Open That Door

imagesIn our Men’s Life Group, we are discussing the adventures and life of the Apostle Paul. Recently, a great point was brought up!

Acts 14:27 “… they called the church together and reported everything God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles, too.”  This is an awesome scripture speaking of how God opened doors for them to share Christ, but let’s back up a few verses and take a gander at some things.

Paul and Barnabas are traveling through Galatia preaching Christ. They stop off in Iconium and see many believers accept the gospel. But, many Jews poisoned the minds of the Gentiles to not believe (v.2). Then a mob came after them to attack and stone them (v.5). So, they fled to Lystra where the people thought they were Greek gods (v.12), then the people got mad and stoned Paul…to death (v.19). After the believers prayed for Paul, God raised him back to life and Paul and Barnabas continued on to Derbe where they saw many conversions. Afterward, these guys went back through these towns in Galatia that tried, and did, take their lives.

Wait a minute…you mean these crazy jokers went back to the towns that stoned them? Yes they did! Finally, in v. 27 they thanked God for the open door in these cities.

So, I’m thinking that after someone tries to take my life for preaching Christ, this ole boy IS NOT going back there, and I most definitely will not have anything good to say about it. I’m going to pack my toys and run straight to momma. No ifs, ands or buts about it. I’m done.

But Paul, saw the good in the circumstance. It was an opportunity to show Christ in him. To show how God worked through him. I wrote an earlier post about tough times and I believe this would be considered tough times for Paul, but he looked for an open door. Yes, great things did happen, but many times, we humans can have 100 good things happen and 1 bad thing and we focus on the bad thing. We MUST always look for the open door in the bad and good times.

Have you ever had an open door during a rough time?

Have you missed an open door?

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It’s Still Out There!

imagesHave you ever had the opportunity to be part of something amazing? Something that touched you while touching other people? Well…last week I had that opportunity.

Here in Warren County, where I live, there is a Wounded Warrior Project going on. The company I work for donated a dump-truck to the project for a whole day and I got to be the lucky one to drive it. I spent about 10 hours hauling top-soil to fix the yard and landscape area of this project.

The veteran was a triple amputee that was wounded in Afghanistan by a land mine. People, companies, and organazations in the community bound together to build this veteran a house…free! That’s right. I said free! All day I couldn’t stop thinking how awesome it was that people still do good things! No matter the economy or what’s going on, people are still willing to help people!

I think this is what it’s all about. Helping others! It shouldn’t be just a Christian thing. Or an organization thing. It should be a human thing! I just touches my heart to see that their are those kinds of people out there. Those that are willing to give their time, money, or gifts to help those in need. Especially soldiers that paid the price for us to live in a free country, with the freedoms we have.

My hat goes off to this gentleman and all the other soldiers who have given the ultimate sacrifice!! Again, it was such a great honor to be able serve on this project. If you have an opportunity to help someone, please do! It is such a great and wonderful experience!

Have you ever had the opportunity to be a part of a giving project?

What was your experience?

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Tough Time

imagesCA7SXKPGHave you ever went through a rough time? Something you never think you are going to survive through? I sure that’s going to be a unanimous “YES!” I know I have been through some extremely tough situations in my life. I can remember when I was young in my faith and something bad was happening everyone would always quote Romans 8:28 ” all things work to the good to them that love the Lord and who are called according to His purpose.” I’ve heard that so many times, and many of those times I wanted to scream, “Yeah? You don’t understand what I’M going through.” “You don’t feel the way I feel.” “You don’t hurt the way I hurt.” Frankly, I didn’t want to hear that scripture anymore. Don’t judge me, ye judgers of people. I’m sure you have thought something similar at sometime before! 🙂

When we are going through a tough time it is extremely hard, if not impossible, to see the outcome. We want to. We strive to. But it is just flippin’ hard! We have so many thoughts and emotions going on that we tend to look in the “now” instead of looking ahead! Why is it so hard? While reading through Acts 8, I discovered a little nugget of truth that is very encouraging during hard times. Acts 8:1 tells us that Saul was on a rampage! He had just been at the stoning of Stephen and had permission to put anyone who followed Jesus into the slammer. Or as Rosco on The Dukes of Hazzard says, “The hoosegow!”

We can see it was not going to be pretty for the followers of Christ in Jerusalem.  I can only imagine the thoughts and feelings these folks were thinking. All the persecution they could and would face for serving Jesus? I would definitely say they were  going through some hard times and not seeing the end. They probably didn’t want to. A life of pain, torture, and possibly even death! So what did they do? They scattered! Packed up there families, belongings, got on their Donkey Z-71 and high-tailed it throughout Judea and Samaria.

This next part is my favorite. Verse 4, “and all those that were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.” How awesome is that? They were going through hard times, even had to leave their homes, jobs, and everything they knew, but they still preached the word.

Sharing Christ is how we get through tough times! We do not clam up! We do not get mad and pout! We preach Christ! I have to think that this was God’s plan to take this terrible and hard time and turn it for the good. These folks helped pioneer God’s truth and spread His word the whole world. It was not all the disciples that spread the Word. It was those having a tough time in life!

Hang in there! Be tough during the tough times!

Do you have trouble seeing the end of a trial while you are in it?

Have you been able to look back at a hard time and see how it worked out for the good?

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If

Our student life gifroup, Get Real, is reading through the book of John. A few Sunday nights ago we were discussing the shortest verse in the bible. Anyone know what it is? Going once…twice…yep, that’s it, “Jesus wept.” It’s in John 11 verse 35 in the middle of the Lazarus story. Anyone who is a student of the word or has spent any amount of time in church has probably heard or read this story no less than 1000 times. I am sure their are dissertations and pages and pages of exegetical analysis, but I want to take a few minutes and bring to light some things we discussed about this short, little verse.

Obviously, we discussed Jesus compassion for those he loved and was close to. The verses preluding this one is Jesus talking to Mary, Martha, and other Jews that were there. He loved the folks passionately and seeing them hurt for the loss had to hurt Him as well.

Then, we took the discussion a little farther. We can see before Jesus gets into town Martha runs to him and falls to the ground and says, “IF you were here, my brother wouldn’t have died!” After that, in runs Mary saying, “IF!” Then we hear the Jews saying, “IF!”

“IF you would’ve been here.” “IF you would’ve came sooner.” “IF” “IF” “IF”

Could it have been that Jesus wept because of their lack of faith in Him to make the right decision? I mean, we are talking about the Mary and Martha that were friends with Jesus. The same people who had heard of all the miracles that had been performed at the hands of Jesus.

So, all this being said, we now from previously in chapter 11 that Jesus waited 2 days before going to Lazarus after He heard of his condition. Could it have been that Jesus was only known for laying hands on the sick and healing them and that he had a different plan in mind? Did He want to show that he can do anything, no matter the circumstance? Did he wait to simply build their faith?

Why do you think Jesus wept? Out of compassion? Or lack of faith?

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Count It

Reading through the book of James, I have always been amazed at the first few verses of this very profound book of the Bible! “Count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations!” What?! Really?! So I am supposed to act happy and delighted. Like everything is going well in my life when it isn’t! Come on, James! Seriously?

These words came from James, one of the early church fathers and leaders who suffered much persecution. James was also stoned to death for his belief in Christ! You know, this guy may know what he is talking about! Let’s delve in a little deeper…

A little word study into the Greek language will reveal some hidden truths about this particular passage. The words “Count it” have a very different definition than what we are used to. This phrase in the Greek means “to lead, or be a leader.” To “fall” means to be “encompassed, or encircled by.” “Divers” means “various.” “Temptations” means “a trial, an urge to sin, or an attack on ones character.”

Essentially, James is telling us to “be a leader, full of happiness, when we are surrounded by things that are attacking our character or urging us to sin (O’Connor Standard Version). This is so refreshing and enlightening!

God is simply looking for someone to be a leader in hard times! Not someone who looks for the easy way out! Or compromises their faith in hard times!

You are a leader! BE A LEADER!

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What’s Your Circle

I recently finished reading Called to Coach by Bobby Bowden. It is one of the most encouraging books I have read in a while. I honestly could not put it down. He delves into his life of coaching. A life that God called him to. Coach Bowden has countless stories of positive and negative things that happened through his coaching career. One of the most impacting statements he made was, “A great coach always surrounds himself with great assistant coaches!”

Wow! Just think about those words for a moment. In essence, are we only as good as those around us? How can this relate to our relationships in the kingdom?

Can we say..

“A great minister always surrounds himself with great ministers?”

“A great disciple always surrounds himself with great disciples?”

In order for the best to be brought out in us, we have to surround ourselves with the best people. NO, I am not saying that we can’t hang around with those that do not know Christ or have a bad reputation. That is ludicrous, and just plain unbiblical!

What I am saying is this. Those who influence our lives need to be influential. Creative. Biblical. They should have our best interest in mind. They need to be great, not only in kingdom work, but in life.

For instance, to be a great Christ-follower, those closest to need to be great Christ-followers. If our close friends are always negative, immoral, and disobedient. Chances are, we will lean toward these attitudes. BUT, if they are always positive, obedient, and always seek Gods will, then we will be encouraged to do this.

Jesus had all 12 disciples following him. But, in a few instances He took Peter, James, and John to places he did not take the rest. These guys could be counted as Jesus’ circle. Who is in your circle?

HAVE YOU EVER HAD SOMEONE CLOSE TO YOU THAT BROUGHT YOU DOWN?

LIFTED YOU UP?

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You Can’t Even Read

WHY READ?

I try to read as often and as much as I can! I really enjoy reading fiction and non-fiction. It is a time to reach out and gain knowledge, glean from others experiences, or simply to do away with the stress and busyness of a days work.

Have you ever seemed like you have been in a reading rut? I get in those sometimes. I feel like I am drowning in a sea of knowledge and information. Quite frankly, I just want to never pick up another book. What has helped me retaliate from this information over-load is to read a couple of fiction books. It seems to let my mind chill out and it can retire to a place where it is not having to process an abundance of information. A pastor I honor and truly respect, Jerry Lawson, once said, “Who you are 10 years from now will be decided by who you hang around, and the books you read.” I want to encourage you, if you do not, to try to pick up the healthy habit of reading!

Here are some books that I have read lately: (All you holy people out there don’t judge me and point a finger if you don’t like some of these books. I have found that to accurately critique someones work, you at least need to know what it says rather than going by what someone else tells you!)

Decision Points by George W. Bush.

The Mark by T. LaHaye and J. Jenkins

Desecraton by LaHaye and Jenkins

Sun Stand Still by Steven Furtick

In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson

The Remnant by Lahaye and Jenkins

Armageddon by Layhaye and Jenkins

The Purpose Driven Church by Rick Warren

Called to Coach by Bobby Bowden

Washington: A Life, by Ron Chernow

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

The Grace of God by Andy Stanley

Up the Middle Church by Matt Keller

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Harry Potter: 1,2,3,4 by J.K Rowling

Run by Dean Karnazes

Hamlet by William Shakespeare

The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Christian Athiest by Craig Groeshcel

And for all you smarties out there, I do read the Bible also! 🙂 I hope you enjoy this list.

HAVE YOU READ ANY OF THESE? WHAT DID YOU THINK?

WHAT ARE SOME BOOKS YOU ARE READING?

 

 

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Guest Post: A New Look on Serving

Today I have a guest post from Ben Reed. He is the small groups pastor at Grace Community Church. I have followed his blog for a while and he absolutely writes about the most cultural, innovative, and cutting edge topics. Check out his blog here and follow Ben on Twitter here. After reading this post, you will definitely want to check out his page.

 A new look on serving

At our church, we recently finished what we called Operation Serve: School Edition. At this one-day event, we sent out nearly 900 volunteers to work on projects at each school in our county. You see, we currently have our worship services in 2 different high schools, and working to pull off Operation Serve: School Edition was a no-brainer. It was a chance for us to build relationships with the school system and with our city.

But here’s where we were a bit different than other churches.

We expected nothing in return.

We didn’t expect an increase in attendance that next Sunday. We didn’t hand out tracts to the people we were working with or working for. We didn’t expect that these people we were helping would become tithers.

We simply served.

Because serving and loving others is who we are and what we do. Not because we have to. Or because that’s our strategy, and we have to accomplish our strategy. Because we have been redeemed, we long to redeem everything we see. Because we’ve been given grace, we long to extend it. Because we’ve been lavished with an unrelenting love, we long to show that to others. Not because we have to. But because of who we are.

And the moment that we “expect something in return,” our self-serving motives are smelled out. And the people we’re serving feel used, like they’re a pawn in our scheme to brainwash the world.

But something transformational can happen when you serve out of the heart that God has changed.

People with a self-serving agenda aren’t typically respected. Church people included.

Have you ever been served with strings attached?

Did that make you want to join in the organization?

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Lessons From the Gym Part 2

Yesterday I talked about the importance of resistance in the gym and in God’s kingdom! Today I want to focus on another important truth that I have learned from the gym, but applies in the Kingdom also.

Truth 2-PARTNERSHIP

The majority of the time I weight train alone. It has its pros and cons, but I do it simply because the days and times I go aren’t consistent. But, the days I do have a partner are usually the days I feel I have given it my all. Why?

1. When I have a partner I will lift heavier weight knowing that he is there to help me if it is to much. There is nothing more embarassing than bench pressing and getting the weight on your chest and not being able to lift it. This is where you can heavily rely on your partner.

  • Shouldn’t our lives be this way? We should be someones partner to help get the load off there chest when they need it. Ironically, it is usually the other way around. People had rather talk about how dumb someone is for trying to lift that much weight. Be a good partner for someone. Just help them get the load off. One day you will probably wish you had a good partner to help you when the load gets heavy.

2. A partner in the weight room is a good motivator. There is nothing more encouraging when you are straining, in pain, lifting as much as you can, and your partner is yelling “You can do it, keep pushing, Only a few more reps.” There are many times I have wanted to give up, but the fact that I had a motivating partner kept me going.

  • Are we a motivating, encouraging partner to our friends in Christ. When they are struggling are we pushing them to keep going? When they are down and out are we being positive and uplifting with our words? Again, many times we sow negativity and words of discouragement instead of picking them back up, dusting them off and getting them started again?

As you can see, a good partner is beneficial in the weight room and the Kingdom!

Have you ever needed a partner in life but didn’t have one?

Have you been a good partner to someone?

Did it help build your faith?

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Lessons From The Gym

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For those who do not know me, being in the gym is something I thoroughly enjoy. It’s my relaxation and “me” time. A time I can meditate and unwind. Aside from being focused solely on myself, I have learned many things about God, ministry, and life.

One thing is: RESISTANCE IS A GOOD THING! Yes, you read that right!

In the gym, resistance means more weight. While weight training, if you always lift the same amount of weight you will never get stronger, or grow. Initially, it seems hard and you will be VERY sore, but your body will become used to it.

In God’s kingdom, resistance helps us grow. I’m not talking about everyone being against you or hating you. But, I am talking about when we do hard things in life! That is resistance.

-Praying when it’s hard
-Ending a relationship
-Changing jobs

These are some things that are resistance in our lives! Just like pumping iron, it may hurt, it may be extremely hard, or you may be sore for days, but you can count on getting stronger and bigger!

WHAT ARE SOME OTHER THINGS WE FACE THAT ARE HARD BUT MAKE US STRONGER?

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