World’s Greatest Bank

Leviticus 4; Psalms 1–2; Proverbs 19; Colossians 2

Owing money to any entity is really no fun. I doubt anyone in their right frame of mind has said that they truly enjoy owing money. I’m not talking about the act of borrowing and receiving because that portion of the transaction doesn’t feel too bad at all. We borrow each time our credit cards are charged and we borrow larger sums for longer periods of time so that we can work toward home ownership. I’m talking about the burden of being beholden to someone or something.

The other day I paid for lunch for a co-worker using my credit card with the agreement that he’d pay me back. I didn’t have change when he was paying me back in cash, but he insisted on paying me immediately. This transaction then resulted in me owing him two dollars. As I thought about this for a while I realized that he didn’t want to owe me, and I didn’t want to owe him. Have you felt like this before? Why is it that neither one of us wanted to owe the other?

How about when the postal carrier delivers a bundle of mail? When I see a pile of mail, I feel weighted down due to the high probability that there is at least one bill in there, regardless of my ability to pay it. Medical, taxes, insurance, phones, vehicles, home, credit card, organizations, utilities, etc.

Owing something gives me the feeling of an imbalance, a weight, a negativity, as though that person or entity has a piece of me; and I’ll go so far as to say that it almost feels as though I’m enslaved, or owned by something else because what I have is not my own.

What about a debt we cannot pay back? Financial debt can bring depression, strain relationships, and increase stress which can lead to health problems. Having great debt may even lead us to further debt because we feel crippled and hopeless, we cannot focus on the things that can get us out of debt, like our job or finding a job. Depressed yet?

Now please think about how it feels to pay the money back. While it might not be fun to consider parting with money, it does feel good to eliminate a debt. It is a release of a burden, it is restoration of ownership, it is a balancing of the scale. It brings back the equality in the relationship.

As we continue to read in the Bible we learn about the debt that is encountered through sin, thus God requiring payment. Today’s reading of Leviticus 4 had multiple examples where God required payment (animal sacrifices) even for unintentional sin.

Going back to the financial debt. Imagine if that were to be paid off by someone else. How good would that feel to have just one mortgage payment returned by the bank with a message stating “this one is on us”? What if this happened month after month? Or what if the bank sent the following letter:

Dear Customer,

With regard to the massive amount of money you owe us, we are pleased to inform you that your debt has been paid in full by someone else; a great benefactor, so please stop sending us payments. Further, if you have any further debt, or friends or family with debt, kindly let them know that they may transfer that debt to our bank and our benefactor will pay off their debt as well. This offer is valid in all fifty states, all countries, for any and all past, present, and future debt you may incur.

We do ask that you seek to refrain from further borrowing. However, if you feel you have a borrowing problem, we have a personal guide who can be with you at all times, free of charge to help you out.

Please remember that we have been in existence forever, and unlike any other bank, regardless of anyone’s perception of our business model, we will exist forever. We are open 24 x 7 x 365 and there is never a wait to speak with us.

We delight in you. Please come to us with any need, no matter how great or small.

Very truly yours,

I AM Bank

I’m certain that if this actually happened, news of this bank would spread like crazy. Everyone would bank there. In reality, no bank would do this, but God does this through Jesus on the cross. When Jesus offered his body and blood as a sacrifice, he paid off all of our sinful debt, past, present, and future – and it is impossible to pay him back. Instead, our response can and should be pure, humble gratitude, repentance, praise, and falling to his feet as Lord.

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:13-14)

Would you consider sharing the Good News of our great banker and benefactor with a friend today?

Capture This Thought

mountain summer landscape. meadow meadow with tall yellow grass and forests on hillside in sunset light

Leviticus 2–3; John 21; Proverbs 18; Colossians 1

Michael Somers brought up a good point in yesterday’s post, titled Taking Thoughts Captive. He said, “Thoughts are curious things. They tend to breed more of themselves. If we think on things that are dark, such thoughts beget more darkness.”   It is true.  What we focus on expands.  Unfortunately, we all, at some point in our lives, find ourselves lost, groping in the darkness, longing for the light. Many of the Psalms express this angst. We can hear the psalmists’ deep cries of distress and desperation that echo in the dark and empty recesses of our own hearts. We also hear them pining for relief. What the psalmists get right in these dark nights of the soul, is the focus point of their plea and petition. They look only to God.

Everything that I know about God says that he cannot live in my dark place. Clearly, if my heart is in darkness, God wants nothing to do with it. His very being will not allow it. This creates an insurmountable challenge for me. Fortunately, God wants more than anything to reconcile my heart to him. He did, after all, create me.  He is my Father.   He loves me far beyond the love that I can comprehend. Just one example comes from Romans 8:38-39 which reminds us that there is absolutely nothing that can separate us from His love.

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Do you hear what I hear in those wonderful words? They say that nothing in our present circumstances, no people, no higher (or lower) powers, NOTHING can touch his love for us. How can this be true? How does God overlook the darkness upon which I dwell? The difference maker is Jesus Christ. Today we read about the great pleasure that God has in his son. Because of Jesus’ perfection, he has no darkness (1 John 1:5), which is why in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell (Colossians 1:19). You know the rest of the story, right? His perfection, his light and his fullness were laid out on the altar, sacrificed, given for me, so that God sees only light, not darkness. In fact, when we live with Jesus, our hearts emit such a pleasing aroma that he has brings us into his own presence, and we are holy and blameless as we stand before him without a single fault (Colossians 1:22 NLT). Do you know what that means? It means that the fullness of God is pleased to dwell within our hearts.   Now, that is something worth thinking about!

Thank you for your Son. For his complete sacrifice that allows us to live in your fullness. Fill our thoughts today with your goodness.  As king David does in Psalm 27, I pray that we may dwell in the house of the Lord, all the days of our lives, to gaze upon Your beauty, our Lord and to inquire in Your temple.  

 

Taking Thoughts Captive

Today’s reading: Leviticus 1; John 20; Proverbs 17; Philippians 4

March 30th, 2016

Taking thoughts captive

Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. – Philippians 4:4–8

Here Paul tells us to be careful (or filled with care or worry) for nothing; but to turn such thoughts over to God in prayer with thanks. Then Paul gives us another, what I like to call, ultimate checklist on what we are supposed to be filled with. The sort of things we are supposed to let occupy our mind. Things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy.

Thoughts are curious things. They tend to breed more of themselves. If we think on things that are dark, such thoughts beget more darkness. Have you ever heard the saying ‘when it rains, it pours’ in referring to life’s circumstances? Knowing the truth from God’s word, I wonder if this saying is actually a saying of thoughts rather than of circumstances? Instead let us abide in the word of God and think on things that are light, and let the light shine forth and produce a perfect day.

But the path of the just is as the shining light, That shineth more and more unto the perfect day. – Proverbs 4:18

Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; – 2 Corinthians 10:5

Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18

May God show us the truth and give us the fortitude to count our blessings in abundance when the deceiver would have us think there are none. Amen.

 

Past, Present, and Future

This week we were asked to reflect on our:

I was________.

I am__________.

Today’s Reading Link:Exodus 40; John 19; Proverbs 16; Philippians 3

I do not consider that I have made it on my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining toward what lies ahead. I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14

I know something about each and everyone one of us. Guess? We are all different. You are a masterpiece! There is no one in the world like you. We all have a different set of fingerprints. This unique and humbling information is also accurate for our lives. For myself,  I truly wished I would’ve been in the word more earlier in my life, but I wasn’t.  I also understand now that God has a divine plan for everyone and everything.  As we recently come off the official celebration of Jesus’s resurrection I reflect also on our past, present, and future in Him. I love thinking of what Jillian said yesterday as starting my New Year in Christ.  I’m excited for it! I love this opportunity to be in the Word with others daily. God knows our past and He plans our future.

For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you. To give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

Past: Often we can catch ourselves trying to compare, copy, or just want things that others have.  This can include a certain lifestyle, relationship, and of course physical or material things.  This was definitely evident for me growing up. An upbringing that included much adversity in home dynamics and living in poverty to our American standards.  I would do anything to get or make others believe that I had some kind of perfect life.  Acting in one way where on the inside there was an insecure kid who would try to impress others through lies. I was truly selfish in all things doing whatever to look and act a certain way no matter who was hurt. It was all about me.  This was all the center of my world and God wasn’t visible in any of it, and it showed.  We tend to want what someone else has or the next best thing. Not until some rock bottom experiences did I realize I needed to have a closer relationship with God.  I wasn’t able to do any of it.

God grabbed a hold of my heart and put some brothers and sisters in Christ in my life. I started to give more of my own life and desires to Him. So we press on knowing that Christ has made us his own and that is his desire for us.In order to receive this life you need to repent and open your eyes, answer the door, let Him into your heart. Repentance can be a momentary confession but is a lifelong process.

  • The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, Acts 17:30 (We could dwell on the past and point fingers but we realize that isn’t the answer, Jesus is.)
  •  If anyone would come after me , let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but lose his life for my life, will save it. Luke 9:23-24

Present: We live in tension between who we have been and who we want to be. Faith in God allows us to let go and look forward to what he wants us to become. Not to hang onto our past, but grow in the knowing of God and a building of your relationship with Him. We have been forgiven, so we can look forward to a more purpose guided life with God. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us

Future: God knows our final plans but in doing God’s will along the way our efforts in this partnership need to center on Him and not ourselves. We need to use our minds and heart. As we live for him, pray for guidance as you plan, and act in faith when working your plan.

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. Proverbs 16:9

What’s your:

I was________?    

I am_________? 

Dear God,

I was selfish now I am changed while still a work in progress.  Thank you for the change in my life. Please continue encourage us to  put our Faith in you and not ourselves. Release us from the weight of our past and allow us to focus on our eternity with you.  We don’t deserve the sacrifice you made for us but we know you are a loving God who gives grace.  You know our past, you know or future.  I pray you keep us attentive to your lifeline in your Word that  you have provided and remembering the perfect example of your son Jesus. We lift this day up to you.  Let Your will be done.

Not One

Today’s Readings: Exodus 39, John 18, Proverbs 15, Philippians 2

As our family Easter celebration draws to a close tonight, I’m slowing my pace to enjoy the last moments of today reflecting on the miracle of Christ’s resurrection. For those reading it’s Easter Monday or what I’d like to call…a new year in Christ. As the trees begin to bud and our tulips are poking their colorful heads from the earth, the feeling of a fresh start is truly in the air. Today’s readings in John are particularly heavy. We are chronologically celebrating Easter but the readings take us back to Jesus’ betrayal and to the painful details of his impending crucifixion. John’s description of Jesus’ fearless testimony is so tangible.

“So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. So he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he.” John 18:3-8

Jesus knew in that moment that he would be left to stand alone. As broken people, few of us would have the courage to enter that room and say, “whom do you seek” and then follow that with “I am he.” It is me. Do I have the strength and commitment to my faith to stand alone when it is required of me? My personal answer is: not always! I’m always looking to shift the blame for my short comings. Today though, I have a chance for a “new year.” Not a January 1st diet and exercise, clean out the garage kind of new year but a new year in Christ. Today, Easter Monday the very first day of Christ’s victory means a new day, a whole new year actually to do better.

In John Chapter 18 Jesus says:

“…of those whom you gave me, I have lost not one” John 18:9

He is referring to a promise he made to his father God in John Chapter 17 verse 12. He is praying for his disciples. Although he was eventually betrayed by Judas, Jesus was asking in prayer that his disciples be united in love as the trinity is united in what he calls, “the strongest of all unions” (NIV study bible, Zondervan) As Christ’s followers, we are considered one of His. Whether we betray him, speak out against him or fail to honor his teachings in our daily life, he is there ready to forgive. Not one of us that chooses to put Him first will be left behind. What a relief! Now that the ham and potatoes have been put away, the candy wrappers and Easter grass vacuumed up, what’s left of this Easter celebration for us. What is your new year in Christ resolution? We have been given to him through baptism and our commitment. Now, I must be the keeper of my own salvation. Paul leaves us with this in Philippians 2:

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed so now, not only as in my presence by much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Philipians 2:12-13

Peace to you.

Happy New Year in Christ.

 

 

He is Risen

Today’s Reading: Exodus 38; John 17; Proverbs 14; Philippians 1

In the midst of a world rife with dissatisfaction in prosperity, and frequent acts of terrorism and desperation, I wondered: “What does God see when he looks upon the world He created?” And: “What does he choose to do about it?” My answer was found was in the story of the first Easter. It is a story of unconditional love, personal sacrifice; and redemption for all who ask. A story of Hope for all.

God looks down from Heaven on the children of man to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one. -Psalm 53:2-3

This is also quoted in the middle of Romans 3:9-20, where the case is made that all mankind is guilty, and that our salvation comes not from works but through faith.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not of your own doing it is a gift from God. -Ephesians 2:8-10

PRELUDE:

When Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead he demonstrates his power over death. And he explains who He REALLY is to Martha, the sister of His dear friend Lazarus.

Jesus said to her, I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this? -John 11:25-27

PASSOVER — 33 AD:

On the day of the preparation for the Feast of the Passover, the day which required the sacrifice of a spotless lamb, Jesus was crucified. On this day, Jesus, the innocent perfect person, God in the flesh, was subjected to a MOST AGONIZING DEATH.

He took the place of Barabbas, who was actually guilty of insurrection; Barabbas, a man who deserved to die for crimes that Jesus was wrongfully accused. The Aramaic name for Barabbas translates as “son of man,” or “Jesus Barabbas.” It is he who represents all of us who deserve condemnation and punishment which Jesus Christ bore in our place. Remarkably, this happens so that we might be reconciled with our Heavenly Father. In the moment of Jesus’s death, new life became possible for everyone who chooses. In this way God demonstrates perfect love for His creation, making a way back to Him for each of us. The death of Christ is our bridge over the chasm of sin that separates us from God. By faith in the knowledge of Jesus’s sacrifice we receive the power to restore our souls, becoming new creatures, the people we were meant to be in the beginning.

FINALE:

The death of Jesus finds its true meaning in His resurrection. And in this moment Jesus offers living proof of the words he shares with His disciples at the Last Supper: I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me. -John 14:6

The resurrected Jesus (the spotless lamb of God) demonstrates his power over everything. He is more than a man, he is God in the flesh, whose life and sacrifice points towards Himself, while creating the way back to Him.

For forty days, until he ascends into Heaven, the resurrected Jesus appears to many. This is the foundation of Christianity and proof for the salvation of the world. And just as one story is finished, another begins. It begins in the lives of those who first believed. In the transformation of the timid and confused disciples who become fearless apostles. Then one by one; in the many, God’s Holy Spirit was passed along.

Christianity grew because of a small, radical, splinter group of Jews followed Jesus, witnessed his ministry; his death and resurrection. They followed the God of the Old Testament who appeared as a man; believing he was the Christ. He was the anointed deliverer of God’s chosen people; then all people, as prophesied and recorded in the ancient Scriptures. This true story is documented in the New Testament as well.

…and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you — unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance that I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. -1 Corinthians 15:2-6

NEW LIFE:

Easter is both the end and the beginning of the story of God becoming man to save us from our sin. Wise men (like Phil Yancy) have said this happened so that we could see the face of God, to know how to respond to Him who has responded to us in perfect Love. Through Jesus, by the Holy Spirit, God demonstrated the perfect relationship, to and with Himself. The perfect person (something we will never achieve on our own), perfectly responding to God. Jesus, through his life, death, burial and resurrection, (and ascension), ensures that we have the opportunity to be made holy in God’s eyes. In His sacrifice the relationship we are all supposed to have with God and each other is possible. In His resurrection we find our faith and hope. This is the foundation of Christianity!

Jesus purchased a ticket for everyone to the best place in the universe, and to the most perfect life we could ever imagine. Then he offered it to us all freely. By his death and resurrection we have the privilege to dwell within the God of all creation, which is only possible through Jesus as His Holy Spirit dwells within us. This allows the most miraculous fellowship of a lifetime; then an eternity. This is true life as it was always meant to be! He is risen. He is risen indead!

God, please open my heart to your amazing grace. I pray to learn to live in the incredible power and blessing of redemption through the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. I seek the peace, joy and purpose that transcends all understanding. Grant me the faith to see truth, and the wisdom to find it. In the name of Jesus. Amen

Wise counsel

A businesswoman signing a contract - business concept

Exodus 37; John 16; Proverbs 13; Ephesians 6

“Wisdom is perhaps the greatest gift one generation can give to the other”.  Jim Collins, a popular author and teacher, feels this is perhaps the best advice he’s received from his personal board of directors over the years. In the mid-1990’s, Collins introduced the concept of a personal board of directors to business leaders.  The notion of assembling a multi-disciplinary group that could provide feedback and advise on anything from career choices to helping overcome workplace challenges, was a fresh alternative to traditional one on one mentoring relationships.  This concept has an inward focus – how connecting with others can truly make you better, rather than just helping you get to the next level by linking with a leader on his/her way up the ladder.  An idea that started as advice to Collins’ business students has been useful to leaders in more than just business settings for almost 20 years.

Have you ever employed this approach? Thanks to a wise mentor, I have.  The last time I interviewed for a job, I intentionally spent time connecting with six leaders who had different backgrounds, perspectives and experiences.  Their guidance was instrumental in helping me think through what I wanted from the position, what I capabilities I brought to the job, whether I was really a fit for it, and what additional information I wanted to gain from the hiring leader during the interview.  I walked in to that interview better prepared than I had ever been.  Unfortunately, I can’t tell you this experience had a fairytale ending.  I didn’t get the job.  The process I used to prepare for it, however, was what helped me quickly work through the initial disappointment and, eventually, realize I am much better off because I didn’t get that job.

As I read and reflected on Proverbs 13 this week, I see the concept of a personal board of directors rooted in the wisdom of Solomon. Guidance for seeking knowledge, instruction and wise counsel is the heart of verses 13-20.  Solomon’s direction applies to business, it applies to leadership, but it also applies to the everyday lives of Christ followers.

13Whoever despises the word brings destruction on himself,

but he who reveres the commandment will be rewarded.  

14The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life

that one may turn away from the snares of death.  

15Good sense wins favor,

but the way of the treacherous is their ruin.  

16In everything the prudent acts with knowledge,

but a fool flaunts his folly.

17A wicked messenger falls into trouble,

but a faithful envoy brings healing.

18Poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction,

but whoever heeds reproof is honored.

19A desire fulfilled is sweet to the soul,

but to turn away from evil is an abomination to fools.  

20Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise,

but the companion of fools will suffer harm.

The scripture begins by affirming that the Bible, the inspired Word of God, is a Christ follower’s guidepost (verse 13). It goes on to describe the goodness of seeking out wise counsel and conversely describes the consequences of relying on advice of the wicked, of fools or relying on yourself alone.  This is where I see the concept of a personal board of directors begin to show up.

  • Verse 14 talks about the teaching of the wise
  • Verse 15 talks about using good sense
  • Verse 16 suggests pursuit of knowledge is prudent
  • Verse 18 warns of the harsh consequences that come from ignoring instruction
  • Verse 19 began to hit home when I thought about times in my own life that my desire for something clouded my judgment

I haven’t always used a personal board of directors.  Rather, I can think of occasions I wanted something so bad that the only people I asked for advice were my closest friends, people I knew thought like me, and those I knew would give me the answer I wanted to hear.  (A few of these situations didn’t have fairytale endings either.)  Verse 20 closes the passage by instructing us to choose advisors wisely for this very reason.  Experience tells us the more time people spend together, the more they become alike.  Should you be hanging around with people who make you better or people who make you worse?  Walk with the wise and, over time, their influence will help you become wiser.  Walk with fools and, over time, you will make poor choices.

Selecting the right people is imperative to finding success with a personal board of directors. In order to bring value, this group has to be diverse.  Not only does it have to include people outside your circle of friends and people who think like you, it also needs to include people with points of view and experiences different from each other.  A well-rounded team.  These people must also have the courage to give difficult feedback that will help you grow and develop, though sometimes it is painful and not easily received.

Who’s on Your Personal Board of Directors?, by Carolyn Taketa (Christianity Today 2014) provides some very relevant guidance on selecting the right people, especially as it relates to the lives of Christ followers.  Her central message is that your board should be “people that consistently motivate you to become the person God has created you to be”.  She then goes on to describe diverse roles that may be valuable for helping you grow and develop:

  • Mentor – a wise counselor
  • Sponsor – someone who can, and is willing, to open doors for you
  • Spiritual advisor – someone who helps identify and understand God’s work in your life
  • Partners in ministry – those who help you with ideas and strategies for your area of ministry
  • Honest encourager – someone who helps find clarity in difficult situations
  • Prayer warrior – someone who has the gift of intercessory prayer
  • Others with specific expertise – experts who help provide guidance in certain areas, for example a financial planner, therapist, personal trainer, etc.

Assembling a personal board of directors isn’t easy. Identifying the right people and investing in the relationships takes time.  It also requires vulnerability, willingness to accept the risk of hearing things you don’t want to hear, and readiness for some level of disappointment.  Considering the wise counsel of Solomon in Proverbs, is there a better way?

Proverbs 1:7, The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 12:15, The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.

Proverbs 15:22, Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.

Proverbs 19:20, Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.

Proverbs 24:6, By wise guidance you will wage war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory.

Scottish Granny

Exodus 36; John 15; Proverbs 12; Ephesians 5

In 2003, I had the opportunity to spend several months on a business trip in Edinburgh, Scotland. My wife Amy went with me (this was before kids) and since we were going to be settling in for several months, Amy went looking for some activities to engage in. To everyone’s surprise, and perhaps due to limited options, Amy signed up for a sewing class. In that class, Amy’s sewing partner was a woman named Isabel Burns who was 70+ years young.

This is my command: Love each other. (John 15:17)

Isabel and Amy became fast friends, I think merely for the reason that they are both so sweet, loving, kind, and giving. It isn’t typical in today’s society for a youngster (at the time, Amy was 27) to gain new close friends who are 40+ years older than us. A more typical response might be some initial kindness to the elderly but then go on our way to do our own thing, never looking back.

Amy didn’t have John 15:17 in mind when she met Isabel, but I believe no matter where we stand as far as our beliefs or closeness to God at the time, His truth and commands always stand firm and provide meaning in our lives. Meaning, when we are truly, selflessly loving each other we are obeying what we are called by Jesus to do; we are in some way connecting to him whether we know it or not. We were made to love people, and when we do that, beautiful things happen; we become light in the darkness, we find purpose and true joy.

When it was time to say goodbye (or see you later), these ladies knew they had a special friendship so they decided to stay in touch. They traded hand-written letters and made several phone calls over the years like good old dear friends do.

Fast forward to 2010. Amy knew in her heart that it was time to see Isabel again so she pooled some money together with her mom, and offered to help fund an American adventure for Isabel. Isabel delightfully accepted to fly across the pond, even though she had never flown or even left Scotland in her life.

Isabel stayed with us for a few weeks and became part of the family. The boys weren’t sure how to refer to her so we all agreed that Scottish Granny sounded like a perfect name. The boys had so much fun with her, except we couldn’t get her to stop playing the Wii!

Isabel-Peyton-wii_1June2010

Isabel opened up to us through our time together, sharing that when she was only 27 years old, her beloved husband Frank passed away suddenly, which left her to raise three young boys on her own. I cannot imagine the heartache and what that devastating loss must have been like. Isabel is this smiling, grateful, joyful spirited woman, and I’ve seen no bitterness in her. She further shared that even after all these years, she has never taken off her wedding ring as there would be no other man for her.

As part of this trip we brought her to Michigan to meet some of our friends and family members. Of course, everyone who met Isabel instantly fell in love with her. Don’t worry, they didn’t make her work too hard…

Carrie-Isabel-Chuck

Soon it was time to say our teary goodbyes and again part with Scottish Granny as she made her journey back to Scotland.

scottishgranny

We’ve been able to keep in touch with Isabel over the years, and while far away she has remained close in our hearts. During a phone call around Christmas 2015, Amy felt prompted that it was time to see Isabel again. Isabel’s vision was on the decline and she’s had trouble walking, so it was best for Amy to make plans to visit her in Scotland. Amy announced the journey through a video call, and Isabel went from somewhat lethargic to thrilled beyond belief; both ladies having tears of joy to know that they would soon be reunited. Young Peyton, a lifelong map-lover and world-travel-dreamer somehow worked his way onto the itinerary, and the plans were set. Amy and Peyton would arrive into Edinburgh on Thursday, March 24th 2016.

Then some concerning news came. Five days prior to their departure, we were made aware that Isabel had finally been scheduled to have some much needed surgery the day that Amy was to arrive. The surgery date could not be moved so Amy shifted her plans from an apartment visit to a hospital visit.

As I finalize this journal post on the day of Isabel’s surgery and Amy and Peyton’s arrival in Edinburgh, I have this faith that God is very much at work in this situation, and I have no idea as to what is to come. Our thoughts and prayers are with Isabel as we eagerly anticipate the results of her surgery. I am missing Amy and Peyton, but I know they are having a fantastic time and in good hands.

A worthy wife is a crown for her husband, (Proverbs 12:4a)

If you know Amy at all, you know she loves to travel, but she is on this trip giving her time and resources to give love to a friend. I learn so much from her in the way she selflessly loves, gives, and listens; she is a crown for her husband, and I’m so thankful to call her my wife. She is doing what she was designed to do, and prayerfully seeking God’s will to continue to be a witness to this woman Isabel.

Today we are observing Good Friday, reflecting on the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. He did this because he loves us. He performed the ultimate act of love by offering his life for those who will call him friend.

Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2)

For updates on the Scottish Granny story, please check out our Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/biblejournalnet

Called

Exodus 35; John 14; Proverbs 11; Ephesians 4

Few things stir my heart more than the concept of calling. Why? Well…if I am honest, the answer is self-incriminating. When I think of calling, I consider what my life is about. What is the significance of my time here on earth and what is my contribution to the world? Now, these are not bad questions to answer, but we need to be careful with the answer. Here’s why.  I see two options. One is to answer them according to the American dream, the second is according to the faith that I have professed in Jesus Christ.

When I answer my calling with respect to the American Dream, I begin to think about all sorts of possibilities. I think of people like Henry Ford and John D. Rockefeller.   They are stand out’s among the fabricator’s and hero’s of the American Dream. Their motto; anything is possible and everything is probable. Heck, I could even be President! It just requires persistence and hard work. Our dreams are within reach. So, how do i define my calling as an American? Unfortunately, much of my life has been marked with the shallow and self-serving answer of “success.”

The narrative changes, however, when we choose to follow Jesus. Today, in Ephesians 4, Paul reminds us to “live a life worth of your calling.” In my quick reading, I interpret calling according to my American Dream. As I read deeper, however, I see that Paul clarifies that Jesus’ calling is not my own. Instead, Paul exhorts me to live the life to which I have been “called.” Paul is talking about the life that God created us for.  What is the difference between these two lives? A handful of verses bring me clarity.

[Serve] the Lord with all humility and with tears (Acts 20:19 ESV)

 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves (Philippians 2:3 ESV)

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another (Colossians 3:12-13 ESV)

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

Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another (1 Peter 5:5 ESV)

As I read through these verses, there is one word that appears and repeats in my head, tying them all together. It is the thing missing from my narrative. It is replaced with turmoil in our daily lives, as we chase the American dream. It is why Jesus died for us. It has eternal significance and, it will ensure our joy-filled life. What is it?  What does Jesus call us to? LOVE.

Leadership and Love

Today’s reading: Exodus 34; John 13; Proverbs 10; Ephesians 3

March 23rd, 2016

Leadership

Whenever the topic of leadership comes up I like to pass on a simple truth I was taught. I call them the two things. They are simple to understand. Simple to remember. Simple to see why these two things are it. Still they are not so simple to enact without fail. They take sacrifice at the most fundamental level. Self. They take us out of ourselves. Away from us. Away from this world. They leave us with less self and more others. A good friend of mine taught me what leaders do. Leaders do two things:

  1. Leaders lead by example
  2. Leaders serve those they lead

Search your experiences and you will hopefully find a leader in your life who does these two things well. One thing to mention here is that anyone can lead. Power is not needed to lead. Authority is not needed to lead. Though power and authority will accrete to those who follow these two things. Do you want to be a leader? Are you doing these two things?

Leadership and Love

Love, the Fulfillment of the Law

Here I just want to share a collection of verses that point to the importance of love and close with a few verses I encourage everyone to memorize. They are verses you have likely heard several times, but please do not let that cause you to pass over this encouragement without prayerfully considering memorizing them. Once memorized you can meditate on them throughout the day and call them to service as the ultimate checklist against what Jesus has called you to do in any situation. Running late in the check out line; run through the list. In the throes of a tough conversation; run through the list. Frustrated, worried, concerned, angry, scared, upset… go through the list, one by one and make sure you align with God’s word. 

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. – Ecclesiastes 12:13

If ye love me, keep my commandments. – John 14:15

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. – John 13:34–35

Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. Romans – 13:10

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

– 1 Corinthians 13:4–7

God would you give us understanding that we may keep your law and obey it with all our hearts? Would you turn our hearts toward Your statutes and not toward selfish gain? Would You turn our eyes away from worthless things and preserve our lives according to Your word? Thank you. Amen.