16 YEARS!

 

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I think I was in my Elementary school cafeteria when I first read the phrase “You Are What You Eat”. Of course, the posters placed in the cafeteria wanted us to realize that it is important to eat nutritious food in order to be healthy and fit.  At the time I probably had tater tots and homemade pizza on my tray. Not sure what I thought about being a Tater Tot.

As we grow up, we understand that what we eat is vital for disease prevention, growth and good health. Because we know this, we try to determine what our every day eating habits should be. In the same way, we need to be discerning about what we feed our minds.

We are constantly taking in what is around us and as Christians, it is important to put only the best into our hearts and minds. In Philippians 4:8 we are told what should occupy our thoughts. “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” So we need to be intentional about what we are thinking and how we are spending our time. This week I saw that the average American spends 7 years and 8 months of their lives watching TV and 5 years and 4 months on social media (Mediakix). What might seem like an innocent time-killer could actually use 16 years of our lives. So how would the Apostle Paul instruct us to occupy our time? In Colossians 3, we are told, “12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

So there we have it. Everything we say or do should be done in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father. Let’s truly rely on God when we pray to “give us today our daily bread” because hopefully we are becoming that daily bread.  We Are What We Eat.

-Rebecca Dauksas

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Over 3,000!

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I like books. But I find that I like the idea of reading a book, more than I actually like reading the book. Some of you can relate. I have books that I started, but just never finished.  I like the possibility of what the book is promising. Maybe it is becoming more organized, getting better grades, learning another language, do it yourself projects, restoring an old car, …there are countless things that we can learn from books.

The greatest book of course is the one that God has given us.  It is the book that we continue to read through our lives. Why? We have been doing some in depth Bible study during our Grow devotions. What is it that this collection of 66 books is promising to the reader?

The Bible makes some incredible promises. Promises that have happened, that are happening and that will happen. And of course, the importance of these promises rests in the fact that they are offered from God.  He is speaking through the scriptures to us. For instance, the promise that we can know who God is. “Come near to God and He will come near to you”. (James 4:8) Or the promise that we can become God’s children. “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1) We are also offered the promise of forgiveness. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

Those promises are amazing because we can be forgiven and we can connect with our Creator. We can grow our relationship with Him so close that we can call Him, “our Father”. And just like a loving Father teaches a child the things they need to know, He teaches us through the scriptures.  We can learn how to make decisions and how to live. And He promises us His Holy Spirit. His Spirit enables us to live lives that show love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

I recently read that a Bible scholar states that there are over 3,000 promises from God through the scriptures. That is huge, but we know that those promises will be fulfilled because God is the one making them. We can trust God because He will follow through on His promises. So no matter what, lets continue to study this incredible book with a message of love that is filled with promises written from Our Father.

 

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 2 Peter 1:3-4

 

-Rebecca Dauksas

 

 

How Did Jesus Resolve Conflict

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At the grocery store, if someone’s cart is blocking the Reese’s Puffs, I’ll pretend to be intensely interested in the Raisin Bran until my fellow shopper moves their cart. Even the tiniest of confrontations makes me uneasy. I hate conflict even more than I hate Raisin Bran. I don’t like to make waves, ruffle feathers, or stir the pot. Can anyone relate?

Conflict is simply the clash of wants. Conflict isn’t inherently bad. Sure, it’s unpleasant, but it’s natural. Since God created everyone with different and unique interests, passions, and ideas, our wants aren’t always going to align (in my experience they usually don’t). Because conflict is inescapable, we should learn how to resolve it in a way that is pleasing and honoring to God.

God calls us to be peacemakers. Hebrews 12:14 says, “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy.” We’re supposed to make EVERY effort to be at peace with EVERYONE? That seems like a tall order, and it is. God never said it would be easy, but He said it would work.

Jesus is our perfect example of a peacemaker. Without sin, Jesus dealt with conflict head on. We place Jesus on a pedestal (as we should, I mean he literally saved the world), but we sometimes forget that he is a human, too. Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.” Jesus understands how difficult dealing with conflict can be. The Teachers of the Law and Pharisees were constantly trying to trip him up, one of his best friends betrayed him for a few dozen pieces of silver, and he was arrested and crucified for a crime he didn’t commit. Jesus saw each conflict as an opportunity for grace. There’s a lot we can learn from our soft-spoken, table-flipping Savior.

One of Jesus’ first lessons about dealing with conflict comes from the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 5:23-24, Jesus highlights the urgency of resolving conflict, “If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” This week, as we explore how Jesus resolved conflict, remember that there is great urgency in settling the conflicts in our lives. Don’t let unresolved conflict fester; deal with it swiftly and directly.

Is there unspoken tension between you and a friend? Is there an action you need to seek forgiveness for? Do you need to forgive someone for a wound you haven’t dealt with yet? What can you do today to bring peace to a rocky area of your life?

 

-Mackenzie McClain

Love and Forgiveness

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Throughout this week we have discussed topics on having a Christ-centered life, God’s Will vs. our will, our purpose in life, worshipping by singing, standing up for Christ, and thriving. Today we are going to discuss two important attributes and characteristics of Christians. We, as Christians, should love and forgive. Here’s why!

God’s Word, the Bible, sets the example of a Christian’s life. Throughout the Bible we find the word love. Love is a strong word. Right? A lot of times we use the word love without meaning.

To begin, I believe 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 is the Bible’s definition of love.

“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

-1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Here are other scriptures that reference love:

“Let all that you do be done in love.” -1 Corinthians 16:14

“The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

-1 John 4:8

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” -John 13:34-35

“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” -John 15:13

“So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

-1 Corinthians 13:13

“We love because He first loved us.” -1 John 4:19

God wants us to love Him, His Son, and each other. God loved us first! He loved us before we were born! He loved us so much, that He sent His one and only Son to die for the sins of the world. That’s pure love. Jesus Christ was obedient to His Father and followed His will. Jesus loves us too! We should love God with everything we have. We should display the love of God so others can know Him and receive His love. If we do not love one another, then we do not know God! God is love! Everything revolves around love.

Another important Christian characteristic is forgiving others. I understand, it’s hard to forgive people sometimes. It’s hard to forgive people who make fun of you, call you names, or just act rudely. But it’s something we have to do!

In Matthew 6:9-13, Jesus teaches His disciples the Lord’s Prayer. In verse 12, Jesus says that we should pray to our Heavenly Father, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

That’s huge! We are praying and asking God to forgive us of our debts and sins. After and only if we also forgive those who sin or have debts against us.

That’s right! You heard it! We have to forgive others so God will forgive us.

Jesus continues by saying in Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.”

That is plain and simple to understand. We need to forgive one another, if we want to be forgiven by God.

Love and forgiveness flow together hand in hand. If we love one another, we will forgive one another. If we do not love one another, we will not forgive others. If we do not love, we do not know God, because God is love.

Because of God’s love, we have pathway to salvation. He gave His Son, Jesus, as a perfect sacrifice to die on the cross for our sins. Jesus Christ lived, was crucified, died, was resurrected, and is coming back again! That’s the Good News of the Gospel.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

-Romans 6:23

We all are sinners, and the price of sin is death. Sadly, because of sin, we all will die. Jesus gives us hope. Because of the shedding of Jesus’ blood, God has forgiven our sins. If we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and are baptized, we will be saved. We have hope that when we die, we will be asleep in Christ, until He returns. When Jesus Christ returns, the dead in Christ will be raised and those who lived a righteous life will be resurrected to life eternal in the Kingdom of God. Don’t you want to be a part of that? I know I sure do!

Today I encourage you to live a Kingdom life. Love one another and forgive those who sin against you. God wants us to live according to His Word, His will, and His way. We are His children!

-Brenan Dominguez 

 

Hi everyone, 

I enjoyed sharing several topics with you all this week! I hope you have grown in your faith and learned something new this week from these devotions. I hope and pray that you will continue to grow and learn. I encourage you to read your Bible daily. Every time you read your Bible you will learn something new! Remember that God has a plan and a vision for your life. Find that vision, set a goal, and work toward achieving the goal. Our ultimate goal as Christians should be glorifying our Heavenly Father. 

If you need someone to talk to, you can always leave a comment here or find me on facebook.

Until next time, 

“The LORD bless you and keep you; The LORD make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.” -Numbers 6:24-26

Having a Christ-Centered Life

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Hi everyone, my name is Brenan Dominguez. This week I will be sharing with you all daily devotions of topics that have been laid upon my heart. But first, I would like to share some information about myself. I live in Ponchatoula, Louisiana and attend the New Beginnings Christian Church in Hammond, Louisiana. I’m very active within our church. I hold numerous positions including Worship Coordinator, Vacation Bible School Director, and a Deacon, among other things. This is my senior year at Ponchatoula High School. I’m involved in several clubs and activities which include the Greenback Staff (Yearbook), Advanced Choir, and Student Council. Throughout all of the activities and events that I am a part of, there’s one thing I keep my focus on and that is Jesus Christ. He’s my central focus. Everything that I am involved in, I bring Jesus with me. That’s what I would like to share and discuss with you today!

Having a Christ-centered Life:

As teenagers and adults, we are busy people! One of my favorite sayings is that “I have people to see, things to do, and a life to fulfill.” And in all honesty, that is true! Everyday we see people. Some people often, others not so much. Everyday we have things to do and events going on. It might be something you do everyday, once a week, or just on occasion. But ultimately, we have a life to fulfill. Think about all of the things that occur in your life on a typical day. Things such as the people you interact with, the places you go, the things you say and so forth. How prominent are these things, places, and people in your life? Are they fulfilling your life? Do you actually know what fulfillment is? According to Google, fulfillment is defined as “the achievement of something desired, promised, or predicted.”

What’s your fulfillment?

What is the achievement or promise that you desire? What is your fulfillment? As Christians, we desire Christ. We desire a relationship with our Heavenly Father, and His Son Jesus Christ. That relationship is our fulfillment. In John 6:35, Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” We desire Him and He satisfies us! He’s our fulfillment.

Nothing in this world will fully satisfy you except Jesus Christ. He’s our fulfillment. One of the ways that I am fulfilled is having Christ centered around everything. I bring Jesus Christ into everything that I do. I am frequently told that I always bring up the Bible, or Jesus, or God in almost every conversation. In my Yearbook class at school, I constantly talk and share testimonies of what God does in my life. In choir class, I print contemporary Christian piano sheet music that we can sing. I’m constantly singing hymns, choruses, and worship songs! Jesus gives me joy! He gives me hope! He gives me peace! And he gives me life worth living!

You can do that too! Make Jesus the center of your life. Whatever events that are ongoing within your life, bring Jesus into it! Don’t be afraid! Let His light shine! Be the light into this world of darkness! Share God’s Word, share the message of the Gospel, and share fulfillment! Allow others to see what Christ can do in their lives.

I encourage you to make your life Christ-centered and you will be fulfilled.

Brenan Dominguez

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The Good News Gospels

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Throughout the Old Testament we read of God’s work with His people.  The ups, and the downs.  His plan through the ages.  And through it all – there were prophecies, predictions and foreshadowing of what was coming – a Savior who would take upon himself the sins of all men and make a way for mankind to be reconciled (brought back together) with God.  Some have counted over 350 Old Testament prophecies of Jesus that are fulfilled in the New Testament, everything from: born in Bethlehem, came out of Egypt, praised while riding on a donkey, performed miraculous healings , not a bone of his body broken, etc…. Jesus fulfills everyone.  He is God’s plan that began in Genesis, or actually before the creation of the world.  And, we have not 1, not 2, not 3, but 4 accounts of his life, ministry, teachings, death, and resurrection in the Old Testament – they are the gospels.  And here’s a little bit about each one:

 

MATTHEW – Old Testament Prophecy Fulfilled in Jesus

Matthew is an excellent link between the Old and New Testaments because Matthew is writing particularly to the Jews to convince them that Jesus is the promised Messiah from God, the same Messiah that the Old Testament prophets had said would come.  Matthew, who knew his OT well, included 53 direct quotes and 76 other references to the Old Testament. Matthew, originally a tax collector, left his work to follow Jesus’ call.  He became one of Jesus’ 12 Disciples who were Jesus’ closest students and followers.  His new life mission was to persuade the Jews that the Savior they had been waiting for had arrived and his name is Jesus.  This book is an excellent introduction to Jesus!  Here we read of Jesus’ geneology, his birth, the visit from the Magi, his baptism and temptation, the calling of the disciples, and the great Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5-7).  Many more teachings (often about his favorite topic – the coming Kingdom of God) and miracles are included.  Then Jesus is put to death so we can be forgiven, and then miraculously resurrected 3 days later.  In the final verses the resurrected Jesus tells his disciples to go into the world and make disciples.  And that is just what Matthew did when he wrote about the man who changed his life.

 

MARK – To the Gentiles: A Suffering Servant Has Come

This is the shortest of the 4 gospel books, packed with action, and perhaps written first.  The author, perhaps called John Mark, was not one of Jesus’ 12 disciples, but was likely a close associate of Peter.  It is thought that Mark listened to all of Peter’s preaching about Jesus and carefully recorded them in what would become the book of Mark.  Mark would also accompany Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey.  This book was written to a Gentile (non-Jewish) audience – perhaps specifically the church in Rome, at a time (60 AD) when powerful Rome was persecuting Christian believers.  It was important that the church be strong in their understanding of who Jesus was and what he did.  In the book of Mark we read of Jesus healing the sick, controlling nature and battling the powers of Satan.  And yet, the Jewish leaders plot to kill him (and do), his neighbors don’t understand him and his family thinks he is crazy.  Jesus is the Ultimate Suffering Servant – with his life – and his death.  Mark is perhaps preparing the church for a little suffering of their own.

 

LUKE – Jesus is Savior of ALL – Jew and Gentile

The author, Luke, was likely a Gentile by birth, and a well-educated doctor.  He also was known as the missionary Paul’s dear friend and fellow missionary.  His introduction states: “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.  Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may now the certainty of the things you have been taught.” (1:1-4).  Luke was writing to not only tell of Jesus, to strengthen the believers’ faith, but also to assure people that Jesus had come to save the lost – both Jew and Gentile.  He is the only gospel writer to include several parables (one of Jesus’ favorite ways to teach using earthly stories with earthly meanings) including: the Good Samaritan, and the Prodigal Son.

 

JOHN – Jesus is the Son of God who Saves

The author is likely John, the son of Zebedee, the brother of James, and the one sometimes called, “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”  John and James had left the family fishing business when Jesus called them to follow him.  They would become 2 of the 12 disciples.  This gospel is the most unlike the other 3 gospels.  Over 90% of John is not found in the other gospels.  John does not include any of Jesus’ parables, or his birth or temptation or ascension.  Instead, he emphasizes who Jesus was – the Son of God.  He includes only 8 miracles, 6 of which are not recorded elsewhere (including water to wine and the raising of Lazarus).  John includes many of Jesus’ “I Am” statements explaining Jesus and his mission.  “I am the good shepherd” (10:11).  “I am the bread of life” (6:35).  “I am the way, the truth and the life.” (14:6).  And John is the only author to include the Upper Room Discourse (chapters 14-17) which was Jesus’ last teaching to his 12, as well as his prayers for himself, his disciples and all believers who would follow – including you.

 

 

How many people today think they know who Jesus was – but haven’t read the gospel accounts?  Read them to see God’s plan in action.  See for yourself Jesus’ love and compassion for the lost, as well as his insistence for a changed life (go and sin no more – John 8:11).  See his love for His Father and his commitment to God’s Word and His Will.  See his excitement and teaching about the Kingdom of God and who will be a part of it.  To properly carry on your mission from God – you MUST be in tune with what Jesus’ mission was.  Find it – in the gospels – and you too can share in God’s good news – for yourself and for your hearers.

 

Seek His Mission,

Marcia Railton

 

Come back tomorrow – we will have just one book to cover as we see the history of the early church.  What will they do when Jesus is no longer in their physical midst?

Depression: Strictly Chemical, or can there be Spiritual Causes?

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Depression and mental illness have become hot topics in the public eye in the past decade, and for good reason. Chaos and heartless acts are being televised everywhere, traumatic and high stress events occur in peoples’ lives, and it becomes so easy to stay stuck in an abysmal state of mind. For some people, depression is a chemical imbalance that can be treated with prescription drugs. I believe it goes deeper than that for many people nowadays though. Depression for some people comes from a place of spiritual turmoil. It is something I know from personal experience because I’ve been fighting with depression on and off for over a decade. It starts to eat away at you, pessimism is the easiest form of logic to use, hopelessness starts to flood into you, and just a general lack of self worth creates a house for itself in your heart and mind. These were constants in my life since my 8th grade year when one of my biggest life influences, my grandpa, passed away. When that happened, my fight or flight instincts kicked into gear about how do I react to this situation. The choices my heart and mind gave me were: cry out to God for comfort and just to understand why this happened, or run away in the anger that had welled up within the confusion and pain because of unresolved time with my grandfather.

 

I ran away from God that day because I was hurt, I didn’t know how to talk about what had happened, and I was scared to show a hole in my armor at school because it felt like the people at school fed on my failure and pain. I now know looking at the past that probably wasn’t true, but I lost that passion to learn for a bit because I didn’t want to be attacked from the inside and out. The experiences I’ve had may not have been pleasant, but we’ve got an example of someone in Scripture who has gone through much worse, and came out on top because of his faith in God. That man’s name is Job. I believe that if we take the time to understand him we can learn to sympathize or empathize with people who have gone through, or are going through spiritual depression.

 

Job 2:9 (NASB). “Then his wife said to him, ‘Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!” Personally, this verse is the best example of a variant of the fight or flight question that ran through my mind. Job was given the option to hold fast to his integrity, which stems from his relationship with the Heavenly Father. He was also given the option to curse God and die. Given everything that had happened to him by this point, it would be extremely easy for anyone to cry out in anger against God. Job by this point had lost all his monetary wealth, his cattle were all decimated, his children all recently died, and he had just begun to lose his health. Even through all of that, he stayed faithful to YHWH. Job 2:10 (NASB): “But he said to her, ‘You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?’ In all this Job did not sin with his lips.”

The response he gives has been stuck inside my head ever since I have read these verses. “…Shall we indeed accept good from God and not adversity…” That is such a healthy perspective on life, and one we must learn for ourselves. These words are ones I believe we must learn to use with one another in love and gentleness because it is easier to become angry with God, instead of realize we can use the rough patches of our lives as catalysts for something better. Whether that is to draw closer to God, be empathetic with another’s life stories, or to share our stories letting others know they aren’t the only ones struggling in this life.

-Andrew Cheatwood