Get Perspective

This is the third installment in a series of blogs meant to push us toward leaning into the Holy Spirit and engaging areas of tension.

Check out the first two posts here:

In my first post on this subject I said that tension was built in to us by being uniquely created by God to live in relationship with each other.  Each of us having our own gifts, talents, and skills – along with our individual backgrounds and stories – means we all have different, but valuable, perspectives and insights.

Look at what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12:4-7; 12-13 (ESV):

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good… For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

Here’s the point, we together are being made into the body of Christ. Not one of us alone has all it takes to display Christ in ourselves to the world around us. No, Christ is best revealed through us to the world as we relate to one another, value one another, and work with one another for the “common good.” It takes each one of us to make the whole body.

We need each other and not just so that we can make use of the skills that each person brings to the table. Paul exhorts the Philippians to “strive side-by-side for the faith of the gospel” (Phil. 1:28 ESV). We need to continually convince one another of the truth that God is for us and not against us, and His ways are better than ours.

Our perspectives are all different. We come from different places. We have carried different burdens – some that we tend to keep trying to carry alone instead of laying them at the cross of Christ. And it is with our varied perspectives that we can help each other see the gospel in new light where we have been blind. We must strive together to bring the gospel to bear in our actual lives and in how we live in this world together.

As we believe that God’s ways can be trusted and that He is for us, we can be obedient to pursue true community with one another. The tension will come. We are bound to rub each other wrong as we continually fight to put away ourselves and learn to love the way that God loves. This is The Hidden Battle that Reggie expanded on in his previous post. As we lean into the tensions of community our own idols will be surfaced, and we need to be able to speak the gospel over ourselves and each other. I truly believe that as we obediently practice community like this we will be led to increasingly submit all of life to the empowering presence and Lordship of Jesus Christ individually and as a church.  

So, perhaps we have talked enough about how good it is to lean into tension, although there is much more to be said for sure. Over the next several weeks we will be using this series as a place to practice listening in on the perspectives of others.

We have to do the work of listening first.

Francis Schaeffer was once asked how he would spend an hour if it was all the time he had to share the gospel with somebody. He responded that he would listen for 55 minutes and then, with the remaining 5 minutes, say something meaningful.

It is important to listen to people whose experiences are different than our own. I want to challenge us to listen intentionally as people share over the next several posts. If what you hear offends you, be careful to test the tension and lean into it by doing the heart work that Reggie challenged us with and by pushing to listen for the heart of the person who is sharing. My prayer is that these posts will be used to bring the gospel to bear in our own lives and allow us to learn where and how the gospel needs to be proclaimed in our community.

Lean Into the Tension

I was at a conference a couple of years ago where the speaker, Reggie Joiner, gave out rubber bands to everybody in attendance. When he stepped on stage he instructed the audience to the throw the rubber bands at each other. There was plenty of laughter as rubber bands flopped against shoulders around the arena. He then instructed us to shoot the rubber band at the person seated next to us. Of course, he quickly took that instruction back before somebody got hurt. As Joiner moved on with his message, which was very good, this object lesson stuck with me. It illustrated well that where there is tension there is power.

Obviously, the power that is generated from places of tension can have, and has had, horrific effects on the people of the world. Wars break out because of tension. Bombs are dropped. Men and women kill each other, and children are orphaned and murdered. Eventually one side forces the other into submission, but nobody ever really wins. We all lose when tension leads to violent demonstrations of power.

It’s hard to stomach thoughts about the realities and effects of war. Unfortunately, it’s often easier than admitting that I am guilty of allowing personal tensions and frustrations with others – even my family and friends – to be unleashed in disgusting demonstrations of my own power as I put myself first above all else. I’ve hurt the people I say that I love on purpose. I have intentionally aimed to make others feel worthless compared to me. You have done it too. All that is left in the wake, when all of our power has been exerted and spent, is perpetual division, conflict, and brokenness.

Reggie Horne, in his message entitled Faith where he references the language of Fredrick Douglas, says “when we focus our faith on anything other than Jesus, we end up with a faith that leads to failure and defeat; a faith that will crush our souls and darken our minds.”

Here’s the thing, I’m not sure that we should make it our goal to just relieve tensions and lay down our rubber bands. I believe we were made for tension by being created by God to be unique and relational at the same time. You have your own gifts, talents, and skills, and we each have our own backgrounds and stories that give us different, but valuable, perspectives and insights. The idea shouldn’t be to make the tension disappear but to learn how to harness its generated power and aim it together instead of at each other. The only way that happens is if we keep our eyes on Jesus, submit ourselves to the Spirit, and strive together towards making Jesus known; that’s what we were made for.

A few months ago Chip and Joanna Gaines, from the HGTV show Fixer Upper, received some negative press because of their countercultural beliefs regarding homosexuality. They let the dust settle a bit before Chip published a blog post responding to the tension that had arisen. Here is a quote from Chip’s post that I found encouraging:

“If your position only extends love to the people who agree with you, we want to respectfully challenge that position. We propose operating with a love so real and true that you are willing to roll up your sleeves and work alongside the very people that are most unlike you. Fear dissolves in close proximity. Our stereotypes and vain imaginations fall away when we labor side by side(emphasis added).

 

He is picking up on the language that Paul uses in Philippians 1:27-28; “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel,  and not frightened in anything by your opponents.”

Church, our culture desperately needs the unifying power of Jesus. If we are going to take the gospel to them then we first need to see that we were created, and have been called, to work together to make Jesus known. Paul gives us a good place to start in Philippians 2:3-4 on; “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Something big happens when we lean into each other for the sake of the gospel. Consider the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15 or Paul confronting Peter in Galatians 2. There are many places where tensions rose in the New Testament church, but as they looked to Jesus and pressed in by the Spirit, the gospel advanced to the nations.

What would happen today if we humbly looked to Jesus and leaned into the tension together in our homes, in our DNA’s and missional communities, and in our church?

Over the next few weeks we will talk more about handling our tensions and conflicts, the importance of listening to the perspectives of others, and how to strategically aim our rubber bands together to proclaim the gospel loudly.

For today, may we pray and find resolve to lean in together and to be found “striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.”

Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection

The artistry that The Gospel According to Matthew was written with continues to amaze me. This book isn’t just some guy’s feeble attempt to record the things that he saw. No, Matthew wasn’t a hack writer. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, and by actually walking with Jesus and learning from His brilliance, Matthew put together a masterpiece that, like any truly great story, instills perspective and sparks insight; always pointing us to the true Christ.

Coming out of the Advent season and Christmas, when we celebrated the birth of Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us, we now turn our eyes very purposefully toward Jerusalem, the cross, and the resurrection of Christ our King. Matthew’s Gospel leads us well in that direction. Therefore, we will be keeping pace with the story in Matthew as we are led through the seasons of Lent, the Passion of Christ, and Resurrection Sunday.  

In our current series, Revealing Christ, we are taking a closer look at Matthew 15:29 – 17:23, where Peter confessed Jesus to be “the Christ, the Son of God,” and Peter, James, and John witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus.  This coming Sunday we will encounter the first of three times when Jesus foretold both His death and resurrection to His disciples, and it is to these three occasions that I’d like to look forward to for a moment.

3 Times Jesus Foretold His Death & Resurrection

We come across the first foretelling in Matthew 16:21 (ESV) where it says:

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. (Matthew 16:21 ESV)

Matthew sets this passage apart by introducing it with the phrase “From that time.” You may remember the use of this phrase earlier in the book when Matthew uses it to emphasize the beginning and direction of Jesus’ ministry, citing His core message; “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17 ESV). Likewise, Matthew uses the phrase here to draw our attention to the direction Jesus’ ministry is now headed.

Just before this passage Jesus asked His disciples who people were saying He was. When Jesus pushed further and asks who the disciples believed He was, Peter answered “You are the Christ, the Son of God” (Matthew 16:16 ESV).

It was right after that confession that Jesus let the disciples in on the rest of the plan and what it really meant for Him to be the Christ.  This foretelling of His own death and resurrection served to help them see Him as Christ rightly, because to confess Him as Christ and deny Him the cross would be to have misguided expectations.

Peter, of course, rebuked Jesus saying “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you” (Matthew 16:22 ESV). It’s a stunning turn of conversation really, and I can totally relate to Peter’s reaction. I can’t help but think of the scene in Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe when Susan and Lucy walk with Aslan through the woods in the night, holding his mane and falling in love with him, only to find that they were walking with him to the Stone Table. That place where they later watched from afar as the White Witch and her army tortured and killed him. Of course Peter and the disciples would be devastated by the news that Jesus delivered. Nevertheless, Jesus turned their eyes toward the cross so that they could begin to understand what it truly meant for Him to be who they said they believed He was.

There is good news beyond the death of Jesus, although it seemingly went unnoticed by Peter, and it is that Jesus would be raised from the dead. A cross that killed Jesus and was the end of the story would have rendered Jesus to not be the Christ at all. Whereas, death defeated reveals Him to be the true and better King; the suffering Servant prophesied by Isaiah.

Matthew intentionally tells the rest of the story under the shadow of the cross of Christ, which of course is cast by the light of His glorious resurrection. We not only read the recorded exchange between Jesus and His disciples, but as we read the story our eyes too are turned toward the cross and resurrection. Matthew engages us in the story so that we can make the confession along with Peter, that Jesus is the Christ, as our attention turns toward the acts of Jesus that have made that a reality for us.

A second time, in Matthew 17, Jesus foretold of His own death and resurrection. Certainly, Matthew could have left this out, especially after writing the sort of blanket statement of “From this time on” in the first scene. However, Matthew goes on to tell of two more scenes when Jesus revealed these things to His disciples. These stories act to pull the audience in so that we can feel the momentum building as the story begins to roll more directly towards the cross.

In this second instance, a few of the disciples had actually just witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus and heard the voice of the Father saying “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him” (Matt. 17:5 ESV). This foretelling in its context reveals, at the least, the motivation of Jesus to live and die in total submission to His Father’s will, trusting that His purposes and mission are best. This is accented to some extent by the scene between the transfiguration and this foretelling where Jesus presses in on the disciples “little faith.”

Notice, there was no rebuttal this time, only distress, and as Matthew’s story transitions immediately to a new scene after this passage we should feel the weight of the necessary pause at the end of this passage in Matthew 17:22-23 (ESV):

As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” And they were greatly distressed.

Lastly, the drama of this ultimate of redemption stories is heightened with the third occasion of Jesus’ foretelling of His death and resurrection. It is found in Matthew 20:17-19 (ESV) and reads:

And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.”

Jesus and His disciples have left Galilee and hit the road toward Jerusalem. So far, concerning these foretellings, there hadn’t been a real timeline put forth or much in the way of details. Jesus hadn’t told them the when or where of His death and resurrection, just that it was coming, that it was necessary, and that He was devoted to the mission. Here, Jesus let them in on the where and roughly the when. The time for these events would be near when they reached their destination, Jerusalem, to which they were already on their way.

To add fuel to the fire, Jesus also revealed other details. In part, this demonstration of His foreknowledge says mounds about His divinity, and Matthew is certainly illustrating that for his audience. However, Jesus wasn’t just showboating His God skills here, He was giving His disciples insight into the reality that was about to take place. Not only would Jesus be betrayed and killed, but it would be ugly, and there would be beating, blood, and a crucifixion.

To be honest, I don’t know how you keep your feet moving toward Jerusalem at the hearing of such shocking news. No half-hearted belief would do. You’d have to truly believe that Jesus is who He said He is, that His is the only way to true life, and that it is absolutely worth pushing through the mess to get enjoy the beauty.

Moving Forward Together

When we reach this third passage at Redemption Church, as we make our way through Matthew, we will be beginning to observe Lent together. We don’t usually do a lot in the way of observing Lent here, but as Advent is to Christmas so Lent is to the Passion of Christ and Resurrection Sunday. It is a time of preparation, and we will be encouraging us all to walk through that season with some intentionality; knowing that at the end of the road there is a bloody cross and our Saviour, who rose from the grave and is God with us.

It is my hope that as we spend a few weeks between Christmas and Lent, these few passages will help draw our gaze intently toward the cross and the resurrection of Jesus. As we see Jesus more clearly as the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior, may we see that for any of that to be true He had to go the way of the cross.

As we seek Christ together we will surely hear His call for us to follow Him, to submit everything, to take up our cross and come and die. May we prepare ourselves on purpose then to answer the call for His glory and our joy as we find that there is plentiful grace and redemption for us all as we lean into the brokenness and mess that lies before us.

Christmas Day

On this Christmas Day we lit a candle for CHRIST and read the following from Matthew 1:18-25:



Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

 

Today we celebrate the birth of Jesus. We remember the good news that He came to redeem us from our transgressions, and that with Him there is “plentiful redemption.”

He is our Savior. He is Christ the King!

As we remember His first advent we anticipate the second coming of Christ. For we know that He is coming again to bring the work of reconciliation to completion, and all things will be made new.

On this Christmas Day, may we celebrate well. Full of Christ, may we go and proclaim the good news of the person and work of Jesus Christ to a lost and broken world.

Merry Christmas!

The Fourth Week of Advent: LOVE

On the fourth Sunday of Advent at Redemption Church we lit the candle of LOVE, and we read Isaiah 40:1-11 (ESV):



Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that her warfare is ended,
that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the LORD’s hand
double for all her sins.

A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

A voice says, “Cry!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All flesh is grass,
and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades
when the breath of the LORD blows on it;
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever.

Go on up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good news;
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good news;
lift it up, fear not;
say to the cities of Judah,
“Behold your God!”
Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;
behold, his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.
He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young.

Hear the good news that our LORD has come in love. His love is furious. He has lifted valleys and crushed mountains to reach out to us. He is mighty, majestic, and most glorious.

Yet, God’s love is also tender. Like a shepherd, He has gathers us as lambs into His arms. He carries us close to His chest; loving us dearly and deeply.

During this week of Advent, behold the love God has for us. As 1 John 4:9 (ESV) says, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.”

Please don’t skim over that verse. Don’t let familiarity rob you from feeling the depth of the love that has been manifested toward you. Surely, we can’t celebrate the birth of Jesus and not look toward the cross where He was “pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5 ESV). Jesus came to die in our place to lead us from certain death to life in the arms of our Father.

Beholding His love for us, may we love Him in how we love others. Reggie said it on Sunday, and it is true, “if we truly love people, we will point them to Jesus.”

Make this Christmas truly meaningful by spending some time to direct your heart’s focus on Jesus and giving others the best gift they can receive; Jesus.

 

Unwrapping God’s Presence: 3 Implications of Christ’s Incarnation

A Christmas Story is my favorite holiday movie. In the movie, Ralphie Parker is in eager pursuit of acquiring his “Red Ryder carbine-action, two hundred shot Range Model air rifle with a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time.” After numerous mishaps, warnings, and let-downs, Ralphie’s father surprises him with the gift on Christmas morning. This nostalgic film evokes memories for me of when I received my first Red Ryder BB gun (and when I gifted a Red Ryder to my own son just last year…thankfully, no eyes have been shot out!)

The Christmas season is a wonderful time of year to wax nostalgic, connect with loved ones, and to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Often in the melee we find ourselves clumsily scrambling to unwrap the meaning, like Ralph in his pursuit of a bb gun. However, Advent graces us with the opportunity to dwell on the implications of Christ’s incarnation.

Throughout biblical history, God’s people anticipated the coming of the Christ. Numerous Old Testament prophets wrote expectantly foretelling his birth. The prophet writes in Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” This prophecy first refers to the birth of the prophet Isaiah’s own son Maher-Shalal-Hashbaz (whose name means “the spoil speeds, the prey hastens”) as a sign of God’s presence with His people during their military and political crisis a few hundred years before the time of Christ.

This prophecy also refers to the birth of Jesus, as the gospel writer affirms in Matthew 1:22-23, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel.” Matthew wrote his gospel just a few decades after the life of Jesus during a time of continue political oppression and religious expectation.

This “double fulfillment” affirms that God is true to His word and also tells us something of the person and work of Jesus. Jesus is God incarnate, God with us, God dwelling with His people. There are several implications of this good news for us today.

3 Implications of Christ’s Incarnation

First, God relates by His presence. Jesus is how we know God the Father (John 1:18; Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:2-3). Not only did God dwell with His people as Jesus the incarnate Christ, God continues to dwell with His people (Matt. 28:20; 2 Cor. 13:14). This good news defeats our loneliness and isolation and causes us to live with great joy with God and others (Psalm 16:11).

Second, God saves us by His presence. The name Jesus means “the Lord saves” (Matt. 1:21). God does not rescue His people by some outside, detached means. Rather, the Lord Himself personally rescues His people (Isa. 41:10; John 3:16-17). The good news defeats our fears and doubts and causes us to live in faith.

Third, God empowers us with His presence. The spread of the gospel and the good deeds of the saints is empowered by the Holy Spirit dwelling in and with God’s people. (1 Cor. 3:16; 1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 1:13-14). This good news defeats our inaction and indifference and fuels our obedience to live godly lives in service to others.

What is the state of your heart this Christmas season. Do you believe the good news of the presence of God with us? Are you responding in joy and repentance, in worship and obedience, in faith and action?

May this good news of Advent give us joyful faith, intimate hope, and bold obedience; for His glory, our joy, and the advancement of the gospel.

The Third Week of Advent: JOY

As we lit the third candle of JOY on the Advent wreath this week, Isaiah 9:1-7 was read:



But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.
You have multiplied the nation;
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
For the yoke of his burden,
and the staff for his shoulder,
the rod of his oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
and every garment rolled in blood
will be burned as fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

1 Peter 2:9 says of we who are followers of Christ, that Jesus called us “out of darkness into His marvelous light.

Once we walked in darkness, but we have seen a Great Light, and His name is Jesus. Who should rejoice more than the captive who has been set free?

On this third week of Advent, remember the good news of Jesus, and rejoice in the God of our salvation! In joy, may you run with the good news of our Savior, Jesus, to those who do not yet know Him.

After the 2016 Presidential Election (Part 2): Prayer

American Flag

In less than six weeks President-elect Donald Trump will be inaugurated into office. As the date approaches the media is abuzz with forecasts of what will happen next. No matter the candidate or year, election season is often a cause for anxiety for many in our nation. To be sure, this particular election cycle has heightened the anxieties of many and revealed just how divided these United States have become.

In his previous post, Reggie Horne posed the question, “How is it that I should respond to the state of our society and culture now that this election is complete?” His answer was threefold; we must pray, we must remember the ministry of reconciliation to which we have been called, and we must remember that God is sovereign.

I’d like to take a moment to expound on the first of these three calls to action: prayer.

Paul writes in 1 Timothy 2:1-2, First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” 

While Paul instructs Timothy to pray for all people, he makes special emphasis on “kings and all who are in high positions.”  Notice, Paul not only tells Timothy to pray for kings and leaders, but to give thanks for them. Some of us may need to let that sink in for a minute.

Paul is not alone here, his sentiment echoes that of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount; “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

Here’s the thing, prayer is more than asking for “stuff” and seeing how God answers. Prayer is a discipline and a grace through which God shapes and sanctifies us as we commune with Him. Paul doesn’t tell Timothy to offer thanksgiving for kings and leaders because they are so great. Rather, Paul reveals how the posture of our hearts toward others either enables us or disables us toward peacemaking.

C.S. Lewis wrote in Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer that, “Discussions usually separate us; actions sometimes unite us.” Christians living in the United States today must make prayer our first action towards unity. Any other action won’t be a product of our wholly leaning into the Holy Spirit, who alone is able to change hearts and minds. However, through prayer God will prepare our hearts to take the healing work of the gospel into our divided culture. Furthermore, our sovereign Father will hear our prayers made on behalf of our leaders and all people, and He can be trusted to answer with all wisdom, compassion, and justice.

Four Suggested Prayers:

  1. Pray for the President and others in high positions.

    It’s important for us to remember that people are not equal to their position or role. We were all created to be image-bearers of the Creator and are valued by God.

    This article by Kevin DeYoung  has been a helpful template for my personal prayers for our current administration. I would recommend adding a portion for giving thanks for these leaders as well.

  2. Pray for your enemies.

    First, let’s define enemy. Is it a person on the other side of an issue than you, a Republican, or a Democrat? A genuine enemy is a person who is actively opposed to or hostile toward you.

    Honestly, when I spend time in prayer for my “enemies” I often find that I’ve been more of an enemy toward them then they to me. If that is the case, let God deal with you and your heart, and go be reconciled with them.

    If there is somebody who is actively opposed and hostile toward you, pray diligently for them. Ask God to have mercy on them, change them, and bless them. Pray for justice, peace, and future unity. Remember, we have been called  ministers of reconciliation through the power of the gospel.

  3. Pray for the centrality of the kingdom of God.

    In addressing the issue of anxiety, Jesus charges His followers to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). As our culture wrestles through division and tensions run high, we Christians need to hear and respond to our King.

    Rather than putting trust in our own reasoning or ability to lead, we need to pray. The simple act of praying is a response to Jesus’ charge as we intentionally look to Him first. So, pray that your attention be increasingly drawn to Jesus and His ability to rule with all power and wisdom.

  4. Pray for your heart.

    I love that that the Lord’s Prayer, also in chapter 6 of Matthew, begins with “Our Father” because it reminds me of His sincere desire for involvement and His deep love for me as His child. We can be honest with Him without fear.

    With that truth in mind, take some time to be honest with your heavenly Father, and yourself, about any cynicism, anxiety, or hate that may be lurking in the shadows of your heart. Ask Him to help you give thanks genuinely for those whom you are not thankful. Ask God to help you see your enemies the way He sees them so that you can love them the way He does; the way He loves you.

The Second Week of Advent: Peace

The candle of PEACE was lit this Sunday on our Advent wreath, and we read this passage of Scripture from Isaiah 42:1-9:


Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not grow faint or be discouraged
till he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his law.

Thus says God, the LORD,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people on it
and spirit to those who walk in it:
“I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness;
I will take you by the hand and keep you;
I will give you as a covenant for the people,
a light for the nations,
to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness.
I am the LORD; that is my name;
my glory I give to no other,
nor my praise to carved idols.
Behold, the former things have come to pass,
and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth
I tell you of them.”

During this second week of Advent we celebrate the good news that God sent His only Son into the world to become the true and better Servant, the true and better Israel, in order to bring justice to the nations.

Justice is important because it is the precursor to true peace. For there to be true peace there must first be true justice. That’s why Paul says in Romans 5:1, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Jesus took on the identity of Israel, as the “chosen servant” of Isaiah 42:1-9, so that Israel could take on His identity of being just and at peace with God. By becoming the “chastised servant” of Isaiah 53:4-6 Jesus made a way for justice and peace with God, not for Israel alone, but through Israel, for us all.

Jesus made an offering big enough to provide justice for all by becoming an offering of Divinity wrapped up in the flesh and blood of a sinless man.

The One through whom all things were created has come, and He has “taken us by the hand.” Therefore, what should we fear? Our LORD has authority over all things, and He has declared that He is for us, not against us!

On this second week of Advent, take comfort in the knowledge that through the person and work of Jesus we stand as justified before our Father. Trust Him, and find true peace.

As we anticipate the second coming of Jesus, when He will restore peace in all of creation, may we take courage to be peacemakers who bring the gospel to bear on the injustices of this world. May we go with the message of justice and peace to the fearful. May we be a light in the darkness.

The First Week of Advent: Hope

On Sunday we lit the first candle, a candle of HOPE, on the Advent wreath at Redemption Church. As the candle was lit we read this passage of Scripture from Isaiah 6:1-13 :


In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”


And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” And he said, “Go, and say to this people:

“‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand;
keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’
Make the heart of this people dull,
and their ears heavy,
and blind their eyes;
lest they see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”
Then I said, “How long, O Lord?”
And he said:
“Until cities lie waste
without inhabitant,
and houses without people,
and the land is a desolate waste,
and the LORD removes people far away,
and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land.
And though a tenth remain in it,
it will be burned again,
like a terebinth or an oak,
whose stump remains
when it is felled.”
The holy seed is its stump.

The good news is that our God is holy, righteous, almighty, compassionate, merciful, and incredibly good. God in His power and love restored Isaiah and sent Him out with a message. While much of Isaiah’s message wasn’t pretty, God also sent him with a message of hope in that “Like a terebinth or an oak, whose stump remains when it is felled. The holy seed is its stump.”

It was out of this remnant of Israel, the “stump of Jesse” (Isaiah 11:1), that Jesus came to fulfill all the promises God made to His people, Israel.

Advent is a season for taking pause to remember the first coming of Jesus, our Savior, who came to take away our guilt once and for all.

I’m praying that we all experience an Isaiah 6 moment in which we are given eyes to see the LORD and realize our own desperate condition.

May we come to the end of ourselves and find our hope in Jesus.

Advent is also a season of anticipation as we look forward to the second coming of Jesus. He will finish the work of restoring this broken world to Himself and for Himself. He has proven over and again that He is faithful to keep His promises.

May we celebrate Jesus by taking the hope we have found in Him to the many who are hopeless.

Today is the first day of December. Here are several great resources that will help you and your family engage the season of Advent with some intentionality as you count down the days until Christmas.