Scott Bredenhof

We Don’t Know What to Do

Jehoshaphat was one who was able to fully appreciate the victory of salvation. God responded to the king of Judah and obliterated the enemy army without a single soldier in the Judean army having to lift a finger. And it is the same for us. In the battle against Satan and sin, the only thing required of us is to trust that God will get the job done and to give him all the glory when the victory is won. That sounds pretty straightforward, but, as we also learn from the life of Jehoshaphat, it is often a lesson we learn slowly, and often have to re-learn.

King Jehoshaphat was a mixed bag. At times he displayed godly wisdom and a clear-sighted vision of what God requires of the king of His chosen people. At other times he lapsed into human folly and sought to make Judah strong through ill-advised alliances. However, in the Chronicler’s account of Jehoshaphat’s “battle” against Moab and Ammon, we see in this mixed-bag king one of the most clear and memorable confessions of dependence on the Lord.
A messenger had come to come to Jehoshaphat with bad news: an vast enemy army was fast approaching and Jerusalem and all of Judah would soon be under attack. How we respond to bad news says a lot about the condition of our heart and the firmness of our faith. It is easy to panic when things suddenly spin out of control and we realize we are face-to-face with something that threatens our comfort, joy, or even existence.
But those who understand and believe in the sovereignty of God are not shaken – they respond like King Jehoshaphat. They seek out God, they humble themselves, and they pray. Above all, they remember, as Jehoshaphat did, the promises of God and they believe that God will do as he says.
God had promised the land of Canaan to Israel and he had promised to step in and take action when his people cried out to him. A vast army of allied-kings wasn’t going to derail God’s promise. Jehoshaphat knew that and so he threw himself at the feet of Almighty God and confessed his complete dependence and utter incapability to deal with the bad-news army knocking at his door.
For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.
2 CHRONICLES 20:12
That is a beautiful confession of faith, and one we can take upon our own lips as well.
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The Parts We Leave Out

God is sovereign over every square inch of his creation, and so he is equally sovereign over square inch of our lives. Our building, our dreaming, our working, our sleeping, it all fertile ground for growing in faith and giving glory to God. We just have to learn to see it. 

Unless the Lord builds a house,
its builders labor over it in vain;
unless the Lord watches over a city,
the watchman stays alert in vain.
In vain you get up early and stay up late,
working hard to have enough food
PSALM 127
You moved across the country to start a new job. A dear friend has wronged you. Your husband has cancer. Your child is rushed to the hospital.
In the scary and difficult situations of life we know we must look to God for help. God is big and sovereign and exactly what we need to face the daunting challenges and bitter disappointments of life. And when God pulls us through and gets us safely to the other side we are more than ready to give him the praise he deserves.
But what about the ordinary, everyday grind of life. Do we reach out for God’s help as we groggily wake up from a fitful night of sleep? Do we think God is particularly concerned about our response when things don’t go as planned on the construction site? Does the fact that we can fill the grocery buggy fill us with thanksgiving?
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Remembering to Believe

As the psalmist remembers the details of the Exodus, his own troubled soul is calmed and the storm of questions raging inside his mind is quelled. He remembers the power and glory of God and is assured that God is greater than his troubles and worries. He remembers God’s faithful love and is able to find peace knowing that neither wind, nor wave, nor enemy army, nor human weakness, nor anything else in all creation can separate us from the love of God.

The Book of Psalms is, among other things, an instruction book for how to speak to God. The psalms give us just the right words to speak when we are at a loss for words, or when we are stuck in the common rut of repetitive prayers. But even more than allowing us to borrow God’s own language, they demonstrate the appropriate way to approach God in prayer.
This is especially helpful in those moments in life when we struggle to make sense of what God is doing. Moments such as when our present affliction and uncertainties about the future don’t align with what we know God has promised in the past. Or moments that require far more than the trite phrases and overworn cliches we so often hear. “God is good, all the time” is most definitely true, but that can ring hollow in the dark valleys of life and leave us grasping for words that truly express what we are feeling.
Psalm 77 is one of those honest psalms that refuses to settle for easy answers to complex questions. The psalmist opens his song by expressing his desperation and bringing it before the Lord. He knows that when the soul is tormented and no comfort is to be found, the only place to go, the only One to turn to, is God.
The psalmist is so troubled that he cannot speak.
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The Light Now Shines

When we walk as Jesus walked, when we walk in the light; when we flee the darkness, then we are shining the true light and are pointing the world forward to the Day when light will reign supreme. As church we are not called to merely huddle together and safeguard the light until the day arrives, but rather to step out boldly into the dark world and hold the light overhead as evidence to the world that the True light is approaching and the darkness is passing away.

The world is a dark place. It is darkened by an abundance of famine, injustice, war, abuse, destruction, addiction. The list goes on. At the root of it all is the persistent and pervasive presence of sin. Sin darkens every corner of the earth, including the pews of the church and the depths of the human heart.
But God speaks light into the darkness and renews us with the hope that one day the darkness will be snuffed out for good and the light will be here to stay. The light is of course Jesus Christ himself and, more broadly, the kingdom of God of which Jesus is Lord and king.
Hope directs our eyes to the future. We look forward to that day when the light will shine in all its fullness and the darkness will be no more. But as we lift up our gaze to our future hope, we must not forget that the promised eternal light has already made its way into our present darkness. The kingdom of God is not only a future hope, but a reality for the here-and-now.
In his first letter the Apostle John makes this abundantly clear when we writes:
Yet I am writing you a new command, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.
1 JOHN 2:8
The true light is not waiting for a decisive day when it will suddenly and brilliantly pierce the black night.
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“I’m Sad”

So easily we lose the childlike simplicity of prayer; a child speaking to his/her father. We start to think more about the people around us that we can see than the God above whom we cannot. We pile up stock phrases or mumble our way to an amen as we prematurely reach for our fork. Even when we are trying it can be hard.

One night at the supper table our kids were taking turns praying before we started the meal. Moments earlier our second youngest daughter had been kicking and screaming because she didn’t get to sit beside her sister. Consequently, she didn’t feel like praying so I attempted to convince her that God still wanted to hear from her even if she was angry. Through sniffles and snobs she prayed: “Father Heaven, I’m sad. Amen.”
The essence of prayer is communication with God and that was what my daughter was doing; telling God how she felt. A significant portion of the Psalms do the same thing – the author pours out his heart and bares his soul to a God who listens. Consider the following from the pen of king David:
I am weary from my groaning;with my tears I dampen my bedand drench my couch every night.
PSALM 6:6
What is David doing in these lines? He’s letting God know how he feels. David is doing what we all do each and every day: communicating.
Prayer, when understood as communication with God, is a simple act, yet it becomes complicated by at least two factors. First, we cannot see the One to whom we are speaking.
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Guaranteed!

Paul compares our bodies to a tent – fragile and temporary. But one day we will trade in our earthly tent for a glorious dwelling. Our sin-riddled lives, worn by the years lived in a falling-apart world, will be turned in for solid, permanent lives, handmade by God. Mortality swallowed up by life.

For we know that if our earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal dwelling in the heavens, not made with hands. Indeed, we groan in this tent, desiring to put on our heavenly dwelling, since, when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. Indeed, we groan while we are in this tent, burdened as we are, because we do not want to be unclothed but clothed, so that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave us the Spirit as a down payment.
2 CORINTHIANS 5:1-5
In this passage, and its context, Paul is encouraging the believers in Corinth to live by faith, not by sight. Our bodies appear to be falling apart and life is being swallowed up by death, but we hold onto the hope that they are giving way to greater things.
Paul compares our bodies to a tent – fragile and temporary. But one day we will trade in our earthly tent for a glorious dwelling.
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The Pollution of Sin

The task of the Christian then, is to be less and less the foul odor of sin, and more and more the pleasing aroma of Christ. We are to be little pockets of the new creation in the midst of a desert of sin. Or, to put it another way, we are to be reservoirs of beauty and greenness in the middle of the smog and harsh realities of sin.

Within the city I live in, there is limited natural, green space in which to escape the cacophony and the concrete. But there is one place my family and I frequent that gives us some sense of escape. It is a small water reservoir with a dirt path on the perimeter and populated by a variety of birds and flowers. It’s a nice place, other than the the greenish, contaminated water, the beer bottles, the lost shoe, the bag of garbage, etc.
This little reservoir reminds me of how sin contaminates our world and compromises its goodness and beauty. I don’t just mean sin in a general sense, I mean my own sin. My sin makes this world an ugly place because it hurts others and is an offense to God.
That was true for Israel as well. God had promised his chosen people a land flowing with milk and honey – symbols of its flourishing. It was to be a little bit of Eden in a desert of sin. It was to be a holy land and a place where people could go and catch a glimpse of what the world was like before sin crept in and infested everything under the sun.
But Israel could not keep herself holy. The nation was rarely a light to the nations and the land was frequently defiled with immorality. Despite the prophets warnings, Israel persisted in her sin and continued polluting the land.
And then God said enough!
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Multidimensional Gospel

The gospel encompasses a wide-range of ideas and images and we should not limit ourselves to thinking about it in a one-dimensional way. The gospel is gloriously multidimensional and we give God the glory when we contemplate on the gospel as such.

When it comes to theology, we tend to take a doctrine and strip it down to its basic form, leaving out all the intricacies and complicating details. We zero in on a particular verse or repeated theme in Scripture and then we say “That’s what it is all about.” We do this so that we can fit the doctrine neatly in our minds, keep it there, and pass it on to others.
One manifestation of this tendency is seen with respect to how we define the gospel. We ask: What is the gospel? We answer: It is the forgiveness of sins. We might add that the good news is being saved from the wrath of God through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ – sin condemns us to death, Jesus takes our sin away and satisfies the justice of God. That, we could say, is the essence of the gospel. However, while the gospel is nothing less, it is more. Forgiveness of sins is one dimension of the gospel, but not the only one.
If we insist on restricting the gospel to one-dimension, we rob it of its multifaceted glory. We see its multifaceted glory in a passage such as Colossians 1:12-14. Paul has begun his letter to the church in Colossae by giving thanks for the faith of the Christians there and for their reception of the gospel. Paul explains how he and others are praying for the Colossians, specifically for their growth in the gospel. As he then shows them how the gospel itself is the source of sanctification in the Christian life, Paul uses several different ideas to describe the gospel.
“the Father, who has qualified you”
God qualifies the believer by justifying the believer. God declares the believer to be free of sin and in right standing before him.
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