October 27 – I Will Remember: The Supremacy and Superiority of Christ in Unprecedented Crisis

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Read Hebrews 1:1-6, Hebrews 2:1-18, Hebrews 12:28, Hebrews 13:14-15

We live in a day of instability. Crisis, whether it is a global pandemic, volatility in the markets, or an economic recession, can hit at any moment. When crisis hits, it humbly reminds us of the fragility of life and that nothing in our lives is supreme and sure—even those things we believe bring stability. 

However, the Bible teaches that there is something sure and supreme that brings stability in the midst of instability and uncertainty. 

The author of Hebrews, writing to a group of believers living in the midst of uncertainty, instability, and upheaval, reminds them of the supremacy and superiority of Christ. According to the author of Hebrews, Jesus is better and more superior than the angels as well as Moses, and what he accomplished through his death and resurrection is greater and surer than the covenant Moses mediated. 

I grew up going to the lake with my family. When we would take the boat out, we would find a place to anchor so that we could play and swim. The anchor would stabilize the boat in the midst of a lake containing many boats that created many waves. 

Jesus is the anchor that can weather any storm or wave we encounter in this fallen world. For it is in Jesus we have received a kingdom that cannot be shaken (Heb. 12:28). 

In a world where we aren’t promised tomorrow, which can create fear, worry, and anxiety, believers anchor themselves to the hope of Christ and thus fixate their eyes on the city that is to come (Heb. 13:14). Therefore, it is in Christ we can, “…continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips that acknowledge his name” (Heb. 13:15). 

Today, I pray you will remember, and give thanks for, all that God has done, is doing, and will do in your life–if you only trust in him. 

Questions for Reflection

Who or what are you placing your confidence in? 

How can we remind those around us that there is something more important than money and things?

October 26 – I Will Remember: Don’t Let the Worship Die! 

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Read Acts of the Apostles 16:25

According to one “60 Minutes” interview, roughly 80 years ago, Jozef Kropinski was caught working for the Polish resistance during WWII and was imprisoned for four years until his death by the Nazis at Auschwitz. 

A composer, Kropinski served as violinist in the camp orchestra. At night, Kropinski would sneak into the “pathology lab” (where the bodies of those killed were dismembered) in order to write pieces of music that would “help raise the spirits of fellow prisoners.” His desire was to encourage fellow prisoners by using music to help them remember previous, more happy times. 

For many in the Nazi camps, music provided a relief from the reality. Several millennia ago, two prisoners modeled a similar idea. Imprisoned for removing powers of divination from a girl—and thus depriving her owners of income—Paul and Silas were attacked, stripped of their clothes, beaten, and bound in an inner chamber of the prison. We cannot know what this was like, but we can have an idea—it was lonely and gloomy, and appeared quite bleak. 

And yet faith and hope rose to heaven as the two prayed and sang songs to God. Oh, to listen in on this moment! In our modern times, we can imagine the two singing songs like “It is Well” or “Holy, Holy, Holy” or “Amazing Grace.” The a cappella heart cry of someone in need is a sound like no other. It’s a holy moment between God and his child, between Jesus and his brothers and sisters and friends. 

In times of tragedy and distress, where anxiety and depression seek to capsize us, we must turn to worship and to song. This could be us singing, or us simply listening to or watching others worship. 

As praise arises, our hearts do as well. One way to practice this is to sing through the Psalms. Instead of reading them, sing them, choosing whatever melody that comes to mind. As your heart is stirred to life, it gives you courage to keep going, praising God even in the darkest of times.

Oh, and one other thing may happen—you will be a witness to those around you. As Paul and Silas prayed and sang, “the prisoners were listening to them.” Your praise is for your benefit, but it is also for the benefit of those around you. As you find joy, you can share joy. So today, sing loud and sing boldly. God reigns over all the earth, and he dwells within our hearts. 

Questions for Reflection

What songs come to mind as a heart-cry during this time of distress?  

How can we use praise and song to minister and care for those around us?

October 25 – I Will Remember: The Power and Intimacy of Jesus in Our Trials

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Read John 11:1-4, John 11:20-27, John 11:32-35, John 11:41-44

The story of the death and resurrection of Lazarus contains some of the most memorable verses in scripture. In it, John’s recount reveals a Jesus that is simultaneously powerful over death and intimate with those suffering. It is therefore not surprising that the passage has been a source of enduring comfort for those going through seasons of uncertainties and trials. 

At the outset, Jesus spoils the ending, revealing that Lazarus’ illness is not going to lead to death. While suffering is still coming, everything that is going to happen is “so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 

Through this, John provides the framework for entering into stories of suffering. Even as God is not the author of sin or suffering, he uses these seasons so that we might bring him glory. Surely, at many points in the story, this would seem foolish, particularly as Mary and Martha are weeping. Yet by the end, Jesus’ words are vindicated as he calls Lazarus from the tomb. 

We see why Jesus allows this pain and suffering at the deepest point in the story while talking with Martha. Comforting her, Jesus reveals not only who he is, but what that means for those who believe in him. Into her pain and loss, Jesus announces, “I am the resurrection and the life.” 

Through our pain, it is this truth that secures us as an anchor for a ship in a storm. Come what may, Christ has conquered death, and through him, we have life. 

At the same time, it is important not to miss the intimacy of the passage. In times of trial, we often run to God’s power and sovereignty. This is good, reminding us that he is in control when so many things seem to be out of our hands. Yet over time as crisis deepens, many Christians struggle to believe God is with them in their pain. John invites us to see Jesus’ humanity in his empathy for Mary and Martha. 

Moved in his spirit and visibly crying, Jesus models for us his teaching to mourn with those who mourn. 

Questions for Reflection

Just as Jesus entered into the pain of Mary and Martha, who in your community needs you to enter into their mourning? Reflect on signs of pain where you can share in their burden while bringing the message of Christ’s resurrection as the hope for their deliverance. 

October 24 – I Will Remember – Do This in Remembrance of Me: The Wonder of the Lord’s Supper

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Read Luke 22:14-23, 1 Corinthians 11:17-34

One of my favorite times with the local church is when we observe the Lord’s Supper together. It is one of the most intimate, reflective, and celebratory times we have. Now I understand while some may call it communion, Holy Communion, or the Eucharist, the Lord’s supper is a sacrament (or an ordinance in some traditions) that all Christian faith traditions observe as it has been handed down to us from Christ himself. 

Go back in time to that first Lord’s Supper. Moments before Christ would be betrayed, arrested, beaten, mocked, flogged, and crucified, he gathered his disciples together for one last meal. But it wasn’t a normal meal—it was a deep, meaningful, and sacred one. 

What’s interesting about the institution of this meal is that it was replacing another deep, meaningful, and sacred meal that the Jews observed. That meal was called the Passover, a meal Jews shared to celebrate their deliverance from Egyptian bondage. 

At Jesus’ meal with his disciples, he began by breaking bread and speaking about how this was his body given for them. Following the bread was the wine. He held up the glass and described this cup as the “new covenant” in his blood—blood poured out for all people. 

As you could imagine, for Jesus’ disciples, it was a weird meal to say the least. However, it would come to make total sense with Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection from the dead. It was then they realized why Jesus uttered, “Do this in remembrance of me.” As a result, they continued to observe the meal. In fact, in 1 Corinthians 11:23–25, Paul describes how the early church observed the Lord’s Supper. He explains how the practice of the Lord’s Supper proclaims “the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor. 11:26).

The institution of the Lord’s Supper wasn’t meant to be just a time of recalling Christ’s death. Sure, that is part of it. But as N.T. Wright suggests, “The present moment (whenever) somehow holds together the one-off past even (the Lord’s death) and the great future when God’s world will be remade under Jesus’ loving rule (until he comes).” 

Therefore, when God’s people observe the Lord’s Supper—remembering the death of Christ—there is a celebration (for what he has done), there is a consecration (for what he is doing in and through us now), and there is an anticipation (as we long for his coming when he will fully make all things new).This is the wonder of remembering Christ’s death and resurrection through the Eucharist with the saints. 

Questions for Reflection

Take a few moments to think through the implications of Christ’s death in your life. Thank him for what he has done. 

Now ask him what his death and resurrection mean for those around you.  

October 23 – I Will Remember: Resting in God’s Power

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Read Mark 4:35-41, Mark 5:22-43

In times of trial, one of the most treasured passages in scripture is of Jesus calming the storm while out to sea with the disciples. Falling asleep, Jesus is awoken by disciples who are not only fearful of the storm, but disturbed by Jesus’ apparent lack of care for them. Into this chaos Jesus rebukes the wind and waves, causing them to immediately cease. 

This passage is the first of three stories in Mark that underscore Jesus’ power. Here, Jesus reveals his dominion over his creation, calming the storm. In Mark 5:1-21, Jesus casts a demon out of a man, revealing his dominion over the spiritual forces at work in the world. 

Finally, in Mark 5:22-43, Jesus heals a woman and servant of a chronic illness and death, respectively, revealing his dominion over even disease and death. 

In all, Mark reminds us that during seasons of trial and opposition, there is nothing that is beyond the power of Jesus. 

This is a hard lesson to remember when we are in the midst of storms, facing opposition, or dealing with illness or possible death. Yet how we react in the storm speaks to how well we understand who Jesus is and how he cares for us. 

Jesus rebukes the disciples because they don’t grasp these two points. They don’t know who he is as the creator and ruler of the universe, fearing the storm is greater than he is. They also don’t trust that he cares for them, going so far as to ask, “Do you not care that we are perishing?” 

As we try to navigate difficult seasons, we must continually refresh our faith in the answers to these two questions. Jesus is the lord of the universe, the second member of the trinity, to whom all dominion and power has been given. He is also our savior who endures with and has given to us his Spirit.  

Questions for Reflection

How are you responding to God as you are walking through this difficult time? Do you see him as asleep? Unaware, unable, and uncaring of your situation? 

Recognize that those who don’t know Jesus are like the disciples in the boat: fearful and uncertain. How can you share how Jesus has provided calmness in your life in the midst of the storm?

October 22 – I Will Remember: Because of God, the Future Is Bright!

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Read Psalms 27:13-14, Psalms 31:24, Psalms 121:1-2

He had lost everything, his family had been broken, and he had been imprisoned. And yet two centuries ago, when a reporter asked missionary Adoniram Judson what would happen to Burma (where he served for 40 years) after war had devastated the land, he exclaimed, “The future is as bright as the promises of God!”

What faith has to offer us is the ability to see and to believe that our reality today will not last forever. When all is dark around us and those near us cry “We are perishing!” we can lift our eyes up to the hills as the Psalmist did and repeat, “…where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Ps. 121:1-2).

None of us knows what the future holds. None of us can say that after great tragedy life will be the same. ‘Normal’ becomes relative and sometimes must be drastically redefined. 

What we do know is that we have a God who promises to be with us, throughout all generations, who never changes, and who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Psalm 27:13 says, “I believe that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!” It’s a radical faith that looks at God’s work throughout history and remembers that after all tragedy, life continues. It is a radical faith that accepts that ‘normal’ may be difficult for a while, but nonetheless believes that difficult does not mean ‘absent from God’s goodness.’ 

The tragedy of this moment screams at us that this is all there is. It mocks us and woos us into thinking that tomorrow is but a darkened room where none can enter. 

Nothing could be further from the truth. There is a tomorrow, and despite what our hearts keep telling us, it is bright. Because God is in it. His goodness is in it. “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord” (Ps. 27:14).

Questions for Reflection

Do you believe that the future is as bright as the promises of God? What does this mean on a day-to-day basis for you? 

How can we remind those around us that the goodness of the Lord will come, and in fact, has come?

October 21 – I Will Remember: Two-Way Communication

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Read Habakkuk 2:1-20, Genesis 32:22-32

A quick glance at the Old Testament prophets tells us that although each played a critical role in speaking truth to God’s people—often prior to or during times of tragedy and crisis—prophets had hard lives. Most were the target of persecution and attack. They were sometimes beaten, imprisoned, and mocked. 

However, each also possessed a quality which we can demonstrate during times of personal or global crisis—open communication. Habbukuk, the 7th-century prophet who prophesied an imminent Chaldean invasion to the people of Judah, is a fascinating example of what it looks like to communicate openly with God during times of uncertainty and fear. 

Meaning “embracer,” his very name foretells what we will see as we read through the three chapters of Habbakuk. It’s a back-and-forth conversation which goes something like this: Habbakuk cries out to God for help and God responds with reminders of what he is doing. 

In one moving verse, Habbakuk exclaims, “I will take my watchpost and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what he will say to me” (2:1). Can you just imagine? It’s the picture of stubbornness—of complete trust that God will answer and that Habbakuk will wait as long as necessary to receive that answer. Only a few verses later, the Lord does respond; but in his response, he tells Habbukuk that his answer will not come now: “If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay” (2:3). 

Perhaps this conjures up images of Jacob wrestling with God in Genesis 32 and his cry that “I won’t let you go unless you bless me” (v. 26). In times of difficulty, we keep pressing forward with God. We believe and trust that the more we press into him, the more he will offer back to us. 

Crisis reveals a communication channel that is two-way. We cry out to God, and he responds. We wait upon God, and he answers. It’s time to sit on our watchposts and see what God is trying to say to us. 

Questions for Reflection

Cry out to God. And then wait. Believe he will answer. And be in awe of his response. 

How can we speak the truth to those around us that communication with God can be a two-way street?

October 20 – I Will Remember: He Takes My Right Hand, and Then I Take His

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Read Isaiah 41:13, Romans 5:8

Many of us have heard the concept of the “upside-down kingdom.” Often, this is referencing key truths such as the weak will be made strong and the humble will be raised up, and vice versa. Whereas the world loves those who are powerful and successful, God’s eye is on the marginalized, the widow, the poor, the powerless. His eye is on the sparrow—that which is utterly dependent upon him. 

Isaiah 41:13, however, teaches us another way in which God’s kingdom is upside down: “For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear; I will help you. Do not be afraid, O worm Jacob, O little Israel, for I myself will help you,’ declares the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel” (italics for emphasis).

God reaches down to take our hand and whisper words of comfort. We don’t just lift up our hands. He first reaches down. This is akin to the idea of a parent holding a child’s hand while they cross the street. Although the child is holding on, who is doing all the work? The parent. This is true with us as well. As we go through difficult seasons of life, we must not run away from God. We must reach out to him and hold on as best we can to his big, strong hand. But don’t be deceived. It is God who is doing all the work. 

We go through life thinking that we have to reach out to God and that we have to do better and be better for him to hear us and to help us. The better we are, we muse, the more God will love us

This, of course, is anathema and goes counter to the very message of the cross. Romans 5 in fact tells us that even when we were sinners, Christ died for us. 

Sometimes, the first step in walking through tragedy and trauma isn’t about us at all or anything we do. Sometimes, the first step is to simply close our eyes and to consider what it means that God is taking hold of our right hand. Our powerful, omniscient, all-knowing God calls to us, “I’ve got you. Do not fear.” Only then do we grab back, believing that he will never let go, in good times and in bad. 

Questions for Reflection

What are the implications for you as you consider the fact that God reaches out to comfort you even before you are reaching out to him? 

How can you offer this truth to those around you today? 

October 19 – I Will Remember: He Makes Everything Beautiful in Its Time

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Read Ecclesiastes 3:1-11, Psalms 30:5

C.S. Lewis once wrote, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains; it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Verse 11 of Ecclesiastes 3 is the culmination of a set of contrasting pairs meant to assure us that everything that happens is pregnant with meaning: “He has made everything beautiful in his time.” A time to be born and a time to die, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time for war and a time for peace. What, though, is beautiful about war or death, or killing or giving up, or throwing away or tearing down? 

Those of us who have gone through difficult times on a personal scale, and now many of us dealing with uncertainty on a global scale, can attest to the fact that tragedy and loss are never pleasing. Over and over in the Psalms, we see David expressing the enormity of his grief, anger, fear, anxiety, and depression to God. But over and over, we see the culminating effect of this pouring out of emotion to God: praise and discovering yet another reason we need God.

What is beautiful about war and death and everything bad that comes our way is that we are allowed to go deeper in our faith than we ever could in good times. When we are financially stable and loved by others, when we are healthy and have job security, our tendencies are to stray from complete and utter dependence upon God. This is simply human nature.

We drift unless something—Someone—continually finds a way to pull us back to the anchor of our souls. How many of us, after all, can look back on difficult times and see marking points of when our faith was richer and deeper? 

We cannot go so far as to say that war itself is beautiful. Or that a natural disaster is. Or that cancer is. Or that mass disease is. What we can say is that through these ashes is the possibility of God doing things beyond what we “can ask or imagine.”

We are forced into a place of dependence, and when we do so, we find our God has been waiting for us to run into his arms the whole time. Thus begins a new level of trust and faith that we would have never experienced otherwise.

Questions for Reflection

In the brokenness of our world today, where can you see glimpses of the beauty of which Ecclesiastes 3 is speaking? 

How can you speak that beauty into the lives of those around you who are dealing with fear and anxiety?

October 18 – I Will Remember: Rising Up and Building Even During Times of Trial

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Read Nehemiah 1:2-4. Nehemiah 2:17-20, Nehemiah 1:4-11

In the opening pages of Nehemiah, we hear horrible news: Jerusalem is in ruins. We can see how much a crisis this is for the people of Israel in Nehemiah’s reaction. He not only weeps, fasts, and prays, but he works up the courage to go to the King who sends him to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls around the city. 

Upon arriving, Nehemiah surveys the scene before recruiting those in the city to join in rebuilding. In the story, we see that it was not simply a matter of city defenses, but a statement about God and his people. In his prayer in 1:4-11, Nehemiah repents of how Israel had been unfaithful and calls upon God to hear and respond to their need. 

In walking through this passage, three features of Nehemiah’s response are helpful for us when we’re faced with a crisis. 

First, Nehemiah’s initial reaction was to mourn and pray for God’s provision. In times of trial, our first instinct is often to act in our own strength. Moreover, we can belittle or minimize our emotions of pain and frustration. Yet Nehemiah turns his mourning towards God in prayer to seek him rather than dismiss it as unimportant or wrong. 

Second, notice that upon arriving in Jerusalem, Nehemiah sets to work recognizing that it is time to “rise up and build.” Times of crisis and trial can sometimes freeze us with inaction. Yet Nehemiah recognizes that God has set him on mission and likewise calls others to join him. That ought to be our focus as well. 

Finally, when Nehemiah is confronted by opposition, he does not allow them to distract from his objective. Rather, he recognizes the opposition for what it is and reorients back to what God has called him to do. 

Throughout the passage, we see a powerful example of responding to the difficult seasons of life. Beginning with mourning and prayer, we need to move out on mission and fend off those who attempt to distract us from God’s calling. 

Questions for Reflection

How have you responded in times of trial and difficulty?

How can you be a light to others during times of anxiety and fear?