What Would You Do?

Today’s reading is Hebrews 2.

Has your boss ever assigned a task for you to complete you felt was “below you?” Did you grumble or complain to them or someone else….or at least under your breath at a minimum? Did you do the job to the best of your ability? I’m very grateful for the opportunity to play golf at the course I grew up working on as a kid with my Dad, brother, one of my nephews, and my son the last few days. As we told many funny stories about things that happened while my brother and I worked out there, I couldn’t help but think of one story which wasn’t necessarily funny as I read Hebrews 2. It was my 3rd summer working there, and I expected to be moving up to tasks like mowing greens and fairways. While I did get the larger responsibility to change the cups and hole location daily, I was also assigned tasks to pull weeds out of flower beds while a few of the other workers who started the same time were assigned other, more dynamic tasks. Although I would like to say I did it cheerfully, I was not happy. I felt I was above that task after a few years of working there and doing what I felt was a better than the other guys at whatever I was assigned. In fact, after a few weeks of this, I just went and found another job working construction for my Dad’s best friend.

Let’s just say I’m glad Jesus didn’t have the same mindset and find another job like me. We are told here in Hebrews 2:10 that Jesus was “for whom and by whom all things exist.” Yet, we are then told in Hebrews 2:14-18….

“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, He himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death He might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that He helps, but He helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore, He had to be made like His brothers in every respect, so that He might become merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because He himself has suffered when tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.”

I’m pretty sure I have mentioned this before in past writings, but when doing street ministry a few years ago for Spread Truth, one gentleman said he didn’t believe the Gospel because no God would lower himself to do what Jesus did. Essentially, he said if he were God that’s not what he would do. Well, he was right, none of us likely would because we are not God, and we can’t imagine the love He has for us and what He did. At age 18, I was already “above pulling weeds,” so how I can I fathom God coming in the flesh and suffering a brutal and painful death on my behalf, taking my place, when He didn’t have to? I can’t. But, I can get on my knees and just say thanks.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WTYe9sWYKdo

 

 

 

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.”

 

Preparing for the end

Today’s Readings: 1 Thessalonians 3 and 4

Its difficult to think about death and when our end is to come. I would honestly say, I take my life for granite most days. Selfishly, I have three children under the age of eight and would love to see them grow up to be both wonderful men and women of God. I just celebrated our 10 year anniversary and would love to have at least 50 more. But, I realize that I’m not the one who will decide that.  God will!  I recently attended a funeral for my late Uncle Rob Voltz, which was a reminder of the brevity of our lives. I haven’t attended very many funerals, they are hard to attend. Since putting my faith in God, I tend to reflect and wonder about any opportunities I could of had to share how much I cared for them and the promises God had made for those who believe.  I remind myself of Psalm 90:12 which says Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Even now as the rest of my family is in bed, I think about the lost opportunities today to share Christ in actions, words, and love.  

Uncle Robs card showed him hitting a golf ball into a beautiful sunset.  It said,

“Lord, when my last putt has dropped into the cup and the light of my last day has faded, may I be able to turn in to You, a scorecard to show I did my Best. 

This quote reminds me of one of my favorite verses written by Paul in 2 Timothy 7 where he knew his life was coming to an end as he sat in prison.  He said, ” I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”

How will you finish the race? How will you turn in the scorecard showing your best?

1 Thessalonians 3 and 4 share wisdom from Paul earlier in his ministry that tells the Thessalonians and us as believers how we should prepare for His coming.  And, even though we don’t know the precise moment when Jesus will return we know that our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. Romans 13:11. 

A few reminders from Paul in preparation for this day are;

  • Keep the faith – that we will face trials in this life still our endurance comes from our hope in the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 1:3 That we pray for any area that is lacking faith. verse  3:10 Read more in 1 Peter 4:12-19
  • Live in order to please God –  God’s will sanctified – verse 4:1-3.
  • Live in a way that controls your own body and is Holy and Honorable.  verse 4:4-7. Read more in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20.
  • Lead a quiet life – not stirring up conflict, living peacefully in the midst of trials.
  • Be sanctified by God. 1 Thessalonians 4:3 Let the Holy Spirit lead your life.  Allow him to change you from the inside out.

 

Dear Awesome Father,  We love you.  May our lives reflect the truth even in the face of difficulties. That in our day to day interactions with our family, friends, and strangers we model a fearless faith-filled attitude that pours out love to theirs. That in our moments where we are lacking in faith you lift us up.  Lord, as we wait and prepare for your coming gives us courage to share with others your promises and how you have changed our lives; and as you call us one by one God, we can be sanctified awaiting to be in your presence.  Amen 

Till I Found You…Grief Into Joy

Today’s reading is John 16 where the night before He was crucified Jesus foretells of his death and the sadness it will bring followed by the joy that will come when they see Him again through His resurrection.

“So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”

John 16:22

Merriam-Webster defines joy as “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.”

As I read this, I thought to myself, do I have joy? Where am I seeking joy? Often we seek joy in the next promotion, the next sale, the new house, the new car, our net worth, or earthly relationships..only to find these things bring temporary pleasure. This brief pleasure is always fleeting..sometimes within minutes or hours, but always within days or years. None of them last forever. Even the best of marriages end with one spouse passing before the other and even if we are lucky to have an ending like The Notebook and pass at the same time…our life on this earth still ends. It doesn’t last forever. No marriage can bring everlasting joy.

Let’s break down how a relationship with Jesus provides true joy by Merriam-Webster’s definition…

When we know Him, we know our “well-being” is forever being take care of. Romans 8:31-32 says, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not graciously give us all things?”

When we know Him, we know we are a “success.” Despite our past sins, relational, professional, or financial failures, we know that we are a “success” because of Him. In Romans 8:38, the Apostle Paul says, “No in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” He also talks about winning the prize or the race in other writings.

When we know Him, we know we have “good fortune.” Can anything give us more “good fortune” than knowing every single one of our past sins and future mistakes are forgiven? Psalm 103:10-12 says, “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” If that’s not good fortune, I don’t know what is!

When we know Him, we “possess what one desires.” What do we all desire? In my humble opinion, it is the forgiveness we just discussed, as well as a loving relationship that lasts forever through eternal life. The only way we get it is through one with Him. God began to let us know how He would do this all the way back in Isaiah 25:8 which says, “He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces…” God reminds us of this amazing promise again at the end of the Bible in Revelation 21:4 which reads, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall their be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

What do you believe is the greatest love song of all time? Well, I believe the greatest love song of all time has to be about the only love that can bring us true joy which cannot be taken from us because it lasts forever. Check out “Till I Found You” by Phil Wickham.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ewhz3pCk9vM

Going Through The Motions

Today’s reading is Amos 4.

I have to admit in preparing for this I did not know much about the prophet Amos and this book of the Bible which is, quite frankly, a little difficult to interpret. Thankfully, my brother in Christ and fellow Bible Journal writer David LaFrance turned me on to John MacArthur’s “Grace to You” app a few years back which I highly recommend if you have questions and want to learn more about a book or passages from the Bible.

Amos’ name means “burden bearer,” and he was from a small town Tekoa 10 miles south of Jerusalem. He bred sheep and tended sycamore fruit (yet another example of how God can use anyone from anywhere for big things and His glory). He lived in a time of peace during the 8th century B.C. when Uzziah was king of Judah and Jeroboam II was king of Israel. As can happen in times of peace when everything seems merry, we can tend to lose sight of true worship of God and God used Amos to bring attention that and also a lack of justice.

“Come to Behtel and transgress; to Gilgal, and multiply transgression; bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three days; offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving of that which is leavened, and proclaim free will offerings, publish them; for so you love to do, O people of Israel! declares the Lord God.”

Amos 4:4-5

God wants to bring attention to their idolatry and them going through the motions in giving and worship. I’m sure we can all relate to doing this…I know I can! I notice when I’m in prayer time and realize I’m distracted thinking of my “to do” list, meetings that day, or personal or professional goals. I notice this when my mind wanders in church, and I’m not focused on the sermon but instead thinking about lunch or the game of my favorite team later that day. I even noticed sleep being an idol today when I was going to wake up early Sunday morning to work on this but am instead working on it in the afternoon! Don’t get me wrong..making an impact professionally, our spouses, our kids, our favorite sports team or hobbies, money, sleep, and food are all blessings from God which we should enjoy. However, are we prioritizing and thinking about them over him? Are we thanking Him for these blessings and using them for His glory or for our own? All of these and more can become idols if we are not careful…yes..even our spouses and kids.

Deuteronomy 6:5-6 says..

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might and these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.”

The people of Israel Amos speaks of were giving and going through the rituals of worship without truly worshipping God and giving to Him with a thankful heart to further His kingdom.

I may have mentioned this in past writings, but I had a Sunday school teacher growing up who became moved to tears nearly every week at some point when talking about Jesus. I just didn’t get it then and thought it was very strange, but I do now. I know the times I’m living out Deuteronomy 6:5-6 is when I’m nearly moved to tears during a worship song, prayer, communion while thinking of His sacrifice on the cross, while reading the Word, or while looking at my wife and kids in thanksgiving to Him for these blessings and more.

As you read through the book of Amos, it can become very confusing, as the wrath and punishment from God is discussed. I must admit again that I have a hard time understanding this other than knowing we should suffer the wrath of God and be separated from God due to our sin. However, I’m thankful that in Amos 9:11, he speaks of Jesus by stating, “In that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen and repair its breaches, and raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old.” Romans 8:1 also says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” 1 John 2:2 tells us that God sent Him as the “propitiation” for our sins. I’m extremely grateful God loves us so much that He sent Him to suffer the wrath that should have been mine.

Let us keep this in the forefront of our mind in thanksgiving as we live, give, and worship. When we do, it becomes easy live out Deuteronomy 6:5-6 and love God with all our heart, soul, and might!

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.

Loud and Clear

Good Morning Bible Journal fiends.  Today we will be reading Deuteronomy 28.  This chapter has 68 verses in it.  The first 14 verses provides us insights of the many blessings you will have when you fully obey the Lords commands. The next 54 verses cover the curses that will be faced when you disobey the Lord. Looking at these verses helps me to understand the heading Loud and Clear.  It seems like we would be able to obey. Yet, after reading this chapter my next step was to figure out how I apply this chapter to my life.  God what are you telling us? For myself,   I’m able to look at all the amazing things that God has provided.   Many blessings through faith filled relationships, physical needs being met, healings in the midst of pain, a heart transformation, and ultimately a true relationship with God.  All the good in our lives can always point  back to God.  “And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. – Deuteronomy 28:1

On the other hand, all the bad things can often point to myself and my selfish desires. This can include pain that I have caused to others, my many years of confusion about life, seeking short term pleasures through worldly substitutes… these can all point back to me, and my selfish desires to fulfill my own will. When I don’t obey. 15 “But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you.

In Deuteronomy 28 Moses tells us through the use of repetition similar to what Lynden was saying yesterday with Dora cartoon connection ( have small kids too) What God desires from us and what will happen when do and don’t obey. Moses is telling the Israelites, and us, that God has always provided and always will.  These first 14 verses tells of the blessings of walking in covenant with our Lord. Moses also reminds us of our disobedience. This choice is ours. God loves us, He sent his only son to wash away all our sins. That even in our sinful nature, Gods love is always present for us.  For me this covenant language can be easy to read through, underline, highlight, and reflect on but, I need more than doing that .  It has to be in my heart.  Because when I just write it and not put it into my heart, I can easily forget. Deuteronomy 6:6 reminds me 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.   

Our small group is starting a 4 week study on family discipleship.  One of our first goals is to focus on our modeling.  Jim Probst shared a story before that has stuck with me for years.  Him and some other guys were meeting and thinking of ways to honor God.  Many people had great ideas of serving, additional financial giving, possible additional mission trips.  One gentleman said, ” I just want to obey. ”  In Luke 11:28 Jesus reminds us that, “28 He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

There was a Promise Land that the Israelites were looking for then, there is a Promise Land for us now.  In the midst of our lives, God has provided for us a way to get to this Promise Land.  His love for us is always there, our its our choice to be obedient and remain faithful. To know and apply this obedience into our lives we need to make His words an integral part of everyday of our lives. Think about the Parable of the Sower. 18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

Loud and clear, there are blessings and curses based on our faithfulness.

  • Pray continually – 1 Thessalonians 5:17
  • Set our minds on things from above. Colossians 3:2
  • Let the message of Christ dwell among us. Colossians 3:16

Dear God, Thank you for your living word that we can be in every day. Create in us a soil that will take your words  to grow closer to you.  We love you and pray for obedience and faithfulness to you. 

Amen

Two Roads + Two Gates

The Narrow and Wide Gates

 Matthew 7:13-14 and Psalm 87

 Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

This scripture is equally perplexing AND frightening! It is really hard for my small brain to comprehend God’s ways sometimes. Why will only few find it? If all will hear, why will just a few enter?

As Jesus wraps up His teaching on the hillside (now called the Mount of Beatitudes), He has covered a lot ground with topics ranging from serving, to judging, to prayer. He addresses our hearts: pointing out areas of law, tradition, and ritual, and replacing them with pure motives, love, and authenticity.

In an environment of Jewish law and order reigning over all, He fulfills those laws by showing what’s at the root of them – going back to the basics/intention of the law, and then maximizing the law to the fullest with love + utmost surrender to the Lord.

Every time I read this passage, two things come to mind. Anyone else watch A Thief In the Night back in the day? I was 7 and that movie FREAKED ME OUT! The razor left in the bathroom sink… the sad sad song “I Wish We’d All Been Ready”. It was more than my developing brain could process.

The second thing my mind races to is the scripture about the lukewarm being spit out (Rev 3:16). If you’ve read any of Francis Chan’s work, you’ve likely come across some of his thoughts on this scripture.  One cool thing about heaven is we will see + know things as they truly are (1 Cor 13:12) – no more guessing!

When I think about this narrow road of a few, it’s easy for me to start feeling frightened or downtrodden. Many enter the path to destruction, but few enter the path of life. Who am I to be among the few? There are a lot more Christians that are more spiritual than me.  Yikes!

How does this scripture coincide with the popular mantra “Just Believe”? If you pray the sinner’s prayer and confess Jesus as your Lord + Savior, that’s it, right? How do we know for certain? Will we ever know for certain?  Paul’s letter to the Philippians (1:6) sure sounds assuring: Being confident of this very thing, that He that began a good work in you will complete it until the day that Christ returns. How do we get that confidence??

I don’t know the answers to all of these questions. What I do know is that God doesn’t want me living in a state of fear, worry, or a mindset of “working my way into heaven”. This is exactly what Jesus preached against.  He wants my heart surrendered and pure. If I am truly believing in His saving grace and can comprehend His love for me, then my life wouldn’t be lukewarm. My passion for Him would be evident in all areas of my life. My desire to glorify Him (not earn salvation) will supersede everything else.

So what about when it’s not? What’s happening then? Am I “saved” when I have seasons of lukewarm living? When I start walking on the wide path toward the big gate…then what?  Is there grace for that? If I had a car accident in that moment and died, can I just use the common line “well, God knows my heart”?  And is that always a comfort or is that just what people say to justify sin and lukewarm living? Because the truth is, God really does know my heart. ALL OF IT. I’m not sure that’s something I want to brag about all the time.  Sure on Sundays when I’ve sang some worship songs and taken good notes from the sermon…or when I just got back from a long run filled with talking to God. But what about when I’m stuck in traffic, see someone that’s really treated me poorly, or my kids won’t listen. Yep, He sees my heart then, too. We can’t pick and choose when and what He sees. I digress…

The bottom line is, in my heart of hearts, I have confidence in the saving grace of God, His love for me, and I choose to surrender all to Him. I can’t wait for heaven!! I believe in Jesus and I believe in heaven! And I believe I will be there.

As I say that, I also have to tell you that I’ve had moments where I couldn’t get a hold of someone… so had to call another Christian (Grandma Rita is a good one) to make sure Jesus didn’t come back and I was left behind. You know, because if anyone’s FOR SURE IN, it’s her. HA HA!

Does anyone else ponder these questions? What have you come up with?

 

 

 

 

To Him Be The Glory

Today’s reading is Matthew 6:1-4 and Psalm 67.

The title of these verses in Matthew is “Giving to the Needy” in my Bible. The Bible tells us in many occasions we are called to help those in need.

“Give justice to the week and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and destitute. Rescue the week and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”  

Psalm 82:3-4

“if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday soon.”

Isaiah 58:10

“Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

Matthew 25:40

However, I feel like the title should really read, “Whose Glory Are You Really Seeking?” Pastor J.K. Jones always says something to the effect that, “There is a God shaped hole in all of hearts.” When God fills that hole and we develop a relationship with Jesus, our hardened heart softens, and we become more like Him. Why did Jesus do what He did during His life on Earth and ultimately suffer the ultimate pain and affliction of the cross when He didn’t have to? He did it to show the love our Father in Heaven has for us..to be the reflection of His light in the world and to glorify Him. These verses in Mathew 6:1-4 clearly tell us to do the same. Every single one of us was put on this Earth to glorify Him. Many of us have read The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman which are touch, service, gifts, quality time, and words of affirmation. I believe words of affirmation are near the top for most of us. Who doesn’t like it when someone tells them “good job?” In fact, much research has shown many men in prison will admit they still yearn today to hear words they unfortunately never heard their dad say, “I love you , and I’m proud of you.” I’ll be transparent in that I like it when someone says to me “Good post today..” when writing for Bible Journal. This is my human, self-serving, and sin filled natural emotional reaction.  I then stop, think, and respond by borrowing the words of I heard author Jon Gordon say at the Christian Fellowship Breakfast for Northwestern Mutual a few years back, “God is the author. I just hold the pen.” This puts me in check, and reminds me I’m striving to live a life where truly everything I do is for His Glory..to be the reflection of the Father’s light like Jesus.

When we fully comprehend the love Jesus showed on the cross and the love the Father showed by sending Him to do so when He didn’t have to, and we develop a relationship with Him…our hearts will soften and we will give to the needy and do everything in our life for His glory rather than ours. This will in turn, draw others to Him through seeing His love in us. The God shaped hole in their heart will be filled, and they will in turn, do the same for others who will see the same. Then, we will be living out The Great Commission Jesus gave us in his last words in Matthew 28:19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

To Him be the Glory…

He Wants Us

2 Samuel 19 and Psalm 51 – Resurrection Eve

Have you ever wondered when the deniers, doubters, crucifiers, and liars had their moment of realization of who Jesus was and their role in His death? Was it immediate, like Peter when the rooster crowed the third time? Or did it take longer, after Jesus had been taken from the cross and put in the tomb? Or was it not until days later, when word got around that Jesus was alive, and Thomas even put his hand into his side.  Did they respond like David does, in his Psalms about his own sins? Had I been there, would I have realized it immediately, or would it have taken me awhile to understand? What would have been my response to knowing I put Jesus on the cross?

From an early age I learned about Jesus and have never doubted who He was or what He did for me.  As I got older, my heart to please God was challenged by my selfishness and temptations to sin. In high school especially, I was stuck on this hamster wheel of wanting to “be good” and do the right thing, but time and time again would fall into cycles of sin and rebellion. I would go through a period of mourning, praying, and vow to not fall into that junk again. I would “be good” for awhile and then it would start over. I was so frustrated with myself and lack of self control. Everything seemed so easy and made so much sense sitting in church on Sundays and at youth group on Wednesday nights.  But by Friday night – it all flew out the window.

I made a decision when I was 16 to try to get off that hamster wheel for good, and I wanted a REAL CHANGE. While I had always believed in Jesus, I needed to do something different and drastic in my life so that I could be more consistent in my choices to follow Jesus. I believed. I could talk the talk. I needed to WALK the WALK – even on the weekends.  I joined a conservative faith community that was rich in tradition and strong in holy habits.  The fellowship of the close-knit group was unmatched. The believers there invested time and energy in helping me understand God’s Word. I learned so much in this season of life and thank God for putting people into my path to draw me to Him.

One of the biggest things I learned is that even with all of the holy habits, fellowship, and accountability, I still sinned.  As much as I wanted to ‘be good’, I couldn’t. I wasn’t. And it took my early adult years to figure out that God doesn’t want me to ‘be good’. He wants me forgiven. This is why He brought us Jesus. In my youth I found myself categorizing sin and thought mine was the worst – if I could just stop those major sins, then I would be acceptable in God’s eyes. It took a lot of years to really believe that ALL sin is unrighteousness in God’s eyes. While sins may have greater or lesser consequences on earth – the sin itself is all the same: separation from God, no matter how big or small.

During this time of growth, the elder of our church, a kind and sweet man named Ervin, would point me back to Psalms 51. Over and over again, I would counsel with him, pour my heart out, trying to figure out why I would still from time to time fall back into those old sinful ways and make bad decisions.  He was so patient with me, and would read this scripture with me.  Even though it was twenty years ago, I can clearly recall our conversations.  He would encourage me to go home and pray the prayers that David did, a man who loved God so much and would still find himself in a mess of sin. And just like David, I would weap and mourn over my sins and ask God for forgiveness.  My quest to “be good” was a fruitless journey – and through prayers like Psalm 51, I found that a broken heart for my sin drew me closer to Him more than my checklist of ‘being good’ ever did.  As C.S. Lewis said: God doesn’t want something from us, He simply wants US.

Today, on Holy Saturday, the time between Jesus’ death on the cross, and His victory over the grave tomorrow, I can’t help but put myself there and walk through the range of emotions.

It is our sins against God that crucified Jesus that Friday vs. 4 and David calls his own sin what it is – evil.

Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight;

I wonder how quickly we would have realized this and sought forgiveness and change. Would it have been the very next day, on Saturday?  Would we have prayed vs. 10?

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

And then to wake up Sunday morning and learn that HE IS ALIVE! Would we really believe? Would we spend the rest of our days living in the JOY that salvation brings (vs. 10)?

Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

How would our lives be different if we lived everyday with the utmost JOY for Jesus conquering the grave and the utmost JOY for our salvation?