Thursday, August 29, 2019

Good news

Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, 2 through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:1-2

Growing up in a Christian home, rarely did a week go by that I didn’t hear some comment about “salvation,” “the gospel,” or “the good news.” Each of these terms brought with them an evangelistic fervor and zeal- souls were meant to be saved and the good news to be proclaimed! And while I commend this zeal and believe passionately in the conversion of life to the good news of Jesus, I regret the way in which this message often carried with it a fearful and frenetic tone, as though God’s Kingdom could crumble at any moment, so get on board quick.

Over the years, many scholars have pointed out that the good news of the gospel is most closely compared to the news brought back to a city from the battlefield: “Victory is ours and the kingdom is secure!” The death and resurrection of Jesus is this securing of this victory and the establishment of the reign of King Jesus. As such, the gospel is not a formula to be shared but is a reality to be encountered. Similarly, it is not simply a set of disembodied beliefs to accept as much as it is allegiance to be given.

This is the pastoral heart we see in Saint Paul in 1 Corinthians 15. He is writing to a church that heard the good news of God’s victory in Jesus, yet is now struggling to live and “hold firmly” to the way of life that this Kingdom demands of its citizens. Ancient Corinth would have made Vegas look tame. It was a city of indulgent pleasure and passion, and for many early converts they wanted to cling to this way of life while still professing to be walking the way of the cross.

The Christian life always begins with the proclamation and reception of the good news of Jesus. Yet that is just the beginning, and in every age Christians have spent their entire life as spiritual infants, never moving into a mature faith in which we root ourselves in Jesus and stand fully upon His promises, conforming every area of our lives to the way of His Kingdom.

Do you believe life in God’s Kingdom will lead to your flourishing and is ultimately for your good? So often our resistance to stand firm as citizens in his Kingdom comes from our fear of giving full allegiance in every area of our lives. The LORD longs for you to enter into the rest and safety of his Kingdom, so hold on to hope by giving yourself to Jesus freely and fully in every area of your life.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Pour it out

Hannah was praying silently; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard; therefore Eli thought she was drunk. So Eli said to her, ‘How long will you make a drunken spectacle of yourself? Put away your wine.’ But Hannah answered, ‘No, my lord, I am a woman deeply troubled; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the LORD. 1 Samuel 1:13-15

It seems to me that so often we have a fatalistic approach to life and faith. Though we would love to see our circumstances or situation change, we often feel helpless to do anything about it ourselves, and, if we are honest, are unsure if God is able and willing to enter into our pain and loss and bring his hope and peace. Perhaps you have found yourself deeply troubled by unanswered prayer, times in life when you’ve allowed yourself to be vulnerable with God and believe for impossible things, only to see those prayers go seemingly unheard?

For much of her life, Hannah found herself in this very place of desperation. Hannah had a profound longing for children, yet after praying “in the house of the LORD” for years that God would answer this prayer, she remained barren. Though thousands of years separate us, there is something deeply human about her story that each of us can relate to in some way. Who doesn’t know the feeling of desperately wanting something yet wondering if you will ever live to see it? Perhaps, like Hannah, you struggle with infertility and deeply relate with her pain. Your struggle might be different. You may find yourself filled with longing for the salvation of a loved one, the return of a prodigal child, or healing from a life-threatening illness.

Whatever the details of your circumstance may be, a foundational question lies before you: does your desperation turn you towards God in faith or away from him in fear? It is understandable to struggle with why God chooses to answer some prayers and seemingly ignore or reject others. Most certainly Hannah spent years of her life wondering why God refused such a sincere and heartfelt prayer. As she says, her soul was “deeply troubled.” And yet, in the same breath, in the midst of her confusion, she continues to press in and “pour out her soul before the LORD.”

Hannah’s story reminds us that God tells good stories. The story of creation is bent towards justice, towards redemption, towards the flourishing of life within his Kingdom. Do you believe this? Can you cling to this hope, even if hope seems impossibly distant at this very moment? Hannah trusted in the goodness and faithfulness of God and continued to take steps of faithful obedience, even in the midst of a season of uncertainty and doubt. May God give us the courage and strength to do the same.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Hospitality anyone

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. Luke 10:38

We spend much of our life coming and going, busily rushing from one place to the next – the gym, coffee shop, grocery store, work – yet if we are honest, these are not the primary spaces in which our true selves are formed. These are not the places where intimate relationships are nurtured and strengthened. Intimacy is cultivated and celebrated in the privacy of a home. Though there are many lessons learned in the story of Martha and Mary, we cannot miss that it is a powerful testimony to what we might call “domestic spirituality.” The life of discipleship is lived with Jesus around the kitchen table and in the holy, ordinary rhythms of everyday life.
And yet, many of us are terrified of what awaits us in these intimate spaces. We don’t want to deal with our deep thoughts, with relational challenges, with what God might want to teach us and show us in that space, and so we avoid them and stick with the “safety” of the public space. We stay at the gym a little longer, work a few hours later, fill every open slot on our calendars so we stay active and busy and never have to deal with the big questions that lie just below the surface. I wonder, though, if we might be missing something profound that the Lord wants to do in each and every one of us?
Martha, though often (unfairly) maligned in this story, begins with a bold act of faithful discipleship: she invites Jesus into the intimacy of her home. Are we willing to do the same? It is easier to keep Jesus at a distance, observing his ministry as a bystander or assessing his teaching as a disengaged intellectual exercise. To invite him into your home is to invite his close scrutiny of your most personal and private spaces. It is to give him access to the parts of your life that we are tempted to hide and keep in the dark.
If we have ears to hear and eyes to see, in our intimate spaces the Lord seeks in love to offer tender words of compassion and redirection, as he did with Martha. Discipleship is not God simply seeing and affirming everything about us, leaving us just as we are. It most often includes God inviting us to bring our shame and sin into the light and allowing him to heal and restore us, setting us back on the path that leads to life. This is the gift of encountering Jesus in close and intimate ways. He draws near, not to shame us, but in kindness to lead, shepherd, and teach us.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Come boldly no matter what

But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness (Romans 4:5).

Boldness is what God wants you to have when you come to Him. He does not want you to be afraid to come to Him, feeling unworthy because of your sins. He wants you to come boldly to Him, knowing that the death, burial and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ has justified you and qualified you to boldly receive from Him.

This was the kind of boldness that the woman with the issue of blood had when she touched Jesus (see Mark 5:25–34). Now, by touching Jesus, she knew that she was breaking a Levitical law which states that anyone with a bodily discharge is unclean, and should not appear in public, let alone touch another person (see Leviticus 15).

But she refused to feel condemned by the law. She believed what she had heard about Jesus, and was confident that there would only be love and compassion, not condemnation, from Him. She believed that Jesus would justify her and qualify her to receive the miracle she needed. That was why she boldly pressed her way into the crowd to touch Jesus, who indeed said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well” (Mark 5:34).

What was it about her faith that made her well? Romans 4:5 talks about faith that believes God justifies the ungodly. When you believe that God justifies the ungodly, it will give you boldness to come to God, even when you feel unclean because you have just blown it.

When you fail, don’t run away from God. Run boldly to Him, knowing that you are justified by the blood of Christ and not by your good behavior. The devil may say to you, “How can you do that? Who do you think you are?” Don’t listen to him. Pick yourself up and thank God for the blood and the gift of no condemnation (see Romans 8:1). If God justifies the ungodly, how much more you, His beloved child

Thursday, August 1, 2019


If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Romans 12:18

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be a peacemaker. In a world filled with offended people, choosing to make peace is a much needed skill and gift, to others and to ourselves.

Peacemakers seek to be the first to forgive. They don’t wait for the other person or the offending party to say, “I’m sorry,” before they extend grace.

Peacemakers focus on their own responsibility in peacemaking. While they may understand what others have done wrong, that’s not their focus. They don’t point a finger in judgment. Their goal is to glorify God, even if no one else is glorifying Him.

Peacemakers know there is blessing in peacemaking. They know blessing may not come immediately or even in this life. But they seek after God’s will in peacemaking, knowing there will certainly be a blessing that comes when they see Christ face-to-face.

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

Peacemakers know there is a difference between peacemakers and peacekeepers. Peacemakers aren’t afraid to speak in love when problems call for it, but they carefully choose when to speak and when not to speak. They know peacemaking does not mean overlooking problems or acting like everything is perfect, while ignoring sin or conflict.

Peacemakers aren’t puffed up with pride, demanding to be heard because they know they are right and want justice. Neither are they wallflowers that shrink back in fear trying to keep a false peace that isn’t worth keeping. They operate from inner strength and are guarded by humility. They know God loves and sees them. When they move into conflict, they do so with a heart of reconciliation, a heart to glorify God, and a heart to see love win.

Peacemakers don’t unnecessarily rush into conflict and create more problems. They aren’t relational pot stirrers. They also know that believers aren’t supposed to talk about someone to gossip, but talk with someone to solve a problem. They know that operating from assumptions without going to the person is divisive and cooperating with the devil. And they know that sometimes they must have hard conversations in a godly way.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9).