Grace and Mercy? What’s the Difference?


This week, at the end of a chapel service, we took turns sharing our favorite Bible verses. When it was my turn, I mentioned that although I have a lot of favorite verses, this week the one at the top of my list is Hebrews 4:16:

Hebrews 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

This verse speaks of how we are able to approach God with confidence because of our relationship with Jesus Christ. Through Christ, we have forgiveness of our sin. Through Christ, we are reconciled and restored to a right relationship with God. As a result, we are able to enter into the very presence of our holy and righteous Creator and obtain mercy and grace in our time of need. My sharing of this verse led to a discussion about the difference between mercy and grace. Although mercy and grace are very closely related, they are not exactly the same. Mercy has been described as “when we don’t get what we do deserve” and grace has been described as “when we do get what we don’t deserve.”

Both mercy and grace are found in Jesus Christ. Through Christ, God offers mercy, an escape from the penalty we rightly deserve for our sins. Through Christ, God also offers grace. God offers us the gift of eternal life in the hereafter and an abundant life in the here and now. Through a saving relationship with Christ, we can boldly and confidently approach our Heavenly Father and obtain mercy and grace in our time of need. We approach boldly, not because of who we are, but because of who Christ is for us. He is our Redeemer. He is our Savior. This week I pray that you will know and experience the riches of God’s grace and mercy.

Posted in Christianity, Church, Forgiven, God's Grace, God's Mercy, Hebrews 4:16, redeemed, religion | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Happy New Year


Happy New Year, I hope the New Year finds you enjoying the blessings, the peace and the joy of the Lord. I was speaking to someone this week and they shared with me how although it has been a long couple of years, the Lord has been comforting them through His word. They spoke of certain psalms they often read which have helped them experience God’s comfort, strength, and peace. One of the ones they mentioned was Psalm 91 and how they are comforted especially by verses 1 and 2.

Psalm 91:1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!”

Those are indeed some good verses and I know they bring comfort to many people. Those verses remind me of the importance and the benefit of staying near to God. We can experience God’s strength when we dwell in His shelter and abide in His presence. It is a place of refuge, a place of peace, a place of joy, and a place of comfort. We enter into that place through a relationship with God’s Son Jesus Christ. He is the Lord; He is a fortress in whom we can find refuge and in whom we can trust. In this upcoming year, may we all continually dwell and abide in His presence.

Posted in A refuge, a stronghold, Church, Faith during hard times, God loves you, Psalm 91:2 | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

I was visiting with someone recently and they asked me what I was going to preach on this weekend. I gave them the scripture reference and a Cliff Notes version of the sermon and they shared some of their thoughts on the passage. We had a good conversation and as we parted ways, they told me, “Preach a good word!” I laughed and replied, “Well, I’m sure going to try!”

Our conversation got me to thinking about what it really means to “preach a good word.” In 2 Corinthians 2:12 – 17, Paul is writing to the church about an opportunity he has to share the gospel. Paul is mindful of the eternal difference it can make in a person’s life, and as Paul contemplates the task of sharing the gospel, Paul says in verse 16, “Who is sufficient for these things?” And the answer to Paul’s rhetorical question is that none of us are sufficient for such things. None of us in our own power are able to “preach a good word” that makes an eternal life-saving difference. Paul goes on to remind the church in the upcoming verses, that any adequacy to share the gospel comes from God. I like the way Paul said it in his first letter to Corinthians.

1 Cor 2:1 And when I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come as someone superior in speaking ability or wisdom, as I proclaimed to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.

“To preach a good word” is a great goal. But preaching a good word is not based on the effort or the eloquence of the preacher. It will only be a good word if it is God’s word.

Posted in 1 Corinthians 2:1, Christianity, Church, Colossians 1:28, God's Strength, God's Word, ministry, ministry work, Preaching | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

His Sight is Better than Hindsight

I was talking to someone the other day about some annoyances I have been having with my eyesight. I have been experiencing several floaters in my right eye for quite a while now. Most of them are small but I do have a couple of larger ones that are constantly buzzing around my field of vision. I say “buzzing around” because quite frequently I mistake them for flies or bees and start ducking and quickly swatting at the air. So, if you see me ducking and dodging or wildly slapping at something that is not there…well, now you know the reason. I was telling a friend about it the other day and I said that I now have a greater appreciation for what it means in Genesis chapter 27 when it says that Isaac’s eyesight was growing dim. My friend tried to encourage by saying, “Well, at least your hindsight is still good.” He went on to say, “Hindsight is always 20/20…right?”

And while I appreciate the encouragement and while I am familiar with the expression that hindsight is 20/20, I don’t know that my hindsight has always been 20/20. I know that sometimes even when I look back on something that happened or something I did, I still look through the lens of my preferences and my perspectives. I don’t always see things so clearly or accurately, even when I am looking back. It reminded me that oftentimes, just like Paul in Acts chapter 9, I need the Lord to remove the scales from my eyes and help me see clearly. I need the Lord to give me better hindsight, I need the Lord to give me His sight. I like the invitation the Lord gives us in Jeremiah 33:3:

Jeremiah 33:3 “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.”

What a great invitation. What a great reminder. It’s not helpful to look at things through the lens of my preferences and my perspective, I need to look at things through the lens of God’s precepts and His perspective. Hindsight is not 20/20; His sight is 20/20.

Posted in Christianity, Church, God Answers Prayer, God has blessed me, Jeremiah 33:3 | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dirty and Dusty

 
Here is a poem/song I have been working on this year. And while I don’t think I have finished it yet; I am going to share it anyway. The theme is birthed out of my sincere belief that just like God’s word says, every single one of us have done wrong things in our life. Every single one of us have “sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” And that sin, whether it is considered big or small, it creates a division between us and our Creator who is holy. Our fellowship with Him is broken. God, who is holy, is also loving. And in His love, God offers redemption and reconciliation through His Son Jesus Christ. If we confess our sin and call upon Christ as Lord, He offers to forgive us and cleanse us of all unrighteousness.

Dirty and Dusty

They say Moses’ face was shining
After he and God would meet,
The ground there was so holy,
He had to take the sandals off his feet.
His shoes were dirty and dusty
From the path that he had trod,
And you can’t track in the dirt of this world
If you want to stand in the presence of God.

Jesus took His twelve disciples
To the upper room to eat,
But before they had communion
The Savior washed their feet
Their feet were dirty and dusty
From the path that they had trod
And you can’t track in the dirt of this world
If you want to have communion with God

Someday we’ll all be standing
Before God’s Judgment seat,
And we’ll be sent away forever
If Christ hasn’t washed our feet,
We’re all dirty and dusty
From the paths that we have trod,
And we cannot enter Heaven
Unless we’ve been washed by the Son of God.

I hope that you know how much the Lord loves and cares for you. May God bless you and the ones you love.

Until next time, stay strong in the faith,

Pastor Phillip Stephens

Posted in 1 John 1:9, Christianity, Church, faith, forgiveness, God loves you, God's Grace, Poem, Song | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Some Days

I have really been enjoying my work as a chaplain at the hospital. We regularly talk with the patients we serve about the positive benefits of drawing and writing and how those activities can help us express and explore our emotions in a healthy way. Recently, the topic came up with a youth group I was ministering to and one individual asked me if I do those things.  I told them that I like to write. They responded, “Write a poem for us!” So, I did.

Some Days

Some days are cheery and very bright
And I love the way the sun shines,
Other days are like dark nights
That I would rather leave behind.

Sometimes I’m unsure of the weather
Until I’ve already stepped outside.
Sometimes I don’t know that I feel sad,
Until after I’ve already cried.

But I know each day is different,
And the weather can quickly change,
And part of healing and feeling better,
Is learning to accept the rain.

So, whether the sun is shining bright
Or storm clouds are headed my way,
I know that I am brave and strong,
And I will make it through the day.

My prayer for you is that you have a bright and sunny day! I pray that all things will go smoothly and each day in the upcoming week will be worry free. But in the event that storms come, I pray that you would continue to stand firmly on God’s word, knowing that He is with you and that He will bring you through the storm. May the Lord bless you and the people you love.

Posted in A refuge, bad weather, chaplaincy, Christianity, Church, Don't give up, Don't stop, Draw close to God, Exodus 15:2, faith, Faith during hard times | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

No Other Fount I Know


Every week I get to lead several chapel services and bible studies at the hospital where I work. Typically, we start the service off with a couple of songs. We try to provide a variety of hymns and contemporary songs and we try to make use of various artists. We play the songs using an app on our phone and we connect our phones to a speaker using the Bluetooth function. It works pretty well. This week we were listening to an old favorite, “Nothing but the Blood of Jesus.” The version selected for the service was a contemporary one. The artist changed up the original melody and the cadence and even added some pauses at various places. After the song was finished and it was time for prayer requests, one of the individuals attending the service commented on the new version of the song. They said, “That song sounds a lot different than the way I remember it…but, the words are still the same. And I like that pause. It’s good to pause and think about how special Jesus is.”

Their comment was met with a somber and reverent “amen” from another participant. And together, we just paused and thought about the goodness, the grace, and the faithfulness of our Lord.

What can wash away my sin
Nothing but the blood of Jesus
What can make me whole again
Nothing but the blood of Jesus

Oh, precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow
Oh, no other fount I know
Nothing but the blood of Jesus

For my cleansing, this I see
Nothing but the blood of Jesus
For my pardon this my plea
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

I pray that this week you will have the opportunity to pause and reflect on the goodness, the grace and the love of Jesus Christ.

Blessings to you and the people you love.

Posted in Acts 4:12, Christianity, faith, following Christ, Know Christ | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Soul Longeth After Thee

I have been working on learning a new song on the guitar.  I heard someone play it years ago on an acoustic guitar.  Instead of strumming, they played it fingerstyle and let each note ring out.  The song is “As the Deer Pants for the Water.”  It was written by Martin Nystrom in 1984 and it is based on Psalm 42.  The lyrics are posted below.  After a couple of weeks, I am just now getting to the point where I can consistently keep the fingerpicking pattern going while changing chords and attempting to sing the song.  It is a process and although I have not attained it yet, I am pressing on in my efforts to make a joyful noise unto the Lord.   It is a beautiful song of praise based on a beautiful psalm.  May the Lord bless you through the lyrics.

Verse 1
As the deer panteth for the water
So my soul longeth after Thee
You alone are my heart’s desire
And I long to worship Thee
You alone are my Strength, my Shield
To You alone may my spirit yield
You alone are my heart’s desire
And I long to worship Thee.

Verse 2
You’re my Friend and You are my Brother
Even though You are my King
I love You more than any other
So much more than anything
You alone are my Strength, my Shield
To You alone may my spirit yield
You alone are my heart’s desire
And I long to worship Thee.

Verse 3
I want You more than gold or silver
Only You can satisfy
You alone are the real joy-giver
And the apple of my eye
You alone are my Strength, my Shield
To You alone may my spirit yield
You alone are my heart’s desire
And I long to worship Thee.

 
I pray that this week is a good week for you.  I pray that you will be blessed with the presence, the peace and the love of the Lord.

Until next time, stay strong in the faith,

Pastor Phillip Stephens

Posted in Being Blessed, Christianity, faith, God loves you, God's Love, Greater Love, Love the Lord, Psalm 42:1, worship | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

I’m Thankful

I attended a chaplain’s conference last week and it was a very good but busy week.  I met some wonderful servants of the Lord and made some new friends.  During some down time, I asked my friend Chaplain Brittney Diamond if she would listen to a song I wrote and help me take the melody out of my head and get it onto the keyboards.  Below is a result of our collaboration.  I am grateful to Chaplain Diamond for graciously providing her help and supplying some awesome vocals.  The name of the song is “I’m Thankful.”  Here is a link to the song on my Facebook page.  The lyrics are provided underneath the video…probably just after an advertisement. It was a blessing for me to hear this song played and sang so well by Chaplain Diamond. I hope it blesses you as well.

 

Here are the lyrics:

Lord, I’m thankful
For the ways You’ve blessed me,
Lord, I’m thankful
For my friends and family,
So before I get too busy
Before I start my day,
I want to take the time
So You can hear me say,
Lord, I’m thankful,

For all that You do,
Lord, I’m thankful
You’re faithful and You’re true
Times aren’t always easy
I have my rainy days
But I know You’ll never leave me
You’re beside me all the way,
And, I’m thankful,

You gave Your life for me,
Lord, I’m thankful
You died to set me free,
You came and You found me,
When I had gone astray
Now Your grace and love surround me
So I just have to say is
Lord, I’m thankful,
I’m thankful.

So, before I get too busy
Before I start my day,
I want to take the time
So You can hear me say,
Lord, I’m thankful…
Yes, I’m thankful,
So, before I get too busy
Before I start my day,
I want to take the time
So You can hear me say,
Lord, I’m thankful.

I hope that you have that same blessed assurance.  I hope you know how much the Lord loves and cares for you.  I hope you know that you and the people you love are often in my prayers.  And I hope you have a blessed week.

Until next time, stay strong in the faith,

Pastor Phillip Stephens

Posted in chaplaincy | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Praying for Friends and Family

I have many friends who serve in the medical field and in ministry in one capacity or another.  They have all been on my heart this past week.  I know the last 18 months or so have not been easy for them.  And I know that just saying that these times “have not been easy” does not do proper justice to the burdens, frustrations, and myriad of other challenges which have had to be dealt with and conquered.  As I have been praying for my friends, I have been using the Bible verse from Isaiah 41:10 as a template for my prayer.  I have been inserting names and occupations into the verse.

Do not fear nurses, doctors, EMTs, pastors and chaplains, for the Lord is with you.  Do not be dismayed teachers, coaches, and daycare workers, for He is your God. He will strengthen you and help you; He will uphold you with His righteous right hand.  Isaiah 41:10

I know this prayer has not served to remind the Lord about anyone’s situation that He had forgotten about.  That does not happen; nothing escapes His notice.  But this prayer has served to remind me to pray in a specific way for my friends and family.  And I pray that each of you will have a good and blessed day.

Posted in Christianity, Church, Don't give up, Encouragement, faith, Faith during hard times | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment