Before the Day

“In the morning, O LORD, You hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before You and wait in expectation” (Psalm 5:3 NIV) 

Psalm 5 is a lament. The primary function of a lament is to ask the Lord for help in a troubling situation. King David had many situations that troubled him. As some of his psalms do, Psalm 5 doesn’t give the specific experience from which David wrote. We only know it was a troubling one. Though different than his, we have our own troubles as well. This world, the pressures of our jobs, personal relationships, struggles with illness and many other things can be troubling. They often consume so much of us that it makes worship impossible.

            Recently, I downloaded a song from iTunes that I first heard some years ago, but had not heard in a long time. It is called Before the Day. As it did then, it has consumed a lot of time on my personal playlist. There are two primary things I remember about the first time I heard this song: First was how beautiful the lyrics were and how fittingly softly they were sung. The songs theme centers on the value of beginning the day by spending time with the Lord. The second thing I remember was the story the singer told as he introduced the song on this live recording. He spoke of a friend who referred to his early morning quiet time as “Going steady with EDDY”. What this friend meant was that you do it Early, Daily, Diligently and Yielding. He then shared his own experience was that if he doesn’t have his quiet time early, it doesn’t happen at all. Before the Day was written and recorded by NewSong. You should listen to it. It will bless you!

            As far as I can tell, the Bible doesn’t prescribe a particular part of the day that’s best for our quiet time with the Lord. What’s most important is that we take this time every day. My sense however is there is no better time than in the morning. There’s no one better than Lord to help us prepare for the day and the anxiety that waits to rush in, sometimes even before our feet hit the floor. The morning offers a great time of refreshing, a time for us to focus on God, to speak to Him and to sit quietly while He speaks to us. Seek the Lord each day, dwell in His presence, carry Him with you wherever you go and trust that He will see you through.

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What If There Was No Resurrection?

“That he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:4) 

Our appreciation for something is often greatest when we consider the consequence of it never having been. There are people who don’t believe in the resurrection because they don’t believe in Jesus Christ. There are also those who have a misperception about why He came and who He claimed to be. This was also true in the Apostle Paul’s day. Paul was always concerned about the integrity of the gospel, emphasizing the gospel he preached was that which he received from Christ. Of all the teaching in Scripture on the resurrection, 1 Corinthians 15 is the most comprehensive. In this passage, Paul mentions three elements of the gospel: Christ’s death for our sins, His burial, and His resurrection on the third day. All of these elements are critical to Christ’s redemptive work, but His resurrection is what we consider here. Think for a moment where we would be without it.         

            “ …that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:4). In this chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul tells us the consequences of there being no resurrection. He says that if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then preaching is in vain, faith is in vain, God is misrepresented, sin is not dealt with, and all who have died “in Christ” have perished. He goes on to say that if it is only in this life that we hope in Christ then, “we (Christians) are the most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:12–19). Translation: If it is only in this life that we have hope in Christ, stay home on Sunday, throw away your Bible, and live as you please because we’re hoping in something that isn’t real. Our hope in eternity is built on the resurrection, and without it there is no reason for hope. But there is reason for our hope. There is reason because the Bible tells us that Jesus was raised from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:20).

            In church today, the resurrection is the least alluded to aspect of Christ’s saving work. I’m not sure why that is. Maybe we just take it for granted? The resurrection is a necessary pillar of the Christian faith, and its affirmation has everything to do with not only salvation and justification but also biblical authority. It’s often said that Jesus conquered sin on the cross, and I know what people mean when they say that, but His death alone is incomplete without His resurrection, as this is how we are justified before God (Romans 4:25). The victory was completed when Jesus rolled away the stone and came out of the tomb.

            Though as a church we may only formally celebrate the resurrection once a year, as Christians we testify to it every Sunday and can live it each day. As you consider and celebrate all that Christ has done, make sure to thank Him for the resurrection, for because of it you will never suffer the consequence of it never having been. But even more, thank Him for the resurrection because it confirms God accomplishing His plan, and because of that, we have hope—hope in this life and for eternity. What a great God and Savior!

 Prayer

God, I thank You for all of Jesus’ work in His life and death to save me. My sin is that great. But God, today I thank especially for His resurrection, for if that didn’t happen, I would be pitied and left without hope. But I have hope, all because of You. Help me trust Your Word as I live my life and as I testify about all of Jesus’ redeeming work. You are a great God and Savior!

The Greatest Freedom Ever Known

“It is finished” (John 19:30) 

I suppose in some ways it doesn’t seem right to elevate certain passages of Scripture above others, particularly when those words carry the special significance of being spoken by our Savior. A search through the gospels reveals seven statements Jesus made from the cross, each one having their own unique purpose. On the cross, Jesus made provisions for His mother, entrusting her care to the apostle John (John 19:26-27). On the cross, Jesus fulfilled His teaching to love one’s enemies by asking His Father to forgive those who crucified Him (Luke 23:34). On the cross, Jesus demonstrated His saving grace to a thief who hung beside Him, expressed anguish at separation from His heavenly Father as He bore the wrath for the sins of His people, fulfilled Scripture saying, “I thirst”, and voluntarily gave up His human spirit that it might return to the presence of God (Luke 23:43; Matthew 27:46; John 19:28; Luke 23:46). All of these statements speak volumes as to who Christ is, and to what He has done for us. But of these seven statements, there is one that expresses a freedom like no other kind. So, the intent is not so much to elevate what Jesus said in John 19:30 relative to His other sayings on the cross as much as it is to emphasize the implication of His words, “It is finished.”

            It is easy in our Christian lives to think we can move beyond the cross. Too often we can be so much in search of the “abundant life” or that certain “experience” that we forget from which they flow, the cross. The cross is a symbol of Christ’ atoning work on our behalf; not only does it symbolize Jesus’ death for sin, but also His perfect life and victory over the grave by His resurrection. One of my favorite songs expresses the truth of John 19:30 with lyrics that say, “It is done will shout the cross, Christ has paid redemptions cost. While the empty tomb’s declaring Jesus saves.” The song is appropriately titled Jesus Saves.

            Jesus does save; He saves perfectly and completely, and because salvation is in Him alone, it is secure for all eternity. Now that’s real freedom, the kind that frees us from our past, present and future sins, the kind we find only in Christ. That’s the kind of freedom that leads to genuine worship. So, today and every day, walk in the freedom of the cross and Jesus’ three word declaration from it, “It is finished!” 

Prayer

Father, thank You for the freedom You provide in Christ. Though that freedom will be experienced in full when we see You face to face, by Your grace we can experience it even now. Lord, help me to understand that You didn’t atone for my sin for me to remain in it, but instead, so I would respond to Your love by living a life that honors Your sacrifice and brings You glory. You are worthy of nothing less!

Preaching the Cross

Charles Spurgeon once said about preaching, “Preach any text you want and then make a beeline to the cross.” Naturally, when we think about Jesus’ crucifixion, the scene that comes to mind is not a very pleasant one. It was horrific! Jesus was stripped and beaten almost beyond recognition before being nailed to the cross. Perhaps it makes us wonder, “Couldn’t there have been another way for us to be saved?” I suppose there could have been, but that’s not how God planned it.

            The truth is, our sin cost Jesus a lot. The greater truth is He willingly paid the cost. Pray that our preachers never get tired of preaching, not only the necessity, but also the sufficiency of the cross for salvation. Pray also that we never get tired of hearing it. When you envision the scene at Calvary, remember, it is love that flows from the cross because it was out of love that Jesus went to it. Our only proper response is to love Him in return. “And you who were dead in your trespasses…God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This He set aside, nailing it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13-14)

Joy that is Full is Found in Obedience

“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11) 

There are many things that bring joy to our lives, our relationships, maybe our successful careers, perhaps even our possessions. We should find joy in those things. James tells us that every good gift comes from God (James 1:17). Our possessions, our successful careers, and our good relationships are ultimately from God, so thank Him for them. But what about obedience, do you find joy in obeying someone else’s will? I think most of us, at least to some degree bristle at the thought of obeying the will of another. And the thought that doing so could actually bring us joy is even more unlikely. But finding joy in obedience is not only what Jesus taught, but also what He demonstrated by His life.

             “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” Jesus spoke these words to His disciples in the Upper Room. He loved them greatly. It was their last night together before He would be delivered up for crucifixion. The time for which Jesus had come was now upon Him. It was time to die. How could Jesus find joy knowing that, and how could He desire that same joy be found in His disciples willing obedience to the Father? Though He agonized over the cross and separation from His Father, Scripture is clear about Jesus’ desire to do the Father’s will (Matthew 26:39). As He lived and preached, Jesus always submitted perfectly to the Father’s will, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me” (John 6:38). He also submitted in death. Doing God’s will brought Jesus criticism from others. It brought Him even more than that. His mission, to “seek and save the lost” was not always a welcome one.

            Doing the will of God will bring criticism, opposition and consequence for you and me as well. Worldly standards don’t care much for what God desires and people who delight only in what they can see will often remain critical of your choices.

            For Jesus, joy was never situational. Nor was it for the apostle Paul. A prominent theme of his letter to the Philippians was joy. He wrote it from prison knowing his imprisonment would ultimately serve to advance the gospel. Paul valued knowing Christ, everything else he counted as loss (Philippians 3:8-9).

            Do you find joy in obeying God’s will?  It’s an important question because God’s grace doesn’t leave obedience as optional (1 John 5:3). In fact, true grace plants the desire to do God’s will in our hearts. Is it planted in yours? The thought that obedience could bring joy may be contrary to the thoughts of the natural man, but you are a child of God in whom the Holy Spirit dwells. As such, your standards concerning obedience should be different? Let the motivation of your obedience be what God has done for you in Christ. Jesus wants our obedience to bring joy, joy that is “full”. Remember, it is only completed in Him.      

Prayer

Father, You are so gracious when we seek to find joy in other things. The thought that obedience to Your will could be all-fulfilling is contrary to what our world teaches. Thank You for teaching us the truth. Thank You for Jesus, whose perfect obedience atoned for my sin. Thank You that He overcame the grave. Let me find my joy in obedience to Your will that my joy may be full. Amen!