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Faithful in Captivity | Jeremiah 29

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Welcome to Real Life . It (real life) is not always easy! It is a poverty of imagination that bankrupts hope. –Ann Voskamp, Waymaker I was a young wife, not yet twenty, when my husband abandoned me. I was devastated. All my hopes and dreams for the future had walked out the door. Then one day in church, I heard this promise and clung to it. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 The Lord made this promise to his people at a time when they were devastated. All their hopes and dreams—their homes, nation, house of worship—everything was gone. Israel had turned away from God and committed idolatry, even sacrificing their children to foreign Gods. [1] And so, God removed his protection and brought judgment. He allowed Babylon to destroy Jerusalem and lead his people away as captives. The Flight of the Prisoners  (1896) by James Tissot Though they cried out to God in their m

The Beginning of the End | The Book of Revelation

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Welcome to Real Life . It (real life) is getting scary!  Don't wake me for the end of the world unless it has very good special effects. –Roger Zelaznyr “Wow! These prices are crazy-high,” I commented to the woman standing in line with me at the cold-cut counter. “This inflation is scary.” “Yes, it is. It’s biblical you know,” she replied. No doubt, the last few years have been tumultuous with a pandemic, racial injustice, deep divisions in our nation and the church, an insurrection, war in Ukraine and the accompanying threat of nuclear war, mass shootings, and now runaway inflation. Is this biblical? Do these events signal the beginning of the end? Are these the labor pains that will give birth to the final seven years of life on this planet—the Great Tribulation? I happen to be reading Revelation right now. It’s not an easy read. In his final years, the apostle John was imprisoned for his faith on the isle of Patmos. There, not only does Jesus Christ reveal himself to John, he tr

Soul Rest | Psalm 62

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Welcome to Real Life . What's threatening to topple you? You don’t become king without making a few enemies along the way. In his early years, David was a powerful warrior who defended God and his nation Israel. He accumulated enemies. Someone was always trying to topple him from his lofty place. During those times when David felt harassed, where did he go for comfort? Where did he find rest? He ran to God. Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. Though I’m no powerful leader like a king or even a CEO, I know what it is to feel harassed. We live in a stressful world. There is forever an enemy trying to topple us—war, pandemic, runaway inflation, fear, health issues, family conflicts, financial crises, hurt feelings. Because I’ve been feeling a bit harassed lately, I’m memorizing David’s psalm. Even in the midst of this crazy, stressful world, we can find a deep soul rest in Go

Knock, Knock, Knocking on Heaven's Door | Luke 11

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Welcome to Real Life . Knock, knock. Is anyone there? A river cuts through a rock  not because of its power, but its persistence. –James N. Watkins, Author Lindsey Jacobellis knows the power of perseverance. Sixteen years ago, at her Olympic debut, Jacobellis was favored to win gold in Woman’s Snowboard Cross. On her final jump, however, she fell and lost to Switzerland’s Tanja Frieden. But Jacobellis never quit. She kept trying, kept competing, kept knocking on the door of Olympic Gold. This year, at her fifth Olympic competition, Jacobellis finally won that gold medal! Perseverance is a key element of success... unfortunately.  Because we prefer quick and easy, don't we? Perseverance isn't fun, flashy, or fuzzy-warm. It's the grimy, gutsy, grappling-alone-in-the-dark resolve that quietly wins the day. Not surprisingly, perseverance is also a key element of successful prayer. (Cue that grappling-alone-in-the-dark resolve.) Jesus emphasized this with a story. A neighbor kno

An Unlikely Hero | Isaiah 53

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Welcome to Real Life . What does strength look like? Those who give much without sacrifice are reckoned as having given little. –Erwin Lutzer “Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” Isaiah asks. Because the Word from God he’s about to deliver is not an easy one to believe. In Isaiah’s day, Jerusalem was surrounded by enemies and facing annihilation. God’s people were seeking a political messiah to swoop in and rescue them. Instead, God would send an unlikely hero. Not someone to save them in the moment, but the One who could save their souls for all eternity. Who would God send? Not a Samson, but a man of sorrows, despised and rejected. It was our pain and punishment he bore. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. Seven hundred year after Isaiah's prophecy, the arm of the Lord—his strength in reaching, rescuing

God's Final Word | Isaiah 26

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Welcome to Real Life . Can we handle the truth? I will ignore you so hard, you will start to doubt your own existence. –Anonymous In the early 2000’s, money was easy to come by. Predatory lenders targeted low-income home buyers who could never realistically repay those loans. Rules were bent. Truth was ignored. But ignoring a problem doesn’t resolve it. The housing bubble popped. The Financial Crisis of 2008 [1] plunged our nation and world into a severe depression. Could it happen again? You bet. Because we live in a culture that doesn’t value truth, especially negative truth. Don’t tell me I can’t. Tell me how I can. Give me good news. Entertain me. We are children unwilling to heed a parent’s instruction. In the prophet Isaiah’s day, Israel had stopped listening to their Father-God. So, he sent Isaiah with an unpopular message. Judgement is coming. Because God loves us passionately, he disciplines us. He allows trials, pandemics, wars, sickness, and economic hardships. For when li

Find Us Faithful: Tribute to Elfriede Schaeffer

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Welcome to Real Life . It's our turn. A song popped into my head while I was out walking the other day. It surprised me. Because it had been decades since I heard it. Then, the very next day, I received a congregational email from my pastor saying his mother, Elfriede Schaeffer, was dying of complications due to COVID pneumonia. And again, the song, “Find Us Faithful,” came to mind. O may all who come behind us Find us faithful, May the fire of our devotion Light their way. May the footprints that we leave, Lead them to believe, And the lives we live Inspire them to obey. [1] Elfriede embodied faithfulness. Her late husband Donald was Senior Pastor when we started attending Grace CMA Church. The two of them laid a firm foundation for our faith community for over five decades. Death is a part of life. No one, not even someone as wonderful as Elfriede, walks this earth forever. Why, then, does her death shake the ground beneath my feet? Perhaps, in part, it’s the accumulated grief of