TO HAVE NO BURDEN TO CARRY…July 31, 2015

“Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.  For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.  But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.”  Galatians 6:2-4

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Sadhu Sundar Singh, a Hindu convert to Christianity, became a missionary to his people in India.  Late one afternoon Sadhu was travelling on foot through the Himalayas with a Buddhist monk.  It was bitterly cold and the wind felt like sharp blades slicing into their skins.  Night was fast approaching when the monk warned Sadhu that they were in danger of freezing to death if they did not reach the monastery before darkness fell.

Suddenly, on a narrow path above a steep precipice, they heard a cry for help.  At the foot of the cliff, lay a man fallen and badly hurt.  The monk looked at Sadhu and said, “Do not stop.  God has brought this man to his fate.  He must work it out for himself.  Let us hurry on, before we, too, perish.”  But Sadhu replied, “God has sent me here to help my brother.  I cannot abandon him.”

The monk continued trudging off through the whirling snow, while the missionary clambered down the steep embankment.  The injured man’s leg was broken and he could not walk, so Sadhu made a sling of his blanket, and tied the man on his back.  With great difficulty, he climbed back up the cliff, drenched by now in perspiration.  Doggedly, Sadhu made his way through the deepening snow and darkness.  It was all he could do to follow the path.  But he persevered, though faint with fatigue and overheated from exertion.  Finally, he saw ahead, the lights of the monastery.  Then, for the first time, Sadhu stumbled and nearly fell.  But not from weakness.  He had stumbled over an object lying in the snow-covered road.  Slowly he bent down on one knee and brushed the snow off the object.  It was the body of the monk, frozen to death.

Years later, a disciple of Sadhu asked him, “What is life’s most difficult task?”  Without hesitation, Sadhu replied:  “To have no burden to carry.”

God himself has asked us to carry one another’s burdens that we will fulfill the entire law.  By bearing the burdens of others, we actually PROVE that we are followers of Jesus.

WHAT MAKES A GREAT CHURCH?

I have been involved with many churches in my life, as a child in Sunday School, and Vacation Bible School, as a teen in youth groups, as a Deacon, and an Elder, as a Worship Leader, and as a Pastor.

As a musician, I have been asked to play in a diversity of Christian  churches.  I’ve played for Oral Roberts tent meetings,  Benny Hinn, and concerts with Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith. Also, Messianic Jewish congregations, and national conferences for homeless shelters, from nearly all white, to black churches.  Some have been formal and informal, liturgical to hipster, I was even once asked to play for the Pope.

Sometimes, I would question God about my placement in a poor church one week and a big suburban church the next.  I always felt that God wanted me to see the wide variety of Christians, and be a bridge between the man-made culture walls that have divided us for too long.

At one church, I recall a member coming up to me and saying, that while on vacation, he had visited a “great” church.  While he spoke, I wondered if he thought the church he belonged to was “great”.  I waited expectantly to hear some reasons why he thought the church he had visited on vacation was so “great.”  “They were huge, and had great music.”  Those were the two reasons he gave.

Many adjectives are used to describe a great church:  Big, many campuses, a great pastor, great music, great teaching, etc.

All of those things can be awesome, and I pray that all churches would have those things, but the Bible describes a great church this way:

“And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had.”  Acts 2:44

Of all the churches I have ever been in, I have never seen that.  I don’t think this is some lofty goal, or unattainable ideal; I think this first church was characterized by this one thing: Vast amounts of extreme generosity.  I would love for someone someday to come up to me and say, “While we were on vacation, we visited this great church.  They were sharing everything they had.”

I want to encourage you, the way I am encouraged by the great people at our GREAT church!  If I could describe The Gathering Church, it would be like this:  They CONSTANTLY demonstrate Jesus by the outpouring of generosity they show to one another.

By:  Pastor Daniel Leavitt

I NEVER COULD HAVE MADE IT…July 29, 2015

“But from the beginning of the creation God made them male, and female.  For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; and they two shall be one flesh: so then they are no more two, but ONE flesh.  What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”  Mark 10:6-9

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Today, marks 22 years of marriage for my husband and I.  It’s hard to believe that much time has elapsed since we first locked eyes, for it seems like only yesterday.

We weren’t kids.  We weren’t inexperienced.  On the contrary!  Meeting in mid-life, we’d both been around the block a few times.  That was the problem…BAGGAGE!  We had both stuffed our suitcases with hurts from previous partners.  And, ahh yes… family, parents in particular had dumped their failures and hurts upon us for years.  All of the carless words spoken in an instant of anger during our growing up years, were written upon our hearts forever because we had believed them.

I had survived two marriages, both had been abusive…both without love.  He had survived one.  Neither one of us were looking to go down that road again…but God had other plans for both of us!

When I first met Mike, I did not know what real love was.  I was mean, combative, rude, suspicious, cutting with my words, detached at times…putting up walls to “protect” myself, and shut everyone else out, but he loved me anyway…even through all of the ugliness!  He exhausted himself trying to teach me how to love unconditionally, and now, I KNOW what it means to love and be loved.

I know there have been times that I have hurt him terribly.  Sometimes, I did it knowingly…intentionally, because I was hurt and wanted company.  How does that old saying go? …Misery loves company.  Well, at times, that was me. Sometimes I hurt him, and did not mean to…but he has always forgiven me!

We have gone through a lifetime in these short years of being together:  children from previous marriages, which caused us both to become step parents, having our own child, adopting at a very late time in our life.  There were pregnant teens, who, were still babies themselves, wanting to grow up too fast.  Grandchildren…21, to be exact!  We went through foreclosures, repossession of cars, loss of business, bankruptcy.  There have been health issues, loss of parents, tears, laughter, pain, hate, love, anger, peace…and through it all, we became stronger – individually, and collectively.  I can’t think of anyone else in this world that I would have wanted to experience all of this with, but my wonderful husband!

He truly came into my life at a time when suicide was a constant thought everyday…almost, every moment.  He gave me love…something to live for, to look forward to.

I thank God for His mercy and bless the day we came to know each other!

We haven’t always lived on the mountain top, and we’ve been through more valleys than we care to remember, but LOVE has always walked beside us…His name is JESUS, and without Him…we never would have made it!

Happy Anniversary Babe!  I love you more than you will ever know! …your grateful wife

By:  Anita Mondragon

A BETTER LIFE…July 28, 2015

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”  Philippians 4:8

Love is giving for the world’s needs, love is sharing as the Spirit leads, love is caring when the world cries…love is compassion with Christ-like eyes! -Brandt

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How can we begin to be transformed, to renew our minds?  Proverbs 23:7 tell us, “for as a man thinks in his heart, so he is.”  Today, we have the saying, “garbage in…garbage out…”  We can reprogram our minds by concentrating on the true, the honorable, the right, the pure, the lovely, the excellent, and the praiseworthy.

This is not easy in our culture today, which thrives on the scandalous, the ugly, and the evil.  We are continually bombarded with the opposites of virtue, but this is a battle that will yield great rewards.

Here is how we can implement Paul’s advice:  We can start by asking ourselves, what are the five things I am grateful for today?  Gratitude can be a key to refocusing our minds on the virtues of Philippians 4.

By:  Terry Shapiro

YOU WANNA WALK ON WATER? …THEN, GET OUTTA THE BOAT! …July 27, 2015

Read:  Matthew 14:22-33

“…And when the disciples saw Him, (Jesus), walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.  But straightway Jesus spoke unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.   And Peter answered Him and said, Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water.  And He said Come.  And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus…”

When we feel the stress of the storm…we learn the strength of the anchor! – Unknown

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Peter was called many things in the Bible.

He was impulsive, impetuous, and emotional.  He was a traitor, when he denied Christ. He was quick to act; a “do it now…and think about it later”, sorta guy.  In today’s world, he would be labeled as having OCD – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

One time, when Jesus was talking to the disciples regarding His coming death, Peter tried to comfort Him and tell Him it was not going to happen.  Jesus responded with the phrase, “get thee behind me Satan!”  WOW!  Those are some pretty strong words!

Peter was a quick thinker, assessing and judging in an instant, and acting upon his opinions and decisions almost immediately!  Let’s look back for a moment on a few situations regarding Peter.

1.  He was the first to assure Jesus of his devotion.  He said he would die for Jesus if need-be.  Yet, he denied Him three times, shortly thereafter.

2.  When the soldiers came to arrest Jesus in the Garden, Peter drew his sword, and cut off the high priests’ ear.  Jesus rebuked him, and restored the ear.

3.  Peter, as we see in the above passage, momentarily  walked on water trying to get to Jesus; but he took his eyes off of Jesus, and began to sink.

All this, yet Jesus said  in Matthew 16:18, “I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

I have often wondered why God would choose such a rash acting fellow to build His church on.  But now, I finally understand.  He knew that Peter would persevere…never give up…do it, or die trying, type of guy!  He wasn’t passive…he was passionate.  He wasn’t complacent…he was committed.  He put “feet to his prayers.”  He saw a need and acted upon it.  He wasn’t indecisive…he was determined.  To quote a famous comedian…he was a “Git ‘er done!” kinda guy!

God said in Revelation 3:15, “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot.  I wish you were cold or hot.  But because you are lukewarm, and neither cold or hot, I will vomit you out of my mouth!”  That passage tells us that indecision, complacency, and passivity make God sick!

On many occasions, Peter acted on his own without seeking God’s will first; but at least he stepped out and TRIED to do something!  God said we are to be NOT ONLY hearers of the Word, but doers as well.

Even folks that don’t know much about the Bible, have heard of Peter walking on the water.  Do you want to be like Peter and  leave a lasting testimony for God and His Kingdom?

Then…GET OUT OF THE BOAT!

By:  Anita Mondragon  July 2015

“God of Creation” by Pastor Danny Leavitt

gatheringatcastlewoodcanyon

Ralph Waldo Emerson said a religion that is afraid of science dishonors God.

God is not just the escape plan, he is also the perfect expert for your life today

His Beauty/ His Creation

Psalm 27:4 (VOICE)

I am pleading with the Eternal for this one thing, my soul’s desire:

To live with Him all of my days— in the shadow of His temple, To behold His beauty and ponder His ways in the company of His people.

Job 38:4   New Living Translation

“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you know so much.

My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals  himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind.

Albert Einstein

“Men cannot say they do not know about God. From the beginning of the world, men could see what God is like through the things He has made. This shows His power that lasts forever. It shows that He is God.”   Romans 1:20  NLV

Psalm 96:11-12New Living Translation (NLT)

11 Let the heavens be glad, and the earth rejoice!

Let the sea and everything in it shout his praise!

12 Let the fields and their crops burst out with joy!

Let the trees of the forest sing for joy

I can see how it might be possible for a man, to look down upon the earth and be an atheist, but I cannot conceive how he could look up into the heavens and say there is no God.

Abraham Lincoln

Proverbs 3:19  (TLB)

The Lord’s wisdom founded the earth; his understanding established all the universe and space.

Why would God create more than 350,000,000,000 galaxies (and this is a conservative estimate) that generations of people never saw or even knew existed? Do you think maybe it was to make us say, “Wow, God is unfathomably big”? Or perhaps God wanted us to see these pictures so that our response would be, “Who do I think I am?”

FRANCIS CHAN, Crazy Love

The Wonders of His Love

All philosophy begins in wonder.   – Socrates

Wonder dies with knowledge. Francis Bacon

Psalm 8:3-4 (NLT)

When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers— the moon and the stars you set in place—

what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?

“I want to know how God created this world. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know His thoughts; the rest are details.”    Albert Einstein

Psalm 84:3

Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have

her young– a place near your altar, LORD Almighty, my King and my God.

God Cares for You

Matt 10:28

Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 29″Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30″But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.…

Matthew 6:26

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

Job 12:7-10 (NLT)

“Just ask the animals, and they will teach you.

Ask the birds of the sky, and they will tell you.

Speak to the earth, and it will instruct you.

Let the fish in the sea speak to you.

9 For they all know

that my disaster has come from the hand of the Lord.

10 For the life of every living thing is in his hand,

and the breath of every human being.

God is Beautiful Perfection

Psalm 119:96-98 (NLT)

Even perfection has its limits, but your commands have no limit.

This is what the LORD says:

“Heaven is my throne,  and the earth is my footstool.

Could you build me a temple as good as that?  Could you build me such a resting place?

My hands have made both heaven and earth;  they and everything in them are mine.

I, the LORD, have spoken!”

ISAIAH 66:1–2 NLT

WE KNOW ABOUT BEAUTY BECAUSE GOD,

THE ULTIMATE FIRST CAUSE OF EVERYTHING,

IS ALSO BEAUTIFUL… TO THE HUMBLE

AND WORSHIPFUL OF HEART… EVERY TINY PIECE

OF CREATION REMINDS THEM OF THE MAGNIFICENT

GENIUS WHO FASHIONED IT ALL.

NO ITEM OF CREATION, BE IT EVER SO BEAUTIFUL,

CAN CONVEY THE INFINITE BEAUTY OF THE SOURCE.

KEVIN HARTNETT

Splendor and majesty are before Him;  Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.  PSALM 96:6

it is easy for the believer to get discouraged and question what life is

really about. It is in these difficult times that we are to remember God’s

promises and immerse ourselves afresh in the scriptures of comfort and

strengthening. We’ve been forewarned through the timeless pages of the

Holy Bible that tribulation will come in the last days greater than has

been seen in all of history. It should be no surprise to the Christian

that we will suffer many hardships, but we are not to worry like the world

because our promise is an Eternal One.

John 16:33, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have

peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have

overcome the world.”

TO HAVE NO BURDEN TO CARRY

Sadhu Sundar Singh, a Hindu convert to Christianity, became a missionary to

his people in India. Late one afternoon Sadhu was traveling on foot through

the Himalayas with a Buddhist monk. It was bitterly cold and the wind felt

like sharp blades slicing into their skins. Night was fast approaching when

the monk warned Sadhu that they were in danger of freezing to death if they

did not reach the monastery before darkness fell.

Suddenly, on a narrow path above a steep precipice, they heard a cry for

help. At the foot of the cliff lay a man, fallen and badly hurt. The monk

looked at Sadhu and said, “Do not stop. God has brought this man to his

fate. He must work it out for himself. Let us hurry on before we, too, perish.”

But Sadhu replied, “God has sent me here to help my brother. I cannot

abandon him.”

The monk continued trudging off through the whirling snow, while the

missionary clambered down the steep embankment. The injured man’s leg was

broken and he could not walk, so Sadhu made a sling of his blanket and tied

the man on his back. With great difficulty he climbed back up the cliff,

drenched by now in perspiration.

Doggedly, Sadhu made his way through the deepening snow and darkness. It

was all he could do to follow the path. But he persevered, though faint

with fatigue and overheated from exertion. Finally, he saw ahead the lights

of the monastery.

Then, for the first time, Sadhu stumbled and nearly fell. But not from

weakness. He had stumbled over an object lying in the snow-covered road.

Slowly he bent down on one knee and brushed the snow off the object. It

was the body of the monk, frozen to death.

Years later a disciple of Sadhu’s asked him, “What is life’s most difficult task?”

Without hesitation Sadhu replied: “To have no burden to carry.”

Galatians 6:2-4 “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let

every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself

alone, and not in another.” (Matthew 5:14-16) (1 John 4:10-12)

The Beauty of Compasion

Galatians 6:7-10

“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for  in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore  opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.”

The compassion of God is a gift that will never run out. The more you share it the more you are filled with it.  Danny Leavitt

Luke 6:45a (KJV)

A good man, out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good;

Isaiah 28:5 (NIV)

In that day the Lord Almighty will be a glorious crown, a beautiful wreath for the remnant of his people.

GREATER IS HE…July 25, 2015

“because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.”  1John 4:4

The one who holds the universe will never let you down                – Unknown

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Our God is greater, stronger, higher, and more awesome than anything else here on earth!  With HIM by our side, we become strong.

No one can ever come between us.  He gives us strength and cares for us so strongly that there is not a thing or person that can ever stand against us or stop us!

By:  Nicole Shapiro

THE CHANCE TO LOVE….July 24, 2015

“Finally, be ye all of one mind having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:  Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereto called, that should inherit a blessing.”  1Peter 3:8-9

Lord, help me to love with both words and deeds, to reach out to others and meet their needs; Lord, burden my heart for those lost in sin, with mercy and love that flows from within. – Fitzhugh

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How are we to respond to hurts, insults, and harsh words?  We are not to respond to evil with evil, or arguing with more arguing.  We are to respond with blessing and love.

Let’s think about how we can BLESS and LOVE others!

Let’s be like Jesus!!

By:  Terry Shapiro

WHAT IF…? July 23, 2015

“Well done, good and faithful servant.”  Matthew 25:23

God can use you at any age…IF you are willing. – Unknown

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When the Israelites were being chased by Pharaoh, and his army, and Moses called on God to part the Sea…WHAT IF…?  God would have answered, “You know… I would really like to help you out, but I’m a little tired right now.  Why!  I can’t even get myself up off of this throne to lift a finger!  Sorry!  But, call on me the NEXT TIME you need something…maybe I can help you then.”

OR…

In the wee hours of the morning, when Jesus was praying in the Garden to His Father, WHAT IF…?  When the soldiers showed up to arrest Him, He had said, “Oh…that trial and crucifixion thing aren’t going to draw a big enough crowd…so I think I’ll go up to the Mount, because there are already 5,000 people up there waiting to see and hear me…  I’m going to perform this huge miracle where I feed them with 2 small fish, and five loaves of bread!  It’s gonna be BIG!”

OR…

How about the time the blind man called out to Jesus for healing?  WHAT IF…?  Jesus would have said, “I’m sorry.  I won’t be able to do that for you right now.  See…I have this gig up in Canaan, it’s a wedding and they’re gonna need me to change some water into wine…”

That kind of response from God, would seem preposterous!  But…that’s the answer He hears from us most of the time when He calls on us to do His bidding!  He may ask us to pray for someone, visit the sick, or witness to the lost…but we ALWAYS seem to have an excuse.  We’re either too tired, or we think we aren’t going to receive the recognition we deserve.  We place more importance on OUR agendas, than on HIS CALL!

Here’s the deal:  The things we do in the name of God, should be done for HIS glory alone!  If we do it with a right heart, HE, Himself will reward us!  If we don’t hear and follow the call… someone will suffer in the end…including us!

WHAT IF… We stop making up reasons why we can’t do things, and just heed the call of God?  …I’ll tell you, WHAT IF… Miracles once again will be wrought, and souls will be saved for the Kingdom!  The world will be a better place, and we will be rewarded!

By:  Anita Mondragon March 2015

HINDSIGHT IS ALWAYS 20-20! ….July 22, 2015

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”  Proverbs 4:23 NIV

It’s funny how tasting a small bit of juicy, delicious strawberry, blueberry and cherry mix with whipped cream topping can put some perspective on life, but God works in mysterious ways…

The enemy made a short visit to my home this morning.  For a quick moment, I invited him in.  I allowed him to make himself at home.  I sort of even welcomed him.  It was like he was a welcome distraction for but a brief moment, from the hum drum daily activity of waking up, pressing myself to get ready for a part of my life I’ve grown to despise doing, which is going to a job that is unfulfilling, and does not motivate me to do my best, or fulfill my longing desire to be constructive for the Kingdom.  But that’s another story…the paycheck…oh yeah…that’s why I do it…right!?

Nevertheless, back to the “subject”.  He came in, sat down, and made himself at home.  I was comfortable with him there, yet uneasy, I knew he did not belong there…or even “fit in”.  But he spoke things to me, which I agreed with at first.  He spoke about my wife, he spoke about my son, he spoke things about me; and he riled me up!  So much so, I found myself lashing out at my wife, about what, I can’t even remember.  Then I began telling my son, who by the way had no BUSINESS being awake at 4:30 in the a.m., that I was going to spank him if he did not go back to sleep…(now that’s a peaceful thought for him to ponder while trying to meet my demand…huh?)  I yelled at my wife that she was just going to have to deal with it, as I did not have time to…because I HAD A JOB, etc…

Where did THAT come from?  And all the while, the invitee in the room just sat there and grinned, and relished in all of the nonsense!  The funny thing was, in retrospect, I didn’t realize until now, that some people involved, didn’t know we had company.  Then again, at this point, I don’t even remember opening the door for company. But that’s how it works folks!  The enemy “comes in roaring like a flood”, invited…or uninvited.

Here I sit, enjoying the breakfast my loving wife packed for me to bring to work.   I sit here pondering, feeling a little punch drunk, a lot of guilt, and very repentant.  So,  I decided to put pen to paper, and maybe…just maybe, help someone get a realization of…yeah…That’s how he does it…that sneaky, dirty, lowdown enemy of God and man.  The devil starts our days off like that, and then we just continue to scowl all day, just waiting to pounce on the next person who looks at us wrong, or dares to say something we don’t agree with. Maybe they hurt our feelings, and we are ready to lash out and spew our hurt out in words…vomit our anger and rage back upon them.  We do this even to the ones we love and care for the most!

BUT…the fact of the matter is, we CAN command our day!  We CAN command our enemy!  We CAN SLAM the door in his face immediately, and not allow him into our homes…AND…we have the right…THE GOD GIVEN RIGHT to kick him out if he dares to barge in…for he is an intruder!

Hindsight is always 20-20, they say.  I have resolved myself to be more vigilante.  I’m going to use the peephole to see WHO is at the door, BEFORE I open it!  By guarding my heart…being slow to anger, being kind…gentle…being the watchman on the tower, by prayer and supplication…a bit more meek…but not weak!  THAT is how we guard our hearts and keep the enemy out!

It’s much easier said, than done…but I’m going to try!  By God!

HOW ABOUT YOU?????

By:  Michael Mondragon  July 2015