I want to let those who read my blog or subscribe by email know my eBook, “50 Ways to Slowly Kill Your Marriage” will be free on Amazon from Wednesday (March 4) to Friday (March 6). You can get a free copy by clicking here. Feel free to let your friends know.
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I’ll confess that I do. I really try not to, but it’s an ongoing battle. It’s become harder recently since I was laid off in November. I got a month of severance pay and received my last paycheck on December 31st.
A few days ago, I was reading in Mark 12 where Jesus is asked about the greatest commandment. He said, “…you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.”
Part of loving God is loving Him with our minds.
This morning, I read Exodus 34:14, “You must worship no other gods, for the Lord, whose very name is Jealous, is a God who is jealous about his relationship with you.”
Ponder that for a minute. His name is Jealous and He is jealous. About what? His relationship with you and me.
As I was praying, I watched as two birds landed on a light pole outside the window of my hotel. They kept looking up to the sky. It reminded me of Matthew 6…
24 “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? 27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?
28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?
31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
Several things hit me from that passage:
1. We can’t love and serve God and money. We have to choose.
2. I’m to be like the birds outside my window who weren’t worried about anything. They weren’t planting or harvesting. They didn’t even seem to mind the freezing drizzle.
3. Material needs “dominate the thoughts of unbelievers…”
So let me see if I can tie all this together…
The greatest commandment is to love God, which includes loving Him with my thoughts. He is jealous for me. He doesn’t want me to have any other gods before Him. I have to choose between loving and serving God or loving and serving money. And money and material needs dominate the thoughts of those who don’t know God.
So if my thoughts are dominated by thoughts about money, how can I also be loving God with my mind? Practically speaking, it’s like I’m denying He even exists when I worry. Why? Because He promises if I’ll seek first His Kingdom and live as He desires, He’ll meet my material needs.
How about you? Do you worry about money? Or about something else?
God is jealous for the attention you and I give to these other gods who can never satisfy us anyway. When we choose to take our focus off money and put it on Him, it’s one way that we can express our love for Him.
On the other hand, when we choose to worry, it’s like believing God cares more about birds and flowers than about us.
With our first two grandchildren on the way this year, I’ve been thinking about what advice I’d give myself (if I could travel back in time) or my sons-in-law about the first year of being a dad. You can see it here.
Whether you observe the season of Lent or not, I want to make a resource available to you. It’s a 40-day devotional written to help strengthen your faith. Circumstances, feelings, discouraging news and negative comments from others can sap our faith. It can start to feel like God is far away and unconcerned about what we’re going through.
“I Believe God: a 40-day adventure” will help you reject the lies we’re told by the enemy and the world and replace them with the truth of God’s word. If you’d like a copy, you can get one by clicking here. The suggested price is $1.99, but I have it set up so you can name your own price. If you want to pay nothing, you can do that.
I know sometimes Lent is viewed as a season “to give something up.” So let’s give up believing our feelings and circumstances and start believing God.
As with any experiment, there’s a hypothesis. So here’s mine: if you and your spouse will commit to work through this book, at the end of the thirty days you will:
Know God better
Be more bonded to each other
Communicate more effectively
Better understand each others needs and how to meet them
Enjoy a more exciting and fulfilling sex life
I hope you’ll get a copy and work through it together. Can I also ask you to tell your friends? Forward this email, post on Facebook or good old word-of-mouth would be greatly appreciated! I believe this book can be a great help and want to get it to as many couples as possible.
I grew up in Brick, New Jersey, a beach town about ninety minutes south of New York City and ninety minutes east of Philadelphia. It was a great place to live. I had great friends and loved my high school experience.
What I didn’t love so much was church. At best, it was boring and irrelevant. For me, the best part was watching the old people try to park. It’s not that I didn’t believe God existed. I just didn’t think He had very much to do with my daily life.
We attended church fairly regularly as long as my parents woke up on time. I did my best to remain as quiet as possible on Sunday mornings, hoping they’d oversleep. Sometimes it worked and I got to stay home.
After high school, I went away to college at Cornell University. The first thing I did was stop going to church. I just didn’t see the point any more. And my parents weren’t there to make me go.
Some time during the fall semester after practice one night, a guy spoke to the football team I played on. I don’t remember anything he said other than if we wanted a free “Athlete’s In Action” magazine we could sign up for one. So I did.
A few months later, this guy named Bruce gave me a call. He wanted to meet with me. So thirty-three years ago today on February 4, 1982, he and I got together at the student union (that’s it in the picture). He asked me questions about my life, my family and church. After awhile, he opened this magazine and started talking about God.
Basically what he told me was this: God loved me and had a plan for my life, but because I (along with everyone else) had sinned, I was separated from God and couldn’t experience His plan for me. Then he got to the good news. He said when Jesus died on the cross, He was being punished in my place.
There was one more thing he said to me: I had to make a decision. It wasn’t just enough to know those other things. I had to decide whether or not to place my trust in Jesus. Forgiveness for my sin was a gift, but I had to choose to receive it.
In all my years of attending church, I’d never heard that before. I believed in God. I knew Christmas was a celebration of Jesus’ birth. I knew Easter was about his death and resurrection. But I don’t ever remember hearing I had to actually decide what to do with Jesus. In that moment though in the student union, it was like the light came on.
Bruce explained I could practically express my faith in Jesus by praying, by asking Him to forgive my sin and to make me the person He wanted me to be. There was a prayer written out in the magazine, which he slid across the table to me.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t fully grasp the magnitude of what was happening, but as I looked down at that magazine, I knew what I was about to do was really important. And so I read the words to the prayer very slowly and thought about each word. When I was done, Bruce and I talked a little more and set up another time to meet.
As I walked back to my dorm that day, I knew something was different. Something inside me was changed. I actually remember the sky being more blue. And the craziest part was actually having the desire to read the Bible and attend church.
I met a lot of people in college. Just never expected to meet Jesus there.
“But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.” (John 1:12-13)
In Mark 6, a huge crowd has been following Jesus. It’s now late in the afternoon. His disciples come to Jesus and tell Him to send the people away so they can buy food at the nearby farms and villages.
Instead of doing that though, Jesus says, “You feed them.”
Naturally, the disciples ask, “With what?”
That would be my question. Some of us with an attitude might have said, “Seriously? Seriously, Jesus? Are you for real? Come on, there are thousands of people here.”
Jesus simply replies by asking, “How much bread do you have? Go and find out.”
When the disciples return, they report to Jesus they have five loaves of bread and two fish. So Jesus has everyone sit down in groups, He blesses the food and gives it to the disciples to distribute. There was so much food left over they filled twelve baskets. Mark tells us over five thousand men and their families were fed.
I don’t know how much time has passed, but in Mark 8 there’s another large crowd gathered around Jesus. This time, the disciples don’t approach Jesus with the problem, He calls them and says, “I feel sorry for these people. They have been here with me for three days, and they have nothing left to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will faint along the way. For some of them have come a long distance.”
I would have loved to be there to watch that scene play out. The circumstances are identical to last time. Large crowd. No food. What do we do?
It’s playing out like when a parent is helping a young child with homework. “Okay, let’s try it again. Two plus two equals…”
But the child isn’t quite catching on yet.
“Now think about it for second, if I have two apples and then I add two more…how many apples do I have?”
The parent stares hopefully at the child. The child stares cluelessly at the parent. The answer is so obvious. But still the child isn’t getting it. Like the disciples. Like you and me.
His disciples replied, “How are we supposed to find enough food to feed them out here in the wilderness?”
Apparently, they don’t remember how things worked the last time. Not one of the twelve thinks to say, “Hey Jesus, You don’t have to send them away hungry! I have an idea! Do that thing You did last time! Remember? Remember that time You made all that extra bread and fish? Just do that again.”
I don’t know about you, but I can’t be too hard on the disciples. I don’t remember things God does either. It’s like I’m Lucy in “50 First Dates.” God may have done something great for me yesterday or last week, but I don’t remember it. All I can see is the unmet need today and so I get worried and anxious.
If it was a test, the disciples didn’t do so well. They didn’t remember what Jesus had done in the past, so they didn’t see He could be counted on in the present.
As He did the previous time, Jesus asks, “How much bread do you have?”
This time they come up with seven loaves of bread and a few small fish. And as He’d done the last time, Jesus multiplies what they have and feeds the entire crowd of four thousand people. The disciples gather the leftovers and fill seven baskets this time.
Faith is a big deal to God. He wants to be trusted. He’s pleased by our faith. So don’t be surprised when tests come. Don’t get discouraged when the circumstances seem stacked against you and there’s no way out. God has been faithful in your past. He will be faithful in your present.
We want good health for ourselves and those we love. We want to always have enough money to pay the bills with some left over. We want our relationships, especially with family members, to bring us joy and satisfaction. We want to be successful in our work. And we want our neighborhood, our city, our country and our world to be a safe place to live. And when we pray about something, we want God to answer. Sooner than later.
Does that pretty well capture what we want?
I’ll be honest. I don’t want to walk by faith. I don’t. A few days ago, I wrote a post on this site about seeking and trusting God. And really, that’s what this blog has been about for the past seven years. But if I’m honest, I have to admit I don’t really want to be in a position to have to trust God.
I want all of my needs met today, not tomorrow. I don’t even want to know how things will work out in the future, because that implies they’re not worked out today. And that makes me uncomfortable. And I don’t want to be uncomfortable. I know you don’t either.
That’s just not reality though. It’s not the way life works. It’s not the way God works.
James 1:2-4 says:
Dear brothers and sisters,when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
James is cluing us in to how life really works. And it’s contrary to the way we want it to work. It’s contrary to the way the world system tells us it should work. It’s even contrary to the way some Christians tell us life should work. We’re told that if we just have enough faith then we’ll have all the money we want and we’ll be healed of every sickness.
That’s not true though. My good friend died from colon cancer last year. He had great faith.
James doesn’t say “if” troubles come our way, he says “when” they do, we’re to consider it an opportunity for great joy. Yeah, I wish it didn’t work that way either, but it does.
We’re to consider troubles to be joy because we know that when our faith is tested, our endurance grows. When our endurance is fully developed, we enter into a new dimension of relationship with God where we discover He’s all we need, that in Him, we lack nothing.
When we pray for “breakthroughs”, I think what we’re really praying for is a quick way out of our troubles. At least that’s what I’m doing. It sounds something like this: “Oh God, please help me! I need a breakthrough today!” We want an end to the suffering today, don’t we? Have you ever prayed for a breakthrough to come in six months? Me either.
Maybe the better prayer is not for a breakthrough, but a go-through: “Oh God, give me the wisdom and strength to go through these troubles. Increase my faith. Help my endurance grow. Help me see I need You more than I need comfortable and pleasant circumstances.”
The following is a post my daughter wrote last month on her blog. Since I think she’s pretty incredible, I wanted to share it with you…
Seven months ago, I took on a task that has since pushed me and challenged me in ways that I never wanted to be pushed or challenged. But I could not be more grateful for it. I learned to initiate conversations with strangers, friends, and family about a subject that can be awkward and uncomfortable for everyone, including myself, to discuss. Yet Jesus has so much to say about it. That subject is money.
Seven months ago, I began fundraising to go on Young Life College staff in Germany for a minimum of five years. It has been a gift to have these conversations and invite people to be a part of what God is doing.
Seven months ago, I had 0% of my budget raised. Today, I have 70%. And my goal is to be 100% funded as soon as possible. Will you help? Click here to watch (if you don’t see the video embedded below) the following short video to learn more! You can contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Is there a certain person He wants you to marry? Is there a specific job He wants you to have? Does He have the perfect house picked out for you? Does it matter to Him if you live in Florida instead of Ohio? Should you just get a job now or go to graduate school?
We really want to know the answer to questions like these. We don’t want to make a mistake that will effect the rest of our lives. So we want God to just tell us what to do.
But have you noticed He’s usually not in a great hurry to tell us? We ask God to reveal His will to us and then we wait…and wait…and wait. We might wait for weeks, months or even years. Maybe you’re in one of the seasons of waiting right now. You desperately want to know what to do, but the waiting continues.
So now what are you supposed to do?
I think it’ll help to peak behind the curtain and understand what God wants even more than simply telling us what to do.
In Mark 6, Jesus has returned to His home town. On the Sabbath, He goes to the synagogue and begins to teach. Mark tells us that “many who heard him were amazed.” So far so good.
Then they asked, “Where did He get all this wisdom and the power to perform such miracles?”
After they asked where He got His wisdom and power, it says:
Then they scoffed, “He’s just a carpenter, the son of Mary and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon. And His sisters live right here among us.”
Somehow, their amazement turned to questioning, which turned to scoffing. But it doesn’t end there. Mark tells us: “They were deeply offended and refused to believe in Him.”
Mark tells us that because of their unbelief, Jesus “couldn’t do any miracles among them except to place His hands on a few sick people and heal them. And He was amazed at their unbelief.”
Things really went downhill quickly, didn’t they? Amazement turned to questioning which turned to scoffing which turned to being offended which turned to refusing to believe.
I get it though. I’ve been there. I’ve behaved like that. When God didn’t come through for me the way I wanted Him to or when I wanted Him to, I found it easy to question Him. And then to privately scoff and become offended. I doubted His goodness and faithfulness. I became angry and discouraged. And then I refused to believe.
You’ve no doubt already noticed that God isn’t in a hurry to answer all of your questions and just to make your life more comfortable.
So why not? Why doesn’t God just tell us what He wants us to do? Why doesn’t He make things easier? And quicker?
I believe the answer is found in Hebrews 11:6. It’s my favorite verse in the Bible.
And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.
What does God want you to do?
He wants you to trust Him and seek Him. Not just for an answer to prayer or for something you want from Him. He wants you to seek Him to know Him better, because you love Him.
I know how hard it is to wait and trust. I’m in one of those seasons myself right now. If you are too, let’s not waste the opportunity we have to seek and trust God and to wait patiently for Him to reveal His next steps for us. Let’s not forget this good news: