Devotional

Where Jesus is Present, There is Peace

Dear Jubilee Family, 

 

Praying for you this morning that you would be steadfast and not grow weary in doing good as you wait on the Lord and walk in the presence of his Spirit. Certainly, one of the great encouragements from our study of Acts is the visible work of Jesus building his church. 

 

The last two Sundays we have watched Jesus working signs and wonders and hidden faithfulness in and through the lives of his people to the end that others might be drawn into the kingdom. And that is the pattern we should expect. Jesus will use our lives to bring light to others. One of the greatest works given to us as families is the faithful work of bringing light to our children in our homes through the steadfast love of a mom and dad who treasure Jesus above everything else. That place of belonging to Jesus, as we saw in Dorcas, and in so many others, sets us free from self-serving to give ourselves to the work of loving well those given to us. ‘Full of good works’ was the language used concerning the life of Dorcas. People loved being in her home, for it was a gracious place due to the peace of the presence of Jesus. 

 

Jesus is committed to your life of being set apart from worldliness to God. We see him teaching Peter new understanding and drawing Cornelius and his family to himself. This is the work of Jesus building his church. He will not abandon us, Jubilee! Having begun this building work, he will complete it. His investment and progress may at times seem slow to us, but it is only his patience and wisdom that in the end will result in the completion of his church established in and among all peoples. And we will ooh and aah at that glorious work! May you be filled with great courage today, as you call upon the Spirit of Jesus, to stand firmly against the tide of worldliness and give yourselves to those whom God has placed within your influence for his kingdom work! 

 

Where Jesus is present and building, there is peace. Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all. (2Thess. 3:16) 

 

Peace,


Pastor Dan

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"Seven Stanzas at Easter"

Jubilee Fam,


I love it when people send me things they enjoyed reading, especially if it stokes our affection for Jesus. On the other side of Holy Week, where we were reminded of the person and work of our risen King, it can be a real temptation to put Sunday behind us and tuck the resurrection away until next year. May God grant us much grace to increase our awareness of who Jesus is now for us and every season of life until we celebrate Holy Week again. I was sent a poem written by John Updike entitled Seven Stanzas at Easter (1960). Check it out below meditatively, and on the other side of the most important week in human history, make it cause your heart to burn within you. 


Make no mistake: if he rose at all

It was as His body;

If the cell’s dissolution did not reverse, the molecule reknit,

The amino acids rekindle,

The Church will fall.


It was not as the flowers,

Each soft spring recurrent;

It was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled eyes of the

Eleven apostles;

It was as His flesh; ours.


The same hinged thumbs and toes

The same valved heart

That—pierced—died, withered, paused, and then regathered

Out of enduring Might

New strength to enclose.


Let us not mock God with metaphor,

Analogy, sidestepping, transcendence,

Making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded

Credulity of earlier ages:

Let us walk through the door.


The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,

Not a stone in a story,

But the vast rock of materiality that in the slow grinding of

Time will eclipse for each of us

The wide light of day.


And if we have an angel at the tomb,

Make it a real angel,

Weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair, opaque in

The dawn light, robed in real linen

Spun on a definite loom.


Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,

For our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,

Lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are embarrassed

By the miracle,

And crushed by remonstrance.



Pastor Lew

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Boasting in Hope

Jubilee Fam, 


It is Holy Week. Here we are with a yearly reminder of the most important event performed by the most important person in human history. We see love displayed, divine plans and purposes fulfilled, death defeated, and promises procured. Concerning the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, I read recently how the blessings of the age-to-come have broken into this present evil age, and herein lies our strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow. This week commemorates the moment where hope was birthed, which yanked the stinger out of death. This week is our needed reminder that there is nothing that life brings to the table that can swallow our hope. We believe in the testimony of the apostles! Christ died and rose. He is Risen indeed! It is our prayer that hope will surge in your hearts this weekend, starting tonight at the Maundy Thursday Service. As we reflect on the perfect person and work of Christ as he stripped down to wash His disciple's feet, endured a sham trial that highlighted his innocence, hung on the judgment tree, as he breathed out his last break, his body was wrapped in linen and planted in a tomb, and as the first eschatological flower to come, rose gloriously in His resurrection would your hope arise this weekend brothers and sisters. We, of all people, have ample reason to be the most hopeful because of our risen and resurrected King! 


Boasting in Hope with you,


Pastor Lew

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Grace Greater than All Our sin

Jubilee Fam, 



What is the relationship between Acts 8:1-3 and 1 Timothy 1:12–17? Last Sunday, Pastor Nick helpfully walked us through the account of Stephen’s stoning. This morning, a brother and I were reflecting on how difficult it would have been, while stones are sapping our life away, to say what Stephen said. Are you ready to be freshly shocked again at what comes out of a person's mouth whose gaze was on the ascended and standing King? And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep (Acts 7:59–60). Stephen fell asleep, asking that his killers might be forgiven! There is no other explanation for this that I could think of other than this is what Jesus and the Spirit of Jesus do to a person. On Sunday, Pastor Toph will dive into the next central character of Acts. He, too, was a witness to Stephen’s martyrdom. He was no innocent bystander, though. Acts 8:1 — And Saul approved of his execution. Saul thought that Stephen’s murder was good. One result of this will be great persecution against the church. And yet, in 1 Timothy 1:12–17, Saul turned Paul can say that he is an example of Jesus' perfect patience. What’s the relationship between Acts 8 and 1 Timothy 1? We see a needed reminder that this is what Jesus and the Spirit of Jesus do to a person. I saw it like this from Jackie Hill Perry— I am what God’s goodness will do to a soul once God’s grace gets to it. Brothers and sisters, drink deeply this week from the grace greater than all our sin.


Pastor Lew

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A Prayer for Progress

Last Sunday, I started off the sermon by pointing to the gospel word of Christ that is marching through the Book of Acts from Jerusalem to Rome. Today in class, the freshman and I spent some time in 2 Thessalonians. There is a prayer in that letter that reminds me that we ought to pray regularly for the continued progress of the Word to the very ends of the earth. Paul just finished educating and correcting the Thessalonicans’ eschatology. They had an understanding about Jesus’ return that was faulty. Their faulty eschatology had ramifications for their ethics. This is important for us to remember. How we understand how Jesus is going to wrap up history has implications on how we live our lives. Do you remember what we said during our time in 1 & 2 Thessalonians some years back — That Day (i.e., Jesus’ return) ought to pour itself into this day (i.e., the day we are living). Right after he educates his people and before he jumps into how they ought to live, he asked for prayer — Finally, brothers and sisters, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you ( 2 Th 3:1). One version says, “Pray for us, brothers and sisters, that the Lord’s message, may spread quickly and be honored as in fact, it was among you (NET). What a fantastic prayer that ought to be found in our mouths. As we continue to march through Acts and see the message of the Lord march, indeed, run ahead in progress, let’s pray that the Gospel would continue to do so in our city and this world. By grace, we trust in the message of the Lord, and it is honored among us. There are places in our city where this is not the case. Pray that God’s message would continue to be honored among us every time we gather and that it may spread quickly and be increasingly honored in this world. 


Praying with you,


Pastor Lew 

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The Root of Love for the Neighbor

Jubilee Fam, 


On Sunday, Lord willing, we will see how the church handled challenges that arose within its ranks. The scenario revolves around community care for the widows of the church. I am slowly working through Bavinck’s The Wonderful Works of God, and the mentioning of widows in the section I am in makes some connections to consider. The chapter in Bavinck is about humanity’s highest good. The first sentence not only states the main point but also the main reality we must feel amid all other goods we enjoy in this world — God, and God alone, is man’s [humanity’s] highest good. He goes on to write of the necessity that “this good [be] also recognized and enjoyed.” Here is the connection with widows sandwiched in between other ways good is accomplished. It is a little lengthy but provided food for thought: 


As for culture, civilization, humanitarianism, the life of society, or whatever one may call it, that, too, cannot be denominated the highest good of man. No doubt we have some right to speak of a kind of progress in humanitarian ideas, and of development in philanthropy. When we compare how the poor and the sick, the miserable, and the destitute, the widows and the orphans, the insane and the imprisoned were frequently dealt with in former ages with the way in which they are very generally treated now, we certainly have cause for happiness and gratitude. A spirit of tenderness and mercy has come up which seeks out the lost and has compassion upon the oppressed. But right alongside this our present time shows us such a fearful pageantry of gruesome vice, of mammonism, prostitution, alcoholism, and like abominations, that we are embarrassed to answer the question whether we are moving forwards or backward. At one moment we are optimistic, but the next we are plunged into deep pessimism again. 


Be that as it may, this much is sure, that if the life of service for humanity, of love for the neighbor, is not rooted in the law of God, it loses its force and its character. After all, the love for one’s neighbor is not a self-vindicating thing which comes up quite spontaneously and naturally out of the human heart. It is a feeling, rather, and an action, and a service, which require tremendous willpower and which must be constantly maintained against the formidable forces of self-concern and of self-interest. Moreover, such love of the neighbor frequently gets little support from the neighbor himself. People generally are not so lovable that we should naturally, without exertion and struggle, cherish and love them as we do ourselves. Indeed, the love for the neighbor can maintain itself only if on the one hand it is based on, and laid upon us, by the law of God, and only if on the other hand that same God grants us the desire to live uprightly according to all his commandments


What do you think? Did Bavinck get it right? 


Pastor Lew 

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God is Not Supporting Actor

Jubilee Fam, 


I read something recently from a letter written by a seasoned theologian seeking to encourage an aspiring theologian. A critical thought to keep in mind is that though vocational theologians work in the academy, for example, we are all theologians. We all speak of God in one sense or another. Often, the question at hand is whether we are good theologians or bad ones. There were so many good things I could point out for our attention. You can read the article here. Here, though, is what I want to put on your plate to chew on — Theologians ought not to be nags, but they must be “the conscience of the congregation," reminding people that faith is not the same as anti-intellectualism and that God is not a supporting actor in their stories but that we have bit parts in his. This is what we see in the Book of Acts as we learn about what it means to enact the reign of the King, not ourselves. In the book of Acts, the Triune God is the recipient of the best actor(s) award. We find ourselves in their story, and what a story it is!


We have seen how Peter and John have played their bit part so far. We saw the challenging reality of Ananias and Sapphira’s bit part that illustrated the dangers of holiness. We have so much more to see, like the Ethiopian eunuch’s bit part and Paul’s influential and yet bit part. Be encouraged this week, Jubilee. While it is tempting to focus on the little tree of our lives and slightly forget the forest of God’s redemptive story, the part you have in this drama will redound to the glory of our King. By grace, keep playing your role as and among the King’s people well for our joy and his glory! 


Pastor Lew

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Prayer Informed by Scripture

Jubilee Fam, 


On Sunday we saw a proper response to threats. When the church became recipients of the central currency of the world, they did not respond back with threats but with prayer. This is a great reminder for us of what Jesus said in Luke 6:28 — Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. The early church’s prayer in the Acts 4 was saturated with rich theology describing who God was before they got to the request. Likewise, may our prayers be inundated with who God is. The question is how? How do we infuse our prayers with rich theology so that our requests to God spring from the ground of who he is? I think that the answer is to follow the lead of the church in this passage. Their prayer was informed by Scripture. They used words from the text. It is in Scripture that we increase our vocabulary for words in prayer that communicate who God is. My wonderful wife found something called My Epic Life Daily Word Workout which teaches the girls a new word each day. In order for it to work though it can’t just sit do in our dining room looking like a good idea we will get to one day. Each day we have to flip the page and talk about the new word. Our prayer vocabulary will increase as we get into the text and learn new words. Jubilee, let's keep learning the glorious words of Scripture that we might continue to pray to our glorious God. 



Learning words to pray with you, 


Pastor Lew

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Confidence in our Sovereign Lord

Jubilee Fam, 


Let me tell you what happened last night. Our Wednesday nights are typically taken up with soccer. I tell our oldest that she has played more soccer than I have ever played in my entire life, and I am pretty sure she could run circles or, better yet, kick loops around me on the field. Usually, afterward, we head home and eat dinner. Last night though, we headed to Jubilee to join Wednesday night prayer, especially as we sought God’s face for restoration, repentance, and reconciliation for the challenges local churches are walking through in this season.

It

was 

a

glorious 

 time 

 (I may or may not be trying to emphasize something)!


Let me say this first. Ricky and Maureen are doing excellent and sacrificial work for us at Jubilee. Please be sure to thank them for their time and commitment to the prayer ministry. Better yet, join them on Wednesdays, even if it is sporadically as your schedule allows. Our time together was rich with singing, thanksgiving, confession, and heartfelt supplication to the God whom we will see on Sunday, Lord willing, addressed in the church’s prayer in Acts 4:23–31. The church addressed their prayer to one who provides a firm foundation for our prayers, especially the ones we prayed last night for a work of healing to happen in the hurts caused in and by the church. Just meditate on the beginning of this for a few moments and see if it doesn’t set your face like flint to ask for big things from our Father. "And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord…" (Ac 4:24). Brothers and sisters, the reason we can have strong confidence in our prayers is not because of anything in us, like crafting eloquent words in prayer. We have tremendous confidence due to who we are praying to. Regardless of whether or not you address God like this in your prayers, this is who you are praying to — Sovereign Lord. Our God, who is our Father in Christ, is also the one who holds absolute power and authority over all. When we pray to him, we pray to the one who rules over all. What a firm foundation for our prayer as we ask him to do what seems to be the impossible, like restoring brokenness, granting repentance, and bringing about reconciliation even from the most profound hurt. Whether or not you can make it to our times of prayer, though I encourage you to make it happen, let’s continue to strive to be a praying people. We have great reason to be so because of who our Father is.


Pastor Lew

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We Listen by Grace

Jubilee Fam, 


For whatever reason, I completely blew past one of the most important things I could have said on Sunday concerning applying the text. I mentioned that our application is to continue to listen to Jesus, specifically for believers. We entered the path of discipleship by listening to Jesus’ claim on our lives as King and call for repentance. We take every step on this pathway by continuing to listen to Jesus and doing what he tells us to do. I intended to end with this concerning the application: There are so many areas to investigate where we must listen to Jesus in our lives. At lunch, in your MLG, grab a cup of coffee with a friend and talk about where you must listen to Jesus and be sure to pray, knowing that grace will be supplied for you to listen and obey. If Jesus has blessed us and caused us to turn to Him in repentance (Acts 3:26), he will indeed bless us and grant us grace to listen to him for the rest of our days. This call to listen and obey what Jesus tells us to do is not a call to do so in our strength. We listen by grace. We obey by grace. We thank Jesus for the grace he supplies.


Where is it hard to listen to Jesus and obey what He calls you to do? Admit that there is no strength in and of yourself to follow it. Call upon the Spirit of Jesus to supply grace to both desire and do what Jesus is telling you to do. Trust that all will be given to you. Act and do what he tells you to do. Thank God for the grace he supplied once you do it. I know, I know. All of this is so much easier typed, read, and said than done. I feel that in my bones. And yet, it is still valid, and it is our pathway to listening by grace to the one whom God has glorified. He supplies grace to the humble (James 4:6).


Trusting for grace with you,


Pastor Lew

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