The Intent of This Blog

This blog is intended to be a tool for the growth of whoever wants to use it. It is a daily journal intended to help us be more introspective. Every day I will do my best to supply a motivational quote, a Bible verse, a vocabulary word, and a personal message from myself. Use these if you like as motivation to improve yourself. Then, simply answer the daily questions provided honestly and see if it has an impact on your life. Zig Ziglar said, "If you don't have daily objectives, you qualify as a dreamer." Lets not be just dreamers but doers. Remember Martin Luther King Jr not only had a dream, he also had an objective. Thanks for reading, Jake

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Friday, March 20, 2015

A Bad Deal


“This I know, that God is for me.” - King David - Psalm 56:9b

The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps. - Proverbs 16:9

Pang: “a sudden sharp pain or painful emotion:” - New Oxford American Dictionary

“In order to be successful you must learn to be self-reliant.” “It’s not about how many times you fall, it’s about how many times you get back up.” “If you get bucked off, get back on that horse.” These are some hallowed creeds of american ideology. They say, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” They speak of ownership. They speak to individual power. To the ability in us. And we have ability. I agree with them. But then again. They’re completely wrong to most of us. And so they stop being affective sayings and simply become discouraging rhetoric. They’re not genuine to the average person. Because there is something more needed. We need something more than just ourselves. Yes we have power in us, but that power is not of us or from us. The power we have is bestowed on us. And we have it for a reason. That reason may be unknown right now. But when we follow the One who gives us strength and courage and ability; that reason will be fulfilled. It’s a hope we have. A hope of something greater. As you watch a toddler learn to walk then run, you will watch a human being get hurt and get back up again. If you were to watch a young man peddling his bicycle with all he has, you’d be watching a boy dreaming of riding a motorcycle as a man. When you observe the care a little girl puts into her party with tea, you’re watching a person dreaming of becoming a woman. We all want growth. We all need growth. We all feel the pangs for growth. And we all want to take that step forward into being more than what we are now. We were built for it. But we don’t have the power. We can’t make ourselves grow any more than we can change the color of our skin. But it happens doesn’t it? We do grow. And if the sun hits us just right, the color of our skin changes too. But the power is not in us. It’s in the One who created us. We can eat the right things. We can lay under the sun. But God is the one who makes it work. He’s the one that designed our bodies to use the energy we put in. He’s the one who gave us sunlight and melanin. He’s the one who provides the very air we breath. But too often we place all the weight on our shoulders. We make or dream up ourselves to be the captains of our destiny. But God propels the ship. Jesus floats the boat. His love uplifts life itself. Are we willing to trust in Him? Are we willing to do what we need but rely on His doing? This is His creation we live in. It’s His love we live for. It’s Christ’s death we’ll live because. It’s not about you. It’s about the one who LOVES you. Do you believe that? Trust me, it’s a better deal than what we’ve been sold.

Daily Journaling Questions:
  1. How did I help someone in kindness today?
  2. What did I learn today?
  3. What am I thankful for?
  4. Who did I love today?
  5. What am I dreaming of?
  6. What about today do I want to remember forever?
  7. What are my goals for tomorrow?
Thanks for reading,
Jake

Thursday, March 19, 2015

What You're Made For


“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” - Harriet Tubman

Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abram went, as the LORD had told him, - Genesis 12:1-4a

Endemic: “restricted or peculiar to a locality or region” - Merriam-Webster Dictionary

If you were to go to a major aquatic entertainment center to watch the whales and dolphins jump around and do tricks, you would be watching animals that most likely were born and raised in captivity. 12,000 pound Killer Whales swim around in a tank the size of a large swimming pool for decades. And while they’re beautiful, and they stick their tongues out at you, and they do tricks, they have no idea. Those whales have no idea the world they were created for. They have no idea that they were meant to swim hundreds of miles a day, and that their swimming should actually get them somewhere. They have no idea the problem solving their brains were meant for. They have no idea the family they were meant for. That they were meant to stay by their mothers for the majority of their lives until she died. That their brain capacity for love and family probably exceeds that of their human trainers. They know the tank. They know that the proper jump, the proper wave, the proper action will get them a couple fish. We are not whales, but can you see yourself in the life of a Sea World Orca? Do you live a life of endemic captivity? Are we living up to our life’s capacity? Just a question…

Daily Journaling Questions:
  1. How did I help someone in kindness today?
  2. What did I learn today?
  3. What am I thankful for?
  4. Who did I love today?
  5. What am I dreaming of?
  6. What about today do I want to remember forever?
  7. What are my goals for tomorrow?
Thanks for reading,

Jake

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Accept Joy Today


“Joy is the serious business of heaven.” - C.S. Lewis

You make known to me the path of life;
  in Your presence there is fullness of joy;
  at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
- Psalm 16:11

Beatitude: “a state of utmost bliss” - Merriam-Webster Dictionary

In an interview on 60 Minutes years before his death, Philipp Seymour Hoffman said, “The best you’ll ever feel is when you’ve done a good job.” Stop for a second and think of the implications. Really. Just stop and think about them. What happens when you can’t do a good job? What happens when life limits your ability to do much of anything? And have you ever done a really really good job? I mean a perfect job? There are a lot of perfectionists in this world, but no perfects. That’s probably why most people don’t like perfectionists. They’re serial hypocrites. But we all are, aren’t we? How many times have I said that no one is perfect? A ton right? So I don’t have to say it again. You already knew anyway. In light of our failure, how happy can we be, when happiness depends on our doing good? It’s a beautiful quote from Mr. Hoffman, a quote of an artist. And I know what he means. I don’t want to disagree with him, because I do know where he’s coming from. Doing good makes us happy. It’s what we were designed for, and following our design makes us inherently happy. However, we’re fallen. Doing good will never satisfy in this life again, because we can’t do the good we’re meant for. We can make a difference. We can be significant. We can help. But good… I mean perfect good. We just can't do it. And so when happiness depends on us, when it depends on what we do, it will remain mysteriously aloof, like the end of a rainbow. Who knows where we can overtake it. It slips like a stream through our grasp. So where can we find happiness? A happiness that satisfies like no other? Certainly not in or from us. We’ve tried. And we may have found some. But the pinnacle?  Joy. Where is it found? It’s found in Jesus. It’s found when we surrender to Him and let His Spirit fill our hearts. I once said I would never use the word “joy” outside of the context of Jesus, because joy is something different than mere human happiness. It’s the happiness we receive from God. Happiness we can have in a prison cell or a penthouse sweet. JOY… It doesn’t depend on us, rather we depend on it. The good news is that it’s completely free of charge. It’s something our Creator desires for all of us. It’s not the result of something we do, rather what we do results from it. It’s a gift of God for simply being. However, it does take something. It takes acceptance. Do you accept it? Accept joy today.

Daily Journaling Questions:
  1. How did I help someone in kindness today?
  2. What did I learn today?
  3. What am I thankful for?
  4. Who did I love today?
  5. What am I dreaming of?
  6. What about today do I want to remember forever?
  7. What are my goals for tomorrow?
Thanks for reading,

Jake

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

You Did It To Me


“Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Her at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and name Mother of Exiles.
From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
‘Keep, ancient lands, you storied pomp!’ cries she
With silent lips.  ‘Give me your tired, your poor, 
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!’”
- The New Colossus, a poem by Emma Lazarus, inspired by and found on the Statue of Liberty

When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. Before Him will be gathered all the nations, and He will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And He will place the sheep on His right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right, “Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed Me, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me, I was in prison and you came to Me.” Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, “Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirst and give You drink? And when did we see You a stranger and welcome You, or naked and clothe You? And when did we see You sick or in prison and visit You?” And the King will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to Me.” - Matthew 25:31-40

Sate: “satisfy (a desire or an appetite) to the full” - New Oxford American Dictionary

Need exists. Are we helping it? People sleep on the streets. Are we doing anything about it? There is a divide between the needy and the sated. Are we working to break down the wall? There is a reason people live on the streets in need. More often than not, drugs and crime got them there. And sometimes there is nothing that can be done. But we can be His hands and His feet. We can minister in real ways to those in need. Notice how Jesus didn’t say, “I was wrongfully imprisoned and you helped me.” No, He said, “I was in prison and you visited me.” If righteousness was the requirement for receiving help, we’d all be lost. Help for the unrighteous… Isn’t that why Jesus died? Jesus didn’t look down on us and say to Himself, “Those poor helpless good people. Someone needs to help them.” Rather He promised death would result from sin. He looked down on us and recognized the punishment we deserved, then took the punishment on Himself. We will never solve the problem of poverty and all that goes with it. Otherwise Jesus wouldn’t have said to His disciples as Mary washed His feet with perfume. “You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have Me.” - John 12:8 Fortunately He sent the Spirit to always be with us. And it’s the fact that the Holy Spirit is always with us that empowers us to reach out to those in need. It’s our primary mission. A mission that I’m not good at. A mission that is scary. A mission of the Gospel. Everyone needs Jesus.

As a warning, before opening your life to someone you don’t know, someone that probably has a criminal record, learn how to most affectively help their needs. There are those who target people trying to do good, and it is easy to become prey while trying to help.  

Daily Journaling Questions:
  1. How did I help someone in kindness today?
  2. What did I learn today?
  3. What am I thankful for?
  4. Who did I love today?
  5. What am I dreaming of?
  6. What about today do I want to remember forever?
  7. What are my goals for tomorrow?
Thanks for reading,

Jake

Monday, March 16, 2015

Keep Your Soul


“There are two great forces, God’s force of good and the devil’s force of evil, and I believe Satan is alive and he is working, and he is working harder than ever, and we have many mysteries that we don’t understand.” - Billy Graham

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. - Ephesians 6:10-17

Magic: “an extraordinary power or influence seemingly from a supernatural source” - Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Power is power, right? No... None of us really believe that. Sure, we believe in power, but we also believe in good and bad. Right and wrong. So why are there so many who are willing to use power, no matter the source. There is power on the side of wrong. Just as there is power for good. Supernatural powers even. In the west when we think of powerful figures, we think of Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, maybe even Ronald Reagan. But we also know that countering powers have existed as well. Slavery, Nazis, barbarism. But why? Certainly God works His power in our lives and in this world. And there are those who have chosen to do what is right and gained influence from it. There are also those who desire power, whatever the source. “The devil led Him up to a high place and showed Him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to Him, ‘I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be Yours.’” - Luke 4:5-7  We all come across that temptation. The devil wants to give us power. But it comes at a price. Whether we know it or not, it comes at the price of worshiping him. Whether it’s wealth, knowledge of the future, the desire to see someone lost to us. The power exists for those things to happen. But they don’t always come from God. God is not a god of magic, but the God of miracles. The Bible says, “Do not turn to mediums or necromancers; do not seek them out, and so make yourselves unclean by them: I am the Lord your God.” - Leviticus 19:31 Satan promises anything we want. And sometimes he even delivers. God asks that we follow Him. And while it may not lead to everything we want here on earth. His promise of salvation stands. His promise of everlasting life in perfection is the ultimate goal. Satan’s rewards are temporary, they lead to death every time. Jesus knew that. That’s why when Satan tempted Him with power, He simply replied, “Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.” - Luke 4:8b Make no mistake, the power exists to rule many nations through evil, the power exists to talk to people who have died, the power exists to divine the future. Magic does exist. But we have to be careful to discern between the power of good and the power of evil. The power of God and the power of the devil. The Bible is clear on what God is willing to do in our lives. It’s clear we are not to dabble in sorcery, in witchcraft, or in fortune-telling. It’s clear that we are to trust in Him and Him alone. He is jealous for us because He loves us. He wants the best reward for us. That is a life in heaven with Him. When we put our trust in other powers besides His, we’re rejecting His love and His promises for our lives. We’re saying in our actions that we don’t trust Him. And without trust, there can be no reward. May we all put our full trust in Him. The old saying, “The good die young,” may come to pass. A life of trust in Him may not bring wealth and power. But Paul said, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” - Philippians 1:21 Jesus said this to His disciples. “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when He cometh in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” - Mark 8:36-38

Daily Journaling Questions:
  1. How did I help someone in kindness today?
  2. What did I learn today?
  3. What am I thankful for?
  4. Who did I love today?
  5. What am I dreaming of?
  6. What about today do I want to remember forever?
  7. What are my goals for tomorrow?
Thanks for reading,

Jake

Friday, March 13, 2015

Strength In Happiness


“Be faithful in small things, because it is in them that your strength lies.” - Mother Teresa

What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil - this is God’s gift to man. - Ecclesiastes 3:9-13

Define: “to fix or mark the limits of” - Merriam-Webster Dictionary

In Ron Howard’s movie Rush, the character of Niki Lauda said something that I found fascinating. While enjoying a serene moment of happiness on a lake somewhere beautiful, with a far off look in his eye he says to his new wife in effect, “Happiness is the enemy because it weakens you, it gives you something to lose.” Then she responds with an equally fascinating way, she says, “If you believe happiness is the enemy, you’ve already lost.” Admittedly these quotes are paraphrases of the movie, but their meaning and impact remain. What does it mean to win? What does it mean to lose? What is happiness and where is it’s value in a world of winning and losing? Philosophers have attempted to define happiness for centuries. We all know it when we see it, but defining it is something different. What causes happiness? What makes it go away? Why are some people happy and some not, when their circumstances are the same? You’ve probably heard it said that happiness is a choice. And while it sounds inspiring, it’s not really true. Joy maybe, but not happiness. One can be joyful and sad. We can even be joyful at the prospect of death at times. But happiness is something different. Some people demand it and blame others when they don’t have it. Some people have it, even when others try to take it away. And some people fake it and we’re surprised to hear of their depression. Is it something we can gain and lose on our power? Certainly we can choose to accept or deny it for our lives, but then acceptance requires an offering. We’ve all been offered happiness. There are times of unhappiness we will all have to bear. There are diseases and chemical imbalances that we will have to medicate and cure. There is depression we’ll have to counsel, and evil we’ll need to prevent. We’ll always live with those things. But there too will also be sunsets and rises. There will be new life to celebrate and memories to cherish. There will be parties and dances with lovers. There will always be sources of happiness. God wants us to enjoy them, to find happiness in them. We don’t live in a stagnant life. One where we’re born live and die, the end. We live in an eternity. The happiness of our lives now is just a glimpse at what is to come. And what is to come is a gift as well. A gift we should look forward to with happiness. A gift we can all enjoy. A gift we must accept to see. May we happily accept Jesus’ gift from the Cross. A gift that cannot be defined.  

Daily Journaling Questions:
  1. How did I help someone in kindness today?
  2. What did I learn today?
  3. What am I thankful for?
  4. Who did I love today?
  5. What am I dreaming of?
  6. What about today do I want to remember forever?
  7. What are my goals for tomorrow?
Thanks for reading,
Jake

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Risky Reward


“Gravity never accepts excuses, and if you mess up, gravity is not going to care.” - Jim Collins (author of Good to Great and great rock climber speaking on climbing)

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. - Romans 1:16

Risk Averse: “A risk averse investor is an investor who prefers lower returns with known risks rather than higher returns with unknown risks. In other words, among various investments giving the same return with different level of risks, this investor always prefers the alternative with least interest.” - The Economic Times

The hardest part about success is taking the risk. The hardest part about significance is the risk. The hardest part about following Jesus is the risk. Everything great in life takes risks. Marriage takes risk, but it is absolutely great. Making the world a better place takes risk, but it is essential. Helping someone in need takes risk, but it is so rewarding. Life is defined by risk. It is in the risk that life is felt more than ever. Too often we bet on living comfortable lives, hoping that low risk will reward us with high yield. That’s a gamble as much as anything. Too often we rely on the risks of others to provide our reward. And that’s the beauty of our modern life. Other people’s risks can be rewarding to us. Airlines, computers, automobiles; they were all risks other people took that we reap the rewards from now. However, while we enjoy the material rewards of the risks of people like Henry Ford, Paul Allen, and Elon Musk, we don’t get to share in the satisfaction gained from them. Not much at least. No, our reward from them is relegated to enjoyment. Which is a good thing, but not a great thing. We can enjoy things all day long and still go to bed miserable. We may enjoy racing cars for example, but there is little satisfaction without finishing towards the front. Because it’s at the front that satisfaction occurs. It isn’t satisfying to be mediocre or poor at what we do. We don’t generally stay in jobs that we can’t do well in. We aren’t happy at home when we’re poor family members. We don’t like driving if we’re accident prone. Satisfaction generally requires performance, and performance always requires risk. The driver who wins a race is always closer to crashing than the others. However, risk doesn’t have to be foolish. It can be calculated too. When Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook, he didn’t create what the social media giant is today. He created a small platform that students from his school could use to communicate with each other. Then he opened it up to schools across the country. Then he made it something everyone could get involved in. Then he went public on the stock market. Following Jesus doesn’t have to begin with quitting your job to start a mega-church. Sometimes it starts by just admitting that you’re a Christian. Then living like it. Then answering questions. Then influencing people. Then… Accomplishing anything will take a risk. The risks can range from embarrassment to losing everything. However, the rewards are too good to pass up. Knowing that you improved somebody’s life is rewarding. Saving a life is rewarding. Jesus promised the reward of heaven for following Him. And that’s more rewarding than anything. And remember, He risked and lost His life for you and me. Yes, life takes risks, but with Jesus it has its ultimate reward.

Daily Journaling Questions:
  1. How did I help someone in kindness today?
  2. What did I learn today?
  3. What am I thankful for?
  4. Who did I love today?
  5. What am I dreaming of?
  6. What about today do I want to remember forever?
  7. What are my goals for tomorrow?
Thanks for reading,

Jake

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

How Powerful Is Your God?


“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.” - Jesus - John 14:1

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” - Romans 1:16-17

Power: “the ability or right to control people or things” - Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Artemis was an ancient Greek goddess who’s temple was located in a city called Ephesus. As you can imagine, this goddess was a source of revenue for some people. Notably the book of Acts in the Bible talks about a man named Demetrius who was a silversmith. When Paul came to Ephesus, of course he came to spread the Gospel of Christ and was very effective at it. So much so that Demetrius became angry and worried that he was going to lose business because people were turning away from Artemis and believing on Jesus. So Demetrius gathered the other artisans and craftsmen who relied on the idols of Artemis they manufactured and started a riot saying, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all in Asia and the world worship.” - Acts 19:25b-27 My question is this. If your god can be deposed, are they worth worshiping? As I say that, I worry about Christianity. That Christians are losing influence in the western world. But then I have to stop. As Christians we may be losing influence, but what about Christ? How often do we take Christ into our own hands and try and make Him cool to the new generation. How many tattoos across America are of Christ? How many times do we make fun of other Christians, because well, they’re not very cool? How often do we slander Jesus, trying to make Him relevant? Be honest; when we adjust Jesus to fit into our culture, when we try to evangelize Him in our own power, when we disregard His teachings we think others may find hard to accept, we lose His power. In some ways, He’s no longer our Lord and Savior, He’s been replaced with our own religion. That’s not to say that I expect every Christian to believe the same way. What I do expect, is that Christ should be at the center of our everything as Christians. We don’t have to dumb Him down, or smarten Him up. We don’t have to water Him down either. His power is in Him. His love changed this world forever. And that’s powerful. As Christians, we need to be good representatives of Christ. That won’t always mean people will believe us, or believe what we believe. There will always be detractors. What matters is that we believe in Jesus fully and let that belief make a difference in us. Hurting people aren’t looking for a wounded Savior. The powerful aren’t looking for a God they can conquer. Satan doesn’t tremble at a well rounded god we’ve made up. He trembles at the name of Jesus; who was wounded but rose from the grave, who was meek but carried with Him the power of God, who was a real man but fully divine. Billy Graham never tried to water down Jesus. He never made excuses for God. He was open about the things he didn’t understand in the Bible. And yet he drew audiences of up to a million people. Why? Because he spoke plainly about Jesus. About His love and His instruction. He was and is still not ashamed of the Gospel. Because Jesus is powerful all by Himself. Do you believe that? Let’s believe it!

Daily Journaling Questions:
  1. How did I help someone in kindness today?
  2. What did I learn today?
  3. What am I thankful for?
  4. Who did I love today?
  5. What am I dreaming of?
  6. What about today do I want to remember forever?
  7. What are my goals for tomorrow?
Thanks for reading,

Jake

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

His Creation, Our Effort

“The best place to find God is in a garden. You can dig for Him there.” - George Bernard Shaw

Can papyrus grow where there is no marsh? 
  Can reeds flourish where there is no water? 
While yet in flower and not cut down,
  they whither before any other plant.
Such are the paths of all who forget God;
  the hope of the godless shall perish.
Job 8:11-13

Cultivate: “to improve by labor, care, or study” - Merriam-Webster Dictionary

The early morning sun glints through the oak branches and leaves. A mist hangs over the scene freshening everything below the clear blue morning sky. You can smell the honeysuckle and the hyacinth. The marigolds show off their colors and the azaleas do the same. Perfectly manicured paths lead around the garden to places to sit and places to work in the soil. Peace more than anything grows here. In this garden, the things God created and our labor meet. And there’s something fantastic about that. It’s not every day that sun shines down through a cloudless sky. The flowers don’t bloom year round. And the peacefulness comes after purposeful diligence. Still, for right now, this is a place to be with the Lord. 
Of course this place I just described is fictional. But not really, because we’ve all experienced places like it. We’ve all had those little moments of pure joy. And yet sometimes we wonder, why work? Why work so hard getting the flowers planted in just the right spots? Why pull all those weeds? Why worry about the grass being manicured and the gravel spread just right? Of course we know the answer. We know that the garden wouldn’t just be without purpose. And so it is with us. Why worry about our relationship with God? Why should we read His word so much? Why pray and talk to Him when we can’t even see His face? Of course the answer to these questions is easy too. Because we’re not the same without purpose. Without God’s purpose for us we wouldn’t be. Without living on purpose for Him we couldn’t be the same. It’s God in our lives that plants the roses in our hearts. Just as we wouldn’t expect a beautifully manicured garden without a little work, we can’t expect a life with God without letting Him into our hearts. Let God garden your heart. Let Him plant in your soul beautiful things. Let His Son shine into your life and see what in turn can grow.
The song of a robin perched above breaks the crisp silence. A hare twitches his ears somewhere down the path. A squirrel darts up a cedar to gain a better vantage of her surroundings. A chipmunk squirts in and out of view. Surely there is nothing like the place where our effort and God’s creation meet.

Daily Journaling Questions:
How did I help someone in kindness today?
What did I learn today?
What am I thankful for?
Who did I love today?
What am I dreaming of?
What about today do I want to remember forever?
What are my goals for tomorrow?
Thanks for reading,

Jake

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Way

“The strength of a man consists in finding out the way God is going, and going that way.” - Henry Ward Beecher

And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his servants, “Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.” And they began to celebrate. - Luke 15:20-24

Arterial: “of, relating to, or constituting through traffic.” - Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Steve is looking around the room he was just led into. It’s nice and all, but he’s looking for one thing. An exit. He’s never been here before and now he know’s how to get in, but right now he’s trying to plan an escape route. But it’s not for what you might think. Sometimes escape routes are necessary and proper.  
“So can I leave through that door?”
He asks the wedding coordinator.
What ever happens to the ministers after a wedding? You hardly see them once the nuptials are over. Once their role is complete, they simply slip away. And so that’s what Steve was planning too.
“Ok, I’m gonna go and get my things then.”
Steve quietly passed through the approved exit, walking towards his car where he planned to wait until he would be needed.
The sound of an old time siren winding up filled the car. It was 1932 again and there was a fire. A bright red fire truck was on its way. Then he woke up. It was simply the alarm on his phone going off. That was Steve’s cue that he would be needed soon. He retraced his steps back from his car, made his way to the door. It was locked. There wasn’t even a handle to pull. It was an exit only. In his grogginess from having just woken he racked his brain on how to enter. He couldn’t go through the front, everybody would notice him. There was a special way to enter for the officiating party. Now he was wishing he had paid more attention earlier.  
“This could get embarrassing.”
He thought to himself.
How many times do we plan our escapes and forget about the entrance. The Bible says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” - Proverbs 14:12 It’s easy to look for our own way. Sure, we want to know the way in. However, we always look for a way out as well. Just in case something goes wrong and we need to escape. That’s not a bad thing. Every building needs to post evacuation routes. However, there is a place we need to stay. A place where we are eternally safe. Do we know how to get in? Do we know how to be with God? It’s easy to find an exit. They’re all around us. All of those exits are one way. An addiction may lead us away from God, getting us back, that’s another story. Repentance, it simply means to turn around. When we repent we are turning from the paths that lead away from the Lord and drawing closer to Him.
“Hello”
“Hey Christina, I’m in the parking lot, how do I get in again?”
It was Steve on the phone.
“No problem, I’m heading out your way anyway, I’ll take you back.”
Jesus said, “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” - John 14:6 There are a lot of one way exits, but there are no permanent ones with God. There’s always a way back to Him. Ultimately He sent Jesus as The Way. And He’s never more than a call away. He is the ultimate arterial route to God.

Daily Journaling Questions:
  1. How did I help someone in kindness today?
  2. What did I learn today?
  3. What am I thankful for?
  4. Who did I love today?
  5. What am I dreaming of?
  6. What about today do I want to remember forever?
  7. What are my goals for tomorrow?
Thanks for reading,

Jake

Friday, March 6, 2015

Gratefulness Shining Through


“Love is a game that two can play and both win.” - Eva Gabor

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation of our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. - 1 John 4:9-11

Propitiate: “to gain or regain the favor or goodwill of” - Merriam-Webster Dictionary

As humans we have an intense desire to earn what we have. Well, most of us do anyway. But, even people pre-disposed to stealing from and taking advantage of others want to earn what they have. They may steal, and cheat, and rob, but they still have to live with guilt. They still have to live with the fear of being found out. From the time we can comprehend we are taught that nothing is free, that everything must be worked for and earned. Sure, we may receive a gift every now and then, but someone still had to work for it. Even the things that are stolen must be worked for. Our salvation is no different. Salvation comes at a price. It’s not free. It’s valuable and it costs a ton. In fact it costs more than we’ll ever be able to repay. The funny thing about us is that, we often want to pay, or at least chip in on our salvational debt. I can hear Dana Carvey imitated George Bush in his nasally voice now. “Can’t do it.” “Not gonna happen.” It’s free, it’s a gift. There’s no possible way we can help God out on paying that bill. Trying to pay our way to salvation is like a toddler helping to pay for dinner with a monopoly dollar. The act is sweet, but as an adult we understand its folly. No bill goes unpaid. Every bill is paid by someone. However, some bills aren’t paid by the end user. Some are paid by another. A stolen candy bar is paid for by the merchant. A new bike is paid for by a mom. And salvation has been paid for by Christ. It’s done, it’s over, the bill is paid, and we don’t have the currency to chip in. I remember wanting a bike when I was a kid. I think it was $700 dollars or something.  here was no way I could have paid for it. I was seven, I couldn’t get a job, I didn’t have access to the kind of currency needed to pay for the bike. It was like that with most of the gifts we received as kids. Could you imagine rejecting the greatest gift ever as a kid because you didn’t have a way to pay for it? It’s the same with salvation. It’s a gift. There’s no way we can pay. But we can accept. God is pleading for us to accept. He can’t return it and get what He paid for back. In some ways the greatest act of stealing is by refusing a gift. Because when we refuse a gift we’re saying to the giver. “You’re time, your resources, your effort at buying this gift for me doesn’t matter.”  Let’s not waste Jesus’ time on the Cross. Let’s not tell God that His Son isn’t valuable and worth our acceptance. Let’s receive that love, that gift, and that promise. There is no gift greater than the gift freely given by our Maker. Not even that $700 bicycle I wanted so badly. “You were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” - 1 Corinthians 6:20 When we accept that greatest gift ever given, something changes. Everything changes. Not because we’re trying to pay God back for what He did, but because we can’t help but reciprocate and spread the greatest love ever portrayed and given. When we truly accept a gift in our hearts we can’t help but be grateful. Let’s be grateful. It will show in everything we do. It’s the key to God’s love shining through our lives. It’s the source of the truest of loves. And true love has no losers.

Daily Journaling Questions:
  1. How did I help someone in kindness today?
  2. What did I learn today?
  3. What am I thankful for?
  4. Who did I love today?
  5. What am I dreaming of?
  6. What about today do I want to remember forever?
  7. What are my goals for tomorrow?
Thanks for reading,

Jake

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Knowing Christ?

“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.” - G.K. Chesterton

We may throw the dice, but the LORD determines how they fall. - Proverbs 16:33

Straw man: “a weak or imaginary opposition (as an argument or adversary) set up only to be easily confuted” - Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Did Jesus exist? Did He rise from the dead? Is the Bible true? Is Christianity merely a means to gain power and money? The popular politically correct answers to these questions today are, probably, no, a little bit, and yes. That is, Jesus probably did exist, but He didn’t rise from the dead. The Bible has truth in it, but it’s also full of myth and its truth is relative. And Christianity exists mostly because people used it to gain power and or money. What do you think? Here’s what I know. I know that Jesus is real because He’s changed my life. I know that God cares about us because of Jesus’ death. And I also know the skeptic wouldn’t even consider this an argument. But to that skeptic I ask them to prove love. Love is a feeling we all know. Still there’s no empirical evidence it exists. We see the effects of love all around us. But they could just as easily be the effects of people trying to gain a foothold in society. The skeptic could say that my mind is creating an experience. I say, God created my mind. How many times have you heard someone disprove Santa Clause, then equate Christ with Santa.  t’s easy to set up a straw-man, knock it down, and then call the straw-man Jesus. But how many skeptics would die for their skepticism. The people who have faced the choice of rejecting Jesus or life and died for their decision can’t be counted. Ten of Jesus’ original disciples died for their for their belief. Paul the greatest Apostle and arguably the greatest Christian ever to live, died for Christ. None of these men ever gained personal wealth or great power. Sure, they had influence, but their political power was nearly non-existent. It’s true that through the ages, Christianity has risen in power. It’s been used terribly to wield personal influence and gain riches. However, it’s also true that no belief has ever been attacked like the belief in Jesus. No belief has overcome abuse and doubt like the belief in Christ. It’s because Jesus is the only person to live who’s ever claimed to be the Son and the Word of God and been taken seriously. It’s because of the undeniable credibility of the Bible. And it’s against all odds that Christianity even exists today, let alone that it influences more people than any other belief system in the world. But then again, it’s God who determines the outcome of everything. God is not affected by odds, period. And if one were to count the odds, they would say there is a God. They would say that there is a God and that He loves you. They would say that there is a God and that He sent His only begotten Son to die for you and me. Go ahead and doubt. Go ahead and consider the odds. Go ahead... But consider these words by George MacDonald. “How often we look upon God as our last and feeblest resource! We go to Him because we have nowhere else to go. And then we learn that the storms of life have driven us, not upon the rocks, but into the desired haven.”

Daily Journaling Questions:
  1. How did I help someone in kindness today?
  2. What did I learn today?
  3. What am I thankful for?
  4. Who did I love today?
  5. What am I dreaming of?
  6. What about today do I want to remember forever?
  7. What are my goals for tomorrow?
Thanks for reading,

Jake

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Cognizant of Creation


“One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.” - Dale Carnegie

But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? - Job 12:7-9

Cognizant: “knowledge of something especially through personal experience” - Merriam-Webster Dictionary

What’s a better alarm clock than a morning in nature? The cool light, the birds sweetly chirping, the smell of fresh air. And what’s better to relax us than an evening in creation? The warmth of a sunset, the soft cooing of a dove, the world going to sleep. For some of us it’s been a while since we’ve experienced the beauty of nature. Some of us have no desire to experience it. However, we all need it. Whether we enjoy it or not, nature is a requirement for survival. Many of us separate ourselves from it, sometimes for good reason. Most humans have moved past the need to “survive” in the elements. We’ve built societies and cultures that protect us from having to “rough it,” in the outdoors. God made us to do that. However, we could all do ourselves good by appreciating what God has created. We’re a part of it. In fact, we were made to be in charge of it. Too often people argue about how to handle creation simply because of political differences. To hear some talk, you would think that half the people would love nothing more but to destroy every tree, bird, and plant on the face of the earth. And to hear those people talk, you would think that the other half would love nothing more than to destroy most of humanity in an effort to save a couple fish. I don’t think there are very many people who want nature or humanity destroyed. However, we could all use being a little more cognizant of the value of creation. That includes the wilds of nature and the civilizations of cities. We were made to be stewards of God’s creation. And that’s what we should be. Let’s not let our dislike of another person’s political views prevent us from doing what is right. But let’s not let our efforts to do the right thing give us a superiority complex either. Humanity is still learning how nature works. Can we reduce our footprint in the world? Maybe. Probably. But the simple act of living produces a footprint. And sometimes that footprint isn’t a bad thing. In everything we do, we should be trying to join our footprint with the footprint of Jesus. After all, He’s the One who loved us enough to create everything we know. He’s the One who created footprints in the first place.

Daily Journaling Questions:
  1. How did I help someone in kindness today?
  2. What did I learn today?
  3. What am I thankful for?
  4. Who did I love today?
  5. What am I dreaming of?
  6. What about today do I want to remember forever?
  7. What are my goals for tomorrow?
Thanks for reading,

Jake

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Problem In Front Of You


“The key is this: Meet today’s problems with today’s strength. Don’t start tackling tomorrow’s problems until tomorrow. You do not have tomorrow’s strength yet. You simply have enough for today.” - Max Lucado

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. - Philippians 4:6

Enigma: “someone or something that is difficult to understand or explain” - Merriam-Webster Dictionary

“Miller get over here NOW!”
Dust flew with each of Miller’s steps as he ran the safe route to sergeant Wright.
“Hold these wires steady. I’m trying to figure out how this thing works. You got it?”
Private Miller never thought he would be in this situation, but here he was, holding a couple wires steady while his sergeant and friend worked on the dismantlement. He could feel his forehead beading up with sweat. But whose wasn’t? It was probably 110 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade, and they were smack dab in the middle of the blazing sun.
“Stupid bombs, stupid war, stupid people…”
He thought, considering that his life was in jeopardy for something he could care less about.
“Stupid, stupid, stupid… Why did I decide on the Army again? So stupid!”
The thoughts continued.
But this was his job now. No reason to wonder why. No reason to rebel. Sometimes people just end up places they don’t want to be, doing things they don’t want to do, for all the right reasons in the world.

Has that ever been you? Have you ever wondered, “Why me?  Why now?  Why this?” We all have. And it doesn’t help. The answer is elusive at best. We’ve all heard the rebuttal, “Why NOT me..?” But that doesn’t necessarily help. It maybe gives some purpose to our predicament, but it doesn’t necessarily make it, “More better,” as a kid would say. There are times in our lives when we’ll all be faced with problems. Problems that aren’t ours. A homeless man, deathbeds, love lost, depression, suicide, a missing teen. The list could fill pages and pages. It’s not our job to decide the problems we get to face and take care of on that list. Our problem is what we’re going to do about the problem right in front of us. Soldiers at war have to face the problems of improvised explosive devices, insurgents, enemies, bullets and bombs. You can’t just pass by a roadside bomb. It will kill you! Something has to be done about it. Do we face problems we see in the same way?

“Got it!”
“You’re free Miller. We did it. Another helpless bomb to add to the collection.”
The words of sergeant Wright replayed in Josh Millers head over and over as he lay trying to go to sleep that night. “We did it…” “Another helpless bomb?”

The problems we face can become helpless, when we choose to act with Jesus. We’ll be hurt. Not every bomb will be defused so simply. Not every life will be saved. But with Jesus there is peace. Peace that there is more. Peace that war and hurt and grief will one day be no more. Peace that as the Bible says, “Passes all understanding.” * With the peace of Jesus, war is helpless.

*Philippians 4:7

Daily Journaling Questions:

How did I help someone in kindness today?
What did I learn today?
What am I thankful for?
Who did I love today?
What am I dreaming of?
What about today do I want to remember forever?
What are my goals for tomorrow?

Thanks for reading,
Jake 

Monday, March 2, 2015

Healing The Hurt



“I sing my sorrows and paint my joy.” - Joni Mitchell 

And he who had received the five talents came forward, bring five talents more, saying, “Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made fiver talents more.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” - Matthew 25:20-21

Heal: “alleviate (a person's distress or anguish)” - New Oxford American Dictionary

There’s hurt in this world. Some of us see it every day, some rarely look. But we all come across it at points in our lives. Whether in a show on TV, a friend at work, or a family member. People hurt. We all hurt at times. It’s part of life. A sad part. But hurt doesn’t have to define. It doesn’t have to control or manipulate. It doesn’t have to have the affect we think it does. Why? Because we are not powerless beings. No, we don’t have the ability to eradicate hurt. Not even close. But we do have the power to heal. And it’s not as hard or as complicated as we might think. The healing starts with a decision. It’s not a hard one. It’s not even as hard as deciding what to pack in a suitcase. One decision. That decision is to look. To look hurt straight in the face. Because when we decide to look hurt straight in the face it pulls out of us something. Care. You see, instead of seeing hurting people we often look at the “losers” on the sidewalk. Instead of seeing wounds we look at the results. A beggar, a drug addict, a divorce, or maybe even tears staring back at in you the mirror. We were built to care for wounds and the hurt they cause. But it takes work. Too often we pass by that work and assuage our feelings with reasoning. We reason to ourselves that people get themselves into their own messes, so they can get themselves out. We reason to ourselves that anyone who really wants a job could get one, but it’s easier to ask for a handout. We reason and reason and reason. But it’s not working is it? People don’t always just pull themselves up by the bootstraps. They don’t always recover from addiction. And they don’t always bounce back from abuse. That’s where we come in. People helping people. Because there’s power in a touch, in a feel, in a care. And do you know where that power comes from. It was given to us by our Creator. Helping others isn’t something that evolves. Empathy doesn’t just build over generations. Compassion doesn’t spring forth from nothing. They come from a created heart. It doesn’t make sense to care about others. How can risking ourselves for a penniless stranger be good for us? It won’t make us rich all by itself. It won’t give us health or nourish our bodies. It won’t necessarily help us be happier either. But it’s our job. And that’s what it comes down to sometimes. We were built for this, whether it’s healthy, or fun, or what we want to do. We were built to care. We were built to heal. And so…

We pray… “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” - Psalm 51-10 
God promises… “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” - Ezekiel 36:26

Daily Journaling Questions:
  1. How did I help someone in kindness today?
  2. What did I learn today?
  3. What am I thankful for?
  4. Who did I love today?
  5. What am I dreaming of?
  6. What about today do I want to remember forever?
  7. What are my goals for tomorrow?
Thanks for reading,
Jake