Life Along the Way

A Daily Devotional

"To Know You Is To Love You"

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"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'"

Matthew 7:21-23


Not the kind of passage you might think one would use to encourage married couples but I pray you will bear with me as we consider this verse in context. At first glance it would appear that Jesus cant be pleased or at least not very easily. Some read these verses in Matthews gospel and think, "See, you can never do enough to please the Lord" or maybe you might read this passage above and get the idea that to stay in "good with God you need to "Do more, try harder" Yet, the truth is, the message Jesus is communicating is the very opposite. Our problem is we attempt to measure our faith and even our marriage by what we do instead of celebrating what has already been done. The motive of true faith is what God has done for us and not what we can do or have ever done for Him.

Let me attempt to illustrate the point using my wife as an example… Lets say on our Anniversary this year I make my wife dinner. And not just any old dinner, I mean I go all out. We have been married almost 35 years and I have only fixed her dinner a couple of times. And for good reason. I am why Takeout was invented. Its people like me who gave birth to the fast food industry, the health department and ambulatory services.

But for the story sake here after watching an episode of the old popular television show "Throw Down with Booby Flay" lets pretend I can cook and so I go the Vons Grocery Store around the corner from our home and get some shrimp and vegetables and rice along with some bread and for dessert I get some A&W Rootbeer and some Bryers Vanilla Bean Ice cream. I set the table using real plates and silverware along with place mats and chargers too, and get everything done so that when my wife walks in after she gets home from work all she has to do and sit down and eat.

But wait, there's more! As she makes her way to the table I have some Berry Manalow music playing softly in the background, candles lit (even though it's only 4:30 p.m.) and I pull the chair out for her and place the napkin in her lap. She is smiling from ear to ear and then I go and get the main course, huge coconut shrimp cooked to perfection along with the giant rootbeer floats in frosted mugs! As I approach the table she starts to cry… Obviously she must be overwhelmed, I mean after all, look at the effort I put into the meal. She looks up and says to me with tears streaming down her face, "You don't love me".

Now… I'll stop the story here to ask you a simple question, "what is the impression you get of my wife from this story?" Don't worry, it's a rhetorical question and the events never took place. I think the average person hearing this story would get or could get the impression that my wife is ungrateful or that she is at least very hard to please. Much the same way I think people can read the story from Matthew 7 and arrive at the same conclusion with regard to pleasing Jesus.

The truth is regarding my wife in my make believe story for illustration purposes only is that like I said, we have been married almost 35 years and in 35 years of married life I can tell you without hesitation my wife hates coconut shrimp (hate is not to strong a word to describe her feelings for coconut shrimp) almost as much as she hates rootbeer floats. So the point is this. If I were to fix those two items and offer them to my wife as a gift, as a token of my love and appreciation for her she would have every right to respond by saying something like, "You don't love me, you don't even know me" if you think after 35 years of being married you thought doing that is what pleases me or if you thought that this was what I would have wanted." I could get all upset and say something like, "I did it for you" and she could respond, "if you knew me you wouldn't have done that to begin with."

Marriage like Christianity is not based upon a "to do list" but on a relationship. Marriage is to be a reflection of the godhead, a picture of completeness or oneness. It's not about doing, its about knowing. Consider Jesus words inMark 3:13-14, "And He went up on the mountain and called to Him those He Himself wanted. And they came to Him. Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach," First and foremost Jesus chose the 12 disciples to be with Him. And as well, first and foremost with regard to your faith, Jesus chose you to be with Him. Jesus didn't save us just to send us out, He saved us to draw us in so that we could be with Him. The Good News of the Gospel is Jesus and knowing Him as our personal Savior and Lord.

In Revelation 3:20, Jesus says, "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." In eastern culture to invite someone to sup was a sign of friendship, a desire for relationship. Remember the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 12… A great reminder that the best part of relationships is in the knowing, the spending time together. Luke 10:38-42 says, "Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus' feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me." And Jesus answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her."

Jesus, more than anything wants us to know Him, what He has done for us…What makes an anniversary is first a wedding. To celebrate an anniversary is to celebrate a wedding all over again. To go back to what got you here. Abiding in Christ is like abiding in your marriage. It's saying with joy, "I'd marry you all over again." The beauty of communion is reflection… Remembering the Lord and what He has done for us! In marriage an Anniversary it's reflecting back to your wedding day and remembering and rejoicing in what brought you together to begin with. Reflection in marriage?

That reminds me of the story about the guy who wakes up in the middle of the night and goes down stairs… after some time his wife rolls over and notices he is gone and she gets up looking for him and notices him sitting there in the dark at the kitchen table clutching a cup of coffee starring aimlessly out the window. She turns the light on and asks him if everything is Ok and he says then why are you sitting in the dark here in the kitchen at 3:00 a.m. in the morning? He said, "I was just thinking". Thinking about what his wife asked. With tears starting to stream down his face he says, "sit down, what I have to say is hard for me to find the words". She sits down across from him and he says, "Do you remember the night of our first date?" She smiles at him and says, "Yes". He says, "do you remember how we were making out in my car in front of your house when your father came outside and saw us and how he turned around and went back in side?" Yes, his wife responded. "Do you remember how the door of my car flung open and there your father stood pressing his shotgun into my chest and how he said to me, "no man is going to be kissing my daughter like that unless he plans on marrying her or spending the next 25 years in prison." The man's wife says, "Yes, I remember, but whats the point?" The point is, "As I was laying in bed tonight I realized tomorrow would have been the day I would have been released from prison."

Like I said, reflection in marriage is reflecting on what brought us together is the proper reflection. Revelation 2 serves as a great reminder for both our faith and our marriage with regard to the proper way to reflect. When your life gets off track or your marriage gets off track go back, go back and reflect. Follow the steps laid out in Revelation 2. Jesus says in Revelation 2:5, "Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place--unless you repent." Remember these steps.

1. Remember from where you have fallen…

2. Repent… change your mind, agree with God

3. Redo those things you once did… what were you doing when you first fell in love with Jesus? Resting in the finished work of the Cross, enjoying Him in the Word and prayer.

In marriage what were you doing? You were making time for one another, you were spending time together investing into one another. Would you like to have a great Anniversary this year that won't cost you a penny but the experience might just be priceless? If so, go back and reflect. What do I mean? First, pull out your bible and go back and read God's love letter to you, read the Gospel account of Jesus last night with His disciples and the Super he had with His disciples and how He loved them by serving them as He washed their feet. Remember how Jesus went to the Cross and died for them and how three days later He rose again from the grave and came and showed Himself to His disciples and how them seeing Him and being with them changed and transformed their lives.

What changed them was not what the disciples did for Jesus but what happened when they finally understood what Jesus hd done for them. The beauty of reflection is realizing at the deepest place of our being that we were chosen, that we are loved. Now, if you are married, don't worry about Hallmark cards, don't even worry about fixing a romantic dinner or even buying flowers this year.

As a husband loving your wife as Christ loves the church, love her by taking her back, by helping her reflect on how you felt and what you thought of her when you first fell in love. In essence, tell her all the reasons you said "I Do" to begin with and why each and every day since you still "Do". Tell your wife you have plans for your anniversary this year and it's not going to cost you a penny. Explain to your wife that you want to sit with her and go through your wedding album together, that you want to look at all the pictures in your album together and relive every moment when you first met her and fell in love with her. Relive the moment you chose her. If you really want to score big points, show some real emotion, let the tears fall as you share of your love for her.

The greatest realization of the Christian life is understanding that you were chosen by God in Christ. The greatest joy of the Christian faith and of marriage is being together, and becoming one. In John 17, Jesus great earthly prayer Jesus prayed in verse 3, "And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." Grow in knowing. Make the goal of your faith to know Jesus and make it the goal of your marriage to know your spouse. I tell couples that are engaged or married that the best marriage manual in your marriage is the one right in front of them. Learn to read each other, study one another and make it your life goal to know each other, not just facts but to really know one another as you walk through this life together.

Know this too, no one ever gets tired of knowing they are chosen, knowing ever grows tired of knowing they are loved! It really is true, loved one, "To Know You Is To Love You".


"I have compared you, my love, To my filly among Pharaoh's chariots."

Song of Songs 1:9


I LOVE YOU! 

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"When God Hands It To You"

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"Blessed be the Lord God of our fathers, who has put such a thing as this in the king's heart, to beautify the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem, and has extended mercy to me before the king and his counselors, and before all the king's mighty princes. So I was encouraged, as the hand of the Lord my God was upon me; and I gathered leading men of Israel to go up with me."

Ezra 7:27-28


Teaching last night in the book of Ezra we found Ezra traveling back and forth from Babylon to Jerusalem in the service of the Lord being blessed by God in that even the heathen king in power allows Ezra to come and go and even assists Ezra in the beautifying the house of the Lord back in Jerusalem. Proof yet again that a man might plan his steps but it is the Lord who causes them to come to pass. Ezra even collects goods from the people along the way and is encouraged to put together a team from among the willing to go with him to complete the work that he has discovered he is to do.

How did Ezra go about discovering the work and the calling of God upon his life? The same way you and I do! Read verse 10 of chapter 7, "For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel." If we have a desire to truly be used of the Lord we need to follow the example given by the Lord Himself in the scriptures. Ezra prepared his heart to seek the Lord. Traveling some 900 miles in 4 months allowed Ezra plenty of time to study God's laws and put them into practice each day. And not only did Ezra study to know the Lord, he studied to share God's Word with his traveling companions. Its no wonder that by the time they reached Jerusalem they all had the same heart for the work of God. God's Word has a powerful effect on the human heart that is dedicated to seeking Him. 

Notice the power of the Word of God that the apostle Paul writes of in 2 Timothy 3:16, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness". All scripture and not just part of it or just the parts we deem are necessary. God has said the whole Word; the full counsel of God is good for us and will instruct us in the way we should live and the service we are to provide for Him. There is a blessing that comes with obedience to the Lord and Ezra understands what I pray you and I grow to understand too. It is God who is working behind the scenes in our lives just like He was in Ezra's, granting us favor wherever we go when we go in the name of the Lord. Ezra came to understand that it is the Lord who grants us mercy before even the very enemies of God.

But, as good as all that there is something even better than having the favor of kings. I pray that your heart would be strengthened and encouraged today because you have seen with your own eyes and experienced in your own life as you have sought to serve the Lord that His hand is upon you. I pray you sense His hand upon your life, leading you, guiding you, protecting and providing for you every step of the way. Like king David was before him, Ezra too was a man after God's heart. These great men of God came to know what I pray you know today too. The best gift God can bless our lives with is the gift of His presence, for us to experience the joy of knowing His hand is upon us. May you sense His touch in a real way today!  

"Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go."

Joshua 1:6-7

I LOVE YOU!


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"How To Have Lifetime Joy"

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"fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind."

Philippians 2:2

Like many who believe in the sovereignty of God, I don't believe in coincidence, I believe in divine providence. Take yesterday as an example. I had just finished writing a devotional I titled, "How To Win At Life" and then saw a "How To"​ email that offered advice and it immediately caught my attention and I believed God was leading me to read it. 

The email began, "This 75-Year Harvard Study Shows, 'How To Have Lifetime Joy'" which I could not pass up for the obvious reason. Like most people breathing I too want lifetime joy and yet I was curious to know if the study concluded something other than God's love as its basis. Galatians 5:22-23 states plainly, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law." In other words the bible says joy is a relational byproduct.

The article stated that for 75 years the study focused on the physical and emotional health of two groups. The first group was made up of 456 poor people from 1939 to 2014 and the other group of Harvard graduates from 1939-1944. And after 75 years of study you might be surprised that Robert Waldinger, director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development concluded, "good relationships keep us happier and healthier, period." Melanie Curtin added, "The biggest predictor of your happiness and fulfillment overall in life is, basically, love." I couldn't have said it any better than Melanie. Her words brought to mind 1 John 4:8 which reminds us, "God is love" and the by product of being connected to Jesus in relationship produces in us, love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.

God is into "transformational relationships" which maybe better stated by basketball coaching legend John Wooden who said, "You can give without loving, but you can't love without giving."  Maybe that is why John 3:16 is the most widely known bible passage in the world for in it we read of the greatest expression of giving in love, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."

The article continued on, "The most loving and deep relationships are built on a very simple foundation: giving and gratitude. When the focus is on what you can give, rather than what you can get, the relationship becomes a gift to both of you." Wow! Why is it I get this feeling someone assisting in doing this 75 year Harvard study was familiar with the Word of God? When we focus on what we can give and not what we can get the article stated, "there is no holding back, no keeping score." Wait a second, isn't that what the apostle Paul penned in 1 Corinthians 13 of the Bible, the "love chapter" that is quoted in more weddings than I could even begin to count, Christian or otherwise, "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" (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).

The more I read the article the more appreciative I am for Jesus and what His life does for you and me. The author continued, "Only in such relationships (loving-giving) can you be fully present to the moment and fully un-inhibited in the expression of your love." Because of God's amazing and unfailing love we are free to let go and let God. God can and must be trusted with our hearts, loved one, because He not only understands us better than anyone, He created us to begin with! In love God created us with free will and sadly we misused it and in doing so sinned against Him causing our relationship with our Creator to be broke off. This is why God sent us Jesus, to make a way home, to restore us back to fellowship with our Heavenly Father, to make having a new relationship with God possible. Thats what love does, that's the distance love will go.

Brad Pitt once provided the most beautiful evidence of the science of gratitude and giving in a letter he wrote about his wife at the time, Angelina Jolie. Its important to note his forgetfulness does'nt diminish the fact that his actions provided beautiful evidence of the science of gratitude and giving. He wrote, "My wife got sick. She was constantly nervous because of problems at work, personal life, her failures and problems with children. She had lost 30 pounds and weighed about 90 pounds in her 35 years. She got very skinny, and was constantly crying. She was not a happy woman. She had suffered from continuing headaches, heart pain and jammed nerves in her back and ribs. She did not sleep well, falling asleep only in the morning and got tired very quickly during the day." 

He continued, "Our relationship was on the verge of break up. Her beauty was leaving her somewhere, she had bags under her eyes, she was poking her head, and stopped taking care of herself. She refused to shoot the films and rejected any role. I lost hope and thought that we'll get divorced soon…But then I decided to act on it. After all I've got the most beautiful woman on the earth… I began to pamper her with flowers, kisses and compliments. I surprised her and pleased her every minute. I gave her lots of gifts and lived just for her. I spoke in public only about her. I incorporated all themes in her direction. I praised her in front of her own and our mutual friends. You won't believe it, but she blossomed. She became even better than before. She gained weight, was no longer nervous and she loved me even more than ever. I had no clue that she CAN love that much. And then I realized one thing: The woman is the reflection of her man. If you love her to the point of madness, she will become it." Reading this letter Jeremiah 29:11 comes to mind, "​For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope."

Where Brad Pitt and many others before and after him have failed, Jesus has not. Jesus loves us with perfect love, a love that seeks the best for us. the Bible has a word for it, it is called grace. Grace has been described as, "undeserved and unmerited favor" yet I prefer a simpler more vivid picture the words, "One way love" create in my minds eye. What Brad Pitt was showing his wife was grace, one way love you might say and it worked, not like a science project but on a real messed up broken human heart just like yours and mine.  

I like what the article went on to say, "Giving freely without an expectation of return is essential. As are expressions of gratitude. In fact, this study found that expressions of gratitude have a powerful effect on the other person. Specifically, this study found regular expressions of gratitude can: Increase a person's self-worth. Increase a person's self-efficacy (confidence). Increase a person's prosocial behavior (in other words, when you're grateful to someone, they become a better person to society at large). Increase ability to cope with life's challenges. It worked for Angelina Jolie.

The article ended with some keen insight that echoes many of the teachings of Jesus, "The deeper and more transformative your daily experiences, the more perspective you'll have into what the world needs. The better you'll be at your job. The happier you'll be as a person — despite experiencing hardships throughout life. When you have people around you who love and help you, you become a different and better person." Now it makes more sense why Jesus would say, "For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you" and later in the same chapter Jesus said, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:15, 34-35).

It may have taken Harvard 75 years to discover what the Bible has said all along regarding joy but I for one am blessed they cared enough to want to study the topic in the first place as to how each of us might enjoy it for a lifetime. It's science but it's not rocket science. To the degree by which we enjoy Jesus it will be equal to the joy we experience in this life. They go hand in hand. If you want more joy, loved one, joy that lasts a lifetime make it your aim each and every day to follow Jesus example. Love freely, serve unselfishly, forgive completely, all the while appreciating openly and with an attitude of gratitude.


​"The LORD has appeared of old to me, saying: "Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you."

Jeremiah 31:3 


I LOVE YOU!

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"How To Win At Life"

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


1 Corinthians 15:57


Most books written today are classified as "How To" books as authors know that an overwhelming number of those who read books often do so in hope of gaining some new insight that will assist the reader in experiencing a more abundant life. Though the Bible wasn't written to be a "how to" book, there are within its pages many truths that when studied in depth demonstrate a consistent pattern of living by those who enjoyed victories in this life.

First and foremost, all lasting victories find their foundation in God. Don't believe me, believe the Word of God. Study Romans 1 for yourself and you will find that those who suffer the greatest defeats in this life are those who choose to be ungrateful. Likewise, those who look to God with a heart of gratitude will ultimately experience the victory that God Himself provides. Maybe you have heard the expression, "an attitude of gratitude" a phrase that is considered by almost all life coaches, counselors and teachers to be one of the most important core characteristic of those who consistently walk in victory in their daily lives.

A better life begins with a better day and today is the day that the Lord has made so let us rejoice and be glad in it. Count your blessings today, loved one. Take a few minutes and think of things you can be thankful. Begin with God and work out from there. Thank God for His amazing love and for His mercy and grace. Thank God for giving us Jesus as our Savior. Thank God for the victory that the Cross has provided for us over sin and death. Just think, the penalty of our sin was paid in full on Calvary's Cross. The power of sin was broken as well when Jesus died in our place. And looking ahead, one day, even the very presence of sin will be gone from us as Jesus will make all things new as old things pass away and mortality puts on immortality. Yes, loved one, we have much to be thankful for today.

Are you wanting to experience victory in your life today? Its as simple as giving thanks. Thank God, and in turn thank people every chance you get today and watch what happens to your day. Discover for yourself the foundation of victorious living, which is a grateful heart. I appreciate the words of William Arthur Ward who once said, "Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings." Yes, loved one, there is power in gratitude! Be blessed as you walk in victory today being thankful!


"Praise the LORD! Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever."

Psalm 106:1

I LOVE YOU!


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"Lessons From Your GPS"

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"So it was, when the Angel of the Lord spoke these words to all the children of Israel, that the people lifted up their voices and wept." 


Judges 2:4


Life today is much like it was back in the days of the book of Judges in that everyone did what seems right to them. If your car is equipped with GPS you know what I mean. If you miss your predetermined mapped out destination the system automatically begins to search for an "alternate route" instead of the "best route". And yet, if you have ever missed a turn when traveling because you didn't follow the directions that were given you, you soon discover the best way to get on track is to just turn around and not look for another route. Unfortunately most of us hate to turn around when we get off track. We simply look for "alternate routes".

One of the things I have appreciated in learning about the children of Israel is how they respond to the chastening of the Lord when the angel of the Lord (the Lord Jesus Himself) appeared to them and rebuked them for their failure to fulfill the vows.

The bible tells us here the Lord came up from Gilgal (which means blessing) to where they were, Bochim (which means weeping). The people respond the way anyone with a sensitive heart would upon being rebuked of the Lord for rebelling against His will for our lives. They listened intently to what the Lord spoke and His Word cut them to the heart, and then they lifted up their voices and wept.

Sin and disobedience should break our heart in the same way it does break the Lords. When you and I study the Word of God with an open heart and mind, tears should come to our eyes when we sin and are in disobedience to the Lord. When we realize that our sin, your sin and my sin is what cost Jesus His life on Calvary's Cross, our hearts should ache if not break. Until we come to the place that we despise our sin the way that God does we will allow it to coexist in our lives like the children of Israel did in the book of Judges. Matthew Henry once said, "God has told us how deceitful and desperately wicked our hearts are, but we are not willing to believe it, until by making bold with temptation we find it true by sad experience."

D.L. Moody, the famous preacher in his own right said that the Christian has two natures that are like two dogs. We have an old nature and a new nature that must be fed to survive. The problem is, we only have enough food to feed one or the other. Our job as children of God is to starve our flesh to death and feed our souls and live. Unfortunately, the children of Israel failed to do just that and the cost of their sin far exceeded the temporal pleasure they might have enjoyed. If there is a truth to glean from Judges chapter 2 it's this, "history not learned from tends to repeat itself." Most commentators agree that a major theme in the book of Judges is apostasy. You might wonder, what exactly does apostasy mean? APOSTASY (ah·pahs'tuh·sy) is the act of rebelling against, forsaking, abandoning, or falling away from what one has believed previously. The children of Israel have a history of falling away and repenting, walking with God, falling away, repenting, only to fall away again and again. Its as if they were constantly looking for alternate routes.

True repentance though leads to God's forgiveness and just as pride leads to separation from Him as God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. 2 Corinthians 7:9-10 tells us, "Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death."

Know this, friend, if you are sorry when you sin, that's a good thing! It's when we don't feel bad when we blow it that we have a problem. The children of Israel developed a pattern of living that we can observe and learn from here in the book of Judges. They developed a bad habit of Rebellion, Retribution (Retribution involves the act of paying someone back according to their behavior), Repentance, Rest, and then Repeating the cycle over and over.

We can break the cycles of sin and rebellion in our own lives by entrusting ourselves to God and following Him. Get in the Word and listen for His voice as you study the bible. It has been said that the Bible will keep you from sin and sin will keep you from the Bible. It's true, friend, that's why God gave us the Word, that's why He gave us His Son, the living Word! God wants us to know Him, and to know His ways so that we can live in victory every day of our lives and not just when we get to heaven.

The good news of the Gospel is this. The Word (Jesus) became flesh and dwelt among us…His Word is truth…and He said if we would know truth it will set us free! It was Jesus who said, "I Am the way, the truth and the life, and no man comes to the Father except by Me." Follow Him, loved one, stay close to Jesus today and you will never have to look for an alternate route again!


"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

John 8:36

I LOVE YOU!


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"Second To One"

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"It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose."

John 1:27


Most of us have heard the expression, "He or she was second to none" as a means of saying this person was the best at what they did. A compliment for sure but from studying the Word of God a greater compliment would be to say, "He or she was second to One", with the One being our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The more invisible we become the more visible Christ is. Thats we read John the Baptist declaring to his followers, "I must decrease that He might increase" and the apostle Paul writing to the church at Galatia boldly states, "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." The highest goal we each should strive for in this life is to be "Second to One".

Ezra was one such man and studying his life will provide you with tremendous insights as to how to become successful in God's eyes. Even the name Ezra is significant as his name means "help". That word can be taken a few ways. God is our Helper and when we look to Him we succeed. It can also mean we are God's helper. Like the apostle Paul writes regarding his life of service to the Lord in 2 Corinthians 4:5, "For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus' sake." A bondservant was a one who became a slave to another person as an act of their own free will and the term of their service was for life. Thats commitment!

Are you aware that Ezra was regarded very highly in Jewish tradition being regarded as a "second Moses"? Ezra, who himself led a group from Babylon to Jerusalem, it took four months and covered about 700 miles of rough terrain to arrive and assist in the rebuilding of the temple. By the time Ezra arrived in Jerusalem, the people had almost all but given up on the work of rebuilding, discouraged by their adversaries they decided to just focus on building their own homes instead of engaging in the work of the Lord that they were called to do.

Ezra stirred he hearts of the people to get back to work and complete the work they were sent to do. The Word of God tells us, "this Ezra came up from Babylon; and he was a skilled scribe in the Law of Moses, which the LORD God of Israel had given. The king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the LORD his God upon him" (Ezra 7:6). Ezra stirred the heart of the people because the Word of God first stirred the heart of Ezra. If you desire to be used of God in building up His kingdom, learn the lessons of Ezra's life.

Ezra did much in preparing his heart during those four months it took to get from Babylon to Jerusalem. He was a skilled scribe, something more than just a glorified secretary position writing down notes of importance. Ezra was skilled in the Law of Moses, comparable today to being a highly trained lawyer. And because he set his heart to study and grasp the Law of Moses, God's hand was upon Him. In other words, God was with Ezra, supporting and supplying his every need.

What made Ezra successful in his journey of faith will make you and I successful too. First, start by setting your heart on the things of God. Every great work of God in the lives of men begins with a longing in the heart for the will of God. Ezra traveled hundreds of miles and many months to a city that was broken down and in desperate need of restoration. What was in God's heart became Ezra's heart too. Second, he loved God's Word and not just to read it devotionally. Ezra became skilled in Law of Moses. Scribes were influential in Israel's history because they were diligent to preserve the Word of God, to teach the Word of God and maybe, number 3, the most important of all, they helped the people both hear and apply the truths of God's Word in real life. Scribes were different from prophets as scribes didn't receive new revelations from the Lord, they focused on knowing and explaining the revelations already revealed. Ezra was one of the first of these.

Notice the steps we read in Ezra 7:10, "For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel." What Ezra was to the children of Israel in the Old Testament, you and I have been called to the church and the world which we live in the New Testament. Matthew 28:18-20, "And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen."

The method and the model of ministry has not changed. The men and women God uses for His glory are those who first set their heart to seek God. Seek the Lord, long for Him by setting your heart to know God by knowing His Word. Study to know God's Word both intellectually and by careful application. Don't just study to know, study to do! Study to apply His Word to your life and not just to memorize His Word. And lastly, whatever the Lord teaches you know, He has done so that you might encourage others lives too. Seek out those with whom you can share what you have come to know as true in hope of stirring the hearts of those who are listening and who also want to seek and serve and share Him too. Impact others with what has impacted you! Determine today to be second to One! Be the man, be the woman of God that He uses mightily to stir up others to love and good works.


"So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them."

John 13:12-17


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"Mistaken Identity"

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"Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ."

1 Corinthians 11:1


During World War 2 an off duty German soldier walked into a donut shop along a narrow street dressed in full military garb. With a brown paper bag in hand concealing his delicious delicacies as he left the shop he passed a young boy sitting near the shops entrance. As the soldier passed by his eyes met the young boy and the two shard more than just a passing glance. They were acutely aware of each others presence and yet not a word was spoken between them. As the soldier continued down the sidewalk something inside him prodded him turn around as the young boy continued to watch. Without speaking a word to the young boy the soldier came back and stopped directly in front of the young lad and reached down and handed him the bag of donuts he had just purchased. Surprised, shocked, and somewhat afraid the boy couldn't muster a word in the moment and the soldier not requiring one simply smiled and turned around and walked away. The boy looked down and opened the sack to see a few fresh baked donuts and the smell brought a smile to his own face. Within seconds the young boy yelled out to the soldier who was just a few yards away by this time, "hey mister" to which caused the soldier to stop and turn towards the boy still sitting on the curb. The boy shouted out, "are you Jesus?"

Mistaken identity, but what an identity to be mistaken for! Oh that you and I could have the joy of being mistaken for Jesus today! In reality we can. Every conversation, every opportunity that presents itself to us today is an opportunity to imitate Christ, to do what Jesus would do if He was walking in our shoes and living His life through me and you. After all, it was Jesus Himself who said, "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35). 

Study the life of Jesus today, read the Gospels and consider the words Jesus spoke and the deeds Jesus did in ministering to the needs of others and then ask God to lead you to the very people He desires that you share the life and love of Jesus with. Thats what it is to imitate Christ.

Just think, every person, every encounter today is an opportunity for us to experience for ourselves "mistaken identity". Oh how the world needs to see Jesus today!


"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."

Matthew 5:16

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"Grow in Grace"

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"but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen."

2 Peter 3:18

My wife has a garden in our backyard that she tends to throughout the week. She has a green thumb and my life is blessed by the fruit of her labor. Monday afternoon she was showing our oldest granddaughter Reese all the plants that were coming into bloom. As they walked together in the garden my wife was pointing out how some of her plants are small right now but that in just a few short weeks they will be standing tall producing the very fruits and vegetables for which they were created by God to do. All they need to do is cling to the vine! 

Like everything healthy, God's desire for His children is that each of us grow in grace. Grace is best defined as "getting what I don't deserve" and grace with regard to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ means to grow in the knowledge that our salvation is a gift to us from God and not something we could ever earn on our own. We are saved the same way fruit grows, we cling to the vine! 

The reason Peter says we need to grow in grace is because it will keep us humble and fruitful as we focus our lives on what Jesus has done for us. Its very difficult to remain proud when you are constantly made aware of not only God's grace in your life but His mercy too. You recall that mercy means, "not getting what I deserve". God in His mercy has not given us what we do deserve when we break His commands which is eternal death. Instead, He has offered to us His grace, His unmerited and undeserved, one way love, the very thing we don't deserve, being eternal life in Christ Jesus.

Grow in grace, grow in Jesus life, loved one! Commit yourself to spending time in God's Word today which acts like fertilizer for our soul causing us to grow in His grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior. Remember, as we cling to the Vine and the life of Jesus grows in us, the peaceable fruit of His righteousness becomes ours to enjoy and share with others!

"I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 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."

John 15:1-5

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"Don't Settle For Less"

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"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you."

Matthew 7:7


Have you ever purchased a big bag of your favorite snack only to discover the bag was less than half full? In disappointment you read the fine print on the package that said, "product sold by weight not by volume" and your heart sank remembering the 'good old days' when it was the other way around. In a world where we are constantly paying more and getting less I am so thankful that God offers us life in abundance in Jesus Christ.

It was Jesus Himself who 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." Its important to note that Jesus didn't just come to give us any just any old kind of life but He came to give us abundantly more life which is to say Jesus is offering us life eternal, life without end. With regard to heaven and the life that Jesus has for us the apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 2:9, "But as it is written: "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him." What the apostle is telling us is that there is so much more that the Lord has in store for them that love Him but now in these bodies we aren't fully capable of taking it all in right now. These eyes and ears we have now just don't do the job to help us see the spiritual world around us. We need God's Spirit in us! That also means we were created for something more and more is exactly what God has in store for you and me who are in Christ Jesus!

Luke's Gospel reminds us that even when we give we cant out give God. Luke 6:38 puts it like this, "Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you." The same way we wish our snack items would come in their packages, Jesus says our return on investment in the kingdom of God will come back to us. We always receive back far more than what we give when it comes to giving to God. It is true, we just cant out give God.

Don't settle for less today, loved one, when God is offering us so much more. Keep this in mind today! There is more for you to accomplish today, more for you to receive from the Lord if only we will exercise our faith to believe and receive. Read the prayer of the apostle Paul today for the church in Ephesus and know too that his prayer for the church that he loved is also my prayer for you as well. As I bow my own knee I pray to the Father that you may be filled with all the fullness of God until you like King David recognized in the 23rd Psalm, "my cup runs over!"


"For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 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. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen."

Ephesians 3:14-21

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"Garbage In Garbage Out"

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"I will set nothing wicked before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; It shall not cling to me."

Psalm 101:3



Checking my Twitter feed I saw a post from a well known pastor I follow who said, "I heard the new season of The Bachelor was starting. It should be a felony to watch it". If his tweet doesn't make any sense to you let me be the first to encourage you to read David's words here in Psalm 101:3 where he determines to set nothing before his eyes that could make him stumble or fall away from walking in his integrity with God. David understood full well the old saying, "garbage in garbage out".

Today, this week, this year, make it your aim to walk worthy of the Lord. Don't let the world squeeze you into its mold. Take to heart the words of the apostle Paul who exhorts all believers in Romans 12:1-2, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."

The goal of the Christian life is not to live sin free but to be free from sin, and Jesus came to set us free so that our focus would be on Him and not on sin. It was Dietrich Bonhoeffer who said, "Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously doing God's will." The best way to avoid sin is to keep your eyes on the Lord and to follow Him.


"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."

Hebrews 12:1-2

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"I Hope You Dance"

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"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

Reading Psalm 8 this morning brought to mind a song my wife loves and so much so that when she heard it played for the first time she immediately sent it to each of our children to listen with the desire they would take the words to heart as a mothers hope for her children.

The words to the song are as follows,

"I hope you never lose your sense of wonder
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger
May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens
Promise me that you'll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance
I hope you dance
I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Livin' might mean takin' chances, but they're worth takin'
Lovin' might be a mistake, but it's worth makin'
Don't let some Hellbent heart leave you bitter
When you come close to sellin' out, reconsider
Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance (Time is a wheel in constant motion always rolling us along)
I hope you dance
I hope you dance (Tell me who wants to look back on their years and wonder)
I hope you dance (Where those years have gone?)
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens
Promise me that you'll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
Dance
I hope you dance
I hope you dance (Time is a wheel in constant motion always rolling us along)
I hope you dance (Tell me who wants to look back on their years and wonder?)
(Song Ends)

Both the psalm above and the song beautifully express the vastness of creation and exhorts the listener to give the world around us more than just a passing glance. Each time I hear this song the words of G.K. Chesterton come to my mind, "We are perishing for lack of wonder not lack of wonders." By God's design when we stand on a sea shore looking out or gazing up into the heavens we can't help but feel small. Psalm 19:1-4 puts it into perspective, "The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them He has set a tabernacle for the sun."

Like a child I stand in awe as I consider the works of Gods hand and my heart agrees with what Evelyn Underhill once said, "If God were small enough to be understood, He would not be big enough to be worshipped." Creation reminds us just how little we are. When we stand on the shore of the ocean, we realize there is a whole other world lying just beneath the waves. When we stand on top of a mountain and look up into the heavens we are drawn towards God. Psalm 148:1-6 explains why, "Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; Praise Him in the heights! Praise Him, all His angels; Praise Him, all His hosts! Praise Him, sun and moon; Praise Him, all you stars of light! Praise Him, you heavens of heavens, And you waters above the heavens! Let them praise the name of the LORD, For He commanded and they were created. He also established them forever and ever; He made a decree which shall not pass away."

Step outside today, loved one, and look up, look around and stand in awe, stand in wonder as you appreciate a fresh today all that God has made. Allow the work of God's hand to remind you how big He is and just how little you are, knowing as you do you will experience His majesty in a more profound way. Encountering God's creation is not at all belittling to us. Rather, His majesty is humbling as when we see God rightly, we see ourselves rightly too. God is great, we are small, and that reminder is to our comfort. It's freeing to discover our insignificance and to be left with a sense of wonder that everything that exists was created by Him and for Him and nothing that exists does so apart from Him. That includes me and you too! 

We were created for God's glory and we owe everything to Him, even the very breath we breathe. Knowing this, my hope and prayer for you today, loved one, is like that which my wife prays for our own children and grandchildren too, I hope you dance!

"You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness"

Psalm 30:11


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"Choose Joy"

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"I thank my God, making mention of you always in my prayers, hearing of your love and faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints, that the sharing of your faith may become effective by the acknowledgment of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. For we have great joy and consolation in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you…"

Philemon 1:4-7


I think its safe to say that almost everyone wants to be happy and yet as quickly as we think we have found it, it can be gone and rightly so. Happiness is fleeting at best, and unfortunately our happiness is tied directly to our 'happenings' which change as quickly as our circumstances. If things go as we hope we are happy to varying degrees and time. If things don't go as we hope discouragement and sadness often grip our heart and mind with greater intensity than the happiness we were longing.

Are you aware there is something more satisfying than happiness? Yes, loved one, better than the pursuit of happiness is the gift of joy. C.S. Lewis once said, "Joy is the serious business of heaven." What makes joy trump happiness every time is joy is not determined by our circumstances and therefore is not subject to change even when everything else does. Happiness is contingent on what happens to us, unlike joy which is dependent solely on what Jesus accomplished for us on the Cross. Joy is a gift from God to His children and constant through each and every circumstances we encounter that reminds us we are loved and that God is there.

Of all the apostles there was none who knew the difference between happiness and joy more than Peter. Before joy overflowed his life Peter was tossed to and fro by the emotional highs and lows that come with the pursuit of happiness it seems like almost daily. Peter, writing in the epistle that bears his name captures perfectly the impact of Christ's love upon our lives, "whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory" (1 Peter 1:8). "Joy inexpressible" because there are no words that can describe seeing Jesus work supernaturally in your life in a way that transcends seeing Jesus physically as Peter did. Its like the difference between seeing something beautiful and being touched by it. Seeking and finding Jesus brings an abiding satisfaction, a joy like nothing this life has to offer. Nothing else comes close.

Do you have a desire for more joy in your life? I know I do. Discover more joy as you discover more of Jesus as Jesus and joy are inseparable. So, instead of seeking happiness, make it your aim to seek Jesus and you too will discover joy inexpressible! I believe C.S. Lewis said it best, "aim at the world and you get nothing, aim at heaven and you get the world thrown in." Choose Jesus!

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

Psalm 16:11 


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"You're Hot"

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(Especially For Tim and Michelle)


"But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you."

Isaiah 43:1-2

Are you going through a trial today? Do you feel the heat being turned up in your life? Is your faith in God being challenged by your current situation? If so you are not alone, ever! Most everyone has heard the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, the three Hebrew young men who refused to bow down to King Nebuchadnezzar despite his threats of death by incineration. Though the king threatened to turn up the heat seven times hotter than normal, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were unwavering in their faith in God. Like Abraham, the father of faith who the Bible says, "He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform" (Romans 4:20-21) these three young Hebrews were just as fully convinced. I like to think of it this way, their faith was on fire for God, hotter than the very furnace they were thrown into.

If you are in the midst of your own fiery trial today you've got to read all of Daniel chapter 3 and allow the Lord to remind you of a few things as you do. Trust me, no, rather trust God that your heart will be encouraged as you read this true story. For me, I was reminded as I read, faith doesn't prevent trials from coming our way, it merely provides us the opportunity to witness God exercise His sovereign plan right before our very eyes. Yes, God still performs miracles! Often times when facing life's difficulties we blame ourselves as if we were the solution to our own problems, robbing God of the opportunity to show Himself strong on our behalf. We often play the "What if" or the "If only" game trying to change the scenarios of our lives in hope of improving our outcome. We desperately want to be in control. Most of the time when we face a difficult challenge and begin to doubt we become short sided like the disciples who limited Jesus by their own questioning regarding the man who was blind from birth. In John's gospel the disciples asked Jesus saying, "…Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him" (John 9:2-3).

Have you ever considered that what you are going through might not even be about you, but rather for you? In other words, the very trial you are facing might just have been permitted by God Himself not to harm you but to set you free? The fire that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego were thrust into didn't even cause one hair upon their head to be singed or for the stench of smoke to be smelled as they came out. The only thing that was burned up in the fire were the bindings that bound them and held them captive. The fire was used of God to free them from the bondage they had been placed in. What was true for them is just as true for me and you!

The best news of all in this story is that just like Jesus, the Son of God was there in the midst of that fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, Jesus has promised to be right beside you and me as we go through our own fiery trials in this life. Jesus told His disciples "I am with you always'", and the writer of Hebrews reminds us of His promise, "I will never leave you nor forsake you".

Just as Abraham and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego were fully convinced you and I can be fully convinced too that whatever God has promised, He is also able to perform! What was it that helped these men of faith to not waver at the promises of God? It wasn't that they had faith in their own faith but rather they had great faith in their great God. True faith isn't something we well up within ourselves. True faith comes by taking God at His Word. They might have doubted themselves all day long but what they did not doubt was that God was true to His Word and that what He had promised to do He would faithfully accomplish. Nothings changed as God Himself has not changed, as He is the same yesterday, today and forever!

In the end, when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego came out of that fire smelling like roses as God used their temporary imprisonment for their promotion. God never wastes a hurt in our life, loved one, but rather He turns our trials into our promotions too! If you are facing a trial today take to heart what James, the half brother of our Lord says, "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing" (James 1:2-4). Don't forget, theres something greater waiting for you on the other side of the trial. Wait for it!


"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."

Romans 8:28

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"Walk, Don't Run"

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"I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law."


Galatians 5:16-18


It was Henry Ford who once said, "Those who walk with God, always reach their destination." Most new believers are taught the importance of repentance with regard to sin. To repent is to turn from sin, and to go in the opposite direction. But thats only half the truth as repentance is more than just turning from sin but also includes turning to God. In other words the success of repentance isn't just that we seek to get away from sin but equally important is where and who do we turn to. Repentance might best be described as turning from self to God, from our way of thinking to God's way, from pleasing ourselves to pleasing God.

Have you ever heard the expression, "If I only knew then what I knew now." I imagine that if we could speak with the children of Israel as they were being led away into captivity because of sin, first by the Assyrians and then the Babylonians, I believe the quote I read just this past week would be on the tip of their lips as both a warning and a exhortation to us alive today,

"Sin will take you further than you want to go…
Sin will keep you longer than you want to stay…
Sin will cost you more than you want to pay…"

We must not forget today, loved one, that sin is deadly. James 1:13-15 makes the point, "Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death."

Don't buy into the lie that sin doesn't hurt you or anyone else, or even if sin does in fact hurt someone it only hurts the one who commits it. The Bible is clear that sin is deadly and it seeks to take the life of each person it touches. Just as important to know, sin spreads as quick as wild fire the Bible teaches, "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned-- (For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come." (Romans 5:12-14).

Just as well we cant forget that sin is bondage not freedom. The Bible tells us that many who claim liberty with regard to their lifestyle choices make that claim because of personal vice. In other words many who claim that their questionable behavior or indulgences are a liberty given to them by God say such things because they lack self control and are actually in bondage to the very behavior they claim to enjoy as a freedom. As pastor Greg Laurie has so well stated, "If you toy with sin, sin will toy with you."

Running from sin is like running a marathon, eventually you will grow tired and hit the wall as it were. Better than running away from sin is walking with God. Galatians 5:16 says it best, "I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh." The luster of sin diminishes as we walk with God and enjoy His presence. More satisfying than the longings of our flesh is the joy we sense as we glorify the Lord by using our gifts to minister to others as the apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12:7, "But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all." Sin looses its grip on us as we seek to please the Lord. 2 Timothy 2:4 serves as a great reminder that when we turn from sin and turn to God our focus changes as do our priorities and motives, "No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier."

The Christian life wasn't meant to be a marathon that wears us out nor a sprint that zaps every ounce of energy we possess. The Christian life is a walk, a journey of faith, a relationship with the God of heaven that was meant to be experienced and enjoyed day by day. Consider the words of the psalmist today. Psalm 73:23-25 describes in a nut shell the understanding and the impact a walk with God has upon our lives, "Nevertheless I am continually with You; You hold me by my right hand. You will guide me with Your counsel, And afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You."

Once we take God's hand and begin to enjoy walking with Him each day, growing in the knowledge of His love and care for us we too like the Psalmist will come to the same conclusion, "there is none upon the earth that I desire besides You." It becomes much easier to say no to something when you have a bigger yes. Jesus is our bigger yes! The psalmist came to know what I pray you and I know today too. Because the destination in Jesus is secure we are free to enjoy the journey! Walk with God today!


"He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?"

Micah 6:8

I LOVE YOU!


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"You Were Born To Be A Star"

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"For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"

Esther 4:14


Who doesn't enjoy the book of Esther, the story about a young jewish orphan who became Queen and with whom God had destined to do great things as she risked her own life to save the lives of the Jewish nation. Like our Lord and Savior, Esther is an advocate for her people, not a self proclaimed advocate like we often see in the world today as people promote themselves, but rather a beautiful and still humble woman of God chosen by Him to stand in the gap for the nation of Israel. If you didn't know, the name Esther means "star" and what a star she was. 

In what appeared to be a dark moment in the life of the children of Israel as wicked Haman, the Judas Iscariot of the Old Testament sought to have the Jews exterminated, it was left up to Esther to go petition the king and risk her own life in violating royal protocol in approaching the king without first being invited. Trusting in faith that she would have the kings favor in that he in return would extend the golden scepter as a sign of grace, he listened to her petition.  

So many lessons we can glean from this wonderful story but the one that stands out in my mind today is this. In the Old Testament when the Holy Spirit came upon a person for the purposes of God, once the purpose of God was fulfilled the Holy Spirit departed from them and moved on to the next person God would anoint and raise up for His special calling. We see it all through the Old Testament, from Moses to Nehemiah, King David and all the prophets, two who stand out to me are Elijah and then Elisha. Men and women, young and old alike were chosen and used of God just as Esther, "for such a time is this", but then they were done.

But the New Testament reveals something better, something so much more regarding you and me. When the Holy Spirit was given beginning in the book of Acts "for such a time as this" changed from a moment in time to "from now on clear into eternity". What wasn't experienced and what couldn't be known in the Old Testament has now come true for me and you. The apostle Paul puts it like this in Colossians 1:26-27, "the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." Did you catch that? God doesn't just come upon your life and mine "for such a time as this" and then depart as in the days of Esther and then moving on to the next anointing. No, loved one, the promise to you and me is not momentary, its permanent.

When we receive Christ Jesus as Savior and Lord God seals us with His Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit indwells us so that every day of our lives from that moment on can be "for such a time as this". Talk about exciting! God doesn't just want to use our lives once and then set us aside and move on to someone else (though being used of God once would certainly be an honor enough that would be remembered for a lifetime), but the truth is, God wants to use our lives every day for His glory and our good. 

Just think, there is something of eternal value and worth that God wants to involve you and I in today. Maybe its to plant a seed in someones heart regrading the forgiveness of God and the gift of salvation? Maybe God wants to use you to reach someone today is at the end of their rope, discouraged by life's circumstances and is in desperate need of a good word. Maybe God is calling you to step out in faith and use your gifts and talents to bless other peoples lives or just the opposite. Perhaps God is calling you to humble yourself and reach out for help today so others can use their gifts in serving you?

All I know today is the possibilities to experience a "for such a time as this" are unlimited, as unlimited as is our God. I also know this to be true too, because life this side of heaven is limited, so are our opportunities in life to be used. Don't miss yours! Pray, spend some time in God's Word and ask God where and to whom is He calling you to go to this day. And just as Esther's uncle Mordecai reminded the Queen of the privilege we have to be used of God, let me remind you of the words from Esther 4:14, "For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place…" Like I was saying, don't miss your chance to shine like a star! Be like Isaiah and say to the Lord today,

"Send Me"

Isaiah 6:8

I LOVE YOU!



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"You Are In Good Hands"

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"For He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture, And the sheep of His hand. Today, if you will hear His voice"

Psalm 95:7


I remember visiting a friend in the hospital years ago now who had been involved in a very bad car accident that only by the grace of God he and his wife survived and are still with us today. Lying there in his hospital bed with numerous broken bones and in much pain (though he was sedated at the moment we spoke) he looked up at me from his bed and said something I will never forget. With an impish grin on his face he said to me, "Mike, I am not afraid of dying, I just don't want to be there when it happens" to which I laughed out loud. I knew in that moment my friend would be just fine and that even in this seemingly stress filled time he had not lost his sense of humor largely in part due to his unwavering faith in God.

That scene came to mind because this same friend sent me this quote the other day in an email. It said, "Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!" This quote reminded me of what pastor Greg Laurie once said in a podcast I was listening to. He said, "the safest place to be in this world is in the center of God's will, the most dangerous place to be is anywhere else."

In John 10:27-30 we read one of the most comforting and reassuring stories in all the Bible for one group of people and probably equally as well one of the most frustrating dialogs Jesus had for the other group as their attempts to silence Jesus were once again thwarted. Jesus dialog in John 10 is one of my favorite stories in all the Gospels. Jesus declares, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand. I and My Father are one." If you ever wanted a specific text in scripture to support eternal security I cant think of a better verse than this one as Jesus is telling those gathered listening to Him speak that day that as the Good Shepherd, His followers were safe in His hands and just as important, He Himself was safe in His Fathers Hands offering us double security. Jesus assurance that "Your in good hands" is far greater than the old Allstate television commercial providing insurance.

John 10:10 reminds us that Jesus came to give life and life more abundantly. The Greek word for life used in John's Gospel is the word "Zoe", meaning "life without end!" That's a quality of life we should all want to enjoy and one we can as it is a gift from God as we follow Him and heed His voice. The key then to a God quality life, a "life without end" is discovered and enjoyed by following Jesus! Walking with Jesus is a radical way of life, a wild ride in many ways and yet it's also the safest place to be! You are in good hands today, loved one, as you walk with God. Be encouraged in your own journey as you call to mind the words of King David who himself recognized,

"The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me…"


Psalm 23:1-4


I LOVE YOU!


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"If It's True Its Not New"

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"That which has been is what will be, That which is done is what will be done, And there is nothing new under the sun."

Ecclesiastes 1:9


I felt led of the Lord to write today to encourage those of you who seek biblical counsel for whatever reason big or small. Biblical council by far is the best way to go in life, not necessarily for the short run if you just want a temporal quick fix that you will end up paying double for later most likely, but council that always is best for the long haul, like say eternity. 

The bible is clear in that God gave us His Word to be a lamp to our feet and a light unto our path. The best place any of us can go for directions then in this life is to God Himself. Yes, even before we do a Google search, use a navigation app on our electronic device, or call someone for help, turning to God is always the best choice and for good reason. One of my favorite pastors has a saying, "If its true it's not new and if its new it's not true." We live in a world that is constantly changing and what was true in the worlds eyes a few years ago is no longer such, which to me is not progressive in thinking but in reality is destructive.

The best source of counsel any of us can seek is counsel that is not a respecter of persons. As a pastor I take what I say to others in counseling very seriously for the simple reason I know I am going to stand before God one day and give an account of my life and because I am a pastor I also know that I will incur a stricter judgment (James 3:1). I realize we live in a day and time where the Bible says, "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables." (2 Timothy 4:3-4). And its sad to see so many believers walking away from the Word of God not realizing the consequences of their choices. 

Be very careful, loved one where and to whom you turn for help. You might keep this truth in mind when pondering the council you seek to receive from others. Never take advice from someone who doesn't have to live with the consequences. In other words the best council is the council that is not tainted one way or the other, that's not motivated by gender, race, religion, political or socioeconomical class. The Word of God, unlike human opinion is infallible and without error. It is not subject to change and is why in many circles it must be eliminated all together for that very reason. God's Word doesn't bend to human desire. The bible is relevant to culture always while culture itself is not relevant for the simple reason it is always changing. What's in one day is out the next and who decides? Don't forget, the Bible will keep you from sin and sin will keep you from the Bible. 

One of the many beauties of biblical counsel is its consistency. If you find yourself needing counsel at some point in your life, (and for the record only humble and wise people seek counsel in the first place, the Bible teaches us) you should be able to get biblical advice today that if you came back in say 5, 10, 20 years with the same issue, the biblical answer would be the same as God never changes. I don't know about you but I find tremendous comfort in that. Knowing the Word of the Lord stands.

You can trust the Word of the Lord, loved one, and you can rest in the faithfulness of God's Word. Heaven and earth will pass away Jesus said, but His Word will never pass away. How important is the Word of God you might be thinking? There are only three things that last forever, God Himself, The Word of God, and the souls of men. Three things that are eternal and the Word of God is one of them. We cant put too much emphasis on understanding God's Word and our seeking it for both our faith and our day to day practice. Below are a few, Ok, maybe more than just a few verses to encourage you to seek, stand and stay in the Word of God. You will be blessed as you do!


"To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." John 8:31-32


"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17


"For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." Hebrews 4:12


"Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path." Psalm 119:105


"Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." James 1:22


"How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word." Psalm 119:9


"The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever." Isaiah 40:8


"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock." Matthew 7:24


"The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple." Psalm 119:130


"Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" Matthew 4:4


"Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation." 1 Peter 2:2


"For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding." Proverbs 2:6


"You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word." Psalm 119:114


"So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it." Isaiah 55:11


"I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you."

Psalm 119:11

I LOVE YOU!



















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"Lessons From A Shark Tank"

PastorMikeOsthimer1
"Looking unto Jesus"

Hebrews 12:2a


Watching the television show 'Shark Tank' on Sunday afternoon I was enjoying the dialog taking place between one of the entrepreneurs seeking financial backing and wisdom and with all the Sharks, whom also expressed interest in becoming business partner to this entrepreneur. The conversation taking place sounded more like a bible study then a business proposition. By the time the show ended I was more convinced than ever that the same principle for building a successful business are much the same that are needed to build a successful spiritual life. Read on and you decide. 

One of the Sharks shared that to be a successful entrepreneur required "laser like focus" which in my mind meant putting Hebrews 12:2 into practice by fixing our eyes on the Lord, "looking unto Jesus". I thought of the conversation in Luke chapter 9 where Jesus is in a dialog with people who have expressed interest in following Him. Jesus doesn't refuse their request but instead challenges them to count the cost. Jesus says, unless a person is willing to forsake everything in their lives to follow Him they might as well not waste their time as Jesus response demonstrates that a half hearted commitment is no commitment at all, as Jesus plainly teaches in Luke 9:62, "But Jesus said to him, "No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."

One of the other Sharks that entered into the discussion said one of the principles they live by in their own life is, "Get rid of the things that don't matter and focus on the things that do." To be successful they said you need to constantly evaluate your life and as they put it, "go lean", learn to be a minimalist if we are to get rid of the clutter. Two of my favorite passages of scripture came to mind as I listened intently to everything that these successful business executives had to say. 

First, going back to Hebrews 12:1-2 the writer of Hebrews shares with us the basis of a successful spiritual life, "Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Such wisdom there is in "looking unto Jesus". Just as the apostle Paul exhorts us to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith we do well to get rid of the things that don't matter in our lives so that we can focus on the things that do.

The Bible provides us with many examples as to why and how we should and can get rid of the things that don't matter so we can focus on the things that do. In Philippians 3 we read the words of the apostle Paul who most would agree lived a very successful Christian life. If there was a Christian television show called, "Shark Tank" that was about men and women who are 'billionaires' spiritually speaking with regard to their faith in God and who willingly share their wisdom on what is takes to be successful in our spiritual journey I am pretty certain the Apostle Paul would be a regular on the show. 

The Apostle Paul puts one of his keys to spiritual success in writing for us in Philippians 3:12-14, "Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 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." In a nut shell, Paul affirms in the spiritual realm what I witnessed on "Shark Tank" Sunday afternoon taking place in the business realm. Had Paul been on the show on Sunday he might has simply said, "Let go and let God."

Are there things in your life, loved one, that are keeping you from reaching your goals? Is there something or someone that is weighing you down spiritually instead of helping you up so you can fix your eyes on Jesus? Seek to eliminate the distractions. Take Jesus words to heart today and "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" (Matthew 6:33). Set your mind on the prize today! Live like a spiritual billionaire, loved one as you determine to keep the main thing the main thing! And don't ever forget that Jesus is the main thing! Focus, focus, focus… 


"Do you not know that those who run in a
race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified."

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

I LOVE YOU!


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"New Normal"

PastorMikeOsthimer1
"But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord."

2 Corinthians 3:18

To use a baseball metaphor, life has a way of throwing us curve balls when we least expect it so we need to be ready for anything at any time. Thinking back over the years following April 12 this morning a label I remember hearing years ago comes to mind, "New Normal" which was used to describe a new way of life because of something that happened unexpectedly and without warning and or preparation. In most cases "new normal" spoke of the adjustment we are forced to make with the sudden loss of a loved one.  

Speaking in baseball terms again, adjusting to "new normal" is like seeing a curve ball for the very first time. You either swing way ahead of the pitches arrival, you don't swing at all believing the pitch is so far out of the strike zone, or you bail out of the batters box and take cover on the ground thinking you were about to be beaned. None of those things happen though as the umpire yells out 'stttrrrriiiiikkkkeee'. You're only hope now is that it isn't strike three being called to add injury to insult as it were. The point is there are things in life we think we can handle and are prepared for that when they do happen to us, everything changes, and nothing is the same ever again leaving us to adjust to a "new normal."

Baseball is just a game but when life throws you a curve ball we are often times left frustrated or angry, anxious and confused as the life we had hoped for, the life we had planned was suddenly changed without notice. For example, writer and hope to be soon Cancer Survivor Mary Jean Iron who is in the midst of fighting her battle with cancer wrote recently in her blog, "Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, treasure you, before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest for some rare and perfect tomorrow." This is from someone who has been forced by life to appreciate each and every day as they come as if it were the last. Mary is learning to live one day at a time just as Jesus instructs each of us to do in Matthew 6:34, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble."

Mary's cancer blind side has caused her to change her perspective of life. Instead of not even thinking much about today, she is learning to treasure the very moments that make up today. Her cancer has for her created a "new normal" that is transforming her into the person God always wanted her to be. She didn't choose the path she is on but she has accepted it with grace and is learning valuable lessons and graciously sharing them with her readers as she is able along the way.

When I read Mary's blog I immediately thought of Psalm 90:12 which says, "So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom." As she is gaining a heart of wisdom she shared a couple of points in her recent blog that only a person dealing with a life threatening disease can capture with such clarity. She writes,

"Treasure your days. You never know how life will change. Slow down. REALLY slow down. Although I have talked endlessly about doing that on this blog, I was a hypocrite in ways, because I was a bundle of energy and stress trying to do too much sometimes even if just for my own family. I have realized I process stress terribly. I hold it all inside and have worried way way too much about things. Don't do that. Don't be strong all the time. It is ok and good to cry. It is ok to say "I am struggling with life" to your husband, your friends, or a therapist, and take time for yourself and to pray and journal and be calm. If you struggle with anxiety, get help. Take care of yourself. Totally reject the culture of perfectionism, competitiveness, and comparison and illusion that is so easy to find everywhere today. Get enough sleep. Take walks. Say no. Or if whatever it is helps calm and center you say yes. Grow closer to God. Build your faith. Take time to pray every day."

She went on to say, "Work hard to find gifts in struggles. God Almighty, this is so difficult when you are in the middle of crap. Really it is and some days I just couldn't (and can't). Sometimes I would set a timer to force myself out of bed. I have been lower than I ever have experienced in my life. I have seen and experienced a whole other level of suffering and hope and pain and strength in that damn chemo room. Often I have heard how strong I am-this is what you say to people facing cancer. But I have always been uncomfortable with that, although I know it is a form of encouragement and I would say the same thing. Let me tell you, I have seen strength through this experience from my fellow companions in the journey through cancer. But what does not being strong look like? It's ok to cry your heart out, and say you can't do it (with whatever you are facing) and don't want to and be mad and angry and sometimes hopeless and desperate."

To sum up Mary's thoughts from scripture in how to best process our "new normal" when life gives us an unexpected 'gut punch' we do well to remember the promises of God, like the one we find here in Romans 8:28, "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose." Oh, and don't forget the invitation of Jesus when you are worn out from this life, Matthew 11:28-30 invites us as well, "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."

Life does in fact dish out more than we can bear at times but know this today, loved one, God will never give you more than He can bear! Nothing is too difficult for God! Why not accept His invitation, cast all your cares on Jesus today knowing He cares about you! You can make it today because you don't have to go it alone. God Himself has promised to be with you and to never leave you nor forsake you. Talk about a "new normal."

"No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it."

1 Corinthians 10:13

I LOVE YOU!


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"The Beauty of Pain"

PastorMikeOsthimer1

"A time to weep, And a time to laugh; A time to mourn, And a time to dance"


Ecclesiastes 3:4


The wisdom of Ecclesiastes 3 is that of contrast, almost seemingly opposites. I remember writing the words down on paper years ago, "Beauty and Pain, to the extent you enjoy one you will also experience the other." They are inseparable as the only way to truly know and understand beauty is to also experience pain. Think about it, how would we know what sweet was like on our pallet if we didn't also know the taste of bitter. The comparisons are endless. April 12 will always be a day filled with beauty and pain for our family and some dear friends.

Beauty, in that it was on April 12, 2012 my wife and I received the news that we were going to be grandparents for the very first time. Beauty, as mine and my wife's best friends daughter Danielle, who also happened to be our daughter Bree's best friend was born on April 12, 1987. And like I said, April 12 is also a day of pain in that our friends daughter who would be celebrating her birthday today went home to be with Jesus on August 20, 2004 at just 17 years old leaving us to celebrate her birthday year after year without her here. As I think about Danielle today, there is beauty in knowing she will forever be my favorite "What If". More pain, as it was on April 12th that my dad went home to be with Jesus in 2014. Like I said, to the degree you experience one you will also experience the other.

As I think about the paradox of April 12 the words of Pascal come to mind. "What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself."

There is a richness to Pascal's words and yet I think like so many others I have come to enjoy equally as well a quote that is attributed to him that in fact he never said, "There is a God shaped void in every human heart that only He Himself can fill." I truly believe that statement is true but as the years pass I am just as convinced that when we truly love someone created in the image of God and we become separated by death there remains a void in our hearts that no one else can fill. At least I know that to be true for me regarding Danielle and my Dad and Mom. Enough time has passed since their deaths that if something or someone could replace them or fill the empty spot in my heart I would have already discovered it. With regard to those I love who are no longer here with me, there is a you shaped void in my heart that no one else can fill.

The bible tells us, "All things work together for good to them that love God and who are called according to His purposes." In the midst of the pain April 12th brings I have discovered beauty in that grief changes us. It sculpts us, transforming us into someone who understands more deeply, who hurts more often, appreciates more quickly, cries more easily, hopes more desperately and loves more openly. Yes, if you look closely through the tears you find beauty amidst the pain.

Cathe Laurie, wife of Pastor and Evangelist Greg Laurie wrote a blog regarding the celebrating of her son Christopher's birthday that fell on Easter Sunday. Christopher, like Danielle was killed in an automobile accident, his in 2008, and on his birthday anniversary this year she wrote, "This is the gift we were given, in wrapping too horrible to imagine. I couldn't bear to open it, but tenderly wrapped in all those tear-stained tissues was a shining gem…faith more precious than gold, tested in the fire. What we believed was real. Jesus is real. He was with us in the furnace. His Word is true." Cathe's words captured so eloquently the beauty and pain that comes with discovering God's purposes through the life as well as the death of someone you love.

Speaking of beauty and pain. Author J.K. Rowling, in her book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone writes, "To have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever." I cant speak for the rest of the world or even those closest to me but for me I have found that statement to be true. I feel comfortable in saying I believe Sherrill, Danielle's Mom feels the same way too. For Sherrill to know her daughters last words to her the morning Danielle stepped into eternity were, "I Love You Mommy" as she raised her head from the sofa and looked at her mom with her radiant smile as Sherrill headed out the door for work has provided a mothers heart protection forever. Yes, loved one, there is beauty in pain if only we would look at it and not turn away. The beauty in pain is discovered in that it sensitizes us to the world around us and causes us to cry out to God, the only one who can calm the storms that rage within us as we wrestle with the loss of the ones we love.

April 12th will forever be a bittersweet day but the good news is that with each passing year it becomes less bitter and much more sweeter as we choose to focus on the beauty knowing the pain is inevitable. So many wonderful lessons to go along with a lifetime of memories still being made until we all meet again one day. The words to a song by Garth Brooks titled, "The Dance" play in my head today and capture in many ways what my heart feels. The words go like this,
"Looking back on the memory of

The dance we shared 'neath the stars above
For a moment all the world was right
How could I have known that you'd ever say goodbye

And now I'm glad I didn't know
The way it all would end the way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain
But I'd have had to miss the dance"

The beauty has become two-fold these days as more grand babies have been born and the beauty of life is magnified through each one of them in ways I could have never imagined. Yes, I am glad that I didn't know the way it all would end, the way it all would go. Our lives are better left to chance, I could have missed the pain, But I'd have had to miss the dance, and oh what a dance it has been.

I live today with hope, the same hope I had with each memorial service we have celebrated. It's not goodbye, its see you soon! Until then I recall to my mind...


"Thou hast turned my mourning to dancing for me, Thou hast loosed my sackcloth, And girdest me with joy."


Psalm 30:11 (YLT)


I LOVE YOU!


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