A Big Bang Theory Tribute to my Mom

L-R: Howard, Raj, Sheldon, Leonard and Penny

One of my favorite sitcoms is The Big Bang Theory, which follows a group of brainy, socially awkward nerds who work at Cal Tech and struggle to figure out how to navigate life both professionally and socially. 

One of the main characters is a Jewish engineer named Howard Wolowitz (far left in the picture), who, in many ways typifies the stereotypical nerdy Millennial. He lives at home with his mother, who does his laundry, cooks for him and generally treats him like he’s still a child.

In the show, Howard’s mother is never seen but her voice is always heard yelling from another room. It’s actually quite comical. Unfortunately, the real life actress who played Mrs. Wolowitz died unexpectedly in the middle of season 8. As a result, the writers of the show decided that her character would also be written out of the show via an unexpected passing.

In the season 8 episode “The Leftover Thermalization”, there is a power outage and Howard realizes that the food his mom had cooked and stored in the freezer would soon spoil and be gone forever, and so too would one of the last sensory connections to his mother’s memory.

You may know that on Sunday, September 11th, my mother finally succumbed to her weeks long battle with pneumonia. She is now at peace in the presence of her savior, Jesus Christ.

A few days after my mom’s passing, I drove out to spend a few days with my dad, mostly so he wouldn’t have to be alone so soon after my mom’s death.

We found the last of my mom’s spaghetti in the freezer.

One of the first things I wanted to do was survey the food situation. Did we need to go to the grocery store? What was in the house to eat? Truthfully, the food was always my mom’s department, so I wanted to make sure that while I was there, we weren’t eating snacks and junk food for dinner.

As we were charting a plan for meals for the next few days, I had a Big Bang Theory moment when my dad produced a container of my mom’s spaghetti sauce from the freezer. I thought, “this is the last time I will ever eat anything my mom has made.” It was a surreal moment but it reminded me of the one quality that I think most typified my mom, and that was her selflessness.

My mom and dad with Jacob (right) and Joshua (left) – Thanksgiving 2013

One of the ways my mom demonstrated selflessness was through her cooking. Growing up, my mom always made sure everyone was fed and she was pretty good at it.

When I was in 2nd grade, my mom went back to work to help add to the family income. Still, she always found a way to make sure dinner was on the table. 

In high school, my mom went back to school to get her AA degree. Even then, despite the busyness of work AND school, she always had dinner prepared for us to heat up and serve, even when she wasn’t present to eat with us.

My mom with granddaughters Shaina (right) and Charissa – Thanksgiving 2009.

When I was in college, I would often come home very late from studying or working. There was always a plate in the refrigerator for me to heat up.

My mom typified kindness and service to others. She rarely complained even though she worked long hours meeting the needs of others before attending to herself.

She was the glue that held our family together. She stayed connected to me and my siblings even when we weren’t connected to each other.

In the Big Bang Theory episode, Howard decides to invite all his friends over for one last feast of enjoying the cooking of his mom, allowing each person to fondly reflect on how Mrs. Wolowitz had impacted them.

The last photo I took with my mom – Mother’s Day 2022

While my dad and I enjoyed the last of my mom’s spaghetti sauce, we reflected on her kindness and her sacrificial love demonstrated in so many ways, including her cooking.

Though my mom’s presence will be dearly missed, I thank God that she knew and loved Jesus and that she is in God’s presence, free from the health issues that increasingly affected her in her later years.

I thank God that in Christ, we have hope beyond this life, and that through Jesus, we have the assurance that being separated from our loved ones is but a temporary arrangement.  

Rest in Peace Mom!

Cru22 and Covid19

Cru22 was held in downtown Milwaukee at the Wisconsin Center

Jen and I were cautiously anticipating our trip to Milwaukee for Cru22 as it’s been 3 long years since the staff of Cru have convened together for a large staff gathering.

About a week before the conference, we started getting text messages and emails from friends telling us they were sorry that they wouldn’t be able to see us in Milwaukee and sharing their hopes and prayers that we would get better.

We were a bit confused until we realized that another Dave Lowe who is on staff with Cru (FamilyLife) had posted on a work forum that he was going to have to miss the conference due to having Covid. Our friends who saw that post had mistaken the other Dave Lowe for me.

I assured our friends and colleagues that the news of my demise had been greatly exaggerated and that we were indeed planning on attending this much-awaited event.

The “Bronze Fonz” is a popular Milwaukee tourist photo opp that was just minutes from our hotel. Are we dating ourselves by saying we grew up watching “Happy Days” before re-runs?

The mood and the atmosphere of the conference was much different than years past. 

Not only has it been several years since being together, but our location, which was the same for nearly 50 years, was completely different.

There have also been quite a number of leadership changes in the past two years. Cru has a new Global president (only the 3rd in our 70+ year history), a new U.S. Ministries Director, a new Campus Ministry Executive Director and a new City Executive Director (the division we work in).

Still, it was great to be together with friends and co-workers, many whom we haven’t seen either in person or even virtually for at least 3 years.

The emphasis was on revisiting our roots and reaffirming our calling, which is to help fulfill the Great Commission by Wining others to Christ, Building them up in their faith and then Sending them out to do likewise.

Jen shares a personal ministry story to our Cru Embark colleagues

We spent the first few days with our specific ministry where our leaders crystallized our unique calling and mission to 20-Somethings: to transition, holistically form and launch 20-Somethings to find their place in God’s story.

Jen had the opportunity to share a story about her friend Grace (whom we highlighted in last month’s letter) and how Jen has helped Grace to uncover some of her unique gifts and discover her passion and calling for ministry within the art community.

Our large group sessions took place at the nearby UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena, adjacent to the Wisconsin Center.

As our conference shifted from smaller gatherings among the different Cru ministries to the large group sessions with all of our staff together, we started to get reports that people whom we had been in close contact with early in the conference had gotten sick and tested positive for Covid.

Sure enough, I (Dave) started feeling some mild cold-like symptoms after the first full day of large group sessions. As a precaution, we stayed in our hotel room the next day and watched the sessions online. 

We were able to watch many of the Cru22 sessions online from our hotel room.

We were able to secure a Covid test that next day and I tested negative. I assumed I just had a cold. Still, not wanting to get others sick, we isolated ourselves and finished out the conference by watching online in our hotel room.

While we were encouraged by the speakers and the different reports about how Cru ministries are reaching people around the world with the good news of Jesus, we were a bit bummed that we weren’t able to connect with as many of our friends and fellow Cru staff as we had expected.

After returning home, I suspected I might be developing a sinus infection, so I went to an Urgent Care where I took another Covid test. This time I tested positive. Jen then tested positive as well. 

Fortunately, our Covid symptoms were mild and never too serious. We’re glad to share that we’ve both recovered from our Covid experience, though perhaps I should’ve taken the work forum post from my namesake (Dave Lowe) more seriously!

As our summer winds down and we transition to the Fall, we would appreciate your continued prayers as we seek to transition, holistically form and launch 20-Somethings to find their place in God’s story!

Unearthing Hidden Treasures

Have you heard about this person who bought a bust of a man at a thrift store for $35 and it turned out to be a 2000 year-old ancient Roman artifact? (see bit.ly/ThriftFind)

It got me thinking about whether we have unknown valuables stashed somewhere in our house.

Last fall we had a slab leak at our house and part of the repair process involved replacing the carpet in our house. Tucked in the deep crevices of our closet was a large Arrowhead water bottle I’ve been throwing all my spare change in for years.

This bottle was filled about 35-40% with silver coins and probably weighed at least 75 pounds.

It was about 35% full but when I had to move it to replace the carpet, it was so heavy I thought there was no way I’d be able to move it when it gets full (not to mention at the rate I was going, it might not get filled in my life-time).

The smart person would have taken all the coins to one of those coin counting machines you see at your local grocery store. But I’m not the smart person; I’m the cheap person, unwilling to forfeit 20% of the total value to someone else. 

So I got a wad of coin wrappers from my bank and proceeded to count and wrap all the coins myself (there were no pennies; only silver).

As I counted and wrapped, I paid attention to the dates on the coins. I hoped I might find an old coin or two or maybe even some real silver coins hidden in the pile. Perhaps a surprise find that might make me the subject of a sensational headline: “Mission Viejo Man Finds Rare Coin in Closet – Currently Shopping for a Tesla or Range Rover.”

It turned out that most of the coins were fairly recent, less than 30 years old. But I did find a number of nickels and dimes from the 1960’s and 70’s. 

While counting dimes I found two coins that at first glance looked like metal slugs you might find on the ground at a construction site. I came very close to throwing them away.

However, upon further examination, I realized these two coins weren’t slugs at all, but dimes that were older than the typical Roosevelt dimes that have been in circulation since the 1940’s.

One of the dimes is an 1877 Liberty dime and the other coin is so worn that it’s hard to determine the exact date but I’m reasonably certain it’s a Liberty dime from the early 1800’s.

Before you cry “Eureka”, know that I learned that these coins are much too worn to have any substantial value, but they are still interesting finds, nonetheless. It simply confirms to me that you never know what hidden treasures are buried within the landscape of our stuff.

Part of our ministry to Young Professionals is helping them to find their unique place of ministry in God’s Kingdom. Often this involves helping them unearth the hidden treasures of unique talents with which God has blessed them.

Grace and Jen pose together in front of two of Grace’s paintings on display at an AAPI Art Exhibit. Click the photo to go to Grace’s Etsy store.

I think about Grace, a Young Professional Jen has been coaching and mentoring. Grace studied to be an engineer and worked as an Environmental Engineer for several years before getting laid off.

It turns out that Grace is incredibly creative and artistic and she now had the space to explore these talents. 

As part of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Jen and I attended an Art Exhibit at Saddleback Church, highlighting artists of Asian American/Pacific Islander descent. Grace was one of the highlighted artists.

Imagine the power and freedom when you discover your passions and learn to express your talents in a way that glorifies God and brings joy and blessing to others!

CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT GRACE’S ETSY STORE

Thank you for your partnership that enables us to minister to Young Professionals, helping them to unleash their incredibly unique talents in new and creative ways.

A Mark of Immaturity

1 Corinthians 3

1Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to mature Christians. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in the Christian life. 2I had to feed you with milk and not with solid food, because you couldn’t handle anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready, 3for you are still controlled by your own sinful desires. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your own desires? You are acting like people who don’t belong to the Lord. 4When one of you says, “I am a follower of Paul,” and another says, “I prefer Apollos,” aren’t you acting like those who are not Christians? 5Who is Apollos, and who is Paul, that we should be the cause of such quarrels? Why, we’re only servants. Through us God caused you to believe. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. 6My job was to plant the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God, not we, who made it grow. 7The ones who do the planting or watering aren’t important, but God is important because he is the one who makes the seed grow. 8The one who plants and the one who waters work as a team with the same purpose. Yet they will be rewarded individually, according to their own hard work. 9We work together as partners who belong to God. You are God’s field, God’s building—not ours.  (1 Corinthians 3:1-9, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

According to Wikipedia, between 65 and 75 percent of Americans identify as Christians. Does that sound right?

Regardless of whether you consider wikipedia to be a reliable source of information on this subject, there is no disputing that a high percentage of Americans identify as Christians over other religious ideologies and non-religious philosophies.

However, the evidence of daily life, whether in the physical or online world, doesn’t seem to support the notion that so many people identify themselves as Christians. The majority of people simply don’t seem to act like Christians.

What is the problem?

Paul gives some insight in this passage. A major issue that the Corinthian church was dealing with was the problem of name-dropping and identifying and aligning themselves with certain religious leaders. It was the source of much disunity and division within this church. I wrote about this issue in a previous blog post here.

In this passage Paul plainly states that many within this Corinthian church are not mature. In verse 2, he states that he had to feed them milk and not solid food because they weren’t ready for solid food.

Now there’s nothing wrong if you are not able to eat solid food depending on the circumstances.

Think about a baby. A baby doesn’t have teeth and their digestive system is not ready for solid foods. As a result, they drink milk, either from their mother’s breasts or from some pre-made formula. As they grow and mature, however, the parents typically will begin to introduce various forms of solid food into their baby’s diet. At first, they might feed their child mashed or pureed vegetables or protein, gradually moving up to soft, chewable foods like Cheerios or small, soft vegetables or fruit pieces.

But imagine a toddler who hasn’t graduated to any form of solid food. Does that seem normal? If you saw what looked like a normal, active 5 year old crawl into his mother’s lap in order to take nourishment from his mother’s breasts as if he were a 5 month old, you would probably suspect something wasn’t normal.

This is the problem in the Corinthian church. There’s no problem with needing milk, spiritually speaking, if you are a baby Christian. But when Paul says, “And you still aren’t ready” [for solid food], the implication is that they SHOULD be ready for it.

Why weren’t they ready for it? Paul says that the reason they had not developed to a more mature point is because “you are still controlled by your own sinful desires.”

Hence, a primary marker of maturity among Christians is they are no longer controlled by their own selfish desires. Another way of putting it is immature Christians are still controlled by selfish desires.

This could be one explanation for how so many people in our country could claim to be Christian and yet their lives don’t reflect it.

Of course there are many indicators of selfishness, but one that Paul highlights here is a person’s penchant for aligning themselves with another leader or personality. Paul says that this is wrong and selfish because it robs God of his rightful worship as the ultimate person responsible for the spiritual growth and development that we may experience and attaches it to someone who is merely God’s servant doing God’s work.

If we want to move past the baby Christian phase, it will become necessary for us to learn to put aside our self-centeredness, including our tendency to elevate and idolize leadership personalities and begin to make God Himself the central focus of our lives and our spiritual development.

Reflection

What do you think Paul means when he talks about feeding them with milk? Additionally, what is meant by solid food?

As you evaluate your own spiritual development, would you consider yourself a Christian who feeds on milk or solid food? What reasons would you give to support your conclusion?

What are some practical ways a young Christian can move from milk to solid food?

Who are some Christian leadership personalities that you think some Christians may be prone to align themselves with? 

What steps can you take to ensure that you don’t improperly idolize those who may be significantly influential in your life?

 

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

The Shortest (Non) Prayer in the Bible

Nehemiah 2

1Early the following spring, during the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes’ reign, I was serving the king his wine. I had never appeared sad in his presence before this time. 2So the king asked me, “Why are you so sad? You aren’t sick, are you? You look like a man with deep troubles.”

Then I was badly frightened, 3but I replied, “Long live the king! Why shouldn’t I be sad? For the city where my ancestors are buried is in ruins, and the gates have been burned down.”

4The king asked, “Well, how can I help you?”

With a prayer to the God of heaven, 5I replied, “If it please Your Majesty and if you are pleased with me, your servant, send me to Judah to rebuild the city where my ancestors are buried.”

6The king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked, “How long will you be gone? When will you return?” So the king agreed, and I set a date for my departure. (Nehemiah 2:1-6, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

The book of Nehemiah is a classic study on effective leadership.

Nehemiah is a Jew in exile who happens to be the cupbearer to the King. When Nehemiah gets word that the wall in the city of Jerusalem is in ruins he’s understandably distraught. The king notices Nehemiah’s sullen demeanor, which could have been disastrous for Nehemiah given his position, but fortunately, the king is compassionate and inquires about the nature of Nehemiah’s anguish.

Nehemiah shares about the news he received concerning Jerusalem and to Nehemiah’s surprise, the king asks, “well, how can I help you?”

What comes next in the text is what I find most interesting. It says, “With a prayer to the God of heaven, I replied…”

Nehemiah prayed to God before making his request to the king, a request which was certainly bold in nature.

It might be easy to overlook the significance of this verse. After all, it seems quite reasonable that Nehemiah would pray before making such a bold request of the king.

But think about it for just a moment. Did Nehemiah really pray? It’s not likely he had the time to pause, kneel, close his eyes and pray to the Lord, at least not as we tend to think about prayer.

This “prayer” was made in the middle of a back-and-forth conversation with the king. Nehemiah did not have the time to beseech the Lord in the traditional way we think of prayer. It would not have even been appropriate for Nehemiah to make a traditional prayer in the king’s presence while he awaited a response from Nehemiah to his question.

So if Nehemiah didn’t actually pray, how is it that the text can say Nehemiah prayed?

I think the key is the phrase “with a prayer to the God of heaven, I replied…”

Nehemiah didn’t stop to pray as we think about it. Instead, he prayed AS he replied to the king. In other words, at the same time he was engaging the king, he was inviting the God of heaven to give him wisdom, to give him favor in the eyes of the king and to grant the request he was about to make.

This may be a paradigm shift in how you think about prayer. Prayer is not JUST a focused time where we lift our requests up to God. Prayer is not JUST a dedicated time of solitude where we pause, reflect and lift up our praises and requests to God. Instead, prayer is an attitude of dependence and reliance on God that we can practice at all times. Prayer, essentially, is directing our thoughts towards God, whether it is audible or not, visible or invisible.

In Nehemiah’s case, he obviously didn’t stop, pause and lift up an audible prayer to God. Nehemiah’s prayer was in reality more of a heart attitude toward God in which he, in that moment, was acknowledging his dependence on God and exercising faith that God would speak through him and grant him favor in the king’s eyes.

And God honored Nehemiah’s prayer and granted his request before the king.

You may not be able to set aside hours each day for dedicated prayer. You may not be able to set aside even 30 minutes, though this discipline can have many benefits. But no matter how much time you may have to set aside for uninterrupted prayer, Nehemiah’s example demonstrates that we can pray at any moment and dedicated, focused time in prayer is not requisite in order to connect with the God of heaven!

Reflection

What has been your practice and discipline with prayer in the past?

How have you thought of prayer in the past? How have you defined and understood the nature and practice of prayer?

In what ways does Nehemiah’s example challenge your view and understanding of prayer?

In what ways can you implement Nehemiah’s example and make prayer more of an ongoing connection with God in which you are constantly directing your thoughts towards Him?

Photo by Rock Staar on Unsplash

 

 

LinkedIn, CBMC and Helping Young Adults Embark

I was recently invited to attend a quarterly breakfast for the Orange County Chapter of CBMC (Christian Businessman’s Connection). 

Marc Ottestad, the coordinator of the group, had connected with me via LinkedIn, thinking that our similar interests and passion for coaching, mentoring and seeing men make an impact for Jesus in their jobs might make for some natural opportunities to collaborate.

When I showed up at the breakfast, I noticed that most of the men were my age or even older. I wasn’t sure what to expect or how this breakfast might directly help me.

At one point, we were asked to shuffle tables to meet some new people and discuss what we heard from the speaker.

I found another table and ended up sitting next to the only guy in the room who was younger than 30.

I introduced myself to Alec and learned that he had recently graduated from Biola and was working at expanding a website business.

When Alec asked what I do, I shared that I help Young Professionals thrive spiritually and live with purpose.

Alec is a recent graduate of Biola University who is seeking biblical community while working to build and expand his website business.

I explained that my wife and I had spent many years ministering to college students but we made a shift in our ministry focus a few years ago because we had seen a void in Christian circles in serving the needs of Young adults, who are often struggling to find the kind of community and support that they need when they are undergoing the biggest changes and most stressful transitions of their life.

Alec’s response was both sad and affirming at the same time. He said, “you pretty much just summed up my current life situation.”

It’s sad that there seems to be so few resources and support for young professionals like Alec. I’ve spent many hours thinking through this issue, trying to determine why this is the case. 

My conclusions are not researched…they are just opinions, yet it makes sense to me.

If you think about it, most churches are built around a family model. Nearly every church serves the needs of families – from kids programs to youth events as well as support for parents and marriages.

This is an extremely good thing because, if you haven’t noticed, the traditional family unit, with biblical family values is under attack in our culture. The church may be the last bastion of hope to salvage a biblical understanding of the family unit.

But that same model works against Young Professionals, who are in a season where they have often left their family of origin and are yet to start a family of their own. They are in an in-between season of life – living on their own, learning to live as an adult with real-life responsibilities.

In this in-between phase, which is lasting longer for current 20-Somethings than it has for previous generations, they are looking for others like them with whom they can experience the struggles and transitions of becoming an adult.

Jen and I regularly connect with Young Adults who share their frustrations with attending churches where they struggle to find other Young Adults.

I have heard a number of church leaders tell me that a specific ministry meeting the needs of Young Adults is unnecessary. Citing the benefits of inter-generational worship and community, they contend that Young Adults should simply get involved in the life of the church,.

I believe this view is short-sighted. Research demonstrates that Young Professionals DO want mentors and they DO want to be involved in the life of the church. So in one sense, the idea of inter-generational worship and involvement makes sense. But a weekly men’s group cannot fill the void that’s lacking for many Young Adults – the need for a family-like experience with peers while they are in the season of single-ness.

We don’t have all the answers and we’re still learning best practices as we seek to minister to this audience. But we are seeking to fill the gap in various ways. 

After meeting Alec for lunch, I was able to connect him to a Leadership Development group that I recently launched. One of the guys in the group is also a Biola grad with whom Alec was acquainted. 

We’re also exploring the benefits of coaching. It may not meet all of Alec’s needs, but our hope is that it will provide a few missing elements that will help Alec, and others like him, to thrive spiritually and live with purpose during this season of life!

 

You Can Run But You Can’t Hide!

1The LORD gave this message to Jonah son of Amittai: 2“Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh! Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.”

3But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction in order to get away from the LORD. He went down to the seacoast, to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish. He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping that by going away to the west he could escape from the LORD.

4But as the ship was sailing along, suddenly the LORD flung a powerful wind over the sea, causing a violent storm that threatened to send them to the bottom. 5Fearing for their lives, the desperate sailors shouted to their gods for help and threw the cargo overboard to lighten the ship. And all this time Jonah was sound asleep down in the hold. 6So the captain went down after him. “How can you sleep at a time like this?” he shouted. “Get up and pray to your god! Maybe he will have mercy on us and spare our lives.”

7Then the crew cast lots to see which of them had offended the gods and caused the terrible storm. When they did this, Jonah lost the toss. 8“What have you done to bring this awful storm down on us?” they demanded. “Who are you? What is your line of work? What country are you from? What is your nationality?”

9And Jonah answered, “I am a Hebrew, and I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.” 10Then he told them that he was running away from the LORD.

The sailors were terrified when they heard this. “Oh, why did you do it?” they groaned. 11And since the storm was getting worse all the time, they asked him, “What should we do to you to stop this storm?”

12“Throw me into the sea,” Jonah said, “and it will become calm again. For I know that this terrible storm is all my fault.”

13Instead, the sailors tried even harder to row the boat ashore. But the stormy sea was too violent for them, and they couldn’t make it. 14Then they cried out to the LORD, Jonah’s God. “O LORD,” they pleaded, “don’t make us die for this man’s sin. And don’t hold us responsible for his death, because it isn’t our fault. O LORD, you have sent this storm upon him for your own good reasons.”

15Then the sailors picked Jonah up and threw him into the raging sea, and the storm stopped at once! 16The sailors were awestruck by the LORD’s great power, and they offered him a sacrifice and vowed to serve him.

17Now the LORD had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights. (Jonah 1:1-17, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

Earlier this evening, I saw the following tweet from renowned pastor and theologian, Tim Keller:

Interestingly, Jonah chapter one outlines this exact situation.

Jonah was a prophet of Israel at a time when the biggest, baddest guys in the neighborhood were the Assyrians. The Assyrians were the super power of the day, overtaking and subjecting every nation and every culture to its will and dominance.

Imagine Jonah’s surprise when God tells Jonah that He wants him to go to Nineveh, the capital city of Assyria, and announce God’s judgment on the people there. God wants to give the Ninevites a chance to respond to His impending judgment and He wants Jonah to be His prophetic instrument.

Jonah cannot wrap his brain around the idea that God would give the Assyrians an opportunity to repent and be saved. He is so repulsed by the thought that these evil, wicked Assyrians might hear a message of judgment and then repent and be saved that he runs in the opposite direction.

On the surface, it’s easy to throw shade at Jonah for rejecting God’s command and running away. It’s hard to understand why Job resists God instead of just doing what He asks. But actually, Jonah’s response is probably more typical than outlier.

How empathetic and compassionate are you towards the person or the people whom you hate the most? Do you find yourself moving toward them in love as we’re commanded in Scripture or do you find yourself hoping and praying for their destruction? This is the gist of Tim Keller’s tweet above.

This passage from Jonah demonstrates that God is not just a God of the Jews, as most Jews believed, but He has love and compassion for all people, even Gentiles. For the Jew during Jonah’s day, this would have been a complete paradigm shift. For us today, we might say that God is not just the God of my political party, but He is the God of those who have opposing views as well!

Chapter one of Jonah also demonstrates that we cannot hide from God or escape His will and plan for our lives. God’s purposes will be accomplished whether or not we comply with His will.

Lastly, we learn that God can use even our rebellion and resistance to follow Him for His ultimate glory. Even though Jonah resists God, the sailors on the ship are so awed by God’s great power that they sacrifice to Him and promise to serve Him.

Reflection

What are some things God has been telling you to do that you’ve been unwilling to do? Why?

What is the group that would be the most difficult for you to demonstrate love and compassion toward? What makes it difficult?

What are some instances where God used a negative or difficult situation for His ultimate glory?

 

Photo by Maximilian Weisbecker on Unsplash

Are You Good Enough?

Mark 10

17As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

18“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”

20“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

21Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

22At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

23Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”

24The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

26The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”

27Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:17-27, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

This story in Mark 10 is also shared by Matthew in the 19th chapter of his account of the life of Jesus. I wrote about this story about a year ago here, in which I addressed the question of whether or not Jesus requires rich people to give up their possessions in order to be saved.

You can read my thoughts about that in the previous blog post as I’m not intending to regurgitate all my thoughts again here. Instead, I want to focus on an often overlooked part of the exchange Jesus has with this person of extreme wealth.

The passage starts with the man coming to Jesus and asking Jesus what is required to inherit eternal life. But what is often overlooked is how he addresses Jesus. He calls Jesus “good teacher”.

Jesus picks up on this and replies in verse 18, “Why do you call me good?….No one is good except God alone.”

You almost never hear any sermon that focuses on this verse or gives any explanation of why it’s there. In fact, if you just eliminated verse 18 from the story altogether, the main idea and explanation seems to remain unchanged. In other words. Jesus’ response to how the man addressed him does not appear to be central to the main point of the story, which is the idea that coming to Jesus and inheriting eternal life requires us to recognize our spiritual brokenness and our need for a savior.

So if Jesus’ response is not important to the main idea in the story, why is it there?

Jesus is using this exchange to fundamentally change our idea of what is considered good.

Think about it. Almost everyone everywhere thinks that making it to heaven is a matter of being a good person and I’ve never met a person who, no matter what bad things they may have done in their lives, didn’t consider themselves to be good. Jesus’s response alters the equation of what is required to gain eternal life, which is the central query of the rich young ruler.

Do you think you’re a good person? Jesus says that ONLY GOD is good. Jesus also indirectly points to his own deity in the process when he asks, “why do you call me good….no one is good except God.” Jesus is pressing the implication that calling him good is tantamount to calling him God, since only God is good.

The rest of the story is simply a process by which Jesus reveals to the rich young ruler that he does not measure up to the standard of goodness (perfection) that is required to gain eternal life.

The disciples asked, “Who then can be saved?”

Jesus responded that with man, it is impossible. Why? Because no man can achieve the perfect goodness required to save himself.

But all things are possible with God. Jesus makes the impossible possible through His death on the cross!

Reflection

What has been your concept of goodness in the past? What is the standard you use to determine whether a person is good or not?

Do you agree with people who say that most people are basically good? Why or why not?

Do you think it’s possible for people to save themselves?

What do you think is required to inherit eternal life? How would you explain it to someone else?

 

Photo by Hello I’m Nik on Unsplash

The Power of Gratitude

GRATITUDE. It’s a word that can be hard to come by these days as the past few years have been challenging for a variety of reasons. Yet, I’ve been reflecting on the power of gratitude recently after an experience I had last month.

I had to write an essay for a program that I’m thinking about doing in the fall. The essay seemed simple enough – I had to share how I came to know Christ.

As I started writing the essay I began to think about the person who led me to that personal relationship with Christ. 

I became a Christian right after I turned 15 at a Christian summer camp called Hume Lake. I was sitting in the chapel with my church high school group and the speaker, Dewey Bertonlini, was sharing with all of us squirrelly high schoolers what it means to know Christ personally. He said that many of us were probably “on the fence” about making that decision.

My ears kind of perked up at that point. He then shared that if that was the case, we needed to get off the fence and actually make a conscious decision to follow Christ, to make Him the Lord of our lives. Once that happened, all of our sins would be forgiven – past, present and future.

I still have the Hume Lake Decision Bookmark that commemorates the day I made the commitment to follow Christ!

It was at that point, on August 13, 1985, that I asked Christ to be the Lord of my life. I knew I was on the fence and needed to start a relationship with Him. How amazing! 

I started to wonder whatever happened to Dewey. He was so animated and was able to keep my attention at 15. He humbly took the initiative to share Christ with all of us, which is a step of faith. 

I googled his name, found his email and decided to send him a message to express my gratitude. Here’s what I wrote:

“Hello, you don’t know me but I just wanted to thank you for your ministry! I became a Christian back in 1985 between my freshman and sophomore year in high school at Hume Lake. I’m now 51 and have been married for 28 years to my husband Dave. We work for Cru and have been working with young people for the last 30 years. I’ve got twin boys who are in college now. I’m in the process of applying to take some classes in spiritual formation and soul care and am writing my testimony. I’ve never forgotten the impact your talks at Hume Lake made in my life. I distinctly remember you asking the crowd if we were still on the fence in making a decision to follow Christ and I realized I was on the fence and needed to make a decision to follow Him. Thanks for your ministry! I thought I’d look you up online to see what you’ve been up to and I saw your email. I realized I needed to send you a quick email just to thank you for introducing me to Jesus! Here’s a photo of me and my family! Blessings to you and your family. Thanks again for the eternal investment you’re making in people’s lives.”

About a week later, I received this message back from Dewey:

“Jennifer, you Made My Day! I cannot put into words the refreshment your note brought to my parched soul!!! From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU!”

I hesitated a bit before I sent the email to him because it was 37 years ago that this event happened! But when I saw his reply, it reminded me that it’s never too late to express gratitude to someone. Gratitude is so powerful, and God’s timing is perfect.

During this season of Lent I’ve been reflecting on how much God has done for me in sending His Son to die for me. When I sit and think of what my life has become through Christ and how He has changed me and continues to change me to become more like Him, my heart is filled with overflowing gratitude.

So….is there someone who comes to mind for whom you are grateful? It’s never too late to share that gratitude. It could be life changing! In what ways are you grateful for God’s presence in your life?

Thank you for your partnership and ministry to us. We are grateful for you!

NOTE: You can check out Dewey’s blog and podcast at: deweybertolini.com or by clicking the image below.

Is Wealth Immoral? (Part 3)

Ecclesiastes 5

10Those who love money will never have enough. How absurd to think that wealth brings true happiness! 11The more you have, the more people come to help you spend it. So what is the advantage of wealth—except perhaps to watch it run through your fingers!

12People who work hard sleep well, whether they eat little or much. But the rich are always worrying and seldom get a good night’s sleep.

13There is another serious problem I have seen in the world. Riches are sometimes hoarded to the harm of the saver, 14or they are put into risky investments that turn sour, and everything is lost. In the end, there is nothing left to pass on to one’s children. 15People who live only for wealth come to the end of their lives as naked and empty-handed as on the day they were born.

16And this, too, is a very serious problem. As people come into this world, so they depart. All their hard work is for nothing. They have been working for the wind, and everything will be swept away. 17Throughout their lives, they live under a cloud—frustrated, discouraged, and angry.

18Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat well, drink a good glass of wine, and enjoy their work—whatever they do under the sun—for however long God lets them live. 19And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—that is indeed a gift from God. 20People who do this rarely look with sorrow on the past, for God has given them reasons for joy. (Ecclesiastes 5:10-20)


The Daily DAVEotional

You may have seen in the news recently that President Joe Biden has decided to implement a “wealth tax” in his next proposed budget. The idea would be to tax those who make over $100 million a minimum of 20%.

Predictably, some are heralding this move as a positive step as it’s “about time the rich pay their fair share” while others have noted that the majority of taxes collected by the IRS are already paid by the rich, so what is the limit of what is fair?

My point is not to take a side in this particular legislation but to demonstrate that we live in an era where it has become fashionable by many, including Christians, to decry wealth as being immoral. Jesus himself seemed to care for the underserved and underprivileged so it is even asserted by some that Jesus was against wealth.

I wrote about this last year in a series of posts here and here. The problem for Christians who think that wealth is immoral is that there is nowhere in Scripture where wealth is actually condemned. Additionally, many righteous men and women of faith were people of great means.

I explain how these ideas are reconciled biblically in the previous posts but here, in today’s passage, Solomon, one of the wealthiest men in the Biblical record, helps us understand more deeply God’s view of wealth.

Here are some of the highlights:

    • Solomon doesn’t condemn wealth. He himself was EXTREMELY wealthy. But he does point out that the LOVE of money is futile because it cannot bring true happiness (verse 10).
    • One problem that comes along with great wealth is that others come to help you spend it. Many lottery winners have commented on how much more stressful life became when they hit it big. Not only was there the worry of how to keep what they have won but suddenly, everyone you’ve ever known shows up wanting a piece of the pie (verse 11).
    • People who have great wealth can sometimes lose it all because, as Solomon points out, the money is put into risky investments (verses 13-14). How many sad stories are told of athletes who made millions while playing but who are living in poverty because they didn’t know how to manage their money?

Solomon’s admonition against the dangers of wealth can be summed up in verse 15:

People who live only for wealth come to the end of their lives as naked and empty-handed as on the day they were born.

Notice that Solomon doesn’t condemn wealth but warns against “living only for wealth”. This is another way of describing greed. The problem with living only for wealth is that you can’t take it with you. Wealthy people will die with nothing just as everyone else does. Jesus made this same point in the Luke 12 passage that I blogged about here.

Solomon ends his short discourse by actually saying that receiving wealth from God is a GOOD thing. He declares that wealth and the good health to enjoy it is a gift from God.

It seems clear from Scripture that wealth in and of itself is not bad. The real issues that are problematic are greed and envy. These two sinful vices are not reserved for the wealthy alone but for anyone regardless of your financial position.

Whatever your net worth is, the biblical admonition is to be content, not envying what others have or being greedy for more of what you think might make life more comfortable and enjoyable.

We should heed Solomon’s admonition to “enjoy your work and accept your lot in life….People who do this rarely look with sorrow on the past, for God has given them reasons for joy.” (Ecclesiastes 5:19-20)

Reflection

On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your contentment with your current financial position?

Do you think money can bring true happiness? What are you relying on to provide happiness in your own life?

Do you agree with Solomon’s statement that people should enjoy their work and accept their lot in life? Why or why not?

What does it look like to “live only for money”? Have you ever had this attitude or disposition towards money?

When was a time when you experienced feelings of greed or envy? How can you ensure that your own heart motivations towards money and wealth are godly?

 

Photo by David McBee: https://www.pexels.com/photo/bitcoins-and-u-s-dollar-bills-730547/