You’re Being Read

preach-reconciliation

Very few people in the world today actually read the Bible. The above image was taken from Christians….CHRISTIANS! More than 50% of Christians are not familiar with the Bible. Only 20% have actually read the entire thing. This is God’s story. This is the story of humanity. It’s the story of redemption, past, present, and future. It’s the most valuable information we could ever gain. It’s universal in application. It’s faultless. Yet, for so many, it’s collecting dust on people’s shelves or sitting as an unused app on their phones. If this is the case among Christians, you know that far fewer non-believers are reading it. But do you know what they are reading? You and me. If people aren’t reading about who Jesus is, we need to show them. We may be the only image of Jesus they get. What message are the people in your life getting? The message of Christ is not contained when it lives in and through His followers. Let’s show the world the contents of the Bible by how we live and love and the truth that is the banner of our lives.

Don’t Look at the cup, look at what’s inside

 

My two little girls are obsessed with what color plate or bowl they get whenever I make them something to eat. The other day I brought home some yummy buttery popcorn as a treat and my wife poured it out in a couple bowls for them. In less than two seconds they started arguing over which bowl they got. Talk about first world problems. It made me so sad, and if I’m being honest, a little upset too. I took the opportunity for a teaching moment. I told them they need to stop focusing on the bowl and focus on what’s in the bowl. They were missing their treat for the sake of having a Wonder Woman bowl or Noah’s Ark bowl. The container was more important to them than the contents. I know my kids will outgrow this as they mature and learn the true values of life. Unfortunately, so many don’t. I’ve met them. You’ve met them. They’re everywhere. They can’t see the value of what’s inside a person because all they look at is the outside. Our physical bodies are only a container for the most important aspects of who we truly are.

The Bible is full of object lessons on this very topic. God has been wanting us to look at the world through this lens from the very beginning. Think about it. The Garden was just place. What made it special was the presence of God there. Same can be said about the tabernacle and the temple. They were all empty shells without the treasure of God’s presence dwelling there. The Ark of the covenant was only a fancy box. What made it special was the contents. Noah’s ark was merely a boat without the precious cargo inside. Jesus Himself was simply flesh without the fullness of God being embodied in Him. Even the new heaven and earth that awaits is simply a beautiful new world but would be pointless without the glory of God radiating there for all eternity.

We are all but flesh and bones apart from the true beauty within. In the first pages of the Bible it states that we are made in the image of God. That image does not consist of our outward appearance, but our ordained purpose, great desire for love, our longing for relationship, and the fact that we are intimately designed by the Creator of everything in existence. The real treasure is on the inside. Don’t miss out on it.

The War of More

It doesn’t seem to matter what store we are in, my kids ask for something. They don’t even need to know what it is for them to beg and plead for it. It’s frustrating. Very very frustrating. I’m sure I did it as a child. In fact, I remember wanting to go to the stores with my grandma because I knew she’d get me something. My kids are the same way. As are the rest. Because humans are that way. Young and old, we want stuff. Most of which we don’t need. But stuff is fun, attractive, and entertaining.

I can’t despise my kids’ desires for things, because I have it too. Anyone that says they don’t is not being honest. I told my wife on the way home one day, “I don’t blame our kids for wanting new toys, because I have a list of things in my mind that would be fun to have.” The difference between being an adult and a child is that you have to get those things yourself and money is not always available. Also, you’ve learned to live without and the difference between need and want. While indulging still occasionally takes place, maturity overcomes most whims.

I had a serious talk with my children (one of many) about wanting things. I tried to explain that it’s a perfectly natural emotion, but it needs to be managed by wisdom. I also said that they wouldn’t be getting anything new until they were content and grateful for what they already had (which is a ton). They tried to ensure me that they were grateful, but their behavior far overshadowed any words they could speak. When the begging ceased I softly said, “you will know that you are content when you no longer feel you need anything new.”

When the Bible speaks of contentment, uses some extreme examples. Examples that are very convicting for child and adult alike. Here are some of those examples.

Food and Clothing

If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.

1 Timothy‬ ‭6:8‬ ‭NASB‬‬

In our current situation

Each man must remain in that condition in which he was called.

1 Corinthians‬ ‭7:20‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Our weaknesses and being insulted for the cause of Jesus

Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians‬ ‭12:10‬ ‭NASB‬‬

With what we have

Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,”

Hebrews‬ ‭13:5‬ ‭NASB‬

it honestly feels like a war most days. The pull to want change or new things, or to no longer have to deal with our weaknesses, or for people to just love Jesus and stop hating on Christians. But for those who love Jesus, nothing more can be given to us than that which we already possess…new life. The Christian is free, alive, new, and filled with hope and purpose. The Christian has been given the gift of eternal life. God has paid the ultimate price for humanity but all humanity wants is more.

There is nothing greater we can be given than what God has already done for us. We are so consumed with the temporal and material that we struggle to see our true need which lies in the spiritual. Once my kids get one thing that they feel they can’t live without, their thoughts are on to the next. Christians cannot be guilty of the same. The one thing we can’t live without has been given to us…Jesus…and our minds should remain on Him. That’s what I want to teach my kids. But first, as the war rages on, I have to make sure I’m living it too.

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Philippians‬ ‭4:11-13‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Wherever you find yourselves, may your hearts be at peace brothers and sisters.

Vitamins for Christians

bvitaminswide

I used to take a lot of vitamin and mineral supplements because I believed it would help me to be healthy. I also went through a weight training phase that consisted of taking protein supplements and amino acids regularly. Then one day I had an eye-opening experience. I read study after study about the different ways that vitamins and proteins are absorbed in our bodies. Not all supplements are equal, even when it comes to vitamins. Some are fat-soluble ones (like A, D, E, and K), and others are water-soluble ones (like B and C). Also, our body absorbs two types of nutrients: macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) are your body’s direct fuel or energy sources, whereas micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, etc.) indirectly influence available energy by serving as catalysts to release the macros. But unless they’re efficiently absorbed, none of the nutrients can fulfill their duties optimally.

I spent so much time pouring supplements into my body but they weren’t doing what I’d hoped they’d do. I wasn’t taking them in the correct manner nor was I always doing the correct activity to help boost their effectiveness. When it comes down to our health and fitness, we can take pills and powders all we want, but we won’t get the desired results unless we get up and move, and do so efficiently. Our body has limits to the amount of vitamins and minerals that it will absorb. When levels are low or you’re deficient, your body tries to regain homeostasis (equilibrium) by absorbing more of whatever is needed. Once that balance is reached, absorption will again be decreased in order to maintain the appropriate level. In short, our bodies are way smarter than we are. God’s design in the human body is absolutely astounding. In addition to all these factors, there are several outside influences to our nutrient absorption. Stress, sleep patterns, alcohol consumption, caffeine intake, and exercise are perhaps the greatest among them.

This isn’t a health blog so here’s what I’m trying to get at. We can take in a lot of spiritual nutrition, but unless we do it properly, and target the outside influences, we will never grow like we are intended to. Simply put, we can do 10 devotions a day, Bible studies three times a week, and go to church weekly, but if we aren’t putting things into practice then where’s the growth? If I put a lot of time into studying how to fight stress and live in the peace of God, but don’t let it eradicate my worries and increase my faith, then what’s the point? If I hear sermons and read books on discipleship but I’m not actively trying to connect with people and love and change lives, what good is it? If I do devotions and sing songs about the love of God and surrendering my life, but I hold on tightly to control, how does it benefit me? If I run through quick prayer times in the morning or evenings but spend all my time speaking and no time quietly listening, how will I ever hear from Him? So many of us are taking spiritual supplements but we’re seeing no change. We should be different today than when we first decided to follow Christ. We shouldn’t be battling with all of the same junk. The Christian life is one of surrender, peace, love, truth, grace, kindness, joy, and humility. Those things may not characterize a new believer, but they shouldn’t certainly be displayed the longer we follow Jesus. God’s goal for humanity is to change them into the image bearers we were always meant to be.

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

Romans 8:29 (ESV)

Reading the Bible, praying, devotions, Bible studies, worship, and prayer time are amazing and essential. But no matter of spiritual supplements can make a difference without submission to the Holy Spirit and passion for our Savior. This is a lesson I’ve been confronted with every time I’m going through something that I “know” the right answer to but I’m not living the right answer. I know people who have battled with anger, anxiety, depression, addictions, and the like for the entire time they’ve walked with Jesus. There might be stuff that we all have that nag at us till the day we die, but we’re meant to walk free and redeemed. I need to be reminded of that. How about you? Brothers and sisters let’s not just be hearers (and studiers, and singers, and discussers) of the Word, but lets put it into action and see is transform lives! Let’s put the supplements to work.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

James 1:22-25 (ESV)

 

 

Waves or Glory

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There are a lot of things to focus on in life. So much competes for our attention; some good some not so good. It’s easy for me to become consumed with things, whether it’s a task, my family, or concerns that have been weighing me down. Whatever it is, it can draw my attention for quite some time. Lately, I have had some really heavy things that have been filling my mind. I’m sure you, reader, can relate. If not now then at some point in your life. It can really seem like a tempest at times. Wave after wave crashing on or around you with no immediate signs of relenting. It never lets up so you can never get dry. You feel cold and exhausted just trying to keep your face towards the horizon. The concerns are mounting to point that you begin to wonder if they will ever become insurmountable.

That is an extremely bleak picture. One that I’ve found myself walking through at several moments over the last few years. I also believe it’s easy to get there. To let our minds drift to such dark and hopeless places. To try and carry so much weight that our knees are buckling beneath us. Weight that we were never meant to pick up in the first place. And while it’s easy to get there, it can be equally as easy to escape. Perhaps escape isn’t the best word. To ‘rise above’ seems to fit better. It all boils down to choice. Circumstances actually have nothing to do with it. Bills, health problems, difficult people, homelessness, and even the death of a loved one, can hold no power over us that we don’t surrender to it.

Recently, we finished up celebrating the Lord’s Feast of Tabernacles. It was first instituted by God back in Leviticus 23, more than a few thousand years ago. But it carries every bit of the significance today that it did back then. A quick rundown of the Feast for anyone who isn’t familiar with it. In the Old Testament context, the feast reflected God’s deliverance of the nation of Israel from bondage in Egypt and their temporary dwelling and wandering on their journey to the promised land. It also pointed to the tabernacle that was constructed for God’s dwelling place among the people of Israel. Fast forward to the arrival of the Incarnate God on planet Earth. Yeshua is described as the Word of God made flesh dwelling among us. The word for dwell is literally to tabernacle. The Feast also carries with it a future importance. In the book of Revelation, it is said that Heaven and Earth will unite as one and God will make His dwelling among us forever. We spend a week celebrating all of these awesome things.

On one of the evenings, I was sitting under our makeshift tabernacle (which people construct as a symbol of the Feast) in our backyard. It was really dark out but we had strung up lights on our tabernacle so it was pretty bright underneath. As I sat there, contemplating all the heavy things life had been tossing our way, I decided to open up my bible. I picked John chapter one and here is what I read:

“In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were made through Him, and apart from Him nothing was made that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overpowered it. There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify about the light, so that through him everyone might believe. He was not the light, but he came to bear witness concerning the light. The true light, coming into the world, gives light to every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him; but the world did not know Him. He came to His own, but His own did not receive Him. But whoever did receive Him, those trusting in His name, to these He gave the right to become children of God. They were born not of a bloodline, nor of human desire, nor of man’s will, but of God. And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us. We looked upon His glory, the glory of the one and only from the Father, full of grace and truth. John testifies about Him. He cried out, saying, “This is He of whom I said, ‘The One who comes after me is above me, because He existed before me.’” Out of His fullness, we have all received grace on top of grace. Torah was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Yeshua the Messiah. No one has ever seen God; but the one and only God, in the Father’s embrace, has made Him known.”

John 1:1-18 TLV

Everything in that passage spoke to me, not just where I was physically, but where my life was. Here I was, surrounded by darkness, but covered beneath the light of the tabernacle. The symbolism of that was huge! If I were to walk out from under the tabernacle, I would have difficulty seeing my way around the backyard. But where I sat, everything was as clear as day.

All things were made through Him, and apart from Him nothing was made that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overpowered it.

It didn’t matter one bit how dark it got outside, the light that I was in would not be changed. That’s life in Jesus. I started thinking about how I’ve been spending so much of my thought life wandering around outside of the covering of His light. I had been focusing so much on all the difficult things in my life and it was beating me down. But here I was, reading God’s word, illuminated by the light of the tabernacle, at peace.

We looked upon His glory, the glory of the one and only from the Father, full of grace and truth.

My eyes had been looking at all the wrong things. Who can blame me right? Well, I can. I had felt like I was in a sinking ship, all the while missing the point of my life. When God wrapped Himself in flesh and walked on this Earth, we were given the ability to behold His glory. Not just in a past tense, but even now. At any moment, we can look at the glory of God in Yeshua. Are you kidding me? Can we even understand what that means? Apparently, I really didn’t. Because I wasn’t gazing at His glory. Not even a little bit. I was looking at everything else. I was beholding the waves crashing over the sides of my boat.

These few precious moments under my tabernacle did so much to alter where I was mentally and how I felt physically. It was one of those experiences that I’ll always remember. I was able to catch a glimpse of His glory during a fall evening in Colorado in my backyard. How amazing is that?

I’m a J.R.R Tolkien fan so sometimes I can’t help but find spiritual illustrations in the movie adaptations from his books. Here is a scene from the Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug. To set it up a little, the town is under attack by the Dragon Smaug. It’s burning to the ground and only one man stands in the way of him killing everyone in Lake Town. Bard, the Bowman, and his son are stranded atop this tower and come face to face with the evil creature. This scene is so full of meaning. First, the world is falling apart around them. The danger is very real and there is every opportunity to despair. Everything could come crashing down at any moment. But Bard looks at his fretting and fear-filled son and says, “Stay still son, stay still.” In the moments that follow, Smaug continues to try and strike fear into their hearts and make them come to terms with their imminent demise. As the son, again shaken by the situation he finds himself in, turns to look at the approaching beast. Just then his father says, “Look at me son, you look at me.” It’s then that the son looks at his father with confidence and the surroundings seem to fade in significance. Shortly after, Bard slays the dragon Smaug with one precisely placed shot of an arrow.

I know it sounds cheesy but my eyes seriously started to well up when I watched that scene. I couldn’t help but find myself in the place of the boy, caught in life’s difficulties, wanting to look at them and fall apart at times. But then hearing the gentle voice of my Loving Father call me to be still and to look Him. In those moments, like the one I had under tabernacle that night, I am in a state of complete peace. Everything around me might as well be burning down, but I am still when I look at Him. His light beats back the darkness and the darkness will never overtake it. The key is to behold His glory and not the waves crashing around us. I’ll finish with one last scene. Only this one comes to us from the Bible. A man named Peter, an apostle of Jesus, is about to do the impossible. He is going to walk on water.

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.”Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Matthew 14:28-33 ESV

I used to focus so much on how Peter took his eyes off of Jesus and began to sink. I would talk about his lapse of faith and how he focused on the waves and wind rather than Jesus, and that’s when he got into trouble. And all those things are true. And all of us have been Peter more times then we care to count. But what I want to leave you with is what Peter said when he found himself sinking and how Jesus responded.

…beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.”Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him…

If you find yourself sinking because of the pressures of life cry out, “Lord save me,” and that’s exactly what He’ll do.

Peace brothers and sisters

Be the Proof

Throughout my years as a Christian, I’ve had to work through my faith like anyone else. I’ve had to try to reconcile my purpose, what it means to be a Christian, how good works fit in to the equation, and so much more. Conflicting messages have only served to complicate the search. Denominations have been formed over these same basic questions. Debates have long divided societies. If you’ve found yourself struggling to resolve similar questions in your own walk of faith, let me offer you something to contemplate.

On my most recent journey through the Bible I locked on to a passage late in the book of Acts. The book of Acts is a valuable source because it records the commission given by Jesus before He ascended to heaven, the giving of the Holy Spirit to His followers, and records of how that Spirit used Christ’s early followers. The book focuses on many different followers but a big portion centers on the apostle Paul’s missions. He is one of our greatest examples of what it means to follow Jesus, and he laid out his mission statement for us all. It comes in Acts chapter 20 verse 24.

But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

It’s simple, and yet very deep. It’s one line but all consuming. Paul’s entire life had the purpose of pointing others to Jesus. Whether by his words or actions, Paul wanted the world to see Jesus in his way of life. When Paul encountered Jesus, everything changed for him. Jesus consumed his heart and every affection, and he had to tell everyone.

Paul said he was propelled with the purpose of testifying to the gospel of the grace of God. To testify is far more than just telling people. It also means to serve as evidence or proof. Our life, as a Christian, is supposed to be the evidence of God’s grace. That means we love greatly, unconditionally, serve everyone, forgive quickly no matter the offense, put others before ourselves, and lay our lives down for the cause of bringing others to God. Every single one of those things, Jesus did and then extended His hands in invitation for us to do the same. Our lives should show the world that the grace and love and power or God are very real and available to everyone.

Wasted Earnings

“You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.”

Haggai 1:6 ESV

Occasionally I take time to drink in the measure of my life by evaluating how I spend my days. I have a wife, two little girls, a Golden Retriever, a career, and a separate business. Saying I am busy is a drastic understatement. But busyness does not equate to effectiveness.

I sat down to write this following some devotional time with my girls. No super deep theological discussions came out of it. I had to ask one of my girls to come sit down multiple times. But we watched a short video and followed it up with a bible story and prayer. It was only 10 minutes of my day, but it could have eternal value. Most of the rest of the day could consist of cleaning up after two girls and two dogs (I’m pet sitting a second Golden retriever). Sometimes life feels like survival mode. Sometimes the end of the day comes with little recollection of what I actually accomplished that day. But it’s up to each of us to take control of how we spend our time.

We all have responsibilities. We all come across uncontrollable circumstances that demand our attention. But we all have the ability to determine our mindset and purpose. Those two things thread through everything we do. For example, I get to choose to be thankful for every moment with my children. That’s the mindset. And I can choose to look for teaching moments, both in the ways I behave throughout the day and how they behave. Dozens of ‘teaching moments’ arise every day with kids, especially little ones. Many of those moments are repeats from the day before, or even from earlier that day. If that’s my purpose, and my mindset is thankfulness, then my day will never be a waste. That’s only one example but it can be applied to anything from our marriage to our career.

We don’t have a lot of time in this life to make an eternal mark. Let’s break it down this way. If we sleep 6-8 hours for 365 days a year then that’s 2190 to 2920 hours a year that we aren’t making a difference. Live for 60 years, then that’s 5475 to 7300 days worth of sleep. That’s equals 15-20 years we spend asleep. If you sleep 8 hours a day you are asleep for a third of your life. As a kid, 60 years seemed like an eternity. Now, at 36, I’m over half way there and it has seemed like a flash.

So much of my life has been wasted. I know that now. Not because of sleep. Sleep is never a waste, even though I’ve kind of lived that way (I don’t sleep a lot). What I am talking about is all the time I’ve spent playing video games, partying and drinking in my youth, vegging out in front of the television, going over stats on ESPN, and fussing and fretting over so many things. I can’t even calculate the time lost. I’m glad because it would probably depress me.

The passage in Haggai is a stark reminder of how many people live their lives. A lot of what we do in life goes into a bag with holes in it. We sit in our beds at the end of the day and can’t think of anything done that day that pointed someone to Jesus, that served the needs of others, or that demonstrated unconditional love.

How do you determine a successful day? How much you earned? How many pleasures you satisfied? What new things you accumulated? Unfortunately, that’s how much of the world measures success. But that’s not God’s measure of successful living. That’s measured by the lives we impact on a spiritual and eternal scale. And that can best be done by the example we are showing with our lives.

We are going to be asleep for a quarter to a third of our lives. Let’s not waste the rest on our selfish desires. Instead, let’s spend that time loving well, both God and our neighbor.

Peace brothers and sisters