Roasted Corn

We all have milestone moments in life. They are the moments that shape us — a first baseball game, a wedding day, a graduation, or the birth of a child.

We have moments like that in our faith as well, when God steps in and changes us in an inexplicable, but undeniable way.

These moments with God are significant not only for how they affect our lives right then, but also how they sustain us for the future. Because there are other moments, and even seasons of life, where we doubt God, where we rebel, and maybe question God’s goodness or purposes.

I have had seasons like this in my life. In high school, my best friend was antagonistic towards the church and my faith in Christ, and his doubts caused me to doubt. My philosophy and biology courses in college brought up new questions about God’s nature and character. And, I’ve had seasons of rebellion and sin, where pride, or lust, or selfishness reigned.

So, what do we do in those moments?

One of my life passages — one I turn to in moments like these — is John 21. This last chapter in the book of John gives us a glimpse into a moment in the life of the apostle Peter.

For context, before Jesus went to the cross, he explained to his disciples that he would be betrayed, arrested, and was going to die. Peter, being the impulsive and courageous man he was, immediately spoke up and promised Jesus that he wouldn’t let this happen, and that he would follow him and protect him at all cost. Peter had promised Jesus that he would never leave or forsake him. Jesus responded, “actually, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.”

Sure enough, after Jesus is arrested, Peter is asked on three different occasions about his relationship with Jesus, and he denies him every single time. And then a rooster crows. Peter remembered what Jesus said, and the Scriptures say “he went out and wept bitterly.”

That is where we pick up the story in John 21.

Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

– John 21:2-3

Don’t miss what’s happening here. Peter is returning to an old way of living. Prior to Jesus’ invitation to be a fisher of men, Peter was a professional fisherman. “Going fishing” wasn’t evil, but it marked a return to an old lifestyle, one in opposition to the life and calling God had on his life. Likewise, when we run, we may not go do anything evil, but we can slip into a lifestyle that opposes God’s will. We might stop going to church, or drop out of small group, or forget to read the Bible, because “life is just busy right now.”

If we are honest, it is confusion, shame, or doubt, that really causes us to run.

Peter’s story doesn’t end in shame and confusion, and ours doesn’t have to either.

Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?”

He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.

– John 21:4-8

Jesus stepped in and recreated a moment for Peter. When he first met Jesus, years earlier, Jesus performed this same miracle. Jesus told him to throw his net on the other side of the boat, and then told Peter, from then on, he would make him a fisher of men. Peter was immediately reminded of who Jesus is, what he had done for him, and what he had called him to do.

Do you have a moment like that? When did you first understand the call of Jesus on your life?

When I was a freshman in high school, I was invited to go on a mission trip to Cuernavaca, Mexico.

One night, I saw some guys my age skateboarding in the city square. I joined them, and pretty quickly our conversation turned to why I was visiting their country. I got to share my story and the gospel and then pray with seven teenagers about their relationship with Christ.

I can vividly remember the Holy Spirit whispering, “This is what you are going to do for the rest of your life: sharing the gospel and praying with people. This is what you were created to do.” I didn’t know all the details, but it was a significant moment — the start of my desire to do ministry and be a pastor.

And I can still remember the warmth of that summer air and the smell of roasted corn cooking at the vender booths. In, fact the smell of roasted corn — still, to this day — reminds me of the moment I had with Jesus in Mexico.

When I graduated from seminary, I told this story. A few weeks later my parents gave me a gift: a framed picture of roasted corn with an inscription that read, “Always Remember.”

The frame still hangs on the wall of my office, and every day when I sit at my desk, I see that picture and am reminded of a moment that shaped me. God stepped in, and not only saved me, but he gave me a mission to be a part of, a calling on my life.

Jesus went to great lengths to recreate Peter’s transformational moment, and I believe God uses those types of moments throughout our lives to draw us back to him in seasons of sin, doubt, or rebellion.

God has forgiven you and called you to play a specific role in his kingdom too. He has called all of us to go make disciples, to love and serve our city, and to help usher in the kingdom of God.

So be reminded, today, and remember the moments that God stepped into your life. Remember them so that when seasons of doubt or rebellion arise, you can trust the God who not only saves but who sends you into the world for his purpose, his mission, and his glory.


 

35: Prophets

Who were the prophets? Did they know the future? Why are they so important? Are there prophets today? We’ll answer these questions and more in this episode of Who’s in the Bible

Made Well: Jesus and the Bleeding Woman

“If you could meet anyone in the Bible — besides Jesus — who would it be, and why?”

That was the question posed to the group of women gathered for Bible study in my living room five years ago.

We were an eclectic bunch. We were part of different church bodies, social circles, and life stages. But we all had one thing in common: a deep understanding of our dependence on the gospel of Christ.

These gracious women agreed to meet at my house despite the scattered baby toys and sink full of unwashed dishes because I had just given birth to my second daughter a few weeks prior.

When it was my turn to answer the question, I already knew what I was going to say. I’d want to meet with the anonymous woman who — in my opinion — had one of the most intriguing encounters with Jesus recorded in the Bible.

We’re never told her name, but we can piece her story together from 18 verses spread across three books.

The story goes something like this:

For twelve years, this woman suffered from menstrual bleeding. She spent all of her money on doctors who couldn’t make her better. In fact, it had only gotten worse.

According to the law, she was unclean. For over a decade, she couldn’t go in public without first declaring her uncleanness. Anyone or anything that touched her also became unclean, and she was prohibited from entering the temple.

Like many others, she heard about the miraculous works of Jesus and knew that if she could just get near him, there was a chance she could be healed.

As Jesus was doing ministry, great crowds surrounded him to hear him teach and to seek healing.

On one particular day, this bleeding woman was among the crowd that pressed around Jesus. She was desperate and hopeless, and this was her chance. She reached out and touched his robe, and she felt her bleeding stop immediately.

Jesus noticed that power had left him, so he asked, “Who touched me?”

His disciples knew there was no way to identify who touched him among the crowd that encircled him. But Jesus persisted.

“Who touched my garments?”

She felt the exact moment her decade-long disease had ended, and it became evident that Jesus did too.

He stopped in his path, looking for her.

Terrified and trembling, she fell down in front of him, and told the whole truth about what she had done.

Then, the unexpected happened.  Jesus replied: “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

As quickly as it began, their encounter was over.

What an incredible story!

Although there’s a mountain of things we’re never told about her, her story tells us a lot about Jesus by noticing what he didn’t do.

He was not repulsed by her ailment.

A woman’s menstrual cycle is not exactly a hot topic at co-ed dinner tables today. Imagine how repulsive the subject would have been back then!

I can only imagine the shame and humiliation she must have felt as she publicly declared herself unclean and her peers dodged her path to avoid her touch.

Jesus wasn’t that way, though.

When she fell to his feet and confessed what she’d done, he wasn’t at all disgusted. He simply declared she had been made well because to those who seek him in faith, he is kind and compassionate.

He was not indifferent to her faith.

When Jesus stopped to draw attention to the woman, he declared it was her faith that brought her healing.

In fact, the word used to describe her transformation can either mean to “heal” or to “save” and indicates that the moment she received physical healing, she also received spiritual salvation.

Jesus isn’t only interested in our physical healing here and now, He wants us to be restored to right-relationship with God for eternity.

He was not made unclean.

As the woman moved through the crowd to approach Jesus, everyone she touched should have been made unclean, including Jesus! But that’s not what happened.

In their encounter, we see Jesus as the True Temple – the place where the Spirit of God dwelled and made the woman clean, spiritually and physically.

 

When I was asked about meeting someone from the Bible in my small group, my body ached. I was at the starting line of a long fight with postpartum depression and I felt ashamed of my failure to adjust as a mother of two.

I chose the bleeding woman because I could relate to her. But far more importantly, Jesus could, too.

In an unexpected way that no other man can, Jesus relates to the necessary pain of women.

The monthly pain women experience, and the pain of labor mothers endure, makes a way for and delivers new life. Jesus gets that. He shed his blood to make a way for our new life and delivered us from our sin.

Then, as a mother nurses her newborn to sustain them, Jesus sustains us as we navigate through a broken, sin-distorted world until it’s time to reunite with him forever.

If I could meet anyone from the Bible — besides Jesus — I think it would still be the bleeding woman. I hope she would tell me all about her kind, compassionate Savior who healed her, rescued her, and sustained her.

And I bet she wouldn’t be surprised to hear he did the same for me.


 

Courage to Proclaim

Social media and our online lives have created tremendous opportunity for our voices to be heard. From YouTube to Instagram to TikTok, we have an amplifier for our thoughts and opinions, whether essential, mundane, or off-the-wall.

Yet often as Christians, we hesitate to speak. Not about everything — we’ve no compunctions when it comes to sneakers, snacks, or Star Wars. But when it comes to faith, we often muzzle ourselves out of fear. Maybe we just don’t know enough. Maybe someone will be offended. Maybe we’ll come across as just another keyboard warrior lacking in love.

I’ve certainly missed opportunities to speak faithfully in the public square, finding it easier and more comfortable to stay quiet. But this habit of hesitancy can also creep into my offline relationships. I don’t want to disturb relationships or sound judgmental. I may be unsure of the Bible’s application to a situation. So, the moments to speak life-giving words of loving truth pass me by.

How can we find the courage to proclaim the words of God to those around us? A helpful example sometimes comes from an unexpected place. Mentioned in only one Biblical story, the prophetess Huldah spoke the right words at the right time.

After centuries of ongoing idolatry among God’s people, the young King Josiah began to seek the Lord, tearing down altars to false gods and restoring Solomon’s temple to its former glory. It was during this project that the high priest made a discovery that would shape the nation’s history – a book of the Law  (probably Deuteronomy) was found in the temple. It was immediately sent, and read, to the king, who reacted with desperate sorrow. He tore his clothes, knowing that the Law revealed his nation’s guilt and the curses that they rightfully deserved.

But, Josiah did not give in to despair. The history of God’s people is replete with tales of God restoring his people after they have strayed from his ways, and Josiah knew what he needed do: seek the Lord. He needed a voice to interpret the Scripture and show him a path forward that would rescue the people of God. But he didn’t turn to the priests who discovered the scroll. He didn’t even send for one of the writing prophets who were active during his time: Zephaniah, Nahum, or Jeremiah.

Instead, this is where Huldah enters the story. We don’t know why Josiah’s advisors approached her other than her identity as a prophetess. But when Josiah commands them to inquire of the Lord, hers is the home that they visit. And her response is the only recorded statement by a woman throughout Scripture that begins with the ubiquitous prophetic phrase, Thus says the Lord.”

If you or I were put in this position, we might have been tempted to pull our punches — to reassure, support, encourage, or dissemble. The king had the power and authority to punish on a whim, so fear might have motivated us. Josiah was striving to bring his nation back to the worship of Yahweh, so sympathy may have swayed our hearts as well. But Huldah’s words were bold and clear:

Thus says the Lord, “Behold, I will bring disaster upon this place and upon its inhabitants, all the words of the book that the king of Judah has read. Because they have forsaken me and have made offerings to other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the work of their hands, therefore my wrath will be kindled against this place, and it will not be quenched.”

– 2 Kings 22:16-17

Huldah’s speech was courageous and wise. She not only knew the contents of the law but also the heart of its author. She heard the Lord’s voice and shared his words without fear, because she trusted him. Knowing that this message wouldn’t make her popular or admired didn’t deter her bold, faithful proclamation.

Huldah the prophetess never appears again in Scripture, but her knowledge of God and his word had a catalytic effect when she was willing to share it with others. Though her prophecy of judgment came to pass within a generation, there was a renewal of faith and worship in Josiah’s reign. Her courage to proclaim God’s word shaped a nation.

May we be people who pursue the Lord so that our relationship with him might overflow into the lives of those around us, with love, truth, and mercy. May we shake off our fear, emboldened to speak his words.

I will also speak of your testimonies before kings

and shall not be put to shame,

for I find my delight in your commandments,

which I love.

– Psalm 119:46-47


 

089: Women in the Bible

How Christianity views and depicts women is often in question within cultural conversations. Why aren’t there more women in the Bible? Are women essential to God’s redemptive work? What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus, as a woman? On this episode, Rachel sits down with Dr. Sandra Glahn, author and professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, to discuss the importance of understanding how the Bible depicts women, how God sees and values women, and what that means for women and men today.

Resources: 

Vindicating the Vixens by Sandra Glahn 

Worthy: Celebrating the Value of Women by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Eric Schumacher

34: Jonah

The story of Jonah is well known, but it raises some big questions. Did it really happen? Can we believe the Bible? What is the point of such a crazy story? All these questions and more are tackled in this episode.

 

33: Rehoboam

King Solomon did a lot of good things as king, but he also led in ways that were against God’s commands. What happened after Solomon died? Check out this episode to learn about Solomon’s son, Rehoboam. You’ll be surprised what happened next.

Grace: God’s Purposeful Presence

As Christians, we are always concerned with communicating the Good News of Jesus. The gospel is the message of grace for sinners, life eternal in Christ, and the transforming power of God that impacts every aspect of our lives.

The multidimensional nature of the Gospel is seen clearly in Clear Creek’s spiritual formation chart: our activities are rooted in our gospel identity. Or, said another way, because of who God is and what he has done, we have new identities that transform what we do in this world.

Despite this understanding, however, the gospel can sometimes be presented as the antithesis to good works.

While we may think this provides clarity to the unique and redeeming work of Christ, it can make us uneasy about emphasizing good works. We are afraid we might become legalistic or worse, undermine the grace of God, by preaching a gospel of works.

Neither Jesus nor the apostles are uneasy about emphasizing good works. Jesus says we are the light of the world called to faithfully let that light shine before others so they may see our good works (Matthew 5:14,16). Paul tells us we are to “be rich in good works” (1 Timothy 6:18), “a model of good works” (Titus 2:7), and “zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14). In fact, a key function of the Bible itself is to equip us for every good work (2 Timothy 3:17).

So, where does the tension between grace and good works come from? Are good works optional? Are they ancillary? Or, are they essential to our faith?

A simple definition of grace is God’s unmerited favor. Because we are sinners, we rightly understand that we do not deserve God’s goodness. But, because of the reality of our sinfulness, it’s easy to think of grace as only being granted for our redemption. When God’s grace is only understood to be expressed toward humanity after the fall of the world in Genesis 3, it can cause us to think of grace in a static and transactional way.

Yet, grace for humanity does not originate in the response to the fall and our now sin-tainted life in this world. God is the same, yesterday, today and forever. He did not become gracious after human rebellion corrupted God’s creation.

Instead, we must learn to see God’s gracious will and purpose for humans as the first and defining expression of grace toward humanity.

The world that God created in the beginning was good! It was to be a dynamic place where good works and stewardship were at the heart of the plan. Energy, effort, discipline, growth, and change were essential parts of God’s purposes and gifts to humanity. It was a world full of potential with a story to be written and work to be done!

Yet, remember, Adam and Eve did not choose to be created, they did not earn their existence, and they didn’t deserve the delight of living in God’s good creation. So, we can see that grace was poured out on innocent, not condemned beings. This is the lens through which we must see and understand grace even in our post-fall existence.

Grace is a means not an end. God’s grace for humanity has a purpose — a God-sized purpose — where we exist to reflect his image throughout his creation. He allows us to participate in the greatest good of them all: a relationship with himself. God’s unmerited favor is, has always been and always will be his purposeful presence with us. Grace allows, enables and empowers us. Grace is not opposed to goodness, grit, or goals.

We need to understand this as believers of Christ not just so we do remember that effort is not the same as earning, and that doing is not the same as deserving, but also because it will enable us to fulfill our mission to lead unchurched people to become fully devoted followers of Christ.

We cannot fulfill our purpose apart from knowing and being known by God in Christ, but through him, we can and should do much good in his world.

Grace should energize us to engage in service projects in our community, so the presence of God is manifested for the people of the 4B area. Good works are essential to the Christian life. It’s no wonder that Paul not only says we are to be zealous for good works but that in Christ we were in fact created for good works (Ephesians 2:10).

Our call is to bring wholeness, peace, and justice to God’s creation. To do this, we must go beyond words. The world must see our good works in such a way that they give glory to our Father in Heaven and then are inspired to join us in our calling to reflect God’s grace to the world.


 

32: Solomon’s Temple

Aric and Lance travel back in time for a tour of Solomon’s Temple. After listening, check out this YouTube video for a visual guide.

 

Be Angry and Do Not Sin

One hundred percent of us get angry. No one is exempt. And when we get angry,  bad things often happen.

So, we find it shocking that the Bible says to be angry.

Be angry and do not sin…

– Ephesians 4:26a

Anger is not always bad, and we know this because God himself gets angry. But there is a difference between being angry and becoming an angry person.

I was in a restaurant with friends some time ago, and in the middle of our lunch, a customer was  yelling across the restaurant at his server. He was raging. Clearly, he wanted everyone to hear that he was red-faced, steaming mad about the hair in his food. It was impossible not to.

Now look, that is unfortunate—it’s gross—but you and I both know it’s not worthy of blowing a gasket.

The man was also not alone. He was with a woman, probably his wife, and I wondered, how is she doing now? How is she feeling watching all of this happen?

I bet people walk on eggshells at his house all the time. This guy might have been someone’s boss, neighbor, coworker, friend, or dad! There have been scores of people in this guy’s life, and I’m sure they have stories to tell. Some of them may even have scars to hide.

So, why was this guy so angry? What made him lash out?

Well, anger demands results. It works! Anger makes you feel empowered. People cannot ignore you! Anger helps to reclaim the illusion of power at home, the office, or anywhere in life. Anger helps you feel like you’re winning, but then it really doesn’t.

Angry people eventually lose.

Here are the three reasons why:

1. Anger Injures

Anger is injurious to others, even if it is not acted out. There is a shriveling effect in the souls of people who get a regular dose of toxic anger. Ask anyone who is working with people whose parents or spouse have a problem with anger and you will find that anger creates a kind of insecurity in life. Anger leaves injuries that cuts deep into the soul.

2. Anger Alienates

The high cost of unmanaged anger is that you lose intimacy in relationships. You forfeit friendships, miss out on your spouse and kids, and cut ties of healthy relationships with co-workers. You will probably find yourself and those close to you living with a deep cavern of disconnectedness and loneliness. Anger is like acid on the skin in a relationship.

3. Anger Kills

Uncontrolled anger is deadly. It causes blood pressure to rise and heart rates to increase. But I am not talking really about physical death. Instead, it is relationships, dreams, self-respect, marriages, and families that die.

 

So, let’s assume this man from the restaurant, comes to you. He blew a gasket, but has a moment of sanity and wants help with his anger. Or maybe it’s you. You know you’ve blown it over and over again, and you want to change. How can we be transformed from being angry people to those who walk in a manner worthy of the Lord?

In Ephesians, Paul describes the process:

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds… But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:17, 20-24)

Those who know Christ and believe in his gospel enter a process of transformation. This is the secret to anger that doesn’t consume us or harm others. Disciples of Christ can be angry, but we also must take responsibility for how we are angry. Keep in mind responsibility does not equal control. Most people who struggle with anger have a hard time letting go of control.

We want to try to change by being in control of a few clear steps, even if they are hard, but that’s not actually how God changes us. Change happens progressively as we surrender our lives to God, as we experience his grace toward us, and live in a moment-by-moment connection with God. God does not seek to judge us. Whether you are a liar, a rage-aholic, or a thief, he doesn’t seek to judge you, but to transform you.

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

– Ephesians 4:31-5:2

Anger is not always bad, but we must take responsibility for how we respond to anger, and this responsibility is rooted in how God treats us. We are transformed by his grace toward us, his forgiveness toward us, and his love toward us. Through this grace, forgiveness, and love, we should become more like him: sometimes angry, but always loving.