What a Week(end)!  

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We arrived back yesterday from the Tulsa Workshop. It is more than a weekend...as it spans Thursday through Saturday, arriving on Wednesday and coming home on Sunday.

This was like none I'd never experienced before. The short of it is that Friday it was rainy and Saturday it was very snowy (6-8 inches). The other side of the experience was that I had my first official time to speak...not once but all three days! I could go on about how that has humbled me more than puffed me up, but I won't.

As usual, the speakers were great! Very encouraging, motivating, and filling for my spirit. It started off on Wednesday night with a great time at Memorial Drive, hosting their "final" Feeding of the 5,000 (as next year Wednesday night will be at the Fairgrounds). Then, Thursday morning is an awesome time to meet in the Workshop Director's office and have a preacher's forum. This is probably my favorite part of the workshop. This time was followed up by the shepherds of Memorial praying over us...that was so cool!

The rest of Thursday was good as I had the chance to see many people I hadn't seen in a while. Friday was a great day, also. Saturday...was snowy...which didn't make the speakers any less great, but it did scare a lot of people away.

If you were there you experienced much of what I experienced. If you weren't there, you missed a great time and I hope you will think about coming next year with the theme...The Journey: Pressing on to the Goal.

Counting down the days till next March!Share/Bookmark

Wonderful Workshop!  

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I am just hours into the Tulsa Workshop. The largest gathering for Churches of Christ in the world. There will be 10,000+ people come through here this weekend (Thursday-Saturday). More importantly, God will be lifted up through every word spoken and song sung!

It is the greatest few days of my ministry year! I leave so excited every year! I can't wait till next year, before I leave for the current year.

This year is special for a selfish reason. I have been asked to speak, not once or twice, but all three days! I am anxious. Pray for me as I try to help people/churches to use technology to honor Him and expand the Kingdom. I speak Thursday at 4:00 PM, Friday & Saturday at 10:00 AM. If you can remember, pray during these times, specifically.

It was an honor to be asked and I pray that God has anointed me with words that will benefit those who attend and those who by the CD recordings of these classes.

Have a great rest of the week!

Being fed...Share/Bookmark

Who is That Guy?  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer

Being new creates opportunities to be introduced. However, it also creates intrigue and curiosity as to who someone may be.

The other day, I was at the Lenten Brown Bag and at the conclusion of the program a man and woman were talking. I heard her say to the gentleman, “Who is that guy?” It was kind of an awkward moment for her, I think, because I heard her and she was pretty sure I heard her. As she said, “I think he heard me” to the gentleman after I passed. The gentleman didn’t know who I was, as he wasn’t there last week and neither was she.

I don’t know if it was sheer curiosity or what it was that caused her to ask that question. It reminded me of a great show that I used to watch reruns of and at the end the people would as “Who was that masked man?” Do you remember? He was also known as “Kemo Sabe” (That was the best spelling I could research). You know him better as “The Lone Ranger”.

It was a great show, where he would come in, befriend the good guy, make enemies with the bad guys and eventually take care of the problem, then leave the situation. All the while creating much curiosity among the locals.

Another person this reminds me of…Jesus. He healed many people and they looked at Him with total curiosity. The apostles on the boat, during the storm, even asked that question, “Who is this guy, that even the winds and the waves obey him?” They might have known who He was, technically, but they were blown away at the fact that wind and waves would calm down at the deliverance of His command.

Do people have the same reaction when you come/leave a place? Do they wonder who you are? Did you do something that caught them off guard that they want to know who you are? We are to be lights in a dark world. May God bless you with opportunities this week to pique people’s attention that causes them to say “Who is that guy/girl?”Share/Bookmark

Believes - John 11:25  

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There is so much mentioned in the news today that one may have a difficult time of knowing what to believe and what not to believe. You pass news/magazine stands and see the headlines and you must make a decision on what to believe. As a side note, I get a kick out of people who pick up the tabloids because they have "inquiring minds". You turn on the television and can go through the same struggles of deciphering truth from farces.

With all that we read, see, and hear in our society that makes us cautious and/or skeptical, it is no wonder that some people have a hard time believing in God/Jesus. "Man created by dust, woman by a rib...c'mon, what kind of a science experiment is this? One man's death can take away the wrong doings of anyone who puts their faith in Him and is baptized...you've got to be kidding. There's no way I'm going to put my faith in any man, they'll just disappoint me."

However, we're called, challenged, and expected to believe this. No matter how "out there" it may seem to put our faith in Him, that is the only way the world is going to be able to regain the Glory that sin takes away. As we looked at believing yesterday, here are some additional applications to choose from this week...

  1. Take some time to examine what you believe and why you believe it - everything from why we practice certain things to Jesus being for real.
  2. Pray that you will never lose your core beliefs, but that God will always mold you into learning new things to believe
  3. Jesus tells Martha, "I am the Resurrection and the Life, whoever believes this, though he dies, he shall live...Do you believe this?" What is your response to this? How far does it take you in your convictions? Pray that you will be convicted to stand up for your beliefs when needed.
  4. Let your beliefs be a billboard for other people to see your faith in Him!
Believing is something that is personal. I don't fully think one can change another person's beliefs. That is something each individual makes the decision to do.

May others see your beliefs in action and want to be a part of what you are a part of, even if they do not know it yet that they want to be a part of it.

Believing in Him...Share/Bookmark

No Victory in Mud Slinging  

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Complaints are a dime-a-dozen. It doesn't matter if it is a child complaining about what's for dinner, a fan/player complaining about an official's call or lack there of, a customer's dissatisfaction with their food, an actors work in a play/film, the weather, the government, or how a church operates. We find it easy to complain. We want to be satisfied, so when we're not, we don't give second chances, we expect to be pleased, so we let people know about it.

Have you been receiving complaints? I've had my fair share. I once thought I wanted to be a "famous" preacher. However, after knowing all that they go through from skeptics, I thought about it again and do not think I need to be "well-known".

If you have been experiencing some complaints lately, this week's quote is for you. I hope you gain encouragement from it...

If criticism is mistaken or mean-spirited, rise above it.
Maintain the high ground when you're under fire.
No victory is worth winning at the expense of picking up the mud that has been slung at you and throwing it back. ~ Rubel Shelly
It is easy to throw mud back. There are people out there that will always complain about something I have done. They have slung mud as they were upset. It took a lot to imitate Christ and not sling it back. Though it may make me feel good to throw the mud back, there is no victory found in mud slinging.

If you are thinking about slinging some mud...don't. If you've been slung at...don't sling back. There is no victory in that. Rise above being under fire! You can gain victory in rising above rather than lowering yourself to their level.

Ever trying to maintain the higher ground...with His help...

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Life - I John 5:10-13  

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A continuation of looking at words in John 11:25

Sometimes we are given second chances. They could be when a friend forgives and you can make things right the next time. They could be having your heart restarted after suffering from a cardiac arrest. Usually, with second chances brings life. A kind of life that can rekindle an unknown excitement.

When I was in high school, our football team went 0-5, for the first half of the season. Then, came districts. This meant that you played three teams and the best record of those three teams went on to play the next round. Our school ended up winning all three games! We had a new life that wasn't there a few games back. We went on to win the next game, too! Then, we suffered defeat. However, it was interesting how you can go 0-5, and end up with a record of 4-6 and being District and Bi-district runner-up - all with a losing record!

As we see Jesus as the Life, we can get that spring in our step that no matter what happens, there is always a second chance. We can be figuratively resurrected each day/moment to win the second half! Yesterday, we looked at this concept and here are some applications to choose from to use this week...

  1. Praise God that you have life - physically and/or spiritually
  2. Use your life to the fullest - by trying to make someone else's life better - a compliment, a smile, a random act of kindness, etc.
  3. Wake up each day this week and make a commitment to resurrect the new self by leaving the old self/things with the previous day.
  4. Start a new hobby/habit that will enhance your life
  5. Find a way to volunteer for something - that tends to always make people feel better, even when your plate seems full.
Life is made up of choices. Those choices tend to decide how happy you are going to be. Make choices that will help you be happier in the long run, rather than the short-term.

Have a great day! Enjoy life!

God is good...All the time!Share/Bookmark

Listen Thoroughly  

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One of the activities I remember from a college counseling class was on listening. I remember it for a couple of reasons. One, because I was the "sucker" who fell victim to it. Two, because I have used it as an exercise in other areas, putting it to use. The exercise was to discuss some sort of a difficulty in your life, then ask the other person if they've ever had anything like that in their life. As 99% of the ones on the other side did, we started talking about our life, when that person was the one who came to us to talk out their situation, not hear us talk.

Listening is a part of my job as a husband and as a minister. Listening is incorporated in one-to-one situations, as well as, feeling out a situation (long- or short-term). Listening is important when it comes to trying to hear God through all the noise of life. Listening helps us learn, both knowledge and what actions to take next. The idea of listening brings us to this week's quote...

A good listener tries to understand thoroughly what the other person is saying. In the end he may disagree sharply, but before he disagrees, he wants to know exactly what it is he is disagreeing with. ~ Kenneth A. Wells, "Guide to Good Leadership"
If you're like me, you may be guilty of mentally finishing sentences or forming solutions to mentioned problems. Those are not good listening skills. We must engage with whom we're involved with and try to hear what they're saying. This will help us to have a better chance to understand what the other person is trying to communicate.

When we're being offended or rubbed the wrong way, it is hard to keep listening. Maybe that is a time when we should look even more close at what we're supposed to be listening to.

Listening is something we can all be perpetual students of. I think when we feel like we've mastered it, we're needing to go back to learn some more!

Learning to listen...Share/Bookmark

Seeing Beyond What You Can See  

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Seeing Beyond What You Can See

Imagination is needed as much with church life as it is with daily life. Too many times we tend to see what we think we see or what we’ve always seen. The other day, I had the opportunity to catch up on a movie I had recorded. It was a true story based on the life of a neurosurgeon Ben Carson. He is currently the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He struggled with school, and his illiterate mother challenged him continually to “see beyond what you can see”. Along with general scholar struggles, he also struggled with an imagination.

When the present times were seemingly impossible, this phrase would be tossed his way. Though it wasn’t easy, he finally grasped the concept of what it meant to “see beyond what you can see.” He was looking at the surface and not looking at the possibilities that were actually before him.

On one such occasion, he was down because he wasn’t making the grades like he would like. He had to come up with an alternative way to study in order to “make the grades”. On another, though just a resident, he was “forced” to operate on the brain of a patient who came in from the ambulance. Most doctors were at a conference, and the others were not able to be contacted. He risked serious jeopardy for both him and the hospital. Remember, he is still a “student” doctor, performing surgery on someone’s brain/skull. He pulled it off!

The climax of the movie is in retrospect with the issue that arises in the beginning. German Siamese twins joined at the back of the head. He wants to wait, but the phrase comes back up in his head. He labors for days and weeks trying to figure out how to make this work. He is able to “see beyond what he can see”.

Too often, in the church, we are so used to things a certain way that we forget to “see beyond”. Medicine has advanced. Technology has advanced. The church, this church, needs to advance. We must continually look at things “beyond what we can see”. We may think we see something one way, when actually our vision may be a bit off. Something we think God intended, may not actually be at all what He intended for us. However, we’ve caused something to be “authorized” based on tradition or our own personal view.

Imagine medicine with no anesthetics. Imagine technology with no electricity. Let’s go back to biting on clothes to endure the pain or getting up and going to bed based on the available sunlight. These worked well for many years didn’t they? However, someone or a group of people, “saw beyond what they could see” and made the first steps of progress that has multiplied into making things so much better for us today.

As you look at the future of this church, I challenge you to “see beyond what you can see”. Let us look at ideas, programs, projects, etc., as ways to be out of the box and see the possibilities that are before us to help expand the Kingdom!Share/Bookmark

(the) Resurrection - John 11:25  

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I saw on the news that today marks the 50th Anniversary of the Barbie. Girls, over the past five decades, have collected and played with this fashionable doll. She has gone through changes through the years, both with fashion and with looks. Will she ever "die" out? Will the Barbie doll be here continually?

Jesus' friend, Lazarus, dies. Jesus has the power to save him or to let him remain "asleep". Jesus tells the sisters, "I am the Resurrection...". Jesus has the power and exercises that power to lift up his friend from the dead. To let him breathe, again. To let him walk, again. To let him hug and converse with his sisters, again. Jesus makes this profound statement and proves that He is THE Resurrection when He comes out of a grave of His own a little while later.

Yesterday, as we looked at our second part to this series, we examined the concept of Jesus being the Resurrection. Here are some additional applications to choose from to use this week...

  1. Take a step in the direction of giving life to what has no life - be it a hobby, joining a club, rekindling romance, improving work life.
  2. Pray about what is needing resurrected - or pray for wisdom to be revealed what is dead.
  3. Die to self, so selflessness can be resurrected
  4. Take the message to someone who needs Jesus and needs to be "resurrected".
  5. Praise God for the awesome marvel of Jesus being able to overcome all odds and come out of that dark and lonely grave, why? For you and me, friend! He wants us to be with Him again, since sin separated us.
Is there something in your life that is dead and needs to be resurrected? Something that has lost life, vitality, or interest? He is the one who can bring it all back. Give your life to Him and see what life is like being resurrected!

Enjoying being resurrected...Share/Bookmark

Come Hungry  

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When you were thinking about going to a church assembly, what word(s) would you use to describe your feelings? Do they lean toward positive or negative? How you view coming greatly affects your attitude toward being there.

If you came with a desire to know more, get closer to God, get closer to the spiritual family, or encourage the spiritual family, then you were on the right track. If you came with an expectation from someone – teacher, students, song leader, communion leader, prayer giver, sermon deliverer, or someone else in the spiritual family, then you missed the boat!

When you go to a restaurant, you go hungry. You can’t wait to have your taste buds tantalized and your belly filled. If you entered with an expectation, then you may be disappointed. Service could be slow, food undercooked, servers rude, lighting poor, music too loud/soft or non-existent, etc. A number of things could be what you didn’t expect or want in your experience. However, if you looked at each situation as a way to enjoy life, the outlook would be much different.

So, when you come here, come hungry. Think about all the ways that you can “eat up” what God has given you the privilege to be a part of on that day. No one there is exempt from messing up – whether they are leading something or just a member. However, if we could look at each opportunity to gather as a blessing, in and of itself, our outlook would be much different.

So, come hungry!...Share/Bookmark

Take a Big Step, No Matter What the Size  

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In my life there have been instances where I was very scared/nervous about what the future would hold. One, was going to preaching school and having to ask/depend on churches and individuals to support my family. Other times were job moves and car/house purchases. Having the mindset of "supporter" for my family, a decent amount of pressure goes onto my shoulders when I am considering these options.

There have been other times in my life that I have taken a step toward a goal that may seem crazy to some. I have a tendency to "put myself out there" and see what the answer will be. I live a lot on the "I'd-rather-know-than-to-sit-thinking-I-don't-know". In other words, I'd rather get a "no" from something I may be interested in doing, rather than wonder if were ever possible. One example is getting the chance to speak at a "national" ministry Workshop. I had admired the men who I'd heard for years. Last year, I heard of one speaker who was sick, so I e-mailed the director (who I remotely knew) and said I would be willing to speak, if the need arose. He met with me and told me to go to that site on that particular day. Then, the night before, at the keynote, He said, in general announcements, that if I could hear him, I was "on" the next day. Making a long story short, I was VERY nervous, but I gave it my all, and it went well. (You can listen by going to this site, then scrolling down to find my name). That got me in the door, and as it worked out, this year I was asked to speak again - all three days! I am busy preparing for this year's engagement and will be quite nervous each day!

We all have to take steps from time to time in order to get where we want. It will usually take some type of "putting ourself out there". Whether that is offering to do something or joining a group, or somewhere in between. That brings us to this week's quote...

If you have a great ambition, take as big a step as possible in the direction of fulfilling it. The step may one be a tiny one, but trust that it may be the largest one possible for now. ~ Mildred Mcafee
What "great ambition" do you have? What would you like to do for yourself, your family, your community, your church, your work, etc.? What step needs to be taken in order to get closer to that point? Maybe it is learning a new talent/hobby? Maybe it is writing a book? Maybe it is getting a better, more fulfilling job? Maybe it is making your work environment better, more inspiring?

No matter what it is...step forward! Don't stand still or sit and not move. Be on the move to something greater, bigger than you ever dreamed possible!

Take that step!Share/Bookmark

"I am..." - Mark 8:27-29  

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Who was/is a childhood hero of yours? Someone in your class that you always looked up to? An older person that you always thought was "cool"? I bet they displayed a sense of confidence that caused your attention to gravitate toward them. Confidence is a necessary ingredient when it comes to a leader. God is a confident God. He doesn't shirk at anything. Nothing is too small for Him.

"I AM/am"...the essence of confidence. The short phrase causes me to marvel at my God. Who sends me..."I AM" does. Who heals me..."I AM". Who saves me..."I AM". What does that phrase mean to you? Yesterday, we began a study on John 11:25. First, we examined these first two words. In those two words is mind-blowing and body-numbing power. The kind of power that makes you sit up and take notice. The kind that gives you comfort in times of trial and giddyness in good times.

As you go about your week, here are some applications to choose from to put to use in your week...

  1. Look at a sunset and just say a prayer of "Thanks" to God - whether it is that simple word or something more elaborate.
  2. Reaffirm your faith by letting God you give Him your life - burdens and blessings.
  3. Take pride in the fact that you get to walk daily with this awesome God who leads, comforts, and sustains you.
  4. Tell someone how awesome your God is. Could be as a result of something positive that happened to you or how you are sustaining your faith despite a bad thing happening.
  5. Be still. Let God speak to you.
Mary & Martha had lost a brother. Jesus comes in confident. Though their brother died, Jesus knew what He could do. He tells these young ladies, "Listen, your brother is going to be OK; for I am the resurrection and the life."

Jesus is the "I am" to whatever the situation is at hand. You're thirsty, Jesus is the water. You're hungry, Jesus is the bread. You're wandering, Jesus is the Shepherd. When you have a question as to who Jesus is...he says, "I am..." and you now feel comforted.

It is a mature concept to grasp. Only few will grasp it. I am always in kindergarten marveling at what is around corner. Have you grasped it yet? I hope you will get close one day.

Appreciating "I AM"...Share/Bookmark

Doubters Welcome  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer

When it comes to church assemblies, it tends to appear as if everyone’s “got it all going on”. Everyone sings, bows their head, participates in the various ceremonious activities, and listens to a message. Then, after it is all over, people get up, smile, shake hands, and head out.

However, does everyone really have “it all going on”? Was everyone on the same page throughout the assembly? Did they all understand the point of the selection of songs or the purpose of the message? Though Jesus is the center of the Christian gathering, did He “show up” and if so, did anyone doubt?

I recently ran across a publication that spoke of some verses that most churchgoers are going to be familiar with…the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). Jesus comes to “them” and tells them to go out and take the good news to all men. But there is an interesting couple of verses that many (including myself) often overlook, verses 16 and 17. It reads: Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. (NIV)

Notice the last two words…“some doubted”. This is stated before Jesus comes to them. When He did come to them, He still gave them the charge to go out to all the world. What is the most interesting to me is that these people had been around Jesus for quite some time. These eleven had seen Jesus immediately after the resurrection. What a privilege they had, to see the resurrected Messiah. We often pick on Thomas as the doubter, but it seems more doubted.

Do you doubt when it comes to theology? Do you doubt when it comes to talking to or dealing with people that are religious? Do you doubt people’s intentions when they bring up a religious conversation? In this context, what do you doubt about?

Most would agree that in your church assembly hardly anyone truly “has it all going on”. Regardless of the appearance, we’re all stressed, strained, or burdened. In various ways, all churches are filled with doubters. Doubting creates tension; tension creates room to learn. In some ways, it is good to doubt because then you walk away hopefully having learned something.

Though “some doubted”, Jesus still came to them. In similar fashion, Jesus still comes to us, though we may have doubts. If you’re one of the ones in the category of “doubting”, know that you’re welcome, anytime and you’ll be in company with at least one other who doubts.Share/Bookmark