Archives For Devotional

“Easter Sunday is the Super Bowl of church attendance!”

regular sundayThat’s a statement I’m sure you’ve heard before. Just like the Super Bowl attracts people who don’t normally watch football, Easter Sunday brings in so many who usually don’t have any interest in the Bible or church, but feel like they should attend because it’s what you’re supposed to do on Easter Sunday. And while it is true that the world has a fascination with Easter and with attending church on Easter, what is equally true is that the world misunderstands Easter in significant ways.

The more I hear straw men arguments against the resurrection, the more I realize that the world has many misconceptions about the resurrection. Here are five of the most common ones I hear:

Jesus did not know he was going to die

One of the biggest misconceptions is that Jesus did not know he was going to die. It is fascinating to note that throughout his ministry, Jesus knew that it would end in death. In fact, although he could have prevented it, he made sure that it would happen.

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March 27, 2016

That’s My King

by Mike Riccardi

This just never gets old.

Rejoice with us this day in the resurrection and the life of our King, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, King Jesus the Christ, the Name above all names.

Being found in appearance as a man,
He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
For this reason also God highly exalted Him

and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow,
of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue will confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord
to the glory of God the Father
– Philippians 2:9-11 –

Jesus said to her,
“I am the resurrection and the life;
he who believes in Me will live even if he dies,
and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.”
– John 11:25-26 –

Isa 53;5Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve found that around Easter time it’s very easy for our thoughts to be occupied with the events of Resurrection Sunday—sometimes even to the exclusion of the events of Good Friday. That may be for a number of reasons. Perhaps it’s because the church’s time together on Good Friday is usually an abbreviated service at the end of a busy workday, while Resurrection Sunday is a special holiday spent with family. Perhaps it’s simply because it’s more pleasant and encouraging to meditate on the triumph and the victory of Christ’s resurrection than the injustice, suffering, and agony of His death.

But truly, you can’t have Easter Sunday without Good Friday. You can’t have the resurrection of Christ without the atonement of Christ. Each is vitally essential to the Gospel. And of all days, Good Friday is a day to give ourselves to the contemplation of and reflection upon the nature of Christ’s atonement on our behalf. Something that has stirred me to worship, supplemental to Scripture’s accounts of and commentary on the atonement, is a 19th-century hymn called “O Christ! What Burdens Bowed Thy Head.” It may be the best non-inspired worship song that I know of that captures the depth of the theology of penal substitutionary atonement. And it not only purveys the soundest of theology, but it’s also one of the most beautiful pieces of poetry I’ve ever read. Consider the words of these six verses, Christian, and worship the Lamb who has borne the wrath of God in your place.

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“Would you like your receipt?”

I’m asked this question daily: the grocery store, Starbucks, even the automated payment screen at the gas station. I don’t really like clutter so I usually say “no thanks.” However, there are some stores where you don’t have a choice. You NEED to take your receipt.

Consider a trip to the following stores: (in order of my preference of them) Costco, BJ’s, Sam’s Club. It is the practice of all of these stores to check your receipt at the door before you can leave. In fact, if you don’t have your receipt you cannot leave with all of the stuff in your cart – all of a sudden this piece of paper has more value than you thought. The receipt serves as proof that you bought the items with which you are trying to leave the store.

The picture of a receipt is a helpful illustration of the importance of the resurrection. Consider two texts in Paul’s letter to the Romans, paying particular attention to the underlined words:

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Have you ever stopped to think about how often you are exposed to God’s word?

Every time you open up the Bible for time with the Lord, the God of the universe speaks. Every time you go to small group and discuss a passage of Scripture He is speaking. When you quote verses in your head that you have memorized, He is talking. When exposed to His word He tells you who He is, He tells you how to live, He tells you what other people are like, He even tells you about the future.

It’s a dangerous thing to be exposed to the word of God, because every time one of two things happen. Either you will become more like Jesus Christ, or you will be hardened to the truth and become cold towards Jesus.

Steve Lawson in his biography of John Calvin says,

“We owe to the Scripture the same reverence which we owe to God because it has proceeded from Him alone, and has nothing of man mixed with it.” This was the unshakable foundation of Calvin’s preaching-the authority of divinely inspired Scripture. He firmly believed that when the Bible speaks, God speaks.”

Because of how dangerous it is to be exposed to Scripture, James, the brother of Christ, in James 1:19 is concerned for the Church. He’s already warned them to be prepared for trials, and temptation and now he wants them to be prepared to receive the word of God. In this verse he gives three short imperatives, that will remind us about the importance of how to react to God’s word when exposed to it.

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Once upon a time there was a girl named Goldilocks…you know the rest. With her insufferable nonchalance for private property, she samples a hijacked bowl of loot and declares it overheated. The next was unappetisingly tepid. But the third offering was deemed to be just right.

Like our picky little porridge connoisseur, cosmologists who explore our planetary neighborhood have also encountered an unexpected unique state of copacetic conditions. Our pale blue dot of a planet is the only chunk of real estate we know of that boasts an inexplicably perfect balance of temperature, gravity, atmospheric pressure, galactic location, solar proximity, axis tilt, rotation speed, and countless other marvels of serendipity. In short, Earth is the only known habitat for humanity that can be confidently described as just right.

Cosmologists, despite their proclivity for abstruse nomenclature, refer to this unparalleled equilibrium rather quaintly as: “the Goldilocks Effect.”balancing galaxy

For scientists who don’t acknowledge God’s wisdom and power in creation, the Goldilocks Effect is merely a description of what is essentially a lucky break on a cosmic scale. But if I were an insouciant atheist physicist (say that three times!) there would be a more pressing question on my agenda than “How did things get just right?” And that is the question “What keeps it all just right?”

Yes, this primordial stew of life support ended up just right. But for how long?
What sustains this vital balance? The answer doesn’t require the brain of an Einstein or a Hawking. The answer is in black and white (and red?) in the New Testament.

Exhibit A…

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March 17, 2016

A menu of rewards

by Jesse Johnson

When one of my daughters loses a tooth, I reward her with chocolate. A dentist might find this ironic—“Do you want her to lose the rest of them?”—but I feel that the reward is an essential element of this rite-of-passage.

A wiggly tooth is frightening to a child. The idea of the tooth falling out…well, that can be downright terrifying. And my normal go-to parental response of: “suck it up girl, this happens to everyone!” doesn’t quite assuage the fears.

But chocolate does. In fact, my girls so love chocolate that they actually look forward to loosing their teeth. The existence of the reward took something that induced fear, and it transformed the trepidation into expectation.

Yet the existence of a reward does not make the inevitable conditional. It is not as if a child could say, “Since I don’t like chocolate, I guess I’ll just keep all of my teeth.” No, the teeth are coming out regardless of weather or not the girl actually wants the reward.

With this analogy in mind, consider why Jesus ends each of Revelation’s seven letters with the promise of a reward. In this section of scripture (Revelation 2-3) Jesus writes to a few bad churches, a few excellent churches, and a few decent churches. He tells some of them that wrath is coming, some of them that rescue is coming, but to all of them he describes a Christians’ future rewards.

In fact, if you look at the end of all seven letters, Jesus describes fifteen different rewards:   Continue Reading…

Truman ShowDirector Peter Weir’s modern masterpiece, The Truman Show (1998), is about a kid who is adopted by a broadcasting network. Unbeknown to the young Truman—but relished by anyone with a cable subscription—his every waking moment is being broadcast on live TV.

Truman’s whole life is spent in an island town (which is actually an elaborate movie set) and his entire family, friendship circle, and everyone he interacts with are all paid actors. Their lines are fed to them by improvising scriptwriters via earpieces.

This masquerade goes on for decades with flawless execution, except for a few comical glitches like stage lights falling from heaven and fame-seekers who crash the set.

The perpetual ruse effectively dupes the adult Truman, played by the inimitable Jim Carrey, into living a life in which he is literally the center of attention all day, every day. The sun rises and sets for him and the weather is altered to create the director’s desired ambience. Truman is the reason for the season…and for everything else that happens in his world.

It’s a poignant and thought-provoking story.

But sadly, there is real-life tragi-comedy being played out in society today. Many people pass their days as if they are a self-aware version of Truman. They function as if they are meant to be the center of the universe. They actually get upset when the backdrop, like the weather, doesn’t meet their expectations. They become disenchanted when personal plans and desires are not quickly championed by everyone else. They have a near existential crisis when the economy, the political scene, or the people in their lives don’t behave the way their self-directed script would prefer. It’s almost as if they are disappointed that they can’t fire the actors who refuse to collaborate with their script.

Some people behave exactly as if they were raised to believe everyone and everything exists for them.

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griping monkUpon Gino’s acceptance into a monastic order which emphasizes silence he is told that he will be allowed to speak only two words to the abbot every ten years. On his first night he finds that a rat has invaded his mattress and most of the stuffing is gone. He can barely sleep on the thin mattress. Being very dedicated, he endures the situation for a decade. When finally in front of the abbot, Gino cautiously offers, “Mattress thin.”

Presently workers arrive with a brand new mattress. However, upon their departure Gino discovers that they’ve accidentally broken his window. Icy winds blow all winter and torrential rains flow all summer.

Ten years later Gino despondently reports: “Window broken.” The window is immediately repaired to Gino’s delight, as he anticipates his first night of cozy sleep in two decades.

However, climbing into bed he realizes that the workmen have accidentally broken the leg of his bed. The bed is tilted at a crazy angle and all night he finds himself sliding down. Ten more years pass slowly. Finally, Gino finds himself before the abbot again and declares: “I quit!” The head monk snaps back, “Good riddance! Since you arrived you’ve done nothing but complain!”

After pondering my previous two posts in this mini-series (here and here) on complaining some of you are probably feeling a bit like Gino—that if you say two wrong words, you’ll be branded a complainer. I hope to offer some relief.

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I love fishing. It’s a huge thrill when the fishing pole catches and instead of a shoe or algae, there’s finally a fish on the other end. It’s fascinating though to put yourself in the shoes of a fish, or I should say his fins. Fish after fish falls for the same lure and none of them learn from each others mistakes. It seems as if humans are the same. Human after human falls for the worlds lies, and despite the obvious fact that harm is on the way, we love the empty temporary pleasure that sin brings. This pattern of luring and enticement reminds me of Paul’s words in Galatians chapter 6 where we, as Christians, continue to sin like a fish bites the line.

fish on hookThe fish can pull as hard as it can, sometimes the fish can get away on its own but what it usually needs is for someone to come and cut the line or even better, to carefully take the hook out of their mouth.

Paul in Galatians 6:1-2 gives us guidelines for biblical confrontation. He tells us exactly what we need to know in order to properly help other believers who are caught in sin. Like a hopeless fish, Paul says, that as believers, we must take the time and care to help each other when we fall in sin. In fact he gives us 4 requirements before we would ever confront our brothers and sisters in Christ.

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