The Power of God in You

During his earthly ministry, Jesus did a number of miracles–amazing feats that were inexplicable except if you consider that Jesus was and is part of the Triune God. Toward the end of his life, he promised his disciples that the Father would send the Holy Spirit in his place.

What does that mean for us?

Well, while it doesn’t mean that we have as much of God’s power as Jesus, it does mean that we have some access to God’s power–undoubtedly more than we realize. In thinking about writing this post over the course of this past week, a quote by Christian author Annie Dillard popped into my mind. In his sermon at church this morning, Pastor Brady Boyd referred to the same quote, so I figured that must have been a sign that I should go ahead and mention it:

“On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return. ”

Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters

So when we pray, we should pray expectantly, as though we are calling God’s power to bear on the problem at hand–because that’s exactly what we’re doing!

You may ask why, then, aren’t all of our prayers answered in the way we pray them at the time we pray them. That’s a great question, and I don’t have a great answer. Or any answer. And I can’t find a good answer in the Bible. It would be a good thing to ask God when you meet Him face-to-face.

But in the meantime, though, I will say that the Bible has many encouragements for us to continue to pray expectantly. One such example comes in an odd story about the Old Testament prophet, Elijah, as told in 1 Kings 18. He had previously caused a drought for a long time via his prayer to that effect. When it came time to end the drought, Elijah pretty much guaranteed to King Ahab that it was going to rain before there was even a cloud in the sky. After he made that guarantee, he climbed a mountain to pray for rain. After praying, he sent a servant to check to see if there was any sign of rain. When there wasn’t, he repeated the cycle, which he had to do several times. It wasn’t until the seventh time that there was finally a raincloud forming.

Now how’s that for praying expectantly? It didn’t deter him that he hadn’t gotten the result he expected six times. He kept praying, waiting for God to respond.

And He did.

This is the power of God that’s available to all of us via the Holy Spirit. So we should put on our crash helmets and pray!

Photo by Mateus Campos Felipe on Unsplash
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A Mother’s Heart Reflects the Saviour’s Love

Who was the first human being in the Bible to learn that the time of Israel’s long-awaited Messiah had finally come? The betrothed but unwed teenager who would become Jesus’s mother.

But what was God thinking? Didn’t He know He had it all backwards!?!

I mean, in a patriarchal society like that, God should have sent Gabriel to deliver the news to Joseph! That would have made it much easier for Joseph to accept, and then maybe he could have done a better job convincing the nosy townsfolk that the baby really was conceived by God.

But no. I’ll tell you, this is one of many passages where I can picture this conversation between the three members of the Trinity:

Holy Spirit: Anyone got anything else we should tell Isaiah while we’re at it?

Father: Yes, we should have him warn everyone that our ways are higher than their ways and our thoughts are higher than their ways, since someday they’re going to think they’re smarter than we are.

Jesus: Good one, Dad!

Isaiah 55:9 (sort of)

So as much as it pains me to admit it, I suppose God knew what He was doing, even if it doesn’t make sense to me. (Of course, it doesn’t actually pain me at all to admit this; I was just trying to be funny…)

And although I can’t pretend to know all the reasons why God might have chosen this approach to announce the imminent arrival of the Saviour of the World, there is one that I can guess at: accepting this far-fetched idea had to be a heart transaction before it could become a head transaction. And, of course, women tend to have softer hearts than men, and even more so mothers compared to fathers.

To be fair, as Luke recounts this story in his gospel, Mary does have a brief moment of questioning how this could be, since she was a virgin. But the terrifying, other-worldly creature (i.e., the angel Gabriel) attempts to explain it to her by saying a few sentences that really don’t make a lot of sense. And what is her reaction? She shrugs her shoulders and says:

I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.”

Mary, the Mother of Jesus, in Luke 1:38 (NIV)

What a great picture this is, in fact, for all of our first few steps into the Light of faith in Jesus. Taking that leap may not make much sense at first, but those of us blessed enough to be followers of Christ have taken it nonetheless.

Fast-forward toward the end of the gospel, toward the other end of Jesus’s earthly life. Knowing the torturous death he was about to endure to save you and me, Jesus was praying feverishly in the Garden of Gethsemane that the Father would find another way to achieve their objective. However, at the end of it, he gathered up his resolve better than any other hero in history and finally said:

“…yet not my will, but yours be done.”

Jesus, in Luke 22:42

And so it is that a mother’s heart and sacrificial acceptance of God’s will so brightly and aptly reflects the love of our Lord and Saviour.

On this Mother’s Day, I thank God for my mom and mother-in-law, both of whom have gone on to be with Him. I am also thankful for my wife, who has been and continues to be such a terrific mother to our children. Further, I am thankful that the first child to bestow upon me the title of “Dad” is poised to also be the first to grant me the title of “Grandpa”.

Of course, I am grateful for all moms on this special day, and wish you all a Happy Mother’s Day! And since I intentionally avoid getting political in my blog posts, I will say a special prayer for unintentional moms in the trying times that undoubtedly lie ahead, and leave it at that.

Photo by Suhyeon Choi on Unsplash
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Come and See

There’s a little blurb toward the end of the first chapter of John’s gospel that’s easy to read through quickly without giving it much thought–I know I’ve done it the many times over that I’ve read or listened to the Bible. It’s about how Philip and Nathanael came to be disciples of Jesus:

Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.
“Come and see,” said Philip.

John 1:45-46 (NIV)

My father-in-law (who is also a beloved friend) introduced me to what has now become my favorite TV show: The Chosen®. This show has become the largest, most successful crowd-funded television or film project ever. But better yet, it’s about the life and ministry of Jesus and his disciples. There are two complete seasons, and they are working on the third, with a goal of having seven (of course) seasons by the time they are done. There are a number of options for watching seasons 1 and 2, including downloading The Chosen app from your mobile device’s app store.

Here’s what I love about it: it does a great job portraying so many aspects of Jesus that are easy to overlook. For example, after having gone through the Bible so many times and having developed a relationship with Jesus, it’s easy to forget how fresh and different Jesus and his teachings were when compared to other rabbis of his time (one of my favorite quotes so far from the series is when Jesus tells Peter, “Get used to different.”). It is also quite moving to watch how Jesus interacts with people–again, I have read these stories many times, but the way they have portrayed these interactions in the show is touching. Further, the struggles that the apostles have had–both with accepting that Jesus really could be the promised Messiah, and in some cases with accepting one another–seem accurate and genuine at the human level.

Although I am not a seminary-trained theologian, it does seem to me that the show remains true to the Bible (so far, anyway–I’m about halfway through season 2). As you could imagine, there are a lot of blanks that the writers and producers (Dallas Jenkins and others) have had to fill in to make it flow as a narrative, but even those ring true in that they seem consistent with my understanding of the Bible and the surrounding cultural context. Maybe one of the best things about the show is that it seems very accessible. Someone who is not yet a follower of Christ may be intimidated or put off by the idea of going to church, but they should be at ease watching this show. Similarly, while it may be hard for us to invite a non-believing friend to church, it should not be difficult at all to tell them about your new favorite show–we all do things like that all the time.

This brings me to the reason for starting with the quote from John’s gospel. Just like Philip says to his friend Nathanael when he doubts Jesus (“can any good thing come from Nazareth?”), if you haven’t found a good way to convey the good news about Jesus to a friend or family member that seems compelling to them, you could mention the show to them or even invite them to watch it with you. You can say, “Don’t take my word for it–come and see for yourself!”

So that’s my invitation to you as well: come and see!

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Darkness and the Light

Today was Baptism Sunday in my church, New Life Church. As I’ve shared before, whenever we have baptisms, as each person comes up out of the water, I say a little prayer for them that they will be another light in the darkness. For some reason, during today’s service, I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit even stronger than I normally do during these baptisms.

For one thing, the timing was perfect, being one week after Easter. For another thing, the worship team was playing the perfect baptism song, Up from the Waters, by New Life Worship, from their new album. Finally, there was a touching moment that stuck with me throughout the day today, so much so that I decided to write about this instead of what I was planning on writing about today. The moment was brief and simple: a young woman, someone I don’t even know, raised her arms in triumph as she came up out of the water, then put her face in her hands and started weeping with joy.

I thought, What a great start on her journey of being a light in the darkness.

Of course, the battle between good and evil has been characterized by light and darkness in literature and movies practically since those media were created. It is also the reality of the world today. Sadly, all too often these days, it seems as though the darkness is winning. But here’s the thing: it doesn’t take much light to overcome darkness.

Even a small light shining on a hilltop is visible for miles.

So for today, I thought I’d include a few verses from the Bible that show the progression of Light, how it came into the world through Jesus, and then how He lit the flame in each of us to keep His light burning and spreading.

First, the Apostle John introduces the conflict between light and darkness:

Borrowed from YouVersion

Then, several chapters further into his gospel, John remembers when Jesus told all who were listening:

Borrowed from YouVersion

Switching to Matthew’s gospel, we see Jesus handing the torch to us:

Borrowed from YouVersion

The Apostle Paul reminded us of this in his letter to the Ephesians when he said:

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.

Ephesians 5:8 (NIV)

And so it is that we do not have to worry about the darkness in the world. Darkness ceases to be darkness when the slightest light shines into it. We are each a light in the darkness, lit from the original torch of Jesus.

And the darkness will never overcome us.

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The Beginning After the End

So wait, the tomb is empty?
What does this mean?
What does it mean for me?

Somehow, You did not lose.
You defeated death, so
It’s not the end after all?
And even when the news tells us
That evil is winning,
It’s really not?

My hope is back—You
Carried away my sin,
Dumped it at the gates of hell—and
Came back lugging my hope
On Your shoulders.

Joy buoys me to weightlessness.
No problem can chain me
To hell’s surly bonds,
No matter how big I think it is.
No habits, no behaviors,
Can keep me from You,
From Your love.

This still makes no sense to me,
But who cares?
Good news is good news,
No matter how sensible it is.

If You’re on my side,
Who can stand against me?
New life, new beginning,
I am free—
Humbled and grateful
And oh so free.

David K. Carpenter
April 17, 2022 – Resurrection Sunday
Copyright © 2022 by David K. Carpenter, All rights reserved

In the power of Jesus’ mighty Name, I pray that we all live into the freedom He bought for us with His blood. Let us all go shine His light into the darkness. Christ is risen, so let’s live like it! God bless you!

— Dave
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The End

When you said, “It is finished,”
What did you mean?

Were you referring to
Our hope?
You were supposed to
Be the one who wiped out evil,
But it sure looks like
Evil won.

Our sin?
It makes no sense how
You dying
Accomplishes that.

Or were you
Just talking about 
Your life?
I don’t understand
That, either—
God’s not supposed
To die.

Good Friday doesn’t seem
To be going so well.
We lost. You died.
And death is the end
Of everything.

Isn’t it?

David K. Carpenter
April 15, 2022
Copyright © 2022 by David K. Carpenter, All rights reserved
New Life Church, Colorado Springs, CO
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Drinking to Remember

I crawl to your table.
“Bread of Life” means something 
Different now, something new,
Disturbing. Why?
Why would you do this
For me
Before I knew you or
After you knew me?

I haven’t done as much
For you as I should.
I want to,
Need to,
Feel like I’ve done something—
Worthy of your bread:
Lived the right way,
Said the right things,
Loved my neighbor who
Complains about everything, 
Prayed for people I don’t even like,
But I can’t.
Even if I could, I can’t,
Because there is no “worthy”,
There is no earning
Your bread.

Grace would be
So much easier to accept
If it weren’t free.
Free for me, anyway—
I know it cost you

I glance your way,
Can’t really even
Look you in the eye.
I don’t deserve any of this.
Now you want to
Give me some wine.
You pour it out for me and
I can barely take it.
I’m sure it’s the
Good stuff, 

Most people drink
To forget, but you
Told me to drink 
To remember.
And so, I do,
To remember you.

David K. Carpenter
April 14, 2022
Copyright © 2022 by David K. Carpenter, All rights reserved.
Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash
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Don’t You Care?

“I’ve got real problems, Jesus,”
I mutter—perfunctory prayer—
Little more than a complaint, really.
“Don’t You get it?
Don’t You Care?”

He sighs, not impatient, more like,
Don’t you get it?

He shows me an angry mob 
Storming Gethsemane to arrest him. 
Peter—a fisherman with a sword—
Cuts off one of their ears.
Jesus gives Peter the same look.
Jesus knows what’s coming, but
He isn’t angry nor afraid.
Wait, what? With love in his eyes—
How could he love a guy like that?—
He touches the wounded guy’s ear and
He is renewed, restored, healed.
And that’s when the guy starts weeping.

He takes me to Skull Hill,
As chilling as its name.
Roman soldiers, laughing, mocking,
Pound spikes through his hands and feet,
Fastening him to the cross.
Just another day’s work for them.
Gritting through excruciating pain,
He asks God to forgive them, since
They don’t know what they’re doing—
And to forgive me, since
I don’t know what I’m doing.

We skip ahead a few hours.
One of the thieves being crucified 
Next to him asks Jesus to remember him
When he gets to his kingdom. 
I guess the guy can’t see that
Jesus can barely breathe.
I open my mouth to tell the guy off,
To defend Jesus, but before I can,
Jesus tells him, through labored breaths, 
That today they’ll be together in paradise.

Then I’m back,
In the midst of my
Prayer of discontent, 
Like I never left.
Jesus interrupts me, 
Whispering with labored breaths,
“How can you not know
How much I care?”

David K. Carpenter
Copyright © 2022 by David K. Carpenter, All rights reserved
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What’s Today in Holy Week Speak?

Over the years, we have given names to some of the days in Holy Week: Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, culminating in Easter–which is technically what comes next, a new week all its own. And a new way of living. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

So, I’ve been wondering what Jesus was doing all the other days this week and why they didn’t get special names. Could it be he wasn’t doing anything significant on Tuesday? I really doubt that, so I thought I’d propose some possible names for the Tuesday of Holy Week, sort of like Taco Tuesday, which sounds delicious but doesn’t quite have the eternal impact of the other days’ names.

How about “Jesus tells the religious people to stop being religious and focus on their relationship with God instead” Tuesday? Possible, but not very catchy.

“Jesus prepares his friends for the road ahead” Tuesday?

“Jesus shows up for us even when we don’t know it” Tuesday?

“Jesus never leaves us” Tuesday?

“Jesus, why aren’t you healing my friend” Tuesday?

“God’s ways are beyond my ways” Tuesday?

“Jesus, I need you” Tuesday?

Hmm, I guess I’m not very good at slogans or day naming. But I hope you get the point anyway…

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Last Supper, First Supper

Faithful disciples, twelve minus one,
Ate with their Savior before He was gone.
Then bread was broken, His Spirit set free:
“Do this whenever you eat it, remembering me.
Hear these words now, for soon we will part.”
Then Jesus said, with me on His heart,
“I give you my blood so you’ll never thirst,”
And thus the Last Supper became my first.

David K. Carpenter
(Revised) April 11, 2022
Copyright © 2022 by David K. Carpenter, all rights reserved
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