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Hard to believe

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

John 11:25-26 ESV

I can only imagine what was going through this lady’s mind when Jesus said this. I know for me it is incredibly challenging to fully comprehend that I simply have to BELIEVE in Jesus to receive eternal life.

Often times, this is something that many believers struggle with. We may not always recognize the struggle but it is there. One of the main struggles is that we believe we must DO something in order to receive this gift from God. It’s apparent in the way we all work ourselves into the ground trying to prove we are worthy.

The simple truth is that eternal life is a free gift that NONE of us can earn. If we remind ourselves of this daily it will help us understand that God loves everyone. This is the great equalizer for God’s people! We are all on the same level of “goodness” before God. It’s by Christ and Christ alone that we gain eternal life.

His Voice

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.

John 10:27 ESV

It’s that time of year again where everyone starts to make their new year resolutions. The hustle and bustle of life go back into full (COVID) swing and life go right back to being crazy. To be honest, I’m very grateful for this season of life for my family and I. Life is so very good for us right now, even in the midst of life issues, drama, stresses, etc… Jesus’ love for you can sustain you through it all.

Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life.

Psalm 54:4 ESV

The reason why life is so very good for us is that we know His voice. We follow Jesus with all of our hearts and we know Him. For some, this may seem a bit confusing because our idea of what a “good life” looks like is skewed. To be fair, that is an issue that a lot of people have when it comes to following Jesus. Our idea of what a “good life” looks like does not always (rarely) lines up with what a Godly life looks like. Godly things do not always look like they are “good” things at first, but they are always great things in the end.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Jeremiah 19:11 ESV

This year as we make our resolutions and start trying to become better I would have one major suggestion that can make all of the difference. Ask Him for what His plans are for your life this year. You see, many of us go through life and we never have a conversation with God about what to do. We may pray to Him to bless our plans, BUT we don’t ever ask Him if our plans line up with His plans. For me, my first few days this year are going to be spent in prayer. Seeking after God’s heart to see what He needs me to do this year so I can become the best version of myself.

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

Matthew 7:7 ESV

Think about this… God is the one who created us, so shouldn’t we seek him first before we start trying to adjust our lifestyles around becoming better? I mean, it seems silly to try to figure out how we can become better… without seeking the one who knows every fiber of our being. He knit us together with so much care and compassion! He cares about us far more than we could ever imagine. He desires the absolute best for us in this life.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

Psalm 139:13-14 ESV

My friends… this world has done a great job of making God seem so much different than who He is. Not just the world, but even some of the churches have done a great job at blurring our vision of who God is. Spend some time seeking Him in your private time. Open your bible, seek Him, listen to praise music, worship Him with your life, fast, pray some more, AND THEN start making some resolutions for this year.

if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV

It is vital for us all. This world is hurting… the cure is Jesus and we are to carry that cure to the world.

If you want that splendid power in prayer, you must remain in loving, living, lasting, conscious, practical, abiding union with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Charles Spurgeon
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What Moves You?

The Christmas season has come and gone. Within a week or so 2020 will be over with and resolutions will be made going into 2021. Hopefully there will be a time of reflection for all as we move into the new year.

Today I read & studied Jeremiah 31:17 which says, “There is hope for your future, declares the Lord, and your children shall come back to their own country.” Lately I have been doing a lot of reflection on my life. Trying to pinpoint places where I have started to slack & ways I can improve.

Many of us would be better off if we would stop focusing on others, ourselves and choose to focus on God. This year, I want to be a Mary & not a Martha. I want to gaze at Jesus with all my hearts affection. I want to sit at His feet and be so overwhelmed at who He is that nothing else matters.

The Israelite people always had a longing to be back home. There were many occasions where God would let their passions lead them into places of destruction, followed by exile. Time and time again the Israelite people would groan to return home. They wanted to return back to their promise land.

For myself, I want to return back to the lowly place of being at Jesus’ feet. Throughout COVID we have had to make a thousand different plans for our youth group & then change those plans a few more times. I’ve allowed myself to become a Martha & do things for Jesus that He never even asked me to do.

You see, many of us are so caught up in doing things for Jesus that we neglect Jesus Himself. Which, doesn’t make sense at all when we think about it. Especially when we read the story of Martha and Mary in Luke 10.

The part that has really impacted me lately is verses 41-42, “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Think about it… Martha was busy doing really good things for Jesus but Mary… she chose the thing that is NEEDED. The preparations weren’t the things that were needed… sitting at His feet, listening to Him, adoring Him & being captivated with Jesus is what is NEEDED.

My friends… let us remember Mary as we go throughout our days. We all NEED to sit at His feet more and be captivated with Him. We must spend time with Jesus so we can properly reflect Jesus to the world.

I know that right now, we may all feel like we are wondering in the desert wanting to get home. God’s not done yet fam… we must continue to hold onto the promises in scripture and remember that God always redeems and restores those that He has called.

Always Remember

I am overjoyed with this verse this morning… I love when the Holy Spirit reminds me of scriptural truths. Especially in consideration with things that are happening in my daily life. As believers we all go through tribulations and have to deal with things we would prefer not to.

This morning I find myself in an odd place of reflection. Looking back at this year, realizing that COVID has been hard on everyone. On top of COVID, realizing that this year has been a wild ride for my family & I. We are in an extremely blessed place right now, but I have come to realize I let some things slip in my life.

I stood on the scale this morning and realized I have gained 45+ pounds over this season of life. Between my wife being pregnant, trying to sell a house, renting a house, trying to buy another house, drama between people, and so much more! I realized that I have let food & “comfort” become my comforter. I realized I have allowed those things to give me a sense of peace, all while slightly ignoring the prince of peace.

Again, this is all very subtle things that can happen when we aren’t on guard. Thankfully, the Lord has helped me grow in obedience to where I am still in my word daily, serving the local church, worshipping Him with song, praying frequently & many other things we should all do as a follower of Jesus.

The sad truth is, that I have allowed a subtle sin to slowly enter back into my life. That sin is “gluttony” & to be honest it’s crazy to think how this sin is so prevalent in our society as Americans but yet no one talks about it.

Let me bring this all back in to the verse for today. Tribulations and bad things will come. That is the way the world is since Adam & Eve sinned in the garden, bringing about the new “normal” we have. None of the things of our fallen world or nature should cause us to turn to old vices.

For some it may be alcohol, drugs, sexual sin or many other things. Some of these vices are easier to see then others. For me, my vice has always been food for comfort. When tribulations come, my flesh wants me to eat the sweet bread of the world, but my spirit invites me to the table to have the only thing that can satisfy… and that is God.

Friends, please pray for me as I turn away from this lifestyle of comfort food. Please pray as I get back on track with treating my body with respect & getting back to a point of good health. Please pray for people all around the world that may be secretly turning to old vices in their life during this time… I appreciate you all

The Joy of Your Master

“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.”

Matthew 25:21

The moment I read this verse this morning my mind went to Hebrews 12:2. This is what it says, “…who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Did you catch that first part? Followed up by what he endured? Finished off with His reward?

For me, Hebrews 12:1-2 has always been a focus on how to deal with sin, frustrations, temptations, etc… In life, there is no doubt that we will face all of these things and more. The difference between us and everyone else in the world is that we have something to look forward to. We can focus on being in the perfect presence of our God.

Hearing, “well done good and faithful servant…” is a major driving force for my life. It’s one of the major things that keep my heart focused on my actions and motives. There will come a day where all of our labor will come to an end and we will be before perfection and pure bliss will overwhelm our hearts.

There have been moments in my life where I have gotten a small taste of this glorious joy and it excites me to my core. For a while, I lost that excitement and it was hard. Day after day I was going through life seeking some sort of joy in this life. You see, the issue wasn’t that joy was gone but instead, I forgot what the center of my joy SHOULD be.

Jesus never lost focus on what He had to do here on earth. He was so focused and fixated on doing the will of His Father that nothing would come in between Him and that mission. For most of us, there are an endless amount of things that come in between us and God’s mission for our lives.

I’ll admit, I constantly wrestle with having to stay the course and not get distracted by things. To be honest, most of the distractions aren’t “bad” things and are actually “good.” The thing is, they aren’t God’s things… I think it would do us all good if we would pull ourselves back and ask if this “good” thing is a God thing or is it just good. Many of us seek after “good” things and completely forgot about God who is the giver of all things good.

This holiday season takes some time to sit back and examine what “good” things may be in your life that isn’t God’s things. Maybe your heart is weighed down with things that God never had for you. Maybe you are stressed and worried about too many things because God is not amid YOUR desire. When we are in the midst of what God desires for us, there is endless joy. When we start getting outside of His desire and start focusing on OUR desire the joy slowly fades… Don’t let the joy fade fam… Focus on being a good and faithful servant who will one day enter into the joy of our master…

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Bless the Blesser

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!

Psalms 103:1 ESV

I’m not even sure “blesser” is a word at this point, but to be honest I don’t care if it is or not… As I meditated on this scripture this morning I was convicted with a few things. Many of which are probably applicable to more than just me. Over the next few posts, you may see a simple shift in the direction of these devotionals. More towards an area of reflection and less of an “educational” devotional.

When I read this verse this morning, I instantly started wondering how much time do I spend blessing God. How much time do I spend praying to Him with a thankful heart and genuine love for Him? I was wondering how much time I spent throughout the day feeling His presence and being encouraged that I have the Holy Spirit. For an hour or two, this thought started to plague my heart…

Yes, “plague” is the correct word there. The reason why I say plague is because I realized that I do pray frequently, but mainly for God’s hand to move in my life and those around me. I realized that I do read God’s word, but mainly to learn more about God and be prepared to teach others. I realized I spend a lot of time singing worship songs, but my soul isn’t always in it, etc… The part that made it a plague was where my heart in it all is.

You see, there are a lot of things we can do as “Christians” that line our hearts up with His. Equally as true is the fact that those same things can simply make us more religious. Especially for those who have been in church for a long time. It is easy to put the “church face” on and do all the Christian things so people don’t question the salvation experience.

American Christianity has become very watered down over the years and it has particularly watered down many American families in general. Christianity no longer has the same commitment it used to. Being a Christian many years ago, still, today in some countries, meant you could lose everything. Everything… Even your very life.

Now, being a Christian means giving up 10% of our income, giving up watching football live, sleeping in, and giving up our morning to go and sit in a building. We sing some songs, listen to the person on the stage talk, and then plan lunch afterward… But yet… never actually change.

Even with worship music. Amazing music is abundant in the Christian world that doesn’t glorify God. The music has a great beat, catchy lyrics, but do they cause our souls to bless the Lord? Much of that has nothing to do with the music, but instead with the believer … The beauty in it all is this… We can all make that shift in a moment. Simply pausing before we do many of the very same things I mentioned above can make the plague into more of His presence. Too many of us wander through life aimlessly doing what we are “supposed” to do… With that way of living, we miss out on the most amazing thing about being a Christian on earth… Walking with Jesus and being a vessel for Him…

My friend… This was simply a reflection on this verse for me. There are no specific answers, no fancy “3 points of application” or even anything that will make this blog stand out. This is simply a reflection of where my heart stood this morning. Wondering and pondering on the state of my heart and the church in America.

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Simplicity

This is the first mobile post I’ve ever done, so please extend some grace with this new format. It’s Saturday morning & I find myself sipping on some coffee and listening to worship music. It’s simple & peaceful.

I read a blog earlier this morning and it was an amazing perspective of this 2020 Christmas season. I won’t try to summarize it because I wouldn’t be able to do it justice. Just head over to her blog & read “Christmas negativity or nativity” and check it out yourself. It was a wonderful read & God used to to remind me on the simplicity of our life with Him.

There was a short while ago where I was talking to my wife about feeling a bit overwhelmed and not having the desire to do my devotionals. Each of us were doing at least 2-3 plans on the Bible app, I was reading three different books & I was finishing up my “Bible in a year” plan. So there was A LOT. Most of the time this is a normal reading loading for me because when I was in seminary school I was constantly swamped in course work.

So I called my wife & we discussed how I was feeling. Come to find out, she was feeling the same way and was struggling to do her devotionals. After some prayer, I felt like the Holy Spirit was telling me it was time to take it back to the basics. So I suggested to my wife that we should stop doing all of our extra reading & just get back to doing one chapter a day. I suggested some different places we could start and she chose Romans.

It’s been about a week since we started doing that & let me tell you… the desire is BOOMING. I can’t wait to get in and read what God has for me that day. I can’t wait to enjoy sweet fellowship with my Lord as I read His word. I find myself excited again. Same thing applies to this Holiday season.

Many of us are used to the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season. The shopping, traveling, endless to-do list to prepare for Christmas. OH! And if you are a “super Christian” you are doing your advent studies. All while actually forgetting about our Lord and Savior. We spend all December celebrating but not actually sitting with the one we are supposed to be celebrating. We spend thousands at stores to give gifts to family, but won’t donate to our local churches to spread the gospel.

I just find it so very refreshing to sit back and reflect on this. Billions are spent every year on gifts that are forgotten in a few months… but yet, millions are starving here in the US. There are countless hours spent shopping, decorating, celebrating & being merry… but yet, we go to a candlelight service and reflect on Jesus for an hour or two…

My friends… if COVID has taught us one thing, it’s that God is the one thing that can never be taken from us. No matter what comes in this life, God is there. This year had rocked everyone’s boat, but if we truly believe in Jesus… we aren’t even worried because if our boat gets rocked to the point of sinking… we have a savior that can walk on water and pull us out.

Let’s get back to the simplicity of this season. As my fellow blogger said… It was just Mary & Joseph, in a manger… with Jesus. For many of us, being alone in a manger with our savior should be our greatest delight…

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Have We Sought Him?

On my bed by night I sought him whom my soul loves; I sought him, but found him not.

Songs Of Solomon 3:1 ESV

After reading this passage this morning I spent most of the morning reflecting on one simple question… Have I sought Him lately? Life is crazy with COVID and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. For many, this time has been so very lonely and has left many questioning. Much like Solomon’s love being in her bed at night… The difference is that when sought, Jesus is there.

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

Jeremiah 29:13 ESV

You see, if we can honestly answer the question “Have I sought Him?” you would be able to attest. When Jesus is sought, He is there. He is the everlasting King, Prince of Peace, and lover of our souls. When Jesus is sought, He responds and takes care of us in so many incredible ways. When Jesus is sought, hurts are healed, failures are washed away and peace can be found. The problem isn’t Jesus… The problem is that He is not being sought in purity.

God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.

John 4:24 ESV

Many believers will say they have sought after Jesus… This is true, but they have sought after Jesus’ hand and not His heart. Praying for His blessings, but not more of Him. When Jesus’ heart is sought after we are then blessed with so much. When Jesus’ heart is sought, His hand moves from a place of kindness and love. When Jesus’ heart is sought, His hand moves to make us see our sinfulness. When Jesus’ heart is sought, we are faced with the reality of situations that are out of our control. When Jesus’ heart is sought, all of the worries of this life fade away.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30 ESV

To be sought after is one of the greatest blessings in life. Trust me, I love when my wife seeks after me. It makes me feel special and so very loved. Above all, I love knowing that my wife has sought Him and found Him. We live in a special place in time when Jesus is there for us all. When Jesus is sought, He is found. When Jesus is sought… Hope is restored.

The reason why many are still troubled, still seeking, still making little forward progress is because they haven’t yet come to the end of themselves. We’re still trying to give orders, and interfering with God’s work within us.

A.W. Tozer
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“Rejoice” but do we have reason to rejoice & sing?

Do all things without grumbling. Why? You have a sovereign God who is on your side, who works everything together for your good. – John Piper

Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst, declares the Lord.

Zechariah 2:10 ESV

There is a common misconception about the way people see the Christian life. Oftentimes, people think that the Christian life is boring, not fun, and stale. Some people see Christianity as a “get out of jail free” card where there is the freedom to do whatever you want. In reality, there is a middle ground between these two views that give us a full and satisfying life. In addition, we must remember though that there is a reason for why we rejoice. With COVID going around, it is easy to ask ourselves what do we have to rejoice in?

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV

For this post, I am going to stick strictly to what the passage tells us. He says to “sing and rejoice” because God is going to dwell in the midst of them. That is an amazing reason to rejoice in this life. We, as believers, get to live in partial fulfillment of this truth. You see, the Holy Spirit dwells in each of us. Therefore, there is reason to rejoice in Christ and Christ alone. He has made His dwelling in the heart of every believer.

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?

1 Corinthians 3:16 ESV

During this time, the Israelite people did not have the same reason to rejoice as we do. They sang and rejoiced because God is giving them a promise to hold onto. God did “dwell” among His people through the tabernacle/temple but it was certainly not to the degree that we get to enjoy His presence.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7 ESV

Now that… is a glorious reason to rejoice. Although COVID may have taken some things from us, it did not and cannot take Jesus from us. Nothing will ever come in between our relationship with God. He has promised to come and dwell among every believer to the glory of His amazing grace… and THAT my friends… is the reason we rejoice.

Do all things without grumbling. Why? You have a sovereign God who is on your side, who works everything together for your good.

John Piper
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Sealed once and for all

There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, ‘All right, then, have it your way.’ – C.S. Lewis

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it,to the praise of his glory

Ephesians 1:13-14 ESV

As believers in Jesus Christ, we have a promise so great that no one can take it from us. The price that Jesus paid is a price that takes care of every debt we could ever accrue on earth. His death on the cross, burial, and resurrection is the final say on death, hell, and the grave. These truths mentioned above are sealed with the Holy Spirit. You can trust these truths in your daily life. In addition, we must make it a point to understand what being sealed means.

There are two main ways to look at the meaning of being “sealed” by the Holy Spirit. One of them being that the seal protects and preservers us until we fully reach our inheritance when we stand before Him. Similarly, the other main way is that the seal “certifies” that we are fully accepted by God. Much like a wax “seal” would accompany a letter to show the receiver that the sender was legitimate. In addition, we can rest on both of these truths when we face hard times that cause us to doubt.

Let’s be real, COVID has made many of us realize how futile much of what we live for is. Many of the things we used to love, enjoy, and even rely on are no longer available. For some, this can be a very trying time and cause us to blame God. For others, it has been a very beautiful time of being able to slow down and enjoy more time doing things that matter. COVID has forced everyone to slow down. COVID has forecfully removed a lot of the busyness.

In these trying times, we can look towards Jesus for strength and encouragement. We do not have to walk around aimlessly waiting for life to “get back to normal.” Instead, we can let the Holy Spirit work in our lives to take advantage of the new normal in many of our lives. We can allow God’s mighty hand to work through our lives and make this time the best time of our lives. The struggle becomes submitting to God when the “best times” aren’t what we would call best.

There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, ‘All right, then, have it your way.’

C.S. Lewis
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