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“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16 (NLT)

Some of the toughest choices father’s make are in regards to their children. We, especially as men, grow up with dreams. We play games in which we always want to come out the winner. As we grow older, reality sets in. Sometimes it sets in hard. We can’t keep rewinding the game clock until the ball swishes through the basket or goes into the empty net or splits the uprights.

It’s no wonder then, that when our son(s) come along the dreams start over again. No offense against the women of our world. They have accomplished great things, fantastic things. Even so, there’s something special about the bond between a man and his son, just as there is between a woman and her daughter. Gender doesn’t really matter. Parents grow up with the hope that their children will somehow attain all they had hoped to attain when they were kids. But sometimes life deals cruel blows.

It’s always been that way really. Abraham had the tough decision to send Ishmael and his mother into the wilderness. Later he had to lay his son of promise, Isaac, on an altar. Only the last minute call of an angel and rustling of a ram in the thicket saved Isaac from being offered up as a sacrifice.

David had the tough choice of going to war against his son, Absalom. Even though he pled for the safe return of his son, the young rebel was killed in battle.

But perhaps the toughest test of love came from God himself. From the day he decided to create this world we live on he longed for relationship. He created beauty from trees and flowers, majesty from mountains and valleys, power from weather and the seas and the wonder of life from innumerable life forms, both seen and unseen.

All that he created gave him great joy. He looked and saw it was good. But it lacked the one thing he longed for above all else. It lacked relationship. So God created mankind to bring him relationship the relationship he’d always wanted. But mankind failed. There was only one thing Father God could do to restore that relationship. It was the hardest thing any of us parents would be called upon to do. He had to give up his only son.

He looked down through the ages and saw the pain his son would suffer. He saw the guilt that would be placed on his shoulders. He saw the physical and emotional abuse that would be executed on his innocent son so that my sins could be forgiven. He watched him die on a tree so I could live forever.

That’s love. That’s tough love. Tough love says I’ll do whatever it takes. Tough love says I’ll give up whatever I need to get the relationship I want to have with you. That’s what God is saying to each of us. He gave all he had so he could have a relationship with you. All he asks in return is for your love through obedience to his word.

PRAYER: Father God, as a parent I can’t imagine what it would be like to have to give up a son so others could live. Especially when the ones who benefit have nothing to give in return. I have nothing to offer you in thanks for your salvation. Thank you for loving me anyway. Thank you for sending Jesus so I can have a relationship with you. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.


My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? John 14:2

Life has been described by some as a journey and in many ways it is. There is, however, an aspect of life which drives us to find a place to settle in, to find our niche’ in life, to find contentment, peace and fulfillment.

We look for this place in a variety of ways. For some it’s relationship. We have the need to love and be loved, and love looks different to different people. All too often relationships in and of themselves fail us. Love grows old. Our perspective on life changes. Things attack and seek to destroy relationship. When relationship dies, we find ourselves without a place in the journey.

Career is another avenue along the journey that people take to find their ‘place’ in life. Years of schooling, hours of hard work, sacrificing important things, including relationships, all for the goal of finding contentment and fulfillment in life. Times change. We grow old. But the luster of the almighty dollar becomes more of a burden than a blessing.

These are just two ways we seek to find our ‘place’ in this journey called life. You can add your own. It may be choosing friends over family, or family over friends; it may be religion and the hopes that your piety will win you some favor with your gods and man; it could be some addiction which allows you a few moments of escape from the potholes and rocks along the path; it could be community service and drowning your own pain by helping others out of theirs.

What ever it is we seek along this journey we come to the realization that Jesus was right after all. One day as he was talking with his disciples about the cost of following him he made the statement “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Matthew 8:20.

In this is a truth we each must come to grips with. Even if we are Christ-followers and walk close to our Heavenly Father. Even if our relationships with God and man are strong and filled with love, grace and mercy, there’s emptiness in our soul that longs for a place of rest.

Dear pilgrim, let me remind you, as many New Testament writers have, that we are sojourners in a foreign land. This world is not our home. The more we seek a resting place, the more we realize that in spite of the comfort of our resting places, the rest is temporary.

One day, though we will rest! We will find a place where we will finally be able to fill the gaping space in our souls. A place where we will have and be and do all that we were created to do.

Jesus says, “I’m going to prepare a place…” Not just any place. Not a one-size-fits all place. Jesus left to go and prepare a place designed just for you! I like the idea of ‘rooms’. Special places in a large home where we can enjoy our time alone, yet always be close to those we love!

PRAYER; Father God, I often lose sight of what it really means to be on a journey. So many times I’ve tried to find ‘home’ in the things of the world and been disappointed in the result. Empower me with your Spirit to live in the realization that this world is not my home. With all the good things I’ve been blessed with, I look forward to coming home to you, to a place you have prepared just for me. Thank you for loving me so much! In Jesus name, Amen.

 


A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. Proverbs 11:25

Life is full of irony, especially for the Christ follower. Want to be the greatest in the Kingdom? Put everyone before you. Want to be first? Be last. Want to be strong? Be weak. It’s no wonder people are a little confused by our way of life.

Add another irony to the mix. If we are honest with ourselves we all want more. Who of us hasn’t made a statement like this: “If I win the lottery I will…”? Or, “if only I had…”. As a human race it’s natural to measure our success and importance on possessions. One of the biggest reasons our nation is in such financial turmoil is the desire for more. We want more toys so we use plastic to get it. We want more government benefits even though oftentimes those benefits come as a result of higher taxes or more national debt.

Relationships have been destroyed, churches plundered and lives lost all in the name of ‘more’. The Bible gives us another way to get more, give more. In reality the main reason we want more is to make us feel better on the inside. Our quest of material possessions is really a cry for inner peace. We buy into the false idea that physical comfort results in emotional stability. In reality it’s the opposite.

So how can you get more? Give more. Your response to that may be the same one that I tend to give, “I don’t have anything to give. If I won the lottery…” But each of us can be generous. The level of our generosity has absolutely NOTHING to do with the balance in our checkbook. Think about that for awhile, it’s important.

If I have no money I can give myself. It may be something so small and insignificant (in our eyes) as a smile to the flustered and inept server at the coffee shop. It may be refraining from taking your legal and rightful turn at the four-way stop! As long as you have breath you have something you can give to those around you. The important, emotionally fulfilling things in life cost nothing but time, and often that time amounts to minutes, not hours.

One day Jesus and his disciples were standing in the temple watching people give their offerings. One dear little old lady put two mites (essentially two pennies) into the offering plate. Jesus, the Son of God, the richest, most powerful person on earth saw that and was in awe and excited. He pointed the woman out. “Look! She has given the most because she gave from the heart!”

Generosity doesn’t come from the swipe of a credit card, or the signing of the check. Generosity comes from a heartfelt desire to make a difference in the lives of those around you.

The true beauty of generosity is that when you give of yourself to others with an attitude of love and compassion, you are blessed far more than the person you have reached out to.

Want to have more peace and fulfillment in your life? Give what you’ve already been given, even if it’s just a hug or a smile to someone who needs one. You may be surprised how good it feels.

PRAYER: Father God, I confess to you that often I’ve measured my ability to give by the balance of my checkbook or the external gifts I wish I had. I have ignored the many ways I can be generous with the things you have already given me. Empower me by your Spirit to see ways I can be generous without spending a penny. Help my generosity show others the love of Jesus. In your name I pray, Amen.


“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

It’s a verse many of us learned in Sunday School, and perhaps the most well-known verse in the Bible. ‘For God so loved the world.’ What an awesome promise. What an incredible thought. Not a god, THE God. The creator and sustainer of the universe loves us. Make it more personal. He loves me. Insignificant as I am, a stubborn, selfish, weak-willed person. Yet He looks down from heaven and smiles when He sees me.

Fantastic as that truth is, so often we focus our attention on the first part of the verse and relatively little time really thinking about the next part of the verse. ‘He gave his one and only son’. If you are a parent, ask yourself, “If I knew my only child was going to be killed, what would I do to protect him/her? How much money would I spend to keep my child protected? What would I sacrifice to make sure I could enjoy my child’s presence?

It might be easy to say, “Yeah, but He’s God. Sure, He knew Jesus would die, but He also knew Jesus would rise again.” But remember that we are made in God’s image. Our emotional make-up and intellect comes from Him.

A friend of mine (I’ll call John) recently lost his infant son to a rare disease. The disease struck in the morning and took the little ones life before sundown! It was incredibly hard for the family and all those close to John. I hadn’t seen John in several months since the funeral of his one-year-old little boy. As we sat over coffee, John told me how the morning of his son’s death he’d been spoken to regarding sacrifice. “It was as if God was saying to me, ‘will you give me everything?”

John remembers thinking, I can give you everything except I have to admit I’m not sure I’d give you my son. That day God took his son from him. John learned a valuable lesson about what it must have been like for his Heavenly Father when he was separated from His only son.

When Jesus was on earth it was as though He was imprisoned in a foreign land. While His Father could see Him, the relationship was different. When Jesus was dying on the cross, even His Father turned His face from His one and only Son. That’s why, with agony Jesus screamed, “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?”

John 3:16 doesn’t just tell us that God loves us. It shows us that God understands what sacrifice means. When we are asked to give everything to God, it’s not an idle statement by a God that hasn’t sacrificed. He loved me so much that He literally gave the only thing He could possibly give, His only Son.

The next time you think the pain of the journey is too great; remember that Jesus endured pain beyond imagination so He could comfort you. When you wonder if you can go on, remember that Jesus’ agony was so great that He sweat great drops of blood. During those times you feel all alone, remember Jesus knew what it was like to have all of his family, and friends reject Him. Even His heavenly Father turned his back on him.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, I thank you that you understand my deepest pain. Thank you that in my loneliness you are desperate to be my friend. Thank you for the promise that Your love is eternal and unconditional. I’ve made many mistakes. I struggle with trying to do the right thing. Empower me by your Spirit to learn to live the life of sacrifice for your sake. Amen.


But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hands; deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me. Psalm 31:14-15

Imagine what it must have been like for King David when he was growing up. He was the youngest in the family and, as a result, most likely the one that picked on the most. Dad was a rancher so he probably got the messiest jobs around. He may have looked forward to the day when he could shepherd the sheep like his older brothers.

Once he was old enough to shepherd he may have realized that the job wasn’t what he expected. He endured long, lonely cold nights where the only light was the fire and stars. Those nights with a full moon must have made things a little better, but the shadows and sounds of the night were still ominous for a young man of 12-14 years of age. Then, of course there was the danger of attack by wild animals and protecting the little lambs that always seemed to be wandering off into dangerous territory. Being shepherd was anything but fun!

Fast forward a few years. You see your brother coming over the hillside. He tells you the prophet is at home for sacrifice and he’s asking for you. You go home in excitement and find out YOU will be anointed as the next King of Israel. Almost before you realize the significance you are thrust into the palace where the current King Saul is trying to kill you. You end up spending many years running for your life!

David’s life was anything but boring and yet there may have been some times later in life when the thought of sitting alone on a hillside seemed mighty tempting. The weight of ruling a kingdom and raising family was as hard then as it is today.

David is referred to as ‘a man after God’s own heart’ and as a courageous warrior. Yet there are many part s of David’s life that aren’t so glorious. He made many horrible mistakes that led to people’s deaths; he sinned mightily against God and his people. His family would be considered dysfunctional by many standards.

What was it that kept David going? How could he rebound from the fear and anxiety of his life? What enabled him to get past the abuse he suffered at the hands of others and the injustice that was thrown at him? How could he forgive himself for the times he openly rebelled against God’s commands?

In the midst of all the turmoil in David’s life, one thought kept him going. David knew God. He knew he could trust Him. He knew that no matter how bad things were, God was in control. Those lonely nights on the hillside taught David that nothing, absolutely nothing happened in life by accident or coincidence. Whether the circumstances around him were a result of his own poor choices or the abusive, evil actions of someone else, his God could be trusted to deliver him.

The same is true for us today. No matter where you are in life, God has your life in His hands. If you are suffering the consequences of your own poor choices He will forgive you and walk with you through the pain. If you are suffering at the hands of an evil enemy He will protect you and empower you to withstand the attack. You can trust God. He loves you and will never ever leave you.

PRAYER: Holy God I thank you for the story of David. There have been many times in my life when I’ve felt abused, alone and scared. There have been times when I’ve doubted your existence, presence or love. Forgive me for those times when I failed to see your loving, guiding hand. As I face an uncertain future I ask that you would comfort, guide and protect me. Amen.

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