A Bad Deal

Are you trusting Jesus

“This I know, that God is for me.” – King David – Psalm 56:9b

The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps. – Proverbs 16:9

Pang: “a sudden sharp pain or painful emotion:” – New Oxford American Dictionary

“In order to be successful you must learn to be self-reliant.” “It’s not about how many times you fall, it’s about how many times you get back up.” “If you get bucked off, get back on that horse.” These are some hallowed creeds of american ideology. They say, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” They speak of ownership. They speak to individual power. To the ability in us. And we have ability. I agree with them. But then again. They’re completely wrong to most of us. And so they stop being affective sayings and simply become discouraging rhetoric. They’re not genuine to the average person. Because there is something more needed. We need something more than just ourselves. Yes we have power in us, but that power is not of us or from us. The power we have is bestowed on us. And we have it for a reason. That reason may be unknown right now. But when we follow the One who gives us strength and courage and ability; that reason will be fulfilled. It’s a hope we have. A hope of something greater. As you watch a toddler learn to walk then run, you will watch a human being get hurt and get back up again. If you were to watch a young man peddling his bicycle with all he has, you’d be watching a boy dreaming of riding a motorcycle as a man. When you observe the care a little girl puts into her party with tea, you’re watching a person dreaming of becoming a woman. We all want growth. We all need growth. We all feel the pangs for growth. And we all want to take that step forward into being more than what we are now. We were built for it. But we don’t have the power. We can’t make ourselves grow any more than we can change the color of our skin. But it happens doesn’t it? We do grow. And if the sun hits us just right, the color of our skin changes too. But the power is not in us. It’s in the One who created us. We can eat the right things. We can lay under the sun. But God is the one who makes it work. He’s the one that designed our bodies to use the energy we put in. He’s the one who gave us sunlight and melanin. He’s the one who provides the very air we breath. But too often we place all the weight on our shoulders. We make or dream up ourselves to be the captains of our destiny. But God propels the ship. Jesus floats the boat. His love uplifts life itself. Are we willing to trust in Him? Are we willing to do what we need but rely on His doing? This is His creation we live in. It’s His love we live for. It’s Christ’s death we’ll live because. It’s not about you. It’s about the one who LOVES you. Do you believe that? Trust me, it’s a better deal than what we’ve been sold.

Daily Journaling Questions:

  1. How did I help someone in kindness today?
  2. What did I learn today?
  3. What am I thankful for?
  4. Who did I love today?
  5. What am I dreaming of?
  6. What about today do I want to remember forever?
  7. What are my goals for tomorrow?

Thanks for reading,
Jake

It’s Personal

When purposeful becomes personal

“Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” – James – James 1:27

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. – Galatians 4:4-7

Puissant: “having great power or influence” – New Oxford American Dictionary

“Did you even want me?”
The question struck to the soul of the man standing in front of his foster son.
“If you didn’t want me, why am I here. Just let me go!”

We all want to belong somewhere we are wanted. What good is it to be on a team who doesn’t want or need your contribution? What fun is it to be in a club that doesn’t value your company? What joy is there in be unwanted?

But relationships grow. Wounds and hurts can heal. Love can blossom. To the foster child… You may not have been chosen. That does not mean you’re unwanted. To the adopted child… You were probably not picked by your parents. Instead you were placed by God. To everyone reading… You may not be somewhere you planned. But you’re right where God wants you.

It’s personal. It hurts to know that at one point someone you love may not have loved you. It’s not fun finding out that you were abandoned by someone who should have cared for you more than any other. It’s painful to know that this world is full of rejection and denial. But it’s so good to know that God is full of redemption and love. We have no way of choosing our destiny, our children, or our parents. However, God does. He’s personal. He cares. Maybe you’re thinking, “But what about those in need with no one to help? It doesn’t seem like God cares about them.” And the answer is personal. What have we done to help? Maybe we’re the ones to care. We won’t be able to choose the ones we care for. Maybe the group, or the category of need, but not the individuals. And they’ll have the right to ask, “Did you even care about me?” And our answer will have to be. “I didn’t even know who you were.” But God knows. He’s personal. He knows every person with every need. He knows the one who needs and deserves a drink of water. He knows the child who needs a home. He knows the runaway who needs a parent and a place to stay. And He knows our greatest need too. He knows our need to help. It will probably get personal. But that’s what being a person is all about.

“Son there will come a point when you are more than free to go. You’re right. I didn’t want you. I didn’t even know you. I didn’t pick you out or desire to be your father. But God put me on a path towards you. He put you in this home. And so whatever happened in the past. However we felt before. It was to get here. The question isn’t, ‘Did you want me?’ The question is, ‘Do you love me.’ And I love you more than…”

Daily Journaling Questions:

  1. How did I help someone in kindness today?
  2. What did I learn today?
  3. What am I thankful for?
  4. Who did I love today?
  5. What am I dreaming of?
  6. What about today do I want to remember forever?
  7. What are my goals for tomorrow?

Thanks for reading,
Jake

Jesus Loves You

Jesus Loves You

Today I want to break from the usual format and I want to talk to you. Whoever you are. Wherever you are. There are times when I feel like I want to reach through this keyboard, through the internet and the screen on my computer and touch a heart. I have no idea who’s or where that heart may be. Maybe it’s mine. But somewhere a heart needs to be touched. And I don’t know how to do it. So I just start writing.
There’s so much brokeness and pain in this world. So much hurt and suffering. But there’s also joy. There’s gladness and happiness worth sharing. It’s all part of our human experience. It’s all a part of living a fallen life, but being redeemed by a Savior too.
At the Cross Jesus changed it all. At the Cross all can be changed. At the Cross, the Bible says, every knee will bow. But we’re held back so often. Phoniness ruins a lot of our faithfulness. Lies destroy our trust. And pretty soon we give up. We give in. We stop being children and grow up. Or do we? Is what we call growing up actually a regression? Jesus said, “Unless you believe like a child…”
How many of us believed in Santa as children? It’s struck me this Christmas season, what if we believed in Christ the way a four year old little girl believes in Santa. I heard a little girl at my house say the other day, “If you believe Santa is real you can hear the bells.” We all know Santa is a fictional character. As adults we’ve seen the evidence. We’ve pretended to be him to others. We know that “his” presents don’t come from a sleigh, but from a store. Sadly, as adults many of us have experienced Jesus a lot like Santa. He was so real when we were little. But as times passes, His smile dims. As times passes we hear rumors. We hear that He’s not true. As time passes. But those rumors. Those rumors are just what they are. Santa doesn’t have a Bible. Jesus does. Santa can’t stir a heart. Jesus does. Santa can’t slide down your chimney. But Jesus. Jesus won’t be coming down your chimney no, but He does desire a place in your home. He can sneak into a heart. He can leave gifts. Gifts so precious they can’t be valued. Gifts we all need. “Suffer the little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of Heaven.” – Jesus – Matthew 19:14
Bells won’t ring in your head when Jesus enters your heart. But there is a feeling. A feeling of joy and peace in a tumultuous world. Whatever it is that’s holding you back. Whatever it is that’s hurting you. Whatever it is that tamps down your faith. Let Jesus take it. There will be liars. There will be people taking advantage. There will be temptations to break the faith. But through it all. Through everything. The Cross stands as a reminder of what’s been done for you alone. Jesus died for you because He loves you. If there is one message I could give to this world. If there’s one thing I could write on my tombstone it would be, “Jesus loves you.” So today I’ll break tradition. I’ll break format. It’s just me here to say, Jesus loves you.

Daily Journaling Questions:

  1. How did I help someone in kindness today?
  2. What did I learn today?
  3. What am I thankful for?
  4. Who did I love today?
  5. What am I dreaming of?
  6. What about today do I want to remember forever?
  7. What are my goals for tomorrow?

Thanks for reading,
Jake

True Character

Does the Spirit Shine in our lives

“I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.” – Marilyn Monroe

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will. – Romans 12:2

Unsated: “not satiated: not satisfied” – Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Often, the last thing we give away is our grace and our kindness. We give of our time and our money, and whatever quantifiable thing we have. And at the same time we hold onto what matters most. Our spirit and heart. It’s easy to give a few dollars to someone in need. It’s easy to help someone move on a Saturday afternoon. It’s easy to… Those things are measurable and temporary. What’s hard is to give of ourselves. Maybe not for you. Maybe it’s harder for you to give the quantifiable things. However, for most, giving of ourselves is harder, if not impossible. Giving of ourselves is timeless. It lasts forever. It is kindness to someone we hesitate to like. It is a smile towards someone who’s wronged us. It is a good spirit when we want to be in a bad mood. It’s hard to give of ourselves, because it requires that we change our feelings. It’s possible to mow our neighbors lawn out of kindness and retain bitterness in our spirit towards them. It’s possible to change someone’s tire and resent them at the same time. It’s possible to mask our feelings, be content with our actions, and forget our spirits. Galatians 5:22-23 says, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.” Notice that those are the fruit of the Holy Spirit with a capital “S.” Those are not the fruit of our spirits, the lowercase version. It’s possible to act out some of those fruits in our own spirit. But time will reveal our true identity. There is at least one of those fruits we struggle with. We’ll lose control, our temper will flare, and those fruits we worked so hard to produce will rote in a matter of milliseconds. But the fruits of the capital “S” Spirit are everlasting, and they’re not an act. When we have the Spirit in us, those outward actions are a natural byproduct. They’re the effervescence of a healthy relationship and heart with the Lord. But it requires the relinquishing of our spirit. It requires that we commit our hearts to the Holy Spirit. It requires a change on the inside. Façades and masks can be swapped regularly, but interior renovations take a change of heart. We all know how to act civilized in public. But do we know how to feel civilized inside? It’s the heart that really matters. It’s what we feel that makes the most difference. It’s our spirit that bears fruit. Not when everything is going well, but when it seems like everything is falling apart. It’s after the careless fender bender, the rude comment, the negligent bump that reality shows up. We like to think of ourselves as bing pretty good, but how do we respond in those roughed up moments? Rather, who responds? Is it our often hateful, grumpy, strident, impatient, unkind, bad, unfaithful, harsh, out of control spirit? Or is it His Spirit? You may be saying, “I’m not that way, I’m kind and considerate.” I know that’s what I want to say. But is it really true?  I know I’m kind and considerate when I’m in a good mood. But it takes everything I have to put a smile on my face when my mood is lacking. And that’s not uncommon for me. Let’s lose the act. And let’s gain a life. Let’s admit our true characters. And gain true character. With His Spirit it’s not only easy to offer a helping hand, it’s also easy to offer a loving heart. With His Spirit people won’t have to deal with our bad days to get a good one. With His Spirit we can be changed, we can be renewed in our minds and our spirits.

Daily Journaling Questions:

  1. How did I help someone in kindness today?
  2. What did I learn today?
  3. What am I thankful for?
  4. Who did I love today?
  5. What am I dreaming of?
  6. What about today do I want to remember forever?
  7. What are my goals for tomorrow?

Thanks for reading,

Jake

Steady

He is presnt

“I think the reason we sometimes have the false sense that God is so far away is because that is where we have put Him. We have kept Him at a distance, and then when we are in need and call on Him in prayer, we wonder where He is. He is exactly where we left Him.” – Ravi Zacharias

Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the thorn a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll to to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that He can open the scroll and its seven seals.” – Revelation 5:1-5

Dudgeon: “a fit or state of indignation” – Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Have you ever noticed how walking with a cup of liquid – almost full – is easy until you try. We walk along not even noticing, and not even spilling, until something happens. We look at the cup. Then we worry. We start trying not to spill. For every bump we compensate. Then something happens. We spill. Until that point our brain and body worked naturally together to steady the cup. However, conscious effort ruined it all. Something about seeing, thinking about, and trying to solve the problem lead to the failure. And sometimes, isn’t life a little like that? Everything seems well and good. Life is seemingly problem free. Then we take a look at it. Or perhaps something draws our attention to it. We see the potential problems. We begin to compensate for the bumps… I know it’s not a perfect example. Sometimes I spill my coffee even when I’m not paying attention. And there are times when we do need to pay attention to what we’re doing and where were heading in life. However, here’s the power of the illustration. We can’t fix the problems by paying attention to them. There are jostles and bumps and jolts we won’t be able to compensate for. And so, let’s be thankful for the steady hand of the Lord in our lives. Just as I’m thankful I have a body able to steady a cup of coffee while I climb the stairs, let’s be thankful we have a God and Savior able to steady us on the climb of life. No, we can’t control everything. We don’t have the power to change the way life is and can be. But there is one who is able to do all this. There is one who is able to see us through whatever life and death can bring. The Bible says, “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen” – Jude 1:24 There are things only He can do. Things we need to trust Him for. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” – Psalm 46:1b Do we believe that? Or are we still trying to solve the problems of life on our own. If so, it probably feels like life is losing control. We probably feel a step behind on everything. We’re probably living from temper to dudgeon, frayed at both ends. Let’s stop trying to keep the coffee from spilling. Let’s leave our life for Him to steady. “Cast your cares on the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken.” – Psalm 55:22

Daily Journaling Questions:

  1. How did I help someone in kindness today?
  2. What did I learn today?
  3. What am I thankful for?
  4. Who did I love today?
  5. What am I dreaming of?
  6. What about today do I want to remember forever?
  7. What are my goals for tomorrow?

Thanks for reading,
Jake

Because Of Him

Because of His Covenant

“More was lost in the war.” – Unknown (reference to WWII)

For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though He cause grief, He will have compassion according to the abundance of His steadfast love; for He does not afflict from His heart or grieve the children of men. – Lamentations 3:31-33

Bereft: “deprived of or lacking something, esp. a nonmaterial asset” – Merriam-Webster Dictionary

In the midst of the Civil War Abraham Lincoln made the remarkable and often quoted statement, “This too shall pass.” He told the truth. Everything in this life will pass. The good and the bad. Still, we hold on to what we have for dear life. Our possessions become our normalcy. We look to them to find comfort. Maybe it’s because we’re proud of them. Maybe because we see them as accomplishments. And maybe because if we’re careful enough with them… They won’t die. But despite our tenaciousness and vigilance, we often lose our most treasured assets. “More was lost in the war.” It’s a telling answer to a common complaint. We hate to lose anything. Money, clothes, homes; their value exponentiates through our peacetime perspective. “More was lost in the war.” It tells of something more valuable. Life itself. Innocence and culture. Freedom too. The things that drive our lives in deepest ways. Loved ones, our religions, and values. These things are taken away in war too. It leaves us bereft of the things that matter most. But we all know, it is part of life as much as anything else. However, there is something more important than the things war removes. Our soul and its salvation. It’s the only part of us that can continue on and survive the death of our body. Because of it, because of Jesus; in the midst of war it becomes possible to say, “This too shall pass.” Speaking of our soul we can say in the height of death and battle, “The devil took more.” But Jesus has the power to give it back. He has the power to restore and heal. Because of Him we can say, “The devil may have taken, but he can’t keep.” Because of Him, the battle may be raging, but the war has already been won. Because of Him… That’s great news in a world filled with loss. That’s great news of hope. That’s great news… Period.

Daily Journaling Questions:

  1. How did I help someone in kindness today?
  2. What did I learn today?
  3. What am I thankful for?
  4. Who did I love today?
  5. What am I dreaming of?
  6. What about today do I want to remember forever?
  7. What are my goals for tomorrow?

Thanks for reading,
Jake

Synthetic Life

This is Real

“I regret that it takes a life to lean how to live.” – Jonathan Safran Fore

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. –  Jesus – John 10:10

Life: “the sequence of physical and mental experiences that make up the existence of an individual” – Merriam-Webster Dictionary

So my cat is addicted to the iPad. I don’t know if you’ve seen them, but there are games for cats to play that you can get for tablets. They feature mice and goldfish and birds that run, swim, or fly across the screen enticing any cat to try and catch them. As I’m writing this my cat is pawing at a blank screen trying to conjure a chase-able object to appear. Of course there’s nothing to catch. It doesn’t matter how long Millie plays, or how many times she claws at that same rat she will never catch anything on from an iPad. My wife and I have wondered if it’s torturous for her. If she gets depressed never catching anything. But then I wonder if it’s torturous for me when I watch TV all day? Or play on the computer all day?Or..?  We laugh at a cat chasing an object it will never catch and ignore the fact that we do the same thing. How much of our time is synthetic living? How much of our time do we spend vicariously living through a reality TV family? How much time do we spend actually getting out into what God has created, interacting with His creatures? Don’t get me wrong. I’m not casting any stones. I’m one of the entertainment industries best customers. But to come back to a question I asked a few sentences ago. Yes, it is torturous and depressing to watch TV all day. Have you ever tried it? Sometimes it’s good to relax and enjoy lazy entertainment. However, the end of the day doesn’t quite feel as good as when we’ve actually lived real life. When I’m watching TV who am I? Who are we when we’re not making a difference in the world? We’re like a tree falling when no one is around to hear. The only one affected is us. And the effect isn’t good. What’s the point of having all these talents and abilities if they lay dormant and smother in laziness. Ability without action leads to depression. Depression can’t exist in the presence of our true purpose. I’m not saying we should all throw our TVs out. I don’t plan on throwing mine away anytime soon. But if there’s something keeping us from living with purpose, it needs to be handled. If not, we’re no different than my cat trying to catch a fake mouse that can never be caught. Let’s get out there and catch some real mice. I guess Jesus threw down the gauntlet when He said to Peter and Andrew, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” – Matthew 4:19 He’s calling us all to do the same. Let’s not let it take a life to learn how to live.

Daily Journaling Questions:

  1. How did I help someone in kindness today?
  2. What did I learn today?
  3. What am I thankful for?
  4. Who did I love today?
  5. What am I dreaming of?
  6. What about today do I want to remember forever?
  7. What are my goals for tomorrow?

Thanks for reading,
Jake

Sharing The Wealth

God's beauty is for everyone“There is a gigantic difference between earning a great deal of money and being rich.” – Marlene Dietrich

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. – Romans 12:2

Abundant: “existing in or yielding great quantities” – New Oxford American Dictionary

We never had a lot of money when I was growing up. I can remember this monthly ritual called, “balancing the checkbook,” that always seemed to be a stressful time for our family. There were times when food-stamps were used. Sometimes bills were hard to pay. We never had a big fancy house. But WE WERE NEVER POOR! I don’t know how much money my parents had. I don’t think it was a lot. But the bills somehow got paid. I somehow had food in my stomach. And our home was always treated like a home anyone would want to live. So now, when I look back at the different moments of my life. I haven’t escaped anything. I appreciate everything. And I hope to provide as happy a life for my children as I had. However, if you could have seen the balances on my families bank statements, you might wonder how we could be happy. How I could view my childhood as blessed. How I wish I could return to some of those times. It’s because WE WERE NEVER POOR! You’ll notice that if you look out across the landscape, God didn’t create any houses. He didn’t make anything better for some people and not so nice for others. Everyone, no matter how much they make can enjoy the same nature. Creation does not have classes of people. Only beauty for everyone. Yes for some, that beauty is restricted. I realize that growing up without a lot in America is akin to being rich in other places. However, I still hold to the idea that with God, no one is destitute. That sad thing is, there are those who don’t know the Lord. Those who are truly destitute. Those who don’t appreciate life when they look at their surroundings.  And why should they? It seems no one cares about them, not even a Creator. Because with man, no matter how wealthy our situation, life can seem very poor. For those of us who’ve been raised without knowing destitution, those of us who know our Savior, us who see the beauty of creation; it may be our cross to bear. It’s for us to bring riches to the needy. To bring beauty to those who only see ugliness. To bring that spring morning called the Resurrection to those who know only parched dry land. We may not have the cash to spare. We may not be wealthy according to society. But when we have Jesus we have something priceless to share. Because with Jesus our minds are changed. We can be renewed. We can have eternal life. And who could be richer than a happy person with an eternal life? Give Jesus.

Daily Journaling Questions:
How did I help someone in kindness today?
What did I learn today?
What am I thankful for?
Who did I love today?
What am I dreaming of?
What about today do I want to remember forever?
What are my goals for tomorrow?
Thanks for reading,

Jake