Restored.

My aunt Mildred loved to restore furniture. And she was very, very good at it. Once, she even restored an old loom and got it working so that she could make various textiles on it.

But the most memorable of all were the pieces of furniture. When she got them, they would be ugly, old painted pieces of furniture. But when she was finished with them, they were beautiful!

All the dents and dings had been sanded out. All the old paint had been stripped away. And just the right number of coats of stain and varnish made the grain in the wood stand out and shine.

They were like new again.

Asaph, the court poet and musician, reminds us that God has the power to do the same to sinful humans beings like us. By promising to send Jesus to be our Messiah and our Lord, he made a solid plan, and put us on the path to full restoration.

All our sins and transgressions have been sanded away by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. All the shame painted on our hearts has been stripped away by forgiveness and the hope of the resurrection. The stain of Jesus’ blood and the varnish of his righteousness have made us beautiful in God’s sight once again.

We are no longer set aside for the garbage heap called hell. We have been saved, and are ready for the heavenly home that God has prepared for those whom he has redeemed and restored!

“Restore us, God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved” (Psalm 80:7, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Saturday, July 4, is 2 Kings 8:16 – 9:37, Acts 23:12-35 and Psalm 80:1-7.

Lord, thank you for restoring me to a right relationship with you through Jesus Christ, your Son and my Savior.

Header image based on "Kirsty Hull: Caroline (Vintage collection)" by Design Initiative, CC By-SA 2.0

What Page Are You On?

It’s so easy — and dangerous — to get consumed with the hopes and desires of the present.

Following Jesus’ bread of life speech, and a realization by many in the crowd that Jesus was not merely around to serve their daily needs or meet their earthly goals, many of those who had been Jesus’ disciples began to turn back and stop following him.

They failed to see that to follow Jesus is to get on Jesus’ page. They just were not willing to go there. It’s important to know that Jesus doesn’t want us on his page because he’s on some sort of power trip. He wants us on his page because that’s what’s truly best for us.

The other day I was in an airport, and I saw a family — a Dad and a Mom with two little girls about 3 or 4 years old. The girls had matching rolling bags that they brought with them. The younger of the two little girls kept wanting to stop to get things out of her bag. This happened several times, with her parents patiently trying to explain that they needed to move their way more quickly through the airport.

The little girl was having none of that, and she was persistent about what she wanted for herself (and apparently her entire family as well) — frequent stops so she could dig around in her bag.

At last, her father simply took hold of the bag, and gently relieved her of it. The response of the little girl was not pretty, as I’m sure you can imagine. She pouted quite loudly for a really, really long time.

Sometimes we behave like that little girl. We want God to hold everything up — including his own gracious plans — for us. After all, in our minds, who’s more important than we are?

Jesus had just made it clear that he had come for his own purpose and glory. This involves the eternal salvation of mankind. So wasting a lot of time baking bread for people (or even just miraculously making it!) wasn’t on the agenda. Instead, he was going to be busy helping people see him as the bread of life. His concerns were far more of an eternal nature.

The people — like the little girl — didn’t like being told someone else’s agenda took precedence. So they turned away. It was just too tough to swallow.

Jesus watches them go, and then turns to his inner circle, the twelve, and ask them, “Do you also want to leave?”

Their answer shows that the disciples — by the Spirit’s power — had gotten on Jesus’ (eternal) page with him.

“Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God'” (John 6:68-69, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Monday, May 11, is Judges 12:1 – 13:25, John 6:60 – 7:13 and Psalm 59:9-17.

Lord, I repent for the times when I want to be on my own page, rather than on yours. My mind and heart want to dwell on the present, and on my own worldly needs, rather than on eternity, and your eternal desires for me and for the world around me. Please forgive me! Jesus, I want to be on your page with you. Send me the Spirit, who gives life, through your words. You have the words of eternal life, because you are the Holy One of God.

Header image based on "Studied Godspel" by Daniel Paixao Fontes, CC By 2.0

Reliable Directions

Do you want reliable information about where you’re headed? Most of us do.

I remember when Julie and I were getting ready to move to Africa. We loved visiting with people who had been there, and most of all, with people who had lived there. We hung on every word, because we knew that one day soon, we would be needing the very information they were giving us.

What if you wanted to go somewhere where you would remain forever? What if we could reliably say only one person has been there before and come back to tell us about it? What if the alternative to going to this place was a horrible — almost unthinkable — alternative?

Would you want to hear what that one person had to say about…

  • How to get there?
  • How to avoid obstacles that will prevent you from getting there?
  • How to help others get there with you?
  • What it will be like once you arrive?

I’m talking about heaven, of course. And I’m talking about Jesus. He’s the one person we can reliably say has been there and come here to tell us about it. He wants us to know what he knows about it. Most of all, he wants us to have the answers to all four questions above.

Some people struggle with listening to Jesus on this point. But from experience I can tell you, it’s good to listen to the people who’ve gone there before you have. That’s what Jesus was telling Nicodemus. And that’s what Jesus is saying to you, too.

“No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man” (John 3:13, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Saturday, May 2, is Joshua 21:20 – 22:34, John 3:1-21 and Psalm 55:1-11.

Lord, help me to listen to your voice. You have the words of eternal life.

Header image based on "The Milky Way panorama" by European Southern Observatory, CC By 2.0

Handing Out Awards Like Hotcakes

We have a God who loves to hand out awards. And because he is as gracious as he is generous, these awards are lavish — and completely undeserved.

After all, God created us in the first place. He gave us our hands, feet, eyes, ears, minds and hearts. Every good and perfect gift, James says, comes down from the Father of heavenly lights.

Then God redeemed us from our empty way of life under slavery to sin. He bought us back from a certain and eternal death — freeing us from sin, guilt and shame. And he did it at great cost to himself. He sacrificed his one and only Son, Jesus, to make that redemption become real.

God also gifted us with our talents, abilities, and various personalities. He shaped and molded us into the individual we are today, both through nature and nurture. Our inner “wiring” all belongs to him.

By grace, God has saved us for eternity. Even more shocking, he is building a personal home for each of us in the life that follows this life. He gives us this heavenly home for free. No mortgage payments. No savings account needed in this life. What provides this gift to us is the grace of God. No more. No less.

And finally, God promises to bless us in heaven when we use the bodies he’s given us, express the freedom he’s won for us, apply the gifts he’s chosen for us, all while living in the hope of eternal life that he’s made available to us.

And where do you think the motivation and energy we need to do this comes from? You got it. Like everything else, it comes from him. By grace.

God is that guy. He’s indiscriminate and unrelenting in his grace and generosity. So much so that the outside observer looks on and wonders if God is not way too generous.

But please understand God’s heart. All of this is because what God really wants for us is to share in his happiness.

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’” (Matthew 25:21, NIV).

Lord, thank you for your amazing generosity and grace which we get to personally experience each day. Thank you for wanting us to share in your happiness.

Our Bible reading for Saturday, February 7, is Job 40:3 – 42:17, Matthew 25:14-46 and Psalm 18:43-50.

Header image based on "Trophies" by Paulus, CC by 2.0

All In

Jesus makes it clear that eternity is on the line. And when the stakes are high, most of us realize that it’s time to be “all in.”

We do it all the time. When deciding on our educational path. When meeting our future spouse. When selecting our career. When opening our business.

In areas of life like this, we know that whatever we decide upon, we need to put our back into it and go for it.

Wholeheartedly.

Well, Jesus says that there will come a day when all mankind will be judged. And following that, heaven will be the eternal home of those who have been declared righteous by faith in Jesus Christ. Sadly–no, devastatingly!–for those who do not believe in Jesus there is only hell.

The stakes are most definitely high. Whatever it takes, Jesus tells us, obtain the kingdom of heaven. It’s worth everything you’ve got!

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:45-46, NIV).

Lord, help me never to take you, or your kingdom, lightly. You want to give me eternal life. And you have already won heaven for me. By your grace, you want to give a “pearl of great price” to me as a gift. Amazing. Send me your Spirit so that I can be all in!

Our Bible reading for Monday, January 19, is Genesis 38:1 – 39:23, Matthew 13:36-58 and Psalm 11:1-7.

Header image based on "Mabe Pearl Ring" by Rutz, CC by 2.0

Stay Thirsty in 2015

One day soon, it will happen (Revelation 22:10). We’ll ring in not just a new year, but a whole new universe (Revelation 21:1-2). Everything we see now, every possession we hold dear in this life will disappear.

But—and here’s the best news—it will be replaced. It will be replaced by something and Someone far more beautiful, and way more perfect.

And this will come along with every blessing imaginable. In fact, it will come with every blessing unimaginable as well.

How do you participate? Jesus says you’re invited! The ticket in is his gift to you. And drinks are on him!

“The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life” (Revelation 22:17, NIV).

Stay thirsty, my friends! Stay thirsty in 2015.

Lord Jesus, you are the water of life. Keep me thirsty for you in 2015. Thank you for the free gift of eternal life, and for the invitation for all of us to join you there.

Our Bible reading for Wednesday, December 31, is Malachi 1:1 – 4:6, Psalm 150:1-6, Proverbs 31:10-31 and Revelation 21:1 – 22:21.