compassion

Plans to Prosper

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11 Jeremiah 29:11 is the most tattooed verse in the Bible. In fact, I’m confident that many of us who’ve spent time in church can recite this amazing promise by heart, and a lot of us would even call it our favorite verse. That said, it’s incredible how many Christians don’t truly believe what it says. It’s written in black and white that the Lord wants to prosper us, which means that He wants us to flourish, thrive, and be successful, yet we often doubt His goodness. Interestingly, God gave this promise to His covenant people, the Israelites, after they were exiled to Babylon. Though they were captured and carried away to a foreign land so things looked bleak,

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Jesus Wants to Bless You!

“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” – Psalm 27:13 If there’s any truth I want you to internalize this year, it’s that God wants to bless you! Many of us who were raised in church, especially in legalistic environments, wrongly believe that our Lord is a killjoy and that we should expect nothing more from Him than our salvation. That said, we approach Him with fear and an underlying conviction that He will bring calamity upon us if we don’t “measure up” to His standards. Thankfully, this is not the truth! In fact, David wrote in the Psalms that although we endure difficulties and hardships, we can be confident that we will see His goodness manifest in our lives on this earth. Though our outcomes may not always be what we want them to be, because the

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Walk Into the Middle of the Mess

“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” – Matthew 16:18 Yesterday, we talked about Peter and how he began his life as Simon — the “good guy” who was religious and very responsible. Though he was passionate about serving his Savior, he struggled to understand that Jesus came to bring hope and help to the middle of sin and darkness. However, this changed when the Lord led him — along with the other disciples — to the Gates of Hades. I know this sounds a bit strange, so let me explain. In an effort to illustrate the depths of His mercy and power, Christ took the twelve apostles to the region of Cesarea Phillipi, which was kind of like the Vatican of Pan worship. Pan was the Roman god of fertility

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Perfection Isn’t Required

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” – Matthew 6:33 To be more effective for God in the coming year, it’s important to remember that we don’t have to be perfect to make a difference. When I was in high school, I decided I was going to start sharing my faith with anyone and everyone who would listen. That said, I went straight to the campus drug dealer and told Him about Jesus. Much to my surprise, He received the message with great enthusiasm and prayed with me to accept Christ. After that, he began sharing his newfound hope with others, and I was blown away as He embraced the things of God. However, a while later, I saw him standing in the school parking lot dealing crystal meth to another student. This troubled me, and I began

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As Long as It Is Called Today

“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” – Hebrews 3:13 Happy New Year! And congratulations, you made it to 2021. I think many of us are breathing a sigh of relief today, but the truth is that we are much stronger, wiser, and all-around better people than we were this time last year. Walking through the fire and enduring the difficulties of 2020 offered us a precious gift, and I pray that we won’t lose sight of it in the days ahead. As we look forward to resuming life as normal (whenever and whatever it is), let’s not forget how precious it was to be reminded of what’s most important. As we’ve brought our focus closer to home in the past ten months, God has used a trying time to align our hearts with

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Justice Is In the Lord’s Hands

“Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you.” – Psalm 89:14 One of the most powerful things we can do as we look ahead to a new year is to focus on letting go of bitterness. I think many who’ve been hurt deeply feel invalidated when hearing messages on unforgiveness, because there’s a sense that surrendering something takes away from the sting and severity of the wrong done. I’m certain many of you have been wounded so deeply that you’re still dealing with the ramifications and consequences in your daily life. If that’s you, I want you to know that I’m very sorry for what happened. The way you were sinned against broke the heart of our Heavenly Father, and He is grieved over your pain. Knowing that, I believe the truth that all of us can grab hold of today is that

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Healed Hearts Change the World

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” – Psalm 147:3 Today, we officially begin the countdown to a new year, and if you’re anything like me, I’m really looking forward to a fresh start. There’s something about the promise and possibility of the next season that fills my heart with hope, and I pray that it does for you, too. That said, as we look at the state of our world in these times, what we see can be disheartening. In addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, social and political wounds run deep in our culture. Knowing this, I believe now is a better time than ever to embrace the truth that every positive change begins with Jesus in us. There’s an old song that says “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.” While I used to think it was really cheesy, I’ve come

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The Struggle is Real

“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” – Psalm 40:2 How are you doing? When’s the last time someone asked you that question? If it wasn’t too long ago, how did you respond? I think many of us, when queried on our condition or status, give a canned or rote response rather than answering in a way that reflects the true state of our being. While this is fine in casual encounters, it’s beneficial for each of us to pause occasionally and take an account of the state of our hearts and souls. Here in Southern California, COVID-19 remains at the forefront of our lives, and we were recently faced with another shutdown. For many, the feeling of going backwards is especially difficult, and while I realize that

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A Generous Spirit

“But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow.” – Philippians 2:25-27 At this special time of year, we hear a lot about generosity. However, more than just buying someone the perfect gift or making a charitable donation, true benevolence is a deeply-rooted state of heart — one that is always willing to go the extra mile. As a study in this manner of kindness, let’s look at a man named Epaphroditus, who was a companion of the Apostle Paul in the New

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Mercy in Pinnacle Moments

“Then Samson prayed to the Lord, ‘Sovereign Lord, remember me. Please, God, strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.’” – Judges 16:28 There’s no doubt that the story of Samson is a sad one. He was endowed by God with a great gift, but his appetite for earthly things led him to an untimely demise. Over a course of years, he broke all three pillars of his Nazarite vow, and when Delilah seduced him into sharing that his long hair was the key to his power, she turned him over to Philistine warriors — the very ones he had been set apart to conquer. After gouging out his eyes and sending him to prison, they held a great feast to thank their god, Dagon, for his help in capturing their enemy. As part of the evening’s festivities,

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