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 imperfection 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

Acutely Aware

Italian drivers seem crazy to me. They drive too fast, often disobeying even the most basic traffic signs, they seem to have some unwritten rules that I’ll never understand, and worse, they seem to get upset with the people who obey the written rules of the road.

Dear God, I’m glad I’m not like them (except too often I am).

This week I became acutely aware of many of my own arrogant thoughts as I observed immigrants, the homeless, drunkards, pushy travelers on and around public transportation, and people who were too slow, too fast, or too loud. It is shameful to think about how often these thoughts came into my head.

On the other hand, I acknowledge these thoughts are sinful. I have God’s Holy Spirit reminding me to turn away, to change my line of thinking before it gets worse. Until I get to Heaven where there is no more sin, I live each day with this battle. For now, I have the joy in knowing that when I repent and turn from these evil ways I am forgiven, made new. In these moments I am also reminded to pray for others (instead of cursing them), to give, to share the love of Jesus.

One of the reasons I was able to remain “acutely aware” of these thoughts as sin was because God’s word was fresh on my mind; specifically the verses for this week where Jesus contrasts the proud and the humble.

The Pharisee and the Tax Collector

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:10-14)

What a great simple prayer from the tax collector. Sometimes I make prayer too complicated. This is a good reminder to just humbly go to God and start by begging for mercy.

Father God, in this moment, I beg you for mercy. All too often my choices reflect self-focus rather than kingdom-focus. Let me see others how you see them, your children, your beloved, your creation. Amen.

Never Alone

This week I traveled alone across the ocean and back.

I stayed in a hotel alone, met with Italian officials at the Chicago Consulate alone, walked the streets of Chicago alone, went to a baseball game alone, and went for a bike ride along the beautiful Chicago lakeshore alone.

Except because of my faith, I wasn’t really alone. We’re never really alone, especially when we invite God’s Holy Spirit into our lives. I faced major travel hardships, loneliness, along with worry and doubt over the appointments with the officials. Through this, I found so much peace with the sense of God’s presence and him calling me to lean on him and trust him. He carried me and continued to prove his faithfulness, and I’m so grateful.

I shared this story because it ties to today’s verses as a reminder that our omnipotent God sees all and knows all, Jesus is coming soon, and we will all be judged. We can run from him, but we cannot hide.

Today once again, we have the story of the wise and foolish servants:

45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 47 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 48 But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ 49 and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, 50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know 51 and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 24:45-51)

My takeaway (apart from the metaphor that this is about the return of Jesus) is the contrast, and it all comes down to a matter of the heart. Is my heart focused on putting me first or others and God’s will?

From this passage, I see these contrasts-

The faithful & wise:

  • Serve others
  • Treat others with respect
  • Exhibit honorable behavior even when no one is looking
  • Recognize their position was given to them
  • Stay focused on their mission
  • Remain diligent and sober
  • Anticipate the return of their leader
  • Will be granted more responsibility and an honorable reward

The foolish & wicked:

  • Focus on self
  • Become deceived and disregard the consequences of their actions
  • Are two faced, behaving differently when they think no one will notice
  • Abuse others
  • Seek the pleasures of this world
  • Will be punished severely

At the end of this passage we find death and separation, the punishment for our sin. Any one of us can admit to being guilty of being put in some sort of leadership position but yet falling victim to sin; being of the world instead of having our hearts focused fully on the Kingdom of Heaven.

The beauty is that faith in Jesus Christ is what can and will redeem us. Until we get to Heaven we will have a sin problem. Meanwhile, we can repent and submit to the one who was and is perfect. The one who knew of our sinful nature and sacrificed his body and blood so that we do not receive the punishment we deserve. Thank you Jesus.

Today’s other reading: Psalm 134

I think I lost my wallet

Last Saturday the four of us went out for a nice family meal in the city center of Florence, Italy. We had wonderful conversation, great food, and great service. After that we did some exploring on foot to walk off the dinner and to continue the relaxing evening. As we we became tired from the long day filled with walking adventures, we began our journey to walk back to the hotel.

Preston and I were ahead of Amy and Peyton, and we eventually lost them. A few minutes later Amy messaged me asking if I wanted an American beer from the store they stopped into.

After being in Italy for over three weeks, the thought of an ice cold American beer sounded wonderful and nostalgic! As excited as I was for the beer, I was grateful for the thoughtful gesture.

Later we reconvened at the hotel and went to sleep soon after. The next day’s itinerary was long and full of travel.

After a good sleep we quickly packed up, got ready, and had breakfast at the hotel. We checked out and were on our way to the train station with plans to go separate ways for the week.

My plans were to meet with work counterparts to take the train to Milan, then rent a car get us to a hotel close to one of our plants which we would visit the next day. After this we would visit a different plant, traveling city to city via car, train, taxi etc. all week.

Amy and the boys were also headed to the train station en route to the sea for a few days since I was busy with work.

With suitcases and backpacks in tow, we were about two minutes from the train station in central Florence when Amy said, “hmm… my purse feels light”.  She looked inside and said, “I think I lost my wallet”. Panic set in. We frantically looked through the rest of our luggage and began to mentally retrace our steps.

Big tourist towns are known for pickpocketing so that was my first thought. Second thought was, I have to get on that train in about 15 minutes. Our credit and debit cards were the same, and she didn’t have cash. If we had to cancel all of our cards, it would be a complete disaster.

We decided I needed to catch the train and Amy and the boys would retrace their steps since the night prior. We prayed, gave hugs, and I gave her some cash along with one of my credit cards.

I went on my way, and what should have been a joyful reuniting of work brothers had a dark cloud over it. I was sick to my stomach. Amy felt devastated and miserable and guilty. She felt like it was her fault, we didn’t know what we were going to do.

Really all I cared about was Amy and the boys. I felt so horrible for her. I knew she’d put all the blame on herself, and I didn’t like her feeling that way. I couldn’t focus, my mind going in circles wondering what could have happened.

Amy and the boys went to the hotel and scoured the room with no luck. They made the hotel aware of the situation and received some sympathy, but that was it. After that they thought might as well go to the store where Amy was the night prior; the last place the wallet was seen.

The store wasn’t open yet so they waited outside. Finally a light came on and a man opened the door to let her in. Language barriers in play, she was able to explain that she had lost her wallet.

After a long pause which to her seemed like an eternity, the man reached below the counter and slowly pulled the wallet out! He said that he waited until after midnight at the store to see if she would return. What joy!!! I literally had tears in my eyes (in front of the guys) when Peyton sent this picture to me!

Shortly after this lost and found story, I laughed out loud when I looked at my assigned verses for this week… how appropriate, God works in mysterious ways!

The Parable of the Lost Coin

“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Luke 15:8-10 & Psalm 122

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