The People He Met

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I have always had a fascination with the stories of the Bible. I love how God worked through very powerful situations in the lives of the people of history. When I was young (and I must admit that I still do this even today) I would imagine myself in the position of David as he was facing down Goliath with only a sling and a stone. I would wonder how someone like Daniel could have such faith when he was tossed into the lion’s den simply for praying. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to live on a boat with all of the animals for over 6 months while the entire world was flooded. I would sit there and be amazed at the people who lived through the Bible and marvel at their levels of faith, strength, perseverance, and relationship with God Himself. 

But the more and more I studied the Bible I began to wonder if these people really were that different from me? And if they really were that much more faithful or powerful than I was, why wouldn’t God choose me to experience Him like this? I think that many of us have questioned whether or not the people mentioned in Scripture were really like us? I believe that when we examine the characters of Scripture, they really aren’t that different than we are. They had the same struggles, same insecurities, same issues with living out faith, and even the same fears. 

Our next message series is entitled, “The People He Met.” Over the next two months we’re going to examine the lives of people that are illustrated in the gospels who came from different backgrounds and how Jesus interacted with them. It is through these interactions where we see Jesus minister and teach not only to the characters, but He’s also speaking to us—to those who need refreshment and encouragement. 

What does Jesus long for you to hear? A message of healing or faith? A message of hope or perseverance? A message of conviction and repentance? No matter the reason, my prayer is that you’ll seek Him and be ready to hear. 

True Love

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One of my favorite movies is “The Princess Bride”. Some of you might remember that film. If you’re not familiar with the story, it is about a young woman who falls in love with her farm boy. He left to go find other work because he needed to save up to be married but was taken captive by a pirate. Years pass by and she’s engaged to marry the prince, who really isn’t a nice guy. But then Wesley, the farm boy, returns. And then the movie picks up. We arrive at the wedding scene, and one of the most memorable scenes depicts an elderly bishop performing the wedding. 

 While he utters the words “marriage” with a bit of a speech impediment (causing everyone in the household to laugh), the words that are spoken are transformational. He speaks of true love as being of the utmost pursuit; following them wherever they go. 

February is the month when we celebrate love. But it also causes others to ask the question of whether true love really exists! While I’m a huge proponent of love between human beings, I want to direct our discussion to this thought—do we have a true love for God? This is something that is still hotly debated in both Christian and secular circles. 

What does it look like to truly love God? While there are countless ways to show love to God, let me focus on 3 ways we can truly love God 

  • In Our Deepening Relationship with Him—is God your first priority? Do you desire Him more and more; wanting to know Him more and grow in Him? God created us in order to have a deep relationship with us and His intention is for us to respond with a desire for a deep relationship with Him. 

  • In Our Obedience of Him—Scripture tells us that we can tell those who love God by those who obey Him (John 14:15, 23). Do you? 

  • In Our Desire to Serve Him—If we love Him, we will want others to have the same relationship with God as we do. We will share with others the deep love God has for us and work to complete His Kingdom work. 

    These are just a few of the ways we show love to God.

The Pursuit

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Happy New Year! It’s hard for me to believe that 2019 is here! It seems like yesterday when everyone was warning me that the computers would “explode” because of Y2K (do you remember this??). The coming of a new year brings us the opportunity to do a couple of things. First, we get to take a look back at the previous year and reflect on the blessings, struggles, and changes we went through. But with the coming of the new year there is a freshness and newness of the hope for a better year. One of the ways we look to get the new year off to a great start is to set a New Year’s Resolution—a decision we make to implement a new behavior or to pursue a new goal. I believe that setting New Year’s Resolutions is a good thing because we need something to shoot for and a goal to accomplish. The hope of the New Year is invigorating. 

There seem to be some “standard” resolutions that people tend to pursue—lose weight, get out of debt, read a book a month, get in better shape, etc. We pursue these resolutions by buying a gym membership or attending a financial seminar. When we start, we are so resolved to make these changes that we are consumed with them. 

While these resolutions are good, I do notice that they all have one thing in common—they are temporary goals. We can get into the best shape of our lives, but that will end. We can get into amazing financial shape, but as the Scriptures tell us, we can’t take it with us. Is there a resolution that will pay off with eternal benefits? Yes, there is! 

As we begin the New Year as a church family, we’re going to talk about what it looks like to pursue God. For many of us, this subject is one that raises some questions because we might not have considered this before. Are we supposed to pursue God? The answer to this is a resounding YES! In fact, Paul expresses this heart passionately in Philippians 3:10-11 where he says, “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” When Paul says he wants to know Jesus, this isn’t merely an understanding of facts, rather an all-encompassing experience of communion with our Savior. Paul desired Jesus so much that this was his daily pursuit. I long for each and every one of you to have the same passion and desire to be with Jesus that nothing else can ever begin to rival our pursuit of Him. 

We are going to have 2 opportunities to learn what it means to pursue God. First, we are going to spend the message times in our morning services in January discussing “The Pursuit”. We’re going to speak on what pursuing God looks like and give some steps on how to do it so that you can take those and put them into practice. Second, I’m going to be leading a Sunday evening study on “The Pursuit of God” by A.W. Tozer. This will be a 10-week study that will take us even deeper into what pursuing God looks like. 

Friends, God pursues us and desires us to pursue Him. Like any other resolution, do you want this? What are you willing to do to see this happen? If you set your heart out to grow in your pursuit of God, I guarantee it will transform your life in such a positive way. I pray that you will choose to immerse yourself in life’s grandest pursuit—seeking the True Lover of your soul.  

A Message of Hope

“What is the meaning of Christmas?” is a question that people have been trying to answer for centuries. For some, Christmas is just a commercial racket that companies use to gain wealth. For others, Christmas means giving and charity and thinking of your fellow man. While others believe that Christmas is all about family and love. What do you think? Would any of these conclusions define the true meaning of Christmas for you? 

While I believe that many of the above conclusions are good and should be included in our merrymaking during the Christmas season, I don’t believe that they capture the true meaning of Christmas. In fact, I believe that any of the above conclusions about Christmas are incomplete because they cannot complete a person. I see that the meaning of Christmas is a message of hope—a hope that through the person and ministry of Jesus Christ, we can have the assurance of a relationship with Jesus and the hope of life everlasting with Him! 

Our Advent Message series this year is entitled “Humble Beginnings.” What we want to bring our focus to is that out of the must humble beginnings of Christ’s birth, the message of hope would be ensured through Jesus’ death, resurrection, and 2nd Coming! We are going to see this illustrated for us in the book of Isaiah. Isaiah draws our focus to a people who were far from God, not wanting to hear from Him despite God’s many warnings. And yet, there is a powerful message of hope in Jesus proclaimed as we read the words, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” This message of hope has the power to transform lives, bring healing to a weary soul, and give hope that no matter our circumstances, Jesus can rescue and restore. 

Christmas is a time when many are open to hearing about the true meaning of Christmas that is found in Jesus. Who has God placed on your heart to share the hope of Christmas with? Who has He led you to invite to our Christmas celebration, services, Living Nativity, or Christmas Eve services? Don’t miss this amazing opportunity to share the hope of Jesus with people. We have the message of hope—let’s join the angelic choir as we proclaim the amazing message that Jesus Christ is born! 

A By-Product of Giving Thanks

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November is one of my favorite times of the year. Not only is it the month where we see the seasons make a dramatic shift towards the colder months of winter, but November is the month of my birthday, my wedding anniversary, and also my son’s birthday! It seems perfectly fitting that November is the month when we celebrate Thanksgiving. 

Thanksgiving, while it is a great holiday and one that the church should celebrate, isn’t meant to be something that is only celebrated once a year. Yes, I do believe that there is great benefit to a national day of Thanksgiving, but for a believer in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior there is so much to be thankful for on a very regular basis. When we realize and experience all that God gives to us through His grace and generosity, thanksgiving needs to be evident in our lives constantly. 

Scripture is not silent about this issue. In Paul’s letter to the Colossian church, he references in chapter 2, verses 6-7, what characterizes a believer; “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” It seems like God is making thanksgiving a defining part of a believer in Jesus Christ. It is who we are to be. Our hearts and minds must understand that everything we’ve been given is a gift from God: He thought enough of you to feed you, clothe, you, give you life and passion and friends and family. We need to be thankful. 

While we are to be thankful to Jesus, there is a by-product of giving thanks, and that is a spirit of contentment. To define contentment, one could say that it is being perfectly satisfied. It is being “good” with all we have. If we are truly thankful to Jesus for all He’s blessed us with, we see a satisfaction and peace inside of us because the burden to pursue these things subsides. 

Friends, we must ask ourselves two questions today. First, are you thankful to Jesus for all you have and how He’s blessed you with His grace and goodness? If so, we then must ask if we are content in what we have, realizing that we have exactly what He longs for us to have? My prayer is that we will learn this lesson of contentment and satisfaction in all Jesus blesses us with and experience a life of joy and thanksgiving because of the presence of Jesus in our lives. 

Have a very blessed and joyous Thanksgiving season! 

Making Good Investments

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There are certain lessons that we learn throughout the course of life that come from some very unforeseen places. Let me share one of these lessons with you. In my first year of ministry, the youth pastors gathered for a meeting at the district office. Many of us were in our first years of ministry, and so I thought that we were gathering for an overview of district ministries and how things worked. For most of the day this was true. But then came a lesson from a very unforeseen place—our district administrator came in and gave us all a teaching on the importance of making sound investments for our retirement. I couldn’t believe it! Here I was in my very first ministry opportunity and we’re talking about retirement. As I look back on it, it was very wise. 

While it is crucial for us to be wise in our financial investing, the lessons taught to me that day transcend the financial world into the Kingdom of Jesus! Let me share 3 lessons on investment that need to guide us into greater kingdom impact. 

1. Identify What You Have to Invest—God has given each one of us a different amount of resources (Time, Talent, Treasure). We need to have a good understanding of what gifts we have, time we can give, money or other resources that can be given to make the greatest impact. If you don’t know your spiritual gifts, ask God to reveal them to you and utilize them. If you have been blessed with income, identify that which can be invested into Kingdom advancement. 

2. Invest Wisely—no person invests in something without doing homework to see if the investment will yield a return. The same in Kingdom work. When you make an investment into the Kingdom, be aware of the potential return and also the risk. Invest wisely 

3. Expect a Return—When we yield our investments (Time, Talent, Treasure) to God, expect that He will use them to accomplish Kingdom ministry. He always builds His Kingdom. Don’t invest with a lack of faith—trust God to do His work! 

If we are about the Kingdom of Jesus, we need to be investors. 

Where has God called you to invest in His Kingdom? Will you make that investment? 

Passion

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How would you define the word “passion?” If I could have individual conversations with you all, I would imagine that I’d hear a wide variety of definitions. Some might say that passion is something that you really like or care about. Others might equate passion to physical or sexual acts of attraction between a man and a woman. While others might define passion pursuing. As I was writing this article, I decided to check out the definition of passion from the dictionary. I couldn’t believe that there were over 10 different entries (not to mention the synonyms and antonyms) for the word passion. Many of your answers were covered in the overall definition. All of this leads me to the conclusion that passion is such a broad word that many of us are limited in our understanding of the word. 

Our limited understanding of passion often leads us to an impotent view of what passion really is. And as I oftentimes suggest, let’s take our definition from Jesus. His definition of passion includes many of our definitions—being motivated to action, caring, pursuing. But when I look at Jesus and His passion, one thing I notice is a definition that many of us wouldn’t give, but the dictionary does list it a long way down—passion is about submission. When we look at the life and ministry of Jesus, we see three things: Jesus is passionate about people (loves us deeply); Jesus humbled Himself to make salvation and restoration possible (came to Earth as God Incarnate); and He submitted Himself to God’s plan of redemption (suffering and dying on the cross for us). Jesus is passionate about the mission of restoring our relationship with Himself. This is what drove Him. It is why He came. It is why He suffered and submitted to the plan. 

We have a theme each year for our Annual Business and Prayer Gathering. This year’s theme is Passion. As we come to our gathering to seek the face of God passionately, I want to ask you to pray over and meditate on these three questions that will shape our church and ministry and relationship with Jesus and His church over the next year. 

  • Would you classify yourself as passionate for Jesus? 

  • How does your passion for Jesus enhance your life and ministry? 

  • Who are you sharing your passion for Jesus with? 

While these are very basic questions, I firmly believe that it’s in the basic (simple) questions that the greatest depth takes place. 

I look forward to interacting with you about your passion for Jesus and how/where it is expressed. I know that when we are passionate about Jesus and the things He’s passionate about, our lives will be transformed to be more like Him each and every day. 

Take a Look in the Mirror

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There is something that I do every morning before leaving the house that will make or break the day. I eat breakfast, take a shower, spend time with the family before we begin our days. While these are very important, I must make sure to check myself over in the mirror. It’s here that I discover whether or not my hair looks good or whether there’s a piece of food stuck in my teeth. I can take inventory on my appearance simply by gazing into this piece of glass. 

While some people hate looking at themselves in the mirror, I do believe that there are some great benefits to this self-examination. It is through this self-examination that we are reminded of who God has created us to be. But I fear that many of us don’t take this opportunity to understand, appreciate, and value the very person that God has created us to be. My friends, it’s time to take a look in the mirror and see ourselves accurately in the way that God has designed. 

The Apostle Peter wrote his two letters to a church that was scattered everywhere and enduring some terrible persecutions. Because of this, some of the people were forgetting their identity. Peter took the opportunity to hand them a mirror, so they could see and be reminded. God is doing the same for us today—this is who Jesus says you are: 

9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10) 

Church family, this is who you are. You have been given an identity in Christ, you have been chosen by God to be His holy people. You are special. You have been created with and for a purpose. We can be sure of that. And if at any time you doubt this, make sure to turn back to His word so that Jesus Himself can hold the mirror while you take a good look at who God has created. 

Summer in the Psalms

I love how each book of the Bible encapsulates an aspect of our walk with Jesus. Some of the books display the stories of how God works in the lives of people. Others display the heroic stories of faith and how God overcomes all things. Others display the doctrine and theology that we need to grasp to understand who God is, all that God has done and promises to do for us. We also see books of Scripture that capture the human condition in our walks with God. 

One such book is the book of Psalms. If you’re not familiar with this book, the book of Psalms is a collection of 150 psalms (songs) that were written by a variety of people, most notably King David. In these psalms we find people singing about a huge range of emotions and circumstances. What is it like to worship God when we feel alone? How do we carry on when everything seems stacked against us? How do we celebrate and worship God? Where do we run when the things of life get hard? How do we face issues of loneliness, pride, self-worth, value, love, and how do these transcend to our relationship with Jesus? The book of Psalms is a treasure-trove of our connection with our Savior. 

Summer in the Psalms. Beginning on Sunday, June 10th, we will look at different psalms and glean from our forefathers the important lessons on how to walk this life of faith. I can’t tell you how excited I am to see God work powerfully in our lives as we learn how to seek Him in and through every circumstance. Make sure to pray about who you will invite to be a part of this series and pray that God would draw you closer to Him through it. You won’t want to miss this Summer in the Psalms. 

Water Your Grass

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Have you heard the expression, “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence?” I would imagine that many of you have. There are times in life when we look at our own lives and for some reason or another conclude that others have it better than we do. They have a better family. A better job. Better cars. A nicer boat. Better relationships. Their “yard” is the picture of what we see on HGTV, while we feel that ours looks like a picture from Kansas during the Dust Bowl from the Great Depression era! So, what do we want? We want green grass! We want their yard! 

There are many lessons to learn from this illustration. The most obvious lesson is the danger of coveting; desiring that which belongs to another. It is very dangerous, and Scripture warns us against this. While this could be an entire letter in itself, I think that there’s another struggle that we face in this illustration. The main issue is that we need to take some time to examine why our grass isn’t quite as green. Friends, if you want green, healthy grass, it needs WATER! You must water your own grass for it to be healthy. 

Our new message series is entitled, “Water Your Grass.” We are going to take the month of May to identify areas in our lives, whether spiritual, physical, or emotional, that need to have care. As believers in Jesus, this needs to be of paramount importance. We must care for that which has been entrusted to us by God, culminating in the response of the psalmist from Psalm 35:9, “Then my soul will rejoice in the LORD, exulting in my salvation.” This verse sums up what a “well-watered lawn” looks like—one that rejoices in God! 

As we look towards this series, I invite you to pray about the areas of your life that need some water. Pay attention to the areas that God shows you and be careful not to reject what He shows you, even if you don’t agree. God longs for soul care. I can’t wait to see what Jesus will do during this next season as we take care of the grass on our side of the fence.