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?

 

Mindset

I would venture to say that a fair number of us reading this either played sports or music at some point in our lives. As I read Ephesians 4, I’m so thankful for the playbook or sheet music God gives us as the blueprint for how to live our life. The Word is full of this, but another great chapter that parallels this is Romans 12. In fact, if you are looking for a good resource, our small group did a Bible study by Chip Ingram called True Spirituality on how to become what he calls a Romans 12 Christian and it could have just as easily been about becoming an Ephesians 4 Christian.

Kurt Dorner is the Chief Development Officer with our Central Illinois Northwestern Mutual office, and he is also someone I am blessed to call a mentor and friend. Kurt’s mantra is “Better Every Day” which I absolutely love and reminds me of Ephesians 4. Kurt embodies a “growth” mindset. Just over a year ago I read a book called Mindset by Carol Dweck which changed my life and hopefully will result in changing the life of my family and those I mentor and lead. Carol talks about how most of us have a “fixed” mindset which means we see a limit or cap on things. We think we are either good or bad at certain things. For example, many say, “I’m bad at math.” This holds us back in life. Carol discusses that the highly successful have a “growth” mindset. They believe with practice and focus they can improve at anything. They also view nothing as failure and everything as learning or growth with no fear of the future and believe there is no cap on what’s possible.

Ephesians 4 rings of a “growth” mindset. In Ephesians 4:1, Paul states, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” In Ephesians 4:12=13 he says God gave us leaders to “equip the saints for the work of ministry for building up the body of Christ until we attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” In Ephesians 4:15, he says, “…we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head into Christ.” Seriously?! Be like Jesus? He was without sin! I’m guaranteed to fail, right?

I have been a believer my whole life being blessed to grow up with my family raising me in the church (yes..there were still questions at times). However, nearly all my life I would say I still carried a “hardness of heart” Paul speaks of in Ephesians 4:18. Not only was I hard on myself with a “fixed” mindset focusing on my failures, but I also focused on and judged other for their sins thinking they were worse than mine without much empathy for the pain or troubles they may be experiencing now or have experienced in the past. Over the last 6 years, I have developed a relationship with Christ through more time in prayer, more time in the Bible, and in close community with fellow believers in a small group. I can see a renewing of my mind Paul speaks of in Ephesians 4:23 and Romans 12:2. I can see a softening of my heart as my relationship with Christ grows as Paul speaks of in Ephesians 4:24-32. I notice myself being more forgiving of others transgressions because Christ forgave me (Ephesians 4:33). Please take note that the verbs I used all included “ing” on the end of them. I’m nowhere near where God calls me to be, and I never will be. I sin every hour and likely every minute of every day. I desperately need a Savior in Jesus because even just one sin separates me from God without him (Romans 3:23 and Romans 6:23). It’s about the process of improving though by striving to be like Christ not to earn grace, but because of his grace. It’s about a “growth” and a “better every day” mindset.

In Ephesians 4:1, God urges us through Paul’s writing to step into this calling to grow to be more like Christ. He knows we will never reach it by our own works on this Earth. 2 Cor 5:21 says, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that we may become the righteousness of God.” Here in Ephesians 4:7 he says, “But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.”  We will mess up many plays in the playbook of life, and we will miss many notes in our musical performance.  However, 1 Corinthians 15:57 says,“But thanks be to God! He gives us victory (or a we could say a standing ovation) through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

All we have to do is believe in Him. For that free gift of grace I say God is good…wait…no…God is GREAT…all the time!

Is It Worth It?

2 Corinthians 11

What can I physically and emotionally endure? How much pain, stress, and anguish can I take? Well, probably not as much as Paul. He states in this chapter five times he received thirty-nine lashes by the Jews. Three times he was beaten with rods. He tells us here he was stoned which we remember from Acts 14. Stoning is intended to kill a person. Three times he was lost at sea and shipwrecked. He references threats from both his own people, the Jews, as well as the Gentiles, the Romans.

Let’s stop and reflect on that for a second. The two dominant groups at the time were the Romans who wanted to kill Christians for denouncing that Caesar was God and Jews who wanted to persecute Christians as well because they did not believe Jesus was the true Messiah. Both wanted Paul dead. He also references danger from the wilderness, hunger, thirst, the cold, and not to mention false brothers here. Whew! Quite the list!

Let’s revert to Acts 14 where Paul was stoned in Lystra for a moment. They dragged him out of the city thinking he was dead (Acts 14:19). He was not though, and we are told by Luke here in Acts that not only did he get up and go to Derbe to preach the next day, but when he was done there he went back to Lystra where he was just stoned! We are told in Acts 14:22 he was “strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”

I recently finished a great book which I highly recommend called What Is God Really Like? Each chapter is written by an all-star team of pastors. One pastor gives an analogy by asking the question whether you would tell a surgeon operating on a loved one to save their life to hurry up? I don’t know what you are going through right now, and it may be something very terrible and for that I am extremely empathetic and sympathetic so I hope this is not taken the wrong way. But, whatever pain and anguish Satan is causing you (because it is not God..see Romans 8:1), God is using that which Satan thinks is for his glory to positively shape your heart and soul into the person he wants you to become and to impact those around you. He is performing a delicate surgery in just the right amount of time to make it a perfect and successful one. Although God may not reveal the answer now or even in this lifetime, we must ask ourselves what God may be wanting to do in our lives and the lives of those around us through this to reveal his glory?  Let’s learn from Paul. Would you be ok with your present or future suffering if through it you could help just one person know Jesus and have eternal life in Heaven? If not one, what about ten people…or one thousand… or maybe even ten thousand people?

God is the supreme potter. He is shaping what looks like a mess of sloppy clay which is your life into his masterpiece. Have you ever looked at the backside of a beautifully crocheted piece? It looks like a huge jumbled mess with colors in the wrong places and different size strands hanging off of it everywhere. This is how we see our lives and how Satan wants us to see it. Flip over that crocheted piece, and what do you see? Again, it is a perfect picture, a masterpiece. THAT is what God sees because he sees our entire life and the lives of those around us.

Ultimately, all we can do in tough times is go back to the only truth that exists and that is the Word. Romans 8:28 tells us, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for the good of those who are called according to his purpose.”  I don’t know what pain and suffering I, or you, may go through in this life and quite frankly I don’t want to think about it. Jesus tells us not to worry about it (Matthew 6:34). But, I know one thing, my life here on Earth of somewhere between 33 and hopefully 80 to 100 years is like one grain of sand amongst all the beaches of the Earth when compared to the length of eternity. Romans 8:18 tells us, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” A week ago we read 2 Corinthians 4:17 which says, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” I struggle with this like most, but I am growing to try to enjoy the precious present of each day, and I am extremely grateful for Jesus’ saving grace on the cross. When we see his face and spend eternity with him and others who the Holy Spirit helped be saved through our earthly lives, there will be no doubt to the answer to the question, was it worth it?

 

 

Lost Letters

Have you ever talked with someone about things in their life that were hurting them? It could have been alcohol, drugs, abuse, lying, meanness… the list can go on.  Maybe you have taken it even a step further and intentionally took time to mentor, coach, or were directive and intentional about sharing steps to help lead that person to a place that would change their life for the positive. Prayerfully eternal changes.  Really, a life closer to God.

If you have children I know this is part of our daily parenting.  Besides our own children who we will leave our biggest impact on, who are you filling into? Who are you guiding, planting seeds of hope, and eternal future?  Personally,  I know I can and need to be more intentional in my conversations and recognize the need from others. To be more courageous in sharing God’s love. I plan to use some of the tips shared yesterday from Jillian in The Last Word is Love.

Next question, has there been a time where you were mentoring and it seemed like it had worked? Like it was all good.  Coaching success!  Then unfortunately, you find out they are back to their old ways.  The bad habit had crept back in and the pressures of our worldly desires or influences took hold and brought them back to where they were, maybe worse.  Then to top it off, the person you were pouring into was making negative comments about you and your motives.  I personally can relate, I’ve been on both sides of this fence.  Most of my younger years the wrong side of the fence. This is where Paul was when he started to write 2 Corinthians. Paul was feeling saddened, frustrated, displeased at the church he had founded just four years earlier. He thought they had listened and his previous letter giving specific instructions to moral issues. In this letter Paul shows courage to speak up to those who were slandering him and his ministry, Paul defends our God against those who were twisting the truth.

In referring to a couple study bibles on the themes for 2 Corinthians here are reflecting points as we read and reflect.

  • Suffering/Trials – Paul had experienced it all.  Suffering, persecution, he paid a price for service to Christ and the gospel. 2 Cor. 6:3-13,  2 Cor. 11:16 -33. Reminder – God is faithful. He will provide the strength we need for any trial.
  • Giving – 2 Cor. 8 and 9 Paul lays out detailed ways of giving. Reminder for us is our giving and generosity of whatever helps those in need and allows them to thank God.
  • Sound Doctrine/Apologetic’s – Paul shares how to represent Christ. The boldness to share the gospel and boast in the grace that we have all received.  Paul does all this with Love.  2 Cor. 12:7-10

As we read through 2 Corinthians notice how Paul affirms, defends, and stands up to false teachers. Corinth was full of people who wanted to do everything their own way.  Making others look bad by talking about them.  Paul reminds them, he reminds us, that they are a new creation, ambassadors for Christ. 2 Cor. 5:17-20.  That in all the stress, anxieties that they go through, that we go through, it is encouraging to know that God has a divine plan for us to be part of His eternal kingdom.  So our mission while in this temporal world is to point others that way and to please Him.  2 Cor. 5:9

I recently read that Paul had written 2 other letters to the Corinthians and now they are physically lost.  Let’s not lose these and their instructions for us.

 

Dear Father,

As we read your word today we pray for the courage of Paul to always want to please you.  To be ambassadors for you and to let others know about the grace you have given us and them. That these worldly desires that the Corinthians face and we face today are temporal, and that the indescribable gift of a “new creation” covered by Your love is available to everyone.  We pray for obedience in all we do and a heart that will boast of Your love and goodness always.  We pray to listen and follow Your will until the day you come to take us home to you. Amen

 

References:

Tyndale Life Applications Study Bible

The Jeremiah Study Bible

What We Cannot Do For Ourselves…

Today’s reading is from Romans 3.

The word grace is defined by dictionary.com as “the freely and unmerited favor and love of God.” I’ve also heard it put that God’s grace means he will love us no matter what. Dictionary.com also defines a gift as “something given voluntarily without payment in return.” We learn in Romans 3:24 that we “are justified by his grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ.” Google defines redemption as “clearing a debt.” Romans 3:23 tells us, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:20 says, “For by the works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight.”

Typically a writer should wait until the end to put all the pieces together in a summary, but this is big enough that I feel compelled to do it now. Put plainly, no one is without sin, and no one receives the favor, love, and forgiveness of God by doing good works. We receive God’s love and have all our sins erased though confession of sin and faith in the one who first loved us when we didn’t deserve it, his son Jesus Christ. That’s all we have to do to get right with God? Yep…that’s it. Praise God!

In his Book If, Mark Batterson puts into perspective God’s forgiveness by reminding readers of the story in Matthew 18 when Jesus equivalates God’s forgiveness to a master who forgave his servant 10,000 talents.  One talent was 180 months or 15 years of wages. Therefore, a debt of 10,000 talents was 150,000 years or 2,332 lifetimes of wages of debt forgiven! This puts things into perspective of how no number of good works during our lifetime could make us righteous before God. Thinking of what God has done for us which he did not have to do and the fact that this is something we could not do for ourselves is enough to move me to tears often.

Let’s stick to the definition theme here. Merriam-Webster’s website defines righteous as “free from guilt or sin.” Mark also discusses in If that our sins are transferred into Christ’s account and paid in full when we confess our sins through Jesus’ death on the cross, but that’s only half of it. A second transfer occurs that we often forget. Jesus Christ’s righteousness is then deposited into our account with God calling it even! Not only does God not see our sin, he sees the righteousness of his son Jesus who was without sin in us. This is told to us in 2 Corinthians 5:21. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we may BECOME the righteousness of God.”

How does all this change how we should live today knowing these things?

  1. We don’t do good works and live how God wants us to live to earn God’s grace and love. We do good works in response to God’s love and grace.
  2. We do not boast or brag of anything we do (Romans 3:27). We can only boast of his grace and tell others of our faith in him.
  3. Since no one receives the righteousness of God based on works, family lineage, race, financials status, or social status, but only through faith in Jesus, we view ourselves as better than no one else. We see everyone as a child of God who is loved by God the same as us. We realize that everyone has a desperate need to come to faith in, and have a relationship with, Jesus Christ.
  4. We live different. We live life fearlessly because we have the righteousness of Jesus in God’s eyes through faith in him. We know he’s on our side and wants the best for us no matter what. Subconscious doubts about God’s love can culminate is many fears daily, but when know of God’s abundant love and are absolutely sure of it, we can live life without worries or anxieties about today or the future.

Please say this prayer with me today..

Dear God,

                I’m sorry for my many sins. I thank you for your gift of grace through faith in your son Jesus and his death on the cross. I thank you that your mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:23) and that you see me as righteous like Jesus only through confession and belief in him. Because of what Jesus did, help me to do good so that everyone can know you and see your love through me. Help me to not draw attention to these works, except for so that everyone will know the love you showed on the cross. Help me to remember each day that I can take risks and live a fearless life to be all you have called me to be because you have made me righteous like Jesus through faith in Him. Amen.

A Love Like No Other

Mark 12

Today’s reading is Mark 12, and we will focus on Mark 12:30-31. Jesus tells us the greatest and 2nd greatest commandment when asked by a scribe. He says…

“And you shall love your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: you shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Let’s then ask the question my four-year old son asks many times daily, “Why?” Growing up, there were times when I wondered what made Jesus death different than many other people throughout history who had been wrongly put to death.

Romans 3:23 and 6:23 provide an explanation. Romans 3:23 states, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” James 4:17 even tells us that we sin not just by what we do, but by what we don’t do. The beginning of Romans 6:23 tells us, “the wages of sin is death.” I think it is often overlooked that sin is singular here. Many people mistakenly think that if they do more things right than wrong, and if they are a “good person,” they will go to Heaven, but just one sin separates us from God and brings us condemnation. I love the picture often used to tell the Gospel which shows us on one side and God on the other side of a large crevice with sin and Hell at the bottom. We are separated from God due to our sin and there is no way to get to the other side until we lay the cross down, which Jesus died on for us, as a bridge to bring us together with God.

Romans 5:8 tells us, “God shows us His love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” We did nothing to deserve this. These verses answer my question growing up as to why Jesus’ death on the cross is different and so important. Only God, who is without sin, can justify us and bring us together with Him as one by grace through his perfect son Jesus. 2 Timothy 1:9 says, “(God) who saved us and called us to a holy calling not because of our works, but because of his own purpose and grace, which He gave in Christ Jesus before the ages began.” He did something for us that we could not do for ourselves. No number of good deeds can bring us together with God. Only His grace can do that through Jesus’ death on the cross and our belief in Him. Because He did this, 2 Corinthians 5:15 says that we are called to live for Him and not for ourselves.

Think about if you would be able to love your spouse, parent, or child the same if they sinned against you every hour of every day? This is what we do to God, and He still loves us more than we could ever love another human being because His love in original Greek is “agape” which means unconditional love.

So now that God has given us this free gift of grace through Jesus, how can we not love Him immensely and feel called to give that same love and grace to our neighbors which He tells us to do in Mark 12:31? In Matthew 18:21-22, Jesus tells Peter that we are to forgive our neighbor over and over again, just as He does us. 1 John 14:9 says, “we love because He first loved us.”  I think it is very neat how John 3:16 that many know so well says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” Then, 1 John 3:16 correlates with that and says, “By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers (and sisters.)”

I’ve heard non-believers say that if going to Heaven is just about praising and worshipping God for eternity, then there is no way I want to go there. This makes my heart ache when I hear this because they do not know God’s love. John 3:17 says, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” I wish I could say that I connect with God’s love as deeply and as often as He wants and I should, but I don’t. However, there are moments in church when we are standing and praising God in song when I feel that connection and oneness with God and His love. I don’t want the song to ever end, and I think to myself, “if this is what Heaven will be like then I can’t wait to get there and spend forever like this.” His love fills me up and gives me peace like nothing I can describe in these moments.

My prayer this day for all of you and for myself is that we connect with and feel God’s love more today and every day and then that we share that love with others.

My close friends will laugh if they read this because they probably could have easily guessed that at some point, sooner rather than later, I would reference the lyrics of a song by my favorite band Sister Hazel. I don’t know if this song was written with Christ’s love in mind, but His love is what I think of when I hear it. Here are the lyrics below. Check it out on you tube…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=azq8hqLrRnU

Or better yet..download it.

This Kind of Love

This kind of love makes me feel ten feet tall

It makes all my problems fall

And this kind of trust helps me to hold the line

I’ll be there every time

 

This kind of love it’s what I dreamed about

Yeah it fills me up

Baby it leaves no doubt

This kind of love it’s why I’m standing here

It’s something that we can share

I can’t enough of this kind of love

 

This kind of hope is what I try to find

And now I can’t deny I believe

And this kind of faith is so unshakeable

It’s unmistakable

It’s bigger than me

 

This kind of love it’s what I dreamed about

Yeah it fills me up

Baby it leaves no doubt

This kind of love it’s why I’m standing here

It’s something that we can share

I can’t enough of this kind of love

 

Your love can move a mountain

It makes my world go round

It’s always there to guide me

I’m so lucky that I found

 

This kind of love is what I dreamed about

Yeah it fills me up

Well baby it leaves no doubt

This kind of love it’s why I’m standing here

It’s something that we can share

I can’t get enough of this kind of love

This kind of love

 

Contemplating Life As Worship

If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. -1 Peter 4:11

The entirety of our lives is made up of what we think, say and do. Our active and passive response to what we are born into, what happens to us, and our surroundings — situations that unfold.

Whether we see it our not, God is the author of life; of our lives. Each breath we breathe is from God. His plan includes us. Part of that plan is our free will, our ability to uniquely decide how we’ll respond to the world as it presents itself, including interaction with each other.

Through studying the Bible and from insights gleaned from friends and sages, I have come to believe I should glorify God in all things, making my life a constant act of worship. But without some understanding of who God is, this is difficult. Even though God’s revelation is available to us all and His law is written on our hearts, it seems impossible to consistently glorify God.

If I was able to subjugate every thought, and every word, and every deed to God’s power; or to fully understand His purposes and His perfect plan for my life, who would I be then? It’s worth thinking about. A life focused on giving glory and power to God in all things — a perfect life, perfect alignment with God’s perfect will.

My hunch is this would be better than any life I could dream up, construct, or will into existence on my own. It’s crazy to think about this perfect life I am unlikely to attain — yet by my faith in Jesus, and through His grace, God considers me worthy of total righteousness, offering me a different kind of life. One in which I am able to receive God’s love as if I were His perfect child.

Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross offers the best example of God’s perfect love. This is the reason I choose to surrender all, bowing down to the maker of heaven and earth.

Thank you God for giving me freedom in the deliverance from my sin, through my submission to you. Thy will, not mine be done, as it is in heaven and on earth. Amen.

1 Chronicles 23; 1 Peter 4; Micah 2; Luke 11

All You Need Is Love

When Jesus speaks of the perfect life, He is very clear: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” -Luke 10:27. In perfect love, God desires our wellbeing, our fellowship and obedience.

Obedience is a hard word for me to hear, let alone to say or do! But obedience to God’s precepts ultimately make us better, stronger, healthier and happier. God’s law is no longer imposed, but encouraged in love. It’s not offered in oppression, but in freedom from sin through a life of tangible fellowship with the Creator of the Universe. Obedience to a perfect God is to seek the love Jesus speaks of.

Love gets more complicated when we are concerned for our well being, when others threaten our way of life, our freedom or interests. This is when we must chose between our own understanding or trusting God.

I am fascinated by the intensity of the discourse after this very unusual and surprising election. I have had to remind myself that God is eternally sovereign and we are not.

Living out our faith is about love in action, showing love without favoritism, loving the unlovable, practicing grace and gratitude. It is helpful to recognize our hypocrisy and self-righteousness, avoiding demagoguery, so easily embraced.

Personal spiritual transformation is the true source of social change. It is born in Love. God’s Spirit guides us. There is no other way.

God is sovereign and everything, even political power, comes from Him or is allowed by Him.

We have a lifetime of opportunity to live out values like kindness, humility, forgiveness, bravery, sacrifice, integrity, generosity, and compassion. We might easily claim these as our own, and overlook them in others, but love is the champion of justice and truth.

More than anything Jesus is saying to me, “trust God, surrender all to Him and love each other like there is no tomorrow.”

Perhaps John Lennon had it right; “all you need is love!”

1 Chronicles 15; James 2. Secret: Amos 9; Luke 4

Autumn Blessing

What shall I return to the Lord for all his goodness to me? -Psalm 116:12

In the pale light of an October evening, I sat on my patio — under the yellow rain of the locust trees, crows cawing back and forth. The cool air was filled with the smell of distant smoke as I sat wondering: How could I be so blessed?

In this tranquil place I had broken bread with my family and friends, sharing stories of our lives that intertwined like vines in a vineyard, planted and grafted, pruned and picked. Not all bore the best fruit, but the ones that did were special.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.John 15:1-2

Vineyards At Sunset

Why was I so fortunate? Honestly I couldn’t think of anything that I had done to deserve all that I had been given. A strong and healthy family. A beautiful, patient, loyal and loving wife. Three amazing boys, all so different. My businesses had been prosperous in ways that made it hard for me to take the credit.

It had also been a life that revealed the hand of God in the splendor of creation.

Scenery Of High Mountain With Lake And High Peak On A Clear Day

A litany of people offering hope and direction to a scrawny freckled faced boy, and then to an arrogant young man. People investing time in me along the way, wanting nothing in return. Now I worked with trusted partners in collaborations reaching farther than I ever could have imagined. Still, I had this feeling there was more to my life.

The feeling I had on this crisp Autumn day was more than abundant gratitude, recognizing God’s incredible grace. It was a sense of responsibility, but not burdensome — more like the anticipation of greater opportunities around the next bend. Yes I had been given much and there was a reason for this, a reason I wanted to understand.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.John 15:5

Nothing that was given to me was really mine. I had been entrusted with knowledge and treasures beyond my wildest dreams; perhaps even wisdom. I had been the unworthy recipient of unconditional love; this was the greatest gift of all. Yet when I finally realized that I was only the steward of these gifts, now I had to decide how better to use them.

In the brightness of Autumn it became clear, by surrendering all to God, the fulfillment of my purpose was possible. This was now my greatest opportunity.

Today’s reading: 2 Kings 4; 1 Timothy 1; Daniel 8; Psalm 116