All or Nothing

It was his first year on the job as king of Israel, and it was unremarkable. Oh. It wasn’t a job he asked for. It was one his fellow countrymen had been asking for. They wanted a king. So God gave them a king. And when Samuel warned them that their desire for a king was sinful, they said they didn’t care. They wanted to be like every other nation around them.

This king, Saul, was chosen by God. And Saul failed early on in his reign. He failed because he was not a man after God’s own heart. He was after his own selfish ways. Never mind God. Saul would do what Saul wanted. And pay the consequences later, if need be.

And during his second year in power, he received a horrible performance review. Samuel told him that because of his disobedience to God, he would lose the kingdom. Saul’s early sin of offering a sacrifice that only the priest should make cost him his kingship. Oh. He remained in power, but none of his sons would inherit the throne. It would go to another.

And so the downhill decline started. So early in his reign, Saul saw his kingdom and legacy faltering. He was not a man of God. It didn’t have to be this way. But Saul made poor decisions early on in his reign that began a downward slide of continued disobedience to God’s commands. Saul led the nation of Israel poorly, and it showed. His monarchy would come to a screeching halt after his lifetime. It would not be carried down to the next generation. And he knew it.

I wonder how often Saul relived that day Samuel anointed him in private to be king of Israel. Didn’t he walk away a new man? God had given him a new heart. Once afraid, he was filled with boldness and bravery. He was now a statesman appointed to lead a nation. Oh. Saul did some good things. He won some battles. He rescued people from their enemies. He even prophesied. He was humble as he began his reign. But oh. How the tide turned.

Over the course of his reign, Saul’s sins were many. He was impatient, foolish and jealous. He attempted murder. He was vengeful. He consulted with a witch and disobediently offered sacrifices. When Samuel helped him guide the nation, things went well. Once Samuel stepped aside to let Saul lead the country on his own, Saul appeared to be awkward and weak. When left to his own devices, he made poor decisions.

Saul had a bent for disobeying the God who had chosen him as the first king of Israel. God rejected Saul, because he saw that Saul’s heart was set against him. Saul was self-centered and proud. He told himself he was being self sufficient when he took matters into his own hands, instead of waiting for Samuel to arrive and perform his priestly duties. Saul acted as his own priest. Because. Why not? He was king. He could do everything the priest could do. But that act of rebellion didn’t go down well with Samuel or with God. Saul thought he didn’t need God to instruct him. If only he obeyed God, his reign would have been a powerful statement of God’s grace. Instead, it was a powerful statement of how powerful men can be broken by sin and disobedience.


The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? Jeremiah 17:9


I wonder if King Saul ever stopped to examine his life and his decisions. Did he ever feel guilty about turning his back on God? Was he ever regretful for the many attempts to kill David? Did he realize he didn’t have to lose the kingdom to David? If only he had obeyed God, his family would have remained in power. But Saul was bent on having his way in his own way.

We never know how our lives will be impacted by responding wrongly to God’s will in our lives. Do we stop to think about how one decision can turn our lives in a totally different path with our disobedience? Or do we just go merrily about our business without a care? Disobedience doesn’t come out of nowhere. It starts in the heart. A turning of desires from pleasing God to pleasing self. It may start small. With just a glance. Or a thought. And it builds from there. Until one day, the desire to please God is a far distant thought.

Disobedience becomes easier the more often it happens. The conscience eases. The guilty twinges subside. Until disobedience becomes a lifestyle of comfort and selfishness. Our self sufficient attitude becomes an act of defiance to an all-sovereign God of the universe. And not a thought is given to pleasing God. Disobedience grieves the heart of God. Nothing about it pleases him.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We know that. Hearts can change. Hearts can be turned back toward God. Hearts can still be convicted if they are open to hearing God’s truth. Repentance can happen. Forgiveness is open to everyone who calls on the name of the Lord. Those who seek forgiveness will be saved. God is working in hearts and lives today. But we must seek him while he may still be found.

According to 1 Samuel 12:14-15, blessings await those who obey the commands of the Lord, while troubles are in store for those who disobey. Choose you this day whom you will serve.

Out of the Mouth

I’ve been reading through the book of Matthew this month, and you would be surprised at what I’m learning. I’m finding that this book of the Bible has much to teach me. And I must be open to learning these truths. Earlier this week, I read chapter 15 and wow! It says that whatever is in our heart is what comes out of our mouth.

Jesus gives us examples of the types of evil that are in our hearts that then spew from our mouths. Everything gets its start in our hearts. Here we go. Evil thoughts. Murder. Adultery. All sexual immorality. Theft. Lying. Slander. Greed. Wickedness. Deceit. Lustful desires. Envy. Pride. Foolishness. Just to name a few. Jesus says that these things defile us. That means we are polluted and unclean.

When we act and speak in sinful ways, the finger of guilt will point back to our heart. It’s because evil is in us. The words that come out of our mouth are sometimes well thought out. In other words, they are premeditated, the same as other acts of unkindness. But there are also words and acts that are spontaneous. Spur of the moment. Impulsive. And either way. If they’re premeditated or spontaneous, they still come from the heart.

But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you. Matthew 15:18-20

It is what comes from inside that defiles you. For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you. Mark 7:20-23

The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart. Genesis 6:5-6

God knows that we’re only evil all the time. That was not his plan for us, but we have disregarded his truth and have charted our own paths. We live as if we are our own god. When God saw all the evil on the earth, he created a plan to clean it up and start over. He caused a flood to fill the earth. It destroyed every living and breathing thing. Animal and human. But before the flood, God had commanded Noah to build an ark. Once the ark was completed, every kind of animal walked onto the ark. Male and female. One of each. And Noah’s family. Noah, his wife, their three sons and wives. They were the only survivors. They were the start of a new people on the earth.

And yet. Here we are. Over time, the earth has once again filled with people. And wickedness abounds. I wonder if God is once again sorry that he put us on the earth.


It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth. Matthew 15:11


I was driving home from the grocery store. For the past few weeks, one section of the road has been under construction. I’m not sure what type of work is being done, but it eventually closes down three lanes to two and then from two lanes to one. So, as you’re driving you have to continue moving into the next left lane. And then you find yourself and every other car in the only open lane.

So, of course, we all know what happens when there are lane closures. The people in the lanes that are closing have to move over, and those in the open lane have to make way for all these extra vehicles trying to squeeze in. Now the problem comes when people in the lanes that are closing wait until the very last second to merge into the open lanes. So when I turned left onto the road with construction, I remembered that the lanes ahead were closed. So I immediately got into the far left lane. That would mean I was in the only open lane until I turned at the upcoming light. I wouldn’t have to try to squeeze into a busy lane of traffic. But, of course, not all those coming behind me did as I did.

As we inched forward, we got past the first lane closure. Then up ahead, the second lane was closing. And, of course, up came a big vehicle wanting to get into my lane. This driver wanted to be in the exact spot I was in, and I couldn’t move. They waited until the very last second to try to move into the last open lane. And the car in front of me wasn’t allowing the vehicle into our lane. So, I begrudgingly thought to myself. I’ll let the vehicle in. So I waved him in. At the same time, here are the words I said in the safety of my car. Come on over, you idiot.

And then up came another car quickly trying to get into my lane. He would have moved ahead of me, if I would have allowed him the space. I decided no. I’m not letting a second car in. The car behind me can take their turn to let this bully car in. So I just continued on and didn’t allow the second car in.

Just as that happened, a parable in the Bible came to my memory. A father told his older son to work in the vineyard. He said no, but later felt guilty and went to do the work as his father asked. The father then told the younger son to work in the vineyard. The son said yes, but didn’t do it. Which son obeyed his father? The one who said no and did the work, or the one who said yes and didn’t work? The son who obeyed did so with a bad heart out of guilt. The other son was a liar.

You can read the parable in Matthew 21:28-32.

I found myself in a similar situation as those two sons. Which of my acts was worse? Pretending to be kind by letting the car in my lane, all the while saying unkind words with a bad attitude? Or not letting the next car in? Sure, I let the first driver in, but in my heart I was letting him know that he should have waited his turn like the rest of us. At least I wasn’t putting on an act with the second car. That’s what I tell myself. Oh. We can usually find a way to justify our actions. But that doesn’t make the act any better. An ungodly act or word is still ungodly. Nothing will change that.

I don’t know why I always have to be the example of what not to do. Just a few moments before the incident, I had been praying and asking God to forgive me for being so human. I asked him to forgive me of my bad attitude and judgmental ways. And I’d hardly spoken those words when I acted like a fool. Of course, the other driver didn’t know that. But God did, because he saw my heart. He heard my words.

I have much to learn. You would think that I would be closer to perfection. The older I get, the more I realize how much I need a Savior. I realize how much I still have to learn. There is much work ahead for this heart of mine, in this lifelong quest to be like God. It’s a never ending struggle. It’s a never ending lesson to learn.

What can and should change is my heart. Repentance. Humbling myself before my Creator, who knows my thoughts and actions. He will forgive. He is willing to clean up my ungodly heart, if I will only ask him. And then I must change the way I act and speak. And it is possible to change. The desire to be godly has to replace the desire to be my own god.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Philippians 4:8

This Man Jesus

I’ve been thinking about this man named Jesus. When he was born, there were some who recognized who he was. And they saw who he was not. They knew he was the Son of God and not Joseph’s son. He was one of a kind. One could say. But he was perfect. And that’s hard to say. Because there has been no one before him who was perfect and no one since. And no one else will be. After all, he never sinned. No one else can say that about themselves.

As he began his ministry, he spoke words that were different from what people expected to hear. He was followed by many, but hated by many more. He said he had not come to bring peace. He came to bring a sword. A man would be against his father, a daughter would be against her mother. Family would be against family. But why?

He came to bring division.

He said he did not come to bring peace, yet he was called the Prince of Peace. He came to bring a sword, yet he provides a suit of armor. His message was radical, yet he is the long awaited Messiah. He died on a wooden cross, yet he was the Great Healer. He promised eternal life, yet he died a physical death.

This man Jesus is a mystery to some, and a Savior to all who call on his name. He performed many miracles, yet he didn’t save himself from torture and pain and death.

He causes the sun to rise on the evil and on the good. He sends the rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. He is the chief cornerstone and the Rock of Ages. He was despised and rejected by men, but he died to save all of mankind.


This man truly was the Son of God!
Matthew 27:54


Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword. I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. Your enemies will be right in your own household! Matthew 10:34-36

The message of Jesus Christ started a revolution, and it is still going strong today. Both the message and the revolution. There are times of revival and there are times of rebellion against his message. Many have repented of their sins, and many have fallen away.

Jesus was a Jew, but his message was for all people. Jews. Gentiles. Everyone. He was not partial. His message was for men and women. He spoke truth to all people at all times.

His wounds healed my sinful heart. His death gave me eternal life. And when he arose from the dead on that third day, he made the way for my sins to be buried in the deepest sea.

He submitted to his Father’s will and left heaven. He was born a baby and grew to be a man. His earthly life lasted 33 years. But he packed a lifetime into those years. His ministry was only three short years, but in that time he upended tradition and the Jewish laws. He appeared to be a rebel, yet he spoke only truth. His message was not for the faint of heart, but for those seeking the Way. His life was prophesied and fulfilled. He was the final answer for a sinful world.

This man Jesus died for me. He literally breathed his final breath as a promise of eternal life in exchange for my repentance. He was God, yet he gave his few years to a human life on this earth and experienced all the temptations that mere mortals face. Yet he never gave in. He never submitted himself to those temptations. He was without sin. He was God in human form. Oh, the day before he hung on that cross, he begged his Father for his life. He asked to be given a pass on this act of sacrificial love. But God, his heavenly Father, said no. My will, Son, is for you to hang on that old rugged cross and die for the sins of all mankind. Just this once. And once was enough. He paid the ultimate sacrifice with his human life for my human sins.

Jesus is the Word of God incarnate, and yet he submitted to the Scriptures.

Michael Horton

Jesus paid it all. All to him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain. He washed it white as snow.

Your Choice

The Israelites had been wandering in the desert for 40 years. They had left Egypt in a hurry one night, escaping from Pharaoh who had been holding them in slavery for four hundred years. God delivered them and promised a new home for them. But after they left Egypt, they disobeyed God.

What should have been an eleven day journey took 40 years. Oh. This people didn’t just disobey God once. It became a thing. It wasn’t necessarily that everyone disobeyed God all the time. But there were grumblings in the camp. There was rebellion. Distrust. They broke God’s laws. They were people being selfish people. They made gods out of gold and worshiped them. They didn’t trust God. They trusted themselves more than they trusted God.

So God used that 40 years to humble his people. They were dependent on him for their daily food. Their clothes didn’t wear out and their feet didn’t blister and swell. He tested their character to see if they would obey his commands.

Obey the commands of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and fearing him. Deuteronomy 8:6

God gave the Israelites a choice as they were preparing to enter Canaan.  The promised land. He reminded them of how he had provided for them for the past 40 years. Were those 40 years a waste? After all, it was just a few days journey from Egypt to Canaan. But because the people disobeyed God, their punishment was to wander around in the desert for 40 years. 40 years. That’s an entire generation.

And that generation had to die off before their children were allowed to enter the promised land.

So here they were. Ready to step over into victory. The much awaited and promised land flowing with milk and honey. Ready for the taking. It was theirs.

God reminded them of his miracles and provision and promises. He told them to repeat those stories to their children, because their kids had not lived through those experiences. Those kids had not seen God work mighty miracles. They had heard but they hadn’t seen.

God was faithful to his chosen people. He reminded them that he would continue to be faithful to them if they were faithful to him. They had to choose. A life of obedience to God. Or a life of disobedience. It was their choice.

Read the full story in Deuteronomy 8.


Choose today whom you will serve. But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord . Joshua 24:15


God plainly told them what their lives would be like in this new land. Canaan. The promised land. It is a land of plentiful food and a place where nothing is lacking. Did you catch that? Nothing is lacking. They had hit pay dirt. Their ship had come in. The luck of the draw was on their side. But it was all because of God’s provision and mercy that they were entering this new territory.

God told them exactly what to expect and he gave them a warning. These people who hadn’t changed clothes in 40 years were about to become prosperous. They would lack nothing. God warned them to be careful and not forget him and his commands. Oh. He told them straight out that they would want for nothing. They would build fine homes. They would find copper and iron, pomegranates and olive oil. Honey, fig trees and grapevines were theirs for the taking. God warned them that in their time of plenty not to forget him. He told them not to become proud.

It shouldn’t have been a tough decision. He was offering them a lifetime of goodness if they followed his commands. Why would they choose any other way? It seems such a simple decision.

What does a person who’s never had wealth do when all of a sudden it’s laid at their feet?

God warned the Israelites, his chosen people, that they would be destroyed if they disobeyed him. If they followed and worshiped other gods, God would not be on their side.

God won’t honor disobedience. He wants our whole hearts. Our entire lives. Our souls. Our minds. Our strength. He wants all of our being.

But then. As humans, we sometimes think we know better than God does. We think we’re smarter. Our way is better. Or we’re tired of waiting on God, because he is sometimes really slow. And we’re in a hurry. So we make a decision. Or we do the thing. Or we worship a false god. All in the name of free will. We want what we want when we want it and we want it our way. Right now. Do or die, we’re going to get what we want. Just try to stop me. We say. So forget anything or anyone who stands in our way. We become our own god.

That’s what God was trying to keep his favorite people from doing. Because they had walked down that sinful path too many times before. 

I wonder. This year has us at a crossroads. The times are changing. Can’t you feel the tide shifting? Suspense is in the air. We have a choice. Fight for God or fight against him. Now is the time to stand for truth. Biblical truth. It should be a simple choice. God’s way or my way. It’s your choice. What do you choose?

One Nation Under God

Yes. We are a nation under God. Whether we act like it or not. Whether we live like it or not. God is still and always will be in control.  Oh. We’re living in troubled times. That’s for sure. Racial injustice. Unnecessary killings. Mob violence. Anarchy. Selfish demands. Pandemic. Unemployment.

But we are still a nation under God. He is in control. He is allowing this mess to happen. He knows exactly why these things are taking place. And he is letting us run rampant in our sin.

We’ve done this to ourselves. You know that.

Oh. This country was founded on religious freedom. Our forefathers left one country to find a place where they could freely worship God. How far we’ve come from that. It seems that now we worship anything but God. Anything and everything has become our god.

Will we ever learn? Will we ever fall on our knees and repent? As a nation, will we ever put God first? When was the last mass revival of people repenting and turning to God? We keep digging our nation deeper and deeper into sin.

We are warned in the Bible that there will be all kinds of trouble in the last days. The thing is. The people who lived in Bible times thought they had it bad. They were sure that Jesus was coming back soon. And look. It’s been how many years since that time? Thousands of years. And the times are even worse now.

You should know that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!

2 Timothy 3:1-5


The Lord is slow to anger and filled with unfailing love. Numbers 14:18


Israel was also a nation under God. And they disobeyed him time and time again. Look where it got them. They were torn apart. Two separate kingdoms. Yes. There were times when God gave them what they wanted. They wanted their own king. Why? Because they wanted to be like all the other nations. Instead of being content with serving God and listening to the prophet’s words, they wanted a king. So God gave them a king. And that king failed them.

God had promised to bless the nation of Israel for generations. He doesn’t renege on his promises. But they lost faith in him. They turned to other gods. They lived for their own pleasure and not for God. And after a time, their neighbors attacked them. Took them prisoner in their own land. Made them pay heavy taxes. Made them slaves. And finally. Finally. They remembered the times of their ancestors. When life was good. They knew the stories of how their ancestors lived in peace with themselves and with their neighboring countries and with God. So they turned back to God. Repented of their sins. He heard their cries and forgave them. They regained their freedom and their good name. Aahhhh. Life was good. Again.

But as time went by. The cycle repeated itself. Over and over. They walked away from God. Thought their fake idols were better than the real God. They ignored God’s leading. They did their own thing, because it was easier than obeying God. So, here we are today. The sins of the fathers have crept into every generation.

No. We’re not the Israelites. They were God’s chosen people, but they chose not to stay faithful to him. We in this country feel special. We feel chosen. We believe we’re the greatest nation on earth. We’re only great if we are following God’s leading. But no. We removed prayer from schools and called it separation of church and state. We kill unborn babies and call it freedom of choice. We approve every form of lifestyle and call it pride. We’ve disregarded morals and call it authenticity. We worship created things rather than the Creator and call it good.

The thing is. God will not impose his will on us. He will not make us repent. Oh. He could. But he won’t. We have to want to change. We have to accept the outreached hand of forgiveness before it’s too late.

We can change.  One household at a time. One heart at a time. Let’s truly be one nation under God.

Breakfast is Served

Here’s what I wonder.

If your friend denied knowing you not once but three times, would you forgive him? If your friend hurt someone coming to arrest you for a crime you didn’t commit, would you heal the officer your friend injured and rebuke your friend? If you found your friend sleeping at the hour you needed him most, would you still trust him? If you had known your friend was going to desert you that very night, would you still call him friend? If that same friend later fervently promised that he loved you after all that, would you believe him?

Here’s the real story.

Early in the evening as Jesus was arrested, Peter fought back by cutting off the ear of one of the men arresting him. As Jesus was taken away, Peter followed from a distance. He stood in the courtyard watching from afar as the one he loved was tried for a crime he didn’t commit. Did he step up as a witness for his friend? Not at all. When asked if he knew the man, he denied it. He was asked three times by three different people. Each time, he gave the same answer. No. I don’t know him.

Then a rooster crowed.

If he was willing to fight for Jesus when he was being arrested, why not fight for him after the arrest? Did fear grip his heart so completely that he wasn’t thinking straight? Was he only thinking of himself? Trying to save his own life? Why wasn’t Jesus’ life worth saving? Jesus was being tried for a crime he didn’t commit. Peter knew that. He could have defended this man called King of the Jews. But if the King’s life was in danger, what did that say for his followers? It would be a death sentence to stand up for truth. Wouldn’t it? Is that why Peter denied knowing him? He was afraid for his life?

The miracle is that Jesus was raised from death to life. Oh sure. He was nailed to a cross and died. But on the third day in the tomb, the breath of life was breathed into him. The tomb where he was buried was empty. He had unfinished business to attend to. And rightly so.

And early one morning, Peter and some other disciples were fishing. Jesus came along and started a fire on the shore. He cooked breakfast for them. He was waiting for his friends. His followers. For those who believed in him. For those who knew him. For those who loved him.

But wait. He cooked breakfast for Peter after what Peter had done to him? How could he? Why would he willingly get up early and serve breakfast to a man who denied even knowing him? And he wasn’t just any man. He was a close friend. They had spent many hours together.


So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. John 13:34


Is this how I would treat a close friend who denied knowing me? Someone who lied about our relationship?

Would I go out of my way to serve a friend who had wronged me? Would I still call him friend? Or would I write him off? Forget him? How would I want my friend to treat me if I had done the same to him?

Am I willing to spend time with someone who has betrayed me? Or thinks differently than I do? If Jesus was willing and able to forgive Peter and still love him, can’t I do the same for you? Can you do the same for me?

And at that fateful fireside breakfast, Peter’s relationship with Jesus was restored. As they and the other disciples ate their fish and bread, Jesus asked Peter a question. Not once, but three times. Peter, do you love me? And each time, Peter said yes. But oh. Peter knew the significance of being asked three times. He thought back to another question he was asked three times as Jesus was being assaulted. You know him, don’t you? And he answered no all three times.

But this time was different, Peter was committed to Jesus at all costs. Peter’s relationship with Jesus was restored as they ate their breakfast by the sea. Jesus challenged him to love. and love deeply.

Do you accept the challenge to love deeply? Love the unloveable. Love the lonely. The hurting. Love those who don’t love you. Love those who have mistreated you. Those who are different from you. Are you willing? At all costs?

Forgiveness

He had killed her family when she was a child. Mother. Father. Brother. He was in prison. He asked to speak with her. To tell her that he had changed. So she met with him. He told her that he had tried to kill himself twice. But failed. He showed her the scarred attempts. Then he told her that he had found God. In prison. He told her his mission in life was to help other prisoners find healing and forgiveness. He didn’t expect her to forgive him. But he wanted her to hear how the wrongs he had done had impacted his life.

She was beside herself. The day before her wedding she was meeting with her family’s killer. Angrily, she said she would never forgive him. She told him the one thing he could do was try to kill himself again. and succeed this time. She was spewing with anger.

This was an episode of a tv show that I watched. It caused me to think. Seeing this beautiful young woman who had been wronged. Her families lives cut short. She was living with unforgiveness in her heart. The next scene showed her walking down the aisle. Beautiful. Composed. Elegant. Ready to meet her groom. As if her life was in perfect order.

But I wondered. Her heart was still full of anger and unforgiveness. If this were a scene from real life, how would that anger come out and respond to other events in her life?

I see it on the news from time to time. Someone has been wronged. They want to get even.  They want the offender to pay.  They are full of anger and hatred. They say they want justice to be served. 


And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins. Hebrews 8:12


Unforgiveness can eat a hole in your heart. It will cause you to strike out at someone who has committed a minor offense against you. And the other person may have no idea what they have said or done. You may not know either why you’re so offended. But lack of forgiveness will cause more damage than we realize. It will fester inside like an untreated infection until it causes irreparable damage.

And then I read of how God always forgives when we ask him. He never says no. No. I can’t forgive you. You’ve offended me too greatly or too many times. Instead he wipes our slate clean. Time and time again. Even though he knows we will continue to mess up.

If we try to harm ourselves and fail, he doesn’t say try again and this time be successful. He doesn’t harbor ill will against us even though we continue to sin against him. He forgives each time we ask.

Forgive someone even when it hurts. It will take time. It will be hard work. 
It will produce a clear conscience. A good night’s sleep. It will result in a healthier life.

The act of forgiveness takes work. Hard work. It takes effort. It requires a change of attitude. The letting go of strong emotions. The working out of past hurts. Replaying conversations in your mind. Releasing the loss of what could have been and replacing it with a new normal. Letting go of unfounded fears.

Oh. It isn’t easy.  But it is possible.

The Best of Me

We were asked to fast. Fast. As in give up food for 24 hours. What kind of request is that? Why would I give up food? Why? Here’s the thing. I love food. I. LOVE. FOOD. It’s my thing. I’m always planning my next meal. Even as a child, I hated to be hungry. I always wanted to eat when I wanted to eat. I still do. Some people eat to live. I live to eat.

And now. We’re being asked to give up food for 24 hours. I just don’t know if I can do that. Honestly. I don’t want to. Oh. I’ve done it before. And I didn’t like it. But everything isn’t always about me. So maybe I should shift my focus.

I think of the reason we’re being asked to fast. Instead of eating, it’s the turning to God and his word. To dig deeper in the well of God’s love. To recognize the sacrifice of a beloved Son whose sole purpose in life was to save my soul. To prepare our hearts to receive communion representing the broken body and spilled blood of our Savior. What am I willing to sacrifice?


For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16


When Solomon built the temple, he used the best wood and gold that money could buy. He didn’t skimp on anything. That temple was elaborate and ornate. He built that temple to last for many years. It was the house of God. The place where God lived.

When Solomon became king, he was a humble man. God told him that he could have whatever he wanted. Do you know what he chose? Wisdom. He asked God to make him a wise man. So God did just that. Solomon wanted to have God’s heart. So God honored his request.

But then. Life got in the way. Solomon married women who didn’t believe in this one true God. They served lesser gods. They worshiped idols. They offered sacrifices to fake gods. They pulled Solomon’s eyes off of the God of the universe. Solomon stumbled. His priorities shifted. He fell out of step with God. He lost his way. He quit offering his best to God.

I see myself in Solomon. Oh. I’ve never built a temple. I’ve never been the wisest person. But I do ask God for wisdom. I do seek God. I start off with great intentions. But life gets in the way. There are times I find myself looking away to lesser gods. To momentary pleasures that take my eyes off my Lord and Savior. I look to other things for comfort. For fulfillment. For happiness. But those things leaves me wanting more.

I must ask myself. Where is my best effort going? Is it going to God or to myself? If I’ve given myself to live for God, then he is living in me. Am I giving my best self for him? Right now we’re celebrating our Savior risen from the dead. And I can’t even give him my best. Why do I reserve the best part of me for things that don’t matter? 

Jesus gave his best for me. Why can’t I do the same for him? I know I’m not worthy. But he paid the ultimate price. For me. Can’t I offer the best of myself? Can’t I offer my simple sacrifice? Can’t I spare a day’s worth of food?

It’s in the breaking of the bread. The drink from the cup. In remembrance. We do this. We offer our humble, simple best. It’s all we have. Mixed with the brokenness of our humanity.

Perhaps my hunger. My empty stomach is just the turning point. Maybe in the surrender of the fast, I find that I do turn to this God who gave his only Son for me. My focus must shift to higher things. To unworldly things. To the one who died on that cross for me. He gave his life. Can’t I give up food for one day?

Sinful Nature

It started out so innocent. Or so it seems. They want their child to go to an elite college. So they find ways to beat the system. They find ways to bump kids who have earned their way into that school. Bump them off the list by paying for a slot for their own trust fund child. Forging college entrance exams. Posing for fake sports photos. Slipping money under the table. For what?

For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all. Luke 8:17

We think we’re above the law.  At least, we hope we’re always one step ahead of the law. More than anything, we hope we won’t get caught by the law.

The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. Genesis 6:5

I know someone who is quick to lose his temper. He says words others hope he later regrets. He speaks out of turn. He has a high opinion of himself. He walked out of work and didn’t return for a week. No word on when he’s coming back. Just walked out. Then walked back into work the next week as if nothing had happened.

Oh. He did it more than once. But on the third try, it backfired. He is no longer employed. He pulled the same punch one too many times. Now he is facing the consequences. Shame. Regret. Remorse. Embarrassment.

What is it that causes a person to be unkind or untruthful? What is it that causes someone to bully or hurt others? Why can’t we be good? Are we born that way? Are we born to naturally be selfish and hurtful? Can we change?


He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15


I got her text. She was asking for personal information about a former coworker. Information I didn’t know and wouldn’t share if I did. She was scheming to find out the scoop on everyone she worked with. Gossip is the name of her game. And I decided I wasn’t playing.

What is it that causes people to naturally turn toward pleasing themselves? What causes someone to want to do wrong? Are we doomed to be this way? Are our souls totally corrupt with no chance for redemption?

Oh. We are born with the desire to please ourselves. From day one, we are bent on getting our way. That one bite of fruit by Adam and Eve turned our hearts away from God and onto ourselves. Their disobedience caused a world of hurt for everyone who came after them. And boy, have we continued down a path of wrongdoing.

But that one bite doesn’t have to send us to hell. We have a way paved to heaven for us. We have a path that is narrow but it is open for all. And on that path, our sins are washed away. And that desire to sin. That desire to have the world revolve around us can be removed. If only we choose life in Christ. If only we repent and ask forgiveness of our sins.

Oh. It’s not a one man fight. It’s not a fight you can win on your own. It’s a fight fit for a king. It’s a godly fight. Really. A fight for your life. Your eternal life. And it’s a fight that has already been won. We can claim the victory in four simple steps.

  • Confess your sins to God
  • Ask God to forgive you
  • Accept his love, forgiveness and mercy
  • Reject sin and live forgiven

Oh. When we confess our sins, we don’t have to name each one. Believe me. There isn’t enough time. And God already knows them anyway. He’s just waiting for us to come clean and repent. Then he erases those sins away. As if they never happened. 

We know that God’s children do not make a practice of sinning, for God’s Son holds them securely, and the evil one cannot touch them. We know that we are children of God and that the world around us is under the control of the evil one. 1 John 5:18-19

Thank heaven for God Almighty.

Come As You Are

Shepherds first learned the news.  An angel appeared to them in the dark of night.   They were frightened.  The angel said not to be afraid.  But it’s not every night that an angel appears in the sky.  He said he had good news.  What kind of good news do angels share with shepherds?  The Savior of the world has been born.  Go to Bethlehem and find a baby lying in a manger.  You will recognize him.  They searched until they found the stable. They saw the babe lying in that dirty manger.  He’s the one they searched for.

The shepherds themselves were dirty.  Out in the fields for days on end.  No place to clean up.  No chance to bathe.  No time to throw on fresh clothes.  Dirt and worse was caked under their fingernails.  Dried sweat coated their bodies.  Those shepherds.  They had no time to trim their hair or oil their beards.  They were smelly.  Sure.  They smelled like sheep.  

They came as they were.  Unruly.  Loud.  Dirty.  Outcasts.   Able to lead sheep, but unable to lead men.  

These shepherds were the first to see the Savior.  That newborn babe.  Fresh from the womb.  Lying in a manger.  So they went out and spread the news.  They told others what they had seen and who they had met.  They were unlikely messengers sharing the greatest message the world has heard.

That encounter with the babe wasn’t a random occurrence.  It was ordained by God Almighty.  He had that moment planned since the beginning of time.  Those shepherds honored and worshiped the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  


For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.  John 3:17


I’m like those shepherds.  When I came to Jesus, I was coated with sin.  I had disobedience caked under my nails. My skin had greed written all over it. My heart hid selfish pride.  I didn’t have a chance to clean up before meeting the babe in the manger.  But my uncleanness made the cleansing more meaningful.  All these years later.  I still find uncleanness wedged in places I thought had been cleaned.   I still need a daily washing in the love and forgiveness of this King.  I still need to keep the stain of wrongdoings  and bad attitudes washed in the blood.

Why wouldn’t God choose the smelly?  The unbathed?  The social outcasts?  This baby was born for them.  He later died on that cross for them.  He said everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.  

Here’s the good news. That babe lying in the manger is in the cleaning business.  Oh.  He begins the cleanup immediately once he’s invited in.  The sins that have coated your heart with darkness are completely washed away.  It’s a power wash.  Your heart is instantly painted pure white.  No stains.  But other cleaning can take longer.  Bad habits may take years to overcome.  Branches of greed and roots of bitterness must be pruned and uprooted.  The cleanup actually takes a lifetime.