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.
"Go; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no money belt, no bag, no shoes; and greet no one on the way. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not keep moving from house to house."
Have you ever embarked on a journey or started in on a project you knew wasn’t going to be easy but knew it would be worth it? That’s right where these 72 disciples were. They were about to go on a great adventure to tell people about God’s Kingdom and heal all kinds of people but it wasn’t going to be easy. As Jesus said, they were lambs being sent out into the wilderness were there were going to be wolves. Intimidating and scary, but so worth it.
It is often easier for us to focus on the scary – but for just a minute focus on the rest of what Jesus told them. Yes, there would be wolves, but there would also be these people that Jesus referred to as “men of peace.” These were people the disciples would want to hang out with, people they could find safety with, and people that would show them hospitality. So, who are these people and how do we find them?
This is the only place were they are mentioned specifically. Based on what we know about them here Matthew Henry (a great commentator on the Bible) describes them as people who’s hearts have been made soft as wax and are ready to receive the impressions of God’s grace. They are ready for God to do a work in them and then to carry that work on to others.
We see a couple instances of these people in Scripture. One was an adulterous woman who gave Jesus some water and the other was a demon possessed man who told every about the healing power of Christ. These are people that come from all walks of life and who have allowed God to fill them with His grace which always brings about transformation.
Today, we can focus on the wolves or we can focus on peace and the people that are living in it. I don’t know about you, but people of peace sound better than wolves. Take a minute today to allow the grace of God to do a work of transformation in you. Maybe you can become a person of peace today.
The Lord now chose seventy-two other disciples and sent them ahead in pairs to all the towns and places he planned to visit. These were his instructions to them: “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields…. Heal the sick, and tell them, ‘The Kingdom of God is near you now.’
Luke 10:1-2, 9
This past fall my kids and I were driving past a field that had been growing what we assumed to be some kind of zucchini or squash. For months we had been watching it grow and wondering what it was. Then, one day, two buses showed up full of people ready to go work in the field and pick whatever it was. It was a lot of people out there working. I think of this when I read this verse – sending workers into the field when the harvest is ripe.
I also think of the scenes from Kentucky just a month or so ago when they were devastated by storms and tornadoes. Hundreds of people showed up to search for people and to do everything they could to save lives. People were found, rescued, and saved. Recently I started to think about this scene when I read this passage.
We often read this story of the sending of the 72 as a call to share the Gospel – a call to do Kingdom Work. But, let’s read this from a little different perspective, what does this verse say about God? It tells me He is sending people on a search and rescue mission and He is looking for more help. It tells me God cares for us so much He is not willing to leave us stuck in the rubble and brokenness around us. He doesn’t want us to stay in the sin and darkness. He is coming for us and recruiting as many people as possible to come do the work.
Jesus sent 72 people to about 25 different places (assuming they only went to the places Jesus visited) and He still told them to look for more. He told them to enter these places and to heal their sick (save them) and tell about the Kingdom of God (offer them hope). That sounds a bit more like search and rescue and not just pick the fruit.
I am thankful that God cares about me that much that He is willing to send a rescue team out into the darkness to find me. He doesn’t want to lose me. He doesn't want to lose you. He has sent a team, Jesus being the head, to search for you and to rescue you. I am thankful for His mission and the miraculous saves that happen every day!
Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.
When have you felt the most joy in life? What caused that joy? How long did that joy last? Why did you stop experiencing joy (if you have)? What would you do to get that joy back?
David, known as a man after God’s own heart, had experienced tremendous joy in his life, even when running for his life and hiding out in caves. He knew what it was to live a life of joy – not a life free of trials or trouble, but a life of joy. But, eventually David would become King and begin to lose his focus resulting in some really bad decisions. It was adultery and murder that stole David’s joy.
The biggest joy stealing culprit in our lives is sin. It doesn’t have to be adultery or murder, just about any kind of sin will do. When we try to live life on our terms it almost always ends up in selfish and sinful decisions. That sin will take our joy. Leaving us with the question what do we want more – the sin we have been living in or the joy we have been living without?
David was tired of living without. He wanted that joy back. To get it back he was willing to take responsibility for his sinful actions. He was willing to come before God humbled and broken confessing his sin and recommit himself to a life of obedience. His life needed to be, once again, not about him but all about God.
The joy David was after couldn’t be found anywhere else. His massive kingdom couldn’t provide it. All of his military victories couldn’t give it to him. His wealth, his power, his success – none of it came close. So, he cried out God – return to me the joy of YOUR salvation. What he wanted only God could provide.
Many of us want joy – a joy we cannot find anywhere else. To get there and experience it we need to become like David. We need to repent of the sin in our life and be willing to leave it behind. We can’t blame anyone else, that’s one us. Confess it and leave it. With that burden gone and barrier out of the way joy can come in.
When the angel announced Jesus’ birth they said He would bring great joy to all. God wants you to have joy. He wants you to live in joy. Jesus is ready to give it to you. But you can’t have sin (which breaks that joyful relationship with Jesus) and joy. We must choose. Let’s choose joy.
For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
I think one of the most peaceful moments I have experienced was sitting out in the woods watching the sun set. It was during hunting season and I walked a few miles out on a ridge and sat down. I was supposed to be watching for elk but was taken by the setting sun, the stillness in the air, and the absolute peace I felt. In that moment I had no responsibilities, no burdens, and no phone ringing (there was no service). It was peaceful. The only problem – it wasn’t sustainable. I had to walk back to camp, I had to drive back home, and I had to engage in life. Peace is amazing and would be even more amazing if we could have it all the time.
Those kinds of peaceful moments are wonderful and we all need to experience them regularly. But, when we talk about Jesus being our Prince of Peace those are not the moments He died to give us. He actually came to give us so much more than that. The peace Jesus came to give is sustainable – it is eternal.
But, before we can experience this sustainable peace we first must confront the things that steal our peace. In Matthew Jesus said he didn’t not come to bring peace, but division. Now, that sounds contradictory to what Isaiah said doesn’t it? The Prince of Peace wasn’t going against His mission, He was telling us that what He brought isn’t going to be easy to receive. It isn’t going to be an escape from reality, but a new reality. It is going to require confrontation. The promised result, however, being deep and abiding peace.
Jesus came to give peace through confrontation. He confronted the sin in the world. He confronted the religious leaders. He confronted the broken and the lost. Jesus’ public ministry wasn’t about trying to get everyone to agree. It was about showing everyone the way to ultimate peace.
If you want peace today then start by seeking Jesus. Expect some conviction and some challenge. It isn’t a bad thing, don’t resist it. Through that challenge comes repentance and through repentance comes forgiveness. It is in forgiveness we can find real, lasting, peace.
All the people assembled with a unified purpose at the square just inside the Water Gate. They asked Ezra the scribe to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had given for Israel to obey.
Revival brings to mind a traumatic change of events – a transformation. When someone is revived they are brought back from death. They begin to breath again, their heart starts to be, they open their eyes, and they can go on living. These are amazing things to see and hear about. You’ve seen them, the pictures of transformation – the before and after of remodel projects. The old house that looks brand new, the old car that now looks shiny. Many of us what that for our own lives – life, newness, meaning, and identity.
We want it. We dream about it. We long for it. We talk with others about it. You know – one day when. So, what keeps us from experiencing it? What keeps us from that revival and transformation? Why aren’t more people walking in new life having discovered their God given identity and purpose?
Let’s consider Nehemiah and the people of Jerusalem for just a second. Consider their before picture – dysfunctional, no wall, not even enough houses for people, oppression, selfishness, living in trouble and shame. Yet, now, they are one city, one people, gathered for one purpose. God did a miracle in them!
God did do an amazing work among the people in just under 2 months. It is an entirely new city and a new people. But, we need to recognize God wasn’t the only one that did some work – so did the people. They go to this point of revival because they were willing to put in the work. They built a wall, had difficult conversations, looked out for each other, and kept their eyes on God. Getting to this point wasn’t easy.
Transformation isn’t easy for anyone – not even the home remodeler or decorator. Someone has to do the work. I think many of us are not living the life God has for us and are missing out on some amazing transformations because we are refusing to do the work. We have to put ourselves in position for transformation. God wasn’t going to build this wall for them. They had to do that themselves. There is a work we need to do before we can experience this revival. The thing is, we probably already know what it is. It’s just a matter of whether or not we want to do it? Do the work and watch God do the rest.
So on October 2 the wall was finished—just fifty-two days after we had begun. When our enemies and the surrounding nations heard about it, they were frightened and humiliated. They realized this work had been done with the help of our God.
Finishing the job gives you such a great feeling! Just 52 days after Nehemiah and the people of Jerusalem started the good work of rebuilding the wall, they were finished. What a job! Then, to top it all off, it deflated their enemies and brought glory to God. That’s what finished work does – it gives testimony to the one behind it, of their ability and their strength. In this case, and in ours, the One behind the good work is God and we get to enjoy His finished work!
Nehemiah and the people got to enjoy this tremendous accomplishment because they stayed focused. With every distraction and attack that came their way, they stayed focused. They knew what they wanted to do and they knew what they needed to do to get it done – they didn’t let anyone deter them from that. If we are going to be about the good work of the Lord, we have to stay focused on Him.
They enjoyed a job well done because they were also able to say no when they needed to. When they were close to completing the work Nehemiah was invited by some other leaders to leave town and meet with them. It sounded like it was a concession speech, but it wasn’t. Even though it sounded good, Nehemiah was able to see through it and still say no. To finish the good work God has for us and the work He wants to do in us we will have to learn to say no. We will even have to say no to the things that look and sound good, because in the end, they will only hinder us from the real work.
One of the most important things the people did, which led to this moment for them, is they constantly leaned on God for their strength to keep going. As they neared that finish line the attacks kept coming, only know they were a little harder to discern. At one point Nehemiah simple said, God, strengthen our hands. Often, that is what it will take for us to get to the finish line. A simply prayer and a simple step of faith and trust in the strength of God at work in us and through us. God will always get it done, even when we can’t. Trust Him.
Pastor Matt Huff leads Portland Central Nazarene Church. He loves being in ministry and seeing lives transformed by the power of Christ.