Welcome to the ministry BlogSite - "Journeying Up the Mountain of God." As the Lord led me to begin writing a weekday devotional which I placed on FaceBook near the close of 2009, I came to see a fresh new ministry birthed through the Spirit's working. Initially started for the missional church which I pastored at the time, Journey 2427, these Truth Quest devotions (formerly called 'Word of the Day') quickly became a special ministry which I believe the Lord is continuing to expand to encourage many more hearts along life's journey. To Him be all glory and praise that He alone deserves (1 Peter 4:10-11)! Richard Blackaby, son of Dr. Henry Blackaby who wrote Experiencing God, shared in one of his recent books, Unlimiting God, the very premise upon which the theme of this ministry blogsite is centered upon - “…Knowing the Lord is like climbing a mountain. The ascent is available to all, but not everyone reaches the same level. Each of us decides how much effort to expend to reach the heights; each of us ultimately decides how far and high we’ll go.” 
It is my prayer that through these regular devotions and deep reflections from His truth - all of which are authored in His Spirit and grounded upon His Word - you and I might both be encouraged to climb a little higher each day in our spiritual quest to draw ever closer to the very One who created us to be with Him for all eternity. Every day we are given a CHOICE… either to stay at BASE CAMP (i.e. place of Mediocrity / our Comfort Zone) or to JOURNEY up the Mountain of God (a spiritual quest that will surely entail adventure and certain risks!)! The climb will not come without challenges - steep precipices and deep crevaces alike - will surely arise along our ascent. Yet we are reminded that we are not to make this climb alone (Genesis 2:18) - we are to travel in the company of fellow climbers of like faith (Ephesians 4:4, The Message). So I pray that TODAY you will choose to Journey with me and others up the Mountain of God to the One who stands with His loving arms outstretched toward us! Let's enjoy this daily journey of faith ... together (2 Chronicles 20:4)!
Journeying Upwards,
David Haltom, Pastor-Evangelist/Revivalist

 Please direct all correspondences, to include scheduling inquiries for revivals / guest preaching / speaking engagements along with your generous gifts of support (should you so feel led of His Spirit), to:
Christian Impact Ministries
Post Office Box 416
Hudson, North Carolina 28638-0416

Special Note ... The Lord has blessed me with the calling to serve as a Church Planter / Lead Pastor for nearly 9 years with two great church plants, +1.5 years as a Lead Pastor in a revitalization church work, 1+ year as an Interim Lead Pastor and 3 years as as Associate Pastor; this in addition to ~21.5 years of serving as an Evangelist-Revivalist with CIM and 
~7 years of serving as the V-22 Lead Proprotor Systems Engineer for the U.S. Navy (i.e. civilian under DoD at then NADEP Cherry Point, NC). Presently, our family is currently seeking the Lord's Will for His direction for my next mission assignment in the area of Pastoring / Shepherding (Jeremiah 3:15). If you know of a New Testament church that is seeking a Lead Pastor or a Church Planter, please feel free to pass that notice along to us at the contact address listed above. In addition, I am currently available for guest/supply preaching / revivalist engagements / interim pastorate considerations and Church Consulting as the Lord leads. We are eagerly awaiting to see God's newest "journey" in the days ahead! Thank you so very much for your prayers and faithful support of our family's kingdom calling and of the special continuing ministry work of Christian Impact Ministries! ...Selah! 
(An updated ministry resume with references/testimonials is available upon request to Pastor Search Teams / Elders who have interests in ministry speaking engagements and/or the consideration for my serving as a candidate for an available Lead Pastorate opportunity. DVDs of past preaching engagements are currently unable to be uploaded on this website due to bandwidth-restrictions 
(i.e. file size limits), but they are available upon request by snail mail! Thank you so kindly!)

... Pecans and Hidden Treasures


“In Him (Jesus Christ) lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
Colossians 2:3 NLT
While working in my ministry office recently, I noticed two squirrels feverishly surveying nearly every inch of my front yard in what seemed to be a strategic search for those precious pecans which they had buried in various locations deep within the soil last fall. As I paused from my ministry work for a few moments, I pondered over their diligence in seeking after their buried “food treasures.” I felt the Lord speak to my heart regarding the vivid witness to which these two small creatures were demonstrating – that of the vital need for believers to diligently search for the hidden truths of God which He purposefully has buried deep within the pages of His Holy Word. These eternal treasures of God are only discovered by digging, seeking and probing deep into the spiritual soil of the scriptures, much like those two squirrels demonstrated. Many people today seem to easily accept the superficial (shallow) findings (i.e. “manna nuggets”) that lay on the surface and require little to no digging (i.e. minimal personal effort / commitment / discipline). Jeremiah 29:13 declares that our treasure hunt throughout the terrain of His living Word demands our all - “You will seek Me and find Me when you search Me with all your heart (‘wholeheartedly’ NLT).”  Colossians 2:3 HCSB  teaches us that “all the treasures of [‘divine’ Amplified Bible] wisdom (‘comprehensive insight into the ways and purposes of God’ Amplified Bible) and knowledge are hidden in Him (Jesus Christ).” Our quest to gather these precious gems of spiritual truth cannot be accomplished by our own efforts. Only through the revelatory leading of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and minds can we discover these hidden kingdom treasures. As Jesus said, the Holy Spirit is the One who “will guide you into all 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. He will bring glory to Me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you” (John 16.13-14). As genuine believers we should have an insatiable desire to dig deeper in our personal faith journey to uncover the many  riches of Christ which await us. Our search should always be conducted with the expectancy of discovering the ultimate treasure – that of the living presence of Jesus Christ Himself. Proverbs 2:1-6 NLT declares, “My child, listen to what I say, and treasure My commands. Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding. Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding. Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures. Then you will understand what it means to fear the Lord, and you will gain knowledge of God. For the Lord grants wisdom! From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” What great joy arises when our search uncovers these kingdom riches that deepen our faith in Christ and strengthen our hearts for the journey ahead. Psalms 119:162 NLT affirms this spiritual elation as the psalmist pens, “I rejoice in Your Word as one who discovers (‘finds’ NKJV) a great treasure.” Despite God’s clear instruction for diligence in our daily treasure hunts, many today read the Word of God hurriedly or carelessly – if they even read it at all – and because of such flippancy, they miss much of its deep, divine insights which our souls so desperately need for the spiritual fuel necessary for our daily spiritual travels day. The kingdom’s truths (treasures) are purposefully difficult to find for the careless, indifferent (prideful) and insincere treasure hunters. Matthew 11:25 Amplified Bible states it this way, “You have hidden these things from the wise and clever and learned, and revealed them to babies [to the childlike, untaught, and unskilled].” But to those whose hearts are sincere (i.e. pure / childlike) in discovering these treasured truths come the Lord’s promise for our uncovering of an limitless bounty of kingdom treasures/riches. Sadly, many in today’s fast paced, busy culture have succumbed to the enemy’s all too common lie that we don’t have sufficient time to spend in His Word.  Even if we do have an extra few moments in our hurried day for God’s Word, then it seems to be relegated to that of being a mere line item on our “to-do” list and treated as just another task for us to “check off” as if we somehow please the Lord by sharing a few extra “time giblets” with Him. The busyness factor of today’s culture seems to feed this shallow surface-skimming mentality evidenced by such things as 30-second devotional thoughts on the radio / internet, 20 minutes sermons in churches throughout our land and spiritually shallow resources like the One Minute Bible®  which contribute to the spiritual anemia that has infected the hearts of many who launch into each new day’s journey without sufficient spiritual nourishment (i.e. time in His Word). Like many who skip breakfast thinking they will save a few minutes, choosing to skip the daily time of manna excavation will only yield us empty treasure chests. Such neglect / irreverence to the Word of God will surely lead to a time in the coming days “when (He) will send a famine on the land—not a famine of bread or water but of hearing the words of the Lord.” (Amos 8:11 NLT) When this prophesied famine strikes, many who have chosen to only skim the surface (i.e. stay shallow in their Bible studies) in lieu of digging deeper into the truths of God will “hear but never grasp and understand; and (they) shall indeed look and look (i.e. search) but never see (hidden treasures) and perceive (understand His truth).” (Matthew 13:14 Amplified Bible / Acts 28:26 CEV) So where does your heart in the divine quest for hidden kingdom treasure lay today? My prayer is that we all seek to dig deeper into the strata of God’s Holy Word in an unending pursuit to better know Christ so that we can be more effective making Him known to the world around us. Allow this Easter season to be a time for renewal, restoration and revival  as you dig deeper in your unending quest for becoming more like Jesus! …Selah!       
Today's Spirit-led video is "Treasure of Jesus" by CCM artist Stephen Curtis Chapman.


"...A True Taste of CHRISTmas"

Behold, the virgin shall become pregnant and give birth to a Son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel--which, when translated, means, ‘God with us.’”
Matthew 1:23, Amplified Bible
      It’s Christmas Eve … already. Yet another full year has passed since the beauty of this season last beset us all throughout the world. Sadly, many seem to have lost what the true meaning of this divine season is all about. It seems like a race more and more each year as to which retail store can bring out their Christmas decorations the earliest. Once again, I believe the winner goes to WalMart who had one aisle of Christmas items ready for those “early” shoppers … back in September! In the wisdom of Charles Schultz’s classic Peanuts cartoon, “Good Grief Charlie Brown!” It is true that today more than ever, the Christmas season has in many respects been allowed to be hijacked by many on the Train of Commercialization for the sake of making another dollar of greed-driven profit. That truth tends to rob many of the true Christmas Spirit that is ever present at this time of year – and year round as well. I think what happens for most of us is that the enemy comes in to our lives and diligently works to skew (‘stealJohn 10:10) our focus from that baby child born in the manger on that very first Christmas morning to that of the re-created carnal version of Christmas today that is far away from the reality of what took place in that manger in Bethlehem. Often what we need is a personal taste (divine experience) of that Christmas Spirit to bring our focus back onto the truth of what this season is truly all about … the coming of God’s Son, Jesus to “to save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21) Psalms 34:8 invites us to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” I believe we each have that divine opportunity extended to us every new day with our freewill choice in allowing Christ to live in and through you as you faithfully serve as His witness (Acts 1:8) before a needy, lost world around you. I was blessed to experience that divine taste of His grace during a recent ministry opportunity. My 6-year old son, Aaron Joseph, and I had the honor to meet “Curtis” (55) and his wife while serving at a weekly church outreach to needy families and the homeless. Curtis and his wife have a 10-year old son who has to stay with his grandmother while his parents are forced to live in a tent deep in the woods here in Cabarrus County – they have no car, no job and no means of self-support - they are completely dependent upon others for the basic necessities of life – food, water and clothing. As we fellowshipped together, Curtis shared with me that he grew up working in the mill after having to quit school in the 10th grade. His life had been riddled with loss and great pain - he lost his mom to cancer and his dad died of a heart attack - both before the age of 58, he lost two brothers and a sister (all before the age of 65). This Christmas, Curtis told me he will be the only member of his biological family remaining. He and his family had stayed with a brother until he passed away from cancer this past July, leaving he, his wife and his son homeless. What truly amazed me was that as he shared his testimony, there seemed to be no sense of bitterness nor resentment for his journey of life. During our time sharing, I asked Curtis if there was ever a time in his life where he had given his life to Jesus Christ, receiving His salvation and daily living for Him. Curtis immediately shared that he had asked Christ into his life during his early teen years, but had wandered away at various times during his life. He acknowledged that it was the Lord who sustained he and his family, despite the difficult circumstances to which they now live. At one point as he was sharing his story, Aaron Joseph came around him and placed his hand on Curtis’ shoulder – a universal symbol of love and support, even from a little 6-year old boy. I asked Aaron Joseph to pray for Curtis and his family to which he did. As I have since reflected upon my meeting Curtis, I realized that God had come down that evening and allowed my son and I to both “taste and see that He is indeed good!” It was a divine reminder that despite the life challenges which our family, like many of your families as well, may be facing right now, we can all experience the true Spirit of Christmas this year. For many of you today, you may feel so overwhelmed by your present life circumstances that the enemy may have effectively skewed your focus away from that precious newborn lying in a manger on that first Christmas night over 2,000 years ago. I ask that you take a moment today – on Christmas Eve – and truly count your many blessings. I think it safe to say that if you are reading this devotional, you and your family are not currently living in a tent in the middle of the woods like Curtis and his family. I know that many have lost jobs, many are experiencing health struggles, financial challenges, relationship problems and all sorts of trials that have shaken the very foundation of our faith (Psalms 11:3). Just remember that no matter where you are, He is there with you always (Matthew 28:20)! Over 2,000 years ago, God peeled back the corner of eternity and placed His Son into our world through the virgin birth (Matthew 1:23) to live a life where He would experience every pain and temptation known to man, yet He would remain pure and sinless (Hebrews 4:15). Just 33 years after that His divine arrival on that first Christmas night, He would obediently follow that long road of suffering to His death on Calvary’s Cross where He assured all who would receive Him by faith victory over sin (1 Corinthians 15:57) and eternal life through His forgiveness and cleansing us of our sinful hearts / ways (John 3:16 / John 1:12-13). My prayer is that no matter where you are in your life journey, know that the Spirit of Christmas is with you! I invite you to experience the Christ of CHRISTmas this year unlike never before! Look around for someone whom you can bless with the love of God this Christmas – and know that in so doing, you just may entertain an angel without even knowing it (Hebrews 13:2) - perhaps an angel named “Clarence” (i.e. It’s a Wonderful Life), or maybe even one named … “Curtis.”

Today's Spirit-led video (embedded below) is "God With Us" by CCM Artist Todd Agnew.

    

"Silencing the Spiritual Blacksmiths"

Today's LifeText: “There were no blacksmiths to be found throughout the land…” 1 Samuel 13:19
    At one point in Israel’s history, the country was in one their lowest states of depression and degradation, thanks in great part to King Saul’s disobedience of God’s commands. One of Israel’s enemy - the Philistines - capitalized upon these conditions and achieved military superiority in a great victory over them which resulted in their being virtual masters of the land of Israel. To keep the new Israelite slaves from rising up in warfare against them, the Philistines either killed or imprisoned all the blacksmiths throughout the land. Why blacksmiths? We must first understand what the role of a blacksmith was during this period of time. A blacksmith was a man who created metal objects from wrought iron or steel by forging the metal (i.e. forging is a manufacturing process involving the shaping of hot, near-molten metal using intense compressive forces with tools like a steel hammer). So to remove Israel’s blacksmiths meant there would be no one left to make weapons for war nor would there be anyone to sharpen swords, spears or tools that were necessary for maintaining their farms and working in the fields in preparation for the harvest seasons. The Israelites were thus left strategically immobile and their farmers dependent upon the Philistines for both maintaining and repairing their agricultural tools - often at a much higher price than the fees which were previously charged by the Israeli blacksmiths. This clever strategy by the Philistines acknowledged the blacksmith’s vital role in that culture / time period and targeted their invaluable role / contribution in the preservation of the land of Israel in the areas of defense and commerce (wrt agriculture) – in essence, the Philistines believed that in removing the blacksmiths, they would the cripple the heart / will / means for the Israelite slaves to rise up in revolt.
    Satan’s tactics today is much like that used by the Philistines against the Israelites – to isolate and remove the effectiveness of the modern day “blacksmiths.” These “spiritual blacksmiths” are today’s evangelists, shepherds (i.e. pastors) and teachers who serve as spiritual leaders in His Church and in para church ministries throughout our land. Under the anointed power of the Holy Spirit, these spiritual blacksmiths seek to forge the hearts of God’s people through the teaching and instruction of Word of God. These men who are divinely called and gifted by God (Romans 11:29) must skillfully and accurately handle the Word of God (2 Timothy 2:15, Amplified Bible) as they assist in the Holy Spirit’s work in shaping, molding and sharpening the hearts of God’s people (Jeremiah 23:29) as these spiritual blacksmiths discharge their primary duty to “to equip the saints (God’s people) for the work of ministry.” (Ephesians 4:11-12, ESV) Like the blacksmiths in Israel’s history, these spiritual blacksmiths also help prepare believers for spiritual warfare which is raging intently for the heart and soul of our families, for our communities and for our nation (Ephesians 6:10-18). Just like with Israel’s blacksmiths, Satan relentlessly and viciously targets these spiritual blacksmiths for the purpose of inflicting serious, if not lethal damage upon them and their families; thereby damaging their spiritual effectiveness in His Church. The volley of the enemy’s “fiery darts” (Ephesians 6:16) targeting these spiritual leaders come in a myriad of ways – through unnecessary strife-division-discord in their churches/ministries, through debilitating diseases (physical, emotional and spiritual), through family difficulties & disharmony, through financial challenges and through the many areas of discouragement / disappointments so common today with the stress / demands on often placed on those in ministry service. Sadly, many of these "fiery darts" are accurately hitting their target – the heart and soul of these spiritual blacksmiths. Take a few moments to digest some staggering statistics that paint a tragic picture of the spiritual and emotional welfare of today’s spiritual blacksmiths (Study Source: PastoralCareInc.com, 9.22.2011):
     Only 26% have daily devotions; 33% say they have had an extramarital relationship with someone in their church; clergy have the 2nd highest divorce rate of all professions; ~80% graduates from Seminary or Bible College will leave ministry within 5 years; over 70% do not feel they have a close friend in whom they can confide with their ministerial/personal faith struggles; over 4000 new churches launch every year while over 7,000 churches close their doors; 90% work between 55-75 hrs/week and feel fatigue that often leads to burnout ; while over 3,500 people each day left a church last year, over 1,700 pastors chose to leave ministry every month last year with no plans to ever return.
    So you see – just like with the blacksmiths in Israel in Biblical times, the spirit of the Philistines is both alive and active today amongst the trends and statistics shared above. As many would agree, there has never been a moment in our nation’s history when so many pastors / ministers (spiritual blacksmiths) have been under such fierce attack along so many fronts in their lives. If left untreated, these “fiery darts” from the enemy will continue hitting their targets and the number of genuine spiritual blacksmiths will continue to drop, thereby opening the door for “blacksmiths” from the enemy’s camp (i.e. false teachers; Jeremiah 50:6 & 2 Peter 2:1) who will seek to deceptively enter into the pulpits of God’s Church for the sole purpose of leading many astray (Matthew 24). The battle plan of the enemy will continue to lethally target these spiritual blacksmiths for removal from kingdom service – a plan that if allowed to be successful will result in a church whose role in equipping the saints with the “Sword of the Spirit” (i.e. the Word of God, Ephesians 6:17) will be severely damaged for the spiritual battles of our day and for the battles which are prophetically forming along the horizon of tomorrow.
    So how can we help thwart the enemy’s plans in taking out the spiritual blacksmiths serving throughout our nation and around the world?
One of the first ways to help protect them is to pray both for them and with them. 2 Timothy 1:2 declares that we “pray …for … all who are in authority (over us) so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.” (NLT) Having the honor to served nearly 17 years as a spiritual blacksmith, I can testify to no greater sense of peace and comfort than in knowing that there are others who are genuinely praying for me and my family.
Secondly, we can all do as the Bereans did who “listened eagerly to Paul’s message (and) searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth.” (Acts 17:11, NLT) There are many outstanding spiritual blacksmiths who faithfully serve the Lord and His people today with hearts which are fully committed to proclaiming the whole counsel of truth (God’s Word). Sadly, there are also many other spiritual blacksmiths who are shortcutting the spiritual forging process by using worldly tools, man-made plans/programs and/or exalting certain denominational teachings that conflict with the inerrant Word of God. True spiritual blacksmiths gladly welcome their flock to hold their messages / teachings / life actions up against the spiritual plumb line of God’s Holy Word (Amos 7:7-8, Proverbs 27:17).
Third, we can encourage them all the more as we see the prophetic events of the Last Days taking place around us (Hebrews 10:25). One of the most powerful ways to encourage spiritual blacksmiths is to personally obey the teachings of the Word of God (1 Timothy 6:2, Hebrews 13:17). You can also encourage them with notes / phone calls of appreciation, by the sharing of testimonies from personal application of their messages / sermons and through your faithfulness to the ministries of the church. You can also greatly encourage them by simply loving them and their families and expressing a genuine thankful heart (Colossians 2:7, 1 Timothy 5:17) for the Lord bringing them into both your life and the life of your church family. A few drops of encouragement along the challenging and sometimes dry trails of life can be truly refreshing.
    As the days grow shorter to the time of Jesus’ return, the scriptures teach us that a great apostasy (falling away from God’s truth; 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 1 Timothy 4:1-2, 2 Timothy 4:3-4 & Matthew 24:4-25) will take place. For this to occur, many spiritual blacksmiths will have to have been either removed from their kingdom positions of leadership/influence, wounded / crippled in the effectiveness of their service or replaced by false blacksmiths who will surely seek to forge imitation swords (“aluminum foil vs iron;” false teachings-truth) that will fail God’s people at decisive moments in life’s battles. Know that these are all signs spoken of in the holy scriptures which repeatedly remind us of the spiritual urgency of the hour as the day of the Lord’s return approaches. May we each be faithful to pray for and encourage these spiritual blacksmiths as they seek to serve the Lord in helping to prepare our hearts and lives for becoming fully-devoted followers of Christ in life’s journey! …Selah!
   Today's Spirit-led video (embedded below) is "Worthy - Let All I Do" by CCM Artist Aaron Shust. In addition to the video, I have added the simple, yet powerful lyrics to this moving song / piece of creative ministry. I felt led of the Spirit to select this as I believe it truly reflects the hearts of those genuine Spiritual Blacksmiths to which I am honored to have been included through God's calling upn my life. ...G3!

Worthy - Let All I Do" by CCM Artist Aaron Shust
Worthy is the Lamb who was slain / To receive power, wealth and wisdom and thanks / And honor and glory and praise / Blessing and Honor Glory and Power / Let all I do give praise to You / Let all I sing be to honor You My King
"


“…Rising Flood Waters”

Today's LifeText: “When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD will lift up a standard against him.” (Isaiah 59:19, NKJV)
   Storms are certainly the topic on many hearts today as daily headlines report on their increasing frequency and intensity, many unlike recorded history has ever seen. As I pen this devotional, longstanding flood levels are once again being shattered by historical flooding that is spreading down the Mississippi River, devastating homes, businesses and sometimes entire communities. In the preceding weeks, many families throughout the Southern United States have experienced devastating tornadoes that ripped through their communities, claiming the lives of over 334 people and bringing the total number of deaths from tornadoes across the United States in 2011 to 355 – the 2nd deadliest level in U.S. history - a 1590.5% increase from the 2009 level of 21 tornado deaths. Amazingly, there were 312 confirmed tornadoes in a 24-hr period in April 2011, bringing the annual total for the United States to 808 tornadoes (as of April 30, 2011). Like the many families affected by these violent storms, there isn’t a home today that has not experienced some degree of an unexplained, unexpected and/or unannounced life storm (a spiritual and/or physical crisis). Jesus warns us that we would all see floods (storms) in this journey of life, sharing in Matthew 5:45 (NCV) that “rains (shall fall upon) those who do right (“the just” ESV) and to those who do wrong (“the unjust” ESV).” In the Last Days (the period of time just before His Return), His Word teaches us that these life storms will be unleashed by our enemy with a fury unlike we have seen before. One minister recently shared, “This (coming) flood will be accompanied by hurricane winds of testing, torrential rains of troubles and trials and ever-rising tide of demonic fury / attacks.” That is exactly the prophetic Word spoken to us in today’s life text – “When the enemy comes in like a flood…” Interestingly, the word ‘enemy’ in this text comes from the Hebrew word that also means “distress, trials and tribulations.” Revelation 12:12 (NLT) addresses these Last Days as a time when “terror will come on the earth and the sea, for the devil has come down to you(God’s Church) in great anger, knowing that he has little time.” Satan’s “flood” of evil / wickedness against believers will maliciously target their minds, their hearts, their families and friends, their church and every other elements of the world in which we they live. Like the power contained within raging waters, Satan will try to erode away the foundation (footing) of our faith (i.e. the source of our confidence / trust in the Lord) with each passing wave (trial / tribulation). These intense storms will attempt to flood our hearts and lives with drenching fears that – if we are unprepared – can easily soak deep into our spirit, leaving our walk of faith spongy (i.e. confused / uncertain / doubtful / lacking confidence in the Lord;). Yet it is when these storms rage the strongest against the foundation of our faith that we will see the sureness of God’s promises tested and prevail. In Matthew 7:24-27 (NLT), we learn that these fierce life storms will strike every person, revealing the foundation upon which their lives are secured/built, “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.” Rest assured, there will be times when we feel like we are spiritually drowning under the raging flood waters of our enemy. At times, these storms will appear to successively roll in - one after the other – leaving us with little time to pause in between. Yet Proverbs 3:25-26 assures genuine believers not to fear when these storms strike for our foundation of faith rest solid upon the Rock of Truth, “You need not be afraid of sudden disaster or the destruction that comes upon the wicked (those whose lies are built upon worldly sand), for the Lord is your security. He will keep your foot from being caught in a trap.” Psalms 124:4 reminds us that unless we have our faith secured in this Rock of Salvation (Psalms 62:2), then “the waters (floods of the enemy) (will surely) engulf us …and a torrent (will most certainly) overwhelm us.” Thankfully, we have a strong anchor of HOPE which God extends to every true believer, “Listen to the Lord who created you … the one who formed you says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed (redeemed / rescued) you. I have called you by name; you are Mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.” (Isaiah 43:1-2, NLT) God lovingly promises to give each of us His divine strength so that can withstand these powerful flood waters, His divine wisdom so that we might navigate through the turbulent waters/storms in life, His divine joy to sustain our soul (like a life preserver keeps a victim afloat) and His divine peace amidst the swirling whirlwinds of fear and anxiety. No matter how strong these storms may rage, no matter how frightening our circumstances ‘may appear’ to us, God commands us to “never quit” (to never give up / throw in the towel; 2 Chronicles 15:7, Galatians 6:9, James 1:12) Rest assured in this truth - our enemy (Satan) and his storms will never destroy you and I if we are truly God’s people (His Church)! Revelation 12:11 (HCSB) declares, “They (Christians / His Church) conquered him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony ….” We will overcome the destructive “floods of the enemy” in these Last Days first by ensuring that we are a true child of God (i.e. that our sins have been forgiven through the shed blood of the Lamb (Jesus Christ; Matthew 26:28) and secondly, by allowing God’s Word to flow out of our mouths (our testimony) and through each of our life actions (our witness; Acts 1:8 & Isaiah 43:10-11). So fasten these pylons of truth deep into your heart today. Know that the more you love Jesus and set your heart to following Him (John 12:26), the more fiercely Satan will hurl his demonic storms of trouble against you, your family, your marriage, your relationships and your daily walk with the Lord. Believe His Word that proclaims that our victory over the enemy’s powerful storms is promised to only come through Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57). Hebrews 10:23 (NLT) commands that we “hold tightly without wavering to the HOPE we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep His promise.” Let me close with the encouraging words from Jesus shared in John 16:33 (Amplified Bible), “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration (“floods from the enemy”); but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, be certain]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you].” What a great anchor of Truth upon which our lives can solidly rest in these stormy seasons before His promised return. …Selah!
Today's Spirit-led video (linked below) is by CCM artist Kristian Stanfill and is entitled "Always"


"...Fool's Gold"

The “Gold Rush” in America during the mid-1800’s brought prospectors from every corner of the globe on an exciting quest for wealth and riches thru the discovery of gold. From riverbeds to creek banks to the dark depths of mining shafts, the great proclamation of the Greek word “Eureka!” would be bellowed out ever so often, signifying that a gold strike had been found. But how quickly that spirit of jubilation would come tumbling back to earth as many would soon learn that not everything that looked like gold was  truly gold. Many times these adventurous prospectors would find iron pyrite  which quickly became known as “fool’s gold” for it had a very similar appearance to real gold. Prospectors needed to be able to discern the difference between real gold and fool’s gold, so they devised two simple tests. The first test involved simply biting the finding (“gold” nugget). Real gold was softer than the human tooth, while fool’s gold was much harder and even brittle. A chipped or broken tooth typically meant that one needed to keep digging. A second test – which was much easier and less painful for the prospector – involved scraping the rock onto a white stone or piece of potter (i.e. clay ware). True gold would leave a yellow streak, while the residue left by fool’s gold would be greenish black. Miners relied heavily upon these tests to authenticate their findings because their fortune and often their future depended upon the accuracy of being able to discern between real gold and fool’s gold. Similarly, many today believe that they have discovered the golden treasures of heaven when in reality, they have erroneously taken hold of beliefs and teachings that are merely “fool’s gold” that have been peddled to them by false teachers /preachers thru the timeless and effective practice of deception. In Spiritual-Israel, Pastor Doug Batchelor with Amazing Facts Ministry speaks to this spiritual deception of the heart, “Millions are toting around heavy bags bulging with spiritual “fool’s gold.” They are rejoicing, believing they have discovered something to make them rich. It sparkles on the outside, but when they get to the bank of heaven, they (will) discover this currency is worthless.” From the Internet to TV to print publications, false teachers today are effectively leading the hearts of many people away from the inerrancy of the holy scriptures and toward false, empty promises that distort God’s Word in pursuit of selfish gain. Like a crooked car salesman trying to sell you a “lemon,” theses false teachers seek to point out the “shiny” elements of God’s truth in their teachings, yet “beneath the hood” of their enticing promises lie a powerless engine (i.e. an empty, false gospel) that will not carry one home (to heaven) and will leave its followers stranded at some point along life’s roadside. Throughout the New Testament, God’s people are strongly warned of these “fool’s gold” peddlers, “Be wary of false preachers who smile a lot, dripping with practiced sincerity. Chances are they are out to rip you off some way or other. Don't be impressed with charisma; look for character. Who preachers are is the main thing, not what they say. A genuine leader will never exploit your emotions or your pocketbook.” (Matthew 7:15-16, The Message) The New Living Translation of that same verse reads, “Beware of false prophets who come disguised (“dressed up” CEV) as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves (“who have come to attack you” CEV). You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act (“what they do” CEV).” The apostle Paul similarly warns that these false teachers would subtly creep their way into His church in the Last Days, "I know that false teachers, like vicious wolves, will come in among you after I leave, not sparing the flock. Even some men from your own group will rise up and distort the truth in order to draw a following." (Acts 20:29–30 NLT). Jude 1:16-18 (NLT) describes these spiritual conveyors of ‘fool’s gold’ as “grumblers and complainers, living only to satisfy their desires. They brag loudly about themselves, and they flatter others to get what they want. But you, my dear friends, must remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ said. They told you that in the last times there would be scoffers whose purpose in life is to satisfy their ungodly desires.” 2 Peter 1:3 teaches us that these false teachers will recruit followers who are so easily deceived that they can no longer discern the difference between right from wrong, “There were also lying prophets among the people then (early Israel), just as there will be lying religious teachers among you. They'll smuggle in destructive divisions, pitting you against each other—biting the hand of the One who gave them a chance to have their lives back! They've put themselves on a fast downhill slide to destruction, but not before they recruit a crowd of mixed-up followers who can't tell right from wrong. They give the way of truth a bad name. They're only out for themselves. They'll say anything, anything, that sounds good to exploit you.” (The Message) Did you catch the phrase “pitting you against each other?” Isn’t that a sad, but accurate description of much of His church today – divided and foolishly arguing against each other (2 Timothy 2:23). Mark 3:25 (ESV) reminds us that “a house … divided against itself … will not be able to stand (“will fall apart” NLT”) That is exactly Satan’s plan through these false teachers – to undermine and destroy (John 10:10a) the witness and effectiveness of God’s people (His Church) before a watching world that so desperately needs the saving hope of Jesus Christ. This is why we need to take this issue of false teachers with the upmost seriousness so that we are not deceived by anyone (2 Thessalonians 2:3) and so led astray from our personal devotion / obedience to Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3). The key to recognizing these false teachers is not trying to learn every false teaching today because there are simply to numerous too count. The true key of discernment lie in our personally knowing real / authentic truth (the Word of God / Jesus; John 1:1 & 14:6). Hebrews 4:12 declares, “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” (NLT) We need the spiritual discipline of the Bereans in the First Century Church who “day after day … studied the Scriptures to see if these things were true.”  (Acts 17:11, CEV) Proverbs 4:23 admonishes us to “guard (our) hearts above all else, for it (the heart that) determines the course of (our) life.” (NLT) Listen closely - our hearts and minds have the crosshairs of Hell placed upon them by Satan and his demonic army (Ephesians 6:10-12). As the scriptures affirm, although Satan’s destiny is already sealed in eternal defeat by Jesus, he remains very much alive today and on the prowl (1 Peter 5:8) and he should never be taken lightly nor should we underestimate or dismiss his evil power.  John 8:44 describes Satan as “always hat(ing) the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.” The Apostle Paul warns that “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light (and) his servants … disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15, NLT) Like the prospectors during the 19th Century Gold Rush, every believer must “test everything” (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22) against the unchanging, inerrant truth of God’s Holy Word so that we are not deceived and led astray by Satan and his demonic servants of unrighteousness who peddle their spiritual “fool’s gold” to the unguarded hearts of those easily mesmerized by a watered-down / false gospel. Pastor-Evangelist Greg Laurie shares this false gospel is rampant in our self-focused, materialistic culture today - “Some have believed in what we might describe as a watered-down gospel. This is a gospel that promises forgiveness, but rarely tells you of the need to repent of your sin. It’s a gospel that promises peace and plenty, but never warns of persecution. It’s a gospel that God wants you to be healthy and wealthy, and never have any problems (sufferings/ trials).” (Daily Hope for Hurting Hearts, pp. 4) We all need to be Biblically-equipped and spiritually prepared in these Last Days. We need to know His truth, because only then will we be able to discern / recognize anything that does not align with the Holy Scriptures. Every believer needs to “study (God’s Word so that they may) rightly (accurately / skillfully) handle the Word of Truth” (2 Timothy 2:15) because “a time is (surely) coming (and many believe that time is TODAY!) when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths (false teachings that will be devoid of divine truth & promises.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4, NLT) Matthew 24:24 warns His Church that in the Last Days, false prophets (teacher) will arise and they will show great signs and wonders so as to deceive and lead astray, if possible, even the elect (God's chosen ones).” Although His Word tells us that no one will no the exact time of Christ return (Matthew 24:26), the increasing prophetic signs provoke within the hearts of many believers today a growing sense of spiritual urgency (Romans 13:11-12) that the midnight hour is approaching ever so quickly.  So dig deeper into God’s Word (Colossians 2:6-8) so that you will be fully equipped (2 Timothy 3:17) to distinguish between the ‘fool’s gold’ of false teachings and the divine gold of His heavenly truth today!   …Selah!
Today's Spirit-led video is by CCM artist Chris Sligh (whose ministry music career was launched after reaching the Top 24 in Season #6 of American Idol) is entitled "Empty Me" (<--click on song title).  

A New Feature to this Blog: Christian Book Reviews

One of my joys in my spiritual journey of faith is reading God's Word along with Biblically-solid authors who share deeper insights of His truth. I read several devotions each day and I try to concurrently read 1-2 Christian books which I feel the Lord leads me to read in just the right life season. Now I am admittedly no speed reader, but I do try to set aside time to feed off of His spiritual manna daily! As an added resource to my ministry, I would like to share a brief review when I complete the reading of one of the many Christian books from my library. I strongly encourage each of you to take advantage of the plethora of Christian writers today and the wisdom they pen from the Lord through their own unique life journeys. I welcome your feedback on these reviews as well as a recommendation for a book that you have read that may bless myself or others. I look forward to adding to these reviews in the near future ...


"Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth." (2 Timothy 2:15, Amplified Bible)

Proverbs 29:18 declares "Where there is no vision, the people perish" (KJV) The Hebrew word for “vision” is "Chawzown" (pronounced khaw-ZONE) and is translated as a divine  "dream or revelation." The spiritual journey of discovering our divine “vision” in this life is the theme for the book, Chazown: Define Your Vision. Pursue Your Passion. Live Your Life on Purpose published by WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group. Craig Groeschel, lead pastor of LifeChurch, penned this great practical guide for discovering this divine vision (‘chawzown’) which is birthed in the heart of God and placed into every life. The principles which Groeschel shares in this book are anchored firmly - from cover to cover - to the eternal moorings of Biblical truth. This is one of my personal standards for ANY book which I read today – that it be based solidly upon Biblical truth (“rightly dividing the Word of God” 2 Timothy 2:15), else the reader would be left to read only man-made opinions with limited observations in lieu of the deeper understandings which come only from God’s infallible Word. In Chawzown, Groeschel effectively serves as your spiritual trail guide as he leads the reader on a spiritual journey to discover their personal ‘chazown’ through helping you explore your core values (beliefs), your spiritual gifts and finding time to set aside for you to reflect over your own life experiences - all in the quest to help the reader know with certainty one’s true, God-given vision (‘chawzown’) for ther life. Groeschel shares many of his own life experiences – some which in this reviewer’s opinion might have been a little more descriptive than necessary – combined with simple graphics of God’s truth and sections for interactive assessments which allow the reader to implement the book’s principles through the aid of God’s Word and honest self-examination of their life. Each chapter is wisely sized to be short in physical length, but deep in eternal truths. This was my first reading of a book written by Craig Groeschel, and likely will not be my last. Groeschel’s heart for simplicity and his commitment to upholding the integrity of God’s truth as the foundation for this book really speaks to a Christian author whose goal seems not to make lots of money off of writing yet another book, but to diligently listen to God and study His truths more deeply as he prepared a work that will surely be used by God as a Biblical tool to transform many lives for the glory and honor of our Lord Jesus. I recommend that you pray and see if God would lead you to read this new work on finding your God-given 'chawzown' and the passion and purpose for true 'chawzown' that is birthed in the heart of every believer!
          Thank you to Waterbrook Multnomah for providing this book free of charge for the purpose of reading this new work and sharing a honest, heartfelt and unbiased review.

"Going a Little Farther with God"

Today’s Life Text: “He went a little farther, and fell on the ground, and prayed…’” (Mark 14:35 NKJV) The hour was very late and the disciples had just received the first Lord’s Supper - this following a day with Jesus that was filled with much ministry along with a growing sense of prophetic tension with all the rapidly occurring events around them. From the setting of today’s life text, we see these disciples understandably tired and weary as they continue to follow their Master under the darkness of night to a place called the Garden of Gethsemane. Although yet to be fully understood by His disciples, Jesus was entering the final hours of His time on earth, and was now seeking a special time of communion with His heavenly Father in prayer to help ready Him for the events that were about to take place. He had called out Peter, James and John from the group of disciples and together they went “a little farther” into the Garden with Him. Positioning them with the simple instructions - “Remain here and keep awake and be watching” (Mark 14:34 Amplified Bible) – Jesus then “went a little farther” (“about a stone’s throwLuke 22:41 NLT) and fell to the ground in deep, intense prayer with His Abba (Papa / God the Father). God’s Word shows us that throughout Jesus’ 33 years on earth, He always “went a little farther” in every teaching moment that He held, in every miracle that He performed, in every healing which He conducted and in every life that He touched - that was just consistent with His divine character! In fact, while in the Garden at Gethsemane, He was literally hours away from obediently following His Father’s Will in going “a little farther” up a hill called Golgotha where He would painfully be nailed to a cross and crucified like a common criminal for the sins of all the world (1 Peter 3:18). This sacrificial demonstration of His undying love for us (John 3:16) forever serves as His selfless example to which each of His disciples (every Christian) is called to follow (Luke 9:23). Yet Jesus never requires His disciples to journey down a path which He Himself has not already journeyed. His divine strength is always freely extended to those who would allow their trust in Him to deepen and their love for Him to grow – evidenced by our obedience to His commands / teachings (Ephesians 3:16-19 NLT). As the Apostle Paul would later share, it is ultimately our genuine love for Christ that “compels (drives) us” (2 Corinthians 4:14a) to go “a little farther” – to dive even deeper into the rich waters of a life journey with Jesus! But be forewarned - the enemy of our soul will fight us in every way he can to prevent us from going that extra “stone’s throw” with Jesus. We see this take place with Jesus’ disciples who failed to follow Jesus’ assignment to “stay, watch and pray” while He “went a little farther away” by Himself to pray. Upon each of the three times that Jesus returned to His disciples from praying, He found them “asleep at their post” (read Mark 14:37-41)! Now before you and I cast our criticism upon these disciples for their negligence (Luke 6:41-42), let us first examine our own lives for examples where we have failed to go “a little father” with Jesus in a task / assignment which He presented to us. Perhaps it was failing to extend forgiveness to that co-worker who wronged you or that unwillingness to pursue reconciliation in a broken relationship with a family member / friend; or maybe it was when you refused His Spirit’s leading you to donate to a needy kingdom mission or share an extra offering for a special timely cause; or maybe it was when you disobeyed His direction to spend more time in His Word than in front of the TV. No matter the unlimited examples which may exist, I am certain that we can all find times in our own life journey when we failed to go “a little farther” with Him, just as these disciple did in the Garden at Gethsemane! Maybe those failing moments have led you into a season of life where you feel like your soul is in a place of darkness and confusion, much like the disciples must have felt when they were suddenly awaken from their untimely ‘cat napping’ to find Jesus being arrested (Mark 14:41-50). Maybe you feel as if your failings have resulted in all of your divinus momentos (divine moments) of usefulness for God being spent / forfeited. Listen closely – these are but lies whispered to us by the enemy’s deceitful lips (John 8:44). Know that you and I can praise our Lord Jesus Christ for our sinful shortcomings need not define nor do they need to derail our future journeys with our Lord. Out of His grace, Christ offers us His divine forgiveness for our sins – for the many times we have failed to go “a little further” with Him (Ephesians 1:6-8 ESV)! The disciples unquestionably failed Jesus through their sinful slumber at Gethsemane, and upon awaking to the prophetic events of Jesus’ arrest, they all would run away in fear for their lives (Mark 14:50). Yet these same disciples, after Jesus’ resurrection and Pentecost, would later return to Him to pursue an incredible life journey that would see them be established as the vital building pillars for Christ’s new church (His body / His people; Matthew 16:18). One closing thought – like with the disciples with Jesus at Gethsemane, we often have a short window of time to which we can obediently respond to the Lord’s call to go “a little farther” with Him - whether that be in some ministry service /task or with some aspect of our Christian character. To this point the Apostle Paul shares, “Be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be clearheaded (1 Thessalonians 5:6 NLT) … make sure that you don't get so absorbed and exhausted in taking care of all your day-by-day obligations that you lose track of the time and doze off, oblivious to God. The night is about over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God is doing!” (Romans 13:11-12 The Message) As His 21st Century disciples, we must all stay spiritually awake and alert to whatever God asks of us in our life journey ahead so that we too will have His divine strength (Philippians 4:13) whenever He invites us to go “a little farther” with Him! …Selah! Today's Spirit-led video is a beautiful witness to the redeeming power of faith in the life of a believer. The song the led me to share is by CCM artists Kutless and can be viewed by clicking on its title “What Faith Can Do

“Pure as Honey”

[Today's LifeText] “I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure ("sincere" NKJV) and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return.’” (Philippians 1:9-10 NLT)
From today’s life text, we see the Apostle Paul encouraging believers to live “sincere lives” until the day when Christ returns. The word ‘sincere’ comes from two Latin words, sine ('without') and cere ('wax') “i.e. without the presence of any wax.” This definition goes back to the ancient practice of beekeeping. When one was looking to buy a jar of honey, they would often search for “pure honey” which was written on the label. Honey was considered pure only if all of the beeswax had been removed. Some vendors actually referred to and sold their strained (pure) honey as “sincere honey.” Another illustration of sincerity was similarly seen with pottery. Not unlike our modern day crooks and dishonest businessmen, many corrupt pottery vendors in ancient times would take broken and/or imperfect pottery that had cracks, gaps, holes or some other defect and fill the deformities with melted wax. After skillfully painting the pottery they would sell it as “genuine” pottery without flaws to unsuspecting customers (i.e. sold under the guise of deception). An honest merchant – when presenting his product to a prospective buyer - might say that it was a “sincere piece of pottery.” This meant that the pottery had no flaws – that it was free from wax and that what they saw was what it truly was – a solid piece of handcrafted pottery free of any blemishes or imperfections.
So how was the deceptive use of wax with pottery or the presence of wax in honey discovered? The Apostle Paul in Verse 10a in our life text helps answer that question - his desire was “…that (we / believers) may approve the things that are excellent.” (NKJV) The English word “approve” here comes from a Greek word that means “to judge or test for genuineness (i.e. sincerity / purity) by sunlight or to examine by the rays of the sun." To determine if honey was pure (sincere), one would simply hold it up against the sunlight to examine closely for any wax / impurities. The same practice was also used to detect the deceptive use of wax in hiding flaws / imperfections in pottery.
In today’s life text, the Apostle Paul’s prayer is that God’s people would live lives that are sincere - that is, lives that are genuine, true / authentic, transparent (not hypocritical) and purified from the particulates of sin (e.g. spiritual impurities/ false appearances or deceptive motives). Sadly, sincere hearts seem to be rapidly becoming a rare find in today’s culture. For many, their so-called sincerity is based upon conditional demands or self-driven wants/desires which often parallel the world’s set of values, not God’s. God desires that as genuine Christians, we are to come before Him with sincere (pure) hearts - “Let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting Him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:22 NLT) This involves our being fully honest before God, coming to Him without masks (“falsehood / deceptionEphesians 4:25) – in sincerity (pureness) of heart (Psalms 24:3-4, Matthew 5:8). Our weaknesses (i.e cracks / gaps in our character) can only be exposed when we submit ourselves to the true light of Christ. Ephesians 5:13 declares, “The light makes all things easy to see…” (NCV) As sincere Christians, we must allow God each day to judge the conduct of our heart, of our thoughts, of our deepest desires and of our actions through the divine illumination of His Holy Word. That is why it is so critically important that we spend time daily in God’s Word – allowing the living waters to cleanse us (Ephesians 4:26) from the sin (i.e. spiritual wax) that covers our soul (Psalms 119:105, 1 John 1:9).
So let us commit anew to the Apostle Paul’s command to “live pure (sincere) lives” - starting today and every day that follows until the divine moment that our Lord returns. May we each allow the light of God’s Word to penetrate the recesses of our heart in search for any sinful flaws / cracks / impurities in our character (Psalms 139:23-24) so that we can be molded into His divine vessels which are filled with His love and used for His glory. 2 Timothy 2:21 (NLT) declares, “If you keep yourself pure (sincere), you will be a special utensil (vessel NKJV) for honorable use. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work.” May we each take heed to the divine wisdom shared in Joshua 24:14 which commands every believer “to fear the Lord, and serve Him in sincerity (with pureness of heart and motives) and in truth.” Selah!
Today's Spirit-led video is a beautiful testament to Lord's promised return. The song is by CCM artists Casting Crowns and can be viewed by clicking on its title, “Glorious Day (Living He Loved Me).”

“…CHRISTmas Giving Year-Round”

[Focal Text: “…Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than receive.’” Acts 20:35]
Throughout the world, stores are filled with crowds of shoppers these final few days before Christmas with many who are eagerly looking for that infamous “last minute gift.” From clothes sizes to favorite colors and the innumerable list of choices, many have their minds preoccupied more on the aesthetics and cost of the gifts while being enamored with their own “wish list” which entails an unending hunger for more “stuff” to add to our already “stuffed lives.” Christmas morning will soon arrive, and despite all the “stuff” which we both exchange and receive, many will be left feeling “incomplete / empty” as if something special were missing. That missing “something” is the true reason for this divine season – the gift of our Savior, Jesus Christ, over 2,000 years ago that established the real meaning and purpose of Christmas – the gift of God’s love for the forgiveness of our sins through virgin birth, crucifixion and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. Although many know of this truth, many will fail to both genuinely understand it and allow it to truly change / transform their lives into His likeness. Reading in one of my devotionals recently, I came across the following illustration of how some in this journey of life truly do understand God’s gift and His call to share in that same giving spirit to others. The devotional “shared a story of a Christian peasant woman living in Africa over fifty years ago. People were bringing gifts as offerings to the Lord at her local church, but she had nothing to bring – or so she thought. When she appeared with a dollar to place on the church altar, the missionary became quite curious of its origin, given her great degree of poverty. As he lovingly spoke with her, he quickly discovered that she had sold herself as a ‘slave’ for life to a nearby plantation – for a dollar!” Although most who read this true story will have their sensibilities shocked in trying to understand this woman’s freewill choice of slavery, we must focus not so much on her act, but on the example of her loving attitude toward her Savior. The divine power of giving as seen by the sacrificial witness of this humble peasant quickly dismisses the misguided focus of “self” which has consumed so many seem in today’s culture, especially during the Christmas season. Take just a moment to ponder the giving of oneself to a lifetime of slavery – by choice – out of a love that is clearly boundless and overflowing for the divine gift of that “baby in a manger” (Luke 2:12) over 2,000 years ago – simply incredible! What an expression of a grateful heart for God’s sending of His Son, Jesus, as a gift so that we may have eternal life just as HE declared in John 3:16, “For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” (NLT) The Apostle Paul captured that thankful heart when he penned those celebratory words of joy to the believers at Corinth, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15) Amy Carmichael, a Christian missionary to India who sacrificially served 55 years on the mission field without a single furlough, once wrote, “One can give without loving, but one cannot love without giving!” Our giving to others of Christ in and through us is never to be limited to this holiday season … it is to be expressed through a lifestyle of giving throughout the year! Many miss this year round spirit of giving because we are blinded by the cost (i.e. the demand of time & ourselves). To that Amy Carmichael wrote, “Satan is so much more in earnest than we are - he buys up the opportunity while we are (left) wondering how much it will cost." So in these waning hours leading up to this year’s Christmas, I would extend the challenge that we all stop for a few moments and truly reflect upon the gift that makes this season of celebration all possible – the gift of Immanuel (God with us)! Reflect over the words penned by the prophet Isaiah as he spoke of this divine gift even before His arrival in that little town of Bethlehem on that first Christmas night, “For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over His kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.” (Isaiah 9:5-7) Despite the growing number of folks today that seem to have forgotten and/or neglected the true reason for this Christmas season, the blessing for God’s children (His Church) - as seen in their giving to others of His love, His peace and His hope – remains available for us all to share, not just at Christmas, but throughout the New Year to come! So let us resolve in our hearts to “give generously” (Psalms 37:21) to one another as we celebrate the divine gift of love seen in that precious baby lying in a manger on that first Christmas night! …Selah!
Today's Spirit-led video is a powerful music testament to the incredible gift of God’s love (Romans 5:8) by CCM artists Downhere and can be viewed by clicking on their Christmas song, “How Many Kings?”