Hey everyone! Hope all is well. Me and Mandi just got in from a blessed weekend of serving our Lord. We were invited to be part of the Alabama Baptist Conference of the Deaf in Talledega, Alabama at Camp Shocco. Camp Shocco is owned by the Alabama Baptist State Convention. What a weekend! We had left a day early to spend some time with some close friends of ours at their home. And then Friday morning, we took off for Sweet Alabama….
The trip was so worth it. Me and Mandi arrived about 5pm and immediately was met by friendly faces and warm hugs. Of course, thats called southern hospitalility, SMILE! Anyhow, the theme of the weekend was “How To Be An Effective Christian” using the scripture reference from Romans 12:2 which says “Don’t be like the people of this world, but let God change the way you think. Then you will know how to do everything that is good and pleasing to him.”
I had broken the scripture down into 3 challenges:
- Don’t Change to be like the World.
- Let God Change You
- Decide What’s Best and Pleasing to God
Friday evening, I used the illustration of a tea bag and handed one to each person in the congregation. As they held the tea bags, I went on to teach that in order for us to not change ourselves to be like the world…we have to make sure we do not become influenced by the world, do not copy the world, and do not follow the world.
The additional scripture that I used was from James 4:4 which says “Don’t you know if you love the world, you are God’s enemies?..”
Which indicates that we cannot love the world AND love God equally the same…. We can be “IN the world” but not “OF the world”
Too often we pray to God to get us through our struggles, and sometimes the world gives us a better chance for our outlet needs….but like a tea bag, we have to go through “hot water” (or struggles) to make us a better people for the Lord. Tea cannot be made without hot water…..therefore…a Christian cannot mature without struggles of their owns.
I also shared a picture of a church within a fenced-off field. Too often the “fence” is not used properly. The purpose of the fence is to help us to protect ourselves from outsiders…but too often, we become curious and peek over the fence to see what the outsiders are doing and sometimes become drawn into it ourselves.
But another sad point about the fence, the church sometimes never leaves the fenced-off field…causing favortism or causing the church to die out. Lack of mission-minded churches is not pleasing and honoring to God.
Friday evening was a great kickoff worship and the Lord was definitely working on some people….
Saturday morning, I used the second part “Let God Change You”…. I emphasized the word “LET” its a choice. We have to LET God change us. We often get stuck in the world’s view of change such as:
- change your body to look better
- change your house to be bigger
- change you car to look more richer
- change your clothes to be more better
We get stuck in comparing ourselves to others…God isn’t interested in how you look, how your home is, or how much your car is worth…God is only interested in your heart. If we LET God change our hearts, our worries about other things will diminsh.
Sometimes as Christians…we want the best for ourselves…don’t you think God does too? Of course…but sometimes we as Christians are put to the test before God blesses us with what we ask of Him. A little struggle here and there helps us to mature…and in the maturing process, God indeed changes us.
James 1:2-4 says “My friends, be glas, even if you have a lot of trouble. You know you learn to endure by having your faith tested. But you must learn to endure everything, so you will be completely mature and not lacking in anything”
That scripture is proof that our struggles DO help us change for the better. Our faith grows. We mature as His children. And we learn to endure.
I used the illustration of an ONION. Its easy to peel off the outer layers of an onion, right? But as you get closer to the center, it becomes harder and harder to peel off the layers. That is what God does. He peels and peels and peels us until we will be able to withstand anything as long as we trust in Him.
Saturday evening was a great time! I performed my first 212jam Concert of this year. I did 7 songs with stories in between. Some of the Alabama folks wanted to know the list of songs that I did, here they are:
- Salt & Light by Jami Smith
- Amazing Grace My Chains Are Gone by Chris Tomlin
- Who Am I by Casting Crowns
- Arise by Don Moen
- How Great Is Our God by Chris Tomlin
- I Can Only Imagine by MercyMe
- Here I Am To Worship by Chris Tomlin
Tears and smiles filled the two hour concert which was done in American Sign Language. I shared life applying stories to challenge us as Christians to not be like the world, be more like Christ.
Sunday morning, was the last part of the series. I shared “Decide Whats Best and Pleasing to God”
In order to “let God” change us…we have to first examine what needs to be changed within us. You are the only person on this earth that knows your sin and your heart better than anyone else. You know your sin. You know what needs to be improved. We need to get rid of our bad habits, stop our sins, and do whats pleasing and good to God.
Too often, Christians talk the talk, but do not walk the walk. We wear the “WWJD” bracelets and the Christian teeshirts, but when the world comes on us strong, we copy them, we follow them, we allow them to influence us. NO! We need to influence THEM….and get them to follow Christ and get them to copy Christ.
The last scripture that I shared with the group was from James 1:22 which says “Do what God’s Word says, not just listen to it”
We can not just listen listen listen listen to the teachings of our Lord….He expects us to USE it and apply it to our lives. The more we allow God to change us, mature us, empower us…..then we will start to do more to please Him.
May God bless the Alabama folks. We truly enjoyed the fellowship there and we look forward to serving them again in the future if God wills it.