His Loving Patience

What a great Top 10 Lynden shared with us yesterday on things we take for granted.  His examples were definitely aligned with mine as a reminder about many of the things we have in this life. After Psalm 105’s reminder about the hidden things we take for granted comes a reminder in Psalm 106 of God’s grace and patience despite our forgetful and self-willed lives.

Todays Reading: Psalm 106

I read and listened to a recent Podcast that recommended going back and reading different Bible versions.  Today I landed on the Good news Translation.

1 Praise the Lord!
Give thanks to the Lord, because he is good;
his love is eternal.
2 Who can tell all the great things he has done?
Who can praise him enough?

Who can praise him enough? I know that I can’t.  Even if I started a list right now, I’d still be making a list for days to come. Take a moment to pause and reflect. Write it down in your journal, on the side of your bible, say them out loud.

  • Praise for His transformation in my life.
  • Praise for His love and grace He shows and gives me.
  • Praise for my family.
  • Praise for small groups.
  • Praise for 1777 posts Bible Journal has posted since 1/1/2016.

These were just some I thought about today.  As you continue to read through this chapter, you will be reminded of the importance of our obedience in verse 3.

3 Happy are those who obey his commands,
who always do what is right.

Verses 6-43 humble me and remind me of the blind, rebellious, and forgetful we can be in our sinful nature how stories from the Israelites shortcomings can connect back to our stories today.  To my story.  To yours.

Thankfully, we have a Father who has given and shows grace to those who deserved judgment. Verse 44-47.  God’s faithfulness to us is not dependent on our faithfulness to him.  Just a few weeks ago, we remembered that God sent His son to die for you and me.  He showed us grace when we were still sinners.  Imagine the grace He shows as his children.

44 Yet the Lord heard them when they cried out,
and he took notice of their distress.
45 For their sake he remembered his covenant,
and because of his great love he relented.
46 He made all their oppressors
feel sorry for them.

47 Save us, O Lord our God,
and bring us back from among the nations,
so that we may be thankful
and praise your holy name.

48 Praise the Lord, the God of Israel;
praise him now and forever!
Let everyone say, “Amen!”

Praise the Lord!

Why I Believe – Part 2: Chet Bandy

Today’s reading is Psalm 18 which David wrote when God rescued him from the hand of his enemies and Saul.

I will primarily focus on Psalm 18:27-30.

For you save a humble people,

but the haughty eyes you bring down.

For it is you who light my lamp;

the Lord my God lightens my darkness.

For by you I can run against a troop,

and by my God I can leap over

a wall.

This God- His way is perfect,

the word of the Lord proves

true;

He is a shield for all those who

take refuge in Him.

 

The night before beginning to write this our family watched the new Disney movie Safety about a Clemson football player who cared for his little brother while his Mom was in rehab so he would not have to go into foster care. As I saw some of the scenes of football practice it reminded me how much I loved football and even the practice..the intensity, the hits, and the sounds of the pads popping. I mentioned in my last post which I’ll call Part I of “Why I Believe” that I had never had a rock bottom moment so to speak that caused me to believe when I didn’t previously. However, that does not mean that I have not had challenges that seemed very great at the time with some making me wonder how I would get through them.

Growing up in the small town of Auburn, IL, high school football is huge. At a young age I asked the coach to be ball boy and my dreams began to be the star quarterback someday. I always picked the teams and played quarterback on the playground and also played quarterback from youth football all the way until my junior year when I had the opportunity to realize my dream to be the starting varsity quarterback. I had not only worked my whole life up until that point for this, but also put in extra work the last year to try beat out my competition in a quarterback controversy if there is such a thing in small town high school football. This dream came crashing down quickly when about a week into practice a broke my elbow throwing a football. Yes…you heard that right..I snapped a growth plate in my elbow just throwing which is unheard of. I had done the same thing to my other elbow the year before and came back later this year only to break a growth plate in my shoulder. If your counting along with me…that’s 3 bones in 2 seasons spending most of my sophomore and junior year first semesters in a cast, and I’m sure you can imagine the “jokes” from high school classmates about my frailty. This also doesn’t do much for a high school boy’s confidence when he’s trying to get a date! The doctor said this was due to weak growth plates and since I was still growing I decided not to play football my senior year. It was crushing. These were the guys I had grown up with and lead as quarterback since the 6th grade.

I played a lot of golf working on the course in the summers, so I thought I would play that in the Fall instead. After the first few days of golf practice, it just didn’t feel right. Fall meant football to me, and I missed being with my football teammates and coaches. Thankfully, Coach Bates let me be a part of the team and chart plays, along with work with the quarterbacks. It was humbling to not be able to put the pads and work with position I always envisioned playing my senior year. We went on that year to complete the first undefeated regular season for our town in 39 years. I can remember taking pictures after winning that 9th and final regular season game and being sad I didn’t have a uniform on like my teammates (I’ll never forget Coach Mark Dudley telling me to get in and making me feel included), but I was also able to find joy by still being a part of it in some way.  I was also happy for my teammates and the 2 quarterbacks who split time that year and remain good friends still.

This may seem like a silly story as you are reading this and you may be thinking..is playing high school football and being the quarterback that big of a deal? You may be going through some very serious “real world” stuff right now. Well for me, it was a big deal at the time. And the challenges you may be going through right now are probably a big deal to you while others may feel blessed to be in your situation. We need to be empathetic and understanding to whatever our kids, neighbors, friends, and loved ones are going through. The main reason I’m sharing this story is because I believe this experience and even the ridicule from high school classmates prepared me for challenges later. The same way I found joy in being a part of the team in some way can relate to the way we can find joy in our relationship with Jesus, even when circumstances don’t turn out like we expected. The subliminal lack of confidence I had at times later in life likely due this and the teasing from classmates allowed God to put others in my life later to build me up and help me realize these events and people affected me more than I realized, but they didn’t define my life and they didn’t mean that life would always turn out this way in future areas. God had big things planned for me in other ways. I wouldn’t trade being high school quarterback for the “victories” He has given me in making me a husband and father of three.

You may read Psalm 18 and be thinking…I’m a good person and may consider myself righteous compared to others like David speaks of, but He hasn’t made me “king” or helped me reach my vision for what I thought my life would look like. It’s easy for David to praise God because he made him king. But, did David know He would be king when he wrote this Psalm or was this before? Maybe God will make you “king” at some point in the area you want or in a different way or areas. Or maybe you are already “king” compared to the alternate path your life could have gone which God rescued you from, but you don’t even know about it. I’m confident God has rescued us from “Saul’s” and our enemy the Devil and made us “king” in ways we don’t even realize.

Regardless of how our life on this Earth goes, if we make God our rock, our fortress, our strength, our deliverer, our refuge, and our shield,  and we humble ourselves as Psalm 18 speaks of by trusting in Jesus and asking for forgiveness for our mistakes….He will in fact make us righteous and blameless in Heaven someday. In fact, we already are in His eyes today.  I believe in God because we have a God who didn’t have to do what He did.  The Creator of the Universe came to Earth as a human and poured himself out and suffered the pains of losing a loved one, temptation of the Devil, facing rejection and being deserted by friends, and ultimately the pain of a Roman flogging and crucifixion that we can’t even imagine. He did this not only to forgive our sins, but lived and suffered in such a way so that we would know He gets us and understands our pain because He lived it and faced the same and then some. This is why I believe. Thank you, Jesus.

The Advent Path for God’s People

Today’s Reading: Isaiah 40:1-5

40 Comfort, comfort my people,
says your God.
2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.

3 A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
the way for the Lord[a];
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God.[b]
4 Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
5 And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Happy Tuesday Bible Journal family,

December 1st, 2020. Our last month of this very different year! Let’s continue our daily journey through Advent and the promises found in Isaiah that point to the celebration of the birth of our Lord.  In verses 1-2 written by Isaiah, it provides us a promise of hope and comfort in a time of unease. How are you feeling today?  Anything have you uneasy this morning? I know I could share a few things if you had time. But instead of letting these feelings grab hold of me and pull me under I can find some timely rest in the assurance of our Lord who promises hope, joy, peace, and comfort while already paying the price for all our sins. Romans 5:8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

In twenty-five days, we will celebrate the birth of our Lord through Christmas.  We can celebrate today and every day to come the victory has already been won through His life, death, and resurrection.  Our comfort can be found in the words spoken to Israel and us. He reminds us “comfort, comfort, my people“.

Isaiah 40:3-5 provides us with a visual and a reminder about preparing a way in our lives it’s the holiday season to focus on the greatness of our Lord.  We are not alone right now or ever.  Does it feel like you are metaphorically walking around a desert (even though today’s weather by me would feel like a tundra), are you in a valley seeking to try to peek over a horizon? Possibly you are standing on the top of a mountain now wondering how will I ever get down? Or maybe just this year has felt like you have been traveling down a rough path.  Take a deep breath.  Take time to read through these promises we are finding every day in His words.  Promises that say that even in 2020 God has us.  That we have traveled some roads during this time and made many mistakes.  This advent can be a reminder that Jesus came to this world born in human form to live a life for an example of us, but also died for us to live and one day be again with Him in His presence.  This advent more than ever before can provide hope and comfort that our Lord is right by your side every on every rough path, valley, or mountain saying prepare the way. I’m coming back one day for you! What obstacles are standing in your way? Don’t try to face them with our own pride.  As children of God, we must prepare a way for Him.  What an opportunity we have to show others our love, hope, and trust in Him this advent season.  Proclaim the coming of our Lord this start of advent! Have a blessed day.

Dear Lord,

We are all in need of comfort. We know that our only true comfort comes from you. As we live out each day in this Advent season help us to recognize and praise you for the love and sacrifice you made for us.  We love you and pray for us each to draw closer to you and the comfort of your love for us.  Amen

Enjoy this song on this brisk morning.

The Word

Whether you realize it or not, you probably have a lot of questions going through your mind right now. You are not alone. Every single human being on this Earth has questions. One big one is…”Am I going to make it through this?” It could be a medical issue, financial hardship, challenges with your business or career during Covid, or family/relational challenges to name few. During these times many of us in the U.S. are asking when the racial tensions and other political turmoil will end. When we will get past this as a country? Again, most questions come back to am I going to be ok, or will we be ok?

There is great news in that every one of these questions can be answered in the Word of God.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were mad through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 1:1-5

The Word is Jesus. He has always existed. The book of Genesis gives us the first indication of the triune God the Father, God the Holy Spirit, and God the Son (the Word).

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness..

Genesis 1:26

Note the words “our likeness.” From the beginning of creation, Jesus was there. God knew man would sin before He made us and due to sin would have all the problems and questions we have today, so He had a plan and answer. His plan and answer was and still is Jesus.

He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him.

John 1:10

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:14

Jesus came down from His throne in Heaven willingly and without sin to die for you and me the cross. Because of this and His Resurrection on Easter Sunday, the answer to every question is that all who believe in Him will be ok and get through whatever challenge we are facing. However painful our life on this Earth is, it is brief and we will spend eternity with Him without any of the burdens we face while here.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.

Revelation 21:4

As I was writing this I was thinking, and you may be thinking the same while you are reading this, “Wow..there is a lot of Scripture here and not much other writing/dialogue.” Well..that’s really the point. Every answer we are looking for is found in the Word. The Bible is called the Word because it all points to Him, the Word. It is not just God’s story and love letter to us, but it is our story because we are all part of God’s plan through Jesus.

When you get down to it, I believe every human being is looking for truth whether they know it or not. John 1:14 above says Jesus came in grace and truth. Note that grace comes before truth here and every time it’s mentioned in the Bible. I’m thankful that grace and forgiveness came before truth, and we should follow Jesus example in our lives. When we, and others, dig into the Word we find the truth and answers we are looking for and we fall in love with Him. We find that truth and love in His grace. Then, we can’t get enough of it.

I’ll wrap up with these 2 questions…

  1. How can you be in the Word more to fall deeper in love with Him?
  2. How can you introduce someone else to the Word who is struggling and needs the grace and truth only He can give right now?

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:7

 

The Great Physician

And He said to the, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself.’ What we have heard you did in Capernaum, do in your hometown as well.”

Luke 4:23

It is known through other scriptures and those immediately before and following these in Luke 4:22 and Luke 4:24 that Jesus was rejected in His hometown and performed few miracles there (Mark 6:5). What it is believed He is saying in Luke 4:23 is that one would assume if He can heal and perform miracles, He would do that among His family and those in His hometown like He was doing in Capernaum and other areas. However, Jesus knew they would not say that because they did not believe He was the Messiah.

Why did they not believe He was Christ? Sometimes we are too close to a situation to realize what is going on or too close to a person to realize how great they are. Have you ever heard the saying, “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone?” Many of us may have experienced this with a loved one or relationship that we took for granted until they were gone sadly. Although Jesus personally truly had no flaws like our loved ones still did, those in Nazareth knew His mom and dad and that He came from poor parents in their region so how could He possibly be the chosen one? They were too close and knew too much…which really meant they didn’t know anything. Even His own disciples seemed to get fearful and nervous when running out of food or a storm or problem came up when just days or even hours before they saw Jesus provided what they needed and more through miracles.

I think if most of us are truthful with ourselves we can say even though we’ve never personally met Jesus, we have seen Him do miracles in our life. The probable health diagnosis of a serious problem which somehow turned out to be nothing. Struggling to know how bills would get paid or where the next meal would come from, but somehow unexpected money came in or bills were unexpectedly forgiven. Or what about the car wreck that nearly happened when someone ran a red light, but it didn’t because you just happened to look that way..even when your light had been green for a while. And although we know that some of these needs were met in ways so improbable that they absolutely had to be a miracle from God, how quickly we tend to forget what He did before when the next challenge arises sometimes even within days.

James 1:6-8 says, “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” While Jesus performed some miracles in Nazareth, would He have done more if those in Nazareth would have believed? While He’s performed some miracles in our life, would He have done more if we TRULY believed He could or would when we prayed for others?

While I believe this verse in James tells us believing He can and will do what we pray for is important, it’s not always His will to perform miracles even then because He knows what’s best for us and is wiser than we are (Isaiah 55:8-9). Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” I’ve shared before that I was diagnosed with spinal stenosis in 2019 which caused me to lose strength and some motor skills in my right hand. After 2 surgeries and correction for the stenosis, my strength has not come back yet. And while I believe He can and will heal it as only He as the Great Physician can, I’m at peace with His will. When I look down at my puny hand or struggle to do something simple and have to ask from help from my wife or someone else to do a task that used to be easy, it reminds me of the other miracles He DID perform in all of this…..finding a doctor in an improbable way who performs a surgery even Mayo didn’t know about, being able to still perform my career and write and type still despite my challenges as where my original dream to be an orthodontist would have yielded much different outcomes and financial challenges, and still being able to even walk and play catch with my children. I appreciate the little things I used to take for granted. Most importantly, it reminds me that my story can help others…not only physically by sharing my doctor and surgery no one else is performing….but spiritually by sharing with others that I can see God’s provision through the situation and that while yes…I want my hand to be at 100%….the physical and other earthly challenges we face are short…no matter how long our life. What really matters is our soul for eternity. And yes the Great Physician can heal our physical bodies and meet our physical needs, but what He can and has already saved and healed us from is what no earthly physician can..the burden of sin, death and the eternal punishment we deserve. Through His wounds, physical suffering, and death on the cross which was worse than anything we will ever face, the Great Physician has given us eternal life when we believe and trust in Him and His grace. Jesus…thank you for making my story and all of our personal stories a part of the greatest story ever told…your story.

 

 

Invisible

“To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever.”

1 Timothy 1:17

Our word today to describe God is invisible.

For most of us it can be concerning that God sees and knows EVERYTHING we think and do. Yes, there are good things we all do that we want credit for from God and others. For many, their top love language is “words of affirmation,” so they want to be told good job by their spouse, parents, boss, or friends, and the idea of God saying when they meet him in Heaven, “Well done, my good and faithful servant..” may bring tears to their eyes. But, for every good thing each one of us have done, there are likely more thoughts, words and actions we just assume no one ever knows about…including God. However, Proverbs 15:3 reads, “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on evil and the good.” Job 34:21 also says, “For his eyes are upon the ways of a man, And he sees all his steps…” He’s omnipresent and knows and sees all.

Unfortunately, this can cause many to struggle to come to Christ and believe their past wrongdoings cannot be forgiven. They believe past sins of theft/fraud, adultery, pornography, an abortion, drug use, being a poor parent, killing someone whether on accident or on purpose, or even just really bad words said to a family member or friend are just too much for God to look past. Even believers have a hard time coming to grips with this and letting go of past sins they know an invisible God has seen. Many are still holding on to that one sin they just can’t fully come to believe God has FULLY forgiven when they can’t even forgive themselves.

To me, that’s one of the many unbelievably cool things about God…He gives us so many examples in His Word that any and all sins can be and are forgiven through the cross and belief in Jesus, and not only that, but that He can then use those sinners to do amazing things for His glory and a great purpose. In fact, the author of 1 Timothy, Paul, formerly known as Saul, had persecuted and killed those that believed in Jesus. Just a few verses earlier he says in 1 Timothy 15-16, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I receive mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.” Moses who led the Israelites out of Egypt, wrote the book of Genesis, and first received the Ten Commandments killed a man. David was of the direct lineage of Jesus, wrote most of the Psalms, and who God called, “a man after his own heart,” was an adulterer and had his good friend killed over a woman. His disciple and New Testament author Matthew was a tax collector who likely cheated people out of money. Rahab was a prostitute but was used by God to help protect two Israelite spies so they could win the battle of Jericho and then later was also part of the blood line of Jesus. The list could go on and on.

Paul also says in Romans 8:37-39…

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 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.”

The fact that God is invisible causes us to have a healthy fear and reverence for God to do the right thing, yet thankfully His life, death, and resurrection let us know that because we won’t always do the right thing and will make mistakes (some really bad)…He loves and forgives us no matter what.

Check out this powerful song by Ryan Stephenson, and please…share it with a friend you think may need to hear these words today. It may not just change their day…it may change their life.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=It_xQ4NYtDQ

Kobe

“The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”

Psalm 103:8

Today’s reading is Psalm 103:8 with our word to describe God being compassionate. The entire chapter of Psalm 103 expands on this theme.

Over the last week or so since the terrible helicopter accident that claimed the lives of 9 people, including Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, most of us have taken in a lot of information not only about that day’s events, but about the lives of those on board, including of course Kobe. I must admit it’s been sobering for me not only because of the loss of life and thinking about their families left behind, but also because of what I’ve learned about Kobe since.

In 2003, Kobe was accused of sexual assault with charges later being dropped and the case settled out of court. While Kobe claimed innocence in regards to the assault, he admitted his guilt for his infidelity to his wife Vanessa. In 2012, he was photographed with his shirt off in a bar talking with 2 women while Team USA was traveling in Barcelona. While Kobe said a drink was spilled on him and he was waiting for his replacement shirt, I suspected, most likely similar to many others, he had not learned and changed his ways after his past mistakes. While I had come to really respect Kobe as a basketball player, and most of all his drive, competitiveness, and work ethic in recent years, I had all but written him off as a quality human being away from the basketball court.

Since his passing, much has come out about Kobe as a father and person, His quote, “I’m a girl dad.”, has lead to a social media frenzy of pictures of proud dads and their daughters with the #girldad tag. I’m not a big fan of private helicopters and planes and won’t get on one myself, as it seems like you always hear about them going down usually with no survivors. In addition to being saddened when I heard the news of the crash, I admit I had the passing thought…”Geez..do you really need your own helicopter..isn’t that even a little bit eccentric?” Later, I learned in an interview with Alex Rodriguez, Kobe said he bought the helicopter because he missed one of his daughter’s events after being stuck in traffic. He said in his interview he could also now fly to and from workouts and be home to pick up his daughters from school. His wife said she could easily pick them up and it wasn’t a big deal, but he said when you travel as much as I do…even 15 minutes talking to them on the commute home from school meant so much to him. Wow. I also read a story of him visiting a young boy with a fatal heart condition in the hospital and playing basketball with him for hours causing the boy to smile for what his parents said was the first time in years just a few days before his passing. The story is now told that Kobe did this in secret and specifically asked for no PR in what turns out to be not so rare event of him visiting the ill and insisting on no publicity.

While Kobe was not perfect and still made mistakes, it sure seems like he was in fact a good husband, father, and person and had changed. However, we know being a “good person” does not get you into Heaven. When I heard about his passing my first thought was, “I hope he knew Jesus and was saved.” The day after, I was pleased to learn he went to church that morning before boarding the helicopter. This was a good sign. Then, I heard an interview he did with Steven A. Smith in 2006. When Steven asked him about the 2003 incident and what he learned, he said….

“God is great. It doesn’t get much simpler than that. You can know it all you want, but until you have to pick up that cross that you can’t carry, and He picks it up and carries you and the cross, then you know.”

Praise God! I was overjoyed that Kobe had learned that God is compassionate and asked for forgiveness. My next feeling was guilt for my judgement of Kobe all these years. Although it seems like he had changed, it wasn’t my place to judge and condemn him in the first place.  I had not shown Kobe the same mercy and compassion for his past mistakes that God thankfully shows me in mine. I had wrongly judged Kobe’s mistake(s) as worse than mine. And the reality is, in God’s eyes, any sin separates us from God for eternity without Jesus and the cross. I need the cross as much as he did for my many mistakes. Although they may be different than his, God views them the same and forgives them all the same through the compassion of the cross. Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” I sin each day, hour, and likely minute and need his mercy, grace, and compassion just like Kobe and all of us.

Matthew 6:14-15 reads, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

Talk about a wake up call.

Kobe has taught many about drive, passion, and work ethic, but what he taught me is that I must extend the same grace, forgiveness, and compassion to my family, friends, and everyone which God also extends to me through carrying my cross daily. All I can do is praise God for his compassion and say, “Thanks, Kobe.”

Nathanael

Today’s reading is John 1:43-2:11 and John 21:1-13 as we look closely at one of the twelve disciples in Nathanael.

You may recall Nathanael, who was from Cana in Galilee, was asked by Philip to “Come and see” Jesus of Nazareth saying He was the Messiah they have long awaited. However, Nathanael doubted saying in John 2:45, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” However, with Philip’s prompting..he went. When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, Jesus said, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael asks Jesus how He knows him, and Jesus reveals his omnipresence by saying He saw Nathanael under the fig tree before Philip called him. From there, Nathanael stated He believed. Jesus goes on to tell Nathanael that this is just the beginning of what he will see.

Aren’t many of us like Nathanael in that we need someone like Philip in our lives to say, “Hey…why don’t you come to church with me sometime…” or “Want to join me for small group?” Most Christians come to faith because they are asked by someone else to come learn more about God. Then, God reveals to them through His Word and prayer, and in their hearts, that He’s been there all along when they didn’t even realize it. They begin to trust in the words of Psalm 139:13-18..

13 For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.[a]
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.

God also reveals that He sees good in them despite their past failures and wrong doing just like He tells Nathanael He sees no deceit in him. They understand the truth of Psalm 103:10-13…

10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
13 As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.

I would venture to say it’s highly unlikely that Nathanael had never done anything deceitful in his life. However, Jesus tells Nathanael how He sees Him which is different than anyone else and different than Nathanael likely even sees himself.

A few weeks ago, I scolded our 2-year-old for repeatedly disobeying as we were brushing his teeth and getting him ready for bed, and he went to sleep crying. Afterwards, I started feeling bad about it wondering if I was a little too stern and if he would even be upset with me when He woke up the next day. Would he remember his unhappiness with me when He woke up? I was a little sad as I wondered if He would send me off to work with the same hug and words of “Bye-Bye, Daddy..love you!” Guess what….when He woke up the next day He came running into the bathroom where I was getting ready, smiling and excited to see me giving me a big hug. A smile instantly came on my face with me giving thanks to God not only for this moment with my son and for him not being upset with me, but also for revealing that this is the same way He sees my sins. Instantly the verses from Lamentations 3:22-23 came to mind..

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;[a]
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

Thank you, God, for your new mercies every morning.

I found it also very interesting that in John 1:49 Nathanael says Jesus is the Son of God and believes. However, in John 1:11 after Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding in Cana the disciples (and we can assume Nathanael was there since He was from Cana and this was immediately following his calling), it says, “His disciples believed in Him.” Later, in our verses from John 21 it says this was the 3rd time Jesus revealed Himself to them after His Resurrection. Did they not believe before? Nathanael said he believed Jesus right after meeting him. God knows we have a short- term memory and need affirmations almost daily. When we stay close to Him through prayer and His Word, as they did by being with Him at the wedding and continuing to follow Him, and stay close with fellow believers through church and small group, as they did by staying together after His death and fishing together here in these verses, He will continue to re-affirm His promises and presence in our daily lives. If we don’t stay close to Him in these ways through prayer, His Word, and fellowship with other believers, we may miss Him…although He’s always there (just like He saw Nathanael under the fig tree) and looking to bring us as His stray sheep back (Matthew 18:10-14).

As we end this week, reflect on who might be a Nathanael in your life where you need to play the role of Philip by inviting them to “Come and see.”

The Pharisees

Today’s reading is Matthew 12:1-45.

Do you have a hero of the Bible you like to compare yourself to or like to think you’re similar? Could it be Joseph, Moses, Daniel, Joshua, David, or Ruth to name a few? I doubt very many of us like to compare ourselves to the Pharisees, but I for one, have to admit that often times I am more like them than some of the other aforementioned desired people.

First, we see in Matthew 12:1-3, the Pharisees judging the disciples for picking grain and doing work on the Sabbath. We then see them questioning this again when in Matthew 12:9-10 Jesus heals a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath. It can be easy to quickly judge someone for how they parent, how they spend their family time, the car they drive, or the home they own. I heard a quote one time that said…Question: “How big of a house is too big of a house?” Answer: “Just a little bit bigger than my house.” Please forgive me for not giving the proper credit, but one of our other Bible Journal writers commonly says they remind themselves by saying, “Stay in your lane.” What a great saying. Even if what someone does is in fact a sin (and it may not be), their sin is no worse than any of my own sins in God’s eyes.

In Matthew 12:22-24, we see the Pharisees not wanting to believe the miracles Jesus performed in front of them were from God, and then they asked in Matthew 12:38 to see a sign. How often do we have the sin of pride by not giving credit to God for what He’s doing and then not seeing the “signs” right in front of us of what He has done already or will do. Recently, I’ve faced a challenge that I’m wondering how it will be resolved, and it has consumed many of my thoughts. The crazy thing is that this same exact challenge has been overcome many, many times before under arguably more difficult obstacles. Yet, God pulled through in the past and has even used some circumstances this time to help give me clues that this to will pass. However, like the Pharisees, I find myself looking for more “signs,” nearly completely ignoring His past provisions and evidence that this to will be resolved.

Why do I consistently do this? Why am I like the Pharisees when I don’t want to be? I’m a sinful human in need of a Savior just like the Pharisees. All I can do is pray for more awareness to make me more like Him and less like the Pharisees, to not lean on my own understanding by trusting Him with all my heart, soul, and mind, and most importantly by confessing my sinful nature and by thanking Him for His saving grace on the cross.

Baruch

Today’s reading is Jeremiah 36, 43, and 45 with a focus on Baruch.

Who was Baruch? Most know of the prophet Jeremiah, but may not know of Baruch, his scribe. Not only was Baruch given the task of writing down the prophecies God gave to Jeremiah, but he was also given the task to tell the Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and his officials what the prophecies said about the fall of Jerusalem to King Nebuchadnezzar when they would be taken into exile as a result of their idolatry and turning away from the Lord. I have to imagine Baruch’s thoughts when he was writing this down for Jeremiah. He was likely thinking this not good and probably wondering who the pour soul would be that had to risk his life to deliver this message….only to find out that pour soul was him!

What else was Baruch thinking? Was he scared for his life? Was he wondering why it had to be him? Was he bitter that although these were Jeremiah’s words, he was the one who had to risk his life and deliver the news? Was he thinking…why me? Whatever fears, anxieties, and maybe even bitterness Baruch had about delivering this message, he must have faced them and let God use him as His servant because he did in fact deliver the message. While we don’t know his thoughts, we are potentially given some insight that he may have been wondering some of these things and really thinking, “What’s in it for me?” In Jeremiah 45:5, God speaks directly to Baruch through Jeremiah and says, “And do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not, for behold, I am bringing great disaster upon all flesh, declared the Lord. But I will give you your life as a prize of war in all places which you may go.”

Is your life in a spot right now where you are wishing you had accomplished more worldly success and you are not where you thought you would be at this point? Have you been a “behind the scenes” guy or gal like Baruch without much notoriety? Let us remember what the world, and what we being in the world, view as success is not what God views as success. Jesus tells us in Matthew 19:30 and Matthew 20:16 that the last will be first. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have big goals and aspire to be all God’s called us to be and use the talents and gifts He’s given us. If that means we are to be CEO, then that’s great. These verses also tell us the school cafeteria worker, the garbage person, the ditch digger, and the retail worker are viewed just the same in God’s eyes and potentially must greater if they are living for God’s purpose and His Kingdom instead of the world. Jesus says in Matthew 21:28 that even the Son of Man (Him) came to serve and not be served.

If we have not achieved the worldly success we desire or have faced financial or health hardships in our lives despite the fact that we believe we are doing most things right and living for Him and wondering why and “what’s in it for me?”, let us remember that God has given us “life” like Baruch and everything we truly need which is forgiveness from our sins through Jesus so we can live with Him for eternity. This is the greatest gift we could ever be given….for eternity is much longer than the life we are given on this Earth, whatever suffering or challenges we face or lack of worldly success and accolades while here. Do you also believe you have not been living for Him to this point? Well, He gave His life for you and forgives you, and now you have the option to give your life to Him from this day forward. Let us all pray for clarity on where we are today in our relationship with Him and for wisdom on where He wants us to go from here.