Confident Hope

Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.

—Romans 12:12 (NLT)


By Chuck Griffin

If we are able to understand what our confident hope is, this becomes a simple verse to live by.

Paul wrote these words in a chapter of Romans where he also talked about making our bodies a living and holy sacrifice. Paul regularly spoke of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross as the central message of Christianity, and it is clear he wants us completely “sold out” on the idea, committed to its meaning in good times and bad.

The cross, of course, means freedom for us. Think of your sins for a moment; briefly experience them as the crushing weight they should be. (I feel a slight shudder when I do this.) Now remember, that weight has been lifted by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross! Sin should lead to death, but both have been defeated by Christ.

Thus, the resurrection, the Easter event. It is our proof the cross is effective, and a promise of what is in store for us.

The cross also is the source of our confidence. We certainly will experience negative and even frightening moments in this life, but the fear they are somehow terminal, a full-stop end, is unjustified. We will pass through—life goes on, even after our bodily deaths.

This great truth of Christianity should shape every moment of our lives. Even in sorrow, joy lingers nearby because the truth of our salvation is constant.

Romans 12:12 is a simple Bible verse worth memorizing.

Lord, keep the cross before us in all circumstances. Amen.

Shocking Appearance

John 20:19-31 (NLT)

That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said. As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), was not with the others when Jesus came. They told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.”

Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”

“My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed.

Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”

The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name.


By Chuck Griffin

This resurrection appearance by Jesus is packed with lessons. There’s one in particular I want to focus on while preaching this Sunday, a meditation on forgiveness I also will share in the Monday LifeTalk devotional.

Today, let’s take a quick look at some of the bigger points we can take away from the story:

Jesus’ resurrected body is simultaneously familiar and transformed. He bears the scars of his holy death, but he also seems to transcend what we think of as the material world, entering locked rooms at will. Certainly, Jesus performed similar miracles before going to the cross (walking on water, for example), but this seems different.

“Peace be with you” is more than just a greeting. It seems to be Jesus’ theme after the resurrection. What has happened should take away our fears, even when we are faced with unfamiliar and troubling situations.

Thomas clearly is the origin of the phrase, “Seeing is believing.” To say that phrase with conviction is to miss the point, however. Where Jesus Christ is concerned, the greatest blessing is for those of us who believe in the story without having seen. Our assurance comes directly from the Holy Spirit whispering to our spirits.

We are left to wonder about the stories we don’t have about Jesus. Surely they aren’t more dramatic than what we do have—water into wine, miraculous feedings, healings, people raised from the dead—but I have no doubt they would reinforce the principle we’ve learned already. Jesus Christ has the power to change everything.

Lord, thank you for the gift of the stories we have about the resurrected Christ. Amen.

In Christ

Ephesians 1:3-6 (NRSV)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.


I want to be found in Jesus.  I want to have my life filled with every blessing in Christ.  I will only be found holy and blameless before God in love by being in Christ.  I want to know the good pleasure of God.

There is good news for me.  There is good news for all!  God wants us to be found in Jesus.  God wants us to be filled with every blessing in Christ.  God wants us to be found holy and blameless before himself in love by being in Christ.  God wants us to know the good pleasure of God himself.

It is by being in Christ that we are adopted as God’s children.  The grace of God is working in our lives up to the point that we believe, so we may believe.  The grace of God is working in our lives after we begin to believe so we can know we are children of God.  God gives his grace to us so we can be his children!

Almighty God, thank you for your grace.  Being your children is wonderful!  Knowing you by our being in Christ is grace.  We give you praise for thinking of us before we even thought of you.  May our lives be found in Christ as we continue to believe in Jesus.  Amen.

Ancient Vision

Before we look at today’s Scripture verses, I should note something important about the Book of Job. A lot of scholars think it may be the oldest book of the Bible, predating the writing of the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy).

No doubt it is ancient. And yet, it foresees events still changing our lives today.

The Book of Job largely deals with theodicy, the question of why God allows evil to happen. As Job’s suffering increases, a debate ensues among Job and his friends. Ultimately, God settles the matter, saying humans cannot grasp all that God is and does.

In the 19th chapter, however, Job makes a strange, visionary declaration, one that seems to capture some remarkable insight:

Job 19:23-27 (NRSV)
“O that my words were written down!
    O that they were inscribed in a book!
O that with an iron pen and with lead
    they were engraved on a rock forever!
For I know that my Redeemer lives,
    and that at the last he will stand upon the earth;
and after my skin has been thus destroyed,
    then in my flesh I shall see God,
whom I shall see on my side,
    and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
    My heart faints within me!"

Thousands of years before Christ’s incarnation, Job understood the broad outline of God’s plan to save broken, sinful humanity, a plan stretching to the end of time.

Redemption would come, through one person, a redemption so powerful that even those dead and turned to dust would benefit. As I read the Book of Job, the vision seems to come out of nowhere, almost out of context, leaving Job swooning.

Time having passed, and Christ having come, we have a better lens for interpreting Job’s vision. Like us, the resurrected Job will stand before the one who makes redemption possible.

We know Jesus is the one who went to the cross to die for every sin ever committed. We see him as the slain lamb, the sacrifice to end all sacrifices and ultimately, all suffering.

Job’s words also inspired a powerful song. You might want to hear it with Job 19 in mind this morning.

Lord, thank you for the visionaries who came before us, showing us that your plan to save the world is ancient and assured. Amen.

Toward Solid Food

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

1 Corinthians 3:1-3

Hebrews 5:12-14

1 Peter 2:1-3

Yes, we are saved by simple faith, but yes, Christianity also calls us to a lifetime of learning. Peter, Paul and the author of Hebrews give us similar clues about what progress should look like.

Much like when we are learning to eat, our faith journey begins with “spiritual milk.” Literally, these apostolic fathers mean we have to begin with the basic core truth of Christianity, the idea that “Jesus Christ is Lord.”

To grasp that earliest of Christian creeds, you have to understand what the name Jesus means historically—how Jesus’ existence was the fulfillment of promises made over thousands of years to the people of Israel. You understand that calling him “Christ” roots Jesus in promises of a messiah to come, that this little creed is in present tense for a reason, and that the term “Lord” places Jesus over all creation.

As all three of our Scripture selections affirm, some people cannot get past their reliance on milk, or even learn to handle milk in a sustained way. That’s sad, because there is so much more for Christians to consume, a lifetime of ever-increasing richness.

In my mind, this all translates into a structured system of learning in the church, something to sustain us from cradle to grave, assuming we are so blessed as to be born into a Christian family.

Our educational programs are suffering mightily right now. The pandemic has shut down many of our traditional means of Christian learning. But this is a good time to consider which efforts were working before the pandemic, and which weren’t working so well.

I like to think about Christian education in three tiers, which are age-related for people carried into church as babies. Adult converts have to go through similar steps, although obviously they would be guided through them in a different setting using adult education techniques.

Tier 1 (from birth through about age 12): Learn the stories! Not only that, learn them in a way where they become beloved stories.

The broad themes in these stories teach us about the nature of God, how humans become broken by sin, and what God wants to do in love to restore creation to a holy state. The story of Jesus Christ is the climax of the great story told in the books of the Bible.

Tier 2 (from adolescence to young adulthood): Consider in a deeper way how those stories apply to life, in particular, life’s difficulties. Any teacher of this group should welcome questions, and be mature enough to handle the challenging ones.

It’s important at this stage to acknowledge that we sometimes do not have easy answers before us—occasional debate, rooted in Scripture, should be encouraged. This can be an exciting phase as students discover that salvation is initially easy to grasp, but becomes an intriguing mystery to explore as we go deeper.

Tier 3 (adulthood): Here, we should enter a stage I call “relational learning.” Small groups and mentoring arrangements become important in the life of the Christian. Someone who has grown up in the church should, by this point, have a scripturally inspired sense of right and wrong.

Such a person also should be ready to humbly submit to God’s calling, which easily can lead to a servant leadership role based on the gifts God has placed in that person.

In all three tiers, a lot of detailed planning is required, of course. But here’s a simple question for any church: Are we moving a significant number of people into mature Christian leadership roles?

I have no doubt that churches answering “yes” are doing great work for the kingdom.

Lord, may your Spirit guide us toward an honest assessment of what’s happening in our churches. Where we need to adjust, may we have the courage to do so. Amen.


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Healing and Belief

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

Matthew 8:1-13

Like yesterday, I hope you’re clicking the Scripture link and taking time to absorb some powerful stories about faith and healing. Also like yesterday, our verses reference leprosy and a soldier who desires something from God.

Today we are in the New Testament, and Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior, provides the healing, a foreshadowing of the healing he later would offer all the world on the cross.

Two key points from the story of the leper who comes seeking healing:

First, the man, an outcast from society because of his disease, phrases his request with a particular nuance: “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.” The leper makes clear his understanding that he is subject to the will of God, seen at work in Jesus, whom we understand to be God in flesh. The leper’s hope is that God has a loving, restorative character—that he is the kind of God who wants to overcome sickness in the world, which is part of the brokenness of creation caused by human sin.

Jesus’ response brings us to the second point. Not only is he willing to grant healing, he touches the leper in doing so. This technically should have rendered Jesus unclean. It is a powerful gesture, one reminding us of just how personally God engaged with humanity to make eternal healing possible. The cross later would bring far greater shame and humiliation than this ritual uncleanliness.

The second story, the one about the soldier who seeks healing for a beloved servant, reminds us of the immediate power of straightforward faith. In short, the officer, drawing on his military background, makes an assertion.  Just say the word, and it will happen, Jesus. Even our savior is astonished.

In other places in the gospels, Jesus talks about the power of having the tiniest bit of faith. We can, however, be gifted early in life with an unusually confident faith—or over time, we can grow into such confidence as we live our lives with God more and more.

Such faith seems to bring astonishing results. What an incentive to walk daily with God!

Lord, meet us in the faith we have, and through the presence of your Holy Spirit, grow us in our faith so we may better join in the work of your present and growing kingdom. Amen.