Life Lessons from a Pencil

Often times Jesus used common place things to teach great biblical truths.

In Luke 12, Jesus uses the Birds of the air to teach that God is in control and that he will take care of his children.
With that in mind I would like us to consider tonight the lessons that we can learn from an everyday object.

I want you to go and find a pencil…right now. At first glance it seems not important, but I believe that it has more to do with our Spiritual life than we may know.

(1)  The first thing that I notice is that it was designed for a purpose.
A. The purpose of the pencil is for writing down information.
B. We were also designed for a purpose. God has a purpose for me

Romans 12:1-2 says:                                                                                                                                                                                         “I urge you to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

(2)  The next thing I notice is that it was purchased with a price.
A. Just as I spent money to give this pencil to you A price was paid for you.
B. We were purchased through the blood of a sinless Savior

I Corinthians 6 19-20 says:                                                                                                                                                                            “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

(3)  Has a trademark that identifies it from all other Companies
A. Just like you can look at this pencil and know that it came from Office Depot,
B. There are things that mark us as Christians that show that we are possessions of our creator.

1. Love John 13:35 says:                                                                                                                                                                        “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

C. We impress people of the one whose mark we use.
1. Just like if we were to sharpen these pencils and try to write with them only to have the lead break every time we put it on the paper, or the pencil will not be sharpened we would get a bad impression of Office Depot and their products.
2. People will look at us, our actions and reactions and get an impression of our master.

(4)  As it performs its task it is used up.

2 Corinthians 12:15 says:                                                                                                                                                                                   “So I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well.”

(5)  It leaves a mark
A. As you move the pencil across your paper or your hand it will leave a mark.                                                                                   B. We do the same

The people we come in contact with on a daily basis weather casual or a prolonged meeting will leave us a different person.
They will either be upset or mad because we treated them unfairly or they will leave us better because we showed them the Love of God.

The question is the world a better place because of our lives?

(6)  It’s the inside of the pencil that is most important
A. No matter how attractive it is a pencil is useless unless it will write.
B. God tells us often that He is interested in our hearts, that is important.

1 Corinthians 13: 1-3 says:                                                                                                                                                                         “I may speak in different languages of people or even angels. But if I do not have love, I am only a noisy bell or a crashing cymbal. I may have the gift of prophecy. I may understand all the secret things of God and have all knowledge, and I may have faith so great I can move mountains. But even with all these things, if I do not have love, then I am nothing. I may give away everything I have, and I may even give my body as an offering to be burned. But I gain nothing if I do not have love.”

(7)   It can only erase it’s mistakes by bowing it’s head low.

Luke 18: 14 says:                                                                                                                                                                                “All who make themselves great will be made humble, but all who make themselves humble will be made great.”

Conclusion:

There are many similarities but there is also a ONE great difference.

(1)         The pencil must do whatever the owner decided.
(2)          God has given us a choice

Romans 12:1-2 says:                                                                                                                                                                             I urge you to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

 Difference is YOU have a SOUL…..The question is…. what will you do with your soul?

God’s provisions – Reflecting on the last few months

I know its been awhile since I posted and I apologize for that. It seems when I get the motivation and time to do a blog post or two, something else pops up and God keeps me busy busy busy. I guess the Lord doesn’t want me to have “idle hands.”  God has been gracious to us and thats what I want to post about…His provisions.

There has been times when I looked into the Bible and read something and wonder what life would be like if I wasn’t involved in ministry at all. Even after my 15 years of ministry doing, this past year has been…bear with me…the “easiest at mind but burdened at heart”…does that even make sense? Knowing that there is much work to do but also knowing God will provide. One of my friends who I used to work with mentioned before that they “admired” me for my child-like faith. It is through that child-like faiith that has brought me from Point A to Point B over and over again.

In the past few months, I have traveled to several places and have seen the sheer will of God working endlessly in the hearts of people that He has brought into my path. You know that saying “God brings people into your life, sometimes they stay, sometimes they go, sometimes they cause trouble, sometimes they bring peace, but no matter the situation that they bring you…be an example so that they may remember the love of God”  I hold that quote close to my heart. It is one that I live with every day. It is the EXAMPLE that I work on myself to improve, so that the people can see the love of God daily.

So what if I am not preaching every week at a local church. I believe and KNOW God has other plans. So what if I am not recieving the 20+ calls on my videophone everyday, I believe and KNOW God made that happen so I can have more family time. So what if I am not leading any kind of Bible study with a group of believers at this time, I believe and KNOW God has held me back for some R&R. So what if you are reading this and rolling your eyes at what I just say, I believe and KNOW the best is yet to come. I know that in due time, God is going to unleash something that He wants me to be a part of. And that is where provisions come into the picture. I have thought long and hard about some of the things that has happened within my ministry experience that has been “stepping stones” and “life-lessons” for me. Alot of the lessons learned were preparing me to do what God wants me to do now.

What am I doing now? The local church now that I am attending is going through a slow process of building up relationships and spiritual development. Am I doing anything for the ones within the group? Up front, no…behind the scenes, yes. We just had our first Deaf Social event last night (March 16, 2012) and we had a great event. I was planned to be just the “tech-guy” for the event to control the lights, sound, computer, and music. I was determined to make sure that nothing went wrong. In the meetings beforehand, I had shared with our Deaf ministry leaders that I did not want to do any stage-work. No leading music, no speaking or quoting, no up front of the group at all. But that was “Steve” talking. And of course, God had to go out of the way and change things up. Don’t you hate that sometimes? 🙂 Two of our people were unable to come to the event to fulfill their duties and that left one song short….and whats sad….I tried to get others to take over that song slot. And apparently, God had other plans.

You gotta remember…its been since May 2011, since I have been up front preaching or singing or leading anything locally. But then I bowed my head behind that tech station while everyone was eating and fellowshipping and I said “God, is now the time?” and sure enough, I had found an old bulletin from a church that I had visited. On the front of it was a bold title that spoke to me. “REMEMBER YOUR CALLING” I froze and was almost tearing up.  Here I was in the back of the room, all alone, while everyone else was talking and eating….questioning God….and all along it was as if He was saying “Steve, remember your calling…GO!”

……..I caught my breath…..told the Deaf ministry leaders that I would close with the song if time permitted. When I got up on stage, all of those months of worrying…all those days of wondering if the rumors had died down enough……seeing all the people that had come up to me and asked me if I was okay and wondering and worried about me….it call came down to one simple solution….God’s provision….(sigh)….and I tell you what…God rocked it out! I had done that song before at concerts and worship services, but that one time…God did the song through me…not me.

So whenever you feel down…whenever you lose hope….whenever you feel like God isn’t listening….whenever you struggle….whenever you are frustrated….whenever temptation creeps into your mind….whenever you forget who the real Father is….whatever you are experiencing at this moment that is causing you to not think postive about church, pastors, God, etc…….I have one simple solution for you….PRAY… why? becasue God will always will provide….. may the Lord bless you today!

Guidelines to Hosting a Deaf Ministry Outreach event.

Several people saw pictures of some of the Deaf Ministry events that the church hosted back over the years. Many of them asked how we were able to pull so many people to come. Other questions such as: Which food preferences was more popular? How did you publicize the event? What was the outline of the program? What worked and what didn’t work? What did you do with the kids who came with their parents?

I am hoping in this post, I will be able to answer some of those questions. First of all, you must have a team of at least 5 of more people. Doing it alone is a NO-NO. I would never encourage doing things alone because it causes stress on yourself, your family, your time, etc. I have found it more efficient if you have a team of committed people. People to help come set up, people to help clean up. People to help do parts of the program, people to help prepare the food, serve the food, and people to do the spreading of the news for the event.

(1) What foods were popular? What was the deaf community’s preferences?

I have to say CHICKEN was the number one. We had Chik-fila, Zaxbys, KY Fried Chicken mostly. The most popular and cheapest was Chik-fila. This is also popular with the kids who come to the event with their parents. Any place the provides chicken nuggets or chicken strips was best. We also had hotdogs, hamburgers, pizza, ham/turkey meat trays, BBQ pork & chicken, and crockpots of chili. When serving a meat, to make sure you had enough for everyone ONCE, I encourage to have one or two people SERVING the meat to make sure everyone gets a share. Many places provided catering and sometimes the church has an ongoing business relationship with the restaurant for discounts. Check with your church to make sure when you check around into prices.

(2) How did you publicize the event to the Deaf community?

Flyers were made, printed out, copied and handed out at Deaf events. Before the church social event, we had two other big events that would open opportunites to invite people. We also used email. One of the Deaf men in our group had access to all of the emails because he was also the host for another big deaf outreach event, Deaf Coffee Chat. I encourage you to get everyone’s email address when they attend your event to make sure they are informed of future outreach events. We also use Facebook too but that isn’t always the best thing. The top methods that I find effective are flyer handouts at Deaf events and emails mostly.

(3) What was the outline of the outreach event’s program?

There are many ways to have your program. Movie Nights, Game Nights, Fellowship Nights, etc. Those require very little preparation as all you need to do is do announcements, prayer, and then turn the movie on. Same for Game Nights and Fellowship Nights. The most effective and influential programs involve worship, drama, and devotional message. In my 13 years of ministry, I have seen people impacted MORE by a “worship-style” outreach event than a Movie Night. We usually allow 3 1/2 hours for the event. Below is the outline:

  • 6pm      =       Fellowship / Food preparation as people come in
  • 6:30      =       Open Prayer for Food and begin eating
  • 7:45      =       Break time to prepare for Worship
  • 8pm      =       Worship starts
  • 9pm      =       Worship ends / Cleanup
  • 9:30      =       Everyone leaves

Worship includes: Opening Prayer, One Biblical Drama or Modern Day Drama, 2 or 3 worship songs, and a devotional message. Its important to PRACTICE your dramas, and your music BEFORE the event. I also encourage people to pick guest speakers that are Deaf or know American Sign Language. The reason for this is because it is a true fact, Deaf people reach and communicate BEST to Deaf people. In my years of seeing outreach event, I have only seen 4 times where a hearing speaker with an interpreter spoke at a Deaf outreach event. Afterwards, the feedback was not so great. While I know people will have their own opinions about this, many Deaf leaders will say the same thing. We have to keep in mind, this is a DEAF outreach event used to draw DEAF people to Jesus. So therefore, outreach events are best kept with the focus on DEAF, to use DEAF people to the best that they can.

(4)  What worked and what didn’t work?

At any of the outreach events that we hosted, Worship-style socials work the best. Now, this goes without saying that you need to have a team. Obviously you cannot have a worship-style social with 1 or 2 people. Thats why I encourage teams of 5 or more for any outreach event. This is best for everyone involved AND the community that comes to your event. Like I said before, I have seen more people impacted by these kinds of socials than a Movie or Game Night. Also, socials that hosted CHILI-contests or Dessert-contests worked as well. Having people bring their best crockpot of chili to share was a great way to save money on providing the meat. We also had a prize for the 1st place winner. The people at the social event did the voting.

What didn’t work?  Obviously, you want to provide the best for the people that comes. I hadn’t experienced anything much that didn’t work, because almsot every event was a worship-style social event. Once or twice a year, we did a MOVIE Night which gave the team a couple of months off from doing anything. This is encouraged. Games Night didnt pull too many people, so i guess it depends on your focus group. Usually senior citizens are into games, very little do the younger folks take it up.

(5) What do we do with the kids that come with their parents?

We had a program focused on the kids too. We would have a movie for them, and a devotional time with them as well. They would have their own foods sometimes or usually the kids would go in line to get their foods first before the adults did. We always try to keep the kids apart from the parents so that the parents can focus on the message and the program. This turned out well because we were usually across the hall and had 2 or 3 people focusing on the kids. If there isn’t alot of kids, then you can always go in the back of the room and do coloring, drawing, or games with the kids to keep them busy.

(6) How often should we have Deaf outreach events?

here in Louisville, we have them once a month, on the third friday. There are four churches that we rotate the event with. This is encouraged because it does several things. One, it shows the community that the churches are working together rather than competing with each other. Two, it helps expose that church to the community of what they provide for the Deaf. There may be deaf people living in your area that don’t know about your Deaf ministry. This helps that exposure. And lastly, it creates fairness between all of the Deaf ministry. One church cannot do all of the witnessing and sharing of Jesus. In the eyes of man, we see different teams and different churches, but in the eyes of God…He sees ONE team and ONE church.

I pray this was helpful to most of the people who were asking about these. May God bless you and your work always!

 

Revival – Renewal – Results!

WOW! Thats mainly the only word to describe this past weekend. The Lord was REALLY, I mean, REALLLLLLLLY working on the hearts of many this weekend. I had several people come to me all weekend talking about things that I have been praying would happen among Deaf people.

This revival was different. It was the first one ever at this Deaf Church. It was a new ministry. New experience, and new territory for everyone involved. Thomas Cook, the Deaf pastor at Dotson Memorial Baptist Church, said “Its finally happening!” Yes, its finally happening…and its not over yet. God is just getting started now with Thomas and his Deaf group.

While I will not go so much into details since I know I said I would share my revival notes afterwards. We just got home today and I am doggone tired! But God used every ounce of my energy this weekend from Friday afternoon with the Dotson Deaf Group with a team-building workshop….to the Friday evening Revival kickoff….to the Saturday morning with the Knoxville group represented by 5 different churches….to the Saturday evening Revival service….to the Sunday morning Revival service…and then ending with the Sunday evening 212jam Concert.  It was WELL worth it. It is my prayer now that the Knoxville community and its leaders will take what they learned and share with others and HONOR God in all that they do or say.

Until next time…..may the Lord bless you and your evening tonight….I am going to go hibernate for awhile. SMILE!

God’s “Most Wanted List” – Contrite Heart


For the last few months, I have had probably the hardest times as a minister than I ever have had in the last 13 years of ministry work. I cannot recall ever going through so much. Without going into details, these last few days have been the hardest. But in the midst of all these things happening, I know God is with me. He will be with us no matter our trials. He will hold our hands no matter the struggles. He will scoop us up into His arms no matter whats being said or done. He will love me because He loved me first, before I loved Him. As I write this post after much reading, praying, and seeking, I am reminded of a scripture that I read recently. Psalms 51:17 that says:

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (NIV)

In my Life Application Bible, it has a note that says:

God wants a broken spirit and a broken and contrite heart. You can never please God by outward actions – no matter how good – if your inward heart attitude is not right. Are you sorry for your sin? Do you really intend to stop? God is pleased by this kind of humility.

God wants a “contrite heart.” I didn’t know what this meant until I looked it up to refresh myself…it means to “be repentant” or to put it more simple “to be the end of ourselves and to allow the beginning of God’s freshness”

It is easy for people, during times of struggles, headaches, and hard experiences, to forget the importance of being broken, Lord knows..I have.  Not many people would choose to be burdened with heartache or disappointment, but few that go through suffering fail to realize some value from those times…after the trial has passed.

As I was recently reflecting on my own times of “ups & downs…good days & bad days”, I read alot of things on the internet, in books, scriptures. And I discovered several important things to being broken before the Cross:

It makes and keeps one humble Humility is highly honored by God and is an attractive quality to others. You can never be tooo humble. When I think about this area, I am reminded of the prostitute that washed Jesus’ feet with her own tears and dried Jesus’ feet with her own hair. To do that required a heart full of humility.

It teaches important life principles Honestly, I have learned more from the hard times in my life than from the good times. Everyone needs to be looking into learning lessons from every experience, both bad and good. It has been said often that “without rain, flowers cannot grow.”

It brings repentance I often forget how much I need forgiveness.  Brokenness, especially when caused by my own actions, reminds me I am hopeless apart from His grace.

It encourages a fresh start  Starting over is not always as bad as it seems. Lord knows that new fresh starts are often needed in ministry. Satan works so much on us that we often forget that our time on earth is short. New beginnings start with the “renewal of our minds and hearts fixed on Him”

It invites grace Brokenness brings me to my knees.  That’s never a bad place as long as my heart looks upward towards God. Being on your knees also shows humility. Being on your knees shows “a need” for something from God.

It shows humanity Brokenness reminds me that real people have struggles. Real people need a Savior. I am reminded of a church slogan in that past “Real people with real struggles worshiping a real God”

It welcomes the heart of God Psalm 34:18 says, “God is close to the broken-hearted.” To have a contrite heart means to clean yourself out and allow God to fill that empty space. To have a contrite heart means to “make Jesus more important that yourself” NOW…not later.

So may you have a humble heart today and everyday, as I will strive to do. May you welcome God into your life more and more everyday, as I will strive to do. May you remember that God is close to you in your struggles of life, as I will always remember too. May your remember that after the rain has happened, something more beautiful will come…as I will remember that too.

Thoughts for today

Today will be a busy day for me and I thought to do a post on here first before I get started with my day.

Just a few days ago was our 3 year anniversary of the Deaf Church (March 22, 2008). And while I felt like celebrating, instead….I went to God’s Word to have an extra devotion time. The scripture that I got stuck on was this:

Ecclesiastes 9:10 “whatever you hands finds to do, do it with all of your might…”

To tell you the truth…this is true for many people. I cannot remember the last time that I had “idle hands”.  My hands have constantly been doing something for God for the past 13 years. Whether its ministering to my family, ministering to a deaf person, ministering to my parents, ministering to my children, singing worship songs for a revival, teaching a workshop at a conference, praying with people, preaching, teaching, leading, whatever… I wouldn’t know what a person is like with “idle hands” …

God gives us the ability to do “something” for Him…. in each of us after we have received salvation through Him, is a gift. And that gift or ability is to be used to enhance, enthrone, and embrace Him more in every possible way.

Another scripture that I recall from a few weeks ago related to this is: James 1:22 which says…“Be doers of the Word, not just listeners” Rather than listening what God says….take it and use it and DO something….

Idle hands or a better word, hands that do not commit fully are not effective because Jesus is clear in Luke 9:62

“No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God”

So today…I want you, who is reading this now, ask yourself this question…..

  1. What are my hands doing now for God?
  2. What is my level of commitment?
  3. What is causing me to “look back” while I am using my hands for God?

May your hands do good…may you do it with all of your might….may you be doers, not listeners only… and may you “plow” with your eyes forward, never looking back….

Devotion from Friday’s Deaf Social @ Graceland

Gas Mileage?

Graceland Baptist Church                                                                                                                                        Deaf Social Message                                                                                                                                                March 18th, 2011

Good evening…. Good to be here with you guys. I was asked to share a short devotion tonight with you. Some of you knowing me, I don’t know the meaning of a “short message”…we ministers tend to not think of time.

But usually when I do something short like this…I go into something that I use for my facebook videos which is a three part:

STORY / BIBLE VERSE / CHALLENGE

STORY:

  1. How many of you have a car?
  2. How many of you drive a lot?

Now the big question…it is an embarrassing question….

How many of you have ever ran out of gas in your car?

  • I remember one time, I was helping with Vacation Bible School.
  • I was a leader for the Kindergarten class. I had 8 boys to myself.
  • Monday…II had to drive 30 minutes to the church….I checked the gas…”oh plenty of gas!”
  • Tuesday…I check the gas….”Oh plenty of gas”
  • But the next day, I did not even bother to look…I was so busy
  • And then it happened….I ran out of gas.
  • Imagine how I felt…calling for help….I was embarrassed!

SCRIPTURE:

The scripture that I want to use here is Romans 12:2:

2: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

CHALLENGE:

  • As I was sitting in my car waiting for a friend to bring me some gas, I was thinking
  • I was thinking of ways to AVOID running out of gas again….you know what the easiest way is?  TO NEVER DRIVE MY CAR AGAIN.
  • It would be full all the time, right?
  • Its easy for the car to run out of gas if we don’t think about it
  • It is the same with SPIRITUAL feeding…
  • If you do not take care of your spiritual “gas”…it will run out.
  • If you just stay home, not go to church, not go to bible studies at your church, not pray, not read your Bibles…. Your gas will be run out.
  • When you go to church…you have plenty of gas
  • When you get up Monday…check your gas…
  • When you get up Tuesday…check your gas
  • When you get up wed…check your gas
  • When you get up Thursday, check your gas
  • When you get up Friday, check your gas

Do not forget about it….

That verse teaches us to “RENEW” everyday…

If we want to grow more in our spirit and faith, we need to keep our “GAS” tank full

When we stop thinking about it or checking it, we end up in trouble.

Neglecting Our Weeds

There’s a story that I learned about a few years ago from a conference I went to…the story was about a young lady who had arrived at her home late one day and noticed a few bees flying around in the attic area outside her home. She didn’t think nothing about it so she just let it go, didn’t care about it. Over the next few weeks, she still noticed the bees coming in and out of her attic area outside of her home. But you know what? Her attic in her home became a live home for the bees and there was honey building up. So what happened? The ceiling floor collapsed and the bees became angry. The woman was fine and had no serious injuries but the repairs for the attic were more than she could handle.

That is a good example for some of us here tonight. When we are faced with a problem or situation that we just do not want to handle at the moment, we LET IT GO, we put it off, we ignore the situation until it becomes too late…when our “repairs become too much to handle in the end”

Neglect is a strong word and is used in many situations. Husband or wife neglect, children neglect, responsibilities neglected, opportunities neglected. Homes neglected for not taking care of it or outside of the homes too. What about a garden? (How many of you have gardens?) My parents had one when they were living here before they retired and moved to Bowling Green. Taking care of gardens is pretty hard work. I remember when I used to help them pick green beans, squash, tomatoes, potatoes, watermelons, and then we also had “weeds”

Weeds are a pain in the butt. They never stop growing. No matter how many times we went out to that garden, it seemed like everyday, we had to pull them out. And I never understood at first, why was it so important to remove the weeds? I mean it looked just like a normal piece of grass and why all the extra work for a few pieces of grass? So as I learned that weeds can do damage to your garden, I was reminded of a parable that Jesus told in Matthew 13: 24 – 29.

24 “The Jesus used another story to teach them. Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a man that planted good seed in his field. 25 That night, all the people were asleep. The man’s enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat. Then the enemy went away. 26 Later the wheat grew and the also the weed plants grew too. 27 Then the man’s servant came to him and said, “You planted good seed in your field. Where did the weeds come from?” 28 The man said, “An enemy planted weeds” “The servants asked, ‘ do you want us to go pull the weeds out now?” 29 the man answered, “No, because when you pull up the weeds, you might also pull up the good wheat. 30 Let the weeds and the wheat grow together until the harvest time. At the harvest time, I will tell the workers this: first gather up the weeds and tie them together to be burned. Then gather the wheat and bring it to my barn”

Jesus was emphasizing a few things in this story that is related to our own individual lives..

#1 We all have a good seed in ourselves (which is Jesus no matter how it was done)
#2 We all have weeds (your situation, grief, problems with family, friends, job, financial, etc)

#3 We all have a decision to make…Pull the weeds at the right time or never pull the weeds

You know back then they didn’t have electricity, which was before my time, they had oil lamps to light up a room. If it was really clean, one oil lamp had a great potential to light up an entire room very good. But if it was dirty or wasn’t cleaned up well, it wouldn’t light up as well.

That is the same concept as WEEDS….

If you continue to NEGLECT your WEEDS, your WEEDS will hurt you someday. And you will not be able to light up a room as Jesus would want you to. I struggle with my “weeds” everyday on something new whether it is financial, handling a problem related to my kids, house issues, car issues, problems with friends, problems with my wife…but I do know for sure..I have one set of weeds that I do not have to handle anymore, because I have already picked them out and Jesus took care of the rest for me. You know its interesting…sometimes in our deepest and hardest struggles, we turn our situations into our own sanctuary. We cry out for help and the weeds begin to be picked little by little.

In front of this computer now, I want to think for yourself of your own evaluation of your weeds. The question is: “What weeds am I neglecting today?” …meaning what weed do I need to take care of now….maybe is it a person you need to solve a problem with, maybe it is something that you are struggling with from your past like I was, or maybe you have weeds in your relationship with God but I challenge you to make a wise decision to pull your weeds out and let Jesus take care of the rest. Your weeds are never too much for Him. He planted that good seed and He did not intend for them weeds to damage that good seed.

New Year…New Goals…Taking it Serious!

Last week, we talked about the word “TAKING”. We also talked about GOALS… Every New Years Eve, we talk about GOALS…”RESOLUTIONS” to help us improve ourselves for the next year. Such as:

(1) Losing weight. We watch what we eat and then we go to the YMCA to work out, but then after a few weeks, we give up and go to McDOnalds because noone is looking! The goal becomes NO GOOD, because we quit.

(2) Promotion at work. When the boss is around, we work harder to impress them. But when the boss is not around, we become lazy and use excuses to not do the work. The goal to get a promotion becomes no good, because we dont keep up with what we plan to do.

(3) Marriages to improve. The husband or the wife agrees to spend more time with each other. But eventually their talk becomes cheap because we dont stick to what we agree to do. Its easy to TALK…but its not easy to ACT. The goal to spend more time together gets easily distracted because of work, or friends…and then it becomes NO GOOD.

I want to share with you FOUR ways that you can COMMIT to stick to your GOALS and TAKING IT SERIOUS…HOW?

(1) COMMIT TO FORGETING YOUR PAST MISTAKES

Many years ago, Paul told his people “Forgetting what is behind and looking foward to future, I press forward to the goal for what God has called me to in Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:13-14)

All of us are used to looking to the past…. you know…when we look in the past….sometimes its hard to move forward. We tend to use our past to blame people. God doesnt want us blaming people. How do we forget our past mistakes? LET IT GO…. If we are going to be serious in our GOALS…..we need to start by making our past mistakes become our past…do not carry them to NOW or into the future…LET IT GO

Maybe you need to LET IT GO with your parents? or friends? Start the new year off the right way!

(2) COMMIT TO GIVE UP GRUDGES (dwelling on what people hurt you)

Pay attention to this verse: ” Bear with each other and forgive each other whatever happens to you. Forgive as the Lord forgives you” (Colossians 3:13)

Notice it says “forgive as the Lord forgives you” that means …you have no choice. You have to forgive others because God forgived you. what is a grudge? It is an “unforgiving spirit” that causes unforgiving attitudes that leads to unforgiving actions. It is almsost like facebook….when you see something you like…you sometimes click “LIKE” but with people, sometimes we see something we do not like….we pick “DISLIKE” about that person…. that is almost same as a grudge.

But let me tell you: grudges destroy marriages…..grudges destroy families…..grudges destroy friendships…..and…are you paying attention? GRUDGES DIVIDES A CHURCH……hmmmmmm thats true…. we have people in our church and people in other churches that have “grudges” against people INSIDE the church… is that good?

NO GRUDGES are Satan’s work….not God’s GRUDGES do not help us in our life….it causes health problems, it causes bitterness, and it causes us to have a bad attitude towards other……and then it causes us to DISOBEY God in many areas. If you are holding a grudge against anyone in your church….you need to LET IT GO…when you LET IT GO….you will have peace and feel better…trust me, I know becasue I have experienced it myself

(3) COMMIT TO HEAL YOUR RELATIONSHIPS (friends & family)

Look at this verse: “If it is possible, depending on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18)

You notice the middle of the verse says “depending on you” How hard is it for you to tell someone “I am sorry” ?

Its tough sometimes… What if YOU are right….do you still swallow your pride and say I am sorry anyway? What would Jesus do? Some of your friendships and your relationships with people have been destroyed why? sometimes it is something that YOU do to them…. you borrowed money and didnt pay it back? Did you gossip about them? Did you hurt them and never asked them for forgive? Did someone hurt you and you refused to forgive them? Will you be the bigger person and do what God expects of you?

(4) COMMIT TO TURN AWAY FROM SIN

 “Do not let sin control the way that you live..” (Romans 6:2)

often….when we are involved in sin and our own wordly pleasures…we do not recognize God or His Word. We dont really THINK about God and what He thinks about what we are doing.

In the Army….we tend to see the general or captain frequently yelling out orders when people are marching. there is one command that we need to remember…its called “ABOUT FACE”

ABOUT FACE actually means to look the opposite direction of where you WAS facing…. In other words, if God yells “ABOUT FACE” to you…. He demands us to turn away from SIN and look TO HIM Like what, you ask?

  • Are you secretly looking at porn XXX on computer? ABOUT FACE!
  • Are you abusing your wife? ABOUT FACE!
  • Are you involved in sexual sin? ABOUT FACE!
  • Are you involved in something that God would not approve? ABOUT FACE!

the challenge is….we need to do things GOD’s WAY…. when we set goals for this year….we need to do things GOd’s way…not our way.

So….our challenge today is:

  1. Will you commit to forget your past mistakes?
  2. Will you commit to let go of your “grudges”?
  3. Will you commit to heal your relationships / friendships?
  4. Will you commit to turning ABOUT FACE from sin…and face God more?

Our World, who is in control?

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This week, I am reflecting and looking at several scriptures related to this topic.

I was reading an article online in preachingtoday.com and it said :

“Those who worry about stress, financial issues, family issues, job issues, and other forms of stresses OFTEN are the ones who do not trust God enough. Trust in God helps us to learn from our past. Trust in God helps us to reduce our worries for today. Trust in God helps us to think about today, not tomorrow”

Now…that is so true in many of our lives. We worry about money being tight for the next few weeks…we worry that the country is going to get deeper into war talks….we worry about our kids…we worry about our home….we worry about our health…we worry about every little thing that comes our way..

In the past few weeks, we have been through the FIreproof series on how to improve your relationships with your spouse, with your friends, and above all, your relationship with God.

I think in those weeks…God was teaching me to be a better husband and a better friend but above all…He was teaching me to rely on Him more.

Have I done that? in some areas, yes.  In the areas where its needed mostly, no

More than anything..I would love to give up all of my areas of strengthes and weaknesses to Him so that He can make things better… but during the times of transitioning control and changes…lessons are taught and lessons are learned. It is in these lessons, where I learn to humble myself and say “God…this happened for a reason that only YOU know…but whatever the reason is…you are the one in control of it, not me.”

Too often…I want to make the decisions…I want to make the changes…I want to see this person commit more…I want to see something done without me having to finish it up…I want…I want…I want…I want….. in the world of Ipods, Iphones, Itunes…there is no room for any “Iwants”

In the last few weeks…I have encountered many things and people about their struggles. And it burdens me that those issues evolved over time that something could have been done. Whether it was something that I could have done to better the situation or seeking help to help that situation, but God has taught me… “not your battle, steve” “Let them learn, and let them seek me”

The other day..I had a friend of mine tell me that they blamed me for their backsliding from the Lord because I failed to assist or help them in areas that they needed.  At the moment, I felt..”Wow..Steve, you idiot. You are losing one of the flock because you didnt tend to this sheep” But then as the conversation went on, i was reminded that I am only a messenger of the Lord.  My job is to feed the Word of God to others so that THEY will be empowered to do what the Word of God commands.

I plainly told this person “I am not responsible to hold your hand all day to make sure you are right with God. That is YOUR responsibility, not mine”

In that incident..it almost sounded like he wanted me to control his situation…but eventually…we must allow God to control our situations, not us.

In Psalm 139 it says:

“O Lord, you have searched me and your know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you know my thoughts from far away. You know when I go out and when I lie down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, you know what I will say, o Lord”

I like to think that everyone can say that, because it really it true. God knows all and hears all and sees all. God isn’t some gullible person to be tricked.

I like to think of it as if i am sitting at a table..and the person has known about me all along my life….but the only one for me to meet and get closer to that person is to invite that person to sit at my table with me.  Without the invitation, then we will only know about that person, not KNOW that person.

So an invitation is the key to giving up control….think about it….

  • When we drive a car…we tend to want to drive the car first…because we are in control of its direction. But if we invite someone else to drive it for us….we lose control.
  • When we go through life with all of its messes, struggles, and frustrations….we want to be on control of it all…because we will control its direction…

What would happen if invited someone else to take over and control our life’s direction?

I will leave with that thought….