Make It Easier On Yourself

As I was doing some prep work today I ran across this verse:

[Ephesians 4:32]
32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

I was reminded of the forgiveness I have given and received over the years.  Am I perfect? Not by a long shot, however I have seen how focusing on the fact that I have been forgiven by God for my sins, helps me to forgive others.  How can we be forgiven of a debt and not forgive someone else? 

My next thought was the word "Instead" at the beginning of the verse.  My question was, "Instead of what?"  Check this out, verse 31 reads:

[Ephesians 4:31]
31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.

Why do we like to hold on to these destructive things in our lives?  These traits in verse 31 are the result of living a self-centered life, verse 32 is a Christ-centered life.  I meet people everyday that are consumed with living in Verse 31.  Their relationships are strained, their happiness is circumstantial and their faith is shaken.  Forgiveness takes the control and responsibility out of our hands and places it on the ever strong shoulders of Jesus Christ.  Make life a little easier on yourself today.  Live in the forgiveness that God offers you through Jesus Christ.  Better yet, extend forgiveness to those who need it.


Testing A Google+ Update with the Fire Minion

Just stopping by to test a new feature from Google+ where you can embed posts from your profile timeline in other pages.  This was one I thought I would try to share on here.  It is the Fire Minion from Despicable Me 2.  What a great movie!


Dog Therapy

God often uses the gaze of our dogs to remind me everything will be alright. #bruno #doglover


Hanging With Bruno Today

Today has been a productive and playful day so far.  Saturday's for a Pastor are kind of like the day before a big game for an athlete.  There is a lot of reviewing of the playlist (the Bible), Listening to the coach (Prayer) and getting your equipment ready (Outlines, PowerPoint , You Version Outline, Meeting Agenda's and of course your uniform (Coat and Tie).  OK, maybe that is too much milking of the illustration.

Anyway, while Donna was getting a head start on our packing boxes to move from our apartment to our new house in July, she came into my study. I could tell something was not right (even over the music in my earphones).  She was upset because she found a bib she had purchased for our former dog Baxley that read, "I Love My Daddy".  Yes, that's right a bib for a dog.  Don't judge us, he was our Son :)  We both had a good cry then the sweetest thing happened.  Bruno jumped on the bed and laid on top of Donna almost as if to say I am here for you both and he just looked at the bib.

I thanked God for the reminder that He has blessed us with beautiful memories of Baxley and a new life with Bruno. For the record, the bib did NOT fit Bruno :)

Next, Bruno came to help me finish up my studying of the Sunday School lesson just as Baxley used to do.

Later, Donna had the idea for us to take Bruno to Nettle's Dog Park in Clemson.  Bruno's previous owners had told us about this place.  As we pulled up, there was a pack of dogs playing. Bruno had no problems fitting in.

Now we are all enjoying some down time before the big game (worship services)  tomorrow.  Not sure why I shared this.  Maybe it was for you, or maybe it was just for me.  Either way, I hear that the most entertaining blogs are the ones that are transparent and real.  This is as real as it gets.  Thanks for stopping by.



No Longer Swinging But Still Rocking

Donna and I are really enjoying our new chapter in life.  We moved to Anderson for me to Pastor Homeland Park Baptist Church.  Anderson holds a dear space in our heart because Donna grew up there and we met at Anderson University.  While out riding around town last night after a great home cooked meal, we drove around the AU campus and saw "The Swings".

We like many couples during our time at AU spent a lot of time sitting in those swings, talking about life, dreams and where we felt God leading us.  I was shocked when we went to sit in the swings and they had been locked down.  THE SWINGS DO NOT SWING ANYMORE!  They are locked down.  Now they are just fancy chairs.
After the shock wore off, God reminded me of this point.  The importance of the swings are not in their movement but what they represent.  God often instructed people in the Bible to build altars after they experienced Him (Genesis 35:1-14).  Altars served as reminders of God's hand working in their lives.  These swings at AU are altars in our lives that remind us of how God has moved in our lives for over 20+ years.  They remind us to enjoy the simple things like taking time together to remember when, where and why we married in the first place.  Our marriage has not been perfect but, is there such a thing? The swings may not swing anymore but we are still rocking.  I am grateful God took two college kids who were full of dreams and knit them together for His glory and purpose.

The take away for me on this post is this:

  1. Take the time to recognize the special moments, places and people that God has put in our lives.
  2. Though things change, remember why they were special in the first place.
  3. Life is not about where you sit but who you share it with.
What about you?  Do you have special places (altars) that remind you of times in your life where God provided?  If you do not, can you establish one?  Have you ever sat in these swings at Anderson University?  What's your story?


Keep Your Eyes Up

Basketball is a great sport that I always wanted to be good at but never quite got the hang of it.  I do love watching those play who are good though.  As a youth I played on several church teams. My instructions consisted of chase that guy and stand between him and the goal.  If you get the ball, throw it to someone who can shoot.  I have always been amazed at those who can take the ball up and down the court without even thinking about the fact that they have to keep dribbling or stop.  I know several people that can dribble as natural as they can walk.  The ball becomes part of their body movement.  Over the years I remember one fundamental of basket ball.  When first learning to dribble, you must fight the urge to watch your hand bounce the ball up and down. Why? You must look up and see the goal, your teammates and your adversaries.  I was reminded of this as I spoke with our church staff this morning.

Everyone's lives including my own are filled with situations, needs, dilemmas, struggles and trials. Many things that we cannot or should not attempt to control end up taking every ounce of strength we have. We become so focused on our circumstances (like dribbling a basketball) we lose the greater picture of the game we are playing. (Life).  I was reminded of these scriptures this morning.

  • Colossians 2:20  20 You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world?

Those who place their faith in Jesus Christ are set free from the evil and temptations of this current world. It does not say we will not experience temptation and trying times but the scripture does say we have a way out. (1 Corinthians 10:13) Colossians 2:20 leads to the "So, if . . ." statement starting in chapter 3 verse 1.

  • Colossians 3:1-4 1 So if you have been raised with the Messiah, seek what is above, where the Messiah is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on what is above, not on what is on the earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with the Messiah in God. 4 When the Messiah, who is your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.

To Keep Our Eyes Up In Difficult Times We Must

1) Look Up: Remember we are seeking a different prize than those who have not placed their faith and trust in Christ. We are not better than them, we just have another direction to follow which is a strength greater than ourselves to draw upon. That whole concept is foreign to them. Paul reminds us to look up and seek Christ. Much like a basketball player seeks to put the ball through the basket we should remember that our goal is to be like Christ. By looking up we can see our adversaries, but more importantly, those on our team who can help us.

2) Flip The Switch: When Paul says to, "Set your mind . . ." he is reminding us that the decision to NOT look at our surroundings and to look up to God is not our natural default,. It is an intentional decision. There will always be someone or some situation seeking to demand our time, energy and faith. Make the effort to not let another's crisis become yours. Pray for them, help them as God leads but do not let them keep your eyes off of Christ.

3) Keep The Faith: This world is not our home. We do not have home court advantage. The referees play by their own rules. The game we are playing here in our world is simply a scrimmage for a greater one that we have already one because we have Jesus Christ as our star player.

Continue to work out your faith. Be intentional in spending time with God through prayer, reading the Bible and spending time with other believers. At the sound of the last whistle, our scrimmage here will be over and our greatest game will begin. Have hope today and in the midst of your struggles, keep your eyes up!


What Does The Bible Say About Suicide?

If someone commits suicide do they go to hell?
To get a correct answer one must look at the whole of the Bible. Many will say that God said in the 10 commandments, “Thou shalt not kill” [Exodus 20:13] which they extend to killing yourself is a sin.  Therefore, if someone “murders themselves” they break the sixth commandment and do not have time to confess and repent from that sin, therefore will spend eternity in hell.  Furthermore, some believe Christians are not supposed to suffer from depression. If their faith was strong enough then they would not want to kill themselves. These statements do not take into account the entirety of the Bible.  Lets look at each of these statements.
1)  If someone “murders themselves” they break the sixth commandment and do not have time to repent from that sin therefore will spend eternity in hell.
  • We Will Be Judged For Our Sin
    • This is absolutely correct!  Anyone who commits any sin and dies with it  in an unconfessed state will have to give an account for it.  This means if someone cheats, steals, has lustful thoughts or even tells a little white lie, their transgressions will be on their register to give account for.  God will judge us according to our sins.
      • Romans 2:16 [NLT] “And this is the message I proclaim—that the day is coming when God, through Christ Jesus, will judge everyone’s secret life.”
      • Romans 14:10-12 [NLT]  Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For the Scriptures say, “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,‘every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will confess and give praise to God.’” 12 Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God.
  • God Gives Mercy and Grace
    • No sin goes unpunished however there is only one sin recorded in the bible that keeps us from the presence of God (sends us to hell) which is the sin of denying Christ.
      • Matthew 12:31-32 [NLT] 31 “So I tell you, every sin and blasphemy can be forgiven—except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which will never be forgiven. 32 Anyone who speaks against the Son of Man can be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, either  in this world or in the world to come.
    • A Christian CANNOT commit the “Unpardonable Sin” of denying Christ because they have Christ within them.
      • [Romans 8:1] So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus
  • Application
    • If someone kills themselves and they have never accepted Christ into their life as Savior and Lord, then yes they will go to hell. Anyone who dies without Christ will go to hell.
      • To reject God is to follow Satan.  Hell was created for Satan and his followers.  Those who follow Satan find his fate as theirs.
    • If a Christian kills themselves, yes they have committed a sin but they will still go to heaven and be judged but not banished for any unconfessed sin, just like everyone else.
2)  Christians are not supposed to suffer from depression, if their faith was strong enough then they would not want to kill themselves.
  • Depression and despair is a reality among Christian and Non-Christians.  Even biblical heroes of our faith suffered with depression and despair.
    • The Bible mentions six specific people who committed suicide: Abimelech (Judges 9:54), Saul (1 Samuel 31:4), Saul's armor-bearer (1 Samuel 31:4-6), Ahithophel (2 Samuel 17:23), Zimri (1 Kings 16:18), and Judas (Matthew 27:5). Five of them were wicked, sinful men (not enough is said regarding Saul's armor-bearer to make a judgment as to his character). Some consider Samson an instance of suicide (Judges 16:26-31), but Samson's goal was to kill the Philistines, not himself. The Bible views suicide as equal to murder, which is what it is—self-murder. God is the only one who is to decide when and how a person should die.
  • Just like Christians go to Doctors for physical healing, Christians seek counseling for mental healing as well.
    • There are many people both believers and non-believers who live with and are treated for mental illnesses.
  • Satan wants to destroy God’s most prized creation (You and I)
    • John 10:10 [NLT]  The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.
      • Suicide is a momentary decision that has fatal consequences.  For many it is a bad decision at a bad moment in their life that they cannot correct.  Much like misjudging the speed of an approaching car.  If you decide to pull out into the intersection at the wrong time, you will get hit.  The effects of the impacts cannot be undone.
      • Satan uses people and when he is done with them he destroys them.  His one desire is to see God’s precious creation suffer and fail.
      • Satan is a Murderer [John 8:44]
    • The Bible teaches that from the moment we truly believe in Christ, we are guaranteed eternal life (John 3:16). According to the Bible, Christians can know beyond any doubt that they possess eternal life (1 John 5:13). Nothing can separate a Christian from God’s love (Romans 8:38-39). If no “created thing” can separate a Christian from God’s love, and even a Christian who commits suicide is a “created thing,” then not even suicide can separate a Christian from God’s love.
  • God desires life for us not death.  Anyone who consistently rejects the Holy Spirit of God wanting to work in their life moves one step further away from the security and acceptance of being in God’s will.  Scaring people into thinking if they will go to hell if they commit suicide may be the very thing that pushes them to do it.  They already feel unworthy of love, they may feel like the need to be punished.  Love others, treat them as God would and pray!
  • God gives us life more abundantly [John 10:10]  Do not believe the lie that you are unloved and unworthy.  God created you and called you good!  Fight and run to Him. He has never left you, just turn around.


Why Do Bad Things Happen?

Each day we are inundated with news of bad things happening in our world, nation, and community.  Often I am asked, “Why does God let bad things happen to good people?”  There is a lot of theology in that questions but in times of hurt, theology does not do much to take away the pain and fear.  How can one wrap their minds around an event like 9/11, the Atlanta Olympics Bombing, the Boston Marathon Bombing and constant terrorism in other countries?  Questions like, “Is God really in control?” “Is God really all powerful, knowing and loving?”  The bigger question would be “Why?” We will not get the answer to that question until we get to heaven. The Bible says that fully understanding God is impossible (Isaiah 55:8) but, through God’s word we can make sense of tragedy in this world.

Four Reasons For Bad Things Happening

1.  We Are Human (Sin) - Genesis 3:17-19 & 22  Sin affects everyone. God’s punishment of sin is more than justification of a wrong action.  Adam and Eve had strayed away from their love and devotion towards God.  They did not “need” him.  Sin reminds us that we are flawed and that we need God.  He created us in His image to be made complete through a relationship with Him.  Evil reminds us of our need for God.

2. We Live In a Sinful World - Matthew 5:45; Ephesians 6:12, 1 Peter 5:8  Life is not fair.  When it rains outside, the rain does not distinguish between Christians and Non-Christian, it falls on everyone.  We live in a world where evil rains down everyday.  Those that have a relationship with God have an umbrella.

3.  We Are Taught Dependence on God - Isaiah 29:13-14; Proverbs 3:5-6  It is ironic and unfair that we live in a world that has sought to rid God from our schools, government and culture. The moral law that was established by our dependence on God’s word has decayed.  There is no absolute law.  Our world does not want a God that tells them when they are wrong but yet they want his His power and protection. Much like a rebellious teenager, we want God to leave us alone because we know everything but when we get into trouble, we expect His help. Bad things remind us that we must depend on Him.

4.  We Are Strengthened - James 1:2-3; Proverbs 3:11-12  God is so merciful.  Bad things remind us of our weakness.  In those moments He strengthens us.  9/11 was a wake up call to our nation.  In response to such a terrible attack the TSA rewrote the security procedures for flying.  Emergency service learned from the mistakes made in the response to that attack.  Our government established the Department of Homeland Security to constantly monitor threats to our nation.  Our nation returned to God to help heal us and make sense of such a horrible tragedy.  The same is happening in the wake of the Boston Marathon Bombing.  Through God we will be stronger. God Strong!


Introducing Bruno

I have not been able to write on this blog for some time now due to a traumatic loss that Donna and I suffered.  On March 8th we had to euthanize our Lab/Beagle Mix "Baxley" of two weeks short of twelve years.  God gave us Baxley in the beginning months of our work in Wilmington, NC.  I had always been a dog lover and Donna was warming up to the idea.  Many I know think, "he was just a dog", but to us and those that love dogs he was much more.  You see, children were not in the plan God had for us so Baxley filled that void.  In every sense he was our little four legged boy.  In the time span of one week he became anemic and was in need of an immediate blood transfusion before even being able to diagnose the cause of him losing so much blood.  To avoid a long road of pain and treatment that would yield such a low survival rate, we, along with the Vets recommendation, made that hardest decision we have ever had to make as a married couple, to let our son go.

The days to follow would be the darkest I have endured in a long time.  Many friends and family members as well as people from our church were so supportive.  Cards, prayers, poems, phone calls, facebook messages all encouraged us.  I can remember on the Saturday night after Baxley's passing me being overwhelmed with the sense that I needed to pray because I had a full schedule of teaching, preaching, visitings, meetings etc. for that Sunday and I honestly thought there was no way I could go through with it.  Not to mention the text I had scheduled to preach talked about animals dying.  I remember falling to my knees with my head buried in the couch uttering prayers of desperation to my Heavenly Father.  I had not been in a place this low and dark in a long time.  The prayer was not pretty or eloquent.  I just said, "God, I cannot do it, I cannot go to church and act like I am ok when I am not.  The only way I will be able to is in Your strength and understanding because mine is gone.  I need you to hold me because I am done."

2. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, 3 my God, my mountain[a] where I seek refuge. My shield, the horn of my salvation, my stronghold, my refuge, and my Savior, You save me from violence. 4 I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I was saved from my enemies. 5 For the waves of death engulfed me; the torrents of destruction terrified me. 6 The ropes of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me. 7 I called to the Lord in my distress; I called to my God. From His temple He heard my voice, and my cry for help reached His ears.

You know, it has been awhile since I felt God's arms holding me up like He did during and after that prayer.  I sat back down to the computer to try and collect my thoughts for Sunday.  I went to Craigslist just to see what dogs were available.  I did NOT want a dog this soon after Baxley's passing.  Out of curiosity I submitted a few requests for more information.  Within 15 minutes of that prayer God had directed me to Mike and Amanda.  They were looking to give a way a Lab Mix puppy they rescued because they already had two dogs of their own.  These are the pictures he emailed to me.

Once I saw the pictures, it was like God said, here is your next dog.  We went to meet Mike and Amanda not even knowing the dog's name.  They were a sweet college couple that were getting ready to graduate.  They had big plans for a career but knew taking three dogs would be costly.  They introduced us to Bruno.  We spent two and a half hours talking with them and playing with all three of their sweet dogs.  They told us how they rescued Bruno from a bad situation.  They had already crate trained him, got his shots, medications and potty trained him.  After the night was over, we knew that God had brought Bruno to Donna and I.  I cannot thank Mike and Amanda enough for taking care of this little puppy.  God used them to prepare Bruno for us.  I am always amazed to see that God is at work even when we do not understand or see Him.

Bruno has been with us for a month and already he has made a place in our hearts.  Do we still miss Balxey? Yes, Every day!  Bruno will remind us of things Baxley did but Bruno does have his own personality.  We figured the best way we could honor God for this gift and Baxley's memory was to love Bruno as our own.  We have enrolled Bruno in basic training classes.  Donna and I are having a blast working and walking together with Bruno.  It has taken me a long time to get to the point that I could share this with the world but please know everyone that showed their support, we could not have made it without you.  God used you to hold us when we could not stand. Now may I introduce Bruno to you! 

To read my wife Donna's words on this experience check out her blog post here.


A Loving Intervention

Donna has taken me captive "willingly" for a surprise get away weekend. I have no idea of what is ahead. I love the fact that she sees when I need a getaway, even when I don't. Thank you God for such a precious loving wife.  However, if I don't return you know who to question, LOL!


Chocolate Bunnies

Do you remember getting an Easter basket as a child?  In the midst of all the colored eggs, plastic grass and loose wrapped candy there sat the CHOCOLATE BUNNY!.  I was in chocolate heaven as I gazed at that mound of chocolaty goodness. I remember the disappointment of discovering the bunny was not ALL chocolate. it was inside.  As we continue our morning series through Ecclesiastes we find our life is full of chocolate bunnies.  Things we think will bring satisfaction only leave us empty and unfulfilled.  King Solomon teaches that everything apart from God is temporary and fleeting.  Know that God loves you and wants to be the one thing that fills your life completely if you let him.  Join us as we make this Life Revolution! Commit to memorizing this statement:

"My worth is not found in the toys I accumulate or the titles I achieve but only in the testimony of what Christ has done for me, in me and through me."


Happy Valentine's Day To My Bride Donna

Long gone are the days of roaming the campus of Anderson College "University" where I met my soul mate Donna Simpson.  God was definitely orchestrating His greater purpose when He brought us together. After 20+ years together she is still my gift.  Whoever said "Marriage is more about commitment than love.",  made an understatement. My best and worse experiences have been shared with my wife.  Together our love is tested and stronger.  I cannot imagine my life and ministry without her. There are a few verses that come to mind on this Valentine's Day regarding our our journey together:

Matthew 9:4-6  4 “Haven’t you read,” He replied, “that He who created them in the beginning made them male and female,” 5 and He also said: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, man must not separate.”

James 1:17 Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights; with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning.

Proverbs 5:18  Let your fountain be blessed, and take pleasure in the wife of your youth.

Philippians 2:3-5  Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. 5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

2 Corinthians 5:9 So whether we are here in this body or away from this body, our goal is to please him.

The stories and experiences behind these verses have made us both who we are and brought us to this point together.  I can only pray that the years to come will be even greater. Happy Valentine's Day Donna, I love you!

Happy Valentine's Day Devotion


Attitude Reflects Leadership

I was reminded this morning of a great scene in the move, "Remember The Titans" where two teammates are frustrated and angry at each other because the team is divided in their loyalty between the blacks and the whites.  Both athletes have come to their boiling point and confront each other on their bad attitudes.

There are times in our lives when we are placed in difficult circumstances either by our own choices or by outside forces.  These storms come into our lives to test our faith, strengthen our will, correct our direction and focus our vision.  Our attitude is what makes the difference between these storms being life breakers and life changers.

The Apostle Paul instructs us in Colossians 3:2 to "Set your minds on what is above, not on what is on earth".  The word "set" is an actual action we must take.  We must "flip the switch" in our thinking from being a victim to being a victor, being reactive to proactive.  When we look at ourselves we only bring attention to our lack of power and perspective to deal with our circumstances.  This manifests itself in our lives as pity.  I have always heard the two worst things about a pity party are that there is no food and no one shows up.  The Psalmist tells us to look up!  Look up to heaven to where our help comes from" (Psalm 121:1) 

Paul practices what he preaches in Acts 16:23-26.  Paul and Silas are placed in the darkest of prisons which were reserved for the most despicable offenders like murderers, rapists, thieves,  etc.  They were beaten by rods until their entire bodies writhed with pain.  They were under the ever watchful eye of a jailer.  In that moment, they would have had every "right" to doubt God, walk away from their mission of spreading the gospel and go back to their families to live a comfortable life.  What did they do?  They praised God!  They sang hymns, prayed and continued to do in jail what God had called them to do, share the gospel!  You see, the environment they were in made no difference in them being obedient to what God called them to do.  Henry Blackaby puts it like this,

"You can't always choose your circumstances, but you can always choose your attitude about those circumstances"

Like Paul, set your mind to an attitude of reliance upon God's power to get you through your storm. Chose praise over pity. Your attitude will have an impact on others!


It Is Raining Cats and Dogs

As the rain falls in sheets of water outside my window, I was reminded of an email that had a lot of sayings we have formed through history.  This one seems appropriate for this day.

Where did the saying, "It's raining cats and dogs come from?"

During the 1500's, houses had thatched roofs-thick straw-piled high, with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof. When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof. Hence the saying, "It's raining cats and dogs."

Now we are all smarter :)  What popular sayings do you know the history behind?


Learning How To Help Those We Love From A Sled Dog

Being a dog lover makes me very "sensitive" to stories about how they help others like law enforcement, fire services and individuals with disabilities.  I saw this title in my news feed and it grabbed me.  A sled dog that helps his brother who is blind to continue doing what he loves, "pulling a sled".  Please remember that there are always people in our lives, maybe even right beside us that need help and encouragement   We should look at areas of weakness in their lives in order to compensate for them rather than only expose  or exploit them.

This is My command: Love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends.


The Importance of Remaining

As we attempt to live our lives to have a positive impact on the world around us, it can become tiresome and discouraging if we are not attached to the proper power source. We must gain perspective of what we can do, more importantly what we cannot do and where to go for help. Our lives depend on it as well as those closest to us. We get older. Our lives begin to get stuck into a pattern of daily events that become routine, religious and habitual.  We wake to eat breakfast, go to work or school, come home, rest, begin our evening regiment of activities with our family, watch a little television and go to bed only to get up the next morning and do it all over again.  The benefit of having a routine keeps us focused and disciplined, unless the routine is destructive.  The pattern of our lives produce a fruit in our lives that not only help sustain us but impact those around us.  Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit because you can do nothing without me.” - John 15:5 (HCSB)  The word “remains” three things:

1.  Jesus gives us a place.  Do you remember the last time you had a family dinner? From an early age I was taught how to set a place setting.  Put the fork on this side, make the blades of the knife face this way, fold the napkin like so.  I was preparing a place for me and my loved ones to sit, eat, and fellowship.  God has set a place for us at His table.  Jesus pulls out the chair and asks, “Will you dine with (remain) with me?  Let me feed you.”

2.  Jesus gives us a time.   Remaining in the place that God had set for us is not a one time sitting.  Too many times we treat God with the same importance of an item on our to-do checklist.  We say to ourselves, “I went to church today, check!  I read a Bible verse today, check!  I said a prayer today, check!, I was a good person today, check!”  God did not send Jesus to die for our sins to be “one” of the items on our daily list.  Jesus was sent to be our entire life, not for a place to visit but to dwell.  Jesus asks, “Will you let me walk with you?”

3.  Jesus gives us a state. God knows that our minds are often set to wander and stray from Him.  Our daily routines and commitments that are against Christ pull us away from Him.  God’s presence gives us a state of mind that is set on peace. Philippians 4:6-7 (HCSB)  Time spent away from Christ moves us into being self-reliant.  By turning away from Christ we are left to our own limited understanding which can make our state of mind very unstable.

As we move into a new phase of growth in our individual lives and a church, continue to REMAIN in Christ!

In Him,

Pastor James