Let It Go

Today’s reading is Exodus 1:1-2:10 with the focus being on Moses’ parents.

We don’t know much about Moses father other than that he was from the tribe of Levi from the 12 tribes of Israel (Jacob), so we will focus on his Israelite mother which we will call his birth mother and his Egyptian mother which we will call his adopted mother.

To set the context for our discussion we want to quickly review that Joseph has passed and the current Egyptian Pharaoh was fearful of the Israelites due to the number of them and thought they may side with another enemy of Egypt in the future, so out of fear he enslaved them. He also ordered that any male babies be killed at birth. Moses’ mom hid him for three months until she could hide him no more, then she let him go on the Nile in a basket. Although we don’t know Moses’ mom’s name, we know how highly God thought of the bravery of her actions and her trust in God to protect him because her actions are referenced in what some call the chapter of faith all-stars in Hebrews 11 which mentions some of the Bible’s biggest heroes who exhibited great trust in God through their actions.

“By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.”  

Hebrews 11:23

Moses’ sister followed her baby brother Moses down the Nile and saw that he was found by Pharaoh’s daughter. She took a very brave step as well to follow him and then approach Pharoah’s daughter and ask her if she wanted her to find an Israelite mother to nurse the baby to which she agreed. Unbeknownst to the Pharaoh’s daughter, Moses’ sister directed her to Moses’ birthmother who nursed him and stayed with him for a period of time. Although she could have maybe tried to escape with him wanting to keep him, and who could blame her being his true mother, she likely realized his opportunity to have the best life possible was to give him back to Pharaoh’s daughter to become his adopted mom. She put her son’s needs in front of her own, and most importantly, trusted that if she gave him away God would take care of and provide for him. She was willing to let go of that which she loved so greatly, her son, and give Him to God, not so different than the way Abraham was willing to let go of and sacrifice Isaac.

How often do we hold too tight to the people, circumstances, and things in our life, instead of giving them to God with faith, fully trusting Him?

Hebrews 11, which we referenced earlier, starts with the following….

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

Hebrews 11:1

We must ask and trust in God without doubting…

“But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

James 1:6-8

This also defines faith has having no doubt whatsoever.

By the outcome of Moses’ life being protected, and with God doing amazing things with him similar to God doing big things with Isaac after Abraham let go, I would have to be lead to believe that his mom asked God with big faith and full trust to protect him and to do big things with him for God’s glory. That is exactly what God did.

Take some time to reflect today, what do you need to let loose of and fully give to God with faith and without doubting? My guess is that when you do let go, your desires will come true. But even if not, one thing is certain…you will have a peace that passes understanding by trusting in Him and His perfect plan for your life and circumstances….whatever the outcome is.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for the good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”

Romans 8:28

What Does Adam Have To Do With Me?

Today we start a new series of focusing on people from the Bible, and appropriately today, we begin with Adam as we read Genesis 1:26-2:17.

As I read these verses, I asked myself….what can we learn from God’s creation of Adam and his message to him? What does that mean for me today? Two themes jumped out to me.

Theme #1

Find your identity through God in Jesus Christ.

Genesis 1:26 reads, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…’” As a side note, the use of the word “our” is the first sign of the Trinity and that Jesus and the Holy Spirit were there in the beginning. John 1 also reiterates that Jesus, the Word, was there in the beginning. Genesis 1:27 also reads, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God He created him, male and female he created them.” The word image means shadow or shade. If God created us in his image, similar to Him, that tells us how highly he thinks of us and how much he loves us. He didn’t have to make us in His image similar to Him. He could have made us completely different. He created us because He wanted a relationship with us. That is why we exist. We should find our identity, and take peace, in that.

Theme #2

God gives us responsibilities that we are called to fulfill and calls us to use our God-given gifts and abilities to the absolute best we can.

In Genesis 1:26 He says….”And let them have dominion over the fish of the seas and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth…” He reiterates this again in Genesis 1:28-30 and again in Genesis in 2:15 which says, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work and keep it.”

What has God put you in charge of? What responsibilities has He given you…your family, money, career, and other things? Maybe you are young and not sure if any of these fit yet, but He has given you the responsibility to “work,” and use your God-given abilities and talents to the absolute best you can. And yes, He has given you some great talents and abilities to use in a big way… whether your realize it yet or not because He created you in His image! Colossians 3:23-24 are a few of my favorite verses. They read, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as though you were working for the Lord and not for human beings. Remember that the Lord will give you as a reward what He has kept for His people. For Christ is the real Master you serve.” We do not get our identity from our work, only from Him, but we are called to “work in the garden and keep it” to the best we can.

Let us pray to help us remember these lessons from the creation of Adam and God’s message to him…

Lord, thank you for creating me in your image which you didn’t have to do. Please help me find my identity in that today and everyday..knowing I’m a child of yours who you created out of love to have a relationship with you and to do big things and impact others by using the talents and gifts you’ve given me to the absolute best I can. I’m humbled by this blessing and responsibility. I love you. Amen.

What Would You Do?

Today’s reading is Hebrews 2.

Has your boss ever assigned a task for you to complete you felt was “below you?” Did you grumble or complain to them or someone else….or at least under your breath at a minimum? Did you do the job to the best of your ability? I’m very grateful for the opportunity to play golf at the course I grew up working on as a kid with my Dad, brother, one of my nephews, and my son the last few days. As we told many funny stories about things that happened while my brother and I worked out there, I couldn’t help but think of one story which wasn’t necessarily funny as I read Hebrews 2. It was my 3rd summer working there, and I expected to be moving up to tasks like mowing greens and fairways. While I did get the larger responsibility to change the cups and hole location daily, I was also assigned tasks to pull weeds out of flower beds while a few of the other workers who started the same time were assigned other, more dynamic tasks. Although I would like to say I did it cheerfully, I was not happy. I felt I was above that task after a few years of working there and doing what I felt was a better than the other guys at whatever I was assigned. In fact, after a few weeks of this, I just went and found another job working construction for my Dad’s best friend.

Let’s just say I’m glad Jesus didn’t have the same mindset and find another job like me. We are told here in Hebrews 2:10 that Jesus was “for whom and by whom all things exist.” Yet, we are then told in Hebrews 2:14-18….

“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, He himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death He might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that He helps, but He helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore, He had to be made like His brothers in every respect, so that He might become merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because He himself has suffered when tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.”

I’m pretty sure I have mentioned this before in past writings, but when doing street ministry a few years ago for Spread Truth, one gentleman said he didn’t believe the Gospel because no God would lower himself to do what Jesus did. Essentially, he said if he were God that’s not what he would do. Well, he was right, none of us likely would because we are not God, and we can’t imagine the love He has for us and what He did. At age 18, I was already “above pulling weeds,” so how I can I fathom God coming in the flesh and suffering a brutal and painful death on my behalf, taking my place, when He didn’t have to? I can’t. But, I can get on my knees and just say thanks.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WTYe9sWYKdo

 

 

 

More Than Conquerors

Today’s reading is Romans 8 or as some call it…”The Great Eight.”

In reading it again, it’s easy to see why it has that nickname as it’s chalked full of so much great content that it is really hard to choose what to write on. If you’re interested in digging more into this chapter, I highly recommend the book “If” by Mark Batterson. He does a great job of breaking this chapter down in a way that may change the way you live your life..without fear…knowing God’s immeasurable love for you.

Mark says when you see “therefore,” see what it’s “there for.” Take note right away because verse one starts off by saying, “There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” We live in a world where committing a crime or doing something wrong comes with punishment..or most agree it should any way. This makes it natural to wonder when we have something go wrong in our life such as losing a baby, getting sick, getting downsized from your job, or you or your child get sick if God is punishing us for something we did. Paul makes it clear hear right away that when Jesus was nailed to the cross, so was our sin. Jesus also makes this clear in John 9:3, “Jesus answered, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” This is very hard for us to comprehend…it’s just not natural. But, first 1 John 4:16 tells us, “God is love.” God’s true love means God doesn’t always stop these things from happening because good can come from it in a way that is incomprehensible to us on this Earth and that we may never know while alive. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” He loves us and allows only what’s TRULY good to happen..and only He knows what’s TRULY good. If we knew what was truly good, we would be God.

The principle and main point in Mark’s book, “If,” is that the word “If” in Romans 8:31 is a true game changer in how we live our life, “…If God is for us, who can be against us?” When we wake up knowing every day that God wants us to succeed, it changes the way we live. We can we live without fear because when know God loves us and wants what’s truly best for us. We already discussed that “God is love,” and 1 John 4:18 tells us that “…perfect love casts out fear.” We can replace “love” with “God” and say…’..perfect God casts out fear.’ Subconscious doubts of God’s best intentions for your life will result in many fears! Don’t doubt his love!

How do we know His unfailing and unconditional love?

The following verse, Romans 8:32 says, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will He not also with him graciously give us all things?” Drop the mic.

Because of this, Paul says in verse 37, “..we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us?” When we know the game we’re playing to win is not in life which doesn’t matter, but for eternal life in Heaven…and we know we already have the title belt through His love…it changes everything. Let us not live like Jesus and our sins are still nailed to the cross, He’s risen and our sins are erased permanently giving us eternal life and making us “..more than conquerors through Him.”

 

Last Kiss

Today’s reading is Galatians 3.

Some of the most important life lessons we can teach our kids can come in the simplest moments. As a young boy, I can remember riding in the back of my parents’ car and listening to oldies from the 50s and mostly 60s. This is where my Dad taught me the most important life lesson while likely on the 25 minute drive home from Springfield to Auburn, Illinois from the grocery store or some other errand. A big thing for my father, and now me, when a song came on the radio was to ask, “What is the name of the song and who sings it?” It was then typically followed up by some other fun fact about the band or song. Due to this, I know a lot about songs from this era and I wouldn’t admit it growing up, but I love the music now! Many of you may be familiar with the song “Last Kiss” which was originally a one-hit wonder by J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers and re-made by Pearl Jam in more recent years. I’m a Pearl Jam fan, but you just can’t beat the original in my opinion…but I digress. The song is about a boy, who is likely in high school, out on a date with his father’s car when a car is stalled in the road causing him to crash. His girlfriend does not survive, and he gives her a last kiss as she takes her final breaths. The chorus of the song repeats over and over, “Oh where oh where can my baby be? The Lord took her away from me. She’s gone to Heaven, so I got to be good…so I can see my baby when I leave this world.” My Dad loves the song and I can’t help but sing along when it comes on now, but he appropriately taught me at a very young age, “Chet…you know this song is wrong. You don’t get to Heaven by being good. You only get to Heaven by believing in Jesus and that He died on the cross for your sins.” Wow…the most important thing every human being should know taught to me at a very young age while riding in the back seat on a trip we took many times. One of the reasons I also know so much about the music from this era is that the same fun facts and information my Dad would tell me about each song was often told most of the time each song would come on, so this important lesson from the “Last Kiss” was told multiple times and engrained in me, but that’s a good thing. One of my mentors always said, “Repetition is the mother of learning.” This one was definitely worth repeating.

This critical information is what Paul is communicating in Galatians 3. You do not get to Heaven by being a good person or by following the Law.

“For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law and do them.’ Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law for ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’”   Galatians 3:10-11

Paul says a similar thing in his letter to the Romans…

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 6:23

A key part of both of these verses is the emphasis that the only way one could be justified and brought together with God by works would be if you did “all things” correctly in Galatians 3:10 and then the singular nature of the word “sin” in Romans 6:23 tells us even one sin permanently separates of from God without Jesus’ loving sacrifice on the cross. No one, and I mean no one, no matter how good of a person they are in this world will receive the crown of righteousness in Heaven without admission of our sin and belief in Jesus because we also know Romans 3:23 tells us that all have sinned and fall short.

Jesus says this himself in John 14:6.

“….I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me….”

My Dad always taught me that believing one can get into Heaven by being a good person is one of the biggest myths of many Christians even and just not true based on the Word. Some may think this is harsh that there is only one way and wonder why the other “good people” don’t get in. Again, one sin separates us for eternity from God, so by God’s definition there are no “good people” without Jesus. Only He can make us holy and righteous. Only the cross provides the bridge of the great divide between man and God with the fiery pit of hell below due to our sin. This is beneficial for us to because it gives us a clear delineation of how to have eternal life with God in Heaven. Otherwise, we would have no idea what it “good enough” to get in and if past sins might forever separate us from God. This could leave us running ragged trying to do enough good and never knowing where we stand feeling anxious and depressed.

I hope that I am teaching our kids this same lesson of Jesus being the only way and more, but our kids can also teach us lessons as well. Our son Deklin is 6 and probably starting at age 2 or 3 he would say in his prayers he wanted “everybody in the city to know about Jesus.” As we’ve lost a few people we know recently, who were without a doubt good people, and one in particular who impacted so many in our community, this really hits home. Sadly, I don’t know if he knew Jesus, but I hope so. Let us follow Deklin’s prayer and Matthew 28:19-20 and not leave it to chance. I absolutely love the song “Last Kiss,” but I’m very glad J. Frank Wilson had his facts wrong on the way to Heaven because none of us could get there if that was the way. However, due to Jesus’ grace on the cross we can all get there through belief in Him…and so can everyone else…we just need to tell them.

 

Till I Found You…Grief Into Joy

Today’s reading is John 16 where the night before He was crucified Jesus foretells of his death and the sadness it will bring followed by the joy that will come when they see Him again through His resurrection.

“So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”

John 16:22

Merriam-Webster defines joy as “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.”

As I read this, I thought to myself, do I have joy? Where am I seeking joy? Often we seek joy in the next promotion, the next sale, the new house, the new car, our net worth, or earthly relationships..only to find these things bring temporary pleasure. This brief pleasure is always fleeting..sometimes within minutes or hours, but always within days or years. None of them last forever. Even the best of marriages end with one spouse passing before the other and even if we are lucky to have an ending like The Notebook and pass at the same time…our life on this earth still ends. It doesn’t last forever. No marriage can bring everlasting joy.

Let’s break down how a relationship with Jesus provides true joy by Merriam-Webster’s definition…

When we know Him, we know our “well-being” is forever being take care of. Romans 8:31-32 says, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not graciously give us all things?”

When we know Him, we know we are a “success.” Despite our past sins, relational, professional, or financial failures, we know that we are a “success” because of Him. In Romans 8:38, the Apostle Paul says, “No in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” He also talks about winning the prize or the race in other writings.

When we know Him, we know we have “good fortune.” Can anything give us more “good fortune” than knowing every single one of our past sins and future mistakes are forgiven? Psalm 103:10-12 says, “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” If that’s not good fortune, I don’t know what is!

When we know Him, we “possess what one desires.” What do we all desire? In my humble opinion, it is the forgiveness we just discussed, as well as a loving relationship that lasts forever through eternal life. The only way we get it is through one with Him. God began to let us know how He would do this all the way back in Isaiah 25:8 which says, “He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces…” God reminds us of this amazing promise again at the end of the Bible in Revelation 21:4 which reads, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall their be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

What do you believe is the greatest love song of all time? Well, I believe the greatest love song of all time has to be about the only love that can bring us true joy which cannot be taken from us because it lasts forever. Check out “Till I Found You” by Phil Wickham.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ewhz3pCk9vM

Missing The Mark

Today’s reading is Matthew 18.

We will keep our focus specifically on Matthew 18:7-9. In these powerful verses, Jesus tells us that is better if we remove certain body parts that cause us to sin than to keep them and continue to sin. This is a powerful and direct message that tells us how terrible sin is in God’s eyes and how important He feels refraining from it is. He begins in Matthew 18:17 by saying….“woe to the one whom the temptation to comes.” Although He did not sin, we have a Savior that understands because like us, He too was tempted. Jesus realizes how hard it is to not sin. Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

We must first examine ourselves closely to acknowledge our sin. I read a quote today that said, “Wrong is wrong, even if everyone is doing it. Right is right, even if no one is doing it.” I know I’m guilty of justifying sins by telling myself it’s not that bad and everyone is doing it. However, our standard for determining what is a sin should be comparing to no one except Jesus and what the Bible says about that sin. The question isn’t what does the world think about it, but what does God think about it?

The Bible tells us that our sin is erased when believe in Jesus’ forgiveness through the cross and ask Him to do so. However, it also tells us to repent of sin. Merriam-Webster defines repent as “to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life.” God knows that we will trip up and not only make mistakes but will make the same mistakes over. But, we can not continue to commit the same sin knowingly and willingly because of His forgiveness. Our intention in our heart when we have a relationship with Jesus should be to not sin and to do all we can to refrain from it. Christian musical artist Toby Mac posted a quote on his social media this week which said, “an apology without change is manipulation.” We may be able to manipulate others, but we can’t manipulate God. He knows our hearts and actions.

Whether removing body parts is a metaphor or literal (I’m hoping it’s a metaphor!), Jesus is underscoring that it so difficult to not sin that we must take some extreme measures to protect ourselves. In my nearly 15 years in a sales-based career, I’ve learned from my personal coaches and those that I coach, as well as reading about successful business people and athletes, that even when we have a goal that’s really important to us and our family, we can’t just say we are going to do something and expect to do it. Even the highest performers set up their environment and calendars in a way to help them do that which they know they should and truly want to do. One quick, simple example is that if you want to get up earlier to work out to get in shape or because you know doing so effects how you feel and your performance that day, but you can’t keep from rolling over and hitting the snooze button, you can set your alarm across the room or even buy an alarm clock that moves to a different part of the room in the night so you have to get up and search for it. It’s no surprise that Jesus, the greatest teacher and coach of all time, is telling us here to set up or environment to not sin. In Matthew 26:41 when He asks His disciples to keep watch in the garden but yet finds them sleeping He states, “The spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak.” My father shared with me once that the late, infamous Rev. Billy Graham once said that he would never put himself in a position to have an extra-marital affair because he would never be alone in any personal or professional situattion with any woman other than his wife. The word sin in the Bible comes from the translation of Greek word hamartia which means to miss the mark. You would be hard pressed to find too many people who lived a more Christ-like life who could likely withstand more temptation than Rev. Billy Graham. Yet, he knew he must set up his environment to not be tempted because even he could subject making a mistake and missing the mark.

Another observation is that the top performers in the business world and in athletics typically pay someone to be a personal coach for them and are also typically are a part of another group of peers who help them with ideas and hold them accountable to staying on track for what they want to accomplish. Even the best need support and accountability partners. Are we doing this as it relates to living a Christ-following life and refraining from sin? I recently read in another devotional where a leader of a high school boys small group was asking them about pornography. Nearly every single one of them admitted to their problem with it. The leader made them aware of a monitoring subscription they could put on their phone and computers that would alert an accountability partner, which he offered to be for them, when they went to certain types of websites. Nearly all agreed and within the first few days he got an alert for one of the boys, and he was able to talk with him and help him. Kudos to this group of young men for acknowledging their sin and seeking help and accountability!

Let us ask ourselves the following…

  1. What sin do I need to acknowledge?
  2. Am I truly sorry and turning away from that sin or instead justifying it?
  3. What can I do to set up my environment to not be tempted and refrain from my sin?
  4. Who can I ask to be a trusted accountability partner?

Ask for God’s wisdom in answering these questions and then not only for forgiveness, but to help you truly repent and turn away from those sins.

Consider the following prayer…

Dear Heavenly Father, I acknowledge that I am a sinner. I’m sorry that I justify my sin by the world’s standards and not yours. Please forgive me and not only change my heart but give me the wisdom to figure out how to truly repent and turn away from my sin. Thank you for loving me when I’m unlovable and for forgiveness through giving your life on the cross for me which you did not have to do. I love you. Amen

In the Boat

Today’s reading is Mark 4.

Mark 4 is jammed full of great messages and contains four parables, as well as Jesus calming a storm. We will specifically focus on the parable of a seed growing in Mark 4:26-29 and the storm in Mark 4:35-41.

Let’s begin with Mark 4:26-29.

26 And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. 27 He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. 28 The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

The Easter time of year has caused me to not only have a heightened focus on the forgiveness of my sins through the cross and the promise of eternal life through His resurrection, but also the spread of the Gospel not through kings and queens or dignitaries…but 12 ordinary men. Most were fisherman and Matthew was a tax collector, known to be the worst of sinners. God, through these men, spread the Good News not by force or the sword, but through their faith and the boldness to share it.

This past weekend I went to visit my 99-year-old great Uncle Roy in the hospital. He is the last in our family from the Greatest Generation. He grew up during the Great Depression and fought in Europe in World War II. He faced more challenges and saw more bad things before age 30 than I hope I have to see in my entire lifetime. As I drove a little over an hour to Springfield, I didn’t know if I might find him sleeping and even unaware of my presence. To my surprise, I found him up in his chair wide awake. Although he may be in his final months on this Earth, his mind and memory is as sharp as ever. He shared some really special family stories I had never heard before and will treasure forever. Uncle Roy is related through marriage, so it was very cool when he told me my great grandfather Frank “Tubby” Wilson, his father-in-law, who was deceased before my father was even born, was “the finest man” he ever knew. He said he greatly was respected by many in his hometown, although he was a railroader during the Great Depression and not a prominent leader or businessman, because he cared for and raised his younger siblings when his father passed away young. Most importantly, he told me that Frank and my great grandmother Mayme Wilson were Christians and raised my grandmother and great aunt (Uncle Roy’s wife Almeda) in the church. This relationship with Christ in our family trickled all the way down to my brother and me with our children today.

Just think about this for a second, God used 12 ordinary men who were fearful for their lives when they thought hope was lost because the man they dedicated their life to follow who they thought he would become king died, to just a few days later become fearless to share the Gospel. This ultimately lead to my family knowing Jesus nearly 2,000 years later on a continent which wouldn’t be discovered until nearly 1,500 years later in a country which wouldn’t be founded until nearly 1,800 years later in a city 6,300 miles away (in case you are wondering…yes…I did do a map search from Israel to Beardstown, IL!).

Romans 8:26-27 says..

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

These are powerful verses when it says, “the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” The fact that He cared about helping my family know Him that far away nearly 2,000 years later blows my mind. Think of all the things that had to occur between then and now for that to happen! As hard is it is for me to do daily, how can I then not believe He has a plan for and cares about every little detail and perceived “bad thing” that happens in my life? Like these verses from Mark 4, we ”know not how.” But, He connects all the pieces and makes amazing things come from bad things years and years later. His will is always perfect. And..”the will of God” cannot be stopped.

In Mark 4:35:41, the disciples woke Him from sleep in fear for their lives when the boat they were traveling in began to take on water during a terrible a storm. Specifically, Mark 4:40 it states…

40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”

What He’s really saying is…don’t you remember…”I’m in the boat. I am God.” Or as Psalm 46:10 states… 10 “Be still, and know that I am God…”

As our boats begin to take on water or we fear it might due to the storm which hasn’t even occurred yet from to the weather forecast in our minds (which is usually wrong often like the weather forecast on the news), we must remember to “Be still” and know that He is God. Let our hearts and minds be aware that He always has been..and always will be…in the boat.

Eternal Perspective

Today’s reading is Job 38.

Yesterday, we read Job 1-2, so we know Job was a man who had it all so to speak…personal wealth/possessions, family, and health. Then, it was all taken from him. Like mine, your Bible may have headings for the chapters of the book of Job that follow. Just a quick skim of these can show you the many emotions and feelings of Job through troubling times which are likely some of the same we have during trials.

In March of 2018, Coach Tony Bennett and his Virginia Cavaliers basketball team became the first #1 seed to ever lose to a #16 seed in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Some would be right in saying this disgrace is not worse than divorce, poor health, or financial troubles, but no doubt this disgrace was bad and in the public spotlight. It seemed like every year it would come up that a #1 had never lost to a #16 with many experts saying it would never happen. Not only did Virginia lose, they lost badly. While Coach Bennett’s teams had done well in recent years, many had already questioned him and his coaching strategy which is different than the norm in college basketball with hard-nosed defense and a slow style of play that many call boring to watch. Many also questioned his coaching style which showed little fire and emotion on the outside in that game, as it does in every game. What would critics say now, and how would Coach Bennett react to the loss? Well, not only did he give credit to the other team for their play in his interview outside of the locker room immediately following the game, but he admitted they simply “got their butts whooped.” Then, he followed up by saying, “I’m trying to tell the guys in there..this is life. It can’t define you. Enjoy the good times and you gotta be able to take the bad times.”

Although he didn’t state it on the outside to the public, I would imagine Tony Bennett had his Job-like moments privately to himself, if not verbally to family or those closest to him. He likely wondered what God’s plan was in all of this and why God let it happen to Him, a faithful Christ follower who likely also plays by the rules when many coaches in college basketball don’t. He may have even wondered if his critics of his slow down coaching strategy and calm demeanor were right. Could he really get the job done? If Tony Bennett thought these things, we do not know what the Holy Spirit may have said to him. However, we do in fact, know what God said to Job here in Job 38. God reminded Job that he in fact was sovereign and in charge. In Job 38:4-6 He states, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements-surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it?” God continues to speak to Job with this message and in Job 38:12 says, “Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place?” If we read on to Job 42, Job ultimately confesses and repents, and God rewards Job for that confession and repentance by giving him twice as much as before (Job 42:10-12).

Ultimately, Job did not think that God knew the physical and emotional pain and public disgrace he was going through. Thankfully, we know that now through Jesus, God experienced every type of pain we have. Knowing of His upcoming scourging and crucifixion, He experienced emotional stress so great that when He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane He sweated drops of blood (Luke 22:44). He experienced relational distress and abandonment of those He thought were friends when one of His 12 closest friends, Judas, betrayed Him leading to His death (Luke 22:48), not to mention another one of his 12 closest friends Peter denying He knew Him not once but 3 times (Luke 22:54-62). He even had family relational turmoil and abandonment with His brothers telling Him to leave and not believing Him (John 7:3-5). He experienced public disgrace and embarrassment when the soldiers mocked Him (Luke 22:63-65), and the crowds yelled “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” requesting the release of a murderer in Barabbas instead of Him (Luke 23:18-21). Wait…even Jesus experienced the unfairness of bad things happening to good people and good things happening to bad people!? And of course, He experienced the physical pain of the scourging (John 19:1) and then being nailed to the cross (John 19:18). How blessed are we that during trouble times we can have peace knowing that we can talk to and pray to God who felt what we are feeling?

Just a year later here in 2019, after being down in the first round to a #16 seed again by 14, Coach Tony Bennet’s team won the national championship! Coach Bennett said he played the song Hills and Valleys by Tauren Wells for his team before the game. He said, “It just means that you’re never alone in the hills or in the valleys. And we faced those from last year to this year. But the credit goes to those young men, and I can’t wait to celebrate with my wife and my kids and my parents. And I do want thank my Lord and Savior.” He also said, “I think there was a bigger plan going on here. I wasn’t needed but I was used in it, and I hope that it’s message for some people that there can be hope and joy in resiliency and I’m thankful for what happened.” I’m sure he wasn’t thankful last year after the loss, but now the bigger picture and plan can be seen.

When we take an eternal perspective on the hills and in the valleys, it changes everything. As we reflect on Maundy Thursday today, Good Friday tomorrow, and Easter Sunday, let us not forget that our story is part of God’s story. He took the absolute worst event in the history of mankind, the only truly innocent person to ever walk the earth being tortured and killed, and turned it into the greatest event in the history of the mankind…brining us together into oneness with Him through the forgiveness of sins which gives us eternal life.

Coach Tony Bennett quoted to his team last year after their terrible loss Psalm 30:5 which says, “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Joy truly does come with His resurrection on Easter morning. It not only means that we can face whatever trials this life brings, but most importantly, it means He conquered death, and now so can we.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8iDuZv_5MQk

Our Lifesaver

Today’s reading is Daniel 1.

King Nebuchadnezzar, leader of the Babylonians, took over Jerusalem and ruled the Jews. He asked his chief eunuch to bring in some of the sharpest Jewish youths to come and learn in order to teach them the language of the Chaldeans. They also must eat the king’s food which was different than the diet of the Jews and eating it would defile them. But, Daniel said he would not eat the food and defile himself leading Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to follow suit. Daniel even suggested that they test their diet by comparing them to others who ate the king’s diet and after 10 days, Daniel and his friends were healthier. Not only did the stewards of the king then let them eat their own diet, but when they were put in front of the king in Daniel 1:20, the king noticed they had much better wisdom and understanding than his own magicians and enchanters.

A while ago a brother in Christ shared with me a story about when he was in high school. He was a good athlete, popular, and known to be a Christ-follower and someone who although not perfect, stuck to his values and generally did the right thing. A group of peers, and one peer in particular, kept trying to get him to do something high school kids often do but that he did not. He stood his ground saying no many times, but then finally gave in agreeing to partake. Jesus says in Matthew 26:41, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” I could have used one of many examples of my own missteps and mistakes, but this story is especially insightful. The one peer who was always trying to persuade him to take part admitted that he was not only surprised, but actually was disappointed that this individual finally gave in. You see, even those that try to persuade us to do bad things often secretly want us to stand our ground. Even though they will typically never admit it, not only do they respect us for doing the right thing, but they secretly want us to continue to do the right thing because they want to believe that good still exists. This inspires them to want to do better and believe that they too can do the right thing when faced with temptation. They may not come around at the time, but just like King Nebuchadnezzar who later came around and gave glory to God after God protected Daniel’s friends in the fiery furnace, they may too in the future as a result of your actions today. St. Francis of Assisi is generally given credit to saying, “Preach the Gospel, and if necessary, use words.” Others must see the truth and good that exists through the Holy Spirit and Jesus living in and through us.

We will, however, mess up. Thankfully, that’s when we have our greatest opportunity to speak the Gospel. Romans 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” He’s our lifesaver. We humble ourselves before God and others to let Him and them know we are not perfect and are in need of a savior. We can let them know we are saved and forgiven by His grace alone through his death on the cross. And we too will live, just as He lives through His resurrection on Easter. They can do the same…all they have to do is ask and believe. Just grab the ultimate lifesaver right there within arm’s reach. Is it that simple? Yes..it’s that simple.