For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven….God has made everything beautiful for its own time.
King Solomon was very wise and picked up on some things that we are still trying to figure out today. In Ecclesiastes 3 he writes about the struggle of the good and bad in life. It seems like there is a time for everything and we cannot escape it. He says, there is a time for life and a time for death. A time for pain and a time for healing. A time to mourn and a time to celebrate. He covers a lot. Plainly put – life isn’t easy. It is full of beautiful and it is full of ugly. The trick – paying more attention to the beautiful than to the ugly.
One thing that strikes me in Solomon’s struggle is the way he just lumps everything together. There is no clear timeline, not clear delineation between the good things he lists and the bad things. It just all seems to be jumbled up together. When life gets messy like that it gets really hard to see the beauty in it. The tragic and painful always seem to overshadow the good. So, while we are in the tragic, we often find ourselves looking off into the future for the good to come. Its easy to get frustrated and stuck when we do that. Just sitting in the mess, waiting. Maybe even convinced better isn’t coming.
Solomon, however, is quick to point something out. He says, “God has made everything beautiful for its own time.” The way I understand that is in the midst of every season we can find beauty. Even if we are in the season of pain, death, lose, or mourning. Even in those times there is beauty – a beauty that God is there, present, and at work. God makes everything beautiful – even the most tragic and ugly.
God has been at work since Genesis 1 bringing beauty out of darkness. At creation God took nothing and made it into something. It wasn’t just something – it was good. It was perfect. God took darkness and void and made it beautiful. If we pay close attention we are still able to see that beauty even though evil, sin, as made a mess of it. We see it, because God hasn’t given up on us. He is at work making things good again, making things beautiful. That is what He does.
Jesus proves it. The cross reminds us of it. God sent Jesus to enter into our ugliness and save us. God sent Him here to make us beautiful again. We have this hope that better is coming because Jesus has come, because God entered into the darkness of our world to breath life back into our deadness. He sealed that decision with the cross of Jesus.
God took the most ugly, painful, and feared method of torture and execution of the time and made it into a beautiful symbol of love and forgiveness. The cross today stands as a reminder that God can, and does, bring beauty, from our pain and suffering. God is with you today in whatever you are facing. Trust in Jesus to bring the beauty back. There is a time to be loved, redeemed, and forgiven – thanks to Jesus.
Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
What would you say are the scariest things facing humanity right now? The war in Ukraine? Nuclear war? Are these the things we should fear the most? What would you say is destroying our lives? I am sure we all could come up with a pretty lengthy list of things that are destructive and problems for the world. We would probably agree on almost all of them. Drugs, violence, politics, gas prices, and on and on we could go. But, what if we dig deeper into those things? I think we would find a common thread that runs through them all.
Drugs destroy – but people do them because it takes away pain and gives some momentary comfort. Violence brings about a feeling of vindication or even of protection and safety. We can come up with reasons these things exist – but the terrifying fact about them all, that common thread, is they are all built on lies. Drugs can’t provide true comfort or really bring about any kind of solution to our struggles. Violence doesn’t really do anything but bring about more violence. But, every day millions of people live into these lies and countless others. The biggest and scariest things facing society today is lies.
This battle isn’t new, in fact it is very old. It started in the Garden of Eden and it led to death. Human kind allowed evil into the world when it fell into a lie told by Satan – the father of all lies. Our real enemy, isn’t against people, it is against that serpent of old. His main objective is to destroy us and he knows the best way to go about that is to get us to not just believe lies, but to actually live them.
We all know the best way to counter a lie is with the truth, right? But, how do we find truth and who do we trust to give us the truth? Ultimately, there can only be one truth and His name is Jesus. Jesus came to combat the lies of the enemy with the truth. The amazing thing is he didn’t just come to tell the truth, He came to embody truth. Jesus came and made truth personal. He made it possible for us to live in truth by living in relationship with Him.
In John 8 Jesus has a very upfront conversation with some Jews (some believing and some not believing). To the ones that were not believing He told them they were of their father, the devil. They had no room in their hearts for His truth because they were too caught up in living the lies the devil had told them. If they ever really wanted to live free and know truth, they would have to become a part of God’s family.
Today, the same is true for us. If we want to live in freedom and not live in bondage to the life destroying lies of the enemy then we need to come to know and surrender our lives to Jesus. We need to ask God to clean our heart of the lies so He can fill it with His truth. Living that truth is much better than living any lie!
Live in the truth of Jesus today and experience freedom!
Then Jesus went over to the Pharisees’ synagogue and they asked Him, “Does the law permit a person to work by healing on the Sabbath….Jesus said, “Yes, the law permits a person to do good on the Sabbath.”
Matthew 12:9-14 (Paraphrased)
We face decisions every day – we spend a lot of time trying to figure out which is the right and which is the wrong one. Some of those decisions are obvious. Murder is wrong. Stealing is wrong. Those big ticket items we don’t have to think too hard about. But, what about those grey areas? “Most of us feel as if we are fighting our way through a jungle of endless bad choices looking for the one good choice we are supposed to make. When we talk of doing God’s will, we speak as if his will is elusive, and perhaps even unattainable. We work from the assumption that every choice we make outside the one choice that is God’s will for our life is a wrong choice. No wonder so many of us feel paralyzed, terrified to act. The likelihood our choices will be wrong—or even sinful—is too high to risk. We’ve come to believe that God’s will is like walking on a high wire. Any misstep, and we’ll go plummeting to our death.” (Erwin McManus, “The Genius of Jesus”)
This is the kind of life the Pharisees lived – paralyzed by fear of doing the wrong – of breaking a law. It blinded them to what God had for them – to who was standing right in front of them. It is not the life we were meant to live.
Jesus told them, yes, you can do good on the Sabbath. Jesus took their question about right or wrong and made it about good. Good is what God wants. He doesn’t need us to be right (or to not be wrong). What we often forget is that we can’t be right enough. We could keep every law, never be wrong, and still never be right and never do good. In other words we could keep the Sabbath holy but never heal the withered hand. In doing that we have failed at the greatest commandment – to love God and love people.
We don’t need to be right. Jesus is right. It is His rightness (righteousness) we need to be saved. We cannot save ourselves by avoiding wrong. We can only be saved by choosing Jesus. He then picks up our slack and accomplishes for us what we can’t. In His righteousness we are free to live – not however we want – but in goodness.
Paul says, “Christ has truly set us free. … For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
You are free from the burden of avoiding wrong and free to the life of good. Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose from the grave to make you right. All we have to do now is live in that freedom and allow that love to flow through us to others – do good and you won't be wrong.
You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.
What do you think of when you think of power? Who do you view as the most powerful person ever – and I don’t mean your favorite super hero (we all know superman is the best anyway!). Typically power is defined by might, strength (militarily or financially), control, and maybe even influence (even if that influence is due to fear or force). The biggest issue with that kind of power is that it is often oppressive and enslaving. Yet, when we try to find freedom from that power we end up using the same kind of power against it. Then, we just get stuck in this cycle of enslavement and oppression – the only change is who holds the power.
This is the cycle Jesus was born into. Alexander the Great had set the standard for power and dominance expanding the Greek empire and influence through his military power. Then along came the Roman empire that was exercising their power over the Jewish people during the life of Christ. Everyone wanted to be on the top, everyone wanted to control the power! So, when Jesus showed up the people were thinking it was finally their turn, now the Jews could have the power.
But, Jesus, the most powerful person to ever walk the face of this earth. The Son of God, the Creator, who could heal the sick, forgive sin, walk on water, calm storms, and raise the dead was here. Surely He was going to kick butt! But, instead He came with a different idea of power and freedom. He came and showed the people that no matter who thought they had the power, no one could ever really take it from them if they didn’t let them. They were always free. In fact, it was in this power of servanthood that Jesus drastically changed the world.
Erwin McManus says, “Never allow anyone else’s actions to lead you to be less. Their use of power reveals who they are, and your response to power will reveal who you are. Whatever power you may feel your oppressors have over you, they are powerless when it comes to your character. Only you can choose who you are and who you will become. You can step into a freedom they are incapable of understanding, and stand in your power in such a way that they are powerless to stop you.” That’s the power Jesus displayed all the way to the cross. That’s the power that truly changed the world. Live in that power.
Pastor Matt Huff leads Portland Central Nazarene Church. He loves being in ministry and seeing lives transformed by the power of Christ.