He Dispels My Doubts of the Unknown - Monday, March 18, 2019

Matthew 14:22–36 (NIV84)

22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

25 During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

29 “Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

34 When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret. 35 And when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all their sick to him 36 and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed.

Have you ever been on a long car trip during bad weather? Have you ever been on a flight with lots of turbulence? You might understand then what that night was like on the Sea of Galilee for the disciples.

Another storm had brewed on the water. Only this time, Jesus wasn’t with them. He had remained on shore while the disciples went ahead of him to the other side. The constant buffering of the wind and the splashing of the waves left them weary and restless. What would happen? How would this turn out?

To make matters worse, the disciples thought they saw “a ghost” walking towards them. They were tired, weary, afraid, and that’s what they concluded about this strange sight. But it wasn’t a ghost coming to them, it was Jesus.

He knew what to do. He quickly made his voice, his presence, and his love known. He spoke words of comfort. “Take courage. It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

Peter wanted to be sure it was the Savior, so he asked to come out on the water toward Jesus. Jesus told him to come. For a moment, Peter was walking on the water toward Jesus. But then he caught sight of the wind. Old fears returned. What would happen? How would this turn out? He began to sink.

Again, Jesus knew what to do. Immediately he reached out his hand and rescued Peter.

Yesterday’s devotion focused on the fear we have in known situations. Today we focus on the fear we have in unknown situations. But the comfort and solution in either situation remain the same. It’s Jesus. He came to save. His word brings peace. His promises can be trusted in known and unknown times.


PRAYER:  Dear Lord, there is so much that I do not know. The things that I have never experienced before, the things that I have never gone through before, these things cause me to doubt and become fearful.  Fill me with your confidence. Let me step forward in faith knowing you came to save and your Word brings me peace. In Jesus name, we pray. Amen.


He Dispels My Doubts in the Known - Sunday, March 17, 2019

Luke 8:22–25 (NIV84)

22 One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out. 23 As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.

24 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”

He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. 25 “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples.

In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”

The new student was nervous. She didn’t know what to expect on the first day at a new school. Across the street, a returning student was also nervous, but for a very different reason. He knew what to expect at the school. He could expect lots of homework.

Sometimes, we fear what we don’t know. Other times, we fear what we do know. And Jesus can overcome them both!

The disciples knew these waters. Some of them fished for living on those waters. They knew their way around a boat and likely had been through stormy seas before. But they also knew their limits and weaknesses. They knew powerful storms could sink them in a hurry.

That day the wind was howling. The waves were splashing. The disciples knew this powerful storm was going to sink them in a hurry. And so, they cried out in fear to Jesus. “Master! We are going to drown!”    

Jesus knew what to do. He got up from sleeping and quickly calmed the storm with his powerful Word. At that moment, Jesus made known who he really was. He is the One who commands wind and waves. He is the One whose word brings peace. He is the One who calms powerful storms outside of us and inside of us.  

When new circumstances have you worrying with fear, let Jesus’ powerful word bring you peace. When familiar circumstances overwhelm you with doubt, turn to the power of your Savior and his known love. He, who lived, died, and rose for you will give the confidence and peace you need.

PRAYER:  Dear Lord, there is so much that challenges what I believe and know to be true. Sometimes what I am most afraid of is the change in the world around me. Life is not the same as it used to be. Give me faith in your unchanging power. Let me never question your resurrection. And may that one simple fact strengthen me through an ever-changing world. In Jesus name, I pray. Amen.


Our Deliverer - Saturday, March 16, 2019

Matthew 6:13 (NIV84)

13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’

They just don’t stop coming, do they?  Temptations, that is.

Our daily lives are spent wandering in a spiritual wasteland.  Our society spews out lie after lie (“You can decide your own truth!”  “Your pleasure is most important!”) and seems intent on numbing us into a spiritually vegetative state through the constant stream of flashy and addictive entertainment.  Culture’s current can feel like a raging river that is intent on dragging us down to our peril.

Temptations also well up from inside of us, even during our most “spiritual” moments.  I am taking the Lord’s Supper with my brothers and sisters in Christ. I see a person with whom I am having a disagreement and immediately my heart is filled with resentment.  I am in the process of praying with my family while my mind is overflowing with worries about finances and my unending to-do list. I am reading the scriptures with my eyes, but my heart is wandering far away, more concerned about banal sports events than the eternal and enduring Word of God.

Then the Devil comes, shooting his fiery arrows at our souls, whispering deceitful inquiries into our ears and intending to take us and those whom we love straight to hell.  “Are you sure that’s what God says?” “Are you sure God cares?” “Are you sure God even exists?”

So we fall into temptation, over and over.  I am forced to scream like Paul, “What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” (Romans 7:24)

This is why Jesus instructed us to pray: “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”  Temptations do come. But, we pray that the Lord would hold us close to His side and keep us from falling to the myriad of temptations that hit us every day.  We pray that God would deliver us from the one who wants our souls!

Deliver us God does.  Over and over he points us to Jesus, our deliverer, who “was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Romans 4:25). Over and over he presents a way out of temptation so that we can stand when society’s current would sweep us away (1 Corinthians 10:13).  Over and over he surrounds us with Christian brothers and sisters who are loving and brave enough to rebuke us, correct us, forgive us, and guide us. Over and over he directs us to His word, where we hear the gospel message and are built up so that we can take our stand against the devils flaming arrows (Ephesians 6:11).  

So, like Paul, we shout out “Who will rescue me?”  But, also like Paul, we conclude… “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25)

PRAYER:  O God, our deliverer, we thank you for rescuing us from sin and death.  Lead us not into temptation, but continually deliver us from evil. Amen.


A God Who Knows - Friday, March 15, 2019

Hebrews 4:15 (NIV84)

15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.

I don’t know if you have ever had this happen to you: you share a deep personal struggle with a friend and he or she responds, “I know exactly what you’re going through.”  After hearing a friend say this, my mouth might say, “Thanks,” but my thought response is probably something like this: “Really? Can YOU really KNOW exactly what I am going through?”

We doubt our friends when they say it.  We doubt the politicians when they say it.  (“I am an average Joe, just like you. I know what you’re going through.”)  It just sounds so patronizing to a struggling soul. Can anyone really know what exactly what we are going through?

The answer is yes.  Believe it or not, God knows.  God does not just know this because He is omniscient.  He knows it in a very personal way. Take a look at the verse again.  Our high priest, Jesus, empathizes with us. He personally knows our human weaknesses and the temptations we face.  God is not some distant deity, who sits enthroned in a galaxy far, far away, watching us from a distance and shaking his head at our foolishness.  Instead, He is a God who entered His own creation to take His peoples’ place in all things, including facing temptation.

Think of all of the sins Jesus was tempted with as he grew up… disrespecting parents? Hurtful words? Pride? Cynicism?  Apathy? Lust? Laziness? Procrastination? He faced it all! Just like we do. Therefore, he can empathize with us. He really knows what it’s like.  This is an amazing thing.

However, what is even more amazing is that, unlike us, Jesus passed all of the tests!  All of them! He did not sin. No pride. No laziness. No lust. Not even once. So his “I know” and “I understand” mean that much more to us.  He is not merely empathizing; he is also forgiving. After we fall into temptation, He does not say, “Well, you will just have to try harder next time.” He says, “I have taken care of this.  I faced this. I passed the test. Here is your grade: you are forgiven. Your grade is the same as my grade: perfect in God’s sight.”

Let that soak in for minute…  And now, surrounded by God’s love and forgiveness, you might find that those temptations that we struggle with start to look at bit different.  They are just not as tempting. Why not? Because Jesus has already faced them for us. He knows. He empathizes. He forgives.

PRAYER:  Dear God who knows, we thank you that you are our perfect high priest.  Help us to trust in you as we live our lives for you. Amen.


Accountability - Thursday, March 14, 2019

Genesis 3:15 (NIV84)

15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

Have you ever played the "blame game?" It goes like this... Someone confronts you for something you've done, but instead of saying "I'm sorry", you tag someone else with being at fault. Step into most marriage counseling sessions and one thing becomes very obvious -- husbands and wives are very good at pointing at each other rather than themselves. It's not just husbands and wives, though, is it? We live in a world where no one wants to own up to their own actions. It's always someone else's fault or problem, and accountability is a fleeting concept at best.

Adam and Eve are a prime example, aren't they? Today’s passage rises from an interview in the garden of Eden between God, Adam and Eve, and the treacherous serpent. When confronted with his sin, Adam blamed Eve. Ultimately, he put the responsibility upon God himself stating, “the woman you gave me...” Eve similarly rationalized, charging, “the serpent deceived me.” Adam and Eve were guilty. They had eaten from the tree God commanded them not to. They had listened to the master of lies rather than the God of truth. Then they had the gumption to blame someone else for their sins! They deserved to be punished for their actions!

The truth is, someone needed to be punished for the sins of the first man and woman. Instead of crushing them with eternal punishment, God, in our text, punished the serpent, Satan. He proclaimed a promise for all mankind -- I myself will see to it Satan, that you are held accountable and are crushed by my very own Son, Jesus.

My friend, isn't this the promise that Old Testament believers clung to day after day, year after year? The Savior would one day come. The God of all grace and truth kept his promise! In what looked like a failure to the world, the perfect Christ dying on the cross was nothing short of a crushing blow to Satan.  It was the fulfillment of his Genesis 3:15 promise. Isn't the death and resurrection of Christ what we cling to day after day, year after year? You and I should be held accountable for our sins. But instead, God cast them on Christ, and he became sin for us. Your sins and mine were nailed to the cross, and Jesus was crushed in death for us. My Christian friend, cling to the cross of Calvary this Lenten season, for in the death and resurrection of Christ, you and I find our victory!


PRAYER:  Dear Savior, Help me cling to the cross every day of my life. I deserve the punishment for my sin, but instead, your promise of old came true in Christ, crushing Satan and forgiving me. Give me the courage to say no to Satan, the trust to lean on you alone, and the faith to know I'm forgiven and loved by you. Amen.


Intentions - Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Genesis 3:1–7 (NIV84)

1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

4 “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Cunning, mischievous, devious -- words that describe.... My daughter.  Now please understand that I love her to death, but she has learned the art of side-stepping authority. Recently, she asked me for a sugary snack. She quickly followed up with, "Mommy said it's ok." I went to confirm with my wife, and my suspicions were right -- my daughter was trying to play us to get what she wanted!  Satan tried the same thing on Adam and Eve, questioning God’s authority -- the same God that had just given them life, breath, and authority on earth. His intentions are obvious -- He was twisting the words of God in order to get them to slip. He knew it was a package deal. If Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, all their descendants would be stained with sin too. Sadly, Adam and Eve did -- and sadly we are.

Satan hasn't changed his tactics. He still fills our minds with questions and lies. "Did God really say to only follow him? Did God really say his Word is the only basis of truth? Does God really love you? Are you really forgiven for what you've done?" He dangles the juicy fruit of sin before us every single day.  His intentions are obvious -- he wants us to doubt, question, and forsake God. Sadly, we often take the bait and fall victim to Satan's cunning attacks. At the end of the day, we wonder, "Why did I listen to Satan and give into temptation.... Again?"

Christian, the remedy for our failures rests in the life, death, and resurrection of another that Satan tried to tempt. He tempted the very Son of God to stray from the path that the Father had set for him. His intentions were obvious -- if he got Jesus to slip, just once... If he could convince Jesus to not go to the cross... then he would claim your soul and mine for eternity. But for the first time in the history of the world, we see one who didn't fall victim to Satan's temptations. Jesus not only didn't sin, but he conquered sin, death and the devil on the cross of Calvary. His intentions are obvious -- to buy us back from our temptations, sin, and failures. Miraculously, through the perfect life, sacrificial death, and incredible resurrection of Christ your Savior, your failures and your sins are completely gone, and you belong only to one -- God Most High! Christian, as you continually face the temptations of the tempter, remember who your God is. He not only had good intentions to perfectly march to the cross and save you. He did, and you are, by God’s grace alone!


PRAYER:  Dear Lord, As Satan pummels me with temptations again today, help me to flee into your loving arms. When I fail, help me to seek forgiveness in you alone, for you have trampled my temptation. God, give me hope, life, and joy -- now and eternally. Amen.


Misplaced Trust? - Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Luke 4:9–13 (NIV84)

9 The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. 10 For it is written:

“ ‘He will command his angels concerning you

to guard you carefully;

11 they will lift you up in their hands,

so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

12 Jesus answered, “It says: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.

This week, we have seen the crafty and cunning ways that Satan works. He will stop at nothing to get us to fall into sin. He was just as relentless with Jesus. For his third temptation, Satan tried to beat Jesus at his own game and use words of Scripture (Psalm 91) to trick Jesus. His argument was that if Jesus did not jump from the top of the temple to the depths of Kidron Valley (approximately 450 feet down), he was showing a lack of trust in God to protect him.

Of course, Jesus saw through this foolishness and used the words of Deuteronomy 6:16 to remind the devil about the difference between testing and trusting God. What about you? Do you always see this difference in your own life?

In his novel The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis emphasizes how he believed Satan works more through subtle distrust than he does blatant disobedience. God said he will be with me always, so why do I feel so alone? God said that I can do all things through him who gives me strength, so why is school such a challenge? God said to ask and it shall be given, so why hasn’t he answered my prayer yet?

Recognize that thoughts like these are, first and foremost, misinterpretations of Scripture. Understanding the power of God’s promises and the entire context of Bible passages is important. Additionally, they are temptations designed to lead you to distrust God, his promises, and his providence in your life.

God does not have to prove anything to you, his creation, but he does. Despite your lack of trust, he time and time again reminds you of His presence in your life; he helps you through all of your challenges; he answers your prayers. But if you want to see the ultimate proof of God’s love in your life, look at Christ’s cross. Through his perfect life, innocent death, and glorious victory, you can trust that Jesus trampled Satan! God gives you the strength to trample all of your disobedient and distrusting temptations, as well!

PRAYER:  Dear Jesus, I praise you for the lessons you taught me this week about the various kinds of temptations I face. Forgive me for doubting and not trusting completely in you and your will for me. Remind me to always pray “Thy will be done,” not “my will be done.” If it be your will, continue to shower me with reminders of your love in my life. In your name I pray. Amen.


Misdirected Worship? - Monday, March 11, 2019

Luke 4:5–8 (NIV84)

5 The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7 So if you worship me, it will all be yours.”

8 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”

Think about some of the most prevalent sins in your life. It is likely that the catalyst of these is a lie. “It will make you feel good and happy!” “Nobody can tell you what to do!” “Everybody is doing it!”

The word “devil” means slanderer or liar, which is a perfect description of Satan, the Father of Lies. Once he realized that lying caused Adam and Eve to fall into sin, he has employed the same tactic to this very day.

Satan used this strategy to tempt Jesus a second time. When Satan said that the “kingdoms,” “authority,” and “splendor” had been given to him, he was hoping Jesus would see the allure of earthly fame and power....fame and power that was not real nor was his to give. Did Satan create the heavens and earth, separate the skies and the seas, give life to all plants, animals, and people? Nope! That was our Heavenly Father!

Once again, Jesus uses Scripture to perfectly put Satan in his place. He quotes Deuteronomy 6:13, “Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.” Essentially, Jesus reminds Satan of the First Commandment and the importance of not making a god out of anything earthly.

The temptations of this world are vast and varied. The devil tries to convince us that these allures are the keys to a life of contentment, pleasure, and substance, which is a giant lie. In fact, Satan doesn’t even have the authority to give us these gifts; they come to us through the power of the Holy Spirit (faith).

What are the allures that tempt you to worship and serve something of this world? Whatever your answer, be assured that as true man, Jesus faced that same temptation, so he really does know and understand your struggle. As true God, he sees the weight of guilt you carry in your heart after you realize you have (once again) been duped by one of the devil’s lying schemes. Also, be assured that because Jesus trampled Satan’s temptations and crushed him on Calvary’s cross, he gives you a daily reminder of the most important truth that you can know and trust: Your sins are forgiven!

PRAYER:  Dear Jesus, Today I praise you for the assurance of forgiveness that you give me every single day. Forgive me for times when I blatantly disobey you and worship and serve something of this world. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, continue to work in my heart and allow me to see the difference between Satan’s lies and your good, pleasing, perfect will for my life. Amen.


Reliant? - Sunday, March 10, 2019

Luke 4:1–4 (NIV84)

1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, 2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.

3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”

4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone.’”

As a child, I remember questioning the significance of this first temptation that Luke records for us. If Jesus was weak and hungry (probably closer to starving), what’s the big deal with providing a little food to nourish his body? He turned water into wine; why can’t he turn stone into bread?

The section of Scripture Jesus chose for his response is the key to unlocking this answer. Jesus recites the words of Moses in Deuteronomy 8:3.  Moses is reminding the children of Israel about God’s guidance during their years of wandering in the desert and how they were totally reliant on God to provide for all of their needs, including food. Jesus came to this earth to be fully human and to experience the same suffering and temptations that you and I face. Never once did he selfishly use his divine powers as true God to make his earthly life easier; rather, he used those powers to physically and spiritually help others.  Jesus was fully reliant on his Heavenly Father as his source of strength.

There are two important truths that this account helps us apply to our own temptations. The first is that our strongest temptations appear when we are weak and vulnerable. For some, those moments of weakness might be when you are with a certain group of friends. For others, those moments of weakness might be when you are alone. The devil will always try to exploit those times of weakness to lure you into sin.

Another important truth to remember is that God pines for us to rely solely on him. In the Bible passage above, the word “bread” implies anything besides God that captures our trust: our intellect, our intuition, our social status, our friends, and the list goes on. Our Heavenly Father wants us to fully trust him.

Despite your weakness and regardless of your “breads,” Jesus endured the humiliation, suffering, and temptations of this world all the way to Calvary. Because he took care of your biggest problem (sin), you can be assured that he will give you the strength to trample the devil’s strongest temptations in your life. Rely solely on Him!

PRAYER:  Dear Jesus, Thank you for conquering the temptations of the devil. Forgive me for the times of my weakness and when I put my trust in the ideas, things, and people of this world. Help me to rely solely on you as my guide, protector, and provider. In your name, I pray.  Amen.


Justice - Saturday, March 9, 2019

Isaiah 53:6 (NIV84)

6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Though it seems that many long-held principles and values in our culture are disintegrating before our eyes, we remain a people passionate about justice.  Many of us remember being part of a classroom or a sports team that “suffered” group consequences for an individual’s infraction. “That’s not fair” is the cry that rises up, but what we really mean is, “That’s not just.” Punish only the rule breaker with the loss of recess time or extra sprints. Not us who have done nothing wrong. Do the crime, do the time.

In movies, we love seeing bad guys lose and be destroyed at the end. We desire revenge where the great wrong is finally righted and the guilty get what they deserve. We aren’t satisfied anymore with the Scooby-Doo ending where the criminal is simply led away in handcuffs, we want to see the villain suffer pain and regret what he has done.  We love when our idea of justice falls upon the guilty and crushes them. Movie makers know this so they create as much tension and mystery for as long as possible. Leaving us frightened that the bad guy will get away and we won’t get the satisfaction of justice.

In real life, like the Psalmist, we grit our teeth when the wicked prosper (Psalm 73) because that goes against our concept of justice. Evil should be punished and good should be rewarded. That is the justice we have always been passionate about.

Yet that innate understanding of justice causes us to shiver with fear considering our status before a holy God. I can try hard to excuse and rationalize my thoughts, words, and actions, but I know the truth of the words -- I am by nature sinful. I deserve punishment. There is no real argument. Crime receives punishment, evil merits destruction, sin deserves death. We might be terrified instead of passionate about it, but it is still justice.

How strange then are the words of Isaiah! He speaks of the most unjust thing imaginable. What he says should make us cry out- Unfair! This cannot be! But it is. Instead of gnashing our teeth, we have every reason to weep with joy over this injustice.

We are the sheep who have gone astray. We all have turned away and the Lord has unfairly laid our punishment on Jesus.  We have foolishly, arrogantly, and recklessly chosen evil. We are the villain to be destroyed. But a gracious God has chosen to place all guilt and evil and sin on his own Son. The innocent one suffered the punishment that the wicked deserve. When Christ goes to Calvary he goes in my place, in your place. There he pays the price and bears the guilt for me, for you, for all.

PRAYER:  Lord Jesus, you are my righteousness, I am your sin. You became what you were not, and made me to be what I was not. Let me never tire of remembering and rejoicing in this gracious truth. Amen.


Pity and Relief - Friday, March 8, 2019

Isaiah 53:4–5 (NIV84)

4 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.

First pity, then relief. They seem to be natural reactions to the sight of suffering. We hear of the family who lost their home in a fire, see the bald head of a child fighting cancer, or the disabled vet forced to navigate a world built for those with all their limbs and we hurt for them. This is right.

It is a healthy thing to feel this sympathy for those in pain. But many times what follows is an unhealthy feeling of relief. We see the suffering of another and are glad that the bad luck thunderbolt has missed us, or even worse, that we have wisely managed to avoid whatever it was that brought this on another. You see the latter in the way we shake our head at the homeless man or the addict thinking we would never find ourselves in that position.

Pity, then relief. Do you hear that in the way that Isaiah speaks about the Lord’s suffering servant? He says-We considered him stricken by God, smitten by him and afflicted. What awful thing must that poor man have done to bring this on himself? His guilt must be deep and powerful. God has struck him with such anger and afflicted him with such punishment because his sin was so great. God did this to him and I am relieved that I have managed to avoid doing whatever it was of which he is guilty.

But wait, he doesn’t need your pity, and you shouldn’t be feeling the relief of the righteous. He is the one stepping into your place. I am the one who deserves to be struck and cut down and destroyed and yet he is pierced, crushed, punished, and wounded for all my actions and words, for my wicked heart. This great truth gives us true and lasting relief -- when Christ goes to Calvary, he goes in my place.

You and I haven’t avoided suffering and punishment for sin, we have caused it. The Son of God became the Son of Man so that he could go into suffering and die instead of me, instead of you. With his death, we were forgiven, healed, and made heirs of eternal life.


PRAYER:  Lord Jesus, you are my righteousness, I am your sin. You became what you were not, and made me to be what I was not. Let me never tire of remembering and rejoicing in this gracious truth. Amen.


This Is the God We Worship - Thursday, March 7, 2019

Genesis 22:6–14 (NIV84)

6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, 7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”

“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.

“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

8 Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.

9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

Imagine that it is your greatest desire to have children. Imagine having to wait until you are almost 100 years old to have your first child. Imagine being so happy to have your first child that you laugh out loud. Imagine naming that child based on your joyful laughter. Imagine, then, as that child grows up, being told by God to take your child and sacrifice him on an altar.

It is the kind of story that a new Christian might read and think, “What have I gotten myself into? God wanted Abraham to do what? This is the God I worship?”

God had promised to Abraham that his son, Isaac, would be his heir. But now God is telling Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. So which is it? Would Abraham’s line continue through Isaac as God had promised? Or would Abraham kill Isaac as God had commanded?

Being a Christian might sometimes feel like we live lives of contradiction. God promises that he will bless us. But who among us has not experienced heartache? How many of us have never faced uncertainty at work or at school?

The truth is that we face uncertainty every day. We live in a world steeped in sin, the result of which is discord between humanity and a holy God.

But God knows this about us. He knows our weaknesses and struggles. And he provides for us. In the case of Abraham, God demonstrated that he would always keep his promise. God would always provide for Abraham and his descendants.

To us God demonstrates the same commitment. In fact, through Abraham and Isaac God proves his love and provision for us. From the line of Abraham God sent us a substitute. He sent us a Savior who would die in our place. In other words, God did the very thing he had commanded Abraham to do.

What amazing love our God has for us. He never demands anything of us that he does not give us in Christ. He tells us to love our neighbor. What more perfect love toward neighbor could there be than to give up one’s life as Jesus did for us? He tells us to love him. What more perfect love toward God could there be than to submit completely to his Father’s will as Jesus did in sacrificing himself for us?

Jesus is your perfect substitute. Everything that God asks of you, he has given you in Christ.


PRAYER:  Christ, what you weren’t, you became – foul and filthy; Cursed, people found you appalling. What I was not, I’ve become – found “Not guilty!” I need you now; hear me calling! Lord, I am ruined. I have left you; I need rescue. Lord, I am pleading: show your favor, be my Savior. Amen.

Outside Help - Ash Wednesday, March 6th

Psalm 51

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.

2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.

4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.

5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

6 Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.

7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.

9 Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you.

14 Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.

15 O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.

16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

18 In your good pleasure make Zion prosper; build up the walls of Jerusalem.

19 Then there will be righteous sacrifices, whole burnt offerings to delight you; then bulls will be offered on your altar.

In June 2018, twelve youth soccer players and one of their coaches ventured into a cave in Thailand. As they were exploring, a rainstorm flooded the exit, making escape impossible. For over two weeks they remained trapped, with over two miles of flooded passageway between them and freedom. Imagine how they felt. Stranded. Scared. Helpless.

When a rescue team finally made contact with the group, many thought this nightmare was over. But it wasn’t. The passage remained dangerous and virtually impassable. As the rescuers continued to work, one man paid the ultimate price. Saman Gunan was attempting to bring more oxygen to the trapped soccer team, and in the process ran out of oxygen himself.

Saman Gunan was willing to volunteer his time – even his life – in order to rescue others. He did not have to enter that cave. But it was only because of him and his fellow volunteers that any of those boys are alive.

King David was trapped in his sin. The most famous of David’s sins was the reason behind this penitential Psalm – our reading for today. In a series of events that included adultery, lying, and finally murder, David had cut himself off from God. Burdened by guilt, he considered rescue from spiritual death to be impossible.

God sent outside help. He sent the prophet Nathan to call King David to repent. David was directed to the same God we have. In repentance, David made an appeal to God’s compassion and love. These are the characteristics of God that caused Jesus to give his life in the place of sinners like David.

While we can easily say that Jesus did not have to come to earth, we can just as readily say that he did. Because God is love and compassion, he was compelled to send Jesus as our substitute. Jesus is the perfect substitute. It is only because of Jesus that David lived. On the basis of God’s love and compassion, David’s attitude shifted from downtrodden guilt to joyful praise.

Those 13 boys were rescued from a cave in Thailand in July of 2018 and they all made a full recovery. Certain death was avoided because they had outside help.

We, too, have been saved from sin and certain death. We have been cleansed by the forgiving love and compassion of our God. This cleansing came when we were completely helpless. God sent outside help. Because he did, we have been given life to sing God’s praises. This life continues from now to eternity. May we continue to praise the God who saved us and forever rejoice in our God who helps us in his love and compassion.


PRAYER:  I love your law and would walk well within it. Knowing I’ve not leaves me sighing. This is the struggle I face every minute. Who can relieve me? I’m dying! Lord, I am ruined. I have left you; I need rescue. Lord, I am pleading: show your favor, be my Savior. Amen.

When Christ Went to Calvary

When Christ Went to Calvary

There are certain events that stick in one’s mind. Events that when they occur, change everything. You remember not only everything that happened, but how that event changed the rest of your life. The birth of a child, the dream job offer, the death of a loved one.

Easter is one of those events. It is so much more than chocolate bunnies and colorful eggs. It is an event that changed everything. Starting on Wednesday, March 6th, you’re invited to join us as we look at what was accomplished “When Christ Went to Calvary.” You will hear of unselfish love. You will find encouragement for life’s dark days. You will find joy in what your Savior has done for you. You will see clearly all that God did for you “When Christ Went to Calvary.”

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