Don is Global Missions Pastor at Austin Ridge. Born in New York and raised in Pennsylvania, Don's family relocated to San Diego so he could meet his beautiful wife, Becky. Don graduated from San Diego Christian College and Dallas Seminary. Don and Becky have their own built-in family entertainment committee, and their names are Karis, Alec, Brooke and Jessica. They keep Don and Becky both young and prematurely gray all at the same time! Don loves going on dates with his wife, anything at the beach, USC football, college football and basketball, Hula Hut, reading, and chocolate.
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I think the best two people you should get to know well are God and yourself. The importance of knowing God is a no-brainer. But the value of self-awareness goes well beyond a self-absorbed preoccupation of self, to an understanding of human nature and the inherent disconnect between our personal sin and God’s holiness. And with that understanding comes a humility which affects both our relationship with God in worship, and also how we live our lives with each other. Today’s passage gives great direction to properly understand ourselves in relation to God.
- As you read this passage, ask the Lord to give you a healthy and balanced view of who you are in relation to God.
We were one goal ahead, beating the district leaders at halftime in a regional high school soccer match. No one thought we would score a goal, much less be winning, but we were. It was fun! The reality that we could survive this unexpected battle was settling in. Our coach sat us down and celebrated the obvious accomplishments; but then, with a sense of urgency, he walked us through the basics of how we should play as we finished out the final minutes of this rivalry. After he finished, he looked us in the eyes and simply said, “Guys, let’s do this!”
- What are you feeling urgent about in these final days before Christ’s return?
Transitioning from middle school to high school was fun—and weird! The surroundings looked similar, but there were many differences—no more “hand-holding” from our teachers, better classes, more freedom, more opportunity, and lockers!! Middle schoolers often think they know it all. But entering high school (and then college) we see, learn, and experience so much more; we become more aware of who we are, the many opportunities this world offers, and our responsibility in it.
- As new believers, the Hebrews were making a transition from the Old Covenant Law to the New Covenant fulfillment in Christ. As you read today’s passage—emphasizing Jesus, rather than the Mosaic Law—consider all the things that were familiar and yet new and different for them.
How many times have I wanted to have time back to do something again? Sometimes I’m looking for a different outcome, or I just want to do it better. But, sometimes, I want time back because I realize I significantly wasted it. It’s pretty frustrating to lose time, knowing that you can’t get it back, especially when you see what it “could have been.” Sometimes, it’s watching too much TV, or sleeping too long. Maybe it’s spending too much time at work and not with family or in meaningful relationships with people who don’t know Christ. Grace gives us second chances… but it also gives us a deadline.
- As you read today’s passage, reflect both on what the passage is asking us to do and how to do it.
It is amazing to me—and equally discouraging—how something that once looked so insatiably satisfying, can so quickly become dull or uninteresting. Our human nature and sin twists our God-given desire for pleasure and satisfaction, and manipulates us into finding those satisfactions in the most destructive places. Our flesh, and culture, can even make our abundant life in Christ look blah, or inadequate. Additionally, the enemy works around the clock to cause us to forget our identity—the “center” of what drives our behavior. Paul—as father figure, pastor, and shepherd—steps in to believers’ lives, reminding them who they are, and calling them to stand firm against this temptation and deception.
- As you read today’s passage, ask the Lord to strengthen your understanding of who Christ is and who you are in Christ.
We love to celebrate God’s patience and grace. Our stories of forgiveness come from the reality that God is patient, “not wishing that any should perish” (2 Peter 3:9). But there is an end to God’s patience. When his children act more like the surrounding evil world than the holy people he designed them to be, he must take action. His holiness demands it. We are called to live IN the world, not be OF the world, meaning we must be people of godly influence in the world without looking like the world in our lifestyle. Judah missed that calling.
- In what ways has “the world” crept into your life?
One of the most freeing moments of our young-family days was when my wife and I realized that we could leave all four of our kids at home alone while we went out. They worked hard at a young age to earn our trust and show themselves responsible while we were gone. As the years passed, however, it was not uncommon for us to return home to messes, stains on the carpet, and even broken items that clearly occurred while we were gone. They became less concerned for our household items while we were away than when we were home.
- How aware are you of Jesus’ presence, even though he is not physically “here”?
As children, we often see our parents as heroes who can do anything. As we get older, however, we quickly see that they, too, are susceptible to the pain and suffering of this world. For a while, we as parents parent our kids with a perceived “super strength” that is noticeably greater than theirs. But as our kids mature, we have the opportunity to lead out of not only our strengths, but out of our own pain and suffering, which we all experience in this world.
- How have you seen suffering in someone’s life make them a better leader?
Silence can be deafening. Sometimes it can also go unnoticed. At the start of today’s passage, Israel had not heard from the Lord through a prophet in over 400 years. Bible scholars call this period of time the Intertestamental Period. It was just quiet. For some, it was a time when they were looking for the quiet to be broken. But most people had adjusted to the silence.
Then a word from the Lord came through a priest, Zechariah, saying the Lord was going to come and pay a visit…
Nestled curiously in the Christmas narrative is the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth. Not only is it a great story, it’s also interestingly identifiable with our own lives. In it, we find a couple living day-to-day with interjected heartbreak and disappointment.