First Light is a short devotional that is posted daily throughout the week via email and this blog.  If you are interested in receiving a copy in your email, just contact us at and tell us you would like to receive First Light.

Lay hold!

Posted by Brandon Patton on Wednesday, February 13, 2019 @ 1:41 PM

"I press on that I may lay hold of that for which Christ has laid hold of me."

How I love this verse and the truth that it conveys! The words "lay hold" are "arrested" in our modern vernacular. I have been arrested a few times (none recently) and I assure you it can be a rather forceful event! The Bible states here that Jesus "arrested" those of us that follow Him. Just as a policeman pursues a criminal to arrest him Jesus pursued us relentlessly to make us His. "Arresters"don't ask and they don't take no for an answer. How thankful I am that He pursued me and "arrested" me for Himself! But, notice the rest. This verse states that He "arrested" me for something, and I am to "arrest" that which He "arrested" me for. What is it that He "arrested" me for? Heaven? Absolutely! But what about now? His Word reveals the treasury of what He has promised when I am in His family. Holy Spirit power to live, love, be at peace, have hope in my heart, live joyously regardless of circumstances among other great gifts. He promises a life of adventure as I experience His activity in me and around me. He has promised great relationships that He has planned for me. The catalog of faith benefits is almost endless! Obvious question? If He has promised all this great stuff as a result of my "arrest" by Him, where is it? I am willing to be blessed, but I don't see the goods! Go back and read the rest of the verse. You will see that His promised blessings are not automatic, nor do they fall like ripe cherries on me as a believer. What does it say? I must "press on" and "lay hold" of what my heart longs for. A passive religious  attitude will leave you blessingless! (its a word) I hear aggression in this great Word! I hear a man saying "if Christ died to bless me then I will go after it until I get it". I may not know how but He don't lie and I am not going to give up on what He has promised. Do not settle (hate that word) for a less that abundant life when He died to give you something much better! Have you resigned to "getting by"? May I appeal to you from scripture? Do you not think that He who created everything beautiful from the sunset to the coastal plain to the bluebird to the smile of a newborn can not create a beautiful life? Quit wishing and go fishing! Quit existing and start dreaming again! Decide to "lay hold" of what He died to purchase for you!  

Father, forgive me for living so "little" after you planned so big. I want everything I was "arrested" for! Lead me as I press on to lay hold of your promises. Every single one of them!

When dead bones come alive!

Posted by Brandon Patton on Wednesday, February 13, 2019 @ 1:41 PM

"Son of man, can these bones live again?"

Ezekiel 37:3

In one of the most unusual passages in the Bible we find God placing a preacher in a "valley full of dry bones" where He asks the preacher if the bones can come alive again. He gives God a good safe answer, "only you know". When he is told to speak to the  bones "the Word of the Lord" he obeys and as he is speaking something miraculous happens. The bones begin to come alive again. Slowly sinew and flesh covered the bones and before long they stood on their feet again. Since the Bible is God speaking to me, what is the message He is conveying to me here? One of the most exciting and grandest truths in the Kingdom is revealed here. When God speaks He causes that which has died to come alive again. Even that which has long been dead and is "very dry". How many people walk around with hearts that are dead? Just going through the motions. How many dreams that once inspired and ignited people's hearts are now cold and forgotten? How many marriages have lost the passion and romance that once caused a husband and wife to lay awake and think about each other affectionately? How many dreamers launched out into the world to change it for the better only to find themselves years later giving in to the cynicism of failure? In the words of an 80s pop song "something inside has died and I can't hide and I can't fake it". Jesus said "the words that I speak to you are Spirit and they are life". When God speaks to our hearts by His Spirit something begins to happen inside of us. Life begins to return. Just as those dry bones did we begin to come alive again on the inside. Hope begins to rise up by His power. We begin to dream again. We begin to experience an excitement that we lost years ago about Jesus, about our romance, about our future and about life itself. Since He is the author of life, when He speaks He imparts life to our dead hearts.  How long has it been since you were excited about waking up to a new day? Since you found great joy in the simple things in life? Since you couldn't go to sleep for dreaming about something that was on fire in your heart? Maybe its time for you to "hear the Word of the Lord" and and let it bring life back to your heart? I am convinced by scripture and by life experience that the most important thing we do is to hear God speak to our hearts. His voice alone can ignite our hearts to life again about everything in life. Tell Him you want to hear Him speak to your heart. Ask Him how. He wants to speak to you more than you want to hear. Live to listen to the one who makes dreams come to life again.

Father, Its been so long since I dared to dream and live. Speak Lord, you child listens.


Posted by Brandon Patton on Wednesday, February 13, 2019 @ 1:40 PM

"Casting all your cares and concerns once and for all on Him because He cares for you and watches over you affectionately."

1 Peter 5:7 (amp)

Has there ever been a truer verse written than one found in the old hymn that says "Oh, what peace we often forfeit, Oh, what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry every need to God in prayer"? Do I need to take time to tell you how capable our God is at handling problems? Need I remind you how big He is? How powerful? The whole universe exists at His command. No, I don't think the problem is that we doubt His ability. Our struggle is with doubting His concern. Who am I that He should get involved with me? I am not one of His better children. If you knew what I was like you wouldn't be telling me to call on Him. I agree with you. I also am in the "struggler's hall of fame". However, all I can do is believe and trust His Word, and His Word does not agree with you. If the man says that He "feeds the sparrows and you are of more value than many sparrows", I believe Him. If He tells me that He "clothes the flowers which today are beautiful and tomorrow are wilted" and that He will cloth and provide for me, I believe Him. If He tells me that "as a father has compassion on his child so the Lord has compassion on His own", I believe Him. Would you listen If your son or daughter came to you with a great need? Or a small need or concern? The ultimate evidence of His great concern for you and me is found in Romans 8. "He who spared not His dear Son for us all, how will He not with Him also freely give us all things?" He would sacrifice His Son for you but He won't listen to your needs? Pay your power bill? Forgive your sins? Encourage you? A thousand times no. Lets quit carrying a load that's too heavy for us. Lets "cast our cares on Him". Enough lost peace and needless pain. Take your burdens to the Lord and leave them there.  

Father, how grateful I am that the God who was my sin bearer is also my burden bearer. Forgive me for struggling through life carrying my load when you would lovingly carry it for me. Its a special kind of dumb that would refuse your offer to shoulder all of my  concerns and worries!

The impossible commands

Posted by Brandon Patton on Wednesday, February 13, 2019 @ 1:40 PM

"Stretch out your hand"

Mark 3:5

When Jesus commanded a man that had a deformed hand to "stretch it out" was He mocking a handicapped person? Was this some cruel joke? I ask you; how can a man with a deformed hand stretch it out? In this passage we discover one of the greatest revelations of how our great God deals with us. Jesus knew that the man couldn't stretch out his hand. By himself.  However, we see that when the man obeyed and tried to do what Jesus commanded something happened. God honored his faith and a miracle took place. The God who commanded him to do something gave him the ability to do what he could not do in his strength as he obeyed. This is the great difference between dead religion and Kingdom life. Religion commands you to do many things. Most are beyond your ability. (if not yours, they are certainly beyond mine) Then a religious spirit beats you up when you can't. That's what the Bible calls condemnation. Our Father commands us to do many things that are way beyond our ability and then He gives the ability by His Spirit to do what He asks. Just as He did with the handicapped man. I heard a preacher say once  "God will never ask you to do what you can't do". Hogwash. He and I obviously have different Gods. Mine has never asked me to do much that I can do. Try this on for size. "Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church". Try it. Punch me out before I even start. However, here is the great mystery of His Spirit. When I obey His command I find a power that causes His will to come to pass. How about; "love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who stab you in the back". He who commands, supplies the power to do His will. Jesus was constantly commanding the impossible. He told His disciples to feed five thousand with a happy meal. Really? But, when they obeyed he multiplied the food till there was a plenty. He told a cripple to get up and walk. When he obeyed God did something wonderful. Once He told  a man to walk on water. So much for not being asked to do the impossible! Do you really think Simon could obey without God's help? You know the end of the story. Everything He calls us to do has His power behind it . He said "apart from Me you can do nothing". Amen. Even the "command" to "rejoice in the Lord always" can only be obeyed if He gives His joy by His Spirit. A stern deity glares at people and commands then to perform. He then brings swift judgement down on those who struggle in human weakness. That's religion. A loving Father calls to His child to attempt the impossible knowing that He will bless their faith with the power to accomplish His will. The next time you hear Him say "walk on water", don't waste time telling Him why you can't. Get out there and see what He does!

Thank you Father that "Christ in me is the hope of glory"!

How can you be sure?

Posted by Brandon Patton on Monday, February 4, 2019 @ 10:05 AM

"Faith is the certainty of things hoped for, the assurance of things not yet seen."

Hebrews 11:1

How many times have I been asked "how can I know for sure"? People want to know for sure if they will go to heaven when they die. No doubt this is the big issue. People long for certainty concerning many other issues. Will God forgive me? Does He hear my prayer? Did I pray right? Will He take care of me? What about my children? Our hearts are at times filled with questions that can not be answered by human wisdom. Often people want to find assurance by natural means. They want to "feel" something. They want to hear an audible voice. They want God to give them a sign. However, these natural means are not His ways. "My ways are not your ways" He reminds us in Isaiah. His way is always the way of faith. He communicates with His children by faith. We can find absolute certainty concerning the big issues of life by faith. There is no better definition of faith than is found in His Word in Hebrews 11:1, Faith is the certainty of things hoped for, the assurance or evidence of things not yet seen. Our faith is our evidence. Bible faith has only one source. "Faith comes by hearing the Word of God", Romans 10:17. He could appear to you and assure you of things. Not His way. He could send an angel with a message. Not His way. He could speak from heaven to you. Again, not His way. His way is to send you a book called the Bible, and in that book He answers our questions and assures our hearts of "things not yet seen". If I have heard what He says in His book then I have my evidence or assurance. Faith needs nothing more than His Word to have all the answers to life's questions. A life of faith is built totally on His promises found in the Bible. What a wonderful day it is when I realize that the Creator of the universe has spoken to me. He has answered all of life's questions. Its called the Bible.

Father, I receive your way of speaking to me. Thank you for a book that answers all of life's questions. I will build my life on your Word.  

Resting in the darkness

Posted by Brandon Patton on Monday, February 4, 2019 @ 10:04 AM

"We are perplexed but not in despair."

2 Corinthians 4:8

Can you do that? Have you built your faith and trust in an all knowing and all loving Father to the place that you can be perplexed and still not despair? Have you ever been at a place where you didn't know what was going on, where things didn't make sense? Have you ever found yourself wondering; if God is good why is this happening? Welcome to life. We live in a day when things just don't seem to make sense. So many things that we just don't understand. So often when we think we understand, we find out that what we thought was wrong. It is fallen human nature to have to understand circumstances before we can rest and enjoy life. We demand to know what is going on. However, this trait only leads to frustration and despair. You can never live in God's kingdom until you surrender your need to understand. Until you give up logic you can never walk by faith. Am I going to live my life dwelling on what I can't figure out? Why do I struggle if I am God's child? Why doesn't He "fix" my mess? Why does He allow evil? Why don't people do right? (right being what I think it should be) Why can't everybody get along? As long as I live focused on the unexplained questions of life all I will ever know is strife and discouragement. There is so much I don't know or understand. However, there are some things that I do know. There is a God who's Kingdom will "know no end". He knows my name. He is my Father. "His eye is on the sparrow" and I know He watches over me. He has promised to "meet all my needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus". He has assured that "He is causing all things to work together for good" because I love Him and live for His purposes. He will "never leave me nor forsake me". On and on I could go with things that I do know for sure. It is the things that I do know that allow me to rest concerning the things I don't know. That's why I can be perplexed about life around me yet not be in despair. As a matter of fact I find that not only can I refuse despair I can actually "rejoice in the Lord always"! I always have a choice in the storm. I can be like the disciples and panic because I don't know what's happening or I can be like Jesus and just go to sleep assured that Father is large and in charge!

Father, I trust you in my darkness which is a lot! All I really need to know is that you tell the truth and you are faithful! Thank you for a Word that reveals your goodness, "a light unto my path and a lamp into my darkness"!

Keep it simple

Posted by Brandon Patton on Thursday, January 31, 2019 @ 10:06 AM

"Follow me"

Matthew 4:19

You have no doubt heard it before: religion gives you rules, Jesus gives you relationship. Its all the difference in the world. Rules are fairly easy. Just tell me what to do and I can either do it or not. Easy to check off the list of religious rules that my particular group demands. Attend church, read the Bible, pray, be nice to people, do some charity work, etc. The rules vary according to either your group or your own conviction. Anything from a few simple ones, all the way to more that anybody can remember, much less do. However, Jesus simplified the whole program with two words. "Follow me". Big difference. I can't tell you what to do if you are a follower. You simply follow. Its relational. If you need to get somewhere I can either give you directions or I can tell you to follow me in my car. You don't need to know anything except to watch and follow. That's life with Jesus. He simply calls us to walk with Him day by day. To follow Him you have to be able to hear Him. How can you follow someone if you can't hear them? Jesus said, "my sheep hear my voice and they follow me". Make hearing Him your greatest priority in life. If I decide to follow Jesus, its a bit unnerving since I don't know where we are going. Its called trust. Like Abraham I am committed to "going out not knowing where he was going". But, If I know His goodness and His love for me, (not to mention His track record with others who followed) I will follow knowing where He leads me will be better than where I would have taken me. No doubt the greatest advantage to following Jesus over religion is the fellowship. As we walk together I get to know Him personally and we enjoy the journey. I was created to get to know God and enjoy Him. Greatest life lesson: the journey with Him is the destination. I'm a simple guy. I am convinced that we have way overcomplicated life.  All I have to do is make a decision to live following my Creator and then take the next step He shows me. How easy is that?  

Father, I praise you for making life so simple. Thank you for inviting me to walk with all the way to your house! 

Educated beyond intelligence!

Posted by Brandon Patton on Thursday, January 31, 2019 @ 10:06 AM

"Claiming to be wise they have become fools".

Romans 1:22

Currently in America we are the most educated generation in world history. And how's that doing us? A government that is totally dysfunctional, schools teaching children that they descended from monkeys (apologies to the monkeys), promising men that they can become women, trying to reach financial prosperity by spending money like drunken sailors (apologies to the drunk sailors, at least they quit spending when they run out of money), among  a myriad of other ideas that we have labeled as "progress". Pardon me for saying, but am not so sure that we haven't been educated beyond our intelligence! I'm just a truck driver but it seems to me that if this is what smart looks like we are in deep do do! Heck, my grandpa only went through the sixth grade but he knew better that to try build a life on such nonsense of a foundation. What happened to us that seems to have turned out the lights in our heads and hearts? As always the answer to life's big questions are found in a Book that we chose to remove from our halls of education long ago. The Bible says that "the respect of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom". While we don't lack for education in this land we are desperately depleted of wisdom today. Wisdom is the ability to make great decision that lead to a great life. Its what our founders leaned on to build a great nation. I doubt seriously that I will turn this country back to the Book and its wisdom that were it's early underpinnings, but I thank God that His wisdom is available to anyone who will humble themselves and admit their need for His guidance. It may seem old fashioned and outdated to look to such an ancient book to build a life and home on, but considering what throwing it away has done for us, I think I might just go back to what worked so well for grandpa. I trust God more than I do a professor with a PhD that once was a monkey hanging in a tree.

The gospel of Jimmy Buffet

Posted by Brandon Patton on Tuesday, January 29, 2019 @ 9:34 AM

"Where there is no ox a stall is clean, but if you ever accomplish anything it is because you had an ox."

Proverbs 14:4

As much as I love the Parrothead nation I am convinced that their theology is misguided! Buffet built a rabid following around not just his music, but around a philosophy of life that basically says that the purpose of life is all about comfort. The mindset that I was created to live a life of ease has permeated our nation's soul. Anything that gets in the way of my pleasure is seen as the enemy of my happiness. Hard work, sacrifice, delayed gratification, enduring the tough times are all seen as plagues to avoid rather than the paths to true long term satisfaction and purpose. The Bible nails it in one of my favorite verses in Proverbs 14. In the "ox" verse we find the universal truth that success and shoveling always go hand in hand. Obviously, you can only accomplish if you own an ox to plow with. But, owning an ox also means shoveling the stuff that all oxen leave laying around. Simple parable describing what the WW2 generation built a great nation on. I must be willing to endure the hard stuff to get the good stuff.  If I want great kids I must be willing to pay the price. Anybody that has raised teens knows you had better keep your shovel handy! This current fascination with a life of all ease while I waste away in Margaritaville makes for great music but it builds a pretty pathetic life and nation. "There ain't no free lunch" is a time worn saying from days gone by that needs to be dusted off again! God created our souls to thrive on accomplishment and achievement. There are few things more gratifying than success after great sacrifice. "A desire accomplished is sweet to the soul" is another great Proverb to heed. So, rather than living to see how relaxed we can be while trying to avoid stepping on another pop top, lets roll up our sleeves, set great big God sized goals and get to shoveling toward the finish line! Surely there has to be more to life than having nothing but an empty glass to show for my time here!

Father, I praise you for making life challenging. I ask for grace to dig in for the long haul! Thank you for the promise of blessing from heaven for those who chose to endure the manure!

The lonely cry of the top dog

Posted by Brandon Patton on Tuesday, January 29, 2019 @ 9:34 AM

"No one acknowledges me, no one cares for my soul."

Psalm 142:4

Sociologists are saying that we are experiencing an epidemic in our land of loneliness. How can this be? There are more than 330 million of us living here now. We have never been more connected in history due to the evolution of social media. The answer is rather easy is it not? You can be in a crowd and still be lonely. You can have a thousand "followers" and still feel alone. You can live in a house and share a bed with someone and not feel connected. The cure for loneliness is not geographical, its heart connection. When God said in Genesis "it is not good for a man to be alone", He revealed that we are created to live connected to other people not just in proximity, but emotionally and spiritually. King David's cry in Psalm 142 reveals that even famous people struggle to make the relational connection that the heart longs for. You can live without close enjoyable friend relationships but you can't thrive without them. What is God's remedy for the hole in every soul that searches for meaningful relationships? Brace yourself! Its the church. One of the three purposes of Him starting "church" was to build a place where people could find the deep relationships that are so necessary to experiencing an abundant life. The church should be the model for relationships. More often than not it has failed miserably in this task. How many people have found rejection and woundedness in churches instead of loving friendships? At best it seems that relationships in churches are superficial and plastic due to the requirement in many churches that we must appear to "have it all together as good Christians". Nonsense. I am committed to building a house of hope where people can come just as you are and meet other struggling, less than perfect people that want to walk this journey out together helping each other rather than judging each other. Do not settle for life without the joy of a few true close friends. Pour your heart out to God as David did  and ask Him to put people in your life that you can do life with in an authentic atmosphere of great friendship. He will answer. Then you can say as David said in verse seven, He has dealt bountifully with me and surrounded me with the righteous.

Father, you created us to need true friendships. I trust you to connect me with those people, and make me a "friend that sticks closer than a brother".

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