Statement of faith

2 Timothy 3:16-17 "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (NIV)

"The Spirit of God uses the Word of God to make us like the Son of God. To become like Jesus, we must fill our lives with his Word.
- Warren

Monday, January 30, 2012

Quiet-Time Reflections

Week of January 30, 2012                       
Sharing by: Pam Crawford

If I have any readers left after the past two lessons, let’s dig in.

2 Peter 3:17-18
“Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and forever.”

2 Corinthians 10:4
“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of this world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.”

I will begin by telling you right out of the gate that I am “fighting” mad. I am so tired of the destruction being reported all around me that I could just scream! What is wrong with us! Do we not see what is happening? Have we put away our weapon of warfare? 

A long, long time ago this country’s history reflected a time when selfishness was set aside as respect to the Word of God. People were more than willing to step outside of themselves to obey God and serve others. They didn't just give up, or walk away. Many were trying to make a better life for themselves and those they cared about. They battled toward victory not away from it. They fought for the family unit and they worked to protect what was valuable. It was also a time when people truly cared and they worked hard to make a difference. They did not allow the busyness of their day to hinder progress. I imagine the words “I’m too busy" were not muttered very often if at all. Now I get that this was not everybody, but I like to think it was the majority. It doesn’t seem like it today in 2012. Although there are certainly many people still living within these principles, many have fallen into the “it’s all about me” mentality, and friends this scares me. We might describe society today as a self focused, looking out for number 1 culture. 

When we're too busy, we are less likely to reflect Jesus in our lives and the lives of others. I imagine this is one of Satan's best strategies. If we're wrapped up in sin, we'll stay self-focused and ineffective to fulfill our God-given purpose. If we're too busy to help someone else, we'll overlook the need. Now, I understand that we can’t physically help everyone, but we can help through prayer and by sharing from that of which we have experienced. Sometimes its just knowing that someone else cares. I imagine if you think about it, you can probably relate to knowing someone who is hurting right now. That someone might very well be you. It is not my intention to minimize the despair of God’s people in any way. However, if possible I want us to shift our focus off of ourselves and onto the heart of God. I want us to understand that we can grieve the Spirit of God through our busyness and sin.  

It is my hope that we are not “too busy” to study all we can about God, His Son and the Holy Spirit. This is the one thing of value that we too can take hold of in our time of despair and uncertainty. In Christ we are never alone. God has provided all that we will ever need to survive life this side of heaven. It might not always feel that way, but feelings are fickle. Truth on the other hand empowers us! Listen to how Jesus explained this to the disciples of His time.

John 14:15-18 “If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”

So the million dollar question today is; “do you know the One who deserves to be honored and praised? Have you carved out adequate time to get to know Him? If the answer is yes, then you know nothing is too big for God to handle. And, nothing God asks of you will be impossible to achieve! He promises to be there every step of the way. If you answered no, or maybe you're thinking you're just way too busy right now for this kind of stuff, won't you reconsider your response. There is no better time than the present to develop a personal relationship with God. A relationship that can change the direction of your life and the circumstances that surround you.  Ask Him to come into your heart, confess your sins before Him and invite Him in to counsel you through His Word. Determine to obey Him and set aside time exclusively for Him and protect it at all cost. We can learn to discern the voice of God by exploring His Word with Him.  I know from experience  that God is more than willing to speak when we're willing to listen. Let's read on.

John: 14:19-21“Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you will also live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever obeys my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” 

Drop down to verses 24-27 – “He who does not love me will not obey my teachings. These word are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

Does peace sound like something you’re willing to fight for? How then do we achieve God's peace in a world that appears to have gone mad? How can we turn our troubles into triumphs? How do we step outside of self? How do we walk this earth without fear? I believe the answer is; we determine to listen to our Counselor! We would be wise to refrain from getting so busy that we cannot hear Him. Refrain from becoming so busy that we cannot serve Him. Refrain from doubt, unbelief, worry, anger, and a spirit of impatience. These things are sin and they hinder forward progress. Instead, open God’s Word every opportunity you have and ask Him to speak to your heart. 

While you’re waiting, consider asking God to help you become a blessing to someone else. It's helpful to redirect our focus. That’s what I attempted to do today before I sat down to write for you. I pray you have heard my heart for God.  It is a heart similar to Peter’s. I want to use the words Peter used as he addressed his friends about the coming day of the Lord. If you have time please read 2 Peter, chapter 3 in its entirety. For now, listen to these words as we close and be blessed.

2 Peter 3:17-18 - “Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the errors of lawless men and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and forever.” And, to that I say AMEN!

Today’s prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for being a relational God. Thank you for providing us Your Word so that we have what we need to make it through this life, the good and the bad. May we glorify you with a thankful heart and a grateful spirit? Help us to trust that You are at work behind the scenes despite what we might be viewing with our own eyes. Help us also surrender to the truth that You desire to bring good from evil, light from darkness and hope from hopelessness. In Jesus name, we pray. AMEN! 

Rest, pray, study, reflect and worship with this song "Give me Jesus."

In Christ by grace,

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Quiet-Time Reflections

Week of: Jan. 23, 2012                          
Sharing by: Pam Crawford

Jeremiah 17:10
“I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.”

1 Thessalonians 4:7-8
“For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, he who rejects the instructions does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.

 “A person of conviction has become convinced, by either evidence or argument, that his beliefs are true. Today, most men and women would rather live by preference than conviction. They choose to believe something based on certain conditions and circumstances. When the situation changes, so does their loyalty. In other words, a lot of people vacillate on issues that require a firm resolve. If we are grounded in the Word and trust what God has said, we can stand firm in our beliefs. Confidence breeds the courage to remain strong amid conflict.”
 – Dr. Charles Stanley

STOP in the name of love.
I along with many other Bible believing Christians are being referred to as “haters” because we don’t embrace homosexuality, abortion, divorce, etc. We have been singled out as self-righteous in nature, close-minded and judgmental. These character assassinations use to offend and frustrate me, but not any more.  As someone who professes to be a Christ-follower, I must be true to my convictions over embracing what is popular by culture. My attempt today is to simply acknowledge and honor what God has laid out in Scripture, over embracing or excusing sin as “personal choice.”  Once we discover what God says, we have a choice to make. Respect it, or reject it. To merely listen to God’s Word without obeying it is dangerous stuff (James 1:22- 25).

Love the sinner,” I agree wholeheartedly! However, I would be a “fool” to be OK with the sin. Becoming desensitized by that of which is revealed to be a contradiction of God’s Word is also dangerous. At this very moment I have people in my life that want me to tell them that it’s OK to divorce their spouse. They want me to embrace their same-sex partners or be happy for them as they live with a boyfriend/girlfriend outside of the institution of marriage. I am also up against accepting a decision of a friend to terminate a pregnancy because it doesn’t fit into their plan. The argument is “it’s my right; my personal choice to do what is right for me.” May God have mercy on anyone who believes their “personal choice” trumps what the Creator of heaven and earth has instructed in His Word? I can hardly type this section without sobbing for this kind of mentality. I cannot imagine how it grieves the heart of God.

Today, it is my intention to extend love. Some may not see it that way, but that is exactly what is on my heart. I am willing to risk our relationship because I now understand what is at stake. I can not sugarcoat this message and be true to God. I must step out in a spirit of courage and trust that God will take it from here.

“Integrity is telling myself the truth and honesty is telling the truth to other people.”
-Spencer Johnson

The GOD of the Holy Bible has much to say about sexual sin and sin of the flesh. Because I am limited by time I encourage you to read Leviticus chapter 18, verses 1 through 30 on your own. In this chapter sub-titled “Unlawful Sexual Relations” God was instructing Moses to tell the people that they must not engage in incest, adultery and acts of homosexuality. Furthermore, He instructs them they are not to follow the practices of man, but rather they are to obey God’s laws and decrees. So excuse me as I scratch my head and ask “what part of this don’t we understand?”

All throughout the Bible God has provided us with instructions for living in ways that bring honor to Him. There are some pretty specific instructions found in the Apostle Paul’s teachings to the church regarding both sexual and sins of the flesh. Let us remember the church is not a building, the church is you and me friends. If you have some time won’t you consider checking out Ephesians 5, Colossians 3, 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, Galatians 5:16-26, and 1 Thessalonians 4? Just a little side note; if you want to learn more about the Apostle Paul, check out his story in the Book of Acts. This man is an example of someone who went through some pretty radical changes as a result of what he discovered and eventually embraced.  

Too often we rather adjust God’s instructions to give ourselves permission to overlook sin. I know, I’ve been there. At other times it’s easier to dispute the accuracy of the Bible over obeying it. Acknowledging truth might cause us to uncover that we have had some “wrong thinking” going on in our heads. Consider this for a moment. Someone who is having an affair may blame their spouse’s imperfections in order to justify a divorce. But what does God say about divorce?  Explore it yourself in Malachi 2:16, Matt. 5:32, Lev. 21:14, Matt. 19:9 and Mark 10:4.  What about the desire to cohabitate (live with one another outside of marriage)? What does God say about the marriage bed?  Explore it for yourself in Hebrews 13:4. How about the dispute over marriage being between a man and a woman?  Look at Genesis 2:22-24, Proverbs 5:18-19, Proverbs 18:22, and Deuteronomy 24:5. How about Homosexuality? Read Leviticus 18:22, 20:13, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, and Genesis 19. And, do we have the right to chose to abort human life?  Although some people point out that the word "abortion" is not in the Bible, we can’t overlook that the teaching is there. You could note that the word “trinity” is not in the Bible either, but you’ll find the teaching is there. In any case, let’s just keep focused on what the Word of God says. Check out Scripture such as  Psalm 127:3, Exodus 20:13, Deuteronomy 5:17, Amos 1:13, Matthew 19:18 and Revelation 22:15. 

Sins of the flesh are not to be minimized either. Pride, lying, gossiping, stealing, slander, impatience, idolatry, anger, unforgiveness, jealousy, envy, and yes bitterness are all considered to be sin by God. Ephesians 4:20-32 might be helpful as we look to better understand why we’re also called to turn from these types of sin. As I said last week, willful sin of any type will bring about consequences, you can count on it. Just because we have been blessed with New Testament teachings and the gift of the new covenant by the blood of Jesus Christ; it does not mean that we are to deem the Old Testament obsolete as some argue. Yes, it is true that Jesus Christ’s sacrifice at Calvary paid the price for sin and freed us from the bondage to the law; however, we would be fools to discard God’s original instructions to the people. And we would also be pretty naïve if we eliminate the act of repentance from this gift. The instructions were given so that people could learn, repent, turn and receive a blessing. They were called to align themselves with God.  

In closing, we need not be condemned by the decisions we have made. Each day is a new day of opportunity. Our past does not need to define our future. Through God’s mercy He provided forgiveness of sin through Jesus. If after searching the Scriptures for yourself, you discover that you are not following the commands/instructions of God in any area of your life, won't you consider altering your choices? 

Are you still with me? If so, I need you to hear this closely. Repentance means we turn away, we stop doing what we discover to be sin in the eyes of our Heavenly Father. A decision will be necessary. We don’t blame the devil, or our genetics, our flesh, or people’s imperfections. No, we take responsibility for succumbing to evil. We call sin, sin. We acknowledge (confess) that our way is wrong, and then we embrace the gift of grace and live. We won’t be perfect, and our choice to change may be extremely difficult; but in the end we’ll be on our way to glorifying God through the victory. And, our name will be written into the Book of Life (Rev. 20:15). Be blessed.

In Christ by grace,

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Quiet-Time Reflections

Week of: January 16, 2012                      
Sharing by: Pam Crawford

Genesis 2:15-17 (NIV)
The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must noteat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die. 

Revelation 22:15-16
“Blessed are those that wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. I Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Start.”

If I have learned anything over the past ten years of studying the Word of God, it is that we cannot pick and choose what we’re going to obey if we desire to experience Heaven. Although God has certainly given us a choice to either accept His Word, or reject it; I would caution you and me that there are hefty consequences awaiting those who willfully choose to discard or adjust the inspired Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16) to fit our personal desires. Please don’t take my word for it, check it out for yourself. You can begin with Revelation 20:15, “If anyone’s name was not found in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”

The Bible teaches that on the “Day of Judgment” the books will be opened. In these books both good and evil will be recorded. There will be a clear account of my life and yours. I envision the ledger sheet inside the book will list a detailed description of the good and evil we have done while on this earth. Some of you might prefer to envision this as a modern day Excel spreadsheet showing different columns. What I want you to notice here is that the “Book of Life” is going to contain the names of those who have put their trust in Christ to save them. If that is not you, this will probably make no sense at all. But please, do not stop reading. In fact, maybe you could just ask the God of the Holy Bible to help you understand what I am sharing today. I know He can and I know He wants your name written in that book. Maybe you would just look up John 3:16 in the New Testament and let it resonate deep in your heart before reading on. 

It is important that we stop here to define this “good and evil” we’re referencing. I’m not going to Webster’s or; I am just going to offer a good “common sense” definition for the column marked “good” and the column marked “evil.” Are you ready? “Good” is the detailed information indicating obedience to God, and “evil” is the detailed information indicating disobedience to God. You might have been expecting “good” to refer to a list of all the “good things” you have done, and the evil to list all the “bad things,” like stealing little Jimmy’s eraser in the 1st grade and lying about it. Hang in there as this is not about causing condemnation, this is about learning. I want us to focus on the column next to “evil” marked “grace.” Above this column is a check mark. It’s a mark we receive when we move from “evil” to “good,” disobedience to obedience. It might be better understood as the mark of repentance. Because I finally admitted to taking that eraser from Jimmy, there would be a check mark under the “grace” column.  Even though stealing an eraser as an example was for humor, there is nothing funny about minimizing sin. Whether it was an eraser or embezzling millions of dollars, Biblically, God considers it all sin.

So often we associate God’s wrath with disobedience. If we don’t do what God says, He’s going to be angry. You’re right to think that He is not happy when we are disobedient, but we cannot overlook the grace that is offered when one repents. Today I want us to associate the word hope with the word repentance. When we choose to turn from our sins, God has something to work with. I am not saying that there will not be consequences for sin, but when we have a repentant heart we are willing to learn from our mistakes and hopefully work at not repeating them. When God begins to show you something and you’re willing to work at it, you are in process of obedience. This should be a goal for all of us.

I have a challenge for us. Let’s take some time today to really look within. Let’s see this lesson as life and death. Too many people are walking around this earth today with a false sense of security; I was one of them for a very long time. Having your name in the “Book of Life” is more than just saying a salvation prayer. My friends it’s about more than being a “good person” or doing the church thing.  It’s about being obedient as a result of the gift of grace. Genuine salvation will have the check mark of repentance. You will be different. When you find yourself sinning, you will recognize it as something that grieves your Heavenly Father and you will desire to turn from it.  Honoring God is an action. You won’t be perfect, but you’ll be in progress.

At this point in my life I am at a place where I now grieve over my sin. It certainly wasn’t always that way. Yes, I use to feel bad, but that’s about how far it went. I know there is something different in me today. I now view my sin as hurting the One who loves me so much that He would give up His life so that I could live. I wish I could tell you that I have conquered sin, but that would be more sin. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t have to come before God to ask for forgiveness for something I may have thought, spoke, or did wrong in my day. Some days are better than others, but my human nature and living in this fallen world is tough. I have to learn daily to put away my bad choices (Ephesians 4:31) and live faithfully before God. Although I have not yet arrived, I am grateful that the Holy Spirit (John 14:26) is available to help me every step of the way. I know I will be called to answer for my “evils,” but I smile when I think that God added that column of grace for me. He is interested in seeing that we got the lessons as painful as they might be. Friends, when we admit that we are sinners we get to live. Praise God!

Willful sin will keep us separated from God. If you discover that you have been walking in the wrong direction, may I please urge you to turn around today. Let God put your name in His Book. Go before Him with a genuine heart of repentance and receive your mark. Take the gift of grace and be blessed.

Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

"What is salvation? What is the Christian doctrine of salvation?"

Monday, January 9, 2012

Quiet-Time Reflections

Week of: Jan. 9, 2012                                       
Sharing by: Pam Crawford

Philippians 1:23-24
“I’m torn between two desires: Sometimes I want to live, and sometimes I long to go and be with Christ. That would be better for me, but it is better for you that I live.” – NLT

One of my favorite lines from the Wizard of Oz is “there is no place like home.” I thoroughly agree! Not many people outside of my husband know this about me, but I don’t necessarily like to travel. In fact, before I leave I am already homesick. I know that this might sound strange to some of you; but if truth be told, I am rather content just looking at the beauty right outside my sliding glass door and sleeping in my own bed. If I didn’t have to travel on busy highways, or rush through airports, or stress over travel plans another day in my life, it would be A-ok with me. 

This morning as I am writing, the Lord is providing some amazing artwork right outside my window as I watch the sunrise. It’s absolutely stunning! The colors are so vibrant and the light is bright. The view makes me wonder about how beautiful it will be to one day reside in the presence of thee artist, Our Creator. The view also makes me yearn to see life more clearly.

Today it seems like a lifetime ago, but I can remember a very dark time in my life when I could not see the beauty of the artist or this world, and frankly I just wanted to go home. I was pretty naïve at that point because I was lost and had not yet experienced genuine salvation. So to go home, to make my own plan of exit from this world would have likely meant that I would not wake up in a place of beauty. Although I have worked through the shame of how I felt back then, I am grateful for that sense of darkness. Without working through my distorted view of this life, I may have missed the light.  

Pain and suffering are things we desire to avoid. In fact, we work really hard to avoid them. As I reflect back on that time when I was contemplating my exit strategy, I was desperate to avoid the pain. I was so tired of suffering through the torment of my thoughts. My world had become dark and I was terribly confused. Everything around me felt chaotic and out of control. It was getting increasingly difficult to cope, to put on my happy face and do life. I felt lonely in my world and there was nothing normal about my darkness. Eventually I came to a crossroad and a decision was necessary. I could either choose my plan that felt extremely uncomfortable to me, or I could cry out for help. Oh how I wish I could tell you that it was I that cried out for help. The truth is I struggled back then to get out a whimper.

At my crossroad (my place of desperation) I was met by a Savior and today I know Him as Jesus Christ. No, I didn’t see Him physically, but I did experience Him through the loving concern of my earthly husband. You see when we are in pain, we are not there alone. Our response to our pain affects others. We don’t suffer alone. When we’re hurting, others are suffering right along with us. It could be that we’re just too wrapped up in the self destruction that we can’t see it. At least this was my experience. I was at the end of my rope, but I was too stubborn to let anyone in to help me. To let them in would mean allowing them access to something that I thought I would just take to my grave. Thankfully light has the power to overshadow the darkness. Praise God that He has the power to knock down the walls of a stubborn heart in order to rescue the lost.

I will never forget that voice at the other end of the line, “Pam, are you ok?” It was my doctor. Why was he calling? How did he know I was not OK? Long story short, a loving man knew that I was in trouble and he moved into action. My husband was at a place of desperation. He knew something was terribly wrong with me and he felt helpless to do anything outside of calling out for help on my behalf. Although it made me extremely angry at the time, I realize today that it was my lifeline. God had empowered him to intervene on my behalf and that began my journey out of my darkness.

The label of “clinical depression” didn’t sit well with me, but nevertheless that is what they called it. I had been locked in that darkness for longer than I had imagined and I had a lot of work ahead of me. This was about the time when a friend began offering an invitation to attend Bible studies.
Unfortunately, I made a lot of excuses for why I couldn’t attend. I told myself it was not “my cup of tea.” However, the truth was I was just beginning to work at climbing out of my pit and I was vulnerable. I didn’t want anyone outside of my family to know that I was weak, so I just declined the invitations for about a period of five years. I had no idea that my answer was right there in those invitations. Thankfully, my friend never gave up on me either. I don’t think she realizes this, but she was a part of God’s rescue team. I owe a debt of gratitude to my Heavenly Father, my husband and my dear friend who along with many others played a vital role in helping me see the light. Because of them I can now celebrate life. I know that I made the better choice to draw close to God within my pain so that He could show me that suffering is a part of strength.  When He’s ready for me, He’ll do the calling. Until then I have work to do.

John 14:6 -“I am the way the truth and the life.”

Battling depression or extreme sadness takes time. You have to allow yourself the time to heal as you do the work necessary to climb out of your pit. You have to want freedom! Too many of us get comfortable in our pits because it’s easier.  No one can free you; freedom comes when we learn to overcome our fears, the shame, and discouragement of disappointment.  Most importantly I had to learn that no matter what happened in my past, it was my past. It did not have to define my future. There is help available! When we ask God for direction, or when others intercede on our behalf; hope is ushered in. This is the light I desire others to see through the transparency of this testimony.

My friend didn’t know it, but her invitations every fall were just the beginning of what would be the healing work God had planned in my life. When I finally surrendered to getting to know this God that people told me was my answer, I found Him. He had been there all along. He was in my husband, family and my friends who knew something was not right in me. He was there in the voice of my doctor and He was there in the Bible study facilitator’s voice as she read Matthew 6:14-15. That day she was teaching the importance of forgiveness. I fought it for a bit, but today “forgiveness” is light to me.

I certainly do not have all the answers, I can only tell you what worked for me. Drawing close to the One with the power to help me, saved my life. He is available to anyone that seeks Him. I have hope today and I know without a doubt that “with God, all things are possible” (Matthew 19: 26). It is better that we learn through our life's experiences so we can experience the beauty that God created. For His children, we have work to do. There are others out there who need to know that hope and miracles still exist. I hope you got a small glimpse of that today. Be blessed.  

Today’s prayer:  Sovereign Lord, may I ask You to bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim freedom for those who are in the pit of darkness, and may Your light shine brightly on anyone who may be feeling despair today. May Your light shine bright in our hearts and may we never lose the gift of hope. Help us learn that times of adversity are the greatest opportunities for growth. In Jesus name, I lift this prayer. Amen. 

In Christ by grace,

“Asking for help is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of wisdom.” - Evans

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Quiet-Time Reflections

Week of: January 2, 2012            
Sharing by: Pam Crawford

Philippians 3:12-14: "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."
2012 ~ “It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life….and I’m feeling good.”   - Buble’                                             
Let’s begin with a common question, “how are you doing?” Now, I’m not interested in the “oh, I’m fine” answer, I would like a truthful response. It’s really ok to be honest. Like many of you, I get that life is full of challenges and sometimes it’s a real struggle to see light at the end of the tunnel. Could it be however that we can’t see it, because we’re not running toward it? Could it be we’re so stuck in the past that we can’t enjoy the present?  With all due respect, today is a new day! The past is over and we’re upon a new day of opportunity. How will it look for you? What must you let go of to really begin to enjoy your life? Are you willing to press on to really begin to feel good about life and the opportunities God has for you? Are you interested in living life the way your Heavenly Father created you to live? I am not asking you if you want to, I’m asking you, will you?
Friends, no one has the power to take something from you, unless of course, you’re willing to give it to them. I have no idea what that would look like in your life, but in mine, I am learning how to let go of my failures/mistakes to experience true joy. I am still very much a work in progress, I have not yet arrived, but I’m no longer stuck either. You see, for a very long time like some of you, I was unable to press past my past. Every opportunity that Satan had, he reminded me of my mistakes or the mistakes of others. He reminded me of betrayal, he reminded me of disappointment, and he often wanted to make sure that I pointed the blame at God for allowing it all. This way I would surely stay stuck within the emotions of anger, bitterness, unforgiveness and resentment. This is his signature cocktail that some of us enjoy sipping on. It would often soothe and keep me focused on “poor, poor, pitiful me,” and the canvas would stay dark.
God has a better plan for this new dawn and it’s a rescue plan. It’s a canvas with beautiful bright rays of hope. It’s a plan that pulls us out from that which we are under, and leads us onto solid ground. Please notice that I said “leads.” God gives us what we need in His Word to move toward a new destination. He doesn’t give us a roadmap, He gives us a compass. The rest is up to us. We can either choose to stay where we are today, or we can choose a better way. We can determine today that we will change our thoughts concerning our circumstances and press on toward the goal of victory through the power of our Lord Jesus Christ. On our own, we’ll stay in our tunnel of discouragement. But with Christ, we can strain toward the light that is ahead of us. What will it be?
To remain in the dark, to let our emotions and our disappointments get the best of us, means we will forfeit God’s very best for our lives. We cannot change our past, but we can do something about how we view our future. Do we continue to see life through Satan’s lenses or will we choose to let God give us a new set of eyes? If you are a believer - this is a new day, seize it. If you have not yet taken hold of the Creator, there is no better time then right now. It’s simple. Just cry out to God. Tell Him you desire to change directions. Invite Him in to become your Savior and then start pressing on to claim your prize.
I have more good news. God is aware of every poor choice, every difficulty, and every wrong turn you have ever made. And, despite it all, He loves you unconditionally and He wants what is best for you. God knows your heart and He sees the hurt. He knows the mindset of some of you that it is “easier said then done.” He gets it!  However, please don’t overlook that God has a comeback plan waiting for you. Failure is not final. Mistakes can be corrected. Hurts can heal, disappointments can be forgiven and life can be enjoyed! Things may not have turned out the way you planned, but it doesn’t mean it can’t get better. It doesn’t mean you will never experience love, hope, peace or joy again. With God all things are possible! We have to live on the truth that faith is not about what God can do, it’s about what God will do. Our storms are temporary, our setbacks are just that. When we allow ourselves to have hope, we can begin to move forward. How about it? Can we leave some junk behind today? Can we experience forward progress together? I pray so.
Life’s Application Commentary: Paul said that his goal was to know Christ, to be like Christ, and to be all Christ had in mind for him. This goal took all of Paul energies. This is a helpful example for us. We should not let anything take our eyes off of our goal – knowing Christ. With the single-mindedness of an athlete in training, we must lay aside everything harmful and forsake anything that may distract us from being effective Christians. What is holding you back?        
Today’s prayer: Heavenly Father help us to keep our focus on you. This world is so full of distractions, difficulties and defeats that tempt us to doubt that you are a Sovereign God.  May we discard the lies and stand firmly on the truth of Your Word. You promise to never leave us nor forsake us. When we draw close to you with a genuine heart of repentance you are more than willing to direct our steps. So often we see you as some great magician and when you don’t deliver the act we expect, we are tempted to walk away.  Help us learn that your timing and Your ways are perfect. Help us to celebrate that You are working behind the scenes to bring about Your purpose for our life. May we become willing participants in our own stories?  The outcome is to be beautiful, let’s celebrate it today. In Jesus name we pray. Amen!
In Christ by grace,