Wise counsel

A businesswoman signing a contract - business concept

Exodus 37; John 16; Proverbs 13; Ephesians 6

“Wisdom is perhaps the greatest gift one generation can give to the other”.  Jim Collins, a popular author and teacher, feels this is perhaps the best advice he’s received from his personal board of directors over the years. In the mid-1990’s, Collins introduced the concept of a personal board of directors to business leaders.  The notion of assembling a multi-disciplinary group that could provide feedback and advise on anything from career choices to helping overcome workplace challenges, was a fresh alternative to traditional one on one mentoring relationships.  This concept has an inward focus – how connecting with others can truly make you better, rather than just helping you get to the next level by linking with a leader on his/her way up the ladder.  An idea that started as advice to Collins’ business students has been useful to leaders in more than just business settings for almost 20 years.

Have you ever employed this approach? Thanks to a wise mentor, I have.  The last time I interviewed for a job, I intentionally spent time connecting with six leaders who had different backgrounds, perspectives and experiences.  Their guidance was instrumental in helping me think through what I wanted from the position, what I capabilities I brought to the job, whether I was really a fit for it, and what additional information I wanted to gain from the hiring leader during the interview.  I walked in to that interview better prepared than I had ever been.  Unfortunately, I can’t tell you this experience had a fairytale ending.  I didn’t get the job.  The process I used to prepare for it, however, was what helped me quickly work through the initial disappointment and, eventually, realize I am much better off because I didn’t get that job.

As I read and reflected on Proverbs 13 this week, I see the concept of a personal board of directors rooted in the wisdom of Solomon. Guidance for seeking knowledge, instruction and wise counsel is the heart of verses 13-20.  Solomon’s direction applies to business, it applies to leadership, but it also applies to the everyday lives of Christ followers.

13Whoever despises the word brings destruction on himself,

but he who reveres the commandment will be rewarded.  

14The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life

that one may turn away from the snares of death.  

15Good sense wins favor,

but the way of the treacherous is their ruin.  

16In everything the prudent acts with knowledge,

but a fool flaunts his folly.

17A wicked messenger falls into trouble,

but a faithful envoy brings healing.

18Poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction,

but whoever heeds reproof is honored.

19A desire fulfilled is sweet to the soul,

but to turn away from evil is an abomination to fools.  

20Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise,

but the companion of fools will suffer harm.

The scripture begins by affirming that the Bible, the inspired Word of God, is a Christ follower’s guidepost (verse 13). It goes on to describe the goodness of seeking out wise counsel and conversely describes the consequences of relying on advice of the wicked, of fools or relying on yourself alone.  This is where I see the concept of a personal board of directors begin to show up.

  • Verse 14 talks about the teaching of the wise
  • Verse 15 talks about using good sense
  • Verse 16 suggests pursuit of knowledge is prudent
  • Verse 18 warns of the harsh consequences that come from ignoring instruction
  • Verse 19 began to hit home when I thought about times in my own life that my desire for something clouded my judgment

I haven’t always used a personal board of directors.  Rather, I can think of occasions I wanted something so bad that the only people I asked for advice were my closest friends, people I knew thought like me, and those I knew would give me the answer I wanted to hear.  (A few of these situations didn’t have fairytale endings either.)  Verse 20 closes the passage by instructing us to choose advisors wisely for this very reason.  Experience tells us the more time people spend together, the more they become alike.  Should you be hanging around with people who make you better or people who make you worse?  Walk with the wise and, over time, their influence will help you become wiser.  Walk with fools and, over time, you will make poor choices.

Selecting the right people is imperative to finding success with a personal board of directors. In order to bring value, this group has to be diverse.  Not only does it have to include people outside your circle of friends and people who think like you, it also needs to include people with points of view and experiences different from each other.  A well-rounded team.  These people must also have the courage to give difficult feedback that will help you grow and develop, though sometimes it is painful and not easily received.

Who’s on Your Personal Board of Directors?, by Carolyn Taketa (Christianity Today 2014) provides some very relevant guidance on selecting the right people, especially as it relates to the lives of Christ followers.  Her central message is that your board should be “people that consistently motivate you to become the person God has created you to be”.  She then goes on to describe diverse roles that may be valuable for helping you grow and develop:

  • Mentor – a wise counselor
  • Sponsor – someone who can, and is willing, to open doors for you
  • Spiritual advisor – someone who helps identify and understand God’s work in your life
  • Partners in ministry – those who help you with ideas and strategies for your area of ministry
  • Honest encourager – someone who helps find clarity in difficult situations
  • Prayer warrior – someone who has the gift of intercessory prayer
  • Others with specific expertise – experts who help provide guidance in certain areas, for example a financial planner, therapist, personal trainer, etc.

Assembling a personal board of directors isn’t easy. Identifying the right people and investing in the relationships takes time.  It also requires vulnerability, willingness to accept the risk of hearing things you don’t want to hear, and readiness for some level of disappointment.  Considering the wise counsel of Solomon in Proverbs, is there a better way?

Proverbs 1:7, The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 12:15, The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.

Proverbs 15:22, Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.

Proverbs 19:20, Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.

Proverbs 24:6, By wise guidance you will wage war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory.

Scottish Granny

Exodus 36; John 15; Proverbs 12; Ephesians 5

In 2003, I had the opportunity to spend several months on a business trip in Edinburgh, Scotland. My wife Amy went with me (this was before kids) and since we were going to be settling in for several months, Amy went looking for some activities to engage in. To everyone’s surprise, and perhaps due to limited options, Amy signed up for a sewing class. In that class, Amy’s sewing partner was a woman named Isabel Burns who was 70+ years young.

This is my command: Love each other. (John 15:17)

Isabel and Amy became fast friends, I think merely for the reason that they are both so sweet, loving, kind, and giving. It isn’t typical in today’s society for a youngster (at the time, Amy was 27) to gain new close friends who are 40+ years older than us. A more typical response might be some initial kindness to the elderly but then go on our way to do our own thing, never looking back.

Amy didn’t have John 15:17 in mind when she met Isabel, but I believe no matter where we stand as far as our beliefs or closeness to God at the time, His truth and commands always stand firm and provide meaning in our lives. Meaning, when we are truly, selflessly loving each other we are obeying what we are called by Jesus to do; we are in some way connecting to him whether we know it or not. We were made to love people, and when we do that, beautiful things happen; we become light in the darkness, we find purpose and true joy.

When it was time to say goodbye (or see you later), these ladies knew they had a special friendship so they decided to stay in touch. They traded hand-written letters and made several phone calls over the years like good old dear friends do.

Fast forward to 2010. Amy knew in her heart that it was time to see Isabel again so she pooled some money together with her mom, and offered to help fund an American adventure for Isabel. Isabel delightfully accepted to fly across the pond, even though she had never flown or even left Scotland in her life.

Isabel stayed with us for a few weeks and became part of the family. The boys weren’t sure how to refer to her so we all agreed that Scottish Granny sounded like a perfect name. The boys had so much fun with her, except we couldn’t get her to stop playing the Wii!

Isabel-Peyton-wii_1June2010

Isabel opened up to us through our time together, sharing that when she was only 27 years old, her beloved husband Frank passed away suddenly, which left her to raise three young boys on her own. I cannot imagine the heartache and what that devastating loss must have been like. Isabel is this smiling, grateful, joyful spirited woman, and I’ve seen no bitterness in her. She further shared that even after all these years, she has never taken off her wedding ring as there would be no other man for her.

As part of this trip we brought her to Michigan to meet some of our friends and family members. Of course, everyone who met Isabel instantly fell in love with her. Don’t worry, they didn’t make her work too hard…

Carrie-Isabel-Chuck

Soon it was time to say our teary goodbyes and again part with Scottish Granny as she made her journey back to Scotland.

scottishgranny

We’ve been able to keep in touch with Isabel over the years, and while far away she has remained close in our hearts. During a phone call around Christmas 2015, Amy felt prompted that it was time to see Isabel again. Isabel’s vision was on the decline and she’s had trouble walking, so it was best for Amy to make plans to visit her in Scotland. Amy announced the journey through a video call, and Isabel went from somewhat lethargic to thrilled beyond belief; both ladies having tears of joy to know that they would soon be reunited. Young Peyton, a lifelong map-lover and world-travel-dreamer somehow worked his way onto the itinerary, and the plans were set. Amy and Peyton would arrive into Edinburgh on Thursday, March 24th 2016.

Then some concerning news came. Five days prior to their departure, we were made aware that Isabel had finally been scheduled to have some much needed surgery the day that Amy was to arrive. The surgery date could not be moved so Amy shifted her plans from an apartment visit to a hospital visit.

As I finalize this journal post on the day of Isabel’s surgery and Amy and Peyton’s arrival in Edinburgh, I have this faith that God is very much at work in this situation, and I have no idea as to what is to come. Our thoughts and prayers are with Isabel as we eagerly anticipate the results of her surgery. I am missing Amy and Peyton, but I know they are having a fantastic time and in good hands.

A worthy wife is a crown for her husband, (Proverbs 12:4a)

If you know Amy at all, you know she loves to travel, but she is on this trip giving her time and resources to give love to a friend. I learn so much from her in the way she selflessly loves, gives, and listens; she is a crown for her husband, and I’m so thankful to call her my wife. She is doing what she was designed to do, and prayerfully seeking God’s will to continue to be a witness to this woman Isabel.

Today we are observing Good Friday, reflecting on the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. He did this because he loves us. He performed the ultimate act of love by offering his life for those who will call him friend.

Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2)

For updates on the Scottish Granny story, please check out our Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/biblejournalnet

Called

Exodus 35; John 14; Proverbs 11; Ephesians 4

Few things stir my heart more than the concept of calling. Why? Well…if I am honest, the answer is self-incriminating. When I think of calling, I consider what my life is about. What is the significance of my time here on earth and what is my contribution to the world? Now, these are not bad questions to answer, but we need to be careful with the answer. Here’s why.  I see two options. One is to answer them according to the American dream, the second is according to the faith that I have professed in Jesus Christ.

When I answer my calling with respect to the American Dream, I begin to think about all sorts of possibilities. I think of people like Henry Ford and John D. Rockefeller.   They are stand out’s among the fabricator’s and hero’s of the American Dream. Their motto; anything is possible and everything is probable. Heck, I could even be President! It just requires persistence and hard work. Our dreams are within reach. So, how do i define my calling as an American? Unfortunately, much of my life has been marked with the shallow and self-serving answer of “success.”

The narrative changes, however, when we choose to follow Jesus. Today, in Ephesians 4, Paul reminds us to “live a life worth of your calling.” In my quick reading, I interpret calling according to my American Dream. As I read deeper, however, I see that Paul clarifies that Jesus’ calling is not my own. Instead, Paul exhorts me to live the life to which I have been “called.” Paul is talking about the life that God created us for.  What is the difference between these two lives? A handful of verses bring me clarity.

[Serve] the Lord with all humility and with tears (Acts 20:19 ESV)

 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves (Philippians 2:3 ESV)

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another (Colossians 3:12-13 ESV)

have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind (1 Peter 3:8 ESV)

Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another (1 Peter 5:5 ESV)

As I read through these verses, there is one word that appears and repeats in my head, tying them all together. It is the thing missing from my narrative. It is replaced with turmoil in our daily lives, as we chase the American dream. It is why Jesus died for us. It has eternal significance and, it will ensure our joy-filled life. What is it?  What does Jesus call us to? LOVE.

Leadership and Love

Today’s reading: Exodus 34; John 13; Proverbs 10; Ephesians 3

March 23rd, 2016

Leadership

Whenever the topic of leadership comes up I like to pass on a simple truth I was taught. I call them the two things. They are simple to understand. Simple to remember. Simple to see why these two things are it. Still they are not so simple to enact without fail. They take sacrifice at the most fundamental level. Self. They take us out of ourselves. Away from us. Away from this world. They leave us with less self and more others. A good friend of mine taught me what leaders do. Leaders do two things:

  1. Leaders lead by example
  2. Leaders serve those they lead

Search your experiences and you will hopefully find a leader in your life who does these two things well. One thing to mention here is that anyone can lead. Power is not needed to lead. Authority is not needed to lead. Though power and authority will accrete to those who follow these two things. Do you want to be a leader? Are you doing these two things?

Leadership and Love

Love, the Fulfillment of the Law

Here I just want to share a collection of verses that point to the importance of love and close with a few verses I encourage everyone to memorize. They are verses you have likely heard several times, but please do not let that cause you to pass over this encouragement without prayerfully considering memorizing them. Once memorized you can meditate on them throughout the day and call them to service as the ultimate checklist against what Jesus has called you to do in any situation. Running late in the check out line; run through the list. In the throes of a tough conversation; run through the list. Frustrated, worried, concerned, angry, scared, upset… go through the list, one by one and make sure you align with God’s word. 

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. – Ecclesiastes 12:13

If ye love me, keep my commandments. – John 14:15

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. – John 13:34–35

Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. Romans – 13:10

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

– 1 Corinthians 13:4–7

God would you give us understanding that we may keep your law and obey it with all our hearts? Would you turn our hearts toward Your statutes and not toward selfish gain? Would You turn our eyes away from worthless things and preserve our lives according to Your word? Thank you. Amen.

Everlasting Light

Today’s Reading Link: Exodus 33; John 12; Proverbs 9; Ephesians 2

Weekly one of the great opportunities I cherish is meditating and praying for some additional meaning about our daily scripture readings. One dedicated time comes while I wait in the car to enter church with our son naps in the back seat. Today I landed on John 12:36 where Jesus let’s us know we can be “children of light”.  Where I previously just underlined this verse. It has taken new meaning.

While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of the light. John 12:36

I’m mesmerized by the physical light of the sun when I run in the morning and get to watch the sunrise. I praise God for this beauty and adore this majestic sight as a reminder of the importance of His spiritual light. I have previously shared the essential light of the Lord in our lives. Knowing who the light is and allowing him to take control of your life in order to spend eternal life with God is necessary. Jesus told us while we have this light available we need to believe. As our daylight hours get longer starting Spring our physical days are growing shorter. There are many who don’t believe who’s spiritual days grow shorter or can be non-existent based on those willing to share the “good news” or “light” of Jesus with them.  As Christians we are to be Christ’s light bearers, letting his light shine through us.  I have plenty of weak excuses as to the “almost” syndrome that can plague us. I almost said something to him. I almost turned around to give some money to that homeless person. I almost signed up for that mission trip.  I almost shared my love for our Lord, but I ran out of time.  It’s hard for selfish reasons in our daily lives to remember God’s  purpose for us when we don’t know when He is coming back or when God has determined our physical life to end. What if next week I’m not sitting here in the parking lot looking at Eastview? Did I truly believe the light? Am I a son of the Light? My prayer is yes, but I know its all by his will. God wants us to share his light to those whose days are growing darker. Am I sharing? Am I serving? Am I loving?

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Matthew 28:19

Mary is wiping Jesus’s feet with expensive ointment with her hair.  Serving and loving Jesus, preparing him for what is to come. Judas questions this act and mentions how much money they could get for the sale of this ointment.  Jesus reminds him in (v.8) that the poor we will always have, but we won’t have him. Our seconds turn to minutes, hours to days, how do we spend our time? I’m convicted on the use of my time and sharing God’s light with others.  Whatever I do is Jesus my focus? Through whatever our calling do we glorify Him? During our fleeting life Jesus shows us the ways to count our days. James 4:14-15 says Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” (v. 46) That no matter the hour of day, year of age, or season of life Jesus says I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. My life was dark for many days with moments of light I couldn’t sustain.  Days I can never get back that were a negative influence myself and on others.  I was a stranger to the truth of God and his light.   I pray for the influential people who shared his word, placed biblical truths in my hands, and spiritual truths on my heart revealing the truth and pointing us to GOD.  Jesus will give you an everlasting light that will never go away. Now that we have seen this light its important for us to share this light with others so no one remains in darkness. So all can be saved from just wandering.  Seize the moment today, serve the Lord and glorify His name. You got this! Don’t worry about how or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you n that very hour what you ought to say (Luke 12:11-13)

In Ephesians Paul says we were all dead in trespasses and sin, but God being rich in mercy and the great love he has for us. has saved us. Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 5:8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light

John 8:12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

We don’t know the day or time the Lord has determined to return or take us to be with him. Are we sharing his love with others like it had been shared with you? This Word of Light that redeems us through his blood and forgives our trespasses according to the riches of his grace. This grace was given and proves to others the riches of Christ, bringing the light that shines form the inside out.But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all childrenof light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. How brightly is our light shining? 

Dear Lord,

We stumble in the darkness, you provide us with the light necessary to conquer the darkness.  Your spiritual light has allowed us to repent for our sins and shines a light on our daily paths.  God I pray this light continues to shine bright and I stay focused on your light.  Thank you God

 

Named

Melting pot people walking on zebra crossing and traffic jam on 7th avenue in Manhattan before sunset - Crowded streets of New York City during rush hour in urban business area

 

Today’s Readings: Exodus 32, John 11, Proverbs 8, Ephesians 1

As I sit down to write tonight I’m filled with joy and contentment. I’m 35 today. I slept in just a little, had some favorite foods, received gifts from my husband and children, went to church and then celebrated with my small group. As I reflect on the day, the thing that sticks with me is my Facebook feed. Ordinarily, I would have lots to say about the false idol that is Facebook but today I feel differently. Today, 122 people took the time to call me by name. One hundred and twenty two people wrote genuine, kind, heartfelt messages to me. Throughout the day I read and re-read my bible passages for the journal and in between I would read some of the new Facebook messages coming in. I realized tonight that what is most significant about these messages is that each of those people called me by name.

In John 11 we learn that Jesus’ good friend Lazarus is very ill. John is careful to tell us that Jesus stayed for 2 extra days despite the mounting risk he faces for his preaching in Judea. Mary and Martha are rather desperate. They tell Jesus that “he whom you love” is ill. Jesus replies by saying:

 “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” John 11:4

This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God. Hello. Hello. I’ve been transporting myself to this moment in time all week. What Jesus says here is so important. I’ve challenged myself to write down at least two things each day that I believe is an “illness” in my life. An illness that I may feel is for the purpose of my own suffering. An illness that I believe is for the purpose of an end or a death. Then I ask myself, “how is this circumstance or situation for the glory of God.” Guess what…there’s been an answer every time. If I am silent and wait, I get the answer.

What happens next is the real meat and potatoes of the story. After learning that Lazarus has been dead for four days, Jesus goes to the tomb and calls him by name. He says,

“Lazarus come out” John 11:43

The irony here of course is that as Jesus gives life through the act of giving up his own. In fact, by performing this miracle the plot to kill Jesus is set in motion by his enemies. Jesus knows that the time is drawing near. He hastened his own death by calling his beloved Lazarus by name. Is he calling me today? As Easter approaches am I present in this Lazarus moment, am I listening for the sound of my very own name?

Later in today’s readings Paul writes to the Ephesians,

“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” Ephesians 1:11-14

 There it is! The post-resurrection testimony from Paul about the true inheritance we have as a result of Jesus’ sacrifice. He tells us right here in this scripture that we are his chosen ones, he has named us on the biggest Facebook wall of all time. We have been predestined for his love and will inherit our forever with him. Here is the promise that each and every one of us is special, is unique, is intimately known by Him. By his action we are sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit. Paul goes on to write to the Ephesians,

“I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him, having eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you.” Ephesians 1:16-18

 Father,

Bring our hearts close to yours this week. Give us a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of you. Don’t let the spirit of eggs and chocolate and rabbits distract us from your voice calling us by name. Give us hope in the daily situations that we feel are insurmountable earthly illnesses. Draw me close to you, Lord. I know the time is near. Help me to stop, listen and respond. We thank you Lord for building our community of other Christ followers, for giving us strength to live in our modern Judea’s while praising you. Thank you for calling us each by name.

Light in the Darkness

 

Links to today’s reading: Exodus 31; John 10; Proverbs 7; Galatians 6

What is the way to the abode of light? And where does darkness reside? -Job 38:19

Early one morning I was trying to understand the multitude of world religions; many of which were compelling in some way. Could different belief systems be pointing to the same God like some people said? Was it possible to reconcile these without taking glory away from God, not ignoring the urgency and importance of sharing God’s story? I believed truth was found everywhere; but that didn’t mean everything was true. If there was a specific, profound, absolute truth that all people could discover, I wanted to know it; if it was applicable for everyone, I wanted to share it.

As I contemplated the idea of truth, the image of a large stone temple atop a great pyramid popped into my head. There were hundreds of meticulously cut stone steps, leading past sprawling terraces, to the massive doors of a mighty fortress on high.

Along the steps, and throughout the terraces, were statues of great men and women that had lived extraordinary lives, and of the world’s great beasts, elephants, lions and bears, all carved from the finest marble.  On each terrace were courtyards where splendid gardens grew; these were also decorated with statues of animals, and jeweled models of planets, solar systems and galaxies. Attached to well shaped trees were reptiles, mollusks and insects, formed from precious metals.

The air was heavy with moisture and the smell of spring and nectar. As inviting as this place was, something very important was missing — there was no light. None. The world that surround the Temple Mount was enveloped in total darkness, leaving the sojourners to wander these grounds, and climb the great steps; forever groping in the dark. They spoke to each other, describing the statues and models, which they often felt with their hands. Each believed they described a greater truth about this world they were blind to; some in wonder, some in humility, and some with arrogance. Each in their own way believed that something pointed the way (perhaps even offering a key) to the entrance of the temple, a thing, somehow, they knew in their hearts. Inside the temple, they believed, resided every good thing which was missing from their present lives. And each was certain that the entrance was at hand, calling out to the others, “come hither.”

One day the door of the temple opened, and out shone the most brilliant light, blinding the sojourners at first. Then, at the door of the temple, a lamb appeared, wearing a crown of light and calling out, “follow me.”

Now as the sojourners’ eyes adjusted to the light, they saw the things they had been describing to each other for the first time. Some were embarrassed that they had been so sure about the location of the door, or the ridiculous descriptions of things they could only feel. Others, when they saw the lamb at the door, immediately bowed down, knowing it was he who had opened the door to the fortress they had been searching for. Those who knew the truth then arose, and climbed the stairs to the entrance, there they were embraced by the king, who welcomed them. Surprisingly, many of the others remained behind, in disbelief. They were certain that which they had described in the darkness was still true; clues that would someday reveal the key and the door. Then the lamb called out, “come to me,”over and over to those who remained, but they could not hear. Eventually the door closed, and the darkness returned forever.

When Jesus spoke to the people, he said, I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. -John 8:12

Freedom

US Constitution with Hand Gun - Right To Keep and Bear Arms

Exodus 30; John 9; Proverbs 6; Galatians 5

Whether you love it or hate it, choose to directly engage or simply endure the fallout, the road to the November 2016 presidential election is weighing heavy on Americans these days. Unfortunately I’m not sure there is a way to escape this drama, even if you wanted to. It is almost always the first story in Gerard Baker’s daily 10 Point guide to The Wall Street Journal and it is on every news channel all day long.  An email from John Kasich actually showed up in my office inbox last week to request my vote in the Illinois primary!  Each of the candidates has a different view, a different approach, and vastly different plans for our nation.  It is this diversity of thought (and a lot of media hype) that fuels the craziness.  As we have witnessed over the course of 20+ debates, these Candidates agree on very little.  Furthermore, they are really passionate about their disagreements.  I am confident, however, they would all agree on one thing.  Each of them would find truth in some variation of the same guiding principle – every one of them loves the United States, and is committed to protecting her and the freedoms we enjoy as citizens of this great country (even thought they would go about it in vastly different ways).

The first freedom granted in the United States Bill of Rights is Freedom of Religion, Speech, and the Press.  It grants every U.S. citizen the right to practice a religion of their choice.  I am deeply grateful for this freedom.  Unlike Christians in many countries, I can worship God without breaking the law and, generally, without fearing for my safety.  Don’t get me wrong, I realize persecution may show up in a variety of other ways, but today, by law, I can freely worship God.

Galatians 5 is all about Freedom. The chapter begins with this statement, for freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. The freedom Paul is talking about here is freedom from a long list of Old Testament laws.  It is also about freedom from sin.  Jesus died to free us from our sin.  Notice this freedom isn’t about doing whatever we want, as that behavior leads us back to the bondage of sin, rather it is the freedom to glorify God by loving and serving others.

Galatians 5:13-15

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.

Biting and devouring one another is what I remember the March 3 republican debate looking like. The candidates hurled so many insults, they seemed dangerously close to “consuming” one another.  It is so ironic that the race for the top government servant, involves so much nastiness.  Personally, I saw very little love for the United States or for its citizens in the discussion that night, even though I know it exists. Fortunately for most of us, our everyday life is not played out on national television.  That said, a similar nastiness has a tendency to creep into our lives in other ways.  Reflect on your actions of today, this week or last month.  Were they motivated by love?  Were they motivated by serving others?  God calls us to be different.

Galatians 5:22-24

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Throwing Stones

Our culture loves to gossip about the sexual affairs of others. We buy magazines and pay close attention to the television news stories regarding the latest scandal, or we gossip within our circle of friends as to the rumors of the cheating husband or wife (or sometimes both). One of the reasons I believe we are so intrigued by these scandals is that we immediately judge someone as the guilty party and in doing so, we think ourselves as better than the so-called “cheater”.

Today’s reading link: Exodus 29; John 8; Proverbs 5; Galatians 4

John 8:1-11 contains the story of a woman caught in the act of adultery. She’s brought to Jesus in the temple in front of a crowd. As with every Bible Journal post, I read through the scriptures several times looking for patterns, asking questions, and considering various perspectives in search of a topic to write about. The thing that brought me to today’s focus was that the adulteress had only three words to say “no one Lord”, so I started thinking about her perspective in the situation and went from there.

  • Where was her partner in crime? She must have felt betrayed in some sense by her lover since she was the sole guilty culprit brought to the temple to face punishment.
  • She didn’t deny the charges. We assume she was guilty. Was she sorry for the sin or more sorry she was caught?
  • The woman had to have been afraid for her life. The custom of stoning a person to death was surely no surprise. She was basically on trial for her life, believed by the crowd to be guilty, so the likely outcome was going to be death.
  • The woman was probably in shock when Jesus demonstrated such wisdom in his response. Perhaps she assumed that Jesus was going to condemn her to death or tell the Pharisees to leave her alone. What he did was a beautiful act of love, mercy, and wisdom which can only come from his connection with the Father. In doing so, Jesus once again does not fall into the trap.
  • It wouldn’t have been typical for the scribes and Pharisees to bring the guilty party to Jesus. When Jesus asks her “Has no one condemned you?”, her three word response… “No one Lord”. I’m envisioning a very embarrassed, tearful, honest and soft tone as she speaks these words.
  • I was wondering if the woman was remorseful for what she had done. Sure, we’re all seemingly remorseful when we’re caught, but did she truly feel badly? I’m going to assume that based on her sin, she knew deep down she was living a lie. Perhaps she was married, perhaps she was having an affair with a married man, or both. Regardless, she was living in some sort of darkness, afraid of getting caught.
  • The woman humbled herself to address Jesus as Lord. Remember, the Pharisees were the ones who were in the power seats with much authority. Jesus was a poor man from Nazareth, so for her to address him as Lord suggests she knew who Jesus was and perhaps even had reverence for him.
  • Did anyone else wonder what Jesus might have been writing in the dirt? Since writing supplies were limited, I assume it was a common practice to write in the dirt. He had something perfect to share, but unfortunately he was bothered by greedy accusers trying to trap him. I’ll chalk this up on my list of questions to ask Jesus.
  • How about those who intended to throw the stones? Upon being called out by Jesus, did they repent? Dropping the stones and walking away was their own confession that they too were sinners.
  • Jesus didn’t condemn the woman, instead he granted mercy and acknowledged the wrongdoing and commanded: Sin no more.

Did anyone else have a renewed feeling after reading this story? I love how this story is a story not just of one person’s sin, but truly a reflection of the sins of us all, God’s judgement, and the mercy given only through Jesus Christ.

  1. We have a sinner caught in the act, which could be any of us with any of our sins. God’s penalty for sin is death; no matter how big or small the sin, it still separates us from Him.
  2. Jesus, the light of the world exposes the darkness around the sinner in that those who were portraying righteousness were sinners as well.
  3. The enemy is not the adulteress woman. The enemy is Satan who wants us to remain in the dark and trapped in our sin. He is the father of lies who wants us to believe we cannot be forgiven. He wants us to think that we are the worst, that no one would understand, that we are all alone in our sin, and that the sinful choice is somehow better than the righteous path. He wants us to die in our sin.
  4. The penalty for sin is death, but Jesus intervened and gave the option for her to repent and sin no more. No one else can do this. We all have the choice to either go back to the bondage of sin, or allow Jesus to take over, and to trust that his way is the way that leads to life restored.

While part of me wishes we knew more about what happened to the woman and her accusers, I also enjoy the mystery as well as focus on what we can learn from what is shared with us. In the end, we can fully trust that there is nothing missing from the Bible; had God wanted us to know what happened, he’d have allowed those details to be provided.

God we thank you for revealing your character and your numerous perfect attributes through your words in the Bible. Thank you for giving us the resources to learn more about you and your ways and your will for our lives. Thank you for revealing our sins to us, reminding us of the penalty, and for your perfect plan in sending your son Jesus Christ to die as the substitute for the penalty that we deserve. Amen.

Rivers Flow

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Exodus 27; John 6; Proverbs 3; Galatians 2

I have ruminated on Jillian’s most recent post since reading it on Saturday. She talks about being thirsty.  Specifically, Jesus promises to help quench our thirst in John 4. He says “but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:11-14) Today, Jesus expands on this teaching, explaining that once we have tasted the nectar of salvation, life becomes us. He says,

“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:37-38 ESV)

Two questions arise when I consider this text. First, what exactly do rivers of living water look like and second am I drinking the right water?

When you think of a river, which one comes to mind? The Illinois is the first to mine, I suppose because of its proximity. The second is the Mississippi in no small part because of Chevy Chase (here’s the clip). Why is the Biblical imagery of a river so important? Think for a minute about the volume of water flowing through them. A quick Google search reveals that more than 33 million people rely on the Mississippi river as their primary water source. Multiply that by the average 100, or so, gallons used daily by each person and we are talking about 3.3 billion gallons of water.  That is a lot of water! Isn’t this exactly what Jesus is promising? He literally tells us that he will give us a river of living water that will flow out of our hearts.

While trying to grasp the concept of a river of water flowing from my heart, two things strike me. The first is that the water is flowing. As opposed to a stagnate pool, flowing water, is vibrant. It carries energy.  In fact, big, flowing rivers of water provide enough power to light up entire cities! Not only is the water flowing, it is living. This life is not just its own, the water itself sustains countless creatures. In fact, the water is teaming with life.  Life lives in, above and around the river. In other words, the life given to me, flows out of me.  When it does, it nourishes and replenishes everyone around me. Said another way, if we truly have the life promised by Jesus, it will flow out of me. Enriched by the Holy Spirit, this life affects everyone around us. Jesus explains this further, telling us how we know it is the right water in John 13:35,

“Everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Does this make you want to live by the river? As you know, a constant source of water is the only way to ensure life.  Make no mistake, Jesus Christ is the only source of this pure water.

Finally, I cannot leave you without sharing one of my favorite scriptures from Jeremiah 17.

““But blessed are those who trust in the Lord
and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.
They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
with roots that reach deep into the water.
Such trees are not bothered by the heat
or worried by long months of drought.
Their leaves stay green,
and they never stop producing fruit
Jeremiah 17:7-8 NLTse