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

Mr. Ed?

Donkey funny is a cute baby donkey sticking his nose in the camera to see what the heck is going on. ** Note: Shallow depth of field

Numbers 23; Psalms 64–65; Isaiah 13; 1 Peter 1

In Numbers 22 yesterday, we were introduced to the Moabite King named Balak.  He was afraid.  Knowing what the Israelites had just finished doing to the Amorites, King Balak and his people were distressed as they looked out and saw thousands of Israelites camped on the plains of Moab.  As any good leader would do, Balak took action.  He sent for Balaam, a “diviner” with an impressive track record, to help him take care of the situation.  “Come now, curse this people for me, since they are too mighty for me. Perhaps I shall be able to defeat them and drive them from the land, for I know that whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed” (Numbers 22:6).

I find it interesting that Balaam is not a prophet of God. He is a diviner or sorcerer.  However, God still steps in and provides Balaam instruction.  God tells him not to go with the Moabite princes and not to curse the Israelites because they were God’s chosen people.  Balaam desperately wanted the riches and honor King Balak had promised him.  So he persisted with God, hoping to change God’s mind.  Surprisingly, God compromised and let Balaam go. And God came to Balaam at night and said to him, “If the men have come to call you, rise, go with them; but only do what I tell you” (Numbers 22:20).  So far so good, Balaam was getting what he wanted (or at least he thought so)!  Here is where it started to get crazy…

Balaam set out on a donkey, but God sent angels to block the way. Balaam was frustrated and beat the donkey because it wasn’t going where he wanted it to go.  THEN, God opened the donkey’s mouth and he started talking to Balaam!  (What, a talking donkey?  This sounds like a bad television show.)  After the donkey made Balaam feel bad for the beating, God opened Balaam’s eyes to see an angel of God standing in the donkey’s way.  Balaam fell on his face.  While he offered to change direction / to turn back and not go to meet King Balak, the angel affirmed God’s earlier instruction, “And the angel of the Lord said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but speak only the word I tell you (Numbers 22:35).  So far so good, Balaam is still getting what he wants!

When we get to Numbers 23, Balaam has King Balak set up alters and offer sacrifices to God. But the outcome was not a curse on the Israelites like King Balak requested.  Rather, having to speak the words God instructed, Balaam blessed the people of Israel.  Four times King Balak requested a curse and received a blessing in return.  By the end of Numbers 24, Balaam and Balak part ways.

This story is hard to follow. I’ll admit, a talking donkey is kind of weird and somewhat entertaining, but what is God teaching us with this story?  Remember – All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  A few key lessons to consider:

  • God is sovereign – The plans of influential and powerful men, like King Balak, will not prosper without the Lord’s permission. Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand, (Proverbs 19:21).
  • God uses a variety of means to accomplish his purpose – In Numbers 22-24, God used both a pagan sorcerer and a talking donkey to accomplish his plan. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts”, (Isaiah 55:8-9).
  • Outward appearances aren’t enough – Balaam gave the impression he was God’s prophet; he had King Balak build alters and offer sacrifices to God; he spoke God’s words of blessing on the Israelites. But make no mistake about it, he was clearly in it for himself. Later in Numbers, we will see Balaam wreak more havoc on the Israelites. Unfortunately he never truly put his faith in God.  For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart (I Samuel 16:7).

This last key lesson is where I think the rubber meets the road for many of us.  Remember, God’s plan for salvation requires us to take action. …if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved, (Romans 10:9-10). It isn’t enough to be a good person, to go to Church, to say the right things, to “hang out” with God and to sound godly.  God requires more. He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8-11).

God requires our hearts.  And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength (Mark 12:30).

Lessons From Mom

But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation. (James 5:12)

Numbers 22; Psalms 62–63; Isaiah 11–12; James 5

James 5:12 has a long history in my life. It was perhaps the first verse of the Bible that my mom shared with me in my adult years during a time I was willing to listen.

With James being the half brother of Jesus, he must have heard Jesus preaching the word over and over, observed Jesus perfection and closeness to God the Father, and witnessed Jesus perform numerous miracles. Growing up in a Godly home, observing the Sabbath, obeying the laws of Moses, and having Jesus Christ as a sibling would surely equate to immediate conversion to becoming a Christ follower right? Nope.

For not even his brothers believed in him. (John 7:5)

As Jillian mentioned in an earlier post, James became an ambassador for Christ only after the resurrection. All signs pointed to Jesus as the Christ through the entire life of James but his eyes weren’t opened and his heart just didn’t believe right away.

I compare this to those of us who grew up in a home where there was christian teaching and regular church attendance, but we don’t come to a true faith in Jesus until later in life. This post isn’t about all of the reasons why it took me so long; it is about the fact that there were many seeds planted over the years by someone who cared, and at least not all of those seeds were lost. I’m so thankful that while I may not have fully believed, I knew there was some deep down truth to be sought.

Thanks mom for never giving up on me, and more importantly for being a christian leader, teacher, and humble servant. This post was written on Mother’s Day 2016 and is dedicated to you.

My mom taught me many valuable life lessons, some that she probably doesn’t realize she taught me and some that I don’t realize came from her.

Here are just a few of the things that stand out that I learned from my mom. Of course this is not a comprehensive list, nor are they written in any order of importance, but just the first main themes that came to mind:

  1. She’d remind me, “tell the truth Jon…” More important than this being a rule to be obeyed, she taught me why it is so important. That when lying, it is nearly impossible to regain someone’s trust. Fortunately my loving, caring mom taught me this at a young age so that I didn’t have to learn it the hard way.
  2. She was relentless in teaching me the proper usage of “to, too, and two” and “their, they’re, there”, etc. Please don’t blame her for any of my grammatical mistakes or shortcomings; those are all on me. You might say, “seriously, number two on the list is spelling and grammar?” Well, the most important lesson learned wasn’t actually the subject matter. The most valuable lesson in this was that she instilled in me a desire for precision and accuracy. Much of the success in my ability to generate income for my family goes back to this. I’ve made a living over the last twenty years assessing the preciseness and accuracy of computer software systems, seeking to identify small nuances and patterns that can result in major problems.
  3. She has been a visible example of a Christ follower and prayer warrior for most of her life. Having this influence in the home where I grew up set the foundation for my life in eternity with our creator. For any moms out there reading this wondering if your children will ever turn it around and follow Jesus, I have two things to say. Don’t stop praying, and don’t give up.
  4. My mom didn’t teach me how to cook as much as she taught me something more important. She taught me why I should cook, and she taught me the art of cooking rather than the science. Why cook? To serve others, to create something new, to collaborate with someone, and to talk and bond in the process. As for the art: My mom has this amazing ability to throw a bunch of seemingly random ingredients together and make a meal taste amazing. She taught me to experiment with food, and while I possess a giant stack of cookbooks and subscribe to cooking related magazines, I rarely follow the recipes. My wife loves it when I play “test kitchen” in our home, and I love it too.
  5. Love one another. When my sisters and I didn’t get along, my mom didn’t go the punishment route. She insisted that we treat each other with love and kindness; she rightfully mandated that we “get along”. In other words, “figure it out”, there is a solution, but you have to work together. It means compromise, compassion, patience, and love. This mandate has greatly shaped my parenting skills. Our boys realize that human relationships can be hard, but we that they cannot give up on each other. I pray that this is a principle that transforms their own marriages and children for generations to come.

Thanks mom!



Numbers 21; Psalms 60–61; Isaiah 10:5–34; James 4

This last week, I had the privilege of taking my son to the Rocky Mountains. It was a short trip, justIMG_0037 three days, so I wanted to make the most of it. I had two goals. First, I wanted to spend a lot of time with him, and second, I wanted to spend some time planning for the rest of 2016.  If I am completely honest, one major purpose in spending a lot of time with Freddy is to examine how he is faring. I mean, we only have six, or so, years before he sets off for college! As a good father, I need to evaluate his planning and dreaming skills. Additionally, I want to influence what is in his head.

Among my few to-dos while I am on the road is this entry for While reading James 4, early Monday morning, the Holy Spirit thumped my heart. In part, he reminded me that we are “a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (James 4:14) I couldn’t shake it. The Spirit instructed me, in that moment, that the reason we came to the Rocky Mountains was not to make great plans for the next several years (James 4:13). No, the purpose became clear as we approached Rocky Mountain National Park. Being absolutely captivated by its beauty, I understood that we were here to enjoy and celebrate breathtaking beauty. And that is exactly what we did. We did not sit piously and passively.  IMG_0022How could we? The majesty of His creation blasted its way deep into our hearts. In reply, we stomped and shouted throughout his handiwork. We left giant footprints as our voices echoed throughout the valley. We sang stupid songs, threw snowballs and filled the air with laughter. We saw our breath in the cold mountain air and hollered over the thunderous roar of waterfalls.  We pondered big questions like “why did God make it all,” and “why did he make it so complex?” We settled on really simple answers like “because He can,” and “so that we will never get bored.”  We stood motionless and silent, marveling at how He did it.  We worshipped!

After a long trip home, I find that I have planned nothing. Ironically, my celebration of His creation, left me with a bigger dream than I could have imagined. I want to enjoy God more.  If the Lord wills me a tomorrow, my prayer is to see his beauty everyday, right here, right now, in the place that I live. Father, show me what to look for and where to look.

I found God this week. He was with us.  He is with us. Will we be with Him?

How to control your tongue

Today’s reading: Numbers 20; Psalms 58–59; Isaiah 9:8–10:4; James 3

May 11th, 2016

At some point a Christian begins to understand what he thinks, says and does are important to his Father and LORD. At this point that same Christian realizes how wretched he is and how great God’s mercy is.

When Jesus showed up everything changed for the Israelites. The word had become flesh and their judgement was now staring them in the face, no longer to be hidden behind the false teachings of the pharisees. His sermon on the mount made clear that no one was getting away with appearances anymore. The pharisees with all their rites and rituals, were false. Following them, striving to be like them and seeking their approval, righteous in the eyes of man, was a lie. God knows your heart and Jesus came to make this clear by showing us all; what you think matters.

Our thoughts are a battleground. We have victory in Christ to the degree that we have a single eye for Him. To the degree we pursue Him and Him alone, shunning the false promises of this world and placing His promises in our constant focus. This is a result of a true belief and understanding of God’s word and it allows us to worship Him in Spirit and in truth. I have come to believe that taming a tongue starts with taking thoughts captive.

From today’s reading James teaches us a lesson in this area. He starts by warning us of the power of the tongue. How it controls the course of our lives. Know this truth:

Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. – James 3:4–7

James takes particular interest in rebuking the reader of how we use our tongue with our fellows.

Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. – James 3:9–10

James then puts rounds out this lesson by shining light on the truth of the difference between heavenly wisdom and world wisdom of the devil:

Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace. – James 3:13–18

If we are to believe the Word as truth, the question then becomes; where is your tongue taking you?

taming the tongue

God may our heart’s desire and trust in You and You alone and may our tongues always lead us in Your ways. May worldly wisdom be kept far from us along with envy and strife. May Your wisdom fill our hearts pure, peaceable, gentle, easily intreated, full of mercy, good fruits, impartial, and whole in truth. May we make peace with all.