Words have power

No foul language should come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29

We have heard it said that our words have power, and that is true. In some circles, people talk about the power of our words as self-affirmations or confessions. While that’s also true, there is another way to look at it. Our words have power over others. This verse says our words can give grace for the hearer. Grace is an empowering force. When we say things like I need grace for today, ” we mean that we need divine power for the strength to make it through the day. So, there is a connection between grace and power. 

Our words have the power to tear down or build up. So today, let us make a habit of building up rather than tearing down. Let’s decide to use our words to uplift and empower those around us. We can make a positive difference in the lives of the people we encounter every day.

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Unconditional Love

It’s common for relationships to start with infatuation rather than love. Infatuation often involves the belief that someone fulfills a need for us, which is not the same as love. So where does love begin? The most well-known verse in the Bible, John 3:16, offers an example of true love. Jesus explains that God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, so that those who believe in Him will have eternal life. It’s important to pay attention to what Jesus is saying about love and relationships, even if we’re familiar with this verse.

God’s love for humanity is sacrificial and unconditional. He loved us first, even before we knew we needed Him. He didn’t require anything from us or make His love conditional on our behavior or response. In giving us His love, He didnt seek to have His needs met. God’s love was given to us freely, without conditions, merit, or any need being met.

Unconditional love is something we all desire, and when we experience it, we’re drawn to it like a magnet. This kind of love, without conditions or expectations, can be given to others. It’s a love that wins people’s hearts, and when you win someone’s heart, you win the person. When we experience this type of love from God, we’re then able to give it to others without merit or expectation. This is the way of Jesus: to receive God’s love for ourselves and then give it to others, loving them because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). Read more about Gods love and loving others in 1 John 4:7-21

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What’s Good?

Song Blog: Father of Lights

I owe you an apology. 

Whenever I share a Bible verse to connect to a song, I always want to make sure I’m accurately communicating the original intent of the scripture. I never want to take Scripture out of context so it can fit into my agenda. In this day and age, there is no excuse for quoting scripture without giving context. It’s so easy to do a quick search for a 5 minute Bible Project video that reliably communicates all the context we need to faithfully interpret God’s Word. 

But sometimes I can get lazy. It’s easy to just find the scripture behind the song and throw it up on the screen, read it, and assume the context. This is what I did when we first sang the song “Father of Lights” by Chris Tomlin. I shared the scripture that inspired the song: James 1:17.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 

James 1:17

I took this verse to mean we should acknowledge God in simple pleasures and give thanks for our individual blessings. I encouraged you to use this as an opportunity to be thankful for your home, your pets, your cars, good food, etc. 

In no way is it wrong to be thankful for these things! However, this is not what James had in mind when he said “good gifts.” Let’s back up and get some context.

 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. -James 1:2-4

James believes that the trials and hardships of life are to be seen as gifts that can produce endurance and teach us to lean in closer to God. But to get that perspective, we need the gift of God’s wisdom.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. 

-James 1:5-8

God offers this wisdom freely to those who don’t doubt God’s heart for them. In the midst of hardship, we must make a choice between letting our anxiety and stress define us, or trusting that God will sustain and mature us through our difficult circumstances. True wisdom is choosing to believe that God is good in spite of my circumstances.

 Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. 

In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business. Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. -James 1:9-12

Is there a better or more perfect gift that the Father of Lights could give than the maturity and reliance on God that comes by persevering through hardships? It’s the wisdom to choose to believe that God is good, in spite of what I’m going through. 

In light of all this, let’s look at the lyrics to Chris Tomlin’s song.

Every good thing in my life

Comes down from the Father of lights

We now know that “good” can mean anything that draws us closer to God. Can good refer to anything else? 

I have good news for you! He has told us what else is good through the prophet Micah:

He has told you, O man, what is good;

    and what does the Lord require of you

but to do justice, and to love kindness,

    and to walk humbly with your God? 

-Micah 6:8

Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God. Any opportunity we have to do one of those three things should be viewed as one of God’s good and perfect gifts. 

We can do justice by joining God in his mission to put right the things in the world that have gone horribly wrong as a result of our sin and selfishness (i.e. poverty, prejudice, oppression, violence). We can love kindness by reflecting the compassion of God onto a broken and hurting world. Finally, we can walk humbly with our God by remaining close to Him, and by having a teachable heart as he works to mature us through the Word of God and through our brothers and sisters in Christ.

All the best things in this world

Money just can’t buy

So this song is not about being thankful for your home, your new car, or any other material blessings. It’s about being grateful for the circumstances of your life that have caused you to mature in your walk with God. 

In NO way am I saying that you shouldn’t be thankful for those little things, or that material blessings can’t come from God. After all, Jesus tells us to pray for daily bread.. The practice of thankfulness for shelter and food is a great discipline to develop. But there is one sobering truth that we should keep in mind.

If the world didn’t give it, the world can’t take it away.

If this is true, then the inverse is also true: “If the world DID give it, the world CAN take it away.” We should be wary of allowing our financial stability, workplace success, or social status to be the thing that we put our trust in. As James warned us, these safety nets can fade away as we go about our business. 

Moreover, if we gained any of these possessions, positions, or stability in a way that is not God’s Kingdom way (see Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount for reference) we should expect that the world is completely within its right to take those away from us. But there is hope!

James will go on to say: 

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. –James 1:27 

John Eldredge says that the “world” refers to systems that humans put into place so that they don’t have to rely on God. These systems are damaging to a creation that is meant to remain connected to and reliant upon God. We can keep ourselves unstained from the world by not participating in those systems and by living out the principles of the Kingdom of God (again, see the Sermon on the Mount for reference). 

The orphans and widows James mentions were among the most vulnerable people of the first century. We should identify the most vulnerable people groups in our communities. Then we can use the material things we have to care for them, all while showing them that in God’s Kingdom, the vulnerable are protected, the orphans have a home, and the poor have their needs met. This is one of the greatest ways we can preach the Gospel! 

New Testament scholar N.T. Wright has this to say:

When God wants to change the world, he doesn’t send in the tanks; he sends in the meek, the pure in heart, those who weep for the world’s sorrows and ache for its wrongs. And by the time the power-brokers notice what’s going on, Jesus’s followers have set up schools and hospitals; they have fed the hungry and cared for the orphans and the widows. That is what the early church was known for, and that is why they turned the world upside down.”

-N.T. Wright

By taking these truths to heart (and proving so with our actions), we can be relaxed and generous with our earthly possessions and status. We can know (thanks to the prophet Micah) that the true good gift from our Father of Lights is the wisdom to walk humbly with our God, to reflect the loving kindness of God to the broken world, and to join Him in righting wrongs thus making this world look more like His coming Kingdom.

Hesed: God’s Loyal Love

Hesed: God’s Loyal Love

The Lord passed in front of him and proclaimed: The Lord—the Lord is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love and truth,

Ex. 34:6

Is God different in the OT vs. NT

When God chose this moment in the Biblical narrative to describe Himself to humanity through this interaction with Moses, He could have used many different descriptive words.  He could have said, “I am the Lord God, harsh and demanding.”  He could have been like the wizard in the “Wizard of Oz” by declaring Himself as “I am the great and powerful God!”  He could have used many different descriptions, but God chose to reveal Himself as He did in Ex 34:6.  Why?

When we talk about God, some people talk about the Old Testament God and the New Testament God as being different.   The God of the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament can seem to be harsh and wrathful.  There were times when the people of the Old Testament strayed from God, and consequences came.  That is true.  But here, when God declares who He is, he uses some amazing words.  He says, “the Lord is a compassionate and gracious God” So let us think about that thought for a minute.  How about this phrase, God “abounds in faithful love.”  Now, as we dive into this phrase, we will see an amazing truth about God that will help us as we navigate our relationship with Him.  

What is Hesed?

The word that is translated to “faithful love” is the Hebrew word “Hesed.”  This is a word that can easily lose its full meaning through translation.  This word is translated in other places as “kindness,” “faithfulness,” “mercy,” “goodness,” “loyalty,” and “steadfast love.”  All these are great translations, and they are not wrong.  The full meaning of this word has to do with a love that is not dependent on the object of the love, but it is more descriptive of the one doing the loving.  This word carries the idea of a loyal love that is always available whether the recipient is worthy or receptive to the one giving the love.   This word also carries the idea that the one who is loving is bound by their own nature to love.

God’s Loyal love for the Israelites

The story of the children of Israel is a prime example of the loyal or faithful love of God.  As the Bible story unfolds, the children of Israel are constantly in a state of straying away from God and returning to God.  Hmm, sound personally familiar?  The amazing thing is that God is always there to receive them back when they return to Him.  This happens over and over in the Old Testament.  You see, God’s loyal love gave them the ability to return.  God’s faithful and loyal love allows us to return to Him too.  If God’s love for us was not loyal, we could never find our way back to Him.  God never gives up on us because He cannot give up on us.  It is not in the nature of who He is.  His “Hesed” or loyal love always provides a road for any prodigal to come home, any person who gets caught up in this crazy world, any person who just forgot to acknowledge God this week, or any person that has just lost their way.  The road back to God is paved by His loyal love.  God’s loyal love is the reason Jesus came.

Jesus is our Hesed

But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

Jesus is the word “Hesed” in the flesh.  He is the one who loved us first because it’s God’s nature to have steadfast love.  While we were away from God doing our own thing and living our own way, Jesus died for us.  You see, God loves you and pursues you whether you return His love or not. 

Are you struggling? God is not waiting for you to become perfect His attitude toward you is loyal love.  Do you need to return to God?  Turn back to God, and you can rest assured that God’s loyal love is waiting for you.  



We had just finished the demo part the remodeling of a building our church had rented for office and meeting space.  The demo is always the best part of any remodel process.  Tearing up old ugly carpet, removing walls, and tearing out old baseboards.  That only took a couple of days.  But then the building back process begins.  Over the years of our church, we have done our share of tear out and remodeling.  I know the process all too well.  On that morning to begin the process of 2800 square feet of flooring I became aware of how long this process this would take.  First the painting then the flooring, then the finishing trim, then the purchasing of furniture.   All of it came to me in a moment.  I was overwhelmed!  I have done this before and the process of doing the work and all my other responsibilities was weighing heavy on me.  Beginning the process was not what I wanted to do.  Some of the project we would hire out but some we would do ourselves.  That morning on the drive in I wanted to just turn around and go back to bed.   I am usually an upbeat and positive guy.  I am a man of faith after all.   That morning I felt like neither one of those.  Discouragement reigned!  I walked in the door, saw the two other guys that were helping and thought “pull it together David, you are the leader”.   That at least got me to the first room we were to begin flooring.  I got down on all fours and grabbed the first plank of flooring and laid it down.  Then I laid the next, then the next, then the next.  I didn’t look up until that room was done.  Several times I chipped a plank or put it down wrong.  I would just pick it up grab another plank and put that one down.   My thoughts were never allowed to say, “this is going to take forever”. I refused discouragement.  With every plank I gained momentum and with every plank I got closer to the end.  But I concentrated on that one plank to put down.  As I write this article I am sitting in my nice new office with beautiful floors, painted walls and great furniture.   The finished project is amazing and better than I had hoped.  But it took longer than expected and more work than I anticipated but it is done! 

How many times have we gotten ourselves in a mess or life throws us a curve ball?  We find ourselves thousands in debt, in addiction, marriage trouble, overweight, or any other of life’s troubles.  The thought of digging ourselves out seems overwhelming.   The thought of starting seems to be insignificant compared to what we are up against.  What we want to do and what we need to do seems like miles apart.  When we look at the entirety of a problem or situation is when we begin to feel overwhelmed.  The solution is always in the doing of the mundane work.  The non-glamourous normal work is how the problem is solved.  The great news is that God is all about the process.  He says He will never leave you or abandon you.  Invite God in the process.  He is always there.  Ask for His help and strength during the process.  Tell Him when you are tired.  Tell Him when you feel it is taking too long.  He can handle it.  But also, celebrate the wins.  I am sitting at my desk right now in an office floored with individual planks.  Each plank matters.  Every plank represents a step to the goal.  Every win matters no matter if anyone sees it or not.  They all matter!  So, celebrate every step along the way.  Even if you celebrate it quietly between you and God! 

Be encouraged!  Don’t be overwhelmed with the thing ahead of you.  Let God give you His daily bread.  Enough for today.  Let tomorrow be tomorrow.  Look down at the floor plank in front of you and do that one thing.  The things you do right now matter, and they are accomplishing the goal! 

That’s good news!

Talking about the devil, 1 Peter 5:9 says, “Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.” Then it says God will, “… after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.” 1 Peter 5:10b (NKJV)

While God didn’t bring the suffering (5:9), He can use it to “perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.” We can also know that suffering only lasts “a while.” That’s good news!