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Presence

 
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. [John 1:14]
 
After a year of limited relationships, people are ready to get back together with others. But if we’re honest with ourselves, there are some people we are happy not to see so often. Some people bother us, irritate us, anger us, frustrate us. Some people judge us, condemn us, dislike us. Let’s be honest. We are not always saddened when some people aren’t present. 
 
How about God? If God were present, what would that be like? We can imagine being struck with fear, or judgment over all the wrong we’ve done. We are the ones who have probably annoyed, angered, or frustrated God, after all. Wouldn’t we expect God to come at us with anger? Or maybe just want to stay away from us for good?
 
God is so unpredictable. Instead of pulling away or coming against us in judgment, God did the unthinkable. God came down to us. In love. In weakness. In humility. God sent Jesus, born as a baby, living in human flesh. God not only wants to be present with us; God wants desperately to know us and be known by us. 
 
Jesus is present with his people. Jesus is present with you. Let’s be honest; we don’t deserve it. But that doesn’t matter. Jesus loves you, and he wants you to know that he is with you, God-with-us, Immanuel. 
 
Today, no matter who you’re missing (or not missing), you don’t have to miss God. Jesus is always with you, showing you glory. Showing you grace and truth.
 
Prayer: Jesus, You are God with us. Thank You for being with us, especially when we don’t deserve it. Help us to see You always, and live in Your grace and truth. In Your name we pray, Amen.

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Will You Start?

black and silver steering wheel
 
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:9-10)
 
I can’t believe it. I woke up this morning, got ready for my day, got in my car, and I turned the key in the ignition. Guess what? It started! Amazing! 
 
No. Not amazing, just expected, right? It’s science, or technology, or math. Something that just works (until it doesn’t). Our cars starting, or our electricity working, or so much of our modern lives, faithfully happens. We have lost some sense of the wonder that should accompany such alarming consistency in our lives. Thank God so much of this world is faithful!

What about God? Well, we know God is faithful. God creates life, sustains life, and has a plan in place for life forever. God’s forgiveness in Jesus is consistent, unfailing, unwavering. God’s love doesn’t change with the weather or our moods. 
 
But what about us? We are about as far from faithful as you can get at times. We regularly break our promises, do what we say we won’t, don’t do what we say we will. We get so low and desperate that we need to hear it again: “You are God’s child.” But then the second we feel confident in ourselves, we take up that unthinkable line: “I haven’t sinned!” 
 
John wants us to know that is the equivalent of calling God a liar. This side of heaven- everything we do is tainted by sin. Our best and most holy works are touched with sin, even as our worst acts of sin are touched by the forgiving and healing hand of Jesus. 

God is faithful and just. No matter what today brings for you, takes from you, works in you, God is faithful. Jesus has put His word in you, and like a key in the ignition, that will ignite our lives every day.
 
Prayer: Lord Jesus, You are faithful. We want to see Your faithfulness and mercy every day. Keep Your forgiveness before us, as we trust in You and share Your love with the world. In Your name we pray, AMEN.

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Admit It

Inri crucifix at daytime

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:7-8)

“I didn’t sin!” We don’t hear those exact words, but so often we take up our defense of our innocence. Wasn’t me… I didn’t do it… Don’t blame me… There’s no way I’m at fault… People don’t really like to accept blame, responsibility or judgment. And Christians are people, so we don’t like to do it, either. 

But Jesus has called us to a pattern of living: confession and cleansing. We first have to come to terms with who we are before we can fully walk in the light of Jesus. The darkest and worst parts of ourselves. The corrupt and challenging parts of who we are. We must take our sinfulness, our brokenness, our mistakes and willful ignorance and lay it down at the feet of Jesus.

Don’t deceive yourself. You are no better than anyone else. You aren’t any worse, either. You are a sinner. Just admit it, take responsibility for it, and turn to Jesus. He has promised to cleanse you after all! Jesus has promised to keep you united with him and with other people through his sacrifice. 

This very thing is what makes Christians so distinct in this world. We are willing to hold to truthfulness, not sugarcoating anything, while also holding to grace. It is the reality of brokenness that leads us not to a place of judgment, but rather to the ultimate source of grace: God himself. 

Embrace grace and truth today. Walk in the light. Confess your sin. And let the blood of Jesus cleanse you.

Lord God, no matter what we say or do, we know we have sinned. We don’t want to be deceived. We want to be delivered from sin! Please cleanse us from all evil by the blood of Jesus, and keep us close to You now and forever. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Don’t Trip

yellow lights between trees
 
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. (1 John 1:5-6)
 
A couple weeks ago, I fell down the stairs. It was early in the morning, no lights were on, and I misjudged how wide the stair was. To be fair, we have an older house, with smaller and steeper stairs than what is standard. My wife heard the boom-boom-boom, and came in a frenzied panic. “ARE YOU OKAY??!” Thankfully, nothing was hurt except my pride… 
 
Misjudging a step catches us completely off guard, and whether it is on stairs, walking on the sidewalk, or a business move or relational gesture, it is painful to fall. When our walk doesn’t match reality, we run into problems. 
 
Does your spiritual walk match reality? Are you walking the walk, or just talking the talk? Are you reading daily devotionals, and then disparaging and damaging the reputations of others online? Are you praying to God, and then yelling at your family? 
 
God has a way of working, where darkness is exposed. Often, the darkness is exposed in our lives when we feel the fear of slipping and falling and not knowing how to get back up. God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. We as Christians are called to live in that light, and let God’s light shine over our whole lives. We should live in God’s reality. 
 
God’s reality is that Jesus gave his life so that you could share in God’s life. You’re walking with Jesus! Give up the darkness of sin. And if you get caught misjudging a step, remember who’s walking with you, ready to catch you and shed light on your path.
 
Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us always to follow your lead and live in your love. Allow us to share in your life now and forever! In your name we pray, AMEN. 

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Let Me Say It Again: Peace Be To You (Part 3)

purple tulips in clear glass vase
 
“Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve but believe.’” John 20:6-27
 
When someone comes late to a meeting, do you start all over again so they can catch up? If someone is late to a meal, do you all wait for them, letting the food get cold while you wait? If you’re the one who’s late, are you upset if people don’t wait for you but go ahead without you?

Those are the hard questions of business meetings and family gatherings. Those were the hard questions of Thomas this week of Easter. He had not been with the disciples when they first saw Jesus and likely felt left out from the excitement and joy that they had all week. So, he said he wouldn’t believe the resurrection news until he had seen Jesus as they had. Was it news too good to be true or was he feeling left out? Regardless, Thomas spent the week on the edge of the others with their joy.

Perhaps you can relate to Thomas as you have also felt left on the edge of the joy shown by others. Everyone else seems to have no doubts but only joy. Like Thomas, you’d be glad to have that same certainty but so far, you don’t feel as sure as others appear.

What a gracious visit Jesus makes for Thomas and for us all. Wouldn’t it have been easy for Jesus to ignore Thomas and his demand? Wasn’t it enough to save the world through the cross? And yet, Jesus comes to appear to Thomas to give him the certainty he lacked. And he reminds us that the visual proof that Thomas received wasn’t even the best experience. He reminds Thomas that he believed because he saw but more blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe, John 20:29. That’s the faith we want. Lord, give us the peace that comes by faith that doesn’t need to see. And with that faith, help us to hear again and believe the best news ever, peace that comes from you.

Prayer: Our Heavenly Father, with great patience you hear our doubts and then visit us with the news of resurrection. Give us the peace that comes by believing without seeing. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

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