I watched an interview of Lauren Daigle discussing what inspired the song Look Up Child. She shared about a friend encouraging her to keep child like faith. Jesus talked about receiving him with child like faith in Luke 18:
“Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
The song has a simple message of look up to God when problems come with lyrics like:
“Where are You now When darkness seems to win? Where are You now When the world is crumbling?
Oh I, I-I-I, I hear You say I hear You say
Look up child, ayy Look up child, ayy”
Simple message yet profound meaning for us. Often the simplest messages can be very profound. When things are tough, problems come, trials come, look up to God.
Though I rarely have time for late night TV and did not see the show, I am glad Lauren Daigle could perform her song on The Late Show with Jimmy Fallon. Millions watch the show, so my prayer is viewers will buy the album or look her up on youtube and for God to work through that.
It would be wonderful to see more Christian artists break through in the troubled times we live in. I am grateful Jesus had blessed Lauren Daigle to be able to break through.
It happened again yesterday. It is the response I get every time. She laughed. But it was a good response of laughter. Her laughter is proof of God’s work in my life. Why did she laugh?
Yesterday morning I shared with my conversation group at church that when I was in high school everyone was afraid of me. I shared with them that the look on my face scared people because I was an angry teenager. She couldn’t believe it. She is a young gentle-hearted woman from Japan who comes to my Saturday morning group. She has only known the Matt I am now.
My young friend’s disbelief about the kind of person I used to be, is one I have seen many times when I share about my past.
That is a testimony to the wonderful life changing power of God working in my life. God can take a person and transform them into something no one would have thought possible.
When we come to Jesus, trust in him, it is the beginning of being transformed into a new person. 2nd Corinthians 5 says:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
But the new life is not just for us to go about our lives selfishly enjoying a better life. 2 Corinthians 5 also shows a purpose for the new life:
“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation”
God reconciles us to him and then gives us the opportunity to share the love of Jesus. When we come to Jesus, trust in him, God gives us a purpose in this life.
I am thankful that my young friend and other have laughed when I share with them about who I used to be. I hope to experience that many more times.
One question anyone would have about God or Jesus while deciding to follow him would be can I trust this person. One thing that Jesus said that I often reflect on is what Jesus said when He first talked with his disciples. He came to them and said “follow me and I will make you fishers of men”.
The follow me part is one thing- to follow Jesus where He leads us, but the “I will make you” part is another thing altogether.
Jesus invites us to come to Him. He invites us to follow Him. He loves us immensely and said He will always be with us. Those truths make me feel that yes it is safe to follow Jesus.
The “I will make you” part makes can make us stop to think what does He want. Jesus loves us so much He accepts us the way we are, but He loves us too much to leave us the way we are.
The moment we come to Him and begin to follow Him, He begins the life long process of making us a new person with a new purpose. He will transform us and we will never be the same.
I have experienced this in my own life. When I first began to follow Him, I was a business man and only cared about me and making money. That was in July 1989 when I first rededicated my life to HIM. Now I teach part time and have a ministry part time. My life is so much fuller now. I make less money and have less things, but my life is full of people from all over the world and I have been able to help people from numerous countries. The old Matt is gone, but the new Matt has a more meaningful life. It reminds me of 2nd Corinthians 5:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
It also reminds me of a scene from the Chronicles of Narnia when the children asked a question about Aswan the Lion King. They asked “Is he safe?” and the person they were talking to answered “No but he is good”.
Jesus does not harm us, but the old ways are not safe. He will work in our lives to change us and bring out the best in us. Deciding to follow Him is not a decision to take lightly because there is a cost. We need to realize that we are no longer in control and that Jesus will make us into something we may have never dreamed of. In other words- He is not safe to our old ways, but He is always good.
It’s hard to believe it has been four years already since we had a couple of hundred Brazilian students studying at the university here in a program that was called cientistas sem fronteiras. It was a program Brazil had to send undergraduates to another country to study for one year.
One day in late August 2014, I went to have lunch with a visiting professor from Brazil, my friend Rodrigo. We went to the student union and as we were getting out lunch, I heard some people speaking Portuguese. I turned around and greeted them and introduced myself in Portuguese. That began a year of getting to know many of them and friendships forming.
God connected all the dots for it to happen. I went to Brazil in June 2013 and as a result of the trip studied Portuguese for one year. My church has sent groups to Brazil each year for many years which include high school students, so we had many university students at my church who had been to Brazil. In November 2014, we had our first lunch at church for Brazilian students to meet the American students at my church.
We had three specials lunches that school year for our Brazilian friends. It was a wonderful year with them. Sadly, the program was canceled due to economic crisis in Brazil, but we had a year together that I will never forget.
That year actually began one year before when in pray, I felt God show me that he wanted me to study Portuguese. It also began before that with Brazilian friends I had met before. It also began with my first trip to Brazil.
God will guide us to do things that lay the groundwork for future opportunities that we have no idea will happen. When I registered for my Portuguese class in August 2013, I had no idea my life would be blessed by meeting so many friends from Brazil the following year.
It reminds me of what Ephesians 2 says:
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
God knew my Brazilian friends would come and put pieces together for me to be prepared for that special year.
If we follow those promptings from God, they can lead to wonderful adventures.
This may sound crazy, but I will never forget the time I was thankful for a tube of toothpaste. I was in the valley of depression and things weren’t going well at the time. Then one day I was cleaning, which is not easy when dealing with depression, and came upon a tube of toothpaste I had forgotten about. I had bought it a month before when it was on sale. The thought hit me that I would not need to go anywhere that day to buy toothpaste and I thanked God I would not need to go shopping. That moment began my path out of the valley of depression.
Isaiah wrote about what the promised Messiah, Jesus, would do for us. Among those things Jesus would do for us we find in Isaiah 61:
“and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”
Jesus will give us a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. Despair is not from God. Despair is loss of hope. If we feel there is no hope, that feeling is not from God. Jesus is our solid eternal hope.
When I thanked God for that tube of toothpaste that day, it clicked in my mind to try to thank God for things in my life no matter how small or silly they may seem to others. Step by step Jesus helped me climb out of that valley of depression.
This month we have one of our biggest holidays in America, Thanksgiving Day on Thursday, November 22nd. That is only two short weeks from today. So Thursdays in November I want to share things I am thankful for.
For me it starts with saying that I am thankful for Jesus. I don’t want to think about what my life would look like without Jesus. On the rare occasions that I see someone from my teen years and tell them that I teach ESL and am in part-time ministry, their response is to ask what happened to you.
Jesus is my Savior not only for eternal life, but also in this life. He literally saved my life from dying when I was sick in the 1990s. He gave my life meaning and purpose.He brought me out of the pit of depression. He brought people from all over the world into my life. I am so thankful for Jesus.
In these days of post election in the U.S., days of turmoil everywhere, being thankful can help thwart the spirit of despair. Please join me in expressing thankfulness to God. What are you thankful for?
Sunday afternoon I went to a celebration for a friend/colleague of mine. She is a teacher at the school where my morning class is. It was a celebration of her adoption of three children being finalized. She took in three foster siblings whose birth parents were drug addicts and neglectful. My friend has a lot of love to give and the children are much better off now and are well cared for.
Being at the celebration caused me to reflect on a wonderful truth in the bible. When we come to Jesus, God adopts us as his children. We find in Romans 8:
“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”
I think about the similarities between what my friend did and what God does for us.
She adopted three children who had no hope for a future before they came to her. God adopts us who had no hope for an eternal future before knowing Jesus.
She bought a house so she can take care of them. God created heaven for us to be with him.
She loves her three children unconditionally even though when they first came to her, they were coming from a messed up home life. God loves us unconditionally even though we are messed up and sin.
She teaches them, guides them, and nurtures them. God teaches us, guides us, and nurtures us.
The parallels could go on and on.
God loves us so much that he sent his best, his one and only son Jesus, to provide the way for us to be adopted by God through Jesus’s death and resurrection. God loves us passionately and wants us to be his children.
Sunday morning I was sitting in the coffee area in my church that we call Solid Grounds. I was sitting near the coffee counter when a woman walked up.
We started talking and she opened up about her life. She shared about her health struggles, struggles with depression, financial difficulties and family struggles with a child with autism. We talked for about 20 minutes with me mostly listening. I encouraged her to go to the women’s group on Tuesday morning and encouraged her to continue meeting with the woman in the church she has received counseling from.
After she left, I thought about the time Jesus sat down by a well in Samaria in John 4. A woman came to get water and Jesus asked her for a drink. She was surprised he would talk with her because he was a Jew and Jews thought of Samaritans as being unclean spiritually. Jesus spoke with the woman who had been married five times and was living with a man who wasn’t her husband. He shared with her about eternal life and God.
God meets us in everyday moments in life such as going to a well for water or connecting us with someone close to the coffee bar at a church. God is always at work everywhere we go.
Divine appointments can happen when we follow God and his leading in our lives. When we spend time with God in prayer and grow in our relationship with him, those divine appointments can be frequent occurrences and a great blessing.
When God arranges those moments for me to help, share Christ’s love, or be there for someone at a key moment, I feel close to God. Jesus talked how we can know what God is doing because of our friendship with him in John 15:
“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”
I love this new album by Lauren Daigle. I love this song too with its use of imagery of the resurrection power of Jesus to bring us hope with lyrics like You’re Still Rolling Stones. Each song on this album has blessed me.
I was also blessed to see that she performed this song on Ellen. Ellen was one of the judges on American Idol the season Lauren Daigle was a contestant.
I was surprised that some criticized her for appearing on Ellen and performing the song. This is dating me, but I don’t recall people being upset when Debby Boone performed on the Tonight Show when Johnny Carson was the host. Carson was married four times and certainly didn’t live a good life. That is just one example of times Christian performers have been on shows without the criticism Lauren Daigle received.
I love Daigle’s response to the criticism. She said,“I think the second we start drawing lines around which people are able to be approached and which aren’t, we’ve already completely missed the heart of God,”
Another one of Daigle’s responses beautifully puts into words what SHOULD BE on the heart of everyone who claims to follow Jesus: “I don’t have all the answers in life and I’m definitely not gonna act like I do, but the one thing that I know for sure is I can’t choose who I’m supposed to be kind to and who I’m supposed to show love to and who I’m not, because that’s the mission right?” she continued. “Be who Christ was to everyone.”
Jesus was criticized for visiting “sinners” in their homes and eating with them. I put sinners in quotes because news flash- WE ARE ALL SINNERS. His response to the criticism of the Pharisees, religious leaders of the day, in Mark 2 was:
“On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Those of us who claim to follow Jesus live in a time and day that people desperately need the saving love of Jesus. If we don’t go to them, how can we expect them to experience the love of Jesus?
Time change weekend here in the U.S. as in the good time change that gives us an extra hour of sleep. It meant figuring out the new time for my video chat English lessons with a student in China. It also meant figuring out a different time to chat with a friend in Brazil who will come here in December. Brazil had its spring time change this weekend moving ahead one hour, so now we have a four hour time difference instead of two.
I am a Tolkien fan. I have read Lord of the Rings several times. I watched the movies several times. In Lord of the Rings, Gandalf told his hobbit friends, “ All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” I love this quote because it expresses a profound truth. Our lives are short here in this life. The question is not how much time we have in this life as in how long we will live. If we compare 75 years to eternity, we realize this life is so short. The question is what we do with the time we are given in this life.
Jesus’s followers asked him after his resurrection if he was going to set up his kingdom on earth at that time. In Acts 1 Jesus’s answer was:
“It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
In other words, Jesus told them it isn’t for them to know the time, but to get busy going out to share him with the world.
What will we do with this day we are given today? Will we show the love of Jesus with those we encounter today? Will we share his message? Will we live for him today?
What will we do with the time we are given?
Each day we are given opportunities. Yesterday instead of watching my college football team play in an exciting game, I spent time with a family from Iran that is grieving the loss of a relative who died of old age in Iran. I sat with them, drank tea with them, ate a fish lunch with them, and talked with them. It was well worth my time to be there for my friends.
But then last night as I did laundry, I got lazy and didn’t do much. After a busy week, I needed some down time to relax. I felt it was okay. I spent my morning teaching English at my church and my afternoon with my friends. However, as I think back on yesterday, I realize I could have made better use of my evening yesterday.
Giving our time to someone can be a precious gift to them. Visiting grieving friends, visiting someone who is sick, having a cup of coffee with a friend, taking time to read with a child, stopping to talk with a neighbor, there are so many ways to share God’s love with people.
Any time that we give to others to share the love of Jesus will be blessed when we run out of time here on earth and enter our eternal home in heaven.
I had planned to write about something else today, but as I was praying I felt led to write about grieving today. As I prayed this morning, I prayed for God to help me show his love when I visit friends from Iran this afternoon. A cousin of theirs died in Iran, so today they are gathering in a home to remember their cousin.
I will never forget a funeral I went to seven years ago for a teen girl from Vietnam who died. It was a Buddhist funeral. It struck me that for her family in their belief she is gone forever. They will never know her again. They believe she will reincarnated as someone or something else. They believe the daughter they knew is lost forever.
What a contrast for those of us who follow Jesus. Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 4:
“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.”
Yes we feel sad over the separation but we are encouraged to remember that the separation is temporary because we will see and know our loved one again. Our guarantee of that is the fact that Jesus died and rose from the dead. So yes we grieve, but we grieve with hope, the certain hope of being reunited with our loved one because of Jesus.
Paul didn’t write so you do not grieve meaning we are not to grieve. He wrote we do not grieve like those who have no hope. So going through the grieving process is something we experience yet our experience is to be different in the sense that we have hope.
A blog I follow, the peaceful nest, is written by a mother whose son died. She shares her experience of how God comforted her and brought her through the valley of grieving. Here is a link for one of her posts. I think you will be encouraged by her posts.
Grieving is not something we should be in denial about. We should reach out to our friends who are grieving. If we are grieving, we don’t need to put on the ‘I am okay’ exterior all the time.
The difference for those who follow Jesus is that we understand death is a temporary separation. I understood that when my father died. He had prayed with me to receive Christ one year before he died. I was with him the morning he died. I had peace in knowing he was in heaven to the point that even though I was grieving, I taught my class that night.