January 14th, 2022


How many of you have come to understand that in our lives there are no victories without battles, and there are no successes without efforts? Every leader thrown into the arena of conquests has expressed the sacrifice that is made in order to achieve them. Garibaldi, the great Italian soldier, harangued his soldiers saying that hardships and suffering awaited them, and he also said, "Even with all that, we will be victorious. Let's go for victory!" Luke 9: 23-27.

In the words expressed by our Lord Jesus Christ (concerning taking up our cross and following Him), for some of us taking up our cross may mean that it is the altar where we must sacrifice our personal desires that can prevent not only our following Him but also our serving Him with loyalty and humility for His kingdom.

Someone said, "NOT to live 100% for Jesus is like being ungrateful or betraying the one who has saved us and forgiven us Life." When we live for Christ, we truly discover the meaning of the Christocentric life.

Many of us have missed the authentic benefits that the gospel and the grace of Jesus Christ grant, simply because we decided to live a Christianity devoid of commitment and responsibility—choosing to pursue a moralistic gospel, one that is comfortable, palatable, adjusted to our possibilities and times, optional.However, living for Christ 100% implies following recommendations and invitations that Jesus makes.

In verse 23, Jesus presents appeals, in the form of command imperatives, to the will of the person who wants to go follow Him. And this is not just being a follower as in going after someone, watching what he does. What Jesus Christ wants ("...if anyone wishes to come after Me...") it is for that person to work alongside Him ... COMMITTED, RESPONSIBLE AND FAITHFULLY OBEDIENT.

"He must deny himself and take up his cross daily..." (v. 23c). The cross is a symbol of death! These are two imperatives that denote decisive, immediate action "Take up your cross" means deciding to give everything 100%, to say yes to God and no to yourself.

The Israelite people were familiar with the practice that the one condemned to die on the cross had to literally "take up his cross" and carry it to the site of his execution, regardless of whether the way was flat, stony, uphill, or downhill. He had to carry his cross and be executed on it.

Church, denying yourself is NULLIFYING any personal interest. It is putting God's calendar and schedule first, not ours. But as I said before, what the moralistic gospel causes in us is that we live for Christ in an inconsistent way.

Society influences us to claim our rights and privileges rather to make commitments or take responsibility. However, to deny ourselves and take up our cross is NOT seeking our own welfare but the welfare of others. It is about loyalty and responsibility that we cannot and should not avoid. And we do this for Christ.

"...and follow me..." (v. 23d). 
In contrast, this imperative is present tense, which denotes continued, repeated action. In effect, Jesus says that whoever wants to follow Him must adopt a norm and attitude, at a given moment, of denying himself and taking up his cross; following Him (serving Him) is an action that is a lifetime commitment, continuing for the rest of life. It is the same action taken by Jesus at the time of the temptations after His baptism and throughout His earthly life. (Matthew 4: 1-10).

Church, do you want to live for Christ at 100% in 2022? Just obey Him without questioning!


January 13th, 2022

Experiencing Faith for yourself isn’t the same as experiencing Faith by yourself. Community is extremely important for believers. I challenged everyone last night during Rise to think of the people in their lives that have encouraged their walk with Jesus. For me, it was a Pastor named Jorge Pastor from Spain. God spoke through him more times than I can count to speak to me when all I wanted was to run away from His love, grace, and truth. Jorge’s faithfulness always puts me back on the right track.
It’s encouraging when Pastor Jim’s sermons line up with what we have been learning in our small groups with the students. The last couple of weeks we have been focusing a lot on building our faith on a firm foundation and knowing real Faith grows with other people.
Today, I want to encourage you not to “fake it till you make it” especially when it comes to your Faith. What do we gain from hiding our real self from people who want us to become our best self? God is always at work in us and through us. Spend time being real with those who encourage your Faith and be that kind of person to others.
Be real,

Elizabeth Jolley


January 12th, 2022

Ground Clutter
For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!  Romans 5:17  
We hear the term “ground clutter” in reference to a weather radar image. It can mean a pattern of radar echoes from fixed ground targets such as buildings, hills, etc. We all have ground clutter in our lives. Let’s identify the ground clutter in our lives as those “targets” which interrupt our fellowship with our Heavenly Father. Think about those habits, hang-ups and hurts which deter God’s work in our lives.  

The ground clutter invades our space drawing us away from God’s presence and making us settle for what is good but maybe not what’s best for us according to our heavenly Father. Romans 5:17 says, For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!

What things can you push aside to allow “God’s abundant provision of grace” to capture your heart? When your heart is captured by his abundant grace the gift of His righteousness reigns in your life. 

Push away from those habits, hang-ups and hurts which have become your comfort zone clutter. In John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” To  pursue Christ we must let Him be the only way, the only truth and the only life.

What ground clutter can you push out of your day …today?


January 11th, 2022

Decluttering Your Life
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Matthew 6:33
In this passage Jesus is address our need not to worry and at the same time focus on the importance of our needs. Our needs that are more than clothes or food or another physical thing that we need. Jesus focus is on our spiritual need to be apart of His kingdom and His righteousness. That’s the focus of this passage as he moves his readers way from worrying about earthly things that we seek so diligently to the neglect of what’s more important … our spiritual need, our need to be a part of God’s kingdom both present and coming. But being apart of the kingdom of God and seek His kingdom stretches beyond our needs into the needs of others as well.
The last few months I been working on getting to know the people in the restaurants that I frequently attend. (Something my “Dave Ramsey” wife doesn’t like me to do ... lol). Trying my best to remember their names … which takes effort for me. I just really felt God wanting me to know people more, even if that means just simple remembering their names. So the last few months have been cool building relationship and having one off conversations while standing in line. It’s amazing to see what the Spirit of God will do with those conversations as we authentically make an effort to know and care for people.
The other day I had one of these conversations. We were both talking about our experience with covid and how different they were. But one of the biggest difference in our experience was how are “community” of people responded. I told him that I didn’t know what I would have done with my community. How they took my kids to school, brought us meds. and food. He was amazed and said …”I wish I had a community like that”.  Later on that night I shared the story with my small group and asked for us to pray for him.
The next week I was back in that same pizza place with my daughter. He yelled, “Chris!” As soon as I walked in the door. My daughter Taylor said, “why do these people know you”. I told her it was because I am loud, and she agreed ... lol. But this time as we made it through the line he saw the church log on my shirt. He asked me if I was a pastor and immediately asked me to pray for him and that he needed a church. He began to explain to me where he was in life and we exchanged telephone numbers. I don’t know what God is going to do next but I do know this. People need healing (forgiveness) and people need a community.
Jesus came to bring both! The challenge is to put God’s kingdom first for ourselves and for others.

January 10th 2022

Decluttering Your Life
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Matthew 6:33
How’s your new year shaping up? I know it’s only been ten days, but you’ve already begun to set rhythms and establish practices that will determine the direction for this new year.
If you’re like me, the new year is great time for a reset my purpose and my priorities. Jesus said if we focus on one thing - seeking His Kingdom - all the other things will fall into place. Paul said, “13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 
14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Let me encourage you to join with me in a 21 day journey starting this Sunday of seeking first God’s Kingdom by decluttering your life. Our culture encourages clutter. It encourages us to keep more possessions than we need, to be busier than we should and to fill our minds with thoughts that can crush our soul. For the next three weeks I want to lead you in a grace-based process of putting the past behind you and putting Christ first in every area of your life. I’ll encourage you declutter your stuff, your schedule and your soul. You’ll be encouraged to sensibly fast from whatever is cluttering your life - food, Netflix, busyness, overspending or social media. But more important is that we fill the space we’ve created with kingdom building opportunities.
The three weeks beginning this Sunday, January 16 is not just about clearing some space in your garage or your closets (although that might be a good place to start), it’s about clearing out space in our life so that God has room to move in our life. It’s not just about simplifying life. It’s about rediscovering God’s purpose for our life in the midst of the chaos around us.  
I’m praying for you as we seek first His kingdom in 2022.


Pastor Jim

January 6th 2022

If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: 
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
Growing up I didn’t have friends that believed in God and I didn’t realize just how critical not having like minded friends could be when it came to my walk with Jesus. I used to argue I was the influencer and not the one being influenced, but years later one of my closest friends said something I will never forget. He said “Eli you pretend and claim to be a Christian, but you are just like us now” and smiled as if I was cool for having everyone fooled.
Those words hit hard and I was overcome with a lot of guilt and shame thinking I ruined any chances of my friend trusting God and His people. I was also disappointed in myself for being the very person I claimed I would never be. Thankfully that conversation, amongst other things, led to me finally fully surrendering every area of my life over to Lord. One of the biggest areas being who I considered my close friends.
Sometimes we reach a point where we have to be honest with ourselves and admit we can’t do things in our own strength. Let’s not be fooled into thinking we don’t need other believers to show us and help us show others the Love of Christ. I hope you have those people in your life and if not that you would seek them, trusting God can provide them.
Be to others the friend you need,

Elizabeth Jolley

January 5th 2022

For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. - Romans 14:17

Yahweh your God is among you, a warrior who saves. He will rejoice over you with gladness. He will bring you quietness[a] with His love. He will delight in you with shouts of joy. - Zephaniah 3:17

It’s in Gods’ presence and by His Word that we are molded, refined and transformed.  
God longs to give you His heart for people.  He longs to empower you to speak and work with His authority.  He longs to do works through you that can’t be explained except by His reality.  If you will choose to humble yourself before God and allow Him to work in and through you, you will begin to bear the very fruit of the Holy Spirit dwelling within you!  
How vast is God’s love for us that He would not only save us, redeem us, and set us free, but He desires to use us, a broken and needy people to change the world.  

Today be surrendered to and in love with your Heavenly Father!  


January 4th 2022

Do we Ask? This past Christmas I enjoyed watched my kids open their Christmas gifts... seeing their eyes light up as they received something they were hoping for. As I was watching them this verse came to my mind Matthew 7:11.
"If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your  children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!"  Wow what a power thought... how do we see God? Is He a good Father that enjoys giving good gifts to His Children? The answer in Matthew 7:11 is YES! My hope this year is... to spend more time praying, resting, and trusting in the Goodness of my Heavenly Father than worrying, complaining, and trusting in my own ability to figure it all out.  Do you ask?

Chris Burton