“Dude. You Can’t Polish a Turd!”

I spent this past weekend reuniting with 17 of my fraternity brothers. To best minimize stupidity, and ensure the safety of all attending, we spent it at a cabin in the mountains of Pennsylvania. The unique gifting of sarcasm in this group is unparalleled, and giving someone a hard time comes easy after knowing each other for 25 years. One of the things that always comes up when we are all together is the raggedy bunch of vehicles we all used to drive around the hills of western Pennsylvania. The best and most harrowing stories often start with, “Ok. There was like six inches of snow on the ground…” 

Why were we all driving such junk cars? 

The easy answer is because there’s not much money in those rusted out hills of PA, and we all made do with hand-me-downs and vehicles you could buy with summer job money. One of the cars that fit that description and got me to and from school for a short time was a 1970 Gold Plymouth Champ. I think that car may have been the only car ever made smaller than the Chevette. It was equipped with an AM radio and looked a lot like the car from Wayne’s World, except without the cool flames and licorice dispenser. 

On a rare sunny day in early spring, I decided to finally wash the salt and winter grime off her only to be met with heckling from my onlooking fraternity friends. “Better use a smaller sponge!” “Careful, the salt is what’s holding on the bumper.” “Watch out! Your toy car might float away!” And, my personal favorite, “Dude! You can’t polish a turd!” I knew our group loved a good roast, so I laughed along with them, and promptly apologized to Goldie later when no one was around. That summer, I wrecked Goldie (or did she wreck me?), and she went to the scrapyard along with the jeers of my troublemaking friends. 

I can’t believe that I had not thought about Goldie once in the past few weeks since we’ve been talking so much about gold. However, when I was on the airplane coming home from our reunion weekend, I read over the Gospel stories of Jesus, and Goldie came to mind. Just like that little car, the world often tells us we are less valuable the older we get. It’s often easy to agree and define ourselves by our miles rather than by the God who created us. 

Jesus was an expert in finding Gold in tarnished people and giving them hope and direction. 

  • Jesus listens to a leper begging him to make him clean, and with a touch heals him. (Matt. 8)
  • Jesus leads a deaf man away from a noisy crowd to give him the gift to finally hear it. (Mark 7)
  • Jesus leans into a man violently possessed with demons and frees his body and his soul. (Luke 8)
  • Jesus took the time to speak with a woman at a well carrying water and a big secret. (John 4)
  • Jesus redeems a condemned man dying on a cross next to his, forever changing the redemption narrative for all of us. (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John)

The tarnish of disease, impairment, mental anguish, sexual abuse, and multiple failures, were (and are) no match for Grace from the King of the Universe. 

Did you know that 10k gold tarnishes faster than 24k gold? 

It actually has little to do with the gold itself, and more with the alloys bonded to it that make the gold tarnish. The more additions into the alloy, even if they are purposeful, the faster the gold will tarnish. Isn’t that so similar to life? Many of us believe that the things that have bonded to us now make us unworthy of polishing. But like gold, no matter the age or what it has been through is always of high value, and with God, any bond can be broken!

Shine brightly today because, unlike Goldie, you are not destined for the scrapyard. You have been personally freed, polished up, and are worth a high price! 

In His service and at yours!

~Shawn

“Stay Gold, Ponyboy”

Part of having a middle schooler in your house is you are constantly reminded of things you partially paid attention to over 30 years ago. Things like…book reports. Do you remember the book The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton? Well, one of the most memorable quotes from that coming-of-age story is, “Stay gold, Ponyboy, stay gold.” 

If you were like me, the night before the quiz, you ditched the book, rode your bike to Blockbuster and rented the movie. This quote is from the scene where Johnny Cade, played by Ralph Macchio, is referencing a Robert Frost poem titled, “Nothing Gold Can Stay,” that he and Ponyboy, played by C. Thomas Howell, had read together in a previous scene. Johnny says this infamous line as his dying wish for Ponyboy to stay golden, or remain innocent, as long as possible, but with the reminder that his innocence will soon fade away.  

Around the breakfast table this week, that “Stay gold” quote popped up in a conversation about our topic last week: What if we really believed our worth was being God’s greatest treasure? I am 100% convinced that the number one strategy of our enemy is for us to forget our value, because once we do, it is so easy for us to settle for second, or even third best. 

Before we know it, we have set aside God’s plan and settled into mediocrity. 

Matthew 6:21 says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” I love how simply Jesus puts that. Reading how directly He stated it, even made me wonder if I have been reading this scripture all wrong. What if we are the treasure? How easy would it be to give and forgive if our hearts were set on how highly-valued we are to God. It could almost become fun showing off our treasured abundance! 

Need another verse to prove how much God values you? 

Check out how Matthew 10:29-31 reads in The Message version: “What’s the price of a pet canary? Some loose change, right? And God, The Creator, cares what happens to that canary even more than you do. He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even knowing the number of hairs on your head! So don’t be intimidated. You’re worth more than a million canaries.”

I find it mind-boggling that the redemption of the human race was placed in the hands of humans with only one mission: Love people and point to Jesus as the “why”. He is the solution, and we are His ally in this whole save the world thing. To be transparent, most of the time I don’t feel cut out for world-saving, but Jesus thinks that I am. 

Jesus thinks you and I are better than Superman.

Just in case you’re wondering, because I was, the current price of a canary is between $10 and $25. So, if you want to play the downside of this, God values you on the low side of 10 million dollars. I bet 10 million in gold would shine!! Shine…Just like we are supposed to – reflecting the abundance of God’s Light and Love.

This week “Stay Gold” and shine a bit. After all, it’s how God made you.

In His service and at yours

~Shawn

“Good as Gold”

This past weekend, my daughter asked me to take her and her friends to the mall. As a former mallrat of the late 80s this felt like a right of passage. In a classic coming of age style, she and her five friends went one direction, and I went the other reminiscing about the many wintery weekend hours I spent in the Erie Mall. It had been years since I had walked the mall, and it was not hard to notice it was not the same place. KB toys, Sam Goody’s, Musicland, Merry Go Round, Radio Shack, Benetton, Tilt Arcade, and Espirit are all gone. 

But, do you know what somehow survived the American mall apocalypse?

Spencers. While I don’t recommend spending much time in there, this brightly-lit novelty and gag store got much (too much) of my hard-earned lawn-mowing money as a kid. A gold necklace or bracelet of the almost finest quality was always the perfect go-to birthday or Christmas gift. While sipping on my Joe Muggs Books-A-Million java, I started thinking about the differences between the Spencer’s gold chain I bought my 9th-grade girlfriend and the gold necklace I gave Anna for our 10th anniversary. 

Besides price, style, and weight, the most significant difference between the two was purity. 

The purer the gold, the higher the value. Pure gold is 24-karat, which simply means that 24 out of 24 parts of the metal are gold. If we look in pawn shops or gold swaps, we see that gold at any purity percentage is worth something. Warren Buffett, one of the world’s wealthiest investors, says the total amount of gold in the world – the gold above ground, that is – could fit into a cube with sides of just 67ft! Gold is the standard that our currency was built on, and because of its limited supply, it will always be valuable. 

Have you ever heard the phrase, “Good as Gold?” That’s you! From the beginning of time, you are God’s most precious creation. Check this verse out in Genesis. 

Genesis 1:27, 31  “So God created man in his own image; he created him in the image of God; he created them male and female. God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good.” 

This concept is easy to see in babies. A friend of mine just had a baby, and she’s the cutest, greatest thing in the world. I mean, she farts, and it’s cute! But what happens over time? The older that baby gets, the less cute her puking and farting in public will be. As I get older, my outside becomes less and less beautiful. My “gold” seems tarnished. 

However, as I read through the Gospels, I see clearly that Jesus came for the Tarnished. Every conversation he had spoke to the value of people. He reminded us over and over that being good isn’t about not doing bad things, but it’s about loving people where they are and reminding His people that they are good. To sum it up, he said, “I made you good, so, be good.” 

In case today finds you not feeling very golden, or even tarnished, know that you are worth the highest value. You were ransomed at full price. You are not just good. You are Good as Gold.

In His Service and at yours

~Shawn

What’s in a Name Anyway?

Rarely do you get to pick your nickname, and most of the time, it’s given to you by the people who are closest to you, and many times it’s not a name you would choose for yourself. I’ve had my fair share of dumb nicknames, and I’m thrilled that most of them didn’t stick, like “Pippy,” “Dren,” “Miles,” and “Rabbit” to name a few. “Mac” has always been my favorite. Not only does it speak to my heritage, It is what my Dad’s closest friends called him and what my Grandfather’s US Postman buddies would call him too. There can pride and power in a name.

This year, I’ve been reading through the Gospels, and I am overwhelmed by how much emphasis Jesus puts on his relationships. He chose the twelve disciples to be the caretakers of the message of salvation and entrusted them to teach it to the world and the next generation. 

What’s fascinating is, Jesus calls many of the disciples by a different name.

  • James and John were brothers who fished for a living. Jesus called them the “Sons of Thunder!” 
  • Levi was an unpopular tax collector whose name meant “to take,” and Jesus only called him Matthew, which means “the Gift of the Lord.”
  • Saul got one of the Beatles names when he began speaking the message to the Greek people.
  • Simon, an average fisherman with a very common name at the time, becomes Peter, the “Rock.”

Now, THAT is a name! It’s God’s name.

Before Peter, the only “rock” mentioned in the Old Testament Scriptures referred to God. Therefore, Jesus gave Simon his name. Simon, a smelly fisherman, became God’s representative that his church would be built upon. 

Would you be up for a new name?

It took a while, but when I finally decided God’s plan for my life was better than mine, I didn’t know that I was getting a new identity. But, the more I walk with Jesus, the more I see He keeps true to the things that were written about Him before and after he walked this Earth.

Take a look at the scriptures I found while preparing this and a message we teach on the Seacoast Men’s Hike. These are not mere words, but promises of a new name, a new way, a new identity,

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.” Revelation 2:17

“To them I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial, And a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off.” Isaiah 56:5

“The nations will see your righteousness, And all kings your glory; And you will be called by a new name Which the mouth of the LORD will designate.” Isaiah 62:2

“You (satan) will leave your name for a curse to My chosen ones, And the Lord GOD will slay you But My servants will be called by another name.” Isaiah 65:15

“He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name.” Revelation 3:12

So, yes. Some people may have a nickname for me, or have called me other things we won’t mention here, but because I made a choice, and the space for God, His names for me far surpass them all. He calls me Friend, Redeemed, Conqueror, Mighty, Beloved, and Son.

What to know God’s nickname for you? Just ask.

In His Service and at yours!

~Shawn

Obey?

Whenever I read through The Gospels and hear about the disciples fishing it brings me back to growing up along the Great Lake Erie.

In a steel town there was not a great need to go out fishing but the people of that community sure loved to do it. My Dad and Grandfather can attest that I didn’t have the attention span to enjoy being in a boat very long and my occurrences of catching nothing were certainly consistent. Fishing has never been my favorite. I can easily recall being in a small boat with a skinny fishing rod and an empty bucket. We always came to shore frustrated. Me, due to lack of fish. Papa, due to me and lack of fish.

I cannot imagine how frustrated Peter must’ve been after fishing for a living with a big net and then catching nothing.

In Chaper 5 of the Gospel of Luke, He writes: When he had finished speaking, Jesus said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch. Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

I don’t think anyone likes it when someone else gets up in their business. Especially on long bad days. But it was Peter’s turn to learn “First Time Obedience”. Have you heard this talked about before?

I think the first time Anna and I heard the idea of “First Time Obedience” was when Cora was a little baby. The concept is if you can teach and reward your child to listen the first time you ask, then when it is important or for some reason she is in danger, it will be easy and natural for her to trust and obey as her first reaction. This seemed to work well for us when she was a toddler, especially a few times near busy streets and swimming pools.

“because you say so Jesus” ~ Peter

It sounds so subordinate and weak. Like Jesus is expecting blind submission, but that’s not our King. In the previous chapter it lists occurrence after occurrence of Jesus rebuking / healing sickness and calling out evil spirits. Peter and the disciples were invited to be a part of each one. Jesus has proven to Peter over and over that he was trustworthy and kind.

So after what I perceive to be an exhausted sigh and a little backstory about his crappy night, Peter places his nets in the water.

“When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.” Luke‬ ‭5:6-7‬

I think sometimes we get tricked into thinking that we are here for Jesus. That we are here to play some minor supporting role in His grand play. But it’s the other way around, He said that He is here for us. John 10:10 quotes Him saying “I have come to give you abundant life” 

It seems that in the transactional equation written by Christ: First time obedience = Abundance

What does that even mean? Just a bit later, the same author documents what our King describes His definition of abundance is: Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap.  (Luke 6:38)

So, here the question I am thinking about this weekend: What would I need to see or hear in order to Trust and Obey on the first time? It seems it is a solid trade.

In His service and at yours

~Shawn

Come!

This week, I read about Peter’s brother, Andrew, and I must admit, I was intrigued. There’s not much written about Andrew, but what is written about him is powerful.

Andrew was one of John the Baptist’s first disciples, making him part of a radical grassroots movement, following a leader who was on-trend, courageous, and thought-provoking. Then, Andrew personally sees Jesus get baptized! Think about it. It’s possible that he even got to hear God the Father proclaim from Heaven that Jesus was His Son. Clearly it changed his current perspective.

Can you imagine being a part of that audience? 

Andrew and some of the others see Jesus the next day, and in reading John 1:38-39, I like to imagine Andrew high-tailing it after Jesus to learn more about the guy who just literally fulfilled years and years of prophecy right before his eyes. In this chapter, John writes that it was about 4pm, and Andrew, being a fisherman, had probably been up fishing since 2 or 3am. But, the lack of sleep couldn’t keep him away.

“Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?” “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.”

Jesus doesn’t say, ”Hey guys. Here’s my card. Come and visit me when it’s convenient for you.” HE tells them to come right then. HE was going to show them. HE was going to take them there and Andrew had to chose to stay or go.

It became personal. 

Mark wrote that the next day, Jesus came by where he, Peter and Andrew were working and they simply “came at once” and followed Him. They left their tangled nets for others to put away, walked away from their livelihood and all that was familiar to them to follow after Jesus. 

I love that the author really drives it home that these men stopped what they were doing and in the middle of everything, they chose to leave their tangled, but familiar lives and step into the unknown with Jesus. 

They changed their entire lives after one conversation with Jesus.

Later, when Jesus tells them about the shepherd that would leave 99 sheep just to search for the one lost sheep, the meaning isn’t lost on them. It’s completely relatable to these men, and the other disciples who encountered Jesus, and saw how He cared for each one of them and how He pursued a relationship with them. All the disciples had to choose to follow Jesus. None of them were taken kicking and screaming. They left comfort in exchange for a relationship. They left the familiar for the unknown. They chose Truth over a life of mediocrity.

What am I choosing other than Jesus?

This is the question that has challenged me this week. Where am I spending my time, talents, and treasure that isn’t drawing me closer to Him? When He says come walk with me, what am I choosing to do instead?

Revelation 3:20 says, “Here I am! I (Jesus) stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”

What kind of King knocks on the door inviting his people to come and have dinner (to commune) with him? Our King. 

God is personally inviting each one of us to “Come.”  The time to choose is always now.

Let’s drop our nets and change the world.

In His service and at yours! ~Shawn

Turns in the River.

A few weeks ago, my daughter, Cora, and I were watching an animated movie on Netflix that was filled with epic adventures of fire-breathing dragons and magical swords. Don’t judge. I found it quite calming to turn my brain off for an hour or so, knowing that there would be no hefty parallels to my real life in this fantasy world. That is until one of the characters began explaining what “real life” was actually like.

“Life is like a river. You can’t see too far ahead. You don’t know where the river of life will bend and turn.

You don’t know where it will go at all. You cannot control where the river goes. However, there is one thing you can know and control, yourself. Look at yourself. Who are you…? What do you stand for? Once you know that, then wherever the river takes you, you’ll be right where you were always meant to be.”

I hadn’t anticipated hearing from God through Netflix that night, but here we are. 

I’ve recently been reading through the four Gospels, and as I listened to what the Blind Pirate told the Dragon Prince (I told you not to judge), it reminded me of something I had read that resonated with this idea of life being like a river and how we don’t have any control over it. 

Prepare the Way!

In all the gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the authors document John the Baptist quoting the prophet Isaiah who said, “A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” Isaiah 40:3

Matthew 3:3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’”

Mark 1:2-3 “…as it is written in Isaiah the prophet: “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way a voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’”

Luke 3:4 “As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.” 

John 1:23 ” John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, ‘I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”

As I was reading those passages over in each Gospel, I got the feeling that God was saying,

“If you do this for me, I will do this for you.”

Have you noticed other places in the Bible where ‘straight paths’ are mentioned? Check these out…

Hebrews 12:13 “Make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.” 

Psalm 5:8 “O LORD, lead me in Your righteousness because of my foes; Make Your way straight before me.” 

Proverbs 3:6 “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” 

Boom! There it is.

If we make a straight path to Him, clearing the distractions of our mind, and create room for Him to come into our lives, He will make our paths straight.

The interesting part of being on a river is that often the turn is so wide it almost looks straight. However, when looking from an aerial view, you can see the river is often crazy crooked. Most times, we want to see what is coming up ahead, but we were not made to handle those bends and curves on our own. We are wired to be dependent on God. 

It already seems that 2020 is going to be a winding, twisty, turny kind of year, steeped in anticipation and already flowing at a rapid pace. We still have 11 months this year, and who knows what twists and turns are ahead, But we follow a God who says it’s okay to ask for favor. Favor of clearer vision. Favor for a straighter path. 

We can’t control what’s around the bend, but we can choose our posture in the river. 

So, here I am choosing to ‘prepare the way’ for God to move. Knowing that He is somehow making my path straight because He loves me…and I asked. I hope you will join me. 

In His service and at yours, ~Shawn

Comforted, Not Comfortable: Joseph’s Story Part 2

It’s a week later, and I’m still thinking about Joseph. I’m not sure I could have handled all that moving from place to place and starting over with nothing like he did. I mean, there were so many unsettling and uncomfortable moments Joseph and his family had to face. But, Joseph saw God do amazing things because he was able to look past his current needs and allow God to run the show.

It sounds easy, but my control issues cringe at the thought of doing the same.

My wife, Anna, and I are stepping into the foster care fiasco here in Charleston, and while we were in training on how to become foster parents and the best way to welcome these children into our home, we were reminded of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. this is a triangle model showing the five categories of needs as developed by Abraham Maslow in 1943. From the bottom of the triangle upwards, the needs are listed as: Physiological, Safety, Love & Belonging, Esteem, and Self-actualization.

It’s like a staircase that begins with basic survival and leads to Godly enlightenment.

Maslow stated that in order to move to the next level of need, a person must have their current need satisfied to a certain extent. I started thinking about how this hierarchy works in my own life, within my family, and even in my community, and I saw a pattern. Right after Esteem and right before Self-actualization seems to be an additional level that most of us seem to hang out on, and that level is…COMFORT.

Like this………… (no judging these art skills, please)

Do you remember the old Atari game, Pitfall?

Well, this newly added “Comfort” step is like the quicksand boards of Pitfall. You just get sucked in. For those of us living in the middle/upper class of America, we work so hard to have comfort that we often take for granted the comforts we already have stockpiled. Then we slowly sink down into our big, comfy couches and watch other people have adventures on our massive TV’s, all while wondering when God will show us what He wants for our lives. It’s quicksand, I tell you.

We’ve got to plow through the deception of being comfortable to achieve being comforted by God! The sixth level of Maslow’s hierarchy is Self-Actualization. This level is where we work on personal growth and when we look at this level through God’s eyes, this is where we can see our God-sized potential! Growth is tough, uncomfortable, and sometimes painful, but I’m starting to believe that the Christian life was never supposed to be comfortable or easy.

Striving to be COMFORTABLE sounds like this…

  • I have to work more and rest less. How else will these bills ever get paid?
  • I would like to tithe, but I don’t have any extra money right now.
  • I would love to join a small group, but I just don’t have the time.
  • If I tell them the whole truth, I could lose the contract, and I need this job.
  • I would like to volunteer, but we’re just too busy right now.

Many of us look at the possibility of being uncomfortable in order to gain the supernatural comfort of God as too hard or risky. It is easy to believe that the cost of trading the person we have built ourselves up to be in exchange for the person God wants us to be is too high a price. However when we chose to be comforted by Him and The Truth, when we step into tough situations with His love and kindness, God loves it! He cheers for us! Even though we may not always get it right, or we make a mess out of things, He is in. He is there to care for and comfort us.

Striving to be COMFORTED BY GOD sounds like this…

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have PEACE. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

“Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Revelation 7:16-17 

Joseph didn’t have much to cling to except God, and in turn, he got everything he needed. When we cling to being comfortable over growth with God, we get mediocrity instead. Nobody has every celebrated and reveled in mediocrity. You don’t have to either. He is waiting, Cheering!

What is one thing that would be easy for you to give up in exchange for His acceptance and comfort?
What would be the hardest to give over to God in exchange for the supernatural?

In His Service and at yours! ~Shawn

Go BIG & Go BOLD: Joseph’s Story

Here we are 17 days into the new year, and if you’re like me, after Christmas I jump quickly from the story of Baby Jesus to Jesus as an adult. However, this year I noticed there were some significant life-altering moments for the whole family before Jesus began His ministry, and I cannot imagine they would have been easy.

The Bible tells us after Jesus was born, the Magi didn’t return to King Herod as commanded. So, as retribution, Herod sent out an order that all boys in Bethlehem, two years old and under, were to be murdered (Matthew 2:16). What he didn’t know was that an angel had already warned Joseph of this danger, and instructed him to leave Bethlehem and take his family to Egypt. Joseph took a big step and obeyed, and they lived in Egypt until Herod dies.

And then…

Matthew 2:19-22 tells us, “But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, and said, ‘Get up, take the Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child’s life are dead.’ So Joseph got up, took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there.”

Joseph should be awarded the BIGGEST obedience trophy ever!

Not only for following God’s instructions when it came to Mary but after the baby was born, he picks up everything and moves his family to a foreign land for 9 or 10 years. Once it seems they could breathe a sigh of relief and head home after Herod died, he was told that moving back to their home would put his family in danger. So, they never returned to the home they once knew, the home he probably built by hand, and I’m sure, the one he imagined he and his family would grow old in. They were unable to return to their family and friends, or even his carpentry business. Starting over (again) would be crazy hard, and such a challenge of faith, but Joseph took the bold step and moved his family once again as directed by God.

I have to say, angel visit or not; if I were in Joseph’s sandals, I would be pretty upset.

It’s intriguing that when both Matthew and Luke document the story of Joseph and Mary, there is never any mention of suffering or struggle during any of it. So many other places the Bible does not hesitate to document hardship when it existed. So why are both writers silent about this? I think it was intentional. Was there hardship? Sure! Was there frustration? You bet! But, we can be assured that God provided for them and His Son every step of the way. Just like He promises to provide for and protect those of us He calls sons and daughters. That’s right. We can also be called the sons and daughters of the most high God!

Take a look at these Scriptures.

Galatians 3:26 “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”

2 Corinthians 6:18 “’And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” says the Lord Almighty.”

Romans 8:14 “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.”

Galatians 4:7 “Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.”

John 1:12 “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.”

How BIG would 2020 look if I believed and took ahold of the truth that God would take care of me and provide for me? How BOLD would I be if I lived from my rightful place as a son of God?

How BIG and BOLD would you live this year if you chose to truly live out your heritage as a son or daughter of God?

Want more to think on? For more interesting facts about the journey of Mary and Joseph, check out this site:
Journeys of Mary and Joseph Map

Be Bold! In His Service and at yours, ~Shawn

A Period. Not a Comma

Recently, a friend of mine told me about a disappointment he faced when a project he had  invested years into, suddenly changed courses and appeared it was no longer going to come together. Our small group of friends gathered around to support and encourage him one morning, and I felt God say to me, “Don’t let him put a period where I intended a comma to be.”

Whoa! That’s a bold statement!

Did you know a comma is defined as “an author’s soft pause,” Man, that describes our God so well! God is the author of our lives, and when we look throughout the Bible, we can see His true character being one of love because He often puts a pause, or a second part, where we would have put an ending.

* Moses kills an Egyptian and is ruined…“period.” God says, “comma.” (Exodus 2)      * Caleb declares victory over land, but ten spies say NO WAY…“period.” God says, “comma.” (Num. 13)
* Martha says Lazarus is dead…“period.” Jesus says, “comma.” (John 11)
* Guard says Jesus is dead…“period.” God says, “comma.” (Matthew 27 & 28)

Why is it so hard to keep in mind that God’s commas are not always brief? Joshua had a 45-year “comma.” The impact of God’s holy punctuation is in our response. Look at this: “Joshua said, “Just as the LORD promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years…so here I am today, eighty-five years old!” I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I am just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day.”
(Joshua 14:10-12)

Reading these scriptures and hearing these stories, we can see that our God loves showing us that He can (and will!) bust open our perceived closed doors and add a second part to what we thought was an ending. Do you have a dream that you believe has ended? Maybe it’s a hope of having children, leaving a legacy, finally retiring, having a relationship, gaining a new career or finding your niche in ministry.

I challenge you to ask yourself two questions: “Do I really want this?” and “Is God in this?”

If the answer is yes to both of those questions – wait upon the Lord (Psalm 27:14), seek His word for guidance (Romans 10:17), and prepare your heart for Him to move (John 5:14-15).

God loves you and has an excellent, well-thought out plan for your life. Remember, giving up on God is a tactic of the enemy. Don’t be tricked out of God’s best by giving up too quickly. Allow the commas (soft pauses) of God’s promises to fill your story today.
In His Service and at yours, ~ Shawn