Don't Be a Turkey, Give Thanks!  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer in , , , ,

Thanksgiving is one of the holidays that we tend to use it for its purpose. Our family has a tradition of saying something we’re thankful for before we eat our dinner. Generally, the thankfulness is directed toward the other person. It is a fun time to hear what the other person is appreciative of you for and it gives me a boost to hear it said.

In Luke 19, Jesus cures ten people who first beg and beg for their healing. Jesus then heals them, but only one comes back. It seems that once they got what they want they forgot about thanking the one who cured them. The one who comes back shows how appreciative he is of this miracle that Jesus performed on him. The other nine were just a bunch of turkeys – they forgot to give thanks!

Are you in the 90% or in the 10%? When things happen to you are you giving thanks or being a turkey? This story from Luke 19 probably reflects how most people would respond. When was the last time you told your boss thanks for your job? When was the last time you told your teacher thanks for being your teacher? When was the last time you told your parents or children thanks for something that was particular to them? When was the last time you said thanks to your minister for the work they do? Or, when was the last time you said thanks to God when it wasn’t a “church” time or the outcome wasn’t a “yes”? I would tend to think that we probably haven’t said thanks in these listed situations.

God has blessed us physically, materially, and spiritually. Use this week to say thanks to God for allowing you to be rescued from your sins, something different each day. A few examples are: your family, your senses, your job, your school, your teachers, your principal, your sins forgiven, your house, your church, your talents, your friends,

One goal in the Luke 19 parable was to get us to understand how important it is say thanks. This week the concept of being thankful is on our minds, may we use it the way it was intended and not be a turkey!

Have a happy Thanksgiving!Share/Bookmark

What were some of the basic phrases in the last prayer you said? "Be with me..." "Guide, guard, and direct us...", "Give him (the minister) a ready recollection of the things he's studied...", "Forgive us of our sins...", "Heal those on the prayer list...", "May we take this in a manner pleasing to you/thee..."??? Any of those phrases did you say or hear at your church assembly on Sunday? Did you hear many "thanks" in the prayers? How often were the "thanks" phrases outnumbered by the "help us" phrases?

The story of Daniel in the Lion's Den has an important part that I usually looked past this part of the text from verse 10..."Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God,... (NIV). Daniel was praying with thanksgiving. Daniel didn't ask for God to rescue, but to be appreciative! As we think about that concept from the lesson, here are some applications to choose from to use...

  1. Thanksgiving traditions tend to be very deep. We tend to make the same foods and eat with the same people each year. Our family has a tradition of saying something that we appreciate about each other...try saying something you appreciate about each other and making that a new tradition. If your family meal is really big, have each person say something about someone else not in their own household.
  2. Take time this week to say a prayer of thanks...just of thanks...nothing else. Say it, no matter how short or long. Focusing on "thanks" takes our mind off of other things.
  3. Tell someone "thanks" for something they have done to make an impact in your life.
  4. Use Thanksgiving to be thankful for the things you have in Christ!
May we never forget the fact that we are able to have our sins forgiven, which should make us eternally thankful!

What are some of your family's traditions...I'd love to hear them.

Grateful to God...Share/Bookmark

Thanks For the Memories  

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We're down to our last 168 hours of living in Southern Illinois. WOW...that is hard to even write! We moved here with lots of ambition and drive. We engrossed ourselves into the Lord's work, which entailed getting involved with the community.

We had the privilege of naturally getting to know a lot of people in the community through a preschool that the church had going. We put our own stamp on this endeavor and had several parents, who had children involved prior, tell us it was better than it was before. We went to summer events to see these children play t-ball. We strengthened relationships each time we saw them in public.

We took other initiative to get involved in the community. Subbing was one way of doing that. I have really enjoyed getting to know the kids in the high school and junior high, along with the staff. A blog is not long enough to write about all the memories and experiences I've had while subbing!!!

I was looking for an outreach idea, and God led me to start a Ping Pong League. More people I had the privilege of knowing in the community. It is continuing on despite our leaving...God connects the dots!

In the field of ministry the local Ministerial Alliance has had its open doors. This led to serving on the Kids Kingdom Project and the Tree of Lights committee. With the Tree of Lights I have left my mark by designing and making the tree that is used with the fund raising campaign each year. Design work also allowed me to create other designs used with the Tree of Lights. The local Ministerial Alliance has a great group of ministers working to serve the McLeansboro community! I enjoyed serving as Secretary and President during my time.

One of the greatest surprises was the opportunity for the local newspaper to use my blog entries as articles. My prayer has been to "reach more people for Christ" and this has been one door that God opened. I have had numerous people tell me how much they have enjoyed reading my articles. At least half are people who come to me and say something like "aren't you the one who writes those articles...I really enjoy them". I have praised God many times that I have been able to connect with people through this medium.

We also had our first child here. He continues to be referred to as a "miracle" baby. He didn't have any health defects that he has had to endure, but the fact that we were able to become parents, finally, makes him a miracle! This is his "home" and we hated to have to leave here.

I can't leave out our spiritual family...whom we hate, the most, to leave. You've been supportive of us. You've dreamed with us and served with us. You got on board with our ideas. You've trusted us. You embraced us. You sat in the trenches with us. You are our forever family!

Comments that I've been sent from some people in the community that have meant a lot...
"Thanks again! for being an excellent addition to the community."
"Just so you know, the last year of my life has been the most difficult of my adult life. You are the only person that expressed an interest in my well being and I do appreciate it...The community has lost a valuable asset. As "Men of God" fare, you are at the top of the my opinion..."
"I appreciate what you've done for us at Unit 10 and in the community. Thanks."

It has been a great three and a half years! We will miss you! THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES!!!Share/Bookmark

She's Famous!  

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Do you see this on the left? This is something that is AWESOME! Something that I am so proud to brag on and bring to your attention. This is a picture my wife's article that is soon to be published in an online magazine!

She is an awesome writer! She has great thoughts and insights! She has a way with words (all pun intended)! She has a magnificent way of bringing her day-to-day occurrences around to deepen your faith!

You won't be able to read this article based on the picture, but you will be able to read the article if you click here. It is worth the click!

I am blessed beyond to be married to this beautiful, talented, and famous woman!!!

The Emptiness That Holds Us Back  

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Practically everyone would like to have some more money. Whether it is to have a more comfortable lifestyle or to just pay the bills. We are currently in a financial down time. Maybe not the worst one ever, but one which is definitely making an impact on many.

However, as difficult as it can be without money, that doesn't make a person "poor" as much as a person who has no vision, ideas, or goals in life, their career, their church, their family, etc. This brings us to this week's quote...

Empty pockets never held anyone back. Only empty heads and empty hearts can do that. ~ Norman Vincent Peale
The phrase "I don't know" is one that I have said frequently in life. Aside from the few times that I really didn't know an answer, most of them were times I was being lazy in any attempt to figure out a solution. I wanted it spoon-fed to me. I didn't want to put in any effort. Have you been there?

However, when I have an idea, whether it is for a sermon, a house project, or a graphic design project, nothing holds me back. I am not saying that it is able to be finished in a day, but I am saying that I am thinking about it or working on it often, till it is completed. These things may not take much from my wallet, but that doesn't stop them from being completed and worked on.

Goals do not have to stay the same as you enter into different levels of life. What is important is that you do have goals. Even if finances make it difficult to achieve a goal, don't let that be what holds you back. If you've got a passion in your heart and mind for something...find a way to go for it!

Not letting "empty pockets" hold me back...Share/Bookmark

God is Able - Ephesians 3:20  

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Have you ever heard the statement "God is Good...All the Time!"? How do you feel about it? Do you agree or disagree? (I'd enjoy any comments to post regarding your responses) Sometimes we just cannot agree because we are wrapped up in our circumstances. Life is not going well, so we cannot view God as good - especially not at "this" particular time.

It took me a while to fully embrace the statement above, after I heard it. Basically, I missed the point of the statement, along with its depth. I viewed it selfishly. I am sure I wasn't the only one to view it this way. However, now that I do fully embrace the statement I can see the goodness of God in situations. He is not only good, but He is able. Yesterday, we looked at the phrase "God is able" and below are some areas where He is able. May they be useful in your spiritual walk this week...

God is able...

  1. To Keep You From Falling - Our ten-month old is beginning some early phases of trying to walk. He is starting to take his hand off of an object to stand long enough to realize he's on his own, then to plop down. As we walk with God, there are times when we aren't going to be having it all right to walk freely. We need to have several components to be able to walk. May you be continually working on the elements found in II Peter 1:5-7 in order to keep your walk balanced and you from falling.
  2. To Deal With Problems on Earth - Police lineups are generally about 6-8 people. A witness must try to pick out the one they think committed the crime. It can be very difficult because they may look similar. How about trying to pick out someone in six billion? We generally think that we're not important...but God could pick you out easily. You are very important to God. He is so able to deal with the difficulties on this earth that He can easily deal with us, individually!
  3. To Free Us - When it comes to plans like cell phones, I love the word "unlimited". It makes it so freeing to know you don't have to worry about how much you use. One of our early plans we had a "regional" plan, but it still was "hit and miss" about what our area was once we got outside our immediate area. Plus, we still had a limited amount of minutes to talk. Our plan now includes nationwide service, and to certain numbers the minutes are unlimited. Under the old law, you had a limited amount of time before you broke the law. Once broke, always broke. Under the new law, there is an unlimited amount of grace that is available to those who walk in the light. How freeing it is to know that as we walk with God we can lay our head down at night with assurance.
  4. To Supply Our Needs - Christmas time brings about a lot of "want". We want so many things...But how many of them are needs? Needs aren't always fun, but we need them. We're in a situation that I don't want to be in, but I may need to be in it. There are lessons to be learned through waiting. You may have a similar story...not wanting to be in your situation but needing to be in it. Ponder your situation and look deep to see if it is one you "need" to be in.
  5. To Offer Hope - God is able to provide a hope that is beyond all hopes. One with an assurance that is completely comforting. If you don't know Jesus, you need to reevaluate how much hope there is in Christ! IF you do know Jesus, praise God for the hope you do have in Christ!
  6. To Completely Save - The word "complete" can offer a lot of assurance. When you are insuring your house, you don't want to have certain parts of your house uncovered with your policy, you want complete coverage. If you were to find out that you weren't able to have complete assurance that you would go to heaven when you do what God asks, you wouldn't think it is a very good deal. However, God does save with an offering of complete salvation. Jesus' sacrifice was a one time sacrifice that gives us the assurance of knowing we can have complete salvation! Praise God for His completeness!
God is able to do more than we can ask or imagine...that's for sure! May that verse be a sense of encouragement as you start your week (or just go through your week).

Praising God For His Awesome Abilities...


What Direction Are You Moving?  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer in , , , , ,

Have you ever stepped down into a swimming pool where the water wasn't that warm? You felt the chill as soon as your foot was immersed. As you became more and more submerged you developed goose bumps, maybe even had your teeth chatter.

However, what happened after you stopped walking and stood for a few minutes? You felt OK...but then someone walked by you or you started walking again and you felt the chill, again! (Scientifically speaking, your body warmed that water immediately around you, that is why it felt comfortable.)

However, the more you moved around, the more comfortable it became. Movement can be uncomfortable at first, but it becomes more and more comfortable the more we move.

In the religious sense, I gladly label myself progressive. Specifically defined as not wanting to become stagnant. Stagnation is never good. I try to motivate people to be continually moving so we won't become stagnant. That brings us to this week's quote...

The greatest thing in this world is not so much where we stand as in what direction we are moving. ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
When we stay where we are, figuratively or literally, we become more and more comfortable. Comfort has its place, but it can also cause us to lose sight of what is around us. This happens because we look at our environment so often we forget to actually "see" things. When we change things up a bit, we tend to notice things more.

What have you become comfortable with? What are you not noticing in areas like...Your job? Your church/religion? Your relationships? Your goals? Take a look around...see where God may be taking/moving you.

May we be challenged to move. Though it may be uncomfortable at first, the more we move, the more we'll become acclimatized and have progressed to a better place.

Nervous but looking forward to where God will move me...Share/Bookmark

Joys of Jesus - Hebrews 12:2  

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One of the greatest joys that God has ever brought to my wife and I was our son. We were "forced" to wait nine and a half years before we were able to see the "pregnant" indicator on the pregnancy test stick. We will both never forget that day...May 6, 2007...a Sunday, the one before Mother's Day. What joy filled our hearts! Just tonight, I looked at him and made a comment to my wife about how surreal it still feels, sometimes, to think about the fact that this awesome little guy is our son. (You can see pictures if you scan down, on the right).

Jesus is joy. The fact that we can have forgiveness of wrongs, sometimes brings a surreal feeling. "Is that really forgiven?" we might say. Knowing the mistakes we've made have really been washed away, thanks to the Blood of Christ, just seems hard to believe. We remember the mistake(s) like they were just yesterday (and in some cases they were). How can God just let that go? Well, He desires your relationship so much that He had to make a way for you to be able to return to Him. His decision was that only a perfect sacrifice would do the trick...His solution...Jesus. WOW! That should bring us joy!

Yesterday, we looked at the joys of knowing Jesus and being in Jesus. Here are some applications to choose from to use this week...

  1. What would your life be like if you didn't know Jesus? If you had never heard of Him, His name, or anything associated with Him? Some may feel relieved because you don't believe in Him. However, others of you reading this would have a life that was beyond empty. You wouldn't have that perfect example to look to for how you want to live your life. You wouldn't have the knowledge of this man who was both 100% God and 100% man at the same time who was able to die for your sins to give you a hope that is priceless! This is the message to share with others...if knowing Him brings you will also bring others' joy, as well!!!
  2. Imagine what your life would be like it you couldn't dispose of your trash by simply putting it by the curb or in your alley dumpster. Know how disgusting meat smells after it has been disposed of? What if you had to store your trash up for a whole year before it could be taken away? I can't even think to imagine the smell of all the rotten foods and other things that would eventually cause a big stink (all pun intended). That stink that would be there is incomparable to the stench of your sins. However, being IN Jesus allows that trash to be "disposed" of properly and quickly! What an awesome concept, that we are free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:1-2) and we are restored, even when we sin! Figuratively, there are people who are keeping their garbage in their heart because they don't allow Jesus to take it away! That is part of the message of being IN Him...He takes away the garbage! Praise God!
If your week has started with a lot of garbage piled around it, lean on Him and let Him take out the garbage!

Laying it out at the curb...Share/Bookmark

Substituting...Quite the Experiences  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer in , , , , , , , ,

Most of you know that I have had the privilege, yes, privilege, of being able to be a substitute teach in the local schools. Practically all the time, it is in the high school. Being there frequently has allowed the kids to get to know me. This allows for me to have a certain sense of respect. During my time, I have not had to give anyone a detention. Part of that is due to that punishment not being that effective, in my opinion. And two, I don't resort to that until they are defying me. Occasional talking, I can handle. Being defiant, I can't.

I think, in the two and a half years that I have been doing this, I have filled in for almost every teacher. The only one I can think of that I haven't filled in for is the driver's ed teacher. This has allowed me to be in a variety of classrooms. Each classroom brings its own sense of challenges.

Last week, I was in the band room. I didn't have to do anything musically with them, but their freedom brought boredom and boredom brings trouble. The school has a cell phone policy. I was never told about what the policy actually is, so I have my own. It is based on me catching them and their honesty. During that period of forty-four minutes I confiscated three cell phones! Kids trying to text because the were bored! In the middle of the week I caught two, in another class. The first one gave up without a problem. The second one didn't want to give up his phone too easily. I asked for it, and he said "no". We visited, but he still wouldn't give it up. I gave him until the end of the hour (about 6 minutes) to decide if he was going to give it up or not. I even started to write a detention slip, and at that point, he gave it up. I drew the line, and he had to decide which side he was going to be on. That is a "secret" to my success, giving students a choice and then sticking with it.

I also do the same with the class, as a whole. Depending on the situation, they have the choice, as a class, to behave or not. Sometimes they want to go to lunch early or they have to read the entire class period. In these two cases, I will put up numbers from highest to zero. These numbers represent how early they can go to lunch or how much free time they have after reading. I tell them that they've already been given a warning. Then, if even one student is not doing what they are supposed to be doing, I mark a number off. They now have less time for free time or to be able to go to lunch early. It is very effective. Kids have the choice and they take care of each other to win the reward. I don't believe in warning kids over and over. I draw the line and they have the choice of where to stand.

Subbing has given me great opportunities to make Kingdom impacts in the community. Much of the time, the community doesn't even realize it. I love to observe what kids are going through and try to help them as they go through. I like to reach out to those who probably never get reached out to. I enjoy seeing them learn. I enjoy seeing them in the community. I enjoy congratulating them on their achievements. I enjoy meeting their parents. I really have enjoyed subbing and look forward to today, when I get another chance to be in the classroom having many more experiences! I could write about so many things, but this was long enough!!!Share/Bookmark

Developing a Greater Vision  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer in , , , , ,

Being a principal's son has its definite disadvantages. For example, your peers tend to think that you get special treatment because of your father's position. The jeering doesn't stop when the school day ends or at non-school related events, no it continues on into other realms of life.

There was one such individual in my class that was one of the ones who dished out most of the jeers. It caused me to really grow to dislike him, even though I would try to let it go most of the time. In my youth, I even "dreamed" that when I grew up, I would show up on his doorstep and beat him up for all that he dished out. Well, that "dream" never came true, for various reasons. However, I had to make the choice to get on with life or fall victim of my circumstance. This brings us to this week's quote...

People who consider themselves victims of their circumstances, will always remain victims unless they develop a greater vision for their lives. ~ Stedman Graham
As I mentioned, that "dream" never came true for a few reasons. One, this boy turned out to be a user of drugs. Which I began to feel sorry for him rather than hurt. Two, I was a Christian and this was no way to solve the problem. Lastly, I knew that my life was going in a positive direction and his was going in a negative one.

People who feel the sense of entitlement tend to fall victim of their circumstances. They go through life waiting for something better, rather than putting forth the effort of achieving a goal.

Vision, in life, is so important to see where you want to go. Have you had a string of bad luck due to poor choices or the environment where you live? Make realistic goals and envision where you want to be, praying throughout the process about how you are going to get there. You may not see the "end", but God can do amazing things when you give it to Him, letting Him work. We have our part to do as much as we can to be proactive in achieving those goals.

Looking forward to the future...Share/Bookmark

A New Found...Praise - Acts 2:47  

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How many times did you say "thanks" to God today? One, two, three...a dozen, maybe more!? How many times have you told other people how great your life is since you have God in your life? Any?

As we've been examining Acts 2:42-47 lately, we've been looking at some of the "new" things that the early church was about. Sunday, we concluded with the concept of praise and how that led to them finding favor with the people and God blessing them with growth.

God is an awesome God! He is SO worthy of our praise. As I am finishing redoing many things in our bathroom, I have had several "Thank You, God" moments. For instance, I bought this tool for a little more than $3.00, that is supposed to help with making your caulking look nice. You know how "gadgets" can be...well, I didn't have much faith in it. Mostly because its accompanying gadget was a caulk removing tool - that didn't work out as well as I thought. Anyway, this tool was well worth the money! It made it look nice and it cut down a lot of time..."Thank You, God!" was my response!

Here are some applications to choose from to apply from Sunday's sermon...

  1. Let God know you are thankful that you are able to read this sentence.
  2. Let God know you are thankful for giving you another day to see His creation (Fall is a beautiful time of the year!!!)
  3. Let God know you are thankful for _______. You fill in the blank.
  4. Let someone know (outside of your household and family tree) today, somehow, how much you are thankful for being a part of God's family - could be through a testimony, a direct statement, a text, e-mail, or some other way.
  5. Say a prayer that is all about praise to God - not mentioning anything but a list of things you are thankful for.
What we could be praising Him for could go on and on. I was just thinking about how great our assemblies were today and for the guests we had. And, then to set up a study with a lady who has recently overcome almost all the cancer in her body...the cure...she attributes almost all to prayer! The doctors have been amazed...with no answer for her why she went in one time with cancerous areas and the next time those areas are gone - without treatment! "Thank You, God!" This has been one of those "God's timing" studies. I've known this lady for about 2 to 3 years because she is a friend of one of our members. She is finally open to wanting to find out more about the Jesus that her friend and I have in common...God is Good!

Hope your week has gotten off to a great start...mine has!

Praising my Him and others...