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?

July 10, 2013

Do I have to love me to love you?

            In the last message of our series called Progress Report at LifeSpring Church, I began with a passage from the Bible that is sometime known as the Great Commandment.
            In Matthew 22: 35-40, while explaining what the greatest commandment was, Jesus tells His audience “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”  He continues to tell people the next greatest commandment was to “love your neighbor as yourself”. He placed added emphasis on these two explicit commands by saying, “all the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

On the surface, it seems Jesus’ comments mean the top two commands are: 
#1 Love God
#2 Love others
            Well, sort of… you see, there is an implicit command I believe many people don’t really want to deal with: Loving yourself.   In fact, since Jesus said for us to love our neighbor as ourselves, He’s indicating we must love ourselves BEFORE we can love others.  By loving ourselves before we love others, we’re providing ourselves with a reference point, comparison point, or measuring stick of how to love others.
            This means, before we can love others: our parents, siblings, best friend, girl friend, boy friend, children, spouse, co-workers, the check out clerk at Wal-mart, the missionaries in India, the homeless guy down the street, we have to love ourselves.  In fact, based on this scripture, I would say that.

No One Can Love Another 
More Than 
They’ve Historically Loved Themselves.

            So what’s so hard about loving ourselves?  Who knows my good qualities and attributes better than me?  I know what I like, what makes me happy, what brings me joy.  We know all the things that are loveable about ourselves, so what’s the problem we have with loving ourselves?  Why can’t I love ME?
            Because I also know my BAD qualities! I know where I’ve failed, lied, cheated, stolen, been prideful, been “fake”, and nasty.  I know when the things I said didn’t match my heart and how I really felt.  Truth is, many of us feel as thought the bad in our lives out weigh the good and therefore we feel as though we are unworthy to be loved. We believe we just don’t deserve to love ourselves.
            Ah, but here’s the twist.  Since the way we love others is based on the way we love ourselves… what should the way we love ourselves be based on?  Here’s a hint.

Rule 1: God Loves You!
Rule 2: When you’re in doubt or confused and feel as though you can’t love God anymore, can’t love yourself or can’t love others, refer back to Rule 1.
            The way we learn to love ourselves is by watching and learning how God loves us first.  The way God loves us even when God sees both the good and the bad in us.  Even when he sees our impatience’s, anger, arrogance, disobedience, filthy thoughts and desires, God still loves us. God still loves us enough to pursues us.  God still loves us enough not to give up on us.  God still loves us enough to send His one and only Son, Jesus to model Love for us.

            {This would be a good time for to look at Paul’s description of what love is in 1 Corinthians 13}

            So the next time you can’t love someone whose hurt you, the next time you can’t love that jerk that cut you off in traffic, or you can’t love your child because they disobeyed you, or you can’t love your boss because he just won’t do it your way, or you can’t love yourself because you screwed up again, or you can’t love yourself because you’re a quitter, just go back to Rule # 1: GOD LOVES YOU….pause and reflect on the way’s that God loves you.  
            When you do this, I think you may understand the same thing that one of Jesus closest friends and disciple did when he wrote in 1 John 4:19 the, “We love because he first love us.”

July 2, 2013

Investing In others: Using God's R.O.I.

This past Sunday, my message to our LifeSpring Church family, ProgressReport: Investing in others,  was as followers of Jesus (AKA: Disciples in training) we are called to invest in others by helping them to …
live into Their POTENTIAL for their life
live into God’s PURPOSE for their life
live into Jesus PROMISES for their life
One of the definitions for the word “Investing” found in is
to use, give, or devote (time, talent, etc.), as for a purpose or to achieve something:

In the business world, there is an acronym called ROI: Return on Investment.  It is a ratio used between the amount (usually money) that a person invests in something and the return (or profit) that is received by the investor for their investment, usually over some period of time.   This ROI is typically expressed in the form of a percentage.  The higher the ROI percentage, the more a person can expect to receive from their initial investment. 

Given the choice of investing a $100 in “product A” that has a 50% ROI, and investing $100 in “product B” that has a 100% ROI, the wise investor would go with investing in “product B” because they could expect twice the amount of return for the same initial investment of $100.

Here’s the thing about being a disciple of Jesus.  When Jesus calls his followers to “go and make disciples” in his Great Commission, he never asked them to “calculate the ROI on their investment of their personal time, energy, or resources” while doing this.  He just asked them to be obedient and trust that he would be with them while they were doing it, even “to the end of the age”.
However, some Christians today want to “Pick and Choose” who they invest their time, energy, and resources into while helping others become disciples too.  Many times they look at the outward appearance and decide, that a certain person’s ROI is too low, and wait on a better person to invest in.  Some are still waiting to find the best person to invest in , while hundreds of people pass by them.
In choosing the person to succeed King Saul as the leader over Israel, God once told the prophet Samuel,
Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”   1 Samuel 16:7

The bottom line is this.  God has already calculated the ROI of every individual who has ever lived,  and God’s calculations are perfect!   He has determined that every person is worth the investment of our time, energy and resources.  In fact, God backed this up by investing the most valuable thing to Him, His one and only Son Jesus Christ, to provide the opportunity for people to restore their relationship with God, and have eternal life.

So why would I choose my personal ROI calculations about who to invest my time, energy and resources in, over God’s, when it comes to investing in others.  I think I will trust Jesus and do what He says…. “Go, and make disciples” 

June 19, 2013

Progress Report- Give IT Your All

This past week my message revolved around the 180 degree turn King Josiah (2 Kings 22 & 23) made after he allowed the Truth found in the scriptures to transform his life.  Not only did this transform him as an individual, but Josiah also allowed it to transform his kingdom.  In fact, one of the greatest statements made about a person was written about Josiah….

Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did—with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses.                        2 Kings 23:25 

There are 6 things that Josiah did with the Scriptures (the Bible of his time), which helped him to become such a remarkable leader of Israel.  For many of us, if we could do these same things with the teaching of the Bible, I believe, no I’m counting on God using the Truth found in the Bible to not only transform our lives but also our communities.

1) He FOUND It.   (2 Kings 22:10)    
Can you find your Bible?

2) He READ It.   (2 Kings 22:10)   
Well, actually someone read it to him.  The great thing about reading from the Bible yourself is that you can go at your own pace.  Yeah, it’s big, and for many of us it is the biggest book we’ve ever picked up to read.  But remember what they say about how to eat an elephant, ONE BITE AT A TIME.   Small portions are best!

3) He BELIEVED It.   (2 Kings 22:11)   
Josiah believed what he read… but that doesn’t mean that he understood all of what he read.  Some of us digest food at different rates that others.  The same is true of how quickly we understand passages from the Bible.

4) He PRAYED ON It.   (2 Kings 22:13)   
Seeking God for understanding and application of the Truth found in the Bible to our lives should be high on our priorities.

5) He COMMITED TO It.   (2 Kings 23:1-3)   
Living by the Truth found in the Bible takes commitment.  Especially when we don’t know where that Truth will lead us.  For many Christians, this is the area that they struggle with the most.

6) He LIVED It.   (2 Kings 23:4-24)   
Josiah was born and raised during a very confusing, dark, and evil time for those following God.  Many teachings by evil men had taken root in their culture to the point that human sacrifices were made outside of their city walls.  Male prostitutes live in the Temple of God.  Multiple false gods were sacrificed to and worshiped in the same Temple that was original built by King Solomon for the worship of the one TRUE God.  Once Josiah read from the Bible and realized that many things he and the people of Israel once believed to be true were in fact misrepresentations of the truth, he took immediate actions to change things.  For him and for those he was responsible for to lead. 

I know, I know, some of you reading this are saying.. “I know, I know…. I get it, I get it!  I’ve heard this all before.  For your information, I’m a believer of Jesus Christ.  I’ve skimmed through parts of the Bible, and I basically get the jest of it.  There’s no need for me to keep reading it over and over.  I GET IT!”

Well, take a look at this blog from Seth Godin about people who said “I GET IT”  

June 12, 2013

Blowing A Still: A Christian Progress Report

I recently read a great blog by Seth Godin called, “Sure, but that's not a plan”, that caused me to reflect on the “shortcuts to success” that people are spending so much time and energy searching for in hopes of achieving a dream, goal, or a solution to some problem or difficulty they are having (like financial struggles, relational dilemmas, weight or health issues, etc). 
For some, their “financial plan” to success is to continue to play the lottery, picking numbers from a “divine selection process” (meaning they pick numbers and pray that God will intercede and allow the balls to match their lotto picks).
Others pray that God will “bless this food to the nourishment of my body, and help me to reach my target weight goal”, as they bow their heads over their afternoon snack of Moon Pies and Cheetos. 
In my message Progress Report: Blowing A Still  at LifeSpring Church, I shared the BIG IDEA: Continuous steps in the right direction will get us to the right place over time.  This Big Idea is also known as “A PLAN”.
Periodically we need to “Blow A Still” in our lives and review our PLAN and our PROGRESS in working the PLAN.  (Blowing a Still is an old maritime expression still used in the Navy that calls for sailors undivided attention while pausing what they are doing and reflecting on (1) what am I doing, (2) what should I be doing (3) what adjustments do I need to make next (4) redeploy to that activity at the next strategic opportunity).
So, what would happen if Christians, the followers of Jesus, were to regularly “Blow a Still” in their spiritual lives and give themselves a PROGRESS REPORT on how well they are living out their PLAN to do the Great Commandment and Great Commission Jesus asks of us.
The Great Commandment Matthew 2:37-40
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
The Great Commission Matthew 28:18-20
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
A Christian PROGRESS REPORT should contain
1)             Honest ASSESSMENT of your progress (answering the question “What am I doing?)
2)             Recast the VISION (answering the question “What am I suppose to be doing?)
3)             Course ADJUSTMENTS (answering the question “What do I need to change and do next?)
4)             Start to REDEPLOY (Begin again at the next strategic activity with your adjusted plan)
 Next week I will talk more of specifics you and I can do to help us improve our PLAN as well as systems and motivation to live into that PLAN.