Less of me

A recent decision by a colleague left several people quite frustrated, upset and somewhat angry. The decision had negative impacts to peoples’ time and priorities. Schedules had to be rearranged, thus impacting personal and professional plans.

What made matters worse was that there would be no discussing nor changing the decision. It seemed selfish and arrogant. How could he not see the other side of the situation? Doesn’t he care about others? Why is he so stubborn?

I went to bed that night with this on my mind and had a rough sleep trying to process things. Waking up the next day I felt tired, defeated and just as upset as the day before.

Then I prayed.

Why God are you letting this happen? Change the other guy’s heart. Help him see the truth. Fix this please. This cannot be in your will. He’s wrong.

“Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?” (Romans 11:34)

And then it hit me. The more I prayed, the more I felt my own heart soften, I began to accept the situation for what it was. This was different than “getting over it”, it was unexplainable peace. Then thoughts of praying for the other person, for God to work in that man’s life. The more I became focused on praying for mercy, grace and healing in the life of the other person, the more I felt the much-needed grace covering me.

It felt like I was starting to remove my will which made room for God’s will.

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out! (Romans 11:33)

Takeaways:

  1. Those who do not know Jesus had no hope in this situation. An opportunity to pray for and share with those who do not yet have this hope.
  2. Another reminder to take everything immediately to prayer. I was selfish in allowing this to fester in the night and ultimately, I suffered by waiting too long. Lost sleep, bitterness, sadness that likely could have been prevented.

For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen. (Romans 11:36)

Today’s reading: Romans 11

Looking ahead for my readings two weeks from today I read the following which greatly applies to today’s theme. He comforts us in our troubles SO THAT we can comfort others, what a mighty God we serve!

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)

He fell from a third story window, and lived.

A man fell asleep while listening to preaching well into the night. Unfortunately this tired guy was sitting near an open window and therefore plummets to the ground and dies. The great news is God had a different plan for him and also for a good friend of mine!

On the first day of the week, we gathered with the local believers to share in the Lord’s Supper. Paul was preaching to them, and since he was leaving the next day, he kept talking until midnight. As Paul spoke on and on, a young man named Eutychus, sitting on the windowsill, became very drowsy. Finally, he fell sound asleep and dropped three stories to his death below. 10 Paul went down, bent over him, and took him into his arms. “Don’t worry,” he said, “he’s alive!” 12 Meanwhile, the young man was taken home alive and well, and everyone was greatly relieved. (Acts 20:7, 9-10, 12)

One of the recent and beautiful answers to prayer this year has been meeting our brother and sister in Christ, Blake and Meggan Panzino and their three amazing boys. Blake has a fascinating and almost unbelievable story similar to Eutychus. But again, God had a different plan! Blake is taking over the remainder of the post for today. Thank you Blake for sharing your story with us!

As a new follower of Christ I was on fire for the Lord. I would spend hours studying the Bible, it was as if every word was speaking directly to me… And then I read about Eutychus.

I was also only a few years removed from sleepwalking out of a 3rd story window. My life was saved that day for the first time and then again a few years later when a friend shared the glory of the gospel!

During my recovery from that fall I felt a gentle tug at my heart but I resisted.

On the surface I could point to the ever present pride and ego raging throughout my body, that was definitely part of it. My misunderstanding of the gospel played a part as well. When I focus harder though there was an even greater block to me accepting my salvation… I didn’t think I was worthy. I didn’t think a sinner like me could ever be pure enough to come before the throne.

I had to put down the preconceived notions of a rule book meant to keep me from “fun” in order to see that he was calling me to a life more abundant than I could ever have planned for myself.

What does your calling look like? Sometimes its indirect and sometimes it is quite literally your story verbatim.

God wants more for us. Your wake up call may not resemble a 30 foot fall out of a window (it might) but what is it? How is he calling you? How are you responding? With pride and arrogance thinking your way will lead to favor? Or humbly submitting and recognizing that you can’t do this on your own strength?

Today’s reading: Acts 20-21

But if it is of God…

When we are confronted with some painful truth, we’ve basically got two ways to respond. Accept, own, and move forward to resolution or dismiss, deny and spiral downward. One reflects a repentant and honest heart which leads to joyful living, the other reflects a selfish heart as we make excuses (lies) to ourselves and others. As we avoid the truth, tell lies, etc. and seem to get away with it, we tell more and more lies, thus building up inward and outward conflict, anger, and depression.

In January 2016 I shared thoughts on Acts 2:22-24 where Peter succinctly and eloquently shares The Gospel of Jesus Christ (in what I call a pocket sermon). My key point was the reaction from the crowd as they were “Cut to the Heart“. Their hearts were convicted, and rather than deny and deflect the truth, they owned it by asking “What then shall we do?” (Acts 2:37b).

In today’s reading (Acts 5) we find another pocket sermon from Peter and the apostles after they were again confronted for preaching and teaching in the name of Jesus after they were warned not to.

“We must obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” (Acts 5 29b-32)

After this sermon we find a significantly contrasting response. Instead of repentance, there was rage to the point of murderous intent.

When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. (Acts 5:33)

Just like Jennifer pointed out yesterday, these guys couldn’t stop talking about what they believed in. Jennifer talks about Crossfit, Aldi and Aquaphor because they have been put to the test; they are as trustworthy as Earthly things can be, which of course all of them will someday fade away… Sorry Jennifer!

I love what happens next with the Pharisees and the council after they were enraged. Gamaliel (a Pharisee) wisely recommends to basically put the preaching and teaching to the test. If it isn’t from God, it will fade away, but if it is, you can’t stop it. While that crew missed the message, I at least give them credit for knowing GOD IS GOD and he cannot be moved, he’s undefeated and will be for eternity!

38 So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” So they took his advice, (Acts 5:38-39)

The message of Jesus has been spreading for over 2,000 years and it isn’t going to stop. It is trustworthy, and whatever you or I are in denial of today, there is one thing to be sure: Our days on this Earth are numbered, there is no denying that. What happens next is up to us. In physical death it will be similar to the impacts of our decisions here on Earth: We either accept, own, and live a joyful life (eternal) or dismiss, deny and reap the ultimate eternal consequences of death and separation.

If you’re in denial today (or even if you’re not), I challenge you to take one small step and ask God to reveal himself to you. If you do this with pure intent, start thinking now about how you will respond WHEN he revels himself. Will it be acceptance or denial? There are no small miracles because he’s a big God. He’s calling you today, how will you answer?

Under Attack

It wasn’t that long ago that in many homes we didn’t even need to lock the door at night. Now there are increasing numbers of gated communities, people have multiple layers of door and window locks, there are audio/video monitoring systems as well as alarms to alert us of an intruder. In parallel with the physical world, there are also increasing attacks in the digital world, also known as “cyber attacks”.

According to IBM, “Cyber attacks are unwelcome attempts to steal, expose, alter, disable or destroy information through unauthorized access to computer systems.”

Our world is full of these cyber attacks. Around the globe there are hackers and like the mafia or “organized crime”, there are organized groups of hackers. These attacks are motivated by an evil desire for money and power. Everyone is at risk including hospitals, governments/militaries, businesses large and small, individuals, and even churches.

We must remain vigilant with our computers, homes, and businesses as these crimes will only intensify. What’s more important is that we are guarding our hearts and spirits as they too are constantly under attack. And for this we have the strongest gate and defense, Jesus Christ.

Jesus knows of the attempts to steal and disrupt:

“I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber! (John 10:1)

He promises that he is the gate, we are secure in him:

so he explained it to them: “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. (John 10:7)

He promises that as we put our trust in him, we will be saved:

Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. (John 10:9)

He also reminds us he always has our best interest in mind:

The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. (John 10:10)

And we can be like Jesus as we lead and love others, bringing his light into the world. Jesus is the ultimate servant leader, putting others first with the greatest example in going so far to lay down his life for us. He was not forced, he chose to die so that we may live. He will never abandon us, let us not abandon him.

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep. 12 A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock.  (John 10:11-12)

Today’s reading: John 10-11

Overindulgence

What do you like to do to rest and recharge? What were your most special moments of the summer? What do you like to do when you want a break from the cares of life?

We’ve been on a family vacation for the last week. Our vacation mode is typically focused on trying to do as little as possible; being intentional about leaving the phones locked and turned off in a safe (although we need to do this more). While we love to travel, we aren’t much for tours and cramming in a lot of activities. We’re all about beaches, playing in the waves, games on the beach, reading “paper” books, eating fun food, late nights, sleeping in, enjoying drinks at beach bars, etc.

Regarding drinks: If you know me well you know that I enjoy wine, IPAs, margaritas, Negronis, old fashioneds, etc. Hopefully it isn’t offensive on a Christian web site, I’ll say it because it is true, I like alcohol.

Today’s reading (Luke 20-21)

“But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. (Luke 21:34)

Wanting to avoid that verse as a theme today made me realize even more that it should be raised as a topic as I stand convicted. While Jesus is calling out specific sins that many of us have been guilty of (such as dissipation or “overindulgence” and drunkenness), my takeaway is that we have choices and reaching the “sin” point usually starts with not doing the thing we should do.

Jesus is first saying to “watch ourselves” before saying not to get drunk or overindulge. He’s helping us avoid sin in the first place. Watching ourselves starts with sincere, frequent prayer as we seek to draw nearer to Him. I pray that this site blesses our readers to help all of us watch ourselves on a daily basis through the reading of scripture and vulnerability from our authors.

Also in Luke 21:34 is the phrase “cares of this life” (and there are many). While writing this journal today my heart is heavy for so many on our prayer list. There are people suffering from various illnesses (physical, emotional, mental), brokenness due to divorce and/or other relationships, and concerns about the future. I want to remind you that there is a God who knows you by name, who seeks a relationship with you, who showed perfect love by paying the ultimate price for you.

Thank you Jesus for being trustworthy. For loving us first, for your words, for your example and instructions as you teach us what is best for our lives. Forgive me for my sins as they are many. Will you draw nearer to me today? Will you speak to me? Will you do miraculous works in the lives of our readers? For your glory alone God. I put my trust in you today. Amen.

Luke 8: The power of Jesus.

All I needed to do was deliver the pre-labeled box to a UPS driver or a drop-off location. The problem was that I was in a hurry and in an unfamiliar location (a hotel in northern Indiana). Then suddenly while walking outside the hotel, I was looking at my phone to find a UPS drop off point, and in that very moment a UPS driver pulled into the hotel parking lot directly in front of me, and kindly took the box. I had to laugh out loud (and am laughing as I type). The driver probably thought I was crazy, especially as I said to him, “you are a gift from God”.

While it would be cool to have some super-power to “will” things to happen in my favor (and for a brief moment I fantasized that I somehow had a part in the driver’s location), I am realizing more every day that I really have power over nothing apart from my own attitude. No power over illness, family, relationships, the weather or my future. Sure, we can make great choices to position ourselves but there are endless variables that we have absolutely no control over.

In today’s reading (Luke 8), what stood out was the stark contrast to our power as opposed to the unlimited, supernatural power of Jesus. Listed below are some of the examples and their corresponding verses. He has all authority and power over:

  • evil spirits (2, 29, 32-33, 35)
  • disease (2, 44)
  • knowledge/wisdom; speaking on behalf of God (10, 18)
  • nature (wind and the waves); (24)
  • demons (as they acknowledged him as the Son of the Most High God) (28)
  • death (53-55)

Jesus himself acknowledged his own power leaving him to help someone!

But Jesus said, “Someone deliberately touched me, for I felt healing power go out from me.” (Luke 8:46)

Today may we let go and give everything over to the one who holds our past, present, and future in his precious and most powerful hands!

Mark 12: Infinite, eternal

We can see differences in our world from finite to infinte (David LaFrance also referred to this on 7/27). To summarize or recap the context from my own perspective, we often think of finite: Winner vs. loser, good or bad, binary (ones and zeros), one or the other.

We put God in the finite box when we doubt his will, his word, his plans, his promises when something “seems” to not go our way. Mankind and even Satan thought of a finite God with the mindset that the death of Jesus was the end of God’s plan (alive vs. dead). But God showed himself to be infinite through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In today’s reading of Mark 12 the chief priests, scribes, elders, and Pharisees question Jesus in an attempt to trap him or prove him wrong in a finite context. Jesus in his infinite wisdom blew them all away each time, leaving the crowd speechless. Here are their various responses (which I’ve bolded for reference):

And they were seeking to arrest him but feared the people, for they perceived that he had told the parable against them. So they left him and went away. (Mark 12:12)

Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at him. (Mark 12:17)

And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions. (Mark 12:34)

And the great throng heard him gladly. (Mark 12:37b)

  • Reflect on the responses of those who heard Jesus real-time. What is our response? In what situations do we walk away and when do we hear him gladly?
  • In what ways do we also mistakenly attempt to make God “finite”? Hint: Our sins speak loudest.
  • Spend some time meditating on the infinite and eternal attributes of God. Praise him for what he has done, is doing, and will do in your life. A lowercase finite “god” doesn’t care about you but our infinite loving God loves you and seeks a personal relationship with you! Let him in your heart today.

What’s your “impossible”? Give it over to the God of the possible!

But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

Matthew 25 and Feeling Refreshed

We are nearly three weeks into our USA tour as we visit family and friends. In anticipation of the trip my prayers were focused on “rest”. Recent prayers have transformed to the theme of “feeling refreshed”. Our friends and family have welcomed us with such open arms it is humbling. There have been small intimate gatherings and some parties lasting late into the evening.

While visiting the home of one of our amazing friends, we paused as we saw a rock in their garden inscribed with Proverbs 27:9 (as per the photo). This verse made me feel in that moment that God was speaking to me directly as we felt so blessed by these friends, for their love and kindness. That verse has since been the theme of my trip to the USA; feeling refreshed by sweet friendship, family, old friends, and brothers and sisters in Christ.

Self-reflection questions:

  1. Do I intentionally invest in others to refresh them?
  2. Am I refreshing to be around? Do I sweeten the souls of others in every interaction?
  3. Do I actively giving thanks to God and to the “friend” for sweet friendships, for the refreshing of my soul?
  4. Do I let friends know how much they mean to me, that they are an answer to prayer?

Today’s reading is Matthew 25 and I felt some tie-in with the following verse:

And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:40)

While most of the time recently has been with friends and family, this verse speaks to me about loving those beyond our “safe zone”, and how refreshed the unloved feel when they are given love. We are to love not only those whom we know well, but also the marginalized; those whom society does not love nor accept. We are to love the poor, the homeless, the mentally ill, those in prison, the sinner, the offender, our enemies and those who persecute us.

Jesus said we are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14a). Let us believe his words and act now; giving love, bringing joy, refreshing souls, in the name of Jesus.

Matthew 11 & Rest

It is summer in the northern hemisphere where there is a generally optimistic view of the status of the pandemic. Covid 19 vaccines are becoming more readily available and worldwide there have been over 3 billion doses administered. As a result, people are starting to take vacations and there is some excitement in the air.

Not sure about you but I’m exhausted and ready for some rest. Work stress, pandemic stress, not having seen friends and family for two years stress, etc. The closing verses of today’s chapter (Matthew 11) were very timely.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  (Matthew 11:28-29)

First thought was yes, I am going to enjoy some rest and vacation time. Then praying over the same verses the thought came that “this isn’t about me” and its not the “rest” that I initially had in mind. Then some guilt with the realization that selfish worry was ruling my emotions. Worrying about things beyond my control. Nudging God out. I had “unrest” because I wasn’t putting all of my hope and trust in Jesus.

And so I repented and asked for God’s guidance, for wisdom. For my heart and soul to have the kind of rest that HE has in mind. I prayed for the new opportunities with friends and family to be fruitful, to be more focused on others and not myself. To share the reasons for my hope. If you pray a similar prayer you will not be disappointed.

Soul Taxi

One answer to prayer surprisingly arrived in a taxi. A couple days ago my boys and I were en route across town when a Christian song came on the radio (and it is a song we know and love). The driver started singing and the boys and I looked at each other with smiles and surprise. And for the first time in our lives, Peyton and I started singing out loud in a taxi, not caring whatsoever how bad we sounded. It was pure joy (and yes, I got a little misty). That was the kind of rest and rejuvenation God had in mind for my soul!

Father God, thank you for your word, for your timing, for revealing yourself in miraculous ways, for the rest that can only come from you. Thank you for listening and responding to our prayers. I repent of worry which is a symptom of a lack of trust in you. May our hearts seek rest in you who are eternal instead of the temporary things of this world. Amen.

Psalm 145 – Praise!

This week we learned of the passing of our friend and honorary family member, Isabel Burns. Our long-time readers may know her as “Scottish Granny“.

The draft of this post led with a phrase about “mourning the loss” but after writing those words I realized they weren’t really true. We are not mourning, we are celebrating the joy we experienced in knowing her. Isabel had been bedridden for the last few years with limited capacity to communicate. It was her time to go home to her maker; to be relieved of the pain and suffering she had endured for a very long time.

Let us all turn our mourning to praising God today for all that he has done. For the friends and family members he has given us; those we have lost and those with us. God’s timing is perfect, he makes no mistakes, everything he does is out of love for us so that we can do good things according to his plans.

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. (Ephesians 2:10)

Today’s reading is Psalm 145, a song of praise, written by King David. Perfectly fitting for us to take a moment to praise our creator. What really hit me were the many attributes to describe God. The one TRUE God is:

  • God and King (v1)
  • Eternal (v2)
  • Worthy, great (v3)
  • Mighty, powerful (v4)
  • Splendorous, miracle provider (v5)
  • Doer (of deeds); not idle (v6)
  • Good, righteous (v7)
  • Merciful, compassionate, slow to anger, his love unfailing (v8)
  • Good (to everyone), compassionate/merciful (v9)
  • Thanked and praised (v10)
  • His kingdom is glorious; he is powerful (v11)
  • His deeds are mighty; he reigns (v12)
  • He rules forever, keeps promises, gracious (v13)
  • Helper, uplifting (v14)
  • Giver, sustainer, provider (v15-16)
  • Righteous, kind (v17)
  • Near, available (v18)
  • Giver, listens, responds, rescuer (v19)
  • Protector, destroyer (of the wicked) (v20)

Just think, even on our very best day, in our very best moment, we may display only a few of those attributes. God was, is, and always will be every one of those and more. He is worthy of all praise, and as David closes out the song, may our response be the same.

I will praise the Lord,
and may everyone on earth bless his holy name
forever and ever. (Psalm 145:21)