Our Guide

Today’s readings are from 2 Corinthians 1:22, 2 Corinthians 5:5, and Hebrews 7:22 as we focus on the word guide to describe God.

A good friend of mine, fellow believer, and fellow Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management Advisor, Josh Waite, shared something very interesting with me a few years back which I now share with my clients. I’m not a mountain climber, but Josh is. In recent years, he climbed the highest peak in the continental U.S., Mt. Rainier in the state of Washington, with his siblings in memory of his late father. He shared with me that most people who die climbing some of the world’s highest peaks do so on the way down…not on the way up as many would be lead to believe. They think when they have made it when the reach the top, and they get complacent on the way down. However, the 2 things that help climbers complete a successful journey up and down the mountain are having a map and a guide. This is a good way to describe how we help our clients in retirement planning, and it is in times like we are experiencing today in the financial world that having a map (a financial plan) and a guide in us to help coach them through the challenges becomes most critical. Josh has actually written 2 books on this topic called Up and Down the Mountain for both corporate executives and medical and dental professionals.

The map for climbers shows the best route to take to get down the mountain and fully complete their journey. Fortunately for us, our God has also given us a map in his Word, the Holy Bible. A regular map shows you the route to take, but does not tell you anywhere on it that you will face unexpected and unknown challenges making the journey longer and much tougher. However, thankfully the map God has given us in His Word tells us there will be pitfalls and challenges like those many of us are facing right now with Covid 19 and its trickle down effects. Pastor Mike Baker once said that God doesn’t tell us exactly what specific challenges are ahead for us because we would probably freak out, and we would probably mess things up thinking we can do it better than His perfect plan. Again, He does tell us though we will in fact face challenges (yes..even Christ-followers) and that those challenges mold and shape us into who He wants us to be prior to the great joy that lies ahead in verses like James 1:2-4, James 1:12, 1 Peter 1:6-7, and John 16:33.

Thankfully, not only did God gives us a map in His Word, but he also gave us his Holy Spirit in Acts 2 as our guide which is our word for today. In 2 Corinthians 1:22, it tells us the Holy Spirit is on our hearts. He is always tugging on your heart and telling you where to go..to Jesus. Even though we don’t always go where the guide, the Holy Spirit, is telling us, just like we don’t always go the way the voice on Google Maps or Waze tells us, we end up realizing the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to our hearts and telling us the way to go would have been much better..just like we usually realize when we don’t follow the Google Maps or Waze voice. Sometimes the voice on our GPS can be wrong though…but 1 Corinthians 5:5 tells us the voice of the Holy Spirit as our guide, which we can hear in our hearts leading us to Jesus, is guaranteed to be the best route.

As I mentioned earlier, my friend Josh taught me most people die on the way down the mountain because they get complacent thinking they have made it after reaching the top. We are much the same in our lives. We think we have made it and are victorious when we have really just hit some base camps along the way, and we think we can make it without Him. But, since birth we are all really headed down the mountain in descent because each day we are closer to our last day on this Earth, not knowing when it will be. Every single one of us will miss the shiny snow over there which is really ice, like sin, causing us to fall off the cliff to our death as we are told in Romans 3:23 and Romans 6:23…we just don’t know when.

However, when we follow His Word as our map, and we listen to His Holy Spirit as our guide on our hearts, we will fall less and take fewer wrong steps. But, when we do take missteps, because we will…every day….we have Jesus as a guarantee to catch us in His loving and forgiving arms and safely deliver us to the bottom of the mountain where we have eternal victory as our verses today tell us. 2 Corinthians 5:21 also tells us He actually took our place and fell for us…and in trading places with us…again now delivers us safely in victory, without blemish, to the Holy Father at the bottom. While I’m sure my friend Josh would say making it to the bottom of Mt. Rainier and completing that journey was an unbelievable feeling, as a brother in Christ, I suspect He would also tell us the joy he felt pales in comparison to the everlasting euphoria we will experience when we complete our journey on this Earth and meet Him face to face in eternity.

Glory

Today we are focusing on the glory of God with the following reading….

They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass.

Psalm 106:20

And…

Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit.

Jeremiah 2:11

Glory as a noun is defined as magnificence or great beauty. The psalmist and Jeremiah are speaking of Israel and how they tried to find glory in earthly things, rather than the one thing that is true beauty..God.

As we live in these interesting times that will probably change in just the few days between writing this and its posting, we are experiencing things that most of us have not seen in our lifetime. Just to name a few there are travel bans/restrictions, schools closing, restaurants can’t be open, a shortage of toilet paper (!), all major sports cancelled or postponed, and extreme volatility in our financial markets. One social media post stated this…”Mankind is so frail and a tiny little invisible virus has disrupted us so much. If we can’t handle this, what do think it will be like standing before God without the blood of Christ on your side?” How can we even begin to think that we are somehow in control and that we are wiser than God?

As a friend at dinner Saturday stated, maybe God is allowing all this to happen for our country and world to stop the busyness and craziness and get our priorities in line. The sovereignty of God is so amazing that he can let Satan and mankind do their thing, and still use it for glory..His glory. He is never perplexed. I love the way the Passion of Christ movie portrays Satan in the background as thinking he is winning with all the evil going on in Jesus’ arrest, scourging, and crucifixion. Yet, God had a bigger plan. He took the worst event in human history, the only innocent person to ever walk the Earth without sin being killed, and made it into the greatest event in human history.

He is glory, and I trust He will use everything that’s happening right now for His glory.

He has made EVERYTHING beautiful in its time. Also, He has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.

Ecclesiastes 3:11

Consuming Fire

Today’s reading is Deuteronomy 4:24.

“For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.”

If you were to do a time log over the next month of what you do each moment of the day, what would it reveal? What would your bank or credit card statement reveal? How about your thoughts? What would this auditing say about you? It’s a little scary to think about, isn’t it? Even scarier to think about, what if all of this was made public? The good news is..it won’t be made public. However, one person knows the answers to what takes up our time, money, and thoughts…that person is God.

Chapter 4 of Deuteronomy is Moses reminding the Israelites that they should have no other gods. We can read some of the Old Testament and hear about the Israelites and other nations making man-made gods and think that is just silly. However, when we peel back the onion, we have our own other gods, too. Many of them are things God has blessed us with which are great until they overtake our time, thoughts, and lives, and as a result, God gets put on the back burner. Examples can be our career, hobbies, phone, money, and sadly even some things as great as our spouse or children can become gods we worship them more than Him.

We live in a society today which tells us to do whatever we feel like and whatever makes us happy. Some find it hard to believe a loving God is also a jealous, powerful God like a consuming fire and that He would allow us to go to Hell if we don’t believe His son Jesus died and rose again for the forgiveness of our sins. The Bible tells us this is the truth though. And when you think about it, He created us an has given us everything we have, including His greatest gift in His son Jesus, so He has every right to expect us to worship Him and be upset when we don’t.

Although He is a jealous and powerful God expecting our praise, worship, and attention like a consuming fire, Moses also describes Him further in Deuteronomy 4:31…

“For the Lord your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers He swore to them.”

Thankfully, He further showed us this in the form of His Son Jesus. He established a new covenant making us all part of His family, not just Jews. Yes, He is a consuming fire who wants our time, hearts, and minds, but thankfully He does not punish us for our missteps and mistakes.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Jesus.”

Romans 8:1

What greater way can we worship Him and say thanks than by giving Him the first fruits of our time, treasures, and talents!

Dwelling Place

What is your morning routine? How do you start your day? Do you work out? Read the newspaper (yes some still do)? Check social media? Pray? Morning Devotional?

Now that my physical health is back, my weekday routine typically involves working out. It also involves reading Bible Journal to get in the Word, prayer, and writing down at least 3 things I’m grateful for that morning. I also write down my 2-3 most important work activities for the day so that I prioritize them over things that seem urgent.

Today’s word to describe God is “dwelling place” and our verse to go with it is Psalm 90:1.

“Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.”

Later, Psalm 90:14 reads..

“Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad in all our days.

The last verse of the chapter, Psalm 90:17, says…

“Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!”

My weekday morning routine help establish the Lord as my dwelling place to start my day. He speaks to me through His Word and prayer, and I give him thanks for His blessings through my gratitude list. I started this last piece of after hearing some years back you can’t feel stress and gratitude at the same time. Generally speaking, no matter how busy my day will be and even if I’m running late, my anxiety level is pretty low on weekday mornings. However, anxiety tends to go up as the day goes further along, and I forget to dwell in the Lord through talking to Him in prayer. I forget about what I’m grateful for despite the problems which arise. I forget to ask him again in the fire to “establish the work of my hands.” He no longer is my “dwelling place”…my “dwelling place” is now the troubles the day has brought.

Ironically, some of the days I seem to be worried the most about getting my to do list done or am short tempered are the weekends. Some of the days I tend to be the most anxious about what the future may bring are when I’m on vacation..yes…vacation..which is supposed to be the time to re-charge! Why? I get away from my morning routine on the weekends and vacation which make the Lord my dwelling place. Just yesterday the discussion came up, bringing some stress and anxiety, about when we may change houses and if our kids will change schools. We must remember to pray for wisdom and guidance on these decisions and remember that regardless of the physical location of where we live or where our kids go to school, He is our true dwelling place. Instead of worrying about these things, we should be grateful that we even have a home and a school which many in other countries, and even our own country for that matter, don’t have.

Let us pray..

Lord, please help us to remember that you have been, and will always be, our true dwelling place in all generations. Help us remember this throughout each day in the little decisions and in the big ones which affect our long-term plans. We know that when we truly dwell in you and you dwell in our hearts and minds, you will establish the work of our hands and we will rejoice and be glad in our days!

Kobe

“The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”

Psalm 103:8

Today’s reading is Psalm 103:8 with our word to describe God being compassionate. The entire chapter of Psalm 103 expands on this theme.

Over the last week or so since the terrible helicopter accident that claimed the lives of 9 people, including Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, most of us have taken in a lot of information not only about that day’s events, but about the lives of those on board, including of course Kobe. I must admit it’s been sobering for me not only because of the loss of life and thinking about their families left behind, but also because of what I’ve learned about Kobe since.

In 2003, Kobe was accused of sexual assault with charges later being dropped and the case settled out of court. While Kobe claimed innocence in regards to the assault, he admitted his guilt for his infidelity to his wife Vanessa. In 2012, he was photographed with his shirt off in a bar talking with 2 women while Team USA was traveling in Barcelona. While Kobe said a drink was spilled on him and he was waiting for his replacement shirt, I suspected, most likely similar to many others, he had not learned and changed his ways after his past mistakes. While I had come to really respect Kobe as a basketball player, and most of all his drive, competitiveness, and work ethic in recent years, I had all but written him off as a quality human being away from the basketball court.

Since his passing, much has come out about Kobe as a father and person, His quote, “I’m a girl dad.”, has lead to a social media frenzy of pictures of proud dads and their daughters with the #girldad tag. I’m not a big fan of private helicopters and planes and won’t get on one myself, as it seems like you always hear about them going down usually with no survivors. In addition to being saddened when I heard the news of the crash, I admit I had the passing thought…”Geez..do you really need your own helicopter..isn’t that even a little bit eccentric?” Later, I learned in an interview with Alex Rodriguez, Kobe said he bought the helicopter because he missed one of his daughter’s events after being stuck in traffic. He said in his interview he could also now fly to and from workouts and be home to pick up his daughters from school. His wife said she could easily pick them up and it wasn’t a big deal, but he said when you travel as much as I do…even 15 minutes talking to them on the commute home from school meant so much to him. Wow. I also read a story of him visiting a young boy with a fatal heart condition in the hospital and playing basketball with him for hours causing the boy to smile for what his parents said was the first time in years just a few days before his passing. The story is now told that Kobe did this in secret and specifically asked for no PR in what turns out to be not so rare event of him visiting the ill and insisting on no publicity.

While Kobe was not perfect and still made mistakes, it sure seems like he was in fact a good husband, father, and person and had changed. However, we know being a “good person” does not get you into Heaven. When I heard about his passing my first thought was, “I hope he knew Jesus and was saved.” The day after, I was pleased to learn he went to church that morning before boarding the helicopter. This was a good sign. Then, I heard an interview he did with Steven A. Smith in 2006. When Steven asked him about the 2003 incident and what he learned, he said….

“God is great. It doesn’t get much simpler than that. You can know it all you want, but until you have to pick up that cross that you can’t carry, and He picks it up and carries you and the cross, then you know.”

Praise God! I was overjoyed that Kobe had learned that God is compassionate and asked for forgiveness. My next feeling was guilt for my judgement of Kobe all these years. Although it seems like he had changed, it wasn’t my place to judge and condemn him in the first place.  I had not shown Kobe the same mercy and compassion for his past mistakes that God thankfully shows me in mine. I had wrongly judged Kobe’s mistake(s) as worse than mine. And the reality is, in God’s eyes, any sin separates us from God for eternity without Jesus and the cross. I need the cross as much as he did for my many mistakes. Although they may be different than his, God views them the same and forgives them all the same through the compassion of the cross. Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” I sin each day, hour, and likely minute and need his mercy, grace, and compassion just like Kobe and all of us.

Matthew 6:14-15 reads, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

Talk about a wake up call.

Kobe has taught many about drive, passion, and work ethic, but what he taught me is that I must extend the same grace, forgiveness, and compassion to my family, friends, and everyone which God also extends to me through carrying my cross daily. All I can do is praise God for his compassion and say, “Thanks, Kobe.”

Branch of the Lord

“In that day the branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and honor of the survivors of Israel.”

Isaiah 4:2

In Isaiah’s prophetic writing about our Savior Jesus, he refers to Him as “the branch of the Lord.” This reminds us Jesus is in fact deity and from the direct lineage of God the Father. Romans 3:23-26 discusses how all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and how Jesus came as the “propitiation” of sin. He takes our place so God forgets and forgives all our past sins. I’ve mentioned it before, but many non-Christians say they just can’t believe because why would God…king and ruler of all…do that? Or put in another way..they wouldn’t do that if they were God. Well..that’s just it..we are not God..thankfully!

Just this last week yet another scandal in major league baseball was revealed, with one very outspoken Christ follower being accused of some very serious cheating showing once again that even as Christians we can be tempted to win at all costs wanting the praise and the glory. This also proves once again that it’s hard for us to fathom what God did through Jesus in humbly submitting and bearing the burden for sin that should have been ours.

Yet, these verses tell us, “the branch of the Lord” will take his rightful place on the throne and receive all the glory and praise for His sacrifice at the end of days when He comes again. This past Sunday at Eastview Christian Church, Pastor Mike Baker discussed how scientists estimate there are over 100 billion stars and galaxies. Today’s verse and Revelation 5:13 tell us He will get the glory in the end.

And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To Him who sits on the throne and the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever.”

Revelation 5:13

If those 100 billion stars and galaxies and everything in them will ultimately bow down to Him some day, then “So Will I”….

 

Ancient of Days

When you hear the word wisdom, what image comes to mind? Is there a specific person you think of?

Today’s title or attribute of God we are focusing on is the Ancient of Days from Daniel 7:22 which reads, “until the Ancient of Days came, and judgement was given for the saints of the Most High, and the time came when the saints possessed the Kingdom.” I must admit I wasn’t too familiar with this title for God and had to do a little more research, but Daniel uses this title 3 times in Daniel 7:9, Daniel 7:13, and Daniel 7:22.

The 7th chapter of Daniel is his prophetic vision showing God the Father ultimately rules over eternity and will accomplish this through the son of man (Daniel 7:13). This chapter is significant because Jesus uses the title of the son of man for himself more than any other name. The son of man approaches the Ancient of Days in verse 13 and the Ancient of Days is described in verse 9 as not only having clothing white as snow, but “the hair of his head like pure wool.” This gives us an image the Ancient of Days which seems to represent (not a literal picture though) God the Father as an older man with white hair. I also think of the references to God the Father as “Alpha and Omega” and “him who is and who was and who is to come” from Revelation 1:4 and Revelation 1:8. These, verses along with entire chapter of Daniel 7, and God’s title of the Ancient of Days remind us the God is ruler over all and no matter what terrible things we see or experience in our lifetime, He will ultimately claim victory (Daniel 7:27). In this life, we can live with the peace of knowing we fight from victory…not for victory (Isiah 26:3).

At the beginning I posed the question about what image or person comes to mind when you think about the word wisdom. These days we all seem to know someone who has experienced dementia or Alzheimer’s in old age, and unfortunately, I think we now lump many of the elderly into a group that many would even call senile. However, if God the Father is described in the image of the Ancient of Days as an older person with white hair, let this be a reminder that much wisdom can be gained from the elderly who have learned and experienced far more than we have in our younger years. Near the end of 2018, I wrote a post called Angels We Have Heard in Brooklyn about 93 year old Thomas King who spoke so much wisdom and inspiration to us while on a mission trip at exactly right time. Sadly though, Thomas told us when his church recently recognized him for his years of membership, they would not even let him speak…although his wise words to us cut sharply like a knife to us. As we go forth today, let us not only remember God the Father’s sovereignty as the Ancient of days and learn from Him through the Word, but let us also remember as we interact with the elderly the words Job 12:12 which read, “Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days.” We can learn from them as well

Do You Believe In Miracles?

One of the great things about Christmas, if we take step back and reflect, is that it reminds us that Jesus was human like you and me. He came into this world the same way we did and experienced the same emotions and temptations. Yes, Jesus came for the ultimate purpose to pay the price which should have been ours for our sins, but I believe one of His purposes was also to allow us to truly see the heart of God in a way we could not fully comprehend if there was only God the Father up in Heaven. One of the places where we get great insight into his heart is through the death of Lazarus in John 11:1-43.

I don’t know what 2019 has brought you and what 2020 and beyond will bring you, but I know this past year has brought my family and I some challenges with 2 spine surgeries in my neck and some loss of functionality in my hand, as well as other changes, I thought I would never see. However, it has also brought blessings and what I would call miracles in the midst which we would not have experienced without these challenges. Yes, I am still praying for an additional miracle for my hand to fully come back, but these experiences brought me closer to God with more gratitude for His blessings and my main prayers have been that my experience helps others in some way (at least 2 people so far are seeing the same surgeon) and that God be glorified through it.

In these verses in John, we see Mary and Martha first react in a way that most of do through challenges.. questioning why He let this happen and even why He wasn’t there (John 11:21, John 11:32). After He sees Martha and the other Jews crying it says in John 11:33 that He was “deeply moved in His Spirit and greatly troubled.” It then says right after in John 11:35, “He wept.” In my humble opinion, He is not weeping because His friend, Lazarus, died…for He knew what was going to happen and says so at least 4 times before this (John 11:3, John 11:11, John 11:14, John 11:23). I believe He is weeping because He sees the pain of Mary and Martha and the other Jews. How blessed are we that we have a God who cares about our pains and showed us that in the physical person of Jesus? Our feelings matter to Him. He cares.

Jesus also tells us multiple times here in these verses the purpose of our pain..

“..This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”          

John 11:4

“Then Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to Him.’”

John 11:14-15

“Jesus said, ’Did I not tell you that if you believed you will see the glory of God?’”

John 11:40

“’…..but I said this on account of the people standing around that they may believe that you sent me.’”

John 11:42

We must know and trust that nothing happens “to us”…only “for us”…or better yet…”for Him.” This is hard. We don’t like pain and problems. I mentioned earlier Martha was upset and took a jab so to speak saying to Jesus that this wouldn’t have happened if He was there (John 11:21), but she also says in John 11:22, “But even now I know whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” It’s okay to be human and be upset for a moment..that’s normal..but she gives us a great example of going back to believing and trusting in Him. Jesus says we must fully believe in the glory of God and His ability to do miracles in John 11:40 when He says, ….”Did I not tell you if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”

Through my health challenges in 2019, I’ve tried to do my best to share my faith in God and His plan and will for my life, and most importantly, share the miracles/blessings that have still come in the midst of it. What could have been could have been way worse. It was a miracle to find my doctor in Pittsburgh who performed a procedure no one else is doing with the least long term effects..even my doctors at Mayo didn’t know about it. I only found him because my sister-in-law’s sister had the same condition and found him. Or worse yet, if I was born in a different time in history when no treatment was available, I would have become paralyzed in time.

One of the biggest miracles in this situation did not happen this year though, it happened in 2002. I can vividly remember sitting in front of the computer at home and trying to decide if I was going to choose a major of biology on my University of Illinois application and pursue my dream to be an orthodontist, or switch to a business major at the 11th hour. I decided to switch to business. Why? I didn’t fully know at time…maybe less time in school (haha)..it was my dream though. Now, 18 years later, I can see God’s plan for that change. I would not be able to practice as an orthodontist today with the loss of functionality of my hand, and I would not have been able to purchase insurance to protect my income for my family due to pre-existing conditions before I would have even started my dental training. However, because of that click of a button and God’s plan..not mine…I can still continue my career as a financial advisor and have multi-generational impact and provide for my family through the work I do. Praise God.

We can find God’s blessings and miracles through every situation, even death, when we just reflect and search. Will you join me in praying for wisdom to do our absolute best in 2020 and beyond to look for them…and most importantly to glorify Him through them…no matter how hard it is? God cares, and He has a plan…even when it seems impossible to see. Let us trust in and remember that.

 

 

John

Today’s reading is 1 John 1-2 and Revelation 1.

The Greek word for sin in the original New Testament was “hamartia” which is translated as missing the mark. Have you missed the mark? I know I have…every hour of every day of my life…maybe every minute. It is clear John wants us to realize this. God is the mark, and we miss it and Him. I’m taken back to my roots and part of the Lutheran liturgy with the words of 1 John 1:8-10…

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and His word is not in us.”

Paul also states in Romans 3:23…

..for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

John is clear not only that we miss the mark and sin, but also tells us how to avoid it as much as possible in 1 John 1:15-16…

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world- the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life- is not from the Father but is from the world.”

Constantly the world is trying to tell us what is “ok.” It’s on the internet, TV shows, commercials, movies, books, and the list goes on and on. And not only is the world trying to force things God says is wrong upon us, but the world tries to tell us that if we don’t agree with the world we are not only in the wrong, but we are also practicing hate. Isn’t it crazy what Satan is capable of and how he works? He can twist things not only from what is actually bad to make it look good, but also make the world believe what is good is hate. The world tells us we cannot dislike a sin and still love the sinner. We can because we in fact ourselves as Christians are sinners (1 John 1:8-10), and yet Christ loves us.

The first step in finding Jesus is realizing we need Him. How? We have to be truthful with ourselves about our sin problem. Let’s go back to 1 John 1:8 for a moment. We must specifically name our sins. That’s how we realize we have missed the mark and need Him. We must not compare ourselves to others and what the world says is acceptable. John tells us the world is not the mark…God is!

So, what do we do now that we realize we’ve not done what God wants? 1 John 1:9 tells us we must confess our sins, and He makes us white as snow..cleaning us from all our dirty deeds. John wants us to know we have an advocate in Jesus who took our place; He is the propitiation for our sins (1 John 2:1-2). Through Him, and only through Him, do we please God. He knew we could not do it on our own..that we would miss the mark. John is clear that God had a game plan all along. John tells us God knew we needed Jesus, and Jesus was their all along with the Father from the beginning of Creation (John 1:1-5 and 1 John 1:1-2).

There is no relationship like with Him. All relationships are two sided and conditional….know matter how much we say, or even try not to make them that way. This is not the case in the relationship with Him though..He loved us before we loved Him and still loves us today when we miss the mark. All we can do is try to do our best to follow His will by walking in the light John discusses, and say, “Thanks! Praise be to God!”

Nobody But Jesus

Today’s reading is Acts 10:1-11:18 as we focus on Cornelius.

The Bible tells us Cornelius was a centurion in the Roman army meaning he commanded at least one hundred men and held an important social status. Despite his non-jewish, Gentile background, we are told in Acts 10:2 that he was devout, feared God, and gave alms or money to the poor and needy. Being a believer, Cornelius likely thought he was already being used by God for a purpose with his favorable position of power. However, we serve a big God who has bigger vision for each one of us and the people of this world than we can see. Cornelius is visited by an angel telling him to send a few of his men to get Peter who he’s never met and doesn’t know. Not coincidentally when Cornelius’ men show up, Peter just had a vision from God (Acts 10:9-15) telling him that the Gospel was available to all nations. Peter then went with Cornelius men to Caesara helping bring the Gospel through the Holy Spirit to them and all the Gentiles.

As I read these verses, I could not help but think of and look back on my notes from a sermon Pastor Mike Baker from Eastview Church did a few years ago on Genesis 12 where Abram is called to leave his country. Pastor Mike said, “Faith is not a ‘stay’…it’s always a ‘go.’” If you ‘stay,’ you don’t need faith and you can’t grow to be all God’s called you to be. God doesn’t give us the details of the future even when we are in turmoil wanting to know His plans for two reasons. First, we would likely freak out if we knew everything that would happen. Second, we would try to take over and mess it up thinking we can do it better than God can. Cornelius could have just said, “Hey God..I’m doing good things here as a centurion. I’m giving to the needy and using my position for good, and I have 100 men here under me I can witness, too.” However, God called him for bigger things..to bring the Good News of Jesus through the Holy Spirit to all the Gentiles and letting them know that His forgiveness through the cross was available to all people and all nations (Acts 10:34-35, Acts 10:44-48 Acts 11:18). He called Cornelius to “go” and do bigger things, he obeyed, and look what happened.

Today, on Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for Cornelius, the Holy Spirit, and the big God we serve that is always working on our behalf.  Sadly, I don’t know much about my genealogy, but likely similar to many reading this, I don’t think I have any Jewish roots. I’m thankful that Cornelius obeyed God’s command so we non-Jews know that we are also one of God’s people through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We can be thankful Romans 8:26-28 tells us the Holy Spirit is always working on our behalf and interceding (just like here to come to the Gentiles and make Jesus’ forgiveness available and known to everyone). Despite whatever challenges and changes in your life you may be going through today, you can be thankful that He working ALL things for His good. Be grateful you don’t know and can’t control the future because through His power within you, He can do more than you can ever ask or imagine, and He will be glorified (Ephesians 3:20-21), so that ultimately through you the world can see “nobody but Jesus.” How blessed are we that He uses us for His purpose.