Where Does Real Courage Come From?

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

NEW BOOK! 'Real Mercy: Where Bible and Life Meet' by Thaddeus Barnum



Mercy is the heart of God’s character.

He is “rich in mercy” (Eph 2:4). By that mercy “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done…but according to His mercy” (Titus 3:5).

When that mercy enters our soul, we are changed by it. We become ambassadors, in word and deed, of Real Mercy to all in need. This is the Christian witness. This is the Christian mission.

At our church in Connecticut, we came to realize He wants His mercy to change us before we do acts of mercy. The latter without the former is philanthropy. The two together bring the kingdom of God to a world in need of Jesus Christ.

Lord, we prayed, disciple us. Make us a people of Your mercy.

It’s a risky prayer.  The more He worked in us, the more we saw the needs of our community all around us. Soon, He led us – a suburban church – to serve alongside inner city churches and pastors. From Saturday morning prayer walks, picking up trash on the streets, praying with those who’d let us, to those extraordinary moments of sharing the good news of mercy found in Jesus Christ, we watched lives change.

The God of Mercy wants to do a work in us!

Real Mercy spends “Fifty Days of Deeper Devotion in the Life of Jesus.” It is a discipleship tool, perfect for personal or group study.

For more information, go to call2disciple.com.

There is a kind of mercy we can’t do in our own strength.
It belongs to God. It is given by God – freely. All we have to do is receive. And when we do, the miraculous happens. God changes us on the inside.
He makes us a people of mercy.
And suddenly, the motion begins. As we receive, we give. It’s how His mercy works. We can’t hold on to it. We can’t horde it, or hide it, or keep it to ourselves. When we’ve got it and we’re changed by it, we give it as freely as we received it.
But there are people…
Jesus warns us about them. There are people who receive but never receive. There’s no miracle. There’s no change. This, Jesus explains in great detail, is the story of a wicked slave. We are not to be like him (see chapter two).
But our Lord doesn’t leave us there. He also tells the story of a son, a lost son, who finds his way home again. This young man knows, in the depths of his soul, he doesn’t deserve the compassion and mercy of his family. But it comes, in full, and willingly, joyfully, he opens his arms and receives it (see chapter three).
This is everything.
It’s the very heart and soul of the good news: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ.”
And when it comes to us, we are made new.
That change is visible. It reshapes how we think, how we act, how we engage the world around us, and all of it to our very core. This mercy shapes our character. We see it in the royal line of Jesus’ own family (see chapter four). We find it in people we least expect – those we’ve labeled and pushed away (see chapter five).
It’s meant to be in us.
And the only way for that to happen is to let mercy come. He – the Person of Mercy Himself – must do with us what He came to do (see chapter six). And when He does, one taste of it in our soul and Micah 6:8 comes alive. He gives us everything we need to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.
And out we go – a people of mercy to live mercy. We are men and women on Matthew 10:8 mission (see chapter seven) holding in our heart His eternal promise: “His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning.” 
New and full of surprise.

For this is our God! And He zealously wants us to hear with His ears and see with His eyes. Just as He did in the simple story of a blind beggar (see chapter one).
A person no one sees.
With a cry no one hears, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” But He sees. He hears. It’s everything to Him. He wants it to be everything to us. So we must start here, outside the town of Jericho, with a man on the side of the road begging. 

And let the story of Real Mercy change us forever.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Angel’s Song

Excerpt taken from Thad's second book, "Real Love" (pg 186)

Reflections on 1 John 2:24–25

As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. This is the promise which He Himself made to us: eternal life.
—1 John 2:24–25

Friday night, September 7, I asked my brother, “What are you afraid of?”

He looked me straight in the eyes and said, “I don’t want to die.”

We were in the emergency room a half hour from his house in Vermont. The doctors believed my brother had another infection near the surgical sight where they’d removed his cancer. Thank God, they’d gotten all of it. But in the last six weeks, there’d been too many setbacks from the surgery.

It was hard to hear him say, “I don’t want to die.” We’d talked every day since his diagnosis back in May. Now, for reasons I couldn’t explain, I was suddenly aware we’d never talked about death or the fear of what happens to us when we die. I made a mental note to do just that when he got out of the hospital.

A few weeks prior, my wife and I were vacationing in Maine. My brother called and asked, “What are you reading in the Bible today?”

“You really want to know?” I inquired. I was reading in Revelation 3 where the Christians in Laodicea—so full of pride—had cast Jesus out of the church.

As we read it together, my brother jumped at verse 20: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me” (Rev. 3:20).

“There’s beauty here,” he said, as if reading it for the first time.

I told him how hard it is to be a Christian pastor these days. We get busy with our churches. We may say the right things, do the right things, but miss what’s most important. Jesus Christ wants to dine with us. He wants to spend time with us. But we push Him out the door and sometimes don’t even know we’ve done it.

“That scares me,” I admitted to him. “I get so lost in what I do that I can’t hear Him knocking, can’t hear Him speaking. I don’t even realize He’s outside.”

My brother was quiet.

Finally he said, “I’m scared to open the door.”

He said he didn’t feel worthy of it. He’d done too many things wrong. There was too much guilt in his life, too many broken relationships, too much of his life wasted on things that, in the end, have no meaning. If he opened the door, he’d be exposed. How could he face himself? How could he face the Lord?

At the same time, this is exactly what he’d hoped for.

He knew God was bigger than what he could grasp with his mind. “Promise me it’s about the heart relationship and not just knowledge for the head,” he’d say to me time and time again. And now this was it. The invitation real, relational, and profoundly intimate.

The Lord Jesus Christ was knocking on his door. Calling his name.

“Dine with me?” my brother asked, amazed.

A few days passed. The words “Dine with me” had snuck deep into his heart and had become his prayer morning and night.

“I don’t know how to open the door,” he said, “but I want to.” I did what I could to say the right things to help him open it and assure him he’d know when it happens. “You’ll feel His presence,” I promised. “You’ll know He’s there with you.” The door, the knock, the voice, the invitation had somehow come to life for him.

And for a moment, it seemed it belonged only to him.

* * *
As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. This is the promise which He Himself made to us: eternal life.
—1 John 2:24–25
* * *
“This is going to sound nuts,” he texted me. “But last night, I felt the Lord’s presence. I could hear the angels singing.”

“Not nuts,” I wrote back. “Sounds like a door opening.”

“Yeah,” he said later when he called. “I actually heard their song: ‘You have to tell them, you have to go and tell them. . . . We are here.’”

A rush of joy filled my heart. It was as if the angels’ song wasn’t just for my brother. They wanted me and my family to know too. The door had started to open. The Lord was coming in, and with Him, a host of angels bringing us assurance: “We are here!”

A little while later my brother texted, “You’ve got to read 1 John 4:4.”

It read, “Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.”

With that, our conversation changed. We slipped away from talking about fearing the intimacy of the Lord Jesus Christ coming in to dine with us and we with Him. We now talked about Jesus abiding in us and we in Him. My brother was suddenly aware that Christ in him was stronger than all the devils that had tormented him in the past.

And more. He now knew by experience that to abide in the Son is to abide in the Father and that this was God’s plan for him from before the world began.

Oh what news, the best news ever—“We are here!”

* * *
As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. This is the promise which He Himself made to us: eternal life.
—1 John 2:24–25
* * *

I didn’t fully understand what was going on.

My brother asked about the angels. “This is all so new to me,” he said. I gave him passages in the Bible. I told him they attend the Lord and where He is, they are, and they serve as messengers at His direction. I didn’t think to say more. I didn’t think to tell him the angels attend the saints when they die (see Luke 16:22). Nor did I know why we never talked about death or what happens to us when we die.

I wish we had. But we didn’t. And now, here I stood in the emergency room on Friday night, September 7, hearing my brother say, “I don’t want to die.” We should have talked about it. “I don’t want you and Kate [our sister] to suffer like this,” he urged. “I don’t know why it’s happening to me, but I’m going to do everything I can to get better.”

I grabbed his hand and said, “You’ve got an infection. The doctor seems confident he caught it in time. We’ll get through this. It’s a setback, that’s all.”

My brother nodded but I could tell he was afraid—really afraid.

I look back at that night and realize I had no clue what was about to happen. Some fifteen hours later, the infection would storm my brother’s major organs. He’d go into septic shock, cardiac arrest, and then into intensive care where he did everything he could to get better as we prayed for a miracle.

And the miracle came . . . just not as we’d hoped.

On Wednesday night, September 26, my brother told his wife that he was ready. It was time. The fear was gone—finally, miraculously, gone. We have no idea how it happened. The fear had been so strong in him. But not now. Not anymore.

With that, a little while later the door opened. The angels came with their song. And my brother left us, holding in his heart a promise from above.

“This is the promise which He Himself made to us: eternal life” (1 John 2:25).

Questions for Reflection
So often, we run from intimacy. Are you able to hear Jesus knocking on the door? 
Can you open it, let Him come in, and let Him dine with you today? 
What are you afraid of most?
The beauty of this intimacy is that He’s not only “with us” but “in us” 
(see John 14:17; 15:1–5). What does that mean to you? 
How does it affect your daily relationship with Him?

John 15:1-11, the Vine and the branches. "Is He everything to you?