A Portrait of Repentance

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2020 Bible Reading Calendar.

The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. You will not despise a broken and humbled heart, God. ~ Psalm 51:17

David wrote Psalm 51 after one of the darkest moments of his life. The good king, the king who had been so faithful to God, the king who had won many battles and led God’s people to greatness–the king “after God’s own heart,” had committed a terrible sin. And that is an understatement.

He had an affair with another man’s wife and when she became pregnant, he tried to conceal first by manipulating the man, Uriah, and when that failed, he had Uriah purposefully killed in battle. King David murdered another man to conceal his own infidelity.

It was only after the prophet Nathan confronted him and spoke God’s judgement against David’s sin, that the king realized the error of his way. His power, it seems, blinded him to the obvious.

What followed, however, was a heart of true repentance. Such does not negate the heinousness of David’s crimes, and David still suffered loss because of it, but he also found the grace of God’s forgiveness.

So, what did repentance look like for David as a model for us?

First, he humbly called out for God’s compassion, and in doing so he confessed his sin against God. David realized that he stood guilty before God, more than before any other court. He needed grace and forgiveness, and God is the author of such. We find our grace and forgiveness through Jesus. He is the one who wipes away the eternal guilt of our sin. That does not mean we won’t suffer societal or physical consequences still for our sin, but the guilt that separated us from eternal life is removed.

Second, he asked for God to cleanse him. The stain of sin was great, but God could renew and restore his heart. So it is, again, in Christ that we receive a new heart and a new spirit. Our hearts of stone that once beat for the world and ourselves, become hearts of flesh that beat for God. Our spirit, once dead in trespasses and sins, becomes alive in Christ.

Third, he sought the joy that only God can give. Sin has momentary pleasures, a sense of happiness in the moment. But God alone is the source of unending happiness. This joy we find in God is not a happiness in things but a happiness in a person–in God himself and second to that the good things that he gives. If we have Jesus, then the happiest we feel today will pale compared to the eternal happiness we are promised; and the saddest we feel today will fade as a distant memory to the greater joy of forever.

Fourth, he vowed to tell of God’s goodness. Who are God’s people? What is the church? We are those who were broken in sin and now are being pieced back together by God. We are those who deserved eternal death but now have joyous forever-life by the undeserved goodness of God alone. We are those who have been lavished with grace, and this not because of anything we have done. So, what do we do? We seek to lavish others with grace as well. We want the to experience the goodness that we have experienced, so we tell them about God’s goodness, greatness, and love.

Repentance leads us not to shy away from our past but to see it through the lens of God’s grace and forgiveness, as we offer people great hope through Jesus.

All Scripture quotations taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

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Praying the Bible ~ 2 Corinthians 7″

Praying through verses or passages of the Bible is a great way to help you pray according to the will and desires of God. Below is a passage of Scripture and a sample prayer. I would encourage you to pray that prayer, or, even better, read the passage and pray as God leads you.

Text: 2 Corinthians 7:1
So then, dear friends, since we have these promises, let us cleanse ourselves from every impurity of the flesh and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. (Christian Standard Bible)

Prayer
Father, thank you for making us your sons and daughters in Jesus. Help us each day to live out what this means. May we seek to flee from sin, may we seek to walk in holiness, and may we seek the sanctification that you provide through your Spirit. Father, stir our hearts so that we won’t be satisfied with anything less than the life you have called us to. Give us a greater desire to grow in our faith and to shun our sin. Amen.

Scripture verses taken from our Daily Bible Reading Calendar which you can find here.

The Moment When We Die

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2020 Bible Reading Calendar.

In fact, we are confident, and we would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:8

What happens when we die? That is a question we all ponder at some point in time. For the follower of Jesus, death is the pathway to something better. In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul wrote of the hope we have through Jesus. Right now, in the body, we are not in the full presence of the Lord. But when we die, Paul wrote, we go to be “home with the Lord.”

While we do not seek to force our own death, we trust that God has determined our days, when that death comes we step into the full presence of the one who is perfect joy and unending life.

Yet, what we experience then is not our final state of being.

What we experience beginning the moment we die is like an interlude before the final act starts. In the beginning, God created us body and soul–as both physical and spiritual creatures combined into one. This, on Genesis’ sixth day, God declared “very good.” Yet, because of sin and death, our current physical bodies age, break down, suffer, and eventually cease to function. They are temporary.

This is part of Paul’s point in 5:1-5, where he referred to our current body as an “earthly tent.” This he contrasted with “a building from God, an eternal dwelling in the heavens,” speaking of our resurrected, perfected, and glorified bodies.

Tents are temporary. They are meant to be lived in for only a short season. The building from God is where we are meant to dwell forever. But that time after death and before the resurrection is a time in between. It is, without doubt, a wonderful time in between because we are with Jesus, but it is also a time that Paul symbolized as being “naked” (5:3-4). It also is not how we are meant to be, but we wait for that day to be “clothed… swallowed up by life” (5:4).

So, what happens the moment we die? If we belong to Jesus, we go to dwell with him and in his joyful presence, we wait with anticipation for the resurrection, our final step into true eternal life.

All Scripture quotations taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

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Our Refuge and Strength

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2020 Bible Reading Calendar.

God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble. Therefore we will not be afraid, though the earth trembles and the mountains topple into the depths of the seas, though its water roars and foams and the mountains quake with its turmoil. ~Psalm 46:1-3

We’re living in a moment that seems more troubled than most. Not because of the danger of war or threat of terrorism, which we have faced before, but due to an enemy that is harder to see. A virus has upended our lives, not just in a single location, but throughout the world.

In a way, with measures being taken, we hope for light at the end of the tunnel, though we’re not too sure how long the tunnel is.

Psalm 46 was written for such uncertain times. In fact, the words of the opening verses use the language of the earth crumbling to represent the dangers, uncertainties, and fears we face at different times in life. It is, very literally, the idea of “it feels like the world is crumbling around me.”

Yet, the psalm reminds us that even in troubled moments, there is One who is greater than the trouble. In our fear, there is One greater than our fear. In our uncertainty, there is One who is ever-certain.

God is the one to whom we are to turn and trust. He is our helper. More than this, the psalm continues in verse four: “There is a river–its streams delight the city of God, the holy dwelling place of the Most High.” God is also the one who sustains our joy in troubled times.

God being our helper and joy-provider doesn’t mean that life in troubled times is easier for followers of Jesus than for others. No, we’re not immune from the physical and financial struggles the world in general faces. It does mean, however, no matter how bad things seem to get, we have a hope, a great light, that shines above and beyond the darkness.

In addition to this, not only do we have the Most High to whom we can go, we also have a God who has already taken up residence with us, indeed, within us. In John 7:37-39, Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit, who comes to dwell in us as we place our trust in Jesus, as “streams of living water [flowing] from deep within in.”

How do we find strength and joy in the midst of the trouble? Though the Holy Spirit reminding us of the great promises and truth of God as we spend time in his word and in prayer. So, do not neglect your relationship with our refuge and helper. Read God’s word and let the truths sink deep within your heart and mind. Pray, casting your anxieties and worries upon the One who is greater than all.

All Scripture quotations taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

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Praying the Bible ~ 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Praying through verses or passages of the Bible is a great way to help you pray according to the will and desires of God. Below is a passage of Scripture and a sample prayer. I would encourage you to pray that prayer, or, even better, read the passage and pray as God leads you.

Text: 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (Christian Standard Bible)

Prayer
Father, we praise you that you are the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. Many times we don’t understand the “why” of our trials as we face them. We are often blind to your work and purposes through them. Remind us, though, that you indeed have a purpose. Remind us, that if nothing else, when comfort comes we can in turn comfort others who experience something similar. We rejoice with those who rejoice and we weep with those who weep. But as we weep, we trust in you, the God who takes away all tears. Amen.

Scripture verses taken from our Daily Bible Reading Calendar which you can find here.

Living in View of Death

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2020 Bible Reading Calendar.

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. ~1 Corinthians 15:56-58

One day, you will die.

That is part of the reality of the world in which we live. Unless Jesus first returns, the day is coming where you will take your final breath on earth. How should this reality impact the way we live today?

Some might live in fear, going beyond common sense living to try to extend their life by any means necessary, not realizing it is beyond their control. Yet, for the follower of Jesus, death is nothing to fear. It is, instead, the step into our Savior’s presence.

Some might try to ignore it, focused on the moment and rarely thinking ahead. Yet, again, this is not the option for those who belong to Jesus. The Bible tells us about death and what happens following because it is supposed to be something we keep in mind.

For the follower of Jesus, we live with the reality of death before us but also the hope of the resurrection into eternal life beyond death. This reality, Paul told us, should impact our daily lives. We have victory in Jesus, so we should have a “steadfast and immovable” faith and hope in the face of death. No matter the worst the world can throw at us today, there is something more joyful and more glorious beyond that veil.

Thus, we should “always excel in the Lord’s work.” And what is the “Lord’s work”? Regardless of our vocation, we are to love and serve others and lead as many as we can to be fellow followers of Jesus. That is the Great Commandment of Matthew 22 and the Great Commission of Matthew 28.

When we devote time and resources to seeing others know Jesus and his love, then that time and those resources will never be wasted.

So, in light of death, let us live with that aim.

All Scripture quotations taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

 

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How to “do church” when we can’t gather together

The Bible teaches us that church isn’t a building and isn’t a place, but a people. Followers of Jesus are the church. There is what we call a “universal” aspect to this–every believer from every age of history and every location on earth. We are one big family, but we won’t all be together until Jesus returns. Then there is what we call the “local” church–a particular group of believers who regularly gather in a particular location.

The command to not neglect to meet together (Hebrews 10:25) speaks of our local gatherings as we anticipate the day we will join with all our brothers and sisters in the universal gathering.

But sometimes circumstances happen, like with the current pandemic or a winter ice storm, that temporarily hinder our ability to gather. In such cases, we don’t stop being the church, because the church is us. So, what can we do to still keep some sense of our regular gathering when we can’t meet?

Here’s some ideas, in no particular order:

1) Read the Bible together as a family. If you’re married and/or you have children, then use Sunday as a special time to read God’s word together, focus, and reflect on what it says. If you keep sermon notes, you could potentially go back and reread a recent passage and discuss it as a family. If you use a Bible reading calendar, such as this one: 2020 Bible Reading Calendar, then you could read that day’s passage together, talk about it, and pray about it.

If you have young children, you might find a Bible story book useful. The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones is an excellent resource you can find on Amazon in both print and kindle additions. Also of note are the Tiny Truths Illustrated Bible and the It’s All About Jesus Bible Storybook.

2. Spend extra time in prayer. You can do this by yourself, or again as a family. This would be a great time to think about others in the church or your Sunday School / Bible Study Class and pray for them specifically by name. You can read through a Psalm, song, or hymn line-by-line, pausing to pray whatever comes to mind after each line. You can also spend time praying for the spread of the Gospel in our communities, nation, and world. This would be a great time to pray for other community churches as well as unreached people groups–Joshua Project is a great resource for that.

3. Spend time singing. We sing when we gather as a church. Chances are you also sing in the car, when you’re cleaning, or in the shower. So why not set aside some time on Sunday, again as an individual or with your family, to sing praises to God? If you have a hymnal, you can use that. Or you can put in a CD or fire up the music player on your phone and sing along. You can also find many great Christian songs, often with lyrics, on YouTube.

4. Read. You might set aside some time to read a good devotional book or other book that points your heart and mind to God.

5. Watch a livestream of a church service. Even if they don’t regularly livestream, many churches are using this time to do just that. We’re going to give it a try with info before hand on our Facebook page about it. You can find a lot of streams from a lot of good churches.

6. Contact your fellow church members. We’re hearing the phrase “social distancing” a lot in recent days. I did see a person comment that maybe “physical distancing” would be a better phrase to use. After all, though we want to keep physical interactions down for a few weeks, we still have plenty of ways to socially connect. Text some people in church. Give them a call. If they want, maybe spend some time using Facebook Messenger or another app to video chat with them or have a group chat with several people, again like your Sunday School or Bible Study.

We can’t meet for the moment, but there are still plenty of ways to connect.

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