Author: John Ryan

“Blessed are those who mourn – for they shall be comforted.” – Jesus (Matthew 5:4)

Jesus is telling us in Matthew 5:4 that if we mourn our sin we will know the comfort of God’s very presence that brings peace and healing to our souls. One of the primary privileges we have as sons and daughters in the kingdom (vs 3) is comfort. This comfort is not the removal of pain or the solving of our problems. This comfort is the very presence of God that Jesus promises us in John 14:16. The Greek word used in the book of John for the Spirit that will come and intervene in our lives as our Advocate, Counselor, or Comforter is the word “paracletos”. The same root word is used here in verse 4 for comfort. Comfort is not just a gift or an effect from God – comfort is God!

It is quite amazing to think that in declaring our brokenness – in repenting of the sin in our broken souls (this is the idea of mourning here in this passage) – that we can know the presence of God. I often believe that being exposed or “outted” for my sin is the worse thing that can happen; that I will disappoint God and I will receive a reprimand – not comfort. But Jesus says when we agree with God that our sin is death (that is why we mourn) – He will comfort us through His presence. Jesus says that when we agree that this death hurts others, ourselves, and God – He will comfort us through His presence. And this is the best news, what Jesus calls “good news” or the gospel: We receive this comfort not due to our work but due to Jesus’ work.

This means that God comforts me not because I mourn well or right, and not because my mourning is sincere, or because I weep from the depths of my heart. My effort in mourning has no bearing on his comfort. He comforts me because Jesus’ effort on the cross enables me to be with God.

For certain we access this comfort when we “mourn”. And, we miss out on this comfort when ignore our sin. However – rest in and know the powerful hope in this truth: our comfort – God’s very presence – comes to give us peace and healing solely based on Jesus and his work for us. May we run to Jesus today and find Him (comfort) every day as he reveals the sin he calls us to mourn.

There is a relentless pursuit of happiness that drives each of us pursue most of what we do in this life. We don’t always recognize this pursuit in the day-to-day craziness of our lives – but it is there.

This relentless, often unconscious, pursuit of happiness can be the fuel of many of our worries; and it can be the fuel for many of our celebrations. It is often what drives our risk of loving, giving, helping, hoping, and serving. It is often what fuels our search for new jobs, new relationships, new careers, new homes, new neighbors, new hobbies, and even new churches. Ultimately, happiness – for ourselves or for others we care about – is one pursuit we all have in common. No matter our political, religious, or philosophical views, we all seem to be driven by this relentless desire, or pursuit, of happiness.

There is another pursuit that is taking place; one that, if we believe it, will inform, direct, and quite possibly reconfigure our pursuits. The pursuit: God has been pursuing- and continues to pursue – your heart and soul so that it will find its ultimate, ongoing happiness in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Listen to God for a moment:

Ephesians 1:4-6 (ESV) 4 He (God) chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

John 15:6 (ESV) You did not choose me, but I (Jesus) chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

I Corinthians 12:18 (ESV) But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.

I Thessalonians 1:4 (ESV) For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you,

I Peter 2:9 (ESV) But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Before the world began God had his loving eyes on you. He has pursued you through every age of time, through every moment of your life. He chose you and called you to Himself so you would know the majesty of “His glory” and the wonders of all His “excellencies.” You know Jesus as your Lord and Savior because of His pursuit. But His pursuit of you does not end there. He is consumed with your full knowledge His “glory” and “excellencies” because He is the source of all our happiness and He knows this. He created us for Himself. So He will not stop pursuing your heart and your soul. Listen, and may His words inform, direct, and reconfigure your pursuits today.

Psalms 139:1-6 (ESV) 1 O Lord, you have searched me and known me! 2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. 3 You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. 4 Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. 5 You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.

19 I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power 20 that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. — Ephesians 1:19-20 NLT

May this be our prayer today:

May we believe deeply in our souls that the miraculous power of God resides in us, rescuing and restoring our soul.

That we would believe

by Jesus’ work on the cross – taking our weak and sinFULL flesh – we receive His power by faith or trust in His work. We are asking God to help us live in the reality that we HAVE received the power of God. 

That the miraculous power of God

and this is not just any power, it is the “incredibly great” and miraculous power of God’s Holy Spirit that raised Christ from the dead and seated him at the right hand of God.  

Resides in us rescuing and restoring our soul.

We are asking God to help us live in the reality that the miraculous power of God – in the very person of God’s Holy Spirit – resides in us. And today – right now – the Spirit of God is doing miraculous work in our souls. He is rescuing us to God for fellowship, for the love and joy we were created for. And He is restoring our souls to look and act as they were meant to, before sin wrecked and broke them.

The Spirit of God is at work in you today! For His glory and your good. You are a miracle as you read and breathe this! And – you are a miracle still in the working and loving hands of God. You cannot be more loved, cherished, or pleasing to holy God. But He is not finished. 

May we believe today – live in the deep reality – that the Spirit of God is at work in us. May this cause our affections for you, our God, to grow. And, may this move us to live knowing we are a small part of something bigger God is doing in this world for his glory and our good. Amen.

Fear strikes us all in different ways. Fear can make us run and hide. Fear can make us lash out. Fear can enslave us to live in overwhelming anxiety. Fear is not a sin – for fear can be a gift that protects us from hot stoves, from dangerous currents in a river, or from making a bad purchase. While fear is not a sin in and of itself – it can definitely lead us to sin.

I’m beginning to learn that my (our) greatest weapon against fear – is the gospel. This is because the gospel brings the light of God’s truth and presence to bear on the darkness that accompanies fear. Let me give you one example of how the gospel (Jesus and His finished work) is affecting how I live with fear.

When I am experiencing fear – I usually have one of two responses. The first is to hide or avoid thinking about the situation that is causing the fear. Like a child, I curl up in a ball, pull the covers over my head, and hope the scary monster goes away. For me this means I bury myself in the TV or a book for hours or days. My second response to fear is my “go to” move – I work. What do I mean? How do I try to cope with this fear?

Fear makes me feel weak. It makes me feel like a child (not a great feeling for any adult). It makes me want to hide (and as I said above, sometimes I do). Feeling weak – is humiliating and so my natural response is to do something that will make me not feel weak. Work is that response for me. When I plow into work in the midst of fear – I begin to feel strong. I begin to sense that I’m not weak – I can be strong. Great! Problem solved! Well, not really.

While the anxiety and fear may go away for a few days or weeks, the same fear eventually returns with greater teeth and a louder roar.  “Saving myself” from my fear – is a false salvation from a “broken religion”. But, there is hope in a true and pure courage I have been learning to experience through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

When I am experiencing fear and I hide or run, at some point my “self salvation” fails and Jesus whispers – “come to me all who are heavy burdened.” I have never heard his voice audibly but I hear it in the midst of my fear through the word, through my wife, and through many of you who turn me toward the gospel. How does the gospel bring real courage?

1st – It reminds me the courage I find in my work is false. Self-salvation is a false and worthless gospel.

2nd – It tells me weakness is not childish – but it is where I most powerfully and beautifully taste and experience the power of Christ in me.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. II Corinthians 12:9

3rd –  When I see I cannot save myself – that is I cannot give myself courage, comfort, or wisdom to make the anxiety go away – I see how hopeless my efforts are. Even more – when God shows me that in trying to save myself that I am replacing Jesus as my Savior – I see how great a sinner I am and how great a SAVIOR I really need. Yes, I need a Savior who can give me courage – but even more, I need a Savior who can truly deal with my great SIN.

4th –  Jesus, came and lived a completely pleasing life to God and died in my place – pleasing God for my sin. This is a GREAT SAVIOR. When I turn to Him in my fear, I am reminded – that God is fully “pleased” with me. He is not pleased because I am weak and certainly not because I try and replace Him when I am scared. I am pleasing … because the perfect pleasing life of Jesus lives in me. So because I am pleasing – I run to Him IN my fear.

5th –  Here is the best thing I get when I run to Jesus in my fear – His presence! He never left me – but somehow in my fear – I forget? I don’t know – but what I do know is I’m often not aware he is there. When I run to Him IN my fear and hear – “pleasing” – I always experience His presence that brings courage, comfort, and wisdom.

Fear still comes … and often I still try and save myself from this fear. But I’m learning to hear His whisper sooner – run to him quicker – and rest in His work – not mine – that gives me real courage, real comfort and real wisdom in my fear.

“Christ lives in me.” According to Galatians 2:20, this is a reality for all those who have faithed Jesus in order to be right before God. Oh that this reality was my reality every day – every hour!

In 1979, yes 1979, a movie was released entitled “Alien” that contained a scene I will never forget. While around a lunch table on an alien planet, several explorers where eating when an alien literally exploded out of a man’s chest. I was in 10th grade and I remember my reaction like it was yesterday: I exploded off my seat and screamed like I had never screamed before. Needless to say – this scene was intended to shock and scare because it happened right in the middle of a calm moment in an otherwise tense film. If you will – let me draw some strange but true parallels from this film and our reality of “Christ lives in me”.

  • Just like the man in the movie – we have someone living in us – housed in our body and soul. But what lives in us is not an alien or someone – it is GOD! The One who flung the stars into space, who put breath into your lungs, and life into your soul – lives in you!
  • Just like the man in the movie – most of us don’t realize the life changing implications of Christ in us or the Holy Spirit actually dwelling in us.

God lives in you. He has made your soul his home. Literally, by faith in the work of the cross that has made you holy before God – holy God has come to live in us. We are His temple. He has come to dwell in us so we can know the joy and love of God through the presence of God Himself. This is why we were created – to know the joy and love of God’s presence with us. But, he also dwells in us because He is transforming – restoring us into the very perfect and holy image of God we were designed to reflect in and through our soul. Our soul was fractured by sin – broken if you will. In Christ – we are being restored every day by the indwelling Spirit of God.

Here is one practical truth from Galatians 2:20 and the statement – “Christ lives in me”.

If we reminded ourselves of the reality of Christ in us – everyday – we would more often enjoy God’s presence and submit to His restoring work in us.

I remember the shock and fear on the people’s faces in that scene as the alien burst from that man’s body. I often wonder how shocked people are around me – when God comes out of me – in love, in mercy, in truth, in hope, in the words of the gospel, and more. Oh, how I want the reality of Christ in me to not be a shock or surprise to me or others. Pray with me this week: Oh Lord, help us believe and live today with the reality that YOU GOD – live in us. May this move us to enjoy you today and submit to the beautiful and powerful restoration project You are about in us.

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” –  Galatians 2:20 (ESV)

Click here to read more about how God is with us. Here we have daily devotionals for all of the Advent Season.

Immanuel – God with us.

God came to be with us.

Jesus, the Son of God – came – lived – died – rose again – ascended to the Father.

God came to be with us.

 

But – Does He still come now?

 

Does God’s presence still come and invade our world, our lives and our souls?

Does holy God intervene in our world today?

Does holy God still step into our broken society and our war torn world?

 

Does holy God intervene in our lives today?

Does holy God still heal broken bodies and restore broken relationships?

 

Does holy God intervene in our souls today?

Does holy God still draw souls to him and restore the depths of our broken souls?

 

The Holy Spirit of God is God’s promise – that His presence is still with us moving in our world, our lives, and our souls.

And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago.

The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him. Ephesians 1:13-14 (NLT)

 

Jesus Christ rescued us – TO BE WITH GOD.

We were rescued by the work of Christ so that we can be with God. We were not just forgiven – we have been reconciled, united, and adopted into the family of God as sons and daughters. We are one with God, and the promise of our eternal union is God’s own Spirit.

God’s rescue does not end at a reunion. He is also restoring us to what we were supposed to be – the very image of God. Once again, the Spirit of God is the One at work in us restoring the very “depths of our broken souls.”

 

Today – by faith in Jesus and His work alone – you can be reconciled to, united with, and adopted into God’s family.

Trust your soul to Jesus. Call out to Jesus. Confess that your soul is broken and rebellious and Jesus will rescue you and begin to restore you – today. God’s presence will be with you and in you today.

 

But to all who did receive Jesus, who believed in his name,

he gave the right to become children of God. John 1:12 (ESV)

 

Today, as God’s son or daughter, you can know His presence through His Spirit.

Often God feels far away, or not even here, but this is a lie. Because of Jesus’ work – not ours – God is always with us, united with us, working in us. We may forget. We may not recognize His work at times. But He is with us.

Today, call out to Jesus and ask Him to intervene in your life. The Spirit of God will move. He will be with you, because God is still with us.

 

 

 

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. — John 1:14

God’s glory – is the overwhelming greatness of who He. We best see His glory and know His glory in Jesus. In and through the gospel of Jesus – we see and know God’s glory. Today, may we see and know the glory of God in Jesus as we worship together.

Today:

Gather with the body of Christ and worship Jesus in all His glory. As we connect together, read the scripture, sing of Him, pray to Him, – may we see and know the glory of God in Christ.

If you have children:

On your way to worship this morning – pray for your kid’s teachers, pray for worship and all those who will lead, and pray for your family. You can do this while you are driving. Make each prayer short (the younger your kids – keep the prayers shorter). Encourage them to pray and give them one thing to pray for. (For example – let one kid pray for their teacher. Let one pray for the worship team. Let one pray for you.) What do they / we pray for: Pray for hearts to worship Jesus. Pray for ears to hear God today. Pray for us to love each other. Etc.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. — John 1:14

God came to earth. God came to us. The Son of God came and fully revealed the perfect and true presence of God to us. If you want to know who God is and what He is like – look at Jesus. All through the scripture, we see His attributes in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. He is love, life, peace, kindness, power, mercy, joy, and more. In all these things – He fully revealed the perfect and true presence of God.

Today:

Ask God to help you see Him in the scripture today. Read John 1 – the whole chapter again and ask Him to help you see Him and know His presence.

 If you have children:

Ask your kids their favorite things about Jesus. Just talk about him for a few minutes. Tell them your favorite things. Enjoy the short conversation. May this time help us learn to speak of Jesus with our kids.

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. — John 1:1-2 

From eternity past, God the Father, God the Spirit, and God the Son have been together. Each has shared in their eternal joyFULL and loving presence for all of eternity. When the Spirit of God comes to live in us through the power of Christ’s work – we gain more than we ever could imagine. We are united with the eternal Triune God and share in their joy and love. The presence they have known forever – we now have – we now know.

Today:

As you pray, ask God to help you believe the joyFULL and loving presence of the Triune God is in you.

As you pray, ask God to help you experience and walk in His joyFULL and loving presence today.

As you pray, ask God to help His presence fill you with His joy and love today.

 If you have children:

Make a Christmas dessert together (cookies, pie, etc.) Purpose to find joy in the moment with God and your kids. Purpose to laugh, to love, and to enjoy their presence. Together – in Christ – is powerful. Enjoy!

24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.  — Matthew 1:24-25

Obedience is a simple thing. We hear from God. We obey. Yet, it is not that simple. We hear, and … often, well … we all struggle with obedience as followers of Christ. We forget God knows us, created us, and has a plan for our daily lives that is always woven into His greater master plan of redemption for all things. Every small thing God has for us – is a part of something greater – Him. Nothing God asks of us – whether to do or not to do something – is random, unimportant, or insignificant to us, the people around us, or Him. God helped Joseph see and believe and obey – with no “evidence”. Long before Joseph could see all the reasons he was to obey – God helped Him obey. May God help us “see” today – the greater plan and our Greater God – and obey.

Today:

Ask God to help you obey in that one area you have been struggling to obey. Ask Him to help you see the greater plan and Him as the Greater One who is only for your good. Ask Him now.

If you have children:

Have everyone tell a quick story (seriously quick) of a time you struggled to obey or didn’t. You go first! The point – we all struggle to obey – even parents. Laugh, connect, enjoy, and pray – God help us obey you today. Help us believe you have a plan that is bigger and greater than I can see.

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