Mr. Ambassador

There are plenty of people in the world whose choices are beyond my understanding. Harvey Weinstein, the media mogul, who stands accused of multiple sexual assaults, is a cipher to me.  Why would he treat women that way? The guy who leaves a productive life behind to live on the street, why? The addict who keeps going back to the same places and people after rehab, reentering the destructive spiral into drug abuse, why? The woman who lives in constant drama, stirring up strife in her family; why?  The easy response to people who are ‘different,’ those whose lives are ‘sinful’ in my estimation,  is avoidance or dismissal. Judged, condemned, ignored.

But … God did not give me the gavel, He handed me the towel.

I’m no judge, I am a servant! Paul wrote to the Corinthian Christians about this very thing. They were an argumentative group, full of spiritual pride, competing with each other to be ‘’more spiritual.” He told them they were seriously in error, not understanding even themselves, what God had done for them, and their true mission.  Read these inspired words slowly, prayerfully. 

  • “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.

  • Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

  • We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:14-21, NIV)

We are beloved children of God, restored to our place with Him by the love of Christ Jesus. And what is one of the results of that change in identity?  “Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look.”  Even those whose behaviors are beyond our understanding, whose sins are gross, find love in us! We stop dismissing others, choosing who’s in and who’s out! As the Spirit teaches us that we are beloved, we love – more and deeply.  We still have the discernment to understand right and wrong, to speak honestly to sin, but we love people like Jesus loved us.

Paul says that this change is the result of an inner transformation, being made into a ‘new creation.’  In the ‘old’ way people naturally fight and compete. In the ‘new’ way, we take up the mission of reconciliation. God looked at the world and instead of destroying it and starting over, He entered it to restore it through His Son. “God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins.” Now what? He sends us, secured in His love, humble because we know we did not save ourselves, to continue that work of peace-making. Our message is not – “Go to Hell!” It is “Come home to the Father!”

Ah, Christian, do you meet your world with a judge’s stare or open hands?  Yes, we are given the privilege of being the ambassadors of the Kingdom, representing God, inviting others to find wholeness of person and hope for eternal life. Paul says, “We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.”

For too long, too many of us have decided to dismiss those we have already judged as inferior, worthless, and beyond redemption. It is time to repent of that spiritual pride, to ask the Spirit of God to break our hard hearts, to hold us close so that we will be loved and loving.  Ask yourself today – am I a good ambassador of Christ? Do I invite others, in my words and my choices, to consider the love of Jesus as a treasure to be accepted in faith?

Here is a word from the Word.  It is a part of the same text above, this time from The Message.  God, make it my mission to be – Mr. Ambassador!
Christ’s love has moved me to such extremes. His love has the first and last word in everything we do. Our firm decision is to work from this focused center: One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own. Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. …  

What we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! …

God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you. How? you ask. In Christ. God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.” (2 Corinthians 5:14-21, The Message)


Reckless Love

(worship with this song about His love)

Before I spoke a word
You were singing over me
You have been so so good to me
Before I took a breath
You breathed Your life in me
You have been so so kind to me

 O the overwhelming never-ending reckless
Love of God
O it chases me down fights ’til I’m found
Leaves the ninety-nine
I couldn’t earn it I don’t deserve
Still You give Yourself away 

O the overwhelming never-ending reckless
Love of God
When I was Your foe still Your love fought for me
You have been so so good to me
When I felt no worth You paid it all for me
You have been so so kind to me

 There’s no shadow You won’t light up
Mountain You won’t climb up
Coming after me
There’s no wall You won’t kick down
Lie You won’t tear down
Coming after me

Caleb Culver | Cory Asbury | Ran Jackson
© Watershed Publishing Group (Admin. by Watershed Music Group)
Bethel Music Publishing
Richmond Park Publishing

CCLI License # 810055


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Confusing your image with reality?

wordswag_1528286446708Ever see the movie, Catch Me If You Can?  It is the story of Frank Abagnale, Jr. (played by Leonardo DiCaprio).  Frank, before his 19th birthday, forged millions of dollars’ worth of checks to fund a fraudulent lifestyle. He lived for a time posing as a Pan Am pilot. He actually was hired to work as a doctor in a hospital.  He managed to pass the bar exam without an education and was a legal prosecutor until his fake identity was revealed. He was so good at his game that he was able to win accolades for his work! But, eventually his lack of credentials and qualifications would become obvious and he would run, only to take on yet another identity. After he was finally arrested, the FBI gave him the opportunity to work with them to detect fraud!

Knowing ourselves, honestly, is one of the most difficult things in the world. Facing the ‘real’ is nearly impossible for some. In our digital world it is possible to create an image that is a far cry from real. Our Facebook timeline can be edited to include only the wins of life, the profile photo retouched to take off 15 years, our ‘friends’ list lengthened by inclusion of people we met once at a conference 10 years ago!

The question is an important one.
Are you actually that person you try to make others believe that you are?

Living truthfully is a key choice in the pursuit of true freedom. When we are authentic; owning our successes and failures, grasping the strengths and weaknesses, using the gifts that God has given us without coveting those of another, we are liberated from that awful ‘need to succeed’ that drives millions. Jesus says, “You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.” (Matthew 5:5, The Message)

We need not adopt an attitude of apathy, nor should we confuse ‘contentment’ with laziness. Ambition, for the glory of God, is an admirable trait. The Lord is worthy of our best and highest efforts in life. However, it is hard to learn to measure our best without comparing ourselves to others which is a path that leads too often to image building and pretense.  We tend to look around for approval and acceptance, don’t we?  From the earliest days of schooling we get report cards and take tests that rank us based on our achievement in the class. Our God will never do that! He sees us for who we are and asks that we live for His glory, using the gifts and opportunities presented to us to please Him.

I need to remind myself… and I’ll remind you … of this liberating fact:
The One who knows you best, loves you most!

Yes, He wants us to deal with our sins, to develop our gifts; but He does not want us to lose ourselves to the pressures of performance laid on us by our world.  Here what we must remember.  He has prepared a place for YOU and ME in His world and the Church that no one else can fill.  He has uniquely equipped you to be a part of His faithful people who are sent to change the world. Paul was inspired by the Spirit to teach us that “God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people!” (1 Corinthians 12:6-7, The Message)  Believe it and you will be able to get real, be honest, and become beautiful in His purposes.

Here is a word from the Word.  Let this wisdom remove the pressure to ‘be somebody’ from you, an invitation to serve the living Lord authentically. “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is. As God’s messenger, I give each of you this warning: Be honest in your estimate of yourselves, measuring your value by how much faith God has given you.” (Romans 12:2-3, NLT)

Honest to God.  The best way to live!


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We’re going to party like there’s no tomorrow!


You may not like what I am about to confess …  there are days when I wonder if it’s worth it all!

Belonging to Christ, giving Him first place in life, makes demands of me that I’ll admit go counter to what I want.  From time to time I struggle with the fact that I am not my own. Christianity is certainly not all pain and misery.  I have known blessings and joy, to be sure. However, I serve at His command. My choices are not shaped by what makes me most happy today, what produces the most money, or what allows my ego free rein.  This is not a complaint, it is just the reality of being His disciple.

Jesus’ own disciples wondered much the same thing as I occasionally do. They questioned the cost of the way of life to which He called them. Peter ‘reminded’ Jesus- “We left everything we owned and followed you, didn’t we?”  (Luke 18:28, The Message) Unspoken was the question, “What is the reward?”  If you are a serious disciple, if you are fully engaged with the work of God’s kingdom, Self must die, along with the pursuit of pleasure in this present world. Again, I must say, it is not all misery, but it is costly.

You may, especially in times of fatigue or disappointment, be tempted to adopt the same complaint as the Psalm writer offered up when he compared his life to that of the godless. “They seem to live such painless lives; their bodies are so healthy and strong. … These fat cats have everything their hearts could ever wish for! … Look at these wicked people— enjoying a life of ease while their riches multiply. Did I keep my heart pure for nothing? Did I keep myself innocent for no reason?” (Psalm 73:12-13, NLT)

The man who wrote those words found renewal only after he surrendered himself to the will of God and found a place of true worship.  In that place, he saw the truth that was temporarily eclipsed by his inner conflict. “You guide me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny. Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth. My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.” (Psalm 73:24-26, NLT)

Are you struggling with the call of Christ, the commitment He asks of you?

Does it seem beyond you to set aside your pleasure, to give away your treasure, to forgive that person who has deeply wounded you?

Is some part of you clamoring for satisfaction, resisting the choice of denying Self?

Two things are important to remember.

First, worship is important.  I am not just talking about ‘going to church.’  Each day we need to hit that inner reset that comes when we turn off the phone, step away from the pressures, and contemplate the Person of the One we serve.  Maybe it will be a song we listen to that helps us to catch sight of His love. Perhaps it will be taking a walk in the night and gazing at the stars that leads us to awe. Or may sink to our knees in a quiet place and simply breathe a desperate pray and invite the Spirit to give us back the wonder.  But, worship we must!

Second, we keep in mind that our life does not end at the grave.  The life of the disciple does not add up without including eternity!  Yes, in Jesus we find peace and purpose and most days that is enough. But, then comes those times when we just have to keep choosing to swim against the current. Times come when we give and give and there is no apparent reward. Our best effort goes unnoticed, our deepest sacrifice produces nothing – so it seems!  “You are guiding me to a glorious destiny!”  The consistent theme of Paul, Peter, and John is the reminder of a time that will come when we will party like there is no tomorrow — because there will not be one.  We will be home, forever, to celebrate in the Father’s House.

Here is a word from the Word. Jesus spoke it to His friends as part of that long conversation about His leaving them to carry on His work.  May the promise keep you – and me! – in a place of faithful, joyful service.

 “Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, “Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’? I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the

anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” (John 16:19-22, NIV)


Same song as yesterday … it’s a good one!

All My Hope

(listen at this like)

I’ve been held by the Savior
I’ve felt fire from above
I’ve been down to the river
I ain’t the same a prodigal returned

 All my hope is in Jesus
Thank God that yesterday’s gone
(Yes) All my sins are forgiven
(Oh I’ve) I’ve been washed by the blood
(Come on and sing)

 I’m no stranger to prison
I’ve worn shackles and chains
But I’ve been freed and forgiven
And I’m not going back I’ll never be the same
That’s why I sing

 There’s a kind of thing that just breaks a man
Break him down to his knees
God I’ve been broken more than a time or two
Yes Lord then He picked me up and showed me
What it means to be a man

Come on and sing

David Crowder | Ed Cash © 2016 Inot Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

sixsteps Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) songs (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

Alletrop Music (Admin. by Music Services, Inc.)

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Celebrate God Every Day!

Bob had multiple skills when it came to mechanical things. He made craftsmanship look easy.  When I tacked some project, he was the ‘go to’ guy for me if there were questions. He just knew- the right kind of paint, the best tool, the way to put it all together. More than once I attempted to do something that was way beyond my natural skill set because I knew that I had someone who would guide me.

We are all taking on ‘life’ this Monday morning and in the course of the day, if we are living the way God planned, we will find ourselves challenged;  asked to deal with situations and people for which we feel inadequate. Who’s is your resource?  Who guides you?

If you feel that you can manage life all by yourself, there are two possibilities.

  1. You have settled for a life that is much less than God planned. Or,
  2. You are overly confident and likely to fail because of that.

Paul calls us “Christ’s ambassadors” representatives of God’s rule. Peter says we are living as “outsiders” in this world, resistant to the culture, yet inviting others to life. God wants you (and me!) to ‘make Him known.’  We will have conversations that point others to hope. We will find temptation roaring at us and we will need to find courage to face it and defeat it. We will be working not only at our ‘job’ but in a way that allows the Light to shine through us.  We are not mere mortals pushing through another week. We are children of God living with a commission to reveal Christ in our world. Take that charge seriously and you will find yourself asking the same question that Paul did – “Who is equal to such a task?”

We are when we are living in step with the Holy Spirit, when we open our heart to Him, when He is our ‘go to’ Person for wisdom and guidance.  Jesus says, “When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.” (John 16:8-14, NIV)

Lean into Him today.  Discard fear that would keep you from living for the Lord.  Resist that urge to do it your own way.  Invite Him to lead, listen, learn, and love.

Here is a word from the Word.  I am excited to embrace it as my commission today, because I am not alone. Will you take this challenge, too?

“Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society.
Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God.
Carry the light-giving Message into the night so
I’ll have good cause to be proud of you on the day that Christ returns.  …

Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him!
Make it as clear as you can to all you meet
that you’re on their side, working with them
and not against them.
Help them see that the Master is about to arrive.
He could show up any minute!
” (Philippians 2:15-16, 4:4-5, The Message)


All My Hope
(a great song by David Crowder)

I’ve been held by the Savior
I’ve felt fire from above
I’ve been down to the river
I ain’t the same a prodigal returned

 All my hope is in Jesus
Thank God that yesterday’s gone
(Yes) All my sins are forgiven
(Oh I’ve) I’ve been washed by the blood
(Come on and sing)

 I’m no stranger to prison
I’ve worn shackles and chains
But I’ve been freed and forgiven
And I’m not going back I’ll never be the same
That’s why I sing

All my hope is in Jesus
Thank God that yesterday’s gone
(Yes) All my sins are forgiven
(Oh I’ve) I’ve been washed by the blood
(Come on and sing)

 There’s a kind of thing that just breaks a man\
Break him down to his knees
God I’ve been broken more than a time or two
Yes Lord then He picked me up and showed me
What it means to be a man
Come on and sing

David Crowder | Ed Cash © 2016 Inot Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

sixsteps Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) songs (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

Alletrop Music (Admin. by Music Services, Inc.)

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Make me feel better quickly!


Yesterday was not one of those AAA days in my life.  The ‘stuff’ of life got to me.  In spite of doing a chapel for our Christian academy on joy, I was anything but joyful. “Why me?” I whined.  In truth, the ‘hard’ is real. Am I unique? No, I am not. I am part of a broken world, caught up in the ongoing struggle of good and evil- in me, in others. There is some ‘wonderful’ and there is some ugly. There are, in the words of Solomon, times to dance and times to mourn. Like most people, I usually want to find instant resolution, quick relief!  Sometimes my emotions outrun my understanding, temporarily!

Dr. Larry Crabb, Christian author and counselor, writes about a session with a man who opened with this request, “Make me feel better quickly!”  Crabb replied, “Get a case of your favorite alcoholic beverage, a compliant woman, and take a trip to the Bahamas.”  The man was shocked and asked, “Are you sure you’re a Christian?”  Crabb replied, “I am, but what you asked of me requires something less than Christ will provide.”  He went to explain that ‘feeling better quickly,’ while often the goal of many, is not the promise of Jesus.  Becoming mature through Him demands whole-hearted commitment and willingness to do the work that leads to real healing.  Of course, Crabb observed that his prescription for alcohol, women, and a vacation does not really provide lasting satisfaction either, but it does produce temporary happiness.  (told in Inside Out, NavPress, 1988) That story makes me laugh and cringe, too!

Here is the question-  Am I willing to go the distance with Jesus?  Will I, by faith, keep the promise of becoming amazing eternal beings with glorious splendor in sight on the long days when part of me yearns for nothing but relief?  The life I really desire, and that God purposes for me, will elude me if I choose to chase quick fixes and easy answers.  One of my heroes is Paul, a man judged a failure by many of his contemporaries, whose life was often difficult. The Spirit inspired him to give us this wisdom: “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18, NIV)

The true glory of Jesus is not in the miracles of feeding thousands, raising Lazarus, or hugging little children lovingly. We make much of those stories because they appeal to us.  They are lovely stories, but the BIG STORY is not revealed until the last chapters of the Gospel- in the suffering of the Cross and the miracle of the Resurrection.  “Because I live, you will live also,” He promised and then He proved it. That is why the Bible calls on us to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:2-3, NIV)

This morning, I am praying through this question- what is my expectation of Christ Jesus?  Am I hoping that He will give me wealth, make children more ‘successful,’  exempt me from the hard things from my life, and provide perpetual comfort and happiness?  Do I want the promise of Heaven secured by Him without the difficulties of discipleship?  If that’s what I am looking for,  I will never find real and lasting joy. Why? The calling involves dying to Self and living to Christ. The pathway is, in Jesus’ words, a narrow one and few find it. “Lord, lead me to life. Keep me faithful!”

Here is an amazing word from the Word.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4, NIV)

“Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.” (Hebrews 12:10, NIV)


My Hope Is In The Lord

I can’t help but feel a little down
A little worried when I look around
That’s why my hope is in
My hope is in the Lord

I fix my eyes upon the God who gives
‘Cause all I need is what I have in him
That’s why my hope is in
My hope is in the Lord

My hope is in the Lord
I belong to him
He will never let me go-oh-oh-oh
My hope is in the Lord
I can count on him
My hope is in the Lord

Jay Stocker © 2016 Group Publishing, Inc.

CCLI License # 810055

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“Love God, and do as you please.”


When my friend spoke of another person whose life demonstrates the beauty of Jesus, a person of noble character, she grew emotional with tears filling her eyes. Genuine holiness does that! It captivates us, lifts us, makes us want to be a better person.

When I am with someone filled with the Spirit of God, not that noisy “Praise Jesus! Hallelujah! Aren’t you impressed with me?” kind of ‘spiritual,’ but the “profound love and care” kind, I want to love Jesus more! So, how does one become that way? Is it just ‘something you’re born with?’   Is it a spontaneous change that happens at a revival? Or, is it …   well, let’s look at that this morning.

Paul writes to us with the inspiration of the Spirit to say, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” (Colossians 3:1-2, NIV) The change begins with an inner work, a conversion that happens when we receive the invitation of the Spirit to trust Jesus for our salvation. He has done for us what we cannot do for ourselves, set us right with God, and made us, once dead in sinful disobedience, alive to God, our Father. But, that is just the beginning! We must make the choice for life, for holiness, for transformation – not once, not twice, but daily!

In the strongest terms, Paul teaches us that the old ways must die! “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.” (Colossians 3:5-8, NIV) Death is ugly. As a rule, we don’t keep corpses around. We mourn the loss and then we bury them! Are you cuddling with old sins, hanging onto them, instead of regarding them as dead and being rid of them?

We tend to excuse our pet sins, “that’s just the way I’m wired,” we say. We cover over our complicity with disobedience by thanking God for His mercy and grace. I am truly grateful that He is patient with us, but I also know He desires an emerging Christlikeness in us. He allows us to walk through difficulties that are designed to tear away our love for sin and make us long for Him.

Knowing this, James teaches us to stick it out, to see the purpose of those problems. We need real faith to accept the wisdom here. “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” (James 1:2-4, The Message) Will we beg God to change our circumstances, or to change us?

Time and again the Word challenges a claim to belief without a corresponding change of practice. This is the sin of hypocrisy.   Paul wrote to us saying “I beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.” (Ephesians 4:1, NLT)   Look at how the Word contrasts the nature, base life with the noble, spiritual one: “People’s desires make them give in to immoral ways, filthy thoughts, and shameful deeds. They worship idols, practice witchcraft, hate others, and are hard to get along with. People become jealous, angry, and selfish. They not only argue and cause trouble, but they are envious. They get drunk, carry on at wild parties, and do other evil things as well. I told you before, and I am telling you again: No one who does these things will share in the blessings of God’s kingdom.”

Augustine is quoted as saying, “Love God, and do as you please.” His words are much misunderstood, as some who claim to be disciples choose to see only the ‘do as you please’ part. Love God! That must come first- a love that reaches heart, soul, mind, and strength, Jesus said. And, as we love Him a beautiful, whole, noble character like that of Jesus emerges.

Disciple, do you love Him?
Does your devotion show in a life that is worthy of your high calling?

The word from the Word prays for change that comes from the partnership of the Spirit and our will. Pray it with me.

“We have not stopped praying for you and asking God
to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.
And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,
being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might
so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father,  
who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.”    (Colossians 1:9-12, NIV)


As The Deer
(pray this song as you listen)

As the deer panteth for the water
So my soul longeth after Thee
You alone are my heart’s desire
And I long to worship Thee 

You alone are my strength my shield
To You alone may my spirit yield
You alone are my heart’s desire
And I long to worship Thee

 You’re my friend and You are my brother
Even though You are a King
I love You more than any other
So much more than anything

 I want You more than gold or silver
Only You can satisfy
You alone are the real joygiver
And the apple of my eye

 Martin Nystrom © 1984 Universal Music – Brentwood Benson Publishing (Admin. by Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing, Inc.)

CCLI License # 810055

Pastor Jerry Scott

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Cut Off, Dead? Or, Connected, Alive, and Fruitful?

Last week I did some clean up in my yard. I cut back some leafy branches and tossed them behind the garage. I forgot all about them until yesterday. When I went to dispose of them – it was no surprise to see withered, dry, brown, dead leaves.  That is what happens when the branch is separated from the tree.

Jesus takes that principle and applies it to us spiritually.  “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” (John 15:4, NIV) A key issue in the discovery of the life that is rich in the evidence of the Spirit’s flow within us is the connection to Him, to His Body;  with the Word living in us. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.” (John 15:5-6, NIV)

When we make a priority choice to meditate and pray, to take in the Scripture, to be quiet before the Spirit, to gather for corporate worship:  we strengthen the connection that sustains spiritual life. It should be one of those things of which would say, “That is a no-brainer!” And yet, how often do we find ourselves living at a distance from Jesus, neglecting the Spirit’s invitation, estranged from the Church?

Our American individualism makes us particularly susceptible to trying to ‘do the Christian life’ on our own.  We like to imagine that we are self-sufficient, strong, able to stand on our own two feet. It’s a nice myth with very little support in real life and in matters of the soul.  Those who would live the richest and best life build and maintain strong networks with others. When we ‘connect’ to Christ Jesus, to His Body, to His Word – our autonomy is limited. We do not have the freedom to do whatever we want, to give full expression to every whim, every passing thought.  Connection requires – here it is – that difficult word – submission.

When we are connected to Him we are alive! What does that ‘life’ make possible? Fruitfulness. Read His words again –  “I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing.” (John 15:5, The Message) Want to know rich love, real peace, joy, steady patience, renewing kindness, basic goodness, trustworthy faithfulness, a gentle demeanor, and self-control so that you can refuse temptation?   There is only one way it can happen.

  • Stay connected to Jesus and when His Way contradicts yours, bow your head and heart and say a ready, “yes” to His invitation.
  • Stick with His people. Forgive them instead of walking off on your own.
  • Engage with others who love Him, too, sharing the life found in the Spirit.

Here is the word from the Word. Jesus wrapped up His teaching about branches and the Vine this way.  Before you read these words, pause for a moment and breathe a prayer for understanding. “Father, open my mind to this truth. Make it more than an ideal. Help me to ‘connect’ and stay connected – with You, with Your Body – so I can live.”

“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:9-13, NLT) “This is my command: Love each other.” (John 15:17, NLT)


Build Your Kingdom Here

Come set Your rule and reign
In our hearts again
Increase in us we pray
Unveil why we’re made
Come set our hearts ablaze with hope
Like wildfire in our very souls
Holy Spirit come invade us now
We are Your church
We need Your pow’r in us

We seek Your kingdom first
We hunger and we thirst
Refuse to waste our lives
For You’re our joy and prize
To see the captives’ hearts released
The hurt the sick the poor at peace
We lay down our lives for heaven’s cause
We are Your church
We pray revive this earth

Build Your kingdom here
Let the darkness fear
Show Your mighty hand
Heal our streets and land
Set Your church on fire
Win this nation back
Change the atmosphere
Build Your kingdom here we pray

Unleash Your kingdom’s pow’r
Reaching the near and far
No force of hell can stop
Your beauty changing hearts
You made us for much more than this
Awake the kingdom seed in us
Fill us with the strength and love of Christ
We are Your church
We are the hope on earth

Rend Collective © 2011 Thankyou Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

CCLI License # 810055

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Lord, Reign in ME!

Jesus gave us work to do, a calling for every Christian. “Go, change the world. Turn sinners into saints.”  To the extent that we are passionate about that calling, it can consume us. How do we do this in a world that is too frequently so taken up with immediate needs and/or pleasures that the things of God seem far away, even irrelevant to life? How can we “make disciples” as He commanded when even our very Self is so often resistant to His will? Paul reflects on God’s commission to holy work and asks, “Who is equal to such a task?

Let me make a confession. Sometimes I get so wrapped up with the work, I lose sight of the miracle of the Christian life. I become anxious, driven, tired, and discouraged. Something is seriously wrong with that picture, isn’t it? We, who are called to ‘life to the full’ in Christ Jesus, who claim to be serving the Lord of Love, who are promised peace in the middle the storm, can hardly be effective in invited others to follow Jesus if we are in a place where the Spirit’s life invisible.

  • If we are loveless, how can we invite others to know His love?
  • If we are without peace, how will others find reconciliation with God?
  • If our joy is lost to pressure and performance, how can we tell others about the “joy of the Lord?”

Jesus invites us to stop, to listen, and to learn of  the Way.  He told His disciples He was going to be leaving them. They were ready to panic. In that moment, He revealed the open secret of the fruitful Christian’s life.  “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:26-27, NIV)

He followed up that promise by directing those disciples not to run off to try to do the work of the Kingdom of God until they had an encounter with the Spirit. ”Wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.”  (Acts 1:4)  And wait, they did!  The Spirit came on them and they were ready to serve. Were they perfect? No, they were not. The book of Acts records some amazing victories and a few fumbles, some unity and some disagreements. Over all, there was miraculous progress as, led by the Spirit, the “Jesus people” carried their message and hope from Jerusalem to the entire Roman world within 3 decades.

Christian, His invitation to ‘wait,’ still stands. That does not mean we lie down and sleep! It does not mean we grow apathetic about the pressing concerns of God’s work. It surely does not mean we paper over our worries with a lot of ‘holy talk.’  Those disciples waited, presently themselves to God in prayer, anticipating His Presence. They were actively looking and listening.

On this Tuesday, I want to put two challenges to you for your prayers and thoughts.

First, are you spending yourself on matters that actually matter?  Are the concerns of your life shaped around eternal realities, becoming like Jesus, inviting others to know Him?

Second, are you settled on His promise, taking time each day to actively listen to the Counselor’s wisdom, so that you will work effectively for Jesus?

The word from the Word assures us  that when the Spirit is leading, when we are ‘waiting’ so that He can be heard, a quality of life emerges in us and around us that puts Jesus on display; Him, not me, not you!

Stop, listen, learn … and then “you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God. God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. Glory to God in the church! Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus! Glory down all the generations!  (Ephesians 3:18-21, The Message)

IMMEASURABLY MORE THAN ALL WE ASK!  Let’s live the promise.


Lord Reign In Me

(pray along with this song)

Over all the earth You reign on high
Every mountain stream every sunset sky
But my one request Lord my only aim
Is that You’d reign in me again

 Lord reign in me reign in Your pow’r
Over all my dreams in my darkest hour
You are the Lord of all I am
So won’t You reign in me again

 Over every thought over every word
May my life reflect the beauty of my Lord
‘Cause You mean more to me
Than any earthly thing
So won’t You reign in me again

Brenton Brown © 1998 Vineyard Songs (UK/Eire) (Vineyard Music UK)

CCLI License # 810055

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Where are you headed?


In my family, ‘home’ was important. When Bev and I became a family, we tried to make our house a ‘home’ for our kids as well.  The goal is to create a welcoming, safe, nurturing place. As a teen, I loved going home. I knew Mom would have a great meal prepared for supper, that there would be affection. I still love to go  to my  ‘home.’ Yes, it’s a lot different since Bev went to her eternal home. I miss her welcome, our time together, the beauty she brought to our ‘castle,’ but none the less – after a day full of conversations and work, I love to kick off my boots, grab a glass of ice tea, and flop down in my place.

Every child of God has a home waiting, a place prepared. Jesus teaches that this fact keeps us from being fearful and unsteady. On the night of the Last Supper, when He was telling His disciples that He was leaving them, that the Holy Spirit would come to be their Counselor, He also said – “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:1-3, NIV)

Jesus referenced ‘the Father’s house.’  Those first hearers heard it differently than we do. Most of them lived in multi-generational settings. When a son was getting married, there was an addition made to the family place to which he would bring his bride. The family was more important than the individual.  There was a sense of belonging that gave identity and security.  God, our Father, tells us that He has prepared for us to ‘come home,’ where we will be secure forever!

There are a lot of largely baseless ideas about heaven that persist, fanciful inventions of our imaginations based on snippets of Bible passages. The ONE enduring fact is that Heaven is HOME. The second fact is that we are invited to live there eternally, not because we earn a place, but because Jesus gives us His welcome.

Are you ready to go home? Nobody likes to talk about life’s end and so that question is hard to ask and answer. And yet, we are mortal and a moment will come when this journey will end. What’s your destination? If you know Christ Jesus as Savior, by faith, then there is a title deed on a Heavenly Home, a place prepared. It is my prayer that this will be your great and enduring hope that eclipses every earthly joy and steadies you through every sorrow.

Here is a word from the Word. Let it help you to anticipate the Home that waits. 

“We have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints— the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven.” (Col 1:4-5)

 “Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives.” (1 Peter 2:11-12, The Message)


(listen to Chris Tomlin sing about HOME)

This world is not what it was meant to be
All this pain all this suffering
There’s a better place waiting for me
In heaven

 Ev’ry tear will be wiped away
Ev’ry sorrow and sin erased
We’ll dance on seas of amazing grace
In heaven in heaven

I’m goin’
Home where the streets are golden
Ev’ry chain is broken
Oh I wanna go oh I wanna go
Home where ev’ry fear is gone I’m in Your open arms
Where I belong


 Lay down my burdens I lay down my past
I run to Jesus no turning back
Thank God Almighty I’ll be free at last
In heaven in heaven

I’m goin’

 Blinded eyes will fin’lly see
The dead will rise on the shores of eternity
The trump will sound the angels will sing
Hallelujah hallelujah
I am goin’

 Where I belong
I’m goin’ home
I’m goin’ home
I’m on my way home
I’m goin’ home

 Chris Tomlin | Ed Cash | Scott Cash © 2016 S. D. G. Publishing (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Sixsteps Songs (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Worship Together Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)  CCLI License # 810055

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How could you?


That person sitting there across from me was crushed, broken, beyond tears with a sorrow so heavy you could feel it in the room. Was it death or sickness? No, it was betrayal! His spouse walked out of the home to be with another love, abandoning the family.  Who has not experienced a friend’s treachery, a colleague’s rejection, a failure of a relationship?  I know personally that ache that follows the failure of a relationship. How many millions have wondered, “How could he do that to me? Why did my friend walk away?”

Jesus, as He faced the anguish of the Cross, also suffered betrayal! At the Passover meal, the night of His arrest, John tells us the story.  “After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me.” His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant.” (John 13:21-22, NIV)  It hurt the Lord to know that a man close to Him, one of the Twelve, was planning to sell Him to those who would crucify Him.  He was ‘troubled in spirit.’  We have an image of a serene Jesus, living in perpetual calm, but He was fully human and in truth He knew the same kinds of emotions that we feel. That night He felt the terrible loss of betrayal!

Let me turn this thought in two directions. The first is obvious.

Are you faithful to the Lord? Is your aim to love Him, serve Him, and live for Him – through it all? A hundred temptations would pull us away, inviting us to turn away.  “Not me,” you may say.  I wish we could be so confident in ourselves. We need the strength of the Spirit to remain faithful.  Sometimes spiritual betrayal is not full abandonment of all things godly.

Sometimes it is like that of the Laodiceans of the letter called Revelations. “Write to Laodicea, to the Angel of the church. God’s Yes, the Faithful and Accurate Witness, the First of God’s creation, says: “I know you inside and out, and find little to my liking. You’re not cold, you’re not hot—far better to be either cold or hot! You’re stale. You’re stagnant. You make me want to vomit. You brag, ‘I’m rich, I’ve got it made, I need nothing from anyone,’ oblivious that in fact you’re a pitiful, blind beggar, threadbare and homeless.” (Revelation 3:14-17, The Message)  Yes, we can betray Jesus by just letting our zeal die, replacing passion with dutiful religion.

Now, let’s make it personal.

Are you struggling with betrayal? Has a spouse left you, a friend forsaken you, a colleague failed? Will you choose to forgive?  Jesus was direct in His words about it. Unless we forgive others, we cannot find the full forgiveness of God! Hard, isn’t it?  In the prayer He taught His disciples we say, “Forgive our debts as we forgive our debtors.”  Will we make that prayer a reality?  When we are betrayed, it is human to want to exact a price, to make the other person see their perfidy! But, revenge is not the way of the godly.  We hand the debt to God who judges. We let it go, for Jesus’ sake and we find His peace.

Said General Oglethorpe to Wesley, “I never forgive.”
“Then I hope, sir,” said Wesley, “you never sin.”

As much as we might hate to admit it, we have all failed – God, family, friends – at one time or another. May He give us the grace to offer the forgiveness that we will most certainly need.

There is this assurance. Live in this word from the Word today. We are secure, made whole, confident for eternity in the promise.
God has said,
“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.”
So we say with confidence,
“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?” (Heb 13:5-6)


One Thing Remains (Your Love Never Fails)
(worship and find renewal with this song)

Higher than the mountains that I face
Stronger than the power of the grave
Constant in the trial and the change
One thing remains
One thing remains 

Your love
Your love
Your love will never change

Your love never fails
It never gives up
Never runs out on me

 Your love

 On and on and on and on it goes
It overwhelms and satisfies my soul
And I never ever have to be afraid
One thing remains
One thing remains

 In death in life I’m confident and
Cover’d by the power of Your great love
My debt is paid there’s nothing that
Can separate my heart from Your great love

 Your love

 Brian Johnson | Christa Black Gifford | Jeremy Riddle© 2010 ChristaJoy Music Publishing (Admin. by Bethel Music Publishing) Mercy / Vineyard Publishing (Admin. by Vineyard Music USA) Bethel Music Publishing

CCLI License # 810055

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