Separation

On April 18th & 19th, 2018, a team of movers came to our house to pack and ship what we wanted with us in Italy. The goods consisted of beds, chairs, a couch, tables, clothing, cooking accessories, photos, and cabinetry such as dressers and armoires. The packed items were then taken to a warehouse and further prepped for a very long journey, placed in a giant shipping container, sent (perhaps by train or truck) to Chicago, then placed onto a ship that would make its way for the next few weeks across the ocean. In case you’re curious, it is almost two months later and we still do not have our things… maybe a topic for a future post on patience!

Leading up to this move we had hundreds (perhaps thousands) of decisions to separate our possessions into what goes to Italy, what to send to storage and what to let go of. The items chosen to send to Italy are planned to be used for the next three years. Conversely, the storage items would sit for three years unused. Then the rest of it was deemed unnecessary; useless to us.

Arriving into Europe there was a similar pattern of separation. US currency no longer accepted, and many electronics do not work (or would be fried) due to the difference in voltage.

As humans we separate, and so does our creator:

The Parable of the Net

47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. 48 When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous50 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 13:47-50)

These words are tough to take in. The thought of being thrown into a fiery furnace with weeping and gnashing of teeth is truly the ultimate worse case scenario. We often wish these words weren’t true, we’d like to think that perhaps everyone is “good” and we all end up happily ever after.

The fact is that God is real, so is his book, and so are his promises. His judgment is fair (whether we like it or not). Knowing the harshness of eternal separation, he gave us a gift, grace and mercy through the sacrifice of his son Jesus Christ. Jesus was tortured and killed as he took the penalty so that we would not be separated from him. It is ours to choose; not someone choosing for us. Eternity with him or without him.

Today’s Psalm: Psalm 110

The Light in You

Recently I was fortunate enough to spend time with a very good friend (we’ll call him Dave), one of my favorite people in the whole world. This friend is someone I learn a lot from, both in positive and negative situations.

Dave faced a hardship in our time together. His mood quickly changed from joy to sadness, it was so obvious, like a darkness had come over him. As a friend, an observer, I was able to witness it first hand from the onset.

The thing was, the hardship wasn’t that bad. What was bad was Dave’s response to the hardship. Initial pain turned to anxiety, anxiety turned to fear, fear turned to anger, and the anger manifested itself through words and spread into other thoughts like a contagious disease for himself and those around him.

As I watched Dave go through this I realized these are similar stages we all can go through when something bad happens. The enemy tries to deceive us into thinking the worst, that all is lost, that we can never recover. He tries to bring us into darkness. He wants us to lean on ourselves instead of Jesus, the light of the world.

33 “No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light.  (Luke 11:33)

This passage has Jesus encouraging us to let our light shine, and point to him as our savior, and our Father God as the all powerful creator. We have the choice to allow him to shine through or to choose darkness in our minds and hearts… Let him shine today!

34 Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. 35 Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness.36 If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.” (Luke 11:34-36)

Today’s Psalm: Psalm 98

Uncle George

In the summer of 2003, my wife Amy and I were living in a tiny apartment in the heart of Edinburgh, Scotland. In that same time period my dad’s older brother, my Uncle George and Aunt Laurelynne had plans to be in that same historical, and stunningly beautiful city for a conference.

Uncle George reached out to us to see if they could stay at our place for a few nights in order to see us and to save some money by not staying in a hotel. Amy and I were delighted to have some guests from America in our temporary home so of course we welcomed them in!

Some of my earliest childhood memories were of my uncle George. He was witty, had a great laugh, cared about others, was an excellent chef as he combined art and science, he was an outdoorsman, he was deeply knowledgable when it came to the arts and history, a coffee aficionado, a military veteran, and so much more. He was a handsome and approachable man, and in my memory he was the only person I knew at the time who had a beard and smoked a pipe. Uncle George passed away in 2011 and was loved and missed by many; his wonderful wife and partner in adventure Laurelynne, his children, siblings, in-laws, grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces and nephews and more.

I shared all of these things about Uncle George because I looked up to him so much, and just recently I benefitted from a gift he and Laurelynne gave to Amy and me as a thank you for allowing them to stay with us.

The gift was one bottle of French wine, given to us in 2004. It was not just any bottle of wine. It was a 96+ point 2000 Mouton-Rothschild, Pauillac. This wine has history dating back to 1853 and is one of the most highly sought after wines in the world, therefore priced accordingly.

When George and Laurelynne gave us the bottle they said to cellar it and then sell it on our 20th anniversary, then use the money for a trip to Hawaii. That was always our plan however no matter how good a plan is, it is subject to change.

With our pending move out of the country, we decided to enjoy this bottle with our dear friends Rick and Heather who are the most knowledgable wine connoisseurs we know. Rick and Heather have been extremely generous to us over the years with their time, love, friendship, as well as their wine cellar! If anyone deserved to try this wine it was them!

The wine lived up to its hype and we had an amazing evening savoring each sip. All evening I thought of this gift and was completely blown away by the fact that first and foremost it wasn’t even necessary! George and Laurelynne didn’t need to do this, but they wanted to. Just spending their time with us was sufficient. This gift was by far the most clever, fun and enjoyable gift ever given to me.

All of this of course leads me to the cross. A gift undeserved yet freely given. A gift that cannot be bought, nor paid back. All we need to do is accept it and eternity with our loving creator is ours.

Father God, you are the ultimate giver. Thank you Jesus for your sacrifice, for loving us more than we can comprehend. You bought our future, and I choose you and your ways today. Amen.

Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:9-12)

Today’s other reading: Psalm 86

Bread, Daily

This web site has been delivering daily bread to our readers since 1/1/2016 (daily in 2016 & 2017, and six days per week in 2018). Today’s post is number 836 and so far there have been 49,279 page views (add one more for your viewing)! God is good!!!

The primary reason for creating this site was to facilitate Christian spiritual growth with the mindset that we grow through daily habits. We grow through prayer and allowing God’s word to penetrate our every thought, decision, and action.

Give us this day our daily bread, (Matthew 6:11)

Seven words, a request that sounds simple, yet it speaks volumes about who God is. He is our sustainer, the ultimate giver.

A few days ago I was feeling down and overwhelmed, then a friend spoke some unexpected words of encouragement to me. It wasn’t like “nice job on that project”. It was out of the blue, unrelated to existing topics which is why I so deeply appreciated it. This act of giving changed everything in a single moment. It lifted my spirits and corrected my attitude. Ultimately I saw this situation as sustainment, as the bread my heart and soul needed at the perfect timing.

Today I am thankful for Jesus showing us how to pray. For God being an interactive God, seeking relationship with us. He wants us to talk to him, to ask him to meet our needs. He wants to show us that we can trust him and lean on him for everything; for each breath, for each morsel of food, for salvation, for eternity with him.

Forgive me Lord for taking so much for granted. Thank you for sustaining us physically and spiritually. Thank you for friends and family who speak out of love and encouragement. Thank you for speaking to us and thank you for being patient with us. Thank you for our daily bread. Amen.

I’ll close with a few verses from Psalm 74 as it has a beautiful and poetic description of God as king, savior, creator, sustainer, and ruler…

12 Yet God my King is from of old,
    working salvation in the midst of the earth.
13 You divided the sea by your might;
    you broke the heads of the sea monsters[d] on the waters.
14 You crushed the heads of Leviathan;
    you gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness.
15 You split open springs and brooks;
    you dried up ever-flowing streams.
16 Yours is the day, yours also the night;
    you have established the heavenly lights and the sun.
17 You have fixed all the boundaries of the earth;
    you have made summer and winter. (Psalm 74:12-17)

I shall not be greatly shaken

Psalm 62 “My Soul Waits for God Alone”

Our family is in the midst of packing up for a move across the ocean and phase one of the move (shipping our belongings to Italy) is only a few days away.

The Middle of the Night

I’ve been waking up around 3:00AM-4:00AM in a sweat almost every day these last couple weeks. Mind and heart racing. Lists growing, deadlines approaching. Fear. Panic. What ifs. Worry. Stress.

Then I pray and eventually come to repentance when I remember all this worry and fear is not Godly. It is me selfishly trying to control things.

Regardless of any earthly, human outcome, God has it. He holds you and me in his hand. He is a refuge.

Trust in him at all times, O people;
  pour out your heart before him;
  God is a refuge for us. (Psalm 64:8)

The Peace of Dawn

Then morning brings a new day, a new perspective, a new opportunity to get it right and continue to learn to lean on Jesus.

Today’s Sermon on the Mount Content… lust!

Today’s verses from the Sermon on the Mount are Matthew 5:27-30 where the topic of lust is addressed. I posted on this on February 9th, 2016. Here’s a link:

Do Not Open This Door

Not an April Fools’ Joke

After Jesus died and was buried, the priests and Pharisees went to Pilate and asked to secure the tomb until the third day. Pilate granted the request by sending “a guard of soldiers” and said to “make it as secure as you can”.

Roman soldiers were known for their precision, brutality, training, and being well committed to their assignment (or face severe consequences). We’re not talking about clown cops. These were tough dudes who didn’t mess around. Remember the brutal torture (scourging) from Friday? If you’ve seen “The Passion of the Christ”, you know what I’m talking about.

Except the guards were no match for God’s plans.

And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. (Matthew 28:2-4)

This brief account strengthens my own belief in the resurrection. No one was going to be able to steal the body. No one was going to roll away that stone. No one would dare attempt to overtake the guards.

We know that Jesus lived and his miracles were well documented. It is documented that he died on the cross and just to be sure, the soldiers pierced him with a spear (John 19:33-34). There were witnesses to the burial as well.

Up to this point we can say he was an amazing man. Humble, giving, peaceful, a good teacher, and even a miracle worker. All these are great qualities however without the resurrection, he would have been just another dead human.

He Has Risen!

But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. (Matthew 28:5-6)

The Old Testament foretold of him long before these events occurred and we must choose to believe it or deny it.

But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:5-6)

Jesus walked out of that grave. In his death, he was the sacrifice for our sin. In his defeat of death, he proved his worthiness as a savior and allows us to run out of our own graves that we’ve dug through our sin.

Doubters Welcome!

What will you choose today? Doubters are welcome so start with a simple prayer as one who seeks. He knows your doubts so why not share them with him right now?

Jesus said,

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8) 

Crucified

2 Samuel 18 articulates the events that lead to the death of King David’s son Absalom.

Absalom rebelled against King David, waging war against him with the hope to take over the throne. Absalom ultimately hung on a tree alive then had three javelins thrust into his heart. King David mourned deeply for the demise of his son. It was a broken relationship, and much like most broken relationships, sin was at the heart of it all.

Like Absalom, we’ve all gone astray. We rebel, wage wars, seek selfish results, we have broken relationships, and we even put others at risk when with our sin, just like Absalom.

Today, Good Friday 2018 we reflect on another man who hung on a tree because of sin. Except the sin he was paying for was not his own; his name was Jesus and he was innocent.

Matthew 27 provides an account of Jesus being brought to trial, the crucifixion and his death. Can I ask you to read this today aloud with friends and/or family to reflect on who Jesus was and the price he paid to set us free from the bondage, death, and separation of sin?

Today’s reading: 2 Samuel 18 & Psalm 50

It was before the Lord

Two recent Bible Journal posts have mentioned verses or themes from Matthew 5-7 (also known as the Sermon on the Mount). Stephanie’s post on 3/10 and  Lyndon’s post on 3/12 mentioned loving our enemies.

2 Samuel 6 also reminds me of the Sermon on the Mount. I wonder if Jesus had these stories of David on his mind as he gave this sermon. Jesus would have heard these stories and understood the text from being a young boy, so it seems quite possible.

David had been celebrating and worshipping God, he “danced before the Lord with all his might” (2 Samuel 6:14a). We witness David not holding back whatsoever, giving his all solely for the glory of God.

16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that[b]they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)

As David returns to bless his household, he is greeted rudely and angrily by his wife Michal. Why did Michal respond the way she did? 2 Samuel 6:16 says she “despised him in her heart”. Ouch, his own wife!

This chapter doesn’t tell us her reasoning for being upset. I’ve got some thoughts on this, and all relate to what I believe is the root for most of our sin: Selfishness.

  1. Was Michal jealous that David put God first in his life?
  2. Was Michal full of pride and embarrassed that David lowered himself before the people, dancing like a maniac? As though the king should behave more “kingly”.
  3. Was Michal bitter that David held greater esteem than her father (Saul)? Did she think the throne should be in her own family?

Whatever the reasoning, I see this as persecution directly related to David’s love for God and his desire to serve him first. This brings me again to the Sermon on the Mount.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:10-12)

David’s response to Michal was more than fair, and he chose to keep it above board without snarling back insults at her. I loved this statement “It was before the Lord” because it reflects his priorities and that he really didn’t care what anyone thought about what he was doing – he cared about being right with God.

39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. (Matthew 5:39)

All of this once again leads me to the cross. I don’t know exactly what it feels like to be despised but Jesus does. Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life yet he was despised, betrayed, beaten, spit upon and unjustly killed. He didn’t have to do any of this, but he did it anyway in direct obedience to The Father’s plan, for our sins. Thank you Jesus for your sacrifice. I choose you today. Amen.

Today’s readings: 2 Samuel 6 & Psalm 38

Extra credit reading: The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7)

A way out.

Today’s reading in 1 Samuel 25 has a fascinating story where David shows kindness to a man named Nabal, then humbly asks Nabal for a favor. Nabal’s response is selfish, rude and offensive. David is so furious he makes plans for revenge, and a bloody one at that.

I see God’s story and our story throughout this chapter. I love how God speaks to us in every Biblical story showing us his good nature, his good plans, his love, his mercy, and his grace!

  1. There was a gift, one that wasn’t earned: David’s initial assistance to Nabal. I think of all of the gifts we are given on a daily basis from a loving God that point to him as the giver, asking for our hearts to turn to him, to acknowledge him as the giver, give thanks, and give back to him what is his.
  2. The response to the gift was sinful. This is our sin. We too often take God’s good gifts and use them for our own selfish desires or we don’t acknowledge God as the giver by thanking him.
  3. God’s vengeance is justified in that without Jesus, just one sin can separate us from him.  Our vengeance is not justified (as David planned to do). Vengeance is God’s: Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19)
  4. Forgiveness was requested. Nabal’s wife Abigail lowered herself, humbly begged for forgiveness and acknowledged The Lord.
  5. Mercy is granted. Praise God loving us and for his plan for salvation through Jesus Christ! All we need to do is humble ourselves before him and acknowledge Jesus and our slate is clean.
  6. God’s eventual judgment of the non repentant heart. Yikes! “And about ten days later the Lord struck Nabal, and he died.” (1 Samuel 25:38)

What also was clear in this chapter is the reminder that God always gives us a way out when we are tempted to sin. David was tempted yet given a way out through Abigail’s intervention.

On my heart through writing this post were some of the lyrics from the song “Do it Again” by Elevation Worship. He makes a way when it seems there is no way… something about this part of the song nearly always brings me to tears.

I’ve seen You move, come move the mountains
And I believe, I’ll see You do it again
You made a way, where there was no way
And I believe, I’ll see You do it again

Praise God for this promise and the countless times he’s given us a way out. Amen.

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT)

Today’s reading links: 1 Samuel 25 & Psalm 26

Wait

In 1 Samuel 13 we find the King Saul of Israel and his armies in big trouble with the Philistines. Saul’s armies numbered somewhere around 3,000 and the Philistines were numbered like the sand on the seashore. Not good odds.

And the Philistines mustered to fight with Israel, thirty thousand chariots and six thousand horsemen and troops like the sand on the seashore in multitude.  (1 Samuel 13:5a)

Not surprisingly, the men of Israel were trembling in fear, so they hid.

When the men of Israel saw that they were in trouble (for the people were hard pressed), the people hid themselves in caves and in holes and in rocks and in tombs and in cisterns, …. 7b  Saul was still at Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling. (1:Samuel 13:6, 7b)

That’s the current picture. Now let’s recall the instructions given to Saul from Samuel back in chapter 10:

“And you shall go down before me to Gilgal; and behold, I will come down to you to offer burnt offerings and sacrifice peace offerings. You shall wait seven days until I come to you and show you what you should do” (1 Samuel 10:8).

Simply put, Saul was instructed to wait. His response… he waited until he thought it was long enough, but he didn’t follow the instruction to wait until Samuel came to him. With this one act of fear, impatience, and self-reliance Saul’s legacy as king was destroyed.

On one hand this seems like a harsh punishment for one mistake, however Saul was entrusted to be king over all of Israel, a huge undertaking and great responsibility. We can also assume this wasn’t Saul’s first sin or act of disobedience.

My takeaway is that God has all of us waiting on all sorts of situations right now. Pause for a moment and mediate on what you’re waiting on an answer to or direction on. Consider things like health, friendships, career, major purchases, living accommodations, family relationships, or education.

For me, with each opportunity to wait, there is the battle between taking matters into my own hands or seeking God’s guidance, as though He is saying “just wait… trust me”.

There is this pull at my flesh. I desperately want to give Him all control however if I’m real truthful, I want it all, and I want it now (and that’s not okay because that is a reflection of sin in my life). This struggle brings me to my knees because the more I let go, the closer I feel to Him and I sense His love, power, and ultimate wisdom. His answer and timing is often far different than my own plans but the God of the Heavens and the Earth has never let me down, nor will He let you down either.

Through it all, he’s not impressed with our outward sacrifices, he wants our heart and our faith to be in Him alone so that we may grow closer to Him and be a living example to our family, friends, and colleagues.

Challenge: Identify at least one situation right now in your life that needs a resolution involving waiting, and commit to giving it over to God, 100%. Journal the story (privately or on this site as a comment) and share what God does with it for his glory.

Dear Jesus, we thank you for your ultimate faith and obedience in The Father’s plan for us. Forgive us for our impatience and futile self-reliance. The glory is yours God. Amen.

Today’s readings: 1 Samuel 13 & Psalm 14