Imagine a room filled with hundreds of people worshiping at God’s feet, with hands and voices raised in unison. As you watch, people begin vanishing one by one as though they were never there at all.
Several years ago, this was the vision God gave me to show what would happen if I wasn’t obedient to walk in the calling He had placed on my life. At the time, I didn’t fully understand the concept of ministry and I certainly didn’t see how I could be used to help bring people to Jesus. My life was messy and, even though I had been saved, I had no personal relationship with God besides waving hello on Sunday mornings.
All it takes is one glance at any of the news sites to know that our system doesn’t work and our policies need to change in regard to immigration.
My heart aches at the images of children being separated from their parents. I look at them and see my own little girl, who still clings to me when I drop her off at daycare. I can only imagine the fear and panic she would experience if she was forcibly taken away from us.
One of my favorite ways to make scripture come alive is to put myself in someone’s place so I can try to imagine what they were feeling and experiencing.
In Exodus 3, the Lord says He has seen the suffering of His people and that He is sending Moses to Pharaoh to bring the Israelites out of Egypt. All that Moses say in return is, “Who am I that I should go?” followed by, “But what if they ask who sent me?”
And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover. When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve. And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?”
– Matthew 26:19-22
These verses record the conversation at the Last Supper. I’ve always found it interesting that when Jesus announces one of His disciples is going to betray Him, none of them deny the betrayal or try to protect Him from it. These men had been following Jesus for years at this point, and yet not one of them could confidently say, “I would never betray you!”
The concept of “face to face” plays a large role in our culture’s definition of intimacy. Text messages or emails are great, but we still crave that personal interaction; we want to be able to discern the feelings revealed by the face. When we are face to face with someone, we can see love, tenderness, shame, or pain in their expressions—emotions that don’t always come through in other forms of communication.
So how can we have an intimate relationship with our Father when we can never see Him face to face?
Raise your hand if you have ever been personally victimized by this message. I can’t count the number of sermons I’ve heard warning against the dangers of being a “bad” Christian and how it could land you in Hell. I would go so far as to say that this type of sermon was one of the main reasons I grew up doubting my salvation (something I talk about in depth here).
A tithe is typically regarded as the first 10% of your income. The first tithe occurred in Genesis 14 when Abram responded to God’s blessing by giving Melchizedek, the king of Salem, a tenth of his possessions.
“Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And praise be to God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.” Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.” – Genesis 14:18-20
What does it mean to be a servant of God and a slave to righteousness? The idea sounds conflicting in nature to our understanding of freedom. Scripture tells us that we have been set free in Christ (Galatians 5:1) and that we are no longer slaves to sin (Romans 6:6). Yet Romans continues on in verse 18-22 to say that we are slaves to righteousness and willing slaves or servants to God.
So what does it mean? Have we been set free or are we servants?
It only took one sentence to break my heart. I don’t mean that it just made me incredibly sad, or that it hurt for a few minutes—I mean that it literally shattered my heart. It made me stop and re-evaluate all of the things I was taking for granted in my own life.
I work for a Christian international relief organization, and some of the work we do is in countries that are closed to the Gospel. In several of these countries, Christians aren’t allowed to gather, they’re not allowed to own Bibles, and they’re not allowed to speak the name of Jesus. We had a guest visiting from one of these countries, and for the first time he was invited to church. After the service, he had tears streaming down his face as he said, “This must be what Heaven is like.”
In Greek, the word “Gospel” translates to “good news” or “a message of victory”. That is the definition I’ve heard most often: The Gospel is the good news that Jesus came to pay the penalty for our sin so that we might become children and heirs of God.
Even during His time on earth, Jesus was the living Good News. He took what others deserved and, in return, gave them healing, freedom, and right-standing with the Father.
“Therefore, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith…”
– Hebrews 10:19 -22
Scripture tells us that we should have the confidence to enter into the presence of God because Jesus acts as our high priest. The purpose of the high priest in the Old Testament was to enter the Most Holy Place, stand before God, and make atonement for his people so that they could have right-standing. Christ secured our eternal redemption through His sacrifice, so we are forever in a position of complete right-standing with God. We are His heirs, and we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Ephesians 1:3).
We live a life filled with God’s promises—healing, provision, protection—but sometimes it feels like we live a life of waiting on God’s final promise. His Second Coming.
Scripture is filled with people waiting. Abraham and Sarah waited 100 years for their promised child. Joshua and Caleb waited 40 years to enter the Promised Land. The world waited three days for the promised resurrection.
Friday was the day that Christ took all of our sins on Himself and was crucified. Sunday was the day that He rose from the grave and gave us victory over death. But Saturday was a day of waiting.
Sometimes it feels like we are living in Saturday.
You can learn a lot about yourself by re-reading old high school journals. I recently found some of mine and was reminded of all of my favorite quotes, song lyrics, books, and movies. Between things I had written myself and things I had copied down from other sources, I could also clearly see the opinion I had of God. One of my favorite songs was “On Distant Shores” by Five Iron Frenzy.
First, a disclaimer: this song is amazing and I still love it. However, the lyrics that I wrote down in my journal didn’t capture the full picture of what the song was saying. Instead, I pulled out the ones that I thought I related to:
With resilience unsurpassed, I clawed my way to you at last.
“Everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory” – Isaiah 43:7
What does it mean to be created for God’s glory? Scripture tells us that we were all created for His glory, but sometimes people tend to get the wrong impression from that statement. We are taught to be humble, and not to boast in our own works, yet here we see God literally creating things that will exalt Him. To understand what it means to be created for God’s glory, we have to first understand what His glory is.
When I think of the word worship, I usually visualize someone with their hands in the air, maybe on their knees, singing or crying out to God. For believers, worship is a time where our minds can be transformed and our hearts can be renewed – but for that to happen, worship can’t just be external. It has to be internal as well.
I grew up in church, and I’ve attended Sunday morning worship all of my life, but I can’t count the number of times when I was singing the words with nothing happening in my heart. In Matthew 15:8-9, Jesus said, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; they worship me in vain.”
This is a challenging topic to write about because it is so personal, but that’s also what makes it so important. Sometimes the church hurts us, and that pain can directly affect the way we see religion, relationship, and God Himself. Depending on the situation, “the church” could represent a physical place, or it could mean the church as a body of believers.
Grace in the English language typically means elegance, beauty, or mercy, but in scripture, grace is the foundation of our salvation and redemption. Ephesians 2:8 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith—and this is not from yourselves; it is the gift of God.” Grace is the means that allowed us to be reconciled and restored to righteousness in His sight after the fall. God’s grace is His goodness toward us when we were still sinners and had no reason to expect His favor.