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You belong to God

Friday, February 27th, 2009 Posted in encouragement, family, Pastor's corner, sermons, stella | 7 Comments »

So there was Paul in the midst of a tempest. Yet somehow, he had an amazing calm in the midst of this storm.

We too have our storms in life, and we wonder how to get through them.

Here are some of Paul’s secrets to surviving life’s challenges.

In Acts 27, Paul said, “For last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me, and he said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Paul, for you will surely stand trial before Caesar! What’s more, God in his goodness has granted safety to everyone sailing with you” (Acts 27:23-24 NLT)

I pointed out in my last post that Paul realized God was with him. That gave him great confidence.

Now, here’s the second reason Paul could be strong in his storm.

He belonged to God

Again, Paul said, “Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me.”

Do you belong to Jesus? It can make all the difference.

Only the follower of Jesus Christ has this confidence. In the Song of Solomon, we read, “My beloved is mine and I am his” (Song of Solomon 2:16).

Over and over in Scripture, we are given the analogy of being in a relationship with God like that of a bride to a husband to whom she is deeply in love with. This reminds us of His affection and love  toward us.

But we are also given the analogy of a sheep belonging to a shepherd. In John 10, Jesus told us that He is “the good Shepherd and we are his sheep.” This reminds us of His constant care and awareness of our whereabouts.

It’s hard to be proud about being compared to a sheep. They are basically defenseless, vulnerable, dim-witted creatures. But when under the care of a loving shepherd, they are safe and content.

We are also given the analogy of a child to his father. Romans 8:15 reminds us, “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba Father'” (NKJV). This reminds us of His tenderness and protection over each one of us.

My children have always had special access to me, as well as my total, unconditional love. That, of course, extends to my grandchildren as well.

When my granddaughter Stella sees me, she does not ask for permission to approach.  She just says “Papa!” and I stop what I’m doing and pick her up and hug her.

We are also told in Scripture that we are his very property. We read in 1 Corinthians 6:19, “You are not your own” (NKJV). In the Greek, it is “You are not your own property. You are bought with a price.”

If something belonged to a king, it carried his seal. In the same way, 2 Corinthians 1:22 says, “He has identified us as his own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the first installment of everything he will give us” (NLT).

I read a story about an old gentlemen who known for his godly life. One day, someone asked him, “What do you do when you are tempted, old man?”

He replied, “I just look up to heaven and say, ‘Lord, your property is in danger.’ ”

Yes, we are His bride, children, sheep, and property. And when the Devil sees that “I.D. tag,” he respects it.

And just like Paul, we too can say, “I belong to God!”

This Sunday at Harvest

I will finally complete my messages from the Book of Acts this Sunday morning.

Sunday’s message is titled “The Beginning,” because the Book of Acts is a record of all that “Jesus began to do” (Acts 1:1).

You might say, in a sense, that new chapters are being written to this great book as the Church marches on.

Thursdays in Orange County

Don’t forget, our new Thursday night Bible study is launching soon in the O.C. For more info, click here.

My grace is sufficient for you

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009 Posted in encouragement, family, Pastor's corner, sermons, stella | 8 Comments »

You know the drill. Things are going well, no crisis, no conflicts to speak of, pretty much smooth sailing.

Then seemingly out of nowhere, a storm hits. Maybe it’s a crisis, or a hardship. Maybe it’s a personal tragedy.

So what do you do when a hurricane-force storm hits and water is filling your boat?

Answer: You take heart. Because you are not alone.

When Paul was at sea on his way to Rome and the mighty tempest hit him and the others on board, he was able to courageously encourage others. He told them, “But take courage! None of you will lose your lives, even though the ship will go down. For last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me” (Acts 27:22-23).

God was with him

How was Paul able to be so confident?

He was conscious of the presence of God in the face of danger. He knew that God was there with him.

And God is with us in our storms as well. God will always give us what we need when we need it.

You remember that Paul had what he called his “thorn in the flesh,” which was presumably some kind of physical disability or illness. He asked the Lord three times to remove it (see 2 Corinthians 12).

God’s answer was, “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9), which is another way of saying, “I will be with you, Paul. Instead of a healing, I will personally be there in a special and sufficient way.”

Now it is the Lord

A. B. Simpson wrote these words:

“Once it was the Blessing, now it is the Lord.

Once it was the Feeling, now it is His Word.

Once His Gifts I wanted, now the Giver alone.

Once I sought Healing, now Himself alone.”

God is with you right now, regardless of the storm or even the shipwreck. We may not hear an audible voice, but you may hear that “still small voice” of God’s Holy Spirit. Or He will speak to you through His Word.

Then you, like Paul, can reassure others that “the Lord is in control.”

Time and time again, God reminded Paul of His presence.

  1. He was there when Paul was in jail in Jerusalem, as Jesus told him to “be courageous!” (Acts 23:11)
  2. It happened in 2 Timothy 4:16-17 when Paul said, “All deserted me . . . but the Lord stood by me.”
  3. And it happened here in Acts 27, in the midst of the storm.

When the boss calls you in his office . . .

You can take heart in the face of danger or uncertainty because you are aware of God’s presence with you.

When your boss says, “I’m really sorry, but I’m going to have to let you go!” Or when the doctor says, “The test results are back and I need you to come in.” Or when the telephone rings and someone says, “There’s been an accident.”

You are not alone. The Lord is standing next to you. He cares. Jesus said, “Lo, I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

I have been teaching my granddaughter Stella a new Bible verse that I will leave you with today: “Jesus said, I will never leave you or forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5)

Get up and keep going

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009 Posted in encouragement, Pastor's corner, sermons | 6 Comments »

In an earlier entry, I told the story of Jesus and His disciples and the storm they encountered.

Listen, storms will come in life. It’s not a matter of if but when. Quite frankly, you are either pulling out of one or eventually headed toward another.

Now I hope that does not cause you to be disillusioned, because as I said in my earlier entry, “Better to be in a storm with Jesus then anywhere else without Him.”

One of the readers of this blog commented on that post and wrote:

Dear Pastor Greg,

A series of misfortunes have chased me down over the last week or so. I got so down. The one thing that keeps me going is knowing that I’m called for a purpose in Christ. When I decided to log in after not reading your blog in a while, I read your words: “It’s better to be in a storm with Jesus than anywhere else without Him . . . ” I nearly fell off my chair.

Thank you.



 Yes, Lori, you do have a purpose in Christ. And God is working in your life.

That is one of the reasons the storms and trials come.
To make us stronger spiritually.
Because in a storm, a trial, or a hardship, you will learn things you could really learn nowhere else.

It has been said, “Fruit does not grow on mountaintops, but in valleys.”

Paul and his storm

Toward the end of the Book of Acts, Paul was making his final journey to Rome because he had appealed to Caesar.
As they journeyed, a horrific storm overtook them and everyone despaired for their lives.

Dr. Luke describes it this way: “When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved” (Acts 27:20 NIV).

The Lord came  to Paul

But the Lord sent His angel to speak to Paul, giving the apostle the ability to encourage the others on board:

But take courage! None of you will lose your lives, even though the ship will go down. For last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me, and he said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Paul, for you will surely stand trial before Caesar! What’s more, God in his goodness has granted safety to everyone sailing with you.’ So take courage! For I believe God. It will be just as he said.” (Acts 27:22-25 NLT)

There will be smooth sailing

That is not to say we will not have beautiful moments, and even seasons of relative calmness. Not all the winds that blow in life are devastating. In one instance, the log of the journey before the big storm hit says, “The south wind blew softly” (v.13 NKJV).

Thank God for those times when the “south wind blows softly.” Those times when you can feel the warmth of the sun on your shoulders and all is well.

But it is important to remember that there is always a storm ‘a comin!

People think that when you are in the will of God, you will always have “smooth sailing.” That is certainly not true of Paul. He seemed to face every kind of adversity imaginable. He had enemies who tried to undermine and even destroy him out of jealousy.

God never abandons us

He had numerable setbacks in life that included beatings and physical harm. He also had a personal physical disability he prayed to be healed of that never left.

Still, he was able to say, “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed and broken. We are perplexed, but we don’t give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9 NLT).

In my next blog entry, I will point out a few takeaway truths for each of us as we face our storms in life so we can “get up again and keep going!”

Pray for the family of Ralph Arthur 

I mentioned in my last blog entry that Ralph Arthur, one of our pastors at Harvest Christian Fellowship, went to be with the Lord this last Saturday.

Please be praying for his family, especially his dear wife Cheri.
His memorial service will be at Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside this coming Thursday. For more information on that, click here.

Let’s cross over to the other side

Saturday, February 21st, 2009 Posted in encouragement, lost boy, Lost Boy Blog, questions, sermons, travel | 4 Comments »

One day at the Sea of Galilee, Jesus said to His disciples, “Let us cross over to the other side” (Mark 4:35 NKJV).

As they were making their way across, a huge storm came out of nowhere, which was  a common occurrence on this large freshwater lake. The seasoned sailors were terrified as hurricane force winds hit and the boat filled with water.

Despite the bad weather, Jesus managed to sleep through it. But the disciples could no longer contain themselves.

Don’t you care?

So they woke up Jesus, saying, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (v. 38) That is really a bit accusational, but it’s the way they felt.

They were saying, essentially, “Lord, are You even aware of what we are facing right now?”

“Why are You allowing this?”

As I have said, it’s fine to ask why as long as you don’t expect an answer. Better to cry out in anguish to God than to turn from Him in anger.

Jesus rebuked them and the storm

Jesus woke up and rebuked the storm, but then He dealt with them too, asking them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” (v. 40) Or literally, “Why are you such timid, fearful ones?”

Jesus was saying, “Boys, haven’t you learned anything here?”

You see, Jesus said, “Let’s cross over to the other side!” He did not say, “Let’s go drown in the middle of the Sea of Galilee!”

He did not promise smooth sailing, but He did promise a safe passage.

Listen, it’s better to be in a storm with Jesus than anywhere else without Him.

Or in a fiery furnace–just ask Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego.

Or in a lion’s den–just ask Daniel.

Or in a prison–just ask Peter.

Or in a storm again or even shipwrecked–just ask Paul.

This weekend in Chicago

This weekend, James McDonald and I are swapping pulpits!

James is speaking at Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, and I am speaking at Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago.

I will be showing my autobiographical film, Lost Boy: The Next Chapter, and speaking after.

So, if you or anyone you know is in the Chicago area, please come and join us. For more info on that, click here.

Thursday nights in Orange County

The new Bible study that I will be doing in the O.C. in Southern California is coming soon. It all starts on March 12.

We are building a Web site for it, but for now, click here for more info. 

This and that

This weekend, I did an article at WorldNetDaily called, “Are You Almost Christian?” To read that, click here.

Also, to read my long-form weekend devotion, click here.

Weekend musings: Jonathan, Orange County, and scrambled eggs

Friday, February 13th, 2009 Posted in family, lost boy, Lost Boy Blog, questions, sermons, stella, video | 90 Comments »

Hey everyone,

Wow, the video I posted of Jonathan at Prestonwood has created quite a stir. It is really effective to show, especially to young people who were raised in the Church.

Jonathan is not a “public speaker,” per se, at this point. But I asked him to tell his story and he did so honestly and, I think you will agree, poignantly.

I will be going back to Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago later this month. James MacDonald, the pastor at Harvest Bible Chapel, spoke with Jack Graham from Prestonwood, and Jack told James that Jonathan ought to do this for our screening of Lost Boy: The Next Chapter there too.

So Jonathan will do this again next Saturday and Sunday in the Windy City. Be praying!

New weekly study in OC

We have also gotten a lot of very positive response to our new OC study that will be launching in the second week of March.

People are very interested in the study itself, as well as the web connection that we are going to roll out soon. So stay tuned on that.

For more info on that, click here.

“Surviving the Shipwrecks of Life”

I am almost done with my series in the Book of Acts that I have called Upside-Down Living.

This Sunday, I will speak on “Surviving the Shipwrecks of Life.” I hope the message will be an encouragement for many, as I seek to “comfort with the comfort I have been comforted with.”

How to Cook Eggs

OK, now from the sublime to the ridiculous.

As I have shared before, I only know how to scramble eggs and make quesadillas for Stella. People have asked me what my “recipe” for eggs is.

So, in a moment of wackiness and just for fun, we decided to video the whole process. Jonathan also makes a guest appearance.

So if you want to see it, here it is.

I have an important announcement to make!

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009 Posted in Harvest Crusades, Pastor's corner, sermons | 78 Comments »

As many of you know, for years I held weekly Bible studies in Orange County, California. We started at Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, then did a number of years at The Grove of Anaheim, and we also spent time at Mariners Church in Irvine.

As a matter of fact, the Harvest Crusades sprung from this initial Monday night study at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa.

It is not an overstatement to say that thousands of people have made commitments to Christ in those outreaches over the years. I can’t tell you how many people I have personally spoken with who came to Christ in one of these Bible studies.

For the last few years, we have focused on other areas of ministry, including our Harvest Crusades. But lately, I have felt led by the Lord to start teaching and preaching in the OC again.

So here is the announcement.

Starting March 12, I will be speaking every Thursday night in Orange County, California. We are calling it Thursdays with Greg Laurie.

What is it?

It will be a Bible study based on a series of messages that I am calling Essentials. In this foundational set of teachings, we will look at topics like prayer, Bible study, heaven, hell, angels, Satan, temptation, trials, the family, last days events, and much, much more.

With a growing rate of what I would call “biblical illiteracy,” I think the time is right to teach biblically on things every believer needs to know about. Pretty much, you name it, we will probably deal with it, hence the title Essentials. Things we need to know about as followers of Jesus.

And we will have our amazing Harvest Worship Band with us every week.

When is it?

Again, every Thursday night, starting March 12, 2009. It will begin at 7:00 P.M.

Where is it?

This weekly study will be held at the Free Chapel OC building, located on Jamboree Boulevard, between the 5 and 405 freeways. The address is 2777 McGaw Avenue, Irvine, CA 92614.

We have leased their facility and will be sharing space with them for events we will have there. Essentially, it’s two congregations, one facility.

There is a very large cross in the parking lot, right in front of the building, that is hard to miss.

New Web site coming

A special Web site is under construction at present that we will be launching ASAP.

This Web site will feature service archives and special opportunities for you to interact with us in new and fun ways. So, even if you are not in the area and cannot attend in person, you can still be a part of these Thursday night events.

Follow the cross!

Until then, just mark the date and place, and I will see you there!

I look forward to seeing all of my OC friends and anyone else who wants to join us on Thursday, March 12.

So just follow the cross and you will find your way! Hey, I could preach a sermon on that! :)

Update: click here to check out the flyer announcing this new weekly event!

Your past, present, and future

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009 Posted in Pastor's corner, sermons | 3 Comments »

The apostle Paul was called by God to bring the gospel to his generation. He had perhaps the most unexpected conversion in human history, as he previously had set himself to effectively destroy the Christian faith. But when Paul, known then as Saul of Tarsus, met the living Jesus, that all changed.

Among other things, this is what Jesus said to him:

“Now stand up! For I have appeared to you to appoint you as my servant and my witness. You are to tell the world about this experience and about other times I will appear to you. And I will protect you from both your own people and the Gentiles. Yes, I am going to send you to the Gentiles” (Acts 26:16-17 NLT).

Christ’s commission of Paul took the form of three words . . .

  • Paul’s Past. Verse 16 says, “I have appeared to you.” In other words, Paul had seen with his own eyes the risen Christ.
  • Paul’s Present. Verse 17 says, “I will protect you.” Nothing would stop Paul from completing his life and ministry. He would not be silenced until his God-appointed work was done. That did not mean it would be easy, for Jesus also told him he would “suffer.” But he would finish his work or, as Paul said earlier, “finish his race with joy.”
  • Paul’s Future. Jesus tells Paul in verse 17, “Yes, I am going to send you to the Gentiles,” or more literally, “I Myself apostle you.” Jesus was personally commissioning Paul to do this.

In the same way, we too have our past, present, and future.

1. Our Past: Jesus has “appeared” to us.

No, not in the same way as He did for Paul, but He has made Himself known to us. There is even a special blessing for the person who has not “seen Him” in John 20:29: “Then Jesus told him, ‘You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who haven’t seen me and believe anyway.'”

2. Our Present: Jesus will rescue us.

We will finish the life God has given us to live and the task He wants us to complete. In Isaiah 54, we read that “No weapon that is formed against you will prosper” (NKJV). Psalm 91 has even more promises of protection for the believer.

3. Our Future: Jesus is calling us.

We all have a calling to fulfill, a task to complete, a race to run. We all have been called to live godly lives that glorify Him. We have all been called to “preach the gospel.” We have been commissioned by Jesus Himself to “Go therefore into all the world . . .”

God has a future for you

Saturday, January 31st, 2009 Posted in encouragement, Pastor's corner, sermons | 8 Comments »

When the apostle Paul was imprisoned for proclaiming the gospel, he was no doubt feeling a bit down and discouraged. Perhaps he was wondering if he would ever be released.

Then Jesus came to him with these words: “Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome” (Acts 23:11 NKJV).

Paul could take comfort in that there was a future for him because Jesus said, “You must also bear witness in Rome.”

They wouldn’t kill him. He was still to bear witness in Rome. He had a future.

One of my favorite Bible verses

One of my favorite verses about God’s future for each of us is in the book of Jeremiah:

“I know the thoughts that I think toward you says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11 NKJV)

It is worth noting that these words were given to Israel when they were in captivity in Babylon. They had lost hope. They saw no future, and felt as if God had forgotten about them.

But the Lord was saying to them (and us too), “I have not forgotten you, and there is a future!”

Note that God does not say, “I know the thoughts that I have thought toward you.” Rather, He says, “I know the thoughts that I think toward you.”

God thinks about you all the time

Now it would be wonderful enough to know that God ever thought of me as an individual. But it is not something God has merely done in the past. It is something He is doing in the present and will continue to do in the future.

Know this: God is thinking about you right now! He is not thinking about you merely as a member of the human race. He is thinking about you as an individual.

Psalm 40:5 says, “Many, O Lord my God, are Your wonderful works which You have done; and Your thoughts toward us cannot be counted to You in order. If I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered” (NKJV).

God’s thoughts toward you are continual, nonstop, and innumerable

Think about that! God Almighty, the One who holds the heavens in the span of His hand, the One who spoke and creation came into being, is thinking about you right now.

Jeremiah 29:11 speaks of a future. Now the word used here for future could be translated “an expected end.” Another translation describes it as “a ground of hope” or “things hoped for.”

There will be an outcome in your life, regardless of what you are going through at present. There will be completion. God will tie up the loose ends.

You are still a work in progress. God is still finishing you, so don’t be impatient. Don’t feel it’s over, just because you are not where you want to be yet.

We see only the beginning. God sees “the expected end” and it is good!

God still had a future for Paul, just as He does for you.

This weekend at Harvest

This Sunday at Harvest, I will be giving a message from Acts 26, titled”The Almost Christian.”

I suggest to you that there are a lot of “Almost Christians” in our country today. They are not outright non-believers, but they are not real believers either. They are what we might call “Almost Christians,” which is really not a Christian at all.

I will give the biblical definition of what a Christian is, and some might be surprised by it.

Come join us or check it out online.

God knows what you are going through

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009 Posted in encouragement, Pastor's corner, sermons | 11 Comments »

The apostle Paul was in a Roman dungeon for his faithfulness to the gospel. But one night, Jesus Christ paid him a visit and offered these encouraging words:

“But the following night the Lord stood by him and said,  ‘Be of good cheer (or courage), Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome'” (Acts 23:11 NKJV).

Jesus was revealing to the great apostle that he was more than aware of his situation. Just because he was in a prison didn’t mean that God had lost track of him.

John Bunyan

There is a story of a minister who came to see John Bunyan, the minister who wrote Pilgrim’s Progress, in prison. He told Bunyan, “Friend, the Lord sent me to you, and I have been seeking for you in half the prisons in England.”

“No, that cannot be,” said Bunyan. “For if the Lord had sent you to me, you would have come here at once, for He knows I have been here for years.”

Jesus is there with us in our “prisons,” as well

For some people, it is a literal jail cell they are in because they have broken the law. Yet, as they have asked for God’s forgiveness, Jesus is with them there in that prison cell.

Maybe you are in a different kind of prison right now, the prison of a hospital bed. You would love to get up and just walk out, but you can’t.

Yet Jesus is there in that hospital room, convalescent home, or room in their home, saying, “Be courageous. You are not alone, and I am fully aware of your suffering.”

Or it might be a prison cell of mourning, because of the loss of a loved one through death. Whatever or wherever your prison is, Jesus is there with you now.

And Jesus also knows what lies ahead

That is why He came to Paul in this hour of need, because He knew he would need this special touch.

Paul was not  really privy to what was going on all around him at this point. He did not know that 40 men had taken an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul!

Sometimes, ignorance can be bliss. Many times, it’s really a good thing that we don’t know all that is swirling around us in both the supernatural and natural realm.

God reveals to us as much as we need to know, when we need to know it. Not necessarily more and certainly not less, but what we need to know. Your troubles, though unexpected, did not come as a surprise to God.

The military has a term it uses for sensitive information. If it is necessary for you to know something, it’s on a “need-to-know basis.” In the same way, God gives us what we “need to know,” when we need it.

A final quote from C.H. Spurgeon

Let me close with a quote from Spurgeon that should bring hope to any Christian facing a trial:

“The Lord knows all about your troubles before they come to you; He anticipates them by His tender foresight. Before Satan can draw the bow, the preserver of men will put His beloved beyond the reach of the arrow. Before the weapon is forged in the furnace, and prepared on the anvil, He knows how to provide us with armor of proof which shall blunt the edge of the sword and break the point of the spear.”

You are not alone!

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009 Posted in encouragement, Pastor's corner, questions, sermons | 13 Comments »

Have you ever felt discouraged as a Christian? Have you ever felt that your life has been a failure? And do you know what it is like to be frightened about the future?

Well, take heart! You’re not the first child of God to feel this way.

In fact, it may surprise you to know that none other than the great apostle Paul seemed to be struggling with these very same problems. Paul found himself stuck in a Roman prison because of his faithfulness to preach the gospel.

But one night, Jesus came to pay him a visit:

“But the following night the Lord stood by him and said, ‘Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you
must also bear witness at Rome'” (Acts 23:11 NKJV).

God has not, nor will He abandon you.

Even though the local Christians did not help him, the Lord had come to visit him. Later, in his last epistle, Paul wrote, “Everyone abandoned me” (2 Timothy 4:16 NLT).

Have you ever felt that way? Abandoned, forgotten, forsaken? Know this: God has not abandoned you!

The Lord is with you

Know this today: He can compensate, by His own loving presence, for every earthly loss.

C.H. Spurgeon said, “If all else forsook him, Jesus was company enough. If all others despised him, the smile of Jesus was approval enough. If the good cause seemed to be in danger, in the presence of his Master victory was sure. The Lord who has stood for him at the cross now stood for him in the prison. It was a dungeon, but the Lord was there; It was dark, but the glory of the Lord lit it up with Heaven’s own splendor. Better to be in a jail with the Lord than to be anywhere else without Him.”

No matter what you are going through right now, know this: you are not alone. God is there with you, wanting to bring encouragement to you.