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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Twinkies and faith

Romans 10:17 (ESV)
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Twinkies are a fun treat. They taste good, they’re light and fluffy, and that have that delicious creamy vanilla frosting center. Simply put, Twinkies are amazing. Can you imagine your life before you had your first Twinkie? If you’re like most people, you wouldn’t want to imagine something like that. But think about your life before you knew all about the awesome frosting center and it’s sugary goodness?

If you didn’t know Twinkies existed, how would you have heard about Twinkies? Perhaps one day you were hanging out with a friend and they began to tell you about how good Twinkies were. They talked about the texture, the flavor, and of course the vanilla frosting. More than likely, after hearing your friend describe a Twinkie, you’d want to head to the nearest store and try one out for yourself.

The idea of your friend telling you about Twinkies is a little like how faith works. After hearing about how good Twinkies are from a friend, your desire to eat a Twinkie grows. That’s a lot like how our faith in God grows. As we begin to hear about God and His goodness, we want to know more about Him and our faith grows.

The more you hear about Twinkies, the more you want one. The same is true for our faith. The more time we spend in God’s word, talking about God’s word, and thinking about God’s word the more our faith grows.

What would make you believe that Twinkies were good? It would have to be a matter of trust. You’d have to trust that your friend was telling you the truth about how good Twinkies are. You might rely on the fact that your friend tells the truth or that they have good taste, but it really comes down to believing what your friend said about Twinkies was true.

That’s a lot like how faith works. Faith is just taking God at His word. Its trusting what God says above everything else. Just like you would trust your friend’s word that a Twinkie was a great snack, you have faith by trusting that what God says is true.

Faith takes God at His word. When the Bible says something, having faith is believing what the Bible says no matter what it might look like around you. So the next time you rip open a package of Twinkies, remember that they can teach you a lot about faith!

Dear Lord, we pray that our faith would continue to grow as we study Your word and gather together with other that know and love You. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Your faith and a rollercoaster

1 Kings 18:24 (ESV)
And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, he is God.” And all the people answered, “It is well spoken.”

Riding on a rollercoaster can be a lot of fun. The twists and turns during a rollercoaster ride can get your blood pumping and heart pounding. And there’s nothing scarier than riding a rollercoaster without a floor. When you ride on a floorless rollercoaster your feet are just dangling. In a coaster without a floor, you’ve got to put all your trust in the ride’s restraints. You have to believe that the restraints will keep you safe during the ride.

A lot of the time, taking a stand for God can feel just as scary as riding a floorless rollercoaster. Taking a stand for God can be really scary. You can wonder if it will be worth it, or if God will really come through for you. There’s a story in the Bible about Elijah that shows what can happen if you take a stand for God. Elijah challenged a bunch of people who didn’t believe in God to a contest to prove that Elijah’s God was real.

Elijah went out of his way to take a stand for God. He poured tons of water on his wood. His goal was to really make it obvious that when God lit his wood on fire that God was real. Elijah trusted in God. He trusted that God was going to come through for him and not leave him hanging.

Just like when you ride a rollercoaster you have to trust the restraints to keep you safe, when you take a stand for God, you have to trust that God will come through for you. Elijah did just that. He trusted that God had his back. He trusted God so much that he poured water on his wood just to prove that God was big enough to light wet wood on fire. And God did it. God came through for Elijah. God lit the wood on fire, water and all.

Taking a stand for God takes faith. It takes you trusting God and relying on Him to keep you safe. So challenge yourself today to trust God. Just like you have to trust the restraints on a rollercoaster, trust God that he will come through for you and keep you safe. Trust that God will have your back when you take a stand for Him.

Dear Lord, we thank You that we can trust You to be our restraints and protect us in all the things that come our way.  Help us to take a stand for You today. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Monday, February 26, 2018

The Gospel according to dominos

Romans 10:13-15 (ESV)
13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?  And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

The best thing about playing dominos is setting up all the dominos in a row in all sorts of fun patterns. Once they are all set you knock the first one over and watch as the first one knocked over the second, the second knocked over the third. On and on the knocking over happened until all the dominos fell down. Knocking over dominos is really fun. Playing with dominos reminds me of Romans 10.

Each part of this scripture is like a domino. You’ve got to have one to knock down two, to knock down the third and so on. Let us look at these dominos.

Domino One  – To get saved you have to call on the name of the Lord.
This domino makes a lot of sense. If you want to get saved, you’ve got to ask Jesus to do it. You can’t rely on your works, good deeds or anything else. The Bible clearly states that it is Jesus who does the saving.

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it – Eph 2:8-9

Salvation is a gift of grace. It’s not about what you’ve done, its all about who Jesus is. It’s all about asking Jesus to save you.  The great thing about this is that Jesus doesn’t make calling on him complicated. It’s simple, it’s just reaching out to Him by faith or belief. That’s where the next domino comes into play.

Domino Two – To call on Jesus you have to believe.
You have to believe in Jesus to call on Him for salvation. If you think that you’re saved by your works or any other way, there’s no need to call on Jesus. To call on Jesus, you’ve got to humble yourself and realize that without Jesus you can’t do enough good to get into heaven. You’ve got to firmly believe that Jesus is God’s son, and his sacrifice on the cross was the payment for your sin. Once you believe that, you’re able to call on Jesus to save you.

But that statement makes you wonder: How do you begin believing?

Domino Three – To believe in Jesus, you have to hear about Him.
If you haven’t heard about Jesus, how would you know that you should call on him, or believe in Him? You wouldn’t. You’ve got to build belief in Jesus by hearing about Him. Think about it, the more you hear about a great movie, the more you want to go see it. When you hear about something good it makes you want to try it. The same is true about Jesus to develop the faith to believe Him, you’ve got to hear about Him. You’ve got to learn that He’s good, that’s He is the only way to God.

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. – Romans 10:17

So how do you begin to hear about Jesus?

Domino Four – To hear about Jesus, someone has to tell you about Him.
This about a new restaurant you’ve tried recently. What made you decide to try the new restaurant? Most likely, someone told you about it. Maybe a friend told you the new restaurant was really good and their review made you want to try it for yourself. The same is true with Jesus. If someone hadn’t told you about Jesus, you couldn’t have called on Him for salvation.

When you hear about the goodness of God, it makes you believe in Him and want to invite Him into your life.

So finally, how does someone tell others about Jesus?

Domino Five – Those who tell others about Jesus are sent.
The Bible tells us in Mark 16:15 that we are to go into our world and tell others about Jesus. As believers, we are called by God to tell others about who Jesus is.

And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. – Mark 16:15

So take some time this week to think about this scripture. You’ve been called by God to tell others about Jesus. You are called to preach to people the message of salvation.

As you tell others, they will hear the message, then they have the option to believe and finally call on Jesus to be saved. But the process starts with you telling people about Jesus. If you don’t open your mouth, then other people won’t have the opportunity to hear the gospel. It’s up to you to share with those around you. You sharing salvation with those around you can cause a great domino effect. You could cause someone you know and care for to get saved and to spend eternity with Jesus.

So what are you waiting for? Begin sharing Jesus with others today!

Dear Lord, we pray that we would make the effort to share Your love with those around us today. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

2018 Winter Olympic thoughts

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (ESV)
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

We’ve come to the end of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. We have seen the joy and we have seen the disappointment  on the faces of the athletes.  For many of these athletes, this would mark the end of their career. Their last time competing on the world’s stage. As we recognize their achievements, we’re reminded of the spiritual race that still lies before us…

During the 2018 Winter Olympics, we watched athletes who have invested a lot of time, money, and immense effort in order to compete (often in a single event), hoping to receive gold, silver and bronze medals that will be hung on ribbons around their necks. In the original Olympic games the only prize the Greek athletes received was a crown of olive leaves cut from a sacred tree at Olympia. There were no medals and only the winner’s name was recorded. There was no prize for those who finished second or third.
While today’s Olympic medals last much longer than a crown of olive leaves, they may not be worth as much as you think

Olympic gold medals only need to be gilded with a minimum of 6 grams of gold. The rest of the medal is silver that is a minimum of 92.5 percent pure. Silver medals are made entirely of at least 92.5 percent pure silver. At today’s prices the gold medal is only worth around $300 and the silver medal is worth considerably less. But ask any athlete how much it is worth and they are sure to tell you it is priceless. Even so, these medals do not last forever. Medals can tarnish, be stolen, or even be lost. The ribbons they hang from will rot. The athlete’s moment of glory will one day be forgotten.
Think about it, how many Olympic champions can you remember?
How many world record holders can you name?

In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, the apostle Paul says, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”

Just as the Olympic Games have come to an end, and the athletes have been awarded their medals, the Olympic flame extinguished, our life will one day come to its end. The Bible says that we also compete, not for a medal, not for a temporary crown of olive leaves, not for honor and personal glory but for a crown that lasts forever. The opponents we face are the enemy and his forces and our own fleshly nature. The glory we receive is not that one moment on the podium but one that endures for all eternity. God’s crown is not for one winner, but for all who strive for righteousness.

The crown is our reward for running the race, for being faithful to our calling, for enduring the struggles and the hardships, for wrestling with the sad events and circumstances we cannot control and do not understand, for finishing the course God has set out for us.

Dear Lord, help us to run the race that is before us. Help us to run the race strong and to finish with our best for You. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Keep your focus

1 Timothy 6:12 (ESV)
Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

General Bradford was definitely an unusual general. He was known far and wide for both his infinite patience and love as well as for His justice and wrath. His soldiers loved him dearly—and for good cause. His orders were always good, and he personally found a way to care for each of the soldiers who volunteered for his little band.

Michael had recently joined the general’s band, and was now quite anxious to prove himself a good soldier. His first task was to learn to march.

“The key to marching is to stay focused and to listen for my commands constantly,” the general explained. “See that distant horizon? Fasten your eyes fifteen degrees above the horizon line. Don’t let them wander to the circumstances or people around you. Keep your eyes focused above the horizon, and your ears tuned to my voice. You’ll find that many, many things will try to distract you.”

Michael couldn’t imagine anything distracting him from the horizon or the general’s voice. He’d soon find out, however, just how easily he could get distracted.

The first time Michael actually had the opportunity to march, he lifted his knees up nearly to his chest each step in an effort to look like a good marcher. He desperately wanted to do a good job to please the general!

The general shook his head and gently admonished the young private, “Don’t let your desire to show off distract you. True marching isn’t about lifting those knees in show; it’s about putting one step in front of the other in sync with my commands.”
Michael hung his head. He had allowed the thought of what others would think to distract him from really doing his job.

Michael tried again, this time not worrying about how he looked. Yet he had such a hard time keeping his eyes above the horizon! His eyes seemed to constantly wander to the things or people around him. Then he’d catch sight of the general and remember his command to look above the horizon. Would he ever learn?

 “George,” Michael called reprovingly, “your step is a little fast, and wipe the grin off your face. And Scott, loosen up your arms and let them swing a little more natural and—”

“I said flight halt!”

Only after walking several paces in front of the rest of the troop did Michael finally hear the command. He didn’t think he could ever forget the general’s reproof, “Cadet, fall back in line. Keep your own eyes and ears attentive and let me take care of the others.”

Michael stepped back in line. He was beginning to realize that keeping focused would be a moment-by-moment battle. It was SO easy to get distracted!

As we serve the Lord each day keep your eyes and ears on the Lord and don’t let the things of the world distract you.

Dear Lord, we pray that we would stay focused and not get distracted. Help us to keep our eyes and our ears in tune with You . In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Down hill skiing and trust

Psalm 13:5 (ESV)
But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
    my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.

The 2018 Winter Olympics are winding down. Quick question: What is your favorite winter Olympic sport? A recent Google search showed that nearly every pole asking that question had a different ranking of the sports. Consistently ranking in the top 10, however, is alpine skiing,  which brings us to our subject: trust.

Veteran skiers will tell you that often there is a moment in learning to ski when it all just seems to click. You've had your lessons; you've memorized your analogies (pizza slice, French fries, carrying a tray); you've gotten frustrated because you can't make your body do your analogies; you're thinking of too many things at once. Then. Suddenly. Ahhhh…maybe it's making a nice turn, or recovering (without falling) from going too fast, or simply making a good stop. Something clicked between mind and body. This click can be summed up in a word: trust.

You may not realize it, but in that moment, you trusted your learning, your skis and your legs to do what you were telling them to do. You let go of your instructions and analogies.

It's this same type of letting go that we need to practice with God. As we seek to grow in our relationship with Him, the last thing we give up is control. Maybe we want to hang on to reason or logic or keep our hearts and minds in a realm of what we know, but we are told in Hebrews 11:6 that it is impossible to please God without faith. Impossible. A leap of faith always will be required.

Take a step of trust to allow God to do what He loves to do: heal, redeem, give grace, strengthen. Accept the kindness and generosity of God, and let Him do the work.

Dear Lord, Help us to take the steps we need to to trust You completely. Help us to accept the kindness and generosity of You. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.  

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Jean-Claude Killy and being set apart

Romans 12:2 (ESV)
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Jean-Claude Killy, the French ski champion, did more than work hard at his sport.

When he made his nation’s ski team in the early 1960s, he was determined to be the best. He decided vigorous training was the key. Up at dawn each day, he ran up mountains with his skis on – a very painful activity. Weight training, sprinting…Killy was determined to do whatever it took to reach peak physical condition.

Other team members were working just as hard, and in the end it was a change in style, not conditioning, that set Killy apart.

The goal in ski racing is to ski down a prescribed mountain course faster than anyone else. Killy began experimenting to see if he could pare any seconds off his time. He found that if he skied with his legs apart, he had better balance. He also found that if he sat back on his skis when executing a turn, instead of leaning forward as was customary, he had better control, which also resulted in faster times. Rather than regarding his ski poles as an accessory for balance, Killy tried using them to propel him forward.

Killy’s style was unorthodox. But when he won most of the major ski events in 1966 and 1967, including 3 gold medals at the Winter Olympics, skiers around the world took notice. Today, the Killy style is norm among downhill and slalom racers. Any other “style” would be considered odd.

As Christians we are not called to conform to the world’s standards, but to God’s standards. Our lifestyle should challenge people to come to Jesus Christ and live according to His higher ways and purposes. The Christian “style” may seem odd to the unbeliever, but in the end, it is the style that will previal!

Don’t be afraid to be a little “unusual” today in the eyes of those who observe you. Your example may help win them over to a championship lifestyle.

Dear Lord, help us to be the one that brings someone to You today. Help us to conform our self to Your standards and not that of the world. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Well done Billy Graham

Matthew 25:23 (ESV)
His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

This morning one of the greatest ministers of God’s word took his last trip to his final retirement home. As he arrived in the presence of His Savior I am sure he heard this words.  Tonight I wanted to share the words that Billy Graham’s son Franklin shared after the passing of his father.

My father Billy Graham was once asked, “Where is Heaven?” He replied, “Heaven is where Jesus is and I am going to Him soon!” This morning, at the age of 99, he departed this world into eternal life in Heaven, prepared by the Lord Jesus Christ—the Savior of the world—whom he proclaimed for nearly 80 years. He will be missed by our family, his colleagues, faithful ministry partners, and, yes, many around the world. But what joy he has to be welcomed by God the Father, and be reunited with my mother in the presence of Jesus who speaks peace to eternal souls.

What about you? When you depart this world do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity? You can know this today. Jesus said, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The One who comforts weary souls has given us this promise, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me … I go to prepare a place for you … I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1-3).

Dear Lord, we thank You for the ministry of Billy Graham. We thank You for the many lives that he touched for You. We pray for his family at this time of loss that You would comfort them and hold them in Your loving arms. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

I must become less

John 3:16 (ESV)
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

John’s Gospel tightens the camera angle, closing in on a few individual faces—a woman at a well, a blind man, a member of the Jewish ruling council—to compose an intimate, in-depth portrait of Jesus’ impact on others.

Consider this conversation with Nicodemus, who comes to Jesus at night possibly in order to avoid detection. He risks his reputation and safety by meeting with Jesus, whom his fellow Pharisees have sworn to kill. But Nicodemus has some burning questions, the most important questions anyone could ask: Who are you, Jesus? Have you really come from God? Jesus responds with the image of a second birth, using words that have become some of the most familiar in the Bible.

One of Jesus’ statements has probably been memorized more than any other in the Bible. In a few words it tells the story of salvation: God’s love for the world, God’s gift of his Son and the opportunity for anyone who believes to be saved.

Evidently some of Jesus’ words to Nicodemus sink in, as his later behavior indicates.

John follows this conversation with a report from John the Baptist. People are questioning the radical prophet about the new teacher across the river who is drawing all the crowds. In words that echo Jesus’ own, John confirms that Jesus holds the keys to eternal life. Jesus is indeed the one John has come to herald. A great prophet still in his prime, John nonetheless bows to Jesus: “He must become greater; I must become less”.

Dear Lord, we thank You for Your Word and the lessons that we can learn from it. In the Name of Jesus, Amen

Monday, February 19, 2018

Don't look down on the young

1 Timothy 4:12 (ESV)
Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.

After high school, Darrell Blizzard left the orphanage where he grew up to join the US Army Air Corps. World War II was in full swing, and soon he faced responsibilities usually given to older and more experienced men. He told a reporter years later that a four-mule plow team was the biggest thing he’d driven before he became the pilot of a four-engine B-17. Now in his late eighties, he said, “We were all just kids flying those things.”

In the Bible, we find accounts of many people who followed God courageously when they were young. In a situation of corrupt spiritual leadership, “Samuel ministered before the Lord, even as a child” (1 Sam. 2:18). David faced the giant Goliath in spite of being told, “You are not able to go against this Philistine . . . for you are a youth” (17:33). Mary, the mother of Jesus, was most likely very young when she was told she would bear the Son of God. She responded to the angel’s announcement by saying, “Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). Paul told the young pastor Timothy, “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers” (1 Tim. 4:12).

God values each one in His family. In His strength, the young can be bold in their faith, while those who are older can encourage those who are “just kids.”

This is a great reminder as we watch our youth take lead in different parts of our church life.

Dear Lord, we pray that we would be the encouragement to all those that serve you no matter their age. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

God is faithful

1 Samuel 15:29 (ESV)
And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret.

The great thing about God is how faithful He is. He’s not a person that would change His mind. He doesn’t all of the sudden decide that He doesn’t like someone or something. He doesn’t change His mind based on trends or fashions. He’s steady, steadfast and unchanging.

Unlike people who will let you down, bail on you, or change their mind, God will always be there for you. And His love for you will always be constant. This should cause you to be really excited.

You can live a life of peace and comfort when you begin to realize how trustworthy God is. As you realize that He will always be there for you, that He’ll never let go or let you down, you can find comfort in even the worst situations. You can also know that God loves you in an amazing way and that will never change. God thinks you’re amazing. So take some time to think about the faithfulness of God and realize how awesome it is to serve such a great God.

Dear Lord, we thank You for being faithful. Help us to learn from You and be faithful to those around us. Help us to not let them down. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Our true value

Ephesians 2:10 (ESV)
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

I recently read an article about an Apple computer that someone threw away. The crazy thing about the computer was that it was worth about $200,000. The computer the person threw away was one of the first Apple computers made and only about 50 of original computers exist still today.

The lady who threw the computer away didn’t realize the value of the computer. She thought it looked like junk and she discarded it. She had no idea she was getting rid of a $200,000 computer.

Lots of times this is a lot like how we view ourselves. We often get down on ourselves because of something dumb we said or did. We might not feel that we look the right way or have the right friends. This leads us to want to treat ourselves like junk, instead of realizing the true value we have.

See our value isn’t in what we do, what we wear or who we hang out with. Our true value comes when we realize what we’re worth. We find that worth in what the Bible says about us.

The Bible has lots of great things to say about your value. You’re important and created to do good things. So when the feelings come that say you’re not worth much or that you’re junk, remember that to God you have great value.

Dear Lord, help us to realize that we have great worth because if You. Help us to not get down on our self but instead be positive. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Friday, February 16, 2018

He just loved us

Deuteronomy 7:7-8 (ESV)
7 It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

Charlotte Mortimer described her adult education, creative writing class. The teacher asked all the students to write “I love you” in 25 words or less, without using the words, “I love you.”

The class was given 15 minutes to complete the assignment. Charlotte wrote that one woman spent about 10 minutes looking at the ceiling and wiggling in her seat. Then the last five minutes, she wrote frantically. Later she read her composition to the class. It consisted of three loving statements:

“Why, I’ve seen lots worse hairdos than that, honey.”
“These cookies are hardly burned at all.”
“Cuddle up-I’ll get your feet warm.”

It tells us something about her husband. It also tells us something about the practical side of love.

I don’t know if anyone else spends much time wondering why God loves us, but sometimes His love is a mystery to me. I know my inadequacies and shortcomings. I also know that God loves me in spite of them. Moses’ words to Israel in Deuteronomy 7:7-8

Our might and importance have nothing to do with God’s affection for us. He just loves us. John 3:16 may be the most memorized verse in the Bible: “God so loved the world...”

In the book Love Beyond Reason, by John Ortberg he describes a doll, Pandy, that belonged to his sister, Barbie. By the time he knew Pandy he says, “She had lost a lot of hair, one arm was missing, and she’d had the stuffing knocked out of her.” Not impressed with Pandy’s beauty, he felt that she was too damaged to be even given away.

He remembers his family going to Canada from Illinois for vacation. On the return trip they realized that they had left the doll in Canada and had to drive all the way back to Canada to retrieve her. Pandy was that important to his sister.

When Barbie married and had a little girl of her own, Courtney, his sister had Pandy restored and kept her as Courtney’s doll. Ortberg’s reflection on Pandy’s story impacted me deeply. He wrote, “When Pandy was young, Barbie loved her. She celebrated her beauty. When Pandy was old and ragged, Barbie loved her still. Now she did not simply love Pandy because Pandy was beautiful, she loved her with the kind of love that made Pandy beautiful.”

That’s what God’s love has done for us. He doesn’t love us because we are beautiful, His love makes us attractive.

Sometimes it is hard for us to receive undeserved love, so we try to earn it.

Richard Bellinger, a young boy in South Carolina, was the son of a Baptist minister. One Saturday night, Richard decided to shine his father’s shoes. The following night his father put a silver dollar on the bureau of his son’s room with a note commending his son for what he had done, and telling him that the dollar was his reward. The next morning, when the father put on his shoes, he felt something hard and metallic in one of them. When he took the shoe off and reached inside, he found the silver dollar he had given to his son the night before. Along with the dollar was a note that simply read, “I did it for love!”

What God has done for us, He did for love. Instead of trying to understand it, or deserve it, or pay for it, He just wants us to receive it and say, “Thank you.” When we do that, His love begins to change us. And does His love ever have the power to change us!

God loves us. When we are about to step into heaven because we have believed in Him, if someone asks us why we made it, we can confidently say, “He just loved us.”

Dear Lord, we thank You for loving us. Help us to not question it but to just take Your love and show it to those around us. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Faith is...

Hebrews 11:1 (ESV)
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

But we can’t really embrace the realities of faith until we get rid of some faulty notions:

Faith is not a head-in-the-sand position. It isn’t denying, ignoring, or hiding from the obvious or inevitable. It’s not pretending something is real when deep down you really don’t believe it. That’s fear, not faith.
Faith is not anti-intellectual. It’s not a warm feeling that requires you to check your intellect at the door. That’s feeling, not faith.
Faith is not a shallow, positive mental attitude. It’s not a platitude to “just follow your dreams.” Nor does faith ignore pain and embrace optimism, regardless of the evidence. That's foolishness, not faith.

Faith is active confidence in the God who has revealed Himself—not a vague uncertainty about an unknown someone. God has proven Himself real again and again, and if you’ve not yet experienced His reality, you can. Your faith comes alive as you believe the Word of God and act upon it.

Let’s say you ask God for guidance in prayer. Proverbs 3:5-6 says to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” So you focus on living that out—trusting and acknowledging God in “all your ways.” That’s faith—it’s your active confidence in Him, the thing you hold onto while you wait to see how the Lord is going to answer your request.

Faith is also the evidence that God is faithful. We are not the first people to trust God. Moses wrote, “Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations” (Psalm 90:1, ESV). The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the God of Moses, Ruth, David, Mary, John, Paul, Lois, Eunice, and Timothy. People have been trusting God for thousands of years. This is not a foolish thing to do. The faithfulness of God—not only in generations past but also in your own life—provides you with evidence. Can you recall specific times, places, and ways God has come through for you, showing Himself faithful? That’s the evidence of things not yet seen.

Faith is not believing in a vacuum; it’s belief based on the Scriptures. God wrote a Book—a trustworthy, proven, inspired, true Book. Our faith isn’t in the stock market or a news feed or another person’s advice, no matter how wise and well-meaning. Though everyone and everything else fails or fades, “The word of the Lord remains forever” (1 Peter 1:25).

Genuine faith always downloads into life. While we claim to believe all kinds of things, if they don’t influence the way we live, then we don’t really believe. When you’re willing to put yourself at risk, your faith in God becomes active. Only when you know God’s grace is your only option, when you’ve cut off all back-up plans and thrown yourself entirely upon God’s mercy—only then is your faith the substance and evidence God’s Word says it will be.

Dear Lord, just as You have never failed those who trust in You, we know You will not fail use. Help us to trust You, to believe in Your Word and act upon it, no matter how we feel, because You promise a good result. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Happy Valentines Day

There are so many verses about the "heart" of Valentine's Day, which is L-O-V-E!

Probably the most well known and one of the best Bible verses on love is John 3:16 - “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life."

God is Love
1 John 4:8 - "The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love."
1 John 4:16 - "We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him."

God's Love Described
1 Corinthians 13 is typically called "The Love Chapter" because it describes love; verses 4-8 say - "Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails;"  Verse 13 continues - "But now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love."
Jeremiah 31:3 says God loves with a never ending love - "The Lord appeared to him from afar, saying, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with loving kindness."

Why we can love
Matthew 22:37-40 records when Jesus was asked which of the commandments was the greatest - "He replied And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
Luke 10:27 records the same - "He answered: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself."

How we should love
1 Corinthians 16:14 - "Let all that you do be done in love."
1 Peter 4:8 - "Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins."
John 13:34 - Jesus tells us to love others like He has loved us:  "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another."
John 13:35 - Jesus goes on to say that when we love each other as His followers, all men (both other believers and unbelievers will see & recognize:   "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

Take the time to share God’s love today and every day.

Dear Lord, we thank You for Your great love. Help us to show it to those You bring into our life. In the Name of Jesus, Amen

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Expectations for Valentine’s Day

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (ESV)
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

There are a lot of expectations for Valentine’s Day. Someone, probably a Hallmark employee, decided that February 14th would be the day to declare and demonstrate your love to that special someone. Cards, flowers, and chocolates caught on quickly and became a near requirement even for preschool children. But what gets lost in finding the perfect card or gift is the very essence of what love is and how we can best share that with those around us.

I Corinthians 13 is the famous biblical love chapter in Christian circles and beyond. It’s beautiful because it describes the kind of perfect love that God has for us and through him we are able to love our spouses, children, extended family, co-workers, and neighbors this same way. It’s an active love; a love that is more committed to that person than our own feelings at the time. Gift giving isn’t even mentioned because this love, God’s perfect love, is worth so much more than anything money could ever buy.

Sometimes a gift is a hit and sometimes it’s a miss. In any case, as either the giver or recipient, let’s not fool ourselves into thinking the gift is the sum of how much we love or are loved. We can enjoy Valentine’s Day as a good excuse to spoil the ones we love and share God’s love in a special way with those who are lonely and hurting. But let’s stay focused: no material thing or sentimental card can ever replace the simple gestures of God’s love expressed every day. 

Dear Lord,  we ask that You would show us practical ways to demonstrate Your perfect love to others on a daily basis.  In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Monday, February 12, 2018

The Ultimate Valentine

John 3:16 (ESV)
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

This Valentine’s Day, remember that love is so much more than flowers and candy and cards.  It is even more than the deepest feelings you experience, because real love is expressed by unconditional commitment and unwavering dedication to our loved ones—which should be everyone!

That’s why God didn’t spend billions of dollars on us, He sacrificed His priceless Child.

He didn’t send us flowers, but He allowed a crown of thorns to be put on Jesus’ brow.

He didn’t send us a card, but He demonstrated the ultimate Valentine:

John 3:16 - The Ultimate Valentine

Let’s make every day a “Valentine’s Day” because God so loved the world, so should we.  Picture yourself as God’s living Valentine to a world that desperately needs to know what love is truly all about.

Dear Lord, we thank You for the greatest Valentine we could ever have received. Help us to share that same love with the world around us. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Ultimate Valentine

1 John 4:8 (ESV)
Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

There really isn’t any other day on earth like it.  If you just look at Valentine’s Day by the numbers, it boggles the brain a bit:

  $130.97 – The average estimated amount an individual will spend on Valentine’s Day.

  224 million – The estimated number of roses grown for Valentine’s Day.

  $18.6 billion – The projected total amount Americans will spend for Valentine’s Day.

  $1.6 billion – The amount people will spend on candy

  $1.9 billion – The amount people will spend on flowers

  $4.4 billion – The amount people will spend on diamonds, gold, and silver

Not only that, but over 6 million folks will propose on February 14th, and if you are a member of the club that sees Valentine’s Day as S.A.D. (i.e., Single Awareness Day), you can actually pick up a Valentine’s card and/or treat for your pet!

Picture yourself as God’s living Valentine to a world that needs His love. Take the time this week to share God’s love.

Dear Lord, we pray that we would be Your love to the world today. Help us to look for the chance that You give us to reach out to those around us. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

True love

1 Corinthians 13:4 (ESV)
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant

We live in a world that gives us all kinds of messages about what true love is.  The TV shows, movies and books we read all portray love in so many different ways. Sometimes with all the different portrayals of love, it’s hard to really determine what true love is. Let’s take a look at three things true love is.

1.  True love looks out for the best interests of the other person – This means thinking about what is best for the other person. Many times, dating relationships are centered around selfish motives. For example, someone might date the starting quarterback in high school because it helps their popularity, or it makes them look good.  This isn’t true love because true love looks out for what is best for the other person. True love puts its own best interests on the back shelf and is looking out for the needs and interests of the other person.

2.  True love is based on friendship NOT the physical – a relationship based on the physical stuff won’t last. Any relationship should focus on getting to know the other person long before the physical comes into play. That’s why God asks us to wait to have sex before marriage. Its one of the best ways to make sure your relationship will last, because it is based on something deeper than just the physical. Physical attraction isn’t a good judge of love. Attraction can fade, but a relationship built on a solid foundation of friendship will be much more likely to succeed.

3.  True love has its foundation in Jesus – The most important thing in a relationship is the other person’s feelings toward Jesus. If the person you’re dating doesn’t love Jesus like you do, run away from the relationship. It is never a good decision to become involved with someone that doesn’t love God like you do.  This will set you up for lots of heartache in the future.

The Bible gives us the best picture of what true love is. If you want to really understand what true love is, you will find it by reading your Bible. A good place to start is by reading 1 Corinthians 13, which talks a lot about what love looks like.

Dear Lord, we thank You for setting up a picture of what true love is in Your word. Help us be an example of true love to others and to let Your love shine through us. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.