May 27, 2019

Today you should read: Strong Churches Speak the Language of Lament

Before we dive into Esther tomorrow, we thought it’d be helpful for our church to read the above article on strong churches learning how to lament after reading through the book of Lamentations. Too often, churches publically proclaim the victory and triumph of the Lord while publically pretending that suffering and hardships are not a part of God’s plan or future. Of course, anyone who reads the Bible or in general lives life knows that’s not true. This is a great article revealing how we as a church can balance both truths.

By: Erik Koliser — West Campus Pastor


May 25, 2019

Today you should read: Lamentations 5

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” The fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22 sounds great, especially after reading Lamentations 5. The book of Lamentations is one of the best earthly examples of the price-tag for sin. Here is a vivid look at sin’s consequences.

So much of the Babylonian Exile is a figurative undoing of God’s Covenant with Israel. Of course, God’s covenants are irrevocable, but it’s as if God has said, “If you don’t want to have a relationship with me, here’s a taste of what life would look like without me in it.”—and it ain’t pretty.  

God’s promise to Abraham was land, seed, and blessing. In verse 2, Israel’s reproach is that their “inheritance,” the Land, “has been turned over to strangers.” Abraham’s seed has become orphans and widows (3), with no one within a generation to “be fruitful and multiply.” Finally, the blessing that God promised has been lost, for instance, no longer is the Land “overflowing with milk and honey,” but even water and wood must be purchased (4).

The fruit of the Spirit isn’t simply a call for obedience, it is a gift received by a relationship with God through Christ. The verse that jumped out to me was verse 5 that said, “Our pursuers are at our necks; We are worn out, there is no rest for us.” Rest is a keyword when considering God’s promises.  Ultimately, God’s Covenant with Abraham, especially in the Promised Land, was a taste of the eternal rest we find in the Lord when we enter into the hereafter. When I read verse 5, I immediately thought of the Galatians 5. Sin’s consequences is exactly opposite of the fruit of the Spirit—not only does sin not have the capacity for love, but sin cannot experience or appreciate the love of another. Sin doesn’t bring joy or peace, but frustration and unrest. We can keep going, but I’ll leave that to you, as you see examples in this chapter of despair.

Lamentations ends without a real ending. There is a plea for restoration (21), but it’s qualified with “Unless You have utterly rejected us and are exceedingly angry with us.” There is an incredible truth in that awful statement—only the Lord brings real hope. Restoration will only come from the Lord. Finally, Israel understands that for them to experience love, joy, peace, etc., it must come from the Lord. If the Lord has really abandoned them, they are hopeless and they know it—and sometimes that’s a great place to start.

If you’re in a season of difficulty, I hope you’re encouraged. First, things could always be worse. Second, even if God allows believers to experience the consequences of their sin, it is only in part. For those of us in Christ, our eternity is sure—and our eternity is one characterized by rest. God’s promises are irrevocable and even the Babylonian Exile had an ending.

By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate

May 24, 2019

Today you should read: Lamentations 4

Today we continue our journey through Lamentations.  This book documents the prophet’s lament over the sins of God’s people.  Sin is a horrible taskmaster… just ask Samson or David or king Nebuchadnezzar – they’ll tell you that consequences of sin are not worth the pleasure of it.

Look the price God’s people paid for their sin:

See how the precious children of Jerusalem, worth their weight in fine gold, are now treated like pots of clay made by a common potter. (v.2)

The parched tongues of their little ones stick to the roofs of their mouths in thirst.  The children cry for bread, but no one has any to give them. The people who once ate the richest foods now beg in the streets for anything they can get.  Those who once wore the finest clothes now search the garbage dumps for food. (v.4-5)

Exile – starvation – loss of joy – all the price of sin.  Finally, God’s anger has been satisfied (v.11).

This passage should remind us of several things.

  • Sin always has consequences.  Sin separates.

But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.  Isaiah 59:2

  • God’s discipline for His children is perfect.  It’s never vindictive or punitive – always restorative.

God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness.  No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.  Hebrews 12:10-11

  • How thankful we should be that Jesus took God’s wrath for our sin on the cross – so that we don’t have to.

Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.  Hebrews 2:17

  • Understanding these things should make me want to obey God and fight sin.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age.  Titus 2:11-12

  • What has God said to you today through this study?
  • How is He, in His grace giving you a chance to make some changes?

By: Tim Parsons — Lead Pastor

May 23, 2019

Today you should read: Lamentations 3

One of the greatest things about the Bible is that it does not avoid the hard things in life. Everyone reading this has either been through suffering, is currently in suffering, or will go through suffering. That may not be the most positive thing you’ll read all day, but hey, we’re in the middle of a book called “Lamentations” what did you expect?

Chapter 3 has us in a monologue. The writer has been through intense suffering:

18 so I say, “My endurance has perished;
    so has my hope from the Lord.”

This man has been through intense suffering, and yet, he can still speak with confidence of the faithfulness and goodness of God.

21 But this I call to mind,
    and therefore I have hope:

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.”

25 The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
    to the soul who seeks him.
26 It is good that one should wait quietly
    for the salvation of the Lord.
27 It is good for a man that he bear
    the yoke in his youth.

I love that verse 21 reminds us that in some ways it takes discipline in order to fight the darkness that suffering can bring. When you’re walking through suffering, it can be easier to think about your own pain than about God. The problem with that is that it becomes a never-ending valley of self-focus. On the flip side, focus on God does not take away the pain of suffering and doesn’t make grief any better or shorter of a process, but it does make it different. As opposed to self-focused grieving, God-focused grieving brings hope to a situation that seems utterly hopeless.

So, if you have been through suffering recently, reflect on how where your focus was during that time: on God or yourself. If you are walking through it right now, decide that you will focus more on God than yourself during this difficult time. And if you are yet to walk through a season like this, prepare now for how you want to respond to it when the time does come.

By: Graham Withers — Pastoral Ministry Associate