“Azor was the father of Zadok. Zadok was the father of Akim. Akim was the father of Eliud.” (Matthew‬ ‭1:14‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

Many, many years ago, a guy named Luigi da Porto wrote a story about a tragically fated romance. Later, Italian writer Matteo Bandello released a novella based on da Porto’s story. This version inspired Pierre Boaistuau to write a poem regarding tragic love. Then in line with these guys, Arthur Brooke published a narrative poem in the same line of thought but his would not be the last. For his poem, The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet, would later inspire one more guy who would render the final telling of the tale, which was none other than William Shakespeare and his dramatic production, Romeo and Juliet!

Most of the modern world has heard of Shakespeare and his classical story, but we seldom realize all the hands of inspiration that made it happen. The same is with the life of Jesus. The text from Matthew is but a clip from a rather boring bit of genealogy. Upon closer inspection, however, you realize that these guys were important because they were Jesus’ many-great grandfathers on Joseph’s side! While seemingly insignificant, their story is necessary so that a righteous and good man would marry a pregnant teenage girl and help raise the Savior of the world!

You and your life story matters! While seeming pale and paltry, your life enriches those around you. Allow God to use you to create greater love stories in the world! You are loved! 

  

“O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water.” (Psalms‬ ‭63:1‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

Each year, through a unique combination of sun, wind, water, temperatures, and elevations, a miraculous transformation occurs: American deserts begin to bloom! From around March to June, beautiful plants and flowers begin to pop up and open, drawing crowds from around the nation. It’s a beautiful sight to see!

In one of his devotional insights, Greg Rowden has this thought:

“Do you find yourself easily angered, your patience is running thin, and perhaps your optimism has worn down? This happens when we don’t connect with the Lord on a regular basis. Especially during the summer and our schedules get hectic, taking time out to spend with God can be often overlooked.”

Summer fun can lead to a dried up spirit. If you neglect God for vacation, you’ll find your rest not quite as restful! Get with God and into His words today. Come to church if one is nearby! Life can create its own spiritual deserts, but you can choose to make it bloom! Be refreshed in God! You are loved today! 

  

“Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he went, always pressing on toward Jerusalem.” (Luke‬ ‭13:22‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

It is an epidemic that has been spreading around the world. MILLIONS are caught in its clutches. It is costing people some $600k a day. It is creating health issues, loss of jobs, and even the UK has reportedly seen rehabilitation centers open up new wings to bring needed treatment to give people their lives back! What is this infernal presence that’s taking over the world and ruining lives?! It’s nothing other than that sinister ploy called… (spooky music intro inserted here)Candy Crush!

We’ve all seen people’s lives devastated because of life-controlling issues and addictions. While some seem worth the outrage, the simple or petty things, like social media or video games, still cause not only significant damage in personal lives, but spiritually too! Too much of a good thing becomes a bad thing.

Just as Jesus made sure He was moving towards His life purpose (crucifixion) while He lived among us, so we must do the same thing. Play time and hobbies are good stress relievers, but if it is keeping us from our life objectives (to know Him and make Him known), then the enjoyable has become an enemy. Live your purpose, not your pleasures! Eternities hang in the balance! You are loved! 

  

  

“So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you.” (Colossians‬ ‭3‬:‭5‬ NLT)

In the rural south, High School football is king! When the Friday Night Lights go on, many communities shut down and become ghost towns. For a brief period in the fall, a whole community gathers in the bonds of brotherhood and school pride, making memories that last a lifetime. But great teams are made on Monday morning, not Friday night. 

In the Bible, ‘Sanctification‘ simply means to be set apart for God’s use and glory. Oswald Chambers describes our struggle to be set apart this way: 

“Sanctification requires our coming to the place of death…There is always a tremendous battle before sanctification is realized—something within us pushing with resentment against the demands of Christ. When the Holy Spirit begins to show us what sanctification means, the struggle starts.”

Just as great High School football players are fashioned in the heat and struggle of practice, so too are spiritual warriors created through the heated battle in their own souls. Allow your old nature to be conquered and you will see a better You be raised up for others to follow! Let your own light shine by fighting the personal fight to be holy every morning! You are loved today! 

  

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke‬ ‭9‬:‭23‬ NIV)

In 1821, a young Louis Braille heard an address at his school, the Royal Institute for Blind Youth in Paris, given by Captain Charles Barbier, a retired army captain. Barbier had been inspired to create a system of page bumps for soldiers to read and write messages in the dark of night. Unfortunately for Barbier, his dot system was clunky, the French language had too many symbols for him to effectively translate, and the army didn’t seem to be interested in it. 

Frustrated with the embossed lettering system at his school, 13-year-old Braille certainly was interested in the dot system, and he soon began working to make it better. Reports suggest that Louis devoted all his spare and vacation time towards this goal, over a period of two to three years! His sacrifice was worth it, creating a better way for blind individuals to learn and live, and all while still a teen!

The cornerstone of Christian living is the sacrifice of personal ambition to accomplish the greater works of God. While this may seem harsh or unjust to some, remember that God thinks and sees much better than we do, with better ends in mind! Walk daily with your cross of sacrifice! It will lead you to touching lives wherever you go! You are loved! 

  

“And certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities…provided for Him from their substance.” (Luke‬ ‭8‬:‭2-3‬ NKJV)

As a fire chaplain, I once responded to a call with our department to a house in our community for a non-emergency assistance need. As I stopped by later to follow up with the family, they exclaimed how grateful they were for the much needed help. Although they were of very modest means, they wanted to do something to show their appreciation for our firemen. So, with boxes of chocolates and homemade goodies, our guys were blessed by these for doing the job our department was called to do!

The Bible speaks of a group of women that Jesus helped, having compassion on and delivering them from demonic issues, possibly possession, and restoring them to a better life. In gratitude, though they were also of modest means, they served Jesus with whatever they had: a bit of money, food preparation, camp cleaning, laundry… They gave of themselves which enabled Jesus and His disciples to focus on the ministry which would impact even more lives. Every bit helped.

Like the women that followed Jesus, we all have reasons to be grateful to the Lord. These reasons should compel us naturally to somehow serve Him in return. Don’t look at what you don’t have or can’t do, but start with what you got and who you are! You’re greatest gifts and talents are already in your grasp! It will all make a difference and be appreciated! You are loved today! Be a servant! 

  

“A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches.” (Proverbs‬ ‭22‬:‭1‬ NKJV)

In the northeast corner of Louisiana is a tiny town called Transylvania. Twice a year I pass through this little hamlet on my way to other places. With its boarded up school and a few run down buildings, it all adds to the spooky allure! I look forward to seeing it each time!

And yet the town wasn’t named after Dracula’s domain, but after Transylvania University in Kentucky. The man who founded the town, Dr. W. L. Richards, was an alumni who loved the school and named this town in its honor before the Civil War began. And yet, because of its later vampiric infamy, the goodness of the town’s origin and legacy of its beloved name is lost in the darkness of another’s. 

As you come to church today, consider your own name. It was given to you in the innocence of your beginning. What have you done with it since? Does your name, in other people’s ears, ring with images of the Master or with pictures of darker things? Let your name be so entwined with the Lord’s that they can never be separated but always thought of with honor! You are loved today!