Tag Archives: mercy

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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Mercy, Justice, and Love

weekly theme #31*

week containing the Sunday between May 29 and June 4

I have experienced God’s mercy, justice, and love – they just don’t appear here on earth when, how, and for whom I think they should.  Maybe that’s the problem – my thinking.  I don’t have the mind of Christ.  Faith is also an issue. There is a difference between believing God can work miracles and believing he will.  There is a clear and powerful relationship between God’s intervention in this fallen world and my faith that he will do so.  Yet my faith does not force God to work, it invites him, and it is at his choosing when, how, and for whom he will work.  In that dark time of waiting for him to move, I can still enjoy his presence if I desire him more than I desire the miracle for which I pray.

Jesus often altered what he was doing to help an individual.  He stopped even if those around him urged him to continue with the planned agenda.  By focusing on the individual, he affirmed to the crowd, “I care for each of you.”  Those were the times of miracles.  Acts 9:32-43 describes two healings performed by Peter.  In both cases, word spread through the region and multitudes believed in the Lord – all because Peter turned his attention to individuals.  Sermons designed for everyone catch fewer ears than words spoken to a few in the crowd.  People listen to words of personal concern spoken to a few because the pain of the few resonates with the many.  The many desperately want to believe someone personally cares about them, too.  Looking out for the lost sheep reassures the ninety-nine who remain.

As I look around in the world, I see many things that encourage me.  I see God’s mercy, justice, and love, but they seem inconsistent, with some people being blessed while others seemingly are cursed.  Why doesn’t God do something?  That question has been on my mind this entire week.  Today I read Genesis 12:3b, “All the families of the earth will be blessed through you.”  God was talking to Abraham, but actually, he was speaking to all of Abraham’s spiritual offspring.  So, why doesn’t God do something?  He has!  He has instructed me to be his mercy, justice, and love to those in this time and place.  What would happen if all believers lived with that as their primary mission?  The answer is an answer to prayer, “Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

*A Guide To Prayer 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 Good Shepherd

weekly theme #25*

week containing the fourth Sunday of Easter

As I prayed for each home on my cal-de-sac, I realized how long it had been since I visited with some of them.  The beginning verses of Jeremiah rebuke the leaders of Israel for being Shepherds who have mistreated their flock.  I’m sort of the Shepherd of my cal-de-sac as an overflow of being a disciple of Jesus.  I have mistreated these in my care by neglect.  Along that line, Ezekiel 34:11-16 begins with the familiar description of the caring, sacrificing, and loving Shepherd tending his needy sheep.  The tone changes at the end of the reading – “But I will destroy those [sheep] who are fat and powerful.  I will feed them, yes – feed them justice!”  (verse 16b)  Am I a “fat and powerful” sheep who withholds charity from other sheep?

Neglect is not a term I would use for my Shepherd, Jesus.  When I say that I can’t sense God or that he is distant from me, the truth is that I have distanced myself from him.  I created the separation.  I can take as a fact that no matter what I have done or wherever I find myself, there is a path back to the Shepherd from that very place.  The Shepherd longs for me.

I struggle with Christians who have the mindset of ethics by law.  Some Christians seem to be more interested in making laws than making disciples.  Jesus’ compassion, his mercy, is in opposition to the idea of making laws that externally try to force people to do what is “right”.  Jesus’ ethics comes from within me, from the Holy Spirit. Inside of me, of any believer, can be the fruit and ethics of the Holy Spirit, oozing out into the fruitless exterior filled with anger, judgment, and hypocrisy.  Paul’s counsel regarding the selection of church leaders describes people who live in step with Holy Spirit and exhibit corresponding behaviors in their everyday lives.  Sheep need to focus on the Shepherd, not other sheep.

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I have everything I need.”  Psalm 23 says the Shepherd provides rest, guidance, strength, protection, comfort, belonging, love, and hope.  These qualities connect well with 1 Peter 2:21-25, which says the Shepherd did not protect himself but sacrificed himself to save his sheep.  The Lord is my Shepherd, I have (he is) everything I need.

*A Guide To Prayer 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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