They're Jumping, Against Their Better Judgment

I’m not much of a swimmer, and drowning ranks extremely high on the list of ways I do not want to die.

That explains the sense of dread that gripped me on the first day of our honeymoon as my wife I prepared to snorkel in the ocean off the coast of Maui.

Everyone on the charter boat had already jumped in with their flippers and mask. My wife beckoned to me from the water. I, however, stood frozen on the platform at the bottom of the steps, staring into the cold, terrifying abyss.

Cognitively, I knew I had to do it, because I didn’t want to ruin our first big adventure as a couple. I didn’t want my wife to think she’d married a wimp. And I knew I wouldn’t drown, given that I was wearing a life jacket and clutching a boogie board on which to float.

But jumping into that ocean was the ultimate, I’m-only-doing-this-because-I-have-no-choice moment of my life.

I flashed back to that Wednesday during the NCAA’s press conference detailing how it will permit college athletes to be compensated by outside entities for the use of their name, image and likeness.

These guys would almost rather jump in a tub filled with boiling oil and ravenous sharks than allow what they’re allowing. The only reason they’re doing it — no matter what they say — is because they must.

They’ve lost the public relations battle over continuing to make tens of millions on non-profit (wink-wink) enterprises while the athletes funding the machine get an education and modest stipend in return.

We’re headed — ponderously, since the NCAA won’t vote on these recommendations for eight more months — for a day when an Ohio State football player can do commercials for a local car dealer, restaurant, plumber, etc. and pocket the cash.

If you’re thinking, “That sounds like a major NCAA violation,” then you understand why the pooh-bahs who run college athletics see shark-infested waters where others see gorgeous coral reefs.

College presidents, conference commissioners and college athletic directors don’t know what’s below the surface of this new world, hard though they’re trying to predict and control it to preserve “competitive balance.”

You and I know that phrase is laughable. There is no genuine competitive balance when Ohio State’s annual athletic department revenue is north of $200 million, or about twice the amount at Purdue, Northwestern and Rutgers.

Those schools, and most others in the 14-team Big Ten, may be the same conference as the Buckeyes competitively, but they are not in the same league financially.

So it’s really the illusion of competitive balance the bosses are trying to protect.

But name, image and likeness compensation is going to obliterate that illusion.

Get used to seeing the acronym, NIL, to represent the concept. That figures, because the chance this will have no impact on the already-rich getting much richer down the road is exactly that — nil.

Where will you find a bigger available pool of advertisers willing to hire players as spokesmen…in Columbus or in West Lafayette, Ind.?

Which school has more players advertisers would want to hire as spokesmen…Ohio State or Rutgers? 

Knowing he’ll more easily find an advertiser to hire him and get paid more for his endorsement, is an athlete likelier to sign with the Buckeyes or Northwestern?

Of course, Northwestern isn’t the competition for the sort of player Ohio State recruits to play football. OSU battles Alabama, Texas or Clemson for that sort of of five-star talent.

What do you think that will do to the price of that player’s NIL price on the open market, vs. what a three-star recruit might fetch at Purdue?

We haven’t even yet projected what will happen when the NCAA soon approves a one-time, immediate-eligibility waiver for athletes that will allow a player from, say, Maryland to transfer to, say, Ohio State to fill a roster spot where the Buckeyes suddenly find themselves lacking or depleted.

Can you say, bidding war? If you don’t like the sound of that, try, free agency. 

Now you know why school presidents and ADs are quivering as they make these concessions and nervously wait for the monster to reveal himself.

Come on in, fellas. The water’s fine.

God Makes You a Triple Threat

A recent repair at a rental home we own in Cleveland compelled my wife and I to make three trips to Northeast Ohio within the past two weeks.

Our trip on April 27, was noticeably different than our two previous treks up I-71 because traffic was perhaps seven- to eight-times greater than it had been before.

This tells me many citizens of the State of Ohio are moving to resume life more like it had been before COVID-19 restrictions severely curtailed travel and other elements of normal society.

This has already become a divisive issue between the let’s-get-back-to-work advocates and the you-care-about-the-economy-more-than-life crowd.

I struggle as a Christian to respond in a Christ-like way amid the turmoil.

We will fight about political ideologies, the propriety or stupidity of wearing masks in public and everything in between. The inevitable, escalating disagreement mocks the state’s slogan, Ohio Together, which was supposed to foster unity during this unprecedented time of social and economic shutdowns.

I struggle as a Christian to respond in a Christ-like way amid the turmoil.

I do not want to sow seeds of discord and inflame the anger, but I am not white-knuckling my own mortality because of the eternal perspective I have on life thanks to the certainty of salvation that comes with claiming Jesus’ perfection as my own.

Two verses ring true to me right now:

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with one another.”

Romans 12:18

So, while I don’t share the fear of some, and thus don’t feel compelled to wear a mask in public, I will do so if required to obey any government edict that I don’t feel compromises my faith or testimony that my ultimate peace and security come from Christ.

The second verse that drives me is:

“For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love and of self-discipline.”

2 Timothy 1:7
  • Power — equipped with God’s strength to persevere through any trial, even COVID-19.
  • Love — to show grace toward those who don’t have the peace Christ affords, and thus are fearful, in the hopes that my peace will intrigue them enough to ask about it and hopefully want it for themselves.
  • Self-discipline — to read my Bible, pray and seek God’s direction on how I can serve in this time, and also to devote myself to programming my mind with His truth, and not poison it by obsessing over dire media reports and histrionics.

Power, love and self-discipline.

You can always rely on that three-pronged arsenal God gives you as a believer in Christ to conquer whatever challenges confront you in life.

Death is Satan's Tool

When I encounter anyone terrified of COVID-19 and adamantly opposed to life resuming in any sort of normal fashion — stores, schools and restaurants reopening, church services and sporting events resuming — their chief logic is rooted in a fear of death, either for them or someone else.

I understand that, because I’m firmly in the anti-death camp myself.

I can’t think of too many things society can agree on as a whole more than, life is preferable to death in almost every instance.

On the whole, I’d rather live than die, and I’m even more passionate about life extending to those I love and know vs. them dying and being taken from me and this world.

That’s not a controversial opinion. Everyone I know is anti-death. In fact, I can’t think of too many things society can agree on as a whole more than, life is preferable to death in almost every instance.

God shares that opinion, which is why he sent his son to die for us.

Huh?

He sent His son to die for us.

God is anti-death, so he imposed it — in the most painful way possible — on his only son?

Yes, but only so you and I and everyone else could have eternal life.

That’s the only way any of us can be acceptable in God’s sight is to wrap ourselves in the perfection of Jesus to remove the stain of our sinful thoughts, words and actions.

That’s the Gospel of Jesus Christ, an equation so simple (your impection traded for His perfection) anyone can understand it, which is why it’s absolutely fair that everyone be judged by it.

A pristine, holy God established one way — and one way, only — for us to shed the consequences for our sin. Our bodies will die, but our souls can live forever with him in heaven if we capture for ourselves the eternal life Jesus claimed when he rose from the dead and escaped the tomb after crucifixion.

But while God used death in that one instance to make immortality available to all, Satan uses death today in many ways to pull people away from the incredible offer of salvation that’s free to all in Christ.

Death impacts our society via abortion, crime, domestic and child abuse, alcohol and drug addiction, mental illness, disease, war, terrorism and other ways more than I can list here. Not only does it destroy and end lives, it’s various methods trigger all sorts of political discord that divides us from within and creates rancor and turmoil.

These conflicts extend into the body of believers, which either compromises or eliminates our access to and sharing of the love of Christ.

I draw strength in these times from Paul’s simple, clear admonition in 1 Corinthians 16: 13-14:

“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith, be men of courage, be strong, do everything in love.”

Five clear thoughts. Nineteen direct words.

Let them drive you to pierce the darkness of this world and shine the light of God’s love into every area and relationship you’re given.

Rating the Landing Spots for Buckeyes in the Draft

Ten Ohio State players were drafted Thursday-Saturday and now embark upon their NFL careers.

It’s easy to rank the players according to respective spots where they were taken, but it’s much more difficult and more interesting to rank them by which Buckeye landed in the best situation for them to make an immediate impact.

That factors in the franchise where they landed, the players already on that team’s roster and the prospects and preparedness for immediate playing time.

So, from 10 (toughest) to 1 (best), here’s who starts in the best situation and who has the toughest sledding ahead:

No. 10: 

Getting overdrafted is great on draft night, because it means you’re going to get paid more than you expected. It’s not great any day after that — other than pay-day

Damon Arnette, CB, 1st Round, Las Vegas Raiders

Getting overdrafted is great on draft night, because it means you’re going to get paid more than you expected. It’s not great any day after that — other than pay-day, because you become the guy on the wrong end of, “We could have had (fill in the blank, overachieving best rookie) instead of you.” That’s Arnette’s fate in Las Vegas, which also isn’t exactly a place free from distractions for a young guy with lots of money in his pocket. Oh, and Arnette is also the guy the Raiders took with the first-round pick they received from the Chicago Bears for Khalil Mack. So he has that pressure, too. Arnette will start immediately, and if he produces will be fine. But NFL officials might not put up with his grabby style of coverage that he employed in college.

No. 9

Jordan Fuller, S, 6th Round, Los Angeles Rams

The Rams needed to rebuild their safety depth after Eric Weddle’s retirement, so Fuller will have a roster spot if he can make an impact on special teams. LA also took a safety in round three, and has both its starting safeties back, so there’s no avenue for much playing time in the normal defensive rotation.

No. 8

K.J. Hill, WR, 7th Round, Los Angeles Chargers

How Ohio State’s career leader in receptions could last until the seventh round offended many Buckeye fans. That’s understandable, because Hill had no trouble getting open at OSU, or making big plays at crunch time. His slow 40 at the NFL Scouting Combine hurt him in the draft, and while he landed on the team with the sweetest uniforms and in the market with the absolute best weather, he also fell to one of the most-questionable quarterback situations in the league. In veteran Tyrod Taylor and rookie (No. 6 overall) Justin Herbert, the Chargers are anything but set at the most important position on the field. Fans were hoping for a speed guy to balance Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, neither of whom is a burner. Neither is Hill, but he can get open…provided San Diego has anyone capable of getting him the ball.

No. 7

Jashon Cornell, DE, 7th Round, Detroit Lions

The Lions have only one established defensive end in Trey Flowers. Cornell will have a chance to impress a defensive-oriented head coach in Matt Patricia. Cornell will also have former OSU teammate Jeff Okudah there to support him. Detroit took no other defensive ends and only one other defensive lineman — a defensive tackle in the sixth round. An opportunity is there to make the team.

No. 6

Malik Harrison, LB, 3rd Round, Baltimore Ravens

Harrison will have an uphill climb to start, since Baltimore took LSU inside linebacker Patrick Queen in the first round, 28th overall. Maybe that will turn out to Harrison’s advantage. Because less will be expected of him, whatever he gives will get magnified. He’ll certainly have a role on special teams and is going to a great organization that rewards hard work.

No. 5

Jonah Jackson, 3rd Round Detroit Lions

Jackson is a very good player and likely a multi-year career guy. When he was taken, Detroit seemed the perfect spot, given its need at guard. Then the Lions took Kentucky’s Logan Stenberg in the next round. Stenberg is 6-6, which is tall for a guard, so Jackson may have the edge. But it means he will face stiff competition in training camp for the starting spot that usually falls to a third-rounder on a bad team.

No. 4

Chase Young, DE, 1st Round, Washington Redskins

As the No. 2 overall pick, Young will start immediately. His job is not complicated: get the quarterback. So there’s no scheme adjustment or much athletic adjustment like Okudah will face on the outside at cornerback. Young’s issue will be meeting expectations, not just as the No. 2 pick, but given the grading scale Joey and Nick Bosa established in their rookie years in the NFL. Both Bosa brothers went to teams on the cusp of winning. That doesn’t appear to be Washington’s immediate future. Both Bosa brothers went to teams with other quality defensive talent around them. That also doesn’t appear true with Young. He’s likely to see more double-teams than either Bosa faced as a rookie. Young also will have to manage the challenge of playing very close to where he went to high school in Maryland, which can introduce distractions and difficulties.

No. 3

J.K. Dobbins, RB, 2nd Round, Baltimore Ravens

Dobbins is undoubtedly disappointed he didn’t go in Round One and that he went after several other running backs, but few landing spots could be better. He gets a run-oriented offense with Mark Ingram and Lamar Jackson to take the attention off him, and he gets an offensive coordinator in Greg Roman who knows how to scheme the run. Dobbins will get the “fresh” carries after Ingraham wears out the defense, which puts Dobbins in a great position to succeed.

No. 2

Davon Hamilton, DT, 3rd Round, Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jags No. 1 draft need was defensive line and Hamilton was the only interior defensive lineman they selected. Overall, the Jags had a draft that’s getting glowing marks, so not only is Hamilton positioned to play right away, he might also have landed on a comeback team that was dreadful last season, but played in the AFC title game the season before. As a third-round pick, you can’t ask for more.

No. 1

Jeff Okudah, CB, 1st Round, Detroit Lions

Okudah walks in as a starter to replace Darius Slay, the team’s best cornerback, who left in free agency. If he doesn’t start, it’s because Okudah is lost or because he gets injured. There couldn’t be a better platform from which to launch an NFL career.

Follow on Facebook or Twitter @bhoolz for the latest on sports, life and faith.

I'm Ready, Why aren't we Moving?

Living the Christian life would be so much less complicated if genuinely desiring to serve God fell in line with actually doing it.

After all, arriving at a point where you’re devoted to living His plan and following His path is often a struggle. I know I’ve pushed back against it for large portions of my life. Maybe you have, too.

Now, I feel like I’m wholly committed to accomplishing His purpose in both my professional and personal endeavors, preferably in some marriage of the two that will provide for my family and allow me to do great things for the Kingdom of God.

I always thought if I ever got to this point, that would be when things clicked and it would be easy.

Instead, it feels like after waiting year after year for me to sign the contract making us partners in His mission, God has chosen this moment to pull the paper out from under my pen just when I was ready to eagerly apply my signature.

I’m almost 60, so I’ve spent probably 40 of those years wandering aimlessly in my very own desert of indifference, like the children of Israel.

I really believe I’m on the cusp, or at least in the vicinity, of discovering something great in my life that will merge my gifts with the needs of others to fill a void in their lives and embolden and equip them to know and serve Christ better.

I sense that I’m only one step away, and that is really, really exciting.

But it’s also frustrating, because now that I’m ready, willing and able to go forward in His name, I feel like Jesus is playing that kid’s swimming pool game of, Marco Polo, with me.

I hear Him at times, but I just can’t locate Him exactly to complete the process of finding clear next steps, strategies and actions. Perhaps I’m distracted by other things (laziness, comfort, fear, lack of diligence or confidence), and so while I sense Jesus coaxing me along, I can’t quite pin down His exact location and plug directly into Him to fully connect and launch.

Lord, help me to tune out the other voices that are distracting me so that I can hear only You. Help me, show me, how to exercise the discipline to silence the other voices so that I can find You as You call out to me. Help me to hear, recognize and follow the voice of truth.

Where is that voice? One place, for certain, is in the Bible. Every word is inspired by God to guide us toward Him, help us understand Him, encourage us to follow Him and reconcile us to Him.

The closer I listen for direction, the more I hear His encouraging promises calming me amid my uncertainty:

“My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life and they shall never perish. No one shall pluck them out of my hand.”

John 10:27

“I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

John 14:6

“You will seek me and you will find me when you seek me with your whole heart.”

Jeremiah 29:13

“Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he will exalt you in due time.”

1 Peter 5:6

“The battle is the Lord’s.”

1 Samuel 17:47

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts; neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55:8-9

“If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

Galatians 1:10

“There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord.”

Proverbs 21:30

All these verses and so many others provide an unshakeable refuge to shield me and spare me when I am buffeted by doubt and anxiety. I need to cling to what I know to be true and be vigilant in my commitment to seek, find and follow His path.

Help me, Heavenly Father, to have the gift of discerning Your direction in my life, so that I know when, where and how to move with the confidence that You go before me and prepare the way.

NFL Draft Explains, Predicts Ohio State's Dominance of Michigan

Ohio State fans never tire of counting the days since the Buckeyes last lost to Michigan.

Sunrise means another notch has been added to that belt — 3,072 days, and climbing — but it must feel like a few additional years have been added to the total in the minds of Michigan fans since last night.

Thursday’s first round of the NFL Draft was every bit the gut punch to Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines as Ohio State’s 62-39 win in 2018 or its 56-27 rout last November.

Sure, the total of first-round picks from OSU vs. those from Michigan was only 3-1. But where OSU’s players were taken and the shine their selection added to Ohio State’s already-glittering Draft legacy must leave the maize and blue a much more morose shade of blue.

Or green…with envy.

No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow, a graduate transfer from OSU to LSU, plays quarterback — the money position in the league.

If teams have a franchise QB, then they next seek a disruptive, dominating pass-rusher like OSU’s Chase Young, who went No. 2 overall to Washington.

Also high on the priority list for any team building a Super Bowl contender is a lockdown cornerback like Jeff Okudah, chosen third by Detroit to man a spot where 19 players made more than $10 million this past season.

High school recruits tend to notice those things, and they also notice that Michigan hasn’t had more players taken in the first round of an NFL Draft than Ohio State since 2010.

ESPN took great pains to note that not only did Young and Okudah hail from OSU, but the Worldwide Leader all but forgot LSU in the story over Burrow’s ascent to Cincinnati No. 1 overall.

Burrow, Young and Okudah are the first set of ex-teammates ever to go 1,2,3 in the Draft.

That’s no doubt because Burrow, Young and Okudah are the first set of ex-teammates ever to go 1,2,3 in the Draft.

Young and Okudah give Ohio State two of the Top 5 picks for the second time in five years, following Joey Bosa (No. 3) and Ezekiel Elliott (No. 4), who entered the league in style in 2016.

Okudah is the first cornerback taken in the Top 3 since 1996, when Shawn Springs of Ohio State went third to Seattle.

Sorry, coach Harbaugh…there’s more.

Okudah and his teammate in the OSU secondary, Damon Arnette (taken 18th by Las Vegas), give Ohio State further license to trumpet its player development as the surest way to an NFL future in the secondary.

That’s where OSU has victimized Michigan’s defense, and curtailed Michigan’s offense, during its current winning streak.

The Wolverines, for all their success blitzing other opponents into submission, haven’t been able to cover Ohio State’s receivers in the secondary and haven’t been able to shake free enough in coverage to keep up on the scoreboard.

Sure, the pass rushes of Joey and Nick Bosa and Young are also a part of that, as Okudah is sure to note when he has his debut press conference as a Detroit Lion.

That has to thrill Harbaugh and Michigan faithful, knowing Okudah will be dotting the I in Script Ohio, trumpeting the Buckeyes’ superiority at every opportunity, right in Ann Arbor’s back yard.

If you wonder why Ohio State hasn’t lost to Michigan since 2011, or wonder why OSU is crushing 2021 recruiting amid COVID-19 restrictions that have dented other programs’ recruiting success, look to the first round of the Draft for answers.

The Buckeyes are luring elite talent and landing it because of their success putting players into the NFL.

That perpetuates winning, which feeds more recruiting home runs, which leads to more Draft dominance, which….do we really need to go on?

You can follow Bruce on Twitter @bhoolz and find him on Facebook

This is God's Will for Your Life. No, Really. It is.

I’ve challenged myself, and am therefore challenging you, during the next eight weeks of restricted social interactions because of COVID-19 precautions, to list something every day that you are thankful for.

It’s a good habit to ingrain any time, but particularly now that our routines have been disrupted and inconvenience and fear tempt us toward self-pity.

Make it more challenging by listing a different thing you’re thankful for each of the 56 days. You can follow my list on Twitter with the hashtag, #56daythanks.

Many years ago, I was struggling to make sense of being betrayed by someone close to me. The pain and despair was all-consuming. Even though I drew tightly to God and felt Him near, I was still a wreck every minute of every day.

A pastor attempting to shepherd me through that crisis asked, “Would you like to know God’s will for your life?”

I mean, of course! Who wouldn’t, right?

I thought it was a trick question with a flippant punchline, but he had an actual, genuine answer:

“Be joyful always. Pray continually. Give thanks in all circumstances. For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

“Be joyful…in all circumstances,” not, “for,” all circumstances.

Let’s dissect that:

“Be joyful…in all circumstances,” not, “for,” all circumstances.

So, rotten, lousy, unfair, painful things will happen to you, but you still must give thanks amid those trials.

Why?

Because thankfulness demonstrates several important things to God:

  1. Your submission to His authority in your life
  2. Your gratitude for what He’s already done in your life
  3. Your awareness He’s brought you through other challenges before
  4. Your humility to accept His sovereignty and wisdom in all things

“Pray continually,” keeps you connected to God (John 15:5), because apart from Him “you can do nothing.”

Have an eternal mindset and focus upward toward Him and outward toward others, not inward on your own circumstances.

God’s will, “for you,” is personal and applies directly when you are “in Christ Jesus.”

If you count yourself as a disciple of Christ, you are trusting and claiming His perfection and holiness as your own. You therefore should have an eternal mindset and focus upward toward Him and outward toward others, not inward on your own circumstances.

The Bible is filled with just such encouragement for every experience we encounter.

What you do with God’s word will determine what He will do with you.

The Hard Road Christians May be Asked to Walk

As I prayed this St. Patrick’s Day morning for our nation amid the ever-expanding coronavirus precautions, I became a bit uneasy about the prohibitions against life as we’ve known it and how eagerly and passively we are embracing them.

I’m trying to balance my discomfort against the Biblical command to accept the authority God has placed over us, to put our trust always in Him, and to look out first for our fellow man.

The stated reasons for the precautions seem justified — to protect lives, to preserve our medical systems’ limited ICU capacity, to minimize the spread of the virus, and to “flatten the curve” of widespread infections.

But I also think about how radical these measures are, and would have seemed, even as recently as one week ago:

Cancellation of the NCAA Basketball Tournament

Putting the MLB, NHL and NBA seasons on indefinite hold

Postponement of The Masters and Kentucky Derby

Cancelling church services

Closing schools

Postponing election day

Locking down the City of San Francisco

Closing bars on St. Patrick’s Day

Limiting restaurants to take-out orders only

These are societal limitations I would have anticipated only in the aftermath of a nuclear war to avoid radiation exposure. But they have been implemented and adapted virtually without a whimper of protest or push-back.

We have provided a blueprint for a future leader or government to take over our country or our world without opposition.

We have willingly surrendered our freedom and our lifestyle in what seems a sensible and even sacrificial response to a major health threat across the globe.

I’m not implying that’s a wrong or unwise decision, but in the process we have also provided a blueprint for a future leader or government to take over our country or our world without opposition.

Is it fantasy to imagine this same result could be accomplished amid another pandemic scare, with the support (nefarious or unwitting) of a willing media? I don’t think that’s fantasy at all. All it would require is convincing the public that its safety is worth the surrender of freedom for sensible, necessary reasons.

Exactly what is happening now.

As I contemplated that, I prayed for God to protect our nation from such a takeover. And then I became convicted with this thought: Who am I to question or push back against God’s plan if He allows that?

As a Christian, I believe in God’s sovereignty, and so the creation of the coronavirus is not a surprise to Him. He either ordained it or allowed it, as He will whatever scenario unfolds from it or traces to it.

When I pray for protection against something sinister resulting from such circumstances, I am telling God how to order the steps that lead to the conclusion He wants to bring about.

I, and many other Christians, claim to be on board with the way Jesus taught us to pray

“….Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done…”

Matthew 6:9-13

But, honestly, if the way His will is best-accomplished turns out to be painful, messy, inconvenient, costly or protracted, then we are eager to offer a much better plan.

“Do it this way, God. Do it in a way that spares us all that ugly pain and sacrifice.”

From what we know of God, is that the way He most often works?

The giants of faith who we learn the most from in the Bible…did they demonstrate their faith and provide inspiration and direction via walking an easy path or a difficult path?

David fought Goliath, escaped Saul’s murderous intent and endured great family turmoil;

Joseph was betrayed by his brothers and sold into slavery, suffered unjust imprisonment and weathered an interminable wait behind bars for deliverance;

Daniel lived among pagans, suffered imprisonment, faced the lion’s den for his faith and never returned to his homeland;

Moses spent 40 years in the Midian desert before meeting God in the burning bush, then dealt with a duplicitous brother, sister and whining Israelites for 40 more years in the desert and never entered the Promised Land;

Paul endured temporary blindness, the loss of all prominence as a Pharisee and  every friendship of his formative years, survived shipwrecks, beatings and imprisonment without justification;

Peter was jailed and crucified upside-down;

Stephen was stoned to death.

God brings transformation from disruption and despair far more often than he does from comfort and prosperity.

God brings transformation from disruption and despair far more often than he does from comfort and prosperity. He allows fear in our lives to motivate us to change.

The productive Christian life is not to be confused with a Staples commercial.

There is no, Easy Button.

God does not hide the ball or move the goal post on that. He is very clear that the cost of serving Him is great persecution, not great comfort. Being a disciple is a forsaking-all-others, sowing-and-reaping, delayed-gratification endeavor. It pays dividends in the short term, but yields comfortable security only in the long term.

This, and only this, realization explains how Christians could rejoice as they burned at the stake. It is why teenage surfer Bethany Hamilton could say, after losing her arm in a shark attack, that she could now embrace more people with one arm than she ever could have with two. It is how Chris Spielman can view the 12-year-cancer battle that claimed his wife, Stefanie, as a life event he would not change because of the impact she made and continues to make on so many lives via the grace, strength and peace she reflected throughout her fight.

That is what I must keep in the forefront of my mind if I am infected with coronavirus and I wind up gasping for breath. If that is the path God has chosen for me, for my wife, for our daughters, for people I love, He will make available the requisite strength in that moment to endure.

If that happens, I will have to exercise the discipline to focus on what I know to be true, not what I feel. Feelings are temporary. Truth is unchanging.

Feelings are temporary. Truth is unchanging.

The truth of the Gospel is that a crown of righteousness awaits me at the finish line solely because of what Jesus did for me at the cross.

“He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?”

Romans 8:32

God did not spare Jesus the agony, injustice or cruelty of the cross because that was the price required to execute the most inequitable transaction in the history of mankind — the exchange of my sin and unworthiness for Christ’s perfection, holiness and acceptability in God’s sight.

That is not a transaction I should expect to execute at the 99-cent store of life. It requires me to view the exchange as did the widow who put everything she owned into the offering plate (Luke 21:1-4) or the merchant who sold everything to acquire the field where he found a precious pearl (Mathew 13:45-46).

It is worth whatever I am called to experience or endure to express my gratitude for, as martyred missionary Jim Elliott said, “giving up what I cannot keep to gain what I cannot lose.”

Why We Shouldn't Fear the Coronavirus

Saturday,‌ ‌March‌ ‌14,‌ ‌2020‌ ‌dawned‌ ‌as‌ ‌an‌ ‌uncertain‌ ‌day‌ ‌in‌ ‌America.‌ ‌

It was the first day of the first weekend on which the full brunt of the coronavirus pandemic precautions fell.

There‌ ‌would‌ ‌be‌ ‌no‌ ‌NCAA‌ ‌Tournament‌ ‌games,‌ ‌no‌ ‌high‌ ‌school‌ ‌state‌ ‌championship‌ ‌competition,‌ ‌no‌ ‌toilet‌ ‌paper‌ ‌left‌ ‌on‌ ‌store‌ ‌shelves‌ ‌and‌ ‌no‌ ‌guarantee‌ ‌about‌ ‌the‌ ‌future.‌ ‌ ‌

Something‌ ‌between‌ ‌uncertainty‌ ‌and‌ ‌panic‌ ‌gripped‌ ‌a‌ ‌nation‌ ‌attempting‌ ‌to‌ ‌adjust‌ ‌to‌ ‌a‌ ‌new‌ ‌normal,‌ ‌where‌ ‌social‌ ‌distancing‌ ‌and‌ ‌seclusion,‌ ‌if‌ ‌not‌ ‌outright‌ ‌quarantine,‌ ‌seemed‌ ‌the‌ ‌best‌ ‌defense‌ ‌against‌ ‌an‌ ‌enemy‌ ‌we‌ ‌could‌ ‌not‌ ‌see‌ ‌or‌ ‌even‌ ‌characterize‌ ‌accurately.‌ ‌ ‌

I‌ ‌pulled‌ ‌back‌ ‌our‌ ‌master-bedroom‌ ‌curtains‌ ‌on‌ ‌a‌ ‌different‌ ‌world‌ ‌and‌ ‌saw‌ ‌something‌ ‌I‌ ‌did‌ ‌not‌ ‌anticipate.‌ ‌

 ‌Snow.‌ ‌ ‌

It’s‌ ‌not‌ ‌all‌ ‌that‌ ‌uncommon‌ ‌for‌ ‌snow‌ ‌to‌ ‌fall‌ ‌in‌ ‌Ohio‌ ‌in‌ ‌mid-March,‌ ‌but‌ ‌it’s‌ ‌become‌ ‌very‌ ‌uncommon‌ ‌this‌ ‌mild‌ ‌winter.‌ ‌

Yet‌ ‌on‌ ‌this‌ ‌Saturday‌ ‌morning,‌ ‌the‌ ‌flakes‌ ‌drifted‌ ‌down‌ ‌majestically‌ ‌and‌ ‌covered‌ ‌the‌ ‌ground.‌ ‌ ‌

I‌ ‌pondered‌ ‌the‌ ‌wonder‌ ‌that‌ ‌no‌ ‌two‌ ‌flakes‌ ‌are‌ ‌alike,‌ ‌and‌ ‌thought‌ ‌about‌ ‌God‌ ‌using‌ ‌this‌ ‌very‌ ‌common‌ ‌–‌ ‌yet,‌ ‌this‌ ‌year,‌ ‌uncommon‌ ‌–‌ ‌occurrence‌ ‌to‌ ‌remind‌ ‌me‌ ‌of‌ ‌his‌ ‌sovereignty‌ ‌and‌ ‌majesty.‌ ‌ ‌

God is in control now, even in these times.

The‌ ‌sparkling‌ ‌white‌ ‌covering‌ ‌everything‌ ‌in‌ ‌sight,‌ ‌refreshing‌ ‌a‌ ‌landscape‌ that‌ ‌the‌ ‌day‌ ‌before‌ ‌trended‌ ‌more‌ ‌gray‌ ‌than‌ ‌green.‌ ‌It‌ ‌reinforced‌ ‌in‌ ‌my‌ ‌mind‌ ‌the‌ ‌truth‌ ‌of‌ ‌being‌ ‌washed‌ ‌clean‌ ‌by‌ ‌the‌ ‌blood‌ ‌of‌ ‌Jesus,‌ ‌and‌ ‌how‌ ‌just‌ ‌like‌ God‌ ‌provided‌ ‌a‌ ‌way‌ ‌for‌ ‌us‌ ‌to‌ ‌be‌ ‌holy‌ ‌in‌ ‌His‌ ‌sight‌ ‌through‌ ‌the‌ ‌death‌ ‌and‌ ‌resurrection‌ ‌of‌ ‌his‌ ‌Son,‌ ‌He‌ ‌is‌ ‌in‌ ‌control‌ ‌now‌ ‌even‌ ‌in‌ ‌these‌ ‌times.‌ ‌ ‌

My‌ ‌daughter‌ ‌came‌ ‌to‌ ‌the‌ ‌window‌ ‌and‌ ‌exclaimed,‌ ‌“I’ve‌ ‌‌NEVER‌‌ ‌seen‌ ‌flakes‌ ‌this‌ ‌big.‌ ‌They’re‌ ‌‌huuuuge‌.”‌ ‌ ‌

“They’re‌ ‌enormous,”‌ ‌I‌ ‌said.‌ ‌ ‌

“No,‌ ‌dad,‌ ‌they’re‌ ‌gigantic.”‌

 “They’re‌ ‌massive,”‌ ‌I‌ ‌answered.‌ ‌ ‌

Back‌ ‌and‌ ‌forth‌ ‌we‌ ‌went,‌ ‌trading‌ ‌adjectives,‌ ‌until‌ ‌very‌ ‌soon‌ ‌we‌ ‌were‌ ‌laughing‌ ‌at‌ ‌each‌ ‌other.‌ ‌ ‌

Then‌ ‌we‌ ‌walked‌ ‌to‌ ‌the‌ ‌other‌ ‌end‌ ‌of‌ ‌our‌ ‌house‌ ‌together,‌ ‌my‌ ‌arm‌ ‌around‌ ‌her‌ ‌shoulders.‌ ‌ ‌Her‌ ‌mom‌ ‌–‌ ‌my‌ ‌wife‌ ‌–‌ ‌had‌ ‌been‌ ‌working‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌office‌ ‌and‌ ‌didn’t‌ ‌hear‌ ‌our‌ ‌little‌ ‌game.‌ ‌ ‌ ‌

“Have‌ ‌you‌ ‌guys‌ ‌seen‌ ‌these‌ ‌snowflakes?”‌ ‌she‌ ‌asked.‌ ‌“I’ve‌ ‌‌NEVER‌ ‌‌seen‌ ‌snowflakes‌ ‌this‌ ‌big.”‌ ‌ ‌

My‌ ‌daughter‌ ‌responded:‌ ‌“They’re‌ ‌huge,‌ ‌mom.”‌ ‌ ‌

“No,”‌ ‌I‌ ‌said.‌ ‌“They’re‌ ‌enormous.”‌ ‌ ‌For‌ ‌the‌ ‌next‌ ‌30‌ ‌seconds,‌ ‌my‌ ‌daughter‌ ‌and‌ ‌I‌ ‌traded‌ ‌can-you-top-this‌ ‌descriptions‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌snowflakes.‌ ‌ ‌

My‌ ‌wife‌ ‌didn’t‌ ‌know‌ ‌what‌ ‌to‌ ‌make‌ ‌of‌ ‌us,‌ ‌but‌ ‌when‌ ‌we‌ ‌started‌ ‌laughing,‌ ‌she‌ ‌started‌ ‌laughing.‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌

Only‌ ‌minutes‌ ‌before,‌ ‌I’d‌ ‌been‌ ‌deep‌ ‌in‌ ‌thought‌ ‌about‌ ‌the‌ ‌troubles‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌day‌ ‌as‌ ‌I‌ ‌opened‌ ‌our‌ ‌curtains.‌ ‌Now,‌ ‌God‌ ‌had‌ ‌refreshed‌ ‌my‌ ‌mind‌ ‌and‌ ‌given‌ ‌me‌ ‌a‌ ‌new‌ ‌perspective‌ ‌via‌ ‌His‌ ‌gifts‌ ‌of‌ ‌beauty‌ ‌and‌ ‌laughter.‌ ‌ ‌

It‌ ‌was‌ ‌a‌ ‌blessing‌ ‌to‌ ‌be‌ ‌reminded‌ ‌that‌ ‌even‌ ‌though‌ ‌we‌ ‌are‌ ‌embarking‌ ‌on‌ ‌days‌ ‌where‌ ‌everything‌ ‌we’ve‌ ‌known‌ ‌as‌ ‌routine‌ ‌has‌ ‌been‌ ‌turned‌ ‌upside‌ ‌down,‌ ‌there‌ ‌is‌ ‌still‌ ‌goodness‌ ‌to‌ ‌be‌ ‌found‌ ‌if‌ ‌we’re‌ ‌diligent‌ ‌in‌ ‌searching‌ ‌for‌ ‌it‌ ‌or‌ ‌recognizing‌ ‌it‌ ‌when‌ ‌given‌ ‌to‌ ‌us‌ ‌as‌ ‌a‌ ‌gift.‌ ‌ ‌

No‌ ‌one‌ ‌knows,‌ ‌because‌ ‌no‌ ‌one‌ ‌can‌ ‌know,‌ ‌quite‌ ‌yet‌ ‌the‌ ‌impact‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌coronavirus‌ ‌on‌ ‌our‌ ‌country‌ ‌and‌ ‌our‌ ‌world.‌ ‌The‌ ‌best‌ ‌projections‌ ‌and‌ ‌estimates‌ ‌are‌ ‌still‌ ‌being‌ ‌calculated‌ ‌via‌ ‌too‌ ‌many‌ ‌variables‌ ‌to‌ ‌yield‌ ‌reliable‌ ‌results.‌ ‌ ‌

More‌ ‌accurately,‌ ‌it’s‌ ‌a‌ ‌loss‌ ‌of‌ ‌perceived‌ ‌control,‌ ‌because‌ ‌none‌ ‌of‌ ‌us‌ ‌are‌ ‌really‌ ‌in‌ ‌control‌ ‌of‌ ‌anything.‌ ‌ ‌

If‌ ‌you’ve‌ ‌been‌ ‌in‌ ‌a‌ ‌grocery‌ ‌store,‌ ‌you’ve‌ ‌seen‌ ‌evidence‌ ‌of‌ ‌people‌ ‌preparing‌ ‌for‌ ‌something‌ ‌in‌ ‌largely‌ ‌illogical‌ ‌ways.‌ ‌Toilet‌ ‌paper‌ ‌and‌ ‌bottled‌ ‌water‌ ‌are‌ ‌flying‌ ‌off‌ ‌the‌ ‌shelves.‌ ‌Why?‌ ‌No‌ ‌one‌ ‌can‌ ‌really‌ ‌explain.‌ ‌But‌ ‌it‌ ‌apparently‌ ‌makes‌ ‌people‌ ‌feel‌ ‌better‌ ‌to‌ ‌hoard‌ ‌something,‌ ‌even‌ ‌if‌ ‌it‌ ‌makes‌ ‌little‌ ‌sense.‌ ‌ ‌

Why‌ ‌do‌ ‌people‌ ‌panic?‌ ‌I‌ ‌think‌ ‌it’s‌ ‌because‌ ‌they‌ ‌sense‌ ‌a‌ ‌loss‌ ‌of‌ ‌control.‌ ‌ ‌More‌ ‌accurately,‌ ‌it’s‌ ‌a‌ ‌loss‌ ‌of‌ ‌perceived‌ ‌control,‌ ‌because‌ ‌none‌ ‌of‌ ‌us‌ ‌are‌ ‌really‌ ‌in‌ ‌control‌ ‌of‌ ‌anything.‌ ‌ ‌

Do‌ ‌you‌ ‌think‌ ‌Kobe‌ ‌Bryant‌ ‌thought‌ ‌he‌ ‌was‌ ‌in‌ ‌control‌ ‌of‌ ‌his‌ ‌life‌ ‌a‌ ‌few‌ ‌weeks‌ ‌ago‌ ‌on‌ ‌that‌ ‌fateful‌ ‌Sunday‌ ‌morning?‌ ‌ ‌

Probably‌ ‌so.‌ ‌ ‌

The‌ ‌precautions‌ ‌put‌ ‌in‌ ‌place‌ ‌as‌ ‌the‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌cases‌ ‌of‌ ‌coronavirus‌ ‌increase‌ ‌are‌ ‌taking‌ ‌away‌ ‌our‌ ‌control‌ ‌over‌ ‌who‌ ‌we‌ ‌can‌ ‌see,‌ ‌what‌ ‌we‌ ‌can‌ ‌do,‌ ‌where‌ ‌we‌ ‌can‌ ‌go‌, ‌and‌ ‌what‌ ‌we‌ ‌had‌ ‌planned.‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌

Hit‌ ‌the‌ ‌pause‌ ‌button‌ ‌on‌ ‌panic.‌

That‌ ‌makes‌ ‌people‌ ‌more‌ ‌than‌ ‌nervous.‌ ‌It‌ ‌makes‌ ‌them‌ ‌crazy.‌ ‌ ‌

If‌ ‌that’s‌ ‌you,‌ ‌I’d‌ ‌like‌ ‌to‌ ‌encourage‌ ‌you‌ ‌to‌ ‌hit‌ ‌the‌ ‌pause‌ ‌button‌ ‌on‌ ‌panic.‌ ‌Let’s‌ ‌be‌ ‌purposeful‌ ‌in‌ ‌reshaping‌ ‌our‌ ‌thoughts‌ ‌about‌ ‌the‌ ‌opportunities‌ ‌this‌ ‌situation‌ ‌presents.‌ ‌That’s‌ ‌right,‌ ‌I‌ ‌said‌ ‌these‌ ‌times‌ ‌present ‌opportunity.‌ ‌ ‌

These‌ ‌times‌ ‌present ‌opportunity.‌ ‌

If‌ ‌you‌ ‌concentrate‌ ‌on‌ ‌changing‌ ‌your‌ ‌thoughts‌ ‌of‌ ‌desperation,‌ ‌you‌ ‌will‌ ‌change‌ ‌your‌ ‌feelings‌ ‌of‌ ‌despair‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌change‌ ‌in‌ ‌your‌ ‌actions‌ ‌will‌ ‌result.‌ ‌ ‌

Here’s‌ ‌how‌ ‌it‌ ‌works:‌ ‌ ‌

Current‌ ‌thought:‌ ‌“I‌ ‌might‌ ‌not‌ ‌be‌ ‌allowed‌ ‌to‌ ‌leave‌ ‌home.”‌ ‌ ‌

Current‌ ‌feeling:‌ ‌“‌ ‌What‌ ‌if‌ ‌I‌ ‌run‌ ‌out‌ ‌of‌ ‌water?‌ ‌I‌ ‌might‌ ‌die.”‌ ‌ ‌

Current‌ ‌action:‌ ‌“I’m‌ ‌going‌ ‌to‌ ‌buy‌ ‌all‌ ‌the‌ ‌bottled‌ ‌water‌ ‌I‌ ‌can.‌ ‌I‌ ‌might‌ ‌even‌ ‌fight‌ ‌someone‌ ‌for‌ ‌that‌ ‌last‌ ‌case‌ ‌of‌ ‌bottled‌ ‌water,‌ ‌because‌ ‌my‌ ‌life‌ ‌depends‌ ‌on‌ ‌it.”‌ ‌ ‌

Here’s‌ ‌how‌ ‌it‌ ‌should‌ ‌work:‌ ‌ ‌

Changed‌ ‌thought:‌ ‌“I‌ ‌might‌ ‌not‌ ‌be‌ ‌allowed‌ ‌to‌ ‌leave‌ ‌home,‌ ‌but‌ ‌does‌ ‌that‌ ‌mean‌ ‌the‌ ‌water‌ ‌supply‌ ‌or‌ ‌the‌ ‌power‌ ‌grid‌ ‌have‌ ‌been‌ ‌compromised‌ ‌by‌ ‌a‌ ‌virus?”‌ ‌ ‌

Changed‌ ‌feeling:‌ ‌“No.‌ ‌Everything‌ ‌is‌ ‌working‌ ‌fine.”‌ ‌ ‌

Changed‌ ‌action:‌ ‌“I‌ ‌don’t‌ ‌need‌ ‌to‌ ‌panic‌ ‌about‌ ‌stocking‌ ‌up‌ ‌on‌ ‌bottled‌ ‌water.”‌ ‌ 

Focus‌ ‌on‌ ‌what‌ ‌you‌ ‌know‌ ‌to‌ ‌be‌ ‌true,‌ ‌instead‌ ‌of‌ ‌an‌ ‌irrational‌ ‌fear.‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌

‌It’s‌ ‌a‌ ‌simple‌ ‌exercise,‌ ‌but‌ ‌it’s‌ ‌highly‌ ‌useful.‌ ‌ ‌

Focus‌ ‌on‌ ‌what‌ ‌you‌ ‌know‌ ‌to‌ ‌be‌ ‌true,‌ ‌instead‌ ‌of‌ ‌an‌ ‌irrational‌ ‌fear.‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌

We‌ ‌have‌ ‌the‌ ‌chance‌ ‌over‌ ‌these‌ ‌next‌ ‌few‌ ‌weeks‌ ‌to‌ ‌recalibrate‌ ‌our‌ ‌lives,‌ ‌to‌ ‌grow‌ ‌closer‌ ‌to‌ ‌our‌ ‌families‌ ‌and‌ ‌to‌ ‌satisfy‌ ‌the‌ ‌one‌ ‌great‌ ‌human‌ ‌longing‌ ‌that‌ ‌we‌ ‌all‌ ‌have,‌ ‌which‌ ‌is‌ ‌to‌ ‌lock‌ ‌arms‌ ‌with‌ ‌each‌ ‌other‌ ‌and‌ ‌serve‌ ‌each‌ ‌other.‌ ‌ ‌

This‌ ‌is‌ ‌an‌ ‌opportunity‌ ‌for‌ ‌neighbors‌ ‌to‌ ‌be‌ ‌neighborly,‌ ‌to‌ ‌do‌ ‌something‌ ‌nice‌ ‌for‌ ‌someone‌ ‌else,‌ ‌whether‌ ‌it’s‌ ‌encourage‌ ‌them‌ ‌with‌ ‌a‌ ‌text‌ ‌message,‌ ‌complete‌ ‌an‌ ‌errand‌ ‌for‌ ‌them,‌ ‌bring‌ ‌them‌ ‌a‌ ‌meal…the‌ ‌possibilities‌ ‌are‌ ‌endless.‌ ‌ ‌

We‌ ‌may‌ ‌also‌ ‌have‌ ‌time‌ ‌to‌ ‌set‌ ‌and‌ ‌accomplish‌ ‌a‌ ‌goal‌ ‌of‌ ‌self-improvement‌ ‌during‌ ‌this‌ ‌time‌ ‌when‌ ‌our‌ ‌normal‌ ‌vocational‌ ‌and‌ ‌recreational‌ ‌activities‌ ‌have‌ ‌been‌ ‌dramatically‌ ‌altered.‌ ‌ ‌

If‌ ‌you‌ ‌are‌ ‌a‌ ‌believer‌ ‌in‌ ‌Christ,‌ ‌you‌ ‌have‌ ‌the‌ ‌opportunity‌ ‌to‌ ‌reflect‌ ‌a‌ ‌peace‌ ‌that‌ ‌passes‌ ‌all‌ ‌understanding‌ ‌(Philippians‌ ‌4:7)‌ ‌and‌ ‌draw‌ ‌others‌ ‌to‌ ‌Jesus.‌ ‌Most‌ ‌people‌ ‌aren’t‌ ‌comfortable‌ ‌witnessing‌ ‌about‌ ‌Him‌ ‌directly.‌ ‌They‌ ‌spend‌ ‌much‌ ‌of‌ ‌their‌ ‌life‌ ‌hiding‌ ‌behind‌ ‌this‌ ‌statement,‌ ‌“I‌ ‌don’t‌ ‌share‌ ‌my‌ ‌faith‌ ‌openly.‌ ‌I‌ ‌just‌ ‌try‌ ‌to‌ ‌live‌ ‌my‌ ‌life‌ ‌in‌ ‌such‌ ‌a‌ ‌way‌ ‌that‌ ‌others‌ ‌can‌ ‌see‌ ‌Jesus‌ ‌in‌ ‌me.”‌ ‌ ‌

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:7

If‌ ‌that’s‌ ‌been‌ ‌you‌ ‌excuse,‌ ‌then‌ ‌this‌ ‌is‌ ‌your‌ ‌chance‌ ‌to‌ ‌shine,‌ ‌brother!

‌ ‌It’s‌ ‌your‌ ‌chance‌ ‌to‌ ‌live‌ ‌out‌ ‌those‌ ‌promises‌ ‌that‌ ‌God‌ ‌will‌ ‌never‌ ‌leave‌ ‌you‌ ‌or‌ ‌forsake‌ ‌you‌ ‌(Deuteronomy‌ ‌31:6),‌ ‌He‌ ‌will‌ ‌supply‌ ‌all‌ ‌your‌ ‌needs‌ ‌(Phillipians‌ ‌4:19)‌ ‌and‌ ‌that‌ ‌worrying‌ ‌does‌ ‌you‌ ‌no‌ ‌good‌ ‌at‌ ‌all‌ ‌(Mathew‌ ‌6:27-28).‌ ‌ ‌

We‌ ‌serve‌ ‌an‌ ‌awesome‌ ‌God‌ ‌who‌ ‌has‌ ‌already‌ ‌demonstrated‌ ‌through‌ ‌Christ‌ ‌the‌ ‌incalculable‌ ‌depth,‌ ‌breadth‌ ‌and‌ ‌width‌ ‌of‌ ‌His‌ ‌love‌ ‌for‌ ‌us.‌ ‌Yet‌ ‌He‌ ‌is‌ ‌also‌ ‌never‌ ‌averse‌ ‌to‌ ‌sending‌ ‌those‌ ‌little‌ ‌reminders‌ ‌on‌ ‌a‌ ‌daily‌ ‌basis,‌ ‌like‌ ‌snow,‌ ‌like‌ ‌laughter,‌ ‌like‌ ‌the‌ ‌fulfilment‌ ‌we‌ ‌receive‌ ‌by‌ ‌serving‌ ‌others.‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌

“Give‌ ‌thanks‌ ‌to‌ ‌the‌ ‌Lord,‌ ‌for‌ ‌He‌ ‌is‌ ‌good.‌ ‌His‌ ‌steadfast‌ ‌love‌ ‌endures‌ ‌forever.”‌ 

Psalm 118:1,29

Stop Looking for What You Already Have

I occasionally misplace my car keys, only to find them in my hand as I search. And I’ve sometimes looked for my reading glasses, which I discover hanging from the neckline of my shirt.

I fear that’s how it will be with lost souls on Judgment Day. What a searing, horrible regret they will feel over all the plain-spoken warnings in the Bible about obedience, submission to God’s authority and what He hates:

“To fear (respect) the Lord is to hate evil; I hate pride, arrogance, evil behavior, and perverse speech.”

Proverbs 8:13

Two chapters earlier, in Proverbs 6:16-19, there is a literal list that reads:

“There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to Him:

Haughty eyes (pride),

A lying tongue (lies),

Hands that shed innocent blood (cruelty),

A heart that devises wicked schemes (duplicity),

Feet that are quick to rush into evil (greed or selfishness),

A false witness who pours out lies (lack of integrity and character),

And a man who stirs up dissension among brothers (gossip).”

That’s pretty plain-spoken language, and so are Jesus’ words in other passages:

“I and the Father are one.”

John 10:30

“I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 14:6

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name (than Jesus) given to men by which you must be saved.”

Acts 4:12

God has given you the keys to eternal life in the palm of your hand.

You cannot read Colossians 1 or the Gospel of John or John’s short letters in 1 John, 2 John or 3 John and be unclear about Jesus’ identity.

It’s right there in front of you.

God has given you the keys to eternal life in the palm of your hand.

He has made his Word clear so you do not require reading glasses to comprehend that Jesus’ perfection and death on the cross is the payment for your sins past, present and future.

He has made his Word clear.

You need only claim Christ’s perfection as your own to receive eternal life.

The genuine acceptance of that truth, and the gratitude you will feel, will motivate you to live differently than before.

You cannot authentically experience Christ’s forgiveness and the peace that comes with it and not be radically changed. 

It isn’t that your behavior earns your forgiveness. Instead, God’s forgiveness via you accepting Christ’s free gift of atonement on your behalf will result in changed behavior via His power inside you.

For far too long, I struggled to fully access that power and put it into practice in my life after I accepted Jesus as my Savior and received His Holy Spirit to guide and direct me.

I wasted inordinate amounts of time thinking about what I should do vocationally and stressing over, “What is God’s will for my life?”

He can and will use us anywhere we apply His wisdom and love to whatever it is we are doing.

God is instead far more concerned — perhaps, exclusively concerned — with how we live our lives, not what we do professionally.

He can and will use us anywhere we apply His wisdom and love to whatever it is we are doing.

Remember, Jesus took a few fishermen, a couple tax collectors, maybe a tentmaker or two and a few random tradesmen and formed them into a team that transformed the world like no 12 men before or since.

They did so because of how they executed His plan, not because they formed some magic coalition of aligned professions.

Connected to Him, you have the same potential.

“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”

John 15:4

“Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway. For whoever finds me, finds life and receives favor from the Lord.”

Proverbs 8:34-35