WEEKLY BLOG

I want to take a moment to encourage you today. I know you are fighting a battle with something in your life. It might be temptation, or illness, or maybe it just seems like nothing is going right. But it will get better. You will persevere and thrive. I’m positive! God helps us cope with trials by offering us encouragement. Here are some messages of Encouragement from His Word: Psalm 31:24 says, “Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.” Proverbs 18:10 tells us, “The name of the LORD is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.” He tells us in Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” In Isaiah 43:2 He assures us, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” We are called to praise Him for His comfort in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” In John 14:27 we read, “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.”   God’s Word offers us unending encouragement, but it is not our only source of solace and comfort. We are also called to encourage one another (1 Thes. 5:11). So today, even as you may be struggling, take a moment to offer encouragement to another person. If you can’t find your own words of encouragement, share some from His Word! Working together we can create a community of encouragement!...

What does it mean to be a witness? The common definition says a witness is a person who has information useful in a case being heard in court. You might be surprised to find that Jesus’ meaning of the word isn’t far off. Our Lord calls all of us Followers of Jesus to take the information we know about Him and share it with those who need to hear it. Their salvation, and whether they are found guilty or innocent on judgement day, depends on them having and accepting that information and Jesus into their lives. Jesus’ last words—His COMMAND to all of His followers—were, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8). His disciples took up that command and passed it on to all believers. They said: “We were eyewitnesses from the beginning” (Cf. Luke 1:2); “We were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Peter 1:16); and, “We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:20). So how can you witness to those around you? Share The Gospel - “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3-4). Reveal that Jesus Is the Savior of the World - “And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world” (1 John 4:14). Give Glory for The Love of God - “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Praise The Forgiveness of God - “He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name” (Acts 10:42-43). Testify about The Grace of God - ” … my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24). Celebrate The Hope of Eternal Life - “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). So how will you witness today?...

What do you do when you face temptation? Temptation is a part of our everyday lives, but thank the Lord we never have to face it alone! The truth remains, however, that we do face it. So what do we do? It is important that you never underestimate temptation. It is a snare that catches you when you least expect it. It may appear small, but even the smallest temptation can grab hold of your life and open the doors to larger temptations. Having said that, it is also important  that you never overestimate temptation. There is no temptation you will face that cannot be conquered by God’s grace! As Romans 6:6 tells us, because our old self was crucified with Christ, we are no longer enslaved to sin. When you face temptation, even the smallest temptation, here are four actions you can take. Pray. For any trial we face, the first action we take should always be prayer. “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5) Take time to look at the outcome, the consequences of your decision. If you give in to the temptation, what affect will that have on your life, your faith, the lives and faith of those who care about you? “The truly righteous man attains life, but he who pursues evil goes to his death.” (Proverbs 11:19) “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 14:12) Look at your relationships. We are told in Scripture to make sure that those closest to us can uplift us and help us on our journey. “My son, if sinners entice you, do not give in to them. … my son, do not go along with them, do not set foot on their paths for their feet rush to sin.” (Proverbs 1:10; 15) “As iron sharpens iron, a friend sharpens a friend.” (Proverbs 27:17) Keep your focus on Jesus. His sacrifice has freed you from the bonds of sin. He can shield you from temptation if you ask it of Him! “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)   I am Positive, friend, that you can defeat any temptation you face, because Jesus is on your side!  ...

“You are NOT to do whatever you want” (Gal. 5:17). To Do or Not To Do? “Do whatever you want.” Those words usually come after you have asked someone’s advice or input and they know you aren’t going to follow it. Or maybe your spouse says, “I would rather … but do whatever you want.” I would guess that most of the time those words mean the exact opposite; that person truly thinks you are making the wrong choice. Our culture, however, has taken those words and run with them. We live in a time of “Do whatever you want.” Advertising, sitcoms, movies, music, and even our politicians tell us that our happiness comes from buying, listening to, watching, and doing what we want. Impulse buys come from “doing whatever you want.” Eating that second serving, even though you are already full, comes from “doing whatever you want.” Listening to music that is offensive or hurtful to those around you comes from “doing whatever you want.” Opening our mouths and saying hurtful things happens because we decided to “do whatever you want.” Are you seeing a trend here? Very little that is fulfilling, enriching, and gratifying to God comes from making that decision to “do whatever you want.” Paul knew this, and that is why he admonished the Galatians, “You are not to do whatever you want” (Gal. 5:17). Paul wasn’t telling them that they couldn’t have a rich, fulfilling life. He was telling them that if they let their sinful human nature, their flesh, make their decisions then they were not following the promptings of the Spirit. Jesus gave us the Spirit to be our guide. I’m not saying you should ask the Holy Spirit if you should have that second helping of pasta, but if you consistently seek the Spirit’s input into your life then the carnal impulses will gradually decrease. We cannot allow our sinful nature to take control. Those decisions lead to adultery, fighting, harming others, harming ourselves, and addictions. Following the promptings of the Spirit leads to love, joy, goodness, gentleness, moderation, and community. That, my friend, is what our spiritual journey is about. We must open ourselves to Jesus so He can change us from the inside out, because we can’t change without His help! So when you step out of bed tomorrow morning, start off by saying, “Today, Jesus, I want to do what You want!”...

Being a parent is not easy. It takes time, dedication, effort, strength, love, patience, and so much more. But having access to both parents or having strong parental role models can be vital to a child’s development. As we approach Father’s Day, I have a special message for all of the Dads out there and for those who fill that role for children who need a father figure. #DadsMatter! I can’t think of a single part of my life more difficult and rewarding than being a Dad. But I wouldn’t trade a minute of it! This weekend, I would like to ask you to join me as we honor those men who step up and accept the call to be a Dad! In Ephesians, Paul notes that the command to honor your father and mother is the first commandment with a promise. Children honor their parents so “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” As Followers of Jesus, we do not need to be told about the importance of fatherhood. Scripture is filled with dozens of verses on fathers and the responsibilities of fatherhood. Fathers are essential to the well being of their children. You and I are doubly blessed because we have access to our Heavenly Father and because He models for us what fatherhood should look like. As our Heavenly father: He is the source of our existence. He provides for us. He corrects us. He loves us unconditionally.   How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!" (1 John 3:1) As we prepare to honor Dads this weekend, take a moment to honor God by reading these verses: Matthew 6:9-13 1 Corinthians 8:6 Galatians 4:6 Hebrews 12:5-11 1 John 3:1, 9-10   Happy Father’s Day from the most blessed “Dad” in the world! - Pastor Rich...

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; I do not give it to you as the world does. Do not let your hearts be distressed or lacking in courage” (John 14:27). We take this time each year to celebrate the hard work and dedication our graduates have put into their academic pursuits. What an accomplishment! They are entering a new season of life, ready to take on new challenges and step into new opportunities. When you look at being a graduate that way, aren’t we all graduating into new opportunities and seasons of life? Just as I would say to each of those graduates, I want to say to each of you: Live a Life that Matters. Seize those opportunities and embrace the season you are entering. Here are three ways you can live a life that matters: Live with Passion Jesus says in John 10:10, “I came so that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” Embrace the awesomeness of our world, enjoy yourself, and share that passion by living the life Jesus calls you to. Live Life with Humility Paul writes in Philippians 2 that even though Jesus was God’s Son He took on the very nature of a servant. He humbled Himself even to the point that He died for you and me! Put other’s interests before your own. Do for others what no one else will. Live Life with Purpose If you are a Follower of Jesus, your life does not belong to you. “If anyone is in Christ you are a new creation, the old has gone the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Your new life is a life of meaning, a life of purpose. Live it!  ...

I EXPECT miracles from God. I don’t just hope for them. I don’t just pray for them. I believe in faith that God can do anything, remove any roadblock, and turn any situation around, even things I would never think of! I’m defining a miracle here as “an intervention in the natural universe by God, a phenomena that transcends natural laws, or a divine act by which God reveals Himself to people.” God created everything, and He has the power to change that creation. Natural laws do not constrain Him, they are His laws! Perhaps the greatest miracle is when He chooses to reveal Himself to people directly. What a blessing! The Bible is full of miracles. Look at Daniel and his miraculous protection from the lion. God used Moses for a whole string of miracles: the plagues that led to God’s people being released from slavery, drawing water from stone, the parting of the Red Sea, miraculous provision in the desert, and the gifting of the Ten Commandments. During Jesus’ time we see healing and casting out of demons, water turned into wine, Peter walking on water, and thousands fed by bread and fish that would barely feed a family. Scripture is quite literally one miracle followed by another. God doesn’t change. His miracles do not stop. So don’t doubt for a moment that miracles are taking place all around you! Are you looking for a miracle in your life today? What are you praying for? Are you asking because you hope God will grant that miracle, or are you believing in FAITH that He is sending someone right now to work that miracle in your life?! Nothing is impossible with God, NOTHING! I am Positive!...

Did you know that almost a third of the Bible is prophecy? In the Old Testament, prophecies were given as guidance to the people. God used prophets as His messengers to His people. Through them, He warned of what would happen if the people didn’t stop worshiping other gods. The prophets told of the trials the people would face for turning away from God. And in the darkest times, they foretold the birth, ministry, and death of Jesus, messages of hope for the people. But prophecy didn’t stop after Jesus returned to Heaven. In the New Testament, the word of prophecy was a positive word that people could run to, not something they were afraid of. The power of the Spirit inspired (and still inspires) messages intended to edify and encourage the Church. According to St. Paul, prophecy is given to confirm and encourage and can only occur in a place and at a time that Jesus is known as Lord and honored as such (1 Cor. 12:1-3). So why did the New Testament Church need prophets, and why do we need prophecy today? For guidance and direction. Face it, we get busy and sometimes we neglect the need to listen for the guidance of the Spirit. In those times, and in those times when the Church as a whole needs direction, prophecy provides the clarity we need. We see this in the New Testament as the Church was starting to grow. Prophecy guided them as they dealt with persecution, hardship, and teaching a new way of life. It does the same for us today. To instruct the body of Christ. In the Old Testament we see many instances where God used prophets to instruct the people, and Jesus continues to gives guidance through prophecy. What a blessing that we can always count on His instruction! As a means of revelation. One thing we will never be able to fathom is God’s complete understanding of what will happen when. The Book of Revelation is a great example. Even though we can hold that prophecy in our hands, it is impossible for us to fully understand parts of it at this time. Even when we can’t understand, however, Jesus works through prophecy to set a path for us that leads us to His side. To build the Church. As the Body of Christ, we work as one. Our goal is to spread the message of Jesus to all corners of the earth. Prophecy guides us as we do that, and it helps open doors and hearts to Jesus’ message and love.   I am so incredibly thankful for the gift of prophecy in our lives! It offers hope, guidance, instruction, and encouragement no matter what we are facing. Through it we can discern God’s desires for our lives and it helps us as we share Jesus’ never-ending love with the world. Today I will say a special prayer for a new generation of prophets to guide all Followers of Jesus as we continue on with our task. Will you join me?...

We are called to honor our parents every day of our lives. In fact, it is one of the Ten Commandments. In Exodus 20:12, God tells His people, “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” This weekend is Mother’s Day, a holiday we’ve celebrated in the United States since 1914, and we have the opportunity to love and honor our mothers by dedicating a whole day to her! This year, take time to thank your mother for all she’s done for you. Thank her: For the sacrifices she’s made. For allowing you to make mistakes, but always being there after. For making you do chores and teaching you responsibility. For always being your biggest cheerleader. For always listening. For showing you what love is. Your mother is a precious gift from God. So call the mothers in your life, or if you can go visit them. Take this opportunity to tell your mom how grateful you are for everything she’s taught you, and how she helped shaped you into the person you are!  ...

You have a purpose, a God-given purpose. And God has given you the gifts you need to fulfill that purpose! Not sure what your purpose is? We’re not put on this earth without guidance, and we are not left to wander around lost. God has given us a manual explaining why He created us, what our lives should look like, what we should absolutely avoid, and what our future holds! Turn to God’s Word. Build your life on eternal truths. Ready to live your God-given purpose? Ask these five questions, pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance as you answer them, then live your life with purpose!   What is the center of my life? Is it yourself or God? Your center determines your strength, and God is your unshakable center! Keep Him there on a daily basis.   What does the character of my life look like? What kind of person do you want to be? Do you recognize the fruits of the Spirit in your life and use them for God’s work? Your character is a testimony to others of God’s work in your life!   What contribution do I want my life to make?  How will you use your spiritual gifts and abilities to make a difference? Are you serving in both the church and the world? We are created to serve others. That is our leadership!   What does my life say? God’s purpose in your life gives you a unique voice and message to share. As we are instructed in Philippians 1:27, “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit,[a] striving together as one for the faith of the gospel.”   Where is my community? Are you active in fellowship? Are you committed to other Followers of Jesus? Ephesians 5:25 says, “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Can we love our brothers and sisters any less?   Your purpose isn’t shaped by other people or their opinions. Listen for God’s voice. Follow the promptings of the Spirit. And follow the examples Jesus gives us in Scripture. By doing those three things, you will have the answers to the questions you’ve just asked. You will discover your purpose and learn to use your gifts fully for God’s master plan! I am Positive you will!  ...

Wait On Jesus Today And Find New Strength! Slow down, you move too fast. You may be thinking you have to push forward to stay in the race, but waiting helps you move with positivity and direction. That .. .will keep you STRONG! I’m totally positive about that!! The Word says, “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength!” (Isaiah 40:31)...

Peter told the members of the fledging Church, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession” (1 Peter 2:9). Just as they were, you are one of God’s CHOSEN. So what does being Chosen mean? 1. God does not choose you because of your faith, your faith is the result of His choosing you! “You did not choose me, but I chose you.” (John 15:16) Your faith, and all of the blessing that come from that faith, are God’s eternal gift to you. 2. God chose you, so no charge against you can stick. God sent Jesus to cancel ALL the debts of His chosen ones. Christ Jesus died, was raised, and is now at the right hand of God interceding for you (Rom. 8:31–34). If God is for you, who can be against you?! 3. Being chosen brings humility. “Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.” (1 Cor. 1:26-39) 4. God chose you and that means you are destined for everlasting, all-satisfying praise. “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” (Eph. 1:4-6) God chose each of us because He loves us. We are His children, His beloved. And He is ready to spend eternity with us! I am Positive that God Chose You!...

What is the Lord telling you to do today? Is it something He has been whispering in your ear for months? Have you not stepped out because of fear, uncertainty, or is it because you are comfortable where you are? I want you to read these next words carefully: Obedience Makes Things Happen! I’ve watched people OBEY the message preached and come back with testimonies of what they saw happen with their own eyes. People come and sit in my office, telling me they feel called to take a different path, but they are afraid. When they step out in faith, God is there working in miraculous ways! Others rarely have a testimony and then say, “I’m not sure if this stuff works.” Let me make this as clear as I possibly can. When we obey Jesus, when we follow His Word and listen for His voice, stuff happens. Good stuff. Great stuff. Miraculous stuff. When we don’t obey … well, the opposite happens. Take a look at the disciples. When they doubted, when they didn’t do what Jesus said, their attempts fell flat. When they obeyed, they were “healing people everywhere” (Luke 9:6). Abraham is another great example. In Genesis, God tells Abram to leave everything: his family, his country, everything he knows. And he tells him that if he obeys, God will make Abram into a mighty nation, give him a great name, and make him a blessing. Genesis 12:4 tells us, “So Abram went, as the Lord had told him.”  Abram later became known as Abraham. A great name indeed. There is no Christian history without the Nation of Israel. And there’s no Israel without Abraham. This one man started a line of winning and hope for the rest of history, because he OBEYED. The truth is, He could’ve said NO to God’s offer. Instead, Abraham was moved by faith to leave a guaranteed life of normalcy. The reason: HE BELIEVED GOD’S PROMISES. Because Abraham said yes to God some 4,000 years ago, you and I are still saying yes to God today. Today, I want to encourage you to step out in faith. Be obedient to what Jesus is asking of you. Be POSITIVE that great things are going to happen in your life. WHY? Because obedience makes things happen!...

Do you ever really think about obedience as part of your life? We often look at Jesus’ leadership lessons, His building of His Church, how He treated those around Him, and His wondrous miracles, but all of those things came from His obedience and desire to do the will of His Father. Obedience to His Father’s will was so important to Him that He called it His FOOD (John 4:34). He literally could not live without obedience. This week we remember the sacrifice Jesus made for each of us. We celebrate His Resurrection with our friends and family and are grateful for the free gift of grace it allows. What I want us to remember, also, is that Jesus didn’t come down from heaven to accomplish a personal agenda of wiping out sin. He came to earth, lived and died as a human, to carry out the will of the One who had sent Him (John 6:38). He was intent on being obedient “to the point of death” (Phil. 2:8). In His incarnation, He chose to submit Himself to the plan of redemption, even though His obedience to His Father meant increasing opposition and hatred from his enemies. The mighty Lamb of God “humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” In those days, nobody wore a cross on their necklace and they certainly weren’t in churches. The cross meant one thing in Jesus’ time—it was the most horrific and shameful kind of death any human could face. Cicero, a famous Roman philosopher, called crucifixion “a most cruel and disgusting punishment,” “the worst extreme of the tortures inflicted upon the slaves.” And there, on Golgotha, over 2,000 years ago, the innocent, righteous Son of God died that death. On a cross. A cross made from a tree. Deuteronomy 21:23 states that anyone hanged on a tree is “under God’s curse.” Paul quotes this verse in Galatians 3:13 when he says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.” Along with the painful, humiliating death, crucifixion brought with it a Divine curse. This Good Friday, as you think about the Lord’s sacrifice for sinners, take a moment to dwell on what it meant for God the Son to be cursed by God the Father. He'd done nothing to cause His Father’s wrath. He only ever deserved to know His Father’s delight and love. Because of His obedient sacrifice, He was cut off from the joy of His heart. For the first time in all of eternity, He felt what it was to know His Father’s displeasure. No wonder He cried, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Our sin did that.  He endured wrath meant for us.  He endured so we might be saved. He lived in obedience so we might have the opportunity to live with Him for eternity. As Followers of Jesus, we know the joy of having accepted Christ by grace through faith alone. We know of His sacrifice and we can rest in it, knowing that we are saved. We share this Good News with others so that many come to know Him, too! This weekend, don’t just go through the motions. Worship Him as the Lamb of God who was slain. Know that with His blood He purchased you, snatching you from the jaws of the enemy. Thank and praise Him because He became sin on your behalf so you might become the righteousness of God in Him. Think on these things, and on what obedience looks like in your own life, as you shout to the heavens: Worthy is the Lamb!...

“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.” (1 Timothy 1:15)   These are the words of the Apostle Paul, and we know from Scripture that he did indeed do some truly horrible things before Jesus entered his life. But what I want you to understand is that Paul was living in a time of complete depravity, under the authority of an emperor who was truly insane. And yet he still thought his sin was the worst. He was right. Just as my sin is the worst, and so is yours. All sin is created equal, just as all sinners are created equal. The act itself may seem minor, or truly horrible, but it is the decision behind that act that matters to Jesus.   When a person sins, he or she CHOSE to sin. Jesus doesn’t love that person any less, but He does hate the sin. That is why He came to earth and gave His life to save all of us from the consequences of our sin. He didn’t come just to save the murderers, the drug addicts, and the thieves who have repented. He also came to save the boy who stole a candy bar, the girl who talked back to her mother, and the person in church who judged another. Sin is sin. Without Jesus, the person who judged another is just as guilty and damned as the person who killed another. Luckily, we also know that JESUS is LOVE and SALVATION.   We should each be amazed by the LOVE and GRACE of our Lord every day! He came to wash our sins away and make us whole and new! We are a little over a week out from Easter now, and I would like to take a moment to encourage you to spend some time thinking about what Jesus has done for you, and then think about how you are passing that Love on to everyone around you.   Take these thoughts to heart as we approach the day of Jesus’ great sacrifice and His miraculous resurrection. As I celebrate the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection, I recognize His MIRACLES in my own life! Rebirth and renewal ignite new HOPE in my life! The JOY of Jesus’ miracles lives in my heart today! God’s LOVE flows through my body and soul each and every moment all day long! Jesus is my ROCK! God is ALWAYS there for me!   Today, acknowledge that ALL sin is the enemy of our Savior, but He has already won the battle! Never cease believing in miracles, both great and small. Remember to see them around you and in your life today and every day. And don’t forget to share those miracles with your friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers!...

Humans have developed a very bad habit. That of underestimating our Lord. Most of the time that habit starts because you and I underestimate ourselves and those around us, and that doubt directly reflects how we view God’s ability to work in and through our lives. We aren’t the first to let this happen in our lives. Look at how some of our Bible heroes underestimated themselves and others. Moses continually underestimated his abilities because he doubted. He felt he couldn’t talk right. God gave him the words he needed to secure the freedom of the people of Israel. He underestimated God when he was told to part the waters with his walking stick. God used that simple walking stick to part the waters of an entire sea so the people could cross to safety. Samuel underestimated David when God said David was the one who would one day rule Israel. Samuel actually doubted the choice so much he argued that surely God didn’t want David. “He’s too young. He’s just a shepherd boy. He can’t possibly be the ruler You describe.” God did in fact raise young David from shepherd boy to giant slayer, and then on to be a great warrior and king. He saw the potential Samuel couldn’t even imagine. The disciples underestimated Jesus’ ability to keep them safe through trials. When a storm blows up while they are at sea, they are afraid for their lives. Then they are even more terrified to see Jesus walking across the water toward them, thinking Him to be a ghost. Jesus corrected them when He called out three phrases … tharseō, egō eimi, mē phobeō … “Be encouraged, I Am, Don’t fear.” He calls them to recognize Him, to not run from Him in fear, then He steps into the boat with them. The storm immediately ceases, the trial is over, their faith is restored.  What situation are you facing today? Are you underestimating your own abilities to do what God is calling you to do? Are you doubting someone else and God’s ability to raise them above their challenges? Maybe you are struggling through your own storm and your faith is not keeping you on top of the water. Break that habit of underestimating today! Keep Jesus’ words in your heart: tharseō, egō eimi, mē phobeō … “Be encouraged, I Am, Don’t fear.” Know that through Him, anything is possible....

God tells us in His word that having faith in Him will see us through even the greatest of trails. He doesn’t promise there will be no trails. In fact, a study of Scripture gives examples of the troubles we may face, shows how others have responded to those trials, and most importantly gives us HOPE that God will faithfully walk with us through even the darkest times. When we respond in faith, accepting the Hope and Peace only He can give us, we become an example to others of God’s Love for all humankind. Scripture promises us certain rewards when we accept His Hope and share it with others. • We are promised the perseverance, character, and hope that comes from the indwelling Holy Spirit. (Rom. 5:3-5). • We are able to witness the greatness of Christ’s glory as He walks with us and shields us, resulting in a joy that shines out from us like a beacon, drawing others close to Him. (1 Peter 4:12-13) • We become stronger because we have allowed God to work through our weaknesses. (2 Cor. 12:9-10) • Through our faith, we are promised a heavenly reward. (Matt. 5:11–12) • Most amazing of all is the promise of abiding with Jesus forever! (2 Tim. 2:11–12a) Jesus has told us that He will not permit us to be overwhelmed. He will grant us grace to be overcomers! That is the power of HOPE!  ...

What is a Jesus Follower to do when faced with disappointment, disaster, and despair? We know from Scripture “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). Yet when we encounter difficulties and tragedy we often ask “Why?” The truth is we may never understand why something bad happens. Sin and free will are not caused by God, but the results of sin and free will can still be used by God for good. As we choose to trust God and accept the grace He gives us in these situations, the Holy Spirit will work in us and we will gain Hope. Here are ways you can endure tragedy and trials through God’s grace:   Give thanks. Being thankful in a difficult situation is sometimes the most difficult thing you can do. Scripture is very clear about this, though: “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (I Thess. 5:18). To be thankful rather than to complain takes a conscious act of the will, but it opens the door for God to directly act in your life.   Rejoice! We are instructed to rejoice in all things: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4). Rejoicing is a response of the spirit. You cannot escape the pain of a difficult situation, but you must not let it overwhelm you. Even in times of intense sadness and despair, we will find peace if we can learn to rejoice in God.   Believe and act on the Word of God. Jesus, when tested in the wilderness, responded to each temptation by quoting Scripture. You can follow His example and successfully engage in spiritual warfare by proclaiming truth in the face of tests and temptations. Ephesians 6:17 describes the Word of God as “the sword of the Spirit”—the only offensive weapon in our spiritual armor. Use it!   Cry out to God. God desires to work powerfully through your life; therefore, you must learn to depend on Him. He alone must become your source of strength, provision, protection, and direction. Psalm 50:15 says, “Call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.”   Overcome evil with good. Jesus gave His disciples instructions about responding to those who made their lives miserable (Matt. 5:44). These directions are completely opposite to our natural reaction. Jesus says you must: Love your enemies, Bless those who curse you, Do good to those who hate you, and Pray for those who use you and persecute you. These responses reflect the heart of God: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21).   When you respond to every difficult situation in these five ways, God will faithfully pour out His grace upon you in the midst of your trial, giving you a sense of Hope and Peace that will see you through. You can endure hardships and overcome the enemy in God’s strength!  ...

Partnership is a concept we usually think of in worldly terms like business partners, two or more people undertaking a venture together that features risk and/or profit. Partnership from a biblical standpoint is different. It isn’t based on potential profit, or a risk/reward analysis. Biblical partnership is based on love. In fact, Jesus says love relationships/partnerships are of extreme significance (Mark 12:28-34). The greatest example of partnership in the Bible is that of The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who provide a perfect model of partnership for us. They exist in complete harmony, each supporting the others in all ways. We see examples of their relationship throughout the entirety of Scripture (Gen. 1:26-27; Matt. 28:19; John 14:26; 15:26; 1 Pet. 1:2; Rev. 1:4-5). What makes their relationship significant to our understanding of partnership is that God also calls us, His children, into a relationship with Him, He calls us to partner with Him to fulfill His plan for redemption, and He mandates that we watch over His creation (Gen. 1:28; Ps. 8:3-8). Jesus reaffirmed our relationship when He said, “All authority in heaven and earth is given to me. Therefore (you) go and make disciple of all nations … and surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:18-20). Our partnership with God is our first and most important partnership, and our relationship with Him should guide us as we approach others to partner with them. As you form and maintain partnerships: Remember that all of your skills and talents are given to you by God. “But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth.” (Deut. 8:18a) Never try to be like everyone else. God created you to be uniquely you, as He did those you are in partnership with. Respect that uniqueness, and never stop learning, so you can always live up to the potential God gave you! “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Rom. 12:2) Know that ego will kill a relationship. Fast. Never be afraid to say you don’t know, that you need help, and be okay with deferring to your partner in areas where they are stronger. “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Prov. 16:18) Learn that prayer is the key to getting through those sticky relationship situations. It will help you on those days when things do not go your way. Remember to thank God even when something doesn’t go your way. And always be grateful. “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess. 5:16-18) Don’t be timid. God has given you the power and self-discipline you need to succeed. Approach every partnership with love and that God-given power will strengthen you both. “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” (2 Tim. 1:7) Embrace the fact that God believes in you, even when others don’t. Not every partnership will succeed, but He is prepared to support you in every situation! “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Phil. 4:13) If your earthly partnership doesn’t work out, don’t despair! Partnerships can be risky and messy. Moses chose twelve leaders to spy out the Promised Land; ten succumbed to unbelief (Num. 13:1-14:45). Jesus trusted Judas Iscariot, and Judas betrayed Him. In both cases, even those who followed and believed got sidetracked (Peter, the sons of Zebedee, Philip, Thomas, Aaron, and Miriam). None of that stopped God from working for the good of His people! We are called to serve and persevere in love and discernment, and when we do so we allow God, our ultimate PARTNER to step in and make the best of every part of our lives. Now that is the ultimate in partnership!  ...