7 Leadership Lessons from the Olympics

Here are 7 Leadership Lessons from the Olympics focused upon the United States athletes.  Whether you’re an athlete or not we can all learn leadership lessons from high-achievers in any field.

1.   Success Comes from Hard Work, There is No Short-Cut

“We’re confident because of the hard work.  We’re consistent because of the hard work.” – U.S. female gymnastics team captain Aly Raisman

Yes, Olympic athletes must win the gene pool to have some God-given talent to start but then they also out-work their peers.

2.   Don’t Confuse Effort with Achievement

No participation trophies here. Yes, there’s pride in simply making it to the Olympics because so few people ever do.  However, they don’t give Gold Medals to the person who ‘tried hard’.  In an era where people want to treat all players as the same, not keep score and give both teams a trophy, the Olympics stand as a stark difference.  “Oh, you’re the 2nd greatest in the world at this sport?  You get a silver medal.  Please stand one step down from the person with the gold.”

I think we set our children up for disappointment and confusion in life when we tell them they can do anything they want.  It’s simply not true.  Success takes talent and hard work.

The balance between points one and two are important.  You must work hard IN AN AREA WHERE YOU ALSO HAVE TALENT. People spend far too much time working to improve their weakness instead of working on their strengths to make them great.

If Michael Phelps spent all his time trying to be a better runner because he was terrible at it, we’d have never heard of him.  Delegate your weaknesses, enhance your strengths.

3.   Expectation Drives Preparation

A mentor of mine, Nelson Searcy teaches the ‘Law of Spiritual Readiness’ to churches.  He says, “If you prepare for guests, you’ll receive more guests.”  Guess what?  We bought more bibles, made more guest bags and began to pray for more guests and doubled the number of guests coming to our church!

There’s an old saying in boxing, “The fight is won in the gym.”  Champions train like champions. When you’re throwing things together at the last minute it shows.  Do the work.  Prepare like a champion.

4.   Take the Time to Begin Well

When you look at any racer, sprinters like Usain Bolt, swimmers like Michael Phelps etc. they understand the importance of beginning well.  They spend time practicing the start.  They make sure their feet are set perfectly.

My dad used to tell me when building anything, “Measure twice, cut once.”  This goes along with lesson #3, there is no substitute for proper preparation.  I’d rather spend extra time planning a project then rush into unforeseen mistakes.  Sometimes 5 extra minutes preparing saves you an hour down the road.

5.   Leaders Don’t Quit

“I just knew I had to really dig deep.  That’s the closest I’ve ever come to throwing up in the middle of a race.” – U.S. Gold Medal Olympic Swimmer Katie Ledecky

We often hear about ‘heart’ or ‘digging deep’ for champion athletes.  What does that mean?  At means when competing at a very high level, at some point we all want to quit. To get an easier job, to move to a better city, a spouse that will treat me better…everyone faces that moment where they just want to give up.  When it gets really hard, the great ones push harder.  No one ever got a gold medal for quitting.

6.   Leaders Make Their Teams Better

I’ve always detested the athlete that pads their personal statistics at the cost of the team victory. The Olympics seem to build such team unity that I can never remember seeing that.

“My job is to win the game for the U.S., and I’m going to do everything possible to do that.” – basketball player Kyrie Irving

7.   Leaders Don’t Do it for the Cheers

Kim Rhode becomes first woman to medal at six straight Olympic Games. Wow!  You would think that would be a huge story even with the great US gymnastics team and the crazy Michael Phelps gold rush.  Actually it’s one of the least covered stories.  Why?  Shooting isn’t that popular as an Olympic sport and guns are a controversial subject in US.

The point is this, if you wait for the cheers you’ll be disappointed.  For all the medals won in the Olympics we will only read stories on a small number of the gold medal winners. So why do all the other Olympians do it?  Not for fame but to achieve the goals that are important to them.

A proverb from the bible says, “Let someone else praise you, not your own mouth.” Proverbs 27:2

Don’t seek fame as a leader, seek success.

 

Please comment below on which leadership lesson from these Olympic athletes impacted you the most or share something else you learned watching the Olympics.

 

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New U

New U_PP SCREEN-JUST THE EMBLEM-02

Welcome to the New You.  We hear this talked about every January.  The gyms become full, people make new promises to themselves (or sometimes the same ones as last year) and ‘resolve’ to change.

Here’s the truth, half us don’t even make New Year’s resolutions anymore.  After years of not keeping them, we give up.

  • Of the people that do make resolutions, 1 out of 4 quit within two weeks!

The majority of 40+ year olds don’t even bother anymore.  Maybe we’re happier with ourselves.  If you’re over 40 like me, we don’t need a new job, we’ve found our career.  We don’t have to find love, we’ve loved, we’re on our second marriage. We don’t need to get healthier because we’re not trying to impress anyone.  Ok, even I didn’t believe that one.

Yes, most people in their 20s still make New Year resolutions but maybe it’s because they are still optimistic. You believe in true love. You believe you can find a career you’re passionate about. And yes, you can get in shape. 30 somethings…you’re split, half will-half won’t.

Here are the…

Top Three New Year’s Resolutions:

  1. Lose weight/get healthy
  2. Get organized
  3. Improve finances.

These are good goals, life-improving things.

Why we should all believe we can change and make New Year’s Resolutions.

  • Of the people who DO make New Year’s resolutions only 17% keep them all year.

Pretty bleak. Why even try?…because 17 out of 100 people do actually make life changes and they’re no better than you and me.  What do these people who keep their resolutions have that most people don’t?  A plan.  Plain and simple, a plan to change.

Success is built by making a few right-decisions, daily.

My wife Joanne and daughter Christy made a simple resolution to not drink soda for a whole year. Their plan was simple. First, get soda out of the house.  Second, decide on alternatives now before going to restaurants (iced tea or water). Bring water or flavored water when you go to friends’ houses. Last, keep each other accountable.  Don’t underestimate the power of someone helping.  For fun, I provided an incentive. $100 on New Year’s Day when you complete it.

Here’s the thing, they both can drink soda now, but really don’t desire it any more.  One year gave them a good health change.

When you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed. Proverbs 16:1-3

It’s not too late. If you’ve never been successful with a resolution (or any other goal) try again.  If you made a  New Year’s Resolution and already broke it, it’s just a date on the calendar. Start again, but with a solid plan this time.

1. Write Your Resolution Down

2. Make a Plan

3. Get an Accountability Partner

4. Make the Decision Daily

Don’t think about the whole year, one-day-at-a-time works. I’m going to work out today. I’m going to organize my inbox today. I’m going to put money into savings today.

If you say, “I’ll do it tomorrow,” tomorrow never comes.  It turns into a new today where we say, “I’ll do it tomorrow.”  Think about today and before you know it, a year will go by.

And before you know it, you’ll be a New You.

Star Wars…Awaken the Force in YOU

Star Wars: The Force AwakensMany people believe in an unseen force, a universal power that connects all life. This search for a ‘higher power’ connecting us is a reoccurring topic in all the Star Wars films. Anyone has watched any of the Star Wars franchise can tell you it’s called ‘The Force’.

The question is what is that force?

STAR WARS: The Force Awakens is officially the biggest box office smash of all-time passing Avatar, as I predicted its opening weekend in my last blog.

Toaists call this energy ‘Chi’. New age gurus and biometric feedback healers will refer the ‘energy of life’.  Shamans and Reiki practitioners call it the ‘Universal Life-Force’. It is most likely a combining of these ideals in these sources that shaped the idea of The Force for Star Wars.

100px-Yin_yang.svgSTAR WARS includes the Buddhist concept of Ying and Yang.

This is the belief that there is a connection between all opposite or contrary forces.  In good there is some evil, in evil some good.

Star Wars Director, George Lucas, while raised Methodist was largely influenced by this Buddhist belief. He called himself a Buddhist-Methodist.

The title for STAR WARS: The Force Awakens, gives hope to the universe, saying, “There’s something coming that will combat the evil in the universe.”  Christians feel that same way about the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

The Universal Life-Force in the Bible

Would it surprise you to know there is a universal-life force talked about in the Bible?

The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. Genesis 1:2

In the beginning there was a force that created light, that created life!  The Holy Spirit hovered over the water waiting for the word from the Father, it’s time, “Let there be light!” and there was light created.

The Holy Spirit also live in the followers of Jesus. (1 Corinthians 6:19).

An invisible power that brings light, creates life from nothing and dwells inside us? It sounds like the force to me! But it’s not, in fact the Holy Spirit is not an ‘it’ at all but God Himself.

Nine times in the New Testament Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as ‘He’ of ‘Him’ never once it.

I will send you the Comforter—the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will testify all about me. John 15:26

Jesus clearly refers to God’s Spirit as ‘He’ and states that ‘He’ will tell you about me. (Jesus) 

There is little doubt that Jesus can’t be referring to some enigmatic energy.  He is describing a living being who speaks.  At other times the Holy Spirit is described as having emotions and a will, these are not characteristics of energy.

To the Christian, that means that God Himself flows throughout the universe.  The greatest hope is that He can dwell in us!

The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. Romans 8:11

This is a promise to all who follow Christ. The Holy Spirit will live in you.

Want to awaken the force in you? Just ask.

Your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him. Luke 11:13

Want to learn more about the real force running the universe…The Holy Spirit?  Contact me in a comment below or go to:

NoPerfectPeopleHERE.com

Read previous post: ‘Twas the Night Before Star Wars

‘Twas the Night before Star Wars…’

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

That’s right they gave them a pre-release day on Thursday in most theaters. This could be the biggest movie of all time. Why?

STAR WARS contains the two biggest themes in story telling. First the classic good vs. evil and second the search for significance.

Good vs. Evil

The STAR WARS movie series uses the imagery made famous in David and Goliath. The smaller, weaker, people are oppressed by the larger, stronger, evil empire.  Good people often feel like underdogs, unable to make a difference in an evil world controlled by people stronger than them.  From the abused child to the traveler worried about terrorism there’s this sense of helplessness. At some point in our lives we all feel like the underdog.  STAR WARS taps into the message that there is hope for good to win, for the little guy to knock down the evil empire.

The Bible is full of stories where weaker, common, people did extraordinary things, overcoming great obstacles, and defeating great odds with God’s help.  You can win over the injustice in your life and you don’t even need a light saber!

The title for STAR WARS: The Force Awakens, gives hope to the world.  It says, “There’s something coming that will combat the evil in the universe.”  Christians feel that same way about the Christmas Story. There is a ‘force’ (the Messiah) that awakens in the world bringing hope.

The Search for Significance

In the original STAR WARS movie, Luke bemoans his existence on a nowhere farm.  He thinks, “There has to be more to life than this.”  How many people feel as they go to their daily routine?

STAR WARS taps into humanity’s search for significance.

All people want to believe life has meaning. Most believe that there’s some ‘universal force’ that is controlling things. It’s not just a religious thing. Many atheists believe in a ‘universal mind’ or some other life force linking us together.
Why?

We were created with knowledge of the eternal and the divine by our creator.  Something that tells us that there’s something bigger than us, more than what we can see.  The Bible says, “Even nature shows us that there is a Creator.”  In addition to creation, The Holy Spirit is all around us, bringing us life and guiding those who choose to follow His ways. He tells us there’s something more out there.

What can we learn from STAR WARS? 

That there is a desire in all human beings to know the meaning of life.  To know that there’s hope beyond their daily frustrations.  To know that good can win, especially when it looks like all is lost.

That is the message of Christmas.

It may look dark and hopeless now, but a star in the heaven announces that a force for good has awakened in the world.  The one foretold in prophesy, the Savior, the Son of God…Jesus.

Looking for Hope this Christmas?  Go to one of the STAR WARS Christmas Services at House of Praise, in person or on-line.

NoPerfectPeopleHERE.com

Go to Next Star Wars Blog: Awaken The Force in YOU

Repetition: The Frustrating Father of Learning

A few days ago I spoke to my daughters basketball coach after a loss in a tournament.  (Being a Syracuse University alumni and fan I can sympathize.)  He bemoaned, “The things we just went over in practice two days ago they completely forgot!”  As a coach, I know that frustration, when you practice and practice a play then the players don’t do it in the game.  Any leader runs into this in any area of life.

I recently spoke to someone who asked me for advice about the very topic I had preached upon only two weeks before.  I asked him if he’d missed that Sunday but he replied that he was in that service. I repeated the instruction I had given while preaching and he said, “Wow, that’s really good.  It helps a lot, thanks.”  I stopped him as he began to walk away and asked, “Did you listen when I said those exact words only Sundays ago?” He looked at me bewildered.

In truth, he had heard, but the lesson had not penetrated. Maybe he was distracted or didn’t take notes but more likely he just needed to hear it again.

This is the thing most pastors, leaders and teachers…and dare I say parents, are most frustrated with.  “I teach a great lesson but they don’t remember it two weeks later.”

I remind teachers and leaders often that teaching someone an important truth once is never enough.  The only way to change their behavior is for you to say it over and over again.

Repetition.  No one enjoys it. Some students  will check out, “I’ve heard this before.”  The teacher is bored because they have taught the information before. The problem is repetition is the single best way to invoke change.  If you lift a weight once, nothing changes (except maybe a hernia) but lift that same weight 100 times a day, every day, and you will see great changes over time.

Repetition is the Frustrating Father of Learning but better to endure some frustration than to miss an important truth that should be learned.

“Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift that is in you … ” (II Timothy 1:6).

“Of these things put them in remembrance … ” (II Timothy 2:14).

I understand we can’t repeat everything but here are something that need to be repeated over and over and over…well you get the point, ad infinitum.  In part 2 of this blog tomorrow, I will give 7 Biblical Truths we pastors, leaders and parents need to keep repeating in the hope that eventually we will get it.

The A-B-Cs of Faith

People often ask about faith.  Faith is often mentioned in the Bible but it is one of those subjective topics that people have various opinions on.
What are the basics about faith that we can learn from scripture?

It is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to Him must believe that God exists and that He rewards those who sincerely seek Him. – Hebrews 11:6[1]

We see that faith is important to God.  In fact, it’s impossible to please Him without it.  Hebrews chapter 11 is filled with people who received God’s blessing through faith.  What is faith exactly?

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. – Hebrews 11:1

Faith believes confidently that what we are hoping for will exactly happen for us!  It’s more than a wish or a dream.  It’s a confident assurance in an expected answer.  We have faith in things all the time.  We have faith that when we sit the chair will hold us up.  (Unless you struggle with a fat-guy fear.)  We expect a certain behavior.  Biblically God expects us to have faith in Him to behave in a way that He promised He would.

It’s not about GREAT faith, but child-like, mustard-seed-size faith.  We have all been given a measure of faith and it only takes faith the size of a small seed, to move mountains.  Therefore, it’s not about how great your faith is, just if you have any.

How can we exercise faith?  Here’s a simply A-B-C how to guide:

Always Agree with the Word of God.

Don’t worry about not having enough faith, simply agree with God’s word.  The old bumper sticker said it best “God said it.  I believe it, and that settles it!”

If you’re not going to agree with God’s word what are you going to agree with? The negative reports?  The nay-sayers?

We have faith that if we accept Christ’s work as our salvation we shall get to heaven.  Then we should also believe all the other promises He makes us in His word.

Boldly Believe that God rewards those who seek Him.

We have a wrong belief that God is aloof or uncaring.  He loves us and desires to bless us. If we agree with God’s word and we believe He loves us then we will expect His blessing when we seek Him!

If you believe something, you have to act like it.  Be a doer of the word, not a hearer only (James 1:22).  When God told Noah there was going to be a flood and to build an Ark, Noah believed Him.  How do we know?  We know because Noah spent the next 100 years building a giant boat in the desert!!

Side note:  This doesn’t mean be foolish.  The devil ask Jesus to prove His belief in God’s word by jumping off a building (Matthew 4:1-11) but Jesus replied “not to teat God.”  Don’t let the devil get you to take a ‘leap of foolishness’ thinking it’s a ‘leap of faith’.

Confidently Confess the Word of God aloud.

The tongue is like a rudder steering you to where you will go.  Eventually what keep saying will come to pass in your life.  If continually tell yourself you can’t do something, you can be sure you won’t.

Note: Speaking something isn’t all that take to get somewhere, there is also obedience, aligning with God’s will and more but you can be sure that if you confess you won’t, you won’t.

In John chapter 1 people ask John the Baptist who he is.  John’s responds in humility (not worthy to unstrap the Lord’s sandle) and confidence in God working through Him (I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness.)  It’s not arrogance to confidently confess that God is going to do for you and through you, exactly what He said He would do…it’s faith!

It’s my hope that this simple ABCs of Faith will bless you an


[1] All scripture references are quoted from the New Living Translation unless otherwise noted.

Like Easter Every Day

We had an awesome Easter at House of Praise.  In fact, it was the best Easter we ever had.  More people attended that service than we’ve ever had for an Easter service and 11 adults accepted salvation.  The drama CSI: Jerusalem brought the resurrection into a modern setting with understandable evidence that Christ, in fact, did die and rise again.  Amazing, awesome…a day that reminded me why I wanted to go into ministry in the first place…but what about now?

After the wonder of the wedding, there’s a ‘honeymoon phase’.  We are still enjoying the big day but soon reality sets in.  Like the newlyweds returning to work that first Monday, we all will soon be hit with the reality of arguments, bills and the daily challenges of life in general.  In addition to that we will all have friends that we invited to the Easter service and ‘love the church’ but haven’t come back.  How can we keep the momentum of Easter going every day? Do what we did to prepare for Easter, every week!

First Pray. Pray for you job, your family and for those who came to church with you.  Pray God’s will and presence into your life and ask God to draw our friends back to church.  We were all praying for God to move during the Easter services and to draw loved ones to Himself before Easter.  Don’t stop now!

And Jesus said, “Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day. It was also written that this message would be proclaimed in the authority of His name to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.’ – Luke 24:46-47

Next Follow Up. The power of the resurrection is the hope of forgiveness.  Call your friends and remind them that God has a plan for their lives.  Invite them to come back to church (or those that didn’t make it to Easter to come for the first time).  We were excited about Easter so we left our comfort zone and reached out, do it again this week.  Especially follow up on anyone who met with Christ in a real way.  Gently remind them that repentance involves change, so create a new habit of going to church.

If God spoke to you during the Easter service, follow up on what He told you to do.  Stop worrying about the small stuff and focus on the eternity after your resurrection.

During the forty days after His crucifixion, He appeared to the apostles from time to time, and He proved to them in many ways that He was actually alive. And He talked to them about the Kingdom of God. Once when He was eating with them, He commanded them, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift He promised, as I told you before. John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” – Acts 1:3-5

Last, expect God to do what He promised. Expect God’s Spirit to be present in your life.  We can experience the power of the resurrection every day through the Holy Spirit.  Pray for others for miracles and bring God your own needs.  Jesus promised to pour out His Spirit on the original disciples as they waited in Jerusalem. I think the same applies to us today.  As we wait expectantly after celebrating His resurrection, we can experience His power like Easter every day.

Best Easter Ever

This year at our church (House of Praise) we set out to make Easter the best Easter we’ve ever had.  We produced a 15 minute CSI (Crime Scene Investigation) style drama with professionally done video and scenery as a background.  The sermon followed the theme by investigating the scripture on the resurrection. The music team brought excellence and creativity to the service. The Children’s Department set up a cafe style setting and had fun things like a bouncy room.  Our volunteers were on point, greeting, seating and treating people well.  We gave gifts to guests and then we did everything we could to get people to come. We mailed out 12,000 oversize post cards, we challenged our members to invite 10 people each, and the outreach team handed out hundreds of invites at the local Wal*Mart.  The results?  Best Easter Ever!  Why do I say that?

  • 0ver 430 people attended (Our highest ever!)
  • At least 10 people accepted Christ for the 1st time (filled out a card to tell us)
  • At least 7 people rededicated their lives to following Christ
  • Many people returned to church
  • Many stories of life change already coming in

What this means is all of us didn’t just have a great service but lives were changed and the Kingdom of God advanced!

You can still make it your best Easter ever by committing to let the resurrected Savior run your life.  You can decide to live differently that before Easter, to expect God to be present in your life. You can expect God to flow through you to help others meet the risen Lord.

Make this the best Easter ever in your life by taking the power of the Resurrection with you into the rest of the year…expect new life ahead.  Best Easter ever…

Beyond Redemption

A few weeks ago I preached a message on how the church should treat gay people.  I called it Out of the Closet and Into the Church. (http://sc.fhview.com/sc_customplayer/seriesitems/1/118751) The goal of this message was for the church to examine our attitudes towards this particular people group.  After the message an elderly woman approached me.  She was wearing oxygen and walking with a walker.  I must admit I thought, “Here we go.”  I expected her to rebuke me for not condemning homosexuality during the sermon.  Much to my surprise she asked a simple question…

“What about murderers?” she inquired.

There was an unexpected brightness in her eyes, a curiosity and vigor for life one wouldn’t expect given her frail frame.

“Excuse me?” I muttered.  Really it wasn’t that I didn’t hear her, I just needed a moment to collect my thoughts.  I was prepared for an onslaught of fire and brimstone senior saints, not an inquisitive truth seeker.

After all, I had just preached the most controversial sermon of my career.  I opened with “If you came here expecting me to condemn homosexuality today, you will be disappointed.” I chastised the church asking why we celebrated a straight couple who was sexually active, even living together, coming to church. We allowed them time for God to work on them without judgment but let a gay couple walk in holding hands…whoooo.  They weren’t welcome.  I did my best Jesus imitation calling us hypocrites.  The church just nodded.  I the weeks to follow, not one letter or disagreement.  I’m so proud of our local church and their Christ-like love.

Anyways, here I was after that sermon, expecting a fight, instead facing a sweet senior saint who still wanted to grow and learn in her last years on this earth.  Humbling.

“Excuse me?” I muttered.  “Murderers.” She repeated more forcefully. “They are much harder to love and accept than homosexuals. What about murderers? Can they be forgiven and go to heaven?”

I explained that the Apostle Paul helped to kill early Christians before his conversion and that god didn’t just forgive Paul but wrote 2/3 of the New Testament through his hands.  I excitedly told her that Michael Franzese was coming to answer that very question.  To tell her how a Mafia Boss, a murderer, can be forgiven…and that no one is beyond redemption.

Three weeks later, my eyes lighted upon a pair of bright, excited eyes in a back section of a packed sanctuary. She was back to hear the former Mob Boss’ story of redemption. She smiled at me as she pointed to a row full of her family.  Full of confidence in God’s love for all sinners, she had brought her family to hear that there is no one beyond redemption.

The First Tool for Life

I’m reading a book called The Ultimate Checklist for Life and it causes me to ask a question.  Are you prepared for life’s unexpected turns?

Life is a journey of twists and turns that take you around blind curves not knowing what’s around the bend. There are perils and pleasures, advances and set backs, obstacles and opportunities (sometimes the obstacles are the opportunities!) Fear if the unknown or fear of failure could paralyze a traveler on this journey called life.  How can we minimize anxiety and maximize success?

As any seasoned adventurer will tell you, it’s best to adopt the Boy Scout motto and “Be Prepared.”  To be prepared one must know the right tools to take.  Campers take things like tents, compasses, matches, water, bug spray, first aid kits, even things like emergency flares or a gun for protection. What are the right tools to take along the journey with you?  How can we be prepared?

The most important tool is the word of God, the Holy Bible.

I know it sound cliche but it’s true.  And I know, it is God’s love letter to humanity, and it is the story of God’s relationship to us, but it is also a guide book.  It is the instruction manual written by the creator of life on how this whole thing operates!

Your laws are always right; help me to understand them so I may live. – Psalm 119:144

His word helps us to understand this life He’s given us so that we may live.  Scripture talks about almost any topic you need, relationships, work, money, sickness, heartache, forgiveness, education, family, love, lust, even interest rates and cosigning a loan! (Bet you didn’t know that was in there!)

To be prepared for life, start with God’s instructions for how to live.

Life is God’s novel. Let Him write it. – Isaac Bashevis Singer

Next Week: Tool #2

Breaking Religious Taboos

Did you know that Jesus didn’t follow all the religious rules of His day? His methods weren’t welcomed in the established places of worship.  He hung out with the wrong crowd.  He overcame social and cultural barriers to reach people.  Jesus had to break many religions taboos to make a way to the Father for all of us.

In John 4:1-30, there is a story of the brief interaction between Jesus and a Samaritan Woman at the town well.

Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.”  He was alone at the time because His disciples had gone into the village to buy some food. The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. (v7-9)

Samaria was conquered Assyria 722 BC. The Samaritans intermarried with the foreigners. Therefore they were not regarded as fully Jewish. At the time of Jesus there was a lot of hatred between them. Jesus’ dealings with this woman illustrates His ministry breaking down barriers between Jews and Samaritans.

Jesus broke several taboos with this meeting.  He broke the racial prejudice that Jews had against Samaritans.  He broke the religious bias towards the Samaritans as being inferior Jews or ‘unclean’.  Last Jesus tackled the chauvinist view of women that was prominent in His culture.  Jesus often broke taboo as to how women should be treated.

Mary Magdalene; Joanna, the wife Herod’s business manager; Susanna; and other women traveled with Jesus contributing their own resources to support Him and His disciples. (Luke 8:1-3) This was scandalous for a woman to leave her homes and travel with a rabbi.  Unheard of!  Unthinkable!  Yet Jesus had several woman travel with Him throughout His ministry time.  In the orthodox, first century temples women and men were separated by a screen.  Jesus was one of the world’s first feminists treating woman as ‘joint-heirs’ of salvation.

Why is this important to us today?  Because to truly follow Jesus we must break down the social, cultural and even religious taboos we have been taught.  These things keep people from following God.  More next blog.

Lent and Self Examination

I was raised Catholic and always participated in Lent growing up.  I would give up candy, not eat meat on Fridays etc. While I know longer participate in the ritualistic practices of Lent, I appreciate the idea behind the Catholic Sacrament that takes place during the season. Abstaining from certain pleasures and foods for the purpose of getting closer to God is a biblical practice I often do called fasting & prayer. In the Catholic Sacrament of Lent, they also set aside time for mourning ones sin.  I’m not advocating that part because we don’t need to mourn sin that God has forgiven. If we’ve repented we’re clean (1 John 1:9).

There is Biblical reference for Lent, I do however think the practice of examining our lives and praying with fasting during the days prior to Easter is a good habit to get into.

We are fasting and praying for people to accept God’s gift of salvation this Easter.  Our church is fasting and gathering the Wednesday before Easter to pray together. I cancelled our satellite TV subscription for a while to spend more time reading and praying.  (Extra bonus, the kids are actually playing outside.  No joke, really, it’s true.)

I encourage you to turn of the T.V., skip a meal and pray more between now and Easter.  You may find yourself ‘mourning’ for  someone who hasn’t yet accepted God’s grace or maybe even ‘mourning’ and repenting a sin in your own life you didn’t even know was there.  I know I will.

Gates: Directions and Decisions

For those of you who asked for it, here’s the gates from Nehemiah 3.  Each gate had a purpose for Israel and I would like to say they have and application for us today and even the order is interesting.

Sheep Gate – We need to become part of the sheep fold.  First build relationships Christ through slavation then with other believers who will strengthen our faith. – 1st gate rebuilt: Connecting to God & Church. Decide to follow Christ and connect with other sheep.

Fish Gate – After salvation we need to become fishers of men. – 2nd  gate rebuilt: Reaching Others. Make a decision to be actively sharing Christ with others.

Old Gate – it means, Long remaining. To me a symbol of remembering the ancient ways taught in scripture.  It also makes me think of returning to our  first love. Rebuild the gate of making decisions based on scripture and God’s will.

City Gate – This is the place of commerce.  The caravans would stop and trade at the city gates.  It was also where the town meeting happened, the government help public meetings at the city gate. We need to be involved in our city and have God involved in our Financial Decisions.

Valley GateHumbleness, Jesus was the “Lily of the Valley”. This is a picture of  prayer, illustrating our dependence upon God.  Don’t make any major decisions without prayer.

The valley gate was the one I forgot last Sunday, sorry.

Dung Gate – The place of the removing of refuse, throwing away the useless things.  What’s taking up your time, wasting your energy or distracting you from you destiny?  Decide to eliminate waste.

Fountain GateHoly Spirit; Springs of Living Water, refreshing.  We need to be led by The Spirit. Listen to the still, small voice and follow God’s leading in our decisions.  

Water Gate – This reminds me of the washing of word. This was the only part of wall that was still standing when Nehemiah went back to rebuild.  The word is eternal build your life on it.

East Gate – Adam & Eve we put in a garden called Eden in East.  When they were cast out, they were sent East of Eden. They were sent out because of their sin but sent with a prophesy of hope. Eve was told that her offspring would crush the serpent’s head.  Even when we sin, as sun rises in the East, His mercy is new every morning – It’s a Gate of Hope. Decide to go on when you sin because there is hope.

Horse Gate – Horses many times in scripture are used as symbols of war. This is the Gate of Spiritual Warfare. After rebuilding all the other things in our lives we can’t neglect spiritual warfare.  We are in a battle whether we want to be or not.

Inspection Gate – After the other gates are all rebuilt in our lives we understand how to inspect things to make good decisions. – Gate of Wisdom

Get started building these gates in your life today!

Enduring Excellence

Excellence isn’t really excellence unless it endures until the end.  Think about it.  I can be the fastest guy off the blocks in a race, clear the first few hurdles with ease but if I trip over the last hurdle or slow down before the finish line and other runners pass me, was it an excellent race?  Of course it wasn’t.  To be truly excellent at anything we must finish as strong as we begin.

Paul said this near the end of his life:

As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.  And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of His return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to His appearing. – 2 Timothy 4:6-8

The prize that awaits is worth running this race with excellence, but how do we do that?

Begin with Duplication and Delegation

Exodus 18:13-26 – Moses & Jethro

Jethro decides to check on his son-in-law Moses and see how his life as a leader is going.  He sees Moses handling every minor dispute that arises for a whole nation!  He tells him this isn’t good. You won’t have enduring excellence, you’ll wear out!  He instructs Moses on duplication and delegation.

Moses you teach the people and delegate the smaller decision to faithful, honest people. Then delegate the authority to make decisions.  Leaders make mistakes by delegating tasks and not authority because of fear or control issues. Moses sets up leaders over 1,ooo; 100, 50, and 10.  Each according to their ability.

There were good people standing around Moses all day learning by watching him make decisions.  they just needed a change to be able to help.  Duplicate yourself in faithful, honest people then give them a chance.  The help you need is already around you, waiting.

Jesus went beyond Delegation to Discipleship

Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” – Matthew 4:19

Jesus kicked it up a notch by saying in effect, I’ll mentor you.  I’ll teach you how to do what I do.  Jesus fed 5,000 but He duplicated Himself in 11 men and then He delegated the care of the Kingdom of God on this earth to them!

If Jesus can trust the care of His word and the eternal destiny of billions of souls to some uneducated fishermen, don’t you think you can delegate some task to those you are training?  Of course they will make mistakes, after all that’s how you learned.

If the people around you are willing to follow you, put your DNA into them and turn them loose!  After 3 years of discipling thieves, liars, uneducated fisherman and trouble makers Jesus was frustrated too.  He asked how long He had to put up with them and why they had such little faith but He entrusted His ministry to them.  Wow. Don’t make those you disciple wait until their perfect before you trust them because they never will be.

What’s this have to do with enduring excellence?  Jesus did the work better than His disciples. You can always do it better yourself. However, Jesus understood that excellence would come from the disciples eventually.  More importantly He knew that enduring excellence means building something that lasts beyond yourself. How long will the excellence you strive for today last?  Until you get tired? Even if it’s until you die, it’s not truly enduring.

Excellence is an attitude not an ability

Excellence is an attitude not an ability

I walk into an unusually tidy bedroom to see one of my daughters.  “Wow, you’re room looks great.” I commented surprisingly.  She explained that mom had said she couldn’t leave her room until it was clean.  “How long have you been up here working?” I inquired.  “Oh, not long.” she replied.  The Sherlock Holmes in me became instantly interested.  “Not long” I thought.  “Not long!  I’ve seen this room.” I investigated the closet.  The door was pushed out off the track and it was nearly impossible to open, even for me.  I then noticed several items of close and toys protruding from under her bed.  You know what happened next. I proceeded to explain that stuffing piles into the closet and under the bed wasn’t what her mother had in mind when she used the word ‘cleaning’.  Over the whines and objections I calmly and loving instructed about doing your best, doing things with excellence.  I don’t think she got it but neither did I, the first hundred times my mom explained it to me.  “Sometimes you do the right thing just because it’s the right thing.” my mother with exclaim in response to my “But Whyyyyyyyy?”

Doing things with excellence is an attitude.  It’s about personal pride in a job well done.  It’s about knowing you answer to a higher standard than most. “I don’t care what others kids do…” my mom would teach, “we don’t behave that way.”

Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. – Colossians 3:23

When you’re on your job, in you school, or serving at church.  Do you best because you are working for God and because it’s the right thing.

My daughter can’t clean her room as well as adult and we don’t expect her to.  We do however, expect her to give her best effort. God doesn’t say we have to BE the best; we just have to give God our best.  He’ll make up the lack to multiply it.  After all, He’s never been impressed with our ability, but He is keenly concerned about our attitude.

This Sunday at House of Praise, (www.NoPerfectPeopleHERE.com) we’ll look at Giving God Your Best.  I hope to see you there.

 

Keep It Simple

God’s plan for us is to give us an abundant, full life but He never said a full calendar. So many people bound by perfectionism and unreasonable expectations, it makes it hard to enjoy life!

The original law consisted of 10 commandments, but by they wrote more until there were 613! There seems to be something in our human nature that just likes to make things more complicated.

Jesus made it more simple:  “Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” Then He said, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”, and on these two commandments, everything is based.

People take 10 commandments and come up with 613, Jesus says “Well if you do things the rest is taken care of.” (paraphrasing)

Now this is a very difficult concept for me to grasp. I analyze everything – people, life, situations, you name it and I analyze it. I was a statistician for nearly a decade so I’m always looking for the “hidden meaning” in things.  I love “Mensa moments” and discussing “deep” things…but over-thinking LIFE gives us undo stress. God doesn’t want us to have feelings of inadequacy, stress or anxiety. He wants us FREE of all burdens. Don’t spend time on the “What ifs” and the “I wish I never…”

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:30

Can we reduce stress? Yes, we have to simplify, but God will remove unneccessary burdens.

  • STOP – In all the busyness of your day don’t forget to stop, breath for a moment and pray.
  • LESS is MORE – Learn to say no is hard but simpler means les stress.
  • UBEU – You be you, be yourself.  Life is too short to try to please everyone.
  • INCLUDE GOD – When we pray, we are acknowledging that we need Him.
  • FORGIVE – When we hold onto hurts we carry that person with us and let them continue to hurt us.  When we don’t forgive ourselves we trap ourselves in the past.  Let it go!

We must become simple to become great in God.

Looking for more on this topic?  Go to http://www.NoPerfectPeopleHERE.com and listen to Simple Christmas or Simple Life series.

30 Days to Live e-Devotional – Day 20: A Risk-Taking Church

We heard a challenging word from Pastor Matthew Barnett this morning.  He spoke one becoming a Risk-Taking Church.  I found that amusing since I had written on taking risks that morning.  Today’s blog is based off the notes I took during that sermon.

Churches start out as Risk-Taking Churches.  The word to describe them would be DARING.  We’ve heard the stories. They left the comfort of jobs, friends, and families to run after a dream God gave them.  The focus is vision or calling.

Matthew Barnett did that.  He left one of the largest churches in America that his father led in Arizona to start the Dreamcenter in downtown Los Angeles. He was 20 years old and had 7 people with them.  Then when they were still small but growing, they purchased a 4 million dollar hospital when their weekly income was $1,500.
Everyone told him it was foolish.

There will always be well-intentioned people telling you why you can’t do what God has told you to do during the daring phase.

Then the church gets buildings, salaries…there is more to lose.  This the Care-Taking Church.  The word that best describes this is the word DUTY.   This church focuses on maintaining property and programs.  They care most about meting the needs of its members. The problem is if you’re not going forward in God you are in fact backsliding.  You can’t maintain.

The Care-Taking Church becomes the Under-Taking Church.  It becomes a dying memorial to what God had done.  They talk more about what God did in the past than what He has called us to do in the future. They study history and work to amass the knowledge of scripture. The word that best describes this is the word DEAD.

Here’s what will blow your mind.  The Under-Taking Church isn’t always a dead church meaning; no miracles, no presence of God.  Under-Taking is a death of vision a death of the Great Commission.  Sometimes this church focuses on the ‘next experience’ with God but the gift is emphasized over the giver.  It’s not about what God wants us to do when we leave His presence but simply the next experience I can have personally.

Reading Hebrews chapter 11 we see the ‘Heroes of Faith’, God’s Hall of Fame.  They were all Risk-Takers!  Noah had no support when he responded to God’s word.  Noone believed He had heard God.

You can’t walk by faith and walk safe.

“How to” becomes the question of safe walkers, trying to manage miracles.  You can’t manage miracles.  You leap into the unknown and pray God catches you.

Jesus risked the salvation of all mankind on 12 fearful, dysfunctional, difficult underachievers and one of them was a traitor!  That’s taking a risk.  What if they didn’t do what they were called to do?

Our problem is that we want security more than glory.  You can never be great without taking a risk.

In closing let me say this, failing to take a risk is a sin.  If we care more about our image than advancing the Kingdom of God, it’s a sin.  God’s plan for you is bigger than your potential!  God’s vision for our church is greater than we can even comprehend.  We certainly can’t make it happen without Him.  Give God the chance to do great things through you.

Don’t be afraid to go where God has already gone.

Prayer

Dear Jesus help me to be a risk-taker not an excuse-maker.  Help me to fear missing your destiny more than what others will think if I fail.  I choose to take a leap of faith rather than playing it safe.

Thoughts

  • Is our church playing it safe or taking a risk?
  • How can I support my friends in their Risk-Taking adventures?

Action

  • Take a risk by praying for a stranger who need a miracle.
  • Start a ministry for God that needs His supernatural touch to succeed.

30 Days to Live e-Devotional Day 19: Taking a Risk

Taking a Risk

As a person faces death they often regret certain things in their life.  They may regret the hurt they caused a loved one or not spending more time with their family.  Yes, moral failures or relationship failure are regretted but not usually the adventure tried and failed. What do I mean?

You don’t usually hear people say, “I regret trying a new business or trying to make a difference in ministry.”  No, it’s usually the adventure NEVER tried that is a regret.  “Wish a wrote that book.”  “I should have gone back to school so my family would have a better life.”  “I should have tried that business idea.”  “I should have tried to save my marriage.” “I wish I would have done more for God.”  Those are some more common ones.

At the end of their life people regret risks not taken. Often it is the fear of losing something that keeps us from taking risks.  God wants us to trust Him enough to live like that now.  To live like we have nothing to lose. There is story of 4 men in scripture who had nothing to lose, so they took a risk.  They found that God’s blessing often lives on the other side of a risk taken.

In 2 Kings chapter 7 is a story of 4 leprous men.  They have shunned by society because of their contagious skin disease and because they are considered cursed by God, religiously unclean.  (The closest thing we would have in our society today is a homosexual person with full blown AIDS.)

Now there were four men with leprosy sitting at the entrance of the city gates. “Why should we sit here waiting to die?” they asked each other.  “We will starve if we stay here, but with the famine in the city, we will starve if we go back there. So we might as well go out and surrender to the Aramean army. If they let us live, so much the better. But if they kill us, we would have died anyway.”

So at twilight they set out for the camp of the Arameans. But when they came to the edge of the camp, no one was there!  For the Lord had caused the Aramean army to hear the clatter of speeding chariots and the galloping of horses and the sounds of a great army approaching. “The king of Israel has hired the Hittites and Egyptians to attack us!” they cried to one another.  So they panicked and ran into the night, abandoning their tents, horses, donkeys, and everything else, as they fled for their lives. When the lepers arrived at the edge of the camp, they went into one tent after another, eating and drinking wine; and they carried off silver and gold and clothing and hid it. – 2 Kings 7:3-8

As the 4 lepers took a risk to change their situation God intervened for them!  If they had done nothing they would have died where they were wondering why God had never helped them!!

Have you ever wondered why God usually shows up right at the end when we can’t make it?  I don’t think it’s because He likes to make us wait.  I believe most times it’s because we wait until we’re desperate to take a risk and make a move.

When God blesses it usually more than expected.  The lepers were hoping to survive but God gave them more than they could carry.  This abundance caused them to think of others.  (Usually when you’re hurting it’s hard to think of blessing others.)

Be a risk-taker not an excuse-maker.  Risk-takers fail more but they also achieve more.  Noone ever gained ground in a battle by watching from the sidelines.  You have to get in there, fight, bleed and risk it all!

Finally, they said to each other, “This is not right. This is a day of good news, and we aren’t sharing it with anyone! If we wait until morning, some calamity will certainly fall upon us. Come on, let’s go back and tell the people at the palace.” So they went back to the city and told the gatekeepers what had happened.- 2 Kings 7:9-10

The reward to the risk taker is meant to be shared with others.  We are blessed to be a blessing.  Don’t wait until your last 30 Days to take that life-changing risk. Risk takers accomplish more for God and also take others around them to new levels in God, thereby gaining bigger blessings themselves in the process.  To fulfill your destiny on this planet you can’t play it safe.

Prayer

Dear Jesus help me to be a risk-taker not an excuse-maker.  My desire is to fulfill your destiny for me on this planet and I know I can’t do that by playing it Safe.  I give my fear of failure, my insecurity about what others may think of me and yes even the lack of trust I have in you.  Point me in the right direction and I will take a leap of faith knowing you’ll be there to catch me if I fall.

Thoughts

  • When is the last time risked failure to achieve a life goal?
  • When is the last time I took a risk to accomplish something BIG for God.

Action

  • Ask God for a vision that is too big for you to accomplish on your own
  • Take one step towards your impossible dream today.

30 Days to Live e-Devotional Day 18: 30 Days to Glorify God

Bill Morgan gives us a glimpse of what he’ll be teaching this Sunday.

Isaiah 43:7 – Bring all who claim me as their God, for I have made them for my glory.

When one is facing the end of their life their entire perspective changes. One of the questions that comes up is “Did my life count?” For those of us who know Christ, given 30 Days to Live we can make our life count.

First we must recognize that God makes it simple. It is man who complicates the gospel for his own gain. The prophet Isaiah spoke the words of God plainly, “I have made them for my Glory.” Who is the “them” in this verse it’s those who “Claim Jesus as their God”. I have asked Jesus to forgive me of my sins and I “Claim” Jesus as my God therefore I was made for God’s Glory.  If I was made for His glory then how do I give glory to God?

There are many answers to that question, many ways to glorify God. Anything that I do to further, promote, or expand the Kingdom of God brings Glory to God. When I read the bible and begin to change my thinking into the thinking of God, I give God Glory. When I love like 1 Corinthians Chapter 13, I give God Glory. When I feed the hungry, cloth the naked and give a cup of water in Jesus name, I give God glory. I know understand that the list is endless.

If I were to sum it up it would be this;

Matthew 6:33 – But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and its righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

If the question is, “Did my life count?” I could say, “Yes it did.” Why? Because I talked to someone about Christ and I lifted up a brother in need. I helped the poor whenever I could.

In the Song of Solomon it says, “Catch us the little foxes who spoil the young buds on the vine”. The buds become flowers and the flowers become the fruit of the vine. It’s not the big things that spoil the entire vineyard; it’s the small things. Likewise, Jesus says that if we are faithful in the small things we are worthy of bigger things. Giving God glory is not about the big things it’s about the little things. Offering to pray with someone who is down, inviting someone to church and even simply stopping in the middle of your day and thanking Jesus for being a part of your life. All of this brings glory to Him who made you.

When we give God Glory we are fulfilling the purpose of why we are here, we are making our life count.

Prayer

Dear Jesus, show me how to glorify you today.  Make me aware of the opportunities I pass by daily unaware.  I want to glorify you in every way.

Thoughts for Today

  • What did I do to bring glory to God yesterday?
  • Do I put God’s Kingdom first?

Action List

  • Ask one person if you can pray for them today.

30 Days to Live e-Devotional – Day 14: A Godly Perspective

God’s View of Life is Different Than Ours

The Lord doesn’t view our lives the way we do.  His perspective is as different from ours as ours is from an ant we are watching.  As we look down on the ground from our chair we can see where the ant will walk if he keeps going forward, where a good food source may be and even potential predators. God understands our live as He looks on as the one who sees all time and space instantly.  He knows the best path to take through life.

Consider this conversation between Peter and Jesus.  First, let me give you the background.  Peter just told Jesus He is the Messiah, Jesus tells Peter that only God could have revealed that to you.  The rest of the boys are slapping Peter on the back.  He’s feeling pretty good about himself then something funny happens.

From then on Jesus began to tell His disciples plainly that it was necessary for Him to go to Jerusalem, and that He would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day He would be raised from the dead.

But Peter took Him aside and began to reprimand Him for saying such things. “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!”  Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”  – Matthew 16:21-23

Jesus knew it was necessary for Him to die.  Peter didn’t.  Jesus had the eternal perspective that his death, however brutal and painful would lead to His resurrection and ultimately our salvation.  To Peter it was unthinkable!  He’s thinking, “We just found out for sure that you’re the Messiah.  There’s no way God would want you to suffer and certainly won’t let them kill you!”  We don’t see things from God’s perspective; therefore we don’t always understand the way life goes.

Through it all we must trust that God has a plan.  We must understand that He sees things differently from us.

For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. – Jeremiah 29:11

It reminds me of a story I read. There was a picture-perfect small town in Maine.  You know the kind you would see immortalized in a Norman Rockwell painting.  The government informed the townsfolk that it would be building a hydroelectric dam nearby.  The dam would cause the town to flood. The officials told the town’s people that they would be paid and relocated to new homes. The town was scheduled to be demolished in less than 3 years just before the dam was finished. During those 3 years the town stopped repairing the roads, no one painted their house, they even stopped cutting their lawns.  The quaint town became terribly rundown. When a reporter enquired as to why this had happened, it was explained this way, “When there’s no faith in the future, there’s no power in the present.”

We must live our lives with faith that God will give us a future and a hope for eternity in heaven. Without this eternal perspective on the future we become hopeless and we allow our ‘spiritual houses’ to fall apart.  You may not understand everything you go through in life but trust the one who does.  Keep up your spiritual disciplines to stay connected to Christ and HIS plan for you.

Prayer

Dear Jesus, help me to remember that no matter how severe the trial I am in today, that it is temporary. Amen.

Thoughts for Today

  • Have I let my ‘spiritual house’ fall apart?
  • Do I trust God with my decisions or do I have to keep control of my life?

Action List

  • Do a ‘spiritual house cleaning’ by repenting of any sins.
  • Continue the cleaning by forgiving anyone who has hurt you.
  • Begin to repair the house by reading and praying daily as well as going to church weekly.

30 Days to Live, Day 7: Do you want a good life?

Do you want a good life?

I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! – Deuteronomy 30:19

It sound silly but we have to choose to have a better life.  He wasn’t saying choose between “suicide and breathing.”  The Lord made it clearer by saying choose between blessing and cursing, between having a good life and terrible one.  Choose between hope for the future (That’s what He was talking about when He mentioned your descendants.) and hopelessness.

Do you want a good life?  It seems like a silly question but it’s not.  Our choices play a huge part in determining how good are life is.  God says choose life or death and then just in case we can’t get it, He say “OH!!!! That you would choose life!”  He’s yelling louder than any coach, “Please! Choose right! I love you and want you to have a good life.”

So, do you want a good life? Then choose to follow the ways that will bring God’s blessing, not the devil’s curses.

These 30 days can be the greatest spiritual growth of your entire life, if you’ll choose to do the work, to learn, to change, to have a good life.  I’m choosing change, I’m choosing LIFE.

Prayer

Dear Jesus, help me to choose life today.  Help me to avoid that patterns that cause me to make poor choices. I give you my fears that may keep me from making good and Godly choices.

Thoughts for Today

  • What choices do I make that make my life harder?
  • How can I choose blessing instead of cursing today?

Action List

  • Make a good choice today that you have been putting off!
  • Choose to put God first today by spending 15 minutes with Him.

30 Days of Putting God First – Part 2

If we only had 30 days to live an important change would be to put God first in every area of our lives as we prepare to spend eternity with Him.  Yesterday we discussed giving God the first day of every week and the first part of every day.  Today we look at two very practical ways to put God first.

Give God the First Part of My Income

As a person faces eternity, somehow money loses its importance.  The last 30 days of a person’s life they become extremely generous, realizing that you can’t take it with you.  Jesus told us to store up treasure in heaven, not here on earth.  The best way to do that is to give to God first, before everything else.

Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the first part of everything your land produces. Then He will fill your barns with grain, and your vats will overflow with the finest wine. – Proverbs 3:9-10

As we honor the Lord by returning the first 10% of everything He has given us back to Him, He then increases our blessings.  If we wait until after the bills, after home repairs etc. there’s usually little left to give.  If we give to God first, He multiplies what’s left supernaturally.

“I never would have been able to tithe on the first million dollars I ever made if I had not tithed my first salary, which was $1.50 per week.” — JOHN D. ROCKEFELLER, SR.

As we are faithful in the temporary things He can trust us with eternal things.

Give God the First Consideration of Every Decision

People will ask, “Does God really care where we work or where we live?”  YES, He does. He cares about the smallest details of our lives because He loves us.  (The very hairs on your head are all numbered. – Matthew 10:30)  There is nothing to small for Him to care and nothing to big for Him to handle.

If we had 30 days to live we would ask God to heal us.  In the grand scheme of the countless years of eternity and the vastness of the universe, whether one person lives 100 years of 30 years is meaningless.  What I’m trying to say is, to God all our requests are little things so don’t be afraid to ask.

Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take. – Proverbs 3:6

By asking God what His will is the various parts of our lives we involve Him in our day-to-day lives.  If He’s involved, then we have His wisdom, His presence and His blessing.

Remember, Give God…

  • The First Day of Every Week
  • The First Part of Every Day
  • The First Portion of My Income
  • The First Consideration of Every Decision

And you will soon find yourself living for eternity.

Born to Die

We’re all dying from the moment we are born. The difference between us and Jesus is this, He came to this earth knowing His time here was short.  He lived with great purpose because He knew how limited His time was.  As we celebrated His Resurrection on Easter we learned how to make the most of this life, remembering how short it can be.

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this?” – John 11:25-26

Do you believe in the eternal?  The majority of Americans do yet we spend so little time thinking about eternal things.

In the book Miracle on the River Kwai ther was a powerful seen involving allied soldiers who were captured by the Japanese during the World War II. These Prisoners of War (POW) were forced to work as slaves on a railway through the jungle.

One afternoon, a shovel was missing. The Japanese officer in charge lost his temper. He demanded that the missing shovel be produced, or else. No-one moved. No-one said anything. The officer got out his gun and threatened to kill them all on the spot. It was obvious that he meant what he said.

One prisoner stepped forward. The officer put away his gun, picked up a shovel, and beat the man to death. The soldiers picked up his body, and carried it away.

There was a second tool count where is was found that no shovel was missing. There has been a mistake at the first count.

Why did this man step forward and say he had stolen a shovel then? This innocent man had sacrificed his life to save the prisoners. Jesus did the same thing.  He sacrificed His life to save the lives of those enslaved by sin.

Why was Jesus born on this earth?  To die.  His whole existence was for the purpose of dying for you and me.

He asks us today to die to ourselves and put His kingdom first (Matt 6:33).  Why?  Because we are all ding from the moment we’re born and only that which is done for God will last.

So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless, as it would be if there were no resurrection. – 1 Corinthians 15:58

God Bless, Pastor Lon

Prayer

Dear Jesus, thank you that you have given me assurance of eternal life.  Help me today to think about eternity.  Help me to live today in such a way that I will draw people closer to you.  Give me opportunities to love and serve you by loving and serving others.

Thoughts for Today

  • What would you do differently if you were going to face eternity in 30 Days?
  • Have you ever thought about the fact that our lives a but a moment compared to eternity?

Action List

  • Do one thing that has eternity attached to it.  i.e. Pray for someone, share Jesus with someone, forgive someone, do a random act of kindness for a stranger, serve God by doing something practical to build His kingdom…etc.
  • Write down one thing you did today that will still be important 1,000 years from now.
  • Tell me your ideas for eternal actions.

Day One: Trusting God

Before we can begin a journey to become the person we were always meant to be, we must begin by trusting the one who knows our future.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take. – Proverbs 3:5-6

I have heard people say, “Trust is earned.” or “A person must show themselves to BE trustworthy before I’ll trust them.” I want to ask a question…Has the Jesus done enough to earn our trust?

As I look at His sacrifice on the cross to pay the price for my sin, I must answer a resounding YES! He gave everything to earn our trust. King David proclaimed God’s trustworthiness by attaching it to God’s character.

All He does is just and good, and all His commandments are trustworthy. – Psalm 111:7

If God is just and good then all He asks us to do must be just and good. Therefore, we can trust what He says. The commandments He gives us in scripture are worthy of us trusting and building our lives on. Often people make the mistake of not following the teaching of scripture because they don’t trust that is the best thing for them. It looks better to go another way…but if He is trustworthy, then what He asks us to do we can trust in also, even if we don’t understand why He asks.

What area of your life have you not surrendered to Him? What have you not trusted Him with? Maybe the issue is one of not trusting in His justice enough to forgive someone who has hurt you. Perhaps you have trouble trusting God to bring you all you need therefore you try to make it happen on your own and date someone who isn’t a disciple of Jesus. For many people it is not being able to trust in the supernatural. How can I make ends meet if I give God 10% of my money as He commands? All of these examples have logical, rationalizations for disobeying God, but when really you look at them, they are all trust issues.

Trust Him enough to surrender the next month to Him…

Prayer

Dear Jesus, trust is earned by love shown. You showed your love for me by dying for my sins on the cross. Help me to receive that love fully today and completely trust you.

Thoughts for Today

  • Write down what God has spoken to you or simply what you’re thinking.

Action List

  • At least one action I will do for the next 30 days or one change I will make.

30 Days to Live e-Devotional

What would I do differently if I only had 30 Days to live? That’s quite a concept.  Most people give a flippant answer such as “quit my job and max out my credit cards”.  I don’t think that is what most people who really have one month left on this earth.  Take the 30 Day challenge to become the person you want to be in eternity.

Introduction

I’m so glad you decided to take this 30 day challenge to change they way we live.  It is my prayer that this resource will help us to Connect to God in a significant way.

This e-devotional is meant only as a tool, it doesn’t contain the answers to life’s big questions BUT God can use it to communicate to you.

If you will take these four simple steps I believe God will greatly impact your life in a powerfully positive way.

  1. Every morning, ask yourself what you would do if you had one month to live—then live that way.
  2. Each day read this e-devotional, pray 5 minutes about its contents and act on the changes you wish to make.
  3. Each day read scripture for 5 minutes. I also recommend the One Month to Live book as a reading resource
  4. Write down the top 3 changes you would make if you had One Month to Live.  At the end of these 30 days, evaluate where you are in making those changes.

Sound good?  Then let’s get started!!

Pastor Lon

Someday Syndrome

Are you suffering from the “Someday Syndrome”? Someday, I’ll go to college, someday, I’ll quit smoking, someday, I’ll clean the clutter off my desk, someday, I’ll get healthier, someday, I’ll live for God, someday, I’ll spend more time with family, someday, I’ll get my finances in order, when I have more time, when the kids are older, when I feel better, when work isn’t so crazy, someday, someday…someday never comes.

This Easter we will begin a journey called 30 Days to Live. This journey will focus on helping us to stop waiting for “someday” and make the most of our lives.

When Christ came to this earth He had a purpose in mind, saving you and me.  He kept that purpose in the forefront of His mind because He knew His time on earth was short.

“Why did you need to search for me?” He asked. “Didn’t you know that I must about my Father’s business?” – Luke 2:49

He kept focused on the task with the urgency of a builder facing a deadline.  Have you ever had a school paper or a work project due tomorrow that you scrambled to finish on time?  We all have.  Starting Sunday we’re gonna live like we’re dying, to quote the lyrics of Kris Allen.

What if you only had 30 Days to Live?  How would you live differently?  What’s keeping you from doing that now?

House of Praise webTV

Well it’s finally here.  The House of Praise will begin broadcasting our service LIVE tomorrow at 10:00am.  (Feb. 14, 2010) Why are we doing this?  So we can feel important?  No.

We use any means we can to get the teachings of Jesus Christ to people.  We use creative means to portray illustrated sermons, everything from cars on stage to the pastor dressing up like Mr. Rogers and singing the theme song.  We hand out notes each service to allow people to review the teaching later at home or share it with a friend.  We record the sermons and make them available on CD or in a podcast.  Now we’re actually broadcasting the service free on the web. (www.houseofpraise.cc)  Web broadcast is just a natural step in sharing God’s word anyway we can.

While there is something special about the dynamic that happens when we gather together (Hebrews 10:24-25), it is our hope that when someone is home sick, or snowed in they will still be able to participate in worship and hear the teaching on the webcast.  One of the great things about this is we can all tell our friends that might be a little apprehensive about coming to church, “Check the service out on-line before you come in person.  Then you’ll know what to expect.” Wow ain’t technology grand? lol

Oh, by the way, if you miss the live broadcast or 10am is just too early.  The last 10 services will be archived, watch them when you have time.

It is our prayer that many people who aren’t ready to attend a church or who simply miss a service for whatever reason will be blessed by this new resource.

The Next Level, What Got You This Far Won’t Get You There!

Many people talk about “getting to the next level”.  We here is in business, from financial gurus, from relationship advisors and in our churches.  This year we’re going to a ‘Hole ‘Nother Level! (HNL) Have you ever wondered how?

Most people don’t enjoy change but the stark reality is that we can’t get to a HNL by doing the same things we did to get to this level.  I’m a big fan of consistency and realize that many things may be accomplished simply by not quitting BUT leaps in success or growth are almost always preceded by changes in behavior. One definition of insanity is “to repeat the same behavior over and over, expecting a different result.”  The method, the priorities, the effort, the staff, the relationships…something has to change.

As I look at how differently people perceive church growth I realize that usually the first thing must change is people’s perception of the situation.  Whether it’s a person who looks at a picture of themselves on the web and says, “Am I that fat?” or a business who makes excuses, “We’re losing customers because it’s a bad economy.” or a church that stops to realize that they haven’t experienced God converting more than “two sinners to saints” in the same year in so long, they can’t find a record for it…HOW the situation is viewed is the key to change, which is the key to beginning to grow.

I’ll talk more about church growth next blog but for now, please take a hard look at your relationships, your finances, your body, your career, your spiritual life, are your growing in that area or are you stagnant?

After the realization that a change is needed, ask the question “What needs to change?”

Next blog I’ll apply this to growing your church.

Looking Forward

As we are starting our new year we are again forced to look forward.  Forced to look at a new year and ask, “What does the new year hold for me? For my family? For my church? For my city?”

It’s a good thing!  We can close the door on past failures and problems and start fresh!!  Each change of the calendar causes people to take assessment of their lives, careers, relationships, spiritual lives, even their bodies!  (haha)  That is why the new year is so full of resolutions.  I know, I know.  Most people never keep them.  But think of this, how many people make changes in their live that never make a resolution?  None.  We have to resolve to change and a new year is a great time to do that.

One of the best things we do is start each year with fasting and prayer.  It refocuses us on God, reestablishes prayer as a priority, buffets the flesh (not buff-A you hungry fasters, buff-ett) and gets us looking forward to a better new year.

I resolve this year to put God first in every are, work less, delegate more, blog weekly, finish school, get healthy, enjoy my family more, give more money, and reach 3 more people for Jesus.

How about you?  What are you looking forward to?

The Call from Heaven

The words of the familiar, old Christmas Carole ring out to us.

O Come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem
Come and behold Him, born the King of Angels

There is a call from heaven to behold the King. In Luke chapter to we see the story that inspired this song.  The shepherds working in the field had their lives interrupted by and unusual sight, an angel!

I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.

The Messiah’s been born.  He’s right in Bethlehem!  Go see Him!  In verse 15 we see the first response:

When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

Let’s go to the house where the Lord dwells and see what the Lord has done and what He has told us about.

Our response is the same today.

1. Go to Church.

First, we must go and see what the Lord has done and said in His house.  Christmas is the best time to go to church.  If you’re a believer, get there!  Go somewhere.  Next the shepherds had a reaction after seeing the Savior in verses 16-18.

They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing Him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished.

2. Tell Everyone What You Have Seen and Heard.

After seeing Him, they went and told everyone what had happened and what was said.  If we have seen the Lord, we must do the same. Look at verse 20.

The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

3. Return to Where You Came From.

The shepherds went back to their fields and their flocks.  They went back to work, school, family and friends.  Your “field” is where God has planted you for your everyday life.  After you’ve met Jesus, go back to your field and introduce other to Him.

Don’t come to church alone this Christmas.  Bring a friend, classmate, relative, neighbor or coworker.

Lessons on Forgiveness

What did we learn from the recent FORGIVEN series? I like to ask questions like that to assess the effectiveness of what we are doing as a church.  If we are having “God ideas” and teaching God’s word then lives should be changing.  Evaluation is healthy and necessary to avoid the deception that dead religious organizations fall into.

Before we answer that questions let me say that I am personally so very thankful for Charlie & Judy Pucillo, Ted & Gayle Haggard, and Bill Morgan for sharing their triumphant stories of forgiving and being forgiven.  Without them and their courage the series would never have had the impact upon the lives of so many.

What did we learn? Well, we learned that God could forgive our most heinous sins, that even an adulterer can be forgiven.  We learned that liars, homosexuals, prostitutes, drug addicts, criminals, hypocrites, and yes, even fallen preachers could be forgiven.  We heard from people who wore those labels like badges of honor.

Then came the hard part for most of us. We learned that we can and must forgive all sins against ourselves to be forgiven.  We learned that with God’s help we can forgive an unfaithful spouse, a trusted loved-one who lied to us, a friend who betrayed us, a pastor who let our trust down, a parent who abandoned us and more!  We heard that we can forgive a person who molested us when we were young. We can forgive rapists even when they have no remorse! Unbelievable, unthinkable, yet true and possible.

We learned that we can forgive God when He didn’t protect us the way we thought He would.  We can forgive God when He let’s a parent go to heaven when they are way too young instead of healing them.

We learned that all things are possible with God, even unforgivable things being FORGIVEN.

Ted & Gayle Haggard

Someone asked me recently, “Why would you have Ted Haggard in your church?”  My response was “Because we preach that God can forgive anyone for their sin.”

For the two or three people out there who may not know who Ted is.  He was the most powerful Evangelical Leader in the United States three years ago.  The head of the National Association of Evangelicals with 30 million members, an advisor to the President of the United States and the Sr. Pastor of a church of 14,000 members in Colorado Springs.  Then came the scandal that rocked the church world.  He was caught with male prostitutes. All the major news sources covered the scandal. Some like CNN and Larry King featured the story for months. HBO did a one-hour special on the Haggards. They have even been on Oprah twice.

My initial response to the story was one of disgust.  I personally judged him very harshly and was privately critical. (Thank God I don’t believe in criticizing people publically or using the pulpit to bash people.)  I know many of my pastor friends felt the same way, “Hypocrites like Haggard give us all a bad name.”  So what changed my mind?

I saw an interview with Ted and Gayle at Steve Furtick’s Elevation Church.  I respect Steve and was curious as to why he had Ted in.  Their story broke my heart.  I actually cried watching it.  We always hear testimonies of people who were sinners then saved from their sin.  “I was an addict, then Jesus set me free.”  “I was hopeless and suicidal, then I became a Christian.”  We never hear stories of fallen Christians being restored.

I decided to have them tell their story, a story of forgiveness.  A story that is important for all of us to hear. First for those that think “It could never happen to me.” and more importantly for all the Christians out there struggling with a secret sin but who are too afraid of rejection to ask for help.  There’s hope for you.  We will help you get free and guard your dignity.

I can’t close this blog without mentioning the heroine of this story, Gayle.  She had biblical grounds for divorce, no one would have blamed her for leaving but as she told Oprah, “I prayed and felt God told me to stay.”  She shared that with God’s help she thought she could forgive Ted and with much counseling work to restore their marriage.  Wow.  She truly forgave “all sins against her” as scripture teaches.

Learn that we can all be FORGIVEN this Sunday at 10am. Then at the Women’s Meeting at 6pm, hear how you can forgive those who have hurt you.  God Bless.

Note: I did check with Tommy Barnett’s church and a church in Texas that have been in charge of Ted’s counseling, inner healing and restoration.  They fell he has done everything asked of him over the last three years.  Ted isn’t restored to ministry as of the writing this blog.  I will be interviewing them not having Ted preach.

Blind Eyes & Stuffy Noses

When we first walked into our church building as the new pastors we remembered thinking how terribly cold and unfriendly the facilities were.  Not the people, the building.  The colors were very cold, the floor in the lobby a dull, industrial, gray tile. The sanctuary had a basketball court on the carpet.  That was weird but not as bad as the huge stains that greeted you as entered. All of that paled in comparison to the children’s wing…

The threadbare and overly worn carpet was held down by duct tape on all the seems.  The nursery smelled horribly, a strong mildew smell and a slight vomit smell.  A single tear slowly crawled down my wife’s face as she shuddered, “I can’t put my babies in here.  I won’t.” She uttered firmly.  I assured her we’d take care of it.  First thing I did was rip up the nursery carpet and put down rubber squares.

My thought was this, “How can they have let the place run down so badly?”  Don’t they see the torn baseboards, the stains in the carpet?  Don’t they smell the nursery?  Time had caused eyes to become blind and noses to become stuffy.  It is a a scientific fact that a person looking at a crack of broken piece of a building long enough will no longer notice it.  If you’ve ever sold a house you know it’s true.  You didn’t realize how dingy the walls were until you painted them to sell. I encourage you church leaders to walk through the church with a new person with a critical eye.

Today we have new carpet in the sanctuary & kids wing, warmer colors, and clean fresh smells but as a pastor who has been here almost 5 years, I’m starting to not notice the broken door handle, the smell of the mop room, the chipped paint here and there.  We bring in secret shoppers to check us out and report.  People I know will be honest.  (If you’d like a secret shopper to check out your building or church service email: pastorlon@houseofpraise.cc)

Have you as a believer gotten a stuffy nose to the sin in your life that has been there for years or no longer notice the cracks in your relationships?  We all need a good walk through with a friend to see what needs to be fixed.  Don’t wait until someone smells the mildew in your life.

Today Matters in Eternity

Paul told us to forget the past.  (Philippians 3:14)  Forget all the good things we did and all the sin and failure.  Why? because if we keep looking back we will waste today.

Jesus also told us not to worry about tomorrow…

So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. – Matthew 6:34

Basically, you can’t change tomorrow’s troubles by worrying about them so don’t waste today doing so.

You do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.
–  James 4:14

Life is short.  We need to live in the moment, carpe diem.  Not the way people live without God in mind, grabbing as much hedonistic pleasure as we can or building our own legacy so we feel significant.  No.  Grab today because God only made one.

The value of something is often determined by how rare it is.  I have a Vecchio statue that is a small version (28″ long) of the famous life size statue called “Equestrian” that is a tourist attraction in Venice Italy.  I won’t bore you with the details of how I came to own it but let’s think of why it’s valuable.  Yes, it is a beautiful piece of art but in general small statues (even those made by famous dead artists) aren’t worth the thousands of dollars that larger statues are, but this one is.  Why?  It’s rare.

Only six were believed to have been made and it was made by a method called the “Lost Bronze-Wax Method” which is an ancient art-form used to make bronze statues during that era. (Some artist resurrect that art form today.) A rare antiquity, made by a master craftsman, in a rare way.

What makes that statue valuable also makes today valuable.  Today is a beautiful masterpiece created by the universe’s greatest artist and He only made one.

Here’s the part most people miss.  God made today to count for eternity.  Great artists make creations that people want to enjoy thousands of years later.  God wants us to enjoy the fruit of today, the beautiful art work we can create with Him, for eternity.

If we will live today to create eternity in our heart then share that beauty with someone else, God will come along side us to create something amazing.  Like Mozart reaching around a child’s hands as they plunk out ‘chop sticks’ for the first time, playing a brillant symphony, God will make today an eternal masterpiece through your hands.

What If…? Guarding Our Minds

We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ. –  2 Corinthians 10:4-5

There’s a battlefield raging.  A place where planes called unknown drop bombs of fear and paratroopers of worry bombard day and night looking for a place to land and dig in.  That place is our mind.

To set up a defense against this aerial assault we must capture these rebellious thoughts and make them obey Christ.  What if I lose my job? What if I get cancer?  What if I can’t get into a good college? What if I never get married? What if… What if?

Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? – Matthew 6:27

Worry is a meaningless waste of time at best!  At it’s worst; left unchecked it can kill you.  Worry actually creates biochemical reactions in our bodies. Doctors tell us worry can lead to a variety of illness ranging from indigestion to heart attack!

How can we control worry, capture those random fearful thoughts?

1. Look at what we are thinking about.

Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.  – Philippians 4:8

Think about good things.  It’s simple but profound.  When you find yourself thinking “What if…” change the channel!  We have the ability to tell ourselves, “That’s not a thought from God.” And think about something else.

2. Look at who are you listening to?

Pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given—and you will receive even more. – Mark 4:24

Why would you take advice from someone whose life is a mess?  First listen to the word of God and what it has to say about you.  Then let the Spirit of God speak to you in prayer but then get around godly men and women who will speak truth!

Don’t be fooled by those who say such things, for bad company corrupts good character. – 1 Corinthians 15:33

3. Look at where your focus is.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. – Romans 12:2

The Israelites were told to go into the Promised Land in Numbers 13.  They found what God had told them.  Grapes the size of basketballs!  A land flowing with milk and honey.  BUT they didn’t focus on the blessings, only the obstacles.  Yeah the fruit is awesome BUT there are giants.  Yeah it’s just like God said a good land BUT the cities are fortified and impossible to conquer!  BUT BUT BUT.  Don’t be a Butthead!  Don’t’ focus on the obstacles, focus on what God has promised you.

Capture the “What Ifs” before they paralyze in a quagmire of indecision, afraid to move.

Conquering Monday Morning Blues

You grab your favorite cup of coffee, sigh deeply and go to work. It’s not that you hate your job, well sometimes, but there so many other things you would rather be doing.  So many other people you would rather spend your time with.  You know you work for a paycheck but you wish that could be a little better too.  The week seems so long.  How can I conquer these Monday morning blues?

Maybe you’re a student and you can’t bring coffee to school.  You don’t fit in with the kids in your classes.  There’s that one teacher that seems to have it in for you.  I can’t believe the weekend went so fast.  How could I forget that assignment? Ugh.  How can I conquer these Monday morning blues?

Maybe you’re a stay at home mom with small kids, or a retired senior facing another day of cleaning the house and isolation. Sunday was great but now what? How can I conquer these Monday morning blues?

It’s simple really.  Change your perspective. Worker, it’s not about the paycheck, sure it helps but that’s not why you are there.  Student you’re not in school just because it’s a state law or just because you need an education.  Mom or retiree, you can still make a difference.  You have all entered the mission field. [Insert Twilight Zone music here.]

See if we really believe that God orders our steps.  If we really believe that He knew us before we were born then He placed us where we are today.  It’s not meaningless it’s a mission.  So to beat the Monday morning blues, take all teaching you received Sunday, all the Spirit of God you were filled with, all the joy you received, all the encouragement and love the church members gave you and give it away TODAY!

Mission trips don’t just happen in Africa. They happen every Monday. God has strategically placed you in your job, school or neighborhood.  Meet the day with expectation for God to do miracles today.  Expect God to provide you with an opportunity to move someone a little closer to Christ TODAY.  You are a missionary on assignment to Connect Others to God & Church today.

Fearless: Why Are You Afraid?

In Matthew chapter 8 there is an unusual story.  A story where Jesus seems harsh when He should have been understanding.  The disciples are out on a boat when SUDDENLY a storm arose, not just any storm a fierce storm.  The kind of storm that makes seasoned fisherman weak in the knees.  The kind of storm that would make a non-sailor like Matthew cry out for help.  Here’s the peculiar part though…Jesus was sleeping in the boat during this storm.

He seemed to be completely indifferent to their situation.  They are working the rigging frantically.  Maybe someone was bailing water as the waves spilled into the boat.  Jesus slept.

There are times when suddenly we fighting for our lives:  Cancer, bankruptcy, divorce, heart attack, unemployment, betrayal, addiction returning, child leaving the faith, jail, depression…and we call out “Help I’m being overwhelmed!  I’m going under!”  and there is no answer from heaven.  This storm was like that.  The sea raged. The boat rocked out of control. The men yelled in frantic fear. Jesus slept.

Mark’s version of the story includes and interesting twist…

Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” – Mark 4:38

Mark records what all of us think but most don’t dare speak. “Lord don’t you care that I’m suffering?”  There’s an accusation sometimes in our prayers because we wonder if He truly cares.

The rest of Matthew chapter 8 was filled with the miracles and compassion of Jesus.  A leper healed, a demon-possessed man set free, even Peter’s mother-in-law healed.  (A blessing Peter never asked for haha.)  Jesus taught them about faith with the Roman Centurian asked Jesus to “speak the word and my servant will be healed.”

In this context Jesus’ response makes perfect sense.  He asks them, “Why are you afraid? and “Why do you have too little faith?”  He must have thought: You’ve watch my miracles moments ago.  You’ve learned of my authority over the circumstances of life. AND you know I’m right here with you.  Why do you still doubt my love?

Max Lucado says that “Fear creates a form of spiritual amnesia.” (Fearless pg. 10)  We forget how much God loves us and how He will never leave us or forsake us.  Faith comes through hearing God’s word and remembering His love.

We start a series this week entitled: Fearless: Living a Life Free from Fear, Worry & Anxiety. Come learn how to overcome fear with faith so you can stand through life’s sudden storms.

Encouragement

We all need encouragement sometimes but what should we do when it seems there is no one to encourage us?  The answer comes from King David.

David was greatly distressed; for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the LORD His God. – 1 Samuel 30:6 (kjv)

David encouraged HIMSELF in God.  There comes a point where you have to encourage yourself.  The people you thought were with you turn on you. You have no one to help you.

In David’s life he survived his leader turning on him (Saul), his family attcking him (Absalom), his own sin (that whole Bathsheba thing) and his friends that have pledged loyalty to him talking about stoning him.  How did he do it?  He learned early this simple truth, sometimes there’s only God and you so you have to get your encouragement directly from Him yourself.

David rehearse the past protection of the Lord to encourage himself.

The LORD who saved me from the claws of the lion and the bear will save me from this Philistine! – 1 Samuel 17:37

Stand on the promise that God won’t allow you to be tempted more than you can take.  He will rescue you before you are overwhelmed.

The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience.
God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you can endure.
– 1 Corinthians 10:13

In closing, there are times when we must encourage ourselves.  The best ways to do this is to remember the good things God has done and to rehearse His promises to us such as the one just mentioned in 1 Cor 10:13.  So no matter what you’re going through, choose to encourage yourself today.

Citizen of Heaven

Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ.
– Philippians 1:27

Paul said it was most important for us to live as a citizen of heaven.  That means, we don’t always or else he wouldn’t have to remind us how important it is.

If we obey God’s commands then we are living as citizens of heaven and people will believe in God because of our conduct.  (Deuteronomy 28:9-10)

If you’re not obeying scripture.  If you are still sinning everyday then maybe you’re not a citizen of heaven.  That should lead to the next question…

How do you become a citizen of heaven?

In Acts 22 Paul reminds the jailer that it isn’t legal to whip a Roman Citizen without a trial.  The commader comes and basically says “How did you become a citizen?  It cost me a lot of money.”  Paul answered, “But I am a citizen by birth!”

We can’t buy our way into God’s Kingdom.  We must be born into it…more correctly “born-again” into it.

To become a citizen is to become a child of God.  It is to humble yourself like a little child and say, “Lord, I can’t control my own life. I give full control to you.”

If you haven’t done that, do it now, then tell me about it.  God bless.

Seek & Respond Well to Change

We heard a great message from Pastor Randy Hartwig called “Change the Key to Victorious Christianity”. Here’s some of the highlights:

Change is a Constant Process for a Victorious Christian.

2 Cor. 3:18 – We who reflect the Lord’s glory are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory…

A Christian who doesn’t want to change is like a caterpiller that doesn’t want to become a butterfly.  We need to actively seek change to become all that God wants us to be.

Change opens the fullness of God’s Kingdom to us.

Matt 18:1-4 – Jesus teaches us that unless we change and become like a little child we will never see the Kingdom of Heaven.

Change Brings Revival.

Look at the great revivals that God has brought, they are almost always preceded by a change in thinking and methodology.  For example:

  • Martin Luther changes our doctrine when he reveals salvation by faith not works
  • The Baptists reveal the truth of full water immersion for believers after salvation
  • Pentacostals bring the restoration of the Gifts of The Spirit including healing, speaking in tongues and prophesy

Are you a spiritual pioneer or a settler?  Pioneers push beyond the known limits to conquer new frontiers, to expand the Kingdom…

Life, a Marathon not a Sprint

I can’t count the number of times in the last four years I’ve wanted to resign from ministry because of discouragement, conflict, feeling under appreciated or the disappointment that can only come from watching  people leaving the Lord’s will for their life.  When you feel this way remember the only way you lose is if you quit.

Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless. – Philippians 2:16

Life is a marathon, not a sprint.  Any marathon runner will tell you that there are multiple times you want to quit either in training or the race itself. Here’s some things to remember…

1. Remember God’s words (either in scripture or personally) God has promised for your life. Hold fast to the word of life, they bring hope when you see none in your circumstances.

2. Remember that nothing we do (if done for the Lord and not our own desires) is done in vain.

3. Remember not to compare. It’s never wise to compare yourself to someone else because you don’t know what they walked through to get to that place or how their race will finish (2 Corithians 10:12).

Woody Allen said half of life was just showing up. I don’t know about that but I know half of life is not quitting.  So brush off those skinned knees, sake a sip of living water and start jogging again.  You’ll finish the race and hear “well done” if you just don’t quit.

Focus mean saying no.

Steve Jobs (co-founder of Apple) said, “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of many of the things we haven’t done as the things we have done.”

It is the focus on making disciples that will make churches and individual believers great.  God gave us His authority for a reason, to make disciples.

Matt 28:18-20 – Jesus came and told His disciples, I have been given complete authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

Loss of focus causes us lose God’s authority and eventually we become dry.  It isn’t sin that causes people to start to slide away from God, it’s loss of focus.  Once the focus is lost it will eventually lead to sin but it started by saying yes to seemingly good opportunities that weren’t focused on disciple-making.

What do you spend most of your time, talent and treasure (money) on?

New Life

Have you ever known someone that continues to struggle with the same issue in their life over and over?  I’m sure we all do. It can be a sin habit, unforgiveness, low-self esteem, bad relationship or career decisions or simply not staying put in one place long enough for God to change them.

Israel disobeyed the Lord to enter into the promised land and traveled around the same mountain for 40 years!  If we don’t want to go around the same mountain for our whole lives then what needs to change?

To have a new life we have to learn new ways of living.

Let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. – Ephesians 4:23-24

Change isn’t easy.  We have to let God change us, we have to put on the new life.  New Life is messy.  Ever seen a baby being born?  New life is messy and sometimes gross!  To change we need the messiest of all sacraments, confession.

Confession?  Isn’t that just a Roman Catholic thing?

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. – James 5:16

We are only as sick as our secrets.  Confession brings forgiveness and freedom.

Adam and Eve after they disobeyed God felt the wait of their sin and hid.  “I’m not staying in this church.  There’s too many rules.”  “Don’t tell me how to live. It’s nobody’s business but mine.”  Sound familiar?  It’s all just fig leaves.  Covering rebellion with a blame-game smoke screen of “I’m being mistreatreated” or “I don’t believe that way.”

Adam blamed God & Eve, The woman you gave me asked me to eat it.  Eve blamed the serpent.  The snake didn’t have a leg to stand on. (haha)  The shocking thing is everything they said was true but they took no personal responsibility, no repentance.

Repent, and turn from your sins. Don’t let them destroy you! Put all your rebellion behind you, and find yourselves a new heart and a new spirit.
– Ezekiel 18:30-31

Life’s too short to travel around the same mountain for years.  We must repent, change the way we think, and seek the Lord for new ways while we have time.

Born To Die

We’re all born with a purpose to our lives.  Jesus was born to die.  His very purpose was to die for us so that we can find our purpose.  From the moment of His birth Jesus was a dead man walking.  Really, we all are…

Paul said, “I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and He was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.” – 1 Corinthians 15:3-4

Why did Paul say that the most important thing to pass on is Christ’s death, burial and ressurection?  Because without His death their is no resurrection, without the resurrection, He hasn’t conquered death.  if Jesus didn’t rise then we won’t.  If He didn’t die then death still has power over us.
(1 Corinthians 15:58)

As Christ followers we are to go where He went.  To pick up our cross and follow Him.  The cross, an instrument of death and torture.  Jesus was calling us to die.  To die to our own life and to rise again in a new life, but it doesn’t end there.  Being born-again is only the beginning.

We must daily pick up the instrument of our death and follow Him.  Carry our own elecric chair, plug it, sit down and strap ourselves in.  Death of our own selfish desires, our own purpose of what we thing we should be doing it the only way to find God’s purpose.

Knowing What to Expect

On Easter this year we did something different.  We didn‘t do anyting different.  No Easter play, no choir robes, no lillies, just our normal service.  I told our over 20 1st time guest and dozens of occasionaly attenders why.  “I want you to see what this church is all about each week in the hope that you’ll come back.”  I continued, “We’re not just going to do a great show on Easter and let you be disappointed next time you’re here!  The same music, teaching style and welcoming atmosphere will be here every time you come.”

I hope this approach also made out members and regular attenders feel encouraged.  They know that any week they invite their friends to church that they can expect a few things to happen.

  • Their friends will be made to feel welcomed
  • The music will be off the chain!
  • The teaching will apply to their lives.
  • It will NOT be boring. (We use creative methods and humor.)
  • God will meet with them.

Do you clearly communicate to your friends and family what they can expect when they come to church?  Can they look at your life and know what to expect from Christianity.  Talk to people.  You’ll be very surprised at what they think is going to happen if they follow God.

Check out: http://www.houseofpraise.cc/whattoexpect.html

Restart

I was talking to someone the other day who was discouraged because they hadn’t kept a comittment they’d made.  Last year many of us at the House of Praise made a commitment to give the Lord the first 15 minutes of our day reading His word.  Well this well intentioned friend made it six months and then got distracted and stopped.

This year they were afraid to try again because they didn’t want to make a comittment they didn’t keep.  I understand that thought.  The Bible does teach us it is better not to vow than to vow and not keep it.  However…I believe it is better to read God’s word 6 days a week for 6 months than to never have tried!

“It’s time to restart.” I said. You know?  Sometimes our computers get bogged down and aren’t working right  (Well not mine it’s a Mac, but most of you know what I mean.) sometimes the best thing you can do is restart it.  We need to restart our walk with God sometimes.

“Is there something in your life you need to restart Pastor?” They asked.  I thought for a moment about a couple things.  1. Date nights with my wife had grown too few. 2. I need a vacation.  3.  I miss blogging.

So here we are.  I took m y wife out ALONE for dinner and a movie and I’m restarting the blog.  Those of you who make comments and follow me, please come back again.  I’m even going to try and learn twitter to make it easier.  God Bless ad let’s get restarted!

Finding Direction in the New Year

Have you ever felt lost?  Feeling like we have no direction, no purpose.  I think we all have.  As we begin 2009 our church took a look at how to find direction and purpose for our lives.  Here’s some highlights…

First Focus on Eternal Things.

I know it sounds funny to think about getting direction for our life by getting the focus off ourselves but that’s exactly how it works. Some good verses on this…

Prov 23:4-5 – Don’t weary yourself trying to get rich. Why waste your time? For riches can disappear as though they had the wings of a bird!

Matt 6:33 teaches us to pursue the Kingdom of God and live righteously then God will take care of our career, finances etc.

Prov 3:5-6 – Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will direct your paths.

Begin with the Bible.

It’s amazing how many times we forget to read the creator’s guide to life when we are trying to figure life out.  It reminds me of a story of an at critic who stood in a gallery describing what the artist was trying to say with a painting when another man walked up and said actually I think the artist meant something completely different.  The critic indignant with pride snapped “How would you know?”  “Well I painted it.” the man replied as he walked away.  Let’s ask the one who made us what we should be doing.

Psalm 119:104-105 – Your commandments give me understanding; no wonder I hate every false way of life. Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path.

Spend time directly in God’s presence.

There are things the word is silent on.  Where should you work?  What house should you buy?  These things God will speak directly to us as we pray.

Pslam 57:2 – I will cry to God Most High, who will fulfill His purposes for me. 

James 1:5If you need wisdom—if you want to know what God wants you to do—ask Him, and He will gladly tell you. He will not resent your asking

Don’t give up.

After we have heard God for ourselves we must take action and never give up until His word to us is fulfilled. (Gal 6:7-10)

Does Religion Leave You Feeling Lost?

Religion leaves you feeling lost but relationship connects you to God. Religion is man’s attempt to reach God or to earn His favor.  Real relationship with the Lord may begin with a hunger for God but even that hunger comes from Him because no one comes to repentance unless the Spirit draws them. 

Religion knows about God but through Relationship we can KNOW God.

Before I was born-again, I went to church almost weekly as a child.  I could tell you Jesus died for me, I could even quote some scripture but never knew the savior personally.  I was religious, I trusted in my church, my confirmation, even the cross on my neck but had never even met the Savior!

Religion is a list of Dos and Don’ts but relationship causes you to alter your behavior because of love.

Matthew 22:35-40 – One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”

Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

Love causes us to fulfill the laws of the one we love.  In the absence of love the law is needed. 

The Road Less Traveled

John 12:26 – All those who want to be my disciples must come and follow me.

We read this verse so casually.  “Come and follow Jesus.”  “I’m a follower of Jesus.”  We seldom think about what that really means.  Following Jesus is a call to leave everything we know and run hard after Him no matter what it costs us.  The disciples left their jobs, their homes their families, friends, EVERYTHING to wander around homeless for 3 years listening to a teacher who taught in parables.  Why?  Because they knew that He had the keys to eternal life.

if you think about what Peter once said, if this life is all there is…then we’re the most miserable men ever because we’ve traded some of the pleasures of this world for a fable.  Ahhhh but if Jesus was who He said He was.  IF He is the messiah.  Then who can count this temporary suffering worthy to even be talked about in the same breath with the eternal reward!?

Matthew 7:13-14 – You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.

Oh, life might seem easier sometimes taking the broad and easy highway but it’s a highway to hell.  The hard, rocky, narrow, little sheep’s trail leads up the mountain to heaven’s throne.

You don’t have to be the sharpest crayon in the box.  You just have to leave everything behind, pick up you cross and follow the shepherd.

Paul’s Best Advice

Phillipians 3:13 – No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.

We are molded by the things that have happened to us in the past.  We all have some baggage that we carry around in our lives. This verse is Paul’s best advice.  Forget that past and focus on what lies ahead!  In this one small verse Paul gives us such wisdom from heaven.

First he says I’m not all I should be.  Paul’s not all he should be?  The man who ends up writing 2/3 of the New Testament?  The Apostle who established the majority of the Christian churches in the first century?  That guy?  He’s not all he should be?  Then what hope is there for the rest of us?  That is the point he’s making.  None of us can ever be good enough.  We never achieve the mark, the standard that Jesus set.  So what can we do then?

Focus all our effort on ONE THING…forgetting the past and looking forward.  After we are slapped in the face with the cold reality that we’re not all we should be as followers of Jesus, Paul says now focus all your effort, all your energies on forgetting past mistakes, past wounds, people that have hurt you and look forward to what God is about to do through you and for you.

Being a Christian means to change.  We can’t be the same in 2009 as we are in 2008.  Otherwise we must admit that we’ve focused our effort, our energy, even our prayers on the wrong things.

How do we know what God has for us ahead?  Ask Him.

Jeremiah 33:3 – Ask me and I will tell you some remarkable secrets about what is going to happen here.

When you start to hear God for yourself, faith is released.  Don’t be afraid to ask God to reveal his destiny for you.  He wants to! 

Romans 10:17 – So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (nkj)
So then faith comes by listening to message of good news. (nlt)

Do you want to have fresh faith for the future?  Then listen to the word of God and what He is saying about your life.

As you look at your year so far, what have you spent most of your time, most of your thoughts and your best energy on, things you can’t change or things you can?