Thursday, January 29, 2009

Road Trip Pt. 3 Roadblocks

As we continue our "Road Trip" series, I wanted to point out that as Christians we should understand that along the journey there will be setbacks or "roadblocks".  This week we looked at the story of Joseph in Genesis 37 and 39.  I won't summarize this for you because you may already know the story, if not then take a look at these scriptures.  But we see that Joseph was going right along in life and he ran into some roadblocks or setbacks (slavery, prison, etc.).  As we look at the life of Joseph, here are some things we as Christians should consider:
-Roadblocks will happen
- 1 Peter 4:12 tells us not to be surprised when we suffer.  
-Be Glad
- 1 Peter 4:13 tells us to be glad because God is at work and His 
  glory will be revealed.  Now seriously, when was the last time 
  you were like "Yes, I had a horrible day today!"  It's not likely to 
  come out of your mouth but we can be glad and rejoice when God 
  is at work.
-Don't try to manipulate your future
- Joseph wanted out of his situation and rightfully so, that is why 
  he pleaded with Pharaoh's cupbearer to remember him.  But we 
  must realize that God's timing is perfect and our time is far from 
  perfect.  We want things now and so when we try to push God's 
  timetable forward, we just become frustrated.
- Live by faith, not by sight
- We hear this so many times, but what does it mean?  Well it tells 
  us in Genesis 39:2 and 39:21 that God was with Joseph.  We also 
  hear numerous times in the Bible such as in Deuteronomy 
  31:6 that God will never leave us.  Be encouraged because God is 
  by our side and will never leave us!
- Growth will occur...If you let it
- James 1:2-3 tells us that when our faith is tested we have the 
  opportunity to grow.  I like to make jokes about Wikipedia b/c 
  Michael Scott of "The Office" uses it so much.  But Wikipedia tells 
  us that a roadblock is temporary.  When we face trials, we must 
  move past it and see it as a time for growth.  When a seed is 
  planted, it must break open first in order to grow.  We too must 
  be broken before spiritual growth can occur.

In one of my favorite movies "Facing the Giants" when the team is so close to winning the state championship game, the team captain Brock comes to the coach and tells him that he's tired and can't go on anymore.  The coach proceeds to tell him that he needs him in there just a little bit longer.  So Brock goes back in the game, pulls all the strength he can and helps the team win the game.  When you face trials in life, and you may be going through one right now, know that God doesn't want you to give up and come out of the game.  He wants you to hang in there, pull all the strength you can and keep on going.  Know that God is right beside you cheering you on and will never leave you.  Take these opportunities to see how God wants you to grow.

And here is the Road Trip Part 3 Video

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Strength and Rest

Without going back to look I'm pretty sure that I've posted a couple entries on rest (I know I did one last week).  It's something that seems to be a big theme lately in our household.  From discussions of not getting enough sleep, to how we must slow down a bit, to trying to figure out how to juggle school in with work, to my weekly (sometimes more than once a week) stern lectures from my wife about how I must take a Sabbatical day off each week.  It's not that we don't love what we do or that we're just lazy, it's just that we live in a fast paced world where we are constantly needed by someone or need to do something.  A few months ago I was struggling with this and my good friend Gil Balch asked me "Are you leaning on your own strength or God's strength?"  Well that's stuck with me every since as I learn to lean more and more on God each day.  I say all of this to point you to a post on Steven Furtick's blog today about "Today's battles...Tomorrow's Strength"  Check it out it's a very insightful quick read.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Road Trip Pt. 2 - Crossroads

We continued this week with our series on "Road Trip" looking at where we are going and how we plan to get there.  This week we focused on "Crossroads" that we come to along the journey.  When I say crossroads what I mean is that we are faced with decisions.  Like it or not we have to make decisions because we have free will.  We need to keep in mind what we are told in Proverbs 3:5-6 that if we depend on God then he will help us through these decisions.

I talked about 2 types of Crossroads: Occasional and Daily Crossroads.  An occasional crossroad would be bigger decisions such as college, job, dating etc.  Another occasional crossroad would be our reaction to situation.  I shared how at a time in my life I was totally knocked off my feet and hurt by a situation and that I had a conscious decision that I could either seek worldly things to ease the pain, or I could follow after God.  Even though I didn't do things perfect I chose to follow after God.

Daily crossroads are the daily decisions such as if we are going to follow Christ or follow our own desires and live for ourselves.  Jesus tells us in Luke 9:23 that we must make the daily decision to follow Him.

If we know that we are going to be faced with crossroads/decisions, then shouldn't we prepare for them?  We need to pray for strength, answers, etc.  We must consult God's Word for guidance.  We should seek Godly counsel.  These are all things that we seem to be studying more than once lately.  I believe that when that is the case that God is trying to get our attention.  We also should anticipate decisions that we must make, as well as attacks from Satan.  And finally I talked about how we must know the effects of our decisions.  I asked if teens today realize that the decisions they make will effect them down the road and they answered "no".  When I asked why they made statements such as "most teens are living for the moment".  I believe this is true, but I also believe that adults fall into this too.  I told them that our decisions may be life changing, will effect us later on, and will effect others.

In closing I read the following statement:  Crossroads and decisions will come your way this year, both daily and occasional, both big and small.  Stay grounded and be prepared for them so you can make the right decisions.  And know that if you have made poor decisions, God still loves you and has a purpose and plan for you.

And here you go....Part 2 of the Road Trip video series.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

"I will give your rest"

"Rest"- what a foreign concept today it seems.  We live in such a busy and rushing society that if we attempt to rest then we are fearful of being labeled as "lazy" or "weak".  But God's Word clearly speaks of rest.  If God rested on the seventh day then we also need to take time to rest.

At times lately I like to look at well known scriptures that we sometimes seem to know so well that we lose the meaning.  As I was reading lately in Matthew 11:28-30, I was reminded of the rest that is offered in Christ.  Jesus clearly tells us to come to Him and give him our loads, whether that be work, exhaustion from busyness, stresses, burdensome situations, etc.  He then goes on to tell us in verse 30 that "The burden that I ask you to accept is easy; the load I give you to carry is light."  Why is it that we want to hold on to our burdens when He tells us that what He will give us in exchange is light?  In our Sunday night Bible study this past week we were talking about how to hear from God and I made the statement that "sometimes we don't allow ourselves to hear from God because we are afraid of what He might have us to do."  Its like we unconsciously sabotage ourselves to miss out on what God has in store for us.  I think the same goes for this set of scripture that sometimes we like holding onto our own burdens for security because we are afraid of what God might call us to do if we exchange our burden for His calling.

Think about that today, are we holding onto anything that is holding us back.  Are you willing to accept His burden?  Accepting the burden may be a scary thing, and awkward thing to say you are accepting a burden, but the blessings of God's providence and the call itself will far outweigh.  Oh yeah, He also promises rest in the process.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Road Trip Pt. 1- Planning the Trip

This week at Wednesday Night Worship we started a 3 week series called "Road Trip - What's Your Destination".  We are taking this month to look at where we are individually as well as a group, where we're going, and how we plan to get there.

This first week we talked about "Planning the Trip".  I challenged students to close their eyes, think about 2008, and consider if they are the same person they were a year ago, grown spiritually (hopefully), or digressed in their relationship with Christ.  The scripture used was Philippians 3:12-16.

After having students examine their lives over the past year, I talked about how we all made mistakes and regrets.  However the beautiful thing is that if we ask forgiveness it's forgotten.  The hard thing about it sometimes is moving forward.  We must forgive ourselves and forget the past as Paul tells us in this passage.

I then had the students think about where they want to be a year from now spiritually and how they plan to get there.  I challenged them to set goals, practice spiritual disciplines, memorize scripture (but focus more on scripture study and the memorization will occur), study scripture with parents (which got a great reaction), and prioritize.  Along the lines of prioritizing/time management here are some interesting facts.  There are 1440 minutes each day.  If we would just begin by devoting 30 minutes to God (quiet time, Bible study, prayer, etc.) then it would only equal 2.08% of our day.  Not much time to give to someone who died on a cross for us.  I also pointed out that the #1 phrase that teens use (in my thoughts adults use it too much too) is "It's Not Fair!"  And not only is it the most used phrase but on average is said 86 times a day.  That equals an hour and a half each day of whining and complaining.

I then challenged the students with the following: No whining/complaining and move away from legalism, Put God 1st/Spiritual Growth, Be more Missional, and have a Child-like Faith.  In verse 14 it tells us to "press toward the prize".  Too many times in my life I thought the prize was a material blessing, but I now know that the prize is the upward call of God.  The prize is that God would use us in the midst of our weakness and failures.  That's one of the things that makes me fall more in love with God is that He would use me.

In closing I challenged the students, and myself to have the mindset this year of this: to ask God "What can I do for you?"  It's easy to ask God to do "stuff" for us but we need to ask God what can we do for you.

I also opened the night with this crazy video, which there will be one to go along with each sermon of this series.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Divine Appointments and God's Provision Part 2

Yesterday I wrote about a recent divine appointment and how God had really provide blessings through it.  I talked about how as a result of time spent with Jason and Taya Gray that I walked away changed and wanting to be a better person, Christian, leader, and husband.  While this is all true God reminded me of something last night.  He revealed to me that too many times I discount the worth of divine appointments with people I already know and are close with.  Let me explain what I mean.  Most times I think of divine appointments as a one time meeting with someone, which I don't believe to be true at all.  For instance it was a divine encounter when I met my wife.  But I still believe that God provides and blesses me (and us) with the divine moments like last night when we both laughed until we were wiping tears (you'll see why in a post in a few days).  God knew that we needed that time to laugh together and connect, that was God providing for our needs.

I say all of this to get to this point, there are so many people in my life that have affected me and influenced me to strive for more.  I could go on and list them but I would leave someone out by accident.  I realized this yesterday through the many conversations I had whether on phone, by text, or by email.  I am blessed more than I deserve and am currently in awe of the open doors of opportunity that God has provided me in the past year.  Opportunities to do God's work as well as grow closer to some dear friends in my life. If you happen to read this then think about the people you face daily that mean a lot to you that you may discredit or take for granted.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Divine Appointments and God's Provision

I know that we hear a lot sometimes about "Divine Appointments" and "God's Provision", but I feel the need to share with how these have related to my life lately as I believe we need to always share with one another what God has been doing in our lives (that was a long intro sentence).  I believe we all experience times when God is leading or has lead us to talk with someone for whatever reason, to encourage them, share Christ with them, etc.  However there are also times when we are on the receiving end.  There are times when we have an encounter with someone and afterward our lives are changed forever...for the better.  I am blessed to have a few of these times in my life and cherish each one.

That's what I experienced this weekend, well sort of...It actually all started back in October.  I happened to go to a concert where initially I was going to go another one the same day.  At this concert was a man named Jason Gray.  While he was on stage I knew that God was telling me that he would come to Clearwater someday.  Well after the concert a few of the students went to him and asked when he would come to our church and so the talks began and after a few months of emailing details, Jason arrived Saturday along with his wife to do a concert.  Now I'm not trying to promote Jason, but if you don't own every one of his cd's and t-shirts then you need to go to his website and buy multiples of each :)  I do however want to express the gratitude for this experience and share a little bit of how I've been blessed.  

I feel like I can be hard on criticizing some in the Christian music industry, especially when I don't know them on a personal level.  Sometimes I get irritated that our local stations will play some songs over and over by the same "popular" artist when the lyrics are either watered down or they say the same thing over and over (which I call "lyric filling" and say that it's b/c they can't write anything else clever).  Jason's music is so different and both.  Jason and Taya are some of the most humble people I've met.  I can't put into words how much they blessed me this weekend through music, through sharing of scripture, testimonies, and just general conversation.  It's encounters like this where you walk away not only blessed, but inspired to be a better person.

Again, I'm not trying to just promote Jason, but am trying to faintly express how I'm filled with God's overwhelming grace and love today.  I didn't deserve to have this experience b/c in my human form I can be a worthless loser, not even a "lovely loser" sometimes.  But because of God's indescribable love for me He has blessed me with such an experience, and because of that I am changed and am grateful.  If anyone happens to stumble across this and read it, then I encourage you to think about the times when God has overwhelmed you with His blessings.  And if you think he hasn't, then begin by considering that breath you just took.