Tag Archives: eternal truth

20/20 Hindsight ~ John 2:18-25

Thankful for the 20/20 vision I enjoy through these lenses!

Thankful for the 20/20 vision I enjoy through these lenses!

Clarity sometimes comes long after events have unfolded. In the heat of the moment, we’re in the moment and, thus, God’s purpose for the moment can be somewhat elusive to us at the time. Once we are removed from the situation and take the opportunity to look back and ponder it, we begin to understand the gravity of the events we witnessed. We may even feel a bit foolish for having missed the real meaning until later, stating that the clarity offered by hindsight makes the gravity of the moment obvious. “How did I miss that?” we ask. Such is the limitation of the human mind, limited in scope and bound by the passage of time.

Jesus had just cleared the vendors and money changers from the temple courts, and with that, potential temple revenue had been thrown out with them. The Jews in charge asked Him to show a sign proving that He had the authority to take such action. Jesus replied, “destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (2:19) Standing in the temple court and looking at the temple structure, it’s easy for me to understand why these men, and presumably Jesus’ disciples, took him literally, chiding Him that it took 46 years to build this structure; no way could Jesus destroy it and rebuild it in three days.

But He was speaking of the temple of His body. So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken. (John 2:21-22)

Fast-forward a few years. Jesus had been crucified and resurrected from the dead. The victory had been won. I can almost picture His disciples sitting around a table reminiscing about all of the things Jesus said and did. And I can almost see the disciples collectively slap their foreheads as the Holy Spirit revealed the gravity of this moment to them. “He was speaking of the temple of His body.” (verse 21). “Aha!” They didn’t get it at the time, but it makes so much sense now! The Jews destroyed this Temple, and on the third day He made His point abundantly clear as He rose from the dead and appeared in triumph to His disciples and to many others. Sin and death were defeated once and for all. It was time to spread the word.

Travel Bible study. Taken 9.15.2013, Chicago, IL

Travel Bible study. Taken 9.15.2013, Chicago, IL

Friends, we weren’t there to witness the words and deeds of Jesus when He came to earth. But God has given us an amazing gift in His Holy Word. By reading and studying the Bible, we in essence are tapping into hindsight. We can sit in the comfort of our homes and in the pews of our churches and read the words inspired by God and recorded by the likes of Moses, David, Solomon, the prophets, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter, James – every section and every book of the Bible is about one Man. It is about God’s relationship with us and the redemptive gift He offers through His Son, Jesus Christ. Indeed, Scripture in its entirety points straight to our Savior! The more we read and the more we study, we too will slap our foreheads and yell, “Aha!” as the Holy Spirit works through God’s Word to bring us closer to Him.

I’ll share a secret. I’m glad people read my blog, and I am overjoyed when they glean some nugget of wisdom or inspiration from something I’ve written. But the real reason I write my blog is completely selfish: it is the tool by which I read, ponder, learn, and inwardly digest God’s Word. God’s Word is an amazing gift. When is the last time you picked it up?

Ponder this: Is any section of the Bible more relevant today than other sections of the Bible? Some would answer, “yes.” I answer with a resounding “No!” Read it. Read all of it. Read it in an attitude of prayer and longing. And be prepared to slap your forehead.

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of Your Son, and thank you for revealing Yourself through Scripture. Bless my study and grant me the wisdom to discern and understand Your eternal, unchanging, and universally true message to Your creation through Your Holy Word. Help me to take what I learn and become salt and light to this dark world. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN.

Wedding Crisis Averted ~ John 2:1-11

It’s a wedding catastrophe, the prospect of which can give a bride and her mother prenuptial nightmares as they painstakenly plan each minute detail of the big day. Picture this in your mind: The vows have been repeated and the reception is well underway. The bride and groom have started to breathe as the stress of pre-wedding planning begins to fade into the past. The band is cranking out some great country music (remember, I’m from Texas), and the wedding guests have filled the dance floor. As the umpteenth guest compliments the bride’s parents on the lavishness of the day, and long before the reception is scheduled to conclude, the bartender sidles up next to the mother of the bride to quietly tell her that the supply of wine ordered for the reception has run dry. Can you visualize the look of horror that appears on her face as she processes that news? The bride, her parents, the bartender, and the venue manager look at each other, “how in the world did this happen? And what do we do now?”

As it turns out, Jesus and His disciples attended just such a wedding – sans the country music of course. As the celebration is well underway, Jesus’ mother, Mary, learns that the wedding host has run out of wine for the guests. She tells Jesus about the conundrum, clearly in a tone that only a mother can convey:

When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “they have no wine.” (John 2:3)

Taken in context, this is more than just an “oh, by the way” comment. This is a statement that expects action on the part of Jesus; an expectant statement that only a mother can deliver. Jesus caught the gist, for He replied, “Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.” (John 2:4) Jesus, honoring the wishes of his mother, commands that the wait staff fill six stone jars with water. They do so, and at His command they draw out a sample for the wedding host who declares, most likely with a huge sigh of relief, that the choice wine is now being served.

This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him. (John 2:11)

There you have it. With this, Jesus’ first public miracle, His earthly ministry is launched and His journey to the cross begins.

As we read John’s Gospel, it is important to remember that John, himself, was one of Jesus’ disciples and an eyewitness to the events he recorded for us in his account of Jesus’ time on Earth. Doubters and conspiracy theorists may dismiss this event as some sort of smoke & mirrors trickery, but nothing surpasses the credibility of an eyewitness account; just ask any trial lawyer.

I believe. Do you?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus to live on Earth as a man and die on the cross in my behalf. Thank you for calling His disciples and for inspiring John to record his eyewitness account of your Son’s earthly ministry. I pray that You would bless my study of John’s Gospel, strengthening my faith and maturing me into the witness you would call me to be. For His sake and in His name I pray. AMEN.

Preparing for the Divine ~ John 1:34-51

When I was a young boy I wanted to be like my Uncle Mike. We lived in Minnesota, but Uncle Mike lived in California! He was a bachelor at the time and was the director of one of the more renowned high school bands in the state. When my parents would tell us that Uncle Mike was coming to visit, I would get so excited! I remember my parents taking me to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport to pick him up. We would arrive early and wait at the assigned arrival gate, the anticipation building within us. The big, white jet finally pulled up outside the window and the passengers began to disembark down the jet way. We craned our necks until he finally appeared – finally, he had arrived!

John the Baptist had a specific life assignment from God: “He said, ‘I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.’” (John 1:23). John most certainly completed his assignment with flying colors, for in reading this passage, there is a definite sense of anticipation among those whom Jesus first called as His disciples. They were ready.

One of the two who heard John speak and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He found first his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah ” (which translated means Christ ). John 1:40-41

As Jesus called these first disciples, two things stand out that are worthy of consideration:

Immediacy: The disciples called in this passage (One unnamed, presumably John himself, Andrew, Peter, Philip, and Nathanael) didn’t hesitate. They immediately dropped what they were doing and followed Him.

Witness: Two of the called disciples, before doing anything else, shared the good news with his brother. Andrew found his brother Simon, whom Jesus renamed ‘Peter’ and Philip shared the good news with Nathanael.

How would I have reacted? Would I have been ready? These are sobering questions, but in considering them I realize that they are questions that each believer faces even today. The Bible tells us that Jesus is coming back, and when He does His return will be like a “thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2). There will be no John the Baptist to pave the way. Instead, the way is paved in God’s Word. So while those first disciples were prepared to meet their Messiah via the witness of John the Baptist, we modern day Christians must begin our preparation for His return by reading and studying His Word.

God’s Word, the Bible, is a beautiful gift. Time in God’s Word is time well invested. In 2014 I completed a one-year Bible reading plan through which I read every verse in Scripture during the year. My reading of the entire Bible reinforced, beyond any doubt, that God’s Word is Truth. The entire book, both Old and New Testaments point directly to our Savior. To fully understand and appreciate God’s work, we must read His Word; all of it. I’m doing it again this year, and God willing, will do so every year to follow. God’s will and plan for humanity is revealed in His Word, and by opening it and reading it, the beauty of His plan comes alive. Will you join me?

My prayer for today: Lord God, thank you for your Word. Thank you for sending Jesus to save me from the consequences of my sins. Just as the first disciples did, help me to follow Jesus and share the Good News with the world. In His Holy name, AMEN.

2015 Photo-A-Day 1.11.2015

I attended the memorial service for the father of one of my best friends from college on Saturday. The Christian funeral is a celebration. As we remember those we’ve lost, we celebrate their victory in Christ and we look forward to our own reunion with Him on the day He calls us home. For those who die in Christ, death is not the end of life; it is the passage from temporal life on Earth to eternal life in the holy presence of our awesome God. That explains, at least in part, the smiles on our faces.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world tojudge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” ~ John 3:16-17

1.9.2014 at St. Paul Lutheran Church, Vernon, Texas

1.9.2014 at St. Paul Lutheran Church, Vernon, Texas

Playing the Blame Game – Genesis 3:9-19

Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” ~ Genesis 3:13

In reading this passage during my morning time of Scripture, I immediately empathized with Eve. I recall several occasions on which, as a young boy, my parents caught me doing something wrong, and to avoid the consequences I knew I deserved, I tried to shift the blame from myself onto somebody else. Even in adulthood, with the light of the truth shining in my face, the easiest means of escape often seems to be a shift of blame or a change of subject. We all do it; we all seek to protect ourselves when confronted with the reality of our own sin.

Here is where it all started. The serpent deceived Eve and Eve, knowing it was wrong, ate of the forbidden fruit. Eve in turn offered it to Adam and Adam, also knowing it was wrong, ate the fruit. God confronted Adam with his sin and Adam blamed Eve, and when confronted by God, Eve blamed the serpent. Each of them sinned, and each tried to pass the buck when confronted with their wrongdoing. At least we’re consistent!

Although the serpent initiated the sin, God punished all three – Adam, Eve, and the serpent – and the punishments still apply to their descendants today. The first ever Blame Game failed to deliver the outcome Adam and Eve desired. God saw through the charade and issued a just and severe punishment.

These days, we often respond to sin with a wink and a nod. “Boys will be boys” after all. But sin, all sin, is a big deal in God’s eyes, and in His righteousness He demands accountability. Remember, we always have a choice when faced with temptation. And when we succumb to the siren song of the serpent and commit that sin we know we shouldn’t commit, there are consequences. Sure, we try to shift the blame, and our rationale may sometimes contain a grain of truth. But that does not excuse us from the sin we committed.

As I considered this passage I was struck by the hopelessness of sin. Have you ever caught yourself doing something you know is wrong and wondered, “how the heck did I get here?” I have. It’s frustrating. It’s disheartening. It’s disappointing. The Apostle Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, even felt this way at times:

For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin. ~ Romans 7:19-25

Where, then, is our hope? Our hope is in the One who gave His life as the complete and perfect punishment for all of our sins – past, present, and future. That Hope’s name is Jesus. Without Him, we are lost. With Him, we are forgiven and we look forward to eternal life in His holy presence! With that knowledge, we seek to live our lives in a manner pleasing to Him – not to save ourselves, for that is impossible – but as a loving response to the selfless action of a loving God.

Yes, we will stumble. We will succumb to the serpent’s siren song. We will sin. And when we do, God calls us to lay our sins at the foot of the cross, trusting in the everlasting mercy, love, and grace He offers through His Son, Jesus Christ, to all who believe. Through faith in Him and Him alone, we are justified and made righteous. Therein rests our hope.

Need a New Year’s Resolution?

Are you looking for a New Year’s Resolution that takes relatively little effort but will change your life?

On January 1, 2014 I embarked on a 365-day plan to read the entire Bible in one year. Tomorrow I tackle day 365 as I read the closing chapters of the Old and New Testaments.

To be honest, I embarked on this quest because I wanted to be one of those believers who could say they’ve read through the entire Bible. I suppose that sounds a bit self-serving, but God did give us His Word with the intention that we read it. My journey through the Bible during 2014 was not a scholarly read; it was a casual, relaxing “read-through” using the paraphrased New Living Translation via the YouVersion Bible App on my Kindle Fire. Some of my clergy brethren may cringe at that, but before you cringe, I’d like to share three blessings I’ve gained from having completed this journey.

  1. God has given me an invigorated love for Him and His Word. I see now, for myself, that the Old and New Testaments are completely intertwined. The Bible is not two books set together within one binding; it is The Book – God’s revelation of Himself to His people. The entire Bible is about The Word Made Flesh, Jesus the Christ. Even through this casual “read-through” I see that so clearly. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” ~ John 1:1-2
  2. God has given me an enhanced appreciation for my salvation by reminding me of sin’s evil nature and God’s just and right reaction to sin. Truly, there are passages that are difficult to read from a purely human standpoint. As I read many of the writings about sin and the results of sin I saw myself, and at times that was somewhat disturbing. Even as I saw myself separated from God by a chasm of sin, I was reminded every day that God doesn’t leave us hanging – out of His love for us He rescued all who believe in Jesus from the just punishment we all deserve. “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;” ~ Romans 3:23-24
  3. God has led me to love and appreciate His sovereignty. We are in the midst of a spiritual battle. Take note of today’s current events, scroll through Facebook or Twitter; note the content of the entertainment we consume through movies, TV, music, and electronic games. Notice how some Christian churches are celebrating sinful lifestyles as they embrace the notion that these lifestyles are natural and pleasing to God. Take note of these things and you might come away with the notion that God is irrelevant; He is losing the battle and He no longer reigns. No! Thank God for His sovereignty, for although the battle is raging it is already won! “Then Moses said to God, “Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM “; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ” ~ Exodus 3:13-14

To complete my journey through God’s Word, I used one of the reading plans on the YouVersion Bible app on my Kindle. The app is free and includes a plethora of Bible reading and study plans. Don’t have a Kindle? That’s OK – there are several 365-day Bibles available in print at your local Christian bookstore.

Completing this journey required only about 15 minutes of time each day. In exchange for those 15 minutes a day, God gave me some incredible blessings.

How about you? Are you seeking a resolution for 2015 that will truly change your life? Why not consider joining me as I embark on the journey again? Open your mind and your heart to God’s Word. I’m convinced that you, too, will be richly blessed.

Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas 2014

Well, here we are again. We are at the point of culmination: the culmination of all the decorating, all  the shopping, all the hustle & bustle, Christmas cards mailed, and yes – all of the waiting. What, waiting? Yes, waiting. You have been waiting, haven’t you?

Our home in Keller, Texas is beautifully decorated, thanks to the vision and creativity of my lovely wife. We have a beautiful Christmas tree beneath which lies a plethora of colorfully wrapped packages waiting to be opened. The sugar count in our kitchen is at an all time high with cookies and other holiday treats. Our staircase is decorated with faux pine garland interwoven with lovely white lights and our fireplace is decked out as well, complete with stockings hung by the chimney with care. The shopping is done – almost. I traditionally shop on Christmas Eve; not as an act of procrastination but because I enjoy it. Indeed, the Strege’s invest heavily in the traditions of the season and we enjoy it.

Some refer to the Christmas festival traditions as “trappings”. I understand why that is. If we’re not careful, Christmas becomes all about the trees, the lights, the goodies, and the presents. And while those things are fun and can bring some degree of happiness into our season, they are not what Christmas is all about for those of us who have put our faith and trust in Jesus.

As a Christian, there is not a doubt in my mind that the true “reason for the season” was born of a virgin and laid in a manger in a town called Bethlehem some 2,000 years ago. He died on a cross to save all who believe in Him from our sins, and was resurrected 3 days later. In Him and Him alone, death was swallowed up in victory! Without Him, my hope for eternity, and yours as well, is quite bleak. But through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, we have the hope of eternal life in His amazing presence. Indeed, we are at the culmination of Advent – that period of anticipation as we wait to joyfully celebrate the birth of our Savior.

This morning, as I prepare to embark on my traditional Christmas Eve shopping excursion, the birth of our Savior is at the forefront of my mind. I hope it is at the forefront of yours, too. I wish you and all for whom you care a very Merry Christmas indeed!

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which well be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, which is Christ the Lord!” ~ Luke 2:10-11

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which well be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, which is Christ the Lord!” ~ Luke 2:10-11

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