Refiner

Tooth decay is caused by bacteria which produces acid that attacks the enamel of a tooth. The decay can cause holes in the teeth (cavities).

A couple years ago I had a nasty cavity that needed a significant amount of drilling to be removed. I remember the dentist saying “whoa, we really had to go deep on that one”. Of my many goals in life, surprising a dentist with my extreme ability to generate tooth decay is not one of them.

Three weeks ago I felt something very strange in that same tooth and noticed that it felt loose so I scheduled a quick visit to the dentist. It turned out that the prior drilling was so vast, the tooth became weak, and eventually crumbled. Roughly 70% of the tooth dislodged and was removed at that time (fortunately the base/roots were not impacted). What was left was a jagged, useless, painful, ugly mess. Another appointment was then scheduled for more invasive action. It was not a good situation at all, trust me.

Andiamo! The big appointment.

As I was sitting in the chair on the day of the big appointment, the dentist looked at me and said “andiamo” (“let’s go” in Italian). Then came numbing, lots of drilling and grinding generating smoke and horrendous sounds, removal of the old filling, spraying, and fluids flying everywhere. During a two hour procedure, the dentist and assistant carefully rebuilt and restored my tooth, then with great detail they refined by smoothing and right-sizing to ensure a proper fit and bite.

The end result was really quite incredible as initially they thought a root canal would be necessary. Observing the detailed (and disgusting) photo of the “before”, I was absolutely amazed at what was done in a relatively short amount of time.

He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord. (Malachi 3:3)

Just like the bad habits and choices in my life resulting in bacteria and acid infiltrating my tooth ultimately causing it to crumble, so it is with sin. Sin in our lives and sin in this world is causing everything to crumble. Turn off the television news and trust THE only good news: Jesus saves.

While a new tooth, new leader, new vaccine, new… book, diet, innovation, partner, house, car, gym, etc. “may be just around the corner” – a few days, weeks or years from now we’ll see those things were just moments in time and not the end solution. Jesus is the only one who can rebuild, restore and ultimately refine through his cleansing power, so let us draw nearer to him today.

Prince and Savior

I’m back to interviewing people again and it is continuously humbling to meet so many humans who are more experienced and smarter than me. Each candidate has his or her own super strengths, and usually if they’ve made it through the resume filters they’re likely qualified and capable of doing the job. The end result though is that only one will be chosen and receive the job title, a specific authority in the organization where I work.

While the title is necessary to reflect the role, within our organization titles are really not that important. We’re a USA-based manufacturing company where people roll up their sleeves and get the job done. My favorite leaders are the ones who humbly and generously invest in others to become better leaders, listen, guide and ultimately influence (rather than “boss”). They’re the kind of people who you lead in the same way regardless of their title or the situation.

Just like Jesus

One of my favorite scriptures is Matthew 7:28-29. Jesus just finished the greatest sermon of all time and the response was chilling. I want to be this kind of leader, no apparent title, but cutting to the heart through words and action.

And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes. (Matthew 7:28-29)

On Earth, Jesus didn’t walk around showing off some fancy title. He led. Greater than any leader before or after him, he led by example. Loving, building relationships, healing, giving, spending time with the dirtiest and most shameful humans so that we may be saved.

This man Jesus volunteered his life for us and then was raised from the dead. There is proof of his existence and regardless of what anyone says, it is undeniable that 2000 years ago, something happened that ignited a fire that still burns today.

The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. (Acts 5:30)

In addition to teaching as one who had authority, he had (has) all authority, he has a title. The very next verse articulates Jesus’ title as relevant to our lives: Prince and Savior

God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. (Acts 5:31)

While God gave him the title and put him at his right hand, we must also choose. Note the 2nd half of Acts 5:31. We learn the title, but he has this authority for a reason. We have free will to choose; the things of this world that we allow to control us, consumption, power, or wealth – or we choose to put Jesus in his rightful place today, for the sake of our eternity. As we make him the Prince (leader) of our lives, as we repent, he in turn forgives and becomes our Savior.

Passover Lamb

This week marks the milestone of a major company project we’ve been working on for nearly two years. The result is transformational for our manufacturing facilities in Europe and it is both relieving and satisfying to witness the solution in motion, running the business.

Early on, I made the mistake of introducing the project without clearly sharing why it was necessary. Without “why”, people only bought in to the project because they were forced. They committed verbally but not in their hearts, and this kind of commitment typically doesn’t last long, especially when the going gets tough.

As we all matured together, the reasons why became more transparent, and now as the solution is in place the reasons why are crystal clear. What started out as mysterious, vague, daunting, and perhaps seemingly unnecessary is becoming something we cannot do without.

For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. (1 Corinthians 5:7b)

Today’s name for Jesus is the “Passover lamb”. The Passover also ties back to “why” in my own faith journey, and perhaps yours as well. Hearing that story as a child and even into adulthood, until fully opening my heart and soul to Jesus Christ, the story was someone else’s story. It was merely something scary that God did a long time ago for some people I didn’t know. Standing on its own it is still significant, but the deeper meaning, the why has eternal consequences.

The Passover as described in Exodus 12 is a spiritual allegory leading us to Jesus Christ, the lamb of God, our savior. God gave us this story in order to more clearly see Jesus woven throughout the entire Old Testament. The Passover required a spotless lamb to be sacrificed and the blood from the sacrifice to be placed on the doors of those who followed God. Without the blood, there was death to all firstborn people and animals. Similarly, the why in this story, the blood of Jesus as the passover lamb is the only thing that can save us from eternal death and separation.

Is his blood on the door to your heart? Ask him to reveal himself in a new way today. Seek him with all your heart and he will show you, it is a promise that only he can keep. “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)

Morning Star

We spend much of our lives anticipating and making plans for tomorrow. Tomorrow I plan to lose weight, learn something new, go somewhere, do better, be nicer and get stronger. The musical “Annie” had it right when it comes to dealing with our problems (cobwebs and sorrow), “the sun’ll come out tomorrow”… What does tomorrow look like for you?

We dream of tomorrow because today all too often is either underwhelming or painful; we know there is more. On a greater scale, we hope tomorrow brings peace and love, disease to be cured, pain and loneliness to be gone, financial independence, healed relationships and a long list of other things.

Fear not. Tomorrow is at hand!

There is a bright morning star signifying the dawn of a new day, both literally and metaphorically. The morning star brings hope, love, forgiveness and an eternity with our loving creator. Jesus refers to himself as the “bright morning star” as he is the foretold messiah in the lineage of King David.

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.” (Revelation 22:16)

The beauty is that we need not, nor should we wait for tomorrow to embrace Jesus as the Morning Star. As we enter into a relationship with him today, he can and will bring his light to the darkness of our hearts, and in turn we can bring His light to this world so desperately needing Jesus.

And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, (2 Peter 1:19)

Thank you Jesus for being the light in the darkness, for being the Morning Star. Forgive us for any doubts, for selfishness, for putting our will above yours. Cleanse us. Fill us with your light. You are a perfect and loving God. We praise you today and we thank you for tomorrow, whether here on this Earth or in eternity with you. Amen.

Smoked upon contact

Last week I purchased an electric fly swatter and wow is it effective… Mosquitos are literally smoked upon contact and the “pop” sound is so satisfying! With a rechargeable battery, ~3000 volts of bug-zapping power and a low cost of $11, this device is a must. I am often hoping that some fly or mosquito will enter our home just so I can have the pleasure of destroying it.

I envision God with all his power and the ability to zap anything at any time. Fortunately God is not like me. He is Holy and perfect. I am not. I would zap the bad guys, but then realize I’m a sinner therefore “a bad guy” and deserve to be zapped. God makes perfect choices with the use of his infinite power.

Glorious in power, majestic in holiness

The people of Israel faced an unimaginable situation as they were being chased by Pharaoh and his mighty army. God led them out of slavery but to them it appeared that they would be overtaken. They panicked with fear as it seemed death was imminent.

We all know the story. Through the mighty power of our undefeated God, the sea was parted, the Israelites walked to freedom, and the enemy was destroyed. Awe struck, the people worshipped and praised God in their hearts and through a Song of Deliverance (Exodus 15).

Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power,
    your right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy.

11 “Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?
    Who is like you, majestic in holiness,
    awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders? (Exodus 15:6, 11)

The power that parted the sea is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead, and is the same power that resurrects and saves us from our sin if we put our faith in Jesus Christ. His holiness sets him apart; in his perfection and infinite wisdom he knows what we need, when we need it. He is glorious in power and majestic in holiness.

Father God, seek my heart, cleanse me from unrighteousness. Forgive me for any lack of faith in you alone. You are with me in each Red Sea, in every trial. You are love. You go before us, you are with us and you will never leave us. I choose you Jesus. Amen.

Choices, walking in the light

When you awake in the middle of the night, what kind of thoughts do you have? Are they positive and uplifting? For me, there is often some intersection and processing of dreams, fear, and negativity. There is both literal and metaphorical darkness in the night, but in the morning it nearly always seems to disappear. Is this true for you?

Weeping may last through the night,
    but joy comes with the morning. (Psalm 30:5b NLT)

Do you recall the first recorded words spoken by our intentional, all-knowing God?

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. (Genesis 1:3)

He created the heavens and the earth and then turned on the lights. I presume this is the creation of the sun, the burning star with a mass 330,000 times greater than Earth and approximately 93 million miles from us. God spoke it, and it happened. What an awesome and powerful God we have… Forgive me Lord for underestimating you… You created the heavens and the earth, and everything that sustains us because you love us and you seek relationship with us. Thank you God.

Choices

Jesus tells us that he is the light of the world and that we must not talk in darkness. What did he mean by this?

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  (John 8:12)

Some thoughts comparing walking in darkness to walking in the light:

Walking in darkness Walking in the light
Remaining in sin. Guilt, shame, fear of getting caught. Fleeing from sin brings us to the light but when we do sin: Repentance, forgiveness, cleansing.  This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. (1 John 5)
Physical and/or emotional pain. While this may not be something we have brought upon ourselves, pain alters our perception. Living in pain without God brings darkness.

To whom do you cry out to?

Facing our pain (instead of trying to hide from it), walking through our pain. Trusting God. He is the great healer. There are many verses on his healing, here’s one: Worship the Lord your God, and his blessing will be on your food and water. I will take away sickness from among you, (Exodus 23:25)
Fear. Nothing kills our joy like fear. Choosing fear places us in a cloud of darkness. Facing our fears. There are scary things out there but we have a God who is for us and above all things! The Lord is for me; I will not fear; What can man do to me? (Psalm 118:6)

We cannot control this world. We cannot control all of our circumstances. Our broken and sinful world brings darkness and things beyond our control but we are in control of our response. We have choices. We are given free will. We have a God who defeated the darkness and because of this we can walk in the light today and for eternity!

And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. (Revelation 22:5)

Key-Holder

Unemployment is a major topic in the news today instilling fear. Someone else holds the keys to our employment, and our fears directly correlate to situations beyond our control.

Several of my prior posts talked about the excitement and pleasure that came from interviewing people. Getting to know humans in various candid ways, building new relationships, applying filters, and praying over making the right choices. It is extremely rewarding to bring new team members into the family and work alongside them as they grow and thrive.

With the downturn in the economy, many leaders are faced with difficult decisions related to the teams that they hand-picked. The budget and math dictate: Some can stay, some must leave.

How does one choose the fate of another? Keep the new guy because he shows promise? Retain the wisdom of the more experienced team members? The one with the good attitude but lacks experience? The one who costs more than the rest (but is the best worker)? The one who is the sole income provider for his/her family?

The point is, these decisions can be clouded with subjectivity. One person is often the key-holder to the fate of another’s job.

What about our spiritual fate? Is there a quota for Heaven and Hades? A budget? How do we know if we are “good enough”?

Unlike our Earthly subjectivity, the Heavenly, God-authored and perfect plan is not subjective or measured by how someone feels about us. Even better, it is not measured by how bad (or good) of a person we are. Our worst sins, our worst days, our deepest darkest secrets do not matter – that is, if we have put our faith in Jesus Christ.

Someday we will all fall at his feet as he alone has the keys. We need not fear because even though he died a physical death, he arose alive and remains alive forever.

17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. (Revelation 1:17-18)

Losing a job or our fortunes is one thing, losing your life eternally is another. Faith in the economy, careers, our abilities, our plans ultimately results in futility. If you know Jesus today, know him better. If you don’t know him or are indifferent, please do not let another day go by before you kneel before him eternally. He loves you and he is seeking you right now. You are not reading this post accidentally. I pray that God opens your heart right now in this moment to see the truth, the only truth that matters. Which door have you been knocking on and which door will your key open?

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Though he was God,
    he did not think of equality with God
    as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
    he took the humble position of a slave
    and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
    he humbled himself in obedience to God
    and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
    and gave him the name above all other names,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father. (‭‭Philippians‬ ‭2:5-11‬ ‭NLT)

The God of our ancestors

Think of the goods or brands that were introduced to you at an early age that bring good memories and/or influence your decisions today. Along with this, think of the people whom you associate with these brands and reasons why. Some examples for me:

  • Cashews, Michigan football, Titleist and Windex are all products/brands I associate with my dad. Ok, Windex might seem strange but he is a big proponent of clean windows and passed that appreciation on to me.
  • Rare beef, Yum Yums cookies (they were like Girl Scout “Samoas”), Pillsbury chocolate chip cookie dough, and Kitchenaid remind me of my mom. Definitely a food theme here but we were (and are) a fun food family! My mom inspired my love for culinary creativity, going beyond recipes and enjoying the process as well as the result.
  • Vernors soda, Orange Fanta, and anything Pepperidge Farm remind me of my grandparents.

Those are some of the products, brands, or memories of my ancestors.

Going Deeper

Then we cried out to the Lord, the God of our ancestors, and the Lord heard our voice and saw our misery, toil and oppression. (Deuteronomy 26:7)

Who is the God of your ancestors? What are the spiritual traditions or values of your family or dear friends from growing up? Whether Protestant, Jewish, Catholic, Hindu, Atheist or Agnostic, we’ve all been in shaped or influenced in some capacity.

For our family, my mom has been our spiritual rock. Her faith in God has been firm for as long as I can remember. You’ve probably not seen her baptizing anyone or speaking in front of big crowds, but if you’ve met her, you know without a doubt that she loves the Lord and her faith is pure. She’s a one on one or small group prayer warrior, always making the most of every opportunity.

From my mom’s witness she has influenced my father, my sisters, me, and countless other people. This influence has become exponential as my siblings and I have Christian spouses and are doing our best to raise our children with Christ at the center of our home as well as to witness the name of Jesus to others. Prayerfully I write to you today (thank you for reading) with the hope that the words on this page provide some enrichment to your spiritual journey pointing to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

The Israelites knew the “God of their ancestors” as the stories, values and traditions of the one true living God had been passed on from generation to generation. While they (and us still today) sinned and turned away from God, He was (and is) still God.

Notice in the aforementioned verse that they trusted to cry out to him, and he was as faithful then as as he is now to hear and see our misery, toil and oppression. And he is not just one who sees and hears, we learn in the next verse that he acts:

So the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders. (Deuteronomy 26:7)

Father God, we cry out to you today. Thank you for being a God who sees, listens and acts. You know our pain, you know our hearts, you know our weaknesses, you know our sins. Forgive us, have mercy on us. Rescue us. Bring us out of our metaphorical Egypt. Open our hearts and minds to see you in not just our struggles but in our joy. Thank you for this day, thank you for your word in the Bible, thank you for peace that comes as we slow down and take shelter. Thank you for being our true shelter. You are the God of our ancestors, may we put you in your rightful place today and every day. In the name of your son Jesus. Amen.

Helper of the fatherless

Life during lockdown has brought an increased level of interaction within most households. Here for example, the boys have been playing a lot of ping pong. Through friendly and sometimes fierce brotherly competition several disputes have arisen which I’ve been called to judge since “I’m dad”. Unfortunately most of the disputes have had only two witnesses; the players themselves. In a dispute, each person believes truth is on his side and the other person should be brought to justice.

As each states his case I stare into their eyes and based on many years of life experience, I’ve developed the super-human ability to not listen to a word someone is saying. While often seen as a weakness (and it usually is), this skill can really come in handy to help me concentrate, take a deep breath, and formulate a response to de-escalate the situation in an attempt to wisely lead them.

Today’s attribute of God is “helper of the fatherless“. Regardless of our relationship with our father here on Earth, no matter how great any dad is or how hard we try, there is God the Father who has gone to unimaginable lengths to reach us.

I think about how much I love my boys, then how my father loves me, leading me to think of the love God has for all of us. He loved us so much that he gave up his own son so that we may have eternal life. This is one of the most difficult scenarios to comprehend!

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Today we observe “Good Friday”, the day that Jesus Christ was put on trial and found innocent, but sentenced to death, brutally tortured within an inch of his life, mocked and nailed to a cross, then left to die.

Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. (Luke 23:46)

Father God, we cannot repay you for what you have done for us. Thank you for loving us, for being the perfect father we can come to with all of our struggles and problems as well as our hopes and joys. Thank you Jesus for your perfect life, for trusting The Father’s plan, for giving it all for us, for your suffering, for your body given and your blood spilled because of our sins. We put you on that cross. Forgive us for our lack of understanding, for our many sins, for our selfishness in putting other “lowercase g” gods before you. Have mercy on us. Thank you for saving us. In the name of Jesus. Amen.

This Sunday we will celebrate the defeat of death as a result of the resurrection of Jesus. Come join 15,000+ people online, all are welcome! eastview.church/live

Cry out!

Imagine people crying for distress as they suffer harshly under something beyond their control.

No, I’m not talking about Coronavirus, I’m talking about the people of Israel as they suffered in slavery. They cried out to God, and he saw and heard them.

Then the Lord told him, “I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their cries of distress because of their harsh slave drivers. Yes, I am aware of their suffering. (Exodus 3:7)

Not only did he see and hear them, he responded.

So I have come down to rescue them (Exodus 3:8a)

As God instructed Moses on what to do as part of the rescue, Moses asked God what his name is. This interaction is the first time in the Bible where God communicates his own name, “I AM”.

God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:14)

Are you suffering? Worried? Having panic attacks?

Are we as a planet yet crying out to God yet or are we still trying to fix this all on our own? What are we waiting for?

Cry out in this moment to God and acknowledge him for who he is. Let us not make him into something that we want him to be or what the world might say about God. He’s not sort of this or sort of that. He is who he is, and Jesus is his son.

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I am! (John 8:58)

Here are some recent posts from other authors on this site that further articulate who he is. Take the opportunity to read them if you haven’t already: God of Heaven and Earth, God of gods, God over all kingdoms, God of all comfort, God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, God Most High, Glory, Giver.