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Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is useless for you to fight against my will.” (Acts 26‬:‭14‬ NLT)

In 2010, unintentional firearm injuries caused the deaths of 606 people. From 2005-2010, almost 3,800 people in the U.S. died from unintentional shootings. That’s almost as many victims as the number of American soldiers killed in the first seven years of the U.S.-Iraq War! And the greatest shame is the key word of this study: unintentional victims.

In the Christ Life, we reflect this same sad scenario. We “shoot ourselves in the foot” by trying to live for God on our own terms. Oswald Chambers says it this way: “Stubbornness and self-will will always stab Jesus Christ. It may hurt no one else, but it wounds His Spirit. Whenever we are obstinate and self-willed and set on our own ambitions, we are hurting Jesus.” To our shame, this is how many of us approach our spiritual walk and ministry.

When Jesus called out to Saul/Paul on the road to Damascus, Saul was serving God and disobeying Him at the same time. God calls to each of us to make sure we are doing this right. If the Spirit convicts you, please listen. The saddest casualties to see are those of self-destructing, self-willed, unintentional inflictors of spiritual harm. Live for God on His own terms! It’s much healthier for you! You are loved today!

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For only when you come to judge the earth will people learn what is right.” (Isaiah‬ ‭26‬:‭9‬ NLT)

In 1998, Oscar was a “drug mule”, carrying heroin in his stomach from Columbia to Miami. He was arrested at the airport and sentenced to 100 years for his crime. But while in jail, Oscar’s life was changed by God’s grace and a little Gideon’s Bible. Today, Oscar and his wife minister to others, delivering the same hope of forgiveness.

We are accustomed as Christians to hate judgment, simply to fail in the realization that mercy only comes through judgment. The sins in our life, even our hidden ones, must be exposed to God’s face before they can be taken away. Only through conviction and repentance does mercy come. Otherwise, we could commit whatever sins we wanted and still expect a place at the Lord’s table, leaving Jesus’ death as a vain and meaningless act.

Never shy away from God’s judgment; if He loves us, then He must correct us. Instead, learn to thank Him for correction, for then does true mercy and love come! Then go live a more free and uncompromising life! You are loved today!

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Precious in the sight of the LORD Is the death of His saints.” (Psalms‬ ‭116‬:‭15‬ NKJV)

My Uncle Kennon was a wonderful Methodist pastor and Air Force Chaplain, but a terrible carpenter. One day he decided to reach the town drunk by repairing a hole on his barn roof. In the process, he accidentally dropped his hammer through the hole, which happened to land on the drunk’s homemade still, destroying it! Consequently, the man decided it was a sign from God, gave up drinking and got saved!

His wife, my Aunt Mary Elizabeth, was just as funny. Having taught classical music and played in numerous orchestras, she seemed to know absolutely everyone. In one story, her and a daughter were traveling out of state. My aunt struck up a conversation with an unknown couple from Japan, because she didn’t ever meet a stranger. In the course of conversation, they were good friends with a Japanese gentleman that she had taught music to in Japan when she lived there shortly after WWII!

My Uncle Kennon went to be with the Lord in 1990. Today, we lay Aunt Mary Elizabeth to rest. If God has a trophy room reserved for His saints, they should be on the top shelf. Always remember that our loss is Heaven’s gain, and our reward will be to join them again in Heaven! Celebrate life today! We are loved!

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You were running the race so well. Who has held you back from following the truth?” (Galatians‬ ‭5‬:‭7‬ NLT)

According to statisticbrain.com, of all persons that set New Year’s resolutions, only 8% are successful at achieving them, 49% have infrequent success, and 24% never accomplish a single one. Wow! And 1 out of 4 are done with them after the first week! By now, 1/3 of resolution setters that hit the gym, cut back spending, and attempted to stop a bad habit have given up and are back to their old ways that they didn’t like beforehand.

No matter what the endeavor, good things require hard work and sacrifice. A better marriage, healthier body, and a powerful spiritual life require for diligence on our part to keep doing the things that we know we are supposed to be doing. Then when those stumbling moments come and we question the “effort vs reward” factor, we must keep choosing “effort”, knowing it is worth it!

What is keeping you from a healthier body, stronger esteem, wealthier wallet, more intimate marriage, or a dynamic spiritual life? Ask God to help you conquer these or any other goal worth pursuing. Then when you stumble, and you will, He is there to pick you up and keep you going! You are loved today! Keep at it!

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The young man who had died was a widow’s only son, and a large crowd from the village was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart overflowed with compassion.” (Luke‬ ‭7‬:‭12-13‬ NLT)

As I drove home last night from a basketball game, something crashed into my windshield, sending me into cardiac arrest! As I investigated the side of the road for the culprit, I found the last thing on my mind: a small screech owl. I took it home, wrapped it in a blanket, and let my wife hold it. As she did, he gradually fell asleep. But within an hour, he began having a labored breathing, looked around, and then quietly passed. It was a sad moment in the Sullivan home.

Death is a tragic event. Even Jesus was moved by it whenever he encountered those suffering from loss. When it occurs, there are always those left behind, asking hard questions and grappling with closure for the hole that has been ripped into the fabric of their life. However commonplace death may be, it still hurts.

Take time to be aware of those that have experienced a loss. Sometimes the greatest need for comfort isn’t at the funeral, but months later when all the phone calls and visits have stopped happening. Be moved with compassion whenever you see them hurting, letting them know they are loved.

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Carefully determine what pleases the Lord.” (Ephesians‬ ‭5‬:‭10‬ NLT)

Back in 2012, the R&B star, Usher, claimed a delusional woman was stalking him and constantly showing up uninvited to his Georgia home. Usher eventually had to obtain a restraining order against 26-year-old Darshelle Jones-Rakestraw who claimed she was married to the singer. She assumed her attentions would stir his heart, only to find his lawyer stirred up instead!

We run into trouble when we try to please God by what we THINK God approves or condones. The only guide we have for pleasing the Lord is the Bible; anything else is simply presumptuous. Just because you do something “in Jesus name” or claim that He “knows your heart” doesn’t mean He approves! Our devotion isn’t shown by actions but by a true, daily, vibrant personal relationship.

Do as the Bible says, carefully determine what pleases God’s heart and leave opinion out. By searching God’s words, you’ll easily find the way to His heart and secure His blessings. Ms. Jones-Rakestraw got a rude awakening by operating in belief instead of facts. Don’t be like that! Know your God! You are loved by Him!

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But Jesus knew their thoughts.” (Luke‬ ‭6‬:‭8‬ NLT)

Mark Twain was reported to be a sucker for bad investments. Once he made his money in writing, Twain made a string of horrible investments. A particular flop was in an engraving machine called the Kaolatype, which he dreamed would revolutionize the printing industry. When the printing shops “mysteriously” burned down TWICE as he was coming for a visit, he realized it was a scam and quit investing.

Unlike Twain, Jesus knew when people were misbehaving. Many times over, religious leaders were plotting against Him, but Jesus knew their thoughts. So what does He think of our thoughts? What rationalizations or schemes do we concoct thinking no one sees, except for the fact that He does?

Jesus knows our thoughts and hearts. All the more reason to behave! Even our good works done with bad motives or improper thoughts suffer a loss of value because God knows what others can’t. Keep your mind pure and the overflow of blessable good works will keep coming! You are loved today!