Category Archives: Scripture Commentary

Access By Faith

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” Romans 5:1-2

Consider the word access. Access is the the ability you have to approach or enter a place, to see someone or to receive a benefit. What right do you have to come before God this morning and enjoy peace with him, experience his grace, and rejoice in his glory?
Consider this scenario, which will be familiar to most of you. You are driving down the freeway, late for a very important meeting. You usually always obey the speed limit but this time you are definitely speeding because you need to make it to this appointment on time. As you come up over a hill your heart drops. You see a squad car in the median just waiting for someone like you.
As you pass him you look at your speedometer and realize that you were even going faster than you thought you were. He pulls onto the freeway and begins following you. The squad car lurks menacingly in your rearview mirror as you know what is coming. The blue and red lights flip on and you pull over as your hands start sweating and your heart starts beating.
Now, consider this scenario. The same squad car and the same law enforcement officer returns home at the end of his shift. He pulls that same squad car into his driveway as his three little children come bounding up to him. He puts the vehicle in park, and they run up to the car ready to give their dad hugs and kisses. They are happy to see him in his uniform and delighted with him being home.
What was the main difference between those two experiences? Why was the driver fearful and the children happy? The children had access to come to him as a father, not as a punisher of their wrong doing. The same is true with God.
We can experience God’s peace, his grace, and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God because we have access to him by faith. Don’t ever miss that or get numb to that! We have access to a gloriously holy, sin-punishing, wrath-avenging God that would make a volcano look like a wax candle. God’s children don’t experience that. They experience the peace that passes all understanding which he gives to them. They experience the the all sufficient grace which helps us in our weakness. They experience the overflowing hope of his glory.
The only reason we can experience this is because of the faith that we have put in the work that Jesus Christ did. When his body was ripped apart, the curtain in the temple ripped in two. This symbolized us no longer having to go to priests to gain access to God. We can go to him directly, confess our sins, repent, and rejoice in Jesus Christ because he died and rose again and conquered death.


Interview Your Devotions

Last year (2015) I started a different approach to my Bible reading. I had been reading through the Bible in a year, which was beneficial in many ways. Getting an overview of the Bible in 365 days gave me a wide angle lens of the narrative of God’s Word but I wanted to switch lenses and go narrower and slower. I wanted to suck more of the juices out of what I was reading.

Donald Whitney in his book Spiritual Disciplines advocated for bringing questions to my devotional time as a way to do that. It made sense I thought. My job hangs on the ability to ask good questions when I go to calls. If I don’t ask questions I don’t get the answers I need to allow me to make good decisions on what happened and to figure out what kind of crime/s happened. Good, persistent questions usually produce good results for the cop.

I bough a Moleskin, wrote Whitney’s four questions on the inside cover and got to work in January 2015. I am now 14 months into this process and the experience has been satisfying. Really satisfying. Usually I will take one chapter a day and read through it. I’ll read some commentary and the study notes in my Bible and spend time meditating on certain parts of the chapter. Usually what happens is that after I read through the chapter the first time I see one or two truths, promises or commands. However, after I slow down, read the passages again, think on what I read and then begin to answer the questions, beauty and wonder begins to jump off the page. I’m able to see things and make connections that had not happened with a cursory reading.

Since last year I have modified Whitney’s questions slightly and added three more questions that seem to fill in some gaps that Whitney’s questions didn’t cover. Here they are:

  1. What does this text tell me about God?
  2. What does this text tell me about myself or humanity?
  3. Doest his text reveal something I should thank, praise or trust God for?
  4. Based on this text is there anything I need to repent of?
  5. How does this text lead me to Jesus?
  6. Does this text reveal something I should do for the sake of Christ, others or myself?
  7. Does this text reveal something I should pray about for myself or others?

This process is work. It takes work to think through it and write my observations down on paper. I need quietness and time to work through these questions, but almost always the results will reveal something I did not see from reading the text through the first time. This process draws out the sweetness, the depth, and the power of God’s Word in ways I hadn’t seen before.


“Welcome to Christ, And Greater Sorrow”

How does a cop deal with a conveyor belt of sin night after night and not expect to get desensitized to it all? Sin drenched calls seem to come in pairs or triplets. Recently I had the trifecta of three calls that spotlighted the sinfulness of sin and it left me with a sorrow over the brokenness that exists all around me.

The first call was a seemingly easy one in which I was to meet with someone that had been kicked out of his house because he couldn’t get along with his parents. Assuming it was an adult living at home with his parents still, I went to a gas station to meet with the person. Instead of an adult I found a 12 year old boy sitting at a table, crying at 10:30PM on a school night. He had walked a half mile from his house to the gas station in subzero temperatures, all the while wearing a sweatshirt and pants (no hat or gloves).

He had been there for 45 minutes and his mom still hadn’t called to report him gone. He told me about his problems with his mom and how he wanted to go live with his Dad. The whole family situation was a disaster. His Dad was out of the picture, his mom parented from a disposition of anger, and he had no desire to obey his mom. He refused to go back to his mom’s house and it took an hour and a half and every ounce of persuasiveness I had to talk him into it.

The second call came right after that. A girl had been told by her friend that her dad had an ongoing and repeated pattern of molesting her and her sister. I gathered all the awful details of the incident and just as I cleared that call I received a message to call our dispatch.

They had received a call from a man (at first we didn’t know where he was but eventually tracked him down to Texas) who said he had a handgun and was going to kill himself. The area code was not a local one and they were unsure of how to handle it. I took the phone number down and called it, just to see if I could talk to this guy.

A drunken man answered my phone call. Over the next 40 minutes I had a conversation with him about his days in the military and his experiences during the worst part of the Iraq war. He went into details about how he watched his friends get blown up or killed and how he watched them die in his arms. He was medicating his depression with alcohol but wasn’t sure how to move past the memories etched into his mind that haunted his dreams while asleep and racked his brain while awake. I couldn’t hold back on what he needed to hear so I shared with him the gospel. He then said he was going to make himself a sandwich and our conversation ended.

Over the course of five hours I had a front row seat to all of this brokenness and was trying to process it. I didn’t really solve anything during the course of those hours. All the situations were still as bad as they were before I received the calls to my computer screen in my car.

That night I listened to a podcast episode by John Piper where he talked about II Corinthians 6:8-10. His comments rang with deep affirmation in my heart:

One of the most amazing things about becoming a Christian is that it awakens you to more sorrow. You come to Christ and you are not naïve. You suddenly wake up to pain. Of course there is pain for unbelievers, but they have no sense of how big it is, how horrible it is, or how long it can endure. To be a Christian is to be awake to cancer and birth defects and profound mental disabilities and divorce and child abuse including abortion and terrorism and earthquakes and tsunamis and racial hostilities and prejudices and white-collar crime and sex trafficking and poverty and hunger and a thousand daily frustrations that make life very hard. Every Christian is increasingly sensitized to these things.

The gospel brings life, right? And living things are awake and alert and touchable by other things. Which means, welcome to Christ and greater sorrow. I have little patience with ministries that sell Jesus with the promise that he will make your life easier. He doesn’t. I promise you. He makes it real. He makes it eternal. And he makes the joy in it indomitable and invincible, but so do your sorrows rise. Come to Jesus and learn how to weep. The world doesn’t know how to weep for lost people. They are one. They don’t even believe in it. They don’t believe in hell. They don’t see to the bottom of anyone’s pain. They see pain. They feel pain. But they don’t see to the bottom of it. Christians are the saddest people in the world — and the happiest.

So the gospel brings life, and in this life comes sensitivity to reality, and reality is really sad in a not-yet-saved world.

This is how I refrain from becoming desensitized to it all. The gospel is life giving and I am meant to feel the weight of sorrow from a world that is broken. Yet I am also to feel hope for a day coming in which Jesus will make all things right in a new heaven and a new earth. The best is yet to come. So I press on toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus, one more shift at a time.

Seeing God in Everything

“A state of mind that sees God in everything is evidence of growth in grace and a thankful heart.” —Charles G. Finney

The morning was one of grey skies, cloud cover and steady drizzle. I shuffled through lines, displayed my driver’s license, had someone stare at a ghost like image of my naked body through a full body scanner, and waited at the gate for my plane to fly out. The airport buzzed and hummed with the normalcy of travelers bustling from one place to the next with sights set on their next destination.

Everything was routine. The weather was mundane. There was nothing spectacular that was occurring. I sat in my in window seat and watched the raindrops scurry across the window as the plane gained speed and elevation. The distance between us and the thick, grey cloud cover lessoned, and then it all happened so quickly. Like a blink of the eye. Like a thief in the night. This tube that had two engines strapped to it punched through the clouds to display a crystal clear atmosphere that was set on fire by a ball of fire 93 million miles away from me.

In the course of five seconds the interior of our plane went from dark and cool to bright and warm, filled with the rays of the sun. My first thought was that the second coming of Jesus will be like this. My second thought was that Jesus will be even more bright and brilliant and glorious as this sun penetrating its light through my window.

Everything in this universe relates back to God because he is the Author of it all. Finney was right in helping us think on what our state of mind should be as we go through the day to day routine of life. We can see God not just on Sunday mornings, or in small group, or in a theological book that we may read. God is not just to be thought about on Christmas and Easter. For those who follow Jesus, they should see an ever increasing awareness of how everything relates back to God.

This indeed is pure grace and evidence of a thankful heart. Kindle that type of mindset.

Going and Sending Starts With Receiving

“May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all the nations. Let the people praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.” Psalm 67:1-3

Grace Church, we now begin missions week. This is a missions Psalm. The writer of this Psalm had a desire that God’s nature (who he is) and God’s salvation (what he does) would be known not only among his own people but among all peoples in all nations. How does he ask for this to happen?

He asks for God to show and display his grace and his blessing to himself and to his nation so that other nations may see it and praise their God. This means that when it comes to missions and sending people out to proclaim the gospel the main factor in all of this is not the goer or the sender. The main factor in all of this is God who demonstrated his grace and his blessing by taking on flesh and dwelling among us sinners. What a glorious gospel this is! No god in any other religion does this.

The work we are calling our church to this week is to be radical senders or radical goers. Yet our acceptability before God is not dependent on the amount of money we give to missionaries, or how many letters we write, or how many missionaries we send to unreached people groups. What God requires of us he freely gives us through his grace and his blessing in the perfect and complete work of Jesus Christ. Radical going and sending starts with receiving.

Jesus was the ultimate missionary. He stepped off this throne in heaven and stooped down to serve us and die for us. So our prayer today is that God would be gracious to us and bless us so that we may display that for the world to see.

A Confidently, Content Exhortation

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” Hebrews 13:5-6

This morning I would like to use this exhortation to not only remind us of our need for Jesus, but to pray for a family that has been very special to Grace Church. We have many new families that have come here over the past two years so a quick history lesson is in order.

Daniel Patz was the pastor of this church for ten years. He and his wife Molly labored faithfully here and their family grew to five kids during their time here. Daniel was a loving shepherd to this people. He left two years ago after we as elders confidently, yet with sadness, affirmed God’s leading of him and his family away from this church and to Northland International University in Dunbar, WI.

He has led the school for the last two years through some extremely difficult times. Their situation looked hopeful last year as they received the backing from another, larger institution that agreed to take them under their umbrella. Last week, abruptly, they received news that this larger institution was rescinding their support. No doubt this has created confusion, frustration and worry.

I bring this to our attention this morning because I want us, as a body of believers who love the Patz’s and are thankful for their work at this church, to pray for them. Let us pray that the students, staff and leadership would have wisdom for their future and trust for their provision. Let us pray that they would not be bitter as they experience feelings of hurt and betrayal. Let us pray that in their sorrow they would be rejoicing.

Our Fighter Verse this week is fitting for this. At its core is the command for us to be content with what we have and where we are. That core is bursting with the promise that God will never leave us and that he is our Helper. That promise is so massive that we do not need to fear anything that this world can throw at us.

The most powerful forces of this world have nothing on us as children of God, bought by the blood of Christ. The strongest man cannot ultimately overcome us. The most powerful ruler cannot definitely enslave us. The worst financial depression cannot ultimately bankrupt us.

Oh, we can indeed lose everything in this life Grace Church. Cancer can eat our body. A terrorist can take your life. A loss of a job could cause you to lose your house. Yet in all of this, the best is yet to come. Why?

Because God is our helper, we will not fear, what can man do to us? If God is for us, no one can be against us.

Let’s pray.

The Comfort of The Gospel

“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom shall I see for myself and my eyes shall behold, and not another.” Job 19:25-27

I read this passage during my devotional time this week and had a soul-satisfying time thinking about what it means for me. Grace Church, today, right now Jesus lives. We can know that our Redeemer lives and at the end of this story we are living in, he will stand up on the earth.

Often it doesn’t feel like that. Ten people die in an attack at the Corinthia Hotel in Tripoli, Libya. Two thousand people were killed by Boka Haram in Nigeria with most of the victims being women and children. Our sinful flesh persists as we do things we don’t want to do. Loved ones die. Sickness cripples. Our bodies are slowly wasting away. In the midst of all this tragedy and ongoing decay, where do we find comfort?

Where did you go for comfort this week when you chose to sin? Where did you go for comfort when you were blind-sided by depression or frustrated with a co-worker or angry at your spouse or just plain tired at the end of a long day? Did you find comfort in food or Netflix or exercise or sleep or anything else besides the gospel? If your soul first and foremost went to anything less than the truth and joy of the gospel of Jesus Christ, your soul was choosing to quench its thirst by drinking from a tobacco spitter instead of the clear and refreshing water that Jesus Christ offers. Anything less than Jesus cannot and will not satisfy because nothing is more real and more true than the fact that Jesus lives and he stands ready to forgive.

Come to Jesus this morning. Behold his face and not another. The only reason you can be acceptable to God this morning and removed from his wrath for your sin is by drinking from the water of Jesus Christ’s grace and mercy through the cross.