September 24, 2013

Careful What You Ask For… You Might Get It

“Simple Prayer involves ordinary people bringing ordinary concerns to a loving and compassionate Father. There is no pretense in Simple Prayer. We do not pretend to be more holy, more pure, or more saintly than we actually are. We do not try to conceal our conflicting and contradictory motives from God—or ourselves. And in this posture we pour out our heart to the God who is greater than our heart and who knows all things
(1 John 3:20).”      Richard Foster, Prayer
Prayer is an integral part of helping to lead people into a growing relationship with Christ in every area of our church. It’s also vital to building the kind of community that supports spiritual growth.
During the worship service this past Sunday I explained that Jesus is actively fulfilling God’s purposes of the church’s mission through His followers (AKA: disciples).  I explained Acts 1:8 describes what Jesus’ believers empowered by the Holy Spirit, were expected to do.
Next I shared the story of Phillip and the Ethiopian Eunuch found in Acts 8:26-40, as an example of a new disciple hearing and obeying the guidance of the Holy Spirit which eventually leads to the expansion of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to Ethiopia (thought to some to be the “ends of the earth” in that day).  It is a powerful story that shows not only is God concerned about “quantity” (Phillip, earlier in Acts: 8, hearing and obeying the Holy Spirit, was responsible for large numbers of believers from several cities and villages in Samaria) but also “quality” (Phillip worked one on one with the Ethiopian Eunuch).
At this point, before I knew it, I went “off Script”… meaning I deviated from the sermon notes I had prepared, and I challenged the congregation to pray that the Holy Spirit would lay a person, persons, family, or situation on their heart that God wanted them to share the “Good News” of Jesus, be an encouragement to, meet a need of, or whatever they felt God was leading them to do.  I reminded everyone that you can’t stay “here” and get to “there”.  It would require each of us to listen, obey, and “GO”.
I also reminded everyone that sharing the Good News of Jesus
-         Can disrupt their normal routines
-         Will require them hearing AND obeying God’s prompting (through the Holy Spirit)
-         Acknowledges God is always at work, and is asking them to join Him
-         Will transform coincidences into Divine appointments.
-         Many times makes you the answer to someone else’s prayer.
At the conclusion of the service, I asked people to send me some of the stories later this week, of how God answered their prayers.  These stories would be a personal “witness” of God’s activity in their lives and in the lives of others, which they spoke to. 
Weird how even a preacher, who has prepared all week for a message, can sense (hear) “something” from the Holy Spirit in the midst of his “normal routine” of speaking on Sunday mornings, and “deviate” or “Go” to a different place than what he had originally planned.  What my congregation didn’t know at the time… they were witnessing Acts 1:8 being lived out right in front of them, and many of them didn’t realize it, until they read about it here in the previous sentence!
By the way, after the service, as I spoke individually with several people, I realized God had just transformed the coincidences of the LifeSpring congregation worshiping together on a rainy Sunday morning in September, to a Divine Appointment.
I hope to share some of these stories later in my blog.  If you have any personal stories that might be your witness for Jesus, feel free to share them with me too.

September 5, 2013

It's too early to give up

Have you every just felt like quitting?

Balancing being a church planter, pastor, spouse, father, son, friend, and disciple of Jesus is difficult to say the least.  Any one of these carry with it responsibilities and pressures that easily could cause me to be consumed with frustrations.

Combine these responsibilities and pressures with my past or current failures as I attempt to improve in each area (becoming a better church planter, pastor, spouse, etc), and you have a perfect storm that leads to many emotions, beating myself up, feeling down and deflated to the point I just want to quit.

Satan uses our “failures” as heavy bricks that are placed in our backpacks of life.  He convinces us that our “failure bricks” are weighing us down and are such a burden to carry that we would be better off to just quit trying to get better. This way, we eliminate the chances of creating more “failure bricks” in the future, because we’ve quit trying to improve.

Jesus teaches us something different about how to handle failure. 

In Luke 9:1-5, Jesus sent His disciples to go out and preach the Good News (God is with us: hope for those who have all but lost hope) and to perform miracles.  

Jesus tells his disciples, “If people do not welcome you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave their town, as a testimony against them.” 

Jesus wanted these disciples to model themselves after Him.  He gave them power and authority over demons and even the power to heal the sick, yet he also prepared them for rejection and failure. 

Jesus knew that not everyone was going to receive the truth about Him, and these disciples might be tempted to let this failure stop them from continuing.  He wanted them not to take the “failure brick” and put it in their backpack and weight them down to the point of quitting.  Rather, Jesus wanted them to use their failures as fuel to fire them up and so they could continue on and not quit.

Matt Emmons, an Olympic medalist in rifle shooting knows this all to well.

In the 2004 Olympics, he was leading the 50-meter rifle three positions when he shot at the wrong target on his last shot.

That zero scored dropped him from first to eighth. In the same event in Beijing in 2008, Emmons had a misfire on his final shot to drop from first to fourth.

Emmons could have easily quit. He probably thought, “Why fail again on a public stage such as the Olympics?  I’m not going to put any more ‘failure bricks’ in my life’s backpack. I quit.”

But he didn’t!  In 2012 Olympics, Matt Emmons took the bronze medal!  He decided not to quit, and put his past failures behind him. 

Next time Satan uses your failures to weigh you down to the point you want to quit getting better at being a spouse, parent, employee, friend, a disciple of Jesus…remember the words of Norman Vincent Peale

“It’s too early to quit”

August 29, 2013

The Battle of the “SNOOZE” Button

 The prelude of the battle begins when I set the alarm clock each night before I go to bed.  Doing mental calculations of the numbers in reverse… you know what I’m talking about, many of you do the same thing.  

What time do I need to leave? 
How much time do I need to get ready? 

Which now leads to the variables in this daily calculation….
How much time for breakfast? (many days I skip this one)
How much time do I need for devotional time? (unfortunately, I skip this one too many days)

What time do I need to get up?

It’s at this moment the battle lines start to be drawn up.

How many times will I SMACK the “SNOOZE” button, 1 or 2 times? On my alarm clock, each SMACK of the “SNOOZE” button gives my weary bones another 9 minutes of sleep time. (My wife claims this is sometimes the best sleep of the night)

I decide on 1 SMACK for the “SNOOZE” Button on this day (I make plans to actually use this 9 minutes to pray for those in my life, before I get up for the day). 

The calculations are complete.  The battle lines are drawn up on the boarder of “1 SMACK of the SNOOZE ”, and the alarm is set.

But something happens in the night. The enemy infiltrates our camp and filles my head with propaganda that becomes evident the next morning 9 minutes after I’ve SMACKED the “SNOOZE” the first time.  This voice in my head of the enemy says…
Just 9 more minutes, hit the SNOOZE one more time.”

I have to admit, in the time span of only 4 or 5 “beeps” of my alarm, the enemy has given me at least 15 great reasons why I should hit the SNOOZE button a second time.  And before I know It, I’ve SMACKED the SNOOZE a 2nd time. 

9 minutes later, that battle intensifies.  The enemy begins to dig deeper into his bag of tricks.  Now my head is filled with all the things that I can “skip” and make up time for to get the rest I deserve.  And before you know it, I’ve SMACKED the SNOOZE a 3rd time.

At the next sound of the next alarm, the enemy now uses his strongest weapon of all, GUILT.  Now he begins to make me feel guilty for the first 3 times I SMACKED the SNOOZE , and begins to make me feel as though I’ve messed up so bad, I might as well skip going to the meeting and just call in over a conference call…. It’s only a “white lie”. Just blame my tardiness on sickness, or the traffic, or a detour in the road…. And I sadly SMACK the SNOOZE a 4th time. 

When I finally arise for the day, I have this feeling of a grey cloud over me.  I have a combination of anger and resentment both at myself and at my enemy for this happening to me again.  The result of this raging war with the SNOOZE button is having a negative impact on my whole day.

My point of all this.  

How many times have you SMACKED the SNOOZE button on the Holy Spirit in your life?

God has provided the Holy Spirit to guide us toward His one and only Son Jesus.  And for many, we continue to listen to and believe the enemy’s propaganda and we SMACKED the SNOOZE over and over again, avoiding getting up and following Jesus.  This leads to people walking around during the day, feeling like a grey cloud of guilt is over them and it effects all aspects of their lives.

Others have awaken to the Holy Spirit’s guidance and have begun to serve and follow Jesus as one of His disciples, but when the Holy Spirit points them to doing something outside their comfort zone, like getting involved in a small group, becoming more active in their church, forgiving people who have hurt them in the past, adjusting their lifestyles and choices to match those of Jesus, they just “SMACK the SNOOZE” and quite God’s Spirit in them.

If you battle with “SMACKING the SNOOZE”, I’ve got good news.  In a way, God’s Holy Spirit is just like our alarm clocks at home.  As long as the alarm is “ON”, no mater how many times you’ve “SMACKED the SNOOZE”, in just a few minutes, the alarm will go off again.

So, Stop SMACKING the SNOOZE.  Get up and get on with your day.  We’ve all wasted too much of our life, just lying there waiting on the next alarm.   

July 21, 2013

WHO are you trying to please? REALLY!

WHO exactly are you trying to please?

They don't offer a Nobel Peace Prize for most of what we do, so if not the judges, then WHO?

Try Colossians 3:23-24    It works great for me!

23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

So, when you are feeling a little under appreciated, or when you feel the urge to bow down to the Cynics of the world, or things seem a little CRAZY (CRAZY Video & Lyrics by Seal) because you’re following Jesus, just remember what Jesus said to Peter in John 21:22.  

July 16, 2013

Relationships: Becoming the “Right” person

 In my message; RELATIONSHIPS: Becoming the “Right” Person, I challenged the singles in the LifeSpring Community to become the “Right” Person, as they’re searching for the '”Right” Person" (for those married or in a committed relationship I challenged them to become the "Right" person their spouse or loved one deserves).

I asked everyone to be “intentional”, not leaving this to chance, and do everything in their power to become the person who the person they’re looking for is looking for.

I’ve had many conversations with couples prior to their marriage (during their pre-marital counseling sessions), as well as numerous conversations with couples whose marriages are struggling. 

One thing I have found in married couples or couples in a committed relationship trying to overcome struggles between the man and woman is very rarely did they have “Chemistry” or “Passion” problems. 

What they almost always had was “RELATIONSHIP” problems. 

In many cases I was dealing not with a marriage with marriage problems, but with two single people problems combined. 

They had spent so much time on their “Chemistry” or “Passion” earlier in their time together, that they forgot to work on developing a good “RELATIONSHIP” with one another.

BTW, here are my telltale signs of individuals spending too much time on “Chemistry” or “Passion” when dating or in marriage:

(1) Compromising who I am and what I believe,  (2) Accelerating the process of a good relationship, or (3) Being Fake, in order to physically please the other person or to be pleased myself.

Here’s the deal:   God created RELATIONSHIP. 

God created us for RELATIONSHIPS (Relationship with God, Relationship between male and female, Relationship with humanity).

I would say that we were DESIGNED for RELATIONSHIP. 

So, with that said, how do we change?  How can we be transformed from focusing on “Chemistry” or “Passion”, to becoming the person the person we are looking for, is looking for?

By understanding what LOVE is and how important it is in any relationship.

So the congregation and I agreed to read 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a once a day for 7 days to better understand the key ingredient in becoming the “Right” person: LOVE.

By practicing each of these characteristics of LOVE, in every current relationship we are in now, we start actively becoming the person the person we are looking for, is looking for. 

After you’ve read 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, let me know;
-  Which of these qualities is the most difficult for you to exhibit?
-  Which quality do you value most in some you want to date, your spouse, or significant other?