Pastor Sam Bennett Devotional: Waiting on the Lord

But, I will sing of your strength, and revel at dawn in your mercy; You have been my stronghold, my refuge in the day of distress. (Psalm 59:16)


Jeremiah fresco by Michelangelo (c. 1542–1545) on the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

Lamentations is a book of sorrowful songs or poems. It’s author, Jeremiah, wrote about the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians in 586 B.C. He warned of its destruction, watched it take place, and then sadly reflected on it in order to teach God’s people that disobedience to the Lord results in immense suffering and distress.

Jeremiah also wrote that restoration would come.

For no one is cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. (Lamentations 3:31-32)

There’s hope in the midst of despair when we wait on the Lord.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. (Lamentations 3:21-32)

It’s important to know that even when we stray the Lord offers compassion and restoration. Better yet, he offers hope even when the source of suffering and condemnation is outside of our control.

I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” (Lamentations 3:24)

But what did Jeremiah mean by the word “wait”?

Here, the Hebrew word “wait” is translated qavah, defined as “look for,” “hope,” or “expect.” Waiting on the Lord does not mean stopping all activity, quieting ourselves, and emptying our minds with a blank stare.

We wait for something we expect. We wait in anticipation and expectation.

Wait on the Lord in anticipation and expectation. Expect anything from God that is consistent with his nature. Expect God to do anything that he has revealed as his will, or implied from his character. He is faithful, dependable, and reliable. The Lord does what he says he will do.

Pastor Sam Bennett Devotional: The Foundation of Christian Faith

In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will. (John 16:16)

First he is here. Then he is not. We ask, why do the messages seem contradictory? Why can’t faith be simple? What is the foundation of my faith?

Yet, Jesus said…

It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. (Acts 1:7)

a-strong-towerPatience is the key. Writing about the truth of Easter, Marcus Borg, Professor of Religion at Oregon State University, tells us, “The remarkable congruence between the way that he taught and the way his life ended means that he himself becomes the incarnation [the embodiment] of the Way.”

During his time on earth Jesus was faithful. He forged a new path for us — a path leading directly to him. Professor Borg continues, “He died at Passover, when the Passover lambs were sacrificed; and he died in Jerusalem, the location of the temple and sacrifice.”

It was poetry — his crucifixion and death. In time and space, a stark contrast and alternative to existing religious law, freeing the Jews (and later Christians) from physical sacrifice and the officials who impeded a one-on-one loving relationship with the Father.

Then, after death, Jesus was faithful in his return to move his Kingdom forward. Step back and be amazed. Not in our time but in his, the foundation of his love and promise is strong. Our faith and redemption are built on the solid foundation of his love and sacrifice. Indeed, he is a strong and mighty tower.

And on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. (Matthew 16:18)

Pastor Sam Bennett Devotional: Wave the White Flag

Mark 13 tells the parable of the sower. The farmer scattered some seeds on good soil, some on the path, some on rocky soil, some among the thorns.

The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” (Mark 13:20-23)

Yet, where each seed lands is beyond its control. How might seed on rocky soil experience everlasting joy? How does seed on the path not become trampled? Is there any way that a seed among the thorns might still be fruitful? Are they doomed?

The answer lies not around us, but within us. Contrary to our natural inclination, surrender is the first step to safe passage toward a joyful and fruitful life. Full surrender is an act of love to Christ.

Inside our scared exterior is just someone who wants to be loved. And there’s no greater love than the Lord.

The first step is ours to take. So, wave your white flag.

Pastor Sam Bennett Devotional: Circumstances and Contentment

You make known to me the path of life;  you will fill me with joy in your presence,  with eternal pleasures at your right hand. (Psalm 16:11)

Ancius Boethius (born: circa 475–7 AD, died: 526? AD)

Ancius Boethius was living the good life. He was born in sixth-century Rome to an ancient and prominent family, which included emperors and many consuls (the highest elected office of the Roman Republic). He himself served on the royal court as a highly skilled politician until his career ended abruptly when he was convicted of treason, put in prison, and executed.

As he sat in those bleak surroundings, Boethius recognized that our view of changing circumstances is a personal choice. In his book titled The Consolation of Philosophy he wrote, “Nothing is miserable, but what is thought so, and contrariwise, every estate is happy if he that bears it be content.” (more…)

Pastor Sam Bennett Devotional: Bill Starbuck, Lizzie Curry, and Defining Leadership

Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (1 Timothy 3:2-4)


Burt Lancaster as The Rainmaker

You may be familiar with the movie, “The Rainmaker.” Bill Starbuck (Burt Lancaster) is a charlatan selling multi-flavored hopes for unfulfilled dreams, including thunder to bring down rain that will quench the earth and grow the crops on the Curry family’s drought-stricken farm.

From the moment he enters the scene, Lancaster steals the show with self-interest and prolific lines. Lizzie Curry (Katherine Hepburn) knows better and shamelessly labels his bravado as “bunk.”

But, if our leaders are not to be bigger than life, then what are the attributes that make worthy Christian leaders today?

Fortunately, Paul shared his thoughts on the issue of pastoral care, in his epistle to Timothy in Ephesus, written above.

And, again Paul told Titus in Crete…

An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless — not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. (Titus 1:6-9)

Good criteria for church leadership. Sound guidelines for identifying gifted secular leaders as well.

Pastor Sam Devotional: Worldly vs. Spiritual Wisdom

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. (James 1:5)

The Harlem Renaissance, 2016

The Harlem Renaissance, 2016

When confronted by peer pressure we have a choice: follow worldly or spiritual wisdom. For example, in 1 Samuel we learn that King Saul tried to kill David many times. Then, under comical circumstances, the tables turned, and David was given an opportunity to kill his king.

Saul took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel and went to seek David and his men…. He came to… a cave, and Saul went in to relieve himself. (1 Samuel 20:1-3)

David and his men were hiding in the back of the same cave, unseen by King Saul. They suggested that God had delivered Saul to them, and urged David to kill him. After all, if David killed Saul, David would become king and they could stop hiding.

And the men of David said to him, “Here is the day of which the Lord said to you, ‘Behold, I will give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it shall seem good to you.’” (1 Samuel 20:4)

The peer pressure tempted David, but he changed his mind as he advanced toward Saul who was unaware of what was happening. Rather than kill the king, David cut off a piece of Saul’s robe. Even then, despite great risk, David followed Saul out of the cave to apologize and swear his allegiance to the king. David overcame peer pressure, which seemed gratifying or practical in the moment. He managed to distinguish between worldly wisdom and spiritual wisdom from heaven. There is a distinct difference.

The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure, then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial, and sincere. (James 3:17)

There are other examples of peer pressure in the Bible. In some cases, worldly wisdom (eg, Pontius Pilate, Peter at Antioch) prevailed, while in others spiritual wisdom from heaven (eg, Noah, Lot but not his wife) prevailed. The Bible makes it clear that the latter is the better path.

Finally, remember that peer pressure wasn’t limited to biblical times. It’s present today. It’s just as tempting and just as risky.

For example, earlier this year, Kiera Wilmot, a high school student, ran into trouble after failing to get approval from her teacher for a science experiment. Instead, her classmates persuaded her to perform it outside the classroom. After all, what’s the worst that could happen? Kiera combined aluminum foil and toilet bowl cleaner in a small bottle. After about 30 seconds, the reaction created pressure inside the bottle, blowing the cap off with a pop that according to witnesses sounded like firecrackers going off.

No one was injured and no property was damaged, but Kiera was expelled because she created a chemical explosion on school grounds. In addition, she was arrested and charged with felony (possession/discharge of a weapon on school grounds and discharging a destructive device). Though criminal charges were dismissed, it will take 5 years to clear her record.

Before we give in to peer pressure, perhaps Adelaide Pollard offered the best advice in her 1907 lyrics to this hymn titled “Adelaide.” The last verse is most pertinent and is presented here.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!

Hold o’er my being absolute sway!

Fill with Thy Spirit ’till all shall see

Christ only, always, living in me.

Marty Robbins sings Adelaide.

Pastor Sam Bennett Devotional: Family and the Beauty of Broken


“The Prophet Jeremiah Mourning over the Destruction of Jerusalem.” Rembrandt van Rijn, 1630.

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. (2 Corinthians 5:1)

Jeremiah is referred to as the weeping prophet because of the disheartening messages he delivered to the people of Israel and because of his poems in the book of Lamentations, which deal with the destruction of Jerusalem. However, God showed Jeremiah that no situation is irredeemable. No matter the defect, God remolded and reshaped the people of Israel into something useful and beautiful. All this occurred some 600 years before the birth of Jesus Christ.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

In the New Testament, the epistles of Paul echo many of the thoughts of Jeremiah.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Cor. 5:17).

Thankfully, today the Lord is here to work in our broken families.

In her book, The Beauty of Broken, Elisa Morgan reminds us that the family is an imperfect institution. Broken people become broken parents who make broken families.

Broken is normal and exactly where God wants us.

Over the years, Ms. Morgan’s family struggled privately with many issues parents face, including alcoholism and drug addiction, infertility and adoption, teen pregnancy and abortion, divorce, homosexuality, and death.

It’s all overwhelming; but there’s hope for parents to grow and thrive with God.

Powerfully, she tells us, there’s no such thing as a perfect family. In one way or another, we all end up in broken families. Even God’s family was broken beginning with Adam and Eve.

God knows we are wayward. He’s not calling us to a life where everything looks perfect on the outside. He’s calling us to the other side of brokenness, because he loves us — the broken.

Hope and healing come when we discover that God accepts the beauty in our brokenness, and our Savior can remold and reshape his people into useful, beautiful creations.

The key is to be “in Christ”.

Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know. (Jeremiah 33:3)


Pastor Sam Bennett Devotional: Love for One and Other

Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

Rising Love. Robert Pavao

Rising Love. Robert Pavao

Aran sweaters from the islands off the West coast of Ireland are intimately linked to the clans who live there. In addition to repelling water, the complex, textured stitch patterns on each garment are purposely designed to identify the people who wear them. In fact, Aran sweaters have been used to help identify bodies of fishermen washed up on the beach following an accident at sea.

As Christians, we wear breastplates. They’re not tactile; they’re woven by faith and sewn with the love of our Heavenly Father. Our breastplates work best when we speak to others with love. That doesn’t mean we must harness our beliefs, but information, correction, and admonition to others must always be done in the context of love.

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. (Ephesians 4:1-2)

But was Jesus speaking with love or sarcasm when spoke to Nicodemus?

Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you don’t understand these things? (John 3:10)

Was Jesus acting with love or anger when he cleared the temple courts?

So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the moneychangers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market! (John 2:15-16)

From a 21st century perspective where sarcasm and anger prevail, it’s easy for us to interpret the words of Jesus with an “attitude”. So, how do we reconcile statements and actions read in the 21st century with the Jesus of the first century? How do we guarantee that we receive God’s message without the oppressive influence of 21st century culture?

The answer is through love, of course. Origen, who was Bishop of Alexandria during the second century, taught that most people fail to recognize the deeper truths enshrined in scripture, because they don’t realize that aside from a literal reading, we must journey into scripture’s very soul.

When reading the word of God remember the most important commandments. Interpret everything Jesus did as an act of love. Nicodemus didn’t understand; but rather than dismiss him, Jesus showed love by repeating his lesson 3 times. Jesus overturned the moneychangers’ tables, but there’s no evidence he caused physical harm to anyone in the temple courtyard. Lessons were stern but never punitive.

Each day, in all things, wear your breastplate — your beautiful heavenly Aran sweater — with love. So that everyone will recognize you as a child of God, always.


Pastor Tommy Bridges Devotional: Do You Wish to Be Seen or to See?

1001133_575870899102572_1919314115_n“What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. (Mark 10:36)              


Marilyn Chandler McEntyre advocates for developing careful habits of reading and writing among Christians. In her book, What’s in a Phrase? Pausing Where Scripture Gives You Pause, Dr. McEntyre, who is Professor of English at Westmont College, in California, discusses the value of dwelling on passages of Scripture that grab our attention.

Pastor Tommy refers us to the meaning of two well-known bible stories in The Gospel of Mark, Chapter 10. In both, Jesus asks the petitioners the same question: “What do you want me to do for you?”

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”

“What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.

They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” (Mark 10:35-37)

Later, as Jesus and his disciples are leaving Jericho, a blind man, Bartimaeus, was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

And throwing off his outer garment, he leaped up and came to Jesus.  And Jesus said to him, What do you want Me to do for you? And the blind man said to Him, Master, let me receive my sight. And Jesus said to him, Go your way; your faith has healed you. And at once he received his sight and accompanied Jesus on the road. (Mark 10:50-52)

To both the apostles and the blind man, Jesus’ question was the same. “What do you want me to do for you?” In one case it was to be seen with Jesus in a position of authority. In the other, it was to see Jesus.

The issue for each of us is to recognize why we want to see.

Pastor Tommy Bridges Devotional: Firstfruits

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. (Matthew 16:21)

Following the crucifixion of Jesus, no one really anticipated his resurrection. Even though he described it to the apostles, it was more than they could comprehend. Yet it happened, and many witnessed the events associated with this miracle.

But the miracle does not stop here. Jesus tells us that he will come again to take us home. We must not be surprised a second time.

The early believers living in Corinth, just 20 years after Christ’s crucifixion, thought that Jesus would return to take them to heaven during their lifetimes. Some became disheartened as time past and Jesus still did not return to take them home. Paul writing in 1 Corinthians 15 corrected this misunderstanding. He tells them that the resurrection of Jesus Christ was “only” the start — the firstfruits — of everlasting life. Before he returned, much work remained to be done by Christ… and by his children here on earth.

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (1 Corinthians 15:20)

Jesus will return for us, but not until his work is complete.

Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority, and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. (1 Corinthians 15:24-25)

Then, the Lord will come for us and take us home.

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:51-52)

Death will be swallowed up by victory, but first we must do our part in this miracle. We participate in this miracle by how we live each day.

Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God—I say this to your shame.

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:33-34, 58)

Concluding his letter to the Corinthians, Paul reminds them of the good news…

Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57)

Pastor Tommy Devotional: Are You Good Enough to Have a Relationship With God?

So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these? (John 21:15)

Simon Peter

How does your life compare to that of Simon Peter, the enthusiastic, strong-willed, impulsive fisherman who was one of the first followers of Jesus Christ? For three years, he lived as one of Jesus’ disciples and became the spokesman for the Twelve. It was Peter who first confessed Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God,” a truth that Jesus said was divinely revealed to Peter.

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 16:16-17)

On the day of Pentecost, Peter was the main speaker to the crowd in Jerusalem. Arrests, beatings, and threats could not dampen Peter’s resolve to preach the risen Christ. If good works were the measure of a “good” Christian, Peter’s salvation was assured.

But wait! Despite his deep belief and allegiance to The Lord, it was Peter who denied knowing Jesus three times.

Peter swore, “A curse on me if I’m lying—I don’t know this man you’re talking about!” And immediately the rooster crowed the second time.

Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny three times that you even know me.” And he broke down and wept. (Mark 14:71-72)

Despite all his strengths, Peter had failed. Still, the Lord did not forsake him but continued to mold Peter into exactly who Jesus intended Peter to be.

It was on the banks of the Sea of Galilee that Jesus appeared to the disciples for the third time after his resurrection. He helped them catch fish and cooked breakfast. Most importantly, Jesus guided Peter to come to grips with his limited (read human) ability to love (phileo: reciprocal love) compared with the love (agapao: endless, unselfish, non-reciprocal love) of God.

The good news is that it’s okay not to be perfect. Jesus Christ, God’s only Son taught us that Christianity is about grace, mercy, and forgiveness. The fact is that none of us can live up to a set of laws as a means for going to heaven. Fortunately, the path to salvation is not through good works. It comes by asking God to forgive our sins as we place our faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior.

Always remember…

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16).

Want to learn more? Then join us every Sunday morning at 11 am as we thank the Lord for his love and forgiveness. Our pastoral staff and congregation would love to meet your and share our love for Christ.

Also, please feel free to call Pastor Tommy for a free copy of Andy Stanley’s book How Good is Good Enough. It will help you grow your relationship with God. Contact Pastor Tommy at 828-667-9818 or email