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)

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

A New Covenant

But God found fault with the people and said: “The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord.Hebrews 8:8-9

As I read about this New Covenant I wonder: Why did we need one? How does it work?

God once made a covenant with His chosen people. These were the descendants of Noah, and the children of Abraham. He promised to bless them and save them; and to save the world through them. They, in exchange were bound to his law, essentially the Ten Commandments. Law that focused primarily on loving God and each other, putting God above all while striving for purity and relying on ritual sacrifice to receive God’s atonement for sin.

As I read through the book of Kings and 2Kings, it reinforces the tremendous disappointment God experienced in the almost constant rebellion of his people. Though God appeared at crucial times, rescuing His chosen people, offering many signs and wonders, still they turned away — worshiping other gods, sacrificing their children, and leaning on their own understanding.

The New Covenant came despite God’s disappointment, perhaps even because of it. It came as an expression of His constant love for people. This is not His plan “B” but the final reconciliation, through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Considering our tendency to rebel, it’s remarkable God extends salvation to us. When we receive God’s grace, in an instant our sins are washed away and we are made righteous by faith! No longer under the power of the law, we are set free in Christ and given freedom to pursue a relationship with the one true God. A holy God who declares our innocence, though we are guilty. A self-sacrificing God, who takes our place on the cross and dies for our sins so we don’t have to.

The New Covenant is based on an act of love that restores the fullness of God’s intended relationship with us — His created beings. Once set free from sin, we are able to pursue holiness in the power of God’s Holy Spirit and a life in the presence of a living God who offers everything we cannot attain on our own. In this way we are blessed with peace, freedom, power and joy in the truth and security of an eternal, dynamic relationship with the very creator of the universe! This is the New Covenant. Thank you God!

Reading: 1 Chronicles 1–2; Hebrews 8; Amos 2; Psalm 145

Having it All

My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen on me. Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me. I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. I would flee far away and stay in the desert; I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm. ” -Psalm 55:4-8

Today’s reading: 2 Samuel 6; 1 Corinthians 16; Ezekiel 14; Psalm 55

The Bible always offered me something when I opened it. Sometimes it raised questions and other times it gave answers, but it always brought me closer to God. Problems often came from relying too much on me, and ignoring the tremendous importance of serving God and other people in my life.

For no one is cast off by the Lord forever, though he brings grief he will bring compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone. – Lamentations 3:31-33.

These verses sounded too good to be true. And while I can’t say I completely understood them, they suggested sometimes we bring difficulties upon ourselves, especially when we turn away from God. But through it all, God’s love remains. Sometimes however, we experience separation from our most important relationships. I have often learned the hard way, but eventually came to see that it made more sense to seek God above my own understanding, regardless of the situation. Still, sometimes, I foolishly chose to turn away, often when I needed Him the most.

Of what value were my earthly goals over those of heaven? When I put my faith in my abilities, any victory I might enjoy would be to my glory and not God’s. Not surprisingly, this approach was typically the beginning of a vicious cycle. A cycle triggered by aspirations based on self reliance.

Obsessing over things, having too much urgency and too many variables was never good. These things were usually followed by my increasing loss of perspective. And when that was lost, so was my balance, causing my other responsibilities and relationships to become urgent; creating more problems. As the pressure mounted, a state of fight or flight began to kick-in.

With stress came the hormonal cascade of chemicals designed to save me, and they began to kill me. Cortisol flooded my body and my mind with fear and loathing. The heightened desire to escape in the elation or the comfort of dopamine created other opportunities for bad choices; then more stress. Before I knew it I was trapped in a nuerro-spiritual whirlpool, one that was easy to drown in. I wasn’t designed for this and no matter how hard I tied, or how capable and smart I thought I was, when I took the place of God as the lord of my life, everything got messed up.

The more I learned to rely on God; to take my time patiently waiting on God — the more things fell into place. By trusting God more, I learned to trust others more, and when I worked with teams made up of talented, honest people of high integrity, anything was possible. Ultimately the glory had to be God’s, and in that truth, everything started to work out.

The more I read the Bible the more evident it was that God wanted us to know Him. And in that knowledge, in that relationship, it was possible to discover the life we were made to live. A life of adventure, danger, mystery and truth; of challenges and peace, of sorrows and grace. God offered everyone amazing grace.

If the path we are called to in the Bible is true, and everything I have experienced says it is, then I believe we can have it all. When we ask for the faith to truly know God, then we are able to experience God’s grace. His mercy makes us whole, allowing us to receive the power of His Holy Spirit, and in that relationship we find the strength to surrender our will to His! God’s gift of salvation, in a sense, is really salvation from ourselves. This gift is offered to everyone through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ who came to our world as God in the flesh, to reconcile sin and offer you and me a righteous relationship with God and each other.

Thank you God that I can know you and that you know me. Amen.

The Way of Love

Happy loving family. Father and his daughter child girl playing and hugging outdoors. Cute little girl and daddy. Concept of Father's day.
2 Samuel 2; 1 Corinthians 13; Ezekiel 11; Psalm 50

Living in America, we are presented with endless opportunities. From birth, we are taught that we can be anything we want to be and that we can do anything we set our minds on. I believe this. In fact, it fuels my desire, causing me to seek greater knowledge, wisdom, and skills so that I can attain them. It’s a good thing. In fact, I want my kids to recognize that they have the same opportunities. I, like you, tell them that they can be President.  I encourage them to reach high, to develop knowledge, wisdom, and skills.   As I teach them, I hope that they will do well. Today, however, 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 forced me to evaluate how I am conditioning them.

I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging symbol. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

 Do you see it? When I read those three verses, I cannot help but look evaluate how I am developing my kids. My determination is that I am very good at teaching them about worldly things like acquiring knowledge and Godly things like having faith.   They are on my short list.   Unfortunately, according to Paul, these things alone are worthless and nothing. One thing is needed to make it all worthwhile; love. This begs the question, how am I teaching my kids to love? That question strikes terror in my heart. The truth is that my kids, like your kids, learn love the way that we love them. Additionally, they are learning how to love their future spouses by the way that we love ours.  Why does it strike terror in my heart?  I am very aware of my shortcomings both as a father and a husband.  Seriously, both are far from God’s design. Thankfully, this is not the end of the story!

This is the beginning of the story.  When I recognize that my love falls short of what God created it to be, I need to look no further than Jesus.  His perfect love and his perfect sacrifice fill the gap.  My acceptance of His perfection establishes and strengthens my bond of love with Jesus.  His love, now in me, enables me to grow in love as both a husband and a father.  The love of Jesus is not just for me.  It is for you too.


Faith and Righteousness

You, Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light. -Psalm 18:28

After wrestling with the idea of righteousness, it turns out it wasn’t exactly what I thought. Mostly I believed righteousness was what God required from us to be worthy of His fellowship and our salvation. But how righteous did we need to be? Holiness was impossible and if the standard was anything less, how would anyone determine where that line was drawn?

I believed we were all called to pursue righteousness, but there was a different kind of righteousness, the one that Jennifer clearly described in yesterday’s Bible Journal. It wasn’t the kind that came from discipline or hard work, though they both offered rewards. It was the kind that came from faith, something that comes easy for a child; from the kind of faith that we discover in moments of helplessness, when we surrender to One far greater. This was the righteousness that came from our belief in the existence of a God who loved us so much he took on flesh and allowed himself to be murdered for our un-righteousness. This was the righteousness that came by the grace.

Today’s reading: 1 Samuel 4; Romans 4; Jeremiah 42; Psalm 18

In today’s text (Romans 4:6-8) Paul talks about grace, quoting scripture: “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). He also shares David’s proclamation from Psalm 32:1-2 about the blessing from receiving undeserved righteousness. Abraham received this blessing and was credited righteousness by faith, not only Abraham but his descendants, and not only his biological descendants, but his spiritual descendants, for “….He is the father of us all” (Romans 4:16).

I find it fascinating that the message of the gospel, this “new covenant,” was anticipated from the beginning of time. It is mentioned throughout scripture, and offered to all humanity. Jesus’s disciples shared this message of grace and hope to both the Jews and Gentiles of their day, and to us. They offered compelling evidence found in the teachings of the Old Testament and from their personal experience with Jesus and the Holy Spirit. And thier message is still alive today: Jesus lives, God is real and through Jesus, God’s Holy Spirit manifests in millions of lives that are remarkably transformed each day throughout the world.

If an old man with a barren wife, to whom God appears and blesses with children is credited righteousness for his faith, What does that mean for us? A little faith goes a long way with God, faith that He is even willing to provide to us if we ask!


Righteous: acting in accord with divine or moral law :  free from guilt or sin. Unrighteous: not righteous :  sinful, wicked (Merriam-Webster)

Judges 19; Acts 23; Jeremiah 33; Psalms 3–4

We’ve got another binary pattern here. We can be either righteous, or unrighteous. As sinful humans, on our own we become unrighteous. Since God is perfect, just, and righteous he cannot tolerate unrighteousness or sin. Knowing that we are sinners in need of a savior, he sent Jesus, the righteous Branch to save us, to forgive our sins so that we may become righteous through him before God’s throne.

The following verses are prophecy pointing to Jesus Christ and in line with Isaiah 11:1. Jesus is referred to as a branch in various places throughout the Bible.

In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’ (Jeremiah 33:15-16)

Will you take time and pause to reflect on how Jesus was, and is righteous and how he can make us righteous today? Along with that, here’s a good prayer to call out to God and honor him for his righteousness.

Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
    You have given me relief when I was in distress.
    Be gracious to me and hear my prayer! (Psalm 4:1)

Jesus can be called righteous because he is perfect. He never sinned and that made him the perfect sacrifice to take our place. Do we take it for granted that Jesus rose from the dead? He rose from the dead. Say it with me… Jesus rose from the dead. He voluntarily subjected himself to betrayal, torture, and a brutal death, but the grave couldn’t hold him. The one who has power over the grave has power over all things in our lives; sin, pain, depression, emptiness, brokenness, as well as all the great things such as joy and love. We praise you God for all these things!

Next week (Friday 8/12), Cooper Wilken will be a guest author in my place. Cooper is a fine young man; strong in his faith, has a great personality, and is mature beyond his years. Please welcome and encourage this brother in Christ!

Contrast and Choice

Life leads to death, but from death comes life.

Contrast is how we evaluate things. Usually this is on a relative basis. We compare one thing to another and it is easy to tell the difference. If we try to compare too many things we are easily confused. The bigger the contrast between things the easier it is to choose one thing over another — but not always.

Everyday we make choices. By comparison deciding between one thing or another and by contrast we are able to make our clearest choices. Sometimes the contrast between two things is so stark that it seems impossible to miss the importance of the distinction.

Comparison and contrast is usually easier if we consider things in pairs. Sort of like having our eyes examined. Discerning something clearly from a large group can be very difficult, but when we can get two things side by side it is much easier to select our preferences, even between things with subtle variation. By comparison, starker contrast make our choices even more certain, harder to miss.

Having recently been away from home for a couple of weeks, living in a big city for most of that time, I was amazed at the sharp contrast as I drove back to Bloomington from O’Hare Airport. imageWe had been living in a rooftop apartment in Paris, undoubtably one of the most magnificent cities in the world. Still, it was good to be heading home. Past the Chicago Metro fringe, at that perfect time in the early evening when the stark contrast of the green fields under the big blue sky seemed unreal.image

We had been living in grey’s and brown’s of limestone and marble. Now I was bathed in the beams of new light that opened my tired eyes. As we drove southbound Interstate-55, I looked toward the expanse of the heavens, to clouds painted by the fluttering of the wings of angels. Majestic thunderheads building before patterns of scattered cirrus, shaded with the pastels of the setting sun and twilight shadows. I’m not sure I have ever seen more beauty in that prarie I’ve called home for the last twenty one years.    image

In today’s reading, what stood out for me was Sampson’s riddle.“Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet.” Eating honey from a lion’s rotting carcass certainly represents an extreme contrast. It made me think of how Jesus was born from a rebellious nation, one that rejected God’s prophets and incredible blessings, often turning towards their own understanding. The savior of the world reflected the contrast of God among us, in the midst of people so confused and broken that they rejected and crucified the very source of love and creation. But this didn’t stop Jesus from transforming the lives of believers and He is still doing it today.

The contrast of a changed life is extraordinary. A life filled with love, patience and peace, once filled with strife, anxiety and self seeking is hard to ignore. The contrast of sin and its destructive emptiness when considered against the healing power of God’s grace shows us who we are, with and without God. It shows us who God is. It opens our hearts making us long for perfection.

For me it wasn’t until the latter stages of my life that the light of truth began to shine and despite my imperfection and brokenness it continues to get brighter.

I thank God for His truth everyday. In His grace I am bathed in forgiveness and the power to continue to change. Jesus I praise your holy name. You are the way, the truth and the life.

Judges 14; Acts 18; Jeremiah 27; Mark 13

Need For Speed

Numbers 16; Psalms 52–54; Isaiah 6; Hebrews 13

The idea of authority is a double edge sword. We like believing there is justice in the world, some ultimate authority establishing order; but we also want to live lives of our choosing — making our own rules.

I just returned from spending most of this week in Las Vegas at a convention for the Manufactured Housing Industry (MHI). This event is really a big annual reunion for a diverse community of friends, fellow investors, home manufacturers, brokers and other service providers for an industry that provides affordable housing for approximately twenty million Americans. At an event sponsored by my incredible brokerage team, we offered clients an opportunity to drive ten of the most expensive sports cars in the world on a racing track with a personal professional driving coach; Ferarri’s, Lamborghini’s and others, you get the idea. This was sort of a drivers education for car racing. The driving coaches shared the rules of the track, the laws of physics and just in case we lost our minds, they had a brake pedal on the floor of the passenger side. We were instructed in the art of racing, when to go fast, how to go faster and how to negotiate curves at the highest possible speeds. Trust me when I say that I payed very close attention to my professional driving coach!

After five laps I was at the food truck talking with a friend about wealth and privilege. I asked him a question that popped into my head. “If you could design the perfect life for yourself — would it really be perfect?” He wasn’t sure he knew the answer. I believe we all desire the “perfect life”. The desire to find perfection is written on our hearts. But how do we find it? what are the rules, and who makes them?

If we make our own rules, aren’t we missing the opportunity to follow something better? Where do we find the rules for driving the best cars on the fast track of our lives?

I knew that in the absence of the belief in a personal God (one that’s still involved in the world He created) people often gravitate to the ideas like karma. But somehow karmic “authority” seems too vague for me even though I liked the concept. In theory, following this simple principle might even make life a little easier. If we believe that by being generally good, the universe will generally be good back to us, then we can then operate with a general, perhaps even self justified, sense of what the rules are. In this model, justice becomes more vague. The notion that someone is in charge, or that there are specific rules to follow, is more specific, more personal and more challenging. “Who said so?” and “why should I?” were my typical responses.

At times we accept the authority of science. We don’t seem to have much of a problem discovering and responding to the laws of nature as we understand them. You can choose to ignore gravity if you want, but the consequences always turn out the same.

Authority is also accepted when we want to learn a critical skill from someone who knows. If I want to learn to drive fast and safe, the importance of good instruction and understanding the rules is easy to grasp. So if we can respect the laws of physics; and advanced drivers education can be embraced by confidant adults, is it so hard to imagine that the creator of the universe might have laws for us to follow? Is it hard to grasp the possibility that there is a divine authority on how to live our lives? Might there be a more elevated definition of what it means to prosper, higher than those that the world offers us or that we can invent for ourselves?

God looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. -Psalm 53:2

As I have come to have a personal relationship with God, I have come to understand the power and authority of God and how important it is in guiding my life. But the crazy thing is this; it was by experiencing God’s incredible love, through His amazing grace, that I was able to discover His awesome power and authority. God is the fairest of judges and the ultimate authority over heaven and earth. He does not condemn His children by grace. He loves and empowers and encourages and directs our steps along paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. He has made a way for all of us to return to Him, to return to our rightful place, to fulfill our destiny. God offers redemption to all. And through Jesus Christ  by grace we are given the power to live extraordinary lives, by receiving God’s Holy Spirit. Faith in God offers us lives in the spiritual fast lane. Lives of adventure and challenge and of the greater fulfillment than we could ever imagine. Will we listen and learn?

Ladies and gentlemen it’s time to start your spiritual engines! Amen.

Breaking The Rules

Leviticus 14; Psalm 17; Proverbs 28; 2 Thessalonians 2

Don’t tell me what to think or do!

Blessed is the one who fears the Lord always, but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity.-Proverbs 28:14

I was never one that could follow instructions very well. If I had to read them, forget it, I never did. From my earliest memories the way I went through life was to do as I pleased. If I had to figure something out, I just jumped in usually failing. One thing I was really good at was taking things apart. The putting back together part, not so much.

“How did that all work out?” You might ask. Honestly, in some ways very well. I learned self reliance, how to adapt and innovate. I was a creative type and received some attention for that too. But that’s where the story turns. You see for me, and perhaps all of us, despite my independent spirit, I needed something more. I was searching for truth. Within my heart was the need to worship God, but even in the absence of God I was still made to worship something.

Without God, my purposes were self directed. Born to be a rule breaker, the idea of law to me was more like a game or a puzzle than something to take seriously. Discipline was a disruption to the freedom of my rebellious spirit.

Since I didn’t really know God, I was missing the point of it all. Surprisingly life really wasn’t about me, it was about God and other people. When I came to this understanding I wanted to know who God really was, and in that exploration, I came to know that God was Holy. Everything about God was above us. He was set apart and pure — flawless in goodness and righteousness.

To have fellowship with a holy God I needed purification because of my unholiness. For the Israelites this sanctification came from ritual sacrifice. And all the ritual sacrifice prescribed in the law of the Old Testament demonstrated how far from God even His chosen people were. There was intentional and unintentional sin. Even the the need for purification from contact with anything or anyone that was “unclean.” God’s ways were above ours and it was impossible to earn the right to have fellowship with God. Stay with me now.

When I was introduced to the idea of grace through faith, things started to change. I came to see God’s law as a representation of who He was compared to who I was. It wasn’t possible to earn my way back to God. If I was to be restored to fellowship with God that existed before sin came into the world, I needed grace — the grace that God poured out on the world through the blood of Jesus. Reconciliation with God was offered to everyone by grace, through faith. The righteousness through faith that Abraham received (Romans 4:13) was the same thing offered to me and all creation through Jesus. This was the freedom I was looking for and it came from love, not from following rules.

Eventually I understood the law for what it was which wasn’t just following a bunch of rules (important as they are). We are called to pursue holiness in the power of God’s Holy Spirit. We are called to follow the righteous path which turned out to be the path back to the God who had already restored me in fellowship. It was the path of love. As God loved me I was supposed to love others as I loved myself. I was supposed to seek God first in all things. This was the actual path to God that I could walk in freedom and in truth.

The Bible is the story of how God in the flesh reconciled the judgement of the law with the power of grace. It was in His sacrifice that God demonstrated His love of the world and by which he perfected His creation. In this transaction, God for man, he allowed us to be united with God, by Jesus, through the Holy Spirit.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life. -John 3:16

God please make me whole. Restore me to your perfect will in the knowledge of your love and grace, by faith and through the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.