Sunday, September 30, 2018

Daily Word of God - 1 Peter 2:21-25

1 Peter 2:21-25 New Living Translation (NLT)

21 For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered[a] for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.

22 He never sinned,
    nor ever deceived anyone.[b]
23 He did not retaliate when he was insulted,
    nor threaten revenge when he suffered.
He left his case in the hands of God,
    who always judges fairly.
24 He personally carried our sins
    in his body on the cross
so that we can be dead to sin
    and live for what is right.
By his wounds
    you are healed.
25 Once you were like sheep
    who wandered away.
But now you have turned to your Shepherd,
    the Guardian of your souls.

2:21 Some manuscripts read died.
2:22 Isa 53:9.

Sunday Praise & Worship - I Got You

Last Friday, I had a hospital visit to see my doctor and discuss the results of my surgery. I had gotten to the hospital early just to avoid the downtown Atlanta traffic. While I was waiting, I had a cup of coffee and a yogurt. The hospital was busy as usual with doctors, nurses, lab technicians, patients, facility people and a whole host of others walking briskly past where I was sitting. Each had a look of purpose on their face. Some looked like they were late to an appointment and were trying to get through the clumps of people in the hallway in front of the cafeteria. Some smiled while others acted impatiently. In short, it was a typical scene in a very busy hospital.

As I enjoyed my coffee, I looked outside at the sky and noticed that it was grey. It looked like it was going to rain. I was praying that I would not have to drive to my next doctor’s appointment in heavy rain with slick roads. As I was looking outside, a small, quiet voice inside my heart said, “Turn and look.” If there is one thing I learned from the Bible stories of Samuel and Elijah, God speaks in whispers or calls out in a voice. So, like Samuel, I responded, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” I turned and saw a woman wearing a black t-shirt. It had a message written in big, white letters. It said, “I got you. God.” I was amazed by the direct and exact message. Little did I know that that message would be words for the week and the weeks to follow. 

When the time of my appointment arrived, I went up and checked in. Once there, I noticed others sitting in the waiting area with me. Some had huge sections of their face surgically removed. Cancer, infection and a number of other things could result in that sort of radical surgical intervention. I became very uneasy and wondered if that would be my fate. Would my surgeon have to remove more tissue? What would my quality of life be if that sort of surgery is necessary? How would we be able to afford it? I let Satan start to whisper in my ear and I pushed God’s early direct and exact message of hope out of my head and heart. I gave in to the fear, uncertainty and doubt. I tried desperately to return to the Lord and seek His refuge but the words of the accuser began to sink further and further into not only my heart and mind but also my soul. I was wracked with fear. I felt like a small boat on a stormy sea about ready to founder in the waves.

Finally, I was called back to an exam room by the doctor’s nurse practitioner. She began the exam and set things up quickly for the doctor so that he could quickly get through my follow up. He knew I would have a lot of questions. As we talked, the news that he provided me was not bad nor was it good. It was the “let’s wait and see” response. After all I had been through, I was hoping for a glimmer of hope and a step in the right direction, but I did not get it. God’s message was now lost and I let Satan continue to whisper words of fear, discouragement and doubt. Part of me wanted to just break down and weep. The other part wanted to thank God for the work of the surgeon and what he had done thus far to stop the ravages of this horrible disease. You can easily guess which part won out over the other. I let the words of Satan get a foothold and he continued to spew fear, uncertainty and doubt. Just like he tempted Christ Jesus, he did the same to me. However, unlike Jesus, I did not regain my stronghold of faith in the Word of God. I felt alone and abandoned. I felt that all of the hard work and all of the times that I had sought God meant nothing to anyone, especially God.

When I left his office to go to my next appointment about thirty minutes away, I was devastated. I called my wife, Karla, and let her know about the appointment and how I felt. I was all played out and my faith was in tatters. I had hoped that I would receive some good news instead I received only more fear, uncertainty and doubt. 

After arriving at my next appointment, I reported to the doctor the findings from my surgeon. He had seen the notes from the surgery and knew that more tissue was removed than originally planned. He knew I was upset by all of this and he gave me some hope, but Satan’s words were still rattling around my brain and running through my heart. He and his nurses continued to give me more and more hope and were optimistic that things would work out in the end. 

As I left his office, I was still upset, depressed and dejected. I, like Job, said the same thing to God, “I have done no wrong. Why is this still happening?” My whole drive home was consumed with those questions. I called my wife and let her know that the last doctor was more optimistic and said that things would work themselves out. We just had to wait and see. It could take as long as four to six more weeks before we will know anything.

When I got back to Newnan, I stopped by Walmart to pick up a few items. As I was leaving, I saw my dear brother in Christ, Gino, at the door. I told him what was going on and let him know what I was feeling. He immediately got his wife, Kathy, on the phone and we began to pray. She prayed for healing and strength to get through this situation and reminded me that all things are done for the glory of God. After praying with her and Gino right there in a Walmart, I was weeping tears of joy. I was so glad that God reminded me of His earlier message. I needed time to let His words and message sink into my mind.

God’s direct and exact message and His message through Gino and Kathy began to work as I slumbered. Saturday morning was a new day and I had a choice to make. I could continue to wallow in fear, uncertainty and doubt or trust in the Lord and blood of Christ Jesus. It was purely up to me. I could ignore His message of “I got you” or I could embrace it as my rallying cry and rally my faith in the Lord. What was I going to choose as my path?

After praying with Karla, I began to feel my faith strengthen. I was reinvigorated by the Holy Spirit and knew that God will definitely see me through this. I began to focus on a particular psalm that I had provided to others many times. I turned in my Bible to Psalm 34 and began to read again with a renewed heart the words of that powerful psalm. The passage that caught not only my physical eyes but also my spiritual ones reads, “17 The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles. 18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. 19 The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time. 20 For the Lord protects the bones of the righteous; not one of them is broken!

As I began to let these verses soak deeply into my soul like water on parched soil, and the messages that He provided on Friday, I realized that all I need to do is to seek Him and continue to trust Him no matter what happens. By remembering the words and promises of the Lord, I know He will deliver me from my illness and my other problems. All of it will be done for His glory and His alone.

Once words and promises of the Lord began to refresh my spirit, I knew that I had nothing to fear. The whispers of the enemy disappeared immediately and I rested peacefully in the arms of the Lord and knew that He truly has everything under control. Another psalm that came to mind as I rested was Psalm 9. David writes, “9 The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. 10 Those who know your name trust in you, for you, O Lord, do not abandon those who search for you.

We all face troubles each and every day of our lives. Sometimes they are big while other times they are small. But, in every case, we need to seek the Lord and know that if we do He will not abandon us and will rescue us from our troubles. He gives us the grace to be able to get through those tough times. As Paul so aptly states in 2 Corinthians, “9 Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.

By allowing our weaknesses and frailties to become our strengths by relying completely on God’s grace and love and the power of Christ Jesus working through us, we know that we can get through all of our troubles. As you go through this week, remember the words of that woman’s t-shirt, “I got you. God.” Those words will serve as your reminder that God has got us and will not allow a single bone to be broken. With those promises firmly planted in your heart, mind and soul, you can without any doubts or reservations know that you 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)

Daily Word of God - John 14:15-21

John 14:15-21 New Living Translation (NLT)

Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit
15 “If you love me, obey[a] my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate,[b] who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.[c] 18 No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you. 19 Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Since I live, you also will live. 20 When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.”

14:15 Other manuscripts read you will obey; still others read you should obey.
14:16 Or Comforter, or Encourager, or Counselor. Greek reads Paraclete; also in 14:26.
14:17 Some manuscripts read and is in you.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Daily Word of God - Psalm 46:1-3

Psalm 46:1-3 New Living Translation (NLT)

Psalm 46
For the choir director: A song of the descendants of Korah, to be sung by soprano voices.[a]

1 God is our refuge and strength,
    always ready to help in times of trouble.
2 So we will not fear when earthquakes come
    and the mountains crumble into the sea.
3 Let the oceans roar and foam.
    Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge! Interlude

46:Title Hebrew according to alamoth.

Daily Word of God - Matthew 5:43-48

Matthew 5:43-48 New Living Translation (NLT)

Teaching about Love for Enemies
43 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’[a] and hate your enemy. 44 But I say, love your enemies![b] Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. 46 If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. 47 If you are kind only to your friends,[c] how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. 48 But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.

5:43 Lev 19:18.
5:44 Some manuscripts add Bless those who curse you. Do good to those who hate you. Compare Luke 6:27-28.
5:47 Greek your brothers.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Daily Word of God - 1 Peter 3:13-17

1 Peter 3:13-17 New Living Translation (NLT)

Suffering for Doing Good
13 Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. 15 Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. 16 But do this in a gentle and respectful way.[a] Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ. 17 Remember, it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is what God wants, than to suffer for doing wrong!

3:16 Some English translations put this sentence in verse 15.

Daily Word of God - John 14:1-7

John 14:1-7 New Living Translation (NLT)

Jesus, the Way to the Father
14 “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. 2 There is more than enough room in my Father’s home.[a] If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?[b] 3 When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.”

5 “No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. 7 If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is.[c] From now on, you do know him and have seen him!”

14:2a Or There are many rooms in my Father’s house.
14:2b Or If this were not so, I would have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you. Some manuscripts read If this were not so, I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you.
14:7 Some manuscripts read If you have really known me, you will know who my Father is.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Daily Word of God - Psalm 90:13-17

Psalm 90:13-17 New Living Translation (NLT)

13 O Lord, come back to us!
    How long will you delay?
    Take pity on your servants!
14 Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love,
    so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives.
15 Give us gladness in proportion to our former misery!
    Replace the evil years with good.
16 Let us, your servants, see you work again;
    let our children see your glory.
17 And may the Lord our God show us his approval
    and make our efforts successful.
    Yes, make our efforts successful!

Daily Word of God - John 3:18-21

John 3:18-21 New Living Translation (NLT)

18 “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. 19 And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. 20 All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. 21 But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.[a]”

3:21 Or can see God at work in what he is doing.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Daily Word of God - Proverbs 3:27-28

Proverbs 3:27-28 New Living Translation (NLT)

27 Do not withhold good from those who deserve it
    when it’s in your power to help them.
28 If you can help your neighbor now, don’t say,
    “Come back tomorrow, and then I’ll help you.”

Mid-Week Message - Lessons From Childhood

"Let the word [spoken by] Christ (the Messiah) have its home [in your hearts and minds] and dwell in you in [all its] richness, as you teach and admonish and train one another in all insight and intelligence and wisdom [in spiritual things, and as you sing] psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, making melody to God with [His] grace in your hearts."  Colossians 3:16 (AMPC)

Children have been my life.  I started babysitting in the summers at the age of nine then graduated to babysitting on weekends and nights.  My first job was at a daycare center and I worked in daycare centers all through college and afterward.  Eventually I became a nanny for one family and then two.  

My daughter loves to hear the stories from those days, such as the little boy who could not correctly pronounce Pinocchio so he called him Pickanose.  I have no idea how many times I told her that story but it was a lot.  Children like to hear things over and over.  In my house we read the same two or three books every night for so long that I had most of them memorized!  Movies were watched over and over and songs played continually until Mom and Dad were hearing them in their sleep.  She had a Ronald McDonald tape that she got in a Happy Meal that I found myself singing the songs from while in the shower.  But I wouldn't trade those days for anything.  

There is great comfort in the familiar.  The first songs that we teach our children, such as "Jesus Loves Me" are simple but also easily remembered truths that teach them about the faithfulness of the Lord and the love that He has for everyone.  They like to sing them over and over and that is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom for them.  As they grow we begin to teach them scriptures such as John 3:16.  Because they hear them often, the words are written on their hearts and in their minds where they will dwell forever.  

I sometimes miss the days of childhood.  Things were much simpler when I could just allow the adults to worry about the problems of life and I could enjoy reading and re-reading books and singing the songs I learned in Sunday School.  Memorizing scripture was a challenge that was fun for me and although I had no idea the words would stay with me all my life, in actuality God was inscribing them into my very soul, preparing me for the day when I would need to refer to them in my adult years. 

I am so thankful now for the adults that the Lord placed in my life to teach me the basic truths about His love and steadfastness.  Each time they sang, prayed or recited scripture with me they were helping to engrave God's Word deeper into my mind and heart and teach me about who He is. Because I have that foundation I have hope to turn to on the toughest days. I am also thankful that He used me in so many little lives to do that same thing.  I hope they are thankful too.

As we go through this week, let's see how many of those songs and verses we can remember.  I am pretty sure we will each be surprised by all that comes to mind.  Then, each time we hum the tunes or think of the words, let's say prayers of thanksgiving for those people who invested into our lives.  Because they loved the Lord enough to share with us, we have knowledge and wisdom that is eternal.  God bless you!

Daily Word of God - Matthew 7:1-6

Matthew 7:1-6 New Living Translation (NLT)

Do Not Judge Others
7 “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. 2 For you will be treated as you treat others.[a] The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.[b]

3 “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye[c] when you have a log in your own? 4 How can you think of saying to your friend,[d] ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.

6 “Don’t waste what is holy on people who are unholy.[e] Don’t throw your pearls to pigs! They will trample the pearls, then turn and attack you.

7:2a Or For God will judge you as you judge others.
7:2b Or The measure you give will be the measure you get back.
7:3 Greek your brother’s eye; also in 7:5.
7:4 Greek your brother.
7:6 Greek Don’t give the sacred to dogs.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Daily Word of God - Psalm 84:10-12

Psalm 84:10-12 New Living Translation (NLT)

10 A single day in your courts
    is better than a thousand anywhere else!
I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God
    than live the good life in the homes of the wicked.
11 For the Lord God is our sun and our shield.
    He gives us grace and glory.
The Lord will withhold no good thing
    from those who do what is right.
12 O Lord of Heaven’s Armies,
    what joy for those who trust in you.

Daily Word of God - John 9:1-5

John 9:1-5 New Living Translation (NLT)

Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind
9 As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. 2 “Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?”

3 “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him. 4 We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us.[a] The night is coming, and then no one can work. 5 But while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world.”

9:4 Other manuscripts read I must quickly carry out the tasks assigned me by the one who sent me; still others read We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent me.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Daily Word of God - Psalm 139:23-24

Psalm 139:23-24 New Living Translation (NLT)

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 Point out anything in me that offends you,
    and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

Daily Word of God - Matthew 5:3-10

Matthew 5:3-10 New Living Translation (NLT)

The Beatitudes
3 “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him,[a]
    for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
4 God blesses those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
5 God blesses those who are humble,
    for they will inherit the whole earth.
6 God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice,[b]
    for they will be satisfied.
7 God blesses those who are merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
8 God blesses those whose hearts are pure,
    for they will see God.
9 God blesses those who work for peace,
    for they will be called the children of God.
10 God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right,
    for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

5:3 Greek poor in spirit.
5:6 Or for righteousness.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Daily Word of God - 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 New Living Translation (NLT)

4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Sunday Praise & Worship Message - Clean Inside and Out

One of the things we noticed when we moved to Georgia a little over four years ago were a lot of signs advertising businesses that power washed houses. Once I got settled into my new job, I asked a couple of my colleagues about these businesses. It turns out that the humid weather, tree pollen and red dirt tended to make a house look dirty.  The sun would bake the combination of mold, mildew and dirt into a dingy film or stain that would just make a house look sad. After living in our house for a couple of years, I realized that that dingy film could not be easily washed off with soap, water and brush. It really required a pressure washer to loosen and wash away the film. In fact, a lot of the businesses that did pressure washing used a mixed of water and bleach to break down the film and wash it away. Even the roof shingles would have a film build up. So, every spring I would see these signs popping up along the roadside for pressure washing houses, roofs and driveways. 

When I was growing up in Texas, my mother had her springtime ritual of doing a deep house cleaning. Anything that was not nailed down was taken out and scrubbed within an inch of its life. Mattresses were flipped. Closets emptied and old clothing would be either donated or given to our neighbors who enjoyed using old clothes for quilts. Although we did not have to pressure wash the outside of the house, we had to clean the inside.

No matter whether you own a home, car, boat, airplane or whatever, you clean them inside and out. By cleaning each thoroughly, you ensure that they will last for a long time and that dirt, grime, mold, mildew and rust will not destroy what you have worked so hard to afford.

Our physical and spiritual lives are the same way. We must bathe regularly to keep our bodies clean. We must keep our spiritual lives clean as well by doing what the Holy Spirit directs us to do. When we have our spiritual lives cleaned up, they radiate their beauty and the glory of God into our physical lives. Others see what it truly means to be a Christian.

Paul tells us, in 1 Corinthians 6, that our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit. We are responsible for their upkeep and continual spiritual maintenance. “19 Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, 20 for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.

By maintaining our physical bodies and spirits, we bring honor and glory to our God and creator. It is only by His grace and power that we have been redeemed and made holy. It is through His one and only son, Christ Jesus, that we have received this gift. We should not take it for granted or treat it as something we are entitled to. We cannot earn our way to heaven or everlasting life on our good looks or what we have done for those around us. Our salvation comes from believing in God and then accepting His will as more than just a part of our life. His will is our life. As such, we must always ensure that everything we do and say brings only honor and glory to Him. This includes taking care of our outside body and our inner spirit.   

In Luke 11, Jesus is invited to dinner with one of the Pharisees. Pharisees were responsible for the strict observance of the traditional and written law. Because of this strict observance, they held a place of superior sanctity in the Jewish faith. When Jesus sat down for dinner, he did not go through the traditional hand-washing ritual required by Jewish custom. The Pharisee immediately noticed this and was amazed by his failing to do what was dictated by tradition. Jesus responds to his look of astonishment, “39 You Pharisees are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and wickedness! 40 Fools! Didn’t God make the inside as well as the outside? 41 So clean the inside by giving gifts to the poor, and you will be clean all over.” 

While the Pharisees concerned themselves with the cleaning of the outside, some forgot or ignored the fact that the inside of a person is equally, if not more, important. In order for us to clean our spirits, we must act with a Christ-like attitude. We must love one another, take care of those who are in need, pray not only for those we love but also pray for our enemies, share the Good News with all and, most importantly, praise and worship our Heavenly Father. It is only by doing these things that we are able to clean our spirits and make the Holy Spirit a welcomed guest in our hearts. As we continue to grow in the teachings of Christ Jesus and follow his example, we are able to keep and maintain that radiant glow that reflects the radiance of the Father’s glory into the darkness of a sinful world.

If we just occupy ourselves with maintaining our outward appearance, sooner or later people will see us as posers or fakes. We constantly hear reports on the television or see articles on the Internet about “fake news”. As Christians, we cannot be accused of being fakes or charlatans. Once this occurs, God’s gift of salvation becomes cheapened and has no value in this world. We must always remember that we are members of a royal priesthood and the ambassadors of God. We are His emissaries and have a special mission to go into the world to preach the Word of God and baptize them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 

The sinful world of darkness is eager to marginalize our faith and will do anything to stamp out Christianity. As Christians, we cannot allow that to occur by posing as Christians. We must act and believe as children of the Most High.

In Matthew 23. Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for acting like righteous men. “27 Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

Do not let yourself fall into spiritual disrepair or fail to keep a clean spirit. Make sure you not only keep a clean outside but keep a clean, spotless inside. If we fail, then we are no better than the Pharisees that Jesus called hypocrites.

In recent studies by religious polling organizations, the number one reason people cite as their reason for not going to church is that it is full of hypocrites. Over the decades, this one reason continues to grow. Are we as Christians whitewashed tombs? Are we relying on washing our hands and not concerned about spotless souls? Have we forgotten our sacred responsibilities as members of God’s royal priesthood? If we have, God will remind of us our duties to the Kingdom and will give us guidance back to Him if we ask. If we earnestly seek Him, we will find Him.

By maintaining a spotless life and spirit, our testimonies of the work and love of God and Jesus in our lives will ring out as clear and true as the ring of a bell. When we do all things for the honor and glory of God with clean hands and hearts, we can truly 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)

Daily Word of God - John 5:41-44

John 5:41-44 New Living Translation (NLT)

41 “Your approval means nothing to me, 42 because I know you don’t have God’s love within you. 43 For I have come to you in my Father’s name, and you have rejected me. Yet if others come in their own name, you gladly welcome them. 44 No wonder you can’t believe! For you gladly honor each other, but you don’t care about the honor that comes from the one who alone is God.[a]

5:44 Some manuscripts read from the only One.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Daily Word of God - 1 Corinthians 7:17-19

1 Corinthians 7:17-19 New Living Translation (NLT)

17 Each of you should continue to live in whatever situation the Lord has placed you, and remain as you were when God first called you. This is my rule for all the churches. 18 For instance, a man who was circumcised before he became a believer should not try to reverse it. And the man who was uncircumcised when he became a believer should not be circumcised now. 19 For it makes no difference whether or not a man has been circumcised. The important thing is to keep God’s commandments.

Daily Word of God - Matthew 13:18-23

Matthew 13:18-23 New Living Translation (NLT)

18 “Now listen to the explanation of the parable about the farmer planting seeds: 19 The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom and don’t understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches away the seed that was planted in their hearts. 20 The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. 21 But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. 22 The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. 23 The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”

Friday, September 21, 2018

Daily Word of God - Ephesians 6:13-17

Ephesians 6:13-17 New Living Translation (NLT)

13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. 14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.[a] 16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.[b] 17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

6:15 Or For shoes, put on the readiness to preach the Good News of peace with God.
6:16 Greek the evil one.

Daily Word of God - John 12:23-26

John 12:23-26 New Living Translation (NLT)

23 Jesus replied, “Now the time has come for the Son of Man[a] to enter into his glory. 24 I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. 25 Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity. 26 Anyone who wants to serve me must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me.

12:23 “Son of Man” is a title Jesus used for himself.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Daily Word of God - 1 Corinthians 4:5

1 Corinthians 4:5 New Living Translation (NLT)

5 So don’t make judgments about anyone ahead of time—before the Lord returns. For he will bring our darkest secrets to light and will reveal our private motives. Then God will give to each one whatever praise is due.

Daily Word of God - Matthew 7:13-14

Matthew 7:13-14 New Living Translation (NLT)

The Narrow Gate
13 “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell[a] is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. 14 But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.

7:13 Greek The road that leads to destruction.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Daily Word of God - Isaiah 40:26-31

Isaiah 40:26-31 New Living Translation (NLT)

26 Look up into the heavens.
    Who created all the stars?
He brings them out like an army, one after another,
    calling each by its name.
Because of his great power and incomparable strength,
    not a single one is missing.
27 O Jacob, how can you say the Lord does not see your troubles?
    O Israel, how can you say God ignores your rights?
28 Have you never heard?
    Have you never understood?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of all the earth.
He never grows weak or weary.
    No one can measure the depths of his understanding.
29 He gives power to the weak
    and strength to the powerless.
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.

Mid-Week Message - Unquestioning Faith

"Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."  Matthew 19:26 (NIV)

I want to share with you one of the miracles God performed in my life.  When I share this one, I get looks of skepticism, but I assure you it happened just this way.  I was on my way home from work in Austin, Texas one summer evening.  I was travelling down a busy road at about 50 mph.  I had just made it through a green light when all of a sudden the car in front of me slammed on its brakes which meant that I had to slam on my brakes.  I was barely able to avoid a collision.  What I was unaware of was a large car behind me that was following me very closely.  She didn't see what was happening.  I looked in my rear view mirror just in time to see her look up in horror before ramming into the back of my car, a Ford Pinto. But God had other plans.  Her car passed straight through mine.  Her face and my face were as close as if she had been in my back seat.  Afterwards, she and I just sat there trying to piece together what had just happened.  Ford Pintos, if you recall, had faulty gas tanks that could explode on impact. If not for the Lord stepping in to prevent that accident, we both would surely have perished.  

Last week I answered one of those "getting to know you" surveys on Facebook.  One of the questions on this one was "have you almost died?"  I said no but then I recalled this incident and realize that my life very well could have ended that day.  I know it is hard to believe.  I was there and it was hard for me to grasp.  I just know it happened and I praise God for protecting me that day, and every other day.

Last week someone told me that I have "great faith."  Because I know how much I struggle sometimes to wait upon and trust God for His perfect will, that is difficult for me to take in.  If this person was able to see Jesus by something I said or did, then I thank Him, not me.  But there are some things about my faith that I do know.  I believe that He is who He says He is.  I believe that He can do what He says He can do and that His love for me, and for you, has no limit.  I believe that He has all power and all knowledge and can be everywhere at the same time.  I believe that although there are countless souls that He has created, that He can be with each of them as if they were His only child. I don't understand it but I believe it.

I take Him at His word because He has shown me too much in my life for me not to.  I don't need to know how many hours or centuries were in each day of creation.  He said six days and that is good enough for me.  I don't need to know how He was able to part the Red Sea so the children of Israel could pass through on dry land.  It is enough to know He did.  I don't have to know for sure if Jonah was swallowed by a whale, a shark or something we are unaware of today or how he wasn't dissolved by the stomach acids.  Scripture says a big fish and God is great enough to keep him safe in there, just as He was able to help men walk through a fiery furnace without being burned, keep Daniel safe in the lion's den and help David kill Goliath with a stone in a sling.  

Simply put, He is.  When Moses asked who he should say sent him, the Lord's reply was "I Am".  If He was able to create the earth and all things in it along with the universes and beyond, then I know He is able to have all control over it all.  A pastor in Austin many years ago was asked how he was so sure God exists.  His answer has always stuck with me.  He said, "I know because I know because I know."  That is faith.  I have enough faith that I don't have to see His face to know He is there.  The evidence of His existence is etched on my soul.  I believe what He says because He has never let me down.  If I am disappointed in an answer to prayer, it is because I have been trying to fit His limitless will into my tiny box of expectation.  He is not bound by what I desire and has always, always, surpassed anything that I could dream of.  I may have to wait awhile, but patience is a fruit of the Spirit that needs more growth in my life.

Where do you stand today?  What is your faith like?  Can you take Him at His word and let Him be who He is or do you need for Him to be who YOU want Him to be?  The created does not get to dictate to the Creator.  I pray that if you find it difficult to trust Him, you will be able to allow yourself to accept Him as He is.  When you are able to do that your eyes will be opened to the myriad of miracles He is still performing everyday.  Don't miss them!  With great love and prayers, God bless you.

Daily Word of God - John 3:5-8

John 3:5-8 New Living Translation (NLT)

5 Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.[a] 6 Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.[b] 7 So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You[c] must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.”

3:5 Or and spirit. The Greek word for Spirit can also be translated wind; see 3:8.
3:6 Greek what is born of the Spirit is spirit.
3:7 The Greek word for you is plural; also in 3:12.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Daily Word of God - Psalm 145:14-20

Psalm 145:14-20 New Living Translation (NLT)

14 The Lord helps the fallen
    and lifts those bent beneath their loads.
15 The eyes of all look to you in hope;
    you give them their food as they need it.
16 When you open your hand,
    you satisfy the hunger and thirst of every living thing.
17 The Lord is righteous in everything he does;
    he is filled with kindness.
18 The Lord is close to all who call on him,
    yes, to all who call on him in truth.
19 He grants the desires of those who fear him;
    he hears their cries for help and rescues them.
20 The Lord protects all those who love him,
    but he destroys the wicked.

Daily Word of God - John 15:26-27

John 15:26-27 New Living Translation (NLT)

26 “But I will send you the Advocate[a]—the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will testify all about me. 27 And you must also testify about me because you have been with me from the beginning of my ministry.

15:26 Or Comforter, or Encourager, or Counselor. Greek reads Paraclete.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Daily Word of God - 1 Peter 3:8-12

1 Peter 3:8-12 New Living Translation (NLT)

All Christians
8 Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters.[a] Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. 9 Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing. 10 For the Scriptures say,

“If you want to enjoy life
    and see many happy days,
keep your tongue from speaking evil
    and your lips from telling lies.
11 Turn away from evil and do good.
    Search for peace, and work to maintain it.
12 The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right,
    and his ears are open to their prayers.
But the Lord turns his face
    against those who do evil.”[b]

3:8 Greek Show brotherly love.
3:10-12 Ps 34:12-16.

Daily Word of God - Matthew 24:42-44

Matthew 24:42-44 New Living Translation (NLT)

42 “So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming. 43 Understand this: If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would keep watch and not permit his house to be broken into. 44 You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Daily Word of God - Romans 15:5-6

Romans 15:5-6 New Living Translation (NLT)

5 May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. 6 Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Sunday Praise & Worship Message - Health and Prosperity

Over the past months, my family and I have endured many hardships. Between setbacks in my medical treatment and the financial burden that goes with the extraordinary medical care that was needed to save my life, we find ourselves questioning God almost daily. However, when we start going down that path, we quickly realize that God has provided for us. We still have a roof over our heads, food on our table and the ability to continue to pay our bills and financial obligations. I am not going to say that it has been easy, but God has provided us with our daily bread spiritually and physically. Although I am still recovering from the ravages of one of the rarest and most horrendous diseases to trouble humans, I am still thankful for my health.

The doctors and the specialists who took on my case when others would or could not have all said the same thing, “You should have been dead by now.” But, they all agree that I joined them in beating this. Whatever they asked me to do, I did without question. I gave it my all even when I just could not go on. My wife and daughter both saw me breaking down and literally on my hands and knees weeping from the pain and mental anguish of the treatment and the disease. It was only through God’s amazing grace that I was sustained and given the strength to meet the challenges of another day. He provided, and continues to provide, for our needs. 

As I was preparing for today’s message, I read a passage from Psalm 41 that really struck home and gave me something to really think about. “1 Oh, the joys of those who are kind to the poor! The Lord rescues them when they are in trouble. 2 The Lord protects them and keeps them alive. He gives them prosperity in the land and rescues them from their enemies. 3 The Lord nurses them when they are sick and restores them to health.

As I meditated on this passage, I began to see exactly what David was talking about. It is not our place to demand things from God. We can ask Him for help and the desires of our heart. God will provide the things we need in accordance to His will. However, we have the responsibility to serve Him by doing His will in the world. As we help those who are less fortunate, we gain a great joy knowing that we are serving God’s children. God sees that and will reward those actions by protecting, prospering and nursing back to health those who do His will on earth. God already knows what we need and provides for those needs daily. 

I began to reflect on this and remembered the times when I was in the hospital for three weeks and working to survive not only devastating damage that the disease was inflecting on my body but also the medications that were given to save my life. I took medications that were “treatments of last resort”. Instead of being the last line, those treatments became the first line of defense as a horrible battle raged inside my own body. The list of side effects for some of the medications read like a horror story. The side effects seemed worse than the disease, but I had to have the medications. The healthcare team worked together to make sure that I did not die from the medication and the damaging effects of the disease. It was a very fine line that we all walked hourly as we fought together to save my life.

During this entire ordeal, I was given opportunities to talk with other patients and the staff at the hospital. I professed my faith and continued to remain faithful even when things got harder and harder. During my first night in the hospital, I met a young nurse, Devin. We shared our faith with one another and she told me that she did not want to come into work that night, but something in her heart told her to go.

As I shared with her my faith and walk with the Lord, she told me that she originally did not want to come into work and was going to call in and ask to be excused. But, she felt something moving in her heart and a small voice told her to go to work. That same voice told her that she would be rewarded with something wonderful. The Holy Spirit gave her God’s message. She had felt her faith being challenged in other areas of her life. By sharing my faith, her faith was strengthened and renewed.

While in the hospital, I helped the nurses and staff wherever I could and did not stay in my bed. I worked closely with the doctors and the healthcare team to make sure that all the information about my care was communicated with everyone. In fact, one doctor even mistakenly called me, “Doctor”. As I told many, I am here to serve and not to be served. I had learned the lesson of Christ Jesus. 

In Mark 10, Jesus tells his disciples, “42 You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 43 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.

When we help those in need, we demonstrate Jesus’ lesson of serving. We serve God not because we expect Him to reward us for it. We serve Him because we love Him and realize that He loved us even when we were sinners and did not deserve it or His wonderful gift of salvation. The key to this is that we must be willing to obey God in all aspects of our lives not just during the times of plenty. We must be prepared to endure great woe. It is part of living. Paul tells us in Romans 5, “3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 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.

Even though we may not see the bounty that God has provided us daily or the joy of having the blessings of breath and the next heartbeat, we should always remember that He loves us and has given us health and prosperity each and every day of our lives. There are those that will tell that God is like a magic genie and is there to serve us when we need or want something. God does hear our prayers and provides for our needs. It would be so easy for Him to just have someone knock on your door and hand you a briefcase full of money. Do not get me wrong. I firmly believe that God can do all things even if it means someone gives you money. The rub is when you do not receive exactly what you desire. How do you handle that? Are you disappointed with God for not giving you what you wanted?

There were many nights when I prayed for a miracle healing so that I would not have to go through all of the pain and suffering of this horrible disease. I was so tired of the medications and what they were doing to me. I wanted it all to end quickly. I prayed for God’s healing touch. Each morning, I found myself with the disease and all of its problems still present in my life. But, I also found the health and prosperity of God’s love in my life. I had the blessing of another day to serve Him and His children. I had the prosperity of being able to buy groceries and meet my financial obligations. He took care of those things and showed me that He loves me daily. Each day is truly a blessing and a day of abundance. In Jeremiah 29, the Lord addresses His chosen who are in exile in Babylon, “10 You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. 11 For I know the plans I have for you. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 12 In those days when you pray, I will listen. 13 If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. 14 I will be found by you. I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.

When we seek Him wholeheartedly and seek His will in our lives, we can rest assured that we will enjoy health and prosperity. He will restore us and nurse us back to health. He will provide for our daily needs and will protect us. We have nothing to fear or worry about. We must learn to endure so that we develop that Christ-like character that will strengthen our hope in His salvation.

As you continue to go through this week, I ask you to read Psalm 23 and ask the Holy Spirit for God’s message. The first verse provides me the truth about God. “The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.” Once you truly understand those words, you will quickly see that you have your health and all of your needs met. With that firmly planted in your heart, you 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)

Daily Word of God - Mark 9:38-49

Mark 9:38-49 New Living Translation (NLT)

Using the Name of Jesus
38 John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons, but we told him to stop because he wasn’t in our group.”

39 “Don’t stop him!” Jesus said. “No one who performs a miracle in my name will soon be able to speak evil of me. 40 Anyone who is not against us is for us. 41 If anyone gives you even a cup of water because you belong to the Messiah, I tell you the truth, that person will surely be rewarded.

42 “But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone hung around your neck. 43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one hand than to go into the unquenchable fires of hell[a] with two hands.[b] 45 If your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one foot than to be thrown into hell with two feet.[c] 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out. It’s better to enter the Kingdom of God with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, 48 ‘where the maggots never die and the fire never goes out.’[d]

49 “For everyone will be tested with fire.[e]

9:43a Greek Gehenna; also in 9:45, 47.
9:43b Some manuscripts add verse 44, ‘where the maggots never die and the fire never goes out.’ See 9:48.
9:45 Some manuscripts add verse 46, ‘where the maggots never die and the fire never goes out.’ See 9:48.
9:48 Isa 66:24.
9:49 Greek salted with fire; other manuscripts add and every sacrifice will be salted with salt.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Daily Word of God - Romans 8:5-8

Romans 8:5-8 New Living Translation (NLT)

5 Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. 6 So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. 7 For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. 8 That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.

Prayers and Support for Those Affected by Hurricane Florence

Please keep those affected by Hurricane Florence and those providing help in your prayers. The storm is estimated to dump almost 10 trillion gallons of rain starting in North Carolina alone. With almost a million households without power, they need your help. Please donate to the organizations providing assistance.

As always, Samaritan's Purse is already reaching out to those in need. Click here to donate. 

Daily Word of God - Luke 11:37-41

Luke 11:37-41 New Living Translation (NLT)

Jesus Criticizes the Religious Leaders
37 As Jesus was speaking, one of the Pharisees invited him home for a meal. So he went in and took his place at the table.[a] 38 His host was amazed to see that he sat down to eat without first performing the hand-washing ceremony required by Jewish custom. 39 Then the Lord said to him, “You Pharisees are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and wickedness! 40 Fools! Didn’t God make the inside as well as the outside? 41 So clean the inside by giving gifts to the poor, and you will be clean all over.

11:37 Or and reclined.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Daily Word of God - Psalm 41:1-3

Psalm 41:1-3 New Living Translation (NLT)

Psalm 41
For the choir director: A psalm of David.
1 Oh, the joys of those who are kind to the poor!
    The Lord rescues them when they are in trouble.
2 The Lord protects them
    and keeps them alive.
He gives them prosperity in the land
    and rescues them from their enemies.
3 The Lord nurses them when they are sick
    and restores them to health.

Daily Word of God - John 6:53-58

John 6:53-58 New Living Translation (NLT)

53 So Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life within you. 54 But anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise that person at the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. 57 I live because of the living Father who sent me; in the same way, anyone who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 I am the true bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will not die as your ancestors did (even though they ate the manna) but will live forever.”

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Daily Word of God - Colossians 4:2-6

Colossians 4:2-6 New Living Translation (NLT)

An Encouragement for Prayer
2 Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. 3 Pray for us, too, that God will give us many opportunities to speak about his mysterious plan concerning Christ. That is why I am here in chains. 4 Pray that I will proclaim this message as clearly as I should.

5 Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be gracious and attractive[a] so that you will have the right response for everyone.

4:6 Greek and seasoned with salt.

Daily Word of God - John 4:21-24

John 4:21-24 New Living Translation (NLT)

21 Jesus replied, “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. 23 But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. 24 For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Daily Word of God - Proverbs 16:32

Proverbs 16:32 New Living Translation (NLT)

32 Better to be patient than powerful;
    better to have self-control than to conquer a city.

Mid-Week Message - A Pleasing Aroma

"Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this?"  2 Corinthians 2:15-16 (NLT)

Our sense of smell creates and recalls to mind memories that can both touch our hearts or turn our stomachs.  For instance, I will forever remember the way my mother smelled after she took a bath.  Her blend of bubble bath and bath powder coupled with a hint of perfume would permeate the house.  It was a sweet aroma that made the house feel even more like home.  One evening recently that fragrance came to me.  It was just an ordinary evening but suddenly those memories were triggered by that familiar smell.  I still have no idea from whence it came but it made me feel close to her even though she passed away nine years ago.  Not all smells are pleasant however.  I have heard medical professionals speak of the stench of burnt flesh and how it is something they will never be able to forget even though it causes them to feel ill at the very thought of it.  

I love the smell of coffee.  I have been known to stand in the coffee aisle in the grocery store just to take in the wonderful earthy scent as long as I could.  Not everyone likes that smell though.  To me it is a pleasure, to others it is something to be avoided.  This week's verse discusses the dichotomy of our lives being a Christ-like fragrance.  To some it symbolizes life but to others death.  

This has caused me to do some introspection.  What does it mean?  If we are to live lives that are "a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God", what are we to do?  I see in this verse what is ideal. Ideally we are to reflect our Lord as He is.  Ideally, we are to live our lives in such a manner that others will be drawn to us, not because of us, but because of Him in us.  However, most of us do not present ourselves in such a manner at all times, or even most of the time.  We get caught up in whatever is happening in the moment and forget that He is living in us.  We fail to project His love, His hope, His power.  

When we accept Jesus as our personal Savior, we are born anew.  The Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us and we begin to grow closer to Him and become more like Him.  There are times though that we revert back to our old ways.  Our old speech patterns come back.  Old habits such as worry and defeatism return.  We forget that those around us who do not know Him are watching us to see how we rely on Him to help us through troubled times.  In so doing, we lose the sweet aroma and emit a sour smell of hopelessness.  An unsaved person that witnesses this may conclude that since we say we are Christians yet do not have confidence in Jesus, that there this no reason for them to either.  If we turn to Him, praise Him and openly trust Him, then we present the opposite.  The fragrance will be one that draws others in and creates a desire to know more about our Lord.  It is one that will speak life and joy.

We have an enemy whose main purpose is to snatch us away from Jesus.  He doesn't want us to reach others with the Truth.  He hates anything that points the way to the Almighty.  So he is quite pleased when we fall back into our old ways.  He revels at the stench of death.  Let's not give him that satisfaction.  We belong to Christ.  That needs to be our identity, our purpose and our very breath.  

As we go through this next week, let's be on guard so that the fragrance we project is Christ-like.  It will mean being alert and conscious of our words and actions at all times.  That's okay though.  The Holy Spirit will help us.  Love and blessings to all.  

Daily Word of God - John 15:5-8

John 15:5-8 New Living Translation (NLT) (Jesus speaking.)

5 "Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. 7 But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! 8 When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father."

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Daily Word of God - Psalm 139:13-16

Psalm 139:13-16 New Living Translation (NLT)

13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
    and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
    Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
    as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
16 You saw me before I was born.
    Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
    before a single day had passed.

Daily Word of God - Luke 8:16-18

Luke 8:16-18 New Living Translation (NLT)

Parable of the Lamp
16 “No one lights a lamp and then covers it with a bowl or hides it under a bed. A lamp is placed on a stand, where its light can be seen by all who enter the house. 17 For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all.

18 “So pay attention to how you hear. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what they think they understand will be taken away from them.”

Monday, September 10, 2018

Daily Word of God - Colossians 3:12-15

Colossians 3:12-15 New Living Translation (NLT)

12 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.

Daily Word of God - John 7:37-39

John 7:37-39 New Living Translation (NLT)

Jesus Promises Living Water
37 On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! 38 Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’”[a] 39 (When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given,[b] because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.)

7:37-38 Or “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from the heart of anyone who believes in me.’”
7:39 Several early manuscripts read But as yet there was no Spirit. Still others read But as yet there was no Holy Spirit.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Daily Word of God - Romans 12:14-16

Romans 12:14-16 New Living Translation (NLT)

14 Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. 15 Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!

Sunday Praise & Worship Message - Live to Please God

A couple of the most interesting topics for after dinner include discussing the meaning of life or the big question of why we are here and what is our purpose. Since the beginning of time and recorded history, men and women have asked those two questions and pondered them. Philosophers, authors, poets and a whole host of others have espoused their own answers to these questions. If I asked you to provide me with your answers to these questions, I would receive a different answer from each person.

As a Christian, our purpose is very clear. We are here to love and serve God and each other. When asked by the Pharisees which one of the Mosaic Laws is the most important, Jesus, in Matthew 22, replies to them, “37 ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 8 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.

When you take a look at the Mosaic Law as provided by Moses, you see that the laws can easily be categorized into two areas. The first governs our relationship with the Lord and the second our relationship with each other. Jesus points out that the entire law and the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments. It is easy to see that if we follow just these two laws all of the other ones simply fall into place and we are doing what God has in mind for us. 

By following these laws, we are able not only to please God but we are also able to gain a certain satisfaction in knowing that we are helping others because we love them. We provide for the hungry, the thirsty and needy not for material gain. Just as Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and served them, we, too, must humble ourselves and serve those in need. By acting as a servant to others, we fulfill that part of the law that requires us to love one another. 

It is not enough to simply say that we believe and that we are Christians. Years ago, a pastor asked a group of people in his congregation one important question, “Do you believe?” Some answered, “Yes. I believe.” Others gave a different response. They stated, “I was baptized.” The question was not a trick question. Believing is more than just being baptized and calling yourself a Christian. It is acting and having faith in God and following His will in our lives. 

In Galatians 1, Paul puts it this way, “10 Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.” The word, “servant”, should be stressed. We are not here for the approval of people or to serve our own egos. We are here on this planet to work in the fields to reap the harvest for the kingdom. We are not here to garner the praise of men and to inflate our own egos. Once we have the servant mentality firmly entrenched in our hearts and minds, we can begin to see what it means to please God. We are here to seek His approval and to demonstrate to the world that we truly are the followers of Christ Jesus. 

Jesus, when talking about the unbelief of people in John 12, said this about those who believed in him, but were afraid to admit it, “43 For they loved human praise more than the praise of God.” When it comes to pleasing God, we must be prepared to part ways with the crowd. Many will profess their faith, but few would be willing to endure the scorn of the mob. We see it happening everyday around the world. Christians ridiculed or persecuted for their faith. Part of living to please God is knowing when to part company with those around us. We must be prepared, as Paul in 2 Corinthians 6 aptly states, “Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, says the LORD. Don't touch their filthy things, and I will welcome you.

Pleasing God is very difficult at times. We may be called to do those things that will bring the wrath of the mob upon us. But, it is a small price to pay when we consider the real price that was paid by Jesus on a cross. He humbled himself and died as a criminal upon a cross to act as our sacrifice. The price he paid was extremely high, but it was one that he willingly paid for us. 

When we accept the salvation provided through the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus, we profess our belief that Jesus is the Christ and the Messiah. As we act upon that belief and live our lives to please God, we demonstrate that we have faith in Him. We gladly profess our faith and understand what it means to be children of El Shaddai, “God Almighty”. Let us look at Hebrews 11. The author tells us, “6 And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.

By seeking Him daily, we fulfill that purpose of loving God with all of our hearts, minds and souls. We cannot approach the throne of God by simply saying a few words. We must truly believe and demonstrate that belief through praise and worship daily. We cannot just simply praise and worship Him on Sunday and forget about Him during the rest of the week. True service to God is a full-time act of faith. 

As we go through our day, we must continually be seeking those things that please God. We cannot rely on our own understanding. We must pray for wisdom and the ability to discern His message and direction in our lives. We must follow His will and be willing to accept wherever He leads us. Paul, in his epistle to the church at Ephesus, tells us, “10 Carefully determine what pleases the Lord.” By being in tune with God and His will, we can please the Lord and live a life with purpose and fulfillment.

Looking at my own life, I can easily see the periods when I feel unfulfilled and lacking in purpose. When I examine them closely, I see the error of my ways. I have fallen away from seeking God and His will in my life. I have gone my own way and sought after those things that belong to this world and not those of His kingdom. I wandered aimlessly from one situation to the next and wondered why I felt lost and without purpose. I felt like a ship without a rudder set adrift in a sea of woe. After realizing what I have done, I quickly return to the Lord and I feel that my life has a purpose and that I have a new course. My rudder has been restored and my compass points to the one true way back to the Father, Christ Jesus. 

I ask you to think about your own life. Have you lost your way? Do you feel that you have no purpose in your life? Do you drift from one situation to another? If you feel that you are adrift, it is never too late to get your rudder fixed and set your compass on Jesus to get you back on course. Once you have done that, you will again find that purpose to live to please God and love others as you love yourself. If we all had that purpose firmly planted in our hearts, minds and souls, we all can live a fulfilling life and know that 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)