Life Along the Way

A Daily Devotional

"The Little Things Mean The Most"

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


1 Samuel 17:25


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


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


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


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


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


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


Matthew 25:23


I LOVE YOU!

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"Christmas Tree or Not?"

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


Jeremiah 10:2-4


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


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


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


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


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


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


Luke 2:10-11


I LOVE YOU!

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"Comfort in Cave"

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

1 Samuel 22:2


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


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


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


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


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

1 John 3:2


I LOVE YOU!

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"The Verse That Changed My Life For Good"

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

Romans 6:14 (NKJV)


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Colossians 3:4


I LOVE YOU!

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"The Joy of Fungus"

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


Galatians 3:13

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

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

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

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

1 Corinthians 1:18

I LOVE YOU!


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"Anticipation"

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


Galatians 4:4


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


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


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


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


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


Matthew 1:22-23


I LOVE YOU!

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"Jesus, Our Spot Remover"

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

Isaiah 1:18


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


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


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


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


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


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


Hebrews 9:13-14


I LOVE YOU!

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"The Desire To Be Desired"

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"I am my beloved's, and his desire is toward me."

Song of Solomon 7:10


Lying in bed next to my wife she has been watching the Hallmark channel the last week or so enjoying what I will call "Christmas spirit love stories" made for television. I confess as well, I to love a good love story. It's been well said, "the irresistible desire of every woman is to be irresistibly​ desired." I believe many men feel the same way. The Bible is by far the greatest love story ever told and contains within its pages love stories that movies and books are made. One such book I thoroughly enjoy reading is the Song of Solomon and as you read it one cant help being reminded of what it feels like to, "fall in love". Love is a choice but the feelings and emotions associated with true love can make one feel like the strength of love is so strong it controls you and not the other way around. It makes no difference if you were actively pursuing love or if you were minding your own business when suddenly it happened to you. Either way the following quote expresses it well, "Many Things Will Catch My Eye But Few Things Will Capture My Heart". When true love captures you, it usually does so, line, hook, and sinker as they say!

The Shulamite in the Song of Solomon understood this all too well as it's one thing to be noticed but it is another thing to become the object of focus. I could easily imagine how the Shulamite captured not only Solomon's eye but how she captured his heart too as the story unfolds. Do you know that you are desired, beloved? Do you know there is One who pursues you day and night, night and day, and who longs to meet with you face to face? It's true. Oh, to be pursued! Better still, to be pursued in love!

The Song of Solomon is a beautiful love story, a story that communicates on an earthly plane the desire of one man for one woman and the extent he will go to be with her and yet on a much higher plane the story gives us a glimpse into the heart of God and His pursuit for a bride. Yes, loved one, every time I read the Song of Solomon I learn something new, something that reminds me of the tremendous love that God has for His bride, the church, that's me and you!

We seldom think of a romantic love when we consider God's love for us but we should because though the love of God for His bride isn't erotic, His love for us is truly romantic, and as well, deeply passionate. Its why we call the last week of Jesus earthly life the "Passion Week". A love so great that God was willing to lay His very life down to save the one He loves. We can learn a lot about the heart of God by reading the Song of Solomon, since He inspired it. As well, there lies the key to enjoying this unique work tucked away in the midst of the poetic books of the Old Testament. I think Max Lucado might have said it best regarding the reading of the Song of Solomon when he wrote, "A love letter is to be enjoyed not analyzed".

That's my prayer for you today, beloved of God, as you read the Word of God today and every day, don't just analyze, enjoy it! You don't have to pick apart a love letter to know you are loved. All you need to do is enjoy it and when you do you, you will want to read it again and again and again until it becomes a part of you, until you know it by heart. That's God's desire for us as we read His love letter to us. To know God's Word is to know the heart of God.

Remember, that God's Word is His love letter to you. Simply open it up and listen for His voice to speak to you and just take it in like a sponge absorbs liquids. Get lost in His words and allow them to fill your heart and mind, and to saturate your soul with His peace and the awareness of His presence. That's what you do when you read a love letter. You read it over and over and over until the paper is so crumbled and the words are no longer written on paper but now, they are forever engraved in your heart, in your mind and in your soul. Yes, beloved, that is how you read a love letter! And just think, God wrote it to you!


"Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is as strong as death, Jealousy as cruel as the grave; its flames are flames of fire, a most vehement flame."

Song of Solomon 8:6

I LOVE YOU!


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"When A Funeral Becomes A Birthday Party!"

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"After this Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth."

Job 3:1


Job 3 is the darkest chapter in the book of Job. Job is an upright man who is blameless and one who shuns evil but he is still human. Though Job is in a state of deep depression regarding the circumstances surrounding his current situation in life he almost sees it right. Job curses the day of his birth and extols the blessings of death, yet complains that he cannot die. The bible says to be absent from the body, to be dead, is to be present with the Lord. Death for the Christian is then is the beginning of a brand new life absent of sorrow and pain like Job is experiencing here.

The bible says our physical death here on earth is precious in the sight of God because that means we are coming home to be with the Lord in glory. Where Job has it wrong because he lacks the full revelation of scripture, we understand that death is not the end. There is no such thing as annihilation, the soul lives on into eternity either in the presence of God or forever separated from Him in a place known as hell where there is the weeping and gnashing of teeth.

God's desire and what He longs and looks forward to now is the day we will be with Him. Currently God is preparing a place for us and when He is ready for us He will call for us home and not a moment too soon. We don't need to assist God with things like abortion or infanticide, or even euthanasia or suicide. No, beloved, to participate in these practices is to put ourselves in the place of God.

Regardless of how much knowledge we think we have in this life we must never forget Adam and Eve ate from the wrong tree. The tree of life was right there in the Garden for Adam and Eve to eat freely from and enjoy but they chose instead to eat the forbidden fruit, the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We chose knowledge over life in the Garden of Eden that day and men and women are still picking it today.

The bible invites us to come to God in Christ and eat freely of Him and to obtain eternal life yet many are still trying to reach God on their own merits. It can't be done. Life without God is depressing.

Job feared something in his life that has come upon him. And you might be surprised what it was. Job never laments the loss of his stuff, the wealth he amassed. He never complains once about all that he lost in the way of material things. What Job was depressed about was not sensing the presence of God that he once had enjoyed. In his trial and suffering he became unaware of God's presence and because of that he wanted to die.

Job talks a lot about the light and feeling like he is in darkness. Darkness isn't just that period of time from sun down to sun up. Darkness is that time in all our lives where we just can't see or understand what's happening or the why of what it is happening in our lives. We can be in total darkness even at 12:00 noon in the middle of summer and that's exactly the kind of darkness Job is experiencing. He doesn't understand the what's and the why's of life and it has him on the ropes of life as it were. Job is suffering from major depression.

Here is where faith and hope and love prevail. God is working in our lives just like in Jobs. The worst possible thing that could ever happen in the world's eyes is to suffer and die. God's Word says that the worst thing possible to happen in our lives is to miss heaven, to miss the presence of God. To reject God and live forever in hell is the worst possible thing that could happen to a person.

Don't let the temporal suffering, hurts, and heartaches in life keep you down, friend, let them cause you to draw close to God. That's what trials in life can do. As I read the book of Job I am reminded that, "Pain leads to freedom because deep suffering leads to greater surrender." Have you ever thought that just maybe, Pain and suffering are designed to get us to let go of the things we hold onto more than God."

In times of pain and suffering we need to be reminded that all that we go through in this life is just preparing us for the glory that will be revealed in us and to us and for us one day in heaven. Maybe you are going through a storm in your own spiritual journey today or you know someone else who is. Look up, beloved, look up to the heavens and focus on God. I remember watching a movie growing up called "The Persidon Adventure" and it had a song in it that became a radio favorite with the lyrics, "There's got to be a morning after".

Thats a great reminder and the good news of the gospel is there is a morning after for those who walk by faith, for those who long for the appearing of the Jesus Christ our Lord. We don't need to curse our birthday's when life is hard; we just need recall the Word of God and stand on His sure promises remembering,

Put your hope in God. Only god can turn our MESS into a MESSage, a TEST into our TESTimony, our TRIals into a TRIumph, from being VICTims to VICTors!

"But to you who fear My name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise With healing in His wings; and you shall go out and grow fat like stall-fed calves."

Malachi 4:2

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"Bitter To Better?"

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"Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright."

Hebrews 12:14-16


Gavin Coffee was a man who loved people, especially youth. I never met him but I like him and I know if I had known him this side of heaven we would have been friends. I look forward to meeting Gavin one day. Gavin was the youth pastor of City Calvary Chapel in Washington who was killed in an automobile accident many years ago now while driving to work while talking to his pastor on his cell phone (which was legal at the time). The local news paper had done an interview with his wife after the accident and she had said she had no malice toward the man who was driving the truck in front of her husband and who caused the accident that took her husbands life when the load he had in his vehicle was not secure and fell from the moving vehicle as it traveled down interstate 5. She told the newspaper that her husband would not have held a grudge and nor would she. As a matter of fact she reached out to the young man, and his entire family as well as the young mans friends at her husbands memorial service. The newspaper reporter was a little taken back by her response when she replied that her husband had a philosophy that helped govern his life with regard to bitterness or holding a grudge. She said he husband believed, "Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and waiting for someone else to die".


Reading from the book of Ecclesiastes I am reminded in chapter five verse twenty, "For he will not dwell unduly on the days of his life, because God keeps him busy with the joy of his heart." It's so sad how many Christians lack real joy, Holy Spirit joy because their hearts are bitter because they hold grudges. As a former youth pastor myself I remember teaching on many occasions the old saying, "garbage in garbage out" to students reminding them often to guard their heart because Jesus said, in Matthew 12:35, "A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things." It's been said, "You learn more about the person speaking about someone else than you do the person being spoken of" because as Jesus said, "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." We have all had the thought, if they will say this about them, what will they say about me? Each of us has a choice every time we speak, to choose if we will be bitter or better.


Gavin's memorial made me think of another quote I received in an email that said, "Where there is hatred, let me sow love; Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; and Where there is sadness, JOY." Today, loved one, I pray God grants you the the opportunity to make a difference in another persons life, to be used of God to bring joy to someone else. It's so easy to focus on ourselves and miss the divine appointments God brings our way. Don't miss your chance today to overcome evil with good. It's been said that the way you move from being bitter to better is to drop the "I". Choose to live like Jesus and prefer others better then yourselves and you too will learn this old lesson I'll leave with you with today. It said this, "You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get others people interested in you."


"Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself."

Philippians 2:3

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"Keep Stomping"

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"But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive."

Genesis 50:20

Have you ever felt like you were in a pit and you can't seem to get out? Joseph's life is living proof there is life after the pit! He came to know what I pray you know as well if you ever find yourself in a dark hole. In Jospeh's case his brothers put him there. Maybe you fell into the hole all on your own. It makes no difference how you got there. What matters most is God wants to get you out! Remember this, what the devil means for evil God can turn for good in your life! The key is to trust God and continue to walk by faith or in the case of the mule in the story below, stomp by faith. In any case, shake off the dirt and keep going!

"One day a farmer's old mule fell into an empty well. The farmer was disappointed because it was a good mule, but he concluded that the mule couldn't be rescued, since the well was too narrow and too deep to retrieve the animal. He decided that neither the mule nor the well was worth saving, and his only option was to fill the well with dirt. The farmer grabbed a shovel and began to fill the well with dirt, one shovel full at a time. It turns out that the animal wasn't as close to dead as the farmer had guessed. When he felt that first pile of dirt hit his back, he instinctively shook it off and stomped on it. Another pile landed on him and he shook it off and stomped it. This went on all afternoon: shake the dirt off, stomp it, and step a little higher, shake the dirt off, stomp it, and step a little higher. Finally, after a few hours of this, that mule had risen to a new height; he was able to step triumphantly out of the well.

The moral of the story is, "The dirt that others try to bury you with might just save your life if you shake it off and keep stomping."

You can rest assured that when you're down there will always be someone willing to throw a little dirt on you. Remember the mule: shake it off and stomp it; and it will help you step up. The difficulty you are facing may appear to have the power to destroy you, but by God's grace, it will actually serve the purpose of redeeming you and taking you to the next level, to higher ground. The key is to look up to God, for that is where our help comes from. Oh yeah, and don't forget to stomp!

"No weapon formed against you shall prosper, And every tongue which rises against you in judgment You shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, And their righteousness is from Me," Says the Lord."
Isaiah 54:17

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"In My Heart"

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"I am with you always…"

Matthew 28:20

So many things I am grateful for this Thanksgiving. All week long I have been counting my blessings and doing my very best to sit before the Lord and praise Him for everything I can think of and all that the Holy Spirit places upon my heart and mind from A to Z. Its been a great exercise for me that has created the need in me to send out this note this morning letting you know how very grateful I am for you! The apostle Paul captured perfectly what I want to write you when he penned thesis words in Philippians 1:3, "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you."

Its was a number of years ago now and I recall a conversation with our church secretary about her holiday plans that year. She was flying out of state to see her mother and daughter not knowing if she would arrive in time to get to see her mom before her mother passed away after a lengthy illness. Our secretary shared how she spoke with her mom every day by phone and would always end the conversation by saying, "I might not be with you but I hug you and kiss you and hold you in my heart." Knowing the apostle Paul's love for the church I believe he felt the same way and was communicating that same thought in Philippians 1:3.

I feel that same way today as I awakened early this Thanksgiving morning both thinking and thanking God especially for people who are no longer in my life. People I wish I could say, "I might not be with you but I hug you and kiss you and hold you in my heart." Friends and family who have either passed on or moved on and whose absence has created an emptiness in my heart that not even my Mom's famous sweet potato recipe can fill. I cant remember if her recipe called for sweet potatoes with some brown sugar or if it was brown sugar with a few sweet potatoes mixed in. All I know is they were good!

I miss my Mom today recalling how much she enjoyed having the entire family over at her and my dads house which my wife and I purchased and now call home. She went 'all in' during holiday meals. My dads one job, Ok, two jobs were, one, stay out of the kitchen until it was "time", and then two, he got to cut the turkey. I miss my dad cutting the turkey as he was all man when it came to trimming the bird. Plate presentation meant nothing, results did. He started off great and cut perfect slices of meat. Then, the closer he got to the bones he must have grown impatient cutting so began pulling the meat of the bone. By the time he was done the plate of turkey looked more like it had been ravaged by a bird of prey as it was all torn up and in such small pieces you couldn't even pick it up with a fork. It did make for great turkey sandwiches later as the turkey was already in bite size pieces.

I am thankful today my Mom had so many different types of linen table clothes on the table and though I feared that it might collapse from the sheer weight of it all. I miss the holiday plate settings and all the different forks and knives and spoons that graced the Thanksgiving table. I miss the decorations and the centerpieces that she had to set the tone for the special occasion. I miss her outfits that aligned perfectly with the color of the holiday being celebrated. 

Yes, there is so much I miss today and yet its in my missing that I have become even more grateful for what I have and who is here in my life today. I am most grateful for my beautiful wife who is the centerpiece of my life. I am grateful for my wonderful children and our absolutely adorable grand babies. I am grateful for my brother and sisters, as well as my brothers and sisters in law, nieces and nephews and extended family I am unsure even how we are related but am very thankful they are. I am grateful for a wonderful church family made up of staff, key leaders, first time guests, regular attendees and volunteers who have blessed my life this past year in ways no words could fully explain. I love them dearly. We are family!

You might be separated by miles from the people you love most, my friends, but I hope you find the time and a way to communicate your love to the people you hold dear over the Holidays. I am sure our church secretary would be honored if you took her words and made them your own as you seek to communicate to the people you love most but find yourself separated by the miles between you this Thanksgiving. Try it, pick up the phone and make the call. Say something like, "I love you and though we aren't together this Thanksgiving I want you to know I hug you and kiss you and hold you in my heart." It might just be the sweetest part of their Thanksgiving Day!

Like the Last Supper Jesus shared with His disciples before the Cross, Jesus knew there was a day coming when they would all be together again, seated at a table enjoying the "Marriage Supper of the Lamb" in heaven! Yes, loved one, the greatest Thanksgiving celebration ever is still yet to be. One day we will all meet up again, every one who has ever placed their hope and trust in Jesus will be there. One day we will all sit together at a table where everything has been prepared for us and we are free to enjoy the One who made it all possible as well as one another. What a day that will be! So, count your blessings today, express your gratitude to God for both those who are present and those who have passed on remembering Jesus own words,

"And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also."

John 14:3

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"I am Grateful"


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"Therefore I will give thanks to You, O Lord...and sing praises to Your name."


2 Samuel 22:50


As we head into another Thanksgiving week I like so many of you am counting my blessings and wanting to make sure I let as many people as possible know how grateful I am for them for the difference they have made in my life this past year. I wish there was time to sit with each and every person who has blessed my life, and that of my families life with your goodness and kindness. Your kindness has eased the burdens of the hard days and made the celebrations of special days that much sweeter for all of us. All in all, we have so much to be thankful for and for those of you reading this devotional please know I count you among my many blessings. I am grateful for you!

I wanted to write today and all throughout this entire week on remembering to say, "I'm Grateful" knowing myself that I do not let people know nearly enough how much my life is blessed by them. Much like the story I am going to share below I know my intentions far exceed my actions at times in expressing my gratitude. One thing I know for sure is William Arthur Ward was right when he said, "Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it."

The story was told of Edward Spencer, a young man studying to become a minister. He was also part of an emergency rescue team that patrolled the shores of Lake Michigan in 1860. Spencer waded into the freezing water again and again and again, and one by one, a total of seventeen times in all, he rescued seventeen passengers off a sinking ship. Sadly, the incident caused permanent damage and Spencer never fully recovered and eventually died. It was mentioned at his funeral that not one person that he rescued ever personally thanked him for his heroic deeds.

Most in attendance at Spencer's funeral must have thought the thanklessness of those individuals was colder than the frigid waters Spencer rescued them from. Were they really thankless or did they just become too busy with their own lives that they simply forgot to stop and say thank you? I can only consider my own life and how all too often I allow the busyness of my day to keep me from the best things in my life, one of them being counting my blessings and making sure I let people know how grateful I am they are in my life.

As Believers in Jesus we have so many reasons to be grateful and in turn thank and praise our Heavenly Father this Thanksgiving. He loves us and He not only rescued us from the bondage of sin and death, He also continually provides for us. God blesses us and He guides us in this life never demanding our thanks. With everything He is and all that He does, how could we not praise Him? As we celebrate Thanksgiving this week we need to not just think about being grateful, we need to act on being grateful too. Thank those who have been a blessing to you and by all means take some time and sit before the Lord, just you and Jesus and thank Him and praise Him for the great things He has done and is still doing for me and you!

"Oh, how grateful and thankful I am to the Lord because he is so good. I will sing praise to the name of the Lord who is above all lords."

Psalm 7:17 (TLB)

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"Gratitude Can Save Your Life"

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"…because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened."

Romans 1:21


Being grateful really can save your life! It's obvious from reading Romans chapter 1 that the spirit of ingratitude has severe consequences. Studies have shown that people who practice gratitude regularly report experiencing more joy and pleasure, they express more compassion and generosity towards others, and are even less likely to become ill. Yet, being grateful can become difficult over the holiday season as we can easily get caught up and distracted by all the business in preparing for the special days. I wanted to pass along to you something I was reading just last night that caught my attention and has in less than 24 hours already impacted my own life in a very positive and exciting way.

First, remember that Jesus said in John 10:10, "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." That means being grateful isn't going to come without a fight. The devil doesn't want you to experience abundant life and he will do everything in his power to keep you from it, and busyness is one of his main weapons during the holidays.

Because Jesus wants you and I to enjoy abundant life He has given us the Bible to light the way. If you want to experience more joy this holiday season determine now to walk in God's will and put 1 Thessalonians 5:18 into regular practice day by day, "in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."

As I was reading a "Ted Talk" article last night the author pointed out 10 simple ways we can be deliberate in our growing in gratitude. Below I'll provide the list.

1. Write a note to someone from your past. Think of someone you are grateful for that you have not spoken to in a long time and sit down and write them a note simply telling them you were thinking of them and why it is you are grateful for them.

2. Look people in the eyes. When speaking to others focus on them by looking them in the eyes as it communicates that you are listening and hopefully as well, that you care.

3. Say "I'm grateful" instead of "thanks". The word "thanks" tends to be over used and under genuinely expressed. Like my friends at Chic Fil a who use the phrase "my pleasure" instead of "you are welcome" try saying "I'm grateful" instead of "thanks" and discover the difference it makes in your own heart and mind.

4. Put thought into your "grateful". Explain why. Your explanation will encourage those you are grateful for and at the same time it will serve to help you become even more grateful as you cultivate a spirit of gratitude in your own heart.

5. Savor. Life is made up of moments. Collect more moments. I appreciate that saying that goes something like this, "Life isn't made up of the number of breaths we take but rather the number of moments that the our breath away." Make sure to stop and smell the roses over the holiday's. Take in the little things and remember to give God thanks by expressing your gratitude to Him and to others too!

6. When angry, do something generous for someone else. The holidays can be tough for some who have family members that are difficult to be around. Remember, it's not a sin to become angry, just don't let your anger cause you to sin. As quickly as possible when someone makes you angry seek to do something generous for them or someone else. It doesn't matter who. Just do it! Romans 12:21 reminds us, "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."

7. Say it out loud. Say positive things out loud so that you can hear yourself. Self talk has been scientifically studied and proven to have a positive influence on those who practice regularly saying positive things out loud so they themselves can hear it. Don't be afraid to cheer yourself on through out the holiday's. It really works. You might even make yourself laugh out loud.

8. Practice A-Z Gratitude. Use each letter of the alphabet to express gratitude. Don't just wait for bedtime but if you do find it hard to fall asleep at night due to all the extra stress on your mind during the holiday's try taking a few minutes and starting with the letter A, then moving towards the letter Z, identify people, places and things that begin with each letter of the alphabet that you are grateful. This not only refocuses our minds to things that are pure and lovely (See Philippians 4:8) but it helps eliminate the stress that can build up more quickly over the holidays. (It might even work in holiday traffic). 

9. Gratitude makes me better not the ones I'm grateful for. That is, unless we share our gratitude with others. If you are unable to express your gratitude "eye to eye" because of distance and time doesn't allow you to sit down and write a letter, try social media. Don't just tell the ones you are grateful for, tell the world, or at least those in your world by using Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to both express and explain your reasons why. Proverbs 25:25 reminds us, "As cold water to a weary soul, So is good news from a far country." Your gratitude just might be the best gift you give this year!

10. Gratitude is a muscle. The more you exercise gratitude, the greater the benefits will be. As jogging, working out with weights or riding a bike provide benefits to your physical health, exercising gratitude daily will help to strengthen your spirit and soul and dramatically improve your outlook on life. Try it for 30 days straight and see for yourself the difference it makes.

If you have read this far know that I am very grateful for you. You are the reason I seek to do a devotional in the first place. There is nothing I enjoy more than trying to help people connect with God, to come to know that there is a plan and a purpose for each of our lives, and that you are not alone in your journey. God is all around and in everything seeking to draw us to Himself. My hope and prayer is that something I share here assists you in taking a step closer to the One who loves you and gave His life for you! 

Happy Thanksgiving!

I LOVE YOU!


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"How Deep Is Your Love?"

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"There is hope for a tree, if it is cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its tender shoots will not cease. Though its roots may grow old in the earth, and its stump may die in the ground, yet at the scent of water it will bud and bring forth branches…."



Job 14:7-9


No, the title has nothing to do with the musical group, "The Bee Gee's but everything to do with growing deep in our love for the Lord by growing deep in His Word. The Bible says of believer's that we're like trees planted by the waters that spread our roots by the river (Jeremiah 17:8). We are told elsewhere to be rooted and grounded in love (Ephesians 3:17) and to be rooted and built up in Him, established in the faith (Colossians 2:7). Jesus warned of the danger of springing up quickly, but, having no roots, that ultimately we will wither away (Matthew 13:6).

Personal Bible study and not merely devotional reading is the best way to grow our roots deeply in the Christian faith. There is an old saying that goes, "If you want shade today the best time to plant a shade tree was 25 years ago. The second best day is today."

Studying the book of Job teaches us that life unfortunately doesn't always come at us in seasons and there are days when we need a safe place where we can find rest for our souls and the bible reminds us that the best place to find that is in God's Word allowing it to refresh us and restore us, to strengthen us and make possible enduring the storms of life that each of us will inevitably face.

Make the Word of God part of your regular routine, discipline yourself to feed on the Word of God as you read and meditate on God's Word daily. You'll be glad you did as when you do you will be like a tree planted by rivers of water that brings forth its fruit in season (Psalm 1:3).

"Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall."

Matthew 7:24-27

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"Could You Use A Hug?"

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"A time to embrace"

Ecclesiastes 3:5


I'm discovering on social media that every day is a day to celebrate something. I read a tweet that said, "today is hug a vegetarian day" and though I have no idea how to go about identifying a vegetarian other than the greens from their lunch salad that may be between their teeth when they smile, it did get me thinking of church and the power of a hug. The church I pastor is very affectionate as most of our greeters are huggers more than shakers and they can't wait for people to move past being a first time guest and a handshake to becoming a regular attendee so that they can offer a hug instead.

I love being a pastor. I love every aspect of the ministry (Ok, almost every aspect), even the hard things I have to face that stretch me beyond my comfort zone. I hate pain but I have learned and am still learning my greatest growth in the Lord comes on the heels of painful situations that drive me to my knees. But, the greatest joy I have in being a pastor is teaching God's Word. I love teaching and there is nothing I enjoy more than seeing people fall in love with Jesus and with one another within the body of Christ as we grow together in His Word. I love watching the progression people make from being strangers to becoming friends, from almost cold to caring. It's a beautiful site to behold as people are transformed into the image of Christ.

Are you aware that one of the greatest blessings in the world today is the local church, the visible manifestation of God to both the unbelieving world and as well those who are saved? The church is a living testimony of the faithfulness of God on a day to day basis. When the world sees the evidence of the Christian faith by the way the church responds to both those in the church as well as those outside, they see for themselves what the bible teaches us, and is the primary means that God uses to get the attention of people. "Action's speak louder than words" the saying goes. It's why the book of James says we are to show our faith by our works. James reminds us that we are justified by our faith in God but only God can see our heart so it takes our works done in faith to get the attention of others.

Today, loved one, I get the distinct pleasure of reminding you that you are loved by God and I am certain if Jesus were here in the flesh today He would give you a hug to let you know He loves you, and not just for what you do but simply for who you are! And not just because of who you are but whose you are, that you belong to Him! It's sad we live in a world where people have to ask for hugs, for human touch. Sometimes my wife will come home after a hard day at work and I can tell by her expression she is drained and I love to be able to in those moments say to her, "you look like you could use a hug" and then watch as she comes to me and buries herself in my chest and lets me hold her for a moment. It doesn't change the circumstances she is facing or what she has been through that day but something powerful gets communicated with a warm embrace. It says to her, you count and I care. There is power in a hug!

Know this today, loved one. Everyone counts, and I'm pretty certain everyone needs a hug from time to time. I look forward each day to my wife coming home so I can (hard day or not) hug someone who loves her vegetables! Actually my wife prefers a Vegan diet herself and for me its "Hug A Vegan" every day! Seriously speaking, we shouldn't have to specify a certain day to communicate value and worth to other people. Everyday is the Christians opportunity to communicate and express love to others, to be an ambassador for Christ and to show people that we care about them.

Don't miss out on the opportunities before you today. Be proactive! Start at home and work your way out from there. Hug your husband or your wife, then hug the kids. Hug a friend today just to express you care. Be prayerful and look for hurting people today that you can look in the eyes and say, "you look like you could use a hug" and who knows, you might just help someone connect with the love of Christ. The key is, don't wait until people expect it, do it when people least expect it as it will help them better understand what it's like to be captured by God's grace. All I really know is that when most people hug, both the hugger and the huggie get blessed! Here's praying you have a blessed day!


"For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ."

Philippians 1:8

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"Separation's Revelation"

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"Many waters cannot quench love, nor can the floods drown it. If a man would give for love all the wealth of his house, it would be utterly despised."

Song of Solomon 8:7


This mornings devotional is long because its part devo and part sermon preparation as I am way deep in studying, pain, suffering and loss as I am teaching through the book of Job in our midweek service on Wednesday nights. In chapter 1, I am right at ground zero of Jobs pain and suffering which has caused me to go back and think through the issues that present themselves when we suffer loss or separation from those we love.

I can recall a conversation I had with my parents as I was preparing to go away to college about the strain a long distance of separation can put on a relationship. My parents told me pretty much matter of fact, "distance makes the heart grow fonder" or it's, "out of sight out of mind." I thought there is no possible way I could ever be guilty of, "out of sight, out of mind" because of the way I felt at the moment. At the time I thought that it would be humanly impossible for me to forget someone I claimed to have such strong feelings for, but my parents were right.

It didn't take long at all as I discovered what I was feeling was just that, a feeling and as time does in all things, "it tells." I remember reading a book on pre-marriage counseling that tried to explain the difference between "love and lust." It said lust is like a 9-volt battery, starting out bright but eventually it just burns out over time. True love on the other hand is like alternating current (electricity); it just keeps going and going burning bright all the while. The only way to know the difference between lust and love is time. They look exactly the same in the beginning but over time lust just flames out.

Francois de la Rochefoucauld once said, "Absence diminishes mediocre passions and increases great ones, as the wind extinguishes candles and fans fires." Absence really does have a way of making the heart grow fonder and increasing our passion, but only if what's in our heart is love and not lust. For example, like most Mom's, my wife loves our children and grandchildren at the deepest place of her heart and soul, way more than she ever thought she was capable of loving.

When our children were little (heck, she is still this way) my wife could only stand to be away from our kids for just a few days at a time. (She still wishes they were little in many ways, but thank God our children are having babies of their own she can care for.) I could see the effect that their absence had on her and though they were out of her sight they were never out of her mind. Early in our marriage this frustrated me when I would take her away for a week or longer on vacation that only after a few days away I could sense her missing her babies and longing to get back home to them.

As I began teaching the book of Job last week I recalled a teaching on the life of Christ and a particular dialog Jesus had with His disciples in John 14. I was reminded afresh that when you love someone, I mean you really love someone, their absence from your life creates not only sorrow but tremendous sorrow in your heart and is why Jesus told the disciples there in John's gospel to not let their hearts be troubled. Though Jesus was about to go to the Cross and then return to His Father in heaven, one day He would return for them and all of us who would come after them who believed in His name.

Jesus knew that His absence from those that He loved would only make their heart grow fonder of Him because He was going to give them something, actually someone else who would come to them and be with them and in them, constantly reminding them of all that He (Jesus) had taught them. The reason then that absence really does make your heart grow fonder is that the greatest expression for love is "one". Our hearts grow fonder in absence because we long to be reunited or "one" with the one we love. God created us in His image and God is one. When God created man and woman He said, "and the two shall become one'. Jesus prayer in John 17 reveals His greatest desire for us, "that we might be made one in Him." Love longs for oneness. Makes sense doesn't it why absence creates a longing in our soul. And you just thought you were going crazy, ha!

It makes no difference if it's a spouse being away on business or a mother leaving her children for a few days to go on vacation with her husband, absence creates a longing in the human heart that loves. The reason to me is simple, God created us for oneness and oneness is experienced through community and unity, and when either is broken for whatever reason, we feel its effects in our lives, we feel out of sorts, out of step.

Just know today, loved one, if you have ever been in that struggle over the loss of just about anything that you love you are not alone. The good news is beloved of God; in Christ we have a future and a hope in Jesus Christ. We have a guarantee from God Himself that He staked His very life upon and signed in His own blood that though absence is going to be part of our experience this side of heaven, Jesus will return one day to receive us to Himself. That's right, we are going to be reunited with the One who loves us and gave Himself for us so that we can once again be one in Him, everyone who has ever called upon the name of the Lord will be reunited together one day. And in the in between time, God has promised us a helper, the Holy Spirit to give us comfort when we hurt, help when we need it, and the hope for a beautiful "new normal" one day! It will be heavenly for sure!

"Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation"

2 Corinthians 5:18

I LOVE YOU!


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"Exercise Your Love"

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

John 13:35


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


John 13:34


I LOVE YOU!

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"Hope Beyond Grief"

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


1 Thessalonians 4:13


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalms 43:5

I LOVE YOU!


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"If Your Heart Could Write"

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

Psalm 45:1

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

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

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

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

Philippians 4:8-9

I LOVE YOU!


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