Pastor's Column

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9/19/17


What do we have except the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord? And what don’t we have in God’s gracious embrace in Christ?


“Neither death nor life....will be able to separate us....” - Romans 8, NIV


9/10/17


13 And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died. (1 Thessalonians 4, NLT)

 

Two thoughts...

 

First, we do grieve. Jesus wept after Lazarus died even though He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead.

 

But second, for all who believe in Jesus, grief happens within the greater context of hope. If you will receive God’s gracious claim on you in Jesus—no matter what you’ve done or haven’t done—you belong to the One who has died and risen and defeated death. His hands are stronger than death’s grip, and He is kind.

 

So grieve. This is appropriate when we experience the effects of the fall. But let your tears of sadness be mingled with tears of longing, and even with tears of assurance through the darkest valley. Because there will come a day when God will wipe every tear from our eyes. 


9/6/17


“Some will say, ‘I belong to the Lord’;

others will call themselves by the name of Jacob;

still others will write on their hand, ‘The Lord’s,’...

(Isaiah 44:5a,b,c, NIV)

 

If we define ourselves by our career, by our family, by our athletic ability, by our intellect, by our popularity, by our accomplishments, by our sexuality, by our good deeds, by our personality, we will never find who we were meant to be. In fact, if we try to define ourselves at all, we will never find ourselves.

 

Only in being found by God do we become who we were always meant to be. Only in yielding to Him and coming to know Him as our Father do we even begin to realize who we are. Only in believing His gracious claim on us in Jesus do we finally come home. Because our ultimate need is not to know ourselves, but to know and be known by our God.  

 

Who are we? We are His.

 

(See also “Who Am I?”—a poem by Dietrich Bonhoeffer before he was executed: http://www.dbonhoeffer.org/who-was-db2.htm.)


8/29/17

A sense of entitlement is something each of us finds in ourselves all too often, but it never belongs in our lives as Christians.

“What do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Corinthians 4:7b, NIV)

“Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?” For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.” (Romans 11:35-36, NIV)

 

No room for despair: God gives good things to those who deserve nothing good, because He is good.

 

No room for pride: We didn’t make ourselves who we are, and we didn’t earn the things we have. We are nothing and have nothing apart from Jesus, but trusting in Him we are children of God, and we have the love of God.

 

Only room for gratitude and worship: Every good thing is a gift, so we thank the One giving, praise Him for His lavish generosity, and are ready to share with others the hope we have in Him.

 

We don’t deserve anything, but through Jesus God’s given us everything.

 

Lord, I am so sorry for thinking I’m entitled to anything good. Thank you for Your goodness, and I receive Your free, undeserved kindness poured out in Jesus as my portion for today. I rest in Your goodness, God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

8/22/17


Fellow Christian, all you have is the free, undeserved kindness of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and all you are is God’s new creation in Christ.


The enemy will try to convince you that God’s kindness is not for you, or that you have things other than Him and His kindness; and the enemy will try to convince you that you are not His new creation in Christ, or that you are something other than God’s new creation.


Whenever we latch on to any of those lies, we are wandering from God. Growth in relationship with God is increasingly recognizing that all we have is Him—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—and that all we are is God’s new creation in Christ.


8/15/17

 

None this week.

 

8/7/17

 

For the pastor’s columns the next few weeks, I will include the New Living Translation of the psalm we studied on Sunday. Try using the psalm as a prayer this week, on your own, the church’s, or others’ behalf.

 

When I am afraid, I will put my trust in God...

 

1 O God, have mercy on me,

for people are hounding me.

My foes attack me all day long.

2 I am constantly hounded by those who slander me,

and many are boldly attacking me.

3 But when I am afraid,

I will put my trust in you.

4 I praise God for what he has promised.

I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?

What can mere mortals do to me?

 5 They are always twisting what I say;

they spend their days plotting to harm me.

6 They come together to spy on me—

watching my every step, eager to kill me.

7 Don’t let them get away with their wickedness;

in your anger, O God, bring them down.

8 You keep track of all my sorrows.

You have collected all my tears in your bottle.

You have recorded each one in your book.

9 My enemies will retreat when I call to you for help.

This I know: God is on my side!

10 I praise God for what he has promised;

Yes, I praise the Lord for what he has promised.

11 I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?

What can mere mortals do to me?

12 I will fulfill my vows to you, O God,

and will offer a sacrifice of thanks for your help.

13 For you have rescued me from death;

you have kept my feet from slipping.

So now I can walk in your presence, O God,

in your life-giving light. (NLT)

 

7/31/17

 

For the pastor’s columns the next few weeks, I will include the New Living Translation of the psalm we studied on Sunday. Try using the psalm as a prayer this week, on your own, the church’s, or others’ behalf.

 

God is more than enough; He created us, and we find true pleasure and joy only in His presence. And through trusting in Jesus who died and rose for us, we are ushered into God’s presence as His very own sons and daughters, with the assurance of life with Him even beyond death!

1 Keep me safe, O God,

for I have come to you for refuge.

2 I said to the Lord, “You are my Master!

Every good thing I have comes from you.”

3 The godly people in the land

are my true heroes!

I take pleasure in them!

4 Troubles multiply for those who chase after other gods.

I will not take part in their sacrifices of blood

or even speak the names of their gods.

5 Lord, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing.

You guard all that is mine.

6 The land you have given me is a pleasant land.

What a wonderful inheritance!

7 I will bless the Lord who guides me;

even at night my heart instructs me.

8 I know the Lord is always with me.

I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.

9 No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice.

My body rests in safety.

10 For you will not leave my soul among the dead

or allow your holy one to rot in the grave.

11 You will show me the way of life,

granting me the joy of your presence

and the pleasures of living with you forever. (NLT)

 

7/24/17


For the pastor’s columns the next few weeks, I will include the New Living Translation of the psalm we studied on Sunday. Try using the psalm as a prayer this week, on your own, the church’s, or others’ behalf.

 

Don’t wait until you feel like praising God to begin praising Him; start bragging about Him today!

 

Psalm 8 (For the choir director: A psalm of David, to be accompanied by a stringed instrument.)

1 O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!

Your glory is higher than the heavens.

2 You have taught children and infants

to tell of your strength,

silencing your enemies

and all who oppose you.

3 When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—

the moon and the stars you set in place—

4 what are mere mortals that you should think about them,

human beings that you should care for them?

5 Yet you made them only a little lower than God

and crowned them with glory and honor.

6 You gave them charge of everything you made,

putting all things under their authority—

7 the flocks and the herds

and all the wild animals,

8 the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea,

and everything that swims the ocean currents.

9 O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!

 

7/18/17

We’ve been studying and praying through Psalm 77 for the past few weeks. Here is the whole psalm in the New Living Translation. I invite you to pray through it and make it your prayer—or your prayer on someone else’s behalf.

1 I cry out to God; yes, I shout.

Oh, that God would listen to me!

2 When I was in deep trouble,

I searched for the Lord.

All night long I prayed, with hands lifted toward heaven,

but my soul was not comforted.

3 I think of God, and I moan,

overwhelmed with longing for his help.

Interlude

4 You don’t let me sleep.

I am too distressed even to pray!

5 I think of the good old days,

long since ended,

6 when my nights were filled with joyful songs.

I search my soul and ponder the difference now.

7 Has the Lord rejected me forever?

Will he never again be kind to me?

8 Is his unfailing love gone forever?

Have his promises permanently failed?

9 Has God forgotten to be gracious?

Has he slammed the door on his compassion?

Interlude

10 And I said, “This is my fate;

the Most High has turned his hand against me.”

11 But then I recall all you have done, O Lord;

I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago.

12 They are constantly in my thoughts.

I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works.

 

(NIV for verses 10-12: 10 Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:

the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand.

11 I will remember the deeds of the Lord;

yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.

12 I will consider all your works

and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”)

13 O God, your ways are holy.

Is there any god as mighty as you?

14 You are the God of great wonders!

You demonstrate your awesome power among the nations.

15 By your strong arm, you redeemed your people,

the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.

Interlude

16 When the Red Sea saw you, O God,

its waters looked and trembled!

The sea quaked to its very depths.

17 The clouds poured down rain;

the thunder rumbled in the sky.

Your arrows of lightning flashed.

18 Your thunder roared from the whirlwind;

the lightning lit up the world!

The earth trembled and shook.

19 Your road led through the sea,

your pathway through the mighty waters—

a pathway no one knew was there!

20 You led your people along that road like a flock of sheep,

with Moses and Aaron as their shepherds.


7/11/17


15 With your mighty arm you redeemed your people,

the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.

16 The waters saw you, God,

the waters saw you and writhed;

the very depths were convulsed.

17 The clouds poured down water,

the heavens resounded with thunder;

your arrows flashed back and forth.

18 Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind,

your lightning lit up the world;

the earth trembled and quaked.

19 Your path led through the sea,

your way through the mighty waters,

though your footprints were not seen.

20 You led your people like a flock

by the hand of Moses and Aaron. (Psalm 77:15-20, NIV)

 

We have been praying through Psalm 77, focusing on a different part each week.1

 

Earlier in the psalm, the psalmist cried out to God: Where was He and where was His goodness? Then the psalmist moved from questioning to remembering and worshiping: God is holy and powerful, and has acted in the past to rescue His people.

 

And then in verses 15-20, we see a powerful portrayal of God’s immense power and tender care for His people. He is sovereign over all forces of nature (amazing power), and led His people like a flock (amazing tenderness).

 

So the psalmist anchors his hope in the God whose power and character never change, ending the psalm with worship. God is the psalmists hope, and our only hope.

 

Right now, wherever you are, begin to worship God, even before you know how He will answer your prayers. He is good, powerful, and worthy—and He leads His people like a flock.

 

Prayer: Lord, in the midst of everything I acknowledge that You are powerful and good. You love Your people, and so I place my hope in You to lead me well. I worship You for who You are! In Jesus’ name, amen.

 

 

1 This is a prayer for God’s people—for any and all who trust Jesus as Savior and King. But if you are not yet a Christian, I’d still invite you to catch a glimpse of God’s character through this prayer—and perhaps begin to entrust yourself to Him and His grace in Jesus. 


7/4/17


13 Your ways, God, are holy.

What god is as great as our God?

14 You are the God who performs miracles;

you display your power among the peoples.

15 With your mighty arm you redeemed your people,

the descendants of Jacob and Joseph. (Psalm 77:13-14, NIV)

 

We have been praying through Psalm 77, focusing on a different part each week.1

 

In Psalm 77:7-9, the psalmist cried out to God. Where was He and where was His goodness??

 

Then the psalmist moved from questioning to remembering. And now he remembers and worships: God is holy and powerful, and has acted in the past to rescue His people. That doesn’t mean that the psalmist personally experienced the Exodus: We don’t need to have personally experienced God’s power in order to remember and bank on what He’s done for others in the past. His character is the same today as it was three thousand years ago, and He responds to all who come to Him in humble faith.

 

So God’s grace and power evidenced in the Exodus are a help to the psalmist’s present struggle of faith, leading the psalmist through questioning to worship.

Prayer: Lord God, Your character, power, and grace have not changed from when You rescued Your people from Egypt. I bank on You to rescue me as well, not because I deserve it but because You are good and You have given me grace in Jesus. In His name, amen.

 

 

1 This is a prayer for God’s people—for any and all who trust Jesus as Savior and King. But if you are not yet a Christian, I’d still invite you to catch a glimpse of God’s character through this prayer—and perhaps begin to entrust yourself to Him and His grace in Jesus.

 

6/27/17


7 “Will the Lord reject forever?

Will he never show his favor again?

8 Has his unfailing love vanished forever?

Has his promise failed for all time?

9 Has God forgotten to be merciful?

Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”

10 Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:

the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand.

11 I will remember the deeds of the Lord;

yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.

12 I will consider all your works

and meditate on all your mighty deeds.” (Psalm 77:7-12, NIV)

 

For the next few weeks we will be praying through Psalm 77, focusing on a different part each week.1

 

In Psalm 77:7-9, the psalmist cries out to God. Where is He and where is His goodness??

 

God gives us words to ask these desperate questions. That’s an amazing gift: We don’t have to pretend when it feels like God is absent.

 

But the psalm doesn’t stop there: The psalmist moves from questioning to remembering. God’s character and power never change, so if He worked mightily on behalf of His people in the past, He will do so again. As the psalmist remembers what God has done in the past, he can re-anchor his hope in God to act again, even though God seems absent in the moment.


Prayer: My God, where are You? Why do You seem so far away? But in the midst of this turmoil, I will remember what You’ve done in the past (in Scripture, in my life, and in the lives of others) for those who have trusted in You. And as I remember, I make the decision to anchor my hope in Your never-changing goodness to Your people—including to me as I come to You in Jesus’ name, as His follower who belongs to You.

 

 

1 This is a prayer for God’s people—for any and all who trust Jesus as Savior and King. But if you are not yet a Christian, I’d still invite you to catch a glimpse of God’s character through this prayer—and perhaps begin to entrust yourself to Him and His grace in Jesus. 



6/20/17


7 “Will the Lord reject forever?

Will he never show his favor again?

8 Has his unfailing love vanished forever?

Has his promise failed for all time?

9 Has God forgotten to be merciful?

Has he in anger withheld his compassion?” (Psalm 77:7-9, NIV)

 

For the next few weeks we will be praying through Psalm 77, focusing on a different part each week.1

 

Some of us will want to skip past the messy/grief-filled parts too quickly, afraid that it’s not “spiritual” or “Christian” to dwell there; others tend to stay stuck in grief. In contrast to both approaches we have Paul’s words to Christians grieving the death of fellow believers: “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.” (1 Thess. 4:13, NIV) Christians grieve, but can grieve with hope. This balance can be a wise guide for Christians in any time of loss or sorrow.

 

In Psalm 77:7-9, the psalmist expresses a desperate prayer and string of questions. Where is God? Where is His goodness now?

 

If this were a friend of ours asking these questions, we might be uncomfortable and simply try to stop them from asking. But this is part of a prayer God has given in the Bible, and asking these questions might be a necessary step towards a renewed faith in God. That’s not an excuse for unbelief or for dishonoring God; it’s simply permission to be real before Him and cry out to Him with everything in us. So walk through these questions and the cry of desperation, towards a confidence that is anchored in God even when He seems absent.

Prayer: My God, I don’t deserve anything from You, but I am desperate and hopeless without You. Where are You? Why do You seem so far away? Why does Your activity in my life sometimes seem such a far cry from what You did for others in the Bible? Thank You for letting me cry out to You honestly, and thank You that You hear my cry as I approach You in Jesus’ name...

 

 

1 This is a prayer for God’s people—for any and all who trust Jesus as Savior and King. But if you are not yet a Christian, I’d still invite you to catch a glimpse of God’s character through this prayer—and perhaps begin to entrust yourself to Him and His grace in Jesus. 


6/6/17

3 I remembered you, God, and I groaned;

I meditated, and my spirit grew faint. 

4 You kept my eyes from closing;

I was too troubled to speak.

5 I thought about the former days,

the years of long ago;

6 I remembered my songs in the night.

My heart meditated and my spirit asked:

7 “Will the Lord reject forever?

Will he never show his favor again? (Psalm 77:3-7, NIV)

 

For the next few weeks we will be praying through Psalm 77, focusing on a different part each week.1

 

Some of us will want to skip past the messy/grief-filled parts too quickly, afraid that it’s not “spiritual” or “Christian” to dwell there. Others of us will tend to stay stuck in the grief-filled parts, refusing to trust that God is bigger. Neither is the right approach. This Psalm leads us into and through grief and desperate prayer, towards confidence that’s anchored in God.

 

In the verses 3-7, the psalmist sees a contrast between the past and the present. Remember when God did great miracles on behalf of His people? Remember how He clearly revealed Himself through the events recorded in the Bible? But how far off and long ago those times might seem to us now! And that begs the question: “Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favor again?”

 

This question is, in some form, answered later in the psalm. But isn’t is amazing that God gives us a prayer, that allows us to name the disparity we might feel between the past and the present—between when God seemed so near and when He seems so absent?

 

So cry out to God, knowing that this is not the last word in the psalm, or the last word for all who place their hope in the One who might seem far away, but has actually come near through Jesus and the Holy Spirit, to usher us into the presence of the Father.

 

Prayer: LORD, I think of times recorded in the Bible when You showed Your goodness to ordinary people, when You seemed so much nearer than today. Where are you? Have You rejected me? Thank you that You give me words to express how hard this is, and thank You that even when You seem distant, You never abandon us as Your children. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

 

1 This is a prayer for God’s people—for any and all who trust Jesus as Savior and King. But if you are not yet a Christian, I’d still invite you to catch a glimpse of God’s character through this prayer—and perhaps begin to entrust yourself to Him and His grace in Jesus. 


5/30/17

“I cried out to God for help;

I cried out to God to hear me.

When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;

at night I stretched out untiring hands,

and I would not be comforted.” (Psalm 77:1-2, NIV)

 

When we go through dark times in life, the Psalms help us turn our grief and even anger into prayers. Not prayers that pretend or deny the facts, but real, raw, honest cries to God.

 

For the next few weeks we will be praying through Psalm 77, focusing on a different part each week. This is a prayer for God’s people—for any and all who trust Jesus as Savior and King. But if you are not yet a Christian, I’d still invite you to catch a glimpse of God’s character through this prayer—and perhaps begin to entrust yourself to Him and His grace in Jesus.

 

Some of us will want to skip past the messy/grief-filled parts too quickly, afraid that it’s not “spiritual” or “Christian” to dwell there. But these verses are in God’s Word for a reason, so pray them with sincerity and trust.

 

Others of us will tend to stay stuck in the grief-filled parts, refusing to trust that God is bigger. That also is a pitfall. The psalm will lead us to a place of being anchored in God’s never-changing power and love: “I will remember the deeds of the Lord....What god is as great as our God?” (vv. 11, 13) Don’t be afraid to own up to the full weight of sin and brokenness, but also don’t believe the lie that God is smaller than that very sin and brokenness.

In the first two verses, we cry out to God with the words of the psalmist (here, Asaph). We aren’t content with cheap solutions or substitute answers: We plead for God Himself. And in this heart-wrenching prayer is a deep faith, for why would anyone cry out to God if they don’t believe that He exists and that He is good?

 

Our prayer is based on verses 1-2. These verses are past tense in the psalm, with verses 13-14 as present tense (highlighting God’s never-changing character)—seeming to imply that we are to move through (though not skip past) the weight of our problems, to the recognition of who God is even in that very moment.

Prayer: God, I cry out to You for help; I cry out to You to hear me. When I am in distress, I seek You, Lord; at night I stretch out untiring hands, and I won’t be comforted (by cheap substitutes). You alone are the One I need!


5/23/17


In the parking lot outside the doctor’s office this morning, I saw a dog in the front seat of a car, howling mournfully—as if it were wondering if its owner would ever come back for it. 


I am so often like this dog when God tells me not to worry. The dog’s owners can’t assure their dog that they’ll be back soon, but God tells believers that He never abandons us, even in the darkest times when He seems completely absent. Our lives already have enough suffering, but I often add to it by worrying that He won’t “show up”, instead of confidently longing and pleading for His power and grace to work in even the darkest moments.


So we should plead with God to show up, crying out to Him with everything we have. (In fact, pleading with God is itself evidence of some measure of faith, because you wouldn’t plead with someone you didn’t believe in or didn’t believe was good.) We don’t have to pretend that we don’t miss the assurance of His presence, or that we aren’t struggling. But we can plead with confidence in His faithfulness, presence, and power—that turns even the greatest evils to His glory and to our good.


The Psalms powerfully express this confident pleading with God. Today, consider praying Psalm 27 with this in mind, on yours or someone else’s behalf:


Prayer: 1 The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?.....7 Hear my voice when I call, Lord; be merciful to me and answer me. 8 My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, Lord, I will seek. 9 Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, God my Savior. 10 Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me. 11 Teach me your way, Lord; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors. 12 Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, spouting malicious accusations. 13 I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. 14 Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. (Psalm 27:1, 7-14, NIV)

5/16/17

I often find that, when I’m working in the kitchen, our dog Clemmie has come down and curled up by the table. And as I walk around the kitchen, she doesn’t move, but her eyes follow me wherever I go. She’s settled, calm, and quiet—and she keeps her eyes on me.

In Psalm 16, David writes:

“....I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;

apart from you I have no good thing.”....

....I keep my eyes always on the Lord.

With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken....” (vv. 2, 8, NIV)  

 

In a sense, it’s as if Clemmie sees Minet and me as the center of her world. Her sense of security rests in our care of her, so her eyes are fixed on us.

It’s amazing to see how God can teach us about how to relate to Himself, even through His very creation.

Prayer: Father God, You are my everything. But I confess that so often my eyes are fixed everywhere except on You: My gaze wanders to rest on my own abilities, on others, and on the fears I have—and then I am shaken when those things fail me. Today, by Your power, I turn my eyes to You. And whenever my gaze does wander, I ask You to turn my eyes back to You more and more quickly. Thank you that my hope is in You, not my strength or my circumstances or even in the strength of my faith. 



5/9/17

“Jesus, Martha, and Lazarus, Part II”

 

Lazarus had died, and his sister Martha meets Jesus as He arrives in town:

 

21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” (John 11, NIV)

Martha knows that a day is coming when God will unveil His power and all will see Him—and her brother, who belongs to God, will rise from the dead. Some might think of this conviction as “pie in the sky by and by”, but it is true: a real promise and a real hope....and a real threat to all who persist in rejecting God.

But God not only gives hope for the future: He is also sovereign over the present. So Jesus replies:

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Martha sees (though she still expresses doubts until Jesus does raise Lazarus from the dead) that life isn’t only something coming in the future/last day. She sees that where Jesus is, there life is.

This doesn’t mean that everyone we’ve lost will rise from the dead, or that every sickness will disappear immediately, or that all of our wishes will come true today. But it does mean that life—eternal life in relationship with God—spills from Jesus right now into a world filled with death. Sometimes that life comes in ways we can’t yet see; other times it comes in the midst of what looks like death (I have seen those who are physically dying finally come to a knowledge of God, crossing over from death to life); other times it comes in a way that exceeds what we could begin to imagine.

Where Jesus is, there life is. But all that we experience now are appetizers for the real feast: When Christ returns and gathers His own. We must not forget that life begins now in Jesus, but we also must not forget that our ultimate hope and the fulfillment of our deepest desires will only come when Christ returns.

Prayer: Lord, You ask me—not just Martha—“Do you believe this?” I confess that I often doubt You when You say that You are the resurrection and the life. I look for life in other places; forgive me and restore me to a vibrant hope in You. I relinquish my doubt to You today and every day, and I trust in Your presence and power to bring life from death even now—both in my life and the lives of those I love—and ultimately when You return to judge the living and the dead.




5/2/17

“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?’” (John 11:25-26, NIV)

Martha’s brother Lazarus had died, and Jesus hadn’t been there to prevent it. But Jesus’ presence brings hope where there would otherwise be despair.

You and I are sometimes in Martha’s position, and the only solid place to anchor our hope is in the One who has authority even over life and death. There is ultimately no life outside of Jesus, and ultimately no death in union Him. 

Where are you needing to believe Jesus again—trusting that He has power to do more than you can ask or imagine, and that His goodness is even bigger than your desire for Him?

Prayer: God, I cannot bring life to myself....But You are the resurrection and the life. In every area where I am stuck in sin or death or despair, You are my salvation and life and hope—my all. I trust in You, and entrust myself to You, who died and rose from the dead for me—even when I can’t yet see how you will bring life from death in or around me.




4/25/17

“Restore us again, God our Savior,

and put away your displeasure toward us.

Will you be angry with us forever?

Will you prolong your anger through all generations?

Will you not revive us again,

that your people may rejoice in you?

Show us your unfailing love, Lord,

and grant us your salvation.” (Psalm 85:4-7, NIV)

 

Even if you feel you can’t pray, this is a prayer you can still say. Even if you feel your faith is dead, this is something you can still ask of God. When you are angry, apathetic, or filled with doubt, these are words you can still cry out.

So ask the God of the universe to give you life—the God who has given us life in His Son (see 1 John 5:11, NIV). A prayer that is in one sense answered even before we pray it, and we appropriate the answer as we ask, as we embrace Christ as our life, and as God reveals Himself. “Everyone who asks receives....” (Matthew 7:8, NIV)

Prayer: God, revive me! In Jesus’ name, amen.



4/18/17

This past Sunday, we focused on the account of Jesus raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead. He has authority to give life to the dead, even to us. But He’s not just the Lord of the mountaintop experiences; He’s also the Lord of everyday, “mundane” life before and after those mountaintop experiences.

 

In Luke 8:54-55 we read of Jesus raising Jairus’ daughter:

 

“....he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up....” (NIV)

 

An amazing moment! But it continues:

 

“Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat.”

 

Jesus didn’t just care about raising her to life; He also cared about her life itself even after that moment.

 

Jesus isn’t just Lord of Easter Sunday; He’s also Lord of the following Monday...and Tuesday...and Wednesday—“ordinary” days that might not feel exciting or extra-ordinary. Even in the mundane, He is still alive; He is still King; and we whom He has purchased and given new life to at the cross and empty tomb are still His very own.



4/11/17

Spring has finally arrived! But while some are relishing the change, others are feeling that spring has arrived but that they are still stuck in winter. Spring can be a time of enjoyment, or depression.

 

Sometimes Easter celebrations can feel similar: Some of us will arrive at Sunday with a sense of joy and excitement; others will feel left behind—even mocked—by the joy of the resurrection. The world has moved on, and I’m left behind.

 

But while Easter is certainly for those who come brimming with joy, it is also for those who feel left behind, dark, and lifeless. Because Easter is about our God who raises the dead! Jesus went all the way to death for us, and He rose to give the dead life—even you and me.

 

So even if you feel grief instead of joy, and winter instead of spring, come join in worship on Easter—trusting in the One who rose to give life to the dead.

 

Romans 4 gives a powerful call to faith, for those who can’t yet see the new life God has ushered in at Easter. I’d encourage you to read it. Then along with Abraham, face the facts in your life that seem so dark, but finally anchor yourself on the even bigger fact of God’s faithfulness—the God who gives life to the dead.

 

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Romans 4 (NLT):

 

Abraham was, humanly speaking, the founder of our Jewish nation. What did he discover about being made right with God? 2 If his good deeds had made him acceptable to God, he would have had something to boast about. But that was not God’s way. 3 For the Scriptures tell us, “Abraham believed God [when God promised Him many ancestors], and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” [Gen. 15:6]

 

4 When people work, their wages are not a gift, but something they have earned. 5 But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners......

 

........16 So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift. And we are all certain to receive it, whether or not we live according to the law of Moses, if we have faith like Abraham’s. For Abraham is the father of all who believe. 17 That is what the Scriptures mean when God told him, “I have made you the father of many nations.” This happened because Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing.

 

18 Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping—believing that he would become the father of many nations. For God had said to him, “That’s how many descendants you will have!”* 19 And Abraham’s faith did not weaken, even though, at about 100 years of age, he figured his body was as good as dead—and so was Sarah’s womb.

 

20 Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. 21 He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises. 22 And because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous. 23 And when God counted him as righteous, it wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit. It was recorded 24 for our benefit, too, assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God. (NLT)

 

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God is still in the business of raising the dead and of reconciling sinners to Himself, making them (even you and me!) beloved sons and daughters. Come and be reminded of this on Sunday—even if you still feel mired in winter.



4/4/17

It is so easy to live as if I’m entitled to so many good things, and when I don’t receive what I think I deserve, I respond with anger, self-pity, and resentment. But that attitude forgets the cross: Jesus took what I deserved so I—united with Him—could receive what He deserves.

Self-pity and pride demand what they think they are entitled to; only humility asks for grace. And God gives grace to the humble.

James 4:6-10, NIV: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

LORD, in this season of Lent I see what I was entitled to: what Jesus suffered on the cross for me. I come before You humbled, desperate for what I’m not entitled to but what You delight to give anyway: Your grace. Thank you that You show favor even to me, humbling me and lifting me up in Your arms!”

 

3/28/17

We read about Jesus in Isaiah 53:8, seven hundred years before His crucifixion:

“By oppression and judgment he was taken away.

Yet who of his generation protested?

For he was cut off from the land of the living;

for the transgression of my people he was punished.” (NIV)

                                             

LORD, You were punished for our transgressions, so there is no punishment left for us who have taken refuge in You. Thank you, Lord, and please give us an increasing awareness of the magnitude of Your love and claim on us, and give us opportunities to lead others to You.



3/21/17

We read about Jesus in Isaiah 53:7, some seven hundred years before His crucifixion:

“He was oppressed and afflicted,

yet he did not open his mouth;

he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,

and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,

so he did not open his mouth.” (NIV)

 

If someone criticizes me, I can hardly stop from defending myself to try to ward off the pain of criticism—even if I know that their criticism is fair.

 

But Jesus didn’t even open His mouth to ward off unjust criticism, or His excruciating death and the weight of our sin laid on His shoulders.  

 

He could have done far more than defend Himself: He could have spoken a word for an army of angels to decimate all those mocking and beating Him. He could have revealed His perfect innocence and holiness, driven us to our knees, and justly pronounced the death sentence on us. But He went to the cross, and stayed there until it was finished....not opening His mouth because He was dying for us. There was no other way to bring us back home to the Father’s embrace, but for God Himself to die in our place.

 

I think that Jesus’ silence was an expression of His immense security (knowing exactly who He is even when in the face of others’ blindness) and His immense love for us. He loved us enough to take the blame for me and you, all the way to conviction and death.

 

LORD, You have taken the blame on our behalf, and we no longer bear it. Purchased by and united to Jesus, there is now no condemnation for us. We praise You and thank You for Your immense glory and love! Please pour out into our hearts the very same confidence and love that You so powerfully expressed for us at the cross. And You answer this prayer, for You have given us Your Holy Spirit—Your very presence living in us!