Follow Jesus, And Invite Others To Do The Same

Follow Jesus, And Invite Others To Do The Same

In the Bible we get to see real people who really lived and did real things in history.

Most importantly, we get to see how they interacted with and followed God.

I recently read through the book of Judges and was encouraged by the many stories of God working in and through people to rescue Israel throughout their initial years in the promise land and I wanted to encourage you with one of these many stories.

Ehud was one of the earliest characters in the book of Judges. He was a left-handed man who was able to use this uniqueness to get past the security protecting Eglon, the king of Moab, who was oppressing Israel at that time.

After getting past the guards and killing Eglon, Ehud says something to his fellow Israelites that is very telling of his character:

“And he said to them, “Follow after me, for the Lord has given your enemies the Moabites into your hand.” So they went down after him and seized the fords of the Jordan against the Moabites and did not allow anyone to pass over.”

Judges 3:28

Notice that he doesn’t take the credit for what God was doing through him.

He could have quickly gathered fame and wealth by taking this opportunity to gather Israel around himself rather than around God.

Yes, he was their leader; he told them to follow after him.
But he made clear that God was the one giving them the battle,
That God was the one for them to ultimately follow, thank and worship.

It’s easy to do one of two things:

  1. To simply press on and simply serve God by yourself
  2. To gather other people around you to build yourself, your vision, and your “kingdom” up

But it’s much harder to be willing to bring others along, to disciple them, to encourage them, to serve alongside them, to lead them – but to make sure that everyone keeps their eyes on God, and not you.

But that’s what we’re called to do.

To simply follow Jesus,
And to encourage others to follow us and do the same.

Not so that we may gain from it,
But that they may be blessed, and God glorified.

May we be like Ehud,
Doing the difficult work,
And calling others to come alongside
And follow God together.

Public Image vs Private Character

Public Image vs Private Character

For years we’ve lived in a world that increasingly cares about our public image and what people think about us.

And that desire continues to grow.

As if the wave of the internet and social media wasn’t enough, we now live in a time where people pass immediate judgement on your character and generally who you are as a person based on if you’re wearing a mask and seeming to social distance.

The outward appearance of holiness and “better than thou” living has become what many of us strive for.

Virtue signaling in our words and public actions have become commonplace.

And this is very dangerous for our personal character.

Because the more we continue to value what other’s perceive of our character,
And the more we emphasize the things that are merely outward and public,

The more we forget to look at our true selves.
The more we start to think we really are “good” people.
And the more we won’t see our need for a Savior and God to continue to make us more like Him.

I’m Not Saying Masks Or Public Acts Are Bad

But our society has continued to go down a path of “you are a good person if you do this specific, public action” and “you are a bad person if you do not do this specific, public action”.

And this is at a time where our public “Instagram” life already doesn’t line up with our “real” life.

The issue is that we are rushing down a path where we make entire character assumptions about others with very little context about their life as a whole, but instead based on a very small set of information that could very well be done out of almost any other reason other than their true character or beliefs.

We’re judging books by their covers at a breakneck speed.

What Jesus Had To Say About Outward Appearances

Again, the issue isn’t what you’re doing publicly, but that the more we emphasize our public appearance, the less we’re focusing on the more important part of our lives: our character.

The problem is that we’ve become so quick to judge others from a sliver of their public appearance, that I’m afraid we’ve also begun equating our own personal character with what we present publicly; but our public appearance and our private character aren’t the same thing.

As we see throughout Scripture, God cares far more about our inward character than our outward appearance:

“But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.'”

1 Samuel 16:7

And, again in Jesus’ ministry we learn something very important about caring more about our outward appearance over our inward character:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.”

Matthew 23:27

To have an outwardly beautiful appearance,
And an inward life full of dead people’s bones,
Is NOT the life God would have for you.

What Does This Change?

Again, I’m not proposing that any of what you already do, or others do, outwardly might be wrong at all. It very well might be good. But is your inward character doing well?

The issue isn’t really about doing outward things, it’s that we have pushed so much for polishing the outward appearance that it’s likely that we’ve all forgotten our inward life.

So, What Is Your Private Life Like?

It’s been said that your character is decided on what you do when nobody is watching.

So, what do YOU do when nobody is watching.
Nobody is taking pictures,
Nothing will be shared online.

And, even then, when you do these good things,
What is your intent?
Where is your heart?

Scripture tell us that none of us are good inside (Romans 3:10–12, Romans 3:23),
That none of us have a pure heart,
That what we deserve is death (Romans 6:23a)
But that God’s free gift of grace is to offer us life (Romans 6:23b).

Do you believe that?
Have you been living that?
Have you been asking God to transform your inward character,
Above your outward public image?

Because after all the applause is gone,
After all the things of this world fade,
The only thing you’ll really care to hear is:

“‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’”

Matthew 25:23

Live IN the present, but not FOR the present

Live IN the present, but not FOR the present

As a culture, we jump from one thing to the next. Although we have all heard of studies telling us to stop multitasking and to generally slow down and smell the roses – few of us do.

In fact, it’s not just common, but actually encouraged and a badge of honor to say how busy or tired you are – as if you’re doing something wrong if you’re not.

However, the way people try to fix this is just as damaging.

I’ve heard many people encourage others to “live in the moment” and to simply “follow their heart” and ignore all repercussions of the future and to simply live IN the present and live FOR the present.

And that is just as wrong.

We can’t simply go to the other extreme of not only living in the present but also living for the present without dire consequences.

But we also can’t continue through life at break-neck speed without suffering just as many consequences.

So here’s our solution. It’s not easy to do, but it really is this simple:

Live in the present.


Slow down, work with, and enjoy what’s in front of you right now.

Live for the future.

Keep in mind the overall trajectory of your life.

For the Christian, this is ultimately living out what Jesus meant when He said to “Seek first the Kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33). We are called to live in the world, but not of this world (1 John 2:15-17).

Does your life right now reflect what you want to be “living for” or do you need to course correct?

Take inventory and start now

What is the future you’re living for?

Does your life reflect it?
Does your calendar, hobbies, budget, lifestyle reflect what you want to be “living for”?

Are you living in the present?

Or are you constantly hurried in life?
And not able to even enjoy the path you’re on?

The perfect example

It’s amazing to look at Jesus Who was “about His Father’s business” (Luke 2:49) and had “done everything the Father had given Him” (John 17:4) yet never seemed hurried or rushed.

Clearly He had a lot on His plate and He did many things, but He was never consumed and rushed and overwhelmed by them.

We too, can be about the work God has for us,
We too, can complete all that God has given us to do,
And without becoming stressed out, overworked, unable-to-stop-to-smell-the-roses people.

By His grace and transforming us to become more like Himself,
We too can become like Jesus in this way.

As you reflect on how God would have you live in the now, and for the future differently, I thought this a perfect passage to read, reflect and pray that God would cause us to be a people who live in the moment and live for His Kingdom.

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?

And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’
For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

Matthew 6:25–34

My Favorite Books From 2020

My Favorite Books From 2020

In the year 2020, I read 41 books.

I’m blown away by how much I’ve grown in the discipline of reading (for reference, I had read 4 books in 2018 and only 1 in 2017… I’ve been keeping a list of books I read for a while and it’s only recently gotten to the numbers it is now).

I’ve really enjoyed listening to these books on library audio apps like Overdrive and Hoopla, and it’s the only way I have been able to “read” as many as I have.

That said, I LOVE reading and learning so I thought I’d pass on my favorite books from this past year in case you would like to read any of them as well.

Please note, these aren’t in any particular order, though I put them into categories in case you’re looking for a specific type of book:

Bible Commentaries:

  • Judges For You by Tim Keller
  • Galatians For You by Tim Keller

Tim Keller has written a few books in a Bible study/commentary format that are very simple to read. He has a few, but the two I read are listed above. The one on the book of Judges is incredible and I think you should check it out if you’re even vaguely interested.

Christian Living:

  • Experiencing God by Henry and Richard Blackaby // Such an incredible book to consider how God might want to work in you and through you.
  • Through the Eyes of a Lion by Levi Lusko // An awesome book to get our eyes back on the truth of God’s Word. Heart-wrenching at times, but totally worth it.
  • Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster // A very simple book that unearths spiritual disciplines in a way that most gloss over. If spiritual disciplines have ever been confusing or difficult, this is an amazing book.
  • The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence // a great book reminding us to slow down and simply be present with God wherever we are.

Church Leadership/Ministry:

  • A Tale Of Three Kings by Gene Edwards // Simply showing the differences between King Saul, David and Absalom. A great book reminding us what it truly looks like to live a life (and lead a ministry) that reflects God’s heart even when it’s difficult.
  • Purpose Driven Youth Ministry by Doug Fields // A very in depth book from one of the most experienced youth pastors around and is definitely applicable to other areas of ministry as well.
  • Simple Church by Thom S. Rainer // We certainly don’t create simple things naturally, they have to be sought out. And this book helps you think through how to truly make ministry simple


The Mistborn series! I read the first trilogy and I just finished the first book in the second trilogy. It’s an incredible series. If you like fantasy like Lord of the Rings, I’m pretty sure you’ll love this.


  • Getting Things Done by David Allen // I’ve always been facinated by productivity books, blogs and podcasts and although I had read lots of people’s thoughts and applications of David Allen’s book, I finally got around to actually reading it! It’s a great book that you should definitely check out.
  • Do More Better by Tim Challies // This is the first productivity book I’ve ever read specifically from a Christian worldview/perspective on focusing specifically on what God has called you to do over other things and how that can be flushed out in a productive way.
  • The Bullet Journal by Ryder Carroll // The Bullet Journal is probably the most famed way of organizing a physical notebook and although I’m not interested in starting a physical notebook, I still got a lot of good takeaways when it comes to organizing information and keeping productive.
  • How to Win at College by Cal Newport // I thought this might be good for a youth pastor, such as myself, to read as potential suggestion for high schoolers and I also hoped he would have principles that could translate to the average adult’s life – and it does. It’s a great and simple book, though there is a section on finding your identity and such that I extremely disagree with. The areas focused on productivity, building key relationships, etc are great.

I hope that helps you find a book or two that will be useful for you to check out in this coming year!

New Year, Same God

New Year, Same God

“New Year, New Me.”

Have you seen that phrase around?

It’s a popular saying this time of year. It brings ideas of being a whole new person in this new year.

But is it really true?

Did you transform into a better and more able person when the clock struck midnight?

Probably not.

And, even so, should we put our hope in our ability to design a perfect life this coming year?

I hope you don’t.

The reality is, as good as New Year resolutions are and as useful as the motivation from a new calendar can be…

January 1st, 2021 isn’t very different from December 31st, 2020.

Change happens overtime, not with the flip of a calendar.

So, instead of “new year, new me” I propose something different:

New Year, Same God.

The calendar year changes
Our situations change over time
We, ourselves, change over time
But God,
He stays the same.

He is our solid rock,
Our firm foundation,
The One we can trust and rely on in the midst of a world of unknown.

I don’t know if 2021 will be any different than 2020.

I don’t know if 2021 will be any better or worse than 2020.

But I know the God Who is faithful through it all.

More hopeful than relying on a new year,
And certainly more hopeful than relying on a new me to hold everything together,
I want to rely on the same God Who is faithful to all generations.

I hope you do the same.

Shall Come To Thee, O Israel (Behind The Lyrics, Part 6)

Shall Come To Thee, O Israel (Behind The Lyrics, Part 6)

This is Part 6 covering the Scriptural background for the lyrics of the song “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”. You can read the earlier posts at these links:

Part 1 (Emmanuel)

Part 2 (Thou Lord Of Might)

Part 3 (Thou Rod Of Jesse)

Part 4 (Thou Key Of David)

Part 5 (Thou Dayspring)

Although that’s all the verses I wanted to cover, each verse ends with the same phrase that I wanted to point out (specifically the day after Christmas):

“Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel, Shall come to thee, O Israel”

Emmanuel Shall Come

There is an incredible amount of prophecy surrounding how God was to come into our world as our Redeemer.

And in that prophecy, there’s a clear understanding that He will come through and for Israel, but that His work would then benefit and be for all people of all nations.

As the angel described:

“Good news of great joy that will be for all people.”

Luke 2:10-12

This repeated phrase reminds us to hold onto this hope throughout the song.

Rejoice! For Emmanuel will come.
Rejoice! For Thou Lord of Might will come.
Rejoice! For Thou Rod of Jesse will come.
Rejoice! For Thou Key of David will come.
Rejoice! For Thou Dayspring will come.

And He comes for the whole world.

Every nation,
Every tribe,
Every tongue,
Every person.

Waiting On God

The prophecies of the coming Messiah were written long before Jesus came, and so the original hearers and readers had to be patient and wait expectantly.

We, similarly, have to wait on God as well.

Jesus has come,
Jesus has paid the price for our sins,
Jesus has given us His Spirit,

But our lives are still imperfect,
Much of world around us is still broken and without Him.

We are in the “already” and “not yet”.

We are in the in-between of being fully justified, yet not in heaven with Jesus just yet.

And so we have to remind ourselves of the hope we have in Him.

So, as we are now in the day after Christmas, I encourage you to consider the waiting that led up to Christmas and the waiting we now have as Christians.

Jesus has come,
But He is still redeeming this world.

And as we wait, we too can hope in Him,
And continue to say, as they did waiting for His first arrival:

“Come quickly, Lord Jesus, come.”

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.
For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.
And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?
But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Romans 8:18–25
O Come, Thou Dayspring (Behind The Lyrics, Part 5)

O Come, Thou Dayspring (Behind The Lyrics, Part 5)

This is Part 5 covering the Scriptural background for the lyrics of the song “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”. You can read the earlier posts at these links: part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4.

The fifth verse of the song goes like this:

“O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer, Our spirits by Thy advent here;

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night, And death’s dark shadows put to flight.”

Thou Dayspring

“Thou Dayspring” refers to the morning dawn. This verse is calling for the rising sun/Son to bring cheer to our hearts and to remove the darkness of night and death.

This idea of a “rising star” starts back in Numbers 24:17:

“I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the forehead of Moab and break down all the sons of Sheth.”

Numbers 24:17

God promised to bring light where there was once darkness from the light of Himself.

In fact, Jesus gives Himself later in Revelation 22:16

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”

Revelation 22:16

Jesus is this “dayspring,” this “dawn,” this “morning star” Who brings light into our darkness as we see in the book of John:

“In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

John 1:4–5

Paul continues this analogy of God bringing light into the darkness of our hearts and lives in 2 Corinthians 4:6:

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 4:6

All this to day:

Jesus is our light,
Jesus is Who breaks the darkness of night,
Jesus dispersease the gloomy cloudy in our lives,
Jesus removes the dark shadows of death,

Because Jesus brings light and life to all who receive Him.

I pray that if you don’t know Jesus, that you receieve His light into your life today,
And if you already know Him, that you allow Him to infiltrate your life even fuller this Christmas, allowing His light to penetrate every part of your heart and life more fully and ever before.

As you consider these truths, here are more verses you can read and be encouraged by:

Isaiah 9:2, Luke 1:79, 1 Peter 2:9, Ephesians 5:8, John 8:12, Acts 26:18

O Come, Thou Key Of David (Behind The Lyrics, Part 4)

O Come, Thou Key Of David (Behind The Lyrics, Part 4)

This is Part 4 covering the Scriptural background for the lyrics of the song “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”. You can read part 1 at this link and part 2 at this link and part 3 at this link.

The fourth verse of the song goes like this:

“O come, Thou Key of David, come, And open wide our heavenly home;

Make safe the way that leads on high, And close the path to misery.”

Thou Key of David

This “Key of David” references the power that the Messiah will have to open doors that no one else may close and to shut doors that no one else may open.

This reference and prophecy comes from Isaiah 22:22:

“And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David. He shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.”

Isaiah 22:22

And then this prophecy is shown to be fulfilled in Jesus, later in Revelation 3:7:

“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.”

Revelation 3:7

And Open Wide Our Heavenly Home…

This “Key of David” does speak to Jesus’ power to open and close opportunities in every sense of the word, but it does point to specifically – and most importantly – how Jesus holds the keys of life and Death and Hades being the conqueror of them (Revelation 1:18).

Jesus’ power to open up heaven and shut out death forever is the culmination His sacrifice and resurrection. He holds the power to open up the doors of life for each of us, and to close the door leading to death.

“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”

John 14:3

Jesus has opened up our permanent home and life in heaven, with Him.

He holds the Key of David that gives Him the power and right to do so.

But will we seek Him?
Will we desire this new Home above our current one?
Will we seek His Kingdom first, rather than our own?

He holds the keys,
He’s opened the door,
And He offers it to us.

Let’s remember the great gift of life and a new citizenship in heaven that awaits for us because of what Jesus did by coming to earth this Christmas season.

Here are a couple verses for you to read, reflect on and I pray you’re blessed by them.

John 14:1-6, Philippians 3:20, Hebrews 13:14

O Come, Thou Rod Of Jesse (Behind The Lyrics, Part 3)

O Come, Thou Rod Of Jesse (Behind The Lyrics, Part 3)

This is Part 3 covering the Scriptural background for the lyrics of the song “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”. You can read part 1 at this link and part 2 at this link.

The third verse of the song goes like this:

“O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free, Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;

From depths of hell Thy people save, And give them victory o’er the grave.”

Thou Rod of Jesse

Jesus isn’t often refereed to as the “rod of Jesse,” but the reference comes from Isaiah 11:1–2 and is referenced by Paul in Romans 15:12.

The idea is that someone will come from Jesse, being a descendant of Jesse, and this person will save “His own” from “Satan’s tyranny,” from hell and the grave.

Satan’s Tyranny

Although Satan isn’t the all-powerful god he would like us to believe he is, he does have great power over the earth since the fall and is even described as the king and ruler of this world in its fallen state.

However, part of Jesus’ coming is to bring about the release of “prisoners” subjected to sin and death brought about by the deception of Satan.

“How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.”

Acts 10:38

Victory o’er the grave

Every year I live, I experience more death from those around me. However, through the Gospel of Jesus, death has a very different position in my life.

What use to be considered “the end” is now really just the transition from this life and into the next.

Death is still difficult, painful and sad, as we weren’t originally created to experience it, but it no longer has the final word which causes the situation to be felt very differently.

Paul puts it this way in 1 Thessalonians 4:13:

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.”

1 Thessalonians 4:13

Paul is explaining the Gospel resurrection to the church of Thessalonica about how believing in the life to come with Jesus causes us to grieve differently than people who believe that death is truly the end.

And this conquering of death’s finishing work is exactly what Jesus came to do.

The prophet Hosea wrote this about how we will one day relate to death:

“I [God] shall ransom them from the power of Sheol; I shall redeem them from Death. O Death, where are your plagues? O Sheol, where is your sting? Compassion is hidden from my eyes.”

Hosea 13:14

This verse is quoted in 1 Corinthians 15:54-57 as Paul explains that this conquering of death has be completed through the Gospel.

That we no longer fear death because we know that eternal life meets us on the other side – and this also causes a new outlook of death as we look at those we love who have already made that journey.

What brings all of these ideas to a close is how Jesus ultimately will one-day handle death:

“Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.”

Revelation 20:14

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Revelation 21:4

One day, Jesus will return and not just make death a simple passing between now and eternity – but He will remove it altogether.

Jesus will essentially kill death.

He’s already removed it’s sting by taking away it’s final word,
And one day He will put it in the lake of fire to remove it completely from our lives.

Like I mentioned before, each verse in this song brings us to an “already but not yet” situation.

Jesus has started the process of redemption,
Removing death’s sting,
But redemption is still in process,
Death still exists.

And so, as we celebrate the good work God has already done,
We’re also called to remember and mourn the state the world is still in.

But we mourn in hope.
We mourn in expectation.

That God has started the work,
And that He will complete it.

O Come, O Come, Thou Lord of Might (Behind The Lyrics, Part 2)

O Come, O Come, Thou Lord of Might (Behind The Lyrics, Part 2)

In case you missed yesterday, this is Part 2 covering the Scriptural background for the lyrics of the song “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”. You can read part 1 at this link.

The second verse of the song goes like this:

“O come, O come, Thou Lord of might, Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height,
In ancient times did give the Law, in cloud and majesty — and awe”

Thou Lord Of Might

I think we can sometimes think of God as a loving grandfather-like figure who has good intentions but is grossly incapable of actually making a difference in our lives.

But that is far from the truth.

God is mighty and powerful.

The children of Israel knew that.
They knew how He rescued them from Egypt,
How they saw His signs and wonders,
How majestic His presence was on the mountain.

Shortly before the 10 commandments are given, Moses wrote:

“Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?”

Exodus 15:11

This God, the one Who became Emmanuel, God with us, is the same God Who created the universe out of nothing.

Who spoke all of creation into existence,
Who breathed life into Adam,
Who upholds the nations.

Our God is mighty and powerful.

He is the “Lord of Might”.

This specific verse in the song reflects back to Israel’s salvation from Egypt to remind us of Jesus’ rescue plan for the whole world.

Our salvation from sin and death.

God is mighty to save us from our sins,
And He is mighty in our lives even today.

This Christmas season, don’t forget:
Compassionate, loving, kind Jesus didn’t just come near on Christmas,
But God almighty.
The “Lord of Might”
Came near on Christmas.

I encourage you to reflect and rest on God being the Lord of Might this Christmas Season.

Here are more verses you can read and reflect on:

Isaiah 33:22, Jeremiah 10:6, Exodus 19:16, Exodus 20:2–17, Deuteronomy 5:6–17, Exodus 40:34-35

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel (Behind The Lyrics, Part 1)

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel (Behind The Lyrics, Part 1)

In our youth group, we looked into the Scriptural background on various Christmas songs including this one, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” and I enjoyed looking at the Scripture so much that I thought I’d share it here.

As a note, the pattern this song follows is that it pulls out a specific name of God, and the character/position it implies, and then applies that name of God to our lives and how He relates to us.

This song brings an incredible tension between our active and living hope in God and the reality that we still live in a sinful, broken world. Jesus has brought us hope for eternity, and even hope in our lives today, but He also calls us to look towards the future when sin and death are completely removed.

Below is the first verse in the song:

“O come, O come, Emmanuel, And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here, Until the Son of God appear.”

Emmanuel (God With Us)

“Emmanuel” is probably the most famous name of God to be used in the Christmas season and comes from two verses, one is prophecy and the other is the fulfillment of that propehcy:

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel.”

Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23

This “Emmanuel,” this “God with us” is God drawing near to a world that has become captive to sin and, consequently, exiled from the kingdom of God.

“And they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.”

2 Timothy 2:26

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

Galatians 5:1

Additional verses: Isaiah 35:10, John 8:34, Acts 8:23, Isaiah 61:1, Luke 4:18, Psalm 68:18, Ephesians 4:8

The Blessing of Emmanuel

The beautiful reality of “Emmanuel” is that
When we were captives and dead in our sin,
When we were far from God,
When there was nothing we could do…

God drew near to us.
God took action.

One of the most famous Christmas prophecy’s is Isaiah 9:6 which begins with,

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given”

God gave His Son.

We had nothing to offer,
Nothing to give,
Nothing to contribute.

But God did.

To get “God with you” you can’t earn, deserve, purchase, or do anything on your own.

It’s simply a gift God gives.

Will you receive God’s gift of nearness this Christmas season?

My Favorite Resources For Studying The Bible

My Favorite Resources For Studying The Bible

Lately, I’ve been asked a lot about resources for studying the Bible and thought I’d put a collection of my favorites here. These are specifically for people who are not familiar with studying the Bible and need help both with general context of Scriptures and while also wanting to learn how to study for themselves.

There are many more resources than I’ll specifically suggest here. In fact, there are some that are on my Bible Resources and Discipleship Resources pages that I’ll mention here, while there are still others on those pages that I won’t – so go check them out.

The YouVersion Bible App

This Bible App is awesome. They have reading plans, tons of devotionals and you can also simply read the Bible.

Here’s some links to that app:




The Bible Project Videos

“The Bible Project” is one of the coolest YouTube channels I’ve seen. They tell the overarching story and purpose of each book of the Bible in an incredibly visual way. They also have other Bible topics available.

Here are links to their Old Testament and New Testament overview playlists and the general channel.

Old Testament Overview

New Testament Overview

The Bible Project YouTube Channel

The Bible From 30,000 Feet (Audio Bible Teaching)

“The Bible From 30,000 Feet” from Skip Heitzig is one of my favorite Bible series of all time. You can download the audio on the website for FREE or even buy the book.

Get the Audio

Buy the book

Through The Word (Audio Bible Teachings)

“Through The Word” is an ongoing project to have every chapter of the Bible explained simply and clearly. They have multiple different teachers to break down each chapter of the Bible into 9 minute explanations. On the app, you can listen to the passage read aloud or to the teaching on the exact chapter. This is an incredible resource and great way to start looking at a chapter of the Bible with fresh eyes or to understand it for the first time.


iPhone/iPad App

Android App

The 3 Circles Video Training

There are many different methods that people have created to share the Gospel, but one of my favorites is called the “3 Circles” which was created by the North American Mission Board.

I’ve actually dedicated a page on my blog just to their video series and mobile apps. You can check out the whole training at this link and you can find more resources on their website at

Greg Laurie “Start To Follow” and Bible Study Guides

Greg Laurie is a Christian evangelist who puts on crusades all throughout the United States. Since he and his team interact with so many new believers, they’ve put together awesome resources for new believers.

Their first resource is called “Start To Follow”. It’s a small booklet that walks a new believer through some of the basics of being a Christian. It answers questions like why do we read the Bible, why do we go to church, etc. You can buy the book at this link or download the PDF at this link.

Their second resource is a 14 part Bible study where it guides you through different topics such as “salvation,” “the power of the Holy Spirit,” “prayer,” “trials” and more. These study guides are 2 pages and help the reader to follow through scripture to find the answers to the questions in the study as they discover what God has to say about these topics. You can download a PDF of the whole 14 part series at this link.

Blue Letter Bible Website And App

Before you start investing in buying commentaries or books to study the Bible, I cannot recommend Blue Letter Bible enough. They have a website and mobile apps and are full of tons of resources.

These free tool includes complex word searches, original Greek and Hebrew definitions, related verses and a ton of awesome commentaries. My personal favorite they offer is David Guzik and I definitely suggest that you check it out as you study the Bible. Here are links to Blue Letter Bible


iPhone/iPad App

Android App

More Resources As You Study

I’ve written many blog posts on various Bible topics that you can check out at this link.

But, more specifically, I have written two posts on how to study the Bible that I hope will help you on your journey as well:

How To Study The Bible (Part 1)

How To Study The Bible (Part 2)

I hope these resources help you as you desire to study and understand the Bible more.

Thankful For My Wife (9 Year Anniversary)

Thankful For My Wife (9 Year Anniversary)

“He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.”

Proverbs 18:22

My wife and I celebrated 9 years of marriage this past Thursday. And today, we’re blessed to be able to have a night getaway at an AirBNB in a nearby town while family takes care of our two boys.

And as I reflect on our relationship together, I am so thankful that Alesha is in my life. We have been through so many life stages and ups and downs together, and I can’t imagine where my life would be right now had she not been part of all of it.

I’ve been asked by many people how we make our marriage work.

Our marriage is not perfect by any means, but I can truly say that, by the grace of God, I think we have one of the best marriages I know of.

When I’ve been asked by others, there have been many different things I point to and have suggested to help a rocky relationship or to help avoid future hardship.

But there is one thing that stands out above the rest:

I am so thankful that my wife and I have chosen to put Jesus first in our lives and marriage.

I’m not saying we’re perfect in any means, but here’s how it has played out in our marriage:

When we decide life priorities… we have the same baseline of putting Jesus and His Kingdom first
When we have difficult life decisions to make… we pray to Jesus and ask for guidance and wisdom
When we argue, have misunderstandings or get upset at each other… we turn to Jesus to give us the grace to repent and forgive and work through things together
When one of us is going through a hard time… we are able to love and support each other with the grace Jesus provides
When we go through difficult external situations that press down on us… we both separately and together trust in Jesus to get us through

Through the ups and downs of life,
Through the internal struggles between us,
And the external issues around us,
We are able to turn to Jesus together,
And He holds us both close to Him,
Individually and together.

As I mentioned above, there are many relationship “tips and tricks” that we’ve picked up from others over the years, but the baseline of our marriage is founded on Jesus – and that has made all the difference.

Whether you’re married, engaged, dating or single;
Jesus is the One Who promises to be with you through every storm of life,
To guide you in the bright of day and the darkness of night,
And I cannot emphasize enough how having Him in your life and in your relationships will make all the difference.

Our lives and our marriage is not perfect,
But our God is,
And He is our foundation for both.

And so, out of all the things I am thankful for about my wife,
I am most thankful that she has given her life to Jesus,
And has determined to love Him with all her life.

And so in a world where divorce and unhappy marriages are the norm,
I am so thankful for God’s grace giving us 9 amazing years of marriage,
And I look forward to every day I get to spend with my wife until death do us part.

And even then, death won’t truly end our lives together, as we will both be in heaven enjoying and worshiping Jesus together and with all who trust in His name.

For all eternity, just like we’ve been practicing here on earth.

3 Things You Can Do To Be Rooted Firm In Jesus (And Keep From Being Tossed Around By Life Circumstances)

3 Things You Can Do To Be Rooted Firm In Jesus (And Keep From Being Tossed Around By Life Circumstances)

“…until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”

Ephesians 4:13-14

After we are saved through grace by faith in Jesus (Ephesians 2:8), God desires for us to continue to grow in godliness (Titus 2:11-14), which includes growing in stability of belief and faith (Ephesians 4:13-14).

Is your faith, hope, love, mind and overall life tossed around by circumstances, other beliefs and things that go against God’s Word?

God desires better for you,
And He promises to help you.

Here Are 3 Things You Can Do To Root Yourself Firm In Jesus

Study/Learn God’s Word

The most important thing you can do is to discover more of Who God is and what He says by studying His Word, the Bible.

As you get to know the Bible more, you begin to filter life’s situations and other ideas by what the Bible says, which can help you from being “tossed to and fro” by things and people around you.

Take, for example, the 4 G’s that Tim Chester writes about in his book “You Can Change”.

God is great – so we don’t have to be in control.
God is glorious – so we don’t have to fear others.
God is good – so we don’t have to look elsewhere.
God is gracious – so we don’t have to prove ourselves.

These truths are rooted in God’s Word and can apply directly to our lives and change the way we respond to external situations and internal dialogues in a way that aligns with God’s will.

Below is one of my favorite Peanut comics that illustrates this concept well:

By having a good grasp on what God says about Himself, ourselves and the lives we live, you will be less likely to be swayed in life’s circumstances and ideas that you hear.

If you need help in studying God’s Word, I’ve written many posts on how do study the Bible, including this two part series you can check out here: part 1 and part 2

Apply God’s Word

As important as it is to know God’s Word, it’s nothing if you don’t apply it.

This includes obeying Jesus (John 14:15-17)
And also, and more importantly, embracing Him (John 15:5).

As we apply God’s Word, we draw nearer to Him and bind our hearts and lives to Him as our stability in times of trial.

One thing I want to note is that applying God’s Word isn’t simply doing better and trying harder but also relying on God’s Spirit for the grace to have God live through your life as we’re reminded in Philippians 2:13.

For more on this, you can read this past post I wrote titled “We Need God’s Spirit to Bear the Fruit of the Spirit.”

Live In Christian Community For Encouragement And Accountability

It’s been said that you can can a Christian alone, but you can’t live the Christian life alone.

Here’s what that means:

Your salvation is a completely individual act between you and Jesus,
But the act of living life as a Christian requires other Christians to be in your life.

Christian community is extremely important. Jesus ordained it so that we would be an important source of encouragement and accountability to each other, in order to help each other run our race of faith with endurance and continue on the straight and narrow as we follow Jesus together.

For more posts on this topic, I’ve written a post on “The importance of community” and also on “How To Invite Others Into Your Real Life” and build Christian community.

I hope this encourages you to press on and secure your faith and life in Jesus on a daily basis, and as the opening verse encourages us to no longer…

…be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”

Ephesians 4:14

Being Still Before God (Part 2)

Being Still Before God (Part 2)

A few months ago, our church took a weekend retreat together which caused me to write a post titled “Being Still Before God” which was a reflection on how we need to slow down and take time to be before God.

But a few months later, it’s already become warped again.

Shelter in place orders have been set,
And we’ve increased on online activity and time before screened devices to fill the void of personal connection,
And I think many of us have (ironically) experienced less “stillness” than before.

Although we’re physically limiting ourselves, many of us are filling our minds, thoughts and hearts with busyness, news reports, social media, and anything else we can do to try to keep from cabin fever.

And in the midst of it, we’ve filled every bit of silence we had left.

A couple books I’ve read recently (both spiritual and non-spiritual books) all pointed to the importance of silence in our lives.

Of quieting our hearts and minds to be still and present in the moment.

For the Christian, that means resting in God.
Trusting Him for the past that haunts us,
Trusting Him for our current situations that plague us,
And trusting Him for our futures that we’re always trying so hard to plan and prepare for.

So I wanted to re-encourage you to slow down and be still.

Be quiet,
Be calm,
Focus solely on God,
And listen.

I personally find it helpful to meditate on scripture when trying to slow down, so below are some of the ones that came to mind when thinking about this topic. I pray you have a good few minutes of calming quiet as you rest in the midst of everyday chaotic life.

“Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

1st Peter 5:7

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”

Isaiah 26:3

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

Psalm 46:10

“It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.”

Psalm 127:2

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

Matthew 6:25-34

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