Bread Alone?

Today’s reading is Genesis 28:1-22.

This past Friday we were eating spaghetti and our 4-year-old Hudson was complaining he wanted more garlic bread while we continued to tell him he could not have more until he finished his spaghetti he was not eating. As he carried on and continued to beg, in typical ‘bad dad joke’ fashion, I leaned over and said, “Hudson, man cannot live on bread alone.” This is of course in reference to Jesus’ words in Matthew 4:4 and also in the Old Testament Deuteronomy 8:3.

From our reading today we see God come to Jacob in a dream and give him the land He had promised his grandfather Abraham and also confirm that he would have many offspring spread upon the Earth to again fulfill his original promise to Abraham. In addition, God tells Jacob he will be with him wherever he goes (Genesis 28:15). In response, Jacob says he’s on holy ground where the Lord is which he did not know (Genesis 28:16). Finally, he says in Genesis 28:18-22 that since the Lord is with him and had provided food and clothing, he will build a house of the Lord here and give 1/10 of everything back to God.

I find it very interesting that Jacob’s thanksgiving is not really focused on the ground he received or the many offspring, but instead the most basic needs of food and clothing. When I went on a mission trip to New York City a few years ago, many of the homeless people we approached to witness actually witnessed to us by giving thanks and saying God had given them all they really need. I thought they had nothing, but they were satisfied having God. Instead of focusing on what they didn’t have, they were focused on the one thing they really need which they had…Him.

Embarrassingly, many of my thoughts lately have been focused on what more I want, rather than what I already have. It has been said that one cannot feel stress and anxiety at the same time they are in gratitude. I need to be even more thankful for what I already have. And most importantly I must focus on the fact that I cannot survive on “bread alone.” I always have all I really need which is the promise He’ll be with me wherever I go and His life given on the cross to save me.

Team Jesus: No Tryout Needed

Today’s reading is Philippians 3:1-21.

Over the last few years as our kids are getting older, I’ve found that July and August are 2 of my favorite months of the year because we have a break between Summer and Fall activities giving us a lot more family nights at home, as well as weekends. It is also one of my least favorite times of the year because it is when we do tryouts for the baseball and basketball teams I help coach. Trying to be fair to both those kids who played for you last season and to those who only get a few hours to show their skills to determine who should fill an open spot or possibly replace an existing player is really tough to say the least. Many kids and families are going to be disappointed. While facing challenges and disappointments are a part of life that all must learn to deal with at some point it just never feels good when you are partly responsible as a coach helping to make these decisions. It is impossible to make everyone happy. There is so much good that comes out of these teams with new kids and family relationships built, the spiritual development of the kids in our faith-based organization I am a part of, and the improvement on the court and field.  It is so fun to try to help them, make an impact, and see their growth and development. However, we also see a lot of the politics and ugly side come out during tryout time. Parents want to get their child on the best team they feel will win, get their child playing time, and even play a certain position. Is that wrong? Can you blame them with the time and money they are investing in these teams for their child? I know my wife and I want the best fit for our children. Coaches also try to recruit players off of other teams and don’t always handle the situations of how to part ways with a past player for a new player the most gracefully. It’s complicated. It’s tough. No judgement here. We are all human which means we make mistakes and don’t always handle things the best way.

You don’t have to look too far today to see anxiety, depression, and substance abuse are a huge problem today. We are both more connected to everyone on social media and yet more isolated because of it. We see everyone’s highlight-reel 24-7. I don’t know how many championships and MVPs I see posted on Sunday each week and dream vacations and kids’ and professional awards in between (I post them, too). This creates “fear of missing out” or commonly referred to as FOMO. Competition is good in pushing us to get the most out of our God-given talents, but we live in a society where comparison consumes our society. I really like the quote, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Comparison is robbing us of the joy to appreciate the simple moments in life with our own family and our own kids and appreciating their specific God-given talents and abilities.

I love sports and believe they can be used to glorify God. However, what is more important….what our child’s batting average is and how many trophies they win or if they develop into a person who loves Jesus, loves their family, and uses to the maximum whatever gifts God has given them in life now and as an adult (which are likely outside of sports)? We also must realize that what we see on social media is not all that is going on in someone’s life. No one’s life is perfect. They have challenges going on they are not sharing which they are dealing with like sickness, pain, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, relationship, or financial issues. They have problems just like you may be facing . It’s like the family picture who everyone says looks so cute, but you remember the screaming and crying that took place 2 minutes before and after no one knows about. We need to stop thinking someone else’s highlight reel should be our everyday. We forget how blessed we are personally.

In these verses Paul gives us some great takeaways to apply. In Philippians 3:13-14. he tells us to forget what lies behind, the past and to move on to the ultimate goal to the prize of Jesus Christ. We’ve all made mistakes. He’s telling us to forget them. Paul talks about competition a lot and seems to love sports, but he’s telling us to reflect on if earthly trophies which will break and get thrown away are more important or our crown in Heaven from a relationship with Jesus which will last eternity? He tells us in the very first verse of Philippians 3:1 to rejoice in the Lord, not championships.

We all want more. We want our kids to be on the best team and go to the best school. We all want to go on the best vacations, have the best spouse, and have the best job. We all want to belong.  However, Paul tells us in Philippians 3:20..

But our citizenship is in Heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him even to subject all things to himself.

There is no FOMO for the most important team we want us and all our children to be on for eternity. No tryout is needed. We don’t have to do any earthly thing to make the team. We are already on it not through our doing, but through His sacrifice and grace given on the cross.  We’ve already made it through faith when we believe and accept Jesus into our heart.

Have you accepted the invite to Team Jesus? Have your children? Are you and your family rejoicing in belonging to the most important team there is? I pray that all the kids and families who did or did not make teams this time of year can find peace and joy in this which is what is most important.

You’re In

Today’s Reading: Ephesians 3:1-21

It’s incredible to think back to how much of my life I have always just tried to fit in.  I wouldn’t be inaccurate in saying that most likely, in all aspects, I have just tried to appear like I have it all together.  As humans, we try our best to fit in; many of us will face this-worldly battle until there is no battle to fight on this side of the earth anymore. Thankfully we know that Jesus says, You’re already in.  We can stop the daily hustle, grind, and race that wakes you up by the alarm and keeps you going until you fall asleep.  I wish and pray that I have this down, but it would not be honest.  There are still times I try to fit in at my job, with my parenting, with friends, in our marriage, and in any other daily interaction that requires my presence.

Give yourself some grace.  Turn every moment of insecurity to Him.  We attempt and try to be the All-Star in all we do. We spend a lot of time trying to live by the rules people set for us. I have now seen days where I’m parenting and forcing the world’s expectations into them at a young age instead of just my love and His promise that takes care of every aspect of life.

None of the rules of life or the attempted All-Star parenting measures up to the power the love of Jesus has for us. If I can teach others and my family, I want to show them how to live in grace like Jesus and to walk in love like Jesus.  I need prayer to be their number one model. Will you pray for me?

I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge– that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:17-19

True Light, True Life

What is the darkest physical place you have every been? Two places that come to mind for me are inside of a cave while visiting Ruby Falls when they turned the lights off and the other being on the deck of a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean at night as a child. I can remember thinking while standing on the deck that if I fall off they will never find me! Of course, the ship we were on even had lights. I can remember thinking how dark it must have been for some of the first explorers at sea.

Right now, we have a lot of darkness in this world. Every day it seems there is word of another terrible shooting, leader or celebrity succumbing to the temptation of sin that is in news, or a political/social issue that’s causing division and bickering with the platform of social media making it more evident. The world is often a dark place. There are also many individually that are living in darkness with depression, anxiety, and just an unhappiness they are experiencing to which they possibly can’t even pinpoint the reason.

John 1:1-17 tells us that Jesus is the true source of light and thus life. Specifically, John 1:4-5 says, “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.” Revelation 21:23 tells us in Heaven there is no sun or moon needed because the glory of God brings light.

Why is God light? John 1:14 tells us His glory comes from his grace and truth. This glory provides the light as mentioned above in Revelation 21:23.  In this world, we have much of the opposite. We don’t have much grace. We have much more judgement and gossip about others not noticing our own sin. We also have sin and lies through not following the truth in the Bible and the way He wants us to live so we are a slave to sin bringing more unhappiness (John 8:34).

If you are reading this and struggling with stress, anxiety, depression, or just unhappiness, I would encourage you to think about how you can get more light in your life…more Jesus…through His Word, small group, prayer, and I even might encourage you to watch the series The Chosen. The series is not a substitute for the Bible, but it can inspire us to get in the Word more to help grow our relationship with Jesus through seeing the realness of who He was as both man and Son of God full of grace and truth who brought light and life to everyone. Many struggling with these challenges may need a doctor and/or counselor of which I would encourage a Christian counselor for the help needed to point us in the right direction back to Him.

It is easy for me to become self-absorbed… focused on my own problems, issues, and challenges. But ultimately when I die some day what I truly want is to know that I made an impact on others during my lifetime on this Earth. To try to keep me more focused on this, I recently changed my mission statement to “Impacting others by helping them live life to the fullest.” This was inspired by John 10:10 where Jesus says He came so that we may have life and live it abundantly.  This allows me to ask myself, am I helping those around me live life abundantly and to the fullest? Am I building others up so they can see they are a child of God who He made for a purpose and bigger things than they may see for themselves? Are they seeing the love of Jesus and His grace and truth come from my lips and in my actions? Unfortunately, the answer to these questions are not always yes and are no way too often.

Reading this mission statement and being in His Word helps get me re-focused and re-centered. I’ve heard it said when we interact with another human, we leave them after that conversation feeling a little better or a little worse. There are no net neutral interactions. Your mission statement should not be my mission statement, but I would encourage all of us to reflect on some of these questions and think about how we can bring more light, more life, and more Jesus through grace and truth to every interaction with another to leave them in a more positive place afterwards.

Equally Qualified

Today’s reading is Isaiah 56.

The prophet Isaiah foretells of Jesus’ coming and describes how God’s salvation would be for all people, not just those of Jewish descent. For this most of us reading this should be extremely thankful, as we may not come from a Jewish heritage. In Isaiah 56:8, God says He will “gather the outcasts of Israel.” In Isaiah 56:7, He says He will make His house of prayer one for “all peoples.” Earlier in Isaiah 56:6 and the beginning of Isaiah 56:7 He uses the pronoun “everyone” when describing those who keep His covenant. And even more exciting in a reference to eternal life in Heaven, He says He will bring these people to His “holy mountain.” These days we hear a lot about diversity and inclusion. It should be no surprise that God was ahead of what the rest of the world is just now latching on to. God’s love, grace, and opportunity for eternal life is for everyone. We are all equal and blameless in the eyes of the Lord when confess our sins and admit the only way we will be right with Him is through Jesus’ saving grace on the cross.

My challenge for us Christians today is to reflect on whether or not our thoughts are representing the reality that Jesus came for every human being we see and interact with. We commonly say to our kids, “Dislike the sin, love the sinner.” We can love someone who sins by a certain action we do not agree with, and my sin, albeit maybe different, is equally as bad in God’s eyes and separates me from God eternally without Jesus. This is a true statement and a good one to adhere to in my opinion. But in addition to that, what are my thoughts when I see someone who dresses in a way I would not? What are my thoughts when I see someone who’s hair is done in a way I would never dream of or has a tattoo or a piercing in a place I wouldn’t? Am I immediately judgmental thinking, why would anyone do that to themselves? Or, do I think like I should and see them as a child of God who is equally qualified for the same amount of God’s forgiveness and grace that I have been given through Jesus if they have also given their heart to him? What are my first thoughts?

Let us Christ followers move forward monitoring our thoughts and focusing on seeing each and every individual the way God does, as a child of His who He came to die for and who is loved and forgiven the same  through Jesus’ grace on the cross.

It is Finished.

Today’s reading is Hosea 11:12-12:14.

These verses remind us again how God feels about our sin. God is everything good and right. Sin is the exact opposite of Him and His nature. Hosea 12:1 and Hosea 12:8 discuss chasing things that don’t have eternal value but only earthly value. Often times when we receive worldly wealth we think we are invincible and don’t acknowledge that these things came from God. We think we don’t need Him. We become our own God and it’s all about us. God continued to provide for Israel, but yet Israel continued to turn their back forgetting what He had done for them. I do the same daily, and we can get a sense in here how God feels about that.

As you read verses like Hosea 12:14, it is concerning to think about the wrath of God and suffering for our sins. In his final breaths when He died on the cross, Jesus said in John 19:30, “It is finished.” The fact that He took the sin and punishment that should have mine is something that is hard to comprehend. God still hates sin the same as He always has. There are outcomes from our sin we have to deal with on this Earth. However, Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Jesus took the punishment that should have been mine and yours for our sin. John 3:17 tells us that God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world. The Old Testament, this chapter, and this book of Hosea tell us about the wrath of God and how He feels about our sin so we know how abhorrent it is to Him . However, the New Testament does not talk about suffering the wrath of God for our missteps and mistakes. Why? Because there was a new covenant established by Jesus’ blood. Jesus took the wrath and the pain that should have been on you and me on our behalf. I am extremely grateful to God for what He did through His Son Jesus which He didn’t have to so that “It is finished.”

Let Me Tell You About My Jesus…

Today’s reading is John 14:1-14.

Jesus said in these verses…

“Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”

John 14:9

“I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who is in me.”

John 14:10

“Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on the account of the works themselves.”

John 14:11

Jesus made it clear people should know who He was and who He was from and who He represented by the life He lived and His actions. I wish the same could be said about my life consistently.

I’ve heard it said that rules without a relationship is harassment. Sadly, many non-believers think the Bible and Christianity is just about following a bunch of rules. Does that attract them to following Christ and becoming a Christian? Look at the verses and quotes above from Jesus. If each quote from Jesus above were said by each Christian, and they could answer them in a similar fashion to Jesus in that their love and positive works were displayed daily in their actions..how many more people would be attracted to learning about the Gospel and would ultimately say yes to believing in Jesus? How true is the popular hymn, “They’ll Know We Are Christians by Our Love?”

Our life should be lived in relationship with Jesus. Pastor and author Bill Hull says he wakes up each morning and asks, “Good morning Jesus..what are we going to do today?” How might asking ourselves that question change our actions and how we live our life which would attract non-believers? Imagine if we were in communication with Jesus all day and if He were our GPS for all actions and decisions. We should all reflect on this and ask the question…is Jesus guiding the big and small things in my day in life through communication with Him or do I just think about Him during specific prayer times, church, and small group/Bible study? I know more days than not I don’t think about or talk to Jesus throughout my day. He does not lead my thoughts, decisions, and actions throughout my day like He should.

Many other religions believe in multiple gods. They think Jesus is good guy and much like other gods. They don’t know the difference. Eventually they must know what Jesus says in John 14:6, “I am the way, the way, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” They must know there is only one way to eternal life through belief in Him. But holding up a sign on the street saying, “Repent, believe in Jesus, or you are going to Hell!” is not the way to do it. As we said earlier, rules without a relationship is harassment.

Let us reflect on how we can act and speak in a way that whoever has seen, heard, and known us also knows the Father and Jesus (John 14:9-11). Then, once we’ve established a relationship with others they will likely ask us more questions on why we act and speak the way we do or like the song says we can simply say..”Let me tell you about my Jesus…” Will we still mess up and make mistakes? Yes..we absolutely will and that sometimes opens an even bigger door to tell them about the free gift of His grace, His love, and His forgiveness which is also available to them.

Anne Wilson – My Jesus (Official Music Video) – YouTube

Champ to Chump…to Champ Again??

Today’s reading is Luke 9:18-27.

Here, in Luke 9:18-20, Peter correctly states the Jesus is the Christ when Jesus asks him who He is. I would imagine this was one of Peter’s prouder moments. Can you imagine Jesus basically saying to you, “You nailed it!” Have you ever had one of those spiritual mountaintop moments where you felt like you did the right thing?  Maybe you spoke the Gospel or encouragement to someone who needed it, helped a homeless person, gave an amount more than normal to the church for a certain special offering or building project, or stood strong and avoided a temptation. However, we know it’s pretty easy in this world to go from champ to chump very quickly!

Peter experiences this when in both Mark 8 and Matthew 16 he tells Jesus that he cannot be crucified. Remember, Peter knows Jesus is Messiah. But, He and the other Jews incorrectly thought the Messiah would be an earthly king and save them from Roman impression. How many times do we think we know God’s plan, but His is different?! Jesus goes so far as to say to Peter, “Get behind me Satan..” in both Mark 8:33 and Matthew 16:23. Can you imagine Jesus saying that to you? We see again in Mark 14:30 Jesus foretells of Peter’s future mistake saying Peter will deny Him 3 times before the rooster crows twice to which Peter replies in Mark 14:31 he will not and will die with Jesus. We all know what happens!

Pastor Mike Baker spoke on this topic in his 1/16/2022 sermon at Eastview Christian Church. He asked the question, how do we proceed in life know the challenges and temptations which will come?

  1. With humility (1 Corinthians 10:12)
  2. With resistance (James 4:7)
  3. With the Resurrection in Mind (John 16:1)

For more on this topic, check out his sermon here. https://youtu.be/kYrRXVt8-Ns

I specifically like all the ways he says we can face Satan with resistance. Jesus tells us in Luke 8:23-27 that we need to deny ourselves and take up our cross. However, most of us deny Jesus, rather than ourselves, in the following 3 ways Pastor Mike speaks of.

  1. With our silence
  2. With our lifestyle
  3. With our Disassociation of God’s Church

However, Jesus still went to the cross for you and for me…even though He knew what we would do just like Peter. Despite Him knowing Peter’s failures, He told Peter he would build His church on Peter in Matthew 16:18.

Let me ask you a question, how can God use you despite your past..and even future…failures? What I love about Mark 14:30 telling of Peter’s failures and that he would deny Jesus is that Mark was telling the Gospel story through the eyes of Peter. Peter himself was telling of his failure. Why? He knew you and me would need to know God can still use us despite our failures and mistakes.

Are your past missteps holding you back? Or, have you moved on and God is using you, but have you told those mistakes to others who may need to hear your story so that they can themselves move past their own mistakes so God can in turn use them? I believe all of our entire stories are part of God’s plan and bigger story of His Gospel. There are no edits that should be removed from our story. Are we vulnerable enough like Peter to tell those to others to help them? The best leaders and coaches I’ve had are not the ones that seem perfect, but the ones who can relate to me because they have had the same challenges. We have all gone from champ to chump at one time or another like Peter. Let’s share our story with others as part of God’s greater Gospel story to impact them for His Kingdom. We can let them know God can still use them for big things. Most importantly, we can let them know we are all champs in the end and will spend eternity with Him in Heaven when we believe in Jesus and His forgiveness on the cross and Resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:57).

Finish 2021 Well

Today’s Reading 2 Timothy 3-4 & Titus 1 

Leadership, Instructions, and Fatherly Advice were the last few posts inspiring and encouraging to us all as we lead in our ways daily.  As we continue reading 2 Timothy and Titus, Paul shares his final charge to Timothy and his advice to Titus as he takes on many church responsibilities.  I’m sure Titus was taking notes, highlighting, and jotting down his notes as he read the letter from Paul. For Titus, following a fantastic leader can be very challenging.  Leaders can make many changes to put themselves at the forefront or improve and enhance upon previous successes while walking alongside those they lead.  In Paul’s instructions to Titus, I see Paul sharing advice and providing him with a plan.  

In any leadership position, having a plan is essential. Remember, we are all leaders because we all have influence.  Paul’s advice was not of his own, but that always of our Heavenly Father. 

  • Have a good character that church leaders should have
  • How to teach to various groups
  • How to conduct ourselves

Reading through the verses between Titus and 2 Timothy, I caught myself capturing the contrast between the last days Paul warns us about in 2 Timothy 3 and what will equip us on our journey to Heaven in Titus.

Without fault Selfish 
Not arrogant – or quick-tempered  Greedy 
Not drunkard  Conceited 
Not greedy for money  Irreligious 
Hospitable  Ungrateful 
Self-controllable  unkind/merciless 
Agree with doctrine  Love pleasure more than God 

 

2 Timothy 3 

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

Titus 1 

6 An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe[b] and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. 7 Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. 8 Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. 9 He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.

What way will I choose to live? What path will you choose to lead? Many will say that we are in some of the last days.  I know that only He knows that day.  All we can do is choose how to lead every day this side of Heaven. One of my favorite Spiritual Audit questions is,  “Who did I serve in the name of Jesus today?”  Have no regrets about how and who you lead today. 

2 Timothy 4:7-8

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

Finish Well!

Journey with You.

Today’s Readings: Ephesians 2 -3 

We all have traveled a different journey in our walk with Christ.  My journey had brought me through a time where I would have said I was truly spiritually dead—a time in my life when I definitely followed the ways of the world.  Paraphrasing from verse 2:3, Paul called it gratifying the cravings of our flesh.  I’m thankful for this letter Paul writes to the church of Ephesus. I, too, deserved the wrath Paul talks about in Ephesians 2:4. The joy Paul reminds the church elders is that we are all made alive in Christ when we turn our lives over to Him. 

 I’m grateful for so many people that have poured into me along my journey and brought me to be true and closer to God. I pray to share the same encouragement and dedication to others along their journey. Each day I read our Bible Journal posts and am inspired by the stories and reflections of how each chapter of the Bible has an impact o our lives.  

This journey is ongoing and can take different paths. I can hit potholes of worldly desires and selfish actions that humble my heart and mind in the daily walk.  Still, God’s grace captures me right where I’m at and draws me in.   

I leave you with Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians in Chapter 3:14-21. 

Dear Lord, 

 I pray that out of Your glorious riches, You may strengthen us with power through Your Spirit in your inner being so that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith. And I pray that we, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,  and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that we may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.