Daily Devotionals


      

5/18/20

Steadfast.

“Ay, to the proof, as mountains are for winds, that shakes not, though they blow perpetually.” William Shakespeare

We are all drawn to things that are “solid”. Things that are solid or firm, or even immovable create stability in our worlds. Does your faith paint that picture? There is a great word in scripture that beautifully proclaims this character trait in the individual pressing into Christ…”steadfast”.

The Greek word “hupomone” conveys the idea of constancy and perseverance. It describes the individual who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and loyalty to faith, even in the greatest trials and sufferings. But it is so much bigger than just being “solid”. Jesus himself modeled this for us as He was steadfast and fully on mission when He went to the cross on our behalf. The prophet Isaiah prophesies about the intent of our Suffering Servant…

Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame. Isaiah 50:7

“I have set my face like flint.”What a beautiful picture that paints! Jesus was steadfast in His mission to save us…and to glorify God. The call and challenge is for us to be steadfast as well,

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4

Alas, we are human…we need to understand here that the challenge and call is not to simply “try harder”. We can be steadfast and persevere because those words describe God’s love for us.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;his mercies never come to an end;they are new every morning;great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23

But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. Psalm 86:15

God’s love for us is and always has been steadfast, constant, and immovable. This enables us to be steadfast in our faith, and to “set our faces like flint” in our pursuit of all that glorifies our Father.

Prayer:
Father, thank you for your steadfast love. Strengthen our faith to be steadfast. Amen.

      

5/15/20

Jesus

“Every time we pick up the Bible, we are reading about Jesus. Old Testament and New. We are encountering Jesus. We are connecting with Him. We are in fellowship with Him. We are entering into His story, His life, His word.” Author and Speaker Keith Ferrin

The grocery store experience has become somewhat interesting these days. Pandemic-curbside pickup-delivery aside, many grocery stores have become epi-centers for comprehensive shopping and customer experience. Many will venture to the grocery store just to “get out”, or to see what is “new” on the shelves. The grocery store, however, came into existence long ago simply to meet one of our most basic needs…hunger. 

Sometimes we treat the Bible like a grocery store. We go there when it is convenient, or because someone told us about something new…or we take something compulsively off the shelf (and out of context) because it applies to our current temporary situation. All the while, we ignore our most basic need and the desire of our very souls…Jesus. 

The whole of scripture – Genesis to Revelation – is about Jesus, and it points to Him. Jesus even challenged the lead “shoppers” of the day,

“You studythe Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” John 5:38-40

Each time we read the Bible – Old and New Testament - we should be looking for Jesus. What does the text say about Jesus, and what can we learn about who He is? The story has never been about us, it has always been about Him.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcomeit. 

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:1-5, 14

Our most basic need is Jesus and the relationship that only He can give us with God. We should start reading scripture with that truth in mind. The Bible is about Jesus. 

Prayer:
Father, thank you for the gift of Your word. Thank you that it is effective, eternal, and alive. And thank you that it is about Jesus…may we see Him, and learn from Him, in every line that we read. Amen.

      

5/14/20

Alive.

“The longest chapter in Scripture is a love poem, but its theme isn’t romance or adventure or nature…it’s the Bible itself. The writer of Psalm 119 understood that the greatest beauty in the world is God’s Word.” JD Greear

At the heart of this beautiful love passage in Psalms is a focus on the life-giving power of God’s Word:

I will never forget Your precepts, for You have given me life through them. Psalm 119:93

Isn’t that a plan we could all get behind? Doesn’t it make sense to love and pursue those things in this life that actually “give” us life as opposed to those things that have no impact on us, or even take the life right out of us? Would it not benefit each of us to spend our time and resources pressing in to the very things that help us live life to the full? The writer of Proverbs saw the value in this idea,

My son, pay attention to what I say;turn your ear to my words.Do not let them out of your sight,keep them within your heart;for they are life to those who find themand health to one’s whole body. Proverbs 4:20-22

Isn’t it true that if someone were to walk up to us on the street and offer us something that would in fact be the very source of life, we would surely take it? “Turn your ear to my words…for they are life”. 

Life…full life, abundant life, true life as it was meant to be lived and enjoyed for eternity is found in the very words that God speaks to us and over us. It is found in the promises He has made to us and in the instruction He gives. We will never find true life in anything this world has to offer…

The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spiritand life. John 6:63

We all want to live our fullest, most vibrant and fulfilling life. Is that possible apart from God’s word? Our lives should be full of time spent saturating our souls with the truth of scripture. We should frequently speak the truth of God’s word over each other and in doing so, speak life into one another. This life should be about truly living…and God’s word makes us alive!

Prayer:
Father, may we know that true life is found in Your Word…teach us Your word, and give us the discipline to find ourselves there often! Amen.

      

5/13/20

Eternal.

It is often said that “nothing lasts forever”. When you look around our world, you would quickly find evidence that supports that claim…material possessions certainly don’t last forever, and we could all agree that money doesn’t stick around for the long haul either. Relationships often change, as do cultures, and leaders, and even our environment. 

However, we all long for something to last forever…something that won’t change, right? Isn’t it usually the end of things, or transitions, or perpetual change that cause anxiety and stress in our worlds? What is there that we can all hold on to and know that it will stay the same…forever? In verse 8 of Isaiah 40, the prophet reminds us,

“The grass withers and the flowers fall,but the word of our God endures forever.”

Scripture says of itself that it will last forever. Now, the physical books that we call bibles may fade and deteriorate over time, but the words in them…God’s words to us, will never change and never fade. While everything around us changes and even goes away after time, God’ word is the one thing that will be around forever. 

God’s promises are true, they never change, and they endure forever!

Not only is God’s word eternal, however, God’s words lead to “eternal life”. The whole of scripture tells the story of God, and testifies to the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. And when we place our faith in Jesus, we have eternal life. Jesus says to the woman at the well (and to us), 

“Everyone who drinks from this (well) water will get thirsty again. But whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again – ever! In fact, the water I will give him will become a well of water springing up within him for eternal life.” John 4:13-14

John 1 also testifies that Jesus IS God’s word to us! He is eternal, and believing on Him gives us eternal life. That is why scripture is so important…the words of scripture will last forever, and they will lead us to eternal life. What a gift!

Are you reading scripture today, knowing that it is an anchor you can hold onto and that in those words is eternal life?

Prayer:
Father, thank you that Your Word will never change. And thank you that in Your Word we can find eternal life! Amen.

      

5/12/20

Effective.

As the rain and the snowcome down from heaven,and do not return to itwithout watering the earthand making it bud and flourish,so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,so is my word that goes out from my mouth:It will not return to me empty,but will accomplish what I desireand achieve the purpose for which I sent it.   Isaiah 55:10-11

If you have a green thumb, there is little more satisfying than preparing soil in perfect proximity to sunlight, planting and watering seed, and watching that seed sprout, and a beautiful – or even edible – plant come to fruition. We can all remember when we were kids and we were assigned that first science project of growing something on the shelf under our mom’s kitchen window. We would watch day after day, adding a bit of water at the appropriate time, all to see that first bit of green popping through the black soil.  

How awesome is it when stuff works? God’s word works. As a matter of fact, scripture tells us that whenever God’s word goes out…is read, or taught, or listened to, or even sung, that it will not return to Him without accomplishing its purpose. It will always have an impact! Every time the seed of God’s word is planted in our hearts, it will produce.

And, it produces the things that matter…the things that are relevant to every day of our lives. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says,

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of Godmay be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Every time God’s word hits our hearts, it teaches us, reminds us to stay on the path, and it grows us in righteousness. It makes us better humans. It does this on its own…it is that powerful and that effective. However, when we press in to God’s word…when we are intentional about studying and meditating and praying scripture, the impact is even greater!

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

“The Bible does not thrill, the Bible nourishes. Give time to the reading of the Bible and the recreating effect is as real as that of fresh air…” Oswald Chambers

Prayer:
Father, thank you that Your word is always effective in our lives. May we find ourselves lost in scripture daily. And may we bud and flourish like the earth after the rain. Amen.

      

5/11/20

Gift.
 
“The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb. By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.” Psalm 19:7-11
 
Have you ever received a gift…at Christmas or on your birthday maybe, and it was kind of like those AT&T commercials? It was “just ok”? We should always be grateful...any time someone gives us a gift. But, sometimes those gifts don’t really fit us, they aren’t useful, we won’t enjoy them, and honestly, they won’t last. They quickly find their way to the back of the closet.
 
Then there are those times when we get a gift and it truly resonates with our souls. Maybe it was something we wanted but didn’t really know we wanted, and something we desperately needed but had no idea – until we had it – that we really needed it. Maybe the gift was something that was so useful that we went to it every day and played with it or used it. Maybe it was a gift that was so relevant to who we were and so well made that it has lasted – and will last – as long as we have it.God’s word, the Bible, is the latter. 
 
Think about the passage from Psalm 19…and pick out the key descriptors. God’s word is perfect, trustworthy, right, radiant, pure, firm, more precious than gold, and sweeter than honey. That sounds like a pretty great gift, wouldn’t you agree? James 1:17-18 encourages,

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth…” 

God created us, so He knows us perfectly…that means He knows what we need, what our hearts delight in, and what will benefit us for the long haul. Scripture is that kind of gift from God. Do you see scripture as a gift from God…the kind of gift that resonated with your soul and keeps on giving?

This week we will look at the invaluable gift that is God’s word…how it’s true, practical, eternal, life-giving, and ultimately all about Jesus.

Prayer:
Father, thank You for the gift of your word! May we treasure it, and hide it in our hearts!

      

5/8/20

Listen.

Come to me with your ears wide open. Listen, and you will find life.”
Isaiah 55:3 (NLT)

Think about the people in your life who really listen to you. How does that shape your friendship? What do they say or do that tells you they are listening? What might you be willing to share with them that you wouldn’t tell anyone else?

The opposite is true too. How do you know someone isn’t listening? I know for me, when I’m half-listening, it usually leads to shallow conversation. And when my mind is wandering or I’m intent on my own agenda, I miss out on opportunities to grow closer.

Healthy relationships require good communication. Depth comes from active listening — being alert, attentive, and fully present. And like all relationships in our lives, this kind of listening leads to new depths in our walks with The Lord.

Come to Me. God is always offering us this invitation. This requires leaving behind other wants or things vying for our time, intentionally lifting our eyes to the Lord and following His lead. For me, this looks like first thing in the morning, before the urgent “needs” of the day rush in.

With Your Ears Wide Open. God is patient. He doesn’t force Himself on us. He wants our whole heart - our whole lives, our whole attention. Half-listening won’t cut it. Jesus talks a lot about having “ears to hear.” Sometimes I wonder how much I miss out on simply because my ears of are full of my own voice, or the other voices I let in.

Listen. God is near. Nearer than we think. He’s so close-by that if we stop for even just a moment, we begin to notice His presence. His Spirit teaches us through His Word, calls to us through His creation, comforts and encourages us through the people who cross paths with us throughout the day.

You Will Find Life. God promises life. This is promise is all over the Bible. In fact - Jesus tells us He is the only way to Life (John 14:6). Jesus came to give us life abundantly (John 10:10) and invites us to come to Him and find rest for our souls (Matt 11:30).

How kind of our Father that He longs for us to find life! All that’s required is for us to come and listen, and He will do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.

Prayer:
God, open my ears to hear You. Open my eyes to see You. Open my heart to receive Your grace. I want to find the life that You offer. Amen.
 

      

5/7/20

All the Strangers Are Gone

You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.
Leviticus 19:34 ESV

At the start of the second book of the Bible, God’s chosen people, the Israelites, are being held as slaves in Egypt. They are looked down upon, and are constantly being treated unfairly by Pharaoh, Egypt’s leader. But God saw this happening, and he raised up Moses to be the person to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Moses approached the throne of Pharaoh as a stranger, and told him that God wanted the Israelites to be free. Through a long process of plagues, Pharaoh let the people of Israel leave with Moses in charge. From there, they journeyed through the desert for many years towards and around God’s place for them, the Promised Land.

In their time in the desert, the Israelites came across many strangers. When meeting these strangers, the Israelites had two choices: choice one was to treat the strangers poorly, as they were treated in Egypt, and choice two was to take them in as their own, and to love them. The Lord actually made it a biblical law that the Israelites should treat these strangers, the Gentiles as they were called, as people to be loved. Unfortunately, the Israelites often made the same mistakes as the Egyptians, and treated the Gentiles unfairly.

When Jesus came down to earth, and died for our sins, and rose again, he broke this idea of the stranger. There were no longer the Israelite and the Gentile, there were only brothers, and there were only sisters. 

How are we treating our brothers and sisters? Are they still strangers to us? Think about praying to God. Approaching a divine, and perfect being as a sinful human. Surely we are strangers then, right? No. Rather we are welcomed, we are loved as a child in the home of a perfect family. How much more then should we show love to our brothers and sisters? When we are pursuing God, and ask him how he wants us to treat others, what does he say? I have found that God does not want us to be like the Egyptians of old, who were cruel to the strangers in their lives. God says, instead, that in pursuit of him, we are to love as we want to be loved. The author of Hebrews says that the angels are entertained by us loving the strangers in our lives. 

Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.
Hebrews 13:1-2 NIV

Prayer:
Father, help me to love those around me. Place people in my path who do not know love, that I may show love to them. Guide me to act in love for others. 

      

5/6/20

See Me, Know Him.

“If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”John 14:7

From the first words of Genesis to the last chapter of Revelation, God is incredibly inventive in the ways that He makes Himself known to us. Sometimes it’s the invitation to take a long, unhurried walk in a garden. Other times He sends prophets and teachers or passes down His written Word. All of it is a beautifully creative effort to make Himself known to us, even after we’ve chosen to walk away from Him.

By far the most creative, wonderful expression of His character, though, is the person of Jesus. Paul says in Colossians that Jesus is “the image of the invisible God” - in Jesus, we have the exact representation of the God who created the Universe. This man who lived among us for 33 years, who was flesh and bone, who ate and drank, who had friends and family and endured hardship and experienced joy, was also God! In thinking about how I’ve been pursuing God lately, I couldn’t move past the truth that if we know Jesus, we know God. If we pursue Jesus, we pursue God.

As a result, I’ve been reading the Gospel of John a little differently. I’ve stopped trying to pull all the rules for living out of the book - “do this, don’t do that” - and started just trying to get to know the man at the center of the narrative. He is wonderfully gracious, patient, and loving. He is a good teacher, yes, but He is also a good friend, a great traveling companion, and a humble leader who encourages His followers to be more than they ever thought they could be.

In his Gospel, John invites us to get to know Jesus - both as a man who walked the earth and as the God who created everything. On every page, Jesus heals wounds, breaks down barriers, and invites friends to follow Him. He’s wonderfully alive in the narrative and if you slow down and read a little more closely, you can really picture Jesus doing the things John said He did:

You can hear Him talking with the Samaritan woman at the well in the middle of the day, offering words of comfort where others only offered insult. You can see him standing before a crowd much larger than 5000, delightedly challenging His disciples to come up with a plan to feed them while He has the answer sitting in his back pocket. You can smell the comfort of a warm meal shared among close friends just hours before Jesus was arrested. And then you can feel the holes in His hands - crucified for us, then risen in power.

By sitting and reading about this man, Jesus, I’ve come to know God more intimately than I ever expected to. I love that God doesn’t make Himself difficult to pursue - He gave us His Son, Jesus, who perfectly reflects His character, and four precious accounts of His life to help us understand and confidently know what He’s like.

I’m excited for a life-time of patiently pursuing a God who is delighted to reveal Himself to me through His Son. As you spend time in the Word this week, I encourage you to slow down and get to know who Jesus is - what He did, what He said, what it would have been like to physically walk alongside Him.

I’m thankful for you, Hyde Park family!

Prayer:
God, thank you for revealing yourself to us through Jesus. Would you place a desire in our hearts to know Him deeply and, as a result, know you deeply? Amen.

      

5/5/20

Don’t Miss Today.

“God claims the world as his. Everything and everyone belongs to him! He’s the one who pushed back oceans to let the dry ground appear, planting firm foundations for the earth.” Psalms 24:1-2 TPT.

Day by day. That may be what this quarantine, this shelter in place life, continues to teach me. Since my battle with breast cancer about 3 years ago, God has been working on me, to live more in the current day - not trying to figure out all the tomorrows. Let’s be clear - I can be quite an “anxious about tomorrow” kind of girl if I let my worries take the lead. But in my pursuit of Him - He’s been teaching me to trust more ... and part of that is a quiet whisper from Him, “don’t miss any of the goodness of today worrying about tomorrow.” Even on the stormy, challenging, pandemic, cancer diagnosis, tossing in the waves kind of days ... He has beautiful details to show me. Each morning, as I fill my coffee cup - I take some time - usually on my back porch, to breathe in and set my focus on Him. This week I read a familiar verse but I saw a new emphasis. “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the Bread of Life. Come every day to me and you will never be hungry. Believe in me and you will never be thirsty.’” John 6:35. I read it closely again and listen ... He says “come every day”.

This spring, there have been so many tiny miracles in our back yard. Cardinals - with bold red colors - appear in the trees by our porch almost every morning. Were they always there - and I was too “busy” to see them? And a little pair of - hmmm.... maybe finches (Ha! are those even in Texas?) ... have built a beautiful little nest in a white birdhouse along our fence line where they dart in and out as the sun sets each evening. I sit and watch them ... and realize it is so cool that God cares greatly for them and reminds me in His Word that I am valued by Him even more than these beautiful little birds. 

Long ago, at a summer camp as a student, I heard the gospel for the first time ... that Jesus came to earth and gave his life, willingly, to redeem mine. It changed my trajectory. I didn’t understand it all - and truthfully, I still don’t. But I do think God smiles at this idea - that even in our belief - it is truly awesome that we don’t understand all the mystery that He is. And that I will, for an entire lifetime, still be unwrapping the gift that He started and provided to me. That is the pursuit. I think this quarantine time - is a chance to pause long enough to unwrap another layer. To re-root what I know deep in my soul - to be true - to look for the new ways He is walking with me on this day. The pursuit continues. It is a gift. This day. Even this covid 19, unsure - not regular - day.

I’m not sure what you are feeling out there today - but I remind myself as I start again - I am never alone. I believe God is walking with each of us. I think He also wants more for each us ... maybe this “restart” is just that. Breathe in and ask Him what you are made for. How to pursue Him with how you are made. How to use your unique gifts to tell His story. Listen in the quiet. Be brave to trust more. Maybe even before this time has passed - be brave enough to share your prayers and your thoughts and your creative dreams with your family. Take a tiny step forward to pursue Him more with the way He has made you. For me - I love taking photos. During this time, I’m asking Him how to use my photos and my words to help tell His story. Don’t miss today. I pray we will watch for the beautiful details He is showing us as we continue our pursuit ... as we unwrap another layer of our faith in Christ. 

“Relying on God has to begin all over again every day as if nothing had yet been done.” -CS Lewis. 

Prayer:
Father, give us what we need to pursue you today. And thank you…for the gift of today. Amen.

      

5/4/20

Pursuit.

“To have found God and still to pursue Him is the soul’s paradox of love.” A.W. Tozer

At the heart of the growing Christian is the desire to know God more. It is an indescribable gift to have been rescued and redeemed by the God of the Universe, and to place our trust in His saving grace through Jesus. However, our greatest treasure is God Himself…to know the God who saved us…to be in relationship with Him. 

We all are unique and creatively crafted by God. A diverse array of personalities and characteristics make up the whole of humanity. So we find ourselves in different places on our respective spiritual journeys. 

King Solomon, in Ecclesiastes 3, says that God has placed eternity in our hearts. We have to understand and embrace this reality. There is a longing in all of our hearts…a desire for something more, something bigger and greater. As we pursue things on this earth, in this life, typically what we discover is that most things in this life leave us wanting…unsatisfied, and desiring more.  God has placed a longing in our hearts that can only be satisfied in Him!

And Tozer reminds us that “We need never shout across the spaces to an absent God. He is nearer than our own soul, closer than our most secret thoughts”.

Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you…” 
Jeremiah 29:12-14

How are you pursuing God? What are you doing to get to know Him better…to understand Him more? What position are you putting yourself in to hear His voice more clearly?

This week, I have invited my family in to write about how they pursue God…what it looks like in their world to strive to know God at a deeper level. So “thank you” this week, to my sweet wife Jillynn, my son Scott and his wife Paige, and my son Jackson, for contributing to the Hyde Park daily devotionals.

Blessings to you as you pursue our Father this week…

Prayer:
Father, thank You for the promise that when we seek You we will find you. Help us to know that our greatest desires are satisfied in knowing You. 

      

5/1/20

Together

Here's what Paul Tripp says in his book, Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy, 

"We weren't created to be independent, autonomous, or self-sufficient. We were made to live in a humble, worshipful, and loving dependency upon God and in a loving and humble interdependency with others. Our lives were designed to be community projects. Yet, the foolishness of sin tells us that we have all that we need within ourselves. So we settle for relationships that never go beneath the casual. We defend ourselves when the people around us point out a weakness or a wrong. We hold our struggles within, not taking advantage of the resources God has given us." 

We were meant to do life together. The New Testament church gave us beautiful example of what it means to live in community with other people. This is the body of Christ…

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47 

Quick observations and takeaways…the New Testament church was defined by several simple things. Teaching, fellowship, and prayer are stated, but we cannot miss that the people were “devoted” to these things. The passage tells us they were together, and selfless…they were consistent and they were sincere. 

Certainly, this pandemic has given us a bit of extra time to contemplate the relationships in our lives and how important they are to us. One could say we have all learned that much of what we previously thought was important before, we can honestly view as relatively unimportant now. People, friends, community…those are the things in this life that matter. And, outside of Jesus, they are the greatest gifts we have. 

Don’t take your community for granted. Invest in the people…the relationships around you. Be authentic and accountable. Care for each other as God, through Jesus, has cared for you. Love your people well.

“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” Psalms 133:1
 
Prayer:
Father, thank you for the gift of the people in our lives. May we fully embrace that outside of knowing You, the people we get to pursue You with are the greatest gift. Amen.

      

APRIL 2020


      

4/30/20

Care
 
Care is one of those words we use frequently, but generally throw around pretty loosely without the consideration of what it really means. For example, “Do you care if we go for burgers, or would you rather have Tex-Mex?”  Or, “I don’t really care if it is 13 degrees out, I am going for a walk”. True care carries a deeper meaning. Webster’s for example defines the verb care, “to feel trouble or anxiety, orto feel interest or concern”. To care for someone, therefore, carries a greater weight. Peter addresses care within Christian community…

"Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms." 1 Peter 4:8-10

Love each other deeply, offer hospitality, and use your gifts to serve others. Care is active. This is a great place to start when looking at what it means to care for each other in Christian community. 

We have a sweet neighbor. She is a picture of care. She feels God has given her the people in the 8-10 houses around her to care for. She knows everyone’s name, how old their kids are, and where they go to school. Not a single holiday goes by where she and her husband don’t open up their home and invite everyone over. She bakes and cooks and gives it away to her neighbors. And she quietly prays for the people around her. If there is ever a need…she know about it and is working to meet the need. This neighbor truly cares.

It is a gift that God has given us people to do life with, and it is a gift to be in a position to care for them. Scripture tells us to care for others… 

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come back, and tomorrow I will give it,” when you have it with you. Proverbs 3:27-28

Don’t neglect to do what is good and to share, for God is pleased with such sacrifices.” Hebrews 13:16

“Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality…rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:13, 15

"Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." Galatians 6:2

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” Ephesians 6:18
 
Care for others should flow out of the abundance that exists because of God’s care for us. God’s love and care for us was so deep and weighty that He gave His Son so that we could live. Let’s care for our people today.
 
Prayer:
“Help us to help each other, Lord, each other’s cross to bear; let each his friendly aid afford, and feel his brother’s care.” Ralph Harrison

      

4/29/20

Accountability

Has it been mentioned that we need each other? One of the most beautiful – but often misunderstood and abused – aspects of Christian community, is accountability. 
 
You know that scene from a movie when two people are in a car and the car begins to swerve? Any movie really…this scene is in most movies, right? The driver is distracted, or falls asleep, or is texting…the car begins to swerve and the wheels go off the road and quickly, the passenger grabs the steering wheel, working the car back onto the road and saving the day. 
 
This is how accountability is often seen...often in a negative light. Often, accountability can become about calling out wrongdoing in each other, and even judging one another. You know, grabbing the wheel and getting the driver back on the straight and narrow road. While it is healthy and beneficial to have close friends in our lives that help us see when we have made mistakes, biblical accountability in Christian community is more about helping each other embrace the opportunities that are in front of us…
 
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another —and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25 
 
Accountability is about helping each other become more like Jesus. 
What if the passenger in our car was a close friend, committed to the journey? What if they were a great conversationalist who knew how to keep us awake and focused, and played great songs on the car stereo? What if they knew where to turn off for all the greatest restaurants and the most beautiful views, and by their very presence and encouragement, they helped us keep the car on the road, headed in the right direction? 
 
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17
 
Biblical accountability in Christian community is defined by
 
  • Authentic love (Romans 12:10)
  • Extended grace (Romans 14:13)
  • Genuine honesty (Ephesians 4:25)
  • Bearing burdens (Galatians 6:2)
 
Do you have a friend within your community who you trust to help you become more like Jesus, and keep the car moving in the right direction? Are you willing to be that for someone else? What a gift that God has given us each other…let’s help each other become more like Jesus today.
 
Prayer:
Father, thank you for the friends in our lives. May those friendships be authentic, grace-filled, and honest. May we bear each other’s burden, just as Christ has done for us. Amen.

      

4/28/20

Authenticity

Have you ever been with a group of people where you could fully be yourself? Have you ever been able to put all of your cards on the table – good and bad – and know that you would be accepted and loved anyway? At the heart of biblical community, is authenticity. And, authenticity entails more than just “keeping it real”. Romans 12:9 says,

“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.”
The Adam Clarke commentary translates this as “Have no hypocritical love; let not your love wear a mask; make no empty professions. Love God and your neighbor; and, by obedience to the one and acts of benevolence to the other, show that your love is sincere”. 

“Let not your love wear a mask.” What a powerful image. Honestly, many of us live in circles where we constantly feel the need to wear a mask. Many of us wake up each morning and feel in order to be accepted we must be or become something we are not…we have to dress a certain way, or talk a certain way, or have a particular job or make a ton of money. What is genuine or sincere about any of that?

One of the masks we often put on is the one that says, “I have never done anything wrong”, or “I have my act together”. Sometimes our mask says “Your sin is worse than mine”, and sometimes it says “mine sin is worse than yours”. Bonhoeffer reminds us,

“If my sinfulness appears to me to be in any way smaller or less detestable in comparison with the sins of others, I am still not recognizing my sinfulness at all. … How can I possibly serve another person in unfeigned humility if I seriously regard his sinfulness as worse than my own?” 

Authenticity in biblical community levels the playing field. It frees us to love each other with abandon because it takes away the pressure to perform or impress. 

In Romans 12, Paul is talking about the body of Christ, and what true biblical community looks like. He has three key challenges:
  1. Present your bodies as a living sacrifice (12:1-2). Don’t make it about you…give yourself and your ego up to a God who loves you and can do more with you than you can imagine.
  2. There is one body with many parts (12:3-8). We all have a role to play in our community…in the body of Christ. No role is more important than the other. Accepting and encouraging the different gifts in others glorifies God.
  3. Let love be genuine (12:9-19). Take the mask off, and stop requiring it of others. Love each other where you are, encouraging each other to pursue Christ-likeness. 
The ability to be yourself, and allow others to be themselves while pursuing honest and unconditional love together is Christ-honoring. May each of us love genuinely today…and may our masks be tossed as far as the east is from the west.

Prayer:
Father, today may we be a part of building authentic community. For your glory, Amen.

      

4/27/20

Community.

We need each other. God has given us people to do life with…and outside of knowing Him, the people we get to pursue Him with are the greatest gift in this life. Romans 15:5-7 challenges,

“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”

Community then, is walking through this life together, firmly and confidently standing on the very things we have in Christ, and sharing those things with each other. Through Jesus, God gives us endurance and encouragement…both are things we all desperately need today. And Paul challenges us to have that same attitude to each other…to lock arms with each other and help each other endure, and to give and be encouragement to each other. Finally, Paul says to accept one another…just as Christ accepted you. This is community. 

For many of us it may be difficult to imagine experiencing “community” right now because of the current state of our world, social distancing, and the like…one of the greatest gifts of true community is being physically together. However, true community is more about “what brings us together” than actually, physically being together. 

Over the last several weeks, many of us have experienced true community even though we cannot physically be together. Notes of encouragement sent or received. Phone calls and online conversations. Meals and baked goods dropped by…and worshipping together virtually. What are ways that you and your people can continue to experience community?

We can experience community regardless of the circumstance…at the end of the day it is not our circumstances, but our bond in Christ that unifies us. And we need that more than ever right now! Author and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer encourages,

“Whether it be a brief, single encounter or the daily community of many years, Christian community is soley this. We belong to one another only through and in Jesus Christ.”

And Paul reminds us that our community glorifies God. 

So write a note today or make a phone call. Schedule an online conversation. Deliver food to a friend in need. Start a virtual book club. God has given us the ability to speak life into one another…and we really need each other right now.

Prayer:
Father, people are a gift. May we love and encourage each other well. May we value the people you have given us to journey this life with…for Your glory. Amen.
 

      

4/24/20

Act.

“The world is not waiting for a new definition of Christianity…it’s waiting for a new demonstration of Christianity. And it can only have that when the love of Christ is constraining us.” Leonard Ravenhill

“Constrain” feels like a negative word. One might think it means to restrict or bind. It can actually mean to “compel”. British Pastor Leonard Ravenhill therefore, is saying that we don’t need more talk about Christianity. What we need is people to start acting like Jesus. And he challenges that the only way that will happen is when Christians are “compelled” or moved by the love of Christ. 

Do you remember how we started the week? Did we not start by acknowledging that it is the love and kindness of Jesus that leads us to repentance? Is it not that same love and kindness that moves us to act…to demonstrate in this life what following Christ is all about?

Jesus shared a story about demonstrating his love and kindness in Luke 10…

“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him, beat him up, and fled, leaving him half dead.” Luke 10:30

Half dead. Two religious leaders proceeded to walk up on the man, and passed by without stopping. The reasons could have been cultural, some political or religious. They didn’t stop. Perhaps they rationalized that it wasn’t their responsibility to get involved. Maybe they were concerned about being defiled or contaminated. Maybe they were scared that they too, would be attacked. Maybe, they just didn’t care. 

Then a Samaritan passed by. Samaritans were considered “lesser” in this society. Looked down upon and often despised. But the Samaritan stopped…and began to help.

“But a Samaritan on his journey came up to him, and when he saw the man, he had compassion. He went over to him and bandaged his wounds…Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.” Luke 10:33-34

Two religious leaders ignored the half dead man and kept on their journey. One man stopped and cared for the victim, nursing him back to health. Who demonstrated the love and kindness of Jesus? 

The greatest commandments, as described by Jesus himself, are to love God and love our neighbor. Let’s be a part of a “new demonstration” of Christianity to day. Act. Love people well. Stop and help. Step across cultural, political, and religious boundaries and love people where they are. The love of Christ constrains us!

Prayer:
Father, daily you demonstrate your love and kindness to us. May we in turn demonstrate that love and kindness to others. Your love compels us!

      

4/23/20

Gentleness

Everyone was holding a stone. Jesus had been teaching in the temple again, when a group of scribes and Pharisees brought a woman to him and made her stand in the middle of the room. She had been caught in adultery…and everyone was holding a stone.

“Teacher, they said to Him, this woman was caught in the act of committing adultery. In the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do You say?” John 8:4-6

These rock-toting, “religious” officials had been trying desperately to get Jesus to slip up and say something that would incriminate himself. Jesus, however, is truth and light and always has a way of shifting the narrative. 
His first act of kindness was to draw attention away from the embarrassed woman who everyone was staring at. He begins to write something in the dirt. For centuries theologians have debated what Jesus may have been scribbling out…in the context it really doesn’t seem to matter. Jesus drew the focus away from the woman. Without condoning her sin, Jesus shows compassion. 

His second act of kindness was to level the playing field…by His very nature Jesus levels the playing field. In the new Kingdom, there is no spiritual hierarchy among people. There is Jesus, and there are those of us who have been shown grace.

“The one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her.” John 8:7

You could have heard a pin drop. How could they respond to that? How could any of us respond to that? Everyone began to put down their stones and walk away.

The real question is, where do we find ourselves today? Are we standing in the crowd holding a stone, and ready to punish those we think are less spiritual than us? Those who have messed up? Or, are we the woman, and we feel everyone is staring at us, preparing to throw stones? If we are truly honest, we have all been in both positions. Jesus said,

“Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” ”No one, Lord,” she answered. “Neither do I condemn you,” said Jesus. “Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.” John 8:10-11

Jesus did not condone or approve of the woman’s sin…He challenged her to “go and sin no more”. But he forgave her sin, and reminded everyone in the room that He alone was the one who judges. Oh the kindness of Jesus!
Why are we so quick to judge others? Do we truly have a right to throw stones at anyone? ALL people are broken, hurting, and sinful. That includes us. Kindness never carries stones…

Prayer:
Father, you alone are judge. Every day may we carry kindness and not stone’s. Amen.

      

4/22/20

Grace

“Zacchaeus was a wee little man, and a wee little man was he…”
Do you remember that song from when you were a child? I used to love climbing trees, so this story truly resonated with me when I was a kid. It’s found in Luke 19:1-10. 

“There was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich.” Luke 19:2

Two strikes right off the bat…Very few people had any money to speak of in this particular society which made Zacchaeus stand out like a sore thumb to begin with. And unfortunately, Zacchaeus was a tax collector who had accumulated his wealth by taking money from those who really didn’t have it to give. Needless to say, he was not Jericho’s favorite son. People tend to judge rich tax collectors. Jesus was passing through Jericho and Zacchaeus wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Scripture tells us that

“He was trying to see who Jesus was, but he was not able because of the crowd, since he was a short man. So running ahead, he climbed up a sycamore tree to see Jesus…” Luke 19:3-4

Props to Zacchaeus for allowing his curiosity to get the best of him. For whatever reason he was intrigued by the story around Jesus and, finding himself behind the crowd, he creatively climbed up in a tree so he could see Jesus. But it was Jesus who saw Zacchaeus. 

“Zacchaeus, hurry and come down because today I must stay at your house.” Luke 19:5

Zacchaeus hurried down to be with Jesus, but people were not happy. Imagine that. Imagine the grumbling in the crowd. Imagine broken and imperfect people responding to Jesus, and the masses starting to complain. 

All who saw it began to complain, “He’s gone to lodge with a sinful man!” Luke 19:7

Can we stop for a public service announcement? “Sinful man” describes all of us! And, all of us are in desperate need of grace! Who put us in charge of deciding who gets to come to Jesus? As a matter of fact, we are more like Zacchaeus than we are anyone else…broken and imperfect. But Jesus, in his kindness “sees us” and wants us to be with him. If Jesus was willing to hang out with broken and sinful people (including us), shouldn’t we show that same grace and kindness with each other?

The gracious kindness of Jesus is for ALL. As followers, we don’t get to decide who to show it to. Let’s show gracious kindness to everyone today…we are all created in the image of God. And, we have all sinned and fallen short of what God had for us. We all need grace, and grace is kind.

Prayer:
Father, thank you for grace and your kindness toward each of us. May we show grace in all of our interactions with others. Thank you for “seeing us”. Amen.

      

4/21/20

Patience.
 
Who is having to practice patience today? Anyone? We can all be sure to agree that patience is at a premium right now…and if there is nothing in your world that is requiring patience at the moment well, wait for it.
 
Simply trying to get through one day at a time as we all anticipate the end of COVID19 and life returning to what some would call normal, has required patience, for sure. But let’s talk about people. Most of us find ourselves in tight quarters with the same people 24/7 and if we are being honest, our patience might be running thin. Those little habits of our spouses seem to be personified in our new setting, or maybe parenting AND teaching your kids has left you at the end of your rope. Things that were a bit annoying before, have become seemingly impossible.
 
Kindness must begin in our own house, and practicing patience with each other is a great place to start. The kindness of Jesus was beautifully displayed in His patience with those that followed him…those that were most often with Him. Was it not Peter who denied Jesus three times, and then sat with Jesus on the beach as Jesus loved and encouraged Peter? Peter himself knew the patience of Jesus, 
 
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. . . . Count the patience of our Lord as salvation… 2 Peter 3:9,15
 
And then there was Philip who sheepishly asked the Lord,
 
“Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus answers with compassion and patience, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” John 14:8-9
 
Paul also challenges the Thessalonians in 2 Thessalonians 3:5,
 
“May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.”
 
 Steadfastness here is the same word translated “patient endurance” elsewhere. Paul looks to the dependable and patient kindness of Jesus. We can learn here. Patience in the little things…in our own homes with those that are closest to us, is kind. And, it beautifully reflects and displays the kindness of our loving and gracious Savior. 
 
Prayer:
Father help us be kind to others, as Jesus was kind to us. May that begin with patience in our own homes, with those closest to us. Amen.

      

4/20/20

Kindness

Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? Romans 2:4

Kindness is something we all need a bit more of today. It’s no mistake that kindness was at the forefront of the character and ministry of Jesus when He was on the earth. It was something He modeled on a regular basis…something he displayed to those He led and served. And kindness is something, no doubt, that Jesus wanted us to learn from Him and in turn show to others. 

Romans 2:4 reminds us that that it is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance. The word “repentance” comes from the Greek word “metanoia” which means “to change ones mind”. At the end of the day it is the goodness of God that draws us to Him.

So shouldn’t it be “the goodness of God” then, as displayed through our lives that draws people in? Often Jesus is misrepresented by those of us claiming to follow Him. Fear, judgement, anger, hate, coercion…these things never won anyone over. Paul’s desire was for kindness to enlighten others…

I want their hearts to be encouraged and joined together in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding and have the knowledge of God’s mystery…Christ. All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Him. Colossians 2:1-3

Paul himself declared that He was shown mercy and kindness in order that others may see God’s goodness and believe:

But for this very reason I was shown mercy, so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display His perfect patience as an example to those who would believe in Him for eternal life. 1 Timothy 1:16

In addition to giving away what has been so graciously given to us, those in Christ have the added advantage of being taught and developed by the Holy Spirit who begins to produce fruit in our lives. In Galatians 5:22, Paul reminds us that “kindness” is one of those fruits. 

Paul is saying that true, godly kindness is a supernatural gift that works in spite of someone’s disposition. This means that, no matter what disposition we possess, we are called to cultivate a life of kindness through the power of the Holy Spirit. 

Kindness is both internal and external. Once we realize that kindness is something that the Holy Spirit wants to work within us, we need to also realize the scope of this work. Which is this: kindness is supposed to seep into every area of our beings. In short, we are called to cultivate kindness in our hearts and our actions. Tim Keller

As those claiming to belong to Jesus, we must lead with kindness. And, we have never had a better opportunity to show the world the kindness of our loving Savior. The world is looking for authentic, life-giving signs that those of us following Jesus truly belong to Him, and we are willing to share the kindness they we’ve been shown. 

This week we will look at stories of the kindness of Jesus, and ways we can apply that kindness in our encounters and interactions with others. 

Prayer:
Father, thank you for drawing us to You and to repentance by showing us kindness through Jesus. May we too, display the kindness of Jesus to everyone we meet.

      

4/17/20

Rest.

“Darkness wants us to live our lives worn out. Rest is holy. Get some.” Bob Goff

There is yet, at least one more thing that the cross and the empty tomb mean for us…something often missed and frequently neglected. Something we often don’t allow ourselves to experience, even though it is ours to embrace. That “something” is rest.

We have all been physically exhausted. Perhaps after we have worked in the yard all day, or pulled a 12 hour shift, or run a marathon, we have found our bodies at the end of their rope and desperately needing to sit or sleep…or find some way to recover. God established the biblical concept of “sabbath” in part to give our weary bodies rest. 

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Exodus 20:8

Our society encourages us to “go, go, go…” and we often wear busyness and multi-tasking as a badge of honor. More times than not, we neglect our body’s cry for rest…rest is often the first thing we sacrifice.
We need physical rest.

However, there is also a difference between resting from “doing work”, and resting because “the work has been done”. Romans 8:1 says,

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

The phrase “now no condemnation” means that before, there
was condemnation. “Before”, we were stuck in a bad place because there was work to be done in order to have a relationship with God… and we were not capable of doing it. So Jesus…the cross and the empty tomb…now the work has been done! If then, the work has been done, we can rest. If we don’t, it means we are still trying to accomplish the work that Jesus has already finished.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matt 11:28-30

In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8

Writer Patsy Clairmont encourages…

Cozy into bed, pray your most sincere thoughts, trust you were heard, and sleep. We can’t fix all that’s broken, but we can be diligent with what’s in our power to do. And what we need now is regenerating rest. With morning comes new mercies and enough strength to face another day.

Prayer:

Meet me, O Christ, in the stillness of morning. Move me, O Spirit, to quiet my heart.
Mend me, O Father, from yesterday’s harms. From the discords of yesterday, resurrect my peace.
From the discouragement of yesterday, resurrect my hope. From the weariness of yesterday, resurrect my strength. From the doubts of yesterday, resurrect my faith.
From the wounds of yesterday, resurrect my love. Let me enter this new day, aware of my need,
and awake to your grace, O Lord, Amen. Every Moment Holy – Douglas McKelvey

Let’s enjoy the “rest” that Jesus has secured for us…

      

4/16/20

Free. Truly free.

This week in light of the resurrection, we have been encouraged to run after Jesus with a “reckless” abandon, and to “step out of the boat” onto the dicey waves and live where Jesus lives – where adventure and a full life make their home. What if we added dancing to this list? After all, isn’t dancing what people do when they have been set free? When they truly are free? In Galatians 5:1, Paul reminds us exactly what Jesus accomplished when he died on the cross and then rose again…

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

The Christians in Galatia had come to Christ by grace and through faith, but they had abandoned that faith and had once again begun to live as slaves to the law. Once again, they were trying to earn what could never be earned, only given in grace. We do this too. Paul reminds them – and us - that Jesus secured their freedom on the cross, so that they would truly be free!We have been set free! Free from being slaves to sin…free from being slaves to the law…free from being slaves to death. In Christ we are no longer bound to these things…we. are. free. Reason to dance? Indeed. 
So why don’t we see more dancing? Why, do we seldom find ourselves dancing? Have we forgotten how?

What we have forgotten is that freedom is a fact, not a feeling. One is either free or he is not free. In Christ, we have been made free, and feelings have no authority to mandate whether we are free or not. Christ has set us free!

Now that we are free, let’s do stuff…dancing can be one, but there is so much more!

You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Galatians 5:13-14

Paul reaffirms our freedom in Christ – he does not want us to miss this truth. He then reminds us not to abuse our freedom. He says to use your freedom to love others – and service is what that looks like. When we are weighted down by sin and the law, by giving in to the flesh or performing (human effort) to please others, life very easily becomes about us. When we begin to live like the free people we were created to be, love becomes our motivation for life – for everything.

It is one thing to know that that you have been set free “from” certain things. In Christ we get to know what we are set free “to” as well. We are set free “to” love and serve others. What a gift! This is a call for dancing as well!

One day the Corona Virus will be over. There is a chance that there will be dancing…and no doubt most of us will join in. However, props to those of you that got up this morning and danced because you know that Christ has set you free. Dancing is what free people do.

Prayer:
Father,
it was for freedom that Christ has set us free…THANK YOU! May we walk – even dance –in freedom, and use our freedom to love and serve others. Amen. 

      

4/15/20

Step Out of the Boat

Author Mike Yaconelli suggests that,

“Faith has been reduced to a comfortable system of beliefs about God instead of an uncomfortable     encounter with God. Childlike faith understands that God is as capable of destroying us as He is of saving us. Risky curiosity breaks from the safety and comfort of tame faith and ventures into the terrifying presence of a “not so tame” God.” 

There seems to be a great chasm between being religious and encountering Jesus. There is absolutely no value in becoming more religious. We can pursue religion for eternity and be miserably unsatisfied for eternity. We can be in church every Sunday, serve every weekend and make an annual trek to an orphanage overseas, but until we are encountering the person of Jesus Christ on a regular basis and allowing him to change us - and until we begin to be with him and live in him, we will always be left wanting. There is nothing there, outside of Christ - nothing of any value. If indeed He died for us, and rose again, then real life…abundant life, is only found in the person of Jesus. Peter knew this to be true…

And in the fourth watch of the night He (Jesus) came to them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them saying, “Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid.” Matthew 14:25-27

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water”. He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. Matthew 14:28-29

The waves were high…scripture says that the wind was against the boat. Peter wasn’t all of the sudden wanting to try his hand at wave-walking. The storm was brutal and this was no time to impress friends. He knew his faith was weak and that there was a chance he would drown. But, Peter wanted to live! He wanted to be with Jesus…he wanted to be where Jesus was. 

Look, this is about more than finding a little peace in the midst of our storms. This is about living a full life in the presence of Jesus…in the place where Jesus is, getting a front row seat to all that Jesus is and does. You and I have to come to the place of understanding that Jesus Christ is the bottom line - he is all we have and he is all we need. We spend a lot of time pursuing religious things, but scripture tells us that 

"God bestowed upon Him the name that is above every other name, that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow in heaven and on the earth and under the earth, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father".

Yaconelli concludes…

“I want a lifetime of holy moments. Every day I want to be in dangerous proximity to Jesus. I long for a life that explodes with meaning and is filled with adventure, wonder, risk, and danger. I long for a faith that is gloriously treacherous. I want to be with Jesus, not knowing whether to laugh or cry.”

Prayer:
Father, thank you for Jesus! May we trust that life is found in Him alone. Don’t let us settle for anything less! Amen.

      

4/14/20

Reckless.

“Mistaking this active life of faith for an institutionally backed and culturally bound belief system is similar to reducing the Mona Lisa to paint-by-numbers.”  Dan Taylor

Recklessness is usually a bad thing, right? As a matter of fact, most of us would take a lot of pride in being calculated and safe. Most of us grew up analyzing and over-analyzing everything. With every step we would weigh safety, investment, risk, time – all against the desired outcome or benefit. There is a tension, however, and maybe even some frustration that we carry on our cautious journey. Where has this landed us? Sure, we might find ourselves “safe”, without much need, and able to provide for our family. But, what can we say of experience, or passion, or fullness of life and purpose? How much have we laughed, how deep have our conversations gone, and whose life have we made a difference in? What have we missed out on because of our inclination toward caution?

The cross and the empty tomb mean forgiveness of sin and victory over death
…at what point do we abandon all and run recklessly after Jesus? In this sense, can’t recklessness be a good thing? God created each of us with a healthy dose of recklessness…He wants us to embrace it. In 2 Corinthians 2:9 we are encouraged, 

“…no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.”
 

Do we want our lives to be defined by the cautious steps we took along the way, or by the times we threw caution to the wind and without analyzing any part of the process jumped passionately, with “reckless abandon”, after the causes, relationships, and experiences that our creator strategically dropped in our path? The disciples were reckless. Mark 1:16-18 says,

And as He was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. And He said to them, “Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men.” And they immediately left their nets and followed Him.

“Immediately”. Notice the reckless abandonment the disciples display here. “They immediately left their nets and followed him”. Author Mike Yaconelli defines abandonment as
giving oneself over unrestrainedly to an idea larger than oneself”. These guys left everything they knew and were comfortable with. They walked away from that which was secure and safe. Why would they do this? Yaconelli goes on to say, somehow these men knew that life with Jesus is the life they had been seeking unsuccessfully in the confines of safety and caution.

Following Jesus is risky. Some would consider it reckless. Following Jesus won’t yield the most popular title and it most likely will not be widely accepted by the culture you find yourself in. Following Jesus may even cause friction in your particular religious circles, because Jesus never played well inside the lines. And life, real life, should be lived outside the lines. That’s where the good stuff is – the jaw-dropping, breath-stealing, exhilaratingly eternal stuff.

It’s time to embrace a little recklessness – or a lot. Our lives are too short to be described in the same manner a “paint-by-numbers” would be. Our artist is far too creative. The masterpiece He has in mind will blow you away. 

Prayer:
Father, Jesus died and rose again for me…strengthen me to LIVE for Him! Amen!

      

4/13/20

Empty Tomb.

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you… Luke 24:1-6

New mornings and first days are awesome. The new beginnings, new opportunities…the hope! The first day of the week after Jesus’ death on the cross was no different. This day, in particular, we can be reminded that
every day in Christ is a new day:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23

Surprises are in order when you are following Jesus as well. The ladies travelled to the tomb with burial spices, fully expecting to find the lifeless body of their savior. The stone was rolled away and the body of Jesus was gone…
when walking with Jesus expect the unexpected. His ways are higher than ours…his plans much greater:

…no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him. 1 Corinthians 2:9

Big surprises. But should they have been surprised? The angels proclaimed, “He is not here; He has risen! Remember how He told you…” In Galilee Jesus had told His followers, “The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill Him and on the third day He will be raised up”.
In Jesus promises come true.

For all the promises of God find their Yes in him (Jesus)… 2 Corinthians 1:20
  1. Every day in Christ is a new day
  2. Allow yourself to be surprised by Jesus
  3. In Jesus, promises come true
The empty tomb means victory over death…and we too, in Christ, are made alive and given victory over death!

Prayer:

Father…thank you for Jesus and the empty tomb! Thank you for new mercies, surprises, and promises that come true!

      

4/10/20

Holy Week - Telestai!

Paid. In. Full. We love that phrase. When we have paid off a big bill, or a car or house, to hear someone say “You don’t owe anything”, is life-giving.  

Tetelestai. Tetelestai is a Greek word that comes from the verb teleo, which means "to bring to an end, to complete, to accomplish." It's a crucial word because it signifies the successful end to a particular course of action. In scripture it translates paid in full, or it is finished

When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:30

This week we celebrate something special…something significant and life-altering. This week we celebrate the culmination of a beautiful story…God’s story. God, in His infinite wisdom and power uniquely fashioned you and I in His own image. He set us in a world that was perfect and good, so we could enjoy a beautiful fellowship with Him…all for His glory. 

But, as Pastor Matt Chandler likes to put, “you and I began to hijack God’s story and slowly write ourselves in as the main character”. Our pride and self-centeredness took over, and sin crept in. Our fellowship with God was broken.How could this be restored? For thousands of years mankind has made lists of do’s and don’ts, of rights and wrongs, all in an attempt to gain God’s approval – many would call that religion. But, who is really good enough? You and I on our best day would never be able to fix this.

Enter Jesus. You see the wrath that you and I were to experience because of our sin was placed on Jesus who came to earth and lived a sinless life…then offered Himself as a sacrifice on the cross. In the most powerful moment in history, God took our sin and pride and selfishness and placed it on Jesus, and He took the goodness and righteousness of Jesus and gave it to us. The justice and holiness of God collided with the love and grace of God…at the cross.

When you were stuck in your old sin-dead life, you were incapable of responding to God. God brought you alive—right along with Christ! Think of it! All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ’s cross. Colossians 2:13-15(The Message)

Now, everyone and anyone who believes in and places their trust in Jesus, can be restored back into a relationship with God. God is inviting you and I to be a part of His story. 

So, on that seemingly dark Friday in history when Jesus utters “Tetelestaifrom the cross, my debt and your debt was cancelled and declared paid in full”. Frederick M. Lehman writes

“Could we with ink the ocean fill, and were the skies of parchment made…were every stalk on earth a quill, and every man a scribe by trade. To write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry. Nor could the scroll contain the whole, though stretched from sky to sky.”      

Prayer:
Father God…thank you that “
It is finished”. Amen.

      

4/9/20

Holy Week – Humility

The Last Supper. Couldn’t we say that the “last” time we did anything, it was significant? “Lasts” can be very meaningful. We typically, clearly remember what was said and what was done at our “lasts”. Can you imagine the significance of the “last” time Jesus sat down to share a meal with those that were closest to Him? Oh, to have been in that upper room, focused on every movement…hanging on every word!

And, Jesus was fully intentional about what He did and what He said that night…
…so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. John 13:4-5

Come again? Jesus washed the disciple’s feet? The Son of God…King of the Universe – who was about to die for the sins of the world, by the way -  washed the feet of some goofy, normal, broken guys like you and me? Indeed. The humility of Jesus is a beautiful thing. Don’t miss that as His window was closing on this earth, the King of Kings thought it meaningful and significant to serve us.

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. John 13:12-15

As was consistent with how He walked on earth, Jesus once again turns the world upside down and reminds His followers that it’s not important to “be first” or “look out for number 1”. What is important is to live humbly and serve others. 

What is done, and what is said at our “lasts” is significant. 

It is a rare thing in this world when kings, and presidents, and leaders are…well servants before they are anything else. This is who Jesus is and this is who He wants us to be as well. And as scripture tells us, the acts of service and humility did not end there. Jesus dies selflessly and sacrificially, the ultimate act of service and humility. 

Jesus truly wanted the disciples to learn something…do you think they got them message. Do we? Humility is hard for us to come by…but it is who Jesus was, and is. Let’s learn from Him. 

Prayer:
Jesus, thank you for humbly serving us on the cross. May we wash each other’s feet today. Amen.

      

4/8/20

Holy Week – Spy Wednesday?

Bond. James Bond. Greatest spy ever? In the world of motion pictures, one could definitely make that argument. But Bond was a hero, as most spies are. He was all about overcoming evil and protecting the best interests of his country. That is how we typically like to think of spies. But, what to do with bad spies? What about a spy whose glaring quality is betrayal?

As most theologians see it, Wednesday of Holy week was relatively quiet. Jesus continued to teach in the temple and spend time with His followers, but the day was somewhat quiet. Wednesday, however, is also the day that many biblical scholars say Judas went in secret to the religious and court officials and offered to help them arrest Jesus…for 30 pieces of silver. So, it is often referred to as “spy” Wednesday.

Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver.From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over. Matthew 26:14-16

Betrayal. Judas gets way to much credit for Wednesday. Interestingly enough however…just before in the same passage
“A woman came to Him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume. Which she poured on His head…When the disciples saw this they were indignant. ‘Why this waste?” They asked…Jesus said to them, ‘When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare my body for burial…wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told…” Matthew 26:7-13

Two people, two totally different stories…two extremely different opinions of Jesus. Judas was willing to sell away the life of Jesus for 30 pieces of silver – a life that Jesus would willingly and voluntarily lay down anyway. And this woman, who so valued Jesus and what He was about to do that she lavished her love on Him…well, Jesus says that she will be a part of the gospel story forever. 

What about us? How will we respond to a God whose love is so great that He sent His son to die for our sins, and then overcame death so we could be in relationship with Him? Will we respond with Alabaster or betrayal?

Let’s start a movement to change “spy Wednesday” to “Alabaster Wednesday”. And let’s let our lives reflect that level of love poured out on our Savior. He is certainly worthy of it.

Prayer:
Father, may our lives be a constant picture of love poured out for Jesus. Amen

      

4/7/20

Holy Week – Compassion

Have you ever loved someone or something so much that it made your stomach hurt? Or, have you ever loved someone so much that when they were in pain or sad, you felt that too? That is called compassion. Compassion has been defined as

That (human) disposition that fuels acts of kindness and mercy. Compassion, a form of love, is aroused within us when we are confronted with those who suffer or are vulnerable.

In scripture, the Greek word often translated as compassion describes something heavier. As the “Triumphal Entry” led Jesus closer to the city, scripture tells us that Jesus “saw the city and He wept over it” (Luke 19:41). This was not Jesus looking over the city with a single tear trickling down his cheek. This describes a guttural weeping for Jerusalem, for the people there, and for all that the week would have in store. 

This was not the first time Jesus had compassion…in Matthew 9:36 He was moved with compassion when He saw the crowd, 
“…because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

In Matthew 14:14 we see that 
“…he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” 

Charles Spurgeon said:
“I suppose that when our Saviour looked upon certain sights…his emotions were very deep, and then his face betrayed it, his eyes gushed like founts with tears, and you saw that his big heart was ready to burst with pity for the sorrow upon which his eyes were gazing. He was moved with compassion. His whole nature was agitated with commiseration for the sufferers before him. 

You can’t miss this…God loves you that much. As He stepped into all that the week of His crucifixion would offer, Jesus was moved and motivated with compassion for the people He would ultimately die for. And all of this was fueled by His deep, deep love for the broken, the lost, the hurting…for you and me. Did you know that God loves you so much it hurts?

So how will we respond today to God’s deep and compassionate love for us?

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness,humility, meekness, and patience… Colossians 3:12

Prayer:
Father God, thank you for your compassionate love for us. May we go into all the world and love it with the same compassion. Amen.

      

4/6/20

Holy Week – Screaming Rocks

There is always someone. You know when you and your friends are so excited about something, and you get together and there is a crazy buzz and you can stop talking about it, and everyone is celebrating, and…and then there is someone in the background who is telling you that you and your friends are silly, and that you are making fools of yourselves?

The Triumphal Entry. Jesus was riding into the city on a donkey the week before He would be crucified, and the people were going crazy (Luke 19:28-40). They were waving palm branches, and throwing their robes on the road in front of Jesus, and praising God joyfully with loud voices

“Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord,
 Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heaven!”

But there is always someone. Pharisees in the crowd scolded Jesus and said “Teacher, rebuke your disciples”… (“They look silly and are making fools of themselves”). Without wavering Jesus responded powerfully:

“I tell you, if they were to keep silent, the stones would cry out!”

Screaming rocks. In one, brief statement Jesus summed up the moment, not to mention eternity. The God of the universe, who was about to sacrifice His son for the sins of the world and reconcile all of creation back to Himself, quickly brought perspective to the significance of the day and reminded all that if people don’t engage in praise and worship, the rocks on the ground will start screaming.

This is our introduction to Holy Week. It is one thing for the people to admire Jesus for what He had done…the miracles, the kindness, the parables. It is an entirely different thing for them to understand who He actually was, and to begin to celebrate what He was about to do. There was no way the rocks were going to cry out in their place.

The crucifixion and the resurrection are at the heart of our faith. In these events God made a way for us to have a relationship with Him. In these events God sealed our eternity. Do we want to be numbered with those who allowed mere rocks to cry out and celebrate in their place? 

Prayer:
Father. Today we celebrate what You have accomplished on our behalf through Jesus! May the rocks never cry in our place! Amen.

      

4/3/20

Joy

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 1 Peter 5:10

Joy comes in the morning…this week we have discussed doubt, pain, darkness, and fear. All things we each wrestle with. However, the one thread that runs consistently through these things – if we let it – is joy. Joy does come in the morning, but not because the hard stuff necessarily goes away…joy was there all along. Joy is not something we have to search for, but something we choose. This is true because joy is grounded in what we know to be true. Pastor Timothy Keller says,

“While other worldviews lead us to sit in the midst of life’s joys, foreseeing the coming sorrows, Christianity empowers its people to sit in the midst of this world’s sorrows, tasting the coming joy.”

He goes on to say that

“God is so committed to your ultimate joy that he was willing to plunge into the greatest depths of suffering himself for you. There is a joy available that the deepest grief cannot put out.”

 A couple of years ago the Hyde Park them verse was Psalm 16:11

“You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.”

We need not look very far. The joy of God is at the ready…waiting for us to embrace it, walk in it, to truly live in the joy that God so desires for each of us. Far often we are looking for the wrong thing, and we end up settling for what is temporary and fleeting…that which does not last. Joy is not found in our great experiences or in the absence of our tough ones. Joy is found in God’s presence. C.S. Lewis put it this way:

This idea of Joy is not a satisfied desire but an unsatisfied desire ─ a deep longing for God, a hungry pursuit of God’s heart that never ends and is more satisfying than any earthly happiness.”

What truth can you celebrate this week? What joy can you choose? As we end this week, may each of us realize that God desires we experience joy at the deepest level. That joy is found in Him alone.

Prayer:
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

      

4/2/20

Fear
Fear seems to have nudged its way to the front of the line these days. We fear the virus, we fear the economy, we fear the unknown, and we fear that this life will never be the same. There is an old acronym for fear…

F
alse Evidence Appearing Real

There is an amazing story in Matthew 8. Jesus and his disciples were travelling across the sea when a violent storm came over the waters. Scripture says that the disciples thought they were going to die. Jesus was asleep. The disciples woke him up and he replied,

“Why are you fearful, you of little faith?” Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea. And there was a great calm. Matthew 8:26

Please hear the heart behind these Jesus’ words. Jesus does not belittle his followers for being afraid…the storm was very REAL. What was FALSE however, was that the storm was in control. That idea may have APPEARED REAL, but Jesus quickly established that He alone was in control. “And. there. was. a. great. calm.”

What our world is currently walking through is very real. Ultimately however, COVID19 has no power over us. And, it is important for us to remember that it has never been God’s heart for us to live in fear.

For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgement. 2 Timothy 1:7

On the contrary, God has equipped us with a spirit of
  1. Power – in Jesus we have access to the most powerful resource in the Universe…power over the storms of this life for sure.
  2. Love – In Jesus we are loved perfectly and have the ability to love others. How can we do that today?
  3. Sound Judgement – in Jesus we have the ability to discern between what is right and what is wrong…what is true and what is false.
Let’s step into our fears today and remind them who is in control…

Prayer:

Father, our current crisis is real, but it is not in control. Give us the courage to walk in power, in love, and with sound judgment. Thank you for calming our storms. Amen.
 

      

4/1/20

Darkness
There seems to be a lot of talk about these being “dark” times. These are certainly difficult times, but I think we give darkness way too much credit. After all, what is darkness but the absence of light? Am I right? Darkness only exists where there is no light. So, I think it only follows that light is the main character here.  Have you ever noticed how it is impossible to create total darkness when there is any form of a light source present? You can’t do it. So, let’s focus on the star of the show…light.

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:4-5

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

John tells us that in Jesus is life, and that life is the light for all of mankind. So when Jesus lives in us His light shines in and through us and darkness is no match for it. Then Jesus tells us that He is the “light of the world” and if we follow Him we “will not walk in darkness”. Jesus is the light and when we are connected to Him, two things are true:
  1. Darkness will not overcome us
  2. We will not walk in darkness
Then in Matthew, Jesus tells those that are following Him that THEY are the light of the world…and He challenges them to let their lights shine so others can see.
 
You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16

The world desperately needs to see our light right now, and it desperately needs to see THE Light. In Jesus we have the ultimate light source, and in Jesus, we get to be a light source for others. Enough talk about darkness! The light is here, it is real, and the darkness has no power to overtake it.

Prayer:
Father my we trust that you are light, and that darkness is no match for you! Live in us…shine through us, and give us the strength to shine our lights so others can see, and ultimately glorify you.

      

MARCH 2020

3/31/20

Refined

Fire is awesome. Controlled in a fire pit or a fireplace, of course. Fire is mesmerizing when you stare at it, and the thought of its power can be intimidating. For example, at extreme heat, fire can be used to refine gold. It requires a very high temperature to melt gold, and then impurities and anything that is not gold, are burned away. What is often left is a gold that is 99.99 percent pure. What is left is gold as it was intended to be.

It is encouraging to think that what we are all going through right now could be God’s refining of us…to burn away some of the things that don’t belong and make us more like we were created to be. More like Jesus. John Piper describes what God is often doing, and the graciousness in how He refines us:

“He is a refiner's fire, and that makes all the difference. A refiner's fire does not destroy indiscriminately like a forest fire. A refiner's fire does not consume completely like the fire of an incinerator. A refiner's fire refines. It purifies. It melts down the bar of silver or gold, separates out the impurities that ruin its value, burns them up, and leaves the silver and gold intact. He is like a refiner's fire.”

No one loves to be burned…or stretched or pruned for that matter. But sometimes what hurts or is uncomfortable, in the long run, makes us better. There is so much care in the way God refines us. It comes directly out of His love for us and His desire for us to experience life as He designed it…to move out those things that are distractions or even harmful to us. 

And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’” Zechariah 13:9

So that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:7

Why might God be refining us? What is He teaching us right now? What are some things in our heart, or character, that need to change? What is distracting us right now? Perhaps, God is refining us simply so we will trust him more and spend more time in His presence.

Prayer:

Father God, thank you that you love us enough to work on us…to bring our hearts and minds and bodies into sync with who You are. Father, may we embrace the Refiner’s Fire. May we become what you created us to be!

      

3/30/20

Doubt
 
It is ok to admit that this is hard. COVID19 and all that comes with it has been and continues to be difficult. But often when we are faced with conflict or trial we react by feeling we have to be stronger and “tough it out”…or we can’t show signs of weakness. Or, we feel God might be disappointed with us if we have questions or doubt about what He is doing right now. This is hard.
 
But when we look at the person of Jesus (and know that He represents God’s heart), we learn that Jesus is not disappointed and even welcomes our doubt. Doubt is coming to Jesus with an authentic heart that says, “I don’t understand but I want to…God help me understand”. 
 
There is an amazing scene at the end of the book of Matthew. The disciples had walked with Jesus, watched as He performed miracle after miracle, saw Him crucified, then resurrected. Jesus then told the disciples to meet Him on a mountain in Galilee…
 
The 11 disciples traveled to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had directed them. When they saw Him, they worshiped, but some doubtedThen Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations…. Matthew 28:16-19
 
Jesus had proved Himself over and over to the disciples, and scripture tells us “…but some doubted”. Our doubting is not abnormal or scandalous…neither is it in vain. Jesus will respond. In this story – and I believe in ours as well – Jesus responds in two ways:
 
  1. Verse 18 says “Then Jesus came near….” How beautiful to think that when we doubt, the first reaction of our Savior is to come near to us. He does not run away or turn His back on us. Be encouraged by that today.
  2. In verse 19, Jesus says “Go, therefore, and make disciples….” Jesus does not shun the disciples for doubting or send them away to get their act together. HE SENDS THEM OUT ON MISSION. If we are authentic about our doubts and come to Jesus with it, He can still use us. 
We all have doubts right now. Let’s bring them to the one person that can meet us there. He promises to draw near and to turn our doubts into eternal truths that will impact our world, for His glory.
 
Prayer:
Father, may we be honest about our doubts and may we come directly to you with them. Thank you for drawing near. Use our brokenness and our doubts for your glory. Amen.

      

3/27/20

Is He Worthy?
 
Viruses and quarantines and social distancing all have a tendency to make us slow down and take inventory on what we truly value in this life. Hint: it’s probably not going to be in your garage, closet, kitchen, or wallet. Hopefully, the things we are learning to value are eternal things…things that last.
 
I would offer that as we close a busy week, we might value Jesus more than all else. Is He worthy of every ounce of our value, our adoration and worship? We have learned this week that He is in full control, that He is our provider, that He alone is the source of true peace, and that His love for us is so perfect that He was willing to die for us. Is He worthy?
 
Quite often our response to all Jesus is for us and all He has done for us is to want to do much for Him. That is a great and pure desire…however, His greatest desire for us is that we trust and ultimately find rest in His worthiness. Listen to the prophet Zephaniah as He speaks of God’s love for you…
 
The Lord your God is in your midst,
A mighty one who will save
He will rejoice over you with gladness
He will quiet you by His love;
He will exult over you with singing.
Zephaniah 3:17
 
Pastor and author Timothy Keller says that “The great basis of Christian assurance is not how much our hearts are set on God, but how unshakeably His heart is set on us.”
 
God’s heart is set on you and me. What a beautiful and life-altering thought!
 
As we try to allow our minds and our hearts to step away from a busy week and the chaos that this virus has created, take a deep breath and allow the One who is worthy to rejoice over you with gladness, quiet you by His love, and sing over you as you rest in Him.
 
Singer and songwriter Andrew Peterson has written a beautiful song responding to the question “Is He worthy?”...you can follow the link to hear musicians Shane and Shane sing it. Let the worthy One sing over you today.
                                                                                                                        
 

3/26/20

Peace
 
I miss the days when my boys were learning to swim. These days I teach them how to pay bills and buy insurance…not as much fun. One of the places our kids learned to swim was a big pool with a huge rock in the middle of it. This was not a natural rock…it was a massive piece of art that protruded from the middle of the pool. It was a rock, nonetheless. As the boys were learning, they would paddle from the side of the pool out to the enormous anchor and grab it for dear life…they could trust it because they knew it was a safe place, and they knew the rock wasn’t going anywhere.
 
When life comes at us like a storm…and it seems to be stormy at the moment, it is a gift to have a rock to hold on to. 
 
True peace in this life is not found in the simple absence of the storm…true peace comes when we have a rock to hold on to in the midst of the storm. Jesus reminds us that in Him…in His promises, we always have a rock to hold on to.
 
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
 
“These things…” are the promises of God. One of those promises is that Jesus has overcome this world! Scripture, however, is full of God’s promises that provide peace and stability in the middle of any of life’s storms. 
  • What are some of God’s promises to us? Spend a few minutes listing and talking about God’s promises.
Here are a few…
 
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:28-29
 
And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19
 
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6
 
We all need a few rocks to hold on to right now…those are found in the truth of God’s beautiful promises to us. True peace lives there too…
 
Prayer: 
Father, may each of us cling tightly to the truth of your promises to us. And, may we truly experience the peace that only comes from knowing You. Thank you that you have already overcome the storms we are walking through. Amen.

      

3/25/20

Gratitude
 
Toilet paper. Some would argue that the gleaming sign of these “difficult and confusing” days is…toilet paper. Toilet paper was the first thing to leave the shelves at the local supermarket, people have hoarded it and fought for it, and it has become the subject of numerous memes on social media. Toilet paper. But toilet paper is just the beginning, right? We seem to be panicking over the stock market, coming undone that our favorite restaurant is indefinitely closed, or that the NCAA tournament is not going to happen.
 
It seems that our general response to this virus and all that comes with it has been to focus on what we “don’t” have and what we think we need. So we panic and we stockpile and we cling ever-so-tightly to what we think is ours. Read Matthew 6:25-34:
 
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can anyone of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
 
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
 
Gratitude is the idea of waking up every morning and focusing on what we DO have and trusting God for what we don’t. It is a heart that can clearly see all of the blessings in our lives, and then answer the chaos, conflict, and confusion with a resounding “thank you”.
  • Take the time to make a list of all the things that you DO have…all the provision and all of the blessings. Spend a few minutes thanking God for those things.
This is where we all start to gain some perspective on toilet paper…
 
Prayer: 
Father…we are blessed and fully provided for! Thank you that you know our every need and will meet it…far and above what we can imagine. Give us grateful hearts! Amen.

      

3/24/20

What is Love?
 
It has been said that “Love makes the world go around”. Perhaps there has never been a more appropriate time to test that theory. It seems we find ourselves somewhat quarantined with fewer distractions and a bit of extra time. What would it look like if we spent that time focusing on love? 
 
But, what is love…really? We throw the word around pretty loosely as we discuss both people and ice cream. It is hard to find a song that doesn’t talk about love in some form. Many movies and books are love stories. But what is love?
 
Scripture tells us that the greatest and most important commandment is to “love God with all of your heart, soul, and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39). This is no small thing…the greatest and most important commandment?
  1. Love God
  2. Love your neighbor
In both of these situations, love is a verb that we act on. So as we are sitting in our homes with a little extra time, what does it look like to love God and to love our neighbor? It is important to understand here, as scripture tells us in 1 John 4:19 that “we love because He first loved us”. Our ability to love others is based on our acceptance of God’s love for us…otherwise our love will be shallow and wanting. 
 
And God’s love for us is perfect. It is unconditional, unchanging, sacrificial, and we can’t earn it. God loves us…and He couldn’t love us any more or any less. So it is from that very deep well that we have the ability to love God back, and love others too.
 
So, take the love challenge: Put love into practice today!
  • You can love God by enjoying His beauty in nature, spending time with Him in scripture and prayer, participating in church online, singing or listening to worship songs, listing all of the things you are thankful for, and by loving your neighbor.
  • You can love your neighbor by writing encouraging notes or texts, making a phone call to let someone know you were thinking about them, taking groceries by someone’s house, running an errand for a friend, or making a donation to a local food bank.
But don’t forget that God loves you right where you are. In what some would call “uncertain times”, there is nothing more “certain” than God’s love for us.
 
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37-39
 
Prayer: 
Father, thank you for loving us. May we show our love for you by loving others!

      

3/23/20

He is still God
 
It happened almost simultaneously. Just as the unsettling news of COVID19 came pouring in on every news and social media outlet, changing and literally upending our world as we know it, it happened. Spring happened…anyway. 
 
We were all scrambling…to find answers. “How do we respond?” “How seriously do we take this thing?” “What does this mean for me…for my family?” “What will work, school and community look like?” 
 
In the midst of the chaos, I kept seeing the miraculous signs of spring. As the world was teetering in panic mode, everything was turning green. Bluebonnets were popping up all over. Flowers in my back yard were bursting out in spectacular shades of white and purple and red. And the birds…every morning the birds were singing in amazing chorus. The world was changing…then again, it wasn’t.
 
Spring happens every year. This year, God has used the almost overnight explosion of spring to remind me that He is in control. In a time where there are so many questions, God has quietly guided my heart to the truth that has brought me peace. He is in control. 
  • What does it mean that God is in control?
    • It means that nothing surprises Him or changes Him.
    • It means that He is not bound by or subject to anything in the universe 
    • It means that He has final authority and say over all things
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
      Romans 11:36
 
The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.
      Psalm 103:19
 
It brings me hope that while you and I have a limited view of this life…and of eternity, God has that “30,000-foot view”. He sees what we can’t and He knows what we don’t. 
 
So today, as you continue to navigate these crazy and confusing days, trust that the God of hope has the reigns (and this virus) in His hands. 

Prayer:
Father, there is so much about the current situation in this world that we don’t understand. Help us trust that you are ultimately in control. May we find peace and hope knowing that you hold us in your hands. Amen.

      
Hyde Park Schools is a private Christian school system offering an excellent, Christ-centered, college preparatory Pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade education at multiple campuses in Austin, Texas.

      
Affiliations and Accreditations