A friend was recently speaking metaphorically about the manufacturing business and comparing it to the production of wine (where a business needs investments to run, grow, and continue to be relevant and profitable for a long period of time). To make wine you need seeds for the grapes, fertile soil, sunlight, water, attention to the vines, machinery, and a lot of equipment to store and ferment the juice until it is ready to be bottled. People are also needed for the care of the vineyard, harvesting the grapes, and executing all the various processes to ensure a successful (and delicious) final product. There’s also marketing, distribution, financial management, and much more. Without any of the necessary “ingredients,” there can be no success in the wine business.

That description has one important thing missing. Our sustainer, God almighty. Without his provisions, without the life he breathes into us, without his blessing, there is nothingness.

Today’s reading: Jeremiah 8-10; 2 Corinthians 11

Jeremiah 8:4-12 talks about false prophets, the sin of man, and God’s brewing anger. To paraphrase the sins (from the NLT version) we:

  • Are even more sinful as we don’t turn away from our sins (v.4)
  • Cling to our lies (v.5)
  • Lie about everything and have no remorse (v.6)
  • Do not know the Lord’s laws (v.7)
  • Write lies about God’s word (v.8)
  • Reject the word of the Lord (v.9)
  • Are greedy and fraudulent (v.10)
  • Superficially respond instead of being peaceful (v.11)
  • Are unashamed of our sin (v.12)

As a result of these sins, God promises his judgment:

I will surely consume them.
There will be no more harvests of figs and grapes.
Their fruit trees will all die.
Whatever I gave them will soon be gone.
I, the Lord, have spoken!’ (Jeremiah 8:13)

I take too much for granted and am guilty of returning to the same sins over and over so this is a stark reminder of God our sustainer (everything good that we have comes from him) and that God’s anger and punishment are real.

Just one sin separates us from God, and therefore he has every right to punish us and take things away. Our sins put us into voluntary bondage and leave us with feelings of guilt and shame. Whether we admit it or not, there’s still that soft voice letting us know we are in the wrong.

What then shall we do?

  1. Ask God to reveal our sins so that we can confess (telling him what he already knows to be true). Fill our hearts with gratitude for God’s love for us and what he has done and continues to do with us. Put all our hope and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. Listen to the Holy Spirit speak to us and reveal a way out from our sin.
  2. Stop sinning, stop trying to do it on our own, and put every situation in our lives through the lens of God’s word (The Bible). Therefore, don’t put up with false teaching. False teaching is anything that doesn’t align with God’s word. The early Christians were prone to this, and we can be as well if we are not careful. You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a different Jesus than the one we preach, or a different kind of Spirit than the one you received, or a different kind of gospel than the one you believed.” – 2 Corinthians 11:4)
  3. Watch out for Satan’s deceit as he is the ruler of lies. He loves to twist just the smallest of facts to lure us away slowly but surely from God. “But I am not surprised! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no wonder that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. In the end they will get the punishment their wicked deeds deserve.” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15)

Don’t lose hope or heart! Our God is the same today as he has ever been. He loves us more than we can comprehend, and with each new day, we have the opportunity to know him better, to become more like his son Jesus (through trust and obedience), to share him, and ultimately spend eternity with him. The more we fill our lives with God’s truth and light, the less room for sin. How will you choose today?

God of All Comfort

The header image comes from the packaging of a bean bag which arrived only one hour after I had decided on the title of today’s post so it was interesting to see the slogan “Comfort Comes As Standard”. Bean bags bring back a lot of memories for me as a kid so I’m super excited to try this out and give our recreation room an old-school look and feel!

True Comfort

The final chapter of a long-running affliction in my life was very recently completed. I feel relief and have regained some freedom, confidence, and a better hope for the future. Through it all, there have been dark days and long nights but God has been faithful all along. He’s brought comfort in the midst of suffering, he’s taught me so much about forgiveness, leadership, and his neverending love.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

So that…

Whenever we see “so that” in scripture, it is a good place to pause and pay even closer attention. Oftentimes this reveals “the why”.

While God does bring us comfort, we need to remember that it is never “all about us”. He didn’t bring comfort for my sake only, he comforted me so that I could know him and be more like him, and therefore I too am called to comfort others in their afflictions. Who will you comfort today?

Similar to comforting others as God comforts us, we are called to forgive others. It is part of God’s perfect economy. Jesus didn’t die for just my sin but the sin of all mankind, the sin of the monsters and those whom we might call “good people”. Who will you forgive today?

This is also a reminder that if our priority is comfort-seeking, we may find it however earthly comfort is fleeting. If we first seek God’s kingdom and his ways, and do his will, only then do we find everlasting comfort.  

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33)

Today’s reading: Isaiah 60-63; 2 Corinthians 1

Will you cry out?

A friend of mine is going through a very challenging time at home and at work. It seems the enemy is attacking him from all angles. Having lived through a similar situation which is fresh on my mind, I am acutely aware of my friend’s mental and emotional state. The hurt and worry show in his eyes and voice, his confidence is waning, and he appears to have lost some weight and has lost that “spring in his step”.

The positive thing that my friend may not see yet is that he appears to be drawing nearer to God than he ever has before. He is growing spiritually, his faith is increasing, and his dependency on himself is lessening. His wounds will someday be used to help someone else.

My friend asked me this week for some advice as to how I dealt with the situation and my memory flashed to the times when I was at my lowest of low. In those times it felt like I had nothing left, bringing me to tears and to my knees in prayer. All I could do was cry out. Thinking back on it now I realize that I resisted crying out mainly due to pride. I was my own god until I surrendered all to the one who waited patiently for this reckless soul.

17 For I cried out to him for help,
    praising him as I spoke.
18 If I had not confessed the sin in my heart,
    the Lord would not have listened. (Psalm 66:17-18)

Today I challenge you to humble yourself on your knees and cry out. Say his name out loud: Jesus, Father, God, the Great I AM. In parallel, praise God and confess your sin (like the psalmist). Even if you’re not in deep sorrow, you surely know someone who is hurting (emotionally or physically) or lost without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

In my crying out I begged for rescue, mercy, and peace and also acknowledged where I had gone wrong. As a result, I felt peace beyond understanding, and recalled the quote from Rick Warren “You never know God is all you need until God is all you have.”

The psalm goes on to assure us that God does listen and pay attention to our prayers. Praise him for this! He loves you more than you know, and he is nearer than we realize.

19 But God did listen!
    He paid attention to my prayer.
20 Praise God, who did not ignore my prayer
    or withdraw his unfailing love from me. (Psalm 66:19-20)

Today’s reading: 2 Chronicles 28; 2 Kings 17; Psalm 66; 1 Corinthians 7

Transition and Talent

Are you in (or about to be in) a transition period? Many people around the world are. Such as:

  • Enjoyment of “all things summer” as we near the transition to autumn.
  • Taking downtime (vacation from work) and getting ready for the next push through the end of the year.
  • Children transitioning from one grade or school to the next.
  • New jobs and/or new responsibilities.
  • Young adults transitioning out of the home and moving onto college, military service, other careers, etc.
  • Aging adults facing the new reality that their bodies and minds are not like they were.
  • Families coping with the loss of loved ones as they go on without their beloved.

Wherever you’re at today, take a moment to consider what God is trying to teach you, what he’s drawing you toward (or away from), and perhaps most important, the purpose for which you were created. In each of these transitions, there is (or will be) joy as well as suffering, which brings opportunity for growth.

Do you know the reason you were created? The best and most succinct description I’ve read comes from Rick Warren (some of this is paraphrased): “His purpose for your life is to know Him, share Him with those who don’t know Him, become more like Him, and spend eternity with Him. You may choose your career, your spouse, your hobbies, and many other parts of your life, but you don’t get to choose your purpose. The purpose of your life fits into a much larger purpose that God has designed for eternity.”

In Matthew 25 there’s the frequently quoted and discussed parable of the talents which is an excellent metaphor for our lives. The three servants were given money (talents) with the expectation that they would be put to good use and ultimately multiplied. Two of the servants met the expectation and one of the servants buried his talents, thereby not putting them to good use.

so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’  (Matthew 25:25)

This servant was referred to as “worthless” and was cast into darkness. While it sounds harsh, how can we argue with it when the truth has been revealed to us about who we are in God’s eyes, his plan for us, and how we are loved and forgiven by his son Jesus.

What are your God-given “talents” and what actions can you take today to sharpen them and use them for God’s glory? Whatever your transition period, consider this an opportunity to reset, reflect, and use your talents for God’s eternal purpose. I write these words feeling convicted of not using mine to the best of my ability as I feel more like the servant who hid his talents rather than the one who multiplied the investment. While I have work to do, I also know my “conviction” is not a death sentence as Jesus paid the price for my sin. I am forgiven and set free. Transitioned from death to life, the greatest transition of all.

Today’s reading: Micah 5-7; Matthew 25

Humble Acceptance

Which personal attributes are most appealing to you in other people? One of the most important to me is to observe humility. Humble leaders, servants, winners and losers, teachers, preachers, friends, colleagues, and family members. This attribute kept coming to mind this week while on a business trip to our corporate office where I had numerous interactions with many people that I’d either not seen for a long time or who are new to our organization.

When I recounted conversations and described someone to another person, I found myself saying that he or she is very humble whenever this value stood out. It is one of my “checklist” attributes with similar rankings as being honest or wise.

Humility doesn’t mean being shy or weak. From my observations, I believe humble people are able to learn fast as they accept what they don’t know, they make great servant leaders as they put others’ needs before their own, and they are easily approachable which helps facilitate meaningful relationships. Further, when I meet people of great humility it in turn humbles me because I realize I’ve got a lot more work to do.

Today’s reading: Amos 7-9; Matthew 15

In Matthew 15 there’s a story of a woman who begged Jesus to heal her daughter who was severely oppressed by a demon. Initially, Jesus dismisses the woman yet she persists and lowers herself by kneeling before him, calling him Lord (or Master in some versions), and referring to herself as a dog, a lowly and undeserving creature.

She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” (Matthew 15:27)

Humility also shows in what we don’t ask for: She wasn’t asking for power, wealth, or even sustenance; merely the healing of her daughter. Like this woman, it is our choice as to how we respond to Jesus Christ who gave everything for us; for our sins of the past, present, and future. He gives us mercy and grace every single day. He gives us life, love, and hope for eternity. We can either fall at his feet with faith, accepting him and calling him Lord or refuse him as we falsely elevate ourselves in denial of our own faults and failures.

“Dear woman,” Jesus said to her, “your faith is great. Your request is granted.” And her daughter was instantly healed. (Matthew 15:28)

Will you humbly accept him today?

God of Abundance

Think about a time in the past when you’ve been wounded and then what you learned from it. How did you recover from the wound? What was God teaching you during that time? While you likely wouldn’t have wished for the challenge to occur, are you now better off because of it?

Recently a good friend observed that I’m now on the other side of a wound from the past year. This friend is a Christ-follower and quite wise when it comes to observing human behavior. My friend noted that I’m in a much better position to serve others because of what I’ve been through. And in turn, I can say that I feel stronger and have a deeper appreciation for God’s grace and mercy, and ultimately more gratitude for the suffering of Christ on my behalf. My suffering was nothing compared to his.

When I was suffering, my thoughts were mainly focused on surviving the situation. The best word I can use to describe what has transpired since is “abundance”. This is not worldly abundance; it is an abundance of faith, peace, wisdom, hope, and love.

In today’s reading, there’s the story of the widow who owes a debt but has nothing so the creditor has come to take her children as slaves. As if it wasn’t difficult enough to be a widow and poor, this woman was facing an excruciating reality, basically losing everything she had.

Now the wife of one of the sons of the prophets cried to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the Lord, but the creditor has come to take my two children to be his slaves.” (2 Kings 4:1)

What happens next is astonishing. She’s told to get as many jars as she can find and then to fill the jars with oil. Wait a second… where was this oil going to come from? How did it get there? All we are told is that the oil flowed until all of the vessels were full. Did Jesus reflect on this story when he fed five thousand people with just two fish and five loaves of bread?

She came and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts, and you and your sons can live on the rest.” (2 Kings 4:7)

There was so much oil that the widow was able to pay her debts and live on the remaining oil! We serve a God of great abundance. He gives so much then gives even more beyond our understanding.

I’m referring to this abundance as I reflect on our troubles in this life, and then when we see God move and carry us, and turn something awful into something for his glory. In my own crisis, not only was I brought through, my cup was filled and it has become my turn to bless others and point them to reasons for my own faith.

In your most recent life storm which has since passed, think about the “before and after”. What was God trying to teach you? Did you see some abundance in the outcome? Take a moment and pray over this. Ask God to reveal where he was during your trials. Have you thanked him for all he has done and is doing?

If you are in the middle of a storm, trust these words of Jesus. He experienced the most significant suffering of all time so he understands your pain, and he promises to be there with you forever after. The kingdom of heaven is yours and you will be comforted.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. (Matthew 5:3-4)

The widow went from having nothing to abundance. Conversely, Jesus came from abundance as God, then stooped low as a servant, a man yet still God in the flesh, as he gave up everything for us. Through his sacrifice and defeat over death, we can go from nothing (dead in our sins) to life eternal. That friends, is abundance.

Today’s reading: 2 Kings 4-6; Matthew 5

Mentor, leader

Among the most valuable attributes of any organization is leadership excellence. Businesses, families, churches, schools, clubs, and non-profits all need and thrive (or fail) based on leadership.

One of the ways we can improve our leadership is through mentoring relationships. Mentoring, when done well brings wisdom, guidance, and vision and equips the mentee to grow and thrive in the real world.

You might not consider yourself to be a “leader”, so why get a mentor? Remember, leadership is influence, and every one of us has the ability to positively or negatively influence others. As Christ-followers we have been given the highest calling, to spread the gospel in the name of Jesus. We are called to influence our friends, families, co-workers, and anyone else along the path to be part of bringing them to salvation.

If you don’t have a mentor, get one. If you have a mentor, reach out to him or her and say “thank you” today and share back something you’ve learned and applied based on the relationship.

I’ve always considered my dad to be one of my mentors in business as well as in personal situations so today I say thanks dad for being a humble mentor and never giving up on me!

Based on today’s scriptures (God’s perfect wisdom), here are some things I’ve learned from my dad:

Keeping calm when under attack; diffusing the situation, and letting the other person melt down instead of yourself.

If a ruler loses his temper against you, don’t panic;
A calm disposition quiets intemperate rage. (Ecc 10:4)

Use your head! Pause and think before you act or speak.

Remember: The duller the ax the harder the work;
Use your head: The more brains, the less muscle. (Ecc 10:10)

He who speaks first, loses (in a negotiation). Too much talking and not enough listening gets you nowhere.

Fools talk way too much,
Chattering stuff they know nothing about. (Ecc 10:14)

Don’t ever give up. 

“Stick it out” is what my dad used to say. Oh, how as a kid I hated “not quitting” yet reflecting on the years of school, work, marriage, parenting, and my faith journey there is no better mindset than never, ever giving up.

Go to work in the morning
    and stick to it until evening without watching the clock.
You never know from moment to moment
    how your work will turn out in the end. (Ecc 11:6)

Have fun but don’t be reckless (ultimately we answer to God).

I used to think my parents were too strict, but as I age I reflect on it, my parents let me run fast in the direction where my heart wanted to go. They gave the “curbs” to help keep me in line, but I made the most of my youth and I pray my children do the same.

You who are young, make the most of your youth.
Relish your youthful vigor.
Follow the impulses of your heart.
If something looks good to you, pursue it.
But know also that not just anything goes;
You have to answer to God for every last bit of it. 

Live footloose and fancy-free—
You won’t be young forever.
Youth lasts about as long as smoke. (Ecc 11:9-10)

“Keep the faith.”

For many years my dad ended our conversations with this phrase. A simple statement yet it says so much and will say so much at the end of our lives when we all meet our maker face to face.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:7)

Please read the verses from today. There is great wisdom that is very well-written and even humorous!  Ecclesiastes 10-12; 2 Timothy 4

The Next Revival

When the concept of praying for a spiritual revival came to me from a fellow believer, I’ll admit my first thoughts were “That’s for other people to pray about”, “Revivals are a thing of the past”, and “The world is too broken for that now”. These were all lies placed in my mind by the enemy who does not want us praying like this.

Several people within my organization have been praying for a spiritual revival at the company in the regions where we lead. Most, if not all of the areas on our list are spiritually dead (or so it seems). We’ve been praying for a while and thanks to God, more people continue to pray with us. Two months ago I posted on this site about the prayer for revival, requesting our readers to pray as well. Thank you to those who have joined!

We pray for “just one” conversion in each region to “start the fire”. Guess what? It is happening. At least three people from one of our plants have given their life to Jesus Christ in the last month!

Today’s reading: 1 Kings 5, 2 Chron 2, 2 Thes 3

Finally, dear brothers and sisters, we ask you to pray for us. Pray that the Lord’s message will spread rapidly and be honored wherever it goes, just as when it came to you. (2 Thessalonians 3:1)

The verse above captivated me. Paul knew and believed in the power of prayer. How seriously do we take it? God freely gives, listens, and responds. He wants us to pray, and yet too often we fail. I can tell you all of the earthly things that I want and think about on an ongoing basis, but can I honestly tell you that I pray earnestly for heavenly things day in, day out, without ceasing?

Paul prayed for the message of Jesus Christ to spread rapidly. We should pray this as well. Nothing in this world is going to get better until we are shaken to repentance, to moral cleansing, to love and live as Jesus did. There have been revivals in the past and God willing, they will happen again. Pray over it, have faith that the same God who initiated past revivals is ready and waiting for us to pray, earnestly, on our knees, humbly to him. I believe he can and will answer this type of prayer.

  1. Create a prayer list on your phone since most of us have smartphones that are with us 24×7. Built-in functions such as reminders can be set up on a recurring basis. Why not create a reminder to review your prayer list?
  2. Most people use electronic calendars. I would be lost without mine. Would I miss a meeting with the person I report to at work? Never! Then why would I miss a meeting with the God of the universe, the one who created me, the one who loves me beyond recognition, the one who has never nor will he ever let me down?

Our big God wants us to pray big prayers. He can handle it! Don’t wait, the time is now.

Graduation Day

As I observed our oldest son’s high school graduation this weekend, I was filled with pure joy (and some tears) for the experiences that have come throughout this journey. What a ride it has been! Reflecting on the ceremony I have some thoughts to share which can be applied to a literal and metaphorical graduation:

Be intentional in everything you do, don’t take anything for granted, relentlessly pursue your purpose, and stay positive. You don’t want to look at that graduation stage filled with regret about what you could have or should have done with your time here. Consider also the “graduation stage” as a metaphor for that final grand stage when we meet our maker. What thoughts will race through our minds as we reflect on what could have, or should have been?

For the Scriptures say,

“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
‘every knee will bend to me,
and every tongue will declare allegiance to God.’”

Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God.  (Romans 14:11-12)

It is less than ninety days until Peyton leaves our home to attend college far away. Like a bird leaving the nest for the first time, this is a natural progression. He was never meant to remain at home with us forever. Our job was to raise him correctly in a God-honoring way, to love him unconditionally, and to then let him leave, ultimately trusting God’s plan for all of us in this transition.

I wish I could say I was the best dad and for it to be true. What I can say is how much of a difference our faith makes during this time. With the mourning and some sense of loss, there is indescribable comfort and joy that comes from knowing God knew this time was coming, he has a plan, he loves us, and he holds us in his hands.

In a world that feels out of control, one of the most important (and few) assets we have in our control is our attitude so there’s a choice: Worry and wallow in sadness or choose joy, and put all of my hope and trust in the God who has never let me down.

Whatever you’re going through right now consider:

First off, God knows our pain and he knows our hearts. He is not far from our pain as Jesus experienced more pain than we could ever know. He felt it firsthand, so he understands it.

Even Death and Destruction hold no secrets from the Lord.
How much more does he know the human heart! (Proverbs 15:11)

Our attitude, our choice. Will we choose gladness and a happy heart?

 For the despondent, every day brings trouble;
for the happy heart, life is a continual feast. (Proverbs 15:15)

Instead of focusing on our own troubles, we can better serve God by focusing on others as our attitudes are contagious!

A cheerful look brings joy to the heart;
good news makes for good health. (Proverbs 15:30)

Pray for someone to cross your path today who needs a cheerful look and be ready… Graduation day is coming.

Today’s reading: Romans 14, Proverbs 14-15

Faith beyond reason.

In some places, one must be eighteen to purchase “dry ice”. That’s a fun fact that was shared with me this week by my son Peyton who has just turned eighteen. Due to his birthday, he did some research to find out what this milestone age could bring. There are other things he can do because of his age such as vote, rent an apartment, gamble, apply for a credit card, skydive, adopt a child, and much more!

While reflecting on Peyton’s birthday I thought about the most important things I’ve learned and hopefully am passing along to my family. One of those lessons or themes is “having faith, especially when it doesn’t make sense”. When it seems like there is a reason to doubt God, yet I hold firm and draw nearer to him, I then feel the most spiritually rewarded, the most joy, peace, and spiritual growth.

It didn’t make sense that I’d live or be barely harmed after being in two different vehicular rollover accidents as a teen. It didn’t make sense that I’d have a fulfilling career given my grades in high school and college. It didn’t make sense that I’d come to faith in Jesus Christ based on the recklessness and sins of my youth. The list has gone on and on throughout my entire existence on this planet.

But God.

God has been there through it all. There was some element of faith like a mustard seed since I was a kid. Even when I chose rebellion, there was still a voice calling me to righteous living; calling me to choose.

Similar to the freedoms granted to an adult, the freedom and salvation in and through Jesus Christ is absolutely a choice for us to receive or not. We do not receive it unless we actively partake. It is not a birthright, not due to our age, nor a result of the faith of our family or ethnicity.

Today’s reading: 2 Samuel 24, 1 Chronicles 21, Romans 4

In our New Testament reading, we are taught about Abraham whom God had promised to be the father of many nations. Abraham believed God despite his circumstances, especially when from a human perspective, it didn’t make sense.

And Abraham’s faith did not weaken, even though, at about 100 years of age, he figured his body was as good as dead—and so was Sarah’s womb. (Romans 4:19)

God promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations. The problem was Abraham wasn’t yet a father, he was old, and his wife was old. Abraham had good reason to doubt his body and the body of his wife. It didn’t make sense that at his age, he would become a father, yet clearly and simply, he still believed. From this, he was rewarded greatly and God counted him as righteous.

That is what the Scriptures mean when God told him, “I have made you the father of many nations.” This happened because Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing. (Romans 4:17)

Like verse 17, through our faith in Jesus Christ, we were dead in our sins yet brought back to life, we become a “new thing” out of nothing. Death to life.

Think of a time when a result “didn’t make sense” and it was clearly God’s hand that was in the situation the entire time. What was God trying to teach you? Does your gratitude reflect the gift?

Think of a personal life situation right now that doesn’t make sense for God to answer the prayer. What is God trying to teach you? What “buts” do you need to let go of and replace with faith? Journal your thoughts to review later, then see what God does in his mercy and love.