Almost two years ago, my family and I began attending our church. Long story short, it is a church we helped start in 2002. We returned during the church’s ten-year celebration.
We’ve been there ever since.
I’ve seen God move since we’ve been there.
Not long after we arrived back we learned that we were facing a bit of a financial crisis as a church. In fact, it seems like much of America, our church had been hit hard by the recession and other things.
Our church faced a large debt that made it difficult for the church financially. About a year ago things began to happen.
Our pastor’s wife made pumpkin rolls for the holidays and sold them. All proceeds went to the church debt.
We began a “Junk for Jesus” campaign where people brought scrap metal in to sell.
One man gave a prized gun and jewelry to the church.
Other funds mysteriously appeared.
The result? We reduced our church debt by about $80,000 during that stretch.
When our church bought our property, twenty acres were purchased. About seven acres were unusable. No one would want that. No one except our neighbor.
He wanted it for a right of way and buffer. He had no knowledge of our situation.
He ended up purchasing it for $50,000.
What can we learn from this? All sorts of things. I will let you form your own takeaways.
I just want to glorify God for what He did to move the hearts of so many people to accomplish this feat. It was incredible watching it happen.
Have you ever watched God work in a group of His people?
Habits are important in our lives. They will either provide a great foundation that allow our lives to withstand the storms of life, or they will be sand, allowing our lives to be washed away. The following is a list of key habits that will help us follow Jesus. None of this is rocket science or anything that hasn’t been heard before. However, if you’re like me, you will find a habit here that needs to be built into your life that will help you in your walk with Jesus.
1. The Bible
I don’t care how much you read the Bible on a given day. You don’t have to be a champ who reads it through four times a year, or once for that matter. Just read it. Something. There are plenty of systems out there that can help you if you don’t know where to start. Read a little when you wake up. Read a little more during your lunch hours. Repeat before you go to bed. Just read it.
God created us for relationship with Himself. Why don’t we talk to him? He’s not expecting flowery speech. He just wants you to get real with him. Imagine not talking to your spouse. Your relationship would wither, wouldn’t it? Same with our relationship with God. The great thing is that there are no limits to this. You can pray all day long if you want.
You might say that you go to church and worship every Sunday. I say that’s a great start, but don’t limit it to there. Worship while you’re walking, running or gardening. Worship Him through your hobbies. When something big happens, realize that He is bigger and acknowledge it. Make worship a lifestyle, not an event.
You should be in a church. I don’t necessarily mean a large church. It can be a house church. It might consist of a dozen or thirty people. I do mean a regular group of people who love each other with a pastor who will serve and protect you. If you are in a larger group of people, you need to be in a small group of folks who you can meet with and where you can be open and honest. Open confession, this is latter bit is where I struggle greatly.
You need to have regular time of getting away from everyone and everything. John Wesley’s mother did this by putting her apron over her head. Her children knew not to bother her. We have options today. Find a place you can spend to be alone with God everyday. Once a months, block out three or four hours to get away with God. Maybe it’s a park or a low traffic area at the library. Once a year, get away for a night and a day alone with God. Explain this to your spouse. Encourage them to do the same.
Find someone to invest in. Guess what? You are further along in your faith than someone else. It doesn’t have to be formal or follow a plan. You may just catch up on what the Lord has been doing or share your struggles. It may help you more than it does the one you are investing in. The key is being intentional.
7. Faith Sharing
Tell others about Jesus. On purpose. What’s the worst that can happen? Someone asks you a question you don’t know? Be honest and tell them you don’t know, but you’ll find an answer. Get back with them. Don’t try to fake it. People see right through that. Your objection is that you don’t know enough about your faith to share? It doesn’t have to be a heavy, prepared evangelistic piece. Listen to others. There are lots of keys in their lives that open to door. Tell them what Jesus has done for you. It’s not as hard as we make it out to be.
As I look at this list, I find plenty of these that I am failing at. In fact, the way this post came about was me thinking about how I can make my relationship with the Lord better. That’s the challenge we all face.
Take one of these and work on it. Then begin stacking them. Pray while you read the Bible. Do both in solitude. Do both with others. Let’s just do them.
What habits do you need to work on? How can I pray for you in this area?
Today we continue our look at Paul’s letter to Philemon. As we found out last week, Paul is writing this letter to Philemon because he has someone he will be sending back to him. Philemon is an old friend and brother of Paul’s. He is valuable and he loves him. Now, he is expecting something big out of Philemon. He is asking him to go against what the world would expect him to do and values. Before he gets into that, though, Paul continues extremely personal comments regarding his relationship with Philemon.
I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints. Paul is thankful for Philemon. Philemon is not just someone who Paul led to the Lord and then forgot about when he moved on. No, he has kept tabs on him throughout the years. He prays for Philemon often. Paul thanks the Lord because Philemon demonstrates the love that flows out of truly being transformed into a new creature by Christ. Philemon loves those who have come to know Christ.
Paul is also thankful because of Philemon’s faith. He is hearing about this from others. This doesn’t sound like a big deal in our modern day world of social media, texting and cell phones, but think about this in Paul’s context. The only way for him to hear about this is by letter or personal contact. Both take time in Paul’s day. Philemon’s faith in Christ is at such a level that other’s write to Paul or travel to see him and tell him about it.
And I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. One specific thing that Paul prays for Philemon is for the results of his sharing of the faith. Philemon, evidently, is not ashamed of the Gospel. He is willing to risk his life and standing to tell others about Christ. Paul prays that Philemon’s efforts will be effective and result in the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of the Gospel. In other words, he hopes that Philemon’s sharing results in others coming to know Christ. How often do we pray that others will share their faith effectively?
For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you. It must have been stressful when Paul left some churches and areas. He left leaving those churches under the direction of someone other than himself. Based on some of his letters, he might have been right in being stressed. When he heard about what was going on in Philemon’s home church, he didn’t feel any anxiety. Instead, he found joy and comfort. Why? Because of Philemon’s love. Philemon loved the church. He loved them so much that he had an effect on their lived. They were refreshed by him. We have all probably been affected similarly in our own churches. A great question to ask ourselves is if we are affecting others in this way.
Philemon, we find is a man who has a great faith in Christ and loves others, especially the Church. He shares his faith consistently and brings joy to Paul because of the results of his life. He is definitely a man who produced a great testimony by the life he lived.
What are out takeaways?
1. We are going to affect others we come in contact with one way or another. It will either be positive for the Lord or it will be negative. We should work on making it positive.
2. Sharing our faith should be a natural part of our lives. One of the prayers we pray is for others in their sharing of their faith.
3. We should seek to live a life that refreshes those around us. We are going to either refresh or drain those we come into contact with. It’s much more fun to refresh.
The new TV season is upon us. It began this week in earnest and will stretch out over the next few weeks.
I’m a bit of a TV geek. I always have been and I might always be. I get excited each year when the new TV shows premier. When I was a kid the networks would even have a preview special that would highlight the new shows. I still have fond memories of those.
I’ve watched a handful of shows this week and it dawned on me that this week reminds me of something:
Hang in there with me for a minute. I’ll explain.
Each year hundreds of TV shows are presented to the network executives during what is known as pilot season. They are looking for new shows to replace those that were cancelled. A handful will be selected for the fall. Even fewer will make it through an entire season. Even more will be cancelled by the end of the TV season and the process will begin again.
Each TV season is basically the same. It begins in the fall and renews itself each year.
It reminds of 2 Corinthians 5:17: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
The new TV season is a new creation. The old one is gone. The new one has begun.
We can see pictures of the Gospel just about anywhere. It’s incredible to me that even in something that often flaunts ungodly lifestyles, that we can see the glory of the Lord.
Are you excited about the new TV season? What show do you look forward to the most? Have you ever seen the Gospel in an unexpected place?
We all deal with the blues on occasion. Often, it’s right after something good has happened. We climb the mountain and life has never been better. The peak is awesome.
Then we have to begin the descent down.
Pastors often face this on Mondays. They spend their Sundays pouring out to those they are called to shepherd. On Monday, they may be tired and spent. They are weaker than any other time of the week.
It could hit the rest of us at any time. We get the blues.
Elijah faced this. He fought the prophets on Mount Carmel. He won and came off the mountain on top of the world. Then Jezebel called for his head. He found himself at his lowest just a bit later. He was ready for the Lord to just take him out.
What can we learn from Elijah’s experience so that we can beat the blues?
The first thing Elijah did to beat the blues was to get some rest. After getting off by himself, he laid down to sleep. He had to be tired physically, emotionally and spiritually from tangling with Baal’s prophets. Often times, stress will exhaust us and usher in the blues. He needed a serious nap.
Next, he ate. He had been focused on the fight to the point of going without food. Then he fled for parts unknown. He needed to replenish his stores. The Lord sent an angel to deliver the goods to Elijah.
Finally, Elijah was given a new mission. He traveled for 40 days into the wilderness. There, he received a message from the Lord. He was to go anoint new prophets for the Lord. Elijah thought he was all alone. He found out soon enough that there were others.
Elijah was able to beat the blues with the Lord’s help. We can most of the time as well. We need to rest, eat and seek a mission.
What if we can’t beat the blues after doing this? We need to seek out some help. There may be something else bringing us down that needs to be addressed medically.
Have you ever had the blues? How did you beat them?
Maybe they still have them. I’m not sure. I don’t recall seeing them lately.
Of course, I’m talking about the Ronco commercials.
You remember them. You could get knives that sliced, diced and could cut through a can or a nail. I think these were Ginsu knives, by the way.
$19.99 doesn’t sound like much. I remember when it could buy me a stack of comic books that I would read at least twice before the next month’s issues came out. It wasn’t much then, but it was a lot to a kid who worked himself through college.
$19.99 used to buy more than two weeks worth of gas. It was probably close to three weeks. Now it gets me about a quarter of a tank.
There are plenty of things that $20.00 minus a penny can get us. A t-shirt. A decent meal. A baseball cap.
19.99 isn’t a lot of money.
For some, though, $19,99 is a decent chunk of change. It’s the difference between children eating and going hungry. It’s a set of clothes for the school year. It’s the water bill.
It might be what someone has determined what the Lord wants them to give to Him through the church.
A widow gave all she got. It might have been the equivalent of $19.99 to us. It was all she had. Period.
She may not have known what the next day’s meal was coming from. She may not have known how she was going to pay the rent. It didn’t matter.
She gave all she got. She worshiped the Lord with everything she had. She was happy to please the Lord because it pleased her.
Have you ever given all you had to the Lord?
How many jobs have you had in your life?
My first job was helping my grandpa deliver hospital beds for a pharmacy he worked for after he retired. He would pay me a dollar for every trip I took with him.
From there I moved yards, hauled hay (square bales) and worked in tobacco. You haven’t lived until you’ve been in the middle of a tobacco patch in August.
Next up was being a bag boy for Food City after I turned sixteen.
I worked in a car detail shop, a saw mill and a bank through college.
My first job after college was full-time for a bank. Then another bank, Then my current employer the first time.
For one year, I worked three jobs before returning to my current employer. I’ve now been there for twelve years.
I’ve enjoyed two of these jobs.
My experience is that few people enjoy their jobs. I never remember hearing from my dad that he liked his job. All I recall is that he couldn’t wait until he was 52 and could retire after thirty years on the job. That seems to be most people’s goal, it seems. They want to do their time until they get to quit and do what they want.
We should enjoy our jobs now. Some of you might ask how, in the same of Sam Hill, we can accomplish this task. After all, it’s a grind to get up every day and go to the salt mines. At least, that’s what I seem to hear from a lot of people.
Well, I don’t know who Sam Hill is, but I’ve got some ideas, especially if you follow and claim Christ as your King.
First, whatever we do, whether we eat or drink or whatever, we should do for the glory of the Lord. Our work should be a testimony to Him. If we please Him, then we should be happy with our work.
Second, who we work for goes far beyond who our employer is. We work for the Lord. We seek to please Him more than any boss we could have. Christ is our employer. He just has us positioned in spots where He wants us.
Third, we can have as much, if not more, influence over people in the workplace that any other in the world. We are there more than we are anywhere else in a given day and week. We have more opportunities for people to see Christ in us there than in any other situation that we find ourselves in.
Finally, we were created for work. Adam was given a job right off the bat. Even after the Fall, man worked. It became harder. One day, it will be easier than it will ever be on this Earth.
We ought to love our jobs. If not for the sake of the job itself, then for the Lord’s sake. What do we do if we find ourselves hating our job. Run through this list. Ask the Lord to change our hearts. Things might change dramatically for us.
Do you love your job? Why or why not? What will you do to change if you don’t love your job?