His Word is a Lamp: Psalms
One of the things that I observe regularly as I read the Psalms is that they are filled with intimacy. David is one of the major contributors to a number of Psalms that we read. He is a lover of the Divine, of God Himself. His Psalms are marked with longing after God (Ps.63:1), thirsting for the Lord (Ps. 42:2), delighting in Him (Ps.37:4), thinking of Him through the watches of the night (Ps. 63:6) and begging for His forgiveness so David could continue in right relationship with God (Ps. 51:1-12).
David flat out tells God that he loves Him (Ps. 18:1). This was the King of Israel, helping to lead the nation in its worship of God. He was also a man after God’s heart (1 Sam 13:14). As such, David was driven to want to honor God and to serve Him. When we think of someone who would be an example of closeness to God, David is the picture of that example.
Interestingly, we don’t have the musical notes to the songs that David wrote, only the words. Yet, thousands of years later, we read these poems and they speak to our souls. These Psalms help us to express our praise and our laments to God. They teach us that the range of human emotions can be part of who we are and that we don't have to make them "religious" in order to legitimize them. In fact, God created us with these emotions to help us understand what it means to be human. Psalms also teach us that we don’t have to stay stuck in our emotions but that as we bring our very lives to God, He meets us where we are and is our refuge (Ps. 46:1-2).
I think God gave us the Psalms, not so that we would be jealous of David’s relationship with God, but to show us that we can have that same, close, intimate relationship with Him. Thankfully, God didn’t just give us the Psalms to know Him but He gave us Jesus, His only begotten Son, to show us the Father (John 14:9) and to open the way for us. Now in His Son, God is inviting us heavenward. So, I say we set our minds on Him, (Col. 3:1) and recognize that these eternal longings in our hearts have been put there by God (Eccl. 3:11b) to encourage us to seek after Him. What great news it is that He welcomes us with grace and mercy!
Keep seeking His Face (Ps. 27:8)!
His Word is a Lamp: Job
We walked through the book of Job for our time together on Sunday. And what a walk it was!
Here are some of my thoughts on Job:
I think most of us struggle with the book of Job for a few reasons:
Job’s suffering is intense and we don’t like to see someone going through hard times.
The book of Job flips suffering on its head in that normally we tend to think of the unrighteous suffering because of their deeds. But here, from the very beginning of the book, it is the righteous who suffer. God points out Job to Satan precisely because Job is a righteous man, who feared God and turned from evil.
This book challenges us in our humanity. How do we respond to suffering? Would we hold on to our integrity even in such hard times? Or, maybe I should ask, do we hold on to our integrity in the Lord?
But I also think that the book of Job might be more of an encouragement than most of us initially consider it to be. Here’s why I think that:
Job’s journey reminds us that God is in control. Life can often feel the opposite but the first two chapters and the last five chapters show us clearly that God is Sovereign.
Spiritual battle is filtered and limited by God.
God loves Job, which is a reminder to us that God loves us!
God speaks to Job and Job responds with confession, repentance and obedience. That’s a good model for us!
Job got to know God better through the journey of suffering.
We can be encouraged because we are New Testament believers. We have Jesus! We have His peace (John 14:27), His presence (Matt. 28:20), His love (1 John 4:16) and His Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) in our lives.
Job reminds us that we’re not the only ones suffering. Suffering has a way of making the world close in on us but this book helps refute that.
One final thought, Job’s three friends were horrible comforters! Job even tells them as much (16:2). As followers of Jesus, who know His grace and mercy, let us be ambassadors and vessels of His mercy to those around us who live in a hurting world. His grace and mercy are the healing balm that the folks around us so desperately need. And, just as God pointed out the righteous Job, God would testify centuries later that He was pleased with His Beloved Son, Jesus, at Jesus’ baptism. Jesus, as we know, would go on to suffer and die on our behalf. Three days later He changed the world with His resurrection. So, let us say along with Job, “For I know that my Redeemer lives (19:25).”
We can face tomorrow…because He lives!
Senior Sunday 2023
Another Senior Sunday behind us. Reminds me of how fast time flies and how life changes. A day to celebrate mothers and seniors. The seniors did such a great job sharing their thoughts and aspects of their lives with us. NewLife has been fortunate enough to have amazing youth who take their faith journey seriously.
May we be reminded of their answers. The one answer that keeps running through my head is to offer opportunities for youth to get together and participate. Not solely during a youth event, but during “normal” church stuff. For these young adults to be able to step into the church as an equal – one who can minister to others, feel valued as a family member at NewLife, and is empowered to engage and not simply attend – sets them up to be more confident spiritual leaders.
When I remember their advice and thoughts, I think about how much belonging means to us as adults too. Each one of us, I believe, wants to feel valued and appreciated and to know we belong not just to “The body of Christ” but truly are part of the NewLife family; that's a family we can serve shoulder to shoulder with, tangibly hug and see, and know that others care for us and want God’s best for us.
NewLife, we are older than the seniors in high school, but we long for the same thing. Right? We have spoken about the four values we have at NewLife – Connect, Grow, Serve and Belong. At the depths of who we are, we all want these. The seniors just reminded us that as humans we long to be part of something bigger than ourselves. So, as we pray for the seniors, let us also pray for us at NewLife to feel connected, to feel like we belong, to grow deeper in our faith and to find ways we can serve God and each other.
Brothers and Sisters, may God allow you to see your value and worth in this body of believers and may you feel like you have a place where you belong – are connected – have opportunities to grow – and are encouraged to serve.
Thank you, seniors, for reminding us of the longings we have and that God desires good for us, even in difficult times.
Your Word is a Lamp: Esther
Blog: Pearls of Wisdom
Today's Topic: Facing my Fears
I received word from my cousin Mordecai that Hammon is planning to kill all the Jews throughout the territory of king Xerxes. He even sent me a copy of the edict that was sent out with the King's approval to all the provinces, all 127 of them. Why would the king allow such a thing? Just now Mordecai sent me another message telling me to go to the king and to ask for his help. But Mordecai doesn't understand! Everyone knows that if someone approaches the king without being summoned, it means their death. Unless of course, the king extends his royal scepter to the person. I haven't been summoned for 30 days. Now Mordecai is saying that “Perhaps you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this.” I feel deeply conflicted. Maybe he's right, cousin Mordecai. Maybe God put me here as queen to save my people. But I am afraid! One thing I do know is that there is no way that I can save my people or approach the king, even if he is my husband, without God's help and favor. I will tell Mordecai to have all of the Jewish people in Susa pray and fast with my servants and me for three days. Then I will appear before the king. And if I perish, I perish.
Friends, thankfully Esther did not perish but God granted her favor with the king, which eventually led to Esther and Mordecai saving their people! Each of us needs a Mordecai in our lives to help us see God's plan for us. May we each be a Mordecai, helping those around us to see God at work in their lives.
I invite you to join us this coming Saturday as we hear from the seniors of the class of 2023 share about what God is doing in their lives.
God has given us His grace in His Son Jesus for such a time as this!
Rooted in Jesus
What a great time we had together as a church family on Sunday!
Thank you to our Youth for leading such a wonderful service on Youth Sunday!
Thank you to each of you who shared ways you have seen God answer prayer on Sunday!
Thank you also for the opportunity to share about the heart and vision of NewLife. Our desire is to be “Rooted in Jesus” based on Col. 2:6-7. We want each person in the NewLife family to grow deep roots in Jesus so that we are nourished by His Word (Ps. 1:3), gain wisdom from Him (Prov. 3:18) and bear fruit as we abide in Him (John 15:1-5). As we grow in these ways in Jesus, this enables us to love God with all that we are (Mark 12:30-31) and to go into all the world to make disciples of Christ (Matt. 28:19-20). As we do that, we have four goals at NewLife to help us focus on that vision:
Let us be rooted in Him, dear friends!
Your Word is a Lamp: Nehemiah
Nehemiah’s broken heart over the difficult state of the exiles in Jerusalem prompted him to take strong action to bring help and solutions to them. This all began with a burden and realization of their dire situation. Nehemiah’s actions soon led to a rebuilding/repairing of the wall and the Israelites rededicating themselves to the Lord. In fact, Nehemiah’s leadership gives each of us insight into ways in which we can prayerfully make plans with the Lord’s guidance and move forward.
Here’s an overview of the roadmap that Nehemiah used which we can learn from:
Remember this all goes in stages, just like Nehemiah was the third prong of the return to Jerusalem!
This begins with seeing a need, Neh. 1:4
And then we weave prayer throughout everything, as prayer is woven throughout Nehemiah.
We evaluate where we are and what needs to be done, 2:11-18
Then we share what needs to be done and set goals, 2:18
Assign roles to everyone and get going! Chapter 3
Know there will be difficulty and opposition, Chapters 4 and 6
A major part of this process will be confession of our sin and rededicating our lives to the Lord, chapters 8-10
Celebrating what God has done in our lives and worshiping Him, chapter 12
Beware of slipping back to where we began, Neh. 13
Let all of this be done with the joy of the Lord (Neh. 8:10)! Otherwise, it just turns into drudgery and another thing we’re trying to do on our own, which inevitably leads us right back to where we started. That’s the last place we want to be!!
Let us all say as Chuck Swindoll has said about Nehemiah, “Hand me another brick!”
Blessings on your journey with Jesus,
The youth are leading this Sunday!
Teens will be sharing and want you to come prepared to share answers to prayer!
His Word is a Lamp: Ezra
Beyond the exiles returning to rebuild the Temple of God, I think one of the main takeaways from the book of Ezra is that Ezra “set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach His statutes and rules in Israel” (7:10). This gives us insight into the man that Ezra was and what drove him in life.
Let’s look at this verse together:
It all began with a decision for Ezra. It was a life-changing decision for him and one that impacted many others. It can be surprising what one decision can mean in your life. What is God asking you to set your heart on for Him? It might just change your life.
I invite you to read Nehemiah for our time together on Sunday.
Blessings on your journey with Jesus,
He's Alive, He's Alive!
Our God is not dead,
He’s alive, He’s alive!
From “Christ is Risen” by Matt Maher
This is the cry that has expressed the truth of Christianity for generations, “He’s alive!” That’s what separates Christianity from everything else. The tomb was empty and Christ is risen!
As Mary, Peter, and John contemplated the empty tomb there are four things for us to remember about the tomb:
The empty tomb is startling. Mary was greatly startled to find the tomb empty and Jesus’ body not in there. She went to get Peter and John to come see the empty tomb. Folks today are still startled by the empty tomb of Jesus.
The empty tomb is the proof and basis of our faith. It testifies to the fact that Jesus is alive and defeated sin, death, and the devil.
The empty tomb is life changing because the Resurrected Jesus is life changing. Our Risen Lord works deeply in our lives to forgive us, restore us, and lead us forward in God’s plan.
Each of us needs to come face to face with the tomb. There has to be a personal reckoning about who Christ is and what He accomplished on the cross and by rising from the dead.
Surely, Christ is Alive!
Resurrection Blessings to you,
While many people missed who Jesus was and His purposeful mission on earth, there were two blind men who saw exactly who Jesus was! Matthew 20 tells us their story. Jesus was passing by on the road to Jerusalem and these two men would not stop crying out for Jesus to have mercy on them. Even when the crowd tried to hush them, they cried all the louder to Jesus.
Even though they could not physically see, what did they “see” by understanding Jesus?
So, what happened?
He did just that! He had compassion on them & He healed their eyes.
In response, they followed Him.
Jesus looks at us with compassion and heals us, forgiving our sin, so that we can follow Him, too.
That’s why He rode into Jerusalem after this account. He had already looked with the Father from all eternity and saw us, even before we were ever born. Knowing our situation, He had compassion on us, compassion that drove Him to the cross.
I invite you to our Good Friday service at 7 pm as we remember the death of Jesus and to celebrate His resurrection on Sunday at 9 am and 10:30 am.
Let’s focus on Him this Holy Week,
The author of Chronicles, through the retelling of the Israelites’ story, tries to get us to look in the past to better understand our future.
The Israelites’ past included exiles, disobedience, good kings and horrible kings. Their past included fulfilled promises and one promise yet to be fulfilled. God's covenant with Abraham included land and people. God fulfilled those promises. God's covenant with David included a temple and a forever king. What David started Solomon finished with building a place for God. So what the Israelites were waiting for was a forever king in the line of David. Chronicles holds each king up to a plumb line and none of them meet the standard. Even the good kings were now dead. 1 Chronicles 17:12 promises a forever king and that is the reminder to God's people that He isn’t done yet.
God's reminder to us through Chronicles is also that God isn’t done yet. Yes, Jesus came to earth and fulfilled the covenant with David, but Jesus reminds His people that even though He will die He will rise from the dead and will return for all His children.
Just like the Israelites, we are sitting in a time where we are waiting on a prophecy to be fulfilled. We are waiting for that final fulfillment of God's promise. Our king is coming.
Until then, fight the good fight. Be strong and courageous. Walk by faith and not by sight. Do not lean on your own understanding, but on God's. The Israelites were not known for their consistent obedience. We may be more similar to the Israelites than we would like to believe, but everyday is filled with choices we make that will or will not prepare us for His second coming. We must say 'yes' to Jesus throughout each day of our lives- in how we treat each other, how we talk to people, what we prioritize in our lives, and how we walk the Christian walk. Each decision and action will help or hinder our preparations.
Let us not be like the five virgins who ran out of oil. God, help us be the five who were ready for Your return. Despite the heartaches of life, God is faithful to His word. He will never leave us or forsake us. Let us be encouraged that if we believe in Jesus and confess Him as Lord, we will be saved and Jesus will come back for us.
Let us prepare our hearts for Sunday’s service, Palm Sunday as we remember Jesus’ entrance into town while people declared His majesty, power, and righteousness. NewLife let us prepare to declare His glory and faithfulness.
Blessings and hope to see you Sunday,
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