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The BLURP 8 August 18
As my brother Joey was prepping his horse for my daughter to ride, he put on all the equipment required. I had not ridden a horse for years, so I was intrigued and asked question after question. “What’s that for? What does this do?” As he put the back pad on followed by the saddle and the reigns, I was in awe at the calmness and beauty of the huge animal that my eight-year-old was about to ride. I thought how awesome and majestic Gods creation is! As he put the “Bit” in the horse’s mouth, Joey got the first bit of resistance that I had seen from the horse, although it was not much, you could tell the horse was tentative to have the bit placed in its mouth. As we walked the horse to the pasture where they were going to ride him, I thought about the passage in James, Chapter three, where he mentions the bit and compares it to the tongue. As Joey led the horse by the reigns and walked, the horse was calm and followed his every move and command. When I asked him how much this horse weighed he said, “close to 1300 pounds” and let me tell you this was a big horse, and quite intimidating. He was shredded and muscular like Arnold Schwarzenegger! To say I was nervous about my daughter riding the horse was an understatement but I trusted in my brother and his horse. As my daughter finally got on, she grabbed the reigns which were connected to the bit and as she pulled her heels together against this massive animal, he began to walk. As she pulled the reigns to the left or to the right, the horse went in the direction she commanded without resistance. I thought to myself, wow, this giant animal is being controlled by this small piece of metal in its mouth.
Then my mind again was drawn to scripture and what James says about taming the tongue and how the bit controls the entire horse. This is a scripture I had read several times in my life, but this real-world use of the bit made it really come to life. Here we have this tiny bit steering and controlling this 1300-pound animal. It brought my mind immediately to what James is trying to get us to see in James when he says, “the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts.” His comparison is spot on when it comes to how what comes out of our mouths can steer and control us.
The Bible says we are not to let any unwholesome talk come out of our mouths other than what is good for lifting others up. Often, we don’t follow this command and we use our words to tear people down. And in todays society, we use our finger tips as we post things on social media without filters and once you put it out there, it is never really gone. We let our words break up relationships and complain about life and everything in between. By doing this we corrupt the whole body.
As Christians we are supposed to live above reproach and by a higher set of standards. We must try to tame the tongue and focus on the positive side of people, we must not let the mouth and our words tear people down. We must use our words to help build people up showing genuine love, care, and concern for one another. There is always good in a person, and we should seek that and focus on a person’s strengths and abilities, not on their weaknesses and things we don’t like about them. Who are we to tear down Gods perfect and wonderful creation!? If we cause harm to the very thing that God has created, we are going against him and allowing our tongue to ignite the fires in hell.
I sat there watching my 70-pound daughter control a huge animal by using a small one-inch piece of metal all by herself, in the same way the tongue controls us. We must take our thoughts captive and make them submissive to Christ before they come out of our mouths. This takes work and effort and deliberate focus and continual training on our parts and while it is not easy, it is something we must do. We must not give up to the temptation of saying whatever we want.
The BLURP, 24 July 18
It was very early in the morning and few people were out and about at this hour. The only people who were active at this time of the day were the weary fisherman who were just finishing another hard night of fishing on the sea of Galilee. In one boat, two brothers stand while they cast their nets into the sea and drag them back into the boat, hoping to catch just a few more fish to take to market. In another nearby boat, two different brothers from a different family sit while they mend their nets, preparing them for the next night of fishing, hoping their catch will be just a little bit better.
After a long night of fishing things are winding down and the men are anxious and excited to get their fish to the market and then go home to get some rest. BUT, as they finished their activates this morning, a man passes alongside the shore line. He calls out to the men in the boats and invites them to come follow him. When he asks this of them, four men leave their nets, their boats and everything behind to follow him as his disciples.
His call to them is simple, he simply says “Come Follow Me” and “I will send you out to fish for people”.
The call to them was simple, “Come follow me” but it was a call that would change these men’s lives forever, and would transform them into some of the greatest fishers of men the world has ever seen.
I am interested in this passage, because I believe that Jesus wants to do in your life and in mine what he did in the lives of these fishermen. He wants to take us just as we are, broken, addicted, rough, with all of our faults and failures and he wants to transform us into fishers of men.
Mark 4:19 says, “As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.
When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.”
In order for each of us to become the fishers of men I believe that Jesus wants us to become, there are five things we must learn to do;
We must follow the right person
We must have the right preparations
We must find the right process
We must find the right places
We must have the right patience
So, what does it mean to follow the right person? We must follow JESUS! notice these men left everything, their nets, their boats, their family, their life as they knew it to follow Jesus. The scripture says, “At once” they left and followed him. The word followed here means to “Cleave to another, conforming to his example”. In other words, these men left everything they knew and had to learn from Jesus and to follow his example.
And learn they did!! They saw Jesus go into places and interact with people that most religious, upstanding citizens would have nothing to do with. There are many examples of scripture that demonstrate Jesus’s unconditional love for people; Mark 1, he heals the leper, Mark 5; he sends the demonic spirits out of the man into the pigs, Luke 7; the sinful woman is forgiven, John 4; the woman at the well. These are examples of his love when it comes to people that others would just pass by and not give second thought to.
We must learn from Jesus’s example and loves those who may seem un-lovable, different, and not what “Society” says is right. If we are to be fishers of men, we must recognize that everyone is important for advancing the kingdom of God!
The next thing we must learn to do is have the right preparations, we must be prepared! In verse 19 of the text, we see James and John are mending their nets. They are preparing them for the next night of fishing they are going to go on. They want to be sure their nets are ready and have no rips, holes or tears in them so they can catch the most fish possible. They wanted to make sure their nets were strong and would not break. In the same way we need to make sure our nets are strong and will not break or tear causing us to lose fish. Literally speaking we are not casting out nets, but we do need to be ready and prepared when the opportunity to catch fish, people, arises.
In order to be ready, we need to be sure of and ready to do three things…
We must be sure of our own salvation! We must be confident in the fact we are going to heaven and that we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and what he did for us on the cross. In order to catch fish, we must be sure we have been caught ourselves in the net that is Jesus Christ.
The next thing we must do is to be prepared to give our testimony of how and who you were before Jesus and how and who you are now after Jesus. The best tool for witnessing is to tell the simple story of how Jesus saved you and changed your life. You do not need to be a theologian to do this.
The last thing we need to be ready to do is to witness for Jesus. Every conversation is an opportunity to speak about Jesus and how great he is and what he has done.
The third thing we must do is find the right process! Verse 16 tells us that peter and Andrew were casting their nets, when Jesus found them. The way they used to do this was cast nets on one side of the boat and then cast the net on the other side of the boat. Basically, they were casting the nets all over the place trying to gather in some fish. The more they threw the net out, the greater chances they have to catch the fish.
The lesson for us is that if we are to be fishers of men, we must cast the net out everywhere we go. As we have discussed our net must be strong, but then we must also use it and not be afraid to cast it out. We are called to be in the business of casting out nets everywhere we go. Again, Jesus was our example of how to do this, he shared the message everywhere he went as he went about his daily life, he shared the message. He used the well to talk to a thirsty woman, he used bread to speak to a hungry multitude, he talked about seed to farmers, money to merchants, and he used the ordinary run of the mill experiences of life to get his message out. I am a firm believer that we are called and equipped to do the same thing. Matthew 28 calls us to “GO” into the world and preach the gospel and to make disciples, this is a command not a recommendation! Every conversation can easily be turned into a conversation about God when wise discernment and wisdom is used. We must allow the Holy Spirit to lead us and allow us to minister to other people, and not let fear consume us. Are you working fishing for men by continually casting your net everywhere in the daily business of life wherever you are? If not it’s time for a change.
The fourth thing we must do is to be fishers of men is to fish in the right places. It would seem logical that Peter and Andrew were casting their nets into the water, why because that is where the fish are. They would have been wasting their time if they were casting their nets out onto the dry ground trying to catch fish. If they wanted to catch fish, they needed to go to where the fish were.
If we are to be fishers of men, we are to do the same thing! If we are going to see people get saved, then we have to go to where they are. We are to go outside these church walls, and into the sports arenas you play at, into the schools and places you hang out at, you must go to where the people who need to hear the message of Jesus are. Church is a great place to hear the Gospel and to build up into fellowship with other believers to grow and mature, but then we must take the message we learn outside these walls! We are to be active in getting the message out by deliberately sharing the gospel in the right places. People are perishing into the world of sin and death and dying and going to hell, and we in this room here right now as a body of believers have the antidote to save them. If we are prepared and ready, then Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit will help us find the right places. I may not always know where to go where the fish are, but if I have my net mended and ready to throw out, and I am prepared to through it, Jesus will guide my steps to where the fish are biting. Of course, this may mean going to places where we might not want to go, at that time we have a choice, and face a decision. To follow the Lord and GO (great commission) and catch some fish or do it our way and come up empty.
Lastly, if we are to be fishers of men, then we must have the right patience. Notice Jesus said to Peter and Andrew, “Come follow me and I will send you out to fish for people”, this statement is in future tense. In other words, they are going to get there to be fishers of men, but it was going to take a while. They, just like us, needed to be trained and witness the miraculous works of Jesus. We must have the same attitude and be patient when we are fishing. We must cast our nets and wait patiently a we fish for men.
You might be thinking right now that you are never qualified to be a witness, and you want to see people saved and go to heaven, but you don’t feel adequate are unprepared.
Listen to me right now, if Jesus can take ignorant, unlearned fisherman and use them to touch the world, then he can and wants to use you! In fact he probably is already using you and you have no idea yet!
The fact is he has already equipped you because as a believer you have the holy spirit, so get your nets mended, find the right place and start throating it out there.
The BLURP 5 June 18
As we transition into the summer break, I just wanted to let you know that the U.G.L.Y (Understanding God Loves you) Youth Group will not be slowing down. We will still have weekly youth rallies on Wednesday nights at 7pm in the gym. There will be Sunday school at 9:30am every Sunday in the teen room. In addition to those regular events, I have several other events planned to keep the teens engaged and growing in the Lord. First, youth camp is June 18-22 and payments are due by June 6th. This is going to be a life changing time of worship, fellowship, and fun where they will create bonds that will last into the next year. We are going to be going on our annual river tubing trip on July 18th, which is always a great time. I will be planning a lock in for August time frame as well as a Main Event game night. I also plan on doing some open gym nights and movie nights to keep them active and give them an opportunity to just hang out with each other. My plan for this summer is for the kids to grow in their relationship with the Lord spiritually as well as to grow with each other. Please check out the youth webpage at www.wherelifechanges.com/blurp and do not hesitate to contact me with any questions at 210-632-7945. I look forward to working with you all this summer
The BLURP 1 May 2018
Do you ever fell like the enemy has surrounded you and encamped around you? Do you ever feel like the walls are closing in all around you and you are overwhelmed with so much pressure you just want to quit trying and moving forward? So anxious and worried about the future and the things that are going on around you that its hard to function?
There have been many times in my life that I have felt this way. I have felt like everything I have touched just falls apart and everyone and everything around me is out to get me. I am reminded of the scripture in the Old Testament from 2 kings where the king of Aram sends his army to surround the city of Dothan to try to capture Elisha. Elisha had been speaking on behalf of God to the king of Israel and this was making the king of Aram upset because Israel always knew the plans of the enemy. Finally, the king of Aram sent an army to kill and capture Elisha the prophet. The king of Aram sent his army at night to surround the city, much like we get surrounded by the enemy in life. When Elisha’s servant woke up he was terrified when he saw the king of Aram’s army surrounding the city. What amazes me about this story is the response from Elisha, he says in a cool calm and collected voice, “Don’t be afraid”, “those who are for us are more than those who are around us”. Elisha’s servant was blind to the chariots of Gods Army that had surrounded the king of Aram’s army and the city to protect Elisha. At once Elisha prayed to God to for his servant to see and he saw Gods army and the chariots of fire surrounding the city.
What we learn from this text is that God is always there surrounding us and protecting us, even when it feels like he is not there. We just need to pray for our eyes to be opened and awakened to the fact that he has a plan for us and he is there with us. Our God is Omniscient, all knowing, and he knows the plans of the enemy who seeks to destroy us. Our God is Omnipotent, all powerful, and he knows the way to solve all of our problems, but we must submit to his authority and pray that we are not spiritually blind to him.
The Bible tells us he will never leave us nor forsake us, but I think often times when things get tough, we leave him. He is just waiting for us to return to him, in the meantime he is surrounding us, protecting us and keeping us safe.
THE BLURP, March 21 2018
What's Your Assignment
This last week during spring break, the U.G.L.Y Youth Group traveled to Bethany Oklahoma, to Southern Nazarene University (SNU) for the Extravaganza! Extravaganza is a SNU weekend retreat for Nazarene Youth across the South-Central field of the United States. It is designed to reach students for Christ through dynamic worship and speaking, to challenge students to use their talents and abilities in good competitions with Godly character and to connect students with SNU to encourage them to choose SNU at their college choice. CrossRoads took a group of 12 kids and we made the eight-hour trip to the University ready to worship, praise our Lord, and have some fun. For me the personal highlight of the week was the guest preacher, Pastor Selena Freeman from the Well Church in Springfield MO. Yes, I had a good time watching the kids play soccer, basketball, flag football, singing, talents show and Bible quizzing, but the best part was the worship and the service. Pastor Selene brought a powerful three-part message through the Holy Spirt proclaiming we have an Assignment, we have an Enemy, and We have a Savior. She taught us that we all have an assignment based on Gods call in our lives and that our call is not necessarily a destination, but our assignment is a journey and continues through what may be several assignments doing Gods work on the journey of life. We learned that we might be stressed when we are trying to do something that God has never called us to do or Assigned us to, or we are trying to do Gods calling and our assignment on our own power and not relying on the provision and power that God provides. We have all been chosen, appointed and equipped for an eternal assignment, and if God has put us up to it, he will see us through it.
This made me think of the callings we have in our lives that we often hear, but we don’t listen to them. We are called to serve the Lord and to advance the kingdom of Heaven and go out and teach and make Disciples. God calls us to do this through various methods, maybe as a teacher, Doctor, lawyer, student Preacher, Pastor or by other various methods. No matter the calling he has chosen for us, we are called to serve him to advance the kingdom of heaven. This is commanded of us as believers! Jesus commands us in Matthew 28:16 “To GO and make Disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them everything he has commanded us to do, and to remember he is with us”. In Marks (Mark (16:15) account he says, “GO into all the world and to preach the Gospel to all creation.” Both accounts of what has been come to be called “The Great Commission” tell us we need to GO and do something, teach, preach, baptize, and place our hands on the sick. This was the last thing Jesus said to the Disciples before he was taken up to Heaven. Jesus could have told us to do so many things, but his last words to us were to GO, so what exactly does it mean to GO.
GO, is an action verb, that literally means to go from one place or another, to travel, to leave, to depart, or to do something. You see, we aren’t called to just sit on our behinds, come to church to get fed and then not to do anything with it! We are called to go out into the world, the unsaved world to and to teach the people and to make disciples out of them. We are commanded to teach them the “Good News” of Jesus Christ, our savior, redeemer, and sacrificial lamb!
Unfortunately, for many of us, we make a decision to just come to church on Sundays, go through the motions, get the spiritual food we feel we need, and then go out into the world and fall in line with the things the world does. We have become a society of people who just got from Sunday to Sunday not doing the Lords work. This is a failure on our part, so I have to ask myself the reason why we do this. Pastor Selena’s second point was that “We have an enemy” and “The struggle is real”. Our enemy is evil! He is slanderous and will create doubt in you about Gods Character and intentions. He is called the great adversary, and our opponent who wants to destroy the plans of God. If he cannot destroy you he will distract you! Our enemy has been called the “Day Star” as he and his way are attractive, illuminating, charming, and alluring. Yes, in reality, his ways only lead us to sin, destruction and death, and his tactic is to create division. He has been called the ruler of this world, and he desires to bring us down, bring our families down, and bring our nation down. He has been called the “Prince of the Power of the Air”, he does not work alone, and he is the leader of the dark forces. He is the accuser of guilt and shame and the father and author of lies. Why do I tell you all of this about our enemy you may be wondering, and it is because we need to know and understand he is real, and he gets into the way of us fulfilling our calling and assignment, if we let him that is! We need to recognize that the father of lies attacks our passion and focus, our identity, our family, our confidence, our calling, our purity, our rest, and our relationships, just to name a few areas. We need to remember that the struggle is real and that the enemy is real, and we need to have a heightened sense of awareness at all times. Scripture tells us the devil walks around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour, and we must remain alert and of sober mind (1 Peter 5:8). Even as I write this the enemy is trying to distract me by my own insecurities and inequity because he knows that for those who read this, and they choose to internalize it, the kingdom of Heaven will advance. We MUST not let the enemy get in the way of our calling or of our assignment and we must remember we have a SAVIOR!
As children of God the only power the enemy has over us is the power that we allow him to have. Unlike our God, Satan has boundaries and limitations. While he influences our thoughts, he can’t read your mind. He is a skillful tactician, and observer of men, but he is not Gods pier, equal or counterpart! We serve a God who has already defeated the sting of death and we have that same power inside of us, if we would just use it! God is calling you to serve him, he has chosen you, appointed you and, equipped you, for an eternal assignment. He has a good and pleasing plan for your life and he wants you to have life to the full, and experience all of his blessings! In order to do that, we must not grieve the Holy Spirt, and we must listen to his callings and assignments in our life. Every time we GO out into the world and speak about the “Good News” of Jesus Christ to someone, we are winning victories over the enemy. And my bible says that if we resist the enemy he will flee from you (James 4:7)! The more we resist the devil and his schemes, he will leave us and our lives. We will begin to experience Gods, grace, love, and mercy in our lives on a level we have never experienced it before!
My challenge to you this week is to look at the assignment God has or is calling you to and see if you have been obedient to it. Have you ignored Gods calling in your life, because of the enemy, because you are scared, or worried? If so now is the time to make it right and claim the victory!
THE BLURP, February 23 2018
Commit to the Change!
The U.G.L.Y Youth group just returned from the beautiful mountains of New Mexico from the annual Spiritual Revolution ski trip. During this trip there was skiing, zip lining, rock climbing, the leap of faith jumps and much more fun games and activities. But by far the most improtnat part of the Spiritual Revolution was the pine cone chapel service that took place on Sunday…
It is hard to put into words what the Holy Spirit does on this trip to everyone who attends. We all have things in our lives that separate us from God and create division in our spiritual life. These things range from sin to guilt and insecurities just to name a few. The goal of the pinecone service is to identify the thing in our lives that we need to change that is separating us from God. The teens and adults are asked to pray about the thing or things in their lives that are creating division between them and God and also how and why they want to change them. Their task is to pray and think about this thing and choose a pinecone that represents that thing. They are given all day to do this and are encouraged to pray together and alone during the day. For the evening’s service a fire is started, and each youth is required to bring their pinecone with them to the service. They are told prior to that they will be sharing with the group the thing they want to change that is creating the division and separation from Jesus. As you can imagine, this takes a great amount of courage, strength, and vulnerability for them to stand in front of their peers, adults, and friends and share this thing. This is part of the exercise, to show vulnerability and sincerity, even when it is tough. One by one they come up front and share with the group what their pinecone represents to them and why. Then they slowly throw the pine cone into the fire signifying that they are going to leave that thing behind or make the change and through the fire it has been consumed. This is a direct analogy and relation to our God who is a consuming fire and who wants to burn away in us everything that is not pure and is evil and that separates us from God (Hebrews 12:2). As they come up and share their most inner and deepest emotions and feelings with the group, one by one, the tears begin to flow. This is a great time of prayer, reflection, love, and hope for each person as they commit to making a great change in their life. The impact this service has on the people involved cannot really be expressed in words, other than to say that it is extremely powerful in changing people’s hearts.
So, what happens next, the people come home and then they go back to normal everyday life and reality sets in. The change they committed to making no longer seems as important and that powerful spiritual mountain top experience they had at Bonita Park is no longer as impactful. The emotional high and the fire they had burning inside starts to die out as the rigors of the daily routine and life sets in.
Unfortunately, this is the natural cycle of life, but what if I told you it did not have to be this way? Would you believe me that you could keep going and make a total commitment to keeping the change you decided on during the trip? The reality is you can, but you must be bold and commit totally to the change. Some of the challenges you will face are the routines of life and falling back into old habits. You will face peer pressure form your friends who are trying to hold you back as they notice this new change in you. You might experience fear and uncertainty when it comes to this change and what the future holds. Worst of all, whenever the kingdom of heaven is forcefully advancing like it was during the ski trip, the Devil will show his head and try to create division, as the scriptures say he has come to steal, kill and destroy. The first step in overcoming these challenges is to be aware of them. At last nights youth rally we had a great discussion on how to overcome each of these things, but in case you missed it, I want you to be aware that these challenges are real and that you must have a strategy to overcome them. This is a spiritual war against the principalities of darkness and we must always have a tactic and a strategy when fighting this war.
The strategy will be different for each of us and is dependent on the challenge we face. This will take a certain amount of wisdom and discernment from each one of us that went on the Spiritual Revolution and are committing to the change. Like a Soldier going into battle, we must be ready and have a technique ready to go based on the situation we are encountering. We must be ready and stand guard against things that would create further division between us and the change we committed to and be ready with a tactic to stay on track with our desired change. In other words, we must be totally committed to the change. We must not let anything get in the way of the change we want to make. We must remember and look back to that feeling we had in the Chapel of Bonita Park when the lights were dimmed, the slow music was playing and the Holy Spirt was present leading us though the process of change. We must remember how we felt when we were there and use that to keep us motivated and ready to stay the course, for the race is a marathon not a sprint.
But what if you didn’t go and are reading this? You to can commit to making a change anywhere and anytime, that is the beautiful thing about our relationship with Jesus, he is available 24-7, 365 days a year. In fact, if you were not there, I encourage you to still participate in this powerful exercise and commit to making a change in your personal life. Once you do this, the same advice applies to you, you must develop a strategy to overcome the challenges you will face.
In closing, remember I am here to pray with you, talk to you and offer you any advice and counsel that you may need. We are in this together and we must lean on and rely on one another as the full body of Christ to attain to the full level of maturity.
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 District 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.