Monday, June 28, 2010

You May Wish to Read these all in Succession

June 28

Personal Note
This week begins my son Jay's life in the navy

As for God, his way is perfect;
the word of the LORD is flawless.
He is a shield for all who take refuge in him.
2 Samuel 22:31

At the academy, my son Jay is scheduled to be in Company 5. Therefore, I've held up my hand to him and wiggled my five fingers, saying, "Remember, Jay, the shield of faith":

1) God is who he says he is.
2) God can do what he says he can do.
3) I am who God says I am.
4) I can do what God says I can do (which is all things through Christ who strengthens me)
5) God's Word is alive and active in me.

You don't have to be in the military to have the world be a hazardous place. Satan shoots and the world woo's. "Shield's up!" "Take refuge in him."

That will be one of my final pieces of advice to my boy(s). "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8).

Too many of us would like a shield, but we drill holes in it before we're done with point one. Do we really believe that God is powerful and active in our lives and that his way -- not my way -- is perfect?

Jesus tells us that he is "the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6). That three-fold affirmation is today's verse too. "His WAY is perfect." In his "flawless ... Word" there is TRUTH. And when we "take [our] refuge in him," we're escaping the constant hazards and discovering LIFE the way it was meant to be.

Jay -- and all of you -- "Shield's up!" Have a great LIFE!

June 28

Personal Note:
Today we leave home with Jay for Annapolis

Now the Lord said to Abram,
"Go from your country and
your kindred and your father's house
to the land that I will show you. ...
I will bless you ...
so that you will be a blessing.
Genesis 12:1-2

The faith of Abra(ha)m has always amazed me. As Hebrews 11:8 renders it, "he set out, not knowing where he was going."

My son, Jay, does know where he's going. He's aimed for it since he was eight! Therefore, the sense of loss and change mingles freely with excitement and purpose. Only one thing undergirded Abraham's sense of loss and change as he left his father's house, it's the words that started this verse from Hebrews, "by faith."

Faith! That's the way we all go out everyday. And that's why Lutherans for generations have prayed: "Lord God, You have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen"

Jay -- and all of you -- may you go forth today and always in the spirit of this prayer ... and with the absolute confidence of God's covenant upon Abraham: "I will bless you ... so that you will be a blessing." (Claim that promise, because, remember, God is who he says he is and God WILL DO what he says he can do.)

June 30

Personal Note ...
It's sure to be a nervous day.
Tomorrow Jay checks into the Academy.

Jesus said ...
do not worry about tomorrow,
for tomorrow will bring worries of its own.
Today's trouble is enough for today

Matthew 6:34

Have you ever waited for surgery ... or waited for a diagnosis ... or waited to start a new job? How'd you sleep the night before?

I'm not much of a worrier by nature; nevertheless, I've definitely been a guy with bags under his eyes on a number of occasions.

The question is: Is this commandment from Christ? (In which case, I've failed many times.) Or is this a piece of wisdom?

I'm opting for the latter. Like in the book of Proverbs, I don't think Jesus is giving us yet another rule to weigh us down; I think he's giving us a piece of wisdom to set us free. I think he's saying

Enjoy today!

Wait ... That may be overstating it a bit. After all, Jesus acknowledges that today may have "enough trouble of its own." Nevertheless, I do see an intentional invitation to "live in the moment"! "Carpe diem" is a piece what Jesus is saying. "Seize the day."

Therefore, Jay -- and all of you who are facing something big -- I give you Jesus' advice: "Do not worry about tomorrow." Instead, embrace today. Yes, they may call your next step -- Annapolis -- "prison," but today is your last day of "freedom" as a civilian. Don't let what's coming enslave you yet!

In fact, try this instead ... Do you remember what Jesus' advice is just before this verse? He said, "33 Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." Therefore, let's ask, "Where are we seeing God today?" Why? Because seeing him in the present reminds us that he'll be there tomorrow too. Seek him today. Seek him tomorrow.

In Christ's Love,
a guy who wants to capre diem with you
before the Navy capres you manana
July 1

Personal Note:
Today my son, Jay, will be commissioned
as a Midshipman in the U.S. Navy.
(Go Navy ... Beat Army)

Be strong and very courageous ...
Do not be afraid or discouraged.
For the LORD your God is with you
wherever you go ...
Go ...and take possession
of the land the Lord your God
has given you.

Joshua 1:7,9,11

There are many great commissionings in the Bible. This is my favorite ...

Jay, since you were 8 you wanted to go to Navy. "Go ... and take possession of the land that the Lord ... has given you [to possess]."

I don't mean that in prideful way. I don't mean that you'll "own" the academy. (It will instead "own" you!) Rather, what I mean is ...

"God has brought you here.
Like the Israelites who could look back
at God's mighty hand which parted the Red Sea,
look back and know that God
who was behind goes before you.

"Therefore, go forward in confidence.
'Do not be afraid or discourage.'
Rather be 'strong and very courageous';
not because you are strongest cadet,
but you have a strong and faithful God
behind you, beside you, and before you."

In that sense -- and whether I'm talking to just Jay or anyone else facing a trial -- "Go ... and take possession of the land that the Lord ... has given you [to possess]." "Love the journey" is another way of stating that. And if you can't love the journey everyday, at least embrace it. You are on the adventure of a life time!

One final piece of advice ... and it's not mine; it's the rest of verse 7: "be[] careful to act in accordance with all the law that my servant Moses commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, so that you may be successful wherever you go."

God is your compass. He is your true north. If you live with faith and integrity, then you will be truly successful wherever you go.

In Christ's Love,
(P.S. I love you.)
(P.S.S. I am very proud of you.)
(P.S.S.S. Anchors aweigh, son.)
July 2

Personal Note:
Yesterday we dropped our son Jay
off at the academy. I don't write to him today
(because he's in boot camp and can't read this anyway).
Therefore, I write to my beloved wife,
Mary Louise.

Mary treasured up all these things
and pondered them in her heart.

Luke 2:19

Well, Dear ... we're on a new part of our journey now. We've got a boy in the Navy.

You did a great job with Jay. You loved him. You challenged him. You held his feet to the fire. You introduced him to God. And since you treasured him in your heart, today's drive back from Maryland hurts a little, doesn't it? (I know that well.)

For those who are reading this, Mary Louise deserves at least 94% of the credit for who Jay (and all of our boys) are.

My 6% is mainly that I didn't mess it up!

Actually, I should really change those figures. God deserves 98% of the credit, and we were just given the awesome privilege to come alongside these three young men, to accept God's mantle and shepherd them through this part of their journey. (Indeed, we both need to pause and thank our own parents for introducing us to the one whose hand was really guiding all of this.)

Anyway, Dear ... I am certain that as we ponder all these things, we will absolutely treasure them in our hearts -- including all of the friends and mentors who came alongside Jay and us at Spirit of Joy!

These were great years, great blessings!

Now, I urge you ... and me ... and all who are reading this and face transitions in your own lives .. to accept the commission given to Joshua, to Israel, and to Jay in yesterday's devotion: "Go ...and take possession of the land the Lord your God has given you [to possess] ... for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." (Josh 1:11,9).

Dear, I don't know where our life will take us next, but since I know that God has been with us in the past, I know he'll be with us in the future!

  • Therefore, I look forward to this journey with you ... and with God by our side.
  • I look forward to spending four years with Robbie -- more time one-on-one with this younger son (or two-on-one, Mary Louise, if you'll help me gang up on this giant).
  • I'll miss Jay, but do you know what? I'm also really looking forward to seeing Jay's adventures and how God will use this young man.
  • I also look forward to Paul's faith and adventures too.

God is good. Thank you, Lord!

In Christ's Love,
a guy who's blessed
(not because of my circumstances ...
but because of the one who's promised me
an eternal future ... with him!)


Thursday, June 24, 2010

June 27

For the Lord your God is
God of gods and Lord of lords,
the great God, mighty and awesome,
who is not partial and takes no bribe
Deuteronomy 10:17

There's an old story about a rich man who -- when he dies -- figures out how to take all of his gold with him to heaven. He meets St. Peter at the Pearly Gates, and St. Peter says, "Why'd you bring pavement?"

(Get it? Streets of gold.)

The point is this: Re-read the last line of today's verse. What could we ever bribe God with?! More pavement?

No matter how much we ... serve him ... read our Bibles ... confess our sins ... tithe to the church ... join a convent ... serve on committees ... discover a cure for cancer ...

God can't love us any more ...
and he won't love us any less.

It's not what you do. It's what he's done!

But there is one thing he does ask ... All he wants is to spend a little more time with you. He loves you and treasures your friendship.

In Christ's Love,
a guy who'd like to find a way
to smuggle on thing into heaven ...
... a few more lost souls

June 26

Know therefore that
the Lord your God is God,
the faithful God who
maintains covenant loyalty
with those who love him
and keep his commandments,
to a thousand generations
Deuteronomy 7:9

I just finished leading youth group. We played a game. I gave one person a pen, and I gave another person a picture of a pen. I said, "Draw with your pen." One could draw, and one could not.

I gave one person a hammer and the other a drawing of a hammer ... a lollipop and a drawing of a lollipop ... scissors and a drawing of scissors. I said, "Hammer, eat, and cut." One could, and one could not.

What's the difference? "One is real. One is paper (and pretend)."

The point? Some people believe that God is really real. While other believe that God is God-on-paper, God-in-theory. Too many of us read about God on paper -- i.e. on the pages of our Bibles -- but we treat the words as "stories" and we don't really believe he's real.

The question is: What will it take you to truly "know ... that the Lord your God is God"? What's holding you back from truly believing that "God is who he says he is" and that "God can do what he says he can do"?

God is ... powerful. And when you truly believe that God is powerful (powerful for real and not
just on paper), then you will have more power in your life. Much more!!!

In Christ's Love,
a guy who wants to recycle all my old paper
and discover (more fully) the real God
and all his power

June 25

You shall worship no other god,
because the Lord, whose name is Jealous,
is a jealous God

Exodus 34:14

Since "jealous" is generally perceived as a negative term, some translations soften the phrase a bit. Indeed, they try to capture the intent of an uncomfortable phrase. For example, the Good News Translation renders it, "I, the Lord, tolerate no rivals." I like the New Living Translation even better: "For he is a God who is passionate about his relationship with you."

"Passionate," I like. "Jealous" seems harsh to me.

Notice those phrases: "I like" and "to me." My goal is usually to domestic God like I'd try to domesticate a cat -- i.e. bring God down to my size. God is not a cat. He's the Lion of Judah. And if he says, "I am a jealous God" my challenge -- my gift -- is to believe him.

Ultimately I don't want a God that can be brought down to my size. I want a God big enough to spin galaxies and resurrect from the dead. Therefore, I'd better loose myself from the bonds of any false priority -- false god -- that competes with the one who is passionately and compassionately jealous for me. (For me?! Why me? He's awesome, isn't he!)

In Christ's Love,
a guy who's been created wonderfully enough
that God is jealous for me
(I'd better go spend some time with him)

June 24

To the King of the ages,
immortal, invisible, the only God,
be honor and glory forever and ever.

1 Timothy 1:17

I've sometimes asked the youth group: If you could be a superhero, what one trait would you like to have?

Half the kids say, "I'd like to be able to fly."

The next most common response is, "I'd like the ability to become invisible."

Not me.

Sneaking up on people and hearing what they say about me is not appealing at all. I'd rather take people at face value -- as in face to face.

All of us know that other people talk about us behind our backs. But I'd rather give people the opportunity to be who they want to be in the light of day. (Otherwise, I might not like them!)

The remarkable thing about our immortal, invisible King, is that he "sees in secret" ... and likes us anyway! That's true love.

In Christ's Love,
a guy who has a superpower:
I know nothing

June 23

The Father loves the Son and
has placed all things in his hands.
John 3:35

My father is a man of many talents.

For example, he can fix anything! Over the years, I've seen him craft things with wood, fix car engines, plumb a bathroom, and wire corners of the house.

And when I was little his hands seemed so very big and strong.

Now, I'm an adult and he's supposed to be retired. His hands are still stronger and more capable than mine!

Imagine being Jesus. How big must his Father's hands have seen. My skilled father couldn't spin a basketball on his finger; God the Father could spin galaxies on his pinky toe.

As I grew in year, my father, though, gave me a gift: He entrusted more and more to me. God the Father gave Jesus a gift: "He placed all things in his hands."

If you want to know the Father better ... take a closer look at Jesus.

In Christ's Love,
a very thankful son
(P.S. I've got two great dads)

June 22

Jesus said ...
"All authority in heaven and on earth
has been given to me."
Matthew 28:18

With a military son, I've been learning about the chain of command.

For example, you don't go directly to the general when you have a problem. You go to your sergeant. And usually, the problem is taken care of right then and right there.

If the problem's bigger, the sergeant goes to his captain ... but only when the captian can't manage it, he goes to the major ... who goes to the colonel ... who goes to the general only when the rest of the chain of command is at a loss.

I'm so very thankful that God does not work like this!

Jesus absolutely has "all authority," but he never says work through the chain of command. He simply says, "Come to me" (see Matthew 11:28).

In fact, scripture blesses us with the wonderful assurance that "we have a high priest who understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same temptations we do, yet he did not sin. Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Heb 4:15-16).

In Christ's Love,
a court jestor who's running
to the throne of the grace

June 21

The grass withers, and the flower falls,
but the word of the Lord endures forever.

1 Peter 1:24-25

Who said this? Jesus! Indeed Peter was basically quoting the Lord himself: "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will remain forever" (Luke 21:33).

In this disposable world, it's nice to know that something permanent endures! Like the grass, you and I will wither and fade. Bigger than that, stars are born and galaxies flame out. But the Word, the way, the truth, and the light will never fade.

Like most of you, I worry about little things. Temporary things. "Lord, set my heart on the eternal!"

In Christ's Love,
a lawn guy
(i.e. I'm grass ... but
by the grace of God, I'm eternal!)

June 20

The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately corrupt;
who can understand it?

Jeremiah 17:9


Sounds like we need heart surgery. Desperate. Deceitful. Corrupt. And you know ... it's more than a double- or triple-bypass that we need. We need a transplant.

Now, this is delicate surgery. So who is the great physician who is worthy of our trust? I'm choosing King David's doctor, and I'm praying with him, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me" (Ps 51:10).

In Christ's Love,
a guy who doesn't want to be a politician
(desperately corrupt ... as the steorotype goes)

June 19

Only I can tell you what is going to happen
even before it happens.
Everything I plan will come to pass,
for I do whatever I wish.

Isaiah 46:10

Why do I ever attempt to be "in control"?

God is God ... and I am not. Our sovereign God holds the future in his hands. He acts with power. He administers with love.

I can fight against it (and I have before)... or I can say, "You're God. I'm not. I trust in you. Thank you for making my life simpler."

In Christ's Love,
a guy who's not God

June 18

All a man’s ways are right in his own eyes,
but the Lord weighs the hearts.
Proverbs 21:2

So many of us spend so much time trying to explain and justify ourselves. We want to be "right in our own eyes."

What this self-justification fails to do is recognize the fact that God has already justified us. And it cost him his life.

If we'd just TRULY accept that God has justified us, we'd be so much better off. And our hearts would be so much lighter.

In Christ's Love,
a guy who wants a smaller heart
(I mean ... a lighter heart)

June 17

Ye shall not go out with haste

Isaiah 52:12

How many of us rush through breakfast ... so we can rush out the door ... so we can rush to work ... so we can rush through the day's jobs ... so we can rush home and rush through dinner ... and then rush the kids to a practice ... where they spend an hour rushing around a field ... while you rush in and out of the grocery ... and then you rush them home ... so you can rush them to bed ... because tomorrow's going to start with another rush ...


I am.

I need a verse like this.

No haste. Slow down.

Now, why should we pause for a breath before rushing forward? Isaiah tells us. He says "for the Lord will go before you."

And that's been my biggest problem. How many thousands of mornings have I rushed out under my own steam rather than waiting for God to set the course of my day.

No haste. Slow down. Listen more. Pause and pray. I think I'll be a little less tired.

In Christ's Love,
a Russian guy
(get it? Rushin')

June 16

"I will lead on softly ..."

Genesis 33:14

What beautiful words!

Many years before, Jacob had swindled his older brother out of a birthrite, but by Genesis 33 it is time to restore a family. Jacob approaches his brother a bit fearfully. He bows to his brother seven times, as if he were a servant. Esau, however, wasn't angry. He rushed foward joyfully and "kissed" his brother "affectionately." Tears of joy flowed.

The beauty of reconciliation!

After, I imagine, several hours of reminiscing, it was time to go home! Esau said kindly, "'12 I will ... lead the way.' 13 But Jacob replied, ' ... Some of the children are very young, ... the flocks and herds ... too. If they are driven too hard, they may die. 14 So go on ahead of us. I will lead on softly ...'"

How Esau's heart must have leapt again. His once selfish brother -- who would lie and cheat and run away -- has chosen a new pace. Family concerns trump selfish desires. And in that way, he leads on softly.

In Christ's Love,
a guy who knows that leading softly
often starts with reconciliation

June 13

Those who speak on their own
seek their own glory;
but the one who seeks
the glory of him who sent him is true,
and there is nothing false in him.

John 7:18

I have a confession to make. "I am chronic and habitual 'speaker-on-my-own-er'."
Without a daily discipline of listening to the Word (and listening for God), I'm liable to speak my philosophies, my priorities, my politics, and my pride. Me, myself, and "I think" are my default positions.

How about you?

In Christ's Love,
a guy who wants to seek His glory and His truth
because there's only wrong answers in me

June 12

Simon Peter answered him,
"Lord, to whom can we go?
You have the words of eternal life."
John 6:68

We look to our doctor for healing

... to situations for happiness

... to the wall outlet for power

... to a half gallon of ice cream for comfort

... and to a glass of whiskey for courage.

But there's only one place we can go for LIFE.

Peter knew it. So should we!

In Christ's Love,
a guy who wants to trust
as wonderfully in the Word
as I do in Jesus himself!

June 11

Sir, give us this bread always.
John 6:34

One of my favorite quotes is from Granny on the Beverly Hillbillies: "Many a time," she said, "we’ve been down to our last piece of fatback. And I’d say, 'Should we eat it, or render it down for soap?' Your Uncle Jed would say, 'Render it down. God will provide food for us poor folks, but we gotta do our own washin’.'"

When we pray, "Give us this day our daily bread," we're praying for all our daily needs. It's a prayer for food, clothing, shelter, fatback, and Dove soap.

That's not the kind of bread Jesus is talking about in today's verse. Manna fed the people of Israel for a day, but Jesus is the bread of life. He is our life. And only when we feed on his wisdom, love, and power, will we ever be truly satisfied.

In Christ's Love,
a guy who'll even eat the crust
if I can feed on Christ's love

June 10

Whoever believes in the Son ...
[vs.] whoever disobeys the Son ...
John 3:36

Where in the human body would you locate faith?

In the head?

In the heart?

In this passage, Jesus tells us that it's also in our hands. It's in our actions!

In Matthew 12:50, Jesus says, "whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister ..." Actions are part of faith!

A few chapters earlier, Jesus says, "7:21 only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven ... will enter the kingdom of heaven." Again, actions are part of faith and part of our ticket to heaven.

Furthermore, in John 4:34, Jesus -- the model of our faith -- says, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me ..."

Actions! What do you know that God is calling you to act upon?

In Christ's Love,
a man of action!
(P.S. Tell my wife about that.)

June 9

When evening came,
his disciples went down to the sea,
got into a boat, and started
across the sea to Capernaum.
It was now dark,
and Jesus had not yet come to them.
John 6:16-17

In her sermon last Sunday, Pastor Fran gave me a great image of Peter that I'll always treasure. She said something like, "If Peter saw a boat, he had to get in it." (I looked at my Navy-bound son and had to laugh.)

I bring that up because -- to me -- a curious thing happens in this passage. Apparently when one particular evening came, the disciples saw a boat ... and apparently they just got into it ... and apparently, it just started sailing ... and apparently, they were half way across the sea on the way to Capernaum when it occured to them that Jesus was not with them.

I don't know how they expected for Jesus "to yet come to them" when they just happened to get into a boat and had already sailed halfway to Capernaum.

But come to them Jesus did!

The Savior walked on water.

Now ... I don't know about y'all, but sometimes I just get into a boat and sail off in my own directions. It's sad that Jesus has to track me down halfway to Capernaum and whenever I sail in my own directions. But I am thankful that he does!

In Christ's Love,
a disoriented sailor

June 8

Jesus said ...
"No one can come to me
unless the Father...draws him"

John 6:44

My Bible study this morning prompted me to ask three questions ...

1. What does this passage (or any passage) tell us about God? I answered, "God's a magnet, and he wants to draw us closer to him."

2. What does this passage (or any passage) tell us about us? I answered, "If God's a magnet, then I am metal. I am designed to be drawn to him.

3. What does this passage (or any passage) prompt me to adjust and obey? If I am not drawn as close to God as I'd like, I need to correct one of three things ...

One, I need to remove anything that keeps me from God. (How many obstacles -- and false priorities -- do I place between me and the mighty magnet, God?)

Two, I need to purify my life. (If I'm not a 100% pure and metallic, then I'll only partly be drawn to God. What do I need to confess?)

Three, maybe I need to turn completely around. (One side of a magnet pushes away from another magnet. If I am far from God, maybe I need to turn around -- which by the way is the definition of repentance. And this makes me prayerful, because don't you know people who seem to be repulsed by God and his perceived injustice rather than drawn to him and healed? Pray for them.)

In Christ's Love,
a guy who asks three questions
and can suddenly explain
why my head is as hard as iron
(thankfully God can use even that to draw me to him)

June 7

When Jesus realized
that they were about to come
and take him by force to make him king,
he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.
John 6:15

Don't you wish more leaders today would follow Jesus' model?

Instead of basking in praise, what if every compliment meant they had to go spend an hour alone on the mountain with God.

What if you and I did that too?

In Christ's Love,
a guy who wants more godly leaders
(and as leader, needs to spend more time
on the mountain with God himself)

June 6

"Gather up the fragments left over ..."
John 6:12b

Many farmers put out a cistern -- a big tank, tub, or reservoir. Many hope to catch enough of the rain so that they may gradually water their plants.

But when rain comes, it doesn't just water the spot where the cistern sits. It covers the land.
God's grace is that way. We catch a little water in our cup, but so much more is falling all around us -- and sometimes we're oblivious to God's generosity.

In the feeding of the 5000, God rained down bread. A multitude ate. And the truth was that there was a multitude of bread "left over." There was grace to spare.

This passage invites us to look beyond ourselves. In fact, the more take our eyes off of just ourselves, the more we will see God and grace and glory all around us.

In Christ's Love,
a guy wants to see more rain

June 5

When they were satisfied ...
John 6:12

Some people -- especially young children -- look at communion as a snack. Why a snack? Because it's not nearly enough to satisfy our full hunger.

There are seasons for snacks -- a taste of grace that gets to the next feast.

There are also seasons for full and utter satisfaction. The feeding of the 5000 was one of those occasions. Jesus let them eat until they were full ... and then he showed them how bountiful God's power was by revealing how much was leftover.

We're Americans. We're good at full bellys and expanding waistlines. But don't be surprised when God's grace comes as a simple snack. The feast is heaven. Right now we generally get a foretaste -- just enough of a glimpse to help us make it through.

In Christ's Love,
a guy who needs to eat more snacks
(tell my wife that please)

June 4

When [Jesus] looked up and saw
a large crowd coming toward him,
Jesus said to Philip, "Where are we
to buy bread for these people to eat?"
He said this to test him, for he himself
knew what he was going to do.

John 6:5-6

If I were writing a screen play, here's how I imagine this scene playing out:

SETTING: A horde of five thousand people rushes toward Jesus and the disciples.

PETER (THINKING): "Crowd control. How am I going to rope off -- and hold off -- five thousand people who want to touch just the edge of Jesus' cloak so they may be healed?"

JOHN (THINKING): "Public Relations: Where do I station the press so that we get the best coverage on the evening news?"

PHILIP (THINKING): "Logistics: Where are we to buy enough bread for these people to eat?"
You see, I think Jesus might have just said outloud what was already in Philip's heart. I mean, how many of us think things inwardly and they grow like an infection. We'd do so much better opening them up and like de-breeding a wound, discussing them outloud. When things are in the light, light tends to win. But when we hold thoughts, feelings, and fears in the dark, darkness tends to prevail.

Yes, Jesus tested Philip when he pulled the question into the light. But he didn't leave him alone to carry the weight of the worry. He showed him the path toward healing, feeding, and truth.

And yes ... Jesus will test you. But when you allow him to be part of your problems, he'll never leave you to carry their weight alone.

In Christ's Love,
a guy who'd prefer a test from God
than a test from Ms. Taylor
(my 12th grade Calculus teacher)

June 3

Jesus said, "There is another
who testifies on my behalf ..."
John 5:32

Imagine that you were a first century person, trying to figure out if Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God. In this passage, Jesus points to three powerful witnesses to his identity.

The first is John the Baptist. "35 He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light." People believed John, and John pointed to Jesus. Therefore, why not believe in Jesus?

The second is Jesus' "works" -- the healings and the miracles. Jesus confirmed his identity to John the Baptist -- and to us -- saying, "Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them." Jesus said, "36 the very works that I am doing, testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me."

The third is the scriptures themselves. Why did John and others believe that Jesus was the Messiah? Because the works of Jesus confirmed the prophecies about the Messiah.
"39 You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf."

I'm tempted to ask "which 'proof' finally convicted you?" But ultimately faith is not about logic and proofs. Faith is about the person who was saying these things. Indeed faith is about a relationship with this person -- the living Lord, Jesus Christ.

In Christ's Love,
a guy
(which means problem-solving and proofs
comes easier than relationships
which means I have to work at faith)

June 2

just as the Father raises the dead
and gives them life
John 5:21

One of my saddest duties is standing beside some death beds.

Notice ... I said, "some."

Many death beds are like cruise ship dock. Many who are dying -- and their families -- have such an confidence in the power of the resurrection that death is a bon voyage.

Other death beds are like quicksand. Fear swallows hope and everyone's just trying to keep their head above being suffocated.

I love logic that is implied in John 5:21. If God gives life, why do we have such a hard time believing that he can -- and will -- raise the dead.

Faith is a powerful force. In fact, it's magic. It transforms a quicksand and sinking feelings into cruise ships, bon voyage, and hope.

In Christ's Love,
a guy who's ready for a cruise

June 1

"My Father is still working,
and I also am working."

John 5:17

How many people look around and say, "Where is God in all this?"

Answer them with John 5:17. It was true in Jesus' time and it is true today: "Our Father is still working."

And if anyone ever doubts that, give them an additional reminder. Let your light shine too! May our crying always be: "Our Father is still working, and I also am working."

In Christ's Love,
a guy who wants people
to see God through
my hard-working hands

May 31

Jesus said to him,
"Do you want to be made well?"
The sick man answered him,
"Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool
when the water is stirred up ..."

John 5:6-7

Have you ever laid in a hospital bed? Or sat for days with a loved one there?

Have you ever had a much-too-happy aid come in -- oblivious to the gravity of your situation -- and said something as inane as "Do you want to be made well?" Has a sarcastic "of-course-I-want-to-be-made-well" ever been the gentlest response you can manage?

The man at the pools of Bethzatha, looked for a physical answer to a life-long illness. How many of us look for physical answers when the deeper problem is really spiritual?
God can cure the physical. He did in this man's case. But sometimes the greater miracle is not physical. Sometimes the greatest miracle is faith in a world of pain.

Faith is all that ultimately matters to Jesus. Why? Because if we have faith we will ultimately be healed (and ultimately means in the realm of "no more mourning or crying or pain"). But if we don't have faith, all physical healing is destined to be temporary. (More meat ... less fat ... in the eternal barbeque.)

God aims for the permanent. How about you?

In Christ's Love,
a guy who wants to be even more permanent
than a Sharpie

May 30

The man believed the word
that Jesus spoke to him
and started on his way.

John 4:50

Belief -- even without seeing -- is a huge spiritual point in the Gospel of John. Thomas missed the first glimpse of the resurrection and said, "Unless I see ... I will not believe."

The "royal official whose son ... was at the point of death ... believed the word that Jesus spoke ... 'You son will live.'" He didn't see the healing. He just trusted. And based on his faith, he acted immediately -- he started on his way, he set off toward home.

What is the Word that you know God is speaking to you right now? Sometimes God comforts the afflicted -- is that what he's saying? Other times he "afflicts the comfortable!" Do you "need" some reorienting affliction? Quite frequently, God calls us in a new direction we should go. Other times he simply convicts us of some sin. (Don't miss that one!)

Unlike our kids often do with us, what if we simply believed the word that we knew was from God and acted immediately.

What is the Word that you know God is speaking to you right now?

In Christ's Love,
a Thomas
who doesn't want to doubt

May 29

My food is
to do the will of him who sent me
and to complete his work.

John 4:34

My food is Oreos, Doritoes, and Nachos. I would do better with Jesus' diet!

If anyone other Jesus' said, "My food is to do God's will," we'd call them hopelessly pious. Jesus, however, was satisified by nothing else.

"Man does not live by bread alone," said Jesus, "But by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God."

May we hunger for God's Word ... and be satisified by nothing less than doing his will.

In Christ's Love,
a guy who is a nut
(if, indeed, you are what you eat)

May 28

You are right in saying,
'I have no husband’

John 4:17

In our generation, it seems like everybody has a past. Few of us would make it past the purity police -- especially in terms of previous marriages and past relationships.

The woman at the well -- whom Jesus is talking to in this verse -- is the patron saint of messy pasts. Five former "marriages" and "the man you're living with now is not your husband."

Some Christians don't tolerate tarnished pasts. Jesus wasn't one of them. It's not the past that matters, but the present and the future. Jesus had just told the woman at the well about "living water." Yes, it quenches our thirst, but even more so, Jesus longs to use it to wash us clean.
What in your past haunts or tarnishes you? May the living liquid of his grace wash you clean.

In Christ's Love,
a guy who needs to shave his head
(so my forgiven self will look as clean as Mr. Clean)

May 27

"If you knew the gift of God,
and who it is that is saying to you,
'Give me a drink,’
you would have asked him,
and he would have given you living water."

John 4:10

My wife -- the medical one in the family -- tells me that coffee (and caffeine) are diuretics. In other words, they may go down wet, but they don't really quench your thirst. (To be blunt: Take you pee more, and, therefore, leave you thirstier than before.)

In John 4, Jesus is saying that too many of the ways of the world are spiritual diuretics. They may go down wet and satisfying, but they leave us spiritually parched. We chase after worldly satisfactions, and we wonder why we're still unsatisfied. We wonder why we feel deep down like we're as thirsty as if we'd just run a marathon on a hot day.

The key to growth in faith is to monitor your level of spiritual hydration. Only Christ can give you living water. Only Jesus can truly quench our thirst.

In Christ's Love,
a former advertiser who wonders
whether spiritual Gatorade
would see better than Living Water
(ahhh ... just give me Jesus!)