Experiencing God’s Presents  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer

Christmas has always been one of my favorite holidays. Honestly, it has been that way for selfish reasons—to receive presents. I remember as a child eyeing the various gifts under the tree and wanting to look at them, shake them, and envision what might be inside. I liked to count how many I had to open, too. Opening them couldn’t be long enough. Seeing the pile dwindle away was bittersweet. I enjoyed the presents I received, but at the same time I wanted to open more and more and more. All that happened, typically, the evening of Christmas Eve. Then, came Christmas morning, when you woke up to more presents and a filled stocking.

As I have grown up, the desire to have the gifts did not change. I still look forward to seeing my name on packages, the size of the present, wondering what item(s) might be tucked away inside, and wondering how many presents there are for me. It is what so many people look forward to when it comes to Christmas time.

Oftentimes we talk about wanting to experience God’s presence. So, to associate the homonym, “presents” in the phrase, may sound kind of unusual. However, if you think about it, He gives us a lot of presents in life. It may be the small things that He has given us — ability to walk, talk, breathe, or material things. Or it could be some less taken-for-granted things — family, friends, house, or health. Even, moving on to the bigger things — Jesus, Holy Spirit, and salvation.

I want to draw your attention to a specific Bible verse, from I John 3:1. It reads, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” Re-read the first eleven words again. That phrase is almost a question, one that is encouragingly rhetorical. The love that God has given to us is so great that it is practically unfathomable. In my years in ministry I still do not completely understand how great the love of God is for despicable sinners like me. The things I’ve done, things I’ve thought, and words I’ve said should not be allowed to enter into the pure presence of God. I, like all, “have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”. But the good thing is there is a present to open that is around each turn in life. A present that I have the pleasure of opening on a daily basis.

Another humbling part of I John 3:1 is that this “love” is “lavished”. Of all the versions I’ve looked up, this is my favorite word. Lavished to me conveys the thought of overabundance or being showered with love. It is being given so much love that it just overflows. The love is “a lot” of love. God has “laid it on thick” with His love. It is amazing! The love has been lavished on us to the point of being able to be called “children of God”. We can be identified with God. Pure God will consider us His children…amazing isn’t it?

I John 3:1 has always been one of my favorite verses describing the love we receive from the Father. As we have been given a lot of love from Him, we should take great pleasure in knowing that God is a giving God. Not only is He a giving God, but He gives and gives and gives. The fact that He gives so much should make Him “great” to any and every one! How “great” is that! The presents He gives are overflowing in number! They are being lavished on us. We can just keep opening present after present of His love this holiday season...and all of 2011!

Have a great holiday season as I hope this verse is one that provides encouragement to you as you reflect on the lavished love we receive from Him!

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Letting Your Holiday Lights Shine  

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It is a great time of the year…Christmas. For some it is about Christ. For some it is about gifts. For some it is about family. You may like all three.

This is one of my favorite holidays. I enjoy all that goes along with the holiday. I enjoy building up to “the big day”. I enjoy putting up lights outside on the house and lights on the trees. I enjoy seeing my wife flex her design muscles and transform our house into a winter house of wonder.

As “the big day” is almost upon us, here is an interesting quote of what Christmas should be about…

Christmas is not in tinsel and lights and outward show. The secret lies in an inner glow. It's lighting a fire inside the heart. Good will and joy a vital part. It's higher thought and a greater plan. It's glorious dream in the soul of man."  ~Wilfred A. Peterson (The Art of Living)

One great part of the season is how people tend to be a bit more joyous this time of year. The fire that is inside which brings out a warm joy is very contagious. To think about the greater plan that is found in the holiday will lift many people during the season.

Keep the light shining this holiday season! You never know who will need to see your light to lift them up!

 

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The Package: Arrival  

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I just checked a tracking number prior to writing this post. I am awaiting the arrival of a package that has Christmas gifts for both of our kids. We lucked in to a good deal and it is supposed to be here the middle part of this week. My anticipation of this and other gifts to arrive will be heightened as the week continues.

When this package arrives I will be excited. I look forward to being able to give them away to my children…even if one is too young to enjoy the receiving of their gift. I wonder if God ever thought of this when He was planning out giving up Jesus for us?

Sunday, we looked into Jesus’ arrival, as He is our “package” whose arrival we were anticipating. Here are some applications to choose from to use this week…

  • Open It Up ~ The natural action following receiving a package is to open it up. I really enjoy the mystery of Christ. The depth of His life and God’s Word are mind blowing! Take time to “open” Him up and discover what’s inside!
  • Show It Off ~ We are generally very excited about what we have received. If you’re like me you like to show it off. If it is clothes/hat/jewelry, wear it right away. If it is a game, you play with it soon. As you receive Christ, take time to show what He’s brought to your life to others.  Maybe he’s brought patience or forgiveness to your life – those are good things to “show off” to others.
  • Appreciate It ~ It can be tempting to put what we receive to the side after it has lost its luster. However, the more we see it and are using it the more we appreciate it. May we be renewed with our appreciation of the Package, that being Christ!

This Package is the greatest “presents” we’ll ever receive!  Now, let’s open it up, show it off, and appreciate it long after the season passes!

Merry Christmas!

 

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Better to Give than to Receive  

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It is not a secret that one of the reasons I enjoy the Christmas season is to receive gifts from people. However, from an early age, I heard the phrase “It is better to give than to receive. Hmmph!” “I don’t think so” would have been my typical response. I wanted any gifts for me! 

Though I didn’t enjoy that phrase, there still is truth to it. As much as I enjoy opening gifts, I enjoy buying and giving gifts to others, especially my immediate family. I enjoy watching my wife and kids open up the presents that I bought for them.

With the season and spirit of giving upon us, here is this week’s quote…

Unless we make Christmas an occasion to share our blessings, all the snow in Alaska won't make it 'white'.  ~ Bing Crosby

The things we have to give are not always about presents. You can share your smile, a hug, a compliment, a batch of baked goods, a note of encouragement, a long needed visit, a good attitude, extra change, and the list could go on.

Help make someone’s Christmas a “white” Christmas this year by sharing the blessings that God has given you, with others!

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98 Days Away…“Let the Chains Fall Away”  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer

Each year during the last week in March, I have the privilege to go and hear a vast array of speakers at a great spiritual workshop called The Tulsa Workshop. One of the staple speakers is Jeff Walling. He draws a crowd and does not disappoint.

This year, his classes are titled:

· Two Men and a Father: How an Ancient Parable Changed My Life

· I'm so sure!  Defending Your Faith in Today's World

· Meet my Dad: How Jesus Introduced God

Make plans to come this year’s Tulsa Workshop and “Let the Chains Fall Away”…www.tulsaworkshop.org 

I hope to see you on March 23-26, 2010!

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The Package: Waiting  

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I am in the middle of waiting on God. Which, I would presume many are in a similar situation. I am waiting to see how certain situations work out. Maybe they will be a “no” or maybe a “yes” by the time it is all completed. However, in the middle of it, it is a “not at this time” answer.

God is truly amazing and “His ways are higher than my ways” and I say, “thank goodness” to that. I duff things up enough in my own life, I am glad that I have Him to be the constant in my life that never “duffs”.

How God deals with the distance between a point A and point B may surprise us sometimes. It may not be linear and/or it may be filled with several additional points of stop offs in the middle (i.e. A1, A2, A3,…)

Sunday we discussed waiting, from the point of view of waiting for a package. Hypothetically, the concept of the series, thus far, is…we order the item and we wait for it to arrive. What do you do in the waiting? That is a key part of this lesson. As we explore that, here are some applications to choose from to use this week…

  • Hopeful in the Waiting ~ Waiting on someone to show up can be frustrating. You may give them the benefit of the doubt initially but as the minutes continue you realize they are not going to arrive. Sometimes, we treat God like that. If He doesn’t show up in our time frame, then we start to doubt that He is going to. In any given situation, He may not show up, like you prefer. However, our preference is not His. May we submit to His timing and remain hopeful in our times of waiting.
  • Serving Him in the Waiting ~ When frustration sets in, the desire to quit increases. If you think you cannot get a bolt loosened, you may want to quit. If you are not getting the playing time you think you deserve, you may want to quit. If you are not getting the answers from God, you may want to quit. To continue on through the waiting process is important. May we serve Him while we wait for the answers.
  • Worshiping Him in the Waiting ~ Waiting can be a very positive experience, depending on your perspective. Waiting enables time to pray, evaluate yourself, write a note, make a visit/phone call, read the Word, to get things done you have been putting off, etc. There are all kinds of ways to use our time of waiting. Each one can be used to worship Him. Let’s use it to our advantage but for His glory!

While you wait, may you utilize the time by doing things for Him!  The package is coming!

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Where Do You Stand?  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer

A country song that was released several years ago had a line that went “if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” I was listening to country music a lot during that time and I liked the truth found in that line.

Where we stand in various situations in our life will make the difference in the future of our lives. Each place we stand we have the choice to go in one direction or another.

Sometimes, that place where we are standing is not about an issue of right or wrong, but rather it is a different type of issue. To find out, click here to read this week’s quote…

The ultimate measure of a person is not where they stand in moments of comfort and convenience, but where they stand in times of challenge and controversy.  ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

I will admit that this quote definitely has defined me at certain times in life. I, presumably like you, have had situations where they were not particularly comfortable. I know it probably impacted my outlook and mood – for the negative.

This quote is something that I can easily relate to and it has been something I have been working on since I realized I can be negatively impacted by standing in the wrong place during times of challenge.

May we take the challenge of this quote and decide to “take a stand” in the right places at all times, even in times of challenge, controversy, and inconvenience.

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It Cannot Come Soon Enough!…The Tulsa Workshop  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer

Here is a sneak peek into this year’s Tulsa Workshop…I love this Workshop…it is a real boost each year! These are some of the classes for leaders, but in the coming months, there will be more posts about classes for all ages!  For more information go to www.tulsaworkshop.org

Here are a few of the classes for church leadership:

Kevin Skidmore......For the Mission-Minded Only: How to Peg Proper Focus

Shane Coffman/Gary Bruce.....For Worship Leaders Only:

Will Spoon and Friends: For Children's Ministries Only: How to Enhance a Vital Work Pt.1

Kevin Skidmore.....For the Mission-Minded Only: How To Keep the Soul Winning Fires Burning!

Don McLaughlin/Al Maxey: For Preachers Only: How to Move Deeper Into the Word

Rick Atchley/Terry Rush: For Preachers Only: Lessons We've Learned (and Some We Are Still Learning)

Will Spoon and Friends: For Children's Ministries Only: How to Enhance a Vital Work Pt.2

Memorial Drive Elders: For Elders Only: How to be Shepherds and Like It  Pt. 1

Memorial Drive Elders:  For Elders Only: How to be Shepherds and Like It  Pt. 2

MARCH 23-26.....GET YOUR LEADERS READY....TO BE HERE!

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The Package: Ordering  

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I long for the days of childhood where I was able to go through the “Wish Book” (Christmas department store catalog) and look for the toys I wanted. I knew I wouldn’t get al those toys, but it was fun to look at them to see what toys I wished I had or hoped I’d receive. I would guess that there were a few of the years that my parents ordered a toy or two that I’d picked out. They were probably so excited to give it to me and see the look on my face when I opened it.

This time of year is busy with ordering. UPS hires extra help during the holidays to compensate for the extra demands placed on them from people ordering. (I would guess other carriers do the same) I know of a guy who used to work for UPS and he would sometimes get home as late as 9:00 PM, then turn around to go back the next morning. Long days!

Sunday, we focused our attention toward the idea of a “package”, specifically on the ordering of a package. Here are some applications to choose from to use this week…

  • The Reason ~ When you order something there is a reason for ordering it. We do not order for just any reason. Even if the reason is “you want it” there is still a reason. To order this package is no different. There must be a reason. The “reason” may be difficult to recognize, which is why many people do not order this package, they pass by it in the “Wish Book” set of options. Evaluate if there is a reason to need this package in your life…the reason should be separation from God (aka sin)…is that in your life or has it been…if so, you’d better order this package!
  • Multiple Choice ~ When you are shopping for a paper shredder, there are various choices. Number of pages shredded. Strips vs. pieces. Credit card and CD able. Speed. Basket size. The list goes on. When it comes to this package people will have certain requirements. When-it-is-convenient option. Let-me-do-my-own-things option. Give-it-all-up-for-Him choice. You can determine if this package is worth it to create the third option in your life. The others are simply said in a “I’ll dabble in it” rather than “I’ll live it”.  You can choose, but you might want to evaluate it closely.
  • Ordered Package ~ Just as there is a reason for ordering the package, the package itself is selected just for that need. When we are separated from God because of our sins (Isaiah 59:2) that is a good reason for ordering this package. It is just what you need to get you back into that relationship with Him!  Take advantage of it and “order” the Package!

This package is the best thing for all of us. It is the “gift” we didn’t ask for that was simply the most perfect package ever!  I remember getting walkie talkies and exclaiming “How did Santa know I wanted these”, because they were not on my list. The short answer regarding this question, He simply knew. God knows what we need!  That’s why He provided the solution, found in “the package”.

Enjoying the “package” that God provided!

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Ideas for Christmas Gifts  

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There are less than 25 days till Christmas, maybe you’ve purchased a gift or two…maybe you’re one of the few that is done with purchasing your gifts. If you are still searching for gifts to give here are a few ideas:

Christmas gift suggestions:
To your enemy, forgiveness.
To an opponent, tolerance.
To a friend, your heart.
To a customer, service.
To all, charity.
To every child, a good example.
To yourself, respect.
~Oren Arnold
Whether you are looking for a gift or not, these are good ideas to give people throughout the season. Give them freely. Give them often. Give them over and over. Give them to strangers. Give them to enemies. Give them to friends. Give them to family. Give them to bosses. Give them to co-workers. Give them to your employees. Give them, give them, give them!  No matter what you do, just give them!
Enjoy the season of gift giving!
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Squandered Away  

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“You must give 30 million dollars away in 30 days” is the big challenge in the 80s show “Brewster’s Millions”. There are stipulations as to how he can spend the money. The prize for the challenge is 300 million dollars. The other parts of the challenge is that no one can know about the prize at the end and it cannot be simply handed out to people. The movie displays the challenge of getting rid of such significant cash under the stipulations laid out.

For the young man in the parable from Luke 15, finding a way to squander all the money he was given, was no challenge. He had no stipulations. He had no sense of money management. He was in it for himself. Much like we tend to be at times – even the most selfless fall into this man’s shoes from time to time.

Sunday, we looked at a modern-day take on the Prodigal Son and how we can often squander away what has been given to us (from a spiritual sense). Here are some applications to choose from to use this week…

  • Rebelled ~ Rebellion can take place in various forms. Most of us go to extremes when we think of the word. However, from the spiritual sense, the smallest of rebellion can cause us to get into trouble. Sometimes it helps us understand where other people are coming from if we can take a look at what we have done to forgive others, understand others, or empathize with others.
  • Received ~ The feeling of a hug can be very comforting. Not a greeting hug, but the kind that is from someone who is close to you. Be it a spouse, a child, a parent, or a close friend or family member. These are the kind that are comforting. These are the kind that let us know they care. As we rebel and come back, we need to feel that spiritual embrace from God to let us know that He’s there and He cares. Maybe there is someone who needs a hug or embrace from you this week (possibly not even knowing it).
  • Resuscitated ~ Having your heart stop kills you. Having sin in your life kills you. After rebelling, the being received, it has a way of resuscitating your life! This gives you new life which is vital to continuing on. Without life in your life there is no purpose. People all around you are spiritually dead or just seeking that life. Their life is running out of breaths to breathe. They need you to help them…don’t pass them by…resuscitate them!

Don’t squander away your spiritual inheritance on mismanaging life, nor keeping it from others.

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12 Reasons to be Thankful You Burned the Turkey  

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1. Salmonella won't be a concern.

2. Everyone will think your turkey is Cajun blackened.

3. Uninvited guests will think twice next year.

4. Your cheese broccoli lima bean casserole will gain newfound appreciation.

5. Pets won't bother to pester you for scraps.

6. No one will overeat.

7. The smoke alarm was due for a test.

8. Carving the bird will provide a good cardiovascular workout.

9. You'll get to the desserts even quicker.

10. After dinner, the guys can take the bird to the yard and play football.

11. The less turkey Uncle You-Know-Who eats, the less likely he will be to walk around with his pants unbuttoned.

12. You won't have to face three weeks of turkey sandwiches.

*This list came from an e-mail I received…from cybersalt.org

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Are You Full?  

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Tryptophan that great ingredient found in turkey that gives us the excuse to take a nap after we have our Thanksgiving feast. You will probably experience some of that feeling this week.

In actuality, it is not the tryptophan. As I read somewhere once, tryptophan is also found in other things we eat which do not cause us to be tired. One that I remember is peanut butter. I’ve never felt a sudden desire to nap after having a PB&J sandwich. What causes the sudden desire for napping is the overload of carbohydrates that we eat during our meal. If you think about it, you try not to snack so you can have the meal, then when you do you eat and eat and eat.

Sunday, we discussed being full, how we can be full in a different way, as we focused on four different areas. Here are some applications to choose from to use this week…

Beauti-full ~ Each one of us is “full of beauty” in various ways. Too often we think of beauty being about the physical nature of life, but looking closer it is more than that. Plus it is important to see yourself as God sees you…a “work of art”! (Ephesians 2:10) Let that knowledge lift your chin and walk upright and be proud of the way God made you…beautiful!

Cheer-full ~ The iconic character of Santa Claus is jolly and cheerful. That aura of Santa is part of what draws people in to him. If you’ve ever seen a movie that depicted Santa as unhappy or depressed it just really takes you down a few notches. The part that draws you in with a motivational speaker is their cheerfulness and motivation. Think about how you can reflect Him this week by being cheerful.

Power-full ~ People like to possess things that are powerful. Men will generally fall into this category as they like things more powerful. However, anything sluggish is not good by anyone’s definition. Knowing you have power behind you is something that encourages. As you go into the future, know that you have God behind you and that is so much power, you will be amazed! Be encouraged…be powerful!

Thank-full ~ It is easy to not be as thankful as you should be. It is easy to receive something and become busy, forgetting to let someone know you appreciated that which you received. It is easy to overlook all the things which have had their “shine” wear off. May we remember the little things, the little people, and all the other “littles” in our life to be thankful for!

Be full this week…full on beauty, cheer, power, and thanks!!!

 

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Touching Lives  

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I was visiting with a guy earlier this week and the subject of where we’d lived came up. We shared a commonality of living in more than three places during our school years. He had attended several more schools than I had. However, going to that many schools had shaped us into what we had become and how we approach life.

I felt that part of my “shape” helped prepare me for ministry, meeting new people all the time, even in my town of residence. As you meet new people you make an impression on them and they on you. That brings us to this week’s quote…

Your finger prints will never fade from the lives you touch.  ~ Unknown

This week I lost a close friend to death. The “fingerprint” that she left will obey this quote…never fade. We shared a lot of memories in our short period of time knowing each other. Her “fingerprint” has been left on lots of people. I still feel a bit surreal thinking she is not there.

After the funeral my 2-year old son asked me if we could go to her room (the funeral was held at the nursing home). I told him, “Miss ___ is not there.”  He said, “Let’s go check.”  We didn’t go check, but I will bet the next time we go up to the nursing home together, he’ll ask the same thing.

Her “fingerprint” has been left on him too. She was a great lady. But think to yourself, how many people your “fingerprint” is on by the lives you touch. In reality, you will probably never even realize. The challenge is, to use every day and every moment to make a favorable “fingerprint” on everyone you come in contact with throughout your life!

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Radical Lifestyle  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer

Why is the main point of differentiating ourselves, when it comes to the religious arena, so heavily leaning on what takes place on Sunday mornings (or at our church gatherings)? From my heritage, we’ve tried to cause ourselves to be or look “right” by doing certain things on Sunday mornings that other people do not do. The reason could be one of many that we practice such practices and few are probably the right reason!

Jesus is such a great instructor. At his young age of 30ish he had a way of describing things that were relevant and timeless. This last set of verses in the chapter (Matthew 5:43-48) was what I need to have some good reminders on from time to time.

I need to be reminded to love those who hate and pray for those who persecute me. It brings out a radically new way of thinking and approaching people in life. As we ended Matthew 5 yesterday, here are some applications to think about from Sunday’s lesson…

  • Love Your Enemies ~ If you watch television for very long during this time we live, it won’t be shocking to see two people who are seeing eye-to-eye calling each other names. These names are not going to be that house-friendly. To unconditionally so love or deep care for someone who you consider your enemy takes some radical change of focus…Jesus calls us to do that.
  • Pray for Your Persecutors ~ I know I am not the only one who feels this way, but have you ever found it less difficult to not like someone when you are praying for them? This is going to take some radical changes for some to adopt this principle. The praying should be consistent, not a one-time prayer. Jesus calls us to pray for our persecutors!
  • Live Differently ~ Being nice doesn’t always cut it. Did you find any of the previous two applications challenging, bordering on difficult? You might be one who can be nice to all kinds of people under the normal circumstances, but Jesus didn’t expect people to have a “normal” life. That is probably why He wants them to understand the way of living that isn’t like everyone else, but rather shows who is living in you. Jesus calls us to not just be nice or friendly but to be different.

This type of living is inward that comes to the surface. One can live a life on the outside which will may be a total facade. When the times become a bit tense, or, in this case, someone does them wrong, the inward comes to the surface, in a bad way. Where the one who lives a life that is the same inward as outward will not see a major difference when someone treats them in a negative way.

I take from this to live a life that is different so that they will not see that I may have different practices on Sunday morning, but that I have a different way of practicing every day of the week!

 

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Create Who You Want to Be  

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It seems in life there really needs to be a moment of creation. Something needs to be created before the rest can fall into place. As I write I think of several examples where this holds true (I will save a few for later). If something is not created, then what follows will not be what could have been or non-existent.

Life is about discovery. I just told my wife the other day how much I enjoy watching our 2 (nearly 3) year old play. How he will use certain toys or phones or household items to role play is priceless. As we think about discovery and creation, here is this week’s quote…

The deepest secret is that life is not a process of discovery, but a process of creation.  You are not discovering yourself, but creating yourself anew.  Seek, therefore not to find out who you are, seek to determine who you want to be.  ~ Conversations With God

My son would not be able to discover the things he does if he didn’t create the scene with the toys he chooses. A person will not discover a passion for a new talent if they do not create the opportunity by being willing to try new things. One will not discover what college is like if they do not create the path to get there and be willing to take that path.

Feel free to give your examples by leaving a comment…

To discover what is at the end of a tunnel, you must create the moment to move toward and be willing. Discovery is about creating a way to arrive at the point of discovery. As you look to find out who you want to be, create moments to get you to that point and enjoy the process of discovery as you venture down that path.

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"Apps": Be One!  

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One of the new buzzwords in the technology world today is “Apps”, short for applications.  Brought on by Apple, I presume, they are basically “little” programs that do not take up much memory, but their icon is also little, not taking up much screen size.

There are thousands, probably millions of different apps out there.  Some are very silly, others are not.  Some are scholastic, others are not. Some are for travel, others are for leisure.  As there are so many different apps out there, each person is going to be attracted to some over another. Each app has a certain attraction for one.  However, the grand plan is that everyone will like some sort of an app. No matter how introverted or    extroverted you are, you will find one that is attractive.

Turning it around, a Christian has a similarity to an app.  We are small, we are different, and some are going to be “attracted” to us, where others will not.  However, somewhere, someone is going to be attracted to whose is ours...Jesus.

If there was an HGTV app, I would not be attracted to it.  As there is an ESPN app, my wife will, most likely, not be attracted to it. That app means something totally different to you than it does to me.  However, we both want an app.  So, we both will get one, but they will be a bit different.

As you go out in life, keep in mind that as you are “becoming all things to all men, to win some” you are going to hold a certain attraction to someone, but our Jesus is one of the ones in which others should be ultimately attracted to because of Him!Share/Bookmark

Give ‘Em a Little Extra  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer

Ever heard of “BOGO”? I don’t know who actually was the first one to create it, but the first time that i saw it was with Payless Shoes.  They would have a sale every so often that would shorten the phrase of “buy one get one” free to “BOGO”.

This tends to be a popular sales strategy. Not always is it limited to a short-term sale, either. Our local movie theater is having “buy one get one” free tickets on Tuesdays. With the prices of movies going up, that sounds like a good concept to me.

Sunday, we looked at Matthew 5:38-42, where Jesus is addressing the crowd on retaliation.  One could make an argument that he is encouraging “BOGO”.  He is saying that one should give the little extra or offer them a “BOGO”.  They slap one cheek, they get another for free.  They want your outer clothing, give your coat for free. They want for you to go with them one mile, give them the extra for free. Crazy huh…

Here are some applications to choose from to use this week…

  • Anger Management ~ Wanting to get revenge or to retaliate is one of our first inclinations. Jesus introduces a concept that reminds one to think about what you’re about to do. Retaliation, even restitution, was not the answer when you were mistreated. It was about giving them that little extra. Offering them one more of whatever it was in the first place, for free. Change your anger to offering something more.
  • Vary the “Extra” ~ The text begins by Jesus explaining that they had read about “tooth for a tooth, eye for an eye”.  Whether the “for a ___” part was the exact same or not, maybe you should think about making the little extra something different than they’d ever expect. Keep in mind, whatever it is, it should be genuine. They ask for something of you, and maybe  you can return it with something they wouldn’t expect.  They treat you poorly and you let them know how much you appreciate that life lesson. It would probably just shock them.

It can be so easy to get angry over something. I am not saying that anger is not right.  Nor am I hinting that there are not there times when we should stand our ground.  Those times may fall into a gray area with some – works with some and doesn’t work with others. I think we just need to keep ourselves in check to see what kind of a difference we can make for Him by not retaliating, but to go the extra mile with someone!

Working on giving the little extra…

 

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Tying Up a Lion  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer

There are just some venues that would not be the same if a lion was not present.  First, a zoo, and second, a circus.  They are known as “king of the beasts”.  They are a well respected animal. They are great hunters. They live together. They are smaller than tigers, but since they live together, that has helped give them their nickname.

How would you tie one up? I doubt there are many lay people who would set foot in a cage to try to tie one up. Their huge physiques would outdo about any man that was weaponless.

So, how do you tie one up, read this week’s quote…

When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion.  ~ Ethiopian Proverb

What did you think of that? Ever get caught up, even a little, in a spider’s web? Notice how they are sticky and hard to remove, similar to cotton candy.

However, it goes to show you that people that team up together can make a world of difference. For those of you who are religious, the small-in-number 12 Apostles went together to tie up a lion in the fact that they took God’s Word all over the world.

Maybe we think we cannot make a difference, but if there are enough in the “we” part to be included, think of all the things that you can get accomplished to make a difference.

As you see a “lion” in your life that needs to be tied up, get some people on board with you to make the difference!  Or, maybe your “web” strength comes through prayer and having enough prayers going up to God will help tie up the “lions” in your life!

 

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Are You A ‘Trick or Treat’?  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer

I really love seeing the accomplishments of my kids. Seeing them do something at a new level or do it better just gives me those indescribable feelings. As our son went around this weekend to people it was neat to see him say the “Trick or Treat” phrase.  At a church event, one man, who he knows, asked him to do a “trick”.  The way the evening worked, he saw the same man a couple of times.  The first trick was a simple jump, which he did with no problem.  The next time my son was asked to sing a song.  He was asked if he knew different songs or wanted to sing some from a few choices, of those he replied “nope”. I thought that was going to be the end of it, but then my son said “I can sing ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’”.  The man said to sing it.  So he proceeded to sing the song, just to receive some candy.  I was so proud!  And it was very cute to sing “Pooh” sing this song!

Sunday, for Halloween, we looked at a challenge of whether or not we are a “trick or a treat” to people. As Christians, sometimes we may not even realize how much we are “tricking” them.  Getting them interested in something church-related or about our faith, just to actually show that it is different. Related to this week’s lesson, here are some applications to choose from to use this week…

  • Don’t Be a Lucy ~ I use this title because of the Halloween Charlie Brown special. In almost every Charlie Brown Special, there is a time when Lucy and Charlie are playing with a football.  Charlie wants to kick it and Lucy says she’ll hold it, only to take it out at the last minute and Charlie falls. When it comes to our faith, do we present it in one way and in reality it is totally different?  Maybe that initial way is a “fun” side but then we get around someone else and we have to stiffen up.  Or maybe it is an “anger” side, but then when we get around someone else we have to put on a smile. Why not just be the same person all seven days of the week regardless of who you are around.
  • Treat Someone ~ Receiving that cavity-inducing candy can be one of the most fun things about Halloween. For that is what you are expecting to come your way whenever you say the Halloween phrase of “trick or treat”.  Treats are pleasant. As Christians, may be we see how we can be of benefit to someone every day of the year. Maybe life is taking you down a path where this is difficult.  May the difficulties of what Christ went through spur you to work through the difficulties and still be a treat to someone.

Maybe you can be an additional “treat” to someone by giving any extra candy to someone who made a little pick-me-up, as a simple birthday gift, or just to be nice.

Here is a little quote that was on a Facebook friend’s post…Read it and let me know what you think.

its ironic that on the most "pagan" of all holidays, households show Christian hospitality the best, while they share with total strangers. ~ Unknown source

 

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COSTUMES: Which One Are You Wearing Today?  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer in , , , ,

Tonight is Halloween and there will be all types of people wearing costumes. Some will be scary, some superheroes, some fictional characters, others will be vocational people, and others will fall somewhere in the middle.

A few of my more memorable costumes were: 2nd Grade - Superman, 4th Grade - Mr. T, 5th Grade - Juggling Clown, College - my minister. There was another one in college, but I’d have to explain too much about it, but it was “classic”, however you had to be there to understand the humor.

The idea of a costume is to put on something to cover up your identity. We all have an identity. We all have something about our identity that we’d like to cover up. Some things that we’d like to cover up could have just been an embarrassing moment. Whereas some are things we don’t want anyone to ever know.

One of the issues with Christianity is that we treat every gathering as “Halloween”. In other words, we may come together wearing some sort of a costume. Sure, our faces may not be painted - but they could be wearing a fake smile. Our clothes may not be out of the ordinary, but we may be wearing something we can’t afford to look better than we are in reality. We may be wearing a smile, but moments prior we were calling someone a name or at least thinking it.

What would it take to be “real”, to not put on a costume when we’re together? For some, even in your own biological family you may be wearing some sort of a costume because you do not want to show how you were disappointing to your parents or siblings.

Even aside from the church family, there are times when we are in public and are wearing a costume. Which one are you wearing today?Share/Bookmark

Never Too Small  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer

I remember when I was young and was able to sleep in during the summer, those were good times!  One of the things I also remember associated with that time of my life was the occasional house fly buzzing around my head totally annoying me. It would land on my nose just long enough for me to be bothered, I would go to swat it and it would fly away. I can remember putting the covers over my head just to “protect” myself from this little bitty fly.

It was also during that time that I was going through a rough point of social development in my life.  As I’ve shared before, having a father as a principal during the adolescent years was not the most enjoyable thing for me.  I wanted to be something because I saw practically everyone else as “something” and it was difficult not to envy what they were doing or able to do.

How would “little ol’ me” be able to make any difference at all? That brings us to this week’s quote…

“If you think you are too small to make a difference, you've never had a mosquito in your bedroom.”  ~ Unknown
My small, difference maker was not a mosquito but a fly, that was in my bedroom.  Regardless, it made a big difference.  It didn’t allow me to sleep peacefully.  It bothered me greatly.

As I have grown, I realize that small things can make a big difference.  A kind word during a rough day. A small gift can lift up someone when they need to know someone cares. A paid check can make someone’s day. Oh the possibilities are endless.

Another way to make a difference is to go after something that you would like to see changed which benefits others. Who do single parents find to babysit? Maybe you, little you, develop a program to offer single parents a person who will volunteer to watch their children.

You may be one, small person, so how are you going to make a difference?Share/Bookmark

Just Plain Ol’ Yes or No  

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

When I was in school there was an acronym which was used mostly in writing/English.  This acronym was K.I.S.S. = Keep It Simple, Stupid. I found a couple of other variations “Keep It Simple and Straightforward” and “Keep it Short and Simple”.  These were to help the writer understand that simple is sometimes better.  I, for one, had a bad habit of being too wordy with some of the papers I would write.

As I like to design, I have to use this principle, too.  Sometimes a wild design does not make it more appealing.  Whether that design is a billboard, fashion, flyer, or PowerPoint, sometimes simple is the best way to go.

Sunday, we looked at Jesus addressing the crowd in Matthew 5:33-37, and talking about oaths/swearing.  He has these nuggets of information that he is giving out to the crowd. As He points out that an oath is not needed when communicating something of importance we can use that same principle to apply to our life, just keep it simple!  Here are some applications to choose from to use this week…

  • Pray For Your Responses ~ If you are prone to have the desire to use a lot of filler in your answers, rather than a “yes” or “no”, pray that God will help you be more of a “simple” person. Especially if that filler is cover up for something.
  • Help Others You Influence ~ I can see this being heavily directed toward parents to do to their kids.  But it could be to a good friend or someone you have a lot of interaction with that you feel comfortable saying it to.  If someone tends to be really wordy with their answers to the questions you ask, say something like “all I need is a yes or a no”.
  • Reflect Him in Your Simplicity ~ As you are being a person who follows through with what Jesus is explaining to this crowd, may your simplicity of answers be a positive reflection of who you are, as a Christian and as a person.

Keeping it simple will be much more productive than making things more complicated.  Whether it is in this situation or others, I think that we’d all probably be better off from time to time to follow the K.I.S.S. principle! (You can decide how you want to define that acronym :) )

Working on keeping it simple…

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Rescued: Living Underground  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer


August 5, 2010 does not mean much to probably any of you. However, to many people in Chile it means a lot.  It means a day when some would have their world come crashing in on them. That day meant a day that they didn’t know if they would see a family member again.  It meant a day which some didn’t know if they would live or die. It meant a day of 33 men spending life together 315 feet underground for the next several days. 

I don’t think I can imagine what these men must have had to endure as they lived underground.  Here, we live in comfortable homes, so imagine having to live in a cave, without an opening?  Imagine living in this cavern with no running water or bathroom?  Imagine living without any sunlight? Imagine living without your family? Imagine living in an area that was defined by irregular walls of close proximity? Imagine living with decreasing hope, especially as the initial hours progressed?

Can you at all imagine what this must have felt like?  On a much smaller scale, I can.  In early spring of 1987 we experienced a shocking, quick-approaching blizzard.  Our house was a couple miles outside of town, so we had lots of wind associated with the snow.  We had a snow drift that was at least as high as the eaves on our house.  After the blizzard was over and I began to play in the snow, I came up with a great plan, to build a tunnel in the snow which we could slide down. I dug down for a while, then from the front.  Then, I went back to the top to continue to clear out the opening between the two tunnels.  But, as I was reaching down, I slid into the opening, causing myself to become stuck.  I think the only thing sticking out the top were my legs.  At first it wasn’t any big deal.  I am not claustrophobic and I was right in front of my house, with my family at home. Then, as I would try to move reality set in that I was not going anywhere and I was certainly stuck.  As I lay there, my hope was deteriorating and I started to get a little scared.

As the miners were inside the earth and minutes developed into hours, did they lose hope? However, when they received the first signs of communication from above indicating people knew where they were and they were alive, can you imagine how their attitudes must have changed?  They had a hope that was naturally inflating as the rescuing efforts began to improve and their day of the ultimate rescue grew closer.

This last week, the miners from the Chile gold mine came to the surface.  Their day of being rescued came true!  Their hope of rescue became tangible.  They could now have all those things they didn’t have: freedom to run, running water and a bathroom, sunlight, and family!  I was able to see a few of the reunions and what joy filled their faces!  Joy beamed off of faces as wives were able to see husbands, siblings to see their brothers, moms to see their sons, and children to see their fathers.

As I lay in the snow tunnel I had constructed I was wondering when my family would come and look for me. By this time my they had gone inside to get ready to eat dinner. Finally, after what seemed to be a long time, but was probably a half hour, my dad heard my cries for help.  He came out of the house and pulled me up out of the tunnel by my ankles.  I had been rescued. What seemed to be a bit hopeless was now full of hope. Aside from my family getting a good laugh out of my mistake, I was going to be fine.  My life would return to normal.

That situation with the Chilean miners really can provide a bit of an illumination on how those who are living without Christ go about their daily lives. They live in a darkness that may never change.  They live within parameters which are not going to expand.  They are not able to be connected with a spiritual family, which is one of the great things about being “in Christ”. They are living without the freedom that is found in Christ.  They are living without hope.

The good news is all this can change.  The change will come as you start to share Jesus with them and their hope will begin to increase. They will notice something in you that is different. Your life will be an example of an appealing hope. You will be a billboard for change. You will be their hope of rescue.

Don’t leave them stranded and underground...give them hope and throw out the life-line!
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What Do You Discuss?  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer in , , ,

What have you been discussing with people this week? Maybe it is topics like your job, your kids, your schedule, the weather, what you like or don’t like about other people, etc.  There are all kinds of things that can come up in any given conversation.

This week’s quote caught me and made me think.  It made me think about its trueness. See what you think about it…

"Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people."  ~ Unknown
I don’t think that you are put into a box if you are ever in a situation where you are discussing people or events. By that, I mean, your mind is not ever “great” or going to be “great”.  However, at that moment which you are discussing events or people you are limiting the potential of what is out there to discuss.

Where do the discussions of people or events usually take you…not much of anywhere.  However, when you discuss ideas, that can take you places.  Are you one who tends to complain but not provide a solution?  That can get you into trouble, too (the most recent person was kicked off The Apprentice for such a thing).

What ideas can you discuss?  Think about them…even just thinking about it will make you much better off!Share/Bookmark

Divorce: Not Just Because  

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

The other night I was visiting with friend and it came up what I was preaching on the next day.  I said, “I’m preaching on divorce tomorrow”.  My whole intent was to see the reaction, which I received one!  “Zoinks” was the response.  I just laughed and responded that I was preaching through Matthew and this was just part of the journey.

It seems that oftentimes the subject of divorce comes with so much stigma.  Whether it is in the religious circle or society itself.  Granted, it isn’t something that people should be bragging about.  But it has such a bad stigma that judgment usually follows the news of someone who did get or is getting a divorce.

Sunday, we looked at Matthew 5:31-32 as Jesus was addressing the disciples on the subject of divorce.  Jesus builds his argument by referring to a black and white thought which had come from Deuteronomy 24:1-4 (click to read).  In this text Moses visits the topic of writing a certificate of divorce and the woman who is impacted. Jesus then turns to a thought without the smooth edges to talk about how the Jewish mindset had abused Deuteronomy 24.

The Jews (who had two main schools of thought on this – Shammai, Hillel) had given just about any reason as an OK reason to write a certificate of divorce. Partly because of the hard hearts of the people at that time. Now, in Jesus’ day, they were still used to that way of thinking. Jesus was wanting them to understand that “any reason” was not a good reason.  The “good” reason for getting a divorce was “unfaithfulness”.  This didn’t address “unfaithfulness” as the only reason that was accepted, but Jesus wanted them to stop abusing women/wives by abusing the option of divorce. Here are some applications to choose from to use this week…

  1. Permanency of Marriage ~ Marriage is a unique relationship. It starts out by an incredible, heightened interest that is predominantly about attraction. Marriage is about openness, honesty, and trust. Once that relationship matures to the point of sharing your lives, then the test comes. It would be wrong to say that the “attraction” wears off or the smoke clears, but something happens to cause us to finally see the person for who they are.  Sometimes we may not like that person very much.  That is partly what makes marriage unique.  If you are viewing your marriage as “not permanent”, refocus that line of thought to consider how you can return back to the way of thinking you used to have when you did view it as permanent.
  2. Who Did You Marry? ~ The person you married is going to be named various names, but that isn’t what the question is about. I am addressing that those who are Christians have a marriage-type relationship with Him.  In Ephesians 5, Paul addresses how Jesus is “married” to His church (the bride).  Jesus has done a lot for us, as a “husband”.  He is not going to divorce us and we should not divorce Him!
  3. Stay Married ~ During marriage we go through our fair share of ups and downs.  The downs may seem like it is impossible to keep going.  However, I encourage you to do just that.  KEEP GOING!!!
  4. ***A super, awesome, amazing marriage book is called Love and Respect, by Emerson Eggerichs

Marriage should never be broken up “just because”.  It is a relationship that is expected to keep going and going and going, until “death do you part”.  Jesus is trying to get them/us to understand that marriage should not be broken up “just because”.

Whether you are “married” in your relationship with Him and/or you are married to a spouse…stay that way!

As this is a “hot” topic, feel free to leave a comment or e-mail me at ichthus_man (at) hotmail.com

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The list of successful failures would include the following: Bill Gates, Abraham Lincoln, Isaac Newton, Ludwig van Beethoven, Thomas Edison, Frank Winfield Woolworth, Michael Jordan, Walter Disney, Winston Churchill, Steven Spielberg, Albert Einstein, Marilyn Monroe, John Grisham, Henry Ford, Soichiro Honda, and Akio Morita (see a more detailed description here).

Each one of these would have come to their fair share of dead-ends and then had to back up and decide how to make it successfully to their goal.  That brings us to this week’s quote…

When obstacles arise, you change your direction to reach your goal; you do not change your decision to get there.  ~ Zig Ziglar

How would history be different without these individuals continuing to pursue their goals?  Some accomplished more than one goal and probably had many dead-ends.  Their labyrinth of achieving their goals were possibly paved with many dead-ends. However, no matter how many dead-ends they experienced, the ended up making it to their goals.

Obstacles are high, wide, or deep opportunities in disguise.  How we deal with those obstacles will determine the outcome of the opportunities. 

Do not let your goals be dead-ends, but rather turn around, try again and again until you reach the end of the labyrinth. 

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The Labyrinth of Achieving Goals  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer

The list of successful failures would include the following: Bill Gates, Abraham Lincoln, Isaac Newton, Ludwig van Beethoven, Thomas Edison, Frank Winfield Woolworth, Michael Jordan, Walter Disney, Winston Churchill, Steven Spielberg, Albert Einstein, Marilyn Monroe, John Grisham, Henry Ford, Soichiro Honda, and Akio Morita (see a more detailed description here).

Each one of these would have come to their fair share of dead-ends and then had to back up and decide how to make it successfully to their goal.  That brings us to this week’s quote…

When obstacles arise, you change your direction to reach your goal; you do not change your decision to get there.  ~ Zig Ziglar
How would history be different without these individuals continuing to pursue their goals?  Some accomplished more than one goal and probably had many dead-ends.  Their labyrinth of achieving their goals were possibly paved with many dead-ends. However, no matter how many dead-ends they experienced, the ended up making it to their goals.

Obstacles are high, wide, or deep opportunities in disguise.  How we deal with those obstacles will determine the outcome of the opportunities. 

Do not let your goals be dead-ends, but rather turn around, try again and again until you reach the end of the labyrinth. Share/Bookmark

Killer Looks  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer in , , , ,

There are lots and lots of songs that are written to cause one to think about someone of the opposite gender.  Some may describe the looks of the person, where others describe the type of person the song is about.  Either way, they are written for the fan to think of someone who would appeal to them.

This type of idealistic way of describing someone can cause us to desire that type of person.  This really poses a problem when we are involved with a person or the person the song is written about is involved.  Either way, we should not be enticed to think about another person when we are involved with someone.

Sunday, we looked at the segment of the Sermon on the Mount in which Jesus discusses lust.  Usually, we think of lust describing the sexual side of the word.  However, it can also mean “an intense longing: craving”. Which doesn’t have to be a sexual longing. Here are some additional applications to choose from to use this week…

  1. Stiffen Your Neck ~ Lust can begin by a look.  That look is sometimes an item to the side of us.  Which may cause you to turn and look.  By stiffening your neck, you won’t be drawn to turn to the side and look at the object you are “craving”.
  2. Acknowledge the Error ~ If you are or have been involved with a lustful thought.  Realize that it is able to be forgiven.  Move on from this situation by acknowledging there was an error involved and pursue a healthier future.
  3. Weigh Your Options ~ Jesus describes what to do when you are involved with this type of lifestyle.  That is, cut off the hand or gouge out the eye.  Remove the little things before you lose your whole self.  You may need to weigh your options and decide which you’d rather lose – an appendage or eye or your whole body.
As you go about life seeing things that may be appealing, may you understand what the damage which can be a result if your thoughts go down a road you didn’t intend.Share/Bookmark

Knowing Ourselves Better  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer in , , , , , ,

Personalities, everyone has one.  Some are outward bound.  Some are inward bound.  Some are funny. Some are serious.  Some are witty. Some are nerdy.  It takes all kinds of personalities to make this world the wonderful place to live that it is.  Sometimes, however, we think our personality is the standard to live by and other personalities are judged on that measuring stick.
When my wife and I were in preaching school and looking into the possibility of joining a mission team we took a personality test, of sorts.  It was actually a spiritual gifts test.  But it revealed certain things about our other teammates that maybe we didn’t know.  It also revealed a sense of sympathy in me toward some of the teammates because I could now understand them better and they me.  It also uncovered an excitement in knowing some of the teammates were very similar.  This brings us to this week’s quote…

Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.  ~Carl Jung
WOW! When you look into the lives of others you get to know something deeper than you ever knew before.  You may be able to see the miles they’ve been through.  Which brings the trials and victories they’ve encountered.
You may be one that is quick to assess someone based on how they are acting.  Maybe there are times you feel “above” someone or times you feel “below” someone.  Either case can cause you to be “irritated” with them for one reason or another.
May your interactions with others not lead you to make a judgment, but rather may you be moved to understand yourself a bit more.

For a little extra, read this verse (just click) and see how it fits in to today’s quote Luke 18:9-14  Share/Bookmark

Roadblocks of Anger  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer

Anger can be like the water behind a dam.  One small crack can start with a trickle, but can quickly move in to a gusher.  Occasionally, that gusher may be handled but not really taken care of; thus you still have anger leaking.  The leakage will prevent the water from doing what it is designed to do.  Generally, in the case of a dam, it is designed to provide hydro energy for the purpose of creating energy/electricity.  The reservoir will also house lots of marine life, so a leak could be damaging to the environment of those marine animals.

As we looked at Jesus addressing anger from Matthew 5:21-26, our focus was looking at anger being a roadblock to your relationship with Him and that anger is the type that is “without cause”.  Here are some applications to choose from to use this week…

  1. Cut Phone Line ~ In a Dr. Seuss book of my son’s (One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish) there is a page where to beings are trying to talk to each other on the phone but cannot due to a mouse cutting the cord.  The two are wanting to communicate, but cannot.  That is similar to the way anger can keep us from effectively communicate with Him.  We want to, but our anger is preventing us from being able to communicate.  Anger is the mouse that has cut the cord…get rid of the anger and repair the line!
  2. Energy Wasted ~ Not only can anger be a roadblock to your relationship with Him, but it is also wasted energy. One of the areas it is wasted are the times when you do not approach a person based on your anger, but rather you stew about it.  You roll the hypotheticals around in your mind so much that you are totally consumed.  You will never get those moments back, so why not try to work things out or let them go so they are not consumed with anger?
  3. Justifiability ~ As you examine your anger, make sure it is able to be justified.  That doesn’t mean that you justify it just because it bothers you.  If you’re anger is a result of something that has caused you to simply be upset or bothered, that probably doesn’t count.  Anger against a sin is justifiable.  Anger that is simply against a person is not.  Do not be angry with your brethren or to call them a “fool” for a superficial reason. These are dangerous situations in which you may be subject to “court” or “judgment”.

Anger is selfish and a choice.  You may react to something which causes you to be angry, but the extent of the anger is up to you.  Sure it may anger you that someone cut you off in traffic, but let it go.  Sure it may anger you that they replaced the pews with chairs, but let it go.  Sure it may anger you that your child is being bullied, but let it go.  Some of those may be difficult to let go, but try to find a positive way to address the situation. Addressing it in a positive way will make you more effective rather than having a roadblock to your effectiveness.

Keeping my (prolonged) anger in check!

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Gone Fishin’…  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer

For those of you who are “regular” readers of my blog, I want you to know that you will just have to wait until next week to read anything because I am on vacation this week…but not fishing!

Look over any older posts to read some things you maybe have never read.

Have a great week!

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The Crossroads of the Cross  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer

The Crossroads of the Cross

Life is full of choices. Have you ever found yourself at a crossroads with a decision you had to make? Some decisions come with more than two choices. Of course, there are always at least two choices – yes or no. However, sometimes you encounter a situation where you may have so many choices it is difficult to choose.

One who is a believer stands at a crossroads on a daily basis. For one, you decide whether you are going to follow Christ or not.

Picking up your cross and carrying it is a challenging choice within itself. Thinking of the pain or discomfort your decision may bring can be taxing all on its own. You will find yourself at the crossroads of the cross many times in life. Sometimes you may sit there for a while, where other times you find it easier to make the decision. Either way, it is still the cross, and the ironic thing about the cross, as we normally think about it, is that it forms a “T” or cross, where we can go forward, left, or right, giving you choices.

When the world comes falling inward on you, you will find yourself at a crossroads. When you make a poor choice in dating and something like abuse or pregnancy is a result. When you make a poor choice in finances and overdrawn bank account or bill collectors calling is the result. When you or your spouse fails to stay faithful to the marriage and broken trust is a result. When a spouse is not there for you and distance is a result. When a child makes a poor choice and humiliation is a result. When grades are going south and retaking a grade is a result. When the economy is headed downward and job loss is a result. With all of these you find yourself at a crossroads. Fortunately, the cross will still be there, waiting for you to make a decision.

Have you ever felt like life is just handing you a deck of cards where it is full of “bad luck” cards? Around each corner and with each week comes one unfortunate event after another? Or you feel like people are so busy that you have no one to turn to and life is so lonely. You do or have done for others but there is nothing that seems to be coming back your way. You feel spent, tired, worn out, and hopeless. You are at a crossroads. Which way will you turn? The crossroads of the cross is waiting for you to decide which decision you will make.

In so many of life’s journeys we need to find a place of rest. We need a place where we can prop up our feet and clear off our mind. The cross is that beacon in the storm or the oasis in the desert. At the cross there is hope for the hopeless. There is rest for the restless. There is comfort for the discomforted. Rest is available if you make your choice to come to the cross.

Through all life’s journeys and decisions, even though the cross is waiting for you to make your decision, it is also has a more important significance. The cross is still the cross and it is a staple in one’s life to know that God is there. It will stand in the midst of the storm. It will stand in the midst of the crashes. It will stand in the midst of ruins.

What crossroads are you at right now? Is it any of the ones listed as an example? Carrying that burden is most likely weighing you down and wearing you out. You may experience times which you are short-tempered with someone because of the short fuse you have due to the crossroads where you are standing. Come to the cross and make the decision easy by laying your burdens down. They are too heavy to keep carrying them day after day and you are not created to carry them. So, if you are at a crossroads, make the decision to go toward the cross, laying your burdens there.

A couple of paragraphs above, I said the cross was a staple; staples help anchor. May the cross be an anchor when you are at the crossroads! After all, the cross is still the cross!

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The Extra Mile…Who’s Willing?  

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

There is a passage in the Bible, Matthew 5:41 that encourages us to go the extra mile with someone if they ask us to go one mile.  However, it seems that there are probably very few that will do it.  If I am being honest, in certain circumstances, I am hesitant to be able to go that extra mile.

Maybe it is a day that you have no more energy after going that first mile that you were asked to go on.  So, to go two miles…no way!

A couple of weeks ago I was watching a show about the US Army’s RECON unit.  They had to go through some grueling training.  I almost felt “out of shape” just watching it.  The first part of the show showed them treading water for 45 minutes with their full normal military clothing.  Then, they had to pass a 2, 5, & 10 pound weight around a circle twice, still while treading water. If dropped, they would start over.  Needless to say, people were going to the sides, done with the training and their hopes.  After that they had to swim along the bottom of the deep end for about 30 feet without coming up for air!  Some didn’t make it there either.  All this was just the first part of their entire training…pretty grueling!  That brings us to this week’s quote…

It's never crowded along the extra mile.  ~ Wayne Dyer
To go the extra mile takes a certain type of person.  Only a small percentage is going to continue.  That “extra mile” may not entail running or something physical.  It may require something totally different.  Maybe being nice to someone that doesn’t deserve it.  Maybe being understanding with someone.  Who knows what area it is, but in a world full of “entitled” people, this quote holds very true.

Are you one of the ones who will go the extra mile or will you quit before then?  Only a few of you will be in the extra mile on any given day…remember you probably won’t have a lot of company with you!Share/Bookmark

Bending the Rules  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer

Imagine if you had a company that issued guarantees on a product.  The person who purchased that product with the guarantee then went to make some small changes which would benefit him greatly.  On top of that, he exercised those changes, in which, you had to contest his guarantee, after the alterations.  Or, how would you feel to know that a guarantee you had been given was altered to make it void? 

Sunday, we looked at Matthew 5:17-20 and focused on 18 & 19.  We brought out how Jesus was informing the recipients that any small change to the scriptures would be a bad thing.  Also assuring us that actual scripture was not going to change, but if someone would try to rewrite some of the scriptures to try to make it read differently, they would be considered “least”.

The Bible, being a document that is in print form, should not be changed up, figuratively or literally, to fit our desires. This statement is not meant in the “traditional” sense, but in the sense that we are not to input our own words or our own thoughts.  Some passages we may “pick-and-choose” what is a command for us today and what is not.  This is getting closer to where we’re going with this concept. Here are some applications to choose from to use this week…

  1. The Worst Command/Expectation ~ What biblical command or expectation is one of your most difficult to deal with.  Maybe it is one that makes you uncomfortable doing it or one you just “will not” ever do.  Challenge yourself to see it in a new light.
  2. Move Upward ~ Jesus said the one who changes will be the “least”.  Changing your view of what something in the Bible is urging you to do will cause you to move upward. 
  3. Appreciate the Unchangeable Word ~ The Bible has a certain amount of “guarantee” written into it. That is partly why people read and follow it.  Without the assurance people would be extremely uncomfortable and probably would abandon the Bible altogether.  Knowing that the Bible is not going to change, impeding your guarantee, we should be appreciating what it can do for us and others!

Have you ever watched an ad on television and then noticed some fine print that was at the bottom?  With the brevity of the commercial there is no way to read it all, however it is on there.  So if the commercial was selling you something, when you went to buy the product, you may be getting into something you wished you didn’t.

Enjoy the Word the way it is…may we not change it, literally or figuratively!

 

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It is Not the End  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer

The clock going down to zero, a buzzer going off, the sun going below the horizon, and the cooking pan is empty are all signs that something has ended.

I was a witness to a basketball game where the whistle had been blown and the time on the clock read 0:00.  However, no buzzer had sounded.  The officials just concluded the game (I can’t remember if it would have mattered or not to have those tenths of a second be played out).  One coach tried to explain that the buzzer had not gone off, and the official was explaining that there was no time on the clock to play any part of the game.  The official won the argument – right or wrong.  This was before most clocks had the tenths of the second show up on the clock when it dropped below one minute.

The game should have probably been played out because there was technically time left.  When there is something left – time or daylight, then we are not to quit.  That brings us to this week’s quote…

Everything works out in the end.  If it hasn't worked out, it's not the end.  ~ Unknown

Doesn’t that just sound so logical that it zings you?  It did for me.  Oftentimes we want to think where we’re at the end should be also.  However, that is often not the case.  We are not the best judges of determining when things have ended because we’re not the ones in control.

If and when you become involved in a matter where you just do not think it is going to work out, just know that it probably isn’t the end yet.  As it will work out in the end!

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He Speaks to Me Like a Friend  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer

If I were to meet someone I idolized I can only imagine the nervousness I would feel.  I can’t imagine speaking to them with much comfort.  For one, we do not know each other.  I would know them, but I wouldn’t KNOW them. I don’t know the real them, only what I saw on the surface.  They try to speak to me as a friend, but they wouldn’t know me either.

When I come in contact with someone I try to speak to them “as a friend”.  If they are coming to me for a benevolent reason, then to talk down to them is going to make them feel uncomfortable and defensive. If they are in a crisis, to not talk to them as a friend is going to turn them away.  If they come just because they know me, to appear “higher” than they are is not going to give a good impression.

To talk to someone that you hardly know, as a friend, is going to make a positive impact.  As a minister I am in that position fairly regularly.  Most of the time it can be pretty easy, but if something has negatively impacted my day, then it can be a bit more challenging.

As we looked at the interaction between Moses and God (Exodus 33:11) as a man speaking to a friend, may we be encouraged to know that the Christian is His friend as well.  What a place to be at!  Here are some applications to choose from to use this week…

  1. Talk to Him as a Friend ~ Just as God speaks “as a friend”, you should do the same with Him.  Whenever you are trying to get your thoughts out there, don’t feel like you have to use a lot of “Christianese” type talking (i.e. thee’s, thou’s, Heavenly Father, guide-guard-and-direct, etc), just speak to God as He was a friend. One way for me is to pray with your eyes open, like while driving.
  2. Enjoy the Friendship ~ Sometimes you may feel like God is “distant”. That may or may not be true, but one way to remedy that issue is to treat Him like any other relationship.  If you are far away, you will make efforts to get together or talk about your life together. If you are closer in proximity, you will see each other and share life together, that’s the way a life with God should be like.
  3. Be a Friend ~ As God is the highest “idol” you could ever want to talk to, and He will speak to us as a friend (regardless of who we are), speak to others with similar understanding.  Try not to let social standing or other life experiences to cloud your thoughts of how you will interact with someone who has come to you, regardless of why they came to you.

I enjoy the fact that God does not look down on me and not talk to me, but views me as His friend!  Let others see you do not look down on them but view them as a friend!

Reveling in the encouragement that He is my friend and I am His!

 

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When Parachutes Function Properly  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer

My son has a few shows he really likes to watch.  Thanks to the invention of the DVR (digital video recorder) it makes it easy for him to have shows to watch.  One of the shows he likes to watch is called “Special Agent OSO” (pronounced oh-so).  If you don’t have kids you probably won’t be looking for this to watch.  It is a spoof off of James Bond and “Get Smart”.  He goes on missions but he usually screws something up in the mean time.  But when he goes to his missions he is usually dropped out of his flying mobile and floats down with his parachute.

I have always wanted to jump out of a plane with a parachute.  However, I know there would be the big fear of the parachute not working properly.  Then, I would plummet to my probable death or be severely injured.  As long as the parachute functioned properly, all things would be presumed well.  That is kind of the way life can be, using the metaphor of a parachute, which brings us to this week’s quote…

Minds are like parachutes. They only function when they are open.  ~ Dewar

I once went door-to-door to talk to people about their faith. My avenue was asking if they’d take a short survey with me.  People were really cooperative.  One couple I went to I will never forget. They went to a church they didn’t like but they didn’t see themselves going anywhere else.  They said “I guess we’re just set in our ways”.  I jokingly said, “Kinda like concrete?”  They said something like, “Yep, I guess so”.

Too often we can be like that couple.  We want to change, but we’re closed off to it, for various reasons.

As you go through life, think about how parachute-like your mind is…open, partially open, or closed. Open doesn’t mean you have to do something that is proposed, just that you’re open.  Remember that parachutes only function when they’re open!

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Lighting Up a Life  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer

My birthday is always a pivotal point in the year.  That day is the longest day of the year, regarding light, which means, after that day, the daylight will start to decrease. As a person who’s always enjoyed summer evenings, it is nice to have daylight longer.  Last night, it was getting pretty dark around 8:30 PM.  Soon that time will be closer to 6:00 PM, as we get closer to December 21st. It is nice to enjoy the light!

Sunday, we focused our time on being light to the world, from Matthew 5:14-16.  YOU are challenged to be a light to others.  YOU are a lamp to guide them.  YOU are not to be hidden. People are to see you and glorify your Father in heaven.

Light comes in all shapes and sizes and powers.  Light serves one basic purpose, but is applicable in many instances. Light can me comforting, annoying, and/or necessary.  Light needs to be positive because if being a light to someone comes across as a negative it will turn someone off quickly. As we think about the lesson, here are some applications to choose from to use this week…

  1. Light Their Path Not Their Past ~ Mistakes are not something that people brag about, nor do they like to have brought to the surface.  Sure, it is good to acknowledge things in your past, but to have it be “highlighted” is something totally different. When you are a light, make sure you are helping them see the future as bright, not pointing out their past, it can be uncomfortable.
  2. Drawn to vs. Deterred From ~ When life is tossing you back and forth, you look to find someone who is going to be a “safe place to land”.  Similarly, boats on the ocean look for that light that is associated with land to mark where safety exists. Make sure that people are able to see your light, so don’t hide it.  You never know when someone is going to need that “safe place to land” or that gives hope to the hopeless.
  3. Be a Light of Comfort ~ Shining light in someone’s eyes can be very uncomfortable.  It is that “too much too soon”.  It exposes who someone is in the dark that they are living in. Dark may not be “sin” but could be simply “alone”.  If someone is involved in sin or, simply, alone, coming in to their life with a big beam of light is going to be uncomfortable.  Take your time and let people see your light, just not in an uncomfortable way.

Just like lights come in all shapes and sizes, we also come that way.  Different lights are made for certain functions. Therefore, as “lights” we are made for certain functions. Presume that your function is perfect for each person you meet.  Use your light to its potential!

Looking forward to lighting up a life every chance I’m given!

 

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Must Be Willing to Move  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer in , , , ,

Have you ever been one of those “I want to change” people?  However, the “want” to change didn’t really go much past that?  I want to be stronger, more faithful, lose weight, be smarter, be more athletic, and the list goes on.  However, a day drifted into the next and nothing ever was accomplished.  Your “want” stayed in the past and never went to the next level.  

Maybe you even prayed about it, asking God to guide you into the “want” that you have, however, things still didn’t progress…that brings us to this week’s quote…

Do not ask the Lord to guide your footsteps, if you are not willing to move your feet. ~Author Unknown
I received this quote the other day and it “hit me” as one of those subtle “in your face” kind of quotes.  The concept of wanting to do things or asking God to guide your footsteps is not uncommon.  However, we often want God to just take us by the hand, kind of like what I have to do with my two-year old, from time to time.

If we are wanting things done or wanting God to “guide us” then we have to be willing to move.  That willingness is going to be started over with each day and each decision.  So, the real question is, are you willing to move?Share/Bookmark

Reaching the Impossible  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer in , , , ,

When I was studying Athletic Training in college, one of the areas which I did learn about was a principle called the S.A.I.D. Principle.  This stands for “specific adaptations to imposed demands”.  Basically stating that the body, specifically muscles, will respond to the amount of stress you place on it.  Simply put, if you lift a barbell with 50 lbs on it, over and over, your body will respond to building muscle mass to handle that demand.

Finding a limit can sometimes be all too easy.  That brings us to this week’s quote…

The only way of finding limits of the possible is by going beyond them into the impossible.  ~ Arthur C. Clarke

I think the mental part of the body is much the same way.  More importantly, and similar to the mental side of the argument, is how we adjust to life’s challenges.  Or how we adjust to trying new things.

For me, trying something new can be very stressful.  I remember being asked to be a guest speaker for a church on their “Theme Sunday”.  I was given one bible verse which I was supposed to have three lessons over, one being a bible class.  This was in my first couple years as a minister.  Was it ever a stretch!  But it was also fun to be challenged like that.  What seemed impossible was definitely possible.  It was one of my favorite mini-series at that time.

So, just when you think something is impossible…go beyond the possible and see the impossible start to take shape!

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