Justice to Victory. Matthew 12:15-21 — Breakfast With Dad

by Cliff Bursch on April 26, 2021 | Breakfast With Dad Devotional

Matthew 12:15:21 Aware of this (that the Pharisees plotted to kill him), Jesus withdrew from that place. A large crowd followed him, and he healed all who were ill. He warned them not to tell others about him. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations. He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory. In his name the nations will put their hope.”

Jesus came to the planet Earth powerless, as a baby without any promise of physical inheritance, for his Father was God, not Joseph. He was not born out of royalty within a protective, clean environment; He was born in a stable. He lived the early part of his adult life as a carpenter. After his baptism, He became an ember of fire for God, touching people through his teachings and actions [read more… ]

Breakfast With Dad is a collection of devotions on books of the Bible that I send out to over 150 friends and family. I hope you will take time to read the most recent blog and maybe one of two from past offerings. If you have an interest in studying the Bible or have been thinking about starting a daily devotion, this would be a good place to start. I hope these "breakfasts" encourage you. -- Cliff Bursch

Easter Sunday Meditation

by Dan Behrens on April, 4, 2021 | Evergreen Foursquare Church

Jesus Christ is Risen! Praise God! Today is Easter Sunday, and all over the world Christians are celebrating our resurrected Lord and King, Jesus Christ, and his victory over sin and death.

The recognition of Jesus as Lord and his being raised to life by the Spirit of God is imperative to our salvation and witness of righteousness. It is an outright confession (both verbal and behavioral) of obedient faith in the free gift of God’s perfect love in the sacrifice of his son. The scriptures themselves say it this way: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth one confesses unto salvation. For whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame” (Romans 10:6-11).

As we did on Palm Sunday, we’ve included here a list of scriptures as a kind of meditation devotional – a celebration of the life-giving hope found in God’s word. These scriptures are only a hint of the “priceless inheritance found in Jesus, kept pure and undefiled in heaven, ready to be revealed in the last day” (1 Peter 3:4-5). I encourage you to read these passages with open eyes and ears, open minds and hearts. For God is alive and present, and He will speak.

Matthew 28:5-7 5 Then the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here; for He is risen as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. 7 Now go quickly and tell His disciples that Jesus of Nazareth is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him.

Luke 24:1-9 1 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came to the tomb bringing spices which they had prepared. 2 There they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. 3 But when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed by these things, suddenly two men stood in front of them in shining garments. 5 Just then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, one of them said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was in Galilee, 7 saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’” 8 And they remembered His words.

John 11:23-27 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 But Martha said to Him, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” 25 Yet Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, yet shall he live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 Martha said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

Acts 3:13-15 13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 14 You denied the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer be granted you instead. 15 You killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To all this we are witnesses.

Romans 10:5-11 5 Now Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, saying “The man who does these things shall live by the law.” 6 But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, saying “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach) saying 9 if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth one confesses unto salvation. 11 For the Scriptures say, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”

1 Peter 3:3-5 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead; 4 and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

1 Corinthians 15:3-4, 12-13, 17-18, 20-26, 54-57 3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 12 Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how is it that so many among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. 17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! 18 And those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 20 But as it is, Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 23 And each one in his own order: first Christ, then those who belong to Christ at His coming. 24 Then comes the end, when Christ delivers the kingdom to God the Father, putting an end to all rule and all authority and power. 25 For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death itself. 54 Then the saying that is written will take place: Death has been swallowed up in victory. 55 Oh death, where is your victory? Oh death, where is your sting? 56 For the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!

Christ alone is our victory. Christ alone is our hope. And like I said before, these few scriptures are only a hint of all that is offered concerning the victory and hope we have in Christ. Yet to that point, the bible also tells us “the victory that overcomes the world is our faith” (1 John 5:5a). For the aging apostle John, who himself is nearing the end of life, victory is inseparably tethered to belief and vitally important in bringing our hope into proper focus. For in saying “the one who overcomes the world is one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God” (1 John 5:5b), it follows that resurrection victory is held only in the eyes of faith.

Now over a year into global pandemic, I should think we all can agree on two things. First, these present days have, at least to some degree, tested our overall faith in the goodness of God. And second, so much in the world right now aims to steal our joy, deflate our hope, and destroy our resolve. Still, if Easter is to remind us of anything, it ought to remind us that we are seeing only in part while in this life. God is still perfecting us into the likeness of his Son that we might one day see clearly as he does. Was it not Christ alone who endured the horrors of this life for a joy no one else could see except he be born of God? Here we are again with belief.

On Easter Sunday we confess with our lips that Jesus Christ is risen. But we only know this miracle to be fully realized when we allow Jesus Christ to arise in our hearts everyday we live in breathe. This is the miracle of the resurrection. Let us make room for this miracle.

Palm Sunday Meditation

by Dan Behrens on March, 28, 2021 | Evergreen Foursquare Church

Today is Palm Sunday, the day Christians all over the world celebrate the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into the city of Jerusalem on the eve of Passover week (what would be Jesus’ final Passover before death, burial and resurrection).

But before we lean too far into these events, we are first confronted with the Triumphal Entry. And in so doing we are confronted with the over-arching notion that Christ really is Lord and King. The scriptures listed below are a direct and determinative invitation for us to acknowledge this confession and to remain actively present with it. Sadly (even mistakenly), we’re so easily and eagerly willing to move on. The point of this meditation is to not move on, but to slow down, settle, and receive what is presently being spoken by the word of the Lord.

Psalm 9 1 I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will tell of all Your marvelous works. 2 I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High. 3 When my enemies turn back, they shall fall and perish at Your presence. 4 For You have maintained my right and my cause; You sit on a throne judging in righteousness. 5 You have rebuked the nations, You have destroyed the wicked; You have blotted out their name forever and ever. 9 The Lord will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. 10 And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; for You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You. 11 Sing praises to the Lord, who dwells in Zion! Declare His deeds among the people. 12 When He avenges blood, He remembers them; He does not forget the cry of the humble. 13 Have mercy on me, O Lord! Consider my trouble from those who hate me, You who lift me up from the gates of death, 14 That I may tell of all Your glory in the gates of the daughter of Zion. I will rejoice in Your salvation.

Psalm 24 1 The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein. 2 For He has founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the waters. 7 Lift up your heads, O you gates! Be lifted up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. 8 Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, The Lord mighty in battle. 9 Lift up your heads, O you gates! Lift up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. 10 Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts. He is the King of glory.

Psalm 118 1 Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His mercy endures forever. 2 Let Israel say, “His mercy endures forever.” 3 Let the house of Aaron say, “His mercy endures forever.” 4 Let those who fear the Lord say, “His mercy endures forever.” 15 The voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tents of the righteous; The right hand of the Lord does valiantly. 16 The right hand of the Lord is exalted; The right hand of the Lord does valiantly. 17 I shall not die, but live; and declare the works of the Lord. 18 The Lord has chastened me severely, but He has not given me over to death. 19 Open to me the gates of righteousness; I will go through them, And I will praise the Lord. 20 This is the gate of the Lord, through which the righteous shall enter. 21 I will praise You, for You have answered me and have become my salvation. 22 The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. 23 This was the Lord’s doing; It is marvelous in our eyes. 24 This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it.

John 12 12 The next day a great multitude that had come for the Passover, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13 took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him on the way; and they cried out: “Hosanna! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ The King of Israel!”

For us who know the scriptures well know also that those who shouted “Hosanna! Hosanna! The King of Israel” only days later shouted all the louder “Crucify him. Crucify him.” We know this because we know the whole of the story. We have, so-to-speak, the inside scoop. Or do we? What we can appreciate from all the well-meaning crowds that followed Jesus from his baptism at the Jordan to the house of Lazarus on the eve of Passover is that all seem genuinely engaged in Jesus. Whether complete adoration, confounding unbelief, or absolute hatred, Jesus is the supreme focus. Palm Sunday reminds us He alone is worthy of such focus and ought to be met with heartfelt praise.

For us who are so eager to move on, is there a chorus of praise on our lips? Do we (in the midst of our annual familiarity) acknowledge that Jesus triumphantly descends in pursuit of every human ever created? Nowhere else does this ring more true than in my own personal testimony. I have always known (to the best of my knowledge anyway) that I am not right before God and desperately need a savior. I have not always known (or at least not always been honest) about my desperate need for a lord and king. Lord and king implies that we are subjects, that we must come under certain authority, that we must humble ourselves and shed all of our self-interest. Christianity is a hard school, and it is no use putting off this lesson any longer.

“Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” John writes. Even more, John accounts for how this Jesus from Nazareth humbled himself to the point of incarceration, severe beating, absolute humiliation, and finally execution by torture - all a glaring indication of how far we’ve fallen, how high we’ve been raised. And indeed we have been raised; the one big secret not worth keeping.

Yesterday a Meltdown. Today a Fresh Start.

by Dan Behrens on March, 18, 2021 | Evergreen Foursquare Church

We’ve all had our meltdowns. Some necessary. Some not so much. None of them pretty. Can I get an amen? I’ll tell you (not that we’re comparing) my meltdowns are more than ugly; the kind of chaos one can never really unsee. And such was the case yesterday.

Earlier this week, I woke up with a number of rather inspiring thoughts I wanted to share with our church family. Thoughts of what our church has endured these many months during this COVID pandemic. Thoughts of what our pastors and leaders have contended for to encourage a body of believers to dig in deep. Thoughts about the witness of Christ being readily apparent in our lives, especially in the small things. All these thoughts swirling around in my head and a strong sense of urgency to get them out.

As I do a couple times each week, I set up a few simple pieces of video equipment (tripod, light, cords, earbuds) to help me record a short 5-10min clip. I scribble out a few notes, reference a scripture or two, rehearse an illustration, and begin to record. Nothing. A few attempts later, still nothing. For whatever reason, I can’t seem to get anything in my head to come out my mouth. A few more attempts. Nothing. After nearly a dozen takes to get even a few statements of fact out my mouth into the air with some sense of clarity or cohesion, I’m a wreck. A careening carousel of frustration, fit-throwing, snapping and stomping off. The witness of Christ has long since left the room. I was indeed, as the apostle Paul laments, “boxing the air”.

Now, I’m sure no one else can relate to such an ridiculous episode. But I should think we all can agree that on nearly every path that leads toward the preverbal cliff there is opportunity to heed the signs, look for exits, or stop altogether. In fact, one might argue that such notions are more than mere notions, common sense, or sensible perspective, but in fact are the whispers of God growing louder, the witness of Christ coming more into focus. The witness of Christ is what others see. Do others see a witness of Christ? Do others see Christ in me? At the very least, are those transcendent qualities of goodness and rightness even remotely detected?

Before I address these questions, let me first say that this whole business of meltdowns into fresh starts involves a demonstrative level of humility. And whether in the midst of some silly fit or something of much lessor or greater consequence, humility is all too often tethered to repentance and apology. Repentance being that crucial about-face we must endure when confronted with one undeniable fact—we are wrong, period. Apology (though not an instant remedy) being that equally crucial pivot toward putting our own words to this one undeniable fact, and that our knowledge thereof now sees the light of day. What follows are the essential ingredients to a fresh start. The stop. The heed. The about-face. A new reality is awakened. We are free.

On the eve of Easter season, a fresh start retains all the aroma of resurrection life, the redeeming sense of salvation from our deepest hells. In contrast, if we really are honest about the facts (that we are wrong and obedient repentance is the only remedy), any hindrance to the witness of Christ in our own selves will, in the long run, be hell.

Now to yesterday. A new day. A fresh start. An apology to my eldest children who witnessed my previous unraveling. A humbling acknowledgement that my behavior matters. My words matter. My emotions matter. We all know well that behavior, words, and emotions are not themselves the wayward path bound for a steep cliff. They are opportunistic offramps where notions of common sense and sensible perspective entertain the light of God and the witness of His son. We do well to not lose sight of this message among our deepest desires for worth and value. My concerns for our church family are good concerns. They have value. My attention to quality and detail is good and right. The witness of Christ in me is at its brightest. Surrender is subtle. Small, in fact. Fragile and miraculous. Enormous as a mustard seed.