March 26, 2008

Blessed Said Are...

Bless said are
The miracles
Of the merciful
Recipients say
I thank God
You came my way!
The merciful pour
Out one end
And they believe
God restores
Caring compassion
With ability to empathize
They see in every degraded one
There for God’s grace
Am I
Bob Fekete is pastor of the Camden and Blythewood Adventist churches in South Carolina. His hobby is creative writing.

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2008 1509 page30 capE’D BEEN IN THE WRONG LANE FOR at least 15 seconds before the impact. Clifford Helm was traveling north on U.S. Highway 395 in eastern Washington while Jeffrey Shrock was driving south. Mr. Shrock with his five children were on their way to pick up his wife, Carolyn, who was eight months pregnant with their sixth, from a day of shopping in Spokane.

It had been raining. The skies were cloudy and the roads were wet. Both F-250 pickup trucks had their lights on, but at a little after 4:00 p.m. there was still plenty of light. Mr. Helm had just picked up his 1999 Ford from the shop, and his wife was following close behind. Records would later show Mr. Helm called her at 4:19. She returned his call a minute later. At 4:22 she phoned 911 to report the crash.
Mr. Helm’s pickup veered into the grassy median and then onto the southbound lanes. As he accelerated back to highway speeds, an oncoming motorist honked, causing him to steer back into the median. He soon veered left and again entered oncoming traffic. After accelerating again, Mr. Helm’s truck collided with Shrock’s.
2008 1509 page30Both vehicles were going about 60 mph. Witnesses said it appeared Mr. Helm had control of his vehicle for the 1,600 feet he was off the northbound lane.
Police and rescue personnel responded quickly and found both men seriously injured. They also found the bodies of all five of the Shrocks’ children—Carmen, 12; Jana, 10; Carinna, 8; Jerryl, 5; and Craig, 2.
Mercy, Absent
Sometimes it’s hard to see mercy in our world. From what we see on the news to what goes on in our personal lives, often we can’t hear mercy over the roar of violence, revenge, and pain. It’s hard to see God’s mercy in a house now emptied of its rambunctious occupants—toys still strewn around the living room and clothes still cluttering the bedroom floor. We live in a world that often doesn’t grant second chances.
Justice and mercy are nearly opposites. In a culture and society that demands justice, mercy is so often overlooked. Undesired, even. Liberty and justice are promised for all, not liberty and mercy. At least not in this earthly kingdom.
God is often described as a just God, and He is. But before that, He’s a merciful God. Back when I was about 8, I used to be afraid of eternal damnation. The way I figured, if I could be forgiven only 70 x 7 times, I’d probably run out in about a year and a half. I wasn’t particularly bad, but 490 sins in a lifetime? I was pretty sure I’d hit that by my tenth birthday. And that wasn’t even taking into account my first eight years of life!
Today I realize that one sin is enough to buy me a window seat to hell. But God is merciful before He is just. And because of that, whether it’s one sin or 490 or 10,000, it doesn’t matter. If I repent, He will forgive.
Mercy, Applied
God has given us the ultimate example of mercy. But I still find myself getting caught up in the little things and not being able to let them go. I carry grudges over the smallest things for far too long. It’s easy, for example, to lose perspective and get caught up in the trivial infraction a friend committed. Many families and friendships have been wedged apart over the inability to find forgiveness. But we still count on God’s forgiveness every day.
Shortly after Carolyn Shrock learned all her children had been killed and her husband lay in grave condition, she visited Mr. Helm in his hospital bed. And she did repeatedly throughout his recovery. She said from the first time she met the man that she forgave him—that holding hatred would do no good.
The police report found nothing mechanically wrong with Mr. Helm’s truck. Two separate toxicology reports found nothing in his system that would slow his response time or otherwise leave him incapacitated. Mr. Helm refused to speak with investigators, and to this day there is no answer to why Mr. Helm’s truck sped down the length of at least four football fields in the wrong lane. Or why he twice increased his speed as he stared into oncoming traffic.
The police investigation wasn’t complete for nearly a year, and in that time the Shrocks repeatedly requested mercy for Mr. Helm. They asked that no charges be filed against him. They welcomed his family into their home and grew to consider them friends. They asked the local media and members of the community to stop villainizing him.
Eventually, however, Mr. Helm was charged in the five children’s deaths. The Shrocks said they understand the need for law enforcement and justice, yet they still ask that the man responsible for the deaths of their children never be punished.
After hearing a story like that, it’s pretty sad that I find myself still holding a grudge because someone cheated in Monopoly.
Todd Richardson is a senior at Union College, where he serves as editor of the student paper, the Clock Tower.

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2008 1509 page34 capEORGE WAS A MAN WHO WORKED HARD for his money. He ran a successful bakery that brought in a comfortable profit. He got married and life was good—until the children came. Suddenly, he no longer had the disposable income he was used to. His growing household expenses left him short every month. What made his situation even more desperate was the fact that his mortgage was skyrocketing. He saw no way out.
Just when he envisioned his family soon having to live in their minivan, a piece of mail caught his eye. “Get preapproved with no finance charge!” it screamed. Maybe this is the answer, he thought. A few phone calls later, George felt like a new man. Within days, his new credit card arrived and life was back to normal. We won’t live off credit forever, he reasoned. I’ll use it only when necessary.
At first, George kept his promise. But as time went on, he became careless, buying gifts for the kids and taking his employees out to fancy restaurants. He also decided it would be a wise investment to make some much-needed updates to his kitchen: granite countertops and stainless steel appliances. Once that was done he thought, Why stop there? Before long, his entire home was renovated, and George and his family had the best house in the neighborhood. Yes, they charged everything with their credit card, from school tuition to groceries, but they were living the American dream!
2008 1509 page34Sometimes George didn’t make timely payments, but he never thought it was a big deal. Then the creditors started harassing him for their money. He installed a privacy setting on the phone. Problem solved, or so he thought. Things went from bad to worse the day he went to buy a new car. He got turned down for the loan and he couldn’t understand why. Later, a quick search on the Internet showed him that his credit score was terrible. When did that happen? George once again found himself strapped. As interest compounded on the debt, George felt like he was trying to dig his car out of quicksand—with a teaspoon. He wasn’t getting anywhere. So he stopped making payments, hoping the creditors would forget.
Months later, on his way to work, a bright-colored sign on the door of his bakery grabbed his attention. The government was going to seize his business and garnish his wages because he was failing to repay the debt! It went on 
to say that if he continued to be delinquent, the next step was jail.
With a sobered heart, he went home and knew what he had to do. He decided to plead with his creditors to forgive him of the debt. It was his last hope.
After a long ordeal with debt negotiators, the credit card company decided to forgive him. His balance of more than $800,000 had been written off! He and his family were grateful and paid everything with cash from then on. Most important, he still had the bakery.
As he was balancing the books one day, he noticed that one of his regular customers still owed him $15. George frequently allowed his good friend Tom to pick up orders and pay later if he didn’t have the money. Sometimes Tom forgot to pay him back, but since he never owed more than $20, George often picked up the tab. Today, for some reason though, George had had enough. I work hard for my money, and I’m entitled to it, he thought. When Tom came in later that day to chat, George demanded his money. Tom was speechless. He was going through hard times and simply didn’t have the money to repay. Tom begged George to give him extra time. But George had other plans. As soon as Tom left the store, George phoned his lawyer. A few days later, Tom got the bad news: he was to appear in court. The same man whose enormous debt was cleared was suing his friend over a few dollars.
A Merciful Demonstration
This story of George is based on Jesus’ parable of the unmerciful servant found in Matthew 18:23-35. Christ illustrated that Christians, who have been shown mercy by God, should likewise demonstrate mercy to others. Throughout the Bible “merciful” is used to describe God’s relationship to human beings, and while it’s nice to be on the receiving end of mercy, Jesus proclaimed, “Blessed are the merciful” (Matt. 5:7). This beatitude makes it clear that our obligation is to be on the giving end.
As hard as it may be, we have no right to sever our relationship with friends and family after they have repeatedly offended us. Christ paid the price of 
our sins with His life: none who accept His sacrifice is counted a debtor to God. Jesus says that God is “kind 
unto the unthankful and to the evil” (Luke 6:35, KJV). Being merciful means displaying God’s grace and kindness to others apart from their merits. It means acting toward others with the graciousness with which God has acted for us in Christ, but instead, basing it on God’s mercy and justice toward us.
Being merciful can be hard, especially toward those who continually hurt us. However, God provided a pattern for us to follow. Here’s a three-step plan on how we can adopt Christ’s character of mercy when we’re tempted to do otherwise:
Step 1: Be slow to anger. Joel 2:13 tells us that God is slow to anger. We can be the same by keeping our tempers in check.
Step 2: If you get angry, don’t keep it forever. God “retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy” (Micah 7:18, KJV). Harboring grudges breaks 
relationships. I believe it can also cause physical illness.
Step 3: Forgive. When the Levites confessed God’s 
goodness to the children of Israel, they said that amid all 
the wickedness the Israelites committed against God, He was “ready to pardon” (Neh. 9:17, KJV). The entire chapter of Nehemiah 9 records that each time Israel sinned against God, He forgave them because of His great mercies. Our hearts should always be in a position to continually forgive, whether we are asked or not. This willingness lies at the core of mercy.
When we take Christ’s character of mercy and treat others as He treats us, He promises that we in turn will obtain mercy. Our reward is sure to be in heaven. And that’s a promise we can all take to the bank.
Lahai McKinnie writes from Berrien Springs, Michigan, and recently completed a master’s degree in social work at Andrews University.