Palm Sunday, 28 March 2021

Palm Sunday
Series—Mark: The Real Jesus
Kirk Schneemann
First Alliance Church
March 28, 2021
Mark 11:1-11

Series Big Idea:
Mark’s gospel is the most concise biography of Jesus.

Big Idea: Palm Sunday reminds us Jesus is LORD even in the midst of disillusionment.

Welcome to Holy Week! This is the time of year when we remember the events surrounding Jesus’ death and resurrection. Just a reminder, our Good Friday Service at 6 PM with our friends at The Tabernacle will be a time to remember Jesus’ death for us on the cross. It’s not a happy service, but while it was horrible for Christ, it was good for us. Hallelujah!

Palm Sunday was significant for several reasons which we'll explore today in the eleventh chapter of the book of Mark.

Jesus and his friends travel from Jericho to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration. That might not sound significant, but the dozen-mile-or-so journey involved a long, hard climb from the lowest city on earth—over 800 feet below sea level—to nearly 3000 feet above sea level.

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’ ” (Mark 11:1-3)

This has always fascinated me. Jesus tells them to steal a donkey! Actually, he only intended to borrow it, but notice he never tells them to ask permission to untie this colt. He anticipates objections, though.

A colt never ridden means this is something of a wild animal. It’s young so not necessarily dangerous, but it’s not used to riders, obviously. Jesus knows this. Maybe he knows the owner. Perhaps he had already rented it…or he simply had divine knowledge from the Holy Spirit. It’s obvious he doesn’t plan on keeping it, but it’s for a special purpose.

They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?”They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go.
(Mark 11:4-6)

If the story ended there, I think it’d be pretty cool! Jesus gives them a command. They obey. He tells them what might happen and it does…exactly “as Jesus had told them.” Mission accomplished! Jesus is amazing!

What’s also amazing is his selection of a donkey instead of the warhorse typically used by royalty. God’s Kingdom is different than earthly kingdoms.

When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it.
(Mark 11:7)

Jesus is now the colt’s first rider. It submits, showing Jesus’ authority over creation. The cloaks or coats or robes may have been a makeshift saddle, perhaps making the ride easier for both the animal and its passenger. What happens next is quite a scene.

Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields.
(Mark 11:8)

We call today Palm Sunday because we envision palm branches which are plentiful in the Middle East, but other plants such as corn may have been used to create a path for Jesus’ entry into the city of Jerusalem. This was their version of the red carpet Hollywood stars use on special occasions! Only royalty received such treatment.

Jesus’ arrival was a big deal! He was known for his teaching and miracles. The envy of the religious leaders surely made him even more famous and controversial. The Jews had been waiting centuries for the Messiah, and rumors were swirling that he was the One. Just as Moses delivered their ancestors out of Egypt, it was their hope that Jesus would save them from the oppression of the Roman government. Their King was coming!
King Jesus is the Messiah!

Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,


“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
(Mark 11:9-10)

This is their song. This is their chant. This is their hope. “Save us, now!” or “Please save!” is the meaning of “hosanna,” a Greek transliteration of a Hebrew phrase. They were crying out for liberation. They praised King Jesus with eager expectation. They were desperate, quoting Psalm 118:

LORD, save us! LORD, grant us success! (Psalm 118:25)

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD. From the house of the LORD we bless you. (Psalm 118:26)

In Hebrew and Aramaic, this is how you say, “Welcome!” These people were in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, the saving of the people of Israel from slavery. They were excited, singing Hallel psalms used in festive processions and at the Passover meal. Their prayers were being fulfilled.

I sometimes wonder why we aren’t more passionate about Jesus. Sure, he’s not physically here, but he’s our audience when we sing. He’s the one we claim to follow. He’s the object of our worship. On Palm Sunday, the city was elected when Jesus entered. Could the same be said of us each time we gather? Should it?

Maybe we’ve become too comfortable with God. The longer you know Him, the more you take Him for granted, perhaps? This is not unique with God. I’ve met couples who’ve been married for years and they barely tolerate each other. What happened to the spark that caused them to marry in the first place? Where did the love go?

I used to think the voices shouting “Hosanna” on Palm Sunday were the same ones yelling, “Crucify him” five days later. I’m not sure. Maybe. I’m quite sure they quickly became disappointed, though. Why did he ride a lowly donkey instead of a majestic horse? Was he going to overthrow the government? Would the ancient prophecies of the Messiah ruling and reigning forever be realized now? How did they feel when the object of their hope was being nailed to a cross?

Life is filled with
disappointments. Following Jesus doesn’t mean everything becomes easy. In fact, sometimes it creates new challenges. A few years ago, New York magazine published an article on the science of disappointment which stated rather obviously “the feeling of being let down is actually one of life’s toughest emotional experiences.” But more than just emotional, it is physiological, linked to dopamine levels in the brain. Jonathan Merritt explains how it works in his fascinating piece on Palm Sunday and the Gift of Disillusionment:
Hereʼs how it works: Your brain generates expectations about the future. Often these expectations are based on what you want. Something you perceive as good has happened in the past, so you begin to expect it will happen in the future. Before it even happens, your dopamine levels begin to rise in the rush of anticipation. Then, when that good thing actually occurs, you get a double shot of dopamine.
Do you know what happens when the good thing doesn’t happen? The dopamine levels crash. We don’t get what we wanted and we experience the displeasure of being wrong.
We’ve all been disappointed with life. We’ve all had people fail us. Sometimes they don’t even know they failed us…we just had expectations.
When I do premarital counseling, I tell couples I believe the secret to a great marriage is…realistic expectations. I know, you’re supposed to say Jesus, but we all know of couples who are happily married without Jesus…and miserable couples who claim to follow Jesus.
If you expect my sermon to last under an hour and I decide to preach for two hours, even if it’s a good message, you’ll probably be disappointed because you expected to eat lunch before 2 PM!
If you expect your basketball team to win the championship—which is always a high expectation—and they don’t, you’re disappointed.
Let’s face it, we like to be in control. We like to have things our way. We like people to do what we want them to do…and we’re quick to acknowledge when they fail to do so.
Hang with me for just a moment. Steven Covey in his classic
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People wrote, “Our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions. We can subordinate feelings to values. We have the initiative and the responsibility to make things happen…responsibility—“response-ability”—the ability to choose your response.
Have you ever heard someone say, “They make me so angry!”? They are letting their emotional life be governed by something outside their control. We can choose our response to situations. We can be response-able. Let me try to connect the dots.
I’ve often said
God created us in His image…and we often return the favor! We are tempted to think the purpose of God is to make us happy…and when He fails us, we may question, doubt, or abandon Him completely.
Disappointment with God is normal. We are disappointed when we have expectations that are unfulfilled.

If you’ve ever asked Pastor Donald how he’s doing, you’ve probably heard him say, “Better than I deserve.” What does he deserve? What do you deserve?

God is God…and you’re not. It’s perfectly acceptable to honest with God about your feelings, your doubts, your fears, and your hopes…but trust in God means…we trust Him. We follow Him. We seek His will, His plan, His understanding.

I’ve mentioned before how our District Superintendent, Thomas George, encouraged me to change my prayers from, “Why, God? to, “What are you up to, LORD?”

When we’re disappointed with God, instead of demanding our way like a child who can’t take every toy home from the store, we need to draw near to God and seek first His Kingdom. It’s a lot better than anything you or I could create! Just wait!

Another common emotion is disillusionment. We often view it in the same negative light as disappointment, but consider these words from Jonathan Merritt,
“Disillusionment occurs when God shatters our fantasies, tears down our idols, and dismantles our cardboard cutouts. It occurs when we discover that God does not conform to our expectations but rather exists as a mystery beyond those expectations.” – Jonathan Merritt, Learning to Speak God from Scratch
Disillusionment destroys the illusion that it’s all about us, that we’re in control, that we can put God in a box, that He was created in our image for our glory. Disillusionment helps us trade our will for His. It allows God to be who He is, not who we wish He was, making our expectations an idol.
On the first Palm Sunday, the crowd was excited to see Jesus, but they were surely disappointed…disillusioned…perhaps even angry to the point of yelling, “Crucify Him!”
In our current cancel culture, that’s essentially what people are yelling today. If you don’t conform to the latest trend, they’ll cancel you. Unfriend you. Boycott you. In some cases threaten to kill you. The people who preach tolerance seem to only tolerate those who agree with them. This past week people were calling for a basketball team to be kicked out of the NCAA tournament because the school believes in traditional marriage.

It’s easy for me to point fingers, but I don’t always behave well when I don’t get what I want…from God, my wife, my friends, …you!

It would be easy to dismiss this historic event as another nice story Mark tells us about Jesus, but there may be more going on than just a parade. It really comes down to a simple question Jesus once asked his friend Peter. “Who do you say that I am?”

Who do you say Jesus is? The crowds said he was the Messiah who would deliver them from Roman oppression. They were half-right. He is the Messiah, but his first visit to our planet involved a different mission. Rather than freeing us from Rome, he came to free us from the law of sin and death. He came to reconcile us to our heavenly Father. He came to offer eternal life, not merely make us comfortable for eighty years or so.

Who do you say Jesus is? C.S. Lewis said your options are liar, lunatic, or Lord. You can’t dismiss him. He has influenced our planet more than any other person. His claims are radical. His followers legendary. His message transformational. His death epic. His resurrection…well, we’ll talk about that next Sunday!

The last verse of our passage says,

Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve. (Mark 11:11)

He made his appearance, saw what was going on in the temple courts (which we talked about two weeks ago), and moved out of the city into Bethany for the night, a village less than two miles to the east of Jerusalem. Days later, he would be arrested and crucified on the day we call Good Friday.

Who do you say Jesus is? I say he is the Messiah, the King of kings!

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

Trust God's Sovereignty, 22 March 2020

Patiently Trust God’s Sovereignty
Series—Jeremiah: Called to Faithfulness
Jeremiah 12

Series Big Idea: Jeremiah was faithful despite his difficult prophetic task.

Big Idea: God is sovereign and He can be trusted, despite what we see, think, or feel today.

Why? It might be the most common question asked by children.

Why do I have to get out of bed?
Why do I have to brush my teeth?
Why do I have to eat breakfast?
Why do I have to go to school?

Come to think of it, these are all questions adults ask, too!

One of the most universal questions throughout history has been, “Why do good things happen to bad people?” I’ve asked it. I’m sure you’ve wondered it. Job did (12; 21). The psalmists (37; 49; 73) and Habakkuk (chapter 1) and Malachi (2:17; 3:15) did. Jeremiah did, too.

I hope today we can answer that important question…and draw closer to Almighty God.

We’re in the middle of a series on the book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah was a bullfrog…and a prophet! God’s chosen people, the Jews, had repeatedly broken their covenant with God. Last Sunday we looked at their disgraceful practice in the temple, worshiping other gods. The difficult life of a prophet involved speaking for God to disobedient people, warning them of the consequences of their actions.

In chapter one, Jeremiah was understandably reluctant to accept God’s call for him to be a prophet and obey the LORD. Last week in chapter seven, Jeremiah told the people their sins and evil were too much for God. They had willfully chosen to walk away from God.

Today we’re in chapter twelve. It begins,

You are always righteous, LORD, when I bring a case before you. (Jeremiah 12:1)

This is a great start. Jeremiah understands God is right. God is always right. God is always righteous. That’s His nature, His character. He can do no wrong. He cannot sin. He cannot fail or make a mistake. He is perfect in all of His ways.

It’s vitally important for all of us to understand God, to know God. We cannot fully comprehend Him, of course, but He is knowable. He wants to be known by us. He has given us the Bible to discover His wonderful attributes, including his righteousness.

I realize you might not agree with Jeremiah. You may think He’s forgotten you, made a mistake, or failed you. I can assure you though it may feel that way, you will someday understand why…

  • - Your loved one died
  • - You lost the job you loved
  • - That relationship failed
  • - You were born with those challenges
  • - There’s no toilet paper at the store!

Jeremiah acknowledged that God is always righteous, always right when a case is brought before Him. Now Jeremiah does just that; he brings a case before the LORD.

Yet I would speak with you about your justice: Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease? (Jeremiah 12:1b)

There it is! Why do good things happen to bad people? Jeremiah admits God is righteous, but is He a God of justice?

It’s ok to question God. Some have been taught they should never doubt or question, but this is one of many good, honest questions directed toward God. He wants to hear from us. He can handle anything we throw at Him! He’s God!

Jeremiah continues,

You have planted them, and they have taken root; they grow and bear fruit. You are always on their lips but far from their hearts. (Jeremiah 12:2)

They talk about You, but they’re far from You, LORD. Don’t you see what’s going on? They are religious but not righteous. They’re fakers, actors, hypocrites. Why don’t you punish them?

Yet you know me, LORD; you see me and test my thoughts about you. Drag them off like sheep to be butchered! Set them apart for the day of slaughter! (Jeremiah 12:3)

How do you really feel, Jeremiah?! Jeremiah was set apart by God and he wants God to set apart the wicked…for their day of slaughter!

How long will the land lie parched and the grass in every field be withered? Because those who live in it are wicked, the animals and birds have perished. Moreover, the people are saying, “He will not see what happens to us.” (Jeremiah 12:4)

God had sent a drought, yet the people refused to acknowledge their sin and God’s judgment.

Why do you permit it, LORD? Perhaps a better question than, “Why?” is, “What are You up to, LORD? He is sovereign and in control, even when it doesn’t seem like it. He’s good and faithful, even when it doesn’t feel like it.

I’ve heard it said that you shouldn’t ask a question for which you don’t want the answer! God responds to Jeremiah…and it’s not what he expected.

“If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan? (Jeremiah 12:5)

God says, “Jeremiah, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”

Your relatives, members of your own family—even they have betrayed you; they have raised a loud cry against you. Do not trust them, though they speak well of you. (Jeremiah 12:6)

This is a disturbing verse. God warns Jeremiah to not trust his own family…or their words.

Warren Wiersbe notes, “Jeremiah was asking, ‘How can I get out of this?’ But he should have been asking, ‘What can I get out of this?’”

We are to live by God’s promises, not explanations. Of course, we don’t understand everything that happens in this world. If so, we’d be God!

We like easy, comfortable, and safe. We like sunny days at the beach, but the only thing that grows at the beach is your waistline! Growth requires testing, discipline, pain, challenge, and…change. Often the very things we want removed from our lives are the very things God is using to grow us, mature us, shape us, and make us like Jesus.

And life’s trials should always draw us back to God, enhancing our relationship with and dependency upon God. Maybe today’s trials are designed to create tomorrow’s miracles. Singer/songwriter Laura Story penned these words in her song Blessings:

'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops/ What if Your healing comes through tears/ What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near/ What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

Trials are an opportunity to trust.
Trials are an opportunity for others to pray and support us.
Trails are an opportunity for God to show His power.
Trials are an opportunity for us to grow.

But I still don’t like them…and neither did Jeremiah! God continues,

“I will forsake my house, abandon my inheritance; I will give the one I love into the hands of her enemies. (Jeremiah 12:7)

This may not seem like love, but sometimes love has to let go. For God, sin cannot be tolerated.

I know of someone who recently broke up with his girlfriend, not because he didn’t love her, but because he did. He knew he couldn’t meet her expectations and released her to pursue her desires. I think that’s what God is doing here. The people had broken their covenant with God. They turned their backs on Him. He tried and tried and tried to get their attention and urged them to repent—to turn back toward Him. They refused and chose to follow the ways of their ungodly friends and neighbors and finally God says enough. It’s sad. It’s tragic!

My inheritance has become to me like a lion in the forest. She roars at me; therefore I hate her. (Jeremiah 12:8)

They have been opposing God and He’s had enough. The Hebrew word for hate can also mean turn against. The people roared at God like an angry lion.

Has not my inheritance become to me like a speckled bird of prey that other birds of prey surround and attack? Go and gather all the wild beasts; bring them to devour. (Jeremiah 12:9)

Speckled or colored birds stood out from the other birds, and consequently the others would surround and attack the odd creature. This is Judah.

Now there’s a series of images God uses to describe the devastation that lies ahead.

10 Many shepherds will ruin my vineyard
and trample down my field;
they will turn my pleasant field
into a desolate wasteland.
11 It will be made a wasteland,
parched and desolate before me;
the whole land will be laid waste
because there is no one who cares.
12 Over all the barren heights in the desert
destroyers will swarm,
for the sword of the LORD will devour
from one end of the land to the other;
no one will be safe.
13 They will sow wheat but reap thorns;
they will wear themselves out but gain nothing.
They will bear the shame of their harvest
because of the LORD’S fierce anger.”

Can you image God saying these words to us? I sometimes wonder if He’s not! Our money says, “In God We Trust” but we seem to trust more in our money than in our God. We’ve marginalized faith in the public square, passed laws that are in direct violation of scripture, and become so self-absorbed that there’s no time or energy left for the relationship we were created to have with our Creator.

Is God angry with the USA? Is He angry with the world? Is the coronavirus a punishment? The best answer I can give is “maybe.” Keep in mind, this passage was not written to 21st century Christians in Toledo…but it was written for us. We’re told that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). We’re told that if we disown Jesus, he will disown us before the Father (Matthew 10:33).

I have a pastor friend who posted this last week:

Pestilences (pandemics) and plagues don't come from satan. They come from God. There is not one instance in the 130+ mentions of pestilences and plagues in the Bible where they are attributed to the demonic realm. EVERY one is said to have come from God, even if it's by the agency of angels. We don't rebuke pestilences and plagues. We REPENT. (Joe Sazyc Sr.)

That’s what the Jewish people failed to do…repent. Will we?

This is what the LORD says: “As for all my wicked neighbors who seize the inheritance I gave my people Israel, I will uproot them from their lands and I will uproot the people of Judah from among them. (Jeremiah 12:14)

Is anybody ready for some good news?

But after I uproot them, I will again have compassion and will bring each of them back to their own inheritance and their own country. (Jeremiah 12:15)

God has remembered the land. It’s His land, only loaned to the Jews. The people would spend seventy years in captivity and then be allowed to return to their land and restore the nation and temple…and their worship of God.

And if they learn well the ways of my people and swear by my name, saying, ‘As surely as the LORD lives’—even as they once taught my people to swear by Baal—then they will be established among my people. But if any nation does not listen, I will completely uproot and destroy it,” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 12:16-17)

In this instance, God is pro-choice! He gives the people the choice to follow Him or the false god Baal. They get to determine their own destiny, the consequences of their allegiance. Even today, nation who follow Jesus receive a certain blessing, while those who ignore Him will pay the price…now and/or in the future

So What?

What in the world can we learn from this dark chapter in a book written thousands of years ago? First,

We all experience suffering because of sin.

The good and the bad both experience pain, loss, and suffering. It’s easy to be envious of the wealth, pleasure, or power of others. The grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence, right?! But as long as sin is a part of the human condition, we will be hurt and we will hurt others. Social media begs us to compare ourselves to the highlight reels of others, but that’s the point…we only see the highlights…the smiles…the Instagrammable photos. I promise you, ever person you’ve ever met or seen has suffered. They may be in agony at this moment, just unwilling to be honest and vulnerable.

Perhaps you could care less about others. You’re struggling now. You’re doubting or questioning God now. God for it! He’s listening. He cares. It might not feel like it, but He’s at work. He’s up to something.

Your story is not over.

Every good story has a moment of tension—the climax. Have you ever heard a good story where the main character is just happy, happy, happy from beginning to end? No! There are moments of suspense or crisis that are followed by resolution. The same is true for your story.

When you ask, “God, what are You up to?” you open up to the opportunity to see how God will heal, redeem, restore, or otherwise answer your prayers. We don’t like moments of trial, but that’s how we grow. Today may be excruciating, but there’s bright hope for tomorrow…and He is with you today, whether you like/know/acknowledge/feel it or not.

The same can be said for the wicked. Their story is not over. Judgment Day is coming…for all of us. “Vengeance is mine,” says the LORD (Romans 12:19). The bottom line is…

God is sovereign. He can be trusted,
despite what we see, think, or feel today.


If anyone had a right to ask why good things happen to bad people, it was Jesus. After all, he was the only truly “good” human to walk this earth. The people who denied, betrayed, sentenced, and executed him could all be considered “bad,” yet he loved them and prayed for them.

Jesus never asks us to do anything he wasn’t willing to do…and we have the same Holy Spirit to give us the love, grace, courage, and strength to do it.

There’s a question more common than, “Why do good things happen to bad people?” and that’s, “Why do bad things happen to good people.” The worst possible thing happened to the only good person as he was beaten, mocked, and crucified for you and me. We often say it’s all about Jesus and as we’ve gathered here to worship Jesus, we close with a song which talks about his life, death, and victory…a victory which is ours as we trust God and follow Jesus, regardless of the temporary injustices we may see around us. The best is yet to come!

Credits: some ideas from D6, Warren Wiersbe

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Dogs & Deaf, 23 February 2020

    Dogs and Deaf
    Series—Mark: The Real Jesus
    Mark 7:24-37

    Series Big Idea: Mark’s gospel is the most concise biography of Jesus.

    Big Idea: God is perfect, His timing is perfect, and His plans are perfect.

    Do you trust God? We all know the spiritual, Sunday morning answer to the question, but what about Monday morning? If you’re like me, you are fully of questions for God, and most of them begin with “why?” It’s rather audacious to think we could understand anything better than the Creator of the universe. It’s okay to ask God questions. You can be real with God. I encourage you to pour out your heart to God…every day. He can handle it…and all of life’s trials.

    Although we occasionally have topical sermons, most of the time we go verse-by-verse through the Bible, something known as expository preaching. We start with the text and ask three questions of it: What did it mean? What does it mean? So what?

    When we go through books of the Bible—as we’ve been doing with the book of Mark—it’s tempting to skip over difficult passages or those texts which may seem less interesting or relevant. I must confess the seventh chapter of Mark is not my favorite chapter in the Bible, but as we’ve seen the past two weeks, there are some important things Mark wants us to know about Jesus. As we finish the chapter, we see two different encounters with Jesus. The first is with a Gentile woman and the other with a deaf man.

    Let’s dive in…

    Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. Mark 7:24)

    Tyre is a city in Lebanon and is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities on the planet. This is the only biblical mention of Jesus leaving Palestine.

    Why would he want to hide? There are several possibilities:

    • He wanted to avoid the crowds who wanted to use Jesus for their own purposes
    • He needed to get alone with his followers/disciples and teach them
    • He was simply tired and needed some privacy and rest

    Jesus was led by his mission, not the crowds. He knew what to do and did it. God is perfect.

    Jesus is arguably the most famous person to ever walk the face of the earth. He was on a mission to change the world, which he surely did. Nevertheless, he had an agenda, a plan, an intentional strategy for doing so. His mission was to seek and save the lost, not necessarily gain the biggest crowd as quickly as possible. In our culture, we assume the more fans and followers the better, but building a social media platform is different than transforming humanity!

    I used to think the only thing that mattered was the “what.” I’ve becoming increasingly concerned about the “how of a situation.” It’s been said that timing is everything, so the “when” is also vital in any action plan.

    So another reason Jesus may have not wanted to find him is it wasn’t the right time for him to go public.

    God’s timing is perfect. He’s never late, though rarely early. He knows when to act.

    This was true for Jesus and his ministry. It’s also true when we pray. Can you trust God’s timing?

    In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet. (Mark 7:25)

    Do you believe in angels? Do you believe in demons? They are both real, spiritual beings. Demon possession is real. We discount it in our hyper-scientific culture, but you don’t have to travel far around the world to see the supernatural world on full display. There is an unseen, spiritual dimension to reality. Angels and demons are mentioned hundreds of times in the Bible.

    She falls at the feet of Jesus. She’s desperate. She loves her little daughter, yet this demon was wreaking havoc. She needs an exorcism.

    Demons are real. Demon possession is real. But God is greater. Hallelujah!

    The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter. (Mark 7:26)

    She’s a Canaanite. She’s not Jewish. She’s a Gentile. Last week we talked about the huge tension between Jews and Gentiles. It is at the heart of Jesus’ response.
    “First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” (Mark 7:27)

    What? Does Jesus call this woman a dog?

    There are a few different understandings of this metaphor. Some have suggested the children refers to Jesus’ disciples and the bread is his ministry, his teachings. It likely is a reference to the Jewish people. Jesus was a Jew and his first priority was to the Jews. The dogs refers not to women, but the Gentiles.

    There are two Greek words for dogs. One is a negative word that we might call an ugly creature or a violent dog (like the two German Shepherds who bit me when I was a boy). Jews would sometimes use this scavenger dog word to describe Gentiles. The word Jesus uses here, though, refers to a household animal. We love our children. We love our pet puppies! Is there a priority? Yes, but both are loved.

    Jesus is not always fair, but he loves equally.

    John 3:16 tells us that God so loved the world that He gave us Jesus. There’s an old song which says Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. He died for every child—and every man and woman—who responds to his invitation to follow him, to make him LORD, to surrender control of their lives to their Creator and the one who proved his love by laying down his life on the cross…and rising from the dead, conquering sin and death.

    But Jesus is not always fair. Just look around! We’ve all been given different gifts, childhoods, opportunities, and talents. Hundreds of people followed Jesus, but his focus was on a dozen…and really on three: Peter, James, and John. How do you think the other nine felt when they heard stories of Jesus and his best friends?

    Our culture emphasizes fairness and equality, but listen…you don’t want fair. You don’t want to give you what you deserve. You and I deserve death and eternal punishment for our sins. Without Jesus we’re hopeless, lost, and separated from God. The scandal in Christianity is not God’s judgment, but God’s mercy. The scandal is an innocent, holy, perfect God was killed for selfish, arrogant, rebellious sinners like us. The most unfair thing in the universe is that God loves us…and proved it. It’s like Dave Ramsey says when asked how he’s doing: “better than I deserve.”

    I don’t always understand God and how He works, what He’s doing. I have many questions for Him, but I know I’m loved, I know Daddy knows best, and the rest is faith, it’s trusting that the God of the universe understands reality better than I do.

    God’s plan was to begin with the Jews, but not stop there. In the first book of the Bible, it is revealed that,

    Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. (Genesis 18:18)

    Not Jew only, but Jew first. Is that fair? It doesn’t matter. It’s God’s plan…and you’re in it!

    By the way, Jesus said,

    But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” (Mark 10:31)

    Could this apply to the order of the Jews and Gentiles?! Today, Gentiles are not dogs, but rather children alongside the Jews.

    This woman doesn’t go away and give up. She presses in.

    “Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” (Mark 7:28)

    She knows God’s love is not exclusively for the Jews, even if it begins with them. Children and dogs both get food…at the same time. She just wants a crumb, a small miracle, a simple expression of grace.

    Then he told her,
    “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.” (Mark 7:29)

    He performs a miracle. It’s already done!

    Jesus is impressed with her faith…and tenacity. What about you? Do you pray once and give up? It’s okay to be real with God. Jesus never scolds her for persevering. He praises her for it. Often our prayers are not answered on-demand. God’s timing is usually different than ours. He loves to hear you pray. I believe your voice is the most beautiful sound in the universe to God. Really.

    I love my kids. I love it when they text. Calling is even better. FaceTime is better still. The best is when we’re together, in person. I love my kids. I love interacting with my kids. God does, too. He wants us to engage, to ask, to persevere, to pour out our heart.

    It may seem like God is playing hard-to-get, hiding, or just ignoring you, but I assure you He’s at work. He hears you. He’s responding, but His timing is not always ours. While we get impatient and want everything now, He’s got all the time in the world. Literally. He’s at work in us as well as through us, refining our character, teaching us, and writing a story on our hearts that usually takes many decades to tell.

    Ask…and keep asking. It will be worth it. It was for this woman. The demon left her daughter. Her prayer was answered.

    She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone. (Mark 7:30)

    Have you given up on God? Have you quit praying that prayer? Have you put your faith on auto-pilot? Are you just going through the motions, defeated by disappointment with God? I want to challenge you to persevere, to keep praying.

    Years ago, someone gave me a beautiful image of a giant parachute hanging from the ceiling like a big bowl. He said when he prays, he imagines writing his prayers on paper and placing them in the parachute. Each prayer causes the parachute to get heavier and heavier until it eventually bursts. It might be that your next prayer is the one—after hundreds or thousands or millions—which will lead to that breakthrough. Don’t give up!

    Mark continues with a different story in a different place with different people.

    Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis.
    There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him. (Mark 7:31-32)

    Jesus was gaining a reputation as a healer. Who doesn’t want free health care?! Here’s a deaf man who could hardly talk, and his friends beg Jesus to heal him.

    After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him,
    “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”). (Mark 7:33-34)

    Is this how you’re supposed to heal, Jesus? Does he really want your spit in his mouth?

    We like formulas. Pray these magic words and all of your dreams will come true! Jesus heals different people differently. In the case of the woman’s demon-possessed daughter, he didn’t even meet the girl, he just declared her healed. With this man, he takes him away from the crowd and sticks his fingers in his ears and tongue to open them with one word.

    Jesus’ plans are always perfect, even when they seem odd.

    At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly. (Mark 7:35)

    No speech class is required. What a beautiful miracle. Then Jesus does something that would drive any public relations director crazy.

    Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” (Mark 7:36-37)

    Was Jesus using reverse psychology, telling the people to be quiet in hopes that they would rebel and spread the word of his amazing power? I used to think that, but I believe Jesus was sincere. As we saw earlier, he had a mission, a timetable, a plan. He needed to disciple his…disciples. There were sermons he needed to preach, people he needed to encounter. He knew the sooner he became famous, the sooner the religious leaders would want him killed.

    The prophet Isaiah said,

    Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. (Isaiah 35:5-6a)

    The Messiah is here!

    God is perfect. (what)
    God’s timing is perfect. (when)
    God’s plans are perfect. (how)

    Yet we have the audacity to ask why. We question the Creator of the universe. And He’s actually ok with that, so long as we don’t give up…so long as we engage with Him.

    Matthew records Jesus saying,

    “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8)

    This doesn’t mean we always get what we want, and it certainly doesn’t mean we get it when we want it, but we are encouraged in more than one place to ask, to seek, to knock, to engage with God. He wants us to pray. Yes, He knows what we want before we ask, but He wants us to ask. Every good Dad loves to give gifts to his kids, but they don’t want to be a vending machine. They want a relationship.

    So What?

    Perhaps the message in both of these stories is to ask and keep asking. You can analyze the woman’s story and compare children and dogs. You can discuss the irony of a loud crowd trying to help a man who couldn’t talk followed by the man talking and Jesus telling the crowd not to talk.

    God sees you. He knows your name. He knew you before the creation of the universe! He saw you in your mother’s womb. He knows the number of hairs on your head (or how many used to be on your head!). He sees every tear you cry and every smile on your face.

    God hears you. He hears every prayer, every word. He listens, too. He cares.

    Do you trust God? Do you trust His plans? Do you trust His timing?

    I know it can be hard. I’ve been praying for years for things, for people, for healing, for reconciliation. I don’t understand why it’s taking so long, but I’m seeking to trust God. Instead of why, I’ve been asking, “What are you up to, LORD?”

    God is perfect, His timing is perfect, and His plans are perfect. God can be trusted.

    Prayer: I believe. Help me in my unbelief.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Atrocious Abe, 5 February 2017

    Atrocious Abe
    Series: Ideal Family
    Genesis 12:10-13

    Series Big Idea:
    All families are messed up, including biblical families.

    Big Idea: Jesus, not Abraham, is the ultimate example of a godly husband.

    Today we’re resuming our series entitled, “Ideal Family.” Whether you like it or not, you’re part of a family; at least one. Ever since God said it was not good for man to be alone, humans have lived with others…for better or worse. I have yet to meet someone who didn’t have a biological father and a biological mother. Most people have siblings. Aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents are a vital part of life for many of us. Family is God’s design. It was His idea.

    There are two unfortunate things I’ve discovered about families. First, they are all messed up! That’s ultimately the result of sin, our disobedience toward God. Ever since Adam and Eve ate of the fruit in the Garden of Eden, we have struggled to get along. Pride divides. Greed corrupts. Selfishness hoards. Anger disturbs. Hatred destroys. Misunderstanding confuses.

    The second unfortunate thing about families is the mistaken belief everyone else’s family is okay. Listen to me carefully…all families are messed up! This includes biblical families. And the mess begins with the marriage. We all need help!

    Abraham is one of the most important figures in human history. Some have called him, “Father Abraham.” When I was a child, we used to sing a song about him.

    “Father Abraham had many sons/many sons had Father Abraham/I am one of them/And so are you/So let’s just praise the LORD.”

    I think the reason it was so popular is it had motions that accompanied the music. Nevertheless, it taught me a bit about Abe. I like to say Abe not merely to make him sound a bit more hip and cool, but because it applies to both of his names. You see, Abraham used to be Abram, much like Paul used to be Saul.

    A few weeks ago, we talked about righteous Noah and how at the end of his biblical story he is drunk and naked, not the most noble place to be! One of the lessons from Noah is even the godliest people are imperfect, and your good deeds in the middle of your life are no guarantee that your ending will be as positive. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes years to earn trust and seconds to lose it. Perhaps that is one reason Jesus said,

    Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23)

    He did not say, “Pick up your cross and you’ll be set for life.” He said to truly be his disciple requires daily surrender. We can never rest on our past accomplishments.

    Abe’s story ends well.

    Abraham lived a hundred and seventy-five years. Then Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years; and he was gathered to his people. (Genesis 25:7-8)

    But let’s back up.

    The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. (Genesis 12:1)

    Imagine God says, “Go to the airport, board this airplane, and begin a new life wherever the plane lands.” Would you do it? Would you go? Would you leave your home, friends, family, and even your country to follow the LORD?

    For centuries, people have been doing this very thing. Some of you have been led by God overseas. You’ve sacrificed, studied new languages, and said goodbye to everything you’ve known in this life to obey God. That’s faith!

    If God calls you to relocate, you had better be sure you’re hearing from God and that it’s not bad lunch! I can think of two occasions when our family followed God’s prompting to move. The first was moving to Ann Arbor in 1998 to plant a church, launching a brand-new ministry from scratch. God was so good and faithful to us despite our humble beginning as a church of three in our living room!

    The second big relocation felt like an international move for us. As a Michiganian, I always considered Ohio a foreign country and when God called us to Toledo we were so surprised! Now, of course, we love Toledo!

    But I don’t say that to pat ourselves on the back for our great faith. Instead, it was God’s vision and clear direction which made both moves no-brainers for us. I’m sure Abe could relate. Listen to what God promises him:

    “I will make you into a great nation,
    and I will bless you;
    I will make your name great,
    and you will be a blessing.
    I will bless those who bless you,
    and whoever curses you I will curse;
    and all peoples on earth 
    will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:2-3)

    That sounds good, right? Would you go to Michigan or Ohio if He promised that to you? What about Canada? Mexico? Africa?

    So Abram went, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there. (Genesis 12:4-5)

    Obviously, he didn’t board a plane. This was a land journey of about 400 miles…without motorized transportation…with his family…

    Have you ever traveled 400 miles with your family…WITH motorized transportation?! That’s about from here to Knoxville, Tennessee.

    Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him. (Genesis 12:6-7)

    That’s a special moment! Look at this land, Abe. It’s not yours, but your offspring will get it someday. But don’t stop now! We’re not there yet!

    From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD. (Genesis 12:8)

    Abram is obviously devoted to God. He must be quite the altar builder!

    Then Abram set out and continued toward the Negev. (Genesis 12:9)

    So far, so good. Then we get to this unusual story.

    Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe. (Genesis 12:10)

    Remember, God promised to make Abram into a great nation. That means he will become a dad…eventually. In a sense, he was invincible. He
    couldn’t die! God always keeps His promises. Always.

    We’ve never experienced a famine, but I can imagine it would be scary. We all need to eat. But we don’t see Abe consulting God about what to do. Maybe God was going to miraculously feed Abe manna and quail. Perhaps God wanted this couple to travel to a place other than Egypt. We don’t know, but there’s no indication that Abe followed God into Egypt.

    Have you ever faced a challenge and ignored God? Have you ever taken matters into your own hands rather than consulting the Creator? I confess I have. We often talk about making Jesus the LORD of our lives. That means He’s the boss. He’s in charge. He is always consulted before making important life decisions. Always.

    But let’s suppose God told Abram to go to Egypt (which
    is possible).

    As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.” (Genesis 12:11-13)

    Do you see anything wrong with this picture?

    First, Abram is worried about himself. He’s sure his wife Sarai will be fine. The plan isn’t even for Abe to lie, but for his wife to do his dirty work! She’s supposed to lie for him! Now I’m sure if she loved her husband, she would obviously be concerned for his welfare, too. But Abe’s plan is hardly going to benefit her.

    When Abram came to Egypt, the Egyptians saw that Sarai was a very beautiful woman. And when Pharaoh’s officials saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace. He treated Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels. (Genesis 12:14-16)

    Let’s give credit to Abram. He was right. The Egyptians found his sister—err—wife to be beautiful. She was taken into Pharaoh’s palace. What would Pharaoh want with a strange woman in his palace?!

    But the LORD inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram’s wife Sarai. So Pharaoh summoned Abram. “What have you done to me?” he said. “Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her to be my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and go!” Then Pharaoh gave orders about Abram to his men, and they sent him on his way, with his wife and everything he had. (Genesis 12:17-20)

    Abe’s plan worked. His life was spared. But what an ordeal. Can you imagine how Sarai must’ve felt during this whole experience? Abram receives grace—unmerited favor—despite his selfish, deceitful behavior. He became a biblical hero and the father of many nations, but this episode did not cause him to win Husband of the Year!

    So What?

    Abraham lied about his wife being his sister. Twice! It happened again in Genesis chapter 20. Look it up!

    Parents—and grandparents—it’s important to remember the next generation(s) is watching you. Whether it’s interpersonal conflicts as we saw in the drama or habitual sins like dishonesty, children often become like their parents.

    Abraham’s son, Isaac, lied about his wife being his sister! It’s in Genesis chapter 26. You can’t make this stuff up! I know the Bible’s true, if only because nobody would fabricate these embarrassing stories and call them sacred scripture!

    One thing we continue to see in this series is the imperfections of the heroes of the Bible. I find this encouraging, knowing I’m not alone in my weak faith, selfishness, pride, and sinfulness. Obviously, the message is not, “Husbands, lie about your wives because it’s the biblical thing to do,” but rather a message of what NOT to do…and hope when we fail.


    Jesus, ironically, sets the perfect example for husbands to follow…love and sacrifice, not selfishness and lies. Where Abram failed in the desert, for Jesus, the desert was the site of one of his finest hours, resisting temptation despite forty days of fasting. Paul famously wrote to the church in Ephesus

    Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:21)

    Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. (Ephesians 5:22-24)

    Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body. (Ephesians 5:25-30)

    That’s what real marriage looks like—true love that’s not based on feelings, but rather on commitment, even when it’s costly.

    Jesus loved us, the Church, to the point of laying down his very life.

    Jesus has entered into your suffering and into your disgraces and into your depressions and into your shames and into your pains. The cross is not just a redemptive place for the follower of Jesus. The cross is also the solidarity place where God joined us in our deepest death. Perhaps you’ve lost a friend who got drunk and then had a fatal car accident, or perhaps you’ve lost the joy of family togetherness because of divorce, or perhaps you’ve seen a friend waste away from some disease, or perhaps you’ve got a tattoo on your body that evokes bad memories. The cross is about that, too.

    At the cross Jesus enters into our pain, into our tragedies, into our injustices, and into the systemic evil we have created and into the sins we have ourselves committed. But his solidarity with us is also an act of redemption.

    Scot McKnight, One.Life: Jesus Calls, We Follow

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • God is Good…All the Time, 31 December 2016

    A Year To Be All In
    Tabernacle of Praise – First Alliance Church
    Psalm 25:1-5

    Big Idea: God is good…all the time. He is true, present, and faithful. God was faithful in 2016. Will we be faithful in 2017?

    Welcome to the end of 2016!

    Life is full of endings and beginnings, have you noticed? The stores have clearance sales on summer clothes while introducing winter fashions. The end of college basketball occurs on or around baseball’s opening day. Heather and I once attended her grandmother’s funeral with news of our pregnancy and an upcoming baby.

    Sometimes it’s hard to let go. We want to hold onto the past, but we can never move forward if we’re stuck in park.

    Tonight, I have a simple message for you. You may have heard it before. Are you ready?

    God is good…all the time.
    All the time…God is good.

    God’s been good…in 2016.
    God’s gonna be good…in 2017.

    How do I know? God’s character does not change. He’s always doing new things, but His character does not change.

    What can we say about God’s character, His being, His essence? How much time to we have?!

    I want to look at three aspects of God’s character tonight: true, present, faithful.

    God is true.

    King David, perhaps the most powerful man in the world in his day, wrote these words:

    In you, LORD my God, I put my trust. (Psalm 25:1)

    He didn’t say he put his trust in his power or his army or his wealth. His trust was in the LORD, his God. Can that be said you…really? Sure, we talk about trusting God. We nod when the preacher says God’s trustworthy, but do we really live like it?

    Pastor Craig Groeschel recently wrote a book called
    The Christian Atheist. He says many so-called Christians have biblical knowledge, but we practically live as if God doesn’t exist. Let me give you an example. A few weeks ago I decided to address an ongoing problem in our house—a leaky toilet. For the uninitiated, if a toilet leaks from the bottom, it usually means the wax ring between the toilet and floor is failing. It’s a $4 part to replace, but requires a bit of work to remove the toilet, clean out the old wax, and reset the toilet with the new wax ring. Seeing that I’m not Mr. Handyman, I watched a YouTube video which showed how the $4 part could be installed in about thirty minutes.

    Have you heard of Murphy’s Law? Let me recite it to you. It says, “A $4, thirty minute home improvement project will surely cost at least $100 and take a week or more to complete.” Actually, Murphy’s Law states if anything can go wrong, it will…and it did! (Do you know the corollary to Murphy’s Law? Murphy was an optimist!).

    The point really isn’t my toilet installation, but rather how I ignored God in the process. I was waist deep in—well, never mind that—I was in the middle of the project when it occurred to me to pray about this situation. It was far more complicated—and costly—than I expected and I needed help…divine help. Until I prayed, I was living as a practical atheist.

    King David continues…

    I trust in you; do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me. No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame, but shame will come on those who are treacherous without cause. (
    Psalm 25:2-3)

    He says it again, he trusts in God. And he needs to trust in God. He has real enemies. His enemies aren’t a mean school teacher who grades hard, gossipers on Facebook, or even an angry boss. People want to kill him. People want his kingdom. Armies have been formed to defeat him.

    Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. (
    Psalm 25:4-5)

    I don’t know about you, but I want that to be my prayer. I want God to show me His ways. I want Him to teach me His paths. I want Him to guide me in truth. The more I know God—not just about God, but knowing God—the more I experience peace, joy, and contentment. It’s so cliché but it’s true:

    Know God. Know Peace.
    No God. No Peace.

    The recent celebration of Christmas is a celebration of Jesus, God’s son who is fully God but also fully human, a wonderful mystery. Jesus said

    “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6b)

    He is the truth. Speaking of Jesus,

    God is present.

    The word “Emmanuel” means “God with us.” John 1:14 says

    The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

    That’s a fine translation from the Greek, but I really like the way Eugene Peterson translates it in
    The Message:

    The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish. (John 1:14, The Message)

    God moved into the neighborhood. He came here. He didn’t remain in heaven, feeling sorry for the mess we’ve made of this world. He sent Jesus to be born in a cave or some primitive shelter likely made for animals. Jesus spent about thirty years doing normal life out of the spotlight. Then for three years he taught and healed, lived and died for us, rose again, ascended into heaven, and now he’s awaiting the Father’s signal to return. Maranatha! Come quickly, LORD Jesus! Maybe he will return in 2017. Are you ready?

    Even though Jesus is not physically walking the earth today, God is here. God is present in this place. The Holy Spirit is a gift given to every follower of Jesus. God no longer lives in fancy tabernacles or cathedrals. He lives in me. Is he living in you? This means God is present. He is still Emmanuel, God with us. You can’t see him, but he’s still present. You can’t see the WiFi in this building, but it’s still real. Some of the most powerful realities of life are invisible, yet present—love, the wind, radio waves, thoughts…God is present.

    God is faithful.

    My favorite hymn is
    Great is Thy Faithfulness. It has been the theme song of our marriage for more than 26 years. Our family—like many of yours—has endured job loss, deaths, mental illness, a sick child for nearly a decade requiring treatments in five different states, childish rebellion, strained and even broken relationships, …but God has been faithful. Even when it feels like He’s distant, He’s still present. He’s still active. He still hears our prayers. Sometimes our will aligns with His and other times He has a higher purpose, a better plan, perfect timing.

    Let me link some ideas together. How many of you have prayed a prayer and God didn’t answer the way you wanted? All of us experience this regularly. Did you know Jesus did, too?

    The night before Jesus was arrested, he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. It’s a real place, in Jerusalem. I’ve been there. Jesus knew he would be crucified and die for you and me, but he wanted Plan B. He prayed…

    “Abba , Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36)

    That’s a tough prayer to pray—God, this is what I want, but I will trust You if Your will is different. I’ll obey You. You are good and faithful, even if it doesn’t feel like it in this moment.

    Can I get an amen?!

    That’s faith. It’s easy to trust God when the sun’s shining, the bills are paid, the family’s getting along, and there are leftover Christmas cookies to eat! Praise God!

    But can you praise Him in the storm? Is He any less faithful at the hospital, the attorney’s office, the police station, or the frustrating job site? He’s really not.

    The prophet Jeremiah had a pretty rough life. God told him to proclaim unwanted news to the people of Jerusalem, and warned Jeremiah he would be rejected! Wow! His life was so challenging, he wrote a book of laments—words of deep grief and sorry—called Lamentations. He said this:

    I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. (Lamentations 3:19-20)

    You might as well call him Eeyore! But he wasn’t necessarily complaining, just being honest with God. You can be honest with God, too. He can handle it!

    Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’S great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (
    Lamentations 3:21-23)

    Let me turn again to The Message:

    But there’s one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope:

    GOD’S loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! (Lamentations 3:21-23, The Message)

    Listen to what follows:

    I’m sticking with GOD (I say it over and over). He’s all I’ve got left.

    GOD proves to be good to the man who passionately waits, to the woman who diligently seeks. (
    Lamentations 3:24-25, The Message)

    I love that! I’m sticking with God! He’s all I’ve got left.

    Maybe you feel that tonight. 2016 has left you in a tough place and you hope 2017 will be better.

    Perhaps 2016 was a banner year and you’re nervous 2017 won’t be as good.

    Regardless of how you feel in this moment, God is still God. King Jesus is on the throne. He’s not a little baby any longer. He’s preparing to return to us soon. He is true. He is here. He is faithful.

    God is good…all the time.
    All the time…God is good.

    He is true, present, and faithful. God was faithful in 2016.
    Will we be faithful in 2017?

    Habakkuk, 2 November 2014

    Big Idea: We don’t always understand God and His timing, but He can be trusted.


    Today we examine our bonus eleventh book in our series The Most Unread Books of the Bible, based upon the ten least-read books on


    Timing in life is vitally important. Photographers long for the perfect timing of an event to capture it forever. Runners and other speed racers can win or lose a race by 1/1000 of a second. I used to think I was a patient person, but I find myself frustrated at the brief delays in my life caused by red lights, slow microwaves (!), and seasons of life, both literal and figurative (unless it’s spring or summer!). God’s timing is perfect because He is perfect, He is sovereign and in control. Daddy knows best.

    Sometimes we feel like God is sleeping or even a myth because He usually doesn’t respond to our prayers on demand. We want it now! Have you ever prayed, “LORD, heal them tomorrow” or “Please give me a new job next year”? We assume we know best and God should obey our every command. Fortunately He doesn’t! He has bigger plans and ideas…if we only trust Him.


    This is the only book in which the name Habakkuk appears. His name means to embrace or wrestle with God. He likely lived around 600 BC. He lived during Judah’s final days and Babylon’s domination.

    Chapter 1: Wrestling. Why?

    The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet received. (Habakkuk 1:1)

    This word oracle in the original Hebrew language,
    mas-saw’, meant an utterance, a doom, or a burden. Habakkuk is definitely burdened!

    How long, O LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted. (Habakkuk 1:2-4)

    Most prophets deliver God’s message to the people. Habakkuk brings the questions of the people to God. He begins with four questions.

    Can you feel the anxiety? The frustration? Where are You, LORD? Do You see what’s going on? Are You really sovereign, in control? If so, surely You don’t want

    • Ebola spreading
    • the Islamic State to continue
    • innocent children dying from dirty water and starvation
    • Your chosen people, the Jews, in constant battle in Israel
    • natural disasters destroying communities

    Whoever said following Jesus was easy?! This world is messed up! God knows. He sees. He does choose to intervene sometimes, but when? Why? It’s okay to ask God. It’s okay to have questions and doubts. God can handle them. It’s okay to ask why. Jesus even did it on the cross: “Why have You forsaken Me?”

    Obviously our perspective is limited. Daddy knows best. The cross comes before the crown.

    What is your favorite book of the Bible? Mine is the Psalms. As a musician, I especially love the poetic song lyrics contained within the Bible’s song book. However, they are not all happy songs of praise. One third are psalms of lament. They are songs of grief. There is an entire book of the Bible devoted to lament—Lamentations. Why? Because life is hard. There are many battles in which evil wins. As long as satan and his demons are allowed to roam we will experience death, destruction, and pain.

    Today is not the end of the story, however. There is more to come. Much more. 75 or 100 years seems like a lifetime. Wait! It
    is a lifetime, but compares to eternity, it’s instant. As Paul said to the church in Corinth

    …we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16b-18)

    Back to Habakkuk. Here’s God’s response to his lament.

    “Look at the nations and watch — and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told. I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwelling places not their own. They are a feared and dreaded people; they are a law to themselves and promote their own honor. Their horses are swifter than leopards, fiercer than wolves at dusk. Their cavalry gallops headlong; their horsemen come from afar. They fly like a vulture swooping to devour; they all come bent on violence. Their hordes advance like a desert wind and gather prisoners like sand. They deride kings and scoff at rulers. They laugh at all fortified cities; they build earthen ramps and capture them. Then they sweep past like the wind and go on — guilty men, whose own strength is their god.” (Habakkuk 1:5-11)

    God says the solution is the Babylonians. Huh? God would use Babylon to judge Judah. How could God use the wicked Babylonians to judge His chosen people?

    O LORD, are you not from everlasting? My God, my Holy One, we will not die. O LORD, you have appointed them to execute judgment; O Rock, you have ordained them to punish. Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves? You have made men like fish in the sea, like sea creatures that have no ruler. (Habakkuk 1:12-14)

    Again, God can handle our questions. I have found sometimes when I express my questions, I feel better even if I don’t get the answers I’m seeking.

    Three young men refused to bow to an idol and were sentenced to burning in a fiery furnace. If you recall the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, they did not deny the reality of their situation, but understood God may or may not perform a miracle. Instead of denial, they were defiant.

    Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18)

    “Even if not.” They understood God knows best. He may choose to say yes, no, or wait. They knew God could be trusted, whatever His decision.

    In this instance, He entered the fire with them. King Nebuchadnezzar said

    “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” (Daniel 3:25)

    It’s better to be in the furnace with Jesus that without Him outside of it. Where is God when it hurts? With us. Always.

    Chapter 2: Waiting on God. When?

    “Waiting” means to pass time. It also means to serve another person like a servant waiting on his master.

    Then the LORD replied: “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay. “See, he is puffed up; his desires are not upright — but the righteous will live by his faith — indeed, wine betrays him; he is arrogant and never at rest. Because he is as greedy as the grave and like death is never satisfied, he gathers to himself all the nations and takes captive all the peoples. (Habakkuk 2:2-5)

    Do you like to wait? I hate to wait! When we wrestle with God we often ask “why?” When we wait, the question becomes “when?”

    It’s time for a geology lesson! Geology is the study of pressure plus time. Pressure and time reveal our character. Do you know what pressure over time produces geologically? Diamonds. They are created from the carbon as coal but time and pressure create a jewel.

    Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)

    This is your diamond, your reward. Can you wait? Can you trust God?

    God wants us happy, but He especially wants us holy. Pressure plus time equals beauty.

    What is the largest diamond in the world? The Hope Diamond!

    Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. (Romans 5:3-4)

    The judgment would occur very soon as God stated. They could remain proud like the Babylonians (we talked about the pride of the Edomites last week) or live by faith knowing God is in control.

    Verse four is one of the most important verses in the Bible. In fact, it is referenced three times in the New Testament (Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11, Hebrews 10:38). It is through faith in Jesus that we can receive the righteousness of God.

    For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” (Romans 1:17)

    Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, “The righteous will live by faith.” (Galatians 3:11)

    But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.” (Hebrews 10:38)

    We are saved by faith.
    We are to live by faith.

    Notice how Habakkuk is able to express his questions in the midst of faith.

    Next Habakkuk offers a series of woes against the Babylonians. God would bring them down in His perfect timing.

    “Will not all of them taunt him with ridicule and scorn, saying, “‘Woe to him who piles up stolen goods and makes himself wealthy by extortion! How long must this go on?’ Will not your debtors suddenly arise? Will they not wake up and make you tremble? Then you will become their victim. Because you have plundered many nations, the peoples who are left will plunder you. For you have shed man’s blood; you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them. “Woe to him who builds his realm by unjust gain to set his nest on high, to escape the clutches of ruin! You have plotted the ruin of many peoples, shaming your own house and forfeiting your life. The stones of the wall will cry out, and the beams of the woodwork will echo it. “Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by crime! Has not the LORD Almighty determined that the people’s labor is only fuel for the fire, that the nations exhaust themselves for nothing? For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea. “Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbors, pouring it from the wineskin till they are drunk, so that he can gaze on their naked bodies. You will be filled with shame instead of glory. Now it is your turn! Drink and be exposed! The cup from the LORD’s right hand is coming around to you, and disgrace will cover your glory. The violence you have done to Lebanon will overwhelm you, and your destruction of animals will terrify you. For you have shed man’s blood; you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them. “Of what value is an idol, since a man has carved it? Or an image that teaches lies? For he who makes it trusts in his own creation; he makes idols that cannot speak. Woe to him who says to wood, ‘Come to life!’ Or to lifeless stone, ‘Wake up!’ Can it give guidance? It is covered with gold and silver; there is no breath in it. But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.” (Habakkuk 2:6-20)

    Chapter 3: Worship.

    Chapter three is Habakkuk’s final response, a song (v. 19). He asks for mercy (2) and describes the character of God (v. 3-15).

    A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet. On
    shigionoth. LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy. God came from Teman, the Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah His glory covered the heavens and his praise filled the earth. His splendor was like the sunrise; rays flashed from his hand, where his power was hidden. Plague went before him; pestilence followed his steps. He stood, and shook the earth; he looked, and made the nations tremble. The ancient mountains crumbled and the age-old hills collapsed. His ways are eternal. (Habakkuk 3:1-6)

    Habakkuk remembers what God has done. Sometimes the way forward is to first look back. The Old Testament is filled with spiritual amnesia, instances of people forgetting God’s goodness and faithfulness. We need to remember. Jesus told us to remember Him, His death, and His resurrection.

    I saw the tents of Cushan in distress, the dwellings of Midian in anguish. Were you angry with the rivers, O LORD? Was your wrath against the streams? Did you rage against the sea when you rode with your horses and your victorious chariots? You uncovered your bow, you called for many arrows. Selah You split the earth with rivers; the mountains saw you and writhed. Torrents of water swept by; the deep roared and lifted its waves on high. Sun and moon stood still in the heavens at the glint of your flying arrows, at the lightning of your flashing spear. In wrath you strode through the earth and in anger you threshed the nations. You came out to deliver your people, to save your anointed one. You crushed the leader of the land of wickedness, you stripped him from head to foot. Selah With his own spear you pierced his head when his warriors stormed out to scatter us, gloating as though about to devour the wretched who were in hiding. You trampled the sea with your horses, churning the great waters. (Habakkuk 3:7-15)

    What is the result of Habakkuk’s laments, woes, and anguish?

    I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled. (Habakkuk 3:16)

    He accepts what God is doing and then trusts Him. Here’s the conclusion…

    Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us. Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights. For the director of music. On my stringed instruments. (Habakkuk 3:16b-19)

    He was willing to wait. No matter how hopeless the situation, there is hope in God. Tomorrow is coming. As Tony Campolo used to say concerning the crucifixion, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming!”

    God can be trusted. The righteous will live by faith. The best is yet to come. In the meantime, we can worship by faith, offering up a sacrifice of praise.

    For Further Study

    Where is God When It Hurts? by Philip Yancey

    Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering by Tim Keller

    You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

    Kingdom: Joseph, 14 September 2014

    Big Idea: God challenges us to represent Him in His Kingdom as we make Him LORD and King.


    Last week we said the Bible is a big book. It’s actually a library of 66 books. We usually study it verse-by-verse, like looking through a microscope. This series will look at it through a telescope, examining the big idea of the Bible.

    Our new series this fall is called Covenant & Kingdom. It is based upon ideas from Mike Breen and 3DMovements, a ministry that has been quite influential in the life of Scio in recent days. The book, Covenant & Kingdom, is available through Amazon or from I encourage you to get a copy and read ahead as we look at the big picture of the Bible.

    Covenant and Kingdom are woven throughout the Scriptures like a double helix is woven in DNA.

    Covenant is a sacred treaty in which two parties become one. In ancient times, this always involved the shedding of blood by an animal to to imply consequences for failure to fulfill the agreement.

    God made a covenant with Abram, promising blessings to him and his offspring in order for them to bless the world.

    Covenant is about relationship. Being.

    Kingdom is about responsibility. Doing.

    Life is filled with tension between being and doing, relationship and responsibility, being invited into relationship with God while also being challenged to represent Him and bless the world.

    Invitation and challenge.

    As we look at this idea of challenge, of kingdom, of doing God’s work in the world we are going to look at one of the most important characters in the Bible—Joseph.


    Abraham has a son named Isaac who has a son named Jacob who has twelve sons, the eleventh being his favorite son, Joseph.

    The story of Joseph begins in
    Genesis 37

    Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them. (Genesis 37:2b)

    Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made a richly ornamented robe for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him. (Genesis 37:3-4)

    Do you have siblings? Do you have sibling rivalry? Imagine your younger sibling was given three desserts at dinner, triple allowance, and the new iPhone the day it is released? To your parents you would probable say, “It’s not…fair!” You would likely become envious of your sib and despise them.

    Joseph had eleven brothers who were sick of him. He was a gifted, handsome, arrogant teenager who believed he was the center of the universe. That alone is recipe for disaster! Then his dad gives him a special coat with long sleeves, a sign of the supervisor’s role!

    Next Joseph has two dreams (37:5-10), one in which the grain of his brothers bowed to his, the other in which the sun and moon and eleven stars bowed to him. Joseph is not only the center of his universe, his dreams confirm it!

    Jacob sends Joseph to his brothers who are grazing the flocks. They plot to kill him, but Reuben insists they throw him into a cistern instead. The brothers strip him of his robe, throw him into the empty well, and sold him to Ishmaelites who took him to Egypt where he was sold to “Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard” (37:36).

    The LORD was with Joseph and he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. (39:2)

    His life had gone from wonderful to dreadful and now things are looking up. It says two things: the LORD was with Joseph and he prospered. What changed? Perhaps Joseph was broken by his rejection by his brothers. He almost certainly cried out to God for help. I’m sure he was a bit confused by his fortunes when he goes from elaborate dreams to being thrown into an empty well. Instead of his brothers bowing down to him, they almost kill him!

    Joseph is no longer the center of the universe. God moves to Joseph’s center.

    My favorite passage in the Bible says

    Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

    I believe during those difficult moments of rejection by his brothers Joseph began to trust God. He had nowhere else to turn.

    Sometimes that’s God’s plan—to get our attention in order to become LORD.

    Rarely does someone on top of the world—or the center of their own universe—turn to God. What’s the point?! They have everything they need and want. It’s usually during a crisis that we surrender to God.

    Perhaps you were told Jesus died for you so you could pray a prayer, be forgiven, and go to heaven when you die. That’s not the gospel. That’s a plan of salvation, but it’s not the gospel, the good news. It’s merely a part of it.

    The gospel is Jesus is LORD. That’s good news because it is more than personal and individualistic. Jesus is LORD of all.

    The late Dallas Willard used to talk about how the “Gospels of Sin Management” presume a Christ with no serious work other than redeeming humankind. This fosters “vampire Christians,” who only want a little blood for their sins but nothing more to do with Jesus until heaven.

    Jesus wants to be your Savior, but He also wants to be your LORD. It’s not about ego, but wisdom. He knows best. The sooner we can make Him the center of our universe, the sooner He will make our paths straight. He doesn’t promise it will be an easy path, but it will be filled with peace, joy, contentment, and hope because He knows best.

    Back to Joseph!

    Potiphar loves Joseph and puts him in charge of his household (39:4). Everything is great…until Potiphar’s wife tries to seduce Joseph. When he chooses to honor God rather than give in to her temptation, she accuses Joseph of sexual harassment.

    When his master heard the story his wife told him, saying, “This is how your slave treated me,” he burned with anger. Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined.

    But while Joseph was there in the prison, the LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. (Genesis 39:19-21)

    Remember, Joseph is in prison because he followed the LORD. Is it any surprise that the LORD was with him? It’s terrific to read how Joseph received kindness and favor from the prison warden…but he’s still in prison! An innocent man has been punished! How can Joseph be used by God? He’s stuck in prison!

    Have you ever felt that way? How can God use you since you’re stuck…in this job, this marriage, with this family, with these weaknesses, with these limitations?

    I heard a great story last week about an actress who moved to Los Angeles. She was certain God led her there to be salt and light in a dark industry. After multiple auditions without a job, she questioned her pastor about what God was doing. She obeyed God and moved to L.A. but was finding no success. Her pastor said perhaps she was sent to California to minister to the struggling actors and actresses that are not finding success. Her own failures would be more connective to starving artists than her own successes.

    I can only imagine the conversations Joseph had with God in prison, asking why, questioning his own calling, and feeling even further from the fulfillment of his dreams. Joseph may not have even realized it but he was moving God closer and closer to the center of his universe. Mike Breen says, “Godʼs Kingdom needs the “door” of a humble heart. God wants to work in Josephʼs submitted heart—and ours.

    Dreams, Genesis 40

    In the next chapter we see the butler, the baker,…but not the candlestick maker! The butler and baker had offended the king of Egypt, their master, and joined Joseph in prison. They have dreams, Joseph interprets them, the dreams come true, the baker is hung, and the cupbearer (or butler) is set free.

    The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him. (Genesis 40:23)

    I wonder if Joseph was fully surrounded to God or just grateful to be given gifts to interpret dreams. Genesis 41 begins by telling us Joseph was in prison for two more years after the butler is released.

    Pharaoh has two dreams, no one could interpret them, and the cupbearer remembers Joseph.

    So Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was quickly brought from the dungeon. When he had shaved and changed his clothes, he came before Pharaoh.

    Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.”

    “I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.” (Genesis 41:14-16)

    “I cannot do it.” Joseph has finally moved from the center of his universe to the edge, and God has taken residence on the throne of Josephʼs heart. Joseph is fully surrendered, allowing God to express His Kingdom rule in his life and to fulfill his earliest calling, to rule and to govern.

    The rest of the story is quite remarkable as Joseph becomes Pharaoh’s right-hand man and eventually Joseph’s brothers literally bow down to him as they are desperate for food years later. The dreams God gave Joseph are eventually fulfilled.

    So What?

    Because of God’s covenant, we have a relationship with Him. Our identity is children of the King.

    As children of the King, we have a responsibility to represent the King to our world. We are HIs ambassadors, His agents on planet earth.

    God’s doesn’t just pick everyone to do His bidding, to be a Kingdom operative. God is looking for humble hearts that seek Him, that put Him at the center of their lives. The Bible says, “Youʼre the child of God and He wants to fashion your heart, so that you
    can be His representative. But that means a journey into humility and submission to Me.” Like Joseph, we must move from being the center of our world to inviting Jesus to be the center.

    Jesus’ first words to His disciples were, “Follow Me.” His final words were, “Go and make disciples.” Invitation and challenge. Covenant and Kingdom. Relationship and responsibility.

    It all begins with making our Savior our LORD.


    Ideas for this series taken from book of the same title by Mike Breen and

    You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

    Miracles at Breakfast, John 21:1-14, 24 November 2013

    Big Idea: God will surprise and delight us if we look to Him and follow.


    Have you ever experienced a miracle? Perhaps we should begin with defining a miracle.

    - an unusual or wonderful event that is believed to be caused by the power of God
    - a very amazing or unusual event, thing or achievement

    The Bible is full of them. Well, our Bible is full of them. Thomas Jefferson literally cut all miracles out of his Bible, unable to acknowledge the presence of our Creator in our world, despite the gift of Emmanuel, God with us, and later the Holy Spirit who lives inside every believer.

    Do you believe in miracles?

    As we approach the conclusion of our series on the gospel or good news of John, we have read this compelling biography of Jesus, from His arrival on our planet to His death, resurrection, and two surprising appearances to His disciples in locked rooms. In John chapter 21, He makes a third appearance.

    Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus ), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. (1-3)

    Why did Peter go fishing? Wasn’t he supposed to be fishing for men? Perhaps he thinks his ministry future is over since he denied Christ, returning to his former occupation.

    Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. (4)

    John may be reminding us of another recent even involving Jesus early in the morning, a time when Mary did not recognize Him in the garden. He’s about 100 yards—or a football field—away. They could not see Him from that distance.

    He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”

    “No,” they answered.

    These were experienced fishermen. They knew the sea. They spent all night fishing with no success. They’re even less likely to catch fish in the daytime.

    He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. (6)

    They could’ve said, “Jesus, you’re crazy. We are professionals. The fish aren’t biting. What difference does one side of the boat make versus the other? Clearly this is a miracle.

    Have you been frustrated, unable to make progress in an arena of life? Maybe you just can’t land a job, fix a broken relationship, or break an addiction.

    I often find myself stressed about things—money, parenting, preparing a good sermon, a tough decision—only to discover Jesus waiting for me to notice Him, listen and obey. Pride tells me to do it my way, but His ways are far better than mine.

    Much earlier in an account recorded by Luke Jesus gave fishing lessons to His followers and they had an unbelievable catch of fish. Then, Peter begged Jesus to get away from him because he realized he was a sinner unworthy of Christ (Luke 5:1-10). This time he races toward Jesus.

    Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. (7)

    Peter had some unfinished business with Jesus which we’ll examine next Sunday. Days earlier he had denied Christ three times and was undoubtedly filled with shame and guilt. Here he impulsively jumps in the water, leaving the others in the boat to work with the fish.

    Note, too, that rather than taking off clothes to swim, he puts them on. Perhaps he was hiding his shame like Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden.

    The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. (8-9)

    Why did John mention the charcoal? Smell is the most sensitive of the senses. Visual recall is about 50% after three months. We can remember smells with 65% accuracy…after a year! Furthermore, 75% of emotions are triggered by smell which is linked to pleasure, emotion and memory. One survey found 85% of participants remembering their childhood when they smelled Crayola crayons.

    Do you think this charcoal fire triggered a memory for Peter? It was around a similar fire that he denied Jesus three times (John 18:18). Again, we’ll address that next Sunday.

    Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. (10-11)

    That’s a lot of fish! Miracles abound, not only in the size of the catch but the strength of the net.

    A first-century fishing boat was recently found by members of Kibbutz Ginosar in Galilee. I saw the boat, 26.5 feet long and 7.5 wide. If it was similar to Peter’s boat, it would be too small for seven men, so it is believed two boats may have been used.

    Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. (12)

    This is an odd verse. They knew it was him but they didn’t ask? N.T. Wright says this only makes sense if Jesus is recognizable yet somehow different. His body was obviously different, no longer subject to death or decay.

    Wright compares it to someone in the sixteenth century seeing someone surf the Internet. They didn’t have electricity, much less computers! Jesus’ risen body is something from the future—our future. It isn’t magic. It’s real, but different.

    God has blessed them with a huge catch of fish.
    He has blessed them with breakfast.
    He has blessed them with His presence.

    Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead. (13-14)

    God’s cooking breakfast! He didn’t need their fish. He had His own—and bread, too. Loaves and fish. That reminds me of another story!

    Jesus already had fish on the fire because He doesn’t need what we bring, but He wants it!

    While they ate, He was sending a message: I love you.

    So What?

    This story has some unusual moments. The fact that it appears after the previous chapter which seemed to wrap up the entire book is unique. Jesus cooking fish while the disciples fail to catch any and then become inundated with them is interesting, to say the least. What are we to make of it all?

    I think it’s a great reminder that God is alive, He is accomplishing His purposes, and we must always be ready to be surprised by God. At any moment He may ask us to do something crazy, like give away more money than is in our budget, engage in a conversation with someone that makes us uncomfortable, or sacrifice comfort and convenience for making space to serve strangers. We don’t always see God, we don’t always hear His voice, but He is here. He is with us. He lives inside us. How would our lives look differently if we truly pursued God and followed Him. Jesus provided daily bread—and fish—for His friends, and He still provides for us, today. So…

    What is God saying to you? What are you going to do about it?

    You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

    Enough, John 11:1-37, 10 March 2013

    Big Idea: Do you trust God because of what He does or for who He is? Is Jesus enough…or is your love for Him conditional?

    Song: I Give You My Heart by Rueben Morgan

    Do you trust God? Completely?

    LORD, I give You my heart
    I give You my soul
    I live for You alone
    With every breath that I take
    Every moment I’m awake
    LORD have Your way in me

    What would lead You to so fully surrender your life?

    Is it because Jesus died for you?
    Is it because God created you?
    Is it because you have experienced His presence and power?
    Is it because you have witnessed answered prayer?
    Is it because someone told you it’s the proper thing to do?

    Or is it simply because you love and want Jesus for who He is?


    We continue our series on the Gospel of John, a biography written by one of Jesus’ best friends. His purpose in writing can be found in chapter 20:

    Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (20:30-31)

    The first ten chapters have presented Jesus as a controversial figure, attracting great crowds through miracles and teachings while creating great hatred among the envious, legalistic, judgmental religious leaders.

    It’s easy to skim through familiar stories, but as we read the narrative, imagine you had never heard it previously. Imagine that you have no idea what follows and each word is a choice morsel in your ears. I’ll warn you: we are not going to finish the story today. You may know the ending, but suspend that information and absorb just today’s Scripture with me.

    Much like a stage play, this story has several scenes.

    Scene One: The Death of Lazarus (1-16)

    Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” (1-3)

    There are three siblings. They are not especially wealthy as Beth-any means “house of the poor.” Martha was a busybody who we’re told in Luke 10 worked around the house while her sister Mary sat at Jesus’ feet. Jesus loved Lazarus their brother and he was sick.

    When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days. (4-6)

    The Father is glorified through the glory of the Son.

    I’m sure they were relieved to know that Lazarus’ sickness would not end in death. Still, if Jesus loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus, why did He linger for two days? Most likely He was praying, praying for Lazarus and wisdom. Remember, everything Jesus said and did had tremendous consequences from both the crowds and critics. He was a wanted man, in two different ways.

    Then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” (7)

    “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?” (8)

    Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world’s light. It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light.” (9-10)

    Jesus is the light of the world.

    After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” (11)

    His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. (12-13)

    Death has a new name for the believer: sleep. Only the body dies. The soul does not. Resurrection always refers to the body. Our bodies do not have souls. Rather, our souls have bodies.

    So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” (14-15)

    Jesus was glad? Jesus had spent time with the Father and obeyed His plan. God would redeem this tragic death and use it for His glory.

    Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (16)

    Thomas was hardly an optimist but at least he was willing to die. If you recall, Jesus is a wanted man and His followers would also be a threat to the religious authorities.

    Jesus rarely follows conventional wisdom. When Lazarus was sick, He stayed away. When He said sleep, He meant dead. He said to go in the daytime to avoid tripping in the dark. N.T. Wright notes,

    “If you try to steer your course by your own understanding, you’ll trip up, because you’ll be in the dark. But if you stick close to him, and see the situation from his point of view, then, even if it means days and perhaps years of puzzlement, wondering why nothing seems to be happening, you will come out at the right place in the end.”

    Scene Two: The Resurrection and the Life (17-27)

    On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. (17-20)

    There is a small crowd here. Many Jews were there to comfort the sisters.

    Four days in the tomb was significant because the rabbinic teachings believed that when a person died, their spirit hovered over the body for three days so if the body was resuscitated, the spirit would return to it. After three days, the spirit was gone and there was no hope for the body.

    “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” (21-22)

    Martha says,
    “If only…”

    Perhaps the tone (we don’t know) was, “You’re too late.”

    Have you ever felt like that? God, if only…then…

    Why didn’t you intervene? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why did I have to experience…? Why didn’t you do a miracle for me? Why didn’t I get chosen to win the lottery?

    Notice her faith, though. She knew the Father would do whatever Jesus asked. She held out hope for a miracle. Jesus tells her to look forward to the future rather than remaining stuck in the present moment.

    Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” (23)

    Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” (24)

    There were two popular religious tribe, the Pharisees who believed in the resurrection and the Sadducees who did not.

    Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (25-26)

    This is a great declaration! It is the fifth of seven “I am” statements Jesus will make in John. When He says He is the resurrection and the life, He is saying that He is the very power of God unto life. He is life for all of His people. If you believe in Him, you will never die. He doesn’t say He can perform resurrections, He says that He
    is the resurrection…and the life. Jesus is life (John 10:10)!

    “Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”

    This was the testimony of Simon Peter, too.

    Scene Three: Jesus Goes To The Tomb (28-37)

    And after she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.

    There is something powerful about the presence of friends in the midst of grief. It can be frustrating when we comfort others. What do we say? What do we do? I have learned that often words are unnecessary. “I’m sorry for your loss” and possibly a hug are enough.

    When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (32)

    Mary says,
    “If only…”

    Perhaps the tone again (we don’t know) was, “You’re too late.”

    It’s better for us to have the Holy Spirit than to have Jesus in the flesh.

    When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

    “Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

    There are two words here that need to be clarified. In the Greek, the word translated “weeping” is better stated as “loud wailing and crying.” The word “troubled” in the original Greek was more accurately translated “irate.”

    When Jesus saw her wailing, and the Jews who had come along with her also wailing, he was outraged and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

    “Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
    (33-34; edited)

    Jesus saw everyone around Him weeping and He groaned in anger. Why? The sisters’ lack of faith? I believe it was the reality of death. He created our beautiful universe and sin has been slowly destroying it. This world is not the way it’s supposed to be. Sometimes I get angry at death, at cancer, at disease, at injustice. In Jesus’ case, He knew that in a few days
    He would encounter death.

    Jesus wept. (35)

    There it is—the shortest verse in the Bible!

    Jesus, the Son of God, the eternal Word of God, cried. Why? He lost a dear friend, but knew that loss would be reversed. Was it because of their unbelief? Most likely He cried as He grieved with Mary and Martha and their great loss. He could’ve said, “Hey! Stop crying! Watch this!” Instead, He has empathy and shares their heartache and pain.

    Death is a horrible reality in our broken world and we need to grieve. Jesus grieved. Perhaps you’ve been told to ignore grief and sadness since “all things work together for the good” but that is to deny the emotions given to us by God and experienced by God. Romans 12:15 tells us to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”

    Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” (36-37)

    It was obvious that Jesus loved Lazarus. The Jews asked a fair question, and of course Jesus could’ve kept Lazarus from dying, but God’s ways are higher than our ways. His plans and purposes and timing far exceed our imagination. I think it’s perfectly appropriate to ask, “Why, LORD?” The Scriptures are filled with God-fearing men and women that asked questions of God.

    Ultimately the question is
    do you trust God?

    It’s rather audacious for us to think that we know better than God. Last Sunday night we watched the first episode of The Bible on The History Channel. It was a violent, bloody show depicting many Old Testament scenes that caused many to question how God could endorse the slaughter of first-born Egyptians, the destruction of Sodom, and let’s not forget the complete annihilation of every living creature that failed to get on Noah’s ark.

    Doubt and questions expressed with humility and respect are one thing. Shaking your fist at God, judging
    Him, is quite another. After Job’s life was all but destroyed, God provided some perspective beginning with the 38th chapter.

    Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? (Job 38:3-5)

    “Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place, that it might take the earth by the edges and shake the wicked out of it? (Job 38:12-13)

    “Do you give the horse his strength or clothe his neck with a flowing mane? Do you make him leap like a locust, striking terror with his proud snorting? (Job 39:19-20)

    The LORD said to Job: “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!”

    Then Job answered the LORD: “I am unworthy — how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer — twice, but I will say no more.” (Job 40:1-5)

    If you judge God, remember that God himself got out of His judgment seat to become the chief of sinners and be judged with you and by you. God feels our pain more than we can imagine because He suffered and died…for us and for our sin. Nobody knows and understands pain like Jesus.

    God is sovereign and in control.
    God is omnipotent and all-powerful.
    God is omniscient and knows all.
    God is omnipresent and everywhere.

    Again, I think it’s appropriate to ask questions of God, but making demands of Him is ludicrous. He’s God and we’re not. We can rejoice that He is not only all of those “omnis” but also that He is slow to anger and abounding in love, gracious, merciful and compassionate. We can celebrate that we
    don’t get what we deserve, for we have all offended the Holy God and fall short of His standards of righteousness.

    This does not mean that we should turn funerals into parties and dance for joy in the midst of tragedy. It does mean, however, that God has a plan. He always has a plan. His timing can be trusted. His ways can be trusted. Yet knowing He is sovereign and in control and watching Him ignore or delay our cries for help necessitates and even increases our grief, but it is a hopeful grief—a very, very bitter but hopeful grief. The bottom line is not happiness, but His glory. LORD, be glorified!

    I’m in the midst of one of the most urgent seasons of prayer in my life, begging God to heal my girl. The medical experts thought she should improve after three weeks of intense treatments, yet more than six months later she remains unable to walk.

    What is your plan, LORD? What are You waiting for? I know You can heal her. Show Your power. The doctors gave up so now You can get all of the glory. We’ll even post her healing on Facebook for all of the world to see!

    I believe with all of my heart that she will walk again. For months I have been wrestling with God about the timing! This week I cried, “Uncle!” and surrendered it to Him. Until I start to worry and get impatient again!

    The story is not over. Your story is not over. There is more to come. An exciting future awaits us. In the meantime, we must trust God and wait patiently (Psalm 40).

    One of my favorite musical artists, Kirk Franklin, posted this on Tuesday:

    So if God has my problem already worked out, why do I still go through it? Because what He DOESN'T have worked out yet is your attitude...That's what the problem is for. Go.

    Do you trust God because of what He does or for who He is? Is your love for Him conditional...or is Jesus enough?

    You can listen to the podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

    Esther: Trust, 8 May 2011

    Big Idea: If you trust God, He can use you to change the world!


    You were created with value, dignity and worth...for a purpose. That purpose may be clear to you or you may be clueless. Regardless, God has blessed us with this life, this day, this breath.

    For Such A Time As This

    Andy Warhol famously said that everyone gets...15 minutes of fame. Rarely do we know when that moment will occur. Sure, Michael Phelps recognized as he traveled to the 2008 Olympic games that he would be on the world stage. Yes, Barack Obama knew on election day that he would be in the spotlight. Most of us, however, cannot anticipate our one shining moment.

    Be Prepared

    The key to greatness is not to seek it, but to be ready. The Boy Scout motto prepared. Do people take CPR classes in order to save a life on a pre-determined day? Of course not. Do you buy a fire extinguisher for a particular event? No! You want to be ready.


    Today we continue our series The Secret That Changes Everything. I’ll tell you the secret right now:

    If you trust God, He can use you to change the world.

    You. Not the person beside you. Not that celebrity you saw on TV, your favorite author, or a rock star. You. But you must be ready.

    The Story

    The story of Esther has been immortalized by films such as

    One Night With The King and, of course, the Veggie Tales classic Esther: The Girl Who Became Queen.

    For those of you unfamiliar with the story, here’s a summary:

    After a six-month drinking feast, a drunk king summons his wife. The queen refused to come so the king forbids her from ever entering his presence and begins the search for a new queen.

    A beautiful orphan girl, Esther, becomes the queen after more than a year of beauty treatments and overnight “interviews” with the king.

    Her cousin, Mordecai, learns of a plan by Haman to destroy the Jewish people. Mordecai tells Esther to help by seeking the king’s help. She sends a message back to Mordecai and says

    “All the king’s officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that he be put to death. The only exception to this is for the king to extend the gold scepter to him and spare his life. But thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the king.” - Esther 4:11

    When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. - Esther 4:12-13

    For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” - Esther 4:14

    Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.” - Esther 4:15-16

    In a surprising turn of events, Mordecai is honored and Haman’s plan to destroy the Jews is exposed by Esther at dinner.

    So the king and Haman went to dine with Queen Esther, and as they were drinking wine on that second day, the king again asked, “Queen Esther, what is your petition? It will be given you. What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be granted.”

    Then Queen Esther answered, “If I have found favor with you, O king, and if it pleases your majesty, grant me my life — this is my petition. And spare my people — this is my request. For I and my people have been sold for destruction and slaughter and annihilation. If we had merely been sold as male and female slaves, I would have kept quiet, because no such distress would justify disturbing the king.”

    King Xerxes asked Queen Esther, “Who is he? Where is the man who has dared to do such a thing?”

    Esther said, “The adversary and enemy is this vile Haman.”

    Then Haman was terrified before the king and queen. The king got up in a rage, left his wine and went out into the palace garden. But Haman, realizing that the king had already decided his fate, stayed behind to beg Queen Esther for his life.

    Just as the king returned from the palace garden to the banquet hall, Haman was falling on the couch where Esther was reclining.

    The king exclaimed, “Will he even molest the queen while she is with me in the house?”

    As soon as the word left the king’s mouth, they covered Haman’s face. Then Harbona, one of the eunuchs attending the king, said, “A gallows seventy-five feet high stands by Haman’s house. He had it made for Mordecai, who spoke up to help the king.”

    The king said, “Hang him on it!” So they hanged Haman on the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the king’s fury subsided.

    - Esther 7:1-10

    The Feast Of Purim

    Thousands of years later, the Jews continue to celebrate the feast of Purim to remember Esther’s courage to approach the king and deliver the Jewish people from Haman’s plot to destroy them.

    Earlier I said that the secret is “If you trust God, He can use you to change the world!”

    What is God calling you to do?

    It might not be something heroic like saving the lives of thousands of people, but it may be to share your 2WordStory and be used by God to save the eternal life of a friend, neighbor or co-worker.

    This week a friend told me he was way beyond his comfort zone in sharing his faith with a friend. He said he was on the verge of giving up, but I encouraged him to press on.

    If you can do it, it’s probably not God’s will.
    If you can’t do it, it probably is God’s will.

    God has a habit of using ordinary people to do extraordinary things.

    Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things — and the things that are not — to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. - 1 Corinthians 1:26-29

    You are here for a purpose, and it is to know God and make Him known.

    The problem is we fear for our future and we have trouble trusting God with the things we can’t control. While most of us wrestle with this tension, it is certainly true for moms. It was true for Esther as well. Mordeci convinced Esther that she was in her role for a purpose and a reason (like every Mom). She was told she was good enough to perform the task even when facing fearful circumstances that could have cost her life.

    The secret is trust. Trust God to take care of you when you need Him the most.

    God can be trusted. He can be trusted in the midst of the storms of life. He can be trusted in sickness and in health, in wealth and poverty, in life and death.

    The secret is “If you trust God, He can use you to change the world!”


    As I said earlier, you were created with value, dignity and worth...for a purpose. That purpose may be clear to you or you may be clueless. Regardless, God has blessed you with this life, this day, this breath. He has created you for such a time as this. Now it’s time to seize this moment and change the world.

    You can listen to the podcast here.