Thankful Through the Fire

Bible Reading: Daniel 3; Psalm 119:46-48 This is the week we all sit around a table filled with food and rattle off a list of things we are thankful for.  We are challenged by this time of year to look beyond ourselves and think about the things we take for granted.  Even our commercials and other advertisement ask us what we are thankful for.  Honestly, it is not hard to think of things to be thankful for.  The main obstacle to thankfulness is our circumstances.  Can you remain thankful in the midst of chaos?  Would you have a heart filled…

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God Only Knows

Bible Reading: Job 42:1-6; Proverbs 2:6 I love old sayings that we continue to use today, especially when they are more true than people realize.  Back home, when a person was being asked continuous questions (like your child constantly asking “Why?”), they would get frustrated and say, “God only knows!”  It may be venting frustration, but it is incredibly accurate!  There is so much going on in this world, that often times we find ourselves throwing our hands up and saying, “Only God knows!” The book of Job gives us so much insight and wisdom into the wisdom of God. …

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God Knows the Hearts of All

Bible Reading: Acts 1:15-26; Ephesians 2:1-10 Have you ever felt unqualified for something?  Maybe you were offered a new position at work you weren’t confident in taking, or perhaps you were selected to lead a group or project, and you did not think you had what it takes.  Can you imagine being recruited to be the apostle to replace Judas?  This is the task said before the man, Matthias.  He is selected by God to be the twelfth apostle right as the Church is about to explode to over three thousand members.  Matthias would be one of foundational pillars that…

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Give to God What is His

Bible Reading: Luke 20:19-26; James 4:7 The wisdom of Jesus is on full display in this passage.  The Pharisees were doing all that they could to trip him up and discredit Jesus, but Jesus was too smart for them.  In the passage for this week’s blog, the Pharisees think they finally have the perfect trap when they ask a question of loyalty:  Is Jesus loyal to Israel, or Rome?  Since Rome was the ruling nation over Israel, there was some tension in this question.  Citizens of Israel had to pay a tax to Rome, but to encourage people to do…

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The Courageous Faith of Caleb

Bible Reading: Joshua 14:6-15 After reading this passage, how can it be that Caleb is not one of our favorite people from the Old Testament?  I am so encouraged by the faith of this 85-year-old!  Can you imagine all that Caleb has seen and experienced in his long life?  Through it all, his faith is not only intact, but stronger than ever before.  Caleb has experienced so much.  He began as a slave in Egypt, and passed through the Red Sea as God parted the waters.  He was with the people as God led them as a pillar of cloud…

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Healing Faith

Bible Reading – Luke 8:40-48 Have you ever been at the end of your rope and looking for any hope to grab on to?  Have you ever been so desperate for relief that you would try literally anything?  I can imagine this is the mindset of the woman in Luke 8.  She has suffered from a discharge of blood for over twelve years.  She has used all of her resources to find a cure, and nobody could cure her.  This is no exaggeration.  The Bible says, “though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed…

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The Steadfast Love of the Lord

Bible Reading: Malachi 1:1-5; Proverbs 3:5-8 Lately I have been pestering the people around me about reading the Minor Prophets.  I started a plan to read through them all in a 25-day period, and quickly fell in love with them.  To read through the promises of God for His people, but also getting a glimpse of His holiness and justice as He judges all of the nations of the earth. In the Minor Prophets, we see the discipline of our perfect Heavenly Father towards His people, Israel, as well as His promises of hope and peace for them after He…

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Resting in the Shade

Bible Reading: Micah 4:1-5, Colossians 3:1-17 There are few better images of rest and being worry-free than of a person napping in the shade of a tree.  Can you imagine propping up against a tree, finding that comfortable spot, and feeling the coolness of the shade, you fall asleep.  Even imagining it gives us a sigh of relief and peace.  But then we open our eyes, and we are back to reality.  What if this kind of rest was real?  What if it was possible to experience such peace, and have it last?  This is an image Scripture gives us…

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To Fulfill All Righteousness

Bible Reading: Matthew 3:13-17 Have you ever wondered why Jesus had to be baptized?  He is the Messiah; the Savior of the world.  We know that Jesus was sinlessly perfect, so why did He have John baptize Him?  Baptism, we know, is an outward expression on the heart-cleansing salvation God has done.  But Jesus did not need to be saved from sin.  Actually, the exact opposite is true, in that Jesus had come to save sinners.  When He comes to John seeking baptism, John says that Jesus should be the one baptizing him.  Jesus gives an interesting response that can…

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Growing Where God has Planted You

Bible Reading: Mark 5:1-20 Can you imagine what was going through this poor man’s mind?  For so long, his mind had been under the control of a legion of demons.  His hometown feared him, and he had been isolated from his community.  There is no telling how marred his body is from breaking chains and shackles, or how scarred from the demons causing him to cut himself with stones.  But once Jesus enters the picture, Legion is cast out, and enters a herd of pigs.  For the first time in years, this man has control of himself again.  The first…

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Never Forget

Bible Reading: Psalm 103 As Americans, we cannot help but feel a heaviness in our hearts today.  For those of us who are old enough, we remember where we were when the terrorist attacks struck the World Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001.  Maybe you were so young that you did not fully understand the gravity of what was happening, or maybe you were old enough to have been filled with anger, sadness, and fear.  Most days in our past are hard to remember.  I cannot remember how I felt on the day I became a teenager, or the…

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Humbled by Love

Bible Reading: Romans 8, Psalm 95 I was trying to get ahead on some writing projects I have coming up, and God stopped me in my tracks with this thought: Have you ever considered how unlovable you are?  We have all been told and know how great and how powerful God’s love is, but have you ever thought about how hard you are to love?  Each one of us have faults and setbacks.  We are selfish, proud, envious, gossips, disrespectful and hold grudges.  We all have been guilt of lust, being self-centered, and filled with hatred and anger.  We may…

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Having Active Faith

Bible Reading: 1 Timothy 4:6-16 Living in the south, there is an excitement in the air this time of year.  Football season is kicking off, and everyone is looking forward to tailgate parties and get-togethers with family and friends.  Throughout history, sports and athletic competitions have been loved by people.  In ancient Rome, the people enjoyed taking in gladiator fights and other events at the Coliseum.  Today, we just need to see the overhead view of sporting events to see how many people are willing to pile into a stadium and cheer on their favorite team.  Most everyone has a…

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The Wisdom in Obedience

Bible Reading: Matthew 7:24-27 I have a love and hate relationship with the beach – I love it and it hates me.  I always try to build a sand castle at the beach, and the beach always destroys it!  All of my planning, effort, blood, sweat and tears are poured into my castle, the ocean waves and shifting sand always leave me heart broken.  I guess I should not be surprised by this, as sand is not the sturdiest foundation to build on.  We all know that sand is unreliable, and that is why Jesus uses the illustration he does…

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Never Weary in Doing Good

Bible Reading: Galatians 6:6-10; Matthew 5:13-16; John 1:1-5 A question that has plagued mankind as far back as the wise king, Solomon, is this: why do bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people?  I believe that many of us fall into this dangerous and weird type of “Karma Christianity”. In Karma Christianity, we think that if we do good, then God will make good things happen for us.  But life tells us that this is not the case.  It is not that God gives us bad in exchange for our good works, or that…

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Keeping in Step with the Spirit

Bible Reading: Romans 6, and Galatians 5:25 Our CCS daily staff devotions have been in the book of Galatians the last few weeks, and it has been a blessing.  I love reading and studying God’s Word!  Galatians 5 is particularly challenging.  It begins with talking about the freedom that believers have in Christ, and it ends with the charge to bear fruit of living a life for Christ.  Galatians 5:25 gives a charge that I need to be reminded of multiple times a day: “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.”  What…

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Love Your Enemies

Bible Reading: Romans 5:6-11; Matthew 5:43-48 Last Wednesday, I was struck by a thought I had never truly considered.  Many of us have heard and love the verse from Romans 5:10, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.”  We love it because it is God redeeming from sin and welcoming us as His children.  But would we expect anything less from the God who is love?  Of course not!  By the time this verse came our way, we knew that God was gracious and loving, even while we were lost…

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The Vainness of Vanity

Bible Reading: Ecclesiastes 2:1-11 In the book of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon has set out to find the secret to a fulfilled life.  He first tried to gain wisdom and learning of all things, but he found that this left him empty and unsatisfied.  He has now turned his attention to self-indulgence.  In 2:1, Solomon writes, “I said in my heart, ‘Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.’”  Solomon had the wealth and resources to live in such a way that he did not keep and desire or pleasure away.  He indulged himself in every way.  He writes,…

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Elijah: The Whisper of God

Bible Reading: 1 Kings 19:1-18 Last week we read of how God and Elijah defeated Baal and the 450 prophets, and how all of Israel came to see that God was the true God.  If this were a movie, we would expect the story to be wrapping up after the final battle.  Sometimes we read the Bible like a story man made, and we look for happy endings, but we must remember that these are real life stories.  Even though Elijah won the showdown, his story is not done, and neither are his problems.  It does not take long for…

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Elijah: The Battle with Baal

Bible Reading: 1 Kings 18:1-40 We have read and seen Elijah become a man of God through the testing of his faith.  What we read in one chapter takes place over a three and a half year period, and the time has come for God to send the rain to the earth once more.  But before the rain comes, God is going to show His supremacy and glory before all of Israel.  God going to demonstrate His power by dethroning the false god, Baal, and He plans to use Elijah to do it. God sends Elijah to confront King Ahab,…

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Elijah and the God Who Provides

Bible Reading: 1 Kings 17:8-24                 We continue to look at the life of the prophet Elijah.  Last week we focused on the beginning of his story, and how ordinary Elijah is called by God to confront the wicked king of Israel, and then goes to live in the wilderness.  Elijah is being prepared by God for many things to come.  But before God uses Elijah for something big, He first puts Elijah’s faith to the test.                 As a result of no rain, the brook Cherith dried up, and Elijah had no source of water.  God directs Elijah to…

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Elijah: Faith At All Times

Bible Reading: 1 Kings 17:1-7 I love the story of Elijah.  Close to seven years ago, I listened to a series of sermons that made Elijah come to life for me, and since then I revisit his story once or twice a year.  His is a story of courage, boldness and faith.  For the next few weeks, we will be spending time with the story of Elijah and see what all we can learn from his life. We begin with the first seven verses of 1 Kings 17.  This is our introduction to Elijah, and we learn something interesting about…

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Keeping Faith in the Perfecting Work of God

Bible Reading: Philippians 3 (emphasis on verses 8-16) I love Philippians 1:6. It fills me with hope and confidence in my Savior.  It reads, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”  This picture Paul has painted gives me such comfort as I strive to live for God day in and day out.  Sometimes, I can beat myself down by thinking that I should be better than I am. I have thoughts running through my head saying, “I have been a Christian…

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Don’t Waste Your Talents

Bible Reading: Matthew 25:14-30 Proverbs 21:5 says, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.”  We read this, and there is an immediate agreement.  We all know that when we work diligently, we see the fruits of our labor.  We also know and agree that the lazy person will not see and fruit because they did not labor for it.  Even though we know both of these statements to be true, there is still a thought I cannot get out of my head.  Everyone I talk to seems to be…

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Praying Without Ceasing

Bible Reading: Psalm 86 How beautiful is prayer?  Could God have given us a more precious gift?  He could have kept our relationship as Creator and creation, but He made it so much more intimate.  Now, thanks to the gift of prayer, we can come to God as His children and call Him our Heavenly Father.  Have you ever stopped to think about how amazing prayer is?  The God who created the entire universe allows us to communicate with Him.  The Almighty God who breathed out the stars and can number them, calling each one by name, hears your prayers…

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A Parent’s Compassion

Bible Reading: Matthew 15:21-28; 1 John 4:18-19 There is not a more desperate time for a parent than when their child is very sick or hurting.  We rush them to the hospital, and we plead for immediate help.  We seek compassion from the nurses and doctors, and we beg them to help.  There is no length we would not go to in order to get our children the help and care they need.  We will humble ourselves to the point of begging and tears.  We have love and compassion for our children, and we plead for others to have the…

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The Forgiveness of the Forgiven

Bible Reading: Isaiah 64:1-9, and Matthew 6:9-13, placing emphasis on verse 12. Other than love, forgiveness may be the most powerful force in the world.  Do you remember those times as a child or teen when you had done something horribly wrong, and you knew you had to apologize?  It gave you that burden in your stomach to the point that you felt sick with fear and worry.  We could grow so anxious because we do not know how they will respond to our apology.  Will they get angry and shout at us?  Will they try to add on guilt…

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Faith that is Sincere, Pure and Good

Bible Reading: 1 Timothy 1:3-7 We are past due to realize the situation our nation is in: trust is irrelevant and faith is under attack.  Many try to live in denial, while others may turn a blind eye to this situation, but the time has already come for the Church to wake up to its calling.  Somewhere throughout our journey, the Word of God lost its place of value in our lives, and it is to a point where people who say they love Jesus have no idea of anything He said!  We live in an age where we post…

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All Things In Common

Bible Reading: Acts 2:37-47 Acts 1 and 2 contain so much exciting news!  Jesus promises the Holy Spirit will come and fill the disciples’ hearts, and then He ascends into heaven.  After this, the disciples go to Jerusalem to pray and wait for the Spirit, and then the Spirit falls and fills them up!  The power and presence of the Holy Spirit empowers the disciples to preach the Gospel to all of the people who are gathered in Jerusalem.  Many nations and languages are present, and the Spirit allows for each one to hear the Gospel in their own language! …

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Jacob: the Deceiver gets Deceived

Bible Reading: Genesis 29:1-30 (Jacob’s story goes from Genesis 27-35) We all enjoy seeing justice served.  There is something so sweet about seeing the person who takes advantage of others being taken advantage of.  This is what Jacob’s story is for me.  I love seeing the story of Jacob, whose name means to deceive or cheat, deceive his father, and then two chapters later he is deceived by his uncle.  To clarify, I do not love the story because Jacob gets deceived, but the change this seems to spark in him.  First, some back story.  Jacob and his brother, Esau, are…

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Jesus Christ, Our Advocate

Bible Reading: Romans 7:14-25; 1 John 2:1-6 Any believer who has taken time to seriously reflect on the state of their heart and soul can relate to Paul’s dilemma in Romans 7.  “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Rom. 7:15) We have asked God to forgive us of our sins through Jesus, and we have committed ourselves to living for Him, but we still sin!  Why do we still sin, even though we have surrendered to Christ?  Shouldn’t we have stopped sinning from…

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The Emmaus Road to Hope and Joy

Bible Reading: Luke 24:13-35 and Proverbs 10:28 Two men are on a seven mile walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus.  They are very sad.  The man they had hoped would redeem Israel had been unfairly condemned and brutally murdered three days ago.  Their hope was ruined, and their minds were probably racing and scrambling to find some kind of foothold to figure out what to do next.  We don’t know why they are traveling seven miles to Emmaus, but it is likely they are going home since the Passover feast had ended.  What we do know for sure is this:  these…

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Forgiven and Holy

Bible Reading – Colossians 1:13-24 Yesterday was Palm Sunday, and it has focused our hearts and minds on the coming events of the week.  Maundy Thursday will remind us of the night Jesus celebrated the Passover with His disciples and established the Lord’s Supper.  Good Friday focuses on the death of Jesus Christ on the cross.  And next Sunday will be Easter, where we remember the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus.  The emotions of this week can seem like a roller coaster.  We have the peaceful feeling of family when we come to the Lord’s Supper, followed by…

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God is Love

Bible Reading – 1 John 4:7-21 As Easter gets closer, I keep thinking about how great the love of God is.  A time of year where we remember that God loved us so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to die for our sins.  Not only did Jesus die so our sins could be forgiven, but He resurrected back to life so that we no longer have to fear death.  Sin and death are defeated in Jesus Christ for all those who love Him.  Easter is a season of love, and we would do well to think more about…

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What Defiles a Person?

Bible Reading: Mark 7:14-23; James 1:12-15 It is fairly easy to identify things that are bad and harmful.  We believe things such as murder, adultery, and stealing are bad, and they certainly are.  We view these things as something that, if we participate in them, we are defiling and ruining ourselves.  But in this passage from Mark 7, Jesus teaches us the truth about sin and wickedness.  “Hear me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile…

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Having Joy During Trials

Bible Reading: James 1:1-18 The epistle of James is very popular because of how practical its teachings are.  James offers us great instructions on how to live out our faith in Jesus Christ.  But James opens with a very interesting thought.  He writes, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.”  All of us face trials of various kinds, and every one of them is hard on us in one way or another.  But James tells us to count those trials as joyful.  How are we supposed to count our trials as joyful?  Going through…

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Why is Submission to God so Difficult?

Bible Reading: Romans 7:14-25 Last time we looked at submission we talked about how it is not a bad thing.  Submission to God is based in love.  Because God has loved us so much and adopted us as His children, we lovingly submit to following Him.  When we set our hearts and minds to following and obeying God, that is the first step.  In step two the rubber meets the road!  When we first begin trying to live for God, we find it to be more difficult than we thought.  What is going on?  We love God, but we keep…

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Showing Mercy to All People

Bible Reading: Luke 6:27-36 Most of us were taught the golden rule growing up: “As you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” (6:31) Most of the time, the thing we are taught when we are young become a key part of our character.  However, even though we are taught the golden rule from the time we are young, it gets harder and harder to follow this rule as we get older.  There are a few reasons why this is.  It could be that we have been hurt and rejected too many times, so we stop…

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Be Full of Jesus

Bible Reading: Philippians 4:8-13 The character trait for this week is a challenging one: contentment.  To be content is to be satisfied, but not just temporarily satisfied.  To be content, I think, is to be full.  It is so hard to be full and content in our society today.  We are flooded with advertisements that cause us to never be satisfied with anything in our life.  The ads do their job very well, because we often think, “If I could just have that, then everything would be right with the world.”  Of course, we know this is silly, but when…

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Love Your Enemies

Bible Reading: Matthew 5:43-48 Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount has a way of putting us in our place.  We may think, “I’m doing great!  I haven’t even murdered anyone!”, but then Jesus comes and raises the bar to not being angry and holding a grudge against anyone.  Arguably one of the most challenging sections of the sermon deals with us loving our enemies.  We may think we do well to love our family and friends, and this love helps cancel out the anger we feel against our enemies.  Jesus asks some questions in this section that truly clear up our…

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Faith That Stands Firm

Bible Reading: Daniel 3 Everything we say and do effects who we are.  We are who we are because of all of the past decisions we have made.  Of course, there is nothing about our past that makes us beyond the grace of God.  I am speaking only to our character.  Our thoughts, feelings, words, and actions all influence our character and the kind of person we are.  This is one of the reasons why our faith is so important.  When we are born again and made new through Jesus, our whole life is changed.  What we used to be…

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The Faith of the Sinful Woman

Bible Reading: Luke 7:36-50 “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”  These are the words Jesus spoke to the sinful woman in Luke 7.  This story never ceases to bless my heart.  There is no telling what this woman thought of herself, or felt in her heart every day.  We get a glimpse of the public’s opinion on her in verse 39 when the Pharisee says to himself, “If this man (Jesus) were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.”  What a horrible…

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God is Love

Bible Reading: 1 John 4:7-12 Don’t you just love “love”?  “Love” is so lovely, you cannot help but love it!  What is interesting about what John writes in this passage is that he says not many people know what love even is.  His reasoning for this:  only somebody who knows God and has experienced God’s love can know what love is.  How true that is!  We would all agree there are different degrees of love.  I love my wife, my daughter, Alabama football, and chicken wings, but you understand that love applies differently to each of these things.  Chicken wings,…

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Work and Worship While You Wait

Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 9:19-27 Ordinary life can be challenging for the Christian.  Think about this with me:  we have heard countless testimonies of faith in the midst of extraordinary times.  Testimonies of faith in the midst of illness, loss of a loved one, divorce, job loss, bankruptcy, addiction, and many more things.  These are all amazing testimonies that give glory to God and encourage fellow believers as they go through similar circumstances.  But what about ordinary, routine, daily life?  This has been my struggle over the years.  Is my faith growing and showing through in the ins and outs…

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Obedience Can Be Scary

Bible Reading: Judges 6-7, the story of Gideon When God calls us to follow Him, we are very excited…until He tells us something scary to do!  God must test our faith so that it can be strengthened and grow.  We know God never leaves us, and that He is able to do all He has said He will do, and we trust that if He gives us a mission He will be working to guarantee its success, but we still get scared!  Praise God that He is patient with us in our fear, and gives us the courage to be…

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Naaman’s Lesson of Faith

Bible Reading: 2 Kings 5:1-19 I must make two confessions: 1) I am a Bible nerd!  And 2) I LOVE the Old Testament!  So much rich history of how God has been active in the world and blessing His people since He created the universe.  One story in particular that I love is found in 2 Kings 5, and it is the story of Naaman.  Naaman was a general in the armies of Syria, and he was very successful.  He was a fearless leader, a great warrior, and won many battles for Syria.  Verse 1 even tells us, “because by…

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Prudent Planning for 2017

Bible Reading: Psalm 1; Luke 14:28-34 I won’t lie, before this blog post I had no idea what prudent meant!  It is not a word that I have ever used, or had intended on using. But after looking up the definition, prudent is a pretty cool word!  To be prudent is to be wise and calculating; to have the forethought to count the cost before making a commitment.  It made me think about Jesus’ words in Luke 14:28-34, where He is talking about counting the cost of discipleship.  A prudent person thinks very carefully before making a decision. After learning…

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Peace of Christ

Bible Reading: Colossians 3:12-17; Hebrews 13:5-6 As 2016 comes to a close and we look forward to 2017, I always love to reflect over the past year.  How far have I come in accomplishing my goals?  How have I changed, good or bad, over the past year?  What life changes happened?  These are just a few questions that help me put the past year in perspective as I try to make the next year even better! There are parts of 2016 that will bring back great memories and put a smile on my face.  My daughter was born, I got…

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Bowing Before a Baby

Bible Reading: Matthew 2:1-12; 1 Peter 5:5b You must be humble to be a Christ-follower.  To confess that you are a sinner who cannot save him or herself, and then ask for Jesus to save you; this takes a humble heart.  If you are a proud person, you do not like the idea of relying on somebody else so fully.  In our culture, we are brought up to do our best, work hard, and earn what we get.  If you want good things, you have to work for it!  So why would salvation be any different?  Shouldn’t we do as…

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A Beautiful Heart

Bible Reading: Ecclesiastes 2:1-11 There is a certain irony about the Christmas season.  Some of the favorite characters for this season, like Ebeneezer Scrooge and the Grinch, all teach us that love for neighbor is better than wealth and possessions.  I personally love the Grinch! His deviousness as he stills Christmas from Who-ville, and then to see his heart grow three sizes that day as he realizes Christmas is about more than gifts. Each of us has a favorite Christmas movie or story, and they all teach a similar lesson: Love people, not things. We love these stories, and yet…

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