Suit Up

Today’s reading is John 19 and Psalm 121.

John 19:7-8 reads, “The Jews answered him, ‘We have a law and according to that law he out to die because he has made himself the Son of God.’ When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid.” Prior to this in John 19:6, Pilate said he found no guilt in Him, yet we know in John 19:16 he delivered Him to be crucified. Why was Pilate afraid, and why did He deliver him to be crucified, even though he found no guilt in Him? He could have been fearful of Jesus being who He said He was, but most likely he was afraid of a riot, and he did not want the word to get back to Caesar that he could not effectively govern his region. A riot during Passover would be even worse and the word surely would get back to him and may cost him his position.

How many times in our lives do we cave to the demands and temptations of this world because we are trying to please others for our own good and don’t want to stir the pot and start a riot? We either commit a sin of commission ourselves or don’t speak out about something that’s not in line with the Word and commit a sin of omission. We fear not fitting in or being ostracized by friends or co-workers, or maybe even fear of losing our job. Sometimes though, it’s just apathy. Every day we see things the world tells us is ok and normal that we know the Word tells us is not. Yet, how often do we stand up God and His truth from His Word? I know I often cave just like Pilot. James 4:17 says, “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” Thankfully, we know we are not condemned by these sins. Romans 8:1 tells us, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” We know from reading later in John that His death, burial, and resurrection make us right, whole, and one again with God. As Psalm 121:1-2 reads, “I lift my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord who made Heaven and Earth.”

As we move forward and think about future tests, battles and temptations to heed to the demands of this world let us look to Ephesians 6:13 and pray we do as it instructs us to. “Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.”

“The Impossibly Impossible is Possible with God”

Today’s reading is John 5 and Psalm 107.

John 5 begins with Jesus healing a man who could not walk. He, and many other who were sick or crippled, hung out around a pool in Jerusalem with a spring under it causing the water to bubble up very briefly. They believed if you went into the water while it was bubbling you would be healed. This sounds simple, but we can tell here that the water did not bubble long and many wanted in making it very competitive to make it in time before it stopped.

Jesus could have just healed this man, but I find it very interesting that instead He asks the man in John 5:6, “Do you want to be healed?” It seems like an obvious answer right…”well..duh..yeah!” However, the text tells us that the man had not been able to walk over 38 years, and it’s likely that life expectancy was in the 40s-50s which basically his entire life. Instead of saying yes, he gives an excuse in John 5:7, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up and while I’m going another steps down before me.”

How many times in our lives does Jesus ask us like the man, “Do you want to be healed?” We don’t hear him though, nor do we hear the people He puts in our lives or see the signs. I think of the movie Bruce Almighty with Jim Carrey. Bruce’s life is falling apart, and he finally calls out to God asking for help and a sign while he’s driving. He doesn’t even see the “Caution Ahead” blinking construction sign, and then proceeds to get mad and pass a truck loaded with stop, caution, and yield signs. He keeps going not seeing any of this and next thing you know he wrecks his car into a light pole. How many times do we miss the signs and people Jesus puts in our life saying in some way, “Do you want to be healed?” I may have mentioned this in the past, but when going on my street ministry mission trip this summer, it was very apparent that strong believers saw proof of God in the beauty of His creation and good in people, as where non-believers saw bad things going on in the world around as proof that God does not exist. When you are going to church, praying, reading the Word, and in a small group (close community) with other believers you are more likely to see God’s signs and hear his voice calling to you and tugging on your heart. As our Pastor Mike Baker once said, “Seeing is not believing. Believing is seeing.” I had to think about this one, but when you are looking for God and listening to His voice you will see and hear Him. If you’re not looking for Him, you’ll miss Him and His awesome wonders. Psalms 107:41-43 says, “but he raises the needy out of affliction and makes their families like flocks. The upright see it and are glad, and all wickedness shuts its moth. Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things; let them consider the steadfast love of the Lord.”

Often times, I know I see God’s signs and hear Him calling and tugging at my heart, but like the man, I give an excuse. As my personal coach Jason Selk says, we all fall prey to the trap of the viable excuse. He says the viable excuse comes as truth, fact, and reason. He says we are tricked by it because there is always an element of truth in it. The man’s excuse is totally viable and has truth in it…he can’t walk to make it into the pool, and he also has no one to take him. Our excuses are viable too when God comes calling. “I’m too busy, That will take too much work. I don’t have time for that.” Or my personal favorite, “ I can’t do it (not capable).” Why is that my favorite? Because it’s the most viable excuse…you’re right, you can’t do it. But, He can! This man couldn’t walk for 38 years and so he couldn’t walk to the pool, but Jesus could heal him and whatever you are going through…He can heal you, too. Chad Parker, CEO of Cybernautic and founder and executive director of GOYA ministries said this week at GOYA’s annual banquet, “The impossibly impossible is possible with God!” So cool, and so true.

If you don’t follow Christian musical artist Toby Mac on social media, I highly recommend it. He posts some very inspirational messages. One he posted a few months ago hit me in such a way that I now have it posted on my bathroom mirror. You can see it as the picture for today’s writing. It is a beautiful night sky with the stars and a person staring up with the quote, “I made all of this out of nothing. Trust me, I can take care of you.” Signed God. Wow! How true is that?! We hold on too tight and think we are in control (but we realize we have no control really so we stress) and forget He is in control. Our finite minds can’t figure out how a situation will work out for the good…but He can. Actually, He already has. We just have to let go and realize He’s the Creator. He’s in control. He’s got this. Most importantly, He’s got you. Just listen for his voice asking you if you want to be healed. Then, no excuses. Trust him and just…”Get up, take up your bed and walk.” John 5:8

Good, Good Father

Today’s reading is Matthew 20 and Psalm 93.

As we read Matthew 20:1-16 about the laborers who worked in the vineyard and were paid the same wage regardless whether they started working at the beginning or the end of the day, I have a feeling of great gratitude. I’m thankful were serve a great God who doesn’t care what we’ve done and when we give our life to him, but only that we give our life to Him.

As I ponder this in amazement, I can’t help but wonder why he is so loving and gracious? For all parents reading this, think of a time when your young children had a really bad day and you were at your wit’s end. As bedtime nears you are not sure if you can take any more of it and if they are like our kids there must be caffeine in the bathwater because they become even more rambunctious and listening goes out the window during and after bath. You then tuck them into bed to say good night, and they say in the sweetest little voice, “Daddy/Mommy…I love you.” Your heart then instantly melts. You forget the recent scolding and headaches they just caused you, and you realize deep down your love for them is unconditional. Why? Well, I believe it is because they are yours and you created them. Check out Matthew 20:15. The vineyard owner says, “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?” God is telling us we belong to Him. He is our Heavenly Father and our one and true Creator. When you or others can’t imagine how God can forgive many past sins and potentially nearly a lifetime of separation from Him in some cases, we need reminded that we are His and He created us so His love is unconditional forgetting past mistakes. He only wants us to come back like the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32. As a side note, this why the role of an earthly father is so important, God created us to model His love so that our kids can see it through us.

This week in our church we studied Joshua 2 where Rahab, a prostitute, helped the Israelite spies entering Jericho, even though she was a pagan and lived a life even pagans would believe to be wrong. We learn in Matthew 1:5 that she later became part of the lineage of Jesus! Talk about a redemption story! The Bible is truly full of them with this being just one example. Our Pastor Mike Baker said, “You can never get so far from Jesus that He can’t save you.” I would also add that you can never get so far from Jesus that He can’t use you for something positive and big. Outsiders become insiders through Jesus, and we are all outsiders to God through our sin …even Christians(Romans 3:23). Pastor Mike said, “Jesus came for outsiders like Rahab and all of us.”

I can’t help but think of the lyrics to the song, “Good, Good Father.” The lyrics not only say, “You’re a good, good Father, it’s who you are.” The lyrics also say, “I’m loved by you, it’s who I am.” Isn’t that awesome? You may feel like a failure. Maybe you have a failed marriage or relationship, troubled kids who make you feel like a poor parent, professional shortcomings, financial challenges or even a fallout in relationship with your siblings or earthly parents whose love and approval you deeply yearn for. There is no question these situations are hard and painful. Thankfully, these lyrics are so true though as the Scriptures remind us countless times. He created us and not only is He good, but only Him and His love matters. This is who we are. His love, and His love only, defines us. His love is unconditional. Praise God!

As we read Matthew 20, we can also likely think of a family member or friend who is a non-believer, and we are reminded it’s not too late, no matter how old they are, and no matter how many times we have witnessed to them and feel like we’ve been unsuccessful. If they are still on this Earth, they can still be saved. Through these Scriptures today, God laid on my heart an elderly man with failing health who both my Dad and I have witnessed to. This man has done so much good in his life and is a wonderful person, but know John 14:6 to be the truth. These scriptures gave me hope for him and reminded me it’s not too late. He can still be saved! I must not give up. I must continue to pray for him and speak with him again.

I pray this has touched you in some way. Maybe you can relate to Rahab and this reminded you that you can be used for God’s purpose still and only His love defines you, or maybe it re-invigorated you to pray for and witness to a non-believer you know who can still be saved. Either way, we can all be very thankful we have a “Good, Good Father.”

Take Notice

Today’s reading is Matthew 6 and Psalm 79.

Do you ever have situations where things happen that you know are not a coincidence, and God gives you the right message (usually multiple) at just the right time? So many times, daily devotionals fit right into exactly what you need to hear that day due to what’s going on in your life. I had a couple circumstances this week that all fit together telling me they were not a coincidence.

It started with an unplanned conversation with a successful Christian business owner with much experience and wisdom through years of faithful servanthood. He said many times in his life he became anxious and tried to push and rush initiatives on his own timeline. He said over the years he learned when you trust in God and live life for His glory He will bless you in ways you cannot even imagine, but it will be on His timeline, not your own. We just need to live for Him and trust Him, and He will provide in ways you beyond what you can think of. Does this sound familiar (Matthew 6:25-34)? He compared this to the 2017 Super Bowl. The game looked like there was absolutely no way the Patriots would win.  In fact, it couldn’t have started any worse for the Patriots and their fans. Then, in ways no one could have imagined, everything went perfectly and the Patriots won leaving everyone thinking, “How did that just happened?” If you were a Patriots fan (which I am definitely not) and you knew the ending, wouldn’t you have felt differently during it? Would there have been any anxiety, stress, and maybe even anger in what wa occurring? Absolutely not! Maybe just a thought of, “Did we really wine this game..are you sure?” As a University of Illinois basketball fan, I still feel this way when watching our 2005 game vs. Arizona to advance to the Final Four. As Christians, this gentleman said when you live to glorify God, He will make things fit perfectly to eventually “win the game” throughout life on Earth, and ultimately assure us we will “win” the only game that matters by giving us eternal life. This man is doing some amazing things with his resources with more things in the works to glorify God, and he shared some amazing stories about how God fit the pieces together perfectly leaving me shaking my head in awe.

The second non-coincidental occurence came while traveling with a Christian brother, Patrick Scheina, the same week. I was telling him about this conversation, and we both began to share very challenging situations we had in the last year where God “bailed us out” and fit the pieces together in crazy ways that if you would have given us a million chances to figure out how things would play out we wouldn’t have guessed how they ended up coming together positively. How often do we even slow down to notice how God is working in our lives? If we did, why would we ever worry? It’s really almost silly when you think about it. Not only do we have his Word hear in Matthew 6 which we know is true, but we also have our own experiences! It’s hard to not judge and condemn the disciples when they get stressed about running out of food, a bad storm, and even His death. I can read it and think…”Umm..hello..don’t you guys remember what he just did a few days ago?” Then, I sigh and think, “Am I really any different?” No…we just have to wake up and look for the ways God works and reminds ourselves of them when trials come our way. We need to listen what what He tells us in His word. “Be still and know I am God.” Psalm 46:10. And also in Isaiah 26:3, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

As Patrick and I were discussing things, he mentioned how important remembering and praying the Lord’s prayer is. He said how perfect every statement is and how if we really prayed it every day and reflected on every part, it covers everything we need to remember and request. If we applied each part to what was going on in our lives, it would be all we really need. There’s so much wisdom in Patrick’s statement. When I read Psalm 79, I couldn’t believe how much of it seemed like an Old Testament version of the Lord’s Prayer.

I was left shaking my head when 2 days after my conversation with this Christian business owner and the night I returned home from my trip with Patrick, I checked my next Bible Journal writing and found it was on Matthew 6 which included the Lord’s Prayer and a section on not being anxious. Coincidence? God is speaking and working in your life to write your story, and make it a part of His story. Are you noticing?

 

THIS

Today’s reading is Luke 17 and Psalm 65.

Luke 17 contains messages around temptation to sin, increasing faith, unworthy servants, and the coming of the Kingdom of God, but we will focus our time on the story of Jesus helping 10 lepers from Luke 17:11-19.

In this story, Jesus heals 10 lepers when they yell and ask for help from a distance, but only 1 comes back to thank and praise him. At first read, it’s easy to be judgmental, and think “how could they not come back and say thanks!?” It’s also easy to condemn members of the crowd yelling “Crucify Him!” when he’s on trial with Pilot.  After reflection, I realize when I take Jesus name in vain it’s just the same as someone yelling these words. When I don’t thank Him for answered prayers or completely forget about it a few days later, am I any different than the 9 lepers who didn’t come back to show their gratitude? It’s so easy to quickly forget about the answered prayer for a negative test for cancer, a successful surgery, a new job, retention of your job amidst downsizing, a new home, or a significant other you’ve been asking God for. How quickly do we forget these things!  I’m guilty of forgetting these things within days, hours, and even minutes! What about the answered prayers we don’t even realize occurred? For example, we pray for safety and then get really upset when spill coffee on the way to work and have to go back home in anger to change clothes causing us to be late to our first meeting. We had no idea this situation kept us from getting into a car accident.

Our leadership team, thanks to my brother in Christ Josh Waite’s idea, starts our weekly meetings by “going B.I.G.” That stands for “Begin In Gratitude.” We reflect and tell everyone one thing we are thankful for. When you focus on what you are thankful to God for, the stress and problems are minimalized. I’ve heard it said you can’t feel stress and anxiety at the same time. When we focus on and thank God for what we have and what He’s given us, we don’t get stressed and mad about what we don’t have.

Some might ask how they are supposed to be thankful when they just lost their job or a loved one? Well…it’s hard. But, maybe this will help you find your true calling or give you an opportunity to move closer to, or spend more time with, family. How about giving praise that you had that loved one in your life for the amount of time you did or even at all for that matter? When you praise God when things are good and when they don’t seem to be good, it changes your whole perspective and happiness. You see the world through an entirely different lens. Psalm 65 highlights offering praises as well.

As we go into next week, let’s go “B.I.G!” Let’s remember, thank, and praise Him for the big answered prayers we asked for, for the ones we don’t realize were answered, and for the things we didn’t even request. He gave it all to us. Most importantly, let’s thank him for sending his Son Jesus to take the punishment that should have been ours on the cross. For that, we should always and forever be thankful to Him for the opportunity He gave us to become one with Him and have eternal life! He did for us what we could not do for ourselves.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

“Thank God for all I missed because it lead me here to This…”

One Way to the Father

Today’s reading is Luke 3 and Psalm 51.

Our family attends Eastview Christian Church in Normal, Illinois. Our mission statement is, “A fearless church of Christ followers whose ridiculous love and dangerous witness are irresistible.” As we read Luke 3, it’s hard to think of too many people who were more of a “dangerous witness” than John the Baptist. He dedicated his life to preparing the way for Jesus, and we read today how he was imprisoned and it later cost him his life by beheading.

John knew there was only one way for forgiveness of sins and one way to the Father as we read about in Psalm 51. Then, he was committed to giving others the good news of Jesus as Psalm 51:13-15 speaks of, regardless of the risks involved. We live in a world today that tells us to do whatever you “feel” like. Do whatever makes you personally happy. And anyone who doesn’t approve of it is a bigot. However, the Bible tells us there is only one way to the Father in Heaven which by believing in Jesus Christ as our Savior through his death on the cross. John felt it was critical people know Jesus was the Messiah, and we should feel and do the same today. This is the opposite of the society we live in which says you can do whatever makes you feel good, so it would only make sense that are multiple ways to get to Heaven and  if you just do more good than bad you’re in. Wrong. Jesus tells us this in John 14:6 which says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

One of my biggest take aways from a recent mission trip was when we asked people how they get to Heaven nearly every one said “be a good person.” Then, when we shared we believe there was only one way, through belief in Jesus, they would say, “yeah..that’s what I believe too,” because they would in fact call themselves a Christian! Many of them grew up in, and some even still went to, the church. How often do we have conversations with friends and family who call themselves Christians and may even go to church about what they believe? Do they know there is only one way to Heaven which is through Jesus? Do they truly believe what Jesus says in John 14:6? Let us follow the example of John the Baptist by being a dangerous witness, not only internationally and in our local communities, but also in our own homes, families, churches, and personal relationships. Even better news is that we don’t have to wear camel’s hair clothing and eat locusts and honey to do so!

While We’re Waiting…

Today’s reading is 2 Peter 3 and Psalm 37.

I’m always amazed at how God speaks to through His Word to tell us what He wants to tell us right when we need it. As I write this, we are anxiously awaiting our third child with my wife at thirty-eight weeks pregnant. Generally speaking, she is the more patient of the two of us, but she just left for a walk because she is willing to do just about every wives’ tale (except drink castor oil) to get this baby to come out. My grandparents on my Mom’s side were some of the most laid back people I’ve ever known. I have heard my Dad say if they were sitting on the couch in their living room watching TV and the house went up in flames my Grandpa would likely calmly look over at my Grandma and say, “Well..Berniece…the house is on fire..we should probably leave now.” Due to this, my Mom is also a very patient person. Around 3 years ago, she began to have undiagnosed back issues and has been in a wheelchair most of the time since then, not knowing if she would ever walk again. Through this, I’ve not heard her complain once. In fact, instead she will tell you this has brought her closer to God, and she’s been in the Word more than ever. She is amazing and truly an inspiration to me. Just in the last few weeks she walked up to communion and drove for the first time. God is good!

As I mentioned earlier, it is amazing how God speaks to us through His Word.  These last few weeks I’ve become frustrated and impatient with some aspects of my life with things not happening how and as quickly as I would like them. Then, God smacks me on the side of the head with His Word (metaphorically speaking) with 2 Peter 3 and Psalm 37 on waiting for and trusting in Him.

2 Peter 3:4 tells us that others will get us to question Him and His promises, and I would add the we also do so in our own minds. We are reminded in 2 Peter 3:8-9 His timeline is not our timeline. He is not slow, but instead will give us what we TRULY need when we TRULY need it.

He also gives us instruction on what to do while we wait in these chapters. Psalms 37:4-5 says, “Seek your happiness in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desire. Give yourself to the Lord: trust in Him, and He will help you.” THIS is what I’m called to do during this time of waiting. Keep the focus on Him, not my worldly desires, and trust in Him.  More of today’s reading points to this in 2 Peter 3:14-15, 2 Peter 3:17-18, Psalms 37:7-9, and Psalms 37:34.

While God does not promise to give us the worldly things we ask for that we think are in our best interest, He does promise to always be there for us and give us what is truly best when it is truly best (Psalms 37:4-5, Psalms 37:9, Psalms 37:23-24, Psalms 37:34, Psalms 37:39-40, 2 Peter 3:9, and 2 Peter 3:13-15). He delivered on His promise of salvation and gave us the only thing we really need in Jesus’ perfect life, death, and resurrection freeing us from the bondage of sin.  When He allows us to have what we have been asking for, be healed, or walk again like my Mom (the details of this are a whole other story on God’s amazing provision), let us give Him and no one else the credit as Peter instructs us to do (2 Peter 3:18)! Glory to God..glory to God forever!

Check out this lyric music video for “Trust In You” by Lauren Daigle. I hope it can bring you strength and encouragement as it does me.

 

Is God Enough?

Today’s reading is James 1 and Psalm 23 which are two of my favorites in the Bible.

Is God enough? I first heard this question asked a few years ago by a speaker who was giving her testimonial about hitting rock bottom when nothing seemed to be going her way. She was about to lose her job due to poor performance, she was already in a bad financial position, and she nearly died in a motorcycle accident. It was until she asked herself this question and finally decided God was all she really needed that her life began to turn around. When I read Psalm 23:1, “The Lord is my shepard; I shall not want.” I can’t help but think of the question, “Is God enough?” This is a really hard one for me to say yes if I answer honestly. If I lost my family, health, home, money, possessions, and everything, could I honestly say, “I’m good..I’ve got Him, and He’s all I need.” (Psalm 23:4)

I find it very interesting James 1:2 says to “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds…” The use of “when” instead of “if” is not a coincidence. This tells us we will face trials and the question is about how we will react. I don’t believe God causes these trials when you read Romans 8:28, “There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.” However, I believe He is watching to see how we will react and if we will trust in Him, and by the way, so is everyone else who knows we are a Christian.

“Count it all joy..” Really?! God can remove our problems and pains at any time because He’s God. We can understandably be mad at Him for not removing them and tell Him He’s wrong for not doing so or we can remember verses like Isaiah 55:9. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” We can ask ourselves, I wonder what God is doing in my life and heart right now to turn this into a positive. James 1:2-3 tells us the testing of our faith in Him produces perseverance. It also tells us that perseverance needs to have its maximum impact so we may be perfect and complete lacking in nothing. The question then comes, how do we become perfect and complete? If we look at James 1:5-8, I believe it’s by having faith, asking for wisdom, and TRULY believing He can do whatever you ask and need, but most importantly, I believe it is by the realization that He is in fact… enough. If we are real with ourselves, do we truly believe He can take our illness, financial hardship, broken relationships or whatever pain or problem we have away? If we believe that He can and that he’s enough, it does not mean that He will, but that’s what He’s looking for. That is how His perfect plan is complete, and we lack nothing. ..by trusting in Him fully. James 1:12 tells us that when we have persevered and truly tell Him that He’s enough and when He has all of our heart, we will receive the crown of life. He promises this to those who love Him.

Let’s end by going back to Psalm 23:6. It says, “goodness and mercy” will follow and that we will “dwell in His house forever.” Whatever pain and problem we are going through which seems really bad and is really bad and for however long it goes on which seems like a long time pales in comparison to the joy we will have in Heaven forever. And forever is a long time.

As we go forth today, let us pray and truly believe the following short and sweet prayer that is pleasing to God and shows we are complete and lacking nothing. “God, you are enough, and you will always be enough..no matter what happens in my life.”

How Many Kings…

Today’s reading is Hebrews 1 and Psalm 9.

My bible has the heading “The Supremacy of God’s Son” for Hebrews 1. Both Hebrews 1 and Psalm 9, as well as when God the Father speaks to Jesus in the Gospel, make it clear that Jesus is set apart and supreme above the angels and prophets of the Old Testament. He is God in the form of a man. He was there when the world was made (Hebrews 11:10, John 1:1-4), and He now sits at the right hand of the God the Father (Hebrews 1:8, Hebrews 1:13, Psalm 9:7, Psalm 9:11). However, when I read both Hebrews 1 and Psalm 9, I think less of the supremacy of God and His Son Jesus. We know this to be certain. As I reflect, I am in awe of his love, humbleness, and servant leadership.

I recently returned from the Spread Truth Ministry trip to New York City doing street ministry. It was life changing for me, and I pray that it was for others we shared the Gospel with, too. When you talk to 10-20 people a day about what they believe about God, you get some insight into who people think God is or is not. When do we even talk with our family and best friends about who they think God is and what they believe? Sadly, there were many false beliefs not only from non-believers, but also from many raised in church who also would likely label themselves as a “believer.” This makes me not want to take for granted what I think those close to me believe and not hold back deeper conversations about God that I would have shied away from previously.

One common theme was many did not want to believe God existed because they feel like God is on a throne in Heaven judging us for what we do and condemning us from above like He is a kid with a magnifying glass burning us like ants in the sunlight. If that’s who God is, they didn’t want to believe there was a God. Can you really blame them? This makes my heart ache that this is who they think God is. While God does have rules for right and wrong and condemns doing wrong (sin), He does so for our protection because He knows what is in our best interest. This however, does not define who God is. I’ve heard it said, “If you miss Jesus, you miss everything.” What they were missing was Jesus. They missed the fact that just one sin of not only commission, but omission too, permanently separates us from God and no amount of good deeds can outweigh even one wrong. Romans 6:23 says “The wages of sin are death..” Note sin in singular.. just one sin separates us from God. Thankfully, God did not want us to be separated from Him by our wrong(s) though! He loves us so much that He sent Jesus down from His throne in Heaven to experience all the trials, tribulations and temptations of this life we face and even though He did not sin like us, He suffered the painful death we deserve on the cross for us. Wow! John 3:17 says “God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” While God does judge right and wrong, He is not “looking to condemn us” as many believe. If He wanted to do that, He would have never sent Jesus! He did not have to do that…He wanted to. He wanted us to be saved and to NOT condemn us. 1 John 4:16 says “God is love.” Hebrews 1:3 says, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature…” This tells us we can truly see who God is by looking at Jesus. His most important action to show His love was His sacrifice on the cross but I love looking into it even deeper into His life and other actions. Not only did Jesus heal the sick and the lame, but He spent time with pronounced sinners like prostitutes, adulterers, and tax collectors. He even invited Matthew, a tax collector, to be one of His twelve disciples. He renamed Simon, giving him the name Peter or Cephas which is translated as the rock, and built His church through him, even though He knew Peter would publicly deny Him not once, but three times. Does this look like a God that want to condemn us?… Hardly. Praise God!

I will end this with the lyrics and a link to “How Many Kings” by Downhere which so wonderfully articulates the message I’m trying to convey. As we go into our day today, let’s make sure we don’t miss the love of Jesus, and we don’t let others either. If we miss Him, we miss everything.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zF952rzG3Yk&list=RDzF952rzG3Yk

“How Many Kings” by Downhere

Follow the star to a place unexpected

Would you believe, after all we’ve projected,

A child in a manger?

Lowly and small, the weakest of all

Unlikeliest hero, wrapped in his mother’s shaw

Just a child

Is this who we’ve waited for?

 

‘Cause how many kings step down from their thrones

How many lords have abandoned their homes?

How many greats have become the least for me?

Any how many gods have poured out their hearts

To romance a world that is torn all apart

How many fathers gave up their sons for me?

 

Bringing our gifts for the newborn Savior

All that we have, whether costly or meek

Because we believe

Gold for his honor, and frankincense for his pleasure

And myrrh for the cross he will suffer

Do you believe?

Is this who we’ve waited for?

 

How many kings step down from their thrones?

How many lords have abandoned their homes?

How many greats have become the least for me?

And how many gods have poured out their hearts

To romance a world that is torn all apart

How many fathers gave up their sons for me?

Only one did that for me

 

Oh, all for me, oh

All for me, all for you

All for me, all for you

All for me, all for you

All for me, all for you

 

How many kings step down from their thrones?

How many lords have abandoned their homes?

How many greats have become the least?

How many gods have poured out their hearts

To romance a world that is torn all apart?

How many fathers gave up their sons for me?

Only one did that for me, oh

 

All for me, all for you

My Father, A Glimpse Into Our Heavenly Father

Today’s reading is 1 Timothy 5.

Please forgive me, as this is the 2nd writing in a row about my family. My family is far from perfect to say the least like all families, but I could not help but think of my Dad when reading this passage. This chapter specifically talks about the treatment of widows in 1 Timothy 5:3 and family 1 Timothy 5:8. For much of the last 15 or so years my Dad has cared for widows. Two of his aunts, who were my Grandfather’s sisters, were widows with no children who lived alone for many years and then transitioned into an assisted living facility and then eventually a nursing home. They have now both passed. My Dad picked them up for church each Sunday, insisted they come to every holiday, and even made sure they had a corsage like all the other women at church on Mother’s Day so they didn’t feel left out.  Not only did he care for their physical needs and managed their finances, but most importantly, he cared about the way they felt about themselves. He cared about their dignity. I can’t help but think of how proud my Grandpa must have been of my Dad looking down from Heaven and seeing his son care for his sisters who had no one else.

It doesn’t stop there though. My Grandma, my Dad’s mother-in-law, was also in the nursing home with dementia at and around the same time. My Dad would stop by mid-morning each day to pick up and drop off her laundry and check in to see how she was doing. Even though she didn’t know who he was and wouldn’t have noticed if he didn’t come by or that her glasses were dirty, he would stop by just to bring a smile to her face and to clean her glasses every day. I know how great this made my Mom feel seeing the love her husband had for her own Mom. I can only hope that I can make him and my wife Shannon that proud someday. Now, my Dad cares for a widow who has no living relatives and is in need of someone to help her after her sister passed. I heard someone once say you can tell the character and quality of a person by how they treat someone who can give them nothing in return. Come to think of it..isn’t that what God did for us when he sent Jesus to die on the cross for us? He gave us something we could never repay Him for and something he didn’t need to do. He wanted to do it though. 1 John 4:16 says, “God is love…” We will never be perfect and that is why we need Jesus. But, we are called to be a shadow of his image for others to see His love through our lives and actions.

I’m wrapping up my 17th unbelievable Annual Meeting in Milwaukee for my company, Northwestern Mutual, and I had the chance to hear Wheaton College legendary football coach Michael Swider speak for the second time in my life. If you ever have a chance to hear him..go! He has me crying and wanting to run through a brick wall for God, my family, and those I lead every time I hear him. He said, “Your reputation is what others think about you. Your character is what God and the angels know.” 1 Timothy 5:25 says, “So also good works are conspicuous and even those that are not cannot remain hidden.” Coach Swider said we all will have a meeting with God someday. We just don’t know when it is. He asked, “What if your meeting with God was tomorrow?” And it could be! What would He say to you? He knows your character and true heart. Although we only need to ask for forgiveness and believe in Him for his grace and good works cannot earn his grace and eternal life, I sure hope and pray that if my meeting is with God  is tomorrow he will say to me, “Well done my good and faithful servant!” I know He will say that to my Dad. What do you think he will he say to you?