It’s a New Year! What’s Next?

It’s a New Year! What’s Next?


Luke 5:29-32

Is 2021 the Year you will grow exponentially in your relationship with God?

 

Are you ready to go deeper with God and meet with Him daily? I hope you will join me on a quest to live out your faith – LiveScriptureDaily – and find your purpose and passion in God’s written word.

 

I’ve been a Christian for a long time but I began this journey into a daily devotional walk with God in December 2015. My pastor challenged me to take my faith to the next level and spend dedicated time EVERY DAY with God. I resisted at first, citing all the usual excuses. He relented and I agreed to try for 30 days. Now, six years later, the habit is ingrained within me and I can’t help but turn to God and His Word first thing in the morning. This journey has transformed my life.

 

It would be an honor for you to join me on a daily walk toward a deeper relationship with God. It is my daily prayer that I can help you on your journey by providing a small encouragement of faith for you through my writing and podcasting.   

 

Take the first step 

 

The Journey to live out your faith daily begins with a prayer and a pledge. Use your own words but I encourage you to pray along this pattern: 

 

Father, by faith I want to take a step forward toward a closer walk with You. Help me begin spending daily time with You. I ask that You also help me move beyond having a faith that is relegated to only certain aspects of my life. Use my time with You to move me toward a genuine faith that is fully integrated into all aspects of my life, personal and professional. Grant me the grace to grow my faith in You one day at a time. Amen! 

 

In I Samuel 12, Jonathan made a pledge to David. Verse 16 says, “So Jonathan made this agreement with David and his family, and he asked the Lord to hold them responsible for keeping it.” 

 

Once again, with God’s help, use your own words but I encourage you to make a pledge along this pattern: With God’s help, I commend myself to God to make progress daily toward a closer walk with Him. My walk will be strengthened as I take in a little of God’s Word daily, spend time in prayer and share my learnings with close Christian friends/family. As I result, I pledge to apply my biblical insights into daily living and decisions.  

 

Now you are ready to take your next steps in this journey. Your journey encompasses three key elements: 

 

  1. Daily Time with God 
  1. Daily accountability
  1. Better Daily decisions  

 

Reminder: Doing this “daily” is a worthwhile goal but it is not an exercise in legalism. Doing it ‘daily’ is an aspiration not a requirement. You may want to begin with a goal of 3 to 5 days a week and build it from there. This is a relationship builder, not a ritual.   

 

  • Daily Time with God 
    • Once you have made the decision to spend time daily with God, I encourage you to follow the pattern of READ, REFLECT and WRITE. You can follow the 3Rs in a 10-15-minute timeframe or up to an hour or more. I started out at 20 minutes and now spend 45-60 minutes daily.

 

    • Read – Pick a Bible book and determine to read through it little by little each day. Don’t rush it. Take it slow and think more in terms of reading paragraphs or sections rather than reading chapters. Reading through books is better than just haphazardly picking verses. Books I recommend as you begin are Luke, John, Philippians, Ruth, Esther, and 1 Samuel. Also, you can do sections in Psalms or Proverbs (such as chapter 1-5, etc.).

 

    • After you have read a section, now focus some time on Reflection. This is time to prayerfully ask God for wisdom and insight; to ask and reflect on what the key message is. What does this teach us about mankind and/or what about the nature of God? Does it call us to act or think differently? What should we learn? Be prayerful and reflective. 

 

    • Finally, wRite something down. For many years I would read and reflect only. But it wasn’t until I trained myself to write daily, that the Word of God took on a deeper meaning than ever before. There are no rules about what to write. Just start writing, even if you feel you have nothing to say. Ask questions, make observations, write out applications, etc. I have found that writing opens me up to insights that I didn’t get by just reading and reflecting. This is a very powerful and impactful step.

 

  • Daily Accountability Partner 
    • Who is a reliable Christian friend or family member that you can partner with? Ask them if you can text them after you have your daily time with God with just a sentence or two about what you wrote down.

 

    • I followed this texting process with my Pastor in 2015 when I began and continued for 6 months until it was a habit. I expanded it to include my wife, a few close friends and my men’s Bible Study group. Now I have a small but growing blog following. 

 

  • Daily decisions and actions 
    • It is very easy to have a wonderful time alone with God in the morning and then not think of Him all day. 

 

    • Give yourself triggers or reminders throughout the day so that you can keep what you learned in the morning at the forefront of your mind throughout the day.

 

    • Record actions or decisions you made that are related to what you are learning from God’s Word. 

 

You are now ready to begin the journey of a lifetime. You will begin to make better decisions, find more hope and energy in your life’s purpose and discover greater resolve to persevere through the trials and challenges of life. It may not happen overnight, but the compounding power of daily time with God will yield powerful results.

 

May God bless you and give you hope as you take one step at a time, toward a closer walk with Him.

Amen!


Jesus may love sinners, but they annoy me. Part 6

Jesus may love sinners, but they annoy me. 

Part 6


Luke 5:29-32

When life presents me with the situation of socializing with sinners, I tend to get annoyed, irritated, and sometimes disgusted. You see, in the whole scheme of things, I fall into the category of ‘self-righteous.’ Relatively so, I consider myself as ‘less sinful than most others.’  

 

As I write this, I am well aware that my attitude is disgusting to God. I don’t take it lightly. As the Bible teaches, you can be sure that my heart of flesh is filled with pride and rebellious disobedience. The more I learn about God, the more I realize how far short I fall of His glory. I am beginning to learn that sinning less than someone else is really pretty meaningless in view of the fullness of the glory of God. 

 

That being said, I still tend to look at others who are sinful and feel annoyed by them. 

 

I’ve learned something recently …

 

In my recent study of Jesus’ love for sinners, I have realized something … I am not very Christ-like in the area of loving sinners. When I am around non-Christians, I find that excessive drinking is very annoying to me. Dropping F-bombs, telling dirty jokes and speaking lewdly is disgusting to me. I simply don’t like to be around these people. 

 

I’m afraid I’m more pharisee-like than Christ-like. I don’t look at sinners and say, ‘I want to be your friend; let’s spend time together; let’s do lunch; let’s go to a game.’   

 

However, Jesus is a friend of sinners. The Pharisees observed that all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near Him … the Pharisees concluded that This man (Jesus) received sinners and eats with them. Jesus welcomed them, spoke with them, and ate meals with them.  

 

Maybe I can learn from Jesus in how He interacted with Matthew’s friends! 

 

And Levi (Matthew) gave a big reception for Him (Jesus) in his house; there was a great crowd of tax collectors and other people who were reclining at the table with them.

 

The Pharisees and their scribes began grumbling at His disciples, saying, ‘Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?’ And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.

 

What do we know about Matthew? 

 

  • He was a tax collector – most likely, well-compensated. 
  • He had a home that could host a large party with a ‘great crowd’ of people. 
  • Levi the tax collector (Matthew) had a lot of friends and acquaintances. Most of them outcasts and sinners.  

 

Matthew’s heart was transformed by Jesus. Jesus called him and He left everything; he got up from the tax booth, quit his job, and gave himself completely to following Jesus.  

 

One of Matthew’s first responses to his transformed life was to introduce others to Jesus. It seems Matthew wasn’t embarrassed by his tribe of sinners. And you know what? Jesus wasn’t embarrassed by them either. Jesus reclined at the table with them. This was a sign of friendship, respect, and intimacy. 

 

Matthew knew something the Pharisees didn’t understand. The Pharisees falsely believed that those who were righteous should avoid sinners. I’m afraid that we often fall into that trap as well. Matthew knew that the old laws of avoiding the unrighteous and the sinners were reversed with Jesus.   

 

Matthew wasn’t polluted with a ‘holier than thou’ mindset. Matthew knew intuitively, in his first days of being saved, what Paul would later teach to the confused Corinthian church. 

 

I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with the idolaters; for then you have to go out of (or leave) the world.

 

But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person…For we do not have anything to do with judging outsiders … God judges’ outsiders … I Corinthians 5:9-11 

 

There are so many religious types and Christians who do not have an understanding of Paul’s clarification here. Paul says it’s OK to associate with immoral people. However, so many Christians cannot and do not interact with brazen, non-Christian sinners. However, Jesus did.  

 

Jesus was a friend of sinners. Jesus loves sinners. Jesus spent time with the people who needed Him the most.  

 

Question: Are you a Matthew or a Pharisee?

 

You won’t believe what Isaiah said about this situation about 700 years before Matthew had this party with Jesus and his friends. Have you ever been sitting around a fire and the smoke blows toward you and in your face? It’s very uncomfortable and unpleasant. It burns your nose and eyes. You immediately attempt to move away.  

 

Check this out — a ‘holier than thou’ attitude by righteous Christians makes God’s eyes burn like smoke in His face. 

 

(Those) who say, (like the Pharisees and legalistic Christians) ‘Keep to yourself, do not come near me, for I am holier than you!’ These are smoke in My nostrils, a fire that burns all the day. Isaiah 65:5. 

 

My attitude toward sinners is sometimes like smoke in God’s nostrils and fire that burns His eyes. I am sometimes ‘holier than thou’. But God has put me through His school of humility and I’m growing more like Christ in this area, but it’s not always easy for me.  

 

Jesus is teaching me that I’m not so great…I’m definitely not better than others. He’s the Judge, not me. I am to be light and salt, but not the Judge. My role, as is yours, is to be a light, not a wet blanket of condemnation. Let’s avoid holding ourselves up above over sinners. 

 

Lord, help us to be patient; to be kind; to be humble; and to be gracious … toward sinners. We are no better than they are. We have nothing to be proud of … we only have your grace to cling to; nothing else.  May we be lights in this world and in order to be lights, we must sometimes go where it is dark. Help us to love sinners as you do.

Amen!


Jesus Loves Sinners: Sitting in the Tax Booth Part 5

Jesus Loves Sinners: Sitting in the Tax Booth 

Part 5


Have you ever had someone stare at you with focus and intensity?

Luke 5:27-32, Part 5

 

After that, He (Jesus) went out and noticed (literally, ‘gazed intently’) a tax collector named Levi sitting in the tax booth. 

 

A friend of mine recently pointed out the fact that Levi was sitting in his tax booth when Jesus fixed his gaze upon him. Wow! Think about that … Matthew was sitting in the middle of his sin, in the tax booth, his place of greed, thievery, and exhortation. Jesus fixed his attention on him and called him to follow Him when he was smack dab in the middle of sinning. 

 

Consider the process of Jesus calling Levi, the sinner, to be a follower of His: 

 

  • Without Matthew realizing it, while he was lurking in the shadows, catching a glimpse of Jesus around the village, listening to His teachings from afar, undoubtedly feeling remorse and undeserving of Jesus’ grace … while all of that was happening, Jesus was quietly and intentionally drawing Matthew’s heart with lovingkindness. 

 

I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have drawn you with lovingkindness. Jeremiah 31:3 

 

  • Secondly, Jesus didn’t wait for Matthew to go to the synagogue, make a spiritual sacrifice, or perform a spiritual ritual. Jesus didn’t wait for him to do something righteous or spiritual. Jesus went to him when he is in the middle of his greatest sin. Jesus goes to him while he is extorting his countrymen; while he’s taking money from the poor; while he is arranging to break the leg of a man who owes him money. Jesus fixes His gaze on Matthew while he is in his tax booth; the place where Matthew lives out the wickedness and greed of his heart. 

 

But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 

 

  • Thirdly, Jesus sets His attention upon Matthew in such a way that Matthew can’t avoid the situation. (Have you ever had someone stare at you with intensity and absolute focus)? Matthew is sitting in the tax booth, minding his own business, going about his business within his own domain of darkness and sin, the place where the worst of him is evident to all … and Jesus stares. AWKWARD! 

 

Behold, O Lord, You know it all! You have enclosed me behind and before, and laid your hand upon me … Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? … Even if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me.  Psalms 139:4b-12 

 

  • Lastly, while Matthew is captured by the attention of Jesus – at the moment when nothing is hidden, when his sin is wide open and embarrassingly exposed – JESUS calls him out in lovingkindness, compassion, and care. Jesus says, follow me; be my disciple, be my follower, be my friend. 

 

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and My burden is light. Matthew 11:28 

 

Change of Scenes: Present Day

 

After months of Jesus tugging on the heart of the alcoholic and meth addict, with love and grace one evening, at midnight, when the addict is drunk and high, Jesus fixes His gaze upon his beloved with love and compassion. Strangely, Jesus isn’t harsh and condemning. But instead, just like the father of the prodigal, Jesus runs toward her, even while she is drunk and high, and hugs her and kisses her. In love and compassion, Jesus whispers in her ear, it’s time to follow me. Let’s go!

 

Jesus loves her where she is, at her worst, in the depth of pain, despair, and rebellion.  

 

Jesus continues to speak to her by saying, ‘I’m not going to wait for you to get your life right; or wait until you go to church; or wait for you to meet me on holy ground. Right now, in your deepest shame and worst situation, I’m calling you; follow me. I want you to be my disciple, my follower, my child, my friend. 

 

At the same time, in another place, Jesus fixes his attention on the prostitute, the stripper, the transvestite, the pimp … on the proud, the arrogant, the greedy … the thief, the gangster, the multiple-felon … the porn star, the porn addict, the sex addict.

 

When I say Jesus loves sinners, I mean Jesus really does love sinners. He goes after them, even while they are stuck deep in their sin.

 

When we are lost in our sin, we avoid houses of worship, we avoid our Christian grandmother, we avoid religion of any kind. We avoid such places because we think God resides in those places and we don’t want to face Him. We think we can avoid Him by avoiding spiritual places or spiritual people or spiritual environments. We are mistaken! Jesus draws sinners to Himself while they are still sinners. He will find you when you are sitting in your own tax booth; He goes where you reside, He fixes His eyes upon you when you are in the middle of your darkest deeds. 

 

Why? Because JESUS LOVES SINNERS! 

 

Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them. So, He told them this parable, saying, what man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? Luke 15:1-7 

 

Are you the lost sheep of this story? Are you running from God? Are you hiding in dark places? Jesus will go after you in love. He goes to your place of sin not to condemn; he goes to remove condemnation. Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery, I do not condemn you.  

 

Read these six words very, very slowly. Let them sink in deep! Where sin abounds, grace abounds more! Romans 5:20 

 

Have you ever felt like Jesus could never forgive you? It’s time to put those feelings behind you. It’s time to draw near to Him, not run from Him. It’s time to say to Jesus, help me, forgive me, save me

 

Father God, because of your great love and compassion, You sent your Son to save sinners. When I was living in sin, you died for me; when I was lost, You found me; when I cried for help, you ran to me, hugged me and kissed me. I am forever grateful.

Amen!


Jesus Loves Sinners: It’s not who you were, it's who you will be! Part 4

Jesus Loves Sinners: It’s not who you were, it's who you will be! 

Part 4


Ever look at someone and say, ‘they’ll never be a Christian’?

Luke 5:27-32 

 

Hello! I’m with the IRS and I’m here to help! 

 

What is your perception of people who work for the IRS? I don’t know anyone who works for the agency. I’m sure there are many good and kind people there but I must admit, I don’t have a favorable sense for tax collectors. I know it’s legal, and it’s my obligation to pay my full share, which I have always done, but I don’t always feel good about paying taxes.  

 

The Jewish people have always paid taxes and tithes. I discuss the Jewish obligation for tithes and taxes as well as the freedom of giving under Christ in my book, Wealth, Prosperity, and Giving.

 

But, during the time of Christ, when the Romans ruled over the Jewish nation, taxes were a heavy burden for the Jews. The Romans used a system of selling tax-collection franchises. These franchises were purchased by the highest bidder from the Roman Herod, Antipas. At the time of Christ, the system worked something like this: 

 

  • An employed tax-collector would sit in a booth and collect taxes from individuals within his jurisdiction. He would keep a portion and pass on the rest of it to the Tax Franchise owner. 
  • The franchise owner would take a portion and pass on an allocated amount to Herod Antipas. 
  • Herod would take a portion and pass on an allocated amount to Rome. 

 

When Jesus fixed His gaze on Matthew, he was sitting at a tax booth collecting taxes. He was on the front-lines of the tax collecting system. The people could put a face to the burdensome system by looking at Matthew as he sat in the booth.

 

Tax collectors were the worst of the worst in Jewish society. They were the dregs of society and hated above all others. Most likely, Peter, James, and John hated Matthew personally because his booth was set up near the seashore where the fisherman fulfilled their vocational duties. Matthew was not hidden like the franchise owner. He was in the booth, seen by all, collecting taxes and, most likely, sending out thugs to collect overdue taxes from the poor. 

 

Matthew was a Jew, collecting taxes from his fellow Jews, keeping a portion, and sending the rest to Rome. He was a sell-out. He was a Judas of sorts before the term ‘Judas’ was well known. He extorted from his people in order to pay the Romans and pockets a hefty sum himself. 

 

So, of all people, why would Jesus care about Matthew? Why would He draw him in love? Why would he want to save such a vile man? Jesus fixed his gaze on Matthew. Jesus didn’t see the face of a selfish and greedy tax collector. He didn’t see Matthew for who he had been; He saw him for who he would be. He saw Matthew as a beloved follower and disciple.  

 

When Jesus fixed his gaze on the man behind the tax booth, He saw Matthew preaching the gospel with wisdom and boldness. He envisioned with His mind’s eye, Matthew researching and writing the gospel account of Himself, the Messiah. Jesus could see Matthew, through a window of irony, writing a gospel account that is primarily directed toward a Jewish audience. 

 

Matthew would write words of life to the people he previously swindled and extorted. 

 

Wow! Jesus sees us not for how we have sinned and acted in the past, but instead in Christ; clean, pure and useful to Him for His glory. When Jesus fixed His gaze on Matthew, He saw the simple faith of a wretched sinner and the fullness of God’s grace covering him with forgiveness and mercy.  

 

Our past does not equal the future. My beloved Pastor, who is loved by many and faithfully preaches the Word of God weekly, verse-by-verse, is a former addict; alcohol and meth. His past is his past. His ‘now’ is that he is loved and useful to God. When Jesus is involved, past results are not indicative of future results. Jesus changes everything! 

 

When Jesus reaches in and releases the power of His grace and mercy into the heart of a sinner, no matter how bad the person is, all that is needed is a simple call to follow. Jesus said, FOLLOW ME, and he left everything behind, and got up and began to follow Him. 

 

Father, the stories you have given us in the Bible are amazing. Matthew’s story is the story of redemption that you have also written in our lives. Our stories are not stories of how we pulled ourselves up and transformed our own lives. Our stories are all about YOU; and how You changed us from the inside out. Thank you for writing the stories of Redemption in our lives. Thank you that You have caused us to be born again and made us new creations, in Christ. We are forever grateful.

Amen!


Jesus Loves Sinners: He runs toward you, not away! Part 3

Jesus Loves Sinners: He runs toward you, not away!  

Part 3


Ever looked in the mirror and thought, maybe today something will happen that will change my life forever?

Luke 5:27-32 

 

Levi, known as Matthew, was a tax collector for the Roman government. He was a Jew working for the oppressive Romans. If that wasn’t bad enough, even more egregious, his job was to take money from his fellow Jews and give a portion to Rome, (and keep the rest for himself). 

 

“After that He went out and noticed a tax collector named Levi sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, ‘Follow Me.’ and he left everything behind, and got up and began to follow Him.” 

 

If you stop and put yourself in Matthew’s place, this story is absolutely stunning. Who gives up everything in what seems to be a moment’s notice?  

 

But was it really only a moment’s notice? 

 

I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have drawn you with lovingkindness. Jeremiah 31:3

 

Matthew noticed Jesus long before it appeared that Jesus noticed Matthew. (Not really, but it seemed that way to Matthew). Most likely, Matthew had remained in the shadows while Jesus was teaching the people. Matthew was mesmerized by the words of Jesus … but he was a sinner. He was a despicable tax-collector and hated by everyone. He wanted what Jesus was giving, but he surely didn’t feel he deserved it.  

 

Without Matthew even realizing it, Jesus was drawing him with His lovingkindness. 

 

Jesus was walking along and the Bible says that Jesus noticed Matthew. This is to say that He fixed His gaze and attention upon him. Do you think that Matthew woke up that morning and had any idea that the Lord and God of the universe, the King of kings and the Lord of lords would notice him? And not only notice him, but the word implies that He intently fixed His attention on Matthew. 

 

I prefer to avoid notice. In my youth, if I was in a group and the attention was turned toward me, I’d turn bright red and freeze up. Some students prefer to sit in the front row so that they can be sure to absorb all that the teacher has to say. My practice, on the other hand, was to sit in the back row, hoping that the teacher wouldn’t notice or call on me.   

 

Matthew was going about his daily work when Jesus stopped and of all the people in the crowd, Jesus focused his attention on Matthew. Matthew couldn’t avoid the intense gaze of Jesus. It was his time. Jesus had a plan for Matthew. Approximately 25 years from this day where he was sitting in the tax booth, minding his own business, Matthew would write one of the four gospel accounts of Jesus that would be placed in the Holy Bible and memorialized as God’s Holy Word. 

 

Ever looked in the mirror and thought, maybe today something will happen that will change my life forever? This was that day for Matthew. 

 

The gaze of Jesus 

 

Imagine being on a crowded street, watching the famous Thanksgiving parade in New York. What if your favorite celebrity was in the parade? As they passed by, what if they stopped in their tracks, and amid thousands of people, this celebrity stopped and focused on you. Forgetting about the parade, they walked over, looked you in the eyes and spoke directly to you. What if? 

 

We don’t know exactly what had been happening in Matthew’s life leading up to this moment. But we do know that something had been happening to prepare him to go with Jesus; Matthew didn’t push back; no hesitancy, no resistance. Jesus spoke two words and Matthew obeyed;  

 

… Follow Me. And he left everything behind, and got up and began to follow Him. 

 

God notices you! 

 

Consider the fact that God notices you. In Genesis 16, Sarah’s maid, Hagar ran away from her. But God chased after her. The Lord found her and told her that He had a plan for her life. He informed her that He was with her and He needed her to return. Hagar was overwhelmed that God noticed her and called her. She said, ‘you are a God who sees…I have seen He who looks after me.’ 

 

When you want to be reminded of how intimately and carefully God looks after you, read Psalm 139. It is amazing! 

 

You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you understand my thoughts from afar; you scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways.  

 

How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. When I awake, I am still with You. 

 

Just like Matthew, Jesus has set His gaze and attention upon you. He has called you because He has a plan and a purpose for your life. Pray and reflect this week upon God’s calling and purpose in your life. 

 

Father, it’s amazing to realize that you think of us always and your thoughts toward us are precious. Your thoughts toward us are to give us a future and a hope; plans for welfare and not chaos. Yes, in this world, we will have tribulation. But our hope in you is sure and with it, we have joy because You have overcome this world. Amen!


Jesus Loves Sinners: He runs toward you, not away! Part 2

Jesus Loves Sinners: He runs toward you, not away!  

Part 2


You cannot sin your way out of His heart!

I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have drawn you with lovingkindness. Jeremiah 31:3 

 

When the despicable, good-for-nothing prodigal son was still in the distance; head bowed, shoulders shrunk, unbathed, clothes tattered, walking toward his father’s home, the father ran toward him and embraced him. It was not customary for a wealthy and noble Hebrew man to run. To run, especially toward a known sinner, would be quite unbefitting for a noble man of honor. The neighbors consider the father a fool. But it didn’t matter to this father. He ran toward his stupid, arrogant, foolish and sin-soaked son.  

 

His son could not sin his way out of his father’s heart.  

 

Jesus runs toward sinners, not away. 

 

It’s good that the son sunk low to a place of utter despair. Why? As long as he was intent on making it big on his own, there wasn’t much his father could do to help the son. He was out there on his own. With visions of wealth, pleasure and power, the son repudiated his father and demanded his inheritance.  After squandering his fortune and finding himself utterly impoverished, making a fool of his father, the Bible says he came to his senses

 

All of us who love Jesus have had this happen to us to one degree or another. At a low point of despair, God kindly flashed a light into our rebellious hearts. He gave us enough light to help us come to our senses. In our low point, He gave us a moment of clarity and we looked toward Him. God says, I have drawn you with loving kindness. The prodigal was in a low place. But low places are often the places of clarity, epiphanies, and enlightenment. 

 

In a moment of clarity, the prodigal son realized what he had done. A glimmer of hope flashed before him; I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him … I am no longer worthy to be called your son, make me as one of your hired hands. 

 

I think this is fascinating. Just like us, with the realization of sin, the son hoped that his father would simply accept him back. He didn’t expect blessings, he hoped for a bare existence of work, food and water. Can you relate to that way of thinking? We often don’t realize and accept that God wants to bless us with an abundance of blessings, in spite of our sins.  

 

Yes, there is the natural and spiritual law of sowing and reaping. Our sins will produce natural results such as loneliness, despair, strife and relational conflicts. But our level of sin doesn’t cause God to push back from us. His mercy, grace and compassionate care is not victim to our level of sin. Draw near to Him and He will draw near to you … regardless of your level of sin. 

 

Is your view of God the same as the prodigal toward his father? When you go to God, seeking restoration, whether it is for the first time or whether it is every time in your Christian walk, is your view of God’s work of restoration simply functional? Does God restore us with His index finger wagging in our face? Does He assign us to a lowly station and tell us we have to work our way back up into His favor? Does our guilt cause us to think of ourselves as only God’s hired hand?

 

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him … ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and have been found.’ And they began to celebrate! Luke 15:20-24 

 

When it comes to the restoration of His children, God goes all in. It’s like He’s waiting, anxious to spring into action, wanting to give His all, watching and listening for the faintest call for help, ready to run, longing to hug and kiss.

 

Two men went up the hill to pray, one a pharisee and the other a thieving tax-collector. The pharisee prayed to himself, thanking himself that he wasn’t a sinner. He was happy with his own righteousness. The other man; the filthy, rotten scoundrel of the community, couldn’t even raise his eyes to pray. In utter humiliation, he asked God for mercy. ‘Help me, a sinner.’ The pharisee walked down the hill alone. Jesus ran toward the other man, the sinner, embraced him and kissed him and walked down the hill with His arm around him.  

 

This is the same Jesus that runs toward you. He loves to wipe away your sins and will walk with you, arm in arm, for the rest of your life. Christians, He will draw close to you even when you sin. He’s the healer of your soul in salvation when He forgives you once and for all; and He’s the healer of your soul in sanctification as He walks close to you for the rest of your life, even when you sin. He especially draws near to you in your deepest time of need. 

 

There is no sin so great in your past, present or future life that will keep Jesus away from you. This reality does not easily fit into our view of how things should work. But His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways. There’s no sin you have done, you are doing or will do that Jesus will not forgive. The question is, can you accept that reality? 

 

Have you ever felt like Jesus could never forgive you? 

 

It’s time to put those feelings behind you. It’s time to draw near to Him, not run from Him. It’s time to say to Jesus, help me, forgive me, save me.  

 

Father, shine your light deep into our hearts. Draw us out of the dark, lurking in the shadow, where we feel we deserve to be, and place us into your arms of love, grace and blessings. We know clearly, we don’t deserve it, but nevertheless, give us the courage to accept Your blessings — abundant and overflowing. You endured the cross, despising the shame, for the joy set before you … the joy of saving sinners, such as I. Amen!


Jesus Loves Sinners: The infectious righteousness of Jesus Part 1

Jesus Loves Sinners: The infectious righteousness of Jesus

Part 1


Have you ever felt like Jesus could never forgive you?

The most important message we can share with others, both Christians and non-Christian is this … Jesus is not repelled by your sin. Our natural bent is to feel that our sin keeps God away from us. If we strive to be good so that Jesus can stand to be around us, we miss out on the simple truth of Jesus’ heart. Jesus loves sinners. I can prove it. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us, Romans 5:8. He loves sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. 

 

Your sin, as bad as it may be, is the reason He is moving toward you, not away from you. Jesus loves sinners. Jesus saves sinners. Every other religion tells you that you must attain a certain level of righteousness in order for God to draw near to you. Not with Jesus. Self-righteousness repels Him. A sinner crying for help attracts Him.

 

Let this truth sink in. Jesus is not repelled by your sin, anguish and pitiful life; He is drawn to it. Jesus is a Savior. He is mighty to save. He actually goes toward sinners so He can do what He loves to do; He loves to save sinners who are asking for help.  

 

Noble physicians don’t run from the sick, they go toward them. Jesus is the great Physician. He goes toward sinners.

 

Covid-19 has reminded us of a simple fact; contagious diseases require that the healthy stay away from those who are sick. The healthy are vulnerable around the sick. The sick infects the healthy. We stay away from the sick so that we are not infected. 

 

The Pharisees applied the same principle in their religion of self-righteousness. They believed that sinners would infect them; make them unclean. They advocated quarantining themselves from sinners. Jesus took the opposite viewpoint.  

 

During the Covid-19 pandemic the sick infects the healthy. But what if there was one healthy person who transferred healing to those with the virus? In this case, the healthy one infects the sick with healing, and not the other way around. How cool would it be if the healthiness of one person healed the infected one and made them well?  

 

If there were such a person, he would be very popular and in much demand. Every sick person would go toward him so they could be healed of the virus. Rather than the sick infecting the healthy, this one would bring wellness and healing instantly to every infected person he touched. 

 

If such a person existed, and he had a good and kind heart, he would be drawn to the sick in order to heal them. Actually, he would want to go, with great joy, to the ICUs and be around the sickest. His greatest joy would be to bring instant healing to those who were at the point of death, the sickest of the sick. The scene would look something like this: 

 

While the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and laying His hands on each one of them, He was healing them. Luke 4:40 

 

The Sinner’s ICU 

 

The Pharisees believed that Jesus was being infected or tarnished by hanging around the worst of sinners. The opposite was actually happening. Jesus was not being infected; He was infecting the sinners with His righteousness. Jesus would go to the sinner’s ICU, the place where the tax-collectors, the prostitutes and thieves congregated together, because it brought him the most joy to save the worst of the sinners.

  

Your sin, your deepest and darkest sins, do not repel Jesus. Instead, your sin attracts Him to you. He runs toward you in order to heal you. He pushes the ‘holier than thou’ out of the way to get to you. He has a heart to heal your sin; He has a heart to repair your brokenness; He has a heart that is mighty to save! 

 

He sides with you against your sin, not against you because of your sin.  

Gentle and Lowly, by Dane Ortlund. page 71. 

 

Have you ever felt like Jesus could never forgive you? It’s time to put those feelings behind you. It’s time to draw near to Him, not run from Him. It’s time to say to Jesus, help me, forgive me, save me

 

Father God, break down all of our wrong thoughts about who You really are. Even as Christians, we fall in the trap of thinking You are repulsed by us, that You don’t want to be with us when we fail. We sometimes feel like You hold your nose when we approach you in prayer. You do none of that. Yes, we know that those who utterly reject you will be punished. But for those of us who have asked for your forgiveness, you have given it; fully and completely from Your heart. In Your own words (Exodus 34:6,7) You have said that you are compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving-kindness and truth. Amen!


Daniel: Life in Babylon, Part 7

Daniel: Life in Babylon, Part 7


Do your prayers make a difference?

I have been following the adventures of Daniel and gleaning insights from his godly example. Daniel is in Babylon working and living within a world system where God is not honored and sin flourishes. We live in such a world system as well. Daniel has shown us how to learn, live and lead in the world but not of the world

 

The heroics of Daniel are well known to us. With principled faith, his resolute character refused to eat the food and drink the wine of the king. God used this experience to strengthen his faith and influence others. Many years later, Daniel’s faith also led him to continue to pray earnestly to God despite a national prohibition to pray. The prohibition was set up by men who sought to have Daniel thrown into a lion’s den. He not only survived the Lion’s Den but the event led to the demise of his enemies and to the king acknowledging the amazing God of Daniel.  

 

Daniel lived approximately sixty years in Babylon, serving under several kings and empires. His godly influence over the earthly kings he served and over many others, was perhaps unparalleled in scripture. One of those kings, Nebuchadnezzar, ultimately fell on his face and acknowledged the God of Israel as the true God of the universe and he personally experienced the saving power of God. 

 

How did Daniel Become Daniel? 

 

How did Daniel become such a man? For six decades, he influenced world leaders and pagan nations toward the true God of Israel. Daniel didn’t just fall out of a tree and become the influential man of God he was. He wasn’t just born that way. His faith was forged through devoted time with God and his courage refined with the fire of trials and challenges. All the public notoriety of courage, faith and fortitude was born out of intimate times of devotion, alone with God. 

 

He who stands courageously tall among men must first kneel in humility before God. 

 

Christians, what is the state of your personal time alone with God? 

 

Daniel 9 provides a detailed look into the devotional life of Daniel.  

 

  • In verses 2 and 13 we see that He began by studying the scriptures, (Jeremiah and Books of Moses).  
  • He then gave attention to seeking God in prayer, supplication and fasting. He prayed, confessed and praised God while reciting many of His attributes.  

 

So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed and said, ‘alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and loving kindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments,’ verses 3,4.  

 

  • He was very specific in his confession of sins of his people, verses 5-15.  
  • Finally, he appealed for forgiveness and grace, petition and supplication, verses 16-19.  

 

And now, O Lord our God … we have sinned, we have been wicked. O Lord, in accordance with all your righteous acts, let Your anger and Your wrath turn away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain … So now, our God, listen to the prayer of Your servant and to his supplications, and for Your sake, O Lord, let your face shine on Your desolate sanctuary. O my God, incline Your ear and hear! Open Your eyes and see … verses 15-18. 

 

Wow, what an example of the private devotional life of a man of God. The crescendo comes in Verse 19 when Daniel prays, 

 

O Lord hear! Forgive! Listen and take action! For your own sake, O my God, do not delay, because your city and your people are called by Your name. 

 

In one sense, Daniel’s time with God reveals a unique experience of a chosen prophet of God in history-past. As a prophet, God uniquely uses him to reveal God’s plan for the future of Israel. But in a more practical, applicable manner, Daniel’s actions of prayer and seeking God are a supreme example for all believers to transcend our routine and rote prayers toward a passionate, intense and even fierce encounter with God.

 

Learning Alert: Daniel devoted himself to two key principles of devotional time with God: Set your heart to understand God’s Word and secondly, humble yourself before Him in confession, prayer and supplications, asking for great and mighty things, for God’s glory. 

 

Oh God, may I seek you with the intensity and passion of Daniel. May I boldly approach your throne of grace as he did. May I call upon You to do great and wondrous things! Lord, I need You; my family needs You; my readers need you; our nation needs You! For Your sake and Your honor, wipe away our sins and cause Your light to shine through us. Amen!


Daniel: Life in Babylon, Part 6

Daniel: Life in Babylon, Part 6


Christians, do you fear who might rule us?

The king’s heart is like a stream of water directed by the LORD; He guides it wherever He pleases. Proverbs 21:1  

 

I care deeply about who the President of the United States is. I care about which party leads the Senate and the House. I also care about the judges appointed to the Supreme Court. I vote in every election and I certainly voted in the recent election. But in light of eternity and in the advancement of God’s kingdom (which is not of this world), we would do well to keep perspective. Once again, let’s learn from Daniel.  

 

Daniel didn’t have a choice regarding his earthly king. As a young man in 605BC, completely against his will and without any control over his immediate destiny, he came under the direct rule of the newly-minted king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar was a brilliant and courageous military general. He expanded the control and the borders of Babylon with the defeat of such mighty nations as Assyria and Egypt. Nebuchadnezzar added Judah to his list of conquests and Daniel was part of the spoils. 

 

From our text, it seems Daniel wasn’t fearful of his new king and his new situation. He was highly aware, watchful, observant, and most likely carrying on a conversation with God in his head about all the events unfolding before him. Nebuchadnezzar never considered for a moment that one of the youthful Judean teenagers would come to exercise massive influence and authority over him. After all, he was the king of the world. Why would he consider such an outrageous chain of events? In Nebuchadnezzar’s mind, no power in the universe could subdue him. But in reality, Nebuchadnezzar was merely a puppet in a screenplay written, produced, directed and created by God.  

 

Friends, it’s no different today. Even though there are unprecedented events going on all around us, God is in control. Our world leaders are actors in God’s ultimate plan. 

 

In Daniel, God revealed to us an example of extreme faith, courage, and conviction. We have learned much from Daniel thus far. But to be vulnerable can be a little intimidating, maybe even a bit annoying at times. Why? It seems Daniel never faltered. He always did the right thing. He was crazy brilliant, smart, and fearless in the face of danger and death, and he completely surrendered to His God.  

 

Daniel was the perfect balance of the optimal spiritual qualities we all aspire toward: humble surrender to God and noble courage before men. By faith, I pray we would all grow in the grace of God to live in our Babylon with humble surrender to God and noble courage before others. 

 

Back to my original questions: do you fear who might lead us? The recent election was not only about people wanting a certain candidate to be elected, but on both sides, it was absolute fear of the wrong candidate being elected. What has been your level of fear regarding who would rule us? 

 

The funny thing about kings; whether it be the pharaoh of Egypt, the Persian king Ahasuerus in Esther, or Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel is that they believe the world revolves around them. In my book, What I’ve Learned from Amazing Women of the Bible, I wrote about this principle when unpacking the rich truths found in the book of Esther. The book of Esther was written without ever mentioning or referring to God. Here’s what I wrote: 

 

The story of Esther begins with a pagan king who “appears” to be the main character of the story while the Hebrew writer chooses to not include God in the story. This is a departure from the typical practice in Old Testament narratives but clearly intentional and effective. Effective in that the narrative conveys the way the world views God or should I say, doesn’t view God. Their thoughts are not on God but His works are clearly ‘seen’ throughout the entire story.   

 

Many people live without much thought of God. I think that’s especially true of people in positions of great power, such as the king in our story. They get up in the morning and go through the day without considering the purposes of God, the providence of God or the uniqueness of His people. They are consumed with their world, their purposes and the uniqueness of themselves.  

 

The drama (of Esther) begins with Ahasuerus assuming the role of “king of the world” with no mention of God. Some things just never change. World rulers have been doing the same thing ever since; thinking of themselves as men of ultimate power without even a thought toward God.  Little does Ahasuerus realize that the unseen God is orchestrating the entire scene for His purposes. Ahasuerus is simply a play actor in the drama that God will unfold. 

 

The king’s heart is like a stream of water directed by the LORD; He guides it wherever He pleases. Proverbs 21:1 

 

Humans (especially people of wealth and power), feel they can orchestrate their lives to bring about their own desired results without seeking the counsel of God. How foolish! How often do we fall into the same trap?   

 

Let’s learn from Daniel. When it comes to people in our lives who exercise authority over us, may we approach the relationships with them as ambassadors of God. Like Daniel in his new environment with a new king, may be highly aware, watchful, observant, and carrying on a conversation with God in our heads about all the events unfolding before us, day by day. Who knows what God may do?

 

After many years and multiple interactions with Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar ultimately placed his faith in God. 

 

But at the end of that period, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever. Daniel 4:34. 

 

Father, all of life is ordered after your purposes. We are so blessed to know You and to be used by You to influence others toward the true knowledge of Christ. Push fear out of our minds and fill us instead with hope and trust in You — for You are indeed, doing a mighty work in us and through us. Amen!