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Thank God.

LORD of reconciliation, Master of mercy, Author of true joy, there is no greater hope to be found than the hope You have provided through Jesus Christ. You alone have the words of life, there is nowhere else to turn. Peace flows from the veins of Christ across all of us who were once at war with You, & You have drawn us near, glorifying Yourself. This is not our effort, but Yours, not our battle, but Yours, not our righteousness, but Yours & You alone are praised for the defeat of sin & death & victory over the grave rests with You. Open our eyes, revive our hearts & continue to draw glory to Yourself as we spread the Gospel around the world. We pray this through Christ our Lord, amen.

Luke 24:36-53
36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them.

44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

50 And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.

I am real
You wouldn’t think you would ever read through the Scriptures & come out thankful that Jesus ate fish. It’s such a simple action, a basic thing to do. Look at His life with His disciples, how many times do you think Jesus ate fish? Grilled fish, baked fish, boiled fish, broiled fish, stewed fish, smoked fish & I’m sure the possibilities continue. But Jesus takes this common basic thing, this simple sign of something comfortable to reassure His disciples that He is indeed really there with them, present & constant. He’s no spirit, no ghost, no hallucination & He proves it by eating something they themselves prepared. I would have done some small miracle before them, shown myself through a divine sign, proving myself in that way. But He chooses something they can do & duplicate & I think that says an awful lot more.

He wanted them to know without a shadow of a doubt that He was indeed alive, present & moving forward into the next phase of life & covenant with them. A risen Savior is a real Savior, & this crew of confused & disheartened disciples needed something they could sink their teeth into, like a piece of fish. Jesus provided that for them that wonderful morning.

Forgiveness is real
Not only did Jesus want them to see & understand that He was & is real, He wanted them to remember the context of everything that had just happened & that not one moment of it all was coincidence or accident. He reminded them of the Scriptures they were raised with, a comfortable & familiar remembrance. He reminded them about Moses & the prophets & everything the Father had promised & been promising over the preceding millennia. This was the plan the whole time.

And why? This didn’t happen for nothing, right? This wasn’t something that was done simply for the sake of saying it would be accomplished. This is the promise of God to glorify Himself by the redemption of creation & humanity to Himself. This was all about God offering forgiveness to rebels like them & us & bringing peace & righteousness back into creation. This was the first step in seeing holiness win out over sin & evil. The foot of the Savior was bitten by that serpent, but his head was now thoroughly crushed. This has been the plan since the garden had to be cleared out  & Adam & Eve first perceived their own nakedness & brokenness entered the world. This was all about God’s glory & how He would provide forgiveness to all who would come to Him.

You are witnesses
And Jesus didn’t leave them out, either. In this moment where disbelief & joy slam into each other, Jesus reminded them that they had a part to play in this whole wonderful affair. This wasn’t just something done for them, but to them & would now happen through them. They are -the- witnesses to this universe altering news. They are the ones who would take this first-hand account of holy truth into the world. They are the ones with these words written on their hearts because they lived it, every single moment of it. Where they were feeling hopeless just hours before, & confused just moments ago, Jesus was letting them know from the onset that they had what everyone else needed. They have a purpose to fulfill. They are the bearers of the Gospel of love, peace, mercy, grace & forgiveness, & if this world is going to learn how to walk in the rhythms of grace with God, the it’s going to happen through them sharing all of this good news.

Joy is real
The world needs to know that joy is real. There is so much trouble, so many hurts, so many reasons to mourn & feel trapped in the brokenness & God doesn’t desire for another moment to pass from this one where people don’t know about the beacon of joy that will draw them back into wholeness with Him. Jesus knew that people outside of that room would struggle, & so He was sending out people who had struggled. Jesus knew that people outside that room would doubt, & so He sent out people who wrestled with doubt. He knew that people outside that room would deal with loss, sorrow & pain & so He sent out these people who had those feelings fresh on their hearts.

He knew the world needed joy, so He sent these out who were first to experience it. This fresh message, this amazing truth was needed more deeply than anyone could imagine & this firestorm of joy would burn without ceasing for the millennia to come. The disciples carried it, you & I who are in Christ carry it & the world still desperately needs to know about it. There is work to be done, joy to be spread. The Savior is real. Forgiveness is real. We are the witness to true & lasting joy. Let the whole world hear our praises!

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Sifted & Strengthened

Father, thank You for understanding our weaknesses & loving us enough to expose them to us. Thank You for revealing the depths of our need for You & uncovering our insecurities. Your love for us is infinite & Your mercies are new every morning. Jesus, You have been our Advocate in a way that no one else ever could be. Our flesh is weak, but Holy Spirit, You bring strength to our bones & stamina to our hearts. Please embolden us for today & sustain us until tomorrow within Your peace. We lack nothing with You & remain impoverished without You. We praise You for Your great grace, O God. Carry us through our season of need & be glorified in the process. We are Yours.
This we acknowledge in Jesus’ Name, amen.

Luke 22:31-38
31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” 33 Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” 34 Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”

35 And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” 36 He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. 37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” 38 And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.”

I think we all know what it feels like to be sifted. Shaken & tossed, who we are at the core is exposed & we feel like we have been left bare to the world. Any covering we may have had is removed & we are left open & we feel vulnerable. I’m sure Peter felt exposed when Jesus spoke about this, his own fears & weaknesses laid bare before his friends. It probably hurt, I guarantee it did. I imagine that Peter’s face went ashen when Jesus spoke to him about this & even when he tried to defend his love for Christ, Jesus revealed how quickly his denial would come.

We all have aspirations for ourselves within our faith.We have an image of our own devotion & strength for Jesus, & this ‘best case scenario’ of our faith-life is rarely reality when the pressure is one & it’s time to speak up or take steps of real faith. We tell ourselves stories, we are creative in justifying what we do & how we live. But when it comes down to it, we will deny, just like Peter did, that we have the capacity for such a quick falling away. But the proof is in the pudding, & belief is tested by pressure. We revert quickly to who we actually are when those moments come & Jesus wanted Peter to be prepared & to hear a word of grace before it came for him.

No one want to be left feeling inadequate, especially for the One who conquered death & sin & saved us from facing the wrath of God. But it wasn’t our strength that sent Jesus through His Passion & it wasn’t our righteousness that allowed Him to serve as our perfect sacrifice. We brought nothing to the table in this regard, we were continue to be inadequate when it comes to strength & saving ourselves. But Jesus is sufficient. Jesus is more than enough for us all. So when Peter was told about his coming failure & when you & I see our own moments of stumbling coming along, we can be reminded that it ids Jesus who brought grace & it is God’s Holy Spirit that fills us with the grace we need & provides us with strength for every obstacle.

Satan will always be our accuser, until the day he is defeated with a word & God’s judgment comes for all of us. He desires to ruin us & break God’s heart in the process. Jesus said it best, that he comes to steal, kill & destroy. But Jesus came so that we might have life & have it abundantly. When the enemy tries to attack or to remind us of past failures, we need to remember that Jesus has already opened the doorway to forgiveness with His own blood & that the devil holds no authority over us & his accusations fall flat. When we receive Jesus as Savior & Lord, our names are covered by His Name. Our identities are found in Him, not in our past, not in our mistakes & not in our weaknesses.

All glory & honor & praise go to Him for His great grace & love. He calls us to walk daily in those rhythms, not the old discord that used to define us, but in new rhythms of His grace & His love. We may still stumble, but He has already stooped to serve & help us stand again. May we be bold for Him & trust in the depths of His strength & His awesome forgiveness. He alone is worthy & makes us worthy in Himself. Thank God for that today.

The Lowest Moments Begin

Sovereign Lord, I must confess there are things I do not understand, & events that are difficult for me to fully comprehend. Betrayal by a close friend, a compatriot, a partner in ministry is such an abhorrent thing, but Jesus experienced it, too. Divisive, poisoned thoughts, selfish prioritizing, & an apparent refusal to express what was on his heart to Jesus…this all led to his downfall. The world is full of this type of behavior, but that doesn’t make it easier to accept. Father, give us strength to be honest & open with one another in love. Give us the grace to walk in the light as You are in the light. Release us from selfishness & pride as we walk with Jesus. May we glorify You. It is through Christ we pray, amen.

Luke 22:1-6
1Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death, for they feared the people.

Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of a crowd.

So the Passover celebrations were beginning, a day of remembrance & delivery from slavery. So much speaking to freedom, a removal of the yoke of oppression & there is no doubt that Judas had felt that yoke from the Romans for as long as he thought he could stand it. He saw what he thought was the perfect timing, the perfect opportunity to stand up & point things in what he thought was the right direction. He felt his motives were right, he was convinced that he knew best & there was no way that he could mess this up.

I know some people speculate that Judas betrayed Jesus in order to provoke Him to do something miraculous, something that would force His hand so He might begin the overthrow of the Romans. Others say he did all this because he was tired of seeing Jesus refuse the kingship that the people were trying to press on Him. He made his own plans for the Messiah. There are plenty of other ways to attempt to explain the actions of Judas Iscariot, but no matter how the events came together in his heart & mind, he still wound up betraying Jesus & it resulted in His death by crucifixion.

It seems like everyone was aware that something was coming. Judas knew, the chief priests & scribes knew, the people had picked up on it & things were coming to a conclusion of some sort. Desperation comes into play. Social pressure leans heavily on people & impatience becomes a minute-by-minute struggle. Justifications are made & evil’s presence is secured. Judas was entered by Satan, who is always looking for opportunity, & things were set for this most horrendous betrayal, this ultimate rejection of God by humanity.

Betrayal is ugly. There is no way to make it less than what it is. It is painful. It is cruel. It is unfeeling. It is soul-wounding. But Jesus came to bear it all for us. He wasn’t spared anything. Judas would betray, a stab in the back by a close friend. The High Priests would betray God, the final snub that expressed their desire for self over submission. The people would shout “Crucify,” their voices echoing the hollowness in their spiritual walk. Even His closest friends would abandon Him. And Jesus would experience every moment of it.

This is the love of God poured out for us. That Jesus would come, take on our flesh & all the suffering that comes with it. The Prophet reminds us that He is a man of sorrows & acquainted with suffering, David saw His bones exposed through skin & God the Father had spoken of this moment from the beginning with Adam & Eve at the Fall of humanity. Everything was coming to a climax, & God allowed what needed to be allowed while He orchestrated our release from death & the bondage of sin. Pride & betrayal began it all & pride-laced betrayal would bring about the solution.

Father, give us eyes to see & ears to hear the correction that comes from You & in Your love. Teach us to obey You & reveal the intentions of our own hearts to us as we walk in the rhythms of Your grace & in the power of Your Holy Spirit. Open our eyes so we might see, open our ears so we might hear. Open our heart so we would be aware of our own struggles & receive the light of Christ as our daily guide. Please forgive us our pride-filled weaknesses & poor judgment. In Jesus Name, amen.

No Surprise

Father of Peace, Lord over creation, Sovereign God –
Thank You for Your Word. It’s a blessing to rest in Your promises & Your revelations bring us strength. You give our hearts a place to rest & our souls confidence through darkest days. It is easy to see why people live in distress over what is left to come. It’s not hard to understand how they get wrapped up in concerns & fears regarding the destruction of civilization & the end of all things. But You have given us confidence beyond these moments, a hope that presses beyond the temporary hardships of life, no mater how severe. Thank You for Jesus, who reveled these things, and for Your Holy Spirit, who sustains us even today. You bless us & keep us in Your presence, no matter what storm rages. I thank You & bless Your Holy Name today. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Luke 21
20 “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, 22 for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. 23 Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people. 24 They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

25 “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, 26 people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Have you ever walked in on a situation already in progress? People are distressed. Something bad has happened, but you weren’t there to witness it & so you have a moment to assess & an opportunity to be a calming voice. Last year, Beth & I were in Florida while I was speaking at a school & we ran out to do a few things before meeting some friends for dinner. On our way back to our condo, we came across a woman lying in the street, bleeding out from her head. She was on her bicycle & had been struck by a car that was pulling out of a gas station parking lot. She wasn’t wearing a helmet, & she was almost unresponsive. I used the rental car to block that lane of traffic & my wife went out to assess & protect the scene while I called 911. We didn’t witness the accident, we were just far enough back on the road to have missed it just before coming up to it. We lacked the shock value of being direct witnesses, but we were still compelled to be compassionate & do whatever was needed to make sure this woman was taken care of, that the driver was consoled & to answer whatever questions the police & first responders may have had for us.

I have spent countless hours over the course of my ministry in hospitals & have seen almost anything & everything you can think might be found in a trauma setting. My wife grew up with a dad who is a doctor, a family full of medical professionals & has received multiple hours of training herself in the course of her college education that focused on the workings of the human body. We had knowledge & experience & were prepared to help handle the situation, knowing how to assess, how to help & even what not to do, because others were more qualified & had the equipment to do what needed to be done for this wounded individual.

Jesus gives us these glimpses of the future for a very similar reason. John is given his revelations to pass along to the church for the same purpose. God wants us to be prepared. He wants us to know what will happen, even if we aren’t to know then when or how of the situations that will arise. He has given us what we need to assess the times, He has provided us with insight to secure & help those who are wounded. He has also provided us with wisdom, through His Holy Spirit & the Word, to know what is ours to be done & what must be accomplished by others. However you slice it, we have work to do in the days & years leading up to these events. We can be a stable help for others more than we need to look out for ourselves.

We see that Jesus also spoke to those who were right there with Him about the destruction of Jerusalem that would occur in 70AD at the hands of the Romans. He speaks to us today about what is still yet to come. Our world, & all the nations in it, experience these times of roaring waves, of distress & tragedy. These events are terrible, but we are not ill equipped to handle them, nor should we be distressed to the point of only seeking to help ourselves rather than lending a hand for others. Jesus told us all these things so that we might point others toward YHWH Ma’on, God our Refuge. He did not share these things so we would feel distress, but to build up hope & trust within us. It should be no surprise that the world will end one day & that God will place His judgment upon everyone, separating sheep from goats, the faithful from the faithless. Even secular people in the Western world know about this day, even if they don’t believe in it personally.

And so as one day progresses to the next, we go about our work for the glory of God & the growth of the kingdom. We walk in the rhythms of grace, secure & unshaken by what goes on around us. We have hope in the One who secures our future & in Whom we find our peace. As the world takes steps in pain due to sin, it is our task to assess, to help & to speak healing to them in the Name of Jesus Christ so they might be prepared for that day, too.

If you need help talking to someone about their future & their relationship with Christ, let these boys be an example for you. The 3 Circles Method

Mystery hidden, now known


Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening. Please give us life according to Your Word. Amen.

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“For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.

This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.”‭Ephesians‬ ‭3:1-13‬ ‭ESV‬‬

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It’s a mystery why God loves us as much as He does. I mean, He’s pretty clear in telling us He does, and we know that there is ample love in Him (as the Author of love) to provide the love we all need. We also know that God always seeks to glorify Himself, and rightfully so, and that He is glorified in loving us who have proved ourselves unworthy of His love. This is grace, intertwined with love, at work in us.

There are many mysteries that God has unfolded through Christ, and has yet to unfold as we await His return. The rejoining of Jew and Gentile together is another. God separated a people (the Israelites) for Himself from the rest of humanity, an exhibition of His love, a story of His grace, and an example of sanctification for all the world to see. And in the process, a line was drawn and a separation occurred. But in this rejoining of Jew & Gentile, God showed Himself to be the Great Uniter, to be the One Who Reconciles and the One Who Heals. There is mystery in this rejoining of peoples, a walking back to His original design, and what we find in Eden. One God, One people.

And He chooses to do this through His church. He made promises through Abraham, echoed them through the generations leading up to Christ’s 1st coming, but it doesn’t seem that anyone truly understood just what He was seeking to accomplish through His church (before He birthed it) and I think we still struggle with this work that He seeks to do through her. This hidden mystery, now known, is revealed through Christ & His bride. We are His servants, and He has chosen to reveal this mystery through us. This is a grace, and nothing that we have earned for ourselves. But we do need to be aware of this grace at work in us. We hold something that others lack. We have a sense of belonging that others long for. That God would, in His own way, in His own timing, in His own will, choose to bless the world through us (as He proclaimed He would do through Abram) we find ourselves as children living in the promise, and that is a great blessing to share, indeed.

We should never discount the mystery at work in us, or pass it off as something that belongs to paid ministry staff.

No this inheritance belongs to all of us who walk in Christ. This mystery and joy is something for us all to share in. And it needs to be shared. This is why Paul went on missionary journeys, started churches and found himself in prison and so often persecuted. This is why he still followed up, returned to places where he was accosted, and built relationships with people that had no spiritual foundation when they first met. He knew that the task was worth it, that God was worth it, that the people who needed Jesus were worth it, and so he simply obeyed, a servant of the mysteries, once hidden, now revealed.

We can share in this joy today. We can enjoy the sweet mystery of the Gospel as we watch God unfold Himself, through our testimony, through the example of Christ at work in us, in the lives and hearts of others who still stand in death and darkness.

“…so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.”

This is my task, and yours, too. We do not invest in this world, but in the mystery of eternity. Because, one day, this mystery will be unfolded to us, and we want to be sure that we have done well with all that He entrusts to us before that day comes to pass.

A Song for the Brokenhearted

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“1 Praise the Lord!
For it is good to sing praises to our God;
    for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.
The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
    he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted
    and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars;
    he gives to all of them their names.
Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
    his understanding is beyond measure.”
Psalm 147:1-5 ESV

How do you respond to someone when they’re brokenhearted? What do you say when someone’s world has come crashing down? What words are there in the midst of tragedy?
Too often, our song of peace for others in these times is silenced because we fear crossing a boundary. We are worried that we will overstep, say too much, maybe, somehow, make things even worse. And so we give someone a nod, a pat on the shoulder, and simply mutter “I’m praying for you.” Then we walk away wishing there was more we could have said, dozens of phrases begin swirling in our head. But we tell our self that the moment has passed, and it’s best not to make it any more difficult of awkward than it already is…

But that is not where we find God. The psalmist points us in the right direction here. By the power of the Holy Spirit at work in his heart and hand, we find this gentle reminder that we can always share. Look at Who God is, and what He does:

1. God is always worthy of praise, no matter what may be going on.
In times of tragedy, we are often reminded of Job. And what does Job say when he has lost his fortune, and more importantly, his own children?

20 Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

22 In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.
Job 1:20-22

It may feel absurd to praise God in these moments, but look at what praise does in us. It restores the most basic function of our life, it reminds us of our purpose…to do just that, praise God. And when we praise God we are comforted by His presence, because when we praise Him, we stand before Him.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
Matthew 5:4

We are comforted when we come into the presence of God, and praise is the remembering of the good things that He has done. In spite of whatever else may be going on, God has been good, is good, and will continue to be good. It is our world that is broken, not Him. And so we praise Him, and in turn we are comforted. He responds when we respond in faith.

2. He builds us up. He heals us. He binds our wounds.

When we feel broken, when others are shattered by the events of life in this sin-wrecked world, when death rears its head and that valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23) looms high over our hearts and heads, we find ourselves still in the almighty clutches of the Good Shepherd (John 10), the Great Physician (John 5) who has promised The Comforter (John 16), The Holy Spirit to be present with us in all things, just as He is (Matthew 28.) He is the Traveler along our road, who stops, stoops down and meets our every need (Luke 10.)
He will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13) He has promised us this. He is near to the brokenhearted, and He knows our pains.

3. He reminds us that He is still in control, ordering our days. He knows all the details, and nothing escapes His watchful eye and loving heart. Listen again to what the psalmist says:

He determines the number of the stars;
    he gives to all of them their names.

When we feel broken, when others are shattered by the events of life in this sin-wrecked world, we look to God and are lovingly reminded of this great truth. If He knows and names the countless stars in a billion, billion galaxies, surely He knows my name, too. He knows my every hurt. He knows what brings me joy, and He knows how to share His peace.

29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 10:29-33

He knows us. He acknowledges us. We need only to turn our eyes back to Him, trust in Him, and remember who holds our days. Again, faith brings us to this point of healing. If we allow a root of bitterness to spring up in us, healing will be longer distant and harder fought.

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;
Hebrews 12:15

Grace is quickly given, but we must also see to it that we allow it to rest on our hearts. It is easy to sink into the mire of depression in a dark season. It is easy to be a party of one, closing ourselves off in a solitary prison of pain. But that root of bitterness grows and strangles, and the answer to it is to seek out God, and serve someone else. Comforting others, even in the midst of our own pain, can be a great healing experience, and help us remember the goodness of God.

3. Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
    his understanding is beyond measure.”

When we feel broken, when others are shattered by the events of life in this sin-wrecked world, we need to submit ourselves to this one unbending truth. God is great. He is abundant in power. We cannot grasp the depths of His understanding. And even if we don’t feel like we have the words to share in the midst of pain, this one thing we do have.
Nothing is beyond our God. No hurt stands beyond His understanding, and even when we feel utterly powerless, God is still Sovereign-over-all. He will never fail us. He is our joy, our rock, our refuge and our hiding place.

He never promises us that we will understand everything that happens in this life, either on this side of eternity or the other. But He guarantees us this: He knows, He is in control & He loves us deeply.

Comfort someone with these truths, or allow God to be your point of comfort in the midst of your own trials.

You_are_not_alone.

Psalm 118

1Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    for his steadfast love endures forever!

Let Israel say,
    “His steadfast love endures forever.”
Let the house of Aaron say,
    “His steadfast love endures forever.”
Let those who fear the Lord say,
    “His steadfast love endures forever.”

Out of my distress I called on the Lord;
    the Lord answered me and set me free.
The Lord is on my side; I will not fear.
    What can man do to me?
The Lord is on my side as my helper;
    I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.

It is better to take refuge in the Lord
    than to trust in man.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
    than to trust in princes.

10 All nations surrounded me;
    in the name of the Lord I cut them off!
11 They surrounded me, surrounded me on every side;
    in the name of the Lord I cut them off!
12 They surrounded me like bees;
    they went out like a fire among thorns;
    in the name of the Lord I cut them off!
13 I was pushed hard,[a] so that I was falling,
    but the Lord helped me.

14 The Lord is my strength and my song;
    he has become my salvation.
15 Glad songs of salvation
    are in the tents of the righteous:
“The right hand of the Lord does valiantly,
16     the right hand of the Lord exalts,
    the right hand of the Lord does valiantly!”

17 I shall not die, but I shall live,
    and recount the deeds of the Lord.
18 The Lord has disciplined me severely,
    but he has not given me over to death.

19 Open to me the gates of righteousness,
    that I may enter through them
    and give thanks to the Lord.
20 This is the gate of the Lord;
    the righteous shall enter through it.
21 I thank you that you have answered me
    and have become my salvation.
22 The stone that the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone.[b]
23 This is the Lord‘s doing;
    it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day that the Lord has made;
    let us rejoice and be glad in it.

25 Save us, we pray, O Lord!
    O Lord, we pray, give us success!

26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
    We bless you from the house of the Lord.
27 The Lord is God,
    and he has made his light to shine upon us.
Bind the festal sacrifice with cords,
    up to the horns of the altar!

28 You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
    you are my God; I will extol you.
29 Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    for his steadfast love endures forever!

Romans 2:12-16 // Law & Judgment

“12 All those who sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all those who sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For the hearers of the law are not righteous before God, but the doers of the law will be declared righteous. 14 So, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, instinctively do what the law demands, they are a law to themselves even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts. Their consciences confirm this. Their competing thoughts will either accuse or excuse them 16 on the day when God judges what people have kept secret, according to my gospel through Christ Jesus.”

Romans 2:12-16
==

So, who is it then that does the Law that will then be declared righteous? It is good for us to desire to obey God. It is good for us to act in that obedience, walking according to His statutes. But in reality, none of us are capable of keeping the Law. We will break it, struggling against our own sin, even as we try our best to walk according to the will of God. 

Does that mean that we are without hope? No! Because of the grace of God given to us in Christ Jesus, He who does not allow for sin has made a way to continue to lift us up even when we do stumble. Through Jesus, He has made a way for us to be made holy even when we have been soiled with sin. Now, does that mean we kee on sinning, knowing that God will forgive us? As Paul will later say, “By no means!” we cannot continue in our sin, intentionally living in rebellion. We must make the consious effort to walk according to the will of God, choosing His ways over our own. The desire to do this comes from the movement of His Spirit within us, not from some sense of weighted obligation. It is based in love & thanksgiving, coming from that change of heart that He works in us through His grace. 

Being a doer of the Law is evidence of this, not what draws the Spirit to us. That would put the power in our hands, as if we had some authority over God. No, we work and move according to His will, under His authority & because of His grace. Every marker, every bit of evidence points toward Him, bringing Him glory & honor. It isn’t about us. It isn’t about putting ourselves up on a pedestal. It’s about humbly submitting to Him, letting His light shine. In showing that the Law of God is written on our hearts, we show that He has worked a miracle in us, changing our sinful inclinations into righteousness. It is by His power that we live & move. It should then be for His honor that we do whatever it is we set our minds to, whatever tasks are produced by our lives of faithfulness. 

God’s desire for man is plain. Even without the Law, people still know that murder, theft, lying & other such activities are wrong. There is no mystery to this. God has set a compass in the hearts of mankind that point us toward a sense of right & wrong, a desire to see justice done. So, as Paul says, the Spirit speaking through him, we are all without excuse. People will ask about the groups that never hear the Gospel, the people who were never taught the Law. Well, God’s answer to that series of questions is found here, too. Those who hear it are judged by it. Those who do not are judged differently, but they are still judged. God is fair & He is just. We must trust Him to do what is right & to weigh the hearts & lives of men. He will not act contrary to His own nature or statutes. He is unchanging. 

As we GoLove others, we must tell them about the expectations that God holds for us, every single one of us. We who know are responsible. We who have the truth are the ones who have been commissioned to share it with the world. We do not bear the weight of judging the souls of men, but we will be held accountable for bearing the message to them. We do this, partly, by walkingin the rhythms of His grace every day, walking according to His will. 

Acts 28:23-31 // Boldness & Authority

“23 After arranging a day with him, many came to him at his lodging. From dawn to dusk he expounded and witnessed about the kingdom of God. He tried to persuade them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets. 24 Some were persuaded by what he said, but others did not believe.

25 Disagreeing among themselves, they began to leave after Paul made one statement: ‘The Holy Spirit correctly spoke through the prophet Isaiah to your ancestors 26 when He said,

‘Go to these people and say:

You will listen and listen,

yet never understand;

and you will look and look,

yet never perceive.

27 For the hearts of these people

have grown callous,

their ears are hard of hearing,

and they have shut their eyes;

otherwise they might see with their eyes

and hear with their ears,

understand with their heart,

and be converted,

and I would heal them.’

28 Therefore, let it be known to you that this saving work of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen!’ [29 After he said these things, the Jews departed, while engaging in a prolonged debate among themselves.]

30 Then he stayed two whole years in his own rented house. And he welcomed all who visited him, 31 proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with full boldness and without hindrance.”

Acts 28:23-31

==

When it comes down to it, there is only one choice to make: follow God or follow yourself. 

Paul spoke with boldness, unhindered, because he had discovered the joy that comes from walking in the freedom of God. He spoke with authority, because God was the one with authority, & Paul understoof his role within God’s kingdom. As an emmisary for Christ, he had been sent with the authority of Christ, and so he spoke with it, minstered with it and laid things out there that others might be timid to say. But truth is truth, facts are facts, and Paul knew that the authority of God that went with him as he spoke was only meant for being used in this way. God’s authority does not hem and haw, riding a fence, walking a line bewteen two topics, trying to please everyone. It is authoritative. It is final. It is bold. 

Paul cared for his people, he wanted to honor the heart and promises of God, so he always went to them first, to give them first priority, the first opportunity to hear about what God had done. It was the right thing to do as he traveled from town to town. But he also knew that so many of his own people had traded God’s authority out for their own. They wanted their own way, to do things for their own human ‘rightousness’ rather than resting in the promises of God. They had become consumers instead of producers, honoring self over God.  

And so, out of love, and in the authority of God, he told them so openly. He was not being mean or cruel. Instead, he was offering correction and trying to open their eyes one last time. He was showing mercy by quoting the Prophet’s words one more time, because it was something they just might hear. And we see that it did resonate with them to a degree, because they left engaged in debate. 

But here’s the thing, Paul knew his people and he knew his mission. He knew this would likely be the outcome, but he still had to try. His mission was for the Gentiles (the rest of us) and so he pressed forward with the mission of God in the authority that God has given His messengers to deliver the good news of the Gospel, and so he was able to do it with all boldness. Unhindered preaching, open-hearted witnessing, comes from this boldness and it continues when we step aside and leth His Holy Spirit move us. This type of boldness comes from the efforts of the human heart that has surrendered and submitted to Jesus Christ, coming under His authority. Living in petty, human ‘power’ produces weak preaching, a timid witness and a limited reach. Boldness comes from getting out of the way and letting God do His thing through us, wherever we are…

To GoLove people effectively, we need to set out pride and desires aside and trade them in for the authority and power that comes with bearing witness for Jesus Christ in His Name. The book of Acts ends on a ‘high note’ that is only a high note for the Christian. He has been rejected by his people, he sits imprisoned thousands of miles away from home, but Paul is joyful about finally arriving in Rome, and he is ready to preach the Gospel through whatever doors God opens for him. 

Paul is not magical, mystical or some kind of   better-than-the-rest-of-us super human. He is simply a man who surrendered his life to Christ Jesus to be used by Him to GoLove the world in His Name. You Go and do likewise. Be bold. See what God will do.

Acts 26:24-32 // Paul’s Defense, pt 3 // Strength in Difficulty

“24 As he was making his defense this way, Festus exclaimed in a loud voice, ‘You’re out of your mind, Paul! Too much study is driving you mad!’

25 But Paul replied, ‘I’m not out of my mind, most excellent Festus. On the contrary, I’m speaking words of truth and good judgment. 26 For the king knows about these matters. It is to him I am actually speaking boldly. For I am convinced that none of these things escapes his notice, since this was not done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you believe.’

28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, ‘Are you going to persuade me to become a Christian so easily?’

29 ‘I wish before God,’ replied Paul, ‘that whether easily or with difficulty, not only you but all who listen to me today might become as I am — except for these chains.’

30 So the king, the governor, Bernice, and those sitting with them got up, 31 and when they had left they talked with each other and said, ‘This man is doing nothing that deserves death or chains.’

32 Then Agrippa said to Festus, ‘This man could have been released if he had not appealed to Caesar.'”

Acts 26:24-32

==

Read verse 29 again:

‘I wish before God,’ replied Paul, ‘that whether easily or with difficulty, not only you but all who listen to me today might become as I am — except for these chains.’

The chains, being jailed…that was secondary to what was happening for Paul. He had audience with people who did not know Jesus, and so he was going to do whatever he could to share the Good News of the Gospel with them. He wanted them to see and understand the hope that he had in Christ. His heart was going out for them, he was concerned for their salvation, and his personal situation did not play into consideration. 

Personal ease, an easy walk? These are not guaranteed. Jesus has promised to help us through every hardship, but we must keep our focus on Him. It’s not about making everything comfortable for us, but having us in a place where we are needed to do the Gospel work. Ease and comfort are not factors that determine whether or not we do what is required of us. If they were, there would never even be one permenant gathering of belivers. We would get upset with each other and scatter to the wind. Instead, we focus on Christ, not seeking excuses, and we do the work together, the work laid out for us in the Gospel.

If Paul was a consumer, he would be dissatisfied, but as a disciple he was simply doing what his Master asked of him. It could have been easier, yes. He could have settled down in Ephesus and had a fulfilling ministry, sure, but that wasn’t what God wanted of him. And so he did what was required, he pressed on through the difficulty, God giving him strength to do so. 

As we do the work of Christ, answering the call to GoLove others, we have to remember that the work laid out before us is so much more important than our ‘feeling’ comfortable. We must seek our joy in Him, not in situations. We must find our joy in Him, not seeking out what the flesh calls ‘happiness.’ Ministry, our walk as Christians, is not about what is easiest, it is about what is required of us as disciples of Jesus. So, stick with it, power through in His Name and be faithful as Christ has been faithful for you, God getting the glory and giving you the strength to do so through His Holy Spirit. 

Acts 21:1-14 // Bound & Determined

“1 After we tore ourselves away from them and set sail, we came by a direct route to Cos, the next day to Rhodes, and from there to Patara. 2 Finding a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, we boarded and set sail. 3 After we sighted Cyprus, leaving it on the left, we sailed on to Syria and arrived at Tyre, because the ship was to unload its cargo there. 4 So we found some disciples and stayed there seven days. Through the Spirit they told Paul not to go to Jerusalem. 5 When our days there were over, we left to continue our journey, while all of them, with their wives and children, escorted us out of the city. After kneeling down on the beach to pray, 6 we said good-bye to one another. Then we boarded the ship, and they returned home.

7 When we completed our voyage from Tyre, we reached Ptolemais, where we greeted the brothers and stayed with them one day. 8 The next day we left and came to Caesarea, where we entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the Seven, and stayed with him. 9 This man had four virgin daughters who prophesied.

10 While we were staying there many days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 He came to us, took Paul’s belt, tied his own feet and hands, and said, ‘This is what the Holy Spirit says: ‘In this way the Jews in Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into Gentile hands.” 12 When we heard this, both we and the local people begged him not to go up to Jerusalem.

13 Then Paul replied, ‘What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.’

14 Since he would not be persuaded, we stopped talking and simply said, ‘The Lord’s will be done!'”

Acts 21:1-14

==

To the unbeliever or the unstudied, this journey is becoming increasingly unusual. “Why is he going to Jerusalem? Why does he keep pressing on?” You’d think, that after all these warnings, and with all these people telling him not to go, Paul would get some kind of hint to settle down elsewhere and not go to Jerusalem, right? “Just stay in Ephesus, go back to Antioch. Be somewhere safe, and settle down in your old age. No one would blame you.” 

But that’s not what Paul is about. That isn’t his mission. Paul hasn’t been called to retirement. He hasn’t been wired to shut down in the face of adversity. Remember, this is Saul who became Paul. He is a firebrand, a zealous, passionate man! He doesn’t have it in himself to shut up & sit down. God knew this before hand, this is why Paul was chosen for this particular task. Because, while things weren’t going to go well in Jerusalem, Paul wasn’t going to die there. Jerusalem would just be the hingepin that turned his journey in a very specific direction and that will propel him into a place and situation that he could not have manufactured for himself. 

Going to Jerusalem was going to be the death of Paul…eventually. And it was the death of any hope or desire of a simple, comfortable path. Paul would have been glad to keep visiting the churches he had already planted over the course of his missionary journeys. We see just how strong the bonds are in every city that he visits. But, again, this is not the path for Paul. His fierce determination would help see conversations take place that will reach deep into the heart of Rome itself, even into the household of the Emporer. God was going to strengthen him again and again to see this done. Back in chapter 9, God told Ananias that Paul was going to suffer much for the sake of His Name. But this is a suffering that was going to be totally worth it. 

So, Paul was bound & determined to go to Jerusalem. He knew He needed to go & te warnings of the others were just confirmation that he was on the right path. He knew what was going to happen & he was prepared in his heart and mind to face those hardships for the glory of God. 

We aren’t naturally wired to act this way. We want to be safe and comfy and have things be easy. But God has never promised us that. And the ‘easy’ life? It doesn’t require faith as much & so we find a false comfort in the lack of needed effort. We think, “Oh, this is going smoothly, I must be on the right track.” And while there will be times where things are smooth and easy, God does provide those green pastures and still waters, we should be mindful that God has given us power through His Holy Spirit to do things that are more amazing and will have a greater impact than we could ever accomplish on our own if we will just trust Him and go where He leads us. It probably isn’t to be arrested and hauled thousands of miles from home. But it probably is next door, or to the next office/cubicle at work. God has places to use us that are going to require His strength, His wisdom and the determination that His Holy Spirit brings. 

The call to GoLove as we have been loved, should be a deep, resonating call within our hearts. And the more we listen and respond, the more we will experience the power of God at work in us. The difficult path is the one that most often reveals our weaknesses and His glory. Trust Him in those moments. Take the road that scares you a little, and prayerfully see what God is going to do as you must rely on Him & your faith in HIm, rather than your own strength. 

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