Written by Dave Urbanski

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How can our messiness be transformed into messages? How can God turn the messiness of our lives — our unpredictable left turns, our head-on collisions, and even our self-inflicted speeding tickets along the way — into messages of his love for others?

As we saw in our study together Sunday, the story surrounding Jacob’s highly dysfunctional family is a prime example. And once again, the Bible pulls no punches — it doesn’t attempt to hide the sins of multiple wives, deception, dishonesty, jealousy, selfishness, passivity, pleasure as a primary objective, and the daily attempts to orchestrate and manipulate life in directions against God’s will rather than letting him do the driving.

Even though Jacob had two wives — Rachel and Leah — let’s not entertain the idea that God was OK with it. As Pastor Scott told us, just because it’s in the Bible doesn’t mean it’s the Lord’s design. If anything, the polygamy grieved God not only because it was a direct sin against him, but also because of the resulting envy and sorrow and anger that polygamy brings among his beloved creation. God wanted — and still wants — the very best for us, and when we invent ways of doing life that ultimately aren’t the best for us, of course it saddens the Lord to see the pain that such decisions bring.

Yet out of that incredible messiness, Leah — the wife Jacob didn’t want — bore sons who would form the tribes of Israel. And that genealogy went all the way to Jesus — our salvation. 

Whenever we attempt to deemphasize God’s role in our lives and do things our own way, the Lord isn’t hamstrung. He has no limits — and there are no limits to how high and deep and wide his love is, despite our lack of love for him. As Pastor Scott noted, God works in our lives despite ourselves and despite our humanistic tendencies. He’s the maestro who orchestrates to perfection amid our bum notes and out-of-tune instruments. 

So, if you’re in despair because you don’t think God is working in your life, or you’re stuck in sorrow over bad decisions you’ve made or bad habits you just can’t seem to break, be encouraged — for just as God worked through the messiness of Jacob’s family to ultimately bring about our salvation through Jesus, the Lord certainly can do that and more in our lives. And whether you’re aware of it or not, he is!

More than that, despite whatever pit you perceive yourself to be in today, believe it or not God wants your life to be a shining beacon to those who still don’t believe in him. Ask God today how he can help you give him the glory by sharing your life with others in all its messiness. If you need to repent of the path you’ve been on, then repent — and then move forward. If you don’t see that God is working in your life, ask him to reveal to you the good things he’s doing — and then move forward.

Your messiness can — and will — be a message to others, too!

Written by Dave Urbanski

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In our study together Sunday on Genesis 28, we examined the moment Jacob left his home and what that meant for his spiritual life. Of course, when any of us head off on our own, it’s a momentous occasion with many implications — but among several cool things Pastor Scott shared is that we don’t have to be just entering independent adulthood for the biblical truths we learned to apply to us. 

That’s because whether we’re moving into our own place for the first time or going away to college — or whether we’re moving toward marriage, moving into a new job, or moving into a new home — God brings change and challenges to us every morning. And the Lord’s newness is another opportunity to trust him.

We’ve already seen that Jacob isn’t exactly the league leader in integrity or honesty. His deception with Isaac pretending to be his brother Esau to underhandedly win his father’s blessing was awful. Now Esau wants to kill Jacob, and Jacob is forced to leave home. But the miracle of Scripture is that we all can see ourselves to some degree in Jacob’s sin. Maybe we haven’t carried out that sort of deception, but as Jeremiah 17:9 reminds us, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick; who can understand it?”

So, it’s a good thing that, as Pastor Scott said, the hearts of believers in Jesus have two things going for them: A conscience and the Holy Spirit.

And we got a chance to see Jacob’s heart awakening to the Lord as he set out on his own. Much had to be on his mind and heart. Perhaps homesickness. Maybe fear. Uncertainty about the future. And then one night as he falls asleep, God spoke to Jacob in a dream and reassured him that he’d walk with him through his life, multiply his offspring over the face of the earth, and bless him.

Then God said something quite stirring in verse 15 which may sound familiar: “For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Yes, Jesus promised his disciples after his resurrection that “I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Not surprisingly, Jacob was changed. “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it,” he said before being filled with awe: “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” He then stakes out a place for the Lord and makes a promise — all expressions of God now having first place in his life. What a transformation!

No matter where we are in life — just starting out on our own or deep into the journey — we need that kind of newness, that kind of transformative experience with the Lord, don’t we? But a lot of times what we’re missing is being deliberate about what place God holds in our lives. Pastor Scott called this a “faith of convenience” — and wow, how true that can be. And actively putting God first through our daily decisions and thoughts isn’t about paying lip service to him or appearing righteous — it’s actually about what’s good for us. Isn’t that amazing? Following the Lord and obeying his commandments can seem on the surface like living in a cage, but it actually sets us free and sets us on the very best path. God isn’t looking for human beings to ask, “How high?” when he says “Jump!” No, instead God wants a relationship with us and wants the very best for us.

So, where does that leave us? In truth, we all have to figure out how we will handle what God has entrusted to us. Have we staked out areas in our lives that belong to the Lord? That demonstrate he’s more important than anything else? If not, let us pray about what that will look like and get to it!

Written by Dave Urbanski

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I have benefitted tremendously over the years from apologists who’ve offered rock-solid evidence for the bodily resurrection of Jesus. The proofs they’ve shared never cease to be exciting and encouraging — not only for the tools they can become during conversations with those who haven’t yet come to faith, but also when my own faith needs a boost.

Pastor Scott’s Easter message offered another kind of proof and evidence that’s equally important: What does Jesus’ rising from the dead 2,000-plus years ago mean for us on a practical level? Nuts and bolts. Day to day. Where the rubber meets the road.

To start we looked at the words of three individuals in the Bible who share our faith: Peter, Paul, and John.

We know from Scripture that while Peter arguably possessed the most faith of any of Christ’s initial disciples, he also ended up denying his master three times following Jesus’ arrest — and after having proclaimed him the son of God when his friends still had doubts. But later when the 12 got word on the third day that Jesus wasn’t in his tomb any longer, Peter ran with John to the place where Jesus had been laid to rest, charged past John right into the empty sepulcher, and immediately believed! Jesus’ resurrection was everything to Peter — as it should be for us. He even began his first letter telling us that God the Father’s mercy made us “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

As Pastor Scott emphasized, those two words that make up part of the name of our church — “living hope” — offer infinitely more than human, false hope. Those who hope to “feel better” through drugs and alcohol, sexual immorality, rebellion — and even through what may seem like righteousness through monetary offerings, baptism, membership, and service at church — are relying on false hopes. In the end what we strive for and hope for in our frail humanity doesn’t come close to Christ’s living hope, which is way bigger and more powerful than what we can possibly fathom. It’s time to let our false hopes go!

Now Paul came to faith in a completely different way than Peter — and in fact began making a reputation for himself not as an evangelist but as a persecutor of Christians. But one day God literally knocked this very learned Pharisee right off his high horse and blinded him — and all so he ultimately could see Jesus. Soon Paul was traversing the known world with the gospel message — and with the same energy he formerly exuded to persecute believers in Christ. But while Paul didn’t see the resurrected Jesus in the flesh like Peter did, he knew the event came to pass because Jesus literally spoke to him and told him what he must do in his name. And that kind of power compelled Paul to write the following in the first chapter of his letter to the Philippians:

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith — that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”

Think about it: Raising someone from the dead takes a kind of explosive power no human being possesses. A supernatural strength that can only come from God. Yet that kind of otherworldly power is at our disposal right now when we ask the Lord to help and guide us! No more guilt or regret, either. Christ’s forgiveness washes all of that away with the same force that raised him from the dead. Losses, disappointments, dead dreams and visions? Give them over to Jesus and watch him bring those dead things back to life! So indispensable was Christ’s resurrection that Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 15, that “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” In other words, worthless. Rubbish. To be pitied. But since Jesus has been raised, our faith is constantly empowered with his power.

Then we looked at John — author of one of the four Gospels along with other New Testament writings — and we were reminded through John’s recollections after Jesus raised Lazarus from the grave, he proclaimed that “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live …”

Which brought us to the other immensely practical element of Jesus’ resurrection: Life.

As Pastor Scott shared, there are three forms of the word “life” in the Ancient Greek language found in the New Testament — and they all represent different levels of life. The first level represents “life” as a child understands it: What are my wants right now and how can I get them? The second level is what parents often find themselves in when corralling their kids: How can best act responsibly with my children for their ultimate and best benefit? But interestingly, the word “life” in the latter verse isn’t either of those forms in the Greek. No, it’s a form of the word “life” that denotes another dimension of thought — a spiritual level of “life” that has us asking how God fits into everyday events. In other words, this is the kind of life Jesus died and rose again to usher us into!

But still the Lord doesn’t simply want to grant us eternal life and then ignore our lives in the here and now as if they don’t matter. He also wants you and me, as Paul records in Romans 12:2, to “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Jesus wants us to change the way we think so that more and more we’ll be transformed from the inside out — and not at some distant point in the future, but right now.

As you ponder Jesus’ resurrection from the dead this Easter, remember that his rising gives us a “living hope” that will never pass away, power that this world cannot comprehend, and the highest level of life that we can know. And it’s right here for all of us as we humbly call upon his name.