Heat Treat

Today’s reading:  Jeremiah 5-7, 2 Corinthians 10

In 1997, I joined Caterpillar as a cost accountant at the transmission factory.  I knew absolutely nothing about manufacturing heavy equipment, but was eager to learn.  So like I would do with any new job, I began by familiarizing myself with the organization structure starting with the operations teams – Assembly, Case & Cover, Ring Gears, Bevel Gears, Miscellaneous Gears and Heat Treat.  Heat treat?  What in the world was that?  (I remember secretly thinking to myself.)  It didn’t take me long to learn that heat treat was the process of heating and cooling the iron.  This scientific (and very expensive process) greatly increased the strength of gears, thereby increasing the overall quality and reliability of the drivetrain.

God, the author and perfecter of human life, uses similar methods to increase our faith and improve the quality of our lives if we choose to put our faith in him.  When a precious metal is refined by fire, impurities are burned away.  In our lives, God uses trials and suffering to purify our hearts.  Ultimately, this results in us becoming more like Christ.

The genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:7).

Jeremiah 6, our scripture for today, talks about God’s attempts to refine the hearts of his people in the Old Testament.  Despite the prophet Jeremiah’s repeated attempts, however, they refused to turn from their sinful ways and submit to God.

“I have made you a tester of metals and my people the ore, that you may observe and test their ways. They are all hardened rebels, going about to slander. They are bronze and iron; they all act corruptly. The bellows blow fiercely to burn away the lead with fire, but the refining goes on in vain; the wicked are not purged out. They are called rejected silver, because the Lord has rejected them” (Jeremiah 6:27-30).

Unfortunately we know those who turn away from God and instead choose a life of sin are eternally doomed.  Our job as Christfollowers is to share with them the good news of God’s saving grace.

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9).



Love always

Today’s reading:  Isaiah 56-59, Psalm 70, 1 Corinthians 16

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love (1 Corinthians 16:13-14).

As Paul was closing out his first letter to the Church at Corinth, he challenged them with instructions on what to do while they awaited his next visit:

  • Be on their guard against spiritual dangers
  • Stand firm in their faith
  • Be courageous
  • Be strong
  • Do everything in love

Not only were these instructions meant for first century Christfollowers waiting for Paul’s next visit, they are also meant to guide our behavior as we await for Christ’s return.  In this list of five, which one is the hardest for you?

The older I get and the more divisive this country gets I must admit it is sometimes hard for me to consistently do everything in love.  It isn’t like I usually go around being rude or hateful to others, but being loving in all things requires a different level of intentionality all the time.  Even when I’m tired or frustrated, doing everything in love means I am consistently patient, humble, forgiving, and unselfish.  How do I know this?  Paul devoted the whole chapter of 1 Corinthians 13 to a complete description of what it looks like when we love others like Jesus loves us.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

Love always…protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres.

Doing everything in love means this is how I need to show up all the time.

Right or Wrong?

Today’s reading:  Isaiah 33-35, 1 Corinthians 6

Rationalize – to think about or describe something (such as bad behavior) in a way that explains it and makes it seem proper, more attractive, etc (Britannica Dictionary).

Do you ever find yourself rationalizing your actions?  It is Monday morning and your kids wouldn’t get out of bed on time, so it’s okay for you to be grumpy and late for everything.  My teenagers were always especially good at rationalizing poor grades in school.  The teacher who hadn’t taught them what they needed to know for the test was always the reason they had received a poor grade…it was never because they chose not to study!

Rationalizing behavior is nothing new.  In 1 Corinthians, the church was using their freedom in Christ to rationalize their sins.  Specifically they were claiming that 1) because Jesus had taken away all sin, they had the freedom to live their life as they pleased, and/or 2) because scripture did not strictly prohibit certain activities, they were okay to do them.

The Apostle Paul addressed the validity of this reasoning in 1 Corinthians 6, our scripture for today.  His messages are as relevant for us as they were for Christfollowers in the first century.

  • Jesus takes away our sin when we put our faith in him, but that doesn’t give us the freedom to keep on doing things we know are wrong.
  • While some activities are not sinful in their own right, they are in appropriate because they can control us and lead us away from God.
  • Some actions hurt rather than help others, and thus, are actions we should avoid.

Freedom in Christ should be used for his glory, not to serve ourselves.

Everything is permissible for me,” but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me,” but I will not be mastered by anything (1 Corinthians 6:12).


Be Ready

Matthew 24, Jesus was talking to his disciples about the end times – foretelling what is going to happen in advance of Jesus’ return or “the second coming”.

You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.  Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.  All these are the beginning of birth pains (Matthew 24:6-8).

Does this sounds a little like the news we read about everyday?  I’ll admit it did to me when I read it this week.  At least until I got to verse 36.

But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father (Matthew 24:36).

If no ones knows the day or the hour, including Jesus himself, is it reasonable to think it would be that easy for us to figure out?  We are not that smart.  Why then would we waste our time?  Rather than evaluating the “signs” and trying to predict what’s next, or worse yet, spending our time worrying about it, we should be focused on getting ready.

Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come…So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him (Matthew 24:42, 44).

When I think about Matthew 24:42 and 44, I am energized about how glorious Jesus’ return will be.  But my mind quickly turns to thinking about what I need to be doing so that I’m ready when he gets here – what is my path to get from here to there.  The answer is pretty easy to come up with – I need to be following Jesus Christ and transforming my life to look like his.

That is much easier said than done, of course, so how do we break this bold goal into smaller, more consumable chunks on which we can make progress?  As I thought about this a little more, my mind went to the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).  These chapters are probably Jesus’ most complete description of what the life of a Chrisfollower should look like.  Starting with the Beatitudes (qualities that describe Christfollowers) and moving on to topics like murder, adultery, divorce, giving, prayer, worry, judging, etc, Jesus provides a playbook for how we should think about, act, and react when faced with various topics and challenges in life.  If you are like me, energized about the future when Jesus comes to take us home, yet want to make sure you are prepared for his arrival, spend some time studying the sermon on the mount and let it guide your choices.

…for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night (1 Thessalonians 5:).

Get Ready!



Are you a true friend?

Today’s reading:  Amos 4-6, Psalm 55, Matthew 14

If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were rising against me, I could hide.  But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship at the house of God, as we walked about among the worshipers (Psalm 55:12-14).

Have you ever been betrayed by a friend?  There isn’t much that hurts more than being hurt by someone you trusted, someone with whom you had shared your soul, or someone you thought had your back.  See, true friends stick by you in times of trouble.  If they are not in your corner when things get hard, they probably weren’t really your friend in the first place.

The Bible says a few things about being a true friend:

A true friend shows love, no matter what (Proverbs 17:17).
A true friend gives heartfelt advice, bringing joy to the heart (Proverbs 27:9).
A true friend rebukes when necessary, but the correction is done in love (Proverbs 27:4-6).
A true friend influences, enlivens, and sharpens (Proverbs 27:17)
A true friend avoid gossip (Proverbs 16:28).
A true friend forgives and does not hold grudges (Proverbs 17:9).
A true friend is loyal (Proverbs 18:24).
A true friend helps in time of need (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).

What kind of friend are you?

Knowing is half the battle

Today’s reading 2 Kings 2-3, Psalm 48, Matthew 4

After John the Baptist has spent years paving the way for the coming Messiah, at the end of Matthew 3, Jesus came and asked John to baptize him.  This is it, Jesus is finally ready to being his ministry, right?  Almost.  God sent Jesus, in the form of a man, to earth to save us from our sins.  But God knew that in order for Jesus to have credibility with us, he needed to have walked in our shoes, to experience every emotion and every temptation we experience.  So before he starts his ministry, God sends Jesus to the wilderness for 40 days of preparation.

Matthew 4, our text for today, is the account of Jesus being tempted by the Devil.  Notice that the Devil came to Jesus when he was at his weakest point.  After 40 days of fasting, Jesus was tired, alone, and hungry.   Can you relate?  The Devil often tempts us when we are at our weakest point – stressed out, tired, lonely, frustrated or scared.

The Devil also tempted Jesus where he was strong.  Jesus knew he had power over the stones, the angels and all the kingdoms of this world.  So, the Devil was trying to get Jesus to rely on his own strength, to focus on and elevate himself.  Again, can you relate?  By tempting us through our strengths, the Devil often chooses times we are most susceptible to pride.

How was Jesus able to combat the Devil’s temptations?  With God’s word.  He responded to every temptation the Devil threw out with a Biblical truth.   Did you notice that the Devil also knew scripture?  The difference with Jesus was not just that he knew scripture, but that he also obeyed it.  Ephesians 6:17 calls God’s word a sword to be used in spiritual battle.  Matthew 4 illustrates for us how effective knowledge of God’s word can be in resisting the Devil’s temptations.

As the saying goes, knowing is half the battle.  The other half, which is far more difficult, is obeying.  We must know and obey God’s work in order to keep the Devil at bay.

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you (James 4:7).



Today’s reading: Ecclesiastes 7-9, Psalm 46, 2 Timothy 3

I’ve spent the last twenty years of my career in some type of risk management role.  I know that different types of risk manifest themselves in different ways, have different impacts on people and organizations, and can be appropriately treated in many different ways.  Yet, options for treating risk can always be summarized into four basic actions – avoid, transfer, mitigate or accept the risk.  What action is the best choice in each situation depends on your risk appetite.  How likely is the event to actually occur, and how much of the downside impact (or consequences) can you handle?

Paul begins 2 Timothy 3 by describing the last days.  Things are going to be bad.  People are going to be bad.  This badness greatly increases the risk that we, as Christfollowers, won’t achieve our goal of living a life that glorifies God.  The more ungodly the world gets, and the more we are surrounded by people who love themselves more than they love God, the greater our risk of adopting their ways and turning from God.

Paul’s recommended treatment for this risk is to avoid it all together.  Remember back in Deuteronomy when God was guiding his people how they were to take over the land he had promised to their ancestors?  When they took over a city, they were to eliminate everyone and everything.  Why?  So the pagan culture didn’t influence their practices and pull them away from God.

Same theory here.  If you surround yourself with people who love themselves more than they love God and others, love money, are proud, ungrateful, and lack self-control, their practices will start to infiltrate your life.   Eventually you will look and sounds just like them.

If Paul’s guidance is to avoid these people, you know the likelihood of them influencing you must be high.  The consequences of this type of behavior that separates us from God is also severe.  The downside risk is just too great for us to handle.

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people (2 Timothy 3:1-5).

Key Messages from God’s Word

Today’s reading:  Song of Solomon 7-8, Psalm 127, 2 Thessalonians 2

My niece got married this past Saturday.  She is the first of the generation of “kids” in our family to get married.  I’ll be honest, it made me feel really old!  But…it was a gorgeous June afternoon in central Illinois, two young adults in love with each other, surrounded by their family and friends…a perfect setting for a wedding.

As the pastor (the bride’s Grandfather and my Dad) led the Bride and Groom through the wedding ceremony, he challenged them with a couple key messages from God’s word.

  • Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21).  A strong marriage requires that each spouse voluntarily place their partner’s needs ahead of their own.  Selfishness is a sure fire way to quickly destroy the union God created to last a lifetime.
  • A strong marriage must be based on a relationship with God.  Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain (Psalm 127:1).  Spouses won’t always agree on every little thing, but if they agree on the most important thing, the path is much easier and has a much greater chance of success.  Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken (Ecclesiastes 4:12).

After almost 29 years of marriage, I know these words to be true.


Today’s Reading: Proverbs 11-13, Psalm 8, Romans 13

Do you remember the teacher that introduced you to the acrostic KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid?  I honestly don’t remember who taught it to me, but I use it with my staff often.  In my world, keeping it simple means focusing on what the audience wants to know rather than what my staff wants to tell them (hint, hint…they usually don’t care how you negotiated the price down, just that you saved them 20%)!

Our text in Romans is a great example of keeping it simple.  In chapter 12 and 13 of Paul’s letter to the Romans, he provides godly direction on a number of subjects – serving others in the church, practicing hospitality, living in peace and harmony with others, submitting to governing authorities and paying taxes.  Mid-way through chapter 13 he pulls out the KISS card and boils everything down to one simple principle – love your neighbor as yourself.

The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:9-10).

Wow, this was simple.  Was it new theology with Paul?  Of course not.  Paul was just summarizing Jesus’ teaching from Matthew 22.  If you truly love God and love people, everything else falls into place.  Keep it simple stupid.

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40).


Today’s reading:  1 Kings 1, 1 Chronicles 26-28, Romans 6

Sanctify:  (v) to set apart as or declare holy; consecrate (Dictionary.com).

Romans 6-8 is all about sanctification, or how God changes our life as we mature in our faith.  Chapter 6, our text for today, focuses on how we as followers of Jesus Christ are free from the slavery of sin.  Wonder what that looks and feels like?  Honestly, it is a little hard for me to wrap my head around.  I still live in this sinful world and, despite my desire to avoid it, I still sin pretty often.  Romans chapter 6, however, is a great reminder of the specific things God has done for me.  I am a child of God, yes I am.

  • He has given me new life.

Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life (Romans 6:3-4).

  • He has given me a new nature.

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.  Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.  Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness (Romans 11-13).

  • He has given me freedom.

But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.  For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:22-23).

Free at last
He has ransomed me
His grace runs deep
While I was a slave to sin
Jesus died for me
Yes He died for me

Who the Son sets free
Oh is free indeed
I’m a child of God
Yes I am
In my Father’s house
There’s a place for me
I’m a child of God
Yes I am

(Hillsong Worship, 2018)