Thursday, February 28, 2013


Ephesians 5:8 (NIV)
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light

                We live in a dark world that is getting darker all of the time. The moral fabric of our world is not just fraying; it is being torn apart violently. The unsettling nature of this trend is heightened by the fact that this dismantling of moral standards is being portrayed as progress. It is being applauded, even celebrated, in the public forum.

                Paul’s depiction of the world in Romans 1 reads like today’s newspaper. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.  Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. Romans 1:26-32 (NIV)

                In Ephesians 4, Paul calls us to reject the current moral trends of our world. So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. Ephesians 4:17-19 (NIV)

                So the question arises, just how are we to stand against the moral decay that is all around us? Many people today have chosen the path of “cursing the darkness.” They spend their time expounding upon how evil things are getting. They defiantly shake their fist at the gathering gloom. Anger is the emotion that shapes their actions.

                Others have chosen the path of isolation. Feeling helpless to change the course of events, they withdraw. They seek to create a safe microcosm, which will insulate them from the darkness. Fear becomes the ruling emotion that shapes their actions.

                But still others choose the path of being light in a dark world. These people understand the situation, but instead of cursing the darkness they confront it in positive ways. Compassion and courage are the emotions that shape their actions.

                John tells us that Jesus came into our world to bring light to the darkness. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.
3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it
. John 1:1-5 (NIV)

                Later in John, Jesus openly proclaimed that he is the light of the world. When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." John 8:12 (NIV)

                In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus extends his light to and through those who are his followers. He commends his followers to be light in a dark world. "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV)

                In the book of Ephesians, Paul reiterates Jesus’ command to be light and then gives us very practical instructions of what it means to be light. The only real way to overcome darkness is to light a light. As a follower of Jesus, we do this by living positive lives. There is a place for protest, but if all we do is protest then we are only cursing the darkness. Jesus and the Apostles modeled a very different approach. They overcame the darkness with compassion, clarity and commitment.

                We can be light by living lives of compassion. As the book of James makes so clear, our faith without actions is dead. It is not enough to decry negative situations; we have to do something about them. When Jesus saw the crowds, with all of their mixed motives and unrealistic expectations of him, he was moved with compassion.

                We can be light by clearly taking a stand for godly living. In many of Paul’s letters he boldly instructed Christ followers to live morally pure and productive lives. He clearly spoke about an alternative way of living in this dark world. He was straight forward about what to avoid and what to embrace. Unlike in our society today, he was not afraid to name sin as sin.

                Ultimately, we can be light in our world by being fully committed to Christ. Our motives cannot be preserving a particular political system or a long ago social norm. Instead our actions and attitudes should be shaped by one desire, to please Christ. Probably the best summary of what it means to be light in our world is Colossians 3:12-17.

                Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

                Children are afraid of the dark. Adults know how to turn on the lights. We do not have to live in fear of the darkness. We have the power within us to turn on the lights.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Judas in Us

                This week I have been studying Matthew 26:1-16. This passage intentionally contrasts Mary’s sacrificial devotion to Jesus with Judas’ treachery.  Judas took the first step toward his ultimate betrayal of Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane. As much as I want to be like Mary, I am often more like Judas.

                Throughout the centuries people have vilified Judas. He has been held up as the ultimate example of violated trust. We all want to distance ourselves from Judas and claim that we are nothing like him. By making him into a caricature, we can dismiss him as someone to be loathed. But we do this as a defense mechanism. Deep in our hearts, we know the truth that we are more like Judas than we would like to admit.

                Satan is more than ready to turn the heat up on us and put us to the test. We need to be realistic about our weaknesses and carefully guard our hearts. Even then, we will fail from time to time. For all of his bravado, Peter failed Jesus at the last moment. Thankfully, Jesus restored Peter, and he will restore us as well. Jesus’ warning to Peter is one that we all should take to heart.

                "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers." Luke 22:31-32 (NIV)

                Rather than deny our vulnerability, we need to recognize the things that trigger the Judas within us.

                We play the part of Judas when we get disillusioned with Christ and take matters into our own hands. It seems from Scripture that Judas was a man of action. He may have been a zealot, looking for a political leader who would free Israel from the bondage of Rome. When he witnessed the power and authority of Jesus, he became convinced that this was the leader he was looking for. But when Jesus refused to use his power in a political way, Judas balked.

                Like Judas, we have plans for Jesus. All of us have our personal agendas. We expect Jesus to use his power to accomplish what we desire. When it doesn’t work out that way we take matters into our own hands. God warns us that our plans often lead us away from Jesus. Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)

                We play the part of Judas when we become enamored with the material things of this world. John makes it clear that Judas was taking advantage of his position as the keeper of the money. He was enticed by the things the world had to offer. In the end, he was willing to sell Jesus out for 30 pieces of silver; the price for a common slave.

                We sell Jesus out when we put our focus on material things rather than spiritual things. This can happen to us so subtlety. A little indulgence here and there and before we know it we are trapped. Paul warns us to keep things in their proper perspective.

                But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. 1 Timothy 6:6-10 (NIV)

                There is a Judas in each one of us. The first step to dealing with him is recognizing that he exists. Then we can we can find the strength in Christ to keep him at bay. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:8-9 (NIV)

Saturday, February 16, 2013


                Two of the most dangerous words in the English language are never and always. I remember as a child being told to never say never. Something doesn’t quite sound right about that. The problem with never and always is that they foster an illusion of living in a black and white world. In a black and white world certain things should never happen and other things should always happen. But what happens when never and always collide?

                A classic example of this is the story of Corrie Ten Boom. Corrie was a young, unmarried woman, living in Holland during WWII. She came from a devout Christian family that lived by a strict moral standard. Throughout her life she had been taught to be honest and to care for others. She witnessed this being lived out by her father. Then the Germans invaded Holland and occupied her town. Her brother, who was a pastor in a neighboring village, asked her to help him hide Jews from the Nazis and help them find safe passage out of the country. Corrie agonized over this decision. Suddenly her black and white world was shaken. Her commitment to never lie came in direct conflict with her commitment to always care for others, especially the disadvantaged. She found herself thrust into an uncomfortable world of moral gray.

                Under normal conditions, most of us prefer an environment with clear boundaries. We want to know exactly what is expected of us at work, in the community, and at home. Ambiguity makes us nervous. There is a need within us to resolve dissonance. Yet, at the same time, we want maximum flexibility. We want to know what the rules are, but we also want the freedom to bend the rules from time to time. Increasingly, we find our “either/or” world being transformed into a “both/and” world.

                When it comes to following Jesus, we constantly find ourselves being challenged with shades of gray. There are certain things that we tenaciously hold onto. Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation. A person must put their faith and trust in Jesus in order to get right with God. Jesus left no wiggle run in this area at all. Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6 (NIV) There is only one pathway to salvation, and that is through Jesus Christ.

                But, when it comes to living out our faith on a day to day basis, we discover that things are not always so black and white. I grew up in an era where there were some pretty clear cut expectations of what a Christian could and could not do. Most of these had to do with external matters like how a person dressed, where they went for entertainment, and what kind of personal habits a person had. As I entered my young adult years, I discovered that there were true followers of Christ that had a different set of ground rules than I did. My black and white world began to turn gray. What I discovered was that many of the ground rules that I had adhered to where not issues of salvation or even moral uprightness, but issues of external conduct that really didn’t affect a person’s walk with Christ. Conformity to social norms crashed into freedom in Christ, which caused a cloud of gray that was (and is) confusing and disorienting.

                This is not a new issue. Paul struggled with this very issue in Romans 14. People in the church in Rome were arguing about the spiritual ground rules for the community. Some of the people were using the old Jewish standards to define what was right and wrong. Others were reacting to the pagan culture around them by trying to distance themselves from anything that might be tainted by it. Still others took Paul’s teachings about grace to mean that the restraints had been taken off. The real issue, for all parties involved, was that they were more concerned about being right then about being compassionate. Paul jumped into the fray with both feet.

                Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. Romans 14:1-8 (NIV)

                Paul was a champion of grace and freedom in Christ, but he never condoned turning our liberty into license. "Everything is permissible for me"--but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible for me"--but I will not be mastered by anything. 1 Corinthians 6:12 (NIV) "Everything is permissible"--but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible"--but not everything is constructive. 1 Corinthians 10:23 (NIV) Paul understood that our outward actions matter, because they affect the lives of others. So he always erred on the side of restraining his freedom for the sake of the other person. Compassion overruled correctness.

                As our world continues to break down the barriers that have separated us for centuries, we find ourselves confronted with a clash of cultures. This is happening in the world, in general, as well as in the Church. The neat black and white world that many of us grew up in no longer exists. As we move into this uncomfortable world of gray, there are a couple of basic principles to keep in mind.
1. There are some things that the Bible gives clear, unambiguous teaching on. These are the essentials of our faith; our moral and spiritual compass to lead us through life. There should be no compromise in these things.
2. There are many things that the Bible is silent about. For these, we need to apply the principles of the Bible as best as we can, and leave room for the freedom of others to see things differently.

                I am far more comfortable in a black and white world, but I do not live in one. And neither do you. Let us lean on the Holy Spirit to guide us through the cloud of gray, so that we can most effectively shine as lights in a dark world. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


Matthew 5:20 (NIV)
For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

                I am a rules guy. I always have been. When I was a child, I was very conscious of living by the rules. I would get anxious when one of my classmates crossed over the boundaries. In fact, I would often feel guilty about things that I did not do.

                My 5th grade teacher was Mr. Welsh. He was the first male teacher that I had in school, and I really wanted to please him. Each week we would have a time set aside for music, which usually consisted of singing in the classroom. Several of the boys thought singing was for sissies, so they would not participate. On one occasion, Mr. Welsh laid down the law. If you don’t sing along, you will have to come up to the front of the classroom and sing before the whole class. Mr. Welsh began to song, and I sang with all of my heart. When the song was over, he walked up and down the aisles, surveying each student. He tapped several boys on the shoulder and sent them to the front. When he got to me, I looked up and said, I was singing. His response crushed me. “A guilty conscience needs no accuser. Go to the front.”

                Much later in life, I discovered that I have been “blessed” with something called responsibility. I am very conscientious; taking responsibility for the things I get involved in. Unfortunately, I am also susceptible to taking responsibility for things that are not my responsibility. This sets me up for falling into the trap of being a legalist.

                Growing up in church, I developed a strong sense of “works righteousness.” I believed that I had to keep all of the rules to be pleasing to God. Therefore, I was always the compliant, good kid. The problem was that I also lived with a constant, undefined sense of guilt. Without knowing it, I was becoming a Pharisee.

                In Jesus’ day, the Pharisees were the most respected religious leaders of the community. They dedicated their lives to following all of the rules; and there were plenty. The foundation for God’s law, the Ten Commandments, left much room for interpretation and application. So the religious scholars of the day, known as Scribes, began to meticulously define what it meant to keep the Law. They devised thousands of rules to keep a person from breaking the Law. For example, they looked at the commandment to keep the Sabbath holy by not doing any work on the Sabbath, and they asked, what constitutes work. They determined that carrying a burden was work. But what is a burden? They began outlining all of the things that could be seen as work; so much so that a person could not wear their false teeth on the Sabbath because that was carrying a burden.

                What all of these rules did was make it impossible for the common person to fully keep the Law. The rules were so burdensome that most people just disregarded them. The rules separated the common people from God. Because they could not keep the Law, as defined by the Scribes and Pharisees, they were excluded from full participation in God’s Kingdom.

                When Jesus came, he challenged this approach to being righteous. For all of their good intentions, the Scribes and Pharisees had missed the heart of God’s law. When Jesus was asked to comment on the essence of the Law, he responded with these words. "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'  This is the first and greatest commandment.
And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
Matthew 22:37-40 (NIV)

                Jesus was far more concerned with what was going on in a person’s heart and soul than outward conformity to a set of rules. So when Jesus said that our righteousness must surpass the righteousness of the Scribes and the Pharisees, what he meant was that we had to let go of our legalism and embrace the heart of God.

                Our ability to be righteous does not come from our efforts to keep the rules. It comes from the Spirit of God taking up residence in our lives and guiding us in God’s ways. We don’t create righteousness, we receive it from Christ. Our righteousness is not from legalism, but from faith.  Paul reminds us of this in 2 Corinthians 3.

                Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant--not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 2 Corinthians 3:4-6 (NIV)

                Legalism is comfortable because it is clear cut. It allows us to put things in neat boxes. We can measure our spirituality by the number of things we have checked off of our to-do list. But legalism ultimately leads us to spiritual bondage. Following the Spirit is less clear cut. It is confusing and even messy at times. There is no neat check-list that allows us to measure our progress. But following the Spirit leads to spiritual freedom in Christ. We become free to be the people God created us to be.

                The Apostle Paul was the prototypical legalist before he met Christ. What he discovered was that his legalism amounted to nothing compared to the grace he experienced in Jesus. Paul became a champion of grace, in part, because he knew the bondage of legalism.

                 If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.
                        But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Philippians 3:4-7 (NIV)

Saturday, February 9, 2013


                I have begun a sermon series on the Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew 5-7. This week I have been struggling with Matthew 5:13-16.

"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

                I have been struggling with this passage because it is simple, profound and convicting. Jesus states that, if I am a follower of His, I am the salt of the earth and the light of the world. It is not something that I have to strive to attain. It is not an optional add-on to my basic faith package. Being salt and light is an inherent characteristic of being a disciple of Jesus. That reality faces me with the question, what does that look like in my life? In what ways am I being what Christ says that I am?

                I have always been attracted to salty people. For whatever reason, God has placed into my life a number of people who, let’s say, have had some rough edges. These people make me uncomfortable at times, but they also challenge me to be genuine and honest. Most of these people have been unbelievers, yet they have been winsome in their own way.

                When it comes to being salty for Christ, I have learned a few things from these salty people. First, too much salt repels. Sometimes these people go too far and I pull away for a time. Too often, when we are trying to be salt for Jesus, we empty the whole salt shaker at one time. Instead of being attractive, we are overpowering.

                Salty people challenge me to see things in a different way than I normally do. As a pastor, this is a very good thing. I can become isolated in my theological bubble and lose touch with the world around me. To be truly salty for Jesus, we need to help people see things in a new and different way.

                Salty people usually give you room to be yourself. Because they are individuals, in the truest sense of that idea, they allow others to be individuals as well. They are comfortable with dissonance and don’t feel like they have to resolve everything. As followers of Christ, we need to be more open to the individuality of people. I am not suggesting that we shape and mold the gospel to fit people’s chosen life-style. What I am saying is that we need to stop trying to make spiritual clones. It is the Holy Spirit’s job to transform a life. We may have to live with a few rough edges for awhile while he does his work. After all, we all still our rough edges. We are just not as keenly aware of them.

                Jesus also said that we are the light to the world. I was up in the north woods with some friends, taking a walk after dark. I had on a headlamp with those powerful LED lights. It was doing a great job lighting the way. But as we were talking, I turned to face my companion and, unintentionally, blinded them.

                Primarily being the light of the world is illuminating the path of faith. Yet, so often, we turn the light on the individual and blind them instead. If we do a good job of illuminating the path, we can be assured that they will at least explore it.

                I will always struggle with the implications of this powerful passage for my life. I desire to be salt and light for the glory of God. Sometimes I fail to get out of my salt shaker. Sometimes I pour on too much salt. And sometimes I blind people. Praise God that the true Light of the World is at work in me constantly adjusting my salt and light. 

Friday, February 1, 2013


                There are many ways that we can experience blessing. Being enriched in some material way usually tops the list in our minds. An unexpected windfall of money or a promotion at work is viewed as a blessing.  Being able to purchase a new house or car is also often seen as a blessing. Indeed these things have the potential to truly delight us.  

                In the Old Testament, God showed his favor on certain people in just this way. He blessed them with increased material wealth. For example, God blessed Jacob by increasing his flocks. (Genesis 30) Throughout the Bible, the people of Israel measured the blessing of God primarily through the amount of material wealth a person accumulated.

                But we know that material things are not the sole evidence of blessing. Family is another way that God showed his blessing to His people. In the Old Testament, every couple longed for a large family. The more children they had, the more they felt blessed by God. A large family was the Social Security of the day. The expectation was that your family would care for you until the end of your life. In fact, the father was the head of the family even after his children were grown and married. Large extended families were the norm. In the book of Proverbs, Solomon extols the blessing of a large family.

                Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one's youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate. Psalms 127:3-5 (NIV)

                Couples who were unable to have children were viewed as cursed by God. We see it with Abraham and Sarah. God promised Abraham great blessing, but because he did not have a son (or any child) he felt hopeless. Hannah pleaded with God to give her a son, in 1 Samuel 1, to take away her disgrace. Zechariah and Elizabeth (Luke 1) prayed earnestly that God with give them a child.

                Family is still viewed by most people as a blessing. Couples who want to have children, and cannot, go through much pain. Unfortunately, many people take family for granted. Instead of embracing the blessing that God has given them, they resent and sometimes abuse their spouse and children.

                Close friends are also a blessing in some people’s lives. With all of our advancements in technology, we live in a lonely society. Many people have no close friends that they can count on. The closest that many people get is a circle of acquaintances. There is a longing, deep within each of us, to be connected with others in meaningful ways.

                I have been truly blessed over the years to have several close friends. They have walked with me through the good, the bad and the ugly. They are a constant support and encouragement to me.

                All of these things are a form of blessing, but there is a different kind of blessing that we often miss. It is not material or tangible in the way these other blessings are. It is deeply spiritual. Most of the blessing that I have mentioned will one day pass away. Money runs out, material things wear out and sadly people die. But Jesus has promised us blessings that will transcend the temporary world we live in.

                The greatest blessing He offers us is the blessing of salvation. When we put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ, we literally move from spiritual death to spiritual life. We are set free from the judgment that is required for our sins. Instead we are made eternally new in Christ. Look at these promises that God makes to all who trust in Jesus.
- 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
- Romans 6:23 (NIV) For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
- Romans 8:1-2 (NIV) Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

                The blessing of salvation opens us a host of other blessings from God.
- We have been adopted as God’s children. 1 John 3:1-2 (NIV)
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

- We are included in a forever family. 1 Peter 2:9-10 (NIV)
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

- We have hope for eternity. John 3:16 (NIV)
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

- We can have joy and peace that is not bound by our circumstances.
John 14:27 (NIV)
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
John 15:11 (NIV)
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

                Sometimes I allow my vision to get clouded. When I am not experiencing the material blessings that I want, I begin to think that God does not care about me. During those times, I need to be reminded that the lasting blessings of God are not material but spiritual. They are not temporary, but eternal. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:18 (NIV)