Monday Message

The Monday Message offers a chance to further reflect on the Sunday sermon.  This email based devotional is designed to help us continue to wrestle with God’s Word during the week. If you are not receiving this message you can sign up here.

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Wisdom for Trials

2 My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; 4 and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing. - James 1:2-4

This advice given to us by James, the brother of Jesus, makes a lot of sense. We learn in life. Our faith grows as we successfully face trials. I have heard it said that the difference between head knowledge and life knowledge is that life knowledge is head knowledge that passes through our hands. The information about our faith only becomes ours when we experience it to be true in life. So of course, the trials we face are opportunities to bring us to maturity in faith, lacking nothing.

Even though that makes a whole lot of sense, we are more often surprised when we come to times of trial. Instead of facing trials with joy so that our faith will be proven, we assume the fact that there is a trial is proof that faith does not work. “Shouldn’t God protect us from all of that?” we wonder instead. We find that we are all too easily swamped… that our hands seem to fumble with the opportunities to hold our faith in our trials.

That is why the next thing that James says is so important. He writes, “If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you.” If any of you are fumbling with it, having a hard time applying it, questioning why you have to do it, or just downright not understanding, here is what you do: ask God for wisdom. Ask God to help us with this application process, this maturing process, this filling process, this understanding process, this going through trials of any kind to find ourselves complete, lacking in nothing.

If you are anything like me, you could use a prayer for wisdom. So whether that is within a specific situation you are facing or just a general need to ask God for help, let’s pray:

Jesus, we confess the ways we need help. We know that you have promised to give wisdom to us when we ask. So, we ask for wisdom in this moment. We ask for wisdom to see and understand and experience faith passing through our hands in life in the particular situations we are struggling with (here is a good place to name those). We also ask for wisdom for the rest of the trials we will face today.



Garden of Gethsemane

9 For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. - Colossians 1:9-10

I often have conversations with people who are wrestling with their faith. Several times, I have wanted so badly to believe for them. I wanted to tell them, “It is true! I know you are having a hard time believing it, right now. So, let me believe for you… attach yourself to my belief and I will carry you through!”

But faith does not work that way. At some point, each person must come to the place of belief on their own. At some point, each person must wrestle until they come to the place of trusting God’s will… of praying, “Thy will be done.” (Matt. 26:39, 42)

This last weekend, we witnessed this in the life of Jesus. Jesus never wavered in his belief in God, but he wrestled with what this meant for his life. In the Garden of Gethsemane, he prayed about the things he knew he was walking into because of his obedience. He prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me.” (Matt. 26:39, 42)

Jesus was not alone in the garden. His disciples were with him. But he left them a short distance away. This time of wrestling was something he needed to do alone. So, too, do we each come to times where we must wrestle with our faith or the ways it directs us. We cannot spare another person that wrestling.

But Jesus’ disciples were not without a role to play in the Garden of Gethsemane. He asked them to stand watch and support him. He asked them to pray as he wrestled. In this way, he was not alone. In this way, none of us need to be alone. We cannot walk the road of faith for people, but we can pray and stand with them so that they know they are not alone.

As you wrestle in life, find people who will pray for you! Then become such a person for others. Become a person who prays that those around you “may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” (Col. 1:10) Together, we will be able to believe and pray, “Lord, let your will be done in my life.”

Jesus, we ask that you fill us with the knowledge of your will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding. We also ask that you help us to be people who stand alongside of and pray for those around us. In this way, let us become those who live from a place of vibrant faith and witness. We pray this in Jesus’ name, amen.


A Mountaintop Experience

1Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. - Matthew 17:1-8

In 1996, I was invited to be a leader on the high school mission trip to Ensenada, Mexico. I had no idea what to expect. I knew we’d be sleeping in tents alongside some 1,000 other high school kids and that we would be working in a small village leading Vacation Bible School – but beyond that I was not too sure what the week would look like. As the week came to a close, and the group participated in a debrief of the week’s activities, I found myself on cloud nine. It was one of the most powerful spiritual experiences of my life.

We began the day with 1,000 voices singing worship songs and being inspired by a great speaker. Then we headed out to our little village of Villa Zapata and played with kids all day, sharing food and the word of God with them. We laughed and cried. We worked hard and we played hard. And at the end of the day, there was more worship music and yet another shared message. It was God from all sides.

To be honest, I didn’t want to leave. My life at home was nothing like this. I was working for Countrywide Home Loans at the time, and my work day was not particularly spiritually fulfilling. I had never experienced God in such a consistent and powerful way as I had in the dirt of Ensenada. Why would I want to go anywhere else? This was it. I should move here. I should never leave. I’ll set up my tent and just serve the kids of Mexico the rest of my days. It was never going to get any better than this.

When Peter is on the mountain with Jesus, he has an extraordinary God encounter – so powerful that he suggests to Jesus that he will build booths (tents or some kind of temporary housing) so that they can stay there on the mountaintop. But Jesus is pretty clear that he doesn’t see the top of the mountain as the final destination. Jesus has brought these three disciples here to have a very unique experience with God, to hear the voice of God – and then it’s time to come back off the mountain to continue the work that Jesus has called them to.

How have your mountaintop experiences shaped you? Once you were there, did you want to stay there? Do you find yourself trying to recreate those same experiences rather than allowing God to take you to new mountaintops? And when you’re with Jesus, do you do more talking or more listening? “While Peter was still talking….” Jesus has a desire to reveal more, and God’s voice has to interrupt Peter’s talking in order that he can he heard. Do you talk over God? The voice that comes says – “Listen to him” (Jesus). Are you listening? by Keenan Barber

Prayer – As the season of Lent begins, I pray that you would find time to listen to Jesus and from that time of listening, grow closer to Him and hear his voice more clearly. 


Gospel Inheritance

11In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, 12so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. - Ephesians 1:11-12

We tend to think in terms of money and buying power when we think about inheritance. Often that is how an inheritance is quantified. But, then again, we tend to quantify most things that way. There is a part of inheritance that resists this pull.

A friend of mine graduated college and stepped into an inheritance in his family’s business. While this was a lucrative inheritance, it was also a call upon his life. He was invited into a way of life, an ethic, and a mission that had been his family’s for generations.

In our text, the apostle Paul likens the gospel to an inheritance. In many ways, our inheritance in Christ provides us with purchasing power in life. We find that God provides us with the wherewithal to move through both good and bad times with grace and goodness beyond our capabilities.

But it is also an inheritance that invites us into a way of life. We find that we are part of the family business of love, peace, and redemption in Christ. We are invited into a life that results in “the praise of his glory.” The inheritance of Jesus is to be invited into life that takes part in the glory of God.

Jesus, we confess the ways that we get caught up in so many other narratives in life. We need reminding that our inheritance is to be part of your glory on this earth. Teach us to set our hope in Christ that we might live for the praise of his glory this day at work, at home, in the car, in relationships, in silence, and each step of the way. In Jesus’ name, amen.


Gospel Love in Forgiveness

7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace 8 that he lavished on us. - Ephesians 1:7-8


I often get the sense that there is a growing reluctance to repent. I am not sure if that is a cultural thing or just a thing that is growing in people around me. People work hard to hide, deny, or shift the blame for any brokenness or dysfunction in their lives. I get it. Life is hard enough as is without having to face the shame or guilt from our deficiencies.

Naturally, this creates a bit of tension when it comes to faith. The line from the church for too long has been driven by a perspective of an angry God looking to punish. I’m not sure if that really is anyone’s perspective. But a lot of people assume it is part of the package.

Not long ago, I got the sense that more was going on with God than anger at sin. For one, I became convinced that repentance is a relational thing with God more than a transactional thing. What I mean by that is that it is not like wart removal where God is just trying to zap as many blemishes as quickly and efficiently as possible. Rather, he knows us. It is part of his desire to be known by us better.

That is when this verse started to reframe things for me. It begins as we would expect. There is a connection between repentance and Jesus’ sacrifice for us. It is costly because it is important. It opens the way for forgiveness. But then there is this part about “the riches of his grace” and lavishing upon us. That doesn’t sound like God effectively and efficiently taking care of a problem. One does not lavish payment on a debt.

I began to wonder if God isn’t doing something else here… telling us something else. God is making a show of forgiveness. God is being lavish because our repentance is an opportunity for us to discover just how extravagant his love is for us. Perhaps it is our best opportunity to come to know the God who is not afraid to step into the darkest valleys to comfort and protect, to bring us to a place of wholeness in him.

So, maybe, just maybe, our reluctance to repent denies God the opportunity to do the thing he most desires to do. God wants to lavish upon us his love and grace. What better place to do it than where we are afraid we are least deserving.

Jesus, sometimes it is hard to believe the extent of your patience, your grace, and your love. I confess the ways I hide the worst of me from you for fear that you will not love me. Show me now the lavishness of your grace and love for me that I might believe not only for me but for the world. In Jesus’ name, amen.