Feeling Strong Today?

What makes a person strong? What makes you feel strong? How do we even gauge strength? Is there only physical strength? How about emotional strength? Maybe even spiritual strength? I used to measure strength by bench-press numbers and will power. But as time goes on, I realize there are much more accurate ways of understanding the strength of a person.

The book of Nehemiah details the return of Jewish exiles to Israel. It is a story of a struggle. A temple is rebuilt and a wall has been reconstructed around Jerusalem. But there is a lot remaining before life can possibly resemble normal. In this midst of the rebuilding process, the scriptures are rediscovered. A man by the name of Ezra will stand before the people and read from it. As he comes to a conclusion he sends the people out with this message:

Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Nehemiah 8:10 ESV

There it is. The answer. Our strength can be found in the joy that comes from the LORD. He is our strength. Being His, makes us strong. Being reminded of His goodness and favor throughout our lives makes us strong. We gain strength by knowing we aren’t abandoned, that we’re unconditionally loved, that we’re accepted and belong to a bigger story. Our strength comes in the joy we have in being free and cherished…always.

Uncertain times can’t shake us. Illness won’t destroy us. Financial struggles can’t break us. Discrimination won’t define us. The culture won’t alter us. We are His. There is no greater joy found in this life. And in that joy, we are strong to face the world. Are you walking in the joy of His salvation? Are you feeling strong today?

Peace and joy in Christ brothers and sister!

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Peace is Yours

It’s easy to be hasty. Especially in today’s climate. We see uneasiness, suspicion and tensions on the rise, not only here in the United States, but around the world. Inflation of prices and shortages of many day-to-day items can be a huge area of concern and we have all felt the effects. Godlessness is rampant and society continues to try and skew the lines between good and bad, and right and wrong. It is in this climate that God speaks. It can be in our weakest and most helpless times that the Lord shows his strength the most. And to all my brothers and sisters out there, I say to take heart. Don’t be quick to be responsive. Don’t act out of fear or worry. Look to the Lord, whose presence is very real and who has not left you even for a moment. Have courage and remember that for those who are of God the happiest of endings await.

“I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”

‭‭Psalm‬ ‭27:13-14‬ ‭ESV

Peace in Christ my brothers and sisters.

Trumpets of Victory

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“And in that day a great trumpet will be blown, and those who were lost in the land of Assyria and those who were driven out to the land of Egypt will come and worship the Lord on the holy mountain at Jerusalem.”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭27:13‬ ‭ESV

There is a day coming, where all of God’s children will be gathered together. Even those who have been lost. Rosh Hashanah is a beautiful promise, for all believers, that victory is at hand. The Messiah will return, to gather His sheep, and destroy the ravaging wolf.

“Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.”

‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭15:51-52‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Not only will we be gathered, we will be made like Him. The greatest of all victories achieved. Death is overcome. Evil will experience the full weight of justice. And our corrupted physical natures will be replaced with glorious ones. Hallelujah!

In the spring, Passover marks the moment Jesus paid our ransom. The feast of Trumpets marks the day He returns for that which He so preciously bought. Come Lord Jesus! Your people are await your glorious return. We long for our eternal home. Until then, we will praise you. May the hearts of your people sing a joyful song.

Peace in Christ my brothers and sisters. He will return!

Not in Vain

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain…

1 Corinthians 15:10 (NKJV)

The Apostle Paul was addressing the church at Corinth expressing his unworthiness to even be considered an apostle, considering all he had done to the Church of God prior to his salvation. In applying this to my own life, I have long considered myself unworthy to be a servant of Christ. In the words of John the Baptist (an amazing man of faith) I am not even worthy to stoop over and loose the straps of Christ’s sandals (Mark 1:7). The fact is, I’m not worthy, and none of us are. This makes Christ’s sacrifice and God’s grace so much more amazing. There is no one righteous (Romans 3:10, Ecclesiastes 7:20) and God chooses to save us anyway. I say that’s an amazing Savior.

He is a great and awesome God Who saves us and invites us into His work which He has prepared ahead of time for us (Ephesians 2:10). As Paul stated, God’s grace in his life will not be for vain but he will labor all the more, even more than the other apostles. Even though grace is not based on works, it is given so that we may abound in this life and love people more, forgive more quickly, serve more wholeheartedly, and persevere with patient expectations that our God will come through. God has created me and His grace is molding me into the man I am today and will one day be. I don’t want to waste His grace.

Peace in the grace of Christ brothers and sisters.

Hope is a Necessity

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Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:13 (NKJV)

Hope is one of those words that when you say it, it rolls of your tongue and immediately brings a glimmer of light to your heart. Hope is something to cherish and be thankful for. It serves as a platform of strength in those moments that seem perilous or without end. It is something that every single person needs. We can’t do life without it. As the verse above says, hope is accompanied with joy and peace. But only when that hope is in something real and constant.

I’ve heard people say to have hope in hope. To hold on to the “idea” that there is a “possibility” that things can get better. This is mere optimism. I happen to be an optimistic person myself. I like to look on the Brightside and believe that things will be ok. But my optimism is based on Someone, not just an idea or a desire to have good feelings. Hope that is not founded on reality is delusion.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.

Hebrews 10:23 (NKJV)

The Someone I have hope in is an unwavering and eternally faithful God. In our darkest moments we can rest assured in the hope that is brought to us by Jesus. He has a proven track record. He’s never failed. He’s shown His love and devotion to humanity regardless of the fact that we don’t deserve any of it. I don’t have hope because I believe things will get better in life. I have hope because Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. I have hope because I’m never abandoned by the One who made me. I have hope because He’s been beyond faithful in my life even when I’ve waivered in my faith. My hope is founded on Him, not my circumstances, past, present, or future.

Hope is that light at the end of every tunnel whether we think we see it or not. If you’ve been grasping for just a glimpse of that light, yet feel lost in an endless dark tunnel, look no further than the cross. Look to the Son hanging for our transgressions, touch the scares of His nail-driven hands, and absorb the love that it represents. In times when life is the most difficult, stop and pray. Realize that Christ faced all the hardships that this world can dish out and He has overcome the world. And more importantly, He did it for you. So that you will always have a hope so solid that it can never be broken. Let us not waver but be forever hopeful in the promises God has given us. Let us seek Him out and be renewed in the strength of the Holy Spirit. Let us not give up on Him, for He never gives up on us.

Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, All you who hope in the LORD.

Psalm 31:24 (NKJV)

Peace in Christ my brothers and sisters

He is Greater than ALL of our problems

From the end of the earth I will cry to You, When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

Psalm 61:2 (NKJV)

Our heart is the most important part of our bodies. It’s no wonder that God tells us in Proverbs 4:23 to guard our hearts above all else because this is where the enemy takes aim at. That is what falls into despair. Our heart carries the load and gets beat down through all the stresses life throw our way. Fortunately, we do not have to rely on our own strength in any situation, no matter how extreme or minor it may be. We have a Rock and a Refuge higher than ourselves. We have a Savior that is greater than all that may come our way. We have the endless peace and joy that comes from knowing Him. We have Someone who wants to build us up and encourage us always. We have Him who is greater than all our problems to call on no matter where we find ourselves. We have strength that is greater than anything we ourselves can muster. We have the protection, strength, and love of the One who molded and made us in our mother’s wombs. He who is the author of your life wants what is best for you and only He knows what that is. I pray that if you are in need of hope at this moment, you find that in His love. You are not alone. You are not too far gone. Let the One who began your life, sustain your life.

Peace in Christ my brothers and sisters

Lip Service

A wise man’s heart guides his mouth, and his lips promote instruction. Proverbs 16:23 NKJV

We really have to be wise about what we say. If the words that come from our lips aren’t showing Christ’s love then we shouldn’t be saying it. In everything we do Christ is supposed to be magnified. We all know people who choose to curse, complain, and grumble, but the effects of those things can be tragic for those around us. Ungodly speech can spoil a persons day or completely change their attitude. Harsh and careless words can even ruin a life. But the heart that is constantly in a state of thanksgiving, brings cheer and praise wherever they are and no matter the situation.

Even though it’s no longer thanksgiving it’s important to still ask ourselves what what we are thankful for. No matter what, we can all be thankful for Jesus’ death on the cross, for our military putting their lives on the line to protect ours, for people God has put in our lives, and for the ability to share Gods love with whomever we come in contact with. We can all be thankful for the millions of do-overs God gives us, for the grace shown us by others, the simplicity of basic necessities. We all need to take some time to thank God for every situation we have gone through, good and bad this last year and know that God was with us through them all. Hopefully we can see and learn what he was doing in us, through us, and through those around us.

In 2021 we can be a voice of truth and grace and love. We can speak life into our family and friends. We can use our words to encourage and refresh those in our lives. Let’s leave the complaining behind us and shout a song of praise instead.

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters

Conqueror

*Jesus Christ addressing the churches in Revelation (and us). To the one who conquers…

I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. Rev 2:7 (ESV)

…will not be hurt by the second death. Rev 2:11 (ESV)

I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it. Rev 2:17 (ESV)

and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations. Rev 2:26 (ESV)

will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. Rev 3:5 (ESV)

I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. Rev 3:12 (ESV)

I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. Rev 3:21 (ESV)

I don’t know about you, but the idea of conquering some evil enemy inspires great emotion. But what exactly are we conquering? This is not a call to be an oppressive subjugator of peoples. No, this is a call to conquer the the things that bring death and destruction to our lives. We are waging war on depression, anxiety, lies, persecution, trials, and sin.

Man, this sounds like a heavy load to bear. But along with that comes an incredible series of promises to all those who give their lives over to Christ and live a life of obedient faith in Him.

Last year was rough for so many people around the globe. For many, we’re still in the same boat entering 2021. But the struggles and hurts never have to be the end of the story. The great news is, we’re not alone in this endeavor. We cannot conquer this world and the battles of life alone. And we don’t have to. As Paul tells us in Romans, our life circumstances cannot separate us from the Love of Christ. When we live for Him, we are His. We can rejoice in that security and the strength that Christ gives us to be conquerors in His name.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Romans 8:35-37 (ESV)

Wherever you’re at entering the new year, know that you have the love and power of Jesus to overcome. I pray for you to feel His goodness. I pray for you to experience His healing. I pray for you to have the weight of life lifted from your shoulders. From the depth of my heart, I hope your year is full of His peace.

Live like we have life

“And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” 1 John‬ ‭5:11-12‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The gospel message is pretty clear: Jesus equals life. An eternal life and the life blood of God’s Spirit here and now. But how many of us are actually living like we believe that? How many of us are filled with unmovable hope? Does joy mark our existence or are we weighed down by the worries of this life? More than all of this, what are we doing to get the message out? If we believe Jesus is life, shouldn’t we do everything in our power to let others know that? But many of us keep to our own Christian circles and rarely look for chances to share the gospel with those outside. I guess until we fully realize the magnitude of the offer Jesus has given to us, we can’t fully understand what we are meant to share with the world. Lord please renew in us a full appreciation for your loving grace. Awaken our hearts again to the joy of your salvation.

Pray for me to be bold and I too will pray for you all. Peace in Christ brothers and sisters.

Where am I looking?

It’s easy to look to the things we see or the people we know to be our source of assurance. People are created to have hope. We cling to whatever we can in desperate moments. We seek all our lives to find the things that bring us comfort and confidence in our present circumstances. Be it a person, a place, a thing, a status, a relationship, or even an accomplishment, everyone hopes in something or someone.

There’s always needs arising for people to find hope. At any given moment in history there have been wars, famines, pandemics, economic turmoil, slavery, and the threat of evil ideologies and the effects they have on human life. They may not always look exactly the same but our world is always in need of hope.

God’s people are supposed to be known for finding their hope in one source alone-God. The Bible is full of stories where that did not happen. Look at any believers life and you will see moments when that did not happen. None of us are immune from the plagues of self-reliance and materialism. In my reading this morning I came across one such story. It’s in the book of Ezekiel where the prophet is rebuking the nation for trusting in Egypt rather than God for their security. In chapter 29, God promises to bring down Israel’s neighboring powerhouse so that they will no longer have them as a weak crutch to lean on.

“Egypt will no longer be a source of confidence for the people of Israel but will be a reminder of their sin in turning to her for help. Then they will know that I am the Sovereign Lord.’ ”” Ezekiel‬ ‭29:16‬ ‭NIV‬‬

God takes seriously His people’s tendency to misplace their trust and hope. Jesus rebuked those who trusted in anything other than God…like those who trust in money (Matthew 6:19-21), in religious heritage (Matthew 3:9), or in their religious ‘goodness’ (Mark 13:1-2). Confidence in anyone or anything other than God’s goodness and faithfulness is an issue of misplaced loyalties. Like the Israelites of old, we have to safeguard our hearts from wandering the path of false security.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Psalms‬ ‭46:1‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters