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“Mejor de lo que merezco.” That was the answer Enrique gave me when I asked him, “How are you?”

“Better than I deserve.”

Enrique was the leader of prison ministry here at the Home For Needy Children in Oaxaca, Mexico, where we minister to a lot more than needy children. He was in his late sixties and in good health. In his seventies his health began to deteriorate and he started to have a lot of physical problems. They got so bad that he had to dramatically cut back his visits to the prison.

My wife and I went to visit him a few weeks ago. Now, in his early eighties, he talked about blood in his urine, prostrate cancer, recent surgeries and showed us a swollen leg. Yet, when we arrived and I asked him “Como esta?” (How are you?), he gave me the same answer he always gives anyone who asks him that question, “Mejor de lo que merezco.” (Better than I deserve.)

I love that answer and use it myself on occasion. It is a very biblical answer. No matter how good or bad we feel, behave, or think, we are always treated by God way better than we deserve.

We deserve punishment. We deserve condemnation. We deserve eternal fire and the worm that does not die. We deserve a crown of thorns on our head and nails piercing our hands.

At least that’s what the Word of God says. God commands us to “be holy as I am holy.” (Leviticus 19:2) God commands us to love him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, and to love our neighbor as we love ourself. (Matthew 22:37-39).

We dreadfully fail to obey these commands and thus deserve to suffer the wrath of God. Paul, in Romans three pours gas on the fire by exclaiming:

There is no one righteous, not even one.

There is no one who seeks God.

All have turned away, they have together become worthless.

There is no one who does good.

There is no fear of God before their eyes.

Most people look at themselves and think that they are pretty good. They compare themselves with others and declare, “I’m not that bad!” I do a lot of good things to help people so I deserve a reward from God and man.

But when we compare ourselves with the Judge, God Almighty, we fall dismally short of what he wants from us and deserve to be punished.

Lamentations 3:22-23 happily tells us that “Because of the LORD’S great love we are not consumed, for his mercies never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

Mercy means not getting what we deserve. Mercy means not being punished. Mercy means not suffering the wrath of God. Mercy means not being condemned. Mercy means not being consumed. Jeremiah comforts God’s people by letting them know that God’s mercies are new every morning, which is great news because we sin and disappoint God every morning, every minute, every moment, and we desperately need his mercy!

So, “How are you?” I bet you are better than you deserve. I certainly am.

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“Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Mark 10:15

“Here is a boy with with five small barley loaves and two small fish…” John 6:9

I can imagine the boy looking into his ragged, dirty bag and eyeballing the fish and bread, and then looking around at the 5,000 people plus that were all around him. That were all getting hungry. He was too. It seemed that in their rush to follow Jesus out of town and halfway up a mountain, they had forgotten to pack a lunch. The boy would have been in the same boat if his mom hadn’t insisted that he take a few small loaves of barley bread and a couple of dinky fish that were in a bag that she thrust at him. He grabbed it and headed off with the crowd who were going after the incredible, wonder working teacher.

I can imagine the boy standing close to Andrew, one of the disciples of Jesus, while the other disciples were discussing with the Rabbi, how to feed everyone. The consensus seemed to be to send them back into town, which was miles away, to get some grub. Jesus told Philip to feed the crowd. Philip must have laughed, showed his empty pockets and exclaim that he was out of cash, and that even if he had half a years wages, it would barely give each person a bite to eat.

I can imagine the boy thinking about the bread and fish. His bread and fish. What should I do? Should I sneak off toward the edge of the crown and wolf it down, hoping no one would notice? Or maybe I can sell them. Times have been awful hard lately. Mom could really use the money. I could give them to Jesus. That might help a little bit. He was almost embarrassed at the thought. He peeked back into his bag and shook his head at his five small loaves, and two small fish. Then he looked at the huge crowd and laughed. Then he looked at Jesus and grinned. He remembered one time that that he had seen a man healed by this Jesus guy. Once he spit, made some mud, and put it on a blind man’s eyes. And, believe it or not, after that, the blind man could see. If he could do that with a little spit and dirt, then who knows what he could do with my bread and fish.

I can imagine the boy tugging on Andrew’s sleeve. Andrew tries to shoo the boy away because he is busy trying to figure out, with the rest of the guys, how to feed everyone. The boy tugs on Andrew’s sleeve again, this time a bit firmer. Andrew wants the boy to go away, but he looks into his eyes, and then into his bag, and notices what appears to be some bread and fish. Andrew smiles and gestures to Jesus. “Hey Jesus, take a look at this. Five loaves of bread and two fish.”

Jesus not only takes a look, but he takes the food and the next thing you know, the mass of people are feasting on fish and bread. Everyone gets full.

I imagine the boy eating eight loaves and six fish. With a big smile on his face!

We all have some loaves and fishes. We have gifts and abilities. We have time, talents and treasure. That is our loaves and fishes. My loaves and fishes. We live in a world that is starving. Starving for truth, love, righteousness and wholeness. We are standing next to Jesus with our bag of small loaves and small fish. What will we do? What will I do? Keep it for myself? Sell it? Hide it because I’m ashamed of how little and insignificant it is? Or give it to Jesus and let him use it for purposes beyond my wildest imagination.

Jesus loves me and wants me to be happy. I want enter the kingdom of God. I want to be like the boy. It’s a no-brainer. I’ll give Jesus my bread and fish!

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I recently wrote about worship after reading a couple of articles concerning this topic in Christianity Today. I continue to think about this subject as I believe that worship should be at the center of every Christians life. I have read three accounts in Scripture that have informed my worship and hope that they will do the same for you.

The first example is in the last book of the Bible – Revelation 19:4,5.
Here we see the heavenly beings bowing down and praising God. Here are two things Christians should do in their life of worship.  The first is bowing down. When a person bows before another, he or she is showing respect, acknowledging supremacy, exhibiting humility and submission. We should worship God, not only with our minds and spirits, but also with our bodies. Physically bowing down before the Sovereign Lord helps to transform our hearts and minds to Christ and his will. Sadly, most Christians rarely if ever now down in worship before almighty God. That described me as well, until I began studying the Bible and what it says about worship. Now I regularly bow down when I pray.

The heavenly beings  not only bowed down, but they also praised God.  Many people think worship and praise are the same. They are closely linked, but are not the same. Praise for God is the result that flows from a life of worship; a life of submission to God lived in genuine trust that He loves us and wants us to be happy. Our hearts are full of joy living in right relationship with God and man, and our lips can’t help but praise the Lord!

The second example is found in the first book of the Bible – Genesis 24:26,27.
¬†Here, Abraham’s servant has had his petition to the Lord answered favorably. He was on a mission to find a wife for Isaac, and he found one. Interesting enough, his reaction is exactly the same as the heavenly beings: he bows down and praises the Lord. He is not in the immediate presence of God, yet he has humbled himself before the Almighty, has trusted that the God of Abraham loves even Abraham’s servant and will be good to him and thus his prayer is answered. God showed up for him in his time of need and he bows down and praises God.

My last example of worship is the first time that the word worship is used in the Bible – Genesis 22

It is in a story that is important to all three major religions in the world: Christianity, Judaism and Islam. We can all learn a great deal about what It means to truly means to worship God from this story.

Abraham is told by God to take his son, his only son, the son that he loves, Isaac, and offer him as a burnt sacrifice to the Lord. This is the son of promise that Abraham waited 25 years to be born to him and Sarah. Finally Isaac was born and the elderly couple laughed like crazy to see the incredible gift God gave them in their old age.  Surely they doted on him, and spoiled him and loved him a lot. Maybe too much, which is why God asked this unimaginable thing from Abraham.

Abraham gets up early the next morning and heads off with Isaac (who was in his late teens or early twenties) and two servants. He is heading out to a place that God would show him. It took them three days to finally get to the mountain on which he was to sacrifice his son as a burnt offering. One can only imagine what was going on in Abraham’s head as they took the long journey.

Abraham said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”(Genesis 22:5)

WE WILL WORSHIP. That’s what Abraham said. That’s what Abraham had on his mind. Not music. Not a joyful celebration. But obedience to a God who had shown Himself faithful time after time in Abraham’s life. Worship, for Abraham was trusting in a good God, who always kept his promises, even when, by all outward appearances, it seemed that God was not going to show up. God always showed up. Now Abraham was climbing a mountain, carrying fire, and beside him, Isaac, carrying the wood that was intended to burn him up as a sacrifice. Abraham was planning on worshiping God. He was planning on God showing up, somehow, some way, even if it meant bringing Isaac back to life, as the author of the book of Hebrews writes. Worshiping God is living a life of faith, pleasing God because we believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)

Sometimes that is not easy, as I am sure Abraham was thinking as he put the wood on the rock, and then placed Isaac on the wood and bound him. Just as he was about to plunge a knife into Isaac’s heart, God showed up. The LORD spoke to Abraham, “Do not lay a hand on the boy. Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” (Genesis 22:12)

I think this story shows us the heart of true worship. Obeying God. Trusting God. Believing that God loves us and wants us to be happy, even in the midst of great trials and testing; in external difficulties and internal anguish, we can worship God with all our being, knowing that God will show up. Just like he showed up for Abraham’s servant who found a wife for Isaac. Just like he showed up for Abraham on the mountain. And one day, all those who worship God in spirit and in truth, will join the heavenly beings and bow down and praise God, forever and ever, amen.

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