Tag Archives: Jesus

Doubting Mercy and Grace

Sometimes I have my doubts.  Specifically, I wonder if I have overestimated God’s grace.  Do I count on his mercy and forgiveness too much?

I try to live true to my faith, but I seldom live a day that exemplifies what I understand the life of a disciple should be.  I tell God I’m sorry, and I sincerely am, then I resolve to do better tomorrow.  I count on Jesus to keep me in right standing with God despite my sins of yesterday and in the face of sins to come tomorrow.

What if Jesus is screaming, “Stop it!  Just stop this sin!  Where is your faith?  Where is your commitment?  Where is your love for God?  Why do you keep calling me LORD but treating me like a “get out of jail free” card?”  What if he’s saying that to me?

I read something this week that helped me.  I’m sure the Holy Spirit stuck this in my face so I could stop doubting the degree, longevity, and sincerity of God’s forgiveness.  It came from an obvious place – the Bible.  I was reading Matthew 26 when verses 31 and 32 fell into alignment for me.

Jesus told the disciples that all of them would desert him.  He explained that Scripture foretold their flight.  Yes, Jesus knew all along that the disciples’ vows of allegiance would fall short of their conduct.  Then Jesus immediately makes a simple statement that changed my doubt into faith.  He tells them that he will meet them in Galilee after he has risen from the dead.  In my paraphrase, it goes something like, “You all are going to desert me, BUT (despite this desertion) I want to meet up with you after it’s over.”

Jesus knows I’ll fall short just like the disciples, BUT he wants to meet with me anyhow.  In my heart, I heard Jesus say, “Phipps, I know you sin, but I still want you with me.”

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The Class Meeting

The Class Meeting by Kevin M. Watson describes the kind of Christian group that appeals to me.  The format of the Class Meeting is actually from the eighteenth century, and John Wesley is given much of the credit for it’s design and impact.  The principle behind a modern-day Class Meeting is to become doers of the Word, not just learners.  This aligns perfectly with a phrase from Jesus’ Great Commission, “…teaching them to obey everything  I have commanded you.”

It seems to me that most “small groups” in the USA church are either affinity groups based on having fun, or studies based on collecting knowledge.  Class Meetings are designed to enable group member to live more holy lives.  Let me share a few ideas from the book.

  • The class meeting is essential because it is a logical, practical, and proven way to make disciples.  It forms righteous thinking (orthodoxy) and righteous action (orthopraxy).
  • Judgment does not prevail in Class Meetings.  Unless I have asked to be accountable, rarely will the Class Meeting members hold me accountable.  The person who judges me is myself.  The Class Meeting is a weekly self-inventory of my own life.
  • People who protest against the Class Meeting because it may be uncomfortable must admit that comfort isn’t a good indicator of whether something is good for me or whether I need to do it.  Comfort is focused on my desires, not God’s desires.

Honestly, what would happen if the church would actually live what they already know they should do?  The book is designed to enable the reader to start a Class Meeting.  If you are desperate to become more holy, check it out.  If you’re comfortable and want to stay that way,  the book will only make you uncomfortable.

My notes on this book can be downloaded in MS Word format from the blue “FILES box” in the left side-bar of this blog.

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God Is With Us

weekly theme #4 God Is With Us*  

week containing the fourth Sunday of Advent

Immanuel, is a name that means “God with us”.  Immanuel, Jesus, stands near to me, wanting me to accept his love and desiring mine in return.  I would best show my love by going beyond sentiment to worship and obedience.  However, I am overwhelmed with material goods: a house with heat, cooling, running water, clothing, vehicles, books, electronics, and the list goes on.  All these things more firmly plant my feet in loving this world.  Those like me call those who have few possessions “the poor”, but I know in my heart they are not poor.  I am the poor one.  My happiness rises and falls by my possessions and comforts.  When I step back and examine my life, by what standards should I use to measure my riches – comforts or kindness?  Yes, I’m afraid that I am the poor one.

I can’t give what I don’t have.  That appears to be sound reasoning, and I’m sure I’ve used that line myself although I can’t remember when.  (I’m having trouble with my memory becoming slower and less organized, and that leads me to my point.)  Sometimes I can’t give even what I have.  When I consider myself the storehouse for what I can give, it limits my giving by capacity, access, and current relevance.  It seems better for me to connect to the perfect Source, Model, and Provider and let him provide through me.  Remaining a tool connected to the LORD, through the Holy Spirit, allows me to give two things I can never give from myself – everything and anything.

Sometimes I catch myself at the bottom of a page in a book and I don’t remember anything I’ve read.  Sometimes I realize that I have driven for miles and I don’t remember any of it.  I’ve been so engaged in a conversation (or TV show!) that I don’t notice what is going on around me.  Focus.  My focus determines what I sense.  What I sense impacts my feelings and thoughts, which produce actions (or paralysis), and determines my future.  God is with me, but do I sense him?  He has a prepared a pathway for me, but unless I sense him, I will not follow his path because his path is unknown and impassable unless he is with me. (Ephesians 2:10 & Psalm 77:19)

God has been with us since the beginning of human life, but Jesus’ sacrificial birth began a path for me to receive even more.  Through no merit of my own, God is in me.

*A Guide To Prayer For Ministers And Other Servants by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections.  I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used.  It truly lives up to its title.

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The Coming Of Christ

weekly theme #3 The Coming Of Christ*  

week containing the third Sunday in Advent

I have met people so focused on Jesus’ second coming that they fail to sense him right now.  Jesus’ first coming brought flesh and blood to prophesies in the Old Testament, and the invisible God became tangible.  Yes, I am supposed to look forward to his return to earth, but I must also live as he so clearly taught and exemplified.  Giving my attention to what is around me, as well as to the sky, actually hastens the answer to his prayer of “your Kingdom come, your will be done – on earth as it is in heaven”.

As soon as I sat down this morning for my Time With Father, I told him, “God, I’m having real trouble with this idea of watching for your second coming.”  I had this image of sitting in the rocking chair on the front porch staring at the sky – watching for his return, but when I read Ezekiel 34:1-10 and Luke 12:42-48 things started falling into place.  I “watch” for his return by doing his work.  I remembered Jesus’ parable about the owner of land turning it over to his servants’ care.  The owner did not want them standing around every day waiting for his return; he wanted them to care for what he had entrusted to them.  However, in truth, my work is most often a distraction from my watching.  It is when my “watching” wanes the most.

For years, I have longed to have better communication with God.  In church language, I wanted to “be constantly in prayer”.  (I wrote about this situation just last week – #2 Preparing The Way.)  Words from Brother Lawrence (he served in a Paris monastery in the 17th century) added some guidance to solving this dilemma.  As I understand it, he intentionally set up reminders for prayer so that his day was repeatedly “interrupted” by prayer.  Over time, each “interruption” became an anticipated oasis through the day.  Gradually he found himself conversing with God between these “assigned” times, making prayer a majority of his day.  And when he entered a task that might take his full concentration, he asked for his work to be an acceptable prayer.  This makes “constantly in prayer” and “always watching” seem reachable to me.

*A Guide To Prayer For Ministers And Other Servants by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections.  I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used.  It truly lives up to its title.

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The Lord is Coming

weekly theme #1 The Lord Is Coming*    

the first Sunday of Advent

Sometimes I wish I had been with Jesus while he was on earth, but I know I’m in a better spot now.  I am privileged to have written accounts of his arrival, life, and departure.  Most importantly, I have the Holy Spirit with me constantly to comfort, convict, and guide.  Then I would have just been with Jesus, but now the Lord is in me.

Paul says that Jesus the Christ has made peace between God and all creation through his willingness to sacrifice himself.  (Colossians 3)  His coming was a response of God’s love for his creation.  Even now God comes to me because of his love – not my works, virtue, or sacrifice.  He comes to me, not because of my beauty or value but because of his.

Jesus entry as a babe had a purpose of grand and eternal significance.  He came to complete his work, to be the Lord and the Truth.  My work is not nearly so grand.  In fact, I may be here only to exemplify love and faithfulness to others.  Perhaps I can be the Jesus they see in an ordinary situation that, unknown to me, has eternal results.

In the times of the Old Testament, priests offered blood sacrifices for sins, and only at certain times could a certain Priest enter the Holy of Holies – the presence of God.  Jesus changed everything.  His sacrifice erases sins forever, so no further blood sacrifices are needed.  Additionally, Jesus, as High Priest, has opened the Holy of Holies to me so I may enter God’s presence.  Jesus continues to change everything.  He is the change.  All the things I think change the world are actually tools he may use for change: education, prayer, generosity, humility, military power, science, creativity, religious organizations, and more.  The Lord changes everything.

*A Guide To Prayer For Ministers And Other Servants by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections.  I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used.  It truly lives up to its title.

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