The Gift of Aging

My shoulder hurts. I know that I am not the only one with shoulder pain, but I am reminded every time the weather changes that I’m not what I used to be. Sometimes its other things, but in these weeks it’s my shoulder. And we live in an area where the weather forecast looks more like a combination of a dad joke and a set of lottery numbers. “It will be sunny and dry, unless it’s cloudy and rains, with highs this week of 42, 75, 24, 58, 82, and the lucky number 17.” Sometimes I forget I’m limited, but when my shoulder hurts I don’t have the luxury if ignorance! I can’t lift things I otherwise could. I have to change my time to do more of what I can and less of what I can’t. I stay active where I can and don’t put time into what I can’t do. My injuries like to rotate, and right now my shoulder is taking a turn and reminding me, “You’re old.”

I used to hate it! Pain is what it is, but it was the limits and reality of weakness that stung my soul. Until I was in my early twenties I thought I was unstoppable. That is, until I was stopped. Now, I can’t quite go like I used to. I’ll never be as strong and quick as before those moments. My brain just isn’t as clear as it once was and doesn’t always connect to my words. But over the years, that sting has turned into a soothing salve for my soul. The accumulation of experiential souvenirs that scar my aging body remind me that I never was really unstoppable, just really ignorant. And this is something I needed to learn then and still have the privilege of learning on a regular basis when the weather (or sleeping/sitting/standing wrong – amiright?) reminds me, “You’re old.”

While I used to hate these times that remind me of what I never really anyways, I’ve had to learn to embrace them. I mean – there’s honestly nothing I can do about it! Time marches on and never takes an about face. While I don’t enjoy the pain and limitations, I do embrace them as God’s plan to help remind me that I have always been weak, even if I didn’t always know that. The reality is, it’s God’s plan for you to learn too. Whether or not it’s an injury or aging, there’s a day coming when the gentle (or even not-so-gentle) reality occurs that you are limited, weak, and not what you thought you were. Not just because of injuries, but really because God’s plan for you in the Gospel is to reveal through the rest of your life just how weak you really are. 

This is, after all, the very essence of faith and belief in God! 

God Himself took on the form of a servant, took on the weakness of human flesh, and then died the death of a sinner. And it is through this position of weakness and death that He is seen as the One who is exalted and lifted high, having the name that is above every other name (Philippians 2:1-11). The One who has all power – who has the heavenly armies at his beck and call, who can literally speak and make a universe, who can simply tell powerful storms “hush” and they have to, who even controls death and life – showed His unstoppable power through death on a Cross. If Jesus flipping tables or calling out Pharisees are your favorite stories of Jesus’s power, you’re missing the real story of the Bible (and misinterpreting those stories!). The One who is literally unstoppable showed His power through earthly weakness, service, love, and sacrifice to reveal the truth to the world. The followers He chose had no earthly power or authority. Jesus’s pattern of life that He chose to take on and call us to on this earth is this: Take up your cross and follow Me. Serve the lowly. Be the least. Be humble. Speak the truth in love. Be weak, for His power is made perfect in your weakness. 

When you learn this, you’ll see that while you are stoppable, God is unstoppable. You are limited, but He is unlimited. Your attempt to live life is inadequate, but the life He gives is abounding, everlasting, eternal, and fulfilling. God’s design for your life is to show you that when you are weak, He is strong.

And so while I don’t enjoy the pain and limitations, I am grateful for the reminder and embrace these things as the beautiful work of God in making me like Jesus. God is so good to help me see I need more than me in this life. I need Him. God is so good to help me see more needs to be done that what I can do in this life. He is the One who can do all things. And the Gospel helps me see that He provides what I need and does more than I could ever do. Aging is the gift God gives to help us never forget these things about Him.

Today, what is God using to remind you of your limits and that you need Him more than anything else? Thank Him for that. Aging, injury, and illness are not preferred realities, but are powerful reminders of who God is.

Spend time with Jesus!

As we learn together God’s call on our lives, the very first place to start is something that may be the most important thing a Christian can do: Spend time with Jesus.

As we go into the book of Acts, we are seeing what it looks like for people who have spent time with Jesus to be on mission for Him. Can you imagine trying to convince the disciples that the things they were talking about weren’t actually real? As we go through the book of Acts, you won’t have to imagine what that would be like! You are going to see how they boldly proclaim who Jesus is what He has called them to do over and over again. Even in the midst of significant suffering and widespread persecution, they continue to fulfill the calling of God on their lives. And why?

They spent time with Jesus. 

They knew that what they were saying was real because they had spent time with Him!

As we learn together what the calling of God is on our lives in the coming weeks and months, would you consider this very first question: Do you spend time with Jesus? 

I know that many times in my own life, the boldness I have to fulfill God’s calling on my life is directly related to the time I’ve spent with Him. Over the years, I’ve noticed that same thing for others as well. When I sit and talk to someone who feels stuck in sin or bored as a follower of Jesus, I simply ask the question, “Tell me – what do your quiet times look like?” Inevitably, the answer to that question is the answer you already know! When we don’t spend time with Jesus, our calling loses clarity and becomes muddled.

So as you consider your calling, what does it look like for you to spend time with Jesus? If you’re reading this, maybe take some time right now and spend some time with Him. Read Acts Chapter 1 and Chapter 2, and spend some time talking with God about what you see there. Ask God to help you spend time with Him as you consider His calling on your life.

Let’s come together next Sunday as God’s people who have all together spent time with Him!

New Sermon Series

This weekend we start a brand-new sermon series! 

Over the past several months, we have walked through 1 John to learn how live confidently in these uncertain times. As we worked through 1 John and into Easter, God was so gracious to allow our church to continue to grow in living more Christlike and serving our community. But just as He has worked so far this year, He is not done!

Beginning this Sunday, we begin a brand-new series to see what it looks like to fulfill our calling as individuals and as a church! If you want to get some insight into this Sunday’s sermon, read Acts 1:1-11. As you read, put yourself in the shoes of the disciples and answer the question, “What would it look like if I was there seeing Jesus and hearing what He said?” Come ready to learn from Pastor Eric as we all learn together how we fulfill God’s call on our lives!

He Is Still Risen!

In the few days following the Resurrection, everything changed for the disciples. On the Friday of His crucifixion, the disciples went from extreme confidence all the way to extreme hopelessness. Then on Resurrection Sunday they moved again from extreme hopelessness to extreme confusion. Then Jesus appeared to them, and something kept them from moving from confusion to confidence in Christ – joy. Luke 24:41 says:

And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 

Do you see it in the text? They still weren’t moving forward in confident obedience (disbelieved) because of the joy of the marvelous moment. The rollercoaster of emotions that moved them from confidence to confusion was stuck on the loop of disbelief, and Jesus wants them to get moving. They simply were so joyful that Jesus was alive that they weren’t really allowing the reality of it all to sink in – a reality that fuels our feet to move forward. The joy and celebration needed another reminder to move them forward toward the mission that God has for them – the reminder that Jesus is alive, He is real, the plan of God was always at work, and that He still has a plan for them. Jesus eats to remind them, “Y’all, this is real. I am real. And everything that I told you will happen is going to happen. So let’s be joyful at this marvelous moment, and let’s really get going now.”

The celebration of the Resurrection wasn’t the end! It was only the beginning.

This past weekend, we had an incredible celebration at First Norfolk as we joyfully gathered together around the reality of Christ’s Resurrection! We found joy in God through so many things – we saw people gathered that hadn’t been together in more than a year, we sung loudly songs of worship to recognize our Living King, we heard the Word proclaimed about the life and hope that is found in Jesus Christ, and we witnessed believers being baptized at every single Easter worship service! It was an incredibly joyful weekend that left me on an incredible spiritual high! He is Risen! And we find joy in that!

And now as we walk through the week after Easter, Jesus again reminds us that HE IS STILL RISEN! The joy and celebration of the weekend wasn’t the end. It is only the beginning. It’s the beginning for you as an individual as you allow the joy of the Resurrection move you forward in believing in Jesus more in your life. It’s the beginning for your family as you all together allow the joy of Jesus’s new life to breathe new life into your love and relationship with one another. It’s the beginning for our church as we move forward in fulfilling the calling of creating more and better followers of Jesus Christ. The Resurrection of Christ launches us beyond just joy to now find joy as we go on mission with Him!

So today, have you allowed the joy of Christ’s Resurrection move you forward on mission? What does it look like for you to apply the truth that Jesus is Risen? 

He is still Risen! Now joyfully go forward on mission!

All the Joy We Need

Powerful prayer comes through intimate honesty with God. Jesus got alone with God to receive the power He needed to accomplish God’s purpose. He was facing the greatest challenge of His earthly life: the cross. And so He talked with God about it. The very content of His prayer contains the power we need to taste joy, even in the face of troubling circumstances.

Just as Jesus found joy, even facing the agony of the crucifixion, He prays for you and me to find all the joy that we need regardless what we face in life.

“But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves.” (John 17:13)

Jesus found joy in the face of the cross, and His prayer for us shows us how we can taste His joy each day.

Jesus gives us all the joy we need!

In John 17 the prayer of the Lord Jesus to His Father reveals His own personal priorities. In verses 1–5, the emphasis is on God the Father. “Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.” Then in verses 6–19, He prayed for “those whom you gave me out of the world” (v. 6). He prayed for their protection (vv. 11, 15) and their joy (v. 13). And in verses 20–26 His praying extended to the world (“that the world may believe,” [v. 21], “to let the world know” [v. 23]).

In this prayer, Jesus shows us the path to joy each day.

Joy in purpose for living.

Jesus submitted Himself to God so that He might be a living, visible demonstration of God’s presence, power, honor, and love in the world. Jesus displayed God’s splendid activity of love to the world.

“Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” (John 17:1-5)

The supreme ambition of Christ was to glorify God by delivering eternal life to others. He came to bring those far from God near to Him. God invites us to join Jesus in His grand purpose. His purpose becomes our purpose. Christ prays that we might put on the front-burner of our hearts God’s purpose fulfilled in our lives and through our church.

This is the pathway to joy. A joyful church is the gathering of God’s people committed to glorify God through continuing Christ’s mission on earth.

Joy in preparation for living.

Seneca once wrote something like “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” In this prayer from Jesus, we learn that joy is what happens when Jesus prepares us for the opportunities of every day.

“I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they have known that all things which You have given Me are from You. For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me.” (John 17:6-8)

Jesus has unveiled God to the disciples. This “revealing” has come through His entire ministry, including His impending death and resurrection. Jesus gives us instructions and implications of the divine message so that we live each day knowing that He came from the Father and that we belong to the Father.

Through this divine preparation, Jesus sets us on a path to joy each day in the embrace of God to fulfill His purpose.

Joy in the Father’s protection.

Jesus prayed that His followers would be protected from evil as they pursued God’s passion. In verse 11, Jesus already asked the Father to keep His followers secure by the power of His name. Now, in verse 14, Jesus declares that His followers need protection because they are living in hostile territory. So, He asks the Father, not to remove them from the world, but to protect them from the enemy.

“I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” (John 17:15-17)

We live in hostile territory as followers of Christ. We’re in a battle, but it’s not a battle against flesh and blood. It’s a spiritual battle and we need God’s help. Jesus teaches us to pray for protection from evil.

God had set us apart to continue Christ’s mission on the earth (17:18). A joyful church is the gathering of God’s people committed to honor God through continuing Christ’s mission on the earth, not cocooned from the world, but living powerfully for God’s glory in the world.

Joy in the powerful love of God.

Our church brings God glory as we unite together as His people consumed by His love for God and for others. Not consumed by our own desires, intentions, or agenda. Consumed by His love and walking together with His heart beating so loudly in our ears that all other passions are driven from our thoughts.

“And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:22-26)

Jesus brings us together in a beautiful unity with the Father and the Son. The unity we experience is not in conformity to one another. Rather, it is the unity of purpose: “that the world may believe.” Jesus asks for the Father to immerse His followers in the glory that the Father had given Him. The love of the Father for the Son was active even before the foundations of the world were laid.

The wondrous message that gives us joy is that God sent Jesus to rescue us by His death. It is the message of His love toward us that brings powerful unity of life and purpose and heart among His followers. The Father loved the Son and His love empowered Jesus to fulfill the mission of rescue. And the love of the Father pours through the Son to His followers so that we may declare God’s glory and life to our world.

A joyful church is the gathering of God’s people committed to honor God through continuing Christ’s mission on the earth, not cocooned from the world, but living powerfully for God’s glory in the world, united with Him and with one another in His glorious love.

Jesus is ready to fulfill His mission and go to the cross, and we are His disciples, filled with the joy that He has given us to take on His mission to change the world.

Hope

Hopelessness is the enemy of happiness. The disciples were about to enter the most difficult days of their lives. Days that would awake hopelessness in anyone’s soul.

But Jesus gave them hope. That hope would be the seed that produced courage and faith and joy and peace in difficult days.

Jesus offers us hope today as we seek to fulfill His will in our lives and live for Him in our world.

Jesus gives hope through the Spirit.

Jesus promises the coming of the Holy Spirit to His followers — and to us. The Holy Spirit energizes us in the face of difficult days.

And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:16–18)

The Holy Spirit is our Helper, our Comforter, our Advisor, and our Advocate from the moment He gives us new life in Christ! The Spirit is with us forever. He is the constant presence of the living God with us and indwelling us. He helps us understand the words of God so that we might live in the health and wholeness Jesus offers. The Spirit soaks our soul with the presence and purpose of God.

In the face of our troubles, we are not alone. In the face of our troubles, we have an eternal compass to guide us and correct our course. Through the Spirit, God turns tragedy into triumph in a dark world.

Jesus gives hope for joy in sorrow.

The disciples didn’t understand. They were confused by Christ’s words about dying. But nothing that they heard on this night could have compared to the chaos that was going to erupt in their world in a few hours.

Jesus knew the confusion that swirled in the minds and hearts of His followers, so He brought some clarity. In the midst of crippling chaos and confusion, we need hope. Jesus declared that there would be sorrow for His followers, but their sorrow would be transformed into joy.

“You will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will be sorrowful but your sorrow will be turned into joy. . . Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.” (John 16:20, 22)

The pain and confusion was about to hit them with unabated severity. Jesus was about to be killed. And they would mourn and weep over His death. But Jesus declared that the sorrow of the cross would meet the everlasting joy of the empty tomb. The cross was a pathway to victory. He could see beyond the suffering to the new life that would result.

When we’re walking a pathway of pain and sorrow, we sometimes can see only the pain. Like a mother in the anguish of child-birth, the pain is unbearable, but it gives birth to joy! The pain may be unbearable. It may send us into a whirlwind of despair. But Jesus promises joy that no one can take away.

Jesus gives hope in help from God.

A portion of the joy that Christ’s followers will experience after His death and resurrection is intimate fellowship with the Father who will help them personally and powerfully.

“Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:23-24)

On the day of Christ’s resurrection and exaltation, we have immediate access to the Father through the Spirit. He will walk with us through each twist and turn of life. Because we have loved Jesus and placed our faith in Him and live in obedience to Him, God moves heaven and earth on our behalf and for His glory.

Today, we need help. Supernatural help. When we are on the road with Jesus, the Maker of Heaven and Earth moves to help with His limitless power and for His glory. Ask for help today!

Jesus gives hope in His victory.

We will have troubles in the world. But the only way to find peace in this chaotic world and victory in our daily lives is to jettison the fear, the complacency, the self-sufficiency and come to Christ.

“Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:32-33)

Jesus promises suffering and victory in these two verses. The certainty of suffering is apparent through the impending suffering of the Savior. Jesus also confirmed that His followers would suffer just as He suffered. But there is peace in the face of suffering.

Jesus declares that His followers may find peace in the midst of suffering (16:33). We find peace when we follow Jesus on the road of hope. Friends, Jesus Christ is the One who brings peace to the believer in the midst of suffering. As the believer submits to Christ, suffering will certainly come, but Jesus Himself brings the peace that overcomes the suffering. Jesus used this opportunity to warn His followers of impending suffering so that their minds would be “calm and easy in the midst of affliction.”

Jesus has the victory! Jesus brings peace to His followers in the midst of suffering by His victory over the world’s system of sin. For the believer, overcoming is connected to Christ’s victory through faith.

In His victory, we have hope!

Satisfied

It’s about that time of year when I cut branches off our crepe myrtles. The branches that remain will grow and produce beautiful white blooms. The branches cut off the tree will wither and die because they’re not connected to the source of their life.

Jesus used the imagery of the vine to show the powerful nourishment that we can have if we are rightly connected to Him. If we’re not connected to Jesus, then we will wither and die; but if we are connected to Him through faith and if we remain connected to Him through prayer and obedience, then we will be satisfied in this life and for eternity!

Jesus is the source of a satisfied life. As the true vine to the branches, Jesus is the source of life to His followers.

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.” (John 15:1-3)

In the Old Testament, the vine was a symbol for Israel as the people of God. Yet, Israel had failed to produce the fruit that God intended. Jesus came to do what Israel couldn’t. As the true vine, Jesus is the one true source for heavenly life.

As the Vinedresser, God is in control of every aspect of the relationship between the vine and the branches. He has complete authority and control over the vineyard. Without God’s intervening care, there would be no life in the vine or in the branches. God plows, plants, provides, and prunes the vineyard for His purpose and glory.

Through Jesus, we find a life that we’ve always wanted. Through His death for our forgiveness, we can find escape from the sin that saps life from our soul. Through His resurrection, you and I can find a new way of living. A life of power and hope!

Jesus is the only, true source of a satisfied life! To be satisfied in life, we must live intimately connected to Jesus.

The theme in this passage is “abide.” It means simply to make your home in a particular place. To set down roots. To dwell in that place.

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.” (John 15:4-6)

Jesus told His followers that the key to a nourished life is an abiding relationship with Himself, in which He surrounds us and we immerse ourselves in Him. Our productivity comes through our surrender to Christ, living in the embrace of His love and in concert with His will. Apart from Him, we can do nothing.

Soul-Satisfying prayer.

When we are intimately connected to Jesus, then we will be satisfied through answered prayer.

“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” (John 15:7)

Our connection to Jesus grows as we obey Him. The connection between abiding in Christ and His words abiding in us is the strong connection between Jesus and His words.

Prayer that is dominated by Christ’s presence in our lives will be answered, for our hearts will be consumed by His desire. Our hearts become fertile fields for the unleashing of God’s power and the display of His glory when we are constantly connected to Jesus.

Soul-Satisfying love.

When we are intimately connected to Jesus, then we will be satisfied by His love.

“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.” (John 15:9)

The love of the Father through the Son is planted into our hearts. The way the Father loved the Son is the model for how Jesus loves us. Jesus who loves us will also care for us.

We live in Christ’s love and find a satisfied life. We find supreme comfort and joy when Jesus grips our hearts with an amazing love.

We remain in this satisfying love when we obey Jesus. Our obedience to the Father fosters the experience and inspiration of our love for Him. If we say that we love Him, then we will be obedient to Him. The more we love Him, the more we desire to obey Him. And the more we obey Him, the deeper the intimacy we experience with Him.

Soul-Satisfying joy.

When we are intimately connected to Jesus, then we will be satisfied by inexpressible joy.

“These things I have spoken to you that My joy might remain in you and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11)

Jesus gives us joy that is full and running over. Regardless of the circumstances or pain that envelopes our hearts. We find joy on our journey through an intimate connection with Jesus Christ that spills over into our hearts. We find joy when we embrace and savor the lifestyle of love – receiving love from Christ and giving His love to others.

Soul-Satisfying relationships.

When Jesus is the model for our relationships, we will love others the way He has loved us.

“This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:12-13)

Jesus loved with passion, and He was committed to fulfill the mandate of His passionate love. Christ’s passionate love led Him to die upon a cross for God’s glory and the salvation of sinners. And it is this love that we must display for the world to see and others to experience.

When His love shapes our love, we will be satisfied. Even in difficult relationships. Even in challenging moments and seasons in our relationships. When the love of Jesus shapes our love for others, our soul is nourished by Him at all times.

The life-shaping love of Jesus satisfies our souls in relationships built on His love pouring in us and through us to others.

Soul-Satisfying help.

In the final days of Christ’s life on earth, He prepared His followers for the challenges and crippling chaos they were about to face.

The Spirit awakens hope in us. When we face persecution, Jesus gives us hope because He has given us the Holy Spirit. The Spirit gives us the ability to proclaim the gospel to the world that stands in opposition to us.

“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.” (John 15:26-27)

Our response is to love well and witness. Now remember what Jesus commands us. He tells us to love one another (15:17). In a world in which God’s truth is maligned and opposed by the world, we must excel in love. As we love well, the Spirit awakens hope in God’s rescuing love for us. As we witness, the Spirit communicates to the world the truth of God’s rescuing love for humanity through Jesus Christ.

Today, as we march into the unknown of today and tomorrow, we have the promise of Jesus that our soul will be satisfied when we are connected intimately to Him.

The Promise

The disciples were troubled.

They were literally shaking and quaking inside. What was causing their distress? Jesus was telling His followers that the time for His departure was close at hand. They would seek Him, but they would not be able to go with Him. Imagine the searing struggle that His words created in their hearts. Jesus understood the terror that His words would strike in the souls of His disciples. He softens the blow by addressing His disciples with the term of gentle endearment, “little children.” But they were filled with foreboding.

Maybe you, like the eleven men in the room with Jesus on that night 2,000 years ago, are filled with terror and doubt because of the difficulties of this in-between. But Jesus gives us the comfort we need every day of our life until we hit forever.

Jesus answered the shattered dreams of His followers with a command to remain calm.

“Let not your heart be troubled. . . Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:1, 27).

How can we take hold of peace when our daily troubles shake us up?

1. Jesus promises a secure tomorrow.

Jesus answered the shattered dreams of His followers with a command to remain calm. The antidote to the shaking and quaking of their souls was to trust God and to trust Jesus Christ.

“Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in Me.” (John 14:1)

We need to know someone more powerful than the craziness that would threaten our future. The key ingredient to a secure tomorrow is tied to a relationship. So, Jesus teaches us that in a world gone mad, we must stop being troubled and keep on trusting God in all His glorious power and might.

Jesus is equipping us with the hope that we need individually and corporately as His church. It is a hope built upon the glorious promise and preparation that He makes for us. 

Jesus isn’t leading us into the unknown of life “willy-nilly.” He is leading us — step by step — toward a future that He has prepared for us that finds its ultimate fulfillment in the presence of God!

Jesus promises a secure future for those who believe in Him!

2. Jesus promises an empowered today.

Jesus makes the promise of our heavenly home, but He also makes a promise about the strength that we need to continue His mission.

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.” (John 14:12-14)

Between here and heaven, Jesus gives courageous confidence in troubling times. When we think about these works, some would immediately think about healings and miraculous signs. Yet, it is better to see this as a reference to what will occur in and through those who believe upon Him because of His death and resurrection. He will perform even greater works through His followers as they seek His help in prayer.

3. Jesus promises a perfect counselor.

Jesus enters the world of humanity to accomplish God’s redemptive plan. As Jesus had strengthened and helped His disciples during His earthly ministry, He promises the Spirit to perform that function.

“And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16-17)

The Holy Spirit is our Helper, our Comforter, our Advisor, and our Advocate from the moment He gives us new life in Christ! The Spirit who helps us tells us the truth. He teaches us all things (14:26). Through the constant Counselor, we discover Christ’s will and find the strength to fulfill it in our world. Through faith in the Spirit’s work, we experience the authority and help for health and strength to fulfill God’s mission. The Spirit is with us forever. He is the constant presence of the living God with us and indwelling us. The Spirit is the One who helps when help is needed.

In the face of our troubles, we are not alone (14:18). Jesus made a promise to His disciples and to us that He would not leave us as orphans. Thus, He gives us the Holy Spirit to let us know that we are not alone.

4. Jesus promises satisfying intimacy.

Jesus painted the picture with crystal clarity. If we say that we love Him, then we will be obedient to Him. Where there is love for God, there will also be obedience to God.

“If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me.” (John 14:23-24)

Loving obedience leads to intimacy. Our obedience to the Father fosters the experience and inspiration of our love for Him. The more we love Him, the more we desire to obey Him. And the more we obey Him, the deeper the intimacy we experience with Him. Jesus sets the example in His love for the Father that leads Him to obedience, and the powerful picture of Christ’s faithful love and obedience is that He is going to the Father (14:28).

In the face of a world gone mad, we find peace in the promise that Jesus makes. Really, it’s the promise of Himself that gives us security and courage in the uncertainties of life. We have the promise of the perfect counselor to guide our steps. Ultimately, we have the promise of satisfaction through intimate relationship with God!

Live in the promise that Jesus offers through His life, His death, and His resurrection and walk in power of His presence every day!


 

Do You Phub God?

We are all guilty of “phubbing” from time to time. Do you know what that is? Phubbing is a combo of two words that describes snubbing someone because of your phone or computer (phone + snubbing = phubbing). Maybe you don’t think you do that, but I bet those around you can help you know if you do! Maybe it’s when your wife talks or your kids talk or your boss talks, you go into autopilot and make the motions but are not really checked into that conversation. You’re physically there but mentally checked out. You’re not just distracted, you’re abstracted – you’re thinking about something so intensely that you neglect the real world around you. And then suddenly your spouse graciously and kindly (…) says, “Are you even paying attention?” and you say, “Uh-huh.” And then they ask the question you know that’s coming. “Then what did I say?” And you’re caught. So you begin to think about, “What is it that we were talking about? Something to do with pie. Or our kids. Or something.” So you blurt out, “You’re beautiful and I love you.” And she sees straight through it. At least that’s what I do, and my wife sees through it every time.

We hate to be phubbed because we all want to know the other person is present in the conversation. But think about this: your desire to be seen, heard, understood, and engaged in conversation is because you are made in the image of God who desires to be seen, heard, understood, and engaged in conversation. He literally made everything, walks with His people by His Spirit, came in the flesh to be seen and known by the nations, and continues to speak by His Word and Spirit today! And we, as His people, so often phub God. Don’t believe me? Answer this: What was the last thing God said to you? If it’s hard to remember or you would honestly say “I don’t know,” perhaps you might be more guilty of this than you first thought. It’s not that He doesn’t speak. It’s likely that we aren’t paying attention when He does.

In our relationship with God, He is so often the ear that hears our prayer. And He hears every single one! But what if when He goes to speak back, we’re so distracted by the world around us that we can’t really be checked into the conversation He desires to have with us? When that happens, we phubbed God. And God doesn’t like being phubbed. So like a good spouse (as a part of the Bride of Christ), when it is time to speak with God we’ve gotta put everything else down, tune in our ears and eyes, and give God our full attention. Whether its in the middle of the conversation or moving to stare at our phones so quick we forget what was said, let’s not phub God!

Today, take some time to pray and talk to God. Then, take some time to just listen to what He says. Read His Word. Write out a prayer. Sit and listen. Take a few minutes after your pray to do something to hear what He says!

Try Prayer Journaling!

The first time I realized that God hears and answers our prayer is when I was 18 years old. A friend invited me to his church youth group. It was a church that I had visited a couple of times in 7th grade, so I was familiar with the church. My family only tried it a couple of times and then ended up at another church. When I showed up and found my friend, I realized I didn’t have a Bible with me! So, the leader went over to a shelf of leftover Bibles, pulled one out, and handed it to me.

It looked really familiar. As I opened it up, I noticed it was full of old papers, notes to friends, and drawings on “sermon note” sheets. The handwriting was chicken scratch, but somehow I could read the chicken scratch. And then I began to recognize some of the friends in the notes, and I understood the drawings. And then it hit me: This was the Bible I lost 5 years before when my family visited the church!

As I flipped through that Bible, I found a list of prayer requests scribbled on a page. Apparently, the day I visited that church I also took down the prayer requests. Being in that room with many of the same people who were there 5 years earlier, I showed the list to them and simply asked, “What happened with these?” One by one, the others in the room talked about how each was answered fully. And it hit me: We prayed for these things 5 years ago then stuffed them into a forgotten Bible and never looked at them again. We had forgotten what we prayed, but God did not. He heard and answered every single prayer.

From there, I began journaling my prayers and prayer requests. I wanted to be able to remember what I had forgotten so I could see what happened as time went on. In some seasons more and in some seasons less, but in every season since then I have journals of prayers written out to cover the past two decades of life – all in chicken scratch that only I can read!

Like all things, journaling prayer can be hard to begin and seem like a daunting task. And honestly, for me it often was (and sometimes still is!). A few years ago, a mentor told me about his pattern of prayer journaling and it has made all the difference! It’s the pattern I use now and a great way to begin journaling prayer if you never have before. And in the end, in a few years you can look back on prayers you have forgotten and realize that God did not.

So when it comes to prayer journaling, here’s what I was taught and here’s what I do:

1. Read a Bible verse, chapter, or whatever is in your reading plan. If you don’t know where to begin, a great one to start with is “Solid Joys.” It’s a daily devotional from John Piper. It’s usually one verse and a paragraph of words. It takes 2 to 3 minutes total. It’s also a free app and a podcast, so it’s really easy to listen to wherever you are any time of the day.

2. Take a moment to reflect: What’s happening today? What’s bothering me? Write it down in one or two sentences.

3. Take a moment to remember: How did I see God’s grace yesterday/today? Write something down in one or two sentences.

4. Renew your mind with the Word: Using the verse you read simply ask, “What is God teaching me?” Maybe what’s bothering you or what’s happening around you can be understood in a new way based on your Bible reading. Or maybe God’s truth can help you rejoice even more in the grace you’ve experienced yesterday or today. The point in this step is to use the truth of your Bible reading to think about your answers from steps 2 and 3 above. 

5. Write out prayer requests in simple form. You don’t get awarded points in heaven for the length of a prayer request! You can include every detail or none at all. Whether short or long, take a few moments and write out your prayer requests to God! He speaks every language and even knows the desires of your heart you don’t know how to express. So don’t worry about form or length. It’s about getting it out. I bet that if you walk through the first 4 steps above, this one will flow pretty easy!

This exercise always brings clarity for me in what I’m going through, because it allows me to slow down and put in simple words what’s going on in my mind and heart. I bet that might happen for you too! But one of the beautiful outcomes: In 5 years or 50 years, you’ll be able to look back on these short journal entries and see God’s faithfulness in your long-forgotten prayers!