April 11th – How to Miss Easter Service
Are you sad you won’t be in Easter service tomorrow? Will you miss the preaching of the Word, the singing of the congregation, the fellowship of your family? Of course you are, we all are. In fact, I was speaking with someone today who was lamenting the lost holiday. They said; “I just want to hear the choir sing great songs to Jesus!”
But as I mediated on this statement, my mind went in a different direction. I thought, “I wonder who will miss Easter the most?” I thought of the pastors like myself who work hard to serve their congregation and community. I thought of the music leaders and singers and players who were excited to worship in music. I thought of the kids who were looking forward to that big egg hunt and dinner at grandmother’s house.
I thought of all these and many more… but my mind was struck, deeply, when I realized I had forgotten the one who would clearly miss Easter more than anyone else – Jesus Himself, the one whom we celebrate.
He died for His people that they may hear the Gospel preached. He cried out in anguish on the cross so His people could hear the Gospel sung. He died alone and abandoned so that His people could gather together in unity.
He tells us this in John 10:14-15 – “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.”
I remember how much sorrow I felt when I heard that Easter would be canceled this year. But imagine the sorrow of Jesus Himself.
Yet, unlike me, and unlike all of us, Jesus was not surprised by the news. In fact, though we struggle to understand, this is all part of His glorious and beautiful plan.
John 10:18 – “18 No one takes it [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.”
Just as Jesus’ life was not taken from Him, neither was Easter. Jesus laid down His life, and so too laid down His Holy Day of celebration that we may learn how blessed we are to gather, that we may be reminded of our utter dependence on Him, and that we may more deeply appreciate the blessing that our local churches are to us.
Let us spend tomorrow not in sorrow, but in faithful dependence, praying that just as Jesus took up His life again, He too would lift up His church and restore us to fellowship soon.
April 9th – The Sharing that Dishonors Christ – Part 1
I know we are all struggling with social distancing… I know all miss spending time together. And for many, including me, we have taken some comfort in being able to interact with friends and family through social media.
But I’ve noticed a number of troubling patterns over the last few days as I’ve scrolled… Ways that many of my Christian friends on Facebook are posting, sharing, and commenting that do not honor the Lord. And I’ve noticed those same temptations and failings in my own heart and posts.
So, I thought it may be wise to review a few well-known principles about our speech and see how we can apply them specifically to our online interactions. I will phrase these thoughts as questions so we can evaluate our post before we post! We want to be known as sharing people, but we must never dishonor our Lord by what we share.
Today, we’ll ask our first question: Is What We’re Sharing Truthful?
Ephesians 4:15-16 – “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”
I’ve seen a lot of people sharing and posting speculation, rumor, and “alleged” statements… While this is concerning generally, it is especially concerning to see people sharing false information about our current crisis… Christians should be known not for buying into and sharing false information but for being discerning, sharing only what we know is true…
Did your friend post something that is “from a doctor or nurse friend?” Is that information true? You may say, “Well, I’m not a doctor! How am I supposed to know if what I’m sharing is true?” If you are unable to verify the truthfulness of your post, or you do not want to put the time into verifying the truthfulness of your post – it could very well be sinful to post it.
Why? Because Paul calls us to share truth IN LOVE! And is it loving to share something untrue? Is it loving to share something without confirming its accuracy? Would we call it loving if someone told us a rumor about our spouse or children without confirming it first?
Or let’s take it to where we are living now… What if you shared something untrue about the virus that ended up getting another brother or sister in Christ hurt? What if you shared something untrue about your government and ended up leading an unbeliever to distrust your other posts? What if you shared something untrue about your community that gave people false hope and led them to get infected or infect others?
Think about King Saul and the future King David in 1 Samuel 24. Many people were “sharing” with Saul rumors about David. And David confronts him in 1 Samuel 24:9 “And David said to Saul, “Why do you listen to the words of men who say, ‘Behold, David seeks your harm’?” This rumor had led Saul to hunt David down, and would eventually result in a civil war and Saul’s death. Rumors, and falsehood shared responsibility, have dire consequences. If Saul had ever taken the time to sit down with David and determine what was true, much bloodshed and pain would have been avoided!
Friends, we must not allow our posts to spread falsehood because of our laziness – we must be motivated by love for one another and a desire to glorify God to confirm truthfulness before we click share! Jesus is both our model and our hope to accomplish this, for when He was on Earth He never shared a lie, a rumor, or a falsehood – He was full of grace and truth (John 1:14).
In this way, we can Honor Christ with our Sharing.
March 27th, 2020 – Jesus’ Example in Waiting
Are you starting to feel stir crazy? Do you feel like you’re wasting your time? Especially for those in ministry, do you feel like you are unable to truly serve the Lord in this time of waiting and social distancing?
As with all our struggles, we can look to the life of Jesus for hope in this time.
After telling us all the amazing things that surrounded Jesus’ birth and his experience in the temple as a young boy, Luke ends chapter 2 with two interesting verses.
Luke 2:51-52 – “And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” (ESV)
In those two verses Luke covers somewhere around 20 years of Jesus life. We have no record of him again returning to the temple to discuss theology with the scribes, we are told nothing of any miracles he accomplished… It seems that, from this day until the beginning of His public ministry some 20 years later that Jesus lived a perfectly normal life (apart from being sinless, of course.)
And I think most of us are aware of this fact. That this large gap in our knowledge of the life of Jesus exists. But I think that knowledge takes on a special and very helpful meaning during our current crisis.
For 20 years Jesus did not preach, did not teach, did not do miracles, did not disciple followers. It seems that He stayed at home in Nazareth and submitted to His earthly parents. The Messiah, the one who came to redeem His people from sin, the one who came to bring new life, the one who came to fulfill the Law – This man lived as a craftsman.
For those 20 years that Jesus was “not doing the work of the ministry”, was he wasting that time? Not at all, for Luke tells us that this was not wasted time, but instead a time in which Jesus “increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.”
Just because we cannot be at our jobs, or teaching our students at school, or preaching the word to the gathered church does not mean we are wasting our time. The question is not whether we are fulfilling our vocation at work, but rather whether we are walking worthy of the calling to which we have been called. Something we can only do because Jesus Himself fulfilled all righteousness, including during those 20 years of waiting for his public ministry to resume.
So, this week, when we are tempted to feel like we’re wasting our time, let us instead pray and ask God to help us redeem the time by becoming more like Christ and increasing in our favor with God and man. When we are tempted to be frustrated at the waiting, let us remember that Christ waited 20 years plus, and rejoice that we are able to do ministry now as we depend on His holiness.
And let us pray for the soon return of Christ, or the return of the gathered church, whichever the Lord desires to bring about first.
March 24th, 2020 – Confirmed Case, Confirmed Calling
The news we prayed would not come has arrived, the news has been confirmed.
The Illinois Department of Public Health has confirmed that a patient being treated at Passavant Area Hospital (in Jacksonville) has tested positive for COVID-19. The patient is in urgent care at this time, and is in need of prayer.
We’ve all heard rumors, we’ve all seen things shared on Facebook. But now it has been confirmed. As this crisis seems to get worse, and as our temptations to fear and anxiety get stronger, how shall we respond?
As I meditated on how best to encourage you all, I was reminded of 2 Peter, chapter 1. In that passage Peter was writing to Christians who were suffering intense persecution. And Peter writes to remind them of some things that are easy to forget.
Read what he said in verses 10-11 – “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
When we face persecution, or when trials come our way, or when the presence of this virus is confirmed in our community – Peter’s exhortation is the same. Do not focus on the suffering, do not devote yourself to the news, do not lose hope…
Instead, strive to confirm your calling and election. Be all the more diligent to practice the qualities of a godly faith that Peter speaks of in verses 5-8. For if we do this, if we strive after these things we will never fail (even if our body does), and we will be richly provided an entrance into the eternal kingdom to live forever in the presence of Jesus Christ our Lord.
I pray that every time you hear the word confirmed in the coming days, the Spirit would point your mind back to this verse, and remind you of your purpose and response.
Friends, I pray that grace and peace would be multiplied to you as you grow and trust in, depend and lean on the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
March 23rd, 2020 – Salvation from Zion
Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
When God restores the fortunes of his people,
let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.
When I first read this verse this morning… I focused on the last two lines. I prayed that God would soon restore the fortunes of His people, that we would soon meet again. I prayed for wisdom for medical professionals who are fighting against this virus. I prayed that God would keep my loved ones healthy, and soon restore all those who were already sick. I even prayed that we would respond with joy and gladness as things return to normal.
But then I looked at the context. I looked back to verses 1-5, which tell of humanities sinful heart, our lack of understanding of the things of God, our desire to do evil and take advantage of people, and our total neglect of God’s warnings.
And then I read verse 6. “Oh, that Salvation would for Israel would come out of Zion.”
David was not praying for financial blessing. He was not praying for physical health or economic security. He knew his own heart was evil and he was surrounded by evil people, and he knew their only hope was for salvation to come out of Zion.
And praise the Lord with joy and gladness, salvation has come out of Zion. Not just for Israel, but for all people everywhere in the Messiah, Christ Jesus. Though our earthly fortunes and savings may vanish, our true fortune and treasure in God has been restored to us through the perfect covenant of peace in Jesus Christ’s atoning death and resurrection.
So, friends, let us pray for God to quickly end this pandemic. Let us pray for a return to our jobs, to our families, and most importantly to our churches!
But let us never neglect to be Christ-centered in our prayers, focusing on our true treasure and our true fortune, and responding with joy and gladness!
Psalm 53:6 Rewrite
Oh, salvation for all has come out of Zion!
For God has restored the fortunes of his people,
Let the all the saints rejoice, let his church be glad!
March 19th, 2020 – Live Stream Study
We recently did a Live Stream to stay connected, spend time in prayer, study the Word, and fellowship together.
The link to the Live Stream is here: https://tinyurl.com/vlyw4y4
Part of that Live Stream was a list of resources for you to use as you minister to your family.
That list is here: https://tinyurl.com/uedrxgq
Psalm 29:10-11 – The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD sits enthroned as king forever. 11 May the LORD give strength to his people! May the LORD bless his people with peace.”
March 18th, 2020 – COVID-19 Update
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