Monday, April 27, 2009

Follow Through


FOLLOW THROUGH

If you play golf, a good follow through on your shot is important for the distance and accuracy of the ball. Other sports, like baseball follow through is important for pitchers and hitters. In basketball, follow through is important in your shot. In the business world follow through is important with customers and clients. In leadership follow through is necessary in decision making, organizing, training, policies, and structure. As a volunteer, follow through is essential so that we are dependable, trustworthy, and reliable.

Unless you are a professional athlete then follow through in your game does not end the world. But, as individuals in our daily lives, I think we can see the need, value, and importance of follow through in our daily lives. If we don’t follow through in our relationships, jobs, responsibilities, and lives we can become failures, settle for less, lose respect, be undependable, unreliable, and can really screw up our lives and impact others lives. It’s a downward spiral of chaos, confusion, frustration, and division when we don’t become people of our word, value others time, or accept the challenges of the position we may be in.

Our children need a parent to follow through with parenting not friendship. Our significant others need someone to follow through with their part in the relationship. Our co-workers need you do your job so that they can do their job well. Our supervisors, bosses, and leaders need to set the example of quality, efficiency, and example on how they handle situations and decisions that come up and affect our lives on a daily basis. If we volunteer with little league, the scouts, or in our local church we need to follow through with our commitments and do so with effort or don’t volunteer or don’t volunteer if we can’t do it in the time or way that is required.

Our lives, relationships, jobs, churches, activities, and businesses would be so different if people would follow through with their responsibilities, decisions, and word. We would have less stress, less conflict, less confusion, less frustration, and less work. Who cares if you have a good golf swing or jump shot if you can’t manage your home, business, or life?

I think we need to do less better in our lives. We should focus on the important things more and less on the things that don’t matter as much. We should follow through if we are a leader or not lead. I think we should follow through with our service or not volunteer. I think we need to carry our weight in our relationships, jobs, or activities or they are going to fail, be limited, or suffer. I think we can do better and it begins with us. We got to follow through well.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.”
Colossians 3:23(NIV)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Discouragement


Discouragement


You ever feel that way? I feel that way today. I don’t care how positive you are, how good of a mood you are in most days, or if you are chipper as a bird singing in the morning of a sunny day, we all experience days or moments of discouragement.

Our car breaks down, our proposal gets rejected, our meeting gets cancelled, someone gets upset with us, or we seem to be able to do no right or things in our life all seem to go wrong at the same time. Maybe we are worried about losing our job, we are stuck in a rut in our faith, or our life is not going in the direction we are wanting? Life can be discouraging, relationships can cause us discouragement, and problems and struggles can at times overwhelm us.

I think it’s natural to get discouraged if you are human. I think every single human ever alive has faced or will face discouragement at certain times in their lives. We are imperfect people in an imperfect world with imperfect actions, imperfect attitudes, and imperfect relationships with imperfect people. (is my article discouraging you yet?)

However, we were created by a Holy God and we have a perfect Savior in Jesus Christ. He is holy when we are not. His perfection wipes away our imperfection if we are one of His. We always have somewhere to go and somewhere to turn when we face discouragement.

No matter the news we get from the doctor, the flat tire, financial troubles, confusion, or broken relationships, God is still God and there is still hope to get through anything, overcome, and see daylight on the other side. When we face moments and times of discouragement instead of looking in the mirror or focusing on our problems, we must turn our eyes and heart to God. We must seek Him, trust Him, ask for His guidance, and His help. His grace, mercy, strength, and unconditional love and support will sustain us, encourage us, and keep us going.

Hang in there is not just a nice gesture to say to someone when they are discouraged, it’s great advice. If we hang in there, God will work through us and get us through any discouragement we might face in this world.

“Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Be strong and courageous.”
Joshua 10:25(NIV)

My Easter Peeps


My Easter Peeps

It always amazes me and excites me to see so many people come out to church on an Easter weekend. The peeps come out of the woodwork to make it for Easter services. The exciting part is to see so many people at church and many of those people do get inspired to come back or keep checking things out. The part that is amazing to me, is those who don't see the need to come anymore than a special Holiday. God wants His "peeps" to see the need for him on a dailly basis in their lives.

I really think we should celebrate Easter every Sunday as a church, because each week we have an opportunity and freedom to gather together and worship, serve, and celebrate the God who defeated death, sin, & hell and who lives and reigns forever. I also think everyday as a follower of Jesus we should celebrate His victory in our lives.

I'm not saying there is anything wrong with setting aside one day of year to celebrate "Easter" as a holiday, but I think if christians would live out that easter spirit and attitude in their lives dailyl it could change the world. If churches would celebrate that easter spirit at services each week, i think it could the way we worship, think, serve, and even take communion.

I think God is blessed when churches put on great Easter programs and services and when He sees churches that are crowded, but I think His intent for the church was to be that way every day and every week and His intent for followers was to pick up "our cross" daily and follow Him.

Everyday can be Easter in our hearts and attitudes. Every week can be a Celebration of Easter as we proclaim the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ the reason we have hope, purpose, and a reason to assemble togther each week as a church. Those are some peeps that God would love.

"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me."
Luke 9:23 (NIV)

Wrestlemania


WRESTLEMANIA


Last night a myself and 3 other guys watched Wrestlemania 25, the silver anniversary of this once a year event. I have to admit, it didn't quite live up to my expectation of having surprises and unexpected events, but we did get to see a couple good matches. (ok, I know it's fake and it's not real, but stick with me).

When I was a kid I thought professional wrestling was real and for years the industry tried to hide the fact, but eventually they realized that didn't matter, because wrestling was about entertainment and story lines. The outcomes may already be decided and certain things may be rehearsed, the action and the pounding these guys put on their bodies is real to entertain the fans and put on a great show.

Jacob wrestled with God in the Old testament book of Genesis(32:22-32), but it wasn't about putting on a show or entertaining an audience, it was about God teaching Jacob. It wasn't rehearsed, fixed, or to make money. It was an encounter with God on a personal level. God changed Jacob's name to Israel, which means "he struggles with God" and Jacob named the place where they wrestled "Peniel", which means "face of God".

I think there are times we all wrestle with God, maybe not physically like Jacob, but spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. We question our faith? We wonder where God is during our suffering? We don't understand why God doesn't defend us when we've been wronged? We get upset when God doesn't give us what we want? Do you see the struggle? Do you see the wrestling match that goes one? You mix in satan giving us doubt, attacking our fears, and manipulating our emotions, reminding us of our sin, and we wrestle on.

Sometimes wrestling can be good, if we choose to have a hopeful attitude, an optimistic trust, and refuse to quit until we see what God is trying to teach us, where He's trying to lead us, or what He requires of us. We may not have the glitz and glamour of Wrestlemania, but our wrestling with God can give us hope, strength, wisdom, and understanding so that we can deal with our emotions, overcome our struggles, learn truth, and gain patience to wait on God to work.

"It's because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared."
Genesis 32:30b(NIV)

"Wooooooooooooo!"

Ric Flair

The Cross



"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing ,but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."

I Corinthians 1:18(NIV)

The Cross. What does it mean to you? For some it's nothing more than a piece of jewelry they adorn on their ear or neck. For some it is a symbol they associate with religion, or God, or people of faith. For others it might be a symbol of their faith or beliefs. Others it could be something to mark a grave or a memorial of a lost loved one. What about you?

I think the cross is a symbol that defines the follower of Jesus. That cross represents the place our sins met a Savior of sins. It represents an ugly painful death that defeated power over death. It represents the hell Jesus went through in order give us the hope of eternal life with God instead of an eternity of God's absence(hell).

I am not suggesting we worship the cross, I am suggesting that we take it seriously. If it were not for what God did through Jesus on that cross we would be lost, hopeless, and still without answers.

I think our society and world minimizes the power of the cross, but Paul reminds us in scripture that the message of the cross is the power of God. Paul said the jews wanted miraculous signs from God and the gentiles wanted wisdom, and today people haven't changed much. People want physical proof of God or they think and analyze God so much they miss Him altogether. People back in the bible saw the miracles and gained wisdom from the teachings and they still didn't believe. To many the cross of christianity is foolishness because they don't believe, don't understand, or don't accept it.

The power of God is in the message of the cross, not the cross itself. Jesus Christ. Our Savior. Our sacrifice. Our forgiveness. Our Hope. Our Salvation. Grace. Mercy. Unconditional love. Hope. Eternal Life.

For those of us who believe, we see the power of God working in our lives. It is because of that power our lives are transformed. It's because of the power of the message of the cross that we have an obligation to share that message with a world that thinks it's foolish.

People or Steeple?


People or Steeple?


Is church people or a place? According to the dictionary, it's both.
a. A building for public christian worship
b. The whole body of christian believers
c. A body of christian believers worshipping in a particular building.

That sounds politically correct doesn't it? Let's cover the bases, it's the building, it's the people, or it's both.According to the Bible, the church is the people. period. end of story, no confusion. The church is the body of Christ"After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church--for we are members of his body." Ephesians 5:29-30(NIV)-Jesus comparing the church to a marriage.


There are other scriptures that back up the church being people and being the body of Christ.My point is the church is people. It's not a facility, it's a family. It's not a location, it's loved ones. It's not a place, it's a people. I think some people have this mindset that church is a place we attend, instead of a body we are a part of. Many feel that if they attend a church service once a week, they are participating, but they are only attending.We treat church like we are going out to a movie or a ball game. We go, we sit, we watch, we observe, and we go home.


Some treat church like a social club or group. We are members, we pay our dues, we attend meetings, and we are "members" of that church.Without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, Christianity is just ritual and religion. Without actively participating in the body of Christ(the church not the place), we are simply going through motions, paying dues, and physically attending, but not spiritually connecting.When you become a member of the body of Christ, just like any part of a body, we have a function, a part, and a role.


If we are not functioning and being used, we will wither,die, or become obsolete. If you view church as a place you go on sundays and not a body you are a part of on a daily basis, you are missing God's purpose for His church.We are all part of God's church, His body, His family. Churches own buildings, have programs, and develop ministries, but the church from it's creation is the people.


Jesus died for the church, not the building. Jesus want a relationship with His people, not just weekly attendance to a public worship service at a church building. We are the church. We are His church.

Loyalty



Loyalty
That is someone serious about loyalty to get it tattooed permanentely on their wrist. They must take that word very serious. I take that word very serious too(but I probably have enough tattoo's, haha).What does loyalty mean to you? Is it a spouse that takes care of you during an illness? Is it a company that rewards you a job promotion or raise? Is it a friend that stands by you when no one else does? Maybe you don't know what I'm talking about? Maybe you've been thrown under the bus by people you trusted or respected?


Loyalty is being faithful or devoted to a person, place, or cause. When I think of loyalty I think about people I've had in my life over the years who have been faithful friends to me, probably when I didn't deserve it. People who have stood by me, even despite my mistakes and failures.


I think of my friend Russ who always tells me what I need to hear and I can always go to for Godly counsel and advice who's been my friend since high school. I think of my friend TJ who always has encouraged me and complimented me in my calling as a Minister. I think of my friend Bryan who i've shared in joy and sorrow with together and we've kept that bond of friendship. I think about my dad who is always positive about my life, even when I make stupid choices. I think about my friend Reece who has never judged me or questioned my faith. I think about my friend Wade (who's my boss now) and how supports me and the challenges we face in ministry.


I could mention more (so don't feel left out), but the point it's so important to surround ourselves with people in our lives who are loyal. People who will support you even when you make mistakes, and who will let you know you made mistakes, but they still love you anyway. People who will not leave you hanging, avoid you, forget you, or betray you. We need friendships like this. We need loved ones like this, we need relationships like this in our lives.


We also need to be that type of person to others.Years ago I interviewed at a church and got the job and they told me my references all said the same one thing about me, I was loyal. That made me feel so good and i've never forgot that. I don't want to be remembered for my mistakes, poor choices, or bad decisions. I want to be remembered as loyal. A loyal friend. A loyal follower of Christ. We need to be people who are loyal to their significant others, children, and friends. We need people who are loyal employees, bosses, and business owners.

We need people who are loyal to Christ, His church, and the mission and vision of the local church. How's your loyalty?


"Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful."

I Corinthians 4:2(NIV)

Calling



Calling


"I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received."

Ephesians 4:1(NIV)


Calling. An often misunderstood word. We are all called. God does call people into ministry full-time to be preachers, youth ministers, children's ministers, worship ministers, missionaries, and serve in other capacities.


However, I believe we are all called by God. God has called all of us to live for Him. God has called all of us to live for His purpose and His will. The issue is not about God not calling us, as much as it is about us hearing, seeing, or knowing that we are being called by God. I don't want to paint a negative picture of being calling into full-time ministry, but at times it gets very frustrating serving in a ministry capacity. I've had the opportunity to both attend church and serve in the local church and the stresses and frustrations of serving the local church and it's people can take a lot out of you.


Many people leave the ministry or have issues because of how they are treated or how they handle the stresses of working in the church, it's not an easy task as many who do not know think it might be. However, on the flip side of that, it is also one of the most rewarding and exciting ways to live out your life in the service of God. Though many give up and get out of ministry, some even leaving the church, our calling into ministry is what motivates us and sustains us through the valleys and the mountain tops.Just like some are called into full-time christian service, all are called to live to God and sometimes even as a christian or a one seeking God, we can get frustrated, aggravated, overwhelmed by life, the church, even other christians and it makes us want to give up. Don't!Many people have been turned off of church by the church.


Many people have been turned off of christianity by christians, and many people have missed their calling by focusing on distractions and not God. Despite it's people, the church is still the body of Christ and the greatest thing going. Despite many human imperfections, christianity is still the only path through Jesus to God. We cannot give up on our calling, throw in the towel, or ignore God's voice because of how others act, our own struggles, or the world's distractions.I want to encourage you today that you are called by God.


Specifically and individually God has called you to live for Him, serve Him, and He has a plan and purpose for your life. He wants to use you and your time, talents, and testimony for His glory. He may not be calling you into full-time ministry, but you are still called. But, then again, maybe one of you reading this today is being called into full-time ministry by God, are you listening

One Hour



One Hour


One Hour. That is what some photo labs give you to get your pictures developed or some eye glass companies claim to have your lenses ready. For some cities it's a limit in certain areas to park your vehicle. Most television drama's run an hour. What is one hour to you?


There are 24 hours in a day or 168 hours in a week or 8,736 hours in a year. If you want to look at it different consider there are 1,440 minutes in a day or 10,080 minutes in a week or 524,160 minutes in a year. My point is, one hour isn't very much. Even if you work 8 hours a day in a 40 hour work week, you still have 128 hours left. If you sleep 8 hours a day in a week(56 hours) that leaves you with 72 hours left in your week. Or 8 hours a day.


Now I know some of us may work more than 40 hours and may sleep less than 8 hours a day, but, my point is, when you look at our time, what is one hour? One hour is what many people give God a week and that's it. Out of 168 hours in a week, some people come to church for one hour a week on Sunday morning and think that is enough to help them grow and mature in their faith or personal relationship with God.


What if you only got one hour a week to spend with your kids? What if you only got one hour a week to spend with your spouse/significant other? What if you only got one hour a week to watch tv or spend doing your favorite hobby? Would we really have a good relationship with the people we love if we only got one hour a week? Could we really enjoy our favorite tv shows or hobbies if we only have one hour a week to fit it all in?


We make time for what's important in our lives. We cannot expect to truly know God and learn from Him if we are only attending a church service at a local church one hour a week. We have to spend time reading and learning the Bible on our own and developing devotional time. We have to spend time talking to God and communicating and listening to God(prayer), and we have to spend time in study learning with others, whether in a Sunday School class, a small group, or a weekly bible study. We have to make time to serve God using our gifts and talents. We can't possibly fit all those things in our lives in one hour a week that we are spending sitting in a church service observing and not participating.

Our one hour of public worship at the local church should be a spring board to start our week off right. Sunday morning worship once a week is a time for us to come and worship God through song, prayer, communion, prayer, and fellowship as a church family, not to fill our quota or cover our faith for the week.

It shouldn't be the only thing we do during the week that is spiritual. We cannot truly expect to know God inr a real way or His will for our lives, or grow or mature in our faith by simply attending a public worship service one hour a week.

Weekly worship is important, but it cannot replace making personal time with God for study, reflection, learning, prayer, fellowship, and service. It is so vital that as individuals we eventually move past just attending church services and start actively being the church. That we go from being just an observer once a week and become a participant.

One hour a week at the local church worship service is not enough. We need to make time for our personal relationship with God in our daily schedule. Just like we have to balance everything else in our lives, we must balance our faith. We make time for what we want. I pray that we all will make more time for God than just one hour of sitting in church on Sundays. I can't tell you how much time to spend with God every week that's up to each individual, but if all me or you are giving is one hour attedning church, it's not enough. If we expect to have a life-changing relationship with God, we have to take it serious, make time for it, and that takes energy, effort, desire, discipline, availability, and time. Let's give God our best not our minimum.

Follow The Leader


Follow the Leader


When you think of leadership or being a leader, what do you think of or who do you think of? Being a leader means that you are up in front of people (in the lead) and you are supposed to be leading them because they are supposed to be following you.


There are two problems though with this situation. Sometimes the person who is supposed to be leading is not doing a very good job (they usually don't know it) and sometimes the people following aren't very good followers (they don't know it either). These are two different situations, but both cause tremendous issues in an organization (team, workplace, business, church).


First to those who lead: We must be willing to do whatever it takes to lead effectively and efficiently. We must expect opposition and deal with it. We must expect to make decisions and people to follow those decisions or respond to those who choose not to. We must not compromise our convictions, cower to opposition, or change directions when pressured. We must admit mistakes, but not give up. We must keep our focus on our mission, vision, direction, or the purpose we are hired/called to lead and not waiver when facing roadblocks, opposition, or conflicts.


We should not be surprised by these things either, if are you are a good leader you are going to challenge yourself and others and sometimes people don't like or want to be challenged. If people do understand where and why you are leading them, you will build momentum, support, and enthusiasm, you will also weed out those who aren't following. We also must admit when we are no longer capable of leading effectively or efficiently and move aside. Leaders are also good followers.


Secondly, to those who follow: We are all followers, even if we lead. Followers must have a spirit of cooperation, willingness to learn, and desire to be a part of something bigger than them. Followers must allow leaders to lead and trust their leadership and decisions. Followers should ask questions and seek answers if they do not understand where or why they are being led, but do not need to know every single detail, but should strive to see the bigger picture and trust leadership. Followers should accept decisions even if they do not agree with them,and if they cannot, they should move on to a different organization with a leadership they can follow. Do not try to lead if you are not a leader. When you are not a good follower you hold others back and destroy unity, positive momentum and atmosphere in an organization.


We need good leaders in our world, we need good followers. In our homes, in our schools, on our teams, at our jobs, and in our churches. If leaders are going to lead, they need to lead well, if followers are going to follow they need to follow well.


I've failed as a leader and had success. I've failed as a follower and had success. We must learn from our mistakes, be realistic of our abilities and influence, and strive to honor God in all we do. If you're going to lead, then do it well or move aside and let someone else lead who is more qualified or better equipped. If you are going to follow, cooperate and be supportive and if you can't move on so others can follow. God wants us to be good leaders and good followers, especially of Him no matter where it is we lead or follow (home, work, school, sports, church).


"Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith."

Hebrews 13:7(NIV)


"We instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more."

I Thessalonians 4:1(NIV)

Realistic Dessert



Realistic Dessert


There are preachers,churches, and denominations of faith out there that teach this "Pie in the sky" type faith. Or health and wealth gospel if you will. That if you are living right, God is going to bless you financially and you'll live better. Jesus warned us (Matt 7:15) to watch out for false prophets and Peter warned (2 Peter 2:1) that there would be many false teachers out there.


Whether these things are taught purposely by false teachers or simply out of innocent ignorance, they are false, misleading, and inaccurate.I know i've made mistakes in my interpretation of scriptures, but the Word of God is clear when it comes to our faith that there is nothing we can do to earn salvation, (James 2:14-25) teaches us that we should do things because of our faith, not do things to earn our faith. Peter reminds us in scripture (I Peter 2:12-19) that we shouldn't be ashamed of suffering in the name of Jesus, but expect it. Jesus reminded us (John 16:33) that we would indeed have trouble in this world. If we strive to live faithful lives to God, our lives will be blessed, not perfect.


If we continue to grow in our personal relationship with Jesus our life will have much meaning and purpose, but no promise of worldly riches or success. Being a christian does not mean you'll never struggle, have hardships, fail, or have it all. I would argue the more you grow in your faith and live for God the more challenges you will face, the more persecution you may endure, but through those things you persevere and according to Paul (Romans 5:3-5) our suffering will produce perseverance, and our perseverance character, and our character, hope.No mention of riches, fame, fortune, prestige, getting our way, or our hearts desires. There is mention of the sun shining and it raining on both the good and evil and the righteous and unrighteous(Matt. 5:45).


Also, God does not show favoritism (Rom 2:11, Ephesians 6:9, James 2:1) to anyone. We can drive ourselves batty wondering why we live for God and things don't seem to go our way and why someone we know is bad or evil and they seem to prosper? I think God might be trying to teach us patience or trust. I think we cannot play God and must allow God to work in His way and in His time, because our ways or time are not like His. I don't understand it all, but I do understand that if you are following God to get a bigger paycheck, a nicer house, or your name in lights, you've missed the point.


Living for God is about being cleansed from our sins, and having hope of a future. Our reward is eternity in the presence of God, not anything this world has to offer us. Seek God, no matter what. Good days and bad, rich or poor, healthy or sick, happy or sad. Anyway you go, a life with God is better than a life with no faith.


"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us."

Romans 8:18(NIV)

The Bird Whisperer


Bird Whisperer


"The Lord is my light and my salvation--whom shall I fear?"

Psalm 27:1(NIV)


Recently, we had a bird get into our church building. I was actually told that it has happened in the past and periodically in the winter time, some birds find a way into our building, probably through our All-Purpose Center. Anyway, this bird came flying down the hallway into our offices. I got it to fly out to our foyer area and tried to get it out the front doors, but it made a detour to our auditorium.


I was able to walk up on the bird and actually pick it up and carry it outside to set him free(I wore gloves no bird flu for me). The bird was scared and chirped loudly in fear, but I assured him he was ok and I was going to letting him go back outside where he belonged. Of course I don't speak birdanese and the bird doesn't speak english, so he had no idea that I wasn't going to harm him. His natural instinct was to be scared and to chirp loudly, when there was no need. I was going to protect him, help him, and set him free.


That bird reminded me of how I can be sometimes when I fear the unknown or something unfamiliar. We are like that as humans. We fear change, or things we do not know, or things we cannot control, or things we think might harm us or cause us trouble. However, scripture reminds us that the only thing we should fear is God(Deut. 6:13, Psalm 19:9 Php 2:12), the creator and sustainer of life. Our fear of God is out of reverence and respect.


If we love God and fear Him, we have nothing else in this world to fear. He is our protector, our Savior, our deliverer, our guide, our safety, our shelter, and the giver of Life. Those of us who enter a relationship with God have eternity with God in our grasp and there is nothing this world has to offer that should cause us to be scared of tremble. Nothing in this world or in our lives, has power over God.


Here that gentle whisper of peace today? That is God, He's holding us in His hands and He's reminding us that we are safe. We are in His hands and He's protecting us. He has set us free, and we have nothing to fear. Whatever you fear, give it to God today.

Hurting the Church

Hurting the church

Have you ever done something and it affected other people and you didn't realize it until after you had done it. Maybe it's something small like you ate all the lunch meat your dad needed for his work lunch the next day? Maybe it was you forgot to mail the bills for your spouse and now they are going to be late? Maybe it's a little more serious.

Maybe you did something without asking your parents permission or lied to them only to get caught and got in trouble? Or maybe you said something to hurt someone's feelings or strain a relationship and didn't realize it until it was too late? I think at times we all are guilty of making choices or decisions that are bad and we don't realize how they may affect others.It happens in our churches. People do and say stuff and they don't realize the negative impact they are having on their church family. People get so easily caught up in their own agendas, getting their way, and even sin that they hurt the church.

How many churches do you know about that have a bad or negative reputation? It's not the churches fault, it's the people who go there that give the church that reputation and many times it's more than reputation, it's true.I've been to churches where one person or family ran the church. I've seen churches where a few "loud" complainers hold the church back, and I've witnessed people who only cared about themselves and what they wanted in a church and they didn't think about the entire church body or the potential lost people their church could be reaching.

There are many people out there that simply want church to be "their way" or the way they like it and whether it's intentional or not intential, the church suffers.Our actions and attitudes do affect the church as a whole. We can help or hinder the work of God in the local church. We can support or discourage God's vision for our church. We can bring people in or run them off. We can love people as they are or we can hurt them deeply. I've talked to people over the year's who stopped going to church because of how they were treated by certain christians at a church they were once members.

I know of a church who is basically waiting for one man to die so they can finally make some changes to reach more people. Our country is littered with churches that are held hostage, slowly dying, or wounded because of the members who refuse to cooperate, unite, love, or move out of the way.We must constantly evalute our motives, our efforts, and our attitudes as we serve the local church. We must keep our heart close to the spirit of God and seek His guidance, wisdom, and will. It should be our goal to be a positive part of the local church and help it grow for God's will not ours. We need to support, encourage, and pray for our leaders, ministers, and our church. We need to serve and support things even when it's not our way, our idea, or not what we are used to or comfortable with.

I don't want to hurt the church. I don't want to be responsible for holding the church back or running people off or rebelling against God's will just so I can be in control, get my way, or hold on to some old tradition or feeling. How about you?

"try to excel in gifts that build up the church."
I Corinthians 14:12b(NIV)

You can run, but you can't hide


You can run, but you can't hide


You know that an Ostrich doesn't really hide it's head in the sand when it's scared or it wants to avoid a problem, hoping it will magically go away? This is just a myth, but it is a saying that people use to describe someone who is running or hiding from a problem.What is not a myth is the fact that many people do try and run or hide from their problems, but the reality is that you cannot run or hide from any problem. No problem goes away on it's own until it is dealt with.


Hiding only prolongs it and many times makes it bigger or worse. People try and run from God. I certainly have on more than one occasion. I tried to avoid God's calling on my life so I ran. I tried to run from my sin. I tried to hide from God's will when I did not get my will. We are only fooling ourselves. We cannot hide from God. God is everywhere, all the time, anytime, 24/7 365. He is God. There is nothing He doesn't know at His choosing.If you are dealing with a problem in your life right now, stop running, stop hiding, stop avoiding.


If you are possibly running from God or trying to hide something from Him, Stop! It is time to be honest with God, possibly others, and yourself. It's time to deal with whatever issue it is. Maybe it's something like doubt, confidence, or a fear. Maybe it's something bigger like depression, anxiety, or anger. Maybe it's a death, divorce, or a relationship struggle? Maybe it's a lifestyle that is slowly destroying you or maybe God is prompting to you to serve, give, or do something, maybe even calling you and you are trying to hide? I don't know what it is you are hiding or avoiding today, how minor or major it is, but if you want to run anywhere, run to God.


If you want to hide somewhere, hide in the arms of God. There is nothing that God cannot get us through. There is nothing that God won't give us the strength, power, courage, patience, or endurance to deal with, get through, or face.I've tried it on my own, my way, and without God many times and i've failed everytime. I've never hid where God couldn't find me. I've never hid and my problems went away. I think you will find if you haven't already, the same to be true.


Whatever it takes for you, stop running, stop hiding, stop avoiding, and start facing, start dealing, and start relying on God to get you through.


"And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

Matthew 28:20b(NIV)

Metamorphosis


Metamorphosis


Most of us, in elementary or Jr. High school learned about the metamorphosis process of a Butterfly. How the butterfly starts out as an egg, then goes from larva, then pupa, and eventually to a butterfly. It is a neat process. Metamorphosis comes from the greek word meaning "transforming".


I think as people or "christians" we go through sort of a metamorphosis of our own. We all start out "lost". Sometimes you might here words to describe us as, non-christian, un-churched, un-saved, or even "sinner".


Secondly, at some point people decide to seek out God, try out church, or think there is more to life than what they have seen or done so far, so people move from being "lost" to more of a seeking, or discovering stage. This is where they attend church, ask questions, and maybe do some research, study, or ask people they know who go to church questions.


Thirdly, After this process, we decide to make a decision. Unfortuantely, some people decide to stop going to church or think being a Christian or God is not for them, so they give up or walk away. However, many decide they believe and want to give their lives to Christ, so many move to become "christians" by asking God into their lives, seeking forgiveness, and confessing Jesus to be Lord, and accepting God and getting baptized and becoming a christian. This is a good thing. It is an exciting time, and hopefully, it is life changing. Sometimes for people like me, this process is a little different, because I was raised in church, I hardly know a life without going to church, so when i got old enough to understand(age 12) I gave my life to Christ. At this point in the process, people's journey's may be different, but the steps are the same, or should be the same. It's still part of the process whether you were raised in church or not.


Fourthly, the next step in the process is really the part of growing and maturing in your personal relationship with God. This takes many forms. Learning to pray(talk to God) daily, reading and studying the Bible, placing membership in a local church, getting involved and volunteering and serving in the local church, hopefully discovering what your talents are and using them for God, and just growing and maturing in your knowledge, understanding, and faith in God. This process will take a life time.


Fifthly, the final process should be Heaven or eternity. Living a faithful life to God until we die or He comes back again. Right now God has not returned, but He will, so we prepare to meet Him, whether through our physical death or the hope that He will come back in our life time.
The thing is, a lot of people don't make it through the transformation from lost to heaven. They may become a christian, but many choose to not grow, mature, or develop or deepen their faith. They think believing in God is enough or attending church is enough,
but believing or attending church doesn't produce the life-changing(transformation) that God had in mind when we enter a relationship with Him.


Some people get so apathetic by being raised in church or by going to church so long, they lose sight or touch with their personal responsibility of growing, nuturing, and maturing their own faith. The problem is not the church, the problem is us. If people would move from going to church to being the church, the church would look different. Many stop the transforming process and become comfortable and their christianity becomes just another thing they do and they dont' really move past this stage. This is dangerous ground, I wouldn't want to risk my eternity with God by stopping at this stage.


Sometimes though people get stuck in a process or in one spot and do not change. Are you there? Are you just going through the motions? Just playing church? Maybe you attend church every week, maybe you volunteer regularly, but are you growing? maturing? transforming? We must never stop changing, never stop growing, never stop learning, and never stop making an effort to know God deeper, better, or more closely.


Many people make a decision to become a christian or to attend church, but many never make the commitment. There is a huge difference between a decision and commitment. There is a huge difference between just believing or knowing and living out or having faith. God wants us all to be transformed, not temporarily, but eternally, and so we must continue the process and not stop changing.


"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind."
Romans 12:2(NIV)

It's all about Mii

IT'S ALL ABOUT Mii

"After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples feet, drying them with the towel tht was wrapped around Him."
John 13:5(NIV)

"I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you."
John 13:15(NIV)

Of all the stories about Jesus found in the 4 gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John) in the Bible. This story intrigues me the most I think? The ultimate example of humility given by Jesus. The Master, teacher, Messiah, and Savior. The Son of God gets down on His knees and washes the dirty feet of His disciples. He was trying to teach them a life-changing lesson. You can't serve me without being a servant to others. You can't lead with talk, but by example. You can to bless me, bless others. You want to give me true glory? Get on your knees, humble yourself, and wash some dirty feet.

That doesn't sound much like our society does it? Doesn't even sound much like our churches, if i'm being honest. Everyone wants to serve in positions in the church where they get noticed, attention, or praise. We want up front, on the stage, and in the light. We teach, minister, serve, or lead not to honor Christ, but to boost our own ego or insecurity.

I'm talking about preachers, youth ministers, praise team members, SS teachers, elders, deacons, ministry leaders, praise band members, children's director's, and any christians really, paid or volunteer, minister or member. What motivates you? Would you still serve or be in a position if no one noticed you? Would you lead if you couldn't be in charge? Would you sing, teach, or perform if there was no audience?

Church really is an audience of one: God. Our real motive in going to church should not be fellowship, socializing, or even a place to get our ego stroked, but it's a place we are to go with other people to GIVE God worship. We should RECEIVE blessings from giving God our best worship and service, but for a lot of people it's not about God, it's about us. Our songs, our programs, our wants, our limelight, our control, our ego...me,me, me! and it should be HE, HE, HE!

If we really want to serve, we must serve humbly. If we really want to worship, we must come humbly. If we really want to be faithful, we must give God the glory humbly. It's not about you, it's not about me, because it's always been and always will be about Him. If He's not getting the credit, it's time to change.

If you are going to lead, sing, teach, serve, or worship, do so with the attitude of a humble servant. Let's follow the example left for us in the Bible by Jesus and start getting on our knees and getting dirty "washing feet", whatever that might mean, and stop caring about getting noticed, the credit, or our way. Let's start serving and worshipping and leading for the right reasons, the only reason, giving God ALL the glory.

"humility comes before honor"
Proverbs 15:33b(NIV)

Priorities


"If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men."

I Corinthians 15:19 (NIV)

As we look at our lives and evaluate ourselves what do you see? Can we look at our day planners, checkbooks, and daily lives and see what's really important to us? Do we list our priorities as God, Family, church, etc...yet as we look at our lives there is not much proof of that list? Other things are far more important. Money? Work? Hobbies? Habits? Greed? Ego? Self?
Do we really place ultimate faith, trust, and hope in a relatioship with God? Or are we simply going to church, wearing the name christian, and putting hope that our belief in God is or will be enough to get us through?


Maybe we simply don't want to go to hell or we know that we are supposed to go to church and believe in God, so that is as much as we give to it. Maybe our faith isn't much of a faith at all, but more of idea? Maybe we have some religion, but little personal relationship. It's hard to put God at the top of our list of priorities when we have some belief, but limited faith, some religion, but little relationship. You cannot grow or mature in your faith if it is not at the top of your list.


When we choose golf, hunting, fishing, shopping, ball games, and every hobby, habit, and interest you can think of over our involvement, service, commitment to God through our local church and personal faith. The result? Our list on paper doesn't match up with our heart. God wants us to enjoy this life, but not this life only! God wants our life to be productive, but if all we want is what this life has to offer, we are missing the point of knowing God all together and should be pitied.


This life is not what LIFE is all about. Earthly pleasures are temporary. Everything in this world, including our hobbies and material things are destructive distractions, when their pursuit becomes more important or valuable than knowing, serving, and living a life of relationship with God.


Everyday people throw away marriages, families, and relationships for temporary pleasures or gain. We break vows, stab people in the back, and step on anyone we can to get ahead, get the most, or get what we think will make us happy or content in this world, while ignoring the fact that this life isn't all there is. This life was not meant to be a gamble. This life is not about doing what you want and how you want your whole life and ignore God or put him way down the list of priorities, but hope for the best when you die or hope He'll save you an open seat in heaven.


We must get God off the paper list and into our hearts and He must be first. We must seek to not only believe in God, but develop a strong faith in Him through the pursuit of a relationship with Him that will change our habits, hobbies, relationships, and priorities. It will give our lives balance, clarity, meaning, value, and purpose. If we truly seek to put God first in our lives and in this world to prepare for the next(eternity), we can began to have our priorities in order. Today is a great day to get our priorities straight. It's a process, but one worth working for, not for this life, but eternal life.

a Real Christmas Present


A Real Present at Christmas

"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble."
Psalm 46:1


This Christmas many of us will give or receive many presents. Most we don't need and could do without. But, one of the things I like about the Christmas holiday is seeing so many people in the giving spirit and also being able to give to others myself. There is something meaningful about giving something to someone else.


I think one present we miss or may be missing in our lives is the actually presence of God. This psalm above is a reminder that God is always present. He's not there some of the time, most of the time, or when he feels like it, or when it's convenient, but He is EVER-PRESENT, which means God constant, always, and 24/7 availability to us.


What a peaceful thought to have, that no matter what we go through, we we live, what happens, and what others may do to us, God is ever-present. No matter our struggle or victory, wealth or poverty, sins or service, pain or joy, shame or glory, and everything in between, we can count on God being there every breath, every step, and every moment.


I celebrate God sending Jesus to be born of a virgin, for His plan of redemption to save the world from its sins. I celebrate the birth of the Christ-child, our Messiah and Savior. If it were not for God sending His son as our sacrifice, we would still be in need of a Savior and lost without Him. However, I want to celebrate the presence of God in my life everyday. I want to always remember that truly God is "Immanuel"-God is with us-ALWAYS. Not just at Christmas, but always. Will you recognize God is ever-present this Christmas?

Do you know?

Do you Know?

"Knowing the Word of God does not necessarily mean that we know the God of the Word."
--Chip Brogden

I came across this quote today and it really made me think. (that's hard for some of you to believe, and smoke didn't come out my ears) We can be students of the bible, memorize verses and scripture, know all the stories and parables. We can study the history and culture of the people and places in the Bible and we can read about all the things about God and Jesus and yes we can have knowledge about God and His word, but not really know GOD.

God is who we really need to know and if we begin to build a personal relationship with him, give our lives to him wholly, and become filled with His spirit, then maybe we will truly get to know God for real, personally, intimately, and not just on paper, by name, or affiliated with our church attendance or status.

We can be raised in church, hear about God, and call ourselves a christian. We can know all our church traditions, slogans, practices, and rituals, but do we really know God? Knowing about God isn't enough. Attending church or volunteering at church isn't enough if our heart isn't truly seeking to know God in a real way.

The christian faith is a process. It's about starting where you are and starting that journey toward knowing God. The more you know about God the more you'll discover Him and hopefully decide to give your life to Him and surrender fully to Him and begin walking in a relatinship with Him. When you ask God into your lives and obey him through salvation and baptism God will give you His spirit to dwell in you and will act as a guide, a compass, and give your life more direction.

Hopefully on this journey through this process you'll begin to read and study His Word, the Bible, and/or get involved in bible study or small groups so that you can mature and grow in your knowledge and faith of God. Not just knowing stories or believing in a God, but growing in a personal real way. It's a journey. We all have to start somewhere, no matter our age. Sometimes even if we've been going to church a long time, we realize we've just been going through the motions and have gotten away from a relationship and just been doing religion.

I pray today you'll discover, re-discover, develop or re-develop, or deepen your faith in God, and not only know the Word of God, but knowing the God of the Word!

Traditions


Traditions
Jesus replied, "And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your traditions?"

Matthew 15:3(NIV)

(Jesus speaking to Pharisees and teachers because His disciples didn't wash their hands before they ate. Further reading go to Matt. 15:1-20)


Holidays are a great time that many families have annual traditions? Dinner at grandma's, opening presents christmas morning, the reading of "The night before Christmas" or the real Christmas story of Jesus' birth. Maybe the hanging of stockings, or mom making her famous pies?


I'm not sure what traditions you or your family participate in or perform during the holidays. But traditions can be a great part of family or memories. Traditions, however, can also be a negative thing when it comes to our faith. The problem with any tradition in a church is that at some point people begin mistaking and making those traditions gospel, doctrinal, or neccessities.


I find it interesting that the word tradition comes from the Latin traditionem, acc. of traditio which means "a giving up, delivering up, surrendering" (source: wikipedia). In today's culture tradition is more of a custom or practice. What I find interesting is the original intent of the word means "giving up" or "surrending" something and that's the last thing most people want to do when it comes to "traditions".


Having grandpa's famous fudge every year at Christmas is a great tradition and no harm in having it every year as long as grandpa wants to keep making it, but to take a practice or custom at your church that becomes a tradition and force people to never give it up or split the church if leadership ends it, is not biblical or spiritually mature or wise.


Sometimes traditions run their course. Sometimes traditions work great for awhile, but become boring, ineffective, or stagnant. Sometimes traditions were great for one generation, but not for the next. We live in an ever changing world and culture and the church must change with it while keeping the message of Jesus unchanging. There have been many styles of automobiles over the years, but it's still an automobile. The main object doesn't change, only the method or style.


There are certain traditions in church I enjoy or love, but to bind traditions on people because I like it or enjoy it is both wrong and selfish. I'm for traditions in church for as long as they are effective, relevant, and positive. But, I'm also for ending "traditions" and beginning new ones when old ones stop working, growing, or being positive. The church is bigger than one person.


I know I write to many different types of people. Young and old, old school and new school, legalistic and progressive, christian and non-christian, and raised in church and not raised in church. I know the things I share are only my thoughts and opinions, but I hope in some way I can challenge your thinking today and help us all realize that sometimes we all can hold back the church and message of Jesus with our stubbornness, narrow-mindedness, and selfishness whether it's intentional or not, we can all be guilty of it.


I think something that will help us all is for us to know the difference between a tradition and a biblical command. To know the difference between essential doctrines and non-essential traditions. To enjoy traditions while they last, but when they've ran their course, support and enjoy new traditions that our church may try to incorporate or begin. Don't become so attached to a tradition that it becomes gospel, because our traditions may change over time, but the gospel never does.

Real Trophy




I don't mean to self promote and I know everyone is not fond of killing animals, but this past November I was able to go deer hunting over Thanksgiving and I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time and harvest this nice 9-point Whitetail buck back in West Virginia and now I have a freezer full of meat to enjoy this next year.


Many people make preparations for hunting season. Whether they hunt with a bow, a shotgun, rifle, crossbow, pistol, or a muzzleloader many gather the equipment, ammunition, clothing, and many scout out the place in the woods(forest for you city folk) where they think they may be able to see deer to be able to get a chance to shoot at one.


The thing i've always found humorous is the fact that many go overboard in pursuit of that trophy buck. Whether it's how the prepare, dress, or do things to gain an advantage over the deer. Honestly, I make a little effort during bow season to conceal my scent, but during gun season it's all out the window.


I just go out there and with my huge blaze orange coveralls still having yesterdays cologne and hope for the best. During gun season the woods are full of anxious or over-zealous hunters and male deer's (bucks) are chasing female deer's (does) for natural reasons. I would love to tell you I'm a great hunter with all the skill in the world, but the fact is, I enjoy the outdoors, I enjoy hunting, and I am lucky and blessed. I want to fill my deer tag, fill my freezer, and have some good stories to tell, but in the end I'm in the right place at the right time.


The reason I tell you all this is that sometimes as christians we go overboard in our faith and get fanatical or legalistic, when we just need to get back to the basics. Also, finding God is not about being at the right place at the right time, but making a conscience effort to discover God all around us and what He has to offer our lives compared to what the world has to offer.


When I deer hunt I spend a lot of time with God and thinking about my faith. I find a lot of comparisons. Sometimes we get caught up in the pursuit that we miss the prize. Sometimes we get so busy making preparations, we don't enjoy the hunt. Sometimes people hunt for the horns instead of the harvest of meat. Sometimes people worry about things that don't really matter anyway.


Seeking God is the same way. We enjoy the research, but miss God. Sometimes we are so busy serving or doing church, we miss God. Sometimes we seek attention, accolades, or recognition when we need to seek humility, repentance, or submissiveness. Sometimes we get caught up on issues of opinion or preference instead of realizing the freedom we have in Christ and not every issue is a salvation issue.


When deer hunters get caught up in that, they sometimes miss deer, sometimes they miss out on the joy or experience of hunting, or they miss the true meaning or intent. When people get caught up on that, they miss God, they miss out on a true worshipful experience, or something God might be trying to teach them. Sometimes they miss out on spiritual growth, maturity, or blessing.


God is the ultimate prize. Salvation through Jesus is the ultimate trophy. Finding God and making Him Lord of your life is the ultimate hunt.


"Run in such a way as to get the prize." I Corinthians 9:24b(NIV)

Inside Voice: The Sequel


Inside Voice: The Sequel


I guess one article wasn't enough to talk about my big mouth. Last week we talked about saying things without thinking it through, whether they are accidental or not, sort of thinking before we speak.


However, there is another part of that. That is knowing when to stop talking, to be quiet, or to simply shut up. I'm guilty. There are times when I keep talking and I don't realize i should have stopped talking 10 minutes ago. Or there are times when we should not say anymore and just keep them to ourselves, but we don't. We don't stop.


You been there? You with me? How many arguments, problems, or issues could we avoid in our marriages, relationships with loved ones, our parents, our children, co-workers or bosses at work, or even our churches if we'd learn to keep quiet or let go of things that don't matter.


I agree there is a time to speak to let your opinion and feelings be heard. There is a time to stand up for what is right, and there is a time to defend yourself. But, many times like me, I pick the wrong times, or I don't realize the other person has a different personality than me. Not all people respond the same. Sometimes we are just flat out wrong and need to stop talking.


Kids badger parents after they told them no, church members gripe and complain because the chuch doesn't cater to them, spouses overeact to something the other spouse didn't say or do, we chew out a co-worker because we're grouchy or having a bad day, or we get into a disagreement with a friend and won't let it go.


My problem is I like to talk about things (yes I am like a woman). But, what I have trouble with is realizing that you can't always solve everything in one conversation and sometimes you have to take a break or come back to it when both parties are ready, willing, and mentally able to deal with whatever the conversation, issue, disagreement, or problem might be about. I have to learn that sometimes I just need to be quiet and give things time or give other people time to process things. Not everyone feels, thinks, or acts like me. Sometimes silence is best.


I write to encourage you today that as long as we are willing and open to it, we can change. We can mature and grow in areas of our lives where we are weak, blind, or have faults. Half the battle is admitting it or realizing it, then comes the tougher part, trying to overcome and deal with it. But, i can do it, you can do it, and then hopefully our lives will have better communication and healthier relationships and less tension, turmoil, and hurt feelings. I'm a work in progress, but I'm willing to work on it, how about you?


"Even a fool is thought to be wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue."
Proverbs 17:28(NIV)

Inside Voice


Does that picture look like you wish you would have done? If you are like me, sometimes I say things without thinking. They pop in my mind and I say them before I have a chance to think if they might be innapropriate? offensive? taken out of context? stupid? annoying? or just plain babbling? I don't mean to or want to come across that way, but when your mind is always racing and thinking and you like to make people laugh sometimes things just come out quicker than you want them to and sometimes things come out that should have just stayed right inside where they belonged.


I'm sure I am not the only person who suffers with this disease of "foot in your mouth". Sometimes it may be funny and sometimes it may be cute when someone spouts off something very random and out of place, but sometimes it can be hurtful. Sometimes we can say something to a loved one or a close friend and we don't think it through and it is hurtful or upsetting. Something else I've learned is the tone we use in our voice.


We can even do it in e-mails. We can spout off in an e-mail and an e-mail can't describe our emotion or facial expressions or tone and it can be taken wrong or out of context or misunderstood. I've learned the hard way that e-mail is not always the best way to communicate and sometimes it's better to talk in person.


One of the things I'm learning is everything we think or feel doesn't need to always be expressed in words. Sometimes I need to keep comments to myself. Sometimes I need to listen instead of talking. Sometimes being quiet and not talking is the best way to avoid a conflict at that particular moment. Life is all about learning and if you are not learning you are not living. It makes no sense to continually make the same mistakes over and over again. We must learn from our mistakes and be better people because of them.


I think Jesus and James both give us something to think about. We must be careful what we say and how we say it. It takes thought, discipline, and maturity to use our mouths and words wisely. I know I need to do a better job, how about you?


"For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks." Matthew 12:34b(NIV)


"but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison." James 3:8(NIV)

the good and the bad

The Good and the Bad

"When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other."
Ecclesiastes 7:14(NIV)

It is hard for people to fathom sometimes that God would allow us to go through bad times. I think the above verse let's us in on a little something, no matter whether times are good or bad, God is in control.

Wise writer Solomon reminds us that we should take advantage of the good times and be happy. Some people can't even seem to do that. But, I think we should cherish, take advantage, and captivate those moments in our lives where times are good and we can enjoy happiness. Life does not promise us constant happiness. Happiness is a feeling that comes and goes with our circumstances or moods. Remembering that God is in the good and bad times though, should change our perspective of enjoying the happy times more and persevering through the bad times with hope.

God does not promise us that if we follow Him or live for Him that we will experience all good times and nothing but happy feelings. As a matter of fact, if we would take some time to read His word, we'd discover that following Jesus might mean the opposite. That we should expect opposition, persecution, trouble, and problems. However, when we understand God is in control and that is His Lord of the good and the bad times, it releases us from the burden of trying to carry or deal with that bad time alone.

God through Jesus Christ has already paid the price for our sins. Jesus became our sin. Death has been defeated. Satan cannot win. Eternal life is available to all who will accept and remain faithful. No problem we face, not tragedy we endure, no problem we encounter, and no bad time can overcome the power, strength, wisdom, hope, and love of God. He is God no matter what happens. He is OUR God through the good and the bad.

So enjoy the good times, be happy when you have those moments and when bad times come along, remember you don't have to face them alone, they are temporary, you have a helper, and God is always and will always be God Almighty.

Baggage


Have you ever flew somewhere and then after reaching your final destination you go to baggage claim to get your baggage and you wait and wait until you realize they lost or misplaced your baggage? I've had it happen a couple times, not fun. Luckily it was when I arrived at home, so I wasn't stuck somewhere without clean clothes and I ended up getting my luggage a day or two later.


Life's baggage is a little different. Instead of losing it, we accumalate it. As we go through life and it's experiences we collect baggage and as we continue to live our lives it can really add up and weigh us down if we are not removing it.


Things happen in our lives whether by our doing or someone else's and we begin to carry emotional and mental baggage. Death, divorce, tragedy, loss, hurt feelings, betrayal, lies, gossip, slander, job loss, bad grades, getting cut from the team, break-ups, and the list is plentiful of the things that happen in our lives that leave us bruised, broken, tainted, scarred, and numb: Baggage. It piles up.


If we don't deal with these issues or learn to recover and heal from them, they can really weigh us down and drag our lives in a direction we don't want to go. Undealt with baggage can cause a strain on our relationships, affect new relationships, cause tension, misunderstanding, more hurt feelings, and more confusion, and endless brokenness. Whether it's loved ones, family, children, parents, significant others, co-workers, or classmates.


I don't expect to give you a simple answer in a weekly devotional on how to dump all your baggage at once, but I can challenge you to start moving forward in the right direction today. First, be honest with yourself and admit you have baggage. Secondly, realize what baggage you've caused and where the source of other baggage came from. Thirdly, begin seeking God through prayer and scripture to help you deal with the hurt, anger, pain, depression, and resentment that you might have because of it. Fourthly, find ways to cope, deal, or address issues. Whether that is reading books, attending or serving in church, researching topics on the internet, talking with friends or minister's, or seeking professional or medical help. Fifthly, make an effort to not sabotage, neglect, blame, or hurt current or future relationships because of past pain and baggage.


You have to start somewhere and it may be one piece of baggage at a time, but the more steps you take to get rid of it the lighter your load, the healthier you'll be and feel, and the better your relationships with others will become in the present and future. You can overcome, you can heal, you can lose your baggage, and losing this type of baggage is a good thing. Today is the day.

"I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on the rock and gave me a firm place to stand."
Psalm 40:1-2(NIV)

Safe hands

Safe Hands

"My times are in your hands; deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me."
Psalm 31:15

Hands. You can tell alot about a person by looking at their hands or by feeling their hands. Whether they work on cars or on a computer. Whether they work inside or outside. You can tell whether a person bites their fingernails as a nervous habit or if they take great care of making their hands look pretty with manicures and keeping them clean and neat.

Hands are used for grasping, reaching, holding, pointing, and waving. Hands can caress our cheek in a show of affection or strike our cheek in a sign of anger. Hands can make us feel loved or rejected. But, God's hands are a place of safety.

God holds our lives in His hands. We can find safety, security, healing, and comfort in the hands of God. Sometimes we need a hand to hold, sometimes we need a gentle touch, sometimes we might even need a swat on top the head to get our attention. God shields us like no other.

No matter what we face in this life by our own mistakes or the fault of others, we can always find refuge in the hands of God. Like a mother touching her new born baby for the first time, a daddy picking up his little crying girl who fell and bruised her knees,or the first time you held hands with your future spouse, or running into the arms of a loved one after time a part; God's hands are so much sweeter than even those precious moments.

Right before Jesus died on the cross he spoke these words, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit."(Luke 23:46 NIV) Even the son of God knew where to find peace that only God can give.

Death, divorce, abuse, neglect, depression, bitterness, anger, resentment, betrayal, gossip, addiction, or anything you are experiencing because of your own mistakes or the effects of others mistakes, you can always find a safe place in the hands of God. God will give you a healing and helping touch that you can find in no other.

COPS


COPS


"Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do? Watcha gonna do when the come for you, bad boys, bad boys."


Last night I got pulled over not once, but twice in the same night, I repeate, I got pulled over by the police not once, but twice. That has never happened to me before? Luckily for me, I had a tail light out and they simply were pulling me over to let me know. The first cop wrote me a warning, the 2nd one after I showed him my warning, let me go. I didn't know I had a tail light out, I would have never known until someone saw me driving at night to tell me.


One thing both cops asked me was, "did you know why I pulled you over?" my answer was "no?" Then they explained about my tail light being out. Sometimes we look at cops as being people who are looking for trouble or who are bored so they look for reasons to give tickets. We also get that sinking feeling in our gut when we see those lights flashing behind us. (I've never gotten a speeding ticket I didn't deserve and wasn't guilty)


However, sometimes when cops are pulling you over it's to help you and to protect you and/or other motorists. It was nice to get pulled over for something I wasn't aware of instead of something I was purposely doing wrong. We need people like this in our lives. People who love us and care about us enough to share with us when they see things wrong in our lives that we can't see or refuse to see.


Sometimes we have things wrong in our lives and we are blind or oblivious to them, and it takes a loving friend or person to "pull us aside" and check in on us and see if we know. We need these people in our lives that will encourage us, support us, and challenge us. We need to be that type of person to our friends and family we love. Police are not only there to write tickets and arrest people who break the law, but they are also there to protect us and watch out for us.


I think God also sends people into our lives to do the same. I think God wants to use us to provide that service to our loved ones. God is all about protecting us in our blind spots and things we ignore, don't see, can't see, or won't see. We should welcome His help he sends us and allow God to use us to help others.

Hand Check



Hand Check


"I have set the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken."

Psalms 16:8(NIV)


The right hand or the right side in Jewish culture and maybe others is a place of distinguishment or for someone special. This pslam reminds us that the Lord is always with us and that we are special to Him.


I think sometimes we let our past, our mistakes, and life get so wrapped up in turmoil, problems, busyness, etc...that we feel like God doesn't care about us or we feel we've strayed so far from God that we dont' matter to him, or that we've messed up so bad or did so much wrong that we can't find forgiveness and that simply isnt' true.


The only thing that can keep us from being close to God or letting God in our lives is ourselves. We can choose to run from God, ignore Him, or walk away from our faith, or hide behind some worldly distraction.


If we give our lives to Christ and become christians God gives us His holy spirit to dwell in our lives. God is always with us. Even if we don't know God personally, He is still there waiting and wanting a relationship with us.


No matter our past mistakes, our guilt, shame, struggles, addictions, or sins. God is by our side. He created us, He loves us, and He wants to not only be a part of our lives, but He wants to give our lives hope, direction, purpose, meaning, and value.


Reach out to God today. No matter what the issue, no matter the struggle, no matter the object that is holding you back or distracting you. God is there. Reach out your hand today.

An Inconvenient Truth


An Inconvenient Truth


Several years ago, a group of fellow Youth Minister's and myself went to the National Youth Leaders convention in Joplin, MO. These trips were a blast and some of my best memories. That group of Youth Minister's I worked with during the late 90's and early 2K were awesome guys, great friends, and I cherish them.


However, this one particular trip, trouble struck. There were 5 or 6 of us on this trip and 3 of us got struck with illness the last couple days of the trip. Phil got that nasty stomach virus that causes diarrhea, cramps, vomiting. I got not one toothache, but two. I had filling fall out on one side and an abscess tooth on the other side, which caused me major pain, and Jake got a kidney stone. We were all suffering on the 16 hour drive back home.


We can look back and laugh now, but man during that time, I know we all were in severe pain and gave the other guys some good joke material.


It was very inconvenient to be away from home, be at a convention, and away from our Doctor's and get ill, but stomach viruses, toothaches, and kidney stones are not a respecter of person's or places. I got that same stomach virus at a weekend youth retreat one time, not convenient.
Life happens. It's not always planned, not within our control, and never convenient when it comes to things that take place that cause suffering, pain, trauma, heartache, or misery.


Many times we cause our own pain, but sometimes, things in life happen that aren't our fault, out of our control, and they just happen. SIN. That's why they happen. People often ask, why do bad things happen to good people, and the answer is simple, but hard to accept. SIN.


We live in a world that has sin. Sin has a negative effect on people's lives. A person abuses alcohol or drugs, his family will pay the price as well. A husband hits his wife or kids for no reason, they suffer. A wife cheats on her spouse and leaves him and the kids, they are left to hurt. A person drinks and drives and has an accident that kills an innocent person, and their family is left with the pain and questions. Sin.


Our sin affects other people, not just ourselves. We are free to make choices. We sometimes choose poorly. Our poor decisions not only impact us, but sometimes, many times, other people's lives. We don't think about that, or some people are so selfish, they don't care how it affects others. That is an inconvenient truth.


That is why it's so important for us to make good choices, better decisions, and seek to live a life that not only honors God, but is guided by Him.


We are still going to suffer sometimes because of other people's sin and mistakes, we can't blame God, but understand, we live in a world that is imperfect with imperfect people who do things that have a ripple affect into the lives of others, sometimes us. As long as we live on this earth, we will never totally escape suffering at the hands of other people's mistakes or choices.
However, the less we sin and the better choices me make the better our lives will be and the better the lives will be of the people we come into contact with. We will make a positive ripple affect into the lives of others.


"Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom."

James 3:13(NIV)

Here's your sign!


Bill Engvall made "Here's your sign" jokes famous for people pointing out the obvious in situations. Like a person locking their keys in their car and trying to open the door with a coat hanger and a passer by saying, "hey, you lock your keys in your car?" and you reply, "No, I just washed my car and I'm hanging it up to dry!", "Here's your sign!"


Now there are times where we state the obvious and can make ourselves look dumb, but sometimes when it comes to God's will for our lives, it isn't always that obvious or as clear as the cop sign warning above.


Determing God's will, direction, and purpose in our lives can be tricky, tough, emotional, and a trying process. Sometimes doing the right thing is very simple and obvious, sometimes it takes a lot of thought, prayer, advice, and time.


There are alot of people who get into relationships or situations without seeking or consulting God and it only ends in hurt, damage, and pain. Many people switch jobs, choose colleges or careers, without truly seeking to know if this is the direction God wants them to take. Others go through life making financial, economical, or personal decisions without seeking any direction or involvement from God.


First, we have to seek God. We have to realize that not only does God want a relationship with us, but He also cares about our lives. He cares about who we date, who we marry, what group of friends we hang out with, our schooling, our jobs, our hobbies, and our day to day lives. That doesn't mean God wants to micro-manage us or control our every move, it simply means He knows what is best for us and created our lives to have purpose, value, meaning, and direction. It's hard to have that if we are not looking or seeking God.


Secondly, we have to be open to God's leading. Which means, we are going to have to base decisions on something besides emotions or feelings. We are going to have to be open to going a direction that our flesh or human nature is telling us not to go.


Thirdly, we have to invite God into our lives. Alot of people simply want to just believe in God or believe all good people go to Heaven. You not only have to believe in God, you have to accept Him, repent, be obedient(faith, baptism, confessing him, etc...) and you have to grow and mature in your faith. Part of the maturing process is learning to invite God into your daily lives and decisions. Asking God for wisdom, understanding, and guidance. That is one of the reason's that God gives us His spirit when we are baptized in Him, to guide us.


We have to want to seek God, we have to be open to God's leading, and we have to invite God to be a part of our lives, not just when we become a Christian, but every day in all we do.
It's not easy, you won't always do it right, but the point is to seek, be aware of God, and follow Him in all that you say or do. Then the sign's will become more obvious.


"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."

Matthew 7:7(NIV)

Target practice



Target Practice


"without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many" Hebrews 12:14b-15(NIV)


One definition i've heard of sin is to 'miss the mark' and one definition I like to use of is that sin is 'anything that comes between or before God'. Sin can be an act or an attitude. It can be something we say, do, think, or feel. Missing the mark implies that God is the bullseye and when we fall short or fail we miss the goal.

I got a new bow(it's really used, but new to me, thanks TJ), but i'm just now getting around to using it. I had to buy new arrows and add new equipment to prepare the bow to shoot. Part of that equipment is adding a sight. A sight is the pins you use to aim with, to put on the target. You set pins at different yardage to give you an estimate of distance to the target.
If God is the target and we are aiming to be like Him or honor Him, then we are the archer and how we set our sights and on what does matter in this life.


If we do not have focus, we are going to miss the mark. If we have our our life pointed in the wrong direction we are going to miss the mark. If we do not have our sight set accurately, we are going to miss the mark. If we just try to guess our way through life and not make adjustments toward God we are going to miss the mark.


To sight in my bow, I must practice, make adjustments, measure the yardage, and keep moving the pins until I am on target and being consistent. Living a life that seeks God is the same way.
You can't be a healthy, growing, mature, and faithful Christian if you are guessing your way through life. If you are just aiming at anything and everything. If you settle on a less accurate life. If there are obstacles in the way of the target you aren't going to hit the mark.


So many people in this world, want to gamble with eternity. They want to say they believe in God, go to church, and/or don't kill or hurt people so they think goodness is going to get them in Heaven. Eternity is not about our goodness, but God's. Salvation is free, but at a cost. We can freely receive God's grace by repenting, seeking, and giving our lives to God and being baptized, but that is only the beginning.


Once we accept God, we must begin to set our sights, make adjustments, and set our sights on God. Just like sports, music, or any hobby, you must practice, gain discipline, and strive to become proficient or you will fail and fall short. Christian faith is the same way. We must Aim for God or we'll miss Him every time.