3 Little changes that will make a big difference with your husband

No wife is responsible for her husband’s happiness. This post is not about what wives should be doing to make their husbands feel better. However, there are things a wife can do that will move her husband to be a better man. How do I know? Because my wife does them for me.

Here is what she does that makes a difference:

1) She prays for me.

I don’t mean that she just mentions me when she prays. No, she pays attention to the details of my life and takes them to the Lord. For her to do this, she must be aware of my motivations in life. She has to watch, probe, and listen.

There are days I don’t make this easy. I can be difficult, guarded, and quiet. I can let my frustrations, disappointments, and failures become walls. I don’t intentionally shut her out, but that is what walls do. I’ve noticed in these moments she does not use dynamite to break through. No, she prays the wall down.  

How did I discover her secret weapon of prayer? Several years ago, I found a book beside the bed. It was titled The Power of a Praying Wife. I thumbed through it and read the prayers she was praying for me. I knew then she was doing something that was making a big difference in my life.

Through the years she has written down prayers and left them for me in places where she knew I would find them. In the heat of battle or in the mundane routines of life, I would find a folded piece of paper, open it and read the prayer she penned for me. My walls would start to crumble. My perspective would change. Hope would rise. Frustration would lose its grip.

Wife…don’t underestimate the power of praying for your husband. It will rock his world.

2) She learned my love language…and uses it.

The term “love language” comes from the author, counselor, and pastor Dr. Gary Chapman. The idea is that each person has a “language” that speaks directly to their heart. The goal is to discover the language of the person you love and use it so they can experience the love you have for them. Here is the challenge: Your love language, which is your default for loving others, may not be the love language of your husband.

My wife turns my world upside down in the best ways when she speaks my love language to me. I know this is a skill she developed because what fuels my love engine is not what fuels hers. When she uses the love language that speaks to me, she makes me feel like a hero. I feel understood. I feel blessed, humbled, and accepted. I feel loved by her. It is the greatest thing. It makes a difference because I know she is not just trying to love me. She actually is.

If you want to know more about love languages, click here.

BTW…her love for me motivated me to discover the language of her heart, but that is not why she did it. That’s not love. Real, genuine love is sacrificial. Knowing and using your husband’s love language will cost you, but the difference you will make in his life, which ultimately impacts your life, will be worth the price.

3) She practices what the Bible calls “noble character.” (Proverbs 12:4)

Noble character is an interesting biblical trait specifically used to describe the integrity, strength, and tenderness of a wife. In a world fixated on equality, the scriptures point to a unique disposition that only a wife can bring to the marriage relationship.

My wife’s integrity, strength, and tenderness make a big difference in my life. I can trust her. I don’t second guess her words or actions. I can count on her. Her strength for doing life with me will not fade in difficult seasons. She will make the tough, good choices and follow through. Her tenderness will not turn to leather because of harsh realities. She remains approachable even though I may be prickly.

How does she do this? How does she grow in integrity, strength, and tenderness when life is throwing curveballs? She reads! (Well, it is more than just reading, but it starts there.)

She humbly reads the Bible and submits herself to the truth it reveals; but she also reads autobiographies of women who have noble character.

The Scriptures provide the truth. The autobiographies provide examples.

I’ve seen my wife have the integrity of Ruth Graham, the strength of Condoleezza Rice, and the tenderness of Marie Monville. The Spirit of God uses the Scriptures combined with modern-day examples of godly women to shape my wife’s noble character…and my life is blessed because of it. I reap the benefits of her humility and determination to be a wife of noble character.

Nicolas Sparks wrote this about marriage: “So it’s not gonna be easy. It’s going to be really hard; we’re gonna have to work at this everyday, but I want to do that because I want you. I want all of you forever, everyday. You and me…everyday.”

My wife has never used those words with me, but she has behaved that way from the start. I see her fleshing out those words with the habits I have tried to describe in this post…and its made a big difference in me.

Not All Prayers Are Equal

People frequently say to me that I should “pray for America.” The tone of the comment and flippancy with which it is said implies something insincere to me. I can’t put my finger on it, but it sounds as though it is an effort to manipulate God into making America what they want it to be. It doesn’t really sound like a reminder to be humble and pray for His will to be done on earth.

Call me crazy, but I don’t think the Almighty God is really impressed with prayer requests that are shaped by political ideas or desires to further the American dream of prosperity. Could it be that our country’s needs are much greater than blue and red ideas? Much greater than a stronger economy or a higher standard of living?

If we take our political prejudices, our desires to have more comfort, and our addiction to have more wealth out of our prayer requests for America, what’s left to pray? Here are some ideas:

Pray for Political Leaders as Humans not Politicians

Don’t let political views shape your prayers (or lack of prayers) for political leaders. The president, vice-president, and all other titles on Capitol Hill are held by humans, that is, people with souls. Pray for them to know Christ. Pray for them to be tools in God’s hand to accomplish His purposes on earth. Pray the importance of their positions and the privileges of their ranks will cause them to be humble instead of feeding elitism. Pray the weight of their burdens would turn their hearts to call upon Christ.

God says, “I will cut off the strength of the wicked, but I will increase the power of the godly.” Ask him to do this in the halls and offices of Washington D.C. And while asking, don’t try to convince him of who the wicked and the godly are. That stuff is above our pay grade. Just ask him to keep his word.  

Pray for a National Spiritual Awakening

When mentioning this to the Father, ask big and look small. What do I mean by this?

Ask Christ to move at a national level but look for him to open doors locally. When we ask God to turn the heart of our nation, we must keep in mind that the turning begins in neighborhoods, coffee shops, PTA’s, and small business board meetings. Don’t look for a national event. Look for a personal opportunity.

Is your heart turned toward the Lord?

Are you willing to share your love for Jesus when he creates an opportunity for you to do so?

If you can say ‘yes’ to those two questions, then you are part of the answer. Don’t you dare think that God moving in your ordinary places is too small of a thing to be the beginning of a national spiritual awakening.

Pray for Hate to Lose Its Influence

The most popular activity in America is hating. It’s almost as if ‘hate’ is the new ‘love.’ Politics, social movements, and even some religious organizations are no longer about promoting the values that bring people together. Instead, they garner support by promoting who they are against.

Here is what I’ve noticed: Hateful people get heard even when they have nothing to say. People who rage on social media go viral. Hate is rewarded with recognition and circulation. It has become a major influencer in our country. How can anything good come from this?

The Bible says, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” Yet, in our country the common person is encouraged to rally behind those who strengthen their popularity with tactics of hate. The outcome…haters become leaders and influencers.

It is Time to Pray

I’m sure you are like me. You love and care for the United States. You want it to be a good country, a safe place to live, a nation that values people, and will be remembered for the way it brought hope. These desires cannot be fulfilled by human effort. These longings come from a Divine call given by our Creator.

Sometimes the Almighty puts good things just beyond our reach. He does this not because he is cruel, but so we might feel helpless and humble.  It is in these moments our hearts are ready to join him and gain from him what he always wanted us to have in the first place. 

When you think of our country, do you feel helpless and humble? If so, it is a good time to pray.

How to Prepare for 2021

It has happened! 2020 is officially over. I can’t remember people ever anticipating the start of new year with so much excitement. I get it. I’m glad too.

As 2020 was ending I would hear people speak of 2021 as if all would go back to normal, but 6 days into the new year, after the violence in Washington D.C., we all discovered that “normal” is still on vacation.

One of the biggest emotional setbacks and spiritual pitfalls we can experience is when our expectations and reality are not on the same page. It happens all the time. When we get married, we imagine marital bliss, but what actually happens is morning breath. At work we believe we will find success and promotions, but what really unfolds is…well…work. When stuff like that happens, it can feel like getting punched in the gut.

Now, what is going to happen if our hopes for 2021, and what actually happens in 2021, are nowhere close to each other? What are we going to think about the purpose of it all? What feelings will we have about God being in control? Will we remain hopeful or will we become hardened and cynical?

How can our hope in God, his purposes, and his plan remain vibrant even if what we long for just doesn’t happen? Here are some things I’ve learned to help keep my expectations in check.

1. Let Biblical wisdom be your guide. Don’t let expectations for life be unrealistic. Instead, filter your expectations through what Scripture reveals about a life devoted to Christ. For instance, the Bible clearly teaches that God uses suffering to develop character (Romans 5:3-5). It also alerts us that if we are lovers of the Gospel we will eventually suffer for its causes (2 Timothy 1:8). When is the last time you left room for the possibility of suffering for good character and the causes of Christ?

If hardships come for those two noble causes can’t we fully expect some trouble in 2021 for lesser reasons? If we don’t lower our expectations and make space for letdowns, disappointments, struggles, and problems; then when they come, we will lose heart. We can prepare ourselves by realistically surveying the world we live in and declare: In this life we will have trouble, but it’s okay, because Jesus has overcome this world.

2. Learn to be content with what God has given. This doesn’t mean we don’t have goals or seek improvements. It means we learn to enjoy where we are as we pursue the objectives God has called us to chase.

Contentment is not just accepting your position and possessions. It is making sure you are in pursuit of the right things in life.

Some days life rocks. Others, it will suck. But contentment is not found in circumstances, it is discovered in pursing the good deeds God has planned for you. When the purpose of your life is on target then you are much more prone to emotionally and spiritualy survive the bumps in the road.

3. Seek to experience God’s presence in the limitations and frustrations of life. Don’t believe the lie that God only shows up in comfort, prosperity or victory. God’s presence, offered through Christ and experienced through the Holy Spirit, is available in every situation. He is there to high-five us on the mountaintop, hold us in the valley, and encourage us in the daily grind.

His presence is more of an awareness than a feeling. The awareness is fueled by knowing the promises in the Bible and living as if they are so. It is what we call faith. As we “faith” God he produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in our attitudes and actions.

Just as an orange tree does not have to grunt and sweat to produce an orange; we don’t have to work to obtain these attributes. We just live in his presence and they show up. All we do is cooperate with his leading; one day at a time.

It is not easy to have realistic, God inspired expectations. We live in a world that constantly tells us we deserve more with less problems. It is just not true.

There was Jesus by Zach Williams and Dolly Parton gives me a fresh perspective when life lets me down. I pray it will encourage you.

What the Heart Can’t do in 2021

We live in a world that can be depressing. 2020 has been a constant reminder of what can go wrong. The good news–2020 is coming to an end!

2021 is just around the corner, but something tells me plenty will still go wrong. I don’t mean to be a “downer,” but our world is just messed up. I don’t think a new year is going to extinguish all the dumpster fires of 2020.

It stinks being a realist sometimes, but I’ve learned that my realistic heart can be rejuvenated with hope if I will monitor the amount of news, social media, and headlines I consume. Bad news, social media rants, and alarming headlines will choke God’s hope from my heart. How do I know this? Look at what the Bible says: “Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content.” (Ecclesiastes 1:8)

Wearisome! That is a good word to describe what happens to the heart when it becomes addicted to (or just goes along with) a 24/7 news cycle.

If you want to keep God’s hope for our world fresh in your heart, here are 3 things you can do:

1. Don’t start or end the day watching or listening to the news. Don’t ignore what is going on in the world, but don’t let the pain, rage, and injustice of it be the first thing you swallow in the morning or the last thing you absorb before going to sleep. To keep your heart from becoming desensitized or frustrated, use one of those times (morning or evening) to read or listen to God’s Word. Use the other to do anything that does not involve hearing or watching the news.

2. Read the news more than watching or listening to it. News media outlets are designed to give the most information in the least amount of time. The brain can handle the information, but the heart can’t keep up. The heart is not designed to carry the burdens of the world so it either gets overwhelmed or gives up. Both are unhealthy. When you read the news, your brain has time to take in the facts and the heart has time to feel. No one wants a disengaged, cold, or cynical heart. Slow the chaotic information down and give your heart time to hear the voice of God in the events of our world.

3. Think globally but act locally. Keep up with the world, but don’t become so globally aware that you are no good to your local community. God knows you can’t end poverty, but you can serve the underprivileged in your neck of the woods. He knows you can’t end wars, but you can love your enemy across the street. He knows you can’t stop racial injustice, but you can become the friend of someone who has a different skin color than yours. Don’t be so burdened with the wrongs of the world that you have no energy to battle the wrongs in your neighborhood. It is in doing good where you live that you will find the hope God provides for the heart.

The human heart was not made to literally care for the whole world. Only the heart of God can do that. Don’t try to be God. Be you. The Living God created your heart, and he has given it the ability to love and care in amazing ways. Find them and your heart will be filled with the hope that only an Almighty God can give.

Good Morning by Mandisa is a song that reminds me of the hope that is available each day. I pray it puts a pep in your step and a smile on your face as we start a new year.

5 Ways to Reconnect With God

2020 has been a crazy, chaotic year! How has the madness of the last 9 months impacted your connection to God? If you are feeling it is a little strained, you are not alone. However, the promise and joy of Christmas is a great time of year to reconnect with God.

God makes it clear: If you start moving towards Him, He will move towards you (James 4:8). Here are 5 things you can do to move towards God.

1. Do something to make God proud of you.

  • The Bible calls this glorifying God. I know it sounds mystical, but it’s not. Glorifying God is keeping an attitude or doing a deed for no other reason than to please God. The Bible explains attitudes and activities that honor God. God will always loves you, but for him to be proud of you, you must practice a Biblical attitude or engage in a Biblical activity for God’s pleasure alone. It is your Christmas gift to Him expressing your desire to be closer to Him. God always receives your gifts…and beams with joy.
  • Here are some ideas to get you started: Be humble, Be grateful, Be generous, Forgive someone, Be kind/loving expecting nothing in return, Be patient

2. Build relationships with people who are committed to following Christ.

  • God dwells in people who have received the grace offered through the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Christian friendship is more than a social network. It is a spiritual connectedness that allows God’s people to give and receive God’s presence to one another in the daily routines of life. If you want to be closer to God, do life with some of His people.
  • Here are some ideas to get you started: Attend a small group, Go on a mission trip, Volunteer to be a part of a ministry team, Volunteer with other believers to meet a specific need in the community

3. Read and practice God’s Word when He speaks to you.

  • Don’t just read the Bible. Read it and then practice what you read. It is completely okay to read a good devotional publication when reading the Bible (just don’t skip reading the actual Bible verses). If you are not familiar with the Bible, I actually encourage you to use a devotional. Reading a devotional with the Bible is a great way to understanding what God is saying to you. Just don’t act like He didn’t say something. Act on it. God hugs the obedient not the stagnant.
  • Here are some good devotional publications: Our Daily Bread (odb.org), The Bible App (bible.com), navigators.org, The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For by Rick Warren, The One Year Uncommon Life Daily Challenge by Tony Dungy

4. Develop a habit of serving others into your life routine.

  • Basically, this means too intentionally and habitually serve others for the purpose of expressing God’s love to them. If you have received God’s grace, God’s love resides in you. The best way for you to experience more of His love is to sacrificially and unconditionally share it with someone else. Fortunately, there are literally thousands of ways to serve someone else, and those opportunities pop up like crazy during the Christmas season. Feel free to be creative, but remember—it must be sacrificial, unconditional, and for the purpose of sharing God’s love.
  • Here are some ideas to get started: host a small group in your home, volunteer to serve children or students at a local church, serve the homeless, help refugees in your area, use a skill or talent you possess to help the local church

5. Expand God’s Influence by sharing your faith in Jesus

  • If God is moving your life, tell someone. If God has answered a prayer, tell someone. If someone in your circle is afraid, discouraged, or feeling hopeless; tell them how your relationship with God through Jesus helped you when you felt that way. Don’t have reservations about telling others how the living God is encouraging you, empowering you, or directing your life. God shows up when we sincerely share with others our encounters with Him.
  • Here are some ideas to get started: Pray with someone after listening to them share their trouble, Share your favorite faith based song with a friend and explain to them why the lyrics encourage you, Explain to someone the real meaning of Jesus’ birth, Tell someone how you came know Jesus, Financially support and pray for a ministry or missionary who is telling others about Jesus

Here is the most important piece of advice I can give you as you move to reconnect with God: Don’t try to do all 5 of these activities at the same time. Pick one and move towards God.

Let me know what happens.

Little Drummer Boy by King & Country has become one of my favorite Christmas songs. May it give you some joy in the journey.

Merry Christmas!

Finding Peace in The Vote

As a follower of Christ, I am not completely comfortable with either political party or the candidates they have nominated to be president of the United States. When I think of voting in 2020, my mind goes to this ancient text:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance…If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt…[the doubter] should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. 

“IN ALL THEY DO”—I think this includes voting.

WHY DO WE NEED GOD’S WISDOM TO VOTE?

We need God’s wisdom because that which is morally wrong cannot be politically correct. Voting in 2020 requires Believers to support a candidate and political platform that is promoting ideas and behaviors that are morally wrong. Neither mainstream candidate, or the platforms they represent, are 100% morally correct. Both parties have policies that are morally wrong; and, they have nominated candidates that have very public moral failures, character deficits, and evil ideas cloaked in stumping points that are communicated as “good for the majority of people.”

We need God’s wisdom when voting because all sin is equally wrong, but the consequences for specific sins are not equal. The consequence for cowardice is different than the consequence for arrogance. The consequence for sexual immorality is different than the consequence for a deceptive heart that has wicked schemes. The consequence for sowing discord is different than the consequence for shedding innocent blood. The consequence for speaking lies is different than the consequence for purposely lying about someone to deceive people. I could go on, but I think you get the point. 

We need God’s wisdom when voting for 2020’s presidential candidates because we are not just choosing between personalities, platforms, and promised policies. We are choosing between the consequences of what is morally wrong that they have made politically correct. When Jesus followers begin to justify what is morally wrong in any candidate claiming that it is for the better good of everyone, we become the double-minded, unstable person. 

We need God’s wisdom when voting because by-and-large, God’s people are terrified of offending someone by talking about Christ in an election year. However, it does not seem to bother us to offend someone with our political views, and in the process, destroy our credibility to share the hope of the Gospel with them. 

Believers need God’s wisdom when voting because in America when we choose a candidate, we must be committed to opposing the evil that candidate will promote as good. This is not hypocrisy. It is voting with our eyes wide open because our loyalty is to the King of Kings.

Finding Peace

Naaman, the leading general in the Aram Empire, had  defeated and enslaved God’s people. He had leprosy. A Jewish slave girl he had acquired to serve his wife, told him the God of Israel could heal him. She advised him to go to the prophet Elisha and seek his help. To keep the story short, God healed Naaman because he humbled himself and obeyed the Lord’s instructions given through Elisha. As a result, he wanted to pay the prophet and Elisha would have known of that.

Look closely at Naaman’s words and request to Elisha as he prepares to go back to Aram:

“I will never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the Lord. But may the Lord forgive me for this one thing: When my king enters the temple of Rimmon to bow down…I have to bow there also—when I bow down…may the Lord forgive me for this.”

Naaman knows who is God. He has just declared his loyalty to him, but he also knows that he lives in a culture and a system that asks him to kneel before idols. He wants to know if God will forgive him for this. Doesn’t this feel like voting?

Elisha responds with 3 words: “Go in peace.” He does not scratch where Naaman is itching. He neither condones or condemns what Naaman confesses.

What does this say to me? No matter who I vote for, they will bow to idols that I do not kneel to.  Does this make me a hypocrite? Does this mean it is okay for me to vote for someone knowing this will happen?

Elisha’s response reveals this is a valid concern, but not something that needed to be answered in that moment. It as if God is saying, “Go in peace knowing that if you are going to follow Christ there will be conflict.”

The impending conflict will be dealt with at the appropriate time. Until then, go in peace.

It is with this in mind, I will go vote. I encourage you to do the same. 

Can You See It?

When I dream of the International Welcome Center (IWC), I see an organization where the love of God is brought to life through people who have been empowered to love their neighbor. I see people who love God acting most like God would act. I see Americans being the very best America can be. 

I see a place where persons of different origins and cultures, different languages and colors,  different customs and religions, are accepted. They are not accepted out of pity, but because of their value and diversity and knowledge. I see a place a where those who serve the foreigner find their own worth not in what they have to offer, but in their capacity to bear the burden of another. To give to a stranger until that stranger becomes a friend.

I see a place where xenophobia is not allowed to exist because faith in the Almighty has pushed it out. I see American citizens coming alongside someone who has fled from death and disease, genocide and political tyranny, ethnic cleansing and civil war to find the healing of a caring nation. A nation willing to give them a new start, build a new home, and walk them down the path of citizenship. 

I see a place where selfishness takes a back seat to advocacy. A place where vulnerable foreigners are seen as valuable people. A place where the advocate takes up the cause of another to empower them and in the process discovers their own humanity.

I see a place where racism is overcome with affection motivated by love. A place where a different color of skin is an invitation—not a reservation. A place where diversity is the new normal building a stronger community instead of it being a wall that builds segregated clusters of people.

I see the IWC as part of a modern day fulfillment to an ancient prophecy. At the end of time when humanity has run its course, Jesus explained he would divide the human race into two groups: those who loved him and those who did not.

How will he know who loved him from those who cared nothing for him? He explained: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.

Those to whom Jesus will be speaking will respond: “When did we see you hungry or thirsty? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in? When did we see you needing clothes? When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?”

Then Jesus explains, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one fo the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” 

I imagine in that great moment Jesus pointing to the strangers who came from all over the world to live in our neighborhoods. I imagine the family that escaped religious purging in Afghanistan and the single mom with fatherless children who survived the civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I imagine the survivors of ethnic cleansing in Nepal who carry the guilt of surviving and those who live with PTSD because they endured unspeakable violence in Iraq. I imagine in that moment those of us who never endured such tragedy will see in full the losses they lived through and our hearts will finally understand.

In that great moment, I imagine the pride and joy of the Almighty for his people. Those humans, motivated by a love for Jesus, who embraced those strangers even though they had no way to fully understand them. I imagine laughter at the misunderstanding different cultures and languages produced. I imagine big tears and huge smiles as those who helped the stranger begin to understand just how much they helped. I believe those who funded the work, gave themselves, or donated time, energy, skills, or items will finally understand the full impact of their generosity.

You and I have an opportunity to be a part of that moment. We can fulfill a prophecy today few on earth will notice. Even fewer will care, but it will not go unnoticed in eternity. It will not be overlooked by the Great Lover of Souls.

I realize people who have visions can be crazy. Honestly, as God placed this dream in my heart, I wondered if I was crazy; but I began to share the idea. First, I shared it with the Elders of GBC. They didn’t think it was crazy. I then shared it with other Godly men and women. They didn’t think it was crazy. I have now shared the idea with hundreds of people. No one has said it is crazy. Ultimately, I have shared it with you.

Will you support the IWC? Will you help the stranger today? Will you embrace this opportunity?

Here are 3 ways to learn how you can support the stranger that has become your neighbor:

  • Discover how the IWC is helping the foreigner by visiting the IWC website
  • Consider volunteering to help a refugee or immigrant
  • Register for “Home for the Holidays” – a virtual fundraiser with Joe Theismann on Dec. 9

Clarity in Chaos

When COVID hit the scene, I began writing a Word of Encouragement. It was a way for me to stay connected and encourage the partners, guests, and friends of Grace Bible Church while in lockdown. When GBC opened back up, I continued to write weekly emails and posts.

I enjoy writing. I also enjoy the feedback from those who have gained something from my efforts. I will continue to write, but I am postponing the weekly Word of Encouragement until January so I can put more energy into pursuing the development of the International Welcome Center.

God has given me a burden and placed a passion in my heart to see the IWC become a light for our Lord and a force for good in our community. I cannot carry this burden or flesh out this passion and continue to write a Word of Encouragement. Time simply will not permit it, but it is more than just a time issue.

I started writing a Word of Encouragement to strengthen people during a difficult season. I pray that happened. I will continue to build up the body of Christ through my preaching, writing, attitude, and lifestyle; but part of what God has called me to do through the IWC is to motivate people to respond to a great need.

As I think about the purpose of the IWC, I am reminded of all the evils it pushes against: racism, inequality, xenophobia, illegal immigration, poverty, selfishness and ignorance. Many of these evils are the monsters taking swipes at our nation’s moral compass.

The IWC provides an opportunity for local people (me and you) to confront national evils. It gives us the chance to be a part of the solution instead of just being frustrated about all the problems. It opens doors for individuals to impact their neighbors and overcome darkness with the love, compassion, and courage of Christ. It builds bridges so the hope of the Gospel can be shared.

Few organizations provide you with an opportunity to impact society on an individual, local, and national level; but the IWC does. Few organizations will allow you to build God’s kingdom, make your city a better place, help a wounded family start over, and personally follow Christ; but the IWC does. When you and I support the IWC,…

  • It allows us to put to flesh the ancient command to “not mistreat the foreigner who resides among you” and “to love them as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:33-34)
  • It provides a relevant opportunity to “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31)
  • We fulfill Jesus’ words when he said, “I was stranger and you invited me in.” (Matthew 25:35)

You and I have before us the opportunity to live out the teachings of both the Old and New Testaments in a world that is embracing the idea that God is distant. That He is not speaking. That He does not care. We can prove them wrong. We can show them the relevancy and power of following the teachings of the Bible. Who knows what would happen locally and nationally if a group of Christ followers said, 

  • “I will push back against racism with kindness to someone whose skin color is not my own.”
  • “I will take steps to close the inequality gap by advocating for those looking for an opportunity to pursue more.”
  • “I will prove I am not xenophobic by becoming the friend of a foreigner.”
  • “I will become a part of the solution in immigration issue by helping someone become a citizen.”
  • “I will stand against poverty by being generous.”
  • “I will starve my own selfishness by taking an interest in others.”
  • “I will listen, learn and love so ignorance does not lead me.”

We don’t have to be swept away by the chaos and confusion of our times. We don’t have to be be suspicious, confused, or frustrated with the foreigners, neighbors, and strangers among us. We can be a part of something God is doing.

The IWC needs $425,000 to build an office and classrooms. For the next 3 months I will be using the time and energy I spent writing a Word of Encouragement to follow God in meeting this need. My hope is that you will support me and join me in this effort.

Here are 2 things you can do right now:

  • Pray for God to provide donors for the IWC.
  • Register to watch “Home for the Holidays” – a virtual fundraising event for the IWC

I will be sharing more with you as the weeks unfold. Native Tongue by Switchfoot helps me remember the importance of the IWC.

Exhausted & Satisfied

So Ruth gathered barley there all day, and when she beat out the grain that evening, it filled an entire basket.She carried it back into town and showed it to her mother-in-law. Ruth also gave her the roasted grain that was left over from her meal. —Ruth 2:17-18

The relationship between Boaz and Ruth is picture of the relationship we can have with God through Christ. This fact can never leave our mind as we consider the implications of what is recorded in this part of Scripture. Ruth received the opportunities Boaz’s grace provided, but then she did something that proved her uncommon humility:

Ruth gathered barley…beat out the grain…carried it back to town…gave her [mother-in-law] roasted grain…

After encountering and receiving Boaz’s unworldly kindness and extreme generosity, Ruth went to work. She did not have an arrogant, privileged, or entitled attitude. She did not think or behave like…I knew my good looks would get his attention…I knew my loyalty to Naomi would pay off…He is wealthy so he should help me…I am poor and underprivileged and deserve some pity. 

Ruth sweated. All day. Even though she was noticed by the wealthy landowner, she did not expect any special treatment. She worked the field and was grateful for the opportunity to labor. How do we know this?

She gathered grain all day without complaining. She did not ask anyone to beat out her grain. She did not batt her eyes and use female charm to sucker some poor fellow into carrying her bags back to town. She freely shared with Naomi what had been offered to her. 

From a horizontal view, divine grace looks like an undeserved handout with no strings attached. For all practical purposes many religious people treat God’s grace this way. We would never say it that way, but we behave that way. We begin to think, feel, and act as though we deserve grace because God is gracious. When this happens, grace becomes a privilege we flaunt or a license we use to sin. 

From a vertical view, God’s grace is undeserved kindness motivated by unconditional love. Few people ever grasp the magnitude of grace, but the ones who do are easy to find. After receiving divine grace, they work. Not out of obligation or hope for an easier life, but out of deep gratitude for the One who noticed them when they had nothing worth noticing. 

Ruth, after receiving Boaz’s attention and generosity, went home exhausted and satisfied willing to share with others what she had freely received. I know many religious people who are exhausted, but they are not satisfied. I know many who are fatigued with their good works, but they are selfish with their blessings. Why is this? Because it is possible to work and never experience grace. When it happens, it leaves us worn out and self-centered. 

I’ve noticed those who have truly received grace work hard on their character, their Godly lifestyle, and their generous attitude. I would dare say, most who have truly received God’s grace need a spiritual nap, but they are reluctant to do so because they have been so overwhelmed by God’s kindness motivated by his unconditional love that was offered to them. 

What about you? Has God’s grace changed your work ethic (and I’m not talking about your career or chores)? Has the miracle of grace made it next to impossible for you to stop working the opportunities offered to you? Can you find yourself in Ruth?

The Goodness of God by Bethel Music and Jenn Johnson is a great song for the journey. Check it out.

God Sees You First

Boaz asked his foreman, “Who is that young woman over there?…the foreman replied, “She is the young woman from Moab who came back with Naomi…Boaz went over and said to Ruth, “Listen, my daughter. Stay right here with us when you gather grain; don’t go to any other fields.—Ruth 2:5-8

People have a difficult time relating to God. I realize some have grown so disenchanted with the idea of God that they are no longer even trying, but most people have a God-sized emptiness in their life they are trying to fill, even if they don’t know it. 

Two common misconceptions about God misguide us in our efforts to relate to him. 

  1. We believe if we behave well and do good God will meet us and bless us. This misguided idea is built on a performance based relationship. It is true—we can have euphoric feelings and chest-bumping pride when we behave better than what is expected, follow a religious rule, or display better-than-average morality; but God’s love and favors are not based on our performance as a human. 
  2. Unfortunately, many religious people are convinced, if they posses the right belief system, God is obligated to relate to them. This comes from a sense of entitlement. I believe therefore God must relate to me and bless me. The underlying thought is, “God owes it to me because I believe the right stuff about him.” God cares what we believe, but he does not need our beliefs to relate to us. He is God. He can show up or remain hidden. He does not answer to his creation. 

Boaz went over and said to Ruth…

This is a picture of how God approaches people. 

Boaz approached Ruth. She did not introduce herself to Boaz. The rich land owner was not obligated to meet her. The needy immigrant had no right to converse with Boaz. Why did the introduction take place?

God, the Creator, owes us nothing. As needy, fallen creatures we have nothing to offer him that he needs. Why would he come to us?

Here is a secret to the inner life: We don’t find God—he moves towards us. It is called grace. The Holy One, the Almighty, the Lover of Souls—he comes to us first. We don’t approach him. 

It was Boaz who noticed Ruth. It was Boaz who took the initiative to speak to Ruth. It was Boaz who freely offered Ruth what she needed. She needed grace. She needed someone to see her and care. Someone to not hold her past against her. To give her a voice. To offer her a future she did not deserve. To extend an opportunity she could not earn. God’s grace does all of that and more for us. 

One of our human struggles is assuming that we deserve opportunity because we exist. Another is believing that we are entitled to blessings because we prop God up with our beliefs and morality. Ruth was doing the best she could with the strength she had. It was here that Boaz approached her.

God is still in the business of approaching people, but it is the humble, broken person who is extended grace first. God will not waste the opportunities grace offers on those looking to make bargains. He does not extend the future grace provides to those who feel entitled to it. God gives proud skeptics a cold shoulder, but if we are down on our luck, he is right there to help.*

Quit trying to bargain with God. Stop attempting to believe him into blessing you. Be you. Work with what you have. Humble yourself. Wait. He will approach you and extend grace

I Need a Miracle by Third Day is a song that reminds me I need God’s grace. May it do the same for you.

* Proverbs 3:34 from The Message

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