People often need reminded how good they really are. Life has a way of sucking the goodness out of people. Whether it is temporary or long-term, something comes along to be a “goodness sucker.” When you are a child, you want to be notable in your parent’s eyes. You will ask for their attention in various ways. You have a natural instinct to try to achieve that in any way you can. When it is lacking you may “act out” just to receive some attention. As you get a little older the days on the playground will serve as one of your platforms. You will try to be good at the things you try to gain friends and respect. When there is a lack in the areas mentioned, you may become snotty and even mean to try to demand attention. Then the teenage years come and you start to develop a desire to have a place in society. You may start to dress a certain way or talk a certain way, all in hopes to be the best “you.” As you phase into adulthood, the responsibilities become greater as well as greater amounts of stress. You handle each stress differently and may be able to handle some better than others.

In all of these scenarios some things are still vital. What are those vital things? They include the fact that you matter. Whether or not your parents give you the attention you deserve, you matter. Whether or not your friends on the playground think you’re the best at things, you matter. Whether or not people understand why you are acting like you do, you matter. Whether or not the stresses of adult have weighed you down, you matter. In the good and the bad situations in life the same theme runs through it all – you matter.

We can easily forget this when it comes to life, as I speak from experience. Each one of us has various experiences, so what I have experienced may not pale in comparison to what you have experienced. However, as a third child of four, I can remember doing some things to try to make myself stand out in my family. I can remember enjoying attention from my parents. Craving the time spent with mom and dad, individually and together. As I went to a few different schools, I can remember trying to prove myself at each school. Even at the school I attended the longest, I can remember continually trying to prove myself. As one who had struggles as a teen, I can remember trying to be more mature to fit in with those older than I was, including adults. As an adult, I have had various stresses and found myself swimming in worry. I wish I would have had someone there reminding me along the way that I mattered. This last sentence is not to say that I was degraded nor did I never receive any encouragement, but life has a way of drifting. Amongst our drifts, we tend to forget to remember that we matter or remind someone else that they matter.

Recently, I saw the movie titled, “The Help.” This movie was about the lives of black women who served as maids in the homes of white families. The maids were often referred to as “the help.” They were often degraded, due to issues with segregation. Some families built separate bathrooms for their “help” to use. These maids were more than cleaning ladies. They were also nannies to their young kids. They invested their life into their work, caring for the families.

One of the main characters worked for a family with two young children. The older of the two was around three-years old. The maid to this family would often say to this young girl, “You is smart. You is kind. You is important.” Then, she would have the little girl repeat the phrase back a time or two. She wanted this little girl to know that she mattered, not only in the eyes of the maid eyes but also in the eyes of the little girl.

As a parent, I have found that it is necessary to make sure my kids know that they matter. There have been several times when I told my son that I was proud of him he would get a smile on his face. It immediately showed me how important it was for me to express that to him. There have also been times when he would ask “why” I was proud of him.

For parents, I want to challenge you to let your children know that you are proud of them, not just love them, no matter their age. I still enjoy it when I hear from my parents those types of words. We cannot fill their minds with encouragement that simply makes them feel good but tell them honest words describing why you are proud of them. This is also important when you may be talking to a younger child that is experiencing some jealousy of older siblings.

I also want you, as a reader, to understand that you matter. You is kind. You is smart. You is important. You are good at many things. May you utilize those good things as you go through life. You are important to your culture and society. You have a lot to contribute. You matter to many, including me. Though I may not know you, I would be able to find something to be proud about. Celebrate your accomplishments and revel in your smallest of victories!

Remember, you matter! Now, say this phrase a few times, “You is kind, you is smart, and you is important!”

A Small Difference  

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I recently saw a saying (of which I cannot remember) that highlighted the difference something small can make a large difference. If you notice the picture, it is such a small mistake, but the mistake makes such an "egg all over your face" difference. Now, everyone will see this mistake and talk about it for years to come. There is such a difference in just rearranging some letters.

People utilize their lives much the same way. They can be so close to doing something extraordinary that they stop themselves just short. I have heard illustrations that highlighted this point. Someone may have been traveling in the dark and given up just short of finding safety, for instance. They didn't realize they were where they wanted to be because they couldn't see it. However, if they would have simply kept going, they would have found their goal.

The above paragraph is one reason there are times I push through to get to the end. I know I will feel better to get to point B! I need some motivation to move me. How about you? Have you pushed through when you wanted to quit? Have you quit simply because you didn't see the point? These thoughts bring us to this week's quote...

Successful and unsuccessful people do not vary greatly in their abilities. They vary in their desires to reach their potential. ~ John Maxwell
Over the past several years there have been shows on television which have given people opportunities to "make it." One of the more popular types of shows is centered around singing. First, we had American Idol. That stage has brought people into positions to have a recording contract that may have not otherwise made it.

Prior to auditioning for the show, they may have had a really simple job. They were simple people living simple lives. As they progressed, they became simple people with "living the dream" life.

You have a dream. You may have more than one dream. What do you need to do to break through the membrane to go from unsuccessful to successful? Remember, the difference in people to do so is not much, it matters in your desire. Where is your desire?

Are you ready to do something greater? Look for it and use those passionate desires to reach your potential!

Now it's your turn...what areas does this hold true for you?

Have Any Advice...For Yourself?  

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In the recent past I have had the opportunity to be a facilitator for what is being called a “Parent CafĂ©.” The set up is parents talking about various topics in an open forum. They rotate to four tables and have four different types of questions.

I am involved as a “fatherhood facilitator.” My questions start by talking to all the fathers or male guardians. We have at least ten minutes to make it through two questions. One question is “What would you want people to know about your child(ren)?” The other question is “What advice would you give other parents?”

Both of these created quite a buzz among the people who participated. It was fun to hear all the different answers. It was also fun to hear the various people share.

As I would ask the second question, during a portion of the time we were allotted to answer the question, I would rephrase the question. I would say “What advice would you give yourself, before you had kids, of something you've learned as a parent?”

Thinking about this in a different way, what advice would you give yourself about your Christian walk at this stage in your life? How many come to your mind as you continue to read this article?

Would it any of these? 1. Be Patient 2. Pick Your Battles 3. Encourage more 4. Spend more time with ____

It could be one of many answers, but what advice would you give yourself?

As my children grow and enter into their various stages, I am continually amazed at how much I take for granted for what I know. It seems that my son who is the oldest, will ask "what does that mean" types of questions. Just recently he wanted to know what it meant for something to "have an advantage." He didn't understand what the word "advantage" meant. It made me stop and think how can I explain it to him. I tried my best.

When it comes to describing things to people or wanting them to understand something more in depth, it is useful to have pictures or at least, word pictures. This helps people to have a further grasp of what you are talking about.

Sunday, we looked at Matthew 13:10-17 where Jesus is asked why He speaks in parables by His disciples. He goes on to explain why. However, what does that mean for us in today's society? Here are some applications for you to choose from to hopefully help with that answer...

  • Clarity ~ When someone doesn't understand a point you are trying to make or some part of the point, to use a word picture helps them to grasp your concept, keeping you both on the same page. It is a mute point to not have both on the same point when trying to illustrate. This made me think of our American idioms and how they can be easily mistaken when translated to other languages...know of any?
  • Understanding Your Faith ~ Some people may not understand how deep your faith is based on quoting "book-chapter-and-verse" to them from the Bible. They may not even know the characters you may be referencing when telling them about stories. You may have to take a pause and give the characters other names or use other characters to help illustrate. Maybe even use movie/show scenes/characters to help drive home the point. It may take some patient.
  • Draw Them In ~ When you've heard or told "ghost stories" you may remeber the use of word pictures. Some words may indicate objects, whereas others, sounds. These help draw the listener in just in time for the punch line and causing a good scare in people. Without them it is like watching a suspense show with no music. Most of you know the Jaws music before the shark attacks. Imagine what it would be like not to hear that. When you use word pictures it helps draw people in and allows them to be more invested in what you are trying to communicate.
It would be to our advantage to use word pictures when trying to illustrate points. Sometimes it may not be able to be used, but other times its use will be helpful. The problem I've ran in to is when I don't know how to explain it another way. It usually marks my comfort level with the word and not knowing anything else.

Now it's your turn...when have you had success/frustration in using illustrations/word pictures?

Don't Quit  

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"Ok, line up" were some of the worst words that heard during football practice. What it meant was that we were going to run some 40-yard sprints. Part of what I didn't care for when hearing this phrase was that I didn't know how many we were going to run. That unknown number was part of what I didn't like. If I know we were going to run ten of them, I could pace myself. However, I am guessing that our coach wanted us to put out effort throughout them all and not "pace" ourselves.

That training time had its enjoyable moments, but then there were times it definitely was not enjoyable. Though I didn't ever become something of a "champion" in sports, many people have and that brings us to this week's quote...
I hated every minute of training, but I said, "Don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion." ~ Muhammad Ali
Ali was one of the greatest boxers of his time. He was able to accomplish a lot and he is still known today as a great boxer. He worked hard and the work paid off.

Whether we are training for a long race or a short one, we must be ready to not quit and look forward to any rewards that may be coming our way, as a result of perseverance.

As you go through life, I want you to think about what you may hate in life or even dislike, but if you will continue to press on, you too, can become a "champion" of sorts.

Now, it's your turn...what have you had to endure in life...of which you didn't quit?

Using What You Have  

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I love, love, love being able to do things that I am talented in and passionate about. I tend to put a lot of mental time on things that would fall into that category. Sometimes it is my sermon, sometimes an art project, or sometimes it is a speaking project. All these things I love to do and when I get an itch for an idea I just run with the idea.

The above areas are some of the things that I have been blessed with talent and competency, to various degrees. One of the running themes in all of the areas are creativity. I like to be creative. I like to watch shows that deal with creativity — several fall into this category.

Another thing I like about spending my time doing anything that would fall into those categories is that it generally benefits others. I believe that when we are doing things that will benefit someone, in the end, then it is definitely worth the time spent.

On the contrary, if you are doing something that doesn’t benefit others, then it may not have the same outcome. There are very few tasks that may not be considered something which will benefit someone else. Helping someone out makes me feel good and think my talents are worthwhile.

We all have things we like to do and some of those areas are things we can do that will benefit others. What is it that you can do? Can you help move someone, cook/bake, crochet, cross-stitch, draw, paint, carpentry, tutor, etc.

Whatever you have, use that it may benefit others and glorify God!

What comes to your mind when you think of a spiritual family? Your thoughts could be anything from simple words like good, love, or hate, or your thoughts could go to "I don't believe in a 'spiritual' family," "They are a bunch of hypocrites," "We are not close, we are not any kind of a family," or some other elaborated answer.

If you were to define what family, in this sense means, it would probably come from this definition, "a group of people united by certain convictions or a common affiliation." One's spiritual family would be connected by their belief in certain religious convictions. They may not be the exact same, but most would agree the "core" of the beliefs are similar.

Jesus was told that His family was wanting to visit with Him in Matthew 12:46-50. He then replies with a question that can be summed up with this question, "Who is my family?" When it comes to the type of family Jesus answers with, He is basically describing a blended family of different genders, races, cultures, and beliefs. That all together makes up Jesus' family! Here are some applications to choose from to use this week...

  • Understanding ~ When Jesus answers this question, in the text, He uses the word "whoever." This world will be an umbrella term for everyone. For some, that may have really strong biases or prejudices, this word may challenge your thinking. To think about someone who has a lower education, children out of wedlock, drinks too much, cusses like a sailor, dresses different than you deem "normal," likes the same gender, has a different color skin, wears a turban, and the list could continue, that any of these could be welcome to receive the grace that Jesus offers and have their sins forgiven may seem preposterous. Some of these are lifestyle sins and some of these are simply differences. The ones that are lifestyle would need to change their lifestyle in order to continue to enjoy that grace. For the ones that are simply "differences" then we may need to just "accept" and not judge them. Let us be understand of who the "whoever" is when it comes to Jesus' invitation.
  • Just at Your Church? ~ As I mentioned a definition of family, think about how that applies to you spiritually. I am focusing on those who have a religious affiliation. Are you seeing those who are "within" your church building's walls as they only "Christians?" Are they the only one's you foresee joining up with you in heaven some day? What do you think would be your reaction if you were wrong in your thinking and there was someone else...maybe me...there as well? I think it would be surprising to some to find out who is going to be there. I have to say that I may be surprised as well. May we try to find the main point of our beliefs and be open to others who may share in that same set of beliefs.
  • Love Less ~ Remember that whether we are talking about our own biological family or our spiritual family, we are still to love Jesus more. However, because Christ is the head of the spiritual body, would we say we should love our spiritual family moreso than our biological family? I think they may rank a bit higher. When they are one-in-the-same, then that is a totally different variable. Let us love Him most!a group of people united by certain convictions or a common
Though we may be able to trace our family trees so far back and find out exactly who is on our tree, one thing we will never know is how many we have in our spiritual family until we make it to heaven. As you go through your week, ask God to open doors to lead you to people that need to hear about Jesus. They may be related!

Now it's your turn...what is it that you like best and least about having a spiritual familie?

I grew up loving to build and be creative. I remember my first exposure to Lego blocks was in 3rd grade. That was the days when the blocks were simply that, blocks. There weren't a lot of other things that connected together. Mostly what we had were the blocks that numbered 4, 6, or 8. The boys made tons of guns throughout that time, practically every day. As I grew older my younger brother and I would build cars and crash them into one another to see who could build the most indestructible car. (I think I won most of the time)

Then, as I grew older, I can remember watching my father "tinker" with engines, specifically the lawn mower engines. I eventually had my time in having to take a small engine apart and put it back together - that was my freshman year of high school. It seems that throughout my life I've enjoyed doing this kind of thing. Sometimes I've taken things apart to find that I cannot get it back together. One trick I will use the next time that I learned from American Restoration is to take pictures along the way.

As the subject is about taking things apart, that brings us to this week's quote...

Knowledge comes by taking things apart, but wisdom comes by putting things together. ~ John A. Morrison
I am sure you have had opportunities to take things apart. How successful were you at getting them back together? The simple things, probably more successful. The more challenging things, maybe not so successful?

I would guess that with either situation - successful or unsuccessful - of taking things apart and putting them back together, you became a bit more wise. You have the knowledge of something as you take it apart but you gain something more as you put it back together successfully. I have been on this side and the "Eureka" moment is worth every bit of time and challenge that the project brought about.

What about non-mechanical items? What about working with people - individually or collectively? When we "tear down" someone or a team, and then put it back together, is there a greater sense of wisdom, not just knowledge? I hope to not mean that we are hurting someone or a group of people - physically or mentally. However, I simply mean one may break bad habits and help a team or group become more unified in the end, for example.

How about learning in school. Anyone hate story problems like I did? Now I can probably handle them much better than I could then, but they were sure frustrating then! However, once you "got it" you really understood what the problem consisted of.

Maybe it is even us that needs to be taken apart. What in you needs to be taken away or just cleaned up so that even you can understand yourself a bit better?

May we take time to take things apart, but remember to take pictures. You will gain some knowledge, but then when you put it back together you will have some wisdom!

Now it's your turn...What areas has this quote pertained to you in your life?

Remembering the Day: 9/11  

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I can clearly remember where I was and what I was doing on September 11, 2001. I would guess you can, too.

As I was thinking about this event the other day, it made me think about my children. They were not even thought of at this point in history. It reminded me of one of the "Cosby Show" episodes where Theo was doing a report on the March on Washington when martin Luther King, JR. led the march. Theo's report was all about facts taken from books, rather than the eye witnesses (his relatives). This made me think about my children getting their information from books and the internet, rather than from myself who was "there" in a sense.

May we never forget!Share/Bookmark

"When am I going to use this in real life?" was a question that I posed to a math teacher of mine in college. The question stemmed from frustration and curiosity. I was taking a calculus class and was struggling. Looking back, I probably wasn't putting in the necessary "out-of-class" time I needed to really understand it. It was my freshman year and my adjustment to college was starting to show, academically.

There are simply classes that one must take in their educational career that one really does not understand the depth of the reason for those classes. Your list may vary a bit differently with mine; however, I am confident you have a "list."

Sunday, we discussed Matthew 11:38-45 where the Pharisees are asking for a sign and Jesus responds. Jesus responds in a way that shows his "haters" there may be a sign, but they need to understand there is much more depth than realized to this sign He will give.

The sign is given, but the realization of what the sign is greater than can they can imagine. Here are some applications that you can choose from to use this week...
  • Desiring vs. Demanding ~ When the Pharisees demanded a sign, they had a motive that was from an evil heart. When we are asking God with a demanding spirit, we are being representative of their kind of spirit. However, if we are simply confused by life and are wishing that God would show us a sign for clarity sake, our motive is coming from a truer heart. May we not get down on ourselves when we are wanting to see God involved in our life!
  • Not Understanding ~ When Jesus tells them the illustrations about Jonah and the Queen of the South and points out that the people of those days would plead with them to cause them to turn around. Who would it be that would come back and tell you to keep the faith? These are the signs that Jesus gives to the Pharisees. Sometimes a sign may not be good enough to turn people around. That is when we really do not understand the depth of our faith. May we positive examples to those around us this week to show who is our Lord!
  • Staying Occupied ~ The text describes a situation when demons come out a person, there is an opening that is later taken up by eight other demons. May we keep our minds occupied with Him. If our momentum has wavered we are susceptible to things that are of evil influence, now that we have a space available in our lives. Keep your minds on God, don't let the space be unoccupied and let the evil in!
God is good at giving us what we want...even when it is not what we need. When Jesus responds to us in this manner we should be careful what we are receiving! Need a sign? Watch out what you get!

Now it's your turn...When have you wanted a sign from God? What were the circumstances?

"Me 'Firt'!" - aka "Me First!"  

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I would like to go so far as to say “everyone does it” but there are probably some exceptions to the rule. What everyone likely does at sometime in their young life is to strive for independence and meaning. Ava, our two-year old is well into that stage of life. Whenever I am wanting her and Oliver to do something, she will often say “Me firt!” She wants to do the task that I am allowing or assigning them to do first. Even when there are times which Oliver may want to look at something, for example, she pipes in with “Me firt, Oliver!” She wants meaning in her life and would like to have independence. She also exercises that desire by not wanting to have her hand held when we are in parking lots.

Why is it that she wants to be first? What is it that she does not want to be after Oliver? I am not talking about a scientific or clinical reason, but more of an intellectual reason. She has a great desire to let her abilities be known and already learning that first is “good.” We may race up the stairs and see who “wins.” They may be in a “race” to be buckled first to get the “buckle badge” (something invisible that simply affirms I’m proud of their obedience). They want to out do one another and are driven to do that at this stage in their life.

As we go about life as a Christian, what is our drive? Are we driven to try to be “first?” When we are challenged by a thought or song, do we seek to be the first to go out and do something? Are we driven to be “firt?” Or are we simply letting it go in one ear and out the other? Are we not caring if we’re first or last in the challenge?

As you read this, may you be inspired to go out and see what you can do for Him. We are not in a competition with one another, but sometimes if we felt like “I’m going to get to someone you know first” then you may be inspired and motivated rather than just letting it pass. So, who will it be this week? When hearing a challenge, who will be the one to say, “Me firt!”? Share/Bookmark

Going Beyond Your Limits  

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There have been times in my life when I was asked what kind of a leader I am. I find those types of questions difficult because I do not like to highlight my characteristics. It seems that life has a tendency to change the way you do things. Naturally, we tend to rise up to the occasion. In this case, the way one leads may be different due to one's circumstances.

Leadership has many facets. Some say you must have followers to call yourself a leader. Some talk about how you conduct yourself. Some say to look at the outcome. Here's what Peter F. Drucker has to say, as that brings us to this week's quote...
Leadership is not magnetic personality — that can just as well be a glib tongue. It is not ‘making friends and influencing people’ — that is flattery. Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to high sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.
~ Peter F. Drucker
I would paraphrase what Mr. Drucker is saying as, "Leadership is getting people to go beyond their limits." Whether that is the way they see things, a new vision, the way they do things, or practically anything that is something "new" to them.

Too often we like being comfortable. Comfortable is symbolized by getting settled in, like getting to that cozy spot and staying there for a while. It is comfortable and we like to stay there.

I don't know if you're at a position in life to feel what it is like to get up from a position and have your joints be a little stiff and painful. I have entered into such a phase the last few years. If I were to stay in the spot of comfort then I am fine, but to move is not fine.

Leaders are to cause people to see the next level from a visionary standpoint, to cause them to get out of their comfort levels, and to simply go beyond their limits.

Are you one who tends to lead or follow? There are advantages of both. Leaders need followers and followers need leaders. I challenge all the leaders out there to think about this charge!

Now it's your turn...What type of leadership style do you respond to the most.

Not Again!?!  

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I feel for those in the southern Louisiana area, and surrounding area, this past week. Hurricane Isaac came through and dumped a lot of water on the area causing more flooding. Though it has been seven years since Hurricane Katrina came through, I can just imagine some of the locals who might be saying “Not again!?!” as they experience flooding and devastation throughout this storm.

It also made me think of some verses from Habakkuk 3:17-19...
    17 Though the fig tree does not bud
        and there are no grapes on the vines,
    though the olive crop fails
        and the fields produce no food,
    though there are no sheep in the pen
        and no cattle in the stalls,
    18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
        I will be joyful in God my Savior.
    19 The Sovereign LORD is my strength;
        he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
        he enables me to tread on the heights
I am continually uplifted by Habakkuk’s attitude toward the lack of “good things” going on in his life at this moment. This is a time in his life where nothing good seems to be happening, but yet at the same time, he looks to God!

As the devastation and rebuilding will begin in a few days and the following weeks may we be praying for this area and the people. Also may we be praying that people will turn to God during this time of trial instead of away from Him. That there will be people of faith who will be put in the path of those who are feeling hopeless and be given a message of hope. Let’s simply lift up the area in continual prayer and allow God to work as people are sent to the area to help out. Be praying!

In our country's first hundred years of existence, there were likely many families that went through a lot of their own "civil wars." It may have been cousins that were on different sides. Maybe it was in-laws in which they had a son-in-law on the other side. Maybe it was even children that went to fight for the other side.

Before the fighting began and the talks of debate were happening, imagine the uncomfortable family gatherings and discussions that must have taken place prior to the actual fighting. Imagine the arguments that may have been stirred. Imagine the "I'm not coming back" or disowning that may have occurred throughout these years of turmoil.

In these types of situations people were forced to plant themselves on one side of the line or another. They couldn't be halfway and still make everyone happy. Someone was not going to be happy. Sunday, we looked at Jesus in Matthew 12:22-37 where He was continuing to speak the truth, though some were not happy. Here are some applications to choose from to use this week...

  • Directed Placement ~ When we call someone a name or label someone then we are putting people on a side of a line which they may not actually choose to be or deserve to be. Most of the time when we do this it is based on perception, even a false perception. We are directing those we label to a side of the line, whether they like ot or not. To call someone a "hot shot" may be actually misinforming ourselves; they may not be that label at all. Let us work on falsely putting people into a category they do not deserve based on our perception.
  • Falsely Labeling Jesus ~ Based on Jesus gaining influence and, quite frankly, having a difficult time understanding Him, they label Jesus as a "prince of demons." There are times we may label Him also. Maybe names like "liar" when we are wondering why He is not showing up in our life the way we want. Maybe it is "traitor" when He seems to let bad things happen to us (or people we care about). There may be other names you put to it or have heard, but nevertheless, when names like this are used, we are not only falsely labeling Him but also being immature to understand Him fully.
  • Picking a Spot ~ In life we simply must pick a spot when it comes to following Jesus. Some like to take advantage of His grace by choosing things that may not be "bad," categorically, but may take us away from our walk with Christ. Examples are jobs, money, family, school, relationships, and sports/hobbies. When those things become our pseudo gods, then we are getting into dangerous territory. To compromise our values can become quicksand to our faith. Let us pick a spot so we know where we stand and bounce our choices off of the spot we stand!
There have been times in which making a decision was difficult. Sometimes the more the options the harder it is to make that decision. When I have "birthday money" I have a difficult time wondering what I am going to spend it on. There are simply too many choices. However, if my options are lessened, then it may be easy. Maybe my money from my birthday is the same amount, but I am limited by being given gift cards, which must be spent at a particular place. From this, I may still have some choices, but the choices are limited because of where the gift cards came from.

When it comes to Jesus, we must decide which side of the line we are going to be at...are we going to be with Him or against Him? You choose...

Now it's your turn...what choices or instances have been most difficult to choose between following Him or not following Him?