Tag Archives: Grace

Getting them to the starting line

starting

Last night, I was humbled as I heard the voice of a six-year old little girl answer the calling in her heart to accept Christ as her savior.  My daughter asked a million questions over the last few months, and you could certainly see that she was dealing with the question of “what do I do with Jesus?”.  In a simple moment, she made a decision to ask Jesus to save her from her sins and live in her heart.  In that moment, my heart melted.  I silently prayed a prayer of thanks to God for giving her to me and for convicting me with my parental responsibility to tell her all about Him.  As someone living in the millennial age, my next duty was to share it on social media.  I don’t post a lot, but I felt like screaming from the mountaintops.  The “likes” and comments flowed in and I beamed as I went to bed.  When I woke up this morning, I went through my social media again, and a comment caught my eye and it spoke to me so profoundly.  It was a simple “my heart is happy for you” and then a follow-up comment.  “Now the hard work continues…to train her…”.  I kept reading that over and over and it reminded me of my importance in her life – in the life of all my kids.  My job isn’t over.  Yes, we were able to lead her to this point where she realized her need for a savior and where she made a decision for eternity, but that’s just the starting line.

The Bible is very clear on the responsibility of parents, and especially fathers.  One of my favorite movies is Courageous.  It has a very clear story of a father coming to grips with tragedy only to learn what his real responsibility is concerning raising his children.  At the end of the movie he gives a speech where he emphatically answers questions, about who will lead his family and help his children grow in their walk with Christ, with a resounding “I will”.  In God’s word, I am charged with discipling my children and helping them grow in their lifelong walk with Christ.  It doesn’t just end with getting her to this point where she has accepted Christ’s free gift of salvation.  It continues to help her see what that means and what that opens up.  It continues as she learns about giving all areas of her life to Christ and committing to serving Him with her whole heart in all that she does.  It continues as she learns to love everyone the way Christ loves her.  It continues as she silently learns how she’ll raise her own children, leading them to the Lord and walking this same path with them.  I am so grateful for that comment to remind me of my importance in my children’s lives.

I studied Ephesians 6:4 this morning and found great delight and humbleness as I was reminded of the responsibility God has given me.  “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”  In this verse, God summarizes a lot of what he wants me to do as a father.  I am constantly butting heads with my 13-year-old because…well he knows everything.  I have always read this verse and thought, I need to be careful not to push his buttons so I don’t make him angry. That lasted all of about 10 seconds.  Reading that again today, and looking through the study notes in my Bible, I understand that it is not just keeping the peace, but being realistic.  I need to create a home where He can grow, learn, succeed and fail and it all be alright, because in the end, we love him unconditionally.  It should be that way with all our kids.  Ultimately, we want to model Christ, and there is no greater picture to model than what He did for all mankind on the cross.  My children will become angry when they get in trouble, but discipline is a key part of discipleship.  My job as a parent is to never stop learning and leaning on Christ and to be consistent as I model that behavior to my kids.  My expectations should be clear and based on my walk with Christ.  If I expect them to love the Lord, they have to see me loving the Lord as well – in all that I do.  I believe the best way to avoid provoking their anger and their resentment of Christ is to be consistent, forgiving and most of all in love with God.  The  last part of the verse is pretty easy to understand.  When I was a young child my parents told me about Christ.  They took me to church and they raised me on biblical standards.  That’s my job with my children.  I am called to impart on them the discipline and knowledge of the Lord so they will continue to honor Him as the generations before them have.  It’s getting harder and harder to see in our society, but that’s still the basic idea.  We are training the next generation so that people will continue to hear the good news of the gospel.

So, we are at the starting line and ready to run this race.  I am thankful that I know how the race will end, and I can already celebrate the victory.

Father, thank you for your son Jesus Christ.  Thank you for the perfect gift that satisfied my sin debt.  Thank you for extending that gift to my daughter.  I pray for your wisdom, strength, perseverance and courage to raise her to honor you, fear you, and most of all love you with all of her life.  Make me the man, husband, and father you want me to be for my family and all those in my life.  I pray for my daughter’s lifelong walk with you.  In Christ I pray – Amen.

New Year of “More”

resolution

As the ball dropped on 2016…2017 opened with a sense of freshness.  Every new year is like this for me (except for Y2K – totally convinced everything would go black for a few minutes during that one).  I take a deep breath and, amidst the chaos of screaming teenagers, silently thank the Lord for another year to be alive.  Over the next couple days, I have prayed and thought about what this year could bring.  What do I want 2017 to be for me?  What do I want it to be for others because of me?  I came across a post from a great Godly woman who said, “this year will be the year of one-more’s”.  It was described as a year to reach deeper and farther into her faith, into her friends and family, into her neighbors.  One more dinner date, one more afternoon conversation, one more devotional, one more chapter in her Bible.  A year of one-more’s.

I think the Lord, used this post to speak to me, and help me understand what this year should bring.  Simply, more.  During our end-of-year celebration with our youth group, we had a one-day retreat focusing on defining a lukewarm Christianity and contrasting that with an obsessed Christian.  What an eye opener.  I found myself identifying with more and more characteristics of the lukewarm than I did with the obsessed.  It was eye-opening to think about what I am doing with Christ.  I made a decision to follow Him in faith, believing that He accomplished what I could not – paying my sin debt and saving my eternal soul.  But is that where it ended for me?  Looking back at the last 15 years, what I have I really done with Christ that is eternal and lasting?  Sure, I have served Him in many ways, but when that is compared to the ways I have run from Him, that list doesn’t really look that good.

So, I have resolved through much prayer to make this a year of “more” for my life.  More focus on the things that I am called to do as a believer.  More attention to the things that make me lukewarm.  More determination to take hold of what Christ so freely gave to me, so that I can live out more for Him.  More focus on the things that will last for eternity, not just the temporal now.  More faith that Christ can  use me in ways I don’t think possible and more willingness to let Him have control of all the parts of me.  More.

Father, I thank you for the blessing of life.  I thank you for your finished work on Calvary, your death for my sins, and your resurrection for my life.  Thank you for never leaving me, never putting me away, never taking your eye off me, even when I was so quick to do the same to you.  I pray for the courage to take hold of what you have given me and to use my gifts to make an eternal impact for you.  I also pray for the courage to open up my whole life to you, and give you all of me, regardless of the cost, for I know the cost is nothing compared to the reward of you.  In Jesus name – Amen.

The pebble in my shoe

pebble

I know we have all been there.  Especially runners.  This is how it plays out for me:

I look outside and see the sun shining, a gentle breeze, and I begin to mentally prepare for it.  I slide my shoes on and they feel great, maybe even lighter today.  Phone strapped to my arm, ear buds in and comfortable.  A quick stretch or two to loosen up and get the blood flowing.  I step out on the porch and walk quickly – with a lighter step to the end of the driveway.  I look up the street and set my focus, hit start on my tracker and  begin to jog.  My steps feel great.  My core is tight and I am focusing on the first song.  In my playlist it’s a great song by Chris Tomlin called God’s Great Dance Floor.  I round the corner at the bottom of the street and I am feeling great.  It seems like no time and my tracker is proudly announcing the first mile is complete.  “That seemed faster today,” I think to myself.  Then it happens.  A slight discomfort in my right shoe.  Maybe it’s nothing…no there it is again.  Somehow I have picked up a pebble.  It’s rolling under the center of my foot on every stride.  Now my focus is elsewhere.  I don’t hear the music, I am locked in on the pain with each step. My mind begins to battle a little.  I can stop and fix it, quickly and keep going, but I have a great pace and I want to run from beginning to end.  I keep going, but the pebble is still there.  It feels like it is piercing my foot with each stride I take.  I have lost all focus on the world around me and can think of nothing else but that small pebble.

Every person reading this probably thinks the same thing.  Take the shoe off, shake out the pebble and keep running. That’s the logical thing to do.  You’re right.  It is.  But as this happened to me not too long ago, it made me think about my life in general, especially my Christian walk.  How many times have I let a pebble – some sin that keeps burrowing into my soul take my focus off Christ?  How often have I left that sinful pebble in my soul and tried to just deal with it on my own?  This happens more often than not.  My “I can do it myself” mentality takes me down a dark path and before I realize what happened, I can’t find God anywhere in my life.  Wouldn’t it be simpler for me to stop and get rid of the pebble?  Better yet, when that pebble seems more like a boulder, wouldn’t it be easier to rely on God’s ability to remove it from my life?  I was reminded of David when he fell for Bathsheba.  2 Samuel 11 paints a picture of a spiral out of control.  David sinned, first when he looked on this woman while she bathed, then taking her into his bed which resulted in pregnancy.  Reading through the passage, we see David losing all focus on the battle he was leading, and instead being consumed with trying to get out of the mess he had created.  Choose today to check your shoe before you run.  Finding the sinful traps in your life and praying for God’s strength to avoid or overcome them is the recipe for a closer walk with Christ.

Lord, today I am thankful for your love and mercy in my life.  I am thankful that you love your creation and willingly laid down your life so that I could have mine.  Thank you for never leaving me and for your power and strength over my sin nature.  I ask for your help in removing the pebbles that cause my focus to be turned from you.  I rejoice in your word and promise to always be by my side through this life.  In Christ I pray – Amen.

Stop Wandering, Turn North

wandering

I am 100% male.  I know this, because of the obvious, but also because I despise asking for directions.  I am a careful planner, and do my very best to be sure I don’t have ask for directions, but ultimately end up making a wrong turn here or there, and then the real struggle begins.  I first try to problem solve. While driving 75 mph, arguing with the mapping app on my phone, I end up driving further in the wrong direction, and when it’s a family trip, end up in a disagreement with my wife that adds to the list of things to do: be humble, say you’re sorry, and thank her for still loving you.

Life can be like this too.  I was working on a half-time devotion for the upward basketball games this weekend and came across one that I really found intriguing and it is where I focused my time in God’s word this morning.  Deuteronomy 2:3 says “You have been traveling around this mountain country long enough. Turn northward.” (ESV).  A little context.  The Israelite’s had been wandering around the desert for 40 years (and my wife thinks that extra 5 miles we drove, while I tried to figure it out, was a waste).  Now, God was directing them on the path that would lead them to the promised land.  His simple instructions, quit wandering around, turn northward were epic.  Simple, deliberate and I can almost imagine with a bit of sarcasm in his voice.  Are you done now?  You tried it your way, didn’t work out, ready to listen?  How many of us are wandering around our own desert trying to find the right path, or direction that will take us to our “promised land”?  How often does our wandering cover the same paths, time and time again?

This scripture stuck out to the original author of the devotion and I have to say, I agree.  God specifically pointed them northward…because that was the way he wanted them to go.  Now, remember I have ADD, so I heard north and immediately thought of a map…and maybe a squirrel and a tree, and…

But the word north, brought a picture of a map to mind, and on the map, north is…up.  Where is God?  We are told to look up to the heavens, to lift our voice up to our heavenly father.  So in essence northward may have been the direction of travel, but it was also invoked my natural instinct to think of looking up to follow God.  God is still speaking this same truth to us today.  To anyone that will listen, to anyone that cries out, where should I turn?  God speaks, through His word, and says, enough is enough. I will show you the right path towards where you should be, to what I have for you, and that path is always toward Him.

Human beings (especially males) are independent creatures. We don’t like to think we need help or assistance with anything.  That is what we teach our young men from day 1, be independent.  The truth is, we need someone to give us direction.  We need someone to guide us.  When we turn toward God, we find that someone, or better yet, we find that only one that can lead us in the right direction.  Our sinfulness is what keeps us wandering our own desert, turning down the wrong paths, and following the wrong directions.  When we turn toward God, we find our focus and direction and most importantly a life free from the guilt and dependence of sin.  John 14:6 is an often quoted verse of scripture, but it is so plain and clear.  Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life, no one comes to the father except through me.” (NIV)

Jesus went to the cross to bear the punishments for my sin, and all the sin of humanity.  He did it without any expectation of compensation from me or anyone else.  It was a free gift to an undeserving world.  It is through that free gift of grace that we are able to live the life God intended for us.  To follow the right path, in the right direction.

Friend, are you wandering today?  Are you tired of doing the same thing over and over again, with no sense of direction or purpose?  Do you find yourself on worn-out paths that keep your circling the mountain?  Well ENOUGH is ENOUGH.  Turn to Jesus today and follow his direction.

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Father God, today I thank you for the gift of your word, and for the gift of salvation through your son Jesus Christ.  I thank you that I am 100% yours, and that nothing can ever change that.  I thank you for the Holy Spirit that guides me everyday.  I pray that someone may read this devotion today and see their need for you.  I pray that you will help me depend on your word and your direction to lead my family and raise my children to understand their need for you.  Help us all to submit to your direction and plan, and give you all the glory forever.  In your name I pray, Amen.

 

Take a breath and…Jump

jump

I came across a great video clip today of popular tv show host – Steve Harvey as he gave an impromptu motivational speech to his audience before an episode taping.  The clip was titled Jump.  Steve does a great job of laying out the fact that no one that is great got there without being willing to take a leap of faith.  Maybe it was faith that their business idea would be a success.  Maybe it was faith that if they made a large investment it would pay off.  Maybe it was faith that if they got the courage to ask the girl out, she would say yes.

He used an illustration of walking to a cliff and looking out to see other people soaring by – flying.  They are going from one success to another, and enjoying life’s moments all because they weren’t afraid to make the initial jump.  About half way into the clip, Steve made reference to the word of God and to a very well known principal – gifts.  Steve shared with the audience, in that moment, that we are all gifted when we are created.  (Props to Steve for using his position on that stage to share that we are created beings, with a father in Heaven that loves us).  

“You can not simply exist in this life”

God doesn’t create anyone without gifting them, he would go on to say.  Now, he didn’t dive into spiritual gifts, but instead insisted that we all have a purpose.  A talent, or ability that makes us unique and allows us to have success or fulfillment in this life.  But that gift was like the parachute on your back, as you stand on the edge of the cliff.  If you don’t jump, you can’t open your chute, and if you don’t open it, your gift stays tucked away on your back and is never used for God’s intended purpose.

So what are gifts that our Heavenly father gives us?  2 Corinthians 9:8 says, God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have abundance for every good work.”  Grace is never-ending from our Father.  He freely gives it to us, as much as we need.  God only requires that we are ready to receive that grace by having faith, humility and sincere love.  The most important gift is the gift of salvation.  That grace which is extended to each of us as God’s creation ultimately leads us to salvation through Jesus Christ.  In that salvation we have a savior that will save us from everything we face.  This doesn’t mean we won’t face things, but he’ll bring us through it and never leave us to  handle it on our own.  The greatest gift is an eternal relationship with the one that created us.  Hebrews 7:25 tells us that he is able to save to the uttermost those that come to God through him.  There is no one that is “incapable of being saved” and that Nothing can withstand or thwart His prayers for those who walk in covenant with him.  Nothing beats Jesus.

So what do we have to do to receive these gifts, to really understand our purpose to realize our gifts, to be fulfilled in this life?  Jump.  Jump when God  knocks on your heart’s door and asks to come in and dwell with you forever.  Jump when God challenges you to move in a certain way, or to be used according to his purpose. Jump when you are standing on the edge of that cliff and trust that God will open your parachute and reveal His glory in your life.

Father, today I thank you that you gave me the courage to jump and I thank you that you are the wind that fills my parachute and that you continue to help me open that up and continue to love me and extend your precious grace to me when I fail.  Help me to always trust you and jump when you show me the opportunity.  In Christ I pray, Amen.

Powerball Odds

lotteryOdds

1.5 billion dollars.  That was the estimated jackpot for last night’s drawing.  How much is a billion?  Here are some facts:

  • 1 billion dollar signs, printed side by side, 1000 per page, front and back would fill up a 500,000 page book!
  • 1 billion seconds is 31 years
  • If I sat down to count from 1 to 1 billion (by one’s) I would be counting for nearly 95 years.
  • About 1 billion minutes ago, the Roman empire was flourishing (1 billion minutes – 1900 years

A billion is a lot.  Naturally, the hype was elevated at the thought, the mere chance of winning that prize.  While most people get in on the hype with the joyful attitude of you never know, fully not expecting to win the prize, planning to go about life normally tomorrow morning, there are equally as many people who literally hinged their entire life on that possibility.  I would venture to say that there were folks who were putting all they had (heart and soul) into those odds as the way to fulfill their life, make it worth something, ease their pain, etc.  I admit, I found myself thinking about the possibilities with that much wealth.   What I could do for others, and how I could help this effort or that one.  Great ambitions aren’t they?  I wonder how many other folks think they would do nothing but noble and good with their new fortune?  I spent time in prayer this morning asking God to forgive me for letting my mind run wild with the thoughts of greed.  I am saved by his grace and promised eternal life with him in heaven one day, what more could I possibly need in this life?

I started to think about that fact that I am provided for and assured that he’ll never forget me.  I might face hardships and I may have to deal with earthly consequences to my choices, but in the big picture, I will always have what I need.  I compared that thought with the thought that there are those out there that felt better about the odds of winning the lottery and that the wealth would be what they needed to fulfill their life and have purpose than they do about submitting their life to Jesus Christ and putting their faith in his finished work on the cross.  The odds of winning the powerball jackpot are 1 in 292 million.  The odds of Jesus Christ saving a repenting sinner…1 in 1.  Every time.  Will you instantly be happy?  Maybe not by the world’s standard, but I guarantee (and so does his word) an immediate peace and a feeling of belonging and purpose.  I can still remember the Sunday, many years ago, that I gave my life to Christ.  I went down on my knee lost and destined to spend eternity in pain and torment, forever separated from God.  I came up from that floor, born again and with purpose.  My problems were still there.  My life was still in disarray, but I wasn’t alone.  I had purpose.  I had a knowledge and a peace that God would walk with me through whatever I was dealing with and that I would come out on the other side.  I was filled up with his love and grace and in that moment, I didn’t need anything else.  I found the missing piece to what made me whole.  That’s what Jesus is…that missing piece that we are all searching for.  He is also the true treasure and jackpot.  All the money in the world, won’t fill us up or fill that need that only a life in Christ can fill.  We’ll always want or need more.  We’ll always be searching for how to make it stretch just a little bit farther.  Christ fills us up instantly, to the point of running over, an ever-flowing fountain that never goes dry.

I started a study in the book of Romans today and the first verse used to introduce a chapter is familiar, but it fit right in to what I was thinking about today.  For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 6:33 (ESV).  Break that down and think about it today…the wages of sin, the cost of sin is death.  Not 1.5 billion dollars, not all the money in the world. The cost is greater than anything we can attain.  It is death.  But the free gift, not just a gift we have to earn, but the free gift from God is eternal life, no death, no separation, but an eternity to live.  How do we get it?  Is it for sale?  Absolutely not.  You can’t buy your gift, it isn’t a gift if you pay for it.  You get it by betting on those 1 in 1 odds.

Lord, today I thank you for the eternal gift of God, my salvation through you and only your finished work on the cross.  Thank you for not requiring anything of me, or holding me accountable to what I owe.  Thank you for making it free and willing giving it to anyone, regardless of whether we deserve it or not.  Thank you for the gift of your word so that I can have hope in the truth.  I pray you would keep my mind focused on and help me to always rejoice and trust in what you provide.  In your name I pray – Amen