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In the church we often hear women talk about being a Proverbs 31 woman because that passage of scripture has a lot to say about what it means to be a godly woman and wife. The reason I say I want to be a Proverbs 31 man is due to how this passage begins. It begins with wisdom for a son about what not to do if one is a king- chase after woman and drink too much alcohol. In other words don’t live a messed up life. Then the advice goes on to what I have found to be inspiring words about what it means to be a godly king/leader.

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
    for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
    defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

The exhortation is to be a leader who looks out for the welfare of others specifically those who cannot defend themselves in life- the poor and needy. God wants men to watch out for those who cannot watch out for themselves, to defend those who cannot defend themselves, to care for and about those in need.

Of course here in America we do not have a king. The principle is valid for all men who would be leaders in their churches, communities, families etc. If we want to know what God wants from us, we need look no further than the people suffering in our midst, in our community, in our nation, and  in our world. This makes me think about the children living in difficult circumstances of poverty or abuse. It makes me think about the single moms who are trying to make a go of it for themselves and their kids but need a helping hand and at times need someone to speak up for them. It makes me think about the refugees I meet and the hardships they face as they try to make a new life here in America.

So yes I want to be a Proverbs 31 man, even though in churches we only hear about women being a Proverbs 31 woman.

Psalm 90:12 says- “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” But what does that mean? Are we to just live in morbid fear that we will one day die? The rest of the Psalm following verse 12 gives insight as it discusses living for God.

We are only given a short time here in this life. Our days are numbered. What is important is how we live those days. My desire this year is to be better at making each day count for the Lord by showing His love to others. The older I get, the more reflective I become. I realize there have been far too many days that I have wasted. There have been opportunities to show the love of God to others that I have not followed through on or have squandered due to my own selfishness.

The theme for me as I ponder the New Year is and my desire is to day by day be better at making each day count in my relationship with Jesus and showing His love to others. The number of days that I have left in this life grows shorter as I get older. Making each day count can be about small things, not only big dreams. Often it is in those moments we think of as small that can lead to significant things. A chance meeting with someone can lead to a friendship and opportunities to share Christ with them. I had such an opportunity last summer when I met a new friend from Brasil by “chance”. Actually God had arranged my chance to meet my friend from Brasil. It began with meeting for coffee after being connected by someone else. Our friendship grew and his wife came to visit for the holidays. Over the holidays both of them made the decision that they wanted Jesus in their lives.

However, there have been other opportunities I have missed out on over the years. That is why the theme for me this year is to day by day make each day count. Each day is a gift from God to be able to participate in His wonderful plan.

One of my greatest blessings in my work and ministry is the opportunity I have to meet people from so many different countries and cultures. On this Christmas Day I am mindful of the words of Jesus about God’s gift to us that we remember on Christmas Day. Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, so that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” When I consider those words- For God so loved the WORLD, it causes me to think about my friends living in Lincoln who are from many different countries and my friends I have met in my journeys in several countries

It is my wonderful privilege to have the opportunity to share God’s love with my international friends. Yesterday I went to Christmas Eve service with friends from Brasil and then I shared Christmas Eve dinner with friends from Honduras. In the past I have shared Christmas in Romania, and with friends from Brasil, Mexico, Korea, China, Japan, Germany, Belgium, Vietnam. Honduras, Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Congo, Hungary, France, Taiwan, Burma, and El Salvador living here in Lincoln. Every time I have shared Christmas with my international friends I think about how each culture is unique and yet they all share one thing in common. God loves the people in all cultures and countries.

God is our artistic creator who created all of us. We, His creation, were alienated from Him because of our sin. God had a  plan to bring us back to Him. He sent His very best, His one and only Son. Jesus is God’s gift to us. A gift sent to show us God’s love.

Merry Christmas

On Thanksgiving Day we tend to give thanks for the good things in our lives that God has given such as family, friends, homes, jobs, education etc. However, can we give thanks in the difficulties of life? Something that Jesus did is often overlooked when we read about the Last Supper.

Think about the drama of the moment. Jesus knew He was going to be crucified, killed, so he could die for our sins. Jesus knew His time of great suffering would begin shortly after the Last Supper. He took the wine and bread which would be the symbols of his blood and body and symbols of the New Convenant between God and man and shared them with his disciples. Before sharing the wine and the bread He gave thanks. That part of the Last Supper is often overlooked in discussions about the Last Supper. We discuss what the wine and bread are, what the meaning of communion is, and other aspects of the Last Supper. Rightly so we focus on the suffering of Jesus that would follow the Last Supper. However, we tend to overlook those simple and yet profound words- He Gave Thanks.

Jesus gave thanks before the wine saying it was His blood poured out for us. He took the bread and gave thanks for the bread before saying it is was His body broken for us. Jesus gave thanks before his suffering for the two things that would represent his blood and body. He gave thanks before he suffered knowing what was going to happen.

Suffering is painful, difficult, and stressful. When we suffer, we usually give thanks after the suffering is over. We rightly give thanks for God’s help to get us through the suffering, but how many of us would thank God before we suffer for the suffering that is about to come? Why did Jesus give thanks? He wasn’t crazy. The bible says in Hebrews 12:2- “for the joy set before Him endured the cross”. The joy was being back in heaven on His throne. The joy was the way for us to be forgiven and in relationship with God would be complete. The joy was knowing that those He created could not be back with Him. His joy was knowing that we could be in heaven with Him forever if we receive Him.

Philippians 1:6, “He who began a good work in you, will complete it until the until the Day of Christ Jesus.”

I love this verse in the bible because I find so much encouragement in it. We tend to stumble and bumble along at times in this life trying to serve Jesus. The church is a family filled with imperfect people who can and will makes mistakes and misstep. We are full of human failings. However, God is faithful and He does not give up on us. He stays with us to help us grow and improve in our lives and walks with Him. Peter is an excellent example of how God does not give up on us even when we fail.

Peter denied knowing Jesus three times the night Jesus was arrested before the rooster crowed at sunrise just as Jesus had told Peter it would happen. All of the other disciples knew about Peter’s failure. It was perhaps the most humiliating time of Peter’s life. He had gone from the pinnacle of being one of the 3 closest to Jesus and favored to be part of the inner 3 to losing face in front of the others due to denying Jesus. How could Peter hope to regain his dignity and standing with the other disciples after denying Jesus?

One day after the resurrection of Jesus, Jesus waited for the disciples on the shore. Jesus had  breakfast with them. It was right after breakfast that Jesus asked Peter the same question three times. He asked Peter- “Do you love me?” and each time Peter answered yes. By asking Peter the same question three times, Peter was restored in the eyes of the others. Jesus did not give up on Peter. He continued His work in the heart of Peter and restored Peter. Each of the three times Jesus asked Peter the question, “Do you love me?”, Jesus then gave Peter the instructions, “Then feed my sheep.” Peter’s role of disciple/apostle was restored in front of the others.

When we mess up, God is always there, ready to help us start over again. We trust in the truth of Proverbs 24:16 that a righteous person falls seven times and gets back up. We can rest assured that even when we mess up, even with our worst mistakes, that God will help us get back up, dust ourselves off and start all over again. We can find comfort and encouragement from the example of Peter’s failure and fresh start.

When I reflect on the resurrection of Jesus, Mary Magdalene always comes to mind. Though we do not know much about Mary Magdalene, the fact that the honor of being the first to see Jesus after His resurrection shows a lot about Jesus and us, about God and us.

There are various stories about Mary Magdalene. Some will say that she was a prostitute. The only thing that we know with certainty is that Jesus healed her of demonic possession. In Luke chapter 8 we see that Jesus delivered Mary of seven demons. We know that Mary Magdalene became a follower of Jesus after He healed her and that she was part of the group that was close to Jesus. She even spent time with Mary the Mother of Jesus.

We also know from John 19 that Mary Magdalene was one of the people who stood at the cross of Jesus and watched Him die. It was an intensely emotional time for her to see the man who rescued her and gave her a new life die on the cross. Then came the first Easter Sunday morning. She was emotionally distraught thinking that someone had moved the body of Jesus because when she came to the tomb, His body was gone, but His burial cloths were still there. She saw two angels who asked who she was looking for and after she tells them she is looking for her Lord’s body, she turns around. Jesus is standing in front of her and asks who she is looking for. Her eyes were filled with tears, she is distraught and can’t think straight. She doesn’t recognize Him at first and tells Him she is looking for her Lord’s body and to please tell her where it is. Then Jesus says her name. When Jesus says, “Mary”, the sound of His voice snaps her into the reality that the man she mistook for the gardener is Jesus. She cries out, “Rabonni” and hugs Him. He tells her He must ascend to the Father, but to go tell the group that He is risen.

It was no coincidence that Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene. There was never any coincidence in anything Jesus did while He was on earth. His every action and teaching had a purpose behind it. By appearing to Mary first, a woman who He had delivered of seven demons, a woman who was in the lowest part of society before she met Jesus, Jesus shows that God’s love is for all people no matter where they come from in life. God’s life changing power and forgiveness are for all people.

By telling Mary to got tell His followers, Jesus tells her to be a witness. He gives her an assignment that in that culture should have been for a man. Even today in some cultures the testimony of a woman in court does not count as much as a man’s. Jesus gives her an assignment to go tell, to go be His witness. This shows me that in Jesus all people are equally loved, valued, and that in Jesus all people are to be respected.

Good Friday and Easter Sunday deservedly receive a lot of attention. They are the pivotal events in not only Christianity, but also in History. On Good Friday we remember His sacrificial death for us. On Easter Sunday we remember how He defeated death for us through His resurrection. But what about the day in between Good Friday and Easter Sunday? The day when Jesus’ body laid in the tomb. His followers were in despair. They had lost hope. They thought it was all over and done with and their beloved leader was gone forever.

I have been to the funerals of loved ones and friends. Looking into a casket is perhaps the most solemn experience we face in this life. That and watching a loved one die. I was with my father when he died. He died while I was reading from the bible to him. When my father died, I did not despair. That was because over a year before he died, I was with him while he made peace with God by trusting in Jesus. I had so much peace about where my father went to that I taught my class that evening, but I had the benefit of knowing the rest of the story which is that Jesus conquered death through His resurrection.

There are other moments in life that might we feel all hope is lost. We look at our life obstacles and wonder if there is anyway that we can find that job, get out of debt, experience our loved ones finally getting their life turned around, recover from an illness or any other of life’s seemingly unending problems. We at times are like the followers of Jesus on that Saturday between the first Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It is as if we are on the outside of the tomb lost in despair.

I often wonder how His followers felt that Saturday. What it must have been like for those who washed His body and prepared His body for burial. They had forgotten about how Jesus called Lazarus back from the dead only days before Jesus entered Jerusalem. They had forgotten how Jesus had told them that He would die and that He would be raised from dead. They had lost hope. We do the same thing. We lose hope even though we have the rest of the story. We know that Jesus defeated death. His resurrection proves that He has power even over our worst enemy. When we face life’s difficulties, it is too easy for us to lose hope and not keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.

On this Saturday between Good Friday and Easter, I would like to encourage you to think about your problems and then remember that He has all power. His resurrection is the proof that we too will one day enjoy the benefits of heaven, and also that He does have all power. He is more than able to help us to overcome our difficulties.

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