We Must Pray the Promises of God

This is the third of three application posts following Sunday's Sermon from our Laugh Series.

WE MUST BELIEVE THE PROMISES OF GOD - PART ONE.
WE MUST APPLY THE PROMISES OF GOD - PART TWO.
WE MUST PRAY THE PROMISES OF GOD - PART THREE.

There is one thing about the relationship between God and people that has always made me queasy: Presumption of what God can, ought to, or might be able or willing to do...for us. The sickness of “I’m not sure that’s altogether right and so I’m going to puke now” is an appropriate reaction against what Tozer has taught us, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” And too many people treat God more like Santa, or Pre-modern Oprah, than as God Himself.

But the promises of God, I even need to remind myself, aren’t presumption, they’re promises. God has already said that He would, will, and even wants to do. The most important application of the promises of God, then, is to ‘remind’ God of what He has promised.

We must pray the promises of God:

“A Christian that believes the promises can take the promise in his hand and present it unto God, and say, ‘Fulfill this promise, since thou wilt not deny thy name, but art faithful.’”

Puritan Edward Leigh wrote that praying the promises of God means two things: “using them as the ground for what we ask and as the rule for how we ask it.”

“The ground for what we ask” means praying for what God has promised. It’s the ‘what’ of the promise. Consider one of Pastor Paul’s best applications of praying, Daniel’s use of God’s promise in Daniel 9.2-3: in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years. Then I turned my face to the Lord God. Daniel basically says, “Hey God, You said that this would happen at this time...it’s that time, so I’m going to ask you for it.”

“The rule for how we ask it” means “praying for things as they are promised.” Leigh says, “Things absolutely promised should be absolutely asked for... But when the Lord has placed conditions and expectations on a promise, our prayers must be conditional.”

Look back to those ‘stones’ in your pocket right now. Do you see the grounds and the rules for those promises? “Jesus, you said (Matthew 5.3-12) the poor in spirit, the mourning, the meek, etc. would be blessed. So would you bless us.” “Jesus you said (Luke 24.49) that you would send us the Holy Spirit who would not only comfort us but help us, and not only comfort and help us but bring some of the people we talk to to faith in You. Would you use my words so bring people to faith today?”

Isn’t that something! What a pleasing way to pray!

Enjoying God’s promises means believing them, applying them, and praying them. I would be very interested to hear how you experience God and His promises as you work through these three points of application from the first sermon in our Laugh series. How are you LOLing after God reminds you that He keeps His word?

We Must Apply the promises of God

 

This is the second of three application posts following Sunday's Sermon from our Laugh Series.

WE MUST BELIEVE THE PROMISES OF GOD - PART ONE.
WE MUST APPLY THE PROMISES OF GOD - PART TWO.
WE MUST PRAY THE PROMISES OF GOD - PART THREE.

Relationships can never have any substance if they cannot move out of the single-sided ‘kissy-huggy’ chapter. We talked yesterday about how we can be ‘kissy-huggy’ with the promises of God. And in the same way that a romantic person would pre-stock their mind with terms of endearment before they pick up their date, so the Puritans Andrew Gray, Edward Leigh, and William Spurstowe explain that we need to stock our pockets with the promises of God before we start our day.

“You must be made out of water, because Jesus just turned you into ‘FINE.’”

“I was looking in the Book of Numbers and saw that I didn’t have yours.”

“Hey girl, is your name Faith, because you’re evidence of the things I’ve hoped for.”

We must apply the promises of God:

“Applying the promises also means resorting to them as young David resorted to the choice stone in his pouch in the midst of battle. It means always keeping some specific promises on hand.”

I love this! We’re being told to take several specific promises of God and not only store them in our hearts, but in our jeans.

“How lost we are when we remain ignorant of the divine promises! We believe that we have recourse to them as the children of God, but we fail to remind ourselves of that. We neglect to keep them on hand as stones at the ready, and when a lion, a bear, or a Goliath approaches, we feel empty-handed and suffer the loss of available comfort and peace.”

Here’s the second step on applying this past Sunday’s sermon from our Laugh series which ought to help us ROFL as we not only embrace the promises but lean onto them. Write one or two of these promises on a piece of paper and fold it into your pocket.

 

A stone for that day nothing seems to go right, or even one thing doesn’t seem to go right:

Matthew 5.

2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: 

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 

5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. 

6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. 

7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. 

8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. 

9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. 

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 

 

A stone for that day we don’t believe we could be forgiven:

Mark 8.31 And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

 

A stone for that day you need to be reminded that God is still working in and through you:

Luke 24.49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

 

A stone for that day you need to know that God is with us:

 John 14 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” 

8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves. 

12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. 

 

But this is only a very simple list. The Bible is nearly full of the promises of God. As you read today what promises do you note? Write them down! They’re so much better than cheesy Christian pick-up lines. And obviously accomplish a whole lot more too.

 

 

 

We must believe the promises of God

This is the first of three application posts following Sunday's Sermon from our Laugh Series.

We Must Believe The Promises of God - Part One.
We Must Apply The Promises of God - Part Two.
We Must Pray The Promises of God - Part Three.

He laughed. She laughed. They named the kid God promised them “Laugh.” Eventually they learned that God really does keep all of His promises, most importantly, in the perfect way – not that they would only have a promised son but that another Promised Son would be given, the fulfillment of all of God’s promises

All the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. (II Corinthians 1.20).

We laugh like Abraham and Sarah too...after we cry, or rage, or accomplish whatever our personal defense mechanism against the hard days of the world are. We laugh and turn up our hands saying, “Whatever God. LOL. I’m about to give up anyways so why don’t you go ahead and see what you can do.” And then, God does. And we laugh again; “Why do I have such a hard time ever believing you, God!? You always do come through. And it’s always right.”

This past week I spent some time reading a book that unpacks some writings on the promises of God from several Puritans because, like you, I want to believe and live in God’s promises too. Over the next three days I’ll unpack what they unpacked so that we can all be much better at not only taking God at His word, but also enjoying Him daily.

Let these three quick posts be some application for this past Sunday’s sermon:

Puritans Andrew Gray, Edward Leigh, and William Spurstowe (along with authors Joel Beeke and James La Belle) agree...

We must believe the promises of God:

“Few of us really believe [the promises of God], and few of us can testify about a time when the promises sweetened our bitter afflictions, confirmed our weak and faltering faith under trial, compelled us to duty in the face of adversity, or provided us with unexplainable contentment in a time of disruption and upheaval... We know God’s promises are true and are given to us, but so often we fail in the elementary step of believing what God has promised, and therefore we fail to enjoy their fruits.”

I think the authors of this book are right. If they were not right, then how come last week when we asked the church for stories of believing God’s promises that led to laughter, hardly anyone replied with a story!

If we’re going to enjoy the promises of God we have to start making our first response believing the promise of God. Sure, you believe the promises but do you hug the promises? “Faith is not mere assent but an embracing faith by which we cleave to the promises; it is a faith that welcomes the promises, clasps them, embraces them, and kisses them.” Now maybe that sounds kinda gross. But if you knew the promises of God and how all of them are yours in Jesus, then you would be kissing away!

Today ask yourself this question: What else am I believing? Look, your joy is temporary, because it isn’t always setup on God’s promises. And your frustration seems never-ending because, likewise, instead of believing God’s promises you believe lies and all sorts of other crazy talk. What else are you believing? And in that things place give one of God’s promises a big sloppy kiss.

Burning; Not Yet Consumed

When I was thirteen, I began writing to cope with a difficult existence. Some of it was the throes of teenage hormones, but I also lived with alcoholism, poverty, and food insecurity. Times were tough, and writing helped me express myself in a healthy way. Many of my friends turned to self-harm to deal with the hurt in their life, others turned to a local church youth group, and I turned to writing . One day, however, I ceased to write; I guess I didn’t need the therapy anymore.

In my personal blog, I wrote why I recently returned to writing:

Most of all, I want God to be glorified through this endeavor and every endeavor of my life.

However, as I sit down to write my first post for a shared blog, I am crushed by fear. I am the youngest in age, have the least amount of education, and I am less experienced as a writer. Furthermore, I’ve only been a Christian for about a year.

In my daily reading, I came across Exodus 3. Exodus 3 tells the story of Moses seeing a burning bush that was not consumed by the fire. God speaks to Moses from that burning bush and tells him who He is and why He is communicating to him. God saw the extended suffering of His people under Egyptian rule. He tells Moses of His plan to take His people out of Egypt and into a land of “milk and honey,” the land of Canaan (Exodus 3: 7-8).

Then, God commands Moses. (Exodus 3:9-12)

“And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”

But Moses said to God, Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” 

God said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”

Moses was afraid of his notorious past and felt unworthy of serving God. I understand that feeling. I’ve been there, and sometimes I go back there. However, God was with Moses and God kept his covenant with Moses. Moses was not perfect, but Moses was molded by God to be useful for God’s plan and purposes. Moses glorified God through his life and his actions.

Moses eventually brought God's people to the promised land of Canaan, but if you fast forward, there is another who will bring those who believe to an even better promised land.

Hebrews 3:5-6 says,

"Now Moses was faithful in God's house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but as Christ is faithful over God's house as a son."

Moses served God by leading his people out of Egypt, but he also serves to be a foreshadowing of the great Savior who was to come. However, Jesus serves God's house as a son, and even more amazingly, invites us to be adopted as sons and daughters through his sacrifice at the Cross.

Despite all of my nerves and feelings of doubt, here I am. I am here because the Gospel is the most important message that I could ever write or tell anyone about. I know the Perfect Redeemer. It is more important than my fears, my aversion to criticism, and my inexperience.

The Gospel is the perfect life of Jesus, His death in our place, His burial and resurrection on the third day, and His eternal reign. It is the power for salvation, which includes the facets of:

-Justification (just as if I’ve never sinned/ always obeyed)

-Sanctification (transforming the Church for usefulness by God)

-Adoption (a new family, a new Father.)

-Redemption (being made into a right relationship with God)

-Glorification (being made never-ending new)

Sanctification is the concept that God is transforming each member of the Church to be used by Him. He is changing who they were in their sin to be useful and purposeful in the Church and in the world.  I want to live for God’s glory, not my own. Sanctification, for me, is the most painful part of God’s plan for salvation. It is changing me from my old sinful self, the one I’m used to being, into a person for His glory.

I want the stories of my life, and how the Gospel applies to them, to encourage and inform others about the joy that comes from a life with the Gospel.

Whenever I think of sanctification, I think of Psalm 66: 10

For you, O God, have tested us;
you have tried us as silver is tried.

If you didn't know how silver is made, a refiner tries silver by placing into into the fire until it is perfectly complete, this usually requires many tries until perfection is achieved. This writing venture is the fire that is testing and trying me. Let’s get going.

by Jessie Bollinger

 

Help For Our Greatest Need

In Luke 7, we read the story of the Widow of Nain. Nain was a small village which Jesus visited during his ministry. As he entered the village, there was a funeral procession heading out to bury a young man. He was “the only son of his mother, and she was a widow,” (v. 11). Jesus felt compassion for this woman and he went up to her and told her “Do not weep.” With that, he raised her son from the dead and “gave him back to his mother.”

Anyone who has lost a loved one can imagine the relief, joy, and gratitude that must have swept over this woman. She had already lost a husband, and now; without her son to support her, this woman’s future was bleak. Jesus arrives in town at a moment of hopelessness, and he restores to her the son she loved and depended upon. What incredible joy she must have felt!

The story of this miracle is only seven verses long, but there is a lot to chew on. Notice that Jesus comes to this woman in a time of deep sorrow and need. She has seen her share of troubles, but Jesus turns her sorrow to joy, just as he promises to do for us. 

Consider too what Jesus’ miracle did not do. The woman’s husband was not restored. Her every trouble and pain was not healed. At some point, after Jesus had moved on from Nain, she herself would face the many toils and troubles of life, including her own eventual death. As for her son, he too would die a second time. This is not to discount Jesus’ miraculous works, but rather to remind us that his purpose is much bigger than dealing with the problems of this life.

We all long for our earthly pains to be relieved. This widow was hurting, her sorrow was great, and her life had been hard. But beyond her present troubles was the fact that she, like us, was separated from God by her sin. While Jesus did provide an amazing comfort for her in this life; the fact is that he was on a greater mission. God’s only son raised this widow’s only son, but he also died so that he and his mother could receive forgiveness and eternal life. An eternity in which they would be reconciled to God and where the pain of death could never again separate them!

There is a danger for us when we view Christ as our helper only for the here and now. When we have such a small view of him we are also in danger of losing faith in him when the inevitable difficulties we face aren’t relieved. When we do this we are making idols of the things we want in this life, and placing those idols above God’s greatest gift. Jesus offers a greater help to us; he fixes the single biggest problem that we all have.

It is with that longer view in mind that Christ warned that this life would have tribulation (John 16:33). The apostles urged believers to endure hardship and accept troubles. Jesus, by his own example, endured a horrendous crucifixion because he knew what would come afterwards:

“looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God”
(Hebrews 12:2).

By all means we should accept the earthly blessings our Lord gives us. When our suffering is relieved in this life we should rejoice and give thanks. But we know that this world can never be all we need. It will fail us and we will suffer some of the pain of its brokenness. We must remind ourselves that the help we truly need has been secured by our savior through his suffering. Like him, we endure with our eyes set on the joy that is to come. When we stand before him in heaven, we will not remind him of the trials we endured in this life. That pain will be gone, we will dwell with God and we will rejoice that finally, and for all eternity, we will never have to endure it again.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
(I Peter 1:3-7).

 

by Chris Gingrich

You Are Utterly Enjoyable

Stopping in my tracks, I reread the simple statement. And it whacked me in between the eyes like a two-by-four.

“The infinitely self-sufficient God has come not to be assisted, but to be enjoyed.”
- John Piper. 

Enjoyed.

God doesn’t need my help. Jesus came to be enjoyed.

Questions formed. Do I enjoy God? Or do I merely enjoy His things?

How easy it is to love the marvelous gifts I receive from God—life, provision, protection, salvation, comfort, adoption, reconciliation, and on and on. It is good to enjoy God's gifts. He is a Father who delights to give good things to His children.

But do I enjoy Him more than His gifts?

Had I merely enjoyed the things I received from my husband, I’d rightly be labeled a horrible wife.
But my relationship with Jon was much more than things. I enjoyed his goofy child-like enthusiasm and passionate pursuit of anything he set out to do. I cherished his quirks and all the things that made him distinctly Jon. I even came to love his “no writing in books” ban.

I adored evenings curled up on the couch together and the warmth of his hand folded around mine. He chose me and loved me despite my flaws. I appreciated his wisdom and discernment. And I savored how his smile could light up a room.

Oh how greatly I enjoyed him! Moreover, how great was our mutual enjoyment!

What about God? How quickly I forget. Often I relish His things more than I relish the Giver. I could rightly be called a horrible daughter.

Ever the writer, I set out to make a list.

“Lord remind me how I enjoy you.”

I enjoy your masterful artistry. The sky is a multifaceted painting, each day ushering a new design. You expertly blend varieties of blues, grays, pinks, and oranges. It's stunning because you are stunning.

If I enjoy anything beautiful and good, it is because you enjoy it first. Gorgeous sunsets. Music. Laughter and singing. Love. Affection. Deep conversations.

All of these reflect your character.

I enjoy you in the quietness of a rainy day. For you are rest and peace.

I cherish our constant conversation, the ebbs and flows, the picking up right where we left off. Your words flood my heart in seasons of fear and doubt. You are trustworthy. You are comfort; scripture tells me truth when I cannot tell myself.

I love to tell you who you are. Sovereign protector. Redeemer. Provider. God you are holy, merciful, and just.—At the cross they collided harmoniously!

Sustainer. Satisfier. Exalted above all. Refuge. The list is exhaustive!

Furthermore, who I am flows directly from who you are. I know myself accurately only when I first know you. My identity is thoroughly wrapped up in your identity.

  • You adopt.
  • You guide.
  • You lead.
  • You cherish.
  • You secure.
  • You shelter.

Therefore, I am adopted, guided, led, cherished, secured, and sheltered.

I enjoy being thoroughly known and thoroughly loved. You love me perfectly, when no human can. You know every single ugliness, even the ones I dare not let others see. Yet you stay. More than that, you enjoy me too! What an unfathomable thing, Lord!

You are the subject of every sentence, the main character of every story.

“He Himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” Acts 17:25
“For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.” Isaiah 57:15

With vibrant clarity rings the truth about God:

O Lord I do enjoy you! You are utterly enjoyable.

 

by Ami Atkins

Every Day a Friday

Friday. Five o'clock.

I don't need to elaborate much on that feeling. It's freedom, excitement, expectation, the fulfillment of what you've been waiting for. When you leave work on Monday through Thursday, it's just not the same awesome feeling as it is on Friday.

This feeling is pretty new to me. When I worked in a coffee shop, I often worked weekends, so leaving Friday nights was no relief. When I was a college student, I had so much free time that Friday night didn't matter. As a new (exhausted) teacher, I now know the depth of this Friday-happiness.

However, that feeling fades. Friday-happiness isn't the only happiness that fades quickly. Aside from Friday-happiness, I have had many happy events happen in the last few months: Graduating college, having a vow renewal, being with family members, new gifts, and the list goes on. Looking back, they bring a smile to my face still, but not enduring happiness.

As a culture, we have a fascination with this feeling. As even referenced by the title of this post, there is a whole book that is about replicating this Friday-happiness into everyday of your life.

The problem with this mentality is that it both asks for too much and seeks too little.

It asks for too much, because it assumes that a person has done something to deserve happiness; and not only once, but for every moment of the rest of their earthly existence. For the Christian, even our most righteous acts are nothing more than filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). Our good works most often come from a place of sinful deceit in our hearts (Jeremiah 17:9). Even if we aren't "that bad," God is that much better. We all fall short of the perfect standards of God. We deserve wrath for our sin.

However, this mentality seeks too little because if we are only interested in feeling comfortable on this Earth, we are missing much of Jesus' teachings. Jesus told his disciples to expect to be hated by the world, because He was hated first by the world. (John 15:18) This world is not our refuge.


--


Instead, our refuge is found in the one true Savior. God sent his Son to become perfect man, die in our place on the cross, and He now reigns in heaven. One day, we will behold Him in Heaven. It will not only bring happiness now, but joy.

Joy is a deeper and longer-lasting experience than happiness. Specially, our joy comes from our Savior who, instead of sending us rightly to hell, saves us by His grace. Even if our cup is empty, it overflows. Furthermore, He puts our penalty on the One who was without sin.

Even more incredibly, God invites us into his family to be adopted as heirs, as sons and daughters. God sees us as if we have never sinned and as if we have always obeyed. The right response to this is repentance for sin, belief in Him, and joy in who He is.

To God, we aren't just acquaintances, considerate neighbors, friends, or even best friends: we are co-heirs with his beloved son, Jesus. As our pastor would say, "How stinkin' amazing is that?!"

If and when we can wrap our heads around that concept alone, we will no longer be seeking out just Friday-happiness, but we will learn to enjoy the lavish joy that we are given every moment of our lives which God graciously provides.

 

by Jessie Bollinger

Life's Default Setting

"You can so stand it. After all, it's only pain. What makes it seem unbearable is your mistaken belief that it can be cured."

-Sheldon Kopp

 

The quote above was included in a presentation I saw recently while attending a three-week seminar for museum professionals. During the course of the three weeks we had discussed, among other things, the ways in which museums can help visitors deal with controversial and painful topics in society.

Given my own family's experiences with hardship and coming to terms with it, the quotation really struck a chord. I wrestled with whether the sentiment of the quotation is depressing or uplifting. In the end, I guess it all depends on how you look at it.

During the course of the seminar, I left for a weekend, because my wife's uncle was very sick. I was in the hospital room as he passed away. I was thankful I had made it back to see him before he died, but also saw and felt the raw emotion as his wife and children and their spouses said their last goodbyes to a man they loved so much. Shortly after returning, I was in another hospital, as my mother grappled with the onset of dementia.

Suffering seems to be the default setting in this life. No matter how affluent we are, no matter how much we engage ourselves in hobbies, entertainment, fitness, our work, etc. in order to escape it; we and those we love will face suffering and pain. In the end, death will claim us and our loved ones.

This can be a most depressing thought. In the end, nothing found in this world will stave off the inevitable suffering. It will happen. If it isn't happening to you right now, just wait awhile.

"In this world you will have tribulation..." These were the words of Jesus to his followers in John 16:33.  Some translations add abundance to the sentiment and speak of "many trials and sorrows." We live in a fallen, sinful world and so it is inevitable that we will suffer.

But, the full sentiment of Jesus' words in John 16:33 offers a hope. Jesus had just finished telling his followers that they would suffer as he was about to suffer (John 15:18-20). He warns that they will be persecuted and even killed by religious leaders (John 16: 1-3). He told them that he would be leaving them soon and they would weep and mourn the loss (John 16:5-6 & 16-20). But this message is interspersed with promises that the Holy Spirit will come to them, offering comfort and wisdom (John 15:26, 16:7-8 & 13-15).

Jesus doesn't hide the truth; he warns his followers that the road ahead will be hard. But why? What was his purpose for telling them of the trials that were in store for them? "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace, In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." Amidst the pain and turmoil of life, Jesus promises that we can find peace.

Our troubles can seem unbearable as long as we think this life should be free of them. When we think this world is our source of happiness, comfort, and ultimate satisfaction, we are doomed to perpetual bitterness, anger, and frustration when it inevitably fails us. Our modern lifestyle and our culture promises so much that the world simply can't deliver. In that context, the quotation above seems to offer only hopelessness.

When viewed in light of Jesus' words and his deeds, which offer salvation and eternity outside of this fallen world, the quotation is a source of comfort and peace amid the storms of life.

Understanding that these present troubles are inevitable helps us let go of the world and its empty promises and cling more tightly to Christ and to the gospel. We will bear the troubles of this world for a time, but thank God there is a cure. And it is found in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

 

by Chris Gingrich

Brave

I have an unabashed love affair with children’s books. One of my favorite genres, I adore rich illustrations, flowing language, and whimsy. Words evoke emotions, and stir the imagination. I love when authors paint masterful imagery amid simplicity. A story well told is a fresh spring breeze.

Several nights ago I awoke to a peculiar though instantly recognizable sound. I listened in the stupor of the half­asleep, not sure I hadn’t merely dreamt it. There it was again, and I smiled at the unmistakable call of an owl. No joke. Despite my residential neighborhood, an owl must have been right outside my window! I’m not sure I’ve ever heard an owl in the wild before.

One of my favorite picture books sprang to mind.

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen is the story of a little girl who goes “owling” with her Father. She’s waited her whole life for the privilege, and the night spreads before her quiet and mysterious.

“It was late one winter night, long past my bedtime, when Pa and I went owling. There was no wind, The trees stood still as giant statues. And the moon was so bright the sky seemed to shine. Somewhere behind us a train whistle blew, long and low, like a sad, sad song.” 

And so, we’re whisked along through eyes filled with wonder.

“I didn’t ask what kinds of things hide behind black trees in the middle of the night. When you go owling, you have to be brave.” 

How vividly I imagine a little girl clomping through the snow, trusting her strong father to lead the way. Perhaps she is a little nervous, a bit afraid of things that hide in the night. 

But “when you go owling, you have to be brave.”

Brave.

Once I asked my kindergarten students, “Why was the little girl brave?”

Without hesitation and with full confidence, a small voice eagerly replied, “Because her Dad was there.”

What a gentle reminder of a bigger Father! As with any great story, Owl Moon points to the biggest story. Why do we love heroes? And redemption? And family? And good versus evil?

We long for the ultimate Hero. We long for the ultimate Father.

The little girl was not afraid because he was brave. She trusted her father. He was enough to face the “kinds of things that hide behind black trees.” He protected. And she was safe to enjoy the beauty of the night rather than fear the unknown.

How clearly the gospel rings from the pages of a simple children’s story!

I have a Redeemer who protects, provides, and is infinitely brave. I’ve been adopted, and I have a Father who loves me and makes me dwell in safety.

He knows the unknowns.

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.” Isaiah 26:3

But I don't always trust my Father perfectly. Sometimes I fear the things that hide behind black trees. I forget to enjoy His presence. I forget to marvel at the adventure.

But He remains the same. Strong. Trustworthy. Brave.

Jesus trusted, therefore I can trust.

Jesus was brave, therefore I am brave.

“I knew then I could talk, I could even laugh out loud. But I was a shadow as we walked home. When you go owling you don’t need words or warm, or anything but hope."

The owl continued his song in the night, and I drifted back to sleep -- ­­safe, warm, and protected.

 

by Ami Atkins