Saturday, March 31, 2018

The Legend of the Jerusalem Donkey

One of our neighbors in the area has a Jerusalem donkey. He is a beautiful animal and seems happy most of the time. As Good Friday approaches, he seems to be sad. His face grows long and his head is bowed almost in reverence. He reminds me of the beautiful story from from Sue Weaver, The Donkey Companion (Storey Publishing, 2008). Below is the excerpt from her book. 

A poor farmer near Jerusalem owned a donkey far too small to do much work at all. He felt that he couldn’t afford to feed a worthless animal like this, one that could do him no good whatsoever, so at the supper table he told his family that he was going to kill the donkey.

His children, who loved the little donkey, begged him to sell it rather than harm it. But the farmer said, “It’s wrong to sell an animal that can’t do a good day’s work.”

Then his oldest daughter suggested, “Father, tie the donkey to a tree on the road to town, and say whoever wants it may take it for nothing.” And the next morning, that’s what the farmer did.

Soon, two men approached and asked if they could have the donkey. “It can carry almost nothing,” the farmer warned them.

“Jesus of Nazareth has need of it,” replied one of the men. The farmer couldn’t imagine what a great teacher would want with such a worthless donkey, but he handed it over.

The men took the animal to Jesus, who stroked the grateful donkey’s face and then mounted it and rode away. So it was on the day we call Palm Sunday, Jesus led his followers into the city of Jerusalem riding on the back of a small, common donkey.

The donkey so loved his gentle master that he later followed him to Calvary. Grief-stricken by the sight of Jesus on the cross, the donkey turned away but couldn’t leave. It was then that the shadow of the cross fell upon the shoulders and back of the donkey, and there it stayed. All donkeys have borne the sign of the cross on their backs since that very day.

The Legend of the Dogwood Tree

On our property, we have two beautiful dogwood trees that have bloomed. As I look at the trees, I reminded of a beautiful poem about the legend of the dogwood tree. As we approach that blessed Easter day, let us always remember the love of our Savior, Christ Jesus, and his sacrifice for us.

Legend of the Dogwood

There is a lovely story,
 A legend tho it be
It tells how blessed Jesus,
Was pitied by a tree.

T'was in the days when Jesus,
This earth He walked upon
The Dogwood tree was larger,
 It's wood was firm and strong.

How beautiful the story,
 The legend of a tree
That sorrowed for dear Jesus,
On that cruel mount at Calvary.

It proves that if we love Him,
A blessing we'll receive
Just as the lovely story,
 Of the lowly Dogwood tree.

At the time of the crucifixion, the Dogwood
grew the size of the oak and other forest trees.
So strong and firm was the wood of it,
that it was chosen for the timber of the Cross
to be used for such a cruel purpose.
This greatly distressed the tree.

And Jesus sensed this,
 and smiled upon it
And in His gentle pity for sorrow,
Jesus looked and said to it ...
Because of your great regret and pity for My suffering
I make you this promise ,,,,

Never again shall the Dogwood grow enough
to be used for a Cross.
Henceforth, it shall be slender and bent and twisted.
And blossoms shall be in the form of a Cross,
two long petals and two short petals.

And in the center of the outer edge of each petal
there will be the nail prints browned with rust.
And stained with Blood,
and the center of the flowers
will be an image of the Crown of Thorns.

And all who see it will remember
that it was upon the Dogwood tree I was Crucified.
And this tree shall not be mutilated or destroyed
but cherished as a reminder of My Death upon the Cross.

Two petals long, two petals short,
 a symbol of the Cross.
On each the print of nails and blood,
 which pictures Jesus' lost.

In the center of each flower,
 the Crown of Thorns can see,
And so it is told...
 the Legend of the lowly Dogwood Tree. 

Daily Word of God - Psalm 20:4

Psalm 20:4 New Living Translation (NLT)

4 May he grant your heart’s desires
    and make all your plans succeed.

Daily Word of God - Ephesians 5:14

Ephesians 5:14 New Living Translation (NLT)

14 for the light makes everything visible. This is why it is said,

“Awake, O sleeper,
    rise up from the dead,
    and Christ will give you light.”

Friday, March 30, 2018

Daily Word of God - Psalm 61:2

Psalm 61:2 New Living Translation (NLT)

2 From the ends of the earth,
    I cry to you for help
    when my heart is overwhelmed.
Lead me to the towering rock of safety,

Good Friday - Romans 5:6-10

Romans 5:6-10 New Living Translation (NLT)

6 When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. 7 Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. 8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. 9 And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. 10 For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son.

Good Friday Message - Humbled to the Point of Death

On Monday of this week, I had to make a trip to Carrollton, Georgia to complete some personal business. I had to leave our home in Newnan very early in the morning. Because of that, I didn't have time to make myself my usual country breakfast. So, before I could complete my business, I had time to visit the McDonald's in Carrollton on Bankhead Highway. While I was there and enjoying my breakfast, I was praying for the Holy Spirit to speak to my heart regarding the Good Friday message.

As all Christians know, Good Friday is the day when Jesus is crucified. He suffers the indignity of a trial with false accusations made by the Pharisees against him. While in the hands of the Roman soldiers, he is mocked, beaten and scourged. He is forced to walk through the streets carrying his own cross. These are the same people who just a week earlier celebrated him by laying down palms and shouting, "Hosanna in the highest." Streams of blood and sweat are running down his face as he creeps along that weary path to the place known as Golgotha.

At any moment, Jesus could have called upon legions of angels to level the earth, but he doesn't. While in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prays, prior to being betrayed, that this bitter cup pass from him. However, he ends his prayer with a simple statement, "Yet not as I will, but as you will."

The night before his so-called trial, he and his disciples share their last meal. During the course of that evening, Jesus humbly washes the feet of each of his disciples. He tells them in John 13:14-15, "14 And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. 15 I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you."

Jesus became and remains our example of what it means to have a servant attitude. This brings me back to that McDonald's in Carrollton. While there, I had an opportunity to meet a dedicated young man who handled the facilities there at that store. We talked about his job and responsibilities which he took very seriously. The young man threw himself into his position and enjoyed what he did. He did not boast that his job was the most important or that he was currying favor with his supervisor. His desire and passion were driven by one thing alone, to give the customers the best experience possible in that store. Although many would look at his position as being menial, he humbly did the tasks that would give the customer a wonderful feeling about the cleanliness of the restaurant.

When I thanked him for all that he did while I was there in making sure that the floors and tables for dry for me to enjoy my breakfast and coffee, he responded, "It is what I enjoy doing. I serve the customers and want them to feel special." No better words could have been spoken by such a wise and dedicated young man.

There was another man who refused to be served but served others. Jesus made it a point to make people feel special by showing them the love of our Heavenly Father. He did not make a distinction between rich or poor. All were welcomed by him. 

In Paul's letter to the church in Philippi, he tells us in chapter 2 of the elements of a Christ-like attitude. Last year, I spoke on what it means to have a Christ-like attitude in a message series. If you missed it, it is still available on our podcast site. One of the key elements that Paul tells us about is humility. Starting with verse 7 and running through verse 8, Paul writes, "7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, 8 he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross." In two verses, Paul sums up Jesus and his sacrifice for us. He humbled himself in obedience to God's will and was crucified for our sins. He became a servant. Looking back at the supper he shared with his disciples, he became a servant and washed their feet. During those times, that was the lowest position of any household. Any servant who had to wash the feet of the guests did not enjoy doing it. In Jesus's case, he humbled himself before his disciples and in one act showed them how much he loved them.

So as you go through this Good Friday, I ask that you to remember not only the sacrifice of Jesus and his crucifixion but also his attitude and character trait of humbling himself in obedience to God and His will. We, as Paul tells us in verse 5 of Philippians 2, "must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had." That means we must not "be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves." When we exemplify a Christ-like attitude to the world, we can stand firm in His grace.

May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace. 
Numbers 6:24-26 New Living Translation (NLT)

Good Friday - Isaiah 53:3-4

Isaiah 53:3-4 New Living Translation (NLT}

He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins!

Daily Word of God - Galatians 5:22-23

Galatians 5:22-23 New Living Translation (NLT)

22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Daily Word of God - Matthew 7:12

Matthew 7:12 New Living Translation (NLT)

12 Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.

Daily Word of God - 1 Peter 2:9

1 Peter 2:9 New Living Translation (NLT)

9 But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Daily Word of God - Revelation 21:4

Revelation 21:4 New Living Translation (NLT)

4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.

Mid-Week Message - If You Had Been There

“Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day.”  Luke 24:5-7 (NLT)

If you had been there when Jesus was arrested, what would you have done?  How would you have reacted?  Would you have stepped up to defend Him or would you have sunk into the background out of fear?  

If you had been there during His trial, would you have spoken up for Him?  Would you have shouted for His innocence or been silent as the crowd screamed for Barrabas to be released?  Would your belief that Jesus was the Christ have allowed you to rush to His aid?  

If you had been there as He was forced to carry His cross to the place of His death, would you have offered to help Him carry it or stood back in horror and tears as you witnessed His struggle while so terribly wounded?

If you had been there as the hammer pounded the nails into His flesh, seen the crown of thorns pushed cruelly down into the skin of His brow, seen the mocking and the insults hurled at Him, seen Him denied a fresh drink of water and then witnessed the spear thrust into His side, how would you have handled it?  

The Easter story is one most of us grew up with.  We know what happened to our Savior.  It has become something that is talked about almost matter-of-factly.  We understand it was God's way of uniting us to Himself by providing His Son, His perfect Lamb, as the sacrifice which bought our forgiveness and freedom.  We know, but do we experience it?  Is it personal?  

Now, what if you had been there with the women who discovered His body missing?  What would have been your reaction?  Would you have remembered that He said He would rise again and rejoice, or would you have assumed it had been stolen?  I can't think of anything more glorious than the open tomb of the Son of Almighty God.  I would like to think that I would have fallen to my knees at that moment and begun praising.  But I would also like to think that I would have stood up for Him, fought for Him, been willing to lose my own life for Him.  

Easter is a time of personal reflection as we remember all He did out of His love for each of us.  It is wonderful to know the story, to read the scriptures, to hear the sermons.  However, in order to really appreciate it, we need to place ourselves there.  We need to take part and allow it to become more than a story.  We need for it to be personal and real.  May God bless you as you experience His love on Easter and every day.  

Daily Word of God - Exodus 34:10

Exodus 34:10 New Living Translation (NLT)

10 The Lord replied, “Listen, I am making a covenant with you in the presence of all your people. I will perform miracles that have never been performed anywhere in all the earth or in any nation. And all the people around you will see the power of the Lord—the awesome power I will display for you."

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Daily Word of God - Proverbs 15:8

Proverbs 15:8 New Living Translation (NLT)

8 The Lord detests the sacrifice of the wicked,
    but he delights in the prayers of the upright.

Daily Word of God - Hebrews 12:1-2

Hebrews 12:1-2 New Living Translation (NLT)

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Daily Word of God - Matthew 22:37-39

Matthew 22:37-39 New Living Translation (NLT)

37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’"

Daily Word of God - Revelation 3:20

Revelation 3:20 New Living Translation (NLT)

20 "Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends."

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Daily Word of God - Matthew 7:8

Matthew 7:8 New Living Translation (NLT)

8 For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

Happy Palm Sunday!

Matthew 21 New International Version (NIV)
Jesus Comes to Jerusalem as King

21 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”

4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

5 “Say to Daughter Zion,
    ‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
    and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”

6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Sunday Praise & Worship Message - A Cheerful Heart

While I was in the hospital, I was blessed by all of the wonderful nurses, housekeeping personnel, room and food services. The list of those around me who did their absolute best to look after me goes on and on. I cannot count the number of people who not only did their job but also did it with a passion and love that was very contagious. Yes, their passion and love for what they did on a daily basis came through each time. It was very difficult for me to give up some of my independence to others and rely on them to help me do the basic things that I had taken for granted. If you have never been hospitalized, and I pray that you never are, it is a little difficult to give up your independence to other people. The most basic of activities like showering and brushing my teeth became a choreographed event. Nurses and nurse technicians had to plan and time each moment of me getting up from my hospital bed and moving to the sink and then to the bathing area. Each monitoring and watching me closely. I truly felt helpless, but they made me feel that all of this was momentary. It was going to pass and be a memory for the holidays. My family and I would be sitting at the Thanksgiving table reminiscing about the time I was in the hospital with a life-threatening illness. 

There were two things that struck me the most during all of this. First was that each person, no matter what they did in the hospital, gave me the gift of a smile and conversation. I so enjoyed speaking to each of them and sharing a moment. They told me of their lives and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about their dreams, thoughts and aspirations. I loved hearing about their families and especially loved hearing about why they worked in the hospital. It certainly wasn't the money that drew them to healthcare. It was the fact that they were making a difference in people's lives. There were nights when I cried myself to sleep after enduring one intravenous bag of medication after another. My arms hurt from the lab technicians drawing blood. I felt alone. When I felt that I was in darkness all alone, a nurse, technician, housekeeper or food service representative would come into my room and they would pick up my spirits by talking to me and letting me know that things would get better. They would also let me know that this was just a momentary blip in my life. The astronauts would say, "This is a glitch or technical malfunction and there is a solution or workaround for it"

The other thing was what the nurses said about me. When I had the opportunity, I, too, passed along my joy and laughter. I would be cheerful and they, in turn, returned that cheerfulness a thousandfold. When shift change came, I could hear them outside my door talking about me, each nurse would say the same thing, "Jesse is a great patient. He is cheerful, upbeat and loves to help." That made me feel like I was giving back. While I was in one hospital, I helped one of the nurses with the hospital unit bulletin board. She was very grateful and asked me why I was helping. I simply said, "I have to earn my keep." We both laughed. But, it was true. Just as they had helped me, I desired to help and give back to them wherever I could and to the best of my ability at the time.

Proverbs 17 has a wonderful verse that tells us of the virtue of a cheerful heart. Let us look at verse 22. "A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person's strength." When we have a cheerful heart, we have the ability of making the biggest differences in people's lives. You, by being cheerful and helpful, can impact the life of another person in the profoundest way. Mother Teresa said it best, "Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love." Smiling is truly the beginning of love. It shows that we care enough for others to spread cheer and warmth to another.

When I faced some of the most difficult of moments, a nurse or technician would smile and encourage me. I am not talking about a small, forced smile. I am talking about a big, toothy smile that beams across a room and lights it up. When I saw that smile, I found the strength to continue when I just couldn't. I found the courage to go on when I just wanted to give up. If they had not done that and just stood there, it would have broken my spirit even further and I would no longer have the strength to do anything.

It is sad that society sees more value in basketball, football and baseball players by lavishing them with millions of dollars while the true heroes like fire fighters, police officers, nurses and so many others are not valued. They do their jobs, because they love what they do. Once again, looking at Proverbs, we see the heart's ability to give. Let us look at Proverbs 15:13. "A glad heart makes a happy face; a broken heart crushes the spirit.

By having a glad heart that wants to give to the world, it manifests itself in a happy face and that happy face brings joy, courage and love to those around them. If they just do their jobs with no heart at all, that too will manifest itself in their faces and crush not only their spirits but also those around them.

Each of us have so many opportunities to give to other through a very simple act of smiling. Mother Teresa is absolutely correct. That one smile is the beginning of something so very wonderful. It is the beginning of love and that love, when shared with others, is contagious and will engulf the whole world. 

The love we show one another comes without strings or bows. It comes without contracts or restrictions. It is freely given to all those around us. It is unconditional and open to all to accept it. It exemplifies the love of our Heavenly Father. His love is unfailing and lasts forever. His love was shown through the sacrifice of His one and only son over two thousand years ago. Men who had broken spirits and dried up hearts crucified an innocent man who was and is forever the son of God. Jesus came into this world to show us the love of the Father and as Paul, in Philippians 2:7-9, tells us, "7 Instead, he (being Jesus) gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. 9 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names." Yes, Jesus died a criminal's death, because he loved us enough to suffer on a cross and die for our sins. 

I challenge each of you to go out and have that cheerful heart and share it with the world by giving others the gift of a smile. Give them something that will change their lives forever. By doing this, we know we are sharing God's love with others and by doing so, we can stand firm in His grace.

May God richly bless you each and every day of your lives and protect and guide you.

Daily Word of God - Ecclesiastes 7:8-9

Ecclesiastes 7:8-9 New Living Translation (NLT)

8 Finishing is better than starting.
    Patience is better than pride.

9 Control your temper,
    for anger labels you a fool.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Daily Word of God - John 3:17

John 3:17 New Living Translation (NLT)

17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

Daily Word of God - Isaiah 1:18

Isaiah 1:18 New Living Translation (NLT)

18 “Come now, let’s settle this,”
    says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
    I will make them as white as snow.
Though they are red like crimson,
    I will make them as white as wool.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Daily Word of God - Isaiah 40:30-31

Isaiah 40:30-31 New Living Translation (NLT)

30 Even youths will become weak and tired,
    and young men will fall in exhaustion.
31 But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
    They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
    They will walk and not faint.

Daily Word of God - Romans 8:39

Romans 8:39 New Living Translation (NLT)

39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Daily Word of God - 1 John 4:18

1 John 4:18 New Living Translation (NLT)

18 Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.

Prayers for the Persecuted - American Pastor Andrew Brunson

American Pastor Andrew Brunson is in immense danger.

Turkey has just charged him with "Christianization." A 62-page indictment - a diatribe against Christianity and Israel - claims the Christian pastor living out his Christian faith, including through "humanitarian aid, education, and training," is terrorism. If convicted, he faces 35 years in a Turkish prison - essentially a life sentence for the 50-year-old American pastor.

His trial starts on April 16th. His situation is dire.

John 15:18-19 New Living Translation (NLT)

18 If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. 19 The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you.

Daily Word of God - Proverbs 2:8

Proverbs 2:8 New Living Translation (NLT)

8 He guards the paths of the just
    and protects those who are faithful to him.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Daily Word of God - 1 Samuel 2:2

1 Samuel 2:2 New Living Translation (NLT)

2 No one is holy like the Lord!
    There is no one besides you;
    there is no Rock like our God.

Mid-Week Message - The Sacrifice of Love

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."  1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV)

What did you think that love was when you were a child?  What I knew of love was what I saw on television, heard about in music, and witnessed between my parents.  In short, I had no idea what it truly was, I only knew the image that was portrayed to me and it seemed to include holding hands, singing mushy songs to each other, arguing but always making up and living happily ever after.  I had no idea that true love is so much more than those things or how difficult it can be to stand by the same person through the harsh times in life.  

I loved the story of Cinderella.  She was the girl that no one liked.  She was bullied.  She was sad.  But a miracle occurred and her fairy godmother came to her rescue and transformed her into a beautiful woman which led to her meeting the prince and falling in love.  When all that she thought made her beautiful disappeared, the prince sought her out and she was transformed once again.  Then came the happily ever after part.  My husband found out about how much I enjoyed that tale, and on the first Valentine's Day of our marriage, gave me a glass slipper of my very own.  

Of course, now as an adult, I know that love is far more than I had ever thought.  The story of Cinderella is very entertaining and romantic but it falls very short of depicting real life.  The real "happily ever after" includes supporting one another through hard times like the loss of a job or a serious illness.  It endures times of loss, disagreeable temperaments, errant children and the occasional questioning of the future together.  Love means giving up personal choices and desires in order to do the best thing for everyone involved.  

The best example of perfect love that we will ever have is Jesus.  He left his heavenly throne and took up residence in a feeding trough.  He spent His life walking among people who would reject Him even as He was trying to save them.  He allowed Himself to be cruelly tortured and made the ultimate sacrifice by giving His life upon a cross, held there not by nails, but by love.  Love for you.  Love for me.  And when we opened our hearts to accept Him as our Lord and Savior, we were transformed forever.  No longer does he see us in our filthy dirty rags, but in pure white, cleansed by the blood He personally shed.  

The initial butterfly stomach of "falling in love", like all other feelings, comes and goes.  True love is a decision.  This week, when you find it difficult to continue on, remember that there is One that will never find it too hard to stand by you and His love is unwavering.  God bless you.

Daily Word of God - Proverbs 17:9

Proverbs 17:9 New Living Translation (NLT)

9 Love prospers when a fault is forgiven,
    but dwelling on it separates close friends.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Daily Word of God - Titus 1:15-16

Titus 1:15-16 New Living Translation (NLT)

15 Everything is pure to those whose hearts are pure. But nothing is pure to those who are corrupt and unbelieving, because their minds and consciences are corrupted. 16 Such people claim they know God, but they deny him by the way they live. They are detestable and disobedient, worthless for doing anything good.

Daily Word of God - Mark 12:30-31

Mark 12:30-31 New Living Translation (NLT)

30 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ 31 The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”

Monday, March 19, 2018

Daily Word of God - John 13:34

John 13:34 New Living Translation (NLT)

34 So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.

Daily Word of God - 1 John 4:7

1 John 4:7 New Living Translation (NLT)

7 Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Daily Word of God - Ephesians 4:2

Ephesians 4:2 New Living Translation (NLT)

2 Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.

Sunday Praise & Worship Message - Be Strong

This past week, I experienced yet another medical setback and was hospitalized for a week. It has been a very challenging 2018 and my faith has been challenged every single minute of every day. There are problems that pop up from out of the blue. Situations that just seem to get worse over time. Other problems are those that just seem insurmountable. Yes, 2018, for my family and myself, has been more than just a minor series of bumps. We are truly walking through the darkest valley. It seems that Satan himself is taking great delight in challenging my family's and my faith from one moment to the next. There are times when we cry and ask God, "Why have you forsaken us?" We do not see the light at the end of the tunnel. All we see is darkness all around. There are times when we wonder even if God is listening. If someone were to ask me, "Where is your God now?" I would find it very difficult to answer that question like I should.

Everyone goes through these moments and situations where there seems to be no end to them or that they continue to pile one on top of the other. Holding on to your faith becomes more and more difficult and you just feel that you cannot go on any longer. You know the promises of God and what He is able to do, but it seems that He has forgotten you.

As I write this message, I write it with tears in my eyes and know that it seems that I am almost to the point of giving up. But, I write this message as a message of hope not only for you but also for myself. Darkness is all around us. Evil sometimes seems like it is winning. But, that cannot be further from the truth. God is listening and He has a plan for each of you. When it seems like Satan has won, he hasn't. You need to declare out loud that you remain in your faith and, like Jesus casting out demons, you must have the faith and courage to do the same. Cast out Satan from your life and declare the victory that God has given to you through His son, Christ Jesus. 

In his second letter to Timothy, Paul writes in chapter 2, "Timothy, my dear son, be strong through the grace that God gives you in Christ Jesus." Later he tells him, "Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus." Just as Timothy is to be a good soldier, we must also be the same. We must continue the mission and understand that there will be challenges and obstacles all along the way. There will be pitfalls and the enemy will strike at us from all sides. The enemy will set snares and traps to trip us up and cause us to fall. We cannot and should not act like victims and wonder where God is. 

We, as Christians, know where our God is. In Psalm 115, which is my favorite Psalm, the psalmist tells us where our God is and that He is a living God. Starting with verse 3. "Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him. 4 But their idols are silver and gold, made by human hands. 5 They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see. 6 They have ears, but cannot hear, noses, but cannot smell. 7 They have hands, but cannot feel, feet, but cannot walk, nor can they utter a sound with their throats. 8 Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them."

Our God is truly an awesome God and He reigns forever on His throne on high. He loves and listens to His children. When they face those toils and snares, He will provide the grace to get through each of them and a path out of the valley of darkness. Life will never be easy and sometimes it does get harder and harder as the years go by. We must, however, endure as good soldiers in the army of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Paul, in his letter to the Romans, reminds them in chapter 5, "We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance." Instead of breaking down in tears of fear, uncertainty and doubt, we should rejoice in the victory that we have already achieved through the blood of Jesus. That wonderful salvation that God has provided even when we were still sinners.

I remember the words of an old, old hymn from my childhood, "There is a fountain filled with blood, Drawn from Immanuel’s veins; And sinners, plunged beneath that flood, Lose all their guilty stains." Yes, we have the blood of Christ Jesus that has washed away the stains of guilt and sin. When we immerse ourselves into that crimson flow, we are clean as the driven snow. Once you have received that gift of salvation, you now have the power by and through the name of our Savior Jesus Christ to cast out Satan from your lives. You can rejoice even when times are tough and know that God gives us the grace that is sufficient to meet our needs. 

But, for us to do these things, we must be strong in our faith. We must suffer just as the saints of old. By doing these things we develop endurance and the strength to go on through the valley of darkness. As we go through that valley, we must rejoice in knowing that our God is in Heaven and that He reigns supremely over all things. He will give us the grace that we need to make it through all of the traps, pitfalls and obstacles that the enemy has set before us. We may feel the slings and arrows of the enemy's assault, but rest assured that we can stand firm His grace which will see us through everything.

May God richly bless each of you and may His face shine upon you.

Daily Word of God - Isaiah 54:10

Isaiah 54:10 New Living Translation (NLT)

10 "For the mountains may move
    and the hills disappear,
but even then my faithful love for you will remain.
    My covenant of blessing will never be broken,"
    says the Lord, who has mercy on you.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Prayers for the Persecuted - Pastor Andrew Brunson

In a bleak turn, the Turkish prosecutor has essentially demanded a life sentence for American Pastor Andrew Brunson.

Pastor Andrew devoted 23 years to peaceful service of the Christian community in Turkey until he was arrested 17 months ago.

Since his arrest, there has been little progress in his case and not a scrap of evidence produced against him. It seems Pastor Andrew has been locked away simply because of his Christian faith.

Pastor Andrew's Turkish attorney has now confirmed the prosecution has submitted an indictment asking for a sentence of 35 years. Pastor Andrew is 50 years old, so such a request essentially becomes a life sentence for the innocent pastor. The court now has 15 days to decide whether the case should proceed.

Please continue to pray for Pastor Andrew and all brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus who suffer for their faith.

Daily Word of God - Zephaniah 3:17

Zephaniah 3:17 New Living Translation (NLT)

17 For the Lord your God is living among you.
    He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
    With his love, he will calm all your fears.
    He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.

Daily Word of God - Jonah 2:2

Jonah 2:2 New Living Translation (NLT)

2 He said,

"I cried out to the Lord in my great trouble,
    and he answered me.
I called to you from the land of the dead,
    and Lord, you heard me!"

Friday, March 16, 2018

Daily Word of God - Psalm 22:19

Psalm 22:19 New Living Translation (NLT)

19 O Lord, do not stay far away!
    You are my strength; come quickly to my aid!

Daily Word of God - Malachi 1:11

Malachi 1:11 New Living Translation (NLT)

11 But my name is honored by people of other nations from morning till night. All around the world they offer sweet incense and pure offerings in honor of my name. For my name is great among the nations,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Daily Word of God - 1 John 4:11-12

1 John 4:11-12 New Living Translation (NLT)

11 Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. 12 No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.

Daily Word of God - Psalm 37:5

Psalm 37:5 New Living Translation (NLT)

5 Commit everything you do to the Lord.
    Trust him, and he will help you.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Daily Word of God - Psalm 68:35

Psalm 68:35 New Living Translation (NLT)

35 God is awesome in his sanctuary.
    The God of Israel gives power and strength to his people.

Praise be to God!

Mid-Week Message - Laughter

"A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person's strength."  Proverbs 17:22 (NLT)

The Pastor came to visit the other day. He said that at my advanced age I should be thinking of the hereafter. I told him, "Oh, I do it all the time. "No matter where I am - in the living room, upstairs, in the kitchen, or down in the basement, I am always asking myself: "Now, what am I here after?"

Did that make you smile just a tiny bit?  I hope so.  One of the wonderful gifts from our Lord is the ability to laugh and be joyful.  There is way too much happening in each of our lives to be serious about.  It feels so good to just let loose and laugh.  

My father was a man who loved to laugh.  His sense of humor was remarkable.  This man had come from a poor family.  He left home when he was only nine years old.  My grandfather was a jack-of-all-trades and took work whenever he could get it.  My dad, being the oldest boy was required to work however he could, even at such a young age, and give all of the money he earned to my grandfather.  Daddy, being strong willed, decided that if he was going to do the work, he was going to keep the money.  So he went to some friends that owned a cafe and offered to work for them after school if he could live in the small apartment above the cafe.  They agreed.  He got up early, went to school, worked until closing, did his homework and went to bed.  At the age of eighteen he enlisted in the army.  I tell you these things because he could have taken a very different attitude about life.  He could have been a serious and bitter man.  But he loved to joke and have fun and he passed that on to his children and grandchildren.  

I love to think back to all of Daddy's antics.  It gives me great joy to remember him having fun.  Since we are made in His image, I believe that God also has a sense of humor and that He enjoys hearing laughter from His children.  I know I feel much better emotionally and mentally after a good bout humor.  It is also a proven fact that laughter helps physical healing.  Thus my choice of today's verse.  Along with a healthy diet and exercise, we should be instructed to take care of ourselves by getting a daily dose of mirth.  

Before I close, here is one more.  The story of Adam and Eve was being carefully explained in the children's Sunday School class. Following the story, the children were asked to draw some pictures that would illustrate the story. Little Bobby drew a picture of a car with three people in it. In the front seat was a man and in the back seat, a man and a woman. The teacher was at a loss to understand how this illustrated the lesson of Adam and Eve. Little Bobby was prompt with his explanation. "Why, this is God driving Adam and Eve out of the garden!"

This week, I hope each of you finds plenty to be joyful about and that you get plenty of chances to laugh.  God bless you!

Prayer Requests - Christians in Iraq and Syria Persecuted for Their Faith

Innocent Christians - men, women, and children - have faced unspeakable horrors in Iraq and Syria. They have been terrorized, threatened with barbaric violence and death, and driven from their homes because of their Christian faith.

Please remember our brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus not only in Iraq and Syria but also all those around the world who are persecuted for their faith. Many Christians have to meet in secluded locations for fear that they or their families will be persecuted.

Each day, many are imprisoned, tortured or murdered for their faith. 

1 Peter 4:12-14 New Living Translation (NLT)

12 Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. 13 Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.

14 If you are insulted because you bear the name of Christ, you will be blessed, for the glorious Spirit of God rests upon you.

Daily Word of God - 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

2 Corinthians 1:3-5 New Living Translation (NLT)

3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. 4 He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 5 For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Daily Word of God - Psalm 119:116

Psalm 119:116 New Living Translation (NLT)

116 Lord, sustain me as you promised, that I may live!
    Do not let my hope be crushed.

Daily Word of God - Romans 5:5

Romans 5:5 New Living Translation (NLT)

5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Daily Word of God - Psalm 25:9

Psalm 25:9 New Living Translation (NLT)

9 He leads the humble in doing right,
    teaching them his way.

Daily Word of God - Isaiah 30:21

Isaiah 30:21 New Living Translation (NLT)

21 Your own ears will hear him.
    Right behind you a voice will say,
“This is the way you should go,”
    whether to the right or to the left.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Daily Word of God - Exodus 14:13

Exodus 14:13 New Living Translation (NLT)

13 But Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again."

Sunday Praise & Worship Message - Have a Little Faith

As many of you know, I love movies and use them extensively to illustrate points in my messages. They provide a springboard for the message and a common frame of reference. For this message, I look to one of my favorite movies, "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade".

In this movie, Indiana Jones must retrieve the Holy Grail in order to save his father. If you are familiar with the series, you know that retrieving anything is not an easy task. Indiana Jones must deal with three challenges to retrieve the Holy Grail. The last challenge, in my opinion, is the most difficult of all. It required him to leap from the lion's head across a bottomless chasm. When you consider the distance, it was impossible to run and jump across. Indiana Jones remembered the notes from his father's notebook. It required not a physical leap but rather a leap of faith. Indiana was able to quickly get through the other challenges with only his strength and wits to get him through them. Now, he is faced with something that required him to have faith. He could not trick or power his way through this challenge. It required him to trust in something that would make the impossible possible. 

We, too, face those same types of challenges that require us to rely on our faith to overcome the impossible. We have all faced those impossible situations in our lives. In the past couple of weeks, I have been dealing with the impossible challenges regarding many aspects of life. Those challenges seem to be impossible. I feel like I am standing in front of a brick wall that extends to infinity in all directions. The situation that I now face seems to be impossible to overcome on my own. I cannot overcome that obstacle by relying on my own strength, wisdom and experience. I have to take that leap of faith. 

I am not alone in my weakness of faith. Let us look at Peter in Matthew 14. The disciples see Jesus walking on the water. Peter calls out to the Lord and shouts out, "Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water." Jesus responds, "Yes, come." Peter goes over the side of the boat that he and the disciples are in and begins to walk on the water just like Jesus. However, when he sees the waves and feels a strong wind, Peter loses his concentration on the Lord and begins to sink into the water. He cries to the Lord to save him. Jesus grabs him and says, "You have so little faith. Why did you doubt me?"

When you face trials and tribulations in life, you must concentrate wholly on Him and be resolute in your faith. I know that it is difficult especially when you are facing problem after problem and each seems larger than the last. Each one piling up on you. You feel the weight of the world on your shoulders and you are driven to the ground. I have been there and will face more challenges like that in the future. We will all face more and more of those challenges in the future. No one is exempt. 

Over the past couple of weeks, my wife and I have been asked to pray for so many who are facing huge challenges in their lives. When I compare my challenges to theirs, I realize that theirs are worse than mine. I will not go into the exact nature of each prayer request, but I can tell you that what they face dwarfs my problems. Several have asked my wife and I how we are able to face our problems. We tell them the same thing. It is through faith that we are able to face them. 

In Mark 14, we see a great example of how faith can work to heal us not only physically but also spiritually. Jesus, while walking through a crowd of people, felt a woman touch his robe. She believed that by touching just his robe she would be healed of her bleeding. She had suffered for years and doctors could not help her. I am sure she tried everything and anything to stop the bleeding. She decided that the only way she could be healed was to just touch his robe. She believed in the man from Galilee and that he could heal. When she believed that and then acted, she turned belief into faith. She, like Peter, took that step onto the water. She remained focused and was able to concentrate on reaching out to Jesus. Instead of getting spooked and slipping away from Jesus, she was able to touch his robe. Jesus asked who had touched him. The woman came forward and fell to her knees. She told him what she had done. Jesus, in verse 34, tells her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over."

Yes, it was her faith that healed her. She believed in Jesus and then acted. Belief plus action builds faith. Peter could have believed he could walk on water and not taken that step outside of the boat. Peter's faith came from putting his legs over the side and walking on the water. Faith is sometimes fragile. We get distracted and lose it very quickly. Just like Peter, we sink back into our problems and feel that all is lost. I know that my own faith is fragile. There are times when I feel alone or that God is not listening. I feel that I have been singled out and that I am the only one in the world facing problems. When that happens, I refocus on Jesus and ask for help. Just like Peter, Jesus will snatch you up from the waves and lift you up.

All we have to do is have faith. When the disciples asked Jesus why they could not cast out demons, Jesus, in Matthew 17:20, tells them, "You don't have enough faith. I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it would move. Nothing would be impossible." We, like the disciples have that same challenge. We allow the world to tell us that things are impossible and we believe what the world is telling us. Instead of listening to the world, listen to the Lord. He will never fail nor forsake you. You just need to have faith.

Once we exercise our faith, we can see the miracles that God provides in our lives. Some may be small and others are large. In my case, I received the miracle of life. God provided a team of doctors with the experience and wisdom to save my life. I had to not only believe but also have faith that God will provide all that I needed at the right time. Once I, like the bleeding woman, reached out in faith, I knew that I would be healed and that I could stand firmly in His grace.

May God richly bless you and keep you safe. 

Daily Word of God - Job 37:14-18

Job 37:14-18 New Living Translation (NLT)

14 “Pay attention to this, Job.
    Stop and consider the wonderful miracles of God!
15 Do you know how God controls the storm
    and causes the lightning to flash from his clouds?
16 Do you understand how he moves the clouds
    with wonderful perfection and skill?
17 When you are sweltering in your clothes
    and the south wind dies down and everything is still,
18 he makes the skies reflect the heat like a bronze mirror.
    Can you do that?

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Daily Word of God - Matthew 5:6

Matthew 5:6 New Living Translation (NLT)

6 God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice,
    for they will be satisfied.

Daily Word of God - Jeremiah 31:25

Jeremiah 31:25 New Living Translation (NLT)

25 For I have given rest to the weary and joy to the sorrowing.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Prayer Request - Tragedy at a California Veterans Home

Please pray for the families of the three victims and for the gunman's family. A gunman and three hostages who were taken prisoner inside the nation's largest veterans' home in California were found dead late Friday after an hours-long standoff.

This occurred in the Veterans Home of California in Yountville, in the heart of Napa Valley's wine country.

Daily Word of God - Mark 7:20-23

Mark 7:20-23 New Living Translation (NLT)

20 And then he added, “It is what comes from inside that defiles you. 21 For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. 23 All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.”

Daily Word of God - Mark 7:15

Mark 7:15 New Living Translation (NLT)

15 It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Daily Word of God - Psalm 138:8

Psalm 138:8 New Living Translation (NLT)

8 The Lord will work out his plans for my life—
    for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever.
    Don’t abandon me, for you made me.

Daily Word of God - Philippians 1:6

Philippians 1:6 New Living Translation (NLT)

6 And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Daily Word of God - Psalm 143:10

Psalm 143:10 New Living Translation (NLT)

10 Teach me to do your will,
    for you are my God.
May your gracious Spirit lead me forward
    on a firm footing.

Mid-Week Message - Life's Storms

Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him.  Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”  He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.  The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”  Matthew 8:23-27 (NIV)

At 5:00 this morning, we were awoken by a thunderstorm.  If I had been alone, I would have shut my eyes and gone back to sleep.  However, we have two dogs that are afraid of thunder.  They also are frightened by high wind and heavy rain.  One of them simply shakes and looks around.  But the other one goes down the hall and tries to find a safe place, scratching at doorstops on his way.  It is that "thwung" sound that causes me to get up and keeps me awake.  No matter how I try to reassure and comfort him, he is inconsolable and I think to myself, "After all this time, why doesn't he understand that I will keep him safe?"

Life is full of storms and many of them send us running to seek shelter.  Economic downturns, the loss of a job, health challenges, broken or troubled relationships and countless more situations enter our lives without warning.  Panic sets in as we rattle our brains trying to come up with solutions.  Our emotions often take over as we seek a symbolic emergency flare to summon help.

When the disciples were in the storm, their first response was to assume their boat was going to sink and they were going to drown.  These were men that walked with Jesus everyday.  They did have the sense to wake up the Lord and ask Him to save them.  As eyewitnesses to His love and power, one would think they would have had enough confidence in Him to be able to control their fear.  Apparently, though, that was not the case.  His response was to question their faith and ask them why they were so afraid.  Then He "rebuked" the storm and all was calm.

I have been a Christian for many years.  I have seen the Lord work in my life over and over again.  I have been comforted during tragedies, rescued from difficulties and reassured that I am not alone.  Yet, when one of life's unexpected storms arises, I, like my sweet dog, shake in fear and seek a place to hide until the storm is over.  To me, as He did with the disciples, His question is, "Why are you so afraid?  Do you not remember who I am and how much I love you?  Do you not recall how I have promised to be with you always?  Do you not remember that I am capable of performing miracles?"

To myself I say, "Oh, ye of little faith!"  Truly He has seen me through my life in safety and rescued me from countless troubles.  His miracles have been numerous and He has never left my side, even for a second.  

If you struggle, as I do, with the fear that arises as life thunders and shakes, I urge you to remember all the times that He has been there to calm your storms.  The first thing we need to do is bow our heads and speak with Him.  He never sleeps, never finds our needs bothersome, and delights when we turn to Him.  Have a calm week.  God bless you! 

Daily Word of God - James 3:13

James 3:13 New Living Translation (NLT)

13 If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Daily Word of God - Romans 8:38-39

Romans 8:38-39 New Living Translation (NLT)

38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Daily Word of God - Psalm 23:4

Psalm 23:4 New Living Translation (NLT)

4 Even when I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
    for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
    protect and comfort me.