Tag Archives: God the Father

No Guarantees? Not So Fast…

Yesterday evening, as I learned of a friend who passed away due to complications from the flu, I was reminded that life offers no guarantees. Alan leaves behind a loving wife and two lovely daughters of high school age. As I lift his family and friends in prayer, I can’t help but think about my own family and how they would feel if God called me home at a young age.

Goofing off, Thanksgiving 2012

Goofing off, Thanksgiving 2012

As I write this, several other people dear to me also come to mind: a pastor friend battling metastasized cancer, a coworker recovering from major surgery, and another business friend & colleague who passed away suddenly while on vacation over Thanksgiving weekend. Each of these people woke up one day expecting a normal day; by the end of that day things had drastically changed. They all have jobs and they all have family and friends who love them, and they are all about my age.

At times like this I am compelled to reflect on my own life. I tend to live my life as if none of these things could happen to me. I go to work, I watch my football, I enjoy my family and I count my blessings. I don’t eat as well as I should, I occasionally drink a bit too much wine, and I rarely exercise. I sometimes stress over circumstances, which compared to the trials these friends are facing, are really nothing more than short-term inconveniences. My family, friends and coworkers are precious to me also. I pray for those in need of healing and those facing trials, but I don’t pray enough. I live my life as if I have forever during which to live it, when in reality, my “normal” could change just as quickly as it did for my four friends. As I take my allotment of time for granted, I realize that I sometimes take the people God has placed in my life for granted, too. For these transgressions I ask God’s forgiveness.

Naples, FL Sunset - July 2012

Naples, FL Sunset – July 2012

I’m sad today for those whom my friends Alan and Bob left behind. As I contemplate my own life I realize it’s not too late to change some things, and I will prayerfully seek God’s guidance in this respect. But more than that, I thank God for the hope He offers – real hope that each and every one of us can grab ahold of and celebrate every day no matter what circumstances we face:

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. ~ John 3:16

Whether I live one more day or many more decades, my life on Earth will come to an end one day. So will yours. If I place my trust in the things of this world, it all ends the moment I take my last breath; I have no hope for eternity. God offers us so much more than that. He offers His Son as the perfect sacrifice to pay the price for my sins – and yours, too. God’s promise of eternal life comes only through faith in Jesus. While I enjoy life and the blessings God has bestowed on me, my hope for eternity is not in the things of this world. My hope is planted firmly in my faith in Jesus Christ. With that hope, even if my “normal” should change drastically today, I can live my life with no worries, for I know my eternity will be with my Lord. And with that hope, my last breath on Earth will not be the end; it will be the beginning of my eternal life in His presence.

Travel Bible study. Taken 9.15.2013, Chicago, IL

Travel Bible study. Taken 9.15.2013, Chicago, IL

Until He calls me home, I resolve to live out my remaining days on Earth, whether one or thousands, with my eyes focused squarely on the Prize. I will breath more deeply, observe more thoroughly, and care more thoughtfully. I will be more diligent in prayer, more concerned about others, and more faithful to my Lord and Savior. Truly, I can do none of this on my own; but through Him I can succeed.

My Prayer for Today: Heavenly Father, as I go about my routine today, there are people dear to me who struggle with loss, illness, job transition, and so many other things. I pray for those who need comfort, those who need healing, and those in need of work. I pray that You would provide what they need. I also pray for those who don’t know Your Son, Jesus Christ. According to Your will, Lord, let me be a witness to this world that so desperately needs to know You. In Jesus’ name – AMEN.

‘Tis the Season! ~ John 1:24-34

Rudolph the red nosed reindeer_9462

Rudolph the red nosed reindeer_9462 (Photo credit: Wonderlane)

Christmas. What’s it all about, anyway? Is it stockings and toys? Is it stress over lack of money and time to buy and do all the things we want during the holiday season? Is it a beautifully decorated tree and lights on the house? Is it a man in a red suit that magically descends the chimney, leaves an abundance of gifts, and then magically ascends again? (When I was a boy we had no chimney; I always wondered how Santa was able to get into our house)! In the American tradition, Christmas is all of these things. Sadly, for many, this is the extent of the Christmas holiday.

The next day he (John the Baptist) saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” ~ John 1:29

Interior, St John the Baptist Church - geograp...

Interior, St John the Baptist Church – geograph.org.uk – 1096768 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Indeed, Christmas is much bigger than the secular traditions of the holiday. Christmas is about Love. It’s about a Love so big that our human minds cannot fully grasp it. God in His Word reveals this Love. Here, in this passage of Scripture, John the Baptist tells us why this Love came to earth. The Bible tells us that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (see Romans 3:23). We need help; we need redemption. That redemption comes only through the Child of Bethlehem, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas.

I’m no Scrooge; I enjoy my decorated home (my wife is quite talented), giving and receiving gifts, and gathering with family and friends. But those things pale next to the birth of my Savior. As a wise person once said, “Jesus is the Reason for the season.”

May your Christmas season be filled with love and joy!

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, Thank you for sending Jesus to save me from my sins. As I enjoy the holiday season, let me always remember and celebrate, first and foremost, the Holy Birth that is the centerpiece of Christmas. In Jesus’ name – AMEN.

True Light ~ John 1:6-18

Have you ever felt like your life was muddling along with no real direction or no real purpose? Have you ever looked at what is happening in the world around you and wondered, “why?” Have you ever sensed that there is something bigger and better than what this world has to offer and wished you could wrap your mind around that concept? I believe that most of us have felt these things at one time or another.

There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light. There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’ ” For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. ~ John 1:6-18

Absolute darkness

Absolute darkness (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As John continues his introduction of Jesus, he refers to Jesus as the Light. The answers to the questions cited above can be answered through Him. You see, when sin came into the world it enveloped humanity in darkness. Sin seeks to blind us from God’s truth, and in doing so, becomes the focus of the human life. Why do we sometimes feel that we lack purpose? Why do people lie, cheat, steal and kill? Why don’t we readily see that God has a greater plan for us than this? It’s because of sin.

Fog

Fog (Photo credit: rchughtai — “not very active”)

Sadly, many of the very people Jesus came to save didn’t recognize Him. That continues today. Our world is cloaked in darkness; the evidence of sin in the world is all around us. Sin causes humanity to reject God’s truth, embracing human wisdom instead. It motivates us to seek position and power for ourselves, even if we have to climb over the backs of others to succeed. Sin rationalizes sin, from the driver cutting off the driver alongside him because of a perceived driving discourtesy all the way through the spectrum to a society rationalizing killing the unborn in the name of “choice”.  Sin clouds our vision as it seeks to forever separate us from our Creator.

English: Flame. Around the base are the words ...

English: Flame. Around the base are the words “Jesus – Light of the world” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jesus didn’t come to light the way to a more prosperous life; He didn’t come so we could be happy campers on planet Earth. Jesus came as the True Light to expose sin for what it is and to win the victory over sin once and for all. As sin seeks to envelop us in darkness, Jesus brings Light into the world. Through Him the darkness is overcome and we instead live under His grace and truth. Are we who believe perfect and free of sin? Of course not. But through Jesus, the Light of the World, we are saved from the eternal separation from God that sin delivers. Through His sacrifice on the cross we are sanctified (made perfect) and freed from the bondage of sin. We look forward to spending eternity in the glorious presence of our Creator. Until that day comes, we seek to live lives that glorify our Lord and Savior.

As John’s account of Jesus continues to unfold, let us walk in the Light together as we seek God’s Truth for humanity.

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus to save us from sin. Help me to live a life that witnesses to the promise of salvation that comes only through Him. In His name I pray, AMEN.

Where Are We Headed?

United States Capitol

United States Capitol (Photo credit: Jack in DC)

We are living in a very interesting point in history. This great American experiment called Democracy is, I believe, on the brink of failure. Sound cynical? Consider: We Americans seem completely willing to surrender our personal liberties to an uber-powerful government that is increasingly disconnected from the people it is supposed to serve. Our national debt is growing at an alarming pace as those in leadership do nothing to stop it. Our moral values as a nation are eroding away day after day.

As I consider these things, I am reminded that I trust and serve the God of the universe. He who made all things is bigger than government, and His plan is perfect. I’ve completed my study of the book of Jeremiah. God spoke through Jeremiah to a nation, much like the United States, that had abandoned His truth and His ways. Israel was serving false gods and seeking after worldly wisdom just like we are today. We can read the Bible and see the consequences of Israel’s sin; the future of the United States is yet to be written, although our omnipotent God already knows our fate as a nation.

faith

faith (Photo credit: Leonard John Matthews)

I am so thankful for the gift of faith. Through faith, I can see past the sin of this world into the eternity that awaits all believers in Christ; an eternity in the presence of Almighty God. I pray for a revival in our nation. I pray that we the people will look to God through study of His Word and through prayer for our nation’s well-being. I pray that God would open the hearts and the minds of the American people to His eternal truth. That eternal truth is available, right at our fingertips. And as American history unfolds before our eyes, we can seek wisdom and comfort in God’s book called the Bible.

“All the prophets testify about Him that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.” ~ Acts 10:43

The Bible, from Genesis through Revelation, is all about Jesus. It reveals God’s plan of redemption for His creation. There is no book in the Bible that is not relevant to today. It is wholly and universally true. It is without error. The wisdom of the world wants us to view the Bible as a spiritual guidebook or, worse, a collection of human writings assembled by men in a conspiracy to mislead us. That is the world’s wisdom at work, and it is a dangerous supposition. The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself to us; it is what He wants us to know about Him.

Travel Bible study. Taken 9.15.2013, Chicago, IL

Travel Bible study. Taken 9.15.2013, Chicago, IL

“What we have received is not from the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.” (1 Corinthians 2:12-13)

A life and a nation built on the foundation of human wisdom is doomed to failure. On the other hand, a life and a nation build on the foundation of God’s Word will be blessed. As a believer, I will engage in the political process. I will share God’s truth. I will align my political positions with God’s Word as He gives me the wisdom and ability to do so, and I will communicate my positions out of love and respect for my fellow man. I will not despair over the state of our nation, nor will I worry about the future. Through Christ, my future is sealed for eternity. That reality frees me to engage absent any fear for what may lie ahead.

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, as I consider the state of our nation I am tempted to worry. This morning I lift up all in positions of authority in our government. I pray that You would grant them wisdom and clarity of thought. I pray that You would compel them to seek Your will in all things. And, Father, I pray for a revival in this land; a revival that would reach from sea to shining sea, causing all of us to realize our sins, confess and repent, and trust completely in You through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Help me to be a faithful witness to Your Truth according to Your will. In Jesus’ Name I pray, AMEN.

Calm in the Raging Storm

Have you ever wondered what true contentment feels like? How do we find the proverbial calm in the midst of the storm? Does such calm even exist?

Naples, FL Sunset - July 2012

Naples, FL Sunset – July 2012

Over the past week or so, I’ve been very agitated over events currently facing our country. In observing the behavior of our government officials, those whom we elected to office, my anger often supersedes the attitude and outlook that I, as a Christian, know I should have. My anger and frustration is fueled even more when I see how we Americans treat each other with disrespect, anger, and disdain that seems to draw, at times, dangerously close to downright hatred. I worry about the future of our country. I worry about the condition in which my generation is leaving our country for our children and grandchildren. Worry, worry, worry! Out of the genuine concern I feel for my country comes emotions and words that, at times, I wish had never manifested.

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~ Romans 8:38-39

Amidst my storm of worry, I open God’s Word. Therein resides the eternal calm in the midst of the temporal storm in which I find myself living day after day. Yes, our nation is in crisis; I truly believe that. But even in crisis, God reigns supreme. You see, my human frailty – the sinful nature that resides in each of us – causes me to say and do things that I know I shouldn’t do. Sin has that effect on each of us. When I say and do those things, not only do I help advance the problem at hand, I lose sight of the real prize that has already been won in my behalf through Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. When I lose sight of the prize, I try to fight the storm on my own and I lose my way in the process. Thank God for His love, His mercy, and His Holy Word! Through His Word, I am reminded that, no matter what happens in government and no matter what the future holds for our country, I have eternal life through the death and resurrection of Jesus and nothing can take that away.

Hollywood Beach, outside of Ocean Pub 101, Hollywood, FL ~ July 24, 2013

Hollywood Beach, outside of Ocean Pub 101, Hollywood, FL ~ July 24, 2013

Through Christ, I am equipped to respond appropriately when crisis rears its ugly head. Rather than stir the pot and contribute to the problem, I am equipped to rise above the fray and offer a voice of calm reason in the midst of the raging storm. The sinful nature that resides within me, and in all of us, will sometimes cause me to stumble. The Holy Spirit will convict me of those times, compel me to confess them, and help me to repent so I can get back to the work that God has called me to do.

The love of God, manifested in Christ Jesus our Lord, is the calm in the midst of the storm. If you don’t know Him, contact me or reach out to a Christian friend – we’ll be glad to introduce you. If you do know Him and find yourself overwhelmed by the storms of this life, go into God’s Word and be reminded of your salvation; stop trying to fight the storm on your own! Then join me as I renew my commitment to being a positive influence, with my foundation in God’s Word, on my nation and all with whom I come into contact.

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, As I review some of my posts and communiqués over the past several days I realize that I have not honored You as I know I should. In doing so, I am part of the problem. Forgive me of this and all of my sins and guide me to true repentance. In so doing, help me to be an effective witness for You, that through my words and actions, others would see You. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Standing Firmly in Faith ~ Jeremiah 26:1-24

“But as for me, behold, I am in your hands; do with me as is good and right in your sight. ~ Jeremiah 26:14

I wonder sometimes how I would react if my life were in danger because of my faith. Would I stand firm, trusting God that His will is as good and perfect as I believe it is, or would I turn against Him to spare my life?

This passage presents an interesting turn of events. As Jeremiah continues to faithfully prophesy in the Lord’s name about the disasters to come if Judah does not repent of her sin, the priests and prophets seize him and, with all the people, declare he must die. Jeremiah warns them that they are about to spill innocent blood; if they do, disaster will befall them. Then, exhibiting complete trust in God, he tells them to do with him as they will. People begin to listen, beginning with some officials and then some of the elders of the land, who remember that Micah, a prophet before Jeremiah, prophesied the same things from the Lord that Jeremiah was prophesying. As they consider Micah and other past prophets who proclaimed similar messages they begin to realize that Jeremiah truly is a prophet from God and they wisely spare his life.

As I read about God’s heroes of faith, including people like Jeremiah, Noah, Stephen, Paul and many others, I am humbled when I realize how much growing I have yet to do. Looking back over my life I see a long road of maturation leading me to where I stand today and for that I am truly thankful. However, I also realize that I still have much growing to do. As I look ahead, I am eager to walk with my Lord wherever He may lead me.

For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. ~ Galatians 2:19-20

Ponder this: When I consider the faith with which God has gifted me I am truly thankful. I wonder, sometimes, if I am doing enough to share it with the world.

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, Thank You for those who have come before me and trusted completely in You even when their very lives were threatened for doing so. Teach me through their example, and equip me to be Your witness, even in situations in which the easy way out is to remain silent. In Jesus’ Name I pray, AMEN.

Light Piercing the Darkness ~ Jeremiah 25:1-14

“And the LORD has sent to you all His servants the prophets again and again, but you have not listened nor inclined your ear to hear, saying, ‘Turn now everyone from his evil way and from the evil of your deeds, and dwell on the land which the LORD has given to you and your forefathers forever and ever; ~ Jeremiah 25:4-5

English: Okienko Zbójnickie Cave in Kraków, Po...

English: Okienko Zbójnickie Cave in Kraków, Poland Polski: Okienko Zbójnickie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I remember as a Boy Scout we went spelunking on one of our weekend camping trips. We entered this narrow, wet cave in groups of eight. Each of us had a flashlight, and I had the map. As we entered the cave and rounded the first bend the outside light from the entrance quickly gave way to complete darkness. At one point along the way we all turned off our flashlights and experienced a scary, overcoming darkness. Within a few seconds we felt completely disoriented and scared. We quickly turned our lights back on and held tightly to them as we completed our journey.

In this passage, God’s words through the prophet Jeremiah are words of anger and warning of consequence for sin. For 23 years, Jeremiah has proclaimed God’s wrath to Israel and for 23 years Israel has chosen not to listen. In this passage, God’s sovereignty is on full display as He lays out the consequences for Israel’s sin. (Read on, though; there is a Light to come!)

Note that God refers to King Nebuchadnezzar as “servant” in describing how this foreign king will come against Israel and bring them into exile in Babylon. They will be in exile for 70 years. At the end of the exile period, God says He will punish Babylon for its deeds. After all, even in His anger, Israel is still God’s chosen people.

Human wisdom says this is unfair. However, we must always remember that God is completely sovereign over His creation. He can use whomever he wants, even those who do not acknowledge Him, to carry out His good and perfect will. This is a tough pill to swallow. We all sin and the message here is that God is angered by that, and sin bears its consequence. For Israel, the consequence was to be a successful invasion by a foreign power.

There is no good news in today’s Jeremiah passage. But in order to understand where we humans stand in relationship to our sovereign God, we must understand His wrath over sin. Is God as angered by our sin as He was over the sins of Israel in Jeremiah’s day? The Bible tells us He is. In fact, the Bible tells us that we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) and the punishment for sin is death. What hope do we have? Where do we turn?

Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~ Romans 6:21-23

Cross & Clouds

Cross & Clouds (Photo credit: John H Wright Photo)

In ourselves there is no hope. If we rely on our efforts, our knowledge, our works, to appease God’s righteous anger with our sin we become like a group of boy scouts trying to find our way through a dark, wet cave with no flashlight; we will get nowhere. Recognizing that fact, God paid the price in full for our sins. Justification for sin comes through the shedding of blood, and Jesus shed His blood on the cross in our behalf. The Light of the World has overcome the wet darkness of that cave of sin. Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords humbled Himself to die, that we who believe in Him would be forgiven and spared the punishment we deserve. That is Good News, indeed!

Ponder this: At we read about God’s wrath we must never forget that God shows His love and mercy through Jesus. Isn’t it comforting to know that through Jesus we are forgiven? Who in your world needs to hear this Good News?

 My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, I know I sin every day. I ask Your forgiveness as I seek to turn away from my sins and live a life that glorifies You. Thank you for Jesus’ sacrifice in my behalf for I know it is through Him and Him alone that I am reconciled to You. In His name I pray, AMEN.

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