Staying Aware

Do you ever find yourself zoning out while driving? Not being distracted by devices or music or anything, just reflexively cruising down the road on a drive you’ve made countless times, almost on autopilot, as your mind wanders. Suddenly, you snap back to awareness & realize you’ve gone 20 miles without truly paying attention to the road – if you’re lucky. This mind-wandering behind the wheel is a somewhat common phenomenon, especially in occupations working long hours centered around transit, but as all distracted driving, can easily become deadly in the wrong situation. 

The writer of Psalm 50 describes how God is the judge of righteousness, and how the wicked will be accordingly dealt with – but also, warns readers to consider the reason for sacrifice. In verses 12-13, the obvious is stated about God: “If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine. Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats?” In the days of animal sacrifice, it wasn’t the food & sustenance God needed – the whole world and everything within is His already. It is the giving of thanks symbolized that pleases God; the trust that in giving what you have, God will provide what you need. The glorification and gratitude of the giving to God is what pleases Him, not the things you give that come from Him in the first place. 

Does a sacrificial life ever become something you zone out on? Do you ever find yourself giving your time and donating what you have to help others simply because it’s just a thing you do, rather than because your heart seeks to glorify & thank God for providing & giving you the opportunity to share what you have? It can be easy to fall into a routine and grow used to making a weekly donation or volunteering every so often just to make ourselves feel good or simply out of habit – such is the pride of human nature. But this scripture warns us that it’s not the sacrifice God intends for us – it’s the complete, fully intentional, joyful heart that does so that He wants from us. As verse 22 exclaims, “Mark this, then, you who forget God, lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver! The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!”

Hebrews 13:15 reminds us “Through Him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name.” Psalm 50 reminds us our true sacrifice is the praise and thankfulness we demonstrate to God in our acknowledgement of His good, rather than a simple act which can be done by just anyone. Yes, the giving itself is good and pleasing and necessary, but it is in the joyous hearts and lips that praise Him that please Him. I pray for self-awareness and strength of mind today, that His goodness and righteousness would always be on my heart and aware in my mind – not to simply coast on habit of giving, but to actively seek & thank Him for what gifts I have to give. I pray this joy would be what motivates me to give joyfully what I have for Him, and to praise His name at all times on the forefront of my mind & in my life.


Today’s reading is on Micah 5.

When Micah was given the word of the Lord on the events of this book, things must have looked pretty frightening for the future from Judah’s perspective: kingdoms falling around them under siege, countless war-torn refugees seeking help, the disintegration of social structure and increased assimilation of idolatry & selfishness. Unfortunately human nature has remained pretty constant and these issues can still be found the world over. That’s why Micah 5:3-5 is a timeless reminder that reliance on God is guaranteed to outlast and overpower any hope in the works of man: 

“He shall give them up until the time the she who is in labor has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel. And He shall stand and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. And He shall be their peace.”

It can be easy to try to rely on our own means when sin slips in and our faith grows weak, which is why this chapter continues to assure us that all the works of man will be cut down alongside the wicked; the horses & chariots of war, the cities & strongholds we build for protection, and the sorceries and idols born of evil. But the people of Israel, in God’s kingdom, will be lifted up and find peace with Him. I sometimes wonder if I focus too much on the bad of the works of man; which can be way too easy, with a hyper-connected society constantly blasting news of war, crises, disease, and hopelessness in our faces. It’s not a stretch to imagine people without hope beyond these things clinging to the works of man for a future.

Thankfully, we know our future is guaranteed in Christ (Jeremiah 29:11), and we can find hope in clinging to Him. Do you place your hopes too often in the things of man that can be easily corrupted with sin? Or do you surrender all to God, who delivers & protects the besieged and unfairly judged? I pray for the future of all, that they may seek the refuge and hope for the future only found in God’s kingdom, and that all the remnant of Jacob among all nations as Micah 5:8 puts it, that we could lead others to see God’s kingdom not as a source of adversary or destruction through the eyes of a sinner, but as a source of blessing of a child of God’s.

One Foot in the Sand

Today’s reading is Proverbs 3.

When reading Proverbs 3:5-6, I thought of the office chair I’m sitting on. What if, halfway through bolting it together and making sure it was tight and steady, I got fed up with the whole process and stuck the rest together with Elmer’s glue. Should I really be surprised sitting on the chair and it falling apart after maybe a few seconds? No; a solid seat requires diligent work throughout the whole process. 

When reading about the blessings of the Lord bestowed upon those who follow His word in Proverbs 3 this week, verse 5 resonated with me – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.” Trust requires diligent work as a whole to have any impact – does a healthy marriage sound like one where you half-trust your spouse? When we trust in the Lord with our whole and lean on His wisdom and guidance instead of our own, he provides a path through whatever life can bring for us and glory in His kingdom, while failure and shame are guaranteed for those who don’t.

John Trapp said, “He that stands with one foot on a rock and another foot upon a quicksand, will sink and perish as certainly as he that standeth with both feet on a quicksand.” I ask myself – do I lean with my whole self on God’s understanding, or am I trying in vain to balance between His and my own? What could anyone like me possibly know or do that God could not accomplish? When standing wholly in God’s word, our footing remains firm, our path remains straight, and our seat is guaranteed not to be held together by our own flimsy handiwork, but to be at the table by our Father’s side. I simply pray today that God would continue to move in me to trust in Him over myself for the blessings He affords us.

Closely Watching

Today’s reading is on Luke 14:1-14.

It’s often been said your kids are always watching and listening. Not a parent myself, but I remember seeing how my parents treated each other & those around them, and how I learned to interact with those around me, and even how I treat my own wife to this day. I’m sure many parents can attest to kids picking up the things they say and do – and I’ve heard many stories from parents I know & work with of kids picking up the wrong things as well.

In this passage, when it’s said the Pharisees were “closely watching” Jesus, it was judgmental & malicious in intent – looking for a slip-up to pin on Him. It reminded me of how the world closely watches those professing faith to see whether or not they back up their words with actions. But also, of how we look to Jesus as a perfect example of who we are meant to be, and the kind of life God wants us to pursue. No one more esteemed & worthy than Christ could have taken a seat at the Pharisees’ table, yet He chooses to humble Himself and share how we are lifted up & exalted by God when we do so to share His word.

More so, how we look to Jesus is also how those around look to us to see what a Christ-like life looks life. David Guzik had this observation in one commentary about this passage that I loved: “In 2 Corinthians 3:2-3, Paul explained that we are letters from Jesus, that all men read; and that the letters are not written with ink, but with the Holy Spirit, and not on paper, but on our own hearts. We are the only kind of Bible many will ever read.” ( Whether or not we choose to lift ourselves up and put pride over helping others, like the Pharisees in this passage using a poor sick man for leverage, and experience the subsequent fall and shame, or whether we are moved by the Holy Spirit to help others before ourselves and lower ourselves to bring the Word to the meekest of men, the world will watch with intent eyes. And whether or not they see Christ’s transformation in your life, or they see empty words, is very much in our control. We must obey Jesus’s calling in Matthew 5 to be the light of the world, “that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Father God, I thank you for the example of your son Jesus who would lead us by example in His perfect life, showing us how to give our lives to glorify you & lead others to your light as well. I pray we would all act in all times in a way that shows the world who you are and the joy & love you fill our hearts with, that others may seek you in their own lives as well. At all times, help us to show the servant love of your son Jesus to those watching, that we may lift your name and further shine the light of your glory to this world.

The Nazarite Vow

Today’s reading is on Numbers 6:1-21.

What are some of the things you abstain from to consecrate yourself from the Lord? There’s all sorts of temptations today from a laissez-faire society built around glorification of the self & disregard for others. Could be serious traps like sexual promiscuity, drug & alcohol abuse, lawbreaking, and general hedonism. Could be everyday temptations like gossip, sloth, prideful behavior, and hurtful or shameful speech. We all have our personal gauntlet of trials to run, but in our walk with Christ, we find strength to overcome & glorify Him in the outcome. 

The vow of the Nazarite – coming from the word for ‘abstain’, ‘consecrate’, or ‘separate’ – was one of incredible dedication and servitude that was open to anyone back in the day who wished to fully discard the self and dedicate oneself to the Lord. Strict rules like forsaking anything grape-related, being unable to cut your hair, and complete separating from corpses or the dead were ways to show your rejection of the flesh & worldly ways, and to dedicate yourself 100% to God. And if broken, there are strict guidelines of how to make up for your broken vow, including sacrifices, a full shave, and the annulment of your vow – very public & serious ways to display the ending of your call to consecration. We heard about Samson yesterday, one infamous Nazarite set aside from birth, and how God blesses and displays His glory through those set aside for Him, even despite our broken prideful will to do things our own way.

I’m guessing many of you reading this aren’t dealing with questionable women trying to cut your hair, but we do all face ordeals that seek to threaten our vow to live righteously. When we lower our guard to temptation, it is incredibly easy for sin to slip in and ruin us, as what happened to Samson. And when sin gets in the way of our promise to God to follow Christ’s example, it can be costly and publicly damaging to both ourselves and our mission to shine God’s light on the world. Following God is not something we can start up and forget about – it is an active surrender of our whole selves that we must constantly and intentionally uphold.

When Samson raised arms against those who opposed God and prayed for strength, God answered. When he cried to God for water, God listened & provided. And when Samson begged for the strength to give his life for God, God blessed him and fulfilled him. In our faith, we are given incredible strength; probably not inhuman strength to kill thousands of men and tear down buildings, but to endure the trials and sorrows of life, to find hope and companionship in the darkest of times, and to be able to experience the many blessings of life God has to offer us. It is in the recognition of God’s glory and truth, the submission to His will, and the love of Him in our hearts that this strength is blessed upon us. It is a gift I am thankful beyond words to receive, and I lift my life to God because He is so generous to even extend such grace upon us. I would pray we would all remember our vow of righteousness to God, keep His promise that we would be seated at the right hand of the Father someday, and live every day in accordance with His loving word.

From the Roots

Today’s reading is Deuteronomy 12.

One of the basic tips of gardening is when pulling weeds, to always make sure you pull out the entire plant from the root, or else it can grow back from just a little bit of the root. I’ve heard this countless times; it was something I kept in mind when we planted our first real garden this spring. But after a summer of laziness on my part, as I look out into our backyard garden half-full of weeds, I’m woefully reminded of the diligence in removing your weeds properly, all the way down to the root, as soon as you can.

Moses’s commands to his people in Deuteronomy 12 to “destroy the all the places where the nations whom you dispossess served their gods” makes me consider my own diligence in rooting out the weeds, not just in a garden, but in my soul & mind. The Israelites had problems throughout the Old Testament of being tempted to turn back to the ways of the world in impatience after God had seen them through trial after trial. Knowing this, Moses made sure they knew to destroy any temptation to fall back to worldly sinful ways by completely ridding any sign of it from the very foundation. The mention of yeast throughout the Bible explains this point (5 Galatians 9: “ A little leaven leavens the whole lump.”) The smallest concession to sin makes one wholly sinful; the momentary distraction of the relics of the gods of man can lead to whole corruption. Instead, we are called to be like Jesus, wholly man but wholly without sin, no concession even when the Devil himself came to convince Him face-to-face to do things His own way.

Instead, Moses encourages us: “You shall not do according to all that we are doing here today, everyone doing whatever is right in his own eyes, for you have not  yet come to the rest and to the inheritance that the lord your God is giving you.” (Deut. 12:8-9) Instead we are to do as the Lord wants for us to be with Him and receive His blessings. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 says “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him, for God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” When we leave the root of our sin unchecked, encouraged to do things how we want as those of the world would do without a second thought, we open ourselves to the seed of sin growing uncontrollably and choking out the bountiful harvest the Lord has in store for us.

I pray today that the Lord would strengthen me to examine deeply where I have left the root of sin unchecked in my life so that I may better address and avoid doing what wouldn’t please Him. I pray for the courage, self-awareness, and love of what is holy to seek not what the world tells me is okay, what is pleasing in my own eyes, but what pleases the Lord. I rejoice that the Lord has delivered me through the trials of the past to be here now to worship Him, and am thankful and hold on to the hope of the inheritance I have in the Lord.

Warning Sign

Have you ever ignored a very obvious warning sign and paid the price? My mind immediately goes to when I was 18, leaving a ski hill in the hills of rural Missouri after a day of heavy snowfall and low temps. I remember driving by the sign at the ski slope’s exit saying “Watch for Ice,” and thinking to myself “like that’d be a problem for me.” As I found out about 5 minutes later, after sliding down a big patch of ice right off the road down a steep hill, it would indeed be a problem for me. Who could’ve seen that coming?

The message of Hebrews 12:12-29 is a reminder that the warning we’ve been given about living focused on the flesh instead of on God’s kingdom. The author uses the Israelites at Mount Sinai as an example: even with the terrors of facing God’s holiness against their own unworthiness, witnessing “thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast” (Ex 16.19), they couldn’t follow God’s command for them despite their terror. Yet while we don’t encounter flaming smoking mountains too often, we’ve encountered Jesus, “mediator of a new covenant”, offering us the gift of eternal life. And the warning is laid bare: Jesus has told us “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens,” removing what can be shaken, leaving only what can not – what is not of this world. The warning signs we’ve been given are clear as day. Yet, even so, many who hear the warning choose not to listen; be it human pride, obstinance, ignorance, or whatever it is, many choose to ignore what Scripture tells us about a life not talking God’s warnings seriously.

Scripture warns us of the danger facing those who turn away from Jesus’ warning. As Galatians 5:21 puts about those living in the flesh versus living in the Spirit: “I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Or 1 Corinthians 6:9 tells of those living immorally and unrighteously to themselves & others: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?” Those who live such baseless lives are not only destined to be on the receiving end of God’s wrathful judgement, but do so despite so many warnings & Christ’s offer of redemption on our behalf. We are called as believers not just to live just, righteous lives as God commanded His earliest people (“Be holy, because I am holy” – Leviticus 11:45), but to strive for showing others to Christ’s salvation as well through our words and actions as Hebrews 12:14-15 says.

Remaining ever strong & growing in our faith and vigilant against our desires to do things our own misguided ways is not only a lifelong challenge, but one we must take an active role in always; compared to Esau by this passage, who rejected the blessings laid out for him & “found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.” We are called not to be proud & self-reliant as Esau was, but to strive to lean on & serve the Lord, and furthermore, to reflect this in the holiness we demonstrate to others. I pray today for renewal of the strength and perseverance in our walks with the Lord to stay straight on our paths always, and to help & lead others to the Lord as well. I pray that we would take seriously at all times the warnings towards the unrighteousness of man, knowing always that we are to serve the Lord in all we say & do. And I pray for the sharing & growing of the Lord’s kingdom, that His kingdom would continue growing & rejoicing until the day all else is shaken away.

The Peace of God

Today’s reading is Philippians 4.

I’ve often been told I seem like a very relaxed person – probably a little too relaxed sometimes, from what some people say. Reading Philippians 4 gives me a good idea of how I can work sharing Scripture into conversation when people bring this up in the future: Philippians 4:6-7 says “The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” It is the otherworldly peace that comes with learning to trust God in all things that lets us stand firm & calm when the world around us is shaken, found in daily immersion in God’s word and knowing to trust in Him in the things beyond our control.

If you struggle with worry and anxiety about things beyond your control – as I often do, but find comfort and help in through these writings – ask yourself if what you give sway in your mind, as Paul warns in Romans 12:2: Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Read through Philippians 4:8 when you need to reflect on your thoughts and ask yourself if what your worries are about are:

•true: is it based on the truth of the word of the Living God? (John 17:17)

•honorable: is it worthy of adoration and relevance in the presence of God?

•just: is it in accordance with the righteousness of God?

• lovely: is your train of thought pleasing to God?

•reputable: do your thoughts & actions reflect the good transformation God has brought in your life?

Our minds are prone to wander, as fallen humans often do, but Paul commands us in 1 Corinthians 10:5: “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” We have been blessed with a peace and comfort that comes with knowing our God is in control of all things, even those we could never hope to control. I pray for my own heart & mind that I could reflect on whether my thoughts & focus is on things that are false, dishonorable, unjust; and instead, give every thought captive to Christ, and instead give my worries to Him & focus on the good of His grace. And if this is a struggle to you, I pray for your journey in asking yourself these questions as well, as well as helping those around you focus your thoughts on the glory of the Lord.

Staying Strong

Today’s reading is Hebrew 12:12-19.

I’m sure many of you can relate in some way to the post-4th of July struggle I’ve been dealing with. After a rather long stretch of admittedly being very sedentary, I was offered an opportunity to go water skiing at family’s this past weekend. It was a fun experience for sure, but let me tell you; it’s been a while since I’ve done anything similar, and I’d definitely forgotten how much upper-body, shoulder, and core strength you need for that. In the week since, my shoulders have been wildly sore, and after finally getting better, have been a good reminder of how I’ve let myself get weak physically.

When considering the example of Jesus and His continued holiness and spotlessness despite all He went through, Paul continues in Hebrews 12:12-29 on the importance of remaining strong and enduring in our faith. When we let our spiritual guard down and grow complacent and weary in our faith, Paul warns, we can not be guaranteed to live upright lives and lead others to do the same. And when we can not lead others to Christ and refuse what was commanded of us, we are reminded of what awaits – that we will be shaken away and “removed” when God fulfills His promise – “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.”

When the Israelites approached Mount Sinai, in Exodus 19 & 20, it was an image of fury and fear – the people drawing away at the severity of the punishment of those within God’s presence not being worthy, leaving Moses alone to speak to God. But we are not approaching Sinai, Paul reminds us; we approach Zion, the hill on which Jerusalem and the kingdom of God sits, a place of joy where all right with God may be with Him, a place where Jesus has spoken on our behalf and ensured our salvation. It is this reverence and joy that drives us to stay strong in our faith, to stay upright, seeking and leading others to a more Godly life, in thanks of what Paul summarizes in verse 28: “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe.”

We are offered the kingdom of God and a chance to be apart; are you spiritually coasting, letting yourself grow weak, so that when a tough workout comes your way you will be left bruised and weary? Or are you immersed & strengthening your spirit at all times, so that when the time to lead others to Christ through word & examples comes, you will be able & willing? I pray that I would never lose sight of the need to stay strong and ready for Christ’s sake, and extend this prayer of self-reflection to you as well. May we never lose sight of He who shakes the earth & heavens, and has shaken up our lives to the point we can not help but offer reverence & awe.

Hope and a Future

Today’s reading is on Jeremiah 29.

It is quite impossible for me to imagine the last few years without my wife Paige by my side, supporting, listening, and loving me. I have seen through the blessing of this marriage how God demonstrates His love for us through what he’s planned for us. There is incredible comfort in knowing you are heard; loved; cared for. Jeremiah’s letter to the Babylonian exiles speaks true to us about this fact even many years later. We, too, are in a land of exile, the weight of our human sinfulness and a broken world deeming us unworthy on our own accord by God’s judgement. But Jeremiah 29 is a reminder all of us need constantly: God hears us, He listens, and He wants us to seek him and share the wealth of life found in Him with those around us. God is thinking about us and cares about us even as we are; as Psalm 40:5 says, “You have multiplied, O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you!” 

Beyond all, I find immense comfort in Jeremiah 29:12: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Hope for the future when looking at this world seems nigh impossible to come by. However, despite all else, the knowledge of my hope in the Lord and my future in His presence provides a peace and joy that simply can not be found elsewhere. In my own exile, do I put myself in the position of these false prophets God condemns, who want to rush God’s plan and determine His undeterminable thoughts on their own? Or do I want to be someone instead who trusts God’s future for me, draws close to Him in the meantime, and prays for the same for those around me? In response to this ineffable gift and the action it inspires in me, I can only list verse 13 as the prayer of my heart: “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” The Lord hears our cries to Him, and when it is our greatest desire to seek Him and follow His word, I know we will find a greater fortune than any riches could hope to compare to.