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The Lamb

white lamb on green grassland during daytime
 
29 The next day John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.”  John 1:29-31

A lion, maybe.  That makes more sense, doesn’t it?  “Look, the lion of God that takes away the sin of the world!”  Yeah, that’s it.  A lion.  After all, a lion is strong.  A lion is powerful.  A lion dominates.

But, a lamb?

Sort of a pathetic image, isn’t it?  A lamb?  What can a lamb do?  What animal can a lamb defeat?  What strength does a lamb show?

“Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth.”  Isaiah 53:7

Where is strength in a lamb?

The strength is in sacrifice.  In a willingness to be sacrificed.  And that’s what Jesus came to do, to be a lamb for us.  His strength is in His willingness to be sacrificed for us.

In the Passover, the lamb gave up his life and blood so the people can be saved.  Jesus does the same thing.  In his perfect weakness, he delivers the strength of forgiveness, life and salvation that cannot be taken away from us.

Rejoice today and every day that You have a God who willingly humbled Himself to be a lamb led to the slaughter for you.  Never will you be called to pay the price for your sin.  It’s already been paid for.  By the Lamb.  “Look, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world!”

Heavenly Father, You sent Your Son in perfect humility and weakness as a lamb of sacrifice.  We praise and thank You for Your gift, and we ask that You always point us to Jesus on the cross as the reminder of our full and complete forgiveness. Make us like John the Baptist, always pointing others to the Lamb.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 


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An Antidote to Loneliness: Keeping Company with God

woman standing on vast desert under golden hour
 
O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar… Where shall I go from Your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? [Psalm 139:1-2,7]

These are lonely times, aren’t they? We can be connected with hundreds of people online, but we might not even see one person’s face. We are keeping our distance from people to avoid the spread of a pandemic. We are missing weddings and the births of grandchildren. We are missing parades and concerts. But most of all, we are missing relationships. And whether or not this leads us to fear or anxiety, it is most certainly leading us to loneliness.

Loneliness is a very real part of our human experience. Feeling like no one is there for us, or no one cares about us, or no one would miss us if we were gone. It can even feel like God himself is distant from us. The psalmist summarizes this for us in Psalm 13:1, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” This kind of loneliness is overwhelming and can be devastating to our souls.
I believe the antidote we have is prayer. Prayer is keeping company, first and foremost with God. As the Psalmist makes clear in Psalm 139, even if we feel like God has forgotten us, we know that there is nowhere we can go from God’s Spirit or presence. God knows us intimately, and God is always there for us.

Even after our loneliest, we have company. Even when we are all alone, abandoned, or neglected, we have the Spirit of Jesus. God is searching your heart and mind. God is hearing your thoughts and prayers. When we turn to God, we can be certain God has been waiting all along, keeping company with us even in the silence of our loneliness.

There was only one person ever abandoned by God. For a few hours, on a wooden cross on a cloudy hill, Jesus was suspended between heaven and earth. Jesus put loneliness to death in that place, and he forever forged the bond between God and his people.

Keep company with God today. Pray to him and turn to the One who will never leave you nor forsake you!

Prayer: Lord God, even when we don’t feel it, you are there. Even when we don’t believe it or see it, you are there. We cannot ever leave your presence. We are always known by you! What great news this is. Help us to be satisfied in your presence, and to keep company with you all the days of our lives. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

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All Things?

boy reading Holy Bible while lying on bed

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[h] for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. [Romans 8:28-29]

“I’ll take it all!” Could you imagine driving up to a drive-thru at your favorite to-go restaurant and uttering those words? There are many good reasons never to do something like that, cholesterol the chief among them. You’d never be able to eat it all, and even if you could, there are probably some things you would never order. That fish sandwich? No thanks. Fake apple pie? Not for me.

There are things we would probably rather leave behind in ourselves, too. (And let’s not even talk about the things we wish could change in others…) Maybe we’d want to change our nose or how tall we are, but all the things on the inside are calling out even more to us. The pride or insecurity, the anger or quietness, the weaknesses or inability to deal with the faults of others… And if we wouldn’t change part of who we are, we would change things that have happened to us. We’d want things to go differently. We would never want to lose that loved one, or take that job, or move to that place, or… fill in the blank. We would never say, “I’ll take it all!” about ourselves.

But that’s exactly what Romans 8:28 is saying to us. God has a purpose for all things in our lives. And God’s purposes are all good. What a contradiction in our hearts and minds! How does that even make sense, all these things we want to change and God is working them together for good? All things… Nothing is outside the scope of God’s plan and God’s grace.

Take a moment and think about all the things you’d like to change about yourself or your life. Those things specifically were put there for God’s purposes. And God’s plan for us might be most clearly seen in the things we would never choose for ourselves.

God knew you before you came into being. And God planned out your life. He called you, made you holy and righteous in Christ, and God will glorify you in the light of Christ. And whether or not you want to say it, God does. “I’ll take it all!” God wants all of you. God loves all of you. God has good plans for all of you.

The question for us, then, is not what should we try to get rid of in ourselves, but rather, What is God doing with all those things we don’t want in ourselves or our lives? What a wonderful question to take to our Lord.

Dear God, we experience a lot of things we would never want to. We know You are in control of all things, but when it is something we are going through, it can be hard to trust. Help us, dear Lord, as followers of Jesus, accept all things from Your hand. Help us to see You working all things together for good. And bring us at last into Your eternal glory. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Hope

 
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
John 1:1-5

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

What incredible hope there is in that simple sentence!   In Jesus, the Word, is life.  And that life is the light of men.  And no darkness can overcome Him!

It feels like the darkness is overcoming light all the time.  Pain and sadness.  Anxiety and depression.  Violence and hatred.  Anger and discord.  Disease and death.  And, might I add, cancer and chemo and CT scans!

Darkness reigns?

No, it doesn’t.  Jesus reigns.  The One who was there with the Father and the Spirit when light was created is more powerful than the darkness. 

The devil would have us believe that the darkness is winning, overcoming, unstoppable.  The devil is a liar.  Always has been.  The truth is that in Jesus we overcome darkness.  Oh, darkness has its day, but that day is coming to an end, because the Day is coming – when there will be no more darkness for us children of God. 

Until that day, remember that Jesus overcomes the darkness.  He keeps shining with forgiveness, love and grace, proven by His death and resurrection.

Hope!

Dear Heavenly Father, remind me in my darkest times that Jesus is light, and the darkness cannot overcome Him.  Remind me that through faith in Him, the devil has no power over me.  And remind me that the Day is coming when only Light will reign as Your Son, the Lamb, will give us light forever.  In His name and for His glory, Amen. 


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The Unseen

open book in shallow photography

For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. [Romans 8:24-25]

How are the studs looking in your house? How about the drywall? What color is the engine in your car? When was the last time you examined the hard drive in your computer?

Often, those things that are unseen by the eye are very important. From cars to houses to our own bodies, we don’t always get to see the parts that hold us up or keep us moving. And if we are seeing them, it’s probably because something is wrong!

The unseen things are of utmost importance. That’s where hope fits in. Like our lungs, which keep breathing even if we aren’t thinking about it, hope keeps our spirit alive and well. We don’t see it, but we know we have life in our bodies because our lungs are functioning. And we know our souls are thriving when hope is working.

What we see in this world can take the wind out of our sails. The realities around us can make us panic and worry. Those things which are so easy to see can hinder us from breathing in hope. The diagnosis, the calamity, the national tragedy, the neighbor’s devastation: things we see have the power to upend the things we cannot see.

But a hole in the drywall is much easier to deal with than a crack in the foundation. God can do all things, and we put our trust in Him. All people are longing for more, and we know where our longings are pointing us- to Jesus. He has placed deep within us an unquenchable hope.

So wait with patience. Even if what you are seeing is not good. Even if what you are experiencing is overwhelming. Jesus has risen from the dead! And He has promised to raise you, too! Your body will be redeemed. Your relationships will be restored. This world will be put right. Have hope! And let’s wait together and be the Church- the visible sign of hope in a broken world.

Heavenly Father, we know you rose from the dead. We know your promises of life and love for all who put their trust in you. Strengthen our hope, that we might endure with patience everything we experience this side of eternity. In Jesus’ name we pray, AMEN.

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