Thursday, March 15, 2018

Lent Devotional Series, Day 26

This post is part of a series of devotional videos put together by New Covenant Community Church. For more information, view my first post of the series here.

Here are my thoughts on Hebrews 4:1-13.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Lent Devotional Series, Day 20

This post is part of a series of devotional videos put together by New Covenant Community Church. For more information, view my first post of the series here.

Here are my thoughts on Ephesians 1:3-6.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Have You Ever Seen the Wonder?

I’m grateful that I grew up in a strong family environment, with parents who found ways for my brother and I to experience the world at its fullest. We savored food grown in the garden, or game hunted afield. We went to concerts together, from choral Christmas music to Pink Floyd. We took road trip vacations more often than not, in a time without built-in DVD players; I remember watching the country go by and wondering at the places and people and stories we passed. We swam in boundary waters, laughed with family and friends, shared books with each other, sat around the wood stove, listened to coyotes at night. “Wow” was as common a word as “hello” or “goodbye.”

I think this foundation has led me to do the same with my family. Not only do I love making memories with them, I also love seeing my three kids wonder at new experiences. Many of them are old to me now, but through them I get to revisit the joy and awe of a clear, quiet night under the stars, or a twist ending of a good book, or a perfect chocolate chip cookie right out of the oven. I feel alive running around an amusement park with them, exploring a forest on foot trails, or seeing their laughter the first time they meet Chunk, Sloth, Mikey and the rest of the gang in The Goonies. 

To take a familiar but favorite experience, and to see someone else experience it for the first time is a gift.

And that’s what Jesus gives us. In Christ we have a chance to view the world with a new sense of wonder and awe. Creation is beautiful and full of life and color. Relationships long worn thin are given a second chance at substantive connection and love. The world is not a place full of danger; it’s a place full of opportunity. To share, to love, to heal, to restore: this is the invitation of the Gospel. We get to join in the work of re-creation that God is doing in us and around us. And then we get to invite others in, and experience the wonder of it all themselves.

What stands in the way of you seeing the wonder of Jesus today? “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:38-39)

Nothing comes between us and God’s love. Jesus paid the price completely on the cross. 

Wonder at the deep and powerful love of God, shown in Christ Jesus. 

Wonder at the gift of each day, each minute, each breath.

Wonder, and walk in the light.

(Inspired by the song “Wonder,” from Hillsong United.)

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Lent Devotional Series, Day 14

This post is part of a series of devotional videos put together by New Covenant Community Church. For more information, view my first post of the series here.

Here are my thoughts on Psalm 19.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Lent Devotional Series, Day 8

This post is part of a series of devotional videos put together by New Covenant Community Church. For more information, view my first post of the series here.

Here are my thoughts on Romans 3:21-31.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Proclaim His Name

​​​​​​​"Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name;
            make known among the nations what he has done.
Sing to him, sing praise to him;
            tell of his wonderful acts." - Psalm 105:1-2

As I mentioned Sunday, Scripture connects the dots between praise and proclamation. When we sing praise to God, we proclaim to the world that He is worthy! Everything we do has the potential to proclaim the power, love, majesty, grace, and peace of Christ. And the world needs us to proclaim Jesus more than anything.

So let's review a few things that elements of Sunday morning's worship proclaimed.

The welcome and reading of Psalm 105:1-4 proclaimed that we can enter God's presence, which is no small thing. God is the Creator of everything, and yet because we believe in Jesus we can boldly come before him, to pray, to praise, to listen, to speak.

Our opening song, "For the Sake of the World," proclaimed that we need Jesus to transform us. We can't do life on our own: we want the Holy Spirit to move in us in a way that the world sees and responds. It also proclaims that God loves this world, and so do we. We want everyone to know Jesus is King in our lives, that we put Him first.

The song "At the Cross (Love Ran Red)" proclaimed that because of Jesus' death on the cross, we have forgiveness of all the wrong we've ever done instead of the death that we deserve. We proclaimed mercy, hope, repentance (turning back to Jesus), and God's great love. And we proclaimed that we surrender our will to Jesus, because we believe God knows what's best for us.

The song "Christ In Me" proclaimed that the power of God, the power that resurrected Jesus to reign, is living in us as the Holy Spirit. We proclaimed our own weakness, that it's hard to believe this truth. We proclaimed that when we turn to Jesus, we lay down worries, we see that God is in control, we can make our entire life an offering of praise.

The song "All The Earth Will Sing Your Praises" proclaims the Gospel in a nutshell: Jesus lived, died, rose from the grave, and promised to return, to rule and reign. And it proclaimed that Jesus is where we put our hope for the future.

The prayers for Parkland, FL proclaimed that we trust Jesus, and we want Him to be light in the darkness of our world. It proclaimed our sorrow at the destructive forces of Satan.

The video of our international outreach proclaimed that we believe our time, talent and treasure is worth giving up to share the news of Jesus with those very different from us.

The testimony of our Global Team in serving a local refugee family proclaimed that Jesus calls us to love our neighbors, to love the foreigners among us. It proclaimed the love and care and hospitality of Jesus, which is a radical message in a world of xenophobia, racism, and nationalism.

The upcoming activities of New Cov proclaim the power of community: we need each other, and we can encourage each other.

Everything we do can proclaim Christ! So how are you proclaiming Christ today?

Praise the Lord, My Soul

On Sunday we opened the service with Psalm 103:
"Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—" (v. 1-2)

Isn't it interesting that David, who has followed God since he was young, first must rouse his soul to praise God? He prompts himself to worship. He attends to his inner life and exhorts himself to praise God. I don't think he's revealing a heart that doesn't praise God in any way. After all, he's writing the music, he's playing the song. Instead, I think he's meditating and preparing his heart, encouraging himself to praise God in every way. David wants to make sure he is wholly focused on praising/blessing the Lord.

David does this often: he prepares himself to worship. It makes me feel more comfortable, because there are times when I'm not ready to sing God's praise at the start of service. My mind, or my heart, or my soul is elsewhere. It takes intention and sometimes a laying aside of myself in order to fully praise God. If I'm focused on how my coffee is too cold, or what I'm doing later in the day, or my family, or my friends, or anything other than Him, then I'm not fully engaged in worship. Praise the Lord, my soul. Put your attention and your hope in God.

Then David gives himself a little more direction, pointing to all the ways God blesses him:

"who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's." (v. 3-5)

Every day, every moment, we are reaping the benefits of a loving God. In Christ, we know complete forgiveness of sin: past, present, and future. In Christ we know redemption; more than that, we are crowned in Christ with love and compassion. In Christ we have our needs and even our desires satisfied with good things. God is so good to us! Praise the Lord, my soul.

He goes on to recount God's deeds of the past, God's character. And then, with the fullness of what God does and who God is resonating throughout his whole self, David turns to the rest of creation, exhorting everything to praise God:

"Praise the Lord, you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his bidding,
who obey his word.
Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts,
you his servants who do his will.
Praise the Lord, all his works
everywhere in his dominion.
Praise the Lord, my soul." (v. 20-22)

David attends to himself before he calls on creation to worship God. If we want the world to change, we must first work to change ourselves. If we want every nation, tribe and tongue to worship God, we must first attend to our own worship. Are we going to live a life that is half-heartedly following Jesus? How will this be seen in the world? We must drink of the living water and remember how Jesus satisfies. Then, from the deep well of knowing God's goodness ourselves, we can give a drink to those around us. Praise the Lord, my soul.