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Encountering God

Life can sometimes make skeptics and cynics out of us. We begin to question everything. We see so much deception, manipulation, scandals, and abuse of power, then doubt becomes our M.O. We doubt what we see, what we hear, and what we read. We assume people are lying...

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Righteousness from God

Righteousness. What comes into your mind when you hear that word? If you’re like most people, something religious probably surfaces, which is understandable. But righteousness is not simply a religious term. Everyone is on a quest for righteousness, whether they’re religious or not...

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The Heart of Christianity

Saving Private Ryan is one of my favorite war movies. The title actually summarizes the plot. James Ryan is the last living sibling in his family and serving as a paratrooper in Normandy. His three brothers have been killed in combat so the United States Army launches a mission to find and rescue him from the war. ...

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Unashamed

Paul couldn’t wait to get to Rome and make that announcement. He was eager, unashamed, chomping at the bit. Why? Surely a message about a crucified and resurrected Jewish carpenter would fall flat in the power center of the world. So on what basis was Paul willing to expose himself to shame, slander, and even death?...

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Personal Perspective Part 2

Larry Walters needed some bigger perspective. So he went to the Army-Navy surplus store, bought forty-five used weather balloons, filled them with helium, and attached them to his self-made aircraft, a Sears lawn chair named Inspiration. ...

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Personal Perspective | Pt. 1

A friend of mine recently commented, “Perspective is the only thing that can change the whole world, without altering any of the facts.” I couldn’t agree more. ...

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What Does God Want

A. W. Tozer pointedly wrote, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us…Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God” (The Knowledge of the Holy)....

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The Promise

My wife and I were recently picking up the remains of a care package from our family in Arkansas. We discovered a birthday card that had been mined for the cash inside and then tossed aside. We read the message from my family and were moved by their love, care, and thoughtfulness. In his rush to grab “the good stuff” while ignoring his grandmother’s greeting, one of ...

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A Letter that Changes Everything

In 386 AD, a young man paced back in forth in a garden, deeply troubled. He had retreated to a secluded place where he could be alone with his troubled heart. Moments away from being converted to Christ, he was at war with himself....

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The Letter

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Long ago, people wrote letters by hand. They didn’t text, email, or snapchat. No memes, gifs, or emojis either. As tedious and boring as it sounds, those hand-written letters carried more weight and left longer impressions...

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Bargaining with God: A Parable

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“That’s not fair.” Those are often the first words we learn to speak in protest as children. But they don’t disappear with childhood. And they don’t disappear with conversion. We carry them right into God’s Kingdom where they hijack our joy. When our version of fairness collides with God’s grace, we hit a wall. Disappointment, sadness, and anger find us. Then...

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The Capital City of Heaven

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Richard Baxter was a pastor in the 1600s. When he was 35, he suffered a severe sickness in the dead of winter that was so terrible, the doctors gave him no hope that he would survive. He began to mediate on the glories of heaven, anticipating his arrival. It consumed his thoughts. He was ready, eager even, to be with Jesus. But he survived. In fact, he lived another 4 deca...

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Made for a Better World

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It’s been a hard year. We’ve seen wildfires, hurricanes, pandemics, and human conflict at its worst. Last week wasn’t much better. Saying that Americans are sad, angry, and anxious probably sums up everyone’s attitude, regardless of your political affiliation. 2020 was a year of unending drama and disappointments. ...

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Small Beginnings Pt. 2

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When the returning exiles completed the foundation for their rebuilt temple, God did something strange. He invited them to compare their small building to the previous temple Solomon built. ...

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Small Beginnings

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Seminary was hard for me. I attended a school that challenged me mentally and stretched me theologically. It was exhausting work. But by God’s grace...

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Alone

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Alone, afraid, angry, and waiting to die. That might describe a nursing home resident with Covid-19 whose health is waning; a wounded soldier left behind in the battlefield; a small business owner who is busted and bankrupt; or a rebel whose entire life has been defiant. It’s easy to feel alone and outnumbered...

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In the Dark

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Right now, the people in Barrow, Alaska are sitting in darkness and won’t see the sun for another full month. Every year, Barrow, located 320 miles North of the Arctic Circle, is in complete darkness for 65 days. Scientists call it Polar Night. The locals call it Endless Night. It’s a long, cold, dark winter. ...

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Perfect Timing

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Have you ever wondered why God waited so long to send Jesus into the world...

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Savage

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“Do you have any stories about how kids really are?” As a child, and bored with reading kid literature that didn’t seem true to life, Stephen King asked that question to a book-cart attendant who handed him a copy of William Golding’s classic, Lord of the Flies. ...

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Abounding

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A grateful life is a beautiful life. It’s compelling. It’s attractive. It’s contagious. Being around thankful people is pleasant. They are humble, optimistic, and appreciative....

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A Better Song

ABetterSongBlog

Music wields a strange, unexplainable power. I’ve read that music is one of the most effective means of therapy for patients suffering from Dementia and Alzheimers. Their eyes grow wide upon hearing a song from their past as memories are awakened. For better or worse, music grips us. Songs can get in your head and flood your heart with emotions. Songs carry messages. ...

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Don't Fall For It | Part 3: The Resistance Cont.

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I used to admire rugged individualism. The “Think for yourself. Walk alone. Take the path least traveled” kind of heroic machismo. That self-reliance gene exists in each of us but gains traction through cultural influences. For me, such an influence came from movies like Rambo, in which a tough soldier fights alone and saves the day. ...

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Don't Fall For It | Part 2: The Resistance

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You won’t get far into the Bible without meeting a terrible adversary. Whether you start in the Old Testament, or the New, you’ll only make it a few chapters before the tempter appears on the scene. ...

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Don't Fall For It

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When I was a teenager growing up in the south, adults often warned us about the satanic dangers lurking around us. Everything was suspect. Heavy metal music. Role playing games like Dungeons and Dragons. Dolls and action figures. Even Saturday morning cartoons like Thundercats, He-man, and The Smurfs were considered demonic. A satanic panic took over the culture. People we...

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Culture Check: Is My Church Culture Healthy?

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I once heard a church planter tell pastors, “Your culture will eat your philosophy of ministry for lunch.” What did he mean? On paper, your church may have a clear vision, carefully crafted mission, and sweet doctrinal statement. But in practice, it may reek. Church culture is the smell that lingers in the room long after you’re read the doctrinal statement. ...

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Culture Check: Sabbath Regularly

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“You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life. Hurry is the great enemy of your soul and will sabotage your spiritual life.” That was what a Christian leader on the verge of burn-out heard from his mentor. It saved his life. ...

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Culture Check: Sending Servants

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Farmers in Oklahoma during the late 1930’s faced an excruciating choice: would they hold onto their last seeds for self-preservation, or plant them for a larger harvest that would feed many? ...

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Culture Check: Serving Others

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It’s 1935. Germany is under the tyranny of Hitler and he is forming a powerful army trained to inflict cruelty and death. His tactics include fear, brainwashing, and domination. At the same time, Dietrich Bonhoeffer...

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Culture Check: Seeking God

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What do you do when your life becomes a dumpster fire, burning out of control? It’s scorching others, destroying relationships, pushing you closer to the edge, and you suddenly realize you struck the match? When you look in the mirror and see not an innocent victim but the guilty fool whose selfish actions are tearing the kingdom apart, then what? ...

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Culture Check: The Heart of War

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In Dynamics of Spiritual Life, church historian Richard Lovelace writes: “Christians who are no longer sure that God loves and accepts them in Jesus, apart from their present spiritual achievements, are subconsciously radically insecure people...

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Culture Check: The War

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About 15 years ago my wife and I vacationed in Hawaii. Upon landing, we were asked multiple times by the airport authorities if we were carrying any plants, fruits, vegetables, birds, mammals, or reptiles. We were repeatedly warned, especially about smuggling in a snake...

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Culture Check: The Walk

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Culture is the “unspoken rules about the way we do things around here." Unspoken. Unanalyzed. Unchallenged. Unquestioned. Every church has a culture. Doctrine involves spoken rules, written rules...

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Culture Check: The Welcome

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Our church culture should match our church doctrine. The latter shapes and informs the former. Since our primary doctrine is the Gospel, then our culture should align. Do we have a gospel culture? ...

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Culture Check: An Introduction

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What is culture? It’s like the air you breath. The water you swim in. The strange, elusive smell of your house. It’s usually undetected by you...

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Under the Influence: Part 2

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In part one, we saw that the world lies under the influence of an evil power, led by a sinister ruler, with the purpose of deceiving, enslaving, and destroying the souls of those who dwell here. In the book of Revelation, that power is depicted as Babylon, a city opposed to God and hostile to His followers. But you won’t read that on the “Welcome to Babylon” sign. Th...

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Under the Influence: Part 1

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Have you noticed a pattern with blockbuster movie trilogies from the past several decades...

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10 Questions for GraceLife Missionary Patti Parks

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Last month, I came across a statement by a missionary in Central Asia that gripped me. He wrote: “Most missionaries are actually surprised by how few questions they get asked when they return to their home countries. Or, after years of living overseas, full of misadventures and crises, the only question that comes is, ‘So, how was your trip?’”...

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A Word to the Weary

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Weariness is the theme I’m hearing and the vibe I’m feeling from a lot of people these days. When COVID-19 first hit and the world went into lock-down, churches scrambled to get their services online and find creative ways to care for their people. Back then, when someone asked me how I was doing, I answered “Crazy busy!” Now I say, “Crazy exhausted!” which is ...

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Kept by God

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Last week I talked about our responsibility as image-bearers to show the world what God is like--to reflect his image like a mirror. That's our privilege. That's our responsibility. And we can't do it alone. ...

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Broken Mirrors

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It’s been quite a month for America. Which means it’s been quite a month for Americans...

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Anxiety and Your Mind

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Your mind has incredible potential. It can protect you or assault you; free you to engage the world or imprison you behind bars of worry and concern. It’s a weapon, really. And like any weapon, how you use it matters...

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Stop It

StopItBlog

An old Comedy Central skit features Bob Newhart as a therapist. He meets a new client who suffers from the fear of being buried alive in a box. Newhart drops some forceful, two-word therapy on her: “Stop it!” As you can imagine, the session ends as poorly as it started. Newhart warns his client, “Stop it! Or I’ll bury you alive in a box!”...

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When the Bottom Falls Out

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What truth matters most when you hit bottom? What reality informs your response when life unravels? Trace the breadcrumbs and you’ll find something powerful....

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Hidden in Plain Sight

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I have a confession to make. I often skim over parts of the Bible that seem familiar, formal, or just...

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Making Mud Pies in the Slum

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I can’t remember the first time I read C.S. Lewis’ mud pies in the slum analogy, but I will never forget the imagery: It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a s...

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Where's Jesus?

WheresJesusBlog

My wife loves food, but she’s a picky eater. And a dish’s appearance often depends on her mood. Recently, after a long day of self-quarantining, toddler-chasing, homeschooling, and lunch-skipping, I cooked dinner for my exhausted wife. I take pride in preparing home-cooked hamburgers. I won’t gush or boast about it here, but nobody in my family complains. Everyone...

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Glory and Clutter

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The Gospel is good news for bad people from a surprising God. It shocks us. It offends us. It humbles us. And it transforms us. But sometimes…it bores us. Or rather, we become bored with it. That’s our fault...

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Drone Shot of My Yacht

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David Geffen is a billionaire. I don't begrudge him his wealth. God grants the power to accumulate wealth--or lose it. But in a cringe-worthy, tone-deaf moment, Mr. Geffen posted a picture on his Instagram account that is likely to follow him forever....

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Good News to Settle Your Heart

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There’s a scene in The Fellowship of the Ring where Strider asked Frodo, “Are you frightened?” Frodo answers, “Yes,” and Strider says, “Not nearly frightened enough. I know what hunts you.”...

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The Good Life Vlog | Pt. IV

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Check out the final piece to our Good Life Vlog series! So far we've been encouraged by the fact that God is sovereign, God is wise, and... watch the vlog to catch the final point!...

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The Good Life Vlog | Pt. III

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Continuing the encouragement for this chaotic time! Check out Pt. IV, the final piece, tomorrow morning!...

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The Good Life Vlog | Pt. I

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Join Pastor Tommy as he films a series of blogs as he unpacks some encouragement from Psalm 23 as is pertains to our daily lives....

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The Good Life Vlog | Pt. II

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Has this been a really long week for you? Tune in for some encouragement from Pastor Tommy!...

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Who's Got Your Back

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I’ll bet you’ve never seen a wild sheep. Think about it. We see wild dogs, wild cats, wild pigs (especially here in central FL). You probably see wild horses if you live out west. On their own, they’re fine. They’ll find a way to survive. But sheep? Not a chance. ...

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The Good Life

GoodLifeBlog

We’re facing a unique cultural challenge. Americans are more connected but feel lonely, isolated, and depressed. We’re safer than we’ve ever been, but have grown more anxious and afraid. We can access a global network of endless information, yet we’re confused and misinformed. Therapy, 12-step programs, online courses and a gazillion books are available. But Americ...

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Heaven

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Have you ever heard, or maybe even thought: “I want Jesus to come back, but first I really want to experience _____.” What occupies your blank? Marriage? Sex? Children? Retirement? Some kind of bucket list item like skydiving, hiking the Appalachian Trail, seeing the Grand Canyon, or climbing Mt. Everest? Those sound amazing. But do we really think God would allow some...

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Disarming Doubt

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The French philosopher René Descartes summed up the Enlightenment when he said, “I doubt, therefore I think.” You know the rest of his statement. “I think, therefore I am.” In other words, doubting is part of being human. It’s at the core of our existence. Because of life’s relentless disappointments, we’re naturally skeptics. Doubt comes easy for us in...

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Darkness

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When I was about eight years old, some boys on the elementary basketball team played a cruel prank on me. They shoved me in an old, abandoned locker room and held the door closed. That was the longest five minutes of my childhood....

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Shame OFF You

ShameOffYouBlog

Last week a little girl told me about the teacher at her school who kept scolding the class with these words, “Shame on you!” If that teacher wants her students to carry around shame for something they did...

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Groundhog Day: Comedy, Fantasy or Tragedy?

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Groundhog Day hit theaters in 1993 when I was a senior in high school. It became an instant classic and eventually a cult favorite, still resonating with audiences 27 years later! It’s the story of an arrogant, self-centered weatherman named Phil Connors (Bill Murray) who finds himself waking up and reliving the same day over and over again. That day was Feb. 2, Groundho...

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20/20 Vision

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There’s a place in the Bible where Solomon makes a keen observation about human beings. He writes, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). As one of the greatest kings of Israel...

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Surrounded

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Have you ever felt surrounded? Pressure, trouble, enemies…hemming you in and backing you up—with nowhere to turn? That’s where King David found himself when his son Absalom betrayed his trust. In a gut-wrenching act of treachery Absalom staged a mutiny against his own father. ...

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The Gaze of God

GazeofGodBlog

Grace is confusing. Have you noticed? It provokes two completely different reactions. In one sense, we find grace attractive. Our hearts long for the one-way, unconditional acceptance that grace delivers. Love, not judgment. Pardon, not punishment. Who wouldn’t sign up for that?...

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New Year, New (Broken) Resolutions

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A few years ago, TIME Magazine published an article listing the top ten commonly broken New Year’s Resolutions. Here’s three of them. ...

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Broken Pencils, Dynamite & Christmas

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Years ago I caught my son breaking pencils. Little convict had a whole pile of splintered number 2’s hidden in a drawer. I confronted him. “Why are you breaking all my pencils, buddy?” His answer? “To show how powerful I am.” I haven’t forgotten his response. It’s comical. It’s human. It’s an opportunity to think more deeply about “power.” We prove ou...

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Celebrating Peace at Christmas

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Have you heard of Hiroo Onoda? He was the last Japanese soldier to surrender in World War 2. But he didn’t wave a white flag in 1945. Hiroo held out for nearly 30 years deep in the Philippine jungles of Lubang. Obeying orders, he refused to surrender under any circumstances—including villagers leaving notes declaring that the war was over, the Japanese government d...

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