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When you think of the Gospels, what do you think of? What first comes to mind. Many people think of the good news of Jesus, the message of the kingdom or parables like the good Samaritan or the prodigal son. Some remember miracles like turning water into wine, walking on water, feeding the five thousand. Most of us tune in to the feel good parts of the Gospels. Our first thought is not usually sin. Maybe that is a mistake.

I have been delving into the Gospel of Luke lately, and I can’t help but notice that “sin”, at least in the first five chapters, keeps popping up its ugly head. Quite a few times it seems to me:

“And you, my child (John), will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins…” (1:76-77)

John went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (3:3)

When Simon Peter saw this (great catch of fish), he fell at Jesus knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (5:8)

When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” (5:20)

“Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” (5:23-24)

The Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”

Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (5:30-32)

I think what Luke and Jesus are trying to get across is that sin is a serious matter that needs to be dealt with in a serious way. John the Baptist was all about preaching that people needed to repent from their sins. They needed to drastically change the way they thought about sin so that their behavior would be altered. John told the crowd to be generous, not selfish. He told tax collectors not to collect more than required of them. He told soldiers to not extort money.

And then Jesus comes along, and his message and miracles showed Peter what a sinful man he was. But Jesus does not reject the sinners, he welcomes them and forgives them and invites them to follow him into a better, happier, more fulfilling life.

The paralyzed man that was let down through the roof thought his biggest problem was that he couldn’t walk. Jesus lets him know that his real problem in life was his sins, and Jesus readily forgives him, along with healing him, much to the chagrin of the religious leaders.

These same religious leaders looked down their noses at Jesus because he was partying with tax collectors and sinners. Jesus gave them, and us, his reason for being in the world with his response, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

We can all rejoice that Jesus was not a Pharisee, but the Son of Man who does not reject sinners, but has compassion on them and seeks to move them to a place of realization about how destructive sin is, to be forgiven of their sin and live a joyous, productive, fulfilling life glorifying God and enjoying him forever. Now that is Good News!

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I have been thinking about the importance of forgiveness lately. I have been teaching a series on the Lord’s Prayer at New Creation, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in Tlacolula, Oaxaca, Mexico, every Monday afternoon. This last Monday we focused on the phrase, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” Perhaps the most important part of the prayer since Jesus repeats the admonition, or petition, after he gives the prayer in Matthew 6:14.

There are many verses in the New Testament that are about God forgiving sins. If we confess our sins, God forgives us (1 John 1:9). We are forgiven through Jesus’ blood and the riches of God’s grace (Ephesians1:7). Repent of your wickedness that you may be forgiven (Acts 8:22). Jesus said, “This is my blood which is poured out for the forgiveness of sins (Matthew 26:28). But Jesus doesn’t focus on any of these aspects of forgiveness.

The thing most important to Jesus when it comes to being forgiven of our sins, debts, offenses and transgressions, is that we forgive others who have sinned against us or offended us (Mt.6:12).

Jesus tells a parable about this concept in Matthew 18:21-35. The parable of the unmerciful servant.

-Jesus tells us to forgive 77 times; never stop forgiving!

-In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus said that we should pray that God’s kingdom comes on earth as it is in heaven. Jesus says this parable is one aspect of the kingdom that we should practice.

-Jesus said a man owed ten thousand bags of gold, which is like a billion dollars.

-The master in this parable took pity on the servant and canceled the debt (27)

-The man who was forgiven the debt went to a fellow servant and demanded that he pay him a 100 silver coins, which is like is like $500. He couldn’t pay and was thrown into debtors prison. (28)

-The master found out and said to the servant, “You are a wicked servant. I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on fellow servant just as I had on you?” And in his anger the master handed him over to jailers to be tortured until he should pay back all he owed.

-In conclusion, Jesus tells his disciples that is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.

That seems pretty strict and severe, but Jesus makes it plain in the Lord’s prayer that we will not be forgiven unless we forgive, and in the parable of the unmerciful servant that we will be handed over to be tortured unless we forgive.

I have an idea – Let’s forgive!

The Bible talks a lot about the importance of being blameless. Especially Psalms and Proverbs:

LORD, who may live on your holy mountain? The one whose walk is blameless. (Psalm 15:1-2)

The blameless spend their days under the LORD’s, care, and their inheritance will endure forever. (Psalm 37:18)

Those who sacrifice thank offerings honor me, and to the blameless I will show my salvation. (Psalm 50:23)

No good thing does the LORD withhold from those whose walk is blameless. (Psalm 84:11)

The LORD holds success in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless. (Proverbs 2:7)

The way of the LORD is a refuge for the blameless, but is the ruin of those who do evil. (Proverbs 10:29)

The righteousness of the blameless makes their paths straight, but the wicked are brought down by their own wickedness. (Proverbs 11:5)

Better the poor whose walk is blameless than the rich whose ways are perverse. (Proverbs 28:6)

The one whose walk is blameless is kept safe, but the one whose ways are perverse will fall into the pit. (Proverbs 28:18)

It seems there are a lot of benefits to living a blameless life. Good things like living on God’s holy mountain, being under the LORD’s care, salvation, protection and straight paths.

Two questions. What does it mean to be blameless and How can we be blameless?

One dictionary defines blameless as innocent of wrongdoing. Evidently, to be blameless we must never do anything wrong. It seems like an impossible dream. Never offend anyone. Never hurt anyone. Never take revenge. The list could be a long one.

How can we ever hope to accomplish blamelessness?

According to Paul in Philippians 2:14-15, the answer is to stop grumbling or arguing. He writes, “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”

That doesn’t sound so hard. I thought there would be a list of do’s and don’ts a mile long that I would have to obey to be blameless. But it is just two things that seem to be everything – Do Everything Without Grumbling or Arguing. And not only will we be blameless, but we get purity thrown in as well.

It is probably a little more difficult than it sounds. As fallen, broken humans, bent toward sin, I think that our default mode in life is to start off being negative about most things, especially when things do not go our way, or we are not treated the way we think we deserve to be treated. That negativity leads to grumbling, which is generally a kind of low key, inner discomfort that, if not nipped in the bud, grows into complaining, and then bitterness and anger.

So how do we nip the negativity and grumbling in the bud and stop it before it gets out of control?

I read some positive thinking books about 35 years ago, and two phrases come to mind – Stop your stinking thinking and turn that frown upside down. At first blush those two ideas seem really simplistic when we are dealing with major downers in our life. But I think that is what Paul would have us do, in a manner of speaking. In chapter four of Philippians, Paul writes, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (vs. 4) We must make the choice to rejoice.

What a contrast. In chapter two he is basically saying NEVER grumble or argue. In chapter four he says ALWAYS rejoice. So when we feel the negativity bug begin to bite into our thought process, we should get out the pesticide of Rejoicing in the Lord and find something to be thankful for. And if we can somehow manage to do that, we end up blameless and pure. And we get all the benefits from God that go with it.

I think, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can do it. God loves us and wants us to be happy; full of joy. By replacing grumbling and arguing with praising and adoring, we can become blameless and pure. And happy.

I’ve recently started a study of Philippians. I have read the book many times. It’s one of my favorites in the Bible. Most Bible scholars will tell you the theme of Philippians is joy. I tend to agree, although reading the first chapter, I was surprised to see, or to notice for the first time, how Christ centered it all is. It seems to me that the theme for the letter to the Philippians and the driving force of Paul’s life, is Christ Jesus. In the first 30 verses Paul mentions Christ Jesus 18 times. To get a sense of the overwhelming importance of Christ Jesus for Paul and the church at Philippi, I have put the verses below:

  1. servants of Christ Jesus – vs. 1
  2. God’s holy people in Christ Jesus – vs. 1
  3. Grace and peace from … the Lord Jesus Christ – vs. 2
  4. the day of Christ Jesus – vs. 6
  5. the affection of Christ Jesus – vs. 8
  6. blameless for the day of Christ – vs.10
  7. fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ
  8. I am in chains for Christ – vs.13
  9. some preach Christ out of envy – vs. 15
  10. (some) preach Christ out of selfish ambition – vs.17
  11. Christ is preached – vs. 18
  12. God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ – vs. 19
  13. Christ will be exalted in my body – vs. 20
  14. For to me, to live is Christ – vs. 21
  15. I desire to depart and be with Christ – vs. 23
  16. your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me – vs 26
  17. conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ – vs. 27
  18. on behalf of Christ you believe in him and also suffer for him – vs. 29

Can you imagine writing a letter or sending an email to someone and mentioning Jesus 18 times in the first eight paragraphs? I can’t. Paul was a man obsessed with Christ Jesus. Jesus influenced every thought, action, word, motivation and desire of Paul. His whole life revolved around the Messiah in a way that is hard for me to wrap my mind around.

Thinking about Paul’s obsession with Christ reminded me of another letter Paul wrote to the Romans. I think we are all encouraged by Romans 8:28, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” But what is “the good” exactly? Paul goes on to clarify what the good is in the next verse, “be conformed to the image of his Son” who is, of course, Jesus Christ.

There was nothing more important to Paul than to be like the Messiah Jesus. To be conformed to his image. What a challenge that is to me. Reading Philippians 1 shows me how incredibly I fall short in being conformed to the image of Christ; how far I have to go in the faith; how much I have to learn and experience to be the man of God that Jesus wants me to be. Lord have mercy!

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Oh that Thou wouldest altogether by Thy presence, kindle, consume, and transform me into Thyself; that I may be made one spirit with Thee, by the grace of inward union, and the melting of earnest love!

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis

One podcast I regularly listen to is The White Horse Inn. This Sunday it began a series on the topic of The Good Life, and what we can learn about the good life from scriptures. In the introduction, the show host talked about a conversation he recently had with a man who was concerned about his lack of ambition. His brothers were all very ambitious to advance in their careers and put in a lot of time at work. This man said he just wants to put in his eight hours on the job and then get home to enjoy his family and friends. He wondered if something was wrong with himself because he wasn’t more ambitious. The host quoted 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12. Paul writes, “…make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands.”

I love that verse! It has been instrumental in helping me to think about my priorities and living the good life. People are ambitious about so many different things that in the long run don’t lead to the good life, but to the tired, anxious, stressful life.

I have been thinking a lot about the good life since I listened to that White Horse Inn episode. I have been considering what the Bible has inspired me to believe about what the good life is and how to live the good life.

First of all, what is the good life? The Bible has a ton of verses that relate to what the good life is, but for me, in a nutshell, the good life is contentment (1 Timothy 6:6), peace (Philippians 4:6), and joy (1 Peter 1:8). These aspects of the good life, an abundant life (John 10:10), come from Jesus. Those who put their hope and trust in Jesus should find these elements rich in their lives.

Putting our hope and trust in Jesus means studying His Word, and applying it to our lives. Here are a handful of verses that have helped me to live the good life:

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands. (1 Thessalonians 4:11)

Seek first the kingdom of the Father, and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you. (Matthew 6:33)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5)

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs. (Ephesians 4:29)

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God. (Ecclesiastes 2:24)

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth. (Colossians 3:2)

One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. (Proverbs 11:24)

These are the main verses that help me to enjoy the good life in God. When I start feeling a bit stressed, frustrated, bitter, resentful, anxious or worried, I turn my thoughts, my focus, from me and my problems, to God and his Word, and soon enough I am back on the sunny side of life. These verses work for me. They may not bring the good life to everyone, but I’m pretty sure that the Word of God has truths in it for everyone, that will enable everyone to live the good life, full of contentment, peace and joy.

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Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that a man would stake his life on it one thousand times.

This confidence in God’s grace and knowledge of it makes men glad and bold and happy in dealing with God and with all creatures; and this is the work of the Holy Ghost in faith. Martin Luther

The liturgical reading for Monday of Holy Week included a passage from Hebrews 9. Verse 12 talks about Jesus entering the perfect tabernacle and the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. Pondering this verse made me think of Jesus blood, and more importantly, why, exactly he was bleeding. I thought of the whip, the punches, the crown of thorns, the nails and the spear. A lot of blood!

Today is Maundy Thursday, the night that Jesus was betrayed. The night he celebrated Passover with his disciples, or the Last Supper as most Christians refer to it. The night of the New Covenant. Matthew 26:28 records Jesus saying to his disciples, “This is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

Other verses appropriate for us to consider as we approach Good Friday and consider the crucifixion:

Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. (Acts 20:28)

He reconciled all things to himself, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. (Colossians 1:20)

In Christ we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace. (Ephesians 1:7)

How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! (Hebrews 9:14)

Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus. (Hebrews 10:19)

Since we have been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! (Romans 5:9)

God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood-to be received by faith. (Romans 3:25)

These are the ones who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (Revelation 7:14)

They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb…(Revelation12:11)

When Christians think about the blood of Christ and what it means to their lives, they think primarily, if not exclusively, of forgiveness of sins. That is certainly important, but as these verses point out, the blood of Jesus is much more than that. It is redemption, salvation, justification, atonement, triumph, covenant, the church, peace, power to serve God, reconciliation, clean consciences, access to the Most Holy Place, and white robes throughout eternity. Wow! How incredible and powerful is the blood of Jesus. A lot to give thanks for and tremendous motivation to worship the exalted King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Reasons to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever!

Oh, the wonderful blood of Jesus

Your wounds were gaping open,

‘couldn’t recognize you at first

And all I had to offer you was an insult or a curse

Your blood dripped down like poison

On the nauseated earth

Mercy’s War by Jon Foreman

I have been thinking about our suffering Ukrainian brothers and sisters in Christ, and I have been asking myself a couple of different questions? One is, “Can I be thankful it’s not me?”

Or, to put it another way, is it spiritually okay for those Christians who are “taking their ease in Zion”, to be grateful that they are not suffering like so many others around the world?” After pondering those questions, I have been wondering if the better question might be “Should I be jealous of them?”

This new track of thinking started as I finished up reading 2 Corinthians. Paul writes about his thorn in the flesh in chapter 12, and asks God to take it away three times, and God doesn’t, which leaves Paul to exclaim in verse 10, “I delight in hardships and difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Isn’t that interesting? He doesn’t say that he perseveres, or stands firm, or endures hardships, but that he DELIGHTS in them. That reminded me of what he said in 6:19; he was “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing“. That made me think of James 1:2, “consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds…”. Which led me to 1 Peter 1:6,8, “you have suffered grief in all kinds of trials…and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.” Which brought me back to Paul in Phil. 3:10, “I want to know Christ … and participate in his sufferings”.

There is nothing that most Christians want, including me, but to enjoy a painless, trouble free life without any suffering or hardships. But that seems opposite and contrary to what much of the NT teaches. So maybe in prayer request time at church or small groups we should pray for grief, trials, suffering and hardships. Maybe we should be righteously envious of those in pain or fleeing their homeland. How about desiring persecution, after all, Jesus said, “Happy are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil things about you because of me. Rejoice and be glad…” (Matt. 5:11)

But then I think of Jesus weeping at Lazarus’ tomb and how he was troubled in spirit before he went to the cross. He didn’t seem to be glad and rejoicing. Or, how about in the parable of the Good Samaritan? The Samaritan didn’t approach the man who had been beaten and robbed and proclaim blessing and joy. No, he took pity on him and helped him. He loved his suffering neighbor. In the sermon on the mount Jesus taught the disciples to pray “save us from the time of trial; deliver us from the evil one.” So now I’m honestly not sure what to think of the Ukrainian Christians plight or how to pray about it.

On top of everything else, I have been going through Isaiah and his prophecies against Judah, Israel, Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, Moab, Damascus, Cush, Tyre, and Edom, just to name a few. The significance of these prophecies is that God is in sovereign control of all the countries, all the time, and does with them as he likes. Also, Jeremiah proclaimed to Judah that “I will summon my servant, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon” to destroy you completely. For all we know, Putin is also God’s servant, summoned by God to invade Ukraine. I think we have to ask, “Was it just some random act of chance that Russia invaded Ukraine? or is God behind it all, pushing some buttons and pulling some levers so that in the future he will somehow be glorified through it all? Or is it just sinful humanity run a muck? Or both? I don’t know. It’s easy to ask hard questions. It’s more difficult to come up with good answers.

All I know for sure is that God loves us and wants us to be happy, especially in the long run, in the big picture of life, in eternity. It’s easy to be happy when everything is going our way, but God, in His Way, makes it possible for His Children to rejoice and be glad amidst seemingly impossible and extremely difficult situations.

God, help us to be like Paul and delight in weaknesses, hardships and difficulties, for when we are weak, You are strong.

I always have to chuckle when I remember the story of the basketball coach that was disappointed in one of his players performance and told the man that he was either ignorant or apathetic, and asked him if he knew what that meant. The player replied, “I don’t know and I don’t care.”

Most of my life I believed that ignorance and apathy were bad things. Negative characteristics for a person to have. You never wanted anyone to accuse you of being ignorant or apathetic.

Recently I have begun to think differently about ignorance and apathy. In fact I have come to regard ignorance and apathy as badges of honor in some cases. There are a lot of things in this crazy culture and weird world of ours that we should be proud of being ignorant of and apathetic to, especially as Christians.

For example:

We could be a little more apathetic about our Facebook account, and be more accountable to the Good Book.

It’s okay to be ignorant about what CNN, CBS and Fox News have to say, but not about what the apostles Peter, Paul and John have to say.

Apathy is generally good when it comes to Twitter and TikTok, but bad when it comes to Timothy and Titus.

We can be ignorant of what is going on in the wide, wide, world of sports, but need to know what is going on in the world of missions, evangelism and outreach.

It’s not a problem to be apathetic about investing in the stock market, money market funds or real estate but it’s tragic to not care about investing in the poor, oppressed and abused.

Don’t worry about being ignorant of your news feed, but always be intentional about your God Feed.

We can be apathetic to WhatsApp messages and it won’t destroy us; being apathetic to What’s Up with the message of salvation will.

We can all live happy lives being ignorant of what Adele, Eilish and Beiber are doing, but be miserable not knowing what God wants us to do.

It won’t hurt us if we don’t care what blursday, maskne, or walktails are, but it’s definitely detrimental to our well being if we don’t care what atonement, propitiation and redemption are.

Considering these examples, I think we can find reasons to celebrate ignorance and apathy with regards to the things of the world, but should never be apathetic to the things of God and always seek to know our Creator and Savior better.

As Pascal intimates in the quote above, we should all be wary about being unduly knowledgeable in small matters and ignorant in great matters.

Don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. James 4:4

Have you ever thought about King Solomon’s heart? I hadn’t until recently when I was asked to give a talk about Solomon’s errors in life, and what we can learn from them. Ever since then I have been thinking about Solomon’s life, and it is a complicated one.

Growing up I would attend Sunday School, and it seems, at least once a year I would hear the story of Solomon asking God for wisdom, and the teachers would tell us students that it was a wonderful thing that Solomon asked for and that we should be like Solomon and ask God to make us wise.

Considering Solomon’s foolish ways toward the end of his life, one naturally is prone to ask, “Hey Solomon, what happened? You started out wise and ended up a dummy.”

My initial answer to that question, is that when God asked Solomon what he wanted, he should have said he wanted a heart that would be dedicated to God and follow him all the days of his life. While wisdom is important, whole hearted devotion to God is sublime.

The story of Solomon asking God for wisdom is found in two places in the Bible, in 1 Kings 3, and 2 Chronicles 1. I think the Sunday School version is from 2 Chronicles because in verse 10 Solomon specifically says, “Give me wisdom and knowledge that I may lead your people.”

In the 1 Kings account, Solomon doesn’t specifically ask for wisdom. Instead he talks to God about his father David, who had a righteous and upright heart, and then Solomon asks God in verse 9 to “give your servant a discerning heart”. God was pleased with Solomon’s request and responded to him in verse 12 saying, “I will give you a wise and discerning heart.”

Following this encounter with God we see examples of Solomon’s wisdom:

Two women have a dispute over a baby and Solomon says, “Cut the child in two and give half to each women (1 Kings 3:16-27)

He spoke 3,000 proverbs (1 Kings 4:32)

From all nations people came to listen to Solomon’s wisdom (1 Kings 4:34)

He builds the temple (1 Kings 6)

He dedicates the temple saying, “You keep your covenant of love with your servants who continue whole heartedly in your way.”

Martin Luther said that if someone came knocking on his heart and asked who lived there, he would say, “Not Martin Luther, but the Lord Jesus Christ.” I think that at this point in Solomon’s life, that if we went knock – knocking on the door of Solomon’s heart and asked who lived there, he would say, “Not Solomon, but the Lord God Almighty.”

Let’s fast forward to 1 Kings chapter 11, toward the end of Solomon’s life. Verse 4 tells us that as Solomon grew old, his (700) wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of his father David had been.

The Lord became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. Although he had forbidden Solomom to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep the Lord’s command. (9,10)

If someone were to knock on Solomon’s heart at this stage of his life, and asked him who lived there, I wonder what the wisest mortal who ever lived would have said. Maybe, “Solomon the mighty lives here.” Or “Solomon the wise” or “Solomon the great”. Whatever it would have been, it would not have been “the Lord God Almighty.”

How tragic. How depressing. How did it happen? It makes me think that if this happened to the wisest person who ever lived, a man that God appeared to twice, what hope is there for me? What hope is there for any of us?

It helps me to consider the words of Jesus from Matthew 18:3-4, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

I find it hard to see Solomon taking the lowly position of a child. I find it hard to imagine him humbling himself to serve like Jesus served, or to wash feet like Jesus did. I see his great “wisdom” leading him to be arrogant, haughty and proud, and in the end his Godly wisdom became the wisdom of the world, which as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1 is foolishness. In the end, his heart became hard toward the things of God.

So what about us. What do we say when someone comes knocking on our heart, asking “Who lives here?”

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. Romans 10:9,10

Misty morning – Tlacolula Valley – Mexico

2022 is coming ’round the bend, and you can be sure it is loaded with affliction, anguish, battles, calamity, catastrophe, confusion, difficulties, financial setbacks, family issues, misfortune, obstacles, pandemic, sorrow, spiritual attacks, stress, trials, tribulation, work drama, unexpected loss, vexations and a ton of zabernism (the misuse or abuse of military authority) around the world.

What should we do when we encounter nastiness and unpleasantness? What mindset can help us through frustration and disappointment? How can we remain happy and content amid the turmoil and trouble that we will inevitably encounter in 2022?

Our modern world is full of books, articles, essays, blogs, podcasts, youtubers, conferences and retreats that aim to answer those questions in a myriad of ways. But for me, I found a nugget of truth I plan on hanging onto in 2022, from Thomas Haemmerlein, also known as Thomas a Kempis, that dates back to the 14th century. He wrote in his book The Imitation of Christ, in a chapter called That all troubles are to be endured for the sake of eternal life:

An hour shall come when all labour and confusion shall cease. Little and short is all that passeth away with time….Peace shall come in one day which is known to the Lord; which shall be neither day nor night, but light eternal, infinite clearness, steadfast peace, and undisturbed rest….death will be utterly destroyed, and there shall be salvation which can never fail, no more anxiety, happy delight, sweet and noble society.

Thomas a Kempis is giving us all words to live by and to thrive by when we are going through times of difficulties. He is reminding us to always have in mind a larger perspective and bigger picture than we normally have, especially when events and circumstances are not going our way; are not fitting into our plan. He is telling us to look at life from the vantage point of Eternity. The picture doesn’t get any bigger than that. With that view, everything changes.

With eternity in mind (or our eternal home and heavenly country, as Kempis writes in a later chapter) we can think better and overcome the challenges that sometimes surround us. All pain and suffering eventually become “little and short” and soon pass away, even if they last a lifetime, because a lifetime on earth is but a drop of water in the ocean of eternity.

Compare present turmoil to “steadfast peace, undisturbed rest, no more anxiety, and happy delight” that will endure forever and ever.

We don’t know what 2022 holds for us, but we do know Who holds 2022 – Our loving Heavenly Father! We are his dearly loved children, and he will tenderly care for us, in the coming year and for eternity.

Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. James 4:14

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