No Matter What

Today’s reading is John 8:1-19.

We will focus mostly on the first portion about the woman who the Pharisees brought to Jesus for committing adultery. They were attempting to trap Jesus by saying she must be stoned based on the Law of Moses for committing this sin. But, Jesus did the unexpected. He told them whoever was without sin should throw the first stone and not only did they not stone her, but they walked away from oldest to youngest. Jesus then told her He would not condemn her either and to go and sin no more. He gave her both grace and truth. If we are willing to walk away from our sins, He’ll wash away our sins.

John 3:17 reads…

“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.”

About this time last year, I remember interacting with a gentleman in park in New York City on the Spread Truth mission trip. This man was brought up going to church and was very knowledgeable about many world religions. He specifically stated that He was not a Christian because he thought the idea that God would humble Himself to become man and suffer the way Jesus did was ludicrous. He said if there truly was a God, he would show his power and might and condemn humans because essentially if he was God that’s what he would do. He’s right…we can’t fathom the idea of what God did because we, as sinful humans, would show our power and judge others as the Pharisees did and expected Jesus to do. I sin a lot and in many different ways, but if I were to count each one and label by type, judging others would be near the top of the list. We expect God is like us and would do the same, but He’s not. He tells us in Isaiah 55:8-9 that His ways and thoughts are higher than ours, therefore it’s hard to fathom what He did through Jesus.

As a child, I remember sort of wondering what the big deal was with Jesus dying on the cross at some level because other people die in the act of helping someone like police officers and fire fighters. What was the big deal about Jesus doing it? It wasn’t until I was an adult and realized that Jesus was the only person to walk the Earth without sin, and even just one sin permanently separates us from God without his perfect death on the cross (Romans 3:23). Only when I was able to wrap my arms around this and that He didn’t have to suffer for us, but willingly did and brings us together again with Him and gives us the free gift of eternal life through His death on the cross could I fully appreciate what God has done (Romans 6:23). Actually, as hard as I try, I’m probably still much like the Pharisees and the man in the park, it’s just hard to fathom.

As I’ve mentioned before, I feel one of the main ways God reaches me and connects to my life is through music. This time is no different. Recently, friends and family have been directly or indirectly impacted by depression. Depression can come for many reasons, but I have to believe many circumstances are due to the weight of past sins or feeling like the person is insufficient and doesn’t measure up. If you or someone you know suffers from depression, I hope this amazing song, “No Matter What,” can bring you or them peace and comfort. Every single one of us, even those perceived to be very successful and appearing to have everything going for them, are insufficient without Him. He is enough though. He makes us whole and perfect to God despite all our failures and imperfections. No matter what.

Walk the Walk

Growing up in small town in Central Illinois where high school basketball and football were king, I remember at a very young age being out to prove you were the best and would be the future quarterback or basketball star. One way you could prove it to the high school coach and the community as early as second grade was during the summer camps run by the high school coaches and players. The biggest platform to do this in basketball was the one on one contest. I remember not being able to sleep the night before which seems so silly now and the trash talking started months ahead of time. When another kid began saying how he was going to beat me, I remember my Dad and older brother telling me to say to him, “You can talk the talk, but can you really walk the walk?”

In today’s reading, Ephesians 5:6-20, God is telling us as a Christian and Christ-follower to not just talk the talk, but to walk the walk. Ephesians 5:8 reads, “for at one time you were in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of the light.” Align your actions with your values. Again, in Ephesians 5:15-16 it says, “Look carefully then how you walk not as unwise but wise, making the best use of your time, because the days are evil. ”Did you catch that? ….”because the days are evil.” As we dig in to the character of God over these 40 days, we see here that He knows the temptations we face in this world because Jesus faced them himself. He knows it’s not easy.

He gives us 3 ways to help us walk the walk.

  1. Choose who you spend your time with wisely. Ephesians 5:6 -7 tell us not to partner with the sons of disobedience. I love and believe the saying that who you will be in 10 years is a result of the people you surround yourself with and the books you read. Even Jesus spent time with the worst of sinners to help guide them in the right direction, but are the people you spend the most time and partner with those that will nurture your faith or bring you more temptation which could cause you to fall into more sin?
  2.  Ephesians 5:10 tells us to try to discern the will of God. How? I believe there are 2 primary ways to know the will of God better…being in the Word daily (back to the books you read from above) and asking Him for wisdom and discernment daily in prayer. How often are you in the Word, and how often are you asking Him for wisdom not only on the big decisions and issues, but even on things you don’t know may come at you in the upcoming day?
  3. Ephesians 5:20 tells us to give God thanks in everything. You will live (walk) differently and inspire others to have a relationship with Jesus when you have an attitude of gratitude no matter the circumstances. I’ve heard it said you can’t feel gratitude and stress at the same time. How often do you write down the things you are thankful for or not only thank Him in prayer for His saving grace on the cross, but also for the simple things like your home, your spouse, or your kids? Do those around you see you as someone who is extremely gracious for the blessings God has given you despite the stress and challenges on this Earth? Would they be drawn to Christ to want what you have by seeing your walk?

Take some time to ask yourself how you are doing on these 3 items. What is the nature of my faith? Am I growing closer to Him and learning the character and will of God which can help me in my walk? Do my actions align with my values and what I say I believe? We are not perfect and need Him as our Savior, but let us honor His sacrifice on the cross by striving to improve every day and live a life worthy of His calling.

Crazy Socks

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers,[a] by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.[b] Do not be conformed to this world,[c] 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.”

Romans 12:1-2

When do you remember first worrying about what others thought of you and trying to fit in? For me, it was junior high. I began to really care about how I looked, dressed, and the brand of my clothes. I remember wearing some jeans and wondering that morning if I had grown and if they were long enough. That same day, someone made a comment about me having “high waters” on and then a girl who many of us junior high aged boys were fond of chimed in and said…”Looks like the tides are coming in, Chet.” You can be rest assured I never wore those pair of jeans again, and I made sure my pants were never too short again. In fact, my wife is going to chuckle when she reads this because I think this experience is why likely today I am still always asking her if my pants are too short (like even maybe just last week). Unless if’s for exceptional performance at something, nearly all of us are constantly trying to fit in. Even as adults, we are worried about what others think and follow to the norms of this world.

This world is always trying to get us to conform, even though Romans 12:2 clearly tells us it’s ok to be different, which is exactly what we will be, when we are following Christ. This world tries to tell us that we can do whatever we want and feel like because that will make us happy. This world tells us that rules and guidelines God gives us in His Word keep us from being satisfied. Do whatever you feel like..that will bring you happiness and peace. Then you will be free. However, God knows whatever He tells us is sin in the Bible will actually make us a slave, not free. Sin either initially gives us a sense of anxiety knowing we did something wrong shortly thereafter or gives us temporary satisfaction in the moment, but it will eventually bring us pain and hurt at some point in the long run. This world tells us that many things the Bible says are wrong are now socially acceptable. Things have changed since Bible times we are told, and the Evil One will even trick us into believing that some things are not a sin just because Jesus didn’t specifically address them. But, 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us,” 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God[a] may be complete, equipped for every good work.” The Evil One knows that if we discredit one piece of Scripture…he’s got us..because that means you have to throw out the Scriptures as a whole. We, as believers, must stand up and recognize that the nature of our faith is 2 Timothy 3:16 is true and as a result, we believe ALL Scripture to be true. We must then do all we can to live out the truth of those Scriptures to reveal the character of God.

Romans 3:23 tells us “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Isaiah 59:2 tells us “..your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God.” But, thankfully the character of God is to give us that which we do not deserve as told here in Romans 6:23.. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We all have a God shaped hole in our heart due to our sin that only He can fill through a relationship with Him.

No matter how hard we try, we will fall short and sin, but Romans 12:1 tells us that we should do all we can to make our own body holy and sacred, dedicating it to Him and doing all we can to not sin. Romans 12:2 then also tells us that when we do this and do not conform to this world we will know the will of God. How many times do we ask ourselves why something bad is happening in our lives, others’ lives, or in our world today? How can this seemingly bad thing be good? What good can come of this? What is the right thing for me to do right now? Well, this tells us if we give our life up to Him, we will better understand His will and what is going on. Who doesn’t want that wisdom and the peace that will come from it?

For the last few years, a few guys in my office have been on me to get rid of my old plain, solid colored dress socks that match my suit and switch to wearing the crazy designed, multi-colored socks that don’t have to match your suit. I pushed back caring about what potential clients would think and wondering if someone would trust a financial advisor who dresses like this. Well, three months ago I was in San Diego and walked into a store with probably a 60 feet wall full of crazy socks. I began to think (or maybe it was the Holy Sprit’s divine intervention)..maybe it’s time. So, I did it…I decided not to conform with the regular old, plain socks and to get some crazy socks…to be different. Let me tell you after 3 months, I love wearing them. It’s actually fun, and I like not having to worry about matching. Covering up past sins which cause worry and anxiety is not enjoyable. Giving your body as a sacrifice and not conforming to this world and what this world says is right may sound boring and not fun. However, if you hear the Holy Spirit telling you to change the way your living through His Word or through Christ-centered friends, listen and take action. Turn away, and give your life to Jesus. You won’t have to worry about the bondage of past sins that make you a slave. It may be even better and more freeing than not having to worry about matching socks….

 

Holy Ground

Today’s reading is Luke 18:2-8 and Psalm 127.

Psalm 127:1-2 reads..

“Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil, for he gives to his beloved sleep.”

How often do we try to “build our house” without the Lord? In reflecting back on the prayers throughout most of my life, my prayers have typically involved asking for forgiveness for my sins, thanking God for dying on the cross for me, and praying for others’ needs of which I’m aware. While asking for forgiveness for my sins and believing in His death on the cross is sufficient to go to Heaven and praying for the needs of others is noble and something God wants…I don’t think that’s all He wants.

John 15:5 reads..

“I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

Meriam-Webster defines Lord as “one having power and authority over others.” God wants to be Lord of your life, not just some of your life, but all of it. God doesn’t just want some of your heart, he wants all of it. It says clearly in John 15:5, “apart from me you can do nothing.” God wants our marriage, our kids, our careers, our finances, our health…he wants EVERYTHING. He wants to be Lord of all those things. He wants us to surrender all of those things to Him and His lordship (authority)..not just our sins.

Why do we hold back our personal needs and desires from Him and not ask Him for help, guidance, and wisdom in all these areas of our life? Why do we not acknowledge he’s already in control of these things anyway and ask Him for help?

Here are a few potential reasons…

  • We don’t think he really cares about our needs..big and small. Why would he be concerned about little old me? However, Psalm 139:13-14 tells us He knit us together in our mother’s womb, and we are fearfully and wonderfully made by Him. Matthew 10:29-30 tells us that not even a sparrow falls without God knowing and even the hairs on our head are numbered.
  • We fear He won’t answer our prayers the way we want which may in turn cause us to question whether He really cares or even question His sovereignty. My Mom always told me as a child God answers all prayers. However, he just may not answer them in the exact way we ask them. Romans 8:28 tells us, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” We must trust and believe this.
  • We may wonder why even bother because of past prayers that we feel were unanswered and may even hold animosity towards Him due to this. But, Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” We never know the good that may come out of things we feel are really bad in our eyes, and I’m sure all of us can think of some prayers we thought were unanswered but later realized it was actually a good thing.
  • Either our desires are truly selfish or we feel because they benefit us in some earthly way they must be. Just because something benefits us doesn’t mean it’s selfish necessarily. We can use earthly gifts and blessings for His glory when we consciously think about it, give Him the due praise and glory, and then use those gifts for His glory.

Truly surrendering all to Him means we are doing all for His glory and not ours. We give all areas of our life to Him and His lordship. It’s not about us, and it’s never been about us. It’s about Him.

Once we surrender it all to Him, He will truly bless us. Abraham and Sarah waited until age 100 for Isaac. Can you imagine how precious and coveted this child was to Abraham? God then asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, the son he had waited all this time for. Not until the very last second when Abraham had the knife raised did God stop Abraham. Not until he knew Abraham was truly going to give his most prized possession to Him did God stop him. Then, God tells Abraham because he obeyed him and did not spare his beloved son he will surely bless him and give him more offspring than the sand on the seashores. He surrendered it all, and God blessed. Check this out in Genesis 22.

Maybe God is holding back things from you because you are holding things back from Him. You are not asking Him for help and giving it to Him. He’s waiting until you give them all to Him and will use them for His glory. He loves you enough to not give them to you until you do because He knows that’s when you will be truly satisfied and fulfilled..when you give it all to Him. He’s waiting for you to go “all in” with Him.

We read in Luke 18:2-8 where an unrighteous judge gave a persistent widow justice against her adversary because she kept asking him to do so. The question is posed that if an unrighteous judge will give help because you keep asking, won’t God if you truly cry out to Him for help?

Romans 8:32 reads…

“He who did not spare His own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”

What more does God really need to do than give us His only Son to show us His love and tell us we can bring him all our troubles surrendering all to Him? If today someone else sacrificed themselves or their son for my life, would that not tell me all I needed to know about their care and love for me?

Surrender your entire life to Him…not just some areas…all of them. Ask Him for help. Do not build your house in vain. Make every area of your life “Holy Gound.” It’s what He’s been waiting for. It’s what you’ve been waiting for that will give you peace and comfort that surpass understanding.

Let us pray the words of the song Holy Ground below by Passion/Melodie Malone..

“…Come and have your way Jesus.

Chains fall.

Fear bow.

Hear now.

Jesus, you change everything.

Lives healed.

Hope found.

Here now.

Jesus, you change everything….”

Got Talent?

Today’s reading is Matthew 18:23-34 and Psalm 115.

We will focus on the parable in Matthew which many of us our familiar with where a king forgave a servant 10,000 talents. Some resources indicate 1 talent is about 20 years of wages in biblical times so 10,000 talents would be 200,000 years of wages! However, when the servant was released and someone owed him 100 denarii which resources say is about 4 months wages, he did not show the same grace. In fact, he had him thrown into prison.

Tonight, I was talking with a friend about a mutual relationship we have with another individual who we both have a disagreement with. My friend made a comment in which he said something to the effect of…”you’re a little more forgiving than me on items like this” with this person. However, while I would like to say I’m living this out…I would say this very circumstantial and is not the case anywhere near to the level the Bible calls us to do. He doesn’t know this, but I actually went off on this person’s boss about them at one point and learned later I was quick to judge, didn’t know some things about the individual, and felt the need to apologize to this person’s boss for my quick and harsh judgement without knowing everything. This person’s boss is also someone I’m trying to witness, too. Oops..I did not show them a very good example to draw them to Christ in this case did I?!

One time I even took a personality assessment which said I’m typically forgiving….to an extent. It said I give individuals chances, but when it reaches a certain “breaking point,’ I’m completely done with them and write them off. I’m not going out on a limb to say my breaking point is WAY less than 10,000 talents!

In fact, I often find my amount of forgiveness depends on the relationship with the person or if I find myself with similar beliefs. I’m quick to forgive family, a close friend. or those that have the same political beliefs as me or are on the sports team I root for. Yet, I am quick to condemn someone who stumbles and makes a mistake that has different political views or is a celebrity I don’t know or is on a rival sports team for example. This is just wrong. It shouldn’t matter. I need to realize that I’m called to forgiven in the same way Jesus has forgiven me as this parable teaches of. If Jesus held me to the same standard I hold others to, I’d be in big trouble.

As we read through the Psalms, we come across many passages that talk about having a healthy fear of the Lord. This passage is very humbling because it reminds us at the end that if we don’t forgive others, the Lord will not forgive us. It is also humbling because reminds me how thankful I should be that the Lord has forgiven my sins that come not just by the hour, but by the minute. By using 10,000 talents or 200,000 years wages…He wanted to show the unbelievable depth of His forgiveness and grace. He washes ALL our sins white as snow. It is not circumstantial like my forgiveness of others which I must improve on. All we have to do is believe in Him and ask…and give the same grace to others. God is great!

Take Root, Part II

Today’s reading is the parable of the sower and the seed which is found in Matthew 13:3-8 and Matthew 13:18-23, Mark 4:3-8, and Luke 8:5-8 and Luke 8:11-15. The fact that this parable is found in 3 of the 4 gospels tells me this might be one the Lord once to empathize through His Word. This parable was actually my first ever Bible Journal writing topic in January of 2017. One of my mentors always said, “repetition is the mother of learning,” so most of what is contained below is from that post. However, there were a few new things I picked up in reading this again which I added.

Jesus first tells of seeds which fell along the path and were eaten by birds. He clarifies this is those who hear the message, but don’t understand and accept it. Their hearts are hardened, and they are not ready to accept their Lord and Savior Jesus. The Devil carries these seeds away. The Devil and the norms of this earthly world are leading their life. He then tells of seeds that fell on rocky soil. He clarifies here He is describing those that gladly hear the Good News, but lose faith when trouble and persecution come. The Word did not “sink in” so to speak like the seeds did not sink in the soil. He then tells of seeds that fell among the thorn bushes. These seeds grow up, but are choked out by the worries of this life, the love of riches and the world. Finally, Jesus tells of seeds sown in the good soil which sunk in and bore great grain. This is describing those that hear the message, understand it, and bear fruit by living it out in their everyday lives.

A few years ago, I told my wife how thankful I was for the blessings we have received, but that I was also fearful for how I would react when we faced what I perceived as some “real” challenges others have faced. We know that challenges will come because James 1:2 says “when” trials come and not “if.” I had attended church my whole life, but how do we make sure our faith is strong and the seeds are planted deep in the good soil? Is going to church regularly enough? Would that prepare us?

In order for the seeds to be buried deep and take root, we must have a strong relationship with Jesus. In fact, Jesus specifically directs us to do so in John 15:5.

“I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

How do we foster that relationship with Him? Here are a few things we came up with…

  • Find a church that focuses on the Bible and sees it as the truth and never changing with time, despite what modern day culture tries to tell us.
  • Be in the Word daily (finding a daily devotional helps) to provide a constant and consistent message of instruction and direction.
  • Be in prayer throughout the day to be in communication with God and keep our heart in the right place. This draws us close to Him.
  • Join a Bible study/small group to create a community of believers and friends that can help facilitate and hold us accountable to growing our relationship with Him and our faith.

Since this conversation, we have faced some new challenges we had not faced before or ever anticipated, and I believe we were better prepared to face those by improving in the areas above. Are we where we need to be? No. We can always grow closer to Him by improving even more in these areas. We need to grow more to live more like Him as we are called to and also in order to be ready for the next round of challenges which may be even tougher. Putting on the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18) to create a relationship with Jesus allows us to move forward with confidence each day in knowing we are equipped to face trials and tribulations. Again,  Matthew 13:18 and James 1:2 says “when” trials come…not “if.”

One additional takeaway from reviewing these passages again is Luke 8:15.

“As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the words, hold it fast in an honest and true heart, and bear fruit with patience.”

If the love of, and relationship with, Jesus has truly taken root deep in our heart, we will hold fast and be able and willing to wait as we often get thrown curveball after curveball in this life without reprieve which we cannot understand. We will trust in Him and know that nothing happens to us, but happens for us..to learn and grow closer to Him. We will cling to Him and have faith in His perfect plan for our life which ultimately leads to joining Him someday in Heaven.

What one area above will you focus on to bring you closer to oneness with Him and to be better prepared to face current and future trials?

For additional reflection on the riches of his mercy and the glory which will be revealed in Heaven, read Psalm 103, which is titled “Bless the Lord, O My Soul,” and check out amazing song, 10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman.

 

The Word

Today’s reading is Matthew 7:28-29 and Psalm 91.

I’m a big sports fan, but I don’t listen to sports talk radio. Why? I just don’t really see the point. All they do is just talk about their opinions on something that just happened in the past…a game just played and what a player or coach should have done or what a player or coach said after. They also talk about who they think will win an upcoming game or which player is better than the other. But, the bottom line is this…none of it matters. They don’t play the game, and they don’t have the authority to make any decisions to effect outcomes.

Matthew 7:28-29 reads…

“And when Jesus finished these saying, the crowds were astonished by his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority and not as the scribes.”

It’s almost like the people knew at this point after the Sermon on the Mount the scribes were like the sports talk radio people who could just talk and Jesus was a player or coach who could actually do something about it.

John 1:1-5 reads…

“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”

John 1:14 reads…

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen the glory, glory as of the only Son of the Father full of grace and truth.”

The people knew and sensed Jesus was different. They weren’t just hearing someone talk about God..they were hearing God. He had authority. They were hearing the great “I am.”

I find it very interesting John 1 refers to Jesus at “the Word.” I’m not going to claim I fully know the reason, but I think it’s because everything contained in the book we call the Word is ultimately about Him. From Genesis to Revelation, it all points to Him. And more than anything…the book we call the Word now is our living authority until He returns.

I’ve been to church my whole life and figure I’ve probably heard around 1,500 sermons in my nearly 35 years of life and not to take away from any pastors who I’ve heard preach, but you know when my relationship with God really started to grow? It was when I began to be in the Word daily (preachers and pastors did absolutely help influence adoption of this spiritual discipline). The Word guides us. The Word is our one source of truth (and grace). The Word has authority. The Word causes us to have a relationship with the Word, Jesus.

When I get lackadaisical about being in the Word and miss days, I feel empty. I feel anxious. I feel stressed. I need my GPS. I need my one source of truth and authority. I need Jesus. Then, I have confidence. Then, I have peace.

Psalm 119:105 reads..
“Thy Word is a lamp unto my feed, and a light unto my path.”

Isaiah 26:3 says..

“You keep us in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you.”

Let us pray…

Dear God..,,please help us to come to the Word daily as our one, true source of authority. Please help us turn to the Word to grow in our relationship and oneness with you. And thank you for sending the Word in flesh for us to see and for giving us the written Word as our guidance system until the Word returns.

 

**Additional thoughts- I love the accessibility we have 24/7 to the Bible through apps. However, in my humble opinion, I believe there is enhanced impact in opening the physical Bible and reading it in addition to the app or the few verses that might be referenced, and even included, right in the text of your daily devotional. When you open the actual Good Book, as opposed to an app or just reading the verses listed in the devotional or blog like this, there is something that says/feels…this is different than just another blog, app, article, or website I go to on my phone or tablet. This book is the one and only source of truth in my life. This book is the Word.

“Well done, my good and faithful servant!”

Today’s reading is Matthew 6:19-21 and Psalm 79.

Matthew 6:19-21 could not be more fitting for today. I’m always amazed at God’s timing which makes me know there are no coincidences.

Last Tuesday April 24th, this Earth lost an amazing lady in Mary Ellen Bandy. Mary Ellen was my grandmother, but to me, and many others, she was Memaw.

Today would have marked her 94th birthday.

Memaw did not have monetary wealth when she passed away. Instead, her treasure was her wonderful heart she gave to the Lord and to others as Matthew 6:21 says. She laid herself up for treasures in Heaven by giving her life to the Lord and serving others in same the way the Lord served us.  Rev. Mark Doane said, “Mary Ellen did not talk about her faith very much, but she lived it!” As the famous song says, “…they’ll know we are Christians by our love..” Others seeing our love by our actions is more important than anything we say. People will be drawn to Christ when they see our genuine, peaceful, and caring heart we have through a relationship with Him. They will want what we have.

Memaw left an amazing legacy for us to follow, and I’m confident when she entered Heaven the Lord greeted her with a big hug and said, “Well done. my good and faithful servant!”

Happy birthday in Heaven, Memaw!

Here as an excerpt from her eulogy last week…

Memaw was just so memorable..she wasn’t just our Memaw..everyone knew her as Memaw. I have received messages from many over the last few days who may have only met her once… but they remembered her and specific things like maybe having a beer with her or talking about the Cubs or Illini. Her dad gave her the nickname “Pee-wee” because she was small, and my great Aunt Sister, Uncle Roy and their side of the family continued to call her that which was neat… but there was nothing tiny about her personality and how she lived her life! People just didn’t forget her.

Like Chad said..she NEVER missed a game..not a one..and you could always hear her yelling “Easy does it..now..Easy does it!” to whoever was on the free throw line! She was the first person I called when the Cubs won the World Series, and I’m so happy she lived to see it. She always had the Cubs game on when I called her. One of my most special memories is watching the Cubs with her and Papaw and singing Take Me Out to the Ballgame. I learned to golf by her taking me a couple times a week to Oak Leaf starting at probably 7 and can still hear her little sayings on the course. My Mom is a great cook..and I’m told I have Memaw to thank for that as well because she apparently couldn’t boil water before she was married. Thank you, Memaw! I was, and still am for that matter, skinny enough growing up. I can only imagine how bad it would have been if Mom couldn’t cook!

Memaw truly left an amazing legacy and example for all of her family to follow and continue. I believe we are called to glorify God through our life and Memaw absolutely did this.

Many of the Psalms speak of singing praises to God with Psalm 98:4 specifically saying…

“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!”

Let’s just say Memaw was not known for her singing voice, but she didn’t care! She wasn’t singing to please you..she was singing for her Lord and Savior and to Him…. her voice was awesome though…because it was praising and glorifying Him. There is a great lesson for all of us in that. She had confidence in who God made her and lived for an Audience of One..caring only what He thought.

The book of Acts talks about how the first Church cared for the needy and widows. They served each other in the same way Christ served us. Memaw lived her life in the same way much like the first church did. She would make meals for events like today, and she made costumes for the church play up until just a few years ago. She volunteered with the Red Cross after Papaw passed serving in LA after an Earthquake and the Great Flood of the Mississippi in ‘93. She would do anything for you and give you the shirt off her back. Uncle Tim tells the story of one of his classmates, Ruthie, who was always dirty and unkept. When Uncle Tim came home from middle-school one day and told Memaw he didn’t think she had a dress for the dance..which is pretty neat, Uncle Tim…Memaw promptly went to her house and asked her parents if she could take her shopping. Not only did she buy her a dress and shoes, but she even brought her over to their house before the dance to clean her up and do her hair and dress her. Talk about going above in beyond! My Dad also told the story about how there was a man named “Little Butch” in the small town they lived in, Hindsboro, IL, who likely had mental disabilities and didn’t have any family..let alone any money. What do you think Memaw did…she always made sure “Little Butch” had a gift and food for Christmas. I wonder who the “Little Butch” is in my life I should be helping? I know I see my Dad continuing her legacy and helping widows and others in need, and Dad…she was and is very proud of you.

My Dad’s letter to her on her 90th birthday highlighted 6 lessons she taught him which I wanted to share…

  1. The greatest legacy any of us can leave to our children…raising him and Uncle Tim to believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Memaw always said..”if you can find time for all the other activities in the week..you can find time for church!”
  2. Treat all people with respect..we are not better than anyone else regardless of race or ethnicity.
  3. Always stand up for what is true and honest..even when it’s difficult.
  4. Help the downtrodden and the poor as I previously shared.
  5. Stand up for yourself and never let people walk on you. The confidence I previously spoke of.
  6. Give to the needs of your family, friends, and your church before yourself.

One of my favorite sayings which Memaw lived out is, “Being humble means thinking of yourself less, not thinking less of yourself!”

 This was how Memaw lived and taught us to live. What an amazing legacy of servant leadership and loving God she left to us! I will do my best to carry on that legacy and example for Deklin, Reese, and Hudson.

Memaw….I will end by saying to you the same last words you said to me on Sunday..”Love you more than you’ll ever know.”

To Him Be The Glory

Today’s reading is Matthew 6:1-4 and Psalm 67.

The title of these verses in Matthew is “Giving to the Needy” in my Bible. The Bible tells us in many occasions we are called to help those in need.

“Give justice to the week and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and destitute. Rescue the week and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”  

Psalm 82:3-4

“if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday soon.”

Isaiah 58:10

“Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

Matthew 25:40

However, I feel like the title should really read, “Whose Glory Are You Really Seeking?” Pastor J.K. Jones always says something to the effect that, “There is a God shaped hole in all of hearts.” When God fills that hole and we develop a relationship with Jesus, our hardened heart softens, and we become more like Him. Why did Jesus do what He did during His life on Earth and ultimately suffer the ultimate pain and affliction of the cross when He didn’t have to? He did it to show the love our Father in Heaven has for us..to be the reflection of His light in the world and to glorify Him. These verses in Mathew 6:1-4 clearly tell us to do the same. Every single one of us was put on this Earth to glorify Him. Many of us have read The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman which are touch, service, gifts, quality time, and words of affirmation. I believe words of affirmation are near the top for most of us. Who doesn’t like it when someone tells them “good job?” In fact, much research has shown many men in prison will admit they still yearn today to hear words they unfortunately never heard their dad say, “I love you , and I’m proud of you.” I’ll be transparent in that I like it when someone says to me “Good post today..” when writing for Bible Journal. This is my human, self-serving, and sin filled natural emotional reaction.  I then stop, think, and respond by borrowing the words of I heard author Jon Gordon say at the Christian Fellowship Breakfast for Northwestern Mutual a few years back, “God is the author. I just hold the pen.” This puts me in check, and reminds me I’m striving to live a life where truly everything I do is for His Glory..to be the reflection of the Father’s light like Jesus.

When we fully comprehend the love Jesus showed on the cross and the love the Father showed by sending Him to do so when He didn’t have to, and we develop a relationship with Him…our hearts will soften and we will give to the needy and do everything in our life for His glory rather than ours. This will in turn, draw others to Him through seeing His love in us. The God shaped hole in their heart will be filled, and they will in turn, do the same for others who will see the same. Then, we will be living out The Great Commission Jesus gave us in his last words in Matthew 28:19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

To Him be the Glory…

Legacy

Legacy. What do you think of when you hear the word legacy? Do you care about yours or not? Well, I believe you should because we all leave a legacy and your leadership example determines your legacy. We are all leaders, definitely as parents and spouses and often professionally, but even those that aren’t married, don’t have kids, or don’t have a defined professional leadership role are still leaders. Other friends and co-workers are always watching and following you whether you intend them to do so or not so that makes you a leader. John Maxwell says leadership is influence. Your leadership example determines the impact you have on others which ultimately determines your legacy.

Our small group is currently reading The Resolution for Men and The Resolution for Women. This is my 3rd time through the men’s version, and I would highly recommend every man read it. It is like an instruction manual for being man, husband, and father by translating and breaking down what God instructs us to do in the Bible. It tells men how He created and empowers us to fulfil His leadership vision. Having children, when I think of legacy, I think of the legacy I want to leave for them first and foremost.

The book challenges us to think about how we define success for our children. It is human nature for us to define the success of our children by whether they achieve big things academically, athletically, and even socially with friends or being on homecoming court or in school leadership roles for example. However, this book challenges us that success for our children is only defined by them loving God and knowing Him as their Lord and Savior. Period. End of story. Thus, the legacy we leave in this way through our leadership by example is all that matters.

David tells us in his last words in 2 Samuel 23:3-5..

“The God of Israel has spoken,

the Rock of Israel has said to me:

When one rules justly over men,

ruling in the fear of God,

he dawns on them like the

morning light,

like sun shining forth on a

cloudless morning,

like rain that makes grass to

sprout from the earth.”

How do we lead our children in this way by our example so they know and love Jesus as their Lord and Savior?

  1. First, we must be in the Word daily. This keeps us centered and focused on God so we can know and understand Him and His will better making better decisions daily. This must be visible to them so they know you are in the Word. We should also look to be in the Word together as a family. Try a weekly family devotional on a certain day each week.
  2. They must see you in prayer. They must know you go to God throughout your day in prayer to draw closer to Him as a source of wisdom. Talk about how you go to Him for your challenges and to praise him, and pray together as a family.
  3. They must see you praising and worshipping God in adoration. This can most commonly be done in song as we read about in many Psalms, throughout the Bible, and just yesterday with David in 2 Samuel 22. If your kids go to their own church service, consider bringing them into church with you occasionally so they can see you praising and worshipping Him. Recently, we had a night of worship music only at our church where we brought our kids, and it was awesome singing along with them praising God. It doesn’t have to be planned though. Singing along to Christian music in the car or while cooking out or eating dinner at home spontaneously can be just as impactful for them to see God is more than worthy of your praise all the time..any time.
  4. Speaking about God and his creations of beauty all around us in the world and about how God worked in your life today and asking them how God worked in theirs today is tremendously impactful. Simply put..talk about God. Daily. Not just on Sundays on the drive home from church.

Lastly, if you want to lead someone, most notably your kids as we are speaking of, you must have their heart. If you have their heart and they know you care about and love them, they will follow you. The Resolution for Men discusses if you don’t have your child’s heart, you must do WHATEVER it takes to get it back..even if it takes the rest of your life. 2 Samuel 23 tells about David’s mighty men and all the things they did in battle. While it might be neat to be known for personal or professional successes in life, we should strive for our kids to say when we are no longer on this Earth our legacy was this…”My Mom/Dad loved Jesus with all their heart, and I’m forever grateful they helped me do the same.” Our children must make their own decision to follow Jesus, but nothing is more important than the eternal legacy we strive to instill in and leave them.

Carpe Momentum.