Tiberious Israel

The Call to Obedience

Obedience.

Just reading or saying that word might make you feel some type of way. When I was a kid, I had to obey at home. I had to obey at school. And by the time I reached my teenage years, I just wanted to do what I wanted to do.

Now, as a parent, I expect and want obedience from my children. So many times Jami and I find ourselves saying, "I just want them to simply obey what we're asking of them. If they would just obey..." And most of our arguments in our house stem from their lack of obedience. If you're a parent, I'm sure you can relate.

Obedience.

Whether you're an adult or a student, it's a word that elicits a number of feelings. And it seems that whether you're a student or an adult, there are what seems to be countless people in our lives that expect obedience from us... including new expectations of obedience from our government. So, now when we hear or see the word obedience, it brings up negative feelings and/or feelings of rebellion.

Obedience can be tough. Especially when you don't respect the person asking for it, or you don't think they have your best interest in mind. And then there are some of us when we think of the word obedience we automatically go into the mindset of, "You're not the boss of me."

And so, when we hear that God wants our obedience... When we hear that we're supposed to obey God... We've already got all these negative associations with the word. And we think, "God's not the boss of me." But obedience doesn't have to be associated to a negative ball of emotions where we simply obey because we think we have to. I've come to the conclusion that when I struggle with obedience, it's because I have a problem with the people asking for my obedience. It's because I don't trust them.

And when I was first told that I'm supposed to obey God and His Word, I was skeptical. I thought, "He doesn't know me. He has no clue what I'm about." But what I've found as I've grown in my relationship with God is that I was skeptical because I didn't know who God was and is. I had no clue what He was and is about. As I read more and more of God's Word, to learn more about God is to learn more about being obedient to Him. And as we learn more about being obedient to Him, a few things naturally happen.

First, as we seek to be obedient to God, we have our eyes opened to the goodness of His Word.

Psalm 119:18 says,

Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.

You see, if we're going to be obedient to God, we need to read His Word and pray that He will open our eyes to see all of the wonderful things in His Word. And as we read God's Word and ask Him to show us His love and wonderful things in His Word, our desire to be obedient to God will grow more and more.

Second, we will be blessed and be a blessing to others.

But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. - James 1:25

When we read God's Word and actually put it into practice, God will bless our actions and our obedience. Not only will we experience God's blessing, but others will also experience God's blessing through us.

Third, it's in our obedience to God that we will find our greatness. Check this out:

Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven." - Matthew 5:19

You see, I believe that God doesn't care about how great you are in as much as He cares about how obedient you are to His voice. Over the last year and a half, as I've read God's Word and have honestly prayed to Him, I've realized again what God is calling me to. It's a life changing, God-sized calling. It's a calling that is bigger than I could ever dream of. And a few months ago, as I was mowing my front yard, I was again praying and telling God that I simply want to be obedient to what He's asking me to do. And so, as I mowed, this was the discussion I had with God...

Me: "Lord, I just want to do what you want me to do."
God: "Ok. Then mow your neighbor's front yard."
Me: "What? That's not what I was talking about."
God: "I know. But it's what I want."
Me: "But God, I was talking about something else."
God: "I know. But it's what I'm talking about now."
Me: "But God. I mean I want to obey you in the big areas."
God: "Ya. And so do I. But I also want you to obey in the small areas too. The areas you think don't matter."

And as I finished mowing my front yard, I went over to my neighbor's house and asked if I could mow the front yard. And as I began speaking with her, she began to tell me how thankful she would be as she couldn't get her push mower to work. Had I not listened to God's prompting... Had I not been obedient in this seemingly small thing, my neighbor would have continued to struggle. You see, you can’t pray, "God may I be obedient to You" and then choose not to be obedient. He will always give you an opportunity to be obedient. But you might just miss the opportunity because you think it is too small.

Finally, being obedient to God also builds our character and faith. You see, obedience is easy when there's a clear path... a clear direction. But being obedient to God when there's absolutely no path that's visible to the human eye is character building... it's faith building... it's another level of relationship building between myself and Jami's relationship with Jesus. And it brings to life Psalm 130:5:

I will wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in His Word I put my hope.

Craig Groeschel said, "A waiting season is never a wasted season." It's easy to look out and see no clear direction or movement to what God has called us to do and want to take things into our own hands and make it happen ourselves. But sometimes, maybe even oftentimes, God is calling you to wait... He is telling you to wait. And the waiting is what He wants you to be obedient to... Because even in the waiting God is moving.

If you're a parent now, or if you will be a parent in the future, one of the biggest blessings you can give your children is by following the call of God on your life... One of the biggest gifts you can give your kids is to be obedient to God.

Obedience.

All of us will be obedient to the voice in our life that has our attention. I pray that the biggest voice in all of our lives is God's voice.

Observe the commands of the Lord your God, walking in obedience to him and revering him. - Deuteronomy 8:6


Guy walking in tunnel

Held in Captivity

Looking back on my childhood as I was growing up, I can name about three things that I loved doing. One, playing baseball… Whether it was at South Side Little League, in my back yard, or simply playing Hot Box, it seemed that I had a glove on my hand nearly every day it was nice out. Two, playing Ghost in the Graveyard… We couldn’t wait for the sun to go down in the summer time so we could start this game. And when our parents called us in for the night, we’d always ask for more time to play and run back outside. (Do kids even play outside at night anymore?) And three, Guns. Ya. As kids, we’d play guns… Or war, or cops and robbers, or whatever you want to call it.

Growing up, our neighborhood had plenty of kids to make two teams. We’d all bring our guns outside day and night. Most of us had multiple guns that we brought… one, because why not? And two, there would always be a kid who wasn’t from our block that was staying the night at a friend’s house who didn’t have a gun. So one of us would loan one out to him.

After dividing the teams up, each team would go separate ways and find a base to defend. And then… the game would begin. The goal? Well, capture as many “enemies” as you could. Locate the enemy base. And occupy the enemy base for the win. We loved playing that game. It seems like we played that game nearly every other night of the summer.

And us Ruth boys… We took it serious. Crawling through bushes. Hiding under houses. Hiding up in trees. Just so we could jump out, shoot the enemy and take him captive. Once we had our prisoner of war, we’d walk him back to our base while the other teammate would provide us with cover. Now, our base was almost always our garage. We made it our base for a couple of reasons. One, we had windows on three sides. Meaning, we could see our enemies coming and shoot them before they reached our base. And secondly, it provided a great opportunity for interrogation.

You see, a garage has a what? Yup, a garage door. Now, what do you put prisoners in as you hold them captive? Yup, handcuffs. And you can bet that the Ruth boys had handcuffs. And do you remember what the most important goal was of playing this game? Yup, finding out where the enemy base was so we could go conquer it. Clearly our enemy captive wasn’t going to give up where his base was easily. So we developed an effective means of interrogation that included handcuffs and the garage door.

It was quite simple, brilliant, effective… and well, a little cruel as well. To get our captive to talk, we’d place him in handcuffs, hook the handcuffs to the garage door, then slowly lift the garage door up. And as we slowly lifted the garage door up by our hands (we didn’t have an electronic garage door opener), the captives hands would raise up along with it causing tension and pressure on his wrists. The result? Oh ya, he talked pretty quickly and would reveal where his base was.

We were masters at holding our enemies captive and getting them to talk. Once we placed them in handcuffs, we could essentially get them to do whatever we wanted, because they knew what was coming next. They didn’t want to tell us what we wanted to hear, but in reality, they had no choice because they were captives of the Ruth boys. If we did any of this now, we'd probably be arrested and prosecuted... man I'm glad we grew up in era we did!

Captivity.

It’s an interesting word. The Bible has some things to say about it. Check this out:

Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to Me in the desert.’” Exodus 5:1

You see, the Israelites were held captive in Egypt for about 400 years. During this time, the Egyptians held the Israelites as slaves and worked them extremely harshly and made their lives bitter with hard, cruel works of service. As a result of this captivity, the Israelites were broken in spirit. And as the Israelites cried out to God, He hears their cry for help and provides a way to deliver them out of their captivity.

Fast forward now to Bethany, an area just outside of Jerusalem. A man named Lazarus became sick. Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus that their brother was seriously ill. And while Jesus was making His way back to where Lazarus was, Lazarus died. Now, when Jesus finally arrived in Bethany, Larazus had already been in the tomb for four days. And when Jesus arrived at the tomb, he told the people to take away the stone. But Martha was worried that there would be a bad odor because of the decaying of the dead body after four days.

But Jesus reminded Martha that if she believed that she would se the glory of God. And after telling Martha that… He called out in a loud voice, “Lazarus come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

Just like Moses told pharaoh to “let my people go,” Jesus told death to let Lazarus go. Just as God called the Israelites out of captivity in Egypt, Jesus called Lazarus out of captivity of the grave. And God is still calling people out of captivity today through Jesus Christ.

Jesus has told us with His own words that everyone who sins, is a slave to sin. But Jesus came so that we would be set free from the captivity of sin. But how many times do we forget about that captivity if for just a brief moment because we either get some enjoyment out of it, are comfortable in it or are afraid of living without it.

I don’t know what you’re struggling with right now. I don’t know what’s holding you captive. Maybe you’ve asked God to help you with your anger. Or maybe you’ve asked God to help you give up a relationship you’re in. Maybe you’ve asked God to help you be more patient. Or you might struggle with pride, or greed, or envy, or lust, or gluttony. You know these things are wrong, but it’s hard. It’s hard because you enjoy it. Or you’re comfortable in it. Or You’re afraid of living without it. But one thing you do know, is that you know you are held captive to it. Captive to that thing or feeling or emotion or person that you can’t let go of… and you know… you know there’s a better life on the other side of sin. And when you go back to your captivity, you feel alone and depressed and scared… that’s what captivity does to us. You want so desperately to be freed from this captivity, but it’s just not happening.

Can I suggest one possible reason? Maybe, just maybe you need to believe that God is good before you can be set free. Maybe, right now, the reason that you haven’t been set free is because you don’t believe that God is good. Satan knows that as long as we keep believing that God is not good, we will stay stuck, unable to trust and believe God and, as a result, unable to be set free. But just like God didn’t give up on the Israelites until they were free, he won’t give up on us. Just like Jesus called Lazarus to come out of the captivity of death, Jesus is calling each one of us out of the captivity of sin.

Captivity.

If you are held captive today, there are three things that you can do to start your journey to freedom…

  1. Believe God really is good.
  2. Trust in Jesus as your Savior
  3. Surround yourself with friends who will take off your grave clothes. That was the last thing that Jesus said after He called Lazarus. He knew, that the friends in our lives have the ability to help us be free from captivity.

It’s my prayer that you will take steps today, even now, out of the captivity you find yourself in.


Dream Artwork

Following Your Dreams

Growing up, there have been a lot of different things that I had dreamed of doing with my life. Depending on what age I was when you’d ask me, the answer would have been different. Like, when I was about four or five, if you would have asked me what I dreamed of doing, I would have told you that I wanted to ride on the back of a trash truck or drive the trash truck that flipped the big trash containers (I called them “dipsee dumpsters”). If you would have asked me when I was between six years old and eight years old, I would have told you that I dreamed of being a police officer. (I really loved watching CHiPs, TJ Hooker and Hunter back in the day.) And when I was nine years old to about 15, I wanted to be a professional baseball player.

As I look back over my life, those were just three of the dreams that I wanted to follow. There have actually been more, but we don’t have enough time to talk about them all. And as you look at your life, you can probably remember some of the dreams you wanted to follow. The reality is, is that we’ve all had dreams we wanted to follow. And most of us, might still have dreams we want to follow. But when I read the Bible, it doesn’t say to follow your dreams. That’s not the call. The call has never been to follow your dreams.

So, what’s the call? Check this out, it’s found in Matthew chapter nine, verse nine:

As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. Matthew 9:9

The call on each of our lives, as it was on Matthew’s life, is to follow Jesus. That’s always been the call. Don’t get me wrong. Having dreams isn’t a bad thing. It’s a great thing to have dreams. But the problem begins when the call to chase the dream drowns out the call of Jesus. The problem begins the moment when our focus is greater on the dream than on the call of God to follow Jesus.

You see, Matthew, he was living the dream. Or at least I think he was for the time he was living. Was he disliked by many Jews? Sure. But he held a lucrative government job for the Roman Empire. He was making some serious dollar bills ya’ll. He was making bank. He was making that coin. And when Jesus walked up to him, he was in the middle of that job collecting taxes. And so, when Jesus rolled up to Matthew and said, “Follow Me,” Matthew had a choice to make. To follow his dream of making a great living working for the Roman Empire. Or to follow the call of Jesus. Matthew chose to follow the call of Jesus and leave everything behind.

The call to follow Jesus.

For some of us, the call to follow Jesus is a call to leave the dreams we have behind because we know those dreams will lead us down a road that will be opposite to what Jesus wants for our life. For all of us, though, the call to follow Jesus is a call to leave our old life behind and start a new life in Christ. Essentially the call to follow Jesus is a call to have an undivided heart. Check this out, Psalm 86:11 says this,

Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear Your name. Psalm 86:11

David, the writer of this Psalm, was praying for an undivided heart in order to give all of it to God in his praise. “Heart” in the Bible doesn’t refer simply to emotions, no, it’s referring to the whole person. David was literally praying for help to aim himself in a single direction towards God. You see, David knew that he needed God to direct his life. He knew that his success, his safety and his soul’s satisfaction depended on the God in Heaven, YAWEH Himself. And that’s still true for each and everyone of us today.

When Jesus called Matthew to follow him, it was easy for Matthew to know what Jesus meant… to drop what he was doing and literally begin to follow Jesus. But what does the call to follow Jesus mean in our lives today. I mean, Jesus isn’t physically standing in front of us saying “follow me.” So, if the call to each one of us is to follow Jesus, what does that mean?

First, the call to follow Jesus is a call to turn your heart towards God’s Word. Psalm 119:36 says,

Turn my heart towards your statutes and not towards selfish gain. Psalm 119:36

In other words, live your life in such a way that you truly are asking God to turn your heart to Him each and every day. The call to follow Jesus isn’t a one-and-done call. It’s a daily denying of the desire to be our own boss. To give up the rights to our lives. Jesus Himself said that if we want to follow Him, we need to deny ourselves and take up our cross daily (Luke 9:23). It’s quite literally asking that God’s Kingdom be worked in and through our lives and that God’s will would be done as well.

Secondly, the call to follow Jesus is a call to be humble. How many of our arguments, fights, contentions and divisions happen because we aren’t humble. For me… it’s almost every single one of them. Our homes, neighborhoods, country and world would be a completely different place if we would simply live our lives out of humility… if we would simply be humble. It was something that Jesus demonstrated when He walked the earth. Philippians 2:8 says,

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Philippians 2:8

How much more should we demonstrate humility in each of our own lives. Jesus, God Himself… literally God in the flesh, humbled Himself for each of us… the ultimate demonstration of humility… died for each of us. And it’s in humility that God calls each of us to follow Jesus.

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:2

Third, the call to follow Jesus is a call to love others. Your neighbor. Your family. Your friends. And yes, even your enemies. Matthew 22:39 says,

And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. Matthew 22:39

Jesus was always teaching His disciples to love others. As Christians, we are asked to love not only the people who live next door to us but to love and show compassion to everyone we interact with. A part of being a disciple of Jesus is showing His love to everyone we meet. Everyone. Even our enemies. Matthew 5:44 says,

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you… Matthew 5:44

Everywhere we turn the corner, online and on tv, we are consistently watching people hate each other. People going after each other. And then it comes to our lives. How many times have we wished evil on our enemies? How many times have I shown hate towards others? Not everyone is going to like you. Not everyone is going to like me. But one way to follow Jesus is by praying for those that despise us. To Show the love of Jesus to the very people that hate you. To treat them with kindness even if you never get it back in return. Loving people who love you back or first is easy. To love those who hate you, well, that’s what Jesus did which means it’s possible with God’s help that we can too.

And fourth, the call to follow Jesus is a call to worship the living God with our entire heart and mind. Matthew 4:10 says,

Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only. Matthew 4:10

You see, Jesus was tempted just like we are tempted. Satan took Jesus up to the top of a high mountain and offered to give Jesus all the kingdoms of the world. But Jesus, knowing God’s Word, and showing complete commitment to His Father, told satan to bounce. Jesus’ heart was undivided. He loved and His only worship was of God alone. Satan offered up what looked like a great deal if Jesus only worshipped him. But Jesus knew that the true reward lies within His worship of the living God. Satan does the same thing with us… consistently tempting us with the attractive riches of this world. But our true reward, our greatest reward lies within our worship of the living God and His Son, Jesus. John 4:24 says,

God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth. John 4:24

Worship, praise and thanksgiving should be an everyday part of the follower of Jesus routine. When we pray to God, we shouldn’t forget to worship Him for everything He has done for us. Our worship should be an ongoing event as we live every day. Our worship of the living God should be continually in our mouths, in our hearts and in our minds.

The call of God. It’s a call to follow Jesus each and every day of our lives. It’s a call that each of us can choose to answer or to ignore. God doesn’t call us to follow our dreams. He calls us to follow Jesus. And when we do, new dreams are born. Heavenly dreams found in Jesus Himself.


Three cards that are aces

Steal the Deal

This past Fall, Carter came home from a long weekend camp with his youth group excited to tell us about the new card game he had learned and wanted to teach us. As he began to describe the game, we stopped him and told him we had been playing that game for years… like a lot of years. The game? Euchre.

Euchre, to me, is the perfect card game. I know there will be folks who disagree with me and say, “No, poker is the perfect game!” “Spades is the perfect game!” And there might be that one person who would say, “No!!! Old Maid and Slap Jack are the perfect games!!!” I don’t know who those people are, but I’m sure you’re out there! And then, when I was younger and my aunt Becky would babysit the Ruth boys, she would play 52-Card Pickup… her perfect card game! :-)

For me... I love Euchre. It’s the perfect mix of luck, team play and strategy. And, it’s a fast-paced game. If you’ve ever played with me or against me in Euchre, you know one very important detail... I will ALWAYS try to... Steal. The. Deal. Always. Every time.

I love stealing the deal. Does that make me a thief or a bad person? Some might say it does. But for me, it’s part of the ultimate strategy to playing Euchre. You see, when you’re the dealer, you have a greater chance at controlling the outcome of that hand and thus taking away your opponents’ joy. It’s THE game where you WANT to be the dealer. So yes. I try to steal the deal every single hand I play. I think during one game, I was able to steal the deal five times in a row!

You know, there’s somebody else that, when it comes to the hand you’ve been dealt… you know, your life… his goal is to essentially… Steal. The. Deal. Check this out. It’s found in John chapter 10, verse 10:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; John 10:10a

You see, the thief, otherwise known as satan… one of his objectives is to try to take you and I away from Jesus… to keep us from having a life-changing relationship with Jesus. How does he do that? One way is to try to steal and kill and destroy our lives. You see, when you allow the enemy to steal from you, you are allowing him to control your life.

And what does satan want to take from you? He wants to take your confidence, your joy, your choices, your focus, your peace, and ultimately your eternity. Essentially, satan wants to wreak havoc and cause mayhem in your life and steal away our relationship with Jesus. If he can do that, then he wins and we lose. If he can steal all those things away from us, then he holds the deal and controls how we live within our own lives.

But that doesn’t have to be the outcome of any of our lives. You see, Jesus has already went to the cross. Died. Was buried. And rose again. Jesus defeated the grave and hell. Satan has already been defeated. And that means that he doesn’t hold the deal any longer. You see, I only gave part of John 10:10. The remaining part of that verse says this:

I came so that they would have life, and have it abundantly. John 10:10b

You see, Jesus came so that you and I could have life. Real life. Abundant life. And this abundant life is first and foremost eternal life. It’s a life that calls on the name of Jesus and repents of our sin. It’s a life where we seek to gain a more heavenly perspective by renewing our mind by reading God’s Word and seeking the counsel of Jesus by praying to Him. And it’s a life where we are able to live out and live in Shalom, the peace of Christ that encompasses our entire mind, body and soul… in other words, to make our lives whole in Christ Jesus.

And an abundant life is a life where we are growing in the development of and demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

You see, when we are living an abundant life through Jesus, it’s not just affecting ourselves. It’s literally affecting other people’s lives as well. When we are living the abundant life through Jesus Christ, we are also a blessing to people with whom we come in contact with.

Psalm 16:11 says,

You will make known to me the way of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
In Your right hand there are pleasures forever. Psalm 16:11

If you haven’t trusted Jesus with your life yet, today is a great day to accept God’s gift of eternal life through His Son Jesus. Or maybe you’ve already trusted Jesus as your Savior but have gotten away from Him. You’ve allowed satan to take your joy and your focus and control your life. Today is also a great day to come back to Jesus.

Jesus is waiting for you. For everyone. Why don’t you reach out to Him today. He’s here for you right now.


Doubleday Field during Induction.

The Dirt Under My Feet

I grew up playing baseball. I mean, with the last name of Ruth… In the ‘80s… There wasn’t really any other sport that I should have played. For the better part of my early years… from the time I could walk, all the way until I graduated high school… Baseball was a major part of my life. I remember sitting on my dad’s lap, watching the Cubs play on tv. I remember playing catch in the front yard of the apartment we lived in for a little while when I was super young. And as we were growing up on the South Side of South Bend, Indiana, my brothers and I made a baseball field in our backyard… Playing every day of the summer with the small wooden baseball bat we had as we pitched tennis balls to each other in our backyard.

Baseball. It was a way of life growing up. We knew all of the greats. Mantle. Maris. Clemente. Robinson. Banks. Sandberg. Grace. The Penguin. And Ruth… Babe Ruth. We dreamed of making it to the Big Leagues and playing in the same stadiums as our Hall of Fame favorites once did. The reality is that none of us did grow up to make it in the Big Leagues. But we did get to go somewhere special when we were younger…

Cooperstown, New York.

For those of you who aren’t baseball fans, this small town name doesn’t mean anything to you. If you’re a modest baseball fan, you might not even know this town either. But a true baseball fan, the person who absolutely loves this game, knows the significance of this little town. You see, each year the greats of baseball come to this town to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Cooperstown, New York. It’s hallowed ground really. I remember when me, my mom and dad and brothers arrived there. It was part of a trip where we also got to see Niagara Falls. But between you and me… It was Cooperstown that I wanted to see… No, I needed to see. I remember waking up the morning we were supposed to head there. I couldn’t wait. We were going to Cooperstown. The anticipation. I mean, not only were we going to see the Baseball Hall of Fame, but we were going to be able to see Doubleday Field, grounds where baseball had been played since 1920.

As we pulled into Cooperstown, we parked on a side street and got out of the car and stepped onto an old brick road. And in my six-grade mind, I asked myself… “Did Babe Ruth and the other baseball greats walk on the dirt that’s under my feet?” To me, the dirt I was walking on… The brick road under my feet… The place I was standing on was holy ground.

There are many places that people might consider holy ground… a specific place designated by some person or some historical act that makes it special. And while the story of Cooperstown will always hold a special place in my heart, there’s one other story I want to look at regarding holy ground that’s found in Exodus Chapter three, verse five. Check this out:

“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Exodus 3:5

When it came to the holy ground of Cooperstown, New York, my family and I had to make a special trip to experience that place. And while I loved every minute of being there, I’ve never been back. I went and experienced that place once in my life. And the truth is, I’ll probably never go back.

But what we see here in Exodus three is something different. You see, if we go back a few verses in Exodus three, in verse one the Bible tells us that Moses was taking care of his father-in-law’s animals. This was something that wasn’t new to Moses. This is what he did on a regular basis. He didn’t make a special, once-in-a-lifetime trip to take care of these animals. It was his ordinary life. This is what he did each day. And it’s exactly right here where he experienced God.

What if… just maybe… we’re missing God because we think we need to be somewhere specific for us to experience God? What if we aren’t meeting God because we think we have to do or be somewhere extraordinary to hear from Him? We think we need to be in church to hear from God. We think we need to do something extraordinary to experience God. We think we need to completely change to meet God. Church is great. Doing something extraordinary is awesome. Changing who we are for the better is a good thing. But I think that…

It’s in the ordinary that God will do something extraordinary.

I think a lot of us miss God, because we aren’t expecting to meet Him in our ordinary, everyday “boring” lives. But God is here with us, everyday. And that makes everywhere we walk holy ground. The job we go to is holy ground. The soccer field our kids play on is holy ground. The mall we walk in is holy ground. The home we live in is holy ground. Because God is already there with us.

So how can we be like Moses and meet with God and experience our holy ground moment?

First, keep your eyes up. As Moses was taking care of his father-in-law’s animals, he kept his eyes up and saw something that was different. In your job, on your sideline or bleacher, at your mall, or in your home… in your everyday life, keep your eyes up so you can see where something might be different… So you can see what God wants you to see.

Secondly, keep your curiosity open. Not only did Moses see that a bush wasn’t being consumed by a fire, he went over to see it because he was curious as to why it wasn’t being burned up. There are things that you will experience in your everyday life that might not make much sense. Stay curious as to why something might be happening. Be open to “seeing the why” behind what you are experiencing… the why behind what is happening in your everyday life.

And be open to hearing and responding to God’s voice in your everyday, ordinary life. When Moses went over to see what was going on, God saw that Moses came over to the bush. What did God do? He called to Moses from within the bush. Moses could have freaked out and ran away because he thought he heard some strange voice from a bush. He could have just dismissed it to just “hearing things.” But he didn’t. Moses instead, answered the call of God and said, “Here I am.”

What if we treated the ground we walk on every day as holy ground. Imagine how our lives would change if we expected to hear from and experience God in our everyday, ordinary lives. Because it’s in the ordinary that God will do something extraordinary.

God is with you… right now… the ground you are standing on is in fact holy. It’s my prayer that you hear His voice right where you are. And I hope you respond as Moses did and say, “Here I am.”


Child completing math problem

Simple Math

I. Hate. Math.

To this day, I really don’t like math. I’m kinda embellishing a bit… and kinda not… But part of the reason I chose my major in college is because it required the least amount of math I needed to take. Ok. Ok. That wasn’t actually one of the reasons, but it was a huge plus!

I think the reason why I hated math goes all the way back to second grade. We’d have these math competitions in class where we’d have to go up to the black board (yes, I’m old enough to have had “black boards” in school) and compete against another student by doing the same math problem. I’m usually all for competition, but when I was up at the black board, my mind would freeze. Second grade was also where I’d get lunch detention for not being able to finish my math homework in class prior to lunch. I’d routinely eat alone because I wasn’t simply able to “get” the math work we had to do in class. As you can tell, the teacher was a real peach of a woman.

Needless to say, this affected me not only my entire second grade, but followed all throughout my school career and beyond. To this day I hate math and can feel all those feelings I had years ago when faced with a math problem that might be a little challenging.

Math. It was my worst subject in school (with the exception of multiplication). History? Loved it. Government? Yes please. English/Writing? Those were classes I could excel in. But math? Nope. I wanted nothing to do with it. I hadn’t really given my math issues much thought until about a week ago. And then as I was reading a few mornings ago, God gave me a math problem. Yup. You read that right. He straight up gave me a math problem to complete. But don’t worry, it’s a simple addition/subtraction math equation…

Check this out. It’s found in John chapter three, verse 30…

He must increase, but I must decrease. John 3:30

When it comes to mathematical equations, it’s pretty simple. But in life application, it doesn’t always equal easy. But it’s exactly what needs to happen in each of our lives… and John knew this truth for his life as well as ours.

You see, John chapter three records and talks about when Jesus came to Judea… Many people received Him and were being baptized. John the Baptist’s ministry was already established and doing really well (the Bible tells us that “people kept coming,”, but now people were going to Jesus rather than John. Not only were people going to Jesus, but verse 26 says that, “all were going to Him.”

John’s disciples were like, “What the heck? This isn’t cool.” To John’s disciples, John was “The Guy;” But John, knew he wasn’t. You see, John’s mission was to proclaim and point people to Jesus who is the Christ – The Actual Guy. John realized that his ministry success he experienced, people coming to him to baptize them, was the result of God’s blessing and not because of anything he said or did to make it happen (“A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven” John 3:27). John describes himself as the best man at a wedding (in this case the marriage of Jesus and His Church) who understands that the groom is to be blessed, and that the best man’s joy flows from helping to bring the bride and the groom together on the day of the wedding (John 3:29).

Then, John declared this Kingdom principle, “He must increase, but I must decrease”. The reason for this statement comes from John’s next statement in John 3:31, “He who comes from above is above all ; the one who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks about earthly things. The one who comes from heaven is above all.” The reason that Jesus must be increased is because He is above all and has all authority.

You see, this simple math equation takes our whole life to complete. And it means that we need to know where we stand in relation to Jesus. John knew where he stood. He knew that in order for Jesus to increase, he had to decrease. In order to gain more of Jesus, John knew that he had to give something up. You see, I think John gave up the hardest thing to give up… his ego. He was doing well, in terms of ministry… in terms of an occupation… in terms of a calling. People were coming to him to be baptized… a lot of people. Then, when Jesus showed up, they all went to Jesus instead. But John knew where he stood in relation to Jesus… and he knew what he had to give up. And bigger than where John stood in relation to Jesus… John knew where Jesus stood in his own life.

Can I ask you a question? What do you need to give up in order for Jesus to increase in your life? For some of us, it might be our ego. The desire to be known so much so that it over shadows Jesus. For others, it might be a secret relationship. Still, for others, it might be choosing that substance to cope in life and/or to ease some pain. So, what do you need to give up? Where does Jesus stand in your life?

Secondly, John didn’t misunderstand who Jesus was and is. As I look back over my life, I can look back and see how I misunderstood Jesus. Sometimes we simply miss Jesus because we simply misunderstand Jesus. As I look back on my second grade year, I couldn’t understand math because my math teacher misunderstood what I needed. Make no mistake, Jesus doesn’t misunderstand what you need… what I need… what we need. And John didn’t misunderstand who Jesus was and is. Check this out:

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. John 3:16-17

I think a lot of us misunderstand who Jesus is. We think of all the fun we can’t have if we follow God and His Word. We think of all the things that go away if we give our lives to Jesus. And that’s what I used to think when I was growing up. The churches we went to were boring. The people in the church were boring. It. Was. Freaking. B.O.R.I.N.G.

But that’s a misunderstanding of who Jesus is and what He came to give you and I. Not only did He love us so much that He came to give His life for us to save us. John 10:10 tells us that Jesus came so that we could live life to the full. John 3:29 says, “…For this reason (talking about Jesus increasing and John decreasing) my joy has been fulfilled.” You see, when Jesus increases and we decrease, then and only then will we experience true and life-long joy. The math equation of, “Jesus increases and I increase too” doesn’t equal lasting joy. We only get small intermittent glimpses of happiness that are connected to life’s fleeting moments. It’s only when Jesus increases and we decrease do we experience a true, life-long joy.

So, where do you stand in relation to Jesus? Where does Jesus stand in your life? What do you need to give up so that Jesus increases and you decrease. And is there, or has there been anywhere that you have misunderstood Jesus? It’s my prayer that I’m filled with more of what Jesus wants and desires in my life. And it’s my prayer that you are filled with more of Jesus in your life as well.


underoos

More Than Underoos

I absolutely loved wearing Underoos when I was growing up. Superman. Batman. Star Wars. It didn’t matter what the Underoo was, I just loved wearing them. If I was wearing my Superman Underoos, then I was in fact Superman. If I was wearing my Batman Underoos, then I was in fact Batman. Chasing down criminals. Battling evil. Conquering the Death Star. When I put on my Underoos, I was the very super hero that I was wearing.

And it was the same thing when Halloween came around. I remember times when I would look forward to picking out what costume I might possibly wear. One year, it was Spiderman. We bought the plastic Spiderman mask and nylon outfit. I couldn’t wear it or play with it before Halloween. But once Halloween came and went, I would play with that super hero mask whenever I could, taking it out into the neighborhood to battle evil.

Underoos and Halloween costumes. When I was growing up, these were my armor… my protection. When I wore these costumes, I could conquer and defeat anything and everything. But in real life, the truth of the matter is, is that my Underoos and Halloween costumes were just that, costumes… mere decorations that I would wear.

Paul, in the book of Ephesians, talks about a different type of armor that God equips us with to wear. But it’s more that just a mere decoration or costume… it’s full protection that God offers each one of us.

Check this out:

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:11-17

What’s interesting is that Paul doesn’t say, “If you have trouble…” No, these verses assume that you will most certainly be attacked. Paul tells us to put on the full armor of God so that we can take our stand against the devil’s schemes. Paul goes on to say to put on the full armor of God, “So that WHEN the day of evil comes…” You see, if you’re really going to get in the battle, if you’re really going to do something great for God, if you’re really going to live for Jesus and follow after Him, you’re going to need God’s protection because the day of trouble will come.

But how amazing is it that God has made a way for your protection. He has designed the means to stand against any attack that comes against your life. In our life, we will most certainly be attacked. God won’t protect us from the battle. But He will protect us in the battle.

And this is the protection He’s provided, the full armor of God… check it out:

First, Stand firm, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist. So many of our battles we face start with lies from the devil himself. You see, belts hold things up… specifically clothes. And these clothes covers us. The truth of God is just like that belt. The truth of God clothes and covers our lives. The truth of God reveals who we are in Christ. It shows us our value. And it reveals the lies of the enemy. When we cover ourself with the truth of God, it holds our lives together and it sets us free in Christ Jesus.

Secondly, we are to stand firm with the breastplate of righteousness. Righteousness means that we are being made right in the eyes of God. Sometimes righteousness is talking about the righteousness that Jesus gives us through His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). Sometimes the Bible is talking about the righteousness that God carries out through us, like “The righteous acts of the saints” in Revelation 19:8. In the battles we face, both are needed to protect our heart. The enemy tempts us with all kinds of sinful acts that tangle us, but righteousness protects our hearts. God has given us complete righteousness in Christ and wants us to continually receive the continuing righteousness that comes as we follow Jesus with all our heart.

Third, know that our feet are fitted with the gospel of peace. Peace is an attribute of God’s very character. In Greek, peace means oneness or wholeness. The gospel, which means good news, is the forgiveness of sins and access to that oneness with God through faith in Jesus. And this oneness with the Lord produces peace. One of the biggest battles that we might face is when the enemy will tempt us with worry. When we carry the weight of anxiousness and worry, we are robbed of peace. Ask Jesus to remind you of His gospel of peace and pray it into your life. The first tattoo that I ever got is the Hebrew word Shalom on my left shoulder. Shalom means reconciliation with God. And when someone in Israel greets or says goodbye, they are quite literally praying that you will be filled with a complete and perfect peace. That’s how I want my life marked… to be marked in a complete and perfect peace.

Fourth, take up the shield of faith. When Paul wrote this passage, the Roman soldiers carried shields that were covered with heavy animal hide. Before a battle, they would dip their shields into water so that when fiery darts hit them, the wet hide would extinguish the darts. In a similar way, our shield of faith needs to be regularly dipped in the water of God’s word to be fully functional. Romans 10:17 says that “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” If your faith feels less than you want it to, ask God to increase your faith as in Mark 9:24 and focus on God’s character and not on your circumstance. And begin to read the Bible on a regular basis.

Fifth, take the helmet of salvation. Salvation comes the moment we place our faith in Jesus. It also involves us as we walk with Jesus and allow Him to work that salvation into every part of our thoughts. The battlefield of our mind is the primary place the spiritual battle is fought. Romans 12:2 tells us to not conform to the patterns of this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Then we will be able to test and approve what God’s will is. The helmet of salvation is there to remind us that we are Christ’s at the moment we call on Him to save us. And to renew our minds as we follow Jesus.

And finally, take the sword of the Spirit… the Word of the living God. This is the only piece of armor that is both defensive and offensive. When we are tempted, or are in a battle, the most effective weapon that God has given us is His Word… the Bible. In my experience, what has changed my heart, my thoughts, my actions the most has been the Word of God. What has provided the most calm in the midst of my storms, has been the Word of God. If you want to win your battles, if you want to see your life changed and the lives of your friends changed, go to the Word of God. When the devil tempted Jesus, it’s what Jesus went to in His battle as we can see in Luke 4:1-13. When the devil tempted Him three times, He responded with the truth of God’s Word every time.

Battles will come. Paul has almost all but promised it. But God has provided protection when we find ourselves in the battle. If you find yourself in a battle right now, I encourage you to put on God’s armor… His protection is effective. Run to His Word. It will change your life for the better. Oh, and one more thing... When soldiers put on their armor, they didn’t wait until they were in the midst of the fighting. No, they put it on before the battle to prepare for the fight ahead. And God wants each one of us to do the same thing in our lives.

God’s provided protection for your battle. Will you put it on?


Jordan River in Israel

Are You Ready

As a kid, I loved looking forward to things that were good… Christmas. Birthdays. Getting my drivers license. My first day going away to college. And before college… the last day to any school year when that final bell rang and you got on that bus for the last time before summer.

Anticipation… for the good things, is a feeling like no other. Anticipation for something that isn’t good is… well… not anticipation… it’s dread. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the feeling of looking forward to something that’s good that’s around the corner. As an adult, this has become counting down the days before a family vacation to our favorite place in the States… Charleston, South Carolina.

Jami and I took a trip there last July for our anniversary… and we fell in love with that place. Now, we’re planning on taking our kids back there this June to see a Charleston Battery soccer game. And we can’t be more excited to show them what we experienced. Including showing Morgan the locations where Outer Banks is filmed! (In all honesty, I’m just as stoked to go back to those locations.)

I really can’t wait to get back to Charleston and take our kids along. I’m sure we all have our stories of anticipation. Childhood stories. Adulting stories. And as we read God’s Word, there’s another group of folks who might have had the same anticipation story as us. Check it out:

So Joshua ordered the officers of the people: “Go through the camp and tell the people, ‘Get your supplies ready. Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the Lord your God is giving you for your own.’” Joshua 1:10-11

For 40 years… FORTY. YEARS. The Israelites had been wandering around in the desert waiting for this moment. For 40 years they couldn’t enter the land that had been promised to them because of their disobedience to God. You see, God promised Abraham that there would be a Promised Land for the Israel nations to come out of his son, Isaac. And after God freed the Israelite slaves from Egypt through Moses, they ran low on their food to live. So much so that they wished they were back in the good old days of slavery in Egypt where they didn’t have to worry about where their food would come from. But God didn’t leave them to starve and instead provided manna to them all.

At one point, God told Moses to send twelve spies into the land of Canaan, one spy for every tribe of Israel. The spies went out and traveled the land for forty days. The spies came back and reported to Moses what they saw. The land was flowing with milk and honey. There were many places to grow food as farmers. But there were also many strong clans of people living there and many of the spies were afraid of them.

Caleb and Joshua wanted to lead the Israelites to take the land right away. They weren’t afraid of the Canaanites. The other spies lied and said that they saw very tall and strong people, some of them the size of giants. When the Israelites heard this, they became angry with Moses for leading them out of Egypt. They were afraid, too, and cursed God for bringing them there. They forgot God’s promise that he would help them.

God was angry with the Israelites for their complaints. They didn’t trust in Him no matter how many signs and gifts He gave to them. Moses prayed for forgiveness on behalf of the people. “Forgive the mistakes of this people according to the greatness of your steadfast love,” he prayed. The Lord responded, “I do forgive, just as you have asked, but I will punish this generation of people for their lack of faith. You will wander in the desert for forty years, the same number as the number of days you spied out the land.”

Then, after 40 years, Joshua gives the order to the people… Get ready. You only have to wait THREE MORE DAYS! Can you imagine what they must have been feeling!? What must they have been thinking? The anticipation must have been like they hadn’t felt before.

The Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years. Moses and the Israelites had to have struggled at times throughout those 40 years. Life was probably hard at times. I don’t know where you’ve been these last 40 years. These last 40 months. Or these last 40 days. Maybe you’ve been through hell. It might have been rough at times. Things might have been a struggle. Life may have certainly been hard and in your life you may feel like you’ve been wandering.

But God is telling you right now that your promise land is waiting for you right now to cross over. God is telling you right now that there is a better life to be lived and that He will provide for you if you will simply put your trust and faith in Him. And while He has a promise land for you to find, just like the Israelites, in order to find it there’s a couple of things God wants you to do to see it.

First, keep your eye on the Word of the Lord and follow it. Then you will know which way to go… you will know how to live.

Joshua 3:3-4 says, “…When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests, who are Levites, carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before.”

You see, in order to know how to get to our promise land… In order for us to know how God wants us to live, we need to keep His word continuously in front of us. When we do that, then can we know how to get to the promise land He’s provided and how to live.

Second, consecrate yourselves to God. In other words, promise yourself to God and follow Him. Devote yourself to following God. It’s surrendering all of you to all of Him. It’s a simple recognition that every second of your time, every ounce of your energy, and every penny of your money is a gift from God and for God. Consecration is an ever-deepening love for Jesus, a childlike trust in your heavenly Father, and a blind obedience to the Holy Spirit.

Joshua 3:5 says, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.”

When we consecrate ourselves to God… When we recognize that every second of our time, energy and money is a gift from God and for God, then can He do amazing things with and for and through our lives. Then can we enter the promise land.

I don’t know where you’re at right now. Whether you’re just entering your desert. Or whether you feel like you’ve been wandering for years. But I do know this, God wants you to enter your promised land. He has promised a better way of life. And it’s right around the corner waiting for you.

Can you feel the anticipation? I can. And God can too. The question is…

Are you ready for God's promised land in your life!?


Lola the dog

Chasing Your Tail

As the kids were younger, I had thought a lot about getting a dog. I mean, I had a dog when I grew up… actually, we had several dogs when I was growing up… at least five. Jami had a dog when she was growing up. So after a while, I knew that we needed to get a dog for our kids. As Jami and I were discussing the idea of a dog, someone let us know that there was one that needed to be given away. A six month old Havapoo… half Havanese, half Poodle. It was the perfect dog when it came to shedding and playing with the kids. And it made our family Christmas cards cuter too.

But seven years into having Zoe, I felt the need to have a “real” dog. When I thought about the idea of having a dog years ago, I always pictured a Labrador Retriever… You know, a real dog. Plus, as we took Zoe for a walk, all I could think about was the neighbors laughing at me as I walked a six pound dog down the street… I know. I have problems. But in my mind, I wanted… no, needed a real dog.

So towards the end of 2019, we purchased and picked up Lola, our charcoal Lab… you know… our real dog. Now I can take the dogs for a walk with pride. Jami has her dog. And I have mine… a real dog. I joke all the time that Lola has the street smarts and Zoe has more of the scholastic smarts. Lola is all dog. And Zoe is… well… I’m not sure… maybe part dog, part cat? Lola can do dog tricks. And Zoe… well, Zoe knows how to sit. That’s about it. One of the things that Zoe has never done that I totally forgot that dogs do until we got Lola, is the whole chasing their tail thing. I don’t know why, but it’s always funny to watch Lola chase her tale. Around and around and around. Trying to grab it with her mouth. 99% of the time she can’t grab it. But there’s that one percent of the time that she does grab it and she treats it like it’s a miracle. I don’t know why I laugh when I see it, but it’s hysterical to me.

And then, as Jami and I were talking about our kids and parenting, it hit me. There are many times where we feel like we are chasing our tails. Like when we tell them over and over again…. take out the trash, do the dishwasher, put the toaster back, clean the top of the oven, clean your room… basically clean up after themselves and take care of their things. And then there’s the… practice your sport, do your school work, get out to the bus on time, read your bible, memorize our family bible verse… you know, the things that should be priority in their lives.

And we find ourselves getting super frustrated telling them… reminding them… telling them again to do these things… you know… chasing our tail only to have them not do what we’ve asked them to do. If only they just did what we told them to do then they’d be perfect little human beings.

We’ve tried everything, from nagging to harping to removing privileges to other consequences to get them to do what they’ve been asked to do in their lives. While that temporarily works… for like 24 hours… we find ourselves once again chasing our tails wondering why there hasn’t been permanent life change. And then we remind ourselves…

It’s not just about changing their behavior. It’s about building up their heart. Instead of getting frustrated focusing on simply putting away the toaster. It’s about teaching them how to serve. It’s about teaching them how to prioritize what’s important in their lives. It’s about thinking about others above themselves. It’s about thinking ahead and being able to see how doing a small task could be so helpful to someone else. It’s about teaching them to follow Jesus and what all that looks like.

You see, it’s really all about their heart. And once their heart changes, then their behavior will follow. Which makes this all the more harder. Because it becomes all about us and less about them. It becomes about how we respond to their perceived failure. It becomes about what we chase in our lives. It’s really about our vision for what’s important and where we place our focus. And it’s really all about our hearts.

Once we realize this, then we can finally stop chasing our tails.

Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them. Proverbs 13:24

When we hear this verse we think about spanking our children. It’s not about correction through pain. Jami’s parents actually had a paddle with this verse on it. But this verse isn’t really about spanking your children. You see, shepherds use a rod and a staff to direct their sheep. The rod is used to gently prod the sheep on the right path. And the staff is used to strongly exert his authority and to gently, but firmly pull the sheep back to the herd moving them in the right direction, away from harm. You see, this verse is all about direction and protection.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4

It’s all about directing our kids and protecting them…

So if we look at parenting as guiding and shaping and molding our children then we become more intentional about helping and guiding our children in the way that God would have us and them to live. Then, doing the dishes, putting the toaster back, cleaning the oven becomes an act of service and practicing their sport and doing their schoolwork becomes using the talents God has given them.

Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

Changing our children’s behavior is super important. But it’s about so much more than that, it’s about their hearts. Which means that parenting and training up our children really starts with our hearts. It’s a perspective shift in our thinking and how we parent. Once our perspective changes, only then can we be free from chasing our tails.


Photo of a gate

Gate of Heaven

Ghostbusters.

It’s in the top ten of my favorite movies. Not the sequels. Those are trash. The O.G. Ghostbuster movie. Bill Murray. Dan Aykroyd. Sigourney Weaver. Rick Moranis. Ernie Hudson. It was a great movie. On a side note, I wrote alternate lyrics to the Ghostbuster theme song about diarrhea… it was hilarious.

In any case, one of my favorite parts of the movie is when Louis is running around the city asking anyone and anything he can find is the “gatekeeper” to entryway to the evil dimension. At one point, he runs up to a horse, announces he is the key master and asks the horse if it’s the gatekeeper. Rick Moranis is hilarious.

As I was reading a few weeks ago, I ran across a reference to a different kind of gate and it gave me chills. Check this out:

‘He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place? This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”’ Genesis 28:17

Jacob, on the run from his brother and on his way to find a wife, stopped for the night to sleep. During his sleep God came to him full of promises, not the corrections he deserved for taking his older brother’s blessings. Jacob didn’t go looking for God. Instead, God looked for Jacob.

And after waking up from this dream, Jacob declared that the place he was standing was none other than the gate of heaven and named the place, Bethel.

The gate of heaven.

Can you imagine standing there in that place with Jacob? To experience the awe and wonder and majesty of God. To literally be standing at a place where it had to be labeled, the gate of heaven. That must have been crazy…

Except, it isn’t that crazy. It’s something that can happen to each one of us. It happened to Jacob. He didn’t deserve the promises of God. He had just stolen his older brother’s blessing from their father. Instead of receiving a beat down from God, he received blessings. Jacob was far from perfect. He didn’t look for God. God looked for and found Jacob.

And He will do the same with us through His Son Jesus. And instead of making a plot of earth where the gate of heaven is found, He is able to make our very life the gate of heaven, if we let Him.

The choice is ours. Each day we have a choice to have our life be the gate of heaven, or not. And that choice lies in what we allow to flow out of our mouth and our actions. Check this out:

“What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him unclean, but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him unclean. Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man unclean. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what makes a man unclean…” Matthew 15:11, 17-20

In other words, your heart is the gate… the gate of heaven or the gate to everything else. I don’t know about you, but without Jesus, my heart would be filled with everything else. My life would be a giant mess. And instead of my life being a gate to heaven, it would be a gate to destruction.

But with Jesus, man, with Jesus my life and your life… our hearts are the gate of heaven. And this is what the gate of heaven lets out… check this out:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Galatians 5:22-25

This world, this community… your community… needs another gate of heaven… to bring the goodness and faithfulness and grace and promises of God. The question is, will your life be a gate to destruction, or… will your life be a…

Gate of heaven.