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Philippians 1

Have you ever started reading a passage and then you couldn’t really get much further? As if God was showing you something, but not sure what it is. Like you want to keep reading, however you don’t have peace about moving forward. I’ve been there recently… and you guessed it: Philippians 1 (Title gave that one away). You can read the entire chapter at the bottom of this post.

The more I do this ministry stuff, the more I find times of needing encouragement (ever feel that way?). So, I try to take a slow methodic approach towards the scriptures, to seek for God’s encouragement through it all. And man… I look at Paul, who is encouraging others! Oh, and when he is in a slew of craziness… Wait what… Maybe I need to take Paul’s example and to gain encouragement through my crazy, I need to encourage others in their crazy.

philippians_1_3_by_treybacca-d5uwlpl

First thing striking me lately is to Thank God for others: I thank my God every time I remember you. 
Seriously every time? I’ve been taking a good look at the people who have invested into me over the years, and I wouldn’t be who I am without their involvement in my life. Then I start to think about the people I didn’t particularly like on my life journey… Thank God for them too? I’m working on that, and feel I’m making strides towards forgiving them and getting to a point of thanking God for them too.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. 

Prayer! Yeah, we always say it. But what keeps jumping off the page at me, Paul is praying for people to know God better, grow in knowledge & understanding. Also, he is praying they will love God better. When all gets tough, good, happy, sad, tough, strange, awkward, and all those other things, Paul was praying that you and I would learn to Love God better. I don’t know about you, but there are times when I just get selfish. When I want my wants, my way, my ideas… My. My. Me. I. I guess Paul knew we would need to understand MORE of God’s Love to have a deeper and better focus of God’s Love.

Today… I’m going to pray God will fill me up with knowledge, understanding and Love. I’m also going to pray that for you, and Thank God for you!

What’s your reaction to Philippians 1? (That’s just my first couple verses into the chapter!) Let me know what God is showing you in Philippians 1.

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Loyatly is Needed in Friendships

In preparing for my message at Hazardous last night, I searched the bible for a passage that talked about Loyalty in Friendships. I came across a great passage that I feel works GREAT in illustrating this point. Have you read about the guys who carried their paralyzed friend to Jesus, then with so many people, they climbed to the roof to figure out a way to get their friend before Jesus.

Mark 2:1-12

1 When Jesus returned to Capernaum several days later, the news spread quickly that he was back home. 2 Soon the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door. While he was preaching God’s word to them, 3 four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. 4 They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus. 5 Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your sins are forgiven.”

6 But some of the teachers of religious law who were sitting there thought to themselves, 7 “What is he saying? This is blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!”

8 Jesus knew immediately what they were thinking, so he asked them, “Why do you question this in your hearts? 9 Is it easier to say to the paralyzed man ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk’? 10 So I will prove to you that the Son of Man[a] has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, 11 “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!”

12 And the man jumped up, grabbed his mat, and walked out through the stunned onlookers. They were all amazed and praised God, exclaiming, “We’ve never seen anything like this before!”

I know this is a short passage to read and very easy to skim right over. But when you look at it, stop, then think. These Guys played a MAJOR role in the life of their friend.

They carried him to Jesus. Which, when I think about this, I would imagine these guys probably had to carry him a little ways to even get to the house. Amongst getting to the house, they had to problem solve and figure out a way to get him before Jesus. As it says, they found a way to get to the roof, and then dug a hole. These guys are hero’s of the bible, b/c they didn’t stop when the going go tough. They cared enough about their friend, that they would help him out even when the obstacles looked too difficult in front of them.

This surely is a sign of Loyalty. When you have this type of Loyalty, then you will see friends care for you in this manner.

Are you being Loyal to your friends? If you are not, then how can you expect it?

If you are being loyal to your friends, how can you encourage them today?

This paralyzed guy I’m sure needed encouragement in many ways. The friends around us might be going through difficult times that you might not know about. Offering some encouragement just out of the blue could help them in ways you may never know!

Life is GREAT

worry

With a couple of my friends, we just read through the book of Philippians. It is a great book to the people of Philippi from Paul. Overall it is an encouraging book to me, to call out the importance to live this life for Christ, not complain and an earnest attitude towards Prayer instead of worry.

Philippians 4:6-7
6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

In another translation it starts off, DON’T WORRY ABOUT ANYTHING.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I head down this path. Life seems to happen, or you look at something from your own perspective, and BAM, worry sets in. I think worry has a direct result in our prayer life. I will be as bold to say, if we are a worrier are we a prayer? Do we focus more time and attention towards being nervous and uneasy, or are we focused on the actual trust that comes with talking to God about it.

I guess this is a little personal in nature for me. Last night, I saw things from my own perspective. My own attitudes. My own goals and objectives. In looking over my financial stuff, I got worried. It set in big time and I realized that I wasn’t spending enough time talking to God about it. After a Great conversation with my wife, she helped me to realize reality instead of my broken point of view on the situation. I love my wife for taking the time to help comfort me in the a time of need, in a time of worry. She reached out to show me that it will be okay and help to refocus my trust.

God does the same thing for us. He wants to be there for us, which is why the scripture says – INSTEAD, PRAY ABOUT EVERYTHING. I would say that is pretty clear… Pray about it. That can be very cliché, b/c it can become a cop out to the say Just pray about something. But at the heart of that statement, how well are you really praying about the situation.

The verse goes on to say, we will experience God’s peace when we pray, or talk to Him about it. An interesting thought….

So… Pray about it, on all occasions, all circumstances, and with any perspective that we might have. God will listen & comfort in our times when we are eager to worry.

The Power of a Baptism

baptism-graphic


Have you ever had an opportunity to baptize someone? The way the bible talks about, a celebration style baptism.

Out of everything I do in student ministry, my 2 favorite things are when students make a decision to follow Jesus Christ and the second is playing a part in baptizing someone. I feel in these two instances is when you are playing such a vital role of assisting someone to take a major step in their spiritual life. Exciting is only a glimpse of the joy in my heart during both of these occurances.

Recently, I had the JOY to assist 20 more people get baptized at Hazardous (Wed. night Middle School Awesomeness). As a staff, we decided to baptize students and 2 leaders instead of verbally giving a message. The action of baptism is a message in itself. Baptism is an outward expression of an inward decision. If you have the love of Jesus in your heart, you are simply following His example by getting baptized. You are also obeying God by following His wishes that he commands us to do. There is nothing magical about the action, nothing crazy with the water. It represents a new, refreshing life we have with Jesus!

On May 25, one of our adult leaders kicked things off. He said, he wanted to set an example by baptizing his own son, but first he needed to be baptized himself. As he obeyed God and pledged his confidence in a relationship with Christ, he was baptized. The whole room cheered and shouted for joy in watching this leader set a solid example. After a couple more baptisms, he had an opportunity to baptize his very own son! Wow! *Note: I look forward to the day I can baptize my own son or daughter! I am already excited!

Some other amazing things that happened… a High School student that I baptized at Bigstuf last summer, serving as a small group leader to a group of 7th graders, and led two guys in a decision to follow Jesus… had the privilege of baptizing one of the guys he led to Christ! It was such a joy for me to witness. I have poured years into this high school student, and to watch him baptize a younger student… EPIC!

We also had an 8th grade student, recently baptized in March, asked by a 7th grader to baptize her. The 7th grade girl mentioned how she looked up to this 8th grader by watching her baptism in March. It was an awesome example of one person impacting another by their actions.

Personally, I baptized 4 students! I’m excited for them! I was blessed an honored to be a part of their story!

I guess… I am more excited than ever to see what God is up to at Hope Community Church Student Ministries. Seeing Leaders, High School students, Middle School student baptizing other people! I just can’t explain all that God is doing, but it is quite amazing.

My prayer is for the 20 people who took the step of obedience to continue to stay strong in their walk with God, that they will unite with Him on a regular basis in a personal relationship. I pray each of them will be able to baptize someone else in their life, to experience the blessing of baptizing another believer. I pray God will continue to lay his hand of blessing on our ministry, and on our whole church body. Help us to continue to advance the kingdom!

What’s an Ox got to do with it?

ox


As I was reading some Proverbs the other day, this verse kind of hit me…

Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest. Proverbs 14:4

It almost seemed to jump off the page at me. When that happens, I tend to put more time and attention into it. Maybe God is trying to show me something or teach me something at this stage of my life, so I think about it. Here’s my thoughts about this verse.

I think there’s the definite literal side of this passage dealing with farming. An ox is used to increase your work load by the amount of brute force it brings to the farm. You can plow more land, resulting in planting more seeds, which will result in a larger harvest. That makes sense, and you see people all over the world using this tactic to increase their harvest by having an ox, or having the correct tools/ resources for the task at hand.

There’s some problems with having an ox though, feeding, cleaning, caring for, and maintaining their health. To have an ox takes a lot of work. Have you ever cared for a large animal like this? It takes alot of time and attention. But there is a reward later because of your perseverance in caring for this large ox, remember there is the harvest on the way.

Spiritually, I take this deeply. At what levels am I keeping a so called ‘Clean Manager?’ A what point and I getting disciplined and focusing on taking care of an ‘ox’ so there will be a large harvest later? I take this as a spiritual implication of discipline.

God wants us to produce a harvest. God wants us to bear fruit, Good Fruit. To bear good fruit you need to work on your spiritual ox, or your soul. I think this verse is laying out a general discipline to have a deep relationship with God, not just a pray before meals kind of a relationship. For me to bear fruit or reap a harvest, I need to be disciplined in spending time with God! When this discipline takes place there is a harvest.

One aspect of the harvest is within yourself, Galatians 5:22-23 shows us the fruit of the spirit. Which everyone would agree love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are the very things everyone desires to have. Being disciplined in your relationship with God, by reading scripture, praying, and depending on God will result in this internal harvest in your heart.

Another aspect of the harvest is within the people around you. When you are disciplined in your relationship with God, other people cannot help to notice. They will see the harvest going on in your heart and wonder about it. People will be curious as to why you have a plentiful harvest, or better yet, they will be curious why you are different. People around you will benefit as a result to your discipline.

When you try to do this thing alone, it can get tiresome, lonely and just wear you out. With God in the picture, you can stay motivated and on course when you rely on Him.

 

Battle a Lying Assassin

lazy guy

You wake up in the morning and prepare for what you think the day will hold. If you think it will be cold outside, you prepare properly. If it is going to be rainy, you wear right shoes. Or if you are going to be in meetings all day, you bring a lunch instead of going out. Any way you see it, you prepare for what is ahead.

At Hazardous this past week, I spoke about this assassin of Zi Qi Qi Ren: self-deceiving while deceiving others. How we have all faced head to head against this assassin. We have tucked away our secrets, or we have painted a fake picture of who we WANT to be. Why is that? Why do we lie? I guess it is safest to say, we fall victim to this assassin by lying to ourselves and others so that we might fit in.

You may have changed who you are, or added some intricate details to that story to make other people react in a specific way. But the problem that comes about with giving in to this assassin, you will end up hurt and hurting those around you.

Amazing how God put some passages in the bible to let us know about this idea of being in darkness, instead of the light.

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” John 3:19-21

When we are tucking away those lies, we are hiding in the darkness. We are putting up a falsehood of who we are, and this is not what you deserve! It’s like putting a piranha inside your chest with direct access to your heart. Holding onto lies will hurt you and the people around you!

I shared this story about myself to help illustrate to students that I have fallen victim to this assassin pretty bad when I was a kid. You see, after my father passed away I seemed to be this regular kid. I played sports, hung out, did good in school, never really got in major trouble. From the outside, everything looked great. But when I would lay down to sleep at night, I would be alone. I would be scared and terrified. It led to many years of nightmares and lack of sleep.

On the outside, I made it look as though everything was Okay. But in reality, I was hurting and alone on the inside. It wasn’t until I was able to begin talking to someone about all this, that I was able to begin healing through my situation.

What about you? I hope that whatever ways you might be facing against this assassin of Lying, you will stand your ground. I hope that you will find someone to talk to, along with letting God know about where you are at. In Hebrew 4:16, ‘So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

Beginning the process of opening up, by bringing yourself into the light is where you will receive His mercy and find His GRACE!

Mark Twain had said, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything”

What would Jesus cook for Thanksgiving?

thanksgiving-turkey

Tomorrow is the day. You know the one where we get to say ‘Thanks!’ and eat lots of food. It is particularly one of my favorite holidays of the year. For the most part it has traditionally been a family event filled with fun, laughter, and good conversation. The meal usually consists of turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, bread, corn, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. I’m excited for this, as my parents are making the drive to visit. Liz and I will be cooking away in the kitchen.

With this idea of cooking on my mind and reading through Matthew, I read about Jesus feeding 4,000 men (not counting the women and children). The story is a simple one and easy to skip right over if you are reading too fast. So check out this story:

[32] Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.” [33] And the disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?” [34] And Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” [35] And directing the crowd to sit down on the ground, [36] he took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.
[37] And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up seven baskets full of the broken pieces left over. [38] Those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children. [39] And after sending away the crowds, he got into the boat and went to the region of Magadan.
(Matthew 15:32-39 ESV)

So with thanksgiving coming up, what would Jesus cook for us in modern day times? I bet His turkey would be unbelievable, and the rest finished just so perfect. And of course there would be leftovers for days. Good thought…

What captures me most about this story is not the actual feeding but they way Jesus saw a huge need from everyday common people. The people are hungry and they need some food, and he goes on to say the people will faint on their way home. Not only is He seeing the problem, Jesus is thinking through how it would play out. Then the crazy part, He grabs 7 loaves of bread and a few small fish then proceeds to feed 4,000 men (maybe close to 10,000 with woman and children).

So modern day, Jesus might grab a turkey leg, potato, and gravy, then proceed to feed 8,000 – 10,000. This sounds like a great thing to me. Awesome!

What do you think Jesus would cook for thanksgiving?

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