Thursday, January 31, 2008

BLOG MESSAGE, THE RIGHT OF WAY, Part 1

You've heard the term, "the right of way." It basically means that the other person in the other car, or the person crossing the street, gets to go before you. It's about treating others according to the laws, showing respect, preference and kindness too. In that same way, every day you encounter many different kinds of people. Some are very delightful. Some are very difficult. Some of them are inspiring. Some of them are irritating, fascinating, intimidating. The fact is, a lot of the problems we have in life are because of personality conflicts. We don't get along with people. When your relationships are bad, life can be bad or even miserable. It's very important that we learn how to get along with other people and to give them the right away.

James 3:13-18, "And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of goodness." vs. 18 (LB)

* wisdom is a lifestyle (vs. 13) Meaning, it's is not an issue of intelligence as much as it is an issue of character.

"Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life..."

* Lack of wisdom causes all kinds of problems (vs. 14 16)

"... disharmony and all other kinds of evil ..." (Ph)


GIVE PEOPLE THE RIGHT AWAY BY LIVING THE RIGHT WAY. BE A PERSON OF INTEGRITY

It's all about being pure and living the right way. If I'm really genuine, if I'm wise, I'm not going to lie to you, I'm not going to cheat you, I'm not going to manipulate you, I'm not going to be deceitful. I'll be a person of integrity. Because all relationships are built on trust and respect. If you are a pedestrian getting ready to cross the street and a car waves you on, you want to know that they aren't going to hit the gas and injure you. Trust and Integrity is vital.

"The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure."

"The man of integrity walks securely" Prov. 10:9



2. GIVE PEOPLE THE RIGHT OF WAY BY NOT TICKING THEM OFF.

We've all cut someone off in traffic unintentionally and caused the horns to honk. It's one thing to do it by accident, but another to do it on purpose. We need to be careful not to compare, condemn or contradict others in order to make them lose it. If I'm smart, if I'm wise in my relationships, I won't compromise my integrity and I won't antagonize your anger.
Proverbs 14:29 "A wise man controls his temper. He knows that anger causes mistakes." How many of you have ever done something stupid in anger? Anger causes mistakes.

"Wisdom is ... peace loving"

"Any fool can start arguments" the wise thing is to stay out of them." Prov. 20:3 (GN)

"A wise man controls his temper. He knows that anger causes mistakes." Prov. 14:29 (LB)


I'll post ways that we can give people the 'right of way' in part 2 later today! Let God speak to you, I know He's screaming to me!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Pastor David Foster is the man!


Great post that I read on his myspace. David Foster gets it and I love the example that He is setting for young leaders. Enjoy the list below about the Jesus kind of spirituality and let it challenge and encourage you today...

10 Distinctive Characterisitics of a Jesus Kind of Spirituality

We live in a time that the word "Christian" has lost its meaning, or has at least been changed in its meaning. For some it means a political party, a moral stance. For others it means a life of following Jesus.

I thought I'd draw these contrasts between religion and what it means to be a follower of Jesus, because we're still asking the big "Why?" questions and we need real answers. Here we go:

1. Religion says, "be good. Jesus says, "be honest." Be good means to lie about how I'm really doing on the inside because I want other people to think I'm better than I am. Be honest means humble yourself before God and confess that you're broken and can't fix yourself.

2. Religion says, "change." Jesus says, "be changed." Anyone who has tried to break a seriously bad habit knows how hard it is to change. Jesus said the only way to really change is to have a new heart and that's what He offers.

3. Religion says, "perform." Jesus says, "bear fruit." In religion you're accepted for what you do. Your performance is really important. It doesn't matter the content of your heart necessarily, just that you perform in the right way. Jesus said it's about bearing fruit; that your good works need to come from a deep, good place. Good roots bear good fruit.

4. Religion says, "obey me." Jesus says, "follow me." Let's be honest, we can force obedience. We can make it that life's so uncomfortable. But follow me is a decision, again, made in the heart and lived out through the life.

5. Religion says, "divide up." Jesus says, "unite." Jesus' one prayer to The Father that we've denied Him, is that we would be one. We divide up over denominations, over petty theological differences, and when we do, no one wins.

6. Religion, again, says "obey." Jesus says, "repent." The idea of repentance means you change your mind. And when you've changed your mind, you've turned your life around. In other words, it's not being sorry you got caught, it's being broken, that you could ever do something as bad as what you've done.

7. Religion says, "be right." Jesus says, "be real." We focus so much on wanting to be right that we argue and clash with people. And when we do that, we may win the argument, but we lose the relationship. Being real says, "I know what I believe, but you matter more than making my point." Being real is being willing to say that I could be wrong and you could be right. Again it's based on that humility thing we talked about earlier.

8. Religion says, "caught ya." Jesus says, "go and sin no more." Religion wants to list your sins and how you've fallen, what you're not doing that you must do, how often you read your Bible and go to church; this long list of things. It's a legalistic way of living. Jesus said, just simply go and leave your life of sin; leave that thing for something better. It is what we need, a true life change that leads us to a better place because we want to be there, not because we fear hell.

9. Religion says, "try." Jesus says, "trust." No one is ever justified before God because of his or her good works. No matter how hard you try, you cannot climb the ladder to heaven. It just doesn't work. Everyone who makes it will make it on the basis of trust; trusting Jesus for who He said He was and is, receiving His righteousness by faith and standing justified by God and adopted into His family.

10. Religion says, "do." Jesus says, "done." This is a huge difference. I know this is huge because I've dealt with people all my adult life, thousands of them, who are trapped in this do to be mentality. I have to do to be accepted, to be loved, to be promoted, to be chosen, to be picked, and to be valued. I have to look a certain way, talk a certain way. I have to have a degree from a certain college in order to be in the "in" crowd.

What a contrast in Jesus who said, "Your life is based on what I've done. I've done the real hard work. I've done the suffering and the dying so that you may do the living and the rejoicing." What a different way of living!

Hey, if you've merely got religion, I'd trade it for Jesus. Just because a thing is religious, and just because it has "Christian" stamped on the front of it, doesn't mean that it's safe for consumption. Test things, not by my attitude or a denomination's last press release, but by the simple life and words of Jesus.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

A Great Day


I'm a pretty driven guy and I have a tendency to always plan for the next thing. The next service, the next meeting, the next month or year. But I'm trying to learn (as I approach 34 years of age this year) to enjoy each day. Today wasn't the greatest day of my life or anything like that. I wasn't given a million dollars, I didn't have another child and 5,000 people didn't show up at our weekend service but it was a great day. Here's the recap.
I got to meet someone new at our church today before the service at our meet the pastors get together. Good guy, it was cool to hang out and share some stories.
My family walked in as I was doing a sound check minutes before the service was to begin. My kids were so cute and Carter was especially excited to see me. That was a great feeling. I love my family.
The service was good. Worship was kick'in and God was definitely in the house. It was nice to have a lot of the church family there today. The message went pretty well and people responded to follow Christ and to take steps to live out their faith.
After service I spent about an hour with a visiting team from a church in West Chester that wanted to see our children's ministry and hear our churches story.
-not great part of the day, cleaning our house for 2 hours after being exhausted from a long weekend of ministry and running out to buy a new dvd player so that we could start our Alpha series with our small group-
We had our small group meeting (10 adults, 12 kids packed into our house) and we enjoyed a great time together. It is so good to get together with friends and encourage one another.
Finally, the kids are in bed and the house is back together. We often take the mundane for granted and miss the great pleasure of simple moments. What a great day, (also exhausting, thank God for personal days) I have a lot to be thankful for. How about you?

Do churches really care?

A friend of mine had this post on his blog the other day and I thought it was so true. Check it out below. What do you think?

A cutting-edge church leader in the US known for his innovative ideas on reaching a post-modern generation for Christ contends that the reason why churches are declining in America is because they are self-centered.

“My primary assessment would be because American Christians tend to be incredibly self-indulgent so they see the church as a place there for them to meet their needs and to express faith in a way that is meaningful for them,” said cultural architect Erwin McManus, lead pastor at Mosaic Church in Los Angeles, to The Christian Post on Monday.

“There is almost no genuine compassion or urgency about serving and reaching people who don’t know Christ,” he added.

Speaking about church decline in general, McManus concluded: “I think the bottom line really is our own spiritual narcissism. There are methods and you can talk about style, structure and music, but in the end it really comes down to your heart and what you care about,” he said.

He often explains that while the Bible does not change, the methods to effectively communicate the Word of God can.

What do you think? I think he is right on, but before I point any accusatory fingers at the church as a whole, I must look in the mirror first. Do the actions of my life portray someone who really cares about outsiders? Pretty convicting ... God, help me to make your Kingdom a priority on a daily basis. May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven through my life.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Those boring preachers

Hilarious! We've all done it, just not on camera for the world to watch like you are right now!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Blog Message, "Pedestrians, How We Should Treat Others" Part 3

It's love that reaches people. You don't argue people into the kingdom of heaven. You love them into the kingdom of heaven.

We accomplish that by doing the following to the pedestrians in our lives.

1. Accept everybody.

Have you ever been in a church of spiritual snobs? We got it and you don't. Do you know why people have a hard time accepting others? They confuse acceptance with approval. There's a big difference between acceptance and approval. You can accept somebody without approving of his lifestyle. He may be doing something totally contrary to the word of God, but you can accept him as a person without approving of the sin he's involved in.

"Accept one another just as Christ accepted you." Romans 15:7. That's a start -- acceptance. At Freedom Life we are trying to cultivate an attitude of acceptance. The church is a hospital for sinners, not a hotel for saints. The church should be a place where people are growing. This is a church for people who don't have it all together. It doesn't matter where you've been, it matters where you are going. It matters where you are now and if you know Jesus. If you want to grow up more and more like Him every day, that is the goal. In the essentials we have unity. Jesus is Lord. The Bible is God's word. In the non-essentials we have liberty and in all things we have charity. Acceptance is the key.

2. Appreciate everybody.

This goes a little bit further than acceptance. Philippians 2:35 "Do nothing from selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourself. Each of you should look not only to your own interest but also the interest of others." Appreciate everybody. Find something you can like about them, not just what you tolerate. Tell them about it. With some people this may require a little creativity. You may have to look a little while. Maybe you just need to value them for their uniqueness even if you find it incredibly annoying.

3. Affirm (encourage) everybody.

Give everybody a lift whenever you can. I Thess. 5:11 "Encourage one another and build each other up." When people stumble, don't criticize, sympathize. Be an encourager not a complainer, not a condemner, a critical person. You can encourage people just by smiling at them. It was said of the New Testament church, "See how they love one another." "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples that you love each other." You accept, affirm, appreciate. Jesus Christ breaks down all barriers and the ground is level at the foot of the cross. We are all equal in God's eyes. God wants you to know Him.

Galatians 3:26-27 "For now we are all children of God through faith in Jesus Christ. We are no longer Jew or Greek or slave or free, male or female." We're all the same. There is no distinction in the body of Christ. We are Christians. We are one in Christ Jesus. We are all a part of the family of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

Let's give people the right of way this week in our lives and obey the light of God's law by how we treat others!

Blog Message, "Pedestrians, How We Should Treat Others" Part 2

James says there are three problems with favoritism.

1. Favoritism is not what Jesus would do. If you want to be like Jesus you can't play favorites. "My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism." Faith and favoritism are incompatible -- we're a family. (although we all have our favorites in the family) This word "favoritism" is used only four times in the Bible. Every other time it's referring to God and it says, “God does not play favorites.” Romans 2:11 "God does not show favoritism" Jesus treated everybody with dignity. God loves everybody. If there is one place in the world where there shouldn't be any kind of discrimination it should be the church. There is discrimination everywhere else in the world. But there should be one place no matter who you are or what your background is that you're welcome.

2. Favoritism does not make sense. In v. 5-7 he says it's illogical, it doesn't make sense. “In the first place,” he says, “God has chosen the poor.” "Has not God chosen the poor to be rich in faith and inherit the kingdom?" He's not saying that it's good to be poor and bad to be rich. He's not saying that only the poor will be saved. Everybody in our church is rich compared to the majority of the world. It doesn't make any difference to God. Aren't you glad your salvation isn't based on your savings account? Wealth in itself does not deserve any special treatment. Maybe the person got it by lying their taxes or fleecing seniors. Don't confuse your net worth with your self-worth. Big difference. My net worth and my self- worth have nothing to do with each other. I don't get my strokes by impressing you by wearing certain kinds of clothes or driving a certain kind of car. It doesn't matter where you buy your clothes or what you drive when you're in the family of God.

“It's illogical,” he says. Don't confuse where you get your self-worth from. God chooses the poor. He doesn't expect them to be wealthy in order to be saved. “On top of this,” he says, “the rich could care less about you”. Why worry about catering to them. "Is it not the rich exploiting you." In New Testament times it was the Roman nobles or rich people who were feeding the Christians to the lions. It was the upper crust that were persecuting the Christians, judging the Christians, insulting the Christians, throwing the Christians to the lions. James says, "Why are you worried about impressing them. They're certainly not worried about impressing you. They're doing the opposite."

3. Favoritism is unloving. That's why you shouldn't do it. "If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, `Love your neighbor as yourself.' you're doing right." Why is it called the royal law? Because if we obeyed that one we wouldn't need all of the rest. "Love your neighbor as yourself." Galatians 5:14 "All the law is summed up in one sentence, `Love your neighbor as yourself'." If I play favorites I'm being unloving.

The Bible says that how we relate to other people shows how much we really love God. I John 4:20 "If a man says he loves God and hates his brother he's lying. How can you love God whom you haven't seen if you don't love your brother whom you have seen?" How I relate to you proves how much I love God. Favoritism is unloving.

v. 9 "If you show favoritism you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it." How many laws do you have to break to be a lawbreaker? One. How many crimes do you have to commit to become a criminal? One. How many links do you have to break to break a chain? One. Have you ever been to a store that has the sign "You break it, you've bought it." They don't care if it's broken in one place or into a thousand pieces, if you broke it you bought it. James is saying that people think favoritism is such a small sin. But, he says, if you break God's rule, you break God's rule. Be careful it's serious business.

v. 11 "For who said, `Do not commit adultery' also said `Do not murder'. If you don't commit adultery but you do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker." What is he saying? He's illustrating his point about being unloving. If I come to your house and say, "I really respect you a whole lot. The way I'm going to prove how much I love you is I'm not going to commit adultery with your wife. However, if you tick me off I might just murder you." Are you going to thank me for that? Will you appreciate my love? How absurd! It's ridiculous! What does God care if I'm partial to certain kinds of people?" God says it's all the same! It's all important.

v. 12 "Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom because judgement without mercy will not be shown to anyone who has been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgement." Love treats people with mercy. Love gives people what they need, not what they deserve. James is probably thinking about his half-brother Jesus who said in the Sermon on the Mount, "Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy."

Ask yourself, "Are you disobeying God by showing favoritism?"

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Blog Message, "Pedestrians, How We Should Treat Others" Part 1

This weeks blog message is called, "Pedestrians." Have you ever been annoyed by pedestrians while driving your car? We've all been there. A person walks out in front of us (because they forgot what they were taught when they were 4 years old) and we secretly desire to lay on the horn or the gas. Pedestrians walk through lives everyday. On the job. At the store. Even while we are driving. The question for us this week is, "how do we treat other people?"
James 2:1 says, "My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism."

How do we show favoritism? How do we treat people unfairly? We do this by discriminating towards others. Here are some common ways that we do this.

Appearance -- We discriminate often because of appearance.

Ancestry -- We judge people according to their race, their nationality, their ethnic background.
Achievement -- Our society is all about the winners and forgets the losers.
Affluence -- the most common distinction. We judge people by their wealth -- whether they're rich or poor -- their economic status.

This is the area that James picks out of all the areas we can discriminate in. He talks about economic distinction. v. 2 "Suppose a man comes to your meeting wearing gold rings and fine clothes and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say `Here's a good seat for you' but say to the poor man `You stand over there' or `Sit on the floor at my feet', have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?"

None of us can imagine doing this purposely, especially at church. We could maybe discriminate towards others in our every day lives, but certainly not at church. James uses this example to show us why favoritism should not be a part of our lives. I'll share the 3 reasons why tomorrow.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Jon & Kate return



Today was a busy and fun day. Jon & Kate (of the plus 8 fame) made a return appearance to Freedom Life and spoke to our MOPS group. Over 50+ women filled our cafe to receive encouragement and hear some interesting stories from Jon & Kate's lives. The ladies loved the morning and it was a big win. My wife and I had the chance to spend some time with them over lunch. Michele (my wife) and I were once again impressed with how Jon & Kate are handling their celebrity status. They are a great couple that God is blessing and positioning to spread the good news of Jesus Christ. God has blessed them with beautiful kids and I pray that he keeps giving them favor (#1 show on TLC, narrowly beating out the "half man, half tree show." At least that's #2 on my list) and promoting them. Keep going Jon & Kate, we love you guys and are believing God's best over your lives!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Blog Message, "SPEEDING, How To Deal With Temptation" Part 4

4. Be refocused

If temptation begins with our thought life, then changing what we think about is the key to overcoming it. The key to overcoming temptation is not to fight temptation but simply refocus your thoughts. Change your attention. Turn your attention on something else. Shift gears on your thoughts. Change your mind. Refocus. Instead of looking at what you're being tempted by, just look somewhere else. Refocus. Philippians 4:8 says "Think on these things, things that are good, positive, just, honest." Focus your mind on the goodness of God. Why? Because the more you fight a feeling the more it grabs you. Don't focus on what you don't want. Focus on what you do want. Turn your attention. Be refocused. Get your eyes off the negative. Get your eyes on the goodness of God & drive after it. Are you a chronic worrier? It's because you're doubting the goodness of God. Whatever gets your attention, gets you. Whatever you resist, persists. Stop fighting it, just refocus. Turn your back on it. How do you get out of depression? Not by looking at what you are and telling yourself what you are. That never changes you. Focus on what you want, "This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad." It's a choice.

Don't try to argue with the devil. He's a lot better at it than you are. He's had thousands of years of experience. When temptation calls, drop the receiver, and forget it. When you refocus, it may mean physically removing yourself from the situation. If you don't want to speed, get out of the car. Maybe you need to change the channel on the TV. Maybe you need to walk out of that movie. Maybe you need to change jobs. Maybe you need to change a car pool. I Corinthians 15:33 "Bad company corrupts good character." You know your weakness and God does to. Maybe you need to drive a new speed in a new direction.

You can start over with God. Jesus paid for the speeding ticket (your sin) and God invites you and I to start over and follow Him. If you have given in to temptation, change cars and start driving in a new direction.

Blog Message, "SPEEDING, How To Deal With Temptation" Part 3

How do you prepare for the temptation to speed past God's law and his will for your life? How do you get ready for it? By understanding how speeding occurs. II Corinthians 2:11 "In order that Satan might not outwit us, we are not unaware of his schemes." God wants you to know how the devil operates, how he tempts. The only thing you can say about the devil that's good is that he's consistent. He's been using the same old stuff to get us to speed past God's law since the beginning. It's very easy to discover his process. Temptation is a process, never just a one-time act. James outlines the four steps that the devil uses in order to tempt you to speed toward your own demise.

1. The first gear of temptation is desire. "Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desires..." The desire to put the pedal to the metal begins on the inside of us with our desires. Most desires are OK. You couldn't live without desires: a desire to eat, drink, sleep... God gives us these desires. Those are good desires. But any desire out of control and over the limit becomes destructive. Satan loves to take routine desires and turn them into runaway desires. You become consumed, obsessed by it: food, work, having fun, sex, money. Legitimate desires but when they are out of control they become a problem. We can quickly speed to destinations that we know are not God's desire for our lives.

2. The second gear is deception. "He is dragged away and enticed ..." Companies market cars by enticement. They attempt to lure us into buying something that we can't afford by using specials sales, speed and sex. What does the devil use to entice you and I? He knows our buttons, he knows what will get our attention. When the devil entices us, he desires to drag down the road to destruction. His goal is deception. Satan drags us to deception. Temptation always looks better than it really is. Desire turns to deception and deception turns to disobedience.

3. The third gear is disobedience. "Then after desire has conceived it gives birth to sin." What begins in your mind results in an action. It starts in your imagination. The battle starts with your thoughts. It moves from your thoughts into actions. First the devil gets your attention, then he gets you to have an attitude, then he gets you to commit the action. He knows if he can get your attention he will eventually get you to commit the action. The Bible says what starts in your mind eventually comes out in your lifestyle. Desire leads to deception, deception leads to disobedience. Disobedience leads to death. Just like that, the race is over.

4. The end of the race is Death. "Sin, when full grown gives birth to death." That's the tragic consequence of giving in. That's what losing the battle causes -- devastating results. That's what happens when we speed past God's law, death. What is death? The exact opposite of living. If you overcome temptation you get the crown of life, but the wages of sin are death -- spiritual separation from God. James says we are free to choose any way we want to live. We can obey or speed down our own way. God gave me the freedom of choice. I could choose to live any way I want to. But I am not free to choose the consequences of those choices.

In order to overcome temptation, in order to break a bad habit, first I've got to be realistic, and admit I have a problem. Then I've got to be responsible and not blame anybody else and quit making excuses. Then I get ready by understanding what happens during temptation so I can learn how to avoid it.

All of a sudden in verse 17, James switches gears. He starts talking about the goodness of God. It looks like he forgot what he was talking about -- at first. v. 17 "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights who does not change like shifting shadows."

James is talking about temptation then all of a sudden he redirects our thoughts to the goodness of God. First he's talking about something negative then he's talking about something positive. He's refocusing our attention on something else. Why? Because that's the next step in overcoming temptation. Be realistic, be responsible, be ready, be refocused.

Blog Message, "SPEEDING, How To Deal With Temptation" Part 2



We need to keep it real and be honest in regards to dealing with temptation. We also need to...

...Be responsible

Accept responsibility. Don't blame other people for your problems. Don't play the victim or martyrWe love to blame people, even God. V. 13 "When tempted, no one should say, `God is tempting me.' For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone." God does not tempt, but we love to blame others. We are in a society of irresponsibility. Blame society, blame the government, blame the environment, blame heredity, blame your parents, blame your spouse, blame the devil, even blame God. Some people say, "It must be God's will or He wouldn't have let it happen." That's called blaming God. That's called blaming God. Don't make your bad choices and then blame them on God. God does not tempt. He never contradicts His word. God is not going to tell you one thing and have the Bible say something different. If the Bible says something and you say something different, you're wrong, not the Bible. Be responsible. Don't blame God and don't blame other people. It's a sign of immaturity. No more victims.

The fact is I bring most of my problems onto myself. So do you. We bring them on ourselves. If I'm ever going to break those bad habits I want to get rid of, first I have to be realistic: I am tempted. Then number two, I've got to be responsible. I have to quit being the victim and making excuses.

Be ready

When temptation comes, be ready. Be prepared for it. Peter says, "Be on your guard." Jesus said, "Watch and pray that you enter not into temptation." Paul said, "Put on the whole armor of God". Be ready. Be prepared
"Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desires, he is dragged away and enticed. Don't be deceived my dear brothers..."
Circle "deceived" -- we need to be ready and prepared for temptation. Temptation does not warn you in advance. One of the reasons it's a temptation is because you don't even know it's there. It catches you by surprise. You've got to be ready and on your guard. We are most vulnerable after a tremendous success. We think we're doing OK. The Bible says, "Let him who thinks he standeth, take heed lest he fall." I read this story about Bobby Leach who went over Niagara Falls in a barrel and came out unharmed. A couple of days later he slipped on an orange peel and broke his leg. It's the little things in life that kill us. James is saying, “Be ready, don't be deceived.” So how do we prepare for temptation? Join me tomorrow as we unwrap this incredible book and how to be ready when we are tempted to speed right down sin street.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Blog Message, "SPEEDING, How To Deal With Temptation" Part 1


This weeks blog message is called, "SPEEDING, How to deal with temptation." The Bible talks about two different kinds of testing. One is called trials. The other is called temptation. Both of them use the same word in Greek -- "peirasmos". Sometimes it's translated "trials", sometimes "temptations". It doesn't matter because sometimes a situation can be both a trial and a temptation at the same time. There is a difference though that we need to be aware of. Trials are situations designed by God in order to help us grow. Temptations are designed by the devil in order to cause us to sin.

v. 12 "Blessed is the man who endures temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to them that love him." There is a prize, a reward, for enduring temptation. First it said "blessed" -- happy. Happiness comes from having your life under control, so that there is no bad habit that is devastating you. When you know how to say "no" to temptation it produces happiness in your life. It also says there is a "crown of life". In the Greek this literally means "life itself". James says, when you understand temptation, when you overcome it, when you learn to say "no" then you begin to really live. It is a crown which is life -- abundant life -- itself.

The question is, “How do I handle temptation? How do I say no when I want to say yes?” The book of James is a manual for Christian living that helps us deal with real issues that we all face, like temptation! Here a few things that James highlights.

1. Keep It Real

Face the fact: You will be tempted. Even Christians are tempted. All of us are tempted. "When tempted ... " not "if tempted..." It's just like trials, temptations are inevitable. Have you ever met person who says, "I thank God I have never been tempted in 20 years!" Everybody's tempted. You're tempted. I'm tempted. Every day we're tempted. You never get too old for it. You never overcome it by getting too spiritual. Everybody's tempted. The more you grow toward the Lord, the more you're going to be tempted. It's a fact of life. On the Rugged Road of Reality, all of us encounter temptation.

There's a misconception that says, once you're born again and become a Christ-follower, you've got it all together. You've arrived so you fake it and wear a mask and pretend like, “How could anybody do something like that?” We all are tempted. One of my favorite scriptures is found in I Corinthians 10:13, it says, "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man." That means we all face the same things on the journey. We all have the same temptations, the same problems. Don't be surprised or shocked. Don't try to hide it. Some of you are caught in a compromising situation right now, but it is liberating to know that other people feel the same way you do. We all have the same struggles and problems.

It is not a sin to be tempted. It is a sin to give in to temptation. Did you catch that? Hebrew 4:15 "Jesus was tempted in all points like as we are yet he sinned not." He was perfect. He was tempted but He never gave in. It's not a sin to be tempted. It's a sin to give into temptation. I meet a lot of Christians who are intimidated by temptation. They think "How could I have such a thought?" The devil put it in your mind; it's not your fault. You are human. Temptation proves you're human, not that you're evil. It's not a sin to be tempted, it's a sin to give in to temptation. The more committed you are the more you're going to be tempted because the devil would like nothing more than for you to wreck your life.

Just A Thought

I'm sitting here as we just finished our staff meeting and we were talking about a variety of issues in relation to the future of our church. I was looking over our attendance, visitors and others that I haven't seen in awhile. (We are going to do a new directory next month because I don't know a third of our church.) Anyway, I was just thinking about the fact that I speak to a group of a few hundred people and stare at them for 35-40 minutes every week. When I'm done looking at everyone and then go over attendance 48 hours later, I have such a hard time remembering who was there. I forget really fast and I actually try to remember. It reminds me of reading the Bible. I read it each day and it has been a part of my life for a long time but I still forget. More on this topic this weekend. It's so important to go back and look into God's word each day because I know that I have a tendency to forget. How about you? Just a thought.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Sunday's Message, INTERSECTIONS

Yesterday we had a great day worshipping God and connecting with His Word! We talked about what we should do when we face intersections in our lives and we don't know which way to go. Listen to the podcast for the whole enchilada, but here was some of the things I encouraged everyone to do after you pray for wisdom and believe in faith that God will show you (James 1).
We all encounter times in our lives where we feel as if our minds in a fog and we can't seem to make clear decisions. Here was a few recommendations:
God Shows Us Through The Fog:

FEELINGS (How we feel, do we feel peace and so on)
OTHERS (We should seek wise counsel)
GOD & HIS WORD (God still speaks to us, maybe not through the voice of James Earl Jones, but He speaks to us according to His word)
"God's word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path." Psalm 119:105
"To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his.” Job 12:13

Friday, January 11, 2008

This Weekend!


I'm getting excited about our upcoming weekend experience together. We had a great prayer time together this past wednesday and I'm looking forward to venturing down the rugged road of reality in regards to decision making. I've made my share of poor decisions and I've made a lot of great ones. This week we are journeying through the book of James with a message called, "INTERSECTIONS, How To Make Up Your Mind."
What are the best decisions that you have ever made in your life? Take a few moments and consider that question. It's easy to think about the negative, but what about the positive? What are the 5 best decisions of your life? (that you can think of today) Here's mine
1. Becoming a Christ-follower (hands down)
2. Marrying my wife Michele
3. Having kids
4. Seeing myself as a minister (servant)--which has led to leading & pastoring
5. Developing strong friendships with others


What are yours?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

BLOG Message, Part 5, CRASH TEST

(our series is based on a study of the book of James by Rick Warren)
3 WAYS TO HANDLE THE WRECKS IN YOUR LIFE

THE FIRST WAY IS TO REJOICE (James 1) -see yesterday's blog-

THE SECOND WAY IS TO REQUEST.
Of all times to pray, pray when you've got problems. What do you pray about? v. 5 "If any of you lack wisdom, you should ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault and it will be given to him." You ought to pray for wisdom when you're in the middle of problems. Why should I pray for wisdom? So you won't waste the opportunity to grow. If you don't learn it this time there will be one more lap around the cul-de-sac! God will give you another opportunity. Learn from the problem. We become overwhelmed when we don't understand what God's doing. Pray for wisdom. Wisdom is seeing life from God's point of view. Pray for wisdom to understand the problem. Request. There is no situation of life that you can't learn from if you have the right attitude. Don't ask "Why?", ask "What?". “Why” is to purify your faith, fortify your patience, sanctify your character. But ask "What do You want to teach me in this problem, Lord? What do You want me to learn? What characteristics can I develop?"


THE THIRD WAY IS TO RELAX.
Trust God to know what's best for your life. Co-operate with His purpose so you don't short circuit the process. That's what's called faith. "When he asks he must believe and not doubt." Relax. Let God work.

Blog Message, Part 4, CRASH TEST

(our series is based on a study of the book of James by Rick Warren)
3 WAYS TO HANDLE THE WRECKS IN YOUR LIFE

THE FIRST WAY IS TO REJOICE (James 1)

"Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials ..." v. 1. Don't misunderstand what he's saying. He's not saying "Fake it. Put on a plastic smile, pretend, like we have a tendency to do so often" God never asks you to deny reality. He is not trying to pump you up with false hope and He's certainly not talking about masochism. "Good! I get to suffer! I just love to suffer! I feel so spiritual when I feel bad!" He's not having a martyr complex. We don't rejoice for the problem, we rejoice in the problem. We don't thank God for the situation. Why would I thank God for evil? But I thank God in the situation. One of the most misunderstood verses in the Bible is I Thessalonians 5:18 "In everything give thanks for this is the will of God concerning you in Christ Jesus." If you want to know God's will for your life it's simple. "In everything give thanks." It does not say, "For everything give thanks." Why should I thank God for giving me leukemia? "Thank You for that accident.... Thank You for that war.... Thank You that I just lost my mother." No! What kind of God do you think He is?

It says "In everything give thanks." Why? It means we can thank God because we know that He can even take the bad in our lives and turn it around and bring good out of it. I don't care where your problems come from. You may have caused them yourself. The devil may have caused them. They may be a problem that society has brought on you. But the source of your problems doesn’t really matter. God can use them all for your growth and His glory.

What makes a difference? Your attitude. It says "Consider it pure joy..." The word "consider" means a deliberate look at. It means to evaluate, to make up your mind once and for all. While I'm living in the present, I look to the forward benefit of this problem. Consideration is a choice. Although I cannot control the circumstances that happen to me in life, I can control how I will respond to them.

Victor Frankl, the Jewish psychologist who spent time in the Nazi concentration camp in Germany said, "They stripped me naked. They took everything -- my wedding ring, watch. I stood there naked and all of a sudden realized at that moment that although they could take everything away from me -- my wife, my family, my possessions -- they could not take away my freedom to choose how I was going to respond." You choose to rejoice in the situation.
Psalm 34:1 "I will bless the Lord at all times. His praise shall continually be in my mouth." Even when I don't feel like it, even when things aren't going right. Problems do not automatically produce blessings. For some people, problems destroy them. You'll either be bitter or better. The difference between bitter and better is the letter "i". I make the difference -- my attitude. It's how you choose to respond. Choose to rejoice, that's what I'm doing today!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Blog Message, Part 3, CRASH TEST

(our series is adapted from a study on James done by Rick Warren)
The 2 Ways That God Uses To Make Us Like Jesus

1. Through the word of God. John 17:17 "Sanctify them through Thy truth. Thy word is truth." James 1:22-25 "The word makes us like Jesus" it builds our character, matures us. But even if you read the Bible two hours a day, how many hours of your life are you not reading God's word? God demands even more in the second way.

2. Through the circumstances of life. Here's where James hits it right on the head. So many Christians I meet say, "Everything was going great when I first became a believer. Then all of these problems came. Maybe God doesn't love me. Maybe I'm not a Christian. Maybe I'm not really saved. Maybe I've missed the boat." You are exactly where God wants you. You're in a character course. He's making you like Jesus. Romans 8:28 "We know that all things work together for good" [not all things are good but they work together for good] if we love God and are called according to His purpose." The secret of Romans 8:28 is 8:29 "For whom he did foreknow He did predestine to become conformed to the image of the Son of God." Why do all things work together for good? In order to make me like Christ.

How does God teach us the fruit of the spirit? (Galatians 5:22-23) By putting us in the exact opposite situation. If God wants to teach you love, He puts you around unlovely people. If He wants to teach you joy, He puts you in times of tragedy and sadness so you will learn joy in the situation. Peace? God puts you around chaos. The dinner's burning, the telephone rings, the cat grabs the dog, the kid's diaper is dirty -- that's where you learn peace. It's easy to be peaceful laying on the beach in Tahiti. Anybody can do that. Patience? Through times of waiting. Ephesians says "We are God's workmanship" -- God wants to make a masterpiece out of you. He wants us to be mature, complete, not lacking anything. That is a picture of Jesus Christ. That's what He wants you to be like. Check out this clip that illustrates this well and pray and ask God to help you to become more like Jesus Christ. click here

Blog Message, Part 2, "CRASH TEST"



(our series is adapted from a study on James done by Rick Warren)
3 Ways That The Wrecks (Problems) Add Value To My Life

1) (WRECKS) Problems purify my faith. He uses the word "testing", as in testing gold and silver. You would heat them up very hot until the impurities -- the dross -- was burned off. Job said "He has tested me through the refining fire and I have come out as pure gold." The first things trials do is test our faith. They purify us. Christians are a lot like tea bags. You don't know what's inside of them until you drop them in hot water. Then you know. Your faith develops when things don't go as planned. Your faith develops when you don't feel like doing what's right. It purifies your faith. Christians are like steel; when they're tested they come out stronger.

2) (WRECKS) Problems fortify (make stronger) our patience. "...the testing of your faith develops perseverance." He's talking about staying power, not a passive patience, but staying power, endurance. The ability to keep on keeping on, the ability to hang in there. The Greek here is literally "the ability to stay under pressure." We don't like pressure and we do everything we can to avoid it. We run from it, take drugs, drink alcohol, go to Disneyworld, anything to get away from pressure. But God uses problems in our lives to teach us how to handle pressure, how to never give up. There was a time in my life I prayed for patience, and the problems got worse. Finally, after a while, I realized I was a lot more patient than when I first started out. How does God teach you patience? By everything going your way? No. God teaches you patience in traffic jams, in grocery lines, the waiting periods of life. We live in a comfortable and convenient society. Everybody wants it now. If I can't have it now, forget it. Endurance, today, is a rare quality. Lombardi said, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going."

3) (WRECKS) Problems sanctify (purify) my character. They make me like Jesus. They help me mature. They help me to grow. "The testing of your faith produces perseverance that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." That's God's long range goal. His ultimate purpose is maturity. God wants you to grow up. He wants you to mature. In the Christian life, character is the bottom line. So many Christians I talk to have absolutely no idea of God's agenda in their life. They don't know what's happening and as a result they are overwhelmed by their problems.
God's number one purpose in your life is to make you like Jesus Christ. God is much more interested in building my character than in making me comfortable. If God is going to make me like Jesus, He's going to take me through the things Jesus went through. There were times when Jesus was lonely, fatigued, tempted to be depressed and discouraged. The Bible says there are two ways that God makes us like Jesus, don't miss tomorrow's blog and we'll talk about those 2 ways!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Blog Message Part 1, "Crash Test"


Experience the Journey blog message, Part 1, "CRASH TEST"
(our series is adapted from a study on James done by Rick Warren)
James 1:2-6

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds..."

All of us experience wrecks in our lives. The problems in life many times can overwhelm us and cause us to want to take a permanent pit stop on the Spiritual Journey that God has invited us on. We're going to take some time this week during the blog messages to talk about those wrecks. First things first. There are some realities that we have to face when we are dealing with our wrecks, whether we caused them or not. Every wreck that we encounter is a crash test that we must face that can alter our lives forever. Here are 4 things that you can wrap your life around even if you feel like your skidding out of control.

1. (WRECKS) PROBLEMS ARE INEVITABLE

"... whenever you face trials ..."

Scripture doesn't say, "If you encounter problems consider it joy" but whenever -- count on it, you're going to have problems. If you don't have problems, check your pulse. It is a fact of life. Jesus said "In the world you will have tribulation." Peter said, "Don't be surprised when you have problems." Count on it. Problems are not an elective in life. They are a required course. You don't get out of them by saying you don't want to have any problems. Nobody's immune.

2. (WRECKS) PROBLEMS ARE UNPREDICTABLE.

James says, "...whenever you face problems ..." The word "face" in Greek is "peripipto". It literally means "to fall into unexpectedly". It is the same word used in the story of the Good Samaritan where the man fell among thieves -- it was unexpected. Trials are not planned. We seldom can anticipate the problems we're going to experience in life. That's probably good because if we could anticipate them we'd run the other way and we wouldn't get the benefit from them. We don't plan to have a flat tire, or a crisis. They are unplanned and unpredictable -- when we least expect them. That's what makes a problem a problem. Often it's inconvenient when you fall into it suddenly.

3. (WRECKS) PROBLEMS ARE OF MANY KINDS.

"... trials of many kinds ..."

They come in all shapes and sizes. One thing about problems, you don't get bored with them. There are a wide variety of them. Have you ever tried to match paint? The word in the Greek for "many kinds" is literally "multi colored". There are problems of many shades and varieties. They vary in intensity, they vary in variety, they vary in duration. Some are minor inconveniences. Some are major crises. We have all kinds and shapes of problems.

4. (WRECKS) PROBLEMS ARE PURPOSEFUL.

"Realize that they come ... to produce in you..." (Phillips)

They have a purpose. Pain can be productive. Pressure produces. Suffering can accomplish something. Crash tests are truly tests. It has value in our lives. What value? Come back tomorrow and we'll talk about the 3 ways that the wrecks in your life can add value to you.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Experience The Journey, Part 1



Today we started our new series based on a study of the book of James by Rick Warren called, "experience the journey." If you missed it, be sure and listen to the podcast later this week. In the mean time, here are the notes from the message below. Don't miss our BLOG Message this week called, "Crash Test, How To Grow From The Wrecks In Your Life." That will begin Monday morning so check it out and encourage a friend to do the same. Back to the notes...

Part 1, ROADBLOCKS
How We Become Mature Believers
God's will for every person is personal growth and maturity. The book of James defines what maturity means.
Road blocks to maturity: Many people believe that the road to maturity is blocked unless we have the right stuff in these four areas of our lives...

Road Block #1- Age (we have to be old to be mature)
Road Block #2- Appearance (we have to look a certain way)
Road Block #3- Academics (we have to have the right pedigree)
Road Block #4- Achievement (we have to be successful)

God says that our maturity is determined by ATTITUDE.

5 Turns that spiritually mature people take

Turn #1- A Mature Person is POSITIVE UNDER PRESSURE.
""Consider it pure joy, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith develops perseverance and perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete not lacking anything." James 1:2-4
"Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him." James 1:12

Turn #2- A Mature Person is SENSITIVE TO PEOPLE.
"If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, `Love your neighbor as yourself' you are doing right." James 2:8 (See 2:1-6, 14-16)

Turn #3- A Mature Person has MASTERED HIS MOUTH.
"We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check." James 3:2 (see vs. 3-11)
"Do not let any negative talk come out of your mouth but only what is helpful for building up others according to their needs ..." Eph. 4:29
"If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless." James 1:26

Turn #4- A Mature Person is a PEACEMAKER, not a TROUBLEMAKER.
"What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you?" James 4:1

2 Sources of Conflict:
* (vs. 2-3) Selfishness & Pride
* (vs. 11-12) Judging Others

Turn #5- A Mature Person is PATIENT & PRAYERFUL.
"Be patient then, brothers, until the Lord's coming ... As you know, we consider blessed those who persevere." James 5:7, 11
"The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."
James 5:16b

Do you turn your road blocks into opportunities or obstacles? Since life is a journey that leads us to a destination, where are you headed? Be full of joy despite the challenges that you may be facing because each day is a gift from God! Watch the closing video here

Has anyone seen Jesus lately?


Just when you thought he was in heaven or in your heart, the truth comes out.
click here and look under FOX NEWS VIDEO on the middle right of the page. The video is called, "Image of Jesus appears in Potato."