Eternity In The Heart

Have you ever longed for something more than this earth has to offer? I know I have. In fact, I can remember as a college student I was disappointed with what the world had to offer and had a desire for something more. How do we explain that longing?

It appears that King Solomon understood this truth as well. In fact, of all people, he was able to experience more of what the world had to offer than most. He was king of Israel at its pinnacle; he had wealth, hundreds of wives and concubines, built cities, palaces, planted gardens, was the wisest man ever to live and had fame. With all of that notice what he says in Ec. 3:11,

“He (God) has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.”

God has planted in the heart of man a longing for eternity. A desire for more than what temporal earth has to offer. As the BKC states it, “People have a longing or desire to know the extratemporal significance of themselves and their deeds or activities.” We long to know that our life has lasting significance.

This verse also states that we cannot fully understand God and his ways. That can be frustrating for us because we want to know why things are the way they are, but God has intentionally created us with limitations. This lack of understanding can be discouraging. The BKC goes on to say,

“They (man) cannot know the sovereign, eternal plan of God. Human labor is without profit because people are ignorant of God’s eternal plan, the basis by which He evaluates the appropriateness and eternal significance of all their activities. Because of this ignorance there is an uncertainty and latent temporality to the value of all one’s labor.”

These observations by Solomon continue to lead us to the end of the book where he states that living for God now and knowing that I will one day give an account of my life to him is what should occupy our primary focus. A life lived for God is a life well lived.

Father, thank you for explaining why I long to experience more and see that my life is of significance and value.  Thank you also for the reminder that I have limitations in my ability to understand you plan and that a life lived for you is a life of great eternal value.  Help me to live daily with you as my priority.

Following Jesus with you,


What Do You Want?

Jesus asks a very simple question in John 1:38 when two of John the Baptist’s disciples started following him. Jesus said, “What do you want.”

This is a great question today for us to ask. Why do I want to follow Jesus as his disciple? Is it because of what Jesus can do for me and my life or because he is God in the form of man and he is the way and the truth?

Often it is easy to think that following Jesus should be without challenge or problems. Since he is “the way, truth, and the life,” and we are most fulfilled in relationship to him, shouldn’t life be easy?

The honesty of Jesus is compelling. Notice how Jesus simply states what it will be like to be one of his disciples in Matthew 10:16-23,

“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next.”

For the disciple of Jesus, it should be expected that when we are following the Master, the way will be difficult. Obedience to Jesus is a narrow and steep path.  Even though this has historically been true, Jesus and his followers have changed the world! The benefits of following Jesus far surpass the cost because following Jesus is God’s plan for us.  I like how Barclay summarizes challenging reminder when he says,

“The world will offer a man roses, roses all the way, comfort, ease, advancement, the fulfillment of his worldly ambitions. Jesus offered his men hardship and death. And yet the proof of history is that Jesus was right. In their heart of hearts men love a call to adventure… It may be that the Church must learn again that we will never attract men to an easy way; it is the call of the heroic which ultimately speaks to men’s hearts.”

I am motivated by the call to the heroic aren’t you?  I want to be in the arena fighting for the Kingdom!  This passage reminds me that when I present the Gospel to someone I must not imply that life will be easy, but it is worth it because it is the only way based on the truth!

Father, this passage is an excellent reminder that following Jesus will not always be easy. In America, we have in comparison to the early church, an easy time following Jesus. And yet, we still complain when things do not go the way we want! Help me to adjust my expectations of what the like to follow Jesus. Help me to seek your will for my life rather than my own. Thank you that we currently can follow without significant ramifications. If our society changes, help me to remain still faithful and follow you regardless of the cost.

Following Jesus with you,


Love or Ritual?

Following the Master is a great adventure. Looking at his Word each day and seeing how he lived seems always to leave me in amazement. Jesus was not like you and me. He lived with deep conviction based upon what he knew was true regardless of how others responded to him or his teaching. Jesus was God in the likeness of man! So, when I see him boldly confront the faulty thinking of the religious elite, he was not timid, he speaks as one who has authority.

One such illustration is found in Matt. 9:11-13 which says,

“Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

The Pharisees looked down on Jesus because they saw him eating with those whom they considered inferior and sinners! How could someone who claims to be a teacher from God do such a thing?

Jesus is not flustered in his response. He simply tells them that they do not understand the Law! Wow! Are you kidding me? The “great” teachers are shown by Jesus whom they considered uneducated, that they do not know the very Law they take such pride in? That must have been very hard for them to hear.

In his response, Jesus sites Hos. 6:6 which says, “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”

Jesus shows them that they have completely missed the heart of the Law. They have replaced love with ritual and formality. Jesus reminds them that the expression of love to others is more important to God than sacrifices.

I love how the Bible Knowledge Commentary summarizes this exchange when it says,

“The Lord’s response demonstrated that His ministry is directed toward those who realize they have a need: Only sick people need a doctor. The Pharisees did not think they were sinners (sick) so they would never have sought out the Lord (the Physician). The Pharisees always brought the proper sacrifices, but they were totally lacking in compassion toward sinners. When mercy is lacking, then religious formalities are meaningless (cf. Hosea 6:6).”

Father, thank you for helping me see today that my efforts to love and follow you need to be expressed primarily by my love for others rather than legalism or tradition. Your work in my life should be seen by my tireless effort to help those who realize they are in need. I also should follow the example of Jesus and focus my ministry on those who see the need for you, rather than those who do not think they are in need of a doctor.

Following Jesus with you,


The Golden Rule

Many consider the statement of Jesus in Matthew 7:12 to be the most popular saying he ever made. He said, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

As familiar as you and I might be with this saying, I was surprised to learn that this was a new teaching in the time of Jesus. Notice what Barclay says concerning this,

“It is possible to quote rabbinic parallels for almost everything that Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount; but there is no real parallel to this saying. This is something which had never been said before. It is new teaching, and a new view of life and of life’s obligations.”

Rabbi Hillel taught something similar but notice the difference, “What is hateful to thyself do not to thy neighbor; for this is the whole law, and all else is its exposition” In effect, he taught the “Golden Rule” in the negative and as Lenski points out, it is self-centered.

Instead of “not hurting” others so that they do not hurt me, Jesus is telling us to engage others positively. This is a challenge to the disciple of Jesus to let their light shine for others to see. We are to live in a way that intentionally seeks good for others. The fruit of such a life will be returned to you.

Father, thank you for the reminder that I need to think of the needs of others and intentionally seek to treat them in ways I wish I were treated. I should not be passive and wait for others to be kind to me first.  I should not be afraid to take the initiative and seek to meet their needs first.  This approach to life will help me to be less self-centered, and more others focused. Living this way is a true summary of what the Bible expects of us. Help me to take the initiative to give my life away helping to meet the needs of others.

Following Jesus with you,


A Slippery Slope

Judging others is a slippery slope isn’t it? It is easy to see in others things we condemn, but we do them ourselves! I was reminded of this truth when I read through Matthew 7 today. Notice how these Jesus addresses this issue in verses 1-5,

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

Jesus informs us that God will judge us by the standard we judge others. Why would he do that? Because he knows, in reality, we cannot meet the expectations we place on others. We would be far better to examine ourselves and address our imperfections than condemn others for theirs.

It is also interesting to note that Jesus says those who judge others are in reality “hypocrites.” The sense of the word is summarized well by Logos when they define the word as “a person who professes beliefs and opinions that he or she does not hold in order to conceal his or her real feelings or motives.”

When I judge others, I am a hypocrite since I give the impression that the areas in which I condemn others are not faults of mine, but the are. Ouch!

Father, I thank you that your Word still can pierce to the soul and reveal flaws in my nature. Thank you for the reminder of my tendency to find fault with others that are faults in me. I need not worry about others. I need to worry about myself and seek your help to change me. Thank you for your patient leadership in my life!

Following Jesus with you,


Love Your Enemies?

In reading through Matthew 5, I was struck by verses 43-45 which say,

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

The Israelites understood the expectation of loving the brethren (Lev. 19:18), but they did not understand a new application of love that Jesus says should have always been the case. The Jews were supposed to love even their enemies so that their conduct would be as light in a dark world and would draw people to God. Jesus states that expectation should be obvious since  God is kind to all, even the unbelieving. God is merciful to all with the hope that his goodness will lead the unbelieving to repentance (Rom. 2:4).

The Bible Knowledge Commentary helps explain how the Jews could have thought differently when it says,

“The Pharisees taught that one should love those near and dear to him (Lev. 19:18), but that Israel’s enemies should be hated. The Pharisees thus implied that their hatred was God’s means of judging their enemies. But Jesus stated that Israel should demonstrate God’s love even to her enemies—a practice not even commanded in the Old Testament!”

The Pharisees taught that the Jews should hate their enemies. This concept is not taught in the Old Testament and Jesus is brining clarity to a misapplication of the expectation of love. The disciple of Jesus should love not only his brothers, but even those who are his enemies.

This obviously is a very challenging statement for the audience to accept. The teaching of Jesus is in clear contrast to what they had been taught. Even so, Jesus did not simply state this truth, but he lived it out until his dying breath when he said on the cross, “forgive them Father, for they know not what they are doing.”

Father, this is a challenging statement for me today. It is easy to love those who love me and who have a commonality of faith in you. It is much harder to love those that I do not like or that are your enemies. Help me to see that those who oppose you and your truth are in need of your love as well.  Hopefully, this love will lead them to repentance.

Following Jesus with you,


It Is A Vapor


Have you noticed that sometimes when you think too much about life, you can become discouraged? As I get older, I realize just how quickly my life is passing. When I evaluate the fruit of all my effort, I can wonder, “What have I accomplished that will last”?

Such contemplation can be discouraging if I do not also consider God in the process. A life lived without God will pass without experiencing lasting value. True meaning, purpose, and significance only come when we experience life in relationship to God. Solomon teaches us that in his masterful book called Ecclesiastes.

King Solomon spent time in the book reflecting on life and does not want us to miss what is paramount in the short period that we have on earth. He intentionally sought out where he could find lasting meaning and fulfillment “under the sun” (which means, on earth alone).

Where is lasting value when everything goes so quickly? One of the famous verses in his book of reflection is Ecclesiastes 1:2 which says,

“Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher,
vanity of vanities! All is vanity.”

Solomon begins his reflections by stating that life considered “under the sun” is “vanity.” Ogden and Zogbo note that the emphasis in the phrase “vanity of vanities,” is that “life is full of unresolved questions, that it is puzzling and full of irony.”

The word “vanity” literally means “breath or vapor” and is stressing that something is “fleeting” and “elusive.” As the NKJ note says, “Wherever we read the word vanity in Ecclesiastes, we should think not of what is ‘meaningless,’ but of what is ‘quickly passing.’”

So what should a man do to make sure he experiences life to the full before it passes as a vapor? Solomon tells us the answer in the very last verse of the book. He said,

“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.”

There it is! After 12 chapters of showing the puzzling irony of life, Solomon says that answer is a life lived for God has value. We must live life above the sun. Make your maximum impact in the vapor of life by living it in a way that pleases God.

Father, thank you for the reminder of the brevity of life. Thank you that Solomon gave us wise insight to the puzzling questions about life. Although I cannot answer all of these issues now, I can see that life lived to the full is the life lived with you and for you. Help me to make my maximum impact for you this year.

Following Jesus with you,


My Helpers

Have you ever needed help? I have needed help in more ways than I can number. I am sure you would say the same. I have needed help in learning, living and loving in particular.

Webster’s defines “helper” as “someone who helps another person with a job or task.” As I have been thinking about starting this New Year, I am very thankful for two helpers in my life in particular. The first is my wife, Donna. We have been married for 27 years, and she fulfills in my life what God designed her to do as described in Genesis 2:18. This verse says,

“Then the LORD God said, “‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’”

The sense of the word “helper” in this passage is “a person who contributes to the fulfillment of a need of an effort or purpose. (Logos)

If you are married, you probably have seen how your wife has helped you with your imperfections. Donna fills my gaps, and I hope I fill her gaps. We are better together than separately. With her help, she meets my needs and assists me with fulfilling my purpose in life. I try to do the same for her.

The second helper in my life is identified by Jesus in John 14:16 which says,

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever.”

What an incredible blessing. Jesus is my helper in that he has provided the way of salvation, but he sent the Holy Spirit to be my helper as I live out my faith on earth. Through the enabling of the Spirit, he helps me to live the way God designed.  Jesus may no longer be physically present on earth, but the Spirit is here to fulfill the mission of our salvation—Christlikeness.

Father, thank you for seeing that I am a man that needs help! Thank you for your design of marriage between a man and a woman.  In this relationship, you designed us to compliment one another and better reflect your image on earth. I also want to thank you for giving me the resources necessary to live out my faith. Your Spirit and your Word coupled with my willing submission to your leadership will allow you to mold me into the person you want me to be.

Following Jesus with you,