BY JORDAN MAYER
"'Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.'"
Have you ever felt burdened by your sin? Felt the tremendous weight of all your wrongdoing resting heavy on your shoulders? When we give our lives to Christ, we lay that burden at the foot of the Cross. And yet, I've come to realize I have a tendency to want to pick it back up again.
I remember a time when I was younger, although I can't recall what age, when I became obsessed with being clean. I don't mean a general concern for hygiene, but a kind of irrational need to keep my hands clean. Throughout the day I would find myself washing my hands constantly. I'm not certain how long this went on for, whether it was days or weeks. But it wasn't until the watchful eye of my mom spotted my odd behavior that I even realized what I was doing.
In some strange, bizarre way, my need to keep myself clean was tied to a time in my life where my sin weighed heavily upon me. I was feeling so burdened that I felt I needed a way to take care of it. It was in this chapter of my life that I felt the true power of the Gospel wash over me. While I had already committed my life to Christ, I think maturing in our faith involves these moments where what we know to be true in our minds becomes real in our hearts and lives. I knew that Christ had died for my sins, I believed it, but it was in this moment that I saw its power in my life.
This verse from Isaiah provides such a powerful image of what Jesus has accomplished for us. As a kid, my parents always used the analogy of a piece of paper. Our sin is like an ugly black dot on a pristine, white sheet of paper. By our own efforts, we may try many different ways to remove or cover up that black dot. And yet nothing truly works. But Christ doesn't simply hide or cover up our sin, He completely washes it clean. That ugly black dot vanishes and what is left is a perfectly clean page. Our sin, which once stood out in stark red, is made as pure as freshly fallen snow and as clean as a coat of wool. In Psalms, we are told that He removes our transgressions as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12) and Micah 7:19 tells us He casts our sins into the depths of the sea. And, in case we are worried He might bring them up again, the Lord promises to remember our sins no more (Isaiah 43:25). What wonderful promises to cling to!
If you find yourself weighted down by your sin, allow the full weight of the Gospel to rest on your shoulders instead. Romans 1:16 reminds us that the Gospel "is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes...". Christ bore the full weight of our sin so that we wouldn't have to. Leave what was accomplished at the foot of the Cross and don't pick it up again. Jesus invites us to accept a new yoke and a new burden, but His is a little different. "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30).
BY JORDAN MAYER
"Be still, and know that I am God..."
I needed to hear this verse this week, and maybe you need to hear it too.
Life is hard sometimes, isn't it? We may go through periods of calm and peace only to be followed by times of stress and anxiety. I think the Psalmist captures these feelings well with the imagery used. The earth gives way, the mountains move into the sea, the waters roar and foam. These descriptions are the ancient equivalent of "my world is crumbling around me".
I notice that I can feel this way in a variety of circumstances. Most obvious, of course, are the sudden and shocking events that happen in all our lives. They truly rock our world in a way we can never prepare for.
However, we also face the "normal" trials and struggles of life, the daily hardships that are simply a fact of life here on this earth. These things present their own unique challenge. While not sudden or catastrophic, they are often lingering and agonizing. They are the things that make the Psalmist cry, "How long, O Lord? Over time, these slow agonies can cause us to despair and lose hope. So what hope is there to be offered? I think Psalm 46 tells us.
It begins with a reminder: "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1). I love that detail, "a very present help". God isn't offering His support from a far and distant command post, He is right there in the trenches with us. He is the bunker we run into to find protection from the enemy's attack and He is also the strength we need to do battle and take the hill.
And this Psalm assumes something. It assumes that we are in trouble. Praise God for miraculous deliverances, but much of our lives are marked by the troubles we endure. That is why these verses can be such an encouragement to us. We are not abandoned, God is with us! When we pass through the waters and rivers, He is with us. When we walk through fire and flame, He is with us. (Isaiah 43:2)
So when we are utterly overwhelmed, when we are depressed and ready to despair...be still. Be still and know that He is God. Whatever we might be battling or going through, either today or tomorrow or next week or next month, be still and know that He is God. He is our refuge, our strength, and a very present help in trouble.
You see, knowing that God is God means truly knowing who He is. When we are scared, we remind ourselves that we don't need to fear because He is with us (Isaiah 41:10). When we are anxious, we remind ourselves that He is our peace (2 Thessalonians 3:16). When we start to despair, we remind ourselves that He is our hope (Romans 15:13). When we feel too weak to carry on, we remind ourselves that He is our strength (Psalm 73:26). When all seems dark, we remind ourselves that God is our light.
Though the world may be crumbing around us, we simply need to be still and know He is God.
BY JOYCE PELLETIER
“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”
As I read these words, I am reminded of a situation I had recently.
My neighbor of 94 recently passed away. Her daughter came up from Georgia several months ago to take care for her. She is one of those persons who speaks her mind, whether it fits or not. There were a few times when she spoke her mind and it just didn’t set right with me. It put me on the defensive.
She was upset about the way we mow our lawn. She didn’t like the leaves on the ground. She was very vocal about how it should be done. My reaction in my inner being was defensive and held many unkind thoughts; yet I never vocalized it to her. My thinking was that the leaves just started to shed from the trees. It’s too early to rake. Our grounds people would take care of them when the time was right. She didn’t agree with that thinking. Frustration blocked my thinking. Yet I stayed quiet about what I was thinking.
Several days later, as she was walking back from the mailboxes, She stopped and started to chat about her mother. I asked her how long she was going to be able to stay. I could see the sadness in her face and that she was struggling. Rightfully so! She responded, “I’ll stay until Mom passes.”
My response was, “I’m so glad you are able to be here for her.” I saw grace in this situation and God gently reminded me to be still and silent about my recent experience with her. It was pointless anyhow.
The frustration from the previous encounter seemed to vanish as I saw the difficulty she faced in dealing with her impending loss. She was fighting to be strong, but she was just needing understanding, love and peace.
Once her mother passed, we chatted a few more times more and the wedge that was between us just wasn’t there anymore. I could understand her pain. I lost my parents and brother, so I knew her pain. Every one of us react differently to grief. This encounter convicted me I needed an attitude adjustment, not my neighbor’s daughter. It also showed me the need in another and their need for God as well as my own.
As Galatians states that we should live by the Spirit, we should “keep in step” with the Spirit as well. He will remind us of what we may need to do or say, because we are not our own. I’m so grateful to God for the lessons in knowing when to speak and when to be silent. Learning to pick my battles.
As we journey through Ephesians in our iConnect groups, the first few paragraphs tell us that God predestines us to become His Sons and Daughters. We never know how our existence affects others. As for my friend, she’s back home, mending from her loss, and like me, I am hoping she finds and responds to God’s blessings waiting at the door of her heart. I pray we all continue to “Keep in Step” with Jesus, as He has so much love for us.
BY JORDAN MAYER
"When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God."
(Exodus 34: 29)
Upon reading this passage of Scripture, my imagination can't help but run wild. I wonder what that must have looked like. Here's Moses who has been gone for forty days and forty nights and as you see him approach, you realize he is glowing! Imagine what he must have looked like at night, let alone in broad daylight! What a strange and amazing sight all rolled into one.
Getting past my initial amazement at this detail, I then started to think about the idea of God being light and the impact that His presence has on our lives.
Simply being in God's presence had affected Moses in a visible way. Think about what this says about God. He is light without any darkness (1 John 1:5). He is all things good (Psalm 31:19). He is holy, holy, holy (Isaiah 6:3). In a different encounter, God had to hide Moses in the cleft of a rock as He walked past so that he wouldn't die (Exodus 33:20). Knowing all this, it's no surprise, then, that being in God's presence changes you.
In a similar way, when we are exposed to the light of the Gospel, we are changed! We are given new hearts and new desires (Ezekiel 36:26). What was once dead and dark is now alive and bright (Ephesians 2:5). When we accept Jesus into our hearts, the very presence of God takes up residence inside us! And the amazing thing is, He is there to stay. What God started with Moses and the Israelites at Mount Sinai, he has brought to fulfillment in Jesus who is the light of the world (John 8:12). And upon completing His work, Jesus sent us a helper that would be in us (John 14:15-17). Like Moses, this exposure to the presence of God starts to make our faces shine. Although we might not be glowing in a literal sense, the work that Christ has done in our hearts brings about a noticeable change.
That begs some questions that sting me with conviction. Can people notice that my face is shining? Is it apparent and obvious to the people I interact with that I am a follower of Christ? Is my life marked by a singular focus on Jesus? Is the light of the Gospel placed up on a stand for all to see or do I tuck it away under a basket?
Upon seeing this Great Light, Moses had a job to do. He was to return to the people and give them God's commandments. So too for us, when we receive the Good News we are called to share it. In Hebrews, the author reminds his readers that they have been called and chosen to “proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
I am reminded of Pastor Brent’s message from a few weeks ago, about how we should have a burden for the lost. The truth is that those who don’t know the Lord walk through life in darkness, as we once did (Ephesians 5:8). Remember what that was like. Darkness, despair, hopelessness. So I encourage myself and I encourage you by Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount:
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).
This world is full of darkness. Be the light for someone today and point them to the Great Light.