The Christmas Story – 2015

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It only happens once a year, but gratefully it happens every year. Consistently and faithfully this day becomes an anchor of our childhood, our family memories, and on a much larger scale, even our faith. This one day that is different than the other 364. It seems that nearly everything about our culture and society has shifted, but this one day has some how withstood the crushing avalanche of change. The times and seasons change. For instance, I haven’t noticed a fight over Cabbage Patch dolls this year or people being trampled by a mob in search of Tickle Me Elmo. The times and seasons change, but Christmas day is a tide of consistency. In fact, this one day in December now casts a long shadow all the way into the month of October. October seems a tad early for Christmas music, but I sometimes watch Christmas movies in July so who am I to judge. Here’s a spoiler alert for that Christmas movie you are going to watch, it’s going to snow and everything works out in the end. Our economy still very much revolves around this one day. Our retail stores depend on one Friday in November to put them in the black. We call it Black Friday. It should be noted that it’s only Black Friday for Gap and Banana Republic. It’s probably Red Friday for the consumers. It’s still a wonder to me that a sizable portion of the economy of one of the most powerful and wealthy nations the world has ever known revolves around the birth of a baby in a small city called Bethlehem 2000 years ago. It’s not just commerce, but even our calendar hinges on this one day. Vacations and trips are planned, parties and family gatherings are set in motion. The season struggles to contain all of the activity that we try to cram into it. It would sometimes seem easier to negotiate peace in the Middle East than to negotiate which side of the family gets the Grandkids on Christmas morning. I honestly don’t know how long this will last for our society in general. It seems like our culture tries to reject anything to do with God, even his birthday. Yet, this day still influences the world around us. We all still spend a little more than we should, rush a little more than we should, so that we can stop, at least for this one day. Stop to share gifts, stop to share family time, and stop just to reflect. This one day becomes a birthday party celebrated the world over. How powerful is that? An event that happened 2000 years ago is still shaping and influencing the world around us. So what happened on this one day that made it more marvelous than all others.

I would say it was Favor Found. It was Grace discovered in cloth and a manger. People tend to search for things, especially answers. And especially to answers to questions like is God good or bad or perhaps indifferent? It’s a question that has rolled through the ages like tumbleweed. The world seems harsh. People seem harsh at times. If you have ever read through the Old Testament you find a mix of a God that seems to be imploring people in love to obey him. Yet, unable or unwilling to follow the commands the people like clockwork go astray. On time and on schedule the judgment of God would arrive. It was severe and yes, it would be harsh. We watch it play out in a never ending circle in 39 books that make up the Old Testament. God loves, but God has rules, and God has judgment. People break the rules and disregard God and then the judgment comes. That judgment was harsh. But one day a new page starts. It’s different. It’s not the same and will never be the same. The circle is broken. There, lying in a manger under starry sky is the same God of fiery judgment and watery retribution. It’s the same, He’s the same, but yet not the same at all. In Bethlehem the harshness of a judgmental God has turned as soft as a baby’s bottom. The rigid justice of a God of rules and regulations became as tender as a new born’s lips that Mary probably kissed more than a few times. All of that judgment, all of that justice, all of that authority and power. It was wrapped up in 10 tiny toes and one little nose. Weak and vulnerable, completely dependent, and even fragile. A baby lies in a manger. Maybe the world is harsh, maybe people are harsh, but maybe God isn’t so harsh after all. One day a God thundering on a mountain that causes the earth to burn and tremble. This day, this one single, solitary day, a God who’s cries are only heard by a caring mother and some random livestock. Born to rule in grace, born to save in love, born to conquer death and our sin, but first a diaper change and a nap. Is God good or bad? Is he harsh or angry? We can easily see there is harshness in the world he created. The bad is evident all around us. But in the tenderness of his advent we see the heart of the God who loves us. Omnipotence became vulnerable just to help me find my strength. Sovereignty got scolded by a mother just so I could have peace even if I don’t have all of the answers. Omnipresence got held in a Father’s arms just so that I would know that I am never, never alone in this world. So we stop. Or at least we should. Because this day, this one day, is special. It’s Christmas. Our savior is born.
We aren’t alone. We aren’t neglected. We aren’t left in our sin waiting for judgment. Immanuel, God is with us, for us, over us, good to us, and faithful to us. We often want God to fit with in the perimeters of our own comfort. A God of judgment that punishes for sin doesn’t sit well with us. It may be uncomfortable and even challenging, but its the perfect truth of God. But it’s against this bleak backdrop of sin and judgment that God painted the portrait of his grace. We no longer have to fear him, run from him, or hide from him. The God that thundered from mountains, and was off limits to mortals, is now as approachable as a baby.

Is Karma a Thing?

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Many people believe in Karma. It’s the idea that what you “put out” into the universe is what you will receive back. For instance, if you kick a Grandmother in the shin then someone will kick your Grandmother in the shin. Which raises the question, why are you kicking anyone in the shin, let alone a Grandmother? Which raises another question for me, is there any truth to this mystic belief? I believe the full idea of Karma is off kilter, but I also believe a portion of it is very true. The reason I believe it is true is because God is the originator of the laws of seed time and harvest. The bible clearly teaches the principle of “sowing and reaping.” This principle teaches that my words, decisions, and actions are seeds that produce a harvest. In fact, Paul said:

Galatians 6:7-9
7 Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. 8 Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. 9 So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.

Here are a few things to consider about sowing and reaping:

1. Sow with faith and expectation – Every time we give we should understand that we are sowing a seed into an everlasting kingdom. In fact, according to Acts 10 our giving creates a memorial before God. Not only should we expect to see a harvest in this life, but we should also expect to see a harvest in the life to come. Only eternity will fully reveal the results of our giving and generosity.

2. Sow with a right spirit – Faith is never coerced. For an act of kindness, an encouraging word, or an offering to truly be a seed that carries a harvest it must come from a willing heart and a right spirit. The scriptures teach us “the Lord loves a cheerful giver.” Let’s create a healthy harvest for ourselves by doing the right things with the right attitude and believing God for the right harvest at just the right time.

3. Don’t give up – There is a harvest of blessing! Paul never questions the harvest, his only question is whether or not we will get weary. My prayer is that you are encouraged to be faithful during this journey that we are own. I used to be impressed with people that I perceived to have big faith. The older I get the more impressed I am with people who are simply faithful. Don’t get weary in being faithful because there is a harvest of blessing.

Disconnect to Reconnect

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Part of me believes the 24 hour news channels will be the undoing of our society. How can there be that much to talk about? The truth is there isn’t, so issues are created and then debated. Every day you can hear people arguing and debating about a different issue facing our country. I personally believe bare knuckle boxing would be a better way to settle these issues. After pummeling one another you could both hug and leave with a better appreciation for the other. I think I could make Tom Brokaw see things my way now that he’s gotten older and his right hook isn’t what it used to be. I’m all for discussion and I’m also for being an informed citizen. There are very real issues facing our society and our global community. However, do we really need 24 hours to discuss the real issues? Ultimately it seems to always end up with a “news anchor” in the center screen with a democrat and republican in their respective places arguing talking points that were agreed to by a think tank long before the segment was recorded. It’s just not genuine. We consume the talking points and then march to social media to express our opinions, which very surprisingly is shared by some and not shared by others. Who knew that people would have varying opinions? Think about this for a moment if you will. Twenty four hours a day. 24 hours. That would be a big 2 and 4. The news cycles, the social media scrolls. Opinion, debate, issue after issue rolls like waves constant and consistent. Then we wonder why we feel overwhelmed, anxious, and maybe even depressed. There is a tremendous amount of wisdom in the ancient, biblical principle of the Sabbath. I realize that it was a day of no work to honor God, but I believe the principle can be expanded. The Sabbath was a strategic, scheduled, and much needed rest. I really believe having a strategic plan and scheduling a break from all news and social media could help save your soul. Not turning a blind eye to the issues that we are dealing with. Not being uninformed and living in blissful ignorance. Just a scheduled time to disconnect from the exhausting debate to reconnect with something that will restore your soul.

1. Disconnect to Reconnect with God

When was the last time you spent time in the presence of God? A time to not just submit a list of needs or power through a few verses, but time to sit and listen. Sitting still long enough for the typical mind waves to become smaller ripples. Being quiet enough that the voices of tv, radio, and social media grow more and more distant until they are silent. Somewhere beyond all of those voices is the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit. Speaking life, speaking dreams, speaking hope. Your soul will be restored when you hear that voice. But you will never hear it while the voices of the republican/democrat debate roar in your mind. Disconnect to reconnect.

2. Disconnect to Reconnect with your spouse

There is a sweet little thing in very close proximity to you. Yes, your husband may not be Chuck Norris, but go spend time with him anyway. My wife and I don’t always have it in the budget to do an expensive dinner or night out. Coffee is cheap, so is ice cream and they are both pretty good. We enjoy getting to drink coffee together and then strolling through stores or along the beach. No, it’s not fair that we have a local beach and others don’t, but life is rough sometimes. The point is that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to spend time together. Not only will it be good for your marriage it will be good for your soul.

3. Disconnect to Reconnect with your kids

When was the last time you let your kids set the agenda for the night? Here are the rules, we can do anything (within reason) that you want to do as long as it doesn’t involve TV, IPad, or Kindle. This is usually where they say let’s go to Disney, and I remind them of the “within reason” rule. Usually it ends up as a game night, a bike ride night, or a trip to the park. On a recent evening we were walking back from our local park. The sun was low so the rays were streaming sideways through the trees. The beams illuminating the dancing particles in the air creating a heavenly backdrop for our lives. I fell a little bit behind so I could watch my son and daughter walk ahead of me. I loved them more. Appreciated them more deeply. It’s amazing how Fox News, CNN, and Facebook doesn’t help with that.

4. Disconnect to Reconnect with a friend

Don’t forget to be relational. We say things on social media we would never say to a person if they were sitting across a table from us. For one reason it would be weird to respond to a joke with ROFL. Your friend says something funny, you look back across the table with a straight face and say, “LOL.” Never underestimate the power of spending time with a friend. Talk about God, talk about church, talk about family, talk about life, heck, even talk politics if you want to. The point is to disconnect from the disingenuous and connect with real, authentic relationships.

These things are all good for your soul. They disconnect you from the wired world, but that doesn’t just typically occur. Develop a strategy for life that disconnects you from what drains you, and reconnect to what restores you.

50 Shades of Church

50 Shades Tie
I once preached in a small church in rural Missouri (pronounced Miz-zour-a). There was a time in my life when I traveled and preached quite a bit. So every service would be a different church in a different town or state. After a while you sort of learn to roll with the customs of each particular church. On this night I rolled in to realize that for starters I was way over dressed. This church was casual and not just casual, but country casual. I had left my Levi bootcut jeans at the store somehow. In those days my typical preacher attire was a suit and tie. Being nimble of mind, I quickly nixed the tie so that my top button open dress shirt might create unity with this Levi wearing crowd. How good and pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity and all of that. I didn’t remove my jacket, I never remove my jacket once wearing one. That’s too high of a price to pay for unity to me for some reason. But I digress. Several of the men of the church welcomed me when I arrived and by welcome I mean stood around me trying to determine if I indeed was going to “bring the heat” at this service. One of the men, the older one, decided to provide some leadership for the questions and encouragement that was being offered to me. Evidently one eye was better than the other because when he would make a statement he would twist his head to put his “good eye” on me. At first, it was some statements about “take your liberty” or “do what you feel led tonight.” I’ve never stepped into a pulpit without knowing exactly what I intended to do. Not for sure if that’s considered liberty or not, but I assured him with as much Holy Ghost gusto that I could manage that I would indeed take my liberty. Not satisfied at all, he did the head turn and a little bit of a chin tuck so the good eye would really be prominent. I pause to say, at this point I realized that his admonishment to do what I felt led was really a hope that I would do what he felt led. Back to the good eye, now squinting with spiritual intensity. Looking up from the hypnotizing Holy Spirit stare he said, “tell us what we need to hear, you go ahead and skin our heads.” I was raised in this area of the country and speak the language, so I quickly translated this to understand that he was requesting some type of spiritual punishment at tonight’s service. With many words he admonished me, as the other two men supported him, to bring some type of spiritual spanking to the church. They were in the mood for some chastening on this Sunday evening. The request was odd, the excitement and fervor for it was really odd. I’m just not into that. I’m not judging you if you are. I’m just not into it. It got me thinking though and I have wondered about that mentality for a long time. The mentality that finds harsh words or heavy preaching to be enjoyable. Sort of a spiritual pleasure pain principle. Have you ever met someone who seemingly enjoyed feeling bad? For some it seems like it feels good to feel bad. The mentality seems to be “the worse I feel emotionally, the stronger I feel spiritually.” For those people or groups you can’t preach it hard enough. I’ve been in some church services and conference type meetings where a safe word probably should have been provided. Whether its guilt over behavioral issues, or despair over how dark the world is, it seems to make people feel godly to feel bad. I’m not against sorrow. The bible says that godly sorrow brings repentance. Of course, that same bible also says that it’s the goodness of God that leads people to repentance. We’ve all done some things we are sorry that we did. However, guilt never takes us anywhere. It’s the goodness of God that can lead us down a road where we are truly sorry and change our behavior. I’ve termed this phenomenon “Christian Guilt.” The idea that feeling bad, feeling guilty, feeling intense seems to put me on a higher spiritual plane. Happy people, hope filled people, optimistic people are spiritual novices. Intense, guilty, and doom filled people are the ones who appear to be the more spiritually “promiscuous” and experienced. We look to them from our innocence to introduce us to the pleasure world of Christian Guilt. There is actually good money to be made by making people feel bad. Many books have been sold and sermons preached on the premise of people should feel bad who have it too good, have too much money, or they are lazy and aren’t doing enough for God. I know what you are thinking. Actually, I don’t. This blog is filled with innuendo and I’m not for sure how that makes you feel. But, you should be thinking, “shouldn’t we be challenged or corrected?” That’s a great question and the answer is yes. We absolutely need to be disciplined and corrected in our spiritual lives. However, that discipline and correction should take us somewhere. Guilt, feeling bad, being intense all of the time never really produces any change. Something is wrong when you like to keep church spicy with spiritual discipline and enjoy either feeling or causing pain. Honest, life giving correction should lead us to 3 things:

1. Faith – The bible never denies the reality of negative circumstances. People have ungodly behavior that leads them into bondage. The world is full of very burdensome circumstances that try to take away your joy. It’s not spiritual growth to be angry and intense about the world and people of the world. It’s spiritual growth to have joy in spite of how dark the world is. Joy after all, and not intense anger, is a fruit of the Spirit. Jesus said, “in this world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer I have overcome the world.” When talking about how dark people are, or how dark the world is, we should never stop until we have built people’s faith that Jesus has already overcome the world. You won’t get a cookie at the end of the age because of how dark and intense you were.

2. Grace – Here’s the deal. Guilt has never saved one person. Not one. No one has ever been guilted into salvation. On the other hand, all of us have been saved by grace. We don’t deny sin or the affects of sin. Sin is terrible. It separates us from God and all sin has consequences. We don’t deny the consequences of sin and even the sorrow it can bring. We also don’t leave people in guilt, we lead them to the grace of God. Guilt is an emotional prison, Grace is a never ending well.

3. Love – Love never fails. Prophecy will one day cease. Tongues will one day cease. Knowledge will vanish and be no more, but love will never fail. How bad will the world be? I really don’t know. How dark will the culture we live in be? I can’t answer that question either. I do know this though. Regardless of how bad the world is, and regardless of how dark our culture becomes, love will still never fail. Somewhere, in some tangible way, love will be prevailing. Abiding in all seasons will be faith, hope, and love. The greatest of these is love.

Perhaps you enjoy spiritual intensity. Perhaps the scripture of Jesus with a whip in the temple excites you. I’m not here to judge. Yes, we need to be corrected and yes, there are some things that are wrong in people and the world. However, we shouldn’t allow the world to rob us of our faith, hope, and love. There are a lot of different shades of church. Regardless of the shade, the world, people, you, me, we all need faith, hope, and love to grow in the grace of God. Let’s be life giving, and provide people with an atmosphere of grace to grow and change.

4 Key Areas of Health

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When I started CoastLife Church I was all about growth. For good reason, we only had 15 people and without growth we wouldn’t survive. One day while reading the Parable of the Talents I received what I felt was a divine motivation to grow and increase. After reading that parable, maintenance and staying the course no longer remained an option for me. I think the pursuit of growth is a good thing and a God thing. However, I have come to learn that the approach to growth determines whether or not its right or wrong. At one point I realized that I was striving for growth, but what I really needed to do was to strive for health. Essentially our responsibility is to cultivate areas of health, and its God’s responsibility to give increase. In fact, I believe God has already established increase for your life and the result isn’t in question. The only question is whether or not we will do the work of cultivating an environment that is conducive to experiencing God’s increase. To put it another way, you don’t have to make a seed grow, God has already put growth inside of the seed. However, the seed will never do what it was designed to do unless someone creates a healthy, life giving place for it to grow. If you want to grow in your life here are 4 key areas that I think every person should focus on:

4 Key Areas of Health

This will be in order of priority from the least important to the most important, however, all 4 areas have importance in your life.

1. Physical Health

1 Timothy 4:6-9 (THE MSG)
You’ve been raised on the Message of the faith and have followed sound teaching. Now pass on this counsel to the followers of Jesus there, and you’ll be a good servant of Jesus. Stay clear of silly stories that get dressed up as religion. Exercise daily in God—no spiritual flabbiness, please! Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever.

All discipline is good. Paul said going to the gym was useful, but there are higher things on the priority list. Physical health is important because I don’t want to abuse my body and cut short my assignment here on earth. I believe many people have had greater years of God’s purpose in their life, but had them cut short because of battles with health that were caused by a lack of physical discipline. I never want to have to ask Jesus to heal something I caused by poor dietary habits. Keep the temple healthy, so the treasure on the inside of the temple can reach its fullest potential. However, this area is lowest in priority because our physical bodies don’t determine our worth. In a world that seems to be increasing in its vanity, it’s important to note that what’s on the inside is greater than what’s on the outside. Don’t abuse food, alcohol, or drugs. Keep your temple clean, but don’t base your worth on your physical appearances. The reason Paul said exercise was only useful for a little while is because whether you exercise or not you are still going to die. Let’s take care of our physical bodies, but let’s keep eternal things in mind as well.

2. Mental Health

Proverbs 24:3-6
3 A house is built by wisdom and becomes strong through good sense. 4 Through knowledge its rooms are filled with all sorts of precious riches and valuables. 5  The wise are mightier than the strong, and those with knowledge grow stronger and stronger. 6 So don’t go to war without wise guidance; victory depends on having many advisers.

Mental health can mean a variety of things, but for this purpose I am going to simplify it to mean wisdom and knowledge. Scriptures teach us that we “build” or grow through knowledge and wisdom. I believe there is a partnership between the natural and supernatural. I also believe what we don’t know in the natural can hinder our usefulness in the supernatural. The bible tells us to pray for wisdom, but not for knowledge. The reason, knowledge is found in books, classes, instructors, and advisors. God expects us to put in the work to gain knowledge. Wisdom comes from God and experience. Ask God for wisdom and listen to those who have gone before you.

3. Emotional Health

Proverbs 4:24
Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.

Fear, anxiety, doubt, depression, insecurity, anger, and bitterness are emotions that occur in the life of every person. If we don’t deal with them, eventually they will deal with us. The bible teaches us to guard the area of emotions in our lives very carefully because everything we do is drawn from that well. Every thought, word, or action is drawn from the well of the heart You will never pull out healthy words, healthy thoughts, or healthy actions out of an unhealthy well. Be very diligent to take care of your emotions. Talk to Jesus consistently and be honest how you are feeling. Talk to close friends consistently and be honest about how you are feeling. Talk to counselors if needed and be honest about how you are feeling. Keep your heart healthy and you will be able to draw out good thoughts, words, and actions.

4. Spiritual Health

Mark 8:36-37
36 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? 37 Is anything worth more than your soul?

Take this whole world, but give me Jesus. If I have perfect physical, mental, and emotional health, but I don’t have spiritual health then I have lost it all. Our spiritual health is the most valuable, but often least focused area of our lives. I grew up thinking that you could never pray enough, read your bible enough, obey enough rules and it left me jaded. So, I swung the pendulum the opposite direction and found that I wasn’t growing spiritually. I don’t want to give you a minimum amount of time you should pray everyday, or minimum amount of verses to read. Each person has their own relationship with God. However, there are no substitutes for spending time with God. Be intentional about your spiritual health, after all, it’s worth more than anything in the world.

The Biggest Failure of My Life

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In 2010,  with a group of less than 20 people, my wife Heidi and myself relaunched CoastLife Church. We had a big dream, a large vision, a huge passion for the local church and not much else. I was still learning who I was and discovering how God wanted me to personally do ministry. The very small team of people that were doing ministry at our first service were predominately teens or young adults and were completely inexperienced. We had no money, in fact it was difficult to keep the electric bill paid. The term “resources” was something I had heard of, but like the tooth fairy, nice to think about just not likely. To recap, we had a Pastor who was on a spiritual journey of discovering his ministry, we had a team of youth with no experience, and very little financial backing. It wasn’t exactly a recipe for success. With all of that going for us, I decided in 2010 that we would set the goal of reaching 1,000 people through CoastLife Church by Easter of 2014. If you talk to most people they would tell you not to set a numerical goal for growth for your church. As a side note, you should probably listen to them. Most people set goals only to get frustrated and decide to quit after not being able to attain them. However, we were determined that we would reach people, see God grow our church, and build a life giving, life changing, multi service, multi site church in Southwest Florida.

So, Easter of 2014 has now come and gone. I have to confess that we failed. We did not reach 1000 people this weekend. Here’s what happened instead: 530 people came to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ at CoastLife Church. Because of limited seating it took 4 services to be able to accommodate this many people. Of those 530 people, 15 people made decisions to follow Jesus Christ and 10 people made commitments to be baptized. In addition, a team of over 50 people served flawlessly pulling off 4 incredible services that glorified the name of Jesus Christ. We failed to reach 1000 people. Instead, we have relaunched a dying church, reached literally hundreds of people, baptized, equipped and trained people for ministry, and have built a life giving, life changing church. That is one huge, incredible, amazing, and overwhelming failure. Would I set a numerical goal again? Yes, I’m already praying about my next “failure.” Again, this may not be for everyone, but here’s why I like setting big goals:

1. I never want my faith to limit my God. (I’m convinced that God wants to do exceedingly and abundantly above what we ask or think. That almost sounds biblical.)

2. I want to consistently have a dream that is bigger than my circumstances. (I believe that if we had not had a dream bigger than our circumstances, our circumstances would have defined us as a small, pitiful, broke church that was not reaching its community. Instead, our dream began to define us and not our circumstances. In spite of the very pitiful circumstances, we truly believed that we were called to do something significant in our community)

3. I want to leave room for the impossible in my life. (Old Testament Reference Alert, I don’t want to find out that I should I have struck the ground with arrows 5 or 6 times, when I only struck it 3. Go look it up, it will bless you.)

I heard Pastor Greg Surratt teach recently to, “set big goals, but don’t be afraid to adjust your expectations.” Go ahead and set a big goal and verbalize a big dream, but don’t define your life by the exact outcome. Trust me, I’m overjoyed with what God has done at CoastLife Church. Did we fail? Technically yes, but it’s the biggest and best failure of my life.

As Clear as a Picture

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It’s only two pieces of wood. One vertical, and one horizontal. Many other signs, symbols, and images have portrayed a message. None of those however carry the significance of two pieces of wood that form a simple cross. The power of the message conveyed in one simple icon connects with the hearts of people from every generation, culture, nationality, and race. Regardless of where you are in the world, when you see the cross, you see the icon of God’s unconditional love. It’s simple yet significant. The significance isn’t in the two pieces of wood or the icon, its the body of our Lord Jesus Christ which was hung on them. The power is in the blood that stained them. Paul told the church at Galatia that the message of Jesus death on the cross was proclaimed to them just as clear as if they had seen a picture. When we see the cross we see very clearly the picture of what God has richly provided for us. We see a picture of our salvation, a picture of our healing, a picture of our redemption, and a picture of our freedom to be blessed. It’s Good Friday. Today we look to the cross and see the picture of perfect love. We see the picture of selfless sacrifice. We see the picture of Jesus death on a cross, so that we can have abundant and eternal life. Today, all over the world, business and organizations are trying to use an image to convey their message. No image will ever be more powerful, more universal, and more significant than the cross. When I see the cross, the story is clear, the picture is perfect, God loves me.

Happy Good Friday and a very Happy Easter to you and yours.