Go Does Great Things, Go Do Great Things

As I sat down to write this in my Word document where I keep all my Bible Journal writings, I saw the heading from my last writing 2 weeks ago which was “Leadership Lessons from David.” If you read today’s readings of 2 Samuel 11 and Psalm 43 before reading this, you will know right away this will not be a Volume 2! In fact, it could easily be title “David Shows Us What Not To Do.” Here we read that David breaks at least 2 and really 3 of the Ten Commandments. He lusts over a woman who is not his wife committing adultery after first coveting her when she’s married to Uriah and essentially commits murder by ordering Joab to send him into the front lines of battle and pull back support so he would be killed. Wow..this is some heavy stuff which could easily be on Dateline or an afternoon soap opera.

As I read this I’m very humbled. I will admit I am quick to condemn those who commit sins which I consider to be more serious than my
“little ones”…especially those who may be a celebrity, athlete, or have different political views than myself. But, I’m quick to forgive myself or others who I know personally by making excuses for myself or them. Our Pastor, Mike Baker, often reminds us all sins are the same in God’s eyes because breaking any one of the Ten Commandments permanently separates us from God without a Savior, and not only have we all broken at least one by commission or omission, but we all have broken all ten! In Acts 13:22, God calls David “a man after my own heart.” It’s hard to believe one who God refers to in this manner could do what David did.

This convicts me of 2 truths….

  • We all need a Savior in Jesus Christ. No one is perfect. We all of sinned..even someone as great as David who lived for God in so many ways, who God did many great things through, and who wrote over 70 Psalms. If someone as great as David is capable of something this terrible, what might I be capable of if I’m not extremely careful and stay in the Word and in prayer close to Him. Although we are called to repent and turn from sin, and not excusing sin in any way, how much comfort can we have in knowing that God, when we ask, will forgive any past sin we have done (see Mark 3:28-30 which says blaspheming the Holy Spirit or essentially not believing and accepting Jesus is the only one that cannot)?! Even something as bad as what David did can be and is forgiven through the grace of Jesus Christ death on the cross. All we have to do is repent and believe in Him. Praise God!
  • God can do great things with those who have committed some of the worst sins imaginable. Saul, later named Paul, persecuted and killed many Christians. Yet after his conversion, he wrote 13 books of the New Testament and is responsible (with the help of the Holy Spirit) for much of the spreading of Christianity and the early church! As we read in Joshua, Rahab, who was a prostitute, helped the Israelites win at Jericho and became part of the bloodline of Jesus. David is still called “a man after God’s heart” after what we read here today and had a son Solomon who built the temple and is known as the wisest person to ever live outside of Jesus. David also is part of the direct lineage of our Savior, Jesus. We could go on and on…

How much hope should we have in these truths that God will forgive us from our most horrific past sins and can also do amazing things with us during our remaining lifetime despite our past shortcomings when we believe in and give our life to Jesus! If you are facing the challenge of believing something you have done can turn out to be ok and God can forgive it and do great things with your remaining life, please take note of these truths of redemption in the Bible. I can’t think of anything we should carry into our day today to be more grateful for than this!

God does great things, let’s go do great things!!


Standing on the Promises

2 Samuel 7 and Psalm 39

With a gapped tooth grin from ear to ear, I handed my mom an egg carton jewelry box on Mother’s Day, over thirty years ago.  It was a soft yellow styrofoam carton, that was covered with paint, paper shapes and flower pipe cleaners.  It was BEAUTIFUL! I had worked so diligently on her special gift, and she proudly displayed it on her dresser and put all of her treasures in it… I was so proud to give her something so beautiful that she could see and use every day.

David, he sure loved His God. In a similar way, we read in 2 Samuel 7, how he wanted to build something special for the Lord to dwell. It sure made sense to me – David’s living in a beautiful cedar home, and he wanted something even better for God. We know God cares about details, order, reverence, and respect, and this seemed right in line.  But God’s ways are always above our ways, and while I believe David’s heart was in the right place, the Lord used it as an opportunity to reveal his future plans and make a covenant with him.  Instead of David building a house for the Lord, the Lord outlines the eternal house (kingdom) that He will build through David and his heirs.

God later refers to this in Psalms 89:3 as:

“I have made a covenant

with my chosen one.”

God promises to raise up David’s offspring, establish their kingdom forever, and they will build a house for the Lord’s name. This promise, the foretelling of Jesus, is an early picture of God’s future plans for the Messiah.

God makes this covenant, with full knowledge of the future. He knows what David’s choices will be in the years to come.  From times of obedience, to times of sin, God’s perfect ability to bring discipline and steadfast love is unmatched on this earth.

The second half of this chapter is David’s bewildered response to God’s promise to Him. He has been forgiven, protected, guided, changed, and God just told him He will do even MORE than that for David and his offspring! The soft heart of David, full of humility and love for the Lord, is one I want to emulate more consistently.

Thinking back to times when my heart was softest and focused on closeness with God, several instances come to mind:

  • the ‘first love” feelings of Jesus overwhelmed me when I first became a Christian
  • seasons of deep repentance, forgiveness, and gratitude
  • God answered prayers with my newborn daughter’s spina bifida and surgeries
  • discovering a new truth or lesson in the Word

I can go back to those moments and feelings that nothing else in the world mattered – God was with me and would be with me in the future, and I was firmly standing on that promise.

When I stumble across an old journal entry or something written down during those time, it is so faith affirming to see God’s work in my life. The book of Psalms often reads like David’s own journal entries of God’s promises, God’s deliverances, God’s protection. David loved proclaiming what God has done and will do in his life. He believed it, and he stood firm on those truths.

Are you standing firm in the promise God has given you? A promise of a life with him forever, filled with love and joy, where there will be no more tears and death. He is the perfect promise keeper.  When the world around you fails, His promises never fail.

Wait on the Lord

1 Samuel 26 and Psalms 27

1 Samuel 26 reads like a repeat of 1 Samuel 24, that we explored two days ago with Jennifer Armstrong.  The circumstances are two different events, although  similar, with Saul once again pursuing David. David has another opportunity to kill him, yet he shows mercy for the second time.  The picture Jennifer painted of choosing reconciliation over revenge, and trusting God’s authority, is applicable to this chapter as well.

I love how Psalms 27 so clearly describes David’s experiences outlined in 1 Samuel. He shows us that putting the Lord at the center of his life removes his fears (verse 1). Surrounded by enemy armies, he declares his confidence in God’s protection (verse 2-3). Even when David had the opportunity to take control, kill his enemy, he chooses to show mercy and allow God to work how He will.  TWICE!

Like David, we can trust God to deal with our enemies. Do you have a Saul in your life that you need to commit to the Lord’s hands?  He is the supreme authority, the righteous judge, and the ultimate miracle worker.  As a mentor once told me, “Let that go… it’s above your pay grade. That’s work that the Lord will do”.

I’m so encouraged by David’s cries out to the Lord in this Psalm, seeking wisdom and leadership (verse 11) in the middle of his drama. He chooses to WAIT for the Lord, even when under duress.

In contrast, my instinct is to take action. The Lord continues to give me opportunities to be patient and wait on Him. I’m a problem-solver, coming up with a mental action plan for the 12 “what-if” scenarios I create in my mind for any given situation. Inaction can make me uneasy, even when I know that immediate action isn’t always the best solution.  Waiting – whether it’s on direction from the Lord, or for my kids to get in the car – does not come easy.

I can think of a big season of waiting in my life, while handling hurts at the hands of others. God used this time to grow my trust in Him, He provided more wisdom, and delivered hope.  He protected my heart from seeking revenge, and in time, turned it toward reconciliation.  Had I taken immediate action, the outcome would be very different.  While the waiting can be the hardest part, in hindsight, we can see the beautiful work God does. For me, more time brought more truth.  And more time and truth brought more healing.

Lord, Thank you for being a righteous judge.  Please give us an ear to hear your direction and a heart to follow. Help us to know the difference of when you are leading us to wait and when you are leading us to action. Amen 

A way out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

His Plans Cannot Be Thwarted

Today’s reading is 1 Samuel 6 and Psalm 7.

We read yesterday about how God caused tumors to come upon the Philistines because they had taken the ark. They now realize they have done a terrible thing and want to know what to do. The priests tell them to make a sacrifice and put the ark on a cart with two cows. If the cows go to Bethshemesh, then they know what they have done was bad and the Lord has caused these tumors to come upon them. If the cows go somewhere else, it was a coincidence. Where do you think the cows went? Right to Bethsemesh. In fact, they went to the field of Joshua there.

Have you ever done something so bad you don’t think God can possibly forgive you or turn it into good? Has someone else ever done something so bad to you that you don’t think God can forgive them and you doubt how God can turn it into good? I’ve seen Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark enough times to know that taking the ark of the covenant is probably a bad idea. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the Philistines repented like we should do when we sin, but they did look for direction on what to do and God gave instruction through the priests and led the cows to go to Bethshemesh so they knew it was not a coincidence. The ark is now on its way back to where God wants it, despite their actions. After Israel was defeated in battle and the ark was taken, if you were one of the Israelites would you have ever thought the Philistines would want to give it back on their own accord and that two cows with no one leading them but God would bring it back? I highly doubt it.

How often do we doubt God’s plans and His grace for us in our sin, as well as His plans and grace for other in their sin? His grace is greater than we can ever imagine and His plans cannot be thwarted in the midst of our personal sins and the missteps of others. God will work everything for the good. Romans 10:8 says, “but God shows His love for us that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” How blessed are we that when we sin and make mistakes, all we have to do is turn to Him and trust Him! He will make it right. In fact, He already did nearly 2000 years ago on the cross.

Rejoice, Repent, Relinquish

1 Samuel 2 & Psalms 3

In today’s readings we follow three attitudes and approaches to God from three different people (Hannah, the Sons of Eli, David). 1 Samuel outlines Hannah’s song of praise and then in contrast, the choices of the worthless sons of Eli.  Turning to Psalms we find David’s prayer of trust in God.

After years of praying and waiting, Hannah is blessed with a son, Samuel, and her response is one of genuine joy and gratitude. She declares in this prayer-song who the Lord is, what He has done, and what He will do.  His knowledge and judgement are perfect: He makes the feeble strong, feeds the hungry, brings babies to the barren, poor become rich, exalts the lowly, and protects His faithful. Her worship to the Lord with her words is a foreshadowing of Mary’s song in Luke 1, praising God for who He is and what He has done.

Meanwhile, Eli’s sons continue to disobey God and are called worthless men who do not know the Lord. One of the transgressions detailed is their taking advantage and dishonoring the sacrifices to God from the people. Eli rebukes his sons, and instead of responding with sorrow and repentance for their sin, they continue in a sinful lifestyle – even sleeping with servant women at the temple entrance. They demonstrate complete disregard for Eli’s admonishment, and most of all for God. They are arrogant in their positions as Eli’s sons and ‘servants of the priest’, and it is known among Israel.

Fast-forward to Psalm 3, David’s prayer-song to God of the events unfolding (that come later in 2 Samuel 15-16).  David’s son Absalom has created a conspiracy against David and has turned the people against him. As David flees from Jerusalem to the Jordan river, he cries out to the Lord. Verses 1 & 2 outline the reality of David’s situation and what he is up against – many, MANY enemies that are against him and almost taunting his faith and salvation. I love verse 3, the turning point in this song, beginning with “But YOU, Oh Lord…”, David’s hope and fear is in the Lord, not in man. He declares God’s protection, answering, and sustaining, even when he is surrounded. He turns it over to God and His trust is in Him alone.

These three scenarios leave us with examples of how we can respond to God.  Both Hannah and David declare WHO God is, what He has done, and what He will do.  One after experiencing a miracle and the other in a plea for protection and prayer of trust.  And finally, we have an example that leads to destruction: responding to God with continued sin and rebellion. I can’t read these accounts without examining my own response to God.

In times of blessings and miracles right in front of me, do I stop and praise God for His perfect provision and timing? What a beautiful example of rejoicing Hannah gives us! Whether it be something small that the world may brush off as coincidence, or something much bigger that is clearly divine, do I give God all the glory? Do I continually believe in WHO God is and WHAT He will do?

In times of Godly correction, can I soften my heart to repent or will I rebel even more? Maybe it’s a prompting from the Holy Spirit showing me my sin, a sister in Christ sharing a truth I need to hear, or a scripture speaking right to me.  I can look back at times when my response was much more like Eli’s worthless sons, rationalizing and justifying my actions, instead of turning to God with sorrow for my sin.

In times of desperation, like David, can I turn my fear into faith? Do I say ‘But YOU, Oh Lord…’ when faced with trials that seem unfair? Am I willing to believe that His judgement and justice is best?  David could have fought to stay in Jerusalem and clear his name, instead he chose to protect his followers and flee to keep them out of harm’s way. Can I praise Him in the midst of fear and heartache? Am I willing to let God fight my battles and relinquish the control I think I have?

Lord, you ARE the Almighty, King of all Kings. Your ways are far beyond my understanding. Thank you for showing me grace and patience as I repent for my sin and rebellion. Please give me the rejoicing heart of Hannah and the relinquishing trust of David. Amen.

We are speaking to the creator of the universe!

This is my last post for 2017 so I’m reflecting on the past year along with Psalm 141, a Psalm of King David.

Lord, I call upon you; hasten to me!
 Give ear to my voice when I call to you!
Let my prayer be counted as incense before you,
 and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice! (Psalm 141:1-2)

Note the exclamation points and the direct manner by which David starts out speaking to God. This is from the heart, passionate, and urgent. We should all pray like we mean it… we are speaking to the creator of the universe! He doesn’t need our empty words or empty promises, he wants our hearts! Lift up your hands and cry out to him right now. I triple dog dare you. Yes, ’tis the season to go straight to the triple dog dare.

Consider the urgency of Jesus as he prayed on the Mount of Olives, praying so hard that his sweat was like blood.

And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (Luke 22:44)

I’ve seen God move in mighty ways this year, no doubt as a result of crying out and the faithful prayers of friends and family. When I say that I’ve seen God move, I don’t mean that he’s answered every prayer in the way that I wanted him to answer it. He also moves through saying no, not yet, or revealing a completely different plan. While it is easy to say right now that I’m thankful, there have certainly been times of frustration, sorrow, fear, and doubt.

Sitting at my favorite place to write inside, I am thinking about the people, habits, or events that had the biggest influence on my life this year.

  • Absolutely the greatest influence on my life in 2017 (same with 2016) has been writing for Bible Journal. This habit and responsibility causes me to look for the Holy Spirit in all events and to constantly be thinking about God’s ways over my ways. It teaches me to see others as who they are: first and foremost, children of God, loved by God, and therefore I must love others. After completing one post, it is time to start praying about the next one, asking for wisdom and for God’s will to be done. There are so many stories going on in all of our lives, and this journaling habit brings the stories closer to my heart. I am so thankful, humbled and honored to be part of this community.
  • Words of encouragement. Do not underestimate the power that our words have on other people, positive or negative. I’m thankful for those who have lifted me up and challenged me in a way that is pleasing to God.
  • Grace. I spent a few minutes thinking about all that I’ve been given this year that I didn’t deserve. Sit quietly and ask God to show you a glimpse of what you’ve been given this year. I believe he wants all of us to see this so that we may give him, the ultimate giver, the thanks he deserves.
  • Surprises. Meeting new people, especially those who are humble and joyful.
  • Seeing my sin as what it is: unacceptable in the eyes of God. This one stings but let’s not sugar coat it. I’m thankful to have a savior who gave his perfect life in exchange for my all too often wretched life. I’m a sinner in need of a savior. Thank you Jesus.


Matthew 21, Psalm 94

By definition, a cornerstone is “a stone that forms the base of a corner of a building, joining two walls.”  Historically, the cornerstone was the first stone set in a new building.  It was carefully selected and placed, becoming the reference point for the rest of the building.  The Bible often references the cornerstone of our lives.  This stone is special and set apart, selected and laid by God himself (Job 38:4-7).  It has been tested and it is precious. These ensure a firm foundation (Isaiah 28:16).  This cornerstone is an anchor point for an entire building; his temple.  It consists now of apostles, prophets (Ephesians 2:19-21), saints, the chosen as his royal priesthood  (1 Corinthians 1:2, 1 Peter 2:9).  Each of us, placed securely and carefully around the cornerstone.

We get to choose a cornerstone upon which to build our own lives.  Just like the Jews in Matthew 21, we have a choice.  We either choose Jesus for that stone, or we reject him as that stone.  Trouble comes in the rejection.  You see, failure to place Jesus as the cornerstone, doesn’t mean that we have built an inferior house.  No, it means that we have built a house without God.  A house without life (Genesis 2:7, Acts 17:25).  In fact, Matthew 21:44 gets right to the point, reminding us that our rejection results in death. 

As we consider that truth, it is right to consider our current state.  Maybe our lives already have Jesus as the cornerstone.  In that case, the fruit will be obvious.  Our lives are exuding love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).  If these are missing, however, what are we to do?  That, my friends, is the wonderful thing about the Gospel. 

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22)

In order to receive his mercy and place him as our cornerstone, there is only one thing required.  Believe.

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. (Romans 10:9-10)

Luke 13

I am a reader. Those who know me will probably smile when they read those words. In my free time, I am rarely without a book in my hand. When I was younger, I read mostly fiction – especially the Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden series. My favorite author, though, was Louisa May Alcott. I read and re-read every book she ever wrote because I loved how she created a story. Even though her books were fiction, I felt as though I were reading a true story – her plot and details were that believable. And I always learned something from her books.

Jesus is the master story-teller. Over and over in the New Testament, we read of our Savior using a story to make a point or to teach a lesson. In doing so, He teaches about complex topics like faith and grace and salvation. We see this over and over in Luke 13, our chapter for today.

Jesus uses the parable of a barren fig tree to teach about how to live a Godly life (Luke 13:6 – 9). He compares the kingdom of God to both a mustard seed and to leaven used in baking bread (Luke 13:18 – 21) He uses the idea of a narrow door to represent the fact that “no one comes to the Father except through me” (Luke 13:24 – 30; John 14:6). The people to whom He was talking would have had as difficult a time as we do now understanding concepts like the kingdom of God, faith, and salvation. Fig trees, mustard seeds, leaven and doors, though? They understood those. They were familiar with these objects, because they used them in their daily lives. By using stories, Jesus made complex topics more easily understood.

As Jesus ends this time of teaching, He laments over the lost in Jerusalem, saying, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Luke 13:34). As I finish writing this devotion, it is Monday morning, and our country is waking to the news of the massacre in Las Vegas. Jesus’ poignant cries over Jerusalem remind me that my Savior also weeps today, along with those who grieve.

My Father, A Glimpse Into Our Heavenly Father

Today’s reading is 1 Timothy 5.

Please forgive me, as this is the 2nd writing in a row about my family. My family is far from perfect to say the least like all families, but I could not help but think of my Dad when reading this passage. This chapter specifically talks about the treatment of widows in 1 Timothy 5:3 and family 1 Timothy 5:8. For much of the last 15 or so years my Dad has cared for widows. Two of his aunts, who were my Grandfather’s sisters, were widows with no children who lived alone for many years and then transitioned into an assisted living facility and then eventually a nursing home. They have now both passed. My Dad picked them up for church each Sunday, insisted they come to every holiday, and even made sure they had a corsage like all the other women at church on Mother’s Day so they didn’t feel left out.  Not only did he care for their physical needs and managed their finances, but most importantly, he cared about the way they felt about themselves. He cared about their dignity. I can’t help but think of how proud my Grandpa must have been of my Dad looking down from Heaven and seeing his son care for his sisters who had no one else.

It doesn’t stop there though. My Grandma, my Dad’s mother-in-law, was also in the nursing home with dementia at and around the same time. My Dad would stop by mid-morning each day to pick up and drop off her laundry and check in to see how she was doing. Even though she didn’t know who he was and wouldn’t have noticed if he didn’t come by or that her glasses were dirty, he would stop by just to bring a smile to her face and to clean her glasses every day. I know how great this made my Mom feel seeing the love her husband had for her own Mom. I can only hope that I can make him and my wife Shannon that proud someday. Now, my Dad cares for a widow who has no living relatives and is in need of someone to help her after her sister passed. I heard someone once say you can tell the character and quality of a person by how they treat someone who can give them nothing in return. Come to think of it..isn’t that what God did for us when he sent Jesus to die on the cross for us? He gave us something we could never repay Him for and something he didn’t need to do. He wanted to do it though. 1 John 4:16 says, “God is love…” We will never be perfect and that is why we need Jesus. But, we are called to be a shadow of his image for others to see His love through our lives and actions.

I’m wrapping up my 17th unbelievable Annual Meeting in Milwaukee for my company, Northwestern Mutual, and I had the chance to hear Wheaton College legendary football coach Michael Swider speak for the second time in my life. If you ever have a chance to hear him..go! He has me crying and wanting to run through a brick wall for God, my family, and those I lead every time I hear him. He said, “Your reputation is what others think about you. Your character is what God and the angels know.” 1 Timothy 5:25 says, “So also good works are conspicuous and even those that are not cannot remain hidden.” Coach Swider said we all will have a meeting with God someday. We just don’t know when it is. He asked, “What if your meeting with God was tomorrow?” And it could be! What would He say to you? He knows your character and true heart. Although we only need to ask for forgiveness and believe in Him for his grace and good works cannot earn his grace and eternal life, I sure hope and pray that if my meeting is with God  is tomorrow he will say to me, “Well done my good and faithful servant!” I know He will say that to my Dad. What do you think he will he say to you?