Life Along the Way

A Daily Devotional

"Exercise Your Love"

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"By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

John 13:35


Being in Southern California this past weekend performing a wedding ceremony I am always reminded of the high price love is willing to pay to make itself known for the benefit of others. Like most who attend weddings I am drawn back to 1 Corinthians 13, the "love chapter" of our bibles where the apostle Paul gives for us a definition of what true love is.


Being Monday and the start of a new week I thought I'd do a little check up on my own heart by reading verses 4-8 and every place I see the word "love" I'd insert my own name there. Try it yourself and if there is an area of your own love life that needs some help this week and don't be afraid to ask the Lord to fill you up with His love since God is love, He has plenty to offer us when we sense we are running in short supply.


1 Corinthians 13:4-8 says, " Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails."


Now, read it again and everywhere the word "love" was I have put a blank. Just fill in the blank with your own name and read it again to complete the little assignment.


1 Corinthians 13:4-8 with your name inserted would read like this, "_____ suffers long and is kind; _____ does not envy; _____ does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. _____ never fails."


So, let me ask you this morning, how did you do? Does your love add up the way you would have hoped it would? Are there any areas in your "love life" where you need the Lord's help to love better? If so, ask Him for the opportunity to put love into practice today, as love is active not passive. The only way to be a better lover of people is through practice loving them and usually in situation where you get to choose to prefer them over you. Unless we exercise our love, it won't grow. If we don't practice loving others our love won't get stronger, it will actually become weaker. You see, beloved of Jesus, love isn't a feeling as much as its an action.


Exercise your love today, friend, put your faith in action as you take the time to put love into practice by preferring others first. Yes, beloved of Jesus, love is the answer for a better day, as love changes everything, namely you and me every time we love others expecting nothing in return. Go ahead and try it, exercise your love today! Fill in the blanks of 1 Corinthians 13 by loving others today, one relationship at a time, keeping this in mind…


"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another."


John 13:34


I LOVE YOU!

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"Hope Beyond Grief"

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"But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope."


1 Thessalonians 4:13


I woke up this morning to the tragic news there was a mass shooting in Thousand Oaks at a local bar that was frequented by university students from two near by schools. With multiple fatalities an entire community is in shock today and will soon begin the long process of dealing with grief and loss. My heart goes out to everyone involved.

As I laid in bed praying I was thinking about last night as I started a new book in our journey through the bible on Wednesday nights at the church I pastor. We are studying the book of Job and in just one night we discovered together that we all experience hurt, that each of us will suffer pain and loss in this life, we just all do it different ways, and in varying degrees. Some people handle suffering better than others. In truth, some people's methods of dealing with pain and grief are just down right destructive. This morning I wanted to share with you what I probably won't have time to share in depth during our weekly study but something that I have found very helpful through the years as I have counseled with countless people experiencing pain and sorrow, loss and the ensuing grief.

I'll contrast for you here how the world has taught us to grieve and as well I'll give you some means of healing God's way. Six ways we often grieve wrong and six ways we can grieve properly that leads us to healing and wholeness. If you are going through a season of pain and sorrow I want to personally invite you to join us on Wednesday nights at 6:30 p.m. at Calvary Chapel Bakersfield or follow us on line live at ccbakersfield.com as we study through the book of Job and deal with the universal question, "why do bad things happen to good people?" Below are the two contrasting methods to dealing with grief. My prayer today is that they help you like they have helped me. Feel free to pass them along to someone you know who is hurting today.


1. The world teaches us to, "Bury Your Feelings". Often times the first thing someone says to us when they see us crying is, "Oh, please don't cry" or "You shouldn't be crying". As children you might have had a parent say to you, "Stop your crying! I'll give you something to cry about" if they thought your tears were senseless.

1. God says to us, "Feel your Feelings". Were were created in the image of God, spirit, soul and body with God given emotions. If God didn't desire that we cry when touched deeply Jesus would not have cried Himself at the tomb of Lazarus or over the nation of Israel at their rejection of Him as their promised Messiah, or in the Garden of Gethsemane. Tears are the natural expression of the tender heart.

2. The world teaches us to, "Replace Your losses". (Run from your pain). An example might be, a child has a pet die and starts to cry and the parents say, "don't cry honey, we'll get you a new puppy". This reinforces the belief we should not cry but as quickly as possible move on and replace our loss.

2. God says, "Review the Loss". Mourning is a healthy aspect of living and God even set aside specific allotments of time under Jewish law so the people had ample time to mourn their loss. To heal properly we need to feel the effects of our loss, to appreciate fully what we had. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to talk about the loss with others and to write about it reflectively, and pray about it, to slow down the pace of your life for a season of time and resist the unhealthy urge to speed up and stay busy. None of us can out run the pain forever. Sooner or later we'll have to stop. The best time is now not then.

3. The world says, "Grieve Alone". When we need people the most we tend to withdrawal from them thinking its best to not burden others with our pain. We might have even been told when we wanted to comfort someone we love when they were hurting, "Don't bother them now, they need to be alone" not realizing that only reinforces the belief that when we grieve we should do it alone.

3. God says, Grieve in Community. (After Jesus death the disciples gathered together in an upper room). One of the blessings of being a family is being there for one another during times of loss so that the family members can grieve together. All throughout the bible God calls us to share our burdens with others, not to carry them alone. "A friend loves at all times but a brother is born for adversity". There is nothing like having family and friends there for you when you hurt. Don't grieve alone. Reach up, reach out!

4. The world says, "Time Heals All Wounds". After bypassing the first three steps here the world says to us, "just give it time, you'll get over it" but for many the pain never stops, the pain never ceases and like a deep infection it only gets worse with time. The truth is, time does not heal all wounds.

4. God says, "Only the Holy Spirit Can Truly Heal". Jesus on the night before He went to the Cross to die told the disciple sot not let their heart be troubled. He could say that because Jesus would provide for them and us The Holy Spirit, to be with us, along side us and in us. Jesus said He would send us the Holy Spirit who is called, "The Comforter". Jesus knows we need comfort to heal and God has provided that for us in a person. Pray and ask God to give you the Holy Spirit and let Him come to you and bring you what only God can.

5. The world says, "Live with Regret". The world says to us that the past is the past and there is nothing you can do about it to change it. Just live with it or just forget it if you can.

5. God says, "Share Your Regrets", express them, to God and to others. The first thing Jesus calls His disciples to do is repent. Because God knows our heart, when we repent, when we are truly sorry for the past and the regrets each of us feels its as if God says to us, "I know your heart, I know that if you could go back and fix or change the situation you would, but you can't. But what you can do is move ahead. I died for you on Calvary's Cross, I took your sin and its shame so that you could be free. You are free today because forgiveness is found in Me. It's mine to give and I give it to you, go now and sin no more". God knows if we could go back, turn back the hands of time as it were we would change the situation. Its why pouring our heart out to God is best. He knows us, He knows our heart and His peace and comfort are like no other!

Share your regrets with others too. Find someone who will listen to you and if need be consider writing out your regrets then read them as if you were reading them to the person with whom you have the regret. Don't carry the regrets, get them off your chest, out of your heart and experience God's amazing healing grace. No matter what might have happened to us, we can make peace on our side of the equation. Romans 12:18 puts it like this, "If it is possible, as much as it depends on you, be at peace with all men." We can't change our past but we can change our thoughts and feelings about it.

6. The world says, "Never Trust Again". We have all heard the expression, "Do it to me once shame on you, do it to me twice, shame on me!" The problem with building our walls so no one can get to us and hurt us is, once I complete the wall to protect me from others, I am stuck, I can't get out. Remember loved one, isolation is hell.

6. God says, "I will never leave you nor forsake you". Even if the world walks away from you God won't. I love the saying, "I didn't know Jesus was all I needed until Jesus was all I had." Its true, friend, when you hurt and you feel abandoned and alone, as if no one cares and no one is there. Remember, Jesus is there for you. The bible again and again reminds us, "Those who trust in the Lord will not be disappointed." God is there for you and not just when you hurt but He is for sure there when you do. You can trust Him.

The only sure thing in life is God and when we make Him the center of our lives we can live without the fear of being alone and for good reason. God cannot die, He cannot break, He doesn't wear out, move away, change His mind about us. God is not vulnerable! He is the same yesterday, today and forever! And the best part is He is standing at the door of your heart today knocking, waiting for you to open up your heart and let Him in. Don't let your pain push God away. Draw close to God as He has promised He will draw close to you!

"Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God."

Psalms 43:5

I LOVE YOU!


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"If Your Heart Could Write"

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"My heart is overflowing with a good theme; I recite my composition concerning the King; my tongue is the pen of a ready writer."

Psalm 45:1

Have you ever considered what is the leitmotif of your life? It's an interesting word that describes a persons life theme or motivation? If your heart could write a story today what would it be? Would it be a song of worship or would it be one filled with worry, complaints or compliments? For some people its drama, for others its action, some like to go fast and get things done, others like to take it slow taking in everything around them? For some life is always hard while for others it goes relatively smooth. I guess it all comes down to what we are planting day in and day out. I love that in Psalm 45:1 the writer declares in that his heart is overflowing with a good theme, a good leitmotif, but why? What causes the heart to overflow with a good theme one might ask? Have you ever heard the expression, "garbage in garbage out?" The only way for our hearts to overflow with good things is for our hearts to be filled with good things to begin with. The writer of Psalm 45 finds his source of motivation grounded in his thoughts about the King.

Where do we get good things to fill our hearts overflowing with a good theme? Jesus answered that question Himself when He said in John 7:38, "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." Just like in psalm 45, a good theme comes from good thoughts and good thoughts come from focusing our thoughts on the One who loves us like no other. When we consider the goodness of our King and our God, we can't help but have hearts that are overflowing with a good leitmotif.

Do you desire a good theme for your day?  If so, focus; focus on the goodness of God and think about Him. Seek the Lord and sing His praises, recite His promises, make known His deeds and declare His Word and you too will discover what the psalmist came to know in Psalm 118:1 when he said, "Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!" Yes, loved one, God is good all the time! My hope for you is that every time you hear something pleasant and something good your response would be, "that's the story of my life!" 

"Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you."

Philippians 4:8-9

I LOVE YOU!


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"Bring Your Pillow"

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"A song of Ascents. Of David. Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!"

Psalms 133:1


The end result of anything is nothing more than the sum total of all its parts mathematicians tell us, and true or not, I have come to appreciate in my own walk, the journey every bit as much as the destination. Actually, I have come to appreciate the journey even more these last few years believing that, "If the destination is secure, why not enjoy the ride?" Take the story Jesus tells in Mark chapter 4 where He says to His disciples, "Let us cross over to the other side of the lake" and then once on board and sailing along, Jesus retreats with His pillow to the hull of the boat to sleep and then mid way across the lake, suddenly and without warning a storm ensues and the disciples come and wake Jesus fearing that they are all going to die. They even go as far as to ask Jesus if He even cares about them thinking they are about to die in this storm that they are experiencing because He invited them into the boat.

Obviously, the disciples at this point in their relationship with Jesus had no idea that the answer to their question is an absolute, "Yes". Jesus does in fact care very much about them and us and so much so that He will die on Calvary's Cross so that all His disciples can and will live. Mark's Gospel goes on to say, "Then He (Jesus) arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea saying, "Peace, be still!" And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. But He said to them, "Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?"

I love that story because it says Jesus got into the boat with the disciples and said, "Let us cross over". The words, "Let us" means, everyone in the boat with Jesus was going over to make it to the other side of the lake, period. What the bible doesn't say is, and this is just as important, (Repeat: the bible doesn't say), "Let us cross over to the other side of the lake, IF". Jesus doesn't say, "Let us cross over to the other side IF the winds don't blow and the waves of the sea don't get too big" as if to say, "we'll all make it IF the circumstances of our lives are favorable".

No, loved one, Jesus makes a promise to the disciples that each and everyone who are with Him in the boat are going to make it all the way to the other side, regardless of the circumstances that may or may not arise. I like to call this the Good News of the Gospel because that is exactly what it is. Jesus has promised His disciples that if we will stay with Him, if we will abide in Him we will make it to our eternal destination. There must be a warning here too that reminds us that if we choose to go our own way we will surely perish. Take your own chances and I promise you that the waves of this life will consume and crush you and the winds of change will lead you far from your hearts desire. Don't shipwreck your faith or life trying to make it on your own. Remember, "It's not if but when" the storms of this life hit as none of our lives are completely free of pain of suffering, trials and tribulations.

The beauty of community of being in the boat together provides for us a peace that is beyond comprehension because the peace we experience isn't circumstantial, its personal, as the bible declares, He is our peace. The peace of God only comes to us through Jesus, the Prince of Peace and by the power of His Holy Spirit. The peace of God is with us in the midst of life's storms and its important to note, God doesn't always, actually or even hardly at all keep us from the storms of life, beloved of God, but He does promise us two things. First, as Mark's gospel testifies that if we stay with Jesus we will make it through the storms that come our way. 

Secondly, Jesus promises us a place in the boat with Him, not the other way around. Jesus isn't asking us to plan our own journey in life and then say to Jesus as it were, "Hey God, want to get on board with my plans, you can be my copilot in my boat." No, beloved of God, God has a plan and purpose and the invitation to you and me is to throw down our own nets and get in Jesus boat and follow Him. That is, if you want true peace, that is if you really want to make it all the way over to the other side, and in this case, "the other side" is into the very presence of God in heaven. No one makes it to heaven in their own boat you could say. We are saved by God's grace through faith, a faith so great that we can trust Jesus in the midst of our storms and know whatever He promises us, He will do.

Today, loved one, the invitation of God using boat terms here is, "to not row it alone". Before you take a step outside the door today don't invite Jesus into your boat but rather get into His boat. Ask the Lord to lead and guide your steps today, (if you want peace) and accept the Lord's invitation to get into His boat, to become part of His plan for this day and for your life. Yes, storms will come, (but they will pass too) and situations will arise that will seek to sink your boat, but if you are on board with the plans and the purposes of God, you might as well just grab your own pillow and snuggle up next to Jesus and enjoy the journey because no wind, no tempest sea will keep you from reaching your destiny today because though I love how Psalm 133 begins, I love how the psalm ends even more when it speaks of the blessing of being on board with Jesus and where it leads us, to life forevermore,


"It is like the dew of Hermon, Descending upon the mountains of Zion; For there the Lord commanded the blessing-- Life forevermore."

Psalms 133:3

I LOVE YOU!


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"God Made Mountains"

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"In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ"

1 Peter 1:6-7

It seems like all last week I went from one conversation to the next with people who are dealing with what would appear to be insurmountable circumstances. The good news is though, nothing is impossible with God! More than once I found myself studying the book of Job all the while being reminded that God gives us some life lessons that if we learn their truth can help the hurting and equip the strong in better ministering to both saint and sinner. Studying the events in the first few chapters of Job we learn quickly that life is no respecter of persons and that pain and suffering is as common as the cold to each of our lives. Around the world today most of the world is facing an uphill battle of some sort just trying to make it through the day.

As I was going through some quotes on struggling to encourage those the Lord had led me too I ran across a story about an elderly Negro woman in the south who was sharing with a young man about the trials we all experience in life. She said to this young boy, "If the mountain was smooth you couldn't climb it". I loved it, so simple, yet so true. Her words brought to mind an old song by the same name, "Mountains" by the musical group, "Lonestar". Its an oldie but goodie and the words go like this,

"There are times in life when you gotta crawl,
Lose your grip, trip and fall
When you can't lean on no one else,
That's when you find yourself
I've been around and I've noticed that
Walk-in's easy when the road is flat
Them danged 'ole hills will get you every time.
Yeah, the good Lord gave us mountains so we could learn how to climb."

Yes, loved one, sometimes in life we all just have to crawl and I pray as you do that you remember that the good Lord gave us mountains so we could learn how to climb. God didn't place mountains in our path to discourage us or to get us to quit. God places mountains in our lives to teach us to trust, to walk by faith and to help us learn how to cry out for help. Know this loved one, no matter trial you may be facing, no matter how high the mountain in front of you may appear to be, God is there to help you get to the top. The key to conquering your mountain is to not try going it alone. Rely on God's strength as you face the trials of today and keep in mind the words of the apostle Paul who wrote to the church at Philippi… You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. Keep climbing!

We are one day closer than when we first believed…

I LOVE YOU!


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"Whose Are You?"

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"Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious"

1 Peter 2:4


Who you are loved one is dependent upon whose you are! I was reading a book that had this statement by Oscar Wilde, "To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, ... All my life I had been looking for something, and everywhere I turned someone tried to tell me what it was. ... Let the world know you as you are, not as you think you should be, ... Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth."


That last line spoke to me as I know too well like some of you its easy to forget who you are in a world that has no idea who it is because the only way to truly discover who we are is by knowing our Maker, the one who fashioned us while we were still in our mother's womb. The world tells us to "be ourselves" and then it attempts to sell us what we need to be unique from a chain store. It's been well said, "We were born into this world originals but most of us die copies."


God has fashioned not only the number of our days, loved one, but He has fashioned us too. You and I were created in the image of God which is proof God is big as no two people are exactly alike. If you would like to really come to understand who you are then the best way to accomplish that is to discover who God is. The bible makes clear 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." Ephesians 2:10 says it this way, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." That's right, friend, before you were born God knew you and knew exactly why He was creating you. You are no accident! God created you not to do something but to grow to know some one, Him.


Life counts, and makes the most sense when it is lived for God, in communion with Him and not apart from Him. Try thinking of it this way. Our bible is much like the manufacturer's "Owners Guide". When we understand "the owner" is God and we seek to grow in our relationship with Him by studying the "Owners Manual", life begins to make sense and we function in the most optimal way, the way we were designed by the manufacturer. There is nothing worse than seeing someone use an object in a way that is as far away from its original design and never realizes its true and full potential of what it was created for. Jesus said in John 10:10, "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly". The world will ultimately draw us away from God to be used for things far less satisfying than what we were created for. Life, abundant life is found in Jesus, loved one. When you have those days (as we all do) where you seem lost or days when it seems the world is trying to squeeze you into its mold, pick up your bible, read the "Owners Manual" and discover not only who and but whose you are in Christ.


"that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height-- to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God."


Ephesians 3:16-19


I LOVE YOU!

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"A Labor of Love"

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"For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister."

Hebrews 6:10


Walking around our church campus last night and seeing new and familiar faces serving at our annual "Light the Night" event I was blessed knowing that every time we focus on investing our time in the lives others we labor for something that will stand the test of time. Reading in the book of Ecclesiastes this past week I was reminded once again of the vanity of living our lives in pursuit of material things. Looking at the life of Jesus we can see clearly He was not into stuff. Jesus didn't even own a home nor did He have an extensive wardrobe, basically just the clothes on His back and we know from His life He gave even them away upon His death. Jesus walked this earth as a man with humble means and that's because His focus was heaven and not earth. Last night as I watched both young and old alike serving along side each other I was blessed by the joy those who served enjoyed as they Labored in love.


There is an old saying that says, "You will never see a hearse pulling a U-haul". Another adage comes to mind too that says, "You can't take it with you" referring to our possessions and we all know its true. God never said there was anything wrong with owning stuff and being rich in the worlds goods is not a sign of God's blessing anymore than being poor is a sign otherwise. Remember, Jesus was poor by the worlds standards but His wealth is incalculable. Everything you see around you belongs to Him. Its only on loan to us and for a very short time at that we learn from reading the book of Ecclesiastes. Don't read this wrong, loved one, it's not unspiritual to own a car or have nice things. Living without "things" doesn't prove our spirituality any more than owning nice things proves we are spiritual. The question for us all is what in your life is really worth laboring for? What are you working for? Is it people, places or things? Are you seeking to advance the kingdom of God or building your personal portfolio? The joy I and others experienced last night at our "Light the Night' event came about as we labored in love.


The apostle Paul reminds us that the best things in life worth laboring for are people, any and all people. Not the elect as some might teach but people in this world, lost and found so to speak. Love in the Gospel is always associated with people not things and in the apostles mind love is worth the effort, it's worth the sorrow and it's worth the pain we will go through to reach others. Simply the labor of love is what motivates God's children to do what we do for others knowing that God is glorified through our lives as we live for Him, to honor and glorify Jesus. To see the smiles on children's faces last night as they got hand fulls of candy reminded me of the grace of God that He lavishes on us, His children, and the feeling I too get as I walk away knowing I received far more than I deserved. The kids who came last night got a great lesson in grace. God does give us more than we deserve.


As all who served at our "Light The Night" event found out for themselves, the best jobs in the world are service provider jobs where people get the opportunity to minister to someone else in Jesus name. Be it serving hot dogs or nacho's, or handing out a cake or a bottle of water and hand fulls of candy, anything we do in Jesus name becomes a labor of love. Halloween has come and gone but today has its own opportunity to become a "labor of love day" as each of us commits to reaching out to those around us seeking to serve them in love, with the love of Jesus. Its in that spirit and with that attitude that we put the love back into our labor!


"But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant."


Matthew 23:11


I LOVE YOU!

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"Like It Never Happened"

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"Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified."

Galatians 2:16


Reading through the book of Galatians I keep coming upon this word in my bible, "Justification". The word "justification" has tremendous meaning to you and me as children of God who have placed our hope in Jesus Christ. Did you know that the word "justification" means, "just as if I never sinned" and it declares that if you and I are in Christ Jesus we have been made "righteous" before God by Jesus death upon Calvary's Cross, meaning we are in right standing with God? There we go again, another Christianize word, "righteous" that means "right standing". When Jesus died on the Cross in our place, for your sin and my sin, immediately and actually we became "righteous" or "right" before God and now when God looks upon us its as if He were looking at His own Son, just like we had never sinned. Remember, loved one, our position in Christ is not symbolic or futuristic, it is actual, right here right now!

Because of Jesus atoning sacrifice each and every time you and I sin and come to Jesus and ask Him to forgive us, He responds in kind, "you are justified, you are righteous" and that is totally incredible if you let your mind try to wrap itself around it. 1 John 1:9 says, "if we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." I love that and I know you do too. God doesn't abandon us, He draws us close and cleans us up so that we know He loves us, that He always has and always will.

The Good News doesn't end there; beloved of God it only gets better. Psalm 103:1-12 takes it a step further when the psalmist declares, "He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us". God not only forgives our sin, He forgets it and remembers it no more. Don't get me wrong, it's not that God couldn't remember it, but in love He chooses as an act of His agape love towards you and me to both forgive and forget our sin. And because Jesus has set us free we are now free to move on and sin no more in the grace He provides.

The book of Hebrews tells us we have a high priest, Jesus Christ, who forever lives to make intercession for us, who each of us can go to each and every day when we sin and confess our sins knowing that He is a faithful high priest. He will take our confession, and having provided the atonement for our sin once and for all with His own blood, will declare us both justified and righteous in the sight of God. That's the good news of the gospel to all who believe!

Don't let the sins of the past weigh you down and don't let the enemy of your soul beat you up with your past failures. The mercies of God are new this morning and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. They are new every morning and oh how great His faithfulness is. Today, beloved of God, make it your aim to remember the promises of God to you and make it your aim as well to forget the things which are behind and to press on to the high calling of God for your life in Christ Jesus. Its Monday morning and the possibilities are limitless for you and me in Jesus. Keep seeking Him!

"I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain."

Galatians 2:21

I LOVE YOU!


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"Stay Seated"

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"Let us cross over to the other side"

Mark 4:35

I have lost count how many times the Lord has brought this story to mind to encourage myself and others who are facing the storms of this life. As I read and re-read the account of Mark's gospel I am reminded that, "The calm water is where you are at, not where you are going. The calm is in the boat with Jesus as He is the only one who can truly calm the storms we all face." 

For the last couple of weeks now, in email after email I continue to point the sender to Jesus as they struggle with all the "why" questions that surround a marriage that appears to be ending in divorce leaving them with a myriad of unanswered questions and possibilities of what could have been. In moments like this we all feel lost. Lost between our hopes and dreams for the future and the pain of knowing all the rowing in the world is not going to bring you to your desired destination.

Like a rafting guide on a well known run of a river, I am fully aware that the raft this person who has been reaching out to me is in is heading for rough water and as I ponder the pain that comes with memory the Lord brought to mind a quote from the book, "A Grace Disguised" which was written by a man who lost his mother, wife and daughter in a head-on car collision. If anyone understood the hurt and heartache of being seemingly lost at sea between two ports it was this man. In the book he wrote about the struggle of trying to make sense out of the tragedy, he penned these words, "Loss creates a barren present, as if one were sailing on a vast sea of nothingness. Those who suffer loss live suspended between a past for which they long and a future for which they hope." Anyone who suffers the loss of a loved, be it in an accident or a divorce knows that same emptiness, the same nothingness.

Though its difficult for the one suffering the pain of an impending divorce to see good in the current situation I find myself continually writing, "things will get better" to them for the simple fact as believers we know how our story will ultimately end. It does get better because Jesus promised us it would!

In verse 41 of Mark's gospel in chapter 4 the story ends as the storm subsides and the disciples reasoned among themselves, "Who can this be that even the wind and the sea obey Him?" What the disciples were beginning to learn in their lives is what you and I who follow Christ are learning in our lives too. The destination isn't heaven; the destination is Jesus! The storm they were in served to be a reminder that God is greater than our storms and that safety isn't reaching the other side, safety is the One who is in the boat with you, even in the middle of your storm. Safety, security and destiny are all found in Jesus.

In the book of 1 Thessalonians, the apostle Paul reminds us in chapter 4 that at the rapture of the church when Jesus comes in the clouds, (keep watching the clouds) we will be taken up to meet the Lord in the air and we will be together with Him forever! Not heaven, its better than that. We have been saved for a Savior! We get to be with Jesus forever! That's heaven, that's the goal of our lives, to be with Jesus and the really good news for us is it doesn't begin when we die, it begins right here right now… in the midst of the very storm we find ourselves currently facing. To those of you who are in the midst of one of life's greatest storms today remember this! Jesus is in the boat… that is if we invite Him in or better stated, we get in the boat with Him to where He is leading and stay seated. 

There is even good news for those of us who have launched our boat without extending an invitation to Jesus to join us. He knows how to walk on water to come to where we are, because it was Jesus who promised to never leave you nor forsake you. If you find yourself being tossed to a fro on the sea of despair today invite Jesus into the boat as His presence is what calms even the roughest sea. Peace can always be found where God is.

I felt the Lord reminding me again this morning that we who are in Christ are not a ship stranded between two ports, though it does feel like that at times and is why we are called to walk by faith and not by feelings. The truth is, loved one, we are not lost in the sea of life as the world around us is. We are however on a journey and Jesus is with us, right there in the boat, He is right there with us, as He has ALWAYS been right by our side. Yes, we will go through storms in this life but we never have to go through them alone. The lesson we need to learn today is when the storms of life hit, and they will, allow the winds of the storm to push you to Jesus, for when you reach Jesus you've reached the destination God had desired all along, for when we reach Jesus we have made it safely home! Yes, loved one, the destination is secure making it possible for us to have joy in our journey's, even in the midst of the storm.


"You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore."

Psalms 16:11

I LOVE YOU!


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"Give Your Face A Break?"

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"A merry heart does good, like medicine, But a broken spirit dries the bones."

Proverbs 17:22


I find it interesting that when people are laughing out loud more often than not those laughing are perceived by some to be up to something. I have found most of the time those laughing are in fact up to something, something like enjoying life! I love the picture in my minds eye each time I read the quote "A Laugh Is A Smile That Burst" because of what scientists tell us regarding the effect smiling has on us, physically, emotionally and spiritually.  

Are you aware that it takes more effort (muscle) to frown than it does to smile? So, if you are tired today you might consider smiling more as in doing so you'll give your face a break. Take it a step further and enjoy a laugh out loud and do your heart good, not to mention the heart of others as well. The bible says in the book of Proverbs regarding the heart, "A merry heart does good, like medicine, But a broken spirit dries the bones."

Laughter is a great way to make the heart merry. I love the thought of laughter being a smile that burst and my hope for you today, loved one, is that you have ample reasons to smile today so that you burst into laughter. The bible says in Psalm 144:15, "Happy are the people who are in such a state; Happy are the people whose God is the LORD!" Have you considered that smiling and laughter are two great ways that cause our lights to shine before the world that they see our good works and in turn glorify God? 

Jesus said in Matthew 5:16, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." All I know is there is nothing more beautiful or as radiant than a big smile followed by laughter. I know because I have a wife and daughter who have beautiful radiant smiles that light up a room and who both love to laugh which causes others to laugh too. Laughter is contagious! 

Today as you seek the Lord and enjoy the fact that He is your God I pray that your time in the Word of God and in prayer makes your heart merry like medicine knowing God loves you and has a plan for your life today. I pray too that as you read about the love of God, the plans and the purposes He has for you, that that knowledge overwhelms you and brings a smile to your face that is followed by laughter that causes the world to stop and take notice and wants to know what you are up too and what's so funny and makes you so happy. They'll probably think you have done something wrong but if they ask you what's so funny and why are you so happy you can say, "I'm happy in Jesus!"

"As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend."

Proverbs 27:17

I LOVE YOU!


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God Never Said…

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Reading in the book of Numbers l am reminded that though God promised a land flowing with milk and honey to the children of Israel He did not say they would possess the land without a fight. Like the children of Israel at the threshold to the promised land I too am reminded that God never said the Christian life was one of ease. In reality, Jesus promised us just the opposite when He said in John 16:33, "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." An old poem comes to mind when I think about the life of faith God has called us too. It goes something like this,


"God never promised
 a life without pain, 
 laughter without tears
 or sun without rain. 
 But He did promise
 strength for the day, 
 comfort for the tears
 and light for the way."


Remember this today, loved one, the Christian life is not a life of ease, but it is a life of victory in Jesus. God never said the Christian life would be easy but He did promise us it can be possessed and the victory won! Not achieved as if it were by human strength, but received by faith and lived out in obedience to God. 1 Corinthians 15:57 says, "But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." Yes, loved one, you and I have been granted victory in our battles in this life because the battle is not ours but the Lord's. Remember that the next time you feel like quitting and giving up. 

Don't quit when life gets hard, friend, don't turn your back on the difficulties this life will bring your way. Don't ever forget, you can do hard things! Ease is not the measuring stick of our faith. Adversity is the anvil on which our faith is forged. Steel is tempered under tremendous heat. The best things in life don't come easy, they never have nor ever will. The precious blood of Jesus Christ shed on Calvary purchased your salvation and mine. It was not easy for Jesus to go to the Cross, yet it was necessary to ensure our salvation.

The next time life gets hard and you have to choose between holding on and letting go, I want to encourage you to let go. That's right, friend, let go and let God. Don't get me wrong here and think letting go is easy or its just doing nothing or giving up. Faith is far from nothing, as trusting and letting God have control is difficult when doing so means going against the grain of our entire way of thinking. It takes tremendous faith to trust in Jesus. Yes, loved one, the battle is the Lord's not yours or mine. Our victory is found only in Jesus Christ and in no one or in anything else. Being born "post fall", each of us was born into a war zone with a battle raging all around us and sometimes the intensity can overwhelm us. Its why we are reminded all through the bible to look to God and not ourselves, to put our hope and trust in God.

Do not be dismayed in the midst of your struggle, loved one, be of good cheer today, stand in and on the promises of God He declares in His Word knowing that He who called you is faithful. Remember, no matter what the situation appears to be, no matter how the odds may seem to be stacked against you, if God is for you who can stand against you? The answer is no one. The devil wants us to focus on the size of the problems we face, where as God has called us to focus our eyes upon Him!


"Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward."

Genesis 15:1

I LOVE YOU!


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"Please Don't Wait"

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"Then we will not turn back from You; Revive us, and we will call upon Your name. Restore us, O Lord God of hosts; Cause Your face to shine, And we shall be saved!"


Psalms 80:18-19


I have always loved that old quote that says, "die once and live twice, live once and die twice" speaking of what it means to be Born Again. Apart from God, man has believed a lie that in order to get to heaven he must work his way there. Most people believe that if you do enough good works, when you die you get into heaven. The bible teaches us that the only way into heaven is through Jesus Christ and by abiding in Him, or think of it this way, holding onto Him. But how does one hold onto anything when they die? The truth is, we can't. And this is where the Gospel comes in.

Dead people are just that, dead. They can't think, they can't move, they are all that the word implies. The only hope a dead person has is that someone who is alive will come along and perform some life saving measure on them to bring them back to life. The Good News of the Gospel is that someone is Jesus Christ because He is alive. Jesus conquered sin and death by His atoning sacrifice on Calvary's Cross. In order to experience heaven we need to follow the example Jesus gave us from His own life. Jesus showed us the way to heaven. Though Jesus is completely God He humbled Himself to the point of becoming a man (Philippians 2) and He trusted Himself completely into the hands of His Father. That's the key to salvation, trusting your life completely into the hands of another, and that another is God. Just don't wait too long. Once you die you wont be able to cry for help. We must cry out to God while we are still alive!

From the Cross Jesus cried out to the Father and committed Himself into His hands. Jesus modeled for us what it means to trust, to truly trust, and to trust completely. If you have ever had a surgery where you had to be put to sleep you have had to trust your life into the hands of another, to give the doctors compete control over you. You even had to sign papers consenting to it, it's that serious. Nothing is more serious than death itself and the bible says because of the wages of sin, the choice of Adam in the Garden of Eden death has come into the world and all men are going to face death one day because of it. The question that begs to be asked is who are you going to trust upon your death?

Are you going to trust in your good works to revive you? That will never happen and a logical thinking mind can understand that. We can't wake ourselves up from sleep hardly without an alarm clock. How do you think you will wake yourself up from the dead? There is only one way. To be awakened by another, someone who isn't dead! Trust in the only One who is alive and able to revive you, friend, and that is Jesus Christ! If you ever lost a loved one to cancer or some other deadly disease you know the relief you feel when they finally pass. We say things like, "they are finally free from pain and suffering". I know it might sound strange but what we learn in moments like this is an important and deeply spiritual lesson, "death frees us from self effort."

When we die we no longer have to strive or struggle, work or exert any effort at all because death frees us from all that. All we can do in death is hope and trust that someone will revive us again. And when that can't be done by doctors and nurses and trained friends and relatives we die and then there remains only One who can save us and that is Jesus Christ Himself as He is risen from the dead, and He forever lives. The resurrection is our proof. All other religions have no solution for life after death as all the leaders and founders of all the worlds religions are still dead in their grave. There is only One who can be trusted to revive us once we have died and that is the One who was and is and is to come, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

The last enemy you and I will face in this life is death itself. Death has not and will never be conquered by man but only by Jesus Christ, He and He alone has conquered death. The only way to conquer death is to trust your life now while you are living to the only One who can save you after you die. If you wait until you are dead to ask it's too late as dead people can't talk. There are orders patients can sign in hospitals in advance of medical procedure that instructs the hospital staff, "DNR" which means, "Do Not Resuscitate" if for some reason the patient would be placed on life support systems.

The same thing is true in a sense with God. If we do not ask God to forgive us our sin before we die then we have basically done the exact same thing as a "DNR" does. We have instructed God to "DNR" and have sealed our fate and eliminated any chance, any hope of heaven. Sadly, to die without Jesus doesn't just mean a person remains dead. After this life there is another life for all humanity as the soul of man is eternal, and each person will spend eternity in the presence of God or in hell outside the presence of God. God leaves the choice to us!

We must never forget, heaven is a free gift to all who receive it. God sent His Only Son into this world to die in our place so that we could be forgiven and experience eternal life. Each of us must communicate with God and ask Him to do what only He can do when we die. Ask God to revive you, to save you when you take your last breath and there is nothing more the doctors can do for you in this life. If you do, the next time you open your eyes again you will be in the very presence of God and will discover for yourself all the glorious truths the Word of God promises to all who place their hope and trust in Jesus. You won't be disappointed that's for sure! Please, don't wait, choose to die once to yourself today so that you can live twice, once in the here and now and then for all eternity! It's the best two for one deal in the history of the world! Choose Jesus and live! 

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."

1 Corinthians 15:57

I LOVE YOU!


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"How's Your Balance?"

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"Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil."

Ephesians 6:10-11

In a world of polarization and far extremes, balance, though it is a term we don't use every day, most would agree is critical to our well being. We often use terms like, "take a stand", "hold your position", "don't let them take you down", "balance your priorities", and a host of other phrases and words to describe our need for balance. I was reading a few articles this morning on injuries caused by imbalance, or in other words, falling down. Are you aware that more than 33,000 people died from falls in 2015.

The National Safety Council's Odds of Dying list ranks falls as the 6th most likely cause of death, with the odds of dying as 1 in 127. Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries. Falls are the leading cause of non-fatal medically treated injuries in the U.S. Each year, over 8 million emergency room visits are due to slips, trips, and falls. Falls are the leading cause of injury-related death for adults age 65 and older. The point in all this is our need for balance is critical to health and well being.

One of my favorite Pastor Chuck Smith sayings comes to mind when I think about balance, "Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be broken". Learning how to balance yourself in the storms of life is often difficult and we learn quickly that life is a lot about learning to maintain balance, and often times our success is measured by our ability to stay upright, especially if we are going to stay the course. In sports, athletes work on balance continually and even a ship is of little value in the sea if it loses its balance and capsizes. Balance is critical to our stability, be it physically, financially, emotionally and yes spiritually too.

The New Testament book of Jude reminds us that even in shaky and unstable times we can still find our balance in Jesus Christ. Jude 1:24-25 says, "Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen."

That's a great promise to stand on today, loved one, and a great reminder too for us to place our hope and trust in God. Take a step of faith today, do not fear to walk by faith and not by sight. Trust God, I mean really trust Jesus today and balance your life on the sure Word of God. We might slip here or there in our journey of faith but the Lord wont let you fall for as Jude reminds us that even when we slip, and trust me, we all do, Jesus will be there to catch you! Amen!

"You enlarged my path under me, So my feet did not slip."

Psalms 18:36

I LOVE YOU!


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"God Bless You Richly!"

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"I do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints"


Ephesians 1:16-18


I was enjoying speaking with one of our college age girls last night after our mid week service about prayer and fasting, and not only was I encouraged by her genuine love for the Lord but I was reminded about the privilege God has given us to be able to pray for one another. I am humbled and always appreciate when someone tells me that they are praying for me. I become more aware with each passing day that the blessings in my life are the direct result of others praying for me, and not me praying for me. I remember this little story I read a number of years ago that serves as a great reminder to me of the power of a praying man or woman. May it speak to you like it does to me.


"A ship was wrecked during a storm at sea and only two of the men on it were able to swim to a small, desert-like island.

The two survivors, not knowing what else to do, agreed that they had no other recourse but to pray to God. However, to find out whose prayer was more powerful, they agreed to divide the territory between them and stay on opposite sides of the island. The first thing they prayed for was food. The next morning, the first man saw a fruit-bearing tree on his side of the land, and he was able to eat its fruit. The other man's parcel of land remained barren.

After a week, the first man was lonely and he decided to pray for a wife. The

next day, another ship wrecked nearby, and the only survivor was a woman who

swam to his side of the island. On the other side of the island, there was nothing.

Eventually the first man decided to pray for clothes and more food. The next day, all of these were given to him as the belongings from yet another shipwreck were washed ashore. However, the second man still had nothing.

Finally, the first man prayed for a ship, so that he and his wife could leave the island. In the morning, he found that overnight a ship had anchored on his side of the island.

The first man was welcomed aboard the ship along with his wife and he decided to say nothing of the other man, but instead leave him on the island. He considered the other man unworthy to receive God's blessings since obviously none of his prayers had been answered…

As the ship was about to leave, the first man heard a Voice booming, "Why are you leaving your companion on the island?"

"My blessings are mine alone, since I was the one who prayed for them," the first man answered. "His prayers were all unanswered and so he does not deserve anything."

"You are gravely mistaken!" the Voice rebuked him. "He had only one prayer, and I answered it. If it were not for his prayers, you would not have received any of MY blessings."

"Tell me," the first man asked, "What did he pray for that I should owe him

anything?"

"He prayed that all your prayers would be answered."(The end).


That story is a great reminder that when we are blessed in this life we may never know who it was who was praying for us and responsible for our blessing. I hope this story also serves to remind you and me to pray that God would bless the lives of those we come in contact each day. We don't even have to know the person to pray God would bless them.

As for me, I both want and need to thank those that pray for me and my family as our lives are blessed because of you! Know too, loved ones, my prayer for you today is that the Lord would grant you each and every petition of your heart that is aligned with His and that God would cause all your hopes and dreams to come true, spoken and unspoken alike!

"The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much."

James 5:16 (b)

I LOVE YOU!

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Jesus IS Heaven!

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"And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent."

John 17:3

Growing up I believed the goal of the Christian life was to make it to heaven. After all, when I went to a funeral as a young boy and years before I became a follower of Jesus most of the people who spoke at memorial services spoke about heaven as being a place where people go when they die and then do all the things that they had once enjoyed while here on earth or wished to do but never did. Admittedly, heaven seemed to me to be merely a destination, a "place" kind of like a heavenly version of Disneyland minus the long lines and high prices.  

Though there is a real place known as heaven and one day you and I really will be there because of the grace of God, along with those who have throughout the centuries have put their hope and trust in Jesus Christ. As I began to study my bible, I learned heaven is so much more than just a destination. The destination is important, yet the reason Jesus came from heaven to earth in the first place was to purchase for Himself a bride without spot or wrinkle to be with Him, the Father and the Holy Spirit. Yes, Jesus came to earth looking for a bride and one day He will come for us and take us home to be with Him forever!

The whole purpose of our salvation is so that we can enjoy a relationship with God that was lost at the fall of Adam an Eve in the Garden of Eden. We are saved for a relationship with God Himself and is why we are called the "bride of Christ" and not "articles" or "items." It's why Jesus calls His disciples friends because life with God is all about a relationship. Yes, it's true that Jesus is in heaven right now preparing a place there for each and every one of us who have repented of our sins and set our heart to follow Him. Yes, its true that Jesus Christ is seated in heaven at this very moment praying for you and me and yes Jesus is there in heaven representing us as our advocate before the Father when we sin. We are always on His mind!

Yet, when you read the book of Revelation you come to learn that what makes heaven, heaven, is Jesus Christ. Without Jesus Christ, there is no such thing as heaven. Put it this way, Heaven is heaven because Jesus is there and hell is hell because Jesus is not there. Yes, loved one, Jesus Christ is why heaven is heaven. That's why Jesus says in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth and the life, and no man comes to the Father except by Me."

Think of it this way. A house isn't a birthday party; it's simply the location of where the party is being held. The reason for going to the party is to celebrate a person. A church isn't a wedding, but weddings are held in churches. What's funny about that analogy is many an atheist will grace the doors of the church when a wedding takes place because they see the church as it really is, a building. Even an atheist knows going to a church doesn't make you a Christian any more than going to a donut shop makes you a police officer. The bible teaches that the church isn't a building, but rather, it's the people of God who gather to worship Jesus Christ as the risen Savior and living Lord who are being built up into a habitation. Its true, you don't even need a building to worship Jesus!

Let me ask you, beloved, have you ever longed to see someone? If so, you don't worry about the location where you will meet, what you long for is seeing them face-to-face. That's how it is with Jesus. Heaven is about seeing Jesus face to face, to be reunited with the One who loved us and gave Himself for us. Yes, beloved of God, heaven is a person and that person is Jesus Christ, and not just a destination to be reached. Jesus is a relationship to be enjoyed, enjoyed every day throughout eternity! A day like today! Enjoy Jesus!  


"And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: " Blessing and honor and glory and power Be to Him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, forever and ever!"

Revelation 5:13

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​"Worship Without Lips"

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"Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker"


Psalm 95:6


What if you couldn't use your lips to worship Jesus? How would you do it? Would it even be possible? Max Lucado wrote, "Worship is the thank you that cannot be silenced." There is nothing like getting together with other believers and worshipping Jesus, yet church shouldn't be a place we go as much as it is a life we get to live along side our brothers and sisters in Christ. Worship after all isn't an allotted time set aside for God, worship is a lifestyle, a way of life. Actually, worship is to be our life.

I appreciate what singer-song writer and best selling author Matt Redman wrote about worship when he said, "In the end, worship can never be a performance, something you're pretending or putting on. It's got to be an overflow of your heart. Worship is about getting personal with God, drawing close to God." That is so well put, loved one. Worship as a lifestyle is drawing close to God each and every day and living in personal communion with Him. Living a life of worship is more than singing praise songs. Living a life of worship is listening to God through His Word and by His Spirit, and following His leading each and every day of our lives in everything He calls us to do. It's an adventure!

Let me ask you, do you feel like your life is an adventure with Jesus? Do you take time each day to hear Him by studying His Word and praying to Him discussing with Jesus the desires He has for you that day. The reason I ask is because that is what worship really is. Did you know there are things God wants you to see today, loved one? Did you know there are places God wants you to go today? Are you aware there are people He wants you to speak to, to pray with and to share the love of Christ with. Yes, you and me!

There are many different aspects of the life of worship. Don't get me wrong, friend, singing praise songs is a wonderful expression of worship but it is not the ultimate form of worship. Lifestyle worship is what the Lord desires most. Like all of us, God doesn't desire lip service; He desires life service. He wants nothing more than for us to love Him with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength in everything we do. And yes, that includes singing to Him too!

Isn't it interesting that when Jesus said we were to love God, He didn't even mention our lips? Living a life of worship is what the Lord desires and I pray with all my heart that when you and I walk through the doors of whatever church we might call home, the only difference in our worship of Jesus is where we get to do so. Oh the privilege we have been given to gather together with others who love to worship Jesus too! We don't just go to church to worship Jesus we go to church to worship Jesus with our brothers and sisters in Christ who have come to worship Jesus too. That is why its called congregational worship!

Worship God by the way you park when you arrive at church. Stay between the lines. Worship Jesus by the way you acknowledge every person you come in contact while at church. Worship God by the way you sing to Jesus. Worship God by the way you give of your tithes and offerings. Worship God by the way you listen to the teaching of His Word. Worship God in the way you pray. Worship God by asking Him to help you live out what you learn. Worship God by looking for opportunities to get involved in loving Jesus bride. Worship God by serving the church and not just attending a service each week. Worship God by asking Him to help you make worship a way of life and not just an event. When worship becomes our life we will like David, the man after God's own heart say…


"I was glad when they said to me, "Let us go into the house of the LORD."

Psalm 122:1

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"God Offers Shortcuts"

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"Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come."

1 Corinthians 10:11

Listening to one of my favorite pastors the other day I literally laughed out loud as he taught from 1 Corinthians 10. He kept emphasizing his key point which was, "Everything happens for a reason" and then he would use scripture to answer some of the reasons why they happen the way they do. One explanation that stuck out was from 1 Corinthians 10 where he said regarding everything happens for a reason is, "some times the reason is, you make bad immature choices". I confess his answer caught me totally by surprise and like I said, I laughed out loud. He was going through a whole list of answers and that was just one answer so don't think that every time something happens its because you made a bad immature choice. But if you do I want to encourage you.

The book of Numbers tells the story of what is happening as the children of Israel wander in the wilderness for forty years. The reason it took them forty years to travel a mere 12 miles was due to their disobedience and faithlessness. We serve a blessing God and most often if God delays in blessing us it is to teach us how to walk by faith. I guess you could say with God besides being the right and wrong way there is the long way and the short way too. The long way is when we fail to stop and ask for directions of God and attempt to do things on our own and the short way is when we place our confidence in Jesus no matter what. Often times people choose the long way because it seems down hill where as the short way often appears to be a steep climb.

Learn the lessons from the bible and you will be walking in wisdom as you too learn from the experience of others. Did you know loved one that studying your bible is learning wisdom as your bible is unlike any other book you will ever read as your bible is a living word and not merely words on paper? I appreciate the expression, "You don't read your bible, your bible reads you!" Because the Word of God is alive it has the ability to change people, to bring life from death. It really is true, loved one, God works "all things together for good to them that love God and are called according to His purposes." The key is to listen to Him.

The book of Proverbs is known as the book of wisdom. Maybe today you feel as if you have made some bad choices in your life and now you are reaping what you have sown and you don't know how to fix it. Been there done that more times than I can count or even care too. Try this next time you make a bad choice, pray for crop failure, loved one, and ask God to begin a new work in you and then start by planting good seed (Your bible is good seed) in your heart and then water it every day with more of the Word and in no time you will begin to bear good fruit. Everything does happen for a reason!

Do you want to make wise choices in your life, loved one? Commit to reading the book of Proverbs every day. As I share with our church family often, "the best time to plant a shade tree was 25 years ago, the second best day is today!" As one of my favorite bible teachers always says, "read your bible every day and pray and obey." That's how we can walk in wisdom and make good choices and as well learn from the mistakes of others that we read about as we study God's Word. Try it for 30 days and if doesn't work, if it doesn't make a drastic improvement in your life call me and I'll buy you lunch. That's right, a free lunch. What have you got to lose?

Start today, start now. Here is Proverbs 1 printed out for you. Read it and put it into practice today and watch the changes that begin to take place and the confidence God's wisdom brings. Don't just learn from the mistakes of others, don't just learn from your own mistakes. Learn to walk in wisdom, God's wisdom and take heed to His instruction knowing as verse 33 of Proverbs 1 declares, "But whoever listens to me will dwell safely, and will be secure, without fear of evil." Talk about an offer! God's offer here beats a free lunch any day!

"A wise man will hear and increase learning, And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel"

Proverbs 1:5

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"Are You Full Yet?"

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"To know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God."

Ephesians 3:19



Like most, I love a good illustration when I read one. I read this one again this morning and had to sit once again and ponder it for a while, a long while. I imagined myself sitting looking out over the ocean; as I love to do watching this bottle float on the water until it was consumed by the waves and yet knowing that as the bottle sank into the ocean it was also filling itself with the ocean too. This following illustration is one that A. B. Simpson used to describe what it is like to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Its good!

He said, "Being filled with the fullness of God is like a bottle in the ocean. You take the cork out of the bottle and sink it in the ocean, and you have the bottle completely full of ocean. The bottle is in the ocean, and the ocean is in the bottle. The ocean contains the bottle, but the bottle contains only a little bit of the ocean. So it is with the Christian."

I love the scene that plays in the theater of my mind as I picture what it means for us to get a little of the fullness of God and yet be filled completely with Him. What a beautiful illustration of our lives in Christ. The essence of oneness; where one contains the fullness of the other without the other losing any of its fullness. Proof there is enough of God to go around!

There is an invitation in this. Submerge yourself in Christ today, loved one, let God fill you beyond your capacity to contain Him all the while enjoying the fullness of His presence in your life, overflowing. Allow His life to overflow yours today touching everything and everyone you come in contact. Imagine if you will, walking along today and feeling the cool ocean breeze on your face and that smell, that amazing scent that comes off the ocean in the early morning hours. There is nothing like the ocean that conjures up our awareness of the greatness of God, gentle yet strong, soothing yet passionate. Yes, loved one, His refreshing presence will sustain and satisfy your heart and soul today as you open up to Him. And to think, all you have to do is just breathe!

"And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit."

John 20:22

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"Don't Worry Be Happy"

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"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

Philippians 4:6-7

Don't worry be happy, are the lyrics to a song thats easy to sing but hard to put into practice. To this very day I've yet to meet a person who enjoys worrying. Most of us who do worry from time to time recognize it to be wrong and readily admit that worrying has no lasting benefit to our overall health and well being. We worry about all sorts of things and when questioned by others as to why we often get offended and feel as if the person doesn't understand the nature of the problem, for if they did they would be worrying right along with us too. Im reminded of the old saying, "ignorance is bliss" as knowing too much can get in the way of simple abiding faith, trusting in Jesus. I guess the Lord was right to warn us not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil as all that would accomplish is more things to worry about that we cant control.

In Matthew 6:25-33, Jesus makes His thoughts about worry crystal clear, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life. And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."

So why is worry wrong? First, worry puts the focus on the wrong things. In other words it takes our eyes off the Lord and places them on things that are subject to change without notice. Worry tends to cause us to look at life through a magnifying glass instead of a telescope. Have you ever heard the expression, "You are making a mountain out of a molehill?" Thats exactly what worrying does. Worrying distorts our ability to think clearly and it robs us of life by making more out of something than we should.

Second, Worry causes us to forget whose we are. We belong to God, we are the sheep of His pasture, His children and He has promised to take care of us. Recall Jesus words in Matthew 7:7-9, "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" Worry is sin and each time we start to worry we are confronted with the question, Do I trust God?" If I do, I learn to cast my cares upon Him because He cares for me. If I don't believe that God cares for me then I carry the burden until it wears me out and robs me of the joy I might otherwise have.

Third, Worry is simply wasted time and energy as Jesus said, "who by worrying can add a single hour to his life." Doctors will tell you and the medical evidence will support it that over 90% of all physical aliments begin as emotional stress. I know this from personal experience. Worry, and anxiety and stress are deadly and is why God invites us to bring our worries to Him.

So, whats the solution to worry? Trust in God and the best way to do that is in prayer. Next time you get the urge to worry, stop and pray. Take all your cares and bring them to Jesus in prayer. Don't try to figure out your problems, give them over to God and instead of seeking answers, ask God for peace that surpasses understanding. The apostle Paul writes in Philippians 4:7, "and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." Think about it, knowledge of your situation doesn't bring you peace. Often times knowing the answers to our stresses brings greater anxiety and worry in our lives.

God invites us to receive what knowledge can't provide, and that is His peace. God wants you and I to learn to trust Him, to rest in the fact that He is in control and that everything you and I will face today first has to go through God to get to us. Everything, and I mean everything must first pass through the filter of God's love before it reaches us. That is comforting to know.

If you are in Christ, you are in good hands today, loved one, safe in the hands of Jesus who is safe in the hands of the Father. Don't worry today, choose to be happy instead! Cast all your cares on Jesus knowing He cares so very much about you! Don't go it alone, don't attempt to carry your burdens. Lay them down at Jesus feet and with prayer and thanksgiving make your requests known to God knowing…


"And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus."

Philippians 4:19

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"Your Will Be Done"

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"Now Samuel said to all Israel: "Indeed I have heeded your voice in all that you said to me, and have made a king over you."

1 Samuel 12:1

When we pray we either ask God to do what we think is best based on what we see, think, feel and want or we pray, "Your will be done" and trust that God has our best interest in mind always. The best prayer we can offer to God always will be, "Your will be done" and sadly that is not what the children of Israel did here in 1 Samuel 12. Israel up to this point had enjoyed God Himself as their king and yet somehow that was not enough for them. They wanted a king like the other nations around them and reluctantly the Lord grants their request. It has been well said, "God gives His best to those who leave the choice to Him" but when we demand our own way and God leaves us to make our own choices we never arrive at the desired end that we had hoped for and for good reason. We can't see the end from the beginning, only God can. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.

We have a King over us, His name is Jesus! He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords and wants you and I to enjoy life in His kingdom. Just like the Lord provided for the nation of Israel He provides for us too. Why would we look any place else than to the Lord? Just like Israel we rebel, we think we know best based upon how we see, think, feel and what we want so we ignore the instruction of God as if He is too distant to understand our current situation.

Thank God He knows us better than we know ourselves and doesn't just strike us dead when we reject His council or refuse to walk in His ways. No, loved one, God is patient and kind to us even in our stubbornness and rebellion. He loves us like a Father loves his son and instead the Lord chastens us in love. When we turn back to God He promises to be there, and just like He did for Israel, He will once again reign over us. God doesn't force His will upon us, as the God of love, God has given to us free will, the ability to choose whom we will serve. And prayer is where God loves that we make that choice known for it is in prayer where God communicates with His children and where we demonstrate our dependence upon Him.

Prayer is the proof of our love, and love is the fruit of prayer. If we love God we will seek God and if we seek God we will love God and in turn we will love His people too. Try it for yourself. Its been well said, "we can not hate those we consistently pray for" and its true as God changes our heart and in time we begin to take on God's heart as our own. It's a beautiful thing to see and here in chapter 12 Samuel is modeling a genuine faith by praying "Not my will but Yours be done" as he intercedes for the nation even though they are in the wrong in wanting what God does not. May you and I be like Samuel here when others live in rebellion to God, loving them still and praying for them all the while warning and admonishing them to come back and live under the rule and reign of Jesus Christ, our King.


"Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you; but I will teach you the good and the right way. Only fear the LORD, and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you. But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king."

1 Samuel 12:23-25

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