Philippians 4:6-7

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

Stress. Anxiety. Two words that are constantly labeled with our current culture and especially to teens. With school starting back, I’m sure some of you have felt those two nasty words creeping into your mind, and I’m here to tell you that God didn’t create you to shoulder the burdens you face and doesn’t intend for you to carry stress and anxiety.

Our heavenly Father has given you and me an escape hatch to the stress we feel; prayer. It’s that simple. And I think because it is that simple, I know I have struggled with accepting this promise and gift from God. We know God loves us. We, in turn, show our love for Him by placing our trust in Him to know what’s best for us. When we prayerfully submit our concerns to Him, He guards our hearts and minds against the fears and anxieties we feel from what lies ahead. It doesn’t take away the reality of what we need to deal with, but instead gives us the peace and confidence to face the reality head-on and work through it, because we have placed our trust in the Lord and believe He is going to work through them for our good (Romans 8:28).

Think about it. With any problem or challenge you’ve ever faced, is there an instance where stress or anxiety helped you solve the problem? I sure haven’t. In fact, just the opposite. I’ve allowed fear and anxiety to paralyze me from moving forward. As Christians, our faith through what Christ did for us on the cross, should give us the confidence to power through and be at peace, as the verse says, “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding…”  I can testify to this peace! When I finally let go and let God have control, I found that peace and you will too.

1 John 4:16 – God’s Love

“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” 1 John 4:16

I chose this verse because it has special meaning for me in my own walk. For many years I viewed God as a lofty, white-bearded old man who was constantly judging all of my shortcomings. I didn’t grasp that God was my heavenly Father who loved me so much because I was woven by Him as part of His creation. He didn’t want me to sin because He loved me and knew better than I what was best for me.

This verse became dear to me twelve years ago when it became my theme verse for VN #4, the youth retreat I had the privilege to direct. What God revealed to me is that He is love, the absolute, purest form of love, and the creator of love. When we live our lives in love and love for one another, God truly lives in us, and I’ve chosen to live in love. I’m not perfect at it, but I’ve found the more I live in His love the more others around me appreciate it! I can be critical and cynical of other people’s shortcomings but what do I gain in it? Nothing! If I love and have compassion for others, I am always blessed. So be a blessing to others and live in God’s love. You’ll be amazed at how much love you will receive in the process.


“Every time you cross my mind, I break out in exclamations of thanks to God. Each exclamation is a trigger to prayer. I find myself praying for you with a glad heart. I am so pleased that you have continued on in this with us, believing and proclaiming God’s Message, from the day you heard it right up to the present. There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.”  Philippians 1:3 (The Message version)

Being thankful is easy for me. Being grateful for all the blessings in my life is easy for me. I love the Message version of Philippians 1:3 above because it articulates how I feel about you. This has been such a year of blessings for me because of the new brothers and sisters in Christ I have grown to know. You guys not only energize me, but you give me great hope for our future!

It sure hasn’t always been this way, but my joy is found in people, not in stuff. I’ve learned over the years not to take for granted the time we have with one another, so I encourage you this Thanksgiving to make an extra effort to engage with the ones who love you. Spend a little more time talking with a grandparent, or aunt or uncle you don’t regularly see. Don’t let them ask all the questions, instead ask them about their teenage years, or their first job, or how they met their spouse. You will bless them and I think you will enjoy learning more about them. And one more thing, give them an extra hug.

I pray all of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving and truly take some time to reflect on how blessed you are as well. I know it’s not perfect, but it never will be. I know some of you are going through some pretty intense family struggles, but keep the faith and pray through it. I don’t diminish anyone’s pain who is having a difficult time during this Thanksgiving, but despite it, be thankful…  Be grateful for what you do have and for what God has and continues to do in your life.

Lost and Found

“For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.” Luke 15:24

I have been blessed. I’ve truly been blessed to witness God’s hands in the lives of a few young people who have caught their faith. I have met a lot of people over the years who have caught their faith in a variety of ways, I want to share one of those.

I met a Messianic Jewish Rabbi a few years ago. Messianic Jews believe Jesus was the Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament and they accept both the Old and New Testaments as the divine word of God. He was born in Romania during the Communist control of the country by the USSR. His father was a member of the Communist Party and was a government official, which afforded their family an upper-class lifestyle with many privileges. He was fortunate to attend a university and was being groomed to be a member of the Communist Party, like his father.

Part of the Communist required curriculum was for students to study the world religions. He described how his university professors guided the students through a rotation of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, offering the fundamental flaws with each to instill that atheism and allegiance to the Communist Party was the only true belief. They came to the study track of Christianity. Each student received a copy of the Bible and just as they had studied the Quran, they spent the next several weeks reading both Old and New Testaments. As this young man read the Bible, the words became real to him. He described to me how he suddenly felt the presence of the Lord, a tangible encounter, and he began to pray and accept Jesus as his Savior.

He had been lost, but now he was found. He couldn’t contain his faith and began carefully and secretly sharing his faith with other students. His siblings heard about this and told his parents, who immediately confronted him to stop this insanity or face serious consequences. But he continued to speak about Jesus and was arrested a few months later. Quickly released, he was again warned by the police and his father that further profession of Christianity would lead to serious prison time and possible hard labor.

He didn’t stop. He began leading secret small groups and organizing those groups to provide for the needy in this poverty-stricken country caused by Communist rationing.  A year later, he was captured by the police, was convicted of promoting Christianity, and sentenced to a labor camp in Ukraine. He continued to pray to God and profess his faith in Christ, so he was placed on a transport ship and taken to Cuba where he was placed in a jungle labor camp. He would spend the next twelve years in this Cuban labor camp and would suffer the loss of two fingers and near complete loss of sight in his left eye from an engine explosion.

The fall of the Berlin wall and subsequent Perestroika in the Soviet Union during the 1990’s ultimately brought release and freedom to this now middle-aged man.  He said had that not occurred he would have spent the remainder of his life in the Cuban labor camp. But when he was released, he was penniless, and without a home. He journeyed back to Europe, was able to gain access to a theology school, and became a rabbi. He returned to his former home in Romania where he ultimately led most of his family to Christ; his father had died a few years before his return.

When I met him, he was traveling between the U.S. and Europe to speak with both Messianic Jews and Christians about the importance of defending our faith against a world and culture that is set on destroying it. Defending my faith… Here was a man who had all but died defending his faith in Christ, and I felt really small in my lame efforts of ever defending my own faith.

I share this story as a testimony of how powerful an encounter with God can be. I share it because God can encounter any of us at any time and in any way He chooses. I witnessed one of those encounters with a young man this past weekend! I’ve been celebrating it all week! I will leave you with this photo as he prepares to be baptized in the chilly lake water of the camp at our retreat. Praise God today with a grateful heart for what He has done for you.

Baptisim_Kyle Mohon


Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” Genesis 32:28

Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you. This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation.'”  Exodus 3:13-15

But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.”  Luke 1:30-31

One thing you and I have in common is that we were born into this world and given a name with no choice in the matter. We all have a name. In 1963, the year I was born, my given name James was the fourth most popular name. In 2017, it is still in the top ten.      A lot has changed in those fifty plus years, including the names people choose to name their children. Lisa and Michael were both number one in 1963, but today Michael is at number seventeen and Lisa doesn’t make the top fifty.

It seems the world places a lot of significance and value on names. Think of the celebrities who have adopted a single or abbreviated name:

Adele Laurie Blue Adkins – aka “Adele”

Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta – aka “Lady Gaga”

Kesha Rose Sebert – aka “Kesha”

Paul David Hewson – aka “Bono”

Prince Rogers Nelson – aka “Prince”

Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner – aka “Sting”

These names have become their monikers to label their celebrity. Our culture labels everyone whether they are celebrities or not. Whether verbalized or not, we are all labeled by people, and we each do a fair amount of it ourselves. A car tailgates or cuts in front of us; we have a name for that person. The doorbell rings at home and before we make it to the door; we have a name for that person. We see someone that looks and dresses differently from us; we have a name for that person. None of this labeling exemplifies Christian character, but I know I have been guilty.

I’ve also been the recipient of names from people in my life; father, brother, friend, business partner, divorced. I have also been the recipient of names from my Heavenly Father; redeemed, worthy, forgiven, and child.

You see, our given name may identify us and the world may label us, but it doesn’t define you and me. “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” 1 John 3:1

We were defined by our Heavenly Father long before the creation of the earth. You and I have a special identity. An identity full of unconditional love. A love that affirms us completely when we don’t feel affirmation from those around us. A love that gives us hope and a purpose. A love that defines us as His children.

I believe our vapor of time here on earth is for us to sort out a couple of things before our eternal life in heaven. Namely, to identify who we are and to learn how to love the one who chose to love us first. We didn’t have a choice in how we entered this world, but we can define who we are in Christ and learn to love and accept His unconditional love for us.

1 John 4:7-12 – God’s Love and Ours

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

This is a continuation of the last post – 1 John 1:5-7 “Light and Darkness, Sin and Forgiveness”.  The early message of God being light, that we should be walking in light, and by doing so, we will have fellowship with one another, is restated in another way. God is love (light) and love (light) comes from God. Everyone who loves (i.e. walks in light) has been born of God and knows God (i.e. has relationship with the Father). Whoever does not love (walks in darkness) does not know God, because God is love (light).

In verse 9, we see that God showed His love among us; He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. Let’s think about what this says. God loves you and me, recognizing that we have limitations as human beings. We have a hard time understanding who God is and being able to grasp God’s character. So God sends His Son (John 1:14 “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”) so that we could get a physical, human representation of God. Jesus was the perfect manifestation of the character of God. What were the characteristics of Jesus? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. These were the characteristics modeled by Jesus, and these are the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Jesus also modeled humility, servanthood, and truth. These are the characteristics for each of us to develop to walk in the light.

Unfortunately, we live in a world that doesn’t esteem these characteristics. The world is full of impatience, pride, cynicism, sarcasm, hatred, jealousy, abuse, selfishness, instability, and relativism. To walk in the light, we have to repel these characteristics and adopt the characteristics of Jesus (Romans 12:2 – “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.”).

Let’s finish this message from 1 John with the final verses 10-12. We know Jesus died on the cross for our sins, but the message in verse 10 is that He loved us first; His love is unconditional. And because of this overwhelming love of God, we should love one another. Finally, verse 12 reiterates that none of us have physically seen the Father, but if we choose to love one another, God lives in us and makes His love complete in us. When we are filled with God’s love the result is we are full of joy! That joy through God’s love trumps hatred, trumps depression, trumps jealousy, trumps pride, and trumps cynicism and criticism from others. We are transformed and we are able to see the world through a different lens. The things the world holds important, just aren’t as important to us when we walk in the light. This new lens allows us to deal with struggles we face from a new perspective that releases the stress because our focus is on eternal things, not temporal or worldly things.

1 John 1:5-7 – Light and Darkness, Sin and Forgiveness

5 “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in Him, there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”

I’ve been thinking a lot lately. I’ve been thinking a lot about how I’m walking out my faith and what it looks like for all of us to walk out our faith in Christ. It comes down to a simple choice. A choice we make every day to either walk in the light or walk in the darkness. Now talking about ‘light’ and ‘darkness’ can be too metaphorical. It can be too easy for us to simply say, “Oh, I’m not living in darkness!”

But if we aren’t living in darkness, how are we so sure we are living in light? Are we truly approaching each day with God centered in our thoughts and actions, and embracing opportunities where we can pour love into the lives of others? As Christians we have accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior. We live in assurance that we will go to heaven and live an eternal life. But what about now? What about our life we are living now? Are we simply living life, going through the motions of getting out of bed, going to school, going to work, doing the tasks of the day, eating dinner, watching TV or Snapchating, and waiting for the day this life ends and we go to the next life in heaven?

I know this is deep stuff, but I want to challenge us to start thinking about what we are doing now, today, in the present. God isn’t waiting. I believe God is calling you and me to be engaged in bringing heaven to earth. Jesus commanded us to make disciples of all the earth, but how can we make disciples when we aren’t disciples? I can’t teach you to drive a car if I’ve never driven.

We talk about God’s blessings and promises, but they seem abstract and distant to so many Christians; just words we read in the Bible or just something we believe we should believe. But I’m seeing that God’s blessings are all around us, every day, if we are walking in the light with Him every day.

So here’s my challenge, if you’ve stayed with me this far, go out today and walk in the light. Be the light in someone else’s life today. Call a grandparent you haven’t spoken with in awhile. Scroll through your phone and text someone you haven’t connected with lately and ask them how they are doing and that you are thinking about them. Pray with someone close to you that you know is going through a personal struggle. Offer to pray with your parents, (as a parent I know that would bless me). Do a random act of kindness at school, or when you are at Target or the grocery store. Like learning to drive a car, being the light to others is a skill that requires practice. It requires taking the focus off of us and putting the focus on others. And I know, it’s risky, right? Walking in the light takes courage, but the good news is that Jesus dwells in you and me, and if we truly believe that, He will guide our steps and give us the strength and courage to do this walk.

Bringing heaven to earth. Yep, I like it! I don’t want to wait around for Jesus to return. I want to give off the love Jesus has poured into me. I want to be light, not darkness. I believe as we walk each day in the light something happens, something really big, God big! I believe as we walk together in the light, we draw closer to God, we gain deeper insight into who God is and see the power of His love. We see the impact and the depths of good in this shallow, broken world. And as we continue to pour love into others, we are transformed into something new and beautiful, something that draws others (and now we have those disciples), because we are all broken in some way and everyone longs to know that there is a light that shines in the darkness. I call it bringing heaven to earth… Remember, Jesus said, “Let it be on earth as it is in heaven…”

Lamentations 3:22-23

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

I don’t know about you, but I need these words. I need the assurance that God, or “I AM” is not only with me but for me and His love for me never fails. As we know from Exodus, when Moses asked God His name, he replied, “I AM. I AM THAT I AM.” That can be hard for any of us to wrap our minds around, but it is a beautiful name when you put it in the context of our language.

Louie Giglio, in his book, I Am Not, But I Know I Am, reflects on the name I AM.  “I am” is the present form of the verb to “be”. Giglio does a wordplay that speaks so strongly to me and relates to this verse in Lamentations – BE – Loved. BE or I AM – Loved. You and I are BE loved! As Giglio says, “In this sense, God is the first mover, and He is not really asking us to allow Him to love us as much as He is telling us to receive what He has already demonstrated in the death of His son.”

I hope these words and the play on these words is uplifting for you today! We all face our challenges in the world, but BE Loved us and loves you and me just as much today.

Psalm 51:12 Restoring the Joy

“Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” Psalm 51:12

It’s been awhile, nearly two months, since I last posted here. Despite the quietness here, I’ve been blessed to see God move in the lives of several people I’ve come to know over these past weeks. God is pouring out boundless love and is restoring hearts, and as a result, is restoring marriages and families! I’m continually in awe of I AM, and have been renewed in my own spirit.

A few weeks ago, I was honored and had the privilege of spending a weekend with two outstanding young men who needed that outpouring of love from the Father to bring them home and restore their hearts. There simply are no words to describe the beauty of watching God heal the pain, remove the shame, and release the burden these men were carrying in their lives. Each of these men has a testimony. They both had been close to Jesus in their lives, walking out their faith. But life threw both of them curve balls. Curve balls that would be unimaginable for me, and I think for most to comprehend. Yet despite these curves and the destruction caused in their wake, God’s love is bigger!

“RESTORE TO ME THE JOY OF YOUR SALVATION,” said David in the wake of his own transgressions. These two men have had that joy restored in their lives. “AND GRANT ME A WILLING SPIRIT, TO SUSTAIN ME.” And now, a few weeks later, these two men have that willing spirit sustaining them each day! Life hasn’t let up, but they both have a renewed spirit and freedom that has allowed them to overcome the challenges and go to the Father in prayer when they don’t have the answers.

I share this experience in hopes that it encourages you in some way. I wish I could share the full stories, as the context would be both overwhelming and uplifting. My other motivation for sharing this is to encourage you to seek out opportunities where you can be a vessel for God. I love my church and I truly believe the church is critical to our Christian life, but these types of encounters just don’t happen often inside the four walls of church. Jesus took His ministry to the streets where the downtrodden, the lepers and the sinners were, and He’s still doing it today. I encourage you to seek God’s will and direction to open those opportunities in your life. I promise you, it will not only bless you, but it will change your life.

Come as you are, because earth has no sorrow that heaven can’t heal…

Word – A Commentary

Word – a single distinct meaningful element of speech or writing, used with others (or sometimes alone) to form a sentence and typically shown with a space on either side when written or printed.

Today ends our corporate time of prayer and fasting. Whether you have participated in the fast or not, I hope you have found time to spend in prayer these past few weeks. I honestly have not found the time I wanted or needed to have quiet time with the Lord. However, the beauty of walking with the Lord is that we can continue and renew our effort to spend time with God every day. I pray that you will continue to find your own quiet time with God each day for the remainder of 2017. Trust me, you need it and I promise if you will do it, it will change your life!

I wanted to post this brief commentary about the words. My primary motivation for writing this commentary is that I have had a recent lack of words, or at least what I perceived as relevant words. We are all inundated every day with words, either spoken or written, and much of these words do nothing to grow us, to make us better people, or to share anything meaningful with one another. They are just a lot of words, a sea of irrelevant noise that our minds are forced each day to deal with and filter out.

I don’t want to add to the noise. So, instead, I’m going to share my commentary and insights when I believe they are compelling and have something meaningful to speak into each of us. I’m going to continue to use the Word as my source, and I will continue to use scripture as the basis for everything I share with you. Some of you have given me some great words and encouragement to continue and I am thankful! Although my focus over this period of prayer and fasting has been on exploring what the Bible says about specific words, I feel lead to continuing this approach over the coming weeks and then see where the Spirit leads us next. Blessings to you!