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.

One Family, One Nation Under God

Our reading is 2 Kings 22.

Today, we read of King Josiah who we are told here began his reign when he was only 8 years old! He ruled for 31 years in Jerusalem. This chapter tells of Josiah rebuilding the temple, finding and reestablishing the Book of the Law, and if we read on in 2 Kings 23, we can see he restores Israel from many of their sinful ways and begins the Passover tradition which had not been kept in many years.

2 Kings 22:3 reads…

“And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and walked in all the way of David his father, and he not turn aside to the right or to the left.”

King Josiah stood up for what was right and turned the nation to the Lord despite their many years and generations of sinful ways and what one would assume to likely be a lot of push back from the masses. We live in a world today where the masses, or a few who claim to represent the masses, want our nation to turn from what is right in the eyes of the Lord and from the Bible. Today, I just read where a cross honoring veterans who gave their life in World War I is to be torn down because a judge ruled it is unconstitutional and violates separation of church and state after an atheist group said it dishonors veterans killed who were not Christians. Seriously…you can’t even make this stuff up. Just over 17.5 years ago the entire nation cried when 2,606 people were killed when 2 planes struck the World Trade Center with most everyone calling it a senseless and horrific murderous act. Now, less than 2 months ago, the Freedom Tower or the “New World Trade Center” built in the same spot was lit up pink to celebrate an abortion bill passed in New York that will continue to allow hundreds of thousands, if not millions of babies being killed. How sad is this? It brings me to tears as I write this. The 10 Commandments tell us that we should not kill. How is one of these acts viewed as killing and not right, when the other act is celebrated by the same city and some of the same people who mourned the loss of their loved ones and friends back in 2001?

Well, what are we to do as Christians in this nation where many want us to turn away from God and His will? I wish I fully had the answer. I’m not one to protest and go on marches, etc., but I don’t know if that’s what we need to do. It does seem like we need to do something and is not only is very concerning if we don’t based on what the future trajectory of our wonderful country could be, but is also concerning if we don’t do something when you hear Jesus’ words in Luke 9:26..

“For whoever is ashamed of me and my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes to his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”

Again, I don’t know the answer or what all exactly I plan to do…except for I know the answer is not just spouting off in social media posts. I know what my wife and I do plan to do is our best to establish within our family that the Word of God is the one source of truth despite what the world tells us, and establish that we are called to live out the Word and the sacrificial love God showed us on the cross to others each day.

Deuteronomy 6:5-7 says…

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk about them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

The book The Resolution for Men gives an example that if a family has 2 children who are believers, and they all have 2 children who are believers the number is 1,024 believers in 10 generations, and if the number was 4 children who had 4 children the number is 260,000 believers following God’s Word! This shows the impact of just one family’s decision to follow Christ. If you are in small group with 9 other couples who all happen to have 4 children in 10 generations that’s 2.6 million Christ-followers! THIS can change our country. THIS can change the world….just one family of Christ-followers living out God’s Word at a time. Who knows..there may very well even be a future “Josiah of the United States” in your bloodline.

Going Through The Motions

Today’s reading is Amos 4.

I have to admit in preparing for this I did not know much about the prophet Amos and this book of the Bible which is, quite frankly, a little difficult to interpret. Thankfully, my brother in Christ and fellow Bible Journal writer David LaFrance turned me on to John MacArthur’s “Grace to You” app a few years back which I highly recommend if you have questions and want to learn more about a book or passages from the Bible.

Amos’ name means “burden bearer,” and he was from a small town Tekoa 10 miles south of Jerusalem. He bred sheep and tended sycamore fruit (yet another example of how God can use anyone from anywhere for big things and His glory). He lived in a time of peace during the 8th century B.C. when Uzziah was king of Judah and Jeroboam II was king of Israel. As can happen in times of peace when everything seems merry, we can tend to lose sight of true worship of God and God used Amos to bring attention that and also a lack of justice.

“Come to Behtel and transgress; to Gilgal, and multiply transgression; bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three days; offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving of that which is leavened, and proclaim free will offerings, publish them; for so you love to do, O people of Israel! declares the Lord God.”

Amos 4:4-5

God wants to bring attention to their idolatry and them going through the motions in giving and worship. I’m sure we can all relate to doing this…I know I can! I notice when I’m in prayer time and realize I’m distracted thinking of my “to do” list, meetings that day, or personal or professional goals. I notice this when my mind wanders in church, and I’m not focused on the sermon but instead thinking about lunch or the game of my favorite team later that day. I even noticed sleep being an idol today when I was going to wake up early Sunday morning to work on this but am instead working on it in the afternoon! Don’t get me wrong..making an impact professionally, our spouses, our kids, our favorite sports team or hobbies, money, sleep, and food are all blessings from God which we should enjoy. However, are we prioritizing and thinking about them over him? Are we thanking Him for these blessings and using them for His glory or for our own? All of these and more can become idols if we are not careful…yes..even our spouses and kids.

Deuteronomy 6:5-6 says..

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might and these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.”

The people of Israel Amos speaks of were giving and going through the rituals of worship without truly worshipping God and giving to Him with a thankful heart to further His kingdom.

I may have mentioned this in past writings, but I had a Sunday school teacher growing up who became moved to tears nearly every week at some point when talking about Jesus. I just didn’t get it then and thought it was very strange, but I do now. I know the times I’m living out Deuteronomy 6:5-6 is when I’m nearly moved to tears during a worship song, prayer, communion while thinking of His sacrifice on the cross, while reading the Word, or while looking at my wife and kids in thanksgiving to Him for these blessings and more.

As you read through the book of Amos, it can become very confusing, as the wrath and punishment from God is discussed. I must admit again that I have a hard time understanding this other than knowing we should suffer the wrath of God and be separated from God due to our sin. However, I’m thankful that in Amos 9:11, he speaks of Jesus by stating, “In that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen and repair its breaches, and raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old.” Romans 8:1 also says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” 1 John 2:2 tells us that God sent Him as the “propitiation” for our sins. I’m extremely grateful God loves us so much that He sent Him to suffer the wrath that should have been mine.

Let us keep this in the forefront of our mind in thanksgiving as we live, give, and worship. When we do, it becomes easy live out Deuteronomy 6:5-6 and love God with all our heart, soul, and might!

One Wish…

As many await the release of the remake of the Disney classic Aladdin later in 2019, we read of an “Aladdin” or “genie” type event in 1 Kings 3 as God comes to King Solomon, the son of David, through a dream asking him what He should give Solomon. Be honest with yourself, before reading Solomon’s answer here, what would you ask for…wealth, happiness, health, love, or something different? Solomon answers in 1 Kings 3:9, “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?” Wisdom…Solomon asked for wisdom, so we should not be surprised that he later wrote 2 books of the Bible which were filled with wisdom in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. How many of us would have asked for wisdom?

We can learn a few very important lessons here from Solomon. The first being humility. The saying often goes, “you don’t know what you don’t know.” How many of us actually realize and think about that regularly, as opposed to believing we have all the answers? I know I don’t. Solomon says in the 2nd part of 1 Kings 3:7 “….although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in.” Here, the leader of God’s people who he says in 1 Kings 3:8 “are too many to be numbered or counted for multitude,” does not get cocky or arrogant upon his throne which God placed him, but instead humbles himself to say he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know and he needs help from God asking for wisdom.

The second lesson we can learn from Solomon is life is not about us. Solomon asks for wisdom because he realizes he has a great and important responsibility to “govern this your great people.” Not only did he not ask for riches, happiness, or love, but instead for wisdom, which likely would lead to those other things, not for that reason, but rather to help the people around him which God had put in his life and entrusted him to lead. How cool is that?! How many of us would have the same “other focused” mindset? Should it not surprise us that when Solomon takes the focus off himself, God says in 1 Kings 3:13 that he would give him “riches” and “honor,” as well as “lengthen his days” if he continued to walk faithfully in His ways like his father David.

The verse 1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” Fear always comes back to us and our insecurities and selfish worries. Love is focused on others, removing that fear. God put us on Earth for a purpose to impact the lives around us to bring Him glory by modeling the love He showed us by giving His life on the cross for us to bring us together with Him. Let us show love to those God has entrusted us to lead (family, co-workers, team members) and put in our lives (the waiter/waitress, gas station attendant, cashier) in the same way King Solomon and later Jesus did.

Many of our stresses in life also come from wondering what the right answer is, what the right direction to go is, or wondering what God’s purpose is in certain things happening in our lives and in the world around us. We are paralyzed about making the right decision, not only in the big things, but even in the little things. Let us pray for wisdom daily to make small and large decisions for His glory and to know His purpose for what’s happening to and around us….or at the least to have the wisdom to give us the peace to realize we don’t know the purpose of what’s going on, but He does…..and has a perfect plan.

A Change in Paradigm

When you think of a funeral and what Bible passages are read most commonly, which ones come to mind? Today’s reading of Psalm 23 most certainly is in the top few. When I hear this verse, I picture a person walking down a dark path lonely with a light up ahead. I’m not sure this would be the mental vision God would want me to have about death. As I read this verse more closely, what stuck out to me is that it is “the valley of the shadow of death” in Psalm 23:4. We, who are still living, are in the “shadow of death.” This is where we have fears, anxieties, and worries that cause us stress. This is when we need his “rod and staff” to “comfort me.” This is when I need to “fear no evil” and my soul needs restoring by laying in “green pastures” and by going “beside still waters.”

Revelation 21:4 tells us, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be morning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” When I die, I want my funeral to be a celebration that I’m living in Heaven in perfect peace worshiping the only King forever. I want a band playing songs of praise with everyone standing and worshiping Him reminding all there of the joy they can have in eternal life through confessing their sins and belief in Him and His resurrection! They don’t need to be sad for me…I’m not in a dark valley standing there by myself lonely. I’m experiencing a joy we can’t even imagine on this Earth worshiping Him in a similar way to how I hope they are at that moment.

The first part of Psalm 23:8 says, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” telling us maybe Psalm 23 is more appropriate for a baby dedication, a first communion, a baptism, or even a wedding. We can live in perfect peace throughout our life because the second part of Psalm 23:8 says, “and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” When we fix our eyes on that which is eternal (the only thing that matters), we will have comfort and respite from the challenges in this life.

Here is the song 10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman which was sung at my wife’s great uncle Lee Dexheimer’s funeral. It reminded me we will experience a peace that passes all human understanding just like Lee did that day and still is today, forever and ever. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXDGE_lRI0E

Grateful

Our reading is Numbers 11.

Today, we learn about how God was not pleased with some of the Israelites striking them with a plague when they complained about only having manna to eat and no meat. We know from Romans 8:1 that now, “There is no condemnation for those are in Christ Jesus.” However, we see here He does not like ungrateful words and an ungrateful heart and prior to Jesus paying the price for our sins, and He took action against some of them for this.

First, the Israelites complained back in Exodus 16:3 that they had no food to eat and would starve in the desert and would rather be back in slavery after wanting to be freed for years. Now, after God provided them with manna from the sky to eat daily (Exodus 16:4), they have the audacity to complain that they had meat when they were in Egypt and would rather be back in slavery (Numbers 11:4-6 and Numbers 11:18). Really?!

It is easy to be quick to judge the Israelites lack of gratitude, until we take a closer look at our own heart and thoughts. How quickly do we forget about an answered prayer and go on to the next thing or even worse get a prayer answered and say things were better before like the Israelites. We want a change in career..now we’re not happy with our boss and want a new career..or even back to the old one. We pray to have a house to call our own and to stop renting…now we want a bigger house. We are lonely and pray for a relationship or marriage…now we are contemplating a divorce thinking our current marriage can’t be fixed. We pray to have children of our own…now life is just crazy and we never have time for ourselves. We pray for healing from a medical issue…now we complain about the medical bills. I can easily hang my head in guilt over many similar items in my own life.

God makes it very clear that it is absolutely alright to ask God for what you want as Jesus clearly tells us this in Matthew 7:7-11. In fact, He wants us to pour out our hearts to Him and trust and come to Him for what we seek. However, we have to search our heart to find our motivation…is it for His glory or our own? Paul states in 1 Corinthians 6:20, “for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” Jesus also teaches and models for us in Luke 22:42 that it is fine to ask God for what you want as He asks for the burden of the cross to be removed from Him, but He also teaches and models how we should ultimately want God the Father’s will to be done and not our own.

So, how do we improve and soften our heart to have an attitude of gratitude? One thing I’ve found very helpful is to start a journal or notebook to write down each morning 3 things you are thankful for that day. No matter how bad things are we can ultimately find things to be grateful for. I’ve heard it said that it’s impossible to be stressed and be thankful at the same time. Maybe there is also a song or something else which puts your heart and mind in a gracious state? At the end of this post is one that does this for me, Grateful by Elevation Worship.

Ultimately, we go to the living Word in Bible for the best way to do this which we are told in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 which says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” No matter our situation, we all can be thankful that He gave His life on the cross for us and conquered the grave and through admission of our sins and belief in Him we can do the same and spend eternity in Heaven with no pain and problems regardless of what hardships we face today in this short life on Earth.

Final Exam

Today’s reading is Genesis 22.

Starting at the end of Genesis 11 through today’s reading we learn about Abraham’s life. As I reflect on his life told in these chapters, one of my biggest observations is that Abraham consistently heard the Lord speaking to Him, and then He trusted and obeyed. This occurs many times, but we first see it in Genesis 12 when Abraham is living in Haran and God tells him to go from his country and he will make him a great nation and bless him to be a blessing. It is amazing to me that he obeyed for 2 reasons. First, he was already 75 years old and moving back then didn’t just mean calling Two Men and a Truck or hopping in a car! Secondly, Genesis 13:2 tells us he could have been content because he already had much livestock and gold. Often, it’s harder to trust God when you already have everything you need and feel like you have everything to lose and nothing to gain. However, we must continue to stretch ourselves like Abraham did to have faith and trust and obey. Faith is never 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.

Although it may seem like Abraham had everything, the Lord continued to stretch Abraham to trust in Him with faith, and there were challenges. The biggest challenge being Abraham and his wife Sarah’s inability to have a child. However, God kept his promise to Abraham and Sarah that they would have a child, and they did at Abraham’s age 100 and Sarah’s age 90. Now, we see the final exam or test God gives Abraham. God tells Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. Those of us who have children, can you even imagine? Not to mention the fact that Isaac was the miracle son they had waited for. I can’t even imagine what Abraham must have been thinking. We see in verse 22:1, Abraham says, “Here I am.” He does not ignore God when God is asking him to do something He really doesn’t want to do. Some of you may say you have never heard God speak to you. Well, you may not have heard the audible voice of God, but all of us have heard that little voice in our head saying things like call a certain friend, check in with your child, buy that lady’s meal, take that new career path, join a small group, begin going to church again, spend more time with me in the Word or prayer. Do we stop, listen, trust and obey like Abraham? Or do we completely ignore it thinking of all the barriers and go on busily with our day. I have also observed in my life and the life of others that when we spend more time with the Lord in His Word, prayer, and in church He speaks through those mediums giving us clarity as to the right direction and actions to take. Ask yourself, am I even giving myself an opportunity to hear the Lord speak to me in those ways? Then, am I showing faith and taking action with trust and obedience to Him. or am I just going on quickly to the next thing in my day?

We know that God does not let Abraham sacrifice Isaac. Again, the Lord speaks and Isaac says, “Here I am.” God stops Him from doing so as he takes the knife to kill Isaac. God could have asked Abraham to sacrifice his riches or many other things but God knew he truly had Abraham’s heart when Abraham was willing to give up what was most important to Him in Isaac. This was the final exam so to speak. This was the final test for God to see that Abraham truly trusted Him, and that He alone was enough for Abraham. Once Abraham showed Him this, God tells him in Genesis 22:17 he would not only get to keep his 1 son in Isaac, but he would have offspring numbering as many stars in the sky and sand that is on the seashore. As pastor and author Mark Batterson says, “You can’t out give God.”

As I read this I ask myself, is God enough? Would I give up everything for Him? God may not ask us to give up everything, but I don’t think there is any question He wants our heart..and not just some it…all of it. Lamentations 3:22-23 tells us of His steadfast love and that his mercies are new every morning. In the same way He shows His favor upon us which He doesn’t have to do, we must show our gratitude for his saving grace on the cross through our trust and obedience and giving Him our whole heart today and every day, even in our old age until we leave this Earth, just like Abraham did. He is enough.

Angels We Have Heard..in Brooklyn??

In July of 2017, I had the opportunity to go on a mission trip doing street ministry with Spread Truth. This was something I had never done before and stretched my comfort zone. Our first day was on parks where you are typically approaching people that are seated, and let’s just say the first guy we approached was about as rude and mean as you could be and I thought to myself..”well…it can’t get any worse than that. It can only get better, so let’s move on and go to the next one!” The rest of the day resulted in some great conversations where the Holy Spirit was at work. Day 2 was a different assignment standing on the sidewalks in the streets of Brooklyn as people passed. To say we were off to a rough start was an understatement. For nearly an hour we could not get anyone to even stop to talk to us as they busily hurried to wherever they were headed. We were very discouraged to say the least, and then came a conversation with Thomas King, a name and an interaction I will never forget.

Thomas, who we later would learn was age 93, was standing by a bench, and we approached him to hopefully tell him the Gospel and change his life..instead…he changed ours. He encouraged us immediately and told us to look at the faces of every person that walked by. He said they were all filled with stress, anxiety, and worry…he said, “What they all need is Jesus!” If they would just remember and lean on the words of Isaiah 26:3, they would not be so troubled. He then told us the words of this verse from memory..

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”

Isaiah 26:3

Not only did this emotional pep talk fire us up like a coach before a big game to remind us that people needed what we had and we had to go back out there and push through the rejection, challenges, and disappointments we had experienced and tell them about what they truly needed….which was Jesus, but it was also a great reminder that fear, anxiety, and stress all come from selfish thoughts and concerns about ourselves. 1 John 4:18 tells us, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” When we are focused on Him and his perfect love for us given on the cross and we know His love shown in this way means we will spend eternity in Heaven with Him and that is all that really matters, we will be in “perfect peace” as Isaiah 26:3 says.

It’s hard to describe our feelings as Thomas captured our hearts and minds with his words of wisdom. Sadly though, Thomas told us than many younger than him, including his church, did not listen. He told us he was recently recognized by his church for his years of membership there, but they would not give him the opportunity to speak when he asked. This saddened me because not only did it disappoint Thomas, but his words had so much impact on us that we did not want him to stop speaking and others would be missing out on his wisdom. Job 12:12 says, “Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days.”  How many times do we miss out on the opportunity to learn from our elders by not asking them or not listening to them and discounting their credibility which should be gained, not lost, with age?

Hebrews 13:2 reads, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” I don’t know if Thomas was an angel, but I do know that his words cut sharp like a knife at exactly the right time when we needed it and reminded us that what we were doing was not about us and we needed to re-direct our fear to focus on Jesus and His perfect love which every person who walked by needed. As we head into 2019, we hope and pray that it will bring us many blessings, but it will undoubtedly also will bring us challenges. Let’s commit to being prepared to face those trials because our minds will be fixed on Him and His perfect love, and we will trust in Him which will give us “perfect peace.” We have faith He will give us exactly what we need when we need it..just like He gave us Thomas King.

We Can’t, He Can…and to Him Be the Glory!

“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”                 Ephesians 3:20-21

These verses were read in our church a few years ago. These were verses that changed my life, and I hope I can use to change the lives of my children and those I help lead.

My Dad always said, “You can find time to do everything else to do in the week, so you can find time to go to church on Sunday.” Truth be told, I think these words were first the words of my late grandmother, Mary Ellen, who passed earlier this year. At our firm, we have a saying called “Don’t miss the assembly.” It means, don’t miss a development or learning session because one thing said there could impact you greatly. Our retired managing partner, John Wright, would always say, “You’re either green and growing or ripe and rotting.” Over the past few years, church has become something I look forward to because I love the time of worship and the opportunity to praise Him. But, it’s always been something I have needed like putting gas in the tank each week. It seems like the message is always something we need at exactly the right time which I don’t think is any coincidence. And every once in a great while, something is said that changes your life.

Many of us are lucky enough to be raised in good homes with good values where parents taught us to think of others first and to not think too highly of ourselves. Don’t be cocky or arrogant…be humble. However, we often confuse what humble means. A few years back I also heard it said that being humble means thinking of yourself less, not thinking less of yourself. When we think less of ourselves and what we are capable of and when we lack confidence in what we can do and in our future, we are really showing a lack of confidence in God and what He can do. This verse tells us we can’t, but He can. It’s not our power, but “HIS power within us.” This is why we should be confident…not because of ourselves, but because of Him. And…He “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” Yes, challenges will come and life won’t be easy. Bad things will happen. This is not the prosperity gospel I’m speaking of. But, there is no need to worry about the future. He’s got this. And He will do more through and with you (even when you’re in really bad situations) than you ever expect or could ever think you are capable of. And when great things happen in life, Ephesians 3:21 makes sure we keep our priorities right. He gets the glory…”forever and ever!” As my pastor growing up, Rev. Richard Harre once said, “We can be calm, confident, and courageous in our Lord, Jesus Christ!”

Peace Be With You

Today’s reading is John 20.

At what point do you believe something to be true? Do you have to hear it from a certain family member or friend? Do you have to hear it from a certain news source or just hear it multiple times?

We read today the well-known story of “Doubting Thomas” who would not believe until He saw Jesus even though 10 other of what have to be His best friends, which He spent time together with Jesus in the Holy Land observing miracles first-hand, said He was alive. I’m really glad we are continuing to focus on the words of Jesus because it caused me to look deeper into some of His other words here outside of Him telling Thomas to stick his fingers into His hands and side.

Many times, we ourselves face pain and problems in our life and struggle with where to turn, or we know those who face problems with relationships, family, careers, money, or health and can’t figure out where to turn. As Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb and sees that Jesus is not there, she goes outside and weeps. Jesus then appears to her and says in John 20:15, “Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you seeking?” Later, in John 20:22 when Jesus appears to the disciples the first time He says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” He says in John 20:19, “Peace be with you.” And again, here in this same chapter in John 20:26 when He appears 8 days later to the disciples a second time He starts by saying again, “Peace be with you.” At first glance in reading this it seems as though He’s wishing for them to have peace, but upon further reading I believe He’s telling them that “Peace” is with them and “Peace” is Him. He asks Mary why she’s weeping and who she’s seeking because “Peace” is right in front of her! How many times is “Peace” right in front of us yet we don’t seek Him, we don’t see Him when he’s right there like Mary didn’t, or we don’t accept Him when He reaches His hand out? He could be right there in front of us, but as He says in John 20:22, it is up to us to “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

Pastor Mike Baker of Eastview Christian Church says, “Seeing is not believing. Believing is seeing.” We must focus on the miracles right in front of us and the reasons the Gospel is true rather than the reasons it’s not. People often put more faith in reasons not to believe than reasons to believe. Are we more aware of the ways He’s working in our lives or more aware of the reasons we think He’s not? Are we more in touch with His presence in our lives or more focused on why we think He’s missing? Do we concentrate more on our blessings which come from Him or do we concentrate more on what we don’t have but want? Let us stop weeping and seek Him, see Him, accept Him, and “Receive the Holy Spirit” when He reaches out His hand.