Guarding Our Thoughts

What do you like to read? What do you like to watch? To listen to? These are things I have been working hard at paying attention to. Why?

Because I know how my my mind can be, and is, influenced by what my eyes see and my ears hear. I know how dark my thoughts can get. I also know how full of life and grace my thoughts can get.

I know I am driven by my thoughts, so I am working hard at what I let into my mind.

A few years ago, my wife and I got interested in a series on Hulu. We watched the first couple seasons, and we enjoying the story line. One day, we both looked at each other and acknowledged we did not feel well…it was like there was a weight on our minds holding us back. We stopped watching that show, and also canceled Hulu so we weren’t tempted.

Our older kids are in middle school, almost high school. I cannot believe how fast they are growing up! There are times they’ll say, “Daddy, listen to this song I like.” When I listen to it, I notice I like the beat, I like to music. But what gets me is the lyrics. I don’t ever forbid them from listening to the music, we do talk about the power of lyrics. 

That’s the thing I would encourage us to focus on. We may not ever think about the lyrics. We may not ever think about the little joke. We may think nothing of that particular book. We may not ever think about the comments, the expressions, the style of reporting. But all of this helps shape how we think and, therefore, how we live.

We are what we think. We act as we think.

The challenge I have for me, and all of us, is to guard our thoughts. Guard our peace. Guard our joy and hope. Otherwise, we can find ourselves in a frame of mind contrary to who we really want to be.These thoughts will not happen all at once. But slowly, consistently, steadily, we find ourselves, over time, being influenced and changed because of what we allow in our minds.

I fail constantly. But I am working hard at remembering, and living out, Paul’s exhortation to the Philippian Church:

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” ~‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:4-8‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Christian Unity

“I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” ~John 17:23 NIV

“Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike?” ~John Wesley in “Catholic Spirit” sermon

 It is easy to talk about “unity.” But are we talking about the same thing?

In his final prayer, Jesus prayed for his disciples to be “one.” He prayed for them to be in “unity.” In his sermon, “Catholic Spirit,” John Wesley wrote the words, “Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike?”

What’s interesting is the diversity among Jesus’ disciples. Each one of the had their own unique gifting and unique personality. But Jesus called, and prayed for, them to be “united.” I would challenge each one of us what we think about the word “united.”

Oftentimes, I hear people talked about being united as the same thing as being uniform. This can cause a lot of confusion, and a lot of anger as well. How? Because these words mean different things.

“Uniform” means doing everything the same way. “United” means to be focused, together, on the same goal. Uniformity implies a “cookie-cutter” approach by making sure everyone is doing everything the same way, same amount of time, wherever they are. 

On the other hand, if people are “united” in their cause, they will be focused on the same end goal, yet approach it from different angles. This is key. No one approach will be able to reach everyone. Think about that. Jesus used a tax collector, a big mouth, a doubter, and more to have his message spread throughout the world. It takes all kinds of people, gifts and talents, and methods to reach people.

As Christians, we can easily fall into the trap of making sure everyone follows and does things the exact same way we do because—our way is the right way, right? But how many people do we turn away when we don’t find ways to contextualize the message so they are able to hear it and be transformed by the message.

It is also easy to critique others for not doing things the way we know how. But remember, being united means we are all moving toward a goal. Being united means we live with a diverse group of gifts and methods and trust that God si working to complete his goal.

Because the “Catholic Spirit” sermon is quoted a lot, in the crowds I am part of, I would encourage you to read the full sermon. You can read it here:

What else would you add to these thoughts?

I pray Christ’s followers are all united in his message, yet live in diversity to reach all kinds of people in various cultures, circumstances, etc.

Picture of Transformation

One of my favorite things to do is spend time in the mountains. I love this because I can disconnect and admire the incredible majesty of the mountains.

Right now, I am writing this after spending a few hours over 8,00 feet elevation at a place called Bible Point. The views were incredible! As I sat on a rock, with my feet hanging over, I couldn’t resist the beauty and the silence (except the roaring water from below).

This was a tranquil moment of time for me. I was able to finish reading a book, and then read Isaiah 1-6.

From then, I put everything down and just looked out at the mountains, even more. That’s when it hit me.

Mountains are a great picture of transformation!


When we are at the base of the mountain, there is something that entices us to climb up. As we continue to climb, we find the path is harder than we imagined. If we continue, we find there are even more obstacles than we ever imagined. If we keep persevering, we’ll find we make it to the top. Once on the top, you can look down and see what you had to get through to get to that point. You are a different person.

That’s a picture of a person’s life being transformed into the likeness and image of Jesus Christ.

There comes a point when a person will sense Jesus saying to them, “Just come and follow me.” So the person begins the trek. Along the way, following Jesus becomes more challenging. It’s not as easy as we originally thought or imagined. If we continue, and don’t go back, we find  there are even more obstacles. But, if we keep persevering our whole life, we come to a place where we have been completely transformed. We can look back and reflect at everything we had gone through and we see we are a different person.

The best part? We have never done any of this life by ourselves. As we follow Christ, we learn we have never been alone. Jesus has always been with us along the way.

My prayer is you continue following Jesus, you keep moving forward with him, and you see how much you are being transformed through this life.

Worship then Spiritual Warfare

Look around. What do you see? Do you notice the beauty around you? Do you notice things that you deem wrong? Think about that for a minute. What is it you focus on?

I ask this question because there is so much more than what we can physically see. Our physical eyes have limitations that prevent us from seeing the spiritual side that is around us. The reality is, is is not just what we see that impacts our minds and our lives. We are also impacted by the spiritual side we cannot physically see. How?

Recently I read a short book called “The Garden” by Jon Gorgon. It is a parable about Genesis 1-3. In this short parable, the main characters begin talking about the thoughts they have. One of the teenage characters begins to reveal all of the negative thoughts that have been occurring.

The point? The older character, who is guiding the teenagers, begins to tell about Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. He explains how everything, from the beginning, was created for good…until negative (evil) thoughts entered into the minds of Eve and Adam. The whole point is negative thoughts did not come from the internal self, they came from outside forces.

We may not realize how much we are impacted by outside forces. It is easy to turn something positive, something good, into a negative experience or situation or even person. This is one of the ways we can be impacted by the spiritual realm.

I know there will be those who disagree, but the point is to pay attention to what we pay attention to. It may not be a voice whispering in your ear, but how much negativity is experienced just through media? Through people who have had a bad day?

One thing we can do is to make time, and take the time, to worship God. When we worship, we place our being in a place of God’s victory over any negativity, any evil, any darkness. Psalm 27:1-6 demonstrates a worldview of worship, and victory with God. Take time to read it:

“The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident. One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock. Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭27:1-6‬ ‭NIV

See, when our focus is on the Lord, we place ourselves in a position to live a life without fear. We can see how God is transforming AND protecting us in the midst of great difficulty. When negativity or anything else comes in our way, take time to praise God. 

The truth is the only way we can engage, and endure, any type of spiritual warfare is putting ourselves in a position and lifestyle of worship. Negativity and evil only brings us down if we focus more on it rather than on the power and presence of God. Just because we cannot see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. 

Take some time and ask God to open your physical eyes to see the spiritual realm all around us. I just bet you’ll see even more beauty and goodness all around you than you ever imagined possible.

Worship above all else.

I’m praying for you.


Everyone of us comes to a place of needing to make a decision. Of needing to make a change in life, habits, job, friends, starting something new. This is part of life. We all have to decide what we need, or want, to do.

But, one of the challenges this brings is the emotional state of anxiety. We get worried. We obsess. We second guess our decision. The fallacy we have learned to live with is we have to make the decisions. This is partly true.

The other side of this is the concept of discernment.

The biggest difference between decision and discernment is decisions mean we have something to do. Discernment is more about who we will become.

From a Christian perspective, discernment is about seeking the presence of God and listening to what God has to say. This is something that takes a time. It takes patience. Why? Because God is shaping us to become who we are needed to be.

So much of our decision process, I have learned, is focused on doing something. But, what if we are missing something vitally important? What if we looked at who God is asking us, and leading us, to become with whatever decision we have to make?

Looking at this from this particular angle, I have learned decisions become (somewhat) easier if we look at who we could become should we go down a certain path.

This past summer, I spent time writing and wrestling through the prophet Elijah and Elisha in 1 Kings 17 – 2 Kings 2. Through this time period, I began a discernment process. In fact, I ended up writing a 40 day devotional that will be published soon.

The point?

I have learned, more, how God desires we seek him above all else. How we seek the face of God and let God speak. Spending intentional time, each day, with prayer and fasting and silence and solitude helps to calm our hearts and minds with the decision we have to make.

As we “discern,” we are learning who God is, who God is making us to be, what kind of “junk” we have in our lives we need to get rid of, etc. After we spend time wrestling with those concepts, we can begin to see a path opening up for where to go or what to do.

Discernment takes more patience. Decisions can be quicker, but we may not like who we become after we make a decision. Deciding and discerning really do go hand in hand.

My prayer for you is you are able to discern God and God’s leading to help make the best possible decision for the expansion and building up of the kingdom of Heaven.

What is it you need to decide?

Are you seeking God’s interests for you? Or is it mainly about your own life?

I am looking forward to the devotional coming out later this year. I pray it will help you discern and decide.

May God continue to bless your journey.

What Does the New Testament Say?

Sermon: “New Testament Overview”

This is Part 2 of Overview of the Bible Series. Click here for Part 1: What Does the Old Testament Say?

If you could sum up the Bible in one word, what would it be?

This may be tricky for some. Some may be thinking we can’t sum up the Bible in one word.

I think we can sum up the Bile with the word, JESUS. After all, in Luke 24, Jesus tells the disciples on the way to Emmaus that all of scripture points to him. Paul, in Colossians, says that all things are held together in him. So as we read scripture, even the Old Testament, we should be able to see Jesus in everything.

Remember…the reading the Bible is NOT about information. It is about transformation. We are seeking truth through the information.

As we take the time to talk through the New Testament, remember how the storyline of the Biblical narrative with the covenants goes:

Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David

This post is where we get to the FINAL covenant and person…JESUS!

Another way to look at the storyline of the scriptures is through themes:

Act 1: Creation, Fall, Israel

Act 2: Jesus, Church, New Creation

Last week, we saw the 39 books of the Old Testament are divided up into categories:

Pentateuch (Torah), History, Writings/Poetry/Wisdom, Major Prophets, Minor Prophets

And we saw how important it is to pay attention to the type of literature we’re reading so we know better how to interpret and understand.

The New Testament is divided up into categories as well:

Gospels of Jesus, History (Acts), Paul’s letters (longest to shortest), General letters (longest to shortest), Apocalyptic

So the way to think about the layout of the New Testament is like this:

Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, ascension

The spread of the message (Acts)

Living out the Christian life through the empowerment and presence of the Holy Spirit (the letters and Revelation)

Now, if the whole Bible could be summed up with JESUS, can we think of key passages that help explain the gospel and the way the Christian is supposed to live in the world?

Many know John 3:16 (For God so loved the world the he gave his one and only Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.)

Unfortunately, this is where many people stop—at the point of gaining their own salvation. But the Christian life and faith is so much richer and deeper than simply personal salvation—it’s about being in community, sharing life together, and laying down our lives for the sake of others.

The second part of the gospel we need to hear, and live out, is 1 John 3:16 (This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.) This is why we follow the command, and example, of Jesus to take up our cross and follow him. We follow him even though we, as believers, will have challenges and suffering in this life. We follow him because he is the only source of hope and life.

So many people think the Christian life is just for them—it’s become what can Jesus do for me here and now? How can my life get better? But see how we miss out on the power of the gospel? The power of the gospel is found when we live our lives in community, when we seek to bring new people into the family of God (this is kingdom growth not just numerical growth). The power of the gospel is found when we live our lives for others instead of ourselves.

This is why there is so much emphasis on not judging, gossiping, slandering, anything that destroys or devalues another human life. The emphasis is on love—a word that has honestly lost it’s meaning because we over use it. (I love hamburgers, I love my spouse, I love (pick your favorite sports team).) Love in the Bible is not a feeling, or even how we feel in the moment. Love is the way of life. Love is at the core of who God designed us to be.

A little pastoral care moment: When we “speak truth in love” our goal is never to belittle the person but to build them up and encourage them. So often we attempt to speak, what we call, truth and end up having anger in our hearts towards the person. This is not the example of Jesus at all.

Christ followers are to emulate and imitate Jesus in their everyday lives. This is the point of the epistles (letters) from Paul, Peter, John, Jude, James, the author of Hebrews. What’s incredible is how the Spirit continues to speak through these words today—with the intention of building up the community and growing the kingdom of God (God’s rule and reign in the world).

Then we come to the book of Revelation. This is a book that has been misunderstood and misapplied for the last 200 or so years. We’ve said it before, Revelation shows how God’s people can and should stand firm in their faith even when everything is going to pot. The point of Revelation is to pay attention who we worship and worship ONLY God.

The ancient readers would have understood this was a letter, written in code, so they could understand what’s happening in the world to them at that time. We do know that Christ will come again and set things right (true justice not revenge). That is why we can live in hope and joy—we know the end of the story.

This is the New Testament, in a brief nutshell.

One more thing to consider. There really is nothing new in the New Testament that is not in the Old Testament. In fact, what we see is an expansion of the thoughts and teachings from the Old Testament. (Think Sermon on the Mount as an example.)

This is why it is so important to study and read through the Old Testament. There are many resources available to help us study to learn the history, traditions, and context of the Old Testament. When we better understand the OT, we will begin to see more of the beauty found in the New Testament.

Remember, the Bible shows your story within the story of God in the world.

  • We are created (born)
  • Yet we fall to our own selfishness and prided and so think only of ourselves
  • We have to be taught right from wrong, good from evil
  • We need a savior (receive gift of salvation)
  • Learn to live with Jesus and in covenant community
  • Fully recreated and live in life eternal

All of this is possible because of Jesus! It is really all about living for JESUS!

Jesus is the point of the Bible. Jesus is the point of the Christian life. How we live, in this life, matters and it has eternal consequences. I challenge you to read through at least one Gospel, a few letters, and Revelation this week. Ask God to reveal himself to you. The best picture of God is found in the person of Jesus Christ.

Then, ask God to mold you into the likeness and image of his Son and give you the grace to live out the Christian life in community and help you be a person to build people up and work with God to grow the kingdom of Heaven.

What Does the Old Testament Say?

Overview of the Old Testament Sermon

The Bible is my favorite book. Every time I read something out of the Bible, I see and learn something new. That is the power of the scripture. God’s Holy Spirit will speak to us, in different ways and at different times, a message we need to hear whether we have read that particular passage or not.

This is the beginning a two part series on an overview of the Bible.

One of our challenges is it is too easy to go to the Bible for the informational—Bible Study type—content. But the Bible is not merely for us to consume information. No. The purpose of the Bible is to transform us to God’s people who reach out to a world in need. To be God’s people who can trust God has always been working, is always working, and will always work to bring about his kingdom glory all around us.

If I were to ask you what some of your favorite Bible verses are, more often than not, I would hear verses from the New Testament. But, if I ask what your favorite Bible stories or characters are, I would hear things like David, Moses, Enoch, Noah, etc. We would hear about the Old Testament.

It’s interesting we can think about the Old Testament stories and love them, and, at the same time, think of the New Testament as practical applications for living.

So let’s begin talking about the Old Testament (really the Hebrew Bible).

The entire Protestant Bible is comprised of 66 books (39 Old Testament and 27 New Testament). This is important for us to remember because our Bible is not just a single book. Our Bible is, in fact, a collection of books…a library. We get the name Bible from the Greek word biblios, meaning books.

66 books combined

40 different authors

1500-2000 years of writing span

1 seamless story of God working, moving, and calling his people in the world

Reading the Old Testament can be tricky. It speaks about ancient beliefs and practices. It speaks of sacrifices. It speaks of customs that are foreign to us. Because of these reasons, we can begin to think we don’t want to read or study the Old Testament because it’s difficult.

But, to understand the New Testament we need to understand the Old Testament on, at least, a basic level.

Bird eye view of the Old Testament:

We can think about the Old Testament as a series of covenants (unbreakable, binding “agreements” between God and humanity).

  • Adam is the covenant of working the ground and being stewards of the earth
  • Noah is the covenant of not destroying the earth by a flood again
  • Abraham is the covenant God is with his people always…God’s people are “set apart” (circumcision)
  • Moses is the covenant of how to live as God’s people
  • David is the covenant God will always have a ruler for his people

Adam. Noah. Abraham. Moses. David.

This is a good way to help recall the flow of the Old Testament.

Now, looking at the Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures), we can see the different genres of literature that comprise this account (think Act 1) of God’s working in the world.

The different genres are important because we get to see a big picture view of how God relates to his people and how the people related to God.

Genesis – Deuteronomy: This is the Torah. This is the “law.” The Torah defines God’s covenant relationship to make sure God’s people have a place they can worship and live in covenant community. EVERYTHING throughout the rest of the Old Testament is calling the people back to this kind of life. (You can almost think of the rest of the Old Testament as a commentary on how the people lived up to or failed to live up to the Mosaic covenant.)

Joshua – Esther is classified as the historical books. They are meant to show, through narrative story, how the people lived out their lives and how God was working in the midst of the people and helping them become the “kingdom of priests” and a “holy nation” (Exodus 19) to be a beacon of light to share and show God’s presence and kingdom to ALL people…ALL nations. God was, and still is, calling his people to his representatives in the world, for the world, and to the world.

Job and the Psalms is poetry. These books show how to use the language, we know, to describe God’s working in the world. Because of these books, we can understand God through different metaphors. PLUS we can understand how God is calling us to remember where we have come from and to trust him completely.

Proverbs – Song of Songs (Solomon) are wisdom books which deal with practical applications for how to live in this world…how to live as the people of God who are living with the wisdom God gives.

Then Isaiah – Malachi, which are the books of the prophets. These are described as Major prophets and Minor prophets, meaning longer books than the others. The prophets called God’s people to repentance (realigning their life back to God), and called the outside nations to come to know the Living and True God. The prophets also reveal God’s heart the outside nations know who God is so they can come to live in his presence. There are some hard truths and declarations in the prophetic writings, but there is also enough grace to show how God is compassionate and graceful and desiring to forgive.

Knowing what kind of literature we are reading is vital to help us interpret. We can easily get bogged down in the individual passages and verses that we miss the grand narrative of scripture

God’s people are his kingdom of priests and a holy nation in the world, for the world, and to the world.

Knowing this identity, we can see how God is asking us to live.

Okay. We’ve talked about how to think about the Old Testament in terms of major characters and covenants. We’ve even talked about how the Old Testament is divided and what genre of literature we’re reading.

So what do we do with all of this?

We take time to listen to the guidance of the Spirit to see what God is continually trying to teach us today.

Think about it this way (using a timeline of scripture):

God creates us (we are made in his image) and we begin with a perfect relationship with him.

Then, we get too full of ourselves and find we are living a part from God.

So, God has to show us and teach us how to live (the law).

But we keep messing up, so we have to listen to wise teachers and prophets.

The whole point of the Old Testament is we cannot fully live this life without God and his working in and through our lives. We cannot trust the other gods to give us what we need.

Notice, the Bible does not negate the existence of other gods. The Bible, especially the Old Testament continually say those other gods have no power.

The scriptures are one grand narrative that show God has not and will not give up on this world…give up on you and I. The scriptures demonstrate God constantly reaching out to his people to live the life they were intended to live.

It really is a good thing the scriptures do not leave without hope.

Next time, we’ll hone in on Jesus and the entire New Testament and how God has made it possible to be redeemed and made holy.


You know what a gift it is to have someone pray for you. I’m sure you also know how powerful it is to pray for another person.

Have you ever considered giving someone a journal of the prayers you prayed for them?


This is a unique prayer journal to help you give the gift of prayer.

When we pray for others, we help others experience God’s incredible presence. This is the perfect prayer journal for you! Record your prayers and watch the presence of God move in and through your life as well as the person for whom you prayed these prayers.This journal is a perfect way to record the prayers you’ve prayed for your child, spouse, friend, etc. You will be able to use this guide to help write down your prayers. There is also space for the recipient to record their own prayers as well as record answers to prayer.

You can order directly from this link:

Think of the impact your written prayers prayers will have on the person receiving them!

How is the journal laid out? Click the link below for a pdf version to see for yourself!


You know what a gift it is to have someone pray for you. I’m sure you also know how powerful it is to pray for another person.

Have you ever considered giving someone a journal of the prayers you prayed for them?


This is a unique prayer journal to help you give the gift of prayer.

When we pray for others, we help others experience God’s incredible presence. This is the perfect prayer journal for you! Record your prayers and watch the presence of God move in and through your life as well as the person for whom you prayed these prayers.This journal is a perfect way to record the prayers you’ve prayed for your child, spouse, friend, etc. You will be able to use this guide to help write down your prayers. There is also space for the recipient to record their own prayers as well as record answers to prayer.

You can order directly from this link:

Think of the impact your written prayers prayers will have on the person receiving them!

How is the journal laid out? Click the link below for a pdf version to see for yourself!


I need to rest. This is an everyday truth for me. But it is hard to rest because I have so much to do each and every day. How will I get everything done if I take time to rest? Who will take up the slack, especially in a busy season of life?

These are thoughts I have just about every day. It seems like it is hard to turn my mind off and just enjoy being present. But if I am not careful, I will find myself in a cycle leading to burnout which will be detrimental for me and my family.

Burnout is absolutely no fun. I have learned how to pay attention to the “warning signs” I am beginning to burnout. I get irritable more often. I have a case of the “I don’t wannas.” I don’t feel the joy in the things I love. It is hard for me to be around people.

There are more subtle signs I am beginning to burnout. I don’t feel the need to do my best, I end up settling for subpar work. Or, I just keep missing deadlines because I don’t feel like working.

This is no way to live. No joy. No hope. No cares about doing my best. Seeking to be isolated.

My guess is this is not just me that gets this way. I know you do too. The question then becomes, what are the signs you are burning out? (Carey Nieuwhof has a great book on this called “Didn’t See it Coming”)

When we get to this place of burnout we need to know what refreshes and encourages and nourishes our soul. The truth is we need to be able to avoid burnout by doing these practices every week. So what are some things that refresh my soul and keep me joyful and away from burnout?

First of all, I need to be honest and let you know I do not always follow this, and therefore find myself needing to be recharged and pulled out of the despair of burnout.

Every year, unless it is absolutely impossible, I attend a men’s sabbath spiritual retreat in the mountains. In early October, several of my friends (and soon to be new friends) gather together for about a week. The best part? There is NO agenda! The only things we need to “attend” is nightly dinner and nightly worship of prayer, music, scripture, and message. The rest of the time is up to us. We do what we need, whether that means hanging out with others, spending time alone, we get to choose! I always come back spiritually recharged. This retreat always comes at the perfect time.

Weekly, I am developing a habit of sabbath. My mind needs a break. My heart needs to focus on something greater than a to-do task list or projects or the weekly grind. I need to intentionally focus on the Creator to remind me I am created by and for him. See when I keep this perspective, I am better able to handle and do what needs to be done. Why? Because I am “working” and living for something/someone even greater than I. I am taking the time to praise my God who created and designed me to do what I do.

I also love to read. I find myself listening to books more than reading the paper books, but I still love this! My favorite books to read are practical and non-fiction, sometimes biographies. But everything I read I hope points my mind to the presence of the Living God all around and in me. I get to learn more about this world and remember how God desires I live (especially when I’m imperfect).

Above all of this, I really do love spending time with my family and doing things with them. This upcoming school year will mean 4 day school weeks for my kids, so we’ll have more time to do things on the weekends and do more together. I am praying this extra time allows us to travel, explore, and grow more together.

So these are some of the things that refresh my soul. What about you? What helps you stayed focused, experience joy, live a life of peace, experience/live into/share the love you have been given?

The Greatest Gift

Read Mark 12:38-44

October 31 is Reformation Day. What does this mean? This is the day Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the front door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. This is the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.


Every 500 years, or so, the Church goes through a process of “reforming” to bring itself back to the essential core truths of the Christian faith. When Luther nailed the Theses, he was giving 95 reasons why and where the Catholic Church had gone wrong in her teaching and way of life in the world.

Every so often God raises up a people to lead the way to bring His Church back to Jesus Christ. It is amazing how far, and how fast, God’s people can veer off His path. Many want to place sole blame on the clergy and leaders, but the reality is we all (lay people included) need to be reminded, and led, back to Jesus. IF we don’t we’ll impose our fallen humanity on the Church and the Church will be shaped more like the culture rather than the surrounding culture being shaped by the teaching of the Church.

At this point, we should all say, “OUCH!” Why? Because it is up to us to stay close to the teachings of Jesus through his life, the scriptures, the early church, early church fathers, the Holy Spirit today. The time of reformation is to remind God’s people the Church is not about them. The Church is about Him…it’s all about Jesus…It’s Jesus’ church.

This is also a time to remember we don’t “go to church,” WE ARE THE CHURCH.

So when we read a passage like what we have today, It’s important to make sure we are interpreting it correctly.

Jesus is being harsh with the religious people, the leadership, for how they are acting and imposing undo rules and standard among the people. This was actually creating a hardship on the people. In other words, the people were being bled dry.

Jesus noticed the leaders were not held to the same standards as everyone else. The leaders (we can also think of world leaders not just church leaders) liked to dress up and reserve the best seats and positions of honor for themselves.

Because of this, those people will have already have their reward (earthly riches) here on earth. Jesus even goes on to say they will receive severe, harsh punishment for how they treated others, especially the poor. “Those of you familiar with Dante’s The Inferno will recall the hellish punishment Dante imagined would come to hypocrites: for all eternity they would wear the most gorgeous of flowing robes, looking ever-so-lovely on the outside.  But those robes would be lined with lead, making the very act of standing up straight an abiding agony.  Such would indeed be a fit punishment for those who spent their lives harboring ugliness and selfishness on the inside even as they exuded nothing but superior piety on the outside.

This brings us to our first question we need to ask ourselves…

What standards have been placed on leadership? You? Have you placed on others? Can you live up to the standards?

It’s always important to be able to walk the talk. Leadership, really anyone, should never ask of anyone anything they are not willing to do themselves. Unfortunately, we still live in a dog eat dog world so we still live with the mentality it is okay to do whatever needs to be done. In other words, the ends justify the means.

But Jesus is constantly asking us to look at things differently. He is calling us to reform and reshape our minds and lives, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is asking his people to pay attention to what’s really going on. Don’t just take other people’s words for what’s being done. Actually take time to look beyond outward appearances and learn the motives.

When the reformation started, Martin Luther was simply trying to bring the Church back to her roots. He did not intend to begin a new denomination, the Lutheran Church. Luther took time to study and pay attention to the theology and the people and the leaders. After many days of prayer, of fasting, of study, the Spirit spoke to, and through, Luther to post the Theses (complaints) against the Church.

Much of this had to do with “payments” the people were required to make. (Notice the similarities to the widow in this passage. History is circular unless someone comes along and points our errors and makes changes.)

It was easy for the rich to make the payments. But what about the poor? What about those who cannot live on their own? Remember the words of James, in his letter, “Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:26-27 NIV)

We should always be asking what God is calling the church to do, that no one else can do, and continue to join God in the work he is doing in this world.

When the poor, the working poor, the destitute, the least/last/lost, come through our doors, let’s continue to make them feel welcome. No matter how much they can give or contribute.

This brings us to our next question…

What do you pay attention to when people give? 

In other words, is there any part of you that feels like someone should give more? Do we ever feel like people are giving too much?

Look at the passage again. Jesus pays attention to the crowd and hones in on this widow. Widows were supposed to be taken care of by the community. They needed help because they did not have a husband to care for and provide for them (that’s how their society was set up). 

So when Jesus saw her put in the coins, think about how Jesus would have sounded. How would he have felt? Jesus could have spoken in a soft, sad, voice because the widow gave all she had to live on. She would not have been able to buy even a piece of bread.

Jesus commends her, yet also knows the toll this contribution will have on the livelihood of the widow. There is a big hint Jesus doesn’t like what’s going on. Notice he doesn’t stop her. He observes. Jesus then makes an observation about giving that is still important to us today.

He commends the widow on her obedience to giving.

Our final question today is…

Do you live a life of obedience to God? Know God will provide your every need? Can you be cheerfully obedient?

It’s always easy to give when we have enough. But when we are struggling financially, what is the first thing to go? Giving. And not just giving to the Church, but giving in the community. We’ll take back our time even because we need more time to make ends meat, etc. 

But this is a time for a spiritual gut check. How obedient, and willing to give to God, when it creates a hardship on you? Now, I am not calling us to give and leave nothing for us. I am asking us to pay attention to what it is we really trust in.

Luther had no idea what would happen when he posted the 95 Theses. He knew his career, as a monk was over. But he still did what mattered because he knew God would provide for his every need. God does the same for us. 

Why does all this matter?

The life of Christ is all about living in such a way the world knows how much you and I love God (and people) by how much we give and give back. It’s not about “keeping up appearances” with others, it is all about living a life of joy trusting that God will do what he will do and will provide what’s needed.

This week. Praise God for how He is working and moving in the world and in and through you. Praise God for the way He is providing for your every need. Find ways to serve (give time). Ask God if we are giving sacrificial (financially) so we trust in His provision and presence in our lives.

Finally, praise God every day for the gift of His love and guidance to bring us back to the core truths of the Christian faith. Praise God for reminding us who Jesus is because we all need to see and know who we are being recreated and reformed into.

God is providing for you. You and I are blessed so we can be a blessing to others. Know this and live this always. Why? Because the greatest gift we can give the world is a life of pure obedience to God through Jesus Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit.

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