Skip to content

Archive for

What the Holy Spirit Does – What Next?

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Key Bible Verse: The Holy Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and walk beside the carriage”  – Acts 8:29

Bonus Reading: Acts 8:26-39

Back in 1984, a young man in our church looked out a window of his home and saw a woman sitting in her den next door. She’d been his neighbor for some time, yet he’d never spoken to her about Christ. Resolving to change that, he rang her doorbell and convinced her of her need for Christ.

The next Sunday she came forward to announce her new faith, and asked if I’d talk to her husband about Christ. During my visit in their home, he also came to faith.

That second Sunday he publicly acknowledged his conversion, and asked me to talk to their grown son, an attorney. The son, too, became a believer.

On the third Sunday, he started down the aisle to announce his newfound joy in Christ. Rising from his seat, his father met him halfway. From their tears, witnessed by our entire congregation, sprang an era of utter revival.

Over the next eight weeks, many families found healing from dysfunction as they committed themselves to Christ. The church added more than 100 members. Attending church became a priority. Who’d dare miss a service whose very existence called the world to a new order of things?

—Calvin Miller in Loving God Up Close

My Response: I’ll pray for a Spirit-driven awakening that I can be part of.

Thought to Apply: Where the Spirit is poured out on the church, it sweeps the believers along in a great river of obedience, praise, and mighty works.—Richard B. Hays

Adapted from Loving God Up Close (Warner Faith, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: Father, I ask for Your Spirit to motivate and enable change in my life that makes me more like Jesus.

 

Advertisements

Ephesians 5:8

Ephesians 5--8

What the Holy Spirit Does – We Are One in the Spirit

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Key Bible Verse: Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? … Any fellowship together in the Spirit?   – Philippians 2:1

Bonus Reading: Acts 2:43-47

The Holy Spirit is the pillar at the center of our togetherness as a community of faith. We long to be one with Christ, but the Spirit is the person of the Trinity we depend on to bring us together to act and worship in oneness.

I’ve never felt the center of God’s community so powerfully as when I visited the catacombs of Saint Sebastian in Rome. Some 525 miles of these catacombs—sunless, subterranean tubes—lace the ground beneath the city of Rome.

These narrow, soft-lava passageways housed the underground community of Christians during the persecutions of Nero and later emperors. But they served as more than hideaways. They became the places where Christians gathered to cheer on their martyrs, to hold each other up in their most desperate hours.

These catacombs furnished the arena of the Spirit’s most important kind of community. In this space ordinary souls, who never thought of themselves as valiant, suddenly found themselves in the community of the Spirit, who forged them into a union able to endure life’s hard times.

The Holy Spirit still forms the center of our best community and inflames us with a common identity and passion.

—Calvin Miller in Loving God Up Close

My Response: I’m most aware of the Spirit’s presence in my church family when …

Thought to Apply: The gathered church is the place of God’s own personal presence [through] the Spirit, by whom God has now revisited His people.—Gordon Fee

Adapted from Loving God Up Close (Warner Faith, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: Father, I ask for Your Spirit to motivate and enable change in my life that makes me more like Jesus.

 

Light

Light into the World

What the Holy Spirit Does – An Attending Presence

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Key Bible Verse: If we are living now by the Holy Spirit, let us follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Galatians 5:25

Bonus Reading: Romans 10:13-15

A boyhood chum had terminal cancer but no faith to sustain him. I found myself praying with him as he trusted Christ, and I was holding his hand as he entered eternity. I summoned the nurse. As I was leaving his room, she arrived with an attending physician. “Were you this man’s pastor?” he asked.

“Yes,” I replied.

“Can you tell me, sir, whether he knew Christ as his Savior?”

“I can,” I said. “I led him to faith some months ago.”

“Oh, thank you,” he said, “I feel so bad. I’ve been his physician for several months but never asked him if he knew Christ as his Lord.”

We parted, but abruptly sensing the leadership of the Spirit, I returned to the room, where the doctor was issuing the death certificate. “Excuse me, sir,” I said, “but I’ve visited people in this hospital for years and met a lot of physicians. But none ever told me he felt guilty for not having led a patient to Christ.” I handed him my card. “If ever you had the time, I’d count it a privilege to take you to lunch.”

The lunch we agreed to share became the first of many, cementing a life-long friendship. This man awakened my own hunger for the ministry of the Holy Spirit to become central in my life.

—Calvin Miller in Loving God Up Close

My Response: One way I’m hungry to sense the Spirit’s influence in my life is …

Thought to Apply: A simple definition of the Holy Spirit is “God in action today.” —Alan Walker (Australian evangelist)

Adapted from Loving God Up Close (Warner Faith, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: Father, I ask for Your Spirit to motivate and enable change in my life that makes me more like Jesus.

 

God is Light

God is Light

What the Holy Spirit Does – Proof Positive

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Key Bible Verse: For his Holy Spirit speaks to us deep in our hearts and tells us that we are God’s children.  – Romans 8:16

Bonus Reading: Galatians 5:16-25

Matsuyama slumped cross-legged on the wooden floor of his one-room apartment on the second floor of a former army barracks. His was just one of dozens of poor families housed in the ramshackle old building.

“What’s wrong, Matsuyama San?”

“I’m not a Christian any longer.”

“What happened?”

“Oh, I got drunk, some guy bad-mouthed me, and I chased him with a baseball bat. What’s worse, when I got home and told my wife, she handed me the butcher knife. She said, ‘the Bible says if your right hand does wrong, cut it off.’ I’m no Christian.”

It was out of drunkenness that Matsuyama had been saved. An excellent electrician, he descended down the river of alcohol to poverty, taking his wife and three children with him. “Did you ever get drunk and fight before you became a Christian?” I asked.

“All the time.”

“Did you feel bad about it?”

“Only if I got beat.”

“Don’t you see, Matsuyama San? Since the Holy Spirit lives in you, when you fail you’re miserable. Your misery is proof you really are a Christian!”

—Robertson McQuilkin in 00

My Response: I recently experienced the Spirit’s convicting role when …

Adapted from Life in the Spirit (Broadman & Holman, 2000)

Prayer for the Week:  Father, I ask for Your Spirit to motivate and enable change in my life that makes me more like Jesus.

 

Psalm 94:19

Consolation

What the Holy Spirit Does – The Spirit of Creation

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window00

Who Said It…Ted Haggard

Ted Haggard is the senior pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. In 1985, Ted and his wife, Gayle, moved there with two of their now five children and started New Life Church in the basement of their home. Now its membership numbers 11,000. Ted says that his goal is to make it hard to go to hell from Colorado Springs.

He also serves as president of the National Association of Evangelicals.

What He Said…The Spirit of Creation

Many churches do a good job of teaching about the power of the Holy Spirit. If we genuinely encourage people to be filled with the Holy Spirit, though, we had better be prepared for the work that He will do in them.

You see, the Holy Spirit is in the business of change. He is Mr. Change; it is what He does, and He does it well. He comes into people’s lives and starts changing them, and as this process develops, He starts giving them ideas for change.

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Creation. In a fallen world, He always creates change because He is the agent God uses to make the world a better place. Thus, He always improves things. He always rearranges our furniture.

He always adjusts the status quo. So when He fills His people, we all prosper if our structures facilitate change. But if our structures constrain change, it’s a matter of time before something breaks. Let’s replace resistance to change with a culture of freedom.

Adapted from Dog Training, Fly Fishing, and Sharing Christ in the 21st Century (Nelson, 2002)

Prayer for the Week: Father, I ask for Your Spirit to motivate and enable change in my life that makes me more like Jesus.

 

Be Generous

Be Generous00

Websites that explain what it means to grow as a Christian and how to do it

Prayer

Ten Action Steps for a New Christian

http://www.rbc.org/rtb/

A simple, yet vitally important list of the actions important for a new Christian, with clear explanations.

Christian Research Institute

http://www.equip.org/

I’m listing this website again because it is also one of the best resources for Christian growth. This is the website of the Christian Research Institute and Hank Hanegraff, the Bible Answer Man. It has many resources that answer questions about the Christian faith and other religions in-depth. Excellent books and resources are also available on the site. You can also listen to the Bible Answerman radio program from the site. I highly recommend this program for anyone exploring the Christian and for the Christian who wants to grow in their ability to answer questions about the faith. If you need solid assurance that the Bible can be trusted or any questions about false teachers, this site will help you.

The Blue Letter Bible

http://www.blueletterbible.org/index.html

A classic site of free Bible study tools: commentaries, maps, all sorts of study guides. This is wonderful resource for personal Bible study. From individual verses you can click on concordance and commentaries related to the verse.

Our Daily Bread

http://www.rbc.org/odb/odb.shtml

A wonderful daily devotional for both new and more mature Christians.

Radio Bible Class Ministries

http://www.rbc.org/

There are a wealth of resources on this site for growing in your Christian life. There are Bible reading plans, articles on finding a church, answers to many questions people have about the Christian faith.

Into Thy Word

http://sites.silaspartners.com/partner/0,,34418,00.html

A wonderful site that will teach you how to study the Bible, lots of great Bible study articles, fantastic links on their Bible Study Tools page, lots of great information. Highly recommended.

OnePlace.com

http://www.oneplace.com/

A very fun site and educational site. This site contains the links to many Christian radio stations. You can listen to your favorite radio preachers live here and can download messages.

Christian Classics Ethereal Library

http://www.ccel.org/

This site contains the digital copies of many of the great classics of the Christian faith. It also has online book study groups and lots of other resources for in-depth, Christian study.

The Bible Gateway

http://www.biblegateway.com

Look up any version of the Bible, in many languages and copy and paste it into your studies or to read later. Also has a link to audio Bibles, commentaries, and on this site you can sign up for a variety of devotional newsletters.

2 Timothy 1:7

2 Timothy 1--7

Peace Under Pressure – A Special Blessing

Peace Under PressureIt was customary for the Israelites to be “blessed” by the high priest. In this passage, Moses gives the wording to be used to convey that they were no ordinary people and that their God was no ordinary God.

This Aaronic Blessing not only expressed God’s special favor for His people; it also indicated what quality in their lives would best display that favor to others.

Interact with God’s Word

Numbers 6:22-27

  1. The word bless means to treat with favor. What is one indication that God is on your side because you’ve declared yourself on His?
  2. Recall one way in which you’ve recently experienced God’s protection.
  3. Verse 25a could be rendered “May the Lord’s face radiate with joy because of you.” How have you sensed His smile of pleasure on your life?
  4. Being gracious goes way beyond good manners. It is to be merciful and compassionate. When have you observed this aspect of how God blesses?
  5. To show favor is to give approval. Do you sense that your obedience and trust have elicited this response from God?
  6. Do you think personal peace is a distinct gift or the effect of experiencing God’s favor, protection, pleasure, merciful compassion, and approval?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God for His divine favor to rest on people you relate to. Ask that His blessing create a solid peace foundation in your own life.

Numbers 6:22-27

22 Then the LORD said to Moses, 23 “Instruct Aaron and his sons to bless the people of Israel with this special blessing:

24 ‘May the LORD bless you and protect you. 25 May the LORD smile on you and be gracious to you. 26 May the LORD show you his favor and give you his peace.’

27 This is how Aaron and his sons will designate the Israelites as my people, and I myself will bless them.”

Prayer for the Week:  Heavenly Father, show me how my misguided thinking leads me down the path of worry and fear; help me to see that no problem is bigger than you and your love; may you be glorified by the peace I experience in times of trial.

Imagine No Malaria – World Malaria Day – April 25, 2015

World Malaria Day - April 25, 2015

Peace Under Pressure – Tantalizing Tranquility

Peace Under PressureKey Bible Verse: They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them. Psalm 112:7

Bonus Reading: Psalm 46:1-11

A friend asked me to have lunch with him and a fellow he’d been sharing Christ with for nine years. I’m thinking, after nine years Gill (the unbeliever) ought to be ready to tell this guy to shove off.

So I asked him what it was that kept him in this prolonged dialogue. He laughed. “That’s simple,” he said. “Jimmy’s got something I want. He doesn’t worry.”

Do you know why peace shines so brightly in this world? Because everybody you meet entered adulthood with a picture of what they hoped for.  Now, years into the pursuit, they’ve accumulated lots of the stuff they set out for. But they aren’t happy and don’t know what to do about it.

When they finally meet someone who has peace, they take note. It highlights their emotional emptiness. And it confronts them with the fact that peace is achievable.

What if my peace isn’t merely for my benefit? What if God wants to use it to cause those I come into contact with to pause and wonder? What if the purpose of dark circumstances is to give my peace a chance to attract more attention than in the wrinkle-free days when everything goes right? What if God wants to use it to make my faith authentic for someone?

—Andy Stanley in Visioneering

My Response: Is there a dark circumstance that I should by faith thank God for?

Thought to Apply: First keep the peace within yourself, then you can also bring peace to others.—Thomas À Kempis (Christian writer)

Adapted from Visioneering (Multnomah, 1999)

Prayer for the Week:  Heavenly Father, show me how my misguided thinking leads me down the path of worry and fear; help me to see that no problem is bigger than you and your love; may you be glorified by the peace I experience in times of trial.

Peace Under Pressure – Quiet Dinner

Peace Under PressureKey Bible Verse: The peace I give isn’t like the peace the world gives. John 14:27

Bonus Reading: John 14:27; 16:33

Arriving at my mother’s New York apartment for dinner for the two of us, we sat down to a festive table. Just then the phone rang—for me. My teaching colleague’s voice broke, and I realized to my horror that he was weeping. A West Coast collision had landed his parents and sister in intensive care. He was at the airport. Could I come sit with him until his flight departed? I’d come if I possibly could, I responded, but I had to take care of some things first. Would he call back in ten minutes.

Back at the table, my mother called my friend’s request unreasonable and juvenile. She insisted that I not ruin our evening by going. Hearing what I’d been saying to myself expressed aloud made it appalling. I resolved to go as soon as he rang again. But when he called, he said he’d gotten hold of himself; I no longer needed to come.

This apartment was a haven from everything that seemed to threaten my peace. My friend’s broken voice on the phone was calling me out into a dangerous world not simply for his sake, I suddenly saw, but also for mine. The true peace that passes understanding isn’t found in retreat from the battle—only in the thick of it.

—Frederick Buechner in The Sacred Journey

My Response: Is the peace I’m protecting robust enough to invade turmoil?

Thought to Apply: The peace of God, in the midst of the uproar around us, gives us the assurance that everything is all right.—Bob Mumford (writer, speaker)

Adapted from The Sacred Journey (Harper & Row, 1982)

Prayer for the Week:  Heavenly Father, show me how my misguided thinking leads me down the path of worry and fear; help me to see that no problem is bigger than you and your love; may you be glorified by the peace I experience in times of trial.

Peace Under Pressure – Stress Mess

Peace Under PressureKey Bible Verse: And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts.  – Colossians 3:15

Bonus Reading: Philippians 4:6-7

In the early 1960s, my load in the grocery company was heavy. Several close co-workers were in open conflict, and I had to referee. I was still traveling a lot on the lay-preaching circuit. We had three small children. About seven o’clock one evening, I left the office, trudged down the long, steep stairs to my car, and headed home. Several urgent choices involving business, travel, and family faced me. I felt indecisive on every front. My stomach churned.

As I drove toward home, I tried to pray, generically committing the whole mess to God. Suddenly there came to my mind Colossians 3:15. This familiar scripture hit me like a shaft of calmness from heaven.

Immediately I knew what God was saying to me. “Howard, never go against your deepest sense of peace. Never ignore your sense of inner agitation, of uneasy disquiet, that intuitive buzzing. That unquiet feeling is telling you to back off, not to plunge ahead just to get rid of the issue. It doesn’t matter who gets upset or whom you disappoint. Forget who cheers or who boos. Follow the relaxation in your gut.”

It was a life-changing moment for me. To this very day that wait-for-the-calm principle clarifies my decision-making.

—Howard Butt Jr. in Who Can You Trust?

My Response: One area in which I need to wait for the calm is …

Thought to Apply: Whenever you obey God, His seal is always that of peace. Whenever peace doesn’t come, tarry till it does or find out why it doesn’t.—Oswald Chambers

Adapted from Who Can You Trust? (Crossway, 2002)

Prayer for the Week:  Heavenly Father, show me how my misguided thinking leads me down the path of worry and fear; help me to see that no problem is bigger than you and your love; may you be glorified by the peace I experience in times of trial.

Earth Day – April 22 – Bible verses on Creation Care

Earth Day - April 22Here for you on this Earth Day are several Biblical references that call us to care for God’s Creation:

Genesis 2:7The Lord God formed the human from the topsoil of the fertile land and blew life’s breath into his nostrils.”

Adam was created out of dust of the earth. How could there be any more of a relationship with the earth than to be created out of it?

It’s as if God scooped up a couple handfuls of earth and formed humanity. When He formed Adam he was not a living being until God breathed life into his nostrils and we became living human beings.

The fact that we exist as living, breathing human beings suggests that we have a relationship with the earth because we were created out of it and we have a relationship with God because we breathe the very breath of the one who created all that is.

Genesis 3:23the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to farm the fertile land from which he was taken.”

Even the fact that God put Adam and Eve in a garden is an important point. Due to their disobedience, they were kicked out of the garden and the land was cursed making it more difficult for them to coax the earth to provide for them.

Genesis 4:12 “When you farm the fertile land, it will no longer grow anything for you, and you will become a roving nomad on the earth.”

The story of Cain and Able is also a story of disobedience. When Cain, a farmer, killed his brother, God punished him by removing him from the soil. He became a wanderer across the earth with no connection to any land.

When he lost his relationship with the land, he could no longer see the face of God. Relationship with the land and relationship with God were, for Cain, inseparable.

Disobedience of God and violence towards one another results in negative consequences for the earth.

Genesis 9:13 “I have placed my bow in the clouds; it will be the symbol of the covenant between me and the earth.”

Few people know that Noah’s father, Lamech, thought that his son might one day be the “righteous” one to remove the curse on the land (Genesis 5:28-29).

When Noah’s Ark came to rest and the animals were released, a rainbow appeared. It was a sign not only of God’s covenant with Noah, but also with the animals and the earth itself. Noah’s story is a story of reconciliation of humanity and the earth. God saw what he had done and promised he would never again curse the land.

John 1:3 – “Everything came into being through the Word, and without the Word nothing came into being.”

At the beginning of John’s Gospel there is understanding by the writer that Jesus was present at Creation and that everything that ever came into being came into being through Christ.

John 3:16 “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life.”

Many think that the whole Christ event was just about personal salvation, but actually, it was about God’s love for everything God has made. The word world is better translated as cosmos.

The Apostle Paul

Romans 8:19 – “The whole creation waits breathless with anticipation for the revelation of God’s sons and daughters.”

Colossians 1:20 “he reconciled all things to himself through him—whether things on earth or in the heavens. He brought peace through the blood of his cross.”

Paul has the understanding that Jesus was the redeemer not just of humanity, but of everything God created.

Learn more about The United Methodist Church and its teachings about the Natural World, and Creation care.

Earth Day – April 22 – God’s Gift of the Earth: A Photo Prayer

Earth Day - April 22The world marks Earth Day each April 22. This video features stunning images of Nature along with the beautiful words of a prayer written by United Methodist Bishop Ken Carter when he was a pastor in North Carolina in 2005.

All United Methodists are called to be good stewards of the planet. One of our Social Principles about the Natural World explains:

“All creation is the Lord’s, and we are responsible for the ways in which we use and abuse it. Water, air, soil, minerals, energy resources, plants, animal life, and space are to be valued and conserved because they are God’s creation and not solely because they are useful to human beings.” 

Click on the image of Earth to view an Earth Day video featuring stunning images of Nature along with the beautiful words of a prayer written by United Methodist Bishop Ken Carter when he was a pastor in North Carolina in 2005.

You are encouraged to use this video for personal reflection and also download and share it with others.

 

Peace Under Pressure – Pre-Game Jitters

Peace Under PressureKey Bible Verse: I have discarded everything else … so that I may have Christ. Philippians 3:8

Bonus Reading: Philippians 3:4-9a

In Philadelphia in 1983, the night before the final game of the World Series, I lay there tossing and turning, plunged into joy and excitement one minute, panic and tension the next. If I was going to get any sleep at all, I desperately needed a sense of peace for my jumbled emotions.

Four years earlier, I’d invited Jesus Christ into my life. So I reached for my Bible and turned to Philippians 3:4-9a, where the Apostle Paul recalls how he was born in the right place to the right family, got the right education, and did all the right things. Yet he’d discounted it all “that I may have Christ.”

That verse could be talking about me! I realized.

My World Series and All-Star successes wouldn’t make a bit of difference when it came down to where I’d spend eternity. Only my relationship with Jesus would matter then. I was able to sleep peacefully after that, then went out on the mound the next day and pitched one of my best games ever. Our Baltimore Orioles won the series over Philly, and I was elated! But most exciting was to know that the peace within me wasn’t dependent on winning, but on knowing that God loved me.

—Scott McGregor in Winning

My Response: I’ll draw stability from my status and future in Christ.

Thought to Apply: Peace, perfect peace, our future all unknown? Jesus we know, and He is on the throne. —Edward Bickersteth (English pastor and hymn writer)

Adapted from Winning (Regal, 1990)

Prayer for the Week:  Heavenly Father, show me how my misguided thinking leads me down the path of worry and fear; help me to see that no problem is bigger than you and your love; may you be glorified by the peace I experience in times of trial.

 

Peace Under Pressure – Blanket Coverage

Peace Under PressureKey Bible Verse: We have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Romans 5:1

Bonus Reading: Romans 5:1-11

The “peace of God” shouldn’t be confused with “peace with God.”

The “peace of God” is the inner state of well-being that is the birthright of those who’ve responded to God’s offer of forgiveness and been brought into a position called “peace with God.”

The peace of God is a result of having peace with God.

The Israelites had been called by God to be His unique people, and the blessing pronounced by the high priest (Numbers 6:22-27), designated them as such. The people would exhibit the divine favor by demonstrating to the surrounding peoples that God had given them His wholeness or well-being.

This inner sense of wholeness can’t be explained in purely human terms. Anyone can seem at peace when he’s eradicated all stress and negotiated the end of all hostility. But we enjoy the peace of God while the stress continues unabated and the hostility persists.

How can this be? When we’ve committed ourselves to the Captain of our salvation in ongoing, trusting obedience, He’ll make our well-being His personal responsibility.

0So we can rest assured in His benevolence and competence in the midst of the storms of life. We can live with composure that defies description and surpasses belief.

—Stuart Briscoe in One Year Book of Devotions for Men

My Response: Am I enjoying the benefits of my birthright? Why or why not?

Adapted from One Year Book of Devotions for Men (Tyndale, 2000)

Prayer for the Week:  Heavenly Father, show me how my misguided thinking leads me down the path of worry and fear; help me to see that no problem is bigger than you and your love; may you be glorified by the peace I experience in times of trial.

 

Peace Under Pressure – Stretched Splendor

Peace Under Pressure00Who Said It…Randy Rowland

Randy Rowland is lead pastor of Sanctuary, an emerging church in Seattle, Washington. He has served as the public address announcer for the Seattle Seahawks.

Randy is also president of Sound Images, Inc., a media and marketing consulting and production firm. He has taught at Seattle Pacific University’s School of Business and Economics, Fuller Theological Seminary, and Pacific School of Religion. Randy calls himself a water dog.

What He Said…Stretched Splendor

Peace isn’t passive or wimpy; it’s brilliantly powerful. Peace is having everything in its right place, being used toward its right purpose.

Sailboats are equipped with numerous sails for different purposes. Unused sails are stored in nylon bags in a locker. But are stored sails at peace? I don’t think so. They’re just sidelined fabric. A sail is at peace when it’s unfurled, trimmed by the winch, and stretched to its maximum by a turn into the wind. Every grommet and rope on that sail is being yanked at magnum force. The material of the sail strains as it meets its destiny.

A good sail, well deployed, is a vision of peace. It possesses beauty in spite of the savage forces pulling it at every corner. Its beauty comes from its wholeness and purpose. You never look out on the water at a colorful spinnaker on a fast-moving sailboat and think, Oh that poor thing, just look at the stress it’s under, being pulled from all directions. What you do think is, Wow! That’s beautiful.

Adapted from Sins We Love (Doubleday, 2000)

Prayer for the Week:  Heavenly Father, show me how my misguided thinking leads me down the path of worry and fear; help me to see that no problem is bigger than you and your love; may you be glorified by the peace I experience in times of trial.

 

What the Good Book Is Good for – The Joy of Understanding

The BibleIn Psalm 19, David looks at God’s greatness through two different lenses. He first does so through God’s creation.

Then he turns to God’s Word. When you’re doing the things that God created you to do and told you to do in His Word, he writes, your life will begin to overflow with a joy you never imagined possible.

Interact with God’s Word

Psalm 19:7-11

  1. In verses 7-9, what names are given to Scripture? What different aspects do they highlight?
  2. What words (after “is” or “are”) are used to describe God’s Word?
  3. What six results or consequences follow for the person who takes God’s Word to heart?
  4. Taken together, what do these statements tell you about the potential impact of God’s Word in your life?
  5. What does verse 10 tell you about the Bible’s ability to satisfy your deepest needs?
  6. What negative benefit of exposure to God’s Word does verse 11 add?
  7. What positive benefit is promised to those who apply God’s Word to their lives?
  8. What form do you think that “great reward” takes?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God to grant you the joy of rightly understanding His Word and consistently conforming your behavior to it.

Psalm 19:7-11

7 The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The decrees of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. 8 The commandments of the LORD are right, bringing joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are clear, giving insight to life. 9 Reverence for the LORD is pure, lasting forever. The laws of the LORD are true; each one is fair.

10 They are more desirable than gold, even the finest gold. They are sweeter than honey, even honey dripping from the comb. 11 They are a warning to those who hear them; there is great reward for those who obey them.

Prayer for the Week: Thank you, Lord, for giving me Your Book that tells me everything I need to know about life and how to live it.

 

What the Good Book Is Good for – The Right Verdict

The BibleKey Bible Verse: The laws of the Lord are true; each one is fair. Psalm 19:9b

Bonus Reading: Psalm 119:137-144

God made us to seek and long for true justice.  As we see crime and evil in our society escalating at a sickening pace, something hidden inside our very being rises up, yearning for wrong to be punished and justice meted out.

There used to a little feature in Reader’s Digest called “That’s Outrageous.”  Here were true stories, specific accounts of people who had been severely wronged, telling how our society and our government failed to administer the justice due.  Criminals out of jail early, committing the horrendous.  Murderers let off on a technicality and freed to murder again, all under the banner of justice.  I had to quit reading the feature; it was just too upsetting.

How do you cope with this?

The only way I know is to keep in mind that we have a God of perfect justice.  Though the final judgment of God is yet future, the Bible tells what His verdicts—His pronouncements of consequence, and punishment for sin—will be.

God is not capricious like our human judges;  He doesn’t operate according to His moods or personal circumstances.  We can be sure that He will judge fairly and precisely, consistent with all He has told us in Scripture. Ultimately He will right every wrong and silence every rebel.

—James MacDonald in God Wrote a Book

My Response: One way I can reflect God’s justice in my society is to …

Thought to Apply:You never know a line is crooked unless you have a straight one to put next to it.—Socrates

Adapted from God Wrote a Book (Crossway, 2002)

Prayer for the Week:  Thank you, Lord, for giving me Your Book that tells me everything I need to know about life and how to live it.

 

What the Good Book Is Good for – Muddle Eraser

The BibleKey Bible Verse: The commands of the LORD are clear, giving insight to life.  – Psalm 19:8b

Bonus Reading: Psalm 119:129-136

Remember a few years back when a new beverage came out called “Clearly Canadian”?

The product featured wonderful berry flavors with a sparkling, fresh taste, sold in a blue glass bottle.  Just describing it makes me thirsty for that clear, crisp sensation I get in my mouth when I drink it.

To me there’s just something wonderful about stuff that is clear.  When I buy something for my home, I search for things with the words on the package “no assembly required,” because I hate those manuals that are so unclear and impossible to follow.  I like clean glasses and windows, and clear highways.  No doubt about it, “clear” rocks!

That’s why I was so excited the day I understood for the first time that the Word of God is clear.  You can pick it up yourself and understand it.  The commands of God are clear, laying out the positive results of doing what he requires and the negative consequences of disobedience.

People try to say that the Bible is confusing because they don’t want to accept its message, but actually the Bible is incredibly clear in what it asserts—so crystal-clear that God promises it will bring light to the darkness in every human heart.

—James MacDonald in God Wrote a Book

My Response: When seeking an answer, I’ll commit to turn to God’s Word first.

Thought to Apply: More people are troubled by what is plain in Scripture than by what is obscure.—Roy L. Smith (pastor)

Adapted from God Wrote a Book (Crossway, 2002)

Prayer for the Week:  Thank you, Lord, for giving me Your Book that tells me everything I need to know about life and how to live it.

 

What the Good Book Is Good for – In Sync

The BibleKey Bible Verse: The commandments of the LORD are right, bringing joy to the heart. Psalm 19:8a

Bonus Reading: Psalm 119:1-8

Commandments are God’s prescriptions, pronouncements, principles.  The world has principles, too, doesn’t it?

Stuff like: “You only go around once, so go for the gusto.”

Or how about: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

Everyone has heard that worldly principle—sort of like: “You might mess with me once, but don’t ever try it again.” There are hundreds of these shortsighted stupidisms.

But in contrast to all this faulty human thinking that seldom guides and never satisfies are “the commandments of the Lord.”  His principles are 100 percent right in all that they assert.  They’re not off-track, not even by a degree.  Isn’t that great to know?

Life is like a maze. The statutes of God set a right path through the maze so that we don’t wander aimlessly or get lost or sidetracked by things that don’t ultimately matter. God’s statutes take the pressure off.

Never do we have so much joy in this world as when we are living in conformity to God’s Word. Never. Like an engine firing on all cylinders. Like a gazelle running full speed. Like a symphony—every instrument pounding out the melody and harmonies in perfect tune and rhythm.

—James MacDonald in God Wrote a Book

My Response: How does God’s Word alert me to flaws in the godless thinking that surrounds me?

Thought to Apply: One who uses the Bible as his guide never loses his sense of direction.—Source Unknown

Adapted from God Wrote a Book (Crossway, 2002)

Prayer for the Week:  Thank you, Lord, for giving me Your Book that tells me everything I need to know about life and how to live it.

 

What the Good Book Is Good for – Wise Up!

The BibleKey Bible Verse: The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.  – Psalm 19:7b

Bonus Reading: Psalm 119:97-104

The first time I met Luis, he was so angry and intent on doing what he wanted with his life that he was destroying his family and himself.  But he couldn’t see it.

Luis was addicted to alcohol. And by attending a church that didn’t preach God’s Word, he was never forced to face up to the fact that he was walking on the path of destruction.

His wife had heard about our church and prayed for weeks that she could get her husband under the unapologetic preaching of God’s Word, but he refused to come.  Then out of the blue one morning, he suggested to his astonished family that they attend.

That morning I was teaching from God’s Word on the subject “Wise Up About Alcohol.”  Luis squeaked and squirmed on the pew, but the Word of God got through to his heart.

Later that week he gave his life to Jesus Christ, and by God’s grace hasn’t had a drink since.  His marriage has been healed, his life has been transformed, and his children are filled with joy.

Why?  Because God’s witness about Himself is so trustworthy that it can take a stubborn, hardhearted alcoholic, with no discernment about right and wrong, and make him skilled in daily living.

—James MacDonald in God Wrote a Book

My Response: I’ll thank God for teaching me the basics of sound living through His Word.

Thought to Apply: We must allow the Word of God to confront us, undermine our complacency, and overthrow our patterns of thought and behavior. —John Stott

Adapted from God Wrote a Book (Crossway, 2002)

Prayer for the Week:  Thank you, Lord, for giving me Your Book that tells me everything I need to know about life and how to live it.

 

2 Chronicles 15-7

What the Good Book Is Good for – Extreme Makeover

The BibleKey Bible Verse: The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.  – Psalm 19:7a

Bonus Reading: Psalm 19:7-11

Our church meets in a massive warehouse that was a Home Depot wanna-be.  Marty used to buy all materials there for his building projects.  Being a “tool guy” was his identity.  Sunday morning trips to buy home improvement stuff was his religion.  So he was ticked off when his “house of worship” went under and was replaced by “some stupid church.”

But when we opened, he got curious and came to check us out, defiantly sitting in the front row with his wife.  The truth of God’s Word began to penetrate his heart, and he couldn’t keep from coming back.  Before long Marty committed his life to Jesus Christ.

The word translated reviving in Psalm 19:7a means transforming. God promises that His Scripture is so totally comprehensive that whatever the condition of the individual, it can transform him to his core.  Marty had been so filled with himself that his marriage was in deep weeds; he wasn’t much of a father either.  Now he stands in front of the entire congregation to tell about the joy he’s found in following Christ and learning from the Bible.  He excitedly shares God’s truth with others, who are beginning to see their lives transformed.00

—James MacDonald in God Wrote a Book

My Response: I’ll memorize today’s Bonus Reading to lock in my confidence in His Word.

Adapted from God Wrote a Book (Crossway, 2002)

Prayer for the Week:  Thank you, Lord, for giving me Your Book that tells me everything I need to know about life and how to live it.

What the Good Book Is Good for – Always Current

The BibleWho Said It…James MacDonald

As a 27-year-old Canadian, James MacDonald was called to pastor a group of 18 believers in suburban Chicago.

Seventeen years later, the resulting Harvest Bible Chapel, composed of many new Christians, has grown to nearly 8,000 worshipers. It has also recently added two new campuses. Pastor MacDonald is heard on Walk in the Word, a daily radio broadcast.

He and his wife, Kathy, have three children, aged 18 to 14.

What He Said…Always Current

I will never forget the news conference of the Willis family after their van exploded in flames on the freeway, and their children inside were engulfed and consumed in an instant.

As they sat before those microphones, and the world listened in for insight as to whether their faith could remain in such tragedy, they began by quoting Psalm 34:1: “I will praise the Lord at all times, I will constantly speak his praises.” The Word of God was their anchor in a storm that would have quickly capsized most of the boats.

David wrote in Psalm 19—the one we’ll be walking 0through this week—“Reverence for the Lord is pure, lasting forever.” God’s Word is full-strength from cover to cover. Turning to it brings stability to every person in every generation. From the most successful athletes to people of quiet faith in the hidden corners of the globe, God’s Word is a constant, reliable source of stability in the toughest of times.

Adapted from God Wrote a Book (Crossway, 2002)

Prayer for the Week:  Thank you, Lord, for giving me Your Book that tells me everything I need to know about life and how to live it.

 

Forgive That Jerk? – Forgiveness

ForgiveWhat does giving yourself as a living and holy sacrifice look like in real life?

How does God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think?

This section of Paul’s letter to the Romans spells out one major element of the complete answer to these questions: how you choose to react to being wronged.

Interact with God’s Word

Romans 12:17-21

  1. Paul uses the word “never” twice in this section (vv. 17 & 19).  What is he ruling out?
  2. If you do retaliate, what, according to verse 21, would Paul say has happened?
  3. How many end up being harmed when you indulge in payback?
  4. What do you risk by allowing God to be the final balancer of accounts?  Are you okay with this?
  5. Besides breaking a cycle of retaliation, what does the quoted proverb (v. 20) say may result?
  6. Instead of saying “forgive,” what specific actions does the proverb prescribe?
  7. How does doing kind acts change how you feel about someone who’s hurt you?
  8. Look up Proverbs 25:21.  What does the unquoted phrase add to your motivation?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Thank God for experiencing His undeserved favor. Ask Him to deliver you from bitterness and make you willing to pass His grace on to others.

Romans 12:17-21

17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do your part to live in peace with everyone, as much as possible. 19 Dear friends, never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God. For it is written, “I will take vengeance; I will repay those who deserve it.”

20 Instead, do what the Scriptures say: “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink, and they will be ashamed of what they have done to you.” 21 Don’t let evil get the best of you, but conquer evil by doing good.

Prayer for the Week: When I’ve been wronged, Lord, I’m naturally bent on retaliation. But You’ve said to leave that to You. Help me to submit my case to You.

 

Forgive That Jerk? – Consider the Source

ForgiveKey Bible Verse:  Don’t say, “I will get even for this wrong.”  Wait for the Lord to handle the matter.  – Proverbs 20:22

Bonus Reading:  Genesis 45:1-15

[continued from yesterday]  Weeks later, Brian got a call from a larger insurance company. “We’ve watched how you deal with mutual clients,” said the voice.  “We’re impressed. Would you consider working for us?”

“I’ve been here for years and have a solid group of clients,” Brian replied.  “Thanks, but I’m not interested.”

But the man persisted, and Brian consented to meet for lunch.  There, Brian held firm.  “Just do this for us,” the executive urged.  “Talk with your wife, come up with a salary you’d like to be paid, and let’s meet back here in a week.”  Brian reluctantly agreed.

“I’ll end this discussion fast,” he told his wife.  “I’ll name a figure three times what I’m making now.”

When the executive asked for Brian’s salary request, he reached for the letter in his pocket.  “First, let us show you what we want to pay you!” interjected his host, sliding a letter across the table.  Brian picked it up and stared—at a number four times his salary!  Regaining his composure, Brian said, “Let me take this home and pray about it with my wife.  I’ll get back to you.”

“You put your case in My hands,” the Spirit of God spoke to both.  “This is My promotion.  Take it!”

—John Bevere in How to Respond When You Feel Mistreated

My Response: Do I trust the outcome to God even if things aren’t turning out my way?

Thought to Apply: God aims to exalt Himself by working for those who wait for Him.—John Piper

Adapted from How to Respond When You Feel Mistreated (Nelson, 2004)

Prayer for the Week:  When I’ve been wronged, Lord, I’m naturally bent on retaliation.  But You’ve said to leave that to You.  00Help me to submit my case to You.

 

Forgive That Jerk? – Press Charges?

ForgiveKey Bible Verse: Don’t say, “Now I can pay them back for all their meanness to me!  I’ll get even! Proverbs 24:29

Bonus Reading:  Psalm 37:1-40

While pastoring a church in Dallas, my friend Al Brice preached from 1 Peter on how to respond to abuse.  Afterwards, a member (I’ll call him Brian) approached him. “Pastor,” he said, “I’m a junior executive for a large insurance company. I was next in line to become vice president.  All my fellow employees know I’d earned the promotion.  But when the position came open, the company gave it to another man.”

“Why was that?” Pastor Brice asked.

“Because the other man is white and I’m black.  That’s discrimination, Pastor, and I believe I can prove it.  I was all set to start legal action this week.  But now your message has messed me up!”

“Do you want to do it God’s way or your way?” Pastor Brice asked.

“God’s way,” Brian answered without hesitation.  “That’s why I’m talking to you.  Would you please pray with me?”  They bowed their heads and committed Brian’s case into the hands of his Father.

Next morning at work, Brian went to the office of the fellow who’d been promoted, stuck out his hand, and said with a smile, “Congrats on your promotion.  I want you to know that I’m going to be your best worker.” [continued tomorrow]

—John Bevere in How to Respond When You Feel Mistreated

My Response: A time when God’s Word “messed up” my plans was …

Thought to Apply: Forgiveness is surrendering my right to hurt you for hurting me.—Archibald Hart (psychologist)

Adapted from How to Respond When You Feel Mistreated (Nelson, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: When I’ve been wronged, Lord, I’m naturally bent on retaliation. But You’ve said to leave that to You. Help me to submit my case to You.

 

Forgive That Jerk? – Cooked Books

ForgiveKey Bible Verse: We bless those who curse us. We are patient with those who abuse us.  –  1 Corinthians 4:12

Bonus Reading: Colossians 3:12-14

Years ago my friend Carlos discovered that several thousand dollars were missing from his business, covered by phony figures.  It had to be his bookkeeper.

Carlos called Jan in and confronted her.  She didn’t deny it.  In tears, she told how she and her husband, Tom—not a believer—had hit rocky times and sunk deep into debt.  Giving into temptation, she’d “borrowed” the money, hoping to restore it before it was missed.  Had Carlos filed charges yet? she asked.  When should she clear out her desk?

But Carlos told her there’d be no charges or firing. “You’re my Christian sister. I want to help you out of this mess.  I just need to know that you’re sorry, that it won’t happen again, and that you’ll pay the money back.”

“There’s no way we could borrow that much,” Jan said, “with our credit like it is.”

“You can pay back $100 a month, till it’s covered,” Carlos explained, “at no interest.”

“Even that’s impossible,” Jan sobbed. “Every penny’s gone before I get my check.”

“Sure you can—” Carlos responded, “when you get your raise. Starting next week, I’m raising your salary by one hundred dollars a month.”

Jan remained a trusted employee in Carlos’s office for years.

—Lynn Anderson in The Jesus Touch

My Response: Is there a way I could model God’s forgiveness in my relationships?

Thought to Apply: Forgiveness is the oil of relationships.—Josh McDowell (apologist)

Adapted from The Jesus Touch (Howard, 2002)

Prayer for the Week: When I’ve been wronged, Lord, I’m naturally bent on retaliation. But You’ve said to leave that to You. Help me to submit my case to You.

 

Forgive That Jerk? – Payback Time

ForgiveKey Bible Verse: Pay them back with a blessing. That is what God wants you to do, and he will bless you for it.  – 1 Peter 3:9

Bonus Reading: Romans 12:17-21

[continued from yesterday]  I rode a cold bus to the Yukon to retrieve my pickup.  Our “friend,” charged with theft, failed to show for the court case. My resentment over his betrayal had festered.  Now, he’d reappeared.  “Lord,” I prayed, “What should I do?”

I went to the hospital. The nurse said he’d been arrested, then transferred from jail to the nearest hospital when his condition worsened.  It was him, all right, but now skin and bones.  His eyes said he recognized me—and had planned to never see me again!

“I forgive you for taking my truck,” I managed.  “Because God forgave me, I forgive you.  I’m not angry.  I’ve been praying for you.”  He couldn’t move or speak, but his eyes teared up.

I returned daily, reading from my Bible, and telling him that God loved him and that the native people were praying.  Unexpectedly, his condition stabilized.  Then he was taken off life support.  After five weeks he could talk well enough to tell me he wanted to receive Christ as his Savior!

One Sunday as our church service was beginning, a taxi stopped outside.  The driver helped someone into a wheelchair.  Weak and pale, he wheeled himself to the front of the church and sobbed, “I’m sorry.  Please forgive me.”

—Mark Ward in The Conquering Indian

My Response: Have I ever asked God how I should deal with a betrayal?

Thought to Apply: If you forgive people enough, they belong to you whether they like it or not … the squatter’s rights of the heart. —JAMES HILTON (English novelist)

Adapted from The Conquering Indian (Indian Life, 1994)

Prayer for the Week: When I’ve been wronged, Lord, I’m naturally bent on retaliation. But You’ve said to leave that to You. Help me to submit my case to You.

 

Forgive That Jerk? – Fork-Tongued “Friend”

ForgiveKey Bible Verse: As for this friend of mine, he betrayed me; he broke his promises. Psalm 55:20

Bonus Reading:  Luke 6:35-36

A man was checked into our Prince George, British Columbia, hospital.  “He’s paralyzed, can’t talk, and might not live long,” I was told.  “His name’s the same as the guy who stole your truck!”

I was thunderstruck. When this white man came to our town, he knew my nephew, and called him “brother.” He visited our native church; we welcomed him. I talked to him about the Lord; he seemed interested. One day he told me, “I’ve been promised a supervisor job on the Alaska Highway, but I’ve no way to get to the Yukon, and no money. If I can go take the job, I’ll get your nephew a job too.”

My people are always ready to share. So our church gave him warm clothes, boots, a down jacket, and a $200 travel-money loan. I loaned him my 4×4 pickup and extra tires. We prayed with him before he left, promising to return my pickup that weekend.

The weekend arrived—but not our friend. Fearing an accident, we prayed for his safety. After a second weekend with no word, we called the Yukon Highway Department. Nobody with his name had ever been promised a job! Two months after I reported my truck stolen, the police recovered it in bad shape. [continued tomorrow]

—Mark Ward in The Conquering Indian

My Response: Have I ever been taken like this? What was my reaction?

Adapted from The Conquering Indian (Indian Life, 1994)

Prayer for the Week:  When I’ve been wronged, Lord, I’m naturally bent on retaliation. But You’ve said to leave that to You. Help me to submit my case to You.

 

Lenten Devotional – Easter Monday – Wounds Run Deep

EasterKey Bible Verse:  “When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these? …”  – John 21:15a

Bonus Reading:  John 21:1-19

We are often cut to the core by our own sins, by the hasty words and hurtful things we have done and by our failure to do the good things God put it in our power to do. The scar of our personal failings can run very deep in us, just as the scar of Peter’s three denials ran deep.

After His resurrection our Lord went to work right away healing that wound. Luke tells us that Jesus made an appearance to Peter on the afternoon of His resurrection (Luke 24:34). And in today’s reading John records another special conversation between Jesus and Peter.

Easter 2On that dark night in Jerusalem Simon denied His Savior three times. Now, on this bright morning at the Sea of Tiberius, Jesus leads Peter to confess his devotion to His Savior three times. Then Jesus gives Peter a glorious promise. In the future, when Peter’s life is in danger for Jesus’ sake, he will not weaken in denial. Simon Peter will remain faithful in his confession and die as a martyr of Jesus Christ.

Jesus died and rose again for your sins—each and every one of them. They are all forgiven. This is something He constantly reminds you through His Word, through the waters of your Baptism and by the body and blood He gives you in worship— the price He willingly paid for your eternal salvation. His Holy Spirit will keep you strong in the confession of His Name, until our Lord welcomes you into paradise.

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, let Your light continue to shine in this dark world, that with boldness and confidence I may live for You, until You come again and scatter the darkness forever. I pray in Your holy Name.  Amen.

 

 

Forgive That Jerk? – Grace for a Grinch?

ForgiveWho Said It…Spencer Perkins

For 14 years, Spencer, the son of racial reconciliation pioneer John Perkins, co-led an interracial community in Jackson, Mississippi, with New Englander Chris Rice. They also ministered nationally through Reconcilers Fellowship until Spencer’s death at 43 in 1998. Their shared experience is related in More Than Equals (InterVarsity, 1993, 2000). Since “most black people are angry,” Spencer said, the only way to redirect this force positively is to “play the grace card.”

What He Said…Grace for a Grinch?

“Daddy, come quick,” shouted my daughter. “Someone stole presents from under the Christmas tree.” While we slept, someone had entered, picked out a dozen gifts, removed the blanket that covers my favorite chair, and used it to haul them away.

When Johnathan realized that the stolen gifts included his top-of-the-line sneakers, he stormed out of the house in tears. I sat stunned and fuming on my coverless chair.

Later that day I put the question to my son. “How should we as Christians respond to the person who tried to steal our Christmas?”

“Yeah, yeah, I know, Dad,” he said. “Even though he doesn’t deserve it, we’re supposed to give him grace.”

I knew the words out of his mouth were opposite to what Johnathan was feeling in his heart—because I felt the same way. But we had to start somewhere. If we could take one step toward forgiveness, just maybe our hearts could line up with our words, creating a counterculture of grace.

Adapted from More Than Equals (InterVarsity, 1993, 2000)

Prayer for the Week: When I’ve been wronged, Lord, I’m naturally bent on retaliation. But You’ve said to leave that to You. Help me to submit my case to You.

00

Lenten Devotional – Easter Sunday – The Light Shines

Easter - Resurrection SundayKey Bible Verse:  “Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ …” John 20:16a

Bonus Reading:  John 20:1-18

After the long, dark weekend, Mary Magdalene left early Sunday morning to go out to Jesus’ tomb. Already filled with grief and sorrow she saw the tomb broken open and Jesus’ body missing.

She ran to tell the disciples someone had stolen His body. Peter and John ran out to investigate, then went back into hiding to consider what they had seen. Mary stayed behind at the tomb, overwhelmed with sorrow.

Have you ever stood at a graveside totally lost and immersed in unspeakable grief ? Imagine Mary’s pain, totally shattered by the brutal murder of her Lord.

But Jesus had already told His disciples how the story would end. This was a day of joy and victory; it was not a day of grief and loss. And so Jesus came up to her and at the sound of her name on His lips, the light burst forth and scattered the darkness of Mary’s grief.

When we stand by a loved one’s grave, this is a moment to remember. On the Last Day our loved ones who are now separated from us, hidden in the darkness of the grave will stand before us shining. Their voices that are now still in death will be music in our ears once again when the Light comes to raise the dead and vanquish the darkness forever.

We will see Jesus with our own eyes just as Mary did on that great day of resurrection. And we will shine in that glorious light forever and ever.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for bursting out of the tomb on this glorious day, revealing our future and that of our loved ones who have died in faith. Give us joy, courage and hope as we await that glorious day of Your return, and help us share it with all. We pray in Your holy Name.  Amen.

 

 

Easter Blessings!

Easter 2The blessing of the Lord be upon you…  

Psalms 129:8 

 

May the glory and the promise of this joyous time of year

Bring peace and happiness to you and those you hold most dear,

And may Christ, Our Risen Saviour, always be there by your side

To bless you most abundantly and be your loving guide.

 

 

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter

Lenten Devotional – Day 40 – Holy Saturday – Out from the Darkness

Holy SaturdayKey Bible Verse:  “So they (Joseph and Nicodemus) took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews.” John 19:40

Bonus Reading:  John 19:31-42

Good Friday is drawing to its close. With the Passover quickly approaching, Pilate orders the legs of the crucified men to be broken so they will die quickly. The legs of the two criminals hanging at Jesus’ side are broken. But since Jesus is already dead His side is pierced with a spear instead and out flows blood and water—proof that the King of the Jews is truly dead.

That’s when a secret disciple of Jesus steps forward. Joseph of Arimathea is a prominent member of the Jewish high court who did not agree with their decision to put Jesus to death. He boldly steps out of the darkness and asks Pilate for permission to bury Jesus’ body. Pilate grants it.

Another secret disciple joins him. The Pharisee Nicodemus who had snuck through the darkness of night to talk to Jesus now steps into the light and helps Joseph lay our Lord’s body to rest in Joseph’s new tomb.

But it is only a rest. Death has no hold over Jesus’ body. It cannot even touch His body with the stain of decay. On the third day He will rise to life and live forever.

One day you and I will be laid in our own graves. But for all of us who trust in Jesus Christ as our Savior, our future will be the same as His. Our bodies will rest in the grave until He returns; then Jesus will raise us to share paradise with Him forever.

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, thank You for hallowing our graves through Your rest in the grave. Fill us with joy and confidence—even in the face of death—so that we will see You with our own eyes when You come to wake our bodies from death.  Amen.

 

Lenten Devotional – Day 39 – Good Friday – Paid in Full

Good FridayKey Bible Verse:  “So he delivered Him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, and He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha.”  – John 19:16-17

Bonus Reading:  John 19:16-30

Jesus shows remarkable strength in His first three hours on the cross. Even while He is suffering for our sins, His focus is not on Himself, but on the people around Him. Seeing His enemies He pleads, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34a). He promises the repentant criminal at His side, “Today You will be with Me in paradise” (Luke 23:43b). He provides a disciple to care for His mother after He is gone “Woman, behold, your son!” and to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” (John 19:26b, 27b).

Then at noon comes the darkness. Luke tells us the sun stopped shining. Jesus hangs alone in the darkness silently suffering God’s wrath at the sins of the world. Finally, after three hours He cries out in agony, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46b).

By three in the afternoon, it is over. God the Father has unleashed His full wrath—not a single one of our sins has gone unpunished. John tells us, “Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said, (to fulfill the Scripture) ‘I thirst’” (John 19:28). And “When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished,’ and He bowed His head and gave up His spirit” (John 19:30). There is nothing left for us to pay. We are free, and the doors of heaven are open wide to us through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.

Jesus offers His last confident prayer: “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit” (Luke 23:46b).

Prayer: Lord Jesus, on the cross You suffered the wrath of God for all of our sins, and paid the price in full. Receive our thanks and gratitude for Your amazing sacrifice and the life that is ours because of Your death.  Amen.

 

 

Lenten Devotional – Day 38 – Maundy Thursday – One Last Card to Play

Maundy ThursdayKey Bible Verse:  “Pilate went out again and said to them, ‘See, I am bringing Him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in Him.’ So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, ‘Behold the man!’”   – John 19:4-5

Bonus Reading:  John 19:1-16

Pilate has one last, desperate trick up his sleeve. It’s a long shot, but it’s his last chance to set Jesus free. He orders our Lord to be flogged. Many died from such a cruel scourging; others died later from the complications of those severe injuries. Pilate thought the scourging might just satisfy the blood lust of the Jewish authorities.

Maundy Thursday - PilateAs Pilate had Jesus brought forward it was a pitiful sight to behold. Jesus had been beaten severely. A crown of bloody thorns was on His head and a blood-soaked, purple robe was draped around His shoulders. Clearly, the Jewish authorities could not consider Him
a threat now.

But once they had gotten a taste of Jesus’ blood, the authorities had only one thing to say, “Crucify Him, Crucify Him!”

Tonight we gather in church to celebrate the Lord’s Supper and receive His true body and blood. We remember Pilate pointing and saying, “Behold the man!” We remember John the Baptist pointing and saying, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” We remember this body was beaten and nailed to the cross for us. This blood was shed by the scourge and nails for us.

And because Jesus offered His body and poured out His blood in our place—as our Substitute—we are forgiven and free.

“Do this in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19b).

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You freely offered Your body and blood for our salvation. Move me to receive it in gratitude and joy, and to serve You throughout my days. Amen.

 

What You Should Know About Religious Freedom Restoration Acts

Protect Religious FreedomOn March 26, 2015, Governor Mike Pence of Indiana signed into law the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The action has drawn sharp criticism by people and politicians who directly oppose religious freedoms and by those who are simply unaware of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the federal model for Indiana’s new law.

Here is the text of a March 27 article by The Gospel Coalition that outlines what you should know about these types of religious freedom legislation:

What is the Religious Freedom Restoration Act?

Federal Religious Freedom Restoration ActThe Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) is a federal law passed in 1993 which is intended to prevent other federal laws from substantially burdening a person’s free exercise of religion. The legislation was introduced by Rep. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on March 11, 1993 and passed by a unanimous U.S. House and a near unanimous U.S. Senate with three dissenting votes. The bill was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

According to the text of the law, the purposes of the RFRA are:

 (1) to restore the compelling interest test as set forth in Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398 (1963) and Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972) and to guarantee its application in all cases where free exercise of religion is substantially burdened; and

(2) to provide a claim or defense to persons whose religious exercise is substantially burdened by government.

 

Why was the RFRA needed?

As the text of the RFRA notes, the purpose of the legislation was to restore a prior standard of religious exemptions. Legal scholar Eugene Volokh identifies four periods in modern American history that relate to religious freedom exemptions:

  • Pre 1960sStatute-by-statute exemptions: Prior to the early 1960s, exemption for religious objections were only allowed if the statute provided an explicit exemption.
  • 1963 to 1990 — Sherbert/Yoder era of Free Exercise Clause law: In the 1963 case Sherbert v. Verner the Court expressly adopted the constitutional exemption model, under which sincere religious objectors had a presumptive constitutional right to an exemption because of the Free Exercise clause. This decision was reaffirmed in the 1972 case, Wisconsin v. Yoder. During this period that Court used what it called “strict scrutiny” when the law imposed a “substantial burden” on people’s religious beliefs. Under this strict scrutiny, religious objectors were to be given an exemption, unless denying the exemption was the least restrictive means of serving a compelling government interest. But during this period, as Volokh notes, “The government usually won, and religious objectors won only rarely.”
  • 1990-1993Return to statute-by-statute exemptions: In Employment Division v. Smith, the Supreme Court returned to the statute-by-statute exemption regime, and rejected the constitutional exemption regime.
  • 1993-PresentReligious Freedom Restoration Act era: In 1993, Congress enacted the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which gave religious objectors a statutory presumptive entitlement to exemption from generally applicable laws (subject to strict scrutiny).

If we have the RFRA, why do we need religious freedom legislation at the state level?

RFRA was intended to apply to all branches of government, and both to federal and state law. But in 1997 in the case of City of Boerne v. Flores, the Supreme Court ruled the RFRA exceeded federal power when applied to state laws. In response to this ruling, some individual states passed state-level Religious Freedom Restoration Acts that apply to state governments and local municipalities.

Which states have state-level Religious Freedom Restoration Acts?

Religious Freedom Restoration Act lawsCurrently, 19 states have a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (AL, CT, FL, ID, IN, IL, KS, KY, LA, MO, MS, NM, OK, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, and VA).

Ten other states have religious liberty protections that state courts have interpreted to provide a similar (strict scrutiny) level of protection (AK, MA, ME, MI, MN, MT, NC, OH, WA, and WI).

With some exceptions (such as Mississippi), the state versions are almost exactly the same as the federal version.

What exactly is “strict scrutiny”?

Strict scrutiny is a form of judicial review that courts use to determine the constitutionality of certain laws. To pass strict scrutiny, the legislature must have passed the law to further a “compelling governmental interest,” and must have narrowly tailored the law to achieve that interest. For a court to apply strict scrutiny, the legislature must either have significantly abridged a fundamental right with the law’s enactment or have passed a law that involves a suspect classification. Suspect classifications have come to include race, national origin, religion, alienage, and poverty.

Aren’t state RFRA’s about discrimination against homosexuals?

Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration ActNone of the RFRA’s even mention homosexuals, nor are they about discrimination. As University of Notre Dame law professor Rick Garnett explains, regarding the Indiana law:

[T]he act is a moderate measure that tracks a well-established federal law and the laws of several dozen other states. Contrary to what some critics have suggested, it does not give anyone a “license to discriminate,” it would not undermine our important civil-rights commitments, and it would not impose excessive burdens on Indiana’s courts. . . .

The act’s standard is applied in many jurisdictions across the land and it has long enjoyed support from across the political spectrum. This standard is not new; we have plenty of evidence about how it works. We know that courts have not applied it to require excessive accommodations or exemptions from anti-discrimination laws and civil-rights protections. Fighting invidious public discrimination is, American courts agree, a public interest of the highest order. Contrary to the concern quoted in the recent Tribune piece, a business owner or medical professional who invoked the act as a “license” to engage in such discrimination would and should lose. The act creates a balancing test, not a blank check. . . .

Why then do so many people claim it is about discrimination of homosexuals?

Mostly because of biased and incompetent reporting by the media. Last year Mollie Hemingway wrote a blistering critique of reporting on the issue in which she said, “we have a press that loathes and works actively to suppress this religious liberty, as confident in being on the ‘right side of history’ as they are ignorant of natural rights, history, religion and basic civility.”

Not much has changed since last year. Many media outlets identified the Indiana bill as being “anti-gay.” Unfortunately, rather than being outraged at finding they were lied to by politicians and journalists, most Americans will not bother to learn the truth and will remain ignorant about these important laws that protect our “first freedom.”

Addendum: Since many readers are unaware, it is worth noting that while the RFR does not protect businesses from discriminating against homosexuals, that is already allowed except in states or local municipalities that expressly forbid discrimination based on sexual orientation.

 

Lenten Devotional – Day 37 – Pilate’s Gamble

Lent 3Key Bible Verse:  “But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover. So do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” John 18:39

Bonus Reading:  John 18:38-40

Pilate won’t listen to Jesus; he is too busy trying to work this out himself. How can he force the Jewish authorities to accept his decision to set Jesus free? Maybe one of the local customs might do the trick.  It was implemented to improve Roman-Jewish relations. At the Passover feast, the Roman governors released a prisoner the Jewish crowds requested. Normally it was a popular person who had been imprisoned for speaking against the Roman government. This time Pilate would offer the choice between Jesus and the most dangerous criminal in the prison: Barabbas.

This was a stroke of genius! Jesus offered no true threat to public safety and clearly Barabbas was as dangerous to the Jewish leaders as he was to the Romans. But Pilate misjudges the Jewish leaders, who are convinced Jesus is a much greater threat to them and to the Jewish nation than Barabbas.

When the leaders convince the crowd to demanded Barabbas’ release and crucify Jesus, Pilate finds himself in a far worse position than if he had simply set Jesus free and lived with the consequences.

Whenever we shun the responsibilities God gives us—to speak up for those who are defenseless, to bring up our children in the fear and knowledge of God or those in any other area of life—we are just like Pontius Pilate.

Jesus didn’t step away from His responsibility but freely took the punishment of our sins upon Himself.

Prayer: Lord, thank You for paying the price for all the times I walk away from the responsibilities You give me. Give me courage and commitment to step forward and do what You want me to do. Amen.