Looking Ahead to a New Year


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But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings as eagles;
they shall run, and not be weary;
and they shall walk, and not faint.
Isaiah 40:31

I learned a long time ago not to make New Year’s Resolutions. Do not misunderstand me. I have nothing against them. I have just learned that they do not work out for me.  Many times in the past I have started my year with a resolution to lose weight, eat healthier, or save more money only to bomb after the first couple of weeks. I was left feeling like a failure before my year even got started. I do not know about you, but that is not how I want to start a new year.

I have learned instead to take some time and sincerely pray about what God has for me in the new year. I center my prayer time around tuning into the areas in which God wants to grow me more. I also pray and ask God to show me the things on which He wants me to focus.

Earlier this year I ran across a quote that reminded me what my focus should be in the new year.

“If you look at the world,

You’ll be distressed.

If you look within,

You’ll be depressed.

If you look at God,

You’ll be at rest.”

~Corrie Ten Boom~

Even the most well thought out resolutions will mean nothing for us if we do not keep our eyes on Jesus and His plan for our lives. I pray as you prepare to start a new year that you will take some time and ask God what He has for you in 2017. You may be surprised at the direction in which He leads you.

Happy New Year, my friend. May God bless you in every area of your life.

Put on Your Armor


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Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual wickedness in the heavenly places.
Ephesians 6:10-11

I often feel that I am in a battle. Trials sometimes come that I do not understand. There are days when I feel as if a war is being waged against our family. Can you relate to these feelings? If so, I pray that these words will encourage your heart today.

There are mornings it seems we awake to a battle being fought in our home. Before the first cup of coffee is poured we are under attack. Before I can get my eyes open and focused I am being hit from every side. Surely as you read this you are shaking your head in agreement because you too experience the same situations in your home. Your battle may look different from ours, but the struggle is the same. The aggravation is still there. The urge to pull the covers back over your head and wave the white flag of defeat is all too real.

Often times we are left asking, “Where is this coming from?” Is this just a figment of the imagination? Absolutely not. These battles are real. We can not see them with physical eyes because we are facing spiritual battles. There are wars being fought on a level we can not fully comprehend. My dad often tells our church if we could have our spiritual eyes opened to the world around us we would be scared to death at the war we would see being fought. Even though we can not see what is going on, we can feel the weight and strain of the fight. Often times these attacks leave us feeling discouraged and defeated. Be encouraged today, Friend. You have not been left to face these battles alone.

Paul understood these attacks all too well. With God’s prompting he penned the verses I am sharing today and many others  to encourage us as Christians. He also wrote these verses to guide us to victory. How great is our God that He did not leave us to fight alone?

I want to encourage you to daily put on the whole armor of God. Get into The Word and arm yourself for the fiery darts the devil is going to hurl at you. If you are missing even one piece of armor you will surely face defeat, but armed with your spiritual armor you are safe. God has equipped you with everything you need to face your day with boldness. He has also promised to go before you and fight for you. The battles will still come, the storms of life may toss you around, but you can rest assured that God has not abandoned you. Remember that He loves you, Friend.  With God on your side you are sure to win in the end. Let us suit up today and boldly go face the world!

There is Only One Way


“The Lord is merciful and gracious,Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. He will not always strive with us, Nor will He keep His anger forever.” Psalm 103:8-9

Friends, I feel the need to share something that has been on my heart. There is a trend going on among God’s people which disturbs me, and I feel the need to speak out about it.

First, let me say that I very much enjoy sharing words of encouragement with you. I feel this is what I am called to do. I try to share Scriptures that will cheer you on along your Christian journey. I share words of wisdom and stories from our lives that will encourage you and your family. I do my best to take Scripture and use it as a guide for your everyday life.

Next, I want to share my belief on what God wants for His children. I believe that God wants His children to be happy. He wants good things for us. I believe that God rejoices with us when we rejoice, and He hurts with us when we hurt. I believe that God wants to see His children enjoy life.

Here is the problem I am having. There are people out there right now who want to tell you things that simply are not true. While I do enjoy bringing you words of encouragement, I never want to lead you to believe that your life is always going to be easy and worry free. I do not want to fool you into thinking that if you have positive thoughts, your life will always go as planned. Friends, sadly this is not true.

Please do not think I am here to spread gloom and doom. That is not my intention. I do, however, feel that God has placed this on my heart today. I feel that just as I share encouraging words with you I must also share the serious words with you.

In the verse that I shared today, we read that God is merciful and gracious. He is slow to anger and full of mercy. God sent His Son to live on this earth for a season and then to die on the cross so that we might be saved. Yes, He loves us. He is merciful. Yes, He wants good for us.

There is something I want us to understand. Even thought we serve a God who is mighty and gracious and merciful, we are told in John 16:33, that we will face trials and tribulations on this earth. Friends, please do not believe the lie that if you will just think positively, then your life is going to be easy and trouble free. This is not true. We are told right here that we will face trouble. We do, however, find hope if we will continue on to the end of this verse. After we are warned that life is going to be difficult, we are then encouraged by these words, ” But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Within this statement we find the truth. It is not in our own positive thinking that we find hope, but in the assurance that we have a Savior who gave His life for us. In doing so He has conquered the world. This is where we find true, lasting hope.

There is one more misconception that I would like to discuss. This one, in my opinion, is not so obvious. The trouble I have in this matter is not so much that it has been twisted and misused, as it is that it simply has been left out altogether. I am talking about the judgement and the wrath of God.

Now, you may be saying, “But, I thought you were just talking about a loving God.” You would be correct. We do serve a loving God, but if you will continue reading today’s verse you will see that this day of mercy and grace will, at some point, come to an end.

We read in Psalm 103:9He will not always strive with us, Nor will He keep His anger forever.” Friends, there is coming a day when God will say enough is enough. Please do not miss this very important part of the puzzle. Somehow we have gotten so caught up in the power of positive thinking and the blessings of God that we have forgotten about punishment for sin. Romans 6:23 reads, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” There is only one way to Heaven and it is through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

You can be as positive as you want to be. You can think all the good thoughts that one mind can manage. You can be as good a person as you want to be. What I want you to understand today is that none of these things are going to keep you out of Hell.

I believe in having a positive attitude. I believe in being a good person. I believe that as Christians our lives should reflect Jesus and the love that He has for us. I encourage my kids every day to be positive. I encourage them to work hard and to be good people. What I make sure they understand though is that none of these things are going to save them from the punishment that sin brings, and none of them are going to get them into Heaven.

I understand that I may appear to be on my soapbox today, but I truly believe in my heart that these words need to be shared. I feel that I have been given the responsibility to share the truth with you. If that comes through encouragement, then that is what I want to share. If, like this morning, it comes as cold, hard facts, then I want to be faithful in sharing that as well.

I do have some encouragement for you this morning. God loves you. He does want good for your life. He sent His One and Only Son to die on the cross for your sins. He is, at this very moment, preparing a place for you when this life is over. When Jesus died on the cross for our sins, He did so as a gift to all of us. It is up to us to accept that gift and give our lives to Him. This gift is our only hope.

Friends, I want to see happiness and health in our lives. I do want us to be good people. I believe in being positive. But, I do not want us to believe the lie that these things are enough to keep us out of Hell. There is only one way to Heaven. I pray that you have chosen that way today.

What Kind of Vessel are You?


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“But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.” II Timothy 2:20-21

Do you own any items which are special to you? Maybe you have something that has been passed down to you over the years or something that once belonged to a famous person. How do you treat these items? Do you just throw them around or do you keep them protected some place?

How would you feel if you came home one day and your children were making mud pies in great-great-grandma Martha’s fine china? What if you came home from work to find your children playing outside with your limited edition football that had been signed by Joe Montana?

I love to collect vintage items. In my kitchen I have on display all of the many items which have been passed down by my grandmother. I also have a set of china that was given to me by my aunt. It is on display in my china cabinet. Only on very special occasions do I take it out and use it. You see, I have set these items apart for a special purpose.

Do you know that God sees each of us this way?

We were all created by God in His image. There are certain things about each one of us which make us unique and special. We have all been given different talents and gifts which are to be used to bring honor and glory to God.

The question I want us to think about this morning is this: What kind of vessel am I?

In the Bible we can read about certain vessels that were made for specific purposes. There were items made of gold that were never to be used for anything except the particular job for which they were created. It was a great dishonor if these items were ever used for anything else. You see, they were holy vessels, vessels that had been cleansed and committed to serving God.

We are all beautiful vessels yet we are all born with sin in our hearts. We are created by God but are naturally dirty on the inside. We must decide whether or not we are going to allow God to work in us and clean us up. It is our choice whether or not we allow God to use us for that special purpose for which He created us.

When we make the decision to accept Jesus into our hearts we allow Him to come in and cleanse us. We ask Him to forgive us of our sins and we are made new. We are empty vessels waiting to be filled.

Sadly for some people this is as far as they get. They somehow miss the next step, which is sanctification. Being sanctified is being completely cleansed and set apart for a special purpose. It means that we empty ourselves of everything that could hinder the Lord’s work in us and we give ourselves to God for His service.

I want to encourage you, today, to allow God to work in your life. Allow God to cleanse your heart and set you aside for a special purpose. Our verse today says that there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. What kind of vessel will you be? Will you be an everyday vessel that is never really used for anything special, or will you bring honor to God by allowing Him to cleanse you and set you aside for a special purpose? The choice is yours to make. 

Warning: Danger Ahead


Warning

“For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”

1 Thessalonians 5:2

 If you and I were walking in the woods and I said, “You need to be careful because I have spotted a bear here in the woods before,” what would you think?

What would happen as we walked along if, on the ground, you saw signs that indeed a bear had been in this area?

If I suddenly yelled, “RUN! There is a bear,” what would you do?

Would you run, or would you tell me I was crazy? Would you wait around to see just how close that bear would get to you before you would begin to run away?

 It is absurd to think that you would stand and wait for that bear to reach you before you ran. It is crazy to think that you would turn around and face it head on as if you could battle it alone.

Hopefully you would heed my warning. Hopefully you would trust me enough to run when I told you that you were in danger.

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Friends, I am here this morning to warn you. I pray that you will heed my warning. I pray that you will trust me when I tell you that something is coming.

I am here to tell you that if you are not a Christian, if you are not covered by the shed blood of Jesus Christ, then you are in grave danger.

I firmly believe that Jesus is coming back very soon. Too many things are happening and too many signs are being seen to believe differently.

Just as you would never chance being chased by a bear, or just as you would never try to fight it alone, please do not think that you can handle being left behind. Please do not think that you still have plenty of time to get it together.

Today’s verse reminds us that we do not know when Jesus is coming back. His coming will be instantaneous. It will take everyone by surprise.

My question for you is this: Will you be ready? Have you made preparations to leave this world behind and be taken up in the clouds?

There will be no time to make this choice when Jesus does come back. It will be too late when you realize that friends and family are missing and you have been left.

The time to prepare is now. The time to get it together is this very second. We are not promised tomorrow. We are not even promised our next breath.

Will you heed my warning today? Will you trust me when I tell you that something is coming? Will you take the time right now to seek out God’s forgiveness and gain the assurance that you have a home in Heaven when that time comes? Only you can make that choice. No one can do it for you.

The good news is, it is simple to do. Let me tell you how:

1. Realize that you are a sinner. ( Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”)

2. Confess your sins and ask for forgiveness. (1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”)

3. Believe that you have been saved. ( Romans 10:9-10 “Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”)

Once you have done these things, Jesus will begin to work in your heart and in your life. He will begin to grow you into the person He wants you to be.

If you follow God’s word and listen to His commandments, you can be assured that when the Lord comes back for His children, you will not be left behind. You will not have to face the many terrible things that are to come. You will have a home waiting for you in Heaven.

I pray, today, that you have taken these steps to prepare for what is to come. I want to know that I have done everything I can to warn and prepare those I love.  It breaks my heart to think of friends and family left behind.

Remember: The Lord is coming back as a thief in the night. I pray you will be ready.