I’m clueless

I’m sometimes surprised by the hard time that Jesus’ disciples had in recognizing God’s plan unfolding directly around them. They had front row seats to the most important event in history and consistently failed to see God’s hand at work. Jesus, Emmanuel, God-with-us, was following the path prophesied hundreds of years prior. They verbally professed belief in Him as the Messiah, yet they lacked an awareness of events as they occurred in real time.

Here’s an example. In John 12, Jesus’ final entry into Jerusalem is recorded. He has arrived at the time of the Passover celebration to serve as the true lamb-sacrifice. His death will free all who believe in Him from the penalty of their sin.

14 Jesus found a young donkey and rode on it, fulfilling the prophecy that said:

15 “Don’t be afraid, people of Jerusalem.
Look, your King is coming,
riding on a donkey’s colt.”

16 His disciples didn’t understand at the time that this was a fulfillment of prophecy. But after Jesus entered into his glory, they remembered what had happened and realized that these things had been written about him.

They didn’t understand at the time.

Jesus knew about their struggle with context and seeing the big picture. Shortly after His entry into Jerusalem, He demonstrated the posture of service that He intends us to take by washing His disciples’ feet.

6 When Jesus came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

7 Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.” (John 13: 6-7)

You don’t understand now.

We are usually just as clueless as the disciples, but here’s the tremendous news. If you are struggling, if you are overwhelmed by seemingly impossible circumstances, if hope is lost, God remains at work. You don’t have to understand for God’s arms to be surrounding you, making the way clear for your rescue.

Take heart, friend, God is right here, right now and His plans are greater than you know (Isaiah 55: 8-9, Jeremiah 29: 11)!




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I’m unwanted

So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15)

You wouldn’t know this about me. I was an unwanted pregnancy. However, my teenage mother made the brave choice to have me and place me with an adoptive family.

Here’s another thing you may not know. That’s not my only adoption. In fact, it is insignificant in comparison to the second.

As Paul wrote Romans 8, I am an adopted son of my Heavenly Father. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection paid my sin debt and, through belief in Him, I am welcomed home, a son and heir. I am accepted. I am wanted. Listen: So are you. You and I are therefore related by so much more than blood. Jesus knew this…

Jesus was speaking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. 47Someone told Jesus, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, and they want to speak to you.”

48Jesus asked, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” 49Then he pointed to his disciples and said, “Look, these are my mother and brothers. 50Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!” (Matthew 12:46-50)

Peace and joy to you, my brothers and sisters in Christ!

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Manna or meat?

In John 6 Jesus makes the comparison between Himself and manna. The topic of bread is relevant because He had fed 5000 men (plus women and children) from just a few loaves and fish the previous day. Due to this miracle, the people followed Him.

In verse 27, Jesus redirects their thinking from “What can I get?” to “Who can I get?”.

But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of his approval.” (John 6:27)

As the conversation continues, the thick-headed crowd (you know, like you and me) asks for yet another sign. They remind Jesus (oh, the irony) about the bread from Heaven, manna, provided to their ancestors in the desert. Jesus responds that the true bread of God is available to them right now.

34“Sir,” they said, “give us that bread every day.”

35Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. (John 6:34-35)

Jesus teaches them that belief in Him is the only answer to their unceasing appetite. He offers the peace and joy and salvation that they (we) so desperately seek.

To gain some context for the manna reference, let’s return to the Israelites’ journey out of bondage in Egypt to freedom in Canaan. Because they needed to learn to trust God (you know, like you and me), this journey took 40 years rather than the couple of weeks it should have. [I think that 40 years was no accident. This represents a generation, a lifetime. I’m a middle-aged man still learning to trust.]

Let’s pick up the story of their passage through the desert in Numbers 11. They are not a happy group.

Soon the people began to complain about their hardship, and the LORD heard everything they said. (Numbers 11:1)

This verse caused me to pause. When did they complain? Soon. Who heard? God. How much? Everything. Lesson: be careful with your dissatisfaction. It’s probably not as bad as you think and the One who blessed you with what you do have hears your rant.

Onward. The grumbling continues in verse 4.

And the people of Israel also began to complain. “Oh, for some meat!” they exclaimed. 5“We remember the fish we used to eat for free in Egypt. And we had all the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic we wanted. 6But now our appetites are gone. All we ever see is this manna!” (Numbers 11:4-6)

Manna appeared daily and the people collected what they needed for that day each morning. No more. No less. Do you see how this taught them to trust God? They did not provide. They collected. Daily. When Jesus called Himself the bread of life, He was teaching us to rely on Him in the same way. Daily. Your true needs are met through daily relationship and reliance on Him.

So what about the meat?

God was not pleased by their complaining and request for more. (How often do we request more? We exist in a culture defined by more.) Here’s how He answered. He gave them more meat than they could possibly eat, miles of quail stacked three feet deep (verse 11:31).

How did the people respond? They collected far more quail than they needed. The smallest amount collected was 50 bushels (verse 11:32)! This is a ridiculous amount of quail. To give you a comparison, a bushel is eight gallons. A bushel of tomatoes weighs 56 pounds [1].

What can we learn? If we put our focus on getting more of the things of this life (meat), it will never satisfy and will never be enough. If we instead put our energy into relationship with Jesus (manna), we will never hunger. We will be sustained and satisfied. Paul summarized this perfectly.

12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:12-13)

Gather today’s manna, friend, and leave the meat. Bread for life!

1. https://www.thebalance.com/how-much-is-a-bushel-1389308






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I’m sick

Have you ever been really sick? I’m not talking about a cold or the flu, I’m talking about “there is something seriously wrong with me.” The sick that sends you to the doctor ready to do anything to get back to good health. It can be a desperate time.

In 1999, I lost 50 pounds in six months. It wasn’t a crash diet or change in lifestyle. I was already fit. My resting heart rate was about 120 beats per minute. I was anxious, all the time. I barely slept and, when I did, I had sleep apnea. My hair was falling out. I was sick, friend. It took too long to figure out that I had Graves’ disease. In the end, it was a simple fix. A swallow of iodine-131 and a lifetime of Synthroid.

In the mean time, though, I was acutely aware that I was sick. In John 5, we learn about Jesus healing a man who had been sick for 38 years. 38 years! Jesus asked him a logical, but important question.

When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?” (John 5:6)

Without receiving the simple “yes” that you might expect (He got an excuse instead), Jesus healed him anyway. Jesus heals. Because this occurred on the Sabbath, the religious leaders threw a tantrum, but that’s another conversation.

What struck me about this story is what Jesus told him later. Listen:

14 But afterward Jesus found him in the Temple and told him, “Now you are well; so stop sinning, or something even worse may happen to you.” (John 5:14)

Catch this. Sick for 38 years, but something worse is on the way if he continues in sin. The same is true for us, by the way. Here’s how Jesus’ half brother, James, puts it.

14Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. 15These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death. (James 1:14-15)

Jesus was warning us that “the wages of sin is death” as Paul penned later (Romans 6:23). Here’s the tricky part. When you are seriously ill, you know it. Things don’t work as they are supposed to work. You know, unequivocally, that something is terribly wrong.

With sin, on the other hand, you can rationalize. You enjoy it! At least for a while. The problem is that there is only one destination. Death. Destruction. Separation from God.

When you’re truly sick, you go to the doctor. You want, more than anything, to get well. I have some unwelcome news, the proverbial bad report: you have sinned, you are not immune. You are deathly ill. So am I.

I also have good news. The reason Jesus came and gave His life on the cross was to pay the penalty for your sin, my sin. It’s done. All you need do is admit your sin and accept His salvation.

Be well, friend.







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“What’s your name?”

This is typically the first question we ask someone upon meeting them. Further, forgetting a person’s name is often perceived as an admission that you find them unimportant or, at least, unmemorable. It’s embarrassing to offer, “It’s nice to meet you,” and receive the awkward response, “We met at…” Ugh.

I had two semesters of college Spanish and don’t remember much, but I do know the first two phrases I learned were:

Me llamo ______.

¿Cómo te llamas?

Stating a name holds more significance than a few spoken syllables. Try mispronouncing a person’s name and see if you aren’t corrected.

The U.S. military enlistment oath is:

“I, (state name of enlistee), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

Names, names, names.

One of my favorite “name” conversations from the Bible occurs at an unlikely location, a burning bush that is not consumed.

13 But Moses protested, “If I go to the people of Israel and tell them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ they will ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what should I tell them?”

14 God replied to Moses, “I am who I am. Say this to the people of Israel: I AM has sent me to you.” (Exodus 3:13-14)

God chooses to identify Himself as I AM. Creator. Father. Sovereign God. Yahweh. I AM.

Did you know that Jesus named Himself in the same way? I was thrilled to find I AM from Jesus as well. You probably know the story.

In John 6 Jesus has just fed the 5000 (that’s 5000 men plus women and children). Another well-known miracle follows.

16 That evening Jesus’ disciples went down to the shore to wait for him. 17 But as darkness fell and Jesus still hadn’t come back, they got into the boat and headed across the lake toward Capernaum. 18 Soon a gale swept down upon them, and the sea grew very rough. 19 They had rowed three or four miles when suddenly they saw Jesus walking on the water toward the boat. They were terrified, 20 but he called out to them, “Don’t be afraid. I am here!” 21 Then they were eager to let him in the boat, and immediately they arrived at their destination! (John 6:16-21)

In the original Greek, verse 20’s “I am here” reads “The I AM is here.”

God announced himself I AM to Moses in preparation for leading His people out of bondage in Egypt. Jesus proclaimed the same identity when rescuing His disciples from a raging storm*. God is also calling out to you; He’s calling your name. Whatever you are facing, take courage. The I AM is with you. Draw near to Him and He will draw near to you (James 4:8).

Oh, by the way, me llamo Tony. It’s so nice to talk with you.

*See also John 8:23, 8:28, and 8:58 (NLT).






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Leave your jar

John 4 tells the story of Jesus’ unlikely conversation with a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. It was an unusual interaction because: 1) she was a Samaritan and Jews did not talk to Samaritans; and 2) she was a woman and Jewish men certainly did not associate with Samaritan women.

Jesus reveals Himself to be the long anticipated Messiah through the metaphor of water. The woman had come to the well in the middle of the day, presumably to avoid interactions like these, to draw water. She was flawed, you see, like you and me. She’d had five husbands and was currently living with yet another man. Jesus’ response was to offer her a new life, not condemnation.

13 Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. 14 But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)

Although I’ve studied this chapter before, the woman’s response struck me this time. In fact, it chastised me. When she realized that Jesus truly offered living water, that He was indeed the Messiah, here’s what she did:

The woman left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the village, telling everyone. (John 4:28)

She left behind the container for the water that could not sustain her and RAN to share the good news. The Messiah has arrived! Come and see!

I was disappointed in myself because I also know the Gospel, but I do very little running and sharing. More sitting and, well, sitting… If you also struggle with sharing the good news of our salvation through belief in Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection, do this:

Ask God for one person with whom you can share your story.

You don’t need to be a Bible scholar to spread the Gospel, you just need to share your own experience. “I used to be… and then I met Jesus.”

Leave your jar. Tell your story. You won’t regret it. Happy 2018!





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Benjamin Button redux

F. Scott Fitzgerald published the short story entitled The Curious Case of Benjamin Button in 1922. It tells the tale of a man who ages backwards.

This case of backwards (adult to infant) contrasting the forward that we know (infant to adult) stimulates a comparison between Jesus’ life and our growing relationship with God. Jesus left his rightful place in Heaven to be born in a dirty stable. His homeless journey of rejection by the religious leadership concluded with torture and death on a cross.

We, on the other hand, begin far from Heaven, separated from God by sin. Through belief in Jesus as Savior, though, we embark on a path that leads us progressively closer to our God where we find peace and hope. Our transformed lives deliver us ultimately to Heaven and God’s presence.

“Thank you Jesus” seems immeasurably insufficient…

3 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”

4 “What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?” (John 3:3-4)

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