Life Along the Way

A Daily Devotional

"The Art of Noticing"

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"Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees; for she said, "Have I also here seen Him who sees me?"

Genesis 16:13

One of the main attributes of God is His omniscience, meaning God knows everything there is to know about anything. God never learns anything new. He is keenly aware of all that is going on in the world at any given moment in time. That's why Jesus when teaching His disciples how to pray warned them about praying long prayers thinking that the longer you prayed the more likely God would answer your request. Jesus put it like this in Matthew 6:7-8, "And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him."

In my desire to be thankful this year the book I am currently reading spoke about the role noticing plays in gratitude and it made perfect sense to me as I realize I am a lousy noticer, if there ever was such a word. The writer said, "The act of noticing, after all, is a crucial part of gratitude; you can't be grateful if your attention is scattered." Ouch! I have complimented my wife on her taste in decorations only to learn that what I was noticing had been in the place it was for a couple of years. I almost always am on the verge of going into cardiac arrest when someone says to me, "notice anything different?" I readily confess I fail miserably at "stopping and smelling the roses". Call it ADD, being easily distracted, being somewhere other than where I am at, or just plain forgetful. I have learned that I cant be thankful for that which I am not aware.

So, how do I go about becoming more grateful this year you might be thinking? First, I need to get my eyes off my self and on the Lord. I need to remind myself of what Jesus said, "For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him." Since God is Omniscient and therefore knows what I need even before I ask, I am free to focus more of my energy and time on appreciating what's right in front of me rather than striving for something that is not. And second, the best way I have found to accomplish that is to heed Jesus words found in Matthew 6:33-34, "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble."

Practically speaking then, the best way to notice what's going on around me in this fast paced world we live in that is only picking up speed since I am on the downside of fifty years of age is to actively and purposefully look for Jesus every day. Do you recall the children's book, "Where's Waldo?" that had page after page of scenes crammed with all very similar shapes and colors with the goal being to find Waldo somewhere on the page. I have to confess I enjoyed looking for Waldo with my children as we scoured the pages. And oh the excitement of finding Waldo for the very first time!

Because God is all knowing and because He is omnipresent, meaning He is everywhere at one time, we can do more than just notice God, we can actually find God if we will seek for Him. The Bible makes this clear in Jeremiah 29:13, "And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart." As good as that sounds the good news of the gospel only gets better for the follower of Christ, to the one who has invited Jesus to take up residence in their heart. Jesus promised His disciples in Matthew 28:20, "and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." The writer of Hebrews put it like this in speaking of the promise of God, "I will never leave you nor forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5).

Yes, loved one, the best way to develop a grateful heart in 2019 is to notice what's going on around us because God is active in what is going on. The Bible reminds us in Colossians 1:16, "For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him." And Psalm 19:1 makes it clear, "The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork." Notice what's going on around you and focus your attention on the Creator behind the creation, the Designer behind the design and you cant help be thankful, you cant help but notice the One who created all things and the One with whom all things were created.

"When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained, What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him?"

Psalm 8:3-4

I LOVE YOU!


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"How To Put Happy Into Your New Year"

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"in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."

1 Thessalonians 5:18


I have always believed that if you took all the knowledge of science and put it into a thimble you still couldn't fill it to the top in comparison to the wisdom and knowledge of God, but I still enjoy reading about scientific discoveries. Take this morning for instance. Here's a quote from a book I am reading by A.J. Jacobs titled, "Thanks A Thousand". It's a really good book and one I highly recommend. It's just one of the few books I am reading this month as I start the new year. 

A.J. writes, "According to the research, gratitude's psychological benefits are legion: It can lift depression, help you sleep, improve your diet, and make you more likely to exercise. Heart patients recover more quickly when they keep a gratitude journal. A recent study showed gratitude causes people to be more generous and kinder to strangers. Another study summarized in Scientific American finds that gratitude is the single best predictor of well-being and good relationships, beating out twenty-four other impressive traits such as hope, love, and creativity. As the Benedictine monk David Steindl-Rast says, "Happiness does not lead to gratitude. Gratitude leads to happiness."

What A.J. Jacobs writes about most likely took years of research to conclude while the Bible, which was written thousands of years before and is unlike any other book out there since the Bible has God Himself as the author. God makes a profound statement that if we all put into practice on a day to day basis we would be reading A.J. Jacobs book like I am and almost laughing as we mutter under our breath, "And I paid $7.00 (for the Kindle version) to have someone tell me what God has already told every one of us in His Word." Inspiring the hand and mind of the apostle Paul, the Bible says, "in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

God's will for each and every one of us is that we would be thankful people as I am sure our Maker knows quite well the benefits associated with gratitude. I am not sure if you are aware of the dangers of the sin of ingratitude, simply stated, of not being thankful. In the Bible book of Romans, chapter one lays it out so clearly its chilling to read about the results of the heart that remains ungrateful. Read it for your self and you get a glimpse as to why the world is in the state it's in today. 

The apostle Paul writes in Romans 1:18-21, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened." 

Have you ever considered that all sin (sin means to "miss the mark of God's perfection") begins in a heart of ingratitude? Thankless people open themselves up to the most degrading kinds of sin known to mankind. All sin leads to death but the sin of ingratitude is like using the diamond lane to get there. If you continue to read on in Romans 1 you get a glimpse of the foolishness we as human beings are capable of when we turn our hearts from God. When we no longer appreciate God's plan and purposes for our lives and instead choose our own way, that way leads us further from the very thing we long for as scripture makes clear, a man may plan his steps but the Lord ordains them.

Do you want to be happier in 2019 the you were in 2018? It's really pretty simple. Start by choosing to be more thankful. Start a "Thankful Journal" and begin by writing down all the things you are thankful for. Give God thanks every day and openly express your gratitude to God and others as often as you can in every situation you find yourself in. Thanking God and praising Him, not necessarily for everything you go through but rather in everything you find yourself going through because the good news is each day, you are not alone! God is there, right along side you seeking to reveal Himself to you and to make Himself known. Remember, loved one, "Happiness does not lead to gratitude. Gratitude leads to happiness." Happy New Year! 


"Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the LORD is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations."

Psalm 100:4-5

I LOVE YOU!


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"Happy Absolution Day"

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"Through the LORD'S mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness."

Lamentations 3:22-23

It's been well said that we all have a hunger for "landmarks in time" that help us to transition from one moment to another. New Years for many people is a "landmark in time" in that it naturally helps us transition from one thing to another. For many of us, the start of a new year is a clean slate as it were, a day of new beginnings. Behavioral scientists call it the, "fresh start effect". It's as if all our past failures from the previous year are no longer with us, no longer are they able to define us as the new year has set us free from the past. We can think to ourselves, "That's not me. That's the old me, and the new me is not going to make those same mistakes this year". Oh how we all wish that were true.

So, if you think about it, New Years Resolutions aren't really all that new. They probably are pretty much the same resolutions carried over from year to year with slight modifications here and there. Maybe a better term should be, "New Years Absolutions" since that's what we are really wanting and hoping for from the previous year.

The good news today loved one is God knows us better than we know ourselves. God knows we all need "fresh starts" in this life, that each of us need marked moments in our lives when we get a "do over" and are set free from our past failures and can find forgiveness as well as new beginnings. And the really good news today is we don't need to wait until New Years Day to receive absolution. God's mercies are new every morning!

God's mercy is what draws the line for us between the old you and the new you. When God sent Jesus to die upon the Cross in your place and mine, He did so to draw a very clear and distinct line between the old and the new you. When we receive God's grace by receiving His Son as our personal Savior and Lord, we are immediately Born Again, and as the Word of God declares, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Coming to Jesus Christ is the best way to experience and enjoy a fresh start in life and I'm not just talking about one time when you open your heart to Jesus and invite Him in for the very first time. I'm talking about each and every time you need a dividing line between the old you and the new you. Don't forget, the mercies of God are new every morning and great is His faithfulness! Don't forget that each and every time you and I confess our sins to God He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness! God majors in making things new, giving new life to things that were dead and in doing so creating the dividing line between the old you and the new you!

Do you need a fresh start today, loved one? Do you need a "do over"? Don't wait for the next New Year's Eve to experience the, "fresh start effect". Come to Jesus today and every day! Experience the mercy and grace of God knowing you aren't the old you, you are the new you that is in Christ Jesus! Draw close to God and He will draw close to you!

"And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away." Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." And He said to me, "Write, for these words are true and faithful." And He said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son."

Revelation 21:3-7

I LOVE YOU!


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"Defining Moments"

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"Then He said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." 


Matthew 4:19


Defining Moments, each of us experience them in life. Certain events, positive or negative shape who we are, how we think and feel. They are powerful and the good news today is, they don't just have to happen to us, we can actually and thoughtfully design them into our every day lives. Here's a little exercise I am doing this morning, exercising my mind anyway. Here goes.

Think about this defining moment this morning. Whats the first thing you would grab upon leaving your house in the event of a fire? I mean if you could grab only one item from your home as the house was burning to the ground and destroying all the contents, what one item would you be sure to take with you? 

Most of us have lots of things that in a clear moment we could think of but in a nanosecond, as you are running for your life is there anything you might consider risking your life for to go back and retrieve? Thats a defining moment for sure and is one that I am considering this morning based on a new book I received for Christmas titled, "The Power of Moments". 

I've always believed life was made up of moments, not just days or weeks or months for the simple reason is that when I look back over my own life I can only recall moments of my life and the people I know and talk with and listen and who share with me about their own lives remember only brief moments as well as they recount their own story. Moments, loved one, are what define our lives, and every moment counts.

What a great thought to consider on this the first day of 2019. Moments, and how to make the most of them is my New Years resolution. Trust me, I know I will miss millions of important moments this year. I know this already before starting out and still I am not discouraged one bit because I get it, life is made up of moments, both positive and negative. I’ve resolved to purposely create positive moments every day in the lives of those I love and work with and fellowship with throughout the week as well as complete strangers God leads me to as I learn how to harness the power of moments. I'll prove it to you in just a moment as I’m seeking to take advantage of this very moment to create a memorable one. 

The Bible is full of defining moments and captures both positive and negative experiences from Genesis to Revelation. Bam, right out of the gate the most defining moment in the history of the world was God creating the heavens and the earth and in the process creating man and woman. No sooner had God done that than, Bam, Adam and Eve sin against God and threw the entire world into a fallen tail spin. Bam, Cain kills his brother Abel and the list of defining moments goes on and on. Defining moments need not all be negative.

Some of my favorite moments in scripture are found in the Old Testament. Moses standing at the burning bush and then at the Red Sea, Elisha's servant looking up and seeing there were more standing with Elisha in the heavens than those gathered against him on earth. David slaying Goliath, and the walls of Jericho falling down, Elijah taking on the prophets of Baal are all memorable moments. In the New Testament, when I think about defining moments nothing tops the birth of Jesus other than say maybe the Cross of Calvary. I'm awed by the calling of the disciples by the simple words, “follow Me” and how the day of Pentecost changed the world as the church was born. 

Talk about a defining moments that shaped the entire New Testament. Does anything surpass Saul becoming the apostle Paul? How about Peter performing miracles? I love how God's grace in one woman's life at a well on the outskirts of town could be used to reach an entire city for Jesus. Last but not least there is John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, and the Revelation he received of Jesus Christ, the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the One who was and is and is to come!

Yes, loved one, life is made up of moments and I am looking forward to creating some and capitalizing on others in 2019. Now back to that little exercise I was telling you about. Here is your chance to create a defining moment. Imagine your house is on fire today and you only have time to grab one item from your home. What one thing would you grab? As I thought about it, it didn't take me long to decide. No, I wouldn't grab my Babe Ruth signed baseball card or autographed ball. And no, I wouldn't grab my Rolex watch or the thousands of dollars from the safe because I don't have any of those items. What I would grab is a picture of my wife and I on our wedding day that graces the wall of our bedroom. You might be thinking why of all the things I have in my home why would I grab that picture?

For me that picture of my wife and I on our wedding day defines me. It was the second biggest decision in my life other than the most defining moment of my life when I received Jesus Christ as my personal Savior. Everything that I treasure in this life has stemmed from July 9, 1983 when my wife and I were married. Almost every moment and especially the defining moments of my life (our children and grand children) are connected to my wife and that picture represents every good moment I have enjoyed in this life. 

I have always shared with people that home is not the physical address where I live, home is wherever my wife is. I wouldn't care if we lived in a tent or a teepee, wherever my wife is that will always be home to me. That picture of my wife and I on our bedroom wall is my reminder that my life isn't about stuff, its about her. The best moments of my life have been and are because of her. She is my defining moment.

What is your defining moment? What positive memories stand out in your mind that God has used to shape your life and make you who you are today? Think about those today and thank the Lord for them as they come to mind. Consider as you head out into a new year what moments would you like to make? The good news for each of us is we can pray and we can plan. Determine to make new memories, create lasting impressions by capitalizing on the moments of your life. Don't live for days or hours, live for the moments and make the most of them. Remember, life is not measured by the breaths we take but by the moments that take our breath away! July 9, 1983 she took my breath away! And the truth is, she still takes my breath away! Happy New Year! 


"Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."

Philippians 3:13-14

I LOVE YOU!


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"Lessons From My Granddaughter"

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"Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!"

Psalm 34:8

One of the great joys of my week is taking care of my youngest granddaughter Quinn on Monday's. She just turned one years old and she is at that fun age, walking and learning to talk. She is inquisitive and adventurous and she loves the outdoors. She reminds me so much of my wife and is why I am usually wore out by the end of the day from trying to keep up with either one of them.

Usually Quinnie will eat just about anything you put in front of her. She is an eating machine but like most kids she has days when she decides she doesn't like something she enjoyed the day before. Maybe it's just her exercising a woman's prerogative to change her mind without notice. I am not sure but trying to get her to drink her milk a couple of weeks ago was nothing short of a challenge. She wasn't having anything to do with it. As I sat there thinking of what I could do I got an idea that came to mind after reading in the book of Acts earlier in the morning just before she had come over the day.

The Bible teaches us that there are three distinct relationships we can enjoy with the Holy Spirit. In John 14:16-17 we have the Greek words "para" and "en" and in the book of Acts we find the word "epi".

1. "Para" which means "With you". The Holy Spirit comes along side us to lead us to Christ before we became a Christian. Examples of the word "para", "Para"-medic: Someone who comes along side to render aide. "Para"-legal: "Para"-church: Organization that comes along side the church to help minister. Last but not least, my personal favorite, "Para"-chute: You want a chute along side of you when you jump out of an airplane.

2. "En" means "in". When we become a believer the Holy Spirit came "in" us, into our heart. Revelation 3:20 puts it like this, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me."

3. "Epi" means "upon" dynamite power, strength to "be" a witness, which is the word "martus", and is where we get our English word "martyr". This experience did not become available until the book of Acts. Thats what we read in Acts chapter 1 when Jesus told His disciples to wait for the promise of the Father (the gift of the Holy Spirit) that they would receive. Acts 1:8 says, "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."

After reading about the different relationships with the Holy Spirit I got this idea on how to get my granddaughter to like her milk. I needed to find something to saturate it with, to immerse it in. My wife had made oatmeal cookies the night before. I took one of the cookies and broke it into bite size pieces then immersed them in her milk until the cookie was full and literally oozing with milk, overflowing from the inside out. She devoured them and in just a few minutes both the cookie and the milk were gone. What didn't get absorbed by the cookie itself Quinnie gladly consumed to wash the cookies down. Mission accomplished!

You see, loved one, baptism with the Holy Spirit is to be saturated and immersed in God. Just like Water Baptism means to be submerged or immersed, we need to be saturated with the Holy Spirit for the redemptive purposes of God. The person who is saturated and immersed in the Holy Spirit is the same in the service of God. Like the apostle Paul would say, "it's no longer I who lives but Christ in me." God is still today looking for men and women with whom He can immerse and saturate with His Holy Spirit so that we too can become visible manifestations of His redemptive plan in the world continuing the work of God as He leads and directs.

Quinnie wouldn't drink her milk alone but when it was saturated by that cookie she devoured it. Much in the same way the world around us doesn't understand God or His ways until it meets someone who has been immersed and saturated by God's Holy Spirit. Not everyone likes cookies and milk and just as true not everyone will be drawn to those who are filled with the Holy Spirit. One thing for sure is this, those who are drawn to those filled with God's Spirit and are immersed in His love will taste and see for themselves that the Lord is good! And if they are anything like my granddaughter Quinn, they won't be able to get enough!


"And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit"

Ephesians 5:18

I LOVE YOU!


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"Just Because You Didn't Doesn't Mean You Don't"

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"But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it." And He took them up in His arms, put His hands on them, and blessed them."


Mark 10:14-16


In the Bible in Romans 8:15 the apostle Paul reveals to us one of the most intimate pictures of the relationship every child of God can enjoy with our Heavenly Father when he writes, "For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father." The word "Abba" in the Greek language means "daddy", a more intimate word for "father". That word "Abba" implies tenderness and intimacy, and not just with anyone but with our Father in heaven.

I don't know what kind of relationship you had with your earthly father but I hope its like the one we read about in Hebrews 12 where the writer contrasts our relationship with our earthly father to that with our Heavenly Father. In Hebrews 12:9-10 we read, "Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness." It's as if the writer of Hebrews is saying our earthly dads did the best they knew how to do with what they had but our Heavenly Father knows perfectly how to love us and care for us, to shape us and mold us into the best version of us we can possibly be.

I am very aware of how fortunate I have been throughout my life. I had a good dad that I knew loved me. My dad was a disciplinary, he was strong, but he was also tender at times when I needed it most. Laying in bed last night missing him and thinking about my dad I recalled a time when he took me to a Los Angeles Laker basketball game to watch the legendary Jerry West play. Both my dad and I admired number 44 for the Lakers and watching the game together I don't know who was excited more. I do know that it was a very special moment shared between father and son. Yet, what I remember and cherish most about that day with my dad was the drive home late that night after the game was over.

Being only 10 years old at the time I was worn out from the excitement of the day and maybe all the sugar my dad allowed me to enjoy at the game. Sitting in the front seat of our family station wagon next to my dad he could see that I was growing tired and he invited me to lay down on the front seat of the car and if I wanted, to lay my head in his lap as a pillow for my head. As I lay there in my dads lap looking up at him he gently ran his fingers through my hair and talked to me until I fell asleep. I can still remember laying there and feeling so safe and comfortable in my fathers lap.

Years later, as I was reading my bible after giving my heart to Jesus, the Lord used that memory with my dad to teach me more in depth about the passage above in Romans 8 and in Hebrews 12 about the love of our Heavenly Father. All I could do then and now is thank God for the gift of my earthly Dad who by his love and devotion to me as a young boy served to help me connect with and better understand the heart of my Heavenly Father for us all.

I know for me the roll my dad played was huge in helping me understand the love of my Heavenly Father with whom I can't see. My earthly fathers love is what made the connection for me regarding our Heavenly Fathers love and I am and will always be eternally grateful for them both.

Maybe you have never known or enjoyed the love of an earthly father growing up. I'm so sorry if thats the case. But, even if that is so, know this, just because you didn't, doesn't mean you don't have the opportunity to know an even greater love for you today. Yes, loved one, we have a Father in Heaven, God Himself who loves you and so much so that He gave His Only Begotten Son so that you and I could become part of His family with all the rights and privileges of sonship. If you will except God's invitation and become part of His family you will over time as you get to know Him through time together in prayer and the reading of His Word will grow to know the tender love of our Heavenly Father who invites us to come to Him, and if He has a lap (remember God is Spirit) I am certain He would invite each of us to crawl up in it today.

Take our Lord's words in Matthew 11:28-30 to heart today as it was Jesus who came to reveal the Father's love to us. Hear the Father's heart for you as you listen to the Sons voice, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." Not only is God gentle and lowly in heart, He offers us to come to Him to find rest for our souls. I always picture my dad inviting me that night to rest in His lap each time I read this passage. Don't miss out, friend, the invitation is yours and mine to come and experience the Father's love today, to crawl up into His lap as it were and cry out, Daddy!


"Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need."

Hebrews 4:16

I LOVE YOU!

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"How'd You Know?"

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"Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!"

2 Corinthians 9:15


Have you ever received a gift from someone that caused you to say in almost disbelief, "How'd you know?" as the gift given wasn't even one you had asked for but as soon as you opened it you realized the gift was one you actually needed.


Thats what Christmas is all about. Today, billions of people will celebrate Christmas around the world, exchanging gifts, mostly things they hoped and wished for. Yet for a few they will be totally surprised today as they are about to receive things they had never given thought to before but because they are loved by someone who has been perceptive, they are about to experience the 'awe' of Christmas.


In all fairness, because God is omniscient, He knows everything about us and exactly what each of us truly needs and is why Christmas exists in the first place. Christmas isn't really about a green tree of some sort and presents neatly wrapped at its base. Christmas is about God seeing humanities greatest, most desperate need and offering us the greatest gift this world has ever known to satisfy it.


My favorite Christmas card of all time sums up the thought best as on the cover of the card it says, "Our Greatest Need" and when you open up the card and read whats inside it says,

"If our greatest need had been knowledge, God would have sent a scientist,

If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent an economist,

If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer,

But our greatest need is forgiveness, so God sent us a Savior."


Yes, loved one, God knew then and He knows now what our greatest needs are and He wants to provide for them. Isn't it amazing when you think of it. Many of our 'wants' in this life will go unrealized today and thats for good reason. God knows us best and He knows those lesser things that we tend to give the greater importance too at Christmas can't satisfy at the level God would intend.


Its not uncommon for people to experience an emotional high on Christmas morning as all the gifts are given and everyone is experiencing Christmas cheer only to be overcome by a sense of sadness or depression a few days latter as the so called 'magic' wears off because as the famous quote goes, "There is a God shaped void in every human heart that only God Himself can fill."


Maybe you have felt it? Maybe you are feeling it now? No need for despair as the gift is still there waiting to be opened. Yes loved one, God being very God knows the human heart, He knows exactly what we need and that is why at just the perfect moment in human history He sent His Only Begotten Son into this world, born of a virgin whose name is Jesus, whose name means, "God is salvation." 


Jesus Christ was born into this world because God knew what our greatest need is, both then and now. God knows we need forgiveness, He knows we need love and He has provided all that we need in Jesus. Jesus really is the gift that keeps on giving. But what good is a gift if it's never opened? To experience the fullness of Christ at Christmas we must first receive the gift. We do that by confessing our need for it. We confess that we need a Savior, we recognize nothing in this life truly satisfies and we accept God's invitation to come to Him and drink of the water He freely gives, the water that satisfies thirsty souls. 


Don't miss out this year focusing on just the things you want. Get the most out of Christmas by realizing God has provided for you all that you need. No one knows you like God knows you, and no one loves you like He does. To think, the God who knows you and loves you gave His own life for you so that you could enjoy the fullness of life that only He provides. Receive Gods gift, open your heart to Jesus this Christmas. 


Do you want to get the most out of Christmas this year. Join the host of heaven and come and behold Him! Open the gift of God found in Jesus Christ, the One who gives gifts that don't rust and moths can't destroy nor can thieves break in and steal. Open your heart to the both the Giver and the gift Himself. Receive Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and Lord and all He has for you this year! Jesus really is the reason for the season, He truly is the gift that keeps on giving!


"For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."

Luke 2:11


Merry Christmas!


I LOVE YOU! 

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"Someone To Sing About"

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Mary's song found in Luke 1:46-55 is what came from her lips upon hearing and receiving the news that God had chosen her to be the birth mother of Jesus, the promised Messiah to born into the world to save us from our sins. Let her words serve as an inspiration to you as you celebrate the birth of Jesus tomorrow.

"And Mary said: "My soul magnifies the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. For He who is mighty has done great things for me, And holy is His name. And His mercy is on those who fear Him From generation to generation. He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He has put down the mighty from their thrones, And exalted the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, And the rich He has sent away empty. He has helped His servant Israel, In remembrance of His mercy, As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and to his seed forever."

I recall a newspaper story about a nativity scene in West Virginia that includes a stable, a donkey, camels, sheep, a wise man, a shepherd and a star. What is absent from the scene is Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The parks superintendent said the baby Jesus was left out because of concerns about the separation of church and state. So it was determined that in West Virginia, you can have Christmas, even a nativity scene, as long as it doesn't include Jesus.

Let's think biblically about this for a moment. Though our country was founded on biblical principles, do we really believe it is the role of the state to promote our faith? No, of course not. The telling of the Christ-story belongs not to each individual state but to the church which is the "pillar and ground of the truth"Paul writes in 1 Timothy 3:15.

It is our purpose and privilege I might add as believers to spread the good news that Jesus came into the world to save sinners. While we may rightly cry out against the secularization of our culture, we must admit that whether a city government puts up a nativity scene or whether or whether or not the nativity scene includes the baby Jesus has little impact on world evangelism and yours and my ability to spread the Good News.

The difficulty for modern day Christians is to not allow the secular, traditional and nostalgic culture of Christmas to overshadow the truth of the first Advent, that God has sent His Son into the world to save sinners of whom Paul said of himself, "I am foremost." I would argue my own case with Paul before God as to who is foremost. I love Christmas because it brings me to my spiritual knees to gaze upon the face of the one who was born to save me, to give me life.

This is a time of year to reflect on the doctrine of incarnation, that God became flesh, to wonder at the great mystery that He who spoke the world into existence limited Himself to become a human baby. This is a season to think deeply on the mighty power of God whose plan of redemption stretches from eternity to eternity knowing that Christ is "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" Revelation 13:8

Christmas is a time to consider that although God could have justly condemned us all to hell, He has mercifully accomplished our salvation. When I consider all the arguments surrounding nativity scenes at Christmas I am reminded that it symbolizes what the holiday season is for many – gifts, carols, food, family, trees, lights, decorations, parties but no Jesus.

Just as Mary and Joseph found no room in the inn, for millions there is little room for Christ in their own lives. They do not object to Jesus being born into this world, just not in their heart where Jesus must if we are to experience the new birth that brings with it eternal life. My prayer for all this Christmas is that Jesus remains first in our affections, that Jesus remains the center of our celebrations! 

Christmas in 50 Words

God reached down,

spirits touch,

virgin conceived,

Joseph feared much,

angels said, don't be afraid,

Joseph awoke,

marriage vows made.

Augustus decreed

Bethlehem bound,

Joseph and Mary, no room found.

Word made flesh

Born on straw,

Angels hosannah,

Shepherds awe.

Cattle low as shepherds kneel.

Mary ponders,

God is real.

Merry Christmas!

I LOVE YOU! 

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"The Gift"

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 Today's devotional is from a writing project I titled, "Noah's Legacy". It's just a fictional yet hopefully inspirational story written in hope that it reminds you this Christmas that the best gifts are not found in stores but rather the best gifts any of us can give at Christmas or really any time throughout the year, are the gifts that come from the heart, or in Noah's case here, from the hand. Merry Christmas to you, and thank you for allowing me to share, "The Gift" with you.


"The Gift"


"It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life."


John 6:63


As the snow fell outside Abby sat in the armchair by the fireplace wrapped in a fleece blanket and starred through the tears at a piece of paper she held in her hands that Noah had given her for Christmas some 40 years ago that now since his passing had become even more cherished than when he was alive. On one side there were two hands, one outlining Noah's hand and safely outlined inside the lines of his was Abby's, much smaller of course but seemingly perfectly designed to fit in his. On the other side was a letter from Noah explaining "the gift" of this simple drawing he gave her that Christmas long ago.


"My dearest Ab's", the letter opened with, as Noah always called her Ab's which was short for "Abby". He went on to write, "It's hard to believe that we have only been married for three short years as I feel like you have been a part of me all my life. As I was thinking of what to get you for Christmas this year as money has been very tight I began thinking back to what life was before you and for the life of me I can't remember my life without you but I know I existed. Isn't it funny how when you love someone deep you lose all track of time, that is, when you are together? When we are apart that old clock on the wall of my office just seems at times like it is ticking in reverse. Sometimes I even check it to see if it's broke.


You see Ab's, I love being with you more than anything in this world and when I can't be with you I feel incomplete, I feel broke. From the day you walked into my life my world has never been the same. When we are apart I feel out of step and empty. You fill a void in my heart that nothing else can. Some days I find myself sitting at my desk thinking about you and wondering what you are doing, how your day is going and of course, I wonder if you miss me as much as I miss you. In three short years I have come to know the answer to that question every time I drive up and see your beautiful face looking back at me.


When I see you my whole world is brighter. It makes no difference what the day was like, for when I look into your eyes it's as if a switch gets flipped in me. There is nothing like looking at you and seeing you looking back at me. Those moments are by far and away the most beautiful for me to behold. You, my love, are my oasis, my paradise and there is no place I'd rather be than in the arms of the one who loves me. Even when we are a part I can hear your voice and I can smell your smell. I can feel your tenderness, and oh, your touch, there is nothing like the touch of your hand on my skin. I am like freshly churned butter when you reach out for me. As I sat thinking of a special gift to give you for Christmas this year, I am learning that of all the gifts I can give you and the ones you love most are the ones from my heart. As I listened to my heart it came to me, the thought of the perfect gift for you this year. I know how much I love your touch and I thought there was no better way to span the distance between us when we are apart than to give you a copy of my hand to remind you I am always reaching out to you patiently waiting for that moment when I get to take your hand in mine.


You know Ab's how I love the walks we take along the railroad tracks hand in hand as the trains pass by, talking and dreaming about what the future holds. You know too, I love the walks we take with your hand in mine down by the river stopping every ten feet or so just to look at each other to make sure we are for real. How many times have we sat face to face holding hands and wishing we could some how freeze that moment in time? Yes, Ab's, there is nothing like holding your hand in mine. Your hands are tender but strong, small yet subtle too. I love holding your hands inside of mine, covering them, keeping them warm and protecting them the best I can.


So, this Christmas I am giving you the gift of me, as I do know that's what you love most. Sketched on this piece of paper is an outline of my hand for you. When we are apart and you feel the need for me, simply close your eyes and place your hand inside mine and imagine me being right there at your side holding you. That's what I do when I long for you; I picture you in the theatre of my soul. When you are scared and I am not there, hold my hand and let it remind you that as long as I am alive I will protect you. When you feel alone take my hand and know, I am always close by. Remember, that's not just any old hand you are holding, that hand is my hand, and it is there for you. I will catch you when you fall, I'll give you strength when you need it most, and just when you think you can't go on, I'll lift you up. Yes, Ab's, all that I am and all that I have belong to you. Merry Christmas! Love, NOAH."


As Abby wiped the tears from her eyes remembering the love she and Noah shared for all those years she realized though Noah had gone home to be with Jesus earlier that year, he was still very much with her and this old Christmas gift was just the thing she needed to do exactly what Noah had promised it would. It caught her as she was feeling weak and falling, it brought her strength when she felt like she had none and it reminded her that even though they were apart they were always together because Noah was always with her in the deepest place of her heart. 


What made this gift even more special was the next Christmas when Abby gave it back to Noah with her own hand traced inside of his, the one she now was holding in her hands. Noah had kept that piece of paper with he and Abby's hands traced on it in his desk and pulled it out so often to draw strength from Abby that the paper was well worn. They often talked about each other's hands and the strength they drew from one another and Abby knew now she needed strength she didn't possess in herself to go on without Noah and the Lord used that piece of paper and those words from the one her soul loves to point her to the One whose nail pierced hands were reaching out to her. 


As Abby sat she was reminded of why the Lord Jesus Christ was born into the world that first Christmas. He had come so that mankind could "behold" Him. To think, God came all the way from heaven to earth to take us all by the hand as it were and to lead us home, home to be together, with the Lord and one another, forever! Just as Abby had been safe with Noah all those years she was reminded afresh this Christmas that she was safe with Jesus too. If she thought Noah had strong hands they would not compare to the Lord's hands. Though nail scared, God's hands are strong. We can always find strength and comfort safety and courage by placing our hands in His she thought to herself as she looked up and smiled and said thank you Jesus, and thank you to Noah, I love you!


I LOVE YOU!

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"The Gentle Push of God"

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"This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness."


Lamentations 3:21-22


Momentum, its hard to build up but once you have it, well, let's just say it's a lot easier to keep going. They say it takes 2/3 of a rockets fuel just to get it off the launch pad and only 1/3 for the journey through space. I think the same can be said of life too. Getting going is sometimes the hardest part of the day and you know what, loved one, I think God understands that about me and you and is one very important reason why He offers us help each day to get up and get going. You might say God loves to give us a boost, a gentle shove in the right direction to get on the way. Yes, loved one, God reminds us in His Word that He is compassionate and that His mercies are new every morning and great is His faithfulness to me and you!


God has provided us with all that we need today, loved one, the key is to look to Him first. Each one of us has the same 24 hours to get whatever there is to get done today and yet some have a hard time getting going. Others wake up running and live their lives to the max each day. I love that old saying that says, "Live each day as if it's your last but plan like you are going to live for another 100 years." That's good advice. I wonder how much more we would get out of life if we all lived with the understanding that no matter what, "we'll never pass this way again."


Jesus told a great story that helps us to know we can live our lives to the fullest today, that we can live today knowing that no matter what happens in our lives today we can still be standing at days end. Remember the story of the two foundations? Jesus said a wise man is the man or woman who builds their life on the solid foundation of Jesus Christ, the truth of God's Word. Jesus said a foolish builder is one who builds their life on their own, apart from God and His Word is a person who is driven by chance and circumstance. You see, loved one, Jesus made it clear that both the wise builder and the foolish builder would suffer the same storms in life. The difference wasn't in their ability to construct or the materials they used to build but simply where they chose to build.


If we build our lives on Jesus Christ, the Rock of our Salvation, though the storms of life will come our way, we will stand up to whatever life throws at us, but if we build our lives on our own ideas and concepts we will surely end up in ruin as if we built our house on sand, sinking stinking sand! With all my heart I encourage you to build your life on something great, something solid today, something that lasts, beloved of God. Make it your aim not to worry about your life, what you'll eat or what you will wear, but determine to focus your life on worship today. 


Seek the Lord today, gain momentum for the hills that may come your way as you spend time praying, singing, reading and sharing Jesus with others, knowing that when you come to the end of your day and lay down tonight you will know you made good use of this day that the Lord has made and I know too that you will have something to rejoice about as you come to realize again that His mercies really are fresh and new every morning!


"But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you."


Matthew 6:33


I LOVE YOU!

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"When God Smiles"

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"We love Him because He first loved us."


1 John 4:19


Have you ever really thought about what brings God pleasure and what makes Him smile? God is a person to so consider for a moment what makes you happy? What brings a smile to your face? We smile all kinds of things. We can smile at a stranger or we smile to convey our love for one another or our pleasure in a situation that we find pleasing to us. God is a person too and not a cosmic force and I do believe God smiles at us but not in the way we might think. I see in the bible the heart of God, the heart of the Father for His children and I sense from what I read that what makes Him smile is when His children live by faith and walk in obedience to Him. Don't get me wrong here. I am not saying God's smile, His pleasure in us is based on us doing or performing because it's not. I believe God smiles when we trust Him, when we place our faith and hope in Him even when our circumstances are telling us otherwise. You see, loved one, nothing pleases the Father more than when His children walk by faith and not by sight. That almost seems paradoxical to me as a smile is something we can see with our eyes, an outward expression of the heart you might say. And yet, I don't believe God's smile is seen at all this side of heaven, I believe its felt. Pleasure is God's smile and when we feel His pleasure we have this sense that heaven is smiling down on us.


The bible says let the peace of God rule your heart and for me I sense God's peace, His smiling at me as it were when I am walking with Him. I don't feel God smiling at me because I do things for Him. I loved the movie "Chariots of Fire" and growing up playing sports I understood what Eric Liddell (the Olympic runner who the movie portrayed) meant when he said to his sister, "I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast, and when I run, I feel God's pleasure." It's easy to think that God's pleasure in us, that what makes Him smile at us is some how connected to how we perform, how fast we run as it were. But oh how quickly we can forget what really pleases the Father is the performance of His Son for us and then our trusting and resting in what Jesus has already done.


For me, I feel the warmth of His smile in my life when I simply am with Him, walking with God by faith, enjoying the fellowship of our Heavenly Father made possible through Jesus Christ, His Son and by the power of the Holy Spirit living in me. Think about that today, loved one. What makes you smile the most? For me, it's the natural expression that comes upon me when I see someone I love. They have not done nor said anything. It is simply the outward expression of my heart towards them that says, "its so good to see you, it's so good to be with you".


Do you desire to make God smile today? You can. Take a moment and pray, spend some time just opening up your heart to Him. Sit with the Lord today and allow Him to speak to you through His Word. Commune with Him and walk with Jesus today sense His presence as He leads and guides you and feel His pleasure for you. People may even wonder what you are smiling about and ask you why you are so happy or what you have done wrong, ha! Remember, it's not what you do for God that makes Him smile, its you and me realizing the depth of His love for us, and knowing that there is nothing God loves more than when you and I spend time alone with Him, just Him. Yes, loved one, there is plenty of things we can accomplish today that can make God smile, but nothing will bring a smile to His face more than the desire of your heart and mine today that says, "I just want to be with you".


"Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him…"


Mark 3:14


I LOVE YOU!

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"Joy To The World"

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"Defend the poor and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and needy. Deliver the poor and needy; Free them from the hand of the wicked."

Psalm 82:3-4


Christmas time is for the church more than just a holiday, its an opportunity to shine like His star in the East that first appeared at the birth of our Savior. After all it was Jesus Himself who said, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16). And a friend reminded me Sunday that it isn't a suggestion Jesus is making. 

This Christmas look for opportunities to minister to the poor and the fatherless, to do justice for the afflicted and the needy as they can be found on almost every busy intersection. Don't just deliver food and gifts to the poor and needy, look for ways to free them from the hand of the wicked one. Share the love of Christ who has come to set the captives free. Humanitarian efforts are needed but only the body of Christ has the privilege of shinning the light of Christ's love to a dying world. 

Yes, loved one, Jesus is the reason for the season so don't let anything replace sharing His love with the world around us. The needs are great but the Supplier is greater! The storehouse of heaven is full for those who take the message of God's love into the world. Don't miss your chance to experience the miracle of Christmas when Jesus is born into the hearts of those we share Him with. Jesus is the gift that keeps on giving! 

Let the Christmas story come alive in you this Christmas, remembering, "For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!" (Luke 2:11-14).


"Oh, send out Your light and Your truth! Let them lead me; Let them bring me to Your holy hill And to Your tabernacle."

Psalm 43:3


I LOVE YOU!

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"What's On Your Tree?"

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"For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush."


Luke 6:44


There is a popular credit card commercial that asks the question to consumers, "what's in your wallet" with regard to what type of credit card do you carry with you. The next claim that is made is that this particular credit card is accepted in more places world wide than any other credit card company.


As followers of Christ there is something that is more important than what's in our wallet when we leave the house each day. In the book of Acts Jesus made a statement similar to that of yet another credit card company in speaking to His disciples, "And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, "which," He said, "you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now" (Acts 1:4-5 NKJV). In other words it was as if Jesus was saying, "never leave home without it."


Knowing that, we are instructed by the Lord to be mindful as we go about our daily affairs and ask ourselves an even more important question than what type of credit card do we carry in our wallet. We need to ask ourselves, "what's on our tree?" as Jesus said we would be known by the type of fruit that our lives produce. Trust me, in this consumer driven economy we live in people are constantly on the look out for something that satisfies. The good news for those who love the Lord is the fruit that we produce in our lives is a direct byproduct of abiding in the vine. Jesus is the vine who produces the fruit of our lives bear out and not we ourselves. We can't do anything apart from Jesus but in Him we can do all things!



John 15:1-5 makes this clear when Jesus said, "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vine-dresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing."



The only way to produce lasting fruit is to abide in Jesus. If you are wondering what type of fruit Jesus is speaking of that comes by way of abiding in Him you can find the answer in Galatians 5:22-23 which lists the one and only fruit that Jesus wants to make sure is hanging on our tree.



The apostle Paul wrote, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law." It's good to note that the only fruit is love and not nine different fruits. Love is the fruit that Jesus produces in our lives and is made evident every time we set foot out into the world through His joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.



Join with me today in examining ourselves before we head out into our day asking the Lord to make us fruitful. Invite the Lord to live through your life today. Remember, we don't work to produce the fruit of the Spirit in our lives, it's a byproduct that comes from growing in and abiding in Christ. Love is of God and those who love are born of God and know God. Pray and feed on God's Word, rely on Jesus and find your sustenance in Him.



Be prayerful and watch for opportunities today to let the fruit of your life be made made known to a world that is starving for something that this world cannot provide but that those in Christ can. Share the fruit of Jesus love with others. As my grand daughter and grandson love to say, "Sharing is Caring". Give your life away in serving others and invite them to taste and see that the Lord is good.


"I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing."


John 15:5


I LOVE YOU!


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"The Little Things Mean The Most"

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"So the men of Israel said, "Have you seen this man who has come up? Surely he has come up to defy Israel; and it shall be that the man who kills him the king will enrich with great riches, will give him his daughter, and give his father's house exemption from taxes in Israel."


1 Samuel 17:25


Almost everybody knows the story of David and Goliath, young and old alike. We sometimes think of little David being the underdog but the truth is Goliath is the real underdog. Don't forget, its David has the anointing of God upon his life, and if God is for you who can stand against you! Nobody, absolutely nobody. Like David, when you and I give our lives to Christ we are given God's very Spirit to dwell within us. A power so great we can't really comprehend in our finite minds the strength the Lord provides. What we do know is that the bible says, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." David came to know that strength in his life in a real way, as did Goliath. I pray you and I come to know God's strength too! No matter what you are facing today, loved one, know that you can do hard things!


David was the last guy in the world the people would have thought God would have risen up to be king. Even the priest Samuel who was given the task of anointing the next king of Israel started with the oldest and the tallest of Jesse's son's and eventually worked his way down until there was none left except David, the youngest in the family. David was just a shepherd boy when Samuel set out looking for the next king to anoint and if not for the Lord's leading Samuel would have easily just passed young David by. All that to say, man does look at the outward appearance and God really does look upon our heart. Knowing that is true, let me encourage you today to focus on your heart, and what you allow in your life, what you read and watch and listen too. Remember everything you allow in your life sooner or later manifests its way through your life, in thoughts, and feelings, and ultimately actions. The point is to be more concerned of how you look to God than how you look to man. Realize that the heart is deceitfully wicked, and only God can truly know it.


David serves as a great example for us to learn about God's amazing grace. If you know the history of David's life you recall he had lusted, he committed adultery, and then he committed murder and trying to cover up his sins and still after all that God considered him a man after God's own heart. Only God could have known for sure what was in David's heart and only God truly knows what is going on in our hearts too. Don't forget it was God Himself who said that David was a man after His heart. It's here we discover again that God is omniscient as well as omnipotent and omnipresent. But most important as you read this today, may you discover in your own life afresh that God is the God of mercy and grace!


Considering the omniscience of God makes me think, what will God say about us? Not on judgment day but rather about today? Remember, faithfulness is measured best by all the little things we do day in and day out. Will God call us faithful; will He call us His friend? Will you and I be ones that God will say of that we too were men and women after His heart by the way we lived our lives? Will He say we were loving servants, gracious and merciful, forgiving and kind? Time will tell.


Don't forget, being a servant isn't a job we do for God, it's the calling of God upon our lives. Being a servant isn't a stepping-stone to a better position in the church or in the work place, in marriage or in the home. Serving is the privilege, the calling of every person who calls him or herself a Christian, a follower of Christ. Focus on your faithfulness to God, do everything you do today with the desire to hear His voice say to you like He said of David and all who serve Him from a pure heart…a heart that has been washed clean by the grace and mercy of God shown to us on the Cross of Calvary where Jesus shed His blood for you and me!


"His lord said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord."


Matthew 25:23


I LOVE YOU!

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"Christmas Tree or Not?"

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"Thus says the LORD: " Do not learn the way of the Gentiles; do not be dismayed at the signs of heaven, for the Gentiles are dismayed at them. For the customs of the peoples are futile; For one cuts a tree from the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. They decorate it with silver and gold; they fasten it with nails and hammers so that it will not topple." 


Jeremiah 10:2-4


Every Christmas I get asked this question, "Pastor Mike, do you believe in Christmas trees?" Now that's a loaded question. People don't always know I was once a youth pastor before I went into "adult" ministry and I know how to avoid hostile questions by answering questions with questions. Even Jesus used this method when dealing with religious people. The common answer I like to give people is, "Is there such a thing?" I then look at them with that look like I have no idea what they are saying. (You know the look. My dog looks at me with this same kind of look when I talk to her). Then they usually ask, "What I am asking is should Christians have Christmas trees?" to which I respond, "that depends, how do you know if the tree is actually a Christmas tree and how do you know if the person is really a Christian or not?" By this time you hope someone else has come along so you can slide out of the conversation and leave them to debate the issue without any of you own blood being shed.


The biblical answer is, "if you can put the Christmas tree up in good faith then put it up If not and you believe that having a Christmas tree violates your conscience, then it would be wrong." (See Romans 14:23). It is not sin to have a tree and it is not sin to not have a tree. If you are thinking that my answer seems so nebulous it is because it is because I firmly believe, "in essentials, unity; in doubtful matters, liberty; in all things, charity."


It was wrong in Jeremiah 10:2-4 because the people cut down trees and fashioned trees into idols and worshipped them. Obviously, if you worship your Christmas tree you would be in sin. If you see the tree as a decoration in your home and you enjoy putting lights on it and placing gifts under it you are not compromising your faith any more than if you bought a tree and planted it in your back yard or sent flowers to a loved one. There is nothing worse at Christmas time than a believer who is legalistic and sees a Christmas tree as mark of your faith or lack of it because you put up a tree to celebrate the birth of our Savior. There is grace, loved one, and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty.


Tree or no tree is a matter of personal taste and not a reflection of your walk or love for the Lord. I remember speaking with a woman in our church who has one of the strongest walks with God of anyone I know (male or female) and she and her family decorate a palm tree that is in their living room as their Christmas tree. One of her boys remarked that he liked the idea that they don't have normal traditions. I laughed as I thought about that. I can hear the sound of the Sanhedrin now as they wrestle with that question, "Should a righteous man decorate a palm trees in place of a Christmas tree?"


With all my heart loved one, remember that Jesus is the reason for the Christmas season. Major on the majors this holiday. Focus on the fact of God's love for the world that He sent His Only Begotten Son to be born in a manger in Bethlehem to save the world and give eternal life to all who believe on His name. Focus on what really matter! Jesus came to save sinners, not to condemn them. We don't need to put Jesus back in Christmas, as He never left. Jesus is worshipped in the heavens by the host of angels and by multitudes here on earth. Don't miss the privilege we have to come and adore Him, don't miss your opportunity to join in and sing along with the host of heaven, " Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!"


"Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."


Luke 2:10-11


I LOVE YOU!

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"Comfort in Cave"

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"And everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him. So he became captain over them. And there were about four hundred men with him."

1 Samuel 22:2


This story in 1 Samuel 22 has become one of my favorite in the bible these past few years. I can't tell you how many times I have felt like a misfit in the cave of life just looking for a safe place to hide out… me and about 399 other misfits too! Guess what, what we found turned out to be unlike anything we thought or imagined the cave would be! I have enjoyed what the different commentaries I have read had to say about 1 Samuel, to know that God has created a safe place where the misfits of life-like me can go brings so much comfort to my heart. There really is a safe place for the distressed, the discontented, and even those in debt can go to find solitude in this life. It's not where you might think though. A dark cave isn't the place to find safety, no, safety is found in the light of our loving Savior, in Jesus. The cave didn't provide the comfort the people sought, David did. David is a type of Christ here in 1 Samuel 22 and the cave isn't the place of comfort, the One who meets them in the cave is.


The Lord is our hiding place, and those who are distressed and discontented in this life are invited to find our comfort and rest in Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Psalm 20:7, "Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the Lord our God." There's room in the cave, loved one, as Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."


Let David's life be an encouragement to you today. David is a type of Christ for us in this story in chapter 22, keep that in mind, friend. David took 400 misfits and transformed them into mighty men of valor! If David, a mere man can do that with his misfits just think of what Jesus can do with us if we will sit under His leadership and give Him charge over our lives! Make Jesus the Lord of your life and watch how your life will change. Give Him charge over your heart and soul and watch how as you listen and learn and follow Him, the cares and distresses of life give way to meaning and purpose. Don't follow a man, follow the Lord! Stay close to Him and experience first hand, the love and the care that He will take in making and molding you.


Reading what David does in the life of his mighty men reminds me of that old saying, "I am not what I once was and I am not what I shall be". Our greater than David, our King Jesus is working in us to make us mighty men and women of valor too. If life has you down today remember that there is comfort in the cave when we recognize Jesus is there for us! Turn to Him and allow Him to transform your darkness into light, your mourning into joy!


"Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is."

1 John 3:2


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"The Verse That Changed My Life For Good"

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"For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace."

Romans 6:14 (NKJV)


I finally discovered after years and years of struggling against sin that I can't live the Christian life. As much as I would like to I realize it is impossible imitate perfection with any sort of of success. It cant be done so I gave up. In that moment of surrender I became free. Like the old cliche I "let go and let God" and life has never been the same. Only Jesus can live the Christian life, all others fall short. I relate to the apostle Paul who writes in Romans 7:15-20, "For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me."


The apostle Paul understood that it's not sins plural but sin singular that dwells within us. The apostle Paul didn't see sins when he looked at his life, but instead he saw sin, not a verb but a noun because just as our righteousness is tied to Christ, our sin nature comes directly from Adam. As a former religious person I saw the sins in my life as areas of my life I needed to work on to become a better person not realizing that was exactly the trap the devil wanted me to fall in to. If we focus on trying to conquer the individual sins in our lives we will never experience the freedom from sin that Jesus provides. Our freedom comes by way of Jesus! Just as the apostle Paul saw sin as a noun and not a verb, salvation comes in the form of a person too! The goal of the Christian life isn't to clean up our act, trying to be a better person. The freedom you and I can enjoy in Christ is when we realize we are not who we once were. So, if you aren't the person you use to be, why would you continue to live the life you use to live? We have been set free! At the Cross our old nature was crucified with Christ and because we were raised with Christ into the newness of life we are new creations in Christ. Its no longer I who lives but Christ in me! The goal then of the Christian life is learning to allow God to live His life in and through me, for Jesus to shine through me not me trying to shine for Him. 


How do I live the victorious life that is ours in Jesus? It starts by DECLARING. Romans 6:11-14, "Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace." Because of God's grace every time I am tempted, every time I start in my mind to go back to the familiar path of my old life before coming to know Jesus as Lord I say out loud so I can hear it, "Sin Is Not My Master!" Try it today. Every time you are tempted to sin say out loud, "Sin is NOT my master!"


I can say this with confidence because when I was baptized, I was baptized into Jesus death. Adam with whom all of mankind owes its existence brought sin into the world when he rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden and therefore sin spread to all men. Each and every one of us now is born in sin, we have a sin nature that is naturally bent away from God not to Him. When we come to Jesus we are adopted into the family of God with all its rights and privileges. Sin and death are closely related and where you see sin, death is not far behind. Where Jesus is you find freedom and liberty, life more abundantly.


Because we are free in Christ and no longer slaves we have a choice to honor God, to seek Him first and to give Him first place in everything. Every day we who are in Christ have the ability to DECIDE to follow Jesus and say no to sin. The apostle Paul put it this way in Romans 6:13, "And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God."


But it doesn't end there, loved one. Our victory over sin and temptation on a day to day basis starts with a declaration, "Sin is not my master." Jesus is! It's also important to know that victory is also a choice, a choice God allows me to make to willfully present myself to Christ as an instrument of righteousness for His purposes each day. And finally, victory is mine and yours as we DEVOTE ourselves to God. Being fully devoted to Jesus is more than just a mental decision we make, it's also an act of our will. It's more than thinking the right things, its being devoted to Jesus by walking in obedience to Him by allowing Him to lead and guide our lives by His Spirit. When we come to Christ we come under new management. Victory comes to us as we abide in Christ. We don't bear fruit through our own energy or effort. We bear fruit by allowing the life of Jesus to flow to us and through us. As I spend time in prayer connecting with Jesus and reading His Word learning to discern His voice I see a path in front of me that He bids me to walk and not alone in my own strength but in the strength that He provides. Sin is not my master, Jesus is my victory!


"When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory."

Colossians 3:4


I LOVE YOU!

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"The Joy of Fungus"

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"Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree" 


Galatians 3:13

What seems like an eternity ago I was riding my bike one brisk winter afternoon with my wife and our good friend Bill. Gunther, as I like to call him noticed the trees along the bike path and river bed were losing their leaves but observed joyfully that the fungus was as green as ever. You know the fungus in the trees, it's affectionately known as 'mistletoe'. We laughed as we thought about the tradition of mistletoe and how people actually want to stand under a fungus and share a kiss to celebrate the Christmas holiday. I mean of all the things a person could hold over someone's head to create a mood of love. Who would have thought fungus would do the trick? You can't make this stuff up friend. At times life is stranger than fiction.

I couldn't get that gross picture of fungus out of my mind. To think that fungus could actually be a means of bringing people together in love. But then, the more I thought about how strange it seemed the more sense it actually made to me in another. The "another" being in a biblical sense. Think about why Jesus was born into this world in the first place. The world was infected with sin or you might say a fungus, yet in reality sin is far worse than any fungus could ever dream of being. God knew what a terrible state we were in and that sin, the fungus, was taking over and there was no cure apart from God intervening. Jesus came to hang on that tree in our place so that you and I could experience God's love. His death on that tree (Calvary's Cross) seemed like a fungus to many in the world then and even today and yet those who in faith come and stand under God's banner of love come to realize the miracle of Christmas. God meets us at the place of our sin, our fungus as it were and reminds us that for that very purpose Jesus was born into this world, to bear the penalty of our sin so we can be healed. Jesus comes into our lives so that we can know God's love.

So, loved one, the next time you see mistletoe, whether in a tree or hanging above a door let it remind you of love, God's love for you. There's nothing God wants more this Christmas than to meet you there at that tree, the Cross of Jesus so that you and I can know His love too. Yes loved one, mistletoe hangs on a tree and when it is removed it becomes an expression of love at Christmas time. The same is true too of the Cross of Jesus, His death and resurrection! Yes, beloved of God, it was love that motivated Jesus to willingly give His life on that tree and it was His perfect life that rose again from the grave as the perfect expression of God's love for you! Christmas is a time of celebration, a time to celebrate God's love for you. The Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who are being saved, it's a lot like standing under mistletoe. It is the greatest expression of love, the Cross that is!

"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."

1 Corinthians 1:18

I LOVE YOU!


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"Anticipation"

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"But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman…"


Galatians 4:4


Its hard to not catch the Christmas spirit around our house as my wife enjoys decorating our home around the holidays and it seems like this year every room or wall in the house is declaring the glorious day! Growing up I could hardly wait for Christmas morning and the joy of unwrapping the gifts under our tree. For weeks before the big day the anticipation would build. My parents would have my brother and sisters and I make a list of things we wanted for Christmas in the order of preference and then submit it not really knowing for sure what gift we would receive. It's here we learned to hope. All the waiting only heightened the excitement of the day and though for a small child the waiting felt as if it was going to kill us, I spent most of my days before Christmas looking for all the places my parents, (I mean Santa) could have hidden our gifts. Its here I learned to seek!


I can't even begin to recall the countless sleepless Christmas Eve's where every sound in the house made me think that Santa (Yes, my parents let us believe there was a Santa) had visited our house so we would quietly get up in the middle of the night and sneak down the hall to look under the tree, most of the time to be disappointed that the sounds we thought we heard of a sleigh on our roof were most likely only the sounds the house makes on its own with pipes and stuff creaking in the walls. Oh the days of anticipation. Christmas by design was the Father's way to teach the world about anticipation.


As I consider the birth of our Savior and that first Christmas I can't imagine the anticipation that was felt by Mary and Joseph, Zacharias and Elizabeth all knowing that Mary was about to give birth to the Christ Child, the Savior of the world. Talk about anticipation. What I love about the gift of Jesus birth is that it is not a story conjured up after the fact like man made religion. No, loved one, Christianity is just the opposite as the birth of Jesus was not just predicted or prophecies made about it. The very day of Jesus birth was predetermined by the Father and told thousands of years before Jesus was ever born. In all fairness, the story of Jesus birth goes all the way back to Genesis chapter 3 making the announcement of our Saviors birth the most anticipated event in human history, the day when God would become a man and dwell among us and save us from our sins. At least those who would receive His priceless gift that is.


It was never any secret that a Savior would be born to save us from our sins. Its what Christmas is all about and my prayer for me and for you this Christmas is that the anticipation of the revelation of Jesus would capture our hearts afresh with the same zeal that the thought of presents under a tree captures the entire being of a child's heart and mind. Jesus was born for me and for you, loved one, and guess what, He is coming back again! Talk about living with anticipation. Don't miss the chance to stop from the busyness of the holiday this year to drop to your knees and join the host of heaven and enjoying the gift that only Jesus can provide, peace on earth and goodwill towards men. It's the gift He is bringing with Him when He comes again! Let the spirit of Christmas captivate your heart this year! Remember, wise men (and women) still seek Jesus!


"So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us."


Matthew 1:22-23


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"Jesus, Our Spot Remover"

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"Come now, and let us reason together," Says the Lord, "Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool."

Isaiah 1:18


Like most people I have a favorite shirt. Forgetting what shirt I had on at the moment I was spraying some lubricant on my garage door drive-train and I somehow got a single drop of grease smack dab in the front of my shirt right near the collar. As I discovered it later as I stood in front of a mirror I felt as if my knees might buckle under the weight of despair. It was ruined so I thought. Black on white stands out and over the next few weeks I worked on this stain as I refused to get rid of my favorite shirt without a fight.


Alas, after weeks of focused effort the spot was gone and its hard to find the right words to express the delight I felt in not seeing the spot any longer. It got me thinking, isn't that exactly how the Lord works in your life and mine too? He sees the spots and blemishes and He goes to work on them. I am not talking about forgiveness as our forgiveness is as sure as the Cross of Jesus Christ, who suffered and died for my sins as my Savior in whom I trust. I'm talking about the cleansing and sanctifying work of God apart from my justification where the Word of God declares, " He who has begun this good work in us is faithful to complete it" and thank God He doesn't stop until He brings us to the desired end and that end is to look like Jesus, spot free! All I know is for me, God has a lot of spot removing to do. How about you? Thank God today for His amazing grace that not only saves us from our sins but works to remove it from our lives here and now too! 


It was C.S. Lewis who once said, "God, who foresaw your tribulation, has specially armed you to go through it, not without pain but without stain." Yes, loved one, God is working in our lives today to get the stains out as Ephesians 5:26-27 says, "that He (Jesus) might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish."


Life has a way of getting us all to feel at times like we are stuck in the spin cycle of life but just know today that everything you are experiencing and everything you go through in this life must first pass through the filter of God's love before it reaches you. He won't leave you all wet or even hung out to dry. God gets the spots out completely, so don't wait to bring those areas of your life where the sin of this world has left its dirty mark on you. Bring your sins, your stains to God. He makes all things new!


Keep this in mind today, loved one, God is working in us to bring us to a perfect ending where one day we will stand before Him in white apparel, completely stain free like white on rice! What a day that's going to be! Clean at last, clean at last, clean at last!


"For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?"


Hebrews 9:13-14


I LOVE YOU!

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