Unity

Gentle hearts towards each other, unity in truth and love, and humble honesty in our confession and repentance is what allows the Holy Spirit to fall on us so sweet and tender. Chains are broken and life is restored fresh and new when we are shaken in our very depths. It is then that we take a fresh drink from the fountain of life and find strength in the Lord.
Remember, Child of God, we are blood bought, washed, sanctified, justified by the Lamb of God. We have a testimony to live out today, we have Good News of hope to share with a lost world — not as a conquering warrior on high, but as a loving servant, following in His footsteps. 
Heavenly Father help us to wear the full armor of God, to discern between good and evil,  to pick what is best and whay honors God, to think of others more highly than ourselves, to set our thoughts on things above, to forgive, to love, and to serve others out of our gratitude for what Jesus Christ has done for us, for what the Holy Spirit is doing in us. Amen.

Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen. You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near. Don’t grumble about each other, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. For look—the Judge is standing at the door! For examples of patience in suffering, dear brothers and sisters, look at the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. We give great honor to those who endure under suffering. For instance, you know about Job, a man of great endurance. You can see how the Lord was kind to him at the end, for the Lord is full of tenderness and mercy. – James 5:7‭-‬11 NLT


When one of you has a dispute with another believer, how dare you file a lawsuit and ask a secular court to decide the matter instead of taking it to other believers ! Don’t you realize that someday we believers will judge the world? And since you are going to judge the world, can’t you decide even these little things among yourselves? Don’t you realize that we will judge angels? So you should surely be able to resolve ordinary disputes in this life. If you have legal disputes about such matters, why go to outside judges who are not respected by the church? I am saying this to shame you. Isn’t there anyone in all the church who is wise enough to decide these issues? But instead, one believer sues another—right in front of unbelievers! Even to have such lawsuits with one another is a defeat for you. Why not just accept the injustice and leave it at that? Why not let yourselves be cheated? Instead, you yourselves are the ones who do wrong and cheat even your fellow believers. Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. – 1 Corinthians 6:1‭-‬11 NLT


Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless. When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. – 1 Corinthians 13:4‭-‬13 NLT


Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many. Make sure that no one is immoral or godless like Esau, who traded his birthright as the firstborn son for a single meal. You know that afterward, when he wanted his father’s blessing, he was rejected. It was too late for repentance, even though he begged with bitter tears. You have not come to a physical mountain, to a place of flaming fire, darkness, gloom, and whirlwind, as the Israelites did at Mount Sinai. For they heard an awesome trumpet blast and a voice so terrible that they begged God to stop speaking. They staggered back under God’s command: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.”  Moses himself was so frightened at the sight that he said, “I am terrified and trembling.” No, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to countless thousands of angels in a joyful gathering. You have come to the assembly of God’s firstborn children, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God himself, who is the judge over all things. You have come to the spirits of the righteous ones in heaven who have now been made perfect. You have come to Jesus, the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks of forgiveness instead of crying out for vengeance like the blood of Abel. Be careful that you do not refuse to listen to the One who is speaking. For if the people of Israel did not escape when they refused to listen to Moses, the earthly messenger, we will certainly not escape if we reject the One who speaks to us from heaven! When God spoke from Mount Sinai his voice shook the earth, but now he makes another promise: “Once again I will shake not only the earth but the heavens also.”  This means that all of creation will be shaken and removed, so that only unshakable things will remain. Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe. For our God is a devouring fire. – Hebrews 12:14‭-‬29 NLT

Do you know?

Do you know that He is the Lord?

Is that more than a “say the right answer ” religious test question to you?

So you know that He is the most high God,  the living God, almighty God, righteous, holy and just in His judgement against and His punishment of evil, wickedness, and sin?

Hear what the Word of God proved true about those who thought they were true Israel but who were deceived and confused and lost — and hear what the Word of God says about those who thought they were the church but were no more a part of the body of Christ than Satan and His demons themselves. 

See that hope is found in an abiding and intimate relationship with Christ, walking with Him in Truth, as more than a conqueror, as that new creation with a new name — not in empty religious association, traditions and powerless words and false reputations painted on the outside of empty vessels of sin and death. 

Come to Him and live, you who have ears to hear what the Good Shepherd says, and who will repent from your wicked ways and walk in His way!

therefore thus says the Lord God : Behold, I, even I, am against you. And I will execute judgments in your midst in the sight of the nations. And because of all your abominations I will do with you what I have never yet done, and the like of which I will never do again. Therefore fathers shall eat their sons in your midst, and sons shall eat their fathers. And I will execute judgments on you, and any of you who survive I will scatter to all the winds. Therefore, as I live, declares the Lord God , surely, because you have defiled my sanctuary with all your detestable things and with all your abominations, therefore I will withdraw. My eye will not spare, and I will have no pity. A third part of you shall die of pestilence and be consumed with famine in your midst; a third part shall fall by the sword all around you; and a third part I will scatter to all the winds and will unsheathe the sword after them. “Thus shall my anger spend itself, and I will vent my fury upon them and satisfy myself. And they shall know that I am the Lord —that I have spoken in my jealousy—when I spend my fury upon them. Moreover, I will make you a desolation and an object of reproach among the nations all around you and in the sight of all who pass by. You shall be a reproach and a taunt, a warning and a horror, to the nations all around you, when I execute judgments on you in anger and fury, and with furious rebukes—I am the Lord ; I have spoken— when I send against you the deadly arrows of famine, arrows for destruction, which I will send to destroy you, and when I bring more and more famine upon you and break your supply of bread. I will send famine and wild beasts against you, and they will rob you of your children. Pestilence and blood shall pass through you, and I will bring the sword upon you. I am the Lord ; I have spoken.” – Ezekiel 5:8‭-‬17 ESV

“Son of man, set your face toward the mountains of Israel, and prophesy against them, and say, You mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord God ! Thus says the Lord God to the mountains and the hills, to the ravines and the valleys: Behold, I, even I, will bring a sword upon you, and I will destroy your high places. Your altars shall become desolate, and your incense altars shall be broken, and I will cast down your slain before your idols. And I will lay the dead bodies of the people of Israel before their idols, and I will scatter your bones around your altars. Wherever you dwell, the cities shall be waste and the high places ruined, so that your altars will be waste and ruined, your idols broken and destroyed, your incense altars cut down, and your works wiped out. And the slain shall fall in your midst, and you shall know that I am the Lord . “Yet I will leave some of you alive. When you have among the nations some who escape the sword, and when you are scattered through the countries, then those of you who escape will remember me among the nations where they are carried captive, how I have been broken over their whoring heart that has departed from me and over their eyes that go whoring after their idols. And they will be loathsome in their own sight for the evils that they have committed, for all their abominations. And they shall know that I am the Lord . I have not said in vain that I would do this evil to them.” Thus says the Lord God : “Clap your hands and stamp your foot and say, Alas, because of all the evil abominations of the house of Israel, for they shall fall by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence. He who is far off shall die of pestilence, and he who is near shall fall by the sword, and he who is left and is preserved shall die of famine. Thus I will spend my fury upon them. And you shall know that I am the Lord , when their slain lie among their idols around their altars, on every high hill, on all the mountaintops, under every green tree, and under every leafy oak, wherever they offered pleasing aroma to all their idols. And I will stretch out my hand against them and make the land desolate and waste, in all their dwelling places, from the wilderness to Riblah. Then they will know that I am the Lord .” – Ezekiel 6:2‭-‬14 ESV

“And you, O son of man, thus says the Lord God to the land of Israel: An end! The end has come upon the four corners of the land. Now the end is upon you, and I will send my anger upon you; I will judge you according to your ways, and I will punish you for all your abominations. And my eye will not spare you, nor will I have pity, but I will punish you for your ways, while your abominations are in your midst. Then you will know that I am the Lord . “Thus says the Lord God : Disaster after disaster! Behold, it comes. An end has come; the end has come; it has awakened against you. Behold, it comes. Your doom has come to you, O inhabitant of the land. The time has come; the day is near, a day of tumult, and not of joyful shouting on the mountains. Now I will soon pour out my wrath upon you, and spend my anger against you, and judge you according to your ways, and I will punish you for all your abominations. And my eye will not spare, nor will I have pity. I will punish you according to your ways, while your abominations are in your midst. Then you will know that I am the Lord , who strikes. “Behold, the day! Behold, it comes! Your doom has come; the rod has blossomed; pride has budded. Violence has grown up into a rod of wickedness. None of them shall remain, nor their abundance, nor their wealth; neither shall there be preeminence among them. The time has come; the day has arrived. Let not the buyer rejoice, nor the seller mourn, for wrath is upon all their multitude. For the seller shall not return to what he has sold, while they live. For the vision concerns all their multitude; it shall not turn back; and because of his iniquity, none can maintain his life. “They have blown the trumpet and made everything ready, but none goes to battle, for my wrath is upon all their multitude. The sword is without; pestilence and famine are within. He who is in the field dies by the sword, and him who is in the city famine and pestilence devour. And if any survivors escape, they will be on the mountains, like doves of the valleys, all of them moaning, each one over his iniquity. All hands are feeble, and all knees turn to water. They put on sackcloth, and horror covers them. Shame is on all faces, and baldness on all their heads. They cast their silver into the streets, and their gold is like an unclean thing. Their silver and gold are not able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of the Lord . They cannot satisfy their hunger or fill their stomachs with it. For it was the stumbling block of their iniquity. His beautiful ornament they used for pride, and they made their abominable images and their detestable things of it. Therefore I make it an unclean thing to them. And I will give it into the hands of foreigners for prey, and to the wicked of the earth for spoil, and they shall profane it. I will turn my face from them, and they shall profane my treasured place. Robbers shall enter and profane it. “Forge a chain! For the land is full of bloody crimes and the city is full of violence. I will bring the worst of the nations to take possession of their houses. I will put an end to the pride of the strong, and their holy places shall be profaned. When anguish comes, they will seek peace, but there shall be none. Disaster comes upon disaster; rumor follows rumor. They seek a vision from the prophet, while the law perishes from the priest and counsel from the elders. The king mourns, the prince is wrapped in despair, and the hands of the people of the land are paralyzed by terror. According to their way I will do to them, and according to their judgments I will judge them, and they shall know that I am the Lord .” – Ezekiel 7:2‭-‬27 ESV

There is a way…

If you keep staring at it,

It will be hard to forget it.
If you keep thinking about it,

It will be hard to not touch it.
If you keep touching it,

It will be hard to let go of it.
If you can’t let go of it,

It will be hard for you to break free from it.
If you let it own you, 

You’ll find out there was a better way.
Don’t give up the way,

Don’t give up the best, 

Just because something “good” 

Has caught your eye.
Your enemies are happy to offer you a pretty poison, 

As long as it steals your joy, 

As long as it kills your drive,

As long as it destroys your purpose.
Eve saw that the fruit of the forbidden tree was good for food and she ate it. And it was so good that she turned and shared it with her husband. It wasn’t until later that they realized the consequences. 
Are there things that you’ve let catch your eye because they are shiny and pretty, but you know they aren’t best?
Are there things that you’ve justified in your life because there is “some good” in them,  even though you know they aren’t best?
Are you offering up temptations to others to come and join you in the poison that you’ve chosen for your life? Will little eyes look at your example and be led into traps that aren’t best for their lives? 
Do you care about what is best? 
Do you want what is best? 
Yes, there is a way that is best. 
Do you want what is best? 
Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. 
He is, was, and always will be the best. 
And He says, “Come,  walk with me.”
He doesn’t look for the best as a requirement, He produces the best out of our old lives of “not the best”.
He promises you the best. 
Will you ignore His offer? 
Will you trade the opportunity of the best, for something less?
“Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.”

James 1:14-15 NLT
If you want proof, I can show you faith.

If you want prosperity, I can show you trials and sacrifice. 

If you want authority and power, I can show you love and mercy and a life serving others. 
Do you know the way?
Does He know you? 
“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.  On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’  But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’ “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock.  Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock.  But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand.  When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”

Matthew 7:21-27 NLT

Today

THOUGHTS

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. – Colossians 3:1‭-‬17 ESV

WORDS

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. – James 1:19‭-‬21 ESV

ACTIONS

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. – James 1:22‭-‬25 ESV


HOW?

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.  That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’  The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”  Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?  Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony.  If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?  No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.  And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up,  that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.  And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.  For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.  But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” – John 3:1‭-‬21 ESV


The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. – Revelation 22:17 ESV

As God’s partners, we beg you not to accept this marvelous gift of God’s kindness and then ignore it. For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation. We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry. In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. We have been beaten, been put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food. We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love. We faithfully preach the truth. God’s power is working in us. We use the weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defense. We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. We are honest, but they call us impostors. We are ignored, even though we are well known. We live close to death, but we are still alive. We have been beaten, but we have not been killed. Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything. Oh, dear Corinthian friends! We have spoken honestly with you, and our hearts are open to you. There is no lack of love on our part, but you have withheld your love from us. I am asking you to respond as if you were my own children. Open your hearts to us! Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness? What harmony can there be between Christ and the devil ? How can a believer be a partner with an unbeliever? And what union can there be between God’s temple and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God said: “I will live in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 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. And I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty. ” – 2 Corinthians 6:1‭-‬18 NLY

Puke and Rally!

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This morning, on my morning run with a friend who is faster than me, I was doing fine until I tried to clear some congestion from my throat. Instead, I gagged myself and ended up puking and dry heaving for several minutes,  as He slipped completely out of site ahead of me. 
I thought to myself,  “well that ends my run” — even though I was only halfway into a 1.8 mile run and was at the absolute furthest point possible from getting back home. As I continued wrenching for about 4 minutes, I wondered how long it would take me to get home in this condition,  and realized there was no easy way to just call someone to come get me.
Then I remembered a rally cry from Billy Bob on the movie Varsity Blues who cried out, “Puke and rally!” 
Now that might seem like an interesting rally cry reference for a Christian message,  because for Billy Bob that was a cry for him as he ran back into the party for more alcohol abuse. But I remembered it because in my younger days, puking was more often the result of alcohol abuse and partying than it was from sickness or pushing myself near the limits of exercise, etc.
In this case,  I just wanted to make it home,  so I started talking steps, then before I knee it,  I was back to a fast walking pace,  and when I got to that first downhill, I was running again. You see, I didn’t give up. I couldn’t give up. What was my option? To lay down and die in the mix of mud and my own puke? No!
I say this to encourage you today. No matter where you are. No matter what you have gotten yourself into. No matter how far away from home you feel you’ve gone. No matter how far away you feel like you are from God and how hard you think it might be to get back. Puke up that mess that is in your life that isn’t glorifying God. Give it up, it is killing you. Turn back to God. Stay walking home. Just take that first step of submitting yourself to Him. Accept Him not just as a promised Savior, but as a living Lord of your life, and He will come and strengthen you like a good friend and will bring you home.

“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it?  And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders.  When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’  In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and sweep the entire house and search carefully until she finds it?  And when she finds it, she will call in her friends and neighbors and say, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost coin.’  In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.”

To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons.  The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons. “A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living.  About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve.  He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs.  The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything. “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger!  I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you,  and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’

“So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.  His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. ’

“But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet.  And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast,  for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.

“Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house,  and he asked one of the servants what was going on.  ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’ “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him,  but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends.  Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’

“His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours.  We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’” – Luke 15:4‭-‬32

Love!

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Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. – 1 Corinthians 13:4‭-‬7 NLT

Buckle up, precious cargo

Buckle up! You are “Precious Cargo”!

Mia wanted to be sure that Pooky and Rudolph were safe in the car.

Are you safe and ready to step out into the world today? Have you put on the full armor of God to protect you from the schemes of your enemies?
He put on righteousness as his body armor and placed the helmet of salvation on his head. He clothed himself with a robe of vengeance and wrapped himself in a cloak of divine passion. He will repay his enemies for their evil deeds. His fury will fall on his foes. He will pay them back even to the ends of the earth. In the west, people will respect the name of the Lord ; in the east, they will glorify him. For he will come like a raging flood tide driven by the breath of the Lord . “The Redeemer will come to Jerusalem to buy back those in Israel who have turned from their sins,” says the Lord . “And this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord . “My Spirit will not leave them, and neither will these words I have given you. They will be on your lips and on the lips of your children and your children’s children forever. I, the Lord , have spoken!

Isaiah 59:17‭-‬21
A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. 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. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.  In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.  Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. And pray for me, too. Ask God to give me the right words so I can boldly explain God’s mysterious plan that the Good News is for Jews and Gentiles alike.  I am in chains now, still preaching this message as God’s ambassador. So pray that I will keep on speaking boldly for him, as I should.

Ephesians 6:10‭-‬20 NLT

Persevere


“Because you have obeyed my command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world.” – Revelation 3:10 NLT


“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. “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.  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.  But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!  When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father. “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love.  When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.  I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!  This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.  There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command.  I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.  You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name.  This is my command: Love each other.” – John 15:4‭-‬17 NLT


“If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first.  The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you.  Do you remember what I told you? ‘A slave is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you.  They will do all this to you because of me, for they have rejected the one who sent me.  They would not be guilty if I had not come and spoken to them. But now they have no excuse for their sin.” – John 15:18‭-‬22 NLT


From that time on, Esau hated Jacob because their father had given Jacob the blessing. And Esau began to scheme: “I will soon be mourning my father’s death. Then I will kill my brother, Jacob.” But Rebekah heard about Esau’s plans. So she sent for Jacob and told him, “Listen, Esau is consoling himself by plotting to kill you. So listen carefully, my son. Get ready and flee to my brother, Laban, in Haran. Stay there with him until your brother cools off. When he calms down and forgets what you have done to him, I will send for you to come back. Why should I lose both of you in one day?” – Genesis 27:41‭-‬45 NLT


“So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are. In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation.” – 1 Peter 5:6‭-‬10 NLT


But Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” – Exodus 14:13‭-‬14 NLT


“So follow the steps of the good, and stay on the paths of the righteous. For only the godly will live in the land, and those with integrity will remain in it. But the wicked will be removed from the land, and the treacherous will be uprooted.” – Proverbs 2:20‭-‬22 NLT

When Passion runs High, Pride is at Work

Amos33We are on vacation at the beach this week, and I’ve been taking pictures — both of our family, and of the sights and people around us. So my eyes have been open to pay attention and see more than I would usually recognize. One thing that I’ve noticed is that it seems like long periods of time together seems to multiply the impact of emotions. As friends begin spending every waking hour together for day after day, passions can run high. Families can enjoy and appreciate time together until the breaking point when everyone just wants their own corner of the house to hide in.

 

As I was taking pictures today, I caught a picture of two girls riding on the back of a golf cart. They were apparently friends (not sisters), but they had turned away from each other and slid as far from each other as they could. I’m guessing they had a disagreement and were each pouting and mad with one another. Out here this week, I’ve seen the same thing between adults — between families — between spouses. And I don’t think that it’s any different than what happens at home, but it might be a little bit heightened because of the concentrated amount of time together.

 

Let’s be honest. Without love, we would be ready to kill each other. We can get on each other’s nerves. We can lose our patience. We can become offended over silly things that really shouldn’t compromise our relationships. But all of that comes down to pride, right? At some point, our true colors shine through once we’ve been tested to our limits. And in most cases, when the “being nice” wears off, we’re faced with whether or not we will just turn to the person and say “I’m sorry.”

 

Yesterday, we were tired and ready to head home from the pool, but someone had left their golf cart parked sideways behind ours and two others, blocking us all in. We were all parked legally in spaces, and this cart had just decided to do as they pleased with no concern for our being able to get out. We looked around for signs of anyone around to no avail. We even helped one of the carts on the side navigate their way barely past the edge of the offending cart. A security guard on his cart even saw what was happening from a short distance away and gave us no help.

 

So eventually, we got tired of waiting, and I walked over to the offending cart, pressed the gas pedal on it to release the brake, and began pushing the cart by hand out of the way. At that moment, I hear a “Stop! What do you think that you’re doing?” from behind me. I turn around to see a woman security guard walking over with a stern look, telling me “You can’t do that, don’t you know that’s a security cart?” To which I replied, “No, there are no markings on it, and no one is here at it, and it has been blocking our way.” She continued to try and tell me that what I was doing was wrong. To which I said, “Look, you have no right to be telling me about right and wrong when you’ve left this cart abandoned, illegally parked, and left multiple families blocked in with no other option than to do something about it since your buddy over there saw the whole situation playing out and didn’t lend a hand or tell us what was going on. Please move so we can get out.”

 

I was not very loving in my response because I was tired, frustrated, and ready to get home. I was not trying to be rude or disrespectful, but I felt justified in my pointing out that she was actually the one in the wrong and that I was just trying to deal with the situation she had left for me by her inconsiderate actions. But it completely passed over her head and she seemed as if she could care less, moving her cart over to join the other security guard she had been talking with (who had been watching the whole time). I drove up, and I asked her for her name. “Jill”, she said. At first, I was thinking of asking so that I could make a complaint. I can be honest enough to admit that.

 

But this morning, I’m going to pray for “Jill”, and I’m going to pray for myself — that I will be able to show a little more love. My daughter was witness to me standing up for what was right — but she did not see an example of what would have been the most loving way to handle the situation. Lord, help me, even in these times where my patience is stretched thin to rely upon your strength, to call out upon your name, and to trust you. Help me to leave room for your wrath, your correction, your guidance — and for your kindness to lead others to you. Help me to find points of agreement instead of falling into division and offense. Help me to die to self, and see even challenges when I feel wronged as an opportunity to remember that you truly were wronged, persecuted, mocked, and falsely accused – so that I might offer to others the same measure of forgiveness that I hope to receive myself.

 

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

The proud insist on “finishing strong”, but only the humble will “endure to the end”

I left the starting gates sprinting, 

thinking that I was going to finish strong. 

Now I see that this is a marathon, 

and that only by the grace of God, 

and by the power of Christ who lives in me, 

am I assured that I will endure to the end. 
Not by evidences of past victories or defeats – 

but only by that true, saving faith 

that has put all trust in God 

and that has turned me away from my sin 

to fall deeply into the arms 

of a righteous, holy, and perfect God 

whose very presence would destroy me 

if it weren’t for the Blood of the Lamb.
#MoreThanConquerors
Therefore, the proud may not stand in your presence, for you hate all who do evil. – Psalms 5:5 NLT