Sow with a view to righteousness, reap in accordance with kindness. Hosea 10:12 (NASB)

Admonish the idlers, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all of them. See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all. 1 Thessalonians 5:14–15

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This beautiful lily was growing in Anchorage, Alaska.

When I was about 10 years old, I bought my sister a set of checkers for her birthday. She wasn’t impressed. But I was excited: I would now have an opportunity to play checkers with her (and hopefully beat her) because she had a set of checkers. I gave that gift I wanted to receive. But my plan didn’t work very well; she didn’t like to play checkers. I just thankful she was a forgiving person.

More often our sowing is much more subtle. We make our investments so that we will receive a return. We invest time in a relationship so that we will be able to leverage a business deal. We go to a certain school so that we can get a better shot at a top-shelf job. We raise our children to do well so that they don’t give us a bad name. None of those things are bad in and of themselves. But they would certainly qualify as secondary or even tertiary purposes. Surely there is a better purpose in life than simply getting a good job, or the next deal, or having our children uphold our good name.

Our calling in Christ is to seek good for others, to do good to others, to reflect the righteousness of God. Righteousness, goodness, kindness, patience, and encouragement are on dramatic display in the life and ministry of Jesus. When we believe in him, we not only embrace those good things toward us, but acknowledge that that is the way we should embrace others. That goes for the people in our family, the person next door, and the flood victims two states away.

Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work. Exodus 20:9–10

The sabbath was made for man. Mark 2:27

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This amazing fish was one of hundreds that we saw in Juneau. The salmon were on their spawning run at the time we were there.

When I was a young boy in Sunday school, my teacher was a godly man, a carpenter, and one who spoke a very real country dialect. “He done [sic] a bad thing, when he took the life of that slave down in Egypt,” he would say. He had an impact on me much more by his presence and example than by his teaching of the Sunday school lesson.

One such lesson was on the Sabbath. There was no subtlety about questions of Saturday versus Sunday. There was no discussion of our freedom to worship on any day we choose. The message was simple: Sunday was for church and not for fishing. Yes, even fishing was not an acceptable Sunday activity in those days – not to mention that all the stores were closed and there was little else to do on a Sunday afternoon. Golf or even football had not reached its prominence as distractions or passions in those days. The idea of not fishing didn’t exactly appeal to me those many years ago. But often the idea of not doing something in order to keep the Sabbath involved doing just that.

Little did I realize at that time that this commandment is an invitation to something far better than giving things up. It is an invitation to find rest in God. There are so many good reasons to do this:

  • You discover that the world can continue to function without you.
  • You discover that you are feeling and experiencing things that were heretofore numbed by busy-ness and hyperactivity.
  • It requires you to acknowledge that you are not God, nor can you function as though you have his resources 24/7.
  • You learn that God has deep truths to speak to quiet hearts.
  • You discover that “in repentance and rest is your peace,” but too often we “would have none of it.” (cf. Isaiah 30:15).
  • You realize that you can accomplish more with fewer hours if you take the time to rest before you begin to work.
  • You enrich your own life and the lives of others as you gather for public worship.
  • You honor God, saying in effect, “I want to give this day to you, Lord God.”

None of this is for God. Nor is the Sabbath something we should serve. Indeed, as we embrace this invitation to worship and to rest, we discover that we are the better for it.

Indeed, you are my lamp, O Lord, the Lord lightens my darkness. 2 Samuel 22:29

Christ says, “I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in the darkness.” John 12:46

Same flower as yesterday; different view and crop. Still beautiful to my way of thinking!

Same flower as yesterday; different view and crop. Still beautiful to my way of thinking!

We were in a pit in the basement of Caiaphas’ palace; the place to which the soldiers had taken Jesus when he was arrested earlier that Thursday evening. There I read Psalm 88, and when I got to the words, “darkness is my only friend,” our guide (who had quietly gotten out of the area) turned off the lights. We were enveloped in total darkness. Silence. Darkness. It was a stunning and sobering experience. We all realized just a tiny bit of Jesus’ suffering in that moment.

But Jesus is the light of the world. A light no darkness can extinguish. How could this be? God lightens our dark moments. God welcomes us into the light of grace and truth. “In his light we see light,” says the psalmist (Psalm 36:9).

Had the light not gone out on Jesus 2000 years ago, however, we would be still locked in the darkness, estrangement, sin, and death. Jesus, the light of the world came, showing the light of God’s love and was snuffed out by those he came to save; the Father who sent him caused him to suffer and die. But Jesus died in perfect faith and overcame death and the grave. Darkness was pierced by the light of his righteousness, and he lives and reigns now from on high, enlightening the souls of all who believe in him.

The more I reflect on the power of faith the more it is clear to me that faith derives its power on the absolute faithfulness of God. Jesus is the light of the world, pure, true, faithful, and good. In his light we see light.

How can a man be in the right before God? If one wished to dispute with him, he could not answer him once in a thousand times. Job 9:2–3 (NASB)

By this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 1 John 3:19–20

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This beautiful flower was growing in Anchorage, Alaska when we visited there in July 2016

Martin Luther had a come to Jesus encounter with God 500 years ago, and came out on the other side with great peace and confidence in God’s grace. Augustine had a similar experience. But it seems few people struggle with the idea of God’s judgment these days. God is so often portrayed as a kindly old grandpa who loves us with little justice or holiness in the mix. He is so often portrayed as a “Oh well, I know you didn’t do everything right, but you weren’t too bad, so it’s OK” kind of judge.

That does not line up with the God of the Bible. Job’s encounter with God – as it is played out especially in the closing few chapters – depict a God of great justice and holiness. He is one who could not be answered once in a thousand times.

What we cannot do, however, Jesus Christ had done for us. His cry from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” is a cry for justice. For Jesus had done nothing wrong. He had fulfilled all righteousness. He had satisfied the righteous demands of the Law, and cried for justice as he offered himself as the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

That is why, even when our hearts condemn us God’s word of mercy, forgiveness, grace and love sustain us. We cannot answer to God on our own. But what we cannot do, God has done through his Son, Jesus Christ. Those who let him do the speaking will find grace and confidence in his good word to us.

I will extol you, O Lord, among the nations, and sing praises to your name. Psalm 18:49

Paul proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance! Acts 28:31 (NIV)

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The beautiful iris was in a vase on the table of our dining car on our train ride from Denali to Whittier, Alaska.

I’m watching the Olympics again this evening, even though I might be one of the very few who are doing so). There have been moments of great applause for various athletes, teams, nations, and records. Something inside of us gets hooked and we jump to our feet when our team wins, or a brilliant performance is given.

God’s praise is a matter of witness to others. We proudly wear our team regalia, jerseys, hats, and colors. We let people know that we love the Texans, Cowboys, Astros, or Cardinals. Sometimes that is contagious. Whether or not it is contagious when it comes to our praise of God, it is proper to wear the colors, wave the cross, sing his praise, and let people know that we acknowledge God’s proper place in our life – whether or others acknowledge him or not.

When athletes win, they get a prize. Olympian gold medal winners receive $25,000 from the US Olympic Committee. They may share that glory and even some money with their friends and family. But there’s a limit to their prizes.

Not so with God! God’s victory through Jesus calls for songs of greatest praise. That’s not just because our emotions get caught up in a momentary accomplishment. We do so because Jesus Christ has fought the ultimate battle with sin and death, and come out as our eternal victor, and gives us the full glory and blessing of his victory. No athlete can do that. For that reason, we say – eternally – Yay God for God!

When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord will answer them. Isaiah 41:17

Let everyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift. Revelation 22:17

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Emerald Lake just north of Carcross, Yukon Territory, Canada

Have you ever been deeply thirsty? Have you ever experienced a thirst that goes beyond I-just-finished-cutting-the-grass-in-the-hot-summer-sun? Most of us have not. Few of us have had a Louis Zamperini kind of saga with day after day of near-death lack of water. His powerful story is told in the book, Unbroken, which also gives witness to God’s powerful work of grace in his life.

Nonetheless, some of us are more spiritually thirsty than we might realize. I say that because we drink all kinds of spiritually polluted water in an effort to quench a thirst that only God can slake. Porn, gossip, materialism, and gratuitous violence all offer a counterfeit relief from a thirst in our souls for the water of life. They make us think we are alive. They offer us a numbing placebo that, like saltwater seems to satisfy, but only drowns our souls in its effluence.

What a blessing it is to realize that our thirst may be slaked by God! Whether we are poor and in need of the solace of God’s eternal treasures, or simply thirsty for truth, God satisfies us with the water of life: a gift of his grace.

When Jesus was on the cross John (19:28) tells us, “After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst.’” Note this was near the very end of his suffering, and remember, too, that Jesus had promised, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6).

Remember, Jesus is the water of life. He satisfies the thirsty soul and promises that whoever drinks of the water that he gives will never be thirsty again. The water he gives will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life. Ahhh…how refreshing!

May the Lord our God incline our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways. 1 Kings 8:58

His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness. 2 Peter 1:3


We walk a fine line between hubris and irresponsibility. On the one hand we must not think of ourselves more highly than we ought. This tautology is self-evident to all but the hopelessly narcissistic. We must all embrace the truth that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “None is righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10). So, does that let us off the hook? After all even Paul says, “I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Romans 7:15). 

On the other hand, however, a plea of “I just couldn’t help myself,” will not help us in court, nor will it help us before the God who judges the thoughts and motives of our hearts. We are culpable. No one is to blame for our actions – even if we have been abused, deceived, or blinded. Our sinfulness will certainly not only be found out, it will condemn us.

That is why we must pray. In fact, prayer is the key to striking the balance between hubris and irresponsibility. In prayer we acknowledge we need help, and we take responsibility for doing what is good and right and in alignment with God’s will. A prayer to for help to stop drinking while planning a weekend binge is no prayer. A failure to pray for God’s help to resist temptation when facing a challenging situation is irresponsible. 

God’s gift to us of his Son, the righteousness of Christ, the forgiveness of sins, the promise of eternal life through the faith in Jesus Christ is truly all we need. We have been saved. But God does not stop there. He moves us with his Holy Spirit to incline our hearts to him and his will and ways. He guides us in the paths of righteousness through his word. He assures us of his love, and graces us with his daily presence. Embracing those gifts, looking to him in humble faith, and seeking to follow him in all our ways puts us on a path of eternal blessing. 

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