Encouragement

1 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their GodAnd God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4)

Revelation was written to encourage the 1st Century Christians as they suffered under the severe persecution of the Roman Empire.  There is much to study and to learn from the book and I believe it is also given as an encouragement to us.

There are many of us who have loved ones that are very sick, hurting, or are otherwise in a very tough spot.  We love them and we want to help them but in truth there is only so much we can do.  Cancer, mental illness, physical disabilities, emotion abuse are the ones that come to my mind as I think about those I love who are either suffering or have someone who is suffering.  It breaks my heart overall and as I consider each case and the impact of the situation hurts me even more.  I dare say it makes me mad on some level though that is a fruit of the flesh and not the Spirit.  The Spirit, if I am focused as I should be, brings me peace, comfort, and encouragement.

As I think about it, I hurt because of the pain but I rejoice because I know that in the end, every person on my mind who is suffering is going to be ok when they go home to Jesus.  With that said, as I turn to those that are caring for them, love them, or otherwise affected by their loved one’s suffering…what can I do there?  Of course I can say encouraging things, I can pray for and with them, I can just generally be available, compassionate, and loving.  That is a lot and I should do more.

What I also want to do today is encourage everyone who is reading this to take time throughout the day and pray for those we know are suffering physical, mental or emotional pain.  Pray that even though they may not be able to pray or read scripture, that verses like these would fill their heart and God would comfort them through the power I know He has and will use for His children.  I believe everyone that is in Jesus is going to be ok in eternity and I believe our God is willing and able to comfort His children who are our loved ones in ways we cannot see or fully understand.  I believe that and I think we can find comfort in it.

It is not about us and it is not about now.  We cannot do it all and thankfully He has done it all.  Take heart and pray with me for all our loved ones and their families in these difficult times.

What God Did and Will Do

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.  (Ephesians 2:4-10)

For this text, I have underlined the words in bold above and in the margin of my bible I have written “What God Did!” and “What God Will Do!”.    When my eyes hit this part of my bible I am encouraged because the bottom line is that God has worked, is working and will work.  He is always working in me and for me and what He wants is to ensure that I make it home to Him.

Jesus is calling me (Come) and God is working…how awesome!  We see that He is rich in mercy, has great love, and He saves by grace.  Mercy, love, and grace from the Great I AM every moment of every day…backwards and forwards…that is where we are if we are in Christ Jesus through obedience to the gospel. 

Take these words today and be encouraged.  Mercy, love, grace.  God has done, is doing, and will do!  He is leading us home.  Heaven!  Salvation!  

Stand Firm. Be Sure. Shine Light

This week we have thought about the fact that we can stand firm and secure if we are faithful and hold onto our Abba Father and Savior Jesus.  From here, we can live a bold confidence that when our time is over here we will be with our Father and Elder Brother in Heaven for all eternity.  These thoughts are awesome and life changing…for our own lives and the lives of those around us…especially your families.

Living this way, however, will certainly stand out in the world we live in and will be a light shining into the darkness many of the people we meet are experiencing in their own lives.  We can and do shine the light of Christ into other people’s lives if we are standing with Him and living for Him.  A light that we hope will illuminate or even expose so that people we interact with will see Jesus and see themselves and understand that sin is keeping them from being reconciled to the Father and Jesus can remedy that with His blood.  This shining of light is a powerful thing, but it comes from a power source we do not directly possess and can only have through Jesus.  For us to be fully charged we have to continue to be in contact with the power source and we do that through God’s word, prayer, meditation, fellowship…by staying plugged in or said another way abiding (John 15).

There is so much encouragement in God’s word and God has given us all we need to be charged and to emit.  We just have to stay connected.  I know many of you have your own way of doing this but today I am going to invite you to read Revelation 21-22 and consider what God has told us about Heaven, what Jesus is doing…today…and how that can translate to a great hope that is infectious even if every indication we are getting from others is that it repels.

Here are some highlights from chapters 21 and 22 that I find awesome and encouraging in terms of our home and how active and involved and interests our Savior is in ensuring we get there.

3…“Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. 4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev 21)

 6 And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. 7 He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.

 4 They shall see His face

 5 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.

 7 “Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”

 12 “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.”

 14 Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.

 16I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.”

 20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.”  Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Let that be your response today.  Be filled.  Shine your light.  Be ready when someone can’t help but ask “why”…and start with “Have you heard about my Jesus?”

Avoiding the Chore War

Hey guys,

Here is a daily broadcast from Focus on the Family about “Avoiding the Chore War.” It features Greg and Erin Smalley.

Definitely worth listening to today.

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
(Philippians 2:1-8)

If I had preached my daughter’s wedding…

Before my daughter married her beau in March, many asked if she invited me to ‘perform the ceremony’, and they did, but I said I would rather be DAD. I wanted to watch her stand giddy next to the man with whom she wants to spend her whole life. I wanted to see him look at her and smile as her eyes lit up when he promised his heart – for a lifetime. But truthfully, when the vows were exchanged, I did not want to accidentally call her by her mother’s name or accidentally replace a name with the family dog – either.

But you know, there is one dad in Scripture with whom I related as we prepared for that day. There was a dad at wedding feast in Cana that could have seen their joyful feasting turn into a nightmare (John 2:1ff). Jesus’ mother Mary discovered that the wedding provisions had practically been depleted. While most Americans might worry about cake. However, for that father of Cana, it would have been “a social faux pas that would become the subject of jests for years (since) the host was responsible to provide his guests with adequate wine for seven days” according to some resources. Seven hours, I get that. Seven days. Wow.

Additionally, “the women’s quarters were near the place where the wine was stored; thus, Mary learns of the shortage of wine before word reaches Jesus and the other men. Her words probably suggest that Jesus should do something (since) guests were to help defray the expense of the wedding with their gifts. It seems that their friend needs some extra gifts now” (from IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament by Craig S. Keener Copyright © 1993).

Had it not been for Jesus’s mother finding out and Jesus Himself gifting this miracle, the fond memory of these parents for a beautiful wedding for their daughter would have unraveled to a fiasco that likely would have made them a laughingstock among neighbors and sharp-tongued gossips too. I am certain that father was grateful without fully appreciating the scope of how lucky he was that Jesus had been invited. Jesus saved the day.

So, in my wedding sermon I would have said, “we invited Jesus here today!” The reason is because…

We invited Jesus to her life when she was born. We brought her, with her brothers, to hear His word and celebrate His worship. We read to her Bible stories and sang songs of worship as we drove down the road. We held hands when we prayed. We laughed. We cried. And we felt the broken heart and the brokenness of the world in which we were raising her – but we wanted her to know Jesus, to follow Jesus and to love Jesus.

And we invited Jesus to our family time and vacations. We would stop for worship along the way and meet Christians we had never met. We would battle the skip services for “convenience” because “no one will know” syndrome but because Jesus had already been invited, we tried to put Him first in front of our children always. I’d never say temptations never came, but we tried to bring Jesus along every day – doing on vacation what we would want other Christians to know we did. In our home, we prayed around our meals. But we also argued – even the father of the bride. And when I spoke harshly – or incorrectly – I had to acknowledge that if Jesus was going to be invited to her wedding, I had to invite Him to my home to stay and then apologize. Every man (woman and child) needs to see that.  Jesus needs to be the reason you love your wife. He needs to be the reason that you stay together. And He will be the reason that your marriage will be to you all God ever intended it to be. But, you have to invite Him now.

So, I invited Jesus to my daughter’s wedding not because I was afraid we would run out of cake or coffee. I wanted Jesus to be there for them so that when they ran out of love, of hope, of kindness, forgiveness and compassion, Jesus would be there for them – as He has been for me – to help me supply in me what keeps running low. Marriage was God’s idea. And it will be everything our hearts really need and everything we need to experience.  But if you forgot to invite Him to your own wedding or even now realize that He is missing in your marriage, Jesus takes late invitations. Even if it is “the day of” He will come to those whose hearts realize marriage is all about finding in each other what God has found in us.

Invite Jesus now to your marriage. That’s what I would have said because He would indeed, as He did in Cana,  save that day – and every day thereafter.

Spreading the Good News at Home

And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.
(Mark 5:19-20)

“Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”

There’s a lot to ponder on when it comes to this text, as there is any time Jesus said anything. What I want to focus on for today is that Jesus asked this man to go home and tell the good news. Talk about how good God is. Speak of His mercy. Jesus charged him to use his formerly demon-possessed tongue to express the things God had done for him.

Go home and do this. He didn’t say go to a strange location, talk about this to people you’ve never met. Instead, He said go home and tell this to your friends.

That leaves me thinking, and I hope you are thinking about it too, what kinds of things are we talking about at home? What kinds of conversations are we having with our wives and kids?

Often we talk about telling the good news to the world and talking to others at work, at school, and in the community about Jesus. But are we spreading the good news at home? Do we talk like thankful people at home?

You see, Peter’s speech betrayed him. He claimed not to be a friend of Jesus, but his thick Galilean accent betrayed him (Luke 22:59; Matthew 26:73). In the same way, we can claim to be followers of Jesus, but the way we talk at home may tell a completely different story.

Is there “faith talk” at home? Are we constantly talking about the problems, the business, and the negativity that we fail to focus our thoughts and speech on all the good things God has done for us? Are we remembering to say good things about God out loud to our wives and kids?

Jesus told this man to go home and do this. Didn’t Jesus do the same?

saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”
(Hebrews 2:12)

Isn’t Jesus asking us to do the same?

The living, the living, he thanks you, as I do this day; the father makes known to the children your faithfulness.
(Isaiah 38:19)

We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.
(Psalm 78:4)

Do you have good news to tell at home? Do our wives hear us as God’s men telling the good news? Are we thankful men, grateful for life and God’s blessings? Do our wives see thankfulness on our faces and do they hear God’s praises coming from our tongues?

Go home and tell the good news.

Go home to your friends, part 2

And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.
(Mark 5:17-20)

Everyone marveled. Yesterday’s article was about the formerly demon-possessed man who was sent by Jesus as an evangelist to the region of Decapolis. A man who at one time went around naked, screaming, breaking chains, howling at the moon, and scaring a lot of his neighbors is now set right and cleansed by Jesus. He was commissioned by Jesus to go home to his friends and talk about the Lord’s goodness and mercy. His message clearly had an impact.

A friend, Matt, followed up with me yesterday and sent me this note, and I wanted to share it with you today.

Here’s one of my favorite parts of that story. We don’t really know where the region of the Gerasenes was, but I think scholars think it was in Decapolis. Then in Mark 7-8 Jesus goes back to Decapolis and what do we see? Tons of people coming to Jesus. That’s where he feeds 4,000. I’d like to think that’s because of the demon-possessed man!

Great thought!

Here are two more examples of the impact someone can have on those around him or her.

How about the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4?

So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” They went out of the town and were coming to him.
(John 4:28-30)

Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”
(John 4:34-42)

Take note of what Jesus just said. “Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” The apostles were going to reap what the Samaritan woman had sown. Look at the very next verse: “Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony.” What one woman planted led to a harvest of souls for Jesus. Remember that woman was a Samaritan woman who had been married and divorced multiple times!

Is it possible that the reason the Samaritans in Acts 8 were so receptive to the gospel is because of the initial work of the Samaritan woman years before to bring so many to hear Jesus?

Is it possible that the reason so many in Decapolis were receptive to Jesus was because of the demon-possessed man who went there and told everyone about what Jesus did?

Yes, it is certainly possible, but regardless, we know that each passage shows immediate impact and influence for Jesus.

Here is another example: Simon Peter and his brother Andrew. How much do you know about Andrew, other than he was an apostle? He doesn’t get a lot of coverage in the New Testament. Really the only time he is specifically mentioned in the book of John, he is bringing people to Jesus (John 1:40-42, 6:8; 12:22).

Think about Simon Peter. Peter was without a doubt one of the pillars of the church. He was one of the most influential people in the New Testament and the early church. Question: who brought Simon Peter to Jesus? His brother Andrew.

One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).
(John 1:40-42)

Can you begin to quantify the impact that the Samaritan woman, Andrew, and the demon-possessed man had on generations upon generations to come? How far did that influence spread? I heard a statement long ago that you can count the seeds in one apple but you can’t begin to count the apples in one seed.

Do not minimize the impact that one seed planted for Jesus has. Plant that seed today, brothers.

Go home to your friends

As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.
(Mark 5:18-20)

Here is a very rare occasion where Jesus told someone he healed to go out and tell everyone about it. Usually Jesus strictly and sternly forbade anyone he healed from going around and talking about it (Mark 1:34,43-45; 5:43; 7:36; Matthew 12:14-21). Of course, no one really listened to Jesus and went out and told everyone anyways!

Whenever someone would broadcast the news of a healing, Jesus would be so crowded and pressed about that he could hardly move. But in this situation in Mark 5, he was leaving the region. The formerly demon-possessed man really wanted to go with Jesus. I think we can understand that. Not only did this man have a really bad history with the people in that area, but come on, it was Jesus, of course he wanted to go with Jesus. He could go get a fresh start with Jesus.

But Jesus wanted him to stay put. “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you and how he has had mercy on you.” Isn’t that a very simple plan for evangelism? Go to your friends and talk about how God is good to you and His mercy is great upon you. And look at the impact this man had on the people in his region. They believed!

So guys, let’s take that simple thought with us today out into the world. What was asked of this formerly demon-possessed man is the same thing asked of each one of us who were bound by Satan and sin. Talk about the goodness and mercy of God.

Oh sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth! Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods.
(Psalms 96:1-4)

The Bridge Builder

An old man, going a lone highway, Came at the evening, cold and gray, To chasm, vast and deep and wide, Through which was flowing a sullen tide. The old man crossed in the twilight dim; The sullen stream had no fears for him; But he turned when safe on the other side, And built a bridge to span the tide.

“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near, “You are wasting strength with building here; Your journey will end with the ending day; You never again must pass this way; You have crossed the chasm, deep and wide — Why build you the bridge at the eventide?” The builder lifted his old gray head: “Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said, “There followeth after me today, A youth whose feet must pass this way. This chasm that has been naught to me To that fair-haired youth may a pit-fall be, He, too, must cross in the twilight dim; Good friend, I am building the bridge for him.” Will Allen Dromgoole

I came across this poem during one of my Air Force leadership classes and have kept it and shared with others when the opportunity presented itself. It resonated with me for all kinds of different reasons but today I wanted to share as we think about Choices and Consequences.

In thinking about my children as I write this, there are two things that come to mind in terms of raising them and the choices/consequences in their lives. First, I have always desired that my kids would not have to face the same heartaches and tough patches that I did due to bad decisions or improper focus. Secondly, I am sometimes frustrated, disappointed, and discouraged with the decisions my kids make and the reasoning they offer me when I ask them “why would you do that” or “what were you thinking?

Disappointed or not, what I know to be true in this is that my kids have to live their own life and make their own path. This is a hard thing to accept at times, especially when my kids stand on the brink of disaster or destruction…and I am not being melodramatic here…they don’t know how close they are sometimes to tragedy or how hurtful they are being.

In times like this, I look to my Heavenly Father and I have to believe He feels the same way about me most every day. Knowing that and what He has done and is doing for me puts my mind right for my kids. Though He is the Great I Am and is in need of nothing…He took the time to build a bridge of reconciliation with Him in Jesus. Further, He continues to work in my life to build bridges over perilous chasms in my life and most importantly…no matter how off track I get, the most important Bridge…the one that leads me home…Jesus…is always there. He is my Rock and I have Him because my Heavenly Father gave Him for me and closed the gap of sin because He knew I was going to have to pass that way and I would not get across on my own.

So…for my kids…for you kids, we can’t control their choices and might have to let them live through some pretty tough circumstances when they choose poorly. That doesn’t mean we stop parenting, stop demonstrating Jesus, stop teaching them the truth, stop loving them, or stop believing God is at work. Those are all bridges we need to continue to build…even if we don’t think we have the time or there might not seem a good reason to do so. If we do that, if we choose to build those bridges, then when most needed our kids will have a safe passage they might not otherwise have and if we do our jobs right…they will always have a way back home to us…and most importantly they will recognize their way back home to their Heavenly Father.

Rules for Our Home

I found this article from 2005 as I was searching my old files on my computer. My son, Joseph, was given a school assignment by his very lovely teacher (Anna, my wife…in case you wondered) to recite a list of the rules for our home. I thought I would share this with you today…here is the wisdom of a seven-year old.


Rules for Our Home

Joseph, in one of his activities for school, was to come up with the rules of the home in his own words.  One of the books he is reading is about someone who didn’t follow the rules, so among other activities, he had to think about how important the rules are in the home.   Anna merely recorded as he spoke “the rules.”  It was interesting to consider what had been impressed upon his mind through daily living in our home.

So, here you go (in parentheses are daddy’s notes):

  1. Dishes – wash with soap and water (we’ve had some interesting things put back in the cabinets).
  2. No jumping on couch.
  3. No punching except when wrestling with daddy (ouch!).
  4. No throwing chairs at one another (huh? Wonder what happens when I’m not at home!)
  5. Do not pretend you are God.
  6. No breaking light bulbs.
  7. Do not blow out candles without permission.
  8. No splashing in bathtub.
  9. No ripping pages out of a book.
  10. Do not say God’s name in vain.
  11. Always brush your teeth in the morning and at nighttime.
  12. No breaking clocks. Then you won’t know what time it is and you will be late for church (must be a preacher’s kid).
  13. No throwing rocks at windows.
  14. Don’t play with fire.
  15. Obey your mommy and daddy.
  16. Ask your father if you can use a hatchet to cut wood as well as a knife (believe me, that rule has history!).
  17. Ask mommy if you can use the dishwasher.

Anna then asked, “Why do we have rules?”  Joseph answered simply, “to keep us safe.”  He understood that many of the things we have told him were to protect him.  Why is it we have rules?  Isn’t it supposed to be for our safety?

God gave us laws, not to burden us, but to protect us.  Moses encouraged the Israelites to “keep the commandments of the LORD and His statutes which I command you today for your good” (Deut. 10:13).  God’s commandments should not be “burdensome” (1 John 5:3) if we understand that God loves us and, like a loving Father, wants the very best for us.  May we all have the heart that looks to God as a loving Father, and may we joyfully serve Him and follow His “rules.”


So there you go. Thank you Joseph (who is now 18) for helping me explain today why we have rules!