Commitment

Trust is difficult. We ask for it from others even though we are hesitant to place invest it in someone else. In order for us to trust, we need confidence in the character and trustworthiness of the one in whom we place it. Through His last words from the cross (Luke 23:44-46), Jesus demonstrates His trust in the Father when He commits His spirit into His hands. By doing so, He reminds us that we too can trust the Heavenly Father with every aspect of our lives.

Jesus confidently expresses His trust. Just before He dies, Jesus quotes Psalm 31:5. Psalm 31 was a psalm of David asking for deliverance from his enemies. Verse five was a typical Jewish evening prayer. Children would have been taught it by their parents and their religious leaders. It was something very similar to our “Now I lay me down to sleep.” Jesus would have known this prayer since childhood. Here, he proclaims it loudly so all can here. Ambrose, who was the the bishop of Milan in the fourth century said, “I do not blush to confess what Christ did not blush to proclaim in a loud voice.”

Jesus’ quoting of this verse emphasizes the voluntary nature of His sacrifice. His death was voluntary. He willingly laid down His life (John 10:11, 15, 17-18). It’s also interesting to note that He adds something to this prayer of David. He addresses it to His Father. In doing so, He points to the trustworthiness of the Father.

The goodness of God the Father is the basis for Jesus’ trust. Jesus has a relationship with the Father. He and the Father are one (John 10:30; 17:11, 21). We know the doctrine of the Trinity teaches us that there is one God in three persons – The Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit. As the second person of the Trinity, Jesus had a oneness with the Father even thought He had a different role. His oneness and His intimacy are one full display here. As a result, He has full confidence in the father. There is no hesitation. Despite His cries of abandonment just a few minutes, Jesus knows full well He can trust the Heavenly Father.

Remember this. God is our father too. Yes, we are not part of the divine Trinity. But because of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, we have been adopted into the family of God. Jesus taught us to pray to our Heavenly Father (Matthew 6:9). Paul tells us that we have received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father!” And that the Spirit testifies to us that we are the children of God…and not only children, but also heirs (Romans 8:15-17).

And, we know the Scriptures affirm the character of the Father. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reminds us of the goodness of God (Matthew 7:7-11). And, we also know that God is trustworthy. He keeps what’s been entrusted to Him (John 10:27-29). Since Jesus entrusted His Spirit to the Father, we can as well. The question before each of us is in whom do you trust? You are either trusting Jesus and placing your lives in the hands of the Father or you are trusting yourself. As capable as you may be, as sincere as you may think you are, as passionate as you believe in yourself, you are not enough. You need Jesus. Trust in Him today and commit your life to the trustworthy hands of the Heavenly Father.

If the Father is trustworthy and capable of holding our lives for all eternity, what else can we entrust to the Father? Hurts, fears, sins, anxieties?

Through the ages, these last words of Jesus have been on the lips of countless other servants of God. John Huss proclaimed them as he burned at the stake. John Knox said them as he died in relative quiet. Men like Polycarp, Luther, and Melancthon all echoed them. As R. Earl Allen says, “There is no better place to put yourself than into the hands of God. It is the safe place, the place of omnipotent protection.” Commit yourself to the Father today.

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Anguish

I like those old Clint Eastwood movies. The ones they call Spaghetti Westerns. You know the ones made in the 1960’s by Sergio Leone. Eastwood played the “Man with No Name” in a trilogy of movies directed by Leone – A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly. In one of those movies (The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly I think), maybe in all of them (I don’t know), Eastwood is forced to walk across the desert without any water. The dry, barren land and the harsh climate gets to him. His face burns and his lips blister. His throat is parched, and his eyes are barely opened. He collapses under the strain of it all. It is a portrayal of exposure and thirst brought to us in living color.

We’ve seen scenes like this dozens of time. It’s in almost every western we’ve ever seen…and any movie made in the desert for that matter. Heat, suffering, and a cry for water.

The Apostle John gives us another vivid picture of thirst and suffering. In John 19:28-29, we see the humanity of Jesus on full display. Matthew tells us that as Jesus nears the end of His life, He cries out in despair and asks why God had forsaken Him (Matthew 27:45-46). Here, John records that He cries out in thirst. As the first is a reminder of the spiritual agony of the cross, this one is a reminder of the physical suffering.

When we look into the New Testament, we see Jesus’ humanity. The opening chapter of John describes Him becoming flesh and dwelling among us (John 1:1, 14). Paul tells of of Christ humbling Himself, forsaking the glory of heaven, and coming to earth as man (Philippians 2:1-10). Near the end of our bibles, John stresses how he watched and touched a human Jesus (1 John 1:1-4). In between, we see Jesus exhibit all kinds of human traits and emotions. He grew (Luke 2:52). He was tired (Mark 4:38; John 4:6). He hungered (Matthew 4:12). He felt joy (Luke 10:21), grief (John 11:35), love (John 13:1), compassion (Matthew 9:36), and anger (John 2:13-16). This very human Jesus lived his life in obedience to His Father and in accordance with the Scripture. As He nears the end of His life here, He cries out know the Scriptures had been fulfilled in His life, suffering, and death. In doing so, He displays the anguish of His humanity.

As His humanity was on full display throughout His life, it was also on display in His death. Jesus suffered immensely on the cross. He went through a series of empty trials, only to be handed a death sentence He did not deserve. He was beaten and mocked. He would have been flogged to within an inch of His life. He has been hanging on the cross, struggling to breath, enduring the agony of crucifixion. While on the cross, He again was mocked and ridiculed. He bore the weight of sin and the wrath of God. All of this suffering. All of this anguish.

What are the Implications of all this for you and me? The book of Hebrews gives us some insight to this (Hebrews 2:9-18; 4:15).

For one, we see that Jesus identifies with us. We are not foreign or unknown to Him. He has walked where we walk and endured what we endure. He identifies with our suffering (Hebrews 4:15). This is a big deal. We cannot look at Jesus and say, “You just don’t understand.” He knows the reality of temptation and the agony of suffering. And, He gives us grace and strength to deal with both.

We also see that Jesus is the perfect sacrifice. There is nothing else that can be offered for our sin. The last sacrifice has been made. There is nothing you can offer…nothing you can give to make yourself right with God. The blood of goats and bulls is no longer adequate. Your religious activity will not overcome your sin. Only Jesus can do that. He did it on the cross. He is God’s perfect Passover lamb who conquered sin and death on our behalf (Hebrews 2:14).

In His thirst, Jesus died so that we may never be thirsty. As you walk across the spiritually barren wastelands of this life, spiritually parched and crying out for water, look to Jesus – the living water who died in our place and rose from the grave.

Don’t dismiss Jesus. Don’t ignore His humanity and what He accomplished in it. He lived for you. He died for you. He rose again for you…so that you might be able to come into right relationship with God. He has taught us and demonstrated for us how we can live for God and He empowers us to do so. Through His anguish, we can rise above ours.

Forsaken

Baseball season is upon us. Today is Opening Day. All throughout the fall and winter months, teams have prepared for this summer. Players have trained. Coaches have strategized. Management has secured new players. Each team has worked to fill voids in their rosters. Very often, these roster bolstering moves are done through trades where one team gives another team a package of players in exchange for a different package of players. The hope is that these exchanges will fill the needs so the team can accomplish its goals.

As we make our way through the sayings of Jesus from the cross, we come to Matthew 27:45-46. There, Jesus cries out “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Matthew 27:46, CSB)

In this scene, we are reminded that Jesus became sin and bore its consequences.

On the cross, Jesus fulfilled what the prophet Isaiah foretold when He said the “Lord punished him for the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6, CSB). The Apostle Paul tells us that God “made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us,so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21, CSB). In other words, Jesus became sin for us. He exchanged His righteousness for our unrighteousness (1 Peter 3:18).

Part of this exchange is that His righteousness has been credited to our account. He took our sin debt and credited our account with His righteousness. Imagine you are in the hole for millions and millions of dollars. Your debt is so great, you will never be able to repay it. Not even Dave Ramsey can help you. You are hopelessly in the red. But, a billionaire comes along and offers to pay off all of your debt. That would be tremendous. But, imagine he goes one step further. He is willing to take on your debt and transfer to you his account. Not only is your debt paid, but now you are flush with cash. That’s what happens at the cross. Jesus becomes our sin, pays our debt, and transfers His righteousness to our account. In Christ, when we stand before almighty God, our sin debt is not what He sees. Rather, He sees the balance transfer Jesus provided. He sees Jesus’ righteousness in our account. This is the great exchange.

Not only did Jesus become sin, but Jesus bore the penalty for sin. The text tells us that darkness covered the land for three hours. Scholars debate the cosmological causes and the scope of the darkness, but the theological meaning of the darkness is clear. Throughout Scripture, darkness is often associated with the judgment of God. As Jesus becomes sin, He bears God’s wrath.

It is significant for us to know that through His death, Jesus completely satisfied the wrath of God. His propitiatory sacrifice…His atoning sacrifice had satisfied a holy God’s demand for the payment of sin.

As He experiences this soul-crushing moment, Jesus cries out to God. Throughout His agony, Jesus gives us a model of how we can deal with our own suffering. He cries out and is honest with God. He expresses His raw emotion. But, through it all, He still clings to the fact that God is still His. He holds onto “my God.”

A.W. Pink sums this up this exchange at the cross this way: “At the Cross man did a work: he displayed his depravity by taking the perfect One and with “wicked hands” nailing Him to the tree. At the Cross Satan did a work: he manifested his insatiable enmity against the woman’s seed by bruising His heel. At the Cross the Lord Jesus did a work: He died—the Just for the unjust that He might bring us to God. At the Cross God did a work: He exhibited His holiness and satisfied His justice by pouring out His wrath on the One who was made sin for us.”

Know that in Jesus, we are forgiven. He became sin for us. He bore the weight of our sin and completely satisfied the wrath of God. In this great exchange, He offers us forgiveness and restoration. He brings us into right relationship with God. Because He was willing to be forsaken, we can be forgiven. Get in on this. Look to Jesus and trust in Him today.

Tenderness

Four students stayed out late partying one night. The next day, they had an exam and they knew they weren’t prepared for it. So, they hatched a plan where they dirtied themselves up and went to the dean’s office. They said they were attending a wedding and blew a tire on the way back. Thus, they were unable to take the test and asked for an extension. The dean agreed and delayed their exam three days. When they arrived to take their delayed exam, the dean greeted them and said since the circumstances were special, they would need to take the test in separate rooms. Each student went to their room and turned over their exam paper. They were surprised there were only two questions. The first one asked their name and was worth one point. The second, worth ninety-nine points, asked which tire blew on the car?

Jesus’ Third Word: Tenderness (John 19:25-27)

This humorous tale reminds us of the importance of doing what you have to do…the importance of taking care of business. Jesus, in accordance with the law and custom of His day, was committed to taking care of business even while hanging on the cross. And, He does so with tenderness and compassion.

In John 19:25-27, Jesus is hanging on the cross, dying an agonizing death. As He does, a group of His followers makes their way forward from the back of the crowd. Included in this gathering is Jesus’ mother Mary and the apostle John. In the midst of His suffering, Jesus sees them and arranges for the care of His mother.

The Bible tells us that Jesus died for us in accordance with God’s plan. Speaking of His death, Jesus says: “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have the right to lay it down, and I have the right to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.” (John 10:18, CSB)

Jesus’ death on the cross was to provide the means for us to come into right relationship with God. And, Jesus fulfilled His Father’s will.

But, while on the cross, He also manage to dispatch the duty He has towards His mother. As Jesus hangs dying on the cross, he does what he must do as her eldest son. He makes arrangements for His widowed mother. By this time, Joseph is probably deceased. And, Mary will have little means of taking care of herself. So, Jesus entrusts her to John. We might ask why He doesn’t entrust her to one of His siblings. The simplest answer may be that none of them are believers yet. They won’t become believers until after the resurrection.

John is assigned the task of taking care of Mary and it seems like that exactly what he did. The text says that from that hour on, John cared for her. History and tradition become intertwined. We’re not sure how this all fleshed itself out, but it did.

In this charge, there are some truths we need to embrace:

  • We need to care for our parents and those who have raised us (1 Timothy 5:3-4, 8), and do so with compassion and tenderness.
  • We need to take seriously the spiritual responsibility of the family. Jesus assured that His mother was in a place where her faith could flourish. We must understand that the most important task we have in our family is to provide for its spiritual flourishing.
  • We need to fulfill the tasks assigned to us by Jesus. John faithfully did what Jesus instructed. We must as well.

Jesus faithfully did what He needed to do. He took care of business. He died on the cross for our sin. As He did, He managed His human responsibilities by providing for His mother. May we trust His provision on the cross and fulfill the tasks He has assigned us faithfully every day.

Promise

I have seen and heard of a number of different kinds of promises. There is the pinky promise. There is the promise ring. There is the politicians’ promise. There are contractual promises and marital promises. Then, there are divine promises. It is this last type of promise that we see in Jesus’ conversation with the thief on the cross. And, it is the promise of Jesus that offers pardon for sin.

As Jesus hangs dying on the cross, Luke’s gospel tells us (Luke 23:35-43) that the crowd watched, the leaders scoffed, the soldiers mocked and the thieves insulted. But, then something happened in the heart of one of them. He stopped hurling insults at Jesus and began to rebuke his co-conspirator. He reminds him that his death was imminent. Judgment was coming. He was going to stand before the eternal judge who would soon render His sentence. This repentant thief acknowledges his own guilt and declares he’s deserving of the punishment he is receiving. He recognizes the innocence of Jesus and asks him to “Remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42, CSB).

The thief had nothing to offer Jesus in payment for such a request. He had no good works to give. He had no time or opportunity to engage in religious rituals or practices. He had no chance to make amends for any or all of his wrongdoing. He simply asked to be remembered when Jesus comes again. His is a plea of faith. You and I bring nothing to Jesus other than the sin that needs forgiven.

Jesus offers the thief, and everyone of us who come to him in repentance and faith, hope. He assures him, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:42, CSB).

Today. Jesus’ promise suggests that there is no delay for those who trust in Him. No purgatory. No soul sleep. No waiting. The moment we breathe our last breath on this earth, we take our next in the presence of Jesus.

Furthermore, Jesus promises His eternal presence. He says, “You will be with me.” All who turn from their sins and look to Jesus in trusting, saving faith will be with Jesus forever.

Finally, Jesus says the thief will join Him in paradise. The psalmist spoke of dwelling in the house of the Lord forever (Psalm 23:6). That’s the hope Jesus gives here. Those who are His have an eternal home.

As Jesus hung dying on the cross, He reminds us that death is not the end. It is not our final domain. Jesus died so we don’t have to. Because of Him, we can live, even though death comes to us all.

A promise is only as good as the individual who makes it. They have to have the character and the ability to follow through on the commitment. Jesus has both. Since He is God, He is perfectly holy and trustworthy. As God, He has the ability to follow through on what He has promised. He promises pardon for sin and a restored relationship with God. May our hearts be repentant, our eyes be open, and our hearts be receptive to the hope Jesus offers. Rest in Him and Him alone today.

Free, Not Forsaken

We’re barely a week into the New Year and I imagine that many of us have already given up on our resolutions for 2019. Those broken resolutions are a reminder of how hard it can be to change. And as we grapple with our failures regarding diets, exercise, and attitudes, we begin to wonder if we can indeed really be any different than we’ve always been. Our failures just seem to reinforce to us that nothing will ever be any different.

As I read the book of Ezra this morning, I was struck by a verse in chapter nine. It says:

For we are slaves, Yet our God has not forsaken us in our slavery, but has extended to us his steadfast love… (Ezra 9:9, ESV).

This context of the verse is the return from exile. The people of Israel had been in exile for decades and now many of them have returned to Jerusalem and were rebuilding the temple. And, as they did, they acknowledged that God had been with them, even in the midst of their captivity.

This verse reminds me of two other portions of Scripture. The first is the book of Exodus. There, centuries before their exile to Babylon, the children of Israel were slaves in Egypt. And, they cried out to God and He delivered them from their slavery under the leadership of Moses. (Exodus 3:7-8). The second is in the book of Romans. In it, the apostle Paul also uses the language of slavery and dominion, but he’s not speaking of captivity by any human masters. Rather, he tells us that we are captive in our sin until Jesus sets us free. And, since Jesus has set us free, sin no longer has dominion over us (Romans 6:14).

Now, let me tie all of this together. In our bondage and captivity…in our inability to change from the inside out and really begin to live differently, God extends to us His steadfast love. He has not forsaken us in our slavery to sin. Instead, through Jesus, He has set us free. We are no longer held hostage by who we were before Jesus. In Him, we are free. Free to be the person God created and redeemed us to be. We can be different. Our anxieties and fears no longer have to control us. Our selfishness no longer drives our efforts. Our rebellious passions no longer control our behavior. Our sin no longer has dominion over us. We are free. God’s steadfast love has pulled us out of our bandage and enabled us to walk joyfully with Him. So, let Jesus fuel your efforts. Be different in His power and for His glory. Remember who you are in Him and what He’s done for you. Read Romans 6 and rejoice that God has set the captive free.

Even Though They Feared

Most of us know what it is to wrestle with what others think of us. This was true long before the days of social media, and it’s especially true in this age of likes, hearts, and thumbs ups. We’re not the first people to wrestle with such fears. In the book of Ezra, the children of Israel have returned to Jerusalem after exile and have begun to rebuild the temple in order to restore their worship of God. As they rebuild, we read this verse:

They set up the altar on its foundation and offered burnt offerings for the morning and evening on it to the LORD even though they feared the surrounding peoples. Ezra 3:3, CSB

I love the sheer honesty of this verse – even though they feared the surrounding peoples. Their neighbors had no interest in seeing the Jewish people restore their worship. Nonetheless, the text says they worshipped. They pressed on regardless of their fears and anxieties. They did the right thing regardless of what others thought.

As Christians, we live in an age where we are often misunderstood and maligned. To be fair, some of that is our own doing. But, a good bit of it has to do with the fact that we are called to live very differently than the world around us. We are challenged to forsake our love for the things of this world (1 John 2:15). We are called to be light in the darkness (Philippians 2:15). We are commanded to live lives that reflect the change Jesus brings, to walk worthy of our calling in Christ (Ephesians 4:10; Colossians 1:10), and to bring glory to God in all that we say and do (1 Corinthians 10:31). Let us resolve in this new year to do just that. Let us stay connected to Jesus, who is the One who enables and empowers us to live right and to do right. Let us strive to glorify God in everything we do. May we fight through our fears and anxieties and do the right thing…do the biblical thing…do the God-honoring thing…regardless of what others may think.

Grace for the Days Ahead

20171228_191029510_iOSIt’s been a rough year. Like you, I’ve faced my fair share of challenges in 2017. And, as this year winds down, I’ve had a number of people say to me that hopefully, 2018 will be better. But, every time I hear that phrase I have this one nagging thought run through my mind. What if it’s not?

What if 2018 is no better at all? Or God forbid, it’s worse? Whatever lies ahead, my prayer is that the One who brought me through this past year will bring me through the next. I pray that His grace will abound in the coming days just as it has abounded in the last 365.

Please don’t hear arrogance or some sense of false bravado in this. My fears and anxieties are as real as yours. Like you, I spend far too much time worrying about things I can’t change and fretting about things I can. My point is that the only way I was able to move through and deal with 2017 is by the grace of God. I’d like to say I managed a perfectly executed plan or exhibited the triumph that comes through sheer willpower. I’d like to be able to tout how devoted I was by praying in deep faith and expecting God to move mountains. Oh, I had a plan. Several in fact. None of them worked. I had willpower. For an hour or two. I prayed, but not nearly like I probably should have. No, grace is what brought me through this past year. Grace kept me alive. Grace helped me move through grief. Grace helped me deal with a family in transition. Grace. Grace and more grace. Grace upon grace. And, I’m confident I’ll need that grace in the coming days too.

As you enter a new year, please don’t think that some change in attitude or a self-help article or two will give you the greatest year ever. A fresh set of resolutions won’t do it on their own. Attitude is important. So is growing in your ability to manage things. And, goals are great. But grace is what you need. Grace to handle what you know and grace to move you through what you don’t. Grace to forgive and to restore and to empower and to guide. Grace that only comes from a God who loves you and holds this world and all that transpires in it in His hands. Grace that is deep and unending. So, as you bid farewell to 2017 and look forward to 2018, may the grace of God touch your life in more ways than you can possibly imagine.

And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:8, CSB

The Depths of Anguish

desperate-prayer“Can I help you?” It’s a common question. We hear it all the time. Whether it’s in our local store or on the phone with a customer service rep half way around the world, we all have heard some well-meaning person ask us how they can help. And, much of the time, these folks do a great job providing us assistance. They point us in the direction of the item we’re looking for or they help us solve an issue with our computer or with our phone bill. It’s great to get the help we need. But, where do we go with the stuff that bigger than all of these kinds of things? Where to we go with our fears and our heartaches? To whom can we turn when the stuff of life is just too much for us to bear?

In the opening chapter of 1 Samuel, a childless woman name Hannah is in the temple praying. As she pours out her heart, she silently mouths her prayer. The priest on duty accuses her of being drunk and asks her to leave. Hannah replies, “No, my lord…I am a woman with a broken heart. I haven’t had any wine or beer; I’ve been pouring out my heart before the Lord. Don’t think of me as a wicked woman; I’ve been praying from the depth of my anguish and resentment” (1 Samuel 1:15-16, CSB).

I’ve been pouring out my heart before the Lord…I’ve been praying from the depth of my anguish and resentment.

Hannah knew where to take her heartache. She knew who to call with her anguish and resentment. She poured her heart out to God. She cries out of the depth of her anguish, so caught up in it that she’s oblivious to the fact that others are even watching her.

Many of us can identify with this kind of struggle. We know what it is to feel so burdened and overwhelmed that it’s hard to know what to do or we to go. Paralysis sets in and we find ourselves stuck in place with no idea what to do next. Whereas Hannah took these burdens to God, so many of us let our burdens crush our souls. We carry that weight and brokenness like a badge of martyrdom, completely unwilling (or perhaps unable) to let them go. We talk to friends and family about it. We post about it on social media. We might even ask others to pray about it. But for some reason, we fail to truly take them to God praying from the depth of our anguish and resentment. God is the one who can truly work in these heart-breaking, gut-wrenching situations. He’s the one who can offer help when we feel so helpless.

So, open up with God. Be honest with Him. Pour your heart out to Him. Be vulnerable. Show your brokenness. Pray from the depth of your anguish and resentment. Take these things to your loving Heavenly Father and trust that He will work in them for your best and His glory. Whatever the burden, however large or overwhelming it may seem, He can help you. He may not move in the way you’d like, but you can go to Him. Don’t be hesitant. Cry out to God, praying from the depths of your emotion and heartache. And, as you do, trust that He is able to help you in your despair. Have confidence in Him because he is bigger than whatever it is we bring to Him. He indeed can help.

Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need. Hebrews 4:16, CSB

More Than Numbers

advertising-by-the-numbers-its-big-business-with-big-numbers-to-matchNumbers are my life. No, I’m not an accountant or a mathematician. I’m not an engineer or a banker. I don’t run actuary tables for insurance companies or develop spreadsheets for corporations. My math skills top out with basic algebra and my knowledge of Excel is pretty limited. Nonetheless, numbers are my life.

Over the last fifteen years, I’ve had a few health problems. And, like anyone who has had serious issues with their health, numbers begin to play an important part in determining how things are going. I track my weight, my blood pressure, and my glucose levels. I use apps on my phone that chart how many steps I take and how many miles I walk. I have lab work regularly that measures everything from my cholesterol to my medication levels. So, every day…every week…every month, some number comes in that tells me how I’m doing.

In addition to being a patient, I also have a day job. I pastor a church. That means in addition to preaching and teaching and ministering, I deal with a number of…numbers. Every week I process through attendance and offerings and other statistical measures of how our church is doing (or at least that’s what many say measures how our church is doing). Due to our facility being destroyed by a fire in 2015, we are now in a building program which involves things like budgets, blueprints, and insurance reports. Yep, you guessed it. More numbers.

The other day, I was thinking about all the numbers that define my life. It was kind of funny that I was having these thoughts while hooked up to a heart monitor and walking on a treadmill. As I was walking, paying close attention to the statistical dashboard in front of me, that phrase “numbers are my life” kept running through my mind. And then it hit me. No, they’re not. Numbers don’t define me. Jesus does.

Through His death and resurrection, Jesus freed me from the power and penalty of sin. He has forgiven me. Because of Him, I have been adopted into the family of God and made a co-heir with Christ. He has promised that He will never leave me nor forsake me and that one day, I will spend eternity with Him. He has changed me…and He is changing me. And, He defines me. Not my weight or my lab results. Not how many people were in church this week or how big the restrooms in our new building are. He cares about my health and the health of our church, but those things are not who I am. I am a child of God because of Jesus. And, that’s something numbers just can’t measure. Numbers aren’t my life. Jesus is.

The challenge for us is to understand what really defines our lives. It’s not our careers or our bank accounts. It’s not if our kid makes the team or the honor roll. It’s not how many miles we can run or if we can fit into the clothes we wore in college. It’s not the fame or the popularity that comes with successful ministries. Our true purpose…our true success is found in Jesus. Our acceptance and joy are found in Him. Our contentment and security? In Christ. So, let us stop seeking these things somewhere else. The numbers will never provide the true picture of who…and whose we are. We’re more than numbers. We’re children of the living God.

I pray that he may grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with power in your inner being through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know Christ’s love that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:16-19, CSB