“The Perfect Church”

Many years ago I took a group of young singles from Tampa to Atlanta for the weekend. We went to a Braves game, ate at the Hard Rock Cafe’ and went to Northpoint Community Church on Sunday to hear Andy Stanley preach. It as a great trip. But the greatest experience we had was when we got up early on Saturday morning and helped paint a house for an older woman who was in need and unable to do it herself and then prayed over her before we left. It was a great day.

While we were heading to this woman’s house that morning, we passed by a church and I just had to stop. The sign on the church said “The Perfect Church.” That was the actual name of the church! We took a quick opportunity to discuss that the only time that sign was true was on a bright and sunny day like that day…Saturday…when no one was actually there.

Until Jesus comes again there will never be a perfect church because people make up the church and people are messy and imperfect. But this shouldn’t stop us from striving to be everything God desperately desires His people to become. In 1 Thessalonians, Paul briefly reminds us exactly what it means to become the perfect church (as much as it is possible on this side of eternity).

“We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”
1 Thessalonians‬ ‭5‬:‭12-24‬ ESV

From this passage we can derive the following checklist for becoming the model church:

1. Respect those doing the work of the ministry

2. Respect those who hold a position of authority in the church (pastors, elders) who are also charged to caution, advise, or counsel you against something and to reprove or scold you, especially in a mild and good-willed manner

3. Be at peace among the church body

4. Caution, advise, or counsel those who are just taking what the rest of church has to offer but are not contributing themselves, and then reprove or scold them when necessary especially in a mild and good-willed manner

5. Encourage those among you who feel hopeless

6. Help those among you who are struggling to help themselves

7. Be patient with everyone among you

8. Make certain that there is forgiveness and good-will instead of vengeance among the church body when someone is wronged by another church member

9. Do good to all people, both inside and outside the church walls

10. Do not get in the way of the what the Holy Spirit desperately wants to do among you; be a people in a place where He is welcomed and expected to show up and move among you every time you meet

11. Do not ignore or be careless about for what the Bible says about what will happen in the days to come

12. Test every situation, every feeling, every intuition you have against what Scripture says about who you should be and what you should do, and then cling to those things that line up with what God says

13. Completely remove yourselves from every initiative, effort, or situation that is Godless or runs against what God desires for His people

If you do these things, God will do what only He can do; and that is to set you apart and make you a holy people who are His. You will become His Bride, His Prize, and His Joy! Be the Church…

T.G.I.F. with a twist…

‭T.G.I.F. has traditionally stood for Thank God It’s Friday. Friday’s are good. I like Fridays. The weekend lies ahead and for most of us that means a little “me” time. But I am challenged this morning to look beyond today and thank God I have so much more ahead of me than Friday or the weekend.

In Colossians‬ ‭2‬:‭9-14‬, Paul wrote:
“For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” ESV

Christ is fully God;

Christ cut away my old self and brought me new life;

Christ took all my sin, past, present and future, and nailed them to the cross;

I refuse to live like a prisoner of my past or a felon without a future;

My soul was ransomed by every drop of Christ’s blood that hit the ground;

By His wounds I was healed;

By His death I now live;

By His resurrection I have been set free…

I’m reclaiming my T.G.I.F. of old, and giving it a meaning with more promise: “Thank God I’m Free.” #grace #hope #purpose #promise #heaven

“Context 4:13″

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” ‭Philippians‬ ‭4‬:‭13‬ ESV

We hear this verse quoted quite often, but much of the time it is claimed it is done so outside of its original context. Football player, Tim Tebow, is well known for displaying the words “Phil 4:13″ on his cheeks during football games and many people have admired his public stand for his reliance on Christ. But when Paul originally penned these words to the Christians in Phillipi, it was more than just depending on Jesus. It was on the heels of speaking about his life journey and what he had learned through both hardship and blessing when Paul used these words. Verses 11 and 12, immediately preceeding this verse, set the intended context for this often misquoted life phrase.

“…for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

I don’t believe that we can honestly claim the confidence that Paul had in explaining that he can do all things through the strength of Christ until we’ve experienced the extreme benefits of being both blessed and being in desperate need of those same blessings while all-the-while clinging to His promises and never wavering in our love, devotion, and complete dependence on Christ.

Father, thank you for the full times and for those that seem empty. Thank you for the perspective of both needing nothing and needing much while following You. I love You and trust in You for absolutely every facet of my life…and in that I can rest strong. Amen.

#content

“Empty is the New Full”

Fads come and go. What was in this year will be gone next month and what was cool this year will be considered out-of-date in the near future; we are a culture of change. We love to get in on the latest “thing” that will make us better, stronger, skinnier, smarter, richer, more successful, more desireable…and the list never ends. We say that 40 is the new 30, 50 is the new 40, what was old yesterday is young today, etc. But absolutely none of this is really true; 30 is 30, 40 is 40, 50 is 50…period. The key lies in how we view our lives. But have you ever been to the place where empty is the new full?

At a glance, most people would say they don’t like the experience of emptiness. Emptiness can come at the loss of a job, death of a loved one, divorce, when a child leaves home, when you move to a new city…and this list, too, never ends. There are countless experiences in life which can create a void in our souls; an emptiness that hurts. But in the midst of that emptiness God breathes hope.

While reading Eugene Peterson’s book, The Pastor, I was enlightened to something I hadn’t thought a great deal about before. When Moses was commanded to make the ark of the covenant, where he was to meet with God, the design was one of emptiness. The top of the ark was called the Mercy Seat and it was the place where God would show up. The top of this ark was flanked with two cherubim with their wings outstretched towards each other seemingly protecting the empty space from being filled with anything but God himself. Fast-forward to the the resurrection of Christ and, there again, were two angels who gave witness to another empty space: the tomb where Jesus was laid. God reserved an empty space to meet with one man and then created an empty space to change all of mankind who would accept his gift of emptiness. For it is in the wake of Christ’s empty cross and empty tomb that the fullness of life can truly be found.

As we experience emptiness caused by what we see as unfortunate and sometimes catastrophic events in our lives, may we be reminded that God uses emptiness to purge us, to mold us, to re-create us and to save us. In a day and age where we run to fill every crevice of our lives with something that will make us more significant, may we embrace the emptiness that life brings and give it over to the Father who loves us. He desperately wants your life to be fuller than you could ever imagine it to be. What are you doing with the emptiness in your life? Do you see God in the midst of it? Ask him to fill the void and wait for Him to move. #embracetheemptyspaces

“Welcome Home, Son”

Christmas is a time of homecoming for many. We gather with friends and family, we pile in our vehicles and shove all the presents in the back with the dog and off we go to see those who matter most. Although Christmas is a time when we usually have the opportunity to see extended family, the most special times for me are those with the immediate family, watching the kids open up gifts, making Christmas cookies, watching Elf and Christmas Vacation…10 or more times each! And every Christmas Eve, we pick a time to sit around the Christmas Tree as I read the story of Christ’s birth as recored in Luke Chapter 2. Although this is the classic account of this eternity-changing event, Christ’s birth is actually referred to in many other places in Scripture.

In Galatians chapter 4, Paul wrote the following reminder to us all:

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. (‭Galatians‬ ‭4‬:‭4-7‬ ESV)

Because God refused to let us remain in a hopeless, sinful existence with no possibility for escape, He did what only He could do; God gave His Son so that we all could become His Sons. Many people misunderstand this passage and some are even offended thinking God favors sons over daughters, but that misses the meaning completely. In the day and age when these words were originally penned, first born sons received the largest inheritance from their father. When Jesus came, died, and rose again to ransom us from ourselves, He gave each of the opportunity to become not only His children, but to receive the inheritance of sons…the greatest and best He has to give!

Paul later reminded the Ephesians of this truth:

“…In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” (‭Ephesians‬ ‭1‬:‭4-10‬ ESV)

As 2014 winds down to a close, I thank God that He sent His Son, who was born in a manger, nailed to a cross, and rose from the dead so that I could become His son. Jesus submitted Himself to the Father and yielded himself to a trough, a tree, and a tomb so that we could receive the greatest gift possible…a homecoming of heavenly proportion. Please know that Christ was, is, and will always be the greatest gift you can ever receive. I pray that you truly realize what it means to come home and receive the inheritance of a son this Christmas.

“Shaken, Not Stirred”

If you are a movie fan, especially the secret agent, action-packed type of movie fan, you’ve no doubt heard the line “shaken, not sitrred” when James Bond (007) orders his vodka martinis. In an article published in the Los Angeles Times in 2013, “Docs explain why James Bond prefers his martinis ‘shaken, not stirred” the reason behind Bond’s preference for his martinis is tackled:

Scientists know that the best way to make a vodka martini is to mix the ingredients with a thin wooden spoon — it combines the ingredients effectively without raising the drink’s temperature the way a metal stirrer would. So why would James Bond, the world’s most sophisticated martini drinker, routinely order his cocktail “shaken, not stirred”?

You can read the article for yourself if you want their answer but that isn’t the point of this post. The point, is that it doesn’t make sense. The greatest secret agent in movie history seems to have it backwards. (I would suggest eliminating vodka martinis altogether but what do I know?)

In the sixth chapter of Luke’s Gospel he records a “shaken, not stirred” moment of heavenly proportion. Beginning in verse 27, Jesus spoke to a multitude of people by addressing cultural interactions in counter-cultural ways. In summary, he told his hearers to love their enemies instead of hating them, to judge themselves instead of judging others, and that there was no cover up for unrighteous living; the fruit of their lives would bear witness to their souls.

To the sin-stained, human heart it seems counter-intuitive to love someone who has wronged you or focus on yourself with honest eyes instead of passing judgment on the actions of others. Many of us also believe we can hang whatever fruit we want to on the tree of our lives for others to see whether it is genuine or not. But the key to a peace-filled life lies in doing things that don’t make sense to anyone but God. Only when we live out the Gospel in the ways Jesus prescribed do we find a peace that is indescribable which produces inside of us a life that won’t be shaken or stirred. As Jesus finished his teachings He brought it all together:

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.” (‭Luke‬ ‭6‬:‭46-49‬ ESV)

Laying a foundation for your life that will endure storms will only be found doing what seems backwards to the world…and it’s got nothing to do with martinis.

“Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” (‭Psalm‬ ‭62‬:‭1-2‬ NIV)

“No Regrets”

Chances are, you’ve recently overindulged in something and experienced some level of regret this weekend. On the heels of Thanksgiving there is a good chance you know all too well what it means to have too much of a good thing. Unfortuntely, countless people won’t experience that same fullness this season. When Jesus sent out the twelve disciples to do the work of the Gospel, he had just a few instructions that, if followed, would allow the disciples to experience what it means to be full, without regrets, and yet to spread that fullness to those who needed it most.

And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts— but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics. And he said to them, “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you depart from there. And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.

The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. (‭Mark‬ ‭6‬:‭7-13, 30-32‬ ESV)

Jesus wanted his disciples to experience three opportunities where they needed to impose limits on themselves for their own good and the good of others; to simply have no regrets. He told them not to (1) Overpack, not to (2) Overreact, and (3) not be Overwhelmed.

These are great truths if we are ever going to experience the fullness of Christ without regrets. When we can draw limits around what we need and what we really don’t, we learn to trust God to provide for tomorrow. When we learn to shake the dust from our sandals when people don’t accept us as we represent Christ, then we keep ourselves from being offended. When we experience the fullness and balance of being used by Christ to leave this world a little better than we found it, then we can truly enjoy what it means to find a desolate place and rest; and that is a soft pillow at night. #noregrets

“Saving The Best For Last”

We’ve all heard the saying, “he saved the best for last.” In fact we’ve all probably participated in saving the best for last at some time or another. When I was a child I was always told to clean my plate because everybody loves a “happy plate”…whatever. But the things I cared for least are what I would typically eat first, thus saving the best for last.

There is a man in the Bible by the name of John who also saved the best for last, but his best wasn’t food. In fact Scripture tells us he ate locusts and honey…gross. Despite his affinity for glazed insects, Jesus spoke of John in the highest regard: “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” (‭Matthew‬ ‭11‬:‭11‬ ESV)

Through the leading of the Holy Spirit, John saved his best sermon for last. The most meaningful message he ever preached would set the stage for the salvation of humanity.

‭Luke‬ ‭3‬:‭7-22‬ begins:
He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

Truth #1 – “Your heritage won’t save you”
Even today, our society is wrought with the pride of ethinicity, family name, home state or country. Guess what? You care more about that than God ever will. When we see our earthly heritage of greater significance than being created in the image of God himself, we have completely missed the mark; its time to bear fruit…beginning with repentance.

Luke’s Gospel continues:
And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”

Truth #2 – “Life is about giving it away”
After John told them to repent for their pride in the family name, he told them what life was really about. John stressed the importance of generosity and grace for those less fortunate. Generosity and compassion for others won’t save you, but they open the door for you to taste and see that the Lord is good. If ordinary people, government leaders, and those charged with keeping the peace all pursue honesty and genuine care for others, the Spirit of Christ will have an open door to change the world one life at a time. Luke would later record Jesus’ words as he drove this point home: “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (‭Luke‬ ‭9‬:‭24‬ ESV)

As John begins to wrap up his proclamation, the people began to ask if perhaps he was the Messiah to come:
As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Truth #3: “Fame is reserved for Christ alone”
John was preaching so much truth about life, and he was so full of the Holy Spirit as he did it, the people recognized the presence of God. When people who have never felt God’s presence get their first taste of His holiness, a common mistake can be to hero-worship the person through which God’s presence was felt. Pastors alike today must be continuously aware that they aren’t Jesus. When people begin to follow the pastor more than the follow the Savior we all tread on dangerous ground.

This is where our story ends and a new story begins. Luke finished by writing:
So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people. But Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by him for Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had done, added this to them all, that he locked up John in prison. Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (ESV)

This was to be John’s last sermon. Soon, Herod would lock him up in prison and he would eventually be beheaded. But before that happened, Jesus showed up. He was baptized to give us an example to follow. The heavens opened up and the voice of God’s approval was heard. Jesus began his public ministry that would also lead to His death, burial and resurrection so that we could all be set free from the pain of sin for eternity.

The last truth here is more of a summary. Jesus wants to use each of us in unique ways to let the world know of His grace and His offer of eternity. We each have a purpose in His plan to ransom humanity from itself. But being used by God to complete His will for your life and mine does not necessarily lead to an accumulation of wealth, posterity, success, and early retirement to play with the grandkids between golf games. Although these things may be in your future, remember it was also God’s will that the most influential person to ever walk the planet, sans Jesus himself, would die in prison. Yes, Jesus came that we might have life and have it to the fullest (John 10:10). But the satisfaction of having lived a good life will not be found tracing our steps in human accomplishment. The last word Jesus ever heard from John was his need to be reassured that he pointed people to the Messiah. When John’s disciples showed up on his behalf to inquire of Jesus something amazing happens:

In that hour he [Jesus] healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight. And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” (‭Luke‬ ‭7‬:‭21-23‬ ESV)

John didn’t look back on his life from a prison cell jealous of those who were actually walking with Jesus while he was left to rot in jail. He didn’t look back and wish he had done something else with his life. He saw his life as a job well done and approved by Jesus. There is no greater satisfaction we can ever attain than to know God used us to change the world. How will you do that today?

“The Day Before Black Friday”

As we near the holiday of Thanksgiving, my mind can’t help but remember what it used to be like when I was a kid. I would wake up to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on television. There were smells of turkey, dressing, and pies in the oven, and I had a whole day to do absolutely nothing but spend time with the family and watch a little football. I enjoyed the familiarity of this experience. If we were to leave the house it was inevitably to go to my grandmother’s house across town. I remember looking at the empty parking lots at the mall and the grocery stores as we would pass by. It seemed so odd that it was the middle of the day and no one was to be found; almost like the apocalypse had happened! It was a subtle reminder that the day was a day of rest…from everything. We were very limited as to what we could do and that was a good thing.

Fast forward to today and the world is desperately trying to take away what little peace there used to be on Thanksgiving by pulling at our selfish heart-strings through consumerism. Instead of relaxing and being thankful for the blessings God brings, people stand in lines throughout the night and race across town to buy, buy, buy. Black Friday has now even invaded the Thursday of thanks. It takes little effort now to completely lose focus on the one thing this holiday is truly about…giving thanks to God.

The Psalmist wrote: “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple. For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock. And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the Lord. Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud; be gracious to me and answer me! You have said, ‘Seek my face.’ My heart says to you, ‘Your face, Lord, do I seek.'” (‭Psalm‬ ‭27‬:‭4-8‬ ESV)

These verses remind me that it is not only during Thanksgiving when we are tempted to chase after selfish goals. The world around us would rather we continuously pursue the things of this world that are just out of our reach. Keep chasing after what will make you happy, successful, and envied by those around you. But God gave us a simple model in this Psalm for true meaning and satisfaction for the short time we are on this planet. We are to chase after only one thing, and that is the opportunity to sit with God and gaze upon His beauty in His house all the days of our lives. For it is only when we honestly stop and look at the Savior that we gain the very essence of what life is about. We can inquire of Him when we have questions and He promises to shelter us and conceal us from trouble when it comes knocking. He also promises to lift us high when we need it most. As we make sacrifices in our lives in the name of Jesus, we also can shout for joy at the opportunity to do so. We can cry aloud to the Father and lift our voices high in praise to the King!

So as we gather around our tables next week and give thanks, may we be ever thankful for the opportunity to do the most important thing in life and that is to gaze at the beauty of The Lord. Instead of sitting in anticipation for the sales of Black Friday, stop and remember the first Black Friday when Jesus hung on a cross and died. On that Friday as the sky grew black, He gave up His spirit and set His children free; and for that, I am truly thankful.

“May The Odds Be Ever In You Favor”

If you are a movie buff, you probably recognize the title to this blog. It was spoken often in the fictional book recently made into a movie: “The Hunger Games.” Cable television stations are airing the first two movies in the series this week in anticipation for the debut of the third of four movies, “Mockingjay Part 1,” which is set to hit theaters this Friday. Yes, I was lured into watching one of them last night so it is on my brain. It’s funny how easily what we put into our minds becomes the filter through which we process life.

Although the title to this post is a catchy fictional phrase from the book/movie, the author, Suzanne Collins, was not the first to pen the thought. A few thousand of years ago, the Psalmist wrote: “Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.” (‭Psalm‬ ‭25‬:‭8-10‬ ESV)

Every one of us longs to have the odds of life be ever in our favor and the Scriptures tell us that they can be. Because the God of the Universe is good and upright in His nature he will not let us go into the night unaware of which paths in life to take; He instructs sinners in their way. We are all sinners, but our hope lies in the nature of God not to leave us stranded in the hopelessness that sin brings; and that is only the beginnng. If we want further clarity from God we will only see Him through the lens of humility. This is the next step on the pathway as we recognize our own sin and pride from which He so desperately wants to liberate us. He personally leads the humble in what is right and teaches them His way! The question then becomes, are you practicing humility on your own accord or will God have to humble you so that you can see Him. One is slightly more painful than the other but both lead to us on a journey of everlasting love and faithfulness from God when we begin to live by His Word.

When you are a child of the King, He will not leave you to your own devices; He loves you too much. The life He longs for you to experience is full of so much more: hope and promise, steadfast love and faithfulness for those who keep his covenant and testimonies. So today, rise to the occasion of your life. Let’s own our sins, admit our pride, confess to the Father, accept His love and faithfulness, and live by His commands…and God himself will be ever in your favor. Amen.