Closer

CloserWhen God allows us to go through seasons that aren’t particularly pleasant…we always wonder why.  Searching, reasoning, forecasting our future, talking it out with a best friend..still we are not sure. Rest assured God is in control and wants to help you through seasons of wilderness that may seem to last for an eternity.

 Here are 3 tools that have always helped me push through times like these:

1.  Prayer– talking to our Heavenly Father first about the concerns of our heart is our first step .  We need to “get it all out” with him first before going to anyone else.  True confession and crying out to Him will begin to align our heart with the heart of God.

But in my distress I cried out to the lord; yes, I prayed to my God for help. He heard me from his sanctuary; my cry to him reached his ears.  Psalm 18:6 (NLT)

2. People – spending time with friends face to face does good for the soul.   God puts friends in our lives to encourage us and give us hope to see our situation through a different set of eyes.   In a culture that bends our perception of friendship as a ‘friend’ on Facebook, a ‘favorite on Twitter, or a ‘like’ on Instagram, we need more than that.  God uses others to give us Victory over our struggles.

 “The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense.”  Proverbs 27:9 

3.  Scripture –  reading the promises of God that he has for you will change the way you are viewing your current situation.  When we fill our minds and souls with God’s truth, it gives us an eternal perspective of our lives.  God’s Word gives us hope that what we are walking through now has a “reason and a purpose” in it.

“Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.Then you will be prosperous and successful.  Joshua 1:8

God loves you and has an amazing plan for your life.  The season in your life will not last forever, no season ever does.  Allow God to shape you and mold you into the person he wants you to become!!

Grace

Grace It’s something we cannot possibly earn and certainly don’t deserve.  If we all got what we deserved, it probably wouldn’t be pretty, at least in my case it wouldn’t.  Grace.  God’s Grace.  His undeserved favor in our lives.  Grace is a word that’s thrown around in culture but rarely unpacked.  We have a ‘grace’ period in paying our monthly mortgage payment.  We say ‘grace’ over our food.  When we look into our lives and see what Jesus has done, we start to remember his grace in a whole new way.  We fall into a state of thanksgiving and humble thoughts about who and what God has rescued us from.  We remember what we used to be, a wretch, who said yes to a God who wants to teach us his grace the rest of our lives. This Holiday season allow God to use you to be a ‘grace giver’.  Allow him to use you to be a ‘dispenser’ of his grace.  His awesome, powerful, life changing grace.  Offer it to those who certainly don’t deserve it, from the world’s viewpoint, and it will glow even brighter.  It will take an intentional effort on your part & will more than likely take you by surprise.  You will find yourself right in the middle of the moment where you get to be a ‘grace dispenser’.  Will you ignore the opportunity or allow the Holy Spirit to work through you?  You get to decide in the freewill God gives you. Watch God use you this season to be a ‘grace giver’ and a ‘dispenser’ of his grace.  It will bless the person receiving the grace and bless the giver also. His Grace is Amazing……

Wandering away

 

wandering

It happens without notice.  It can happen to the best of them.  It’s happened to me and it’s probably happened to you also.  Wandering.  Questioning.  Searching.  Did God move or was it me?  How did I end up here?  

Here are 5 ways to get back on track in a hurry.  There’s no specific order to these tips, just do them and see what happens.  God wants us to stay the course and never give up.  He is on our side and pulling for us.  God understands when and why we wonder.  He knows our thoughts and motivations.  When we take these 5 practical steps, we jump back on the road to walking with Jesus.

1.  Get into the Bible.  Don’t put it off or come up with excuses.  When we read and meditate on the Word of God, our faith grows and we begin to re-gain our focus on him.  Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ.” (NLT)

2.  Call and Encourage a Friend.  When we get the attention off our ourselves and our problems, we are putting others needs ahead of our own.  There’s nothing more uplifting than hearing from a friend who calls to tell you they are praying for you.  You can be that person.  Hebrews 3:13 says, “But encourage one another daily.” (NIV)

3.  Talk to God.  He desires to hear from you and wants to speak to you also.  When we pray to our Father in Heaven, we are communicating to the very One who created us.  Part of any relationship is talking and listening to one another.  Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (NIV)

4.  Surround yourself with people who will build you up, not tear you down.  The people that you allow in your life will rub off on you, like it or not.  Choose prayerfully and wisely.  Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.  Proverbs 13:20 says, “Walk with the wise and become wise; associate with fools and get in trouble.” (NLT)

5.  Serve Someone.  When we surrender our selfish ways and re-focus on someone else’s needs, we discover joy and peace.  Part of our purpose is to bless others in this life.  We have a great model for this in the way Jesus lived his life.  Mark 10:45 says, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (NIV)

So the next time you feel yourself wandering, questioning or searching, try these 5 steps and watch what God does!!

Groups are where Growth Happens

 

LifeGroup Pic

 

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!

 

 

 

Ordinary

God is looking for ordinary people to do his Extra-ordinary Work. He doesn’t need flash or super educated people to display what he wants to do in others lives, he just wants someone with a willing and obedient heart.

In Acts 4:13 tells us that the priests and the other leaders “took note” at something they saw. They heard two guys names Peter and John telling them that “salvation is found in no one else but the name of Jesus Christ”. How dare they be so bold to say this to them? How could they? They were filled with the Holy Spirit as they spoke with boldness and clarity.

When the leaders “saw the courage” of Peter and John it caught their attention. They realized that these guys did not go to school to be able to talk like this. They knew one thing. They “had been with Jesus”. Oh yea. That changes things…a lot.

When we spend time with Jesus, people take note and notice something different about us. When we get into the presence of the Holy One who created us we are transformed by his Glory. He does something inside us that is reflective on the outside also.

Go spend some time with Jesus….and see what happens!!Image

Running the Most Important Race

About 3 years ago I watched a video of a guy in my church who spoke about running. He said he wasn’t that fast and that he didn’t really feel like he knew what he was doing, he just ran. It helped him in so many ways. He said it helped him in his weight loss and gave him more self-confidence. I remember watching Matt’s video testimony and remember thinking….I can do that. He made it really simple.

We were on vacation in Anna Maria Island, roughing it for Jesus. Yea I know, someone had to do it. it was the middle of the summer in Florida and I decided to go out and run. What in the world was I thinking? I wasn’t thinking, I just needed to go out and see how this works. I ran off and on for about 20 minutes and thought I was going to die. It was hot, my legs hurt and I felt weird doing it. But something happened that day that changed my life today. I found something that I could do without judgement and that gave me so many benefits. I could blame nobody else but my self for my time and efforts. Next, I discovered listening to my Ipod while running and thought this is almost as good as chocolate, well maybe not really, but it helped me notto hear how loud I was breathing and how out of shape I was. Plus I could rock out to some Jesus Music too!!

I will tell you that running and the therapy it brings to my soul has helped me stay sane in ministry. As most forms of exercise does, it takes us into a different mindset and allows us to feel a stress relief like no other. It’s one of the best drugs you can take..LOL. When you are having a bad day, had to much stress at work or simply want to de-program, go for a run.

My friend Matt encouraged me a few years ago but saying out loud to many “I just run”. My hope and prayer is that I have encouraged someone today to just “go run” and see what happens. You never know what God will do as you listen to him.

Feel free to comment and bless someone else by encouraging them to take that step!!

1 Corinthians 9:24 -“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.”

Running the Most Important Race

Recognizing God’s Voice

With so many voices and lines of communication trying to grab our attention, we long to hear God’s Voice.  There are very few things in this life that are better than hearing they voice of God.  We can flip flop and hear from God one moment and hear something the devil says the next.  Look at Peter and Jesus.  One moment Peter is telling Jesus that he knows that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.  A few verses later, he tells Jesus not to follow the will of God by leaving them.  Are you kidding me….you just said something brilliant to Jesus Peter.  Now you are telling him something that the devil told you to say.  C’mom dude, get with it.  Yea, thats just like you and me as we sort through the thoughts and voices we hear and wrestle with every day.

How do I know it’s God’s Voice?

1.   Does it agree with the Bible?

 God’s will never contradict God’s Word.

He will never lead you astray apart from His Word.  His voice will always like up with His Word.  Many things change every day.  This life we live will always be in some sort of change.  God’s Word will never change.  When God is giving you thoughts that are from Him, it will always line up with his Word.

2.  Does it make me more like Christ?

Is this something that is going to build my character or my trust in God?  Would it represent Jesus well?  

Does it display all the attributes of James 3:17?  

James 3:17-(NIV)“But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.

If it fits these parameters, good chances that you are hearing God’s Voice.

3.  Would my church confirm this?

Your church family wants what’s best for you in your life.  They love and care about you.  For many of us, God has used our church family to help us to develop where we are today.  Thanks be to God for the great things he has done!

Make sure you exercise these 3 things before deciding whether you are hearing from God or not…Image