The Lost (and found) iPod

Today’s Reading:  2 Chronicles 1; 1 John 1; Micah 7; Luke 16

In last week’s post, I briefly mentioned being thankful for the person who found and turned in Preston’s iPod. This was no small event; we were in a foreign country at a large resort where there were literally thousands of employees and thousands of guests from around the globe. Preston’s iPod isn’t extremely valuable financially, but it is worth a lot to him. He can’t afford to buy a replacement, and Amy and I would have needed to let him learn his lesson in being responsible.

One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. (Luke 16:10)

Preston gave his new hero (Fermin) a small token of his appreciation, a hug, and verbal thanks. Based on Luke 16 I wonder if perhaps Fermin was being tested with very little and reaped Heavenly rewards for his decision. Fermin was beaming with a huge smile when Preston found him to say thank you. I think that Fermin experienced as much, or more joy than Preston through this experience.

While this exact situation isn’t something that occurs daily for any of us, it does make me think about what we are entrusted with each day:

  • Showing up late for work and not making up for it or logging the time inaccurately is stealing. Even if it was just 15 minutes and the employer may never find out, God knows.
  • How we spend our money. If I look at my accounts, what do they reflect? Should I be entrusted with more or less money based on how I’ve allocated the resources entrusted to me?
  • Time; our only non-renewable resource. What did I do in my free-time, and what does my calendar say about how I’m choosing to spend this precious gift?

This section of Luke closes with a blunt statement in Luke 16:13 that should challenge us to our core. Do we serve God or do we serve money? The choice is ours to make, and only God knows our true intentions; he knows how we spend our time, money, and energy. Coming from a wonderful week of vacation with my family, I’m exceedingly thankful for the rest, relaxation, and special days and nights with my favorite people on Earth. In reflection, did I make the most of this time, and did I behave as one who loves money or one who loves God?

Think about what Jesus was entrusted with. He came to Earth as a human baby, but with authority over Heaven and Earth. If I could turn water into wine like Jesus did, it is shameful what I’d do… God knows how much (or little) I can be entrusted with! In Matthew 4:1-11 Jesus is tempted by the devil. This includes significant examples of how much Jesus was entrusted with. Also consider that since the devil was trying to temp Jesus, he knew Jesus had the power to do those things, which is further proof of the deity of Jesus Christ.

Father God, may my checkbook, calendar, and heart be filled with more of you and less of me each day. Thank you for giving me such a multitude of second chances. Amen.


A nail is driven out by another nail; habit is overcome - ancient Dutch philosopher Desiderius Erasmus quote printed on grunge vintage cardboard

1 Kings 16; Colossians 3; Ezekiel 46; Psalm 102

Much of our behavior is not intentional, it is the result of habits. Habits are patterns of behavior that we have acquired over time. Consider, for example, my routine when I get home from work. First I drop my bag into kitchen table chair. Second, I remove my shoes underneath the chair and yes, I lay my coat over it as well. I don’t think it through, it is my habit. Is it good or bad? In order to determine that, I look to my wife, Jennifer.  She starts with a gentle reminder, saying, “hey, your shoes are in here.” As time passes, her irritation escalates to anger.  I’m sure you can figure out the rest of the story. The bottom line is that our habits affect other people and they have a significant impact our relationships.

Once I recognize that a particular habit is straining our relationship, there is a choice to make. Do I continue on, knowing that they anger my wife, or do I change? I know what you are thinking, “Hey, idiot, pick up your shoes!” Right? Yes, that is the obvious answer. Yet, each of us makes similar choices, every day. Consider, now your habits relative to God. Today in Colossians 3, Paul reminds us that because we have chosen to be in a relationship with God, we must alter our behavior. Just like our spouses, our routines and habits affect our relationship with God.

How are we to do change our habits? The recipe is simple. It starts with our focus. Paul encourages us in Colossians 3:2 to “think about the things of heaven not of earth.” Now, I don’t think he’s telling us to think about streets paved in gold. Instead, he wants us to be reminded of the pure and perfect love in heaven because of God’s presence. The result magnifies God in a way that stirs our desire to please him. Our attempts to please Him will reveal conflicts with our natural behavior. In fact, just as in my marriage, it is impossible to attain a healthy relationship without removing old behaviors and replacing them with new behaviors that are pleasing and uplifting.  Paul says to put them to “death.”

If you are like me, thinking of all the habits I need to change is paralyzing.  For now, I’m going to focus on one small thing. What is ONE action that you can take today that will allow God’s love to flow more freely in  your life?  Don’t over think it.  It might be as simple as moving your shoes.

What’s up with Your Communication?

Looking for some answers on what perfect communication is? God has them. Let’s check them out. God would you help us understand how to communicate the way You intended when You created us?

I am reminded of the power of our words as I read Psalm 12:1-3 this morning. In James 3:5-6 we learn that the tongue is a small thing but how it can change the whole course of our lives. James helps us understand how our tongue can produce great evil (James 3:8-10). But there is more to controlling our tongues than simply not slandering or cursing others.

Jesus tells us we will give account for every idle word we speak (Matthew 12:36–37). He uses term idle to describe useless words. Words are powerful things, but words of these sort seem to be impotent and unprofitable. Indeed our words are powerful, King Solomon reminds us of this also in Proverbs 18:21.

The ability to speak is a gift from God, it makes us distinctly human and some point to Genesis 2:7 when God breathed the breath of life into man that with it came the ability to speak. If this is so, the question becomes how are we stewarding this gift from God? In Ephesians 4:29 we are given clear instruction on the objective of our words. We are told to avoid corrupt communication and that our words are to minister grace unto others.

As we allow the Word to test us and correct us let us consider for a moment on what to put off and what to put on.

Put off corrupt communication. First it says communication not simply talking but listening as well. With that said let us consider most dirty jokes and humor. If heard it will likely contain one of three elements. Two of them are things that humans make private but animals do not; sex and bathroom activities. The third is taking God’s Holy Name in vain. This genre of humor seems to fly in the face of God’s intended purpose for his gift of speech. Are we partaking, viewing, listening, joining in and laughing, exposing, or even sharing this type of ‘humor’? In the past I have found it difficult to avoid. It has seemingly poisoned most TV as heard in the infamous marketing  slogan “sex sells”. In the past, when I have avoided it, it was quite rewarding. Like all things trading in something that is empty and perverted for something that is full of truth fills us up and edifies.

Put on edifying communication. Again begin by considering what we are exposing ourselves to. God willing His Word is the primary stimuli in our lives and the lives of those we shepherd. God please help us. Then consider what we are communicating into this world. Our speech yes but also our non verbal communication; dress, accessories, demeanor, etc. Does it edify and build up? Is it productive and other focused? Is it from God? God willing, He is the primary thing we bring into this world.

God may You guard the gate of our mouths (Psalm 141:3). May You strengthen us with Your Spirit and bring to us the perfect remembrance of all things the LORD Jesus Christ has spoken (John 14:26) that we may edify the world and minister grace to it (Isaiah 55:11). May we love others with the love of Christ. May we walk in the everlasting ways (Psalm 1:1-3). Amen.


Today’s reading: Ruth 3–4; Acts 28; Jeremiah 38; Psalms 11–12

August 10th, 2016

Be Still

I was honored to have my talented sister-in-law, Lisa Pruitt offer to write this week’s Journal Post. She loves caving more than anyone I’ve ever met. She is the adored older sister of my wife Heather and the adoring mother to my wonderful nieces, Chloe and Camile. Thank you Lisa!

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” -Psalm 46:10.

Today’s reading: Judges 21; Acts 25; Jeremiah 35; Psalms 7–8

Imagine with me we are in a cave. It is a landscape beneath the landscape. Some enter caves with trepidation and fear. But a cave – to me – is the very essence of God’s work right before our eyes. Caves are a fragile ecosystem, dark, damp, flowing water, the pungent smell of earth. Caves are our final frontier and they contain indescribable beauty.

I am drawn to caves, not because they are dark and scary but because it is a place where I can experience God in a new way. I can be still there in the dark and quiet, my senses are tamped down. When I turn off my headlamp, sight is absent, taste is minimal, I can touch the cool damp rock and smell minerals and soil. I can hear the delicate musical and echoing sounds of water dripping somewhere. It is a perfect environment for meditation, for prayer.

The Celtic Christians appreciated a concept known as “thin places”. A thin place is where the divide between our earthly world and God’s kingdom are narrowed, where we can experience a glimpse of God’s majesty, feel his love in surround sound. Sometimes I experience a cave as a thin place. It is not a place of fear but a place of beauty, a place where I know that God is at work, molding and sculpting hard limestone into natural art. As written by T. Augustus Forbes Leith, “from the star-spangled canopy of heaven to the far bottom of the majestic ocean, created earth is teeming with wondrous beauty”.

I went with a group of people to a cave in Mexico a few years ago. We went in single file, walking and talking quietly in the dark, our voices echoing. We walked about 15 minutes before encountering water. We slowly and gently entered the water and got acclimated to our surroundings and the unfamiliar feeling of swimming and floating in a very dark cavernous space. The water was warm and so clear that it appeared to be only 6 or 7 feet deep but it was actually 60 feet deep. There were extravagant formations everywhere I looked, hanging from the ceiling, along the walls, some emerging from the edges of the clear deep water – as if an artist had placed them there. I felt so peaceful, so blissfully happy, so overwhelmed with all my senses – that I began to weep. I experienced a thin place that day.

When I read the scriptures for today, what I continued to ruminate over was Psalm 8. “Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” God has set his glory in the heavens and the earth. When I consider the tangible and visible things that God has created, the work of His fingers, the moon and the stars, the innumerable bugs – so colorful and specialized, high mountains, deep oceans, the rebirth of spring, the delicate soft features of a baby, the miracle of unfolding life, flowers, fungus, and the amazing array of colors our eyes can perceive, I am humbled. Our God is majestic.

Appreciating the beauty of our natural world around me reminds me of the Lord’s majestic name! Anytime I can stop and notice, anytime I can be still and think of God’s love, I am reminded of God’s majesty and I experience a thin place. Sometimes the cave’s environment facilitates my experience of a thin place, sometimes it’s a mountain top, other times it is when I lie in the grass at night and allow the grandeur of the night sky to flow into me.

These profound thin places are not experienced by me every day for they require 1) the right environment, 2) the proper state of observation by me and 3) most importantly – my willingness to be still. What I know is that without Jesus at my side, even at times when these three ingredients converge, they would be meaningless and would not coalesce into a thin place without Jesus, because I would not be worthy of the familiarity of a thin place. I would be there but could not reach out to God, could not feel Him.

The indescribable beauty of all that God has given us on this earth is majestic but it is nothing compared with the gift of Jesus.

Putting God First – My Testimony

Reading Link: Leviticus 6; Psalms 5–6; Proverbs 21; Colossians 4

One of the hardest things I have ever had to do is to make God first in every aspect of my life. This should be easy, right? Especially since God, the ultimate creative power, put everything into motion. Honoring God should be automatic, but it’s not. Because God is invisible, getting to know Him has been challenging. Because He is personal, He gets me, even better than I get myself. Remarkably, God desires fellowship with people, which becomes possible by faith through Jesus.

But I Through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house. I will bow down toward your holy temple in the fear of you. -Psalm 5:7

As a child, I had a simple and easy faith which prevailed even through some early hardships. Then, when I was fourteen, my step father John died unexpectedly at thirty seven, I was devastated. He had been one of my closest freinds, my mentor and the present father I had lacked for the seven years since my parents had divorced. My faith was derailed. Instead of trusting God to help me work through my grief, I turned away dissapointed and angry even though God was there for me. I replaced my faith in God, with faith in me.  A big mistake!

In the next fourteen years, my rebellion was filled with the pursuit of what I thought was freedom in order to pursue my pleasures. Then, to prove my worth in the world, my efforts eventually led to self glorification. I was going to do everything on my own, and take all the credit. This was comical really, considering how proud I was of the many aspects of my life which I had no control over. Being born into a certain family in America, in my time, or benefiting from some ancestor ‘s success from the 1800’s, or the countless people who helped me out in so many ways that I never even asked for. These were all beyond my control. Looking back I see even my limited achievements often occurred in unexplainable ways, yet I still took the credit. Luck or destiny, either way these were blessings, not accomplishments. Truthfully, despite all the glory I tried to claim for my self, I was never consistently happy, and it was never enough. There were many great highs, but they were always followed by lows; and the saddest thing was this: my life was simply slipping away as I drifted further from discovering my true purpose.

Fortunately I rediscovered the God of my childhood who was still patiently waiting to restore the fullness of the fellowship I had once enjoyed. And still I hesitated.

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. -Proverbs 16:9

With open arms, like the father of the prodigal son, God has welcomed me back to His family. Making me whole in Jesus, forgiving all, and asking for the surrender of my will; not for Him, BUT FOR ME! And still, I’ve hedged my bets, tentatively investing in my relationship with God despite everything I have learned. It is only in my full subordination to God’s will that I receive the full measure of His blessing

God does not ask us to give Him everything, for everything is His. He simply asks us to recognize this fact, and live accordingly. We Are His creation, each splendidly unique. One of a kind as David LaFrance eloquently pointed out on Tuesday.

Once reconciled we begin to discover God’s plan for our lives. Each of us was created for a special reason; to uniquely point the way to God, to glorify Him like no other person could. Only in our genuine relationship with God do we find true freedom and purpose. This is the greatest life we will ever know!

The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the LORD. -Proverbs 21:31

So what am I waiting for?

Stewardship, the Shrewd Manager and Heavenly Rewards

Today’s reading: Exodus 13; Luke 16; Job 31; 2 Corinthians 1

March 2nd, 2016

The parable of the shrewd manager can be quite strange at first glance. Only found in the gospel of Luke, here we have a master commending his servant after he steals from him and Jesus telling us to look to the thief’s example:

And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings. – Luke 16:9

When I read this parable this morning I felt like I was reading it for the first time. I was lost, so I went looking and found a sermon that I have tried to summarize below. For the full version, I encourage you to check it out here: Luke 16 – The Shrewd Manager by Phin Hall

An overview:

  • Lesson; v1-7, story of a clever thief who uses what he’s been given to provide for his future.
  • Problem; v8, thieves are more aware and clever about providing for their future than the the saved.
  • Solution; v9, be aware that using worldly resources to help people is tied to eternity and be shrewd in this eternal value proposition.
  • Incentive; v10-12, treasures in heaven.
  • The Root Issue; v13, because these two are fundamentally at odds, you can not serve God and stuff. Do not love stuff, steward it for God.

The Lesson. A manager is tasked to steward his master’s resources. When the master hears that the steward is wasting his resources, he gives fires him. This word ‘wasting’ is the same word used in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, where the son spends all the inheritance on himself. When the manager is told he can no longer steward the resources he is given one last job, to hand over the accounts. True to form the manager, with this last window of opportunity, goes to his master’s debtors and debts them to him. Saying, “quick, take your copy of our records and change $50,000 to $25,000.” And I’m paraphrasing of course but the amounts were thought to be in similar neighborhood in today’s dollars. By doing this the steward again uses his master’s resources to provide for his own future. Ensuring that after he has handed over the account he will have prospects with his new friends.

The Problem. When the master learns that the manager is again using his resources for himself, he calls him in. But instead of the response we might expect, he actually commends the manager. He points to how shrewdly the thief used this last window of opportunity to provide for his own future.  We see that the steward feels hopeless and so he contrives and acts on a scheme to lie and steal and cheat his way into a secure future. And the rich man commends him for it. Interesting. Seems odd right? “Fine work ol chap, that was quite the display of thievery. Way to look out for good old number one.” But to understand what is really happening here we need to continue on.

And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light. – Luke 6:8

And there we have it. Sons of light, the heaven bound, are being reprimanded for being put to shame by the thief. The rich man is commending the traits the thief displayed. The sons of this world do not think of anything but the temporal and here the rich man is saying, boy is he thinking of the temporal well and positioning himself for the temporal well. The dishonest manager had forethought, and cleverness, he leapt at the window of opportunity, he acted swiftly with all he had; and this is what is being commended. The problem is that the heaven bound, children of light, ought to know better. They, knowing of eternity, ought to have forethought enough and be clever enough and spring to action and use all we have been given to store up treasure for ourselves in heaven! If we only applied these characteristics to what has been revealed to us of eternity.

The Solution. 

And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations. – Luke 16:9

First let us consider that Jesus is not telling us to lie or steal or cheat. Unrighteous wealth is simply worldly resources. The things that will not last. The things that are not to be trusted. The things that will not survive the baptism. The things that will fade away. Jesus is telling us here to use all these little itty bitty things like, money, and status, and knowledge, and power, and ego, and your retirement to make friends. The same way the shrewd manager sprang to action and used everything he had to make friends that would then help him later, we are told to use all the stuff that we have been given to steward to make friends that will testify to our stewardship on the final day. I have come to believe, this is what ‘make friends’ here means. Like a cup that overflows, we are to steward the resources we have been given so that we ensure the cup is filled and then overflows. That the overflow is to be used to make friends. To help those who need help.

The Incentive. Be a faithful steward with little and you will receive much. Be a faithful steward with the things that will pass away and you will receive heavenly treasure that won’t. All throughout the Bible God is incentivizing us to receive a reward. The gift of salvation is freely given and can not be earned but there is indeed something more that I believe God desires us to earn. This offer God makes us to earn heavenly treasures is so important. God cries out to us time and time again in scripture, imploring us to hear for our own sake; that we might come to work for Him; that the cup may overflow and that the good work might be done. 

In the past, when the topic of heavenly rewards has come up in conversation I have been foolish and said something of the sort. “I just want to be with Jesus.” As if wanting anything more was selfish or somehow wrong. And while it may have sounded super spiritual, I believe it came from my being deceived. God save me. How foolish it was of me. Thank God for His word!

“Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven” (Mat 5:12a). “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (Mat 6:20a). “And thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly” (Mat 6:4b). “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works” (Mat 16:27). “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible” (1 Cor 9:24-25). “And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” (Rev 22:12)

Let us have a look at this from another perspective in hope it will shed some light. Imagine a you sees a man on street, homeless, broken and without hope. You invite him in, offering him shelter, warmth, food and friendship. There is nothing the homeless man can do to earn being these things you are offering him; he has no money to pay you. This is freely given and freely received. But then, in due time, you say to him “I have some work for you. If you would look after the lawn and clean up a bit around here, I will pay you generously.” How would you feel if this were the man’s response, “Oh, I don’t want to make any money, I don’t want to earn anything or do any work, I just want to be with you.”  What?!? This would be an unthinkable response, would it not?

But the question is, what is your response to God’s call to do His good work?God is offering us good work with good payment. Take hold of your temporal resources, grow them, and use the overflow to help people in need. Perhaps even draw them nigh to Him. Be shrewd to this end. Have you accepted the job God is offering you? What are your goals and plans with this job? What does your eternal retirement look like? 

Shrewd Manager

The root issue. In closing Jesus tells us what this parable is all about; that we can not serve God and mammon, often translated as money. Mammon is all the stuff. All the temporal stuff we looked at before that will not last. All the stuff that in the past I have been mislead to believe I own. When in fact, I will never own anything until, God willing and by His grace and by the shrewdness He affords me, I receive my reward. These two things are fundamentally at odds. The love of stuff is at odds with God’s work plan for his job opening. 

God would you help us? We need you LORD. Would you help us to be good stewards with the resources you have given us? Would you help us store up heavenly treasures and accept all Your good works with shrewdness? God would you bless us indeed and increase our territory, that Your hand may be with us always and keep us from evil? Would you protect us from the deception to trust in mammon. Thank you God! Amen.