Broken Seashells

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Recently our family took our annual summer beach vacation.  It’s been a tradition in our family for many years and we always look forward to it.

One thing I can count on and thats God to give me a reminder or a lesson that I need in my life at that exact time.  God is faithful and like a Father loves his children, God knows what we need and when we need it.

One day we were out on the beach enjoying the scorching July heat in Florida. You know what to expect in Florida in July and August….really hot!  It was a beautiful day and the water was calm and the waves were at a minimum.  I was walking in the shallow water looking for some nice shells to pickup.  Matthew, my 10 year old, was curious as to what I was doing.  So I told him I was picking up seashells.  He joined me for a few minutes and I explained to him what to look for. I told him that I look for the shells that are not broken or messed up.   We walked along the beach shoreline a little longer and I said it to him again.  “I only like to keep the shells that are whole and not broken.”  Instantly God reminded me how that sounded and what he thought of us.  It sounded so ugly coming out of my mouth and tying it into the lesson God wanted to teach me that day.

God reminded me our world we live in has a different expectation than he does. Culture embraces looking good on the outside and not displaying any kind of brokeness.  The exact opposite of what God values and loves!  God loves us and takes the brokeness in our lives and uses it to draw us near to him.  He loves taking flawed sinners like each one of us and takes delight in healing us and making us whole. Psalm 147:3 says “he heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds.”  God never throws us back into the ocean because we don’t look good.  He picks us up, broken and battered, loves us and reminds us that He sent his one and only Son, Jesus to die on the cross for us (John 3:16).

It was a short, quick lesson that would leave a permanent impression on me and how I felt about broken sea shells.  I thank God that he took a broken, messed up person like myself and made me whole in Christ.  He gave me a new life, a new identity, a different outlook on life.  God wants to do the same thing in your life today if you will let him!

 

 

 

Do you really Care?

This morning I got to take my 9 year old son, Matthew, fishing at Anna Maria Island at a place called the Rod and Reel.  It was a nice morning with a slight cool breeze blowing off the water.  It’s Spring Break 2016 so everyone and their brother, cousin and bestie was there fishing this one particular morning.  We rented a couple of fishing poles and bought 2 dozen shrimp that like to jump out of the bucket they gave us.

father-and-son-fishingWe walked around the back of the small older shack that sits on the water, only to find an empty bench where we would sit and fish for the next hour or so.  Matthew counted on me to bait his hook and position his pole in the water where he would catch the fish he was after that day.  After we sat down and got all settled in, I noticed that nobody was casting their lines out very far.  Instead, they were just dropping their lines right down in front of them trying to catch the fish that directly beneath them.  I got up and walked around to the place I had rented the poles looking for the guy who sold us the shrimp.  He was not around however there was a another guy doing some busy work in the same area.  I asked him, “Why isn’t anyone casting their lines out in the water, they are all dropping them straight down”?  He replied,”All the fish hide underneath the dock”. He told me to drop the line straight down and try to catch them that way.  After all, everyone else was fishing that way.

I went back to the bench and Matthew and I fished for the next hour or so and caught nothing.  I just enjoyed spending time with my son fishing.  Were we trying to catch something?  You bet!  So we kept throwing the lines over and over and over.  Now something caught my eye at about the had way point I neglected to mention.  Many of the people weren’t sitting on the bench anymore fishing, they were laying down on their stomachs, hanging over the edge of the dock and casting their rods underneath the dock.  You see, thats where the fish were!  I knew that, after all, the guy who works there had told me where to catch the fish.

I began to notice 4 or 5 people sitting around us lying down and fishing.  Here’s the funny thing, they began catching fish.  One by one, they reeled them in and celebrated catching a fish!  They weren’t big fish but that didn’t matter, after all they were catching something.  I was faced with a decision, do I make the sacrifice and lay down on my stomach to catch something or sit on my bench and hope for the best.

I wish I could give you a happy ending to the story.  I had a choice that morning.  I honestly didn’t want to get uncomfortable and lay down on the hard, wooden dock to fish.  I wanted to catch a fish, but not sacrifice myself to that point.  It felt as though the Lord was speaking to me and saying, “to follow me you will have to make some uncomfortable sacrifices in your life.”  It won’t be easy but will certainly be worth it.  The ones that chose to lay down and do the uncomfortable, were the ones who got the reward.

God reminds us all the same thing.  How bad do you really want it?  How much of a sacrifice are you willing me make for Christ?  I was challenged this day and reminded that to follow Christ, will require me to get uncomfortable sometimes.

The Reward is always greater than the sacrifice!

 

 

 

Groups are where Growth Happens

 

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Groups are where Growth Happens.

In my 19 years as a follower of Christ, I have been involved in larger and smaller churches. I have sat in services of 1000+ and services of 150. While both have their pluses and minuses, one thing they have in common is their inability to connect people in relationships how God has wired us.

You may hear a good sermon, listen to some great worship music but when it comes to truly growing in your relationships with God, others must be involved. Growing in your walk with Christ cannot just be vertical it must be horizontal. This normally happens in a Small group, Life group or Community Group, whatever you decide to call it. It is where people can get real with people and talk about spiritual thoughts in their mind and heart. There are not many places where talking about such things is acceptable but in a small group, talking about God is understood and expected.

The conversation should flow about life in general, but always point back to God. After all, He is the rock of our salvation. He is the main reason we are all getting together, isn’t he? Groups all have different ebb and flow, depending on their leader and culture to which the group is formed. But something happens when people get together in Jesus name, lives begin to be transformed. This is done intentionally and takes time.

 Here are 6 things a healthy small group does:

1. Pray. The leader must encourage other group members to have a special, personal time with God daily. They must also pray for ‘one another’. There is nothing more encouraging than knowing you are being prayed for by somebody else.

2. Meet regularly. Weekly is the goal to shoot for. If weekly can’t be done than twice a month can work, but is not the optimum meeting time. A lot of life happens every day, so meeting weekly gives group members a chance to be able to share what God has done and is doing in their lives.

3. Pick relevant material to study/discuss. You won’t hit a home run with every study you do, but you should be close to where people are living life every day in your group. Mix up the topics as well as the method you are choosing for delivery.

4. Making group members feel Valued and Loved. While everybody has a different motive to get involved in a small group, one thing is common, when group members know that you care about them, they will continue to attend group.

5. Plan activities outside of your normal meeting time. Make sure you schedule dates and times just to do life together. Picnic at park, game night, bowling, dinner and movies, you name it; just make sure you do something away from your typical meeting environment.

6. Plan to serve together. A healthy group is not strictly inward focused, but strives towards meeting other people’s needs. When you serve together in the community, it brings a sense of unity to the group that you can only experience by serving others.

These are just a few of the things that will grow your group stronger!

 

 

 

5 ways we can come near to God

Have you ever felt far away from God and wonder what in the world happened?  As most of us have heard, God has not gone anywhere, its us who have moved.  Moved in what way?  The one thing that gets in our way that we never see coming. It happens when we least expect it.  It happens inside the church and outside the church.  In a culture where we are encouraged to stand up and fend for ourselves.  What we are talking about is “Pride”.  First of all, if you think you have never struggled with this, you are just too proud to admit it.  We all struggle with pride in one form or another.  

The key verse in James 4:6 says that “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble”.  Pride is actually one of the things that God hates.  I am not just making that up.  Check out Proverbs 6:16-19.  The Bible shows us here that there are 6 things God hates and 7 that are detestable to him.  The first one is “haughty eyes” or pride.  Pride says that we are really fine without God.  We don’t need him for our life and can fully take care of things ourselves.  No thanks God.  Pride keeps us away from God.  

So, how can we come near to God?  I would like to give you 5 ways that the brother of Jesus, James, gives us to bring us closer to God.

1.  Submit to God.  (NIV)  Humble yourselves to God (NLT) 

Verse 7 “So humble yourselves before God.”

Whichever version you like its pretty clear what we are to do.  By nature, we don’t want to submit to anyone, especially someone we can’t see.  So to submit or humble ourselves to God is an active step of action.  When we are submitting to Him we are giving up our control over our lives and asking God to take over.  Take the reigns Lord, sit in the drivers seat, I will be the passenger.  

2.  Resist the Devil

Verse 7 “So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

Notice we are submit to God first, then we are able to resist the devil.  There is an order to this for a reason.  We don’t have enough strength or power to do this on our own.  The devil has been doing this for much longer than we have.  He is a master liar and hates us and any plans God has for us.  All the more reason we should allow God to fight the battle for us.  

3.  Wash your hands & purify your hearts

Verse 8 “Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.” 

We are to be cleansed from our sin.  Ask God to forgive your sins and wash you clean from the guilt and condemnation that can stain your heart.  Just as we shower to clean our physical body, we need to cleanse ourselves spiritually come into his presence.  

4.  Grieve, Mourn & Wail.

Verse 9 “Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy.”

Don’t be afraid to go have a good cry.  We are allowed to express real grief for the past sins we have committed.  In fact, God’s Word wants us to do that with a freedom that your creator gave us.

5.  Humble yourselves before the Lord.

Verse 10 “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.”

When we take the posture in our heart of humbling ourselves before God, he lifts us up.  He brings us to a new place with him.  He knows our heart and the true cry of our heart.  Either we can humble ourselves or we can wait until our circumstances humble us, pick one.  

Remember, we were created by a God who wants us to have a real love affair with him.  To put him first in our thoughts, ways, actions and life choices.  He wants to spend time with him as a father loves spending time with his children.  When we practice these 5 things, we are assured to discover a deeper relationship with Him.Image