Friday, January 31, 2014

Cruisin' in the the snow...uphill both ways!

With all the distraction the snow has brought this week it reminded me of a snow storm we had several years ago.  I still lived at home, as did my sister.  She was at work and it was pouring the snow as it had all day.  My dad had driven her to work so she wouldn't be out on the roads in the snow.  Once road conditions had deteriorated to the point you shouldn't be on the road my sister was informed we were coming to get her whether she was done at work or not.  I hop in the ole' minivan with dad to go pick her up.  Where we lived there was no way to get to "town" without going up and down hills that are very dangerous in the snow.  There is only one way to go to minimize your chances of getting stuck or something worse.  So as we go the only viable way we run into trouble.  We couldn't make it up the hill so dad decided to turn down the road and get some speed up to make it over the hill.  On our way down the hill we narrowly missed hitting another car when our car lost traction and did a major fishtail.  We were able to make it up over the hill with a little speed and without any further problems.  We ended up picking up my sister after safely making it to her work and returned home safely.

This story is similar to the way we handle the storms of life.  We always seem to try and find a way out of the storm when things seem to be disastrous around us.  We may look for the path of least resistance only to find that it is no better than other ways that seemed to be more treacherous.  In the end we may have some narrow misses when trying to make our ascent over the problem that is keeping us in the middle of the storm.  In the end we can arrive safely at our intended destination, but only under the careful and loving guidance of our Father.  Our Heavenly Father is there to see us through the storm, to rescue us from the dangers around us, and to get us to where He wants us to be, safe in His loving care.

The storms of life are tough.  There is no debating that.  But in the end, our Heavenly Father will help us through the storm and keep us safe.  Trust Him to see you through the storms.

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Magic of Snow

"Come now, let us reason together," says the Lord. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. - Isaiah 1:18 (NIV)

Whether you are a fan of the cold white stuff or not you have to admit there is something magical about snow.  When it falls it lays a nice blanket of white powder covering everything. There is something almost refreshing about snow covering everything up.  Regardless of how bad the ground may look the snow covers it.  It is indiscriminate in that if you are in the falling snow you will be covered.  In the end there is something majestic about it all.

The prophet Isaiah gives us one of the greatest visual images for the forgiveness of sins. He says in verse 18 that "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow."  Scarlet is a vibrant color that stands in stark contrast to the color white.  To God our sins are as ugly as the dirtiest ground.  They stand out against the holiness of God and His forgiveness as much as the color scarlet does to newly fallen snow.  When we receive God's forgiveness our sins go away completely.  Just as if those scarlet sins had been covered by white snow.

God's forgiveness of sins mimics the falling snow in another way too.  God's forgiveness is like that blanket of snow covering everything.  His forgiveness is indiscriminate when it comes to our sins.  1 John 1:9 tells us "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (NIV).  All we have to do is ask God for forgiveness for the sins we've committed.  As it says in 1 John 1:9, He will forgive us of all our sins.  Our sins, no matter how awful we think they are, will be covered by His forgiveness just like the snow blankets the dirtiest ground.  The only condition on God's forgiveness is that we must ask for it.  Without our confession and request for forgiveness the blanket of forgiveness cannot be applied to our sins.

If you've never admitted to your failures before God and sought His forgiveness for your sins then I encourage you to do so today.  If you've never started a relationship with Christ through the forgiveness of your sins, then I would encourage you to contact me at so I can help you start one.  If you are already a believer who just needed to be reminded of how great God's forgiveness can be, remember God is ready to forgive you of any and all sins.  All you have to do is ask for it.

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Monday, January 27, 2014

Fertilizer = Growth

"A Christian can read his Bible daily, communicate with the Lord often in prayer, attend church regularly, be involved in outreach ministry, and give faithfully, but unless he is willing to change, to grow, to be perfected, and then to be used however and whenever and wherever God desires, these disciplines will not yield their maximum benefit." - Charles Stanley, Practicing Basic Spiritual Disciplines

I am reading through the book quoted above as part of my daily devotionals.  It's been a really good read, as anything by Charles Stanley would be.  Today I read over this paragraph that ended a chapter and it really stuck with me.  What Dr. Stanley is pointing out is that we can do a million things that a good, faithful Christian should do but if we do not allow God to use those disciplines as fertilizer to help us grow then the disciplines are useless.

Here's another way to look at it.  If we read the Bible and are constantly confronted by a particular area of life that we need to change (insert your own particular vice here) and do not allow God's Word to confront, convict and ultimately challenge us to change, then what good is it to read the Bible?  You can read a million self-help books and never put into practice what they preach but in the end what good does it do you to read them?

Think about it this way.  If we prayed daily seeking God's guidance and wisdom on a particular area of life (insert your own life issue here), and He revealed to us the way He wants us to handle it yet we still go our own way, then why pray?  It's like going to your doctor and him telling you need to lose weight and exercise or you will have serious health issues and you going away without heeding the counsel?

My church has heard me mention several times lately the idea that we are to be conforming to the image of Christ.  Simply put God is molding us throughout our life to resemble, or reflect the image of Christ.  He uses everything in life to shape us into the image of His Son.  Through our Christian disciplines of prayer, study, service, and others, we can be conformed to the image of Christ but only if we allow God to use those disciplines as fertilizer for our growth.  What part of your life do you need to allow God greater access to for you to grow and so that He can mold you into a better image of Christ?

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Friday, January 24, 2014

Taking Stock in Difficult Times

When Cooper was younger he had a bad habit when it came to opening doors on cars and at our house.  Because of his small size he would grab the handle and then throw all of his forty-five pounds into pulling on the handle in hopes of opening the door.  The only problem with this practice is that when he pulled on the handle he did not always pull the handle out straight.  He usually, due to his small size, pulled the door handle at some odd angle that nearly broke the handle.  One time he was headed into our house and did his usual door opening routine, nearly breaking the screen door handle.  I promptly told him that if he broke the handle I could not fix it and we would have to buy a new handle.  In his child-like innocence he looks up at me and asked me “Could God fix it?”  As a parent you want to instill in your children faith in God so I answered him “Yes God could if He wanted” and told him but dad would still have to go buy a new one if he broke it.

How many of us have asked that kind of question rhetorically, “Could God fix it?” when it comes to the problems in our lives.  We have all asked some variation of this question hoping and praying that God would fix whatever problem we are facing in our lives.  When we get to this point of questioning God and His willingness to help us in these areas we need to take stock of our situation and look for God’s will in our lives.

The first thing we should take into account is that God sometimes allows difficult times into our lives on purpose.  When God allows those difficult times into our lives it is not a matter of God doing so just to be mean to us.  God’s will and plan for our life is perfect and just, so we must keep that in mind.  God may allow a difficult time in our life because He needs to get us to a place we would never have made it to otherwise.  Without that difficult time we may not have been as receptive or responsive to Him.  Romans 8:28 reminds us of how God uses those difficult times in our life when it says “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

Another thing we should take into account is whether we are in our current situation because God allowed it or because of our own sinfulness.  We must remember that God has given every human being freewill.  Thanks to freewill we have the option of choosing whether we will follow God and His will or choose our own path and do our own will.  When we choose to rebel against God and go our own way then we must be prepared for the difficulties that come along with it.  When we look at our situation and see that the current issues in our life is because of our own sinfulness we must do what we know to be right.  We must repent and turn back to God allowing Him to work in our lives to help us through the aftermath of our “sin storm.”  Yes, God is willing to take us back, forgive our sins and help us move beyond it.  But we must also keep in mind that when God forgives that does not take away the earthly consequences of our sins.

The last thing we should take into account when we are at the point of questioning God is that God is still in control.  One time I did a children’s sermon on a Sunday morning where I placed a large granite stone in front of the children and taught them about how God is like a rock.  One thing we can learn from that is that no matter what goes on in our lives God is still in control.  God is still that Rock in our lives that is unchanging, unmoving, and always undeterred by the events in our lives.  We are taught in church from a young age that God is Sovereign, meaning that He is in total control and has supreme power over everything.  When we face those difficult situations in our lives and are ready to question God about His willingness to help us we must remember and be supremely confident in the fact that God has always been in control.

When we face those difficult times in life we must look at them to see if they are God’s doing, our doing and then remember that regardless of how it came to be God is still going to be in control.

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Monday, January 20, 2014

The words our kids use.

After waking up this morning Dru walked into the living room and made a direct path towards the kitchen.  This was unusual because most mornings he normally lays on the couch rather lazily after waking up.  I asked him where he was headed and he used a term that seemed kind of unusual to me.  Not because I hadn't heard it before or even used it myself.  Maybe it was something in the tone of his voice.  I'm not sure.  Regardless, he said he was headed to the "restroom."

As he walked away I couldn't help but think, "why did he use that term?"  Normally Misty and I refer to it as a bathroom.  The more I thought about it I began to realize that Dru refers to it as a restroom most of the time whether at home or out in public.  I sat there pondering for a moment on his word choice and got back to what I was doing.  As I did my own thing, I thought about how kids are so often like their parents but so different as well.

Parents all have that dreaded moment occur at some point when they say something, react in a certain way, or do something the exact same way their parents did.  At that moment we all stop in horror and make the same general comment about how "I'm turning into my mother/father."  We're horrified yet, hopefully, pleased that we've turned into that person who was the source of so much discipline as we grew up.  The only problem with that vicious cycle is that our kids, learning from our example, will one day develop into something that resembles us.

For most that is a terrifying prospect.  We're worried that our worst traits will be the ones exemplified in the life of our son or daughter.  We just know that our good qualities are the ones that will be left to the wayside as our children mature.  We're worried that certain phrases we've said will be picked up by these mockingbird kids and repeated at the most inappropriate of times.  Regardless of the words or actions that our kids pick up from us, we need to be sure that we are setting the right, consistent example for our kids.  That means being the same person in public that we are in private, no matter how hard it is.  That means being consistent on the things that mean the most, like discipline and matters of faith.  In the end, we can look back on our lives spent raising these tiny beings, that came with no instruction manuals, and be reassured we did everything we could to raise them right.  The only way we can do that is if we set the right, consistent example day in and day out.

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Friday, January 17, 2014

Resolving the Issues of Life

My oldest son Dru, like most young kids, loves to play video games.  At school he learned about a website full of hundreds of video games that he could play online.  I am fairly sure he’s played every game on that website and everyone in our house at least a time or two.  The only problem with Dru and his video game playing is that he seems to be discouraged easily when he does not complete a level on the game after a few tries.  I have come to recognize the tone of his voice and the phrases he uses when he needs help and comes to the master of video games in our house, and yes that would be me.  Dru will tell me something to the effect of “I can’t beat this level” or “Can you just get me past this part of the game”.  Being dad I oblige and take care of the problem he is having with the game.  My only charge to Dru for my service is a hug and he promptly goes back to playing his game until he once again reaches a difficult place and then comes running back to me.  When these difficult places in his games come up they are at the moment major issues that seem devastating to his little world.

God views His relationship with us in much the same way.  No matter what we do we will invariably run into issues in life.  God knows what issues we will face.  He also knows exactly how He wants us to respond and how He will resolve the issue.  When we face the issues in our lives we feel like Dru with his video games.  We feel overwhelmed, like we can’t get past what is bothering us and we feel like all we can do is go to our loving Father for help after we’ve exhausted our options.  So let’s look at the issues in our life from a perspective that will help us better handle the next issue that comes up.

1.  God knows what issues we will face.
This is part of what makes God who He is.  God is an omniscient, loving and caring God who is intimately concerned in every last detail of our lives.  If He did not know everything then He would not be God and we would not have need of Him.  But He is all knowing and sees the future and how it relates to the issues currently affecting our lives.  The issues in our life do not take him by surprise and so we need to learn to rely on Him first when we have issues.

2.  God wants us to seek Him first with the issues of life.
God doesn’t want us to be like Dru with his video games, waiting until we can do nothing else before asking our Father for help.  God wants us to immediately bring our issues to Him seeking His will and His wisdom on how to handle the situation.  Psalm 32:8 tells us what God will do for us if we will only seek Him out.  It says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.”  If we look back at the verse before this, Psalm 32:7, we are told why it’s wise to seek Him out first.  It says “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.”  God wants us to seek Him out when we run into problems because He has the answer waiting on us to ask for it.

3.  God knows how to resolve our issues.
When we face issues in life God already has the answer for how we need to resolve it.  Sometimes the answer is to “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord” like Psalm 27:14 says.  Sometimes God needs us to move from where we feel comfortable to some place far outside our comfort zone.  And even other times the way God plans to resolve our issue is to allow us to be faced with His judgment because we have stepped away from Him.  No matter what the issue, no matter what the answer for resolving it we need to remember that God is still in control and He still loves us.

I hope as you face the next issue in your life or as you face the current storm surrounding you that today’s words will encourage you and give you hope.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Why this pastor doesn't believe in God.

Belief is a funny thing.  We teach our children to believe in mythical creatures and people who give money and presents for assorted things.  There's nothing wrong with teaching our children to believe in fantasies as long as they grow up later to learn the truth.  We also teach our children to believe that they can be anything.  I'm all in favor of dreaming big and accomplishing big things but our 5'8" child who hasn't grown in 3 years can't be, no matter how much they believe in it, the starting center for an NBA team.  Belief definitely is a funny thing.

The thing about believing in something is that there is always a chance that what you are believing in will not be real or will not come about.  Belief is about taking a 50/50 shot at something being real or true.  Your beliefs can ultimately let you down if you believed in the wrong thing.  How many people have believed that their marriage would never end?  How many have believed that a particular treatment would work? How many have believed in things like these only to be destroyed when their beliefs ended up on the negative side rather than the positive side?  Many have.  More than we could ever imagine.

It's this downside that made me recently think about why I shouldn't believe in God.  If I believe that God is real then that means there is a 50/50 chance that He isn't real.  Meaning that I could walk into eternity head held high only to be devastated because He's not there.  Please don't think that this pastor has completely abandoned his faith.  The realization I've come to is that I shouldn't believe in God because I know God is real.

I have spent plenty of time around my dad.  He's taught me things about computers, farming and life for which I am eternally grateful.  He's talked to me.  He's fussed at me when I was disobedient.  He praised me when I was successful.  At times he's been silent and let me go my own route, for me to only find out I should have asked him what I should have done.  My dad has been an ever present figure in my life for the past 34 years.  I have no doubt that my dad is real.  I talked to him yesterday.  I know he is real.

I have also spent plenty of time around my heavenly Dad.  He's taught me things about life for which I am eternally grateful.  He's talked to me.  He's disciplined me when I was disobedient.  He's also praised me when I was successful.  At times He's been silent and let me go my own way, for me to only find out I would have been better off to ask Him for guidance.  He's been present in my life from before I was born.  I have no doubt that my heavenly Dad is real.  I even talked to Him today.  I know He is real.  That's why I don't have to believe in Him.

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Monday, January 13, 2014

The Long Goodbye

Right now Misty & I are sitting in the airport in Phoenix, Arizona headed back to North Carolina. Last night we spent time with a family that means so much to us. Every time we leave them we go through the same form of a long goodbye. When this family goes to serve in Central Asia it will probably be a few years until we see them again. Yesterday we said another form of goodbye. We attended a memorial service for a missionary friend who died unexpectedly in December. The good thing about both of these goodbyes is that they may be long but they are only temporary.

In a few years our friends will return from Asia. We will see them again. We will play with their kids and they will play with ours. We know we will see them again. I am confident that we will once again see our missionary friend that passed away. Our missionary friend who passed away was a believer in Christ. God's Word assures us that when we die we enter into His presence. But there's a catch. You have to have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. When we have a relationship with God we can be reassured that we will see our friends and family again as long as they too know Christ.

As hard as it was to say goodbye yesterday, both times, we are confident we will see them all again. Some sooner than others. The reunions will be great and the fellowship all the sweeter.

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Friday, January 10, 2014

The view from 40,000 feet.

The American southwest is beautiful. Until a trip in 2014 I had never flown over it, only ridden through it. From 40,000 feet up, the view is spectacular. You see snow-capped mountains rising out of the desert. You see canyons cut into the ground by rivers. You see mesas and valleys. God did a great job when He created all of it. While flying over I watched for a long time as town after town and road after road left the view from my tiny window.  But what I found intriguing was when following a particular road you would watch as it twisted and turned, rose and fell through the beautiful, rugged landscape.

The view from 40,000 feet gives you a unique point of view. While from the plane I could see the valleys or mountains in the distance, those on the road would have a completely different view. The mountains I saw as small or the valleys I saw as shallow could be monstrous to the person at ground level. The bends in the road would cause the driver to leave their straight line approach and detour around some obstruction. In the end I could see what the driver of a car could not. I could see the beauty of the landscape ahead of them. I could see how they would get where they needed to go.
I thought, as I watched the roads, about how it resembled God's view of our life. When God looks at the landscape of our life, from His perspective He sees a beautiful, rugged landscape. He can see how the path of our life will twist and turn. How it will rise and fall over the terrain. He can also see the valleys and the mountains that seem so overwhelming to us. He sees our approach to Him on the mountain tops. He sees our fall into sin's deep chasm. Those bends that come about, that cause us to take paths different than what we had planned, are plainly in His sight. They don't catch Him by surprise. In the end God sees how we need to proceed through life to get to the point where He needs us. The benefit to us is that unlike me in a plane watching a car on the road, God is ever present in our life to help us down the path of life.

The next time you feel overwhelmed by life, remember that God has a much better view of where you are at and what you will face than you could ever imagine. Trust in Him to help you proceed down the path of life to the point where He needs you to be (Proverbs 3:5-6).

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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Doctors can't tell you if, they only tell you when.

As I was riding back to the church the other day from visiting a very sick lady at the hospital I heard a Bible teacher on the radio share something I had never thought of before.  He said that when people go to the doctor and they get a diagnosis that sounds bad, they will regularly say "Am I dying?"  The answer to that question has always been and will always be yes.  He said that doctors can sometimes narrow down the "when" of our death but not the "if" of our death.  As I left the hospital last night from being called in for this sick lady's family I thought again about this Bible teacher's words.  Here I was with a family not expecting this lady to make it through the night and yet there was never a doubt that she, like the rest of us, will die it's only a matter of when.

The problem people generally have is not with the "if" but with the "when."  They do so much to find out when they'll die, especially if they are terminally ill, that the real question of death escapes them.  The real question about death that must be answered is "Are you prepared for death?"  That is the real question we have to answer.  For some they are prepared.  They have put their trust and faith in God through Jesus' death on the cross and they are ready for eternity.  Others are not.  Others have no hope after death.  No joy to look forward to.  No reunion with loved ones who went on before.  To many there is nothing about the moment after their last breath that they can look forward to.  But it doesn't have to be that way.

As I met with a family this morning who has a loved one who will probably pass away within the next week they talked about this person's readiness to go.  This person, like millions around the world, has put their faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.  For those that do not have a hope after death, all they have to do to gain eternal life and hope for the next life is to do the same thing.  Simply trust that Jesus Christ is who the Bible says He is and that He did what the Bible said He did.  It's a matter of believing that He is the Son of God who lived a perfect and sinless life so that He could take away every sin we've ever committed.  Sin is simply man breaking God's rules.  We've all done it (Romans 3:23) and we all need forgiveness.  All we have to do is confess to God our need for Him to forgive us and be Lord of our life.  When we do that and believe in our hearts that Jesus was that perfect sacrifice for our sins then we can have the assurance of eternal life.  That means that we can rest easy knowing that after we breathe our last breath here on earth, our next will be in the presence of God in heaven.  As we face those last moments here on earth the words of the Apostle Paul will mean all the more to us.  "Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" (1 Corinthians 15:54-55, NIV).

If you have never put your faith in Christ until today I encourage you to let me know so I can help you with what you need to do next.  If you have questions about putting your faith in Christ I encourage you to let me answer those questions for you.  Feel free to email me at  

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Monday, January 6, 2014

Safeguard your kids with extra aunts and uncles.

One night about 16 years ago, Misty and I were sitting in her car after she finished work. We were talking about her night at work, where we planned to go on our next date and all the other important teenage stuff.  As we sat there and talked the time kept dragging on and before long we had sat in her car so long talking that the windows in her car had fogged up without us noticing.  I know what you're thinking, sure Nick, teenagers...fogged up weren't talking but honestly we were.  In the middle of our deeply intellectual teenage conversation there was a surprising knock on the window.  A couple who cared for us dearly and who were like an aunt and uncle to us stopped by where we were parked to "check on us" and make sure everything was okay.

Fast forward about 16 years.  Recently Misty and I were out on a date night when we had to stop by her office.  While there, we found a couple of teenagers in a car who were engaged in much more than conversation.  We stopped in that dark part of the parking lot to "check on them" and make sure everything was okay.  After they dressed themselves and sped off I couldn't help but think about how as parents it is so vital for us to have men and women in our children's lives who will help safeguard our children.

I grew up with more aunts and uncles than I could count.  That's because growing up at church any man or woman that was old enough to be remotely close to my parents age could "get ahold of me" and I knew I was in trouble.  These men and women helped raise me and help care for me as I was growing up.  They were genuinely concerned for my well being and the rest of the kids at church.  I have those men and women to thank for the person I am today.  I still have the utmost respect for them and care for them dearly.  That's why it is so important to be involved in a community of believers where you are able to have help raising your children.  It's important to find those people in life that will "check on" your kids when you aren't around.  It's even better when your kids grow up and really value the relationships they have developed with these "aunts and uncles."

My encouragement to you today is this, if you aren't currently involved in a church where your kids can be ministered to and where you can get child-rearing help from godly men and women then Sunday is the day to start finding you one.  If you have a church that is like home and you haven't been going lately, get started back.  Your church will be glad to have you back and excited at the opportunity to minister to your family.  If you've never really been a "church person" then talk with your friends and family who attend church and start looking for you a place to worship.  Also know that you're always welcome at our church, North Catawba Baptist. The important thing is to safeguard your kids with extra aunts and uncles who love them dearly and church is the best place to find them!

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Friday, January 3, 2014

Be persistent as...

As I sit here this morning watching Dru play a video game on the Wii I notice something.  As with any video game, Dru finds himself coming to places in the game that he can't figure out how to complete the task.  He tries and tries to complete the task to no avail.  He tries the same thing over and over with no success.  He asks dad for help because he assumes dad knows how to complete the task.  Only through being persistent and trying different ways does he finally complete the level he's trying to finish.  As I watch this young man play I can't help but think about how much of our spiritual life is reflected in his actions.

I think its fair to say we all struggle with trying to figure out how to live out this thing called spirituality, or more specifically the Christian walk.  We have a road map, the Bible, that at times can be as clear as day and at other times it seems to be as clear as mud.  We see the godly examples of those around us that and try to learn from their example.  We sit under teaching we know to be sound and doctrinal.  Yet we still find ourselves questioning whether we've figured anything out or are making progress or losing ground.  That's when we need to remember to be as persistent as a kid playing video games.

If we want to grow in our faith, as every follower of Christ should, we have to learn what it means to be persistent.  Persistence means we don't give up when we find things to be difficult.  It means when things are tough we don't stop doing what we know to be right.  If we find ourselves trying over and over to do the same thing with no success (which I believe is the definition of insanity) then we need to change our methods and our approach.  During our persistence we need to be sure to ask our Dad who does know the way for us to go.  We are commanded in Scripture to persistently seek Him in prayer (Luke 11:5-9).  For us to be successful in this experience called the Christian life we must be persistent.  Persistent when we find things difficult.  Persistent when we seek His direction.  Persistent as a kid playing a video game.

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