My Life in Words
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A phrase we often here in our house is, “what’s next?” Usually, it is coming from Margaret shortly after we’ve finished a meal, or she has finished another snack. Now she is wondering “what’s next?” However, this is a short two word phrase that can be used in various ways. It can be used as we just saw when wondering what our next meal or snack is… It can be used while at an amusement park wondering what ride we are going on next. “What’s next” is often heard regarding an agenda at a board meeting, but it can also be used in a dismal way, wondering… What’s next? It signifies an expectation that some impending doom is on the horizon, or we are just waiting for the next bad thing to happen. God didn’t design us to feel that way. 2 Timothy 1:7 says For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. God never designed us to live a life of fear. He designed us to be happy, to love and to live an adventurous life. He wants us to look forward to what’s next. Not to fear it. If you are living in fear and anxious about what’s next then you are not living life the way God designed you to live. When I say God wants us to live an adventurous life, I don’t necessarily mean bungee jumping or climbing Mount Everest. Being adventurous can simply be trying to do something different without knowing if it will or won’t work out. Sometimes this requires going outside of our comfort zone. Sometimes this going outside of our comfort zone and trying something new and different means doing something specifically for God in hopes of advancing His Kingdom… It may be reaching out to that friend or co-worker not knowing how they will respond. Maybe they respond positively, maybe they respond negatively. God does promise us a spirit of power, love and sound mind. However, God never promised us we would never have failure and setbacks. As a matter of fact, sometimes what we see as failure, or a setback is actually God planting a seed of success or growth. John 12:24 Truly, truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. That poor little seed. If it actually had a mind and a conscious, the moment it hits the ground and seemingly dies, it would have a feeling of, what just happened? Is that it? Is life really over just like that? A person watching this process not knowing how agriculture works may think the same thoughts about that poor little seed. The reality is, God has amazing plans for that little seed to sprout and produce many more grains of wheat that can sustain life.
So, the next time you are wondering, “what’s next,” remember Psalm 37:3-5 Trust in the Lord and do good; Live in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, and He will do it. We always need to remember, God’s what’s next for us is possibly very different than whatever it is that we may ever hope for or be expecting.
1 Thessalonians 5:16–18 says:
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
“Give thanks in everything” this scripture tells us. At this time of year, we celebrate Thanksgiving. It is the time of year when families and friends come together to share a feast, spend time together and be thankful for all they have, but it is important to remember that reflecting on our blessings and giving thanks is meant to be a daily activity.
Many years ago, a good friend of mine shared with me about ACTS prayers. ACTS being an acronym… Not the book of Acts. In this acronym, A stands for adoration. C is for confession. T for thankfulness and lastly, S for supplication. This is a great example of how we should pray. When we pray, we always need to remember to spend time in adoration. Adoration being our love, respect and worship of God and for all of the things he has done. Confession of course meaning to confess our sins to God. Thankfulness is us taking time during our prayer to thank God for all He has given us and done. Supplication is us asking God for something earnestly or humbly. This is a great model for how we should always pray to God. This tool is a great way to remember to thank God, confess to God and praise God. For now, let’s focus on the thankfulness. As mentioned earlier, 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18 says, Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Regardless of what we have going on in our lives, we should always be thankful to God for the lives we have and for the future plans that God has for us even after this physical life is over. Let’s take a moment to see what the Bible says about our eternal life after this physical life is over…
“In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3).
“Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:15-17)
“They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 22:4-5)
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)
“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress. No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the young man shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed. They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain or bear children for calamity, for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the Lord, and their descendants with them. Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent's food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,” says the Lord. (Isaiah 65:17-25)
God has amazing plans for our future! Plans far beyond anything we can hope or imagine. If we remember this every day of our lives, we will always be thankful to God every day. Of course there is nothing wrong with setting aside one day a year to spend with friends and family, sharing with each other what we are thankful for. But, most importantly, we should be thankful to God daily.
Giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.
Tomorrow is officially the first day of Summer! This is the time of year to enjoy being outdoors on warm Summer days. It is the time to enjoy going for a walk, swimming, riding a bicycle, or simply sitting in a nice comfy chair letting the Sun shine on your face. The days are longer giving us more time to spend outdoors with family and friends. It is often the time when families take much needed vacations to relax, re-invigorate and refresh their souls as they enjoy quality time together. These are all awesome things that we really should do and take the opportunity to enjoy.
But, what does God say about Summer? Lots actually. God speaks directly about most of the things I’ve already mentioned. God speaks to us about taking time to rest, relax and of course focus on Him during these Sunny days: Psalm 113:3 says From the rising of the sun to its going down, The Lord’s name is to be praised. He truly does want us to enjoy this time while reflecting on Him and praising Him. There is interesting timing with this in that this past week, our oldest daughter has been memorizing Psalm 23: The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul. When I hear this and I read this, it reminds me of how God truly does want us to relax, enjoy the green pastures and waters of Summer while we “restore our souls.” That is beyond comforting... However, He also gives us lots of instruction preparation during this time.
Proverbs is full of advice about preparing and harvesting for Winter as well as preparing for varying seasons of life. Proverbs 10:5 says: He who gathers in summer is a wise son; He who sleeps in harvest is a son who causes shame. Proverbs 6:6-8 says: Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. Prior to this verse 24 refers to the ants as “little on the earth, but they are exceedingly wise.” Ants are wise. God gives them this wisdom. Although they are “little on the Earth,” they do harvest food for the seasons ahead. They work hard while they can for the seasons in life when they can’t. Wow! We can all take a lesson from these amazing little creatures.
However, as mentioned earlier, this time should not all be consumed with prep work for Winter. Surely God wants us to work hard and prepare for all of life’s seasons. But, He truly does want us to enjoy life as well. In addition, He certainly does not want us to worry. John 16:33 says: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” The most important thing to remember from this scripture is, we should never let our restless spirit worry us. The victory is won. God is in control, watches over us and has our eternal destiny planned for us and it is beautiful. We have no need to worry.
For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
the Lord bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does he withhold
from those whose walk is blameless.
If you go back and look at a few of my posts over the last several months, you will see me talking about things like doubt, waiting, tough decisions, etc. I am fairly certain that all people have experienced these things during their lives. Maybe you are experiencing one of these things right now. Perhaps you have a doubt about whether you will get that job or finish a particular task? Maybe you have been patiently waiting for an answer from someone else about a big decision? Or, maybe you have simply not been able to come to a decision with what may be a really big life choice? There is one thing that all of these issues have in common... Timing. Are you doubting whether you can get that task done on time? How much time is it going to take for that other person to make a decision? How much time will it take for you to make a decision? What we really need to remember is, regardless of which of these or other scenarios we are talking about, ultimately everything really comes down to God’s timing.
In some ways, the times we live in are wonderful. In times of illness while it is impossible to get out and drive because of a snowstorm or other issue... No problem, there is instant tele-health available. Or, want to watch a particular movie, but the good ole’ local video store doesn’t exist anymore (yes, I am dating myself here), no problem... You can stream that movie instantly. Need that package quick? No problem... Amazon will have it here tomorrow. You get the point. But, that is not always the case. For some things, usually really important things, it seems like we need to have great patience as we wait on an answer. “Why?” we may ask ourselves. The reality is, if we are getting impatient waiting on an answer, or we are having a tough time with a decision of any type, we are likely not trusting in God. Proverbs 3:5-6 says Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Romans 8:28 says And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose. God always knows what is best for us. God also always knows when it is best for us to have a decision or an answer revealed to us. We simply need to trust Him always. I’ve always loved the statement that God always has one of three answers to any question about timing that we may have... Yes, no, or not yet. For us, while we are waiting on an answer, it may seem like it is taking forever to get our answer. But, for God, it is not taking long at all. It is taking the exact amount of time that we need to trust in Him.
2 Peter 3:8-9 says, But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. What seems like a long time for us is in fact a blip in time for God. We may at times be thinking a slow response from God means that He is not listening to us. But, the reality is, we are not taking time to be patient. God is patient with us and we in return should be patient with him. Sometimes we compare ourselves to others and wonder why something has happened for them but it is not happening for us. We need to realize that God has a purpose and reason for something not going exactly the way we envisioned it or planned it. God is never early. He is never late. He is always on time. We need to understand that our timing isn't God's timing. His perfect timing does two things. First, it helps us grow our faith as we wait and trust in God and it also ensures that He, and He alone, gets the glory.
We need to always trust that God always has our best in mind. If there are times that we don’t quite understand what it is that God is doing in our lives, or why He is doing it, or why it is taking the time it is to get an answer from Him, we need to remember what it says in Isaiah 55:8-9. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” So, as you are going through these times in your life when you are doubting what your future may hold, or wondering when something may happen or when you may have an answer, keep in mind that God really does have your best life planned for you. You just need to have patience and trust in Him to lead the way.
has god called you?
Having been around all of my years, I have certainly met a lot of people. I have met a lot of people in the work place. I have met a handful of people in social settings. I have met plenty of people at church... You get the point. All of us have likely have a similar story in the sense that we have met lots of people. I am sure that for most of us, we also have similar stories in that we have all met some people who are Christians and others that are not Christians. For the non-Christians, they can fall into various categories. Some are atheists, some are agnostics, anti-theists, skeptics, and the list goes on... For some, maybe they are none of these. Maybe they have simply never been exposed to the Bible? Maybe no one has ever taken the time to simply share their faith with them? Maybe they haven’t ever been invited to Church? Any of these scenarios is unfortunate. However, I believe that everyone and I mean everyone has had some degree of “calling” in their life (whether they would like to admit it or not). Ecclesiastes 3:11 says “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.” In every human soul is a God-given awareness that there is “something more” than this passing world. With that awareness of eternity comes a hope that we can one day find a fulfillment that can’t be found in this world. God placed an eternal longing or sense of eternity in each and every human heart. This includes the atheists, skeptics and others of the world. Charles Darwin, possibly the biggest supporter of evolution in history once wrote “I may say that the impossibility of conceiving that this grand and wondrous universe, with our conscious selves, arose through chance, seems to me the chief argument for the existence of God; but whether this is an argument of real value, I have never been able to decide.” Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and former atheist that has come to Christianity once described in an essay about how he became a Christian. He said “I have found there is a wonderful harmony in the complementary truths of science and faith. The God of the Bible is also the God of the genome. God can be found in the cathedral or in the laboratory. By investigating God’s majestic and awesome creation, science can actually be a means of worship.” As I was saying... Even those who once thought themselves to not believe in God, still had that awareness and longing for eternity that God Himself put in their hearts.
So, what about you? Do you have a personal relationship with God? Have you been called? If so, how have you responded to God's calling? If you have not yet responded to His calling, how should you respond? Maybe you are thinking or have thought at some point in time, “God wouldn’t choose me... Why would God choose someone like me?” I get it. I think just about anyone could have had that thought at one time or another. But nothing could be further from the truth. The truth is, God loves all of us. Yes, God loves you wants you to be with him in eternity. 2 Peter 3:9 says “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 1 Timothy 2:3-4 says “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” God loves all of us and wants all of us to be saved, including you. I know this for certain. So, again, if you have not yet responded, how will you and when will you?
If you have been called and you have already responded to the call, this is awesome news! However, if you have been called and not yet responded, there is no better time than right now. James 4:14 says “Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. For you are just a vapor that appears for a little while, and then vanishes away.” We are not promised tomorrow. So, please don’t delay getting right with God and starting a real relationship with Him today.
If you are ready to do this, but maybe you just don’t know what the next step is, please reach out to me here. I would love to help you through this process. I would love to walk this walk with you and help you have a relationship with the God who created you and desires to have a relationship with you as well.
Tough decisions. All of us face them from time to time. Some people face them more frequently than others. Then, there are those really tough decisions that come along every so often (hopefully not too often). Whatever the case, we are all faced with choices along with these decisions... How do I decide? Should I get advice on this decision and if so, from who? When do I need to make this decision? The reality is, going into any major decision and facing it on your own can be difficult and stressful to say the least. So, what choices do we have? Well, we can go to friends or family to ask advice. Sometimes this is quite helpful. Other times, it can cause more confusion as we get conflicting opinions or vastly different suggestions. There is one clear answer that will always help.
As for the questions that we looked at before. How, do I decide? Who should we get advice from? When do I need to make this decision... There is one scripture that immediately comes to mind that I believe covers all of these.
Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.
If we pray to God fervently when trying to make a tough decision and trust in Him, He will direct our path. In other words, “directing our path,” he will guide us through this decision.
Dagney and I have had a handful of decisions in life to make over this last year and even up to right now that have been pretty major. Nothing bad... Just big life decisions relating to where we may move in the near future, vocational decisions, ministry decisions, etc. Both of us know for sure that we need God’s guidance with these decisions. “Lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” means so much when trying to make these big decisions.
Now, does that mean that we should not seek advice from others? Certainly not. However, it is important who you seek this advice from. If you are not careful, someone may give you advice based on their own selfish ambitions, or maybe they simply won’t give great advice. But, I do believe that we can always get great advice when we seek council from someone with godly wisdom.
Proverbs 15:22 Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.
It can actually serve us well to seek advice from multiple people with big decisions.
Proverbs 11:14 Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors there is safety.
Even after we have sought council, prayed continually and have waited on an answer, it can be easy to be tempted to lose heart if we don’t quite understand why we don’t have the answer yet. We may not always see everything God is actively doing in our lives. We may not fully understand His ways or timing, but we can know this for certain. He does have a plan for us. We may just not quite understand it yet.
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
God has a plan for you. Even if you don’t quite see it yet. You may or may not have heard this poem and how it is an analogy explaining how we don’t always see how God is working in our lives. But, I love this one and will share it just in case you haven’t heard it before, because it is so impactful.
My Life is but a weaving
between my Lord and me;
I cannot choose the colors
He worketh steadily.
Oft times He weaveth sorrow
And I, in foolish pride,
Forget He sees the upper,
And I the under side.
Not til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly,
Shall God unroll the canvas
And explain the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful
In the Weaver’s skillful hand,
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned.
He knows, He loves, He cares,
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives His very best to those
Who leave the choice with Him.
This poem represents a picture of God weaving a beautiful tapestry together with both light and dark colors (joyful and sorrowful times). On our side of the tapestry (the underside), we only see the knotted ends and frayed edges of what God is doing. If we could see God’s side of the tapestry, we could see Him doing something beautiful, but we live on the underside with God’s plans for our lives sometimes seeming unclear.
Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
No thread in our tapestry is bad. If it appears to be that way, we have to remind ourselves that we are simply looking at the backside. God who is weaving it together, knows precisely what He is doing. One day we will get to see our tapestry from God’s side and we will thank Him for every answered and unanswered prayer.
The last part of all of this is. While making these tough decisions, don’t be fearful or anxious when God does give an answer that can maybe make you a bit nervous. Trust God and know that He knows what is best in our lives.
Joshua 1:9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
Isaiah 41:10 fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
In my last message, I had talked about doubt. As part of that message, I mentioned some questions that Dagney and I have about the future. Particularly the near future... What is next for our lives? Where will find ourselves in the coming months with our plans to move? What does life look like vocationally going forward? What does ministry look like? As I am sure it is for many people, waiting on the answers to these questions can be a bit difficult at times. I think some of what makes waiting more difficult is the times that we live in. People these days are into instant gratification... Want to watch a movie? No need to go to drive to a video store, hope the movie is in stock, rent it, bring it back home, etc, etc... Want to see what happens next on your favorite TV show? No need to wait til next week to see the next episode. These days, we simply click a button and stream it right now, when we want it. Poof, there it is. And how impatient we can get if it takes a few extra seconds for the internet speed to catch up and for the show to start. Want to buy something that may have taken a while to get in the past? Not anymore... Now we get free next day shipping, if not same day if you live in the right market. “Waiting” is something that people are less inclined to be interested in doing anymore. But there are blessings in waiting on God. In Isaiah 40:31 the Bible says:
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.
The Israelites who first received this promise were worn out from their hardship. They had lived in exile in Babylon for several decades. Their perspective was darkened by despairing thoughts. This was an awesome promise from God, for these people and for us today. Wait for the Lord and He will renew our strength. This is an incredible blessing.
Lamentations 3:25-26 says:
The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
It is good for us to wait on God for answers to questions we have for our lives or for answers to situations that we are waiting on.
Psalm 37:4–5 says:
Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act.
Does that mean, if we go to church each week, God will give us a new car or a mansion to live in? No. The idea behind this verse and others like it is that, when we truly rejoice or “delight” in the eternal things of God, our desires will begin to parallel His and we will never go unfulfilled. In our patience and waiting on God delightfully and patiently, He will bless us with what He knows is best for our lives. God’s plans are the best plans for all of us. God’s ways are the best ways...
Isaiah 64:4 says:
From of old no one has heard
or perceived by the ear,
no eye has seen a God besides you,
who acts for those who wait for Him.
The happiness of God’s people should be wrapped up in what God has designed for them, and is preparing for them, and preparing them for. What He has done and will do.
Some of the greatest people in the Bible, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David all had to wait for many years for God’s promises. Everything that happened while they waited was used to prepare them, inwardly as well as outwardly. Then, when they reached their promise, they were blessed beyond measure.
We should do the same, despite the fast paced, get everything now world we live in. If we are patient while we wait for God’s answers to our questions, we will be blessed for our faithfulness in our Father who knows what is best for us.
At different times in our lives, we may find ourselves seeing things differently than usual, or even wondering what is going on more than usual. Given the year long global pandemic that we have all been experiencing, this has certainly been an interesting season in life. My family and I have experienced a tremendous amount of fun and good times together during this time. We have also experienced a bit of questioning. We have wondered... What is next for our lives? Where will find ourselves in the coming months with our plans to move? What does life look like vocationally going forward? What does ministry look like? Along the way, Dagney and I have come up with a few awesome ideas, of which a couple of them we are following through with fervently. With one of the ideas, we find ourselves running full steam ahead without really thinking there are any downsides or potential risks. With one of the other ideas, which I was working on yesterday, I suddenly found myself questions things... Wondering about the potential setbacks and reasons it may not work. Fortunately, right around this time when I started to voice some of these concerns, Dagney was right there to ask me “why am I staring at the waves?” Right away I understood her reference and what she was trying to tell me. We all know the story that takes place in Matthew 14:22-33. This is the story about Peter walking on the water towards Jesus. If you don’t know the story, you really need to read it... The point I am trying to make from the story is when Peter takes his eyes off of Jesus, starts to stare at the wind and the waves and begins to sink. After taking Peter’s hand and pulling him back up, Jesus said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Doubt, this is the word that I am talking about right now. For some people that are non-believers, it isn’t hard to understand why they may have doubts from time to time. But, for those of us that are believers, why do we sometimes find ourselves doubting? We have put our faith and trust into the hands of God who created us and yet we can still doubt from time to time? Why? I personally have doubts from time to time... I believe all Christians have doubts from time to time. After all, faith requires doubt in order to be faith. I think that maybe this is a topic that people don’t talk enough about because it is maybe considered faithless to have doubts. However, I believe this is not the case. Some people think doubt is unforgivable, but it isn’t. God doesn’t condemn people if they question him. Job and David both repeatedly questioned God, but He didn’t condemn them for it. There is the account of the boy that Jesus heals in Mark 9:14-27: And when He came to the disciples, He saw a great multitude around them, and scribes disputing with them. Immediately, when they saw Him, all the people were greatly amazed, and running to Him, greeted Him. And He asked the scribes, “What are you discussing with them?” Then one of the crowd answered and said, “Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit. And wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not.” He answered him and said, “O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to Me.” Then they brought him to Him. And when he saw Him, immediately the spirit convulsed him, and he fell on the ground and wallowed, foaming at the mouth. So He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!” Then the spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him. And he became as one dead, so that many said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. The key here is the fact that the father said to Jesus “IF there is anything you can do.” The father clearly “believed” that Jesus could help his boy. But, that he said “if” there is anything you can do, suggests there was doubt. That didn’t keep Jesus from healing the boy and Jesus certainly didn’t rebuke the father for having even an ounce of doubt.
When in prison John the Baptist sends messengers to Jesus to ask “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3) In John 1:29 John had said “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” In vs 34 he says “I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.” There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that John knew that Jesus was the Messiah. However, he had been in prison for a long while at this point. Also, Jesus was being rejected by the leaders of Israel: the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Sanhedrin. Given all of the surrounding circumstances, it is understandable that John the Baptist would have some doubts. What was Jesus response to all of this? We see the answer in Matthew 11:4-11. Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” As they departed, Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. For this is he of whom it is written: ‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.’ “Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. Once again, Jesus did not rebuke for this moment of doubt. Jesus loved John the Baptist and knew the trials that he was suffering at the moment.
We of course cannot talk about doubt without talking about Thomas. Many people have referred to him at times as “doubting Thomas.” But, was this amazing person deserving of this name? Thomas was actually a brave man. We see in the story told in Matthew 11:1-16 about the death of Lazarus, it says in vs 5-8, Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to Him, “Rabbi, lately the Jews sought to stone You, and are You going there again?” It was Thomas who said in vs 16 “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.” What an incredibly brave response from Thomas. We also know that Thomas was incredibly devoted to Jesus and would follow him anywhere. However, he did ask questions from time to time so he could fully understand what Jesus was saying. In John 14:1-6 we see where it says: “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know. Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. He asked this question because he did believe everything Jesus told him to be true. John 20:24-25 is where the famous nickname “doubting Thomas” comes from. It says: Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” What we need to understand is the heart of what was going on at the moment. Thomas was broken hearted. It wasn’t for lack of faith that he couldn’t believe. He wanted to believe. But, because of the state of his heart at the moment, he simply couldn’t believe given all that had recently transpired and how it broke his heart to have witnessed the death of Jesus. History has given him the name doubting Thomas as we look down upon him for this. But, Jesus did not look down on him. We see in John 20:26-28 Jesus lovingly speaks with Thomas: And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” In this case, Thomas’ initial doubt actually led to a deeper unshakable faith. This can happen with us as well if we have doubt in a certain situation, only to see God’s hand at work when everything works out the way we hope and pray for it to.
Doubt in and of itself is not sinful. It can be dangerous by potentially leading us to making bad decisions. Doubt can cause issues in other ways as well. What it really comes down to is us making decisions based on our faith and not our doubts. Jesus said “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” Of course people will have doubts from time to time. Doubts about health of a loved one, finances, their future plans, etc. It can be about anything. Even believers will have these doubts occasionally. But, it is our faith that keeps us on the right path. This all reminds me of a story we have likely all heard in some way shape or form over the years. It has been told many ways... There was a small farming community that had been experiencing a terrible drought. The crops were dying in the fields and everyone was very worried because this is how they made their living. The pastor of the local church called a special prayer service for all the people of the town to gather in front of the church and spend some time agreeing in faith that God would send some rain. Yet, only one man came with an umbrella in his hands. Everyone there must have had some degree of faith that God would bring the rain if they prayed for it. But, all of them must have had some degree of doubt as well. Only one man’s faith was strong enough in this case to trust God enough that it helped him not have any doubt in his mind that the rain would come.
Imagine you are at your own funeral and four people got up to speak about you: a
relative, a fellow church member, a business associate and someone from your
neighborhood. What would each of them say about your life? Thinking about this
may give you some perspective on your life.
Now think about what Jesus would say about your Christian life to this point.
What would He say about your faith? What about your accomplishments for His
Kingdom? Would He say that you have grown closer to Him every day?
Luke 19:11-27 says: 11 As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable,
because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom
of God was to appear immediately. 12 He said therefore, “A nobleman went into a
far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. 13 Calling ten of his
servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I
come.’ 14 But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do
not want this man to reign over us.’ 15 When he returned, having received the
kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called
to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business. 16 The first
came before him, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made ten minas more.’ 17 And he
said to him, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very
little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’ 18 And the second came, saying,
‘Lord, your mina has made five minas.’ 19 And he said to him, ‘And you are to be
over five cities.’ 20 Then another came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your mina, which I
kept laid away in a handkerchief; 21 for I was afraid of you, because you are a
severe man. You take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’ 22
He said to him, ‘I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant! You
knew that I was a severe man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I
did not sow? 23 Why then did you not put my money in the bank, and at my coming
I might have collected it with interest?’ 24 And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take
the mina from him, and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’ 25 And they said
to him, ‘Lord, he has ten minas!’ 26 ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will
be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 27
But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring
them here and slaughter them before me.’”
Jesus tells a story here about three servants to show us that God expects us to be
faithful with what we have been given. Many fears might keep us from using the
gifts God has given us though. Fear of failure, fear of ridicule, etc. It is when we
use our gifts that we grow. Jesus wanted to let His hearers know what they were
supposed to be doing in His absence. They were not supposed to sit around
waiting for Him to return. Rather, they were to be actively doing God’s work for
Him with what He entrusted to them. The day will certainly come when Jesus will
return. At that time, each servant must give an account for what he has done.
Only three of the ten servants are mentioned in this parable. These three fall into
two categories... Two who have made various amounts with the king’s money and
one who has not done anything with it. Here we are looking at the two who
traded and invested the money in such a way that they multiplied it. The first
turned the one mina into ten more. We are not to take this in a literal way, as
though he has led ten people to Christ. But, the meaning is that he has taken
what the master entrusted to him and used it well, multiplying it many times over
while awaiting His return.
The master commends him saying “Well done, good servant! Because you have
been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.” We should
not take this literally, that he will be over ten cities when this world passes. The
main idea is that the servant’s responsible use of the master’s mina will be
rewarded in the future kingdom. The servant has shown himself faithful in a little
thing. So, he will be faithful in much and so much is now given to him.
The master does not praise the second slave quite the same, but he rewards him
proportionately to his success. His mina has earned five more, so he is put in
charge of five cities. We do need to keep in mind that perhaps the difference in
results was due to factors beyond his control.
The first two slaves had made a profit with the master’s mina, but the third slave
had simply wrapped it in a handkerchief and he returns it to the master. He offers
an excuse that he feared the master. He accuses him of being a man who takes up
what he did not lay down and reaps where he had not sown. The master
chastised the slave for not at least putting the money in the bank, so that it would
have earned interest. Then he judges the slave by his own words. He takes the
single mina from him and gives it to the man who has earned ten more. To those
listening, he explains “I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but
from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. For the one who
has been unfaithful to his master all will be stripped away.
The question is, does this unfaithful servant represent a true believer who loses
some unspecified reward but, who is saved, as described in 1 Corinthians 3:15 "If
anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved,
but only as through fire." Or, is he a person who professes to know God, but by
his deeds he denies Him as described in Titus 1:16 "They profess to know God, but
they deny Him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good
It seems to me that this third servant does not know the king. He wrongly thinks
of him as a harsh and “severe man” man. But in reality, he is very generous to
those that are faithful to Him. The third servant represents people who know the
God in that they are associated with His community and have some responsibility
in it. But their attitude shows that they do not see God as gracious and that they
have not really trusted in Him... These people are left with nothing at the
judgment. They will be cast out, because they never really trusted or knew God”
These harsh thoughts of God can be common for people who have not actually
put their faith in God. First, they misrepresent Him. Then try to excuse themselves
for not loving and serving Him”
Exodus 4:10-12 says: 10 But Moses said to the LORD, “Oh, my Lord, I am not
eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am
slow of speech and of tongue.” 11 Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made
man's mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the
LORD? 12 Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you
shall speak.” Ezekial 2:1-7 says: And he said to me, “Son of man, stand on your
feet, and I will speak with you.” 2 And as he spoke to me, the Spirit entered into me
and set me on my feet, and I heard him speaking to me. 3 And he said to me, “Son
of man, I send you to the people of Israel, to nations of rebels, who have rebelled
against me. They and their fathers have transgressed against me to this very day.
4 The descendants also are impudent and stubborn: I send you to them, and you
shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD.’ 5 And whether they hear or refuse to
hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that a prophet has been
among them. 6 And you, son of man, be not afraid of them, nor be afraid of their
words, though briers and thorns are with you and you sit on scorpions. Be not
afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious
house. 7 And you shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to
hear, for they are a rebellious house.
Having read all of this, here are some final thoughts for you to consider...
What gifts has God given you that you can use for him?
What areas of your life have you been holding back? What can you do to invest
some efforts in these areas to grow and serve God better?
If you spent the next ten years of your life making these changes and using the
gifts God has given you, what would those same four people say about you? What
would Jesus say about you?
start the day right
I think most of us know we should be spending more quality time with God. Many people know they should be having a daily quiet time with God. Most of us want to have this time in addition to needing this time. But, unfortunately for some people, it just doesn’t seem to happen. In life, there are other things that we want and need, like eating for instance. But, for the most part, most of us simply don’t choose not to eat. We find the time. So, why is it that we don’t feed our hunger for time with God just the same? I honestly don’t believe it is for lack of wanting to have this time. I think it may be because life has so many distractions. That is why it is so important to start our day out right having this time with God be the first thing we do. If we don’t, the day tends to fall into the vicious cycle of one thing leading to another and the next thing you know we are wrapped up in the complications of the day with less peace in our hearts and souls than we should have. Philippians 4:6-7 says Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. God wants us to have peace in our hearts and minds. The best way to have this is to start our days with God. Revelations 3:20 says, Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. Not only should we desire to have a relationship with God... God desires to have a relationship with us. E. M. Bounds, a pastor around the time of the Civil War said, “The men who have done the most for God in this world have been early on their knees. He who fritters away the early morning, its opportunity and freshness, in other pursuits than seeking God will make poor headway seeking Him the rest of the day.” It is said that he prayed daily from 4 am until 7 am! There is someone who practiced what he preached. For many of us, our daily routine starts with grabbing our cell phone from the nightstand, maybe even as we have every intention of having our time with God. We then get dragged into the rabbit hole of texts, emails and social media. The next thing you know, 20 or 30 minutes have gone by and we haven’t spoken a word with God or had a moment of the peace that comes along with that quiet time that we should start our day with. It is important for us to have those times in life where we simply unplug from everything going on around us, find a nice, quiet place with no distractions and simply listen for what God is trying to tell us. Many people pray to God for answers to questions or problems. But, unfortunately, few of us actually take the time to patiently take the time to listen to what God has to say to us as an answer. Time in God’s word, the Bible is imperative. However, I believe that each morning before we dig into God’s word, we should invite God into our presence as a means of asking him what He would like us to hear for the day. We should quiet ourselves as we enter God’s presence. When you do this, a peace will fall over your soul. When we take time after quieting our soul and listening to God, we should then praise Him. Next, we should ask the Holy Spirit to open our mind, search our heart and examine our life. If we do this, God will prepare our spirit and make us more receptive to what we are about to read. When we pray, we should remember what it says in Psalm 51:10-12 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit. What a way to reconnect with God when we may have been feeling a bit disconnected. When we read God’s word, ask ourselves, how does this apply to my life? What is God saying to me specifically? Make God’s word personal to yourself. Then, sometimes harder than asking how does this apply to me, we need to ask, what needs to change in my life based on what I read? I believe if we all started our days like this, we would all live more fulfilled, peaceful, happy and intentional lives. Just the way God intended for us.
Just happy to be here
While Dagney was reading to the girls the other day, Matthew 20:20-28 came up and it led to Dagney and I having a brief conversation after which I have continued to think about and form more thoughts about. The verses say:
20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.
21 “What is it you want?” he asked.
She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”
22 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”
“We can,” they answered.
23 Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.”
24 When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. 25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
What a bold request their mother made... Now, it is true that these sons of Zebedee were among the first three that Jesus chose to be his disciples in addition to Peter. It can also be said that these three were among his favorites based on what we read elsewhere in the Bible. However, this request was a big one. She was asking Jesus for her sons to be seated in the place of highest honor at his right hand and left hand in his Kingdom. When Jesus asks "can you drink from the cup I am going to drink," he is thinking about the cross while they are thinking about their place in his Kingdom. They were missing the point at this time...
In verse 24, it says “When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers.” So, although it was the Mother of James and John that originally started this dialogue between all of them and it was James and John’s desire that they hold these positions next to Jesus in his Kingdom, the response of the ten shows they were exactly like them. Despite having not mentioned it first, each of them had the same ambition to hold this place of honor in the Kingdom. So, although the ten were “indignant with the two brothers,” they were all ultimately guilty of the same selfish ambition and all missed the point at that place in time…
However, I digress from my original thoughts about this overall situation. Getting back on track, in versus 25-28 Jesus said “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” In the Kingdom, status, wealth, popularity etc are not what Jesus is using as standards for those who are chosen. Humble service is as Jesus demonstrated himself. Ultimately, these men should have just been happy to be there... When I read this passage in the Bible, this is what comes to my mind. I would hope that these men would have been able to step back from thinking about "their place" in the Kingdom and would have simply thought about how blessed they were just to be there at that time with Jesus and to have had the experiences and time they had with him as well as understanding what this all meant for their eternal souls. This is a great lesson from our brothers of long ago that reminds us not to lose sight of what is important.
As my very first post, I was thinking it would be good just to share a little about what I have been doing in my daily life recently to continue on my walk through life... Recently, I started to do some awesome free online courses at Dallas Theological Seminary. You can find these classes here: https://courses.dts.edu/
From what I can see, there are about 109 classes designed to be done once a week, covering 16 topics. I personally don't want to talk a full 109 weeks (over 2 years) to complete these classes. So, I have been trying to do one class per day 5 or 6 days a week. At that rate, these will all still take about 19 - 22 weeks (basically around 5+ months) to complete all of them. And... Had you not already noticed, I am just a bit analytical. Haha. Figured that would be good to get out there during this first post as well... So far, these classes have been pretty fantastic. I would definitely suggest checking them out.
That'll be all for today so I can save more to talk about tomorrow. Hopefully, you will come back and read some more. Based on the last 48 years of my life, I can promise there will be some very entertaining and humorous moments here in some future posts.