Seeing the Dawn

By Chuck Griffin

Today is a special day. First and foremost, it is the third Sunday in this wonderful season of Easter.

The lectionary gospel reading for today is actually my favorite Bible story. Found in John 21:1-19, I will be preaching on it this morning, as will many of my colleagues, I am sure.

It is a story of redemption and renewal, and it also is a reminder that as we follow Jesus Christ, we may encounter hard times. Christ meets us where we are, however, and bathed in His power, we build on each other’s works until that day when we stand before our Savior.

If you are reading this before worship and you’re not sure whether you’re going, get up and go. Immerse yourself in what you should be offered today and then offer yourselves back to the Lord.

Oh, and by the way, as of today, the Global Methodist Church is now an official denomination. We do not yet know how many hoops we must jump through to get there, but I know a lot of us are ready to get jumping.

We will figure it out, and as we do so, let’s cling tightly to the peace the resurrected Christ offers us.

A Lost Generation

First of all, I apologize that this is the first devotion to run this week. I’ve been with a family member who needed surgery. (All is well.) Today and tomorrow, we will look at Nehemiah, continuing an exploration of books of the Bible this blog has yet to consider.

The Book of Nehemiah

By Chuck Griffin

Go looking for God, and you may get an unexpected result. There’s a good chance you will find your real identity.

The conquered, beaten-down Jews of Nehemiah’s day certainly had lost all sense of who they were. Their once-great city of Jerusalem lay in ruins, abandoned with no wall to protect it. Nehemiah had been living in exile as cupbearer to the conquering king.

It was a role of trust, a role that eventually allowed him to gain permission from the king to rebuild Jerusalem and restore some sense of belonging for the scattered people of God. The best of the Jews had been carried away to distant capitals; the rest had been left defenseless among their enemies, people who despised and abused them.

To get the full story, I would suggest you read all of the book of Nehemiah. Suffice it to say his task was a difficult one. Over time, he managed to organize the Jews there, overcoming intimidation, murder plots, and the constant threat of attack by surrounding tribes who hated the Jews of old and did not want to see them re-establish a foothold in Jerusalem.

As Nehemiah and those who rallied around him rebuilt Jerusalem’s destroyed wall and its gates, they often had to work with swords strapped to sides or a weapon in one hand. And yet, they rebuilt the wall in 52 days, an accomplishment even their enemies considered miraculous. Nearly 50,000 Jews and their livestock poured into the city.

It was not too much later that the process of discovery began. The people gathered to hear the word of God, and they were distraught at what had been forgotten over the long captivity. That moment of discovery is recorded in Nehemiah 8:1-10. Over a day, it is likely they heard the story of creation; they once again learned of the fall. They heard how God established them as a separate, chosen, holy people through Abraham.

They heard what God had done for their ancestors through Moses after the Israelites had fallen into captivity in Egypt. There were stories of miracles, all evidence of God’s great love. And there were detailed explanations of God’s covenant with them and God’s law for them, and they realized how far they had strayed, how godless they had become. Exploring God’s word that day proved to be a life-changing journey for them.

From God’s word, they remembered how to worship, and began to do so again, celebrating forgotten festivals and re-telling forgotten stories. They confessed their sins to God and sought mercy.

As different as we are today, it is a pattern we can follow. It can be a bit of a shock to discover how far we’ve strayed from God, but as we become Bible-exploring people, we find our true selves. Like Nehemiah’s Jews, one of the first lessons we learn in Genesis is that we are made in our creator’s image, meaning we were designed to reflect God’s nature and God’s will. Know God and we know what should come natural for us.

Knowing God and consequently knowing ourselves seems difficult for one reason alone. Sin remains in the world and in us. Upon hearing what God’s word had to say about God’s expectations of them, Nehemiah’s Jews realized they had suffered mightily because they had stopped acting as God would have them act. They had fallen into sin, and they wept. A sense of brokenness and loss always precedes redemption.

The priestly interpreters of the word, knowing God’s word, had an interesting response, however. They told the people not to weep. The Jews of Jerusalem once again saw God for who God is, and they were in worship! The priest Ezra and the Levites knew that God’s grace would once again shine through their darkness, and joy would be restored.

We see them understanding and experiencing the same kind of forgiving, loving grace ultimately expressed in Jesus Christ, God among us in flesh. Christ came to bring us face-to-face with our need for God.

When we look to Christ, we sometimes don’t like what we see in ourselves. But I tell you today, do not weep, but rejoice—in turning to Christ, we find eternal life and take important steps toward holiness in this life. In Christ God offers us new hope and a new identity.

Dear Lord, help us to become the people we would have been had sin never entered the world.

A Josiah Moment

2 Kings 22:11-20 (NLT)

By Chuck Griffin

It’s always a shock to discover we’ve strayed from the Lord’s plan.

In today’s Bible passage, we hear how a young, good king, King Josiah, was introduced to the basics of how his people were supposed to be living, via a rediscovered Book of the Law. A proper understanding of how God was to be worshiped had been lost during the reign of prior evil kings, men who allowed paganism to creep into the land.

When Josiah realized how far his flock had strayed from their very reason to exist, he grieved so powerfully that he tore his clothes. Disaster loomed large. Fortunately, there still were priests and prophets in the land, and the king learned that God’s just response to the rampant unholiness would be delayed until Josiah’s righteous reign had ended.

We live under an expanded, improved version of the plan, of course. Strict adherence to the law was the closest the Israelites could come to establishing a relationship with God. We live in the time after Jesus Christ, knowing that his willingness to die in our place for our sins now makes that relationship possible. All we have to do is believe, allowing God’s Spirit to go to work in our lives.

And yet, we stray.

In many ways, we can be like those ancient children of God, called to serve and worship but distracted to the point of forgetting who God is. One generation fails to adequately tell great truths to the next generation. The shiny things of the world and the worries of the world begin to dominate our thinking.

God’s call on us is powerful, though. It breaks through, and we can have a Josiah moment, grieving for ourselves individually and the people around us collectively. Dawning awareness of how wonderful it is to be in communion with God is an exciting and wonderful experience to have.

I have experienced such a moment in a big way in my life, and I continue to experience similar little moments as I exist with one foot in a time-bound world and the other in eternity. Let’s grieve over what we lose when we take our eyes off God, but let’s rejoice at how God offers to restore us when we lock our eyes on the throne once again.

Lord, help us to keep our eyes eternally fixed on you, and with your guidance and strength, may our lives be conformed to your will. Amen.

Redeemed from Trouble

Psalm 107:1-3 (NRSV)

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    for his steadfast love endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
    those he redeemed from trouble
and gathered in from the lands,
    from the east and from the west,
    from the north and from the south.

By John Grimm

It is fascinating to hear the statement: “You are not from around here.”

My accent shows that I am not from around here.  As we are preparing to live in the kingdom of God, then each redeemed person will know that we are not from around here!  It will be a joy to tell the Lord how good he is when we are living fully in the kingdom of God.

In the meantime, we get to give thanks to the Lord for his steadfast love.  It is now, today, that we can say that the Lord has redeemed us from trouble.  Was that trouble of our own making, an addiction or decision we made?  Was that trouble of someone else’s making, an accident or a decision they made, and we allowed ourselves to sin in response to those circumstances?  Through Jesus Christ, we discover that we are redeemed, brought out of trouble.  We get to say that Jesus has redeemed us.

Even today, we can hear how the Lord has redeemed people from all over the world.  It is a time of thanksgiving when we hear how God has redeemed people not from around here.  No matter our accent, we can give thanks to the Lord for his steadfast love redeeming us from trouble.  Will we start saying that we are redeemed so people not from around here can know the goodness of the Lord?

Lord, thank you for being good.  Your steadfast love endures forever.  You are redeeming people from all over the world.  Gather these redeemed people in our local churches so we can start living in your kingdom even now.  Guide us in the name of Jesus 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.

Strange Signs

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

Luke 21:25-28 (NLT)

“And there will be strange signs in the sun, moon, and stars. And here on earth the nations will be in turmoil, perplexed by the roaring seas and strange tides. People will be terrified at what they see coming upon the earth, for the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then everyone will see the Son of Man coming on a cloud with power and great glory. So when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near!”


This season of Advent is in part about anticipating Christ’s return, knowing God’s promises will be fulfilled. Evil and death will be cast away forever.

It is the lead-up to Christ’s return that can scare the jujubes out of us. When we’re told all people will be perplexed by sudden changes in the sea and sky, the word “cataclysmic” comes to mind.

We are left to decide how we are going to read Jesus’ statement. Is this symbolism, perhaps even hyperbole, an overstatement designed to indicate the serious nature of Christ’s words?

Was Jesus speaking of ongoing events, which certainly can be dramatic, or are the hurricanes, earthquakes and strange events in the sky (think conjunctions and Oumuamua) merely foreshadowings of more shocking events to come?

As Christians, we are to understand that this encounter with Christ, the beginning of the eternal experience of his full presence, will dwarf all other events in human history. The language used to describe this great day may be poetic, but the day will not disappoint us. Those who get to experience it from an earthly vantage will no doubt be astonished.

The very biblical concept of Christ’s return is critical to our understanding of the work Jesus did on the cross, a redemptive act still moving toward completion. The hard part is done; as Jesus said on the cross, “It is finished,” and the rest is inevitable.

Those blessed to see that day will be rattled to the depths of their souls. If you are among them, just remember, it’s all for the best.

Maranatha, Lord.

Psalm 19: Look Within

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

Let’s continue our meditation on Psalm 19. Yesterday, we considered the first six verses.

After contemplating the heavens, the psalmist makes what initially seems like a sudden turn, talking about how God instructs us. In particular, he references the law given to the Israelites. The two subjects are more connected than we might initially think.

The order and beauty of the heavens partially reveal God. A fuller understanding of God’s nature is found in contemplating God’s law, the psalmist is saying.

Because of sin, we are too broken to intuit such truths on our own. We need a direct revelation from the mind of God, a conduit Scripture offers us every day.

Even then, we are not strong enough to remain aligned with God—to remain holy—unless God helps us. Thus, we hear the petition at the end of the psalm to be kept and cleansed from sins committed deliberately or unknowingly.

The psalmist did not know the details of how God ultimately would respond to this prayer, benefitting all of humanity, but we know. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross makes it possible for all people to be cleansed of sin.

When we believe in Jesus and the effectiveness of his sacrifice, God’s Holy Spirit rushes in to engage with us and strengthen us, if only we let him.

Lord, may the words from our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing to you, our rock and redeemer. Amen.


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When Leaders Fall

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

Another prominent Christian leader, this one with powerful political ties, has fallen because of scandal. I don’t need to mention his name, as he and his wife have been in the news for several days now. I should note that he still denies direct involvement in the embarrassing events.

Sadly, such scandals happen much too often, although usually more quietly, playing out in small churches where the flocks experience deep pain. I find myself particularly concerned about the effect these events have on people testing the Christian waters. These seekers of truth are in the church on a regular basis, but their hearts are sometimes just partly committed as they try to sort through the confusing rush of emotions they feel.

Often, their view of God is tightly intertwined with their view of pastors and other key spiritual leaders—Sunday school teachers, deacons, music leaders, youth leaders, counselors, etc. To people standing on the outer edge of the church, when one of these leaders falls, God seems to have stumbled, too.

It doesn’t help when the scandal is public enough that aggressive nonbelievers are able to pounce on the opportunity. These people, wanting to steer others from faith, enjoy whispering of hypocrites and deception in the church, as if they’ve made a remarkable discovery.

From its earliest days, however, the church has been open about the inevitable presence of members with impure motives. Some may simply be genuine followers of Christ who succumb to temptation; others may be wolves among sheep. The New Testament is replete with warnings about such people even rising to prominent positions in the church—for example, see Acts 20:28-31.

As a young man, I personally felt misled when an important Sunday school teacher in my life stole money entrusted to him as part of his profession. I used his failure as an excuse to dodge church involvement for several years. It was easy to adopt an air of youthful cynicism, mutter “bunch of hypocrites” and walk away.

Later, I began to question my cynicism, however. When I enter a hospital, am I surprised to find sick people? Of course not. Then why am I shocked at finding sinners in a church, even occasionally among the leadership? At least some of them were trying to be near the source of healing.

While Christians hope to model Christ’s love and holiness, Christians do not define Christianity. Christ does.

Our faith is rooted in Jesus Christ and his loving, saving, transforming power. When those who claim to follow Jesus fail morally, it is not Christ’s fault, and Christ remains the cure even for fallen church leaders. They probably should not resume the roles they once held, at least not quickly, but through genuine repentance, they still have a place in the body of Christ.

Fallen leaders do provide a useful, if painful, lesson. As I mentioned in yesterday’s devotional, none of us, not one, is worthy to stand before God on personal merit. Only faith in Jesus’ work on the cross makes us holy.

Lord, help us to better pray for those who lead in the church, so they may be sustained by your Holy Spirit for very difficult tasks. Amen.

Being Immediate

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

Revelation 15:1-4 (NLT)

Then I saw in heaven another marvelous event of great significance. Seven angels were holding the seven last plagues, which would bring God’s wrath to completion. I saw before me what seemed to be a glass sea mixed with fire. And on it stood all the people who had been victorious over the beast and his statue and the number representing his name. They were all holding harps that God had given them. And they were singing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb:

“Great and marvelous are your works,
    O Lord God, the Almighty.
Just and true are your ways,
    O King of the nations.
Who will not fear you, Lord,
    and glorify your name?
    For you alone are holy.
All nations will come and worship before you,
    for your righteous deeds have been revealed.”

When exploring ideas about the end of time, thoughtful Christians have to piece together a lot of Scripture from various books of the Bible.

As we see in today’s text and the verses further into Revelation, we are promised there will be an end to the influence of evil, a completion of Christ’s work on the cross. Sin and death have already been defanged by Jesus’ sacrifice, but they still have to be put down completely, rabid dogs of Satan that they are.

Much of the Book of Revelation is highly symbolic, the images depicting events in the past, present and future. Complicating interpretation further, the reader’s perspective in Revelation keeps changing between heaven and earth.

As we study and process what is written there, one conclusion seems certain to me. We should sense a responsibility to let people know that heaven and earth will be remade one day, for the better, after terrible birth pangs. God is very much at work in the world.

Simultaneously, we should understand that we cannot know with any real certainty the what, where and who of Revelation, the apocalyptic sections of the Book of Daniel, or other biblical references to the last days, and we certainly cannot know the when.

“No one knows when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself,” Jesus said. “Only the Father knows.” (Matthew 24:36.)

To process and live out what we are taught about the end times, I find it useful to cling to “immediacy,” the idea that God’s redemptive work in this world could end and Christ could return at any moment.

In the same section of Matthew, Jesus’ words continue:

When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes.

Matthew 24:37-39

I think it’s dangerous when people claim certain events have to happen before Christ returns in full—even as believers, we can be lulled into apathy by such thoughts. The Apostle Peter had this in mind when he wrote, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8.)

A proper understanding of our own mortality should also give us a sense of immediacy about conforming to the will of God. None of us truly knows whether a particular day might be our last. We tend to imagine observing the end of days with an earthly view, when there’s a significant chance we will have a very different perspective.

So, what to do? Well, today’s text has one image that should give us inspiration and joy. This side of heaven or the other, let’s be sure that first, we are praising God, who through Jesus Christ has saved us from what should have been the eternal grip of sin and death.

Let’s praise God here on earth with our voices and whatever musical instruments we may have on hand, just as we will praise him one day in a new heaven and earth. Perhaps we will even lift these praises with harps in hands, standing on something like a brilliant sea of fire-imbued glass.

Lord, let today be about you, and then let each day that follows be the same. Amen.


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