Enduring Love

Psalm 118:1-2 (NLT)

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
    His faithful love endures forever.

Let all Israel repeat:
    “His faithful love endures forever.”

By Chuck Griffin

The opening to Psalm 118 asserts a truth that some people find difficult. Perhaps that’s why it is worth repeating.

In the midst of life’s problems, we can feel God has forsaken us. Those dark times can be deeply frustrating, at least until the moment when God does break through to remind us of his grace.

The Easter season is a good time to remember just how powerfully God has broken through and will continue to break through. For no clear reason, other than the fact God is eternally loving, our savior came among us in flesh to die for our sins, making eternal life for us possible.

While dying, Jesus Christ also felt that loneliness we sometimes feel: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” His cry from the cross was a quote from Psalm 22, another place in Scripture we can go when we feel forgotten.

Yes, Jesus died, but always remember, the stone was rolled back. Morning light made its way into the tomb, and the resurrected Jesus stepped forth. The resurrection proves Christ defeated the darkness that sometimes seems to surround us, including what can seem like the deep darkness of death.

Remember this, too: Until Christ is seen in full, we are to be voices in the darkness, offering hope to those who think they will never see light again.

Lord, in difficult times, give us unique signs of your presence to carry us through. Amen.

Those Ordinances

Mark 9:28-29

And when [Jesus] had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”


It’s Monday, and we continue our devotionals that point to spiritual practices we can develop throughout the week.

The previous two Mondays, we explored the first two General Rules for traditional Methodists, do no harm and do good. Today we’ll look at the third and last rule, “attend upon all the ordinances of God.”

A United Methodist bishop named Rueben P. Job, a former editor of The Upper Room publishing house, boiled this rule down to “stay in love with God.” That’s an excellent starting point for understanding what John Wesley was saying in his 18th-century way. The third rule is about what we do to maintain the relationship with the one who creates, redeems and sustains us.

By “ordinances,” Wesley meant those spiritual activities we do methodically so we position ourselves to meet God, receiving God’s constantly available grace.

Wesley specifically listed what he thought of as ordinances: the public worship of God; the ministry of the Word, either read or expounded; the Supper of the Lord; family and private prayer; searching the Scriptures; and fasting or abstinence.

Our challenge this week is simple. How many of these have we incorporated into our lives? Are there new practices we can add?

I used the Mark passage today in association with this third rule because our relationship with God gives us the power we need to participate in kingdom building. We contend with unseen powers that would do the world harm. We need to tap into what God offers us if we are to carry out the Christian mission.

Lord, as we go to those places where you say you will meet us, may we receive new understanding and new grace. Amen.

We See You!

Mark 3:7-12 (NLT)

Jesus went out to the lake with his disciples, and a large crowd followed him. They came from all over Galilee, Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, from east of the Jordan River, and even from as far north as Tyre and Sidon. The news about his miracles had spread far and wide, and vast numbers of people came to see him.

Jesus instructed his disciples to have a boat ready so the crowd would not crush him. He had healed many people that day, so all the sick people eagerly pushed forward to touch him. And whenever those possessed by evil spirits caught sight of him, the spirits would throw them to the ground in front of him shrieking, “You are the Son of God!” But Jesus sternly commanded the spirits not to reveal who he was.


The religious phrase “Great Awakening” has been borrowed by some who badly abused it in secular settings the last couple of years. Today’s text reminds us of what it means for people to leap to their feet and respond to the clear presence of God.

Jesus’ ministry, of course, was the ultimate Great Awakening, as he first revealed an expanded understanding of God’s plan and then, in his crucifixion, resurrection, ascension and sending of the Holy Spirit, made an ongoing, living connection to God possible.

Any later Great Awakening simply was or will be a revival, a renewed understanding of what has come before. As in Jesus’ day, when such an event happens, people more easily recognize miracles past and present. They may travel great distances to hear what God has to say, even though these truths have long been available to them in God’s word.

I particularly like the idea that the spiritual world in contention with God trembles at the idea of such moments that lead to movements. Unseen evil beings trouble us all the time. Why should they not be troubled, too?

Hear the Good News: Jesus Christ is Lord! The evil in this world is in retreat and the brokenness of creation is being healed. It is a truth established for you and for me. It is simultaneously personal and global; it will change our lives forever.

Lord, may we see such an Awakening in our day, to the benefit of our families, friends, neighbors, enemies, and of course, ourselves.

The Chosen Ones

Mark 3:13-19 (NLT)

Afterward Jesus went up on a mountain and called out the ones he wanted to go with him. And they came to him. Then he appointed twelve of them and called them his apostles. They were to accompany him, and he would send them out to preach, giving them authority to cast out demons. These are the twelve he chose:

Simon (whom he named Peter),
 James and John (the sons of Zebedee, but Jesus nicknamed them “Sons of Thunder”),
 Andrew,
 Philip,
 Bartholomew,
 Matthew,
 Thomas,
 James (son of Alphaeus),
 Thaddaeus,
 Simon (the zealot),
 Judas Iscariot (who later betrayed him).

What an odd mix.

Among them are fishermen, a tax collecting bureaucrat, a rebel who under different circumstances might try to kill the tax collector, some loud, pushy brothers, and a petty thief who would eventually prove to be a traitor. Their de facto leader, functioning like a senior student, is one of the fishermen, good old foot-in-mouth Peter.

Other than being Jews, the common denominator in the group was that they would all abandon Jesus after his arrest. I once knew a seminary professor who referred to them as the “duh-sciples.”

Out of the larger crowd of people following Jesus, these were the 12 deemed worthy to be part of the inner circle, the ones charged with spreading the Good News about Jesus, proclaiming to the world that salvation is available.

In them, I see what has been evident far too often in me: inattentiveness, dull wit, self-centeredness, impatience, insecurity, striving, and yes, the failure to perceive what is godly and right in front of me. And when I consider these flawed men, I take great comfort.

As we assess these men charged with the role of apostleship—the spread of the Good News and the growth of the church—here’s what’s incredible: They got the job done! The fact that there are more than 2 billion people calling themselves Christians nearly 2,000 years later is the proof.

Well, let me rephrase that a little. God got the job done through them, and through many who followed them. The key, it seems, is that the apostles who remained after Jesus’ resurrection were willing to let the Holy Spirit fill them and guide their work. Grace began to pour forth from these badly cracked earthenware vessels, and it just kept on pouring.

Never doubt for a moment that God can work through any of us.

Lord, thank you for the blessing of broken people who give themselves over to you. Amen.

The God Who Speaks

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

Hebrews 1:1-2 (New Living Translation)

Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe.


These words and what follows in the opening of Hebrews remind us of the astonishing change God wrought in the history of the universe through Jesus Christ.

Even in their sin-soaked brokenness, people had always received at least some indirect word from God. In particular, prophets would arise who would speak on God’s behalf, usually issuing a call to repent, an exhortation to live as God would have them live.

In those prophecies, there also were promises. God said he would provide a way out of sin, an opportunity for otherwise hardened hearts to be softened, beating once again to God’s rhythms rather than the world’s.

In this season of Advent, we move toward celebrating the incarnation, the strange fact that God actually took on flesh and lived among us. Not only that, God came among us not as a king but as a vulnerable, very poor baby, fully experiencing what it means to be human.

How does the Son speak to you? Are you in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, letting his words challenge and shape you?

Advent is a good season to reconnect with the one who is always available. God continues to speak a new, life-changing truth to all of us.

Over the next few days, try something. Read the first two chapters of each of the gospels. It’s my prayer that starting these stories will renew a desire to hear what the Son has to say.

Lord, thank you for the ongoing blessing of your holy word. We particularly thank you for the penetrating, life-changing words of the Messiah. Amen.

Seven Churches: Death and Life

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

Revelation 3:1-13

As bad as it was to hear the warnings for Pergamum and Thyatira, I find Christ’s pronouncement regarding the Christians at Sardis more chilling. “You are dead” has a tone of finality to it.

The city of Sardis was commercially and militarily important, and was famous for its elaborate nearby necropolis, a “city of the dead” cemetery built on hills within view of Sardis proper. No doubt the image of the necropolis floated in the church members’ minds as they heard their letter read aloud.

As I was meditating on this letter, I thought of Jesus’ pronouncement against the Jewish leaders of his day:

What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.

Matthew 23:27-28

What a terrible thing for a church or an individual: to have the appearance of religion—perhaps even a great history of ministry—but for it all to collapse into spiritual death. As a modern analogy, I think of beautiful buildings I have seen, stained glass and spires intact, but no Spirit-driven Christians left inside to do the work of the kingdom.

Of course, Jesus remains at the heart of these events. With Jesus, death does not have to be an end, and he indicated as much as he spoke to the church at Sardis. There was a tiny remnant clinging to the faith, and they had the potential to trigger new life in the church.

Now my mind goes to Mark 5:41. To the lifeless little girl, Jesus said, “Talitha koum.” Little girl, get up!

Church, wake up! Church, rise up!

And as we arise, as we awaken, being like the church at Philadelphia becomes our goal. Nothing could rattle their faith. Literally. The place was so earthquake prone that people after A.D. 17 preferred to live in the rural spaces around the city, away from where walls might collapse.

The Philadelphia Christians had little in the way of worldly strength, but they remained faithful, so much so that Christ promised their door to eternal life would always be open. Like the church at Smyrna, the difficult circumstances of their world translated into a rich life with Christ, a relationship destined for eternity.

Lord, renew our lives as children of God; renew our churches as places filled with your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Candy Kingdom

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

lot of people hate the advertising on their web browsers, but I’ve been unusually happy with mine the last few days. Earlier in the week, a relative was trying to remember what a circus peanut looks like, so I searched for a picture of one on my phone.

The software that pokes around in my browser took note that I had an interest in candy. Now I’m getting ads for candy of all kinds. My web pages regularly come decorated with bright jelly beans, gumdrops, gummy bears, nonpareils, and of course, circus peanuts in pink, yellow, white and classic orange.

I’m so happy with this result, I make sure I click on the ads from time to time, just so they will continue popping up. Thanks, Criteo!

Last night, I was showing my wife an unusually pretty offering of brightly colored “fruit slice” jelly candies for sale. It reminded me of the sleeve of fruit slices my mother would buy me at the candy counter in Sears before we went to a movie.

“Remember how candy was a very serious, very important subject when we were kids?” I asked my wife. “As I get older, I realize just how right we were.”

I know: Waistline, risk of diabetes, tooth decay, etc. But those concerns aside, there is simple joy—bright primary colors, explosive flavors, the heady rush of sugar. They all draw you very much into the present moment.

And being a pastor, I’m reminded of Jesus’ words in Mark 10:14-15: “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.”

The Kingdom of God is, after all, the sweetest truth. This broken world can really hurt us, but there’s a new way dawning, an eternal life free from the havoc wrought by sin, and we can taste that new life now. When we sense the Kingdom of God breaking into this world—perhaps in a song, a story, or a relationship—that moment can be a real rush, and we naturally want more.

Christianity is exhilarating stuff, and like a child, we should take what we’re being offered very seriously.

Lord, thank you for those moments when your plan becomes so evident, all we can do is smile. Amen.