What’s your Yeast?

Daily prayer is for obedience.  We keep an index card with Romans 12:2 written on it from a small group activity years ago.  The world has so much to offer.  An achievement-focused lifestyle can pridefully lift you to where you feel like nothing else matters.  In this breath of life until you realize our eternity.

Today’s Reading: Mark 8 (verse 15 & 34-37)

15 “Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.”

The world can infect and change your heart and mind.  The same pridefulness that the Pharisees and Herod held can be seen in our world today.  So I ask myself, do I provide lip service and merely admiring the truth?  Or am I singing praises and obeying the truth?  Pastor Charlie Welke rechallenged me this weekend as he talked about our “Domesticated Faith.”  I reflected on the finite nature of our world and the infinite power of God.  Am I allowing any yeast of the world to enter into my life? I prayerfully ask the Lord to search my heart, see if there is any offensive way, and lead me. Psalm 139:23-24

Author MaryLu Tyndall writes about the World system vs. God’s Truth.

The world says it’s all about you. God says it’s all about Him. 

The world says elevate yourself. God says to put others ahead of yourself. 

The world says grab as much power as you can. God says to be a servant. 

The world says to eat, drink, and be merry, for this is all there is. God says you are an eternal being, so be wise with your time. 

The world says the ends justify the means. God says the means will be judged in the end. 

The world says outward beauty is everything. God says those with inner beauty will shine at the end. 

The world says gather as many things as you can. God says only your treasure in Heaven will last. 

The world says truth is relative. God says I am the truth. 

The world says to be tolerant.  God says to call evil, evil. 

The world says it’s all about personal happiness. God says it’s all about personal sacrifice. 

The world says death is the end. God says death is only the beginning. 

 

Just as Jesus will warn us what to stay away from, he points us to the truth.

34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life[b] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.

God Bless your day!

 

You’re invited…what are you wearing?

Today’s Reading: Matthew 22

v 1-14 The Kingdom of heaven is like…

The more I’ve reflected on our wedding, the more memories jog my mind.  The details that were put into everything.  From invitations selection to music played to the food and cake served.  What an amazing day.  This summer Jennifer and I celebrated our 12th anniversary.  I know I don’t say it or recognize enough the masterpiece our Lord created in my wife and our three wonderful children Jackson, Marshall, and Gianna, but I know they truly are.

The parable that Jesus shares in Matthew 22 talks about a wedding that various groups are invited to. Everyone in town was invited to, yet people refused and paid no attention to the invite for one reason or another.  For those who finally came, some didn’t come dressed for such an occasion.   There is always some thought that gets put into your outfit when attending a wedding.  For me, this parable makes me reflect on what I’m wearing.  What d do I put on each day in the presence of the Lord? What are my actions as a preparation for a wedding feast in Heaven? People like to pretend that our choices or actions don’t matter much in our modern-day world, but this parable shows that it isn’t true.

God’s invitation from Him is not a light matter. We are accepting or rejecting this once-in-a-lifetime invite. Our answer matters.  Our actions matter. Our dress matters.

What are you wearing?

Ephesians 4:20- 24  20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Every morning we all wake up and get dressed for the day. Am I clothed in Humility?

1 Peter 5:5 and be clothed in humility…

I’m grateful for His mercies He has shown me for the moments when my character lacks, and actions don’t represent Him. Lamentations 3:22-23 says Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

You are invited.  Do you accept? As we prepare now for His Kingdom, are there any garments that you are missing? Am I truly dressed and ready, or do I think I am?

Psalm 139:23 Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.

Lord,  I pray that my actions and words represent godliness in all I do.  In my sinful human moments, help me to repent and seek you.  Father, I know the Kingdom you have invited us to is bigger and better than anything the world has to offer.  Help me each day to know this truth and share it with others.  Amen

Enter His Gate

When Jesus finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching. 

As we read Matthew 6-7 for today, I pray you will pause and see where God wants you to reflect and seek what God wants you to make clear to you on your journey closer to Him.  Jesus provides so much wisdom in these chapters that leave me thinking and praying for continued transformation.  Topics in these chapters include:

  • Giving
  • Prayer
  • Treasures
  • Worrying
  • Judging

These topics are all sections in my Bible underlined, highlighted, and have notes in the margins.  In prayer for open eyes and ears for today, I landed on a few verses that, for some reason, there was nothing.

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 is the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.  Matthew 7:13-14

In the middle of one of the storms we had recently, it took my wife forty-five minutes to make a five drive.  As Jennifer drove back and forth, she ran into roadblocks and flooded streets that lead to some tears and fear.  Eventually, they made it home safely down a side street that led to home.  (prayers for everyone impacted by these recent storms)

What road or path are you on?  There are times when  I think I’m going in the direction, and I need to stop.  It seemed safe, and it wasn’t.  I follow the crowd and realize I’ve gone the wrong way.  God has a path laid out for you.

  • Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways, submit to him, and He will make your paths straight.  Proverbs 3:5-6
  • The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.  Proverbs 16:9 
  • The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in His way. Psalm 37:23 

The road seemed wide and perfect, but it led to a dead-end, just like Jennifer the other day.  God provides the perfect directions. The road that leads directly to Him.  Will you seek His path today? This world offers a path that can lead you in many directions.  Our Lord offers us one way.  I pray we are all seeking the narrow road that leads to Him.

Matthew 6:10 Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.

 

Picture Source: St. Mary Magdalene Orthodox Church

Whom shall I fear?

The Lord is with me, I will not be afraid; what can anyone do to me? 7. It is the Lord who helps me, and I will see my enemies defeated.  8 It is better to trust in the Lord than depend on people. 9 It is better to trust in the Lord than depend on human leaders.

I’m not sure what you have planned today.  Maybe you’ve just had a chance to read this, and your day is coming to a close.  In either case, you, as I reflect on Psalm 118, I’m reminded that as we believe and trust in the Lord, it is quick to lose sight that no matter time of day or task at hand, our Heavenly Father is always on our side.  When you truly believe and trust Him as the center of your life, you can live without fear. How awesome it is to know right now we can live every moment without any worry when we live in obedience.

Often, my lack of trust and wisdom throughout years and even in recent moments have led me down many dead-end roads. Times of complete self-absorption that goes opposite of where the Lord is asking me to be. He takes me through hills and valleys that remind me of my desire and need to put more trust in Him for every aspect of my life. Along this journey that includes being a parent, He has led me to a daily prayer asking the Lord to have His will with my life and to help me to show His love for Him in my actions and words. More Him, less me!

I think of the father in Mark that was asking Jesus for help with his son. He says in Mark 9:24 Immediately, the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”  — Help me in any unbelieving time Lord. Or times where I think I have it figured out without your

The people-pleasing days and moments can come calling daily.  Pray, Listen, and take the next step. He is by our side!

Have a blessed day.

Proverbs 3:5-6

Hebrews 11:6

1 Corinthians 2:5

What’s Your Number?

Today’s reading is Psalm 90 which is attributed to Moses with some saying it’s the oldest Psalm, yet the author of every Psalm is not known so it can’t be confirmed it is the first.

What’s your number? This is the question asked in an old commercial of an investment firm regarding each person’s amount of money they need in order to retire. Each person’s number is hovering above them as they go about their daily life. What if the imaginary number above your head and this question was not about retirement money, but the number of days in your life?

Teach us to number our days

That we may get a heart of

wisdom.

Psalm 90:12

How would you live life differently if you knew your number? I find it ironic how most of us have a hard time wrapping our arms around the fact that God has always existed because everything we know has a beginning and end. Yet even though we know our life on Earth will end and we don’t know when, we don’t live that way.

Psalm 90:10 reads..

The years of our life are seventy

Or even by reason of strength

eighty…

Life is short…even if we live that long.

Psalm 90:14 says…

Satisfy us in the morning with

your steadfast love,

that we may rejoice and be

glad all our days.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled getting out of bed in the morning (although I’m still up early to get things done).  It drives my wife Shannon nuts that once I’m out of bed I’m awake with good energy. When we leave for vacation early in the morning before daybreak, I’m ready to chat and listen to music while she’s just ready to go back to sleep for another 3 hours while I drive. However, getting out of bed initially is always tough still..no matter what great things are going on that day. Would this be the case if I knew my number and how few might be left, or if I realized how fast the 25,000-30,000 days at full life expectancy will go?

Psalm 90:16 says…

Let your work be shown to your

servants,

and your glorious power to

their children.

My post 2 weeks ago was around our responsibility to teach our children to know and love God and His Word. Assuming our kids become adults, move out, or go to college around age 18, we have 6,570 days in which they are under our roof. I don’t know about you but that doesn’t seem like that many to me, and I’m sure it will feel even faster. Are we enjoying each one of those days with them and impacting them to help nurture and grow their relationship with God realizing they’ll only be with us for a short time to influence them for the rest of their life?

Psalm 90:17 reads…

Let the favor of the Lord our

God be upon us,

and establish the work of our

hands upon us;

yes, establish the work of our

hands.

Are we praying for a “heart of wisdom” as Psalm 90:12 mentions earlier and letting God do His work through our hands? What sort of impact are we having for His kingdom?

Psalm 90 tells us there will be challenges in this world no matter what our relationship with God (Psalm 90:10, Psalm 90:15). But we know God is with us through them. We know His love which He showed us on the cross. We know life is short here so those troubles are nothing compared to the joy we will experience in our eternal resting place in Heaven which is much longer. Jesus says in John 16:33,” I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulations. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” He conquered death through His Resurrection on Easter allowing us to do the same through belief in Him. So, let’s live like our number is 1 which turns the number above our head to ∞.

Power

I truly can’t think of anything more meaningful, valuable, and true when I think of the power of Christ.  As I reflect on my own life and the journey thus far, God has walked me through I can only see and tell of the testimonies of His power. As we read our daily bible journal posts you see the endless number of miracles of healing, providing, and transforming lives.  This power is available to all who believe.

Today’s verse comes from Paul who has a testimony of his own to share God’s power.  In 1 Corinthians 1, Paul is talking to the people of Corinth who had to make a decision to believe or not. Verse 18 says

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God….verse 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

We can read His word and remain foolish or stuck in our ways like many or we can choose to believe and share with others His power.  Paul would say himself in Colossians 1:29  To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me. 

Questions to ponder today about His power.

How has it changed you? The stories if the Bible are full of examples of how Christ’s power changes people.  That is why Paul says that it’s not about him, it is all Christ.  Just like God called Paul, God is calling us if you believe. 9 God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Jesus had all the power, He knew it.  How did Jesus use His power?  John 13 says 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; Jesus served others.  Our question to reflect and acknowledge is  How do we use the power God has given to us?  Are you using the power He has given you for His glory? 

Christ works in all of us. He has the Power to Save Lives, Power to grant Wisdom, Power to change your short-term life on this Earth to an eternal Kingdom in His presence.  That’s Power.  Christ has given this power to all who believe.  Use the power that lives n you!

Ephesians 1:18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church

 

Ancient of Days

When you hear the word wisdom, what image comes to mind? Is there a specific person you think of?

Today’s title or attribute of God we are focusing on is the Ancient of Days from Daniel 7:22 which reads, “until the Ancient of Days came, and judgement was given for the saints of the Most High, and the time came when the saints possessed the Kingdom.” I must admit I wasn’t too familiar with this title for God and had to do a little more research, but Daniel uses this title 3 times in Daniel 7:9, Daniel 7:13, and Daniel 7:22.

The 7th chapter of Daniel is his prophetic vision showing God the Father ultimately rules over eternity and will accomplish this through the son of man (Daniel 7:13). This chapter is significant because Jesus uses the title of the son of man for himself more than any other name. The son of man approaches the Ancient of Days in verse 13 and the Ancient of Days is described in verse 9 as not only having clothing white as snow, but “the hair of his head like pure wool.” This gives us an image the Ancient of Days which seems to represent (not a literal picture though) God the Father as an older man with white hair. I also think of the references to God the Father as “Alpha and Omega” and “him who is and who was and who is to come” from Revelation 1:4 and Revelation 1:8. These, verses along with entire chapter of Daniel 7, and God’s title of the Ancient of Days remind us the God is ruler over all and no matter what terrible things we see or experience in our lifetime, He will ultimately claim victory (Daniel 7:27). In this life, we can live with the peace of knowing we fight from victory…not for victory (Isiah 26:3).

At the beginning I posed the question about what image or person comes to mind when you think about the word wisdom. These days we all seem to know someone who has experienced dementia or Alzheimer’s in old age, and unfortunately, I think we now lump many of the elderly into a group that many would even call senile. However, if God the Father is described in the image of the Ancient of Days as an older person with white hair, let this be a reminder that much wisdom can be gained from the elderly who have learned and experienced far more than we have in our younger years. Near the end of 2018, I wrote a post called Angels We Have Heard in Brooklyn about 93 year old Thomas King who spoke so much wisdom and inspiration to us while on a mission trip at exactly right time. Sadly though, Thomas told us when his church recently recognized him for his years of membership, they would not even let him speak…although his wise words to us cut sharply like a knife to us. As we go forth today, let us not only remember God the Father’s sovereignty as the Ancient of days and learn from Him through the Word, but let us also remember as we interact with the elderly the words Job 12:12 which read, “Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days.” We can learn from them as well

With Wings Like Eagles

This weekend, over a hundred people are gathering from Central Illinois to run a charity half marathon to benefit families living in poverty in Central America. It’s been a really neat journey, from the spring when everyone signed up, learning about the communities we would be supporting… to then training through the warm and humid summer months, and now getting ready to toe the start line.  We will run the 13.1 mile victory lap of all the miles already run. The work is done. They hay is in the barn. The runners have done the hard training, and race day is the icing on the cake.

When I visualize running a successful race, it always comes with this image of leaping, and bounding, and flying – literally flying like an eagle. Isaiah 40:31 says we will mount up with wings like eagles, run and not grow weary!

When I thought about today’s journal entry post of Isaiah  – of course I was going to share the parallels of this run supporting Central Americans and our strength from God. As I was packing and prepping for the race weekend, there were several things that came to mind and I was looking forward to putting pen to paper.

Right in the middle of all of this – I received some really awful news. One of our runners has a serious health condition that came on and definitely can’t join us. Our entire team is amazing…  but this runner is also SO INSPIRING. She is new to distance running, and this would be her first half. The runs didn’t always come easy to her. And yet she continued to focus on the bigger mission, fundraised to help others, and week after week, she logged her workouts, coming back for more even when she wasn’t loving it. When it got hard, she showed up. She has encouraged and led others this summer, and I had no doubts she would cross that finish line – and I couldn’t wait to witness it.

I wish I knew why this isn’t her weekend, why this has happened. And why now? I wanted her to wrap up her summer with a big bow – that finish line ribbon! Having made this hard decision myself two years ago for a race I had to pull out of, I know she’s feeling sad, hurt, and discouraged. And it’s kinda lonely when everyone you’ve been planning and prepping with is moving forward and you’re not.

When I go back to our scripture – it’s that first part of this passage that I struggle with… you know, the WAITING.

For they that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength.They will mount up with wings like eagles, run and not grow weary, walk and not faint.

Have you had situations where you had the wisdom to make the hard decision to wait? Or, if you’re like me, sometimes you don’t wait, you keep pushing forward, and God has a way of forcing the waiting!! I can think of a few of those… and God knew that more time was needed.

Do you believe in the strengthening power of the Lord, that comes in the timing of waiting? Yielding? Listening? Being still?

Or do you view the waiting as a waste of time… unnecessary, or uncomfortable even?

Will you join me in praying for my friend that wisely made the hard decision to wait, that she will feel God’s comfort and strength in the process.

So why do you think God call us to wait? What has happened during your seasons of waiting?

From big things to little things, from waiting on medical test results, to a relationship to start, or for the promotion we’ve been working toward… there is a LOT of waiting.

On the other side of these waiting periods in my life, I can look back and see how waiting has grown my patience and perseverance. Waiting has taught me how to rely more on the Lord. Waiting has transformed me. Think of Moses – from the start of his journey with the Israelites, through the end. All the waiting, yes, but also all the growth he experienced!

If you have a moment today, reflect with me on the waiting seasons you’ve experiences and write down what happened. How you handled it, what you learned, how your perspective changed. The next time you are in a season of waiting, dust off these notes and get encouraged by your own personal testimony of waiting.

Here are additional scriptures on waiting on the Lord:

I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He puta new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Psalm 40:1 

The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. Lamentations 3:25

For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. Isaiah 30:18

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning. Psalm 130:5

If you’d like to learn more about the prophet Isaiah, check out chapter 6, which outlines his calling from God as a messenger to the people – and his quick and willing response! Isaiah 53 is the chapter of the prophesy of Jesus, including his rejection and suffering, for our salvation.

 

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.

A Parable about the Parables

Matthew 13:52 and Psalm 111

And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

As we continue through this series of parables, we come to a moment where Jesus pauses and asks his disciples if they get the parables up to this point (verse 51), to which they reply a simple yes. I try to put myself in their shoes – would I have the faith to say yes? Or would I have had ten follow up questions to better understand? Even though we know that the disciples didn’t FULLY comprehend everything Jesus was telling them, they knew enough and had the faith to answer yes. And then we come to verse 52 where Jesus shares a parable about all of the parables!

In this mini parable break, Jesus is encouraging them to not replace everything they learned before with all of these new teaching and parables. Instead, add these new parables and teaching with the old (law).  Similar to how we have both new things in our home along with family heirlooms. One doesn’t replace the other – it’s all part of the collection.

I will admit that I have tried to line up God in the Old Testament with Jesus in the New Testament. The bright light that we can’t look upon and need to remove our shoes for, with the man that is fishing and eating with the lowest of the low. In my heart I believe and know they are one and completely unified, but sometimes my brain goes into overdrive trying to reconcile the two and figure it all out.

Recently a preacher shared this and it’s SO TRUE! Our human (barfo) nature wants our view of graceful bear hugging Jesus to deal with our own sin…. And we want OT fire + brimstone God to show up and deal with people that sin against us.  OUCH – that was a ZINGER! I can think of a time I had those thoughts.

Truth be told, they are perfectly unified. Balancing OT (law, teachings, etc) with the NT (parables, grace, etc) is similar to understanding the trinity. What a beautiful mystery!

Does anyone else love Paul’s comments to the church in Corinth about “now we see through a glass darkly…” – I can not WAIT for heaven, when it will all be crystal clear. Will we be like the disciples and simply say “yes, we understand”, or will we have a million questions?

As Jesus continues to fulfill the law, with his teachings and ultimately his sacrifice, my prayer is that we can have wisdom in balancing the old and the new. The Psalm that is assigned with today’s reading is Psalm 111. I love when the two readings come together so beautifully. Here are a few lines that really spoke to me in light of the parable about parables.

2 Great are the works of the Lord,
studied by all who delight in them.

4 He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered;

10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
all those who practice it have a good understanding.

God caused us to remember the law in the Old Testament and Jesus’ parable of parables reinforces this. As we seek wisdom and understanding, knowing who God is and having fear and respect for Him is our first step in understanding.