The Christian Who Was in a Hurry  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer in , , , , , ,

Last week I had the privilege of going to a ministry workshop.  It is the highlight of my year. So many great things are packed into that great weekend (Wednesday-Saturday).  I practically look forward to the next year's workshop the moment I leave!

Most of you have probably heard the story about the policeman who stops a lady who was cussing, honking, and doing other rude things when drivers around her weren't "cooperating".  When asked why she was being stopped, the officer responded something like this, "I thought the car was stolen and you were not the owner because of the fact that you had a Jesus-fish decal and a "Honk if you love Jesus" bumper sticker on the back of your car."  In his opinion, she was not reflecting her faith very well.

The other day, when I was checking out, another gentleman came up to be checked out.  He was pretty demanding of a receipt, which due to the circumstances, they couldn't provide one at that time.  They were willing to e-mail it to him.  However, he claimed he had no way of printing it off.  They offered to fax the receipt, the gentlemen began getting a little more testy.  "Do you have a piece of paper that you can just put my total on and sign it?"  "Yes", the clerk replied. "Then just do it and let me get out of here!" was his response.  She obliged.  After he said, "Are you ___?", the name on the card, she nodded.  After he left, she muttered to her coworker, "He was rude".

As it worked out, I saw him at my ministry workshop.  I wonder if he felt justified in his reaction?  Did he realize that the faith that she was seeing was rudeness, not Christ.  I Corinthians 13 describes love as not being rude.  This guy didn't have a passionate love for the clerk that was coming across as unloving.  Rather, he had a Christ-like love that was absent in this situation, so it reflected rude.

I debated about saying something to this guy when I saw him.  However, I never had/took the chance.

My challenge and purpose in writing this is to say that you may be the only Jesus anyone will see that day.  How will you respond to these interactions?  Also, will you be Jesus to everyone so that they will see a Jesus-reflection rather than a "rude" reflection (or worse).

May I take on the responsibility of wanting to reflect Jesus to everyone I meet!Share/Bookmark

Some Knowledge Comes Best From Experience  

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How many of you know what happens within the walls, on any given Sunday, within the Church of Christ?  How about the Presbyterian Church?  The College View Baptist Church? Do you know what happens during the Lenten Brown Bag & Bible?

My point is not to endorse, nor leave out, any of the churches in the city or anywhere else.  I am simply introducing the fact that we often do not know much other church denominations.  However, we may be forming opinions about them without actually ever experiencing them.  I write this from experience and if I have had this experience, I presume others have too.  Even if you have experienced more than one place of worship, you may have formed an opinion about a place you haven't attended.

I grew up going to the same church denomination my whole life.  Occasionally, as a child I have stepped foot in other church buildings for special events (weddings, funerals, VBS, etc.).  However, I didn't go to those buildings for a "worship" time. 

I am not suggesting that one should go from church building to church building, nor to leave where they are attending.  I am wanting people to realize that sometimes what happens behind a building's closed doors may not actually be that much different than what you're used to doing in your church building.

As mentioned previously, I grew up going to the same denomination.  I was told things about other churches that caused me to form an opinion about them.  This limited what I knew to other people's opinion (most of which didn't really know much about the group they were advising me on). 

So, when it came to being a part of a ministerial group, I was hesitant, stemming from the lack of experiences I had while growing up, even into my twenties.  I had just formed opinions based on what I was told or from looking at churches from the outside.  But something happened whenever I became a part of a ministerial group, I started seeing people from other churches a bit differently.  I became close enough to ask questions about their faith and getting their answers, rather than going off of what I was told or presumed.  Even if I didn't theologically agree, I would know firsthand.  I have even took the opportunity to step foot in the buildings of other churches to see what they looked like.  I have had the opportunity to experience a few church's worship styles based on the opportunities to join in with them for special worship events (Thanksgiving, July 4th, etc.).  This allowed me to see what they were really like.

The Church of Christ, where I attend, has something significantly different in our worship settings than most all other churches in Colby.  Maybe you know about that significant difference; maybe you don't.  It is the fact that we traditionally sing without instruments.  If you've never experienced what this is like, you may be surprised.  Don't presume it is uninteresting based on face value.

I have made the mistake of judging what other churches did or believed based on an opinion that didn't come from firsthand knowledge. I have found that opinions should be formed after one experiences something for themselves.  Whether that opinion is about a religious organization or a person, don't "judge a book by its cover".  Check things out for yourself and then decide.


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Tenacity Over Talent  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer

Upset. For a sideline follower of the 2010 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, it seems the word "upset" could have been used for about half of the first two rounds.  I receive a text with the final score of every game in the tournament.  The service also sends me a text if the underdog is ahead or very close to the score of the favored team with less than five minutes.  From what I remember, as mentioned above, there were a good number of upsets (lower seeds beating the higher seeds).

One of the most shocking was the Northern Iowa Panthers defeating the Kansas Jayhawks, 69-67. Ouch!  Residing in Kansas, several of the people I knew were in heartache.  The Kansas State fans weren't hurting too much, as they had been defeated three times by Kansas.

What made the University of Northern Iowa win? Lots of people would come up with answers.  However, it probably wasn't talent.  It may have been talent that "showed up" at the right time, but, even not a KU fan, I think that KU was the better team.  That brings us to this week's quote...
Basketball may not be my favorite sport, but I am a sucker for watching "Hoosiers" or "Coach Carter" and wanting to go play basketball.  Wanting that feeling of shooting the 15+ foot shot and getting "nothing but net".  It is a pretty "sweet" feeling!
The will must be stronger than the skill.  ~ Muhammad Ali


You may not be the greatest in your field, your team, or your family.  However, as the "madness of March" will show you, not always does the best "on paper" win.  Those that have a will to win can overtake those that have the skill to win.  The Northern Iowa and Kansas University is one example.

Don't think you have to be the most talented to make an impact on life, just have a will to make it happen and the "sweet" feeling of "nothing but net" will follow!

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Living things exert energy and require energy in order to continue to function.  Your business doesn't run itself, certain energies are required to be put into it so that it will keep running.  You, indiviually, require sustenance in order to continue functioning. Sometimes that sustenance is not measured in calories.


This week, I have the opportunity to go to a workshop within my line of work.  I try to attend every year and was one of the speakers last year.  I also am involved with the designing of the logo, some years.  Regardless, it is the fuel for my year. It is an awesome time to see people I haven't seen and to be "fed" with information that helps me in my profession.


I remember when I worked as an instructor at a college that I didn't like the first-of-the-year inservices. They seemed like a waste of time.  It didn't help that most people thought the same.  Maybe you approach workshops, inservices, etc., your line of work the same way.  I challenge you to think differently.  Imagine if your company was to launch something new and innovative, be it an invention or a marketing campaign, and you didn't make it because you deemed it not important enough.  Think of what you'd miss out on.  You'd be in the dark!


Some of you do work individually at your job.  When this is the case, you definitely need to consider going to events that will help you be refueled, refocusd, and rejuvenated. (In the meantime, this newsletter is designed to help you in those areas)


Just like the human body will tire out if not replenished with nutrients, so will your career.  Continuing Education Units keep you "in the loop" but they also keep you refueled for the future.  So, whenever you can make to gatherings that will enhance your job, take advantage of it.  Who wants to let their battery die out and let their career suffer? I hope no one.


Don't let your battery die.  Recharge your batteries by being involved in events that will help you become refueled, refocused, and rejuvenated so you can "keep going and going and going"!Share/Bookmark

Teacher's Aid: It's Not Too Late  

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We recently had the Winter Olympics.  Most of you probably saw some of the events.  There were highs and lows for each country.  During big sporting events you hear a lot of "should've" "could've" and "would've".  I think back to some of the speed skating and can say some of those words, dealing with Apolo Ohno.  However, I would guess around the whole Vancouver Olympic campus, people were saying that as the games went on.  Some people do well at all the other venues, but when it comes to the "big" one, like the Olympics, they may make a costly mistake which takes them out of any medal opportunities. It would easily make someone want to throw a helmet down in disgust.

After Spring Break is over, you only have a few more weeks left.  I know from my little experience that the kids' level of distraction will let you know how close the close of school is getting. That good ol' "spring fever" starts creeping in and the kids want to be anywhere but in school (it also has a tendency to attack teachers, administrators, and staff). Those few weeks can still be effective. There is still time to make the last quarter of the year a productive one.

Did you set any goals at the beginning of the year that you haven't been able to accomplish yet?  Maybe they were goals that you made a few weeks into the school year, after you found out who your kids were and what their temperament was like, etc.  How are you doing with those goals?  I hope that you haven't given up on any of them yet, thinking that if you haven't accomplished them by the end of March, there is no hope?

Each day is not your "big event", like the Olympics.  Your "Olympics" lasts, approximately, 180 days.  You have four quarters of nine weeks to have the greatest impact you can on the kids that are in your classroom, on your team, etc.  If you're like me, you have probably left the end of a school year saying "should've", "could've", or "would've" types of statements. Even though the end of the school year is starting to creep up and weeks are being chipped away, I want to cheer you on by directing you back to those goals that you may have set and not giving up on them.  There is still time to make this year a "I'm glad I did" rather than a "should've", "could've", or "would've" year.

Maybe it is time to put on the "rally caps" and "kick it up a notch" as you see the finish line approaching.  There are those kids in your school who still need you, maybe they came in to your school in the middle of the year after you set up your goals.  A teacher is a leader and when a leader coasts (or worse), its followers will coasts.  You can set the tone for your co-workers and students. 

You can still have a tremendous impact on your school year and your students!  It's not too late!


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I Give Up...Something I Treasure - Ruth 2:8-13  

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I am such the father of a 2-year old that watches Backyardigans (a cartoon on Nickelodeon) because as I looked at the word "treasure" in the title, I started singing a song that the Backyardigans sing on one of their "adventures".

We all treasure things. By that I don't mean that it is necessarily one of the top ten things that is on our list of favorites. Rather, I simply mean that we value it greatly, whether we realize it or not.  Take for instance, complaining.  You may not realize how much you treasure it, but if you find yourself doing it a lot, you probably "treasure" it.  

Yesterday, we continued our search into the idea of "giving up".  Not quitting, in the negative sense, but rather, in the positive.  Thinking of things that you might be able to give up for a "season" that will cause a void in your life, which, in turn, would hopefully, draw you closer to Him.  Here are some applications to choose from to use this week...
  1. Self-Reflect ~ If you haven't given something up, yet, think about some things that you value.  Foods, hobbies, habits, etc.  Then, decide that you would like to make a small change and choose to give that up...the series is only 2 more weeks!
  2. Consider ~ Think about what God gave up in His only Son?  He gave up part of His "family" for you.  Think of the pain that was involved.  The tough love that was expressed in Him having to turn His back on Jesus so that His body beaten and pierced and blood dripped for you and me.
  3. Imitate ~ I don't think anything will ever compare to Jesus' death for us.  However, as a way of imitating what God did, try to give something up so that you will experience a bit of discomfort for this short time.
Jesus said that even if we have to give up something as important as family, for His sake, there will be a great reward for us, in the end.  I would bet you have some sort of a family core that you value.  However, to think of them higher than Him is not what He desires.  Put Him first...Seek first the Kingdom...the rewards will follow.

May you see the benefits of trying to give up something in order to draw closer to Him!
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We all have and will experience obstacles in our life.  Any journey seems to inevitably have obstacles inserted somewhere between the start and the finish.  Maybe it is a twist or turn.  Maybe it is a landslide. What the obstacle is for you is not important, just understanding that they will be included in your unwritten itenerary. 

Ralph de la Vega, President and CEO of AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets, presents us with this book titled, "Obstacles Welcome".  It includes some of his biographical background, coming from Cuba in the 1960s to the United States, alone.  He came alone, not by choice.  His parents had to make the choice of whether one family member could go or none.  They chose Ralph.  He made his way to the southern part of Florida, to be there three years without his father or mother or siblings.

He includes this to say that he had obstacles in his life toward the goal of "success" from the very beginning.  He didn't know English. Obstacle overcome.  He learned English.  He went on to college.  He worked.  He did things that some people would give up on.

One of my favorite chapters was titled "Obstacles in Disguise".  What I enjoyed was the reminder that things which show up in life may present themselves as an obstacle, but, in essence, they are disguised as opportunities - to learn, to launch, etc.  It seems that I have had different obstacles in my life that were disguised as opportunities.

One criticism is that Ralph puts too many "lists" of improvement in the book.  In the latter two-thirds of the book, there are ___(blank) number of ways to do certain things.  The difficulty with this is that it is hard to remember all of them, for there are so many.  Coming from a ministry standpoint, when I give a sermon, to have so many acronyms or scripture references in the message, people will forget them by the end.

There are definitely good things in the book, and I could see it being of benefit to business-minded people, as that is who it is targeted.  It was interesting to see where AT&T and Cingular have been prior to where they are now.

So, as you go through life, remember "Obstacles Welcome"!Share/Bookmark

Where Are You When Your People Go Into Battle?  

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

Everyone has their own leadership style, from no leadership abilities to an extreme I can't even describe.  Most will meet in the middle somewhere.  The view of a leader usually takes us back to elementary school when we think of the person who was the "line leader".  Where were they at...the front.  Where was the teacher at making sure that all their students were in line and ready to go...at the front.  Where is the table of the leaders at a banquet...at the front.  


The front is where we normally think of the position of leaders.  However, there can only be one front.  Just like there can only be one "first place", all others are non-winners.  If you are competing for the front spot you may be disappointed.  Sometimes leaders are often viewed as a hero, when they have done something significant.  That brings us to this week's quote...
It doesn't take a hero to order men into battle.  It takes a hero to be one of those men who goes into battle. 
~ General Norman Schwarzkopf
It could be very easy to lead from the porch.  To dictate one's landscaping project, and then to take all the credit for it when an award came.  It is easy to not lift a finger, but it is much more difficult to actually get into the project and work. 


I have developed a "lead by example" leadership style.  If I am going to expect others to do something, then I had better do it myself.  If I was going to suggest something to someone, I had better be doing that same thing or something comparable.  I also listen very similarly.  If someone were to suggest for me to do something, I look to see how they are coming at it, by example or by dictating?  I think the first is much more effective.


So, the next time you are thinking of sending someone into battle, make sure that you are right there beside them and not on the porch!
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"I Give Up: All Else is Worthless"  

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I know a family that experienced two house fires within 5 years (in fact, they are a reader).  One pretty much destroyed everything they had, the other, only partial.  Most people that experience house fires only get to go through that once in their lifetime.  I have not experienced it yet, and hope that I never do!  However, could you imagine how you would react to this type of tragedy and loss?  Imagine your belongings no longer being around because of a fire that destroyed everything.  I've often wondered what inanimate object(s) I would want to take out of my house, if I ever experienced a house fire?  Have you thought about it or made a list/plan?

Whatever you took out of your house would only be a fraction of what would be left to burn.  All those tangible memories would be gone.  All the heirlooms, gone.  All the toys, gone.  All the clothes, gone. Not a pleasant thought.  That is why there are a few things that are more important than things.  One, being family - biological and spiritual, and, two, your faith.

Giving up things can be difficult, but it may make you appreciate more.  Yesterday, we continued with our "I Give Up" series where we are trying to think about what we can give up so that we can maybe understand what it took for Christ to give up for us.  Here are some applications to choose from to use this week...
  1. Examine Yourself ~ Paul, the Apostle, made mention in this text, of all the different things he had done in his life, but considered them not even close to as important as what he had found in Christ.  Think about things that you may put on a resume to cause other people to be impressed.  Then, humbly consider them all as unimportant compared to your faith.  Press on toward Jesus, not things!
  2. Lose Something ~ There are all kinds of things one could give up for this short period of time (3 more weeks) that would cause you to miss it, so that you get a hint of the sacrifice that Jesus went through for you and me.
  3. Gain Something ~ When you lose you also gain.  Losing weight may cause you to gain confidence, for example.  Losing a habit or time you normally spend, may cause you to gain appreciation or take advantage of the time spent, which you never realized you had.  You may gain a new perspective on life.
Giving something up is simply about discipline.  In this particular lesson it is about realizing that nothing is more important than "gaining Christ".  Paul testified that he had given up all these good things because they weren't even closely as important as what he had found "in Christ".

How about you?  What have you thought about giving up for the sake of gaining Christ?  For some, this is not having Christ for the first time (aka becoming a Christian), but I want you to gain Christ in a way that draws you a bit closer as you seek to experience giving up something of yourself, like He did for you, me, and everyone.  Just give it up...for Him!


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Who Won in 1988?  

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In America, the month of March is quite busy because of the phenomenon that has been dubbed "March Madness".  There are sixty-four NCAA Division I basketball teams that start the playoff toward a "national champion".  It is probably the best time to watch college basketball because every game every team must play hard.  One loss and you're out.  Hopes shattered. For some, no more next year.

This month can be quite "maddening" because of all the games that are played, especially the first few rounds. Of course, with each round the total number is reduced by half.  One of the fun things about the tournament is that sometimes a team who was not supposed to do well will do well (even if they don't win it all).  They upset team after team, tossing dreams to the curb.  

As "March Madness" is focused a lot on winning and losing, life also can be like that.  This thought brings us to this week's quote...
The wonderful thing about the game of life is that winning and losing are only temporary...unless you quit.  ~ Dr. Fred Mills
Do you recall who won the National Championship in 1988?  If you live in Kansas you do (hint).  I remember it also because, being an Oklahoma University fan, they were beat out by Kansas University for that prized possession.  
If you don't remember the winner of 1988, then what about 1991, 1996, 1983, 2002?  I don't know without looking them up.  Even then I may not remember that particular team winning.  The idea of those victories are important to the players, fans, and the school, but most people treat it as a "here now, gone tomorrow" kind of thing.  

Life seems so important in the present.  However, oftentimes we will look back at something and think it was not as important as it seemed at the time.  Though it may feel important to someone to win and frustrate you to lose, all those are temporary.  Even if you lose your place in line, it is just a temporary inconvenience.  When, or if, you quit, that is where problems can come about because now you're not going anywhere.  Don't quit...keep going...look to the future!


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Simplifying Worship  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer in , , ,

Most people come on Sunday morning to a religious facility to what has been deemed as the "worship service".  You will come expecting what is normally done: announcements, a few songs, a few prayers, communion, and a message.  However, what would happen if any or most of those things were absent?  Would you have "worshiped"?  Do you feel you must include all the normal things to indicate that you actually did "worship" while you were at a "worship service"?


A few years ago, Matt Redman wrote a song called the "Heart of Worship".  It came after he, a worship leader, decided to strip down the worship time to not include any songs.  Out of that a song came and here are some of the words from the song...

When the music fades, all is stripped away, and I simply come
Longing just to bring something that’s of worth that will bless your heart…
I’m coming back to the heart of worship, and it’s all about You, Jesus
What would happen or how would you react if we did not have any songs the whole morning?  Would we have "worshiped" together?  Or is singing so much of our service that we would feel as if we didn't connect with God if we didn't sing one song?  I think we tend to forget that song is not needed to worship (aka "kiss toward the hand", Greek proskuneo).  It is our heart that is needed to come close to God.  To humble ourself to try to connect/commune with Him.  If your heart is not in it, then it is far from God. 


Some may know that worship is also a part of our daily lives, which is where we get the word "service" (Greek latreuo).  This is a lifestyle, not a certain act of worship (see Romans 12:1-2).  This is not about song, nor is thought about in a "church" setting.


So, are you able to still come to Him even if the music was stripped way?  After all, it isn't about what songs are or are not picked, but about glorifying and lifting up the name of our Savior.  That is what worship is all about - honoring the Godhead, appreciating them, communing with them.  Allow yourself to set aside the songs and put your heart toward God, prostrating yourself (even figuratively) toward Him.


Let's not complicate worship and simplify it by seeing what it is really all about, which is not us.  "It's all about you, Jesus!"


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