Ready for mercy
Years ago, we lived in Zaandam while we were starting a youth discipleship school in Amsterdam. We tried to make time to visit Haarlem because we loved the architecture, shopping and its “old-Dutch” feel. The real truth was, we had fallen in love with the city! One of the many features we liked were the Hofjes of Haarlem. You had only to walk through an arched door and your world became quiet with a peace that encouraged soul-searching. The air smelled fresh and the flowers shown like colored gems. We always wondered who lived behind each glossily, painted door and except for an occasional cat lounging in a window there was nothing but beautiful silence; an anomaly in the hectic, noisy world we live in today.
The word “Hofje” means small garden and if you have ever grown flowers or planted vegetables for your table you know how much work and tender care goes into a successful outcome. You prune, water, weed and fertilize. You watch with a careful eye for the harvest and do your best to protect it from the storm. The Dutch have always been planters and harvesters and when they built the Hofjes there was a prevailing need to perform something called, “The Christian Seven Works of Mercy”: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, bury the dead, shelter the traveler, comfort the sick and free the imprisoned.
Does not the timeless word of God still call to us to have the same standard of mercy?
In the western world it is so easy to ignore the plight of the hurting. We don’t have the leper walking through the Grote Markt crying out, “Untouchable!” Our “hurting” walk by us carefully disguised in blue jeans with a wayward smile. Their puffy-coats are tightly zipped over a broken heart wrapped in the same rags of the leper. They slip by us because of demanding jobs, active children, traveling, exercising regularly, cultivating friendships, cooking, cleaning, studying, the list goes on-and-on… and 24 hours is not enough time to find a place to breathe. We have health, affluence the rest of the world can’t even dream of and a form of peaceful freedom.
However, if we let the quiet breezes of the Hofje blow over us we will feel the need to be the real hands, the loving heart to those who need mercy. Our prayer is that “The Meeting Place” will be a hofje in our busy city, a place of God’s mercy and restoration; a place where a tender hand can help a hurting soul grow.
“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act. Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you’- when you already have it with you.” - Proverbs 3:27-28
Nothing more beautiful than ice skating in front of the ‘Rijksmuseum’.
On a nice summerday at the river Spaarne.
Room for one more
My grandmother, Sara Hymans, was born in Den Haag in the last part of the 19 th century. Her family was of the Jewish faith and her father worked for the Dutch government. At 15 years of age the Hymans family left from the docks of Rotterdam and steamed their way to New York City where her father would be on assignment for The Netherlands.
Hoping to make new friends she accepted an invitation to go to church with a classmate. I don’t know how she felt as the hymns were sung and the sermon preached… but I do know she walked forward at a service called “Decision Day” and made the decision to follow Christ.
Rotterdam in the 19th century.
Today, as I hold her worn Bible in my hands I can piece together her life as a believer. Hand written notes in the margins, a yellowed piece of paper with a poem about God’s faithfulness, an offering receipt for her giving to the ministry of an evangelist, a funeral card for her son, David, who lived just two hours and was my mother’s twin. The most endearing item tucked inside is a 1920’s letter from a New York City ministry named, “Jews For Jesus”. It describes the number of Jewish people in the city who were becoming Christians, believing Jesus to be their long awaited Messiah. She never forgot her Jewish roots and the rich heritage of her family!
When Sara was a young mother, during the time of World War I, she asked permission to become a Sunday School teacher. Her church decided she was not qualified because of her Jewish heritage. I always thought anti-semitism raged from Hitler’s mind During World War II… but it started long before that! Years ago my mother sat on the side of her bed holding a picture of my grandmother as a young woman. Her dark hair was in a bun on top of her head. She wore the popular blouse of her time; high collared, white, modest. She pointed to a small broach pinned on her shirt. I couldn’t read what it said but my mother chimed in, “It has the initials ‘R.F.O.M.’ on it... ‘Room-For-One-More’. When your grandmother was finally allowed to be a Sunday School teacher she gave that name to her class because she wanted everyone to feel welcome, never to be left out of the family of Christ because of who they were or what they had done.”
I still have that pin, rescued from my mother’s jewelry box after she passed away. My grandmother’s story stands strong in our hearts at “The Meeting Place”, where everyone can be family, where everyone is accepted and everyone included in our journey to follow Jesus. There is always “room for one more”.
“Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” | Matthew 10:40 (NIV)
“You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your Presence.” | Acts 2:28 (NIV)
Another one of our Core Values in MPic is “Presence”. What do we mean by that?
It is clear that God sent Jesus to re-establish our ability to be reconnected to our Father in Heaven. We were helpless because of our sin and the only way back was the lasting sacrifice of Jesus that allows us to enter freely into His Presence. We were designed to abide in His Presence and know the Joy of a restored relationship!
LIVING IN HIS PRESENCE
So how do we experience this ‘presence’? The Word is clear that when we come near to God that He will come near to us (James 4:8). So, we need to take that first step!
At MP:ic we value sincere, heart-felt Worship in song and adoration as well as a deep hunger for His life-changing Word and being responsive to Him with Prayer… which is just talking with and listening to God, anywhere and everywhere! When we experience His living-Presence, we will desire to walk in that ‘presence’ every day. We will become ‘carriers’ of His Presence that will, literally, transform situations and environments!
Jesus brought change through His Presence as He walked this earth and He imparts this same ability to usher-in His Presence through sincere and hungry believers.
Why should we be so concerned? Because… it is in His Presence that Healings happen, people captive to addictions and depression are liberated and people struggling with sin are no longer condemned… but convicted to repentance and receive forgiveness and restoration. In God’s Presence, Miracles happen!
“Lord give us an unquenchable hunger to come close to You and allow You to be Lord over every area of our lives, that we may be carriers of Your Presence to a world so desperate for meaning and purpose, that can only be found in You! Amen.”
Is the Church today…”Obsolete”?
I am always entertained by all the creative names now being used for churches! It seems that no one wants to use the words “Church’” or “Trinity”… or even “Faith” in their church name.
Everyone is so concerned about being relevant and culturally sensitive. When was the last time you saw a church called “Obsolete Church” or the “Loser’s Tabernacle”? (actually, the last one IS ‘relevant’ since Jesus always sought the ‘down-and-out’ of society)
Maybe that’s why I love Peter. He was definitely a “piece-of-work” in progress! I can relate to that since most of us fit into his category. I think I fit into the upper 10% of that illustrious group… how about you?
But, Peter wasn’t “Peter” until he had a revelation of who Jesus was. That’s when Jesus gave him a new Identity. The story goes like this in Matthew 16 -
Jesus’ disciples had just crossed the lake and were arguing about how to get food to eat. Jesus became frustrated with their lack of understanding of who He was when they had already witnessed Him feed 5,000 and 4,000 people with a just handful of food! So, Jesus gave his faith-less team of 12 a quiz and asked, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They all began to give their mistaken responses, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Then He looked at Simon and asked, “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon’s response changed the trajectory of faith for all generations when he answered,
“You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus replied, ““You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being. 18 Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’) and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.”
Peter realized he was serving the Living-God in Jesus and his confession became the beginning of the Church! The “Church” was never meant to be just a building, but a collective of like-hearted Jesus-Followers revealing changed lives to a world caught in hopelessness and turmoil.
“Church” is anywhere and anytime Jesus-followers gather together.
By Christ’s own declaration, He defined the need for the true “Church” until He returns. He said that upon that realization and proclamation that “Jesus is the Messiah” would be the foundation for Faith, exhibited through the Church (all believers, everywhere), for all generations… and that Satan and even Hell itself would not have power over it! Wow!... just
So, is the Jesus-believing, Spirit-activated Church of Christ… “Obsolete”? Ha! It is more powerful and even more needed than ever. The “Church” is the Hope of this World until the everlasting Hope, Jesus, returns for His Church. We need a ‘new identity’, and it can only be found in Jesus.
But… I guess it all rests on how we answer the Jesus Quiz? “Who do you say that He is?”