I’m sure that many of you, like myself are planning your new year. Maybe you’re setting resolutions. Or maybe you’re just so thrilled that 2020 is behind you that you plopped into 2021 just the way you are.

This year on the blog, I’m going to be sharing thoughts from my journaling and devotional life. Reading, ministry, family, and my walk with God will provide the content for these meditations.

2020 has been a year of stress, fear, lockdown, isolation, and difficulty. Too often I found myself stressed and worried. Scanning news articles, reading about politics, tracking Covid numbers, and trying to lead myself, my family and my church has resulted in anxiety, fear, and frustration. Too often I’ve not been at my best. Sometimes, I’ve been at my worst. 

If your 2020 has been anything like mine, then you are hoping for a change. But I’m not sure that what we really need is a change. What has helped me the most in recent weeks is to look at the One who never changes.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Hebrews 13:8

Recently, I began reading a book, The Preacher’s Catechism, that a friend gave to me more than a year ago. For those unfamiliar, a catechism is a teaching method that asks and answers questions teaching biblical truths and theological concepts. For example:

Question: Why did God create man?

Answer: God created man so that we would glorify him and enjoy him forever.

In The Preacher’s Catechism, Lewis Allen shapes the catechism method around preaching and pastoral ministry. What stood out to me is how the chapter on knowing and enjoying God intersected with a recent theme in my Christmas sermon series. The topic was joy. But how do we have joy when 2020 and so much that has shaped our experience this past year has not felt “joyful?”

C. Lewis recognized this tension when he wrote in The Problem of Pain: “I think we all sin by needlessly disobeying the apostolic injunction to ‘rejoice’ as much as by anything else.”

I think the answer rests in the God who never changes and the gospel that brings us into relationship with him.

“So why single out joy when joy is so often crowded out by almost anything else? The reason is that joy, like nothing else, shows whether we believe the gospel. Joy is gospel authenticity.”

Lewis Allen, The Preacher’s Catechism, 32.

Do you believe the gospel? If you believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior, and he lives in you, then you have an unfathomable number of reasons to rejoice and to have joy.

Regardless of what your circumstances tell you, regardless of what is told in the media, regardless of what others are saying on social media platforms, regardless of the chaos, and regardless of how you feel, God has not changed and his gospel is ever true. Here are some reasons I’m going to rejoice heading into 2021. Maybe they’ll help you as well.

  • Because I know Jesus, I’m not alone and will rejoice in him.
  • Because God never changes and is sovereign, I will rejoice in his rule.
  • Because God speaks to me every day through his Word, I will listen and rejoice.
  • Because God hears when I pray, I will pray and rejoice.
  • Because God has provided all my needs, I will give thanks and rejoice.
  • Because God is good even though the world is evil, I will seek him and rejoice.

Why don’t you take a moment to think of some other reasons you can rejoice in God?

Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

One week ago today, George Floyd was killed while under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer. At the very least, Floyd’s death was unjust (he was being arrested for a counterfeit bill). At the worst, it was an act of racial violence. Since his death last Monday, protests (peaceful) and riots (violent) erupted across our country.

Let’s acknowledge a few things before moving forward. Most police officers are not racist. Most officers put their lives on the line serving all the people in their communities. Most protestors are not vandals. Most of the recent protests are peaceful and not violent. Where racial violence and destructive behaviors occur they should be met with the force of law. Anarchy does not offer solutions.

Our country was already at an emotional and psychological boiling point with the disruption caused by Covid-19. In recent years, racial tensions have continued to grow as a result of unjust acts and/or highly publicized violent responses by white police officers against black suspects. Or as in the case that happened earlier this year in Georgia, white citizens taking the life of a black man.

It is not my aim in this article to jump to conclusions or offer sweeping judgments. I don’t have the details. I’m also a white man in a predominantly white rural town. My local context is very different than many places in our country right now. But as I watch the protests and the violence and the claims of injustice facing our land, it is right to claim the gospel and gospel-centered living as the solution our world needs.

In the last several months, Christians have been balancing the tension of being Christians and citizens. Do we push back against government bans of worship services that we may think limit our First Amendment rights? Do we act as citizens seeking the welfare of our fellow man by abiding by these statutes? This tension is not easy.

A cursory look at Bible sheds light on how those who follow God can keep their convictions and work toward the betterment of society. Joseph worked for the benefit of Egypt. Daniel served for the welfare of Babylon. Paul commanded submission to the Roman government.

The implication in Scripture is that followers of Jesus are to work for a better city and society by adopting a biblical worldview, loving each other and our neighbors, and working for justice and righteousness even in the midst of a pagan culture.

The Minor Prophets in the Old Testament decried injustice and idolatry. As followers of Jesus, we must do the same. The gospel of Jesus Christ offers us a paradigm for responding to racism, injustice, and the broken world around us.

The gospel is universal. It is good news for all people, everywhere. Racism has no place in the body of Christ, and we must work against all its tenets in our world. God created mankind in his image: the imago Dei found in Genesis 1:28. The Kingdom of Christ is universal. The church described in Revelation 5 contains people from every tribe, language, people, and nation. The doctrine of the imago Dei and the extent of the gospel teach us that we must uphold the inherent dignity of every person and view them as individuals Jesus died to redeem.

The gospel is the very picture of injustice and justice. Jesus suffered greater injustice than any other person who has ever lived. He was perfect, yet faced criminal charges. He was innocent, yet sentenced to death. Jesus identifies with the marginalized and those who experience injustice. But also on the cross Jesus faced justice: God’s justice against our sin. Because God sent Jesus to the cross to pay the penalty for our sin, we can experience the grace and mercy of a loving God. Christ’s salvation delivered on the cross demands that we as Christians seek justice, righteousness, peace, mercy, and grace for those around us.

The gospel is the only solution to a broken world. Hate. Racism. Violence. Murder. Looting. Vandalism. Abortion. Injustice. War. Dishonesty. These are just a few of the realities in our broken world. As followers of Christ, we do not have to be content with the status quo. Because we have experienced the gospel that changed us, we can embrace a gospel-centered lifestyle. We can and must work toward a better world. But to whatever extent the gospel succeeds in our lives, our homes, and our cities, our world will still remain broken. Only the return of Christ to set up his permanent kingdom will fix the broken world that we see around us.

We need the Deliverer to rescue us from all our sins. As I was listening to this old song written by Rich Mullins, sung by Rick Elias, I was reminded that Jesus alone is our Answer, our Hope, and the only One who can fix what we’ve broken.

To quote John in Revelation 22:20, “Come, Lord Jesus.”

Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash