What does God think of you?

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. - James 5:13-16a

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What does God think of you?

Does He merely put up with you? Tolerate you? Does He hold His nose around you?

Or does He delight in you? Does He cherish you?

Our answer to this question impacts our response to nearly every situation in our lives. Suffering, success, sickness, sin…our lives are filled with beauty and pain, and God invites us, above all, to do one thing in response to everything that happens: commune with Him. BE with Him.

Would a God who merely puts up with you extend this kind of invitation?

Matt Chandler puts it like this: “It's a delight and a gift for the people of God to commune with their adopting, loving, merciful Father. We see here, "Are you suffering? Go to him. Are you cheerful? Sing praises about him. Are you sick? Gather with others, particularly the elders, and go to him. Regardless of what's going on, get in here."  

If we believe we need to earn God’s approval in some way – if we believe He just tolerates us – the last thing we want to do is run to Him. When our prayers become mechanical, when we struggle with habits and sins we desperately want to overcome, when we are at our lowest and our highest, God is not standing far off, stiff arming us until we get it together. 

Rather, “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

If you hear nothing else today, hear this: when you are in Christ, God delights in you. He loves spending time with you. He cherishes you, even as He cherishes Jesus.

Because of Jesus, we have the immense privilege of approaching the Almighty God of the universe as our Abba Father. We – because of grace beyond my understanding – have the gift of being adopted sons and daughters of the Most High, friends.

And this makes the invitation offered by James a remarkably delightful one.  When we understand how God esteems us, we are able to esteem others in the same way.  When we understand the depth of Jesus’ words, “It is finished,” we are able to freely confess our sins, knowing and believing they’re forgiven. When we know God as Abba Father, we are able to pray to Him as loved children, not avoid Him as filthy, abandoned outcasts. And as we pray, we experience His love and grace more and more deeply. We are healed.

Almighty God, Abba Father, Thank you for Jesus. Thank you for adopting us into your family. We pray that we would accept your invitation to be with You. That we would pray in our suffering. Please draw us to prayer, Father. Show us how to celebrate, how to sing. We pray for increased faith in your power to heal. And we pray that we would be secure enough in the finished work of Christ Jesus that we would confess our sins to one another. Give us Your love for our brothers and sisters, Father. We ask these things in the Name of Jesus, Amen. 

Hold on or be held?

I love rollercoasters. The rush of the wind past my face, the adrenaline pulsing through my veins, the elated laughter (and terrified shrieking)…I can’t get enough!

But there is a vitally important moment in the life a rollercoaster rider: the moment you decide to reach over your head, pull down the overhead harness, and snap it into place. In this moment, you either place full trust in the person who engineered and designed the rollercoaster, or you trust in your grip strength to keep you in your seat through the twists and turns.


How long would it be before your white knuckled fists tired out? Before the rollercoaster became little more than a death trap? It would be terrifying, wouldn't it?! Fear would reign.

While writing to his brothers and sisters in Christ, James encourages them (and us) to be patient in suffering. In the midst of this conversation, he provides the how:

“You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” – James 5:8

Establish your hearts. Strengthen your hearts. Take heart. Fix firmly your hearts. Set fast your hearts.

Elsewhere in the New Testament, usually when this phrase is used, it speaks of God strengthening our hearts. Of Him providing the sustenance we so desperately need in the midst of suffering.

Much like the moment we strap in to the rollercoaster, placing full faith in the power of the harness to keep us still and safe in the midst of unbelievable drops and twists and turns, when we establish our hearts in the One who created us, we are held still and eternally safe in the midst of life’s drops and twists and turns. 

Our steadiness is not dependent on our ability to hold on. Because of Jesus, our response in suffering doesn't have to be to hunker down and get through tragedy and sorrow in isolation. 

Rather we are able to reach out to the God who knows the next turn, who holds us close to His heart, and whispers, “I’m here. I have you. You are mine. No one can pluck you from my hand, or take you out of my sight.” 

As we establish our hearts in Him, not in our own willpower to survive, we receive sustenance and hope and perseverance to go on. 

And as we experience His faithfulness and presence and His comfort through our brothers and sisters in Christ, we rejoice in the fact that He is coming again. We live in a broken world, yes, but one that will one be fully redeemed. One day pain and sin and death will be no more, and oh what a day that will be!

Until then, we reach up and buckle in, trusting in the designer and engineer of all of creation, taking comfort that He who holds us will never fail and looking toward the day when all is made new. It's not about holding on. It's about being held.

What an incredible God we serve.

See you Sunday!

Open our Hearts

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” – John 10:10

As human beings, we are constantly moving toward either death or life.  The enemy has it out for us. He steals, he kills, he destroys. And when left to our own devices, apart from Jesus, we often gravitate toward death too.

But God didn’t leave us on a path toward death. He sent Jesus so we could have life. Forever. For the Christian, there is no eternal death. There is no lasting destruction. We have life abundantly! And thus we have hope.

At times, death and life may not seem clear cut. In our world, they get distorted. Displaced. Throughout Scripture, we read cautionary tales about ways of living that may seem to bring life but actually result in death. In His grace, God has given us heads up after heads up as if to say, “You see this way of living? This will eventually bring pain and destruction and death! I don’t want these things for you! There’s another way! Take the path toward life!”

In James 5:1-6, we see one of these warnings. He cautions those who are obsessed with wealth - those who don’t pay fair wages, who oppress, who mistreat others for their own gain, who have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. He even says, “You have fattened yourselves for the day of slaughter.” (5:5)

If hoarding things and living in self-indulgence leads to a day of slaughter, what’s the alternative? What’s the path toward life? What's the response of the Christian?

But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:17-18)

When we are filled with love that brings life – which is God Himself – it gushes out of our being in practical, tangible ways. Rather than hoarding, we give generously. Rather than living self-indulgently, we learn the life-giving gift of living self-sacrificially.  We don’t close our hearts. We OPEN them. The Holy Spirit in us gravitates toward life. 

Granted, at times the love and life trickle out of us. We flirt with self-indulgence. We hoard. But by His grace, this isn't who we are. Even when we begin to walk back toward death, He draws us back to life.

Father, In Your presence is fullness of joy and fullness of life. You have loved us generously. In light of this reality, may we live and love generously. God, there are GREAT needs in our world right now. We know You are a God of justice and mercy. Where there is oppression, give us the courage and means to intervene in Your Name. Where there is poverty – both spiritual and material – please move us to action.  And where we are choosing spiritual poverty over the riches you have offered us, please help us in our unbelief. We want life abundantly. Please let Your love and life overflow from us in deed and in truth. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

See you Sunday!

The Long Game

Life often doesn’t go as planned. Or at least, life often doesn’t go as we planned.

At times we play the short game. We focus on the things of, for, and by this world. Sometimes we believe that if we fit certain molds, or if we achieve x, y, and z, or if we experience certain rites of passage, we will feel complete. We’ll be satisfied. And we chase after these things, don’t we? 

A degree, a spouse, children, a higher paying job, prestige, a bigger house…or even a fruitful ministry that will make me appear more holy…these idols creep into our hearts in the most insidious of ways. Most are actually good things when held with open hands. But a good thing can become a bad thing when it becomes a substitute for the best thing...especially when held with clenched fists.

“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” – James 4:13-17

God plays the long game. And He sees and knows us and our stories and our reasons for existing better than we know ourselves. He has redeemed us not for our own glory, but for His glory…and He created us in Christ Jesus to do good works, which He prepared in advance for us to do! (Ephesians 2:10)

His plans are infinitely better than our plans. There is solace in this, too, when things don't happen as we planned...not as a result of sin, but just as a result of living in a fallen world. When loved ones pass on, or betrayal happens, or everything seems to fall apart, we have hope. "Christianity empowers its people to sit in the midst of this world’s sorrows, tasting the coming joy." (Tim Keller) 

The long game, in which we spend eternity with God and death is no more, propels us toward joy and hope.

Father, Eternity is beyond our comprehension, but please give us faith and patience to play the long game, and to trust that Your will is good.  When good things become a substitute for the good works you have created us to do, and when good things become a substitute for the delight we find in You, please reveal these idols to us and rearrange our priorities, as temporarily painful as that might be. We trust You and desire to build Your kingdom, rather than our own. Please permeate our hearts with the phrase, "If the Lord wills." In Jesus’ name, Amen.

See you Sunday!