On your marks … set … on your marks …

Athletics - Men's 100m Semifinals

I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t believe what I was watching. It was during the Olympics … I’ll explain more in a moment. But I love watching the Olympics. It’s pretty funny, in fact, because I’ll literally watch any sport with the possible exception of rhythmic gymnastics. No offense but seriously? That’s a sport?

Anyhow, when I get particularly geeked is when I watch the hardcore competitive sports like gymnastics and track and field. Which brings me back to my point. My mind was literally blown this past summer watching the Olympics and particularly several of the track and field events … in fact, the races that Usain Bolt ran. One particular race was staggering, like nothing I’d ever seen and probably won’t ever see again. But it serves an important basis for my reflection this week.

It was one of the 100-meter heats where the runners were running to qualify for the finals. Bolt was, as you’d expect, competing against many of the fastest men on planet earth. The buildup by the announcers was pretty intense and you just knew that something special was going to happen during the race. But I’m not quite sure I expected a bit of a life lesson from it.

So the runners take their marks and get set. The gun goes off, and the field starts off understandably fast. But … Bolt is in the middle of the pack at first. He remained at the middle of the pack even at about the 50 meter mark, too. Then, what seems to be literally out of nowhere, without any visible exertion and while all the runners are running, it looks like Bolt begins his race. Now granted, he was running the entire time, but then it looked like a whole new race began. And Bolt? Well he looked like he came out of nowhere midway through a 100-meter race, like his race started in the middle of someone else’s race, and he won … easily. The craziest thing is every other race he ran seemed exactly the same. It was like when Bolt was competing it was difficult to see when one race began and another ended.

That’s sort of the filter applied to my reading this week.   I read John 16 – 21, and then started the Gospels once again in Matthew this time in the Message paraphrase (in keeping with my plan of reading over and over through the Gospels through the rest of the calendar year). This notion of not knowing when one race begins and another ends … in life … is a metaphor borne out of the cycles in life that we go through. In John 20:11-18 gives us a picture of such a situation:

But Mary [who had returned] was standing outside the tomb sobbing; and so, as she wept, she stooped down and looked into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. And they said to her, “Woman, why are you crying?” She told them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” After saying this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you crying? For whom are you looking?” Supposing that He was the gardener, she replied, “Sir, if you are the one who has carried Him away from here, tell me where you have put Him, and I will take Him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene came, reporting to the disciples that she had seen the Lord and that He had said these things to her.

In the proper context, Mary, Jesus’ disciples, and the rest of the community had just watched Jesus die on the cross, laying His life down for the sins of the world. Although He had told them multiple times to expect that, they still struggled to understand (see last week’s post) what had happened just a couple days earlier. To them, the horrific end of a glorious race had just concluded, but He had just started another, glorious race forward. That was the essence of Jesus’ earthly ministry in a sense. The glory of His birth was somewhat muted by the threat of King Herod’s order to kill all male babies under two years old (an attempt to destroy Jesus), and then the jubilant commencement of Jesus’ actual ministry only to be followed by His arrest, torture, and crucifixion, completed by His victorious resurrection and defeat of death. Hard to see when one “race” begins and one ends.

Life is like that. From one moment to the next it’s hard to know where we are in a particular race. Sometimes it feels like we are on sprint after sprint after sprint. At other times, it’s like we are running a marathon for the purpose of arriving at the start of a marathon. Perhaps for you it feels like you’re running a marathon, but at the pace of a 100-meter dash. How incredibly taxing that would be. At other times, it’s like we know we only need to cover 100 meters, but we’re running at a distance pace and although the finish line is closely and clearly within view, it’s taking forever to get there.

I totally get it. I’ve been there. In some ways, right now, I feel like I am there.

Sorry to break the news … though it probably isn’t news … but it feels like it’s difficult in life to figure out when one race begins and another ends precisely because it IS difficult. Our lives are a series of races, a conjoining of each other’s races, and races that are orchestrated, developed, and overseen by God. Just like Jesus, we will all have seasons of starts and stops, times when we’re running a sprint, hurdles, middle distance, long jumps, and marathons. It can be tough.

Ever realize that in an Olympic race there’s one and only one winner? Sure you have. So the question is, what makes the other runners run? Let’s face it, in the 100-meter final, there were probably three of the eight runners that had a legitimate chance. In the marathon in Rio, 155 men started the race and it’s probably not a stretch to assume that probably 120 were long-shots to win. So what’s the point?

Competing. Giving it your all. Representing your country. Doing better than last time. Setting a “personal record.” Getting experience in the top competition level, on the biggest stage. Taking the chance of actually winning. Improving your technique. Honoring your coach and teammates. Not looking back and wondering, “what if I did?” There are some pretty interesting parallels in there for life, isn’t there?

In life, we can get stuck on the fact that there’s little chance of winning when it’s all said and done, or we can focus on the experience of running the race. We can focus on the finish. We can focus on honoring our Coach and teammates. Yeah, it can be hard to tell when one race begins and when one race ends, but our job is to finish. To continue. To run to win, and even if we don’t, at least try to set a “personal record.” Good thing is we have Jesus, who ran the race ahead of us and showed that it can be done … and stands at the ready to encourage, teach, train, and – when things get real tough – to run the race for us.

Soli Deo gloria!



Gift wrapping


You probably react the same way I do. You know you do. Anytime I see a box with gift-wrapping on it, I automatically wonder two things: 1) what’s in it? and 2) is it for me? There’s something about a gift-wrapped package that peaks our interest because we know that generally whatever’s inside is a good thing, even though at the time we can’t see what it is.

I remember when the kids were growing up … heck, they’re still this way now as teenagers … on Christmas morning when they’d come downstairs and see all the presents under the tree their eyes would be as wide as saucers and their energy level would be in the “overload” zone. That’s after waking up at a ridiculously early time of the morning, as they still do to this day. Now remember, that reaction happened without their having a single idea of what was inside all those gift-wrapped items. They just saw the gift-wrapping and they knew something awesome was just waiting for them inside.

This was my reflection this week as I read through Luke 15 – 24, John 1 – 15. When I came across a passage that is pretty familiar in Luke 18:32-34 it struck a thought in me that is the basis for my sharing this week.

Then taking the twelve [disciples] aside, He said to them, “Listen carefully: we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things that have been written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled and completed. He will be betrayed and handed over to the Gentiles (Roman authorities), and will be mocked and ridiculed and insulted and abused and spit on, and after they have scourged Him, they will kill Him; and on the third day He will rise [from the dead].” But the disciples understood none of these things [about the approaching death and resurrection of Jesus]. This statement was hidden from them, and they did not grasp the [meaning of the] things that were said [by Jesus].

Note something … “This statement was hidden from them, and they did not grasp the things that were said.”

Why was it hidden?

Sometimes God hides stuff from our understanding, not to be mean … like a bully who steals our ball on the playground. It can be because we’re not yet ready to receive and comprehend what He’s positioning to happen or what He knows will happen. I might be so He can reveal something to us about faithfulness, trust, dependence, reliance, etc. It could be to reveal to us something about Him.

Consider it somewhat of a gift that God desires to give us, but it’s gift-wrapped. There’s something great inside, but it’s covered up. I think the only difference between a material gift and the type of gift God gives us, say, in our circumstances is that a physical gift is familiar to us and we assume on sight that it’s a great thing inside, so much so that our initial reaction to it is to wonder if it’s ours.

When it comes to the gifts of God in our circumstances and challenges, we’re not quite as readily apt to look at it with anticipation and excitement. Rather, we almost try to flee from it for fear that something scary is inside. And while that’s possible, when fully-unwrapped, it’s always something awesome. Eventually.

So back to the thoughts above about how God gift-wraps our situations at times.   Why is it that He hides matters from our understanding?

There are times when we’re simply not ready to understand things once God takes the gift-wrap off … when He allows us to see what He reveals. I know there are a variety of situations I’ve gone through in life, when I would not have been able to handle the full knowledge of a situation earlier. Either my maturity hadn’t grown enough … and in some ways I think that’s still the case today … or other things had to happen around me to add the proper context for the situation to fully make sense.

Sometimes God is gift-wrapping something for the purpose of allowing us to grow in faithfulness, reliance, fidelity, surrender, or something similar. It’s sort of analogous to when gifts are under the Christmas tree days or weeks in advance (like it happens most years at our house) and the present is almost better because we had to wait to open it. The process of waiting makes it seem or feel more valuable. Now, I recognize that seems frivolous or gratuitous, but with God it’s quite otherwise. On the one hand, just expressing faithfulness is important but in the waiting God can actually make our situation more valuable. Frankly, just our learning to be faithful and dependent on God is probably gift enough.

It’s also the case that in the gift-wrapping of our life’s circumstances, God can reveal something to us about Him. Most of the time I think He shows us that our circumstances are indeed a gift. That what we might see right now … maybe a poorly- or shoddily-wrapped dingy old box … can be opened to reveal the situational equivalent of gold and jewels. That is something ONLY God can do, and perhaps at times our circumstances, when unwrapped, are packaged to allow for that realization. To take a really valuable gift and hide it by putting it in cruddy wrapping. I’ve done that in the past for Helen … wrapped a really small, really nice gift in a package that is exactly the opposite. Not to be weird or mean-spirited, but rather as a different or creative way to demonstrate my love. Same with God.

Maybe we can all agree that God will hide our understanding of situations at times for a variety of valid and beneficial reasons. He’ll gift-wrap them. But I think we can also agree that in those situations we don’t always choose to see the gift-wrapping for what it is. Only the covering of a gift. God doesn’t give us situations for frivolous, purposeless, evil reasons. He just covers them with something that potentially looks different or delays the revelation of the true gift inside. The question is, do we see it that way? Like Christmas gifts, or presents wrapped in attractive wrapping, do we choose the circumstances God serves up with excitement and enthusiasm; with a feeling of wondering 1) what’s in it? and 2) is it for me? I pray each of us does more often.

Soli Deo gloria!


Caving in


(Dedicated to “Big Tommy” Tom Sirotnak, USC Football Alumni and man who was faithful enough to be one of those who helped me navigate the cave and decide to follow the Guide)

There are certain things that you’ll never see me do. Most of them happen on the Discovery Channel or Nat Geo Wild. You know, those guys like “Survivorman,” who go into these crazy places, eat these crazy things, don’t worry about the bugs and other creepy-crawlies walking on them. Uh … no. [though, for the record, this Sunday at church I did eat the head half of a deep-fried, barbeque-flavored grasshopper and no, it did NOT taste like chicken]

I don’t mind the outdoors, hiking, exploring, etc. Where I begin to draw a very solid dividing line is places like dark caves. Spiders, insects, bats … any one of those is enough to keep me out. Couple in there the potential for holes, cliffs, and assorted other dangers, and there’s just no reason to explore. I’m happy to let others have the opportunity.

That being said, if I were to consider exploring it would have to be with an experienced guide. You know, someone who is familiar with the cave, knowledgeable about the perils that are there, where they exist, and how to safely navigate them. They would be the type of person who has a full perspective and gives me a frank and honest assessment of what’s ahead, regardless of whether I want to know or not. I mean, who wouldn’t want that person ahead of us, and who of us when warned wouldn’t heed the advice. Seriously, if that guide were to tell us, watch out here, step around there … are we going to argue? Are we going to be offended? Are we going to object to their telling us because it’s not what we were hoping to hear? Will we be mad that they tell us the surroundings are caving in? Oddly, in life, that’s exactly how it can be sometimes. I’ll explain momentarily, but it was the nudging I got as I read this week from Luke 2 – 14, and camped out on Luke 6:23-25

Rejoice on that day and leap for joy, for your reward in heaven is great [absolutely inexhaustible]; for their fathers used to treat the prophets in the same way. But woe (judgment is coming) to you who are rich [and place your faith in possessions while remaining spiritually impoverished], for you are [already] receiving your comfort in full [and there is nothing left to be awarded to you]. Woe to you who are well-fed (gorged, satiated) now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now [enjoying a life of self-indulgence], for you will mourn and weep [and deeply long for God]. Woe to you when all the people speak well of you and praise you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way.

These words of Jesus during the Sermon on the Mount reminded me of the people in my life who took the time and had the courage to guide me through what otherwise would have been some scary journeys in the caves of my life. Jesus, the ultimate example, demonstrated through his earthly ministry what it meant to meet people where they were, to help guide them, to tell them about the perils that lay ahead, and share the truth about their situation regardless of whether or not they wanted to hear it. Think about the passage above, do you think any of His hearers, particularly those he was telling, “Woe to you,” wanted to hear the message He was conveying? Hardly. But they needed to hear it.

In our society today, people are offended by darn-near everything. It seems no matter what we say, what we don’t say, what we think, people get offended. Set aside for the moment that we might be telling them the truth, they get offended. After all, who are we to tell them the truth?

If I were navigating a dark cave, led by a guide who knows the danger inherent in the environs, when that person alerts me to the fact that just a few yards ahead hidden by the vast darkness lies a cliff that would lead to a 500-foot death-drop, one might think that I would honor him / her, not be offended by them for pointing out that certain death lie ahead. But in our world today, if I love someone enough to point out that their spiritual journey is taking them eerily close to a fall from which they’d never recover and not survive, I’m vilified for telling them their path is heading to hazard.

Think about it … your slowly and carefully walking through the darkness. The person in front of you, who’s navigated the cave before tells you, “okay, watch out, because there’s a deadly drop three steps ahead.” Are we going to get mad and say, “well, that’s just your opinion!” Or, “I don’t believe that way … what’s true for you is true for you and what’s true for me is true for me!” Or, “that’s pretty judgmental of you!” Or, “how narrow-minded of you, don’t you know there are many paths through here and all of them lead to safety?” Let’s face it, we can accept truth and guidance in physical contexts in life, but when it comes to the eternal spiritual matters of life we flip out.

Maybe you’re already across the most important line … and walking with Christ. But maybe even so, you’re still teetering through the darkness and the walls are close to caving in. If someone is trying to warn you, please pay attention and tread cautiously, change direction, whatever. That person means well, and is trying to stop you from destruction.

Or maybe you’re someone familiar with the cave. You’re doing no one any favors holding back from telling them of the dangers ahead. Yeah, you take a chance of offending them … particularly if you tell them in an offensive or obnoxious manner. The world has enough annoying people. Don’t be another one while you’re trying to alert someone to avoid peril. Tell them. Help them. If the walls are caving in, loving them is letting them know.

Soli Deo gloria!


No disassembly required

Car parts

Remember a long time ago (for those of you who were around a long time ago, like me) how popular model cars were? Frankly, I’m not sure they even exist any longer. But you know what I’m talking about, those models where all the parts were connected to a plastic tree and when you took the parts off there was a little plastic leftover tag on the part? It always messed up trying to connect the parts. And then there was the glue … it never seemed to work well or really hold the parts together. It probably goes without saying, but I was never really good at putting together model cars as a kid. To me, it was basically like buying a car but getting only each of the parts. It never quite came together well.

Our 18 year-old son wants to buy a used pickup truck. We told him if he earns a certain amount of money in his part-time job, we would meet the rest of the cost. It would probably disappoint him if when we make “good” on our commitment, instead of buying him a truck, we bought him all the parts of the truck, but disassembled. Getting all the parts of a truck (or even a model car) disassembled is not the same as getting the actual truck.

In life we sometimes feel like God gives us the disassembled parts rather than the whole in a situation. Fortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.

There are numerous examples of this throughout scripture, and I’d argue that the whole of scripture is itself an example. With that said, my reading through Mark 6 – 16, and Luke 1 stimulated in me a little deeper reflection on this truth. In Mark 14:12-16, we read:

On the first day [of the festival] of Unleavened Bread, when [as was customary] they sacrificed the Passover lamb, His disciples asked Him, “Where do You want us to go and prepare for You to eat the Passover?” And He sent two of His disciples, saying to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him; and say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks, “Where is My guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?”’ He will show you a large upstairs room, furnished and ready [with carpets and dining couches]; prepare [the supper] for us there.” The disciples left and went to the city and found everything just as He had told them, and they prepared the Passover.

What I love about this passage in particular is … look at it … Jesus tells the disciples “There’s a guy that I have pre-ordained is going to be carrying a jar of water who will meet with you. Then when you get to the house, I have pre-ordained that the owner is going to have the room upstairs all set up, furnished and ready to go.” What’s so cool about this (and this is why I LOVE the Back to the Future movies) is that a nearly infinite number of precedent steps and events had to happen in each of just these two details in order to bring them to fruition. And then, think about the steps and events that had to happen to other people in order to bring these things about. No matter what point of view you take on whether God directly makes everything happen regardless of our free will or that God only indirectly reacts to the free will choices we make and redirects events to fit His will, it’s still amazing that He causes every detail to come to pass the way it needs to for His maximum glory and our maximum blessing.

And there’s the point … unlike how we probably view many of life’s events, as situations where God basically just throws a bunch of disassembled truck parts at us and says, “Go ahead and drive your truck,” my reflection this week shows far from that. When I look at this story, or even look at the Bible as a whole, it’s clear to me that there’s no disassembly required … or even involved … when it comes to God. He knows, thinks about, provides for, ordains, orchestrates, and lovingly (key word) carries out every minute and unimaginable detail to ensure His will will be done.

One profound example … when you consider there are over 300 prophecies in the Bible about Jesus, at least for me it makes my head spin. These are all facts foretold about Him that all came to pass. Not a single detail fell short regardless of how long before they were expressed. God told us in excruciating detail all the truths in advance about Jesus (because He knew beforehand) and then ensured that things lined up so that every prophecy would be proved true. Isaiah chapter 53 has 34 such prophecies on its own.

So why should we care? Just this …

If God has previously caused every miniscule detail to come to pass as He called it to, why would He not also be right this very second working out details in, through, and for us? In other words, regardless of the good, bad or not-sure circumstances we’re in, He is still in the midst, orchestrating and situating such that His maximum glory and our maximum blessing is the result. When we overlay onto that fact the very nature of God as LOVE, we can be assured that nothing is random, nothing is disorderly, nothing is meaningless, and nothing is out of His control. That’s incredibly comforting to me … I pray it is to you too.

God is not a frivolous God. He isn’t sitting above His creation scratching His head and wondering, “what the heck is going on? This isn’t how it was supposed to be!” Rather He’s sitting above creation, saying, “This (my loving will and plan for your life and My creation) is what is going on. This is how it’s supposed to be.” And He sees it all at once, knows the end from the beginning and loves you and loves me more than we can fathom. If that’s what it means for me to be out of control and to turn it over to Him … I’m glad I signed up. I pray if you haven’t, you soon will.

Our world seems irreparably jacked up. Well, it is. But it’s not outside of God’s will and God’s plan. Does that make it good? Well, yes and no. It’s horrible that life is routinely and repetitively disregarded by us humans and that it only seems to be going downhill. But somehow God understands and knows not just what is happening now, but what now will cause to happen later. And He’s in the middle of MAKING IT GOOD. I don’t know precisely how, but I know it’s true. The Bible is the evidence (hint: read the back of the book).

The pieces are assembled. We just don’t (yet) see it. The model is put together seamlessly, and the truck parts are together and it drives beautifully. There’s no disassembly required. Our job? Trust and know He’s assembled it and await the completion. I pray for all of us this week we choose to see what He allows us to see in the parts and the whole, and what we don’t see we just take on faith that it’s in process of being assembled.

Soli Deo gloria!


Fear itself


I’m not a particularly knowledgeable history buff, but I have found over the years as I get older I find the things of history more and more interesting. Maybe it’s because I’m getting closer year-in and year-out to becoming history myself … haha. In seriousness, I think there is so much wisdom throughout history that we tend to neglect. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not trying to equate written history on level footing with the truth of God’s word, but I do strongly believe that God allows the occurrence of history to happen – in part – for our knowledge, instruction, and blessing.

In our country’s history, there are arguably few presidents who have the legacy that Franklin Delano Roosevelt had. Regardless of what you think of his politics and the New Deal, his leadership – some would argue, fortified by his personal battle with and victory over polio – came during an unprecedented period during our country’s and our world’s history. Taking office during the plunge of the Great Depression, leading the US and co-leading the free world during most of World War II, he won four presidential elections and guided our nation through a perilous phase the likes of which few ever have. Let’s hope few will ever need to. While he ultimately died shortly into his fourth term (yes, a president is typically limited to two four-year terms, but in wartime an exception may be made and understandably was by congress), his mark was no doubt made indelibly.

It’s no wonder, then, that his first inaugural address contains an oft-quoted (and misquoted) component that at that time served to muster the belief of a nation scarred and scared, with 25 percent unemployment, anguish and hopelessness serving as the albatross around society’s neck.

So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.

I highly recommend reading the rest of the speech … I just find it interesting to hear how our presidents approached the trials and travails of their times. But camping out on a couple elements of this statement and weaving it into my reading this week from Matthew 20-28 and Mark 1-5 is my primary goal. In particular, I love how FDR worked to wrench hopefulness from hopelessness by identifying the true enemy of the time (would that our current president would take the example of his predecessor … but that’s a separate topic) … fear. He says fear is the primary impediment to hope and survival and rising above the circumstances. He actually points out aptly that fear, “paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” Masterful! Fear stops us from believing and overcoming and moving forward beyond our present circumstances to our future hope and promise.

In Jesus’ day, the hopes of the Jewish nation were scarred in similar ways. They lived under the thumb of an authoritarian and suppressive Roman regime, and had all but lost hope after hundreds of years of oppression and exile that their promised Messiah would actually come.   And we note that when He did, they struggled to embrace and believe Him, and misapplied their anticipation to expectations that wouldn’t (yet) come, further plunging them into the spiral of a different sort of “depression.” But it personified by the same sort of fear.

In Mark 5:14-17 we see a brief indication of my point …

The herdsmen [tending the pigs] ran away and reported it in the city and in the country. And the people came to see what had happened. They came to Jesus and saw the man who had been demon-possessed sitting down, clothed and in his right mind, the man who had [previously] had the “legion” [of demons]; and they were frightened. Those who had seen it described [in detail] to the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man, and [told them all] about the pigs. So the people began to beg with Jesus to leave their region.

God can do anything. Many times He will, like He did in this situation. Effectively, Jesus had just freed a man long-struck with a “legion” of demons and had the demons indwell a herd of pigs (that’s how many demons there were) and ultimately the poor little piggies were run off a cliff by the demons and drowned. But the formerly-possessed man was freed from a horrendous affliction. The people in that region of the Gerasenes had received something from God they’d hoped for (the man was a terrible danger to their region and probably incredibly scary to have around), and yet instead of seeing Jesus’ liberation of the man as they’d sought, they responded in paralyzing fear. After what must have been a profoundly powerful moment, and seeing the power of the One who could do anything, they said not help me, help us, etc. They said, “Argghhh! Please leave! You scare us. You’re not what we expect.”

See, we sometimes ask thinking we know what we want and … audaciously … what we need. But will we ask God what He wants or what He “needs” and be willing to accept it? Or are there other times when we won’t ask something because we fear He can’t or won’t give it? Here the people in this region were probably seeing in human form the Answer to centuries of prayer and petition to God. And yet, because it didn’t fully fit their expectations of His response … they received what they needed rather than what they wanted, they were overtaken by their fear.

Instead of accepting, we fear. We fear what we see sometimes. We fear what we don’t see other times. This is what FDR was trying to help our country overcome in 1933 during his first inaugural address. Fear is an intruder. It was intruding upon our nation’s ability to rise from the ashes of a depression that tore our country apart at its core. And it intrudes from us receiving what God wants to do. It can intrude from what God wants to undo.

The folks around during Jesus’ time SAW directly what He was doing and what He was undoing and still they feared. For us not only do we see what He does in our lives but we have the whole of scripture to see what He did in others’ lives. And yet … we still fear. In the same way that FDR said, when it comes to our relationship with God, and His work in our lives, fear most certainly “paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” Our retreat is our inability to trust in the provision of God, like the people in the region of the Gerasenes. Our retreat is our unwillingness to see God’s work being carried out in a different frame of reference than our own. But letting go of that fear unlocks the command of God as He takes us from retreat to advance in His way, in His time.

So what fear is stopping you today from the advance God wants you to have? We all wrestle with it somehow and it affects us all, while perhaps not equally, certainly pervasively. What is it that God is currently doing that differs from our expectation and that we are seeing with eyes of retreat rather than eyes of advance? Where is His provision being received with doubt rather than confidence? My prayer for us this week is that we realize our real enemy is fear, and that God would reveal to us the magnitude of His ability to take our hand and walk us through the hazardous times into the safety of seeing His advance already underway. An advance that has already conquered the legion of demons, carried us through the pit of great depression, and reigned victorious in a war against an enemy set on world domination.

God can do anything. He will do anything. Let’s realize He already is at work on our behalf and the only thing we really have to fear about His victory is … fear itself.

Soli Deo gloria!


No reflection on you


It’s not just the current election season we’re in, but in general in our society – and globally – we’re obsessed. With ourselves. You don’t have to look to far, frankly beyond our bathroom mirrors, to figure out who matters most to many of us. These days, while our presidential and other elections are bubbling up, we are getting the most acute sense of self-aggrandizement in recent memory as far as I’m concerned. There’s a great quote in one of my favorite movies “A Few Good Men,” where Tom Cruise’s character asks Demi Moore’s character, “Why are you always giving me your resume?” Doesn’t that seem like a question we can ask about people we know or watch on TV every day … or perhaps, ourselves?

This past week I began rereading the Gospels, this time in the Amplified Bible version (it’s a cool version … check it out!). I’ve grown to appreciate how it helps bring additional context and vibrancy to words and topics I’ve read dozens of times, and how it has been equipping me with greater resolution in how I see the themes as I read them.

One such section brought to light this week’s focus for me as I read through Matthew 1 – 19. The specific passage, Matthew 6:1-4, says …

“Be [very] careful not to do your [a]good deeds publicly, to be seen by men; otherwise you will have no reward [prepared and awaiting you] with your Father who is in heaven. “So whenever you give to the poor and do acts of kindness, do not blow a trumpet before you [to advertise it], as the hypocrites do [like actors acting out a role] in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored and recognized and praised by men. I assure you and most solemnly say to you, they [already] have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor and do acts of kindness, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing [give in complete secrecy], so that your charitable acts will be done in secret; and your Father who sees [what is done] in secret will reward you.

Last year I had the chance to travel with Helen and the kids through the southeast on a tour of colleges that Jared has since applied to for a year from now when he begins college. During that trip, we had a cool opportunity while sitting in a Starbucks somewhere in Tennessee. A young couple walked in, one of whom was in a military uniform. I got up from where we were sitting and went to the opposite side of the counter and prepaid the order for the couple without letting them know. It was fun to watch the reaction they had when they attempted to pay and were told it was covered. Perhaps the most rewarding part was that they didn’t know who had paid or even why … it was most rewarding because we were able to help them without any motivation other than helping them. Now, I realize the irony of telling this story in a post where I’m advocating not telling such a story … but a little grace on that, please. 😎

But the purpose of the illustration in some small measure is to align with Jesus’ admonition during the Sermon on the Mount, from which the passage above is excerpted. He’s speaking about things that are generally considered good … doing good deeds, performing acts of kindness, charitable acts, etc. But He’s speaking about the motivation behind doing those things. He’s talking about the “Why are you always giving your resume?” nature of our intentions when we do things. Let’s face it, listening to any politician aptly fits this scenario and most of us consider it part of what makes politicians repulsive (perhaps I’m speaking for myself, who knows?). But the illness in that sense is not confined to politicians.

In the end, we need to think through the things we do in an attempt to be benevolent and ask ourselves: Who are we trying to serve? Who are we trying to impress? Who are we trying to be?

Interestingly, when our benevolence is askew, we are not trying to serve others. We’re usually trying to serve ourselves. It’s one of the things that bugs me about many politicians these days. Yes, I understand that there are many politicians who legitimately have an other-focused motivation at heart. But all too often these days there’s both a self-interest and a self-preservation at heart. Instead, Jesus is saying when we serve, we should truly have the interest of others at heart and to be focused on serving others.

Similarly, our misaligned intent is often shown through who we’re trying to impress with our giving or serving. Too frequently, we’re trying to impress others, to show them how “good” we are. Jesus’ point in the passage above is that our goal should be to impress no one other than God, our “Father who sees [what is done] in secret.” Any time we’re working to impress others, it’s fleeting at best, and it serves no lasting benefit. I’m not saying we should do good things to gain God’s favor, but I am saying we should do good things to show God’s favor.

Finally, our misalignment in doing good often is shown when we’re trying to be someone else or someone we’re not. Or, perhaps better said, someone we feel like we’re not. It’s not a stretch to conclude that when someone points the spotlight at themselves it’s because they don’t feel illuminated without it. There’s always a sense that they’re trying to fill some gap about themselves that they feel. God sees who we really are, so trying to put up airs serves no purpose for the One who knows us best. Instead, we should focus on just being who we are, and giving in light of that.

Our goal should be to give and serve and do without trying to give the reflection to ourselves. We should be reflecting God. My prayer for us this week is that in our acts of kindness, we focus on serving others, conveying to others to be impressed by God, and to be ourselves and use the gifts God has entrusted to us. Then, as Jesus says, a lasting, eternal impact and reward can follow.

Soli Deo gloria!


Jumping to conclusions

Businessman jumping over gap

Why would God … ?

Three simple words, one inescapably perplexing question. It gnaws at all of us from time to time … maybe even more than from time-to-time. Our son just wrestled with it the other day when he was stressing a little about whether or not he will get into the college he’s made his first choice … “why would God make this Christian college the one I want so bad and not allow me to get accepted?” In more severe settings, we ask similar questions … “why would God allow the horrific massacre in Nice, France?” “Why would God let my friend have cancer?” “Why would God allow my friends to lose their house?” The frequency or commonality of our asking the question isn’t the issue, nor is the fact that we ask it. The mistake we often make is jumping to conclusions to provide an answer on our own.

This week I read the gospel of John (John 1 – 21). In John 9:1-7, Jesus reminds us of the folly of jumping to conclusions …

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.

Check out how Jesus’ disciples jumped to conclusions in this situation. It’s not too different from what we do at times. They saw that the man was blind and jumped to conclusions that he or his parents sinned in order to cause him to be blind. How about us? Have we ever jumped to similar conclusions about someone? Come on now, let’s be honest. I’ll give you a hint … think of the last homeless person you saw. What were the conclusions you jumped to?   They must have been a drug addict or alcoholic, right? I mean, isn’t that the only way people become homeless? NO! (for a good lesson in this topic, read Under the Overpass by Mike Yankoski) By the way, when you jumped to conclusions on that, you’re in good company with yours truly included.

Jumping to conclusions happens in the gap between what we understand and what we don’t understand. Our tendency as humans is to try to find ways in our time-constrained consciousness and perception to cross the chasm of our ignorance, to connect dots that aren’t even there. We look to superimpose context we don’t even have to provide ourselves understanding we don’t have the ability to provide. Only God can do that. God has the context, and He has the comprehension we don’t. In the absence of our understanding we’re better off allowing God to fill the gap, not us in our vastly limited and flawed knowledge.

You’ve read what I’ve said before … God knows the end from the beginning. He knows your heart, your past, and His plan for your future. He knows why you’ve done the things you’ve done, how He’s going to use them to prepare you today for tomorrow. And He knows the same things about me, about our family, our friends, our neighbors, people in Sudan, Indonesia, and Scandanavia. And He knows about how every one of our lives interrelate, affect, and are shaped by each other. In God’s purview, none of the circles representing our lives are acentric. They all have a common center.

But that is not to say that we can understand the concentricity of the circles. To assume so is to jump to conclusions. It’s like the example in the passage above from John 9. Jesus’ disciples judged that someone in the man’s life (him or his parents, for instance) must have sinned, causing his blindness as a punishment. They jumped to conclusions as to the concentric nature of the circles, but also they jumped to conclusions about what the center of the circles was. They assumed that sin was the cause and the purpose of his blindness. They were wrong. Jesus tells us Himself, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

Jesus knew what His disciples didn’t, and He knows what we don’t. We meet new friends, we get stuck in traffic and miss appointments, we get ill, we get declined from colleges, we go through financial struggles and lose houses, people in far-away countries starve, wars get waged, etc., for a variety of reasons. Most of the time we jump to conclusions and prognosticate why it all happens. Jesus would probably tell us, though, “it’s so that the works of God can be displayed in them.” That is, “it’s happening for a reason that I understood, understand, and will understand (and carry out) in the future.” Friends, we think we know, but we don’t know. Only God does.

And …

Only God can take these situations and not have to jump to conclusions because He already knows the reasons and the methods by which He will use the situations for our ultimate blessing and His ultimate glory. He did it for the blind man in John 9, and He did it for countless others through the Bible, not counting innumerable situations that weren’t catalogued in scripture. God has His reasons, but they’re His reasons, not ours. He has perfect knowledge of things past, present and future. But we don’t. To jump to conclusions is to put ourselves erroneously on equal footing with Him, but the problem is unlike Him, we’ll be wrong.

This week, let’s ask God to equip us more not to jump to conclusions, but to allow Him the room to work and in His time reveal His means and purposes to us. Otherwise, we might miss His blessing us beyond our expectation and imagination (like helping a blind man see) and accomplishing His end objectives in and through all of us.

Soli Deo gloria!


Here’s a story


If you know anything about me, you know that family, extended family included, is incredibly important to me. The times when I am with family and especially the broader family are the times when I feel most joyful, notwithstanding that we’re a bunch of nut-jobs, all due respect (and they’d all agree with me). This past week we had a fun opportunity to host my cousin’s daughter from North Carolina who stayed with us while my cousin had some west coast-based business travel. Although our kids had met before, it was a long time ago when they were all quite young. With our two and my cousin’s daughter now teenagers, there was an opportunity to see a different type of interaction, a closeness, and a family unity begin to form.

During the week, there were several opportunities to share stories with the kids. There were stories from my childhood and early years (the ones that were appropriate to share … many still are not at least yet), stories about my grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins – many of whom the kids didn’t necessarily know – and even their own early years that perhaps they didn’t remember. In the process, a greater level of detail surfaced for them even as it related to their story. That is, the more they learn about their extended family, their parents, and even themselves in situations they didn’t otherwise recall their life story gets a little more complete. They understand a little more about who they are by virtue of filling in some blank spots on the canvas. It was an apt reminder for me to be more intentional about telling stories to the kids but also to exposing them more to their extended family for the family to share some of the stories more vividly.

As I read this week from Luke 3 – 24, my reflection about the importance of the story of our family and our kids gnawed at me, and it struck a chord when I came upon a familiar passage. Luke 7:20-23

And when the men had come to him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you, saying, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’” In that hour he healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight. And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

We all know Jesus spent much of His time teaching and leading through parables … stories. Why? Because word pictures and experiences to which we can relate personally and deeply ultimately shape us best. Jesus talked about things His hearers would know and would relate to in their daily lives.

But in addition to telling stories, Jesus made stories. He created memories for His followers, situations they personally lived through in order, as we see above, for them to share. Stories don’t exist for their own sake, they exist to be told, conveyed, experienced, and in turn to shape (and bless) others. My sense is that Jesus didn’t create incidents just for His followers for them to believe in Him, He created them for ALL to believe in Him. Think about it, isn’t that in some measure what His bible is to us today? It’s the passing down of the stories of many in the family over the centuries and millennia. And, by the way, true stories.

Here’s the amazing thing to me … in Jesus making stories, in those memories for His followers to pass along and share, He inherently facilitated the creation of additional stories in turn. My story, for instance, is a result or consequence of the stories (both family and non-family) that preceded me. Stories I was told or that I experienced became an indelible part of my story and of me. God was so amazingly astute that He created a way for all our stories to be intertwined and to have the propensity to have us all shape one another in the process. Nowhere is that more fertile, though, than in the family stories we have to share.

This brings me back to my original point. As I was reminded last week, the stories we have of our lives and our families are incredibly important to pass down. I’m keenly aware that many of us have stories we don’t necessarily hold proudly. That fact is not lost on me even as I reflect on many of my own family members and many of the stories we shared last week. None of us is perfect and some of us keep a greater distance from perfection than others. That being said, when I reflect on some of the stories I am aware of in our family, and even some of my own stories that make me grimace when I think about them, I’m reminded that while disappointing, painful, shameful, hurtful, whatever, they are no less pivotal in creating the complete picture and no less crucial to pass along to the generations that follow me. I am nothing less than the culmination of my stories and the stories of my family before me for better or for worse. When I reflect on last week and other similar situations where stories were shared, in the sharing came a greater understanding and appreciation and I often say that while I wouldn’t wish some of my stories (or the stories of others in my family) on my worst enemy, I also wouldn’t change them for a moment. From those stories … even the ugly ones … come growth and learning. I think Jesus was conveying the same thing to His disciples and by extension, to us.

So … what’s your story? Have you shared it? This week, my admonition to all of us is that we have to do so! Take the time to share your story, what you’ve seen, what you’ve heard, what you’ve learned. Just like Jesus told John the Baptist’s followers above. Perhaps what you need is to learn your story. Dive in! I have a couple cousins who’ve reached out to me over the years and said, “Hey, could you tell me a little about our family? I don’t really feel like I know much about (this or that side of) the family.” Man, do I LOVE when that happens. And yet, there are tons of stories I have yet to learn myself. When I think that Helen and I (especially Helen as first-generation) are both the product of immigrants, I can’t help but think that there’s still so much to be exposed to through more stories.

Go … learn your story. And then, share your story. Maybe you don’t think there’s anything to your story. Nothing can be farther from the truth! Jesus didn’t tell His disciples to share the best and most colorful things they saw and heard, He told them to share the things THEY saw and heard. My prayer is that we’ll all be more purposeful in doing so … and that the fruit of the effort will be far greater than we could ever imagine. It sure was when Jesus shared HIS story, huh?

Soli Deo gloria!


Just a little bit more

rockefeller family

John Davison Rockefeller (pictured – the older man in the center) was a great nineteenth century businessman and philanthropist. He is credited with the creation of industries and structures that persist today to our collective benefit. Structures like the way our current system of philanthropy works. He also founded the University of Chicago, among others both domestically and abroad. No small contribution. When you consider that the Rockefeller family was renown in a lot of ways as business moguls and philanthropists, it’s really no surprise that they are considered to be among the most – if not THE most – wealthy and influential families in US history.

In my younger years, you associated wealth with the Rockefellers and the Rockefellers with wealth. I often joke with my wife Helen … especially when she spends too much money on clothing or whatever … that our last name is Rodriguez, not Rockefeller. Sometimes she seems to confuse that. 😎 Anyhow, there’s a famous story about the patriarch, known commonly as Senior, where he’s asked at some point, “How much money is enough money?” Senior replied, “Just a little bit more.”

My reading through the Gospels has taken me this past week through the Gospel of Mark and the first two chapters of Luke’s Gospel. I was reminded in reading through Mark how his writing style was really very focused on conveying the facts, and moving on to the next topic. It felt sort of like reading Cliff’s Notes back in the day … sort of. But in that simplistic, sort of straightforward style, I came across a profound reminder of both Jesus’ dedication to us, how He gave “just a little bit more,” and how our natural response should also be “just a little bit more.”

Mark 15:22-32 says …

And they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull). And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. And they crucified him and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take. And it was the third hour when they crucified him. And the inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left. And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!” So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also reviled him.

What I think is amazing about this is as we read about the passersby who are taunting Jesus, saying, “You kept saying you could do this, you could do that … you did a bunch of miracles! If you could do all these things, then why don’t you save yourself from this death and come down from the cross!” He could have. He absolutely could have.

Jesus could have chosen to come down from the cross. In the face of the taunting, in His awareness of the hardness and hatefulness of the hearts that were driving the words strewn at Him, He could have just decided we weren’t worth saving (could you blame Him based on what we see around us today?) or He could have decided that the act of taking the full brunt of the punishment was not necessary.   Going far enough was close enough. Or He could have identified an alternate solution. (Of course, theologically this would not have been sufficient or accurate but hopefully you get my point)

In any event, He CHOSE not to. He did just a little bit more. He had a greater purpose. He had love for us that was greater than what He was facing and He completed the task. Somewhat like Senior, He focused on giving, but unlike Senior He gave it ALL.

What can that tell us about things today? Today, people don’t tend to go out of their way. We don’t like to be inconvenienced. We don’t like to do more than the requirement. Unfortunately, oftentimes that is reflected in our faith journey. We do the bare minimum in living a Christian life. We go to church “most of the time.” We serve or volunteer “sometimes,” because “other people can step up.” We look past the homeless because, “they’re just gonna buy drugs and alcohol anyhow,” or we just throw them our spare change and feel like we’ve done something. We expect others to volunteer in the childcare ministry at church, but “that’s just not my thing.” We live like Christians on Sunday so we can afford to live like we want the rest of the days of the week.

But that’s just like taunting Jesus on the cross, isn’t it? After all, Jesus left all the wealth, all the honor, all His rightful position in heaven to come down and suffer and die for your and my sins … because of His love for you and me … and gave up EVERYTHING for us. He did just a little bit more … just a little bit more … just a little bit more … so that by the end of it all He gave it all.

So our response, in my not-so-humble opinion, should be the same. Almost like the little rubber hammer applied to our knee in the doctor’s office, our reflex should be to give just a little bit more … just a little bit more … to God. Stepping up to serve? Done. Loving our neighbor … ALL our neighbors? Done. Forgiving others like God forgave us? Done. Loving those different from us? Done. Knowing that ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and still loving the sinner but hating the sin? Done. Rendering to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s? Done. Folks, it can go on and on and on. Our world is damaged goods today in part because God’s people are so fundamentally focused on my way, my preference, my belief, my safety, my world, my wealth, my comfort … but we’ve forgotten about the One who gave us an opportunity to have any of that. Our world is fundamentally broken because Jesus gave just a little bit more and we’ve turned a blind eye to that.

I pray this week, for all of us that we all recognize and realize all that Jesus did by giving His all. That as we reflect we also reflex in the only way I think we can to His doing just a little bit more. If we really understood the magnitude of His sacrificial gift to you and me … to each of us individually and to all of us collectively … logically and emotionally we could have no other reaction than in turn to do and give “just a little bit more.”

Soli Deo gloria!


The one thing we all have in common


We’re a country divided. At least it sure seems that way. I can’t tell if the hate is increasing or if the love that exists is just not considered newsworthy. I have to say, there has to be some redeeming news out there, some sense of the spirit of brotherhood on which our country was founded.

The thing is, we’re spending so much time arguing with, blaming, yelling at, and unfortunately at times killing one another that maybe there is no room for love. It makes me think that Jesus could just as well have been speaking to the US when He says over Jerusalem in Matthew 23, “How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”

At the risk of sounding overly melancholy, I have to say it’s disappointing to think about where our country finds itself today. It reminds me a bit of a post I saw on Facebook some weeks ago … a picture with the caption on it that said, “Don’t judge me because your sins are different than mine!” You see, we spend an awful lot of time focusing on everyone else’s misgivings and sins; we spend an awful lot of time deflecting our misgivings and sins; we spend far too little time opening our hearts to God and letting Him change us.

As I finished reading through the Psalms at the end of June, I started to think I needed to read through the Gospels and started doing so last week. My plan is to read however much of the Gospels each day as I feel God leads me, and just to continue reading until I’m done with the Gospels … and start all over again, reading through them as many times as I get through between now and the end of the year. No goal. No target. Just letting God speak to me. So that’s where I found myself this week as I read through the Gospel of Matthew. Especially in light of the situation in Dallas, Minnesota, Louisiana, etc., this week, my heart was moved in Matthew 7:1-3 (ESV) …

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

I almost feel like I can stop writing, that the passage speaks for itself. I mean, if this isn’t an anthem for our society and our world today, what is? It was one of the striking things about reading through Matthew’s Gospel this week … how much the first century words of Jesus applied to all of us 20 centuries later.

When someone expresses the sentiment, “Don’t judge me because your sin is different than mine,” I get it. We all tend to qualify or rank other people’s sins more highly or more egregiously than we do our own. I’m no less guilty than anyone else. But if we use that sentiment to push away or deflect our sins in totality, then I think we’re suffering an overextension upon ourselves. This is where I think our society is going wrong today. We seem to focus on the failures of others so that we can avoid confronting our own failures.

If all of us were dying of malaria, it wouldn’t negate the fact that we EACH had malaria. To the extent I point out your malaria, it isn’t to accuse or condemn you for it. And by me pointing out yours, I’ve not cured myself of my own. In fact, I think we can all agree that pointing out your malaria, even if it’s a more severe case than mine, does NOTHING to cure me of my own malaria. And such is the case with the one disease from which we all presently suffer. Sin.

Our world is sinful. It’s a substantially fatal, incurable disease without THE cure … Jesus. Jesus is the ONLY cure for the disease of sin, and He is the ONLY cure we require. Without Him, though, we are helplessly and hopelessly condemned. No matter how much I point out your sin disease, I am not curing my own. I may help myself feel better about myself, but I am still terminally ill. It’s the one thing we all have in common.

The other thing we have in common in this sense is just the same as my pointing out your sin doesn’t cure mine, it certainly doesn’t do any benefit for yours. If you have malaria, me telling you that you have malaria isn’t likely to help you get cured of malaria. Today in our country, we’re spending so much time telling each other we have a disease 1) to make us feel better for our having the EXACT same disease, and 2) in the false and foolish hope that telling someone is going to help cure them.

Now … before you comment or email me … I understand the importance of pointing out our sin issue, particularly for those that aren’t aware of their sin issue. If I help to diagnose your malaria before you were aware of it, chances are I’ve probably helped you survive it in some small (or not so small) way. I think it’s perfectly biblical to help someone realize their sin diagnosis, so long as it’s one in a reverent, honorable, loving, truthful, and transparent way as relates to our own diagnosis. There’s clearly a difference between that and throwing it in someone’s face for the purpose of deflecting our own disease or comparatively making them feel worse about their sin disease so we feel less diseased somehow.

Bottom line … the only way we’re going to change our society and change our world is by letting God change us … change our hearts … heal our disease. We can’t change other people. We can’t even change ourselves. Only God can do that. If we want the cure for the plague of the world (sin), we have to let the ONLY one with the cure … Jesus … cure us. Only us. He alone can cure others. The one thing we have in common regardless of race, religion, political affiliation, etc., is that we’re all terminally ill … we all have a disease that ONLY Jesus can cure … and we all can only tend to our own disease. We cannot cure others. Only God can.

Lord, I’m the worst of all the sinners You created. Please change my heart, my mind, my desires to those that would please You, honor You, and glorify You.   And help my cure somehow become a cure You can use for others. Amen.

Soli Deo gloria!