Let Your Light So Shine

Halloween – the holiday of darkness, spooks, candy, and costumes galore. USA Today* reports that Americans spent $8.4B on Halloween candy in 2016, breaking a historical record. 2017 candy spending is expected to be $9.1B, breaking last year’s record. Halloween is a national party – one giant haunting sugar rush. Americans love Halloween. Yet, I have two questions for you. Do you know how many of your Christian neighbors and friends are keeping their lights on and doors open tonight? Or, how many aren’t?

According to a 2006 Gallup poll**, we find that 26% of Evangelicals object to celebrating Halloween, and 45% opt to close their doors and turn out the lights. Nearly half turn out their lights. This statistic is fairly stark against the name “Evangelical,” and it begs that the proverbial question be answered, “What would Jesus do?”

I’d like to think that if someone came knocking on my door, whatever the reason may be, I’d be welcoming – just as Christ was to me. I know that Christians tend to think of Halloween as the night where the world goes raging in madness over sin. So, we buy the giant spider webs and lanky skeleton yard décor, but we stay away from the spiky demon horns and sexy witch costumes. It seems like the night we’re in a world that’s celebrating Satan, hell, demonic spirits, and evil; and we realize we’re surrounded by darkness. However, we must remember that the picture of tonight’s darkness is a fair assessment of what engulfs a world in sin – everyday. In the midst of the everyday, we can’t forget what is staunchly more real and lasting than the physical things we lay our aging eyes on. What we see is darkness, but when all we see fades to dust, there is eternal fire. The lost world lives in darkness today, but whether it’s a neighbor, a friend, a stranger you meet – their eternal world is on fire. And tonight, the only thing that stands between you and them is a door.

I’ll ask you to remember what you were like when Christ came to answer your knocking at his door. Matthew 7:7 says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” He cracked the door to see who was outside in the darkness, and the light poured through the gap onto you. His radiance bounced against all the darkness, revealing by light all the things that had been hidden about you. You cowered in your sin because your darkness was fleeing, and you saw what glory was overcoming in you – calling you to enter in. Right there you stood – realizing what a broken, dark place you were in. It had been comfortable until now, and you had to decide whether to stay there or leave that place. If you walked through the door, you’d have to walk into the light – revealing more and more of the things that your darkness had shrouded. Knowing only the glimpse of what waited on the other side, you gave over your fear, your shame, and your sinful selfishness when you realized what glory was waiting for you on the other side of that door. You crossed that threshold, and it was because a door had been opened to you.

Tonight, the very same situation presents itself to us as Christ’s followers. The world is knocking on our doors tonight, and we have the choice to answer the door, just as Christ answered us. Now, I’m not saying our doors are full of glory and grace like his, because we are only human. But, we are his vessels of grace, and his light radiates through us. If we are not answering our doors and letting our lights shine, because we feel a genuine disdain for the world and its sin – then we are not following Christ as he commanded us.

Indeed, we have been commanded to do two very distinct tasks as Christians. Mark 16:15 offers us a picture of Jesus talking to the disciples, “He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.’” So, we’re told to go into the world – into the place where darkness abounds and sin runs rampant. We’re told to go because we’re like the kid hired for the Sunday morning paper. If he isn’t willing to wake up before the rest of the world and do the job he’s trained for, then no one will receive the Sunday morning newspaper. So, unless you’re a Christian who’s willing to go into this world, even in the times when it is most uncomfortable, you will be missing out on that first task: reaching all creation. You will miss out on your potential, because you’re supposed to go.

The second task is plain. You may be trying to reach people for Christ, but you may have reservations about rolling up your sleeves and joining in the Halloween hubbub. Do you know what Christ would tell you? Keep your lights on and open that door. Matthew 5: 14-16 says, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” You have been given an eternal and heavenly light. Your light is not to be hidden, and like we teach our little ones to sing, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.”

Something is really unique for Christians about Halloween night. Christian folks talk left-and-right about wanting to go out on the mission field, but on this one night of the year, the mission field knocks on your door. You might be asking yourself every day, “How can I better reach out to this lost world around me?” I know I do, and I bet you do, too. There’s a moment in the Bible that answers that very question.

Looking at the disciples in John 21: 3-6, “‘I’m going out to fish,’ Simon Peter told them, and they said, ‘We’ll go with you.’ So, they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, ‘Friends, haven’t you any fish?’ ‘No’ they answered. He said, ‘Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.’ When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.” Christ has called each and every one of us to get into this world and preach the good news of salvation. Jesus called the disciples in Matthew 4:19, “And He said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’”

Christ has given you both the command and capacity to be a fisher for souls, and tonight’s the night where you can decide to climb into your boat and go out. You may have chosen before to shut out the lights and stay away from the choppy waters of a sinful, dark world – choosing to stay more comfortable in your calm seas with the few fish. Yet, Christ calls us to cast our nets into the places where the world resides. We sometimes have to change our expectations of where we need to fish, because we are meant to brave the darkness and shine our lights.

I encourage you tonight – fish are coming to your door, and you can choose to cast your net. Remember your darkness, and remember what Christ did while you were still comfortable there. People need Christ, and they’re knocking on your door. Christ opened his door to you, and glory changed your life. Therefore, amp up your electricity bill, remember the light of Christ that is in you, and don’t be afraid to cast it on the world God loves. Halloween may be a night where darkness abounds, but remember – this is the day that the Lord has made. His light shined the midst of your sinful self, and you should let your light shine into the world. So, get your candy, get your costume, get your light, get out there, and good luck!


*USA Today: Halloween Candy Sales Data
**Gallup: Religious Views and Halloween

In the Midst of This, Rest.

“I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.” The former passage comes from Psalm 116, and it echoes what people have called out for the centuries. In the midst of human helplessness, we’ve called out under a single hope. We trust that despite the visible void betwixt the spiritual and the physical, there is a God who is present, real, and listening to our troubled minds, our endless questions, and our trembling requests for deliverance. When we run to God in prayer, we’re not breaking an impenetrable barrier that separates God and man, though it may seem like the connection between us is a chasm. No, indeed, in a physical sense, we sometimes ask where God is in the vulnerability of sensitive bodies and fragile emotions. What we see is physical. But, it is in our vulnerability that we turn to him for strength; it is where we look past what we see for something more tangible and solid.

Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” You see, faith is in the calling out, the cries for mercy. Faith is where our spiritual self, the depths of our soul within, reaches out for the Father that we find familiar because, though we cannot see him, we need his presence in our daily lives. The distance from the physical to the spiritual is less a chasm when something happens that touches your heart, and he’s the Father that we run to as our shelter in the storms, the one in whom our faith can rest.

I have a favorite word. I remind myself of this often, as I think it perfectly describes the moment where the void disappears, my heart is unveiled in its resting place, and I recognize that I kneel, astonishingly mortal as I am, before a living and eternal God. Rest. The modern Christian life is just like those of the last 2,000 years of Christians and the Jewish believers who came before them. It seems we often treat God as a person whom we come to and connect with. And, believe it or not, people have done that for thousands of years. You are not alone. You go through life and don’t see or seek God every day; however, your Father is there in the everyday mundane, the frustrations, the celebrations, the tumult, the adventures, and the joys. It’s likely that you’ve gone through times in life where you don’t see God in the grit. You may find yourself in unexpected places today. Rest.

Many modern Christians visit their churches for a pause once a week, feeling a spiritual boost and break from life; meanwhile, they live tumultuous lives the rest of the week. You might need or already have a Sunday morning rest, but have you considered that life was not meant to be lived with a single hallelujah moment a week? The week drags on, you feel empty. Ages of believers have gone through life having strong and weak times of faith, like the ups and downs of driving though a mountain highway. We seek God in the lows, because we ask him to lift us up above it all. We ignore God in the highs, because life is good and we don’t feel we need his deliverance from life. So, like any mountain, you find yourself at the bottom again. The Bible itself is full of humans with stories like yours, and that is where my favorite word falls into today. Rest.

Psalm 116:1-9 takes us through a story. You’ve had a rough day, had something catastrophic happen, had a break in your temporal happiness, and you become a pile of ruins. God knows what’s going on and he cares. This passage speaks to you.

“I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live. The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came over me; I was overcome by distress and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the Lord: ‘Lord, save me!’ The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. The Lord protects the unwary; when I was brought low, he saved me. Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. For you, Lord, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living.”

You might be asking God right now, “Why me? Why this?” And, his ear is turned to you. You are the character in this passage, crying out for mercy. And, God hears you. You are overcome by distress and sorrow. Be it a battle with illness, be it the struggles of parenting, be it a relationship that’s strained, be it fear over finances, be it a literal brush with the grave – God knows you’re overwhelmed by something today. That “something” in your life, that’s drawing you to prayer or drawing you to ask, “Why?” is answered with grace. God is FULL of compassion, and he says to return to your rest. Say this loudly in front of a mirror, and say it as though you mean it, “Return to your rest, MY SOUL, Return! The Lord has been good to me.” God has brought you through so much to this day, and it is because we are seeing and feeling creatures, sometimes we cannot get past seeing the physical things that concern us. But, through it all, God says, your rest is sitting there, waiting for you to return.

Psalm 107:1-9 says, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. Has the Lord redeemed you? Then speak out! Tell others he has redeemed you from your enemies. For he has gathered the exiles from many lands, from east and west, from north and south. Some wandered in the wilderness, lost and homeless. Hungry and thirsty, they nearly died. “Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble, and he rescued them from their distress. He led them straight to safety, to a city where they could live. Let them praise the Lord for his great love and for the wonderful things he has done for them. For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.”

If you are hungry for rest, calling out for God to deliver you today, he satisfies your grumbling stomach with good things. With rest. All you have to do is return. Talk to God right now, and tell him about what’s going on. Your mountain low that you’re trying to climb out of can’t be conquered without the right gear. Mark 11:23 says, “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.”

Prayer and asking God for rest is the greatest weapon you have against the earthly concerns of today. Ephesians 6:13-16 says, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”

Take up your shield of faith. In this day of evil, stand on your solid ground in Christ. In your hunger, ask God for his mercy that satisfies, and rest.


The Four Things Zophar Wants You to Know

With summer here already, I can’t help but recall one particular trip as a camp counselor. It was a waterpark field trip, and this park had a game-changing invention for kids and counselors alike – a lazy river. You pair each kid with a partner and an inner-tube, and they go for hours, no problems necessary. It’s built-in enjoyment and ease, and it reminds me too much of our spiritual lives.

We hop on our floaties, and life drifts like a lazy river. We forget about the spiritually important things, trying to live comfortably in the physical and finite. It’s easy to lay back and forget things as the lazy river treats you well, but you hit a little current and have to hang on. In life, you might need to holler for a lifeguard, and God’s like a genie in a lamp to you. We let our lamps sit there collecting dust, and we live our charming lives. Prosperous days pass by, and you only pull out the lamp when you think you’re hitting a rough current. I’ll warn you, though, you’re not really in control of the lamp at all.

We might feel a little in-control when life is smooth, but we feel the plummet when it’s hopping off a cliff against our will. When life goes sour, calling on God is the first step to fixing the downward spiral, but we also still pretend that our lives are swell. We put on a pure white porcelain mask, claiming that our hearts are clean and pure, and we cry out to God with our sins still held in hand and muck still hiding within. That’s clinging to God on our terms, and we’re not letting go of the things that hinder us. I’ve been reading Job 11 like I’m the first cupcake meeting frosting. I. Can’t. Get. Enough.

Job had three friends by his side, and like most people – they had their own opinions to share. One well-meaner was named Zophar, and Zophar was the one friend who had great advice in the wrong place and the wrong time. Zophar was encouraging Job to repent, and he didn’t know that Job’s struggle had nothing to do with personal sin. From Zophar’s experience, such a tussle indicated that Job had not humbled himself before God. This advice wasn’t what Job needed to hear, but for us, it might just be in the right place at the right time.

I encourage you to read all of Job 11, and dive in deeply. There are a few key points that Zophar makes to Job, and they’re timeless.

#1: Job 11v4-6 says, “You say to God, ‘My beliefs are flawless and I am pure in your sight.’ Oh, how I wish that God would speak, that he would open his lips against you and disclose to you the secrets of wisdom, for true wisdom has two sides. Know this: God has even forgotten some of your sin.”

We can come to God like a Pharisee, wearing our porcelain masks that whitewash our sin. It makes the dirt in our hearts hide under a rug, but lift the rug and RUN! In Matthew 23v26-27, Jesus tells a Pharisee what He sees, “Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.” We keep things within us, bottling up and hoarding the sin that entangles, and we are tied up in lies. We’re wound up trying to look beautiful, while being strangled by our sins inside. In Verse 28, Jesus just lays it on by saying, “In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”

Zophar’s first point is this: God sees everything. Job 11v11 says, “Surely he recognizes deceivers; and when he sees evil, does he not take note?” Despite your desire to sometimes hide from yourself and sin, God wants you to take off your mask. You know when your kids pretend they didn’t do it, but you know that the dog can’t color on the wall? Well, God sees that you’re painting on your walls, and you’re horrible at pretending that you, “didn’t do it.” In fact, God’s already extended grace to you, as Zophar reminds us, and it’s time to wash off the paint.

#2: Job 11v7-10 says, “Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty? They are higher than the heavens above—what can you do? They are deeper than the depths below—what can you know? Their measure is longer than the earth and wider than the sea. If he comes along and confines you in prison and convenes a court, who can oppose him?”

This goes back to hitting a rough patch and rubbing a genie lamp. We like to compartmentalize and separate everything in life. We even distinguish between the good times and bad. Unfortunately, we also do this with our spiritual lives, and the consequences lead us into compartmentalizing our relationships with God. When times get hard, humans turn to God, as though He will swoop in upon our beck and call. Now, don’t think that we can’t call on Him in times of trouble. He will be there. Psalm 18v2-3 says, “The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I called to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I have been saved from my enemies.” This passage defines that God is your rock, your stable foundation, and He is a place to stand and find refuge in during times of trouble. He is our place to dwell.

But, there is a condition to believers calling out, and you can’t put God in a box. Hebrews 5v7 says, “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” If you cry out to God for help, you must be humbled before Him. You must repent and recognize how unendingly sovereign God is over you. Jesus isn’t just a “Sunday Morning Savior,” and God is not a genie waiting in a lamp. He is unfathomably great; thus, He cannot be compartmentalized at other things may be. You must cry out in submission, and this is where we drop our genie lamps. In contrast to our thinking, God says that you are the vessel, and He is the one who pours us out.

2 Corinthians 4v6-7 says, “For God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to bring to light the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of Christ. But we hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.” So, you’re the lamp the He’s holding. He is the potter, and we are His clay. He has made us as earthly lamps, and it is He who works through us. Hold up, though! We do have one task in this: We must empty ourselves to be his servants. Philippians 2v5-7 says, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” You might ask, “What should I be emptied of?” 2 Timothy 2:22 explains, “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”

Zophar’s second point is this: You must empty yourself of earthly things, because God fills us with all things good. He is sovereign. He is infinitely searchable, and infinitely unknowable. You can’t fathom Him, and it’s time to realize that you’re finite. He holds you as an earthly vessel, and you can choose to serve and be filled by Him. Or, you can be left empty. Amazingly, that choice is in your human hands.

#3: Job 11v20 says, “But the eyes of the wicked will fail, and escape will elude them; their hope will become a dying gasp.” Without adding water to bring this down a notch, by choosing sin over Christ, the inevitable end is hopeless failure. Zophar said it. That’s that. But, as the cheesy commercials always blast, “But wait! There’s more!”

Zophar’s third point is this: The choice to stay in sin ends in hopelessness; however, there is a remedy.

#4: Job 11v13-19 says, “Yet if you devote your heart to him and stretch out your hands to him, if you put away the sin that is in your hand and allow no evil to dwell in your tent, then, free of fault, you will lift up your face; you will stand firm and without fear. You will surely forget your trouble, recalling it only as waters gone by. Life will be brighter than noonday, and darkness will become like morning. You will be secure, because there is hope; you will look about you and take your rest in safety. You will lie down, with no one to make you afraid, and many will court your favor.”

God says that we can find Him when we’re looking for Him. Jeremiah 29v13 says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” So, you have to put your whole heart into this, and it’s a search. I’ll remind you, it’s really not as easy as rubbing a lamp and making a wish. You have to seek for Him with your whole self. To do this, Zophar reminds us that we must stretch out our hands to God, devote our hearts to Him, and drop the sins that we cling to like cellophane.

I had a recent experience with this, and I promised the Lord that I’d share it with my dentist (I heard that laugh). So, I’ve always taken the right steps to take great care of my teeth. But, do a few fillings on a kid, and you’ve made someone who both hates and fears going to the dentist. Flash forward, I just went for my first checkup in two years, and I was SO sure that nothing good would come of it. Thus, I turned to prayer. I’ve never liked going to the dentist, and I wanted this to be a great experience – something that was covered in God’s grace and presence. So, I did as Zophar suggests. I gave it to God, in prayer and repentance, asking that He would let me be cavity-free. As I was sitting in the lobby beforehand, I just kept reading Romans 8v37-39 over again, which says, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Or cavities. Yes, cavities.

I got in the chair, and even the hygienist said my teeth looked great for a cleaning that’s two years late – not a single cavity was there, and I truly felt blessed. I know it’s simple, but if you give even the simple things like fears up to God, He will give you rest.

Zophar’s fourth point is this: God is your ultimate hope. Only in Him, will you find true rest. In Him, you will be filled. You have to empty your hands of the sin that leaves you empty, and lift them up to the One who fills your soul with life.

Let’s bring this into perspective – I hope you have a sense of urgency. Ecclesiastes 9v12 tells us, “Moreover, no one knows when their hour will come: As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare, so people are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them.” You never know when tragedy, weakness, temptation, sorrow, or struggles will hit. From one to four, Zophar is stressing that it’s time to leave the floaty life – the life of comfort versus the times of crying out. He says that each day, God sees your sins, and He is jealous for you. There’s not a thing that slides past Him. So, you need to empty yourself for God’s purposes. He’s the only thing that truly feeds your starving appetite for purpose and joy. You might be tempted to stick with sin, but it doesn’t end well. In the end, you have a choice to make. In Christ, by dwelling in a relationship with your Father and serving Him, you will truly find rest. And, you will delight your Creator by relying on Him for your hope. Turn from your sin. Seek the Lord with all your heart. Rest in His unfailing love.

Rae(& Zophar)

His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of the warrior; the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love. – Psalm 147v10-11

It’s Time to Tie Your Shoes

From one day to the next, we shuffle in our worn soles, grazing the arms of thousands. We come within the glow of souls and spirits in flesh, bearing an image of our very great God. We are one of these creations, independently thinking and feeling – bearing our own likeness to an unseen God. We are bound to this body, but our minds sometimes wander beyond our physical boundaries. The truth is, you sometimes wonder at other humans passing by. Sometimes, your mind picks up with the wind and drifts into another’s shoes. You look at other people, and you wonder what it’s like in their shoes. In fact, you might start to question your own shoes. You might pop your shoes right off at the end of the day, searching for a newer and finer pair, while neglecting the very shoes your Creator made for you. I’ll tell you a true thing. God made you the way you are for a reason. You should stay in your perfectly worn shoes, awaiting their glorification and the path they’re about to tread.

I’ll ask you a simple question: “Do you believe that you’re on the path God has for you?” You may not know whether to say yes or no, and that’s fine for this moment. Einstein didn’t discover the theory of relativity before learning about physics, nor did man walk the moon before engineering the rocket. You have to know what to rely on before searching for the answer. So, there is a glaringly important element to my initial question. “Are you prepared to tread the path?” Are you, as who you are today, ready to follow the path that God has you on, regardless of who you are right now? There’s a simple truth that God both equips us and leads us when we are boldly wearing our own shoes.

I’m convinced that too often, we are quick to doubt ourselves. Let me affirm you in one thing. You were not created to be a sinner. God didn’t make you to be a sinner, yet he gave you the capacity to choose something outside of his plans for your life. In all reality, he created you and called it very good. God made you to be his handiwork (Ephesians 2:10), his pleasure (Revelation 4:11), and his do-gooder (Also Ephesians 2:10). If that’s not enough, he didn’t just make you to spread his glory all over the place, although you have to admit that’s a nice take on the six creation days and on your life as a whole. 😉 God made you out of a love that started before your life began, and it keeps going infinitely past your death. Jeremiah 31:3 says, “The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: ‘Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, with lovingkindness I have drawn you.’” Jeremiah, the prophet, was looked at and affirmed in this way. Not only is it infinite love, but God loves you with “lovingkindness.” In Hebrew, this word appears as chesed. Chesed, when looking at Strong’s Concordance, is literally defined as God’s deeds of devotion, his faithfulness, his favor, and his unchanging love. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” While you were still feeling disgusting, being selfish and vain, hating others and yourself, choosing to indulge today and forgetting tomorrow, or putting your heart in a freezer, God called you loved and he gave himself up for your sake.

Did you ever imagine that what Christ did on the cross had anything to do with what he wanted? Just attempt to grasp what being infinite, painless, stress-free, and perfect must be like. I fail to grasp it. But now, imagine making the choice to fit that infinite, painless, stress-free, and perfect existence into what we call home – this body. It doesn’t fit. It can’t physically fit. Christ, being the only way to redeem humanity, gave up that existence to fit into a human body, be finite, feel immense torment, and give you the choice to obey him. He didn’t die just to save you. He died to give you the choice to be saved, knowing that a massive number of humans would reject him. He died, knowing that the conditions were much more comfortable for you and I. Yet, Hebrews 12:2 says, “Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” For the joy set before him, he endured the cross. He endured a human life, and later, died for your free will to follow him. That is what he wanted. 1 Peter 1:18-19 says, “Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.” He redeemed you with the most valuable, precious gift of all. You were worth giving up a most precious thing, because to him, you are a most precious thing.

So, if you’re not convinced that God values you, as you are, let me remind you of one more thing. Isaiah 49:15, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.” You might feel like you have no shoes to fill worth filling, no life to have worth having, but the Father doesn’t forget that he made you, that he loves you, and that you are his. This life of yours was crafted. Isaiah 64:8 says, “But now, O Lord, you are our Father, we are the clay, and you our potter; and all of us are the work of your hand.” You were made by God’s hands, and he does not forget you. To that end, the shoes you wear in life are yours. God made you precisely as you are; he values you as you are. Getting to the next point, let’s talk about the path your shoes are on.

First of all, you are called to a high purpose. 2 Corinthians 5:20 says, “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.” You are made to be Christ’s ambassador while he’s away from earth. This goes back to being created as his do-gooders in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” God made things for you to fulfill as his follower, before you made it to those tasks. And, those things he’s created for you to do are good things. So, we have a duty to be pursuing the Word, striving for obedience, and discerning the tasks that are given by God.

Second, Hosea 10:12 says, “Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes and showers his righteousness on you.” Did you know, a degree in Christian agricultural studies is yours to chase the minute you become a Christian? The Word states multiple different images of sowing and farming, but we’ll stick with two of them. In your life as a Christian, you are meant to serve Christ and obey his commands. I’m not a fan of how I was told growing up, “The Bible is your instruction manual for life.” If you’re anything like me, you leave the instruction manual in the box for the recycling truck, tucked away in case of an emergency, or off to the side for looking at the pictures. I don’t follow the instructions, and I certainly won’t read the whole thing. So, I’m going to call the Bible my “Inspiration Book for Life.” If it is well and good, it will be in the pages of the Bible for me to follow. If it is evil and destructive, it will be in the pages of the Bible for me to be forewarned. Our first task of sowing is sowing the Word of Christ in our lives. Find out what your “Inspiration Book” says about you, and sow the good ways of Christ in your life. Pull the weeds of doubt, hate, anger, and sin. Let God’s love grow in their place, because he says his righteousness will reap unfailing love.

The second sowing action is when you spread the truth of Christ in others’ lives. Mark 4:14-20 says, “The sower sows the word. These are the ones who are beside the road where the word is sown; and when they hear, immediately Satan comes and takes away the word which has been sown in them. In a similar way, these are the ones on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy; and they have no firm root in themselves, but are only temporary; then, when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they fall away. And others are the ones on whom seed was sown among the thorns; these are the ones who have heard the word, but the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. And those are the ones on whom seed was sown on the good soil; and they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.” You are called to share the Word, as it is living and active, into the lives of people around you. It shall grow where it lands in some lives, it shall fail to grow in other hearts. Nonetheless, your task is to sow.

Finally, God is equipping you. He is preparing us for the tasks he’s given us to do. Ephesians 4:11-16 says, “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”

You have been surrounded by believers that can rub off on you, train you, and encourage you to pursue the Word. It is made to build you up, and likewise, you are to build up others. It is meant to give you a full measure of knowledge, so that you will stand firm on your foundation. The ways of the world are taunting, tempting, and treacherous for us when we aren’t following after Christ. Thus, follow after truth in Christ, and just as others are doing the same, it will keep you on track. You will do the work God has placed before you. The last action is this: Hebrews 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Throw off your sin, tie up the shoes that God’s given you, pursue the tasks marked out, and run your race with perseverance. Good luck.


Worthy of Your Calling?

TIME Magazine’s “Year in Review” articles are like birthdays. Once a year, we look back and celebrate getting to another year. However, as we look forward, that’s where we have no power over the looking glass.

Humans have such a capacity to worry about and plan out the future, but realize that your future’s not as exciting as the present plans unfolding in your life. I can’t help but great freakishly, goosebumps-worthy excited over life, as it’s full of surprises and goodness. We might think that tomorrow will be uncomfortable and different, so we get hung up on the future. But, you weren’t made for that.

Today, we’re told to be different. I’m sure some Bible-quoting crazy person (they’ve got your back) has come up to you and told you that the Bible says not to worry about tomorrow, because it does! TODAY is your day, and this day is also the Lord’s. You might focus on your future, but He’s working right now.

Taking a look at Esther in the Bible, we see that her cousin Mordecai talked some sense into her about focusing on today, not tomorrow. As we know, the advisor of King Xerxes of Persia was shiftily working to make practicing the Jewish faith an act of treason and punishable by death. Esther, a Jewish woman, was among a few chosen to present themselves as a potential wife before the king. Esther became his chosen wife, and she was given his ear. Mordecai gave her the timely advice to speak to the king about his advisor. Esther 4v14 shows Mordecai’s words, “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

Mordecai is literally telling her, “God is giving you this opportunity, right now, to do something amazing for His purposes. Do it now, while today is before you, because the time for action is now.”

Look at your life, and ask yourself if your present actions are honoring all that God has given you. God doesn’t tell us that in the midst of our good times and future times He is there. He tells us He is always in our midst. Zephaniah 3v17 says, The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” He is with you in the gladness and the turmoil, and He’s with you eternally. We’re not meant to focus on whether God will be planning, protecting, guiding, and leading our lives tomorrow, because we know He will. Instead, we must focus on the day and plans He has for us now. Ephesians 4v1 says, “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.”

Live a life worthy of the calling you have received. One, you are a called child of a Living Savior, a Universe Maker, a Promise Keeper, and Kingdom Builder. He is promising life eternal, as an alternative to the fiery pits of Hell, gifting you a home in heaven which is under construction. Two, you are to live worthy of your calling, not because you can be good enough to earn your keep in heaven, but because it displays how deeply Christ’s love has changed you and shapes you. If you do not allow the Spirit to work in your life, you do not take up your cross and the forgiveness of your sins daily, you do not see the fruits of grace pouring through your life — MAYBE, just maybe, you need to work on being more obedient to Christ and His calling for your life.

Today is the day you were created for. Every day is a newly-crafted gift. You open it and see as it unfolds. Don’t worry about tomorrow’s gifts, as they’re not coming any sooner. You’re not promised tomorrow, and today will already be full. Focus on what things God may have for you today, and live worthy of that calling.


I Heard the Word

If I tried to place my finger on the right word, it might land somewhere between you and me, seated in the back of a friend’s car, stopped in Michigan’s darkest city, paused in prayer for the light to come. It reminds me I never quite grasp God’s glory – that I never quite have big enough expectations. Allow me to explain.

A sex trafficking outreach at my church has branched out from its suburban hotel outreach in Novi, Michigan to cross with international interests. The North American International Auto Show draws nearly one million people to Detroit, and human trafficking is escalated in the city of Detroit during these two weeks. Minors makeup a large demographic of individuals that are sexually exploited, and information on them is sought by both police detectives and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

I wake up once a month to take pictures of missing kids to local hotels. In the hopes that one child might be seen or found, our team has been dedicated to the search for missing kids and to the hotel staff we educate on sex trafficking. On January 15, our team took the latest pictures and our educational packets into the hive of the Michigan sex trade, and every hotel and motel in Detroit was given a chance to peek into that hive. As I predicted, my expectations were too small for God’s glory.

I often find that prayer is a companion we see as small but mighty, as the mustard seed can move mountains. I regret that I have never seen a mustard seed literally move a mountain, as it would be a wonder of the natural world. However, I have seen such a wonder through the power of prayer. Our team spent months in prayer for God’s protection, His direction, and His motivation to put our hands and feet to work. Then, the outreach came. Prayer was essential. A visiting prayer-walking team and members of our team joined together in their cars and prayed as we traveled through the city. Have I yet stated that God will conquer our expectations and prove them to be inconsequential? Here is what my eyes beheld.

I never expected that I would be calling the Toledo Police on a tip. I never expected that a woman at a motel would listen to us. I never expected that God would put me in a motel in Detroit, have me stand face-to-face with her honest eyes, have me equipped with 12 photos, and have one of those photos spark a memory in her mind. The staff member remembered seeing one of the girls on our posters; she had recently come to the hotel for a room. A missing girl from Toledo made it onto our posters for the outreach, and we happened to visit the motel where she would be recognized.

Prayer, an open conversation with God, is more potent than I can comprehend. It took one million international visitors, all the hotels and motels of Detroit, five carloads of willing servants, and one motel employee to hear the whisper in my ear. I never anticipated the opportunity to pass on information concerning a child’s case. Prayer enabled our outreach serve one lost sheep, and I heard the word – God is faithful.

Much Love,

———♡ P.S.—————————————————————————————-

I work for the freedom of others because I know what it is to be free. FRē exists because police officers, detectives, missing children, and loved ones need citizens to be activists, too. If a whole society turns a blind eye to the oppressed, failing to advocate for the rights of the exploited, how can justice ever be served? Hotels are the cultured world’s brothels. While we freshen up, go for a dip in the pool, and sleep under pressed sheets on vacations and business trips, there are children in hotels being used for commercial sex. Since MKL Jr. Day was Monday, I think his quote is rather timely, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” I cannot stand in comfort, even though it is convenient. I cannot stand on the outside while a child’s rights are being stolen and a society isn’t facing the challenge and controversy before its eyes. Consider joining one outreach with FRē on a Saturday morning, considering asking me for more information on other groups, or consider if your life is too comfortable and it’s time for change.

Isaiah 1:17 says, “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” If you’re considering doing any of those things, I implore you: do them. Did you ever wake up as a kid and decide that your dreams weren’t worth dreaming? Did you ever wake up as an adult and say, “I never want to make a difference in the world.”?? No, I didn’t think so. So, consider what role you want in saying, “I have a dream.” I have a dream today!

“I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.” -MLK Jr.

Coming Home: Veteran’s Day

Veteran’s Day is a week away, and while it’s coming up keep this thought in mind. Our soldiers go onto the front lines and face the closest evil to hell on earth — that I could never comprehend. Yet, there is a deeper element. As Winston Churchill so eloquently penned, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” The intention of a war is not to fight one battle and see who wins. Wartime contains many battles, many fights, many losses. Yet, our soldiers keep going. On one side, a comrade falls behind. On the other side, the enemy pushes forward. In agony, our soldiers relinquish their joy in life that others might fulfill their own. Here at home, mothers, wives, fiancés, sisters, fathers, brothers, and children feel the emptiness. On that spot at the dinner table, at your side where a companion once held your hand, through the doorway where they would’ve come home, in your dreams where it all is kept alive, the hope still remains. Someday, your phone may ring or the knock on the door turns your dreams into reality. Dinner is placed at the empty spot, your hand is warm again, and the doorway is passed under with laughter and tears at the sight of those shoes you missed coming home. They have come home. Your loved one has arrived. Your veteran, your soldier, your hero, your love has returned. Honoring those especially dear, remembering the spaces that may remain empty, and thanking those currently sacrificing their lives for yours and mine. Happy Veteran’s Day, and never forget.

When you speak two languages, y Dios usa los ambos.

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. — Psalm 62: 5-8

Sólo en Dios halla descanso mi alma; de él viene mi esperanza. Sólo él es mi roca y mi salvación; él es mi protector y no habré de caer. Dios es mi salvación y mi gloria; es la roca que me fortalace; ¡Mi refugio está en Dios! Confía siempre en él, pueblo mío; ábrele tu corazón cuando estés ante él. ¡Dios es nuestro refugio! — Salmo 62: 5-8

It’s amazing that reading the Bible in two languages can add to your take-away from a study. In reading this passage, I picked out a few parallels that show me more about the meaning of the passage. This Bible passage has worked on my hard heart, and I’ve really been softened by God’s Word lately. Hearing these words two ways meant so much more, so I hope it touches you, too!

First, the English says that my soul finds rest in God, yet the Spanish says that ONLY in God I will find rest for my soul. The English says that in God, you will not be shaken, and the Spanish says that in God, you will not fall. The English says that my salvation and my honor depend on God, and the Spanish says that God is my salvation and my glory. Pour out your hearts to him, or open your hearts when you stand before him.

Only in God, you will have rest. You might find rest in God, but have you ever realized that he is the ONLY source of your rest? I find true rest when I solely look to him as my hope. You will not only be firm in God, you cannot be shaken or fall out of his caring hands.

Do you ever feel beat up by others, undervalued, unloved, unnoticed, or not cared for? Well, not only does your honor and dignity come from him, but His glory is the source of your value. When you feel like no one cares about you and you are not worth dying for, remember that your value doesn’t even come from who you are. Your value and honor comes from a Savior that lived for you, died for you, and shows his glory through your life. Do you feel worthless? Your honor and glory, your dignity and value, come from someone much more amazing than yourself (or than what others fully realize when they don’t know him or worship him).

Finally, have you poured out your heart to him, not only emptied it but left it open for him to fill up? See, until you are emptied of the gross stuff that fills your heart, until you have opened your heart and given your battles to God, your heart will not be transformed and made new. You must fully empty your heart to Him, allow him to be your refuge, and your heart will be filled with his hope and glory. It will finally find its rest.


P.S. Spanish and English are so much alike, yet even the similar Bible translations are still a great resource for side-by-side study. If you speak or read another language, too, or are interested in more studies let me know! Drop me a line on the contact page and I’d love to study one of your favorites, too!

Filled with a Good Measure

Back in elementary school, I had a teacher that used to read a riddles book called, “What Am I?” Some were great, others gritty. I’ve got a gritty one, and I think you’ll know what I mean. Here goes:
I’m opinionated, negative, and condemning. I’m on the lips of few, but I’m often felt by many. Sometimes, I’m all about justice and other times I’m unfair. Sometimes, I’m about you; other times, I’m all about others. I might seem tame when caged, but I’m destructive when unleashed. I’m can be found in a court room, minds, mouths, and hearts. I’m brought down with the gavel. I’m passed from one person to another, and I’m…


We all know what it’s like when another person’s opinions exceed the limit of constructive criticism and throw a tornado through our hearts and minds. I hate saying, “It’s not fair.” But, no one has the right to deconstruct another person, size them up, and put them together the way they think is best. God’s the only one who knows how to take us apart and put us back together again. So, on that judgmental attitude…It’s not fair. It’s hurtful to the body of Christ. It’s WAY beyond your abilities. It’s a sin.

God, being perfect, is the perfect judge. I’m sure you know as well as I do, we are mega, super, fantastically imperfect. Throwback to four years old, and that’s the whole reason I turned my life over to Christ. However, we can’t use our state of imperfection as an excuse to sit in our sin and judge others. Get real about your grit. If we’re transformed by the grace that makes us into new creations, we should no longer live in the old and messed up ways we used to follow. In fact, God gave you the freedom to choose his ways over your sinful ways, so chose today which master you will serve. Are you a slave to your sin, or are you a servant of your Savior? I’ll give you some time to think about this as we dive into scripture.

Romans 2v1-3 says, “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?”

Hey buddy, did you know you’re guilty of the same sins you’ve cast stones about? Don’t fret, we’re all guilty of it. Let your toes be stepped on, and let it be freeing. God convicts us when we’re in need of some refreshing. So I encourage you, press on. Maybe you’ve looked at someone today and sized them up, dressed them down, or gave them a label before you knew the person behind your words. It’s a sin, but isn’t it great to know that God knows that we’ve done everything wrong and he loves us anyways? Look away from others and start looking at yourself — where God’s working on you. You’ll be finding the cobwebs in your closets, and I promise, God’s willing to change your heart if you want him to…

Just a few days ago, I went to a greenhouse for some herb garden shopping. There was a young woman, about my age, who looked like she was trying to go against the grain of people’s expectations. She seemed peculiar, but God pricked my cold heart and let me peek into a heart of gold. I began talking with this young woman, and I got to know her a bit better…. She just lost her mom, and she’s heart broken. She’s 26 or 27, and she just lost her mom. I thought, looks and behaviors are deceiving. God, before the twinkle of her life, saw into this moment and cared for her in her loss. It took me hearing her thoughts and getting past my eyes to truly comprehend from my heart how much love she needed. If I had looked at her with the eyes of Christ, I would have had compassion before her sadness and sorrow was apparent. I’m glad I didn’t miss my opportunity to care for her in Christ, because God got ahold of me right there.

However, I wonder, how many times have I missed an opportunity to show Christ’s love because my judgments got in the way? BEWARE: Missed opportunities due to personal judgment are innumerable. Know it now. As a Christian, you’ll be judged according to your actions, so live as Christ did. Pray for him to give you his eyes to see his people the way that he does.

Luke 6v37-38 also says, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Live with a heart full of Christ’s love for others. Forgive others when they have wronged you, and don’t just do it because you have to. Know that Christ forgave you, and with a heaping cup of love, gratitude, and kindness — show that same forgiveness to them. Realize that they will be judged, as you will, for your actions; God’s working on their heart, too. I’d rather have that cup of good measure, pressed down and running over, full of love and life, than I would an empty, hollow cup.

Matthew 5v44-45 says, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” God sees all that we do. If we put down our thoughts and let Christ’s words come in, it will transform us. It’s twofold. You have to love the people who judge you and do you wrong, and you also have to pray for them. By doing that, you will begin to have new eyes – Christ’s perspective of the ones you’re tempted to judge. And for those at the tail-end of judgment right now, God knows what you’re going through, and he’s letting the sun shine on the deeds of others, too.

So, is Jesus your Savior, or is your sin your master? Choose which one you will serve. Both transform, but one is perfect and the other destroys. Judgment from the Lord is perfect, but our sinful hearts take it upon themselves to participate in work beyond their abilities. Ask for Christ’s eyes, let him convict where needed, pray for those who persecute you, and love others in Christ. You’ll be filled with a good measure.