Toby is celebrating his 8th birthday tonight.
As I reflect on all of that has happened since he entered our life, all that he his, and all that he will be I am quite overwhelmed. There are so many stories and quotes. He is a leader and influencer. There are people at thebridge because of Toby. He is passionate about football and he loves to read. I love that he can’t get enough of the Old Testament.
Recently I asked him who his favorite person in the Bible was. He responded by sharing that it was Sampson.
Now I get it. Sampson is strong. He has the biggest muscles in the Bible. He tore a lion apart and tied foxes up by their tails. But there was a part of me that was a little taken back, maybe even uncomfortable. Sampson did not have a great track record with the ladies. He got himself into some trouble with them and eventually one women led to his downfall.
This led me on a search. There has to be more to the story of Sampson. I digested all I could on the book of Judges. I started a group with a few others guys to study it. I asked God to reveal a greater depth of understanding on Sampson. After a month long investigation I came away with such a greater appreciation of who Sampson was and how his life points to Jesus. Although I learned a lot from different avenues by far the most helpful resource for me in this quest was Tim Keller’s book Judges For You.
Sampson & Jesus
Both were foretold about by an angel.
Both were set apart from birth.
Both sought to bring deliverance (Sampson fell short / Jesus succeeded)
Both were betrayed by someone close to them.
Both were handed over to others.
Both were tortured and mocked.
Both were asked to perform.
Both cried out to God just prior to death.
Both died with outstretched arms.
Both appeared struck down but ended up crushing the enemy.
This isn’t the first time nor will it be the last that my son challenges me to and inspires me to grow closer to Jesus. As a proud father typing on the computer I can’t articulate the immense love I have for Toby and his sisters. I would do anything for them and the whole time I am sitting here the Spirit of God is speaking to me – “Marty, I love you even more than this. I have known your story before birth and have set you apart. I have a plan and a purpose for you. I stretched out my arms and gave my life so that you might know me.”
I believe the same is true for you. May you know this day the unmatched love of the Father, grace of the Son, and presence of the Spirit in your life.
Sophie is celebrating her 3rd birthday tonight.
Sophie has changed everything! I don’t know if it is because she is our fourth or because she is who she is but I would have it no other way. You won’t find a girl more excited to see you, smile at you, and hug you. She has the ability to entertain an individual and the crowd. From dancing to singing, from wrestling to swimming, from running to swinging – she is all in!
Maybe the most dramatic way that we have observed her “all in” is when she chooses to assume the role of Ariel from the little Mermaid. She steps into character and she doesn’t look back. All attempts to communicate with Sophie will fail but if you address her as Ariel she is a princess ready and willing to hear what you have to say. At first this drove me crazy. I stubbornly would refuse to call her Ariel causing her much distress and agitation. I justified my stance by believing this is not good for her identity.
Recently though God has prompted a new way of looking at it for me. He has been reminding me that it is a childlike faith that he is looking for. In 2 Corinthians 5:17 it says, “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”
My daughter has been showing me what it means to become a new person! She will not bow to the old identity. The old is gone the new has come. Far to often I am slumping back into the old. I am not embracing the new. Yet if I belong to Jesus it all changes. It doesn’t matter if I am dancing, singing, wrestling, swimming, running, swinging or any other activity – I can be ALL IN as a completely new me!
My hope for you is that you see yourself not as you were but as who Jesus has set you free to be. I pray that you can be ALL IN on the new you.
We all have those moments, those seasons when the circumstances of life become overwhelming. We begin to lose hope and struggle to find any perspective. We find ourselves saying things like, ”This can’t be happening! Why me? Not now! How are am I going to make it? Why did it go from bad to worse? No one understands. I can’t make it.”
The goal of our next series is to examine the life of Joseph and identify how he got through what he was going through. We are going to be challenged to not let our circumstances shape how our belief in God but rather let our belief in God shape our circumstances. Joseph ended up living a life none of us could ever imagine but if he knew what he had to go through in order to get there my guess is he might have given up. Yet God sustained him, and I believe God will do the same for you and I. I believe God has something beyond average for you if you are willing to persevere through the tests and trials of life. Bring a friend and join us for new series Not Your Average Joe beginning September 8.
I am still fired up about this past Sunday. You are as close to God as you choose to be. So often I think we can hear this and believe this but fail to do anything about it. I think many of us desire for it to be different but nothings seems to change.
I believe it is time for us to quit trying and start training. This idea of training is hard work. It requires sacrifice. I’m not simply referring to a sacrifice of time and discipline but an additional sacrifice that is very challenging. It is the sacrifice of the smaller idols and gods in our life that have taken the place of God. Without any intention we become a people who don’t choose to swap our belief in the true God with a lesser god or idol. Rather we just add other gods and idols to our walk with God. Our commitment to God quickly becomes complacency. The idea of food, sports, entertainment, reading, gardening, boating, relationships, working out, hobbies, or work don’t have the appearance of being dangerous or wrong but they can quickly becomes substitutes or dethroners of our true Lord.
So what are we to do? James 4:8 says, “Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.” As you draw near to God, God will draw near to you. He will help expose areas of your life that could use some adjustments. Some correction.
How do we draw close to God? What I have learned is I draw close to God through Spiritual Disciplines. These are practices or habits of seeking out God and making ourselves available to hear from God. This is choosing to get up early and spend time being quiet with God. This is going for an evening walk and reflecting on your day with the Lord. This is meeting with a friend over some coffee in the hopes of learning more about Jesus. This is reading your Bible and letting God speak to you. This is skipping a meal because you are hungry for more of who Christ is. This is any number of things you can choose in on today to be closer to God.