Friday, April 29, 2016

Let's Be Victorious!

Photo by Quinn Dombrowski
At the start of April I challenged FBC Bowling Green to grow to an average attendance of 200 by the end of August so that we could start our 2016-2017 church calendar year with momentum.  Now I understand that two of those months are summer months.  I also know summer months are the traditional times of the year for church attendance to take a hit and for growth not to occur.  These facts got me thinking, why?

Kristy and I along with another couple went to the Dave Ramsey EntreLeadership One Day Conference in Orlando recently.  Ramsey told a story that griped my attention.  He told of singular day in which he had two conversations with people in his lobby during breaks in his show.  The first conversation was with a man who looked downcast and broken hearted.  The man told Ramsey he had just filed bankruptcy.  The year was 2008 and he was a landscaper and with the downturn in the economy, people were just not hiring landscapers.  Ramsey gave him some encouragement and the man left and Ramsey returned to his show.  Durning another break a little while later Ramsey met another man who was glowing.  The man told Ramsey his business was better than it had ever been.  He was growing so fast he did not know how he was going to keep up with the demand.  Because of the downturn in the economy he was able to purchase equipment at dirt cheap prices and was so excited about what was going on in his area of business.  You can probably guess what business the man was in, can’t you?  You got it, the man owned a landscaping business.

Why did the first guy in the midst of the same economy go bankrupt and the second guy prosper?  I think the answer is what John Maxwell calls the Law of Victory.  The second man understood the Law of Victory and was going to do whatever was necessary to win.  The first man did not understand this law and made excuses for his failure.

What does this story and the Law of Victory have to do with my opening paragraph and the challenge I have presented before FBC Bowling Green?  Why do we have to follow the trends of other churches?  Why can’t we commit to victory and say, “We will meet our goal!  We will do whatever is necessary to obey the Lord God and bring Him glory!”  Satan wants to discourage the church.  Satan wants us to think we can’t grow.  Jesus wants us to have our best days in front of us.  Let us grab hold and accept the challenge.  Let us grow and see Jesus do amazing things in our midst.  Let’s hit 200 average attendance by the end of August and with that momentum, let’s see what God would have for FBC Bowling Green in our 2016-2017 church calendar year!

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Millennials: Our Hope for the Future?

Photo by double : zanzo
Those who regularly read my Thoughts by Scott know I am fascinated with the subject of Millennials, those born between 1980-2000.  You know this particular age demographic are a conundrum to me.  In this past week I have heard of several different stories regarding Millennials which have had me wrestling with my thoughts regarding this younger generation.  

There has been a lot written about this generation and the frustrations older generations have with them.  They say things like this generation is self-absorbed, lazy, disrespectful, and the list goes on and on and on.  I would concur there is a portion of this generation that fits these generalizations regarding this generation.  I would also be quick to point out that every generation has had people that fit those kinds of descriptions as well.

There is another group of Millennials that is rather encouraging to me.  These are the stories in which I am referencing.  Dave Ramsey on his daily radio program has a portion set aside on almost every hour of his show called the debt free scream.  People come on the show and tell how much debt they have paid off and how long it took.  For about a week Ramsey had a lot of Millennials on his show telling of their journey to being debt free and for many of these Millennials that also included their house.  In other words, there were Millennials who had zero debt of any kind and no monthly house payment because they paid their homes off as well.  

Some other stories about Millennials dealt with those who have started their own businesses.  I must be honest, there is a side of me that is jealous as I heard about the four twenty-seven year olds who sold their start up for one billion, yes billion, not million, billion dollars.  Then the kicker was one of those four young men had a little brother who did the exact same thing and his start up also sold for a billion dollars.

I mention these brief stories because these stories give me hope.  Not every Millennial is lazy and self-absorbed (well the billionaires might be, but they were smart enough to start a business that was worth that kind of sell price).  For all of the negative spewed about this generation, I also think this generation brings to the table a lot of hope.  When this generation does get committed to something, there is really no stopping them.  They are some of the most passionate and dedicated people when they buy into a cause.  This fact gives me hope for our future.

What are your thoughts about this Millennial generation?  Do you have a hope for our future?  Let me know by commenting to this post.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Choose Your Vocation Wisely

Photo by Flazingo Photos
Scripture: Titus 3:13-14
Diligently help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way so that nothing is lacking for them.  Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful.

Insights: As I get older I am becoming more and more convinced people do not choose their vocations wisely.  Far too many people are trying to find a job instead of finding their calling.  Paul was a tent maker by profession and he used his vocation as a tool to bring glory and honor to the Lord.  He would talk to people in the market place about the Lord and his customers about Jesus.  He would also tell them about a house meeting that was going to be held that evening and invite these individuals to come over.  He was not making and repairing tents solely to receive an income, or in modern day vernacular, a paycheck.  I think it is imperative I mention that too many people today just look for a job that pays them well and has a good benefit package.  These reasons are the absolutely worst reason to take a job, because if that is the motivation, then you truly do just have a job.  I cannot tell you how many conversations I have had with people who hate their job, but are now too far invested to quit and do what they really are called to do.  Would it not have been better to have started with the question: Lord, what would You have me to do?  I tell you, the world would be a far better place if we had more people doing what they were called to do, rather than just earning a living and waiting toward retirement.  I think Zenas was truly called to be a lawyer.  I even wonder if he had helped Paul on his many cases in which he was wrongfully arrested.  I think it is probable that Zenas did help Paul in this fashion.  If you are young, let me admonish you to not just take a job.  If you are older and are already committed to a job, then let me encourage you to find a way in which you can best be a light in your place of employment.  Look for opportunities to talk with other employees about Jesus.  Invite them to church with you.  Let your job be a catalyst for you to share Jesus and let the Lord be glorified through you.

1. In what profession has God called you?
2. Are you presently working in that profession?

Prayer: Father, I thank You for gifting me and molding me into the person You created me to be.  Help me glorify You in my vocation.  Amen.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Choose Your Location Well

Photo by Magnus Larsson
Scripture: Titus 3:12b
make every effort to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there.

Insights: I received a call several years ago from a lady who had recently purchased twelve acres of land next to the church I was pastoring at the time.  She had worked in corporate America in a cubical all of her life and she had done very well.  She was getting ready to retire early and start her second career.  She told me she wanted to work with the land and, specifically, she want to plant olive trees.  Now I don’t know if you are aware, but olive trees like dry environments and only need deep watering about once a month.  Mobile, AL is the rainiest city in the forty-eight contiguous states with more than five feet of rainfall annually according to WeatherBill, Inc.  I would say this lady’s choice of olive tree planting is an unwise decision.  In today’s verse we see the need to choose our location wisely.  Paul is choosing to do the snow bird thing and weather out the winter at Nicopolis.  Choosing to winter there affects the people with whom Paul will be able to minister.  Where we choose to plant our lives affects not only us but our children and potentially our grandchildren.  We need to be certain we have heard clearly from the Lord as to where we live.  I realize our world is becoming an ever shrinking world and the ability to get from one location to another is become very small.  This fact, however, does not negate the importance of our location.  For example, let’s say you were called to minister to Native American Indians, but you lived in Scandinavia.  I would say this location is going to be pretty inhibiting for you to accomplish your ministerial calling.  You would literally have to leave Scandinavia and come to a specific pocket of Native Americans in the U.S. and minister to them there.  Let us strive to know the Lord’s will and then be obedient to Him no matter where it puts us in a geographical sense of the word.  Let’s choose wisely were were are going to live.

1. Where do you find your residency?
2. Have you sought the Lord to determine if He has called you to your present location?

Prayer: Father, I truly desire to be in the center of Your will.  Thank You for placing me where I am and grant me mercy to know Your will for my present dwelling.  Amen.

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Monday, April 25, 2016

Choose Your Partners Wisely

Photo by Sheri Hall
Scripture: Titus 3:12a & 13a
When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, . . . Diligently help Zenas the lawyer and Apollo

Insights: The Bible is a very practical book.  There are times in which we get to portions of a letter and we think, “What can I learn from this section?”  Today’s verses may fall into that kind of category, but I think there is a lot we can learn from it.  We don’t really know who these four men truly are.  We know some things about them from other passages of the Bible, but not really anything of substance.  What we do know is they were useful to Paul for the advancement of the gospel.  Paul, if you will, had partnered with these individuals for the glory of God to be proclaimed to a lost world in need of a Savior.  I find this reality to be very practical and helpful to us.  Let’s look at it for a moment from a business standpoint.  To use language from Jim Collins’ Good to Great we need to get the right people on the bus and in the right seats on that bus.  It is for this reason many companies have potential employee’s fill out a Myers Briggs assessment or Tom Rath’s Strength Finders assessment.  They are trying to determine if this potential partnership is going to be a good match for each party involved.  Good churches also do something similar to this in their new members class.  They offer a spiritual gift assessment.  The reason they do this is to help find the place in which a person can do ministry in the local church based on their giftedness.  Here is the point I am trying to help you understand.  We have to partner with people on a regular basis and we need wisdom and discernment in order to join these partnerships.  We need to first seek the Lord and determine from Him if this is the correct path we need to take regarding these partnerships.  May you be blessed as you seek the Lord and His wisdom to make godly choices regarding partnerships.

1. With whom have your partnered in this life?
2. Have there been partnerships you ought to have joined and did not?  If so, what lessons did you learn from that experience?

Prayer: Father, in this world people bid for our time on a daily basis.  With some of these interactions we need to do more and actually partner with those individuals.  Grant me wisdom and discernment today to know I am making proper partnerships in my life.  Amen.

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Friday, April 22, 2016

The Power of Incremental Growth

Photo by Eli Duke
Yesterday I wrote about momentum.  Today, I would like to carry that theme on a little more, but with a different nuance.  I want to focus on you specifically today.  We are almost one-third of the way through this 2016 calendar year.  We know a lot of people start the year with New Years Resolutions.  We also know most people abandon their resolutions before the first month is finished.

Let me remind you once again about incremental changes on a daily consistent basis and the long term effects of such actions.  We start the new year and expect miraculous results in the first month, but when those results don’t happen and we start to realize just how much work is required to pull off the goal, we quit.  What would happen, however, if you committed to continual on going growth and improvement?  I watched a video the other day that shows the power of daily incremental change.  Here is the link to the video:

This man at the beginning of his transformation could not even do the exercises.  At the end of the video, the man is completely changed.  We will have times in which we won’t be able to do something, but if we won’t quit, we will see incredible change.  This kind of thinking makes me ask the question, on what have you given up?  Is there any area of your life that you under estimated the value of incremental growth?  Did you stop before you actually got to the place of momentum?  Let me challenge you to press on daily.

The specific area of your focus is not as important as the daily work.  In other words, do you wish to quit smoking?  Are you desirous to lose weight?  Are you wanting to start a new business adventure?  Is there a ministry the Lord is calling you to?  Again, the subject is not key.  The daily intentional work is what is of importance.

Look to the future and describe what the end will look and feel like.  Find out your “why” as in why do you need to change in this specific area.  Then work yourself backwards and go back far enough to were you discover what the very first step is.  It could be something as simple as writing out your vision or goal with your “why” explicitly stated.  Then do it.  The next day, write out what is of second importance and then do it.  Keep this pattern up and before you know it you will have momentum on your side.  You will complete your objective and will be amazed at how good you will feel.  So, press on and do the good work and let momentum take you to the end of your journey.

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Work Until Momentum Comes

Photo by Scott Meis
At the start of this month I began challenging First Baptist Church of Bowling Green (FBCBG) to add ten people to our regular attendance each month for the next six month so that we can begin building momentum.  I want to share with you a few thoughts on the subject of momentum.  Michael Hyatt, John Maxwell and many other leaders espouse a philosophy of incremental growth.  In essence these dynamic leaders say we over emphasis a singular event and under emphasis the impact of daily steps of incremental change which in the end creates big change.

Let me unpack this thought a little more.  At FBCBG we do multiple events throughout the year called Carrying Christ to Our Community or C3.  For example, we have coming up on April 30 from nine to noon a car wash at two different locations in Bowling Green.  The purpose of these car washes is to just show people in a tangible way that we love them as we clean their car.  We want nothing out of the people that stop.  We hope to have conversations with them and to possibly pray for them.  We have hosted concerts in the park with bounce houses and food.  The point is we put a lot of time, energy and money into these events, and rightfully so, but we often times expect big responses as a result of these singular actions.  The reality is these events are more for changing public opinion so that we can earn the right to do the daily steps of incremental change.

I have shared this before, but Jim Herring, my back door neighbor invited my parents (long before I was born) to church week after week for almost an entire year.  Finally, my parents said, they would go to church with the Herring’s and that has made all of the difference in my life.  This was a small thing done over a long time and it resulted in my parents salvation and my own.  Was it worth Jim asking week in and week out for my parents to come to church?  I am eternally grateful he performed this simple act on a regular and consistent basis.

As a church we voted and passed a vision for our future.  It is a fifteen year projection of turning our church into a community whose DNA reflects the idea of being Christ centered, gospel driven, joyfully united and prayerfully obedient.  There are a lot of little steps on which we are working daily.  At the moment, these little steps do not seem to be bring big results.  Yet, if we will continue to do the right things and move in the right direction, eventually we will look back and say, “How did we get here?”  There will be a literally momentum shift as we do the right things over and over again.

It is hard on the onset of changing currents and momentum.  Let me encourage you not to give up or grow weary as we continue to do good deeds for the glory of God.  Keep inviting people to church.  Keep telling them your story.  If you do, before you know it, we will have sixty more regular attender at the start of our next church calendar year.  Invite someone today.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

We Must Be Intentional to Reject Factious People

Photo by Steve Rhode
Scripture: Titus 3:10-11
Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.

Insights: The final point from Sunday’s sermon really deals with the issue of church discipline.  Paul instructs Titus to reject a factious person.  Now, Paul tells him to do this after having reached out with the hope of reconciliation through two warnings.  In other words, in a very condensed fashion, Paul is telling Titus to go to the person one on one and confront their factious attitude.  If the person does not repent, then Paul is telling Titus to return with a witness and extend reconciliation a second time.  Both of these encounters are to be done in love.  The hoped for outcome is restoration of a beloved individual.  If, however, the person decides they will not repent, but rather will remain in their factious attitude, then Paul tells Titus to reject this person.  In other words, to conduct church discipline on this person.  Again, I must emphasis, the purpose of church discipline is to put an individual out of the church for a season with the hope that their life will get so miserable that they eventually feel compelled to return and be restored to the body of Christ.  This church discipline is actually a form of love.  In Hebrews chapter twelve we are told the Lord disciplines those whom He loves.  Our church discipline is a form of love.  The problem is most churches are not healthy enough to do proper church discipline.  We are more concerned about hurting someone’s feelings than we are about obeying the commands of God.  This pattern is a dangerous one for the church.  We must be more concerned about the glory of God and His holiness than we are about the feelings of a factious person.  We must trust more in the power of God than in the legislative dictates of a litigious society.  Beloved, it is my prayer that we at FBC Bowling Green will grow in the grace of the Lord and be a healthy church.  It is my prayer we not fall prey to factious people, but are all sold out for the Lord.  I will tell you this one last truth.  If we get busy with our point from Monday about engaging in good deeds, then we will be too busy to worry about foolish controversies and factious people.  Let us serve boldly the Lord our God.

1. Why do you think most churches are not healthy enough to practice church discipline?
2. What steps do you think churches need to take to reinstate this biblical precedent of church discipline?

Prayer: Father, I do not wake up in the morning saying to myself, “who can I hurt today.”  Yet for so many, Lord, the reason they do not obey You regarding discipline is the fear they will hurt someone.  Help us to trust You more than our fears.  Amen.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

We Must Be Intentional to Avoid Controversies

Photo by Jeremy Weber
Scripture: Titus 3:9
But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.

Insights: One of the tools and techniques of our adversary Satan is to get us focused on nonessential things and to make them preeminent issues.  It would not take one long to read through the Bible to discover genealogical records were of importance to the nation of Israel.  We know from the biblical evidence whose families were permitted to serve as the high priestly class.  We know who was permitted to serve in a kingly or even a gubernatorial position.  As a result of these genealogies, the early church really dealt with some issues regarding leadership and position.  Those who had under Jewish regulations been people of importance all of a sudden found they had no positional power and these foolish controversies began to spring up.  There was another class of people, who did not have the proper pedigree, but they were highly intelligent.  They created a ruling class by becoming the interpreters of the Law.  Once again, when the early church comes on the scene we find those who engage in disputes over the Law and trying to reenslave believers to the futile system of the past.  Paul calls both of these activities unprofitable and worthless.  In the modern day church we may not fight over genealogies or the Law, but we do over menial things all the time.  We say things like, “we have never done it that way before.”  We fight over worship preferences.  We fight over ministry involvement.  We fight over methodologies.  In really bad situations we fight over the color of the carpet or the paint on the walls.  In every one of these situations we have lost sight of the main thing.  We are to be about preaching the gospel of reconciliation to a lost world.  We are to be displaying before people the love of Jesus.  Our falling prey to these other insignificant things is a tactic of Satan and we need to be mindful of it.  Thom Rainer in his book I Am A Church Member has a chapter titled I Will Not Let My Church Be about My Preferences and Desires.  All too often these sub issues are exactly about what this chapter discusses.  We make our preference and desire the real issue and not the heart of God.  Beloved, may we stop getting sidetracked and may we follow hard after Jesus.  Let us make Him the main thing with which we are consumed. 

1. What are some areas or issues in which you get yourself worked up?
2. Are these areas of real significance or are they like the genealogical arguments of Paul’s day?

Prayer: Father, this area is another in which all too often I focus on things which really are not of importance, but I make them important.  Forgive me for not making the main thing, proclaiming Your Son’s love, the main thing.  Amen.

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Monday, April 18, 2016

We Must Be Intentional to Engage in Good Deeds

Photo by Philms
Scripture: Titus 3:8
This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men.

Insights: Yesterday I used the illustration of Maverick in the movie Top Gun when near the end of the movie he was scared and refused to engage the enemy.  All too often we in the church get scared ourselves.  As a result of our fears we do not “engage in good deeds.”  We sit on the side lines and scream out, “I love Jesus, yes I do, I love Jesus, how ‘bout you?”  Now because we won’t actually do good deeds, we scream, I mean sing, all the more loudly that we love Jesus.  Yet, we still refuse to “engage in good deeds.”  I have placed a challenge before FBC Bowling Green to have us grow by ten people on average per month.  This challenge is not even supernatural in nature.  This kind of challenge is something we can do in our earthly power.  What if God actually got involved in our outreach efforts?  What if we were really intentional about sharing the gospel with people under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit?  How many conversions and baptisms could we really have if we surrendered to the promptings of the Holy Spirit?  What kind of momentum in our churches life could we create if we “engaged in good deeds.”  This year in the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering videos for North American Missions we observed a church plant in Montreal that did a free car wash for the community in order to show them they loved them.  We are going to do the very same thing on April 30 from 9 a.m. to noon.  We have two locations in which we are going to host these car washes (The Marathon station on the north end of town and our church).  If you are not physically able to wash a car, then we still need you.  We need you to speak with those whom we are washing cars.  We need to tell them we are doing this because we love Jesus and we love them also.  We need to ask them if there is anything we can pray for them about.  We need to show in physical ways to our community that we love them and that we care for them.  We need to do these good deeds and ask the Lord to truly make them profitable.  Beloved, it is my prayer you will “engage in good deeds” and not just sit on the sidelines.

1. What good deeds have you performed for the Lord recently?
2. What faith stretching work is God calling you to perform?

Prayer: Father, all too often I sit on the sidelines and do not engage in good deeds.  Forgive me for my disobedience and may Your favor fall on my activity for Your kingdom.  Amen.

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Friday, April 15, 2016

Walking through Grief

Photo by Alexey Yakovlev
In recent days I have had several conversations with people dealing with grief.  Now, to be fair, the kinds of grief have been different.  In other words, some have been going through grief due to a loss of a loved one.  Others have gone through grief due to decisions of other people which has caused consequences to fall on the one experiencing the grief.  Others have gone through grief because of false accusations that have weighed heavily on their hearts.  The point is, however, they have each experienced grief.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 reads, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”

Obviously, this passage is dealing with the grief associated with the loss of a loved one.  The phrase, “. . . so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope,” is the part I want to focus on for a moment.  Whatever grief you may be experiencing, you have hope if you are born again.  If Christ Jesus lives within you, you have hope.  As a result, you grieve differently than those who do not have a relationship with Jesus.

There is a second reality I want you to notice from his little phrase.  Paul did not tell these believers that they would not grieve.  Rather, all he said was their grief would be different from those who do not have Jesus in their heart.  Whenever one experiences loss, and that is what is transpiring in each of the situations I previously mentioned, one is going to grieve.  Their heart has been wounded because of pain.  The extent of the pain and the grief is going to be directly related to the amount of emotional energy you invested into the source of the grief.  In other words, let’s say you have recently engaged into a relationship with a person and it has only gone on for six months.  All of a sudden, the person with whom you are in this relationship does something that wounds you and you terminate the relationship.  You will grieve the loss of the relationship because you have been wounded.  Will you, however, grieve to the same extent that someone who has lost their spouse to death after fifty years of marriage?  The answer is an obvious, no.  Does this example help you understand the distinction regarding the weight of grief and the intensity of grief?  I hope it does.

There is another thing I wish to share as well.  Let’s assume you are one who has lost a love one of many years to death.  You are the one walking this journey out.  Others have experienced pain, but you were the one who had greater investment into the relationship.  As a result, the following is what often times transpires.  Those who are on the sideline of the grief, think you ought to be further along than you probably are.  For those who have lost loved ones of many decades often say the second year of loss was harder than the first.  The reason is because in the second year, less people are coming around checking on you.  You are still hurting, but others think you ought to be fine by now.  Just understand you are the one walking this journey of pain out.  I would recommend to you two books by C.S. Lewis.  The first is titled A Grief Observed and the second is The Problem of Pain.  These book may assist you in the recovery process.

One last thought.  Let us return to the passage from 1 Thessalonians.  Your cause of grief is not as important as the fact you have grief.  Paul then gives a clear explanation of Jesus’ return and how we are going to be reconciled to Him.  This fact is the key to hope in the midst of our grief.  In other words, if you are in Christ, will you one day meet your Savior in the sky?  The answer is, yes.  Because this statement is the truth of our situation, we are able to observe our grief through the lens of Jesus’ return.  One day Jesus is going to wipe every tear from our eyes.  We know from the Psalmist that Jesus keeps our tears (56:8).  We know Jesus Himself experienced pain and sorrow.  He knows first hand our grief.  Because we know these things to be true, we can rest in Him.

Resting in Jesus is the hard part, however.  He tells us to cast our cares on Him because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).  He tells us to take His yoke on us regarding the burden we carry (Matthew 11:28-30).  The reason I say this is the hard part is because Jesus will not force us to cast our cares on Him.  He will not make us take His yoke.  We have to release it to Him and trust Him to bind up our pain.  We have to believe Him to lead us into His eternal arms.  We have to trust Him to wipe our tears away.  For some, they sense if they do this, then they are forsaking their loved one.  Beloved, you are not forsaking the memory of your loved one when you turn it fully over to Jesus.  You are, in fact, displaying the greatest faith at those times and if your loved one is in heaven with the Lord Jesus, then they are all the more pleased that you have turned your pain over to Christ Jesus.  They want you to be healed also.

In conclusion, no matter what your grief is, turn it over to the Lord Jesus.  Rest in His healing and please know, there are no short cuts through the process of earthly recovery.  We must hope and trust in Jesus.  I hope this helps.

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Thursday, April 14, 2016

What Changed Our Self-Centered Focus

Photo by theunquietlibrarian
Scripture: Titus 3:4-7
But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Insights: The first part of the week we looked at what our lives look like when we put others first.  Yesterday, we looked at what our lives look like when we put ourselves first.  Today, we are going to see what makes such a life change possible.  Just as with the other two dimensions, there are six things that make for a life change.  Firstly, Jesus, God’s Son, actually came to the earth and appeared to humanity.  Secondly, Jesus saved us and our works had no bearing on the salvation, but was solely based on His mercy.  In other words, we can’t save ourselves.  We need a Savior.  Thirdly, Jesus washed us in regeneration.  In other words, He gave us new life.  Praise God for this new life in Him.  Fourthly, Jesus renewed us with the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us.  If this were a restaurant illustration, this fourth point is the secret sauce that make the life change possible.  God sent His Spirit to live inside of us.  We feel His presence and His promptings and we know we have experienced Him.  He empowers us to live life differently than our old nature.  Fifthly, Jesus justified us by His grace.  When Satan accuses us we have One who stands before the Judge and says, “This one has been justified.”  We are legally in right standing with God because of Jesus’ work on Easter weekend.  Praise God for His justice.  The final thing that makes a life change possible is Jesus made us heirs of eternal life which is our hope.  If the Holy Spirit is the secret sauce, then this final point is the cobbler at the end of the meal that makes it all worth while.  If we truly understand eternity and that it lies before us, then we live life differently here and now.  We walk more boldly.  We trust more deeply.  We express faith more frequently.  We encourage and inspire more than we condemn others.  Beloved, let us live such a life change of putting others first because of these six things that produce change in our lives.

1. Have you encountered Jesus, the One who made this life change possible?
2. If you have not, why not?

Prayer: Father, thank You for giving me new life.  I pray I will grow in grace with You and daily become more conformed into the image of Your Son, Jesus  Amen.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

What We Look Like when We Put Ourselves First

Photo by Mark Faviell
Scripture: Titus 3:3
For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.

Insights: Titus did not always live a life by putting others first.  In fact, Paul identifies himself with Titus when he lists a life descriptive of one living for self.  Unfortunately, I think I find myself living life this way all too often.  The first characteristic Paul uses to describe someone living life for themselves is that this person is foolish.  Quite frankly, we could stop right there and put my picture on the poster board and call it a day.  I cannot recall all of the foolish things I have said, done and thought in my life.  These foolish decisions lead to the second characteristic which is disobedience.  In my foolish state I actually believed I knew more than God did.  As a result, I would disobey Him and do things my way.  I would love to tell you it was because of the third characteristic (and at times it was), but more often than not it was my own selfishness that brought about this sin.  The third characteristic is the selfish person is deceived.  Satan is an evil advisory and he has come to steal, kill and destroy.  In his attacks he has deceived many and they then fall into the fourth characteristic which is enslavement to lusts and pleasures.  In other words, this selfish person believes the lie of Satan that they really are the most important person on the planet.  They then begin to think they are above the rules and pursue lusts and pleasures without any regard for the consequences.  Don’t forget, however, this pursuit is fleeting and based on deception.  The consequence of such a pursuit is the fifth characteristic and that is a life full of malice and envy.  They want what others have and are malicious because they don’t have it.  In the end, the final characteristic is exposed and that is the person is hateful.  They actually start to hate other people because the other person who has what they want is “affecting” them (from their deceived perspective), and therefore, this person ought to be hated.  This process is the epitome of foolishness.  It cries out selfishness.  It is in complete contradiction to the ways of God and His love.  Beloved, if you have examined your life and find these traits to be true of your life, please repent.  Ask God to change your heart and live a life that honors Him.  A self-centered life leads to pain and destruction.  Choose life in Christ.

1. Would others attribute the descriptors mentioned today to your life?
2. If you were to be honest with yourself, do you put yourself above others?

Prayer: Father, all too often I find myself living from this perspective of self-centeredness.  Please forgive me and transform me by Your grace.  Amen.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

What We Look Like When We Put Others First, Part 2

Unknown source for Photo
Scripture: Titus 3:1-2
Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.

Insights: I just looked over yesterday’s blog and realized I only wrote about two of the three things I was supposed to.  I will try to get all four in this blog.  The third way we put others first is by serving them.  I think it is incredibly difficult to put yourself first and serve another person.  This one act may be the epitome of putting others first.  In a similar vein is the fourth way we put others first and that is by speaking well of them.  The text literally states not to malign others.  If we are not maligning them, then the positive is we are speaking well of them.  Unfortunately, in our gossip driven and hurtful society we often times malign and do not speak well of others, but if we are truly putting others first, then we will do this fourth thing.  The fifth this is to be peaceful and gentle.  Paul writes in another letter to be at peace with others as far as it depends on you.  If you are living in peace with others, then you are going to be gentle with them.  In other words, you are not going to be overtly harsh or confrontational.  You are going to try and live in unity and harmony together.  The final thing we do if we are putting others first is we are considerate of their opinions.  Now, being considerate of another opinion is not the same thing as agreeing with that opinion.  For example, there are many Democrats who read the Scriptures and think they are the ones correctly reading the Bible.  There are equally as many Republicans who read the Scriptures and think they are the ones correctly reading the Bible.  And we could say the same for every sub party as well.  Here is the point.  If you are a Democrat, you are more than likely not going to be swayed to switch political parties and the same would be true for the Republican.  Could you, however, be considerate of the other persons point of view and have a rational conversation with them about the opposing ideologies?  This question is the point regarding this last way we live by putting others first.  We do not have to agree, but can we be civil.  As I watch the current election before us, it would seem we cannot as a people be considerate of one another.  If we are a Christ-follower, however, then we must be.  Let us put others first.

1. Are you serving and speaking well of others?
2. Are you peaceful, gentle and considerate of others?

Prayer: Father, grow me to see others as You see them and then grant me a heart of service.  Let me truly put others first and me second.  Amen.

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Monday, April 11, 2016

What We Look Like When We Put Others First, Part 1

Photo by SandyK29
Scripture: Titus 3:1-2
Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.

Insights: Over the next two days we are going to examine what a life looks like when it puts other people first.  Please remember the point of this sermon series is to help promote unity.  One of our mission statement declaratives is we at FBC Bowling Green are joyfully unified.  When a persons is unified, then they are indeed putting other’s needs ahead of their own.  I would like to look at three of the six today.  The first is we are to be subject to rulers and authorities.  God is the One who established a hierarchal system.  I do not always understand it and I don’t always like to submit to those over me.  Yet, if I am going to be unified, then I must willfully surrender my will to the will of the ruler or authority over that area of my life.  This statement is true as long as the ruler and authority do not violate God’s commands.  If, however, they do violate God’s commands, then we are bound by a greater Ruler and Authority which demands obedience to Him.  Now in subjecting our selves to authority, then we understand there are consequences for our loyalty to the Lord God.  We accept that punishment well and honor the Lord in the midst of the pain and sorrow.  Tied closely to this idea of being subject to rulers and authorities is a word I have already used, and am incapable of communicating subjection without, and that word is obedience.  We are called to be obedient.  Specifically that obedience is in reference to the Lord God.  He is the sovereign Lord over all of creation and He demands obedience to His commands and wishes.  It is important for us to understand God’s ways are easy and light.  Now when I say they are easy and light, I am not telling you they are not painful. It was painful for Daniel to be thrown in the lion’s den.  It was painful for three Hebrew men to be thrown in the fiery furnace.  Their love for the Lord made obedience to Him in contrast to the wishes of a sinful world easy.  They knew they had to obey the Lord and not mere mortals.  This idea is why I say the decision is easy.  The follow-through to obedience is not always because it can be painful.  Beloved, subject to the rulers and authorities around you and obey the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.

1. Are you subject and obedient to authorities, especially God’s rule?
2. How well do you serve other people?

Prayer: Father, help to never forget You are the One in control.  My responsibility is to surrender whole heartedly to You and Your will.  May my obedience point others to You.  Amen.

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