You are our king - even when this present moment feels like chaos.
You are good - even when life doesn't feel that good right now.
You are peace - even when anxiety spikes because of uncertainty.
You are able to heal brokenness - even when there is injustice in our relationships.
You are able to unify opposition - even in our political divisions.
You are able to rebuild destroyed cities - even in the wind and waves of hurricanes.
You own all things - even when we fear the loss economic stability.
You promise protection - even in this uncontrollable global pandemic.
You are near - even in these moments of physical distancing in every area of life.
Jesus - remind us that you are king.
May we feel your goodness and peace.
May we experience your healing and unity.
May we advocate for the least, the lonely, and those whose lives and cities have been destroyed.
May we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that all we have is yours.
You are for us.
You are with us.
You love us.
Thank you, Jesus for listening to me.
Thank you for your grace.
Thank you for your mercy.
Thank you for your forgiveness.
Thank you for your love.
May I now be quiet and listen to you speak your grace and truth through silent moments, your spoken and written word, and the voices of the people you have placed in my life.
The writer of Psalm 69 feels like he is drowning in injustice. What he is experiencing is not right. From being falsely accused to being discriminated against; and from being bullied to being shamed because of who he is - all of the "-isms" are seemingly experienced by this one person.
We might be able to in-part, relate. From economic uncertainty to educational instability and from community health to social injustice – these are all realities that are happening to us. Like the psalm writer, life is out of our control.
We discover that we and the psalm writer are after the same thing: grace and justice (judgment).
Grace and justice (judgment) are two sides of the same coin. But, I’ve never thought about it in the way my friend Keith and I unpacked it in this past week’s Monday Morning Preacher Podcast.
Check it out.
"When we try to apply grace legalistically, what happens is that you end getting rid of justice". - B. Keith Haney
Wow. Grace was never meant to be legalized - it is meant to be liberally given, not by a policy or proclamation, but by a person.
"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14).
Making laws that govern grace never works to bring peace, freedom, a celebration of the diversity of God's creation, the equity of the gospel, or the inclusion of a mosaic of people with incredible gifts and abilities. If anything, making laws to ensure grace abounds only makes us more keenly aware of the grace that is lacking in our lives and in our world.
"God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant" (Romans 5:20).
If we want to pursue a more equal, inclusive, diverse, and just community, society, and world, then let's stop trying to legalize grace in a system that was never made to give it. We are the givers of grace. Person-to-person. Face-to-face. Life-on-life.
"All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).
Who do you know needs "good news" today? Go and be it... and give it! Because the law isn't working anymore.
As we continue our Psalms message series this week, we will sit with Psalm 130. It begins: "Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord" (Psalm 130:1).
In Jim Collin's book, Good to Great, he shares the story about how Admiral Stockdale served in Vietnam and was captured before being put into a POW camp. There, he learned an attitude that allowed him to survive. Some POW’s would try to encourage themselves with unrealistic optimism (they were going to be rescued by Christmas). However, in their optimism, they neglected to be brutally honest about their current reality. Meanwhile, other POW’s would face the brutal facts about their situation. They sat in despair and became hopeless. Eventually they became depressed and suicidal.
Admiral Stockdale was able to hold both the brutal facts and unwavering hope together. They seem contradictory; however, this tension brought reality and perseverance.
The brutal facts are all around us. With so many contentious issues filling the headlines (and our minds) today, it may feel like we are in a deep hole.
Perhaps, Billy Joel was right... "we didn't start the fire." But, the reality is that we are in "the depths." A deep, deep hole. Perhaps we've always been in a deep, deep hole since nothing is new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9). That's for another blog.
Like Admiral Stockdale, we need to embrace the brutal facts and unwavering hope together. They seem contradictory; however, this tension brings reality and perseverance.
Some put their unwavering hope only in reason and proofs; systems and theories. Others only spiritualize hope or even take it to the point of unrealistic optimism. Unwavering hope is found in that someone outside of ourselves who actually comes and tangibly rescues us.
"Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Romans 7:24-25).
That's the kind of hope we need today. And we have it.
The truth is, we have a better hope and a different Savior than the world has to offer. It isn't only better systems or deeper reasoning. It isn't only a deeper sense of the spiritual or being a voice of advocacy. Our better hope and different Savior is the truth, love, and grace of Jesus who has come to inclusively save every human being (and even all creation!) from the hole we all find ourselves in.
Since we have this hope in Jesus, I wonder what it would it look like for us to give this hope away to people "in the depths" with us. It's another way to seek the Lord as to how best to love God, love people, and live like Jesus.
Let's give it a try.
"Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God" (1 Peter 2:16).
"Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's case" (Isaiah 1:17).
"Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good" (1 Corinthians 12:7).
"You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God" (2 Corinthians 9:11).
"No one should seek their own good, but the good of others" (1 Corinthians 10:24).
"And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise" (Philippians 4:8).
I can't wait to spend more time with you in Psalm 130 this week.
Love you more than you know. - pt
Pastor Tim here.
Our third child is almost potty trained! (The heavens rejoice... and so do his parents!)
Perhaps you remember what this blessed milestone was like for your kids or grandkids. Or, maybe you've either unintentionally or intentionally forgotten those days (or have never had the opportunity to experience this highly experiential rite of passage). You can click here to learn what potty training is like from a toddler's point of view from one of my favorite blogs: The Honest Toddler.
Potty training is whole lot like pivoting in response to our current state of social and cultural affairs.
Today, Nora, Kristi, Gerod, Pastor Matt, and I are participating in Day 2 of the virtual Global Leadership Summit. I resonated with yesterday's lead off speaker, Craig Groeschel. He said that there are two certainties in this uncertain time:
Indeed. None of us know what will happen next. And, God has placed the right people together for a time such as this.
I'd add a third certainty: God is still with us.
Romans 8:38-39 says it so well: For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
So, however and wherever you find yourself pivoting this week, remember that just like Beth and I see an end in-sight for potty training, there is way forward as we navigate our current social and cultural realities. And whichever way forward we find ourselves stepping out into this week, may each of us find our boldness, confidence, and rest in the power and presence of Jesus whose loving arms are carrying us every step of the way.
Love you more than you know.
Meet Pastor Tim
Tim Bayer has served as Our Savior's Lead Pastor since September 2019. He also serves as an Adjunct Instructor at Concordia University - Irvine, a National Leadership Facilitator and Resource, and a Community Mental Health First Aid Instructor. Tim studied sociology, psychology, and theology prior to earning his M.Div at Concordia Seminary - St. Louis. He has also is a candidate for an Ed.D (ABD) in Transformational Leadership. He is married to Beth and they have three young children. Together, they enjoy exploring the outdoors, experiencing culture, and pizza and movie nights.