Galilee, Israel

What Are You Facing

I’m the oldest of three boys.

Being the oldest means a few things. One, it means you get to test the waters in every area of life and how far you can go before you get in trouble with mom and dad. It also means that your the child whom mom and dad are the most strict. There are also some fun things like getting to be the first to drive and stay up the latest.

Being the oldest growing up in my family also meant that I went before my younger siblings in school. I can’t tell you how many times I had drilled into my head that I was setting the tone for when my brothers went to school… elementary, middle and high school. Everything I did, everything I said, would reflect on how the teachers and administrators looked at my younger brothers. If I acted a fool, then my two younger brothers would automatically be labeled a fool as they stepped foot into the place I had walked before. And so, I walked through life ahead of my brothers doing my best to prepare the path they were to walk in each of their schools.

Another time when I went out ahead is while we were in the Grand Canyon. I would walk ahead of my kids as we hiked and climbed, taking their hand as they took their next step. Were they scared? Sure. Were they nervous? Absolutely. But their dad went ahead of them to help them deal with and overcome their fears and to let them know that what is unknown to them is known to me.

This idea that someone has gone before us is a powerful one.

Jesus knew this. check this out:

… ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him.’ Matthew 28:7

Can you imagine what the disciples were thinking and feeling? Their Rabbi had just been killed on a cross between two thieves. The Messiah, Jesus, had just been murdered. Not because of any crime He had committed. A riotous crowd filled with anger called for Jesus to be put to death. Were they scared? Were they nervous? Two women who went to see the tomb of Jesus are now telling the disciples that Jesus isn’t there and that an angel said Jesus is going ahead of them to Galilee.

You see, this isn’t the first time they heard that Jesus was going to go ahead of them to Galilee. On the night that Jesus was arrested, He told the disciples that He was going to go ahead of them into Galilee after He had risen from the dead. Matthew 26:32

Were the disciples worried about what would be waiting for them in Galilee? Jesus’ trial was brutal… people screaming… they came and arrested Him for no reason… the people were angry and wanted blood.

There were so many unknowns that they were walking into. But Jesus promised that He would go ahead of them into Galilee… into the unknown. That’s what Galilee stands for to me.

This idea that someone has gone before us is a powerful one.

What are you facing right now? Maybe you have children that are struggling academically, socially or with depression because of the separation they find themselves in from their friends and other kids. Maybe you were just laid off from work and now you don’t know how you’re going to pay your bills. Maybe the marriage you thought could last anything is now on its last leg and you don’t know if it can be repaired. Or maybe you’re waiting for test results from a biopsy or scan and you’re left wondering what you’re walking into.

This idea that someone has gone before us is a powerful one.

And it’s been a promise of God that He has fulfilled time and time again.

The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.  Deuteronomy 31:8

I don’t know what your Galilee is, but I do know this… Jesus has gone ahead of you there. You see, it’s not that God doesn’t give us anything we can’t handle… it’s that when we call on the name of Jesus, we can be assured that He has gone before us to our Galilee and has promised to be our strength as we walk into our Galilee together.

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. Isaiah 43:1-3


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.


The Wilderness in Israel He knows your name

He Knows Your Name

It’s funny how certain stories burn into your brain.

This one that I’m thinking of took place 23 years ago while I was at college. Jami, myself and some friends were hanging out at the student center. As we were heading out, a couple of people came in and introduced themselves to the people I was with. One of the guys came up to me, shook my hand and asked me my name… something I wasn’t expecting. You see, this wasn’t the first time we met. It wasn’t even the second time we met. My response back to him as I was shaking his hand and looking him in the eye was simple… “‘Johnny,’ (we’ll call him Johnny to keep his name anonymous) since this is the third time shaking hands, I would have expected you to know my name by now. I’m sorry that you don’t.” Then I walked away.

Names are important. The desire to be known is great. We spend a lifetime trying to be known. As kids, we long for our parents to know and love us. We look for and hope for the popular kids to simply notice and acknowledge who we are. Many of us as teenagers and adults desperately look for and want someone to simply love us. We work our butts off day in and day out at work for those who are in charge to notice the effort we put in, the extra hours we work.

We work. And we try. And we work some more. And we beg. And we do things just to… Never. Be. Noticed. And it’s exhausting. It’s maddening. The anger. The sadness. The hurt. The despair. It’s overwhelming. And the questions come. Why does nobody notice me? Why can I not find love? Why does the boss not see my efforts? Why am I not known… by anyone? And you work some more. You try harder. You look for another love. You look for other attention. And you’re left feeling even more exhausted and overwhelmed.

Names are important. The desire to be known is beyond great. And there is One who does know your name… my name… our names. Check this out:

But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. Genesis 43:1

I don’t know where you’re at in your faith journey. I don’t know if you even believe in God. But I’ll tell you this, the God who created the earth knows your name. He has numbered the hairs on your head. God knows you. He knows your name and you didn’t even have to do anything to make that happen. He knows you and you didn’t have to do anything to be accepted. And the God who created the earth wants you to know…

You are enough. Not because anything you can do. Not because of anyway you look. You are enough because Jesus is enough. When God looks at you, He sees you through His Son, Jesus. One of my favorite passages in the Bible is found in Genesis 16, verse 13…

And she gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” Genesis 16:13

Yup. Hagar. Sarah’s maidservant. Abraham’s baby mama. Who, while pregnant with Abraham’s child, was sent away from them because of Sarah’s relentless jealousy. And while Hagar was on the road of misery, the Lord met with her broken heart, heard her sadness, satisfied her needs, and secured her future in Him. The Lord saw Hagar for who she was and revealed Himself to her and gave to her unrelenting mercy and grace.

And He does the same thing for you and I. He meets us on our road of misery. He meets with our broken heart, hears our sadness, satisfies our needs and secures our future in Him. And He sees us for who we are and still accepts us as we are and calls us by our name.

If you’re tired at working to be known, come to Jesus in whom you will find rest and joy…

Because He knows your name.


Your story loading computer screen

Your Story Is Not Over

Story.

We all have one. Have you ever compared your story to someone else’s? Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night and thought, “I’m not where I really want to be in life?” Have you ever gone on a long walk and thought, “What more can I be doing with my life?” Have you ever sat in the quiet of your mind and thought, “This can’t be it, can it? There’s got to be more.”

We all have a story that is being written with our lives. A page being written each day. And whether we like what is being written or not, it’s our story. Page after page until it fills up a chapter. Then on to the next page. Each one of us has a story that we’re writing. For some, the story is just beginning. For others, it feels like halftime. And still for others, it feels like it’s toward the end of the book.

And no matter what chapter you find yourself in, it’s easy to get frustrated where you’re at in your story right now. But you’re not alone. There are others who have asked the same questions, who have felt the same feelings, wondering what God is doing.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been there. I’ve asked the questions above. I’ve had the same thought. I mean, I’m 44. I want to have a bigger impact. And then, in my reading the past couple of days, I come across these folks in Genesis, and it gave me some hope for my story.

Check this out…

Just after the destruction caused by the flood, God chose Abraham to be the foundation of the new humanity that God would build by promising to make Abraham into a great nation. Check this out:

I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you… Genesis 12:2

The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” Genesis 12:7

For years Abraham lived on this promise, this covenant between him and God… the promise that Abraham and Sarah would have children. But for the next 10ish years, Sarah and Abraham could not get pregnant. Can you imagine the deep sadness between Sarah and Abraham? The frustration. The desperation. Feeling like their story is almost over.

Instead of continuing to wait for God’s promise, Sarah and Abraham decided to take their story into their own hands and have a child their own way by having Abraham sleep with Sarah’s maidservant. In other words, they settled by having a child outside of the way that God intended. This settling caused Sarah to despise her maidservant and caused trouble down the line for years to come. Talk about drama!

Nine months later, Hagar, Sarah’s maidservant, and Abraham’s baby mama, gave birth to Abraham’s son, Ishmael. Abraham was 86 years old at this point. We don’t hear anything else about this situation until Abraham is 99 years old. Can you imagine the thoughts and feelings and hurt and pain and questioning that might have been going on… for thirteen years!

Then, when Abraham is 99 years old, God appears to him again. In addition to giving Abraham instructions on keeping the covenant between him and God, God tells him that He will give Abraham a son with Sarah. And Abraham fell facedown laughing. And when Sarah heard of this, she laughed to herself because she knew that she was past the childbearing age.

Then, at the age of 100, Sarah gave birth to Abraham’s son, Isaac, fulfilling God’s promise to Abraham… 25 years later.

I don’t know where you’re at in your story right now… If you’re comparing your story to someone else’s. If you’re questioning God about what’s going on and the hurt and pain you’re experiencing. Or if you’ve felt like the promises of God aren’t coming through. Or maybe you’ve made some mistakes or gone down a road that would be contrary to God’s Word.

If you’re thinking any of those things, I want you tell you three things…

First, God’s timing is not our timing. You see, God’s timing wasn’t the timing of Abraham or Sarah. They didn’t receive the son that God promised until 25 years later. In this world, we want things now. Fast. Immediately. Sometimes God wants you to wait. As hard as this is sometimes, God’s timing isn’t our timing.

Secondly, don’t settle. Abraham and Sarah settled. They didn’t wait for God’s promise. And that caused them problems, and hurt and frustration and pain. Even though you may not be where you want to be in your story, don’t settle.

Thirdly, be faithful during the waiting. It’s easy to get mad at God. It’s easy to get angry at the situation. It’s easy to get frustrated in your story. But don’t lose faith in God. Don’t lose the commitment you have to Him. Keep his commandments. Stay close to His Word (the Bible). And keep your ear open to him as you pray.

Lastly, I want to say this… God accepted and chose Abraham not because he led a perfect life. No. It’s because of Abraham’s responsiveness to God’s promises. Check this out…

Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness. Genesis 15:6

No matter where you’re at… no matter what you’ve done… as long as you're breathing, your story still has time to be written.

We all have a story. And no matter where you’re at in your story, it’s not over.


Lola the Lab

Hair In My Coffee

I love coffee.

I’m not a coffee snob. I couldn’t tell you the difference between Starbucks, Dunkin, or some really fancy coffee. But I really love coffee. I’m pretty sure I started drinking coffee when I was 12 years old. I’m 44 now. But I have to have it every morning and look forward to that first cup.

But every so often, I’ll take a drink of that first cup and it hits me… in that first sip of coffee was a Lola hair. One of our lab’s hair had gotten in my cup of coffee and I hadn’t even noticed it until it was in my mouth. And it’s all I can do to try and get it out.

Of course, then I need to look deep into my cup of coffee to check to see if there’s another one. Sometimes there is, and if I can get it out then great. But there are times when I try to remove it and I make it go deeper into the coffee. At that point, the entire cup of coffee goes right down the drain.

It’s crazy how the smallest of things can affect me. Lola’s hair is super small. But once it gets into my coffee or my mouth, that’s all I can focus on and it ruins the experience and joy of drinking that first cup.

Life can be like that too. At least for me at times. I’m walking through my day, happy as can be then boom, something usually small comes along and it becomes all I can focus on and I let that one little thing ruin the experience and joy of living.

And then after thinking about this off and on it hit me…

My focus is on the wrong thing.

I’m losing focus because I’m focusing on the little things when my focus should be on something so much larger. Check this out…

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” - Luke 2:8-12

Jesus came. He was born in the countryside in an unknown manger. Jesus came so that we might have, not just life, but a rich and full life. (John 10:10) When my focus is off of Jesus and on the small things of life, it’s easy to lose joy. But Jesus came so that we could put the concern of those small things out of our life and live a life of purpose filled with true joy.

It’s easy to lose focus. It’s easy to let the small things ruin the outlook we have. Disappointment is a real thing. It’s a real emotion. But this Christmas, let Jesus take that disappointment on His shoulders. Give over the small things to Him and have joy that the Savior of the world has been born to you and me.

This Christmas, give your life to Jesus who came to this earth to bring joy and true life to you and me.

Merry Christmas


The wilderness in Israel

It's Not Normal

Man.

To say that these last ten months have been anything but normal would be an understatement. It’s easy to look back to see what “could have been” and get frustrated. It’s easy to look back and think about how “things should have been” and get angry.

Why. Can’t. Things. Just. Be. NORMAL!!!

Do you ever find yourself there? In that place? Screaming at the world. Yelling at God. It wasn’t supposed to be like this! None of this makes sense!

Why God!?

I don’t know if you’ve been here… in this place. But I have. Looking back, there may have been another person who found himself in the same spot as well. Check this out:

This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. - Matthew 1:18, 19

Can you imagine the thoughts that Joseph had? To be in that very situation? I wonder what he was thinking. What he was feeling. He and Mary’s situation wasn’t normal. It was far from normal. It wasn’t typically like this.

A baby? He hadn’t even touched her yet. They were married, but by Jewish custom, they hadn’t made it to the consummation part of their marriage. Did he scream at the world? Did he yell at God, “It’s not supposed to be like this!” Did he scream,

“Why. Can’t. Things. Just. Be. NORMAL!!!”

The Bible doesn’t say that. But because Joseph was a righteous man, he did consider divorcing Mary because he knew that the Jewish law placed her in a bad spot should the religious leaders think she had broken their law.

“Why. Can’t. Things. Just. Be. NORMAL!!!”

Because Jesus came into our world to break away from normal.

There was nothing normal about the way Jesus came into this world. A virgin birth? That’s not normal. It can only happen with the help of the Divine… from God Himself. And I think that’s what Jesus wants us to see this Christmas… to realize that He came into this world to break away from the normal…

I don’t know what your life was like 12 months ago. But as our world gains some clearance from this nonsense, Jami and I don’t want to go back to normal. We don’t want what was normal… to let ourselves get caught up in our busy schedules, running mindlessly around trying to make each appointment. Focusing on schedules and task lists.

Sure, our kids will go back to their activities. And that’s a good thing. Business will get busier. And that’s a good thing. But Jami and I don’t want what was normal. We valued our schedules and tasks way too much. If the last ten months has taught us anything it’s this…

The most important things in our lives is Jesus and each other. If everything goes away but we have Jesus and each other, then that is enough.

So as we head into the next year, our family is focused on being Jesus to each other and bringing Jesus to others. Jesus broke away from the normal in this one little birth between two human beings. And Jami and I want to follow in his example by bringing Jesus to the lives of others by breaking away from what we knew was normal.

Jesus came to break away from normal…

Will you? If so, comment how you’ll do this in this upcoming year.


Water and Ocean in Florida

What's In The Water

What's in the water?

We always find ourselves gravitating toward the beach slash water. Doesn’t matter where we’re at really. Michigan, Charleston, Folly Beach, Florida, California… We almost always end up near water.

It wasn’t always like that for me. I didn’t grow up with a pool or going swimming all of the time. I never even learned how to swim until after my 8th grade year in school. And that was only because I had nearly drown at one of my friend’s 8th grade graduation party.

Like kids do when they’re at a pool party, they began pushing others in. I didn’t even see it coming. I was standing near the edge of the pool talking one moment, and the next I found myself at the bottom of the deep end trying to frantically get back to the top and stay there. Had I not fallen in the pool near another kid, I may not be here today.

Needless to say, I made it a point to learn how to swim so I could feel safe and enjoy the time around any type of water, from a pool to a lake to an ocean.

In what I used to fear, I now seek out on a regular basis. Jami and I gravitate towards the water wherever we find ourselves. There’s just something that overcomes our souls as we soak in the water… whether it’s an ocean, Lake Michigan, the Sea of Galilee, Jordan River or in the mangroves on a paddle board.

Water played a huge role in the Bible. It’s mentioned a total of 722 times. It’s mentioned more than faith, hope, prayer and worship. Water was used to heal people. It was turned into wine. And it also turned into a meeting place of sorts…

Check this out:

Now he had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.[a]) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?” Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” - John 4:4-14

There’s a lot going on in these passages of scripture. So to break it down quickly, Jesus was on His way back to Galilee. In order to get to Galilee, he had to travel through Samaria. This wasn’t a simple five mile journey. It was about a journey of 125 miles on foot. So it makes sense that He would need to stop to rest, get some food and water.

Now, while at this well, He met a Samaritan woman who was stopping at the well to get some water. In those days, the Samaritans and Jews weren’t on speaking terms. To say they didn’t like each other would be an understatement. But Jesus, knowing this, still asked this woman for a drink of water.

It’s interesting to me that, even though Jesus was probably thirsty, He had an ulterior motive for asking this question. He was more interested in this woman’s well being than His thirst. As they are talking about water, Jesus says, “Everyone who drinks of this water (meaning the water from the well) will get thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst.”

It’s not lost on me that, while this lady (who was poor and struggling), came to the well to get her physical needs met, she left having so much more of her life changed… in her everyday life.

I can’t tell you how many times this very thing has happened to me. In my conversations. In my job. In my everyday life. I’m just going about living and Jesus reaches out, speaks to me and changes my heart and my mind.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to meet my physical needs - searching to fill my mental and physical spaces only to be left feeling empty and thirsty again - continuing to fill those spaces time after time after time after time. And it’s in these spaces where Jesus meets me and offers His living waters - grace and mercy, love and acceptance that fills every space from heaven.

And just like this woman at the well - just like He’s done with me time and time again - He will meet you in your everyday life, probably unexpectedly and will offer His living water for you… to you.

This is why Jami and I gravitate towards water so much. It soothes and refreshes. It washes and cleans. But most importantly, Jesus used it to bring others closer to Him and to God the Father.

So, what’s in the water? Salvation. Grace. Mercy. Acceptance… to put it another way…

Jesus


Graveyard in Charleston South Carolina

Ghost in the Graveyard

I loved playing in the neighborhood when I was growing up.

Whether it was playing war or cops and robbers, we always had fun. One of the games we played most in the summer after it got dark out was a game called, “Ghost in the Graveyard.”

It was a neighborhood favorite. If you don’t know the game, it started with one person being “it.” The person who was it, would hang at the base while the others would go hide. After a certain amount of time, the person who was “it” would go and try to find the “ghosts.”

The “ghosts” would then try to make it back to the base without being tagged. If you got caught before making it back to the base, then you would join the person who tagged you in being “it” the next round.

It was a game everyone loved playing. It was fun playing outside after dark. It was fun being “it.” And it was fun hiding. It was a great neighborhood game all around.

You know, there was another “game of Ghost in the Graveyard” that took place thousands of years ago… only, it wasn’t a game… and the people hiding weren’t doing it to have fun, they hid because they were ashamed. Check this out:

“Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. 8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” 10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” 11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” - Genesis 3:7-11

Within this event in the Bible contains one of my favorite verses in all of Scripture…

“But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

“Where are you?” God knew exactly where Adam was hiding. And then God asks two more questions…

“Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

God knew the answers to all of these questions. The point isn’t that He didn’t know so he had to ask them. No. The point in God asking these questions is to show that He actually cared for and loved His creation... for Adam and Eve.

He knew where Adam was hiding. He knew that they did eat from the tree they weren’t supposed to eat from. God could have just scrapped these two people and started over. But He didn’t. He pursued them out of love.

The questions weren’t meant to get information. They were meant to give Adam an opportunity for self-examination of what he had done and to give opportunity for confession.

And God does the same thing for me. In my sin and hiding, God still pursues me out of love and asks, “Todd, where are you?” “What’s going on?” And in my bumbling confession, He forgives because of the loving sacrifice of His Son Jesus.

“Where are you?” It’s a poignant question that we all have to answer at some point in our life. It’s a question that can set the tone for years to come. We’re all in different places… and it’s not that God doesn’t know where we are, He simply wants us to acknowledge where we are so that we can move forward with Him in His grace and mercy.

I am no better and no worse than Adam. None of us are. And just like God pursued Adam in the garden, and me in Michiana, He pursues you as well asking…

“Where are you?”


Pile of stones

Stone Piles

Thanksgiving is this week.

Looking back at this year, there’s a lot that we can be frustrated with… a lot that doesn’t look the way we thought it would look in a way that, if we had our choice, wouldn’t be. But, that’s not what Thanksgiving is all about. Thanksgiving is a time where we pause, and give thanks for all that we have… both past and present.

Thanksgiving is about being grateful… grateful for what we’ve been given, no matter how small it seems. It’s easy to look at the world… to look at our community… to get stuck staring at all that has gone wrong and forget what God has provided each and everyone of us.

God knew that it’s easy to forget His goodness and victory. He knew how easy it is to get stuck looking on all that has gone wrong… the difficulties… the hardships… the despair… and forget to celebrate His victories in our lives and be grateful… no matter how small they seem.

Check this out...

When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, 2 “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, 3 and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from right where the priests are standing, and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.”

4 So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, 5 and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, 6 to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 7 tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”

8 So the Israelites did as Joshua commanded them. They took twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, as the Lord had told Joshua; and they carried them over with them to their camp, where they put them down. 9 Joshua set up the twelve stones that had been[a] in the middle of the Jordan at the spot where the priests who carried the ark of the covenant had stood. And they are there to this day. - Joshua 4:1-9

God knew, that even a miracle as great as the parting of the Jordan River… literally stopping the flow of water… could easily be forgotten. So what did he tell them to do? He told them to get some stones and make a pile where they were to stay that night so that they would be a reminder of the goodness of God.

Rocks. Stones. They’re just ordinary pieces of earth that are lying around. But when they’re picked up and placed in a pile to remind you of the goodness of God, they become a supernatural sign that points you back to the One who is Good.

We have a stone pile in our living room. Six stones that were ordinary pieces of earth. But when you come over to our house and ask us, “Why are stones in a pile on that shelf,” they become a supernatural reminder to us of the goodness of God and how the trip to the Sea of Galilee and Jerusalem brought us closer to the living God.

I don’t know where you’re at today… what’s going on in your life. But on this Thanksgiving week…

Don’t forget the goodness of God.

Right now, you may think that you don’t have anything to be thankful for. I would ask you to pray to the living God and ask Him to show you His goodness. And the living God who gave His life for you, will hear your prayer.

For those of us who may have forgotten God’s goodness, go, take up twelve stones and place them in a pile where you live so that it becomes a supernatural reminder of the goodness of God in your life.

On this Thanksgiving week…

Don’t forget the goodness of God.

For He surely hasn’t forgotten you.


Valley of the Doves in Israel

God is for You

Two questions for you guys…

If you have kids, I want you to think about this question… When you look at them, what’s the one thing you want them to know? I know. I know. There are many things. You want them to know you love them. You want them to know that you care about them. But beyond that, what’s the one thing you want them to know?

When you look at your kids, what do you want them to know?

Let me ask another question, when you were a kid, what was one thing you wanted to know from your parents? For me, when I look at my kids, I want them to know that I am for them. It’s the one thing that I wanted from my parents and my coaches. I wanted them to be for me.

You see, when you are “for someone,” you want the best for them. You love them. You care about them. You believe in them. You will stand up for them and do all that you can do to help them succeed.

It’s the one thing that I wanted my students to know when I was a youth pastor… a juvenile probation officer and a director at the Boys and Girls Club. And as a parent, it’s the one thing that I want my own kids to know without a shadow of a doubt.

When you know that someone is for you, you can go a little bit further. You can push a bit harder. You can get through some of the toughest times of your life. When you know that someone is for you, there’s not much else that matters. You have a confidence that they love and care about you. It’s moving. It’s comforting. Because there’s a security in knowing that you have someone that is for you.

We all want to know that our boss is for us. We want to know that our spouse is for us. We want to know that we have friends that are for us. We want people in our lives that… are… for… us. It’s not just a kid thing. Even as adults, we want and crave for there to be people in our lives that are for us.

But there are times where we may not feel like we have anyone in our corner… when we don’t have anyone for us. If that’s you today, I want you to hear this…

God is for you.

Check this out…

“But you, mountains of Israel, will produce branches and fruit for my people Israel, for they will soon come home. 9 See, I am for you and will look on you with favor; you will be plowed and sown, 10 and I will cause many people to live on you—yes, all of Israel. The towns will be inhabited and the ruins rebuilt." - Ezekiel 36:8-10

I don’t know where you’re at today. 2020 has been interesting. It’s been tough. For a lot of people, it’s feels like they can’t catch a break. For many, it seems like there aren’t many people for them. You might feel empty handed or in despair. If that’s you, please hear this…

God is for you.

But, but, but… If you knew who I am… If you knew what I’ve done… The people I have hurt… Cursing God and turning my back on Him… There’s no way that He could be for me. I understand that and have a past and a history just like everyone else… know that God is still for you.

That verse in Ezekiel… God had previously been against Israel, His judgement had been upon them. But He’s telling them now that He is for them. This change wasn’t because God changed. Just as God had previously visited Israel with judgement because of their sin, He would also visit Israel with grace and mercy because of their repentance.

And the same is true for us. When we turn to Jesus, we are no longer receiving judgement. No, we receive grace and mercy. When we turn to Jesus, God is for us.

I don’t know where you’re at today. I don’t know if you have anyone who’s for you. I don’t know what’s going on in your life. But I do know this, when we turn to Jesus…

God is for us.

God doesn’t promise that we won’t have struggles. He doesn’t promise that everything will be perfect. He doesn’t promise that hard times won’t come. But He does promise that if we turn to Jesus that He will be for us.

"What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?" - Romans 8:31