Southside's Blog

Southside is a loving, vigorous, and growing congregation in Shelbyville, Tennessee. Our vision is toward the future: Our Children, Our Ministry, and Our Outreach. Our goal is to embrace all people in our hearts and fellowship as we strive together to support Christ’s mission on earth.

4 Spiritual Commitments for 2024

 

This past Sunday I suggested that the New Year is a great time to make some spiritual commitments. We need to be focused and committed to living out the Greatest Commands (Matthew 22:36-40).

The 4 Spiritual Commitments for 2024 I encourage every person to make:

  1. Commit to Spending Daily Time with God.
  2. Commit to Worshipping Regularly with the Church.
  3. Commit to Expressing Love for Other People.
  4. Commit to Giving Back to God.

If you want to watch the sermon, please check out our YouTube page for the Southside Church of Christ in Shelbyville, TN.

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WHEN GOD GIVES AN ASSIGNMENT - Max Lucado

The Bible says that “each person is given something to do that shows who God is” (1 Corinthians 12:7 MSG).

When God gives an assignment, he also gives the skill. Look at your life. What do you consistently do well? What do you love to do?  And what do others love for you to do? So much for the excuse, “I don’t have anything to offer. I can’t do anything.” And enough of its arrogant opposite, “I have to do everything.”

Imitate the apostle Paul who said, “Our goal is to stay within the boundaries of God’s plan for us” (2 Corinthians 10:13 NLT). So extract your uniqueness. “Kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you” (2 Timothy 1:6 NASB). And do so to make a big deal out of God.

From Mike:To say that He gave you NO gift would be calling Him a liar. If you have not tried to discover the gift then you must make an effort. He will guide you. Sometimes it just comes down to common sense. He did not give me the gift of leading the singing. I know that and you would to if I tried. 

James 4:17 - So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

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LORD OF HEAVEN - Max Lucado

When tragedy strikes, whether personal, national, or global, people wonder how God could allow such things to happen. Is God really in control? Can we trust him to run the universe if he would allow this?

It is important to recognize that God dwells in a different realm. God said to Isaiah, “Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9 NCV).

How vital, then, that we pray, armed with the knowledge that God is in heaven. And he has chosen to bend near toward earth to see our sorrow and hear our prayers. Though we may not be able to see his purpose or his plan, the Lord of heaven is on his throne and in firm control of the universe and our lives.

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Ms. Nellie

I’m an early riser. I have my coffee and work on crossword puzzles and other computer games to get my mind working. Some days that takes a long time. Then, I turn the lights off in my study, stare into the darkness, and talk to God. Doing it this way keeps my attention deficit down.

For some reason, this morning, my mind turned to Ms. Nellie Shoemaker. Unfortunately, I didn’t really know her. This past summer, I saw her in Walmart. Because of my speech, I don’t often speak to folks who don’t really know me. On this occasion, I got up the courage to say hello. I could not remember her name, so I told her we go to church together. I had to tell her twice because she was guarded. It dawned on her who I was.  She smiled really big, “You’re that man that sends me that letter every month.” I said, “Yes, mam”. After all, she was only a few years younger than my Mom would have been. She told me that she kept the letters with her Bible to reread. We chatted for a few more minutes about her lifestyle, and she moved on to her car to drive home. It's incredible that at 90+ years old, she was capable of so much memory and freedom.

Most of us complicate life well beyond what we need to. Ms. Nellie’s life seemed so uncomplicated. She had a deep and abiding love for God. She knew He was in charge and was very comfortable with that fact. For just a brief encounter, she made such an impression on me. It’s easy to picture her in the arms of Jesus.

Thanks, Ms. Nellie, for sharing your Godly thoughts with me! Hopefully, I will pass your spirit on!

Mike                                

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God’s Peace

Peace is a state of tranquility or quiet, serene or calm – the absence of war. The Hebrew word is shalom (both adjective and substantive), meaning primarily "soundness" "health," but also coming to signify "prosperity," well-being in general, all good in relation to both man and God.

What brings you peace in your life? You might say everything is right in my world! We are all healthy, jobs are going fine, the kids are doing well, and we have no appreciable debt.

You should be at peace in this case, but how long will this last? I’m not a pessimist, but we all realize that life can take a turn quickly.

Over a year, you learn that your 18-year-old daughter, who just graduated from high school, is pregnant. Your brother-in-law has committed suicide. The company you manage is running out of money. The Board votes not to raise more capital and to cease operations. After the company’s dissolution is settled, a friend invites you to join his company as a partner. Within days, you field calls from the business’s creditors who want their money.  Investigation shows that his daughter has been embezzling money to blow at the casinos. This company goes under within four months of joining it. During all this, you, your wife, and son are negotiating to buy a retail business for them to manage.

There is not much peace!!!  Where do we go from here? Satan loves these opportunities. He’ll tell you God doesn’t care about you, so why should you be loyal to Him? He will help you wallow in your self-pity. Well, you don’t blame God and turn away from Him. You run to His arms and ask for a comforting hug.

The following are quotes from Allen Jackson:

Thankfully, there is no fear that cannot be overcome with the peace that Jesus gives us. His life was filled with situations that would cause real fear in the bravest of us, but He was never afraid. His life was marked by criticism and rejection, but He demonstrated a calm assurance that God was always with Him. If Jesus said we don’t have to be afraid, we don’t have to be. If Jesus gives me His peace, that’s good enough for me.

Allen’s prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You that in this troubled world You provide peace, security, and abundant life through the cross of Jesus Christ. May your Holy Spirit counsel me daily in Your peace. When I am afraid, I will trust in You. In Jesus’ name, amen

From Chris Lawrence:

Here are seven things to know about the peace of God:

This peace is a gift. You must look outside yourself for this peace. You will not find this peace by looking deep inside your own heart, but by looking outside of yourself, to another power and a person. And this person is God.

As God has said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. John 14:27  He offers this gift with no strings attached. It is a blessing for us to enjoy. But it is something you must ask for in order to receive. Psalm 29:11

The peace that God offers is not something we can fully understand. We are relying upon God after all. As the Bible says, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding…  Philippians 4:6-7 The great thing is that we don’t have to fully understand it to experience it!

This peace will give you strength. The feeling of calm and confidence, even while the wind blows and thunder rolls, is a powerful weapon against the storms of cancer, coronavirus or whatever challenges you face. Those that experience it will find a new kind of strength. God has promised to increase the power of the weak, “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles.” Isaiah 40:29-31

This peace will guard your heart. Especially in the face of suffering and threats, your heart is a fragile thing. This peace builds a fortress around your heart and protects you from the surrounding dangers and fears.

This peace will help you sleep. So often, our anxiety rears its head the most when we try to sleep. If we begin experiencing a calm and tranquility about our future, better sleep is a natural outcome. God promises it to us. “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8

You must ask for this peace. We can’t assume that this peace will automatically arrive on our doorstep. We have to ask God for it. He is relational and does not intrude on people. You must invite him into your life, and into your journey. As God says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” Revelation 3:20

There is a gift of peace you can experience, no matter where you are at on your journey.  Are you ready to ask for it?

God knows what we need, even better than we know it ourselves. Is that settled in your heart? Does your life reflect that?

We are all in need of peace. This article was spurred primarily by the weather in Middle Tennessee this past weekend.  Six tornadoes, as of this writing, six deaths, and one of those was a child. Many injured. An unknown number of homes were destroyed. Christmas presents are scattered for miles around the countryside.

But then, Evelyn needs additional neurological surgery. A significant amount of peace is required when your child faces any surgery but brain surgery.

I’m sure that Allen’s writings come from many years in ministry to those who need and are in search of peace. Chris’s article comes from his ministry to help cancer patients find peace.

In addition to your search for peace, do you help others in the search?

God is waiting for you to come for a hug. His arms are open wide. Go ahead ! They feel good!

God Bless!

Mike    Mikeclement5772@gmail,com

Standing Firm – Allen Jackson – 2018 – Intend Publishing

Hope Has Arrived - The Gift of Peace - From the Internet – Chris Lawrence

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SEARCHING THE NIGHT - Max Lucado

On the night when Jesus was born, I wonder if Joseph prayed, “Father, this all seems so…bizarre. The angel you sent? Any chance you could send another?”

You’ve stood where Joseph stood. Each of us knows what it’s like to search the night for a light. Not outside a stable, but perhaps outside an emergency room or the manicured grass of a cemetery. We’ve asked our questions. We’ve wondered why God does what he does. If you’re asking what Joseph asked, let me urge you to do what Joseph did: obey. He didn’t let his confusion disrupt his obedience.

What about you? You have a choice: to obey or disobey. Because Joseph obeyed, God used him to change the world. Can he do the same with you? Will you be that kind of person? Will you serve…even when you don’t understand?

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THE HOUSE OF GOD - Max Lucado

When it came time for bed, it’s what our young daughter’s guest wanted more than anything else—to go home! I can’t blame her. When I travel, the hardest part of the trip is going to sleep. When it comes to resting, there is no house like your own.

It’s what David asked. He longed to live in the house of God. He asked for his own room, permanently. He longed to retire there in a lifelong residence. When David says in Psalm 23, “I will live in the house of the Lord forever,” he’s saying simply that he never wants to step away from God. Make it your aim never to leave God’s house.

And when you find yourself in another house, do what my daughter’s friend did – just call home. He won’t mind, he’ll be waiting.

 

From Mike: Very comforting!!

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HERE BY GRACE - Max Lucado


When I realized my daughter and I weren’t seated together, I asked the fellow sitting next to her to swap seats with me. Surely he’ll understand, I thought. But he didn’t.

And so I was left separated for a long, transatlantic flight from my daughter. I began to plot how I’d trip him if he dared walk to the restroom during the flight. I turned to intimidate him with a snarl and saw, much to my surprise, Jenna offering him a pretzel. What? My daughter fraternizing the enemy! As if the pretzel were an olive branch, he accepted her gift and they both leaned their seats back and dozed off.

I learned the lesson God had used my daughter to teach me. All of us are here by grace and, at some point, all of us have to share some grace. So the next time you find yourself next to a questionable character, don’t give him a hard time—give him a pretzel!

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WE ARE ALL BEGGARS - Max Lucado

We are all beggars in need of bread. “Give us this day our daily bread,” we pray. You may prefer, “We are all hungry, in need of bread.” Such a phrase certainly has more dignity than the word beggar. Who wants to be called a beggar? After all, didn’t you create the ground in which the seed was sown? No? Well at least you made the seed, right? You didn’t? What about the sun? Did you provide the heat during the day? Or the rain – did you send the clouds? No? Then exactly what did you do?

You harvested food you didn’t make from an earth you didn’t create. Let me see if I have this straight. Had God not done his part, you would have no food. Hmmm…perhaps we best return to the word beggar. We are all beggars, in need of bread.

 

From Mike: This is for all of us and especially for those that don't believe they need to say "Thank you" to God!

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ABBA FATHER - Max Lucado

When my daughter Jenna was twelve, I took her to Jerusalem. As we were exiting the Jaffa gate, an orthodox Jewish family was in front of us—a father and his three small girls. One of the daughters fell a few steps behind and couldn’t see her father. “Abba!” she called to him. “Abba!” she called again. He spotted her and immediately extended his hand.

As they continued, I wanted to see the actions of an abba. He held her hand tightly in his. When he stopped at a busy street, she stepped off the curb and he pulled her back. When the signal changed, he carried her and led her sisters through the intersection.

Isn’t that what we all need? An abba who will hear when we call? An abba who will swing us up into his arms and carry us home? Don’t we all need an Abba Father?

 

From Mike: As we observe this special day, let's give special thanks to Abba!

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TRUST YOUR WOUNDS TO JESUS - Max Lucado

"Resentment is a prison. When you put someone in your jail cell of hatred, you’re stuck guarding the door. If you’re out to settle a score, you’re never going to rest. How can you? For one thing, your enemy may never pay up. And as much as you think you deserve an apology, your debtor may not agree. The racist may never repent; the chauvinist may never change. As justified as you are in your quest for vengeance, you may never get a penny’s worth of justice. And if you do, will it be enough?"

"You see, resentment is a prison. Jesus doesn’t question the reality of your wounds, he just doubts whether resentment is going to heal them. What are you going to do? Are you going to spend your life guarding the jail cell, or are you going to trust your wounds to Jesus?"

From Mike: Max you don't understand. Jesus may not exact all the vengeance that I believe is necessary! Folks, if that's your attitude then you will continue your prison sentence of dealing with resentment. Just remember that you sentenced yourself!

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THE ROOF OF GOD’S GRACE - Max Lucado


“Insufficient funds” – what an ominous phrase! In the great gallery of famous phrases, “insufficient funds” hangs in the same hallway with “the IRS will audit your account,” “a root canal is necessary,” and “let’s stop dating and just be friends.”

You’re overdrawn. You gave more than you had to give. You spent more than you had to spend. And guess who has to cough up some cash? What do you do if you don’t have any money? What do you do if you have nothing to deposit but an honest apology and good intentions? You pray that some wealthy soul will make a huge deposit in your account.

If you’re talking about your financial debt, that’s not likely to happen. But if you’re talking about your spiritual debt, it already has. Your heavenly Father has covered your shortfall. In God’s house you’re covered by the roof of his grace!

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HARD TO SWALLOW - Max Lucado

Every day God prepares for us a plate of experiences. Some days are “three cookie days.” Many are not. Sometimes our plate has nothing but vegetables, twenty-four hours of celery, carrots, and squash. Apparently God knows we need some strength, and though the portion may be hard to swallow, isn’t it for our own good? All are important, and all come from God. Romans 8:28 says, “We know that in everything God works for the good of those who love Him.”

So the next time your plate has a portion you find hard to swallow, talk to God about it. Jesus did. In the garden of Gethsemane his Father handed him a cup of suffering so sour, so vile, that Jesus handed it back to heaven. “My Father,” he prayed, “if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39).

From Mike: In addition to the fact that I really enjoyed Max's devotional this morning, I had to share some humor. When I was a kid, my Mother and I had a constant battle over green beans.  Every time she made them, I had to try them again.  I strongly objected.

When I was in rehab in 2015 for a major stroke, I could only swallow liquid and had to be careful with that. For the first ten days I lived on soup and Ensure. The day finally came when they switched me to pureed food. Breakfast was a scrambled egg and pureed biscuit. That might have been the best biscuit I've ever eaten. I looked forward to lunch with anticipation. The offering was some kind of brown meat pureed, mashed potatoes, and a giant scoop of evil-looking green mass. Yep, they pureed green beans. I could see the giant smile on Mother's face up in heaven. Pureeing them does not make them better!

Mike

 

 

 

 

 

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THE PLATE RUNS OVER - Max Lucado

“Give us this day our daily bread.” What a statement of trust!

Some days the plate runs over. God keeps bringing out more food, and we keep loosening up our belt. A promotion. A privilege. A friendship. A gift. A lifetime of grace. An eternity of joy. The Psalmist said, “You serve me a six-course dinner right in front of my enemies. You revive my drooping head; my cup fills with blessing” (Psalm 23:5 MSG).

And then there are those days when, well, we have to eat our broccoli. Our daily bread could be tears or sorrow or discipline. Our portion may include adversity as well as opportunity.

So the next time your plate has more broccoli than apple pie, just remember who prepared the meal. Even Jesus was given a portion he found hard to swallow. But with God’s help, he did. And with God’s help, you can too.

From Mike: There is always a request for prayers for those going through adversity in the Southside bulletin. The vast majority of the requests are because of health. Wonder how many people are struggling with something other than illness? Marriage problems, children problems, work problems, or other problems with living life. Most of us don't open up about the different struggles in life. The next time you pray for the members at Southside, ask for God's help swallowing the broccoli, whatever it may be.!

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Characteristics of Resilient Disciples

We are commanded by Jesus in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) to "go and make disciples". As we can see from the Book of Acts, the early disciples took this direction seriously and taught people about Jesus, how to get forgiveness through Him, and how to live for Him daily to change other people's lives. Yet, throughout the last 2000 years of the Church's existence, we have often watered down what true discipleship is and made it simply to show up for worship occasionally. That is not healthy and it is not Biblical. There is more to being a disciple of Jesus Christ.

The Apostle Paul writes these words to Titus, as recorded in Titus 2:11-14:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.

David Kinnaman and Mark Matlock, in their excellent book, Faith for Exiles: 5 Ways for a New Generation to Follow Jesus in Digital Babylon, discuss 5 key characteristics of resilient disciples in the 18-28 age range. I will just list them here and come back and write about each one in separate blog posts.

  1. They have an intimate relationship with Jesus.
  2. They have developed the muscles of cultural discernment.
  3. They have forged meaningful, intergenerational relationships (in the Church).
  4. They have trained (and they practice) vocational discipleship.
  5. They have curbed self-centered tendencies and engage in countercultural mission.

I should ask myself if I have these characteristics. Am I a resilient disciple of Jesus?

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GOD LISTENS TO YOU - Max Lucado

"You and I live in a loud world. To get someone’s attention is no easy task. But when someone’s willing to silence everything else so he can hear us clearly, it’s a privilege. A rare privilege indeed!"

"You can talk to God because he listens. Your voice matters in heaven. He takes you very seriously. No need to fear you’ll be ignored. Even if you stammer or stumble, even if what you have to say impresses no one, it impresses God—and he listens. Intently, carefully. Your prayer on earth activates God’s power in heaven."

"As Scripture says, “Thy will is done on earth as it is done in heaven.” The prayers are honored as precious jewels. You may not understand the mystery of prayer; you don’t need to. But this much is clear: actions in heaven begin when someone prays on earth. What an amazing thought!"

From Mike: An article online this week encouraged parents not to teach their children about religion. The author believes that religion puts too much pressure on them maintain certain standards. Heaven forbid that we expect people to live up to God's standards!! We need to take Max's comment to heart and pray: "But this much is clear: actions in heaven begin when someone prays on earth. 

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Please join us this Sunday at Southside!

The clocks turn back this weekend and we will get an extra hour of sleep. It is a chance to start something new that will impact your life forever for the good. I am talking about coming to a Sunday School class and then staying for worship at the Southside Church of Christ in Shelbyville, TN. 

We have new classes starting for all ages this Sunday, including a new Young Adult class for those who are 18-25 years old. We have Sunday School at 9 AM and Worship at 10 AM. We would love to see you and get to know you!

Please come!

 

Sincerely,

 

Tim Gunnells, Minister

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

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GOD IS WOOING YOU - Max Lucado

In 1890 Francis Thompson, a Roman Catholic poet, described God as “The Hound of Heaven.” He wrote:

I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him,…”

Thompson speaks of Jesus as “this tremendous Lover” who pursues us “with un-hurrying chase, an unperturbed pace, deliberate speed, and majestic instancy.”

Would you open your heart to this possibility? God is wooing you, pursuing you, romancing you. Refuse him if you wish. Ignore him if you desire. But he will not give up. Did he not promise to lead you home? And has he ever broken a promise? Not on your life.

This is the message of God, the aggressive promise of grace. Trust it.

From Mike: Max makes it sound so easy and inviting and it is. There's one huge problem. Satan does everything in his bag of tricks to prevent our relationship with God. Satan doesn't love us but only wants to make sure we wind in hell suffering with him. So, be thankful that God is patient and continues to woo us. Ask Him to continue and not give up. If He does all would be lost.

 

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Talking with God

Some of us view prayer as a chore. We don’t enjoy doing it, but we do it anyway to keep the air clear. We assume that God will be satisfied if we go through an occasional prayer ritual. However, prayer should be the combination that unlocks the door to all the riches of the kingdom of God. Lack of understanding about the purpose of prayer and failure to pray are barriers that keep that door shut. On the other hand, the consistent practice of prayer will open wide the door of God’s work in our lives.

I want to share some things that might help us:  1) The Purpose of Prayer, 2) The Motivation for Prayer, 3) God’s Answers to Prayer, 4) The Promises of Prayer, and 5) Different Aspects of Prayer.

THE PURPOSE OF PRAYER

  • Through prayer, we learn to converse with God.
  • As we talk with Him, we get to know Him more personally.
  • Soon we will discover that we have the power we need to do whatever God asks of us.
  • What kind of power results from prayer? John 14:12-14
  • What is a major reason for not receiving answers to prayer? John 16:24
  • Sometimes we don’t even bother to ask God for the things we want, and then we complain when we don’t get them. In an average week, how much time do you spend in personal prayer?
  • Do you feel like you are spending enough time in prayer, or would you like to spend more?

 THE MOTIVATION FOR PRAYER

  • Why should we pray? For what should we ask? Are there conditions that you must meet to obtain an answer?  What are the results of prayer? 
  • Until we answer some of these basic questions, we may not be motivated to pray. Here are some Scriptures that help answer these questions:

John 15:7-11

James 5:13-16

2 Chronicles 7:14

Matthew 6:5-13

Matthew 26:41

GOD’S ANSWERS TO PRAYER

  • God wants to give us the things we need as we pray for them. But prayer is not like a quarter spent in a vending machine to automatically get what we want. God wants us to have what will be best for us. 
  • Prayer involves: 1) Putting ourselves in the position to know God, 2) receiving what God has to give us, and 3) doing what He wants us to do.
  • When we ask God for something, He will respond to our request in one of three ways:
    1. He might say Yes.
      1. When we pray for something according to God’s will He promises an affirmative answer. He loves us and wants to answer yes to our requests.
      2. 1 John 5:14-15
    2. He might say Wait.
      1. God always has a good reason for not giving us what we ask for right away. We may not always understand why He chooses to let us wait, but we can be sure that He is doing what is best for us.
      2. James 1:2-4 gives one reason God might have us to wait.
      3. Psalm 27:13-14 tells us what our attitude should be while we wait.
    3. He might say No.
      • Just as good parents must sometimes say no to their children’s requests, God must also refuse our prayer requests from time to time.
      • God told David no when He asked to build the temple because David had shed too much blood in his lifetime (2 Chronicles 22:7-10).
      • 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 -- God said no to Paul.
      • James 1:6-8 gives one reason that God sometimes says no.

 THE PROMISES OF PRAYER

  • God’s Word provides hundreds of promises about prayer. But they won’t mean much to us if we don’t apply them to specific areas of our life. As we look quickly at 4 scriptures, think about how they apply to you.

Matthew 7:7-8

James 1:5

Philippians 4:19

Philippians 4:6-7

 DIFFERENT ASPECTS OF PRAYER

5 basic types of prayer:

  1. Praise—Hebrews 13:15
  2. Thanksgiving—Psalm 118:1
  3. Confession—Proverbs 28:13
  4. Petition—John 16:23-24
  5. Intercession—1 Timothy 2:1-2

I would be happy to talk more with you about any of these things. You can contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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Devotional thoughts from Max Lucado

These are two of Max Lucado’s recent devotionals. Some valuable thoughts1

DON’T STOP IN SHECHEM -

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23 NIV).

What voices seduce you? Distract you? Lure you away from your destiny? To be clear, if you have the gift of Christ in your heart, you are set for life. Sin cannot destroy you. But it can trip you, ensnare you, entangle you. It cannot take your salvation, but it can take your joy, peace of mind, and rest.

Jacob learned this lesson. He got out of Shechem. He realized that if they stayed, the Canaanites, who were much larger in number, would retaliate and kill his entire household. He pulled up stakes, loaded his camels, and turned toward Bethel. And to the degree that Shechem was sordid, Bethel was beautiful. But Jacob had to make a change. Do likewise. Don’t stop in Shechem when the blessing is in Bethel.

GOD CAME TO JACOB -

Jacob’s season at Shechem was a toxic wasteland. Jacob forgot who he was and what God had commanded. His disobedience resulted in a devastated family. Rape. Carnage. Sacrilege. Genesis 34 is the darkest chapter in the Jacob story. It’s not that God was not present, it’s that God was not sought. Jacob once again lived life by his own terms and paid a high price for doing so. What a sorry excuse for a patriarch. God will surely abandon him.

But that’s not what happens. “Then God said to Jacob, ‘Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God,…'” (Genesis 35:1 NIV). Instead of giving up on Jacob, God spoke to him. God took the initiative. God came to Jacob. And Jacob came to his senses. God never gave up on him, and he’ll never give up on you.

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