Got To Go Through It!

In Ray Stedman's book Let God Be God, he wrote:


"The First Council of Nicaea, convened by Emperor Constantine in AD 325, was the first worldwide conference of the Christian church. At this council, many of the great doctrinal matters of the Christian faith (such as the deity of Christ) were settled for all time...  


Of the 318 delegates to the First Nicene Council, only twelve were whole in body. All of the rest had been maimed or crippled as a result of being tortured for their faith. Some had lost an eye or hand. Others had suffered broken or dislocated limbs. Some had been scarred by branding irons. In the early days of the Christian church, no one thought it was strange or unfair to suffer for Christ. Suffering was considered a normal part of the Christian life.


Most of us, as American Christians, have grown up feeling that we are entitled to a life of ease, comfort, and prosperity. When suffering comes, into our lives, we cry out in protest against the unfairness of it all. But when we read the writings of some of the great Christian saints of the past, we often find a more mature and accepting view of suffering."


Stories like that shame me. They remind me of sitting with several Indian pastors years ago, listening to them tell of the persecutions they were facing, all while asking us to pray not that their persecutions would end, but that they would be faithful in them. 

They convict me of just how immature my view of suffering really is.


I'll be the first to admit; I don't want to suffer. If there's a line to get into for suffering, I want to be as far away from that line as possible.


But Jesus said, "In this world you will have trouble." (John 16:33 NIV84) Peter wrote, "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you." (1 Pet 4:12-13 NIV84) 


Suffering isn't partial. It doesn't play favorites. Everyone will experience it. So, the question is not will I suffer, or maybe not even when will I suffer, but what do I do when I suffer?"


Many of us, as kids, learned the song, We're Going on a Bear Hunt, with the lyrics:


Can’t go over it,
Can’t go under it,
Can’t go around it,
Got to go through it!

Again, I don't want to suffer, but if I'm going to... if I can't out of it or even go around it, I pray that I will go through it well... and not well according to my definition, because I'm pretty sure that my definition and God's definition are different. If I'm going to suffer, I hope to do so in a way that pleases God.

Because ultimately, when you or I do make it through the suffering, it won't be because of any strength we have or anything we do; it'll be because our faithful God carried us through it.


"So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you." 1 Peter 4:19 (NLT) 

Shannon L. Newsome


Let's (Not) Make a Deal!


In a book filled with strange stories, his is one of the strangest.

Judges 11 recounts the story of Jephthah, by most counts, Israel’s eighth judge. From the beginning, we are told that while Jephthah was a mighty warrior, he was also the illegitimate son of a prostitute. Because of the harassment of his “legitimate” brothers, he abandoned his family and nation and fled to Tob where he became, essentially, a gang-leader. (We haven’t even gotten to the strange part.) But when his country came calling for his help to lead their army against the Ammonites, Jephthah agreed.

Here's where it gets weird.

Before going to war, Jephthah made a vow to God that if God would give him the victory, he would give back to God (ESV – “offer it up for a burnt offering”) the first thing that came out of the door to meet him after returning victoriously. Well, Jephthah won the battle and returned home, only to be greeted by his only daughter.

This story raises all kinds of questions. Did Jephthah know it would be a human that greeted him? Did he really offer up his daughter as a human sacrifice? And if so, did the Holy Spirit make a mistake when He included Jephthah in Hebrew 11’s “Hall of Faith” alongside the likes of Abraham, Sarah, Joseph and Moses? (You did notice Jephthah’s name in your reading yesterday, right?)

While I don’t have all the answers (Miles Van Pelt has an excellent post addressing possible misunderstandings), one thing I am confident about: the Holy Spirit didn’t make a mistake! Is it possible that the thrust of the story is something completely different? Maybe this is not so-much a story about the death of an innocent child, but instead, how disastrous a messed-up view of God can really be.

Most of us have probably done something just like Jephthah… tried to negotiate with God. “God, if You’ll get me out of this,” or “If you’ll keep me from getting caught, I’ll never do (fill in the blank) again.” Like Jephthah, we know that many of life’s challenges are simply too big for us to handle on our own. And so, like Jephthah, we try to barter with God for His help. That’s not where God’s help comes from.

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." (1 Peter 4:5-6 NIV84)

Whatever you are going through, God wants to help. Don't get confused about what you have to do in order for Him to care. He already cares! Draw near to Him and He will draw near to you! (James 4:8)

Who Are you a Fan of?


I can honestly say that I did not grow up watching college football. Born and raised in North Carolina, for me, it was always (and will always be) college basketball, including the ACC Tournament and March Madness, that really matters. But, with the tradition, marching bands, fight songs, and College GameDay, my wife finally converted me from Sunday to Saturday football.


Whether you are a fan of the Tar Heels, Deacons, Wolfpack, Blue Devils, Tigers, Buckeyes, or (God help us) Crimson Tide, you all share a common bond – passion. College football fans are the most passionate sports fans.


If you’ve been reading through the New Testament, you probably just completed the book of Acts. Was there ever anyone who had more passion for the gospel than the Apostle Paul? In Acts 25-26, Paul was on trial for his life, yet, because he believed so deeply in Who Jesus is and who Jesus called him to be, he spoke boldly, at risk to his own well-being!


“… I pray to God that both you and everyone here in this audience might become the same as I am, except for these chains.” (Acts 26:29 (NLT)


I recently read a tongue-in-cheek blog about the difference between college football fans and a typical church member. (I recognize there is a difference between just being a church member and a committed Christ-follower, but I’m not going to get into that here). While a few on the list made me cringe, there were a couple that made me chuckle:


** A college football fan gets excited if a game goes into overtime. A church member gets upset if the preacher goes one minute past noon!

** A college football fan attends the game no matter how bad the weather is. A church member stays home if there is a 20% chance of rain.


** A college football fan is known for his or her passion for the team. A church member is rarely known for their passion for the gospel.


Now, if that last one is true, it out to stop us in our tracks and cause us to really evaluate our own passions.


Because Jesus created me. Jesus died so that He could have relationship with me. Jesus, above everything and everyone else, deserves my all-consuming passion. 

And He doesn't even require me to paint my face with school colors!

I love pumpkin!


Almost everyone who knows me, knows this. Pumpkin spice flavor, pumpkin pie flavor... out of a gourd, out of a can... it matters not to me. I just love pumpkin. In fact, I have said in the past (admittedly, rather crassly), "If dog-doo tasted like pumpkin, I'd eat it!" Thankfully, no one has taken me up on this yet.

Over the last several fall seasons, I have consumed a plethora of pumpkin-flavored products... coffee creamer (almost daily), donuts, butter, soup, cereal, pancakes, almonds, granola, vegetable chips, ice cream, gelato, frozen Greek yogurt, pound cake, M&M's, sugar wafers, Oreos, cream cheese roll, and kringle (if you're not familiar with this "ambrosia," check out the link... but be forewarned: I will not be held responsible for any future Trader Joe's road trips).

And of course, yesterday was the ultimate pumpkin-lovers holiday - Thanksgiving - featuring the greatest dessert known to man (at least this one), pumpkin pie.

Have I mentioned that I love pumpkin?

It is obvious that people know that I love pumpkin as well. Throughout this glorious time of year, I have received assorted gifts of pumpkin-flavored goodies (including the aforementioned kringle) from those who are willing to fuel my obsession.

So, my question to myself recently has been, "Do people know that I love Jesus as much as they know that I love pumpkin?"

No, really. Do they? And not just because I'm a preacher, which means that I'm "supposed to," right? Do people really know?

It was obvious to the first-century Jewish religious leaders that Peter and John “had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13) How about with me? How about with you?

That’s what I want. That's what needs to be obvious. Because as much as I love pumpkin, I love Jesus more.

(Condensed from a devotion that I wrote in 2018 for yesterday's NT in 60 Days reading.)

God is great - I am not


John MacArthur preached the following about 35 years ago:

“A man said to me, ‘Sometimes when I’m shaving, Jesus comes in the bathroom and puts His arm around me in the morning and talks to me.’ I said, ‘You mean the real Jesus?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘And He puts His arm around you, and you see Him?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ I just had one question: ‘Do you keep shaving, or do you fall on your face on the ground in terror because you’re in the presence of a holy God? If you keep shaving, it wasn’t Jesus.’”


While much of the book of Romans can be so deep theologically that it’s difficult to understand, the last verses of chapter 11, some of my favorite verses in the entire book, are not. Oh, they’re incredibly deep, but there is no mistaking Paul’s message: God is great; I am not.

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?” (Romans 11:33-35 NIV84)

The answer is, of course, “Not me. Not you. Not anyone. Ever.”

  •        God is great in knowledge; I’m not.
  •        God is great in wisdom; I’m not.
  •        God is great in riches; I’m not.

Our only response, unlike the shaving man, is to humble ourselves at the feet of our God Who is greater than we can even comprehend, and worship Him!

“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.” (Romans 11:36 NIV84) 

No Agreement required


Let’s start with the obvious: the United States are anything but united. Last week’s election only confirmed this. According to a recent Economist/YouGov survey


  •        48% believe our nation is much more divided now than in 2021.
  •        39% believe the division will only get worse in the next few years.
  •        43% (shockingly!) believe that the chance of a civil war in our country over the next 10 years is either somewhat likely or very likely.


We are two different Americas that watch different news, read different books, listen to different kind of music and watch different television shows. There seems to be very little that we agree about.


Which makes Paul’s words to Timothy all the more timely:


I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone - for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” (1 Timothy 2:1-2 NIV84)


No conditions. We are simply called to pray for our leaders, no matter what our opinions might be. In fact, we are told to thank God for them. Paul writes in Romans 13:1 that if they are in a position of authority, it’s only because God put them there. How we feel about them, or their politics, does not release us from the call to pray for them.


Bill & Sue Frisbee give the following ways to pray for our leaders. I hope that they will be helpful for both you and me.


1.       Pray for the leader according to God’s massive love and heart.

2.       Pray according to what God wants to do, not what seems obvious in the moment.

3.       Pray that the leader would become the person that God has called them to be.


And while we are praying, may we find hope and confidence in our God’s sovereignty and control:


The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.” (Proverbs 21:1)


Let us be faithful in praying for our leaders and our nation.

Include the excluded


Almost every kid has a memory of being excluded… of being, in some way, left out. But exclusion doesn’t always stop as children grow into adults. From cliques to social media, people of all ages exclude others all the time.


But Jesus was different. He went out of His way to extend love where it wasn’t expected, or sometimes even allowed. He included the excluded. In yesterday’s reading in Mark, we saw Jesus eating with the tax collectors and “sinners,” speaking to and healing the demon possessed man, and being touched by (and I believe, touching) a bleeding woman.


Max Lucado writes:


“To see her hand you need to look low. Look down. That’s where she lives. Low to the ground. Low on the priority list. Low on the social scale… Look carefully amid the knees and feet of the crowd. They’re scampering after Christ. He walks. She crawls. People bump her, but she doesn’t stop. Others complain. She doesn’t care. The woman is desperate. Blood won’t stay in her body… Twelve years of clinics. Treatments. Herbs. Prayer meetings. Incantations… No health. No money. And no family to help. Unclean, according to the Law of Moses. [The Law that was meant to protect her] left her not untouched, but untouchable… The hand you see in the crowd? The one reaching for the robe? No one will touch it.”[1]


But Jesus did. And her life was never again the same. In a moment, she went from being excluded to included.


We talk about being the hands and feet of Jesus. If that’s really the case, who is it in our world who is left out… excluded… who desperately wants and needs to be included?


Don’t walk by them. Reach out. 

[1] Lucado, M. (2003). Next door Savior (pp. 28–29). W Pub. Group.

Brighten the corner



"He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds." (Titus 2:14 NLT)

Until I looked it up on YouTube, I had never heard the song before. And when I listened to it the first time, I felt it needed only an accordion and tuba to be a polka classic! But what a message!


Brighten the Corner Where You Are was written by Ina Mae Duley Ogdon more than 100 years ago. A brilliant orator, Miss Ogden received an invitation to be a Chautauqua Circuit speaker. Chautauqua Lake was the place in upstate New York where performers, musicians, lecturers and motivational speakers from around the country were invited to showcase their gifts. She excitedly considered the thousands of people that she might influence for the cause of Christ. But as she was packing for the upcoming tour, her father was seriously injured in one of the new-fangled “horseless carriages.”


Deeply disappointed and angry at God, she cancelled her travel plans to take care of her father. But she soon determined that she would do her best to “brighten the corner” wherever God placed her, even if it was in her own home.‌


“Do not wait until some deed of greatness you may do.
Do not wait to shed your light afar.
To the many duties ever near you now be true;
brighten the corner where you are.”


Today, whether you are with the RCC mission team traveling to Tennessee (prayers) or caring for your children or parents at home, be “totally committed to doing good deeds” and brighten the corner where you are!

Immanuel - Not Just FOr CHristmas


In speaking of the confusing issues that confronted them after Joseph learned of Mary's pregnancy before their marriage, the Gospel of Matthew comments:

“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said… they will call him Immanuel”—which means, ‘God with us.’” (Matt 1:22-23)

You've sung the songs. You've heard the readings. You've sent and received the cards. Just know: Immanuel is not a name just for Christmas. In fact, Matthew’s gospel concludes with Jesus’ final words and the same message:

“… And surely I am with you always …” (Matt 28:20)

With a mid-term national election less than 24 hours away, more than three-quarters of Americans say that they worry about the future of our country, while two-thirds say the country is at its lowest point in their memory. The state of the economy and potential recession is on everyone’s minds. In addition, we live in a time when some feel as if God is absent and uninvolved with their lives, especially when their best-laid plans fail, or their hopes wither after running into a brick wall.

This is a message that we desperately need every day, not just at Christmas:

God is with us.

And He’s not just with us. The word translated “always” in Matt 28:20 literally means that God is with us “the whole of every day.” Not just the good parts. Not just the times when we (foolishly) believe that things are under control and “we’ve got this.”

The whole of every day.

  • That includes all of today.
  • That includes tomorrow and its election.
  • That includes the days and weeks that follow after the election.
  • That includes the doctor’s visits and the family troubles and the financial woes.

The whole of every day.

God is with us!