His no matter what

“Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel,”. Ephesians‬ ‭6:19‬ ‭NIV‬‬

There have only been a few moments in my life when I’ve had to make the choice to stand for Jesus rather than stand with the crowd, and it actually cost me something big. And I use the word “big” loosely. I’ve lost friends and family members because of my faith. I’ve lost financial opportunities as well. I’ve faced my fair share of criticism. But I’ve never had to make a choice that would put my life at risk.

I read a story recently about a man named Sebastian. He was a follower of Jesus in the early days of the church. But his station in life made his faith something of a problem. Sebastian worked directly for the Emperor of Rome in a time Emperor wanted to be worshipped as a god and had no patience for a rival. Here’s a bit of the story.

Sebastian walked through the halls of the palace daily. He had worked hard to get to this position in the royal guard, but once he had gotten to Rome, he restrained himself from the idolatrous lifestyle of imperial Rome. He only wanted to serve Christ wholeheartedly. 

When Emperor Diocletian heard of his restraint, he had little interest in his service record. He confronted him and found out about his faith. At this, he ordered Sebastian taken outside the city and shot to death with arrows. The soldiers did their job and left his body to rot. Soon a group of Christians came to give his body a proper burial. As they lifted him, one of them exclaimed, “He moves!” “Shhh!” cautioned another. “Let us take him somewhere safe.” Sebastian was taken to one of their homes where he was treated and recovered from his injuries. As soon as he was well enough, he placed himself before the emperor again. Once he had tasted the hope of heaven, the pleasures of this world had even less appeal for him. The emperor was of course shocked to see Sebastian seemingly back from the dead. He ordered Sebastian seized and beaten to death and his body thrown into the sewer. His body was recovered again by Christians and buried in the catacombs. 

A time may come when we are all asked to choose between our allegiance to Christ and our allegiance to our physical life. Even if that day does not come, we are all asked to stand with Him no matter what. No matter the words spoken about us. No matter the judgement cast our way. If you are His, be His, no matter what. Pray for me that I will have the strength to answer that call.

“Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.” Acts‬ ‭4:29‬ ‭NIV‬‬

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A Tent and a Savior

The feast of Tabernacles is underway for 2019. A couple of nights ago my daughters and I set up our makeshift tabernacle in our backyard. We look forward to it all year long. Throughout the rest of this week we will get to sit under the tabernacle and talk about the amazing God we serve. My wife and I will share stories with our children of how God came through in big ways in our lives. We get to teach them about restoration and hope. For our kids, they get to hear how God is real in their parents lives. As they get older, they’ll have stories of their own. It’s a week out of the year that has value that cannot be measured. It’s one more way for my wife and I to explain to our young children who Jesus is and why He came to Earth. As a parent, there is nothing more valuable that I could teach them.

In 2011, two years before our first daughter was born, my wife and I began learning about the feasts of the Lord. Even though I had been a Christian all my life, these were pretty new to me. I had never studied or observed them prior to 8 years ago. Did that make me any less of a Christian? Not in the slightest. Did that make me any less saved? No a chance. However, I have come to realize that I was missing out on a huge opportunity to worship and learn about my Savior beyond the boundaries of church, small groups, and personal devotions. Now I am so thankful that my children will not have the same experience. They will get to learn about Jesus in a more full way than I did and how the scriptures present Him through intricate foreshadowing. After all, the feasts are all about Him.

When John chose to introduce his readers to who Jesus was, he selected a specific image that all Old Testament readers would have been very familiar with. He chose the tabernacle. The tabernacle itself was always meant to be a piece of Eden. Since humanity was exiled from the garden because of sin, our hearts have been longing to return. And for God, that’s His end game. Eden was the place where heaven and earth overlapped. It was where God walked among man. And when that came crashing down as man invited sin into his heart, God has set into motion a plan to restore humanity and the world to its rightful design. After God rescued Israel from bondage in Egypt, He established a special covenant relationship with them. In doing so His presence would once again be among men. This time, it would be housed in a tent of meeting. Everything with in the design of the tent had garden imagery from the tree of life to the very stitch of the fabric. It served as a reminder of what we had forfeited and where God was drawing us back to.

It’s no wonder that Jesus would be described in a way that drew readers focus to the tabernacle. In comparing Him to the tent, readers would have to reconcile several things. One, that Jesus was the way to get people back to the garden. He would be the tool of restoring humanity and all of creation. Two, that God was fully embodied in the person of Jesus. And lastly, that in order to seek out God, everyone would have to go through Jesus. Those are the realities that we get to teach our kids about who Jesus is.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.'”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” John‬ ‭1:1-16‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Yom Kippur in Yeshua

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Brothers and sisters, we are atoned for! We are covered, cleansed, and ever-changing because of our Messiah Jesus. Today is the high holy day of Yom Kippur. In Israel, it’s one of the most sacred days of the calendar. For followers of Jesus, its a reminder of the depths of the sacrifice it took to make us new. It should not be a day of despair for anyone who has pledged their life to Christ. Today, we celebrate the saving power of our God. Today, we rejoice in our freedom from death itself. I pray for all of us to experience a new reverence and awe for Jesus. May our love grow deeper as we remember the life we’ve been rescued from and are continuing to be drawn out of. If we’ve strayed, let’s place our feet back on the narrow path. If we’re distracted, let’s take our eyes off of the waves of life and put them back on the one walking on the water. If we’re weary, let’s stop and sit at His feet. Today is a new day son and daughter because you are written in the book of life.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

1 John 3:1 NIV

Toxic Words

The Bible is very clear on the point that what we say has a major impact on those we talk to both directly and indirectly. We can count on the fact that everything we say has the potential to shape someone in a big way. Somethings will get swept under the rug and forgotten. Others will stick in people’s minds like superglue, possibly for a lifetime. The other thing about it is, we don’t get to choose which words of ours stay with someone and which they let go of. All the more reason to be not just careful, but intentional.

I think most readers will be able to relate to this statement: most of the words that lead to regret are those spoken in frustration. Kids, a spouse, coworkers, family, and the like can all push us to a point where the flood gates of our mouths are loosed and the lava of unhelpful and poisonous speech come spewing forth. Sometimes instant guilt washes over us in these moments. Other times it takes until the unsettled emotions level out and our minds become rational once again. Whatever the case, the damage has been inflicted and at that point all we can do is release our pride and petition our victims for mercy and pray that God will clean up our mess.

Examples are always helpful so let me share some personal ones that God has taught me to change in my own life.

#1- Be careful of the labels you give to others. Names can be fun and playful, yet they can help someone develop and identity based on what others call them. For example, telling one of my children they are acting like a brat or a snot could possibly lead to them thinking that is how others view them. Or calling someone a jerk or that they’re being stupid can never be helpful. While their behavior seems to warrant such labels, the labels themselves can in no way benefit the hearer.

God’s response: if you’re going to ascribe a label to someone, make sure it is a good one that helps to reveal the person He made them to be. Labels can call someone up to greater things and should never be used to beat someone down.

#2- making unhelpful statements or asking pointless questions. When someone does something, it doesn’t make matters better to say, “how could you do that?” Or another one I’ve used many times with my children, “what were you thinking?” Embedded in the questions themselves is a subtle yet blasting indictment of shame.

God’s response: why not ask questions that will point them to me.

Because words are so powerful, it should be something we think about, and more importantly, pray about a lot. Call it walking on egg shells, or call it plain wisdom. The person who is careless with their words simply cares more about themselves and the expression of their own emotions than how they impact those around them. Here are some helpful verses and what God has taught me through them:

Proverbs 15:4, 16:24, 17:27, and 18:21 – words can bring life or death to someone. So speak life. (Awesome Toby Mac song). They can actually be a tree of life and bring healing to others.

Ephesians 4:29 – the only words that should come out of my mouth are those that are helpful to others.

Matthew 15:18-19 and Luke 6:45 – my words are a mirror of what is in my heart.

Colossians 4:6 – my words need to be full of grace.

Let’s be game changers with our words. No longer will frustration and inpatients dominate our speech. We can bring life and healing and so we shall!

The Messiah of Psalm 35

John-15-18

This is our third Messianic post from the book of Psalms. So far we’ve covered Psalm 2 and 22. As we skip around, I want to be sure to point out some of the other Psalms that we are jumping over in case you’d like to do some more exploration on your own. It’s so fascinating! Today we enter the 35th Psalm. For your interest, there are some prophecies that appear in Psalms 23, 24, 30, and 31 as well. They are super rich with themes like words Jesus spoke while on the cross (to continue our crucifixion theme from last time), the resurrection, and the sinless life of Jesus. They even talk about how Jesus was a reproach among His neighbors and many plotted to put Him to death. But for today, let’s journey to the night, or early morning I should say before Jesus was crucified.

Psalm 35 mentions that false witnesses will one day rise up to testify against the Messiah. They will bring a barrage of lies with ill motives, solely based off of their own fears and pride.

Ruthless witnesses come forward; they question me on things I know nothing about.

(verse 11 NIV)

Indeed those who spoke up in those early twilight hours were of wicked intentions, ruthless bent on the death of Jesus…and innocent man. Of course, the Messiah would know nothing about the events of the testimony because they were all made up. But the Messiah would have known the intents of their hearts. In Matthew chapter 27 it says that the chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin looked for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death but they couldn’t find any. It was a crooked, rig trial from the beginning.

They repay me evil for good and leave me like one bereaved.

(verse 12 NIV)

All Jesus had done in His life was for good. He healed the sick, raised the dead, fed the hungry, freed those in spiritual bondage, and taught the world to love as it always should have. Instead, He is treated as a criminal.

Do not let those gloat over me who are my enemies without cause; do not let those who hate me without reason maliciously wink the eye.

(verse 19 NIV)

In the prayer of Psalm 35, there’s a plea for victory…a victory that actually came. Those who conspired against the Messiah would have a short-lived win. The persecution and death of the Messiah were only temporary. When Jesus rose from the dead three days later, those who winked their eye in malicious intent would now turn the eyes away in shame or in repentance. God glorified His sinless Messiah.

If you find the godless world is hating you, remember it got its start hating me. If you lived on the world’s terms, the world would love you as one of its own. But since I picked you to live on God’s terms and no longer on the world’s terms, the world is going to hate you. When that happens, remember this: Servants don’t get better treatment than their masters. If they beat on me, they will certainly beat on you. If they did what I told them, they will do what you tell them. They are going to do all these things to you because of the way they treated me, because they don’t know the One who sent me. If I hadn’t come and told them all this in plain language, it wouldn’t be so bad. As it is, they have no excuse. Hate me, hate my Father—it’s all the same. If I hadn’t done what I have done among them, works no one has ever done, they wouldn’t be to blame. But they saw the God-signs and hated anyway, both me and my Father. Interesting—they have verified the truth of their own Scriptures where it is written, ‘They hated me for no good reason.’

John 15:18-25 The Message

If you ever find yourself misunderstood or even hated, know that your Messiah knows your pain. He felt it too. A world that does not know God struggles to embrace the love of God. It should never stop us from laying down our lives for those around us, just like it never deterred Jesus. The love of the Messiah is not conditional upon how it is received. His heart was still full of love for those who lied about Him, who spit on Him, and who eventually yelled out for His blood to be spilled. Our sin demanded a sacrifice and His love compelled Him to be that sacrifice on our behalf.

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters!

Toxic Thoughts

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This world offers a lot of opportunities to add toxic things to our lives. From food to entertainment, we are faced with a barrage of choices. You don’t have to go far, often just the click of a remote or mouse, and your being filled with things that not only don’t benefit you, but can even tear away at you emotionally and spiritually. Over the next few posts, I’d like to share with you my journey through detoxing my life. A lot of what I will be sharing started three years ago when I went through a devotional on the youversion Bible app. While the journey to detoxify started way earlier, this devotion helped me to target areas of my life in a very specific way.

The mind is definitely the control center of our bodies. When it’s shorting out, the rest of us is out of whack too. I’ve experienced that far too often. That’s why this first post is all about the toxic thoughts I’ve had to battle with and how God has been helping me through it. I’m not going to share all of it but a few of the big struggles.

#1- I constantly battle with thinking that it is all up to me to provide for our family.

God’s response: I am the one that had and always will be your source of provision. The pressure is off.

#2- Thoughts of always needing to be productive with my time otherwise it’s a waste.

God’s response: some of the most productive time is spent at rest, and in prayer, and alone with me doing nothing but sitting at my feet.

#3- Feelings of being overwhelmed, exhausted, and stretched too thin.

God’s response: Let me renew you each day. Focus more of that energy on me. Do more of the things that bring you into my presence.

In reading my top three, it’s probably clear to you that my problems were all related. The object goal of my life was way out of order. I have always had to wade through having a scattered mind. I have ADHD so my mind is always in overdrive. That makes it difficult sometimes to slow down. I need to have a goal…a destination…to keep me zeroed in. Otherwise, I’m all over the place. My goals have been providing for my family, being the best husband and father I can be, doing the best at teaching and my business, and being there for others. I’m not saying that those are bad goals, but none of them deserve the top spot on my priority list. That was my biggest fault. I was, and sometimes still do, miss out on the biggest object goals of my life. Here are some verses that have helped me refocus and ones I still fall back on nearly every day. You might want to read the verses for yourself because I’m just sharing what they tell me about where I am in life.

Matthew 6:33 tells me that the object goal of life is pursuing His kingdom and His righteousness before all else. God is the one who then adds to all of our needs.

Matthew 11:28-30 says that the object goal of life is Christ. Learning from and following Him gives us rest from life’s heaviest burdens.

Psalm 18:31-32 tells me to look to God who will give me strength, direction, and place me where I need to be.

Psalm 62:1-2 encourages me to wait and stand firm in God knowing that He provides salvation and defends me.

Psalm 127:1-2 says that the object goal is to partner with God and what He is doing in this world, not to continually strive on my own. Then He prospers my way and gives me rest.

Isaiah 40:28-31 reminds me of where my strength and endurance comes from…a life focused on God.

The mind is a minefield that can easily spell disaster each day we wade through our thoughts. They fuel insecurities and motivations. As the saying goes, “as a man thinks, so he is.” What better to think about than God? What better to think about than His purpose in my life? He has to be where our minds go first and most often. That’s the best way to detoxify our minds.

Where does your thought life take you? How has God encouraged you? I’d love to hear your story. Please comment and share so we can all be encouraged. Cheers!

The Messiah of Psalm 22

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We are continuing our journey through the book of Psalms, picking out several of which God used to reveal who the Messiah was for future generations…for you and me. In the last post I used Psalm 2 so we are skipping quite a few. We will have to do that as we move through the book. There are some great prophecies in Psalm 8, 9, 16, and 18 if you’d like to grab a cup of coffee, your Bible, and have a read. But for today, let’s dive into Psalm 22.

This psalm is unique in the sense that it highlights, in a lot of depth, one specific event in the life of the Messiah…the crucifixion. There are actually 17 specific verses that point to 13 connections to the crucifixion. For simplicity sake, I created a table below that show the side by side comparison between the verses of Psalm 22 and verses in the New Testament, along with a brief explanation of what connects them.

Connection Psalm 22 New Testament
The Messiah was forsaken for our sins Verse 1 Matthew 27:46

2 Corinthians 5:21

The Messiah cried out in darkness, just as He did when darkness fell upon the earth for 3 hours. Verse 2 Matthew 27:45
Those who looked upon the Messiah ridiculed Him. Verse 7 Matthew 27:39-44
They mocked Him by saying let God save Him. Verse 8 Matthew 27:43
The Messiah is born the Savior, connected with God from birth. Verses 9-10 Luke 2:7-12
They sought His death from birth and throughout His ministry. Verses 12-13 Matthew 2:13, 21:46, 26:3-4, 27:23
The blood from His side was accompanied by water when He was stabbed with the spear. Verse 14 John 19:34
The Messiah suffered on the cross. Verses 14-15 Mark 15:34-37
Jesus thirsted while on the cross. Verse 15 John 19:34
They pierced His hands and feet. Verse 16 John 19:34-37, 20:27
They stripped Him before everyone who looked on Him. Verses 17-18 Luke 23:34-35
They cast lots over Him. Verse 18 John 19:23-24
Jesus declared His Father, once He was resurrected, to His disciples while they were assembled. Verse 22 John 20:17

It’s absolutely astounding how much this Psalm overlaps with the New Testament accounts of Jesus. For many who had the Old Testament memorized, it must have been a very eye-opening experience after Jesus was crucified. What was maybe even more incredible is that so many people struggled to see that the Messiah would have to suffer and die. I guess it’s evidence that we only see what we want to see, no matter how convincing the evidence is. I’m sure that Jesus would have had the words of Psalm 22 running through His mind as He reminded His followers of what was ahead of Him. I can’t imagine choosing to endure something like this, especially when you didn’t have to. But thankfully Jesus did. For all of us.

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters! It came at such a great price.