The Importance of Belonging To A Local Church

*Sermon Notes from Pastor Rick Warren

2 Corinthians 8:5 “…but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God.”  The church offers you something you cannot get anywhere else.

Why Have strong relationships.

  1. We were created for connections.
  2. Connections balance our lives.  By yourself you will leave an unbalanced life.  The Bible has 58 “one another” in the New Testament.
  3. Connections give us strength, emotional, spiritual, and physical.

The relationships that will last forever are those built in the family of God – the Church.  The one thing that will last after this world is over is the church. (Romans 12:2).  Church is not an event you attend, but a group you are a part of.  We are connected to each other.  What a Church is like in metaphors (pictures)., a brick in a temple, a family member in a family, a vine to a branch.

  1. First Benefit : It connects me to God’s eternal temple.  I Corinthians 3: 16 “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”  Ephesians 2:21 -22 “in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”  The word together is key.  

Lessons from building – you cannot build it with one part. all the parts have to fit together,  a part is useless until it is connected. By yourself you cannot be used.  a part for the house needs to be inside the house not outside the house.  We are connected to hold each other up.1 Timothy 3:15 “I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground (foundation)  of the truth.”  The Benefit : I get support and stability.  Small groups are a way to get this support.

2.  Second Benefit:  I get life and growth. It Connects me to Christ body. Ephesians 1:22-23 “And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”  Ephesians 4:25 “Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another.”  Romans 12: 4-5 Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another.”   The church has many parts, God loves diversity. every part of the body is needed to make the body complete.  we each have a different work to do,  we need each other.  I cannot fulfill God’s purpose for my life by myself.  People say I need Jesus but not the church.  Colossians 2:19  “and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God.”  Just as your body is connected, we must be connected in the church.  You only grow by being connected to the church.  You can make temporary change but you need people to make long lasting change.

3.  It connects me to the power of Jesus. John 15:5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”  This is our organic connection.  One wire can keep your car from moving. John 15:4 “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.”  Connections makes us productive.  Your life impact will be determine by the connections you make.  The fruit comes from the root.  This is the kind of fruit you will produce if you are connected:

Galatians 5:22-23  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”  Third Benefit:  I get God’s power to Change.  There are some problems you will never get rid of along, only in community being connected. Having others praying for you, holding you accountable and supporting you.

4. Fourth Benefit: I am loved and accepted.    It connects me to God’s Family.  A Christian without a church family is an orphan.  Somebody chose you to be apart of their family when you left the hospital.  You need a church family. Romans 8:16 “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”  “1Timothy 3:15 “I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church (family) of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”  Your number one priority in the family of God is to love the other members.  1 Peter 2:17 “Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.”  Colossians 3:14  “But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.” (Most important love each other).  Love is what holds the family together.  Fourth Benefit:  I am loved and accepted.  People need to hear your story and they need for you to hear their story.   2 Corinthians 8:5 “…but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God.”  

A church family helps you to connect to God, to others, to the truth, with yourself to use your gifts and abilities , fulfill your life mission.  The church will outlast every kingdom and  business.  

The Importance of One – May 8, 2019

Pastor Mark Taylor 

In I Kings 17: 8-16 God has given us an event in the life of the prophet Elijah.  In this event, God choose one person to make a big difference in the life of Elijah.  The Lord told Elijah that He had chosen a poor widow woman who had a young son to take care of him during a famine.  She was probably the most unlikely person to take care of someone else because she could not even take care of herself and her son.  When Elijah arrived at her village she was gathering sticks to cook one last meal for her and her son and then she would be completely out of food.  Elijah asked her for a drink of water, which was also scarce at that time.  The woman turn to go and find him a cup of water, and then Elijah stopped her and ask her for a small amount of bread.  The widow women, told Elijah that she only had enough food for one more meal for her and her son and that the two sticks she had was to build a fire to cook their last meal.  Then Elijah told her if she would do this one act of faith that God would bless her for many days.

There are a lot of “ones” in this message to us from God’s Word.    First of all, there was “one” prophet.  At times He felt he was the only one left that was serving God. 

“And he said, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; because the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.” (I Kings 19:14). The Lord reminded Him, that he was not alone, that there were seven thousand other people who were still serving Him.

Maybe you feel you are the only one left trying to live right and do right.  The Lord Jesus’ message to you is that is that you are not alone.  “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world”   (Matthew 28:20).

Another “one” in this story was the widow woman.  She probably felt she has fail in her life and had fail her son, because they both would soon die of hunger and there was nothing she could do about it.  What she did not know was that God was preparing a way for her to meet her needs. “For your Father knows what things you have need of before you ask Him.”  Matthew 6:8.

Then there was the “one barrel” and “one cup”.  Before Elijah got to this ladies house, they were almost empty.  After she  did what the Lord told her to do, both of them were full.  

The Importance of “One” is that you and God are a majority.  You have all the resources of Heaven on your side. You can become God’s partner in accomplishing things on Earth that God wants to do. You are only “one” person, but you can allow God to use you to meet the needs of another person who feels that they are only one.  A young boy went to hear the Lord Jesus speak.  He was not expecting that the little that he had could be used to bless so many.   Even the disciples did not feel he had anything to contribute. He was just one little boy.  “There is a lad here, which has five barley loaves, and two small fish: but what are they among so many?” (John 6:9).  The bread and fish did not seem like much, but when Jesus blessed it, five thousand men were fed, not counting the great number of women and children.

The Lord Jesus observed a poor widow giving two of her last coins into the offering at the temple.    “And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury,  and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites.  So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all;  for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.” (Luke 21: 1-4).  God likes to use individuals.  He likes to take “one” person to accomplish things for His glory and to meet the needs of others.  And when He chooses that “one” person, it is usually the person who others would be dismissed as weak or unable to perform the task.

Think of all the people in the Bible that God called individually to do a job.  One man named Noah decided to live a righteous life, and he saved humanity. “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth.. and the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth…But Noah, found grace in the eyes of the Lord.  And Noah did  according unto all that the Lord commanded him.” (Genesis 6: 5,7,8, 22).   One boy named David, killed a giant military  soldier  who was 9’6” tall and changed the history of his country.  David told him: “You come to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, who you have defied”  (I Samuel 17:45).  

He is drawn to people who are weak and admit it, and who ask for help from Heaven.  “My grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”   (2 Corinthians 12:9).  The Importance of “one” is that God loves you.  You are special to Him.  Even if you have been away from God, He is looking for you today.  “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?  And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’  I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.”  (Luke 15:4-7).

Refuse To Worry About Anything  -March 23, 2019

Philippians 4:6  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;

       Don’t worry about anything.  Jesus gives 4 Reasons why not to worry

  1. Worry is unreasonable  Mathew 6:25  Worry makes the problem bigger.  Worry does not work
  2. Worry is unnatural.  Humans are the only creation that worry.  It is something you learn.  If you learned it then you can unlearn it.  Matthew 6:26  Your Heavenly Father.   We are the only creation that does not trust him.  Worry is unhealthy – Proverbs 12:25.  The opposite is not worrying brings good health – Proverbs 14:30.
  3. Worry is unhelpful.  It doesn’t change anything except you – it makes you miserable.
  4. Worry is unnecessary. Matthew 6:30.  Happiness is a choice.  So is worry.  I  Peter 5:7.  Let it go.

2.  Talk to God About Everything.  Start talking to God.  James 4:2  “You have not because you ask not.   Worry less, ask more.  Romans 8:32  “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?

3.  Thank God in all things.  Always ask with a thankful heart.  You cannot be happy if you are ungrateful.    Gratitude.  You can always find something to be thankful for.         I Thessalonians 5:18:  “In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus in you.”  The will of God for you is to be thankful.  

4.  Think about good things.   The battle is in your mind.  What you fill your mind with will determine how stressful your life with.  Be careful what you put in your mind.     Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”  These are a picture for who God is.  Isaiah 26:3  “You will keep him in perfect peace,  Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.”

5.  Be Content with anything.  It does not mean that you have no ambition.  It is not laziness or apathy.  It is enjoying what I have right now instead of waiting for something to make me happy.  Philippians 4:11-12  “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.”

Stop comparing yourself to others.  It will cause you either discouragement or pride.

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Setting Personal Goals – March 13, 2019

“According to your faith let it be to you” Matthew 9:29

Your goals are about your future potential.  If you don’t have goals for your life, you will just coast through life and others will make you apart of their goals  

1.  Goal setting is both spiritual and practical. All successful people set goals. 

Jesus had goals: “My goal is to do what the One Who sent Me wants Me to do. My goal is to finish the work that He gave Me to do.  Paul had goals: “This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind me and reaching forward to those things which are ahead.”  (Philippians 3:13)  There is only one you and you were created for a purpose.  You have unique fingerprints, DNA, and gifts and abilities.  Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”  Find your purpose and set goals to reach it.

2.  Goals are statements of Faith.  Hebrews 11:6  “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”  Setting goals does not cost anything.  The main difference between a dream and a goal is that a goal has a dead line in which you set to accomplish it.

3.  Goals focus your energy.  I Corinthians 9:26 “I do not fight as one who beats the air”.  Goals keep you from wasting your time.  The world is full of distractions and time wasters.

4.  Goals keep you going when you don’t feel like it.  Psalms 146:5  “Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, Whose hope is in the Lord his God.”  Long term goals keep you from staying discouraged with short term setbacks.  Everyone fails.  Learn to fail fast.

5.  Goals build character.  God is more interested in who you become than what you accomplish.  You will never become the person you want to be until you intend to be that person.

6.  Good goals will be rewarded.  When you reach your goal you are going to be rewarded on Earth and in Heaven by God if they are accomplished with the right methods and motives.  Revelation 22:12  “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.”

When you get ready to set a goal – ask these questions:

  1. Will this goal honor God?

2.  Is this goal motivated by love?  God is not going to bless a goal motivated by greed, guilt, competition, ego, or pride. John 14:10, 12  “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love… This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

3.  Will this goal require depending on God to accomplish?  Proverbs 16:9   “A man’s heart plans his way,  But the Lord directs his steps.”

If you want God’s help to reach your goal you will need these three things:

You will need God’s Holy Spirit.  Zechariah 4:6  “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.”

You will need God’s Word to guide you: Joshua 1:8  “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you[a] shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”.

You will need God’s People to support you.   Ecclesiastes 4:12  “Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”

“LIVING ONE DAY AT A TIME” – January 27, 2019

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:34) Our Lord Jesus has told us not to get so preoccupied with tomorrow that we forget about what will happen today.  “Give us this day our daily bread.” (Matthew 6:11) Focus on what we need now, not on what we’re going to need in the future.

  Accept that God is in control of our lives and His timing for us is perfect.  “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.”  (1 Peter 5:6).  Let’s live a life that is “Blessed instead of Stressed”.  Learn to trust the providence of God. Birds trust God to supply their needs however God does not come along and drop the worms in their mouths. Trusting God doesn’t mean we are lazy and indifferent, but it does mean we come to the point that we can know that God will provide what I really need.

“Fear Not” – “But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered, Fear not you are more valuable than many sparrows who are not forgotten by God.”  (Luke 12:6-8). Fear is the opposite of Faith.  It can cause mental and physical diseases.  It can lead to anger and even hate.  Fear’s root  in is in being  afraid of not having enough or in not being enough.    “Set your affections on things above, and not on things on the Earth.”  (Colossians 3:2).  There are many good Christian books that can help you in overcoming fear.

“Worry Not” – “Therefore I say unto you.  Take no thought for your life, what you shall eat, or what you shall drink, or for your body, what you shall wear…..” Matthew 6:25-34. The main issue about worry is Do you believe God can take care of you?  Worry is about seeking things of tomorrow.  God wants you to seek Him today.  When you start to worry about tomorrow, begin to participate in God’s kingdom today.  There are things God needs for you to do for others today.

“Sin Not” – “I say unto you that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repents, more than over 99 just persons which need no repentance.” (Luke 15:7). Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.  If God has shown you things that are wrong in your life, you need to stop.  God will forgive you of your past sins.  “And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.  (John 8:11).

“Judge Not” – “Judge not, that you will not be judged.”  (Matthew 7:1)  Two reasons that we judge other people are that we are either jealous or self righteous.  When we take the plank out of our eyes, we can see clearly to help others to be better too.

“Doubt Not” – “Have faith in God…and doubt not…” (Mark 11:22-23)    You will never know what God would have done for and through you if you let doubt take you out. Peter told our Lord Jesus:  “Lord to whom can we go, You have the Words of Life?”. (John 6:68).  We have many promises from our Heavenly Father and testimonies of His goodness and faithfulness that should remove doubt from our hearts.  I have been young, and now am old;  Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, Nor his descendants begging bread.  He is ever merciful, and lends;  And his descendants are blessed.” (Psalm 37: 23-26)

Don’t borrow tomorrow’s worries today. Worry is experiencing a crisis before it happens. Don’t do that. We spend great portions of our time fretting over future things that we can do nothing about.  Most of the things we worry about will never happen, other things we worry about can’t be changed.    It is ok to ask God for more blessings, good health, better income, but take one day at a time.  “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).   God’s Word gives us some great free advice:  John 14:1 – “Do not let your heart be troubled.”    Philippians 4:6 – “Do not be anxious in anything.” 

A great percentage of our illnesses is in some way related to worry and anxiety and stress. The number one killer in America is heart disease. 38% of all deaths are heart related and many of those are related to hypertension, high blood pressure and anxiety.

Let’s look at the cup half full instead of half empty.  Think about the weather reports – what do they say, Do you know what today’s forecast calls for?  It calls for a 10% chance of rain. – How come we never say 90% chance of sunshine. 

Let us all strive to take one day at a time, knowing that God will bless us and will provide for us. Let us remember that God is greater than our needs…today, tomorrow, and forever.  This life on Earth is only a small part of the wonderful things that God has prepared for those who love Him. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Hm” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Heaven that will make our difficult times on Earth seem small.  “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18)

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Use Your Words to be a Blessing – January 15, 2019

“Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips” (Psalms 141:3)

      Your words can change your personal life, the lives of others and your prayer life simply by changing the way you speak.  That is why we need to be extremely careful about what we think, and especially careful about what we say.  Our words have tremendous power, and whether we want to or not, we will give life to what we are saying, either good or bad.  Words are similar to seeds.  By speaking them aloud, they are planted in our subconscious minds, and they take on a life of their own.  They take root, grow, and produce fruit of the same kind.  If we speak positive words, our lives will move in that direction.  Similarly, negative words will produce poor results.  We can’t expect to speak words of defeat and failure and to live in victory.  We will reap exactly what we sow. You are important to God: “I will praise You; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalms 139:14).

“Pleasant words are as a honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.” (Proverbs 16:24).   “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver” (Proverbs 25:11).

     You can tell people a truth they need to hear – they are loved and valued by you and by God.  We have the medicine of encouragement.  We have the medicine of hope.  We have the medicine of God’s Word.  It is reported that many physical problems are caused by stress and anxiety.  You and I can bring the peace of God to others simply by saying words of blessing on others.  God told Moses to tell Aaron to speak these words to bless the children of Israel:  “The LORD bless you, and keep you:  The LORD make His face shine upon you, and be gracious unto you:  The LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26)   “A soft answer turns away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.”   (Proverbs 15:1)

      One of the most powerful human relations skills is learning how to encourage other people.  Look for, and find the good in people, and then tell them what you found.  Find reasons for praise and applause.  Support others by reinforcing what they do well.  Sincere praise brings out the best in us.  God the Father uses encouraging words: “Then a voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11).                                                                

Words like many other things we do are choices.  We can look for the good in others and in every situation.  We can also choose to use encouraging words.  If you take the time to think before you speak you can be an encourager instead of a complainer or a carrier of bad words.  Look for the good instead of the bad, the right instead of the wrong.

 Below are some ways to be a blessing to others with your words.:

Give encouragement; Express thanks; Acknowledge others; Give a compliment; Congratulate those you love; Offer words of comfort; make others laugh; communicate your love in words; let others know you are praying for them.Catch your people doing something good and compliment them on how good they did instead of being critical about the things they didn’t do or didn’t do up to your expectations.  Tell your wife or husband how much you appreciate something they have done for you.   Use your words to be a blessing to yourself, to others and to God.  It may take practice if you are living in a negative environment, but you have the power to change.  Ask the Holy Spirit to give you the power to love yourself and speak to yourself with positive words.  Ask the Holy Spirit today to give you power to love others with your words and He will begin His work in you today.  Ask the Holy Spirit to motivate you to pray to God with your lips, and you will see answers to your prayers.

“By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.” (Hebrews 13:15) “Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities; who heals all thy diseases; Who redeems your life from destruction; who crowns you with loving kindness and tender mercies; Who satisfies your mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s”  (Psalms 103:1-5). “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19).

Practice giving compliments to others.   Remember, our Lord said:  “Give, and it will be given to you..”  Luke 6:38   Give forgiveness, and you will receive forgiveness.   Give love, and others will give you love.   Give words of encouragement, and others will give them to you.

“THIS WORLD IS NOT MY HOME” – January 3, 2019

There are many things we do not know about what heaven will be like, because it is beyond our ability to comprehend. But one thing we can be sure of is that it will fulfill our greatest longings, it will dazzle us with its beauty, it will obliterate our greatest problems with its power and splendor, it will be greater than anything we could imagine or dream, it will be a place where love and joy will reign unspoiled. God is busy preparing all of this for us. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Hm” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

It will be where God will reward His Children for everything they have done for Him: every tear they shed in prayers for others, every person they helped, and every act of kindness done in His Name.  Think about what is really important.  “Only one life, it will soon be past, Only what is done for Christ will last”.  

If we make preparations for our grandchildren’s visit or guests coming to our home for a meal, how much more does a God of love prepare for the time His children will come to His eternal home. The Bible says, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:11). Jesus said, “I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:2-3).  If this fallen world in all of its brokenness can be so wonderful, what must heaven be like? 

Heaven is the residence of God. The greatest reward of heaven will be God Himself. Nothing we see or experience will be greater than the fact that we are with God and see him face to face. We sing “O how I love Jesus”, “Amazing Grace”, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”.  When we get to Heaven, we will see that Friend and enjoy His company forever.  “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12). 

How wonderful it will be to be in the presence of God where we will perfectly know him and know that we are perfectly known and loved. John writes in the book of Revelation: “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God’” (Revelation 21:3). We will have no greater reward or relationship than being with our wonderful God and seeing Him face to face. 

No matter what you are going through today – it is only temporary.  No one escapes difficulty and disappointment in this world.  Don’t let it drive you away from the God who loves you and wants to help you.  We are headed to a great place where God lives and where we will find true love and acceptance.  

Christians can be certain of their future in Heaven because Jesus prays for us. “I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are.” (John 17: 9-11).

Christians can be certain of their future in heaven because God is for us and not against us.  What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8: 31-32).  In other words, how can we lose if God is on our side? How can we be kept from future glory if God is for us? Obviously we can’t.  We can be certain that He will bring His work to a fulfillment. God is not investing in a losing cause!  He proved His love for us on Calvary so we can be certain that nothing, absolutely nothing will keep him from completing His loving plans. Even when you struggle and fail, God still loves you and is still for you.

Christians can be certain of their future in Heaven because there is nothing that can separate us from God’s love.  For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8: 38-39). 

There is nothing in this world worth missing Heaven for.  There are temptations from Satan to be selfish, to mistreat others, to be actively involved in worldly pleasures that we know go against God’s principles. But I would ask everyone to consider if this wonderful place God has prepared for them that love Him, is worth missing.  Our time on Earth is brief and we can do many valuable and good things for the Lord Jesus while we are here.  He wants to bless us while we are here and then for Eternity.  At the end of your life you cannot take your wealth, your popularity, or your accomplishments with you.  Heaven is all about new things for those who love God and will serve Him in this life time. “Behold, I make all things new” (Revelations 21:5).

There are many things we do not know about Heaven because it is so much better than  Earth, that there are no human words to explain how great it is.  We will be reunited with our loved ones who loved God and accepted the Lord Jesus as their Savior.  We will be rewarded for all of our service and sacrifices in our service for God to meet the needs of others.  Jesus said, “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with Me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done” (Revelation 22:12).

I would encourage all of those who have not decided to accept the Lord Jesus as their personal Savior to make that decision, and give their lives to Him so that they might receive the gift of eternal life.  “Jesus said to him:  “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.”  (John 14:6).  Heaven is a real place that has been prepared for those that Love God and the Lord Jesus Christ. (John 14: 1-3).

As we enter 2019 this is a good reminder of 2018
Leaving the City of Regret – Larry Harp


I had not really planned on taking a trip this time of year, and yet I found myself packing rather hurriedly. This trip was going to be unpleasant and I knew in advance that no real good would come of it. I’m talking about my annual “Guilt Trip.” 
I got tickets to fly there on “Wish I Had airlines”. It was an extremely short flight. I got my baggage, which I could not check. I chose to carry it myself all the way. It was weighted down with a thousand memories of what might have been. No one greeted me as I entered the terminal to the Regret City International Airport. I say international because people from all over the world come to this dismal town. 
As I checked into the “Last Resort Hotel”, I noticed that they would be hosting the year’s most important event, the Annual Pity Party. I wasn’t going to miss that great social occasion. Many of the towns leading citizens would be there. 
First, there would be the Done family, you know, Should Have, Would Have and Could Have. Then came the wish I Had a family. You probably know ol’ Wish and his clan. Of course, the Opportunities would be present, Missed and Lost. The biggest family would be Yesterdays. There are far too many of them to count, but each one would have a very sad story to share. Then Shattered Dreams would surely make an appearance. And It’s Their Fault would regale us with stories (excuses) about how things had failed in his life, and each story would be loudly applauded by Don’t Blame Me and I Couldn’t Help It. 
Well, to make a long story short, I went to this depressing party knowing that there would be no real benefit in doing so. And, as usual, I became very depressed. But as I thought about all of the stories of failures brought back from the past, it occurred to me that all of this trip and subsequent “pity party” could be canceled by ME! I started to truly realize that I did not have to be there. I didn’t have to be depressed. 
One thing kept going through my mind, I CAN’T CHANGE YESTERDAY, BUT I DO HAVE THE POWER TO MAKE TODAY A WONDERFUL DAY. I can be happy, joyous, fulfilled, encouraged, as well as encouraging. Knowing this, I left the City of Regret immediately and left no forwarding address. Am I sorry for mistakes I’ve made in the past? YES! But there is no physical way to undo them. 
So, if you’re planning a trip back to the City of Regret, please cancel all your reservations now. Instead, take a trip to a place called, Starting Again. I liked it so much that I have now taken up permanent residence there. My neighbors, the I Forgive Myselfs and the New Starts are so very helpful. By the way, you don’t have to carry around heavy baggage, because the load is lifted from your shoulders upon arrival. God bless you in finding this great town. If you can find it — it’s in your own heart — please look me up. I live on “I Can Do It street.”