Wednesday, October 26, 2016

That One Thing That Could Help Your Day Go Way Better

If you don't know, I am a youth pastor.  I have been at the same church for almost 14 years and have worked with teenagers over 15 years.  (By the way, teenagers ROCK)!  Right now we are working through a book by Craig Groeschel called "#Struggles: Following Jesus In A Selfie-Centered World."  This book is truly insightful and relevant to some of our greatest needs in our current culture. 

This week we looked at a topic that I think all of us could use more of!  That is the topic of...


I don't need to regurgitate back to you what Craig had to share, because if that is what you wanted, you could read the book.  As an activity to do in connection with this chapter, I took the 5x7 index cards and wrote each person's name in the group at the top.  Then we passed the cards around.  We were to write something encouraging to the person whose name was listed at the top, and by the end everyone would have a card with encouragements from each other. 

The funny thing was, it was like Christmas morning.  Everyone was eager to get their cards and then the gushing started as everyone ohh'ed and ahh'ed over the comments they had received.  I was actually surprised at my own reaction to my card.  It was amazing!  In that exercise, I realized, we all need more of that.   Instead of just using Facebook to take a million selfies and post your breakfast, take some time to write encouraging posts on your friends' walls. 

Let's be honest, this world beats us down!!! If we aren't hearing personal criticisms, we are seeing the depressing news feed filled with a constant stream of political slams, criminal happenings and overall human cruelty.  While the occasional animal video is fun and happy, its really not enough to overcome the constant crap that clutters up my feed! (Can I get an AMEN?!)  I need more!  So how can we be encouraged? Here are

3 Ways to Infuse Your Life With Encouragement:

1. Read the Bible - Spending time in God's word encourages me.  I am reminded of a God who created me and loves me.  The Psalms can be especially wonderful in this department, but it is not the only book.  If you aren't used to reading the Bible, I suggest you download the YouVersion Bible App, its free!  You can discover plans that fit you and each day there is a reading for you to follow.  Its easy and it works! 

2.  Look in the Mirror - This isn't to do your make-up, shave your beard or fix your hair, but to see yourself and while you are taking a gander, say 3 things that you love about who you are.  I don't just mean your best body parts either.  What do you like about your character or personality?  If you don't know yourself well enough to do so, then take a personality test and find out more about who you are. 

3. Be An Encourager - There is this amazing boomerang effect to our words.  What we put out there, comes back to us!  And let's face it, life is not all about us, but others.  When we put our focus on the gems of friends and family we have, we can begin to realize the beauty in our lives that we never knew was there.  We also make an impact in other's lives, which is amazing!!!  When we practice encouragement, we will be happier people and will probably hear encouragement back.  I did the card exercise for my teens, but I was also greatly impacted. 

Let me just close this by saying, I don't necessarily know you, but I'm sure if you are reading this, you are trying in life.  There is something to be said for effort.  You, no doubt, have many amazing qualities whether you see them or not. 

Go out today and BE ENCOURAGED!!!!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

One Thing You Should Just Quit Doing

The past two weeks, I have written about making your life count and doing what God has called you to as a Christian, and what I am about to share might sound like a contradiction.  I promise, it is not!  Think of these posts as pieces of a puzzle.  They make the most sense when they are pieced together.  So stick with me and see that the pieces go together even if they seem not to on their own.  You just have to fit them together.  

Being a Christian is NOT about doing more or even being more, because...


Its what separates us from many off-shoots, like Mormonism for example.  What do I mean by "works based?"  Simply put: There is nothing you can do to earn your salvation.  If it were possible, then Jesus would be pointless.  Jesus was not just one of the prophets, but the chosen Messiah, Savior to the world.  His act of love by dying for us would be nice, but unnecessary, if you and I could do something to get to heaven.  His sinless, earthly existence was vital to any hope we have at an eternity in heaven. 

As beautiful as each of us are, we are merely human.  A fact, as a perfectionist, I often forget.  I try to do a better job, and I can give what I have but like the fish and bread, it only feeds the five thousand with the miracle of Jesus, otherwise its just one boy’s lunch and thousands will go hungry.  Our best does the job with the power of Jesus.  You see, the reason Christianity works is because of one fact: 


Technically it is a religion, but that is not its point.  Christianity at the core, is a relationship with our Creator.  Relationships change people don't they?  If that weren't true, parents wouldn't care who their kids hung out with throughout childhood and adolescence.  The people we spend time with begin to shape our character and personality.  The Bible says in I Corinthians 15:33 (NIV) - 

"Do not be misled: 'Bad company corrupts good character'."

Our world is experiencing another issue in regards to the lack of relationships.  People have forsaken hanging out with other people all together and now just living off of superficial relationships online.  We are seeing the increased depression as a result.  We were created to be in relationship.  The best relationship with can have is with our Creator.  That relationship inspires other relationships and true connection.  Something we need to thrive in life.  We become people who change the world for the better when spend time with Jesus.  

Galatians 5 gives us the fruit of the Spirit.  What does that mean?  Well if we were a tree, then fruit would grow from us, but our tree is rooted in God so the fruit that grows comes from the Holy Spirit, which is a part of God that is given to us when we accept Jesus as our Savior.  The time reading God's word, memorizing it, meditating and praying, help God grow in us and it produces fruit.  Note: We cannot produce it on our own.  Trying to do better on our own doesn't produce the fruit, just frustration.  

Galatians 5: 22-23 (NIV)
 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no Law.

We want to be people with these fruits, but it doesn't come from working harder at it, it comes from spending time with God.  As we do that, we are compelled to live out our purpose and to be people with intentional living.  It just a natural extension of the time with God.  So we really should just quit trying harder and allow God to transform us. 

Did you hear me?  JUST QUIT!  Dedicate yourself to God and allow Him to grow in you and grow you into the person He designed you to be.  Put your efforts into building the relationships that we were created to foster and thrive through and put away all the religion, do it yourself, nonsense.  It isn’t working, its just creating frustration and anxiety and who needs that?!  God’s got this.  Let him take the lead.  

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Are You Really Doing Your Job?

Sixteen years ago, I remember going to see Erin Brockovich when it came out in theaters.  It was not just a great movie, but a great message and the fact that it was a true story, made it even better.   There is one scene that came to mind this morning in our church staff meeting that just resonated with me in the topic of our Christian walk. 

You see Erin Brockovich was tasked at her job in a law office to look through some old files.  In her time on the job she discovered a case that needed to be unearthed.  That led her to go out and find some more information.  The problem was her boss thought she wasn’t showing up to work.  He almost fired her when she was able to reveal what she found.   They thought because she wasn’t in the office, she wasn’t working, but the truth is she was out there actually doing what the job required of her, and honestly, even more. 

Too often, as Christians in America, we add church to our weekly calendar and continue on with life as if showing up to a church building on a Sunday is our job.  Some go further by becoming a volunteer or by tithing and others may even attend a weekly small group or Bible Study.  We get seen, get the God part of our life in and go about our daily checklist.   It isn’t wrong to go to church and do all the things I listed in the sentences above, but is that really doing our job? 

Matthew 28:18-20 - Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

The church and more specifically, the building we meet in, does serve a purpose.  If life were a football game, then getting together would be our time for practice and right before the game, a pep rally.  But, the rally isn’t the game!  More is expected of us.  Some of us need to get in the game.  We need to be more like Erin Brockovich.  We need to be out there amongst the people if we ever want to do any Godly good.  How are we to bring people to Christ if we aren’t actually spending time with people who don’t know God?  Maybe we won’t be seen as much in “the office,” but if we are doing the job, isn’t that what matters?  I’m not saying we should stop going to church, instead I am saying that one act shouldn’t define our religious experience.  It shouldn’t just be about the act of going but the act of living like Christ in our daily lives.  

I’m not a tract hander outer, and while that works for some, the best way we can show God to people is by being with them and loving them the way God would.   That takes intentional living, not just going through the motions of the day to day but allowing God to lead you into the lives of people who are searching for a Savior. 

Action Point: Are you really doing what God has asked you or have you become a cultural Christian?  Take some time and seek God and discover what purposes He has for your life.  What He is asking of you? 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Most Important Thing You Do Everyday

Do you spend time with God everyday? If so, what does that look like? If not, why not? Yes, life is busy and we have a lot on our “to-do” list, but how far in that list would you get if you gave up sleep and food because you were just too busy?

Being a Christian is more than a title, its a way of life. Its like paying for a gym membership, never going, yet expecting to be fit. Time with God is our oxygen for life. For me, I admit, I don’t always have that quiet time everyday. Some days its letting my phone read me by daily passages while I run around town, but that can’t sustain me on a daily basis! I need quiet, quality time with God.

Whether you are talking about God or people, you can’t trade quality time for quick sound bites here and there or on social media and expect the relationship to deepen or grow. Quality beats quantity every time.

This year, I am reading the Bible chronologically. There are definitely benefits to mixing up my Bible plan each year. Maybe you don’t read the Bible in a year, but its a great goal to work towards. Daily time with God is very crucial to our walk as a believers and if you aren’t used to it, starting small is beneficial. Eventually you need more. Brad Edgar hits the nail on the head when he says, “You can’t be a good egg your whole life. You either need to hatch or you will rot.” Simple daily devotionals are great, but they aren’t all we need. We need time in God’s word. Those devotionals stay pretty superficial.

We weren’t created for the superficial. We were made to grow in our relationships, with God, with others and with ourselves. It takes vulnerability to do that, and we are losing our ability to connect in this fast-paced, social media-driven society. A lot of us out there are rotting eggs. If this is you, its not too late to start over.  God says when its over (sorry fat opera lady), and as long as you are here on this earth, you have a chance at a new start with God. Knowing God means knowing his Word and allowing that word to permeate your life.

Monday, I took my daughters’ two hour nap time slot and just delved into God. I was about 3 days behind in my reading and I am at the beginning of the New Testament. Sometimes, reading chronologically can be monotonous when you reach a story told in several places and you have this major deja vu experience. Monday, I found it refreshing. Each gospel writer told a story slightly different and I felt the entirety of their shared experience gave me more understanding in what was happening and why. When Matthew’s account left me with questions about some of the reasons for why something happened, I found Luke or Mark would give more information to answer my question.

I had been struggling with some blog topics and how to even handle certain situations in my life and as I read, God just spoke to me. It was as if he said, "this is all you need to get the jobs in life done."  I now have pages of ideas and quotes and answers to questions. They aren’t all answered, but God gives us our daily bread. So my questions will get answered as I need them as long as I continue to spend quality time with God.