Our Blog

Some Good News

A few weeks ago, actor John Krasinski created and self-published a video he titled, “Some Good News,” where he shared some heart-warming videos that highlighted the more humane and uplifting things that have been happening these difficult days. The video went viral, and I take that to mean that people are particularly hungry for “Some Good News.” There are some great things happening amongst the people at Grace Rancho, and I want to stop for a moment and consider “Some Good News.” 

First of all, Jesus is alive. You know this. But don’t let familiarity breed contempt! Think of it: Jesus actually died, and now Jesus is actually alive. His resurrection proves that he conquered death. He is the first fruits of the New Creation. We can be sure that this death-riddled planet will not remain as it is forever. If the Lord tarries, we will all die. There is, however, a day coming that we will be raised from the dead. This gives new life and hope and purpose to our living and struggling and dying now.

Second, Jesus is saving people. In the last several months, some of the people we’ve been praying for have made professions of faith. Off the top of my head, I can think of five people in our church’s circle of influence who seem to have bowed the knee to the Savior and are demonstrating the fruits of repentance. I think we’re going to see some new converts baptized when we are finally able to regather.

Third, many lost souls are being prayed for by our church. In my growth group alone, we’re praying for 38 different friends, neighbors, family members, and coworkers who need the Lord. We’re also praying for boldness, for open doors, and for their salvation. We’re also thinking about how we might move toward them with gospel-shaped love and Spirit-given boldness.

Fourth, there is ministry happening all around us. As the pastor, I have the joy of hearing about some of the ways our church continues to serve one another. In addition to our evangelistic growth groups (which have been well-attended), I am hearing of discipleship meetings continuing virtually, women memorizing large passages of Scripture, men who are calling around and checking in on people. Some have given generously to the benevolent fund, others have offered themselves to help clean up a garage.

Fifth, there is deep heart-work going on. I think many of us have faced some sort of discouragement and disappointment this season. Even this is a reason to rejoice. Hebrews 12:11 says, “For the moment, all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” I am praying that this season, though painful, is productive - in that it yields the “peaceful fruit of righteousness” in our lives. 

Sixth, families are being encouraged to worship at home more than ever. This is reason to rejoice. Jonathan Edwards was convinced that no awakening would ever have lasting impact until parents began to disciple their children and see their homes as places of worship. More fathers and mothers are embracing this God-given responsibility.

I’m sure you have some good news too. God is working in and around you, and he is always good to his children. Let’s not forget this. Remember. Write it down. Take note. God is at work these days. My hope is that one day we will tell another generation of what amazing things he did during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. “Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord” (Ps. 102:18).

Posted by Eric Durso with

Redeeming the Doldrums

Sailors call a strip around the earth approximately five degrees north and south of the equator the doldrums. Because of all kinds of weather factors I don’t understand, this strip doesn’t get much wind. Sailors could be stuck weeks in the doldrums, with no wind to move them anywhere. 

Using that metaphor, a little over a month ago we set sail into the new adventure of the quarantined life. We didn’t choose this adventure, but we were thrust into it, and as we set sail, faced challenges, and struggled to adapt to the new life at sea, we felt optimistic that God was doing something great -- perhaps preparing us for a revival, perhaps teaching us a lesson, perhaps giving us needed time of rest and reflection. With the wind of these hopes in our faces, we embraced the journey, even with a measure of joy.

It’s now been over a month. From what I can tell, we’ve hit the doldrums. The winds of optimism have subsided. Progress has slowed to a discouraging pace. Some of us have had an adrenaline crash. No one seems to know what’s next, or how to proceed. Marriages are being tested. Parents are wondering if the kids are trying to stage a mutiny. We’re low on food. And what happens if the toilet paper runs out?

We’re in the doldrums. So what do we do when we’re in the doldrums? 

It’s a blessing to know that as unique as this season is, we ought to remember that our temptations are not entirely unique. Paul says, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man” (1 Cor. 10:13). This season is highlighting the reality of common temptations - to irritability, impatience, anger, anxiety, fear, self-centeredness, lethargy - you name it. 

So when life feels mundane and we feel discouraged - by our circumstances and our sin - what do we do? 

I don’t think we should sit around and wait for things to get back to normal. Christians are redeemed to be “zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14). Postponing our good works until after the quarantine will only increase our vulnerability to sin’s temptations. What should we do?

I think we get to work. We pull out the oars. We row -- we row in the strength that God supplies.

We were made to live with a purpose, with goals to accomplish. “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it” (1 Cor. 9:27). While life has been disrupted, Paul’s injunction to run to win has not been made null and void. You may not be able to leave the house, but you must run. 

The Christian who isn’t running not only limits his own effectiveness, he is also making himself vulnerable to a thousand other sins, like David who stayed home when he was supposed to go to battle (2 Sam. 11:1).

We can’t gather, take communion, meet in homes, share meals. Okay, we’ve got that. But how can we move forward?

Double down on your intake of God’s Word. Now is the time to dive headlong into a study of Scripture. Some ladies are memorizing Philippians - what an amazing use of time!

Commitment to regular, systematic prayer for your church. Are you praying for your church family? Can I recommend that you pray regularly and systematically through the membership directory? In addition to that, would you write down names of non Christian friends and pray for them as well? 

Text, make phone calls, send emails, write letters. If you aren’t doing all of this, now is the time. Who are you caring for? Who are you walking with? Who are you moving toward? Are you bearing anyone’s burdens?

As you regularly pray through the membership, check in with people. Hear their prayer requests. Follow up in a week. This stuff seems small - even insignificant - but it provides immense benefit to the church.

Lastly, stay focused on the mission. Now is not the time to drift. This is a unique moment with unique opportunities for the gospel and we want to be zealous to pursue them, innovating as necessary. We’ll be starting our virtual growth groups studying, strategizing, and praying for evangelism. I often reflect on the reality that I need the mission more than the mission needs me. In other words, in God’s great plan of redemption, I am highly insignificant. God does not need Eric Durso to accomplish his purposes.

However, God has invited me into his plan of redemption not because he needs me, but because he loves me. It is for my own good that God allows me to serve him. I am helped in helping, I am encouraged by encouraging, I am blessed by blessing. Proverbs puts it this way “Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered” (Prov. 11:25). If you’ve felt discouraged, fearful, anxious, bored, depressed, or on edge, those are probably good indications that you need to pull out the oars and start rowing. 

Every moment of meaningful meditation on Scripture, every moment of prayer for others, every love-driven contact with a friend, every faith-filled move to advance the mission -- are pushing and pulling the oars, redeeming our days in the doldrums. 

Guard Your Quarantined, Self-Isolated, Sheltered-at-Home, Socially-Distanced Heart

2 Samuel 11 has to be one of the saddest chapters in the Bible. Especially given the previous ten chapters. 2 Samuel 1 – 10 reads like the plot of King David’s own Marvel movie. He consolidates his rule over the nation of Israel in the first six chapters. In Chapter 7, God makes an extraordinary covenant to David saying that his “throne shall be established forever.” Chapters 8 – 10 bring us stories of David winning in every facet of life – defeating his enemies, executing justice, demonstrating compassion, and for good measure, winning a few more battles. It’s time to cue “Eye of the Tiger,” roll the credits, and buy the King David action figure and matching family PJs!

But then, Chapter 11. “In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle … David remained in Jerusalem.” And so, “It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch … that David saw … and David sent and inquired … So David sent messengers and took her … and he lay with her.” (11:1-4)  

Like a train wreck in slow motion, David then piles sin upon sin in an attempt to cover his guilt. Deception, murder, profound arrogance, and callous indifference to the suffering of others – David gave himself completely to his sinful desires.

What happened?

What went wrong? How could a man after God’s own heart fall so fast and so hard? How could he go from the pinnacle of success and blessing to making an absolute dumpster fire of his life and dragging so many others down with him?

  • A Change in the Routine – the text implies that David should have been with his army. Instead, for whatever reason, he wasn’t. As a result, his routine was changed, and he found himself with more free time on his hands with less structure and less accountability.
  • A Chance for His Heart – the external change in circumstances didn’t cause his failure, but simply provided context for his internal desires to act. Already in his heart, these desires now had the chance to fully express themselves. What desires were in David’s heart? The Bible doesn’t say specifically, but it’s likely that it was a toxic combination of arrogance (“I’m the man! I deserve better.”), discontentment (I’m not satisfied with what God has given me), and lethargy (I’m tired of the pressures of normal life and need pleasure).

Take Heed

Today, our quarantined hearts face an abrupt change of routine and more free time than usual. In this scenario, it’s likely you’ll face new or more intense temptations and opportunities to sin. Our enemy, the devil, is like a roaring lion (1 Pet. 5:8) and would love to use this time of self-isolation to gain and secure a foothold in our hearts. Where are you at risk?   

  • Lust
  • Laziness
  • Fear / anxiety
  • Lack of self-control
  • Anger / impatience
  • Unkindness
  • Selfishness
  • Gossip
  • Ungracious speech
  • Fill in the blank

None of us is beyond temptation or the ability to make shockingly foolish and sinful choices. In nearly every instance, major failures don’t happen all at once, but are the product of a slow fade comprised of subtle compromises. So let’s consider how we can remain faithful to God and guard our hearts while sheltering at home.

Practical Steps

One, look to Christ. When He is precious, sin’s allure diminishes. “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace!” He is our help and it’s in his strength that we fight against temptation. So cry out to our great High Priest “who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” He is able to give us “mercy and grace to help in time of need.”(Heb. 4:15-16) Pray that he would “deliver [you] from evil.” (Matt. 6:13) If you’ve chosen sin, confess it and forsake it. There is mercy for the most significant sin. (Read David’s testimony in Psalm 32 & 51) John also provides a glorious reminder that “if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation [the atoning sacrifice that turns away God’s wrath from us] for our sins.” (1 John 2:1-2) May his amazing love give you assurance in your guilt and motivation to hate sin and pursue righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:14).

Two, renew your mind. There is no substitute for regular, meaningful intake of God’s Word – reading, studying, meditating, memorizing – in our fight against sin and temptation. Battle the lies of the world, the flesh, and the devil with “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” (Eph. 6:17) “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Col. 3:16) that you may “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Rom. 12:2)

Three, distrust your own heart. The Bible offers many clear warnings about the true nature of our hearts, including Jeremiah 17:9 which says, “The heart is deceitful above all things…” and 1 Corinthians 10:12 which instructs, “let anything who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” The old Rich Mullins song rings true, “We are not as strong as we think we are.” Distrust the strength of your sinful desires, the craftiness of your enemy, and your ability to withstand in your own strength. Simultaneously, rejoice in the power of God who is faithful and “with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Cor. 10:13)

Four, guard against idleness. If you have more time on your hands than normal, praise the Lord. Put it to good use. Read your Bible, pray, exercise, write letters of encouragement, do online training, knock out past-due projects, invest in the people in your home, reconnect with a friend at church or in your community, plant a garden, etc. Don’t settle for non-redemptive activity simply to pass the time. Avoid binge-watching the never ending stream of entertainment, doubling down on gaming, or mindlessly scrolling through more social media. Let’s guard against legalism, but take seriously God’s command to make “the best use of the time because the days are evil.” (Eph. 5:16)

Five, fight for community. Just because you can’t go to church, attend growth group, or have coffee meetings in person, doesn’t mean that you can’t do everything in your power to stay connected with your church family. Sin lies to you and will thrive in secrecy and isolation. Now, more than ever, we need to take seriously the command to “exhort one another every day … that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Heb. 3:13) Pray for and with one another. Ask good and direct questions. Be honest about struggles and failings. Confess your sin to one another. Consider how you can spur one another to love and good deeds. (Heb. 10:24)

By the grace of God, let’s take steps during this global pandemic so that our “prone to wander” hearts don’t succumb to wickedness. Rather, for the glory of God, may we emerge stronger in faith, more fervent in love for God and neighbor, increasingly wise in how we spend our time, and more capable of identifying temptation and resisting sin.

Posted by Mark Severance with