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Archive for the category “sermonizing”

The victory comes before the event

I am a big fan of the underdog in sports, and in life. I don’t know if it is as much about the little guy beating the giant as much as the preparation done prior to the challenge or event.

1 John 4:4 tells us, “But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who, lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.”

Think about this verse a few minutes…
1. When you belong to God… having accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you are no longer controlled by the world. The world can and will influence you, but it doesn’t control you.

  1. When you have victory over the world… having victory over the world is all about how you view and function in the world. We are to be in the world not of it. Simply put, we are to be in it, but it isn’t in us.
  2. When you see the details… you discover two different letters used in this verse… S is capitalized when it refers to a person and that person is the Holy Spirit. It also implies the s (spirit) of the world is less than that of God. This is a key point to remember… God wins.
  3. Preparation is vital… we must prepare for the victory or game etc.. When we practice to the focus of the win, we will be better equipped for the win. It is all about preparation and focus.

This is something our world misses…

We can be caught up in the touchdown celebration but totally overlook the plays that prepared for the touchdown.
We can celebrate the winning field goal without seeing the hours and hours of practice with the snap, hold and kick.
We can watch out friends get a promotion, find a great house or other things along this line but we often forget about the hard work put into earning, developing and earning the promotion, saving up for the house or vehicle etc.

We can see the parent with a great relationship with their children and overlook the hours and hours of time spent conversing, working on homework and doing life with them.

We can see the perfect couple who seems to have it all, the best communication, date nights etc… but we neglect to see the commit they have made to make it a priority or to see the time they invest in growing the relationship.

I could go on and on for pages of we can see but we don’t see. God has won the victory over death and the world through Jesus and we are no longer slaves to the world but servants to the One True God. So, what?

I would encourage you to take regular time out of you day, week, month :
to reflect on the victory God has done,
to put in the work to gain and earn things.

Dave Ramsay talks about living different now in a way that you can truly live land give different later. He speaks from a financial mindset but I would also encourage us to take the same attitude towards life… live now so you can enjoy living fully in Christ later… Devote yourself to the apostle teaching, spend time with God and continue to influence the world on His behalf.

Chosen? Royal? Holy?

In my devotion time today, reading from Experiencing God day to day, I landed on the title Royal Priests.

1 Peter 2:9 “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of the darkness into His marvelous light.”

I bolded three key words. I had them underlined from a previous year of devotional time. I want to give or suggest some ideas alongside of each word.
1. Chosen.  We live in a  world that everyone wants to be picked… and not picked last. I remember standing in the line during recess hoping to be in the top five picked.. sometimes it happened but not often.
God has chosen you to be His child.. reread that… You are picked first…. Celebrate and remember that. The creator of the world picked you to be his child.

2. Royal. This is a word more designated and reserved for kings, queens, princes and princess of England or other countries. If you are like me, you are not in line for the throne of England or any country unless, like me, you are the king of your garage, room or vehicle. Yeah, sad but hey I am king of my vehicle most of the time.  God calls you into royalty… in fact a royal priest. I know it seems and sounds intimidating but should it? I know God is equipping each of us to be his instrument to a world that doesn’t know Him. I know but I am not smart or biblical awesome but when you opened the bible, listened to a sermon or podcast, attended FCA or a bible study or small group… you are equipped more than others who didn’t attend or do those things… Welcome to the priesthood friend.

3. Holy. Holy is something we do not see or recognize very often in our world or life. I believe it is partly due to living in a world of sinful nature but also due to our inability to seek it out and recognize it due to our limited desire to see it. It brings accountability and a standard of life that we often choose not to live up to or achieve. So, this is more of a challenge than anything… live holy, pursue holiness and seek out those who are doing so and learn from them.

I know we are all called into relationship with Jesus and that calling and acceptance will change our lives as we continue to pursue Jesus. The people in successful marriages often are due to their pursuing each other as a couple. They are no longer single and adjust their lives accordingly. They learn and grow in their relationship with their spouse. See, it is a work in progress that a single person does to become a successfully married person. A parent doesn’t know everything about raising kids, that too is a work in progress. We read books, watch Youtube videos, attend classes and occasionally make a guess

In closing, I want to remind you.. You are CHOSEN. You are a ROYAL priesthood. You are a HOLY nation.

Looking out for others

Ezekiel 22:30 says “SO I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but i found no one.”

Obviously, at first glance this is a tough read and can be taken out of context. God was looking for someone to do a tasks (well two: build the wall and stand in gap) but none could be found. I was reading this as a part of my devotional time and my mind went into a new direction….

God is looking for someone… a person or peoples to stand in the gap… In the gap for what? I feel He is looking for individuals and groups of people willing to stand in the gap for the following people groups:

  • homeless
  • widows
  • those in prison
  • those with disabilities or special needs
  • those who are hurting, physically, mentally, emotionally
  • those who are lost, trying to find identity in the world with no success
  • those who struggle with suicidal thoughts
  • those who just don’t feel like they fit into a social or friend group
  • those disconnected with and to the church
  • those simply lost in their selves.

I know it is an exhaustive list. I know it seems like a big task, or seems like it doesn’t connect to or concern me so why bother? I know we can make excuses but why?

Excuses come in a variety of means… but often are developed to keep fear in check or our lives comfortable and safe.

My prayer and challenge is to seek God and do our best to friend someone.. it will both help us and the person being friended.
My prayer is for our needs to be met while meeting other people’s needs in the process.

Take a risk for someone.. you never know.. someday you might need them to take a risk for you.

 

Smack in the face time

Smack in the face time

While preparing for my weekly Junior High Sunday School the main scripture is Hebrews 5:11-14…. Have you read it? If you have you are twitching right now but in case, you haven’t I will share it with you first:

Hebrews 5:11-14 “There is much more we would like to say about this, but it is difficult to explain, especially since you are spiritually dull and don’t seem to listen. You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. Solid food is for those who mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.”

Talk about smack in the face… WOW… ok so some of the readers might say… I am not a church person or even a church goer this doesn’t apply to me but does it?

How many applications can we apply this too…?

  1. .. you are working and doing the same job… when you don’t learn it you screw it up and things go bad when you should be doing it right due to your length of training and time at the company you should be able to do it right and train others to do it correctly and efficiently.
  2. Teaching … yes in the school system… we are smart enough to be degreed and learned how to teach, engage and grow students as they learn the lessons each week… but what type of message and training do we give when we don’t follow the school procedures… for example with cell phone use. If the school says no use of cells in class and you let them do it… how does that work? It is ok to follow the rules but break them in my class but when the student doesn’t turn in a paper on time or pay attention you come down on them and discipline them for it… is this the same or not?
  3. Home… how many times do we get to train up our kids or spouses but instead we blow it off due to time and expense? We just do it ourselves. it is easier or faster or whatever, but what are they learning and how are we connecting with them?

We aren’t helping them grow and still have to do it.  Another example is doing dishes. if we continue to rescue them and then complain they don’t do it… isn’t this counterproductive.?

Mind you, I am not point fingers at anyone or any certain people group but using these as examples how the verses written long ago in a Christian setting can be applied to the world regardless of spiritual affiliation or faith at all.

Why would the writer be so direct with the audience about this subject teaching others to grow and learn? Because it is important. We as a group of people cannot afford or neglect our responsibilities simply because we need to grow and share

Market what is worth marketing

I have learned from the corporate world, your image and marketing is vital in being known and your reputation based on that image (brand) carries as much weight if not more than the actual brand.

For example,  the big three (Chevy, Ford and Dodge) had been invincible in the automotive industry for ever but a couple Foreign companies, Toyota and Honda began to make their mark. But the big impact was when the foreign market invaded the USA with quality product just the time the US companies had a major issue with their vehicles. The decline wasn’t due to one or the other but both. Their brand was damaged in a major way, while a new brand was introduced to be more reliable at the time. It wasn’t a big deal but has come to change the USA.. Nascar now has Toyota in the series and they win regularly.

There are two forms of branding that occurs in a brand..

  1. the individual who wears or shares the brand
  2. the brand itself and product it represents

The company or product rests heavily on the two above mentioned forms. Simply put if your individual makes a poor choice (for example Tiger Woods) in his or her personal life it will impact your brand (product). This happens in the world through governments, it happens in the business world and in the church too.

We have to be realistic and remember people are people who make mistakes and product is product that (like the automotive mentioned above) breakdown. But the balance between the two is so very important to both successes.

On one hand we need to be intentional about who we support and how we support them. We can’t simply buy into a product because someone uses it.. Even if it is Jordan (mental note. I am wearing them as I type) when we don’t like or use the product as it is intended. We simply can’t use a product without realizing what it is intended to market.

(Now I am all for freedom of speech but to be honest I will not be boycotting companies because someone on Facebook or a celebrity tells me to without doing the homework. If we fall to everyone’s opinion we will be switching and boycotting everything including church but I will and encourage you to use to use wisdom in who and what you support or do not support.)

Our brand will say a lot about who or what we are. It is a style for some. Remember when Shaun White was known for his long red hair… yeah he cut it or when McDonalds was more than a golden Arch or Nike was more than just a swoosh. I also could share some that do not carry as much joy… but will not here.

Our buying into other companies brands reflects on who we are. I wear Nike but does that mean I am good, bad, rich or poor? I call myself a christian does that mean I am good, bad, rude or forgiving? I work for a church (Youth Pastor) does that mean I am sheltered, ignorant or something else? We homeschool so does that mean we are afraid of the world, our kids are freaks and can’t deal with real life? Does it imply we have moved so often for work the online public school format fit our lives better? It is hard from the outside to know…. think about it!

Unfortunately, we are a byproduct of those around us, our heritage (even if we don’t know our biological history) and our environment. I am fooling myself to think I am not being influenced and influencing others at the same time by my dress attire, my attitude and what I wear, eat or even read.

We live in a world that is all about image and using that image to influence (often in a negative way) others to be aware or more tolerant of our personal cause or bias. It is happening today, and it happened in the past. We can assume it will continue into the future too. So, how do we manage and deal with it?

I think this is easier said than done…. so here goes

  1. Use discernment who and what you buy into. For example.. just don’t buy it because everyone else is.
  2. Use discernment in who or what you allow to influence you. For example a trusted wiser mature friend
  3. Be sure to be ground into some truth that is larger than you or your moment. For example the Bible.
  4. You might even take time before deciding on it. I met someone recently who waits 6 to 9 months before making a big decision to ensure it isn’t impulsive or dumb.

We have been gifted with the ability to think, reason and choose… so we should put those gifts to work in doing so.

We should pursue a brand that is worth supporting and attracting people too. Choose wisely.

New Strengths.. Soar not Settle

New Strength

I was doing, well honestly catching up since I am meeting to discuss them with a couple friends tomorrow, my devotion times and it was simply titled New Strength.

The title wasn’t the eye catcher but the scripture was…

Isaiah 40:31 “ But those who wait on the Lord, Shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

If you are or have been inside a church building or waked through a Christian Store you have experienced this in word or picture… A beautiful bald eagle soring in the wind… looking majestic and awesome.

I assume you might even have experienced it more than once, only to glimpse at it with a been there done that attitude. It is okay to admit it. I have more than I would like to but it is true, I have become desensitized to the beauty and impact of the mighty bald eagle soaring image.

I am not sure this one will hit every audience but I grew up in Michigan and moved to Indiana (eventually toward the Indiana and Ohio border by the Ohio river). I have been privileged enough to see a real bald eagle soaring over the water or setting on an ice chunk in the lake. Simply breathe taking! It is a site I will always cherish and remember. In fact, I could drive you to the very place I sat to observe this amazing bird of prey.

My point is simply we settle way to often for the image of static bird in a photo or picture when God has a soaring image of power, grace, breathless motion and awe. We have a choice in life…

  1. Settle for the normal everyday existence or
  2. Strive for the greatness to come, for an experience and life that is remember able and awe-inspiring.

It is simple as that… we get the ability to choose and I encourage you (me too) to not settle for the everyday static but strive to soar with the Eagles.

God has so much more to offer and provide for us but we tend to get caught up in the “everyone is doing it” mentality.

SOAR MY FRIENDS! Be one who breaks out into the greatness of life and soar.

New Years Resolutions

How do you launch your New Years resolutions? How do you plan to succeed in accomplishing them? Well, I think you might be surprised to read this information but most start them planning and practice to late to win.

I have a chiropractor friend, who I will refer to as Dr. James (since it is his name) that teaches his clients to begin the resolution or any new habit a month in advance to accomplish it. The idea is simply starting to create the habit, routine and disciplines.

We shared some time thinking and digesting this idea recently at youth group. I would like to share some highlights from this experience.

  1. Identify five major stresses in your life.
  2. Identify which you can change (control) and those you cannot control.
  3. Change those you can, give to God to those you cannot.

Philippians 4:6-7 reminds us to not work about things but pray.

  1. Who do you represent?
  2. Your clothes? Mine say DYM, YW, Nike, DHSM, Michigan etc.
  3. Your friendships?
  4. Your future?

We can discover a lot about our attention or life.
Leviticus 19:4 reminds us not to trust in idols but God.

  1. Review time… please refer back to the previous 1,2&3 and check for similarities? Is God trying to reveal something through them?
  2. Repair relationships.
  3. Who do you have conflict with?
  4. How can you forgive them? Or make the relationship better?

Ephesians 4:31-32 reminds us to get rid of all bitterness etc.. forgive one another as Christ forgives you.

  1. Make time for Jesus. Seems simple but it has to be a priority in our day.

1 Timothy 4:13-14 reminds us to devote ourselves to reading bible, praising God and teaching others.

  1. Spend time praying
  2. Make a top five list of things, habits etc you want to continue doing… for example devotion time, exercise daily.
  3. Make a top five list of things, habits etc you want to stop doing… for example cheating on tests, lying, talking bad about yourself..

1 Thessalonians 5:17 reminds us to never stop praying.

  1. What is the best time of day, week for you to pray?
  2. What can you do to make that happen?
  3. Who can support you in this commitment?

 

I know it is a huge list and seems to be overwhelming but I would totally encourage you to take the next month to get a routine and healthy habits to accomplish some growth.
I enjoy watching sports and often think it would be cool to play in the NFL or whatever… but I am not willing to do the work to accomplish that… Often we think of people who are spiritual champions and want to be like them… but we aren’t willing to do the time to be like Jesus.
Friends it will take work to make it a priority and we are all able to make them… after all we do everyday…

Happy New Habits day to you.

 

Who is your Boss?

“And they were astonished at His (Jesus) teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” Mark 1:22

Two things about this scripture jump out at me:

  1. Jesus wasn’t the only one teaching information; in this case the scriptures in the world.
  2. He was the only one teaching with authority.

 

So, do you agree or disagree? Have you experienced this in your life; someone teaching with authority and others not?

I immediately think of several situations where I have experienced this situation:

  1. Professional baseball… the pitching coach goes to the mound to help, encourage, and correct the pitcher. He does not do anymore than that. But the head coach is the one who speaks authority. He is the one who goes to the mound and removes the pitcher from mound and game. You, see the head coach has the Authority to move or change things in a game.
  2. College.. Many of us had Associate professors who would teach but they conducted themselves through the authority of the Professor. The professor as ultimate authority in the classroom but grants some authority to his assistants.

 

What does this mean to the average person? We are always lobbing and checking out whose authority we are under. We live in a world where someone is in charge, maybe your teacher who has a boss, the principal, who has a boss, the super-intendant, who has a boss the School board, who has a boss, the voters who elect him or her. No matter what situation we find ourselves under, we have some authority over us. This is both good and challenging, since we are required to figure it out and balance the tension within it.

Romans 13:1 “Let every person be subject to the governing authority.”

We have a president who is elected official. One the people (not 100% of the people) elected. Some have been vocal for and against this elected official.

I struggle with the extremes simply because he is a human being and has feelings. But as a Christian, struggle more from the teaching of Romans 13:1.. see above.. It says every person be subject to the governing authorities. It doesn’t say to the authorities you like or voted for or align with. I am not saying I agree with everything our presidents (most of them in my years of voting) but I do try to honor them as authority.
I am not tooting my own horn but challenging my fellow believers…how are you being subject to the authority? I know it might be more challenging for some than others but where do you sit… ? Where does it end? If we want our kids to follow under our authority shouldn’t we be setting the example and doing the same for those who are in authority of us? I would say yes. We need to practice what we preach.

Love in a coke bottle

“Love never gives up, never loses faith is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”
“Love…. Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:7

Love as mentioned above has no limits but what about our limits? Do we put limits on love? Limits to manipulate and gain something for ourselves? Limits to protect our hearts that have or may have been hurt or damaged?

Yes, we all have the ability to love without limits. The challenge is determining a couple things:

1. Do you have a healthy respect for myself?
2. Have I dealt with any past hurts or fears that might prohibit love without limits?
3. Have you risked love in a healthy way and found some success?
4. Do you find a longing to connect and be in love with someone, something?

The challenge isn’t finding love as much as it is discovering love that is pure, and a love that never gives up, never loses hope, always endures etc… That love only comes from God.

We are designed to be in relationship, that relationship is often connected with money, stuff, people or careers but God designed the relationship to be with Him.

A Youth Pastor friend of mine once told a story, illustration really, about people having a coke bottle shaped (we all know it isn’t a coke bottle but it worked for the example since he was holding one) container in our hearts. We will try our hardest to put things in it… for example.. sports, games, friends, drugs, alcohol, relationships. He went on further to say some of those things seem to fit for a season then we become discontent with them and then look to fill the bottle with something else and repeat… We never seem to fill that with something that lasts or holds long term.
Guess what? The reason isn’t because of the stuff we are putting into it are bad or unhealthy, it is due to the source. The source is supposed to be God.

The challenge isn’t fitting God into the bottle of our heart; it is allowing God to consume the space meant for him.

My friend went on to invite people to fill the coke shaped god bottle if you will with God. Some accepted, others waited and some didn’t respond at all which is ok.

We transition through Valentine’s Day this week and watching so many people stand in line at the local store buying flowers. I am not talking one or two but a line about 10 people long. We want to give our loved ones gifts that they can see, taste, feel but we should be giving the gift of God. A relationship with Him that fills the void and gives so much we change and share it with others. A gift that shares grace, patience and peace.

I encourage you all to spend a little time enjoying the gifts, flowers eventually die, the chocolate with run out, gift cards will be used, the watch or other material thing will break or wear out, but also invest in the eternal gift.. a relationship with Jesus.

Hold your tongue…

Proverbs 5:1-2 “My son, pay attention to my wisdom; listen carefully to my wise council. Then you will show discernment, and your lips will express what you’ve learned.”

Interesting thought?  If we pay attention to wisdom, listening carefully to wise council.. we will show discernment and we can express what we learned. One might think, how does this play out in the world of life as we know it.  Well, allow me some time to unpack it bit…
1. Do you listen to your athletic coach? Really, do you then practice what he or she is asking you to do?
2. Do you listen to your math, english, science teacher? Really, do you then practice what he or she is asking you to do?
3. Do you listen to your pastor? Really, do you then practice what he or she is asking you to do? Especially, when it is directly from the Bible?
4. Do you listen to your parents? Really, do you then practice what they are asking you to do?

I confess NO to each of the above questions throughout my teen years, and since then but I also confess to working on being a better listener and apply the lessons that I have before me.
I have since then am working on the idea of gaining discernment and that I can express the words to others but more importantly applying them to my life.

Things I know…
It will take submitting to authority.
It will take submitting to the process of learning and growing.
It will take submitting to a bigger picture then the one I currently see or even think I see.
It will take submitting to the idea of work, and more work and more work.. you get the picture. It will take work for me to listen… learn and apply…. work

I often find the most challenging moments happen when I want my way, my stuff or my agenda. I am working towards the future and it will take time but I will get there. I hope you will too.

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