must embrace the heart of our merciful King by demonstrating a sincere concern for the needy and being moved by the desire to reach the lost, the oppressed, the haggard, the hungry, the homeless, and the dispossessed.

God is deeply moved by compassion and mercy for the poor and the needy in this world. Mercy is treating others better than they deserve to be treated and sparing them from harm. Our guest speaker, Jim Cantelon, provides this insight: “I talk a lot about righteousness and justice, but the forgotten part of this equation is often mercy. Simply put - God requires us to love mercy. It’s easier said than done. Being merciful takes a lot of maturity; especially in a culture that jumps on weaknesses. Just watch the evening news today and try and find even a thread of mercy. Most of us have a judgment reflex when somebody around us falls. 

But the Kingdom of God requires something completely different - we are to love mercy… Can you imagine if the Church stood up and decided to exercise mercy as Christ called us to? Think of the orphans and widows in your community, the poor and destitute, the single moms - and in addition to that, the millions of children orphaned by HIV/AIDS. What could the body of Christ accomplish if it was truly mobilized with mercy? I’ll tell you - transformation would occur. The Body of Christ would rise up like we’ve never seen before.”

The prophet Isaiah helps us understand the merciful heart of God for the marginalized when he contrasts the type of fast the Lord desires with the kind of religious fasting that was popular at the time. What God wants, says the prophet, is true fasting, demonstrated in these behaviors: standing against injustice, freeing the oppressed, feeding the hungry, giving shelter to the homeless, and clothing the poor. If we are going to be followers of Christ that are actively living-out the heart of God, then we must roll up our sleeves and truly help those in need by giving more generously, sharing more readily, living more simply, and loving mercy. This truly is the “road less traveled” - the call of God on our lives.

Discussion Questions: (read the scriptures & discuss)

Isaiah 58:5-11
According to the prophet Isaiah, what pleases the heart of God? What would the world look like if all of God’s children helped the oppressed in these ways? Discuss ideas and strategies of how we can live-out these things that please God.

Micah 6:8
What character qualities does God want to see in His people? Are these qualities optional?  Explain and apply each characteristic from this passage. Discuss different ways you can show mercy to others: your family, your friends, and strangers.

James 2:14-26
What does a life of “faith without works” look like in today’s world? Can we be Christians without actively helping those in need? Why or why not?

Taking Action: As you are read, watch, or listen to the news this week, allow yourself to become aware of the lack of mercy in today’s society. By God’s grace, retrain your personal “judgment reflex” by purposefully exercising mercy in real ways to others – family, friends, and strangers. Bless, feed, and/or clothe someone in need this week. 

Ministry Time

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