Tag Archives: Jesus

The Box Checker Mentality

When I was in my teens, I was in a scouting program through my church. I had a plan to get my Gold Medal of Achievement (Eagle Scout equivalent) before I turned 18. I had a lot of badges to get. One of them was the Bachelor merit. I had to plan three meals a day for the family, create a shopping list for it, go to the store to get it, prepare those meals, make my bed every day, clean the house, etc. Each merit had a list of activities that had to be done and signed off on before I could earn it.

It taught me to be goal oriented and to work well with lists. The downside of it is I got the mentality of a box checker. I thought all I needed to do to be successful was to check off certain boxes and it would happen. If I wanted to be more spiritual, I just needed to figure out which boxes to check and I’d be good. Do you ever feel that way? Do you think, “What do I need to do to be _________?” It’s the box checker mentality.

A box checker came to Jesus in Matthew 19, and he asked what he needed to do to get to Heaven. Jesus gave him a list of commandments to be checked off. Then in verse 20, he said he had checked off those boxes, and wanted to know what other boxes there were. Jesus told him to sell all he had and follow Him. He and the disciples were perplexed and wondered who could get into Heaven. That’s when Jesus told them that getting into Heaven isn’t about checking boxes.

In verse 26 Jesus said, “With people [as far as it depends on them] it is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (AMP). There is so much in life that isn’t about what we do, but what God does. We want to earn it, but it’s impossible. What do you need to do to get God to love you more? What do you need to do get His favor? We have this mind that says, “If I check off these boxes, then God will …” Jesus was saying go the rich young ruler, and to us, “Quit trying to check boxes.” When we do that, we think we can earn His favor or His grace, but they are gifts freely given. It’s hard to do, but we need to let God do what only He can do because it doesn’t depend on us.

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

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The Plumb Line Of Truth

One of the classes I train has me ask, “Is this your truth,” at the end of each section. If someone says it’s not their truth, I’m to engage them to find out why they don’t believe what I just taught. I’m looking for their objection to the truth I’ve presented. My goal is to not just get them to accept the truth, but to go back and implement that truth into their life. We always act on what we believe, so it’s important to know what the truth is before we act.

We live in a world where the lines of truth are constantly being blurred. Over the last two generations, Truth has gone from something we all accepted as a whole to what each of us believes individually. What I’ve learned is that truth is truth no matter what I believe personally. I can choose to not believe in gravity, but that doesn’t stop me from coming back to the ground when I jump. There are still universal truths in our world whether people choose to believe them or not.

I was talking with a man recently about truth, and I brought up Jesus in Pilate’s court in John 18. When Jesus said that He came to testify to the truth, Pilate asked, “What is truth?” (GNT) I wish the Bible would have recorded Jesus’ answer. We know from John 14:6 that Jesus said He was the way, the truth and the life. Also in John 1, we read that Jesus is the Word Of God made flesh. He, and the Bible, are our absolute truth in this world. It is the plumb line in a world that has lost its direction.

The reason you use a plumb line in construction is because your eyes can deceive you. In the same way, the Word Of God is our plumb line in this world. Our eyes can deceive us, and it can be difficult to determine what truth is. Psalm 33:4 says, “The words of the Lord are true, and all his works are dependable.” We must know God’s Word if we are going to use it as a plumb line to build our lives on the rock of truth. Otherwise, we will be like the foolish man who build his house on the shifting sands of what culture believes at the moment.

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Overwhelmed

Throwback Thursday is a new feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.

This morning I have the lyrics of Paul Baloche’s song “Lead Me To The Rock” going through my mind. The first verse says, “When my heart is overwhelmed, and my eyes are blind to you, and the pain of life is too heavy to bear, and then the mountains seem so high, and my faith’s too weak to climb, lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” The song is based on Psalm 61:2 that says, “From the ends of the earth, I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the towering rock of safety” (NLT).

Each of us face difficult times in life. Then there are those times when the rain doesn’t seem to stop. The bad things pour on you. The bad news keeps coming. It can feel like you’re going to drown in sorrow. You think, “I don’t know what I’ll do if I get one more piece of bad news.” It’s in those times that your prayer should be like David’s in this Psalm. Ask God to lead you to the rock that’s higher than you are.

I know what’s it’s like to feel like the bottom is falling out from under you constantly. When you’re looking for something, anything solid enough to stand on. You can go to God in those times. He is the rock that you can stand on. A sure foundation in times of trouble. When you’re feeling overwhelmed by all that is going on in your life, you can call out to Him. I can let you know that in my own life, when I’ve done that, He has shown up and rescued me. He has walked through the storms with me.

Whatever you’re facing today, stop and pray that God would lead you to the rock. Don’t get caught up in all the bad news to the point that you forget where your faith lies. As Peter was going under during the storm, after having walked on water, he called out, “Lord, save me!” In Matthew 14:31, the Bible says, “Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him.” The storm didn’t stop until later, but that didn’t matter because he had the hand of the one whom the wind and seas obey. If you’re overwhelmed today, call out to Him and take His hand.

Photo by Images by Chauvin

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A Son Is Given

Throwback Thursday is a new feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.

I saw a Christmas play a few years ago where they told the story of Jesus’ birth as seen through the eyes of two angels. They were reading Heaven’s newspaper when they saw the headline that Jesus was going to earth. They were ecstatic thinking of what all it could mean. As they read on, they were suddenly confused. “Wait! It says here that He’s going down there as a baby,” said one of the angels. The other replied, “How will He fit into something so small?” The God who is bigger than the universe He created, came down and entered our world as a baby.

He didn’t just come as a baby, but He came as a boy. When you think of it culturally and in that time period, a boy brought honor to his family. It meant that their lineage would continue. Since Joseph was a descendant of King David, it meant the royal line would continue and provide hope to Israel that at some point one of David’s heirs would rule the nation again. Everyone knew the promises God had made to establish David’s throne forever. They had been waiting for centuries for the House of David to return to the throne. The government of that country would once again be on the shoulders of the king.

Not only was that part of it important, but the fact that He was a boy has other implications. When a boy grows up, he gets married and his spouse takes his name. God came to earth to win our hearts. He came to propose marriage to each of us. In that time period and culture, a dowry was needed to secure a bride. It was usually something very expensive that would cost the groom everything he had. He had to work for years just to afford the dowry of engagement. After that was paid, He would have to provide a paid off home so that they could live together without worry. She would give up her family name and take his. She would leave her father and mother and cleave to him.

What does that have to do with Jesus? Everything. He came to pay a price that was equal to your worth. He came to win you over with His love. His life was all about proving how much He loved you and me. He did miracles, signs and wonders in an effort to get our attention. He bled and died in order to pay the dowry for you to be engaged to Him. He gave up everything He had to come in the form of a child, lived His life trying to get our attention and paid that price just to ask if you would marry Him. When you accept His proposal, all of Heaven rejoices just as we would for one of our friends. You then take on His name, Christian, and leave the life you once lived.

John 14:2-3 says, “There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am” (NLT). He is following the culture and customs of that time in His proposal of marriage to you. Revelations says that we will be going to the wedding feast in Heaven one day. You and I are the bride of Christ if we accept His proposal. He’s coming back for us once He’s finished preparing it. I can’t wait to see it. If He made this world in 6 days, can imagine how incredible Heaven will be after 2,000 years? I can’t wait for the wedding, how about you?

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The Birth Of Grace

I’ve got a friend who, when he sees people with a sour face, likes to say, “Smile! God’s in a good mood.” It usually takes them a second to hear what he said, then they laugh or smile. Many of us think of God as this angry, Old Testament figure who is sitting up in Heaven speaking in old English and is looking for someone to smite. As a result, we try to live a smite free life that makes us miserable.

If God is always angry, why did He give us the gift of His Son? I can tell you that when I’m upset or angry with someone, giving them a life changing gift is not an idea floating around in my head. In the Old Testament, we had a pact with God where we would do our part to keep the relationship open through sacrifice, but we constantly fell short. That did make God angry and upset. How do you feel when someone breaks a promise to you? No matter how hard we tried, we couldn’t do it.

Out of love, God decided to establish a New Covenant between us. One where when we fall short on our end, Jesus makes up the difference. His birth was also the birth of grace. It announced that God would make a way to reestablish the relationship between He and us. His desire has always been that we would know Him, and go to live with Him for eternity. To take the burden off of us trying to keep our part, He sent Jesus.

John 3:16-17 says, “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him” (NLT). Smile! That’s good news. This Christmas, celebrate the birth of grace into our world. Live your life in response to God’s love for you rather than out of the fear of being smitten.

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The Shepherd’s Birth

If I were to ask you who was invited to the birth of Jesus, most of you would answer, “Shepherds and wisemen.” I believe that answer is wrong. Only shepherds were invited to the birth. Many scholars believe the wisemen May not have shown up for over a year after His birth. I still believe it’s important that the wisemen came because they showed that Jesus would be the King of Kings. Now think about the manger scene with just shepherds. Interesting.

Why would God only announce the birth of the Savior of the world to shepherds and no one else? Why would the place God prepared for Him to be born be a barn? I believe we can go back to Psalm 23 for that answer. The Lord is my shepherd. God finds that shepherds make great kings. They provide for their flock, they lead them and protect them too. Before Jesus was a carpenter, He was born a shepherd.

When the wisemen went to King Herod looking for where the messiah was born, Matthew 2:6 says they read him, “And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah, are not least among the ruling cities of Judah, for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel” (NLT). God knew we would need a shepherd more than a king. While kings rule and dictate, shepherds lead and serve. People were looking for a king to free them from the oppression of the Romans. Instead God sent them a shepherd to free them from their sin.

If you’ve accepted Jesus as king of your life, have you let Him also be your shepherd? Have you given Him not just the ability to rule, but also to lead? Sheep willingly follow where their shepherd leads, but subjects are forced to obey a king. God doesn’t force us to serve Him as a king would. Instead, He invites us to follow Him out of love. I believe shepherds were the only ones invited to His birth to remind us God knew we needed a shepherd more than a king.

Photo by Dan Kiefer on Unsplash

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The Best Gift

One Christmas I was invited to a party. On the invitation, i saw the words “white elephant”. I got so excited, and my mind began to race about what piece of junk I own would be the funniest gift. I looked in my closet, in my room and in the garage. I finally found a piece of junk that I could get rid of and would be the talk of the party. I couldn’t wait to get there and play the game.

On the night of the party, I kept laughing to myself at the poor person who would open my gift. After we sat down and drew numbers, the game began. When the first person opened their gift, it was nice. I was confused. The next person went, and their gift was nice as well. Did these people not know what a white elephant was? I opened the email while I waited for my turn. I read the whole thing that said, “White elephant style with a $20 minimum gift.”

When the person opened my gift, the looked confused. There wasn’t laughter at all. They said, “Really?” Another person chimed in, “That’s all?” The hits said, “Maybe there’s a gift card in there.” Instead of bringing the best gift, I had brought the worst. I stayed silent as they asked who brought it. I was embarrassed and didn’t want to own up to it. It got me thinking about the wisemen and how they didn’t just bring their leftovers. They brought their best gift that fit for a king.

Matthew 2:11 says, “They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (NLT). You and I may not have gold, frankincense or myrrh laying around, but we have giftings and talents we can offer the King. What are we offering Him? Is it our junk? Or is it our best gift? We will each present Him with something on judgement day. Let’s make sure we are giving God our best.

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