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October 4, 2017, 5:00 AM

Knowledge is more than what we know in our heads.

For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14

Knowledge is more than what we know in our heads.  It is more than a compilation of facts.  Knowledge is also an experience.  As we come to know more about the character of God, we also experience the joy of His love for us.  It is personal, intimate and life-giving.  In the same way, knowledge transcends the abstract of ideas to the actual, lived experience of the heart. Generally speaking, the more we know about someone, the more likely we will love them.  I have heard it said there isn’t anyone you couldn’t love once you’ve heard their story.


In our digital age, we have more information at our fingertips than any other time in history.  As we watch our televisions or scroll through the news, we learn about the pressing issues of the day and we gain knowledge about the ins and outs of them.  It seems like everywhere we turn, we have people telling us how we should think or feel about things.  We may believe that we are free thinking beings; slowly but surely, however, we end up seeing people (and groups of people) as soundbites.  People are more than issues and soundbites.  Solely depending on FOX, CNN, newspapers or talk radio to form opinions about things does humanity a great disservice and prevents us from truly loving “the other.”


“Love your neighbor as yourself” Jesus tells us.  Human relationships are powerful.  They are powerful because through our interactions with another, we begin to see the world a little differently.  Relationships allow us to experience a kind of knowledge that facts never can.  The more we come to know people and the more we take the time to listen to their stories and learn from their experiences, the more we will begin to see the “issues” with empathetic eyes. Issues are really just people.  At a time in our culture when groups of people seem really angry at each other, I think it’s important to remember that the things that pull us apart are not greater than the things than bind us together. Listening is a simple and practical way that we can love our neighbors. 


As we navigate the issues of our day, it is crucial to form relationships and listen to people who have a different perspective than our own.  Otherwise, we end up validating our feelings as we surround ourselves with people who think and feel just like we do. Culture teaches us that we are the center of the world but God teaches us that we are part of a body and this body is part of a larger community.  Like it or not, we are connected to each other.  Love compels us to grow and stretch and be willing to see the world and people in new ways while fear wants us to remain exactly as we are.  Fear wants us to stay unchallenged and comfortable.  Fear wants to keep us suspicious of people.  Fear wants us to shun those who are different than us.  Fear desires us to be judgmental and condemning.   Fear wants to keep us isolated and segregated.  But fear is the opposite of love.


Love longs for us to ‘listen to learn’ not ‘listen to respond.’  Love cares for us too much to let us stay exactly as we are.  Love asks us to love others even when we don’t understand them.  Love’s desire is not to keep us comfortable but to conform us into the image of His son. Is there a particular group of people that you find yourself easily condemning?  If so, confess your sin and ask God to forgive you.  Ask Him to help you see them with new eyes.  Be brave and strike up a relationship with someone that you know is different than you.


This is my Prayer: Father God, thank you that You are love and that Your love for me is unconditional.  Lord teach me to love others in the same way.  Help me to seek peace with those I disagree with instead of judging or condemning them.  Jesus help me to walk in a manner worthy of the calling You have for me.  In Jesus name, Amen. 

October 3, 2017, 5:00 AM

What areas of your life are off-limits?

The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness. Jeremiah 31:3


Whether we realize or not, everyone has a view of God, regardless of where one is in his or her faith journey. It’s a picture that defines what we believe about God’s heart, what He values and how He interacts with humanity. With that said, what does your picture of God look like? How does this snapshot influence the way you approach Him and how you believe He approaches you? These questions are critical because they shape us at our core. Sadly, our initial pictures of God reveal how much we misunderstand the heart of God. Often, the first things that comes to mind for many of us when we think about God are rules, guidelines, and restrictions. This view drives us into a work-based agreement rather than a caring relationship. The Bible instantly becomes a dry instruction manual that needs to be followed in order to have a relationship with Him.


We often translate this into the assumption that we’ve got to act better in order for God to accept and love us. If we just stay in the guidelines, then we will be in His good graces. The strangest thing about this assumption, this idea that God loves and accepts us based on our behavior, is that it didn’t come from God at all. In fact, God’s message is just the opposite. God’s message is that you will never find acceptance with Him through your behavior. When sin entered into the world, there was nothing that “we” could do to atone for this condition. God sent the clearest message possible about His heart when He sent His son, Jesus Christ. It is a message of unconditional love. When you understand the heart behind the one making the rules, you will begin to see those boundaries and guidelines in a different way. You will begin to see the “why” behind God giving them to us in the first place.


God’s rules or guidelines are not conditions of a relationship with Him; they are confirmation of a relationship. God’s rules or guidelines are not conditions of His love; they are confirmation of His love. The problem is we tend to compartmentalize God so that He becomes something we can manage. We give Him access to some areas of our lives but restrict His access to others. Sadly, we also do this with our relationships. We keep people at arm’s distance. We might show a few cards, but keep an ace up our sleeve. We dictate who we let in, how much they know and what remains off limits. We yearn for control in all of our relationships, both with God and with others.  By forcing Him into a little box, we feel more comfortable ignoring His voice as He speaks to those past hurts, sins, failures, and regrets. By settling for self-preservation in our relationships, we don’t have others around us speaking into our life.


God knows that while this is our tendency, this is not what a relationship with Him or others should look like. Yet, He still offers us something that no one else can offer: unconditional love. There are no gimmicks, hooks, baits, or switches with God. He literally gives to us unconditional, no strings attached love. We have the option to accept it or reject it. And what is hard for our brains to wrap around is that if we reject God, it still does not change how He feels about us. He is in a continual pursuit for our hearts. His love never ends. When we replace God and His Love with the grasping for control, our life deteriorates. This is not how God has designed us to live. God wants to be the center of every decision, the One you go to for everything, the One you depend on, the One you respond to. What areas of your life are off-limits? Why do you restrict letting God and others into these areas? How do you try to control your relationships, including your one with God?


This is my Prayer: Father God, thank You for loving me in the midst of my brokenness. Lord thank You for seeing all the junk that is in my heart and still loving me. Jesus teach me to reflect Your love to others through my actions and my words. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

October 2, 2017, 5:00 AM

Where are you seeing new life bloom in your actions, thought life and words?

Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.  Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him. Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die. John 12:20-33


Seeds in a bag sitting on a shelf in a garage are pretty useless.  Safe?  Yes.  Useful?  No.  Think about what a seed has to go through, though, to be useful, to bear fruit.  It has to leave the safety of the packaging, enter the harsh, cruel world, get buried alive, spend days dying alone in the dark, have cold water poured over it seemingly drowning it, and ultimately it dies! Anyone want to sign up to be a seed? This is what Jesus is calling us to, though.  To be planted.  To give up our lives.  To give up our dreams.  To give up the safety of the sterile packaging.  To leave the comfortable structures of our lives.  To die. It’s what Jesus did.  He left the safety and comfort of heaven to be planted for a time amongst us.  He did the will of His Father.  He gave of Himself.  He sacrificed His desires and put others first.  He spent himself.  He died.


But the story doesn’t end with death, not Jesus’ story.  Did Jesus suffer?  Yes.  Did Jesus go through excruciating amounts of humiliation and pain?  Yes.  Was Jesus raised from the dead and given new life?  Absolutely, and we celebrate that! The story doesn’t end with death for a seed, either.  Because when it dies, new life springs forth!  When a seed dies, it can have true life, and others reap the benefit of the fruit it produces. The same can be true for us as well.  Jesus calls us to follow Him, and following Him means, first and foremost, to die.  To lay down our desires.  To lay down our hopes and dreams.  To put aside anything other than full devotion to Him and His plan for our lives.  To be willing to part with the things that we so easily cling onto for life and to say to God, “I’m willing to destroy these things if it means I can be used by You to bring You glory and bear fruit so that others may know You as God.”


And in the end, what is promised is life – both here on Earth and eternally with Him.  We are seeds, and we’re either sitting on a shelf alone and useless or we’ve died so that Jesus can give us life and use our fruit to bring nourishment to those around us. Where have you been planted? Who are you impacting? Where are you seeing new life bloom in your actions, thought life and words?


This is my Prayer:  Father God reveal to me the areas of my life that need to be put to death so that I can be fully alive.  Lord give me courage to do the things You’ve called me to do.  Jesus help me to see myself as planted where I am so that those around me can receive nourishment from the fruit that You bear through my life.  In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

September 30, 2017, 5:00 AM

How would you describe what motivates you to pursue wisdom and God’s truth?

Don’t turn your back on wisdom, for she will protect you. Love her, and she will guard you. Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do! And whatever else you do, develop good judgment. If you prize wisdom, she will make you great. Embrace her, and she will honor you. She will place a lovely wreath on your head; she will present you with a beautiful crown. Proverbs 4:6-9


One of my greatest regrets in life is not taking school seriously. For the most part, I mailed it in by going through the motions and resting on my laurels. My parents told me I was too smart for my own good and I think they were right.  Friends who pulled all-nighters cramming for a test would often be livid at me for barely cracking open a textbook and getting a better score than them on an exam. Those good grades only reinforced my lack of effort and living my life doing the bare minimum.  I bring this up not to brag, but rather as a lament mourning all those opportunities I squandered. More often than not, as soon as the last question on the test was answered or the term paper was handed in, my brain would do an Control-Alt-Delete and reboot with that information gone forever. 


My approach to learning was all wrong. I only cared about the grade, looking good to others and feeding my ego. Over the years I’ve noticed how, if I’m not careful, this mindset can creep into my walk with Christ and my pursuit of wisdom and knowledge. My quest for His truth isn’t always about understanding His heart and furthering our relationship, but rather mere head knowledge that makes me look and feel “super spiritual”.   Just like my schooling, I can fool people very easily and hide my motives like a magician’s sleight of hand trick. The outside appearance of knowledge can very easily come across as spiritual maturity, wise understanding, and uncompromising integrity. Looks can be deceiving.


Because of this, I have to make it a point to pause, reflect, and ask God to expose my motives for pursuing His truth. God wants me to be honest with Him about the one thing I can hide from everybody else, my motives. Sometimes I don’t enjoy what He exposes, but this process is needed. Left to my own devices I can use truth for my own gain. I’m confident that I can’t be the only one on the planet who struggles in this way. If I wrestle with my pursuit of truth and having pure motives, chances are good so do you.


What drives your own pursuit of wisdom?  Are you pursuing truth to further your agenda? Are you searching Scriptures to know God’s heart or to build your argument and prove your point against someone else? Are you more concerned with understanding God’s character or appearing wise in the eyes of others? Would you describe your search for wisdom as going through the motions and out of obligation? Has all the knowledge and insight you’ve gained made the short trip from your head to your heart? What do you “know” but aren’t acting upon or living out? How would you describe what motivates you to pursue wisdom and God’s truth? Why is this the driver? Those questions aren’t meant to discourage you or leave you feeling condemned. Remember, we’re in the same boat and guilt never leads to transformation. Instead, let this time of reflection serve as a jumping off point and an opportunity for transparency and honesty.


This is my Prayer: Father God, may I pursue Your truth with right motives and a pure heart. Lord instead of gaining wisdom to boast and bring attention to myself, may I seek Your truth in order to better reflect Your heart. Jesus I desire to gain wisdom so that I can point others to the hope only You provide. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

September 29, 2017, 5:00 AM

What truth do you need to cling to in order to provide perspective on your situation?

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3


There are so many reasons to be fearful. There are so many reasons to run away and hide. But the most precious truth is that all of those reasons don’t matter to the King of Kings. There is only His love that casts out all fear. Christ is King. He has washed away our sins in perfect love so that is all there is. Who am I to dwell in the fear and the struggle? God is good and He has called me precious in His sight. He has called me His child. He has called me to build His Kingdom. So why do I let the anxiety and the doubt creep in? God loves me. He loves me. I am His. I know these things are true. When I let the fear grip my thoughts, it feels like He is squishing me under His thumb—like He has put me in impossible circumstances with no way out; but when I let His love fully in, I feel the freedom of His power shaping me and building my endurance to run the race set out before me full of His strength and grace.


Why would I ever choose to focus on the fear, then? It is so easy to slip. It is so easy to stumble. It is so easy to live out of the knowledge of good and evil. It is so easy to feel like I am a disappointment or that I am not worthy or that I am cast aside. But none of these things are true. God’s plan and provision and truth are perfect. I am exactly where He intends for me to be in this season. I am crossing paths with exactly whom He intends for me to cross paths with. I am struggling in the exact areas He knew I would struggle in. He planned it all; He created me. Now it’s my choice. Will I trust Him in each of these things? Will I surrender control to the Lord in each of these places? 


If I grip the control with white-knuckled fists I will drive myself straight into the dirt. But—if I choose to trust and hold all that I have with open hands and a believing heart then I can gracefully step forward into what the Lord has called for me. I can soar on the wings of eagles. I can run and not grow weary. The Lord will continue to renew my strength. There are so many reasons to pour out God’s love. When I look to Him as my source daily, that love will keep bursting out. Where are you reacting fearful and anxious to the circumstances you face? What truth do you need to cling to in order to provide perspective on your situation?


This is my Prayer: Father God, keep my eyes on you. Lord keep Your truth in my thoughts and Your grace in my heart. Jesus help me to turn away from the fear and to focus on Your truth. Amen.

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