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THE BLURP, January 24th 2018
What a powerful day we had in Sunday school this week! 12 students were led to Christ and received salvation by believing in Jesus Christ and that he died for their sins. They acknowledged that they were sinners and they accepted the atoning sacrifice that can only be found in Jesus Christ. It was such a powerful moment in time that was a personal blessing for me to be a part of and to witness! I can say it was one of the most humbling experiences of my life. Then during Church service Pastor Lee did the same thing with the entire congregation and gave everyone the opportunity to have their sins wiped clean and have their names written in the lambs book of life forever. For everyone who prayed those prayers, whether it was the first time, or they were coming back to Christ, I want to say that the angels are rejoicing in heaven still right now after the amazing events that took place through the ministries at Crossroads Community Church Sunday!! AMEN AND Hallelujah!
I wish I could say that there will be no more trials and temptations, and everything was going to be absolutely perfect in your lives from this point on, but that’s not the reality. Jesus himself tells us that we will face trials and temptations of many kinds in this life. With that said, I want you to be ready for some of the things that are to come and help you avoid the temptation to look at the past and worry about the future mistakes that are going to take place. Rest assured that the Devil is going to send his fiery arrows after you and the attacks will come now that you are a part of Gods kingdom. I want you to be prepared to deal with these challenges and be ready when the time comes to put on the full armor of God and fight off the attacks.
The first attack that is going to come after you is the guilt, sin, and shame of your past. You see, the Devil is going to try to get into your head and remind you of all the bad things you have done in your life. He is going to remind you of the things you have done wrong, the sin you have committed and try to get you to feel guilty and turn back. The Devil has come to kill, steal and destroy and his tactic is division. He wants to do whatever it takes to divide and put a wedge between you and God and if he can make you think you are not worthy because of your sin, then he will do it. Now that you have accepted Jesus into your heart, you have been washed as white as snow and your sins have been wiped away with no record. You have a fresh start, a clean slate, you are a blank canvas so to speak. You truly need to believe this to resist the devil and fight off his schemes and his tactics. The battle we wage here is not against man, but against the principalities of darkness and of the rulers of this world. We need to be ready and have a strategy to resist. The second you all said that prayer aloud and believed it in your heart, it made you a target. There is a target on the backs of all Christians because the Devil wants us to worship anything and anyone except God and again his tactic is division.
The second attack that is gong to come is worrying about the future. You may be thinking okay now I have to be perfect and I can’t make any mistakes and will never be able to have fun again because everything that is fun is sinful is fun. We must avoid this temptation as well because this is just another way the Devil will try to get into our heads and get us to backslide back into our old ways of sin and death. Let me tell you among sinners I was the worst of them all and I still have a lot of work to do. But with all honesty and sincerity, I can say that my life has never been filled with so much fun, joy, appreciation and peace than what I experience now in and through Jesus Christ. One of the Devils schemes here is to get us to worry about everything because if we begin to worry the natural tendency is to focus on other things than to focus on God and his word. If we worry so much about the future, then we begin to rely on doing things our way with our own strength and we begin to lean on ourselves rather than God. This then hurts the relationship between us and God and leads to division, which is exactly what the devil wants.
I have told you the ways we are going to be tempted now that we are on Gods team, so now I want to equip you with the tools needed to fight the enemy and resist his tactics. My first recommendation is to get a Bible and to start reading it. I recommend setting aside a certain amount of time each day specifically for Biblical ready and study. You will find that once you develop this into a habit, you will not want to miss a day at all. My recommendation is to start with the Gospel of John and read to Revelation. Then read from Genesis to the end of the Bible. This will take you some time, but by the time you do this you will have read the New Testament Twice and the entire Bible once. Ask your Pastor questions during this time when you have them, that is what we are here for. We want to develop you and help you learn. When you are reading before you read, pray to the Holy Spirt to help you interpret and understand the text you are going to read. He will help you through the reading and how the text applies to the culture back then and how it applies to you now and today.
The next thing is recommend praying and talking with your parents and your Pastor about getting Baptized. Baptism represents a public proclamation that you have accepted Jesus Christ into your heart. Baptism also represents repentance and a renouncement of sin. You are now a part of the family of Christ and this is the outward way of telling everyone you are a child of God. For more information on being Baptized go to www.wherelifechanges.com/baptism.
The last thing I want to recommend is daily prayer time between you and the Lord where you are alone and just speak your heart to Jesus. This can be through prayer, meditation or just simply listening to Gods word to come to you through the Holy Spirit. This time of prayer will give you the internal courage and strength to overcome hardships and challenges when they come, and you start to develop a relationship with Jesus. Once this relationship starts you will want to get to know Jesus better through continued prayer, meditation, fasting, Bible study and worship.
You have taken the first big steps in the new life that you have been given, you are truly born again. I am so happy for you and look forward to the work God is going to do in your life! AMEN and God Bless.
THE BLURP, January 10 2018
Are you on fire for the Lord
When I was a kid growing up we lived in the woods and we would have these huge roaring bon fires. I am talking 20-30-foot-high flames and 20 foot base. I used to love to see what the fire would do to different materials. Me and my brother would burn shingles, throw gasoline on the fire, wood, metal, you name it we would try to burn it. I remember we would fill a metal cup up with gasoline and then light it on fire, we were pyromaniacs. What I learned was that no matter what you put into a raging fire, the fire changes it. Metal is changed and tempered in the fire, wood burns and turns to coals, other metals melt, everything changes its form in the fire.
Hebrews 12:29 Says “For our God is a consuming fire”. There is a difference between a consuming fire and the fire that is emitted from a candle. A consuming fire consumes and changes everything it touches, we cannot even stand near a consuming fire. Even with sophisticated firefighting equipment, a consuming fire is often beyond human control; our God is beyond human control as well. We cannot change him, for he is the same yesterday, today and forever and the scripture says he is a consuming fire. God cannot be contained, yet he is a God of compassion and love. He has saved us from sin, and he will save us from death. But everything that is worthless and sinful will be consumed by the fire of his wrath. Only what is good, dedicated to God, and righteous will remain.
There is no secret in the words “Consuming fire” here in the Greek or Hebrew translations, it literally means a fire that consumes or utterly destroys.
I want to talk to day about your fire inside of you that burns for God. We know that God is a consuming fire and that he burns away everything in us that is not good and that is evil. But what about you? Are you on fire for the Lord? What does it mean to be on fire for the Lord, and what happens when we are on fire for the Lord?
What do you think of when you think of someone on fire for Jesus? I think of someone who is so in love with Jesus that everything they do is glowing. Everything about them is a great joy and even in the midst of trials they seem to full of happiness and faith. If there is anything that catches people’s attention and causes them to sit up and take notice of what you are saying or what you are doing it is “Enthusiasm”. The word enthusiasm is derived form two Greek words, “En” and which mean in and “Theos” which means God. So, the word enthusiasm literally means “In God” or “God in us”. Wow this is so powerful, so you are telling me if I have enthusiasm I have God in me and I should show it? YES!! You see when you are on fire for the Lord, we get changed. We are changed from the inside out, we not longer long for the things if this world, we are transformed. Just like the fire changes the metal, wood, and other materials, Gods consuming fire transforms us, and we should be enthusiastic and have enthusiasm about it! We should be fired up about the lords work in our lives and what he has done to transform us.
You see, what happens if we are on fire for the Lord, we ignite those around us!!we light them on fire for our Lord. Remember everything that the fire touches changes, and when we are on fire for the Lord we change those around us, even if it is just little things. The Lord needs and wants red hot on fire, enthusiastic followers who love him more than anything or anyone else on this earth. Disciples who are determined to follow Jesus all the way because they know they have found the truth!
So, ask yourself, are you on fire for the Lord? Do you put Jesus first and seek his kingdom in all your ways? Next week we will look at how to stay on fire once you get on fire! Have a blessed week!
THE BLURP, December 20th 2017
Are you giving God your best??
As I walked into the maintenance closet today to put away the roll of masking tape I had gotten out earlier, my mind was racing through my mental Monday morning checklist. Did I input the new youth into the database, is candy bar money updated, did I spend enough time in devotion to the Lord this morning, how many emails will I have this morning, what big new events can we do to motivate people to come to Sunday school and much more. I opened the closet door and walked up the steps, turned on the light and from about halfway across the room threw the tape into its spot on the second shelf. After I threw it, it hit its place, bounced back knocked down some other rolls of tape and then rolled down to the floor. I thought, oh well, ill come fix it later next time I’m in the closet. As soon as I turned around to walk out and hit the light switch, the Holy Spirit convicted me like a ton of bricks!! I suddenly heard Him say, “Thomas, is that giving the Lord your best, and are you giving the Lord your best?” I thought wow what a powerful statement for today, are we giving the Lord our best. Of course, I then turned around and picked up the tape and the other items that it knocked down, but this encounter got me thinking, am I giving the Lord my best and how do we give the Lord our best.
Colossians 3;22-25 says, “Slaves obey your early masters in everything; and do it, not for only when the eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the lord as your reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is not favoritism”.
From this scripture, we can see that we should always do what is right, and not just when people are looking, but at all times. For me in the closet this morning no one was looking per say, but I learned that God is always watching and he sees everything that we do. One of the core values we had in the military when I was serving was “Integrity” which simply meant to do what was right even when no one was looking. This is what Paul is trying to teach us in this verse that we must do everything to the best of our abilities, not just when someone is looking, but always. We shouldn’t just do things right just to earn favor with our bosses or other people, but we should do them right because doing things right is what Christians are called to do. Paul goes on to say whatever it is that you do, do it with all your heart. Do we do things with all of our heart or are we settling to do things that are done just good enough? Is our mentality such that, as long as we meet the bare minimum we are ok? Are we ok with just getting by and not delivering the best product we can? If the answer to these questions is yes, we are in trouble.
The scripture above says that it is the lord we are serving, and he calls us to do our best.
Colossians 3;17 says, “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
This scripture says that whatever we do in word or action, we must do it in the name of the Lord Jesus and giving thanks while doing it. I don’t know about you, but there are some things I have to do my job that I do not enjoy doing. If I can be honest and confess, I have found myself complaining in my head on occasion about the things I have to do. When we do this, we are in direct violation of Gods word. When we complain, whine, argue, and don’t give our best, we are missing out on so many blessings. No, we should not do things just for the blessings that come, but let’s face it, blessings are nice. In fact, a simple google search about this topic will give you over 100 bible verses that talk about doing things to the best of your ability, so it must be pretty important to God that he put it in his Holy word. Since the creation, God has given us work to do. If we could regard our work as an act of worship or service to God, such an attitude would take some of the drudgery and boredom out of it. We could work without complaining or resentment if we treated our job problems as the cost of discipleship.
Doing “all in the name of the Lord Jesus” means bringing honor to Christ in every aspect and activity of daily living. As a Christian, you represent Christ at all times—wherever you go and whatever you say. What impression do people have of Christ when they see or talk with you? What changes would you make in your life to honor Christ?
What if God didn’t give us his best? What if he said that Christ's bloodshed on the cross was not atonement enough for everyone’s sins, and it was only for some sins sometimes? What if God treated us mediocre like we treat some of the things we do and the attitudes we have? How would we as Christians feel? Let’s say we were only loved if we were perfect and that was the only way we could approach the throne of grace if we had no sin in us. It would be impossible for us to be forgiven by God without the love He has for every one of us. What if He said only some of us believers can get into heaven, and because I’m too tired, I’m not going to let the others get in. We would be doomed, doomed I tell you!
But this is the attitude some of us have; we live in a mediocre society where it is ok and acceptable to do the bare minimum when it comes to everything. I found this made it easy for me to excel in the military because not everyone believed in the “integrity’” principal. Some people were just content with doing the bare minimum and didn’t try to go above and beyond. Paul specifically calls all Christians to go above and beyond in everything we do, but the question is why we should?
I would submit to you that the reason is that God wants to bless us beyond measure and comprehension. Jesus said He came to give us life more abundantly, abundantly here means full, filling up, better, and blessed beyond measure. God has given us His best, and because of this we should give him our best in everything we do at all times, so he can continue to bless us. So wait a minute Thomas are you saying that I will not receive any blessings if I don’t give my very best at all times? No, I’m sure you will still receive some, but not to the full extent that God wants to give you. When I give my best, things just feel better, and everything that is good seems to fall into place. When I start to gripe, complain and do things halfway, it seems as if things just fall apart and everything I touch just crumbles. I truly believe there is a direct connection here between doing our best and the blessing we will receive.
We should work hard as Christians; work is integral to life. If we approach work as a God-given it will give us more pleasure, and we can do it cheerfully and without complaint, because we are working for the Lord who loves us and has redeemed us. I am not only talking about work here in the sense of our jobs, but I am talking about doing the best in everything we do, from sweeping the floors to taking out the trash to washing the dishes all the way to cleaning toilets, do it with joy and cheer and to the best of your ability giving thanks to the Lord for his provision.
So the next time you are in a situation like me and the role of tape, give the task your best, God gives us his best, and he deserves our very best at all times. Don’t just settle for the bare minimum, you have the opportunity to serve the King of Kings and prince of peace, and He deserves our best!! Let’s give Him our best.
THE BLURP, October 18th
(James,1:5-8) If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
WOW, this is an extremely powerful verse when it comes to having doubt. There are times in my walk where I have doubted God as well as people, processes and other things. One of the things I struggle with personally is doubt and fear over many areas of my life. According to this verse from James, if we doubt the Lord we will not receive anything we pray for and ask for. I mean it makes sense, why would I pray and talk to God to work in my life if I am not going to really believe he will and can deliver on what I ask for?
If you are like most people, I am sure you have experienced doubt in your life. Doubts about getting the new job, doubts about a class, a person, boyfriend, girlfriend, coworker or a number of other things. I know that I have for sure. So then what is doubt and why do we get these doubtful thoughts in our heads?
Doubt is defined by Merriam-Webster as “to call into question the truth of; to be uncertain or in doubt about something”. Another definition of doubt is a feeling of uncertainty or a lack of conviction. Simply put, doubt is a lack of confidence, or to consider unlikely. Have you ever experienced any of these attributes? Question something or a feeling of uncertainty? A lack of conviction maybe? Or even a lack of confidence in yourself or in something? Whoa whoa, I know when it comes to confidence we all have a ton of it right??!! I am here to submit to you that I’m sure most people have experienced one, some or all of these feelings in their lives and more than once I’m sure. Personally I lack self-confidence all the time with things I am charged with doing every day. So if we all have this thing called doubt where does it come from?
The first example of doubt comes in the Garden of Eden with Adam, Eve, and Satan. I know you all remember the story, but in case you forgot here is a refresher for you;
(Genesis, 3) Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.
He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
Satan tempted eve in this scripture. God had given a clear command regarding the tree of knowledge and good and evil and had specific consequences for what would happen for disobedience. Satan wanted her to lack confidence with the statement “Did God actually say”, ‘you shall not eat of the fruit in the garden’? he wanted her to lack confidence in Gods command, which is the essence of doubt. Satan said “surely you will not die”. Satan uses his deception to get into our minds like a wedge between us and God’s word so that we begin to doubt things in our life and of Gods powers. He has come only to kill, steal, and destroy and he wants to make us second guess ourselves especially when it comes to God’s promises. Doubt is just another tool of Satan to make us lack confidence in our thoughts actions and decisions.
So if Satan is the cause of our doubt by his manipulation and tricks how do we overcome it. The beautiful news is my Bible says, “resist the devil and he will surely flee from you.” AMEN! The remedy for overcoming doubt and fear is faith and faith comes by hearing the word. God gave us the Bible as a testimony of the past so we can have a reason to trust him in the present times. In order to have faith we must study Gods word. We have examined faith over the last few weeks so there is no need to dive back into that again, however it is a key ingredient in overcoming doubt. If you google how to overcome doubt you will get all kinds of crazy things to try, but the best way to success is through our Lord and savior Jesus Christ.
So next time you have doubt, pray for a spirit of confidence and let the Lord guide you. Dive into the scriptures and study Gods word and his promises he has guaranteed all of us who are believers. He has a plan for you and me and he loves us and wants only the best for us. God bless you and stay tuned for next week!
Have you ever been in a tough place, I mean a really hard time? I am talking about gut wrenching hard times when everything seems to be falling apart and nothing can go right? Times when everything you touch seems to break, crumble or just fall to pieces? Times when family turns on you or even when you lose a loved one. The scripture tells us we will face trials of many kinds, but we should consider them great joy (James 1:2). I know when I experience these times I do not feel anything resembling great joy at all. I feel pain, anger, sadness and a multitude of other feelings that don’t resemble joy. If I can be totally honest with you I can say I have even been mad at God in some of these times. I have asked if God loves me why is he allowing this to happen to me or us? If you can relate to any of this I must tell you that I don’t have a cut and dry answer to each and every question as to why. I can just tell you that God has wisdom, knowledge and an understanding of things that we cannot comprehend in our mortal brains. I know this does not make it easier, but I would like to share what has worked for me in my past and even current struggles.
Over the last few weeks we have looked at faith, hope and love. These are extremely important concepts for us to have and believe in as Christians. They will help us with tough times. I have had times in my life where I have wanted to commit suicide, times when I thought all was lost and there was no reason to keep going. In these times there has always been a little voice that said to keep going, take another step, do not quit yet…have you heard that voice before in tough times? Well that is called the Holy Spirit, he is our counselor, our advocate and our friend. He keeps me in check when it feel like all is lost and I have nowhere to go or to turn. He has kept me going in some of the toughest situations I have ever been in. My first piece of advice is to listen to and rely on the Holy Spirit. There is always light at the end of the dark tunnel, there are always options and there is always a choice to be made. When everything is going the worst that it can go and all feels lost, remember that every situation is temporary. in the worst situations when we are vulnerable, the enemy will come and try to be the voice on the other side, the wrong side. It’s a real life situation of the old good vs evil cartoon where good is on one shoulder and evil is on the other. Whenever we are vulnerable, hungry, angry lonely, tired, or weak you be assured the enemy will show up. He will use his lies and deception to try to convince us that all is lost and temp us to do and believe things we normally wouldn’t do, think, or feel. So as I said earlier, there is always a choice, we can listen to the good, Holy Spirit, that will guide us to the right choices and decisions even though they may be hard, or we can listen to the enemy who will show us an easier path, at what will later be a greater expense.
The scripture says that we should, “Consider it great joy brothers and sisters when we experience trial of many kinds, because we know that testing of the faith produces perseverance” (James 1-3). It also says that when we are tempted, “No one should say that God is tempting them, for God cannot be tempted by evil nor does he tempt anyone, but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desires and enticed” (James 1, 13-14). So we see in these verses some key critical attributes that God does not tempt us, only the devil does and we see that God allows us to go through trials of many kinds to test our faith and obedience. We know that faith is a confidence in things we hope for and assurance about what we do not see (Hebrews 11:1). I know that in those tough times the easy thing seems like it is to give up on God and throw in the towel, quitting or taking the easy way out. I saw this quote the other day on social media that said, “God doesn’t give the hardest battles to his toughest soldiers, he creates the toughest soldiers through life’s hardest battles.”
The second piece of advice I would give you comes in the form of my favorite scripture, Jeremiah 29:11, which says, “For the lord declares the plans he has for you, plans not to harm you, but plans for a hope and a future.” In this verse if we internalize and evaluate what is being said to us we see that Gods plan is not to harm us, he will never give us more than we can handle, but his plan is to prosper us. Prospering us might mean allowing us to go through life’s trials to test our faith and obedience and help us be prepared for the next season. God uses the situations and seasons we go through to prepare us for greater things and his overall plan is for us to have hope, to have a future and to be prosperous. If I know this and believe this, I am much more likely to choose the side of good when everything around me is falling apart. This verse has been with me on some lonely nights when I felt there was not hope left and yet because of my faith and hope in Gods promises, I am still here today!
In closing, just remember that every tough time and bad situation is only temporary and will not last forever. Tomorrow is a new day and Gods mercy is made new every single day. Also remember I am always here to talk to you and to pray for you and with you.
THE BLURP, October 12th
“And now these three remain, faith hope and Love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor13:13)
As we close out this little mini-series looking at faith, hope, and ending with love, I think it is important to really focus on what love is and what love looks like. If you look up the definition of love online you will get something like, “An intense feeling of deep emotion”, or “a person or thing that one loves” or “Attraction based on sexual desire.” These are all great worldly definition, and some even come close to what the Bible says about love. So what exactly does love mean to us as Christians? We use the term all the time, but do we really understand and comprehend love and are we able to apply it to our daily lives? Let’s see!!!!
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Cor13:4)
This scripture is often referred to as the, “love chapter” in the Bible. But let’s really dissect it to see what it is saying. Love is patient. This means that love does not get angry fast and is slow to speak and quick to listen. The Greek translation for the word patience is, “Makrothumeo” and it comes from two Greek nouns, “Makros”, which means, “Long” and “Thumos”, which means “Passion.” This literally means a long extended passion for something. So if we are to have love, we must have patience and to be patient is to take active steps that overcome our natural response of self-protection, defense, anger or revenge. We must be patient! In our vocabulary patience means, “ the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.” Wow, so you are telling me that the Greek translation matches up to the English translation, and the Apostle Paul who wrote this letter to the Corinthians hundreds of years ago knew that the people needed patience then? That is correct and we still need this message today. So ask yourself, are you patient with those whom you love, those who you are around on a daily basis? Are you accepting of others in times of delay and trouble or suffering? Do you get easily angered or do you allow the Holy Spirit to convict you and keep you calm in those tough situations. I know I need some work in the anger area when it comes to patience. But love without patience is not love at all.
The next thing the Apostle Paul teaches us is that love is kind. I think we all know what kind means, it means to be nice to someone. Let’s take it a step further and really examine what kind means. A standard English definition of kind means, “Having or showing a tender and considerate and helpful nature; agreeable, conducive, to comfort; tolerant and forgiving under provocation.” There sure are a lot of powerful and fancy words that describe being kind that we don’t often associate with love isn’t there? Wait a minute buddy boy, So you are telling me that in order to love we must be patient, kind, tolerant, tender, comforting, agreeable, slow to anger, forgiving at all times? Yes, you are correct, I bet you never looked at love this way before huh? But we are not done yet, let’s keep going!
Love does not envy. Oh boy, who out there has ever been envious of someone or something that they claimed to love? I know I have for sure. What does envy mean and how does it apply? Envy means literally to, “have a feeling of grudging admiration and desire to have something that is possessed by another; spite, resentment, envious of the accomplishments and success of another, to begrudge one, hatred, to show malice or ill will.” Again, we see here many words that describe and give us examples of envy, and we are not supposed to do any of them if we are truly loving. Wait a minute Thomas, so I am supposed do to do all these things when I love someone, who am I called to love? Great question and we will get to that, let’s keep looking at the some of the other attributes of love first!
I am not going to go over every word from the scripture, but I do want to look at one more verse. Love does not keep a record of wrongs. Who has ever kept a record of wrongs that others have done to you? Again, I know that I have in my life and marriage. But we are called to love and we are supposed to forgive others, as we already looked at, so then I should not keep a record of the wrongs that have been done against me. If I truly forgive someone then there list of wrongs is wiped clean, just like through justification and the death and blood shed by Jesus we are forgiven and our sins are wiped away. So why then do we keep a record of wrongs! We are human and this ties directly to some of the other areas we have already discussed. If I get angry or am envious, or don’t have patience or am not kind, or am proud and boastful then I am more likely to bring up the past to seek self-protection, another term we looked at. This is my defense mechanism in order to fulfill my own self-preservation. When I allow myself to become angry, my natural reaction is to bring up other things that have been done in the past, “well you did this”, or “you did that”, or “remember when you”, or my favorite, “you always.” We must refrain from bringing up the past in this situation and control our anger and natural tendencies. It is so easy to fuel the fire when we are in the heat of the moment and fighting with a loved one, but we must not fall into that trap. A trap you say, yes a trap is something that gets you caught up, we must not get caught up, we must love like Paul teaches. Do you see how these attributes are all tied together and build on each other. Love is not just some feeling, it is a complex set of actions we must take or not take.
Ok so I get it, I’m to be kind, gentle, patient not proud, not boastful, tolerant, comforting, nice, not envious, loving, forgiving, slow to anger, quick to listen, agreeable, and so much more to love, but who am I called to love. That is a great question. Jesus tells us exactly who we are called to love in the New Testament:
You have heard that the law of Moses says, "Love your neighbor and hate your enemy." But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and on the unjust, too. If you love only those who love you, what good is that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48)
I know what you are thinking, you are killing me, you mean I have to love those who are against me and even pray for them? Yes, this helps us become image bearers of Christ and grow to become more Christ like. As the scripture says, we are supposed to act like children of the Father in Heaven. This means loving those that don’t even love us back. I know this is hard, but this is the command we have been given. Jesus also gave us two other commands when it comes to loving;
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34)
Jesus was the perfect example for us to follow for many things one of which is love. Here was the shining example we should follow when it comes to loving others and his command is simple, love on another. Love one another to me means love everyone. We are not called to love those that just love us back, we are called to love even those who don’t show us the same attributes we have been talking about. We are called to show them the kindness, patience, gentleness and everything else we have been talking about even when they don’t show them to us in return.
THE BLURP, October 4th
THE BLURP, September 26th
“And now these three remain, faith hope and Love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor13:13)
Last week we studied faith and examined where our faith is at and what our prayer life looks like. This week we are going to explore hope and then next week I will close out this mini- series with a discussion of love. What is hope? We hear this word tossed around all the time; just have hope, I have hope, I am hopeful or other variations of the word. But what does hope really mean from a Biblical perspective and where to we get this thing called hope?
The Apostle Paul wrote that love endures forever. In the church in Corinth, love had been corrupted and was a mixed up term with little meaning. Today, people are still confused about love. Love is the greatest of all human qualities and an attribute of God himself. We will get more into love next week, but for us to understand hope from a Christian perspective, we must understand the foundation of faith and love because they are directly connected to hope. Faith is the foundation and content of Gods messages; hope is the attitude and focus; and love is action. When faith and hope are in line, you are free to love completely because you understand how God loves.
When we think of the word hope, we usually think of “wishful thinking” or hope as in “ I hope something will happen.” These are worldly examples and definitions of hope but they are not Biblical. According to gotquestions.org, the Bible definition of hope is “confident expectation” and a firm assurance of regarding things that are unclear or unknown. Wow, so I am to believe in things that I cannot see or do not know, that goes against all of my human wisdom…this is where hope comes into play. Hope is a fundamental component of those who are righteous.
Roman 8:24-25 say, “For in this hope we are saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience”.
Without hope, life loses it meaning. We lose our purpose and we don’t have a sense of direction or a path to take and follow. We don’t have anything guiding us and no sense of purpose. As Christians we get our sense of hope from the divine salvation in Christ. Everything then is based on this, our belief and hope of the resurrection of the dead on the last day, the promises given to Israel, the redemption of the body and of the whole creation, the return of Christ, eternal glory, eternal life, transformation into the likeness of Christ, the salvation of God, and even Christ himself. These are all things we cannot see, yet we have hope in and we wait for with “Confident expectation”. These are all things that are unknown and unclear, but yet they drive our attitude and actions because we have hope in them. As I said earlier, hope drives our attitude and actions, so we live our lives with a purpose and a certain way because we have a confident expectation that the things that are unclear or unknown are true and real. If we did not have hope, and we did not place our trust in God, then we would be without hope.
Along with faith and love, hope is an enduring virtue of the Christian life, and love springs from hope. Hope produces joy and peace in believers through the power of the Holy Spirit. Hope in the return of Christ is the basis of believers to purify themselves in this life.
We gain this hope through the core beliefs and values we hold dear as Christians. Our beliefs directly relate to our level of hope. If we are putting our hope in things of the world, we will be disappointed every time. But, if we put our hope in our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ, we will never be disappointed because he will never forsake or abandon us. As the song, “king of My Heart” says, “you’re never going to let, never going to let us down”. I know you can imagine me singing that song right now, but those lyrics mean something when it comes to our hope. We must put our faith and hope in God and not in the things of the flesh. We cannot afford to ride the roller coaster ride of hoping on the things of the world. When we put our hope in Christ and his promises, we can be assured he will not disappoint us! When we begin to do this we will start to slowly experience a peace that surpasses understanding because we are relying on our Father rather than on people. People will always disappoint us, family will always fall short, sports athletes will never measure up to our hopes and expectations, but God will never fall short. Remember this life here on this world is temporary, we will live in eternity with the Father, this is a promise.
One of the things I struggle with in my own spiritual journey is control, you may not believe it but I am a control freak. I need to be in control and know what is going on at all times. If I put my faith and hope in the things that are in front of me, I will try to fulfill my own self-satisfactions and I will be an anxious mess. I’ll get wound up so tight I feel like I am going to explode trying to meet all of my self-inflicted high expectations so I can reach self-actualization (meeting my own needs and desires). I must submit myself to God’s authority and put my hope in him and his rock solid promises that cannot be broken. I must also put other people first, and wake up every day and say to myself, “God I know you are going to be there for me, so who can I be there for today.” This requires faith and hope, in case you have not figured it out yet these two overlap and are inter-connected. Hope is faith in a future tense, so much of faith is hope.
My challenge for you all this week is to pray for a sense of hope that comes only from our Lord and savior and the promises that form our spiritual background. I want you to all have a peace that surpasses understanding. Let’s look away from the situations that confront us, and lets look toward Christ, look toward the promises, and hold fast to them. Hope comes from the promises of God rooted in the work of Christ.
THE BLURP, September 19th
Even if Faith Vs Only If Faith
THE BLURP, September 20th
Only if Faith VS Even If faith
This week I started a new class in Seminary called Spiritual Foundation. Part of this class is to study the disciplines of spiritual worship and prayer. This class has come at a perfect part of my life because I am going through so many changes right now. I need to be in a continual state of prayer and petition with the Lord. As I started this week’s reading, I got hit in the gut with a reality check. I was falling into the pattern of “only if faith” and getting away from the faith we should have which is “even if faith.” Let me explain…
Only if faith is when we ask God for things and as long as he delivers them we will continue to worship and praise him. “Only if faith” is like making God into a Santa Clause who is going to be praised, loved and worshipped as long as he meets our wants. Notice I said “wants”, we rarely pray for our needs, because he provides all of them, we often pray for things we want. We want the promotion, the new game, the new job, the friends, the new shoes or other tangible things. We don’t always need them, we just want them. When we pray for these things, we put a subtle even silent addition to our prayers, something we would never say out loud. It may sound like this, “lord as long as you do this for me, I will stop doing that thing that is a sin.” Or Lord as long as you do this for me, I’ll start going to church more.” It might even be, “God as long as you provide me this thing or this want, I will commit my life to you.” Don’t get me wrong, committing to the Lord is great, but coming to him in this way with “only if faith” directly questions God’s credibility and character and now our relationship with him is based only on his ability to meet our wants, not a loving relationship as he desires. We can easily turn away from God and our faith if our prayers are not answered right away or what we asked for. This creates a rollercoaster of faith, we are happy when we get what we want and mad when we don’t.
On the other hand, the kind of faith we should be having is “Even if Faith.” Meaning even if he does not provide me with my “wants”, I will still praise him and worship him because he is worthy of all my praise, all the time. I am reminded of the story of the three Hebrew children from Daniel in chapter three, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. King Nebuchadnezzar had just built a huge gold statue described as sixty cubits high and six cubits wide. In case you are like me and don’t know what a cubit is, it is an ancient measurement that is based on the length of the forearm. I have short stubby little arms, but they are about 2 feet so we can assume this statue was at least around ninety to a hundred feet high. In Babylonian religious culture statues were frequently worshipped. After he made this statue, he made a decree that whenever the horn, flute, lyre, harp or all kinds of music played, everyone was to bow down and worship the image of gold he had created. King Nebuchadnezzar decreed that anyone who did not bow down and worship the image would be thrown into the blazing furnace. Shortly after this some astrologers came forward to the king and denounced the Jews. They explained that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were not following the kings orders and worshipping the statue. The king was furious and called them forward to him to question them about their actions. This is what they said…
“Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
Wow!! Even in the face of death they still refused to worship any other Gods and were loyal to him. This is not all though, they said our God will deliver us from the fire, but “Even If” he doesn’t, we still won’t worship your statue to other Gods. What faith! I can’t imagine being in that situation and what I would do, but I hope I would have the kind of faith they have. This is the kind of faith we should strive for! That even if God does not deliver us, we will still worship him. “Even if” he does not give me my “wants” I will still read my bible and go to church. “Even if” he does not do what I am asking, I will still praise him and try to stop that one sin that I think I can get away with. That is the kind of faith these three boys had. They were willing to die for their Lord, our lord who Is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. They could have made all kinds of excuses or tried to justify why they should just bow down and worship the idol, but they held on to their faith. So what happened to them, I’m sure you want to know….
They were thrown into the furnace and God delivered them. The furnace was heated seven times hotter than normal and they were thrown into it. It was so hot that the soldier who was holding them to go in was immediately killed. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego however, were not touched by the flames at all. The God we serve delivered them from the flames!! How great is our God.
I know what you are thinking, well he does not always deliver us, and yes, you are right. But, just because he doesn’t deliver us immediately when we ask, does not, by any means, mean that he can’t! In fact there are many reason why he waits or does not answer and deliver us every time, I won’t go into them all here, but one is that if he answered all of our “wants” we wouldn’t need faith. Everyone would have their own personal Santa God and the line to be a Christian would be out the door and around the corner. Everyone would want to sign up. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego understood this and believed this with all their heart, they were willing to even die for it.
So as I adjust the way I have been praying and strive towards having “Even if” faith, my prayer is that if you have been making God your personal Santa Clause, that you also adjust your spiritual foundation and prayer life. Are you ready to take a stand for God no matter what? Are you prepared to deal with the pain and not always have the happy ending you think you want? My hope is that you are ready to say “if he rescues me or not, I will only serve one God, our God and he deserves all the praise and glory.
THE BLURP, September 13th
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”
Winning a race requires purpose and self-discipline. The Apostle Paul uses this illustration to explain that the Christian life takes hard work, self-denial and grueling preparation. As followers of Christ we are running towards our heavenly prize and reward. The essential disciplines of prayer, Bible study, and worship equip us to run with vigor, endurance and stamina. We should not merely observe from the grandstand; we should not just jog a couple of laps each morning. We must diligently train because our spiritual progress depends on it. Staying diligent and training in this way requires self-discipline.
Whatever happened to self-discipline? Many books and motivational speakers guide people to self-satisfaction, self-fulfillment and self-awareness, but not many talk about self-discipline. Self-discipline is a noun and is defined as “the ability to control ones feelings and overcome ones weakness; the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it.” Self-discipline requires an honest look at your strengths and weaknesses, with an emphasis on the latter. It means building the will to say no when a powerful appetite inside you screams yes!
For example, when you have self-discipline, you can say no to friends and situations that lead you away from Christ. When you have self-discipline, you can say no to causal and pre-marital sex. When you have self-discipline, you can say no to laziness and yes to a “can do” and “Will do” attitude.
Self-discipline is a long and steady course in learning attitudes and behaviors that do not come naturally and channeling natural appetites towards God’s purposes. Where are your weak points? Pray with a confidant or trusted friend to help you channel your weaknesses and redirect them into strengths.
Your Assignment is due!
THE BLURP, September 5th
I know everyone is super excited to go back to school and back into the routine being a full time student. There is nothing more fun than homework assignments, reading, writing and arithmetic…right? Plus, for many of you sports seasons are starting and some of you are doing track, field, and football what could be better than that? With all of these assignments ahead of you it can be easy to lose sight of your real assignment and Gods calling in your life.
Yes God has an assignment for you! He has one for each of us, in fact he has many for us! We are all called to serve him and to do this he has given us a very special set of specific gifts.
Each Christian has a job to do, a role to fill or take, or a contribution to make. We will have many assignments in life, but there are none more important than the one we owe to God. One assignment may seem more spectacular than another, but all of them are necessary to carry out God’s greatest plans for his Church and this world. God’s work involves many different individuals with a variety of gifts and abilities. There are no superstars in this task, only team members performing their own God given spiritual roles.
1 Corinthians 12:1-11 says, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.”
1 Peter 4:10-11 says “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.”
We are each given our own set of unique skills and gifts by God to use through the power of the Holy Spirit to serve him and his purposes. Some of us are given the gift of articulation and our assignment is to spread the good news of Jesus Christ to those who are put before us. Some of us have the spiritual gift of prayer and our assignment is to pray for those who need prayer and are hurting. Maybe the assignment is to help them praise God for the miracles in their lives that cannot be explained by anything other than God’s grace. You might have the gift of being athletic and therefore can use that platform as a means to show positivity, energy and encouragement. Having a positive influence over those around you may be your current assignment.
We can become useful members of God’s team by setting aside our desires to receive glory for what we do, and not seeking praise from people. Be available to God by placing your gifts at his service. Then as he calls you to use them, be ready to act! God’s assignment
THE BLURP, August 30th
Measuring Success in Youth Ministry
Measuring success in youth ministry is not as easy as it may sound; however it is important. It is easy to worry about the success of our youth ministry and programs, especially when people are so focused on the numbers. I want to come out right now and say it is more than just numbers. Yes, the numbers are important and one of the easiest ways to measure success. In order to know the truth about the health and wellness of a youth program, the true measurement is the impact the ministry is having on the teens in our group spiritually. We can do that in several different ways than just focusing on numbers, consider the following;
Life change: Are the kids changing in the way they carry themselves, how they act, their motives, values, personalities? Is their heart beginning to align with Christ. Measuring life change is not easy, but the more we get to know each other and as we grow together in the ministry, we will see the changes together.
Engagement: It is important for us to track and identify who is engaged and who is not. Are you participating when we are in small groups, singing during worship and praise, listening the Pastor's sermons? These are all ways to not only gauge life change, but to also see who is really paying attention and in the presence of God. Measuring engagement means paying attention to how different environments and situations are drawing teens in. That means we may have to make tweaks to our environments.
Involvement: It is important for teens to be involved In the Church, especially through the different ministries and missions the Church has. How many teens are serving alongside adults? In what ways are teens serving, Are they volunteering to serve in some capacity.
BUZZ: How much buzz is our youth ministry getting? Are kids inviting their friends and talking about the ministry and what is going on? Is the youth group being talked about on social media? Is there a reputation in the school? Are teens coming on a consistent basis. Measuring the BUZZ means knowing the impact that that youth group has on you throughout the week.
Measuring success in our youth ministry is difficult and will vary depending on the means we use to measure it. The most important step is for us to create a system of how we measure our ministry and tweak it as necessary. While it is not a perfect tool, measuring our success will help us move forward together and reach out to more teens and spread God's word!
How do you think we are doing?? Please use the contact form to let us know and provide feedback.
Thomas is currently a locally licensed Pastor and the Youth Director at Crossroads Community Church. He is currently enrolled at Nazarene Bible College and is pursuing the requirements for Ordination. Please fill out a contact form if you have any questions for him or about the youth ministry or if you need prayer.
Crossroads Community Church & Academy
We are located in the Southwest corner of Loop 410 on Ray Ellison BLVD. Our address is 5834 Ray Ellison BLVD, 78242. From Loop 410, take the Ray Ellison exit and go inside the loop. Go about a half mile and the church will be on your right. You'll see our sign.
Service Time: Sunday Mornings: 10:40am
Lifelines are small groups that meet throughout the week
For more information, call us at: 210-623-4500