Will You Be the One?

This week has been an amazing week. We have seen God do what only God can do. I have been at camp with our students in Panama City Beach, Florida.

We have enjoyed the pool and the beach. There were some great games of pool football and yes, my team won!

New friendships were born and others were strengthened.

There were incredible times of worship where I watched our students abandon all to God, with their hands raised to heaven.

There were life changing moments experienced in Small Groups and in quiet times as students met one on one with God.

There were powerful messages that God used to challenge, convict and minister to students (and adults!)

Yes, we saw the Spirit of God move in hearts and change lives this past week!

5 students including a young man from my room, accepted Christ and many recommitted their lives to Him. Countless others made life changing decisions.

Camp brings the fire of enthusiasm and the desire to live for Christ and change the world. Many students may burn out in a month or so, but it is better to be on fire for a month than never to have been on fire at all!

Then, there will be those who stay the course. They will live consistently for Christ and their lives will never be the same.

The beach and the pool will be in the rear view mirror. But these student’s encounters with God will not…

There will be some who continue on.

There will be some who will win their friends to Jesus because of what happened in their lives at camp.

There will be some who step up and become leaders because of what happened at camp.

There will be at least one who will be a future Student Pastor, Missionary or devote his/her life to full time Christian service.

There will be at least one student this week who will experience that ‘defining moment’ in his/her life.

Will you be that one?

Will you be the one who catches fire and let others watch you burn?

Will you be the one?

Get a Passport!

For the past 9 years, Vickie and I have taken a group to El Salvador every February.

The week is always packed full of ministry opportunities: sharing in schools and orphanages, working with churches – painting and cleaning their buildings, helping clean in local neighborhoods, feeding children in cafeterias set up in poor neighborhoods, sharing one on one with people and being involved in other community events.

God has opened the door for a great relationship and welcome arms for us from this small impoverished country.

We have seen over 2000 people receive Christ in our trips. We have ministered, encouraged, prayed, challenged, motivated and invested in the people of El Salvador.

New Season Church has invested…each year, we deliver several bags of gifts given by NSC to the children in the orphanages there. I wish you could see the kids’ faces when they receive the candy, toothbrushes, supplies and toys. We also shoes for each child and our people get to put the shoes on the feet of the kids!

Our trip next year will be February 17-23. The cost will be $1700.00 – This includes roundtrip airfare, hotel and all meals.

This is an “easy” mission trip. When I say that, I mean that we are not dropped off in the jungle and fed worms and zebra. We do stay busy and it is tiring but so worth it! We stay in a decent hotel room where we can sleep and get a warm shower. The food is great and the people are amazing.

Have you ever been on a mission trip? If not, this would be a great first trip for you.

If you have, join us anyway! You will fall in love with the people and have the opportunity to be used to make an eternal difference!

Get a passport!

Spend Some Time

The number one priority of the Christian life is spending time with Jesus Christ. It is absolutely vital for a healthy, growing relationship.

I want to encourage you to make your quiet time – your devotional life, the priority in your life. It is not only the most important thing that you do, but it is necessary for your spiritual growth and your health as a Christian. I challenge you to be intimate with God. It will change your life!

Let me give you some practical things to do to get yourself ready…

First of all, I encourage you to have a time of preparation.

Practically, that means you need to be physically and mentally alert. Some of you are morning people but others are “night owls.” I prefer morning, I am alert, fresh, and my mind is ready so I always have my quiet time first thing in the morning.

My wife Vickie is the opposite, she prefers night time. She stays up until 1:00 or 2:00 am and feels that she is at her ‘best’ at night so for her to have her quiet time in the morning would not work well.

Determine what time is best for you and make sure that you are physically and mentally alert.

Next I advise you to select a time and a location and keep that consistent.

For instance, if it is at 6:00 am in the morning, then try to keep it around 6 am daily. If it is in the afternoon, keep it in the afternoon. Keep that specific time and then focus on finding a specific location.

I have a chair that I have had for many years that is in the sitting area of my bedroom. I use that chair every single day. I read, pray and worship in that chair daily. Even as I write this, I think of that chair and I know how it feels and even what it smells like as I kneel there every day.

Finally, I would encourage you to have the proper tools to enhance your experience…
Your bible, some great worship music, a journal, a pen and tablet to take notes and a devotional to use daily.

The number one priority of the Christian life is spending time with Jesus Christ. It is vital for a healthy, growing relationship. Start spending time with Jesus and watch what happens!

Open Heart Surgery

Aren’t you tired of making the same promises to yourself and to God over and over, yet nothing changes?

We don’t know why after hearing an inspiring message on Sunday that we fall back into the same pattern of behavior by Wednesday. We keep focusing on all the things that we are doing wrong. Our concentration is on our behavior.

We keep telling ourselves, “I am going to be different today. I am not going to lose my temper; I am not going to talk about people; I am not going to be rude and treat people so mean; I am not going to scream at the kids; I am going to control my road rage; I am going to stop ________.” You fill in the blank.

We are on a roller coaster of ups and downs and the cycle seems to be never ending. We do good for a while, then we fall, come back and repent, do good again and then fall again, feeling guilty and aggravated than ever.

We act out who we are. I know that is a tough pill to swallow but it’s true. Who we really are comes out.

Jesus actions stemmed from who he was. What came out of Him was in Him. His “doing” came from His “being.”

The only way we can truly change besides experiencing salvation is to experience sanctification, to grow and to join God in the process of sanctification.

Sanctification is a heart issue. It is allowing God to change you from the inner core of your being.

It is going to take time, patience, hard work and trusting in the grace of God. Prayer, the Word of God, denying yourself, falling deeply in love with Jesus, letting Him renew your mind and sanctifying your heart. You’re going to have to do your part. God has already done His part.

Open up your heart and let Christ invade every part. Fall at His feet, crucify flesh, surrender all, put up the white flag and let Jesus do His work. Cooperate while He operates!

We all need open heart surgery.

Bad News

Have you ever started a conversation off this way or ever heard someone else say, “I have good news and I have bad news…which one do you want first?”

To be honest, I don’t like bad news. Who does? Even if you get some good news, the bad news spoils it. We tend to focus on the negative, not the positive.

I have had my fair share of bad news. (Even this past week) The feeling of disappointment or the lingering questions of “why” or “why now” causes you to second guess yourself.

Or perhaps you find yourself dwelling on the bad news so long that you end up in a bad mood. Wrong thinking always leads to negative emotions.

Negative emotions are, well, they’re just negative! You are sad, angry, discouraged or even depressed. I hate that feeling of “funk” and not having any energy.

In my office on my desk, there sits a stone paper weight. I am actually looking at it at this moment. A quote on it by Albert Einstein reads, “in the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” I am believing that today. I hope you will too.

No matter what bad news you have received, or will receive in the days to come, remember that God is working. Trust Him, lean into Him and rest in His good news. He has a plan. He always works everything out for our good.

Even the bad news!

Independence Day

The Revolutionary War raged nearly a year before independence was declared. 10 out of 13 colonies did not favor independence.

On May 17th, a Day of Prayer was called and in all 13 colonies, people bowed before God to seek His guidance.

Congress convened on July 1,1776, still undecided about independence.

Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence and presented it to the representatives. During the debate, Rev. John Witherspoon, a minister, President of Princeton and Representative from New Jersey spoke and said, “There is a tide in the affairs of men. We perceive it now before us. To hesitate is to consent to slavery. That noble instrument (The Declaration) should be subscribed to this very morning. Though these gray hairs must soon descend to the grave, I would infinitely rather that they descend thither by the hand of the executioner than desert at this crisis, the sacred cause of my country and my God.”

So on July 4th, 1776, the Continental Congress introduced to the world the Declaration of Independence, one of the most important documents in our history.

Independence Day is our country’s most important holiday.

This weekend as we celebrate this holiday, (one that has a rich spiritual heritage…50 of the 55 men who signed the Declaration of Independence were Christians), I want us to see a spiritual parallel to what Jesus did to purchase our freedom from the penalty of sin.

1. They were under bondage from a ruler who wanted to oppress them.
·We were in bondage and under “the prince and power of the air” – Satan.

2. They wanted to be free.
·Jesus said the truth will set you free.
·Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life…”

3. They were willing to separate themselves from that which was comfortable for a higher purpose.

·Matthew 27:46 says, “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

4. The writers of the Declaration of Independence literally gave their lives.
o 5 were captured by the British and tortured until they died.
o 12 had their homes burned to the ground.
o 2 lost their sons in the war.
· Jesus gave His life!

5. Their sacrifice provides us with freedom today!
·Jesus’ sacrifice provides us with freedom. We are set free from the penalty of sin.

Romans 6:18 says, “And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.”

We come together to acknowledge and celebrate Independence Day as a nation on July 4th.

Do you have a spiritual independence day that you can acknowledge and celebrate?

Halfway

Today is the halfway mark through 2017. Half the year is already gone.

Have you accomplished those New Year’s resolutions? Do You even remember what they were?

Okay, how about a different question…What are your goals and are you on the path to accomplishing them?

Take a moment and reflect on both your direction and your speed.

Are you moving in the direction of your goals and your dreams?

Do you have a deep seeded belief that you can achieve your goals?

Do you believe there are endless possibilities opening up for you right now?

Have you gotten off track?

Have your goals come to a screeching halt?

Let this half way mark be the inspiration that you need to get going. I know that it is easy to lose your focus and determination. It’s easy to get distracted and discouraged.

Which one of these are you?
1. You don’t expect to succeed so you’re defeated before you even get started.

2. You always find more reasons why something will not work than why it will.

3. You look forward in resignation and look backward in regret.

4. Your glass is half empty but only for a little while, evaporation happens!

If you find yourself identifying with one or more of these, then try these on for size.
OR
1. Success is never a matter of “if” for you, it’s a matter of when – begin today.

2. You know that anything is possible – now, go do it!

3. You can’t wait until tomorrow because every day puts you closer to your dreams.

4. Your glass is half full, but only for a little while…you are going to need a bigger glass!

You have had six months to think, pray and plan. Now, take action and let the rest of 2017 be your greatest year ever and achieve your goals!

Are You Happy?

When Thomas Jefferson penned the words, “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, he would be shocked at what we call happiness today.

Many people today are pursuing the American dream…get more ‘stuff’. “If I could only live in a bigger house; If only I had a pool in my back yard; If I could drive THAT kind of car; If I could afford designer clothes”, etc…, then I could be happy.

Everyone wants to be happy but there seems to be a huge gap in what we are experiencing and what actually makes us happy.

Here are 3 things that I learned about happiness the hard way…
I. Money will never satisfy or bring fulfillment.
“Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 2:11

“Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless.” Ecclesiastes 5:10

Some people believe and live the accumulation of money will bring them the happiness and fulfillment they desperately desire. There are lots of wealthy people who can’t sleep at night.

II. Learn to be content in Christ through living a life of significance.
“For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” I Timothy 6:7-8

As a young adult, we seem to think that material things and money are the key to success. Many times, our lives are consumed with our quest for this type of “success.” When you get a little older and wiser, you realize that is really not the key to success…you long for significance.

III. Be a giver, not a taker.
“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” II Corinthians 9:7

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25: 35-40

My Pastor taught me that you are never more like Jesus then when you are giving.

Are you happy?

Hope Never Abandons

Jeremiah 29:11 says “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”

Our lives are not in the hands of some invisible force or blind fate. Our lives are in the hands of God. He has the whole world in his hands..That includes your life!

God has a plan for you. You may not be able to see or understand it, but God is working in your behalf.

You have a Heavenly father who is madly in love with you! He is head over hills, crazy in love with you! Trust him, for He is trustworthy.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and he will direct your paths.” Put your trust and hope in Him! Hope never abandons you…You abandon hope.

Maybe right now you think that you have no hope, or maybe you’ve given up on the thought that things could be different. Maybe you’ve heard yourself says things like…”My spouse will never change“, “My kids will never straighten up“, “I will always struggle financially“, “I will never get control of my life“, “My body will never get well“, or “I will never get victory over this particular sin“.

Does any of that sound familiar? Have you given up hope? I want you to know you are not alone. I know what it feels like to be hopeless, discouraged, depressed, and believe that you are ‘futureless’.

Maybe you’re thinking “why try?” “why go on?” “why bother?”.

Those are words of the hopeless.You are not without hope! Jesus is out hope, our confidence, our strong tower!

Be hopeful today. Jesus is the source of hope.

Clear Decisions

There are so many decisions to make about everything! It gets hard choosing between what’s good and what’s better.

Choosing between good and bad is easy. It boils down to what is your goal, your purpose, your end game.

Can you articulate exactly what you want out of life?

Are you focused on specific goals that will not only bring you satisfaction, but new opportunities that will make your dreams come true?

Do you believe that life is full of meaning and purpose?

Do you believe it was meant to be lived to the fullest?

Are your decisions easy to make because your life’s purpose clarifies what is most important?

Do you know that making the decisions of what is most important will chase away those endless things that clutter your life?

What actions can you take now rather than later that will help you get where you want to go?

We all have decisions to make. Are your decisions clear?