Free, You Will Be

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There was just something about watching the kite in the distance that made me want to photograph it.

Even then, I thought of freedom.

Kites are free to flow in the breeze, to glide wistfully in the invisible currents of air above.

Yet, they are held securely by a tether.

Attached to the string, they will not be lost.

John 8:31-36 reads,

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.  Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

True freedom is found only in Jesus.

It may seem strange to consider that being held securely by His love and power brings us freedom, but it does.

Tethered to His mercy and grace, forgiven and free—we are free indeed.

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free indeed correct

All Your Needs

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One of the first verses that I can remember memorizing after I became a Christian was Philippians 4:19.

Through the years, this verse has become alive in my life, as God has truly provided for me and taken care of my needs.

Just the other day, I was driving down the street when I saw a flock of birds in a neighbor’s yard.

Stopping the car, I took a moment or two to photograph them as they were happily gathering God’s provision for them in the grass.

If I think about my life, I know that His provisions have been there, right where I could find them at the time of His choosing.

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

—Philippians 4:19

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Restore to You

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I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you.

—Joel 2:25

What in your life do you want to be restored by God?

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locust

Grasp

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For this reason I kneel before the Father,  from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.  I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,  may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,  and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

—Ephesians 3:14

How do you see yourself?

Do you feel that you are loved?

Loved with a love that is high and deep?

Loved by Jesus Christ?

grasp

I Have Overcome

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“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  John 16.33

What trouble do you have today?

Has this trouble stolen your peace?

Has worry replaced calm?

Jesus has overcome.

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Eternal Life

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For God so loved the world,that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

—John 3:16

One question:

Do you know Jesus as your Savior today?

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Higher

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There was a rocket launch not far from my home yesterday.

It is always very beautiful to behold if the departure time falls at dawn or sunset.

The rays of the sun hit the trail made by the rocket, creating a wonderful sight.

God has allowed us to have the intelligence and technology to explore what He has made beyond the ground that we live on.

Yet, it is only His allowance….

He is the Creator of the universe and His ways will always be higher.

As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

—Isaiah 55:9

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Present Your Requests

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While visiting my son’s lakeside apartment, I suggested that we take a walk in the park across the street.

As we began our stroll, we noticed some heavy equipment parked near the fishing dock.

Neither of us could tell what work was about to be done, but it obviously looked as though some serious digging was planned.

On the way back from our walk, I decided to photograph the machines.

Can you imagine what it would be like to have only a spoon with which to dig in order to complete a task like the one probably planned near the dock?

Diligent work for weeks and months—perhaps years—might still not be enough to tackle the need.

There are many times in our lives when God provides a spoon for us to complete a work because a spoon is all that is needed.

At other times, situations loom before us as we feel helpless and defeated with our lack of resources or ability.

God knows our limitations.

Sometimes, He is the only One who can take care of a situation.

In an instant, He can heal, provide, change, forgive and encourage.

Even so, we can forget that He is available to help us.

With spoon in hand, we tackle those things never meant to be faced alone.

Philippians 4:6 says,

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

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Fear, But Of Power

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Walking through the park with a friend, we came upon a squirrel.

When I see these creatures in my own yard, they are quite shy and usually run away if I come close.

This was not the case with our little park friend.

Instead, he was very comfortable approaching us, hoping to be fed, no doubt.

He had come to trust other visitors and he felt safe with us.

Fear is a very strong emotion.

As Christians, we are not to live fearful lives.

2 Timothy 1:7 reads,

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

We are to experience life with power.

Life with love.

Life with a sound mind.

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Cattle

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He makes springs pour water into the ravines;
    it flows between the mountains.
 They give water to all the beasts of the field;
    the wild donkeys quench their thirst.
 The birds of the sky nest by the waters;
    they sing among the branches.
 He waters the mountains from his upper chambers;
    the land is satisfied by the fruit of his work.
 He makes grass grow for the cattle,
    and plants for people to cultivate—
    bringing forth food from the earth:
     wine that gladdens human hearts,
    oil to make their faces shine,
    and bread that sustains their hearts.

—Psalm 104:10-15

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cattle dusk

Wisdom

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Fear of the LORD is the foundation of wisdom.

Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment.

—Proverbs 9:10

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Some people don’t fear God.

They may not even believe in Him.

At the end of their lives, no matter what they were known for, will they be considered wise?

And what of those that do have fear and reverence for God, believing in His Son?

They will find at the end of their lives that doing so was the wisest decision they ever made.

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Whatever You Are Doing

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Yesterday, I heard a very interesting story.

It seems that once there was a woman who had several children.

She was a widow and she had no car.

One of her young children needed to go to a doctor appointment out of town.

Speaking with her pastor, she told him of the need.

The pastor contacted a man in the church and asked him if he would take the young boy to the doctor.

After getting some time off work approved, the man came to take the child to the appointment.

On the way the child asked the man a question.

“Are you God?” he asked.

“No. Why would you think that?” the man replied.

“My mother prayed that God would send someone to take me to the doctor and no one came except you,” was the boy’s explanation.

There was yet another question to be asked.

“Well, if you’re not God, do you work for Him?” asked the boy.

The man thought and replied, “Yes….. Yes I do.”

I heard this story while in church yesterday.

The sermon for the morning was about doing all our work—everything that we do—-for God.

Colossians 3:23 reads,

“Whatever you are doing, let your hearts be in your work, as a thing done for the Lord and not for men.”

If I am to be a living sacrifice to God, I will be doing things that He wants me to do.

It may not be taking a child to the doctor, but it could be.

It might be checking on a neighbor, listening to someone cry as they are grieving, or giving a gift to a friend.

It also could be doing a good job at the many tasks I have at work and at home.

As Christian believers, do we work for ourselves?

Or, do we work for God?

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work

He Prunes

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I am not a very experienced gardener, by any means.

The flowers and plants that I do have are all somewhat low maintenance.

More times than I would like to remember, I have unintentionally been the cause of a plant’s demise.

When our family moved into our house sixteen years ago, there was a single rose bush in the front garden area.

Since I knew very little about rose bushes, I left it alone most of the time, hoping it would be all right.

A few weeks ago, I decided to face my fear of possibly destroying the bush and actually do some pruning.

Major pruning.

The bush only had two fairly large canes coming up from the ground.

I decided to cut them off at about two feet high.

Taking the cut branches that had once been my five foot tall rose bush, I placed them in water and later planted them.

Very quickly, the two solitary canes began to grow new branches.

Healthy, vibrant looking ones.

To date, there are four new branches that have doubled the height of what I had left and each branch is making a rose.

In fact, this afternoon, I photographed the first new, red rose to emerge after the pruning!

The old, spindly branches needed to be removed for a long time, but I was afraid.

Afraid of what might happen if the bush “started over.”

I’m not just that way with roses.

There have been times in my life when I have been too afraid to get rid of things in my life that were holding me back.

Things that were in the way of becoming what God wanted me to become.

And it wasn’t only things that I was afraid to allow God to prune, it was attitudes and feelings.

Distractions from what was most important.

Insecurities.

Fears.

God knows what’s best.

Sometimes pruning has to take place if there is to be positive change.

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Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.
—John 15:2

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more fruit

Wedding Clothes

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There is an open field behind my house.

Just beyond it, there is a community of homes named, “Eagle’s Landing.”

A few days ago, a red-shouldered hawk decided to perch on the Eagle’s Landing sign.

I was able to take several photographs before he ventured on his way.

It would’ve been quite the sight if the hawk had actually been an eagle!

Still, to see the painted sign with a living hawk together made me pretty happy.

I started thinking about something, though.

What if the area was an “eagles only allowed” community?

I know that’s a silly thought, but suppose it was?

In that case, the hawk would be out of place.

Not welcome.

He’d be forced to leave.

I thought about an example Jesus gave about a similar situation in the parable of the wedding banquet, found in the book of Matthew, in chapter 22.

Jesus spoke about the kingdom of heaven being like a king who was preparing a wedding banquet for his son. The king had sent those who served him out to tell all the people who had been invited to the event to come, but they wouldn’t. So the king sent more servants to tell them about the banquet being ready and that it was time to come.

Here are some of the verses that follow:

“But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business.  The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them.  The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.

 “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come.  So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’  So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes.”

—Matthew 22:5-11

The king then asks the man how he got into the banquet without wedding clothes.

The man had nothing at all to say, so he is thrown out into the darkness.

So, what does this have to do with hawks and eagles?

None of us can ever enter heaven on our own.

Why?

Because we are all hawks, and only those who are identified as eagles can get in.

How can a hawk become an eagle?

Nothing is impossible with God.

When Jesus died for the payment of our sin, He purchased “eagle clothes” if you will, for everyone who would accept them.

Any hawk found to be without them—-after they have been offered—-will not be able to live forever with God.

Heaven is a real place, just like Eagle’s Landing is a real place.

There, only sinners saved by grace are allowed.

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wedding clothes

Except

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Fifteen minutes, start to finish.

That’s what the box said.

Reality?

One hour.

Maybe two.

I was putting up new blinds in a large window.

First, I had to take the old hardware out of the window that was holding the old blinds.

Since the new ones were a different size, it couldn’t stay.

It’s hard to take out screws that are on the top of a window frame.

Finally, it was done.

As I used new screws to put in the new hardware, I tried to make everything secure.

Along with the new blinds, a metal center support piece had to be screwed in to the top of the window frame.

It was cumbersome, but I was able to get it securely in place.

As I climbed up on the stepping stool with the new (and quite heavy) blinds in my hands, I tried to fit them into the mounted hardware.

It didn’t work.

What was wrong?

I had mounted the center support piece right at the spot where a plastic cord guide was inside the top bar.

It simply could not work.

I was very close to having the metal in the right spot, but close was not good enough.

Taking it down, I had to move it over an inch or so.

After a lot of work, the blinds were hung.

Success at last!

It made me start to think….

There are a lot of religious groups that almost teach the truth.

How can we get to Heaven?

“Jesus died for our sins so we should believe that He existed, but we must work our way into Heaven.”

Statements like this are only partly true.

They are close, but not correct.

No amount of wanting it to be true will make it so.

Like the support piece, we have to have our hope for salvation in the right place.

Jesus is the only way to Heaven.

Apart from Him, we can do nothing to save ourselves.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father

except through Me.”

—John 14:6

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except final

All Your Worries

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He sat there so lonely looking.

I wonder what he was thinking?

You’ve probably heard someone say before, “You look like I feel….”

I think I have felt like this animal looks.

Alone.

Sad.

Tired.

Maybe even worried.

1 Peter 5:7 encourages us with these words:

Let Him have all your worries and cares, for He is always thinking about you and watching everything that concerns you.

When we feel like this animal looks, we can turn to God for help.

He is always there with us, able to comfort us in whatever situation we may find ourselves.

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Great Are The Works

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Have you ever noticed……?

What does it mean to notice something?

To give focused attention to it.

To observe it.

To appraise it.

To evaluate it.

God has made everything.

Everything.

The magnificence of His creative work in a flash of  lightning is the same as the magnificence of His creative work in the petals of a flower.

All the works of God are beautiful and majestic, from the tiniest bacteria to the largest nebula in space.

All the works of God are to be noticed.

They are given to us so we can delight in them and in our Creator.

Look around!

Have you ever noticed……?

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Great are the works of the Lord,
    studied by all who delight in them.

—Psalm 111:2

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studied by

Everyone Who Calls

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In the book of Acts in the New Testament, Peter is speaking to the crowd on the Day of Pentecost when he says these words, quoting the prophet Joel:

‘In the last days,’ God says,

‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.

Your sons and daughters will prophesy.

Your young men will see visions,

and your old men will dream dreams.

In those days I will pour out my Spirit

even on my servants—men and women alike—

and they will prophesy.

And I will cause wonders in the heavens above

and signs on the earth below—

blood and fire and clouds of smoke.

The sun will become dark,

and the moon will turn blood red

before that great and glorious day of the Lord arrives.

But everyone who calls on the name of the Lord

will be saved.’

—Acts 2:17-21

These descriptions sound frightening, don’t they?

A darkened sun?

A moon that’s red like blood?

Fire?

Clouds of smoke?

The last verse in this quote is paramount to all people—

But everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

We can rest in knowing that whatever happens in this world, this truth will remain.

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moon blood final

Make a Loud Noise

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As I was turning into my friend’s neighborhood, I happened to look toward the west.

What I saw was so incredible!

A giant anvil cloud was absolutely bursting into the atmosphere.

It appeared to be so large, it dwarfed the houses and trees below.

Pulling my car to the side of the road, I immediately got my camera out to photograph such a stunning sight.

From where I was, the massive cloud structure made no sound, yet its presence was loud and commanding.

Psalm 98:4 reads,

“Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.”

In those moments, the clouds and the sun sang a duet of silent, yet loud, praise to their Maker.

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In His Integrity

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There are times when I see a bird alone and I feel sorry for it….

They are probably doing just fine, but it’s almost as if I feel that they are lonely.

No other birds to fly with.

No other birds to play in the water with.

Searching for food, just looking around—–alone.

At the end of my driveway, a bird stood all by himself in the water that had collected from the rain.

When I think about people instead of birds, I realize that there are times when it is good to be alone.

It is certainly good to be alone for a time of prayer and Bible study.

Being alone to just reflect on life and important decisions that need to be made is of great importance.

There are other times that being alone is good, as well.

Times when we don’t fit in, and we are alone.

Not part of the crowd.

Times when we hold to the truth that God has given us, even when it is not accepted.

We may find ourselves alone, then, too.

Proverbs 19:1 reads,

Better is a poor person who walks in his integrity than one who is crooked in speech and is a fool.

If we are alone because we are following God, seeking integrity in His eyes, that is cause enough to choose that solitude.
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He is the Radiance

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My rosebush was just two big.

It had grown tall over the years and I had not pruned it as I should have.

Several days ago, I decided to drastically prune the bush, cutting off almost every branch.

Gathering the cut branches, I put them all in a vase of water, hoping that I could use these cuttings to have other rosebushes in the yard.

Today was the day—-I decided to plant several of the branches in two flower beds.

As I was planting them, I noticed a neighbor at the edge of her yard, photographing the sunset.

From where I was, the scene was blocked by the house next door.

When I went to investigate what she was photographing, I, too, wanted to capture that moment forever!

Taking a quick photo with my phone, I went inside and retrieved my camera to take more photos.

Beams of light soared through the sky, emerging from silver lined clouds of gray.

Soon, another neighbor was out photographing it, as well.

We were all quite captivated by the glorious display.

Hebrews 1:1-4 reads,

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,  but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.  He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.”

Jesus.

The radiance of the glory of God.

When I look at the setting or rising sun, I can only imagine what Heaven will be like where the glory of God shines forever and ever, without end.

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exact imprint

The Lord Looks

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I was captivated by the sky.

Looking one way at the deep, yet bright blue in the east, then turning to the west to see the blazing golden colors and wisps of clouds tinted orange by the sun’s last rays.

I would take one photo, then another.

Then, another….

The beauty surrounding me was a gift God was sending to earth.

As I am thinking about God or praying while I am outside, I often look up.

Something about the infinity of God’s universe causes me to look upward as I pray.

A scripture states that God “looks down” on those on earth:

The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.

—Psalm 14:2

As God considers me, I hope that He finds me to be someone who is seeking Him.

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Takes Root

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What we allow to lodge within our hearts really does matter.

Late this afternoon, my fifteen year old basset hound became quite persistent in her requests for my attention.

Knowing her as I do, I got the leash and took her for a walk in our neighborhood.

At the corner of our front yard, we have a sizeable palm tree.

It’s trunk is quite large—it has taken twenty-three years to grow into its present state.

Walking the dog by the tree, I noticed something that I hadn’t before.

A fern plant was growing out of it’s trunk.

This is a common occurrence in my area, but it had not happened before in one of my own trees.

Also in the front lawn, we actually have several ferns that grow–-on the ground.

The fern that is growing out of our palm tree is doing so because a spore from a fern in the yard came and attached itself to the palm tree.

Finding the palm tree a suitable place to thrive, it began to do just that.

We are like that palm tree–you and me.

If there is an opening in our hearts, things can take root there and begin to grow.

It can be something good and good for us or it can be something bad and bad for us.

Love?

Compassion?

Faith in God?

Those are good things.

Hate?

Indifference?

Faithlessness?

Those are certainly bad.

Right now, the little fern looks pretty emerging from the tree.

I realize though, if more and more ferns come to find my tree as a home, its trunk will hardly be recognizable at some point.

It’s like that with us, too.

We can become so filled with the good things that God wants for us that we are hardly recognizable as the person we used to be.

We can also become so filled with bad things that will do us harm that we are hardly recognizable as the person we used to be.

The choice is ours.

What are we going to allow to grow inside our hearts?

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Look after each other so that not one of you will fail to find God’s best blessings. Watch out that no bitterness takes root among you, for as it springs up it causes deep trouble, hurting many in their spiritual lives.

—Hebrews 12:15

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takes root

It is God’s Power

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It had been rainy and overcast for several hours.

As night was approaching, I remembered that I needed to run a quick errand to the store just down the road.

On my way back home, I passed a familiar sight.

A church that sits quietly on several acres of land by the highway has a very tall cross erected on the property.

Towering above the treeline, it can be seen from miles away.

Looking at the cross as I drove by, I noticed that the white sunset glow was the background behind it.

I decided to turn my car around and go back to photograph it.

The white cross is a reminder of Jesus to those who see it.

For some, it may not have any special meaning.

To others, it is a representation of all that life is, now and for eternity.

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For the message about Christ’s death on the cross is nonsense to those who are being lost; but for us who are being saved it is God’s power.

—1 Corinthians 1:18

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cross final

Never Walk in Darkness

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I almost didn’t go to the meeting.

The sky was turning dark gray and I was hesitant to possibly be driving in a storm.

At the last minute, I decided to go.

On the way back home when the meeting had ended, it was still raining and lightning was splitting the sky above me.

As I drove, I began to notice that there was a break in the clouds just where the sun was setting.

For about twenty minutes, I watched as magnificent colors of light cascaded across the sky in front of me.

Pulling my car to the side of the road, I took some photographs as the scene unfolded.

As I was continuing my journey home, blazing forks of lightning ripped through the clouds over my car.

There was not a time, however, that I could not see the light piercing through the opening in the atmosphere.

John 8:12 reads,

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Even though we may feel that we are surrounded by darkness and sin in the world, we do not have to walk in darkness ourselves.

We can follow Jesus, who is the light of the world, keeping our eyes on Him.

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light of life

I Have Called You

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The sky was getting gray and the wind was picking up.

Hoping for rain, I checked the weather report.

A storm was coming, and there were warnings about its severity.

Once it came, the lightning and thunder lasted for a few hours.

Finally, when I thought it was safe, I took my dog outside for a walk.

She is a 15 year old basset hound.

Long ears.

Big nose.

Stubborn….

Yet, very loving.

We were well into my front yard when lightning flashed.

I had been wrong.

The storm was not over and we were not safe.

Immediately, I began to talk to my dog and tug on her leash, telling her that we had to go in.

This was not what she wanted to hear.

I pulled on the leash and verbally commanded her to come with me into the house.

She was reluctant.

All 65 pounds of her…..

Trying to coerse and encourage as I tugged her leash, we both finally made it into the house and away from the lightning.

Almost immediately I began to think about how we act sometimes with God.

When we are in danger—physically or spiritually, God is aware.

He may tell us to do something in order to get out of that danger.

If we are stubborn and we don’t listen to what He says, we place ourselves at continued risk, even in the midst of God’s direction.

In Proverbs 1:24, Wisdom is speaking:

I have called you so often, but still you won’t come. I have pleaded, but all in vain.”

Are you listening for God’s wisdom to direct you?

Am I?

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called

A Broad Path

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It’s a neighborhood I always like to visit.

About a twenty minute drive from where I live, there is a quiet little neighborhood with a walkway behind the homes.

Strolling along on this walkway, I enjoy seeing the flowers and landscaping in the backyards.

Visiting there recently,  I noticed that someone had constructed a boardwalk leading down to a lake.

That would make it a lot easier to traverse the path to the water.

Are there times that you’ve realized that God had made an easier pathway for you to travel on?

Above the grass, rocks and thick brush, you’ve been placed on a firm deck, protected from potential harm.

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You provide a broad path for my feet,
    so that my ankles do not give way.

—2 Samuel 22:37

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broad path

The Word of Our God

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What do you think?

What do I think?

What’s your opinion?

What’s my opinion?

What’s your decision?

What’s my decision?

As we go through our lives, we are faced with the challenge of choosing what is best in all things.

Some choices seem trivial—What coat should I buy?

Other choices are life altering—Where should I live?

One choice is for eternity—Will I accept God’s gift of eternal life through Jesus, His Son?

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The grass withers, the flowers fade, but the word of our God remains forever.

—Isaiah 40:8

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