I am a native Texan who loves all things Texas. My work has taken me in and out of Texas several times, and I was sure that this last move here to the Houston/Katy-area was sure would be permanent.
Not so fast! I was told that I am to head-up the opening team of a new restaurant opening in Lexington, Kentucky.
“Yes, Kentucky. Horse country.”
Needless to say, my first reaction was shock. The shock was followed by disappointment. After all, my wife and I have a wonderful family of faith complete with a couple of irreplaceable spiritual leaders and friends. We love our neighborhood. Our kids love their school. Why Kentucky? What's in Kentucky in for us?
“Leave Tejas again?”
I considered jumping ship...find another company to stay put. And it would be doable. I am no “catch” by any stretch of the imagination, but I do have a good looking resume for a restaurant guy. But just before I tried to take the helm, grab the wheel, take control of my destiny and stop letting others call the shots for me, it dawned on me (more like slapped me in the face!)...
”...THE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.”
In that moment I realized that my actions, my posture, my heart was not leaning on my faith. Rather, I had set my faith aside so that I could try to manipulate what I thought was best. And why not? Don't we all think our way is the best way?
The thing is, as I would come to learn, God’s way is not our way. His way is higher. His way is just, it is righteous, and it is what is best for those of us who believe. We may not agree with it, or harder yet, we may not like it! But as I came to realize, it's time to decide what I am going to follow: the path God is laying out for us (which requires faith) or the path I intend to carve out for myself.
My faith quickly kicked in and brought me a peace that surpasses all understanding. From the moment I turned away from the worries of the world and turned towards Jesus and rested in Him, God began to reveal His “fingerprints.” Exhibit A: my wife was at a popular home decor store and came across this…
The only two states represented! Not FL, LA, TN, OK, CA, NY, none of the usual suspects. Some would laugh this off as coincidence, but being people of faith walking by faith, we know it to be much more.
The God winks started there and have not stopped. Funny, we are to believe in the unseen, which is what faith is, and it was at that very moment, revelation really, that God began to illuminate our path.
Written by Harry
This month our contributors are sharing their favorite Bible verses.
Two of my favorite verses from the Bible are John 1:1 and 1:14. From the New American Standard Bible translation regarding Jesus:
The Greek word here for “Word” is logos. According to HELPS Word-Studies, the definition of logos is primarily word or words. A deeper look at logos yields logic or reasoning. Jesus is the very logic and reasoning of God in the flesh.
I am often told, “God in the Old Testament seems different from God in the New Testament.” The book of John is generally where I start. You see, the Word (that is Jesus, the second person of the Trinity) has been there from the beginning and is in fact God.
All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.
So from Genesis 1:1, Jesus was there.
Caveat: “For I, the Lord, do not change…” (Malachi 3:6). So according to God Himself, God in the days of the Old Testament is the same as in the days of the New Testament. Keep in mind the Old Testament accounts for 1,600 (conservative estimate) to 3,000 (more likely) years; the New Testament spans less than 100.
God was so disappointed with His people that He went 400 years without speaking between the days of Malachi and the angel Gabriel announcing the Word becoming flesh (Luke 1:26-38)! He was moved enough to become flesh and dwell among us so that His glory as of the “only begotten” would be seen (John 1:14).
(Many translations of John 1:14 and 3:16 refer to Jesus as God's "one and only" son, as opposed to "only begotten" son in other translations. As we are all adopted sons and daughters of God through our faith in Jesus, I feel it is more accurate to say that Jesus is the only begotten son.)
For me, anytime I see “God” or “The Lord” with speech in my Bible — Old Testament and New —, I envision Jesus speaking…I hear His voice. So unless specifically noted otherwise, to me the words of God are coming from the Word of God. Jesus has been speaking to us for quite some time…from the beginning to be exact. He has always been full of grace (Genesis 6:8) and His words full of truth (1 Kings 8:56; Hebrews 6:18).
Written by Harry
This post begins part 3 of our 3-part series based on Matthew 22:36-40:
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Yes! These kids get it!
Remember what I said about the Greek words used in the original manuscripts that we translate as love today? Well, after Jesus responds to the question of which is the greatest of the commandments, He follows it up with, “The second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself.”
One of the most common questions I get from people who either do not believe in Jesus or do believe but don’t know Him very well goes something like this:
“Do you follow everything Jesus says? Do you love everyone? What about ____________?”
Jesus isn’t telling us to love ____________ (pick the worst of the worst) like you love your mom, best friend, brother, wife, children – you get the picture. Jesus is instructing us to be selfless, to be ready to act on someone else’s behalf, and to sacrifice.
And let’s not forget prayer. Knowing what was going to come of Him, to His apostles and disciples Jesus says, “…pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).
So can we pray for others? For those individuals and groups that we could never imagine extending a helpful hand to because of their extreme unbelief or evilness…should we pray for them? Is praying for them “agape” love? Is that what Jesus was talking about?
“…The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” James 5:16
And then of course there’s the tough one: when it’s revealed to us that parts of our life are sins against God, what do we do? Pray? Repent? So then, what should we do for our neighbor who’s in sin? This one is tough, but if we are to do for our neighbor as we would do for ourselves…the answer is clear.
(On a side note, if you have never considered (or studied out) prayer, give this a shot...visit www.knowing-jesus.com and click on the Bible heading, then the Topics subheading, then enter the word “prayer” into the search and spend some quality time there…powerful stuff.)
This post begins part 1 of our 3-part series based on Matthew 22:36-40:
loving God (part 1); loving your neighbor (part 2); and loving yourself (part 3).
Which one of these things doesn’t look like the others?
Jesus teaches the greatest commandment of all is to love God with all your heart, soul and mind (Matthew 22:37), which doesn’t seem to leave room for lots of other stuff. So love Him like a combo meal #2 with cheese and jalapeños? See the tragedy here? The Greeks got this one right. Back then, they had 6 words for what we translate today as “love,” and all 6 have different meanings.
For God so loved (agapao) the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
Well, not exactly. The Greek word translated as “love” here is “phileó,” not “agape.” “Phileo” is a sense of brotherhood and close friendship; it’s where the name Philadelphia comes from. In addition to showing our love for Him through action and sacrifice, He wants us to have an intimate friendship with Him. See what I mean when I say the Greeks had it right?
Still think “love” is enough to encompass these verses? Consider the Hebrew word used in Deuteronomy 6:5 for love: “aheb.” About “aheb” the Jewish Publication Society says, “the paradox of commanding a feeling is resolved with the recognition that covenantal ‘love’ does not refer to internal sentiment or to private emotion. The focus is instead upon loyalty of action toward both deity and neighbor.” Hhmmm…sounds just like “agapao.”
It seems as though the more we get to know Him the more we learn that He delights in obedience (1 Samuel 15:22-23)! Jesus says that if we love (“agapao”) Him, we would keep His commandments (John 14:15).
This is habit 5 of Stephen Covey’s, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey was a devout Mormon who gave those of us in positions of management and leadership a wonderful tool in that book. Of all the advice I have ever offered to my managers and of all the direction I have ever given, seeking first to understand before seeking to be understood is by far my most effective teaching. In simpler words: Just ask! And if I could pass one thing along to all aside from the good news of Jesus Christ, it would be that.
How many quarrels could have been avoided if one would just ask?
How many misunderstandings could be avoided if one would just ask?
How many feelings would not get hurt is one would just ask?
How much more could we accomplish if we would just ask?
The inherent hurdle with this little golden nugget of wisdom is that it requires our hearts and minds to be focused on
others and not ourselves. If our asking is insincere, I suspect the other individual will sense it and dismiss your question with ease.
Regarding the homeless people I so often encountered, I went to our former senior pastor, and I just asked. He gave me another little golden nugget which gave me great assurance: what I do is between me and God, and what they do with whatever I gift to them is between them and God. He went on to tell me that part of the great tragedy in homelessness is that they feel forgotten or that they do not exist.
Think about it. Do you look into their eyes when you drive by them? Do you wave? He suggested that sometimes just acknowledging them is a gift. I am so glad that I asked!
The very next day I asked, this time of a homeless man. I rolled down my window with a gift in hand but before giving it to him I made it a point to look into his eyes. I smiled and said, “How are you doing today? Are we taking care of you?” Handing him my gift (not knowing the REAL gift was going to be received by the giver) he looked back at me and smiled and said, “I am blessed! Thank you for this… do you like to read the Bible?”
With an ear to ear smile I said, “Yes, all the time!”
Then he asked, “Do you know Hebrews 13:2?”
“Not off the top of my head.”
As traffic began to move he yelled, “Check it out and God bless you!” I could barely wait for the next traffic light! Pulling up the Bible app and navigating to Hebrews 13:2.
Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.
You know, Luke records Jesus as telling us to just ask - but for something far greater than anything this world has to offer - and we will not be denied.
If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!
First was the hearing. Not just loss of hearing but a sensory issue so he couldn’t separate sounds like a voice and the closing of a cabinet, it was all just noise. He became recluse. I can’t recall which came next, the loss of muscle, the deep depression, weakness in the legs, loss of mental focus, he couldn’t read a paragraph and even labored to talk ending each sentence with a sigh.
The family doctor had nothing.
Two E.N.T.s, zero.
THE top ear specialist in Dallas, nada.
Two neurologists went in completely opposite directions; both came up empty handed.
Come on guys! Tell me what’s happening to my dad! His yard went from immaculate to weed-infested, his pool from beautifully cleaned to green and full of leaves. He was an engineer that couldn’t stop building stuff by his own designs and measurements who became a couch potato watching "Law & Order" all day. He couldn’t even handle being around his grandchildren! He had gone from being an intelligent, passionate, and opinionated man to one struggling to put sentences together. He went from despising pills to taking anything the doctors prescribed - and they were NEVER without suggestions! None of them worked by the way…
My Seekers Bible study class prayed for him regularly. My mom, sister and I prayed…Lord did we ever pray!
For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.
Apparently Dad was doing some praying on his own, though. When my mom was asleep he would go outside in the backyard and talk to God. Dad says he never asked God to heal him, he just wanted to know what was happening to him..."was this the end?”
Then one day he got out of bed, got his morning coffee and…went outside. He found himself bending over to pick weeds. Started organizing the garage. What was going on? Well, I’ll tell you, he was back! Still with the ailments, but my dad was back! It was as if God snapped His fingers and said, “Enough.” Dad is better than before because now he won’t shut up about Jesus! He even witnessed to his Muslim neighbor. Dad never bargained with God but has since given his word that he is going to be a warrior for Jesus Christ until his last day.
Remember that golf game I mentioned back in September? It all started back in Denver, where I had completed the transformation into the man that God never intended me to be. Looking back on the events in my life, I can now see God’s hands in it all.
After Denver I detoured through Nashville to Houston to find myself in Katy, Texas. I picked up a wife along the way and a mighty-fine golf swing if you ask me. This is key: ask me, not the guys that I played with regularly on Sunday mornings. That’s right, Sunday mornings!
The moment I found this great Sunday school teacher that taught about the God of the Bible things began to happen in my life that I resisted. Jesus may not have been causing them, but He sure was using them to draw me in.
And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.
If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also…
Maybe I hit the ground too hard. Or maybe the club was already damaged. Regardless, when I swung that 3 wood, the club head went whirling through the air at 100 mph right over my buddy's head, missing him by inches.
Utterly distraught, I had a revelation on the golf course that Sunday morning: the old me was fighting a losing battle because the new me wanted to be a true follower of Jesus. I dropped golf that day as if I had never played and did it joyfully. I then developed a thirst and a hunger for God and His words, which I read and meditate on daily, and no round of golf - no pleasure this world has to offer - could ever make me regret it!
However, in silence - just a few moments of peace - I am thankful that, according to Jeremiah (the prophet, not the bullfrog), God knew me before He began to knit me in my mother’s womb in 19(cough, cough). He didn’t bring me into existence in the 2nd century, the 1500s, nor the 1800s. God knew me, my very essence, and determined I would be born to those two parents of mine at the exact time it happened because He already knew me.
I grew up a child of the 19(cough, cough)s because He knew it was the right time for me. I am thankful for His faithfulness; even when I am not, He is! I am thankful God crafted a life and a path that is just right for me to walk if I so choose.
Has my life been perfect? Nope. My parents perfect? Nope. When I was young I was pretty sure I’d be the perfect parent…NOPE! I am thankful God has given me (and you) His inspired words so that I can understand why my life has not been perfect, even down-right difficult at times, why my parents were not perfect and I am not the perfect dad…HE is the perfect dad.! His way leads to the perfect life everlasting!
Thanks be to God as He will use things in our lives for good to shape us into those who will be worthy of eternity with Him in Heaven. I believe it with all my heart, have seen it with my own two eyes, and experienced it with my very being.
God is loving and faithful. Aside from creation itself, the very act of love that Jesus did is beyond our imaginations. He was tempted, yet without sin: the perfect atonement. Thank you, Jesus.
To show His awesomeness and great power He spoke millions of stars into existence and even more planets.
And with all of that all He wants from us is our heart.
Keeping this in mind, I remain in a thankful posture towards Him throughout the day, in good times and in rough ones.
Mostly I am thankful that God so loved the world - the cosmos - that He gave His most unique, His one and only begotten Son, Jesus, so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
Should I tell about the very last time I skipped Sunday School to play golf? That’s one round of golf I will never forget, nor will my buddy, who was inches away from getting zinged in the head by my broken 3 wood flying through the air!
Or how about the time my dad had fallen so ill he became a hollow shell of the man I once knew? Nah, I will save that one for another time.
You know, the frequency of God moments in my life is steadily increasing because, well, it took me a while to learn to look FOR HIM! So how about the day I met with the official Blog Team for the first time.
Previously when I was asked if I would be interested in joining the Blog Team I thought, “You mean I get to write about Jesus? Church? I am in!” Now, first of all, I am not a great writer…second of all, I don’t even know what a blog is apparently. While the other real bloggers were planning on the future blogs, my mind was racing to find a way to tell the powers that be that I made a mistake. To me - in my limited knowledge and experience - a blog is a discussion board or a forum with lots of back and forth. I was pretty sure I would not have anything to “blog” about, so I was planning my exit strategy.
So I head into church after our meeting feeling defeated, you know? Here I was, so pumped up to share my passion for Jesus, and I found myself backing away from the mic, so to speak, because I didn’t consider myself a blogger. As soon as I walk through the doors, Bud grabs me (if you don’t know Bud yet, you soon will) and says, “Hey, can you help serve Communion?”
“Yes! Of course!”
The first Sunday of each month is Communion Sunday for us in the United Methodist Church. Some call it The Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion, and it’s a pretty big deal for those of you who aren’t familiar with it. It is when we break bread and drink wine (grape juice) together in honor and remembrance of Jesus. The only thing better than partaking in Communion is getting to serve it!
And who did I end up standing next to while serving? The very guy I was about to tell that I was not going to participate in the whole blog thing: Reverend Mark. Awesome.
The people come. He hands them their portion of the bread and says to them something to the effect of, “The Body of Christ broken for you.” I then hold out the cup of grape juice and say, “The Blood of Jesus poured out for you.” Wow…
It is then that it hit me. While saying over and over again that this juice represents the blood of Jesus, poured out for you…for me. For me (and you) He was tortured and crucified, and I didn’t think I was capable of putting together 500+ words to share about Him?
Communion finished. I left immediately oh so disappointed with myself…jump in my truck…and smile. Then I say out loud, “Lord, I hear you.”
Thank you for Bud. Thank you for Communion. Thank you for this ministry and for the real bloggers. Thank you for FUMC Katy. Thank you for giving me yet another moment between You and me…and now everyone else.
The 12:12 Project is sponsored by Katy First United Methodist Church.
Book Of Mark
Favorite Bible Verses
Fruits Of The Spirit
Gratitude & Generosity
Love In Action
Series On Matthew 22:36 40
Walking By Faith