Invisible benefits

“I know that my redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand on the earth.”

Job 19:25 (NIV)

After going to a neighborhood concert alone, as I was walking back to the public garage, I noticed that all the people walking to that same garage, were couples. For a brief moment I felt a little strange being the only one, walking alone. 

In my mind, I said to Jesus, “I know you’re with me, even though I can’t see you, and I also know that you’re all the man I need in my life, but at times like this, it would be nice to have a man walking beside me.” 

I then felt that Jesus answered me through a thought, saying,

“I am walking beside you.” 

I realized that my desire for someone to walk beside me at that moment, was more for external appearances, rather than my true need. I started thinking about the invisible blessings that God gives us, which exceed the visible ones. 

All good things are not limited to what we can see with our eyes. There are many benefits and blessings given to us who believe, which are not visible to us in this life.

Peace is not something we see with our eyes, and its effects are rarely evident throughout the world today, yet each of us who believes and trusts in God, can have His peace within us. Peace may not be something we can touch, but we can definitely know it and feel its effect. In the eye of our storm, we have peace because it comes through a person, Jesus.

Faith, love, hope and joy, are not tangible things that we can see with our eyes, yet they are very real, but invisible effects of the fruits of God’s Spirit dwelling in us. 

We each have a personal guardian angel, who has been with us since birth, constantly looking out for our safety and our salvation. Although we don’t see our angel, it is another invisible blessing sent by God to benefit us during our entire lifetime.

We experience the benefits of these invisible gifts and many more, which makes a huge difference in how we cope with all situations of life, that test our faith. If we make a habit of depending only on what we can see around us, we will become discouraged. Our true and lasting happiness in this life depends on trusting in the many invisible benefits that we receive every day. 

When Job lost his entire family, all his crops, his livestock and everything he owned in one day, his response was, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and at last he will stand upon the earth.” 

Job never visibly saw God, but he found his consolation in his invisible God, calling Him “my Redeemer.”

Even after he lost every visible thing this life can offer, his faith and hope was grounded in the One he couldn’t see, but knew as his Redeemer. 

There is a kind of knowing that transcends the intellect. It doesn’t require a degree or an education. No one else can persuade or convince us, because it’s a revelation of grace and a blessed assurance that resides within us. It is possible through Jesus, for us to know and say with the fortitude and conviction of Job,

“I know that my Redeemer lives.”

Jesus told us, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.”

(John 14:23)

Note that Jesus promised that “we”, not He, will dwell in us. That’s how Jesus works, as a Trinity, a team with His Father and the Holy Spirit. 

We believe that God is a Trinity, even though the word “Trinity” doesn’t exist anywhere in the entire Bible. We believe it because it’s one of many invisible truths of the faith, founded by Jesus, passed on through the ages, and evidenced by hints of what He said in the gospels.

The more we learn of His benefits and His attributes, the more beautiful our invisible God becomes. 

Lord, make us all aware today that we are blessed with so many invisible benefits of faith in you. Thank you for walking beside us, and we worship you, knowing that our Redeemer lives forever. Amen


Lessons of Mary and Martha

“Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.”

The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.

There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

Luke 10:40-42 (NAB)

There has always been debate and different opinions in interpreting this gospel story of these two sisters. Some say both were right, Martha was actively serving Jesus, Mary was sitting at His feet, adoring Him, and both are necessary. 

Another interpretation that I’ve heard is that it’s about the sisters’ different attitudes. Martha was serving Jesus, but over burdened and stressed out. Mary abandoned all other things in order to spend time sitting peacefully before the Lord, listening to Him in adoration and worship. 

Sone interpret this story to mean that our labors mean nothing. Instead of taking one scripture out of one gospel and forming an opinion, we look at all of the gospels, and see what can be learned from the bigger picture. 

When Jesus told Martha she is too anxious about many things, He wasn’t saying that service and labor are not as meaningful as worship. In fact, He told us that there is a great need for more laborers in His Father’s harvest. (Matthew 9:38)

The key to understanding these two sisters is to understand which one’s behavior comes first. 

Our personal time in adoration of Jesus comes before our service and labor for Him. 

This is a very busy time of year, and  everyone feels a bit of Martha’s anxiety. We were all meant to do both; to serve God and to worship Him. Jesus said Mary chose the better choice, maybe because one has to precede the other. In being more like Mary, spending time alone with Jesus, we also become better servants, by doing so without the anxiety that Martha worked under. 

One of my favorite lay speakers once said:

“Lord, help us to be more like Mary so that we don’t have to work like Martha.” (Chris Stefanik)

He didn’t mean that we shouldn’t work at all, but that there is a proper order to follow, in order to work with fulness of joy, and not with the anxiety that Martha had. 

Adoring Jesus first, prepares us to serve Him, and not vice versa. I’ve found that if I spend time with Him first each day, then my labor is done with joy, not anxiety. 

Martha thought Mary was completely wasting her time, sitting at Jesus’ feet, while she was doing all the work. Martha finally complained, asking Jesus to tell Mary to help her. The difference between the sisters is that Martha wanted Jesus to talk to someone else, but Mary wanted Jesus to talk to her. Jesus saw Martha’s anxiety and told her that Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken from her. 

That was an interesting way to end the sentence, saying that the better part will not be taken away from her. Maybe Jesus was warning Martha that we can lose ourselves in our labors, even when our labors are for Him. Hospitality and serving Jesus is valuable, but we need Mary’s hunger to have Him talk to us. It is one of the treasures that last eternally and cannot be taken from us. Spending time with Him in prayer and worship will never be a waste of time, because it prepares us for eternity. 

Lord, help us to follow Mary in choosing to first spend time with you, so that we may serve you without anxiety. Bless our quiet time with you as well as our labors, which are all for your honor and glory. Amen 


Beyond what we ask or think

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us.”

Ephesians 3:20 (NASB)

One year I ordered custom tree ornaments as gifts, which had the above scripture verse printed on them. It’s the most hopeful phrase in the Bible, “beyond what we ask or think…” it’s a phrase packed with hope, reminding us that God can and  will always exceed our expectations.

I can see how God is doing this in my own life, but it’s also inspiring to remember all the stories in scripture where God went beyond what anyone thought or asked for. We should not be surprised that He still does it today because He is the same God. 

He went beyond what the Israelites thought or asked for, when He parted the sea for them to walk through. He went beyond what Joshua thought or asked for, when He made the walls of Jericho crumble into the earth. He went beyond what Mary and Martha ever thought or asked for, when Jesus called their deceased brother back to life, right out of his tomb. 

God’s greatest example of doing beyond what we could ever think or ask for, was when He took on human flesh. Jesus not only chose to live among all kinds of people, revealing God’s love for them, but He also offered Himself for all, as the sacrificial Lamb of God. No one could imagine such a free gift or the magnitude of such love. Many people still don’t believe it, since it’s not what anyone would ever think or expect. 

I received an unexpected gift when I visited my son in the Nursing Facility last Friday. As I met his nursing assistant, Al, in the hallway, he cheerfully told me that as he was shaving Jon, he spoke and said to Al, “Don’t shave me.” 

What? I could hardly believe that he talked, much less, said something that even made logical sense after being unresponsive for over two months. After a depressed skull fracture, which seriously injured his brain’s speech area, how could he speak? It is beyond what I ever thought could happen. 

I asked Jon a few questions, and he moved his mouth, saying words, but spoke so softly, that I couldn’t understand what he said. Still, the fact that he is attempting to speak, and that Al heard him speak clearly, is encouraging. He also has a strong left arm that pushes anyone away who tries to do anything for him.

So, some progress has been made in trying to speak. He moves 3 out of 4 very strong limbs. He is grouchy and uncooperative, but it’s still better than being comatose and unresponsive.

We all have different levels of faith, while we try to believe God to move the mountains in our lives. Sometimes when we are unable to gather enough faith to believe, God, in His mercy, just steps in and makes things happen. 

I believe God wants to show us that whatever we think or ask for, He is going to surpass it, far beyond our expectations. We may be at a turning point in our faith, and God is ready to step in and do something that we haven’t thought of, or even asked for. That’s how God works. 

He is the same God today, and He can part any sea and crumble every wall. He will still speak life to people, calling them out of a tomb, to live the rest of their life with resurrection power.

Lord, I pray that you inspire each reader today, to know that you have much more for us than we have ever thought or asked for. We thank you for all you’ve done and continue to do in our lives. Amen


Jesus the light of the world

“Even darkness is not dark to You,
And the night is as bright as the day.
Darkness and light are alike to You.

Psalm 139:12 (NASB)

God has always been the light of the world, but it was through His Son, born as an infant, to live as a man among us, who brought the light of God to the whole world. He opened the door for all of us to have access to God, the Father. Before that, our sin was a barrier between us and God. All who receive His atonement and abide in Him, are walking in His light. It may seem at times in our lives, that we are in darkness, but His light is always with us and in us.

For God, the darkness and light are alike to Him. He created the sun and moon for our sake. In heaven there is no need for sun or moon, because Heaven is always brightly lit from the illuminating presence of God. (Revelation 21:23)

We hear so much about Jesus being the light of the world, but I think it’s easy to roll right past that phrase and miss a deeper meaning that God is trying to reveal. 

If we are trusting in Jesus, He brings us into His light, and we no longer dwell in darkness. Dwelling in darkness means not knowing which way to turn. It means trying to navigate which way to go, like searching for the door in a dark room. Jesus said “I am the way,” and He also said “I am the door.” 

When we feel we are in a dark place, He is our door and shows us the way, as He readily holds our hand. 

Today, I am thinking of when He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” 

(John 8:12)

Jesus said whoever follows Him will have the gift of walking in His light. Since He is the light, He lights up our dark paths and navigates for us. He holds our hand and walks us through the door and His light brings us warmth and comfort, even in the worst situations. Our access to all these benefits comes through the blood of His cross. He was sent as God’s gift to us, and a gift is ours when it is received.

In 2006 I was working in a hospital, with a group of neurosurgeons, a team of four brilliant, honest and good men. I had been in my eighth year of working with them in surgery, at the time. I remember I had a 

“Coworker prayer list of names”, and I used to pray regularly for these surgeons, as well as any doctors and coworkers who were a part of my daily work routine. 

Every year there was a neurosurgical resident who did his residency under the instruction and supervision of this team of surgeons. I vaguely remember the young residents, since they all came and went over a period of months, but I do know that they all learned from the best.

In September of this year, I received the news that my adult son was in a serious motorcycle accident on a highway, in the suburb he lived in.

He suffered a skull fracture on the left side, with bleeding on both sides of his brain. The neurosurgeon on call for the hospital that day, carefully removed the blood as well as the bone that was embedded in the left side of Jon’s brain. 

This all took place in a hospital 20 miles away, where the accident occurred. The surgeon on call who did his surgery was the same man who did his residency in 2006, at my hospital, who learned from the surgeon team that I knew and worked with. Seventeen years later, that resident was now a surgeon who practiced in his own group, but he was the only one in his group, who trained under the surgeons I worked with for 25 years. 

I don’t think it was a coincidence that he was the one on call that day. In the middle of such traumatic events, God was shining His light in the darkness, through the timing of having that surgeon on call for that hospital, that day. After surgery, he told me that he was surprised Jon did as well as he did. He didn’t expect much, since upon arrival, it didn’t look like Jon would make it through surgery. 

The light overpowers the darkness, and whatever we do to abide in God’s light, will come back to shine for us according to God’s perfect timing. For God, there is no darkness, and if we keep following Him, we’ll discover that He has been shining His light on us, even during those times that seem very dark. 

Jon woke up from a coma two weeks later, his pupils are reactive, and he moves 3 out of 4 limbs. He is currently awake but not responsive, and living in a nursing facility twenty minutes from my home, with a long road for recovery. It’s not a dark road though, because Jesus has been shining His light of hope and faith in everything from the start. 

In whatever kind of darkness we feel we are in, the light of Jesus is shining. If we keep investing our hope and trust in Him, we will reap the benefit of His light shining for us just when we need it most. For God there is no darkness, only light, and when we follow Jesus, we will never walk in darkness, but have His light shining in our life. 

Lord, help us all to follow you, and to know that your light is shining on us. We thank you and put all our trust in you, the light of the world, who has opened the door of our access to God, through the blood of your cross. Amen


Perfecter of our faith

“Therefore, since we also have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let’s rid ourselves of every obstacle and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let’s run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking only at Jesus, the originator and perfecter of the faith.”

Hebrews 12:1-2 (NASB)

The Christmas season can be sad for some who have recently lost loved ones or are experiencing any type of loss. Even if it didn’t happen recently, this season has a way of rekindling the memories of relationships or lives of people we’ve lost.

The Christian life is compared to running a race. We are told to throw off everything that hinders us, so we can run freely. It’s easy to be distracted, entangled or weighed down by sorrows, losses or offenses suffered. I’ve learned that whatever is encumbering our race of faith, if we don’t throw it off, we end up wearing it like a heavy leaded garment. A heavily burdened and encumbered runner easily loses sight of the finish line. 

One morning, as I was walking my dog, and looking at the holiday decor on each home, I started thinking about how sad Christmas must be for some who have lost loved ones. I found myself taking a count of my own losses. I summarized in my mind, how in four years, I lost my husband and two long time friends, followed by my adult son’s tragic and disabling motorcycle accident. 

I found myself counting my sorrows and then I asked the Lord what He has to say about all this. The Holy Spirit’s answer came to me, 

“Don’t wear your losses, celebrate your blessings.” I realized I was wearing all my losses at that moment, which weighed me down, when I could be celebrating the lives of those I’ve lost, as well as the many new friends that the Lord brought into my life. Just being inspired to write a meditation each day is another blessing that I celebrate as well. 

Today’s scripture is telling us to throw off all that weighs us down, in order to persevere in running the race. Overthinking sorrow and grief can hinder and entangle us, because we end up walking around, wearing our losses like a heavy leaded garment. 

We are meant to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. Anyone who has run in a marathon knows that their focus should be toward the finish line, not on what is happening along the side lines. The Christian life is a race of perseverance, keeping our focus all the way to the finish line. 

It’s an interesting thing about life; whatever trial we are facing, we will get through it, one step at a time. Whatever we’ve lost, whatever offenses we’ve suffered, instead of wearing our sorrows like a lead garment, we trade them in to Jesus in exchange for His rest, joy and peace that only He can give. 

One day in the future, we will look back and wonder how we made it through certain trials. Jesus invited everyone saying, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” 

(Matthew 11:28) 

It’s not a one time thing, we have to keep bringing our burdens to Him, and through it all, Jesus adds a little more perfection to our faith, through every trial we go through. 

I have received a special blessing from every lost loved one, and I celebrate their lives, and how they’ve enriched mine. Jesus is leading a great cloud of witnesses in heaven, who are looking down upon us, and cheering us on, all the way to the finish line. We make heaven rejoice when we continue to run, with perseverance, throwing off anything that hinders us. Jesus lightens every burden and gives us His joy and peace, along with an added spring in our step while we run this race.

Lord, remind each of us to throw off whatever is weighing us down today, and to celebrate every blessing in our lives, and we thank you for being the originator and perfecter of our faith. Amen


Jesus seated on our throne

“…. but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.”

1 Peter 3:15 (NAB)

When Christ is sanctified in our hearts, He is set apart and treated as sacred. In other words, He is enthroned on our heart. Only Kings sit on thrones, so when we give Jesus the throne of our hearts, He reigns in every part of our lives, making us want to talk about the hope that is within us. Jesus said that whatever comes out of our mouths comes from our heart.  (Matthew 15:18)

The throne of our heart is never empty. If Jesus isn’t sitting on it, someone or something else will be. Once He is given His rightful place, on that throne, our words will naturally reflect that hope, which is why Peter tells the church to be ready at all times, to give an explanation of the hope that is within us. We each have our own unique story of hope to tell.

Jonathan Roumie, who plays Jesus, in the Chosen movie series, has told his personal story.  It started when he was completely broke, after getting an acting part here and there, but barely able to pay his bills. He once had a small part in a soap opera as well as in a few sitcoms up to that point, but he was basically broke. 

One day, he was at a breaking point and dropped to his knees in his tiny apartment, in Queens, NY. He totally surrendered his life to Jesus at that moment, and something mystical happened, which changed his life. In that moment of prayer and surrender, his worry over financial needs was replaced with a new and unexplained sense of peace. 

After that, he went out and spent his last twenty dollars on a big breakfast, leaving all financial concerns in God’s hands. When he got home, he found four unexpected checks in his mailbox, which paid all his bills. A few months later, he got a call from Dallas Jenkins, the director and co-writer of “The Chosen” movie series. He was cast as Jesus in that series and just finished season four, to be released this February.

Roumie, half Egyptian and half Irish, portrays a middle eastern looking Jesus, who is so down to earth, friendly and lovable, that everyone who has seen the movie series, is drawn to him. The way he portrays Jesus is like no other film actor ever has. The series has touched many people, and even led to conversions. His portrayal of Jesus in this movie series is similar to the effect of a living icon. Art and media have always been the creative gifts and tools given by God, to help bring us all closer to our faith.

 Roumie not only plays the role of Jesus, but he has his own personal relationship with Jesus, and is ready to talk about his faith to any media representatives who interview him. 

The fruits of our faith are shared with others through a demeanor of peace, love, and joy. It is also expressed in how we live and show acts of kindness towards others. 

Still, there comes a time or a situation that requires our words by sharing our own personal story, explaining the reason for our hope. Today’s scripture refers to our readiness to give that explanation to those who ask us. 

I experienced this when I was 19, after surrendering my life to Jesus. I received His forgiveness and was completely delivered from an obsession with any and all possible forms of the occult. 

I knew I received amazing grace, but I had no idea that it showed on my face, until one day I was walking home, and a neighbor drove by and actually pulled his car over and asked me,

“Why do you look so different?” I was surprised by his question, but I readily told him how I had recently surrendered my life to Jesus.

I had no idea that my external image could reflect what was happening within my soul.  Anyway, that was the first of several opportunities I had to give an explanation of the hope that was within me. We never know how God will use that explanation to change another person’s life.

Sometimes that opportunity comes when we least feel like talking. Paul also wrote to Timothy about this subject. He told him to be ready, whether in season or out, to  speak about and encourage others in the faith, with great patience. 

(1 Timothy 4:2) 

Being ready in season or out of season means that even when things are not going as we would like, or out of season, we can always give an account of the hope that is within us. Whatever our current life situation is, whether in season or out, Jesus is still seated on the throne of our hearts. Since He never changes, our hope is unchanged, and that’s the hope we share with others.

Lord Jesus, we sanctify you and invite you to sit on the throne of our hearts. Help us to be ready to share the hope that is within us, whether it is in season or out of season, so that our mouths will always bring glory to you. Amen


God’s perfect timing

“He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority.”

Acts 1:7 (NAB)

It may not be for us to know, but God has times and seasons established for everything. Our birth, our death, who we meet, and every person that crosses our path during our lives. It’s not necessary to know everything that God has planned but it’s good to know that He has a perfect time for all things. Therefore, it’s worthwhile to pray and ask for His timing in everything we do. The times of our lives are in His hands.

I have discovered a simple, but impactful prayer to pray before I leave the house each day. I say, “Lord, let your perfect timing be done in everything today.”

When I prayed this in the past, interesting things happened, like the day I went to the bank to submit guardianship papers for my disabled son, Jon. As I was telling the bank official about Jon’s condition since his motorcycle accident, a total stranger walked over to tell me that she was going to pray for my son, and then asked his name in order to add him to her regular prayers. 

It’s amazing what happens when you ask for God’s perfect timing. I have been taking a  20 mile drive each week, to pick up Jon’s mail which goes to a mailbox at a UPS store in Lake County where he once lived. Before I left the house for the trip this week, I prayed “ Lord, let your perfect timing be done in everything today.”

I walked into the UPS store and when I asked the clerk for his mail, he asked me how Jon was doing. We talked for a few minutes and he shared with me his own situation of being guardian for his adult son, with autism. Then he paused, took my hand in his and said with all sincerity, that he would be praying for my son. 

Who runs into total strangers like this, that go out of their way in a public place, to pause from their own routine, to tell me that they are going to pray for my son? 

It happens through the intervention of God, and He chooses to work through people.

It’s kind of mind blowing but when we pray according to His will, why wouldn’t God act on our behalf. Asking God for His perfect timing is equal to asking for His will to be done, which is essentially how Jesus taught us to pray. I believe God wants to be invited into every aspect of our lives. It is a way for Him to manifest His presence through others. He arranges the timing and places to have a particular person behind the counter, or in a facility at the right time, to use them to express His compassion toward us. 

If we tune in and look for His signs all around us, and if we watch and wait for His goodness, we will find Him. He speaks to us through others, but we will know it’s God speaking to us, by the perfect timing. There are no coincidences, because when we ask, we will receive.

When Jesus spoke today’s scripture, He was responding to questions He was asked about end time events. We know that God has established times and seasons for all things. Jesus told the disciples, it isn’t necessary to know about all of God’s timing, but we can find confidence and comfort by trusting Him for perfect timing in our lives, one day at a time. To ask one day at a time is like asking for His daily bread, which Jesus also taught us to pray for. 

I challenge anyone to try praying for God’s perfect timing and see the difference in their day.

Lord, the times of our lives are in your hands. We trust in your perfect timing to be done according to your perfect will. We ask for it, one day at a time, as we ask for our daily bread. Thank you for wanting to be included in every aspect of our lives day by day. Amen


An advent of humility

“And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

Luke 2:4-7 (NAB)

As we enter the season of Advent, we remember how Jesus left His glory in Heaven, and recall the details of how He made His entry into the world. 

Advent is the four week period that precedes Christmas. During this time, we meditate on the angel’s announcement to Mary, as well as angels who appeared in the sky to the shepherds and the visit by the wise men, who bowed to the little Son of God, bringing Him gifts that were fit for a king. 

Despite these wonderful images of the Christmas story, Jesus’ entry into this world was really very poorly received. It was filled with many inconveniences, awkward timing and  humbling circumstances.

The timing for Jesus to be born came at a very inconvenient time. Caesar decreed that every family register for a census in the city of their origin. This meant that Mary, who was nine months pregnant, had to travel with Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem, the city of the tribe of Judah, which was a distance of 70 miles on rough terrain.

Mary rode a long and bumpy donkey ride, while the infant Jesus was bounced around inside of her, all the way to Bethlehem. I would call that an inconvenience of poor timing, to say the least, but sometimes what appears to us to be poor timing, is right on time according to God’s schedule.

I’m sure Mary and Joseph prayed, as they arrived in Bethlehem, asking God to lead them to a place where they could safely have the baby, but there was not one single vacancy in the city Inns that day. They heard the words, “There’s no room for you”, over and over. Finally, they were given the option to stay in an animal stable. Most people would consider that another huge inconvenience. 

Maybe at some time in our lives, we have felt lost in a crowd, like Joseph and Mary. Some situations feel like we are at the wrong place at the wrong time, not fitting in, and we might hear words that make us feel there’s no place for us. 

Whether we experience a strained relationship, a health concern, a challenging work situation, or we are stressed with the task of being a caregiver, Jesus is there with us. He has experienced feeling alone in a crowd, being inconvenienced and misunderstood, but He is with us now to help us through our personal advent of humility. If we have asked Him to lead us, we can be sure that wherever we are, is where He wants us to be.

God knew His son was worthy of a throne and a palace, yet He led Mary and Joseph to a stable filled with straw, with the smells and sounds of barn animals. The entire trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem was a humbling inconvenience, but it led to the fulfillment of a prophecy, since the prophet Micah once foretold that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. (Micah 5:2-4)

When we pray and ask God to lead us, we can trust that whatever our situation is, we are right where He wants us. God is still working out His perfect plans through all our inconveniences.

Paul tells us that when Jesus came from heaven to earth, “He emptied Himself, and though he was in the form of God, He still did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.” (Philippians 2:6-7)

Jesus didn’t allow Himself to grasp the fact that He was the divine son of God, clothed in human flesh. He looked like an ordinary man but He had an extraordinary mission to fulfill, and He did it by emptying Himself, in order to give all of Himself for us on the cross.

What is the message for us through this advent filled with inconvenience and poor timing, which brought us our salvation?

Jesus, along with His humble and holy parents, show us by example, that inconvenience produces humility, when a person trusts in God. 

If we have ever been asked to do something for someone else, when the timing was at its worse, and then faced multiple inconveniences, that becomes our personal advent of humility. 

Among all the eyewitnesses and fortunate people who knew Jesus personally, very few understood that His suffering was all for them. His arrival into the world and His ministry was constantly misunderstood. On the night of His arrest, when He needed prayer and support more than ever, his three most loyal friends were sound asleep in the garden, instead of praying for Him, as He asked.

The original advent season began with a series of inconveniences and poor timing. Mary, Joseph and Jesus are all examples of showing humility throughout every inconvenience. 

As we go through our own personal advent of inconveniences, God is using each circumstance to bring more humility into our lives. Humility is the foundation of all other virtues. Through every inconvenience, Jesus turns the bitter into something sweet. He refreshes our soul with the sweetness of His grace. When we ask, we receive more grace and Jesus is never inconvenienced by our asking, since He lives forever to make intercession for us. 

Lord, we thank you for humbling and emptying yourself for us, in order to fill us with your grace. Comfort all readers today who are struggling with an inconvenience of timing or circumstances, and transform our hearts, to follow your example of humility. Amen 


No praise like imitation

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

Ephesians 5:1-2 (RSV)

When I think about how patiently God has waited and endured the fluctuating highs and lows of my faith commitment in the past, I realize His patience has no time limits. He never gives up on us, He is patient, long suffering and His love endures all the ways and times that we may have disappointed Him.

Although He may be disappointed, God is never discouraged. He loves us exactly as love is defined in the first book to the Corinthians. It says  “believes all things, bears all things, hopes all things and endures all things” and that is how God loves us.  (1 Corinthians 13:7)

Whatever type of adversity shakes us and distracts our faith or our commitment to Him, God is still faithful, finding ways to bring us back to Him. 

His goodness to us is undeserved and beyond all rational understanding. 

Paul tells us to be imitators of God, who so patiently waits for us, who believes, bears, hopes and endures all things, and He expects us to do the same for others. We are called to imitate Jesus and walk in love as He loved us, with the same patience, long suffering and endurance.

Children naturally imitate their father or whatever father image they had growing up. My own earthly father was 63 when I was born and suffered a stroke when my mother was eight months pregnant with me,  so he was emotionally and mentally debilitated during all the years that I knew him. My brother Teddy, who was six years older than me, was the closest one to a father image that I had. I remember when I was young, I tried to walk like him and to imitate his hearty laugh.

There is a famous saying;

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery….”

Whoever we imitate, pays him or her our highest compliment. 

Imitating our earthly father image of our youth, should prepare us to imitate our Heavenly Father for the rest of our lives.

God pursues even the most hardened hearts and is willing to wait patiently until a heart of stone changes to a heart of flesh. He sees everyone with forward vision, meaning He knows what we can become, looking beyond our faults and shortcomings. Since God is not influenced by time or space, length of time is irrelevant to Him. His love and patience never runs out, and He can wait for decades, for someone to turn their life over to Him. It’s the kind of love we could never earn.

How do I know all this? Because He did it for me. The God I believe in  believes in us. His love bears, hopes and endures all things, for our good. He has always had the best plan for our lives, before we were born, and He wrote it down on the day we were conceived. (Psalm 139:16) 

He is patient and never forces His way into our life, He patiently waits for us to ask and invite Him.

God has allowed particular people to come into our lives, even some who test our patience, not to annoy us, but to give us a new opportunity to imitate His love and patience. He helps us to see others with the same “forward vision” that He sees us with.

Paul reminds us in today’s scripture verse, that being imitators of God means to walk in love as Jesus did. Imitation is the highest form of praise. When we think we have been waiting too long for a result, we are reminded that God patiently waited for us and He wants us to imitate Him. We can never love like God does, but we can try, and trying is the first step to imitating Jesus.

Imitation is also a deep expression of thanksgiving. We show God our gratitude with praise, when we seek to imitate His beloved son.

Lord, thank you for your unlimited patience and love, as you wait patiently for us to invite you into every part of our lives. Help us to show you praise and gratitude by imitating your love towards others. Amen  


A blurry old picture of me with my two brothers, Ted on the left, John behind me.

For newer readers, the story of Ted’s F-16 plane crash can be read on my website link.

Who do you think you are?

“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Galatians 2:20 (RSV)

When I was a child I remember when my older brother, who was about twelve, got in trouble at school. He was misbehaving and the teacher called him out saying, “Young man, who do you think you are?” 

My brother, being the class smart alec, answered the teacher saying his full name, and the whole class burst into laughter. My parents didn’t find it amusing and neither did his teacher, but as an eight year old child, I thought my brother was hilarious. 

I never forgot that story and it makes me think about our identity as God sees us. Today’s scripture tells us who we really are, as we walk by faith.

Our identity in Christ can be under attack by the doubts that flood our minds or guilt we feel after failing in some way. Even confessed and forgiven sins of the past, will return to haunt our thoughts and our spiritual self image. 

The “accuser of the brethren” who targets every believer during their lives, will do so until Jesus returns, as described in scripture:

“Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.” (Revelation 12:10)

Just when we start to succeed in walking by faith, an accusation is fired at us and asks, “Who do you think you are?” Let’s remember that Hell is terrified of believers who really do know who they are in Christ, and live in their identity as a child of God. We know how the story ends, and the accuser of the brethren will one day be thrown down and defeated.

Whether we need healing or a relationship restored, a new job, or we are answering the call to a new ministry, the enemy is going to challenge us. When our identity in Christ is crippled with doubts, guilt or fear, we can certainly answer who we are not. 

We are not the sum of our failures, we are not defined by the tragedies in our past. We are not our medical diagnosis, and we are not forsaken or forgotten, because it is God’s love that defines who we are.

Our water baptism represented our death to the old nature, and our resurrection to a new identity in Christ. Every believer is a new creation in Christ. The strategy of the enemy is to cripple our identity in Christ, but remember what Jesus said to anyone who was crippled. He told them to “Rise up and walk!”

Let’s rise up and walk in the identity of our baptism, alive to the newness Christ offers. We know exactly who we are. We are God’s children, who live by faith in the one who is holding our hand and telling us to stand up and walk.

The question, “Who do you think you are?” is not just a question for mischievous children, it’s a question for all God’s children, because every believer is a child of God. 

Next time the accuser asks you who you think you are, this should be your answer:

I am chosen, crucified with Christ, forgiven, resurrected with Him in baptism and living daily by faith in Him who loved me and gave Himself for me…..That’s who we all are.

Lord, help us to rise up and walk in the secure identity as one of your beloved children, not defined by our failures or mistakes, but by your love, forgiveness and eternal sacrifice for us. Amen