Share It!

Every once in awhile, you discover something that changes your life. One of those things for me was aloe vera. I remember several times as a teenager when I would get sunburnt. My pale skin didn’t stand much of a chance agains the sun, even with a generous coating of sunscreen. The days following would be miserable as my back would become too painful to even lay down properly. No amount of essential oils or mayonnaise would ease the pain. Recently, however, I discovered that aloe vera works miracles against the effects of sunburns. In fact, when I got burned several weeks ago on a short visit to the beach, I slathered the stuff on me multiple times a day for the next few days and the red gradually disappeared with virtually no pain. It made me want to tell everyone to buy aloe vera because the stuff really works!

As humans, when we discover something life changing, we want to tell others about it. It’s true now and it was true a couple thousand years ago when Andrew met Jesus. The gospel of John tells us, “One of the two who heard John speak, and followed (Jesus), was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which is translated, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus” (John 1:40-42). Andrew had discovered something that changed his life and all he wanted to do was share it with someone close to him. Have you met Jesus? Has He changed your life? If so, why not share Him with someone today?

Preaching Deliverance

The heat was nearly intolerable as a bee flew through the open window of the Pennsylvania State House and landed on the desk next to Benjamin Franklin. Mr. Franklin was too focused to notice. Sitting on the edge of his chair with his cane in his hand, He was concerned with one thing only: the Declaration of Independence. The date was July 4, 1776, and the Second Continental Congress was debating about and preparing to vote on the final draft of the Declaration of Independence. The document had been in revision since Thomas Jefferson had submitted the first draft on July 2. Franklin knew the risks involved in making such a declaration as did the 55 men around him. They felt so strongly about this, however, that they were willing to conclude the document with the words, "And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor." A month later, as they signed the document on August second, these 56 men were willing to risk everything for the freedom of themselves and the people around them.

As we celebrate Independence Day tomorrow, remember that there is someone who is holding much of the world around us in captivity. He has bound people in darkness and sin, but we have been called to join with Jesus whose mission statement was this: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord" (Luke 4:18, 19). Preaching deliverance and liberty isn't the safest thing to do though. Do you understand the risks involved in making such a declaration? Are you willing to rely on the protection of divine Providence and pledge your lives, fortunes and sacred honor to support the declaration of freedom? My prayer is that you would be willing to risk everything for the freedom of yourselves and the people around you.

Building Strong

I heard an interesting story the other day as I was listening to a podcast. Several years ago, a home was being constructed in Mexico Beach, Florida. The local building codes required some storm proofing, as protection against hurricanes. But built into the codes was the idea that the trees surrounding the community would help block wind and create a natural barrier should a storm come through. The contractors building the home that became known as Sand Place didn’t think the codes were good enough. They built the home to withstand 250 mile-an-hour winds. Some of the neighbors laughed, thinking that the builders were wasting their money on features that would never be needed. However, when Hurricane Michael tore through the region last year, it flattened nearly everything in Mexico Beach. Even the trees, which were supposed to be a natural barrier against the wind, were uprooted and used to destroy anything in their path. One of the only structures left standing was Sand Place.

As I heard about this home, my mind immediately went to Jesus’ story of the wise and foolish builders. “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall” (Matthew 7:24-27). As you think about your life, ask yourself whether you’re hearing and doing the sayings of Jesus or not. When you live according to the words of Christ, the world may laugh; but when the storms of life blow through, you’ll be the only one left standing.

Rest in the Lord

Do you remember what it was like before we had digital cameras? We almost take for granted today that we can pull a phone out of our pocket, snap a picture, and instantly share it with our friends and family on the other side of the world. But just a few years ago, taking a picture was a much longer process. You had to take out a bulky camera, snap a picture, then snap a few more pictures, then wait until you had finished taking enough pictures to fill up the roll of film. Then you would take that roll of film down to a photo center where they would process the film. Several days later, you’d be able to go back to the store and pick up your finished photos as either slides or prints. It was a process that took time and patience.

God works on us like a roll of film. We need to be developed before we can be used. And just like with film, if we interrupt the development process, we ruin everything. In the Bible, David writes, “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him” (Psalm 37:7). If you’re like me, there are a lot of things you want to accomplish and you probably feel lazy if you’re not constantly working. You get impatient when God doesn’t answer your prayers fast enough or when it feels like nothing is happening. But sometimes, God is using the stillness and the darkness to develop your character, just like a roll of film. Surrender to Him, knowing that resting in the Lord is often the best thing you can accomplish for God.

Warning Label

Last week, my brother Caleb came over to visit for a few days. It was fun spending time together and dragging him into whatever we had going on. One morning we were making biscuits and gravy for breakfast. I had made the biscuits and stuck them in the oven and he had put together the gravy and blended the ingredients until it was smooth. After he stuck it on the stove, however, I ended up stirring it with the whisk as it thickened while he worked on something else. While I was still stirring the gravy, the timer went off for the biscuits, so I asked Caleb to pull them out of the oven. I pointed to the basket with the hot pads, and he grabbed an oven mitt. He noticed, however, before getting to the oven, that it had a big hole in the thumb. He made the comment that it should come with a warning label, telling people not to trust it completely.

That experience got me thinking. I think people are a lot like that oven mitt. Not just some people, but all of us. We should come with a warning label, telling people not to trust us completely. In the book of Psalms we read, “It is better to trust in the Lord, Than to put confidence in man” (Psalm 118:8). I don’t think the psalmist is saying that we can’t expect our friends to look out for us or that we’ll always be disappointed by humans. But what he is trying to say is that humans are incredibly untrustworthy. If we put all our trust in humans, we will someday be disappointed. Instead, trust in God. He’s the one friend that will never let you down.

You Shall Receive Power

As a kid, one of the things I really enjoyed was a good, long power outage. I know, that probably sounds strange, but there was something homey and cozy about lighting candles and lanterns. The house would be quiet without the hum of the fridge or the noise from other electrical appliances. We couldn’t really accomplish anything, so we would often curl up in the living room and sing or read stories. I enjoyed it so much that, even after the power had come back on, I wouldn’t want to turn on any lights for fear of ruining the feeling. I honestly wanted to remain without power throughout the rest of the evening.

The theme of camp meeting this year was Our Greatest Need. It was all about how much we need the power of the Holy Spirit. This got me thinking. How many of us actually want the power of the Holy Spirit? I feel like we are often like me as a child, preferring to sit in relative darkness, not really wanting the power to come back on. Before Jesus left His disciples and returned to heaven, He promised them: “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). God longs to give us the power of the Holy Spirit. It may be comfortable to sit in the dark, but God wants us to be filled with power to witness for Him. Won’t you ask for that power today?

Fellow Citizens

I’m kind of tired of living out of my suitcase. Since May 5, I have been home a total of two days. First, I went to Maryland for the Believe Conference by Voice of Prophecy, where I learned all about their new Discovery Centers. Then I flew from there to Iceland for my brother’s wedding. I immensely enjoyed the time there, exploring a new country and catching up with friends I hadn’t seen in a long time. Then I flew with my mom and siblings to London, where Chelsea and I played tour guide and showed them around one of our favorite cities. After that, I made it home long enough to preach and repack before heading up to Highland Academy for camp pitch. I’ve been here for a week and a half now, busy with getting ready for camp meeting and now busy with helping out with camp meeting. It’s been fun for the most part, but I’m ready to head home.

It’s during times like this that I can relate with characters in the Bible who didn’t have a permanent home. In fact, there are some places where we are told that we are strangers and sojourners. But, just like me, we as Christians aren’t completely homeless. We do have a home, one that we are longing to be in. The Apostle Paul tells us, “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19). We may be living in temporary dwellings currently, but someday soon we’re going to go home. I can’t wait for that day!

Monopoly for Millennials

The other day Chelsea and I were in Walmart and we stopped to look briefly at the board games. One that caught my eye was a new Monopoly. This one wasn’t about the latest movie or another sports team. It was Monopoly for Millennials. The tagline at the bottom of the box read like this: “Forget real estate. You can’t afford it anyway.” Intrigued, I picked the box up to look at the back. Now, you have to understand, Monopoly has always been about real estate and finishing with the most money. In fact, that’s how you win the game. But times have changed since the game first came out. What used to be important to people isn’t that important anymore. I guess the makers of Monopoly have discovered this, because on the back of the box were three rules: Live a Little, Set the Trend, and Win. The first one explained that, instead of buying property, you would be collecting experience points ranging from a friend’s couch to a vegan bistro. The second one said that other players would have to pay you to land on experiences you discovered first. And finally, the person who wins the game is the one with the most experiences, not the most money.

For all the bad things said about millennials, I will say that my generation gets one thing right. We put a lot more emphasis on travel and experiences than we do on material possessions. If you stop and think about it, what will happen to all the things we collect anyway? I think Jesus had a similar mindset when He told His disciples: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21). The true winners at the end of time won’t be those with the most money or possessions. They will be the ones with the most experience with Jesus. I certainly want to make that my priority, don’t you?

Tell Somebody

I recently read the story behind Danny Gokey’s new song “Tell Somebody.” His wife had not grown up Christian and never went to church until she was invited by a friend at the age of 22. For the first time in her life she heard the gospel and immediately accepted Jesus as her personal Savior. She was so overwhelmed with the beauty of a God who loved her so much. She was upset with her Christian friends though. She told them, “Why didn’t you tell me? I’ve been struggling for so long. I’ve been completely miserable. This is such a better way to live. Why did you never tell me about Jesus?” Danny was thinking of his wife’s story as he wrote the first verse to his song, “Dear church, did you see me? / I was the sinner that you walked by on the street / Dear church, remember me? / ‘Cause You have something so beautiful / Something that I need / You have something so beautiful / I wish you would have told me.”

Stories like this hurt my heart. It’s hard to imagine that there are people around us who have never heard about Jesus and yet are hurting, hungering for something more than this world can offer. In the book of Psalms we read a beautiful admonition: “Has the Lord redeemed you? Then speak out! Tell others he has redeemed you from your enemies” (Psalm 107:2, NLT). Do you have any friends that would have a similar story to Danny’s wife? Are any of them struggling without a knowledge of the God who loves them so much? All around us are people who need Jesus. If you have been redeemed, why don’t you tell somebody?

Explorers

This evening I leave Maryland, where I’ve been for the last couple of days at a pastors’ conference, and fly to Iceland for my brother’s wedding. He and his fiancé are getting married in a beautiful church called Hallgrímskirkja in Reykjavik. Just outside of the church is a statue of Leif Erikson. Until my brother told me about this statue, unfortunately, I knew nothing about him. Apparently he was the first documented European to step foot on North America somewhere around the year 999. Leif was on his way to Greenland in order to share Christianity with the people there, but was blown off course. He landed somewhere in Canada, rescued two men who had been shipwrecked there, and then finally made it to Greenland. Afterwards, he bought a ship from a man who claimed to have seen Canada but never landed on it, gathered a group of 35 men, and sailed back to North America to start a colony in Vinland (in the northern part of Newfoundland).

Sometimes I’m jealous of people who lived long ago. I feel like we know so much about our earth that we aren’t able to explore the way they used to. We can’t just set off, wondering what we will encounter. We have apps on our phones that tell us exactly what’s coming up next. But someday soon, God is going to do something amazing. He will create what John saw and recorded for us: “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away” (Revelation 21:1). We will no longer be tied to this planet and we will be able to explore the new earth as well as the vastness of space and beyond. Won’t you accept the gift of eternal life Jesus is offering so we can explore together?

The Word

Have you ever stopped to think about how different words carry such different meanings? I know the saying goes that “A picture is worth a thousand words,” but I believe it is also true that a word is sometimes worth a multitude of pictures. Let’s imagine that I am painting a picture in front of you. I begin with a quiet stream flowing gently through a stand of trees. It is just before dusk, and the oranges and pinks and reds and purples of the sunset are peaking their way between the plethora of green leaves. In the foreground is a campfire, sparks making their way upward towards the sky. If I were to ask you exactly what I was thinking about when I painted that picture, you wouldn’t know. You’d have several guesses I’m sure, and you may get it right, but it’s not very specific. However, if I were to simply say the word “serenity," then suddenly you know exactly what emotion I am trying to convey.

It’s the same way with God. He had painted a picture of His love in the mountains and streams and forests and sunsets. He had carved His name in every rock and glacier. But people still weren’t getting it. They didn’t understand Who God really was. And so He sent the Word. John begins his gospel this way: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1, 14). Jesus demonstrated exactly Who God was. As we look back at the gospels and read about the Son of God, we see more than just a picture of the love of God. We see the Word.

The Divine Air Traffic Controller

Sunday evening Chelsea and I flew up to Bowling Green, Kentucky, for a dinner get-together with a few of the other young pastors in our conference. It was an enjoyable evening with lots of good food, fun games, and stimulating conversation. It was long after dark by the time I started the engine of our little Cessna 150 and we took off from the Bowling Green airport headed for home. One of the services I utilize whenever I fly between somewhat distant destinations is VFR Flight Following. I’ll make a radio call to Air Traffic Control and a controller will keep an eye on me, letting me know about other traffic that may interfere with me or any other issues I may encounter. As we were flying over Nashville, I received a call that a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 was turning directly towards me and climbing up from 3,500 feet to 5,000 feet. In my mind, I somehow forgot that we were at 6,500 feet and was thinking the large jet would be climbing to an altitude above us. I looked in front of us and saw the bright landing light on the front of the jet turn directly towards us as it climbed. I knew there was no way it was going to climb above us before we met and it looked like we were on an inevitable collision course. I flipped on my landing light, hoping that the pilots would see me and made a quick radio call to the controller asking if there was something I should do to avoid the traffic. She assured me the jet was stopping its climb at 5,000 feet, so there would be no issue. I relaxed, chided myself for freaking out when she had already given me all the necessary information, and watched from my unique vantage point as Southwest Airlines went hurtling past 1,500 feet below us.

As we go through life, we realize that there are dangers lurking all around us. David understood this and he prayed, “Keep me from the snares they have laid for me, And from the traps of the workers of iniquity” (Psalm 141:9). When we make his prayer our own, God will send the Holy Spirit to be just like that air traffic controller. He will let us know about the dangerous snares and traps the devil has set for us and reassure us when we think that there must be no way of escape. He has everything under control and for that, I am so grateful!

Our Response to God's Love

I recently read an article about a woman I’m going to call Natalie. She had spent ten years in the adult film industry, making $30,000 per month! She owned a $10,000,000 mansion in Malibu and enjoyed every comfort life could afford. But her life was far from perfect. She was in an abusive relationship and felt like things were getting out of control. One Easter, she ended up in a church and heard that there was a God who loved her more than she could imagine. She went forward during the altar call, weeping and giving her life over to this God. From that moment, her life began to change. She spent hours reading her Bible, learning more about the character of this God who loved her. Finally, one day, she decided that she couldn’t continue the life she was leading, and quit the industry. Today, she’s a full-time paralegal, a Christian counselor, and a worship pastor at her church. She has dedicated her life to serving God and introducing others to the One who loves them unconditionally.

When we think about salvation, we sometimes forget the price that was paid on our behalf and what our response should be to the love shown us by Christ. But the reality is, God paid an unfathomable price - the life of His Son - in order for us to be saved. As a response, we get to live a new life of righteousness. The Apostle Peter once wrote, “Christ also suffered for us, . . . who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed” (1 Peter 2:21, 24). As the old song says, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus / Look full in His wonderful face / And the things of Earth will grow strangely dim / In the light of His glory and grace.” The more we think about the love of Christ, the more unattractive the world around us will appear. Before we know it, God will completely change the trajectory of our lives, just as He did for Natalie.I recently read an article about a woman I’m going to call Natalie. She had spent ten years in the adult film industry, making $30,000 per month! She owned a $10,000,000 mansion in Malibu and enjoyed every comfort life could afford. But her life was far from perfect. She was in an abusive relationship and felt like things were getting out of control. One Easter, she ended up in a church and heard that there was a God who loved her more than she could imagine. She went forward during the altar call, weeping and giving her life over to this God. From that moment, her life began to change. She spent hours reading her Bible, learning more about the character of this God who loved her. Finally, one day, she decided that she couldn’t continue the life she was leading, and quit the industry. Today, she’s a full-time paralegal, a Christian counselor, and a worship pastor at her church. She has dedicated her life to serving God and introducing others to the One who loves them unconditionally.

When we think about salvation, we sometimes forget the price that was paid on our behalf and what our response should be to the love shown us by Christ. But the reality is, God paid an unfathomable price - the life of His Son - in order for us to be saved. As a response, we get to live a new life of righteousness. The Apostle Peter once wrote, “Christ also suffered for us, . . . who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed” (1 Peter 2:21, 24). As the old song says, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus / Look full in His wonderful face / And the things of Earth will grow strangely dim / In the light of His glory and grace.” The more we think about the love of Christ, the more unattractive the world around us will appear. Before we know it, God will completely change the trajectory of our lives, just as He did for Natalie.

God's Laundry

This past weekend we were able to drive down to Lakeland, Florida, for Sun ’n Fun International Fly-in. There were tons of airplanes there, lots of airshow performers, and plenty of greasy carnival food. I was helping out with the Adventist World Aviation booth a little bit as well as preaching at the Lakeland church on Sabbath, so it wasn’t all vacation, but we certainly enjoyed our time down there. We were camping, which meant that we didn’t have any electricity and the closest bathroom was a little blue portable toilet. At least there was a shower house with actual hot water, though, so we couldn’t complain. Getting back home, however, is something I don’t necessarily enjoy because it means catching up on everything that has been accumulating while we were gone - including laundry. I saw a meme recently that totally described the laundry process in our home. It said, “Washing - 30 minutes. Drying - 60 minutes. Putting Away - 7-10 Business Days.” Since we did 3 loads of laundry today and then just dumped the clothes into the pile already needing folded and put away from the batch of laundry we did before we left, that seems about accurate.

After David’s affair with Bathsheba, he prayed a beautiful prayer to God, asking for forgiveness and cleansing. You can find this prayer in Psalm 51. Near the beginning he made this request: “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin” (Psalm 51:2). This is a prayer God longs to hear and loves to answer. He enjoys nothing more than washing our sins away and cleansing our hearts. The wonderful thing about the answer to this prayer is that it takes God a lot less time to clean us than it does for us to finish a load of laundry. Yes, it may take some time for him to recreate our hearts so that we will have the desires that He has, but He will wash away our sins in an instant. I’ll be thanking Him for his cleansing while I go finish folding that laundry…

Look Foolish!

As you probably know, Monday was April 1st. If you didn’t remember that it was April Fool’s Day, then you were most likely reminded of that fact by the end of it. I typically try to avoid reading a whole lot on email or social media because I know that a lot of it isn’t true and I really don’t like looking like a fool. A couple of years ago, however, a BMW dealership in New Zealand posted an ad entitled "April Fool's Day special" on the front page of the newspaper saying that they had a brand new car waiting for the first person to bring that add into the dealership on April 1st. The directions included bringing their old car in as a trade and asking for an employee named Tom. Most people thought it was a joke and wanted to avoid looking foolish, but Tianna Marsh decided that the chance of trading her old Nissan in for a brand new BMW was worth looking a little foolish over. She showed up with her car, the ad, and a request to see Tom at 5:30 on the morning of April 1, 2015, and was awarded a brand new car worth $37,000 with a license plate which read NOF00L.

You know, the Bible talks a lot about fools. Solomon especially gives quite a few descriptions of how fools act in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. They include things like committing adultery, making fun of guilt, being reckless, slandering others, despising wisdom and discipline, and despising a parent’s discipline. Yet how many of these things are tolerated or even celebrated in our culture today? In fact, it’s considered foolishness not to do those things and to search for God and have a relationship with Him. Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, said, “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise” (1 Corinthians 1:27). Even though some who claim to be wise think that God and religion are simply a crutch for weak minds, God has chosen that those “foolish” things would put the worldly wise to shame. Following Christ may be considered foolish by some, but, just like Tianna discovered, sometimes those who look foolish are really the ones who are wise.

Admit Your Flaws!

I sometimes envy the villains in stories or movies. I know, that probably makes me sound like some sort of psychopath, but hear me out. The hero, or protagonist, of a story is usually one of the weakest characters. We watch them struggle, nearly give up, deal with their own flaws and insecurities, rely on the help, wisdom, and strength of others, before finally barely achieving their goal by the end. The villain, on the other hand, is usually calm, cool, collected, and calculating. He or she intimidates the hero with their unflinching bearing, can run forever at a steady pace without breaking a sweat, and never seems to have any kind of weakness. That’s the kind of person I would like to be - perfect in every way, not swayed by emotions or crippled by failure. Ok, maybe I am a psychopath. But either way, most people don’t truly respect or look up to individuals like that. According to an article in Money Magazine, research has shown that people respect others more who have failed and are willing to admit their flaws and mistakes. In other words, we value and appreciate authentic humility.

Part of being human is to make mistakes. We all have weaknesses and flaws. Sometimes when we make a mistake, either physically or spiritually, we want to throw the towel in and give up. We expect to be like the villain in a story, not the hero. According to the wisest man who ever lived, we will all fail and fall down. It’s what we do about it that makes the difference. “For a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again, but the wicked shall fall by calamity” (Proverbs 24:16). As humans, we’re going to make mistakes. We are going to be flawed. But don’t let that discourage you. When you’re on the ground, look up and reach out your hand, because God is there, ready to stand you back on your feet. Then turn around and help the person next to you by letting them know that you fall too, because remember, people respect you more if you’re willing to admit your mistakes.

Free Tickets

Chelsea and I made a quick trip to Asheville, North Carolina, this week to celebrate our second wedding anniversary. One of the places that people told us to visit while we were there was the Biltmore Estate. Unfortunately, it is very expensive to get tickets to visit the house and grounds and we weren't sure that we would be able to make it work this trip. Yesterday morning, however, we decided to drive into the estate to see how far we could get before we had to purchase a ticket. The answer is one mile. Even though it's another two miles to the house, that's where the ticket center is and there is no way to get further in without paying the entrance fee. We went into the ticket / visitor center and watched a short film about the Vanderbilts and the Biltmore Estate. As we were coming out of the little theater area, a man was standing there holding two tickets in his hand. As a couple of people passed him by he made the comment that you couldn't give these things away. Then, spying us, he came over and asked if we were buying tickets. Chelsea told him that we were thinking about it. He then informed us that he was a season pass holder and he had these two free tickets that would be expiring in two days that he couldn't use and was wondering if we would like to have them. Of course I said yes, and before we even realized what was happening, he handed me the tickets and disappeared. We reserved our entrance time to go through the mansion and ended up spending the rest of the day enjoying the beautiful Biltmore Estate.

As we walked around the grounds and toured the extravagant home, I couldn't help but feel a little out of place. I looked at the people around me, realizing that most of them had paid full price to enter, and felt a little like I didn't quite belong there. We had paid absolutely nothing, yet we were enjoying this beautiful place along with everyone else. And then it hit me. There's another place, more beautiful than the Biltmore Estate or anywhere else on earth for that matter. It's a place we want to go, yet none of us could ever afford the entrance ticket. Jesus is here, though, standing in our path, trying to give away free tickets. Like those people in front of Chelsea and me, most are simply passing Him by, thinking that it must be too good to be true. When we get there, we may feel a little out of place, realizing that we paid absolutely nothing, yet we're enjoying this place along with everyone else. But then we will suddenly realize that everyone around us has the same story. Everyone around us will be there because Jesus gave them a free ticket. Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans, "The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23). Won't you accept His gift today?

Our Pale Blue Dot

On Valentine's Day, 1990, the Voyager 1 spacecraft turned around and took one last picture of earth before continuing its journey into interstellar space. Carl Sagan, one of the imaging team at NASA and the one responsible for the idea to turn the camera around towards earth, wrote this several years later about the resulting photograph.

      Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there--on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. . . .
      It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.
~ Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, 1994

What boggles my mind is that "God so loved the world (this world; this tiny, pale blue dot) that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). What an incredible God we serve. He sees our frailty, our immaturity, our conceit, and loves us anyway. And someday, the Holy City, New Jerusalem, will settle on this little pale blue dot and God Himself will dwell here with us. What a God we serve!

In Love With Love

Chelsea and I were watching something the other day where this guy decides he wants to take a woman he had recently met to the fair. They were both in their upper fifties and he had written a beautiful note saying that he wanted to squire her (this was set in the early 1900's). The woman was extremely excited and even bought a new dress for the occasion. When she arrived to the fair, the man met her and made the comment that he "loved to be in love." The woman was in a dreamy paradise all day long, but as the viewers, we were able to see things she was not. When he would go to get her a drink or leave her for a moment to check on something, he would be flirting with any other woman he happened to meet as well. In the end, the woman discovered that he wasn't really in love with her - he was simply in love with love.

With Valentine's Day coming up tomorrow, I'd like to ask: Who, or what, are you in love with? Are you in love with the idea of love? Or are you truly in love with a person? And better yet, where does your love come from? In the Bible, the apostle John said this, "We love each other because he loved us first" (1 John 4:19, NLT). Because of God's love for us, we respond with love for Him and for each other. Love is a beautiful thing, but it's only a channel between people. The idea of love is nothing if it's not active between two people. So don't fall in love with love - fall in love with God and the person He has placed in your life.

Too Many Gifts

The bustle and excitement of the camp created a happy, incessant hum as the young man drew the canvas tent flap aside and squinted into the morning sun. It seemed only a few days ago that Moses, their leader, had gathered everyone together and announced plans to build a tabernacle, a tent that God Himself would live in. Moses had encouraged all the people, young and old, to give generously and cheerfully. Eliab had given a few pieces of gold himself! But now, Moses was again gathering everyone together in the center of camp where the tabernacle was going to be built. Hurrying between the tents, he noticed how happy everyone was. Not too long ago there had been a terrible ordeal when Aaron had made the golden calf. Families were divided and many lost their lives. But since the announcement about the tabernacle, a different spirit had come over everyone!

Arriving in the center of camp, Eliab noticed Moses and Aaron, standing near the mountain of treasure that had been built over the last few days. They both had huge smiles on their faces. Once a crowd had gathered, Moses raised his arm, silencing the people. He then made this shocking statement, “Let neither man nor woman do any more work for the offering of the sanctuary" (Exodus 36:6). "We have too much material! Please stop giving!" A cheer erupted all around Eliab and everyone scattered throughout the camp to spread the news. They had more than enough for the tabernacle! It's a wonder, thought Eliab, how much is given when it's given cheerfully. I wonder if God multiplied the things we gave? No, that's a silly thought. He shook his head, laughed, and ran to tell his best friend the wonderful news.