JOY

Today I’m honored to introduce our guest writer, Jennifer LaFrance, my beautiful bride.

Today’s Reading: Numbers 33; Psalm 78:1–37; Isaiah 25; 1 John 

As I lead my small group in Little Kidsview on Sunday mornings I can’t help but to be so thankful to God that He has brought these children to me. The pure innocence and desire to learn more about Jesus just warms my soul. These children have taught me so much and I am forever grateful that they are in my life. I have had these children for the last eight months and am very sad, as they are moving on up to the next age level. Almost every Sunday since August, these children have come to my small group with a great amount of energy….I LOVE their energy. When we first started prayer requests in August I would get things like “pray for the Polar Express” or “pray for my dog”. However, as time has passed we have progressed to “please pray for my brother” or “pray for my neighbor, he needed help mowing because he doesn’t get around very well.”

1 John 3:11 For this is the message that you have heard for the beginning, that we should love one another.

These four and five year olds have learned the importance of JOY (Jesus, Others, Yourself). This is what is important in life. Wouldn’t it be great if we all could think like this? In this world that we live in it is so easy to become self-absorbed. Yet, it isn’t about us….we are just living out the life that Jesus has for us. I am reminded of this acronym daily as it is on a door hanger on three of our doors…my son made them in Little Kidsview; one for his brothers room, one for our room, and one for his room. Psalm 78:5-7 He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments.

Ollie is in my small group on Sunday’s…I love everything about him. He has a great sense of humor, a smile that makes me smile, care for others, and an energy for everything we do. My son, Jackson, is also sometimes in my small group. I have shared Ollie’s updates and pictures with Jackson, and every time we stop what we are doing to pray for Ollie. Jackson wants so badly to visit Ollie and bring him toys (because that’s what kids want to do for each other) and wants him to feel better, JOY. Isaiah 41:10 fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

1 John 3:16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.

However we can help, we will, because that is what Jesus wants us to do. I want to teach my children, to do for others as Jesus has done for us…..JOY As you go throughout your day today, and the rest of this week, please try to remember JOY.

In the Day of Trouble I Seek the Lord

Dear Readers,

It is Monday which means this post is supposed to come from Jillian however, her son Ollie is still in the hospital, and still in severe pain. The McGriff family is now seeking answers after Ollie’s recent surgery.

Numbers 32; Psalm 77; Isaiah 24; 1 John 2

The world might see these struggles as a reason for a decrease in faith, but what we’re observing from Jillian’s Facebook posts is that their faith has remained strong, and seems to be growing stronger. Jillian referenced the following verse as Ollie’s verse, and this speaks volumes as to where they are choosing to put their trust.

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. (Jeremiah 29:11)

If you’re not following Jillian’s story, this Facebook update sums up much of what is going on. It is post from a mother who yearns for relief for her son, for healing, and for answers.

I’ve been with Ollie all day until this evening. Today was hard as post op pain came in a big way. I tried about everything I could to help him today but the feeling of helplessness was overwhelming. Overall he looks worse than when this started….mostly because he’s weaker, in more pain and is so malnourished. He cried a lot today and then would sleep. Mercy came at the end of the day with some better pain meds and some news that maybe the antibiotic they are trying is helping a bit. Lynden was able to get tomorrow off so I came home alone with the girls tonight. The house is so empty without O. I laid in his bed and shed a few tears. My heart is so torn as I miss the girls so much and now feel so badly leaving the hospital. I want him home. His Star Wars backpack is still sitting by the back door…his shoes kicked off on the rug. He needs intentional prayer that this fever will not come back. That his biopsy will yield answers soon and that his pain will subside. We need an end to his pain. We know in our hearts that God has a plan for us. Pray it’s revealed gently and soon. ~Jillian McGriff 5/21/16

Psalm 77 is part of today’s reading and the more I read it, the more it just feels like a McGriff family Psalm in their current situation, and somewhat mirrors Jillian’s FB post. There is despair, crying out, faith, and memories of better times.

The McGriffs have asked for nothing but intentional prayer. With that, can I ask that you read Psalm 77, and consider it the “McGriff family prayer”, and please pray with, and for them? Psalm 77

To donate a meal, time, and/or finances, please go to: McGriff Family Meal Train

Heathers

Have ever seen the cult classic movie “Heathers”? You might be surprised by what you are about to read.

Numbers 31; Psalms 75–76; Isaiah 23; 1 John 1

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin… -1John 1: 5-7

Eighteen years ago I met a person who changed my life. She’s different from me in ways that I continue to discover. Last April she went on a mission trip to Haiti, the same week I went to a convention in Las Vegas for my niche in commercial real estate — my mission trip.

image

My wife isn’t perfect, no one but God can claim that; but if there was anyone more perfect for me, I couldn’t imagine. I often recall a Seinfeld episode that contrasts the bodies of women to men; as sleek sports cars compared to battered old jeeps. That’s not all, she is absolutely stunning, and what is truly remarkable is that her beauty emanates from the inside. It is there that her spirit of grace and gratitude is found, forged in her tireless efforts to bring peace and stability to my tumultuous life, and blessing to others in greater need. Her examples of discipline, self control, patience and tolerance have been a light in my life, one that has helped illuminate the path to the cross, through her gentle spirit and long suffering encouragement.

When I think of how God encourages us through His word, to walk in the light, I think of her. She embodies the fruit of the spirit in ways I’m still just trying to understand. She loves the light — not the spotlight. At this point I’m not even certain that she will allow me to share whatever it is I end up writing about this sweet, quiet, person of character, who serves others with dignity and respect. Her humility and hesitance to speak too loud, too long, or poorly about another person has been the perfect compliment to my rambling, “old school” stories, mostly about me or the great people I claim to have known.

Her trip to Haiti, along with friends from two different (Eastview Church) small groups (ones that we have been privileged to grow with over thirteen years) helped point me to Jesus, just like her many other demonstrations of faith. Despite physical challenges, fairly rugged conditions, and taking time away from our son whom she loves so so well, she served others in need. Being part of a wave of missionaries who have slowly and faithfully helped establish a church, a school, and adequate housing for numerous families, was in her words, “an honor and a privilege.” Upon her return she shared this; “These people who have so little, were so grateful, just for our presence, let alone the gifts of homes and goats and more. These were people filled with abundant joy in the simplicity of lives that would be considered marginal by American standards. They found sustenance in their fellowship with God and with others. It was so humbling how they offered us prayers and love, for the challenges we faced seeking God amidst the abundant, worldly pleasures, of our affluent western culture.”

image

In Haiti, she experienced the needs of young children who just wanted to be held; and was shocked how “the Americans” who came to serve were treated with such honor. She received their gift of faith; as I did hers. Never have I had a better friend! When I grow up, I want to be more like Heather.

This is Your Life

Happy joyful young family father, mother and kids having fun outdoors, playing together outside. Mom, Dad and kid laughing and hugging, enjoying nature. Sunny day, good mood

Numbers 30; Psalm 74; Isaiah 22; 2 Peter 3

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.

Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. (2 Peter 3:10-14).

Wow, this is a fire and brimstone passage. A good preacher could definitely have a field day with it.  Or at least I think they could, I don’t really have much experience with those kind of sermons…and I have listened to A LOT of sermons in my day!  I am a PK (Preacher’s Kid).  For decades, I listened to my Dad preach from God’s word every Sunday morning.  If you never had the opportunity to listen to a Gary York sermon, I’m sorry you missed out.  He was (and still is) really awesome.  During his ministry, God used him in incredible ways to profoundly impact many lives, including mine.  Fire and brimstone wasn’t really his style.  Rather than paint a picture of the situation or environment, then rely on his audience to “find themselves in it”, he really had a way of making things personal.  If preaching from this passage, I don’t think my Dad would have focused on Jesus’ coming like a thief in the night or the destruction of everything.  Rather, he would have made it personal by taking his audience straight to the question in verse 11 and the direction found in verse 14.

…what kind of people ought you to be?

…make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.

These are pretty weighty verses. They are very personal for all of us.  Here’s how they showed up in my life this past Wednesday – A couple weeks ago, one of my Managers officially announced the voluntary departure of one of his team members.  With three children under the age of 5, Joni decided to leave the company to stay home with her children.  I had the opportunity to spend a little time with her this week.  Before she left, I wanted to make sure I thanked Joni for the contributions she made to our organization over the last 18 years.  More importantly, I wanted to applaud her for having the courage to make such a tough choice.  I shared with her my story – how ten years ago, I changed employers for a similar reason.  While my change has not proven to be an overly beneficial career choice, I wouldn’t trade the healthy family relationships I’ve gained in return for the sacrifice.  I encouraged Joni to move forward with confidence, knowing her priorities were in line, and trusting God would bless her choices.  I’m confident she won’t regret it.

Joni didn’t make the decision to leave her career easily. In fact, she and her husband have been working on it and praying over it for the past two years.  I think her story reflects the guidance in 2 Peter 3:14 – Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.  As I looked in her eyes on Wednesday, Joni is at peace with her decision to invest in the lives of her children while she looks forward to Jesus’ return.  This change is allowing her to be the person she ought to be.

What about you? Are you making every effort to be the person you ought to be?  Are you at peace with God?  At best, I’m afraid my personal answer is only sometimes.  Some of my choices are good, others are not so good.  I’m so grateful Jesus’ blood covers me, as this is the only way I will ever be spotless and blameless before God.

In their song This is Your Life, Switchfoot says it well – This is your life, are you who you want [or who you ought] to be?

http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/switchfoot/thisisyourlife.html

It is good to be near God

I’m going through a short period of solitude while my wife and kids are away for several days. Some of the plans in anticipation of this period were that I’d get some “me time” and catch up on work. To avoid boredom I’d fill up my schedule until I’m so tired that I’ll just crash at the end of each day. While there was much good intent, these plans had several errors and omissions.

Numbers 29; Psalm 73; Isaiah 21; 2 Peter 2

While digging into the scripture readings for today I learned, prayed, and reflected. As usual, I came to the place where I admit to God that these posts are nothing without Holy Spirit guidance, wisdom, and truth. I sat and stared at the screen, hoping for some divine intervention, and truthfully was hoping the intervention would hurry up because I needed to get to work. Then this verse hit me:

But for me it is good to be near God;
 I have made the Lord God my refuge,
 that I may tell of all your works. (Psalm 73:28)

At the time I didn’t feel near God, and I didn’t feel like I made the Lord God my refuge. It felt like I was on my mission, not his. It was time to step away from the distraction of the computer and the agenda, and worship him. It was time to make him my refuge so that I may tell of all of his works.

Two of the ways that I worship are:

  1. Getting outside and looking at the beauty of nature, thanking him for each thing I see, and acknowledging him and thanking him as the one who thought of it, created it, and sustains it. This act sets me back in line with who God is, and who I am (and who I am not) in his sight. He thought of me, created me, and sustains me. Everything I am, everything I have, and everything I will become is because he allows it.
  2. Listening to praise and worship music. The music makes my soul dance. Since I cannot sing nor play an instrument, I feel that there is something inside of me that appreciates music even more because it is a gift very far from my understanding. Others have created music so well, and when some of my favorite artists pour it all out for Jesus with their gifts and talents, it is like house cleaning for my soul, and sets me back on the right path. Sometimes it convicts, sometimes it educates, sometimes it just gives me joy to worship along with the music acknowledging God’s many perfect attributes.

These acts of worship restored my soul in a supernatural way that only God can deliver. I was lonely because I was seeking after the thing of this world; food, fun, escapism, and mindless entertainment.

They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. (2 Peter 2:19)

When I turned back to him, the way he wants us to turn to him, the loneliness subsided and joy filled its place.

Those are just two of the many ways we can worship… Would any of our readers like to share your favorite worship activities? How do you “fill up” on God?

Don’t Forget

A string tied around an index finger

Numbers 28; Psalm 72; Isaiah 19–20; 2 Peter 1

Have you ever paid attention to the collection of things in our lives designed to be reminders? As I look around my room, I see all sorts of things. I have a clock that keeps me mindful of what time it is. I have a bulletin board that holds invitations, famous quotations, and certificates, reminding me of good things. I have pictures of my family and friends. They remind me of who they are, how much I love them and really great experiences that we have enjoyed. Unfortunately, these things have failed to become reminders. Instead, I pass by them every day, mesmerized and tranquilized by my busy life. As I flop on the couch at the end of a long day, they cannot compete with my television, as it blurts and blasts [seemingly] innocuous messages.

This random busyness separates us from our hearts causing them to stagnate and lie dormant. This is not at all what God planned for us. Sure, we have faith that we are saved and will live with God eternally, yet we fail to break through and experience him today. Why not? Peter explains that we have failed to grow in our knowledge.  When we do, he says, we will gain self-control, with continuous dedication, resulting in brotherly affection and, finally, above all, love (2 Peter 1:5-7). Did you hear it? Love. It is the thing that we are chasing so endlessly, it is reconnection with our hearts.  Sadly, like the song says, we are Looking For Love in All the Wrong Places. Or, perhaps you are not looking for it at all, being content to live the busy and distracted life I described earlier.

Is there any hope? According to 2 Peter, the answer is yes.  It says, “those who fail to develop, shortsighted or blind.  They forget that they have been cleansed from their old sins” (2 Peter 1:9 NLTse). You see, when we don’t engage God and grow with him, we quickly revert back to our old lives. Wasn’t it these old behaviors that led us to the Cross in the first place? We are, in fact, living our old lives. If you are like me, that is a disappointing and shocking realization. This does not, however, lead me to despair.  Instead, it is a reminder.

Today, I am reminded of my failure to achieve the life he calls me to and also, of his abundant mercy. Thankfully, His mercy is new every morning and will never end (Lamentations 3:22-23). I am reminded that no matter how hard I try, I cannot change myself. Instead, I must put on the clothing of Christ, which is love (Colossians 3:14-17). All of this brings me to one last reminder, that the fullness I seek is made possible by a single, great sacrifice. Today, I am drawn, again, to the cross. This time, I come not so much for what it will do for me, but for what it can do through me.

What to do when you fail

Today’s reading: Numbers 27; Psalms 70–71; Isaiah 17–18; 1 Peter 5

May 18th, 2016

Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, Which may go out before them, and which may go in before them, and which may lead them out, and which may bring them in; that the congregation of the Lord be not as sheep which have no shepherd. – Numbers 27:16–17

What to do when you fail

Whenever I read these phrases about ‘going out and coming in before them’ in the Bible my heart longs to be a leader. I love. I thirst to serve and help others. Yet my desire brings about failure. Repeatedly. Today I pain for those I have failed along the way as we went out and came in.

Yesterday marked a failed attempt to restore a previous failure for me. This morning I sought advice from a stronger and better leader of what to do now. The chapter was titled ‘Dealing with failure’, from Mastering Self: To Lead Self and Others by Donald G Hanna. I was looking for a next step. Here is what I found.

Chief Hanna teaches that leaders fail for three basic reasons: relationship, commission and omission.

“Leadership is demanding of time, priority, and emotional energy. A tendency persists to neglect prayer, Bible study, spouse, and children. Relationships become strained or deteriorate with residual failure. Relationship failure occurs due to improper relations with God, family, superiors, or others. Commission failure results directly from wrong decisions, actions, and priorities. It results indirectly from wrong values, beliefs, attitude, and thinking. Omission failure results from failing to decide or do what should be decided or done. It often involves overlooking in lieu of overseeing, i.e., failure to exercise authority in oversight obligation. Procrastination and rationalization enhance omission failure.”

Chief Hanna goes on to say that, “three biblical steps are necessary to respond to a personal failure or wrong:

  1. admit the failure or wrong without rationalizing or blaming,
  2. seek forgiveness from the person wronged by your failure, and
  3. take remedial action if the failure or wrong can be restored.”

Praise God for a system of forgiveness. Oh how I rely on Him. Chief Hanna’s perspective on the causes of failure leave me with much work to do. How are you doing with your leadership?

God would you help me lead. God may You abide in me and I in You. This is my only hope. Amen.

In Over My Head

Have you ever thought, prayed, cried out, “Save Me, O God!”?  Often, when we feel overwhelmed, scared, angry, devastated, and or afraid these idioms can come to mind: “Being in deep water” or “In over your head“.  We initially can try to do things on our own then once we realize we can’t we collapse or are driven to despair. Psalm 69 is a reminder that we need to turn to God and ask for help. Even better, in turning to Him, God will save you! This picture reminds me of a time when my sister Dawn who fell in the pool as a kid and I had to jump in to get her out. She was OK, and actually just gave birth to her third beautiful daughter Vivienne. What a blessing! This picture also reminds me how we can live many moments of my life before a relationship with Christ. Today I can still find myself feeling like this but,  I’m thankful for His word and the reminder of how a meaningful relationship with God can change this feeling.

Today’s ReadingNumbers 26; Psalm 69; Isaiah 16; 1 Peter 4

May 16, 2016inoveryourhead

Jesus has faced many adversaries and had to endure much physical and mental suffering.  This even came in many forms including his own brothers who he loved mocking Him.  I cannot even begin to imagine what Jesus went through!  When I think about that time I envision the movie Passion of Christ, which puts a knot in my throat as I write.  Today in our lives, we often can be mentally and physically beaten down, tempted to turn from God, lose trust, and eventually end up giving up. Psalm 69 can help and coach you not to just throw in the towel. Reminder, it’s not if we will face various trials in our lives, its when. Each of us have these moments when you feel overwhelmed and the list can be extensive to include issues surrounding:  work, money, love, family, friends, appearance… The list can go on and vary based on your season of life.

I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God. Psalm 69:2-3

Thankfully, God knows us. He knows you.  Psalm 139:1-3 tells us, God knows everything about us and the world.  O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. He knows our past and the plans he has for us. We can be humbled, heartbroken, or ashamed when we sin. God knows the secrets of our hearts. He understand our humanness and our lack of wisdom when we make wrong choices.

O God, you know my folly; the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you. Psalm 69:5

In our fleeting lives we need to realize that we are never separated from His care and we need to reach out to God. We need to pray asking him to deliver us. 1 Peter 4:2 says “so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.”

But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness. Deliver me from sinking in the mire; let me be delivered from my enemies and from the deep waters. Psalm 13-14

Take time to praise God and lift him up today. Even when I wasn’t focused on God, He has always been focused on me. He is focused on you. Even in our despair He comes to us and says I’ve been here the whole time. Waiting. It’s not God who isn’t present, its us.  Sometimes our choices are only focused on we forget about talking to God. We need to pause and ask Him about your next choice and trust in His plan.  He will hear you. He will rescue you. Remain faithful. Jesus’ invitation to follow is for all of us. In our small group we have been going through the study Follow by Andy Stanley I’m reminded that he offers an invitation to a relationship with our Father in heaven to everyone. Who can we share that invitation with today?

When the humble see it they will be glad; you who seek God, let your hearts revive.  For the Lord hears the needy and does not despise his own people who are prisoners. Psalm 33-34

Where are you at today? Is the water getting deep? Your most faithful friend is waiting for you. He wants to save you and walk with you every step.

Dear God,

We don’t need any of the things we run around trying to acquire or impress. We struggle along this marathon, we need you. I need you. Amazingly you are always with us. Psalm 139:9-10 says “If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast”.  No matter if I’m, “In Over My Head” or “In Deep Water”  you already know who I am, where I’m at, and what I need.  Thank you for your never-ending love and never-ending care.  Amen

In Over My Head  A little music for the day.  ~Whether I sink, whether I swim, it makes no difference when I’m beautifully in over my head.”  Jenn Johnson –

Continue to shower love and prayers to the McGriff Family Meal Train Plus for The McGriff Family  (Click Here)

 

Display your power, O God

Numbers 25; Psalm 68; Isaiah 15; 1 Peter 3

Yesterday, I had an opportunity to spend some time with Jillian, Lynden and their son, Oliver (aka Ollie). As you know, Jillian is our Monday writer here at BibleJournal. Since our introduction in February, she has impressed us with her faith and zeal for Christ.  The events that have unfolded over the last several days give great evidence for this.

Blessed be the Lord,
who daily bears us up;
God is our salvation.
Selah (Psalms 68:19 ESV)

Late last week Jillian and Lynden’s son, Ollie, began experiencing significant abdominal pain. This pain resulted in being admitted to BroMenn Hospital and shortly thereafter transferred to the Children’s Hospital in Peoria, Illinois. Now, three days later, they wait for options which may include surgery. It takes time to accurately assess lab results. While waiting, we pray for healing and for Ollie’s pain to subside. During our brief visit, I did not experience a family broken down by the burdens of illness. Instead, I found a strong, faithful couple attending to and fighting for their son.

Summon your might, O God. Display your power, O God, as you have in the past (Psalms 68:28 NLTse)

Would you join us today in helping the McGriff’s navigate this trial? First, will you join us in praying for an immediate and full healing of Ollie? We give thanks that he is surrounded by God-gifted doctors and nurses in a world-class facility. Pray with us that He will continue to give them the availability and wisdom required to care for Ollie promptly and appropriately. Also pray that God will cause whatever is hidden within Ollie’s body to be known. Pray for Jillian and Lynden too. That they will be fully filled with His presence and the peace that He promises (Philippians 4:7).

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. (1 Peter 3:8)

Can we also encourage you to join us in supporting them through practical provisions like food, diapers and money? One of our team members was able to establish a meal train that allows us all to easily assist from any location. Let’s be generous givers to let them focus on spending time together as a family, meeting Ollie’s many needs, and working with the medical staff to ensure the best care and treatment possible. They will have medical bills, childcare costs, fuel/travel expenses, and time away from work.

Please click here to help: McGriff Family Meal Train

The Greatest Artist

Numbers 24; Psalms 66–67; Isaiah 14; 1 Peter 2

May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face shine on us—
so that your ways may be known on earth,
your salvation among all nations.
-Psalm 67:1-2

One crisp fall day, when I was much younger, my freind Pete and I walked into the gallery inside the art museum where Pete declared, “look it’s a Picasso! That’s so cool.”

It was neat to finally see some of the masterpieces that we had studied in our sixth grade Art Appreciation class.

“Hey” I said, “let’s go see the post-impressionist’s collection, I’ve heard it’s amazing.”  I almost had an out-of-body experience when we saw what was perhaps Vincent Van Gogh’s most famous painting, ‘The Starry Night’ — painted from the window of his insane aslyum. The colors and shapes were incredible; yellows and blues that expressed an ethereal kinetic energy — the painting seemed to actually be moving.”

It was so beautiful I felt it in my soul, and the desperation and hope of the artist; a tormented being, struggling with bipolar disorder, searching for the grace of God.

Seeing “The Starry Night” and other original art masterpieces for the first time was a special moment, but my appreciation wasn’t complete without knowing something about the artists. I wanted to understand their stories. Who were these artists, what were their lives about? A masterpiece without a master was just another great painting.

I think the desire to understand the artist behind the art is human nature, like the desire to elevate heroes and champions. I wondered; where had this need originated? Was this some biological adaptation, or was it a seed that had been planted in our soul?

As a small boy, I loved and appreciated art, especially the artists. My mother and even some of her freinds were artists. These were all wonderfully interesting people that I wanted to emulate. So as a young man I became something of an artist myself; even building my identity upon how people responded what my gift enabled me to create. Years later I finally understood that while it was glorious to revel in the gifts that had been bestowed upon me, my greatest joy was found in worshipping the source of all gifts — it was God, the giver!

God was the source of every good thing. But for some reason, in times of need or apathy, instead of turning toward God first, I would often turn to the things that God had created in order to find joy. Each time I did, eventually I wound up disappointed. Temporary happiness, it turned out, was no substitute for eternal joy.

God was, and is, and will always be the greatest artist. His art is the creation and everything in it. Remarkably, we too are creative — being made in God’s image. In this way we were made for fellowship with God, and incredible as this sounds, we have a lot in common with the greatest source of power in all existence! Everything in God’s creation was made to reflect God’s glory. The splendor of the natural world, the smile of a child, acts of human kindness or creativity, and even our ingenuity; these are all wonderful expressions of God. Yet none of these amazing and wonderful things are actually God.

Humans are God’s finest work, and we are designed for fellowship with God, and to point to, and Glorify God. We are meant to worship the Creator, not the creation — and especially not ourselves!

God wants to be known by us so that we might become complete. By knowing God we discover that we are able to have an actual relationship with the creator of heaven and earth. This is a dynamic relationship. Supernatural as this relationship may be, remarkably, it also occurs on a personal human level. It is a relationship that involves the deepest love possible — God’s love for us. This love is expressed in the person of Jesus the Christ; as God who became a man and died willingly to connect us back to Himself; and as our Heavenly Father who allows us to become his children through our faith, by his grace, as we receive His Holy Spirit. We come to experience God as three persons in one godhead — the mysterious Trinity, which reflects the eternal, the personal, and the spiritual nature of God. He is the source of endless and complete joy which is available to us all.

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. -John 1:12

We were born to be great people by humbling ourselves before God, honoring and praising God and seeking God’s perfect will over our own. This is the process of the relationship we are called to have. But in order to have this relationship we must first believe God exists. This requires faith.

In my relationship with God over the years, one of the hardest parts has been to overcome my pride. It is so hard to let go of two notions: 1. that I am the most important person in my life; and 2. that I am a good person. This is not to say I should be down on myself, but the reality is, I am a sinner, and the concept of my sinful nature has been hard for me to accept. Yet it is this constant imperfection and lack of purity and holiness that separates me from God, but for His grace.

Even things that seem good can be sinful. For example, when we worship the creation and not the Creator; or when in the pride of our achievement we take the place of God in our own lives, perhaps unknowingly we put ourselves above God. In this we fall short of receiving the full blessings that God intended for us. God always has a better plan!

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! -1 John:3-1

Despite our constant intentional and unintentional sin, God still provides for us. But it is only by our faith that we are able to be restored into righteous fellowship. Despite our sinful nature, God clears a path, leading us past our sin and directly to Him. There is a catch however; we must believe to receive His blessings and His gifts that are intended to allow us to grow His kingdom and to glorify His name.

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.  –Hebrews 11:6

By the grace of God, by our faith in His mercy, through the sacrificial blood of Jesus, we are forgiven of all sins and our reconciliation to a holy and perfect God is made possible. By faith we trust God and in that trust we are able to fellowship with God. In this fellowship we subordinate our will to God’s perfect will and receive God’s Holy Spirit who dwells within us; and by the power of the Holy Spirit we are changed. As we overcome our sinful nature and participate in the expansion of God’s kingdom, a spiritual reality of amazing proportion and consequence becomes our reality.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. -1 Peter 2:9-10

In the final analysis of our lives, we will confess the name of Jesus and the magnificence of God. We can do this now and enjoy an abundant life of peace and joy despite our circumstances; or we can wait and find out how our trajectory, for all eternity, is determined by what or who we choose to put our trust in. We have free will. It is our choice.

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. -Philippians 2:9-11