Light In the Darkness

Think about a time when you were fumbling and stumbling around in a dark room, one that was so dark that you could not see your hand if you waved it right in front of your face. In situations like this, whether or not you will bump into something is inevitable at times, no matter how familiar you are with the room. Running into walls, knocking things over, tripping over the shoes that you forgot you left in the middle of the floor—this is what happens when we try to navigate in the dark. There is a fear that comes over the mind because you do not know who or what is in the room with you, and you cannot see the direction in which you are walking. When you think about it, it is easy to understand why the Bible often uses darkness as descriptions for states of foolishness, ignorance, evil, Christless living and recklessness. Darkness is the absence of light, but when light enters into that dark room, it becomes our source of knowledge, safety, direction, and truth. Light exposes things for what they truly are, and it reveals any potential hazards, like those shoes you left in the middle of the floor. As Christians, we believe the world is a dark place, but Jesus is the light that can push back the darkness. Matthew wrote, ““The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.” From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:15-17).” To a world that is living in darkness, the good news of Jesus Christ is light. The Lord’s invading light chases and pushes back the night until the space which was once covered in darkness becomes fully illuminated.

Christian, you carry that torch wherever you go. Jesus has commissioned his people to be the ambassadors of his kingdom, and we want to be a ministry that is driven by the gospel because we know there is a dark world that needs the treasured message we possess. We can sometimes be guilty of pretending the darkness does not exist. If you sit outside in the middle of the night near a park or an area that stays lit 24 hours, you may notice strange behaviors in birds. Though it is common for many birds to stay active at night, the ones that we usually hear at dawn are sometimes active well before the sun rises due to the artificial light illuminating the area. Park birds live in a perpetual state of ignorance as they sing their morning songs when it is still dark outside. Like these birds that sing at two o’clock in the morning, we can be guilty of saying, “‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14). Instead of living a lie and pretending the night does not exist, let us carry our torches into a world that needs real, eternal light—the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Post tenebras lux (After darkness, light). This phrase became the motto of the Protestant Reformation. After a time when the gospel had been hidden and distorted, a new dawn was breaking in the night sky. The message of the church to the world is that Jesus did for us what we could not do for ourselves. In our place, Jesus lived perfectly and died sacrificially. In his place, we are considered by God to be perfectly righteous by faith. Do not believe that message only to pretend like the world does not need to know it right now. Also, do not sit around and complain about how evil the world has become as if it has not always been this way. Instead, carry the torch, for if you lack the initiative to evangelize, what does that say about your trust in the gospel’s effective power? Labor onward, church.

Reflect on the words of this hymn written by Frank Houghton, “Facing a Task Unfinished.”

We bear the torch that flaming

Fell from the hands of those

Who gave their lives proclaiming

That Jesus died and rose;

Ours is the same commission,

The same glad message ours;

Fired by the same ambition,

To you we yield our pow’rs.

O Father, who sustained them,

O Spirit, who inspired

Savior, whose love constrained them

To toil with zeal untired,

From cowardice defend us,

From lethargy awake!

Forth on your errands send us

To labor for your sake.

Scriptures to ponder: John 8:12-32; Job 17:12-16; Isaiah 58:1-14; Isaiah 60:1-22


We Will Reap

Music has a way of connecting with the human mind, even if someone is not the musically-inclined type. One of the most captivating songs in our American popular culture is Journey’s 1981 hit, “Don’t Stop Believin’.” The iconic piano-led introduction into the first verse compels hearers to belt out the lyrics of the song, a chorus that says, “Don’t stop believin’ // Hold on to that feeling.” There is something in the human spirit that is naturally inclined to quit when things get tough. From trying to pick up guitar, to leaving the softball team, to refusing to fight for our friendships and marriages, we are often professional quitters. Maybe you have seen this translate into your walk with the Lord, too. How many Bible study plans have you failed to execute? If we are honest, every one of us has given up on many good things throughout our lives. Paul wrote a letter to the churches in Galatia that specifically addressed the problem of quitting on the gospel. False teachers had begun to infiltrate the Galatian churches and spread lies that contradicted the doctrines of the apostles, and as a result the people began abandoning the truth of salvation by faith in Christ alone. Galatians 5:7-8 says, “You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you.” There was great tension between the apostle and the members of these churches. They had previously embraced the good news by faith, but when false teachers began to apply pressure on them, they started to walk away. Later on, Paul encourages them with these words in Galatians 6:9: “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” When the Christian life gets difficult and tiresome, there are promises in this verse meant to encourage us to persist in our pursuit of Christ.

With all of the challenges that we have been facing over the past several months, perhaps none of those things have been more mentally and emotionally depleting than the conversations about the continuous systemic racial inequality experienced by African Americans in the US. However, our city had a week of inspiration and progress regarding these things. Streets that were occupied long ago by marching members of the Ku Klux Klan were filled with hundreds of black and white image-bearers of God, marching in solidarity for the dignity of black lives on Saturday, June 6. A variety of wonderful discussions related to racism have preceded and proceeded the rally, and as citizens of the Kingdom of God, we believe the conversation is ours to lead. Justice is a biblical idea, and the gospel of Jesus Christ is the only effective way forward. We know these things to be true, but what happens when we grow weary of our labor? The answer: we remind ourselves of Paul’s words in Galatians 6:9, “for in due season we will reap.” Keep sowing seeds. Keep loving people. Keep standing for what is right. Keep fighting for justice. Keep preaching the good news. Do not give up because God will bring the harvest of our faithfulness in its due time. On that day, we will be glad that we did not quit because souls will be won to Christ and those crooked systems that oppress Black America will be straightened. Those who are not sowing seeds when it comes to opposing racial injustice should not expect to have a harvest to reap because they put no seed in the ground. If you are still on the fence about this, do not try to water soil later that has no seed in it. Cultivate the area, plant your seed and see how the Lord uses it to further his Kingdom. As we read last week, there is no season in which the gospel is irrelevant, nor is there a time and place in which it cannot bear fruit. Thus it is wrong for the church to be silent on this issue, and we have been called by God to stand for justice, peace, righteousness, and truth. Indifference or neutrality is not a biblical position. Those of us who have been on board for racial justice, do not give up. Keep protecting and feeding that seed so it will grow to bear fruit in the future. This is not the end, but the beginning of a better Barnesville and a ministry that is more effective in our community. “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).

Scriptures to ponder: Galatians 2:11-14; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15; Romans 1:13-17; 2 Timothy 2:12


Whose Image is On You?

One of the most beloved Christian apologists, Ravi Zacharias was laid to rest last week after an aggressive battle with cancer. He will be remembered as a man that was always prepared to make a defense to anyone who asked for the reason for the hope that was within him (1 Peter 3:15). When people had the toughest of questions, Ravi answered each of them with wisdom and truth. Conveniently, his recent passing has flooded social media with some of his most memorable talks, Q&A sessions, and quotes. One of Ravi’s favorite events regarding the life and ministry of Christ happened when the Pharisees tried to trap Jesus in his words to cause political discord by asking if it was lawful for Jews in Judea to pay taxes to Caesar. Jesus asked for a coin to use during an object lesson. Holding the coin, Jesus asked, “Whose image and inscription is on the coin?” “Caesar,” they answered. Jesus wisely responded, “Give, then, to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Matthew 22:22 says, “When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away.” Ravi loved to propose this insight at the end of this story: “The disingenuousness of the questioner is noticed in the fact that he did not come back with a second question. He should have said, “What belongs to God?” And Jesus would have said, “Whose image is on you?””

The disappointing reality of systemic racial inequality against African Americans has caused many in our community and country to reflect on the state of things and to seek a right path forward. As members of the Christian church, we believe we know the most effective path forward because lasting hope is only uncovered in Jesus and heinous hearts are only changed by believing in the gospel of Christ. When it comes to uniting people, Jesus is the greatest bridge we know. When it comes to our sin problem, Jesus fully restores, justifies and reconciles us to God by his substitutionary atonement. As C.H. Spurgeon said, “I have a great need for Christ; I have a great Christ for my need.” Because we are the children of God, we have the opportunity to speak the truth of God’s Word into this urgent situation where it needs to be heard. There is no season in which the gospel is irrelevant, nor is there a time and place in which it cannot bear fruit. Thus it is wrong for the church to be silent on this issue, and we have been called by God to stand for justice, peace, righteousness, and truth. And so we ask with Ravi Zacharias, “Whose image is on you?” Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” This week, we will look at two ways of how this biblical statement should embolden believers to stand against the injustices affecting people of color in the United States of America.

  1. Whose image is on African Americans? Black lives matter to God. Celebrating the worthiness of black life is not new territory for our ministry which includes African American men and women in our community and campus, but we gladly reaffirm what we have always believed as Christians, that humans of all melanin contents per cell have an equal and divine dignity, and this merit graciously covers all of us who share kinship to our father, Adam. Humans are the only creatures on earth chosen by the Lord to reflect his likeness. God Almighty has taken interest in people of every color. John writes in Revelation 5:9 that “by (his) blood Jesus ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” Truthfully, desegregation was God’s idea before it was man’s, “for there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him (Romans 10:12).” Specifically to people of African descent, in Acts 8 an angel sent Philip to a black man from Ethiopia. This man was reading the book of Isaiah while sitting in his chariot, but he had not yet heard of how Jesus fulfilled the words of the scroll in his hands. So the Holy Spirit led Philip to share the gospel with this man. The Ethiopian was eager to believe in Christ, and with joy and haste he was baptized as soon as his eyes saw water, but first the God of heaven eagerly sought him because black lives matter to God. African Americans are made in God’s image, and he secured the eternal destinies of a multitude of black souls by dying on a cross for them. Black lives matter on earth because they matter in heaven.
  2. Whose image is on you? Ravi Zacharias summed up his insight to the story from Matthew 22 this way: “Give to Caesar that which belongs to Caesar; give to God that which belongs to God. God’s image is on you.” So how should you respond to this biblical truth? Give yourself to God. When you belong to the Lord, he calls you to a higher standard of obedience. He calls you to recognize and stand for the dignity of black lives. He calls you to make disciples of people who may not look like you until every shade of skin bows to the King of kings. He calls you to speak the gospel into a broken world so that the words “Jesus is Lord” will be uttered in every language. He calls you to support the straightening of crooked systems that oppress our black neighbors. He calls you to remove all barriers within your power that separate you from your black Christian brothers and sisters so that you may experience the fullness of church fellowship with them. Give yourself to God, Christian, lest we lose this golden opportunity to show the world how to love each other.

Scriptures to ponder: Romans 12:15-18; Acts 10:34-35; Mark 3:5; Colossians 3:11-17; James 1:19-2:4


Waiting for the Light to Turn Green

Has this ever happened to you? You are in your car and have somewhere to be, and you’re in a bit of a crunch for time. You’re already running late, and as you approach an intersection, the traffic light ahead changes from green to yellow and eventually red, interrupting your steady pace. Cars pass by on the left and right for several minutes. To occupy your time in your idle state, you try to find something to do. You turn the volume knob a few clicks clockwise, and the sound of music eases your impatience, but only for a moment. The song ends and the next song on the playlist begins to stream, yet the light is still red. “What is taking so long?” you think to yourself. There are no vehicles crossing the intersection, and the wait seems rather pointless. You lightly release your foot off the break, assuming maybe that it is a ground sensor issue. The light still has not changed. Tired of waiting, you elect to turn right at the red light and perform a U-turn to avoid waiting any longer. It is funny how lazy red lights can drive us crazy as our sinful hearts leak feelings of frustration and impatience.

This familiar experience presents a metaphor for how many of us are feeling in the middle of the COVID-19 Pandemic. We were steadily rolling along with our fast-paced routines, and then the light changed and forced us to hit the breaks. For the most part, we have learned to manage with the new normal, but the wait has been cumbering, and the State’s relaxed restrictions cloud some perceptions of what kinds of behaviors are safe and unsafe. But as we wait at this intersection for the time being, what does God expect of us as we wait for the green light at Thrive Ministry?

The New Testament church faced all kinds of obstacles, but a frequent theme throughout the apostolic writings is the desire to gather together and to interconnect with other local churches. In the second chapter of his letter to the church at Philippi, Paul spoke of two individuals he was sending to their congregation for ministry purposes—Timothy and Epaphroditus. As we prepare to finally gather again in the foreseeable future—Lord willing—let us briefly look at what Paul says of the character qualities of these men as they were waiting for the light to turn green for their arrival, and perhaps we will get a glimpse of the manner in which God wants us to return, whenever that day may be.

Timothy is the more recognizable of the two individuals Paul mentions in Philippians 2:19-30. In addition to mentioning Timothy throughout his many letters, he also wrote entire letters specifically addressed to him. Paul undoubtedly invested much of his life in discipling young Timothy, which is why he wrote in Philippians 2:20-22, “For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel.” Paul highlighted Timothy’s attention to genuinely caring for the people of Christ’s church. Timothy served selflessly, and his devotion to Christ and his saints set him apart from others who sought after their own ambitions. Timothy believed that the movement of God is bigger than just one person. If Thrive is going to be effective, we must collectively exist as a singular river rushing forward with the power of the Holy Spirit.

When Paul sent the original letter to the church at Philippi, it arrived by the hand of Epaphroditus. This God-inspired text was entrusted to him as he made the journey to deliver the message to the Philippian believers, but his work for the Kingdom of Jesus was not always easy. Relevant to our current state of emergency, Epaphroditus contracted a deadly illness as he was working alongside Paul in Rome. Paul said in Philippians 2:25-30, “I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him… I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again… So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.” Even in his sickness, Epaphroditus was concerned for those of his home church rather than himself. After God made him well, he got up from his bed and continued laboring for the gospel. While we do not know exactly what afflicted Epaphroditus, Paul made it clear that the work he put into the gospel ministry in light of his sickness required honorable sacrifice on his part. Epaphroditus championed an attitude towards service that mirrored Christ’s example. Upon our return, may our hearts be prepared to say, “We get to do this,” as we gladly open our hands to whatever the Holy Spirit wants.

In many ways and for many reasons, the light is still red for now, but hopefully we will be together again soon. Until then, let us ask the Lord to develop these characteristics in us and the people in our ministry. Let’s be equipped and prepared for whenever that light turns green. This God-appointed season should not be wasted.

Scriptures to ponder: Galatians 1:15-24; Philippians 2:1-11; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Romans 2:28-29


Q-Tips and Holiness

What are the various ways you can use Q-tips? There are several suggestions on the back of the packaging of this brand of cotton swabs, and you have probably never paid attention to them. You can use them for makeup purposes, including applying eyeshadow or eyeliner. They can be helpful in cleaning dust out of tight areas that are hard to reach, like the keys on a keyboard or slots in an air vent. They also suggest using them for applying creams and ointments to your skin and caring for infants. Some people even use Q-tips for art projects, using them as paint brushes or for making sculptures. Interestingly, most people do not buy Q-tips for the previously mentioned reasons. Instead, most consumers buy a pack of cotton swabs because they use them to clean wax out of their ears. It is fascinating to think that ear cleaning is not mentioned anywhere on the packaging. It is also not listed on the Q-tips website, and neither does the Q-tips Instagram account show a photo of someone inserting a cotton swab into their ear. Yes, there really is a Q-tips Instagram account and it probably has more followers than you, though their last post was in 2016. Since everyone is buying these things as a means to remove earwax, why does Q-tips not market their product as the premier ear cleaner? If you use cotton swabs in your ear canals regularly, your doctor has probably noticed, and maybe he/she has even recommended an alternative method for removing earwax. This is because it has been scientifically proven that using cotton swabs could potentially damage a person’s hearing ability by injuring various parts of the ear and impacting wax deep within the ear canal. Although most people know this is a bad method of ear cleaning, it is still the most common way to handle ear care. This is why Q-tips does not officially suggest using their cotton swabs for this purpose, though it is the most popular reason people buy them.

In his first letter, Peter mentions a war that is being waged by the sinful nature against every believer, a struggle to live out God’s purpose for all of his children—holiness. 1 Peter 1:14-16 says, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’” What does it mean to be holy? It means to be set apart in righteousness. While unbelievers in the world are living their lives to follow the desires of the sinful nature, God has not called his children to follow a pattern of disobedience. Instead, God tells us to live out every facet of our lives in holy obedience, not because it is easy or popular, but because it is our right purpose as followers of Jesus Christ. The moment you came to faith in Christ, you had a change in identity and purpose. As the apostle said in 1 Peter 2:9-10, “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 call you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” 

If these words from God are true of you, these realities will be evident in your life, not perfectly, but we believe you will live to worship. Worship will be a lifestyle and not just something the collective church body does once a week. So examine your own life. How are you striving to be holy like Jesus? As people do with Q-tips, we sometimes give ourselves over to harmful purposes that warrant unwanted consequences. Do not step across the line of disobedience, for the Word of God tells us what it looks like to be holy. A box of Q-tips may give suggestions of how to use cotton swabs, yet God does not give suggestions, but he gives commands. He says to be holy, and this is not an option for the believer. Compromise his commands, and you will risk losing the sense of hearing of God’s Word, hardening your conscience. As a follower of Christ, you have been given instructions regarding your divine purpose, to live in holy obedience, and the Scriptures provide the direction you need to do this rightly. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Matthew 11:15).

Scriptures to ponder: Revelation 3:1-6; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18; Romans 12:1-2; Ecclesiastes 12:1-14; Ephesians 4:17-5:21; 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8


Con – Fide

“What’s wrong with being confident?” This was a statement made by pop music artist, Demi Lovato in her 2015 hit, “Confident.” Demi, a former Disney star had broken free from the restrictions of the children’s entertainment company, and this new sense of self-confidence became a banner over her life. Is there anything wrong with being confident? If your confidence is rightly placed, no. However, a confidence that is misplaced can be disastrous. An atheist man once said that he does not have “faith” in scientific theories that he has not personally observed, but rather said he has “confidence” that they are true. What is confidence? The word has Latin roots, and breaking the word down can give us a true sense of what it means to be confident. The word confident comes from the Latin words con and fide. It literally means “with faith.” So to be confident is to have faith. Everyone has faith in something, but where is the right place to set your faith? What kind of faith is destructive, and what kind is acceptable?

Self-confidence is a terribly misleading concept, a Paganistic doctrine that influences many to justify their own pride. It is blindly selfish and promotes the gratification of fleshly desires. It is the Serpent’s lie, the belief that you have the right to disregard God’s authority and write your own story, one in which you are the hero. Though the world may applaud you for boldly “living your truth,” truth is not a concept shaped and chiseled by the human will. It has been set in eternal stone by the Lord God, our Maker. James 4:6 says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Confidence is rightly placed when it is exclusively set in the God of the Bible. This is the kind of confidence exemplified in the life of Jesus. In John 6:38, he said, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.” If the Lord Jesus Christ’s confidence was in God the Father, then we for sure have no right to arrogantly place our confidence in ourselves. You will never find such a verse of Scripture that encourages you to boost your self-esteem, but God’s Word tells us over and over to trust in the Lord.

So, what is wrong with being confident? Nothing, as long as your confidence is in the Lord Jesus Christ, the supreme one. Although these are unusual days, and there does not seem to be a definite end in sight to the aberrancy of our current situation, maybe this is the time when you learn to do something you may have actually never done before. Truly trust in Jesus. Be confident, not in self, but in the God who is faithful to guide all who trust in him. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” David said in Psalm 20:7-8, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright.” Your bold faith in the Lord may be rare in a world that is scrambling around trying to figure things out, but those who find confidence in themselves will eventually realize the error of their pride, and their end will be in ruin. Even though we will let ourselves down, we can be sure that God always gets the victory. As we love to say at Thrive, Jesus is everything. And if Christ is going to be our identity, we must each align ourselves with his manner of self-denial.

Scriptures to ponder: Hebrews 10:39-12:2; Philippians 2:3-11; 2 Corinthians 3:1-6; James 4:7-10; Philippians 3:2-11


May Flowers

It seems that Justin Timberlake was right again when he said that it was “gonna be May.” Though it may be hard to imagine, we have been living the new normal for almost two months. The COVID-19 pandemic has turned our plans upside down and made us uncomfortable in so many different ways, and our hands have been forced to find new ways of thriving together. Hopefully you have not been too quarantined to enjoy the lovely spring weather of the past several weeks. It is amazing how quickly nature transforms during this time of the year. Every tree branch is full of leaves, providing a canopy for the ground below. Yards have gone from bare and brown to fluffy and lush green. Flowers have bloomed and decorated our fields and gardens with myriads of colors. Each blossom aromatizes the air with its sweet fragrance. Bees pollinate. Frogs croak. Birds sing. The sun beams its warmth from the sky above. The wind is gently sent across the land. Though our routines have changed, our outdoor experiences are reminding us that time did not stop in March 2020. It is the month of May, and spring is here to stay for a little while. There is an English proverb that says, “April showers bring May flowers.” This saying can be interpreted, “Things may be bad now, but something good will come out of this.” It is often used to encourage those going through tough times.

April was a difficult month for many people. If a novel virus was not enough, a tornado ripped through our area, leveling out whatever stood in its path. Additional storms and heavy showers hovered over our heads for several days. April found some workers unemployed and waiting on their stimulus checks from the government. Georgia’s coronavirus death toll reached 1,000 souls. The economy continued to tank through the entire month. April was not easy, but behold, a new month has dawned, so let us remember this: “April showers bring May flowers.” How can we find truth and encouragement in those words today? Scripture will help us answer that question.

There is a popular televangelist who recently broadcasted a conversation he had with the coronavirus (yes, he was talking to a virus), and he attempted to “blow the wind of God” to destroy the disease. This man represents a theology that teaches that God’s people will not suffer loss, defeat, poverty, or sickness, but will instead experience wealth, health, and prosperity. That was certainly not what many of the faithful saints of the Bible experienced. The prophet said in Habakkuk 3:17-18, “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” Notice these two things from this passage of Scripture:

  1. There will be seasons in which the flowers do not bloom. We will experience times of sickness and disease. God does not promise that life will be easy. Will the month of May be better than April? We can certainly hope and pray so, but the Lord will do with it whatever he desires.
  2. Habakkuk is able to rejoice despite his suffering because he finds a greater value and joy in his relationship with the Lord.


Every spring, we rightly expect nature to come to life, and COVID-19 will eventually cease to be the same threat that it is today. There will likely come a day in which it is safe to gather in crowds and shake hands again. We do not yet know when that day will be, but we anticipate it. When that day does come, it is a sure testimony to the providence of God, but it is important to remember that our sufferings will not cease when this pandemic is over. Every tragedy God graciously delivers us from is only a foreshadow of a coming day spoken of in Revelation 21:4, when God comes to live with his people. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” As we treasure Christ, not only will we see that the value of knowing him surpasses all other things, but we will also be equipped to joyfully persevere through anything we may face as we approach the day when our final hope is realized. April showers bring May flowers.


Scriptures to ponder: Psalm 30:1-5; John 16:31-33; Romans 8:15-30; Titus 2:11-15; Job 22:24-26; Romans 15:13; Romans 12:12



Jesus, Cleft for Me

Halfway between the cities of Barnesville and Thomaston sits a community known as “The Rock.” How does a place inherit such an unusual name? The story begins before any of these towns existed. Americans began to settle the land in our neck of the woods during the early nineteenth century. One of these early settlers was Dr. James Anderson, whose house is still standing today on Highway 36. Back then, the mail ran by stagecoach, and with no post office around in 1816, Anderson told the stagecoach driver, “Put my mail in the hole in that rock.” There was a giant boulder near his home that had a cleft in the side of it, perfect for keeping mail safe and dry until it could be retrieved by Anderson or others in the area. Whenever mail was addressed to “the rock in Georgia,” it made its way to the hole in the rock close to Anderson’s home. After locals began traveling by buggy to the rock to get their mail, people began to refer to the town as “The Rock.” Though the boulder had to be blasted to make room for the highway, a remnant still remains with a plaque, designating it as the site of the “First Post Office at The Rock.” The town owes its name to a hole in the side of a rock, a haven for mail delivery.

This story is reminiscent of an English hymn written by Augustus Toplady in 1763. He was said to have been inspired to write this hymn after encountering a storm and finding shelter underneath a cleft in a nearby rock. This experience led him to think of Exodus 33:22, when the Lord hid Moses within a cleft in a rock as his glory passed by. The lyrics read:

Rock of ages, cleft for me

Let me hide myself in Thee

Let the water and the blood

From Thy wounded side which flowed

Be of sin the double cure

Cleanse me from its guilt and pow’r

What does it mean to call Jesus a “rock?” Language like this is used all over Scripture to describe God. A rock is solid, dependable, safe, sturdy, and ancient. Rocks provide a foundation to firmly stand upon and a shelter to hide under. For the believer, Jesus is like a cleft in a rock. He is our hiding place and eternal refuge. Paul says in Colossians 3:3, “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” This means that as a believer, you are fully and eternally secure with the Father and Son. Your destiny is hidden forever within the Cleft, Jesus Christ.

When Toplady wrote “Rock of Ages,” he included a few clever puns, one of them being the word “cleft.” Toplady implies that Jesus is the cleft, a split or hole in a rock. However, cleft can also be the past-tense form of the verb cleave, meaning “to split apart or sever.” So Jesus was cleft (cleaved) for me. His body was broken and severed to save me from sin’s guilt and power. According to Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:4, the Lord gave the Israelites a foreshadowing of Christ as they thirsted for water in the desert. In Exodus 17:6, God told Moses to “strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” The crucified Christ is the rock which was struck, cleft and severed, and his wounds are a fountain of salvation for any who will drink from his stream.

In these strange days, you need to know that Jesus Christ is like a cleft in a rock. He is a safe haven for everyone who makes him their place of refuge. This is all because he was cleft by those who pierced him. Jesus can become your rock of refuge when your heart cries out to him, “Let me hide myself in Thee.” Whoever is found in the Rock will be eternally secure, whether we live or die. Through Christ, God has delivered salvation once for all, addressed to “The Rock” and hidden safely within its cleft. You would be wise to make your home with him.

Scriptures to ponder: Philippians 3:7-11; Romans 6:8-10; John 10:25-30; 1 Peter 2:4-10; Jude 1:20-25; Psalm 95:1-11; John 4:7-14


Because He Cares For You


“Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3). These were the first words recorded by Matthew in Jesus’ most famous sermon. Who are the “poor in spirit?” These are people who have come to the realization that their self-sufficiency is not enough to carry on, those who realize that they must depend on God to be alive and thrive. The COVID-19 pandemic has backed all of us into an unforeseen corner. Everyone reading this has lost something because of the coronavirus. For some, it may be your health or the life of a loved one. It may be a once-in-a-lifetime experience or milestone you were looking forward to celebrating. Many have lost their jobs and sources of income. Perhaps, it is the comforting presence of friends and family that has been taken from you. You may have realized that after these things were taken away, you experienced an addition of dealings with grief, discomfort, anxiety, and weakness, creating a quarantine paradox of sorts. Life’s frustrations bring insurmountable weights that are impossible to carry alone. There is a truth, simple and straightforward, that should cause everlasting joy to spring up within each believer in Christ. It is a truth that can be a rock to those needing something solid to stand upon, and it will never change. This divine truth is that God cares for you, and he would love to carry your burden today. In 1 Peter 5:7, the apostle comforts an anxious audience with that simple truth. Dwell on that for a moment. The Lord of all creation does not leave the mortal world to its chaotic end, but he is sovereignly involved in caring for his creation.

The late seventeenth century saw the rise of Deism, a religious philosophy that had taken root in many societal strongholds. This god is impersonal and indifferent when it comes to the welfare of humanity, but the God of Scripture wants to carry our burdens because he cares for us. The Lord is not a God who cares for us from afar; he is not socially distancing himself from his people. Jesus comes near to bless the poor in spirit, those who recognize their own insufficiency. He is strong enough to carry every temporal weight, but first takes upon himself the weight of our sin debt. The great Puritan minister, John Bunyan wrote about this in The Pilgrim’s Progress, a story that allegorically illustrates the Christian life. The protagonist, named Christian, upon feeling the weight of sin roll off his shoulders at the sight of the cross, sang this song:

Thus far did I come laden with my sin,

Nor could aught ease the grief that I was in,

Till I came hither. What a place is this!

Must here be the beginning of my bliss?

Must here the burden fall from off my back?

Must here the strings that bound it to me crack?

Blest cross! Blest sepulchre! Blessed rather be

The Man that there was put to shame for me!

Have you never felt the weight of your sin debt fall off your back? See your Savior, Jesus Christ carrying your own cross. He bears the burdens of sin for the poor in spirit, and he also asks us to throw our everyday anxieties upon him. Why? Peter says, “because he cares for you.” Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Scriptures to ponder: Matthew 6:25-34; Philippians 4:6-7; Psalm 55; John 14:1-7; Psalm 94:16-23


No Pinch Hitting for Jesus

There are several springtime traditions many are having to put back on the shelf due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Among those things is America’s pastime, the game of baseball. By now, kids should be fielding grounders, ballparks should be full on Friday nights, and people in our neck of the woods should be doing the Tomahawk Chop. Baseball has shaped the national culture for over a century, from making the baseball cap fashionable to opening the door of racial desegregation. Because no one is currently stepping onto a pitcher’s mound, fans have been able to relive some of the most incredible baseball moments from the past, which frequently air on TV these days. One of those memories for Atlanta Braves fans occurred on May 20, 2010. It was the bottom of the ninth inning with the bases loaded, one out, and Cincinnati was on top of Atlanta by three runs. Atlanta sent Brooks Conrad to bat, who hit a 97 mph fastball that bounced off the left fielder’s glove and over the wall for a homerun. It was a walk-off grand slam to win the game for the Braves. If you remember Brooks Conrad, you may recall that he was not the best defender, but he was usually a reliable “pinch hitter.” What is a pinch hitter? It is someone who comes off the bench into a game as a substitute batter, sometimes at a critical point in the game. Pinch hitters have been some of the most memorable, unlikely heroes in baseball history.

When it comes to his work as Sovereign of the universe, Jesus does not need a pinch hitter, so don’t try to push him out of the batter’s box. God alone created all things without the aid of anyone else. The Lord says through the prophet Isaiah in 44:24, “Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: “I am the LORD, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself.”” John writes of Jesus, “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” Likewise, God does NOT need your help in your salvation. In Ephesians 2:8-10, Paul writes, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Also, Jesus said in John 6:44, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” We do not have a gospel that says that God asks us to meet him halfway, but one that says that God came to us, literally in the Person of Jesus Christ. When Jesus steps up to the plate of your salvation, he never swings and misses. He is powerful to save because of his death and resurrection. Faith in Christ is the only way to have victory over sin and death. Jesus does not need a pinch hitter.

Whenever pressed with tragedies (like the Coronavirus), some believers feel the need to act as God’s pinch hitter. You may believe it is your job to help God out before a world of people asking, “Where is God?” But God does not need rescuing during this worldwide pandemic. As John Piper explained, “The same sovereignty that could stop the coronavirus, yet doesn’t, is the very sovereignty that sustains the soul in it.” So do not accept a theology that dethrones God in the middle of this pandemic. He is not a God that is fighting against this virus. He is a God that sent it with purpose, and only he can define his reason. So get out of the batter’s box and let him swing away. Jesus does not need you to pinch hit for him. Hopefully, the truth of God’s sovereignty can bring you comfort as you walk by faith in Christ.

Scriptures to ponder: Romans 8:18-39; Psalm 115:2-3; Genesis 50:15-21; Colossians 1:15-20; Job 40, 41, 42:1-9