Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Memories Part 4

Another one of my Christmas took place when I was 9 years old and in the 4th grade. For months I had been infatuated with a pair of shoes. Now this wasn't just any pair of shoes, it was a pair of high-top Reebok Pumps! For what seemed forever I would look at this pair of shoes and wanted them soooooo bad. My parents who were always good at teaching me lessons in finance and responsibility would not purchase these shoes for me. However they made me a deal. If I would save up half of the cost of the shoes, then they would fund the other half for me to purchase them. This was a great deal! Except I had no source of income as a 9 year old. I saved every cent I could come across in what seemed like years (probably was only a few months but you know the concept of time for a 9 year old). Well Christmas came and with the money my grandparents gave me, I would finally have enough to purchase the shoes! I was so excited and couldn't wait for stores to open back up so we could go purchase this awesome set of footwear. As my parents did so many times in my life, they surprised me with their generosity. I woke up on Christmas morning to get what to me was the greatest Christmas present- the Reebok Pumps! I couldn't believe it. I was so excited! I loved those shoes and took exceptional care. I don't care if they're out of style 19 years later, but I would wear them today if I had a pair in size 14. And that was one of my best Christmas memories! The picture below is almost identical to the pair I had except the green stripe aside was blue and see through. Love those shoes!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

That's What Christmas Is All About!

We wrapped up the series titled "A Better Than Perfect Christmas" this week by taking a look at what this season is really all about. There are so many things in life where we have missed the mark as humans, Christians, and the church in general and this is one of those areas. We must not only take a look at the scripture of Jesus' birth, but allow it to move us to action, to live for Him and to serve Him. I heard a story this week of a local school teacher who read her students "The Greatest Christmas Pageant Ever" and half of her students had never heard of the story of baby Jesus or knew that it is what Christmas is about.

After our time of worship, Paul Gentry opened up by rocking out his guitar to "Christmas Time is Here" while we watched the video of the Peanuts gang ice skating and going about as they do in the movie. At the end of the video everything got quiet as Linus quoted from Luke 2:8-14 and ended with this statement "That's what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown". So going along with that we looked at the Who, What, and Why of Christmas.

1) Who - Who did Jesus come for?
When we look at verse 10 it tells us that the good news the angels were delivering to the shepherds was for "all the people". This means it is for everyone! For you and everyone you love and care for and those you think are good people, and even those people who you despise and can't stand. He came for everyone, period! It wouldn't have been good news if He only came for some people.

2) What - What did Jesus come to do?
Romans 5:6-9 tells us that Jesus came to die for you (and everyone like I previously mentioned). He came to be the substitution of death that we deserved and were headed for. He came to save us from the wrath of God that is real because of our sin, because sin angers God and it should anger us too. He not only suffered a brutally terrible death, He carried the weight of every person's sin that they have ever committed or ever will commit for all of eternity on earth. That's a whole lot of sin! The thought of that should make us want to live our lives for Him!

3) Why - Why did Jesus come to die?
To demonstrate His love for us. Because He loves us. Why would He love me? I don't know but He does and that drives me to serve Him. We show others we love them by giving them presents at Christmas. He gave us His life which is the greatest gift we could ever receive. He left His perfect home in heaven, took on human form, suffered the greatest sufferings imaginable- all to show us that He loves us and to give us life through Him!

We closed the night with prayer time as we listened to the song "How Many Kings" by Downhere. The lyrics to this song are incredible as they challenge us to consider that Jesus was the only king, leader, lord, etc. that gave up His life for all mankind. The best way that I can consider the love of Jesus is like this: If I (or you) were the only person in history throughout all the billions and billions of humans who ever needed a savior, then Jesus still would have come to earth in human flesh and died the same terrible death for me. I truly believe that because I know that's how much God loves me and you. This love that has been displayed for us is what Christmas is all about!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Memories Part 3

My third Christmas memory that I want to share is another one that occurred only in the past few years. In 2007 I came to a point in my life where I knew that God was going to do something different with me than what I had planned for my life, but I didn't know exactly what that meant. Finally after many many hours of prayer and tears I realized in December that God had called me into full time ministry. Only a couple people knew at the time, one of which was my mom. She asked that when our family (grandparents, cousins, uncle, sister, you get the picture) got together if I would either read the Christmas story in the Bible or share something relating to it. I was honored to do so and remember sharing out of Luke 2 and the things that God had been revealing to me in the passage. A few weeks later my granny was with my mom and told her that I "would make a good preacher". My mom shared with her that I felt that God was calling me into ministry. A few weeks after that my granny unexpectedly passed away. She didn't get to see this all come to pass as I am now serving as a youth pastor, and she won't be at my ordination later this month, but I know because of her decision to follow Jesus that she is worshiping Him in a way we can not even fathom. God used my granny to speak to me many times over my life, even in unexpected ways. Being able to share with my family, and my granny on her last Christmas will always be one of my most cherished Christmas memories.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas Memories Part 2

Another one of my favorite Christmas memories takes places after Belinda and I were married a few years. In 2004 we decided to go to Disneyworld the week before Christmas as our present to each other. We love going to Disneyworld, it's probably our favorite vacation place. It's great to go before Christmas because it's the value season and so we can afford it and it's not crowded until the week of Christmas. So we went and enjoyed our time. It was kind of odd wearing shorts in December but I loved it. We headed back home on the 23rd so we would be able to actually spend Christmas at home and spend time with family. We left Florida that morning and I was in shorts since it was so warm, but as we headed closer to Tennessee the temperature started to drop- quite drastically for us since we had been experiencing warm weather. As we got closer to home I finally had to confess to Belinda- "I just can't stand not buying you a present for Christmas!" She said she felt the same way and so we stopped at Wal-Mart about an hour before we got home. I had to put on pants in the parking lot because it was freezing cold to us. Then we went into Wal-Mart, split up and went our separate ways, and did some quick shopping with something like a $30 max we decided upon. I got her the "Indiana Jones" trilogy and she got me a season of "Boy Meets World" on DVD. It was a pretty fun crazy night, and definitely a good Christmas memory!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas Memories Part 1

I thought I would take some time over the next week to post some of my favorite Christmas memories. I love the Christmas season and I always like to think back on some of my favorite times growing up and after I was married as well as making new ones.

I think one of the funniest ones is probably also one of my first memories of Christmas. I was either 3 or 4 years old and at the time He-Man was my favorite toy and cartoon. I remember waking up and that morning I received what had to be the ultimate He-Man toy collection. It included Castle Grayskull (for anyone who remembers the series) and tons of figures. One thing that stands out about that memory is that my mom and dad went back to bed and I remember I kept going into their room to show them things about my toys and they were asleep. Come to find out as I got older I was informed that I had woken everyone up around 3:00 am to go through our Christmas festivities! That is why my parents were so tired. I hate that I woke them up so early but it sure was a good time playing with those toys, and a great memory!

Friday, December 11, 2009

All I Want Is My Fair Share

I thought I would go ahead and post a little bit about what I would spoken on this past Wednesday. Instead we were blessed with a student testimony. But looking at the Charlie Brown Christmas special there is a scene where Charlie Brown's sister Sally asks him to write a letter to Santa Clause for her. She talks in the letter about how good she has been and wants many presents and at the end of the scene she says "All I want is what's coming to me, all I want is my fair share!" Sometimes in our minds we think that in order to have a perfect Christmas that we should receive whatever we think we deserve. The truth is, we don't deserve anything but because of God's love we can receive salvation through Jesus Christ! Here is a few things we should consider on this subject.

1) Be thankful for what we do have- Psalm 106:1-2
We have so much to be thankful for. We have a God who loves us and many of us are blessed beyond what we can imagine. We must consider even if we don't feel this way that there are people who have so little in this world. We are very fortunate!

2) Don't judge the needy
I recently read a post on the Stuff Christians Like blog about how he had a time in the past when he judged those that they were helping at Christmas time. He noticed that these people were driving very nice cars, etc. I can relate because I lack in the area of mercy many times. Its terrible but I admit that a lot of times when I see someone on the side of the road I'm usually quick to think "get a job". I don't know their circumstances and so I shouldn't judge them. When Jesus said to "love your neighbor" in Mark 12:31 He didn't place stipulations on that love.

I think we should all challenge ourselves to do with less this Christmas in order to share the love of Jesus either by giving to those in need and/or giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. To quote an old song by my favorite singer Michael W. Smith- "Love isn't love until you give it away".

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Better Than Perfect Christmas Part 2

We continued our "Better Than Perfect Christmas" series this week with an awesome twist. I had already planned the sermon I would preach this week, but God changed those plans. I was contacted on Sunday night by one of our students stating she needed to share what had been going on in her life and how God had been at work. So last night Addie Ann shared with the group her testimony and the ways that God has been at work in her recently. I believe that when we allow God to work in our lives, that is one of the greatest Christmas presents we can receive. We then need to take that gift and share it with others to bless them and challenge them. What is God doing in your life right now? What has He been revealing to you through personal Bible study? Have you been sharing that with others?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

My Playlist

If you know me then one thing you'll know is that I love music. I love to sing, worship, and play guitar. There have been so many good cd's out lately that I thought I would share some of my favorite songs that I am listening to currently. I'm also very excited that my favorite singer Michael W. Smith is beginning in the studio today writing and recording for his next album.

-How Many Kings - Downhere
-For the First Time Again- Jason Gray
-I Am New- Jason Gray
-Desert Song- Hillsong United
-How He Loves- David Crowder Band
-Shadows- David Crowder Band
-I Need You- Nathan Head
-Safe- Phil Wickham
-Because of Your Love- Phil Wickham
-Follow You- Leeland
-Get Up and Walk- Bethany Dillon
-Everything is Different- Shane & Shane
-You're Not Shaken- Phil Stacey

Most anything by these artists are great. Jason Gray, David Crowder Band, Leeland, Shane & Shane, and Bethany Dillon all have albums that have just recently came out and are all definitely worth checking out!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Awesome Gifts!

A few weeks ago we had our Thanksgiving service and the church also recognized the pastoral staff for "Pastor Appreciation". It was an incredible time to be honored by a church that I love so much. It's very humbling to know that you have a church body who supports you, is praying for you, and loves you! I received some incredible gifts which included a baseball bat signed by the entire youth group and a card from the children's ministry that had the fingerprints of every child in the church and says "When I see you, I see the fingerprints of God!" I love my church and am thankful that God has placed me to serve at Clearwater.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Don't Be Distracted!

It's hard to believe that it's already December and the Christmas season. Since it is I am excited that we are looking at a Christmas theme for this month. The series is called A Better Than Perfect Christmas and is based off the Charlie Brown Christmas Special.

We all have our ideas of what the perfect Christmas would consist of: the right music, gatherings, presents, food, traditions, etc. This is what we find Charlie Brown talking about in the opening scene. He clearly loves all that goes on at Christmas, but he's left feeling depressed each year. This happens easily when we build up something in our mind then it doesn't live up to our expectations. This especially can happen at Christmas when we try to focus on everything but what we should be- Jesus. I know for a fact because I experienced this for several years of my life. Each year I felt like something was missing. I didn't take the time to truly focus on the time to celebrate our Savior coming to earth. I just realized this a few years ago and decided to make a change- to not be distracted anymore.

We read in Luke 10:38-42 about two sisters- Mary and Martha. One sister-Martha- was distracted by things that were good, but wasn't exactly the best while her sister was Mary was focusing on the greatest thing- Jesus! Its very easy with so much going on this month to be distracted. I know I have a fully loaded calendar with good things, but I have to remain focused on Jesus or I will go back to being like Charlie Brown was.

So how do we remain focused and not be distracted by everything going on. Well I think the greatest example to learn from on this is the same exact person we need to be focusing on. In Luke 5:16 it tells us that Jesus would slip away often to pray. It also tells us this in Matthew 14:23 and Mark 1:35. The original Greek construction of the sentence in Luke indicates that it was a continual practice and could also be translated that he was regularly withdrawing and praying. Even though there were increasing crowds following Jesus and demands of his time grew, it did not deter Jesus from spending extensive times in prayer. This of course helped him to stay focused on what he needed to.

Here is a list of some things that I am challenging myself, the youth, and yourself to do this month to stay focused on the miracle of Jesus.
-Pray each morning for protection against distractions throughout the day
-Pray each night over the next day
-Share the true meaning of Christmas with someone that doesn't understand what Christmas is truly about
-Give to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering
-Pray for missionaries
-Give up something for God- bad habit, hobby, purchase, etc.
-Give to someone in need
-Read the account of Jesus' birth in Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2, more than once

Monday, November 30, 2009

Weekly Newsletter

Students and parents of students now have one more way of seeing what's going on in student ministry. Our weekly newsletter "The Point" is now available to view online on the student ministry page of the Clearwater website at

Friday, November 20, 2009

What I'm Thankful For

Yesterday I wrote about the subject of thankfulness that I spoke on this past Wednesday. So here is my list of what I'm thankful for. Some will are serious and some will be silly but I am definitely thankful for all of these and certainly couldn't sum up on a blog post everything that God has blessed me with, but here's a start.

-First of all I'm thankful for God, His love for me, His sending of Jesus to die for me so that I could be saved and have an eternal relationship with Him when I never deserved anything. I'm thankful for the fact that He keeps His hand on me and never turns His back on me when I can be a wretch and undeserving of His mercy and love.
-My wife Belinda. Words can't express the feelings I have for her. I'm in awe each day that she would even care about me and loves me the way she does. I'm humbled by how she supports me and stands by me in every aspect in life and she never gives up on me. I'm thankful we get to spend the rest of our lives together.
-My calling from God- I'm thankful for the calling that God has placed on my life. I'm extremely humbled that He would call an unqualified person like me to represent Him. I love the fact that I get to do what I do!
-My family- especially my mom and dad- they taught me values and respect that I admire and am thankful they instilled in me. I'm thankful they gave me opportunities and care for me the way they do.
-Other Family- my sister, brother-in-law, nieces, nephew, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, etc. These people have influence me and shaped me to who I am today and have supported me throughout the years.
-Friends- I've heard it said that if when you count your friends that there are more than you can count on one hand then you are blessed. I feel that I fall into this category.
-My partners in ministry- I couldn't ask for greater friends/family/partners to minister with to lift each other up, support one another, and take on hell with a water pistol with.
-Music- I love music and am especially thankful for the music of Michael W. Smith, Jason Gray, Phil Wickham, David Crowder, They Came Running, Leeland, etc.
-My guitar- Martin DCX1KE- love it
-Egg Nog
-Coffee- especially from Java on the Square
-Video Games- the New Super Mario Bros. Wii rocks!
-My Jeep- I'm ready for spring already to take the top off!
-My Macbook- I could never go back to a PC
-Anyone who was willing to read this and actually care what I have to say- Thanks!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

What Are You Thankful For?

Its that time of year where there's constant talk of turkey, parades, football, and Black Friday. Yes it's Thanksgiving next week and so last night we focused on the subject. I asked the students to tell me a few things they are thankful for and some of their favorite Thanksgiving foods (my favorite Thanksgiving food is Buttermilk pie, and I don't like turkey). The other night I asked my 5 year old nephew Noah to come sit in my lap and tell me what he is thankful for. He thought for a minute and then without my prompting looked at me and said "Jesus and God", which brought tears to my eyes. Then he proceeded with a long list that included "food, drink, tv, video games, couch, house, family, dog, etc. As we think about all the things we are thankful for I challenged the students with a tough question. Its the kind of question we know how we want to answer it, but we need to consider how we would truthfully react in the situation. I asked them this: "If you woke up tomorrow and had nothing at all, would you still be thankful?" If everything you have today that you are used to- home, friends, family, possessions, etc. If all of that was gone and left you with nothing but Jesus, would you still be thankful. Its a tough thought and I hope that no one would ever experience that type of situation. I personally know that I need to be in love with Jesus to the point that He is all I need and all I want. I believe that's what it means to be a true follower of Christ. Its not to say that we would be disappointed or hurt when we experience loss in our lives, but that we realize that Jesus is so much more valuable.

We are told in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 to give thanks in everything. When we endure hard times- we need to give thanks. This is why we sang Desert Song last night. I love the theme of this song about how no matter what we are going through in life- we have to bring praise and acknowledge that God is sovereign and in control, and most importantly that He loves us through it.

I asked the students to enter into a time of prayer and consider these four things to ask God, which we need to pray each and every day.
1) Ask God to reveal to you what you need to be thankful for
2) Ask God to give you a thankful attitude and heart
3) Ask God to give you a greater love and appreciation of Him
4) Ask God to show you how blessed you are

I then had the students write down on a card the things that they are thankful for. I urge you to do the same as well. Think about what you're thankful for and share it with others. I'll be posting my list soon.

Monday, November 16, 2009

For Such A Time As This

Have you ever heard the phrase "for such a time as this"? I was kind of blown away last night when I asked the students this and none of them had ever heard this. I've heard this many times over my life such as when someone has talked about where God currently has them. We looked at the book of Esther which can be quiet interesting on many levels regarding the writing, history, etc. When the Jews were going to be massacred because of the decree that Haman had the King issue, Mordecai asked his cousin Esther who had become the queen to intercede. Esther had been an orphan earlier in life, was adopted by her cousin Mordecai, then eventually rose from underdog to become the queen of Persia. Mordecai urged Esther to risk her life and confront the king to change the decree and tells her in Esther 4:13-14 that she may have become queen for "such a time as this". In other words Mordecai was saying to Esther that maybe God had placed her as queen in order to save her people. God places us where He wants to us to serve Him and be used. We need to ask ourselves each day if we are exactly where God wants us to be. Also during the hard times we need to realize that God has us where we are for a reason. We have to trust in Him and seek Him to find out exactly how He wants to use us during these times.

So ask yourself, in the midst of my circumstances, situations, etc. am I seeking how God can truly use me. Because He has placed you where you are for such a time as this.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Where's Your Allegiance

As we continued the Follow the Leader this week we focused on allegiance. How do you know if someone is a Christian or not? How do people know if you are a Christian? If we are a follower of Jesus then it should imply action- and that our actions imply it. When I think of allegiance for some reason I think of how the Nazi's were devoted to Hitler. They believed his ways were right and so they devoted their lives to him. They denied personal control to follow his leadership. This is exactly what Jesus is saying we should be like if we are a follower of Him in Luke 9:23. Sometimes in this world there is a difference in belief and action. We say we believe one thing but don't act like it. If we believe God's Word then we should act like it. Some take different paths when it comes to allegiance and their actions don't line up with what they say they believe. We looked at the following 3 types of allegiance.

Selective Allegiance
This is when people show allegiance to God in areas that match up with their desires, goals, and pursuits as long as it takes them in the direction they are already going. These people have this mentality- "I'll follow you God but don't ask for my allegiance to the degree that will mess with my life and the way I want it to be. I'm a Christian but don't ask me to forgive people when they hurt me, don't ask me to stop having pre-marital sex, and don't ask me to treat people like Jesus would." My fear is that these people are why its so hard to minister to lost and unchurched people today. Jesus makes it very clear in Revelation 3:16 that he pukes these people up because they are so disgusting to Him.

Qualified Allegiance
This is when people say they follow God as long as He does what He says He will do. But the moment that God doesn't answer a prayer the way they want or in the time frame they want then they're out. These people treat God like a waiter- they'll give a good tip as long as they're served the way they think they deserve. The thing is- God doesn't owe us anything but His love, mercy, and grace surround us!

Divided Allegiance
This is when people say they'll follow God and (fill in the blank). Its like having 2 favorite baseball teams- eventually they have to play each other and you'll have to choose. In Mark 10 the rich young ruler was told by Jesus that in order to follow Him that he needed to sell everything and give to the poor. The man was sad because he was rich and didn't want to give that up to follow Jesus.

Our allegiance is tested often. You may have your allegiance tested today. So how do people know if you're a Christian or not? Is it because of your beliefs? Or because your actions show that you truly follow Christ?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

You Can't Follow Without Leaving

We started a series the week called "Follow the Leader" where we will talk about what all it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. This first message was about how when we're called to be follower's of Jesus we are required to leave stuff behind. We've all had that feeling like we've forgotten something and left it behind. Or maybe we've given up something for a while like sweets, cokes, etc. It can feel strange when this happens. It may feel unnatural at first to give up something in order to follower Jesus but that's what we're called to do. We looked at a couple of examples of people who didn't want to leave everything behind to follow Jesus and those who did.

Leaving or abandonment was a common element when Jesus called disciples to follow Him. It was tradition in these days for a group of men to follow a rabbi. They would take pride in their rabbi and would travel around with them everywhere trying to learn as much as possible. The scribe or teacher pursues Jesus. He would have been someone that was looked up to in society. Jesus knows his heart and that the man wants to follow Jesus maybe to gain fame or notoriety that might come from following Jesus. So Jesus is honest with him and says if you're going to follow me, I want you to know that I'm pretty much homeless. Jesus didn't try to sell him on a lie, he was completely honest with him about the fact that it may be tough, even though the blessings will outweigh the cost. Jesus wasn't about getting as many followers as possible, he wanted dedicated and committed followers

This guy is already a disciple but not one of the 12. At this time there was probably around 100 or so people who followed Jesus around. This passage used to confuse me until I studied the context of it. I used to think that Jesus wasn't allowing the man to go to his dad's funeral. But the truth is that the man's father hadn't died yet. When he said let me go bury my father what he really meant was this- Jesus I want to follow, but let me wait until my dad dies so I can gain his inheritance. In other words he was saying- Jesus I want to follow you, but just not right now. The scary thing about this kind of mentality is that none of us are promised another second so we may not live until that later time. Also if this is your mentality then your heart may harden over time and you never actually get around to truly following Jesus

Matthew would have been despised because of his occupation as a tax collector who would overcharge the citizens in order to make money. Matthew could have had many excuses for not following Jesus maybe because he might have thought he wasn't good enough to follow Him. However he left his job, the wealth, and the wickedness to follow Jesus.

Jesus has Peter take him out in the water and drop his nets to catch fish. Peter agrees even though they hadn't caught anything for a while and they catch so much fish that the nets began to break and they fill two boats with fish. After this Peter, James, and John left everything- they're business, boats, supplies, all the fish they had just caught, everything in order to follow Jesus

When Jesus called you to follow Him, he called you to follow Him completely. May seem hard at first, but will become easier with time. Some people treat their relationship with Jesus like this- "I'm going to follow Jesus and be a Christian but still get drunk, have pre-marital sex, do drugs, cuss, cheat, lie, gossip, be mean to people, ignore the kid in class who doesn't have friends, disrespect my parents, not read my Bible because I can listen to it being read at church, go to school where I want, choose my own career, etc. But I encourage you to ask yourself this honestly- "If you had to choose between God and (fill in the blank)- what would you choose?" The Bible clearly tells us you can't serve two masters. You need to make Jesus your only pursuit. When this happens your relationships, career, school, all decisions will be determined by where He leads you. As you follow Him these decisions will all be based on following Him. Is there anything you need to leave behind so that you can truly be a follower of Christ?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

If Jesus Can Change Me...

At Clearwater Baptist Church we are about to be in the second weekend of our Lucifer's Lies drama which is a drama about spiritual warfare and how Satan lies to us. So far there have been 5 performances and this weekend there will be 6 will and one that is youth only followed by a youth rally. We have seen 17 people saved and numerous rededications so far. Its so incredible to see these lives changed each night by Jesus.

The very first performance I had the privilege to counsel a 16 year old who had been saved. This teenager was shaking from the experience he had just encountered. I wish everyone could have heard this guy talk. He had been involved in satanic worship. He told me that years ago a peer had asked him what religion he followed to which he replied 'nothing'. This other guy had told him to become a follower of Satan because he would give him whatever he wanted. He thought this would be great because nobody had ever cared enough about him to share their faith with him and only saw him as the child who stayed in trouble. So for years he followed these lies until this night that Jesus saved him. He was so excited about the change that had taken place in him and the changes he was making. It was obvious by listening to this young man that he had been completely changed by Jesus. As I shared with him and gave him a copy of the Gospel of John and a devotional I asked him the following question- "Now that Jesus has saved you what are you going to do?" His reply was quite simple but so inspiring- "I'm going to tell all my friends. If Jesus can change me then He can change anyone!" The blood of Jesus can change anyone. We must remember this. We must not give up on people and listen to the lie that there is no hope for them. If we've been saved by Jesus, then we need to truly show it so that there is never a question to whether or not we are a Christian.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

It's Been A While

Well it's been a while since I've blogged and so to the two of you who actually read this I'm very sorry. We've been on vacation and since we've been back we've been working on the Youth House and stuff but I'm ready to share my heart on here today. I just ran across some startling statistics published by the Souther Baptist Convention. Many of these I have read before and it's sad stats like this that the church and me as a youth pastor have to allow to fuel us to do something toward changing it.

- 80% of churches are in decline.
- 10,000 Southern Baptist Churches failed to baptize one person last year.
- 11,000 SBC churches baptized less than six persons last year.
- 98% SBC churches baptized less than 29 people last year.
- Southern Baptist baptized as many in the 1950's as we do today.
- Approximately 60% of SBC failed to baptize at least one teenager last year.
- 75% - 85% of all conversions occur prior to the age of 16.
- 88% of our teenagers will drop out of church after high school.
- America is the fourth largest unreached country in the world.
- only 1 in 20 churches is growing by conversion growth.
- 3,000,000 people are leaving the church every year.
- The most credible evidence reveals that Americans attend church on any given weekend.

This is why I'm so passionate about making a change, especially to the statistic that 88% of teenagers will drop out of church after high school. This is why we have to do effective ministry and not just do church anymore the way some have twisted it to be. I just wanted to share these with you and hope they tug at your heart like they did mine.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Engage- Go & Pray

Yesterday was a special day in this country. A day that is celebrated each year on the last Wednesday in September. I'm talking about See You at the Pole day. This is an incredible opportunity for students to exercise our freedom by surrounding the flag pole at their school and pray. I had the privilege of joining the local high school for this event and its great to see students joining together for prayer. This year's theme was "Engage- Go & Pray" and focused on the story of King Josiah. I felt that this was a great opportunity to preach on the subject to tie it in with the day's event.

First of all, what all comes to your mind when you hear the word revival? When I was a kid and probably until the past several years I always thought of a series of meetings we had at church that to me seemed to last forever (I mean like Squints on The Sand Lot saying FOR-EV-ER). That was my view of revival and while those gatherings do fit the definition, I think we all probably know that our nation, communities, and churches are in desperate need of the type of revival that is a spiritual reawakening. We even hear it mentioned a lot in church in the form of prayer requests. I heard a quote this week that said something to the fact of "In order for revival to take place, there must first be vival". We all know that vival isn't a word but in order for a reawakening to occur, people must have been awake in Christ in the first place. I also heard some startling statistics that bothered me. 80% of churches in America are declining (a church can have increasing numbers and still be declining). Also each year in America 3500-4000 churches close their doors. Why is this happening? We need revival and most revivals in the history of the world began with young people or teenagers. King Josiah began one of the greatest revivals in the Old Testament at the age of 16.

We looked at the beginnings of this in 2 Chronicles 34:1-19. King Josiah began to live a life of radical obedience. This means that he was willing to get rid of whatever- and I mean whatever was a hinderance to his and everyone's spiritual growth. This means he tore down the idols and altars that had caused them to stray from God. Are you willing to live a life of radical obedience, getting rid of anything that is bringing you down? It could be anything from friends to television to your cell phone, etc. Even if it isn't something that is necessarily bad but is keeping you from growing closer to God, then it has become a bad thing and you need to get rid of it.

In verse 8 King Josiah decides to restore the temple and during the process they find the Book of Law (Genesis through Deuteronomy)-verse 14. After it was read to him in verse 19 he tore his robes because he realized the kingdom hadn't been following the law the way it should and it grieved him. We should feel the same way about sin. We should be grieved and distressed about it.

My desire is to see this generation stand up for God like never before. I believe that God is calling this generation to do this. It's time for us get serious about our faith, get rid of anything that is holding us back, and grow closer with God. For revival to begin in our churches, schools, communities, etc. it must first begin with each and every one of us.

The verse that this year's SYATP theme was derived is 2 Kings 22:13a that Message puts this way "Go and pray to God for me and for the people..." This is King Josiah's statement after he realizes their disobedience against the law. In other words the king was saying in order for us to change, we have to pray for each other. This is what ministry is about- lifting/building each other up. We must pray for each other. We must engage in prayer making it a priority. When we do this and get rid of the things in our life that are holding us back, then revival begins.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Whew, that felt good!

This morning I had the incredible opportunity to lead worship at Christ Legacy Academy's chapel. Nineteen students along with teachers, parents, and some board members gathered for their weekly chapel meeting. During this time students shared what they are currently learning, some quoted scripture passages, an essay was read, etc. Also during this chapel our associate pastor Jason spoke to the students about prayer.

I've been leading worship for over two years now, mainly at youth services but other settings every so often. As always it was a great time where I enjoy using the gifts that God has given me. We sang three songs and at the end of the last song "How Great is Our God" a 1st grade student made the statement out loud "Whew, that felt good!" I laughed and responded "It sure did". It's been a neat thing to think and laugh about all day but the more I think about this moment I've been a bit bothered. Definitely not by the fact that this young girl professed out loud her emotion because I'm very proud of her for that, but that I didn't necessarily feel the same way. Of course I agree with the lyrics and love singing as I have numerous times, but I wasn't overcome with that excitement that she felt about praising our wonderful God. The thing is that I don't worship freely most of the time. I admit it. I fall into the sin of worrying about what others are thinking about me while I'm playing/singing and I miss out on the opportunity to worship like I should. I worry about whether or not I'm going to play the right chords, or sing the right lyrics, or even sing in the right key (which I probably don't anyway). Don't get me wrong, I love to play guitar and worship, but for some reason I hold back. And for some reason I feel like posting this today. I'm not sure exactly why. Maybe so you can pray that I will worship freely like I should. Maybe so you can examine yourself to see if you do the same. Anyway I realize today even more how I want and need to take advantage of the freedom I have to worship freely in this country and how I can approach the throne of God freely because of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross. I want every time I sing praises to God to be able to say at the end- "Whew, that felt good!"

Monday, September 21, 2009

When God Has Been Revealed

I concluded the Reveal series this past week by taking a look at a time when God was revealed to Moses and the events surrounding. First, have you ever been singing a song to find out you've been singing the wrong lyrics? Have you ever been doing something to learn you've been doing it wrong? What is your reaction when this happens? Sometimes its quite funny when we've been singing the wrong lyrics. However when we learn new information, no matter what it is, our way of thinking or even acting changes. If you learn the correct song lyrics then you shouldn't continue to sing the wrong lyrics. It should be the same with God. When we have an encounter with God, then our way of thinking and acting should change.

If you look at Exodus chapters 31-33 we see a time when Moses went up Mt. Sinai for the 1st time for 40 days and receives the 10 commandments. While up there the Israelites freak out (which they were good at) and start worshipping the golden calf they created. Moses reacts with just a little bit of rage and then after God says he wants to completely destroy the Israelite nation and start over with only Moses, then Moses intercedes on their behalf. During the next little bit of chapters 33 and 34 we read about an incredible encounter between Moses and God. God revealed Himself to Moses and here are the 3 main points we looked at surrounding this encounter.

1) Moses allowed God to reveal Himself and even asked for Him to- Exodus 33:18
-We have to make ourselves available to God. If we come to church each week unwilling to listen, then we are not making ourselves available to God. We can even do this while reading our Bible daily and being involved in spiritual activities. If we do it out of habit or an ulterior motive, then we don't give God the chance to speak to us. Consider all you do during the week including spiritual activities. Do the amount of time invested in these add up to more than the amount of quality time you spend with God?

After this Moses goes up Mt. Sinai a second time for 40 days. During this time he writes on the 2nd set of stone tablets the words of the covenant and the 10 Commandments. Also during this time God renews His covenant with Moses and the Israelites.

2) When God revealed Himself to Moses- Moses did what God commanded Him to do- Exodus 34:32
-When God tells you to do something- do it! When God tells you to not do something- don't do it! That's pretty easy to understand but we don't always follow this because we want to be in control and don't like to give control to God.

3) Moses was changed because of his encounter with God- Exodus 34:29-30
-Moses was changed because of His encounter with God and it was obvious. His face was shining. Not only that but there was a change inside of Moses. When we spend time with God and He reveals Himself to us, we're changed- we're not the same. We change our way of thinking and acting. People should see a difference in you when you've been with God.

Ask yourself this- Can people see a difference in me because of my relationship with God? I'm not meaning do people know that you go to church, because you can go to church all day long and not be changed if you don't allow yourself to be. Are you allowing God to transform you? I love Max Lucado's quote- "God loves you just the way you are, but He refuses to leave you that way. He wants you to be just like Jesus." I challenge you to allow God to change you.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

These Are the Days

Thursday is usually the day when I post the notes from the previous night's sermon but today I have something different I want to write about. I'll definitely post them either tomorrow or Monday because it was definitely a sermon I enjoyed preparing and preaching.

You ever have one of those days when the most random song pops into your head? I'm not talking about just any song, but one you haven't heard in years? Well this morning was one of those times. Belinda and I struggled to get up this morning, probably because we stayed up late talking. Sometimes it takes me a while to gear down after a Wednesday night and with the recent action of cutting our satellite we sometimes are left to entertain each other by talking, which is quiet alright with me. So because of that we struggled to get out of bed and as I did almost immediately a song popped into my head that I hadn't heard in years. It was a song that I would have listened to at a strange time in my life several years ago when I definitely wasn't focused on God. Don't get me wrong I was going to church and stuff, but that was about it. There was no depth to my walk with Jesus.

So this song just randomly starts playing in head and the lyrics went something like this.......These are the days when all that I can do is dream. This made me think-which can sometimes be dangerous when I first wake up. It made me think of the dreams I have for my own life, my family, ministry, etc. I'm reminded of Proverbs 29:18 that pretty much says when we don't dream, then we have direction. Now we have to make sure our dreams are of God, but I believe we need to dream big. I love this quote by Steven Furtick- Has anybody laughed at your vision lately? If not, you may not have a vision from God. Probably just a daydream. As this obscure song played in my head I wondered what God might be saying. While God wants us to dream big, there has to come a point where that's not all we do. We must continue dreaming and allowing God to lead us, but we have to put into action the plan that leads to those dreams coming to pass. I tell the students, and myself, that the people in the Bible who did huge things are not just unattainable examples for us to read about. Sure we'll probably never doing anything that seems as huge as parting the Red Sea, but anything we do for God is just as significant from His standpoint. So for whatever reason I have this song in my head today, because of it I feel challenged to realize that- yes, these are the days. These are the days where we're meant to not only dream of what God wants us to accomplish, but to set out action to do it as well. I want to continue to dreaming big but when I get to heaven I don't want God to say "Congratulations, you were a big dreamer" which I know He wouldn't say but I want to hear "Well done!"

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Reveal Part 4- Listening

A couple weeks ago I spoke on talking to God and dissected the "How" in prayer and so this week I spoke about the 2nd half of prayer which is listening. Listening to God is something we possibly all struggle with. I know I do and so that made this a very tough sermon to preach. Not because it was stepping on toes or anything like that because it's always a tough question to answer when someone ask about how to hear from God. However there are things we can do in order to make it easier to hear from God so that He can reveal Himself to us.

Every once in a while my wife and I will be having a conversation and something will be mentioned and the other one will say "I didn't know that". At that point the other one says "Yes, I told you that a few days ago". We all at some point are dealt the disappointment of telling someone something that we thought was important enough to tell them and they don't remember it or didn't listen in the first place. We all want to be heard when we speak. On the flipside at some point or another we all need a word at times. We all need words of encouragement and affirmation whether it is by a parent, teacher, coach, etc. We also need a word from God. I know there are times when I can feel hopeless or even desperate and I'll need a word from God. I need Him to speak to me and give me direction. We have to realize though that God is always speaking, but sometimes like we do with each other we miss hearing HIs voice and what He has to say to us.

The main scripture passage we read was John 10:22-30 and focused primarily on verse 27. Jesus says here that His sheep know His voice. If we truly know God, then we will know His voice when He speaks. We need to realize however that since there is no one like God, then He speaks differently than anyone else. We sometimes think that we can act like a little kid with God and keep begging and yelling in order to get our way but God doesn't compete with our noise level, and we have to be willing to accept whatever it is that He is saying to us. God never stops speaking, but we may not always like what He says. However just as in praying that His will be done, we have to be willing to accept whatever His will is and what He says.

Things to do to listen to God
-You must know His voice to be able to hear it. A musician is unable to know if their instrument is in tune or not the first time they pick it up. Over time they are able to determine if it is in tune because they know how it sounds. The same is with our relationship with God, the more time we spend with Him the easier it is to recognize His voice.
-Be still - Be quiet - Get alone. God does speak in loud times, but it makes it much easier to hear Him when we get quiet. This is something I struggle with because I love music so much. I love to have music playing when I study, read, etc. But what I'm learning more and more all the time is that if I get alone and get quiet, then it's easier for me to focus on listening to God.
-Get rid of any sin in your life. Sin blocks us from hearing God. Simply put.
-Wait patiently. Know that God hears your cry and may desire for you to lean on Him more as you wait on the answer. Psalm 40:1

How do I know if it's God speaking?
This is definitely something we need to ask ourselves. It's crazy some of the things that people will sometimes say that God has told them.
-Ask yourself if what you think He is saying is actually Him or if it's really something you want
-Seek godly counsel for advice
-Be comforted in knowing that God will never lead you to go somewhere He isn't already there- Deuteronomy 31:8
-Know that God never confuses you, only Satan confuses
-Know that God will never tell you anything or tell you to do anything that contradicts Himself, His nature, or Scripture. He will never tell you that it's ok to download illegal music- even if it's Christian music. He'll never say it's ok to pirate movies, break the speed limit, get revenge on someone, etc. It's not going to happen so if you think God is telling you to do something that goes against His nature, then it's not from God!

What is God speaking to you right now? Don't be frustrated trying to listen to Him, but actually take time to listen to what He is saying. I encourage you to take some time today, and everyday to get alone, be quiet, and ask God to speak to you.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Reveal Part 3-Speaking to the Unseen

This week as we continued our "Reveal" series we talked about prayer. How could God reveal Himself to us if we never engage in conversation with Him? I didn't necessarily talk about how much we need to pray or a specific formula, but what our prayers should consist of.

First think about some of the silly things you may have prayed for in your life. Go ahead, you know you've asked God to give you something and when you look back you realize how silly it was. When we think about prayer it all comes down to whether God is going to answer yes or no and when He doesn't answer the way we want we ask the question WHY? We may even ask what we're doing wrong in order for our prayers to not be answered how we want but the question we first need to ask is HOW? Now for years I believed for some reason that it was wrong for me to ask God the question "why", but later discovered that it's ok, but can't be our main focus. We need to ask the question "how?" The disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray and from that we're given some scripture that most people know. If you ever played a sport you possibly even stated it as a team before playing. It's pretty discouraging b/c I think some of the sports teams I played for would recite it thinking it gave us a special power or something, but not really reciting it with much thought of what we were actually saying. One account of the Lord's prayer can be found in Matthew 6:9-13. After looking at this scripture we looked at 3 words to help unlock the "How" in prayer.

1) React
-We are to react to His glory
-When we learn how to pray, we have to learn how to react to God
-When it says "Hallowed be Your name"- its saying God you are incredible
-We wouldn't bottle up prayers into a short time if we truly reacted to who God is
-The Psalms were written prayers in reaction to who God is, written in song
-When we sing worship songs they should be sung in prayer- reacting to God's glory

2) Become
-We are to become like Him
-When it says "Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven" it's saying that we want God's will to line up with our life;
His joy, His heartaches, and what He wants for our life
-We may pray this easily, but not truly mean it
-When we do this, true confession comes out of our lives b/c we are honest and realize that we're wrong and are sorry for making it about our own will

3) Ask
-This is the part we all understand
-When it says "Give us this day our daily bread" it is saying- "God just give me enough, only what is necessary and not the things that
I just want
-"And for give us our debts"- we ask God for forgiveness of our sins, but also as we have forgiven those who have hurt us
-"And do not lead us into temptation"- God keep us safe from trials and keep us safe from the enemy

We usually ask the "Why" when it comes to prayer but we instead need to ask "How". We ask the why b/c we may say things like "God I just want my prayers answered" or "I just want my circumstances to change" but what we have to realize is that God is answering those prayers but just not how we want them to be. We must realize that everything we want is not necessarily what we need.

I'm reminded of spending time with my nephew recently. I love my nephew Noah so much it's unreal. I told the students last night to imagine the coolest kid ever, then multiply it by 100 and you have my nephew Noah. He is so much fun and I love him so much. Recently I was praying over him and wanted to ask God things like "God always keep him from enduring any hardships" and "Keep him from experiencing heartache" but I couldn't pray these things because I knew that God couldn't answer yes to all of that. The reason God can't answer yes to all of that is because in order for Noah to become the man that God is calling him to be, then he has to endure some hardships and heartaches. Jesus even told us we would endure trials. So if Noah never endured any of this in life, then he wouldn't be molded and shaped like he is supposed to. I think in my own life the heartaches and trials I have faced and even when I think of them it makes scars re-emerge but I know that if it wasn't for those things that I wouldn't be the person today that God shaped me to be. It's during those hard times that I go to God in prayer- I react to His glory, I become like Him asking for His will to be done, and I ask for those things that align with Him.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tanner the "Love Addict"

A few weeks ago at the Crossover Ministry they had a talent show. My good friend Tanner Hutsell stole the show when he and Ariel did a routine to Family Force 5's "Love Addict". So here is the video for your enjoyment.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Younite Bible Study- Day 3

Day 3- Unity With God

What are your thoughts when you read today’s title? If you are a Christian then maybe you think about the moment you were saved and how there was no longer a barrier between you and God. Maybe you think of how when some day you pass on from this life and are united with God in Heaven. These are both great responses but consider the following question. Does your life reflect that you are united with God. Take a moment and read Matthew 12:30. This verse tells us that if we are not with God then we are against Him. In other words if we don’t live for God, then we are His enemy.

Begin by praying, praising God for who He is and thanking Him for blessing you. Then ask Him to speak to you through this time of Bible study. Finally ask Him to speak to you while you are on your ministry site today. Ask Him to stretch you spiritually and give you opportunities to share the love of Jesus with others.

Read Romans 6:1-7

Seriously think about the following questions:

-Has there been a moment in my life when I became a Christian by accepting Jesus as my savior?

-If so then is my life truly reflecting that I have been changed by Jesus?

-Am I living my life for myself or truly for God?

-Are you truly in love with God, or just the “stuff” that He provide you?

If you are reading this and realize that you have never accepted Jesus Christ as your savior, then please get with an adult right now and talk to them about becoming a Christian.

If you are reading this and know that you are truly saved, but have not been living your life totally for God, then repent and change. Lean on God and allow Him to take control of your life. If you need to pray with an adult or if you have any questions, then don’t hesitate at this point to get with someone.

Close this time by praying that God will draw you closer to Him. Thank God for seeking after you even when you may be running from Him. Ask Him to remove any barriers that will hinder you from being united with Him and being able to experience the relationship with Him that He desires to have with you.

Younite Bible Study- Day 2

Day 2- Unity Within the Church

When you hear the word church, what all comes to mind? A group of believers? A building? Clearwater? Do you think of a group of people with the same purpose in mind- that is to reach the lost? If not then it’s pretty saddening. The purpose of the church is not to be a club or anything like that, but to be a group of believers united with the purpose of reaching out to others and sharing Jesus with the lost! That should be the main purpose and is the example of the church that can be read about in the book of Acts. If the church (not any specific one but the Christian church) is going to set out to reach the lost, then we must become united. As anything you try to accomplish in life, it’s always easier when you have others helping you and you don’t try to do it alone.

Begin by praying, praising God for who He is and thanking Him for blessing you. Then ask Him to speak to you through this time of Bible study. Finally ask Him to speak to you while you are on your ministry site today. Ask Him to stretch you spiritually and give you opportunities to share the love of Jesus with others.

Read Exodus 4:13-17, 27-31

God used both Moses and Aaron to accomplish His plans. He could have done His work without either of them, but He chose to let both of them play a part in a much bigger picture. The same goes for us. God can still accomplish His plan without us, but He chooses us to be a part of it. That should make you excited knowing that God wants to use you, even though you are a sinner because that’s how much He loves you and how much potential He sees in you.

Ask yourself the following questions: What is your purpose in being involved in church? Does your purpose match what was described above as being the church’s purpose? If not then why? If your purpose does not match the church’s, then stop right now and ask God to change your heart so that it will.

Here is something else to consider. It was mentioned yesterday about the possible large amount of lost people in McMinn County but consider this. Billy Graham has made the statement that he believes that 85% of the church is lost. Now there is no way any human can know for sure, but this is startling to say the least. Does it burden you that maybe a huge hindrance in unity within the church is that many be lost when they think they are saved?

Close this time by praying for unity within the Christian church. Pray that the church will not allow Satan to be a hindrance in any way. Also pray that you will not be a hindrance in the church in any way.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Reveal Part 2- Pursuing the Image

We continued this week looking at the "Reveal" theme. I originally thought we would not look at the Bible as a way that God reveals Himself to us because we have done that before, but I believe it was necessary for us to do so. For one thing, the Bible is the primary way that God chooses to reveal Himself to us and to speak to us so why not look at it? Also it continues to bother me the lack of Bibles that are brought to church each week. So I believe it was a good opportunity to look at some reasons why we might not read our Bibles like we should and ways to get rid of those excuses.

My wife and I had the opportunity this week to have a couple nights home where she was able to cook dinner. Belinda likes to cook and I like to eat so we go well together. But not only did she cook, but she cooked my favorite- Eggplant Parmesan. I can't even describe how good this stuff is so just imagine some of the best food ever and get jealous that I got to eat it this week. But it makes me think how I can't imagine life without her. Now I want you to think of something that you can't imagine living life without or you can't remember what life was like before having this. Some examples might be a car, computer, internet, video game system, cell phone, text messaging, etc. One thing that has consumed a lot of our lives is text messaging. I used to hate it back in the day, now it's a part of my everyday life. But when we hear the sound of our phone getting a text message, we stop whatever we do because we just have to read it. It doesn't matter what we're doing, when we hear that sound, we stop whatever we're doing and see what it says. Now imagine if you were with a friend, your phone receives a text message but you don't read it. Your friend then asks you if you're going to read the text message and you say "No, I don't like to read so I'm just going to ignore it." What? That's probably one of the stupidest things ever, but isn't that one of the main excuses people give for not reading the Bible? Some view the Bible solely as a book of good stories and they don't want to read it. But what if we viewed the Bible as something that we just have to stop whatever we're doing and read it like we do our text messages. Maybe if we viewed the Bible this important and as something that God is communicating to us through then we would see the importance.

Another excuse some might have for not reading the Bible is that it's irrelevant because it was written years ago for people who didn't have cell phones and internet and the responsibilities that come with each. Psalm 119:97 tells us that the writer loved reading God's Word. The writer (possibly David) was probably reading the Pentateuch (the 1st five books of the Bible) which would have been written hundreds of years before him. It certainly was relevant for him and is relevant for us as well.

As we continue to read Psalm 119:98-100 we read in verse 98 that the time spent reading God's Word made him wiser. This along with in verse 97 that says he read it "all the day" shows that he spent time reading it. Probably one of the biggest excuses for not reading the Bible is "I don't have time". Think about what you spend your time doing. We probably all could do a little better in the time management area. But a few years ago I spent a lot of time playing "The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess" on the Wii. It was the 1st Zelda game I had ever played, and after sticking it in the other day to see what the time played on it was, I was kind of astonished. I logged 63 hours and 33 minutes on that game. That is more than 2 and a half days! I could have spent some of that time reading the Bible, and even sleeping! We have to make time, and even schedule time to read the Bible or we probably won't. At best we'll end up just taking a few minutes at the very end of our day and rush through it giving God our leftovers and not our best.

Another excuse that people have for not reading the Bible is that they just don't understand it. You must continue to read it, and consult other helps when studying the Bible. Here are a few things that can help you in understanding the Bible and developing a better desire to read it daily.
-Find a good Bible that you will read
-Get a good study Bible
-Know that the Bible is completely true, but read it for yourself to discover how awesome it is
-Study the context of a verse- most interpretation come from just reading one verse. You need to read not only a verse, but the surround
paragraphs, chapter, and even book.
-Pray before reading and ask God to speak to you

I don't want it to sound like I have it all together in this area because I certainly don't. I very must struggle in this because I personally hate to read. That's why I spent more time in college playing video games than studying because most times I would sit down to read I would fall asleep. But since I've made the effort to get serious about reading the Bible, it has been life changing and when I might miss time reading it, it's very noticeable in my life.

God wants to reveal Himself to you through His Word. When you really get serious about reading it, the Bible will become one of those things in life that you will look at and say "How did I ever live without that?"