Friday, May 2, 2014

Good stuff gone bad

As I read through the Old and New Testaments simultaneously, I am sometimes struck by the odd juxtapositioning of verses. Today I read through the dedication of the temple in 1 Kings. What an amazing event where the glory of the Lord filled the temple. From that moment on, Jerusalem and Judaism would never be the same. Then I read Luke 19 where Jesus spoke against the temple’s effects and chapter 21 where Jesus predicted the total destruction of the temple. So was the temple a good thing or a bad thing?

Perhaps the answer is “yes”. There was a time when the temple served a great and noble purpose; it united God’s people in worship as the central theme of his people. Later it served only as a distant reminder of worship while primarily serving as a tool for swindlers and false leaders.

The result on me is that I walk away with two ideas in my head.
1. Rules are not static. As conditions change, rules might change. What the Father calls “good” in one case, he might not call “good” in another. What he knows is a blessing to my neighbor might be a curse for me. The way the Father deals with us is fluid and dynamic, not static.

2. He might take away something I think is still good. Personally, there are many things in my life that I cherish and consider to be a blessing from the Father – health, family, resources, etc. Yet the truth is that over time, I can convert any of those into an idol. Rather than remind me of the Father, they remove me from the Father. When that happens, he might – and hopefully will – remove those former blessings from my life.

I wonder what “good” thing has gone “bad” in my life and is about to cast out next?

Saturday, April 19, 2014

David: we would have kicked him out of church

When David finally brought the ark of the covenant into Jerusalem, he did so with great fanfare. He offered sacrifices during and after the process, was accompanied by a host of people shouting and playing trumpets and danced in an ephod - a sort of one piece linen tunic. He finished the day blessing the people and distributing food in the name of the Lord. It was quite the celebration.

Three sets of onlookers were present. David's wife Michal refers to the slave girls who were watching; no other comment is made about them. Michal herself was watching and had a very negative reaction. She snubbed the worship of David. It was unorthodox and embarrassing. When she confronted David with her cutting remarks about it, he responded vehemently that the worship was never intended for her pleasure but only for the Lord's.

This brings the last onlooker into the conversation - the Lord. He explained that he had not ordered a temple to be built and that David was not the person qualified to build it. Despite both of those objections, he blessed David's intent. He lavished promises onto the one who had gone beyond what was commanded and who had humiliated himself publicly in the Lord's name. Not only that, but the Father apparently closed the womb of Michal (6:23). Childlessness was reason for a loss of face or shame in her day. Michal intended to shame David for his public worship but the Lord shamed Michal for her private thoughts.

David would not fit into most of the churches with which I have been associated. He committed two infractions that fly in the face of most conservative Christians - he publicly worshiped in humiliating ways and went well beyond what was commanded in the first place (orthodoxy). Yet in both cases, he was blessed while those who looked down upon his actions were not. This leads me to question myself.

Do I respond more like David or like Michal when it comes to worship? What do I privately think about those who go beyond orthodoxy? How do I view those who would worship publicly in ways that I consider humiliating?

Honestly, its probably good I was not there that day.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

David: letting God handle it

David amazes me. I admire that a young man would take on a lion and a bear without anyone's help.  I admire that he would take that same courage and confidence into a battle against a skilled warrior. I am amazed that he could move back and forth from the king's household to the sheepfold. Yet I am particularly impressed by his restraint.

When David was offended by Nabal, he almost lost it. He marched against Nabal but then listened to the advice of Abigail. In the end, he thanked God for restraining him from avenging himself. Twice he could have killed Saul but refrained; he explained to his friend that the Lord would strike him but "the Lord forbid that I should lay a hand on the Lord's annointed".

It seems to me that I often start out with great intentions into service, ministries or missions. Somewhere along the line, I become frustrated with those who are less committed to the cause. In those moments, to simply take care of my heart and let the Lord deal with the rest is not easy. Jesus, in his last conversation with Peter on the beach, called him to do the same - take care of his own life while letting the Father deal with others.

For some, that is probably not a hard challenge. For those of us who feel a deep sense of justice, who were raised on "The Pursuit of Excellence" principle and who tend to live in leadership, it can be a great challenge. One which David seemed to handle well; one in which I will try to grow.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Judges: zero separation between physical and spiritual

As I read through the book of Judges, there are moments when I wonder why all of this is in the Bible. It is rapid-fire storytelling that jumps from one battle to the next. It seems to not have much to do with following God - until you catch the little lines that connect the battle scenes.

The phrase "again Israel did evil" is like a hook that latches each story together. Following deliverance there is peace. Once the leader dies, Israel abandons God. This leads to Israel being handed over to another power and the cycle starts anew.

We can choose to get lost in the battles or look more intently behind the scenes to see the real battle for the heart. As long as the human heart is not inclined to follow the Father, there is no peace. Some of us accept that on a personal level but often forget that it applies to a societal level as well. This life will never be a life of peace and rest until we decide to rest in the will of the one who designed life in the first place. As St. Augustine said in his Confessions, "Are hearts are restless until they find rest in you."

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Joshua: Always "us"; never "me"

As an individualistic North America its hard to think about community. In my city, young teens rarely have curfews because parents don't want to infringe on their rights. Students at my university miss meetings routinely because of how they feel. Small groups rarely stay together for long. Its hard to think about the effect we have on others when we are so focused on self.

Yet an obscure story in Joshua reminded me that this is not the norm nor is it the way that the Father thinks. In Joshua 22, when a couple of tribes built an altar that others interpreted falsely as pagan worship, the leaders of Israel implored the supposed offenders to repent because of the consequences it would have for the nation. They never spoke of consequences for the offenders only. They cited historical references where the entire nation suffered due to the poor decisions of a few.  Maybe they were not considered guilty for the decisions of others but the consequences overflowed. A child might not be guilty of his father's drunkenness but he definitely suffers from the consequences.

So what does that look like today? How many consequences do I bring into the lives of others because of the decisions I make? What does it imply for family, small groups and my working environment? And what does it imply about those bad days when nothing seems to go right in the family, group or work? Maybe my individualism interprets the consequences I suffer from the decisions of others as the results of my actions rather than theirs? Maybe I don
't even understand suffering because of my selfish individualism?

Its a thought that we don't entertain much as North Americans where we believe everyone is an island. Yet the worldview I see in scripture is less island culture and more village culture. We are intricately intertwined.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Deuteronomy: Trust

As Deuteronomy moves to a close, there is a long section of blessings and curses. This was common in ancient suzerain covenants and serves as a "wrap up" for the Torah. Basically, it's a recognition of "do X get Y" at the hands of God. Yet, it is such a staggering summary of life choices, international powers shifts and natural phenomena that to reduce the Torah to a linear equation of "do X get Y" seems totally preposterous.

That is why 29:29 jumps off the page at me. "The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law."

So much of life is out of my control. I have little to no influence over much that shapes my life. Yet there are things that I can choose. I can choose where to put my trust, how I will react to injustice, and how to express compassion. That which originates within
my heart and mind, I can control. These choices belong to me - and for those choices the Father revealed his will. For the rest of life that I can't control, there is trust. That portion of life with its "secret things belong[s] to the Lord our God".

Perhaps the great task of life is recognizing into which category each decision falls - within my realm of control and therefore guided by the revealed will of God or outside of my realm of control and therefore to be trusted in the hands of the Father.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Deuteronomy: Poverty

It's a cultural buzz these days to focus on the elimination of poverty. Since I am at a Christian based university, my students call it the "Christian thing to do". To be honest, it probably originates from both cultural and Christian sources for them. If you think of the major issues being addressed in Christian circles today, it seems that they are the same issues of culture - LGBT community, gender equality, environmental concerns. That's not a bad thing - a Christianity that does not connect with culture is not reflecting the values of Christ - though hopefully its not the only source of motivation for Christians.

Which brings me back to poverty in the Torah. I find Deuteronomy to be insightful. In one chapter, the text makes these three statements.
15:4  However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you . . .
15:7 If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites . . .
15:11 There will always be poor people in the land. 

Some might read these as contradictory but I think there is more to it. The entire Torah is written to reveal God to us. If we begin with that concept in mind, then what the text is telling us is that the Father will supply his people with enough resources so that everyone will have plenty. He is generous and calls us to be the same. However, being fallen humans, we tend to be selfish not self-less. We accumulate resources for the good of self rather than administrate them for the good of others. Therefore, poverty will always be present not due to a lack of resources but due to the fallen nature of those of us who administrate the resources.

So it seems to me that we can continue LBJ's "war on poverty" at many different levels; but if the human heart is not addressed, all other corrections are doomed to fail.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Numbers: Sin of Moses - sin of Ministers, Missionaries and most Christians wanting to do something good

In Numbers 20, Moses and Aaron are commanded to speak to the rock and water would flow. Instead, Moses struck the rock twice and water flowed. The people were happy but the Father was not.

All my life I was taught that his sin was simple disobedience - he struck the rock instead of speaking to it. Yet the sentence that precedes the blow (20:10) indicates more was transpiring. “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” Psalm 106:32 adds, "rash words came from Moses' lips." Why did Moses say "we"? Who was really doing this work? Perhaps the change from speaking to striking as no big deal for Moses if he was convinced in his heart that he was the one doing the action anyway. Thus it seems the real sin was not simple disobedience but rather a deep pride that claimed credit for God's work. 

Yet what fascinates me is not that Moses sinned nor the miracle per se but rather that God sent the miracle in spite of Moses' failure. God stayed faithful even though Moses stole the credit and failed to obey.

I ask myself just how many times has God done the same thing for me? How often do we believe the ends justifies the means and so we ignore deeper principles? How many times do we take credit for simply being the instrument through whom God worked? How many times has the Father been offended by my pride but at the same time not abandoned me in ministry? How many times have I committed the sin of Moses?

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Numbers: Human sacrifices - in a good way

When you hear the phrase "human sacrifice" it brings up images of people dressed in black robes around some cultist fire with drums beating in the background. But in Numbers 8, the priests were presented to God as human sacrifices in exactly the same way that certain portions of meat from consecrated offerings were presented.  These men were truly offered as human sacrifices.

When I read Romans telling me to present my body as a human sacrifice, I typically have visions of lying lifeless upon a big altar. Yet, this imagery is radically different. After being presented as a sacrifice, the priests did not die but lived the rest of their lives as servants to God and his people. By holding on to the wrong image, we rob the command of its strength. It is not a reference to only turning my life over to the Father but more precisely it is turning my life over to the Father in order to spend the rest of my days serving his people.

By holding the wrong image in an individualistic society, we lop off the most obvious implications for how our lives are to be transformed. We let ourselves off the hook. Its a lot easier to serve an unseen God than it is a seen person. Its a lot less stressful to think I'm pleasing an invisible Father than to know I'm at odds with a visible friend. Its a lot less work to have a devotional than to be devoted to serve an ungrateful person.

So what does it mean today to live out being totally offered to the Father in service to my sister or brother?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Leviticus: God's diet

Leviticus occasionally uses the phrase "food of your God." Perhaps it is only saying "food that is offered in sacrifice to God" and should simply be taken at face value. Yet, maybe there is another way of understanding it.

If the sacrifices given to God were considered his food, then shouldn't we raise the question about what we are sacrificing to him today? If food keeps us alive, then what am I doing to keep my God alive? I'm not implying that his existence depends upon me. I am implying that the relationship between us thrives or withers based upon my attentiveness. He can be alive or dead "to me" based upon my involvement in the relationship.

Do I offer a constant, reliable diet of sacrifice to my Father that nourishes the relationship? Do I provide a care and attention to the relationship by sacrificing important things like time and energy? Or does my God just get leftovers? When there is a spare moment or convenient time, I give a little of it to him. Is that enough for a healthy relationship to grow? If that is how I treat other relationships, what would happen to them?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Leviticus: rules or heart?

In Leviticus 10, there are two stories about ignoring God’s commands – one results in death and the other is blessed.

Nadab and Abihu took unauthorized incense into the sanctuary. The result was “fire came out from the Lord and consumed them”. The same fire that just consumed sacrifices in approval, consumed priests in disapproval. Then Aaron refused to eat consecrated meat but Moses – and God - accepted his actions.

We don’t know what was in the heart of Nadab and Abihu. Why did they disobey the commands? Was it from neglect, arrogance or something else? We will never know. Yet with Aaron, it was on purpose. He refused to obey the command because of his grief. The sacrificial meat was to be eaten in celebration but his heart could not rejoice after losing his sons. Thus he ignored the commands because his heart could not fulfill the command to rejoice. In these stories I find the balance of law and grace. When God’s law is violated without reason – or for poor reasons – there are consequences. When the spirit of God’s law is honored – even though the superficial action might actually be a violation – there is grace. 

Our God is an eternal Father. He knows his children and takes into account the heart behind the action. The question is do I? Or do I get so caught up in rule keeping that I only judge by actions? Would I have condemned Aaron that day? He disobeyed and he did it on purpose. How would I have responded? More importantly, how will I respond to the next Aaron in my life?

Monday, February 3, 2014

Exodus: picky stuff.

I think its about the time we hit the instructions for the tabernacle that all hope of reading through the Bible in a year grind to a halt. There are details about yarn color, how many clasps to use on the curtains, what to make pegs out of, how many posts to use, etc. It is an amazing amount of details. In fact, it just feels downright picky and trivial.

At least we can all agree that when God wants to give details, he knows how to do it. This is not a vague revelation with a lot of guesswork on the part of Moses and the people. This is an amazing amount of minutiae. If something is critical to him, he
can get the point across.

So when did we shift to making mountains from molehills? I have been raised to answer vague questions by taking potential references and developing them into doctrines. In some cases, two verses suffice for church division and hurt feelings. Yet, if God is good enough at details to give pages of information on curtains and pegs, then I imagine he would give more than two verses of information if something was important to him. So if the details are not there, maybe the doctrine was never supposed to be there either.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Exodus: That was the easy part?

When Moses and the people arrived at Sinai, God told them, "You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt and how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself." On eagles' wings? That sounds so easy. Reality check - didn't they find themselves trapped between an angry army and the sea, run out of water, march across barren land, then find only bitter water and run out of food for a while? That doesn't sound like riding on eagles' wings to me.

But, if from God's perspective that really is riding on eagles' wings, then what I am supposed to learn from this? Maybe its a matter of trust. Maybe its the same situation I often had with my children when they were small. To my children it didn't feel like they were being taken care of when the big dog came barking from next door or loud explosions went off at New Years. It surely seemed inexplicably frustrating that they couldn't reach the cereal or juice - hence concluding that they were starving. Yet they never were outside of my care and protection. 

Maybe from a heavenly Father's point of view, Israel never was outside of his care and protection even when they saw the army coming or ran out of water. Maybe today I can remember that and live like my disasters, fears and worries will not put me outside of my Father's care.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Exodus: What's in your heart?

As the Egyptian army bore down on Israel pushing them towards the sea, the people were terrified. All they could see was sure death. Yet Moses saw something else and calmly spoke of the Lord's deliverance. Two groups looked at the same situation but did not see the same thing. All saw the chariots and spears but only one saw an opportunity for God. Most were ruled by the "concerns of men" while one was ruled by the "concerns of God."

Jesus rebuked Peter for mixing up his concerns. When Peter didn't want Jesus to die, Jesus rebuked him saying, "You don't have in mind the concerns of God but merely human concerns."

So today, when a city floods, do I see loss of buildings, money, materials? Or do I see how this might shape the soul and spirit of a people? When my car is hit, do I see financial loss, time spent on paperwork and tremendous inconvenience? Or do I see a window of opportunity to enter into the personal story of others that I would otherwise never meet? When I am sick, do I moan and make everyone else as miserable as me? Or do I rest in the opportunity to spend time refocusing my life?

Concerns of God versus concerns of men. Which one rules my heart? Which one sets my worldview?

Friday, January 24, 2014

Exodus: Why is this so hard anyway?

Robert Reid is a former missionary to Portugal. He is an exceptional man whose ministry was very blessed. Robert has cerebral palsy and needs help with most daily functions. Due to his external deficiencies, many people were not inclined to support his ministry. Often people questioned his desire to be a missionary. One day when we were talking, Robert said, "When I get to heaven, I want to ask God, 'why was it so hard to do what you wanted us to do anyway'"?

Great question. Why is it hard to get church committees to trust Jesus more than the budget? Why is it hard for Christian institutions to accept Christian norms rather than societal norms? Why is it so hard to help people walk closer to the Father even after they said they want to do so? Basically, when there is a clear vision for what is good, why does it seem that God doesn't jump in to clear away the obstacles? Closer to home, why is it so hard for me to walk faithfully when times are hard?

Surely Moses thought the same thing. He had a clear call from God, was given the needed resources for success, and was sent to liberate God's people. The next thing you know, everything went wrong. Pharaoh made the Israelite's life miserable and they turned on Moses. In Exodus 5 they told him, “May the Lord look on you and judge you!” Then in chapter 6 when he passed on an encouraging word from God, "they did not listen to him because of their discouragement and harsh labor." And very likely the first three plagues affected both Egyptians and Israelites alike. Not exactly the greatest start to a ministry.

In the one year reading plan I'm following, today's reference in the New Testament was Jesus and Peter walking on the water in Matthew 14. I wonder if Jesus purposefully sent the apostles onto the sea knowing that the storm would hit them squarely in the face? Did he want them to have to struggle all night before he showed up? Was it part of his plan?

It seems that the Father uses storms - human, political, natural - to stack the odds and make it clear who is really at work. The issue then becomes how do I respond to storms - especially those that stop us from doing what God asked us to do anyway? Do I see them as moments when the Father may show up? Do I stay the course? Or do I become like the other Jewish leaders who complained and actually turned against Moses - and therefore against God.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Genesis: 1991

In 1991, the Cold War ended, a U.N. coalition fought the Gulf War (Operation Desert Storm), Jeffrey Dahmer was arrested in Milwaukee, Rodney King was beaten, the 911 system was being tested, Centel was advertising a revolutionary idea called a cell phone the size of a brick, a gallon of gasoline cost $1.12, I returned to graduate school and my first son was born. I wonder what I prayed about then? I wonder how the Father responded?

Twenty-two years later, 1991 seems like a blip on the radar. There was so much going on at the moment that I believed would be unforgettable. Now, I struggle to remember. The importance of yesterday is overshadowed by the urgency of today. Of the perpetual prayers and special spiritual moments, what do I remember now? What was profound enough that even today I am shaped by its memory? Can I remember?

Those are the questions that come to me when I think of Joseph. From the time he was given a promise by God to the time it was fulfilled, twenty-two years passed. Twenty-two amazing years of abandonment, slavery, false accusations, and prison followed by rising to the office of Prime Minister. Through tragedy and triumph he could trace the fulfillment of those words spoken two decades earlier.

It makes me question how much attention am I paying to life? To God? What promise spoken to me twenty-two years ago still shapes my worldview? What words or prayers lifted up twenty-two years ago influence how I live today? What from today will shape my world in 2026? Am I paying close attention in the moment or just hurrying through life believing the American lie that he who runs through life at the fastest pace wins?

Perhaps the prayer that should shape my life is, "Lord, help me pay more attention to the important and less to the urgent." Something will shape my life in 2026; why not let it be a relationship with the Father from today?

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Genesis: Wrestling with hard times

Jacob is an amazing person. He deceives his brother twice, his father once and tries to cut a deal with God after seeing a vision. I've always wondered how God felt when he promised to give Jacob thousands of descendants and all the land he could see only for Jacob to respond with "I'll give you 10% back." Seems a little anticlimactic to me; yet the Father didn't give up on him. Rather God led Jacob to Laban who conned the young con. Imagine working seven years for a bride only to have the dad switch daughters at the last minute. Is it any wonder that the relationship between Jacob and Laban was a little strained?

So when Laban caught up with the fleeing Jacob (Genesis 31), a rather interesting conversation followed. Jacob complained that he suffered heat by day, cold by night, worked 14 years for his wives, 6 for his flocks, had his wages changed 10 times and would have been poor if God had not intervened. Laban responded that all the wives, children and flocks were technically his anyway. The next chapter is the famous scene of Jacob wrestling all night with what turns out to be an angel - an angel powerful enough that he could have beaten Jacob at any moment. Jacob finally realized what  happened when he proclaimed, "I saw God face to face and yet my life was spared."

My question is whether these are indeed the same story? Not chronologically but metaphorically. What does it look like today when we wrestle God? Maybe it looks like frustrating life conditions, unfair treatment and the feeling that only by God's mercy are we not totally depraved. Maybe Jacob's life with Laban was really a prolonged wrestling match with God. Was God trying to teach Jacob something? Temper him? Grow him?

So what do my wrestling matches look like? Is frustration on my job or hard times in my family actually God at work, wrestling to get through my defenses and teach me something? Is unfair treatment his attempt to grow me? Is frustration for my benefit? And what will it take for me to realize this? To come to my senses and understand what the Father is doing to, in and for me?

Jacob limped away a new person from the wrestling match; he entered the fight as Jacob but left as Israel. Surely I will wrestle with God and/or life again, the question is will I leave as a new person or simply with a limp to add to my list of complaints?

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Genesis: Determinism and free will Abraham style

I am fascinated by the interplay of God's will and human will. The extremes pit one against the other. Is God sovereign so that what he determines is done and human free will is really non-existent? Or do humans have free will to make decisions and the poem Invictus is correct when it states "I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul?"

Abraham seemed to live somewhere in between; his stories reveal the interplay of divine and human will. When Abraham sent for a wife for Isaac, we actually get to hear him explain his belief. His servant feared that finding a wife might not be so easy. Abraham explained, "[God] will send his angel before you so that you can get a wife for my son from there. If the woman is unwilling to come back with you, then you will be released from this oath of mine." In a nutshell, Abraham believed that God would orchestrate some encounter between his servant and a good wife for Isaac. Then the lady would exercise her free will by accepting or not. Both God's will and human will were involved.

So what does this mean? For one thing, it means "thy kingdom come, they will be done" in the Lord's Prayer makes more sense. Rather than tell a sovereign God to "zap the world with his will" - which would be automatic if he is sovereign and humans have no free will - the line has more to do with my acceptance of his will. It is the counterpart to Jesus's prayer in the garden - "not my will but yours." It was the same prayer at the beginning and ending of his ministry and should be the same at the beginning and ending of mine.

It also makes today a little more exciting. Rebekah became a part of God's story, living out God's will by simply being open to the needs of the people around her. That re-frames what it means to stand in line at the store, meet a new student on campus or sit by a stranger at a game. Who knows what story I might step into? Who knows what plan God has set in motion around me? Who knows what saying "yes" might lead to next?

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Genesis: Angry God?

In the second century, Marcion proposed that the Jewish God of the Old Testament and the God represented by Jesus were not the same god. Marcion did not stay in favor with the church for long - he was excommunicated. Yet his idea lives on in many of us. In the past month I have heard church leaders refer to the "harsh Old Testament" and give thanks for the mercy now available to us through Jesus.

But if Jesus is God, then Jesus is also the God of the Old Testament. Either he changed - which scripture says he does not - or I missed something. And I think the "something missed" is an unbiased - or at least less biased - reading of the Old Testament. After years of confronting this in myself and starting over once again reading through the OT for the New Year, I am struck by the mercy of the Old Testament God.

Consider this -
EDEN: Rather than come down in anger at the first sign of sin, God comes walking in the garden, asking questions, clothes the offenders and does not end their lives physically.
CAIN: God gives him advice ahead of time, comes asking questions and marks him so that others will not kill him.
FLOOD: Instead of total annihilation and starting from zero, God delays for years and saves a family who found favor in his eyes.
SODOM: God appears to Abraham ahead of time, explains that he has come in response to outcries, allows Abraham to bargain with him, rescues Abraham's family in Sodom, and even allows them to bargain for a different escape route.

If Jesus per John 1, John 17, and Colossians 1 and the Holy Spirit per Genesis 1:2 were per-existent to creation, then prior to creation our God was relational. It is his nature to come seeking, asking, connecting and showing mercy. Its what relationships are all about.

If this is who God is and if scripture has not changed for thousands of years, then the real question here is not about God but about me. Why do I come to scripture and fail to see mercy? How can I look at a series of events where mercy is lavished on people and be blind to it? Why do justice and punishment jump off the page while mercy can go completely overlooked? What does it say about my outlook on life? What does it say about my heart?

When I practiced veterinary medicine, an older doctor once told me, "I look for today, what I diagnosed yesterday." Perhaps we can't see what we don't look for. And we don't look for that which is not significant or valued. So when I look but do not see the mercy of God, I am confessing my values. Thus in the revelation of a merciful and relational God, I find reflected a revelation of my own heart.

And I do not always like what I see.