Shades Valley Community Church http://www.shadesvalley.org Loving God, Loving Others, Making Disciples Sun, 28 May 2017 20:25:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.5 Easter – A Spoken Word http://www.shadesvalley.org/death-in-his-grave-spoken-word-easter-2017/ Mon, 17 Apr 2017 17:21:00 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=4377 *Spoken word written and performed by Luke DeMarco for Shades Valley Community Church’s 2017 Easter service. Audio recording coming next week.

Death in His Grave
I stand before the cross of Christ, mostly unaware of all my Savior suffered.
We see the Cross everywhere, and it’s certainly not a bad thing,
But let’s just acknowledge the fact that this is the only instance in human history where in instrument of torture has become a t-shirt design.
I forget the weight of His glory.
I forget the weight of His cross.
It’s meaning, though full,
Tends to get lost amongst the costly commodities this world deems worthy of worship.
But let’s stop looking at this jaded glimmer of this dying world,
And let’s fix our eyes on this… Cross,
As well as the King that bore it.

This King, anticipated by the prophets of old,
Who told the old world will fold with the cold sting of death,
And new life would emerge from the same breath that breathed life into Adam.
The Messiah was coming,
The Spirit of God was on him,
and He will send hell running back into the darkness from whence it came.
This world would never be the same! So the world looked longingly for the chosen One.
Little did death know he would be running from a carpenter’s Son.

Our king come down in humility,
There was no beauty in His appearance that we should desire Him,
Even though we should have longed for Him, and yet…
He desired us,
Despite the fact that our DNA was drenched in the very darkness He came to kill.
He still loved us, even while we were His enemies.

And enemies we proved ourselves to be.
While our Savior came to portray the image of God,
We hung him on a tree.
But make no mistake, the Savior’s will was free.
He knew this was coming, and He still came willingly.
After two years of ministry,
This carpenter King brought himself to cavalry,
This Beacon of Heaven, had brought himself to misery,
For the sake of us… why?

Because he loved us.
And we looked straight back into those mercy-filled eyes,
And denied Him.
We gazed at His glory and exclaimed “Crucify Him!”

And He made no defense.
No plea for mercy escaped his lips.
When we stared him down in our courtrooms,
Asking Him to state his case.
We had no idea that the Judge of Heaven had taken our place!
The crown of eternity was willingly replaced with a crown of thorns.
We mocked Him, and beat Him, and he bore our scorn.
Despite all this… we found Him innocent!
Yet our sin-torn hearts beat against Him.

It was then we placed this cross on his shoulders.
Both citizens and soldiers were thirsty for innocent blood to be spilled
In our sinful state, we desperately wanted the Living God killed. Little did we know…
It should have been us walking to Golgotha,
holding the cold weight of this cross.
It should have been us suffering this loss,
But behold, the Son of Man walked in our place.
Disfigured, disdained and defeated.
The hands that held the earth in place were cheated,
As we pierced them to pieces of wood.
The Firstborn of all Creation was hoised up,
As we stood idly by, mocking his precious name.
“If you are the Son of God, pull yourself off this cross!”

You were battered and beaten.
And our scoffing cries, drenched in lies,
was against all that you and I were made to do in the first place.
Worship was our purpose, but goodness was purged by the fallen fruit of Eden’s trees.
Instead of falling to our knees in repentance,
We mocked Him through and through.
But as the sun and moon turned their heads in disbelief,
The temple veil was torn in two.
What kind of love is this??

As the Savior breathed his last,
Every sin, mistake, and blemish of the past
Was covered in the blood and water that flowed from his side.
Jesus has drunk our wrath and bore our pride.
He died in our place, sin’s hunger diminished.
He hung his head, and through the blood and tears whispered,
“It is finished.”

But this is not the end.
And it never was. For our God, who mends
What’s broken, has spoken of this redemption since the beginning, before all the sin we’ve done.
The Father did not simply send his Son
To bend and break under the weight of sin and death.
But on Day Three… the Savior once again took a breath!
And the bandaged body of Christ began to have a heartbeat once more.
Beating out death by death,
Our Savior left His tomb, sealed by the stone.
The Man of Sorrows, who died all alone,
Has now become the Name above all names,
And He sits on His glorious throne.

He has conquered death,
And brought his Bride, the Church, out of hell’s clutches.
So we will walk through the valleys that go by death’s name,
We will walk through the flood and the fire just the same.
We lay our lives down, we consider all as loss.
For the sake of Christ,
We now live from His cross.
We are no longer orphans,
We are no longer slaves,
We are now children of God,
Bought with the blood that he gave.
Praise the name of Jesus!
He is mighty to save!
Worthy is the Lamb who lay death in his grave!

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Final Lent Devotional: Revelation 21:1-8 http://www.shadesvalley.org/final-lent-devotional-revelation-211-8/ Sat, 15 Apr 2017 14:39:59 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=4371 Revelation 21:1-8 (click here)
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. (Revelation 21:3)

Reflection
God with us.

Think about it… just as it was in creation so will it be in consummation… all because of Christ.

We were created to be God’s people… his community… with whom he dwelt. But, we broke fellowship. Through our sin, creation and community were corrupted.

Yet, the entire storyline of the Bible declares that our God has not abandoned creation or his community… no… he comes for us! He will redeem us, reconcile all things, and dwell with us again!

In the tabernacle, he came to dwell amongst his people.

In the temple, he came to dwell with his people.

In Christ, God dwelt with with his people as one of them.

In the Holy Spirit, God dwells in his people.

And the day of consummation is coming when God will complete our redemption through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit and “He will dwell with [us], and [we] will be his people, and God himself will be with [us] as [our] God.”

Looking forward to that day is meant to provide us power  in the present! Power to be his people, sacrificing ourselves for one another and for the sake of his kingdom! We don’t have to make our lives all about building our own kingdom because we know that we are citizens of an everlasting kingdom that is coming! We can give our lives and sacrifice all for the sake of one another and the Gospel… we can be a cruciform community precisely because the community of the crucified Christ will be brought to consummation!

We must set this vision of community before us day after day… as we currently live amongst corruption we look and long for the day of consummation! We testify to it’s coming by living cruciform lives right now!

Oh Shades… let us be the cruciform community God has created us to be and called us to be! May he proved the power as we look forward to the consummated community of his kingdom!

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: 1 John 1 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-1-john-1/ Fri, 14 Apr 2017 13:24:33 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=4369 1 John 1 (click here)
If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:6-7)

Reflection
We like to associate with people who love what we love. Is this not the very motivation that stands behind all peer pressure?

For some reason, if there is someone in our midst who is not going along with what we are doing, especially if it is morally dubious, their presence bothers us. So they must conform or leave.

We like to associate with people who love what we love and do what we do.

We can deny it a we want, but the evidence bears witness to the contrary.

The apostle John is aware of people claiming to love God, but who do not like to associate with his people. You’ve never met anyone like that, have you?

John says that this is like claiming fellowship with the light while walking in darkness. The words and actions contradict one another. If someone is in love with darkness it will be evidenced by the fact that they do not like associating with people of the light… they want to associate with those who love what they love.

But… if we walk in the light of God, then we love fellowship with God’s people… not because we or they are better than those who walk in darkness, but because our own darkness has been cleaned by the blood of Jesus! We have been brought into the light and want to be with all others who love the light!

We like to associate with those who love what we love… do you like to associate with, fellowship with the church… the people of God?

Do you claim to love God? Is it evidenced by the fact that you love being a part of his community? Do you show sacrificial love to his people in a way that reflects the sacrificial love he has shown to you? Do you love to be a part of cruciform community?

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: 1 Peter 3:8-18 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-1-peter-38-18/ Thu, 13 Apr 2017 14:22:05 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=4367 1 Peter 3:8-18 (click here)
But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God… (1 Peter 3:14-18a)

Reflection
All of us suffer… but have we suffered for righteousness sake?

When God’s people live as God’s people, we are promised that suffering will naturally come. I’m not saying that we seek out suffering, but that it is the inevitable result of following Jesus… there is a massive difference.

“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…” (2 Timothy 3:12)

Yet, we have the confidence that Peter speaks of when he says that EVEN IF we suffer for righteousness sake, we will be blessed… for no matter what suffering comes our way, even if it is death itself, we have God as our inheritance. Christ died to bring us to God! Even if we suffer and die, death is only a vehicle to transport us into the very presence of God! We will still be blessed! We cannot lose!

Therefore, Peter tells us as a people to have no fear or be troubled! Since suffering cannot win in our lives, we can live to honor the Lord as holy… and when the world is confused by our deep abiding joy in the face of suffering, we are ready to make a defense for the hope we have in Christ! We are ready to proclaim that though we lose everything, even our lives, we do not lose our joy because our joy is Jesus!

This is not a superficial, frivolous joy… no… this is a rock-solid joy that stands even in the midst of suffering and sorrow! We are a people who are sorrowful, yet always rejoicing (2 Corinthians 6:10). We are a people who mourn, but not as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). And when we suffer and sorrow, yet stand joyously on the hope of Christ… we mirror the cross of Christ!

Jesus suffered and sorrowed, yet for the joy set before him he endured the cross! He cried out as one forsaken, yet committed his Spirit into the hands of his Father!

He suffered for righteousness sake… and so do we as his people… mirroring his sacrifice… pointing the world to his sacrifice by being a cruciform community.

All of us suffer… but do we suffer for righteousness sake?

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: 1 Peter 2:9-10 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-1-peter-29-10/ Wed, 12 Apr 2017 15:50:08 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=4364 1 Peter 2:9-10
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Reflection
Why has God saved us?

Does that question every cross your mind? Does it ever keep you awake at night? I know that I haven’t lost much sleep over that thought, but I should have tossed and turned many times because of it.

I think that we don’t wrestle with such a question because our assumption is, “Why would God not save me?” I mean I am totally worth it right?

Wrong.

There is every reason in the world for God to have not saved any of us. I mean it was us who rejected him. He owes us nothing. And it is that very fact that makes salvation so amazing.

He didn’t save us because we were deserving, but because he is so graciously loving. He has lavished his love upon us out of sheer grace!

He chose us as his people, made us his priests, empowered us to be holy… we are his for he called us out of darkness to enjoy his marvelous light forever and ever… just because he loves!

This changes everything about how I react to salvation!

If salvation is something I believe I deserve… then I treat it as such. I don’t really show thanks for it. I’m not amazed by it. I don’t celebrate it or proclaim it. It’s just something I’m entitled to.

But… if salvation is by the grace of God alone… then we become a people in awe of a God so gracious! We can’t help but celebrate… we can’t help but proclaim the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness and into his marvelous light! That becomes our joy!

We become a people willing to sacrifice everything to make known to the world, the gracious love that has been made known to us! We become a cruciform community!

What about you? Is salvation something you feel entitled to? …or… does your salvation amaze you and feel you with joy that cannot be contained? May we be a people, a cruciform community, that sacrifices all to proclaim the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness and into his marvelous light!

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: James 1 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-james-1/ Tue, 11 Apr 2017 10:49:59 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=4362 James 1 (click here)
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)

Reflection
My children can be so short-sighted. They are only able to see the immediate, not the end.

Levi still can’t ride a bike because all he can focus on is the potential pain in the present… not the joy and freedom that awaits him on the other side of a few scrapes and bruises.

All too often, I find that I am same.

Much like the incoming tide, life seems to bring in wave after wave of trials. There may be short pauses of peace in between, but you know the next wave is coming… and I find that all I am able to focus on this the potential pain in the present. I do not lift my eyes to see the joy waiting on the other side.

What joy?

James declares to Christians, who were suffering more than I ever have, that all their trials produce steadfastness… a strengthening of faith… and enduring faith that will carry them all the way home to perfection in glory where their joy will be complete!

We don’t deny the pain in the present, but we are able to see more! We see not only pain, but the coming promise… the promise that our trials won’t win… the promise that Christ is with us and will sustain us… the promise that we will know perfect joy in him forever. This promise strengthens our faith in the present! We get a foretaste of joy in the present!

So we can count it all joy! All of it! Because we know that it is all bringing us home to Jesus! There is a joy set before us… just like there was for Christ himself…

We look “to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who FOR THE JOY that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)

When we face trials with joy… not a fake joy that pretends like trials aren’t trials… Jesus did not pretend that the cross would be painless, no, he despised its shame! So… when we face trials with true joy, we display the very cross of Christ to the world! We mirror our savior who endured the cross for the joy of sitting at the right hand of his Father! We endure for the joy of sitting at the feet of Jesus!

Such joy in the face of trials is unlike anything the world has seen. Such joy comes from a cruciform community, willing to sacrifice themselves for the joy set before them… the joy of Jesus.

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: Hebrews 10:24-25 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-hebrews-1024-25/ Mon, 10 Apr 2017 14:21:38 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=4360 Hebrews 10:24-25 
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Reflection
Why do we gather?

I mean seriously… week after week… Sunday after Sunday… why do we gather together as a church?

We can study the Word of God on our own. We all have a copy and through the internet we also have access to endless study resources. Even if we want to listen to a sermon, we can hear the greatest preachers on the planet via podcasts.

We can listen to amazing worship music and sing along (at a volume level of our choosing) through any number of music streaming services. I can “get my worship on” anywhere.

I mean seriously… everything we meet together to do on a Sunday, I can do all by myself… so what is the point?

Oh Shades… there is a massive point!

When we gather, we experience a multiplicity of things that we simply cannot experience alone. We stand (or sit) amongst the people of God, lift our voices together… not just to the Lord, but over one another… encouraging one another and stirring up the faith of one another. Christ in me meets Christ in you.

When we gather, we collectively submit ourselves to the Word and to pastoral leadership… we bear witness to the world that we are a part of a body, not merely on a personal journey of spiritual enlightenment. This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all the reasons we should not forsake gathering as a community.

It is only in the community of the church that we are able to stir one another up to love and good works… that we encourage one another to press on… that we hold each other accountable… that we forgive and are forgiven… that we are actually a part of the bride of Christ!

You, as an individual, are not the bride of Christ! The church is the bride of Christ… and you are a part of his bride by being a part of the church… not just the global church, but the local church! The global church is made up of local churches.

It is in this local community, as we consistently gather, that we sacrifice ourselves for one another… considering how to stir up one another… considering how to give of myself for the sake of someone else. It is in this local community that we take on the shape of the cross and learn to be a cruciform community.

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Sermon: Acts 2:42-47 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-sermon-acts-242-47/ Mon, 10 Apr 2017 02:45:58 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=4357 World-Changing Community
Acts 2:42-47 (
click here)
On Sundays during Lent, there will not be an email devotional because a sermon will actually be preached on the passage for that day. If you would like to listen to today’s sermon, you can find it on iTunes by searching for “Shades Valley Community Church” or simply click here.

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Lent Devotional: Philemon http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-philemon/ Sat, 08 Apr 2017 13:38:32 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=4353 Philemon (click here)
I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints…

I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment.

I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart.

For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a bondservant but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother… (Philemon 4-5, 10, 12, and 15-16a)

Reflection
Philemon’s love for the Lord Jesus overflowed in love for all the saints… and now it is about to break bonds with brotherhood.

Onesimus was a bondservant of Philemon’s and for one reason or another he had run away and found Paul. While spending time with the apostle, he became a believer in the Lord and now the time has come for Paul to send him back. Why?

Is Paul sending Onesimus back into the bonds of slavery? Does Paul not love Onesimus? Is Paul just conforming to the culture of his day instead of countering it with the Gospel?

In short… no.

It is because of the Gospel that Paul sends Onesimus back to Philemon… it is for the very purpose of putting the power of the Gospel on display! By sending Onesimus back, the bonds of slavery will not merely be escaped, but broken! It is Paul’s love for Onesimus, Philemon, their church in Colossae, and the Gospel that compels him to take such action! Paul is not conforming to the culture around him, but putting on display how the Gospel transforms the culture!

Philemon, whose love overflows to ALL the saints, will have love overflowing to this new saint… Onesimus! He will receive him back no longer as a bondservant, but as a brother!

Philemon will sacrifice his “economic rights,” he will sacrifice his “social position,” he will sacrifice his “normal” way of life to embrace his new brother in Christ! He and all of Colossae will put on display the very love of Jesus as they count a slave as their brother! The old Christmas song couldn’t be more true when it declares of Christ, “Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother!”

That truth of the Gospel can only be put on display if Onesimus returns to Philemon and the Colossian church. Paul sends Onesimus back so that Philemon and this church might experience the joy of being a cruciform community.

Who has God sent back into your life? Is there anyone with whom there has previously been a difficult relationship… perhaps even one in which they wronged you… or maybe one in which you wronged them? Yet, they are a brother and sister in the Lord and now your paths are crossing again.

Why would God have them come back into your world? Does God not love you? Oh nothing could be further from the truth! Perhaps this is the very love of God on display for you as you have the opportunity to experience the joy of being a cruciform community.

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: 2 Timothy 1:1-2:2 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-2-timothy-11-22/ Fri, 07 Apr 2017 11:50:10 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=4351 2 Timothy 1:1-2:2 (click here)
I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God…

…what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also. (2 Timothy 1:5, 8 and 2:2)

Reflection
Who shared the Gospel with you? A relative? A friend? A co-worker? A stranger?

The point is not really who it was, but that it was a “who.” In other words, somebody shared the Gospel with you. That’s how it works in this community called the Church. God works through the community to grow the community (Acts 2:42-47).

Young Timothy’s grandmother passed the faith to Timothy’s mother and it was passed on to him. Thus, his heart was prepared to hear the Gospel when Paul first shared it with him. In view of such a history of faithfulness, Paul calls Timothy to likewise not be ashamed of the Gospel, but to pass it on!

What he’s heard he is to speak so that others may hear and be equipped to speak.

The fact that you are a Christian means that you have heard the Gospel from someone. Therefore, in light of that faithfulness God calls you to likewise not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord! He calls you to speak the Gospel just as it was spoken to you.

Take what was entrusted to you and entrust it to others.

We can all likely name the person or persons who shared the Gospel with us, but can we name the people we are sharing the Gospel with now? I’m not just talking about evangelism with non-believers (though that is included), but also discipling younger believers so that they will be able to speak the faith to others.

Who are you discipling?

This is not about guilt… oh no! Guilt is not the motivating factor Paul uses with Timothy and it is not the motivating factor I want for us! Paul aims to motivate Timothy by telling him that God will provide all the power he needs to make disciples. If Timothy should remain silent, he will miss out on an incredible experience of the power of God that results in his own joy! Paul is motivating Timothy with joy… and I aim to do the same!

There is a joy in not just knowing Jesus, but making him known. Don’t miss out on the joy of sacrificing yourself, your desires, your reputation, your time, etc. to make Christ known.

I’m not trying to guilt you into this, but to joy you into it!

Don’t miss out on the joy of God working through the community to grow the community… the joy of us sacrificing ourselves for the next generation of Christians… the joy of being a cruciform community.

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: Colossians 3 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-colossians-3/ Thu, 06 Apr 2017 13:40:51 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=4349 Colossians 3 (click here)
Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. (Colossians 3:9-11)

Reflection
Have you ever been guilty of thinking that you are better than someone else? I think all of us have done that before… whether we would admit it or not. There is something in our sin-soaked hearts that immediately likes to size people up and tear them down to ensure that we outrank them.

The ancient world was no different.

In Colossae, people considered certain ethnic backgrounds superior to others… Jews boasted in their closeness to God through observing the law… others saw their freedom as proof that they were better than all who belonged to that powerless class known as “slaves.”

This was a culture in which you leveraged every possible advantage you could to get ahead… doesn’t really sound too unfamiliar does it?

Apparently, Christians in Colossae were having a tough time leaving this mindset behind and so Paul reminds them that this is simply not who they are anymore. The primarily thing that defines their identity is not race or social class, but Christ!

They’ve become part of a new community and they are being renewed, recreated into the image of Jesus! It’s not that all their differences disappear, but in Christ their differences are not advantages or disadvantages, but simply a multi-faceted display of the glory of God as he unites all sorts of people into one people… his people!

Christ is all, and in all!

Therefore, they are to no longer lie to one another, use one another, take advantage of one another in order to elevate themselves. No… now they look to Christ who did not even use his deity for his own advantage, but humbled himself to the point of death on a cross for God’s glory and the good of the Church.

That Christ is our all! That Christ is in us all! That Christ empowers us to be a cruciform community… a people who no longer try to use our differences as advantages, but as ways to serve each other. We humble ourselves for the glory of God and the good of the church… and in doing so, we are being formed into the very image of Christ… we are being a cruciform community.

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: Ephesians 2 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-ephesians-2/ Wed, 05 Apr 2017 15:09:13 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=4347 Ephesians 2 (click here)
For [Christ] himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:14-16 and 19-22)

Reflection
The temple was a massive structure, dominating the Jerusalem skyline. You could literally see it form nearly anywhere in the city. The people lived in its shadow.

This was a constant reminder to all of many things: the presence of God, their call to the law, worship by sacrifice, sin causing separation, etc.  Yet, it not only reminded the people that they were divided from entering into the direct presence of the Lord… it also reminded them of divisions that existed between them and others.

You see, in the temple there were several courts where people could gather. The closest a non-priest could get was the court of the men… Jewish men that is. Outside of that was the court of the women… again… Jewish women. Then came the court of the Gentiles where all others could gather.

There was a division between Jews and Gentiles… a literal dividing wall. Much like there was a massive veil dividing the people from God’s presence in the Holy of Holies.

You are likely familiar with what happened to that veil. When Christ died, it ripped from top to bottom… symbolically showing that through his sacrificial death, Jesus atoned for our sins and opened the way for us to be reconciled with God. He killed the hostility that sin had caused and brought peace!

…but not just between us and God…

We tend to focus only on what Jesus’ death accomplished for our individual relationship with God, and we fail to see what he accomplished in our relationships with one another.

He “has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace…”

There is no longer Jew and Gentile separated by a dividing wall, but all who place faith in Christ are a part of a new humanity… united because of him!

It’s like Jesus’ death tore down the temple altogether to create a new one… not built out of stones with dividing walls, but built out of his people… uniting them together so that they, the church, are the very dwelling place of God!

“In [Christ] you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”

We are a community created by the cross! Do we live this way? Or… do we try to resurrect dividing walls of hostility?

If the church has been created by the cross then it is to live by the cross as a cruciform community.

Making Us One
*Lyrics by John-Mark Dorough, Joseph Wolnski, John Ball, Brad Brown, and Jeremy Moore

Father we have wandered
Fashioned empty idols that serve ourselves
Cast in our own image
Remind us who You are

Father we’ve forgotten
That You’ve called us together
To bear each other’s burdens
And worship You as one

Lord You tore down the walls
And You are making us one
Heal divisions between, give us unity
In Your bond of peace

At the cost of our desires
Teach us to be humble as You were
With gentleness and patience
To serve each other’s needs

Father be our anchor
In the storms that can divide us
Teach us how to listen
Build us up in love

Lord You tore down the walls
And You are making us one
Heal divisions between, give us unity
In Your bond of peace

One Word, one truth, one Spirit, one hope
One Church, one light, one body
Found in Christ

Lord You tore down the walls
And You are making us one
Heal divisions between, give us unity
In Your bond of peace

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: 1 Corinthians 12 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-1-corinthians-12/ Tue, 04 Apr 2017 10:55:32 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=4339 1 Corinthians 12 (click here)
For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. (1 Corinthians 12:14-20 and 24b-26)

Reflection
The discs between vertebrae in your spine are so small. I mean seriously… how important could a little two-inch wide circle of gelatin like substance be?

You have no idea!… unless you’ve had one go crazy on you.

I had back surgery in December to fix a herniated disc… and let me tell you… it may be an extremely small part of the body, but when it hurts… the whole-body hurts! It had the ability to put me completely out of commission… bed-ridden… it hurt to move anything.

In truth, every single part of our body is important. Recent science is even beginning to see purpose for the often-insulted appendix! The point is, we can’t just pay attention to the complexion of our skin and the size of our waistline, caring only for the things seen on the outside… no… we must care for our whole body.

God has designed the community of the church to function in the same way.

He has made us an interdependent people… and we need all our “parts” to work. He did this so “that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.” We can’t ignore any member in the body of Christ, for when one member suffers, all suffer together!

Do you see the amazing wisdom of God… he designed our bodies in such a way that they demand our care and attention… likewise… he designed our church community in such a way that demands our loving sacrifice for one another.

He designed us to be a cruciform community.

You are a vital part of the body of Christ! And you are called to show others that they are a vital part of the body of Christ! You are called right into the heart of this thing we call cruciform community.

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: Romans 16 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-romans-16/ Mon, 03 Apr 2017 16:15:44 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=4337 Romans 16 (click here)
I commend to you our sister Phoebe…
Greet Prisca and Aquila…
Greet also the church in their house…
Greet my beloved Epaenetus…
Greet Mary…
Greet Andronicus and Junia…
Greet Ampliatus…
Greet Urbanus…
Greet Apelles…
Greet those who belong to the family of Aristobulus…
Greet my kinsman Herodion…
Greet those in the Lord who belong to the family of Narcissus…
Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa…
Greet the beloved Persis…
Greet Rufus…
Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas…
Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas…
Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.

I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites… (Romans 16 various verses)

Reflection
Greetings…

The salutations that Paul gives in his letters, like Romans 16, can be easy for us to skip over, but they should actually cause us to slow down and ponder their beauty. Here, Paul puts flesh and blood on the love and life of the early church.

These are real people in real relationship with one another. It is easy to see that on the local level they are a close knit faith family, and yet they also feel a real, deep spiritual connection with all other churches throughout the world.

This is a community that loves one another, even those they have not yet met. They share a bond in Christ and that is enough. This truly is cruciform community and Paul calls all Christians into it! We are all to “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” Obviously that has some cultural context, but the principle is still true. We greet one another, welcome one another, readily embrace one another… and not as the world does… out of some sense of duty or just to display nice manners. No! Our greeting is a HOLY greeting. It is motivated by the love that God has poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit! It is a genuine, deep love for the other person because they are our family in Christ!

We want the best for one another! We want Christ for one another! And that is why I think Paul shows us that this Holy, faith-family love is not just a welcoming love, but a protecting love!

We welcome others that are a part of Christian community, and we protect this Christian community from people who would not display cruciform love, but abuse the church for their own ends. We guard against divisions!

Paul puts on display for us the two-pronged love we have for all Christians… a love that greets and guards! Even though we have never met most believers in the global church we love them this way… with open arms, and we are ready to take up spiritual arms to protect them!

A cruciform community is one that greets and guards the church!

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Sermon: Colossians 3:12-17 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-sermon-colossians-312-17/ Sun, 02 Apr 2017 20:44:39 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=4335 Worship-Creating Community
Colossians 3:12-17 (
click here)
On Sundays during Lent, there will not be an email devotional because I actually preach on the passage for that day. If you would like to listen to today’s sermon, you can find it on iTunes by searching for “Shades Valley Community Church” or simply click here.

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Lent Devotional: John 13:34-35 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-john-1334-35/ Sat, 01 Apr 2017 13:24:44 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=4331 John 13:34-35 
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

Reflection
What made this command new?

It’s not as if God had never commanded his people to be a loving community. In fact, the whole of the Law was often summarized as love of God and love of neighbor. How could there possibly be anything new about this command?

The “newness” is found not in the command to love one another, but in the description of what that love looks like. Jesus disciples were to love one another JUST AS HE LOVED THEM.

Their love was to mirror his love. This is how the world would know who actually belonged to Jesus as one of his followers… they would see their love and say, “Their love looks just like the love that we saw from Jesus himself.”

Well what kind of love has Jesus shown us?

Cruciform love. Sacrificial love. Humble love that gives itself so that the one loved might now joy in Jesus forever.

Jesus had just shown this love through the washing of his disciples feet, and in just a little while this love would literally be poured out of his veins upon the cross. Christ looks at the community of his followers and tells them to display the love of the cross before the world! He tells them to be a cruciform community!

Where do you get your definition of love from? As you think about what it means to love God and love your brothers and sisters in Christ… how are you defining what that love looks like?

Does your idea of love come from Hollywood? Or Friends? Or your own experiences? Jesus is calling to you and to me, commanding us to have our concept of love shaped by his cross.

Look upon the cross of Christ and hear his new command… “Love one another: JUST AS I have loved you.”

Be a cruciform community.

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: John 13:1-20 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-john-131-20/ Fri, 31 Mar 2017 14:43:30 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=4328 John 13:1-20 (click here)
Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.” (John 13:3-5 and 12-15)

Reflection
We grasp, scrape, and strive to have and keep whatever we want in life. We come into this life with closed fists and that is how we continue to live.

Yet here is Jesus… who has literally had all things given into his hands by God himself. And it is that very knowledge that motivates Christ not to live close-fisted, but open-handed. The truth that he owns all and is the Son of God over all is the very thing that leads him to kneel and wash the feet of his disciples.

How does that work?

It actually makes perfect sense if you think about it. All things had been given into Jesus’ hand… so he didn’t have to grasp, scrape, and strive for anything… it was all his. He didn’t have to live with closed fists in order to cling and keep what was his… all was secured by God his Father. His inheritance wasn’t going anywhere.

His relationship were secure. God was his Father… he came from him and was returning to him. His future was secure. Knowing this truth leads to complete and total freedom! Christ could live totally and completely sacrificially… with open hands… for he had no need to grasp for anything…

…neither do we.

Through Christ, we have been made sons and daughters of God. All things are ours (1 Corinthians 3:21-23). We don’t have to live grasping, scraping, and striving to gain and keep the things this world has to offer… no… our inheritance is secured by an unshakeable relationship with our Father… the sovereign God over all!

Such knowledge empowers us to live with open hands… sacrificing our lives for others… because in the end it’s not really sacrifice… even death isn’t a sacrifice… it’s gain!

And so, because we know, like Christ, that all things are ours and we will dwell with God our Father forever, Jesus can and does call us to be a community that mirrors his sacrificial love. A community that knees to wash the feet of one another and the world… a cruciform community.

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

 

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Lent Devotional: Luke 10:25-36 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-luke-1025-36/ Thu, 30 Mar 2017 14:00:42 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=4326 Luke 10:25-36 (click here)
…desiring to justify himself, [he] said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29)

Reflection
Law-keeping, list-checking, legalism.

I’m an addicted to the high legalism offers through the drug of self-justification.

If Jesus will just give me the list, show me the boxes that need to be checked then I can make quick work of this “holiness” thing. This was the desire of the lawyer in Luke 10. He knew the requirements of the law… to love God and neighbor… but that second one seemed a bit too vague. He needed to make sure he had or could check off that box. He needed to be able to justify himself. So he asked Jesus to define, draw a box around the meaning of “neighbor.”

But Jesus refuses to make “loving your neighbor” an item on our “to do” list.

So… through one of his most famous parables, Jesus does what only he can do… he blows up our categories, resets the way we see the world, and puts our “to do” list through the paper shredder.

The “Good Samaritan” is annihilates the notion that the law of God is merely about list keeping and box checking. Jesus shows us that the law is aimed at the heart. Loving your neighbor is not merely a command to which your external actions should conform… it is a call that requires your heart’s affections to transform!

You cannot draw a box around compassion. You cannot make love a line item to be completed. You cannot check “loving your neighbor” off a list.

We need to be saved from our law-keeping, list-checking, legalism. We need to be rescued from our addiction to self-justification. We do not need Jesus to define “neighbor…” we need Jesus to be our savior!

And I have good news… Gospel news…

Christ died and rose for our justification, our transformation, and our ultimate glorification.

Have the affections of your heart been transformed by Jesus? Do we hear the call of Christ to love God and neighbor as another item to be placed on our “to do” list so? Do we hear that as something that has limits, a finish line, a box that can be checked and marked as completed?

Or…

Does Christ’s call stir up love in our transformed heart? Does it sound like a call, not to a task to be accomplished, but to a totally new way to live? Is our relationship with Jesus about merely conforming our external actions to a new set of rules… or is it about the transforming and transferring of our internal affections to a new ruler… to Jesus?

The good news of the Gospel doesn’t call us to be a law-keeping, list-checking, legalistic community… no… it calls us to be a Christ-empowered, compassion-driven, cruciform community.

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: Mark 2:1-12 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-mark-21-12/ Wed, 29 Mar 2017 15:18:57 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=4324 Mark 2:1-12 (click here)
And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” (Mark 2:3-5)

Reflection
How many times have you almost give up?

How many times have you almost lost faith?

How many times?

In my own life, the fight for faith has all too often seemed like a losing battle… and I know that I would surely be lost were it not for God’s gracious gift of community. In the darkness, when my faith cannot see, I’m surrounded by brothers and sisters who fight for me. Persevering in the faith is a community project. The fight of faith is one for an army… not merely individual soldiers.

In Mark 2, how many times had this paralytic almost given up? How many times had his friends almost lost faith? How many times? Yet, they fought the fight together. They made their way to Jesus together. They burrowed through that roof together. They lowered their friend to the feet of Jesus together…

And when Jesus saw THEIR faith… the faith of this paralytic and his friends… the faith of this community… the faith they had likely fought to sustain… Jesus saw THEIR faith… and sins were forgiven… limbs were restored… salvation was accomplished… by the grace of Jesus through faith.

I’m not sure if you feel like giving up right now…

I’m not sure if you are losing faith…

I’m not sure…

BUT, I am sure that God has given you a gracious gift in the cruciform community called the church. You are not alone in this fight of faith… you are not alone in your perseverance… you are not alone.

In the darkness, when your faith cannot see, you are surrounded by brothers and sisters who fight for you! Don’t isolate yourself and go at this alone. Perseverance is a community project… let the community be your army in the fight of faith! We are prepared to carry you to Jesus, burrow through any barrier, and lay you at his feet.

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: Matthew 25:31-40 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-matthew-2531-40/ Tue, 28 Mar 2017 13:18:09 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=4322 Matthew 25:31-40 (click here)
“Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” (Matthew 25:37-40)

Reflection
The church is the body of Christ.

We make that statement fairly often… but do we play out all the implications? Matthew 25 holds forth one massive implication that is rarely considered.

Typically, we read this passage and believe that it is calling us to a general love and care for the poor, the hurting, and the outcasts of society. There are many, many Biblical passages that call us to that action… please don’t hear me as denying the truth that we are called to sacrificially love those that society marginalizes! However, this is not what Matthew 25:31-40 is about…

This is about the church… the body of Christ.

The final judgment is based solely on how one relates to Jesus Christ. Did you reject him or embrace him by faith? Is Jesus your greatest joy and treasure? Matthew 25 lays out the evidence of whether or not our heart has embraced Christ by faith… and what is the evidence?

It is whether or not we embrace the church in love.

“Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these MY BROTHERS, you did it to me.”

Jesus says that our treatment of his brothers and sisters, the church, is our treatment of him! After all… the church is the body of Christ! Do you clothe the body of Christ? Do you feed the body of Christ? Do you care for the body of Christ?

Our love for Christ is evidenced by our love for his body! Our rejection of Christ is evidenced by our rejection of his body!

I am by no means saying that our works toward the church save us, but that those works serve as evidence of whether or not I am saved! I can say I love Jesus all day long, but what is the evidence? It comes out in how I treat his body when it hurts, when it hungers, when it is exposed, when it is in need… it comes out in cruciform community!

1 John 4:20-21, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

Do we love Jesus by loving his body… the church?

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: Matthew 5:38-42 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-matthew-538-42/ Mon, 27 Mar 2017 14:04:56 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=4319 Matthew 5:38-42 
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”

Reflection
His arm was bruised and hung limp at his side as tears rolled down his face. I asked him to stop, but he was stubborn and wouldn’t let up. He made a fist and struck my arm again as hard as he could… which wasn’t very hard at all.

I immediately returned the lick with ever-escalating force, deepening the purple color of his right bicep and making the tears flow faster.

I don’t remember how this particular fight started, but it had ended with my younger brother and I exchanging free blows to each other’s upper arm… first one to give up lost. What began as gentle taps had increased in force until his arm would be rendered useless for the next few days. This would be the last time we ever hit each other.

I don’t know if you’ve ever found yourself in the midst of a sibling battle like this one, but all of us know how exchanging blows escalates (physically or otherwise). All of us want the last and best hit… we have deep sinful urge for vengeance.

This is why God had instituted the eye for an eye principle in the Old Testament law. It was meant to mitigate personal revenge by having the governing authorities apply a punishment that fit the crime. An eye for an eye was meant to keep things from escalating from an eye to an arm… to a leg… to a life.

However, instead preventing personal revenge, this principle was twisted to justify it! If you take my eye, I’ll take yours (and maybe more).

Such attitudes and actions do not characterize the community of God’s people, for they do not need to seek personal vengeance, but leave it to the Lord who will make all things right (click here for more detail in a previous devotion concerning this theme).

When we a struck with an insulting blow, we don’t have to seek our own vengeance… and raise violence to the next level (*Side note: This is not a prohibition against self-defense. What is in view here is an insulting slap, not a life-threatening attack. Jesus is specifically discussing matters in which people normally sought personal vengeance). We can forgive, knowing God will make things right.

In fact, when it comes to how God’s people personally react when wronged… it looks a lot like how Christ reacted to his abusers and accusers on the way to the cross… it looks cruciform.

God’s people turn the other cheek, give freely to those who would take, serve those who would force, are generous with those who cannot repay them.

Just as…

Christ turned the other cheek to those who struck him, freely gave his life for those who would take it, served those who would force him to his death, and generously paid the debt of sinners who could never pay him back.

We are called to be a cruciform community.

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Sermon Coming Next Week http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-sermon-coming-next-week/ Sun, 26 Mar 2017 16:57:13 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=4317 Due to a nasty little stomach bug, Jonathan was out today and our community spent time in worship and prayer. Our Lenten sermon series will resume next Sunday. The daily devotionals will remain on schedule.

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Lent Devotional: Zechariah 7:9-10 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-zechariah-79-10/ Sat, 25 Mar 2017 14:01:49 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=4315 Zechariah 7:9-10 (click here)
Thus says the LORD of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, [10] do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.” (Zechariah 7:9-10)

Reflection
I’ve lived in the South my entire life. This is home

And, there are a great many things I love about the South… there are also things I could do without… and then there are some things that kinda fall in the middle… things like “southern courtesy.”

On the one hand, I love it that we all (mostly) treat each other with respect and kindness. It does my should good every time a waitress I’ve never met calls me hon’ or baby.

But…

On the other hand, I’m never quite sure if people actually mean what they say… sometimes I doubt if I mean what I say! We even have phrases that are specifically known for being externally nice while meaning something completely different… phrases like “Bless his heart!”

God is not after a people who possess southern courtesy, but who love sacrificially. He doesn’t want a people who hide behind words like “bless her heart,” but a people who live out of a transformed heart!

The prophet Zechariah reveals the heart of God as he calls the people to mere surface level kindness, but to action rooted in heartfelt affection… “let none of you devise evil against another IN YOUR HEART.”

This is a call away from surface action while still having a heart centered on oneself. This is even clearer just a few verses earlier… in Zechariah 7:5-6 God says, “When you… was it for me that you fasted? And when you eat and when you drink, do you not eat for yourselves and drink for yourselves?” These people went through “worship” actions of fasting and feasting, but it was all for themselves, for their own reputation.

These people need transformed hearts… and so do we.

If we are going to be a cruciform community that shows true kindness, mercy, and justice… we cannot do this on our own… we must humble ourselves and ask the Lord to give us these things by the power of his Holy Spirit, through his Son Jesus. We can only be a cruciform community when we are empowered by the one who was crucified.

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: Micah 6:8 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-micah-68/ Fri, 24 Mar 2017 14:31:10 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=4313 Micah 6:8 
He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?

Reflection
On January 24th, 2004 my life changed forever. It was on that day that Holly and I were united in marriage.

This union changed everything.

It literally affected every aspect, every moment of my life. And I’m not just talking about the big things being affected… like my living arrangement, my priorities, my love, etc… I knew that marriage would bring about a huge shift, but I didn’t realize it would work itself out to the point that nothing about me was left unchanged.

I mean the way I cooked, the way I slept, and even the way I sneezed changed! Ok… that last one didn’t actually change, but I am constantly told that it needs to!

This union changed everything.

In truth, marriage is a mere picture, a shadow or a deeper union… the union of Christ with his people, the Church. When you came to faith in Jesus Christ, you became a part of his people and as a part of his people you were united to him… like a bride is united to her groom.

This union should change everything.

This is what the Lord says to through the prophet Micah. He is the God who redeemed them out of slavery and made them his people… and that union should change everything about them. Because they have been united to a God of justice they should be a people of justice. Because they have been united to a God of loving kindness they should be a people of loving kindness. Because they have been united to a God of humble faithfulness they should be a people of humble faithfulness.

Notice that doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly is not what makes them the people of God. No… they do these things BECAUSE they ARE a people who HAVE BEEN united to God.

I don’t act like I’m married to Holly in order to be married to her. No. I act like I am married to Holly because I AM married to her.

In my marriage and in the church’s union with God through Christ… we find ourselves in a union that changes everything!

1 Peter 1:15, “…as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct…”

2 Timothy 1:9, “[God] saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace…”

1 Thessalonians 4:7-8, “For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.”

As we talk about being a people who mirror the Christ to whom we have been united… a people who reflect the cross… a cruciform community… as we talk about this, we must know that we do not seek to reflect the holiness of God in order to be his people, but because we are his people!

He has given us the Holy Spirit to empower us to live holy lives that show the world that our union with Jesus is real! As we continue to put sin to death by the Spirit’s power, we know that we will not be perfectly holy, but we can be truly holy, truly live as the Saints we are!

This is what the Lord requires of his people… to be just that… to live as just that… HIS PEOPLE.

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: Almost 5:10-15 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-almost-510-15/ Thu, 23 Mar 2017 15:33:58 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=4311 Amos 5:10-15 (click here)
They hate him who reproves in the gate,
and they abhor him who speaks the truth.
Therefore because you trample on the poor
and you exact taxes of grain from him,
you have built houses of hewn stone,
but you shall not dwell in them;
you have planted pleasant vineyards,
but you shall not drink their wine. (Amos 5:10-11)

Reflection
It’s hard to read the prophets sometimes… isn’t it? I mean, all our passages for the past few days have just felt heavy as they have exposed some extremely negative images of community.

However…

We need this don’t we? The Bible is true to life, and not all of life is pretty, easy, and light. There are dark, broken difficulties… even in community. And, God specifically raised up prophets to call his rebellious people back to himself. Amos is no different.

Amos calls out with warnings to a community that hates “justice for all” because they love “just all for me.” They are willing to oppress, abuse, and harm anyone as long as it means gain for themselves, and they will silence anyone who tells them differently.

In ancient cities, the older men of the city often spent much of their day seated at the city gates to observe the comings and goings of the people. From this vantage point, they served as judges in the city. People brought their disagreements and grievances to them in hopes that their wisdom would render a just judgment.

Yet… Amos says that many in the community hate those old men specifically because they speak the truth and reprove them for their abuse of others.

This is a massive sign that cruciform community is breaking down and that people are no longer sacrificing themselves for others, but rather sacrificing others for themselves… the community hates correction.

The despising of wisdom, accountability, and correction is evidence that we consider ourselves our own supreme judges. We are unwilling to hear correction because we believe that we are always correct.

The warning from Amos is that even if we reject the justice of a wise community, justice will ultimately be served by an all-wise God. These people may find success in oppressing others so that they can build fine houses and plant great vineyards, but they won’t get to live in their mansions and drink their wine. In other words, even if they get their way for a little while, they will ultimately lose everything. Justice will be done… and the things they thought would bring them lasting satisfaction will pass away, and they will find themselves not in community with the only one who truly satisfies forever… God.

The question we need to ask ourselves is how do we receive correction from our community? Do we love the faithful wounds of a friend, leader, or church who are after our eternal good? Or, do we reject all correction because we believe that we are always correct?

Correction in community is a gracious gift from God that teaches all of us how to live cruciform lives where we give up sacrificing others for the good of ourselves, and become a people who sacrifice ourselves for the good of others.

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: Hosea 3 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-hosea-3/ Wed, 22 Mar 2017 14:15:17 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=4308 Hosea 3 (click here)
And the LORD said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.” (Hosea 3:1)

Reflection
God speaks.

Imagine it… you actually, literally hear his voice. This is something you’ve always hoped would happened, but doubted that it ever would… and then… out of nowhere… a voice. And what does God say?

“Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the LORD.” (Hosea 1:2)

Don’t worry… that’s not exactly what I was expecting either.

What would you do? Hosea obeys… he marries Gomer… and she doesn’t quit her adulterous lifestyle. In fact, she runs into the arms of so many lovers and risky situations, that she apparently landed herself in slavery.

What was Hosea to do? What was he supposed to tell their children? What would God have him do?

“Go AGAIN, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the children of Israel…” (Hosea 3:1)

Hosea buys her back.

Hosea loves Gomer and refuses to let her go. She will be his, and he will be hers. He will pay any price to make sure of it.

Why did the Lord call Hosea to this lot? Why was he called to marry a woman he KNEW would be unfaithful? Why was he called to STAY with her?

WHY?

God has actually been telling Hosea and us why all along. At the end of Hosea 1:2 God said that the reason Hosea was to take a prostitute as a wife was because, “the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the LORD.”

Hosea’s marriage was a living reflection of the relationship that the LORD shared with his adulterous, rebellious people who were constantly seeking after other gods. Hosea was not just going to speak a message to the people about God’s unfailing, faithful love in the face of their faithlessness… no… he was going to live that message!

Hosea would not just declare to the community what was on the heart of God… he would feel the very heart of God. Hosea’s heart and the heart of the LORD would beat in rhythm with one another to the broken beat of love.

Gomer and Hosea are a small-scale picture of a much larger reality… a larger story… the story of the people of God… an adulterous people who continually have a love affair with sin… and whose faithful groom buys her back again… this is the Gospel!

Jesus is the Gospel… and we are Gomer.

We are Gomer? I thought we began this whole “Hosea-story” by putting ourselves in Hosea’s shoes and imagining what it would have been like to hear the voice of God calling us to marry one who would be unfaithful. However, the truth of the matter is that we are not supposed to identify with Hosea… that is not our part in the Gospel story.

We are Gomer.

And to every Gomer out there… Hosea 3 has good news… Gospel news for you… God has come to redeem you and bring you back to himself. He has paid the price for your life with his own blood that you might be his and he might be yours. This is grace… undeserved, unimaginable, unlimited grace…

…and grace is good news… because grace is the only thing that can hold God and Gomer together.

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: Ezekiel 16:48-49 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-ezekiel-1648-49/ Tue, 21 Mar 2017 12:53:52 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=4306 Ezekiel 16:48-49 
As I live, declares the Lord GOD, your sister Sodom and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done. Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.

Reflection
Ego… excess… ease… a dangerous and damning combination.

When we think of the sin of Sodom our minds quickly turn to sexual ethics… and that is not unjustified. However, the story of Sodom is larger than just Genesis 19. The prophet Ezekiel points out their prideful self-indulgence in all areas of life… and the more they centered on themselves, the more harm they did to others.

Much like the exploitation described in Genesis 19 was for their own pleasure at the expense of others, Ezekiel 16 describes their exploitation of wealth and excess for their own ease… all at the expense of the poor and the needy.

And the prophet brings all of this up for the purposes of comparison. He is speaking to God’s people and telling them that for all its sins, Sodom was not nearly as evil as they have become. The people of God mirrored and magnified the ego, excess, and ease of Sodom. They mirrored and magnified Sodom’s exploitation of the poor and the needy.

This should not be the story of God’s people for it is not the story of our God! The Gospel goes against this grain in proclaiming a Christ who left behind his eternal riches and glory to come to us, poor and needy sinners. He humbled himself to the point of death, even death on a cross.

He made himself poor that we might become eternally rich in him!

This is the Gospel, the good news of grace that we embrace by faith! This is the news that God’s people are called to mirror and magnify… not through ego, but humility… not through excess, but sacrifice… not through ease, but at any cost we mirror and magnify the cross as a cruciform community.

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: Isaiah 1:21-23 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-isaiah-121-23/ Mon, 20 Mar 2017 15:17:13 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=4303 Isaiah 1:21-23 
How the faithful city
has become a whore,
she who was full of justice!
Righteousness lodged in her,
but now murderers.
Your silver has become dross,
your best wine mixed with water.
Your princes are rebels
and companions of thieves.
Everyone loves a bribe
and runs after gifts.
They do not bring justice to the fatherless,
and the widow’s cause does not come to them.

Reflection
Well this is a pretty picture… isn’t it?

It’s funny to me how passages such as Isaiah 1:21-23 can be so shocking to people, as if something like this should not even be in the Bible. I mean… isn’t the Bible just a collection of encouraging sayings that make good inspirational posters, magnets, or mugs?

Hardly.

Scripture is brutally honesty, and when the Holy Spirit spoke through the prophet Isaiah, his words were like a mirror so that the people of God saw themselves as they really were… and the picture was anything but pretty.

A whore. He called them a whore.

The Lord’s relationship with his people was often described as being like a marriage. He was the groom and the people were his bride. Thus, anytime they forsook him for other gods, their behavior was nothing less than adultery toward God which led to abuse toward others.

They had been a community of justice, but now they were murders, rebels, and thieves. They now loved bribes and gain at the expense of the fatherless and the widow… the helpless and marginalized in society.

All of this came as a result and stood as evidence of their adultery against the Lord.

As a community, our treatment of one another is evidence of the current state of our relationship with the Lord. Love for the Lord leads to love of others (John 14:15 +15:12), but adultery against the Lord leads to abuse of others.

What does your treatment of your bothers and sisters in Christ say about your relationship with Christ today?

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Sermon: 2 Timothy 3:13-4:5 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-sermon-2-timothy-313-45/ Sun, 19 Mar 2017 22:05:59 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=4301 Word-Centered Community
2 Timothy 3:13-4:5 (
click here)
On Sundays during Lent, there will not be an email devotional because I actually preach on the passage for that day. If you would like to listen to today’s sermon, you can find it on iTunes by searching for “Shades Valley Community Church” or simply click here.

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Lent Devotional: Psalm 133 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-psalm-133/ Sat, 18 Mar 2017 12:55:25 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=4296 Psalm 133
Behold, how good and pleasant it is
when brothers dwell in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down on the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down on the collar of his robes!
It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mountains of Zion!
For there the LORD has commanded the blessing,
life forevermore.

Reflection
Your feet hurt.

It seems like you’ve been walking forever. How much further could it possibly be? Sure, there is a feast at the end, but the trip itself seems longer than you remember.

Then… all around you… your relatives and neighbors began to sing. You have all been journeying together and now, as their voices begin to rise, you feel the call to join in the song and sing together as you go up to the holy city… to Jerusalem. And so, you sing…

“Behold how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!”

Psalm 133 is a song of ascent. It’s one of many songs that would be sung as pilgrims traveled “up” or “ascended” to Jerusalem for one of their annual feasts. And, this particular song not only encourages travelers toward solidarity in their journey, but points to one of the essential purposes of their gathering.

These feasts unified the people! Unity is an amazing blessing in community! Like the oil poured on Aaron’s head so long ago when he was ordained as the first high priest of Israel. That oil symbolized the blessing of the Lord being poured out! Or, we might say it is like the due poured out upon the side of the great Mount Hermon… dew which brings and sustains life where it otherwise would not grow. The dew is a life-giving blessing!

This is what unity is to community! It is a life-giving blessing! It is good and pleasant when it is poured out upon a people… but it goes even further than that!

The oil poured upon Aaron’s head ran down his beard to his robes. The dew from Mount Hermon runs down to water the mountains of Zion… and unity in community overflows as a blessing to the watching world!

As the people of God gathered together in Jerusalem, united in their worship, their unity was to serve as a witness to the world of the one true God! They did not seek unity just for themselves, but for the blessing of all!

The communities of our world know very little of what true unity looks like… so when the people of God gather in unity, they become a light that shines bright into the darkness of the world.

As the church, we are united to one another in Christ… and oh how good and pleasant it is when we sacrifice ourselves for one another that we might dwell in unity as a cruciform community! Such unified love overflows and runs down to the world like the blood of Christ from the cross. The world gets a glimpse at what the love of Jesus looks like.

This is my prayer for us today… it was and is the prayer of Jesus himself for us his people… John 17:20-21, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, THAT THEY MAY ALL BE ONE, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, SO THAT the world may believe that you have sent me.”

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: Psalm 82 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-psalm-82/ Fri, 17 Mar 2017 15:28:48 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=4293 Psalm 82 (click here)
God has taken his place in the divine council;
in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
“How long will you judge unjustly
and show partiality to the wicked?
Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” (Psalm 82:1-4)

Reflection
A community lament… a communal cry to the Lord…

…that is what is at the heart of Psalm 82.

God has taken up his place in the midst of human rulers (“gods”) who are oppressing the people, being partial to the wicked, and neglecting the needy.  The Lord calls out to them for repentance and true justice. When the community sings this Psalm, their voices unite with the voice of God and they are reminded that the Lord is with them and for them… and that he is also gracious… even to unjust rulers.

Of course we can’t relate to this at all today. We have no corrupt leaders who seek their own gain at the expense of the people they are supposed to be serving. Our globe is now blessed with completely just and fair rulers.

Pardon my immense sarcasm.

The real question is does the church take up the communal cry of Psalm 82 on behalf of our world… or do we seek to align ourselves with those in power so that we might be beneficiaries of their partiality?

All too often, Christian community is tempted to ingratiate itself to corrupt powers instead of prophetically calling them out for their oppression. It’s true that it is costly to speak out against corruption… but sacrificing ourselves for the sake of those who cannot help themselves is exactly what it means to be a cruciform community.

Will we be silent as long as the “powers that be” are “for” us… or will we cry out as a community and bear witness to the heart of God no matter what it costs us? Will we be a cruciform community?

 
*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: Psalm 78:1-8 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-psalm-781-8/ Thu, 16 Mar 2017 14:50:45 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=4291 Psalm 78:1-8 (click here)
Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;
incline your ears to the words of my mouth!
I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings from of old,
things that we have heard and known,
that our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from their children,
but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done. (Psalm 78:1-4)

Reflection
Every community has a narrative.

Our country, our state, our city, our neighborhood… they all have a narrative… a story that explains what has happened in the past to lead up to the present, and that likely foreshadows where the community will head in the future.

And communities innately understand that part of their responsibility is to teach this narrative to the next generation. I’ve began learning American history the moment I set foot in a public-school classroom. Growing up in Georgia, we had an entire segment of our social studies dedicated to Georgia history. On and on the retelling of history goes.

We all understand ourselves as part of a larger story.

Why?

Perhaps it is because we were created as part of a larger story… a grand narrative written by the creator himself. Perhaps we are a part of God’s story.

This is precisely what Scripture unfolds… the grand story of God through creation, fall, redemption, and consummation. And we are a part of this story! Apart from this story, we cannot understand the world, our current place in history, or where we are headed! If we lose this story, we will lose ourselves and the very meaning of our lives.

This is why the Psalmist calls for the story of God’s glorious deeds to be told to the coming generation! They must not forget who there God is, what he has done, and what he will do! The coming generation must not forget who they are and what their purpose is as a part of God’s people!

This is why we, the church, gather week after week to re-hear and rehearse the story of God’s great Gospel! It is this story that shapes how we view God, the world, ourselves, and the goal of all things!

Will we, as a community, tell this story to the coming generation? Are you being a part of God’s story by sharing it as it was shared with you? Part of belonging to a cruciform community is sharing the story that makes us cruciform with the coming generation. Who can you share the Gospel with today? What younger Christian can you come alongside and help them to be shaped by the story of God’s glory in the Gospel?

“…tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done…”

 

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: Psalm 41 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-psalm-41/ Wed, 15 Mar 2017 15:52:33 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=4288 Psalm 41 (click here)
Blessed is the one who considers the poor!
In the day of trouble the LORD delivers him…

All who hate me whisper together about me;
they imagine the worst for me.

Even my close friend in whom I trusted,
who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.

By this I know that you delight in me:
my enemy will not shout in triumph over me.
But you have upheld me because of my integrity,
and set me in your presence forever. (Psalm 41:1, 7, 9, and 11-12)

Reflection
Everyone I know has had a bad experience with community… even (or maybe even “especially) Christian community.

You have poured out your heart and soul into a particular people. You’ve loved, not perfectly, but truly with the love of Christ.

Then… it happens.

Hurt. Insult. Slander. Betrayal.

Put whatever label on it you want, at the end of the day the would is deep, difficult to heal, and even potentially deadly to your trust in community at all.

In Psalm 41, this is the situation of the Psalmist as he cries out in lament. He has loved a community… poured himself out, especially for the poor and marginalized. He’s cared for them, most likely financially and physically. He has done everything right… so surely the community will do right by him.

But then the slander begins… this whispers and ill wishes.

Then the unthinkable happens. The wounds begin to come from friends… and not the faithful kind (Proverbs 27:6). No. This is friendly fire from the one you used to break bread with… now they are breaking you. You’ve been kicked to the ground by the community and now even your friend raises his heel to step on you like everyone else.

What are we to do when we find ourselves betrayed and beaten? Do we forsake the community of God as we feel it has forsaken us? Do we give up being faithful to God because we feel like his faithfulness has failed?

That is not the solution of the Psalmist!

It’s true that perhaps he needed to be removed from that specific expression of community, and there are times and situations when we will have to remove ourselves from specific churches… but the Psalmist doesn’t just forsake the people of God as a whole and neither should we.

How does he do this?

He holds on to God’s faithfulness believing that his enemies (even those he once counted as friends) will not ultimately triumph! He looks forward in faith to the day when all wrongs will be righted and he will be set in the presence of God forever among a faithful people, a perfected community!

This is the vision we need in order to keep on pressing into community even when we get hurt or we are the ones who do the hurting. We need a vision of the love God has shown to us through the cross of Christ!

Jesus loved us, even as we raised our heels against him. In John 13:18, Christ actually quoted this Psalm in reference to Judas. Yet, he still washed Judas feet and went to the cross out of love for the one who betrayed him.

Broken Christian community is the only kind there is… and we each contribute to it’s brokenness. When we are loved by this community, and we love the community back… we put on display the love of Christ… we love like a cruciform community.

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: Psalm 37:5-9 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotion-psalm-375-9/ Tue, 14 Mar 2017 16:22:32 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=4285 Psalm 37:5-9 
Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
and your justice as the noonday.
Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;
fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
over the man who carries out evil devices!
Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
For the evildoers shall be cut off,
but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.

Reflection
We live in a world full of injustice.

A world in which it seems like evil not only goes unpunished, but is seemingly rewarded. Those who cheat, lie, and oppress often seem to be the most successful at climbing the corporate ladder, while honest workers are demoted and laid off. Amazing couples are unable to conceive, while people who don’t make good parents and never wanted children seem to keep having them. The abusers and users of the world seem to get away with everything while victims are just left in their wake and forgotten.

We live in a world full of injustice.

This stirs up righteous anger in us. It kindles wrath. When we are wronged, we want to seek vengeance… we want to set things right and even the score… or at least we want to hold onto our anger in a never-ending grudge.

Yet… as the people of God we are called to forgive as we have been forgiven. Psalm 37 calls us to refrain from anger and forsake wrath! We are to be a cruciform community that reflects the very words of Jesus extended from the cross to his enemies, “Father forgive them!”

How? How is any of that possible?

The Psalmist sings the forth the answer… “Commit your way to the LORD;
TRUST in him, and HE WILL ACT.”

I don’t have to balance the scales, for God himself has promised to do so. I don’t have to take vengeance because vengeance is his! I don’t have to hold a grudge, but can forgive because I know that he will set all wrongs to right in the end!

I have the eternal perspective and promise that though it may look like evil is currently winning… in the end, “…the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.”

The day will come when evil will be done. The day will come when God vindicates his people and his righteousness reigns.

Do we believe that promise as the people of promise? Through faith, trust in the promises of God, we are empowered to be the cruciform community he has called us to be. We can lay down our own “rights” because we know that, through Christ, God will make all things right.

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: Psalm 15 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-psalm-15/ Mon, 13 Mar 2017 15:31:09 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=4283 Psalm 15 (click here)
O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent?
Who shall dwell on your holy hill?
He who walks blamelessly and does what is right
and speaks truth in his heart;
who does not slander with his tongue
and does no evil to his neighbor,
nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
in whose eyes a vile person is despised,
but who honors those who fear the LORD…
(Psalm 15:1-4a)

Reflection
How would you define what it means to be blameless before the Lord?

Does such a question immediately cause you to think about the way you love and care for other people… especially other believers? I think for many, myself included, we often think of our relationship to the Lord detached from our relationship to people… but, Scripture is constantly connecting the two.

In Psalm 15, we are basically given a list of evidences that show up in the life of one who is in a proper relationship with the Lord. They don’t slander others out loud or in their heart. They do no evil to their neighbor, nor become the accuser of friends. This doesn’t mean that they do not have a proper sense of justice, for the vile-evil person they want to see caught and corrected. And concerning those who fear the Lord… they especially show them honor. In other words, their attitude towards people matches the attitude of God himself…

…there is love and care for all, justice towards evil, and a special covenantal relationship with his own people.

Does this describe the way you relate to people in your own life? If you have been filled with the very love of God, then it makes sense that love would flow out of you in the same way it flows out of God himself.

Romans 5:5b, “… God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit…” so we are to love one another as he loved us (John 15:17).

This is the evidence by which people will know that we belong to Jesus… by our sacrificial love for each other that mirrors his sacrificial love in the cross (John 13:351 John 4:11 and 20-21). The world  will know that we are truly the people of God when we are a cruciform community.

 

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Sermon: Romans 12:1-2 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-sermon-romans-121-2/ Sun, 12 Mar 2017 22:43:19 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=4281 Wondrous-Cruciform Community
Romans 12:1-2 (
click here)
On Sundays during Lent, there will not be an email devotional because I actually preach on the passage for that day. If you would like to listen to today’s sermon, you can find it on iTunes by searching for “Shades Valley Community Church” or simply click here.

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Lent Devotional: Esther 3-4 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-esther-3-4/ Sat, 11 Mar 2017 15:38:51 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=4277 Esther 3-4 (click here)
Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” (Esther 4:13-16)

Reflection
A murderous plot because of wounded pride.

This is what we encounter in the book of Esther. Because one lone Jewish man, Mordecai, wouldn’t bow the Haman, the enraged leader decided that all Jews must die. Through masterful manipulation and bribery, he received the permission he needed from the king, and it looked as though this story would come to a quick, bloody close.

But… God was at work.

Unlike any other book of the Bile, the name of God is never mentioned in Esther. Yet, God is so very present… providentially at work to save his people. Long before this evil plot was ever being planned, God placed Esther in the palace as queen. She was in a position to be a mediator on behalf of her people and take her plea to the king.

But… this was not allowed.

No one could see the king unless the he summoned them. To come into his presence uninvited would likely mean the death penalty. What would Ether do? God had clearly put her in this place at this time, but the laws of man seemingly tied her hands. Who would she trust? Who would she fear?

Esther called upon all the community to fast and pray… then, even if it meant her life, she would sacrifice herself for the sake of her people.

In Esther’s story we can hear echoes of the Gospel… echoes of Christ’s sacrifice on behalf of his people. Can we hear those same echoes in our own lives? When God calls you and I to sacrifice for the sake of serving and loving others… but man threatens us if we should follow… who do we trust? Who do we fear?

When we cannot see God at all, like his name is nowhere to be found, do we trust that he is still providentially at work. Does our voice unite with Esther’s to declare that we will follow God no matter what and if we perish, we perish!

God has called us to lay down our lives for the sake of our brothers and sisters… and so the world may know him. He has called us to be a cruciform community. Your life has been providentially planned to bring you to where you are today for such a time as this.

 

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: 2 Chronicles 30 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-2-chronicles-30/ Fri, 10 Mar 2017 16:36:36 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=4274 1 Chronicles 30 (click here)
And many people came together in Jerusalem to keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread in the second month, a very great assembly. They set to work and removed the altars that were in Jerusalem, and all the altars for burning incense they took away and threw into the brook Kidron.

So there was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the time of Solomon the son of David king of Israel there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem. (2 Chronicles 30:13-14 and 26)

Reflection
The Kingdom of God’s people had long been divided.

The Northern Kingdom of Israel barely even exited after its decimation by Assyria… and the Southern Kingdom of Judah was anything but a faithful people.

Then the Lord moved in the reign of Hezekiah.

An invitation was extended to anyone left in Israel to reunite with Judah around the feast of the Passover. As many gathered in unity, focusing on the sacrifice love of God in saving his people from Egypt so long ago…an amazing thing began to happen.

The people tore down their pagan altars, repented, and returned to the Lord. They literally drowned their pagan ways by throwing their former altars in to the brook Kidron. Joy erupted amongst a long-divided people as they were reunited before their God!

We have seen that idolatry destroys community (Exodus 32 – Listen here). When we make a god who is all about us, we will try to create a community that is also all about us. If corrupt worship corrupts community… it makes sense that purified worship would lead to purified community.

That is exactly what unfolds in 2 Chronicles 30! As the people return to the Lord, they reunite! As they worship, they welcome one another! As they repent of their idolatry, they are reconciled to God and to one another.

Could it be that the cure for our communities begins with worship? Reconciliation with one another begins with reconciliation to God. Just as the Jewish people gazed upon the sacrificial love of God through Passover, we gaze upon his sacrificial love in the cross. In light of such sacrificial for our forgiveness and reconciliation, how could we ever refuse forgiveness to others who have not sinned against us nearly to the extent we have sinned against God.

In beholding the love of Christ extended to us in the cross, our hearts are filled with love to extend to others. In beholding our reconciliation that happens through the cross, we are moved to demonstrate that same reconciliation to our brothers and sisters. In behold the cross, our lives transform and become cruciform.

Do you take time each day to behold the cross? Have you taken time today, right now to behold the cross? The cross of Christ is the only the means by which we become a cruciform community.

Behold the cross of Christ… today… tomorrow… and forever.

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: 1 Chronicles 16:8-36 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-1-chronicles-168-36/ Thu, 09 Mar 2017 16:01:37 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=4271 1 Chronicles 16:8-36 (click here)
Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name;
make known his deeds among the peoples!
Sing to him, sing praises to him;
tell of all his wondrous works!
Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice!
Seek the LORD and his strength;
seek his presence continually!
Remember the wondrous works that he has done,
his miracles and the judgments he uttered…

Sing to the LORD, all the earth!
Tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous works among all the peoples!

Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and joy are in his place. (1 Chronicles 16:8-12, 23-24, and 27)

Reflection
Why do we gather to worship as a community?

I mean… all of life is worship, right? I can worship all on my own, right? As a believer, I am untied to Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit and can approach the Father… why in the world do I need to gather with other believers to worship?

“Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name;
make known his deeds AMONG THE PEOPLES!” (1 Chronicles 16:8)

There are certain things that happen within the context of communal worship that simply cannot happen anywhere else. Part of the purpose in our gathering is to sing, pray, and proclaim to one another the deeds of the Lord. Through song and speech we remind each other of the faithfulness of our God. We hear from his Word, of how he has always been faithful to us as a people, and we hear from one another current experiences of that faithfulness.

In the dark night of my soul, I need the community of faith to sing over me of the sovereign faithfulness of God. I need to be able to look across the room and see the tears streaming down the face of a mom I know has lost a child… and yet through the pain she is singing for joy in Christ. I need to sit beside the man dying of cancer and hear him sing, “whatever my lot, though hast taught me to say… it is well… it is well with my soul.”

Why do “I” need to gather with other believers to worship? That question is self-centered. It only sees value in the communal gathering because of what it can offer the self, but we gather to sacrifice ourselves for one another and minister to each other. We gather as a cruciform community.

…and we don’t just gather in this manner for one another, but as a witness to the watching world.

“Sing to the LORD, all the earth!
Tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous works among all the peoples!” (1 Chronicles 16:23-24)

Communal worship offers a untied witness to the world that we stand together to declare the glory of our God to all peoples! As different people, from different backgrounds, education levels, socio-economic levels, races, ages, etc come together… the binding love and supernatural unity of the Gospel is put beautifully on display.

As we worship together, we equip and encourage one another to take the Gospel from within our wall out into our world. We remember that we are not alone, and we go forth with a clear calling and mission.

When we worship with the people of God with the goal of helping others and the world to behold God’s glory… I believe it is then that we find ourselves caught up into the joyous presence of God in a way that cannot be experienced in any other context.

“Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and joy are in his place.” (1 Chronicles 16:27)

It is as if everything is amplified and intensified when we gather together. Our voices unite, our hearts unite, and our joy unites.

So why do we worship together? There are a million beautiful reasons… but the three-fold answer we’ve seen is this… 1) In worshipping together we are able to participate in cruciform community as we sacrifice our own preferences to encourage others with our presence and participation… 2) We are able to participate in cruciform community as we stand united in sacrificial love as a witness to the world… and 3) We are able to be ministered to by the cruciform community as we see, meet, and are helped by Christ in them!

 

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: 1 Samuel 8:1-22 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-1-samuel-81-22/ Wed, 08 Mar 2017 14:35:54 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=4269 1 Samuel 8:1-22 (click here)
Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah and said to him… “Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.”

And the LORD said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them…only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.”

But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, “No! But there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations…” (1 Samuel 8:4-5, 7, 9, 19-20)

Reflection
“like all the nations…”

Make us like everybody else. That was Israel’s essential request. They had been led out of slavery by God… redeemed by God… brought to a new land by God… established their nation by God… forgiven by God as they forsook him over and over again… they belonged to God!

The very purpose for which he had saved them was so that they might be different from all the other nations of the world… set apart as his people… a holy nation.

Exodus 19:6, “…you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”

But they did not want to be a city set on a hill for all the world to see and behold the light of God through his people. No… they wanted to be in the valley where they could hide their light under a bushel and party with everyone else.

They rejected the kind of community their King had created them to be.

And they were warned.

Through the prophet Samuel, God warned his people that there is no such thing as life without a king, and any option aside from himself will eventually fall short. But they didn’t care… and all too often neither do we.

Life without a king simply doesn’t exist.

Everyone has a ruler, even if they believe it to be themselves. As Christians, we have been recreated as a community of king Jesus! We’ve been set apart, made a city on a hill, that through our sacrificial love for one another the world might see a reflection of the sacrificial love of God most clearly displayed through the cross.

But oh how strong is the temptation to want to be like all the other people of the world. In our own western culture, that temptation specifically takes shape in the desire to be our own king and captain of our soul.

Oh people of God, hear the warning of God through the Word of God… we make bad kings! You have been freely given the greatest king who offers you the greatest joy… himself! You… we… have been given Jesus! May we be a people, a community who cling to our king!

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: Ruth 1:1-18 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-ruth-11-18/ Tue, 07 Mar 2017 13:26:01 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=4266 Ruth 1:1-18 (click here)
But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more. (ESV).” (Ruth 1:16-18)

Reflection
This is strange.

We might laughingly agree that a daughter-in-law pledging such love and devotion to her mother-in-law is indeed strange, but this goes deeper than in-law jokes.

In the ancient near-east, a young widow like Ruth would return to the home of her parents in hopes of remarriage. Without marriage and children, her future in this patriarchal culture would be extremely bleak. There were not many occupational options for women, thus, there was a dependence upon their husbands and eventually their sons for provision.

Ruth had neither.

Naomi, her mother-in-law, lovingly asked her to return home for the sake of her future livelihood, but Ruth lovingly refused. Such a refusal was tantamount to embracing a life of poverty and social ostracism, but Ruth was willing to do so for the sake of loving Naomi and refusing to allow her to live out her days alone. Ruth would sacrifice herself in love for a woman the world would see as worthless.

This is cruciform community.

This is a love that mirrors the love of Christ in the cross, who left his Father’s side to rescue us from our sin… sin which ostracized us from our God and threatened to leave us alone forever… sin which made us feel worthless.

But Christ took on our sin, embracing our spiritual poverty as if it were his own… he put our worthlessness to death and brought us spiritual riches beyond anything we could ask or imagine.

Now, as his people, we love as he loved. We sacrifice ourselves for the sake of our brothers and sisters and the world. Our lives have been transformed and become cruciform.

Like Ruth and Naomi, the church is a cruciform community as a witness to the world.

 

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: Joshua 24:1-15 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-joshua-241-15/ Mon, 06 Mar 2017 16:10:27 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=4264 Joshua 24:1-15 (click here)
I took your father Abraham from beyond the River…
I gave him Isaac…
I gave Jacob…
I sent Moses and Aaron…
I plagued Egypt…
I brought you out…
I brought you to the land…
I gave them into your hand…
I delivered you…
I gave you a land…

“Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:various selections and 14-15)

Reflection

As the people of God, we have a history… a history of God’s faithfulness to fulfill all his promises.

Yet, we are each under constant temptation to forsake the Lord, often because we have bought into the lie that he has forsaken us.

When Israel finished conquering the promised land, Joshua, their leader, knew that the temptation would be strong upon the people to return to the foreign false deities their forefathers had so often served in Egypt. He knew that as the people experienced individual hardships, they may think the Lord had forsaken them. Or… as they experienced individual blessings they may think they had gained everything in their own power and didn’t need the Lord.

So what did Josh do?

He reminded the people of their history… a history of God’s faithfulness to fulfill all his promises.

He reminded them of how God had not forsaken them as a people, but had worked on their behalf generation after generation. Even if they were to experience individual circumstances that felt like God was absent, they could stand amongst the people of God and look over their collective history to see that the Lord was always present and faithful to his people.

Joshua reminded them of how all their blessings had been given to them by the Lord. Even if they were experiencing individual success, when standing amongst the people of God, hearing their history, they should recognize that all success belonged to the Lord… the glory was his alone!

This is one of the reasons the church community is so vital for us as Christians. We will all experience various times in our lives when we believe the Lord has forsaken us. We need to stand amongst the people of God and hear the whole of our story. God’s faithfulness to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob IS his faithfulness to us as well!

We will also likely have times of success, and we will be tempted to take all the credit and forget the Lord. Who needs to rely on God when they can rely on themselves? We need the community and our collective history to remind us that all blessings come from the Lord.

In light of our history and all God’s faithfulness… in light of all his goodness… in light of him and amongst his people… it is form that perspective that we should and must choose who we will serve each day.

As for me and my house… we will serve the Lord.

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Sermon: Exodus 32:1-29 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-sermon-exodus-321-29/ Mon, 06 Mar 2017 00:05:55 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=4260 Worthless-Idolatrous Community
Exodus 32:1-29 (
click here)
On Sundays during Lent, there will not be an email devotional because I actually preach on the passage for that day. If you would like to listen to today’s sermon, you can find it on iTunes by searching for “Shades Valley Community Church” or simply click here.

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Lent Devotional: Deuteronomy 24:19-22 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-deuteronomy-2419-22/ Sat, 04 Mar 2017 14:39:17 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=4255 Deuteronomy 24:19-22 (click here)
“When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.” (Deuteronomy 24:19)

Reflection
God called the Israelites to be a people who mirrored his own loving-kindness. They were to do this not only by loving people like them… from the same socio-economic status, education level, occupation, or even ethnicity.

No.

Their loving-kindness was to extend to those who were least among them… to the foreigner sojourning in their midst… to the orphan who was not their own flesh and blood… to the widow who was not their “responsibility.”

But how were they to do this? Often, I think many of us want to love and help the least among us, but we feel powerless when it comes to knowing how to do this.

God did not leave the Israelites in the dark, nor has he left us, the church, paralyzed in our cluelessness. The Bible is replete with ways we can show God’s love toward the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. In Deuteronomy 24:19, God very practically shows his people one way such loving-kindness might be put on display.

Israel was an agrarian society. Many were farmers, and the Lord instructed them not to pick their crops clean. If they missed some while they were harvesting, they should leave it behind and allow the poor to walk through their fields and glean some for themselves.

This was not a simple hand-out, but invited those struggling into the dignity of work. This cut into the profits of these farmers for the sake of people who were struggling. It was sacrificial love that did not demean the other, but promoted and dignified them.

What does such a command teach us about the heart of God, and the call he has placed upon his people?

We may not live in a primarily agricultural society, nor are many of us farmers, but we all have “fields” of resources. More than that, we live in a culture that not only picks its fields clean for the sake of self, but has trained us to actually pick what is not there and live beyond our means!

Could it be that the radical call of God is for us to live our lives in such a way that we need not scrape together and spend every last resource we have on ourselves? Could it be that God has called us to live sacrificially that we might be less concerned with our own profits and more concerned with promoting people?

What creative ways could you dignify, love, and help the immigrant, the orphan, and the widow, if you freed up resources specifically for that purpose?

It’s fun to dream about… only it shouldn’t be a dream.

May we be a community that displays the loving-kindness of the Lord to the least of these as he displayed it to us when we were spiritually the least of these… he poured out his loving-kindness through the cross. May we put that love on display before the watching world. May we be a cruciform community.

 

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: Leviticus 25 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-leviticus-25/ Fri, 03 Mar 2017 15:40:34 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=4253 Leviticus 25 (click here)
“And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan.”

“You shall not wrong one another, but you shall fear your God, for I am the LORD your God.”

“If your brother becomes poor beside you and sells himself to you, you shall not make him serve as a slave: [40] he shall be with you as a hired worker and as a sojourner. He shall serve with you until the year of the jubilee. [41] Then he shall go out from you, he and his children with him, and go back to his own clan and return to the possession of his fathers. [42] For they are my servants, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt; they shall not be sold as slaves. [43] You shall not rule over him ruthlessly but shall fear your God.”

“For it is to me that the people of Israel are servants. They are my servants whom I brought out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.” (Leviticus 25:10, 17, 39-43 and 55)

Reflection
What is Cruciform Community?

Cruciform simply means cross-shaped. A community that believes, declares, and demonstrates the sacrificial love of the crucified Christ to one another and the world… that is a cross-shaped, a Cruciform Community.

God’s people have always been called to sacrificial love for one another and the world. The year of Jubilee outlined in Leviticus 25 puts this beautifully on display.

God put in place protections against oppression and injustice. The Israelites were to treat one another as family, not as economic resources to be abused for one another’s gain. The rich were not to be ruthless, but sacrificially caring toward the poor. No one could “own” anyone, because were “owned” by the Lord!

God constantly holds up himself as the pattern for his people. Through sacrifice, he redeemed them from slavery… thus, they are to be commited to one another’s redemption and freedom no matter the sacrifice! In fact, they should JUBILANTLY sacrifice for the good of each other. And, this year of Jubilie should stand as a witness to the world of the redeeming God these people serve.

There was no society like this in the ancient world, and for that matter, there is no society like it today!

But there should be.

The church looks to the cross of Christ in the same way the people of Israel looked to the Exodus. Upon the cross, Christ instituted a new Exodus for his people. Through sacrifice he led us out of slavery to sin, redeemed us and set us free.

Now, we put that sacrificial love on display toward one another. Jesus says, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)

And, through loving one another with a sacrificial love that reflects the cross of Christ, the world begins to catch a glimpse of what the cross looks like. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

When people look at our community, do they see a love that reminds them of the love of Christ on the cross. Does our community take on the very shape of the cross? Is our community cruciform?

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: Leviticus 16:15-22 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-leviticus-1615-22-2/ Thu, 02 Mar 2017 13:54:53 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=4248 Leviticus 16:15-22 (click here)
“Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering that is for the people and bring its blood inside the veil and do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bull, sprinkling it over the mercy seat and in front of the mercy seat.”

“And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins. And he shall put them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness.” (Leviticus 16:15 and 21)

Reflection
The day of atonement.

The high-holy day that came once a year for the people of Israel. This was the day when all the sins of the people from the past year would be dealt with through propitiation and done away with through expiation.

There were two goats used in the main sacrificial ceremony of this day. Once was sacrificed on behalf of the people. The rightful punishment for sin, death, was placed upon this substituted and the righteous wrath of God toward sin was propitiated.

The second goat lived, but was kicked out of camp. Symbolically carrying away the sins of the people into the wilderness… never to return. Their sins had been expiated.

However, the day of atonement had to happen again… the next year… and the next year… and the next year. It was never final. Why? “Because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” (Hebrews 10:4)

A goat could never actually represent the people of God. A human can only represent humans. But in order for our the penalty of the peoples sin to be paid by this substitute… you would need a human with no sin of their own! The only one with no sin of their own is God himself!

God alone can pay the price for our sin, but humans alone deserve to pay it! We need a God-man! We need Jesus!

“And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. [12] But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God” (Hebrews 10:11-12)

Wrath propitiated.

Sin expiated.

Forever!

For his people! We often miss that! Yes, Jesus died for you as an individual, but even deeper than that, he died for his people! Christ loved his bride, the church, and gave himself up for her!

Don’t miss the cruciform community aspect of the day of atonement and the Gospel… through the sacrifice of Christ, we are bound together as a community of sinners first. Sinners who see their need for a savior. And then, we are gloriously redeemed as the people of God! We become, together, a community of saints!

The cross binds us together as the bride of Christ! Have you embraced all that the sacrifice of Christ purchased for you? Not just personal propitiation and expiation, but communal participation?

 
*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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2017 Lenten Daily Devotionals http://www.shadesvalley.org/2017-lenten-daily-devotionals/ Wed, 01 Mar 2017 12:55:35 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=4246 Each day of the Lenten season, I will be emailing out a devotional to many of the members of SVCC. I will also be sharing these devos via blogging. Hopefully, I will post first thing each morning, but definitely by 12pm. The first devotional may be found below. These are designed to accompany the SVCC Lenten reading guide which may be found here: 2017 Lenten Reading Guide.

In these devotionals I will give a link that will take you to the entire reading for the day. I will also include a few of the verses upon which I will focus my reflections. In the reflection section I will make a few brief comments which I hope will spur your own thinking and prayers.

Lent is meant to be a season of repentance and fasting that prepares our hearts for the coming celebration of Easter (fuller explanation here). Repentance is a reminder that we need to be saved from our sin…we need a Savior. Fasting reminds us that we are not in need of the things this world offers, but in desperate need of Jesus.  So the point of Lent is that we need Jesus…we need Easter. It is my prayer that these daily devotionals will simply help remind us daily of our need for Christ.

Genesis 45 (click here)
So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.” (Genesis 45:4-5)

Reflection
Have you ever been hurt? Have you ever been wronged? Have you ever been betrayed?

If you live long enough, the answer to all of these questions will eventually, inevitably be “yes.” We are all broken people, and when broken people live in close proximity to one another we should not be surprised that brokenness is multiplied.

Joseph experienced betrayal on a deeper level than most of us can even imagine. He was sold into slavery by his own brothers.

Through many difficult years in Egypt, he would eventually be used by God to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams, and he would be providentially elevated to second in command as a famine struck the land. Through God-given wisdom, Joseph saved the people of Egypt from starvation… but not just Egypt.

In search of food, his own family ended up on his doorstep. What would he do?

Joseph forgave them.

How?

Not even his brothers were able to understand his actions. Was he simply letting them off the hook? No. Genesis 45:4, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom YOU sold into Egypt.” He held them responsible for their evil actions, but he forgave them anyway… how?

Genesis 45:5, “And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because YOU sold me here, for GOD sent me before you to preserve life.”

Joseph has a rock-solid faith in the sovereignty of God which empowers his forgiveness! What a witness this must have been before the watching world as the community of God’s people were held together by the glue of supernatural forgiveness!

What about you… and me?

When we are betrayed by those closest to our heart… do we believe that God is sovereignly ruling, even over the evil we experience, to work it all according to the counsel of his will for our good and his glory… even when we can’t see it?

Unforgiveness is rooted in a lack of faith that God is sovereignly in control to work all things together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose.

Unforgiveness gives those who wound us too much credit… for it acts as if they are in control and they have won.

That’s a lie.

God is in control and he always wins… look to the cross. Upon that tree Christ forgave his executioners for he knew, “No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

Christ’s eyes were set on the sovereign charge of his Father and his sovereign authority to carry it out. He knew the plan and the purpose. He knew that all the evil efforts of man would only serve the perfect plan of God!

When we are wronged, we have this confidence, that God reigns over all for his glory and our good! Such faith empowers supernatural forgiveness which acts as the glue that holds together the supernatural community of God’s people, the church… and when a watching world sees a people who forgive like that… well… those people look like the cross… they look like a cruciform community.
 

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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The Sovereign Surgeon http://www.shadesvalley.org/the-sovereign-surgeon/ Thu, 26 Jan 2017 04:59:27 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=4206 *Tonight, at our annual SVCC family meeting, I briefly reflected on 2016. Below are the thoughts I shared in the form of a letter.

My Dearest Shades Valley,

fullsizerender-7Our community turned twenty-five years old in 2016! The Lord has blessed me to pastor you for five of those years, and every one of them has been his grace upon my life. Last year was no exception. I’m not saying that everything has been easy. We’ve been at this thing called community far too long to naïvely believe it is pain free. But, our sovereign God of redemption uses even the deepest of cuts for our ultimate good and his glory.

fullsizerender-9That truth has expressed itself in a very physical manner in my own life. As you know, since 2011 I have lived with a herniated L5 disc. Two months ago, I finally gave in and went under the surgeon’s knife. The obvious goal of surgery is not to harm, but to heal. However, there must be a cutting in order to cure, and right now, just eight weeks post-surgery, I can tell you that is exactly what has happened. I am virtually pain free!

As I look back over 2016 at Shades, I feel like I can see this same “cutting in order to cure” at work under the Sovereign Surgeon’s hand. Tonight, we have surely seen an example of this through reflecting on last year’s budget. Just a few months ago, God invited us to trust him with our $40,000 gash in our gut… I mean talk about needing surgery! Then, somehow we finished the year with a $36,000 surplus? There is no “somehow” to that, there is a “someone” behind it… to God be the glory!

Once I started thinking about it, I quickly discovered that the examples of God “cutting in order to cure” at Shades during 2016 are countless. I only have time to point out a few, and please know this is not a “brag-on-ourselves” list! This is a “boast-in-the-Lord” list! He alone is the great physician, and his healing touch can be seen all throughout our history! These are just a few of his 2016 miracles…

fullsizerender-6Our building had a literal surgery last spring, and it wasn’t just a cosmetic facelift. No. Our dying and decaying roof was finally replaced! And by God’s grace we were able to pay cash for our new-giant-metal umbrella, and we have been leak free since!

In 2016, the Great Physician also performed many open-heart procedures through the leaders of various ministries! I wish I could go through all the details of things like new song writing projects in the worship ministry, the women’s ministry writing their own curriculum, the men’s ministry taking their first retreat, Lenten prayer meetings hosted by the prayer team, or how about the fact that there are now over one hundred and twenty volunteers working with our children’s img_4188ministry! God has cut-open and reworked so many ministries this past year, like the West Homewood Farmer’s market. Through the market’s leadership, the Lord surgically shifted their approach resulting in the most successful summer season yet. God is using the market’s positive impact to cut into the surrounding community with the Gospel!

fullsizerender-10The Lord has also performed surgical additions to our own church community through a second full-time pastor, new means of communication via The Realm, new members, new community groups (there are now 16 total), and new births (physical and spiritual). And, all this growth is not without inevitable growing-pains. As our church enlarges we must all press into community all the more, and we must press out of our own social circles, through the pain and awkwardness in order to pull others into this family we call Shades.

The Lord has given us much this past year, but, surgeon that he is, he has also taken away. We have again felt the pain and grief of loss, and as we have held each other in hospital waiting rooms and at gravesides. We’ve wept together, prayed together, and helped one another to say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord who is with us through it all.” We have pointed one another toward the rock-solid hope that the day will dawn when we will experience no more harm, but only healing… no more cuts, only cure.

Until that day, we will be a people who embrace the harm for the sake of the healing! We will be a people who commission forth families like the Smiths (name changed for safety). We feel the pain of the Sovereign Surgeon cutting them out from our midst and calling them far from home. But, we send them forth to carry the cure of the Gospel to unreached peoples. This is a picture of identity that belongs to each of us at SVCC. Whether we are called across the ocean or to high there in Birmingham, we sacrifice ourselves for the sake of the Gospel! We cry out for God to continue cutting into our lives and our church in whatever way is necessary for the cure of the Gospel to spread!

fullsizerender-3This is our prayer as we head into 2017. It is the prayer we speak over each other week after week. We pray that we go into the world in peace, having courage, holding on to what is good, honoring all men, strengthening the faint-hearted, supporting the weak, helping the suffering, and sharing the Gospel. We pray that we love and serve the Lord in the power of the Holy Spirit, knowing that the grace of our lord Jesus Christ is with us all. And, to this prayer we, the people of God, say again and again, “Amen.”

I love you all,

Jonathan

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Advent Resources 2016 http://www.shadesvalley.org/advent-resources-2016/ Sat, 26 Nov 2016 18:16:56 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=4134 Below are a few resource we’ve made available during Advent 2016. If you have been unable to pick these up from SVCC, you can click the links below and access/print them from home. We hope you have a hope-filled Advent season and a very merry Christmas.

Weekly Devotional – Click Here
This devotional is filled with beautiful lettering and artwork from people within the body of SVCC. All of this, plus the devotional readings are designed to follow our Sunday Advent series, “Why So Downcast, O My Soul?”

Daily Reading Guide – Click Here
Many people enjoy having a brief daily reading from December 1st – 25th. This reading plan is designed to walk you through the grand story of redemption from creation to the advent of Christ. It contains a brief paragraph for each day to help you get the context of the story, and there are also questions for reflection or discussion.

Cell Phone Wallpaper
The logo for our Advent series, “Why So Downcast, O My Soul?” can be found below in various sizes for iPhone 4, 5, 6, and 6plus. These will work on Androids phones as well.
iPhone 4
iPhone 5
iPhone 6 or 7
iPhone 6 or 7 plus

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Lent Devotional: John 2:13-22 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-john-213-22/ Sun, 27 Mar 2016 14:02:31 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=3844 *This is the final Lent devotional for 2016. Thank you so much for journeying through the season with me and all of us at SVCC! You’re invited to our Easter celebration this morning at 10:30am… Christ is RISEN!!!

John 2:13-22 (click here)
In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there.

And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”

“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

But he was speaking about the temple of his body. (John 2:14, 16, 19, and 21)

Reflection
The purpose of the temple was being destroyed.

It was a place for worship… for people to find joy in God. Jesus cleared it so that it might be used for that purpose again… but something deeper was happening.

This was a sign… a picture of things to come.

You see… the temple itself was simply a pointer to all that would actually be fulfilled in Jesus. Like the temple was the place of God’s presence on earth… Jesus was literally God on earth. Like the temple was the place of worship, Jesus was the one to be worshipped. He was and is the true temple!

And just like the temple… they would try to destroy Jesus.

THEY would tear down the temple of his body… but in three days… HE would rise up as our eternal temple… where we find joy in God forever!

His purpose could not be destroyed! He lives, he lives! Now and forevermore he lives!

Christ is risen, he is risen indeed!

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: Revelation 21:22-27 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-revelation-2122-27/ Sat, 26 Mar 2016 13:16:58 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=3840 *SVCC Easter Service tomorrow at 10:30am.  You are invited to bring bread (no nuts) for our communion tables to overflow in celebration. You are also invited to bring flowers that we will use during the latter portion of our service to adorn the cross. Hope to see you on Easter!

Revelation 21:22-27 (click here)
And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it… (Revelation 21:22-24)

Reflection
The temple was the place where heaven and earth met…where God and mankind met.

In the end…there will be no need for a temple…why? Because heaven and earth will literally meet…and so will God and mankind.

We will be present with the Lord! He will be the temple! He will be the meeting of heaven and earth! He will be the one to whom we go! And he will be the source of all we need in the new heavens and the new earth! Even as the sun currently makes life possible on this planet… he will sustain all life by the light of his glory!

All nations will come to this “temple” to worship! We will “walk” by its light… in other words we will live in the light of God’s glory.

Can you even imagine it? Think of the moments in life when it has felt most like heaven and earth were meeting. Think of the moments when you have felt closest to the Lord. Now amplify all of that to the extreme and make it permanent!

Christ is our temple! He is the meeting point of heaven and earth, and one day, through him, heaven and earth WILL MEET! PERMANENTLY!

We will meet God through Christ!

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: Revelation 21:1-8 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-revelation-211-8/ Fri, 25 Mar 2016 14:16:42 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=3838 *Good Friday service tonight at SVCC, 6:30-7:30pm

Revelation 21:1-8 (click here)
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21:4-5)

Reflection
On Good Friday… death died in the death of Christ.

That’s not just a fun sentence to write…nor is it just a fun thought to think about…it’s rock solid reality!

So why do we still experience tears, pain, and death?

We live in the midst of what can be called the “already, not-yet.” There are ways in which we experience the kingdom of God already…but there are also many ways it is not yet here in full.

Already Christ has defeated our sin, but we have not yet been completely glorified.
Already Christ has defeated the devil, but he has not yet been banished to hell.
Already Christ has defeated death, but death has not yet been completely removed.

We live in the “already, not yet.”

But the good news of the Gospel is that the “not yet” will not always be the “not yet.” The day is coming when it will be transformed into the “right now.” Jesus’ death and resurrection are the beginning of God’s work of making all things new and they stand as the testimony that he will complete this work!

He will wipe away our tears, end our pain, and banish death itself!

He is making all things new…including me…and including you! He will bring this great work to completion and this is our great hope! It is a rock solid hope! A guaranteed hope! You know why? Because…

On Good Friday death died in the death of Christ!

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.
*On Easter at SVCC everyone is invited to bring bread (no nuts) for our communion tables to overflow in celebration. You are also invited to bring flowers that we will use during the latter portion of our service to adorn the cross. Hope to see you on Easter!

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Lent Devotional: 1 Corinthians 6:14-20 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-1-corinthians-614-20/ Thu, 24 Mar 2016 13:51:35 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=3834 Corinthians 6:14-20 (click here)
And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power.

…you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:14 and 20)

Reflection
Resurrection.

Many Christians miss the teaching of Scripture that Jesus is not the only one who will be raised from the dead. No. Jesus was the first to be permanently raised from the dead, never to die again!

Through his death he defeated death…and not just for him, but for all who trust in him. His resurrection proves that reality! His resurrection guarantees our resurrection! The day will come when Christ returns and God raises all who trust in him from the dead.

You see, when Jesus saved you, he didn’t just save part of you… your soul. No. He saved all of you! That includes your body! Your body itself has been saved from the result of sin…death.

That truth has massive implications and not just for eternity, but for now! Your body has been purchased by Jesus’ blood just as much as your spirit! You are not your own, your very body belongs to the Lord and should be used to express that truth!

Do we use our bodies to glorify God or to satisfy ourselves? That question punches me in the gut every time I think about it.

I belong to the Lord. Does the way I live, even the way I use my body, preach that reality to the world?

Resurrection… it is not just an old truth about what happened with Jesus… nor is it just a future truth about what will happen with us… it is a present truth that changes the way we live right now.

Live in light of Jesus’ resurrection…and your own.

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: Acts 2:22-36 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-acts-222-36/ Wed, 23 Mar 2016 10:26:58 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=3832 Acts 2:22-36 (click here)
…this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. (Acts 2:23 and 32)

Reflection
Who killed Jesus?

Was it Rome? Israel? You and me? Or was it God? The short answer is… yes.

All too often we want to give simple answers to complex questions… we want to streamline a multi-faceted issue, and the cross of Christ is multi-faceted in a horrifyingly beautiful way.

God killed Jesus. He was sovereign over the cross and Jesus was delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God. The cross was the eternal plan of the triune God. We might call it the great conspiracy of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Jesus can be spoken of as the lamb slain before the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8) because the cross was always the plan… it was always his plan (John 10:17-18).

If the triune God sovereignly planned the cross and guaranteed its outcome, then can we even say that anyone else was responsible for the cross? I mean… doesn’t that mean that the Romans, the Jews, and even us had no choice in whatever part we “played” in the crucifixion of Jesus?

Herein lies one of the greatest mysteries of Scripture… God’s sovereignty does not eliminate our responsibility… and our responsibility does not encroach upon God’s sovereignty! God is sovereign…true. We are responsible…true!

I know of no greater passage that brings this reality to the forefront than Acts 2:23… God was sovereign over the cross, and wicked lawless people were responsible.

When I look at the cross I see the result of my wickedness AND God’s righteousness. I see my hate AND God’s love. I see the horror of my sin AND the beauty of God’s salvation! Oh the glory of God in the cross!

Who killed Jesus? My sin murdered him… the Triune God’s love sacrificed him.

Come behold the wondrous mystery! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=afXZlzZdUiI

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: Matthew 12:6 and 16:21-23 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-matthew-126-and-1621-23/ Tue, 22 Mar 2016 16:16:14 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=3829 Matthew 12:6 and 16:21-23 (click here)
I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. (Matthew 12:6)

Reflection
The temple.

We can scarcely imagine how central the temple was to Jewish life. It was a massive structure, able to be seen from anywhere within the city of Jerusalem (and from a long way off when approaching the city). It literally loomed over life. You couldn’t escape the presence of the temple, this massive reminder of the presence of the one and only massive God.

And oh the beauty! Precious stones, gems, carvings, sculpture, stone work, and lots and lots of gold. It was quite a sight to behold, constantly reminding the people of the infinite beauty of the invisible God!

All Israel would journey to Jerusalem multiple times a year for various festivals which all centered around the temple! It was the place where heaven met earth…where God’s presence was made manifest! Nothing and no one was greater than the temple.

Then… Jesus.

This untrained rabbi from Nazareth, who was constantly making outlandish claims, struck at the very heart of Jewish identity with the words, “…something greater than the temple is here.”

How could that be possible? How could anything be greater than the temple?

How could anything manifest the presence of God more? How could anything do a better job of connecting heaven and earth? How could anything else be at the center of Jewish life?

The only way that could actually happen would be if God himself showed up outside the temple! The only thing better than the temple, was the God who dwelt there! He’d have to show up personally in order for the temple to be second best…and that is what he did.

Jesus was and is God in the flesh. He was and is like a walking talking temple. He connects heaven and earth. He is the “place” you go to meet with God! He is the one greater than the temple!

If you want to know God, meet with God, see God, hear from God… you no longer go to the temple… no… something greater than the temple is here…

If you want to know God… you go to Jesus.

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: Psalm 16:10 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-psalm-1610/ Mon, 21 Mar 2016 16:41:38 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=3825 Psalm 16:10
For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.

Reflection
Fear of abandonment.

We all feel it. I have recurring dreams that are centered around fear of abandonment. Why? I think part of the reason is because we fear that people would leave us if they only knew certain things about us. If they truly knew who we are, what we’ve done, and the things that go on in our hearts…they’d hit the road in 0.2 seconds.

The good news of the Gospel pierces to the very core of this fear. God has promised to never leave us or forsake us. We will never be abandoned. This promise comes from the only one who truly knows all of who we are, all of what we’ve done, and all of what goes on in our hearts.

He will never abandon us.

That is not a problem that we will not go through difficulty, pain, and suffering. Many people equate such suffering with abandonment by God, but such is not the case. No matter what it may feel like, God walks with us through suffering…and even in death we are not abandoned.

In Psalm 16:10, King David speaks prophetically that God will not abandon those who trust in him to the grave. Rotting in the ground will not be our final resting place. David may not have known all the details, but in Acts 2 Peter picks up this very passage and proclaims it to be fulfilled in Jesus Christ (Acts 2:22-32).

Jesus went to the grave for us, conquered it, and made a path out of it! All who trust in Jesus will not be abandoned to the grave, but shall one day rise as he rose to life everlasting with him.

We are not a people who need to fear abandonment, for even in death, God has gone before, he goes with us, and he brings us through it to be with him forever knowing joy in his presence (Psalm 16:11).

Fear of abandonment? Not for those who trust in the God who will not abandon us to the grave or let us see corruption!

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: John 2:1-12 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-john-21-12/ Sun, 20 Mar 2016 13:30:21 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=3820 John 2:1-12 (click here)
This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him. (John 2:11)

Reflection
Glory.

John’s chief concern in his Gospel is that we see the glory of Jesus! This is why he writes. He has beheld the glory of Jesus (John 1:14) and he wants us to do the same… to behold and believe (John 20:30-31)!

Why? What’s so great about glory?

This doesn’t seem very practical. I mean, honestly, isn’t Christianity just about how I should live? Where are the practical tips for how to be a moral person, have a good marriage, live as a faithful single, raise kids correctly, etc?

It’s true, the Bible does contain a lot of ethical instruction, but the question is what empowers us to fulfill those instructions? I believe it is seeing glory.

Think of it like this… when I was younger, I had various phases of life in which I used a lot of language my parents did not approve of. Yet, anytime I was around my parents, I somehow managed to clean all that up! Their presence had a sanctifying effect on my life! In reality, I just was afraid of punishment and didn’t want to disappoint them.

However…as I grew older something changed. I began to respect my parents (I am blessed with great parents). I began to see them role-models… people I wanted to imitate! You could say that I began to see the “glory” of the kind of people they were and it empowered me to pursue being the person they had taught me to be.

While this is not a perfect illustration, I think it somewhat helps us see why it is so important to John (and all the Biblical authors) that we see the glory of Jesus! We are not meant to follow ethical instruction just for the sake of being moral people… no! We behold the glory of Jesus…his beauty, his greatness, his goodness, and as we behold this glory changes us!

We are being transformed to look like that which we are beholding!

2 Corinthians 3:18And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

This is how the Lord changes us and empowers us to be the people he created us to be! We behold his glory and are transformed!

Perhaps the reason I don’t experience much transformation is not because I don’t “try” hard enough, but because I don’t fix my eyes upon his glory.

Are you beholding the glory of Jesus?

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: 2 Peter 1:16 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-2-peter-116/ Sat, 19 Mar 2016 15:21:07 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=3818 2 Peter 1:16
For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

Reflection
Jesus lived, died, and rose again.

Why do you believe that? It sounds like a myth…like a clever story…doesn’t it? How do you know it wasn’t simply made up?

Sure, there is the fact that our faith was first proclaimed by eyewitnesses. People who were there, who saw Jesus, who knew him…they are the ones who gave their lives to testify to the truth of his death and resurrection. Surely that gives some credibility to the Gospel! Surely it at least makes people pause to consider its validity!

But what moves us from seeing something as plausible or credible to actually embracing it as the very foundation of reality? Why do we believe the Gospel?

Power and majesty!

What was made known to us through the eyewitnesses was not just a story, but the very power and majesty of Jesus Christ! We didn’t just hear facts…no…we saw something! We beheld glory!

When we hear the Gospel, the Holy Spirit of God works through that proclaimed Word to open eyes of faith so that we can know the very power and majesty of Jesus! The Gospel isn’t just a story to consider its credibility…no…we experience the Gospel as the very power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16)!

Jesus isn’t just a historical figure to consider…no…we see his majesty and glory and we want nothing else in life more than him!

Have you felt the power and seen the glory of Jesus when you hear the simple Gospel…

Jesus lived, died, and rose again.

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: James 5:7-8 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-james-57-8/ Fri, 18 Mar 2016 15:46:07 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=3816 James 5:7-8 (click here)
Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

Reflection
Patience.

Let’s be honest… not many of us have a lot of patience (if any). And, it’s not like our culture of immediate gratification helps us to develop such a virtue…not at all. Scripture tells us that patience is fruit from the Holy Spirit’s work in us (Galatians 5:22-23). Patience is supernatural!

But, how does the Holy Spirit bear the fruit of patience in our life? That’s the question… how does this work?

The Spirit works in us by wielding his sword of truth…the Word of God. He uses it to cut apart the lies of this world and reveal to us truth upon which we can stand. The lie of immediate gratification is that we deserve the best and we deserve it now! Life is incomplete without the things we think we need, and we will never have joy without ___!

In James 5, our author has just finished giving warnings about seeking satisfaction in all that worldly riches can bring because none of that lasts! These are the lies the Holy Spirit kills with his sword of truth.

James then tells us, therefore, to be patient for the coming of the Lord. This is the truth that the Holy Spirit holds up for us to believe in place of the world’s lies. It is the very truth the Holy Spirit uses to kill the lies of immediate gratification. What is that truth?

It is the reality of the coming kingdom! It is the reality that Christ will come again and then will our joy be made full forever! We are like farmers who are in the long season of planting and cultivating… we are not in harvest time yet. Knowing that the harvest is coming empowers us to have patience with the rains in this season.

Knowing that Christ is coming, and he will make all things right forever…this truth empowers us to live in the present with patience. It empowers us to endure this long season of waiting and yearning.

Patience… none of us actually have it… it is supernatural… it is fruit the Holy Spirit bears in our life! Is he bearing it in yours?

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: 1 John 3:1-3 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-1-john-31-3/ Thu, 17 Mar 2016 15:23:35 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=3814 1 John 3:1-3 (click here)
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. (1 John 3:1)

Reflection
Christians are strange.

I mean…let’s just be honest about it. Our values, our way of thinking, our worldview is very odd to the culture at large. We think the pursuit of happiness through wealth, fame, and sex is folly. We base our lives on a book that is over 2000 years old. We even see death as gain!

Not to mention we believe that God took on flesh, lived, died, and rose again.

I mean…we are just a little bit strange and even increasingly so in our modern western culture. Secularism has been on the rise for generations and culture Christianity in America has all but met its demise.

And this is good news.

We are strangers and exiles in this world, and now we look like it. “The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know [Jesus].” Our western world once thought it understood and even liked Jesus, but now recognizes that they don’t recognize him.

A world that once would have said, “oh yeah, we know Jesus,” is now ready to declare the opposite. And this is good news. The lost know that they are lost… and we have a Gospel to give! We have good news that the Father has given his love to us by making us his children through Jesus…and he does this to all who believe in Jesus!

We have news that is finally heard as news! Whether people in our culture accept it or reject it is one thing, but at least they can finally hear it! At least they finally recognize that they don’t recognize us or Jesus!

It’s good news that we, Christians, are finally seen for what we are… strange.

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: 2 Peter 1:16-21 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-2-peter-116-21/ Wed, 16 Mar 2016 13:25:01 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=3811 2 Peter 1:16-21 (click here)
For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts… (2 Peter 1:16 and 19)

Reflection
Historical fact.

Do we feel the weight that our faith is grounded in historical fact?

We don’t follow clever stories with nice morals because they make life more bearable. We don’t look to a mythical figure known as Jesus to inspire us to be better people. No. We truly believe Jesus was/is God in the flesh, that he entered into history, lived, died, and rose again.

Historical fact.

Our faith is based on the accounts of eyewitnesses to events…people so convinced of what they had seen that they gave their very lives rather than deny what they knew to be true.

Historical fact.

Yet, even those eyewitnesses believed there was something more sure than their own testimony. Peter points us to the prophetic word of God which has been confirmed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. This, he says, is a light of truth shining into our dark world…pay attention to the Word and you will see the truth of Jesus!

And… just as sure as Jesus life is a historical reality confirmed by eyewitnesses and Scripture… we can know that so also will his second coming be a historical reality. It too will be confirmed by eyewitnesses and the proving of prophecy.

When the day of Christ’s return dawns and he rises like the morning star in our hearts, then the reality of our faith will give way to sight! Jesus will come again and that will be…

Historical fact.

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: 1 John 5:20 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-1-john-520/ Tue, 15 Mar 2016 16:36:09 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=3809 1 John 5:20
And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

Reflection
How can we make sense of the world?

If we ever pause for long enough to simply breathe and think…then the deepest questions of life will rise from the depths of our soul crying out for answers…

Why is there something rather than nothing? Where did we come from? Why are we here? What is my purpose? What is THE purpose?

How can one even begin to answer such questions?

Scripture declares to us the reality that we CANNOT answer these questions…at least not on our own…for, we were never created to be on our own. Our creator is the only one who can answer these questions because he is the very one who designed the answers… and he has made himself known to us in Jesus Christ, and Jesus is made known to us through God’s Word… Scripture.

It is only through knowing Jesus a revealed in the Bible that we can know TRUTH and make sense of the world, life, others, and meaning. Christ came to give us understanding… that we might know the truth… he is the truth… and it is only through him that we can see all of reality rightly.

How can we make sense of the world?… only through Jesus… only through God’s Word.

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: James 1:9-10 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-james-19-10/ Mon, 14 Mar 2016 16:21:04 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=3807 James 1:9-10
Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away.

Reflection
Are you poor? Are you wealthy? Perhaps you’re in the middle?

What are advantages and disadvantages of your financial situation? They might actually be different than you’d think at first.

No matter our economic situation, finances always tempt us to focus on the things of this world…whether in want or in excess. Temporary riches (or the lack thereof) weigh upon our thoughts as if they are all that matters.

James wants us to lift our gaze from temporary to eternal treasures and judge our current situation in light of our kingdom situation. The poor can boast in their exaltation in Christ! No matter there lack of wealth in this life, they have wealth that will never fade for all eternity. They are rich in the only way that matters and can boast in eternal security!

The rich can boast in their humiliation…anything that shows the folly of trusting in riches. The wealthy believer knows that all earthly wealth is temporary and will eventually all pass away. Their true hope is in Christ. Thus, whenever they encounter a situation of financial loss…they can still boast/glory in Christ for they have not lost any of their true wealth! Such boasting in humiliation reveals to the world where true riches lie…in Jesus.

No matter if you are rich or poor (or anywhere in between), the things you glory in reveal to the world that which you believe to be truly valuable… is it Jesus?

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: John 1:43-51 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-john-143-51/ Sun, 13 Mar 2016 21:15:41 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=3803 John 1:43-51 (click here)
And [Jesus] said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” (John 1:51)

Reflection
In Genesis 28, Jacob dreamed of a ladder that connected heaven and earth upon which angels were ascending and descending.

Jesus picks up that image in John one, but he replaces the ladder with himself!

All who follow Jesus will see heaven and earth connected by Jesus…not in a dream, but in reality! How? When? Where?

The Gospel of John makes the answer plain… the cross.

John 8:28, “…When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he…” This is a reference to the cross. When Jesus is lifted up on the cross, then his followers will know he truly is the Messiah, for there he will be connecting heaven and earth by his own blood.

Upon the cross, Jesus will reconcile us to God…he will be God’s way to us and our way to God…like a ladder connecting heaven and earth! What wondrous glory is this…that a cross meant to bring death would be used to bring me life!

The cross is the very place we see the glory of Jesus! And the cross is the glorious place to which we follow Jesus!

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)

Following Jesus does not bring glory to oneself according to the world’s standard of glory…quite the opposite! His glory looks like a cross! Following Jesus will take you to a cross, but it will also take you through that cross to resurrection life!

We may share his sufferings” even “becoming like him in his death,” but it’s so “that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:10-11)

In Christ’s sufferings we see his glory, and with our sufferings we show his glory to the world so that they may see him as the one who connects heaven and earth! We long for all to see the greatest thing… eternal joy in God through Jesus!

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: Galatians 4:4-5 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-galatians-44-5/ Sat, 12 Mar 2016 16:17:09 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=3800 Galatians 4:4-5 (click here)
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

Reflection
For a lifeguard to rescue someone who is drowning they must dive into the dangerous waters.

For a firefighter to save a family from a burning building they must enter the flames.

For us to be saved from being under the curse of the law, one must come under the law and bear its curse for us.

Jesus Christ was born of woman…God in the flesh. In this way, he came under the same law that each of us were born under, and he did so that he might take the curse of the law we had incurred through our sin.

This curse had marked us as children of wrath (Ephesians 2:1-3). We were children of the flesh who could not please God (Romans 8:7-8). We not only needed to be saved from the curse of the law, but we needed to be adopted as children into a new family!

Jesus’ death in our place paid the price of the curse and the cost of our adoption! Through faith, we are not just freed from sin and death, but freed to salvation and life as the adopted sons and daughters of God! We’ve been made right with God, but not just “right”…no…we’ve been made his!

This is why we call this message “good news!”

This is why we call it “Gospel!”

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: Romans 8 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-romans-8/ Fri, 11 Mar 2016 22:01:49 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=3798 Romans 8 (click here)
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

…the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

…in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:1, 18, 26, 34, and 37-39)

Reflection
I don’t know where you are today or what you are currently going through. I don’t know if you’re experiencing good times or bad times. I don’t know what may be coming your way tomorrow.

But there are a few things I do know…

If you are “in Christ,” then no suffering you ever experience is condemnation towards you! There is NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. He took every ounce of condemnation we ever deserved and bore it in his flesh upon the cross, putting it to death in his death!

The sufferings of this present time are not condemnation, nor will they ultimately conquer us! They will give way to glory! Glory is coming! Ultimate, eternal, joy-filled glory! It may not feel like it, and you may not be able to see it right now…but ultimate glory will be revealed to all those who are “in Christ” when they finally see Christ (Revelation 22:4)!

When we see the brightness of his face…our sufferings will not even compare! Our sufferings will be like a flashlight set next to the sun…for Jesus face shines like the sun (Revelation 1:16). As bright and unbearable as all those sufferings felt…they will be outshined by the eternal-joy-giving-glory of Jesus!

That hope may seem faint right now when you are in the midst of a world and a life steeped in pain, but take heart… the Holy Spirit of God is praying for you right now, even when you don’t know how to pray for yourself. And, he is not alone… Jesus Christ is interceding for you! God the Father receives all these prayers! The every person of the triune God is involved in praying for you amidst all your pain! Take heart!

Pain, suffering, sin and death will not conquer because they will never separate you from the love of God that is yours in Christ Jesus!

I don’t know where you are or what you are going through today, but if you belong to Christ then I know this… wherever you are…you are with him…and whatever you’re going through… eternal joy in him is yours today and forever… and nothing can take him away from you!

You are in Christ… always.


*All previous devotionals may be found at 
www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: 1 Timothy 2:5-6 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-1-timothy-25-6/ Thu, 10 Mar 2016 16:06:45 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=3796 1 Timothy 2:5-6 (click here)
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.

Reflection
“What is a mediator?” This was the question I received from my 9-year-old, Charis, just the other day.

She and her brother had been in an argument, and I ended up as the go between communicator as they were not on speaking terms. The situation was finally brought to a resolution and the two of them were reconciled. I simply said that I was glad I could be their mediator…and that statement spurred my daughter’s question.

“What is a mediator?”

How would you explain the answer to her? I did my best to use the situation she had just experienced… “A mediator is a go between. You and Levi’s relationship was damaged and you couldn’t talk to one another… you needed a mediator. Someone you would be able to communicate through.”

Charis simply looked at me and said, “Oh! Like Jesus!”

Sometimes kids get things more right than we could ever hope for. “Yes,” I said, “like Jesus.”

Our relationship with God was broken by our sin and there was no hope for reconciliation… not without a mediator.

We needed one who could represent man to God and God to man… we needed a God man. We needed Jesus. He is the one mediator between God and man…the only one…reconciliation is only possible through him…and it is possible because he gave himself as a ransom for our sin upon the cross!

What is a mediator?…or better yet…who is the ultimate mediator?

Jesus…simply Jesus.

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: Philippians 2:5-8 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-philippians-25-8/ Wed, 09 Mar 2016 15:05:28 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=3794 Philippians 2:5-8 (click here)
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, [6] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, [7] but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant… (Philippians 2:5-7)

Reflection
Jesus Christ is God.

All power, all wisdom, all present, all everything… all the time… God.

Yet, in his equality with God the Father, he did not consider is “all-ness” something to be “grasped,” or used for his own advantage. His power, wisdom, and glory was not something he used to abuse…no…he used his all to serve…to love.

He emptied himself…by taking the form of a servant. He poured out his “all-ness” for us, used all his power, wisdom, and glory for us.

He came in power, in wisdom, in might, in love, but not to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28). The fact that Jesus emptied himself, doesn’t mean that he gave up being God… it doesn’t mean he gave up a single ounce of his divineness (if we can speak in such human terms)… no… it means he used all his divine power to serve… to love.

He poured himself out in love for his Father and in love toward us.

But perhaps the most amazing thing Philippians 2 has to say about this wondrous servant-hood of Jesus isn’t actually about Jesus, but about us. In verse 5 we read, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.”

We, the church, are to have the very mindset of Christ. The mindset that takes everything within me that I could possibly seize and use for my own advantage, and pour it all out in service and love of others.

We are empowered by Christ, to show the love of Christ, by loving others in the same way he loved us… by humbling ourselves to serve.

Jesus Christ is God…and he emptied himself to serve, to love, to save.

If I truly know that Jesus, it shows as I empty myself to serve, to love, to show others I have been saved and they can be to…by Jesus.

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: Hebrews 1:3, 8 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-hebrews-13-8/ Tue, 08 Mar 2016 17:57:57 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=3791 Hebrews 1:3, 8 (click here)
[Christ] is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power… (Hebrews 1:3a)

Reflection
What keeps your feet on the ground at this moment? No…I mean literally.

Gravity. That’s the logical answer isn’t it? But…is it the ultimate one?

What keeps the planet spinning… or the wolf howling… or the rivers running? We could give all sorts of technical, scientific answers to these questions… but if we act like an insatiably curious toddler and keep pushing with the simple word “why” what ultimate answer will we find?

Why does gravity work? Why do animals behave as they do? Why does anything in the universe function at all.

Scripture gives one ultimate answer… Jesus.

Jesus Christ upholds the universe by the word of his power.

Gravity works because he wills it. The wolf howls because he wills it. The river runs because he will it. For all things were created by him and FOR him!

Think about the implications of this all encompassing reality. Nothing you encounter is natural! Every millisecond of your life experience is supernatural! It is all upheld, undergirded, made possible by the power of Christ!

You would breathe, think, or speak unless Christ upheld the universe by his power, out of his great love! And yes… such realities cause us to wrestle with very difficult questions concerning all the evil that takes place within our world… but even amidst those questions we can clearly see Christ’s sustaining love! In unexplainable love, he sustains even those who hate him in word and deed so that they have an opportunity to repent and know his grace!

His sustaining of all things is grace! Nothing and no one deserves to be upheld by the word of his power… and yet here we are… being freely upheld at this moment. We are swimming in an ocean of grace every second over ever day.

Take a moment, look around, breathe, think, taste, see, and know that everything you are experiencing is the result of the miraculous, gracious power of Jesus Christ.

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: Colossians 1:15, 2:9 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-colossians-115-29/ Mon, 07 Mar 2016 15:44:29 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=3789 Colossians 1:15, 2:9
[Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily…

Reflection
How do you see God?

Scripture is clear that God the father is “invisible” at least in the sense that he has not been seen, nor can he be seen by humans. He surpasses all description and the best the Biblical authors can do is scrape for words as they experience fleeting visions.

So how can we see God? How can we know who he is and what he is like?

What if this God made himself visible? What if…instead of us trying to figure out a way to approach him, he came to us? What if this God took on flesh and dwelt among us?

Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God! He has made God known to us! He has made him seen, because he IS God!

The whole fullness of deity dwells in Christ bodily! Jesus is part of God. He’s not 33% of God and you need to add him to the Holy Spirit and the Father to get the whole… no… he is God in all his fullness in flesh!

The Father is God! The Spirit is God! And Jesus is God! How? This is simply the mystery we are taught by Scripture and that we confess in faith. Our God is three distinct person, yet one divine essence! If that sounds confusing, like a mystery beyond understanding…the join the club!

But this mystery is not without point or purpose! The beauty of it is that we have been given a way to see God through Jesus Christ! And not only that…but we have been given a way TO God through Jesus Christ!

We have access to God the Father, through God the Son, in the power of God the Holy Spirit! The invisible God has not only made himself known through Jesus, but he has made himself knowable through Jesus!

How do you see and know and love God? Through Jesus!

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: John 1:40-42 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-john-140-42/ Sun, 06 Mar 2016 13:36:46 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=3785 John 1:40-42 (click here)
[Andrew] first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. (John 1:41-42a)

Reflection
Who brought you to Jesus?

None of us come alone. Someone pointed us toward Jesus as the Christ. Perhaps a family member or friend… maybe a pastor or an author through their written work…maybe someone just handed us a Bible, but all of us arrived in Jesus’ presence via witness.

Andrew came to Jesus because of the witness of John the Baptist. Now, Andrew is the one bringing people to Jesus and he begins with his own brother.

Why? Why does Andrew feel this compulsion to bring his brother to Christ?

There is one simple reason… it is because of who Jesus is! Andrew tells his brother, “We have found the Messiah!”

That is the reason he is compelled to pull Peter into relationship with Jesus. That is what should motivate every person who proclaims Jesus! We do not share Jesus out of guilt, obligation, or religious duty…but out of a joy that cannot be contained because we have seen him for who he truly is!

Jesus is our Messiah, our Christ, our Savior…he is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and the world needs to know that!

Who brought you to Jesus?

If you have truly seen who he is…the joy compels you to ask… Who will I bring to Jesus?

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: John 20:30-21:19 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-john-2030-2119/ Sat, 05 Mar 2016 15:51:00 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=3783 John 20:30-21:19 (click here)
He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. [18] Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” [19] (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” (John 21:17-19)

Reflection
What is the result of love for Christ?

Jesus makes it pretty explicit… love for him will show up in love for his people. If Peter loves Jesus, he is to “feed his sheep.” Care for the church, love the church, and lead the church into a deeper love for Jesus.

Peter is charged to do this no matter what happens, no matter what comes his way, no matter what he loses…even his own life.

Jesus tells Peter that the path of loving him will lead Peter to serve the church until it costs him his very life. Peter’s love for Jesus and the church will lead him ultimately to death, but it will be a death that glorifies God!

How?

Because Peter’s death will show that nothing, not even his own life, is worth more than knowing Jesus and making him known.

Do we love Jesus? What is the evidence?

The best evidence that we love Jesus is that we give our lives to help others know and love him…no matter the cost!

Put your name in Peter’s place and here the words of Jesus… “__________, do you love me?… Then feed my sheep.”

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: Matthew 14:22-33 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-matthew-1422-33/ Fri, 04 Mar 2016 14:03:27 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=3779 Matthew 14:22-33 (click here)
And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea.

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” [29] He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. (Matthew 14:25 and 28-29)

Reflection
The sea.

Uncontrollable… unpredictable… dangerous.

The sea can change in a moments notice from calm to a terrible storm. In ancient literature (including the Bible), the sea can often be a symbol for the evil, chaotic forces in the world that can cause suffering and claim human life in a moment.

The disciples are right in the midst of such a sudden experience. The wind and waves are against them (Matthew 14:24)! But then…Jesus…

Jesus walks upon the water. That which threatens the disciples is of no threat to him. He walks upon that in which they would sink. To him, the sea is controllable… predictable… safe. He is Lord over all, including the chaotic seas.

In the book of Revelation, there is a sea of glass before the throne of God… it’s like crystal… perfectly calm and under control in the presence of God.

Until we arrive at that crystal sea, we live in the midst of chaos, confusion, and evil. However, Christ is there with us and every wave is no trouble for him. He is with us amidst the storm and calls us to walk with him upon the waters.

The sea would not defeat Peter that night. He was safer walking with Jesus on the water than he was in the boat. It is the same for us.

No matter what storms we encounter in this life, none of them can conquer us as long as we are with Jesus. Sure… they might kills us, but not conquer us!

Luke 21:16-19, “You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will PUT TO DEATH. You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. BUT NOT A HAIR of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives.”

You will be put to death, but not a hair of your head will perish! How? Because Jesus walks upon the sea of death itself…and even when death comes for us, it has been defeated and serves merely to transport us into the very presence of Christ where we will live forever… not a hair on our head will perish!

So take heart! Look to Jesus amidst the storm! Walk with him and you need not fear not the wind and waves… because, in truth, the wind and the waves fear him.

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: Luke 4:14-37 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-luke-414-37/ Thu, 03 Mar 2016 15:33:14 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=3777 Luke 4:14-37 (click here)
And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country.

And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…”

…they were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority.

And they were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!” (Luke 4:14, 17-18, 32, and 36)

Reflection
Power and Authority…

Jesus went about in the power of the Holy Spirit, he claimed the Holy Spirit was upon him, he taught with authority, his actions confirmed his authority.

All that he said and did exuded the very power and authority of God.

What was the response?
Astonishment.
Confusion.
Questions.
Fear.

One feels all of these things when encountering Jesus.

You know that you have come into contact with one who is wholly other! He’s different from anyone else and everything else. He is wholly other because he is the holy one! Have you felt this? Have you felt the reality of who Jesus is?

We cannot say that we haven’t had the opportunity to encounter Jesus in power and authority because we did not live at the same time as he did. We cannot claim a lack of evidence concerning his power and authority because we did not see his works with our own eyes.

No. We are excuseless because we have his words.

His words, not just his works, are full of the power and authority of God! No one ever spoke like this man (John 7:46)! When you read his words…do you feel him speaking with authority and power?

What is your response?
Astonishment.
Confusion.
Questions.
Fear.

One feels all these things when encountering Jesus. Have you encountered him today? If not, read his words again…but not as mere words on a page…no. Read them slowly, prayerfully, asking the Lord to speak to you through them with all the power and authority they actually carry.

Read Jesus’ words, and encounter him!

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: Matthew 16:13-23 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-matthew-1613-23/ Wed, 02 Mar 2016 14:23:51 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=3775 Matthew 16:13-23 (click here)
From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man. (Matthew 16:21-23)

Reflection
So often, God’s ways do not makes sense to us.

Jesus headed for suffering and death seemed so unnecessary…naturally his closest friends would think it a good thing to protect him from such a fate. Peter meant his words to Jesus as an expression of love and loyalty… yet Jesus saw them in a completely opposite light.

Jesus says that Peter has aligned himself with the very one who does not love him and is anything, but loyal…Satan himself.

Why? How?

It’s because Peter has set his mind on the things of man. He is looking at suffering and death from a mere human perspective and it seems a hopeless path.

However, from the eternal perspective of God, the suffering and death of Jesus will bring about the greatest victory ever known! If Peter set his mind on the things of God, even if he didn’t know the details, he would trust Jesus enough to follow him anywhere, even through suffering and death.

Peter knows that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:15-16) and this is what he needs to set his mind upon. Even though he cannot see the point of the path that lies before Jesus…he needs to trust Jesus.

In the midst of our uncertain world and uncertain lives, we are not a hopeless people, but a people of persistent hope because we set our minds not on the things of man and the things of this world…no…we set our minds on the things of God and his kingdom that cannot be shaken.

We set our minds on Jesus Christ and trust him completely…forever…with everything.

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: Mark 1:14-39 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-mark-114-39/ Tue, 01 Mar 2016 14:51:14 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=3773 Mark 1:14-39 (click here)
And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him. (Mark 1:19-20)

Reflection
Everybody always makes a big deal out of the fact that James and John left the Father behind. While I’m willing to say that is a big deal in a way…in another way it’s kind of natural.

Most children grow up and leave home. They don’t work in a family business, they don’t live under the same roof…they leave and begin a primarily independent life.

There is something in the text that I always thought was a BIGGER deal than the fact they left Zebedee…what is it?

When I knew that I wanted to marry Holly, I found myself in need of a ring. Those tiny circles of precious metal topped with a rock can be just a little pricey…and I had no expendable cash.

Fortunately for me, I did have a few expendable possessions I could sell…the primary one being my boat.

Now don’t think “luxury yacht…” I had a very simple, very small fishing boat. But, it was still worth a little bit and I sold it to buy a ring. That’s how you know it is love…when a man is willing to part with his boat!

James and John didn’t just leave behind their father to follow Jesus… they left their BOAT!

Now…obviously I’m joking to a certain extent, but the point is this…in order to attach themselves to Jesus, they were willing to forsake everything that had been gain for them…relationships, careers, possessions…and yes…that even included their boat.

That’s how you know it’s love…when you’re willing to abandon all to have Jesus!

Do you love him?

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: Matthew 4:12-25 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-matthew-412-25/ Mon, 29 Feb 2016 16:18:49 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=3768 Matthew 4:12-25 (click here)
While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. (Matthew 4:18-20)

Reflection
Follow me.

A simple call with massive, life-altering ramifications. For Andrew and Peter, this call meant a change in all that was familiar. A change in occupation, a change in setting, a change in routine, a change in authority… a change in everything.

This call means the same for us.

Even if we are left in the same setting, same occupation, same routine…our authority has changed and so everything has changed. The setting isn’t really the same… it is a mission field now. The occupation isn’t really the same, for now we do it unto the Lord and with the goal of making him known. The routine is not really the same for now everything we do is undergirded by the purpose of glorifying Jesus.

Everything may be the same, but nothing is actually the same because we have answered a simple call that has massive, life altering ramifications.

Have you answer the call of Jesus? He calls to you with the same invitation he extends to all…

Follow me.

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: John 1:35-39 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-john-135-39/ Sun, 28 Feb 2016 17:55:20 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=3766 John 1:35-39 (click here)
The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. (John 1:35-37)

Reflection
John the Baptist had one message… Jesus is coming.

The entire point of his ministry was to point to Jesus. This is the point for all who proclaim the Gospel! People that use Jesus as a means to exalt themselves are being counterproductive. Our proclamation is not man-centered, but Christ-centered.

You can tell if proclamation is Christ centered based upon how it affects those who are listening.

John’s listeners left him. They walked away.

Why?

Because John had been pointing them toward Christ all along, so when Jesus came onto the scene it was the most natural thing in the world for them to follow after Christ. It would have actually been a contradiction to John’s preaching for them to remain with him!

Christ-centered proclamation produces Christ-centered disciples.

May our goal in word and deed be the exaltation of Jesus Christ so that all may see and follow him!

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: Isaiah 55 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-isaiah-55/ Sat, 27 Feb 2016 15:20:29 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=3764 Isaiah 55 (click here)
Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. (Isaiah 55:1-2)

Reflection
I went to the grocery store this morning. I don’t mind doing this…it has actually become a rather enjoyable task for me over the years. However…there is one part I don’t enjoy…paying.

Wouldn’t it be nice to simply gather what is needed to feed ourselves, our roommates, our families and just walk out the door to the tune of an employee saying, “Have a nice day!”

Free groceries. Free food. Free drink. That sounds fantastic.

But this is not reality…or is it?

We eat and drink out of necessity. Without food or water, we die…it is that simple. And nothing we eat or drink can ever permanently meet our nutritional needs. It provides temporary satisfaction as it fills our stomach, but in a matter of hours we will be in need all over again.

In both the Old and New Testaments, God draws upon food and drink as a parable for what we truly need and that which can truly satisfy…himself!

He is necessary for eternal life…without him, there is only eternal death…it is that simple. He is like our food and drink…he is the bread of life and the living water! And, miracle of miracles, he permanently satisfies. When we come to him for our satisfaction, there is no need to ever seek it out in another source. He permanently fills!

But still…it gets better.

This bread of life and living water which permanently satisfies is free. We could never afford him or deserve him, but we who have no money have been invited to eat and drink without price or payment! He is freely ours through faith!

Why do we spend our money for that which is not bread (the things of this world), and why do we labor for that which does not satisfy (all in this world will leave us empty)? Listen diligently to the LORD, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food…the bread of life…Jesus Christ!

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com

*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: Malachi 3:1-5 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-malachi-31-5/ Fri, 26 Feb 2016 15:17:20 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=3761 Malachi 3:1-5 (click here)
Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. (Malachi 3:1)

Reflection
The Old Testament closes with a promise… a promise that God himself will come to his people.

A messenger will appear, preparing the way for the Lord. Then, suddenly, surprisingly the Lord who has been sought will come seeking his own.

These promises were fulfilled in the coming of John the Baptist, who prepared the way for the Lord himself… Jesus Christ… God in the flesh.

Suddenly…there was Jesus.

Surprisingly…there was Jesus.

He came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). He came seeking those who would worship the Lord in spirit and in truth (John 4:23). He came seeking you. He came seeking me. He sought and he found.

If you love Jesus, it is not because you found him, but because he found you. It is not because you sought him, but he sought you. It is not because you first loved him, but because he first loved you (1 John 4:19).

You have been loved, sought, and found by God himself…by Jesus Christ!

What glorious, loving, wondrous grace is this?

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com

*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: Zechariah 8:20-23 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-zechariah-820-23/ Thu, 25 Feb 2016 16:49:22 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=3758 Zechariah 8:20-23 (click here)
Many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of the LORD. (Zechariah 8:22)

Reflection
As God’s people live in exile, a day of salvation is promised…a day of return.

Yet, these promises extend beyond the Jews to all the nations of the world. When God gathers together his people there will now be some from every nation, tribe and tongue.

At the conclusion of the Old Testament, the Jewish nation would experience a small return from exile, but nothing about it would match the great restoration foretold by the prophets. Even the rebuilt temple would fall utterly short of Ezekiel’s grand vision of the temple restored (Ezekiel 40-43)!

Would God actually keep his promises? Could their fulfillment actually look a little different than what people were expecting?

All too often that is exactly the case…God’s fulfillment looks incredibly different than our expectations.

Jesus Christ looked so different from every Messianic expectation…and he would lead a return from exile different from everything that had been anticipated. The temple of his body would be destroyed, rebuilt in three days (John 2:19-22) to become the cornerstone upon which the church would be built (Acts 4:11).

The people of the church would be built together as a temple unto the Lord (Ephesians 2:20-22), and these people would come from every tribe, every nation, and praise Jesus in every tongue!

God always keeps his promises…his word never fails…all too often it simply doesn’t look like anything we would have expected. We can count on God, but that doesn’t mean we can count on him to do things the way we anticipate.

He is the expected-unexpected God.

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com

*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: Zephaniah 2:1-3 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-zephaniah-21-3/ Wed, 24 Feb 2016 13:52:01 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=3756 Zephaniah 2:1-3 (click here)
Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, who do his just commands; seek righteousness; seek humility; perhaps you may be hidden on the day of the anger of the LORD. (Zephaniah 2:3)

Reflection
The day of the LORD.

This is a common theme in the prophets, and it can be somewhat confusing. Sometimes the day of the LORD is spoken of as a day of judgment to be feared…while at other times it is a day of salvation to be hoped for…

So which is it?

It’s both!

The day of the LORD is that day in which God will bring all things to a conclusion. For those who have rejected God, this is not good news…but for those who have taken refuge in God…the is the best news, it’s the culmination of their salvation.

The current, present good news of the Gospel is that even those who have rejected God (which is the way all of us are born into this world… Ephesians 2:1-3) may humble ourselves, repent, and find refuge in God… perhaps.

We don’t normally put “perhaps” on the end of a sentence like that, but it is right there in the text of Zephaniah 2:3… “perhaps you may be hidden on the day of the anger of the LORD.” Why “perhaps?”

“Perhaps” highlights grace!

None of us can demand forgiveness and salvation from the Lord. None of us deserve it. All we can do is throw ourselves on the mercy of God. He may forgive if he so chooses…and the good news of the Gospel is that in Jesus Christ he DOES so choose!

He freely, graciously, and lavishly forgives…making “the day of the LORD” good news for all who trust in him!

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com

*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: Jeremiah 50:1-4 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-jeremiah-501-4/ Tue, 23 Feb 2016 13:05:16 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=3752 Jeremiah 50:1-4 (click here)
Declare among the nations and proclaim, set up a banner and proclaim, conceal it not, and say: “Babylon is taken, Bel is put to shame, Merodach is dismayed. Her images are put to shame, her idols are dismayed.” (Jeremiah 50:2)

Reflection
Jeremiah prophesied amidst the height of the Babylonian empire. As the supreme world power, Babylon ruled with an iron fist. None who opposed her could stand.

I imagine that to be alive at the time, it would seem that Babylon would last forever. Yet, at that very point in history, God spoke through the prophet declaring the destruction of Babylon with all its gods as if it were taking place at that very moment.

On God’s timeline, Babylon was a blip, and all it’s power a barely noticeable mark.

This is true of all earthly kingdoms.

“Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?… He who sits in the heavens laughs…” (Psalm 2:1, 4)

Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Greece, Rome… these empires form the backdrop of Biblical history…each seemingly as permanent as the one before it…yet not a single one of these empires exists today. Their remains are merely tourist destinations. They lie in ruins.

Yet, God’s throne has not moved.

Such truth is a rod iron for our spine amidst troubled and dark days (which all have been since the fall of mankind). We look at current kingdoms, governments, and nations, as if they will last forever and their trajectory will determine the outcome of history.

“He who sits in the heavens laughs…”

There is only one who is in control… only one whose kingdom is forever… only one… Jesus.

Trust not, hope not in any kingdom of this world… and do not despair because of any kingdom in this world.

You are a citizen of the only kingdom that will last forever and your king holds every moment past, every second of the present, and all of eternity that lies ahead.

Trust in the King of kings…Jesus.

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com

*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: Isaiah 53 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-isaiah-53/ Mon, 22 Feb 2016 14:01:16 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=3750 Isaiah 53 (click here)
…he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. (Isaiah 53:2b)

Reflection
Do you desire Jesus?

I hope the answer to that question is a resounding, “YES!” …but…the real question is, “Why do you desire Jesus?”

It surprises most people to find learn that Scripture describes Jesus as being average looking… just a normal guy. Most paintings and films portray him quite differently, as the ideal physical, male specimen.

Yet, God ensured that there would be nothing about Jesus’ outward appearance that would cause people to desire him. They needed to want Jesus for Jesus…and not for some other surface, superficial reason.

Today, we may not be able to look upon Jesus’ physical appearance, but people still want Jesus for all sorts of surface, superficial reasons.

Many people “desire” Jesus because of things they believe they can get from him. They think, “Jesus will bless me financially, or relationally, or with good health.” At the end of the day, they don’t really desire Jesus…he is just a means to something else. Jesus is “majestic” or “beautiful” to them for all sorts of materialistic reasons.

But the true majesty and beauty of Jesus isn’t because of WHAT he can get us…it’s because of WHO he is! Therefore, even if I lose wealth, health and relationships…I still gain as long as I have Jesus!

He may not appear majestic or beautiful by the world’s standards, but there will truly never be one of greater majesty and beauty than Jesus Christ!

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com

*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here. 

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Lent Devotional: John 1:32-34 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-john-132-34/ Sun, 21 Feb 2016 20:51:51 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=3746 John 1:32-34 (click here)
“…I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:34)

Reflection
Let’s do a little Greek grammar for just a moment. I promise it’ll be worth it.

There are various verb tenses in Greek, just like in English (although they don’t work in exactly the same way). The tense we need to know about is the perfect tense. When a verb is in the perfect tense it is basically speaking of action that happened in the past that still has ramifications in the present.

So if I said, “I fell in love with Holly,” and the word “fell” was in the perfect tense…it would basically mean “I fell in love with Holly and therefore I am now in love with her.”

In John 1:34, the verbs “seen” and “witness” are both in the perfect tense. So John the Baptist is saying, “I have seen and therefore am still seeing/knowing that Jesus is the Son of God.” “I have born witness and therefore am still bearing witness that Jesus is the Son of God.”

In other words, seeing the truth about who Jesus is has permanently changed everything for John! He’s been talking about it and can’t stop talking about it!

This is true for all who truly see Jesus as the greatest treasure ever…the very Son of God. That’s the kind of thing you cannot un-see, and it has ramifications for the rest of your life!

You came to know Jesus is the past, but that still has ramifications for the present, namely, we keep on speaking about Jesus…the Son of God.

The church has been speaking of him for 2000 years, we are speaking of him now, and will continue to proclaim his praise forever!

We have seen and borne witness to Jesus, and therefore we are still seeing and still declaring Jesus the glory of Jesus…the only Son of God!

 

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com

*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

 

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Lent Devotional: Psalm 118:22-29 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-psalm-11822-29/ Sat, 20 Feb 2016 15:55:25 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=3742 Psalm 118:22-29 (click here)
The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:22-24)

Reflection
“This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

That is a verse I have heard quoted my entire life. It is a verse I have often quoted to myself. It is a general truth we remind ourselves of constantly by applying it equally to every day alike.

It’s not incorrect to do so. Each day of our life has been written by the Lord in his book even before we were born (Psalm 139:16). Yet, in Psalm 118 there is a very specific day being spoken of that calls for our rejoicing in what God has done.

It is a day upon which the rejected stone became the cornerstone.

This is a day crafted by God before time began. It is the center-point of history. It is the day when evil is turned upside down and death itself loses its grip as life conquers the grave.

It’s the day believers of old looked forward to, and the day upon which we now look back. It is a 24 hour period that has become the fountainhead of eternal rejoicing!

It is the day of the resurrection of the Son of God.

Jesus was rejected much like a builder would reject a stone as unfit for a building. Yet, through this very rejection, God made Christ the cornerstone of our faith! Through his crucifixion God brought about resurrection. Now, through faith in Christ alone comes salvation!

Oh how marvelous is this Gospel in our eyes!

This day of resurrection, this day of victory, this day when death died and life won forevermore through Christ alone…THIS IS THE DAY that the LORD has made… let us rejoice and be glad in it…FOREVER!

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com

*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

 

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Lent Devotional: Psalm 121 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-psalm-121/ Sat, 20 Feb 2016 00:21:12 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=3740 Psalm 121 (click here)
He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. (Psalm 121:3-4)

Reflection
Sleep.

Sleep is an interesting thing. We all need it…and…whether we want to or not…we all must do it.

Why? Why did God create us this way? Why make us in such a way that our bodies require rest so frequently?

I may be wrong, but I think that part of the answer must be that sleep forces us into a position of recognizing that everything doesn’t depend on us. We sleep and the world spins on. We sleep and life keeps going.

We are not ultimate, and we are not ultimately in control.

Sleep puts us in a vulnerable position in which we must trust that things will be ok without us for a few hours. We must rest, trusting that things go on.

I think that sleep is designed, at least in part, to remind us that we are dependant creatures. We are sleepers who depend upon the one who needs no sleep. There is only one who never slumbers, one who is not dependant, one who is not vulnerable, one who IS ultimate! God…and it is he that keeps us!

The one who doesn’t slumber, keeps us so that we can.

Sleep is a daily reminder to trust the one who doesn’t sleep.


*All previous devotionals may be found at 
www.thejoyofglory.com

*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: Psalm 89 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-psalm-89/ Thu, 18 Feb 2016 18:04:28 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=3738 Psalm 89 (click here)
The Lord says:
I have found David, my servant; with my holy oil I have anointed him…

My steadfast love I will keep for him forever, and my covenant will stand firm for him. I will establish his offspring forever and his throne as the days of the heavens.

The Psalmist says:
But now you have cast off and rejected; you are full of wrath against your anointed. You have renounced the covenant with your servant; you have defiled his crown in the dust.

Lord, where is your steadfast love of old, which by your faithfulness you swore to David?

Blessed be the LORD forever! Amen and Amen. (Psalm 89:20, 2-29, 38-39, 49, and 52)

Reflection
O how often does it seem that the Word of the Lord has failed!

We read the precious truths of Scripture and cling to them by our fingertips with all our strength, but the constant battering of life aims to make our grip slip.

The shouts of suffering mock the promises of God.

The pain of life pries hope from our hearts.

This is the pit of Psalm 89. God has made amazing promises to David. He had established an unbreakable covenant that his offspring would reign forever! But did God really mean that promise?

When the Psalmist compared picture painted by the Words of God with the reality that surrounded him, it seemed like the Davidic covenant was a long lost dream. David’s “crown” was defiled in the dust as his line quickly failed after his son Solomon.

The kingdom split in two. The Northern Kingdom of Israel would fall to Assyria. A little later the Southern Kingdom of Judah would fall to Babylon. Thus, the heart of Psalmist cries out…

“Lord, where is your steadfast love of old, which by your faithfulness you swore to David?”

I do not know a single believer who’s heart has not made a similar cry a some point in their life (unless they’re really young). We, like the Psalmist, read God’s promises and compare them with what we actually experience in the world, and the world makes it seem like his Word has been broken and worst and failed at best!

The Psalmist doesn’t doubt that God is still in control… he doesn’t think God’s Word has failed. No. He feels like God himself has broken his Word. God has purposefully not kept his promises. God has cast off his anointed. God has rejected David’s line. God has defiled the crown.

This is why we struggle. Because amidst pain and suffering we still believe God is in control and cannot possibly fathom how his promises are still true amidst our experience. It seems like he is breaking his Word…how can he be a good, trustworthy God if this is the case.

Yet, even as the Psalmist cries out with his questions…his final word is one of trust and hope…

Blessed be the LORD forever! Amen and Amen.”

No matter how things may look or feel, the Psalmist chooses to trust the Lord above his eyes and emotions…and we know that his hope is not misplaced.

God had not removed his steadfast love or faithfulness, nor had he broken his covenant. An offspring would come from David’s line who reigns now as king and will reign forevermore over the people of God… Jesus.

The Psalmist would never see this in his lifetime. It would be hundreds of years before the first advent of Christ and we still await his second and the kingdom coming in full.

Likewise, amidst all our pain and suffering in this life (which we’ve been told will come, John 16:331 Peter 4:12) we may not see exactly how God’s Word has not been broken, but we look to his track-record and see his faithfulness shining through. He is a God that can be trusted and hoped in, even when it seems trust has been broken and hope has been lost.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness!” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com

*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

 

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Lent Devotional: Psalm 72 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-psalm-72/ Wed, 17 Feb 2016 13:48:23 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=3736 Psalm 72 (click here)
Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to the royal son!

May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth!

For he delivers the needy when he calls, the poor and him who has no helper. He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy.

May his name endure forever, his fame continue as long as the sun! May people be blessed in him, all nations call him blessed! Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things. Blessed be his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory! Amen and Amen!. (Psalm 72:1, 8, 12-13, and 17-19)

Reflection
What is the point of a king?

From all the stories I heard as a kid (both fictional and historical) I assumed that a king ultimately existed for himself. It seemed as if all kingly figures were obsessed with their own power, wealth, and border expansion.

Yet…the picture painted of a king to rule over God’s people is quite different. It is actually the opposite of all I have seen in history and fantasy.

In God’s plan, a king does not exist to be selfish, but selfless. A king’s power is meant to empower others…his wealth is to enrich others…and his dominion is not for domination, but for protection and provision.

A true king is not all about being served, but all about serving.

For he delivers the needy when he calls, the poor and him who has no helper. He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy.

O that such a king would have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth!

All people, all nations would truly be blessed in him!

The good news of the Gospel is that there is such a king! He is the LORD, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things. His name is Jesus and He reigns now, even though much of his kingdom is currently unseen and unrecognized by this world. It will not always be so. He will return and his kingdom will come in full!

And this king Jesus… he is a true king. He comes not to be served, but to serve! In his first coming he did this by giving his life as a ransom for many and when he comes again we are told, “…he will dress himself for service and have [his followers] recline at table, and he will come and serve them.” (Luke 12:37)

How unbelievable is this?

Here is a king who uses his power to empower you! All his wealth to enrich you! All his dominion to protect and provide for you eternally!

Even if we lose all this world has to offer, he will empower us through such loss, and we won’t lose an ounce of his eternal wealth and worth!

Even if we lose our very lives, he will protect and provide the grace for us to walk all the way through death and into glory!

Blessed be this king’s glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory! Amen and Amen!

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com

*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

 

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Lent Devotional: Psalm 77 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-psalm-77/ Tue, 16 Feb 2016 17:24:51 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=3734 Psalm 77 (click here)
Has his steadfast love forever ceased? Are his promises at an end for all time?

Then I said, “I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High.” I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.

Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen. (Psalm 77:8, 10-12 and 19)

Reflection
Power.

Our God has all-power.

This is one of the most basic truths of Scripture, and a truth that every believer is taught very early on in their faith. Yet…it is one of the truths we wrestle with more than any other.

All of us go through deep, dark waters in our lifetime. The deep, dark sea is actually an image of evil throughout Scripture, for in the ancient mind it represented all that was uncertain and uncontrollable. In a moments notice, the calm sea could erupt in rage, sink ships, destroy homes, and claim lives.

When the winds and waves of life crash down around us and upon us it can cause us to call into question the omnipotence of God. Is he really all-powerful?…because the storm seems much more powerful than he.

Has his steadfast love forever ceased? Are his promises at an end for all time?

It is in such a moment that the Psalmist forces himself to remember…remember all that God has done in power and might for his people. He calls to mind the mighty deeds of God, specifically how he saved his people from slavery in Egypt and led them out through the Red Sea.

God split those waters in two! The very thing that symbolized chaos and evil, God split it and led his people through it. His path was through the sea… “yet,” says the Psalmist, “your footprints were unseen.”

Even amidst the deep, dark waters of the sea…God is still leading, still in control, still all-powerful…even when evidence of him is nowhere to be seen.

This is a truth that all too often can only be seen when looking backwards. So…when we find ourselves in a place similar to the Psalmist…when all hope seems lost…we look back upon dark times when God has subsequently proven himself to be present and powerful.

We look back to the past so that we may be able to stand in the present…even though we cannot see God powerfully at work.

We look back so that we may presently believe our God does indeed have all-power…he is indeed with us…and we know that in the end we will clearly see…he has always been for us.

*All previous devotionals may be found at www.thejoyofglory.com
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: Psalm 2 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-psalm-2/ Mon, 15 Feb 2016 16:43:56 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=3726 Psalm 2 (click here)
I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.”

Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. (Psalm 2:7 and 12)

Reflection
Psalm 2 is a royal psalm concerning the king of Israel.

Kings were considered to be anointed leaders from the Lord and could even be referred to as a “Son of God.” You see…the king was a figurehead or representative of the people…and God’s people were known as his “firstborn son” (see Exodus 4:22). Thus, as the people’s representative, the king was known as God’s son.

God had promised to bless Israel (under certain conditions) and to bless those who blessed them. He also had promised to curse those who cursed them.

This Psalm calls upon the nations to be careful in how they relate to Israel’s king, because how they treat him will affect their own status of being blessed or cursed. They should “kiss” (aka bless) the Son/king so that they will experience blessing…for blessed are those who take refuge in him.

The alternative to such refuge is wrath.

While this Psalm is about Israel’s king, we can easily see how it points to Israel’s ultimate coming king…the messiah/anointed one…Jesus.

How we relate to Jesus is what ultimately determines our status before God. All people are called up on to “kiss” the Son…embrace him…believe in him…receive him. For all who take refuge in him, ultimate blessing and joy is found forever!

The alternative to such refuge is righteous wrath.

Let us run to Jesus…the truly unique, one and only Son of God…and take eternal refuge in him!

*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: John 1:29-31 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-john-129-31/ Sun, 14 Feb 2016 17:50:32 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=3723 John 1:29-31 (click here)
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)

Reflection
Behold him. See him. Pay attention to this fact…

Jesus Christ is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

Remember Isaac’s question to his Father as he was unknowingly walking to his own death, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb?” Isaac does not behold the lamb for the sacrifice…and now, in John 1:29, John the Baptist calls back 2000 years to Isaac and forward 2000 years to all of us… “Behold the Lamb of God.”

“Of God.” This is the Lamb provided by God that Abraham looked forward to with the words, “God will provide for himself the lamb…”

If you remember, in Genesis 22, God did not actually provide a lamb, but a ram. I always wondered why? It seemed like a glitch in the story to me, but why sweat the details…right?

I have actually come to see this detail as beautifully extraordinary! I could be wrong, but I think God provided a ram because it wasn’t time for his Lamb. The ram was a picture, a shadow of what was to come. The true Lamb of God who would be sacrificed in Isaac’s place and in all of our places… that true Lamb was Jesus Christ!

“Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

“..takes away the sin…” Like a spotless lamb, Jesus was literally spotless. He had no sin, so that he could take on yours and mine… in truth… the sin of the world! Anyone in this world who trusts in him… Christ has borne their sin upon the cross!

Behold him. See him. Pay attention to this fact…

Jesus Christ is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!


*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available 
here.

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Lent Devotional: Leviticus 16:15-22 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-leviticus-1615-22/ Sat, 13 Feb 2016 14:41:10 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=3719 Leviticus 16:15-22 (click here)
Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering that is for the people and bring its blood inside the veil and do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bull, sprinkling it over the mercy seat and in front of the mercy seat. (Leviticus 16:15)

Reflection
Death.

It is the inevitable result of sin. But why?

Scripture teaches us that God is the creator and sustainer of all life, and that sin is a rejection of him. If you reject the one who sustains life…there is no where to go but to death.

Further, God is holy, righteous and just. This means that he will deal with evil and ultimately eliminate it from his creation. We all long for this. We long for God to redeem and recreate all things free from the stain of evil…but if we have any evil within us at all, that would mean he must remake the world free from the stain of us!

Our evil must be eliminated and such elimination is death.

The wages of sin is death…in more than one way.

Yet, God in his great has love provided a substitute. One who was not guilty of sin could stand in the place of the guilty. The guilt could be transferred…death could fall on another so that the guilty could go free.

This was pictured and prophesied through the Old Testament sacrificial system such as the Day of Atonement described in Leviticus 16. However, the blood of bulls and goats could never really take away sin (Hebrews 10:4). An animal cannot be a substitute for a person.

We need a human who is without sin if there is really going to be a substitute to stand in our place. Yet, no human is without sin…only God is without sin.

We need God to save us and a human to represent us.

We need a God-man. We need Jesus.

God himself took on flesh. Fully human and able to represent us, yet fully God and able to save us.

All the Old Testament sacrifices pointed toward the cross…the ultimate altar.

All the Old Testament sacrifices point towards Good Friday…the ultimate day of Atonement.

All the Old Testament sacrifices pointed toward Jesus…the ultimate lamb of God.

*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: Exodus 12:21-28 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-exodus-1221-28/ Fri, 12 Feb 2016 14:48:47 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=3716 Exodus 12:21-28 (click here)
Then Moses called all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go and select lambs for yourselves according to your clans, and kill the Passover lamb. [22] Take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. None of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning. [23] For the LORD will pass through to strike the Egyptians, and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you. [24] You shall observe this rite as a statute for you and for your sons forever. (Exodus 12:21-24)

Reflection
Warning after warning after warning… Pharaoh’s heart was hardened and he would not repent. An unrepentant heart walks a road that always ends in the same place…death.

The Lord’s just judgment was to fall upon on sin in the land of Egypt. How would anyone be saved from such righteous wrath?… for every last person in the land was guilty of sin!

The Lord provided a substitute, sacrificial lamb. For those who believed the Word of the Lord, a lamb could die in their place and its blood would cover them. The lamb gave its life in place of their life.

This was a rite to be observed among God’s people forever.

FOREVER.

If we are God’s people… why do we no longer observe this rite?…or do we?

1 Corinthians 5:7b, “…Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.”

One lamb…Christ…for all people. One sacrifice…the cross…for all time…forever! We still observe the right of the Passover lamb…the true Passover lamb. Jesus is the lamb of God to whom all the other lambs were pointing.

His sacrifice stands forever and his blood covers us eternally so that the righteous wrath of God may pass over us. His just judgment has fallen on another that we may graciously go free!

Oh what love that the Father, Son, and Spirit would plan such a salvation! The Father lovingly sent his Son…the Son loving laid down his life…the Spirit lovingly empowered all this action ever step of the way!

What glorious good news that is good forever!

What a glorious, forever Gospel! Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed!

*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Lent Devotional: Genesis 22:1-14 http://www.shadesvalley.org/lent-devotional-genesis-221-14/ Thu, 11 Feb 2016 16:06:55 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=3714 Genesis 22:1-14 (click here)
And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.”

…And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. [14] So Abraham called the name of that place, “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.” (Genesis 22:6-8 and 13-14)

Reflection
Isaac was the child whom God had promised to Abraham. Through him, God has promised Abraham descendants that would outnumber the stars in the sky. Yet…in Genesis 22 God instructed Abraham to sacrifice this son of promise.

If Isaac died, all the promises died with him.

Isaac represented the future people of God and as their representative, he was now marching up a mountain, bearing on his back the very wood upon which he was to die. In Isaac, God’s people were walking up a hill to their death.

God ordered this death. God alone could stop this death. But how?

That was Isaac’s question. As he looked around at their sacrificial supplies, he noticed one key thing was missing…they had no lamb.

Fire?…check.

Wood?…check.

Lamb?…where is the lamb?

Abraham knew the answer…Isaac was the lamb…unless God provided a substitute sacrifice. God alone could do this… and God alone did it!

A ram instead of Isaac. A substitute. A savior.

God provided. And Abraham prophetically stated more than he could possibly have known… that one day… “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.” And it has been provided.

We, the people of God, deserved nothing but death. God ordered this death for our sin because he is righteous and just and deals with evil…even our evil.

God ordered this death… and God alone could stop this death… but how?

We alone deserve to die… is there a lamb to sacrifice in our place? The question of Isaac echoes through the ages, “Where is the lamb?”

In John 1:29, John the Baptist answers Isaac’s 2000 year old question with the words, “Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” Behold Jesus!

God’s own son, who marched up a mountain, bearing on his back the very wood upon which he was to die…and he did it in our place! God righteously, rightly ordered our death and God stopped it by taking it on himself!

On the mountain called Calvary, the Lord provided a substitute sacrifice for his people so that they, nor his promises to them had to die. Jesus Christ, the lamb, died so that we might live now and forevermore!

Behold the lamb of God! Behold Jesus!

*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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2016 Lenten Daily Devotionals http://www.shadesvalley.org/2016-lenten-daily-devotionals/ Wed, 10 Feb 2016 14:11:49 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=3711 Each day the Lenten season, I am emailing out a devotional to many of the members of SVCC. I will also be sharing these devos via blogging. Hopefully, I will post first thing each morning, but definitely by 12pm. The first devotional may be found below. These are designed to accompany the SVCC Lenten reading guide which may be found here: 2016 Lenten Reading Guide.

In these devotionals I will give a link that will take you to the entire reading for the day if you would like to read it. I will actually include a few of the verses upon which I will focus my reflections. In the reflection section I will make a few brief comments which I hope will spur your own thinking and prayers.

Lent is meant to be a season of repentance and fasting that prepares our hearts for the coming celebration of Easter (fuller explanation here). Repentance is a reminder that we need to be saved from our sin…we need a Savior. Fasting reminds us that we are not in need of the things this world offers, but in desperate need of Jesus.  So the point of Lent is that we need Jesus…we need Easter. It is my prayer that these daily devotionals will simply help remind us daily of our need for Christ.

Genesis 3:1-21 (click here)
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” “…you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” …And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. (Genesis 3:15, 19b and 21)

Reflection
I did not grow up observing Lent. It was not until I began pastoring Shades Valley Community Church that this season would become part of my yearly rhythm. Every February (or March), I find myself standing at the front of our sanctuary on a Wednesday evening with my thumb covered in Ash and I repeat these words over and over again…

“From dust you came and to dust you shall return… so repent and believe the Gospel.”

From dust you came. We came from something… were created from something. We are not the ultimate, eternal, end of all things in the universe. We are created beings who had a beginning. That beginning was given to us by our creator who made us from dust.

And to dust you shall return. We are headed somewhere… and not necessarily somewhere good. These words are spoken in judgment upon us… they are a penalty. We are created begins who have an end. That end was pronounced by our creator who will return us to dust in death.

These are sobering words that reveal a sobering reality we like to ignore, namely, we are finite, temporary creatures… created from dust and headed back to dust. Genesis 3 explains why this is the case. We were given life by God, and that life was not meant to end…we were not meant to return to dust, but we turned from God, the giver and sustainer of life and there was no where for us to turn but towards death.

He made us from dust yes… but we chose to return to dust.

Yet, every Ash Wednesday, these are not the only words I speak. I do say, “From dust you came and to dust you shall return,” but I keep going, “so repent and believe the Gospel.” Repent…or turn. Turn back to God! And believe the Gospel…the good news! What good news? How can there be any good news for a people condemned to return to dust in death?

There is good news because Genesis 3, the very chapter which contains our death sentence, proclaims our salvation!

Genesis 3:15 proclaims that one shall be born to a woman who will crush our ancient enemy, the serpent! Jesus…the offspring of the woman would have his “heel struck” through the cross, but he would use that same cross to “crush the head” of the serpent!

Through that cross he would do for us what God the Father did for Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:21… just like an animal was sacrificed to cover the nakedness of our first parents… Christ, the lamb of God, was sacrificed to cover our exposed sin and shame.

This is the Gospel, this is the good news for a people who are returning to dust! Jesus Christ returned to dust in death for us so that we might be saved from that fate and have life forever more!

“From dust you came and to dust you shall return… so repent and believe the Gospel.”


*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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Important Recap from our Annual Meeting! http://www.shadesvalley.org/important-recap-from-our-annual-meeting/ Fri, 29 Jan 2016 22:08:04 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=3682 2016 SVCC Family Annual Meeting

This past Wednesday we held our 2016 SVCC Annual Meeting. Below is a brief recap of some of the main points of the meeting  for all those who were unable to attend!

1. In 2015, SVCC welcomed 44 new members to our faith family! On Wednesday we welcomed and prayed for 20 of those members. Click here to see who joined SVCC in 2016!

2. In May 2016, Brad Brown will be graduating from Beeson Divinity school and will be coming on Full-Time as our Discipleship Pastor.  Click here to learn more about Brad’s role as Discipleship Pastor and click here to learn more about Brad and his Ministry Experience!

Also, At the meeting we clarified the differences between Brad’s role as Discipleship Pastor and Ed’s role as Associative Pastor. To learn more about Ed’s role click here!

3.We explained and affirmed the Budget for 2016. If you would like to see a condensed version click here!

During our #raisetheroof fund raiser we brought in $13,480.12 Our total for the roof fund is now $75,018.38! We are going to begin replacing the roof ASAP! Our facilities team is already working on finalizing plans.

4. We gave out an updated list of our Servant Leadership Team members. (which you can find here) We voted and affirmed for A.J Wolnski to come on as an elder and Jeff Stalcup was affirmed to stay on for another year. Our Current Elders for 2016 are: Bryan Belknap (chair), Bill Farris, Jimbo Legg, Josh McClung, AJ Wolnski, and Jeff Stalcup.

5. To Close, Jonathan read a letter he wrote to the Body reflecting on many things that happened among our faith family in 2015. Read His letter here at  Joyofglory.com!

If you have any questions about the meeting, feel free to email brad@shadesvalley.org!

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Everything has Changed, yet Nothing has Changed http://www.shadesvalley.org/everything-has-changed-yet-nothing-has-changed/ Thu, 28 Jan 2016 02:00:56 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=3669 *Tonight at our annual SVCC family meeting, I briefly reflected on many things that happened among our faith family during 2015. Below are the thoughts I shared in the form of a letter.

Dearest Shades,

_DSC0658Here we are again. Another year has passed and I continue to wonder if I will ever actually figure out how to be a pastor. Every time I think I have a grasp on this thing called ministry, something changes, and I find myself relearning everything I thought I already knew. Last year was no exception to this trend. Looking back over 2015 at SVCC, I feel like I can say that everything has changed… yet nothing has changed.

Let me see if I can explain what I mean. Everything has changed. For instance, just a few years ago there were about 70 members at Shades and now there are over 170. We used to set up 250 chairs for Sunday mornings and now we set up over 400 and are almost ready to open two balconies. We used to have two community groups and now there are basically thirteen. Everything has changed!

EasterPano1.jpg

Yet, nothing has changed. We are still family no matter how many of us there may be. This space still feels like our living room no matter how many chairs we cram into it. I still get to watch our community groups pray, study, and be on mission together as they grow in love for Christ and one another. Nothing has changed.

IMG_1632Still, everything has changed. I mean, a few years ago, we were praying that God would provide the funds for a new roof. That seemed impossible, but now we are getting a final price and beginning construction as soon as possible! Not long ago we were praying that the Lord would allow us to see spiritual adoptions among us and now we’ve almost grown used to seeing several baptisms each year. Likewise, I remember how we prayed together for the Lord to grant physical adoptions in many of our families, and now we ooh and ahh together over the answers to those prayers. I recall how we’ve prayed for the Lord to send members of our body to the ends of the earth for the sake of the Gospel, and now there are people connected with Shades on every continent except Antarctica (we are taking applications). Everything has changed.

Yet, nothing has changed. We are still a people of prayer! We still pray for God to move in our midst and let us to see more spiritual and physical adoptions. We are still passionate about the Gospel being preached to all peoples, so we continue to pray for the Lord to raise up missionaries from our body to take the good news of Jesus Christ to the ureached. Nothing has changed.

Still, everything has changed. Just four short years ago, I remember celebrating as one to two babies were born amongst and now the number of new births per year is consistently close to double digits. Likewise, in my first few years at Shades, I would only do one or two weddings a year, but last year I officiated seven. We definitely gather more often to celebrate, but we also gather more often to mourn. There was a time when we only had to assembled about once a year to grieve the passing of someone from this life to the next, and now this seems to be a much more regular rhythm in the life of our community. Everything has changed.

Version 2Yet, nothing has changed. When we celebrate together, we still do it with the same explosive joy that is rooted in Jesus. And when we grieve, we still do it as a people whose feet are anchored to an everlasting hope. I don’t think that anything has affected my faith more than grieving with this community. They way you surround each other, walk with one another for the long haul, and hope for joy in Jesus when it seems all hope is lost…that has given me more confidence in the glory of Christ than anything else I have witnessed in this world. You have taught me the meaning of 2 Corinthians 6:10, “…sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.” Nothing has changed.

Everything has changed, yet nothing has changed.

So… as we head into 2016, it may feel like many things are different… and that is because they are, but we will continue to be the same Shades. We will still be the same, weird Shades family that gathers at the same time each week to sing the same praise, wave the same flags, sit around the same Word, eat from the same bread, drink from the same cup, and go into the same world in peace, having courage, holding on to what is good, honoring all men, strengthening the faint-hearted, supporting the weak, helping the suffering, and sharing the Gospel. Our mission will still be to love and serve the Lord in the power of the Holy Spirit, and our prayer will still be that the grace of our lord Jesus Christ would be with us all, and we will still be God’s people who week after week say, “Amen.”

I love you all,

Jonathan

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Advent Resources http://www.shadesvalley.org/advent-resources/ Tue, 01 Dec 2015 21:28:48 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=3604 Below are a few resource we’ve made available during Advent 2015. If you have been unable to pick these up from SVCC, you can click the links below and access/print them from home. We hope you have a hope-filled Advent season and a very merry Christmas.

Weekly Devotional – Click Here
This devotional is filled with beautiful artwork, lettering, and photography from people within the body of SVCC. All of this, plus the devotional readings are designed to follow our Sunday Advent journey through John 1:1-14.

Daily Reading Guide – Click Here
Many people enjoy having a brief daily reading from December 1st – 25th. This reading plan is designed to walk you through the grand story of redemption from creation to the advent of Christ. It contains a brief paragraph for each day to help you get the context of the story, and there are also questions for reflection or discussion.

Cell Phone Wallpaper
One of our photographers and letterers designed a beautiful logo for our Advent series, “Behold His Glory.” Some have requested the ability to use this logo as a wallpaper on their cell phone. Below are various sized resolution for iPhone 4, 5, 6, and 6plus, but these will work on Androids as well.
iPhone 4
iPhone 5
iPhone 6
iPhone 6 plus

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Fall Series Schedule http://www.shadesvalley.org/fall-series-schedule/ Tue, 08 Sep 2015 14:15:30 +0000 http://www.shadesvalley.org/?p=3472 Dear SVCC,

This past Sunday I let everyone know that our fall sermons will be a series concerning a Biblical view of sexuality. Due to the sensitive nature of these sermons and the normal presence of children in our worship services, we wanted to publish our schedule ahead of time so that everyone will know what is coming and be able to plan accordingly. There will be childcare, birth – 5th grade, available during all of these services (including 4th and 5th Sundays).

For parents of middle schoolers, I personally believe that it would be good for kids in this age range to be present for this series and that hopefully it would lead to some great conversations between you and your child. However, you are in charge of discipling your children and if you would rather your middle school student not be present, simply let us know and we will do our best to find a place for them to volunteer as a helper within the children’s ministry.

You will find a link the full schedule below. Please be in prayer that this entire series would be encouraging, equipping, and would help us to see more of the glory and goodness of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

I love you all, Jonathan
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