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…

Civil Rights

Galatians 3:28-29 – “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

“I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Okay, today’s word is actually two words, but appropriate to our current word study. You are a generation that gives me great hope for the promise of the following words from the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Your generation doesn’t see differences in color or gender, like the generations before you. We are brothers and sisters in Christ and nothing supersedes this fact. As I said the other day, our ‘sameness’ as believers is more powerful than our differences. Don’t get me wrong our differences and individualism is very important and should be respected, but what binds us together so that we aren’t fixated on each other’s differences, is our faith.    1 Corinthians 12:12 says,  “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.” We love each other because we recognize just how much Christ loved us. We care for each other because we know just how much Christ cared for us. We worship and sing together because we know we are undeserving of His grace and mercy. When you enter fellowship with Christians you leave your economic status at the door and check your coat of privilege. Your cultural or family background has no relevance here. Christ has center stage. He’s top billing on the playbill. He’s the star and we are His supporting cast in common unity to worship Him.

Today we celebrate the greatness of Martin Luther King, Jr. We recognize the achievements of a life that embodied the life Christ modeled for each of us to live. I’m old enough to faintly remember him, but I have been a witness to his legacy and I pray each of you will embrace his words:

We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?
– Martin Luther King, Jr.



James 1:12 – “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”

Luke 21:19 – “Stand firm, and you will win life.”

Perseverance – steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.

Perseverance is an accurate description of my effort in writing this post. I’ve made several attempts over the past couple of days and the verses and the words just didn’t come. Can you relate? Have you had a project for school that you just couldn’t pull together?

There’s a sign in front of a church on Valleydale Road currently that says, “Life comes at you fast.” Wow! Does it ever! You are growing up in a time when technology has put the motion of life in hyperdrive. I know each of you have incredibly busy and demanding schedules every week. Our ability to persevere and gut through these challenges is important to how we achieve and advance in life. Without sounding too much like a parent, your ability to persevere in giving your best to school work will have a direct impact on the number of doors of opportunity down the road. What’s hard for all of us, in this “life comes at you fast” world, is that perseverance requires patience. Patience is not something wired in our DNA. We have to learn it. Often the struggle to persevere involves developing patience when things are not working out at the speed we would like. Being patient is one of the Fruits of the Spirit that doesn’t necessarily involve being patient with others, but with ourselves, and even with God...

So what about your faith? Obviously, God wants us to persevere in our walk with Him. But we have free will. We have the will to choose whether or not we will continue the journey with Him. We all face obstacles in maintaining our walk with the Lord and that will continue. Spiritual perseverance is connected to our faith and to God’s grace. When we stumble, when we fall short, God extends grace to us to forgive and allow us to move on. The problem is when some people hit a bump, they think they can’t recover from what they’ve done, they can’t be forgiven, and they fall away from God and quit their walk with Him. God extends grace, we have to choose to receive it and to persevere, by faith, through the consequences of our actions. Perseverance means we simply don’t quit. Here’s a verse I want us to explore:

Revelation 12:11 – “They overcame by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimonies; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.”

This verse speaks to me about perseverance. We are going to overcome this world and the deceptions of Satan by the blood of the Lamb, our Lord Jesus Christ. We are also going to overcome and persevere on this journey with God through the word of our own testimonies. When I finally realized that I was not alone in my struggles in my walk with the Lord, it was transformational! I know it sounds strange, but I thought I was the only one who was struggling to overcome my sin. You’re going to fall short, but your perseverance to continue in your faith and allow God to restore you is YOUR TESTIMONY! God will use your testimony to help someone else recover from their struggle. It’s a beautiful thing. God gives us grace to reconcile ourselves with Him, God uses our testimonies to heal each other through our struggles, and we all persevere as God transforms us from the brokenness of who we were to the beauty of who he has designed us to be. This song describes that desire to have God transform us…


2 Corinthians 1:20 – “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through Him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.”

Promise – a declaration or assurance that one will do a particular thing or that a particular thing will happen.

Joshua 23:14 – You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.” 

God has made many promises to us. Let me share a few:

1 John 2:24-25 – “As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is what he promised us—eternal life.”

1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Psalms 103:12 – “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us..”

John 16:13 –  “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.”

Joshua 1:9 – “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

I haven’t counted, but I have read there are well over a thousand promises in the Bible. I look at God’s promises as guidance. Some of God’s promises direct us to do something in which God says when we do, there’s a blessing in it. For example, we studied Proverbs 3:5-6 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him and He will guide your path.” If you think about it, this is a huge promise from God! He’s saying we don’t need to rely on our own wisdom to make decisions in life, but rather turn those decisions over to Him, the creator of the universe, and let Him guide our decisions. Wow! That’s a powerful promise, BUT it requires us to turn those decisions over to Him, and that requires our last word – “FAITH”. I find, including myself, that people struggle with giving things over to God. If I can share anything with you, start turning your struggles and decisions over to God now! I speak from experience that He will give you better direction than you will make on your own. Trust in the Lord! You may, and probably won’t get an immediate answer, but remember God’s timing is not our timing, and God’s timing is always perfect, not ours. But you will know when God, through the Holy Spirit, gives you answers and direction.

The world is a heap of broken promises. It is filled with good intentions, but we are broken, and imperfect, and often don’t keep the promises we make. The sooner you begin putting your trust in the Lord, your whole trust, the sooner you will walk out life in God’s promises. God may not answer you the way you want, but He will always do what is best for you. It may mean you have to walk through struggles, but understand God is growing and strengthening us through those struggles. In the end, remember God’s greatest promise that if we remain in Him, He will give us eternal life with Him.

We Start with Hope

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” Hebrews 6:19

Welcome to 2017 and our 21 days of fasting and focus on God’s word! The format is not going to change much, but I feel lead to focus these next 21 days on special words from the Bible. We start off with “hope”.
Over the Christmas holidays, I watched a movie I had never seen before that some of you, especially the girls, have probably seen; A Walk to Remember ( It’s a chick flick for sure, which is maybe why I hadn’t seen it, but it is a great story with an awesome message. So I encourage you to find a time to watch it.
One of my favorite Christian (though they don’t label themselves as such) groups is Switchfoot. There are several songs by Switchfoot in the movie, but one, in particular, is Only Hope. Here’s a link to it with the lyrics from YouTube:

I love the opening lyrics of this song: There’s a song that’s inside of my soul. It’s the one that I’ve tried to write over and over again. I’m awake in the infinite cold. But you sing to me over and over and over again. Is there a song inside of your soul? I hope so! More importantly, I hope you hear God singing into your soul as well for God is our only hope!

It’s a soulful word. We connect with hope. We hold on to it. We lose it. We find it. Hope is a soulful and very personal word for you and me. We can’t see it, but we can feel it. Our hope is both profound and meaningless. We hope for love, for world peace and the end to poverty, but we also hope it isn’t going to rain today, or that we don’t run out of gas before we make it to a gas station.
“It’s so hard to love,
There’s so much to hate
Hanging on to hope, when there is no hope to speak of.” George Michael, Praying for Time.
“When there is no hope to speak of.” Have you been there? Have you experienced a loss that shattered you to the core that you couldn’t find any hope left to grasp? I wear those scars, the scars of being broken, having my heart split in two. Our minds do an incredible job of erasing the details of those moments, as time heals all wounds. I recently cleaned out a piece of furniture that I was giving away, and there they were; photos. Photos of family members that have left this world. Photos of my ex-wife and a time when we were one family. Smiling faces of little kids who are now grown and living their lives many miles away. Maybe you have experienced a similar loss of a family member, or your parents have divorced. It can be hard to reflect on, but it reminds us that when we have those moments of feeling hopeless, there’s still hope, there’s still a life for us to pursue and experience. Sure, it will be different, but it just may be better.
Hope moves us forward
Hope is forward looking. We don’t hope for things in the past, we hope for things in the future, because the future is uncertain. We have no guarantees for tomorrow, and that uncertainty is out of our control, it is outside our vision, it isn’t tangible, and thus it can cause fear and doubt. We want answers and we want to fill certain about our life’s trajectory. Hope fills the void of uncertainty. The things we know are certain, don’t need hope. I don’t hope the sun will rise in the morning, but I may hope that I will see the sunrise in the morning. Just as I don’t hope that 8:00 am will occur, but I may hope that traffic doesn’t keep me from getting to school by 8:00 am. Hope is the intercessor to the things we desire that we can’t control in life. We hope it all works out! You and I want things in this life to all work out for the best. We desire the best for our families. We want our pursuits and our work to have value. We want financial security and good health. Hope covers all the uncertainties of life so that we can move forward, coping with our fears and doubts.
We’re wired to move forward. We may have our moments where we idle for a time, but in the end, we move forward. We may take steps backward, but we desire to move forward. Foundational to making this life journey is hope.


Isaiah 7:14 “Prophecy of Christ’s Birth”

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”

As we approach Christmas, I thought it would be fun and interesting for us to study Old Testament  prophecies of the coming of Christ. We start with this verse from Isaiah where Isaiah makes it clear the Messiah would be born of a virgin.  First, keep in mind that Isaiah’s prophecy was made 700 years before the birth of Christ!

Why was the virgin birth significant? Again, I’m not a theologian, and believe me, there are volumes upon volumes written on this subject. But let me give you this to consider:

  1. Jesus is the Son of God. Luke 1:35 -“The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”
  2. Born with the Spirit of God. Adam and Eve were created by God to be immortal. But when they sinned, their human spirit died and they would perish. God told Adam, “You were made out of the ground. You will return to it when you die.” (Genesis 3:19). Jesus could not be born with the Original Sin lineage of death from Adam. Romans 5:12 – “Sin entered the world because one man sinned. And death came because of sin. Everyone sinned, so death came to all people.” Note that sin entered the world because of one man. It was Adam who passed sin to mankind, not Eve.
  3. The unblemished lamb. Jesus came to fulfill the law. The instructions given in Exodus 12:5 for proper sacrifices to God (aka the Law) states, “The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats.” The sacrificial lamb must be unblemished. 1 Peter 1:18-19 says, “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”

1 Timothy 4:12

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.”

Let’s begin with the opening of this verse – “DON’T LET ANYONE LOOK DOWN ON YOU BECAUSE YOU ARE YOUNG”. Do you remember the phone app that repels mosquitos?  It was a high-frequency sound that emitted from the phone that only ears under 30 could hear. Old guys, like me, can’t hear it. Jentzen Franklin used this at Winterfest a few years ago as an analogy for hearing from God. His point was that God is speaking at a different, more vibrant, wavelength, a different frequency to you as a youth than He is to older adults. He’s revealing dreams, vision and purpose for your life that speaks to you as a youth, where you are in your life journey.

I share this with you because I want you to gain encouragement that although you may be early in your walk with the Lord, it doesn’t mean that the Lord doesn’t hold you in any less value to His kingdom. To the contrary, He is pouring His purpose for your life into you. But you have to be receptive to hearing His will and purpose. So I encourage you, if you are at that place where you are questioning, “What am I going to do with my life? Where am I going to college? Am I going to college?” just take time to be still, submit your requests to God, and let Him guide your path. You may not have it all figured out yet, and that’s okay, neither do us old folks either… But you are important to Him, and you are important to all of us, so don’t be discouraged if someone looks down on you because of your youth. Remember, God has a plan and purpose for your life – Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Don’t let anyone steal your dream, but allow those who know you best and love you the most to provide counsel and guidance for what you want to do with your life.

 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” These were Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 4:7. I hope they will be my words at the end of my journey. My prayer is that we pass the torch of faith on to you and that you will embrace the love of Jesus, pouring your trust in Him in whatever you do in this life.

1 Timothy 4:12 “Don’t Let Anyone Look Down On You”

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.”

This is another foundational verse that I hope you will find as encouragement! I get excited every time I read this verse because I have witnessed so many youth, including several of you, who have not let your age be a hindrance to expressing your faith in Christ.

This verse was Paul’s instruction to a young Timothy who he knew would go forth after Paul in leading the early church. What I hope you will take away as we study this verse is that you have more influence on others than you may realize. You can share your faith with another teen in a way that has far more impact than me. You set the example in your actions and in your words. You have the ability to set the bar with your friends on how to conduct yourself.

When I was in high school, I was a “locker hugger”. I was the guy (before backpacks became the norm) who carried all of his books, stacked under one arm, leaning against the lockers as I walked down the hallway so that no one could knock them out of my arm. Yes, I was not the popular, cool guy who walked down the center of the hallway, watching the crowds part before me. I was the guy who just tried to stay out of the way.

As such, I was not an influencer, but was influenced by others. I was a follower, and I was willing to follow anyone, good or bad. You may feel this way at times yourself, but I want to encourage you that you have been given a gift. You have a gift of faith in Christ, and there are “followers” like I was, who are looking for someone like you who will show them this gift of faith in Christ. You, yes you, can change someone’s life. I wish I had met you when I was a teen, as it would have changed my life’s direction for the better. You can do this now with the friends you influence. Remember, Jesus only had twelve disciples, yet from those twelve, they changed the world.

There’s someone in your life that needs you to share your faith. I have been blessed many times now to witness how a youth stepped out and lead a friend to Jesus and it changed the direction of their life. Reflect on these words today, and pray for the Lord to guide your steps towards someone you can have a life-changing impact on by knowing Jesus. You won’t be going alone in this. You have the Holy Spirit to guide you and to give you confidence, and you always have Joe or any of the youth leaders to bounce questions off of if you are certain about how to talk with someone.


Philippians 4:6-7 (Final Post)

“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.”

We finish Philippians 4:6-7 with the final part of Philippians 4:7 – “WILL GUARD YOUR HEARTS AND YOUR MINDS IN CHRIST JESUS”. So we looked at the peace of God as transcending all understanding, but how does this also guard our hearts and our minds?

It’s difficult to articulate a feeling. But when we truly start turning over our needs, our struggles, our hopes to God and let Him guide us and navigate us through our decisions and actions, we receive a sense of peace. That peace comes when we finally let go of our own perceived control and realize that He is the one in control. Additionally, we realize that God cares for us and His promises are real. Since God wants to take care of us, He guards our hearts against the anxiety of trying to do it on our own. He protects our minds from drifting into places we do need to go; in other words, God keeps us in check. You’ve maybe heard the phrase, “keep things on the straight and narrow”. God does this when we submit to Him, not as some form of punishment, but as pure love to protect us. We have free will, which God has given us as well, to choose His way or our way. You can freely choose to go off the path and do it all your way… What do you choose?

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.”


The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reported last year that the number of Americans on antidepressant drugs increased 51% from 1999 to 2012. Nearly 15% of all Americans, or 1 in 5, take some form of antidepressant drug!  That is astonishing to me and should be to you. We have a lot of people struggling with stress and anxiety.

Another way to define anxiety is a simple, four-letter word, FEAR. Fear is a spiritual matter, not just an emotional or psychological matter. Fear is the absence of faith. They cannot coexist. When we place our faith in Jesus, and truly turn over our needs to Him (remember our earlier verse, Proverbs 3:5-6), we live our life in the PEACE OF GOD, which transcends all understanding.

Reflect on these words today. Is it any wonder why so many people are taking antidepressants? Think about another previous verse we studied, Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of the 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.”  A lot of people, including those taking antidepressant drugs, are living in the pattern of the world and are not living in the faith of Jesus Christ. We can do it our way, or we can do it God’s way. Our way, we think we control everything, get the full, head on attack of the world, and thus make bad decisions because we lean on our understanding and then ultimately end up needing to medicate to cope with life… God’s way, we put our whole heart faith in Jesus Christ, we still get the attack of the world, but we have the power of the Lord leading our decisions, gain comfort which transforms all understanding, and have our lives transformed in the process to an abundant and joyful spirit, having no need for medications.