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April 12th: Heart of the Matter pt. 1

Because of what Jesus did for us on the cross this type of living within our heart and mind is possible.

Ancient Hebrew defines heart (levav) as “authority within”, considering it the center of a person’s mind or thoughts. Scripture confirms this thinking in multiple passages including Matthew 15:19 “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies”, Luke 5:22 “Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, why are you thinking these things in your heart?” Psalm 26:2 “Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; Try my mind and my heart” amongst many others. 

       There’s no denying how closely these two (mind and heart) are connected in feeding one another, both literally and figuratively.  Our heart pumps blood continually to the most complex, thought processing, reasoning and intellectual organ in our body. Likewise, thoughts, taken in through our various senses, are a direct result to the passion, hope, emotion and desires within our heart.  You cannot have one without the other and call it a relationship much less faith.

God in His Word described David as a “man after my own heart” in 1 Samuel 13:14 and Acts 13:22.  Instead of choosing to only see lies, adultery and murder – God looked on his heart and saw repentance, obedience, faith, sovereignty, devotion, trust, humility, respect and love.  David did everything God wanted him to do and he did it relentlessly.  Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible with 176 verses begins “Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the Law of the Lord.  Blessed are those who keep His statutes and seek Him with all their heart- they do no wrong but follow His ways”

David went after God with his mind and it showed in his heart! The Good News is, you can too. It requires intentional living, direction and focus of what we value in the time that remains in our lives. Because of what Jesus did for us on the cross this type of living within our heart and mind is possible.

How is it possible you might ask? For me, I can’t help but think and ask for it to forever dwell within my heart, the unexplainable and unconditional love Jesus had for each and every one of us as he came to die for yours and my sin. I find it so important to dwell on how He endured being wrongfully accused, mocked, spat on, flogged, muscle torn from His back, a crown of thorns beaten into his head, nailed naked to a cross and the first thing He says “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”

Let us strive to look at our heart in this season and ask the question “Have I let Jesus and the work of the cross deal with the heart of all my matters?”

*written by Joseph Costello

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April 11th: Scars

We should be willing to show off our scars that have created the roadmap that has brought us to every mile marker in life.

It was a normal day for us at the beach with our family and friends at the end of this past summer. My husband, our 9 year old daughter, myself and few other family members were out in the water ducking under and over waves when all of a sudden I hear my daughter come up screaming next to me. I look over and she’s holding her arm screaming that she had been bit! I go into full panic mode and yell for my husband who immediately picks her up and gets her to the shore. He starts peeling these long, purple strands from her arm. I stopped looking and counting after the fifth one he peeled off. She had been stung by, what we thought at the time, a jellyfish. Come to find out later she had actually swam into a rather large Man of War and it’s tentacles had wrapped themselves around her arm.  Multiple doctor appointments, two missed days of school, bursting blisters from the tentacles and a round of antibiotics later and our daughter was left with some pretty angry looking wounds. Wounds, that over time, have turned into a road map of scars going from her elbow down to her wrist.

It’s been six months since she was stung and those scars are still very noticeable. She recently had a kid in her class tell her that her scars were scary looking. To which my daughter got rightfully upset and asked if she could wear a jacket to school to cover them up until they go away so no one would ask her about them anymore. She said she wanted to hide the scars because they made her feel different and she didn’t want people to see such an “ugly” thing on her. It broke my heart but that moment also birthed such a revelation. How could this amazing, bright, wonderful child think any part of her was ugly? She is treasured and loved so completely. She was made on purpose for a purpose and with everything I had in me as her parent I was going to make sure she knew that. I cupped her face and made her look at me and told her nothing could ever make her ugly. That she is beautiful and I was so proud of her for being such a strong kid.

And then it hit me. This is exactly how our Father sees us. He sees those scars that are both easily seen and deeply hidden. He not only sees them but he knows how you came by each and every one. He sees the deep cuts left on your heart by a cruel word or a false accusation. He sees the still angry marks that were self-inflicted or left by a surgeons knife after a life-saving operation. Our all-powerful, all knowing God sees them all and calls them beautiful. He holds your face in His hands and pulls you to Him saying “I am so proud of you my beautiful child”.

After Jesus’ crucifixion and after He had risen from the dead, he appeared to his disciples. John 20:20 “As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord”! Jesus wasn’t ashamed of his scars. It’s such a small gesture but carries such a tremendous message. We should be willing to show off our scars that have created the roadmap that has brought us to every mile marker in life. Just as the disciples were filled with joy when they saw Jesus’ scars, we should be just as accepting when others reveal their precious marks to us. Jesus’ scars preached a powerful story that no one could deny. His scars were a representation that all things work together for the good who love the Lord.

Brothers and sisters, what testimony is waiting to be shared in your scars? Do not be ashamed of those marks, the seen and the unseen ones. Our scars are not there to remind us that we have been hurt but to remind us that we have been healed.

*written by Krissy Hairston

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April 10th: Keep Dreaming

Dreams…Some are just thoughts we don’t put into action.  And some, people say are too big to happen.

For Joseph, “The Dreamer” dreams were his gift from God.  He dreamed dreams, lived them, and interpreted them.  His dreams were what propelled him from prison to the palace.  Joseph’s story is told in Genesis 37-50.  We learn that at the time when he was still in his father’s home, he was the youngest son born to his father, Jacob, at a very old age.  He was also the son of Jacob’s beloved wife, Rachel, who was barren for years before she got pregnant with Joseph.  Joseph sounds like a miracle child everyone would want to welcome with open arms, but it wasn’t exactly that way when it came to his brothers.  Joseph was given the infamous coat of many colors robe from his father, dreamed prophetic dreams that translated that he was superior to his family, and so much more that his brothers despised him for.  The hatred amongst his brothers got so much that they gathered up a plan to kill him.

Jesus wasn’t the only one who was betrayed by people he thought he could trust.  Joseph clearly had experienced betrayal as well.  The ones they both thought would’ve had their back, defending and supporting them…didn’t.  Their “loved ones” didn’t just leave them, they lied about them and sent them off to die.

Joseph ends up not dying but instead being sold to Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s royal guard.  Later, Joseph was imprisoned for being falsely accused of an action he didn’t commit.  Sounds familiar- Jesus too was being plotted to be killed, chained and being falsely accused.

God wasn’t planning these set ups for a setback.  He was setting apart Jesus and Joseph to stand them up.  Sometimes your separation from the things that were once comfortable to you is really God sanctifying you for the biggest plan of your life.

God delivered Joseph out of prison by making him Pharaoh’s right-hand man.  Genesis 41:40-41 says, “You [Joseph] will be in charge of my court and all my people will take order from you… I put you in charge of the entire land of Egypt.”

What a faithful God we serve.  God raised up Jesus and Joseph above their enemies, trouble, hurt and disappointment.  At Jesus’ resurrection He even had His enemies right at His feet.  Joseph’s story ends similarly with his brothers bowing down to his feet as well.  But no matter what their enemies had done to them, both Jesus and Joseph forgave them.

Child of God, first don’t allow your enemies to steal your dreams.  Secondly, if you have enemies right now, rejoice because that just means your destiny is awaiting your arrival!  Lastly, forgive your enemies today.  Jesus innocently hung on the cross and with his final breaths whispered, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” Luke 23:34

Dear Heavenly Father, help me to forgive the ones who have wronged me.  Heal my broken and hurting heart.  Strengthen me so that I may be able to step in my destiny and dreams that are waiting for me.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

*written by Megan Cochran

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April 9th: There’s More To It

..because of the finished work of Christ, He promises to give us, “everything in abundance,” and more than we could ever expect!

            I think one of the best feelings on earth is when somebody pays for your food. (I know what Jesus said. Just hear me out.) I love food. I love people. So, of course, I love getting food (or coffee) with people. It’s one of the ways I get to see people I love, connect and grow a deeper relationship with those people. Many times, I set up a lunch date with a friend or a group and I expect to just eat, talk and go about my day. But, sometimes what I thought would just be “lunch” ended up being some of the best days of my life.

            I went to lunch with a friend I have not seen in years. We ate at Sonny’s (and I love Sonny’s), got caught up in each other’s lives, and had great conversation! What I thought would be the end of that, my friend ended up paying for my food and invited me to his house right after. I agreed. We get to his house, and we end up on his parents boat, ate some more good food and we ended up spending the entire day together. What I thought would be an awesome lunch, ended up being one of the most cherished memories and best adventures of my life!

            I think too often, we miss out on the fullness of what God has for us (especially me). Sometimes, I see Jesus as my ticket to Heaven and the One to forgive me when I slip up. Jesus did become our way to eternity in the presence of God, and He did die for us to be forgiven. In John 10:9-10, Jesus evens says He is the gateway. But Jesus follows that up with so much more.

            Jesus says, “to enter through me is to experience life, freedom and satisfaction.” We think Jesus is our way to Heaven, but because of the finished work of Christ, He promises to give us, “everything in abundance,” and more than we could ever expect!

            Of course, Christ died for us to be washed clean of our sin and so we can spend eternity with God. But Jesus also died so we no longer have to live in shame. Jesus died so we can have purpose here on earth. Jesus died so we have hope. Jesus died so we can be made whole. Jesus did not take the beating He did, shed the blood He shed, die the death He died just to be our ticket to Heaven. Christ did and always will always exceed our expectation. What Jesus did, did not stop at the cross.

            I want to challenge you during this sacred season to truly reflect on what Christ did. When you pray, ask God to show you how Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection influences your life today.

I am the Gateway. To enter through me is to experience life, freedom, and satisfaction. 10 A thief has only one thing in mind—he wants to steal, slaughter, and destroy. But I have come to give you everything in abundance, more than you expect — life in its fullness until you overflow!

– John 10:9-10 (TPT)

*written by Chris Alvarez

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April 8th: Hold My Hand!

Even though we might let go of His hand and become bitter, wild, and senseless; Jesus still reaches out for us.

As I’m chasing after him, yelling his name to stop and dragging our 5-year-old daughter with me, I see a truck backing out of a space right where he’s heading. The driver sees the sight heading for his tires and immediately stops just as I grab my son. The sound of the tires squealing scared him and he was balling his eyes out and had his face buried in my neck. I sank to my knees in the parking lot rocking him and thanking God he didn’t get hurt. I pulled him back a bit and looked into his scared, tear stained face and said, “That’s why you have to hold my hand”.

“Hold my hand”! I told our almost 2-year-old son as we crossed the street in the grocery store parking lot. He was going through this “really fun” phase of not wanting to hold our hands. He was wanting to run wild and free everywhere we went. As I grabbed his little, squirmy hand he did his best to wiggle away as was the usual these days for him but I knew all his tricks so he never got away. He was starting to whine and cry, making a scene as all toddlers do when they don’t get what they want. He really started to pull away and his little hand was just sweaty enough that he was able to break free of my grip. He realized he was free and immediately he was on the run!

How many times has this happened to you? How many times have you let go of Jesus’ hand? How many unanswered prayers have you been frustrated over? How many times have you tried to do things your way? How many times have you ran the opposite direction God wanted you to go and ran right into trouble? More times than you would like to admit I’m sure. Psalm 73: 21-22 says “Then I realized that my heart was bitter, and I was all torn up inside. I was so foolish and ignorant- I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you”. When my toddler son let go of my hand he immediately ran towards a dangerous situation. Like a wild animal, he didn’t want to be held and confined to one area! When we let our hearts become bitter and our actions become foolish we take off in every direction but the one God has laid out for us. We set ourselves up for sin and danger.

Jesus doesn’t just want to come alongside you. Jesus wants to hold your hand. He wants to keep you safe. He wants to grip you tighter when you start to drift. I could not fully protect my son by just having him by my side. He was too tempted to run off in every direction. By holding his hand in mine I knew I could keep him safe, that when he started to pull away I could pull him back towards me. Jesus wants that same relationship with you. For you to trust him enough that you let him take hold of your hand and grip it tight. Psalm 73: 23-24, “Yet I still belong to you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny”.

Those verses paint such a beautiful picture for us and how desperately we need Jesus. That even though we might let go of his hand and become bitter, wild, and senseless; Jesus still reaches out for us. He takes us by our hand and leads us to our destiny, our future. And that future is full of hope and goodness. (Jeremiah 29:11) Brothers and sisters don’t fight the hand that is holding yours. Let Jesus’ tender yet strong hands take yours and lead you into the destiny that has been appointed to you long before you were even born. Take encouragement and comfort in the knowledge that even if you do start to stray and you end up hurt or scared Jesus will be right there, taking you up in his arms saying “That’s why I told you to hold my hand”.

written by: Krissy Hairston

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April 7th: What Will You Choose?

Do not just look “out” to who you can go help, look around to see if there is someone God has put close to you that you can add value to today.

Have you ever thought about how significant movements, choices and actions are to our culture? We have entire television stations, tremendous websites & apps, reporters and writers – all focused on tracking people’s movements, choices and actions. From sports to celebrities to musicians and politicians, everyone is looking at their actions to analyze and judge. This season I find myself doing the same with Jesus on the Thursday night He was taken to be crucified.

Jesus tells the disciples in Luke 22:15 how He was “..eager to have this meal with them..” and His movements and choices undoubtedly show us why. It was at this dinner Jesus would teach communion, and it was at this dinner Jesus makes a choice that should challenge us all…the choice to wash the disciples feet.

To give context, during this day and time they were not catching Ubers, or Lyfts, or riding in their pick-up truck. No, they were mostly walking…everywhere. They also typically wore sandals, so through the travels their feet were usually covered in dirt and filth from the roads and paths. When they would enter into a home or room for a meal the host would have a servant at the door with a basin to wash feet. But this night, it was not so…

Everyone entered the room but no one took care of the need of washing feet, and instead just went to the table – they just went on with what they were doing. But not Jesus. Jesus gets up and washes everyone’s feet. This is kind of absurd! Jesus did not need to do this! He had His assignment and He had His purpose. But Jesus responded to the need.

Then He tells them in verse 15 of John chapter 13, “I have given you an example to follow..”

What a move by Jesus! What a choice! To stop what He was doing and respond to what was in need and filthy around Him. It certainly leaves us with a choice, when we see a need that is out of place, dirty and broken…what will we choose?

These final actions of Jesus on Holy Thursday challenge us still to this day, what will we do with the need around us? As followers of Jesus we know what He has given us an example to do, but what will we do and honestly, where do we start?! I want to encourage you with this today…

Jesus started with those in the room with Him; He started with those around Him. Do not just look out to who you can go help, look around to see if there is someone God has put close to you that you can add value to today. God had Jesus around these disciples for a reason, to serve them so they would excel in their next. Guess what, God has people around you that you can serve and add value to where it sets them up to excel in their next.

I don’t know this to be fact, but I would imagine in that day when the feet were washed they could enjoy life a little more. They could go a little further in their travels and their next steps were a little easier. If it happened then, what could you serving someone around you do for them in their journey called life right now? So, what will you choose?

*written by Trevor Hersey

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April 6th: He Endured, Therefore So Can We

The Easter season is a time when we are reminded in vivid, even graphic, detail what Jesus went through for us.

In our everyday lives, it’s natural for us to be focused on our own struggles, challenges, failures and accomplishments. We are at times blinded by our worldly surroundings and put too much importance on the mundane. All the while Jesus went through hell for us, for our salvation; a living sacrifice to pay the ultimate price for our eternity in heaven. He did it without hesitation, without complaint, without protesting.

One of the most relatable human aspects of Jesus is He did ask God to take this cup of suffering, if it be God’s will (He did so in Luke 22:42). This is something we all can connect to and use as a lesson. When He realized this cup of suffering was in fact God’s will, as foretold in Isaiah 53, He didn’t question it. He accepted it. Such unimaginable bravery, considering what was ahead of Him, such immeasurable and boundless love.

This should put our worldly circumstances into perspective. Jesus literally overcame the world. All of it. Suffering, brutal torture and agonizing death. In so doing, saved us all from eternal damnation and empowered us for today. Every one of us.

Here’s the great news – if He fulfilled His assignment (as great as it was) that means so can you. As you read the scriptures below, see the reality of what Jesus endured and think “Am I really going to worry about the stress of my life today and tomorrow?”

Who has believed our message? To whom has the Lord revealed his powerful arm? My servant grew up in the Lord ’s presence like a tender green shoot, like a root in dry ground. There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him. He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care.

Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins!

But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all. He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth.

Unjustly condemned, he was led away. No one cared that he died without descendants, that his life was cut short in midstream. But he was struck down for the rebellion of my people. He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone. But he was buried like a criminal; he was put in a rich man’s grave. But it was the Lord ’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the Lord ’s good plan will prosper in his hands.

When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins. I will give him the honors of a victorious soldier, because he exposed himself to death. He was counted among the rebels. He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels.

Isaiah 53:1-12 NLT

written by Jason Davis

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April 5th: Wait, what cross?

That night I was awakened to this truth: Jesus carried His cross and fully expects me to carry mine too.

I was a few months in my newly sold out walk with Christ. Like, over the top, 120% going after God! Of course one of my favorite things was to feed my spirit and listen to teaching of God’s Word. Needless to say, every time the church doors were open – I was there!

The church I was attending at the time was having a special guest speaker on this particular Wednesday night. I was excited because it was not a “typical” preacher, instead he was a business man. A business man from South Florida that drove all the way up to Palm Compton (also known as Palm Coast) to share with our church about God in the workplace.

I was excited! I got to the campus as soon as I could, found myself on the front left row of the sanctuary with notepad in hand. As he took the stage he said it…said something that shook me…

He quoted Jesus, in all 4 Gospels, saying “..pick up your cross and follow me..” Now, I’m sure I heard it said before, I’m sure I heard sermons include these scriptures. I actually even knew “carry your cross” meant “die to my selfish ways”, but this night was different and full of fresh revelation.

This was the night I was awakened to the truth: Jesus carried His cross and fully expects me to carry mine too.

That night I began to see how Jesus carried His cross as a picture, as an example for us to carry our cross. Jesus, in His assignment, did what I could never do by taking away the sins of the world, and in doing so He freed me to carry my cross and fulfill my assignment. Think about this, the cross was the reason Jesus left Heaven, so it represents the assignment Jesus had on the earth. In the same way our cross we are called to carry represents our assignment.

Every one of us have a divine assignment to carry out while we are on this side of eternity! To raise the stakes even more, every one of us have a part to play in healing broken humanity through the good-news of Jesus! What’s your part you may ask? It’s the cross you’ve been purposed to carry, it’s the assignment God has given to you. It is the thing that breaks your heart when you see it. That is your cross you have been assigned to, been purposed to carry.

I will never forget how God used the business man that night to speak with such grace and clarity. In a nutshell his sermon was “..assignments are not just on a platform, or on a social media post…assignments are the crosses you have been called to carry that will impact the very people around you.”

That night I went from “..wait, what cross?” to “Jesus, thank you for your cross & help me see mine.”

Pray this today,

Holy Spirit, show me my assignment, my cross I have been called to carry in this season. My heart is to serve You, Lord.

Let me see my clear next step in carrying my cross.

*written by Trevor Hersey

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April 4th: Lead Me to The Cross

During this time, I focus on His plans not mine.

The days leading up to Resurrection Sunday have been a time of fasting, prayer and reflection for many years now, for me. Even more so than a New Year’s Resolution. Each year around mid-January I meditate on my life’s verses (Jeremiah 29:11 and Genesis 50:20) and ask God to show me how to live it out.

Jeremiah 29:11 NIV “…For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord; “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future…”

During this time, I focus on His plans not mine. I ask God, “What distractions can I remove (or fast) for these 40 days to hear Your voice, Lord?” Throughout the years He has provided the list of things, food, mindsets and or people to put aside for 40 days. That is when our (mine and God’s) relationship goes to the next level. That is when I hear His voice so clearly. Here is where daily commitments turn into renewed habits of daily time with my God, my best friend and the lover of my soul.

Genesis 50:20 NIV “…You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives…”

This verse reminds me to forgive. There is no room to hold grudges, harbor resentment or carry burdens that aren’t mine to bare. I must remember that God’s plans for me impact others in a positive or negative way. I don’t get a choice on the circumstances that develop as I live out my days here, but I do get a choice of how I respond to them. When I start to have a pity party or I think, I have the right to withhold forgiveness from anyone; I remind myself I was once captive too, I was once lost too, and then God pulled me out of that pit and set my feet on His rock solid truth that changed my destination for eternity. Lead me to the cross, Lord and let me respond to anyone who has hurt me, disappointed me or abandoned me with Your famous words on the cross, “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34 NIV

*written by Kelliann Howard

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April 3rd: Increasing Our Chances

He loves every person on earth with that deep, personal love. So, during this sacred season, I want to encourage you to reflect on the depth of God’s loves for you.

I remember when I was in 6th grade I entered a raffle at a local surf shop to win a brand new long board worth over $400. Tickets were $5 a piece and I figured it would boost my chances if I bought a few tickets. I did not have a lot of money but I spent $50…everything I had. If I had more money, I would have spent more money. I really, really wanted that longboard!

      A few weeks go by and my mom answers the phone, and turns out I won the board! What was interesting though is there were 10 entries. Tickets were $5. I spent $50. I was the only person in that raffle. I think it speaks a lot to how we view God and how God views us.

      We all get caught in the trap of “increasing” our chances of earning God’s love. We do well to others, we try stay away from curse words, go to church and hope that we can gain God’s love. It logically makes sense: we give our best and God will love us. We increase our chances, and maybe we’ll win. That might work in a raffle, but not in the heart of God.

Isaiah 49:16 says this: “Indeed, I have inscribed a picture of you on the palm of my hands.”

      God has your face on the palm of His hands. Let that sink in. Psalm 139:17 says that God is thinking of you every single moment! God is obsessed with you. He’s so obsessed that He sent His son to die for you.

      The craziest thing to grasp is how personal His love is for you and me. Just like how I was the only person in the raffle, God loves you like you’re the only one on earth. His love is so great and personal, that He loves each and every person on earth like they were the only ones there.

When Jesus died on the cross, He did not think of the world as a whole. He thought of every single soul He was saving through His suffering. The pictures engraved on the hands of God are not pictures of your family. It’s pictures of you, your spouse, your child, your mother, your father, etc. I really believe He looks at each picture individually, and does not think of who you are associated with. He thinks of you and how much He loves you.

God does not love the groups or organizations you are a part of. He loves you. He loves every person on earth with that deep, personal love. So, during this sacred season, I want to encourage you to reflect on the depth of God’s loves for you. Understand that you were not just included by association. God delights in you. Jesus came to defeat sin, death and shame because He loves YOU.

*written by Chris Alvarez