by Emily McAuliff
I don’t like to feel weak and broken. And I definitely don’t like to be seen as weak and broken. This is true of me in my parenting oftentimes and it leads to misery in our home. But the Lord, in his kindness, through his Word, is showing me the beauty of weakness and brokenness.
Earlier this year, I spent about 13 weeks studying the book of Hebrews. About halfway through I started to focus in on the blood of the old covenant versus the blood of the new covenant. I found myself asking, “What was it about Jesus’ blood that gave it the power to atone for sin?” I’m sure I’ve thought many times that it was simply because Jesus is God. But the more I read, the more I realized that this answer doesn’t cover it. (Maybe that sounds crazy?) I found the writer of Hebrews was saying something more.
In Hebrews 8, I was struck by Jeremiah’s words about the new covenant to come. Verse 10 says, “I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts.” Why couldn’t God put his laws in minds and hearts under the old covenant? There was no power in the sacrifices of the old covenant to “perfect the conscience of the worshiper.” (9:9) The blood of the sacrificial system in the temple was ineffective for sanctification and could not reach minds and hearts. The writer of Hebrews goes on to say that “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” (10:4)
We don’t need a priest, standing daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices which can never take away sins. We need Christ who offered, for all time, a single sacrifice for sins and then sat down at the right hand of God. (10:11-12) And He did that, not only because He is God, but because He was made like us in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God – to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because He Himself has suffered when tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted. (2:17-18)
God saw fit to make the founder of our salvation perfect through suffering. (2:10) It wasn’t only that Jesus was perfectly God but that He was also perfectly man. He took on all the weakness and all the brokenness that plagues us. And in that brokenness and weakness, He lived in full obedience to the Father. His blood has all the power to atone because He remained sinless for us while He was weak and broken like us.
My study of Hebrews ended months ago, but I continue to ponder my weakness and brokenness in light of what I learned. I want to embrace my brokenness and proclaim my weakness because Christ knows it better than anyone and He always lives to make intercession for me (7:25). His blood is speaking for my forgiveness and atonement. (12:24) It is here that I find encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before me, (6:18) here where I find confidence to draw near to the throne of grace, to receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (4:16) My prayer is that my parenting (and my whole life) is marked by brokenness so that my only boast is Christ.
by Brittany Vallejo
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Rev. 21:5
Don’t you just love when what you are studying in your personal quiet time lines up exactly with what your pastor is preaching, AND your missional community just happens to be learning about it too? I really love this because it is like God is using a megaphone to tell me, “pay attention!” In this season, the common theme I keep encountering is the amazing Creation Story and the beautiful Redemption Story that are one and the same.
It started back in September when we began the homeschool year in the book of Genesis. We learned the beauty of the six days of creation (and the seventh day of Sabbath rest taken by God) – kind of standard stuff – but I wasn’t exactly prepared for all the questions that little minds want to know. They sent us into a deep, but delightful, journey exploring creation and the awesome plan that God had written for humanity before it even began. We began exploring the mystery of dinosaurs – “where did they go?”. We researched the flood and fossils and asked questions like, “how did Noah feed all those animals? “and, “should we all be vegetarians because Adam and Eve may have been?” Our journey took us to Egyptian history and the study of tombs, cartouches, hieroglyphics, and most recently, mummies.
While these things were fascinating and illuminating on their own, there was a common thread woven through each story: everything and everyone is dying. It’s a concept so simple and so obvious, yet so neglected in our everyday activities. It all sounds so sad when you think about it. My daughter says, “See that pretty flower? It’s dying. Oh, those horses in the field? Dying. Gramma and Grampa? Dying.”
A morbid thought, and yet it’s the truth! Since the Fall of man, everything and everyone, from the moment they are born or start growing—starts to die. Why? The simple answer (and what I tell my kids over and over) is that sin messed everything up. Because of sin, everything is in a state of decay and that is why there is sadness, and boo-boos, and COVID, and death.
BUT GOD, who is rich in mercy and abounding in love, has been (and will continue to be) redeeming and restoring everything back to its original purpose which is to glorify the Maker. He is making all things new, including our hearts which is the best news ever! So when we mess up: He is making us new through his grace and forgiveness. When we face trials: He is refining us to be more like Him. We can see the joy and beauty in all of his (dying) creation because He is making all things new. We can take heart because through Jesus we are made new.
So the next time you see the death of those beautiful autumn leaves that we love so much, pause and remember that He is making you new as well.
"You don’t have to bow to your feelings.”
Sounds pretty simple, right? My emotions have a place, and rightly so, God made us to be feeling creatures, but emotions shouldn’t have the final say about what is true in a situation. God, in his severe mercy, has given me a number of opportunities to practice this lately.
I have been thinking about the analogy of being a racquetball court instead of a sponge. I think somewhere along the way I got this idea from the book, Loving the Little Years, by Rachel Jankovich. For me, being a racquetball court (and not a sponge) means I don’t have to absorb other’s emotions around me and take them all in. When I absorb the emotions of my kids, for instance, I become enslaved to them. Or if I absorb the frustrations of others, I think I must “fix it”. Rather, the wall of the racquetball court feels the hit, the sting even, of the ball, yet it lets it go.
If I am a sponge with my kids, it means that when they are happy, I am happy. When they are mad, I am mad. When they are scared, I am scared. We can logically see how this is not helpful when we take a step back. Thankfully, God is not like this with us – taking on our emotions, being changed by them, and responding in kind. Yes, He weeps with those who weep and clearly and vividly displays emotion! Yet, He is not controlled by other’s emotions or his own.
Most of us can identify with being trapped in the endless cycle of FEEL – ACT – FEEL – ACT. We are reminded in 1 Peter 5:7 to cast all our anxieties on Jesus because He cares for us. I imagine throwing emotion onto Jesus, knowing He can handle it, and asking Him to lead me in the truth, then bowing in submission to that truth, not bowing to my ever-changing emotion.
In his phenomenal book, A Loving Life, Paul Miller says this about Naomi as we see her at the beginning of the book of Ruth:
“Naomi neither suppresses her feelings nor is trapped by them. She didn’t have to act on her feelings. She felt anguish, yet she was free from the tyranny of her feelings … if we follow (our feelings) we become trapped by them.”
Naomi is dealing with great pain and anguish – and most of her anguish comes because she trusts that God is Sovereign and good, but she can’t see it in her circumstance.
There is something liberating about not being trapped in our feelings; being able to feel and lament and love deeply – yes! – but not having to act on every emotion that rears its head up. Satan may prowl around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour – whether through internal suppressed emotion, or explosive words, or anything else, but the truth is: Jesus IS the Lion of the tribe of Judah. Jesus is the Lion. While Satan prowls like a lion, his power is limited by the power of the true Lion – the eternal King.
As I was driving to pick up my kids from school this week, I was in the midst of “knife fighting with the devil” as my husband lovingly says, internally fighting between my flesh-driven instincts and thoughts (the barbarians roaming the streets of my mind), OR looking up to Jesus, attempting to sing and proclaim THE truth louder than the thoughts in my mind, and this worship song by Phil Wickham came on leading me to worship and to the truth of freedom in Christ:
“Out of the silence, the roaring Lion declared
The grave has NO claim on me!
Hallelujah! Praise the one who set me free.
Hallelujah! Death has lost it’s grip on me.
You have broken every chain!
Jesus Christ – my Living Hope.”
This King has delivered us from the tyranny of ourselves if we belong to Him. We are not held hostage by emotions, or our past, or our sin. We are filled with and empowered by the Spirit to kick out the lies, for me, it’s the fake conversations I’m having with others in my mind, particularly if I’ve been hurt or am angry. We can replace these with the truth.
The Lord has delivered me from myself; the Lord IS delivering me from myself. All I have to do fall into dependence on and look up instead of down, planning my response in my own strength by staring intently at the circumstance.
Submitting to the Lord and leaning into him instead of our natural flesh-driven responses, having to wait and trust, can lead us into sweet moments of worship. Even the sins of others, or choices of others, are allowed by God to impact me because it drives me to Him in dependence which becomes a sweet opportunity for growth and sanctification.
This is soul work. This is good work. And it’s also a knife fight with the devil.
by Kelly Shipp
School began yesterday for our family. Our kids have nervous excitement about some brand new beginnings, seeing old friends and meeting new ones. We’ve done most of our school shopping (and I’m kicking myself for losing track of my TI-84 graphing calculator). We are ready, but this is not the readiness we remember. This school year is not beginning the way we envisioned. For us, and for each of your families, we are in unfamiliar territory and the terrain is uncharted.
It can be easy to slide into confusion and fear when we’re in an unfamiliar place.
When the freed Israelites were faced with a great unknown, they sang this to the Lord:
“In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling.”
They praised God as they faced their uncertain future because, in reality, there was very much that was certain.
Our God never stops loving us, even in our doubt and fear. He never stops leading us because we are his people. He will not let us go because He has saved us. He is strong, He is good, and He is in control. Jesus comforts us, his disciples:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me.”
Paul tells us:
“We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
God is not surprised by the beginning of this school year, and it’s going exactly to plan. Our kids are resilient, and they’re going to learn, because that’s what kids do.
Our main job as parents this fall? Cling to Jesus. Our kids will follow our lead and will grow and thrive in a home atmosphere that makes Jesus beautiful.
“All things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
The Lord will meet you in amazing ways during this time. I am praying for each of your families.
by Anne Bridges
Back in March, my husband started working from home due to coronavirus. We were thankful that decision had been made and that, for the most part, things were status quo for us. Then, in April, he found out (by accident) that he was getting furloughed. Cue some initial anger, bitterness, fear … you name it – we were feeling it.
I immediately started looking at where we could make changes in our budget (which of our bills could be renegotiated to get better rates) and I started to panic a little. We were now in the waiting game, wondering if he would still have a job when things started to reopen. Employees started to return to his office but he was informed his furlough would continue. Not a good sign. We were ready for a decision to be made.
About two and a half weeks into his furlough, he was called in and told he was being laid off. By then, we had anticipated this was going to happen but it did not make it any easier to accept.
Now, we are waiting for unemployment to process and waiting to see what opportunity will be the best for our family. Will we still be here? Will we have to move? How long will we be waiting? What will school look like in August? How long can we financially manage before we have to make some major decisions? These are all the things that have been weighing heavily on me.
The Lord has graciously given me a husband who reminds me that God promises to take care of us. It might look different than what I would plan, and may not happen when I want it to happen, but He will take care of us. It will be better than what I could plan. It never seems to fail that what I’m reading in scripture – or even the devotions I do with our kids – directly relates to our current circumstances. It could be about God’s promises, his knowledge of our fears/anxiety/worries, or waiting on the Lord and having a quiet heart.
Matthew 6:25 says:
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
Throughout this time, we have seen provision in many ways – unexpected financial gifts, greater patience with each other, recognizing that being laid off freed us from a place that was not the best environment. I’m still annoyed about how everything happened, but my heart is changing. I am learning to rest in the knowledge that we have a Father who cares for us and that provision doesn’t always look like what I expect. I am beginning to see this time of uncertainty as a time to strengthen my faith and grow as a wife and mom.
My prayer is, that as we walk through this uncertain and unknown time, our kids will see parents who trust confidently in the Lord during difficult times.
A Liturgy for a Time of Widespread Suffering
A beautiful, liturgical prayer from the folks at Rabbit Room.
Christ Our King,
Our world is overtaken by unexpected
calamity, and by a host of attending fears,
worries, and insecurities.
We witness suffering, confusion, and
hardship multiplied around us, and we find
ourselves swept up in these same anxieties and
troubles, dismayed by so many uncertainties.
Now we turn to you, O God,
in this season of our common distress.
Be merciful, O Christ, to those who suffer,
to those who worry, to those who grieve, to
those who are threatened or harmed in any
way by this upheaval. Let your holy compassions
be active throughout the world even now—
tending the afflicted, comforting the
brokenhearted, and bringing hope to
many who are hopeless.
Use even these hardships to woo our hearts MORE
by Cheri Ryan
Last week, during a family devotional on God’s omnipotence, one of my children asked, “Why doesn’t God change Satan’s heart and help him become a Christian; so that we don’t have to worry about him being in the world, trying to trick us?” This is not a question that has an easy answer, especially for a first grader. I pointed her towards God’s glory; that one of the mysteries of this life is that things that look and feel bad often draw us closer to God, which leads to greater worship and glory for Him. Her question was another reminder of a truth that the Spirit has been nudging me about over the past few months about the sovereignty of God.
When the world is full of such uncertainty, I find myself tempted to succumb to worry and anxiety about the future. Every time I say, “I know God is sovereign but …” I reveal that, in my heart, I’m ordering the world in a way where man is big, sin is big, and God is small. When faced with a virus that has no vaccine and limited treatment, when faced with a country that is divided by 400 years of racial injustice, when faced with economic uncertainty the likes of which haven’t been seen for 100 years, I have to ask, “Why does God allow such things?”
I find comfort in verses like Proverbs 16:33 that says every outcome that seems like luck or fate actually belongs to the Lord. Acts 2:23 reminds us that Jesus’ trial and death were both fully within the “definite plan and foreknowledge of God.” In John 19:11, Jesus states, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.” What do these verses have in common? God’s control never falters, never fails. Even the worst event in the history of all humanity, the murder of God himself, was firmly within God’s power and control.
How does this apply to my life, as we start to emerge from our isolation into a world that feels very changed? For me, these truths point me towards two conclusions:
- Trust in God’s sovereignty and goodness is the antidote to my worry and fear.
- God’s will and God’s way often does not look like anything I would design and may come about in a manner that looks hard and that I want to avoid.
When my anxious thoughts threaten to edge out my faithful ones, or when my flesh recoils from the hardships before me, I can turn to the One who is fully in control and, through prayer, pour out those worries and doubts.
Through the work of the Spirit, something has changed in me these past few weeks. I’m still concerned that my asthmatic daughter may get respiratory distress due to Covid-19, but I’m not overwhelmed. I know God’s provision for my family may look very different than a financial planner’s advice for our future, but I won’t hoard our resources out of fear that God’s provision won’t be enough. And when speaking to my daughters about why there is suffering and temptation at all in a world that God made, I point them to prayer, inviting the Spirit to rest with us, even if we’re worried. I remind them (and myself) to take their eyes off the sin and rest them fully on the Savior. He didn’t save Himself from ultimate suffering because of his love for us and his trust in the Father. Therefore, I will strive to embrace his call on my life, both the good and the hard, out of love and trust in Him.
I visited the construction site of our new facility this week to provide an update on our progress. I also shared briefly some thoughts about our plans to reopen in-person worship and what you can do to help us prepare to do that well.
The Lord's Table
Perhaps the most heart wrenching aspect of not being together in person is that we do not take the Lord's Table together every week. It's not ideal for us to partake of the sacrament online, but as it is one of the means of grace we do not want to neglect it. Therefore, we have decided to have a time for the Lord's Table next Sunday, May 24, 2020.
We are aware that some feel a conviction not to take the Lord's Supper until we can truly be in communion together face-to-face. We completely understand and support your decision not to partake. We suggest simply using the time to pray.
If you will be joining together with us for The Lord's Table, here's all you need to know to be prepared:
THE BREAD | The Scripture tells us that Jesus broke bread when he instituted the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. Most likely he had a loaf of unleavened bread. Any loaf of bread will do, or you can use crackers (especially if you are avoiding gluten.)
THE WINE | Jesus instituted the sacrament using wine. Many people prefer to use grape juice instead, but any drink made from grapes would be sufficient.
Although we refer to them as the body and blood of Jesus Christ, the bread and wine do not actually change. Nevertheless, something very real and very profound occurs spiritually. When we take communion, the Holy Spirit is present. He communicates Jesus to us and makes us present with Him in Heaven. However, physically Jesus remains at the right hand of the Father and does not come and “hide” within the bread and the wine.
Before the worship gathering:
- Set aside a small portion of bread for each person who will be partaking. This should be the size of one bite.
- Set aside a small portion of drink in any kind of glass for each person who will be participating. Just one swallow’s amount is sufficient.
- The preparation of the elements should be done with the reverence and honor due to the sacrament, but there is no special blessing or ritual necessary.
After the worship gathering, if you have bread or wine left over, you can dispose of them as you normally would. Again, they remain simply bread and wine.
PREPARING OURSELVES SPIRITUALLY
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.
Sin does not make us unworthy to take the Table. Indeed, only those who know they are sinners saved by grace, are worthy. The Heidelberg Catechism says that “those who are displeased with themselves because of their sins” are welcome at the Lord’s Supper.
We examine ourselves by acknowledging and repenting of our sins, and determining to seek reconciliation with others when possible, and relying upon our Savior Jesus for forgiveness.
If you find that you are unwilling to repent, it would not be wise to partake of the Sacrament. Instead you should pray and ask God to help you to truly hate your sin and to give you the resolve to recommit yourself to obedience.
WHO SHOULD PARTAKE?
In your household, only those who are believers in Jesus Christ and who have been examined by the elders of the Church and found to have a credible profession of faith should partake of the sacrament. This means that if you have not-yet-believers staying with you, they should not take communion. If you have young children who have not yet been baptized and have not yet made a profession of faith, they should not take communion.
Everyone who believes in Jesus Christ, and has examined themselves and can partake in a worthy manner, should take communion.
Those who are unable to participate are encouraged to spend the moment in contemplative prayer, perhaps asking God to reveal Himself to them in a new way.
HOW WILL THIS WORK?
Pastor Ryan will walk us through this time of communion, explaining each of the elements and then giving you a moment to eat and drink each of them. We recommend placing the elements in a spot where everyone can reach them, and then allowing each person to serve themselves as Ryan leads.
We look forward to the coming day when we will be able to enjoy this moment of communion face to face. Until then, know we are praying for you to experience the grace of God in other ways as He is always with us.