Daily Light – June 28, 2019

The Precious Power of the Blood

Five Benefits Christ Purchased for You

Article by David Mathis, Executive Editor, desiringGod.org

There is pow’r, pow’r, wonder-working pow’r
In the precious blood of the Lamb.

Happy memories flood my mind when I hear these words. We sang them often in church when I was young — bobbing up and down on our toes. The best church songs in the South were toe-bobbers. And my father seemed to love “Power in the Blood” most of all. I could tell he would sing louder than normal on this one, and I’d follow suit. I think the whole congregation sang with more gusto than usual, but I couldn’t hear them well with the two of us both raising our voices.

Christians of all stripes and leaning affirm there is indeed power in the blood of Jesus. Word- and Spirit-shaped souls feel that intuitively, but have you ever paused to ask how? Is the magic blood? If there is power in his blood, how do we explain the reality? What truths operate under the surface when we celebrate, in shorthand, this wonder-working pow’r?

What Does the Blood Do?

The New Testament epistle to the Hebrews builds the bridge from the Old Testament sacrificial system (and its blood) to the new covenant and Jesus’s once-for-all sacrifice (Hebrews 9:712). Throughout the Bible, blood represents life (for instance, Genesis 9:4), and the spilling or shedding of blood, in turn, depicts death (Leviticus 17:1114Deuteronomy 12:23). Because the just penalty of human sin against God is death (Romans 6:23), the death of sanctioned animal sacrifices, through the presentation of their blood, stood in temporarily for the requirement of death for sinners. Yet the high priest had to return year after year, “repeatedly” (Hebrews 9:79:25), because “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). The repeated animal sacrifices were delaying the inevitable, waiting on God’s fullness of times. One day a final reckoning for sin must come.

Christians, of course, believe and celebrate that now in Christ, and under the terms of a new covenant, the reckoning has come. Jesus willingly “offered himself” (Hebrews 9:14) by “once for all” shedding “his own blood” (Hebrews 9:12), bringing to its intended completion the temporary covenant that came before (the old covenant) and inaugurating in its place an “eternal covenant,” (Hebrews 13:30), which we call the new covenant.

Hebrews celebrates some of the specific benefits Christians enjoy because of Jesus’s blood (Hebrews 10:1913:12), but it’s the apostle Paul, in particular, who celebrates the manifold grace that comes to us because of his blood. In one sense, we can connect to Jesus’s blood every divine grace that comes to us, but five times Paul makes the connection explicit, with both the mention of blood and a specific aspect of what Christ has secured for us with his death.

Propitiation: To Remove God’s Righteous Wrath

Romans 3:25 says Jesus is the one whom “God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” Because God is just, the sins of his people are no small obstacle. In his kindness and grace, he has chosen to love us, yet in his justice he cannot sweep our sins, which are acts of cosmic treason against him, under the rug of the universe. So, in his love, he devises a way to satisfy justice and still triumph with mercy.

God himself, in the person of his own Son, takes on human flesh and blood and offers himself in the place of sinful people, to receive the just wrath of God and pay our penalty in his death, all that we might live. His blood, then, signifying the sacrificial giving of his life in the place of those deserving death (and “received by faith”), propitiates his righteous wrath, upholds divine justice, and opens the floodgates of his mercy.

Justification: To Extend God’s Full Acceptance

Romans 5:9 says “we have now been justified by his blood.” Justified is courtroom language. The prosecution and defense each present their case, and the judge or jury makes a declaration: either righteous or condemned. The defendant is either guilty as charged or declared to be in right standing with the law — justified.

The reason those who are united to Jesus by faith are justified is owing, in part, to his sacrificial and substitutionary death. He willingly shed his own blood not for his own sins (he had none), but for ours. The spilling of his blood to cover our sins made possible our sharing in his righteousness by joining us to him through faith. Without his blood, our unrighteousness would remain unaddressed. We could not stand with him at the final judgment and receive with him his Father’s declaration, “Righteous.”

Redemption: To Purchase Our True Freedom

Ephesians 1:7 says, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses.” To redeem means to buy back or secure the freedom of someone in bondage. Because of our sins, we all were (or continue to be) in spiritual captivity. Our violations of God’s law mean we deserve his omnipotent, righteous wrath. But in Christ, by the shedding of his blood, which forgives our sins before God, he purchases our freedom from justice and from the power of Satan. “Having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands” (Colossians 2:13–14), through his self-offering at the cross, Jesus “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame” (Colossians 2:15).

The decisive weapon the demons had against us was unforgiven sin, but when Jesus spilled his own blood in our place, to forgive our sins, he freed us from captivity. He redeemed us from Satan and the record of debt and legal demands against us.

Forgiveness: To Restore Our Best Relationship

These precious themes, of course, overlap. We’ve already seen the importance of forgiveness, but Ephesians 2:13 puts it at the fore: “now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” At the heart of this “bringing near” is the restoration of humanity with the divine. On the individual level, it’s the creation in Christ of personal access to and a relationship with God that we, born into sin, never could have secured. On the corporate level, it’s the restoration in Christ of the relationship with God for which we were made.

Our sin and rebellion against God has put distance between us and him. In his old-covenant grace, he drew near to his covenant people called Israel. But now, in the new covenant, he draws near not to a particular ethnic people, but to all who receive his Son in faith, no matter who they are or how far they had run. In fact, the phrase “brought near by the blood of Christ” gets at the heart of what each of these divine gifts in Jesus’s blood does for us: it brings us to God. There may be no better summary of what we’ve seen so far about the power of Jesus’s blood than 1 Peter 3:18: “Christ suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.”

Pacification: To Make Peace with God Himself

Finally, the God-centered aim of the effects of Jesus’s blood is confirmed in its peace-making between God and his people. In Christ, God reconciles his people “to himself . . . making peace by the blood of his cross” (Colossians 1:19–20). That he shed his blood on the cross has been implicit in each instance, but here Paul makes it plain. It is “the blood of his cross” that makes peace between God and man. He made peace with an instrument of intentional and horrific torture and execution.

Jesus did not shed his blood by accident. This was no random death. Tragic as it was, it was deliberate and voluntary. He was executed unjustly, and his blood was spilled on purpose at the cross, both by sinful men and the holy God-man. They took his life, and he gave it. In doing so, he absorbed the righteous wrath of God, granted us his full legal acceptance, purchased our true freedom, restored our most important relationship, and made peace for us with God himself. This is how, as Paul says elsewhere, he secured “the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood” (Acts 20:28).

Precious Blood

Following the trial of blood in Paul’s letters, we begin to see an ocean of grace in that last line of the familiar chorus: There is pow’r, pow’r, wonder-working pow’r / In the precious blood of the Lamb. Precious, indeed.

That pairing of precious with Jesus’s blood comes from the apostle Peter:

You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. (1 Peter 1:18–19)

It is fitting to sing of his blood and, in doing so, celebrate all the riches represented by it. When we add precious in that final line, we’re not just adding two additional syllables to make the cadence work with the tune. His blood is truly precious to us. Infinitely valuable. Because Christ himself, and God himself in him, is precious to us. And because the blood of Christ, more precious than any other means, fulfills our deepest aches and longings in God, not just temporarily but finally and forever.

David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor for desiringGod.org and pastor at Cities Churchin Minneapolis/St. Paul. He is a husband, father of four, and author of Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines.

Daily Light – June 27, 2019

What is the Secret Miracle of Marriage (And About Marriage Renewal Vows)

Written by:  Ann Voskamp      annvoskamp.com

My mama walked out on my dad on the eve of their 25th wedding anniversary.

Today is the eve of ours.

We are married now as long as my parents were when their marriage ended with her driving away heartbroken in the middle of the night in a used Honda Civic he never knew she bought, and him devastated and begging we all  tell him where she was.

It would be more than six months before any of us knew.

“Marriage is a mystery often solved by grace.”

We were married the 25th of June, 1994.

My parents were married 23 years prior, on the 26th of June. And when we walked down the aisle, I think on some level, I thought I was mirroring their marriage. I just didn’t know how very nearly their story could have been ours.

I just thought, like them, we’d weather through any financial flattenings, the inevitable diverging of dreams, even if there was the coffin of a child, a walking away from the fresh dirt of a daughter’s grave.

But their nigh-unto-25-year marriage abruptly ended on our hardly-but-a-second-old 2nd wedding anniversary, and what the preacher man had said during our marriage ceremony should have been my premonition — for all of us.

Pastor Dixon looked over his glasses at me during our ceremony and said what we didn’t expect to frame our vows: “Ann.  I don’t know if you know that John Denver song, Annie’s Song?”

Did he know that it was my father’s favorite song, the one that my mother played on the piano for him on Sunday nights on a piano in desperate need of a tuning but none of us even noticed for the glory of it?

I glanced past my veil to my dad brushing away the tears running down his cheeks, my mother squeezing his other hand.

“Did you know that John Denver had written those lyrics for his wife, Annie: “You fill up my senses — like a night in the forest … Come let me love you, come love me again.

I could hear my mother singing, her voice rising with the notes, see my father laying tired on the living room couch on a Sunday night, asking her to play it again.

“Everyone enters marriage expecting a forever thing —  yet marriages are fragile things.”

Love is an endless coming home.

“And the song so inspired musician James Galway —- that he wrote an album of love songs for his wife, named Songs for Annie — “ The preacher’s English accent had boomed across the sanctuary and I’d smiled nervous into my almost-husband’s eyes.

“And then John Denver divorced his Annie. And James Galway ended up divorcing his wife.”

I — hadn’t expected that turn in the story. For a myriad of shattering reasons, love songs can bleed into laments and marriages can not survive. That could have been us. That should have been us. That would have been us — but for the Grace of God. 

Everyone enters marriage expecting a forever thing —  yet marriages are fragile things. Marriage can be tough as nails, and yet still be vulnerably tender as a bare, beating heart.

I wish now I had looked over at my parents in that moment. Did they have any idea their own marriage would experience a fatal heart attack and die within two years?

Every single marriage is a miracle of grace. I’ve about wept over the unmerited grace of ours.

There were whole seasons, I drank the Kool-Aid of self-entitlement and didn’t water the relationship that is us. Long dry spells that I only saw what wasn’t, instead of who I could be. I broke promises, and about broke family, and I out and out broke hearts — mine and his both. It bears repeating: Marriage is never an accomplishment to be proud of but a miracle to give thanks for.

“Marriage is never an accomplishment to be proud of but a miracle to give thanks for.”

I couldn’t have known it when we said I do, but I’ve known on it on some pitch black roads when didn’t know where to turn or how to keep going, and undoubtedly, it could all gone another way, but it’s our story, in defiant spite of me:

The covenant that binds can be what sets you free to be.

The covenant that binds can be what holds when everything’s blowing up.

The covenant that binds can bond your heart to your one place of belonging, when everything else lets go.

We may have taken the rather unconventional route of writing our own vows, and I confess, I forget by and large most of what we vowed, which, yes, is perhaps proof positive that either why one should stick with the traditional vows, or alternatively, why one should frame their vows and vow them again every anniversary — but what I remember is this, because we’ve said it to each other countless times over the last 2 and a half decades: “I promise to dig deep channels of communication between my soul and yours.”

I would rewrite our vows now — because I am only still now coming to understand:

“Giving your hand in marriage means handling another soul with the deepest care.”

I promise to dig deep channels of communication between my soul and yours — and the only way to dig those deep channels of communication, is with shards of the heart.

I promise courage to break open my heart in vulnerability — so you can walk into a deeper intimacy.

I promise to be care-ful and full of care with your heart — because: Giving your hand in marriage means handling another soul with the deepest care.

I promise to take time and daily sit down with a cup and cup your heart — because: Give a marriage only scraps of time and it will about starve to death.

I promise to live forgiveness because nothing else is life-giving. Because: Forgiveness gives oxygen to the soul.

I promise to destroy shame and never you — because: Shame says things can never change.  Shame beats down and grace lifts up and love makes a way through.

And I promise to wear a habit of gratitude — because thanksgiving gives us a way out of entitlement and judgement and control management and gratefulness gives us a fulfilled life.

And don’t I know it: Marriage makes promises but broken people break promises and this can break a heart.

But there is a God who is faithful when we are faithless, a God who walks through the covenants we stumble through, a God who keeps the promises that we keep trying to keep because Grace never fails to keep coming to meet us. No matter what happens — and this is all that matters.

Because He alone fulfills His promise:

You don’t need all the people to love you, but One to love you always.

How do you live through a grace you don’t deserve, except to try to serve that grace to everyone passing by?

When I heard Annie’s Song the other day, for the first time in what seemed like decades, drifting achingly from a bedroom of one of the kids our love has made, I’d stopped at the top of the stairs, caught in a time-warp back to our wedding day.

“The fairytale weddings are actually the marriages that tell the full story of the Gospel.“

The man who married this farm-girl Annie 25 years ago tomorrow, he wouldn’t know the promises of Annie’s Song if his life depended on it, has never written a poem or a love song in his life.

But there are men who actually live their love song promises with a steady faithfulness that could be mistaken for boring — but the truth is:

Those who experience the boring love of one heart boring deeply into their heart live drunk with the grace from that well.

When we made our promises as baby-faced kids 25 years ago, how could we have known it:

The fairytale weddings are actually the marriages that tell the full story of the Gospel.

The ever-hope-after-everything story that simply says: Take my hand and I take yours and there is a Grace that takes even us now —

a grace that fills up the senses, on the eve of forever.

Daily Light – June 26, 2019

Being Careful to Evaluate Our Success

Taken from an article by:  Greg Morse, Staff Writer, desiringGod.org

I failed as a collegiate athlete. For some years now, I’ve looked back with regret on wasted potential and childhood dreams that were so close to coming true but never did. Why didn’t I work harder? What if I had known what I do today? Why didn’t God allow me to utilize the gifts he gave me? It still bothers me from time to time.

Even if you’ve never spent time on a football field, you may relate. Your passions outpaced your progress; your gifting never realized its full potential. But as you grimace considering the success that never came, has it ever crossed your mind to actually thank God for your failure?

Thank God for Failure?

It hadn’t crossed my mind until recently. Lost in a daydream of what could have been, words from Spurgeon sent arrows deep into my fantasy:

There are very few men who can bear success — none can do so unless great grace is given to them! And if, after a little success, you begin to say, “There now, I am somebody. Did I not do that well? These poor old fogies do not know how to do it — I will teach them” — you will have to go into the back rank, brother, you are not yet able to endure success! It is clear that you cannot stand praise.

Without a moment’s hesitation, that success I pined after so long had soured in my mouth. Like Dr. Frankenstein, who obsessed for months over his creation only to shrink in horror the moment the monster animated, I saw my idol with sobriety. The “success” I longed to embrace — for me — was as much the celebrity I longed to embrace. I had a healthy love for the sport, but I had an unhealthy love for my own name, which meant that my budding faith in Christ may not have survived weeds of worldly acclaim without consequence. I’m doubtful that I could have endured the mere seeds of the second temptation Jesus overcame in the wilderness:

The devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory. . . . If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” (Luke 4:5–7)

I thanked God for sparing me from my dreams of greatness. In my mediocrity, he protected me. In allowing me to fail, he fathered me. In keeping me from success, he kept me for himself.

Children of Babel

Now, some mature souls indeed can bear what Calvin called “the fiery trial of popularity.” And while some can endure it without injury, it seems true enough that there are very few men who can bear success. The fulfillment of our earthly dreams, the praise we still secretly hope for, the recognition we’ve come to trust might make us into somebody, could, if we actually received it, arouse a nightmare. Success hides its price, and some of us live chasing the flame.

Many since Babel have been trying to “make a name for [themselves]” (Genesis 11:4). They harbor selfish ambition and live for what Paul termed “empty glory” (Philippians 2:3, my translation). This is dangerous because Jesus himself asked, “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” (John 5:44).

Man cannot serve two glories. Some, John tells us, even believed in Jesus’s miracles but did not confess him, because “they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God” (John 12:42–43). They chose to sit comfortably in the synagogue rather than walk with God incarnate. To the hypocrites who advertised their fasting with disfigured faces, sounded trumpets when they gave, and prayed long prayers on street corners in order to be seen by others, Jesus said, “I do not receive glory from men” (John 5:41 NASB).

Now, this is not to confuse carnal success with spiritual fruitfulness. We pray to influence souls, fight sin, proclaim Christ, and live for God’s glory in our families, callings, and careers. He has promised those things. Rather, we renounce the visibility of success — the longing to not only achieve great things by God’s strength, but to ensure that everyone else knows we’ve achieved great things. The obsession to have our faults forgotten and our triumphs published. The temptation to pray blasphemously in our hearts, “I wish them all to be where I am to see my glory.”

You Cannot Bear Success Alone

God must fortify us against the sharp edges of success.

Paul teaches that he needed to be strengthened by Christ to endure the bad and the good. We need God to walk us through the valleys and guide us safely on the mountaintops. “I know how to be brought low,” he said, “and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:12–13).

All things includes the good. The apostle needed Christ to stay content in Christ when life went horribly wrong, and when it went surprisingly well. Verse 13, as the Christian athlete’s favorite verse, speaks not as much to Christ strengthening him to hoist the trophy up in victory, but more to Christ strengthening him not to bring that trophy and applause down into his heart and make them his christ. We need divine strength to trudge through the wilderness, and also to eat our fill in Jerusalem. If we have not learned this, then our abounding — and the praise that comes with it — becomes unsafe.

Fed to Worms

Consider the contrast between Peter, Paul, and Barnabas — men who learned this secret — and Herod, who did not.

When Cornelius bent low to worship a mere human, Peter grabbed him, lifted him up immediately, and said, “Stand up; I too am a man” (Acts 10:24–26). When Paul and Barnabas healed a paralytic man in Lystra in Acts 14, the people proclaimed, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” (Acts 14:11). Once Paul and Barnabas heard this and discovered that they planned to offer sacrifices to them, the two men

tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.” (Acts 14:14–15)

These esteemed men of God shunned Satan’s original temptation: to be like God — if only in the eyes of men.

Herod did otherwise.

On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last. (Acts 12:21–23)

Three could bear to be used of God and not seek to rob him of glory. The other died of worms.

Not to Us

In college, I had not yet learned how to abound. The success I longed for endangered my soul.

I was not like William Wilberforce, who, upon the passing of his bill to abolish the British slave trade — which he spent his life on — marked the momentous victory by meditating on a single verse.

Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory,
   for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness! (Psalm 115:1)

He was branded with this verse. God seared it onto his labor and calling. And in time, he knew how to abound. This verse is the banner over the man or woman who has learned Paul’s secret: “Not to me, O God, not to me, but to your name give glory!” And should we fail to get noticed while living for God’s glory, we count it joy that God sees us and spares us from the dangers of praise.

Lord, Spare Me Infectious Success

Consider afresh what we have in Christ. We are sons and daughters of God. What else do we need? Let that free you. Christ is yours. Heaven is yours. Eternal glory will soon be yours.

Rejoice not that you have done great things, and do not lose sleep that no trophies collect dust on your banister. Rather, rejoice that your name is written in heaven. Let us be content decreasing in this world that he might increase, content ourselves walking the path of the nameless donkey that carried the Son into Jerusalem. We are freed to be no-ones on earth because we are known in heaven.

May God make us bold enough to pray,

Lord, spare me from the success that would threaten to undo me. Not all victories are good victories; not all triumphs will lead me home. Keep me from those achievements that would puff me up, those accomplishments that would tempt me to forget you.

You’ve taught me to pray, “Lead me not into temptation” — how slow I’ve been to realize the wisdom in all that might mean. But now, seeing my goals and hopes in proper scope, I ask you to do what is best, even if that means the death of my dreams. Not to me, O God, not to me, but to your name give glory, that your steadfast love and faithfulness might be put on display.

Greg Morse is a staff writer for desiringGod.org and graduate of Bethlehem College & Seminary. He and his wife, Abigail, live in St. Paul.

Daily Light – June 25, 2019

Scrolling for Significance

Why Do I Keep Clicking?

Article by Adam Pohlman, Pastor, Rochester, MN

I finally got the kids in bed. Exhausted and hoping to find something interesting in my all-too-normal day, I opened my social media network and began scrolling.

As I flicked through the feed my soul sank into further discontentment. I looked for something — anything — to grab my attention, but none of it satisfied. Advertisements bombarded me with suggestions to buy things I already purchased. Outrage spilled over from political conversations. The latest worldly proverb (on a flowery background) offered no lasting encouragement for my weary soul.

I knew there was nothing for me here, but I kept going. I was glued to it. Why?

Why do we keep scrolling when the first dozen flicks didn’t satisfy? Though my heart screams, “Enough!” why does my thumb keep moving on?

Ancient Problem

Life can feel boring at times. We rise early, toil all day, take a beating, and return home ready to crash before starting it all over again. Day after day, the same thing. We long to break the monotony. So we fall down on the couch to flip on the newest Netflix drama, settle into our chair to page through the day’s newspaper, open up the social-media feed to see whose life is more interesting. But far too easily the desire for something new becomes all-consuming.

While it is popular today to rant against the ills of streaming movies, video games, and social media, the pursuit of the new and exciting is an ancient problem. Paul encountered this problem in Acts 17 when he preached in Athens.

While Paul was waiting around for his companions, he looked around, provoked to see that the city was full of idols (Acts 17:16). These weren’t unthinking men and women that filled the city with false worship; this was idolatry with great sophistication. The brightest philosophers gathered together at the Areopagus to debate worldviews and promote the best religions for society. All viewpoints were welcome to this ancient form of social media to share their perspective on the world.

They were eager to find the latest trend, the most current news that they could add to their collection and spice up their conversation feed. They spent their entire days searching for the newest nugget of information that would add interest to life: “Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new” (Acts 17:21). They were always searching, never satisfied. So they welcomed Paul to the table. Perhaps he had something new to entertain.

Itch in Our Ears

The crowd Paul preached to in Athens was similar to a group he would later tell Timothy about: “The time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions” (2 Timothy 4:3). We might dismiss this warning as applying to prosperity preachers or religious cults, but the word Paul chooses in 2 Timothy 4:3 to warn his protégé — Greek knēthō, often translated itching— describes a curiosity to explore new things, an impulse to look “for interesting and juicy bits of information,” as one lexicon puts it.

The NET Bible draws out this nuance by translating the verse, “following their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves, because they have an insatiable curiosity to hear new things.” It reveals a heart that is not content, always searching for good news and never finding it. “Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied, and never satisfied are the eyes of man” (Proverbs 27:20).

This endless journey for good news manifests itself in our lives in many subtle ways: the continuous news feed that keeps us up-to-date on current events, the allure of the message notification while driving down the road, one more click on that suggestive website, the gossip chatter when you get together with friends, the appeal to obtain the latest gadget, the desire not to be left out of the conversation about the newest TV drama or sporting event.

It didn’t satisfy last time, but we can’t keep ourselves from trying again. What itching ears we have. Who will rescue us from this ceaseless itch? We need something from outside this cursed world to satisfy our flesh’s endless search.

Made for Another World

C.S. Lewis writes in Mere Christianity, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world” (136–37). Our desires are like that itch on the bottom of your foot while you are driving while wearing boots. They are impossible to scratch with anything in this world.

The only news that can truly satisfy our ears is the gospel. There is no new thing that will satisfy, only the old, old story which has been the best news for generations. Jesus alone avoided clawing at the itch as Satan tried to scratch his ear with temptations. Jesus endured with confidence in a greater reality to come. However, he willingly let the curse overcome him, though it could not destroy him. In his victorious resurrection, he guaranteed, to those who trust in him, permanent relief from the incessant itch to find meaning in any other news. The only path to life, fullness of joy, and ceaseless pleasures is following him (Psalm 16:11).

He promises to one day put an end to our fleshly pull into the dead ends of life. Until then, he has given us his Spirit and his word to always remind us of the greatest news that satisfies every itch. When the gossip fires flare up, when the message notification calls you to take your eyes off the road, when current events beg you to join in, let the words of God dwell in you more richly. “For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things” (Psalm 107:9).

Adam Pohlman is pastor of Redemption City Church in Rochester, Minnesota, and graduated from Bethlehem College & Seminary. He and his wife, Molly, have five children.

Daily Light – June 24, 2019

From David Niednagel, Pastor/Teacher (David uses the S.O.A.P. method in his daily time of study and meditation – study, observe, apply, pray)

2 Corinthians 5:16-21  The Greatest Exchange Ever

2 Cor. 5:16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.   NIV

Paul did not look at people with a normal worldly perspective of wealth, accomplishment, looks, status, etc. He knew everyone was passing away and would face judgment. His task was to appeal to them on behalf of Christ showing mercy to sinful people. Paul knew his own past and could tell everyone of Christ’s forgiveness and His gift of new life. God desired to reconcile broken, angry, guilty people to Himself, and He had brought about a wonderful, perfect plan to make it happen. 

We were sinners but Jesus was not. So God had Jesus trade places with us. He took all our sin, and put it on Jesus who became guilty with our guilt. Then He took Jesus’ perfect righteousness, which was way beyond anything we could ever achieve, and put that on us, making us perfect with His perfection! Amazing!!! Who would ever have dreamed up something like that?! Only a God who is gracious beyond anything we could ever imagine. Humans want to believe in a God who will overlook and/or forgive sin, but they would never think of God Himself being punished for our sin, and then giving us perfection we could not achieve. 

Lord Jesus, You are amazing! Thank You for paying the price we could not pay, and then giving us all of Your riches. Thank You for Your love and sacrifice. It is the least we could do to be ambassadors telling others not only what You have done for us, but what You are offering to them. What a wonderful message we have! Help me speak it with genuine gratitude and passion, wanting other to know You too. Amen

Daily Light – June 21, 2019

Let Your Waiting Say “I Trust You”

Article by Jani Ortlund, Guest Contributor

The question in my inbox was a familiar one: “For so long I have striven to put my life on the altar. I don’t even know how to pray about the longings I continue to feel. How do I give over to God the desires of my heart while still praying boldly about these strong — yet unmet — desires?”

We all struggle with questions like, “How long, Lord, will you ask me to wait? Why me? Why this? Why now?” As we press God for an answer, we try to remind ourselves that we belong to the God “who acts for those who wait for him” (Isaiah 64:4). But we feel that this waiting is forced upon us, and we wrestle with it. Wouldn’t a good God lift this oppressive burden? Why doesn’t he? When will he?

We pray, we groan, we cry to the only one who can act for us, but no matter where we turn, just like Job, we cannot see him anywhere around us (Job 23:38–9). He seems silent, and we try to fight down the fear that he might not fulfill this desire. We fret that he won’t come through for us. We fuss about what life might look like stretching out before us with this unfulfilled longing still beating in our heart. We wonder if it is a sin to keep longing, to keep praying, crying, groaning. How do we live well in that waiting space between asking and receiving?

Patient in Our Waiting

That’s where patience comes in — patience both with our own personal faith and with the God who calls us into this patience-producing faith.

Patience is not quite the same as waiting. While waiting is something we do, patience is something we offer. We wait because we must — we have little choice in the matter. But patience is our gift to our Father while we wait. In the silence, in the waiting, patience chooses to declare, “Lord, I love you. I know I don’t love you as I ought, but I want to love you more than your answer to my prayers. I will try to offer you my patient heart as long as you ask me to wait on this.”

What is patience? Patience looks like perseverance. James encourages us to quietly persevere like a farmer waiting for his crops to grow (James 5:7–11). Paul tells us to “be patient in tribulation” (Romans 12:12), calling us to bear up without complaint or anger in the midst of painful circumstances. And he reminds us that patience is one outworking of the Spirit’s ever-increasing life within us and proof that we belong to Christ Jesus (Galatians 5:22–24).

Patience proves our love for God and our trust that his plan is worth waiting for. Patience offers to our heavenly Father a calm heart. We repent of our agitation and annoyance at his seeming silence. We look calmly into the darkness around us, and we choose to believe what he tells us about himself, resting in the knowledge that truly he does see, he does know, he does care, despite how it appears in our present situation.

Love Lived Out

Patience is a beautiful way to live out our steadfast love for God. Paul tells us that real love is patient (1 Corinthians 13:4), and so we love God through our patience as we

tenaciously keep praying for that wandering child,

calmly absorb the dreaded diagnosis,

courageously bear up as we face our grievous goodbye,

diligently think through that unavoidable debt,

faithfully persevere through that less-than-exciting job, or

quietly accept God’s plan for our future, even when it differs from our dreams.

Patience, like every Christlike virtue, is nurtured in our love for God — a God who can be trusted in all his ways and in every circumstance. Patience displays our love for God. Patience says, “Lord, I love you more than my longed-for answer to this hard circumstance.” We can show God our love through our patient endurance as he tests the genuineness of our faith, a faith more precious than gold, a faith that can bring praise and glory and honor to Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:7).

The Key to Faithful Obedience

Patience is the key to faithful obedience, living out a peace-filled surrender to God’s ways and will. Think with me how patience can help us embrace the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:3–17):

A patient heart helps us be satisfied with God as our only God. He becomes enough — always and forever.

A patient heart helps us worship God as he has asked us to — without crowding our hearts with godlets of our own desires.

A patient heart remembers whose holy name we take and helps us bear a family resemblance to our firstborn Brother.

Patience helps us step out of our demanding schedules so that we develop a God-centered schedule.

Patience helps us offer gratitude and respect to our less-than-perfect parents.

A patient believer is a life-giver, not a life-drainer.

A patient heart is fortified against sexual temptation and marital mayhem.

Patience turns grasping hoarders into generous givers, because a greater reward awaits us.

A patient heart helps us be truth-tellers, because we know that when God’s purposes are all fulfilled and all wrongs finally righted, God will bear a true witness about his servants.

A patient heart can tell God, “When I have you, I need nothing else.”

Patience is loving God through a contented heart. It is the composure that helps us pause long enough to ask ourselves, “What is it about God that I don’t understand in this situation? Why am I so restless? Why isn’t God enough for me here?” Patience takes us deeper into the heart of God. It creates a sense of expectancy for tomorrow because of God’s goodness, which he has “stored up for those who fear [him]” (Psalm 31:19).

We never know what goodness God might pour out on us in the days ahead!

All We Need

Patience is loving God enough to say, “Thank you,” even for the difficult things. True patience, throughout the life-altering and soul-shattering experiences between birth and heaven, is a humble gift we offer up to God. And he is the one who enables us to offer him that gift.

Paul tells us that it is the might of his glory that strengthens us with all power “for all endurance and patience with joy” (Colossians 1:11). Ultimately, patience is the risen Christ living in us as we proclaim, “If I have Jesus, I have all that I need.”

Jani Ortlund (@RenewalM) is the wife of Ray Ortlund, serves as vice president of Renewal Ministries, and podcasts at He Restores My Soul.

Daily Light – June 20, 2019

How to Fight When You Fail

Article by David Sunday, Pastor, St. Charles, Illinois

I’m not writing for those who think they’ve got little sin problems. If you imagine you’re getting an A-, or at least a C+, in self-sanctification, you probably won’t resonate with what I’m saying.

I’m writing for the Christian who’s reading this a few hours after you’ve fallen sexually. I’m thinking of the deacon who has just exploded in anger at his children. Or the campus ministry leader who went to college with every intention of following Jesus, but is now waking up with a hangover and can’t remember what she did the night before. I’m writing for the pastor who told a lie in last night’s elder meeting. Or the Bible study leader who became Peter-the-Denier when her upper-class neighbor asked her if she really thinks that everyone who does not believe in Jesus Christ will go to hell.

For all who are weary of struggling with sin, I want you to be able to face your most disappointing failures without drowning in despair.

Gutsy Guilt

Let me tell you about gutsy guilt. John Piper first introduced me to this idea — and his teaching on this has sustained and strengthened me for over a quarter of a century of being “tempted, tried, and sometimes failing.” Piper found an example of “gutsy guilt, bold brokenness, confident contrition, rugged remorse” in the words of the prophet Micah, who teaches us how to fight when we have fallen.

But as for me, I will look to the Lord;
     I will wait for the God of my salvation;
     my God will hear me.
Rejoice not over me, O my enemy;
     when I fall, I shall rise;
when I sit in darkness,
     the Lord will be a light to me.
I will bear the indignation of the Lord
     because I have sinned against him,
until he pleads my cause
     and executes judgment for me.
He will bring me out to the light;
     I shall look upon his vindication.
Then my enemy will see,
     and shame will cover her who said to me,
     “Where is the Lord your God?”
My eyes will look upon her;
     now she will be trampled down
     like the mire of the streets. (Micah 7:7–10)

Do Not Delay

It seems counterintuitive to sin and then immediately to fall on your knees and say, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” We harbor in our hearts the false belief that, somehow, we have to pay for our sins — just a little.

But repentance isn’t groveling. You repent when you agree with God that your sin is wicked and flee to the only one who can do helpless sinners any good. So, what if after you’ve sinned you didn’t grovel for a week, but instead ran immediately to the Savior who “came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15)?

Micah shows us that even at our very worst, there remains a God in heaven who will not reject repentant sinners. “Look to him,” Micah says — “the sooner, the better!”

Satan loves to tempt you, trap you, and then taunt you with your guilt. He loves to watch you wallow in the mire of your misery. He wants you to embrace failure as your identity. Micah says, “Don’t listen to those lies. Call on the Lord. Do not delay. Fight when you fail.” And he shows us how in verses 8–10.

Talk Back to the Enemy

Rejoice not over me, O my enemy;     when I fall, I shall rise;when I sit in darkness,     the Lord will be a light to me. (Micah 7:8)

Here is a vivid and dramatic rebuttal to Satan’s prosecution — a complete reversal of his accusatory strategy. The heart of faith defies despair. Faith refuses to believe that our sin is the end of God’s story for our life.

The tempter is a cruel tyrant who wants to terrify you with the greatness of your sins. Learn to turn his own weapon back on himself, like Martin Luther did:

When you say I am a sinner, you give me armor and weapons against yourself, so that with your own sword I may cut your throat and tread you under my feet, for Christ died for sinners. As often as you object that I am a sinner, so often you remind me of the benefit of Christ my Redeemer on whose shoulders and not on mine lie all my sins. So when you say I’m a sinner, you do not terrify me, but comfort me immeasurably.

Submit to God’s Discipline

I will bear the indignation of the Lord     because I have sinned against him,until he pleads my cause     and executes judgment for me.He will bring me out to the light;     I shall look upon his vindication. (Micah 7:9)

Gutsy guilt doesn’t shrink from the real-life consequences of sin. The fiery wrath of God’s holy condemnation of our sin has been extinguished at the cross, but the fatherly anger of God’s displeasure at our sin is a sign of our adoption into his family. When God disciplines us, he treats us as his sons and daughters (Hebrews 12:7). His anger is bathed in love, aimed at restoration, and results in what is good for us.

God’s discipline is also temporary. Notice the hope-filled word until in Micah 7:9: “until he pleads my cause.” Here’s where Satan’s theology and the gospel collide. Satan says, “See how God is disciplining you? That’s proof he’s against you.” But the gospel says, “He will champion my cause and establish justice for me. He will bring me into the light; I will see his salvation.”

Yes, God is able to keep you from stumbling when you look to him for strength in the face of temptation. But when you do stumble, he is able to keep your stumbling from destroying you. He will “present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy” (Jude 24).

In the end, the enemy is going to witness the vindication of God’s blood-bought children. By grace, through faith, we will be righteous and shine like the sun in our Father’s kingdom (Matthew 13:43). And we will look upon the enemies of our soul, and see them trampled down like dirt and mud on the streets — it doesn’t get any lower than that. That’s Satan’s destiny (Micah 7:10).

Fuel for Our Fight

Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity     and passing over transgression     for the remnant of his inheritance?He does not retain his anger forever,     because he delights in steadfast love.He will again have compassion on us;     he will tread our iniquities underfoot.You will cast all our sins     into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:18–19)

When you fail, fall on him. He won’t resent your repeated returns to his throne of mercy. He’s not sighing or sulking when he sees you trembling at his feet. He delights to show mercy. As Richard Sibbes writes“He is more ready . . . to forgive than you to sin; as there is a continual spring of wickedness in you, so there is a greater spring of mercy in God.”

Imagine being with Moses and the children of Israel on the far shore of the Red Sea. You’ve just watched Pharaoh and his army disappear into the depths of the sea, never to torment you again. Someday that’s what’s going to happen to your sin.

Thrown into a sea without bottom or shore,
Our sins they are many, his mercy is more. (“His Mercy Is More”)

Many a preacher has repeated this memorable saying — but when you’ve failed, it will do you great good to preach it to yourself: When God throws your sin into the sea of forgetfulness, he puts up a sign that says, “No fishing allowed.”

David Sunday is the senior pastor of New Covenant Bible Church in St. Charles, Illinois.