Peace in Prayer

Read: Hebrews 4:14-16, Romans 8:26-27 

I don’t know about you, but if I do something – I want to do it right. The first time. I don’t always like the learning process. I don’t like feeling confused or inadequate. But if there is one thing I’ve learned about this Christian life, it’s that it is a process. I’m not going to do things right the first time, and there are many seasons of learning and growing – but the good thing is, we have a gracious and patient God. One willing to walk through the process with us. 

Prayer is one of those things that can be confusing at first. There are also seasons where it may be hard – hard to find time, hard to find the words, hard to find the faith that God hears you. But we can have peace, because we have a gracious and patient God willing to walk with us. 

That’s the whole purpose of prayer. It is not to “heap up empty phrases” or say “many words” (Matthew 6:7). It is not to find the right formula to get what you want. Prayer can be many things – praise, thanksgiving, repentance, petition – but at its core, prayer is simply walking with God. Talking to Him. Communing with Him. He so fiercely wants a relationship with you – for you to know and be known by Him. And prayer accomplishes that end: it connects us to the Vine, it helps us abide in Him, and it grows our relationship with Him.  

We see how much He wants a relationship with us in the form of Christ – the Son of God who became a man to stand in our place. Because He lived a human life, experienced human weakness (without sin), was tempted and tried – hurt and killed – He became the perfect representative. Our High Priest, who has given us His righteousness. And in His righteousness, we can stand boldly before the throne of great grace. We may feel unworthy. We were unworthy to come before our Holy God. But because of Christ, our perfect Savior, we have been made clean – we have a way into the presence of God, and we can go unashamedly. He wants us to. 

And when we feel weak – we have another promise – the Holy Spirit. He guides us and intercedes for us when we don’t have the words. Because again, it’s not about our words – it’s about our hearts. Hearts that want to commune with the God who wants to commune with us. That is what prayer is about, that is why we can have peace within it – even when we feel like we’re not “getting it right” the first time. Like all of the Christian life, it is a process we walk through – and through prayer itself, we get to hold God’s hand while doing it. 

So as we go into this time of focused prayer as a church, I just wanted to remind you that even when it seems hard or confusing, we have a gracious God who not only provided a way for us to communicate with Him – but wants us to and helps us to.   

Rest for Our Souls

Read: Matthew 11:27-30

I’m sure we’ve all heard these verses before. We’ve read them and felt comforted by the promise that Jesus will give us rest. This life can be a lot – there are many burdens that we carry around – and yet Jesus promises to trade our heavy burdens for His light one. Our hard yoke for His easy.

But beneath the comforting surface, these verses had always confused me a little bit. I trusted that they were true, and yet…following Christ didn’t always feel easy. Many times my burden still felt heavy. My yoke still hard.

But in God’s grace, as I was reading these verses again recently – they struck me

differently. I’ve realized that like many of us, I so often feel like I have to be good enough. We know that there is no way to earn salvation, and yet there is a part of us as humans that have a hard time accepting God’s grace. There may be a part of us that feels it too good to be true – that we have to live up to it somehow.

Yet right here – Jesus speaks to us. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest…rest for your souls.” Trying to be good enough is a heavy burden to bear. Because try as we might, we cannot be perfect. Not even close. But here, Jesus is telling us to rest in our salvation. To rest in His love. To rest in the finished work of the cross – for “It is finished” was His cry.

It reminds me of this quote – “‘It is finished.’ May those words land on your bones for the nights when fear tells you the cross was a beginning and you must finish grace.” Rejoice…and rest, for you do not have to finish grace.

Yes, our salvation is still being worked out. We are still growing, still maturing. But we don’t do it by our own strength – for the Holy Spirit works in us, producing the fruit of our salvation. For we do not work in order to earn our salvation; we work from the freedom and grace provided by our salvation. We work with a light burden and easy yoke.

And as our salvation is being worked out, we rest in the promise of it’s fulfillment: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ”

‭‭(Philippians‬ ‭1‬:‭6‬). Because of Jesus, because He went to the cross, because we have the hope of resurrection – even when life seems heavy, we can still find true rest. Rest for our souls.


Interruptions and Amazing Grace 

Read: Mark 5:21-34

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to stop in a store or restaurant to let my great-grandmother talk to someone. Whether it’s simply telling them that their baby is precious, or making a comment that turns into a twenty-minute conversation – she is always finding someone to share something with. I admit, I often try to move her along, not wanting to be an interruption to anyone else (and honestly, not wanting to be interrupted myself). But time and time again, I have seen people leave with a brighter smile on their face and thank you’s on their lips because of her encouragements.

As you go about your day, how many people do you see, interact with, or talk to? How often do you hurry through these encounters, thinking of all the other things you must do?

Jesus saw many people during His days on earth, walking through busy cities or with crowds clinging about Him. And we know He had much important work to do. And yet, all throughout the gospels, we see Him stop and take the time to meet with people – even the low down, unclean, sinful people – and show them His power and love. He lets all kinds of people interrupt Him, and they leave changed because of it.

Jesus let Jairus interrupt Him from His teaching, and he got to see the power of God in his daughter’s healing. Jesus stopped to talk to the woman, and she got to see His great love for her. Both were changed forever because God didn’t see them as distractions, but as humans who needed His love and grace.

We so often see people as distractions or interruptions. Interruptions from more important work, more pressing matters, even from other ministry opportunities. Yet if we would listen to the Spirit’s leading, He would show us that God sees those people as ones who need to be served and shown Light and Love. What would happen if we stopped all the rushing, and like Jesus – actually took the time to talk? To listen? To serve others, even when we feel like we don’t have the time? God knows all the things you need to do. He knew Jairus’ daughter needed to be healed. And yet Jesus still stopped for the woman. He still calls us to stop for those whom He sets in our path. This may look like having a full on gospel conversation with someone, or just actually listening to the answer of “how was your day?”

Maybe what we often see as most important is not God’s perspective. Maybe God will use us in ways we could never imagine if we would listen to His lead and let ourselves be interrupted. My great-grandmother sees it, Jesus did too. Those interruptions may just be the tools to show His amazing grace to others. And when people truly see that grace, they will leave changed. Who knows, we might leave changed too.


Bringing Him Everything

Read: John 6:5-13, Luke 21:1-4 

A boy with five loaves and two fish. A widow with two coins. People with very little, giving everything they had.  

From our human perspective, we very easily see our lack. We see when things are not enough. Just like the disciples – “…but how far will they go among so many?” I don’t blame them, looking at a boys lunch compared to over 5,000 people. We also tend to view our lack in comparison to others’ abundance. We see the widow’s two coins compared to the full money bags.  

And with these perspectives, we usually do one of two things: We don’t bring anything to God, thinking nothing we have could be good enough.  

Or, we overcompensate- trying to do all the things to make up for how we fall short. Trying to override the feelings of guilt for our weaknesses by gritted teeth and good works. But none of it works – because the fact remains, we still fall short. 

We fall short. Just like the five loaves and two fish fell short. Can you imagine how measly they looked in this small boy’s hands compared to sea of people around him? And yet he brought them anyway – knowing they wouldn’t be even close to enough, he brought them anyway.  

God knows our limitations and weaknesses. He knows we fall short. And yet, he asks us to bring the little we have anyway. Not to shame us for it, but to create something beautiful out of it. 

And the widow – she knew she had so much less to give than anybody else, and yet she brought it anyway. She gave everything she had to the Lord because He deserved it. And Jesus praised her for it. Because it’s not about the quantity or quality of what we bring to God – it’s about bringing Him all we have. That includes our weaknesses, our faults, and our lack. We surrender all. And when we do, He can create something beautiful out of all that falls short. He’s that good.  

Have you held anything back from God because you feel like it’s not enough?  

Surrender all today and watch what He does with your “not enough.” 

Our High Priest

Read: Hebrews 7:23-28, Mark 15:37-38 

The High Priests of Israel were not just important figures, they were essential in Israel’s relationship with God. They were the only ones allowed to go behind the veil in the Temple, to enter into the Holy of Holies –  where God’s presence dwelt. And every year, they would offer a sacrifice, entering into this place to atone for the people’s sins. They were the mediators between God and man. They were bridges – yet, temporary ones. 

These High Priests were not perfect. They had to offer sacrifices just for themselves before they could step behind the veil. And because the sacrifices – the substitutes – were only symbols, they had to be offered over and over again. Yet God, all along, had a better plan. From the beginning, the role of High Priest pointed to Jesus and what He would do for us. 

He is truly essential in our relationship with God. Without Him, we would never get to experience what it is like to know God and walk with Him. He not only made a sacrifice for our sins, He became the sacrifice. The perfect, full sacrifice, given once for all.  

And because of that sacrifice, the veil was torn. This is one of my favorite things in all of Scripture. Because the blood of Jesus washes us completely clean, we can now all enter into the presence of God – we don’t have to be separated any longer. Even better than that, God sent the Holy Spirit that His presence might dwell in us. We are now the Temple of God.  

Jesus is the bridge that connects us permanently and continually with our God. The beautiful, everlasting bridge that closes in the gap. He gives us full access to God through His purifying, powerful blood. There is nothing better than this.  

All along, God has wanted to dwell with us. We see it first in the garden – He wants to walk and talk and have relationship with us. After our sin separated us from Him, He used the Tabernacle (later, the Temple) – and people like the High Priest – to be able to dwell with His people again. But His ultimate plan was to come dwell with us in the flesh, to die, and to rise again that we might all have access to a fully restored relationship with Him. Jesus our perfect High Priest accomplished this plan, and we now wait on His return – when we will get to walk and talk and dwell with our God forevermore. All because our High Priest loves us and gave Himself for us.  

Are you living in the reality that you have full access to God? Are you walking with Him and growing your relationship with Him daily? 

Don’t ever forget that – because of Jesus – you have this privilege! 

The Second Adam

Read: Romans 5:12-21

As we go through this series on the Blood of Jesus on Sunday mornings, I want to point out for the next few weeks some of the people in the Old Testament and how they point to Christ and His redemption. 

So first, we will start with the first. Adam – the first man, created in the image of God. Placed in a garden and given dominion over the creatures. Charged, along with Eve, to be fruitful and multiply. To bring life, and to cultivate it. Is that what they did? No, actually quite the opposite.

By disobeying God, by trying to take control of their own lives – they brought death. The world became cursed because of sin. Everything would now show signs of death and decay, there would be pain and suffering, they would experience the effects of evil and corruption. And above all, their image was marred. Mankind would now be infected by sin. The ones who were supposed to represent God in this creation were now separated from Him. 

Yet even in the middle of God announcing this curse, He gives a glimmer of hope – He promises an offspring, a snake-crusher (Genesis 3:15).

And so here we come to the second Adam, the offspring, the snake-crusher. God had worked for centuries, weaving together His story of redemption, which finds a pinnacle here – in Jesus Christ. Jesus, the perfect image of God, come to reveal Him to the world. But not only that, come to do what the first Adam couldn’t. He came to reverse the curse. By His blood, we are restored. By His death, He has given us life. By His sacrifice, we are brought near. By His defeat of sin on the cross, everything will once again be made whole. 

One man brought sin and death upon creation. But thank God that is not the end of the story. Because One man brought righteousness and life for all that would accept His grace.

Adam and Eve tried to take control of their own lives. But the problem is that they were never created to do that. We were never created to do that. And because of Jesus, we can surrender our lives to God – becoming what we were always meant to be, His children, His perfect image. 

The blood of Christ restores us, and one day it will restore all of creation. The first Adam may have brought death and destruction on creation, but the Second Adam brings life and re-creation. For this world, and for you and me. 

Take time today to praise God and thank Him for sending us Jesus, for giving us life and redemption even though we don’t deserve it.

Our Substitute

Read: Genesis 22:1-14

“The Lord will provide.”

As we well know, we are sinners. And as the Bible tells us, the wages of sin is death. Our sin earns us death. It causes our separation from God. It has made us dirty, unclean, unrighteous. And because of that unrighteousness, there is nothing we can do to fix it. The only possible solution is a substitute. We need a substitute.

There have been many images of Jesus drawn from this passage, but the one I want to focus on is the ram. The substitute. Instead of Isaac’s life being offered, God faithfully and graciously provided a substitute. The ram took Isaac’s place on the altar.

While this story is not a perfect analogy of Jesus taking our sins on the cross, it does point us toward this beautiful truth: Jesus took our place. The Lord provided for himself the lamb – who would take away the sin of the world.

Throughout the Old Testament, we see that God had given animals as a substitute for the sacrifices for His people’s sin. The sins of the people would be symbolically laid on the animal, which would then be sacrificed – enduring the consequence of sin (death) on behalf of the people. But that’s exactly what it was – a symbol. As Hebrews tells us, the blood of these animals couldn’t actually take away sins (Hebrews 10:4). They were never meant to be the final plan. They were never meant to be the final substitutes. No, they were meant to point toward the greater Substitute, Jesus Christ. Christ, who became sin that we might become His righteousness. Christ, who endured death that we might have life. Christ, the perfect sacrifice. The perfect substitute.

Jesus took YOUR place on that cross. Just let that truth sink in.

What amazes me is that God didn’t have to provide. Nobody forced Him. He definitely didn’t owe it to us. But because of His great love and grace, He did. He had provided a substitute for Isaac. And He provided His only Son for us. Rejoice with me in that today. No matter what you may lack, the Lord has provided what you truly need – a Savior. A Substitute.


The Sovereign Lord

Read: Psalm 2 

Do you ever get tired of this world? Tired of the evil, the oppression, the rage?  

This psalmist lived in the same world as you and me. Many things may have changed, but there has always been evil and oppression, nations fighting each other, leaders taking advantage of their people. But this psalmist sees something we can often forget about. He sees God’s Anointed as the One who will reign over all things. 

This is a Messianic psalm. It pointed toward Jesus centuries before He came, showing us what God’s plan was all along. 

His plan was – His plan is – to set King Jesus over all the earth. To make Him the King of kings and Lord of lords that we see in Revelation (Rev 19:16).  

The Apostle John, the writer of Revelation, also lived in this broken and evil world. He wrote the book while he was imprisoned on an island, sent there because of persecution under an evil leader. He knew the worsts of the evil of this world, and yet he was also given the same perspective of the psalmist – he was given visions of the glorified Jesus, on His throne. Visions of the raging nations and oppressive rulers and all the evil and brokenness of this world being defeated forevermore. He saw visions of the day when it would be proclaimed that “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” (Rev 11:15) 

That day, God will fulfill His promise to His Son – “I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.” (Psalm 2:8)  

The rulers and nations and people of this world may plot and do evil, but they cannot take away the possession of the Lord. The King of kings will reign forever – and the way of the wicked will perish.  

The promise at the end of this psalm is a promise for us, “Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” The wicked will one day be destroyed. But because of God’s grace, because of Jesus’ sacrifice, those who take refuge in Him will get to reign forever with the Son. We will get so very tired of this world, but when we look to Jesus – when we trust that God will do what He said He will do – we will have the strength to patiently endure, until the day we don’t have to endure anymore.  

Have you taken refuge in Jesus, resting in His grace and His promises? Are your eyes on Him as you endure?  

How does knowing that evil will one day be destroyed and Jesus will reign change your perspective in the here and now? 

God is Our Refuge

Read: Psalm 11, 1 Samuel 23:14 

Imagine being David, fleeing and hiding from King Saul – who is seeking your life purely because of his jealousy. If you look up a map of David’s journey, you will see that he went all over the place trying to elude Saul. Trying to find refuge.

A refuge is a place of shelter or protection from danger. And everywhere David went, from the city to the wilderness, that is what he was trying to find. Shelter. Protection. Safety from danger.  

But as he was physically trying to find places of refuge, his soul knew a crucial truth. No stronghold, no hiding place, no weapon, no person was sure to keep him safe. No, his true refuge was the Lord. David’s true protection and safety only came from Him.  

David knew that “The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven; his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man” (Psalm 11:4). First, he knew that God was the one truly on the throne, not Saul. Secondly, He knew that God was “a God of seeing” (Genesis 16:13). God saw David, and God saw Saul. He knew the situation. And third, David knew that because God was righteous, “the upright shall behold his face.” In the end, the wicked would be defeated, and the righteous would see God. 

Knowing that, David could live in the face of this enemy. And because our God does not change, we too can confidently take refuge in Him. He is still on the throne, He is still the God who sees us, and He is still righteous and just. 

The strongholds of this world will fail us. It is God who keeps us safe.

Is there anything that you are “fleeing” from, that you need to take refuge in God from? 

What “strongholds” of this world have you put your trust in, that you need to hand over to God? 


The Promises of God

Read: Jeremiah 29:10-14

Have you ever felt homesick? What about abandoned? Alone? Forgotten? Jeremiah was writing a letter to people who were probably feeling all of those things.

This passage is part of a letter to Jewish exiles, taken in captivity from their homes to Babylon. They weren’t taken there for no reason – the Babylonian exile and siege in Jerusalem were God’s judgment on Israel for their grievous idolatry and sin. But throughout this book that details God’s wrath and judgment, we see glimmers of His great mercy, love, and hope.

Through this letter, God gives His captive people promises that they can hope in and hold on to through this time of exile.

First, He promises them deliverance. The consequences of their sin would last for a time, but in His mercy – they would not last forever.

Then, He promised them that His plans for them were good. This didn’t mean that they were exempt from sufferings. It meant that their sufferings had a purpose and an eventual end. Then the best promise of all – a future and a hope. Yes, this future and hope pointed to the time of deliverance from the Babylonians, but it ultimately pointed to when we would be delivered from our sins. This promised future and hope was Jesus Christ himself.

God then promised them that if they sought Him with all their heart, He would be found by them. He was reminding them that even in this foreign place, where I’m sure they felt abandoned and forgotten, He was with them. He was close. He would be found by them, if only they would seek wholeheartedly.

And lastly, He promised them restoration. The exile would one day be over, and they would be restored to the Promised Land.

We too are in a kind of exile. We too are in a foreign land, waiting and wishing to go home. And we too can hold on to these promises given to exiles. We can know that God promises to work everything for our good – not necessarily keeping us from suffering, but working through our suffering (Romans 8:28). We have a future and a hope in the resurrected Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:3-7). We have God with us always through the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17). And we have the promise of deliverance from this world and complete restoration in heaven (Revelation 21:1-5).

As we live in this in-between, may we hold on to these promises and patiently endure. Because this exile won’t last forever – the day is coming when we will be delivered and all will be restored. The day is coming when our future and our hope is not something we look forward to, but something we live in. Hallelujah.

Which of these promises do you need to hold on to the most in this time of waiting?