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Friday, December 27, 2013

Start 2014 Off Right

I attend Church of the Highlands (a Multi-campus non-denominational Church). Since this Church launched, the first 21 Days of each new year has been designated as "21 Days of Prayer & Fasting." Every weekday morning, at every campus, members gather at 6:00am to pray & worship. The reason behind the "21 Days" is related  to the belief that you can create or break a habit in just 21 days.

Prayer is your communication device with God that allows you to have a two-way conversation and hear what He has to say about the direction that you need to go or the things that He has in store for you. It is your medium to express your thoughts and concerns to Him, although He is all-knowing. The "fast" is somewhat of a misnomer. There are those that will do a literal fast of foods. The purpose if a fast isn't a diet tool. A fast is to take the focus off of "worldly" things and re-align your thoughts and desires on heavenly things. There are people who do a media-fast. The premise behind fasting is replacing those things that have become more important or more consuming of our time that belong to God. Fasting is between you and God. You know what things are robbing God of His place in your life.

Let's start 2014 off with refocusing our time. If you would like to check out a service from the comfort of your home, the services are streamed live online at 

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Dignity of Man

(By Coach Joe Gibbs - GamePlan for Life: Two Minute Drills)

Do you ever go through seasons when you just don't feel like your life counts for very much? Everything seems about as pointless as a first-quarter NBA score in November. People treat you with less interest than a flight attendant's lecture on oxygen masks and exit doors.

But what's easy to forget at times like these is that your value is not something other people can assign to you. They don't get to grade this. You have been given great worth by your Creator. Your significance is inborn.
Think of the dignity you possess, merely by being a product of God's design. You're able to reason and make choices. You can appreciate beauty and feel emotion. You have the ability within your reach to bless others, to extend your influence and impact into another person's life.

You have even been given the privilege of communicating with your heavenly Father—a right he wasn't obligated to offer you, but one he freely extends because of his rich, abiding love for you. Everything about you has been "woven together" in his all-wise mind and heart. Each day of your life has been "written" down by the one who made you. (Psalms 139:15-16). That's how valuable you are to him.

Instead of being bombarded by all the ways life has mistreated you or what a mess you've made, make this a day to celebrate what God has invested in you. You are worth far more than you realize.

Pray this prayer: I do get down on myself a lot, Lord. I have a hard time imagining that you love me. Would you remind me today? I could really use that. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Talking With God

 " I have someone to talk to. I have something I need to read. I have an awful lot to learn." - a sinner

 We have someone to talk to, even when it appears the whole world is ignoring us. God listens to our words, and our thoughts. 

 We have the greatest story ever written, and the book of life in the same coverings. The Holy Bible is God's word and he speaks to us through this.

 We must humble ourselves, and open up our minds and hearts to accept the word of God. Only then can we truly learn about his love, and talk with God.

Keep these in mind as you go about your Christmas season.

Friday, December 13, 2013

The God Gamble: Betting It All

From:  Every Man Ministries

When a simple handshake “bet” between friends on Sunday’s game becomes an overpowering, heart-racing compulsion, you might want to check yourself. Whether it’s a roll of the dice, flip of a card, a big game or a number in a race, too often the pleasure of a possible big payoff costs more than your hard-earned cash.
It’s no great surprise that gambling is popular among millions of Americans. Vegas was built on “donations.” As much as $5 billion is spent on gambling in the United States every year. Yet, I offer serious caution against gambling. Unfortunately, the odds are against you and it leads to a destructive, behavioral addiction. A simple search online about “gambling addiction,” surfaced this:
With every bet, gambling releases dopamine in the brain, the same neurotransmitter triggered from drug or alcohol use. Gambling addicts all too often experience financial ruin, accruing tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. The cycle spirals downward quickly as many addicts turn to crime to payback debts and afford the next rush. The destruction leads to despair and eventually gambling addicts have a high rate of attempted or successful suicide.
Gambling’s effects on the family are also sobering. Families of people with compulsive gambling are more likely to experience domestic violence and child abuse. Children of problem gamblers are at significantly higher risk of suffering from depression, behavior problems, and substance abuse.
In Proverbs 22:26-27, which was written by the wisest man in history, King Solomon explains the risk of gambling this way:
“Don’t gamble on the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, hocking your house against a lucky chance. The time will come when you have to pay up; you’ll be left with nothing but the shirt on your back.”
The God Gamble
Gamblers might like to learn that God offers a “bet” of His own, and it’s the ultimate gamble. In Psalm 52:6, the word “bet” is synonymous with the word “trust” which puts a new spin on gambling. However, the God gamble doesn’t come with a low, moderate or high risk choice. It’s all or nothing.
  • Trust God for Everything -- Trusting in something or someone, other than God, to meet your needs takes more faith than faith in God. Because that means you are willing to trust something else instead of the Creator of the universe, author of life and the savior of your soul which was paid for through the sacrifice of His own son’s life. However, believing in God and His son, results in forgiveness of your sin, a relationship with the Almighty who calls you “friend,” eternal life in the Kingdom of God and a rich and rewarding life on earth.
  • Bet Your Life on Jesus -- Living a life of faith is the greatest risk and rewardproposition. In Mark 8:35, Jesus said to bet it all on Him. “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.”
  • Joy Is In Your Job, Not in the Jackpot -- In Deuteronomy 15:16, the Bible says “For the Lord your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete.”
  • Put God to the Tithe Test -- in In Malachi 3:10, God promises to pour out blessing if you put Him to the “tithe test” saying, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”
Trusting in money, and gambling as a means to provide meaning, joy, excitement, fulfillment is a recipe for disaster. Instead, trust God to meet those needs, and reserve your thrills for the Kingdom not cash.
*Kenny Luck is the president and founder of Every Man Ministries. As the men’s pastor at Saddleback Church in California, Kenny has found the proven way to improve men’s ministries around the world. Sleeping Giant is this blueprint, and gives men the tools they need to lead and understand their own men’s ministry. Watch Kenny’s teachings at

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Unwrapping His Christmas Presence

Unwrapping His Christmas Presence
Renee Swope (
"The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means 'God is with us')." Isaiah 7:14b (NLT)
Plans for the perfect Christmas danced in my head. Almost everyone from my side of the family and JJ's side would be coming to our house at some point between Christmas and New Years. We'd never hosted Christmas dinner, and I was looking forward it.
But, somewhere in the midst of all the preparations, I got tangled up in Christmas lights and unrealistic expectations. By the time everyone got here I couldn't wait for them to leave.
It all started when my husband and sons petitioned for blinking colored lights on the tree. We don't do colored lights on the tree. I am a "white lights" kind of girl, I insisted.
But JJ decided our decorating decisions should be a "family activity" that year. Who was this man and why had he not brought this up in pre-marital counseling? I wondered.
The control freak in me started to freak out. Don't get in the way of my perfect Christmas with white lights that make me and my home feel peaceful.
I'd dreamed of this day for years and wanted to have the perfect house, perfect menu, and perfect table settings. But hope was dashed the night before guests arrived when I couldn't find festive cloth napkins and it dawned on me that I didn't have a big enough pan to cook a turkey in.
When Christmas came, I had a house full of people but an oh-so-empty heart.
As I walked through my living room picking up wrapping paper, I wondered why my dreams of the "perfect Christmas" hadn't come true. Many of the elements seemed to be in place: kids playing together, grandparents on the couch snoring to Christmas tunes, and grown men playing sidewalk hockey in the driveway. We'd lit Advent candles and set out the nativities. Still, something was missing.
Trying to escape the holiday noise, I went upstairs to my bedroom. Taking a deep breath, I opened my Bible to read the Christmas story in Luke chapter 2. Slowly, I let each word remind me of that first Christmas night and God's promise that came true in Bethlehem. " ... And she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped Him in cloths and placed Him in a manger ..." (Luke 2:7 NIV).
A cross-reference led me to Isaiah 7:14b: "The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means 'God is with us')." (NLT)
Closing my eyes, I pictured Mary wrapping baby Jesus up. Her hands carefully folding each corner of cloth, like a precious gift. That's when I realized what had been missing. In the hustle and bustle of creating the perfect Christmas, I'd neglected to unwrap the most important gift of all, the gift of Immanuel, God with us.
Bowing my head, I opened my hands and my heart to God's presence. I invited Jesus to bring calm to my anxious heart. To bring His perspective to my expectations and to help me enjoy the gifts of my family waiting downstairs. Simply pausing to acknowledge and thank Jesus for being with me brought peace to my heart unlike anything white lights and perfectly cooked turkey could ever bestow.
It ended up being the perfect Christmas after all.
Dear Lord, no matter how busy life gets or how lonely I feel this Christmas, I want to unwrap the gift of Your presence. Help me see You, hear Your voice speak to my heart, and pay attention when You lead me with Your peace and perspective. I seek Your purpose in all of my plans. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
© 2013 by Renee Swope. All rights reserved.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Hillsong Playlist

Here is a wonderful song list from our friends at Hillsong via YouTube. Enjoy this soothing collection of modern gospel music.