Dear Mom

It was 1980.  Your life would forever be changed.  You were just a teenage girl with an entire life ahead of you.  I can’t imagine the thoughts or temptations you faced in those first months after finding out you were pregnant.

I am grateful you decided to be my mom.

Sharon Joan and JustinOur early days were simple and complicated.  We didn’t have much.  We did have each other.  You and dad made ends meet and kept the peace.  We bounced from apartment to apartment as you worked two or three jobs to support me.  The most memorable were Zayres and St. Luke’s.

You were a hardworking and strong woman.  Still are.

We grew and matured together.  You as a woman.  Me as a boy.  You had to grow up faster and make many hard sacrifices as a single mom compared to your friends.  You didn’t have to, but you included me in your social life and friends like Linda were like surrogate mom’s too.

I didn’t make it easy on you.  I suppose that’s why there is at least twelve years between me and Samm and my three other siblings.  You fought hard with the school counselors and psychologist to keep me moving forward.  Some would say I was a challenging young boy.  I’d agree.   It wasn’t that I didn’t have a loving or caring family.  It was that I was ungrateful and selfish.

I am beyond thankful for you!

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Being able to watch you care for my other siblings gave me a different perspective on you.  Again you worked hard (sometimes too hard) at giving us a good life.  Not spoiled.  Although you did get me a pretty sweet laptop before heading off to college.

Your independent and driven nature rubbed off well on each of your children.  You encouraged responsibility and creativity.  When I got my first job at fifteen at Schmidt Sporting Goods I thrived in sales and PR.  Those are qualities I inherited from you.

You are a picture of perseverance.  You are bluntly honest.  You are exuberant.  These are all qualities we as your children have learned to adore about you.

After we moved to Wausau, we started attending Wausau Bible Church.  It was weird and different at first.   You had this fetish with Noah’s Ark stuff.  That was weird.  I still remember going to Sam’s Club with you and you bought Bibles for us.  I still have that Rainbow Study Bible today.

That is when my faith journey began.  I was hugely influenced by the new faith you were living and owning as a family.  It was genuine and raw.  You didn’t push it on me, but didn’t discourage it either.  A special day I will always remember is when we were baptized together on the same day.  Not many mothers and sons have that in common.

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Now you are a grandmother to my four children.  A good one at that.  Again you are making many sacrifices as we live half-way around the world in the desert of Africa.  A normal grandmother gets to see her grandchildren more often.  You don’t complain even though I know you’d prefer otherwise.

I love you, mom.   Everyday.

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25 Days of Christmas Advent Catechism Calendar

I was looking for a catechism for my daughters this Christmas that took Old Testament Prophecies about Jesus and compared them to a New Testament fulfillment.  I couldn’t find anything, so Sarah and I whipped up something to help our girls understand and remember the reason for Christmas the 25 days leading up to Christmas.

If you are interested in seeing it or using it, check it out here:

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daughters, daddy’s, and God’s glory

daughters

I have three little jewels. They came to me as blessed gifts from above.  Each jewel has unique facets and glimmer with unending beauty.  Their beauty rises from within and shines throughout, mixing the temporal and eternal.  I simply enjoy holding my jewels and can look at them for hours upon hours.  I cherish them.  I take time to let them know how much I adore them and do whatever it takes to help them keep their beauty.  For their beauty reflects a greater beauty to a beauty-stricken world.  My jewel are my daughters.

Dads and daughters. It’s a uniquely special relationship. I know, since I have three daughters. Truth be told, I wouldn’t trade my daughters for any son. My daughters are my pint-sized princesses. They were born with a natural ability to pirouette, a spirit bent on loveliness, and contagious giggles. I delight to watch my girls be girls and crush them with squeezes and douse them affectionate words like “Sweetheart,” “Snuggle Bums,” or “Beautiful one”. I even have special, silly songs for them that I like to sing only over them.

Where does the delight that daddy’s have for their daughters originate? It is eternal.  It came before time began.  It originated from another Father.  You see it first in his love for the eternal Son.  But it spreads to his creation which he lavishes with his embrace, pours out affectionate words, even sings overs.  There are many songs God has written for his children.  Zephaniah 3:14-17 is perhaps the most enchanting.

14 Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem!
15 The Lord has taken away the judgments against you; he has cleared away your enemies.
The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil.
16 On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: “Fear not, O Zion; let not your hands grow weak.
17 The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing

God has a daughter?

Did you know God had a daughter too?  Did you think God only had a Son?  It might come to you as a surprise, but God’s daughter is Israel (v.14).  God calls an entire nation his daughter.  He chose Israel from among all nations of the world and adopted her as his own.  He favors her, treasures her, sings to her, and loves her deeply.  Israel is the apple of his eye.  His heart melts for her, even when aa Zephaniah tells us how bad his daughter had become (see 3:1-5).

God is his daughter’s keeper

Daughters are precious jewels and there is within a good father a God-given inclination to protect her and keep her from evil (v.15).  Most daughters do not like this about their fathers at first or at all because some father tend to be either passive or overprotect.  However, good fathers are aware of the enemies that steal and destroy the hearts of daughters such as vanity, seductiveness, and self-image.

The enemy and the world are clever at redefining and distorting beauty and says, “This is what beauty looks like. Follow this way, and you will be known and liked and loved.”  Most daughters or women will tell you that  way is shallow and is an endless pursuit leading to much frustration and regret.  Therefore good fathers go to great lengths to remind their daughters where the well of beauty is found and strive to lead them there.

God warned Israel over and over, “Do not turn away from my voice and follow other gods (or faux-fathers).”  He is jealous for his daughter.  He delights in his daughter as the apple of his eye, but knows they were a surrounded by rotten apples.  Yet God assures them that though there was much to fear around them they had nothing to fear because God was with them.  God is his daughter’s keeper (vs.15-16; cf. Psalm 91:14ff; 59:1-2).

I remember when I first brought my girls to Chad, Justus in particular, was afraid and intimidated to talk to people. She was surrounded by many new faces she did not know.  There was so many new fears.  She would cling to her mom or me.  Sometimes when I would lead her outside the gate for a walk she would ask for me to hold her and she would hug my neck tight.  She thought is was safe to be near to me.

The safest place for you to be is with your Father.  Cling to him.  Hear his words.  Trust he is near.  Clasp onto his strong hands.  Do not fear.  He is your protector.  He will keep you.

Fathers, keep your daughters.  Teach them about the love of God.  Guard them from enemies and teach her his lies.  Stand in the line of attack so that your daughter sees how you fight against the enemy when the day comes when she doesn’t have you nearby to protect her.

No father wants to see their daughter fall or get hurt because they walked outside the umbrella of your counsel.  That’s when it becomes a temptation to overprotect, but an overprotective father is not a loving father.  Overprotection seeks control your daughter.  A father cannot control everything.  And when you do you play god, but don’t play god very well.  The intended result of overprotect is often the opposite.  Instead of your daughter running to you for counsel, they will be repelled by it.

Fathers, trust God to protect your daughters when they venture out on their own.  Pick them up when they fall and embrace them when they return to you.  Remember, even Israel became a harlot and shamed God, but she was still God’s daughter and he keeps all his promises to her and loves her deeply.  God is like the father of the prodigal, full of grace and love.

Daughters, maybe your view of God the Father is tainted because you’ve had an abusive or passive earthly father.  This happens.  But God the Father is not like this.  He is a good Father.  Yet if you have an earthly father, trust him as he seeks to protect you.  He might not always be the best at it.  He may have many holes in their armor.  He might miss an enemy or two, but God has called them to protect you.  If you step outside their protection the enemy has better aim at you.  For your own protection heed the words of your father and your God and learn how to fight the enemy from him.  There is nothing to fear.

God is his daughter’s warrior and songwriter

God often fought many battles for Israel, but sometimes he let her go out to battle alone.  This was a test to her faith and resolve.  Sometime Israel would fear and flee.  Sometimes she would call on the Father for help and he would rescue.  Sometimes she would make an alliance with the enemy and not listen to the Father’s words.  But always, God was there with her.  He was with her on good and bad and ugly days. Loving her, soothing her, holding her, rejoicing over her, and singing over her (v.17).

When are daughters most afraid?  I find that my daughter is most afraid when she feels alone or unsure or she has done wrong.  In those moments, my daughter is looking for a warrior, a fighter, someone to champion her fear.  It is then that I remind her that I love her (even if I must discipline her) and sing over her.

Fathers, rejoice over your children.  Sing praises over them.  For real!  Even if you sound silly or think you look stupid or sing severely out of tune.  As God sings over you with loud frivolous exultations, mirror that to your daughters.  Your daughter will remember this the rest of her life.  These will be her battle songs.

Daughters, encourage your father to be a strong warrior.  He needs to hear this from you.  Ask him to help you, pray with you, and advise you through your battles.  Also, don’t be embarrassed when he sings silly songs of praises over you.  He loves you because you are his jewel. the apple of his eye.  He cannot help but sing over you.

God quiets us with His singing, its a singing that drowns out all other competing noises of life that clamor for our attentions and do what they can do to distract us.  He is drowning out the noisy lies of the enemy and quieting our raging heart with his beautiful songs of praise.

What does God sing over us?  He sings songs of truth.  He sings his promises over us.  He reminds us of his faithfulness, that as we abide in Him, He abides in us and keeps us in his love.  He sings to remind us that as we draw near to him, he will draw near to us.  He is for us and not against us.  How wonderful it is that our good good Father sings over us.

Sons and daughters of God.  Run into your Daddies arms.  Listen for his songs of praise over you.  Know that you are his precious jewel…

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” – 1 John 3:1-3

loving your brother while living in a messy world

mess worth making

You just don’t let anyone in your fridge. Why is that? It could be that there is a mess in there or something you wouldn’t want just anybody to see. That might embarrass some. Yet for those privileged few you give permission to find something to drink or eat from your fridge you have reached a certain level of comfort. Even though there might be a mess, you are comfortable showing your mess because you have nothing to hide.

I’ve been walking through 1 Corinthians, a letter written to a messy church (and what church isn’t?). Looking at the church in Corinth is like looking into a messy fridge. It’s a little embarrassing. We see all the faults and fears.  Yet it is somewhat comforting looking at Corinth because it’s somewhat normal church.

The question I’ve been asking while reading 1 Corinthians is: How can I make much of Christ in a messy church in a messy world? There is no mistake that Paul brings every question and every concern of the church back to Christ (so important!). For Christ is the solution and the center of the church, and if not, the center becomes the mess not the Messiah. Christ has come to be the Messiah of the mess we have made.

As I enter 1 Corinthians 8, the question becomes specific: How do I follow Christ (or exercise my rights and freedoms in Christ) while living in a messy world without bringing more messes into the church? To this the Bible gives a mosaic of wisdom that when pieced together helps me to see how I am to live in a messy world.

First, seek His kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:31-33). Jesus wants me to think of God’s kingdom and righteousness as two lanes of a oneway street. To seek God’s kingdom is to honor His authority, not usurp it. To usurp God is to veer off the left shoulder of the road. To seek God’s righteousness is to honor His standards, not disobey them. To disobey God is to veer off the right shoulder of the road. Together seeking both God’s kingdom and righteousness help me to walk the road of freedom in Christ when everyone else around me is abusing that freedom.

Second, be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16). Jesus says I live in this world by default. I cannot escape it. Therefore since the world is my temporary home, I must choose to live purely (salt) and shine brightly (light). In the process, by God’s grace, I display the gospel of Christ to a messy and darkened world.

Now it is possible to seek God’s kingdom, to seek His righteousness, and to be salt and light, but there is still a missing piece of the mosaic, which is thirdly, love God and your [brother] as yourself (Luke 10:27). This piece is seen in 1 Corinthians 8, which in reality, is that Great Commandment made practical. Loving your brother or considering others in your community of Christ, makes much of Christ. Our text today gives three truths towards loving your brother while living in a messy world.

1) Love your brother, love not what you know (vs.1-3).

Paul introduces the issue, “Now concerning food offered to idols” (v.1a) but before dealing with the question of food sacrificed to idols, He comments on related matters: 1) the danger of knowledge about such things and 2) the primacy of love over knowledge as the guiding principle for Christ-like behavior.

Knowledge is good, but dangerous. Paul begins by quoting certain Corinthians who thought they were ‘in-the-know’ who said, “all of us possess knowledge” (v.1b) The ‘knowledge’ quoted here is a specific kind of knowledge related to the idols who they knew were nothing compared to the One True God (see: v.4). Their knowledge was theologically spot on. Paul had no disagreement, but what he did disagree with their application of that knowledge to those not in-the-know. Paul saw their knowledge or know-it-all-ness as a danger sign.

It is said, “knowledge is power.” Have you ever known someone who was really knowledgeable, knew it and flaunted it? Have you ever possessed a little bit of knowledge and felt it’s dangerous affect? Sometimes the most dangerous Christians are those who gain a little bit of knowledge and wield it with reckless tactlessness like a kid with an broadsword who’s just watch Braveheart. The Corinthians knew a few things about Christian theology, but they became so full of pride and they lost sight of more important teachings, such as loving and edifying others.

Love over knowledge is our guiding principle. Paul warns those in-the-know that “knowledge puffs up” (inflates), “but love builds up” (deflates). Knowledge makes us feel important, but it is love that strengthens the church. There is absolutely no room for arrogance in the Christian community. Paul will not put up with it. Not because he is anti-knowledge, but because he is anti-knowledge that is anti-loving. For a swollen head does not equal a swollen heart.

Recently, I met a grand marabou at a friends house. Once that he found out I was a Christian he railroaded our conversation by waxing eloquent his view of Islam and the Quran. He might have some good things to say, but it had no effect on me. For anytime I tried to ask a question he refused to answer and anytime I tried to insert a comment he interrupted. After 30 minutes of talking and chanting he finally asked my opinion. I said, “You love hearing yourself talk more than you love me or your God.” I told him I’d like to talk more later, but that I’d come to be with my friend.

True knowledge humbles those in-the-know because they realize how little they know. “If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know” (v.2). Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn’t really know very much.

After seminary, I was a know-it-all. I graduated from Bible College with a small piece of paper and a big fat head. Then I began to pastor and went to seminary. It was then that realized I really didn’t know as much as I thought I knew. When I compared my faint and fragment knowledge with the infinite knowledge of God, there was a humbling that went on within me that was good. I never really know enough until I recognize that God alone knows it all.

This text hits me hard because I love what people think of me more than I’d like to think that I love them. That is so anti Christ and it’s an extremely dangerous attitude in the community of Christ. Maybe, you, like me, need to take a moment to reflect upon the infinite knowledge of God and the incomprehensible love of Christ.

Love is redeeming. Paul illustrates this by saying, “If anyone loves God, he is known by God” (v.3). The expression “known by God” appears elsewhere in Paul’s writings (cf. Galatians 4:9) as a description of redemption. Paul meant that, unlike the prideful people who center their religious lives around knowledge, those who focus on love demonstrate that they have been redeemed. Christian love is always constructive. It builds up. It encourages. It shows people a picture of Christ who Himself possessed all knowledge yet loved his brothers to the death. He knew-it-all, yet He was the most humble man. // Love your brother, love not what you know.

2) Unite around what you know about God (vs.4-6).

Since Paul has laid a foundation for love over knowledge, he now returns to the main topic of concern: “eating food offered to idols” (v.4). He affirms to theological truths those in-the-know knew, first, “an idol has no real existence” (cf. Isaiah 40, Psalm 115) and second  “that there is no God but one.” With these statements he resolves the issue that there was no problem with eating idol meat since it had been offered to something that did not really exist.

Now Paul is not minimizing idols, rather he is magnifying the God of Israel. The One True God compared to every other god is a non-comparison (vs.5-6a). Moreover, there is but “one Lord, Jesus Christ through whom are all things and through whom we exist” (v.6b). These verses take the form of an early catechism or hymn of praise to God the Father and God the Son that all Christians could unite around.

How should theology unite us rather than divide us? For example, as we see how the Father and Son relate to one another, we also see how we in the church must relate to one another. That’s practical and applicable theology! It will get even more so next.

3) Be willing to sacrifice your rights for your brother (vs.7-13)

Next, Paul shares a case study (vs.7-13). He introduces us to someone “not” in-the-know (revealing a wrong assessment of the church; v.1). Likely a young Christian recently saved out of a life connected to the pagan temple. To this new Christian, eating idol meat poses a serious concern, if not sin. For him, every shopping trip to the market, every town festival, every dinner party or BBQ with the locals presented a quandary. And one day, he sees a strong and respected Christian at a local restaurant likely affixed to a pagan temple and he has a bigger quandary, “If it’s okay for him to eat idol meat, then it must be okay for me to sin too.” He then syncretizes his new found faith in Christ with his former lifestyle in idolatry.

In case you did not know, there are varying opinions and consciences within the Body of Christ. That’s okay. The church will always be filled with new, old, mature, immature, strong or weak believers. Even though we have great freedom in the gospel and our freedom grows as our understanding grows, we must be willing to sacrifice freedoms for the sake of one another. It is no trivial thing, for when we cause other brothers to sin, we ultimately sin against Christ.

Remember when God asked Cain where his brother Abel was and he responded, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Essentially, that is the type of attitude Paul is addressing in 1 Corinthians 8-10. Paul responds to the Cain’s who bring their offerings and worship to church, but do not love their fellow brothers rather they lead their brothers to destruction.

Notice the emphasis in this text isn’t on with the weaker brother who needs to know more about his unfound freedom. The emphasis is on the stronger brother who is thoughtless towards the weaker Christian (cf. Romans 14). By insisting their rights, even Christian rights, it is a sign that something else other than the One True God is being worshiped. The problem for the stronger brother is that his right to use freedom is more important than relinquishing it for his brother. He is not willing to sacrifice his rights for his brother. (How is this text applicable for us in Chad?)

Paul is willing to become a vegetarian to protect his brothers growth in Christ. He expresses in words how love trumps knowledge. Wouldn’t you be willing to give up going to dinner for your brother? Would you be willing to sacrifice your opinion of the style of worship service or social rights for your brother? Are you willing to follow the example of Christ who Himself gave up everything? Remember, it always comes back to making much of Christ.

Can you think of a church member or brother or sister in Christ you have a hard time loving? What about them is hard to love? How could you love them better? Would you take a moment to pray for them and a God-given love towards them?

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:1-11)

Lord Jesus, we are delighted that you were so principled that you cared about the lost, the weak, and the worldly. We are so grateful for your tender mercy and unconditional love. Now, O Lord, give us the same love for others, that we may honor both you and them. In Jesus name, Amen.

God’s grace on display in my childhood

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I was born to two teenage parents. My parents submitted to their parents and married while I was still in the womb. Their marriage lasted two years, but they remained close. I bounced between apartments and my grandparents. It was frustrating and heart-aching for me not to have consistency in the home, but I imagine it was equally difficult for my parents whose young adult lives now included a little boy.

During my elementary school years, I was both distracted and a distraction. I was known as the class jester. I became such a distraction that my school moved me to the ‘special class’ where I received ‘special’ attention. I got the attention I desired, but I still craved more.  My attitude grew out of control. Rage and bitterness held the reins of my life. Most wouldn’t know it because I learned how to manufacture masks to cover what really was under my skin. Occasionally, it would flare up and my outbursts got me into a lot of trouble. It became such a problem that my school sent me to multiple counselors and child psychologists.

It was about this time, my mom remarried and we moved 3-hours north, away from my dad. I started going to a new school, but my past behavior soon followed. My new guidance counselor created a motivational tool he called, “The Hutts-O-Meter”. It hung just outside the principal’s office. The meter would go up one ‘tick’ on a detention-free day, but it went down two ‘ticks’ if I sat in detention. If the meter reached 100 “ticks”, the entire 5th grade would receive a pizza party in my honor. At first, it was cool. I was overdosing on attention. It didn’t take long to see through my classmate who just wanted a party. On top of this, a certain teacher said to me, “Justin, you will either end up in jail or the psych ward.” I was crushed.

My family started attending a small Bible Church, which was different from the Catholic church I grew up attending. I received a lot of attention there, but it was different. People cared for my spirit and mended my wounds with the Word of God. It was there, Jesus redeemed my life. Thereafter, certain men in the church discipled me and helped me to find joy and affection in Christ.

Years later, I met the teacher who prophesied on my future. He didn’t recognize me, as I was fitting his feet with new shoes. I was working at Schmidt’s Sporting Goods through high school to save enough money to go to Bible College. I asked him if he knew who I was. It took him a minute with a look of surprise he said, “Justin? No! Really? Wow, you’ve got a job?” I shared with him what Jesus had done and was doing. His look of surprise became a look of shock. God’s grace was on display that day.

Also in this Series…

Part 1: God’s grace is powerful enough to redeem anyone (3-weeks ago).

Part 2: God’s grace can lead to a sudden conversion (2-weeks ago).

Part 3: God’s grace uses people as his instruments (last week).

Part 4: God’s grace on display in my childhood (today).

God’s grace can lead to a sudden conversion

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With a flash like lightning, God intersects with Saul (and his entourage). “Now as [Saul] journeyed he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed about him.” (v.3) It was an unexpected encounter. It is interesting, unlike many Christians, Paul never links his conversion to a long process of God convicting or frustrating him of sin or stories scaring him out of hell. All those things may have happened in the instant he fell to the ground.

As Saul lay there on the ground, what did God say to him? First, He says in Hebrew, “Saul, Saul.” (v.4a) God singled out Saul by name. Fifteen times in Scripture names are repeated (i.e. God>Abraham, God>Moses, God>Samuel, David>Absalom, Elijah>God, Jesus>Martha, Jesus>Jerusalem, Jesus>God), which was used to gain attention or warning. Second, God says, “Why are you persecuting Me?” (v.4b) Notice He doesn’t say, “Why are you persecuting My people? Why are you such a bull?What’s wrong with you?” We discover in verse 5, the voice of God identifies Himself as Jesus. And Jesus clarifies that the persecution Saul is inflicting is ultimately against Him (v.5). In other words, Jesus is saying, “If you persecute My people, you persecute Me.” Those words bring such comfort to those suffering persecution for His name sake.

Notice how Saul responds to Jesus. He’s not passive nor is he defensive (v.5). He knows the voice is the Sovereign One of heaven. I can image Saul is as white as a bleached sheet and under the tremendous conviction of all his crimes. Yet in that moment, God’s grace is sufficient for Saul. It is also sufficient for your weakness too.

When I consider Saul’s conversion, it gives me courage to speak about the name of Jesus with friends and family. Their salvation might not happen immediately, but it might happen suddenly. Like My Grandpa Dale. He was a generous and kind man, he didn’t have many enemies (and he worked for the IRS). I’d share the gospel openly with him, since I was a teenager. He would listen intently, but normally respond saying, “Justin, that’s good, but I am happy being Catholic.”

A few years ago, Gramps called me at the church. In his quirky way he’d say, “Hey Huttshead. You’re a counselor, right? I have two questions for you: First, what do you think about me and my girlfriend living together? Second, could you tell me again how you think one gets to heaven?” His questions caught me by surprise. I answered his first question, letting him know I would rather see them marry, but that dearly I loved him. We spent the majority of conversation going to the Word, the source for the answers to his second question. Gramps, thanked me for the chat. He didn’t convert that day, but seeds were sown. Later, I found out that he had just been diagnosed with a malignant cancer that would soon take his life. Questions about his eternal destiny were his present reality.

A week later, I received another call from Gramps at the church. He started off by say, “Hey Pastor Hutts. I have two things I’d like to share with you. First, I have asked my girlfriend to marry me. Second, after talking to a pastor in town I have given my life to Jesus Christ.” Gramps went into hospice care a few months later. I leaned over the edge of his bed, he looked into my eyes—with tears in his—and said confidently, “I look forward to seeing my Savior.”

Gramps conversion was sudden and unexpected, as it might be with your neighbors, loved ones, or enemies. When you consider Saul’s sudden conversion how does it call you to persevere and be patience? How does it encourage you as you think about those who hard to love or hard to the gospel? As we will see (next week), Saul’s conversion is meant give you encouragement.

Coming Soon…

Part 1: God’s grace is powerful enough to redeem anyone (last week).

Part 2: God’s grace can lead to a sudden conversion (today).

Part 3: God’s grace uses people as his instruments (next week).

Part 4: God’s grace on display in my childhood (in 2-weeks).

Luke: Discovering Jesus, the Son of God

For a few months, I have been studying the Gospel of Luke with some friends. It has been a joy to study the life of Jesus. Below is a Family Worship Guide that I created from our discussions. Just click on the image below. You will find questions with and without helps. I hope this is a blessing to you and your family.

Luke family worship guide

Let me know if you would like to make changes or additions. This is certainly a work in progress.

Sophia Helena [part 2]

I believe God gives us children and their sole purpose as infants is to bring their parents and everyone else joy. Baby’s are bundles of joy.

We are so thankful for our new daughter. Some has asked how did we chose to give her name  Sophia Helena Hutts?

Sophia. It is a classic name that’s made a recent comeback. Sophia is not only a name but it is a word rooted in the ancient Greek word for wisdom. The Bible often uses the word sophia to describe the divine wisdom of God (Romans 11:33; 1 Corinthians 1:21, 24; Ephesians 3:10; Colossians 2:3; Revelation 5:12; 7:12).

Helena. Since Sophia was born just west of Philadelphia, Sarah thought that it would be fitting to name her after a woman she deeply respects who lived nearby. Helen Evans was a long time member at Marcus Hook Baptist Church and Sarah met her the year she ministered at the church. Helen was a school teacher in the rougher areas of Philly, an avid student of God’s Word, a memorable Sunday School teacher, and faithful follower of Christ. Helen was an example of divine wisdom. Two years ago Helen passed away, but her name will live on through Sophia.

Our Prayer for Sophia Helena. Father, we are grateful for the beautiful life You have created and blessed us as her temporary caregivers. To the best of our abilities we will raise her under the knowledge of Your Word and the guidance of your Spirit. Sophia already brings us joy and brings You glory. You are all-wise and we ask that You would fill her with Your divine wisdom in Christ. May her life be marked by Your wisdom from the day of her salvation until the day of her death. In Jesus name. Amen.

Sophia Helena Hutts

This morning at 9:10am God brought a new life into the world.  Our daughter Sophia. She is hearty and strong. 7.5 pounds and 19.5 inches long.

Sophia came quickly once Sarah’s body was ready. But getting to ready took time. Early Friday morning around 4:30am Sarah’s water broke, but no strong contracts came until the evening. The midwife came to our home about 9:00pm and stayed until 4:30am when she recommended that we go to the hospital since no baby had come within 24 hours of her water breaking.

So we hopped in the car and drove to the hospital in the wee hours of the dawn and Sarah was able to kick start some contractions. Within minutes Sophia was born.

Justus is now a big sister to a little sister. She doesn’t know what to think quite yet, but interest in this new person taking up her parents attention.

Sarah and Sophia are resting from a long day of waiting.

More to come…

bringing the gospel home (book review)

I ordered this book out of curiosity.

Sharing the gospel with family is tough!

First, I have unsaved family members that I really desire to share the gospel with, but direly fall short of doing regularly. I really love and care for them and want to see them in heaven someday too. This is a book on evangelism that hits close to home.

Second, there are not many books out there on the subject of evangelize friends and family, but never have I read one quite like this. I am certainly surprised by what I am reading. It is not your ordinary book on evangelism with step my step or play by play approaches for witnessing to different kinds of people. It is not methodological or programmatic. It is simply a book about the gospel and it’s ramifications on me and my family. The illustrations are refreshingly honest and easy to relate to. I heavily recommend it to anyone interested in sharing Christ with their loved ones (which should be everyone).

Third, the book has a beautiful explanation of the gospel. Although I wished the book explained the gospel clearer the implications of the gospel could not have been more clearer. That is the beef of the book. And it is good to eat!

The chapters flow is unexpected, but once immersed you quickly see how they flow in a biblical and natural sort of way:

Chapter 1: FAMILY, a beatitude and yet a burden. All here in this chapter is a theology of the family from the Scripture. THe theology of the family includes two opposing angles; God and Satan. Both have their strategy and purpose for your family. It is good to understand both since one strategy is established before time the other is to destroy what’s always been. And there is hope to redeem what’s been destroy.

Chapter 2: GRACE, Amazing and yet breaking. A very important chapter on putting yourself on the same plain as your family in need of grace, rather than letting pride put you above them. Grace is one of the most neglected components when sharing the gospel, but one of the key components to understanding the gospel.

Chapter 3: TRUTH, liberating and yet narrow. In Acts 17, Paul is communicating with intelligent and religious people. People who are proud and think they’ve nailed the meaning of truth. That is until Paul introduces them to the gospel of truth. Some mocked, but some believed. Is that a familiar response in your family? In a truth starved world we need to understand where it went wrong and rightly meet it with the gospel. That’s where this chapter begins.

Since gospel truth has substance, we should think deeply about it. Since it draws lines, we should stand boldly in it. Since it illuminates all of life, we should celebrate its fullness. Since it prompts a response, we should ask for one. Since it’s easy to get wrong, we should reflect carefully about how to communicate it. (102-103)

Chapter 4: LOVE, always craved and yet seldom conveyed. Love is a mysterious and romanticized word. Defining love can be hard, but the Bible makes it easy. Learning to love your family with a gospel-love will help them see the initiative and sacrifice of Christ in action. This chapter helps you not only with the content of the gospel message but your context of sharing it.

Chapter 5: HUMILITY, divinely modeled and yet difficult to find. I can extend grace, truth and love to my family, but humility? Are you serious? Yes. And so is Jesus. He had humble holiness. This chapter helps you not only dish your pride and eat humility, but serves up Christ on a silver platter.

Humility us to see ourselves as God sees us in Christ–hopelessly sinful but graciously saved, rebellious yet redeemed, incapable of producing any righteousness on our own yet empowered to do all that God calls us to, appropriately bold yet taking no credit for the basis of that boldness. (136, Titus 3:3-8)

Chapter 6: TIME, freeing and yet fleeting. What time you ask? With eternity as our deadline we feel the pressure to dump the gospel on those we love and press them for a decision like life insurance agents. Sometimes the simple yet so heavy truths of the gospel need time to settle and marinate. This chapter helps us not to rush, but let God do His work in His time.

The God who calls us to live in time lives outside of time. We feel the burden of deadlines, but He never does. We grow impatient, while He knows nothing of that weakness. (155) Witnessing to family takes wisdom…and all that takes time.

Chapter 7: ETERNITY, comforting and yet terrifying. 100% of the people reading this will die. That truth can either cause your jaw to drop or draw you into unfathomable joy. Death is not the end only the beginning. This chapter touches on lives reality while giving you hope in the gospel as you share it with those you love the remainder of their days.

The distinct nature of the finished work of the gospel delivers people from fear, denial, and false hope. When we point people to Christ, we show them a way that takes the sting out of death, thus making it something to anticipate instead of dread. As Dietrich Bonheoffer once preached, “Death is grace, the greatest gift of grace that God gives to people who believe in Him.” (182; John 3:16-18)

Two dominant world views vie for our affections: One sees this life as all there is. The other sees life as preparation for the next. One thinks only in terms of the temporal. The other values the temporal because it sees it in light of the eternal. The first way does all that it can to avoid thinking about death. The other faces death squarely. The first speaks only of people “living in our hearts” after they die. The other envisions Revelation 7:9-10. (205-206)

for men, fathers, and future fathers

Us men always need words to build up and cheer us on towards godliness and manliness. Here are a list of articles and books I’ve enjoyed reading or studying:

No more ties, please!

For dads and granddads.

A brief guide to biblical manhood.

5 dangers for young men.

Where have all the good men gone?

Walter on being a dad & how men look.

Real men don’t complain. They fix.

4 phases of raising boys.

Dads 1:7 – Defusing Anger.

A Civil War soldiers letter to his wife.

6 ways fathers pursue Christ in their fatherhood.

FREE BOOKS FOR DUDES!!

for dads and granddads

Watch your average TV sitcom and you will see dumbed down dads on display. I can think of Homer Simpson, Al Bundy, Ray Ramone, and half-dozen others who fit the role. Today expectations for men are at an all tie low. The average man—including dads and husbands—are expected to be nothing less than a remote-holding-couch-glued-family-forsaking-caveman. That might be the way of some men, but certainly not all men. Our world craves and aches for real men.

Some will say the church is too girly. Sure. Whatever that means. I suppose it is because too many men run home to the lazy boy and hide behind the TV. Or they make their wife do all the spiritual heavy lifting in the house. That’s sad. It’s sad because the Bible places great responsibility upon men. In Genesis, we’ve already seen this:

The Bible calls men today to rise up and lead their families. It calls fathers and grandfathers to pass the spiritual baton to the next generation. It is their role to pass the blessing onto their children and their children’s children. Here in the closing portions of Genesis and Jacob’s life that kind of role is rolled out before our eyes. It begins with a beautiful scene between an old man and young boys.

Speak Blessings your Grandchildren [Genesis 48:1-22]

Jacob is old. He’s now a grandpa. He’s got the gnarly white hair and weathered skin to prove it. He’s got shortness of breath from chasing the grandkids around the barn. He spends most of his time sitting with his grandkids on his lap telling them long stories about the old days on the farm and how he thought he lost a son to ravenous wild animals. The grandkids listen, even though they have heard the stories hundreds of times.

By the time we come to Genesis 48, Jacob’s life is coming to an end. He is ailing. Joseph gathers his sons Manasseh and Ephraim to visit their grandfather, possibly for the last time. Jacob musters up strength, sits up in bed, and shares with his son and grandson of how God[1] appeared to him in Luz (Bethel) and blessed him with the covenant of promise spoken to his grandfather Abraham. Grandpa Jacob gives them some real spiritual steak to chew on.

What Jacob is doing is passing the spiritual baton to his son and grandsons. He is charging them to continue the faith so that the covenant family would prevail long after his death. It’s as Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”  Therefore Jacob brings in his two grandsons (Manasseh and Ephraim) to replace his first two sons who had fallen out of favor with him because of their sins.[2] In a final blessing, Grandpa Jacob purposefully reverses his hands in order to bless the younger (Ephraim) over the older (Manasseh).[3] Jacob then blessed his son Joseph and prayed over his grandsons, asking God to covenant with them, as He had been with him, his father Isaac, and his grandfather Abraham.

What we see and hear from Jacob is unique. He’s a manly man. He’s God’s kind of man. He’s not afraid to admit his dependence on God. He’s not too busy or tired to tend his children’s needs, particularly their spiritual needs. He’s not too proud to miss an opportunity to point his kids to God. He fears God first. Proverbs 14:26 says, “In the fear of the lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge.”

Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in His ways! You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you. Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the LORD. The LORD bless you from Zion! May you see your children’s children!  [Psalm 128:1–6]

According to this song, the blessing from God is man’s highest goal. That blessing includes fearing God, walking in His ways, working hard and honestly to provide for his family, enjoying his godly wife, eating dinner around his table surrounded by his children, and living long enough to see the fruits reproduce in his grandkids.

It is important for men to spiritually lead their families and pass on words of blessing and spiritual direction. If fathers and grandfathers expect their children to live for God they are best to speak them to their children and grandchildren, and intentionally pray over them. Do it out loud, so they can hear it and see you do it.

I will never forget the day my dad spoke at my wedding ceremony. He called me to live righteously like Christ, and blessed our marriage. Equally, I will not forget when grandfather with tears in his eyes on his deathbed spoke blessings over my family and ministry. Though both are not the most spiritual men, their words still ring clearly in my ears. I long to retell them to my children and grandchildren.

Speak Future Altering Words to Your Children [Genesis 49:1–50:14]

Last words often are lasting or life altering. As Jacob nears his last breath he gathers his sons around him and they are baited upon every word. As father and grandfather he blessed them, but now he takes the role of a prophet revealing to them their futures. As with most messages from prophets, his message has both blessings and curses. It’s an unforgettable tell-it-as-it-is ceremony of sorts for the entire family.

Jacob begins by cursing Reuben for having sex with his father’s concubine [cf. Genesis 35:22], and Simeon and Levi for being violent men [cf. Genesis 34]. He blesses Joseph. He then appoints Judah as the son of the promise. Throughout Genesis Judah has transformed from godless to godly man, much like his own father. And, his father, Jacob prophesies a coming king from the line of Judah [Genesis 49:10], which included David [2 Samuel 7] and ultimately will be fulfilled by a greater King—Jesus Christ—the King of Kings.[4]

Jacob’s last request is to be buried next to his favored wife Rachel and his father Isaac and grandfather Abraham, which was the Promised Land. It’s his final act of faith trusting that one day God would allow his family to return from Egypt just as God promised. After he passed Joseph and his brothers honored their fathers requests.

If Genesis 48-49 were a TV sitcom or modern day movie it would stand out. It might be ridiculed because modern media has castrated the manliness right out of men. But these last words from Jacob are heroic. They are words that pack a punch, much like William Wallace commanding his Scotsmen or Maximus proclaiming to the spectators in the Roman arena. Jacob calls fathers and grandfathers everywhere to stand with him and pass the spiritual baton to the younger generations. And if you wont who will?

What kind of grandfather do you want to become? What will you be remembered by as a father? Proverbs 17:6 points you to the future, saying, “Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their fathers.” In order to be a godly man, good father, and unforgettable grandfather, you have to be a good Christ follower. It takes grace and guts to mimic the God-Man. True manhood will only be found inside the Body of that One New Man—Jesus Christ—the Son who joyfully obeyed the words of His Father. I charge you, men, follow Him.

Must Read Resources for Men who are or hope to be Fathers and Grandfathers:


[1] The name for God used here is El Shaddai. It is also used five times previously in Genesis.

[2] Reuben in Genesis 35:22 and Simeon in Genesis 34:25, 49:5-6.Therefore the rights of firstborn were passed onto Judah and Joseph (Genesis 49:8-12, 22-26), and Joseph’s two sons replaced them as the heads in the twelve tribes of Israel.

[3] This happened throughout Genesis. It happened to Jacob himself when his father Isaac blessed him over his brother Esau.

[4] The remainder of the Bible following Genesis points us to and gives more understanding towards who this promised coming king will be. According to Matthew 1:1-3, 2:6; Luke 3:30-33; Hebrews 7:14; and Revelation 5:5 Jesus is the promised descendant of Judah. And, according to Numbers 24:17; Hebrews 1:8; and Revelation 19:15-16 Jesus Christ is the King of Kings who is coming again to rule all nations of the earth in fulfillment of Genesis 49:10.

a reunion to remember

Have you ever been to a reunion for family or school? I have been to a few. There is usually some anxiety at first, since you have not seen these faces for eons and time hasn’t made you younger, flashier, or skinnier. Usually within minutes the awkwardness fades through the laughs and retelling of old memories.

The reunion of Joseph and his father is one of the most memorable of Scripture. However, at a quick glance what we do not catch is that this story is more about Jacob remembering His God and reunited with His promises.

REUNITED WITH THE GOD WHO CARES [Genesis 46]

Jacob is now an old man. He probably has some wrinkles and walks with a bowed leg. He has a few less hairs and it is clear from his eyes that he’s weathered life. He’s been asked to do something rather challenging even for someone half his age or tenth his age. In faith he is leaving his home, farm of his youth, and comforts. Like his great grandfather Abraham before him, in faith he’s trusting God to bless him in a new land.

Along the way Jacob stops to worship God in Beersheba. It’s a landmark site for his family. This was the same place where his father Isaac and grandfather Abraham, also worshiped God [21:33, 26:23-25]. There, God speaks to Jacob and gives him a command and promise. The command is the most common command in the Bible, “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you in a great nation there.” [Genesis 46:3] Hear this sampling of other occasions throughout the Bible when God says the same 4-words:

  • Abraham. “The word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” [Genesis 15:1]
  • Isaac. “That night the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you.” [Genesis 26:24]
  • Moses.Do not be afraid of him, for I have handed him over to you, with his whole army and his land.” [Numbers 21:34]
  • Elijah. “Go down with him. Do not be afraid of him.” [2 Kings 1:15]
  • Jehoshaphat. “Listen King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.” [2 Chronicles 20:15]
  • Isaiah. “Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid.” [Isaiah 7:4] “Do not be afraid, O worm of Jacob, O little Israel, for I myself will help you,” declares the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.” [Isaiah 41:14; 44:8; 54:4]
  • Jeremiah.Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the LORD.” [Jeremiah 1:8]
  • Daniel.Do not be afraid Daniel. From the first day that you set your mind to fain understanding and to humble yourself before you God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them.” [Daniel 10:12]
  • Jesus to followers.Do not be afraid, I am with you.” [Matthew 28:10, 19-20; 10:28; 14:27; John 14:27]

When God says, do not be afraid. It is nothing like if I were to say the same thing. When I say, “Do not fear,” it sounds generic, even uncaring. God never says anything He doesn’t mean. He doesn’t say anything to get you off His back. Fears are not trivial to God. The sheer number of times He speaks to your fears is proof enough that He cares much more than you know.

Many wonder if God really cares. Past hurts still have a hold on you. You feel like you’ve been fooled once and you won’t be fooled again, so you trust no one but yourself. Or you believe that what God says is too good to be true. You feel unworthy of His care. In the midst of doubt God reveals more of Himself to you.

God is repetitive. He is happy to do so. Repetitive is supposed to aid learning. Ask the oral speaking Hebrews and they’d agree. Think of God repeating Himself like a parent daily telling His children, “Take your vitamins,” or “I love you.” God follows His command, “Do not be afraid” with one of the most precious promises of the Bible, I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.”

When God ask you to do something He’s not going to leave you hanging. He has given you good reason to not be afraid. He will be with you no matter how difficult. I am certain Jacob remembers the stories from his childhood of God’s presence with Adam in the Garden [Genesis 2], with Noah in the Ark [Genesis 6-9], with Abraham [12:1-3], and with his father Isaac [26:24]. The ruler of the universe will accompany Jacob to a strange land. He promises his son Joseph will be there when he breathes his last breath. And God will see to it that he is buried back in the Promised Land.

When God says He will be with you He means it. You have all proof in the span of Scripture. Just look at the stories of Moses [Exodus 33:12-17; Deuteronomy 31:6], David [Psalm 23:4; 118:6-7], Isaiah [49:14-15], Haggai [2:4-5], Paul the apostle [Philippians 4:5-6], and Jesus and the Spirit [John 17:20-24; Matthew 29:19-20]. Jesus says, “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” [John 14:16-18]

Despite fears, Jacob obeys God in faith and moves to Egypt with his family. And, in one of the most touching occasions in the entire Bible, Joseph reunites with his father Jacob. The two men embrace and weep for a long time. It’s a reunion to remember.

REUNITED WITH THE GOD WHO REIGNS [Genesis 47:1-12]

Up to this point, Joseph has not asked for any sympathy, apologizes, or favors from his brothers. Even from a high position of authority in Egypt, he has the power to snap his finger or whisper a quick word and his brothers would instantly be lynched, enslaved, or tried for their dodgy past. But Joseph did none of it. Instead he demonstrates divine grace and unforgettable forgiveness.

Joseph takes five of his brothers before the Pharaoh to ask a favor on their behalf. As anticipated Pharaoh inquires about the kind of work his brothers did back home. They reply, “Shepherds.” To be a shepherd was like being a garbage man or burger flipper. It was a lower class job, especially to an Egyptians. Remarkably Pharaoh blesses them as Joseph’s brothers, and gives them the best grazing land amidst the famine. God uses the ruler of the known world to be a blessing. God holds the heart of the king in His hand.

Then, Joseph brings his 130-year old gray-haired father to meet the mighty Pharaoh. Jacob opens his mouth before the king. You never know what an old guy might say. But He doesn’t say anything brash or embarrassing. He gives Pharaoh two patriarchal blessings (47:7,10). In other words, he stands before the king and gives glory to the King of kings.

God ultimately sits on the throne and rules. He places those who reign over peoples and nation. God even uses unregenerate Pharaoh to carry out His purposes in preserving His people. Proverbs 8:15, God’s wisdom declares, “By me kings reign, and rulers decree justice.” This gives me a lot of comfort around election time. No matter who is in office or soon to be God is still on the throne. He is in control.

The last shall be first and the first shall be last. You see this without a doubt in Joseph’s story, which seems more like a rollercoaster ride than smooth sailing in a convertible Cadillac. Through it all, Joseph maintains an attitude of servanthood. He goes from favored son to slave to favored house servant to jail chains to second in command of the most powerful nation on earth. That just doesn’t happen. God makes it happen with his humble servant. God orchestrates these events because he reigns over humans, nations, and history.

REUNITED WITH THE GOD WHO KEEPS HIS WORD [Genesis 47:13-31]

Why Egypt? Aren’t Jacob’s people supposed to live in the Promised Land? Why would God take them from the land and bring them to a place where they would soon be slaves? Does God not remember His word to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3 to bless him with a nation and land?

Earlier in Genesis God clearly gave Isaac the command to not leave the land. Here God clearly gives Jacob the command to leave the land. Is God playing games? Does he like to move his people around for fun? God is not a jester or monster. He has a loving purpose behind everything He does.

What we fail to see is that God is blessing Jacob and is keeping his word. The blessing comes from his obedience to God’s commands. It is not uncommon for people to reduce their faith to a series of rules and steps by which they live. Therefore, the Bible often confuses such people. They are prone to not recognize the difference between universal and particular commands.

The universal commands are applicable to everyone everywhere at all times, such as the command for us to love people and love God.  However, the particular commands are applicable to a particular person or group of people in a particular place at a particular time in history, such as God’s command for Noah to enter the Ark with his family.

In Genesis 47:13-31, we see the results of both God’s blessing upon Pharaoh and Egypt because of Joseph. Joseph’s wise business dealings made the Pharaoh really rich during the seven years of famine. In this we see that God blesses His covenant people and blesses those who bless them.

Also during the time Joseph is in Egypt, Jacob’s family is growing to seventy people. This too is God’s covenant blessing of many children. The stage is now set by God’s providential hand to fulfill the prophecy God had given to Abraham. In Genesis 15:12-14, God had promised Abraham that his descendants would spend four hundred years enslaved in Egypt before God liberated them as a great nation. All of the prophecies given by God to Abraham are in the process of being fulfilled. In His unique ways, God is protecting and preserving His people. His providence in the matter will be clearer in the days of Moses [cf. Exodus 12:40].

God got the family to Egypt through Joseph and the famine. And, this small family will become a nation of a few million people some four hundred years when God crushes the Pharaoh in that day for mistreating His covenant people in accordance with His promise to Abraham to not only bless those who blessed His people but also curse those who cursed them.

Jacob remembered what God said to his grandfather Abraham. Therefore he calls his son Joseph to his side. And he makes Joseph promise not to leave his bones in Egypt, but carry them back to the land God had promised and bury him there together with Abraham and Isaac [47:29-31]. What we see is an amazing transformation in the life of Jacob. He was once the young trickster, but now he is an old God-fearer. As he looks back on his life he has seen and heard how the word of the Lord has come to pass. Keep has first hand proof that God keeps His word.

What a wonderful reunion this is for Jacob. Do not wait until you are old before you realize that God cares, reigns and keeps His word. Treasure these promises from our youth and may they spare you from many messes and uneasy days ahead. If you are having a hard time believing God look at His Son. All roads in Scripture lead to Jesus. And all of God’s promises and guarantees are fulfilled in Jesus [Hebrews 7:22; 2 Corinthians 1:20].

Jesus cares. He has compassion for all including the sick and sinner [Matthew 14:14; Mark 6:34; Luke 7:13]. “Cast all your cares upon Him because He cares for you” [1 Peter 5:7; cf. Matthew 6:25]. The greatest proof of Jesus care is shown on the cross, which paved the way toward the forgiveness of your sin [Hebrews 8:12].

Jesus reigns. He sits at the right hand of His Father. It is a seat of authority. What is He doing from the throne? He is interceding on behalf of His brothers [Mark 14:62; 16:19; Acts 7:55; Romans 8:34; Hebrews 12:2].

Jesus keeps His word. He is the Word that became flesh [John 1:1-17; Revelation 22:6-21]. His words are trustworthy and true. He is the Word. He is the truth.

consider adoption

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.—James 1:27

Considering adoption? [great sites to start your search]

Adoption 101: God’s heart and our call

A biblical view of adoption

Q&A on Adoption: Countries and More. Where should I adopt?

Love Basket

America World Adoption

All God’s Children

Adoption Advocates

Lifesong for Orphans

The LYDIA Fund

ABBA Fund. On funding adoptions.

Unveiled Face

Five Reflections on Evangelicalism and Adoption

Friends of adoption

Whipple Words

Mandy Joy. Echoes of Mercy.

Mag News

One thankful Mom

thumb licks [happy 2012]

7 things highly productive people do.

How to write a good sympathy card.

It’s not wrong to question your pastor. In fact, as a pastor, I encourage this.

The Tyranny of advice column Christianity.

Jellyfish tank. What I would get if I had a few hundred dollars laying around.

6 lessons from a year of family devotions.

Why keep the whole family together for church?

Why read the Bible with a plan?

Read the entire Bible in 2012. Here are some helpful tools.

Why studying the Bible won’t (necessarily) change your life.

Facts about Google. It’s big.

Don Sweeting looks ahead to 2012.

2011: a year in review through pictures

The Hobbit. A movie I will have to wait at least 360 days to watch this year.