Bible Reading

The Two Types of Faith

In his epistle, James writes about persevering through difficult times, wisdom, boasting, wordiness, the tongue, and works. James includes a brief discussion on faith and works, saying, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” James tells us that there truly is a difference between just talking the talk, and walking the walk.

In my daily interactions with people, I meet a lot of self proclaimed Christians. Several of these Christ-followers say all the right things, yet when it comes to taking action, there’s a lack of response. They say and know all there is, but when it comes to changing their lifestyle, they’ll have none of it. People like this are knowledgeable about scripture, know of Jesus, but don’t live a life that produces fruit, or action. But I also know that we’re not saved by our works, or our good deeds that we do, but it’s by grace through faith that we’re saved. How does all this line up?

 

Saved by Grace Through Faith

If you read any of my other blogs, I’m sure you’ve heard this before but I’ll say it again: we didn’t deserve to live. Right from the beginning of time, creation has chosen to please our selfish desires over God. We’ve all screwed up, we’ve all sinned. Because of this, we are forced to pay the consequences for our actions. In Genesis 3:19, God introduces the punishment for sin: death. Since we sinned, we have to die physically and also spiritually. That’s where Jesus comes in. He put on flesh and lived the perfect life. He was beaten, tormented, and went to the cross. On the cross, Jesus became sin for us, and died so that we won’t have to. Sure, we’re still going to have to die a physical death, but the worst part (spiritual death) is now taken care of because of the cross. We’re saved, not by the good stuff we do, or the humble actions we take. We’re saved by grace through faith because of the cross.

 

A Price Only Jesus Can Pay

Since we’re saved by grace through faith alone, we can conclude that it’s not about what we do. Many people today, claim that they’re saved because of all the good stuff that they’ve done. But, that’s incorrect. We sinned. Our consequence is so big, that a few good deeds cannot pay the price. Sin separates us from God. It’s the only thing standing in the way. Giving to the needy, caring for the sick and hurting, feeding the hungry, or even attending an occasional church service isn’t going to be enough to erase that sin. Jesus is the only way that price can be paid. Sin was the only thing separating us from God, until Jesus put on flesh. He came to live with us in our sinful state and die for us so that our sins were wiped clean. We can’t give enough, worship long enough, sing loud enough, in order to pay that price on our own. No matter how many lives you change, there’s only one way to fix the problem of sin: Jesus.

 

Genuine Faith Always Leads To Action

James isn’t saying that were saved because of our works. He’s just saying that real faith always leads to action. When we truly have faith that God became flesh, that he lived and died for us, things are going to be different. When we have faith that Jesus went to the cross for us, our lives should be changed. The Gospel, or the good news of Jesus Christ, is a call to action. In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus tells us to go make disciples. After we’ve heard the good news and been changed by it, we should in turn go out and share that news with others. When we experience life-changing, genuine faith in Jesus, our lives will be different. They’ll be defined by gospel action.

 

Are you living a life where you simply talk the talk, or are you walking the walk? Maybe you know all there is to know. Maybe you know of Jesus, but do you really know Him? My challenge for you today is to pursue a real faith and be pushed to action.

 

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Thoughts? Leave a comment below!

Delicate

I Love You Mom

This Sunday is Mother’s Day. It’s the one day of the year where mothers everywhere actually receive the recognition they deserve. A mother’s job includes responding to medical injuries, remembering things that the rest of the family forgets, making sure the house is in order, raising up children, and even counseling the family through times of loss, sorrow, and pain. A mother’s job isn’t a part-time job. It’s not full-time either. It’s all the time! Moms are always on call, 24/7. Moms are full of love, compassion, forgiveness, and grace: especially my mom.

Growing up in a family of 4 boys and 3 dogs, my mom was always doing something. She was always making delicious home cooked meals, cleaning up after the mess that we created throughout the house, ready to bandage up the flesh wound that we received after being thrown off a golf-cart, and always right around the corner before we got into something stupid. My mom was everywhere all the time. When we had soccer practice, she was there. When we had to stay late for detention, she was there. She was always doing her best to keep us safe, and raise us up the way she thought best. After reading through and reflecting on a few Biblical examples of mothers, I’ve found that they all remind me of my mom in their own way. Here’s why…

 

Jesus’ Mom

After reading through the passage in Luke 1, when the angel approached Mary about giving birth to a son, we see that Mary was a servant of the Lord. Mary lived a life of service and humility. She understood that it wasn’t going to be about her: but that her son, Jesus, meant everything. Mary was willing to do just about anything to ensure that Jesus would live up to the life that God had called him to live. She was ready to do anything and everything for God. Her life defined what it meant to be a servant. My mom shared this servants heart. She was always ready to serve God, and her family. Looking back, I cannot believe the things that my mom put up with. With 4 boys and 3 dogs, our house was crazy! Yet, instead of losing her temper and screaming (like I would have done!) she showed us love, encouragement, and she dedicated her life to serving our family. After reading through the early pages of Luke, and reflecting on the service that Mary showed to God, I’m reminded of the service that my mom has dedicated to our family.

 

Moses’ Mom

Moses wasn’t born in the best of times. Israel was under slavery in Egypt, and due to their rising numbers and strength, Pharaoh had all newborn Israelite boys sent away to certain death. Moses’ mom however had different plans. She hid her baby for about 3 months after he was born. Then when she simply couldn’t hide him any longer, she made a basket and sent her son down the river in order to protect him. Moses ended up in the hands of Pharaoh’s daughter. Moses’ mom was willing to give away her son to an entirely different type of people, in order to protect his life. In a weird sort of way, I can almost relate to this story. My family didn’t suffer years of slavery in Egypt. My mom wasn’t forced to send off her 4 sons. But there was a time where my mom faced a tough situation.

About 4 years ago, my parents decided to move out to Southern California, some 1,900 miles away from home. I had made the tough decision of staying back home, in Michigan. My mom let me make my own decision, without giving me grief, showing her sorrow, or letting me know in any way that I had let her down. It was probably one of the hardest things she had ever done, but she did it because it was best for me. Just like Moses’ mom and the situation my mom faced, a mom has to do what’s best for her children, regardless of whether she likes it or not.

 

Ruth’s Mom-In-Law

Naomi wasn’t Ruth’s mother, but her mother-in-law. The relationship between Naomi and Ruth is one where we can learn about the Biblical expectations for in-law relationships. Naomi had just lost her husband and her two sons. She was left with the two wives of her sons. After telling both of them to return to their hometown, one of them decided to stay with Naomi. Ruth made the decision to stay with the true family that she had: Naomi. Ruth said to Naomi, “For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” Ruth gave full commitment to her mother Naomi, and Naomi did the same. When it comes to in-law relationships, the world has a definition. In-laws are supposed to be those crazy people that you’re forced to see on holidays. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for Ruth and Naomi and it shouldn’t be the case for us today.

My wife and I have been blessed with two out-of-this-world mothers. They both reflect the Biblical examples of what a mother should be like. They serve unconditionally, and they do the best for their children regardless of what it means for them. Above all, they both accept their new in-law like their own. They both have brought us in just as if we were their own son or daughter. Our moms have lived out that Naomi-Ruth relationship.

 

Sunday is Mother’s Day. I have two of the worlds greatest moms anyone could ask for! Time to leave some love for your mom this mothers day. Leave a comment below with what you love most about your mom.

 

I love you mom!

 

(Photo by Flickr User: Basheer Tome)

Walk on Water

Walking On Water

A good friend of mine approached me yesterday and reminded me of the story of when Jesus walked on water. It’s such a great story! Jesus had just fed 5,000 people with just 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. He figures it’s time for some alone time, so Jesus sends his disciples in a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee. Just a quick note on this sea. It’s not your typical backyard pond. It’s huge! It is about 13 miles long and 8 miles across, and the waters can get rough sometimes. The disciples begin their quest to cross the sea, but Jesus stays back to pray.

Sometime later, Jesus decides to rejoin the disciples. But there’s a problem. The boat is far out at Sea. Jesus is nowhere close to the boat. For Jesus, the solution is simple: walk on water. Once he approached the boat, the disciples were stricken with fear. They thought he was a ghost! Peter, being the most outgoing disciple there was, asked Jesus to call him out on the water. Jesus does just that, and Peter walks on water with Jesus. After reading through the story, and reflecting on this passage last night, I’ve found two things we can take away from the story that I wanted to share with you today.

 

When God Calls, Listen.

Jesus called out to Peter. He told him to come to Jesus on the water. Peter did just that. After hearing God’s call, Peter acted. How many of us have heard God’s call, but haven’t acted? Maybe you know that you’ve been given the gifts in order to work with children? Maybe you’ve been called to join a small group? Maybe you’ve been called to help the less fortunate? Maybe you’re doubting God’s push on your life to begin a relationship with him? God calls us for several different reasons. Personally, God has called me into ministry. God doesn’t do that for everyone, but he does call everyone into something. What is God calling you for? Have you listened?

 

When God Calls, Don’t Doubt It.

Jesus called out to Peter, and Peter walked out on the water toward Jesus. He was doing fine, until he began to see the wind and the waves. Peter doubted God’s call. How many of us have heard God’s call on our lives, but ended up doubting. May you’re saying, I’m not good enough to do that for God? Or maybe you’re trying to tell yourself that, you’re not gifted enough to act out on God’s calling? God doesn’t call you into ministry to be the next Billy Graham. He doesn’t call you to become a surgeon in order to be the surgeon general. He won’t call you into teaching in order to be the greatest teacher in history. He calls you, so stay you! Never doubt God’s call on your life. Hear it, and do it!

 

Are you struggling with finding God’s call on your life? Maybe your wrestling with the idea of being called to have a relationship with God? I’d love to talk with you. Simply connect with me.

 

(Photo by Flickr User: the_tahoe_guy)

 

 

Chill Pill

Take A Chill Pill

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus speaks of being the salt of the earth and the light of the world. He goes on to tell his followers to invest in heavenly treasure instead of the treasure of the world. Included in this famous sermon is a portion of discussion on anxiety & worry, where Jesus calls his followers to live different than the world. As the world tells us that we should worry about tomorrow and always be anxious about providing health, fortune, and freedom, Jesus tells us the exact opposite. He says that we should simply place our trust in God.

Anxiety and worry is something that plague our world. Life is stressful. Bills have to be paid, salaries must be made, and all while our dependency on God fades. But we’re told to live different. Jesus says that we shouldn’t worry, and we should be anxiety free. Today, I wanted to share why it’s important that we remember to take a chill pill.

 

We’re Of More Value

The beautiful thing about living in a small town in Mid-Michigan is that there are plenty of animals. Whether it’s deer walking in the backyard, or geese flying overhead, there are animals everywhere. All of these animals are a great reminder of how God takes care of us. The deer don’t go around wasting time worrying about tomorrow, because God takes care of them. Jesus tells the crowd that gathers that the animals don’t have to worry, but we shouldn’t have to worry either. We’re of way more value than they are. We were made in the image of God. We are special. If God takes care of the animals how much more than does God take care of us!

 

God’s Proven He Has Our Best In Mind

We shouldn’t worry. We shouldn’t be anxious. Instead we should place our trust in God and have faith in Him. God has already proven that He has our best intentions in mind. The proof is shaped like a cross. Because of our sinful lives, there was a price that had to be paid. Jesus put on flesh and paid our price in full on the cross. He died so that we could live. He had our best intentions in mind then, and He does now. Don’t worry. Trust in God.

 

Worrying is a way of life, but it shouldn’t be. God takes care of the animals. We’re made in the image of God. We’re special. He can take care of us too. He’s proven that he already has. The proof is shaped like a cross. Whenever your stricken with worry or anxiety this week, just remember the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross for you! Don’t worry, just trust in God.

 

(Photo by Flickr User: Alon)

Fish

Live Deep

I know several people that will tell you that they know Jesus. They talk the talk and say all the right things. The problem is that when it comes to waking the walk, they walk a completely different walk than the one that Jesus has called us to. These people are surface level in their relationship with Jesus. Unfortunately, we’re not supposed to be just surface level. For the past several weeks, we’ve been going through a series titled Deep in Christ at Hillside, where we’ve been looking at Romans 12. This week was a little different.

Sunday, I had the honor of filling the pulpit. We took a break of sorts from our Deep in Christ series, and we spent the day looking at an Old Testament character that lived deep. Noah wasn’t a surface level guy. The flood account in Genesis 6-8 tells us that Noah was different from the rest of the world. Noah’s example helps us to understand how exactly we might live deep. Let’s review how we can do just that.

 

Be Deep in Character

Noah found favor with God. He was righteous, blameless, and walked with God before the events of the flood took place. Noah had a deep relationship with God because he was deep in character. Have you found favor with God? Do you live a righteous, blameless, walk with God sort of life? Noah had faith in God. He put complete trust in Him. We need to trust God that He’s got our best intentions in mind. He already has proven that he does. The proof is shaped like a cross.

 

Go Deep in Calling

Character wasn’t the only thing that Noah had, he also found God’s calling. Just believing isn’t good enough. James tells us that faith without action is dead. Instead, Genuine faith always produces action. Because of Noah’s deep character, he was pushed to live a life of deep calling. He built the ark, the animals were assembled, he brought the food, he went aboard with his family. Noah did all that God asked of him. Are you living the life God has called you to live? Are you living a life of prayer? Are you in God’s word? Are you different from the world? Do you share the Gospel?

 

Live a Deep Life of Commitment

When the flood waters were washed away, and the ark finally came to rest on dry land, the first thing that Noah did was build an altar and offer burnt offerings to God. Noah saw all that God had done and he was pushed to worship after the storm had passed. Noah was committed to living a life of worship all the time. We should do the same. When things are going good: worship. When you’re healthy: worship. When you’re surrounded by family and friends: worship. But life’s not all good times. We must be committed to living a life of worship in the good and the bad. Are you sick, dying, alone, hurting, depressed, or angry? Time to worship.

 

Noah lived deep. He had deep character, deep calling, and deep commitment. What kind of life are you living? A surface level sort of life, or are you deep? Go deep this week!

 

(Photo by Flickr User: Matthias Hiltner)

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Thoughts? Comment below!

Star Wars

What Star Wars Can Teach Us About Life

It’s May 4th: Star Wars Day. In honor of this special celebration I’ve decided to go all Star Wars on you. Not a big fan of Star Wars? This not the post you’re looking for? Don’t worry! This will be the only Star Wars post for a while, I promise. Amazingly enough, Star Wars can teach us something very valuable in regards to life.

 

In His Image and Likeness

In the beginning, God made all living things, plants, animals, and mankind. He created man and woman in His image and likeness. This means that we’re different. We’re special We’re made unique. Part of that image and likeness is the desire to create. Think about it, we love to create things. Some people love making good cookies, decorating houses, building tables, painting paintings. Other people enjoy creating programs, computer systems, websites, or even start-ups. We’re created in God’s image, which means we’ve been given the desire and the ability to create.

 

A Creative Creator

Let’s face it, whether you’re a genuine Star Wars fan or no fan at all, you must admit that the universe that George Lucas created is impressive. (Most impressive.) The Star Wars universe even has it’s own variation of Wikipedia in order to answer any Star Wars question one might be struggling with. This whole universe came from the mind of one guy: George Lucas. Similarly, our world is amazing. We haven’t even been able to explore the depths of the ocean. With such a vast, diverse, and different planet, there’s no way one can truly know everything there is to know about creation. The amazing creation that we get to enjoy every day is living proof of our amazing creator God.

 

Whenever I take a walk and soak in the beauty of of our world, I’m pushed to reflect on the nature of God. Even creation itself is pushed to create. We’re blessed with technology, medical advances, and even Star Wars. These “creation-creations” push me to remember the creator of it all.

 

(Photo by Flickr User: FiDalwood)

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May the force be with you as you leave a comment below!

baltimore-hands

Baltimore Burning

The community of Baltimore has been in the spotlight this week due to a recent outbreak of violence. Beginning early this week, several riots turned ugly and ended up spawning into arson, burglary, and even theft. The national guard was dispatched, and police in riot gear attempted to calm the crowd. Several nights of mandatory curfew were put into effect.

Major League Baseball’s Baltimore Orioles club decided not to open up their game to the public on Wednesday afternoon. This game went down in the history books as the first ever baseball game with an official recorded attendance of 0. Several groups have tried to explain away the actions of these individuals. Some believe that these events were the results of a racism problem that’s crippled Baltimore since the 1960’s. Others have concluded that it was a viral social media message that pushed individuals to act out in a malicious fashion. Either way, we can learn a few things from the recent events of Baltimore.

 

Stirring the embers of sin with sin.

Sin is like a bag of your favorite chips. You never stop with just one. For example, one little white lie always leads to many, many more. In the Baltimore situation this week, one sin was stirred with many more sins, leading to an uncontrollable mob of sinful people taking part in sinful actions. Satan likes taking sin viral. Unfortunately, in today’s world that’s not hard to do. We need to be different. We need to be set apart, and take a stand against sin before it spirals out of control.

 

A Jesus response.

Free speech is a great thing, but when your free speech turns into looting, arson, and theft, then it becomes a problem. Jesus was a proponent of peaceful, free speech. He also gave us several fruit we should strive to live by in every situation; whether good or bad. We are to live with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Paul gives us this list in what we call the fruit of the spirit. If you’re upset, if you’re anxious, our response to any situation should be filled with these fruit. No matter what, our mission in life isn’t to live for ourselves, but share the most important message of all: Jesus.

 

So what can we do for Baltimore? Pray. Pray for peace. Pray that the people would be able to find comfort and hope in this time of uncertainty, confusion, and anger. Pray for the law enforcement of the Baltimore area that they might continue to serve faithfully, for their protection, and for their spirits. Most importantly, don’t forget to pray that the people of Baltimore would remember to honor Christ instead of stirring the embers of sin with more sin.

 

(Photo Credit: Reuters/Jim Bourg)

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What are your thoughts on Baltimore? Leave them in the comments below!

Broken Church

A Broken Church

Looking back at the early church, or the church in the book of Acts, you can easily tell that church today is different. Most of the time, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that the church is broken. First, let me clarify something. When I say church, I mean every believer on the planet. I don’t mean the church I’m working at, or the church you’re currently attending, but everyone who believes in Jesus.

If you haven’t read through the book of Acts, I encourage you to do so. Look at how those early believers had passion. Look at what they did. Afterwards, it’s easy to tell that today’s church is broken. We’re not as passionate as those early church believers were. Today’s church is more opening accepting of sin. Somewhere along the way, something went wrong. But what? Here’s what I think is wrong with today’s church.

 

Lack of Trust

God has called us to action. He’s called us to step out on that call. Today, Christian’s lack the trust to step out of their comfort zones and act out on that call.

 

Lack of Passion

What happened to the passion, boldness, and zeal that the early church had in the book of Acts? Did we lose it somewhere along the way? Are we missing something?

 

Tradition/Ritual

Tradition and ritual have chocked out the truth. We’ve completely forgot about the function and reason behind these practices, and put the importance on the tradition or ritual itself.

 

Acceptance of Culture

We’re growing more and more adapt to the society of sin. Tolerance has turned into acceptance.

 

Lost Love for God’s Word

We are growing a generation that’s prone to be Biblically-illiterate. Christian’s have lost sight of our God-breathed privilege.

 

Lost Love for Christ

Jesus loves you. It’s time we start loving him back.

 

The worst part is that these problems are only getting worse. There’s no question that today’s church has completely missed the markThe good news of the story is that there’s still hope. Check back soon for my answer to this problem of epic proportions.

 

NOTE: This post is a remake of an original post, titled “What’s Wrong with the Church” that was posted on February 3rd, 2012. The original post, and it’s content also makes an appearance in my upcoming book, Wake Up.

 

(Photo by Flickr User: Paxson Woelber)

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What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment below!

Rainbows Butterflies

Life Isn’t Always Rainbows and Butterflies

A lot of pastors today teach what’s called the prosperity gospel. Maybe you’ve heard this type of message before? This is where, we hear claims that the promises of God are just waiting at your footsteps. Prosperity preachers indicate that health, wealth, and happiness are what you always get when you walk with God. The problem with this prosperity gospel is that it isn’t the truth at all.

If you’re at all familiar with the Old Testament, you know of the prophets, like Jeremiah. Jeremiah was called by God, but not to a life of prosperity. He committed his whole life to doing God’s work, and in return was rewarded with a life of tears, torment, and torture. Like many of the other prophets of the O.T., Jeremiah is just one example of why the prosperity gospel just isn’t true. Life isn’t always rainbows and butterflies.

 

God never promised earthly reward.

Unfortunately, God never promised that this life would be easy. We’re all just a bunch of sinners living together on the same planet. There’s bound to be trouble eventually. Life itself has it’s fair share of challenges and difficulties we have to overcome. The fact of the matter is that God never promised his followers earthly reward. He didn’t say that this life would be easy, but he said that many would be persecuted. Look how they treated Jesus. That’s how you will be treated as a follower of Christ.

 

In the darkness of life, you’re not alone.

Though we were never promised an earthly reward for following Jesus, we are told that we’re not alone. God became flesh and lived a sinless life. After a few years of ministry, he was falsely accused, beaten, and tortured. He went to the cross on our behalf. Jesus lived through the worst of times for us. He warned his followers that there would be times when we’d be treated in a similar fashion. When we face one of life’s many difficulties, we need to remember that Jesus persevered through difficult times. He went to the cross. He can help you through it. We’re not alone when life gets dark.

 

There are many people that are struggling right now to get through the many challenges that life throws our way. We don’t need more false promises of health, wealth, and happiness. These lies only lead to disappointment. Instead we need to remember that life can get tough, but we’re not alone. If you’re experiencing a difficulty and would like to know more about how Jesus can help you through it, contact Scott today.

 

(Photo by Flickr User: Beverley Goodwin)

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Have a thought or a story? Share it in the comments below!

Noah

God Remembered Noah

Have you ever felt alone? Have you ever felt like you couldn’t do it on your own? I know Noah did. In the early pages of Genesis we read about a man who walked with God. Noah was clearly different from the rest of the world, which was deteriorating rapidly. Men and women were plain wicked. Genesis 6:5 sums it up perfectly when it says, “every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Creation had turned completely evil.

In order to fix this mess, God decided to start over. He killed off the entire planet with a global flood. Maybe you remember the rest of the story: Noah, his family, and animals of every kind were spared. After 40 days and 40 nights of rain, and after the earth was covered in water for 150 days, something interesting happened. God remembered Noah.

 

Your life matters to God.

In Noah’s day, the world had turned so evil that God destroyed everybody except for one. Noah was different. He mattered to God. Have you ever realized that you matter to God too? Don’t worry, God won’t flood the earth again. God won’t kill off the entire population of earth and spare just one. He’s not going to call you to build an ark in your backyard, but you do matter to him. You matter so much that he willingly died on the cross to cover your sins.

Jesus gave up his own life in place of ours. Because of our sins, we had a price that had to be paid. Because of our wrongdoings, we aren’t able to enjoy the fellowship with God like Noah once had. But when God became flesh, all that changed. Jesus showed his love for us on the cross. He lived a perfect life in order to be the perfect sacrifice. He died, so that we could live with him. That’s how much you matter to God.

 

You can make all the difference.

Noah was called by God to construct the ark. He was told to build it using exact specifications in order to save mankind, and the rest of creation. Noah made all the difference. Like I said, God won’t call you to build an ark in your backyard in order to save the world from pending destruction. Though God won’t call you to build a boat, he does call you to life a live of action. In living out God’s purpose for your life, though you’re only one person, you can make all the difference like Noah did. Go live for God!

 

God remembered Noah. He mattered to God and made a difference. Like Noah, you also matter to God. When you live the life God called you to live, you can make all the difference too. If you haven’t started a relationship with Jesus, I encourage you to read through the Gospel message in full. Have questions? Want to begin that journey towards walking with God? Contact Scott today.

 

(Photo by Flickr User: Keoni Cabral)

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Share your thoughts in the comments below!