In the kind of work I did at a charitable organization, I often struggled with the concept of giving to the poor versus enabling someone who is caught in a cycle of dependence through their own choice. I looked up the definition of mercy in Wikipedia. Here’s what I found: “Mercy is compassion or relief given to an undeserving recipient.” When I think of the undeserving recipient, I think of myself as the recipient of God’s mercy in my undeserving state of sinfulness. Jesus died for me, whether or not I would accept Him, it was not conditional on my treating Him right. In fact, those that crucified Him spat in His face, beat, whipped and insulted Him. He still had compassion and mercy for them when He said: “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
As I look at the Bible with the big picture view, there appears to be a constant state of tension between God’s justice and His love. In the Old Testament, justice reigns, typified by the Ten Commandments written on cold, hard tablets of stone, while in the New Testament God demonstrates His love for humanity, personified in the warm bundle of the baby in Bethlehem.
The story of the Bible has two main protagonists, Adam and Jesus. Their lives are in sharp contrast in the consequences of their actions:
When Adam sinned, justice prevailed, bringing punishment and death.
Look closely, a battered orange starfish clings to the rock – Just lately we have been bombarded with personal prayer requests from family, friends and acquaintances who have fallen sick, been recently diagnosed with a disease, or become victims of a serious accident. It lays heavy on our hearts to see all those people we care about suffering pain and heartache. It hits close to home when it’s people we know. We have been through some medical tests of our own that thankfully proved negative after an anxious waiting period.
Until an adult is confronted with the supernatural, it is easy to be a skeptic or at least a doubter. For many of us, it is less risky to question, analyze, and dismiss than to simply believe.
Before sharing the details, I’d like to preface this supernatural event by admitting that, even now, over four decades later, I don’t fully understand why God chose to bless a skeptic like me in this manner. I still feel very undeserving, and very loved, all these years later, especially because I was full of doubt on that day.
Like most of us, when I was a child, faith came more naturally than suspicion. I can’t recall at what age the transition from child-like faith to doubt occurred. You will read in this account how my struggle with doubt collided with an undeniable experience.[Read more…]
I recently heard an interview with Carlos Santana, focusing on the highlights of his musical career. Happily married to the same wife for many years, he had developed a belief in some enduring values, one of which struck me as worth thinking about. It went something like this – a sense of gratitude brings joy to the soul. I had an off-day not long after that interview where the sunshine and the beautiful scenery were unable to touch me. Good feelings come and go. During the valley experiences, I have sometimes been in the habit of writing 5 daily reasons to be thankful in a journal called “Counting my Blessings.” It’s amazing what healing power there is in developing a grateful heart.