BLOG
Check here weekly for new blogs, and peruse our archives for dozens of great resources.

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. 

Read more...

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.

Read more...

Let Me Say It Again: Peace Be To You (Part 2)

 
“When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.’” John 20:20-21
 
Do people show you their scars? After they get out of surgery or home from the clinic, do they feel compelled to show you where they got the vaccination shot, where the bandages were or how red the scar still is?  I’m not sure why, but people have shown me a wide range of these marks, scars and bandages.

What do you say when you see those bandages and stitches? “Ouch!”  “That’s too bad.” “Oh, my, I didn’t expect that!” “Does it still hurt?”  All those make sense and they show your compassion to others.

But what about this? Would you look at someone’s wounds, wounds that are still open, and be happy? In fact, you’re rejoicing! That’s the reaction of the disciples when they saw Jesus and his wounds. What a strange celebration the disciples had. Of course, the wounds of Jesus brought no joy in themselves but only the painful memory of what he had suffered. But he was there with them and the wounds proved it was real.

The wounds of Jesus were a testimony to the past and the present. Jesus wasn’t there as a figment of their past memory. He was there, with wounds only three days old, but now alive in the present as no ghost or memory would be. Only God could bear those fatal wounds and still be alive in their midst. What a combination of true God and true man he was at that moment. Wounded as only a man could be, and yet, despite those wounds, alive as only God could be.

And peace was his message. The message from those wounds was the same as Paul would say in Colossians 1:20 where he wrote that God made peace through the blood of the cross. What a strange path for peace. We kill the Son of God and God, in response, announces peace to the world. The revenge that we might expect is never spoken but only the peace that comes from his wounds. That’s the message that endures from seeing his scars.

Prayer: Our Heavenly Father, thank you for the message of peace that comes even from the wounds of Jesus. You could have sought justice and vengeance for the death of your Son, but announce peace to the world. Help us to believe those words of peace, we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Read more...

Let Me Say It Again: Peace Be To You (Part 1)

purple tulips beside window
 
“Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.” John 20:19-20

How often do you need to repeat something important? How many times do you need to remind someone in your family to turn out the lights, close the door, or turn down the TV? What reaction do you get from your family when you make this same reminder for the fifth time?

Generally, we have to say the most important things in life more than once. And when it’s good news, no one minds. That’s the case with the Gospel reading that is often used for this second week of Easter. Jesus appears to the disciples both at Easter and then a week later to the disciples and Thomas, who had been missing from the first meeting. Three times in this short section of John 20, Jesus says the same good news: “Peace be with you.” Let’s look this week at these three announcements of the best news we could ever hear.

Jesus comes through the closed door to the room where the disciples were sheltering. They had heard the news of an empty tomb, had heard from the women at the tomb that an angel had spoken to them, and had heard from Mary Magdalene that she had even seen and spoken to Jesus. And yet, they, the eleven disciples, hadn’t yet seen Jesus. Their last sight and certain knowledge were his death. What a tension they must have felt: death they knew, but resurrection they had only heard about.

And then there Jesus was, standing among them, showing his hands and side. Imagine all the words he could have started with:  Where have you been? Why are you doubting? Why are you hiding here? He could have reminded them of their broken promises to stay with him. He could have spoken of the incredible pain that he went through. But none of that was his message. He focused not on himself but on them. He spoke not of guilt but of peace. And his message is the same for each of us today. As he steps through the walls and doors of your day, the first words would be the same. Peace be to you. Every day, those are the words of Jesus to each of us and the reason for his coming to be among us.
 
Prayer: Our Heavenly Father, thank you for sending your Son not to condemn the world but to stand among us and announce your peace to each of us. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Read more...

Peace (Part 3)

bouquet of tulips flower

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”    John 20:21

With the familiar Jewish greeting, peace be with you, Jesus answered the worst fears and rekindled the fondest hopes of his disciples.  And now, well, now Jesus would always be with them, right?  Nothing could ever go wrong again. This joy they felt would go on and on.  I wonder if they forgot what he’d told them just a few nights earlier: “I am going to prepare a place for you. . . If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father. . . Peace I leave with you.”  Peace didn’t mean that he’d be there physically to still their storms and multiply their bread and put threatening forces on their backsides with a word.  Peace meant that because he had died for their sins and rose again for their justification, God was on their side no matter what.  Peace meant that it was going to be OK, even when their anxiety was elevating and their situation was deteriorating.  Peace meant that the Holy Spirit would remind them of Jesus’ promises, answering their fears and doubts.  Peace meant that Jesus would ascend to the Father in order to govern their world on their behalf.

Just when the word “peace” had calmed their nervous nature, Jesus ramped up the anxiety again. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you,” he said.  Not safety and security, but the pressure and uncertainty of the same mission that had brought Jesus to earth. Jesus was sending them to bring the Gospel to the world. They wanted to stay with Jesus. He was telling them to go.

Do you know the difference between a disciple and an apostle?  A disciple is a learner, a follower, a student.  An apostle is a teacher, a leader, an ambassador on a mission.  Not much is expected of a disciple, just pay attention and learn.  The teacher handles the hard questions and solves the big problems.  A lot is expected of an apostle, from doing the right thing to taking the heat and assuming responsibility for the work.  A disciple sits.  An apostle goes.

Would you prefer the “peace” message from Jesus rather than the “send” message?  The promises of God are easier to embrace than the commands of God.  Comfort and joy make sweeter music than trials and tasks. While you are always a disciple, you are also an apostle — sent into a community, a workplace, a family to represent your Savior and share his love.  You get to deal with the tough questions of unbelief and anger.  People will watch you to see if you mess up and confirm their suspicion that Christians are hypocrites.  Some people will look to you for comfort and others for direction.  Actually, the “peace” message and the “send” message are perfectly compatible.  Peace disintegrates into boredom when there’s nothing important to do.  Peace accompanies Christians who have a sense of mission about their lives.

Not long after college, I volunteered to spend a summer making evangelism calls for churches in northern California.  I met the pastor who was my mentor, and he gave me a stack of cards – names and addresses of “prospects” who’d been referred to the church.  I drove to the first address and sat in my car for what seemed like an hour, scared by an assignment for which I felt unprepared.  It was a good thing that home was 2000 miles away.  I prayed like never before for peace like that which Jesus spoke to his disciples on Easter.  And here’s what I discovered.  As I haltingly explained to a mother and father what Jesus had done for them and asked them to send their children to Vacation Bible School, the Gospel I shared gave me the peace I prayed for.  I discovered that summer that learning theology without sharing theology misses the point.  God calls us to be apostles while he’s teaching us as his disciples.  Sometimes that means we’ll be anxious, but that only drives us back to him and the peace he won for us.  You are an apostle, you know.

PRAYER: Thank you, Jesus, for the peace there is in knowing that I am your disciple – forgiven and loved.  Now help me to embrace your call to be your apostle, sent to those around me with the mission of loving like you and applying your truth.  When I’m in over my head, be right with me.  When I’m not sure what to do, push me to do what you would, regardless of the cost.  I love you, Lord Jesus.  Amen.


Read more...