To Love is to Live

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“Start living now! Stop saving the good china for that special occasion. Stop withholding your love until that special person materializes. Make the effort, take the time to love deeper and be more compassionate to all people because that is the very purpose of life itself for all humans. Every day you are alive is a special occasion, worthy of grateful celebration. Every second, every minute, every breath, is truly a gracious gift from God none of us deserve. Please, my friend, don’t waste these fleeting moments of your life, unless you want to wake up one day, old and cranky with painful regrets.”
—Mary Manin Morrissey

The Extravagant Love That Finds Us

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Shana Schutte writes;

One of my girlfriends was lonely and frustrated that God hadn’t delivered her greatest desire: a husband. Never married and 40, she was tired of praying and waiting and waiting and waiting, but most of all she was convinced that her life was somehow less-than. “Being single is not the abundant life!” she stated emphatically. I certainly identified with the sometimes heart-wrenching emotions of feeling like the only girl without a date to the prom. I empathized with her loneliness, her cries late at night when only God can hear and her zillion prayers for a man she wasn’t even sure exists. But the absence of abundant life? Our conversation sent me running for my Bible where I found (John 10:10.)”The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy, but I have come that they might have life and have it to the full.”The word “LIFE” jumped off the page. I had to look up its meaning. In the definition, I found the prescription for my friend’s sickness of heart: God Himself is the abundant life that both she and I seek—not relationship with a man.” 

The Greek word for life is “ZOE” (the original language) and means:

“LIFE, referring to the principle of life in the spirit and the soul. (emphasis mine). [ZOE is] all the highest and best that Christ is, which He gives to the children. The highest blessedness of the creature.”

Supernatural Life (with a capital “L”). God’s Life inside of me. Inside of you. In the spirit. In the soul. God-given. God-originated. God-fueled. The highest blessing we can have this side of heaven. Christ Himself.

Friends, the first step to developing an intimate (and fulfilling) love relationship with God is to admit that the abundant life He promises will never be found in another person. Instead, as the definition of “zoe” (life) shows, true abundant life is internal and it’s found in Christ alone.

Don’t get me wrong; God created us to experience human love, and romance can add a wonderful dimension to life. But romantic love will never be able to trump an intimate love relationship with God. Frankly, God likes it this way because He doesn’t want any contenders for your heart; He’s jealous for your affection (Ex. 34:14).

Secondly: Accept That a Fulfilling Intimate Love Relationship With God is PERSONAL

Some things with God are so personal, so intimate, that they cannot be described with words, they can only be felt with the heart. This is how true intimacy with God is; we feel that no one else can really understand the special bond that we share with Him because it’s altogether personal.

This describes my relationship with Christ. He has comforted me as I have cried, directed me, taught me, rebuked me, guided me and loved me. There have been times when I have thought that my heart would burst with emotion for Him.

“Who could understand the depth of my relationship with Him but me and my Savior?”

This is true intimacy with God: when we feel that no one else would totally understand, even if we tried to explain, because relationship with God is personal.

If you haven’t ever committed yourself to a personal relationship with Him, it’s not fraught with difficult requirements and religious duties. He doesn’t ask that you change yourself before you commit yourself to Him; He just asks that you come as you are, confess your sin to Him, recognize your need to have your sins forgiven and accept His gift of forgiveness that He has offered to you through His death on the cross (Matt. 27:1-66, 2 Cor. 5:21). After you have done this, you can begin a life-long conversation with Him which is part of the abundance of “zoe.”

Lastly, remember that just as developing intimacy with another person takes time, so it is with relationship with God. As you grow to trust Him and believe what He says in His Word more and more, your love affair with Him will become increasingly fulfilling and the abundance of “zoe” will grow inside your spirit and soul, encapsulating your entire being with a supernatural sense of joy and fulfillment you’ve never had before and can’t explain, but it’s very real. 

As you do this, God will give you the faith to trust Him to bring the right person in your life at the right time. You won’t get so frustrated with God, but trust Him in a much greater way because you know His plan is perfect. You will experience a deeper sense of His peace & joy today & for your future. “Zoe” (God’s Life) will animate your entire being.

This is the extravagant love we don’t have to keep looking for because it has already found us! This is the perfect, unconditional love that comes from our Father and revealed to us at the cross of Jesus Christ His Son for us. Let His love embrace you today and trust your tomorrows, and all your prayers, for a future spouse in His loving, all-powerful hands. He has not forgotten you. 

The Juggler & the Diamond

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The Juggler & the Diamond

He was born in Italy but came to the United States as a young man. He studied juggling and became famous throughout the whole world.

Finally he decided to retire. He longed to return to his home country and settle down. He took all his worldly possessions, booked a passage on a ship to Italy and invested all the rest of the money in a single large blue diamond. He hid the diamond in his stateroom.

While aboard ship, he was showing a boy how he could juggle a bunch of apples. Soon a crowd had gathered. The pride of the moment went to his head. He ran to his stateroom and got the diamond. He explained to the crowd that it represented his entire life’s savings. He started juggling the diamond. Soon he was taking more and more chances.

At one point he threw the diamond high into the air and the crowd gasped. Knowing what the diamond meant, they begged him not to do it again. Moved by the excitement of the moment, he threw the diamond even higher. Again the crowd gasped and then sighed in relief when he caught the diamond.

Having total confidence in himself and his ability, the juggler told the crowd he would throw it up one more time. This time it would be so high that it would be out of sight for a moment. Again, they begged him not to do it.

But with the confidence of all his years of experience, he threw the diamond high into the air. It actually did disappear for a moment. Then the diamond returned into view sparkling in the sunlight. At that moment, the ship lurched and the diamond dropped into the sea and was lost forever.

We all feel terrible about the man’s loss of all his worldly possessions. But God compares our soul as more valuable than the possessions of the whole world.

Just like the man in the story, some of us are juggling with our souls. We trust in ourselves and our own ability and the fact that we have gotten by before. Oftentimes there are people around us begging us to stop taking the risk because they recognize the value of our soul.

But we continue to juggle one more time…never knowing when the ship will lurch and we will have lost our chance forever.

The Bible says, “Now is the accepted time. Today is the day of salvation.”

The Bible teaches we can’t come to Christ anytime we want to, only when the Spirit of God is tugging at our hearts. To put off our decision to surrender to Christ is as dangerous and risky as that foolish juggler we just read about.

“How about you?” 

If you would like to invite Jesus Christ into your life and know you have eternal life and have total assurance your sins are forgiven —- please pray this prayer aloud; 
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“Dear God, 
I know that I am a sinner and I know I need Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ today. I believe Jesus died for my sins on the cross and was raised from the dead on that first Easter morning. I want all my sins forgiven and I want to know I have eternal life right now. I am willing to turn from my sins, with Your help and turn to Jesus with all my heart. Lord Jesus, please come into my heart now and take control of my life. I will follow You from this time on as Your disciple. In Jesus name, Amen.” 

If you prayed that prayer, please message us. We would like to encourage you in this all important decision to follow Christ.

God bless you richly! 
David Crews

Remember to Not Forget Our Dependence on God

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Our busy, stressed, high-tech, Internet, postmodern culture today strongly encourages us think “we are the captains of our fate, the masters of our destiny” (Invictus, William Henley). But, are we? 

How often do we realize our very breath is gift of God? How easy it is to take for granted the obvious. Our very inclination and nature is to let God quietly slip away to the back of our minds. Somehow we begin to think God owes us everything He has freely given us by His undeserved favor.  

Yet, in order to grow in Christ, we must live an “intentional discipleship” (work out our salvation as He has worked it into us) daily. In the beginning of our Christian journey, this can seem a bit daunting, but like learning to do any new thing, as we consistently “practice the presence of God” — it becomes part of us because we are already connected in personal, intimate union with Jesus Christ our Lord and our Savior (Romans 6). 

“May I simply encourage you today to “simplify your Christianity” and get back to being humble, grateful and appreciative to God for the simple gifts that we depend on daily for our survival as humans?”

Things like; safe shelters, healthy food, legs that walk, eyes that see, ears that hear, etc. Yet, go deeper, how about a heart that pursues spiritual growth, holistic healing, Christlike mindset, a special compassion and love for others that only God can give us? But wait….what should we deeply praise God for, most of all? 

How about His unmerited, undeserved, unearned grace and favor He has mercifully extended to us in our personal salvation in Christ? 

What would any of us be without it?

I shutter to think about the consequences of not knowing Him, His love, His Son our Savior, Jesus Christ our Lord and what He has done for the whole, unbelieving world of lost souls He died for at the cross. I know clearly God took the initiative to invite us to know Him. We only believe because He has graciously given us “the supernatural gift of faith to believe Him and trust our lives totally to Christ.” 

Let your grateful heart to God be known today by others wherever you go. Share with others what good things God has done, and continues to do, for you. Please make sure you don’t forget to thank God daily for all His good gifts we depend on daily to live, to flourish and to thrive as His beloved people.

We are more dependent on God daily than most of us realize. Live your life everyday with that keen realization. Satisfaction, strength and joy can be found only in Christ

Walking Through the Darkness

“Walking Through the Darkness”

“Let them who walk in darkness, and have no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on their God.”
—ISAIAH 50:10

We’ve all been there. Perhaps, you are there now. What do you do when life seems unclear, when the way before you is foggy, misty and dark? You see little to no light at tunnel’s end, just thick darkness all around and closing in. You feel alone and you don’t like what’s happening now in your life.

Most of you reading this probably don’t feel this way, thankfully, but I know some of you do. It’s very difficult to walk in darkness. It’s frightening, even terrifying. Fear can paralyze us, cause us to stumble and fall. It’s hard to see things. It’s an uneasy feeling. I know, I’ve been there.

Jesus knows how you feel. Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the World. Whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the Light of Life.”
(John. 8:12)

When circumstances force you to walk through the darkness and you have no light, that’s the time, more deeply than ever, to “trust in the name of the Lord” and to “rely on” God.

The Hebrew text uses a very interesting word for trust that means to “lean on completely for support.” Rest your total weight on Him. That means to “resist the urge” to let your emotions, your fears, your worries or insecurities about things get the best of you. When you’re fully trusting God, there’s no room in your heart for fear, worry or anxiety, only His peace.

Perhaps that’s all you are able to do just now, just muster up a little prayer for His help. That’s o.k. It is, anyway, what you should do. Let Jesus reach down from His light to your darkness, hold you up, and walk with you.

You can walk with Him through difficulty and trial. He is faithful. Darkness doesn’t last forever. He does.

TODAY’S PRAYER

“Father God, I need Your help. I need You. I want to trust You, and I do. I choose to lean on You and ask You to carry me through to the other side of my troubles. In Christ, Amen.”

Go Deeper — Take strong encouragement from these words;

“Perhaps your journey seems a little strange now. It’s o.k. God is with you and promised to be with you even when life is so unsure, even in those times when you may not feel His presence. He is there. And, most of all, He will get you through this season of darkness. Trust Him with all your heart.”

It’s Not Your Past That Matters to Jesus

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Shame is a No-Win Game

Friends, I’ve discovered that many people today are dying slowly in a secret tomb of shame. Some are ashamed of their poor financial condition, plagued with guilt about their irresponsible spending and debt. Others are ashamed about sexual sin from their past. Many carry extreme guilt with them into their future relationships. Countless people are crippled by the shame of secret addictions. Some people even live with false guilt after suffering as victims of sexual abuse. Some carry constant guilt over broken relationships, shattered marriages or children they may feel deep down inside they failed. Still others bear the shame they feel over a chronic health problem that affects their entire life.

Shame usually follows a pattern — a cycle of self-recrimination and lies that claims life after life. First, we experience an intensely painful event. Second, we believe the lie that our pain and failure is who we are — not just something we’ve done, or had done to us — and we experience shame. And finally, our feelings of shame trap us into thinking that we can never recover — that, in fact, we don’t even deserve to.

Finding a Way Out

Please understand that there is a way out of the cycle. It is different for each person, but it is also possible for each person, by the grace of God, no matter how uniquely and irreversibly crippling that person’s shame might feel.

When we let shame control our actions, we cannot know God, because we cannot live our lives for him. Christians, ironically, can try to live as if God doesn’t exist because, in their cycle of shame, it doesn’t seem as if He does.

One of Jesus’ disciples, Peter, broke out of his prison of shame, although the struggle was long. Jesus had predicted this fisherman-turned-disciple’s betrayal, and Peter immediately and passionately denied that he’d ever turn on Jesus.

“I’ll stand faithfully by you until the end,” he insisted.

Unfortunately, real-life events soon proved Peter wrong. A rooster’s crow reminded Peter of his denial, forcing him to face his crushing triple failure. Yet Peter refused to believe the lie that his betrayal now branded him a traitor. Broken and repentant, Peter cried out to God for forgiveness. After His resurrection, Jesus honored Peter’s desperate plea. Jesus’ forgiveness and restoration gave Peter a renewed passion, and the courage to preach a daring message at Pentecost and become one of the fathers of the Christian church.

His failure — transformed from tragedy into triumph through Peter’s repentance and God’s forgiveness — became a character-building lesson that led the way to kingdom victory.

Breaking the Shackles of Shame

Like Peter, we can break free from the cycle of shame, but only through the power of God in Christ.

We live lives of private defeat, but God wants to renew our hearts and minds and to send us into His world as lights shining in the darkness. Like Peter, we can become convinced of the truth: namely, that we are not our sins. And we’re also not what others have done to us.

Rather, we are who God says we are: His children. We are forgivable. We are changeable. We are capable. We are mold-able. And we are bound by the limitless love of God.

When we hope in what God has promised — commanded — our hope is the same as certainty.

For many, it is difficult to accept that the past has passed. Sometimes, it’s so hard just to leave it there, where it belongs. But until we do, we cannot make peace with the present or walk into the future with hope.

Changing Your Future

Once we accept the unchangeable past, we must embrace that God can change our future.

While we may always remember what happened, we need to believe that we are not what happened. We are who God says we are — new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). When we reject what our shame says about us, we can finally hear what God says about us. He is working in all things to bring about good in our lives because we love God and are called according to his purposes (Romans 8:28).

Your Turn

God is ready and willing to turn your shame into your strength! Are you ready to let go of that shame, repent to those you’ve hurt, and give it to Him? Your Heavenly Father is more willing to take your burdens than we are often willing to give to Him. We pray He has touched your heart today and that you will indeed choose to let go of that inner shame, give it to Christ by prayer and just be set free from that which is holding you back from His plan for your life. Freedom is just one prayer away for you. Take the step now and watch God work a supernatural miracle in your life through Jesus Christ who already suffered the guilt of all your sins, on His cross, and said, “IT IS FINISHED!”

Lord Teach Us About Time

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The New Year & Our Renewed Concept of Time

The Psalmist prayed, “Lord teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom,” (Psalm 90:12). 

Could it be that the main reason why we never get around to doing everything we want or need to do in a day, a week, a month, a year or a life is not so much because “we don’t have enough time” (common response), but really because we don’t know how to best manage the time God has given us?” Perhaps. I will honestly count myself in that bunch, especially when I allow other “things” to distract me from what I should be doing. In our technology-driven world today, it seems we have more devices and applications to manage time, but somehow many feel they still don’t have enough “time” in any given day. Why is this? 

Could it be that most of us would acknowledge the truth that “our days are indeed numbered,” but by the way we live we feel our time is more or less unlimited in scope?

“Where did the time go?” middle-aged and older adults often remark. Many of us feel that time passes more quickly as we age, a perception that can lead to regrets. According to psychologist and BBC columnist Claudia Hammond, “the sensation that time speeds up as you get older is one of the biggest mysteries of the experience of time.” Fortunately, our attempts to unravel this mystery have yielded some intriguing findings

There are good reasons why older people may feel that way. When it comes to how we perceive time, humans can estimate the length of an event from two very different perspectives: a prospective vantage, while an event is still occurring, or a retrospective one, after it has ended. In addition, our experience of time varies with whatever we are doing and how we feel about it. In fact, time does fly when we are having fun. Engaging in a novel exploit makes time appear to pass more quickly in the moment. But if we remember that activity later on, it will seem to have lasted longer than more mundane experiences.

The reason? Our brain encodes new experiences, but not familiar ones, into memory, and our retrospective judgment of time is based on how many new memories we create over a certain period. In other words, the more new memories we build on a weekend getaway, the longer that trip will seem in hindsight.

This phenomenon, which Hammond has dubbed the holiday paradox, seems to present one of the best clues as to why, in retrospect, time seems to pass more quickly the older we get. From childhood to early adulthood, we have many fresh experiences and learn countless new skills. As adults, though, our lives become more routine, and we experience fewer unfamiliar moments. As a result, our early years tend to be relatively over-represented in our autobiographical memory and, on reflection, seem to have lasted longer. Of course, this means we can also slow time down later in life. We can alter our perceptions by keeping our brain active, continually learning skills and ideas, and exploring new places.

So, what exactly does it mean to “teach us to number our days that we gain a heart of wisdom?” (Psalm 90:12)

First, it means to “make the most of each day.” Prioritize what is most important and be consistent in pursuing our goals. We have to set goals for without them we will drift. By prayer, godly counsel and Scripture study—decide what it is God wants you to do. If you are saved and belong to Christ, then He has given you a job or a task to do in His Kingdom. Make no mistake about it. It could be anything, but it will be something. It’s easy to get caught up “in our own agenda” and forget why God has put us here in the first place. God’s plan for our life includes allowing Him to guide and direct us toward His will for us (which is the best plan, incidentally). Evaluate your daily and weekly activities. Focus on what is most important and don’t allow distractions to detour your direction. We are “time managers” and the more we do it “right” the more joy we will experience, as well as a greater sense of accomplishment and fulfillment. 

Second, it means to keenly realize “our lives are shorter than we realize.” For some people, it is drastically brief. Since none of us know exactly how much time we have left, we have to use what little, remaining time doing the things which matter, the goals which count for eternity and which are most important, not just for this life now. It may sound morbid to some, but our days are “literally” numbered Scripture teaches. That means in a certain year, of a certain month on a certain day it will be “game over” for each of us. No going back. No reincarnation. No second chances. It’s a done deal. I sincerely believe if each of us actually knew how many “days” we really have to live, it would profoundly shock us. “Count your days by making each of your days count.”

I like to do research on the internet. I enjoy learning new things. I also enjoy some time on social media and I do my best to reply to emails as quickly as possible. I selectively watch some television programs, good movies and inspiring music often. Because of the rise of technology today, if I am not careful and I don’t get my work done first, then all of these other things can easily trip me up and cause me to never get to the most important tasks of my day. Stay in charge of your schedule, don’t let lesser things rule your day. Your time is more precious than you might know. 

A wise question to ask yourself is, “What do I want to see happen in my life before I die?” This transcends a mere “bucket list.” When you have noted the answer to that probing question, then ask yourself this one, “What small step could I take toward that life purpose today?” Stay focused one step at a time. Keep your eyes on the prize! 

Thirdly, “numbering our days to gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12) means embracing the truth that our accomplishments on earth await their ultimate satisfaction only in eternity. Most Christians, who are spiritually healthy and growing in the Lord, deeply want to see their work reflect the glory of God and His permanence. This is good, however, if we feel dissatisfied with this life, and all it’s endless contradictions, frustrations and imperfections, then we must remember that our very passion to see God’s work and will done in our life, as well as the lives of others we serve, originates from the Lord Jesus Christ, not ourselves. 

“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end” (Eccl. 3:11).

This means it is a good sign to have a certain sense of “dissatisfaction” with earthly pleasures and pursuits. Because we are created in “God’s image,” we have; a spiritual thirst and hunger for Him, eternal value and are intimately connected to the “cosmic, heavenly reality” that ultimate fulfillment will never happen to us in this life. Why? Because God has created us with a “built-in” restless yearning for the kind of flawlessly, perfect, eternal world which far transcends the temporary, fallen material world we live now. Can we experience high levels of joy and peace in Christ here? We should, it’s our birthright, after all. But, the truth is God has given us “only a glimpse of His glory” and the amazing perfection of His creation to come. This mere glimpse is only a passing glimpse. We can’t see the whole picture. No one can. We see in a “mirror dimly.” Anyone who claims to “see and understand all the details of the future” is blinded by their own self-deception. Therefore, we must trust God now and love Him enough to do what work He has already clearly revealed for us to do in His Word. 

The more we see “time” from God’s eternal perspective, the more we will apply our entire lives in such a way that we will not only realize the brevity of life, but we will also seek to take advantage of each day as an opportunity to honor God. We will see our limited time on earth impacting our destiny in eternity, “what we do in life echos through eternity, ” (Russell Crowe in Gladiator). 

“Father God, forgive us for the way we have managed our time. Sensitize our hearts and minds so that we will enthusiastically pursue Your plan for our lives with a view to eternity. May Your wisdom in Your Word become even more so our directional compass in the 2019 New Year ahead.  For we ask and pray in the mighty name of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.”