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Letting grace move us

Father God, Lord of life, You provide us in every way & for every need. You keep us running, direct our hearts & sustain our souls, body & mind. You bring us life & a hope we can call on every single day. We come seeking You out in all these ways & more every day, because outside of You, we have nothing. On our own we have no hope, no strength, no provision, only empty promises we make to ourselves, but have no power to see through to the end. Forgive us our failings & pride, guiding us to completion in Jesus Christ instead. Empower us through Your Holy Spirit to walk with You today. We need to desperately & deeply. You are our rock & refuge. Restore us & bring glory to Yourself. We bless Your holy Name. Amen.

1 Corinthians 1:1-9

Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes,

To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Do you feel called by God? Can you sense His will at work in your life? Have you ever felt sent by Him to do a particular work? Do you know what that connection feels like & what it is He compels you to accomplish?

Here’s what we find to help us answer those questions. Paul begins by acknowledging these callings in his own life. God has made them abundantly clear. He says that he is called to do these things & that the church in Corinth is called to be a gathering of saints that call upon the Name of Jesus Christ. He acknowledges the call of an individual & the call of the gathering of believers collectively. There are things that we must do on our own & there are activities that we participate in together. That’s not revolutionary or difficult to comprehend, but there are temptations to neglect one of them or both, from time to time.

We often make excuses & tell ourselves it’s okay that we aren’t doing something that God has called us to as an individual, or that it’s not a big deal that we aren’t serving corporately with the rest of the body. But when we look at the second part of the passage today, we find out just what we are missing when we stand apart from this work of God in us.

Paul begins talking about grace & peace that comes to us through Christ. He acknowledges that this same grace is a gift from Christ and how He enriches us in every way through that grace. He blesses our strength. He blesses our knowledge. He blesses our speech & fills us so we do not lack in any gift. This all comes from walking in His will & in being obedient to the call of grace on our lives.

Grace doesn’t call us to simply rest in Him, which it does provide. Grace doesn’t call us to simply know about itself, which is part of how peace works its way in us. Grace calls us to an active participation in the Gospel work in us, it leads us into a new way of living, a movement in the rhythms it provides us, and in those rhythms, we find a new cadence for our lives that brings fulfillment, hope, peace & joy that we can in turn share with others. None of this is passive. None of this is meant to belong only to us. We live this & share in this together. This is what grace does. We are called, provided for & encouraged by grace into a deeper love, a full life & a living hope.

Because of this grace, we can also stand guiltless before God, and that is the greatest gift of all. This is what Jesus has provided for us through His life, death, burial & resurrection. Grace makes the calling & the life of dedicated obedience possible & it brings us to God’s unending well of joy, peace & fulfillment. It’s a wonderful place to be & a deep joy to walk out day by day. Christ is revealed in us through it all. Let Him reveal Himself in your life today. Seek His leading. Walk in His rhythms.

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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!

Wonderful Wednesday is Coming…

Father, Creator of light & life, guide our pathway in Your wisdom.Help us to see. Your ways are higher than our own, Your intentions more secure than the heavens themselves. What we call wisdom is utter foolishness compared to Your truth, wisdom & knowledge. Give us eyes to see & ears to hear. Give us faith where ours falls short. Help us to see Your handiwork all around us, & prepare our hearts for today & the days yet to come. Give us strength to stand, so that we might endure & give glory to Your Name.
It’s through Jesus I come to You & make my requests known. Amen.

Luke 21:29-38
29 And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. 30 As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. 31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

34 “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

37 And every day he was teaching in the temple, but at night he went out and lodged on the mount called Olivet. 38 And early in the morning all the people came to him in the temple to hear him.

We had this great day every spring when we went to Milligan College & I am very glad to say the practice still continues. Depending on the day of the week when it occurs, it will have a different name, but it is affectionately referred to as “Wonderful Wednesday.” As an alumnus, I still get an itch for Wonderful Wednesday every spring. When the weather starts to turn, & when the world starts to wake up again, I still long for a “Wonderful Wednesday.” So, very kindly, the president of the college will at least acknowledge that desire with us all & periodically sends out an “excuse note” that we can playfully offer to our employers & supervisors if we so desire. Here is last year’s note:

Wonderful Wednesday Note

There are signs all around us that Wonderful Wednesday is somewhere on the near & coming horizon. Our anticipation grows & we begin to look for it every single day. We wake up, waiting for the notice that was slid under our door in the middle of the night, by surprise, letting us know that classes have been cancelled for the day & that we want to wear something we don’t mind getting really wet, dirty or even ruining. And we will eat very well, too. It’s a great day!

Jesus has been talking about the coming of The End here in Luke 21 & He has been very clear & open with the fact that there will be things that happen to tip us off to its proximity. He also lets us know that there will be other things that occur, other events that will feel an awful lot like the end, but they’re just a part of the stage being set for the final act.

However you slice it, though, Jesus is giving us an assurance that the day of Judgment is indeed coming & that we ought to be prepared for it. And since we don’t know when that day or hour will occur, we need to be ready for it every. single. day. Just like Wonderful Wednesday, we need to wake up with anticipation growing in our bones. We need to look for the signs of its coming & we need to talk about it with people, sharing it with people who don’t know about it. Wonderful Wednesday, as an alumnus, is a teaching tool for people who didn’t attend Milligan. It’s an opportunity for us to wax nostalgic & brag on our school. We want to talk about Wonderful Wednesday because we enjoyed it so much.

Jesus knows that we all live in anticipation of The End, & so we must choose our attitude towards it. We can either use it as a point of fear or a point of triumph. If you view it from a point of fear, you are less likely to talk about it, less likely to address it personally & more likely to pretend that it doesn’t exist. But if you are looking forward to it, if you anticipate it with joy, then you’re going to get yourself psyched up for it, & being excited about it you naturally engage other people with its coming.

So it takes strength to make it to that day, because this life is difficult & full of distractions. There are worries & concerns that drag us down & pull us away from our focus in Christ. So He encourages us to stay awake, to pray & to look forward to the end with an eternal perspective that will help to propel beyond the hard days & into the joy that is to come.

No one knows when that divine note will slide under the doorway of our reality, & when Jesus will crash through letting us know that classes are permanently cancelled. But until that Marvelous Monday, or Terrific Tuesday (or whatever it is) rolls around, we need to live in joyful anticipation of the return of our Lord & Master, our Savior & King Jesus. And we do this by walking in the rhythms of His grace, every day, sharing the joy we have found in Him.

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

==

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.

That Immeasurable Greatness

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Hubble Deep Space View

Lord, grant us this grace, that as servants of Your unending love, as ambassadors of mercy in Your Name, that You would open the eyes of our hearts, that we may better see and express Your immeasurable greatness to our broken and sinful world. Grow our confidence, give us a holy boldness that defies principalities and powers and withstands the onslaught of the enemy. May he break around us (because of Your presence) as water breaks around a rock. All things, especially us, are under Your feet, O Righteous One!

Ephesians 1:15-23
15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

If you live in a city, and odds say that you do, if you look up into the night sky on a clear winter’s evening, you will see a handful of stars spread out across the inky, deep blackness of space. If you’ve ever been outside of the city at night, you’ll also know that if you look up into the night sky on a clear winter’s evening, you will see a innumerable panoply of stars and galaxies, gaseous clusters, unblinking planets and a greater whole of the starry host (so far as the human eye can perceive them.)

So foreign are the real night skies to Los Angeles that in 1994, after the Northridge earthquake jostled Angelenos awake at 4:31 a.m., the observatory received many calls asking about “the strange sky they had seen after the earthquake.”

“We finally realized what we were dealing with,” Krupp said. “The quake had knocked out most of the power, and people ran outside and they saw the stars. The stars were in fact so unfamiliar; they called us wondering what happened.”

When we blind ourselves with our own false glory, it becomes difficult to see what God has already done. When we build ourselves up, a la the Tower of Babel, we give ourselves a false view of reality that keeps us from seeing what really matters and from gazing upon the Immeasurable Greatness of God. We exchange cheap, temporary light for the real thing, and we act like what we have created is some big deal. Nominal output from a 60 watt incadescent is 740 lumens. The sun produces 2.12×10^28 lumens (aka 21,200,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 lumens.)

But because of His grace, God has placed our planet almost 93 million miles away from this behemoth of burning gas. (Science Alert) So, if the extraterrestrial solar radiation is 1367 watts per square meter, then the direct sunlight at Earth’s surface when the Sun is at the zenith is about 1050 W/m2, but the total amount (direct and indirect from the atmosphere) hitting the ground is around 1120 W/m2. In terms of energy, sunlight at Earth’s surface is around 52 to 55 percent infrared, 42 to 43 percent visible, and 3 to 5 percent ultraviolet. At the top of the atmosphere, sunlight is about 30% more intense, having about 8% ultraviolet (UV), with most of the extra UV consisting of biologically damaging short-wave ultraviolet.

Direct sunlight has a luminous efficacy of about 93 lumens per watt of radiant flux. This is higher than the efficacy (of source) of most artificial lighting (including fluorescent), which means using sunlight for illumination heats up a room less than using most forms of artificial lighting.

Again, we will always pale in comparison, and still be impressed by what we produce. That’s the fallen nature of man. So, in His Immeasurable Greatness and love, He has allowed us to experience real light, real life through Jesus Christ, removing all cheap substitutes from our field of options, and granting us a place in His presence every day. What great grace and mercy He has on silly, sinful humanity, that He should love us so well. Read this again, and let it be your prayer today, thanking God:

“17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might,”

The Song of our Life

girlliftedhandssunset

Do you remember that feeling? What did it feel like on that day, in that moment when you surrendered your life to Christ? Can you still remember the lightness in your spirit, the joy that overtook you? Can you recall the emotions, the thoughts flying through your mind, the echoes of His love reverberating through your body?

What a glorious day!
Do you remember?
Have you seen a friend or loved one experience this moment for themselves? Have you walk this road with them, led them through times of discussion, questions and prayer? Do you remember the joy you felt as you watched the Holy Spirit begin to infiltrate their mind and heart? Do you remember?

Do you remember what it was like rejoicing for them, with them, because of them as they came up out of the waters of baptism? Do you remember wiping that tear from your eye? Do you remember that understanding that God truly had been at work in you in order for this person to be in this place at this time? Do you remember what it was like being part of something so much bigger than yourself?

This is the best song of our hearts, the magnum opus of our life, that God would take the single note of our life and blend it with the notes of others, creating a hymn of joy for His Name’s sake! In faith we followed, and in faithfulness, He followed through. He did just as He had promised. Do you remember?

The joy that comes from leaving sin behind, and pursuing the life that God intends, when His wrath was taken from us and placed on Jesus. Do you remember that feeling? When you truly felt for the first time, that you were beginning to grasp the weight of what Jesus had done for you. Do you remember? Did you cry? Did it break your heart? Were tears running down your face? Did you find yourself sobbing? Do you remember?

Do you remember the relief that came over you when you realized that you were square with God? Do you recall the peace that washed over you when you realized that you could indeed stand before your perfect and holy Creator-King and, because you are clothed with Christ, you could withstand the meeting? Are you reminded of this every time you take communion, when you humbly draw near to Him?

If we remember these things, then you’ll understand the heart of Isaiah as he penned these words over 2400 years ago. Listen and remember:

You will say in that day:
“I will give thanks to you, O Lord,
    for though you were angry with me,
your anger turned away,
    that you might comfort me.

“Behold, God is my salvation;
    I will trust, and will not be afraid;
for the Lord God is my strength and my song,
    and he has become my salvation.”

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say in that day:

“Give thanks to the Lord,
    call upon his name,
make known his deeds among the peoples,
    proclaim that his name is exalted.

“Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously;
    let this be made known in all the earth.
Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion,
    for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”
Isaiah 12:1-6 (ESV)

Give thanks to the LORD for He is good! His love endures forever!
Sing, O daughter Zion! Cry out to Him, O Bride of Christ
!
Exalt in the Lord your Maker! Rejoice in His great love!
He has bent the swords into plowshares, and has drawn the nations to Himself!
From everlasting to everlasting, He is God.
He is glorified, and will glorify Himself! Amen & Amen!
Sing out, O my soul, and praise the One who saves us from death,
Spread His glory across the earth, spread it to all mankind!

Gather men, women and children from every tongue and tribe and nation to rejoice in the song of the Lamb who was slain, yet lives!
He alone is worthy!

Coming back around

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A year has passed.
I’m blowing the dust off the blog, and getting back into my writing. I initially took a break because I found that my motivations for writing had lapsed from being devotional toward becoming a walk through a lesson plan. Being a teacher by nature, I struggle with this quite often, and so I have to mix up my methods to keep my heart in the right place as I have my daily encounters with God.

It’s silly to say that a lot has happened over the past year, because a lot naturally happens in the course of 366 days (it’s a leap year) but it really has for us. I’m not going to try to walk through all of that today, but bits and pieces will make their way through over time.

For now, suffice it to say, I am beginning a new rotation through my devotional time. I am two weeks into a new prayer schedule that I am really enjoying, and my desire to be up and moving super early is coming back.

I may reflect on my daily reading, my prayer time or even on something from another author or minister during this time. I have several people who ask me questions about faith & practice on a regular basis, so I may work through my thoughts & answers in this format, too.

Regardless of where we may find ourselves a year out from the last time I wrote, may God bless you & keep you. May He make His face to shine upon you & bring you His peace.

In Christ,
Ben

Acts 15:36-41 // When Pride Divides

“36 After some time had passed, Paul said to Barnabas, “Let’s go back and visit the brothers in every town where we have preached the message of the Lord and see how they’re doing.” 37 Barnabas wanted to take along John Mark. 38 But Paul did not think it appropriate to take along this man who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone on with them to the work. 39 There was such a sharp disagreement that they parted company, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed off to Cyprus. 40 Then Paul chose Silas and departed, after being commended to the grace of the Lord by the brothers. 41 He traveled through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.”

Acts 15:36-41

— 

There are times when being right matters and times when being ‘right’ becomes destructive. We have all experienced those moments where we took an argument a little too far. These are the moments that we replay over and over in our head, either trying to desperately self-justify what we did, or in deep regret, we try to identify the moment when we went over the line hoping we can begin to reverse what we’ve done. 

Human pride is a terribly dangerous thing. It separates friendships, like we see here, it destroys families and divides churches. The “My way or the highway” mentality is never going to promote unity. Screaming matches and “because I said so” statements aren’t likely to get someone to come over to your side. Even when speaking like reasonable, compassionate human beings, we can take something too far, or be too set in me pattern of behavior or one philosophy of ‘how things must be done’ that we wind up creating a destructive environment that is hard to recover from. 

Humility in Christ must be at the core of our being, a willingness to listen and to have flexibility in our plans (so long as they honor God & adhere to His Word) must become a part of how we do things. We must prayerfully approach situations that we know are going to be hot-button issues and seek out God’s way over our own ego’s desire. This isn’t easy to remember to do. It requires a very intentional self-awareness and an active knowledge of our own flaws and tipping points. 
Sometimes, the best response to a heated argument is to step away, prayerfully think through everything that has been said and to take careful consideration of the other person’s point of view. Our hearts are not naturally inclined to do this. It takes a great deal of discipline & humility. But if it really is just a matter of opinion and has nothing to do with maintaining the truth of the Gospel, then we need to be willing to preserve unity over preserving our own ‘rightness.’ 

A disjointed church is not the best witness that she could be, and every church congregation has her own issues and struggles. But we should all do whatever we can to see her shine bright and be a consistent witness as we GoLove others in Jesus’ Name.

  

Acts 7:1-8 // Jesus and the story of Redemption (pt 1)

1 “Is this true?” the high priest asked.

2 “Brothers and fathers,” he said, “listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he settled in Haran, 3 and said to him:

“Get out of your country

and away from your relatives,

and come to the land

that I will show you.”

4 Then he came out of the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. From there, after his father died, God had him move to this land you now live in. 5 He didnt give him an inheritance in it, not even a foot of ground, but He promised to give it to him as a possession, and to his descendants after him, even though he was childless. 6 God spoke in this way:

“His descendants would be strangers

in a foreign country,

and they would enslave

and oppress them 400 years.

7 I will judge the nation

that they will serve as slaves, God said.

After this, they will come out

and worship Me in this place.”

8 Then He gave him the covenant of circumcision. After this, he fathered Isaac and circumcised him on the eighth day; Isaac did the same with Jacob, and Jacob with the 12 patriarchs.”

Acts 7:1-8

There is a lot of trust, faith even, that begins God’s story of redemption through Abram and his future offspring. From the very beginning, faith has been the hinge-point. Abram and his family had to trust God when they left where they were living to begin this new life with Him in the lead. They relocated again after his father died in Haran before settling in Canaan. But even then, Abram lived as a nomad, travelling with his flocks and herds as the seasons changed, in the land God promised to his descendants. Then God promises, along with the land and it’s abundance, a period of oppression and slavery under a foreign thumb. 

What kind of promise is that?

“I’m going to set you and your family here, but first, you are going to be slaves.”

Would you want to listen to that promise? Would you even consider it as an option? Probably not.

But Abram did…and we ask “Why?” 

Because Abram knew that he was dealing with YHWH Elohim, and not some capricious human being or false god.  He wasn’t going to move him around just to mess with him. He wasn’t going to allow his grandchildren and great grandchildren to go into slavery just because He thought it might be fun. YHWH Elohim had a greater plan in mind and Abram believed him. Hebrews tells us that God credited it to him as righteousness. Trust and faith cannot be separated. It would be silly to say otherwise. Trust is part of the definition of faith. And Abram had faith that God’s plan was bigger and better than anything he could ever have divised for himself, and that if there was something difficult to deal with along the way, that God had a greater purpose in mind for it. God didn’t cause the Israelites the pain of their future slavery, He allowed it, and there is a great difference to understand there. 

When Stephen began this sermon to the Sanhedrin in Acts 7, he began with the reminder of suffering and redemption. This element was a common theme through the life and history of the Jewish people. God gave direction, the people listened for a short time, they became apathetic & rebelled, they were faced with the consequences for their sins and upon their repentance, God saved them. 

Over and over again, God saves them. 

And it all began with Abram & the faith he had in God’s ability to make good come from the mess of life. And God would do this within the rhythms of His grace. The constant pulse of His great love, the beating of His heart, would be a comfort to His children all throughout their history with Him & He promised this to Abram form the very beginning. He promised His presence through the good (inheriting lands and the expansion of his family) and through the bad (oppression, slavery and pain.) 

Stephen wanted them to remember in their hearts what they knew in their minds: that God loved them and had a plan that was bigger then them or their own wisdom. God’s plan was deeper, wider and stretched further than the control they were trying to exercise over it, and in turn, Him. Stephen began this first and last sermon trying to get them to recall the faith they were supposed to have in God and in His ability to save His people, and so he told the story of their collective hearts in an attempt to get them to see the role that Jesus played in this great love story. 

AS we try to GoLove people, we need to remember these rhythms of grace as we speak and serve, teach and share with them. We need to take their hearts on the journey that God has mapped out, show them His heart in His dealings with people, and express His concern for the souls of men, His role in seeing justice done and freedom brought into the lives of all of us who are oppressed by sin. Even if it is our first and last ‘sermon,’ it will be totally worth it to speak the love of God to a hurting heart. 

  

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