Just Ask

Hugs

My wife Amy is a hugger.

During a recent interaction with a friend, Amy did her usual hug thing. Except this time after the hug, the friend said “could I please have another hug, I could really use one”. Amy was delighted to serve!

Amy shared this story with me and we reflected on the fact that the friend was bold enough to ask for another hug. Sure, hugs are free and it was a simple thing to do, but it made me wonder how often people need a good hug or any favor, but refrain from asking.

It is my opinion that 100% of the time, a friend, or even a casual acquaintance would find joy and satisfaction in being trusted enough to be asked for help.

Amy has always had the desire to be independent or self-sufficient. She is a passionate individual, and when she wants something she goes after it. In doing this, she doesn’t like to burden anyone, ever.

Becoming vulnerable

We have one car so logistics can be a little tricky. Shortly after the hug incident, we had a scheduling conflict. Amy wanted to go to her fitness bootcamp and I needed the car for work.  As a result, someone needed to change their plans or we needed a new variable in the mix.

Then out of the blue, Amy decided to go out of her comfort zone and ask for help. She messaged the bootcamp group and asked if anyone might be able to give her a lift. The same friend from the hugging incident quickly replied and offered to help. Nice!

The two ladies chatted it up en route to the workout and when they arrived the friend turned to Amy and said “ok, give me a hug and hop out”. Surprised, Amy said, “Wait, what? You’re not coming?”. The friend briefly shared that she just wanted to help Amy out; friends helping friends. How refreshing.

This was a reminder for us to not think so highly of ourselves that we miss out on building closer relationships and being part of someone else’s joy in giving. Becoming vulnerable builds trust and opens us up to new experiences we might not have otherwise imagined.

Ask our creator

Through this story we are once again led to our God who desires relationship with us; a two way relationship. He wants us to communicate with him in prayer, to ask him to meet various needs and he wants to answer. It is a model for how we can and should be in relationship with others.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. (Matthew 7:7)

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 15:7)

Asking shows our trust that the responder will be open to our requests. It is symbolic of relationship. Conversely, not asking says “I’ve got this”… and in the end, we don’t have this, Jesus has this!

  • Whose life do you need to inject yourself in and start helping?
  • What situation in your life could use some help from a friend?
  • In what ways can you step out of your comfort zone and become more vulnerable?
  • What aspect of your life have you not turned over to Jesus because “you’ve got this?”

Just ask!

Constantine

I’ve spent much of my life seeking to avoid awkward situations. Like avoiding interactions with homeless people or undocumented immigrants. Sadly, through much practice I’ve gotten pretty good at this.

Selfish

As a human I am prone to the sin of selfishness.

In Italy I have observed people engaging the underprivileged in conversation and it has been on my mind for a while. Sure, I’ve given some cash to people on the street, but most of the time perhaps it was more of a payoff as if to say, “please just don’t talk to me.”

If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. (John 15:6)

An Unexpected Gift

Last weekend we had some houseguests: Amy’s cousin Megan and Vern (Megan’s husband) who live in Rome, along with a friend of theirs (Maria) who lives in the UK. We had a nice weekend together, eating good food, having good conversation, and just enjoying time with the only family we have within a 4,000 mile radius.

Sunday morning I drove our guests back to the train station. After dropping them off Amy informed me that Vern had secretly left some cash behind so that we wouldn’t find it until after they had departed. Vern generously, lovingly, and privately thanked us with a nice gift. What a great (yet unnecessary) gesture!

An Unexpected Encounter

After the drop off, it was time to stop at a trash/recycling area to unload from the weekend. Our city does not have curbside trash/recycling pickup so we have to bring these items to a nearby series of bins.

Next to the trash bin there was an older man with a cane, picking through waste, hoping for a treasure (perhaps food or maybe a useful item). My first thought: Get out of here before he asks for money.

Upon leaving it hit me… the thought was so strong, it almost felt audible… “no one should have to do that….”

And the King will answer them, ‘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)

Message received. I then handed the guy a couple Euros (just over $2.00), he said thanks, and I was on my way.

Seconds later the thoughts came back, but stronger… “what about that money you received but were not expecting?” People picking through dumpsters… No one should have to do that.

If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. (John 15:10)

I hadn’t driven far so I pulled over and found the man and gave him what felt right in my heart, then we started talking. His name was Constantine, he was from Romania, he cannot work, and his son works at a nearby restaurant.

This time we hugged goodbye and what a joy it was. Hugging the guy came so natural, yet unnatural as I felt like was giving up control. Tears flowed down my face as I drove away knowing there are so many like this man, so many people to love, and so much work to do here on this Earth.

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. (John 15:11-12)

Jesus changed my life and he’s still working on me. He can do the same for you today if you let him.

Today’s reading: John 15

Wicked Things

Terezin (also known as Theresienstadt), about 30 miles from Prague, Czech Republic was a concentration camp during World War II. This camp was one of many tools in the Nazi’s scheme to deceive.

The world was told that Hitler had built “a city for the Jews”. In reality: 35,440 Jews died at this camp, and over 88,000 were deported to other camps to be murdered.

For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. (John 3:20)

“Arbeit Macht Frei” (work sets you free)

The Terezin camp was used as a staging area for Jews who would later be sent to killing camps. It was also a forced labor camp and ghetto but publicized as a retirement community. The Nazis intentionally created horrific, unsanitary conditions and starved the prisoners here in an effort to speed up their demise.

We toured Terezin and heard stories of deception such as:

  • People forced to write postcards to friends and family, saying how great it was and they should join them soon. In reality, people were dying from starvation, disease, and malnutrition.
  • A staged orchestra concert used to create a film to convey how wonderful and cultural Terezin was. Upon completion of the film, most of the “cast” were deported to Auschwitz to be murdered.
  • Weeks of preparation for a known visit by the Red Cross. To make sure it didn’t look too overcrowded, the Nazis deported 7,503 people to the Auschwitz killing center just prior to the visit.

Walking the grounds and observing the prison cells, crematorium, cemetery gave us better insights as to what millions of people went through during one of the most horrific events in human history. I cannot imagine the despair, loneliness, fear, abuse, and pain caused by these acts of hatred.

Through this experience I cling closer to the cross and the freedom, hope and promise it represents. Without the cross we are hopeless and lost. With it, we have hope, forgiveness, and a future with no more of the sorrow that comes with sin.

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 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. (John 3:16-17)

For more reading on Terezin: The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Today’s reading: John 3

Lost and not yet found

I’ve loved bicycles ever since I was a kid. They’re fun, low maintenance, they serve a purpose, and there’s a bicycle for every terrain and season. I used to beg my parents to take me to the bike store just to take a look (and of course the looking always turned to wanting a new bike). After 40+ years, the desire to visit bike shops remains.

Early this spring I purchased a fitness/hybrid bicycle that would be practical for city living as well as getting some exercise. It had a cool paint job and was built to withstand the elements of daily commutes. The best part: airless tires made of solid yet cushy rubber that couldn’t get a flat. No air pump necessary. Shattered glass or nails on your path? No problem.

The bike performed as expected and I loved exploring the city, commuting, and exercising with this new toy until one very sad evening… Upon returning from a nice meal with a good friend, my new two-wheeler that was previously secured was gone. All that was left was a cut lock.

It was at the train station, in a bike parking area, right out in the open, lots of people, and a lock. How? I was devastated.

Everywhere I go in the city, every bike rack, every bike passing by, my eyes are searching. Even after many weeks I keep thinking it will turn up, just keep looking.

After several emails and phone calls to various shops seeking a replacement, there are none available. There are similar versions but the more I think about it, the more I just want my bike back. I don’t really want a new bike, I want that one.

These thoughts lead me to the various parables of lost and found, and how God so badly wants us, our hearts, individually to turn to him or turn back to him. He longs for us to return, he gives us each day to make the choice. Like Jennifer said yesterday, God wants us… “That is why he made us in the first place.

Today’s reading in Luke 15 has “lost and found” parables. Each one I believe describes God’s characteristics relating to the way he seeks us and rejoices when we repent, and return to him:

  • Lost sheep: Even though there are 100, he still seeks the single sheep who is lost and rejoices upon the return.  “And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. (Luke 15:5)
  • Lost coin: Seeking relentlessly until it is found and then rejoicing (Luke 15:8-10)
  • Prodigal son:
    • The father noticed him from a long way off (reflecting God’s anticipation). The father felt compassion and embraced him. (Luke 15:20)
    • Upon confession, the father did not punish him (mercy), and more, the father gave him the best robe, a ring and shoes… gifts the son did not deserve (grace). (v22)
    • And of course celebration in verse 23. God makes it loud and clear that he celebrates when we return to him!
    • Promises of his goodness, now and forever: And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. (Luke 15:31)

God’s welcoming arms are ready waiting for us to repent. Let us take this moment right now to confess what he already knows to be true. I usually start by asking God to show me how I’ve been selfish. Selfishness for me is the gateway to all sin as it puts us before God and others. Selfishness sometimes feeds earthly desires but only for a moment, and earthly pleasures cannot satisfy the continuous thirst that we have for something greater, the thirst that can only be quenched by Jesus Christ.

13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.[b] The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)

I wish I could tell our readers that my bike was found. In the end I wonder if God allowed this event to happen in order to give me a glimpse into his kingdom. My want for the bike and for the other things of this world will never go away until being satisfied by the living water of Jesus. Are you thirsty?

What then shall we do?

Greetings readers! I love talking about matters of the heart and today is no exception.

A few recent observations regarding people’s hearts:

  • One of my children diligently studied on a Friday night, Saturday morning, and on Sunday for a test the following week, but received a mediocre grade. The result wasn’t expected or desired, but what mattered was his heart.
  • A group of business associates gathered from around the globe. Each person had varying levels of expertise. Reflecting on our time together, their knowledge was not at all what impacted my opinion or our overall success. It was their heart, the passion they demonstrated. The teamwork, listening, and asking good questions.
  • An executive within my organization was asked “what company would be a good role model for us to aspire to be like?” His response had nothing to do with talent, or measures of success in dollars. His response admittedly didn’t directly answer the question, but it targeted the most desirable attribute: “I want this to be a company that people want to work for… there are other local and highly desirable companies, but I want people to at least give us a look because this is a great place to work.” I view this as having heart, one that focuses on people as our greatest asset.

In today’s reading (Luke Chapter 3), John the Baptist is preaching on true repentance and the forgiveness of sins. Even with John’s direct and sharp words, people appear to be responding in a favorable manner, asking good questions with the right heart.

  • The crowds asked “What then shall we do?” (Luke 3:10b)
  • Tax collectors respectfully addressed him as teacher saying “what shall we do?” (Luke 3:12b)
  • Soldiers also asked “What shall we do?” (Luke 3:14a)

All three of the aforementioned groups demonstrated an initial recognition that things for them might not go so well in the future.

John’s responses in verses 11-14 (paraphrased):

  • To the crowds: share your stuff (love others)
  • To the tax collectors: quit stealing (be fair)
  • To the soldiers: stop using your power to bully people and be glad for what you have (you’re in a position of authority, respect the position and others in your care)

Notice that John’s response was not simply “repent” (and keep on sinning). For each question, he gave specific instruction for their actions. This goes back to Luke 3:8a: Bear fruits in keeping with repentance.

Also in Luke 3:8, John warns them against relying on their heritage to save them. Our religion won’t save us, nor our deeds, nor our lineage; only our true repentant inward hearts reflected by outward actions, seeking salvation through Jesus Chris will save us.

This chapter also points out the contrasting heart. That of Herod whom John confronted for his sinful ways. Herod’s response was to lock John up in prison and ultimately have him beheaded.

Father God, you know my heart, I have no secrets from you. You know all. Show me my sins. Show me where I need to be more focused on others instead of myself. Have mercy on me. Show me a way out when I’m tempted. Thank you for saving me. Give me words and courage to share the good news with others today. Amen.

 Featured image: bronze sculpture of John the Baptist by Giuliano Vangi.

Motivazione alta!

This week marks four months that my family and I have been living in Italy. Prior to moving, we spent about five months being “all in” preparing.

There is one major item has loomed over my head for several months: Learning the Italian language.

From the onset, I was truly committed to downloading the language apps, and even had some good streaks for logging in several days in a row. I listed to podcasts in the car and made feeble attempts to make it stick. I kept thinking, be patient, it’ll take some work but then suddenly I’ll be speaking like a real Italian.

Four months of living here resulted in ~120 words. Even with 120 great words, it is generally impossible to communicate in Italian. To be less harsh on myself, I did set a goal to learn at least one word per day. Unfortunately that goal wasn’t good enough.

The most important thing I was lacking was motivation. I went through the motions feeling good about checking the box when using the language applications. The online apps give some good affirmation and feedback to keep the users going. Nothing against the apps; those weren’t the problem. The problem was all me.

After feeling like I hit rock bottom with the learning progress it was time to make a decision. Go all in or give up. And there is no way I’m going to give up; it was abundantly clear that it was time, past time, to go all in on learning.

The Italian language school courses begin on Mondays so the following Monday I showed up to the school early, signed up, and immediately started the daily four-hour sessions.

The thing that struck me most on the very first day was a comment from the professor. To learn Italian, she said you must have “motivazione alta” (high motivation). I could easily mentally check out and play along during and after class because again, the problem is not the teacher, method, or material. Success or failure solely relies on my motivation, passion, and attitude… my heart.

Of course this all ties in with today’s reading in Mark Chapter 7 and our daily walk with Christ. Am I honoring my creator, savior and lord in vain as a hypocrite or with my heart?

And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,

“‘This people honors me with their lips,
    but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
    teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. (Mark 7:6-7)

Am I all in with Christ, just as I claim to be with language study? Is my motivation for Jesus high? Am I living as though each day could be my last? Does my life appear to be marked by one that is relentlessly seeking the kingdom of Heaven? Am I working out my faith with fear and trembling (as in Philippians 2:12)?

One more thought for today as a reason why in all of this. The end of the Sermon on the Mount has one of my favorite verses. Matthew 7:28 has the word “astonished”. They were astonished at his teaching. Mark 7:37 has the same word; they were astonished at his perfection and his miracles. This astonishment can and should be bestowed upon only one person, that is Jesus Christ.

How will the end of my day and your day today be one that resembles being astonished by who Jesus was and is, and what he did for us? Will we put him in his rightful place as savior and lord today and every day forward?

Every single week for over a year

This week I had the opportunity to have dinner with Jim; a friend, colleague, and brother in Christ from America.

Jim said he scores very low on the spiritual gift of evangelism. This was interesting to me because “evangelist for Christ” is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of him! Jim has a way of showing Christ in the way he lives out his life with his actions matching his words.

When I first came to know he was a Christ follower, it was in a business setting where a large group of people were being asked about what is most important to them. Perhaps it would have been easy to translate the question into “what is most important in business, etc.” and avoid the spiritual realm, but not Jim. He unashamedly responded with “my faith, absolutely number one”.

Jim speaks openly about his relationship with Jesus Christ. More than words though, in an attempt to describe him, all of the fruits of the spirit came to mind:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

People seem to quickly open up to Jim because he is so approachable. I believe it is because of the fruits of the spirit that he exemplifies. He’s just someone you want to talk to and share thoughts, struggles, and joys with.

Jim points to Jesus by asking questions and loving people, not by telling them what to do nor telling them they’re going to Hell. He prepares his heart, waits for an opportunity, listens, prays, and just loves and gives out of obedience to Jesus.

My boys got a glimpse into Jim goodness this week. When I told them I was having dinner with Jim, they grumbled a little bit because this meant no family dinner that night. I said, “well Jim is very special. First, he loves Jesus, and second, he has prayed for me every single week for over a year.”

The look on the boy’s faces was priceless. Someone cares enough about their dad to pray pray for him every week (even when he barely knew who I was). It might seem small but the boys understood this act of selflessness. They smiled and embraced this night away from me. I’m thankful for having people in my life who exemplify the kind of man I strive to become, the kind of man I want my boys to become… a person of integrity and love, humbly submitting to Jesus Christ, with good works that are a reflection of a truly good heart.

The opposite of this plays out in Matthew 23. In my own very basic summary, Jesus rebukes the pharisees for their hearts not being right; for hypocrisy, selfishness, and ultimately for not truly loving God.

so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. (Matthew 23:3)

Our God is serious about sin, about his message and his will for our lives. Jesus does not mince words. Sometimes we paint Jesus too mildly; he is dead serious and today’s chapter is a good example (note the many explanation points; we don’t want to be against him).

Please consider reading Matthew 23 out loud. Here’s a link to a version (NLT) with more common words that are easier to pronounce: Matthew 23.

Father God, show me where I am like the pharisees, and have mercy on me. Forgive my hypocrisy, greed, selfishness, and ignorance. Cleanse my heart as I go out today. May your will be done. In Jesus’ name, amen.

No one knows the Son except the Father

Today is our son Preston’s birthday so in the days leading up to this event I am spending extra focused time thinking about him and praying for him.

I think I know Preston better than anyone else does, or at least as much as Amy knows him. I know his many grins, each with a slightly different meaning; sneaky, joyful, mischievous, nervous, shy, eager, embarrassed, or relieved. So many images going through my mind right now.

I can smell his hair and know how long it has been since he last showered.

His walk, sometimes light and jubilant, sometimes slow and methodical.  Both tell his mode and mood.

Some of the little sounds he makes when he’s frustrated, sad or lonely. I almost always know what each little peep means.

His footsteps far away in the house when he’s scared; he runs recklessly. Amy and I always know this run and we tell him to walk, and we say “there’s nothing to be afraid of.”

The peace that he has when he plays with his toy cars or Legos. He’s in another place being creative, being a little boy, doing what little boys do.

When he’s hungry, or as we often use the slang term “hangry” (so hungry that you’re angry).

When he grabs my hand as we walk together. When he asks me to carry him because I still can, and he knows I actually like it.

When I’m about to leave for business travel and he snuggles up really close to me, he doesn’t have to say a word.

When his questions are not meant to generate a real answer, just a response. He just wants attention.

If you know me at all, you know tears of joy flow down my face as I wrote all of this so far. Perhaps you might also get a glimpse into how much I love this boy, and the more I know him, the more I love him.

A similar theme is in Matthew 11:

All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. (Matthew 11:27)

Jesus knows the Father (God), and God knows his son (Jesus) better than anyone else. When I think about my own sons, I think about how true this scripture is, the significance of our relationships, and how significant the God & Jesus relationship is.

This leads me to how significant it is that our God created us for a personal relationship with him and his son. He reveals himself to us all the time in many mysterious ways, sometimes seemingly small and sometimes massive.

It was modeled in the God the Father and Jesus relationship, and as we consider our Earthly relationships, this should serve as a reminder that God so much desires us, but we have to choose him. He loves us so much that he sent the one he loved to die in our place. The ultimate sacrifice. The ultimate substitution. The ultimate Father, the ultimate Son.

Overcoming the World

I’m on vacation as I write these words to you today.

Beach, family, relaxation, unwinding, nice meals, reading, sunrises, sunsets, cool night breezes, games, laughs, meaningful conversation, silly conversation, trying new things, exploring, people watching, travel adventures, reflection, worship.

Those are some of the first thoughts that come to mind as I reflect on our time here. Then as I read today’s verses, there is this theme of overcoming the world and commentary from Matthew Henry summarizes these verses quite nicely:

He cannot be satisfied with this world, but looks beyond it, and is still tending, striving, and pressing toward heaven. We must all, after Christ’s example, overcome the world, or it will overcome us to our ruin. – Matthew Henry

As I questioned in my prior post: “With all that is in my life, am I seeking up or seeking the things of this Earth?”

Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:5)

Even on vacation, there is the temptation to want more, but as I surrender to Christ and say “I want you more than things”, I find true relaxation, true rest.

I take 1 John 5:5 to mean that we can try as hard as we want (on our own) to deny ourselves the things of this world. We can try to be good people as some religions or human wisdom suggest, but those plans are flawed because humans aren’t perfect.

Believing that Jesus is the Son of God brings us down the path of truth in recognizing that through His perfection and sacrifice, we too can overcome the world.

The world is often like a garbage dump overflowing and stinking. It is messed up because of the lies we’re told, the lies we buy into, and the false hope we often seek, but God has a different plan and he can help us recognize his ways are better than the world’s ways in how we spend our resources (time and money).

Here are some of the things I think the world is saying as compared to what God has to say:

World Says

God Says

Keep your kids busy. Sign up for as many activities as possible. You want them to have every opportunity to get ahead, right? God rested (Genesis 2:2).

“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. (Matthew 12:33)

The Bible is too restrictive and too hard to follow. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30)
Want more? Work harder. 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. (Psalm 127:2)
If I had just a little more… 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.[b] The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)
Let someone else take care of the poor. I give enough through taxes.  44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ 45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ (Matthew 25:44-45)
Buy this and you’ll be happy. “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? (Matthew 6:25)
You can do it yourself or simply, “you’re on your own”. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

A New Life

This summer has brought a lot of change in my life. There have been changes in work location, work peers, friend groups, church, learning to speak a new language, and much more. It has been busy and oftentimes frustrating beyond belief. There have been storms as well as smooth sailing, sadness and joy, loneliness and renewal.

Later this month we have a long vacation scheduled, and I am really looking forward to it. Contrary to what some people might see on social media, I’m feeling burned out. A break from this craziness will be very much welcomed before the kids start at a new school and we adjust further to our new life here personally and professionally.

With our family’s move overseas, in many ways we have a new life. New opportunities to grow in our faith and to love others. New friends, new interactions at local shops, new coworkers, and new missions.

The same for us as Christians. Upon our decision to choose Jesus as lord and savior, we were given a new life. An opportunity to put on a new self.

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your[a] life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you:[b] sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming.[c] In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self[d] with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. (Colossians 3:1-10)

Each time I read today’s scriptures I have varying thoughts; mostly self-assessment. With all that is in my life, am I seeking up or seeking the things of this Earth?

Is my desire to go on vacation stronger than my desire to grow in my faith and lead others in their faith? Do I seek renewal through rest and relaxation or renewal through begging for mercy due to my sin?

If the answer to this question resides solely on the pictures in my phone’s photo library then it would seem I’ve got a serious idolatry problem. Food, wine, adventure and leisure.

On the other hand, these last few months I’ve experienced God’s faithfulness and gentleness unlike any other time that I can recall. Continuing the habit of journaling every other week (because the “next post” is always on my mind) has helped convict me of my idolatry and helped keep my focus on the kingdom of Heaven.

Thank you to the rest of the Bible Journal team for your commitment to writing and sharing. These daily posts are shaping me. Your love and efforts are making a difference.

Thank you also to our readers. I think about so many of you as I write, as though I’m preparing a speech to you as friends and family in the same room. May my heart and motives be pure for God’s glory.

In closing, I challenge our readers to pick any verse of the Bible. Read it, pray over it, then write down your thoughts. I think you’ll be moved more than you might expect. Either share the thoughts with someone or keep it between you and God; the challenge is to take a step to go a little deeper.

Colossians 3:1-11