Focus

Every day we wake up and have a choice.  What are we going to think about first.  What is our mindset going to be like for the day?

We are all human and have negative thoughts come in our mind all the time.  We have a choice if we are going to listen to our negative self talk or not.  What we feed our mind with absolutely affects our behavior and how we are going to act and speak.

Hebrews 12:2 reminds us to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith”.

We are to gaze on Christ and try moment by moment to ask ourselves, “what would Jesus think about this” or “how does this look to Jesus”?

It re-focuses us on what’s important and what’s eternal.  It re-aligns our heart and gets us centered back to our walk with God.  We have to be intentional about it.  Our natural thoughts are to waver and go the opposite direction.  We have to pray and ask God for help moment by moment.  It’s a battle we all face!

I want to encourage you today to focus on Christ and his goodness.  Remember all that he has done for you in your life and believe by faith that he’s not done with you yet!

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……

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

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.”

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

 

Creating Environments

We had an amazing Community Group last night at church. We had great fellowship, good teaching and really good, heartfelt discussion.  We have a group of people that are from a diverse background and have come together for one purpose:  To know God better and to get to know others better.  Pretty Simple.  It works.  

Part of the story I didn’t tell you about was the classroom was met in was pretty dis-organized a month ago.  Chairs everywhere, books on the floor, old pizza dried up on the wall (ok, maybe a drastic example).  We had a vision and a goal.  We set up the chairs in a circle.  Bought a TV & DVD player and put a clock on the wall.  Put in a table for snacks and we were ready to go!!  We simply created an environment where God could move and peoples lives could be changed.  Its already happening!!

Today we are cleaning out areas where in about 10 days we will have people get prepared to get baptized.  It’s exciting!  More Life transformation is getting ready to take place, and all we do is create the environment where God can move and lives are changed.  It’s the simple steps of faith that God wants us to take!!

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

BA Nazarene going to 2 services!

BA Nazarene going to 2 services!

We are thrilled to see what God is going to do as we go to 2 services on Sept. 22, 2013. Our Blended service will feature hymns and a mixture of various praise and worship. Our Modern service will be more guitar driven playing the songs you may hear on Christian Radio. Either way, be sure to come check on out and see what fits best!