Love’s Ink

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In your frustrations and disappointments, let Jesus fill your need. He is our hope in the times where hope seems lost. Our problems can be consumed by the eternal fire that God breathes into our souls. Much of life can feel like groaning and yearning for greater things, or even for difficult things to pass. It is both to the future and the past that we must look. Look first at the fact that you are known and cherished and created with a purpose. Look next to the unthwarted pursuit of God in the lives of His creation. Then gaze upon a hill, where a blood-stained cross displays a love far greater than any of us deserves. But that love did not stop there. There is also a tomb…an empty tomb that shows our destinies are not surrendered to death. Our future is written with love’s ink.  Glory awaits. Freedom awaits. There will be a day when the pain ceases and joy will be the only emotion we know. Because of Jesus, our hearts do not need to remain downcast. The victory is won and an even greater victory is coming. Hold strong brothers and sisters. Pray for me as I pray for you also. God is good and He has always been for you.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Peace in Christ loved ones!

God’s love creates loving people

“”For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John‬ ‭3:16‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Perhaps the most well known Bible verse of all time. Athletes proclaim it. Many have it memorized, even if they aren’t sure they believe it or not. It is the quintessential message of God’s pursuit of a fallen humanity. But it doesn’t end with our salvation, it begins a new creation. God’s mission is not to simply save our souls but to remake what mankind has destroyed. Part of that mission is fulfilled through those who put their faith in Him. Later in the Bible there is another book that John wrote. Interestingly, chapter three and verse 16 of that book parallels our opening verse.

“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” 1 John‬ ‭3:16-18‬ ‭ESV‬‬

It’s almost like these passages should’ve been right next to each other. God’s great display of love creates a people who live by the same mission and the same standard. Generosity and sacrifice become the banner of a new people who’s hearts have been remade by their creator.

For those of us who proclaim allegiance to Christ, our hands should open to the world around us. Our lives should be spent on a higher calling. God’s love moves us to love. Not because we’re supposed to but because we want to.

Peace and love in Christ brothers and sisters!

The way forward

We can stand against injustice and stand with our brothers and sisters in blue who put their lives on the line every day to do the same. Cops aren’t the enemy, hatred is. Hatred only produces more hatred. Solidarity means moving forward together. Love is the weapon. Jesus is our hope. The way forward is by seeing the intrinsic value of every person who is created in God’s image and loving them as such. That goes for all those wearing a badge and all of us who don’t. The call to seek justice, love mercy, and to walk humbly before our God is the same for every human who has ever walked this earth. Peace in Christ to you all.

Eyes on the Prize

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What matters most in life? Is it our health and wellbeing?  How about our legacy? Maybe it’s the good things we do for others or the longevity of our time here on earth. All of us answer the question solely based on our worldview. Our worldview informs our place in this world and the purpose of our existence. It’ll determine the things we pursue and how we measure success. It’ll either help us through hard times or leave us blowing in the wind. In the challenging times that we live, we need to be able to answer this question.

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  Colossians 3:1-2 ESV

For believers in Jesus, our view of the world and our place in it should never change. Viruses, wars, famines, human trafficking, and all other hardships and evils don’t have to alter our perspectives. When God created mankind, he gave them a place in all of creation. That place is to rule alongside Him. Humanity is ingrained with the calling of bringing God’s kingdom to His creation. The above passage in Colossians reminds us to stay focused on that calling…to keep our eyes heavenward. As people all around the world are suffering, the opportunities for the Kingdom of Heaven to be extended on earth are even greater.  As emotions are reeling and anxieties are rampant, Christians need to be that steady voice of hope and victory.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. Romans 8:5 ESV

Our command to love has not changed. If anything, people are more desperate than ever for sincere love and generosity. As I see people rush to the stores to hoard supplies out of pure self-preservation, the need for selfless love has rarely been more obvious. People are buying things they don’t need and putting at risk those who actually do need them. In tough times our truest character is revealed. The time is now for Christians to rise up and be a beacon of hope and light during these dark days. As people gather all they can, we need to be giving all we can. As people fear uncertainty, we need to proclaim the certainty of God’s love for them. As the pain of loss ravages families all over the world, we need to be sharing the peace that comes through the power of the Holy Spirit. In the face of economic trials, we need to be reminding the world of how God provides for His children.

If it wasn’t before, it should be obvious by now that our lives are in the hands of another. And that’s actually a good thing. We don’t need vaccines nearly as much as we need repentance. Government bailouts are great but what we really need is more humility before our maker.  God redeems lives. God sustains life. And we need to spend our days participating in His mission of love to a hurting world. Let’s do our part to shine for God’s glory because that is what matters most in life.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.    Matthew 5:14-16 ESV

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters!

We are but stewards, not lords

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Back when my wife and I hadn’t been together for very long we stopped at a Mcdonald’s to grab a bite to eat. We both got different things as usual. My wife decided she would like a bite of my quarter pounder so she asked politely, which I proceeded to reject her request. She thought I was joking at first until I looked at her with a very serious expression. Well, my wife has never let me live down this humorous, yet good example of selfishness. By the way, I share all of my food with her now when she asks.

Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.  Luke 6:30-31 ESV

One of the character traits my wife and I work on a lot with our children is the desire to share what we have with others. It’s obvious to any parents that we are not engrained with this attribute from birth. Many never learn it in a lifetime. It is one of the most difficult traits to instill in someone because it fights against every bit of our fallen nature. From the moment we’re born until we breathe our last, the struggle is real when it comes to emptying ourselves of selfishness and pride. We walk around with a scarcity mindset like there just isn’t enough in this world to go around I have to get mine or else I’ll be left out. We’ve all been guilty of it. Granted, some are more predisposed than others to generosity but no one is predisposed to selflessness. Even the kindest and most generous people battle with this.

A phrase that I often use with my children, and try to live by myself, is that if we aren’t willing to share something we have then we don’t deserve to have it in the first place. Every time they hold back their toys I gently remind them of this. We are stewards of our possessions, not owners. One of my favorite movie serious is the Lord of the Rings. In the final installment, the wizard Gandalf rides to the great city of Ministereth. This city had been without a king for many years and was controlled by the Steward of Gondor.  Gandalf and the Steward have several choice words because Lord Denethor (the Steward) is a power-hungry snob who has lost sight of his purpose. As the vocal match draws to an end Gandalf looks him straight in the eye and says, “Authority is not given to you to deny the return of the King, Steward!”

Far too often we approach our possession in the same manner as Lord Denethor. God has placed us as stewards over this world and over the people and things in our lives. We don’t own our spouse, or our children, or our things. What we have is meant to be cared for not controlled. We can’t walk through this life with white knuckles, grasping so tightly onto things. In First Corinthians chapter four, Paul reminds us that we have nothing that was not first given to us. That logic can be applied to every single thing we have. Even if we purchased something, it was done with money that was given to us through the job, gift, or inheritance that was given to us. Nothing is ours simply by our own will and effort. There is grace in all we have. And that grace should not be trampled under feet by selfishness.

Off the top of my head, I cannot think of a single thing I own that I would not share with another. Some things would be more difficult to share than others. Also, I am not saying I would share everything with everyone. I obviously wouldn’t let some sketchy dude borrow one of my guns or sleep in my house. We have to use wisdom. However, we are called to share with even the bad people in life.

You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. Matthew 5:38-42 ESV

There is sharing…and then there is sharing. We can let people borrow stuff we aren’t using or give away things that we no longer want. And those things are good. Great even. I think God is pleased with all sharing. But there is a type of sharing that is divine in nature. A type of sharing that costs us something. This is the supreme form of sharing that we should all aspire to. It’s choosing to give others preference. It’s allowing others to use, or even have, things that you still want. It is nothing less than an expression of love. And some take it to the extreme by choosing to lay down their own lives for others. According to God, this is the greatest expression of love. An expression that He Himself showed on the cross of Calvary. As we evaluate our lives from time to time, we need to remember that we are but stewards and not lords.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  Galatians 2:20 ESV

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters

 

Don’t be a rotten fig tree

“On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.” Mark‬ ‭11:12-14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

This has been one of the oddest stories in the New Testament, for me, for so long. It just seemed out of place. But knowing that God has a unique design for everything that’s in the Bible I still knew that there was a deeper meaning that I was missing. When it finally dawned on me I became extremely convicted. That seems to happen a lot when reading the Bible.

Jesus used the symbolism of the withered fig tree to teach His disciples that the nation of Israel had become as spiritually fruitless as the tree Jesus cursed. The same lesson is important for today’s followers of Jesus to understand as well. A person can look spiritually healthy on the outside just as the fig tree looked good for bearing fruit. But the best indicators of spiritual health are a person’s faith in God and love for others (see vv. 22-25). We can certainly look the part and not be the part. More than anything Jesus renounced and rebuked hypocrisy in people who claimed allegiance to God.

“As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots.” Mark‬ ‭11:20‬ ‭ESV‬‬

For all the people walking into churches and going to Bible studies yet aren’t producing faith and love and change in their lives are but a tree withering at the roots. We have to guard against complacency and apathy. We have to let Jesus keep our hearts soft and tender and open to others. We have to continue to grow in love and goodness. Let’s move forward loved ones. Let’s produce the faith and joy and wonder that this world longs to see.

“”You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew‬ ‭5:14-16‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Divine Embrace

Lost in the moment in treasure’s embrace. The concerns that once flooded my mind vanish, without a trace.

My heart is overwhelmed by loves great call. How long has it been? I couldn’t recall.

Since the power of love had carried such force. What I felt was so beautiful, no fear or remorse.

It grasped my attention and broke down my walls. It was as the pure light which illuminates all it befalls.

My heart was so light yet my eyes filled with tears. For a few short moments, I had no problems, no fears.

I couldn’t escape, but why would I want to? I held on a little tighter, what else could I do?

As I stand in worship, life’s memories are before my eyes. Thankfulness in my heart continues to rise.

At times I am silent, I can’t muster my voice. And at times I can’t help but lift praise and rejoice.

The weight of this moment I couldn’t comprehend. But one thing I knew, I didn’t want it to end.

For the love of the Father has set me free. I may be holding my little girl, but God you’re holding me.

*A while back at church my daughter Anna and I were together for worship. She wanted to be held and I had no problem fulfilling that request. In the middle of worship, while I was holding my then five-year-old little girl, I was completely ambushed by God’s love. I’m not sure if that’s the right way to put it but that’s how I felt. It was out of nowhere. And extreme emotions overtook me. I was captivated all over again. God used my immense love for my daughter to remind me of His even greater love for me. It was a cherished moment that I’ll never forget. The words of this poem cannot fully express how I felt. But it’s at least a small glimpse. I hope you’ve all felt overwhelmed by His love for you. If not, that’s my prayer for you. God bless brothers and sisters.

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

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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!

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.