Rest for the People of God, Part 2

Rest for the People of God, Part 2

Word in Season

This is part 2 of a series of posts on biblical rest. See part 1 here.

Biblical rest is about finding refuge, satisfaction, and actively trusting in the finished work of God’s son, Jesus Christ. Putting our faith in his work on the cross as final for our salvation is where we find rest for our souls (Matthew 11:29). Before we dive into application, I think it is helpful to look at the opposite of rest in the Bible. 

Rest and Restlessness: The opposite of rest in the Bible is restlessness. This means we can labor without resting and we can rest without resting. The key to biblical rest is not necessarily to stop laboring and physically rest. 

Psalm 127 is about three areas of human activity: The home, the city, and the family. What does the Psalmist point out about these places of labor? He reflects on the significance of our labor and God’s work. 

Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil, for he gives to his beloved sleep. – Psalm 127:1-2

It isn’t the work that is bad, it is the heart behind the work. There is a vanity to laboring in any of these areas of life when that labor comes with anxious toil or restlessness.  Why is it in vain? Because this is God’s work to complete. It is he who is taking the work and using it for his purposes. He is in charge. It is a gift from him to have a family, a home, and a safe city. We are not in control of the outcome and our anxious toil is a complete giveaway that we are resting on our works instead of in his. God is pushed out of the picture entirely. That is why the Psalmist stresses that we can lay down that restlessness labor and sleep as an act of faith. 

This striving on the basis of our own works is mentioned in Hebrews chapter 4. 

For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on.  So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. – Hebrews 4:9-11

We strive, but we strive to enter the rest provided in Jesus Christ. We rest from our works, our striving, our insatiable need to prove or earn something. We are redirected to strive towards the rest found in Christ. We lay down our anxious toil, our restlessness, and surrender our work and our rest to our Lord, Jesus Christ. 

When the Israelites neglected to keep the Sabbath it was a sign of their declining spiritual state. When we find ourselves full of restless striving in the work God has given us to do or unable to physically rest, it too is a sign of spiritual self dependence and a lack of faith. Striving apart from Christ never brings rest. 

Stay tuned for the third part of this post where we will make our way towards application.

Rest for the People of God, Part 1

Rest for the People of God, Part 1

Word in Season

This is part 1 of a series of posts on biblical rest. See part 2 here.

Here is what I’ve been pondering lately: Rest. Not just any rest, biblical rest. The rest the Bible talks about and teaches.  A rest that any number of vacations won’t quench. A rest better than the best night of sleep you have ever had. A rest that can be enjoyed even during the hardest seasons of life. The rest that Jesus talks about giving. A rest that reaches all the way down to your soul (Matthew 11:29). A rest that permeates into every facet of your life. But before we get there, we need to go back to the beginning and see how rest develops in the Bible. We need the full picture because the Bible is one book, all about Jesus Christ, and all of it matters. 

God Rested (Genesis 1:31-2:3): Although the Lord doesn’t need to rest (Psalm 121:3-4), we see him resting on the seventh day of creation. What’s notable is the context around his resting: God rests after his “very good” work is completed. He rests in satisfaction at his completed work. God rested with satisfaction from the very good work he alone had finished. Remember this because it is important. 

God’s People Rest (Exodus 16:16-24): God redeems Israel (his people) from slavery and now he graciously gives them a day to rest. Will the people obey and trust God to make provision for them on this day of rest or will they trust in their own work and go out to gather food on the seventh day? This rest is a gift, however, in order to take this rest, they must trust in the work of God to provide for them. Eventually, God establishes the Sabbath rest as part of the ten commandments (Exodus 20:9-11) and anyone who fails to take the Sabbath rest will die (Exodus 35:1-3). 

Sabbath and Redemption (Deuteronomy 5:15): The death penalty if you don’t rest? I never understood why such a harsh penalty was necessary. Deuteronomy connects this rest to redemption which helps us understand how the LORD sees this rest. 

Moses says, “You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day” (Deuteronomy 5:15). 

God saved you, therefore you rest in his work. This rest wasn’t a mindless pattern. The Sabbath has to do with freedom and redemption. It was a day for the Israelites to remember that God saved them in his great act of redemption. They were to rest with complete satisfaction in the redemptive work of God (Does this remind you of Genesis 2, it should!) A neglecting of this rest was rejecting the redemptive work of God. When you reject the redemptive work of God, there is death. Not keeping the Sabbath was a key indicator throughout the Old Testament in the declining spiritual state of the people (see Jeremiah 17:21-27 and Nehemiah 13:15-18). 

Lord of the Sabbath, Lord of Rest It is in Christ’s work on the cross where God’s people find their ultimate rest. Jesus invites people to come to him to find rest for their souls (Matthew 11:28-30). The Sabbath rest, where God’s people stopped to recognize and be satisfied in God’s work of redemption, was a shadow pointing to the work of Christ that offers redemption and thus true rest to all who believe (Colossians 2:15-16).

Jesus claims he is the Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:27-28). Not only is Jesus claiming he is God with this statement, but he is also stating that he is the one who the Sabbath was all about. Jesus is the substance of the Sabbath rest for the people of God. The Pharisees were trusting in their own works (ironically this doesn’t lead to rest, it leads to slavery) and lost the heart of the Sabbath which was to rest in the work of God. This Sabbath rest pointed forward to the salvation that is found only in Christ. There is no rest, no salvation apart from Christ. 

Biblical rest is about finding refuge, satisfaction, and actively trusting in the finished work of God’s son, Jesus Christ. When you reject this, there is death. 

Now What? If you are still reading, I’m glad for that. Theology is important because we can’t correctly apply God’s word unless we know what it says. However, I hope you are wondering what this all means for you now, today, in this moment. Run to Jesus as your Savior if you have not done that. Put your faith in his work on the cross as final for your salvation. If you have already done that and are wondering how this rest in Christ actually works itself out in our every day to day lives, stay tuned for the second part of this post where we will try to flesh that out.

See part 2 here.

The Bible: God’s Word, His Story – Part 2

The Bible: God’s Word, His Story – Part 2

Word in Season

(Editor’s Note: This is Part 2 of a two-part series to help you engage the Bible better in 2021. Read Part 1 here)

With this post, I want to encourage you to consistently engage with the Bible in the new year. Below I have provided links to several excellent resources that you might find helpful. All of them are intended to help with one thing: How to engage with your Bible in the new year in a way that can help you better understand the Bible as a whole. But first, a few suggestions/encouragements:

  • Commit to reading the Bible consistently. While the Bible nowhere commands us to read it every day or read through the Bible in a year, a consistent engagement is encouraged everywhere. God’s people should have the Word of God close to their hearts so that their minds and their walks are renewed and transformed. Here is a tip (also helpful to other aspects of life): it is more effective to spend time every day reading a chapter or so, than it is to read many chapters in a day followed by a weeks-long break. Look at the rhythm of your day and find a daily time that works for you to spend 15-30 minutes reading Scripture – and then watch as God transforms your life through his Word!
  • Commit to read the Scripture itself. It is important to read the actual words of the Bible, along with whatever devotional you pick for the year. Learn to soak in the unprocessed, pure Word. 
  • Consider the context. See Scripture for what it is – a big story with each passage or story playing a part within it. As you read devotionals or listen to sermons that quote specific verses, teach yourself to pay attention to the context. What is happening right around this verse? What did the author of the text (not just the one speaking about the text) mean by this? How is this verse connected to the redemptive story of the Bible?
  • Commit to engaging with the Bible in the community of your local church. It is fine to listen to outsourced teachers, but they don’t actually see how the Word impacts you and what your life looks like on a daily basis. Make your local church the main context of your learning, growing and changing, as you lean into the biggest story ever – together. Find yourself a Paul, find a Timothy, and engage one of the resources below and grow together. Find a study to join in! Our church has several groups that you could join.

In 2021, seek to understand what the Scripture says, what it means, and how God changes and transforms our lives through his Word. Explore how a passage or a narrative fits within the larger story of the Bible. Do not stop at the do’s and don’ts! Also, make sure to join us for the C2C study on Tuesday nights at 6:30 at the church or online (beginning January 15th).

And now for some resource suggestions, including Bible reading plans, studies, and books that can help you better engage the Bible in 2021: 

A Reading Plan for Families. This is a Bible reading plan for a family with kids who can all follow along together to get the highlights of the Bible’s main points in a year. This plan has one passage per week. (Click here to download.) We have printed copies of this one in the worship lobby at church, so you can pick up your copy on Sunday.

Foundations for Kids! This is one of many reading plans for kids of various ages. Exploring the Bible is another example.

The 5 Day Reading Plan is a great option for adults. This plan works through the entire Bible in a year. You can click here to download, or pick up a printed copy in the worship lobby at church. This one is great because if you miss a day or two you can make it up on the weekend!

The One Year Chronological Bible arranges the books of the Bible chronologically. You will read Kings and Chronicles along with the prophets who lived in those times and some of the Psalms that were written during those events. It will give you a fuller view of the overall storyline.   

The BIBLE RECAP plan takes you through the whole Bible in one year and it has a podcast that goes along with it, and regular updates on social media. There are also options to create a group: so you can get a friend, your teen, or your spouse to join you and keep each other accountable.

This Amazon List is full of resources to help you understand the Bible as a whole.

The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus. This 15-chapter book gives a good picture of the main idea of the Bible. It is written very simply, compellingly and can be an awesome tool for helping someone understand the Gospel. 

Even Better Than Eden. This book will help you treasure what we have in Christ, giving you a fuller view of what the Bible is about, and what hope we have in Him. 

The Lamb. This book for children highlights the main idea of the Bible. That is something that is often missing from children’s literature, much which tends to put a larger emphasis on morals.

 Here is a study guide for men and women that can also help connect some dots.

 This series of videos on YouTube is helpful too! 

Let us go into the new year, seeking to understand the Bible as it was meant to be and not as a collection of random inspiring quotes, band-aids for our aches, or a list of do’s and don’ts. Let us lean into the biggest secret God has drawn us into and see it as his story, his Word for us, so that we may get glimpses of his glory and in that find: 

Our true healing,

Our true inspiration, 

Meaning for our days. 

And may we reflect that glory as we walk in obedience to this Word!

The Bible: God’s Word, His Story – Part 1

The Bible: God’s Word, His Story – Part 1

Word in Season

(Editor’s Note: This is Part 1 of a two-part series to help you engage the Bible better in 2021. Read Part 2 here)

One thing during this strange year that was quite bizarre to watch was the flood of conspiracy theories. More than once my messenger flooded with texts predicting this or interpreting that. The spike in these theories demonstrates a few things about us humans: we long to know what is coming, and we do not like to be in the dark. So we construct theories, hoping for some kind of security in knowledge. 

What if I told you that there really is a person who has been working out his agenda all this time – in fact, since before the time began – sending his agents at different stages, leaving us hints here and there, operating behind the thrones of the greatest leaders in history? What if I told you that this person, at a definite point in history, decided to disclose to the entire world his secret agenda and make us a part of his mystery? 

Yes, you guessed it – I am talking about God and his redemptive plan for mankind. Ephesians 1:10 tells us that, “God has now revealed to us his mysterious will regarding Christ—which is to fulfill his own good plan. And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth.” (NLT). It pleased the Father to unite all things under the authority of his beloved Son. The cost for this unity is his Son’s blood with which God purposed to redeem us for himself, so that we may in this unity glorify him forever. 

This mystery – God fulfilling his plan through his Son – is the scarlet line stretching through the entire biblical narrative. That is why there is Noah, Abraham, and Moses. That is what David sings about in his psalms. This is what Isaiah looks forward to and why Hosea’s heart had to break. All these puzzle pieces – as confusing and obscure they may seem – comprise one story: God is saving his people from the dominion of sin and death. 

We are more fortunate than Isaiah and Moses: we see the big picture now, revealed to us in Scripture. What they looked forward to, we get to explore on a daily basis, having our hope established and rooted in something that is already accomplished! 

Why is it important to understand the main idea of the Bible? Because this mystery and this plan give shape and meaning to all the pieces of this puzzle. No one looks at a single puzzle piece and says, “I think this is what this particular piece means to me”. Instead, we work hard to discover how the piece fits into the bigger image as it was meant to fit. And so it is with the Bible: not paying attention to the whole picture designed by the Author, we risk misinterpreting and misapplying the Scripture. 

And this is why we are hoping you will join us for the Creation to the Cross Study (C2C) this upcoming semester as we explore this mystery; this huge secret that God has let us in on.

It all begins on January 15, 2021 at 6:30PM. Join in!

(Read Part 2 here)

The Naughty List

The Naughty List

Word in Season

Our Christmas tree is up, our stockings hung with care, and we even turned on our outside Christmas lights. Yes, I am that person who decorated for Christmas well before Thanksgiving. With Christmas on the mind, I’ve been thinking about Santa’s “naughty list.” It is an opportunity for children to debate and negotiate their righteousness: “I hope we aren’t on the naughty list. I probably am on the naughty list. Maybe this year I really will get coal. I haven’t been that bad, but I have been bad. I am definitely not on the naughty list because I haven’t murdered anyone.”

We would be mistaken if we shrugged off this behavior as childish. We all suffer from this disease, adults are just better at hiding it. Side note: I love kids. They haven’t learned to hide what’s in their hearts yet like you and I have.

The disease is called self-righteousness. Righteous means to be perfectly right. Add self to this and it means that you, yourself, are perfectly right. Your actions, words, thoughts, attitudes, desires, motives, and the way you live your life is morally superior and correct.

How does this play out before God? Because of this attitude, one decides they have lived in a moral way which leads to God saving them from hell. And certainly one’s name would never be found on the “naughty list” because they haven’t done anything that bad.

“I’m a nice person.”
“I’ve been baptized.”
“I am way better than Sally, Tom, or Johnny.”
“I haven’t done any of those really bad sins.”
“I attend church most Sunday’s.”
“I worked really hard to make up for my sin.”
“I gave a lot of money to poor people and volunteered.”

We live in the Midwest (I love the Midwest). Most everyone says they are a Christian and everyone is extraordinarily nice (I love the people in the Midwest). Many trust that their names are on the good list because of who they are (I can’t love this).

Here is the problem: God is not like Santa. He has one list. It is called the Book of Life and he only has to check it once (Revelation 20:12-15).

God sets the standards to get into that book of life and we would be wise to pay attention to how he orders things. One sin and you are out of his book of life. One. Did you tell a lie? Get angry at that person at the grocery store? Have you harbored feelings of jealousy towards a friend? Maybe you looked at something on a screen that you shouldn’t have? Have you loved someone or something more than God even for one second?

We can’t tip the scale back in our favor by negotiating our righteousness before him. No one is righteous before him (Romans 3:10) and every mouth that tries to plead their case of self-righteousness will be stopped (Romans 3:19).

God’s standard is perfection and every single person ever born has fallen short of God’s standard, but one. He was perfect and never once sinned. He was punished for sin he didn’t commit and he was killed on your behalf. He lives now, at the right hand of God, and stands before God pleading the case of all of the sinners who have found refuge in him (Hebrews 9:24). Jesus Christ the righteous and our advocate (1 John 2:1).

Santa gives out gifts because people have been good. God gives out gifts because he is good. God gave the gift of his Son because he is full of mercy (withholding deserved punishment), grace (giving undeserved favor), and this amazing kind of love that goes after people who walk in complete opposition to him (Ephesians 2:1-10). That is the kind of love we all truly desire and that is the kind of love that has the power to save wretched sinners like you and me.

A friend of mine likes to ask this question that gets to the heart of the matter: If you are standing before God and he asks you why he should let you into heaven, what do you say?

What will you say to plead your case? What will you be standing on? Who will you be clinging to? Will your name be found in the book of life? There is only one correct answer. You have to admit your great need and die to yourself to find it. But, in this dying you will find life (Matthew 10:38-39).

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

Editor’s Note: If none of this is making sense or you have more questions, I want to encourage you to make time on Tuesday evenings this winter. Join us in this powerful study to learn how all the events of the Bible – from creation to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ – fit together to tell the greatest story in the universe; that God so loved the world. This study is coed and will be led by Pastor Mike and Cody Trump.

The intro session will be December 15 @ 6:30PM in the Worship Center. The weekly study will begin on January 15. Check our Facebook page for sign up details.

Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus

Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus

Word in Season

Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His Word
Just to rest upon His promise,
Just to know, “Thus saith the Lord!”*

Oh Father, I’ve tasted the abundance of a life rooted in trusting Christ. How I fail when I trust anyone or anything else. Bring to mind the words and promises of Christ. Remind me Christ is standing before you advocating (1 John 2:1) and interceding (Hebrews 7:25) on my behalf. By grace, not working, you have declared me forgiven, holy, and blameless (Ephesians 1:3-12, 2:1-10). All of your words are true. Give me faith to believe them.

I’m so glad I learned to trust Him,
Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend
And I know that He is with me,
Will be with me to the end.

It was you Lord who taught me to trust you. It was you who showed me the love of Christ. It was you that first called me friend (John 15:15). It is you who refuses to leave me in my sin and continues to sanctify me in your truth (John 17:17). It is you that promises to not leave or forsake me (Deuteronomy 31:8). I cannot keep promises like that, but you can and you promise to finish what you started in me (Philippians 1:6).

Oh, how sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to trust His cleansing blood
And in simple faith to plunge me
‘Neath the healing, cleansing flood!

I trust you Jesus. When you say you are faithful to forgive, you are (1 John 1:9). Your blood secured my salvation once and for all (Hebrews 10:11-14). With simple childlike faith, I come to you assured of things I hope for and convicted of things I haven’t seen (Hebrews 11:1). Because of this cleansing, I approach you with confidence to find the help I need (Hebrews 4:16)

Yes, ’tis sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just from sin and self to cease
Just from Jesus simply taking
Life and rest, and joy and peace.

I’ve tried many paths Lord and I’ve found nothing sweeter to my soul than you. I must decrease and you must increase (John 3:30). Impress upon my heart that your power is made perfect in my weakness. Your grace is sufficient for what you have for me today (2 Cor 12:19). Teach me again that Christ is gentle and lowly in heart (Matthew 11:29) so I can imitate him to others. Help me to stop my striving and rest in you (Matthew 11:28).

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
Oh, for grace to trust Him more!

I trust you Jesus. I trust you with my life. I trust that to live is Christ and to die is gain. That you are worthy of whatever you ask me to give up because knowing you is better than having everything (Philippians 3:7-11). I’ve seen your faithfulness in your word. To Abraham and the offspring you promised (Genesis 21:1-5, Galatians 3:16). To work for good through Joseph’s suffering at the hands of his own family (Genesis 50:20). To Moses and the Isrealites in the wilderness (Exodus 16:31-32). To Job even in the darkest season of his life (Job 42:1-6). To the world by providing a substitute in Jesus for dead, sinful people in rebellion against their God (Ephesians 2:1-10). Jesus, I’ve seen your faithfulness in my own life. I have pages of ebenezer’s. Thus far, you have helped me Lord! Oh I forget and I drift. Lord I need your grace to keep me trusting. Keep me trusting Jesus. Keep me trusting Jesus!

*”Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus” is a Christian hymn with music by William J. Kirkpatrick and lyrics by Louisa M. R. Stead.

Equipped for Every Good Work

Equipped for Every Good Work

Word in Season

Fresh out of college, I started working at a construction equipment manufacturing company. In my first week on the job, I found myself in a machine shop looking at a 9-cylinder diesel engine. My task was to work with a small group to disassemble and reassemble this engine. I graduated with a degree in marketing. To describe me as ill-equipped for this task was the understatement of the century. Alone, I was ill-equipped. 

As believers, we aren’t so different from this situation I found myself in. Our dead hearts were made alive by Christ and now we find ourselves sent into a world of which we are we are not supposed to be. (John 17:14-18). We are forgiven all sin but still struggle to live by the Spirit and not the flesh (Romans 8:5). We are called to die to ourselves and live for Christ (Matthew 16:25). Our Lord asks us to suffer with patience, be angry and not sin, spread the gospel to the ends of the earth, and practice meekness in the face of our opponents. Alone, we are ill-equipped.

But the Lord has plans to equip us to do his work and does not leave us alone. He has not only given us his Spirit and the body of Christ, but also his Word. His Word has many purposes, one being to equip the man of God. 

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17

This means that on Sunday when we sit and hear the Word preached or attend a weekly Bible study, God intends to use it to equip us. How can we be better prepared to attend that Bible study or sit and listen to the Sunday sermon so that the Word equips us instead of going in one ear and out the other? How can we get better at applying truth and growing toward Christ?

  1. Recognize your Need: God sees our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7) and the posture of our hearts towards him. It is hard to teach someone who doesn’t want to be taught. We are better prepared to let God do his work on us with a heart posture of knowing we need his help. We come Sunday morning or to our mid-week Bible study wanting to be equipped. We keep in the forefront of our minds this purpose of God and we stop and pray that God would use his Word to do his work on our hearts. We get out of the habit of checking Sunday mornings off of our list and remember how much we need Christ to change us.
  2. Prepare:  It sounds almost too simplistic yet many of us don’t do this and it is so helpful. Read the passage in advance. We prepare for tests, we prepare meal plans, we prepare for sports practice, we prepare for that big presentation at work, but rarely do we prepare for Sunday morning. Spending time in the text before you come to church starts to prepare your heart. You will be more familiar with the passage and it will be easier to listen, understand, and apply. We need to hear things multiple times before they start to stick. The same goes for your Bible study; set aside time to read and think about what you are studying that week. If you don’t know what your pastor will preach on, ask him to share his weekly plan with you. It takes discipline to manage your time and priorities well and we must acknowledge that God’s equipping is needed more than just about everything else for which we take time to prepare.
  3. Engage: Be an active participant. Have your Bible open, take notes, write questions or thoughts about application. Then, talk to others about the sermon or engage with your Bible study group. As a leader of a Bible study, I can’t tell you how encouraged I am to hear questions from women because it means they are engaging with the text! Things stick more when we process them with others. Come to a Sunday night home group where you can discuss and apply the sermon. Plan to review the sermon as a family on Monday mornings at breakfast and have everyone share what they learned about God. If you are discipling someone, plan to talk about the sermon weekly with them. Ask others in the church how the sermon series has been affecting them spiritually. There are many ways to engage; let’s get in the habit of talking about application and how our lives are being transformed by God’s Word. 

I wasn’t equipped to put together that diesel engine and was useless to the three engineering majors in my group. I don’t want to find myself ill-equipped for the good works God has planned in advance for me (Ephesians 2:10). Let’s get better at applying truth and growing toward Christ as we come to church next Sunday and start our next Bible study this fall.  

Remember the “Scare Quotes”

Remember the “Scare Quotes”

Word in Season

Recently we were able to gather in person on a Sunday morning after 2 months of having livestream “church.” It was glorious. I am full of gratitude to God for the members that worked tirelessly to make technology work in short order so we could live-stream Sunday mornings. That being said, are we prepared with an answer for why live-stream “church” isn’t church? Will we remember the scare quotes?

The answer lies in another question. What was it like for us to be together again that glorious Sunday morning? I spoke to many who attended that first service and our responses were all the same. We found ourselves with tears of joy as we raised our voices together, received the Word together, and took communion together. We wept.

What happens together on Sunday mornings cannot happen in our living rooms, alone, with a good internet connection. Brothers and Sisters, the Lord is teaching us something very precious about his church during this time.

We were created to worship Jesus, together.

In his book, Habits of Grace, David Mathis rightly identifies that our great destiny is corporate worship (p.155). In the new heavens and the new earth we will join angels and other believers from every tribe, tongue, and nation to worship the Lamb (Rev. 7:9-10). Today, as we eagerly await that day, we do just that when we come together Sunday mornings with our local church.

When joined together, we fulfill our purpose to live for the praise of God’s glory (Eph. 1:12) as we lift our voices in unison to praise Christ. Together, we leave ourselves for a while and set our voices and hearts on the one who alone is worthy of our praise. We need to hear each other’s voices in this battle of faith because our own heart or the heart of our brother sitting next to us has become weak and oh, so weary.

When joined together, we receive the preaching of the word as the body of Christ. He is equipping us, one body but many members, to do his work (1 Cor 12:12). We need to be one in order to be many. Amputated body parts need to be reconnected to the body not only for survival, but also to perform their intended function. A properly working body must be together.

When joined together, we receive communion and remember the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus. We proclaim together that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). We humble ourselves, as sinners, in need of a savior. When we do this together, our idol making hearts experience a much needed reminder of the gospel.

Burden -bearing, rejoicing, encouraging, maturing, equipping, serving, teaching, evangelizing, admonishing, praising, remembering. God designed us to do these things together. Solitary fellowship is an oxymoron. Church is a wonderful means of God’s grace and this grace is poured out in a unique way when we gather together. This is why we wept.

Let’s thank God for the technology he provided to live-stream “church”, but let’s also remember the scare quotes and, as we are able, let us join together again.

Poor Widow vs. Rich Young Ruler

Poor Widow vs. Rich Young Ruler

Word in Season

A group of us have been studying Mark’s gospel, preparing to teach it this Fall. This week we come to Chapter 12 and the well-known story of the poor widow who put two small copper coins into the temple treasury. The story is familiar and yet it still shocks us. We expect Jesus to gently stop the poor old woman by saying something like, “Trust me dear, you need this more than they do.”  After all, the spiritual leaders of the day are corrupt. Jesus had just confronted them for turning the temple into a den of robbers. We can’t think of any justifiable, responsible reason for this poor widow to give her entire livelihood, to the temple treasury. We’re surprised that Jesus accepts it and bothered that he holds her actions up as commendable.

On the surface this looks like a fulfillment of what Jesus says in Mark 12:38-40 “Beware the scribes…who devour widows’ houses…”. But this is not and cannot be reduced to just a financial transaction. Instead, this is an act of worship. This woman is putting legs to the spiritual truth that must already be well rehearsed in her mind and heart. She is, in effect, living out what she already knows to be true and that is: “Lord, I have become entirely your responsibility.”  “Lord, you are my rock and my provider.”  “Lord my faith and trust are in you alone.”

What a wonderful example of faith! What an appropriate act of worship! What a clear illustration of salvation!  Still, we have objections. This seems extreme; surely God is more practical about these matters. He doesn’t want me to sell everything and give to the poor and follow him, right?

For the rich young ruler in Mark 10 that is exactly what Jesus required. “One thing you lack; go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” (Mark 10:21) Unlike the poor widow, the young man was hanging on to his “stuff” so tightly that he could not be free to follow Christ. His wealth prevented him from trusting Christ, it prevented him from worshiping Christ, and it prevented him from being saved.

One question that we have started to ask ourselves at our Tuesday night Bible study is, “What is it, right now, that is preventing me from going with God?” For the rich young ruler, it was his wealth. For the poor widow, it was nothing, she was all in. The young man went away sad, the poor widow went away saved.

Living out truth in sacrificial worship is so good for us. It brings clarity and strengthens our faith and resolve. Our actions preach the gospel to our souls in ways that mere words never can. Our actions preach the gospel to those watching in ways that mere words never can. So, by faith let’s give generously and sacrificially, even when it doesn’t make sense. Let’s testify by our actions the truths we profess in the gospel.  Let’s joyfully meet pressing needs by faith knowing “God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 4:19).

“That in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality.  For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord, begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints, and this not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God.”  – 2 Corinthians 8:2-5

What if I’m Hopeless?

What if I’m Hopeless?

Word in Season

What if I’m hopeless? What if you’re hopeless? What if a dear friend, or your child is hopeless? Recently, for many days in a row,I woke up without hope and went to bed without hope. One of those nights I lay in bed half talking to myself and half talking to the Lord and trying to put my finger on this desperation. Hope- I am without hope. What does the Bible say about hope, what does the Bible say about hope, what does the Bible say about hope? Hope. Hope. Hope. You were once without hope. You were once without hope. You were once without hope.

There it was; the living and active Word was starting to come alive- if I could just concentrate enough on this thought to see where the Lord was taking me. Ephesians 2, that was it! Paul is reminding the gentile believers in Ephesus of a time past, a time when they were without God and thus without hope. Separated from the holy and living God without a way to get to him. The Bible’s definition of true hopelessness (Ephesians 2:11-13). 

Past tense. The Ephesians were once without hope because they were once without God. So what is present tense? Verse 13 makes it clear. “But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” From hopeless to hope- filled. From far off to brought near. 

We who have our faith in Christ and the work of his sacrifice are also in this same state. Once hopeless, now hope filled. Once far off, now brought near. Now what? What if I’m still hopeless? The scriptures have fallen flat. This verse isn’t quite living and active. Keep going. This is a battle that is not easily won. If you are doing battle, you are on the right path. 

How about starting with the obvious, but some of the hardest, words for our prideful hearts to mutter. “Jesus help me. Help me believe this. Forgive me for not believing this. Help me to see this, breath this, live this. Jesus, will you help me?” 

Now we push deeper. What does it mean at this moment in my life that I have been brought near to God? If this is the foundation for my hope, I need to lean into this. God has brought me near to him. Who is this God to whom I’ve been brought near and why is that hopeful? 

This is the God that brings things to life by his words. He is powerful and I need someone powerful when I feel so powerless.

This is the God whose ear is mine. He is present and I need to not feel so alone. 

This is the God who is patiently waiting for me to speak to Him about my fears, sorrows, and hopelessness. He is compassionate and I need His mercy.

This is the God who gives me His Spirit. His power in me is greater than my weak flesh.

This is the God who has brought me into his honorable household. He has made me his and I belong to him. 

This is the God who knows what I suffer in this fallen world. He is sympathetic and can relate to my struggles. 

It starts to matter a bit more that we have been brought near to God when we add this depth. I’m starting to feel the hope building; how about you? 

Now what? We pray these things, we speak to this near God, and rehearse them over and over again. We thank Him for Christ. We call a trusted friend and share how hopeless we’ve been feeling and tell them about the scripture we are trying to cling to. We ask that trusted friend to pray and walk with us. Maybe we take another path and dive deeper into what it means that God has given us His Spirit and brought us into his household. And we keep doing these things over and over again. 

There’s no formula. There’s no quick fix. But there is hope to be found in Him. I’m sure of it.