bookmark_borderJune 30th, 2023

Mark 6:30-31 CSB – The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a remote place and rest for a while.” For many people were coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.

It’s easy for us to justify spending our entire week working as hard as we possibly can. There are so many people that are depending on us, and we know that if we don’t deliver on a promise, we’ll be letting someone down. However, Jesus wanted us to take time to rest. He knew that we can’t endure forever without a break from our work. In the verse above, I don’t read it so much as a suggestion, but as a gentle command. “Come away by yourselves… and rest.” God instituted the Sabbath, not so much because he needed to rest, but because he knew that his people needed rest. Somehow in our modern Christian age, we’ve moved away from that idea, but I still think it’s something that God would have us do. Many of the Old Testament laws revealed the heart of God for his people, and that heart doesn’t change because Jesus came and created a new covenant. God still cares deeply about us and our well-being is of great concern to him. So, we should rest from our labors periodically so that we may be better able to do God’s work in the future. That is the twofold purpose of rest, first, for our own sake so that we may better serve Him, but also for His sake, so we may honor him.

I hope you all get some time for rest this weekend and on the 4th.

bookmark_borderJune 23rd, 2023

Psalm 3:3-5 CSB – But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, and the one who lifts up my head. I cry aloud to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain. I lie down and sleep; I wake again because the Lord sustains me.

In the fall of 2019, we found out, after more than a year of trying, that Anneke was pregnant. In October 2019, we lost the baby. Not long after, Anneke got pregnant again, and in January 2020, we lost that baby as well. Both times leading up to the miscarriage, during, and in the aftermath, we were praying out asking God to deliver us from what we were going through. These were gut-wrenching, soul-crushing, hard prayers, that, at least in our eyes, went unanswered. We were both incredibly sad, angry, bitter, and ready to give up on ever having children.

After the second miscarriage though, something strange happened. When we were finally to the point where we could go out in public and attend church again, two couples that we both look up to surrounded us. Not in a spiritual sense, but in a very real, literal sense. For at least two months, every Sunday that we were in morning service, one of these couples would sit directly in front of us, and the second couple directly behind us. Both knew our situation, but both also had the decency to give us the emotional space we needed. However, they were there, acting as our shield when we felt so vulnerable. It was amazing. Just their presence was such a comfort. After a couple of months of this, and almost as if on cue, we all started sitting in different spots of the building.

Looking back on it now, that can’t be anything short of God providing provision for Anneke and me when we weren’t in a position to be able to take care of ourselves. We were shielded from a lot of people who have good intentions, but say insensitive things because they don’t know what else to say. We were shielded from people who were just nosy and wanted us to relive the trauma for their benefit so they’d be “in the know”. God shielded us from a lot of that until we were able to stand on our feet again. For me, it was a confirmation that God was with us, even though we didn’t understand why we had to endure what we had to endure. I still don’t understand why we had to go through all of that. But at least I know he was with us while we did and he provided for us in his own way.

bookmark_borderJune 16th, 2023

John 20:29 CSB – Jesus said (to Thomas), “Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”

John 14:12 CSB – Truly I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do. And he will do even greater works than these because I am going to the Father.

The first verse is one of my favorite verses in all of scripture. Jesus makes a distinction between the people that saw him and knew of his ministry while he was on Earth and believed, and the folks that would come to believe after he left Earth having not seen him. In the second part of the first verse, he’s giving all of us a promise. A promise that we will be blessed because we believe, not having seen him in the flesh, and only hearing about him from the testimony of others and through his holy word. To me, that acknowledges a greater level of faith required by future believers, which also serves as an assurance that I have at least the faith of an apostle, folks who had seen and believed.

And then Jesus tells us that since we believed, either by sight or by faith, we will go on to do even greater works than he himself did. A little later in John 14, he says “I will not leave you as orphans; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Because I live, you will live too. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, you are in me, and I am in you.” This is part of the promise of the Holy Spirit indwelling within those who believe in Christ. We will do greater things than Jesus, not because of our own faith and belief and effort, but because of the power of the Father working directly through us via his Holy Spirit. 

Because we believe, the Holy Spirit, the essence of God himself, lives within us, to empower us to do his will, so that we continue the work that Jesus started. How amazing is it that he picked us, broken, hurting people, to continue his mission? And not only did he pick us, but he also gave us abilities and talents so that we would excel at specific things so that our work would have more of an impact on Christ’s kingdom. I can hardly fathom his perfect plan to help imperfect believers carry out kingdom work, but I’m thankful for it.

bookmark_borderJune 9th, 2023

This devotional is going to be a little different and I feel strongly enough about it to tackle it head-on. Last week began pride month for those in the LBGTQA+ community. Since then, I’ve seen a lot of Christians make disparaging remarks about the community as a whole based on broad generalizations and stereotypes. In the below verses, you’ll see how God defines love, who he tells us to love, and the limits of that love. Hint, there are no limits.

What is love?

1 Corinthians 13:1-8 CSB – If I speak human or angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give away all my possessions, and if I give over my body in order to boast but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not arrogant, is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not irritable, and does not keep a record of wrongs. Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends…

1 John 4:16-29 CSB – And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him. In this, love is made complete with us so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment, because as he is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears is not complete in love. We love because he first loved us…

Colossians 3:12–14 CSB – Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a grievance against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you are also to forgive. Above all, put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.

Who are we to love?

  • The Lord your God
  • Your neighbor.
  • The hungry.
  • The thirsty.
  • The stranger.
  • The naked.
  • The sick.
  • The prisoner.
  • One another.
  • The widow.
  • The fatherless (orphan).
  • The resident alien (immigrant).
  • The poor.

Matthew 22:36-39 CSB – “Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.

Matthew 25:35-40 CSB – “‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you took care of me; I was in prison and you visited me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and take you in, or without clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick, or in prison, and visit you?’ “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Zechariah 7:8-10 CSB – The word of the Lord came to Zechariah: “The Lord of Armies says this: ‘Make fair decisions. Show faithful love and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the resident alien or the poor, and do not plot evil in your hearts against one another.’

I have several friends in the LBGTQA+ community and as our friendships have developed over the years, they have gained enough trust in me as a person, by how I treat them, to be open to me witnessing Christ into their lives. A seed has been planted that otherwise wouldn’t be there. It wasn’t always this way for me. The church I was raised in was pretty harsh towards the LBGTQA+ community and the result was I had the same attitude as I grew into an adult. The person that changed my view was a man named Terry Morrison. I worked with Terry at my first IT job. When I met him, he was in a relationship with a woman, was a Christian, and became a great friend and mentor to me. At some point, his relationship failed, and one day he announced that he was gay.

My shields were immediately up and the attitude of my church overrode my previous personal feelings towards Terry. I began to treat him less than human and our friendship failed. A few months after that, due to some construction, Terry and I were placed into a windowless office by ourselves. I immediately complained to HR because I didn’t want to be in the same room alone with Terry because I didn’t agree with his lifestyle and I knew that it would make me uncomfortable. Do you know what happened? HR told me to suck it up.

At first, things were really hard. Terry was uncomfortable, I was uncomfortable, and that was that. After a month or so of not really talking to each other, Terry broke the ice by cracking a stupid IT joke. We both laughed and it was like the pane of glass between us shattered. Terry had chosen the path of love and wanted to repair a friendship that I broke because of my judgment of him. It was a humbling moment for me. Over time, while I still didn’t understand his lifestyle, I realized that Terry was still Terry. He was still the great friend and mentor that I met years prior. He has since passed on, but I’ll never forget him.

I say all of that, to say this. Whatever a person’s situation or lifestyle or belief system is, I choose to love them. “But the Bible says this or that or whatever…” At the end of the day, loving people is the most important thing. God commands us to do it. When you focus on loving the person first, all that other stuff tends to become less important. Love the person, the whole person, and you’ll show them a visage of Christ.