4 Days That Changed the World

Lectio Divina | 1 Corinthians 13:12

This Lenten season we’ve journeyed with Jesus through the last 4 days of his life on earth. We’ve pondered the scope and emotions of pain and suffering, grief, separation, humility and hope. We’ve imagined the timeless relationship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We’ve thought about our present and future participation with them, when we believe in our heart Jesus is God’s Son and confess with our mouth He is Lord. Hope in the future shapes our present reality.

How can we close the gap between what we know now and what we will know when we see Jesus face to face? How can hope help us live now? Let’s use the four steps of the Lectio Divina (Holy Reading) to listen to God and abide with him.

Read 1 Corinthians 13:12. For now, we can only see a dim and blurry picture of things, as when we stare into polished metal. I realize that everything I know is only part of the big picture. But one day, when Jesus arrives, we will see clearly, face-to-face. In that day, I will fully know just as I have been wholly known by God. (The Voice)

Meditate. What words, phrases or metaphors stand out to you? Listen to what the Holy Spirit is emphasizing to you personally. Savor his words. Take time to absorb the meaning he gives you. If it is helpful, use a metal sheet, a glass (KJ), or a mirror (ESV) to look into and consider this verse of Scripture.

Pray for such a relationship with Jesus that when your time on earth is done and he calls your name, you won’t notice a big change. (Dallas Willard’s example from Day 4 of this week). This is the time to ask for forgiveness for your sins. Ask guidance for steps you can take in restoring relationships. Take all your feelings, cares and worries to him. Also praise him and thank him.

Contemplate the hope you have in what is to come as well as the help Jesus gives you now, to live in the present position he’s placed you. Be still and know He is God.

By Donna Burns  

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Lectio Divina | 1 Corinthians 13:122019-02-09T12:06:19-07:00

Courage Always | 1 Thessalonians 4:17-18

17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

1 Thessalonians 4:17-18

And so we will always be with the Lord. Not most of the time. Not sometimes. Not most likely. Always. What a strong promise. That word always – so full of hope, security, excitement.

The promise of forever lifts our spirits and breathes life into our souls. It can carry us and motivate us. But it can also seem far off. Always can seem like forever away. But we have the presence of the Holy Spirit now. Our hope is a living hope. It is both a future hope and a present reality.

Recently a friend paraphrased a quote by Dallas Willard that went something like this: “One of our jobs in this life is to become so familiar with God that there’s no big change when we die.” Oh, to have that mission in life. As believers who have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, it’s possible to have such close communion with Him! We have the incredible blessing of walking with Him, talking with Him daily. Unlike the God-fearers of the Old Testament who experienced the coming and going of the Spirit of God, He is here to stay. The Holy Spirit is our permanent gift. Our companion, our friend, our guide and our counselor.

Through Him we can have courage always. We can be encouraged by the “always” of our abiding with Jesus in eternity, and we can live today in the joy of His presence though the always of Heaven hasn’t come just yet.

Abide With Me by Matt Redman is a familiar song to our congregation. Perhaps today you listen again, letting the lyrics encourage you anew as you reflect on our living hope.

By Ellen Rosenberger 

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Courage Always | 1 Thessalonians 4:17-182019-02-09T12:06:19-07:00

Hoping in Resurrection | 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17

‘For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. ‘

 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17


During my first preaching course in Bible college, my professor said something that I didn’t understand at the time. After several students had preached their sermons for the class, he said, “None of your applications work!” It caught us all off guard because the applications we had just heard were things like, read your Bible more, pray more, and other similar suggestions. He attempted to explain that those kinds of applications didn’t truly change people. I was dumfounded. How could a Bible college professor say that reading your Bible more wouldn’t change your life?

My professor was on to something. This passage in 1 Thessalonians is all about hope. Paul’s big hope flows out of the work that Jesus accomplished in his death and resurrection. The hope is that Death is not the end of the story. Never once does he say that hope is found in some action like reading or praying. We can have hope because of what he has done, not because of what we are doing. My professor was not saying that Bible reading and praying are bad things; they are just not the end goal. The reason we read the scriptures is to hear about the hope. The reason we pray is to stay relationally connected to the God of love who resurrects us to true life. If you are staking your hope on church attendance or praying, you will be disappointed. But, those activities can be powerful if you are using them to focus on the true hope of life, Jesus. Christian practices are a means to an end. The end is to enjoy the good reign and love of Jesus. Prayer, reading, and fellowship simply help us stay connected to the true hope.

Our hope is that death and sin are defeated. Our hope is that we will be resurrected one day and live eternally apart from the evils of this age. Our hope is not in completing some checklist of good activities. Read this passage again and imagine the sights and sounds of that day when Jesus descends to call us into new resurrected life. What might that be like? What is the content of that “cry of command?” What will it feel like to be completely free from all sin and pain? Reflect on that day of true hope.

By Aaron Bjorklund 

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Hoping in Resurrection | 1 Thessalonians 4:14-172019-02-09T12:06:20-07:00

Grieving with Hope | 1 Thessalonians 4:13

13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.

1Thessalonians 4:13

At some point in our lives, we’ve experienced grief. Many things cause us to grieve, and grief sometimes seems never to end. Grieving isn’t only brought on by the loss of a loved one, either.  Grief can be caused by the loss of a dream, a relationship, and fellowship with good friends.  Grief is characterized by a feeling of loss. Perhaps the deepest sense of grief relates to the loss of a loved one or someone dear. The gaping hole of that loss sometimes seems overwhelming. When we feel we’re spiraling downward, the vast net of hope catches us.

Grieving with hope sounds really odd and is very different from what we’d expect. The hope that sustains us, as Paul was outlining to the Thessalonians, doesn’t remove the grieving. It changes it. The cause for the grieving stays the same. But hope says this isn’t the end; there’s more to this than meets the eye. In C.S. Lewis’ book, “The Weight of Glory”, he says “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal … it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit.” So, the hope we grieve in is one of ‘the rest of the story.’ It’s not so odd after all.

Paul isn’t saying not to grieve. Not at all! He’s telling the Thessalonians that, during their grief, the hope they cling to will be realized when they are reunited with those believers who went before, whom they are grieving. He’s telling them that, when they grieve, woven within their grief are many threads of hope. Grieve with hope.
The resurrection of Jesus is the beginning of our hope. In His resurrection, death was defeated, and believers receive life eternal. That brings us comfort, helping us cope with our grief and journey through it. Read the following passages slowly, perhaps even in a posture of prayer, letting the words soak into your heart and soul, and consider the hope we have in Christ.

Isaiah 41:10

10 fear not, for I am with you;

    be not dismayed, for I am your God;

I will strengthen you, I will help you,

    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 43:2

2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;

    and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;

when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,

    and the flame shall not consume you.

John 14:27

27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

There are so many ways to help withstand grief, to adequately work through it, to process it. One way this can be accomplished is to write a psalm of lament. If you’re like me, I was never able to write poetry that would please my teachers. But, in this case, this is between you and God. Sharing with others is certainly up to you, but you can pour out your heart to God and it will please him. Take a few moments to rest your heart and mind, then put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and write a psalm of lament over your grief. The lyrics to Steven Curtis Chapman’s song “With Hope” might be able to help you.

By Rich Obrecht 

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Grieving with Hope | 1 Thessalonians 4:132019-02-09T12:06:20-07:00

Imaginative Reading | A Parable

Jesus changed the world in four days. Thursday was the last supper, prayer and trial. Friday he was crucified. Saturday his tomb was guarded and then Sunday he resurrected. What Jesus did on Saturday has been researched for hundreds of years with few answers. Let’s use a parable from Luke 16 to imagine where he went and what he did. But first, let’s set it up in the context of Jesus’ ministry as recorded by his disciple Luke. It’s very important to grasp the big picture of what’s happening. Jesus is on the road to Jerusalem, looking toward his final days and death. He’s teaching his disciples about the cost of following him.

Jesus, the great storyteller himself, is teaching in parables, which are earthly stories with heavenly messages. This series of parables in Luke 15 begins with the familiar prodigal son. It is followed by two more parables of people and their money: the shrewd manager, and the rich man and the beggar. Of all the parables, the beggar is the only one where Jesus gives a name to a person. The name Lazarus, is Hebrew for “the one who God helps”. These three parables point to a major theme: eternal destiny, being on the inside or the outside of God’s love. It’s about Lordship.

Now, with some background to this parable, take time to pray for guidance and read Luke 16:19-31. Let the words of the Master communicator himself fill your imagination. Use different translations if you’d like. Consider yourself as each one of the characters in this story. Develop the relationship the characters have with Jesus. Picture what you are thinking and feeling as you read what Jesus says to each. What do you imagine about the places they’re in? What might you be feeling about a place you cannot change or cannot leave? Can they change?

The ultimate decision of your life is who or what takes first place in it. In the middle of these three parables, Jesus says, “no servant can have two masters” (Luke 16:13). We make many decisions daily and they all add up to who is Lord of our lives and where we will spend eternity. Jesus came to change the world and he came to restore you. He came, as Lord and King, to give you his love, help, and victory in life over death. Write down some thoughts, a prayer or a praise, Jesus gives you about his Lordship in your life.

By Donna Burns  

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Imaginative Reading | A Parable2019-02-09T12:06:20-07:00

Confidence in Life and Death | Revelation 1:17-18

Revelation 1:17-18

17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.

For Lent this year, I gave up fear. In the past I’ve given up physical things like sweets or soda, but when I was praying about what to give up, this thought came to me: “no more living in fear.” As I told my husband what I decided, I could feel relief, like a gentle breeze blowing through soft white curtains. I had named it. Fear. I wasn’t going to walk in it anymore.

I’ve struggled with fearing what other people think about me. Will they accept me as I am? Will they like what I say and write? I fear making mistakes in raising our kids. I’m scared I will look back – ten or twenty years down the road – with regret. Did I savor the fleeting moments enough? I’m afraid of the ramifications of big life decisions. What if my husband and I choose this path or that one?

I’m being reminded that fear has no place in my life. Fear is a liar. It tells me everything contrary to the finished work of Jesus on the cross. If I am bending to fear, I am forgetting Jesus has already defeated it.

We live in the tension of Satan having been defeated, but not yet destroyed. That day will come and with it, the end to all fear. Hallelujah! Still today we can live in confidence in life and death. Because Jesus holds the keys, we can walk boldly in the victory He has already won over death and sin and sorrow and suffering. And fear.

Let the reality of Jesus’ authority over life and death sink deep today as you listen to Fear is a Liar by Zach Williams. Ask yourself, Is there anything I’m habitually living in fear of? Maybe jot down a list of fears and then rip it up as a symbol of Jesus’ conquering of those fears. Today, may you walk in freedom and in the newness of the life He purchased for you.

By Ellen Rosenberger 

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Confidence in Life and Death | Revelation 1:17-182019-02-09T12:06:20-07:00

Defeat of Death | Hebrews 2:14

‘Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil,’  

Hebrews 2:14

As you read this passage from Shakespeare’s famous Hamlet soliloquy, think about how it expresses the fear of death.

Who would fardels bear, To grunt and sweat under a weary life, but that the dread of something after death, the undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns, puzzles the will and makes us rather bear those ills we have than fly to others that we know not of (Shakespeare in Hamlet)?”

It is uncanny how many people die. For something as common as death, how does it wield such power over our living? Death is the foe that wealth, health, and wisdom cannot beat. Death is the arch nemesis of life, isn’t it? No matter how well we live, we all die.

Hebrews 2 tells us the devil wields death like a weapon against the living. But Jesus is a hero that fearlessly faces humanity’s ultimate foe and is not swallowed up by it. Jesus enters death, not with his head held low in defeat, but with a victory shout for all who want to live without the fear. Death, fear, and the devil, and fear pull out all the stops as they try to defeat the author of life, but they cannot. In fact, as the great hymn A Mighty Fortress Is Our God says, “One little word shall fell him.” It was the last mistake that Death would make to face the life-speaker and expect that his words would not win.

Today, live in the knowledge that not even death can destroy you. Jesus already won that battle. To help you reflect on this, listen to the hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” and maybe write your own verse to the melody about how this truth changes life.

By Aaron Bjorklund 

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Defeat of Death | Hebrews 2:142019-02-09T12:06:20-07:00

Solidarity in Suffering | 1 Peter 3:13-22

13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 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, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. 18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, 19 in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, 20 because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. 21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.

 The suffering Jesus experienced on the cross was unfathomable. The beatings and torment, if done publicly now as it was then, would be met with severe protests, sanctions, and other means to expel it from the arena of punishment. But, 2000 years ago, being crucified wasn’t uncommon. Jesus’ ministry happened in a very different time and place, and Jesus suffered in many ways similar to the average person.  We read of his humble beginnings, how he was born under questionable circumstances, and his crucifixion where he suffered under the religious crowd of the day. And, those who were walking with Jesus, being in his presence, saw Jesus endure suffering like theirs.

Today, we think suffering is different. As we go through our lives, we put up with what we determine to be suffering, and doubt the presence of Christ during our suffering. Peter writes of the suffering Jesus endured, and he tells us that it is better to suffer for doing good than evil. But we think we’re alone in the middle of our suffering. We may be disappointed when we don’t experience relief in the way we expect. Maybe we think suffering is something we shouldn’t experience because living as a Christian is the good life, isn’t it?

In Luke 8, there are three stories about suffering on tragic levels. A man is possessed by so many demons they referred to themselves as ‘Legion’. Jesus speaks, and we see the man returned to his former peaceful self. A woman with a 12-year blood disorder, who has suffered cultural rejection, has a humble faith which leads to her healing in a crowd of suffering people. Perhaps the most difficult story, at least for me, is the well-respected father watching his young daughter die. He humbles himself by falling at Jesus’ feet, begging for the life of his daughter. Jesus was very present with these three, healing their suffering. But we also see his presence in the crowd, with them pressing in on him. He doesn’t heal them all. His presence doesn’t always bring an alleviation of suffering.

Psalm 118:5-8 shows us our fears about suffering at the hands of others are powerless. As you read this passage, imagine yourself as the person crying out.

5 Out of my distress I called on the Lord;

    the Lord answered me and set me free.

6 The Lord is on my side; I will not fear.

    What can man do to me?

7 The Lord is on my side as my helper;

    I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.

Psalm 118:5-7 

 How do these words speak to you? Can you find comfort in them? Why or why not? Contemplate this portion of scripture and reflect upon the suffering in your own life. Is it possible for you to release your fear regarding suffering and embrace Jesus who identifies with you in your suffering?

By Rich Obrecht 

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Solidarity in Suffering | 1 Peter 3:13-222019-02-09T12:06:20-07:00

The Future | Imaginative Reading

The Beginning

Read Genesis 1-2. Let’s take some huge existential leaps with our imagination today. First, focus on the relationships God had before the creation of the earth, before time as we know it. Imagine the incredible communion between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Picture yourself in a beautiful paradise and allow your senses to experience the loving fellowship of the Trinity, a fellowship of which man is now made a participant.

The Middle

Now imagine the harmonious picture broken when Adam and Eve choose to sin. It is a cataclysmic fall. In the rest of the Biblical narrative, God is reaching out and wanting to restore the relationship that once was.  Included in his plan from the beginning is a redeemer (Genesis 3:15). God demonstrates his love by sending his only son. Consider the eternal bond we share with God, based on our adoption as sons and daughters, made possible  through Christ’s sonship with the Father. Remember the brokenness in your life, how God reached out to you, and how you became a beloved heir to his throne. Jesus’ once and for all sacrifice for sin transforms the future.

The Future

This week we have journeyed through the themes of: Forgiven, Forsaken and Finished.  Now let’s imagine the rest of the story using Revelation chapters 21-22. What a beautiful parallel — God’s restored paradise and the future that awaits believers are similar to how it all started in the beginning.  Imagine the new heaven and new earth. Paradise is the garden again, where there is perfect peace, no tears, and no pain.  Embrace the intimate, restored connection you have with God now.  Take time to sit and listen to what the Father, Son and Holy Spirit might be saying to you today.  Jot down your thoughts as you rejoice in your restored relationship with God, through Christ.


By Donna Burns  | See Other Authors

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The Future | Imaginative Reading2019-02-09T12:06:21-07:00

Finished | John 19:30

When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

I love to-do lists. In fact, I’m one of those people who will do something, then write it down just so I can cross it off a list. There is great satisfaction in finishing what we set out to accomplish. The feeling escalates when we finish a semester of school, a big work project or a long-term goal. We can finally breathe a sigh of relief and relax a bit. Our work is finished…for now.

While there is great satisfaction in little achievements along the way, there is always a sense of more work to do. The next day or the next semester will bring more work. We will have a new mission with new tasks, new projects, and new things to do. The feeling of finality is only short-lived. Yet when Jesus hangs on the cross at the end of his life, he says, “It is finished.”

This exclamation is unique. This short phrase “It is finished” is one word in the Greek, “Tetelestai.” The word carries with it the idea of completing, fulfilling, and bringing to an end. All of this takes place in this moment. The finished work on the cross changed the course of history.

Jesus completes the work that his Father sent him to accomplish, and in doing so he fulfills Scripture. In dying on the cross, he brings an end to the penalty for sins. Jesus provides a once-for-all sacrifice for our sins. The enemy is defeated and humanity is restored. The completed work of Christ has huge ramifications for us as we go about our lives. Through faith in Christ, we experience new life in Him. As Hebrews 10:10 says, “we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”

Today, reflect on the words, “It is finished.” Do you believe these words? Do you try to add anything to what Christ has done, or do you rest in what He has accomplished?

By Billy Berglund

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Finished | John 19:302019-02-09T12:06:21-07:00
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