Security is a dancing phantom, much like the shadows of clouds that flit across the landscape. Yet we long for security in an insecure world. We fear for our health. We fear for our financial “security”. We seek secure investments. We lock our doors in an effort to ensure security. We fear hackers and stolen identities, so we pay for security systems to make our digital identities secure. We may arm ourselves to ward off a nightime intruder. We don’t walk alone at night in a dark place. We do all these things because of our fears in an effort to be secure.
Security in Jesus is not something that I was raised with. In many ways, I grew up in a hellfire and brimstone church that had one trembling with fear every time you had an evil thought or did something you shouldn’t. At those moments we were urged to smell the smoke of the pit that was licking at our feet and about to pull us downward forever.
I thank God that I’ve learned a bit more about security as a Christ-believer. Consider these things:
ONE: the Christian is united with Christ, seated with him (Ephesians 2:6);
TWO: we are hidden with him in God (Colossians 3:3);
THREE: we cannot be divided or separated from him by life or death or anything in existence (John 10:29, Romans 8:38-39).
What is the implication of those things? Simply put it is this: the Christian is as secure as Christ himself is secure!!! And you just don’t get more secure than that.
I love what Martin Luther said: World, death, devil, hell, away and leave me in peace! You have no hold on me. If you will not let me live, then I will die. But you won’t succeed in that. Chop my head off, and it won’t harm me. I have One who will give me a new one.
It is so much better to smell the rarified air of heaven than the smoke of the pit.
Believer: rest in Christ. You are as secure as he himself is!
PRAYER: We shout with joy for the security we have found in your, Lord God! Thank you for understanding our fears and our need to feel secure and for giving us the security we sought! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Daniel 2:44 (CSBBible) – In the days of those kings, the God of the heavens will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, and this kingdom will not be left to another people. It will crush all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, but will itself endure forever.
What an amazing time we live in. Pandemics, scandals, demonstrations, riots, political division that is truly painful to see. It’s easy to lose our sense of balance in such a time.
I think Daniel’s interpretation of the king’s dream speaks to us at this moment, and every moment, in time. What Daniel tells the king (who was far and away the most powerful earthly ruler of his day) was this: a mighty kingdom is coming that will smash any earthly kingdom into smithereens. It’s not a kingdom of this world, but it is the kingdom of God himself.
As Jared Wilson put it in The Story of Everything: “It is the reality of the kingdom of God…that should comfort Christians today, not the rising and falling of popular opinion or the ways of the Supreme Court or the majority votes in Congress or the moral sanity of the president. All those people are sinners. We can root for them and persuade them and pray for them and hope for them – but we cannot hope in them, because none of them is not a sinner. Only Jesus Christ’s kingdom comes with perfect grace and peace and justice. And only Jesus Christ’s kingdom will remain.”
It may seem strange to think of the kingdom of Christ conquering all when we look around today. After all, when Christ came it was as a baby and he died not in a palace but on a wooden cross. When he came he didn’t come as a typical king does to fight and conquer and amass territory and wealth. Why didn’t he come that way? He didn’t have to. He already possessed it all. As Abraham Kuyper said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, ‘Mine!’”
Be reminded, Christian, not to put your hope or faith in the president or in an election or in the scientists working to prevent COVID-19 or in anything else in this world. The one thing that is worthy of our hope is the completion of the coming of the kingdom of Christ. And that is where our prayers and efforts should be focused.
PRAYER: Jesus, we long to see the mighty kingdom come in its totality and finality. Keep us from trusting in other humans for deliverance and look only to you! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Two hundred forty-four years and two days ago, on July 3, 1776, George Washington wrote a letter to his wife. It was, of course, the day before the Declaration of Independence would be signed by the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. In the letter, Washington wrote anticipating the hardships and struggles that would come about as a result of the momentous signing of the document. Here in part are his words:
“In a few days, you will see a Declaration setting forth the causes which have impelled us to this mighty revolution and the reasons which will justify it in the sight of God. I am fully aware of the toil and blood and treasure what it will cost to maintain this declaration and support and defend these states; yes, through all the gloom, I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory.”
Sometimes these days it is hard to see rays of light and hope for our country. Optimists keep saying we’ve turned the corner economically, but if we go down as a country, it won’t be because of economics, but because of our moral and ethical failures. We have to remember that God is the same yesterday, today and forever. He ALWAYS takes down countries that turn their back on Him. No country has ever existed on the face of this earth that can thwart the will and plan of God! Is it our time? I don’t know – I honestly hope not – but even America will one day come to an end. I hope and pray it will be later, not sooner!
As I read what Washington wrote, I was struck not so much with the political and nationalistic tone of his final statement, but of its application to our everyday Christian life. Life extracts a toll. We sweat. We bleed. We groan under the load. Some of the load is created by our own hand, some is piled on by others – as if our own failings and sin aren’t enough all by themselves. What I liked about Washington’s statement though, is the part about “through all the gloom, I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory.”
What do you see when you try to look into the future? Aren’t we often drawn to the physical world and our concerns for what is happening and may happen to our country and economy and world? Shouldn’t we, of all people, be drawn towards the Light and Glory of Jesus that will be ours as His gift to us?
I don’t want to be a doomsayer. I want to be an encourager. I also want to be a realist, and there is nothing more real, glorious or ravishing than the outcome that awaits us in the Light of the Kingdom of God. In the meantime, we would do well to pray, “Our Father, Who art in heaven, Hallowed by Thy Name, Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…”
PRAYER: Let Your kingdom come more strongly and fully into our hearts this and every day. Keep our eyes focused on the blinding rays of glorious Light that at present are just outside of our reach, so that at last, we may come into possession of all You intend for us! Guard us against discouragement with the glory of that vision, In Jesus’ name, Amen.
DayBreaks for 6/30/20: The Good Land Where Things Die
It seems to be a rule that for there to be new beginnings, new life, that things must die. The NT speaks of this in various ways: Jesus spoke of how a kernel of wheat must fall into the ground and die for a new plant to grow, we are told that if we want to have life we must die to our own life, we are even told to put to death the “old man” so a new man can life and as Jesus told Nicodemus, we must be born again.
As humans, of course, we don’t think of death as being good. Our pets die and we grieve, our dreams die and we are disheartened, our friends and family die and we are crushed by the dark enemy. We are told that flesh and blood (at least as we know it) cannot be part of the world to come – that we will need new bodies fit for an eternal life, not a temporal one.
Perhaps instead of fighting all forms of death, we should look for the benefits of death. It is good that some things die, after all. Fortunately, there is a place – a good land, a very special and holy place – where things die. Where is it? It’s found at the foot of the cross.
At the blood soaked ground at the foot of the cross is where my shame dies for all the things I’ve done that I don’t want anyone to know about. Why? Because Jesus took my shame. My guilt dies there as the blood drips from Jesus’ hands, feet, back and side. Why? Because Jesus took my guilt on him. My fear of dying dies there because Jesus would prove a mere three days later that death has no choice but to yield to glorious life because of Jesus power. My sense of insignificance dies there when I think of the blood he shed and what he endured because of one thing and on thing only: he loves me and I matter to him. My fear of the future dies at the foot of the cross because by what he accomplished there, there is no longer any condemnation for me.
But along with the death of those things that I take to the foot of the cross, there is new life springing up from the moistened soil. I can now live a new life without shame and guilt plaguing me. I can face the future, as the song says, because he lives and promises me I will live, too (and he’s proved he can pull off that “trick”). And I need never feel insignificant, unimportant, unwanted, uncherished ever again because in the good land where things go to die, any doubt about those things was erased.
PRAYER: What holy ground is this, Lord Jesus, that we are invited to the ground at the foot of your cross where bad things die and good things spring up filled with eternal life! In your magnificent name we pray, Amen!
Worship songwriter Brian Doerksen’s son, Isaiah, suffers from fragile X syndrome, a genetic condition which results in physical, intellectual, emotional, and behavioral limitations. In his book Make Love, Make War, Brian reflects on the day he and his wife first received medical confirmation of Isaiah’s condition. In the midst of his heartache, as Brian considered turning away from worship ministry altogether, God taught Brian a lesson that instead carried him further into his ministry:
“[After receiving the test results], I stumbled around our property weeping, confused, heartbroken. At one point I lifted my voice to heaven and handed in my resignation: “God, I am through being a worship leader and songwriter …”
‘When I was able to be quiet enough to hear, I sensed God holding out his hand and inviting me: “Will you trust me? Will you go even with your broken heart—for who will relate to my people who are heartbroken if not those like you who are acquainted with disappointment?”
Reflecting further on this word from God, Brian wrote: “I used think people were most blessed by our great victories. But now I know differently: People are just longing to hear [others] speak of how they have walked through the deepest valleys. The world lifts up the victorious and the successful, but God lifts up the brokenhearted.”
There are plenty of broken hearts in the world. Hearts are breaking every second and they can remain broken for years. Doctors may be able to heal hearts that have suffered cardiac arrest or cardiac arteries that are clogged, but they can’t fix a broken heart. Broken hearts remain the purview of God and God alone.
When our hearts are breaking, we tend to do a variety of things to try to regain some sense of equilibrium, but we may struggle to turn to an invisible God to heal our broken heart. Don’t hesitate. He is not called the Great Physician for no reason!
PRAYER: All around us, Lord, are those with broken hearts, and we suffer from them, too. For all those who are in pain this day, we ask You to heal their hearts! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
What is the best memory you have of the best day you ever spent on this earth? I don’t know if I can identify just one day that was my best, but I can recall some indescribable days: the days when each of our kids arrived, the days when our grandchildren arrived, the day of our wedding, the day I became a disciple of Christ (but since I did that at a fairly young age, it didn’t seem as momentous to me then as it does even today.) You can probably think of others, but most of us would probably put family-related activities in the list of “best days ever.”
In a sermon I preached a week ago, I mused briefly about the best day in the life of the apostles. Of course, we don’t know and they’re not here to allow us to ask them, but don’t you suspect that if you asked any of the 11 (not counting Judas) what was the best, most exciting day they ever spent, that they might reflect back to a Sunday morning in Jerusalem after a very dark, deadly weekend? Could there have been anything more exciting than His resurrection? I think not.
But what about for Jesus? Was His resurrection as exciting to him as it was to the disciples? I doubt it – he knew it was going to happen, but to them it was a total, mind-blowing shock! I don’t know what Jesus’ best day may have been. At best we can only surmise. But I like what Phillip Yancey had to say: he thinks the best day ever for Jesus was the day of his ascension back to the Father. When you stop to think about it, doesn’t that make a lot of sense? He’d set aside the glory he had with God before the foundation of the world to come here. In his ascension, he was taking that glory back up again. When he came, he knew he’d get sick, be weak physically, be limited in His power, be beaten, spit on and die in a most ignoble and painful way. With the ascension, that was all over with. As Yancey wrote, “He, the Creator, who had descended so far and give up so much, was now heading home. Like a soldier returning across the ocean from a long and bloody war. Like an astronaut shedding his spacesuit to gulp in the familiar atmosphere of earth. Home at last.”
He goes on to reflect on Jesus’ prayer at the Last Supper, and suggests it gives us insights into his point of view: “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.”
“Before the world began! Like an old man reminiscing – no, like an ageless God reminiscing – Jesus, who sat in a stuffy room in Jerusalem, was letting his mind wander back to a time before the Milky way and Andromeda. On an earthly night dark with fear and menace, Jesus was making preparations to return home, to assume the glory he had set aside.”
I’m so glad He went home and took up His glory again!!!! I LONG to see Him in that glory! I can scarce believe He left it behind to find ME – the one lost sheep who had gone astray! I am dumbfounded by the wonder of it all!
I wonder if when his feet left the ground, if a sigh of relief could be heard…
PRAYER: Oh, Jesus! No words have ever been invented to describe how thankful we are for what You did for us! Long live King Jesus!!!! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
DayBreaks for 6/11/20: The God who Never Answers Prayers
From the DayBreaks archive, June 2010:
This past Saturday, we had a Celebration of Life service for one of the godliest and most grace-filled women I’ve ever had the chance to meet. She’d been a faithful member of our congregation for a number of years before she finally lost her struggle to cancer. It wasn’t her first bout with that enemy – I know she’d fought and defeated it at least twice before it rose up too strong to be overcome. It was a wonderful celebration we had – this woman was truly a saint and it showed through those her life had touched. It was a celebration – but also a reminder that there is an enemy named death.
In Greek mythology, Hades, the god of the Underworld, the god of the Dead, was the most hated of all the immortal beings because he was held to be the only god who never answered prayer. Never.
The exception that proves the rule is the story of Orpheus and Eurydice. Orpheus was the greatest of mortal musicians. When his beloved wife, Eurydice, died, he simply could not accept the finality of that loss. So he took his harp and journeyed to the Underworld where he played so beautifully, sang so poignantly of grief and sorrow, that tears of molten iron ran down the normally immovable face of Hades, and for the only time ever recorded, he relented. Eurydice would be permitted to follow Orpheus back into the world of the living, the world of the sun. But he must not look behind him until they had both safely emerged from the darkness of Hades’ realm back into the sunlight.
So imagine Orpheus’ feelings as he begins the long walk by himself through the dark tunnel. He sees the small point of light at the end, and he begins to hear faint footsteps, growing ever louder and more solid, as Eurydice begins to resume physical form and follow behind him. He desperately wants to look backwards and see her again, to confirm that it is her footsteps that he hears approaching behind him! But he dare not.
At the point where they only had one more step to go before Orpheus’ quest to regain Eurydice would be completed, at that instant when one more step would mean his goal would have been achieved and her life would have been snatched back from stone-faced Hades, at that moment she stumbles against a stone and cries out in pain, and by instinct, without thinking, he turns to catch her and keep her from falling. But he has broken the ban, he has violated the requirement, he has transgressed the taboo. And so he turns only to see her for one intolerably heartbreaking moment reaching for him as she evaporates and fades back into the mist, forever lost in the darkness.
Perhaps the hardest thing about Death to accept is that impenetrable wall brutishly erected across your path, that steel door slammed in your face. It simply doesn’t matter how important and essential the departed loved one has been to your life, you aren’t getting him back. That is what makes it the great and final Enemy: “The last enemy to be defeated is death” (1 Cor. 15:26).
And that is what Jesus overcame not just by his own resurrection, but by raising Lazarus and the son of the widow from Nain! Should it be any wonder to us that the people were filled with terror and awe when the dead man sat up and began to speak?!
Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out–those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. – John 5:28-29 This is the last, great and final hope of Christianity – that the stone wall will be shattered, that the steel door will be destroyed…and so we shall be forever with the Lord!
We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words. – 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18
PRAYER: I thank You that YOU are a God who hears the prayers of those who cry out to You, and that You will one day answer even our prayers to see and be with Your saints of all ages once again! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
A good number of years back (I hate to think how long ago it was!), I went with a group of men from our church in Tracy, California, on a backpacking trip to the 10 Lakes Basin in Yosemite National Park. We started early in the morning while it was cool – it would be a steep uphill hike, and since we would be spending the night there, we carried heavy packs. It was July – and the temperature was over 100 degrees, even at that elevation. As the day wore on and it got to be mid-to-late afternoon, we knew we had to be getting close to our destination. Every once in a while, we’d lift our heads and gaze at the top of the ridge looming above us – when you’re that tired, you just can’t help but look at the huge peaks and ridges that tower over you and which beckon you to keep hiking up its side. Then, when you finally reach that ridge top, you realize that it isn’t the top at all – that there is another ridge behind and above it – you just couldn’t see it from where you were before. Perspective from below fools you. You then reset your expectations, thinking that what you now see is the real summit – another half-mile off. But then you begin to wonder – is it a false summit, too? I must admit, there were several false summits – and with each false summit, there was disappointment. But we kept going – and we reached our goal – and when we did, it was sweet!
That hike and that experience echo lessons I have learned about the journey of faith. Just as with that backpacking adventure, a faith walk will involve miscalculations, misperceptions, thrills and disappointments – long periods of waiting and even longer periods when it seems as if the uphill trudge will never come to an end. No matter how well one prepares and takes all appropriate cautions and attempts to eliminate all the risks, we never succeed. There will be times when the weather settles in thick and cold and we lose sight of the ridgeline that rises above us – when we can’t see a thing and aren’t sure if we’re still even moving in the right direction.
But this I also have discovered – that when we reach the summit, there is nothing in the world that compares to the feeling of exaltation. But it would never have happened if we had stopped walking at the first false ridgeline, if we quit when we’re in the valley and give up because it seems too hard and we’re not sure if we can make it.
Persistence is not an easy thing to possess as the years mount up and our strength winds down. But too much is at stake to quit this close to the finish line. Keep looking upward…you will reach the destination, not because of you own strength, but because He has guaranteed to carry you over the pathway that you cannot navigate on your own!
Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. – James 1:12
PRAYER: When times are hard and we are exhausted, be our Strength and guide our footsteps on the upward way until we reach our Rest! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
DayBreaks for 6/09/20: There Ain’t No Stoppin’ Love
When I was young, I recall a dilemma that fascinated me and it was primarily related to a physics problem: What would happen if an unstoppable force collided with an immovable object? To this day I don’t know, but I suppose the answer might be something like this: there is no such thing as an unstoppable force or an immovable object. With enough energy applied, anything is stoppable or immovable.
At least in the physical realm. If the Bible teaches us anything about God it is that His plan is unstoppable. It may seem to us mortals that it is being thwarted left and right but we surely can’t see the entire story or recognize all the force at work.
As I was walking the dog the other day, I had Crowder as my walking companion (via my Alexa-enabled headphones) and I was struck by a portion of the lyrics to the song Golgotha Hill (King of Love) that made realize that there is one unstoppable force in the universe and that is the love of God.
When you think about it, what is the intent of God’s plan? It is to be reunited with his very good creation in love and peace.
What if our own love were like that unstoppable love of God? There would be no child, spousal or elder abuse. There would be no divorce. There would be no war, no stealing, raping, racial injustice, no hearts crushed by infidelity and no families destroyed.
I wish it was as simple as saying, “God fill me with your unstoppable love!” I’ve lived long enough to know that nothing is that easy for me. I do believe that the day will come when his love is all that remains and it will fill us, envelop us, and pour out of us. Until that day my prayer will be to know and experience more of his unstoppable love towards me so that I can love others even as he does.
1 Corinthians 13:13 (CSBBible) – Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love — but the greatest of these is love.
Romans 8:37-39 (YLT) – …but in all these we more than conquer, through him who loved us; for I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor messengers, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things about to be, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of god, that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
PRAYER: Father, I would know and be possessed by your unstoppable love and I would have that love for others! Our world so desperately needs your unstoppable love right now. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
We struggle with many things in life. We struggle with pride, pain, relationships, work, finances, failures, parenting, loving others who are different from us…the list could go on virtually ad infinitum. But there is one thing that we as believers struggle with perhaps more than non-believers. and that thing is forgiveness – and by that I mean accepting that we have been forgiven.
Why is that so? You’d think that of all people on this green and blue orb that Christians would be the quickest ones to accept our forgiveness. And that’s true of many. But there are untold thousands, if not millions, of believers who just have a hard time accepting that our sins are forgiven. I think it is because while we have forgiveness, we also have the Spirit. Part of the role of the Spirit is to convict us of sin – not to torment of agonize us, but to cause us to confess and to steer us back into a good path.
If we are to believe anything about the cross, it must be this: that the price for ALL our sins was paid for – past, present and future, when the God-man died sinlessly. It wasn’t just for the sins I’d committed before I became a believer – though those are surely forgiven – but every sin I’ve committed since then and every sin I’ll ever commit in the future.
Maybe you did something this weekend, or last week, or last month or 20 years ago that you believe can never be forgiven. That simply isn’t true. To say it is unforgiveable is to deny the power of the blood of Jesus’ blood and sacrifice to take care of YOUR sin. My friend, you are not bigger, nor is your sin more powerful than the Father’s heart of love for you.
I love music and find it very powerful in causing me to think. And so I want to share this YouTube link with you from David Crowder’s Forgiven, where he says, “Forgiven, forgiven! Child there is freedom from all of it. Say goodbye to every sin you are forgiven.”
Walk in perfect freedom – now and forever!
Romans 8:1-2 (ESV) – There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
PRAYER: Jesus, thank you for our freedom – bought and paid for by your mighty, invincible blood! In Jesus’ name, Amen.