Friday, November 30, 2018

Daily Word of God - Psalm 16:9-11

Psalm 16:9-11 New Living Translation (NLT)

9 No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice.[a]
    My body rests in safety.
10 For you will not leave my soul among the dead[b]
    or allow your holy one[c] to rot in the grave.
11 You will show me the way of life,
    granting me the joy of your presence
    and the pleasures of living with you forever.[d]

16:9 Greek version reads and my tongue shouts his praises. Compare Acts 2:26.
16:10a Hebrew in Sheol.
16:10b Or your Holy One.
16:11 Greek version reads You have shown me the way of life, / and you will fill me with the joy of your presence. Compare Acts 2:28.

Daily Word of God - Proverbs 16:6

Proverbs 16:6 New Living Translation (NLT)

6 Unfailing love and faithfulness make atonement for sin.
    By fearing the Lord, people avoid evil.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Daily Word of God - Acts 7:51-53

Acts 7:51-53 New Living Translation (NLT) (Stephen speaking)

51 “You stubborn people! You are heathen[a] at heart and deaf to the truth. Must you forever resist the Holy Spirit? That’s what your ancestors did, and so do you! 52 Name one prophet your ancestors didn’t persecute! They even killed the ones who predicted the coming of the Righteous One—the Messiah whom you betrayed and murdered. 53 You deliberately disobeyed God’s law, even though you received it from the hands of angels.”

7:51 Greek uncircumcised.

Daily Word of God - Deuteronomy 32:43

Deuteronomy 32:43 New Living Translation (NLT)

43 “Rejoice with him, you heavens,
    and let all of God’s angels worship him.[a]
Rejoice with his people, you Gentiles,
    and let all the angels be strengthened in him.[b]
For he will avenge the blood of his children[c];
    he will take revenge against his enemies.
He will repay those who hate him[d]
    and cleanse his people’s land.”

32:43a As in Dead Sea Scrolls and Greek version; Masoretic Text lacks the first two lines. Compare Heb 1:6.
32:43b As in Greek version; Hebrew text lacks this sentence. Compare Rom 15:10.
32:43c As in Dead Sea Scrolls and Greek version; Masoretic Text reads his servants.
32:43d As in Dead Sea Scrolls and Greek version; Masoretic Text lacks this line.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Daily Word of God - 2 Samuel 22:5-7

2 Samuel 22:5-7 New Living Translation (NLT)

5 “The waves of death overwhelmed me;
    floods of destruction swept over me.
6 The grave[a] wrapped its ropes around me;
    death laid a trap in my path.
7 But in my distress I cried out to the Lord;
    yes, I cried to my God for help.
He heard me from his sanctuary;
    my cry reached his ears.

22:6 Hebrew Sheol.

Mid-Week Message - The Struggle of Life

"For I consider [from the standpoint of faith] that the sufferings of the present life are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is about to be revealed to us and in us!"  Romans 8:18 (AMP)

My mother's father was a carpenter.  So was her step-father.  They could create some of the most beautiful pieces of furniture and cabinetry that could be imagined.  They both excelled at their craft.  And both were missing part of one finger.  My father's father was a jack-of-all-trades.  He took work when and where he could.  I don't know as much about him as I would like to.  He passed away before I was born.  All of them had something in common and that is that they all realized that life wasn't easy.  It took hard work to earn a dollar and if the economy took a downturn, and it did in a massive way, then those dollars dried up.  

Both of my parents' families struggled in life.  It was a hard road for them.  I have told the story before of how my father moved out on his own when he was nine years old.  As I was growing up I would watch him over-buy canned food.  He wasn't a hoarder, he just liked to have extra.  When I asked him why, his reply was, "I've been hungry before and I'm never going to be again."  That was very revealing about his childhood.  Because of what my parents went through, they were determined that, at the very least, their children would never know hunger.  And we didn't.  We may have gone without some other items, but food was never one of them.  

Life is difficult in one way or another for almost everyone.  I can't speak from the vantage point of the very rich because I have never had a lot of money to spare.  I'm sure they have their own hardships though. My family seemed only to have enough money to make it through what was directly in front of us.  If something big came up, Daddy would go to the credit union and borrow what was needed and paid it back as quickly as he could.  My husband has told me similar stories about his father.  They did what they had to do to take care of what had been entrusted to them but never really experienced any ease in life.  When my father retired, he was looking forward to relaxing some but life had other plans.  My mother's health began to fail and he had to take care of her.  Had he been able to choose, he would have preferred the work he did before retirement.  As toilsome as it was, it was simpler than being a caregiver.  

What is your family's story?  Depending on how old you are, it will differ, but the basic elements will probably still be there.  Hard work to earn a living.  Dealing with financial issues, emergencies, catastrophes of one kind or another, lack of work, illnesses.  These are just a few of the issues we encounter.  Somewhere in the family tree are those who have experienced the turmoil of living.  Find them.  Study them.  What helped them through?  

The Apostle Paul was used by God to write some of the most beautiful and profound scriptures in the Bible.  He was a man of deep faith and completely dedicated to following and serving the Lord.  He was a tent maker by trade so he knew what it meant to work for wages to support himself.  When we read about his life we learn how rough it was for him as a servant of the Almighty.  He was shipwrecked, beaten, imprisoned, whipped, hungry, thirsty, robbed. All during his travels for the Gospel.  How did he make it through?  He trusted his Father.  And he knew that Heaven was coming at which time the struggles would no longer exist and he could bask in the glory of the great I Am.  

The troubles we have today are temporary.  Though they feel as though they will last forever, everything has an ending.  A job will be found.  Bills will be paid.  Illnesses will either be healed on earth or healed in Heaven.  Nothing lasts forever here on earth. We can make it through whatever we face, just as those who came before us did, by focusing on the promise that God will always take care of His own.  He will provide for our needs as He said He will do.  Our job is to walk close to Him and not give up.  He will give us the strength for the next steps, as he did for Paul, if we will ask Him to do so.  

I am so glad that I know how my predecessors lived and the trials they experienced.  It is a reminder that the Lord has always walked with my family and an assurance that He will do the same with me no matter how hard or tiring my days get.  I would love to hear the story of your family and how they made it through all they experienced.  History is a gift.  This week I pray that you will keep your hand firmly in His and that you will ask Him for strength whenever you need it.  God bless you.

Daily Word of God - Psalm 3:3-4

Psalm 3:3-4 New Living Translation (NLT)

3 But you, O Lord, are a shield around me;
    you are my glory, the one who holds my head high.
4 I cried out to the Lord,
    and he answered me from his holy mountain. Interlude

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Daily Word of God - Ezekiel 18:5-9

Ezekiel 18:5-9 New Living Translation (NLT)

5 “Suppose a certain man is righteous and does what is just and right. 6 He does not feast in the mountains before Israel’s idols[a] or worship them. He does not commit adultery or have intercourse with a woman during her menstrual period. 7 He is a merciful creditor, not keeping the items given as security by poor debtors. He does not rob the poor but instead gives food to the hungry and provides clothes for the needy. 8 He grants loans without interest, stays away from injustice, is honest and fair when judging others, 9 and faithfully obeys my decrees and regulations. Anyone who does these things is just and will surely live, says the Sovereign Lord.

18:6 The Hebrew term (literally round things) probably alludes to dung; also in 18:12, 15.

Daily Word of God - Isaiah 55:3-5

Isaiah 55:3-5 New Living Translation (NLT)

3 “Come to me with your ears wide open.
    Listen, and you will find life.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you.
    I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David.
4 See how I used him to display my power among the peoples.
    I made him a leader among the nations.
5 You also will command nations you do not know,
    and peoples unknown to you will come running to obey,
because I, the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, have made you glorious.”

Monday, November 26, 2018

Daily Word of God - Ephesians 2:8-10

Ephesians 2:8-10 New Living Translation (NLT)

8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Daily Word of God - Psalm 108:1-5

Psalm 108:1-5 New Living Translation (NLT)

Psalm 108
A song. A psalm of David.
1 My heart is confident in you, O God;
    no wonder I can sing your praises with all my heart!
2 Wake up, lyre and harp!
    I will wake the dawn with my song.
3 I will thank you, Lord, among all the people.
    I will sing your praises among the nations.
4 For your unfailing love is higher than the heavens.
    Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
5 Be exalted, O God, above the highest heavens.
    May your glory shine over all the earth.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Daily Word of God - Deuteronomy 30:19-20

Deuteronomy 30:19-20 New Living Translation (NLT)

19 “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! 20 You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This[a] is the key to your life. And if you love and obey the Lord, you will live long in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”

30:20 Or He.

Sunday Praise & Worship - Are You Prepared?

Over the past couple of weeks, my email inbox and mailbox have been filled with advertisements for “Black Friday” specials. Each year more and more businesses are urging people to take advantage of the early sales and prepare for the joy of their purchases. Like the Black Friday sales of the past, people scramble to purchase big screen televisions, the latest in video game consoles or the latest fad in children’s toys. As I read the news, I, once again, see articles about brawls, shootings, stabbings and general chaos in the stores and in the malls. People are prepared to fight or, in some of the more unfortunate situations, murder another individual for a television or even as something as inconsequential as a parking space. Yes, people are prepared to go to any length necessary to get a great deal on anything on sale or that has been marked down.

During the time prior to Black Friday, the stores have been preparing for that day months in advance. It seems that aisles are filled earlier and earlier each year with Christmas gift items and decorations. Banners and cardboard displays start to fill every inch of the store counting down the days and hours to Christmas. Reminders all over the store ask you if you have enough batteries, wrapping paper, tape, cards and other items to make your Yuletide celebration more exciting and enjoyable.

With Thanksgiving 2018 now in the history books, the shopping season is now in full swing and along with it the headaches of the season. While I was shopping in Walmart today for our groceries, I heard stories of adults and children shoplifting merchandise from the store. The employees told me of two boys who were stealing a hoverboard and plush toys. I prayed that they learned their lesson and will not repeat this sort of mistake again. The store employees looked tired and were just trying to keep up with the demands of restocking shelves. Many of the employees only spent a little time with their families before they had to return to work only to face the next wave of shoppers preparing to buy more and more items.

 An article that I read just two days ago said that twenty-eight percent of Americans are still paying for last year’s Christmas gifts. It is estimated that Americans will spend an average of $1,007 on everything from food to holiday attire. Once again, Americans are prepared to go all in on the 2018 season of buying. Many will be putting those purchases on credit cards and will be paying for this year’s purchases along with last year’s purchases.

Each year I watch people prepare their plans for mobbing stores and buying more and more. Some even use high tech solutions to storm the stores on “search and buy” missions. They prepare and plan their assault on stores with the precision of a military mission. Store aisles are more like drop zones or beachheads. Vehicles are more like landing craft ready to deploy troops. Each person is given instructions on what to buy and where to locate those items. Text messages fly feverishly back and forth between people. Every step and moment is carefully planned and every contingency is prepared for.

It is so interesting to see how much preparation the stores and the shoppers go through in order to get the best deals. Many will spend more time preparing for shopping rather than on the spirit of this wonderful season of joy. Have you prepared your heart for the season as it pertains to the birth of the Christ? Have you spent just a few minutes thinking about the birth of Jesus and what that blessed event really means to all? Have you prepared to make room in your heart for the love and desire to share with all those around you?

700 years before the birth of Jesus, Isaiah prophesied the birth of Jesus and told of a man who would proclaim that truth. That man would be a voice in the wilderness crying out to all of God’s people to make way for the Lord. In Isaiah 40, the proclamation is clearly made for all to hear, “3 Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting, ‘Clear the way through the wilderness for the Lord! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God!’

Later in the New Testament, we hear those same words to “clear the way through the wilderness for the Lord” being proclaimed by John the Baptist. These words should be our preparation for the Christmas season. We should take time to proclaim the same words to others around us. It is the perfect opportunity to share the perfect gift without having to stand in line. 

Just like an announcement for the birth of a child, God began to prepare the hearts of men to receive that wonderful gift. In Malachi 3, God reminds, “1  I am sending my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. Then the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to his Temple. The messenger of the covenant, whom you look for so eagerly, is surely coming.” Once again another message preparing the hearts of all to receive the Word that would become flesh. 

In the coming weeks, I will be examining all of the elements leading to Jesus’ birth. Each event and element has deep meaning for each of us as Christians. We do not just see this moment in time as a time to give and receive gifts. It is a time for us to reflect and share the Good News and the love of God which He shared with the world.  John, in chapter 3, tells us, “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

As you go through the month of December, I ask each of you to stop for a moment each day and think about the message and meaning of Christmas. Just a few moments each day will make a difference in your life. You will feel the joy of the season filling your heart and your stockings. It will be a gift of love that does not just sit under a tree in the corner of a room. It is a living gift that you receive each and every day of your life. It is more than just a wish. It is a promise that has been fulfilled.

I am reminded of Charles Dickens’ novella, “A Christmas Carol”. The main character, a miser and bitter man by the name of Ebenezer Scrooge, comes to the realization that Christmas must be kept year around. After receiving the lessons of each of the spirits, Scrooge says, “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!”

At the end of the novella, the author tells us that Scrooge was good to his word. He kept Christmas in his heart year round and “knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!”

Let us, like Scrooge, keep the message and meaning of Christmas by preparing our hearts for the blessed event. When we do that, we truly can keep Christmas well and 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 - 1 Timothy 1:12-14

1 Timothy 1:12-14 New Living Translation (NLT)

Paul’s Gratitude for God’s Mercy
12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength to do his work. He considered me trustworthy and appointed me to serve him, 13 even though I used to blaspheme the name of Christ. In my insolence, I persecuted his people. But God had mercy on me because I did it in ignorance and unbelief. 14 Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Daily Word of God - Psalm 44:4-8

Psalm 44:4-8 New Living Translation (NLT)

4 You are my King and my God.
    You command victories for Israel.[a]
5 Only by your power can we push back our enemies;
    only in your name can we trample our foes.
6 I do not trust in my bow;
    I do not count on my sword to save me.
7 You are the one who gives us victory over our enemies;
    you disgrace those who hate us.
8 O God, we give glory to you all day long
    and constantly praise your name. Interlude

44:4 Hebrew for Jacob. The names “Jacob” and “Israel” are often interchanged throughout the Old Testament, referring sometimes to the individual patriarch and sometimes to the nation.

Daily Word of God - Daniel 6:25-28

Daniel 6:25-28 New Living Translation (NLT)

25 Then King Darius sent this message to the people of every race and nation and language throughout the world:

“Peace and prosperity to you!

26 “I decree that everyone throughout my kingdom should tremble with fear before the God of Daniel.

For he is the living God,
    and he will endure forever.
His kingdom will never be destroyed,
    and his rule will never end.
27 He rescues and saves his people;
    he performs miraculous signs and wonders
    in the heavens and on earth.
He has rescued Daniel
    from the power of the lions.”

28 So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.[a]

6:28 Or of Darius, that is, the reign of Cyrus the Persian.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Reaching the World with the Word

My wife and I thank God daily for all of the prayers, shares and financial support we have received for our ministry work. We are so blessed to have a faith family and grace partners who believe in sharing the Good News with people around the world who hunger for the Word of God. 

Here are just a few of the countries that we have reached in the past year.
  • United States
  • China
  • India
  • Ukraine
  • France
  • Netherlands
  • United Kingdom
  • Germany
  • Russia
God continues to bless us each day with more individuals reading our messages and studying the Word of God daily. 

Please continue to support our efforts in reaching as many people as possible to share God's Word and His love with those who desperately need it. 

You can support us through prayer, sharing our ministry website with others and by donating to our ministry.

Daily Word of God - Psalm 138

Psalm 138 New Living Translation (NLT)

Psalm 138
A psalm of David.
1 I give you thanks, O Lord, with all my heart;
    I will sing your praises before the gods.
2 I bow before your holy Temple as I worship.
    I praise your name for your unfailing love and faithfulness;
for your promises are backed
    by all the honor of your name.
3 As soon as I pray, you answer me;
    you encourage me by giving me strength.

4 Every king in all the earth will thank you, Lord,
    for all of them will hear your words.
5 Yes, they will sing about the Lord’s ways,
    for the glory of the Lord is very great.
6 Though the Lord is great, he cares for the humble,
    but he keeps his distance from the proud.

7 Though I am surrounded by troubles,
    you will protect me from the anger of my enemies.
You reach out your hand,
    and the power of your right hand saves me.
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 - Proverbs 14:22

Proverbs 14:22 New Living Translation (NLT)

22 If you plan to do evil, you will be lost;
    if you plan to do good, you will receive unfailing love and faithfulness.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving - 1 Chronicles 16:34

1 Chronicles 16:34 New Living Translation (NLT)

34 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
    His faithful love endures forever.

Happy Thanksgiving - Psalm 107:1

Psalm 107:1 New Living Translation (NLT)

1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
    His faithful love endures forever.

Daily Word of God - Jeremiah 30:18-22

Jeremiah 30:18-22 New Living Translation (NLT)

18 This is what the Lord says:
“When I bring Israel home again from captivity
    and restore their fortunes,
Jerusalem will be rebuilt on its ruins,
    and the palace reconstructed as before.
19 There will be joy and songs of thanksgiving,
    and I will multiply my people, not diminish them;
I will honor them, not despise them.
20     Their children will prosper as they did long ago.
I will establish them as a nation before me,
    and I will punish anyone who hurts them.
21 They will have their own ruler again,
    and he will come from their own people.
I will invite him to approach me,” says the Lord,
    “for who would dare to come unless invited?
22 You will be my people,
    and I will be your God.”

Happy Thanksgiving - 1 Thessalonians 5:18

1 Thessalonians 5:18 New Living Translation (NLT)

18 Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

Daily Word of God - 2 Corinthians 4:13-15

2 Corinthians 4:13-15 New Living Translation (NLT)

13 But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.”[a] 14 We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus,[b] will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. 15 All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.

4:13 Ps 116:10.
4:14 Some manuscripts read who raised Jesus.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Thanksgiving Message - The Blessing of the Fifth Kernel of Corn: God Listens and Answers

As we prepare for Thanksgiving Day, let us prepare our hearts by remembering the early settlers of this great nation and their hardships. They endured more than just harsh weather and crop failures; they endured the testing of their faith. Anyone put into their situation or the situations we face today, financial, medical and spiritual problems, would wonder the same thing, “Is God even listening to me?”

It is a very honest question to ask when you consider the problems that you have had to endure or are continuing to endure. Like them, we sometimes need to stop and be reminded of God’s love and grace in our lives. As we go through our trials and troubles, we only see the darkness and we sometimes fail to see the brightness of God’s love around us. We believe that God has given up on us and left us for dead. Problems seem to compound themselves one on top of the other.

2018 has been that sort of year for my family and myself. We have had to endure many painful and difficult times. The medical and financial issues have really caused us to cry out to the Lord. When things seem to be improving and we think we see the light at the end of the tunnel, the light disappears and there is more darkness. The light just moves away from us and is only a distant speck in a very bleak and long trek to seeing the end of these ordeals.

As we continued with our journey, we became tired and weary. We continued to ask God for His will to be done in our lives; however, it became more and more difficult to even utter those words. Prayers of praise and thanksgiving soon became prayers of despair and loneliness. We, like Jesus on the cross in Matthew 27 and David in Psalm 22, cried out, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” We began to wonder what we had done so wrong to deserve our current lot in life. Had we sinned so badly that God had turned away from us? 

These questions and many more filled our prayers and daily thoughts especially when things were getting worse. My wife, daughter and I had more questions and hardly any answers. More and more issues plagued our daily lives. What were we supposed to do? In fact, some of our prayers were no longer prayers. They became moments of weeping and groaning to the Lord. There were many occasions when I found myself on my hands and knees pleading before the Lord. I was laid humble before Him and just asked Him for help. At the time, I felt that He was not listening. Help seemed nonexistent. But, I was so very wrong. 

As we recovered from those “meltdown moments”, the first thing we realized is that God listens to His children and responds to their cries for help and mercy. Even when all seems lost or when we have abandoned all hope, God does not give up on or abandon us. He remains our Heavenly Father and hears our prayers. As I was reading the second chapter of Exodus, I meditated on this passage, “23 Years passed, and the king of Egypt died. But the Israelites continued to groan under their burden of slavery. They cried out for help, and their cry rose up to God. 24 God heard their groaning, and he remembered his covenant promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 25 He looked down on the people of Israel and knew it was time to act.

My family and I endured a different sort of bondage. It was a bondage of medical and financial issues. We were being crushed and continue to be crushed by those two things, but I began to see the message that God was placing in my heart. The first is that our groaning was being heard by God. He does listen to our prayers even when they are just groaning and weeping. He knows exactly what our hearts are filled with and the pain we have. The second is He remembers the covenant that He has with us. He has plans for us that are to prosper and not bring us harm. The third and final part of the message is that God acts when the timing is in accordance to His will. All things are subject to His will and timing and we must always remember that God is bound by His covenants and promises to us.

Once we began to see this message, our prayers changed from groaning and weeping to prayers of praise and thanksgiving. We began to sing and praise Him daily for the beauty and blessings of a single day. We remembered the words of Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount, “So don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today's trouble is enough for today.” Tomorrow is tomorrow and we cannot change that fact. All we have is today and we should be happy. 

The words of the Psalmist in Psalm 118 should be our morning prayer, “24 This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.” Our sorrow became joy and we continued to carry that joy in our hearts throughout the course of the day and we continued to rejoice in the Lord’s blessings and in His joy. It was then that we also realized another valuable lesson which is best captured in the beautiful words of the eighth chapter of Nehemiah, “10 Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!”

The Lord rejoices over His children and loves each of us dearly, so dearly that he gave His one and only son as our atonement sacrifice to pay our debt of sin. When we began to put all of these messages that He placed in our hearts together and began to see the beauty of our relationship with the Lord, we realized that we should never believe or even think that God is not listening. He always listens. Equally as important, we should never believe or even think that God will not act. He always acts in accordance with His will and perfect timing. 

Answers to all of our problems have already been planned and executed. Those things that we need are already on their way and we must just remain faithful to Him and remember that God will deliver us out of our bondage just like He had done for the Israelites in Egypt. We will be delivered out of our dark times and we will get through the valley of darkness and come out of the situations that we faced stronger in our faith and with more wisdom in knowing and understanding God’s plan in our lives.

As I have often said before, it is easy to be a believer when things are going well. However, when things turn from good to bad, our faith is truly tested and we must learn that God always listens to His children. We should never doubt that one immutable fact. We should always remember that we, as His children, must come into His presence with joy and thanksgiving. The Psalmist eloquently tells us in Psalm 95, “1 Come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. 2 Let us come to him with thanksgiving. Let us sing psalms of praise to him.

It has taken me almost a full year to begin to see the light of day. During this year, my family and I have had to endure many hardships and difficulties. Some days it seems like problems pile up on our shoulders and we are crushed by their weight. It is at those moments that we remember the scriptures of God’s wondrous works and His covenants and promises to His children. He always listens. He will never forsake us. He will provide for us. He, most importantly, will always love us and see us through those dark moments of dread and despair. We just have to remain faithful to Him and praise Him for what we have, our daily bread, and let Him handle our problems.

Paul, in his epistle to the Philippians, tells them in chapter four, “6 Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” Always remain joyful and thank Him for everything. When we do that our outlook on life will change from despair to joy. As you and your family and friends sit down for your Thanksgiving meal, start your prayer with just a few simple words of thanksgiving and joy. When you do that,  you will be filled with joy and strength and, most assuredly, 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 - James 1:16-18

James 1:16-18 New Living Translation (NLT)

16 So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens.[a] He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.[b] 18 He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.[c]

1:17a Greek from above, from the Father of lights.
1:17b Some manuscripts read He never changes, as a shifting shadow does.
1:18 Greek we became a kind of firstfruit of his creatures.

Mid-Week Message - A Time of Thanksgiving

"Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth!  Worship the Lord with gladness.  Come before him, singing with joy. Acknowledge that the Lord is God! He made us, and we are his.  We are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation."  Psalm 100 (NLT)

Another year has passed and it is once again time for this special day we refer to as "Thanksgiving." It is the day we remember the group of people who traveled here on a ship called the Mayflower.  It was an incredibly hard voyage with even harder times before them as they worked to make this land their new home.  Had it not been for the blessing of an alliance with a group of indigenous people they would likely have returned home, or died. However, the Lord had a plan for their protection and provision and they celebrated and gave thanks.

Too often this story is forgotten as we gather around our own tables on this one day each year designated for gratitude.  Football games, shopping and outdoing one another with our recipes has dwarfed the meaning of the day.  What used to be a time for everyone to share with their families has become a "Black Friday" prequel.  Meals are planned around what time the malls open so that shoppers can hurry to get a deal on certain electronics or get their hands on the "toy of the year." Rather than concentrating on how our lives have been blessed during the year, we watch the news to see how many fights have broken out in the shopping centers.  

When I was in the fifth grade we learned Psalm 100 by heart.  That was when scripture had not been banned from the public school classroom.  And while it wasn't taught as a spiritual lesson, it was still able to seep into our hearts and minds and remind us, even as children, that the Lord is good and worthy of our praise and that we need to tell Him "thank you."  The Message Bible puts it this way when speaking of entering into His presence, "Enter with the password: 'Thank you.'"  I wonder how different our relationship with our Father in Heaven would be if each time we spoke to Him, the first words from our lips would be "Thank you."  

It has been a difficult year for my family, as it has for many others.  But even though we have shed more than our fair share of tears, we are thankful that we are all still here to share together.  The trials we have gone through, and continue to endure, though hard, have reminded us that the Lord truly is Jehovah Jireh, our provider.  Without His presence and tender loving care, we would not have made it this far.  Someway, somehow, no matter how dark the days have gotten, His light has shown brightly and been our reassurance.  

On Thursday when we all meet around our respective tables, let's truly examine the blessings of the year and sincerely give thanks for all that we have.  James 1:17 reminds us that whatever is good and perfect is a gift from above.  The love we have around us, the smiles, food, the roof over our heads, the clothing on our backs, indeed our very existence comes from the One who loves us with an everlasting love.  We can never have enough gratitude for all He does for us, but we can start with a small, "Thank you, Father."  

Daily Word of God - Psalm 111

Psalm 111 New Living Translation (NLT)

Psalm 111[a]
1 Praise the Lord!

I will thank the Lord with all my heart
    as I meet with his godly people.
2 How amazing are the deeds of the Lord!
    All who delight in him should ponder them.
3 Everything he does reveals his glory and majesty.
    His righteousness never fails.
4 He causes us to remember his wonderful works.
    How gracious and merciful is our Lord!
5 He gives food to those who fear him;
    he always remembers his covenant.
6 He has shown his great power to his people
    by giving them the lands of other nations.
7 All he does is just and good,
    and all his commandments are trustworthy.
8 They are forever true,
    to be obeyed faithfully and with integrity.
9 He has paid a full ransom for his people.
    He has guaranteed his covenant with them forever.
    What a holy, awe-inspiring name he has!
10 Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom.
    All who obey his commandments will grow in wisdom.

Praise him forever!

111 This psalm is a Hebrew acrostic poem; after the introductory note of praise, each line begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Daily Word of God - Isaiah 58:6-7

Isaiah 58:6-7 New Living Translation (NLT) (The Lord speaking)

6 “No, this is the kind of fasting I want:
Free those who are wrongly imprisoned;
    lighten the burden of those who work for you.
Let the oppressed go free,
    and remove the chains that bind people.
7 Share your food with the hungry,
    and give shelter to the homeless.
Give clothes to those who need them,
    and do not hide from relatives who need your help.

Daily Word of God - Proverbs 3:7-8

Proverbs 3:7-8 New Living Translation (NLT)

7 Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom.
    Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil.
8 Then you will have healing for your body
    and strength for your bones.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Daily Word of God - 2 Chronicles 5:11-14

2 Chronicles 5:11-14 New Living Translation (NLT)

11 Then the priests left the Holy Place. All the priests who were present had purified themselves, whether or not they were on duty that day. 12 And the Levites who were musicians—Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun, and all their sons and brothers—were dressed in fine linen robes and stood at the east side of the altar playing cymbals, lyres, and harps. They were joined by 120 priests who were playing trumpets. 13 The trumpeters and singers performed together in unison to praise and give thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals, and other instruments, they raised their voices and praised the Lord with these words:

“He is good!
    His faithful love endures forever!”

At that moment a thick cloud filled the Temple of the Lord. 14 The priests could not continue their service because of the cloud, for the glorious presence of the Lord filled the Temple of God.

Daily Word of God - Psalm 102:12-17

Psalm 102:12-17 New Living Translation (NLT)

12 But you, O Lord, will sit on your throne forever.
    Your fame will endure to every generation.
13 You will arise and have mercy on Jerusalem[a]—
    and now is the time to pity her,
    now is the time you promised to help.
14 For your people love every stone in her walls
    and cherish even the dust in her streets.
15 Then the nations will tremble before the Lord.
    The kings of the earth will tremble before his glory.
16 For the Lord will rebuild Jerusalem.
    He will appear in his glory.
17 He will listen to the prayers of the destitute.
    He will not reject their pleas.

102:13 Hebrew Zion; also in 102:16.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Daily Word of God - Amos 5:4-7

Amos 5:4-7 New Living Translation (NLT)

4 Now this is what the Lord says to the family of Israel:

“Come back to me and live!
5 Don’t worship at the pagan altars at Bethel;
    don’t go to the shrines at Gilgal or Beersheba.
For the people of Gilgal will be dragged off into exile,
    and the people of Bethel will be reduced to nothing.”
6 Come back to the Lord and live!
Otherwise, he will roar through Israel[a] like a fire,
    devouring you completely.
Your gods in Bethel
    won’t be able to quench the flames.
7 You twist justice, making it a bitter pill for the oppressed.
    You treat the righteous like dirt.

5:6 Hebrew the house of Joseph.

Praise & Worship Message - The Blessing of the Fourth Kernel of Corn: Loved Ones

On September 17th of this year, I went into surgery. It, like the one I endured in February, changed my life. Both were done to do one thing: save my life from a horrible infection. The bacterial and fungal infections were destroying healthy tissue and eroding the underlying bone. Each day that the infections were allowed to continue was another day massive destruction would continue. As my wife and I waited patiently for me to be called back to the surgical unit there at Emory University Hospital Midtown, we saw families waiting patiently for their loved ones to come out of surgery and to find out if the procedures were successful. We, like those families, were hopeful that my procedure would be equally successful.

One of the most interesting things was how total strangers would help others. If someone had to go to the bathroom or get something to eat or drink, the other families would offer to help. They would watch over bags or listen for news. Those strangers became part of our family as my wife and our dear friend, Chris, waited to hear from my surgeon. All of the people in the waiting room shared the exact same basic experience, someone they loved was undergoing a surgical procedure.

As minutes became hours, that group of strangers grew closer together. Conversations and prayers were shared with others. Each looking out for the others. Each held hands and lent a shoulder to lean on. Each heeded the words of Christ Jesus given to his disciples to love one another. They loved one another with a love that transcended the realm of this sinful world. They loved one another unconditionally and would do anything for the others.

When I think back to the Pilgrims and the hardships that they faced, they were able to count on one another and they loved each other. They helped one another without regard for themselves. They pulled together when minutes stretched into hours and hours into days. Imagine what they went through. Crop failures and harsh winters that tested them moment to moment. 

In the end, they made it through their trials and troubles by leaning on each other, loving one another and, most importantly, by leaning on the everlasting arms of God the Father Almighty. John, in his first epistle, tells us of God’s love for us, “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. 8 But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. 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.

Since God’s love in manifested in us and God is love, we should, as noted by John, love one another. Of all of the most wonderful virtues of having a Christ-like attitude, love is the strongest and most powerful. Love overcomes all things and can overwhelm the heart. It can overcome hate, prejudice and all the evils of this sinful, old world. It strengthens us when we are weary and weak. It gives us courage when we are discouraged. Love for God and others should reign supreme in our lives and be the one desire that we have.

In his movie, “The Great Dictator”, Charlie Chaplin gives a great, stirring speech that many find as one of the best movie speeches of all time. In the speech, Chaplin, as the dictator, said, “You have the love of humanity in your hearts! You don’t hate! Only the unloved hate - the unloved and the unnatural!”

He is absolutely correct. It is natural for us to love and to desire to be loved. God gave us that wonderful gift and demonstrated His love for us by giving us His one and only son as our sacrifice for our sins. Because of His love, we, as Christians, are able to overcome the hatred in the world with love. If we are unable to love or choose not to love, then we are unable to understand God’s love for us and the sacrifice made by His son on our behalf. We continue to go through life with no real love in our hearts. We only know the love that this world has to offer. That sort of love is empty, shallow and unfulfilling. It only leads us to wanting more and not receiving fulfillment. 

If, however, we accept Jesus as our personal Savior and Lord and repent of our sins, we see the true nature of love for God and our brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. We give without expecting anything in return. We reach out without hidden motives and provide for those who hunger and thirst not only for food but for the Word of God. We love and pray for those who persecute us. We live as God intended us to live in peace and goodwill to all.

If people had that sort of love in their hearts, the world would be a vastly different place. It would  be a place where we beat our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks. We would no longer desire to fight with one another or train for war. We would only love one another without condition. God’s love for us is unconditional. He loved us first. John, in chapter 4 of his first epistle, said, “19 We love because God first loved us.

In the same breath, John said, “20 If someone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates a fellow believer, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? 21 And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their fellow believers.” We cannot love God and hate our neighbors or even our enemies when we profess to love God. If we do so, we are truly liars and do not understand the nature of God’s unconditional love for us. 

As you and your family gather around the Thanksgiving table, I ask that you remember the blessings of the fourth kernel of corn. God has blessed us with people who love us very dearly. Just like the people in the surgical unit waiting room, each, over time, learned about all of the people waiting and began to develop a relationship of care and love for one another. No matter what procedures their loved ones were going through, each person in that waiting room shared in the experience and knew what the others were going through as well. In the beginning, each felt alone and full of anxiety. In time, that changed when others around them began to reach out and share. 

Hardships tend to bring out the best in people. People grow closer together and a bond begins to develop. In time, that bond becomes stronger and stronger until nothing or no one can break it. Just like the Pilgrims of old standing together arm in arm and shoulder to shoulder, those in the waiting room did the same. They became an instant support group for each other and showed their love and concern for each other.

Almost a year ago, my wife and I met a couple in a waiting room. Both were very upset and the young lady was in tears. We reached out to the couple and kindly asked what had happened. They had spent most of their evening and early morning in the emergency room fighting to keep their unborn child alive. The young lady had miscarried. It was their first child and it was very difficult on them to understand what had happened. They were in shock and disbelief. My wife gave the young lady her cross earrings and we prayed for them. As Christians, we must come to the aid of those who need love and support. Jesus gave his disciples one more commandment to love one another just as he loved them. The word, commandment, carries the weight of law. It is not a suggestion or something we should consider. It is a law and it requires our action. When my wife and I reached out to that couple in the waiting room, we followed Jesus’ commandment to love one another in Christian love and to demonstrate it without shame or reservation.

As you gather your friends and family together, tell them that you love them very much. Profess and practice that love daily with all those around you. When you do this, we are not only able to reflect God’s love into the world but also to 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 - Genesis 17:1-2

Genesis 17:1-2 New Living Translation (NLT)

1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty.’ Serve me faithfully and live a blameless life. 2 I will make a covenant with you, by which I will guarantee to give you countless descendants.”

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Daily Word of God - Deuteronomy 29:29

Deuteronomy 29:29 New Living Translation (NLT)

Moses Reviews the Covenant
29 “The Lord our God has secrets known to no one. We are not accountable for them, but we and our children are accountable forever for all that he has revealed to us, so that we may obey all the terms of these instructions.

Daily Word of God - Romans 7:14-17

Romans 7:14-17 New Living Translation (NLT)

Struggling with Sin
14 So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. 15 I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. 16 But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. 17 So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Daily Word of God - 1 Thessalonians 2:9-12

1 Thessalonians 2:9-12 New Living Translation (NLT)
(Paul writes for himself, Silas, and Timothy)

9 Don’t you remember, dear brothers and sisters, how hard we worked among you? Night and day we toiled to earn a living so that we would not be a burden to any of you as we preached God’s Good News to you. 10 You yourselves are our witnesses—and so is God—that we were devout and honest and faultless toward all of you believers. 11 And you know that we treated each of you as a father treats his own children. 12 We pleaded with you, encouraged you, and urged you to live your lives in a way that God would consider worthy. For he called you to share in his Kingdom and glory.

Daily Word of God - Psalm 57:7-10

Psalm 57:7-10 New Living Translation (NLT)

7 My heart is confident in you, O God;
    my heart is confident.
    No wonder I can sing your praises!
8 Wake up, my heart!
    Wake up, O lyre and harp!
    I will wake the dawn with my song.
9 I will thank you, Lord, among all the people.
    I will sing your praises among the nations.
10 For your unfailing love is as high as the heavens.
    Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Daily Word of God - Proverbs 30:5-6

Proverbs 30:5-6 New Living Translation (NLT)

5 Every word of God proves true.
    He is a shield to all who come to him for protection.
6 Do not add to his words,
    or he may rebuke you and expose you as a liar.

Daily Word of God - 2 Samuel 22:31-37

2 Samuel 22:31-37 New Living Translation (NLT)

David’s Song of Praise
31 “God’s way is perfect.
    All the Lord’s promises prove true.
    He is a shield for all who look to him for protection.
32 For who is God except the Lord?
    Who but our God is a solid rock?
33 God is my strong fortress,
    and he makes my way perfect.
34 He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
    enabling me to stand on mountain heights.
35 He trains my hands for battle;
    he strengthens my arm to draw a bronze bow.
36 You have given me your shield of victory;
    your help[a] has made me great.
37 You have made a wide path for my feet
    to keep them from slipping.

22:36 As in Dead Sea Scrolls; Masoretic Text reads your answering.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Daily Word of God - Psalm 119:73-80

Psalm 119:73-80 New Living Translation (NLT)

73 You made me; you created me.
    Now give me the sense to follow your commands.
74 May all who fear you find in me a cause for joy,
    for I have put my hope in your word.
75 I know, O Lord, that your regulations are fair;
    you disciplined me because I needed it.
76 Now let your unfailing love comfort me,
    just as you promised me, your servant.
77 Surround me with your tender mercies so I may live,
    for your instructions are my delight.
78 Bring disgrace upon the arrogant people who lied about me;
    meanwhile, I will concentrate on your commandments.
79 Let me be united with all who fear you,
    with those who know your laws.
80 May I be blameless in keeping your decrees;
    then I will never be ashamed.

Mid-Week Message - Forever Relationship

"For I am convinced [and continue to be convinced—beyond any doubt] that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present and threatening, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the [unlimited] love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."  Romans 8:38-39 (AMP)

We married quickly.  Our first date was on April 27th.  He proposed on May 27th.  We married on August 24th.  Yes.  All in the same year.  If you ask us why, I will tell you that I knew he was the one on that first date.  If you ask him, he will say it was because I had a house and his apartment was almost up for renewal.  Humor aside, when it comes down to it, we just didn't see any reason to wait.  We loved each other and that was all that mattered.  We got a lot of questions and a lot of warnings that it would never last.  However, this will be the 28th Thanksgiving that we will have spent together and we still love each other.  

Our first year was spent getting to know one another.  Some days were trying, some still are.  When he proposed to me, after I got over my utter shock and initial elation, we talked about the future and came to the agreement that we would enter into our union with the understanding that divorce was not an option.  Whatever life threw at us, good or bad, we would face it together and we would work through any problems.  We are still together so apparently that agreement stuck.  It hasn't always been the easy way, but for us it is the right way.  In 2012 I broke my leg and ended up spending over four months in a hospital bed in our living room.  He had to do everything for me.  And I do mean everything.  This year he has gone through his illness.  I haven't had to do all the same physical things for him but he has needed me to be emotionally and spiritually available and I have done my absolute best to do that for him.  

Both instances have reminded us of the relationship we have with Christ Jesus.  As we promised not to leave each other, so He also promised not to leave us, only His promise is for eternity.  We have been together 27 years.  Our Lord knew us before we were born.  He was there when we were conceived.  He saw each of our cells dividing and the first beat of our tiny hearts.  He watched as we developed each limb and hair.  He was there when we took our first breaths and through all of the bumps and scrapes of childhood.  He has walked with us through every moment of our lives, good or bad, and has promised to never leave us.  We have no fear of being separated from Him even through death, unlike an earthly relationship.  

This life, and everything in it, is temporary.  Everything except for the bond we have with our Savior.  That will continue forever.  Are you feeling alone or abandoned?  If you are a believer then you can turn to Him and He will hold you tight and reassure you that you are His and that you will never be alone.  If you do not know Him personally but would like to have that same oneness please feel free to ask me, or anyone who carries the name Christian, how to have that same relationship.  There is no need to wait and all of Heaven will rejoice over you with singing and celebration when you make that choice.  Have a blessed week and know that you are loved completely by the Creator, Almighty God. 

Daily Word of God - Exodus 23:25-26

Exodus 23:25-26 New Living Translation (NLT)

25 “You must serve only the Lord your God. If you do, I[a] will bless you with food and water, and I will protect you from illness. 26 There will be no miscarriages or infertility in your land, and I will give you long, full lives.

23:25 As in Greek and Latin versions; Hebrew reads he.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Daily Word of God - Isaiah 56:1-2

Isaiah 56:1-2 New Living Translation (NLT)

Blessings for All Nations
1 This is what the Lord says:

“Be just and fair to all.
    Do what is right and good,
for I am coming soon to rescue you
    and to display my righteousness among you.
2 Blessed are all those
    who are careful to do this.
Blessed are those who honor my Sabbath days of rest
    and keep themselves from doing wrong.

Daily Word of God - Romans 5:6-11

Romans 5:6-11 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. 11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Daily Word of God - Psalm 28:6-7

Psalm 28:6-7 New Living Translation (NLT)

6 Praise the Lord!
    For he has heard my cry for mercy.
7 The Lord is my strength and shield.
    I trust him with all my heart.
He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy.
    I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.

Veterans Day 2018 Observed

Today we observe Veterans Day. Honor those who served and their families for their sacrifice.