Life Along the Way

A Daily Devotional

"You've Got A Friend"

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"Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends."


John 15:13


Dinah Craik wrote a poem titled, "Friendship" that goes like this. "O, the comfort - the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts, nor measure words - but pouring them right out - just as they are - chaff and grain together - Certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them - Keep what is worth keeping - And with the breath of kindness blow the rest away."

Every time I read that I am reminded of the love each of us has in Jesus. I also read that poem with the desire to be that kind of friend to others. Proverbs 17:17 tells us that a friend loves at all times. God wastes no time in making it clear what a true friend is and what they are not. No matter what we do our true friends remain faithful even when we are not. Thats a Jesus quality why true friendship is such a rare treasure.

I recall years ago something Dr. James Dobson shared on his radio program along these lines, "if you can find one person in this life with whom you can share your heart and soul with and who without reservation or hesitation accepts you without judgement for who you are, you are rare indeed as the majority of people in this life do not have a single person with whom they can confide."

Obviously there are degrees of friendship and what Proverbs is referring must represent the pinnacle of the mountain. For each of us the first person who should come to mind when we think about friendship is our Savior, Jesus Christ the friend of sinners! Proverbs 17 goes on to say that a brother is born for adversity. Some interpret this to say our family members cause us grief but that could not be further from the truth of the text. The brother born here is a gift from God who is to be a comfort to us during our troubled times. 

Solomon wrote in the book of Ecclesiastes on this very point when he penned the words of Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 , "Two are better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up. Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; But how can one be warm alone? Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken." Did you notice in verse 10 where it says, "when he falls?" Each of us will stumble at some point in this life, we get easily tripped up and yet Solomon reminds us of the wonderful gift of friends who are there in our worst moments and stand by us and assist to get us back on our feet.

Let me ask you, do you have a family member or a friend like this? If so, praise the Lord, cherish them, tell them, and seek to reciprocate the same kindness back to them for they are truly a gift from God, a visible manifestation of His amazing grace to you. Proverbs 18:24 teaches us, "A man who has friends must himself be friendly, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." When I read this Proverb an old quote comes to mind, "I went to church to find a friend and found none. I went to church to be a friend and I made many." If you are need of a friend today let me encourage you to begin by showing yourself friendly to others! Don't go out looking for a friend but instead go out to be a friend and you will be surprised how much easier it is!

Why not determine today to take the first step and reach out to others. Take an interest in them; prefer them better than yourself, because that is exactly what Jesus Christ has done for you and me. After all it was Jesus Himself who said in John 15:16-17, "You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. These things I command you, that you love one another."

Thank God today for the gift of friendship that we enjoy with Jesus, thank God for the gift of true friends. Thank Him for the opportunity we have to reflect His life to others as we befriend them in His name!


"Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men."

Philippians 2:1-7


I LOVE YOU!


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"No Regrets"

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"And Jesus answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things."

Luke 10:41


Maybe its because I'm over fifty years of age but life seems to me to be speeding up not slowing down. There are so many things I want to do but I feel like I have so little time to get it all done. I run out of day before I run out of projects. I can relate to Martha and her sister Mary. Remember on the day in question in Luke chapter 10 Martha was busy in the kitchen preparing a meal for Jesus and the disciples who were gathered in her house and while Martha was working in the kitchen preparing a meal her sister Mary was sitting and listening to Jesus speak in another room. Martha got very upset with her sister and went to Jesus to complain and He lovingly pointed out to Martha that her sister Mary had chosen the better thing when she came and sat at Jesus feet. The moral of the story is there is a time to work and be busy and there are times to just sit and listen.

I confess, sometimes, OK, often times, life is hard to figure out as to what we should be doing. From Jesus conversation with Martha in Luke 10 and the little story below I think we do well to focus more on people more than we do on things, especially when that relationship is the one between Jesus and us. When you look back on today I hope and pray you can say, the best part of my day was the time I spent with people not busy doing things, and time with Jesus learning from Him. Enjoy the story! It goes like this…

"Lift up your eyes! You are certainly a creature of time, but you are also a child of eternity. You are a citizen of heaven, and an alien and exile on earth, a pilgrim traveling to the celestial city. I read some years ago of a young man who found a five-dollar bill on the street and who 'from that time on never lifted his eyes when walking. In the course of years he accumulated 29,516 buttons, 54,172 pins, 12 cents, a bent back and a miserly disposition.' But think what he lost. He could not see the radiance of the sunlight, the sheen of the stars, and the smile on the face of his friends or the blossoms of springtime, for his eyes were in the gutter. There are too many Christians like that. We have important duties on earth, but we must never allow them to preoccupy us in such a way that we forget who we are and where we are going." (Story ends)

That's it! We need to look up today, we need to remember who we are in Christ and where we are going (towards Heaven) but just as important, remember to whom you belong! You belong to God and were created by Him and for Him. I think that is why Jesus told Martha in Luke 10 that Mary had chosen the better part when Martha complained to the Lord that her sister had left her all alone in the kitchen to serve while Mary sat and listened to Jesus speak. Jesus didn't condemn serving then nor does He now, as He was the consummate servant. Jesus simply was teaching Martha when you have to choose between a person or a thing, choose the person.

The time we spend with one another and the Lord is priceless, as we know too well that when a person is gone from our lives no amount of money can calculate their worth to us then. Looking up is about having the right focus in life and that focus is on relationships over work. Treasure the moments with people knowing the moments are all we may ever find. Make the most of your today spending time sitting at Jesus feet listening to Him. Make the most of your day serving those whom God places in your path today, those "divine appointments" that become the fruit that proves out we too have chosen the "good part, which will not be taken away!" No regrets!


"But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her."

Luke 10:42

I LOVE YOU!


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"The Power of a Promise"

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"And you shall not only show me the kindness of the Lord while I still live, that I may not die; but you shall not cut off your kindness from my house forever, no, not when the Lord has cut off every one of the enemies of David from the face of the earth." So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, "Let the Lord require it at the hand of David's enemies."

I Samuel 20:14-16

A covenant, a vow, and a promise to keep. David, the anointed next king of Israel and Jonathan, the natural heir to the throne of his father king Saul share a love that not many know today in a world that looks for ways out of agreements instead of how to fulfill them. I just read a quote this morning that I cant get out of my mind. It said, "Incompatibility is a choice, not an excuse."

In a society where "fast food" and convenience stores reign and the days of the full service super markets and gas stations are a thing of the past because of the price one would need to pay for service, it's difficult for us to comprehend this kind of commitment and this kind of love. For much of the world, "preferring others" is a thing of the past and no way to get ahead in life today. Just don't tell that to the owners of "Chick Fil A". 

Believe it or not there was a time you use to be able to pull into a service station (they don't call them that any more) and an attendant would come up to your car and ask you how he or she could serve you. They would fill up your car with gas, check your tires air pressure, and even "pop the hood" and check the oil and coolant levels, battery and windshield washers level. And the best part of all, it was free! It was part of the service you were offered as a customer. Oh how things have changed, as those were the good old days! We now live in a world that doesn't want help, at least if we have to pay for it as we opt to find it ourselves if we can save money, and oh yes, we want it now! Thank God for Google and Amazon, and next day air, amen! 

That's why feel good stories like 1 Samuel 20 are refreshing for us because they are more than just feel good, they are do good too. Jonathan loves David as his own soul and has no problem serving him and doing him good. God's kind of love is love in action.

Faithful to our vows is just one mark of a man or woman of God. Let our 'yes' be 'yes' and our 'no' be 'no'. The Word of God reminds us to not make a vow if we don't plan on keeping it. You might say, 'Mike, what if things change?" They will change and that's the importance of prayerfully thinking things through, seeking the Lord and walking in His strength and not our own. God will give us the super natural ability to fulfill our vows if we will seek him for it. Yes, friend, only one thing stays the same and that is God Himself so we need to prayerfully and carefully consider our vows. 

There is power in a promise and God desires our obedience more than sacrifice, and is why we can't make our vows conditional. Thank God that He doesn't enter into covenants with us that have to do with our eternity. We can only receive our salvation based on the faithfulness of Jesus Christ and not our own. Praise the Lord today for our salvation and for our future hope that He has secured for us. I don't know about you, but I thank the Lord that He has been faithful to me even when I have not been faithful to Him. Because God is faithful He will make us faithful too as we allow the Lord to lead and direct our lives as we abide in Him. 

The bottom line is this… If you make a vow…keep it! God will honor you for it and your credibility with others will increase as you do. The best part of keeping our vows is to be able to hear Jesus say to us one day…

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

Matthew 25:21

I LOVE YOU!


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"You Are Always On His Mind"

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"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."

Jeremiah 29:11


You know that feeling you get when someone sends you a card, a letter, an e-mail, or calls on the phone or maybe stops by unexpected simply because they wanted to convey a message to you that said, "I was thinking about you." I am sure most everyone has at one time or another, and if you have, then you know it's nice to be remembered. But, did you know, loved one; there is something even better than someone telling you they had been thinking about you? The better thing, the much better thing is to know that there is someone that loves you so much that you can't be forgotten, ever! You are never past tense but always in the present tense. That's how we are to God. He is very much aware of us, today, and I pray that thought overwhelms you as it did David in Psalm 139:6, "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is high, I cannot attain it"

Do you recall going on a field trip as a child or visiting a professional or government building and you can't help but notice those pictures that are often found in the foyers or lobbies of these buildings all lined up in a perfect row. Pictures of the founders or original owners and or it's founding Board of Directors who made the project possible to begin with. People walk past these pictures without even noticing any of these "once upon a time" very influential people who have since passed away or moved on. Yes, loved one, life goes on… and sadly, people forget, but not God. God is mindful of not only what we do, God is even aware of our thoughts too.

Yes, loved one, God never forgets us, we are always on His mind. If you look outside today you will see something beautiful within His creation that He has placed there just for you, something He wants you to see today that reminds you, "I'm thinking about you, I'm here for you" and if you take time today to open up His Word there is something He wants you to hear today too, something that will speak to your heart to remind you that He is with you, that He is always with you. Listen for His voice and consider the words He speaks from the pages of your bible as they are designed to be a light unto your path and a lamp unto your feet.

Realize today, loved one, receiving Christ is more than having our sins forgiven. Coming to Christ brings us into relationship with God. Just think; no matter where you go, or what you are going through, God wants you to know, He loves you, He has always loved you. God will always love you and there is nothing that can separate you and me from the love of God that is ours in Christ Jesus. God's love for me and you is never past tense, beloved of God, His love is always in the now. What a gift we have in Jesus! No wonder its called the present!


"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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"Labor of Love"

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


Hebrews 6:10


Two sayings come to mind this morning as we celebrate Labor Day weekend. The first is, "if you love what you do you'll never work another day in your life." And the second is, "You will never see a hearse pulling a U-haul". Those two thoughts put into perspective that the best use of our finances comes not from the things we might accumulate in this life but the investment we make in the lives of others. After all, the only things that are eternal are, "God, the Word of God and the souls of men." That's why Jesus calls us to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness telling us all these other things will be added to us. "These other things" Jesus refers too are the necessities of life. The Lord knows what we have need of even before we ask.

There is another adage that comes to mind today too that says, "You can't take it with you" referring to our possessions and we all know its true. God never said there was anything wrong with owning stuff and being rich in the worlds goods is not a sign of God's blessing anymore than being poor or going without "things"is a sign of holiness.

Remember, Jesus was poor by the worlds standards but His wealth is incalculable. Everything you see around you belongs to Him. Everything you and I possess in this life is merely on loan to us and for a very very short time we learn from reading the book of Ecclesiastes. Don't read this wrong, loved one, it's not unspiritual to own a car, a house, or to have nice things. Living without "things" doesn't prove our spirituality any more than owning nice things proves we are spiritual. The question for us all is what in your life is really worth laboring for? What are you working for? Is it people, places or things? Are you seeking to advance the kingdom of God or building your personal portfolio? Don't forget, we can't take it with us but when we invest our treasures in the kingdom of God its like sending it on ahead. What we store up in heaven will be there one day when we arrive!

The apostle Paul reminds us that the best things in life worth laboring for are people, any and all people. Not only laboring for the elect but for all people in this world, lost and found so to speak. Love in the Gospel is always associated with people not things when it comes to God and in the apostles mind love is worth the effort, it's worth the sorrow and it's worth the pain we will go through to reach others with Christ's love. Simply put, the labor of love is what motivates God's children to do what we do for others knowing that God is glorified through our lives as we live for Him, seeking to bring glory and honor to Jesus. We don't work to earn God's favor, we labor diligently because we already do have His favor when we placed our trust in Jesus.

The best jobs in the world are service provider jobs where we get the opportunity to minister to someone's need else in Jesus name. Be it making a cup of coffee for someone or preparing a meal or educating others in some way. When we seek to serve and use our job as a means to ministering to others its then that our work becomes a labor of love because the goal of our work isn't just earning a paycheck but better still, loving people and serving them in Jesus name. Make today your own "labor of love day" and commit to reaching out to those around you seeking to serve them in love, with the love of Jesus. It's that spirit and attitude that puts the love back into our labor!


"For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works."


Matthew 16:27


I LOVE YOU!

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Developing 20/20 Vision

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"For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God."

1 Corinthians 2:2-5

It has been well said that believers have two sets of eyes, the eyes of faith and those of our flesh and each sees the world entirely different. One set can hardly see whats in front of us while the other set can see far into the future. I was reminded of that truth this past week when I read a quote by Max Lucado and changed a word in it so it would read like this, "Your eyes see your sins. Your faith sees your Savior." So, in reality then there is no such thing as "blind faith" for true faith, saving faith is what makes it possible to see in the spiritual dimension. The question begging to be asked today, loved one, is which set of eyes are you and I going to be seeing the world through today? Are we looking through the eyes of our flesh that only see the limitations or are we looking through the eyes of faith that can see endless possibilities?

It might be Friday today but there is still much ahead of each of us to do, many different roads to travel down, and choices to make. How will you decide which way to go and what to do? The book of Proverbs reminds us that there is a way that seems right to a man but its end brings forth death. How then can we avoid going down the wrong path? Great questions that the bible provides the answer in one word, "FAITH", which defined means to trust, love and obey God choosing to trust His Word and to walk by faith when we what we read in our bibles does not match up with what we see with our natural eye.

Remember the writer of Hebrews declared regarding faith, "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (yet) (Hebrews 11:1). Yes, loved one, we need faith to make it through the day for the bible goes on to say, "Without faith it is impossible to please God, for he who comes to God must believe that He is God and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6). The key then is, to seek Jesus and keep your eyes fixed on Him. 

So then, how do we develop the eyes of our faith and seek Him practically? Again the bible holds the answer for us when it says, "Faith comes by hearing and hearing comes by the Word of God" (Romans 10:17). Isn't that just like God? We develop the eyes of our faith by seeking Him and listening to His voice, hearing the promises of God and accepting them for what they are, truth, every word. Who would have ever thought the way to correctly see would come to us by way of hearing? Its true, loved one, faith comes by hearing not by seeing.

When we look at our lives through the eyes of our flesh we see all kinds of limitations and obstacles in our way but when we look at our lives from heavens perspective, through the eyes of our faith the barriers and the blinders are lifted. Faith is the only sure way to travel down life's roads! Believe it or not, the bible says we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us, at least all the things God has in store for us and has called us to do. The key then is doing exactly what Max Lucado made mention of when he penned those words, "Your eyes see your sins, your faith sees your Savior."

Don't focus on your past, on your sins or on your failures, friend, focus of Jesus Christ today and see your life through His eyes, believe His promises and walk in the plans He has declared He has for you. When you do you will soon see your future more clear regardless of the battle you are facing. As well, you will sense His peace and His presence because what will become most clear to you is that you are not alone, that God Himself is with you every step of the way. Thats the best part and what makes the journey worth while! 

Remember, the best way to travel down life's roads is by faith, listening for the voice of the Lord Himself as He speaks to us through His Word and illuminates our paths and makes our ways straight. Could anything be more exciting and adventurous? Now I know why people say, Thank God its Friday! 

"For we walk by faith, not by sight."

2 Corinthians 5:7

I LOVE YOU!

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"Make The Most of It"

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"To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach the unsearchable riches of Christ"

Ephesians 3:8


It was Philips Brooks who once wrote, "It does not take great men to do great things; it only takes consecrated men." The definition of the word consecrate is: "dedicated to a sacred purpose."*. That means in other words, to have one focus throughout life, in every relationship and in every job, in every experience you find yourself in. Try to imagine that kind of dedication to everything you do in life as that is God's intention for every one who has determined to follow Jesus. God's will, His heart for me and you friend is to be completely dedicated to following Jesus in everything we do.

Christians who do great things in this life are living in light of the next as their thoughts and actions are shaped by the One who gave His life for them. Jesus is the filter of a pure and holy life and when we seek His will and to walk in His purposes above everything else we can and will accomplish amazing things in His name. There is a sacred purpose for your life today, loved one. I pray you seek it, tap into it and dedicate yourself to it wholeheartedly, and experience for yourselves what Francis Havergal expressed this way:

Take my life, and let it be consecrated, Lord to Thee.

Take my moments and my days; let them flow in ceaseless praise.

Take my hands, and let them move at the impulse of Thy love.

Take my feet, and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee.

Ecclesiastes 9:11 says, "I returned and saw under the sun that, The race is not to the swift, Nor the battle to the strong, Nor bread to the wise, Nor riches to men of understanding, Nor favor to men of skill…" In other words it is not the most talented Christians who best serve the Lord, but rather those whose lives are consecrated to the Lord daily and who with their mouth and with their deeds say, "Take my life, and let it be consecrated, Lord to Thee." Just imagine the amazing things God can and will do through our lives as we do! Just imagine the scene of the worship we will be part of one day!

"Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!" And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: "Blessing and honor and glory and power Be to Him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, forever and ever!" Then the four living creatures said, "Amen!" And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever."

Revelation 5:11-14

I LOVE YOU! 

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"No Greater Joy"

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"And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life."

1 John 5:20

Like many of you, I love reading my bible but not for the reasons one might think. I am not in love with my bible, nor do I worship my bible. My bible contains the words of the One I love and they point me to Him, remind me of Him, provide for me His instructions and commands. My bible gives me direction, and provides me comfort and strength. Most often when I read it I am convicted by God's perfection which causes me to reach out to Him. 

I don't ever want to be satisfied with just the words of my bibles pages, I prefer the person the words speak of. Its one thing to possess a book and another thing to be possessed by the author of the book and that's exactly God's desire for you and me, loved one, that we abide in His Words and that His Word would abide in us.

My bible belongs to me and yet my comfort doesn't come with owning a bible per say but rather that I belong to God. The words of my bible would be meaningless to me, nothing more than wisdom and poetry if it were not for the fact that I know the author, I know the One who makes all the promises it contains and is faithful to each and every one that He makes to me and to you too. Yes, loved one, the words of our bible are faithful and true but only because the One who spoke them is too. God never breaks His word to us and is why we can stand on the words that make up the pages of our bible but lets not forget its not the bible that we worship, its Jesus Christ, the Word that became flesh and dwelt among us, the One the world got to behold and the One we will one day soon behold again!

Until the day we see our Savior face to face its good for us to remember those old sayings, "Love the giver more than the gift", and "Seek His presence more than His presents." Yes, beloved of God, let your bible point you to the One its written about. Let each story bring you to the One who loves you and has given His very life for you. When you read your bible let it always bring you to a person, to God Himself. The bible always magnifies the One behind the Word, the One who gave us the Word, the One who is the Word. Notice what the Psalmist declared when he said in Psalm 119:105, "Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path." He didn't say, the word, he said "Your" word. The word has value and meaning to us because they are the very words of God. Many religions have Holy books but only Christians and Jews have the Words of the One true God.

Keep that in mind to day as you read your bible, as you study and pray. The bible was given to us by God Himself to lead us to Him. Our bibles serve us best when they do exactly what the Psalmist wrote of in Psalm 119:105 and that again is to light our path, the path that brings us to Jesus. When you read your bible today read it to know Him, not just facts about Him, but to better know and understand Him. That's the joy of owning a bible, knowing You Jesus!

"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."

Philippians 3:12

I LOVE YOU!


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"A Masterpiece of the Puzzle "

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"Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ."

1 Peter 2:4-5


Browsing my Twitter feed I saw a quote that said, "Our whole life is solving puzzles" and it was as if a light came on for me. I had to laugh at myself as I thought, "Now it's starting to make sense! I understand why my life is so easily messed up at times, I hate puzzles." The bible does say that we are fearfully and wonderfully made by God and I take that to mean we are complicated, made with lots of different pieces, physical, emotional as well as spiritual. 

The apostle Paul writes in the book of 1 Corinthians chapter 12 that the church is like a human body, made up of all kinds of parts and by God's design they all fit together… somehow. Life is a mystery to me much of the time, at least my life is any way so when I read that quote I took comfort in knowing that in all truthfulness I don't need to solve any puzzles nor do you, loved one. The puzzle of my life and yours has already been solved if you are in Christ. The key then is to allow God to piece us together and make us whole. After all, God is the one who said to us, "Be holy as I am holy" and the word "holy" in the bible means to be complete.

Pondering that quote, in many ways the bible is to me like the box a puzzle comes in. Most often times the puzzle box has a picture on it and if you focus on the picture on the box the puzzle comes together in time. It does for me any way. In our bible is page after page that explain all the pieces of our puzzling life and the only way to put it all together so to speak is to focus on the picture the bible reveals, and the picture from Genesis to Revelation is Jesus Christ. Our life is hidden in Christ and the purpose of each day, of every situation and circumstance we find ourselves in is to be transformed into the image of Christ. To be conformed into Christ's is the goal and yet none of us can accomplish that in our own strength. Like I said, each day of our lives is like a piece of the puzzle. To see it all come together happens as we submit ourselves to the Lord, the One who manufactured the puzzle to begin with.

Everyone who has ever put a puzzle together knows the best way to get it started and complete it is to first find the edge, a corner. The bible says Jesus is our edge, He is the chief cornerstone and He sets all the other pieces in their proper place. When we are aligned with Jesus the puzzle of our lives begins to fall into line and become more clear. If you are confused today or things don't seem to make sense in your life today let me encourage you in this. The answer isn't doing more or trying harder. The key to solving your life puzzle is to surrender to Christ and allow Him to piece you together one day at a time. 

All the pieces are accounted for and the Lord's timing is perfect to bring each of our lives to a desired end, an end that will one day reveal our lives as a master piece, His Masters Piece! Trust the Lord and submit to His loving hand as He fashions and molds your life (puzzle) one piece at a time, knowing that when He is finished with you you will be blown away at what you have become. You are and will always be His masterpiece, His priceless treasure and when Gods work in you is complete, you will look a lot the Jesus! 


"from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love."

Ephesians 4:16

I LOVE YOU!


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"Naked and Not Ashamed"

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"A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother."

Proverbs 18:24

No, this isn't a devotional about marriage or even love as much as it is about friendship. Reading C.S. Lewis, something he said caught my eye, not physically, but much deeper, as his quote caught my eye relationally. The C.S. Lewis quote I'm referring to said, "Eros will have naked bodies; Friendship naked personalities."​ The C.S. Lewis quote brought to mind another quote, one by Tim Redman who said, "Many things will catch my eye but few things will capture my heart." There is nothing like friendships that capture our hearts and for good reason.  

True friends are as rare as finding buried treasure and their value is priceless. A true friend is someone you can bare your heart and soul without hesitation nor reservation knowing that they can be trusted, even to the point of death in that they would rather die than betray you. This is exactly the kind of friendship we read about in 1 Samuel 18:1-4 between David and Jonathan where we are told, "Now when he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. Saul took him that day, and would not let him go home to his father's house anymore. Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan took off the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, even to his sword and his bow and his belt."

I believe that is why David wrote concerning his friend Jonathan upon hearing the news of his death in 2 Samuel 1, "I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; you have been very pleasant to me; your love to me was wonderful, surpassing the love of women." What made the friendship between David and Jonathan so special was that came at a high price for each of them. For David, he was chosen of God to replace Jonathan's father as the king of Israel so to trust the son who would be the natural heir to the throne of a rejected king could and would cost David his very life if Jonathan were ever to turn against him.

For Jonathan, to befriend the man who would replace his father on the throne would be viewed as an act of treason and the consequence for such an act would be no less than death as well. Both men had much to lose in forging a friendship but both were willing to take the risk out of the mutual love and respect they had for one another. Friendship has a way of doing that as David and Jonathan discovered. True friendship knits you together beyond the surface; deep friendships knit you heart and soul. Even at the risk of losing ones life. Oh to have a friend who would give their very life for you! The good news, loved one, we do have such a friend.

Everyone desires a friend they can trust, someone they can open up too, be vulnerable with and without holding back out of fear of rejection or betrayal. David and Jonathon shared this special bond of friendship. Jesus is that kind of friend and He invites you and me into this type of relationship with Him for it was Jesus Himself who said in John 15:15 to His disciples, "No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you." 

That's what Jesus does in and through His Word, again and again. He reveals Himself, His purpose and plans for our lives. Jesus doesn't hold back from us but He makes known to us the Father's will. Jesus even takes friendship even further and to a level few people would even begin to understand when He said in John 15:13, "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends."

Yes, loved one, oh what a friend we have in Jesus! To think, Jesus willingly took the nails for us, His friends, when He went to Calvary's Cross and died in our place. Jesus laid His life down so His friends could live! Sadly in life, people use people in a vain attempt to find life, so its no strange thing when someone seeks to lay our life down in hopes that they can live and yet when we study the life of Jesus we see He chose to lay His life down for us so that we could live. That's what a real friend does and its exactly what Jesus did for you and for me. Jesus died so we could live! Oh what a friend we have in Jesus!

The book of Ecclesiastes tells in chapter 4 verse 10 regarding friendship, "For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up." I like a paraphrase of the verse that says, "Friends will pick you up when you fall, and if they can't, they'll lay down beside you." Not only did Jesus lay down beside us, better still, He laid His life down for us so He could take it up again for us too! Yes, its true! Oh what a friend we have in Jesus! 

"A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity."

Proverbs 17:17

I LOVE YOU!

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"I Hope You Dance"

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"Happy are the people who are in such a state; happy are the people whose God is the Lord!"

Psalms 144:15

"TGIF" in one way shape or form will be thought, uttered, or stated millions of times today around the world as another week comes to an end. I am certain my wife is in that category as running an office for a school districts maintenance and transpiration department, the first week of school for her is worse I would think than two a day practices in football in August when its over a 100 degrees outside. My prayer with her this morning before she left for work was that she would hear music today that would make her soul dance. It's really hard to physically dance while driving an automobile but I'm hoping she has time today to read this and maybe it will cause her feet to dance from under her desk.

I remember a few years back and how when a particular Crowder song would start to play on the radio or her playlist on her I-phone she would immediately start to dance. Its almost intuitive that when the music begins to play, she begins to dance to the beat of the music. It's cute watching her as she can be doing just about anything and without stopping what she is doing she will just start to dance. I have watched, OK, I've caught her dancing to this song while cooking in our kitchen, and even as she waters her plants on our back patio. I have even witnessed her dance while riding her bike when this particular song has come on and trust me, that is no easy feat but she has balance like a cat and makes it look like poetry in motion when she does. This song is one of those songs that just gives her happy feet to go along with her happy heart and soul.

There's something about worshipping the Lord with the dance that when its done with the right heart and attitude brings God happiness the same way watching my wife dance to this Crowder song brings a smile to my face too. These moments remind me of what I believe King David was experiencing as he brought the ark of God to Jerusalem. It tells us in 2 Samuel 6:14-15, "Then David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David was wearing a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting and with the sound of the trumpet." Being in the presence of God brought David so much pleasure he couldn't contain himself, the joy had to be expressed and dancing was the method he chose.

Anything that glorifies the Lord ends up being really good for us too. Watching my wife dance, especially when she isn't aware that I am watching, as she is off in some far and distant place in her own world, my heart is happy for her as I know when she dances that she is in a good place, a place where peace is filling and ruling her heart and mind and her dancing is simply the "pressure release valve of her joy" that can not be contained and that she is experiencing in that moment and overflowing from the inside out.

I recall listening to an interview years ago now with the Christian group Newsong and one of the band members said something that reminded me of what happens when my wife dances. He said, "Worship is the thank you that cannot be contained". It has to come out, it must be expressed some way somehow and dancing before the Lord can be a beautiful aspect of our worship as it really can be an outward sign of an inward reality. It was for King David as he danced before the Lord and I know when this particular song plays it is a form of worship for my wife too. Hopefully today it can become an expression of worship for you too.

Yes, loved one, today of all days and not just because its Friday, I hope you dance. I hope your heart is filled with the goodness of God that only Jesus can bring and that as He fills your heart overflowing with His presence as you spend time seeking Him today. As the song plays I pray that all your cares, all your troubles melt like lemon drops and your feet just get so happy you are unable to stop them from expressing themselves in worship and you find yourself dancing before the Lord.

The good news today is it makes no difference what day it is! Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever! That's what the song below seeks to remind us today and is why I am sending it to you, with the hope it takes you to your happy place in Jesus! If someone by chance asks you what you are so happy about you can always tell them what the scriptures declare, "Happy is the man, (or woman) whose God is the Lord! If Jesus is the Lord of our lives we really do have something to dance about! TGIF, I hope you dance!

Oh Happiness
David Crowder Band

From the full streams
Of Your care
All who come
Begin again

Hard or friend
Rich or poor
All who need
Need fear no more

Such a thing to give away

All regrets
Let go, forget
There's something that
Mends all of that

Such a thing to give away

Sound the church bells
Let 'em ring
Let 'em ring
For everything can be redeemed
We can be redeemed
All of us (song ends)

"Happy are your men and happy are these your servants, who stand continually before you and hear your wisdom!"

2 Chronicles 9:7

I LOVE YOU!


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"One True Friend"

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"A friend loves at all times…"

Proverbs 17:17


The last couple of weeks I have done a lot of praying and reading and contemplating friendship and in doing so I have spent longer than I would like needing to repent of not being the kind of friend I know the Lord desires and that I myself want to be. Reading in Matthews Gospel the Lord brought me to the story of Peter's infamous interaction with Jesus that serves as a great illustration of what true friendship is and what it is not. To understand what happened in its proper context pick up the story in Matthew 16 verse 13,

"When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, "Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?" So they said, "Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." Then He commanded His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ. From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, "Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!" But He turned and said to Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men." 

Ouch! At first glance and without knowing Jesus love or comprehending His will for our lives one might think Jesus was cold hearted and insensitive to the feelings of others. That is until we understand that one of the proofs of true friendship is the willingness to wound one's friend for the sake of God's glory. Proverbs 27:6 puts it like this, "Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful." In other words, (no pun inteneded) worldly friendships tickle our ears telling us what we want to hear, where as our true friends will tell us what we need to hear, like it or not.  

If you study the Bible long enough you learn that the world has its own definitions of friendship and God has His. A true friend in the biblical sense is someone who as Proverbs 18:24 points out, "sticks closer than a brother." Translated, "A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out." A true friend is someone who puts your spiritual well being over their own as Moses and Paul did when they told God they were willing to be cut off from Him forever if only He would not give up on the children of Israel. Oh that God would help us all to be that kind of friend. Obviously the best example of true friendship is the Lord Himself. Jesus both taught and displayed by His death on the Cross that true friendship is 100% sacrificial. Jesus said it best in John 15:13, "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends." Worldly friendships are measured by what they receive where as true friendship is measured only by what it gives.

In Matthew 16 Peter's actions serve as a reminder of what a true friendship is not. Though you could say Peters intentions were well meaning they were also misguided and anything but helpful. To be honest, at that moment Peter was a hindrance in Jesus life to say the least. True friends don't seek to detour our faith from God's will but rather they come along side us to assist us in obeying God's will regardless of the personal sacrifice. In Matthew 16, Peter took Jesus aside seeking to convince Him that the Cross was not necessary. Worldly friends are often times, even without their knowledge instruments of the enemy of our soul when they come between us and God's will for our lives. That's what Peter was doing.

God's design for friendships was never to be an end to themselves but rather the means to an end. "Two are better than one" the book of Ecclesiastes teaches us. God's desire for our friendships are to help us learn to enjoy God more, to seek Him first, to obey Him in all things and to find our satisfaction and worth in Him. True friends are to be there to remind us that Jesus is not just the Bread of Life but that He is our Bread of Life. Jesus isn't just Living Water, but He is our Living Water! Its personal with God! That's what the apostle Paul meant when he wrote in Colossians 3:4, "When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory." Jesus isn't just life, He is our life and our true friends want nothing more than to see us experiencing life to the fullest so they seek to point us to Jesus as our source.

And because our true friends know us, our true friends tell us the truth about ourselves even when it hurts. Just ask Peter. Worldly friendships focus on externals and what makes us feel good, where as our godly friends know that sin is the thief of joy and that true joy in this life is found in Jesus and walking with Him in obedience to His Word. True friends understand confronting sin in another persons life is never easy but necessary because friends don't let friends miss heaven. True friends stand as blockades on the road to hell. True friends know the risk of personal offense far outweighs the consequences of an unrepentant heart.

Because true friends know their limitations in God's transforming work, our true friends will seek God in prayer consistently for us. Interceding and asking God to do in our lives what they are unable themselves to do for us is the truest mark of friendship. We cant save people but we can lift up our friends to the God who can and does! Nothing is more effective nor as powerful than having a praying friend. Jesus great earthly prayer that we read about in John 17 reveals the heart of our best friend! Nobody knows you like Jesus and no one comes close to loving you like He does. Oh what a friend we have in Jesus! What a model of what true friendship is. I don't know about you, loved one, but I'm making it my prayer today, Lord make me like You! Know too, friends, I am praying for you!

"My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other."

1 John 4:11 (MSG)

 
I LOVE YOU!

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"The Day God Ran"

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"But I am poor and needy; Make haste to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O LORD, do not delay."


Psalm 70:5

I love the story of the Prodigal Son that Jesus shares in Luke 15 for the simple reason it is Jesus telling us the story and He wants nothing more than for His disciples to know what His dad is like. If you have ever wanted to get a mental picture of how God responds His children when we sin terribly and are overcome with remorse and feel as if there is no way we could ever come back home to God this is one story you don't want to miss. It seems like every time I read the story of the Prodigal Son, God reveals something fresh about His love to me. Yesterday was no different. What was different though was how the Lord got my attention.

Late last night after finishing my devotional and heading to bed I was going through my Instagram feed when a really legit pair of green running shoes appeared. As I sat there starring at the shoes on my laptop I felt as if the Lord was speaking to me. No, He wasn't encouraging me to buy the shoes. What God shares is far more lasting. It was as if God spoke these words, "The distance from Me is further than the distance to Me". For a long minute I sat there having no idea what that could mean. Then suddenly Luke 15 came to mind.

As I opened my bible to read the story once again I immediately understood what the Lord was communicating to me. Imagine being the Prodigal Son and walking away from your father, literally. The son took his portion of his fathers inheritance and he traveled the Bible tells us "to far country" which means he traveled a long distance away, about as far away as he could possibly get. You get the picture.

After squandering all that he had on prodigal living we pick up the story in verse 17, "But when he came to himself, he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants." Its at this point in the story where the Lord wanted to draw my attention. Remember, I was starring at these green shoes on my computer screen and the Lord prompts my mind with these words, "The distance from Me is further than the distance to Me."

At this point you might be thinking, what I was thinking? In my mind it seemed the distance from the Father would be equal to the distance back to the Father. That seems logical until you read verse 20, "And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him." Did you get it? I hope you are as excited as I was when I got it. To think, the distance back to God really is shorter than the distance from Him because as soon as we turn towards home and back to the Father, He begins to make His way towards us until He just can't contain Himself any longer and He starts running towards us until He reaches us and then falls on our neck and kisses us!

Maybe you feel like you are too far from God, as you have been wandering for a long time now and your prodigal living has carried you "to far country" as it were and now you are so tired and worn out you don't even think you have the energy to make it home even if you wanted too. Don't buy into the devils lie! God wants you to know today, loved one, that the distance to Him is closer than the distance from Him! Don't be afraid to admit you are wrong. Have faith in God! Take that first step towards home knowing that when you do the Father will make His way to you! Home is not as far as you think! In reality, its only one step away!


"Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear."

Isaiah 59:1

I LOVE YOU!


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"The Last Day Of Your Life"

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"To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, And a time to die"

Ecclesiastes 3:1-2


Have you ever considered what the last day of your life might look like and what you will be doing that day? Have you contemplated if you will be selfish or living sacrificially for the lives of others? Will you be kind that day or will you go out in a bitter ball of fire? Will the people in your life know that you love them or will they be left with regret, words unspoken and relationships un-repaired? I cant help but ask myself questions like these today because today isn't just another ordinary day. Today marks the fourteenth anniversary of Danielle Marie Gould's homecoming as it was on this day August 20, 2004 when Danielle "left" this earth to be with Jesus, killed in an automobile accident on her way home from our house after spending the evening with our daughter Bree, who was Danielle's best friend.

As I think back fourteen years this morning I thank the Lord for the gift of Danielle's life and the indelible mark she has made upon mine and in the lives of so many others. The number grows each year following the Legacy event held in her honor as new lives are touched by her story. In John's Gospel it tells us in chapter one verse four, "In Him was life, and the life was the light of men." Danielle was so full of Jesus life, to say she could light up a room when she walked into it is far from an exaggeration. She loved to dance and to her the world was her stage but not in a self centered way trying to bring attention to her self but rather she danced in such a way that turned the spotlight on Jesus as she wanted all the glory to be His.

Obviously, Danielle didn't know August 20, 2004 would be her last day on earth or that she would be meeting Jesus face to face that night. She just lived her life each day as if she would. Danielle pretty much lived life the way anyone who loves Jesus would want their last day on earth to end which brings me to the question I felt the Lord was wanting me to ask of myself and others today. Let me ask you, loved one, if today was the last day of your life, how would you want the day to go? To help put that question in perspective go back one day and think, what if yesterday had been the last day of my life? How would my life on earth have ended and what kind of memories would my last day make? Are there changes I would want to make today? Would I do anything differently?

As I think about Danielle's life and specifically her last day on earth and all the things that filled her day from start to finish I am blown away at just how closely her walk with Jesus was and how the steps she took that day remind me so much of His. As I look back and recall the last day of Danielle's life it becomes my prayer, for me and for you as to how we will choose to live each and every day of our lives until we too meet Jesus face to face one day. 

Like Danielle's last day hopefully your morning will begin with the first words coming out of your mouth, "I love you" along with a radiant smile that comes up like a beautiful sunrise even though your eyes can hardly open yet. Hopefully your day will begin with a bible study and prayer time with some of your closest friends. Hopefully for lunch that day you will make contact with that person you have been faithfully sharing Jesus with and praying for. Desiring to show your unsaved friend the proof of your love you take them to lunch and share Jesus one last time with them and then before lunch is over you go as far as to give them their very own bible that you purchased with your own money which at seventeen isn't much. 

Hopefully you will get to spend your afternoon with your best friend, talking, goofing around and just being silly, taking pictures together and making memories that will last forever. Hopefully you too will decide the best way to spend your last Friday night on earth is at an event like a poolside bible study that your churches youth group hosts, hanging out with all your friends, living and laughing and loving as you eat and worship God on your last night this side of heaven growing together in God's Word. And then, finally, as your very long last day on earth comes to an end, hopefully, you get that one last chance to hang out with your best friend for just a little while longer and then leave them with as your last words the same as your first words were that morning, "I love you".

You see, friend, it was just after 10:30 p.m. that fateful Friday night on August 20, 2004 that Danielle got in her car and was driving home when she was killed in an automobile accident less than a mile from her house. Hopefully you wont die in an automobile accident but if by chance one day you do, I can only hope and pray that what the first responders discover is the same thing they did when they came to render aide to Danielle that night. Hopefully, when the first responders arrive on scene of the accident and approach your vehicle they don't discover the smell of alcohol coming from within the vehicle nor do they find beer bottles in the car. Hopefully like in the case of Danielle, as she didn't consume alcohol, the first thing they do notice about you is that you have a hand written bible passage like the one she had written on her hand from 2 Corinthians 8:24 scrolled on your own that the fire captain writes down and that when he reads it later on back at the fire station believes with conviction and certainty that it was a message from God Himself to the fire captain and his men personally. And to think they didn't even know who Danielle was before that night but now, like us, they will never forget her. I know this is true as at Dinner last Saturday night celebrating Danielle's Legacy event this year the fire captain and his wife were at the restaurant and he and Danielle's parents Tink and Sherrill shared a sweet moment together as friends now recalling the night that has now connected them forever. Hopefully, if you do happen to go meet Jesus face to face in an automobile accident that when the police search your car and go through your belongings one of the first things they find is a very well worn bible amongst your possessions along with all kinds of ministry minded materials that lets the world know where your treasure is.

Yes, loved one, all these events are absolutely true and are what filled the action packed last day of one amazing seventeen year old girl that day. And to think, she had no idea that August 20, 2004 would be her last. Like I said, Danielle just lived her life every day like it was and what a life she lived. The question that begs to be asked of me and you today, loved one, is how will we live the last day of our life? 

Will we like the famous Tim McGraw song sings, go sky diving or rocky mountain climbing? Will we seek to ride a bull named Fu Manchu? Or, will we like Danielle, seek to love God and to love people, to know Him and make Him known? Hopefully our last day on earth will look a lot like Danielle's that when you think about it reminds me of the life of Jesus and how He spent His days too. My greatest prayer is that our last day on earth starts and ends like Danielle's and like Jesus too with our words and our life saying from the moment we awake until we take our last breath, "I Love You!" That's the way I want to spend the last day of my life! How about you?

"Therefore show to them, and before the churches the proof of your love and of our boasting on your behalf."

2 Corinthians 8:24

I LOVE YOU!


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"Learning How To Sleep In The Dark"

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"I call to remembrance my song in the night; I meditate within my heart, And my spirit makes diligent search."

Psalm 77:6 (NKJV)

Most of us can relate to what the psalmist must have felt like in Psalm 77. No one likes being in the dark, especially when it comes to understanding why God is allowing you to go through some trial, a test or experience that seems contrary to what you have come to know about the ways of God.

Like most children I was afraid of the dark growing up. For some reason my parents didn't put a night light in the bedroom I shared with my younger brother so they would leave the door slightly ajar so we could see that the hall light was on. It provided just enough light so our bedroom wasn't "pitch dark" as my dad would say. I distinct-fully recall not being able to fall asleep if the light was off. I can remember getting up in the middle of the night and turning the light back on after my parents turned it off when they went to bed. Oh don't we wish it was that easy when it comes to being in the dark regarding the ways of the Lord.

To teach me how to sleep in the dark my mom would often times sit on the edge of my bed and usually she would rub my back until I fell asleep. I learned over a period of time that even though the room was dark my mom was either right there by my side or she was very close by in the next room, no more than a scream away when I would wake up to find the door closed and no hall light on. And if for some reason my mom didn't come to my room I would make my way to her, for I knew exactly where I could find her.

What was true for me wasn't true for Asaph in Psalm 77. Unsure of God's ways in that God would allow the Babylonians to bring God's judgment on Israel when the Babylonians were far and away more wicked than the children of Israel. It just didn't make sense to Asaph any more than it did to Habakkuk who asked the same question. Being in the dark to the ways of God can leave us stressed to the max.

In the first four verses of psalm 77 Asaph is completely stressed out, so much so he cant sleep. He feels abandoned by God. Asaph has always known God to be very gracious to Israel but now it appears as if God doesn't care, that He has cast Israel off and His mercies have come to an end. Have you ever gone through a trial where you felt that way? Life is going but nothing is going the way you thought it would, not the way you hoped and planned things would be and your world is shaken. You feel all alone and in the dark. If you have ever felt like that know you are in good company. Every child of God will experience a test of faith at some point in our relationship with God. And for two very important reasons.

First and foremost God is teaching His children, "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:8-9. God's ways are not always going to make sense to us, nor should they. "If God were small enough to be understood He would not be big enough to be worshipped" the saying goes. Once we come to terms with the fact that much of what the Lord does is not going to make sense to us we have taken a huge step in the right direction. Romans 11:33-34 captures the point well when the apostle Paul writes, "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! "For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor?"

Second, God is teaching us about and testing our faith by purposely leaving us in the dark so we can learn to trust Him. Two of my favorite verses that come to mind are found in the book of Hebrews. Hebrews 11:1 tells us plainly, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" and verse 6 goes on to say, "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." I learned to sleep in the dark as a child when I came to understand that though I couldn't see my mom in the darkness I knew she was there or close by and to prove it sometimes I would get up and go to my dad and moms bedroom and stand next to their bed just to make sure she was there and then I could go back to bed and go to sleep. You could say I found her when I sought her.

Unlike me being able to see my mom, as children of God we cant physically see Him but by faith in His faithfulness, we know He is there. In Psalm 77 Asaph learns to apply in the dark what he learned in the light. Though our situation seems hopeless and our circumstances make us feel helpless faith causes us to turn our focus from the size of our problem to the size of our God. What did Asaph do and where did he go to learn these truths and experience God's peace?

Before Asaph answers that question let me ask you, loved one, where do you go when the darkness surrounds you and this old world starts getting you down? I'm reminded of a hit song by singer and song writer James Taylor titled, "Up On The Roof" which contained the lyrics,

"When this old world starts a getting me down
And people are just too much for me to face
I'll climb way up to the top of the stairs
And all my cares just drift right into space
On the roof, it's peaceful as can be
And there the world below don't bother me, no, no"

Yes friend, the world offers us a myriad of places to go to find temporal peace but nothing comparable to the peace of God that is ours when we leave the world behind and seek shelter in the sanctuary of the Lord. Psalm 77:13-15 makes a clear distinction from the pathways of the world when Asaph writes, "Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary; Who is so great a God as our God? You are the God who does wonders; You have declared Your strength among the peoples. You have with Your arm redeemed Your people, The sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah." We can find light in the midst of our darkness as we come into the sanctuary of God. Its there we come to know what Asaph came to know and what Charles Spurgeon so eloquently expressed when he penned these words, "God is too good to be unkind and He is too wise to be mistaken. And when we cannot trace His hand, we must trust His heart."

Yes, loved one, "when you cannot trace His hand, trust His heart" knowing…


"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."

Jeremiah 29:11

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"Danielle's Legacy"

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"For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing."


2 Timothy 4:6-8 (NKJV)


"What makes a legend? Is it what someone did when they were alive, or how they're remembered after they're gone? In either case there is no question that Danielle is a shinning star! Though its been 5112 days or 13 years 11 months and 30 days depending on how you look at it since Danielle Marie Gould stepped into eternity at the age of 17 there still is yet to be a day that goes by when she isn't thought of, missed and her absence felt by those that knew and loved her. Today is one of those days her not being here is felt a lot more than usual as today is the day when her Mom hosts a "Purity" event in Danielle's memory for women of all ages. The event is known as "Danielles Legacy" and is an annual event held on the Saturday closest to the date Danielle went home to be with Jesus. Before Danielle's passing she had approached her mom and asked her if she could put together a bible study that Danielle's friends and their moms could attend and do together with Danielle and her mom regarding sexual purity and what the Bible teaches about relationships.

Because she loved people Danielle was very much aware of the pain many of her high school friends were experiencing due to the poor choices they were making regarding their sexuality and she understood from studying the Bible that God has a plan for relationships that both glorifies Him and brings satisfaction to men and women, young and old alike who reject the worlds definitions of marriage and family and instead choose to follow Jesus. 

Danielle went home to be with Jesus before she and her mom could do the study, so Sherrill, Danielle's Mom determined to fulfill her daughters wish by hosting an annual event and a subsequent small group study on purity in relationships in her daughter's honor. At first the group consisted mostly of the girls in our church and their moms and many of our singles. As the years have continued on the event has expanded to include girls of all ages, junior high, high school, college age and single, married or divorced, regardless of anyones beliefs about purity or God, an invitation is extended. 

Danielle's dream for wanting to do a bible study about purity was with the hope of reaching as many of her high school age girl friends as she could, especially those who had no idea of God's love for them and the plans He has for those who place their trust in Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and Lord. Danielle's dream has been realized many times over now thanks to her mom and dads commitment and dedication to hosting the event each year.

My dictionary defines legacy as 1. an amount of money or property left to someone in a will. synonyms: bequest, inheritance, heritage, endowment, gift, patrimony, settlement, birthright; formal benefaction. I remember the Lord impressing upon my heart just a couple days after Danielle "left" to be with Jesus as Danielle's Dad would say, a thought so much deeper, so much more profound than simply leaving money or property behind after someone dies. I felt as if the Lord was saying to me, "A legacy isn't necessarily something a person leaves behind when they die for others to carry on as much as it is the part of the person that lives on in those they leave behind." 

You see, loved one, heaven isn't about stuff, its about people. As one of my favorite pastors often says, "you never see a hearse pulling a UHaul" and even if you did it would only be a joke as everyone knows you can't take your stuff with you when you die. Danielle took the Great Commission seriously and she made it her goal each day to reach out to someone and invite them to receive Christ and to have their name written in the Lambs Book of Life too! 

When Danielle stepped over the threshold from this life into the very presence of God she left something for us that money could never buy. She left us a model, an example, sweet memories of a life well lived for her Savior. She left an indelible mark on the hearts of her family and friends and even complete strangers as she sought to love God and love people with the love of Jesus. Danielle wanted everyone she knew to know Jesus as their personal Savior and Lord and her life was a mission and the earth her mission field. The Old Testament book of Daniel tells us, "Those who are wise shall shine Like the brightness of the firmament, And those who turn many to righteousness Like the stars forever and ever" (Daniel 12:3 (NKJV).

Danielle was wise beyond her years, her radiant smile could light up a room when she entered it. Call it her legacy, to me she is legendary, by Biblical definitions she's a superstar, one whose life shines as bright today as ever it did during her 17 years this side of heaven. She spent many days before her car accident pointing people to Jesus and even still her story remains the same. Danielle knew personally and shared openly that pure joy is found in Jesus! Hope is in Jesus, help to become Mrs. Right as she waited and prayed for her Mr. Right came from Jesus. Forgiveness is always available to those who seek it because of Jesus, and purity is possible as we walk with Jesus. Salvation is and will always be the gift from God. And yes you guessed it, all because of Jesus!

"What makes a legend? Is it what someone did when they were alive, or how they're remembered after they're gone? However you choose, Danielle will always be a legend to me. Her legacy will continue on as people come to know that her story is in all actuality His-story. An ordinary girl who lived an extraordinary life for the glory of God. Her light is still shinning and her testimony is still pointing people to Jesus every time its told. As I think back over her life today I realized she never said goodbye and thats actually part of the good newsAt her memorial service we didn't say goodbye to her either. Instead, we simply said, "see you soon Danielle" knowing she is more alive today than any day she walked this earth. Because, "to be absent from the body is to be at home with the Lord" her death wasn't the end and though we count the days since she's been gone, all 5112 of them as of today, we too who have placed our hope in Jesus are one day closer to seeing her again in glory. And what a day that is going to be then and what a comfort that knowledge is to us now! 


"Remember the word to Your servant, Upon which You have caused me to hope."

Psalm 119:49 (NKJV)

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"You Can Do Hard Things"

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"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

Philippians 4:13

Sometimes the simplest statements mean the most and stay with us the longest if not for a lifetime. That's how the one's above are for me from life and from the bible and they are what I want to remind you. Of all the things I could encourage you with today this quote I read some time ago now sums up my feelings pretty well. "If ever there is tomorrow when we are not together, promise me you will always remember, you're braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think." Some might remember that quote from Christopher Robin to Winnie the Pooh. Yes, that famous quote is from a children's book but then again God has called us to child like faith. I read the quote while doing some on line research on the topic of "courage," and in doing so I happened upon a website for cancer patients and the following few paragraphs were written by a mother with cancer on the eve of her daughters sixth birthday. She wrote,

"Today is my daughter's birthday party; tomorrow she will be six. She is my youngest so it's especially hard to believe that she is already six years old. I love the Pooh quote above, and I would guess that most parents do, too.

Having cancer means rethinking everything–everything you believe, everything you planned, every way you live your life every day. You question not only why you got this terrible disease, but how you are going to live whatever remains of the life you have. Whatever invincibility delusion you had remaining from your teen years is now gone–you know, for sure, that you are indeed mortal. Former nebulous future plans become urgent. The future itself matters less than the present moment, perhaps for the first time.

Perhaps the worst part of all of this has been the fears I have had about my children, and about leaving them before they are old enough to live without me. I'm more determined than ever not to do that (after enduring parenthood I consider it my inalienable right to enjoy grand parenthood!), but being sick forced me to recognize, for the first time, that it could happen.
But instead of dwelling on it, I'm just going to do everything I can each day to enjoy who they are and to help them on their path to becoming independent adults, and hope for the best. At the same time, I hate watching them grow up so fast!

Hopefully they will grow up knowing how deeply they are loved and how very proud I am of them and can carry that within them into life, no matter where they are and where I might be." (Story ends)


Oh how I wish I could sit with that mother and help her to see that our life's goal isn't about being independent but rather being dependent, dependent upon God knowing that with His love and grace we really can face anything that comes our way and even better than doing hard things, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us! The truth is we can do nothing on our own that's good or lasting apart from Jesus Christ, but with Christ's help we really can do all things! How many things? All things, loved one, that's right, all things! In other words, with Christ's help nothing is impossible!

It's sad how we so easily sell ourselves short and say, "I can't do this or I can't do that" when it comes to THE hard things each of us must face in life. If only we knew that God is available to help us, to provide us the strength and the courage so that we can say, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me". Those are powerful words, we need to hear like they were the last words someone whom we loved spoke them to us from their deathbed. You can imagine the scene. With eyes full of tears knowing these were their last words to you, they would loving say as they held your hand, "Don't ever forget, you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you", as they slip away into eternity.

I have this tendency that maybe you can relate to when it comes to dealing with tough things. I tend to try to pick the "hard things" I can do and avoid the "hard things" I don't feel as if I can do. God always lovingly reminds me that in fact, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me". The Lord has shown me again and again that if I want to do something I don't really look at it as being hard, even if in reality it is. And likewise, if I don't want to do something, I view it as next to impossible, even if it is relatively easy. Make sense? The truth is, we can say, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!" Today I want to encourage you my friends that no matter how you see your life, no matter how big or small the obstacles may appear to be, whatever you are facing, you can, you really really really can do all things through Christ who strengthens you! The key is look to Jesus, trust Him, love Him and obey Him!


"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"

Ephesians 3:20

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"The Secret's Out"

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"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


Had a brother in the Lord ask me what I thought the "secret" to a great marriage is? I love questions like that because I might not know the answer to many questions but I know I know the answer to that one. I am not talking about having an opinion about something, I am talking about having the answer and the correct answer at that! I said with a huge joy filled smile and excitement, "That's easy, being loved by Jesus is the secret to a great marriage". I went on to explain to my friend, "A lot of married people want to take the credit themselves but I have come to know in my life the only good thing in me comes from Jesus and I have come to know as well, "I can't give you what I don't have" so I need desperately to receive God's love if I am ever going to be able to love my wife the way God calls me to love her and the way she needs me too."

My friend understood exactly what I meant and I pray you do too, loved one. The secret to anything good is love, and the secret to love is God, as 1 John 4 reminds us, "God is love" and those that love know God and are loved by God long before we ever love anything or anyone else. 

Be aware, lust and love look a lot alike in the beginning, for a season of time maybe, but in the end lust always burns out where true love just keeps burning bright as ever as the apostle Paul wrote in the book of 1 Corinthians, "love never fails". That's why the bible reminds us that love is patient. Time will always tell and God has loved you since before time began. There has never been a time when God has not loved for He is love! Love then is not something God does, it is who He is. Love is God's nature, its His character and everything He does is in love.

Do you have a desire to be more loving, or are you feeling unloved or unappreciated today? If so, try spending time with the One who loves you above all others, the One who has loved you since before you were born, and who looks forward to every conversation you have with Him and never forgets a single word you say. Seriously, if you and I really understood how much we are loved by God it would just blow our mind, knowing we are always on His mind.

To think that God's love for us never changes. He doesn't love us any more when we do good and He doesn't love us any less when we stumble and fall. Knowing this, we can rest in the love of God today! Take time and consider His thoughts towards you as you read God's Word and allow your heart and mind to be filled with the love of God. As we do His love naturally pours into our lives then out on to all we touch as His love saturates how we think, talk and respond to others. May you have a great day knowing you are loved. That's Good News any day of the week but especially TODAY!

"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love."

1 John 4:7-8


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"Stay Hot"

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"To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven"

Ecclesiastes 3:1


I confess, I have watched more baseball this year than in every other year of my life and for me, well, that's just weird knowing me and my baseball history. My wife is the baseball fan in our family and yet before the game ends she is usually fast asleep leaving me to watch the game for her.

One thing I do thoroughly enjoy when watching professional sports is discovering a player who has passion. Passion gets our attention and makes us want to watch. As a pastor when I think of passion I am reminded of the famous preacher D.L. Moody out of Chicago who once said something like, "If a man has passion people will come for miles to watch him burn". It's true. No one enjoys mediocrity.

Professional baseball is one of if not the most difficult sports ever played and not just because of the grueling 162 game schedule. Hitting a baseball is nearly impossible (it is impossible for me) when you look at it scientifically. Consider that a major league batter must discern the vertical location of the pitch within ~1.5 inches for a vertical object that's moving at several feet per second in the plane perpendicular to the batter's line of sight. He also must swing during the correct 0.03-second window for a fastball that arrives at the plate in less than 0.4 seconds. A good change-up mind you, if it fools the hitter completely, will have an arrival time delayed by as much as 0.06 seconds, causing the hitter to misjudge his timing window completely. Timing is everything!

I would also add that ascertaining within one inch the path of an object (a baseball) moving at ~90 mph towards you, while at the same time timing the arrival of the object to within ~0.03 seconds (from the pitchers hand to the catchers glove), is at the limits of human ability (beyond mine). That's why even the best hitters in baseball can't consistently hit line drives on fastballs, even if that's all they're looking for. It's a very specialized skill, and one where it's all but impossible for a mortal being to hit line drives in more than 20-25% of at-bats for an extended period. That translates to about one line drive in fair territory for every 15-20 pitches they see. Yes, loved one, timing is everything!

Yep, hitting a baseball is no simple task and watching these professional baseball players day in and day out makes me appreciate how difficult the game really is and also why I love watching individuals and teams that play with passion. In a game that is so technical its easy to see how this "Game" can become a "Business" and lose its flavor. What I am learning about life from watching baseball is the need we need to never lose our passion.

I'll admit it, some of my favorite movies in recent years have been about baseball. The movie, "The Rookie" reveals the passion it takes to succeed. Actor Dennis Quaid plays high school baseball coach Jim Morris who was pursuing his child hood dream of playing in the major leagues at almost forty years of age. Married and with children he tries out one more time and against the odds gets drafted by the Texas Rangers. He spends the first few months in the minor leagues before getting the "call" to join the "dance" as they say. During his stint in the minor leagues there is this scene where he is lonely and frustrated and is just about to give up and quit when he walks across the parking lot of the cheap hotel the team is staying at and he watches part of a little league baseball game in progress and is reminded of something he forgot, something that when he remembered it, it changed his attitude and his performance dramatically. He remembered what he loved about baseball in the first place and that is that it is a game, a game that he loved and was passionate about until this moment in his life.

The next day rejuvenated by a sense of purpose and passion (in the movie), Jimmy Morris says to one of his teammates as they suited up in the locker room, "Do you know what we get to do today Brooks? We get to play baseball." I loved the line, "we get to play baseball". His infectious attitude was immediately picked up by his teammates and even the fans as passion is something you can see in others and it is transferable too, it can be caught.

You see, loved one, it's easy in life to get bogged down with the mundane of every day life and lose sight of the big picture. For baseball players it might be to lose sight that baseball is still a game and what gets you to the dance is what keeps you there too. Passion and love for the game. It's the same in life too. We can just live and go through the motions or we can choose to live, to realize that today is a gift that will never come our way again. We have one shot at today, one trip to the plate you might say. We can stand there and just look at what is thrown our way today or we can go at the day with passion and zeal and take a swing, and not just swing but to keep swinging with all our heart. From watching baseball this year I have come to believe that a strike out isn't a bad thing if you go down swinging. I have yet to yell at the television when a guy goes down swinging. Theres nothing more frustrating than watching a guy just stand there and be called out on strikes leaving the bases loaded.

With all my heart let me encourage you today! Don't just stand there looking today, loved one, go down swinging or better still, make contact with the Lord and the people around you. Enjoy the day and remember life is short, a gift from God and it was meant to be lived to the fullest. Appreciate what you have for tomorrow it can all be gone. King Solomon said it best when he declared in Ecclesiastes 3:1, "To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven". Timing is everything in baseball and in life and you were born for such a time as this. Make the most of your today and remember, "Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift and is why its called the present."


I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor--it is the gift of God."

Ecclesiastes 3:12-13

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"Refrigerator Reminders"

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"Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things."

Philippians 4:8

If you are like most people you have something on the front of your refrigerator. My wife has pictures of our family on ours, drawings, works of art from our grandchildren. I use to think by placing pictures and drawings on the refrigerator served as reminders for my wife and I but as our grandchildren grow and I see their faces light up when they discover their latest picture or their newest drawing on the refrigerator they are reminded that they are loved! Our refrigerator serves as a photo album as well as an art gallery for all the world to enjoy. At least those in our world.

I throughly enjoy checking out the refrigerators in the homes I have the opportunity to visit as you can learn a lot about a person from what they have on their refrigerator and not just what's in it. Some people put pictures of the people they love on them like my wife does. Others put quotes and proverbial statements that serve to remind the reader of some great truth we all most likely need to take to heart.

Besides the pictures and hand made treasures, my favorite refrigerator decorations are the ones that have little sayings that make me think. Below are a few of my favorite ones. Here are some good old sayings that I hope make it to a few new refrigerators in hopes that when they do they help to make some ones day just a little brighter.

"Be kinder than necessary for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle."

"One day or day one. You decide"

"When things are good, say good things. When things are bad, say twice as many good things."

"Love thy neighbor" is a command, not a suggestion.

"Choose to see the best in others"

"When life is sweet say thank you and celebrate. When life is bitter say thank you and grow."

"Joy is not a matter of what's happening around you, but inside you."

"Today is a really good day for having a really good day."

"If God has a refrigerator it has your picture on it"


The above are just some good little proverbial statements to help make you think about the day and to encourage and inspire you to look not only make the most of your day but to seek to make someone else's day with the words you speak as well as the deeds you do. Everybody really is fighting a battle of some sort, loved one. For some it is the fight for life and for others still it is another day to fight the good fight of faith. No matter what battle people are in a good word can go a long way in encouraging others to hang in there. It was Mark Twain who once said, "I can go three months on one good compliment."

Yes, loved one, our words, written or spoken serve to lift the human spirit and to help fill the heart with hope. Its been well said, " a man can go 6 weeks without food, 6 days without water, 6 minutes without oxygen but only 6 seconds without hope." Remember, loved one, as long as there is a God in heaven we have hope in this world. Let God use your life today to bring hope to someone else. The day you make might just be your own!


"Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers."

Ephesians 4:29

I LOVE YOU!

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