On the day this e-letter is published, the United States will inaugurate a new president. At least this time around, the outgoing executive was not directly defeated by the incoming one. I’ve always felt bad when the loser has had to stand on the dais as the winner (the guy who defeated him) took the oath of office. Presidents (and Vice Presidents) who have had to do that in my lifetime were people like Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Al Gore.
It takes a certain amount of grace to do that. I suspect (deep down inside) you have to tell yourself there are some redeeming qualities residing in the oath taker. And though you were enemies on the campaign trail, you are now co-travelers on the road to the peaceful transition of power. Your worthy adversary is now your president to whom you will show at least a modicum of support.
When Jesus was asked by a Pharisee about the greatest commandment, he replied in part that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. On another occasion, Jesus told a parable in which he said we are actually helping him when we help others. In other words, he was telling us we need to see Jesus in the people around us.
That might be the single, hardest thing a Christian is asked to do. When we see someone we might otherwise consider to be less than worthy, we are to see Jesus in them. That, of course, changes everything. How can I turn my back on the Savior of the World?
To even begin doing that we have to take the advice of the Apostle Paul when he told us to “offer” ourselves as living sacrifices and go through a process where our minds are made new (Romans 12:1-2). That’s quite an offering. We’d rather give some money and call it a day.
The next time you see a homeless person, a criminal, or even a politician that disgusts you, try to see Jesus in their stead. It’s not easy, but it will change everything.

Peace through Jesus

Posted: January 19, 2017 in Thoughts on God

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7 ESV)

We all want peace. We want peace in the world, and sometimes we fight for it. We want peace in our countries, so we vote for the person we think will do the best. We want peace with our friends, so we do what we can to not offend them. We want peace in our family, so we work hard to provide for their needs. Lastly, we want peace in ourselves, so we compare ourselves to others and say we are much happier with what we have. People spend their whole lives working for peace. Unfortunately, true peace is not something that can be achieved, it can only be received.

True peace can only come from God (John 14:27). This peace doesn’t affect our surroundings, it affects our inner souls. Paul says that it will go deep into our hearts and minds. It isn’t something that can be explained in a self help book or with a few simple steps, it is only something that can be received from God.

Ironically he brought us peace through an act that was not peaceful at all, the death of His son (Romans 5:9). As a follower of Jesus, we should be the ones looked to when others need peace. Not because our surroundings are peaceful, but because our hearts and minds are at peace with God through the death of Christ on the cross. We no longer fear death, hunger, or not having enough possessions. We know that our treasure is in heaven and we will one day reign with the one true Peace Maker.

Where does your peace come from?

A God willing to restore

Posted: January 18, 2017 in Thoughts on God

“The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you, in His love He will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with a song.” (Zephaniah 3:17 NIV)

I really needed to read this verse. I should already know that my Father in Heaven will, “Never leave me nor forsake me!” But sometimes we all need that slap-in-the-face-gust-of-wind-fall-on-our-bottom reminder that God has us in the palms of His hands. Literally!! He is our knight in shining armor, always armed with His grace to forgive us and His mercy to shield us from the constant accusations of the enemy.

My Father in heaven delights in mending us and bringing us restored in His resplendent image. When the cruelty of life tears us apart into crumbly pieces, He comes swiftly in a frenzied haze to mend the soul suffocating and heart-wrenching pain that is too difficult for us to endure.

The joy of the Lord really, truly does give us strength. I can’t even fathom anyone in our lives that can love us so deeply as our Father in Heaven. He is a forgiving God, a God whose heart is for us and relentlessly pursues us when we fall on the wayside. Even in anger, he loves us, because “his anger is only for a moment, but his love for us is FOREVER!” I am so thankful and comforted at the thought of a God who searches me and wants to mold me in his very own image.

Thank you God for caring so much for a broken sinner like me! Truly, you are “A GOOD, GOOD FATHER!

God can do the impossible!

Posted: January 17, 2017 in Thoughts on God

I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me? (Jeremiah 32:27 NIV)

He was described as somewhat “asymmetrical.” This was probably due to a knee injury and the awkward way in which he carried himself because of it. He was deaf in one ear, suffered from migraines, epilepsy and a stammer. He was a humble man of God who thought very little of himself.

He was also the man who said it was good to “believe as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” His pen name was Lewis Carroll. Through Carol’s literary gift, God blessed us with the magic and wonder of…Alice in Wonderland.

How do YOU start your day? What are the thoughts that visit you first thing in the morning? Are you thinking about a debilitating health condition? A conflict at work? A recent family drama?

God says, “Is anything too hard for me?” He hasn’t been noticed boasting and blowing his own trumpet for no reason. Take him up on his offer. Start your day by presenting him with a list of six “impossibles” and let him deal with it. You may want to just have one or two to begin with.

1. I will not get stressed and upset while being stuck in traffic this morning.
2. I will offer to make a cup of coffee to the colleague who’s been driving me mad.
3. I will find five minutes for a prayer walk before or after work no matter what.
4. I will leave one unnecessary item in my shopping basket behind in a shop today and
use the money for a small donation.
5. I will resist one sweet treat temptation.
6. I will go to bed thinking of the one thing that I am grateful for today.

Simple intentions? Yes, and it is often simply impossible to make them happen! Impossible on your own…so hand them over to God.

Make your own list of the impossibles. Look at it throughout the day, every day, to remind God of what needs to be done. (Not yourself, of course. It is He who’s got to do it!) Give God a few days and watch Him make your six impossibles happen for real.

Right worship

Posted: January 16, 2017 in Thoughts on God

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2 ESV)

Every aspect of our lives is part of our worship. We worship from the moment our eyes open in the morning to the second they close at night. Worship is magnifying (or making much of) someone or something by our actions, thoughts or words. It is setting anything, be it God or otherwise, into the place of high prominence and authority in our lives.

However, this understanding of worship is slipping from Christian belief and practice. Worship today is generally thought of as a genre of music or a thirty minute period in which we sing songs to God. Though the latter is a crucial component of worship (Ephesians 5:15-21), it does not encompass it.

In fact, we learn from today’s passage that discerning God’s will from a transformed and renewed mind, and then acting in accordance with that will, is pivotal to our proper worship. We are called to be men, and women, and children who become like Jesus; not a people who try to make Jesus fit our desired mold for Him. Improper conformity (or religiosity) is worshipping the “gods” of culture, while true Christianity is worshipping the One True God in culture.

When we hold a small view of worship we lose sight of “what is good and acceptable and perfect” because we lose the ability to truly know it! Only through the giving and submitting of our entire lives can we rightly worship God and fulfill our purpose and mission on this earth.

Remember, worship isn’t simply singing songs as Christians outside of the broader culture, but worshipping the One true God inside of it. Read Jesus’ prayer concerning our place in the world in John 17:15-19.

If one, then all

Posted: January 14, 2017 in Thoughts on God

If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. (2 Corinthians 1:6 ESV)

If there ever was an expert on affliction, the Apostle Paul could be named such. Later, in this letter, Paul recounts these trials and afflictions (2 Corinthians 11:24-33:

  • The Jews beat him with thirty-nine lashes five times.
  • He was beaten with rods three times.
  • He was stoned.
  • He was shipwrecked three times.
  • On frequent journeys we faced danger from: rivers, robbers, his own people, Gentiles, the city, the wilderness, the sea, and false Christians.
  • On frequent journeys he was: in toil and hardship, unable to sleep, hungry and thirsty, without food, cold and without shelter.
  • At Damascus, the governor was searching for Paul to seize him. He narrowly escaped by being let down in a basket through a window in the city’s wall.

What’s more, responsibility for leadership in the Church still loomed over his head during all of these trials. In light of all this, Paul would seem justified to list the ways he’d suffered for the faith, but he didn’t. He didn’t tell the church at Corinth, “See what I’m doing for God? You’re not trying hard enough!” He didn’t use guilt and shame as manipulative tools, though he easily could have. Instead, Paul started the letter off by saying: “We apostles have suffered much for Jesus’ name, but when one of us suffers, we all suffer. We know some of you patiently suffer afflictions too. But don’t give up, because there is comfort here.”

Paul assures us of at least two things here:

  1. We are one body. When God is at work in our brothers and sisters, he is also at work in us. This is why he wrote in the verses leading up to today’s text (emphasis added): “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Corinthians 1:1-4)
  2. Not only is God at work in all of us, but we can trust him to comfort us no matter what hardships we face in life. Our God is for us (Romans 8:31), he loves us (John 3:16; Romans 5:8, 8:37-39; Ephesians 2:4-5), and he sent a Comforter and a Helper that is always with us (John 14:16-17).

Remember, when you are suffering and afflicted, you have a Comforter. More than this, God will use your hardship to help others through trials of their own. As Christians, we are the comforted who are comforting.

When God works in one of us, he works in all of us.

God’s Perspective

Posted: January 13, 2017 in Thoughts on God

Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him,
on those who hope in his steadfast love,
that he may deliver their soul from death
and keep them alive in famine. (Psalm 33:18-19 ESV)

I was in traffic at a red light and saw the woman in the car in front of me almost hit another vehicle. From my vantage point, I could see both the vehicle next to her and that she was simply looking in her rearview mirror and never once turned her head to check for another driver before merging into the left lane. At first I gaffed and couldn’t believe her near mistake, but then it dawned on me: We all live our lives like that at one point or another.

If you consider today’s verse in its most basic level, you should understand two things:

  • God watches over us from his infinite perspective
  • God loves us and will provide in our time of need

Even though it’s a simplistic example of God’s perspective, it is in “large” what my driving experience is in “small.” Even though we may only look at life through a rearview mirror, God has infinite perspective on our situation and concern for us. Though we can’t see the dangers ahead, he can. Though we can’t see the trials ahead, he can. And not only can he see them, but he also prepares us for them and walks with us through those experiences.

He has set out his Word that we may see and worship him as the all powerful God he’s revealed himself as and avoid many hardships of sin and evil. Also, when we do encounter difficult times in life, he will deliver our souls from death and keep us alive in famine.

Remember, God’s watchful eye is on those who fear him. Trust in him and his infinite perspective today.