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.

The end of the rope

Posted by Brandon Patton on Monday, January 21, 2019 @ 8:39 AM

"Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we are cut off."

Ezekiel 37:11

Talk about having a bad day! Don't think I have ever been this low! This was the cry of a nation after being humiliated and losing hope. However, as happened many times in scripture, our  great God proved His compassion on their miserable condition and brought them back to a place of life and vibrant hope. The truth was that they had to get to the lowest point before they could look up. My dear friend Ken Helser wrote a great song once that said "God's got His office at the end of your rope. There's a sign on the door and that sign says hope!" So true! One of the often unknown realities about our great God is that He never reaches in until you reach bottom. One of the most damnable lies ever told about Him is that "God helps those who help themselves". I've even heard people say that its in the Bible. Not. All through His Word we see Him intervening in lives only at the point of desperation. The prodigal was restored when at the bottom of the barrel in great suffering "he came to himself" and turned toward home in humility. As I began to see this great truth in scripture and experience (want to ask me how I know about His kindness found only at the end of the rope?), I decided that rather than try the best I could for as long as I could that I would go ahead and get to the bottom as fast as possible! I now live racing to the end of the rope. I just go ahead and agree with Him that "apart from Me you can do nothing". No sense suffering any longer than I have to trusting in my own smarts, strength or ability. I decided to go ahead and run up the white flag and surrender the fort to Him! No fifty fifty deal here. If He doesn't save me from me every day its over! (not to mention saving the world from me!) Its a great day when you wake up every day confessing your helplessness and total dependence on His mercy and grace! If you're one of the tough ones that wants to try life on your own just a little bit longer, be my guest! Take as long as you wish. He'll meet you at the bottom!   

I praise you that in your economy the way up is down! Thank you for building your office at the end of my rope and for waiting patiently for me to get there. Tis' so sweet to trust in Jesus!      

How about do me a favor and join our missionary team by forwarding these morning messages to friends! Thanks a bunch!

Win or lose?

Posted by Brandon Patton on Monday, January 21, 2019 @ 8:38 AM

"Knowledge makes one arrogant but love builds people up."

1 Corinthians 8:1

A person with a religious spirit will lose a relationship to win an argument. People with a religious attitude or an argumentative spirit will sacrifice everything on the alter of "being right". It is part of our fallen nature to want to prove ourselves in the right. However, somewhere along the way we have to ask ourselves, "what is really important in life"? Is it to enjoy great relationships with people or is it to divide and fragment around our opinions? Bottom line: there are only a few hills worth dying over. In the Korean war my dad was the first man to the top of the famed "pork chop" hill which sat on the border between the two Korea's when it was reclaimed by U.S. forces.  There was much criticism after the war over the cost of human life that was expended in the fight over that hill since it held no strategic position and was basically worthless to the war effort. The cost wasn't worth it. What a picture of the divisive state we find out nation in today. Friends, families and even churches being fragmented by an argumentative spirit that has gripped the land. The Bible is very clear. "The wisdom from Heaven is willing to yield". Why is it that religious people are some of the most divisive folk in the land? To argue and criticise over non life threatening issues while people suffer is Pharisee stuff. Lets decide to follow the Savior who was always right. (want to argue about that?) He chose to suffer even though He was right in order to save the relationship with me. He proved that relationships are paramount. I'm laying down my hammer. I"ve decided I would rather build up than tear up. Doesn't matter whether its friend, foe or my sweetheart. Only a fool would rather be right than be warm in this weather!

Father, how foolish we must look demanding our position be recognized as right. You are right and we are sinners. A thousand thank you's for valuing relationship over judgement!

Will you come to the table?

Posted by Brandon Patton on Monday, January 21, 2019 @ 8:38 AM

"He chose twelve, that they might be with Him."

Mark 3:14

I have always been stunned by the men that Jesus chose to be His closest friends and fellow ministers. Hardly a Godly band! He chose an impulsive uneducated redneck to lead the bunch. You find a criminal among the mix along with a couple of roman candle type outdoorsmen. Not a well educated, polished, religious person in the group. Teaches me much about the real God, not the one presented in the average church today. Heck, the apostles wouldn't even be welcome in today's churches! However, the one thing that is overlooked today among His chosen inner circle is their relationships with each other. When you look at the famous pictures of the "last supper" that deck so many of our church walls, what you don't often see among the thirteen men seated there is the diversity at the table. Not so much racial diversity, but the philosophical diversity He gathered around Him. Matthew was a turncoat traitor who had turned his back on his fellow Jews and became a tax collector for Rome. Simon Peter was a devout Jew who hated nothing more on this planet than a tax collector. Simon the Zealot was a political extremist (why do you call someone a "zealot"?) who utterly despised everyone that did not hold to his political views. Throw in a few moderates and you have the making of a melt down at the family Thanksgiving dinner. Why did Jesus call together such a rag tag bunch of men that should not have been able to be in the same room at one time? His message was clear; lay down your agenda and follow mine. From different backgrounds he called people to abandon themselves to the greatest cause in history. Its called the Gospel. They united around the Kingdom work of God and shook the world. His message hasn't changed one bit today. A divided "church" splintered into political coalitions around conservative politics, social advancements, save the snails, etc. has grouped people around their particular concerns. The Jesus of the Bible isn't having it. Would you be willing to do as the original twelve and sit down with people on the opposite end of the spectrum? Not to "dialogue" and find a place of compromise, but to surrender your agenda for His? He's not a Republican Jesus. Nor is he a Democrat Jesus. He is not a socialist Jesus or a liturgical Jesus. He is the ruler of His own Kingdom agenda. Long after all of these temporary empires that people are excited about building today have been tossed into the dust bin of history His kingdom will still be reigning! Come to the only table that will still be in existence a thousand years from now!

Dear Jesus, I don't need to waste time praying for you to promote my cause. I surrender my goals for yours. I lay down my plans for yours. I give up my puny kingdom ambitions for your eternal purposes. Sign me up for what you are doing in this earth!    

"Sinners only"

Posted by Brandon Patton on Monday, January 14, 2019 @ 9:16 AM

God has chosen the foolish, the weak, the bottom of the barrel, the despised, the nobodys. Give Him glory!

1 Corinthians 1:27:28,31

Recently I passed a country club and noticed the sign out front that read "members only". Obviously this is a not so gentle reminder that only certain types of people are welcome in this club! I promise you that the fine folks that are in this club have no notion of having the "Ernest T. Bass" types in their fellowship! They want it restricted to the "uppity" types much like themselves. I have no problem with country clubs restricting their fraternity to whoever they want, after all its their club. My gripe is with churches who have the same mentality as country clubs. I've never actually seen a church sign that restricted their communion to certain types but I've been inside and the message was loud and clear! It was as obvious as the sunshine that this place is reserved for those who have mastered the proper lifestyle. People still struggling with sin (especially sins that make our "ten worst" list) are not at all part of the family of God here! Go clean yourself up to our standard and then you can come in. Two great problems with the religious restrictions in so many churches. For starters when did it become your church? I was under the impression that the church belonged to Jesus Christ since the Bible says plainly that "He purchased it with His own blood". If He bought it He should be the one to arrange it as He pleases. You can't come in my house and start rearranging the place as you please because its not your house! You can get arrested for that. Secondly, if I read the Bible correctly, when God walked on this earth He chose to associate with the very people that are "persona non grata" in most churches today. He was accused by the ministers of "eating with sinners" more than once. A quick look at His closest circle reveals that He had a preference for struggling sinners that had a bit if a problem meeting religious standards. His "chief of staff" was a hot tempered, prejudiced, ignorant, uneducated outdoorsman. He aligned Himself with thieves, the immoral, failures and the outcasts of society. When asked why He spent His time with such losers He responded; "the well don't need a doctor, only the sick". Enough said! Truth is that the God of heaven did not intend for His church to be a country club for the polished but rather a hospital for the needy. Praise God! That's the only way I could have gotten in! I am thinking about putting a little tag at the bottom of my church sign that reads "sinners only"!  

Father, I am so grateful for this thing called "grace"! That the perfect God of creation calls the struggling and imperfect into His family! Thank you for loving and receiving those of us who couldn't qualify on our goodness! Why don't you have somebody write a song about your "Amazing Grace"?


Posted by Brandon Patton on Monday, January 14, 2019 @ 9:15 AM

"Be encouraged men, I believe that what God said will come to pass. Then they were all encouraged."

Acts 17:25,36

God has given each one of us something that has great power to change other people's lives for good or evil. Its called influence. In this particular passage one man that was in a terrible storm with 276 other men spoke and brought hope and encouragement to everybody on board. His influence changed everybody around him for good. We see cases in scripture and in life where someone changed the course of someone's life by what they did or said. One of the greatest opportunities and challenges we have is how to use our influence. Father's shape their kid's lives with their examples and words. Friend's influence us to excel in life or to sink to low levels. Don't ever underestimate your ability to change someone's day or destiny by your presence. It is imperative as disciples of Jesus that we determine to use the influence He has given us to help people rise to their God given destiny. Not all have the same level of influence, but everyone has a sphere of impact that needs to  be used faithfully. I need for you to embrace the call of God to become a powerful catalyst for others around you. "Be an example to the people I have placed in your life" is His admonition in First Peter. I challenge you to spend some time thinking about who you can impact with your example and words. Can there be a greater joy in life than to have someone come to you and say "because of you I made it", "you gave me the strength to hang in there and not give up", "if it had not been for you I wouldn't be here today"? Nothing could be more tragic that influence used wrongly or wasted. I promise you from years of experience that you have no idea who is watching you and being effected by what you do. What a great opportunity to impact people's lives around us! Lets leave a legacy of changed lives by our influence! "This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine"!

Father, help me to use the influence you have given me with people to honor you by blessing their lives for good. Thank you for the chance to impact people for eternity.

Life is a team sport

Posted by Brandon Patton on Monday, January 14, 2019 @ 9:14 AM

"It is not good for a man to be alone."

Genesis 2:18

In a perfect creation one of the first things we learn about God's created order is that He intended for life to be lived in partnership not only with Him but with other people. When He declared "it is not good for a man to be alone" He revealed His all time plan for human life on this planet. Not only in marriage, as this verse indicates, but all through the Bible he is constantly putting people in relationships for various purposes. The American "lone ranger" mentality is antithesis to His will which is that we live in relationships at various levels with others. This presents a major problem  in a fallen world. Not to oversimplify the issue but in a word; relationships are "messy" because we are a mess! Have you ever felt like David did when he said "that I had the wings of a dove so I could fly away from this mess and be at peace by myself"? We all have those days. Just one problem. Our Creator intends life to be lived in teams. Family teams, work teams, neighborhood teams, church teams, friendship teams. Life is a team sport. Unlike tennis where you can excel all by yourself, it is more like football where you must depend on others to win. (maybe more like mud wrestling?) Therefore, I must embrace the team and learn (notice that word) how to do it in tandem. First, ask Him to connect you with the people He wants you to do life with as He did with Adam and many others. Then buy in to the team player concept: I win by helping you to win. I often ask people what business they are in. The answers vary. Sales, technology, medicine, law, teaching to name a few. But in reality everybody is in the same business; the people business. If I learn (notice that word) to do well with people and to manage relationships well I will succeed in any business or endeavor I choose. If I can't "do people well" I will struggle in any profession no matter how smart I am. The key to success in any area of life is "relationship management". If you are going to excel in life concentrate on growing your "people skills".

Jesus, when you told us to pray "our Father which is in heaven" you revealed that we are connected to a family by new birth. Thank you for teaching us how to live with the Father. Please teach us how to live with the "our".  

If you're not dead, God's not done!

Posted by Brandon Patton on Monday, January 14, 2019 @ 9:14 AM

"Do you love me?"

John 21:15

I have always loved the twenty first chapter of John. It is the great story of Simon's restoration. It is also God speaking to you and me revealing what He is really like at heart. Perhaps no one in history has blown it with God like Simon. He was Jesus' dearest friend, the one Jesus took with Him everywhere. He was the one that Jesus confided in and looked to most often. As a side note, the fact that God chose a redneck, ignorant, uneducated fisherman to be His best friend brings me great hope! When told of Christ' impending arrest and murder Simon vowed that even if all abandoned Him he would stick with Him. You know the story. In His greatest hour of need at a mockery of a trial, Simon told all present that He had never met the Man. When pressed about the issue he cursed and swore that he had no idea who Jesus was. Some friend! Far be it from me to look down my nose at the famous fisherman. My loyalty could be questioned at no few times. As often happens when a follower of Christ messes up very badly, Simon went back to his old life at sea assuming that his days in God's inner circle were over after His public failure. What a shock to look up from his nets early one morning and see Jesus standing on the shore! First time he had seen Jesus since he had cursed Him and watched as Jesus turned to gaze at him without speaking. What would He do? What does God do to people that betray Him and abandon Him? When Simon arrived at the shore Jesus invited him to eat breakfast that was prepared on a coal fire. As they sat around the fire not a word was spoken about the downfall. It was never mentioned again. Finally after eating, Jesus looked at Simon and asked him, "do you love me"? He replied, no doubt with deep humility, "yes Lord, you know I love you". After his response Jesus simply said "tend my sheep".  This is God. This is how He treats people that mess up. Big time. No revenge. He didn't even ask him if he thought he could do better from now on. With Him the question is never "can you behave". Its always "do you love me"? He is immediately restored in his relationship with Christ and repositioned as the chief preacher in God's great movement. Who can not love a God that forgives that freely and never gives up on His plans for you? How about you? Have you missed it with Him? Blown it big time? Here's the message of the Bible. If you're not dead, God's not done!

Father, I would have given up on me a long time ago. You're mercy makes no sense. Thank God!


Posted by Brandon Patton on Monday, January 14, 2019 @ 9:13 AM

"Does my generosity bother you that bad?"

Matthew 20:15

One of the strangest truths in the Bible is the revelation of this parable in Matthew 20. A man hires a day laborer to work one hour in his vineyard and then pays him for twelve hours. Scholars have wrestled with this passage for ages. I believe they overlook the simple truth here because it is so simple! Bottom line: God overpays His people. Way too much! Do you pay your mechanic twelve times what he bills you for? Your doctor? No doubt that I am overpaid as a minister since I only work one day a week. (beside the point) What is our Father saying in His Word here? Come to "work" for me and you will find that I am generous beyond measure! Do you think that I deserve all that He has "paid" me for what I have done for Him? He has paid me with great health, peace of mind and heart, His joy on the inside, countless opportunities, the greatest friends on earth, a great family, sunshine, banana pudding and a brand new house in His forever neighborhood that I will move into someday! His generosity is off the charts! Most giving person I've ever met. In this parable He is so generous that some are offended by His largesse. They represent religious people that struggle with God's extravagant grace to the undeserving much as the elder brother was in the parable of the prodigal son. His response is heart blessing! "I wish to give extravagantly. Its my stuff and I can give it to who I want to". I want to holler "yeah, if He wants to overpay me what's that to you"! Let the religious folks keep on fussing because His great love and generosity toward me isn't fair by any stretch of the imagination. I'll just keep on enjoying His blessings and praising Him because of His kindness to an undeserving, overpaid, prodigal son that came home and found favor in his Father's eyes!

How can I say thanks for the things you have done for me? Things so undeserved, yet you gave to prove your love for me! The voices of a million angels can not express my gratitude! All that I am or ever hope to be I owe it all to Thee! To God be the glory! ("To God be the glory" by Andre Crouch)

Feelings or faith?

Posted by Brandon Patton on Monday, January 14, 2019 @ 9:13 AM

"Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?"

Mark 4:40

Feelings are wonderful! Sometimes. Much like marriage, when its good, its really good! When its bad, its really bad! Every person is faced with the constant challenge: do I listen to my feelings or to my faith? The problem is that you can not do both. Your faith is always tied to the truth of God's Word. It never deviates. Whatever His Word declares is eternal unchangeable truth. If His Word states "I have loved you with a never ending love", then that is true when I feel like He loves me and when I feel like no one could love me. Faith is never tied to feelings. If His Word says "if we confess our sins He forgives us and cleanses us from all unrighteousness", then I am forgiven whether I feel like it or not. Feelings are totally unpredictable. Like the wind they change without notice and without reason. If you live by your feelings the Bible says that your life will be "like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the winds". Who wants to live like that? Its a great day when you choose (notice that word) that your life will no longer be dictated by your feelings but will be anchored to God's eternal truth in His Word. Rather than struggling through bad days due to some negative circumstance beyond your control, you choose (notice that word) to act on the truth that "this is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it"! Bottom line: feelings lie. They do not reflect God's truth. Truth is found in God's Word. Enjoy good feelings, ignore negative feelings, but always determine to act on God's truth. Your faith will rescue you from the tyranny of crazy feelings and emotions!

I praise you Father for delivering my life from the roller coaster ride of emotionalism by your Truth! I choose today to "live by faith" and act on your Word rather than my fickle feelings!

The extra mile

Posted by Brandon Patton on Monday, January 14, 2019 @ 9:13 AM

"Whoever asks you to go one mile , go with him two."

Matthew 5:41

It is one of the best known and most oft repeated verses in the Bible. How many times have I heard people speak of going the "extra mile"? The cultural background is that Jesus was speaking to Jews who were under Roman rule. Law stated that a Roman soldier could demand any Jew to carry his equipment for one mile. Jews absolutely loathed Romans and were humiliated at having to serve them. Every Jew knew where one mile ended from his home to the inch. Jesus shocks His listeners by telling them to go above the requirements when pressed into forced service. Seems to be a bit stringent does it not? Give your enemy twice what he asks for? Is God testing our obedience with this rather unreasonable request, or is there something else to the command? The truth is revealed when you understand the secret of the extra mile. Going the extra mile has a tremendous ability to effect the human heart. When you go the extra mile where you work by being early, staying late to help, doing above what you are required to do, all the while with a great attitude it makes an impact on your manager that will eventually result in your promotion. When in your marriage you forgo the fifty fifty nonsense and serve your mate beyond what is expected out of love it absolutely endears the heart of your spouse to you. Any time you serve people selflessly beyond what is expected something happens that always blesses the served and the server. You will never get ripped off going the next mile willingly! Ultimately, the one that rewards the "extra milers" is God Himself who is always looking for someone to bless. No doubt that is what He references when He taught that "he who is faithful in the small things will be made ruler of the big things". Lets get out of the current and very popular "what's the least I can do and get by?" club and join the "let me add just a little bit more" club! Like a boomerang, every time you throw it, it will always come back around!

Father, I thank you for giving me the key to blessing and promotion by calling me to serve beyond the demand. How eternally grateful I am that your dear Son went the extra mile for me when He carried my cross up that hill willingly.

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