Follow Me

Today’s reading is Luke 9. A few years ago our small group studied a series called Follow by Andy Stanley. He talks about how Jesus said, “Follow Me,” approximately 23 times in the Gospel. A mentor of mine would always say that “repetition is the mother of learning.” So, if Jesus says those words that many times, we should probably take note. Ever since we covered Andy Stanley’s study, it always jumps off the page when I read Jesus say it like He does in Luke 9:23-25 and Luke 9:57-62, and I underline it in my Bible.

I believe many keep their distance from Christianity because they believe it is just a bunch of rules to abide by. We live in a society today that tells everyone to just do whatever they feel like, so if they believe all Christ does is make you follow rules then they will not be drawn to Him.

Jesus does not say to do X, Y, and Z and then you can, “Follow me.” He doesn’t say learn the Scriptures, change these habits, get your life in order, and then, “Follow me.” He just says, “Follow me.” Jesus only wants to see our faith and trust in Him. That is what amazes me so much about the disciples. They just left their lives upon Jesus invitation. Jesus did not pick guys that were scholars and had their lives together. He picked regular people like you and me. Earlier this week in Luke 5:27-28 He asks Matthew who was a tax collector to, “Follow me.” Tax collectors were Jewish outcast because they were Jewish, but collected taxes for the Roman government. Andy says they could only hang out with other tax collectors because even the worst sinners wouldn’t hang out with them. Yet, Jesus still called Matthew to follow Him and then he even hangs out with Matthew and his tax collector buddies after. While the occupations of all 12 disciples are not known, it is believed that most were fishermen or tradesmen of some kind. They were not set apart already because of their occupations or previous works before Jesus asked them to come along for the ride.

You may be thinking to yourself because of my earlier comments that the Bible and Christianity does have “do’s and don’ts” so to speak. Yes, it does because God knows what is best for us, and He knows that often what feels good at the time will eventually cause us pain later at some point. Jesus doesn’t lead with this though because He knows that by following Him our hearts will be changed, and we will stop sinful habits (Luke 12:34).

Jesus also knows we are not perfect, and we will still sin and lose faith at times. I know daily God answers prayers that could have altered the course of my entire life if they were not answered. Prayers for safe travels for family, favorable news from an uncertain doctor’s appointment, that a big meeting goes well, and the list goes on. Yet days, hours, or even minutes later I’ve forgotten already, and I’m anxious or nervous about something else! The disciples were no different though, and they even saw Jesus’ direct acts firsthand. Not only did they leave their regular lives to follow Him, but in Luke 9:1-6 He instructs them to leave and take nothing with them as they go to tell others about the Kingdom of God and heal others which they did. Then, in Luke 9:13 right after that, He instructs them to give five thousand people something to eat, and they say they don’t have enough food wondering what they should do. They didn’t even say, “Jesus can you come up with some food like you’ve done before…please perform another miracle.” They just doubted. Yet again, He delivers. Not only does Jesus always satisfy…He even leaves us with leftovers (Luke 9:17).

As we go into this week and think about our own lives and hopefully look to share the Gospel with others, let us not just share the love of Jesus with others we think are ready. In Matthew 19:16-22, a rich young man asks what good deed he must do to have eternal life. Most in our society I believe are wondering the same or think if they do more right then wrong they will earn the favor of God. But, Jesus tells the man there is only One who is good. Let’s make sure they know that they must only do one thing to go to Heaven…follow Him. He gave them, and all of us, that open invitation to do so not only with His words, but with his arms wide open on the cross.


Take Root

Matthew 13

Matthew 13 contains 7 parables to help explain faith and the Kingdom of Heaven. We will focus on the parable the sower.

Jesus first tells of seeds which fell along the path and were eaten by birds. He clarifies this is those who hear the message, but don’t understand and accept it. He then tells of seeds that fell on rocky soil. He clarifies that here he is describing those that gladly hear the Good News, but lose faith when trouble and persecution come. The Word did not “sink in” so to speak like the seeds did not sink in the soil. He then tells of seeds that fell among the thorn bushes. These seeds grow up, but are choked out by the worries of this life, the love of riches and the world. Finally, Jesus tells of seeds sown in the good soil which sunk in and bore great grain. This is describing those that hear the message, understand it, and bear fruit by living it out in their everyday lives.

A few years ago I told my wife how thankful I was for the blessings we have received, but that I was also fearful for how I would react when we faced what I perceived as some “real” challenges others have faced. We know that challenges will come because James 1:2 says “when” trials come and not “if.” I had attended church my whole life, but how do we make sure our faith is strong and the seeds are planted deep in the good soil? Is going to church regularly enough? Would that prepare us?

In order for the seeds to be buried deep and take root, we must have a strong relationship with Jesus. In fact, Jesus specifically directs us to do so…

“I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5 ESV

How do we foster that relationship with Him? Find a church that focuses on the Bible and sees it as the truth and never changing with time, despite what modern day culture tries to tell us. Next, be in the Word daily (finding a daily devotional helps) to provide a constant and consistent message of instruction and direction. Be in prayer throughout the day to be in communication with God and keep our heart in the right place. Join a Bible study/small group to create a community of believers and friends that can help facilitate and hold us accountable to growing our relationship with Him and our faith. There are many other great spiritual habits and disciplines. These are just a few we focused on.

Since that conversation, we have faced some new challenges we had not before, and I believe we were better prepared to face those. Putting on the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18) to create a relationship with Jesus allows us to move forward with confidence each day in knowing we are equipped to face trials and tribulations.

So, how do we now make sure we are not like that seeds that grew up among the thorn bushes and are choked out by the love of riches and the world? There is good news. The answer and steps are the same..let the seeds take root deep in the good soil through putting on the armor of God to create a relationship with Jesus!

What is one thing will you focus on in 2017 to strengthen your relationship with Christ?

Do Not Worry


Today’s Readings: 1 Chronicles 24-25, 1 Peter 5, Micah 3, Luke 12

On Friday I spent the day in Chicago eagerly hunting Black Friday deals. I made a plan, packed protein snacks, skipped the coffee so I wouldn’t have to pee and made a map. Not just a map of the city but a map of deals. To say that I was caught up in the materialism of the season is an understatement. I invited a close friend to join me in my quest, which resulted in an honest conversation about money. Not just having or not having money but the fear associated with our need for wealth in order to feel secure. We live in an economy of plenty. Many of us are driven by worry to work more and more in order to achieve that level of financial security that will make us feel safe. In reality, that threshold of safety really doesn’t exist. The more successful we are, the more fear we have of losing that assurance. In today’s readings we hear from Luke on God’s provision in our lives. I love, love, love this scripture. I love it because I’ve lived its power and truth in our family life. Here it is:

“And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.” Luke 12:22-31

 I know, it’s long but every word of that scripture is so important, we need to read it all! Jesus is telling us that there will never be “enough” money for us to feel secure. No matter how much money we make it will never feel like enough. Instead, Jesus tells us to seek his kingdom…and these things will be added to you. That is so significant! Why? Because Jesus is telling us that if God’s kingdom is your ultimate goal, not wealth or security, then you have total assurance that your goal will be met. When you feel that assurance, really believe in His promise you will recognize that the money you make is actually enough. That God is providing for your needs, every single day.

When I prepare to write each week, I read the commentary from my three different study bibles. While studying Luke this week, I copied down part of the notes from my NIV Bible into my journal. It’s sort of an action list for managing worry in a biblical way. I’m praying that it reaches someone that is reading today that doesn’t know how they will afford tomorrow. Someone that may not be able to buy gifts for Christmas, or may not be receiving a gift because of financial burden. Here it is:

Overcoming worry requires:

  1. Simple trust in God, your heavenly Father. This trust is expressed by praying to Him rather than worrying.
  2. Perspective on your problems. This can be gained by developing a strategy for addressing and correcting your problems.
  3. A support team to help. Find some believers who will pray for you to find wisdom and strength to pray for your worries.

NIV Life Application Study Bible pg. 1698

 I believe that the power in Bible Journal is our willingness to be vulnerable as authors by sharing our testimony. I’m writing to you each week from my heart. I said earlier that I love this scripture because I’ve lived its power. Just 5 months ago our family was in a position in which we didn’t know quite how we would afford tomorrow. Our son was very sick; he needed me to be with him for an extended time in the hospital. We didn’t know when I could go back to work, and we didn’t know who would care for our girls. It was you, the authors and readers of Bible Journal that lifted us up and held us in that time. You were our support team to help. You were the believers that prayed for us and found wisdom and strength when we couldn’t muster it ourselves. And of course, through you, God provided for Oliver’s needs and the needs of our family. We’ll never be able to thank you enough.

As we begin a new week and welcome December, I’m praying that we can take stock of our life and ask ourselves, are the things I’m worried about genuine needs? Are they comparable to the things that the poor and hungry need? If not, then actively work toward letting those worries go. God does provide.

But What You Will

Today’s Readings: Judges 15, Acts 19, Jeremiah 28, Mark 14

“Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36)

I’ve read Mark Chapter 14 over a few times this week. It’s dark, it’s desperate and the more time you spend with it, the more visceral it becomes. I’m not sure that I’ve ever taken the time to just read this text and absorb it. I began the week with lots of notes, scrawls and scratches in the margins everywhere. I wanted to really “bring it” today as I feel that this is one of the most important moments in the Bible. I decided though, this morning that I’m not going to bring it all. I can’t. Instead, I want to invite you to get on your knees and pray how Jesus did.


So really, join me. Stop what you’re doing and get to your knees. Say it in Jesus’ words:

Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.

When I consider Mark 14, I really identify with Peter. Poor Peter, so earnest in his pursuit of total devotion to Jesus Christ. Jesus predicts it. He tells him flat out, you will betray me. And Peter, so sure of himself, so sure of his commitment says:

“If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” (Mark 14:31)

When I read that, my heart is in my throat. You see it’s not that he is lying here. He is so sure of himself, so sure that nothing can take him from the side of Jesus. But then… How many of us can see the reflection of Peter in ourselves? How many of us are so sure on Sunday morning, hands outstretched to the heavens only to back away, hands hanging, head down on Monday morning. Me. That’s me. So often we hurt the people we love the most. Hurt and betray the people we’ve promised “only you” for life. There’s only one person that has the power, the strength the grace to keep his promises. It’s Jesus.

Marks shares with us this tiny glimpse. Like a beam of light, shining like a sliver on the floor of a dark room. He shows us a vulnerable Jesus. A Jesus that has no one in the dark night but his Abba his Father. In a few short words, he surrenders. He knows what’s to come and he accepts it. He asks to be relieved of the pain and the fear but then he turns it all over. I think for me as a growing Christian it’s so important to pause at this point and realize that God didn’t take Jesus’ suffering away. In fact, there really is no noticeable transcendent answer to his pleading. We know what comes next. We know that Jesus walks willingly into his own death on the cross. What a valuable lesson for us. God doesn’t answer our desperate prayers immediately, but he hears them.

Yet not what I will, what you will…

Jesus overcame fear and hesitation in the garden at Gethsemane. As that night wore on, his disciples betrayed him but he was not alone.

Abba, Father, give us strength to stand strong at the side of your son Jesus. Hear our prayer this week that it isn’t what I will but what You will. Give us long-range vision. Help us to understand in our darkest moments that you hear us and that in our surrender to you we’ll find rest.

What can man do to me?

Today’s Reading: Deuteronomy 26; Psalms 117–118; Isaiah 53; Matthew 1

June 21, 2016

I’ve recently shared Psalm 118:6 with a few colleagues after we were discussing our upcoming evaluation at work. It says,

The Lord is on my side; I will not fear.What can man do to me? 

I repeated the verse multiple times in the conversation and we shared a laugh as we both prepared.  It helped relax the moment but also recognized its truth. No matter the outcome of my future meeting, I was reminded about God’s plan for us.  Honestly, I share this verse more often now and it serves as a wake up call once I’ve got myself focused on others. Hebrews 13:6 also shares these words and is a shining light in the darkness of trying to always please others.

Growing up I displayed many insecurities through my poverty lifestyle, dysfunctional events, and lack of an earthly father struggle.  My connection with a heavenly father wasn’t present and it showed.  In my mind attempting to think, say, and act the way I thought others wanted was my number one priority. Many people can act this way, it helps people to fit in.  It was truly the opposite of Psalm 118:6-8.  I cared more what others wanted or thought of me and less about God.  I was truly blind. This was and is an emotional trap for people when you are always trying to please others.  The truth is this doesn’t change to often with years, status, or money.  The factor is our relationship with God.

Rick Warren says in the article, ” You Can’t Please Everybody” that “Even God can’t please everyone. Only a fool would try to do what even God can’t do.” Proverbs 29:25 connects with this statement by saying; The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.  Personally, I needed a lot of E.G.R. (extra grace required) when I made most of my decisions based on others and my own selfish desires. It’s important to remember these commands presently  in our day of age when we are quick to make decisions based on a desire to  please man.  We need to trust in the Lord for all things. We need to examine our heart.  How’s it looking? Am I currently seeking the favor of men, or of the Lord? 

In Does It Matter What Others Think by John Piper, the litmus test is whether Christ looks great in the way we live? Looking at Philippians 1:19-20  asks ourselves, “Is Christ magnified in our bodies whether by life or by death?”

Each day we must put our trust in something or someone.  Are you willing to put your trust in God to guide you in all your earthly decisions and to our eternal destination? psalms_118-6-1

The Fear of the Lord

Today’s reading has three verses referencing a fear of the Lord. That made me wonder if I actually fear him, so as an exercise to help me think about what it means to fear something, I brainstormed on a few things that I actually do fear: falling off the edge of a cliff (even though I’m nowhere near the edge), ladders, electricity, clowns, extreme turbulence, diving into shallow water, and lack of preparation. Some irrational fear in there but some healthy fear as well.

Deuteronomy 22; Psalms 110–111; Isaiah 49; Revelation 19

He provides food for those who fear him;
    he remembers his covenant forever. (Psalm 111:5)

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
    all those who practice it have a good understanding.
    His praise endures forever! (Psalm 111:10)

And from the throne came a voice saying,
“Praise our God,
all you his servants,
you who fear him,
small and great.” (Revelation 19:5)

I’ve come to view the word fear in these verses to be reverence as opposed to a common “fear” of something we might want to run away from. For example, I don’t fear a hot stove, but I have a healthy respect for its intended use and corresponding dangers when misused. In what ways do I reflect a lack of fear (reverence) in the Lord? What does fearing the Lord look like? How is this wise?

Creating the table below was a great exercise to challenge my thinking and behaviors. Each of the earthly focused items are all too near to the way that I live, so creating this table reminded me of my current focus and where it needs to be.

My earthly focus disrespects, dishonors, or demonstrates a lack of fear of God when I… My eternal focus demonstrates fear or reverence for God when I… The wisdom…
Blatantly disobey to feed my own desire. If it feels good, I do it! Obey his commands, even when I don’t want to. Die to self. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:38)
Keep on sinning. He’ll forgive me right? Choose to give up a recurring sin and remember the price that Jesus paid for me to be forgiven. For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)
Put my trust in wealth, power, and pleasure. I choose the lies that the world tries to tell me. Put my trust in Godly things. His word, guidance from the Holy Spirit, his mercy through Jesus. The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy (Psalm 111:7)
Seek “what’s in it for me” in this relationship. Meet someone new and contemplate how I can share the love of Jesus with them. Pray for guidance from the Holy Spirit so as to make Jesus known. Share what a difference Jesus has made in my life. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. (John 17:3)
Try to speed through the week to get to the weekend for some fun! Slow down. Rest. Live in the moment. Thank God for each new day, for the little things. Live in prayer and set aside time for the reading of scripture. And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. (Mark 6:31)
Worry about the future; my job, family, and finances. Give it all up to God. He’s got it!!! He may not give me what I think I want, when I want it, but he’s in control and that’s that! Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)


Conquering the Beast

Today’s Readings: Deuteronomy 18, Psalm 105, Isaiah 45, Revelation 15

Like a little fool I’m going to write to you today about the book of Revelation. I’ve been a little hesitant about the book of Revelation from the beginning. Ok, if I’m being honest, it’s more like I wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole. It seems like all the seasoned Christians I know have very distinct and specific beliefs about the meaning and implications of its teachings. Usually, I don’t put much effort into researching and learning about the Revelation passages because I know I’m just not going to get it in that broader contextual this is the meaning of life sort of way. Today though, I couldn’t get away from it. I took some great notes on other ideas for the journal but there’s something in Revelation today for all of us.

“And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire-and also those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb…” Revelation 15:2-3

Those who had conquered the beast. The beast. What is the beast? Is it Satan himself, or is it the empty promises he sells? I can’t begin to tell you and neither can my three study bibles. But what’s alive in this passage today is the image of me standing on the banks of a sea that is on fire. And in my hand is my beast, the image of my beast and the number of its name. Isn’t that a powerful image? If just for a moment we put down our Starbucks and iPhone and imagine ourselves there, on the shore, next to the sea, on the day that all evil in this place is abolished. You have conquered the beast forever more, and now you stand as the fire burns out with the harp of God in your hand singing the song that Moses and the Israelites sang when they were delivered out of Egypt.

If you are anything like me, you woke up this Sunday morning to learn that yet another 50 people had been gunned down at the hands of terrorists and instead of crying you started to feel a little bit numb. Our day-to-day life is now permeated with the reality of hatred and violence. It’s getting harder and harder to take these stories in, to see the photographs and absorb the real time video. If you are anything like me, it’s because you realize that it’s not just happening in a place far away anymore. It’s not just happening to people in another country that are awake when we sleep. It’s happening to people that aren’t so different from us, that live not so far away from us. If you are anything like me, you may look at your children and wonder whether they will be called to stand firm in their convictions for Jesus in the face of real danger.

It’s all very scary stuff. Until you read the word of God. Until your realize that the song of Moses that we hear from the Israelites in Exodus 15 is repeated by the apostle John in Revelation 15. Revelation was originally written to the seven churches of Asia but it was meant for believers everywhere. As modern Christians it reminds us that the world we live in today is a reflection of the world Moses lived in and the world that John lived in after the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus. We hear the angels singing:

“Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations! Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.” Revelation 3-4.

Remember that today. His righteous acts have been revealed. He has already revealed himself to us. Although there are plagues there is also redemption. He alone is holy and all nations will come to worship Him. We need not be afraid. The beast wants us to stand, frozen in fear, to deny what we know is true. But we know we’ll be among those that conquer him, we’ve got his number.

Stand on the shore this Monday morning and light your fire of passion for Jesus Christ.