Skydiving

No Going Back

A couple of spring breaks ago I finally did something I’ve been wanting to do for years… like 20 years. If I’m honest, I didn’t know if I’d ever have the chance or work up the courage to do it. The “something” I did? I went skydiving. That’s right. I willingly jumped out of a perfectly good airplane from 13,000 feet.

My friend Daryl and I had made plans to jump while we were on spring break out in Arizona. So, on the day we were to jump, we drove about an hour to the jump zone. Once there, we literally signed our life away and watched a quick video on how to successfully jump from an airplane, then walked out to get our harness strapped on.

After getting strapped up, we made our walk out to the bus that was going to take us to our plane. As we were driving out to where our plane was, we could see groups of people gliding down with their parachutes floating through the air. I couldn’t believe that that was going to be me in a matter of minutes. Once we got off the bus, we headed towards our plane. Each step I took, I kept telling myself that there was no turning back. My nerves were increasing more and more as I approached the plane.

Once inside the plane, myself and my jump instructor headed all the way back towards the pilot. At this point, my heart was beating a mile a minute. But I kept telling myself that there was no turning back… despite the pilot and plane looking like it had been used in multiple cocaine runs between Arizona and Columbia.

Prior to taking off, my jump instructor had me put on my seatbelt. Then, once we were about 500 feet off the ground, he strapped himself to me and instructed me to take my seatbelt off. I actually asked him why. His response, “Well, if the plane goes down, we’re jumping.” Ya, I guess that made sense.

Once we reached 13,000 feet, the skydivers ahead of me began to jump from the plane. Let me tell you, there’s no preparing for the sight of people throwing themselves out of a plane. I literally saw them jump from the door and watched from my window as they fell towards the earth. And then, it was my turn. The jump instructor told me to scoot closer to the door. And each butt scoot we took, I kept telling myself that I wasn’t going back.

And then… we stood up and crouched at the door of the plane. In my head I kept saying, “I’m not going back. I’m not going back. I’m not going back.” The jump instructor tapped me on my arm. And in one final, “I’m not going back,” I crossed my arms, tilted my head back… and we jumped.

It was the most terrifying, exciting thing I have ever done. I thought we were jumping straight out. But instead, when we jumped, the instructor spun us around backwards and I watched the plane as we fell. It. Was. Amazing.

Once we got back to the hotel, Morgan ran up to me and yelled, “You didn’t die!” as she tearfully gave me a hug.

No turning back. That was the theme of my skydiving trip. That’s what I kept telling myself. And that’s what Moses and the Lord told the Israelites as well.

Check this out:

 ...the Lord has told you, “You are not to go back that way again.” Deuteronomy 17:16

You see, just prior to crossing over into the land that God promised to the Israelites, He gave them a prescription on how to live a life that would glorify the Lord. And years before the Israelites asked for a king, God laid out His qualities of a good one. One of the qualities the Lord states is that “The king must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them…”

Upon hearing this at first, you might think, “Horses? Who cares about horses. What does this have to do with being a good king?” You see, during this time in history, Egypt was THE place from where other nations bought their supplies of this animal. If you wanted a strong horse… If you wanted the best horse… You went to Egypt. There was one major problem… This was the place the Lord had just delivered them from slavery 40 years earlier. And, in looking out for His people, Moses tells the Israelites…

…’the Lord has told you, “You are not to go back that way again.”’

God knew that, if the Israelites went back to Egypt, they would go back to their slavery. He knew that, if the Israelites went back to the familiar, they would go back to a life they had cried out to be rescued from. He knew that, if the Israelites went back to their old way of living, they’d be forfeiting every promise that He had given to them. For the Israelites…

Egypt = Slavery

It’s not that Egypt was all bad. There were things in Egypt that were tempting to go back to. For a king, it would be the type and the style and the amount of horses. For others, it was the food. Still, for others it may have been the majesty of their buildings. None of these things in and of themselves are horrible. But in each of these things is the temptation to turn from the promises of God.

And the same is true for each one of us.

God has sent His Son Jesus to die for each one of us (John 3:16). And through the death and resurrection of Jesus, He has called us to a life outside the captivity and slavery of sin to a promised better life. And each of us has a history that we’re familiar with. A history, that if we return to it, would take us back into our captivity. And as we seek to follow Jesus, there are three areas where we will be tempted to return to our captivity of sin... to forfeit the promises of God.

We will be tempted to go back to what we were thinking. “It’s not that bad.” “It’s just one time.” “Nobody will find out.” “I’m better than them.” And we return to the slavery of our thoughts.

We will also be tempted to go back to what we were saying. The type of language we use. Gossiping about others. Tearing others down. Being discouraging with our words. Speaking out of anger instead of love. And we return to the slavery of our words.

And we will be tempted to go back to what we were doing. Going back to that relationship. Living our lives in our pride. Neglecting our families. Forgetting about God. And we return to the slavery of our actions.

But I want to remind you that God is telling us right now... “You are not to go back that way again.” Instead, God has a better way. Micah 6:8 says,

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Instead of going back to what we were doing, we are to act justly. Instead of going back to what we were saying, we are to love mercy. And instead of going back to how we were thinking, we are to walk humbly with our God.

This temptation to go back to our old ways is ultimately a temptation of the mind. And Paul knew this as he spoke to the church in Philippi. It’s true then and it’s true for each of us now. And this is our encouragement for today…

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me - put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9


silhouette of a man graphic

Who Are You

Growing up, I had a few alter egos. For instance, there were times when I would ride my bike and pretend like I was Ponch from the old tv show CHiPs. I’d grab one of my toy guns and holsters, my remote control police car and ride around my block looking for crime. After Ponch, came my alter ego of… Zorro. I actually made a mask out of black fabric to wear, put on a black cape, wore my black sweats and put on a sword from one of my old Halloween costumes. Zorro had a cave to get ready in and so did I… my garage. When it was time to battle evil, I’d walk out through my back yard to the garage, change my outfit, then crawl out through the doggy door in the wall. Once evil was conquered, and I did conquer evil, I’d crawl back through the doggy door, change into my regular clothes, hide “Zorro’s” outfit, then go back to my “regular life.” The last alter ego is actually one that I don’t usually talk about. For years I tried to keep it hidden. The reason? Two words… Wonder Woman. That’s right. You can laugh. But I would pretend that I was Wonder Woman. On one night in particular, I got into character and stood on the couch to do battle. The villain? My brother Tim. I jumped off the couch, grabbed him by the wrist and arm, spun him around and around… and let go. He went flying head first into the wooden coffee table. As soon as I let go I knew there were problems. And when he turned his head around as he was crying all we could see was blood running down his face from just above his eye. My mom and dad scooped him up and headed to the ER where he received a number of stitches. Needless to say, that was the LAST time I pretended to be Wonder Woman.

Alter egos.

These were just a few of the other identities I took on as a little kid. When I put on that mask and cape, I WAS Zorro. When I rode my bike with my toy gun on my side, I WAS Ponch. When I put on those pretend bracelets and threw my brother head first into a coffee table, I WAS Wonder Woman. Over time, as I grew up, these alter egos… Identities, went away. They disappeared. But I noticed that as I got older, they were replaced by other identities that I thought made me who I was… Other identities to give me and my life meaning. Instead of having fun in my pretend identities in my younger years, as I got older it became a serious search for who I saw myself to be. So, when I was a teenager, my identity was found in the idea that I was a baseball player… Not only a baseball player, but a baseball player that had a girlfriend. As I got older into adulthood, I made my identity about what I did for work… How much money I made… The title on my desk.

Essentially, my identity was found in what I was doing. And my value and self worth... How I viewed myself and what I thought about myself as a person was linked to that identity found in what I was doing. So, when I was playing baseball really well, I had a high self-esteem. When I had a girlfriend, my self worth was greater. When my coach or my boss thought I did a great job, I thought my value as a person was greater. “Doing” things well equaled a greater self worth. The problem? I didn’t always play baseball well. I didn’t always have a girlfriend. My boss didn’t always think I did a great job. And my job title wasn’t always what I wanted it to be. And when my identity was found in what I was doing, when I wasn’t doing as great of a job as I thought I should have done, my self worth and self esteem lowered. If I stumbled or dropped a ball, I would call myself clumsy. If I would forget to do something at work or get a bad grade in school, I would call myself stupid. Or if I didn’t have a girlfriend, I would call myself pathetic.

Those are the thoughts I would have about myself. But those aren’t the thoughts that God has about each one of us. Only Satan, the enemy of our lives, would try to make us think that our worth comes from our work. Only the enemy wants us to find our identity in what we do, because he knows that when the lights go dark and the "success" is gone, so is our value. But God has a different thought regarding our identity… One that is found in "being" rather than "doing"… One that doesn’t change because of anything that we do or don’t do. You see, our true identity is based on how God sees us.

And how does God see us? According to the Bible, God sees us as someone who is…

Called

Chosen

Citizen of Heaven

Conqueror

First, God sees you… He sees me as someone who is “Called.” Check this out:

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9

You and I were born into sin. Since the fall of Adam and Eve, sin has been an issue on earth. And each one of us was born into that life. And sin produces a darkness that we can’t get out of by ourselves. We can try to be good enough. We can try to do enough to make things right with God, to make us feel better. But there’s nothing we can do by ourselves that will provide a means of escape from the darkness of sin. Only God can call us out of the darkness we find ourselves in. Only God can call us out of the darkness of sin and despair. Only God can call us out of the darkness of an identity based on doing... Based on what we do. And He calls us through His Son Jesus. And God is calling you right now, even as you read this. God is calling out to you right now.

Secondly, God sees you and has chosen you. The very first part of 1 Peter 2:9 tells us that “we are a chosen people…” Ephesians chapter one verses three through fourteen says,

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will -  to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:3-14

God has chosen you. He has chosen me for Himself. He has adopted us as sons and daughters through Jesus Christ. He has chosen us to be children of the living God. Jami and I were able to have a couple of friends pray over us a couple of weeks ago. We’ve had people pray with us before. So going into this we were expecting what we thought was going to be a time of prayer we’ve previously experienced. But it wasn’t. It was something we’ve never experienced before. It was a true gift from God. You see, one friend led the time of prayer. And as he listened to what God was saying, he prayed that out loud. So at one point, he mentioned that God had given new names to people. In the Bible, this isn’t anything new. He gave Saul a new name of Paul. He gave Abram a new name of Abraham. He called Peter, “the rock on which I will build My church.” And then, this friend asked if God was giving me a new name. It wasn’t something I was expecting. But it was something that marked me. And as I thought about it more and more, "chosen" stuck out to me. God chose me. In all of my failures and flaws and ugliness, God still chose me. He chose me as His adopted son through Jesus. But He also chose me to influence and make a difference in the lives of students and families. And God has chosen you as well.

Third, God sees you and I as citizens of Heaven. Philippians chapter three, verse twenty says,

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ… Philippians 3:20

You see, when you are Called… When you are Chosen… When you are adopted sons and daughters through Jesus Christ, our citizenship is found in Heaven. No longer do we set our minds on things of this earth… no longer do we set our minds on our selfish ambitions… No. Those things aren’t important any longer. Our hope and our longing is for God’s glory and praise to be lifted in our hearts and our minds. Our identity is no longer based on doing, it’s found and based in our being… being a citizen of Heaven.

And finally, God sees us as Conquerors. But not just any conquerors. No. But conquerors through Jesus Christ who loves us. Romans chapter eight, verse thirty-seven says,

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Romans 8:37

You see, there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God that is in Jesus Christ. There’s nothing we can say. There’s nothing we can do. There’s nothing that then enemy can do. Nothing can separate God’s love from us. It’s through God’s love and His strength that we can face any hardship… Any trial… Any let down… Any hurt… And be conquerors because of the love of God and the strength of Jesus Christ in us. When we call on Jesus and accept Him as our Savior, there is nothing that can separate God's love and acceptance from our lives.

God's acceptance of us, and therefore our identity, is not defined by our actions. So we will never be a "failure" when our performance doesn't match our expectations. When we reassign the source of our value and worth to its rightful place, in Jesus Christ, we will be free from the fear of failure or the opinions of others. We will be free from the labels we place on ourselves. And free from the shifting thoughts of our self-worth.

You see, God sees us as…

People who are Called

People who are Chosen

People who are Citizens of Heaven

And people who are Conquerors

The only thing that matters is what our Heavenly Father thinks about us. And the identity we find in Him will never change.


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.


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.


Monterrey, Mexico

Good for Nothing

It’s crazy to me how our minds work. How we can hear a song and it take us back to the very spot we heard it years ago. How it can cause us to feel what we were feeling at that time. To smell the smells. To literally be transported back in time to the very place we were. Or, to travel down a childhood road and go back to playing Kick the Can when you were six years old. Or, to read two words and remember everything about a trip you took. Those two words for me... Monterrey, Mexico.

It’s a place that I’ve been to three times. It’s an area that holds a special place in my heart. Reading those two words transports me back to the dirt roads we walked. It takes me back to the trash heap where some of the residents built their homes from. I remember buying homemade flavored ice drinks. Monterrey, Mexico.

For three years I spent seven days with those people as part of a mission trip with our church. The main reason we went was to help do building projects and minister to kids who lived at a local orphanage down there. It broke me. The kids at that specific orphanage were dropped off by their parents because they couldn’t afford to keep them. Some of them, their mother’s boyfriend made her drop them off because they couldn’t help their family make any money. Some of the kids that had been there since they were babies, would be picked back up by their families as soon as they were old enough to work. It. Was. Heartbreaking. Essentially, those kids at that orphanage were good-for-nothiings in the eyes of their parents. They weren’t good for anything, so their families had given them away. I will never forget those three summers and I often wonder what happened to those kids.

As I was reading the Bible, I came across this phrase, “good-for-nothing.” Check this out:

At the end of twenty years, during which Solomon built these two buildings—the temple of the Lord and the royal palace — King Solomon gave twenty towns in Galilee to Hiram king of Tyre, because Hiram had supplied him with all the cedar and juniper and gold he wanted. But when Hiram went from Tyre to see the towns that Solomon had given him, he was not pleased with them. “What kind of towns are these you have given me, my brother?” he asked. And he called them the Land of Cabul, a name they have to this day. 1 Kings 9:10-13

King David, because of the wars he faced, couldn’t build a temple for the Lord. But Solomon, because he and Israel were enjoying a time of peace, wanted to build a temple for the Lord God. The king of Tyre had always been on friendly terms with king David. And so, Solomon, now king of Israel, asked the king of Tyre to provide cedar for the temple. Not only did the king of Tyre provide cedar for the temple, but over the next twenty years, the king of Tyre gave Solomon cedar, juniper and gold to help build, not only the temple, but also Solomon’s palace as well. And so, at the end of twenty years, Solomon gave away part of God’s promised land to king Hiram… 20 towns in Galilee as a gift for the king’s services. And after king Hiram went to visit these towns, upon looking at them, he called them, “ the Land of Cabul.” Essentially, he called them good-for-nothing towns.

I don’t know where you’re at right now in life. What’s going on in your world. What’s going on at work. In your relationships. As an adult. Or as a student. I remember back to high school, as a skinny freshman, sophomore, Junior and senior. Seeing friends in relationships. And then there was me. No girlfriend. No relationship. Wondering what was wrong with me. Maybe that’s you right now. Or maybe you’re struggling at the sport you play. While you have fun playing baseball, soccer, football… whatever sport it is… the team you’re on is hard to play with because when you make a mistake, they jump down your throat and you start to feel like you can’t do anything right. Or maybe work just sucks right now. You feel like you can’t win. Sales are down. You feel like you’re doing your best, but your best just isn’t good enough. Or maybe life is simply hard. You feel all alone. Down. Depressed. Connected with nobody. And you feel, well, good for nothing.

The Land of Cabul. Good-for-nothing towns. Some days, that’s the land that you live in, maybe more days than you care to admit. Here’s the thing with these towns… the very towns that the king of Tyre called good for nothing… these are the very towns that Jesus chose as the early focal point of His ministry on earth. The very towns that king Hiram didn’t want anything to do with, are the very towns that Jesus chose to go to. You see, what someone calls worthless, Jesus calls valuable. What someone calls good for nothing, Jesus calls loved. King Hiram didn’t see the value in these towns. But Jesus saw the people in these towns. And Jesus sees you, right now, where you’re at.

You might feel worthless. But Jesus sees you as valuable. You might feel unloveable. But Jesus sees you as you are and loves you as you are. You might feel alone. But Jesus is calling out and wants a relationship with you. You might feel good for nothing, but Jesus is calling you to join His team and His movement.

I don’t know where you are at in life right now, but I do know this… God Himself, sent His Son, Jesus, to earth to save you out of whatever you find yourself in right now. The hurt. The pain. The confusion. The trouble. Jesus has come so that you can find relationship and love and healing. Jesus has come to find you. You aren’t a good-for-nothing. You are loved and wanted and valued… by God Himself… by Jesus.

His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor His delight in the legs of a man; the Lord delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love. Psalm 147:10-11

You see, God is a God of strength. But He doesn’t delight in power. No. More than anything He loves to be in a close relationship to the very people who respond to His love. And it’s my prayer that you’ll respond to His love, even right now.


Trash behind a shed

Behind the Shed

It’s finally the warm months here in northern Indiana. With it, at least for the Ruths, brings more time outside. More walks. Beach trips. Making food on the grill. Cookouts. And… time spent making our front yard look good. You know, mowing the yard diagonally, planting flowers, laying down mulch and fertilizing the grass. For the Ruths, we do what we can to make our front yard look good… or at least presentable.

Our backyard? That’s a bit of a different story. We have a couple of dogs, so we don’t fertilize the backyard. We have weeded less. And there are piles of sticks and branches that we need to burn. I know, that at some point, we’ll have people over. And that means that, in the summer months, they’ll see our backyard. So we’ve begun to make it look better. As I was out in the backyard cutting down tree-weeds, I walked past our shed. And, Jami, knowing that I had cut down some not-so-lovely-tree-weeds, said, “Doesn’t behind the shed bother you too?” “What? Behind the shed?” I hadn’t looked behind the shed since last fall. So, when she asked that question it made me stop and think. And then, I went to look behind the shed. You guys… what I saw… it was awful. It literally looked like a junk yard. Check it out... guys... I'm not lying!

Trash behind a shed

Our front yard looks fine. It looks pretty good. Outside of a mole that’s been terrorizing us this year, our front yard looks good. We’ve got people fooled. When they walk or drive by, they see our nice flowers, diagonally-mowed grass and our American flag. If only they knew what was behind our shed. The literal trash that sat behind there for so long. They would know that our front yard was… well… a farce. All for show to make people think we’ve got it all together. To make it so we aren’t living in embarrassment.

Behind the shed.

We’ve all got a “behind the shed.” I’m not talking about a physical shed now. I’m talking about the metaphorical shed that’s found in each of our lives. We nicely manicure ourselves and our social media to make it look like we’ve got it all together, only to have a mess behind our shed, afraid of what people would think if they only knew. Well, you might not. But I definitely have been there. And as we read the Bible, there’s a story of a woman who had people find out about the mess behind her shed. Check it out:

At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” John 8:2-11

The woman had what she hid behind her shed shown for everyone to see. I mean everyone. Jesus wasn’t just teaching to a group of five people. No, He was in the temple courts where he was likely speaking to a large crowd of people. Can you imagine, literally being dragged down the street. Past onlookers walking by? Past person. After person. After person. Wondering where you’re being taken. And as you look up, trying not to look at anyone in their eyes, you see a large crowd. Now, as you pass through the back row of people, you’re being bounced off of people who are listening to someone teach. Crying and scared, you’re continuing to be pushed to the front of the crowed for all to see. Can you imagine? Everything that she has tried to hide… all of the trash behind her shed is being put on display for all to see. Can you imagine?

The Bible doesn’t tell us anything else about this woman. Only that she was caught in adultery. What was her life like? Who was she married to? Did she have kids? Did people respect her? What was her life like? How long did she try to hide the mess she was living in behind her shed? We don’t know the answers to any of these questions. In reality, the answers to these questions probably don’t matter. What we do know, is that the mess… the trash behind her shed was put on display for everyone to see. EVERYONE. Can you imagine the shame and guilt and embarrassment she felt as she was being dragged past people she probably knew? And then, as she was finally being dragged to the front of the crowd, her head hanging low… she sees the feet of the one who was teaching. The man everyone came to hear. Jesus. And they made her stand in front of Him and everyone else.

“Jesus,” the Pharisees said. “This woman, she was caught in the act of adultery. The Law says to stone women like her. What do you say we should do?” And as we picture this scene in our mind’s eye, the Bible gives us two simple words in response to the question the Pharisees had… in response to all of the mess and trash behind this woman’s shed. Two words. Eight letters. That would lead to a life changed and renewed. The two words?

“But Jesus”

A life filled with embarrassment… “But Jesus.” A life filled with shame and guilt… “But Jesus.” A life filled with fear and hurt… “But Jesus.” A life filled with pain and sin… “But Jesus.” This woman… was brought out into the public… dragged by people she probably knew… through a crowd of people… the Pharisees, filled with hate… hate for Jesus… and hate for this woman. They wanted to make an example of her in her shame and guilt and hurt and pain… and was willing for her to die by stoning… But…

“But Jesus,” out of His compassion, instead accepted the woman in her shame and guilt and hurt and pain… He accepted all of the mess behind her shed… and didn’t condemn her but forgave her sin. You see, all of the Pharisees who brought her in front of Jesus… who brought her in front of the crowd of people to humiliate her… they too had things behind their shed that they didn’t want anyone to know about. Because when Jesus asked for any of them without sin to throw the first stone, they one by one walked away.

You see, when it comes to the things behind our shed… the things that we would be embarrassed about if people were to find out… it doesn’t phase Jesus. We don’t have to get pretty to come before Jesus. He accepts us as we are… with all of the mess and trash behind our shed. But He doesn’t just accept us as we are… it’s not just that He doesn’t condemn us… He also wants to help us clean up our lives behind the shed and live a life that chases after Him.

The Bible says that all of the Pharisees walked away until it was only Jesus and the woman who was left. But, when I sit and think about that woman’s story, I can’t help but think about how many in the crowd who were left, stunned by what they just witnessed. Sure, none of the Pharisees were left. But in a crowd that size and where they were at, I believe there were still onlookers who witnessed a life saved and changed. And in each of our lives, as we come before Jesus with the mess behind our shed, you can bet that there will be people who will witness your life saved and changed as well.

We all have things that are hiding behind our shed… “But Jesus” will meet you where you’re at and help make your life new again.


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!?


Mount of Olives Jerusalem

A Seat at the Table

Easter

I loved this holiday growing up. We’d always have an Easter basket with candy, a couple of toys and that colorful Easter grass. Our parents would also hide hard-boiled eggs we had decorated around the house. There was more than one occasion where we couldn’t find all the eggs. And of course mom and dad couldn’t remember where they hid them. Only after a few months did we find them… Not because anyone found them because we saw them. No… we eventually found them by following the foul odor of a rotten egg.

As fun as Easter was growing up. It’s so much more than just eggs, toys, Easter grass and cute little bunnies. Check this out:

Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.) But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?” When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” Mark 2:15-17

Easter. Jesus didn’t go the the cross for “good” people. God didn’t send His Son to die for “perfect” people. The Messiah didn’t rise from the dead for people who don’t have a “past” a “history” or a “current reality.” You see, it was the “perfect” people… the “good” people… the teachers of the religious law… the pharisees who were looking from the outside in at the table of Jesus. It was the people who were hated… people who were despised, people who had terrible reputations… in the words of the “good” people, it was the scum of the earth who had a seat at the dinner table of Jesus.

In other words… it was me. It was you. This isn’t a one-time deal with Jesus. He was known to spend time with people like this during His life. And, just before He was to be betrayed, He held one more meal where He invited His friends to eat with Him. The people who spent the most time with Him during His ministry were invited to the table… His disciples. The very people who traveled with Him. And…

The one who would betray Him.

And Jesus knew this. He knew that Judas would, the very next night, hand Him over to be murdered. But that’s the very heart of Jesus. To give His life… even for the very ones who we think don’t deserve His love and grace.

After He was betrayed and taken for trial, He stood before Pilate and next to a man named Barabbas. Now Barabbas was in prison for a reason… he was involved in an insurrection and had committed murder during the uprising. Pilate, not wanting to make what he knew to be the right decision, asked the crowd whom they wanted released… Jesus or Barabbas. Like any mob, there were bad actors who stirred up the crowd… the chief priests… who called for Barabbas to be released. There was one huge problem with this though. You see, just before the Lord was going to take the Israelites into the promised land way back before Jesus came, God wanted to remind the Israelites of the priorities of God. One of the legal requirements for the Israelites to follow was directly related to Barabbas. Check this out:

Do not accept a ransom for the life of a murderer, who deserves to die. He must surely be put to death. Numbers 35:31

The chief priests hated Jesus because He didn’t follow their laws. They wanted to kill Him because He was/is the fulfillment of the law. And now, they wanted to break a law that the Lord had spoken to them through Moses. A law that they knew the Lord had spoken. But they didn’t care. Their hate had overcome their minds and hearts. Talk about hypocrisy!

Jesus knew all these laws as well. But He kept silent. He could have spoken up and defended Himself. But He didn’t say a word. It was God’s purpose… It was Jesus’ purpose to go to the cross for the chief priests, the pharisees and Barabbas too. And so Jesus willingly went to the cross, hung between two criminals and died what some call a death without dignity. Execution from crucifixion was the cruelest form and was usually only for the worst criminals. Death from asphyxiation usually took many hours to possibly days. For Jesus to willingly die by crucifixion is not a death without dignity… No… it is the most dignified death… because He willingly died for you and me and Barabbas and the pharisees… for the best of us and the worst of us.

And then, three days later, what we now celebrate as Easter, He rose from the sentence of death… From the grave.

“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the  Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him, just as He told you.” Mark 16:6-7

You see, Jesus willingly died a horrible criminal’s death. Beaten beyond recognition before being nailed to a cross. Was laid in a tomb. And rose three days later. When Jesus invited the tax collectors and “sinners” to His dinner table He knew He’d be sacrificed and killed. And when He hung on the cross, He knew that He was dying for those same people... and for me and you.

It’s because of Jesus’ death and resurrection that we too now have a seat at His table. This Easter, right now, in the midst of our past and our current reality, Jesus calls to each of us to come and take a seat with Him. It’s my prayer that you’ll accept His invitation to…

Have a a seat at the table… the table of Jesus.

Happy Easter


Baseball Dugout

Fear Is A Liar

There are some things that you try to block from your memory.

Things that are so painful that it shakes you at your core and makes you question everything. I had this happen to me 20 years ago. I was a youth pastor at a small local church in Michigan. It was my first job/church out of college. This particular Sunday we had a parent visit us during our Sunday school hour. Not just any parent, but a parent who was a long standing member and one of the deacons. To say I was nervous was an understatement.

We worked through the lesson I had worked hard on that week and thought it went as well as it could have gone. We finished Sunday school and sat through the church service. After church got over, I stayed around to talk to the kids and other adults. Once we were finished talking and ready to head out, I looked up and noticed that this parent was making his way up to me from the back of the church.

I don’t know what I expected to hear. But what he said destroyed me. “Todd, I feel like God is telling me that you need to quit. Your message was awful. I just don’t think He’s going to use you as a youth pastor.” Then he walked away.

I stood there alone. Crushed. I wish I could tell you that I called him a week later to remind him that we took over a youth group that had five kids and built it up to over 65 kids in a matter of a year. I wish I could tell you that I called him up to remind him of the kids we built relationships with, some of whom we ended up having contact with for over ten years.

I didn’t. The words he spoke to me shook me to my core.

I wish I could say that was the only time I came across someone who has spoken words of hate and hurt to me. But it’s not. And I’m sure there are a few of you that can relate.

Or maybe you can relate to this story. I struggled with self confidence about my weight growing up. When you hear about a story of a kid growing up struggling with weight issues, you might think of a kid who might be massively overweight. You see, for me, I was super skinny… tiny… not strong… sometimes Skeletor-like.

Little League Dugout

This is a photo of me when I was about 12 years old (I'm the one on the left.) My nickname on my high school baseball team was Keebler… you know, like Keebler the elf. Growing up a super skinny kid was just as hard as growing up as an overweight kid. I wish I could say that being made fun of didn’t affect me. But it did. And I’m sure there are a few of you that can relate.

Maybe you’ve been exactly where I am… either as a kid or as an adult. And whether you have or you haven't, I want you to see this because it has the power to change your life… check it out:

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.
1 John 4:16

The verse above is the foundational truth that we need to keep in mind as we read the next few verses…

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates his brother or sister is a liar. 1 John 4:18-20

Love and Fear. They simply cannot live together. The two cannot co-exist… ever.

Maybe you’ve been where I’ve been. You hear and remember the voices of criticism, of hate… things you’ve tried to block from your memory but fear comes creeping in and starts telling you lies about yourself. Lies like, “You’re not good enough. You’re not strong enough. You’re not beautiful. You’re not loved. You’re not worthy.”

If you’ve been there, or you’re there right now, hear this…

This fear is not from God. It’s from the devil himself. Check this out:

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8

For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. Revelation 12:10

The devil would love nothing more than to devour you. He hates God and therefore hates mercy, and grace, and love, and truth. Every fear that you feel and hear in your head is a lie from the father of lies. Check this out:

He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. John 8:44

Don’t believe the lies. God says you are beautiful. God says you are worthy. Loved. And enough. You are made in the image of God Himself.

I wish I could say that I don’t go back to the dark places of the words that were spoken to me 20 years ago… or even to words that were typed in a message to me three months ago. But every so often I am tempted to dwell on the fear of maybe I’m not good enough… maybe I shouldn’t be following the call of God on my life… if only people knew how messed up I am… they would know for sure I’m not good enough.

And then Jami reminds me "that the enemy uses the lies in our head to try to keep us from doing what we’re called to do." You see, God gives each of us gifts out of love. And when we think of that, we can cast our fear into the fire as we remember that He loves us… He is love… and fear has no place in us as we call on the name of Jesus to save us and live within our lives.

The reality is that I’m not good enough. But thank God that He is. Thank God that it’s no longer I that am living… but the very Spirit of the living God within me.

And that’s enough. Because God tells me I’m enough. And He is telling you that you are enough. Fear is a liar. The father of lies is the father of fear. But God… God is love and there is no fear in love.


Wilderness Rock Church Israel

How Do You Find God

A couple of weeks ago, we were driving back from one of Morgan’s Penn Competition Poms competitions in St. Johns, Indiana. To get there, we had to use Apple Maps. Without a GPS… or if you’re as old as I am, a traditional map, we would have never found where Morgan and her team were competing.

While we were driving back home, we turned on one of our favorite YouTubers, podcasters and musicians. During his podcast, he was reading questions from his listeners… questions about music, family and life in general. Then he read this question from a soldier who had fought and killed people for our country. The question?

“How do you find God?”

My heart jumped. I literally sat up in my seat. One, to hear how he would answer. And two, because this is a question that has been getting me excited over the last few months. And as he was talking, I was yelling in my mind… “Tell him about Moses! Tell him about Moses!”

Most everyone has heard of Moses. Leader of the Israelites. He led the Israelites out from under the hand of the Egyptians. Was the communicator of God to His people. Brought down the Ten Commandments to Israel. If you asked people to name someone from the Bible, his name would surely be one of the firsts.

But I didn’t think of Moses because he went out specifically looking for God. No. Quite the opposite. And his story isn’t “clean” either. Check this out…

After Moses had grown up, he went out to where his people were and watched them work. You see, Moses was a Hebrew who was raised by Pharaoh’s daughter. So he didn’t grow up with or live with the other Hebrews. While he was out, he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew. After checking to see if anyone was watching, Moses killed the Egyptian. Not only did he kill him, he actually hid his body in the sand.

Unfortunately for Moses (or fortunately… depends on how you look at the story), he wasn’t as slick as he thought he was and Pharaoh found out and green lit a hit on him. Everyone knew what Moses had done and Pharaoh wanted him dead. So Moses decided to do what anyone of us would do and go on the run. While he lived in Midian, he came across some girls who were being hassled by some shepherds while they were trying to get water for their father’s flock of animals.

Like any guy might do, he decided to step in to help and not only rescued the girls but also watered their animals… a real mac daddy move. The girls went back home, told their father what happened and the father not only invited him to have dinner with them, but also gave his daughter, Zipporah, to Moses in marriage.

They had a son, and after a while the Pharaoh who wanted Moses dead had died. And now, the Israelites cried out to God because of their slavery in Egypt. And. God. Heard. Their. Cries. Check this out…

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. Exodus 3:1

God is often times found in what feels like the far side of the desert... the hot, dry land… in the far side of our struggles and our guilt and hurt and pain. But if we keep going, we will see the mountain of God.

It goes on to say…

There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush… When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, Moses! Moses! Exodus 3:2, 4

And after God told Moses that he would be the one to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, God said…

And God said, “I will be with you.” Exodus 3:12

You see, Moses didn’t go looking for God. God went looking for Moses. And this isn’t the only time this happened. It happens all the time in the Bible. God looked for Adam and Eve in the garden after they sinned. Jesus went looking for Saul, a murderer of people who followed Jesus. God looked for Hagar. He looked for and found Jacob. Jesus looked for, found and called the 12 disciples.

And God is doing the same for you. Calling your name, reaching out to you even as you read this. The reality is, is that you don’t have to find God… He is looking for you. You don’t need Apple Maps or a GPS to find God. He’s right in front of you, calling your name. And the God who is looking for you can be found in the Bible. In the book of Exodus. The same God who called Moses, a murderer, is the same God who is calling you.

And if you’re in what feels like a desert right now, keep going. God is in the far side of the desert… the far side of our struggles and our guilt and our hurt and our pain. Keep going and you will see the mountain of God.

So, how do you find God? Have eyes to see Him and know He’s already looking for you.