Salvatio

Our daughter Gianna is now 2. As a newborn, I read that the only two fears infants have are loud noises and falling. At her young age, she has a fear of some bugs, large animals, heights by herself, and other things that her parents and older siblings have trained her to be afraid of. As an “adult” in my mid-40’s, the world’s fears have taken hold of me for many years.  These fears can include what I say, do, or act in front of others with underlining insecurity.  Fear can make you wonder if you have enough or hold a high enough position with the constant fear of failure.  The Lord’s transformation of my life started around ten years ago, even though I can point to various points in my life where I know the Lord has always been by my side.  Truth is he has never left you, I just never listened or opened my eyes.   Until I was willing to surrender my selfish pride and surrender to a losing battle, I found my salvatio. (salvation) Merriam-Webster has a few definitions for salvation like 1. deliverance from the power and effects of sin, 2. preservation from destruction or failure, 3. liberation from ignorance or illusion.  I feel like all three of these definitions fit me well at that time with some lingering effects.  But thankfully, our debt has been paid in full, and we have hope in our Lord.

Today’s verses are a couple of my favorites.

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of life; of whom shall I be afraid?  Psalm 27:1

The world is sending a message always.  In these dark times, we can always look to the light.  As something or someone starts your anxiety level to rise, relax, turn to God our say in your head, “Whom shall I be afraid? ” As you begin to feel weak, and the physical or mental exhaustion kicks in.  Remember where your strength truly comes from.  Go ahead this morning, today, at lunch, dinner.  Say it to a friend, a colleague, child, your spouse.  The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I be afraid? The Lord is the stronghold of life; of whom shall I be afraid?  Repeat it if you need to. Say it as the pressures of the world enter into your day.

Remember Gianna, still semi-fearless besides what we as parents have instilled. No fear. She would jump from anything into your arms because they trust you.     I would want my children, my wife, and myself to remember this verse as the world attempts to enter fear into our minds.   Where are you today? Are you worried about something? School? Kids? Finances? Health?  Our Lord is right there waiting to be the light, to be your strength. To be your salvation.

The Lord is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my Father’s God, and I will exalt him. Exodus 15:2

Whom shall you be afraid?  Sing praise today; salvation is yours.

King of Kings

 

 

Resurrection and Life

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall live,…”

John 11:25

Today’s words to describe Jesus are the resurrection and life from John 11:25. Here it is actually Jesus himself calling himself this as He comforts Martha from the death of her brother Lazarus who He ultimately brings back to life later in the chapter after being dead for four days.

It’s not too often that we don’t attend church (now virtually) on Sunday morning during the planned service time, but this week because of some family circumstances we did not. I also typically write my Biblejournal.net posting on Saturday or Sunday, but here I am writing it Tuesday morning after watching the sermon Monday morning. As I watched the sermon Monday, God yet again left me in amazement as the central focus of Pastor Mike Baker’s sermon was the resurrection of Jesus. Yes, all sermons are about Jesus and typically come back to the hope we have in Him because of the resurrection, but this was the central theme of his entire message. I believe there are no coincidences, and apparently God wanted a few more people who may read this but who not attend Eastview Christian Church to hear some of Pastor Mike’s nuggets.

The central verses for Pastor Mike’s sermon were 1 Corinthians 15:3-11 where Paul discusses the resurrection. Pastor Mike said, “What’s weird is not someone dying for a cause which has been done for years, what’s weird is someone rising from the dead.” Paul adderesses in these verses that Jesus was undoubtedly alive after His crucifixion as He appeared to Cephas (Peter), the twelve (all the disciples), five hundred at one time (Paul does not give the exact event but many believe this to be the ascension in Luke 24:50-53), His brother James, the apostles, and to Paul himself even though Paul states he was not worthy because he himself persecuted and killed Christians. We know in Luke 24 Jesus was with the disciples and asked for something to eat in Luke 24:41-43. Pastor Mike brought to light the fact that five hundred people don’t hallucinate and a dead person or a ghost does not eat. As I’ve written about before, what is most convicting to me about the resurrection is the fact that the disciples went from running away and hiding in the room Jesus ultimately appeared to them in as they feared for their own lives to spreading the Gospel at all costs knowing they would likely be killed for doing so as nearly all of them were. Would they have done this if they had stolen the body themselves or if they didn’t actually see and talk to Jesus? Not a chance. Well, maybe Jesus wasn’t actually dead? Much has been written on this topic to debunk this which not only speaks to how the description of crucifixion event in the Bible prove He was dead, but also the fact that the Romans were killing machines. This is what they did. They didn’t make mistakes when it came to killing someone. If this topic is something you are interested in exploring further beyond the greatest source in the Bible itself, I recommend reading the book Case for Christ by Lee Strobel. Lee was in investigative reporter and atheist who was out to disprove the Gospel. He now has written many books and travels the world spreading the Gospel.

So why does the resurrection matter to each one of us? Pastor Mike says there are two central questions we must all answer and move beyond. First, how do I get past my wrongdoings and sin? Second, what happens to me when I die? Jesus is the resurrection and also the life because He is the answer to both these questions. Believing in Him and that He was without sin yet was sacrificed for us and our sins and that He was raised so we who believe will also be raised (John 11:25) means that we can all answer both these questions and ultimately have life.

Last week I was meeting virtually with a client and as a part of our initial chit chat we were talking about all the craziness going on in the world today on many levels and especially with him being in healthcare. Although He was satisfied from our financial review, I didn’t really know how to wrap up the call to say goodbye as I knew there was still some discontentment with the world today in general. The only thing I could think of to say was that we know who’s really in control and that He has a plan. He responded by saying honestly that is only way he is getting through all of this. The only thing we have to fear is death, but as 1 Corinthians 15:55-57 says, “’O death where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through the Lord Jesus Christ.” We have nothing to fear because we are ALL undefeated through Him. He is life…eternal life.

As the song “Great Are You Lord” says…

 

You give life, You are love

You bring light to the darkness

You give hope, You restore

Every heart that is broken

Great are you Lord

 

It’s Your breath in our lungs

So we pour out our praise

We pour out our praise

It’s your breath in our lungs

So we pour out our praise to You only….

https://youtu.be/ZZqV6i98SkA

The Fear of Letting Go

Jesus shared approximately forty parables with his followers, and it’s no wonder that almost half of them included a message on wealth. He knows our hearts, what we hold on to, and what trips us up.  Money is definitely one of those things.

I know how money makes me feel – more powerful and more in control. Which is exactly when I start to get in trouble and rely less on the Lord and more on myself. While the world is focused on wealth accumulation, God calls us to wealth distribution through reduction. Can you think of anything that is asked of us, that isn’t ultimately for our own good? I love the scripture that says “lay aside every weight” – and our wealth can become a heavy, burdensome weight that slows us down.

More money, more problems… it’s so true! The more stuff we buy, the more it requires. We need space and time for all of the upkeep, repairs, updates, and maintenance, for the THINGS we accumulate through our wealth.

When you read in Mark 10:17-31 about the Rich Young Man, you find that he is seeking eternity. He has followed the letter of the law, and now he is seeking surety of eternity. How cool that Jesus’ love for this man is called out. Right before he gives him this very direct admonition, he “looks at him and loves him”. God’s grace for us is so amazing, leading us with love.

Because Jesus knew his heart, he drew his attention to the one thing that was getting in the way of his relationship with God. His stuff. He was told by Jesus to give away all he had, and come and follow him. Instead of heeding the instructions, the man left, sad at the thought of losing his stuff. I wonder what specifically was most hard for him. Did he cling to the security he believed his money  represented? Were there family heirlooms that he didn’t want to give away? Maybe he was accustomed to the conveniences that he saw his wealth provide.

Another thing that strikes me is that time and time again in scripture we have examples of people being called to sell or give their stuff. It’s not just “give your extra money”, but it’s a call to simplification through reduction. Idolatry has been a challenge for thousands of years, and while we may not be making golden calves, I think we all could think of things that get in the way of our relationship with the Lord.

I don’t want to be captive to my possessions. I can think of a few areas I need to “clean house” and let go. Along with an abundance of stuff, I also have a bunch of justifications for it all. Seriously! One big category for me is in all things ‘serving and hosting’. At some point in time, I started accumulating things for celebrations. Decorations, dinnerware, linens, and on and on. You know, for the next dinner party, birthday gathering, etc. I’ve collected and then kept all these things, justifying it with some scripture about the gift of hospitality. Serve well. Oh, and I will use it all again someday, so I should really be a good steward and save it. WHAT?!! Okay, who is going to check in with me in a couple of months to see if I’ve cleaned out my storage area?

As God loves us, he sanctifies us. I don’t know what God has for you today… maybe it’s a release of your money, stuff, time, or something else. Ask him, and I know he will lovingly reveal it to you, just as he did the Rich Young Man. He perfectly knows what we need, and what we don’t need.

This passage wraps up with the disciples questioning the difficulty of a wealthy man entering heaven. And Jesus reminds them of God’s power: With man it is not possible, but with God, all things are possible. Be encouraged – God will equip you to do whatever he calls you to.  And when he helps us to unclench our fists, and truly let go of the things we so tightly hold on to, it is then that our hands are open. Open to receive more of his love, grace, and blessing. He promises that we will receive so much more in eternity than we can imagine.

More Than Conquerors

Today’s reading is Romans 8 or as some call it…”The Great Eight.”

In reading it again, it’s easy to see why it has that nickname as it’s chalked full of so much great content that it is really hard to choose what to write on. If you’re interested in digging more into this chapter, I highly recommend the book “If” by Mark Batterson. He does a great job of breaking this chapter down in a way that may change the way you live your life..without fear…knowing God’s immeasurable love for you.

Mark says when you see “therefore,” see what it’s “there for.” Take note right away because verse one starts off by saying, “There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” We live in a world where committing a crime or doing something wrong comes with punishment..or most agree it should any way. This makes it natural to wonder when we have something go wrong in our life such as losing a baby, getting sick, getting downsized from your job, or you or your child get sick if God is punishing us for something we did. Paul makes it clear hear right away that when Jesus was nailed to the cross, so was our sin. Jesus also makes this clear in John 9:3, “Jesus answered, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” This is very hard for us to comprehend…it’s just not natural. But, first 1 John 4:16 tells us, “God is love.” God’s true love means God doesn’t always stop these things from happening because good can come from it in a way that is incomprehensible to us on this Earth and that we may never know while alive. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” He loves us and allows only what’s TRULY good to happen..and only He knows what’s TRULY good. If we knew what was truly good, we would be God.

The principle and main point in Mark’s book, “If,” is that the word “If” in Romans 8:31 is a true game changer in how we live our life, “…If God is for us, who can be against us?” When we wake up knowing every day that God wants us to succeed, it changes the way we live. We can we live without fear because when know God loves us and wants what’s truly best for us. We already discussed that “God is love,” and 1 John 4:18 tells us that “…perfect love casts out fear.” We can replace “love” with “God” and say…’..perfect God casts out fear.’ Subconscious doubts of God’s best intentions for your life will result in many fears! Don’t doubt his love!

How do we know His unfailing and unconditional love?

The following verse, Romans 8:32 says, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will He not also with him graciously give us all things?” Drop the mic.

Because of this, Paul says in verse 37, “..we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us?” When we know the game we’re playing to win is not in life which doesn’t matter, but for eternal life in Heaven…and we know we already have the title belt through His love…it changes everything. Let us not live like Jesus and our sins are still nailed to the cross, He’s risen and our sins are erased permanently giving us eternal life and making us “..more than conquerors through Him.”

 

One Wish…

As many await the release of the remake of the Disney classic Aladdin later in 2019, we read of an “Aladdin” or “genie” type event in 1 Kings 3 as God comes to King Solomon, the son of David, through a dream asking him what He should give Solomon. Be honest with yourself, before reading Solomon’s answer here, what would you ask for…wealth, happiness, health, love, or something different? Solomon answers in 1 Kings 3:9, “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?” Wisdom…Solomon asked for wisdom, so we should not be surprised that he later wrote 2 books of the Bible which were filled with wisdom in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. How many of us would have asked for wisdom?

We can learn a few very important lessons here from Solomon. The first being humility. The saying often goes, “you don’t know what you don’t know.” How many of us actually realize and think about that regularly, as opposed to believing we have all the answers? I know I don’t. Solomon says in the 2nd part of 1 Kings 3:7 “….although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in.” Here, the leader of God’s people who he says in 1 Kings 3:8 “are too many to be numbered or counted for multitude,” does not get cocky or arrogant upon his throne which God placed him, but instead humbles himself to say he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know and he needs help from God asking for wisdom.

The second lesson we can learn from Solomon is life is not about us. Solomon asks for wisdom because he realizes he has a great and important responsibility to “govern this your great people.” Not only did he not ask for riches, happiness, or love, but instead for wisdom, which likely would lead to those other things, not for that reason, but rather to help the people around him which God had put in his life and entrusted him to lead. How cool is that?! How many of us would have the same “other focused” mindset? Should it not surprise us that when Solomon takes the focus off himself, God says in 1 Kings 3:13 that he would give him “riches” and “honor,” as well as “lengthen his days” if he continued to walk faithfully in His ways like his father David.

The verse 1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” Fear always comes back to us and our insecurities and selfish worries. Love is focused on others, removing that fear. God put us on Earth for a purpose to impact the lives around us to bring Him glory by modeling the love He showed us by giving His life on the cross for us to bring us together with Him. Let us show love to those God has entrusted us to lead (family, co-workers, team members) and put in our lives (the waiter/waitress, gas station attendant, cashier) in the same way King Solomon and later Jesus did.

Many of our stresses in life also come from wondering what the right answer is, what the right direction to go is, or wondering what God’s purpose is in certain things happening in our lives and in the world around us. We are paralyzed about making the right decision, not only in the big things, but even in the little things. Let us pray for wisdom daily to make small and large decisions for His glory and to know His purpose for what’s happening to and around us….or at the least to have the wisdom to give us the peace to realize we don’t know the purpose of what’s going on, but He does…..and has a perfect plan.

Got Talent?

Today’s reading is Matthew 18:23-34 and Psalm 115.

We will focus on the parable in Matthew which many of us our familiar with where a king forgave a servant 10,000 talents. Some resources indicate 1 talent is about 20 years of wages in biblical times so 10,000 talents would be 200,000 years of wages! However, when the servant was released and someone owed him 100 denarii which resources say is about 4 months wages, he did not show the same grace. In fact, he had him thrown into prison.

Tonight, I was talking with a friend about a mutual relationship we have with another individual who we both have a disagreement with. My friend made a comment in which he said something to the effect of…”you’re a little more forgiving than me on items like this” with this person. However, while I would like to say I’m living this out…I would say this very circumstantial and is not the case anywhere near to the level the Bible calls us to do. He doesn’t know this, but I actually went off on this person’s boss about them at one point and learned later I was quick to judge, didn’t know some things about the individual, and felt the need to apologize to this person’s boss for my quick and harsh judgement without knowing everything. This person’s boss is also someone I’m trying to witness, too. Oops..I did not show them a very good example to draw them to Christ in this case did I?!

One time I even took a personality assessment which said I’m typically forgiving….to an extent. It said I give individuals chances, but when it reaches a certain “breaking point,’ I’m completely done with them and write them off. I’m not going out on a limb to say my breaking point is WAY less than 10,000 talents!

In fact, I often find my amount of forgiveness depends on the relationship with the person or if I find myself with similar beliefs. I’m quick to forgive family, a close friend. or those that have the same political beliefs as me or are on the sports team I root for. Yet, I am quick to condemn someone who stumbles and makes a mistake that has different political views or is a celebrity I don’t know or is on a rival sports team for example. This is just wrong. It shouldn’t matter. I need to realize that I’m called to forgiven in the same way Jesus has forgiven me as this parable teaches of. If Jesus held me to the same standard I hold others to, I’d be in big trouble.

As we read through the Psalms, we come across many passages that talk about having a healthy fear of the Lord. This passage is very humbling because it reminds us at the end that if we don’t forgive others, the Lord will not forgive us. It is also humbling because reminds me how thankful I should be that the Lord has forgiven my sins that come not just by the hour, but by the minute. By using 10,000 talents or 200,000 years wages…He wanted to show the unbelievable depth of His forgiveness and grace. He washes ALL our sins white as snow. It is not circumstantial like my forgiveness of others which I must improve on. All we have to do is believe in Him and ask…and give the same grace to others. God is great!

Come Back Sheep

Today’s Reading: Matthew 18:12-14 and Psalm 112

“What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” Matthew 18:12-14

Have you ever gotten lost as a small child? Most of us can remember that helpless overwhelming sense of fear as we searched for our parent in a store or at a busy outdoor festival. Even as an adult I can recall that visceral feeling of my heart pounding, my eyes welling up with tears as I shouted for my Mom or Dad. As a parent, I’m now standing on the other side of that equation. Every time I take my three children to a public place I find myself endlessly counting to three as my eyes dart around looking for each little head curls. Of course as a child you believe that when you grow up you’ll leave all that fear and dependence behind. You believe that adults are in command of their world and can control their own circumstance rather than be controlled by external forces. It’s laughable, right? If only children knew just how much less control we have as grown-ups! If only they knew that we too experience the fear and the reality of being lost. That like them we experience abandonment, isolation, persecution and loneliness.  We don’t share that part of ourselves with children because it’s our job to protect them. We shield them from the worst of things and show them the best of things. And, in turn our Father does the same for us.

A lost sheep is totally defenseless. Having no weapon or benefit of speed, all he can do is cry, which signals his enemy to close in. The sheep has no sense of direction or gift of scent. He is surrounded by enemies; whether predators or simply the elements of nature. And when that lost sheep is separated from its herd it is all the more vulnerable to the cunning wit of his enemy. Just as our children are like our sheep, so are we the Father’s. When wander off from Christian life, we are vulnerable. The predators of our world close in, and all we can do is cry out to God. What are the bright and shiny things that can lure us away from our Christian flock? For me, it’s getting out of the habit of being in His word each day and getting into the habit of sleeping in, watching too much TV, too much focus on materialism and money. Suddenly, I find myself far far away from the place I want to be in my journey with Jesus Christ. Although I am just about as defenseless as a baby sheep in God’s eyes, I do have a sense of direction. I do know the way back to God. Jesus tells us that God “rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray…” Matthew 18:13. What that means is that there is everlasting grace for those who are lost. If you are reading today, and you feel like you are a sheep on the mountain, cold and alone, call out to Him. Follow that path that has led you back to Him before. And if you are reading and you’ve never found God, start in His word. Read, and He will find you.

~have a great week sheep

 

 

Follow Me

Today’s reading is Luke 9. A few years ago our small group studied a series called Follow by Andy Stanley. He talks about how Jesus said, “Follow Me,” approximately 23 times in the Gospel. A mentor of mine would always say that “repetition is the mother of learning.” So, if Jesus says those words that many times, we should probably take note. Ever since we covered Andy Stanley’s study, it always jumps off the page when I read Jesus say it like He does in Luke 9:23-25 and Luke 9:57-62, and I underline it in my Bible.

I believe many keep their distance from Christianity because they believe it is just a bunch of rules to abide by. We live in a society today that tells everyone to just do whatever they feel like, so if they believe all Christ does is make you follow rules then they will not be drawn to Him.

Jesus does not say to do X, Y, and Z and then you can, “Follow me.” He doesn’t say learn the Scriptures, change these habits, get your life in order, and then, “Follow me.” He just says, “Follow me.” Jesus only wants to see our faith and trust in Him. That is what amazes me so much about the disciples. They just left their lives upon Jesus invitation. Jesus did not pick guys that were scholars and had their lives together. He picked regular people like you and me. Earlier this week in Luke 5:27-28 He asks Matthew who was a tax collector to, “Follow me.” Tax collectors were Jewish outcast because they were Jewish, but collected taxes for the Roman government. Andy says they could only hang out with other tax collectors because even the worst sinners wouldn’t hang out with them. Yet, Jesus still called Matthew to follow Him and then he even hangs out with Matthew and his tax collector buddies after. While the occupations of all 12 disciples are not known, it is believed that most were fishermen or tradesmen of some kind. They were not set apart already because of their occupations or previous works before Jesus asked them to come along for the ride.

You may be thinking to yourself because of my earlier comments that the Bible and Christianity does have “do’s and don’ts” so to speak. Yes, it does because God knows what is best for us, and He knows that often what feels good at the time will eventually cause us pain later at some point. Jesus doesn’t lead with this though because He knows that by following Him our hearts will be changed, and we will stop sinful habits (Luke 12:34).

Jesus also knows we are not perfect, and we will still sin and lose faith at times. I know daily God answers prayers that could have altered the course of my entire life if they were not answered. Prayers for safe travels for family, favorable news from an uncertain doctor’s appointment, that a big meeting goes well, and the list goes on. Yet days, hours, or even minutes later I’ve forgotten already, and I’m anxious or nervous about something else! The disciples were no different though, and they even saw Jesus’ direct acts firsthand. Not only did they leave their regular lives to follow Him, but in Luke 9:1-6 He instructs them to leave and take nothing with them as they go to tell others about the Kingdom of God and heal others which they did. Then, in Luke 9:13 right after that, He instructs them to give five thousand people something to eat, and they say they don’t have enough food wondering what they should do. They didn’t even say, “Jesus can you come up with some food like you’ve done before…please perform another miracle.” They just doubted. Yet again, He delivers. Not only does Jesus always satisfy…He even leaves us with leftovers (Luke 9:17).

As we go into this week and think about our own lives and hopefully look to share the Gospel with others, let us not just share the love of Jesus with others we think are ready. In Matthew 19:16-22, a rich young man asks what good deed he must do to have eternal life. Most in our society I believe are wondering the same or think if they do more right then wrong they will earn the favor of God. But, Jesus tells the man there is only One who is good. Let’s make sure they know that they must only do one thing to go to Heaven…follow Him. He gave them, and all of us, that open invitation to do so not only with His words, but with his arms wide open on the cross.

 

Take Root

Matthew 13

Matthew 13 contains 7 parables to help explain faith and the Kingdom of Heaven. We will focus on the parable the sower.

Jesus first tells of seeds which fell along the path and were eaten by birds. He clarifies this is those who hear the message, but don’t understand and accept it. He then tells of seeds that fell on rocky soil. He clarifies that here he is describing those that gladly hear the Good News, but lose faith when trouble and persecution come. The Word did not “sink in” so to speak like the seeds did not sink in the soil. He then tells of seeds that fell among the thorn bushes. These seeds grow up, but are choked out by the worries of this life, the love of riches and the world. Finally, Jesus tells of seeds sown in the good soil which sunk in and bore great grain. This is describing those that hear the message, understand it, and bear fruit by living it out in their everyday lives.

A few years ago I told my wife how thankful I was for the blessings we have received, but that I was also fearful for how I would react when we faced what I perceived as some “real” challenges others have faced. We know that challenges will come because James 1:2 says “when” trials come and not “if.” I had attended church my whole life, but how do we make sure our faith is strong and the seeds are planted deep in the good soil? Is going to church regularly enough? Would that prepare us?

In order for the seeds to be buried deep and take root, we must have a strong relationship with Jesus. In fact, Jesus specifically directs us to do so…

“I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5 ESV

How do we foster that relationship with Him? Find a church that focuses on the Bible and sees it as the truth and never changing with time, despite what modern day culture tries to tell us. Next, be in the Word daily (finding a daily devotional helps) to provide a constant and consistent message of instruction and direction. Be in prayer throughout the day to be in communication with God and keep our heart in the right place. Join a Bible study/small group to create a community of believers and friends that can help facilitate and hold us accountable to growing our relationship with Him and our faith. There are many other great spiritual habits and disciplines. These are just a few we focused on.

Since that conversation, we have faced some new challenges we had not before, and I believe we were better prepared to face those. Putting on the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18) to create a relationship with Jesus allows us to move forward with confidence each day in knowing we are equipped to face trials and tribulations.

So, how do we now make sure we are not like that seeds that grew up among the thorn bushes and are choked out by the love of riches and the world? There is good news. The answer and steps are the same..let the seeds take root deep in the good soil through putting on the armor of God to create a relationship with Jesus!

What is one thing will you focus on in 2017 to strengthen your relationship with Christ?

Do Not Worry

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Today’s Readings: 1 Chronicles 24-25, 1 Peter 5, Micah 3, Luke 12

On Friday I spent the day in Chicago eagerly hunting Black Friday deals. I made a plan, packed protein snacks, skipped the coffee so I wouldn’t have to pee and made a map. Not just a map of the city but a map of deals. To say that I was caught up in the materialism of the season is an understatement. I invited a close friend to join me in my quest, which resulted in an honest conversation about money. Not just having or not having money but the fear associated with our need for wealth in order to feel secure. We live in an economy of plenty. Many of us are driven by worry to work more and more in order to achieve that level of financial security that will make us feel safe. In reality, that threshold of safety really doesn’t exist. The more successful we are, the more fear we have of losing that assurance. In today’s readings we hear from Luke on God’s provision in our lives. I love, love, love this scripture. I love it because I’ve lived its power and truth in our family life. Here it is:

“And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.” Luke 12:22-31

 I know, it’s long but every word of that scripture is so important, we need to read it all! Jesus is telling us that there will never be “enough” money for us to feel secure. No matter how much money we make it will never feel like enough. Instead, Jesus tells us to seek his kingdom…and these things will be added to you. That is so significant! Why? Because Jesus is telling us that if God’s kingdom is your ultimate goal, not wealth or security, then you have total assurance that your goal will be met. When you feel that assurance, really believe in His promise you will recognize that the money you make is actually enough. That God is providing for your needs, every single day.

When I prepare to write each week, I read the commentary from my three different study bibles. While studying Luke this week, I copied down part of the notes from my NIV Bible into my journal. It’s sort of an action list for managing worry in a biblical way. I’m praying that it reaches someone that is reading today that doesn’t know how they will afford tomorrow. Someone that may not be able to buy gifts for Christmas, or may not be receiving a gift because of financial burden. Here it is:

Overcoming worry requires:

  1. Simple trust in God, your heavenly Father. This trust is expressed by praying to Him rather than worrying.
  2. Perspective on your problems. This can be gained by developing a strategy for addressing and correcting your problems.
  3. A support team to help. Find some believers who will pray for you to find wisdom and strength to pray for your worries.

NIV Life Application Study Bible pg. 1698

 I believe that the power in Bible Journal is our willingness to be vulnerable as authors by sharing our testimony. I’m writing to you each week from my heart. I said earlier that I love this scripture because I’ve lived its power. Just 5 months ago our family was in a position in which we didn’t know quite how we would afford tomorrow. Our son was very sick; he needed me to be with him for an extended time in the hospital. We didn’t know when I could go back to work, and we didn’t know who would care for our girls. It was you, the authors and readers of Bible Journal that lifted us up and held us in that time. You were our support team to help. You were the believers that prayed for us and found wisdom and strength when we couldn’t muster it ourselves. And of course, through you, God provided for Oliver’s needs and the needs of our family. We’ll never be able to thank you enough.

As we begin a new week and welcome December, I’m praying that we can take stock of our life and ask ourselves, are the things I’m worried about genuine needs? Are they comparable to the things that the poor and hungry need? If not, then actively work toward letting those worries go. God does provide.