Bends in the Road  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer

I have known a few places that were close to where I was living at the time where someone was driving impaired and failed to make the turn.  In most cases it there was death involved.  This driving was totally preventable, however, the prevention wasn’t taken seriously.
Life can hand us our fair share of rough patches.  I am sure you have had to deal with low spots in your life.  How do you handle those low spots?  That is a real question to think about.  This dilemma brings us to this week’s quote…

A bend in the road is not the end of the road ... unless you fail to make the turn.  ~ Author Unknown
Turns in the road should not keep us from still making accomplishments that we have set before us. 
What does your turn look like?  A simple knot or a complicated “Boy Scout” knot?  Either way, a knot can keep us from getting to point B in life.  We should really examine this quote by looking at our challenges as opportunities. 
Don’t fail to make the turn!  Continue to the end of the road.Share/Bookmark

Pleasing the Father  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer

As I sat down to write this today, I was thinking how to start and I thought about one of the songs that we’ve been playing before assembly…”Let Us Worship” on our Praise & Harmony CD.  The first lines of the stanzas are…

Let us worship the Father
Sing your praise to the Father
Lift your hands to the Father
Let us worship the Father

Chorus:
And we will glorify
We will glorify the Lord (We will glorify)
And we will glorify
We will glorify the Lord

It has a great upbeat tempo that just gets your toes to tapping and being excited about the opportunity that is before us each day and each minute to join in with Him with some exciting things!

Yesterday, we looked at Matthew 3:13-17 examining how Jesus was pleasing to His Father, in more ways than just being baptized, but it was mentioned in this passage. Here are some applications to choose from to use this week…

Count Your Blessings ~ God is a giver of good things.  Our determination of “good” may sometimes differ, though.  However, even in your definition of good, think about all the good things that you have in your life and then thank Him for them.  Appreciation is pleasing to the Father!

Take Time for Him ~ Take some time each day to pray, listen to praise, do a service project, or something else that may take your mind off of yourself and reflect on to Him or doing something for someone else.  Jesus was a servant (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45) so doing a service project is reflecting Him. Reflecting Him is pleasing to the Father!

Do Pleasing Things ~ Doing things that are pleasing to Him will definitely please Him! Again, it is not always activities or things that please us.  However, most of us know that about any “good” thing is going to be pleasing to Him.  Go out and share how He has changed your life…that will definitely please Him…and maybe please someone else as an added benefit!

Sometimes it can be difficult to appreciate what others have done when there are so many great things they have done for you.  Family, like parents, can often be overlooked and underappreciated.  Similarly, the Father in heaven can be underappreciated.  Take time to appreciate and please Him as you go about your day!

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Is Freedom Free?  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer

Most of us have seen a phrase that closely resembles this…Freedom Isn’t Free.  Around that phrase you will typically find a picture of someone who has spared their life so we could be free – most often a patriotic picture of a soldier. 

You could take that phrase and apply it to Jesus by thinking of Him as giving his life for our freedom. Which, in order for something to be free there was someone who paid a price before.  When you think about freebies you receive at a place like a fair, the sponsor had to pay for it in order to give it away.  So, is freedom free?

I am going to go in a different direction and say that freedom is free.  Specifically, freedom in Christ.  It is free to you to take advantage of.  It is free to you to decide whether or not you are going to commit.  It is like a piece of money that you see on the ground.  You decide whether or not you are going to pick it up or leave it there.

When we lived in Illinois our church had a once-a-week preschool.  When I moved there we charged $10.00 per child for the whole year.  Ridiculously cheap!  Sometimes things are so cheap or free that we cannot find the value in it.  Take fashion, for example, if a line of fashion came out that cost a fraction of the high-end prices, you’d probably think they were cheaply made.  We typically find value in something that costs more.  Many material things in this world are like that – cars, houses, watches, technology, etc.

When it came to our preschool, it was probably so cheap that some people that were not familiar with it, probably didn’t find the value that it held.  If it would have cost $10.00 per month, at least, maybe it would have felt like there was more value in it.  So, not everyone took advantage of the opportunity that was before them.

Back to that "money on the street” example.  If you didn’t pick it up, someone else is bound to.  Someone else is going to take advantage of gaining a bit of wealth.  When it comes to a freedom that is found in Christ, if you don’t take advantage of it, you lose out.

In order to have the freedom, someone may have to die; to take advantage of that freedom, someone has to act.  Unlike our American freedom, which once we are born, we possess, Christian freedom is a choice.

Aside from someone dying to give us our freedoms, I challenge you to think about how freedom in Christ is totally free.  You can leave it for the next person or you can pick it up and share it with the next person.  That way, you can have the benefit and so can the next person.

Is freedom free?  In this case, YES!  The real question is, have you or will you take advantage of acquiring freedom in Christ?

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Parents: Positive Role Models  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer

Our culture is filled with many positive messages out there, unfortunately, many of the negative messages will overshadow the positive ones. Messages of body image, being the most talented, and even glamorizing the use of alcohol and cigarettes can definitely fall into the negative category.

Even before I became a parent I had in mind that, as parents, you impact the future, through your kids, by how you act around them.  That could be how you deal with your marriage, your social skills, your work ethic, or your relational skills.  You set the precedence on how your children will be.  You determine if they are comfortable in certain situations or not.  You dictate much of their future, including being a positive role model.  This brings us to this week’s quote…

The best way to raise positive children in a negative world is to have positive parents who love them unconditionally and serve as excellent role models.  ~ Zig Ziglar
Being a parent has taught me that it is very easy to get wrapped up in my every day life.  I get caught up in my day to day activities and can lose a day before I realize it.  I hate it when I do realize it because the day is already past.

I hope that what my wife and I are doing with our children will create them to be positive kids and, eventually, adults.  I hope that we will have a positive impact on their view of body image, using their talents, and de-glamorizing the use of alcohol and cigarettes, as well as, a host of other things.

Want to have positive kids in a negative world…be a positive parent!Share/Bookmark

It’s About Winning  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer

Just about any venture I involve myself into I want to win/succeed. This is especially true when it comes to sports. Though I learned to relax a bit when I was in college playing coed softball with less than athletic females. However, each time I am involved I want to win.  It doesn't matter if is sports, designing something or delivering a sermon, I hope to do well. When that doesn't happen I am my worst critique to improve the next time.

I would guess that many of you are similar. You hope to improve each time you venture into an area. You don't aim to lose or even close to last. Yesterday, for Father's Day, we looked at the concept of winning by examining a few scriptures. Here are some applications to choose from to use this week...

  1. Pursue Victory ~ if you are like me, you enjoy winning and doing well. An old saying goes "that its easier to calm down a fire than start one". By that I mean if your pursuing something positive, continue. Go after what will make you victorious.
  2. Enjoy the Circle ~ Too often life can cause us to see the fog instead of the objects.  We get wrapped up in the fog of problems, irritations, frustrations, failures, etc., instead of looking at the great things we have before us.  As Christians, we have the luxury of being able to be in the “winner’s circle” as we are heirs of greatness.  Enjoy it!
  3. Promote Your Team ~ When a team is successful, people want to be a part of that team.  It is usually going to be evident as people will be purchasing/wearing that team's apparel.  Plus, conversations will involve talking/sharing about that team.  As you are on God’s team, which is the greatest one ever, who are you going to share that great news with?

Want to win?  We all probably do.  In the Christian race, there is the potential that everyone wins.  However, not all will, based on their choice.  What is your choice?  I choose to make sure that I cross the finish line “on the right team” because “it’s about winning”!

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Getting Beyond the Pain  

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I can remember a time when I felt THE worst pain in my muscles I had ever felt.  Most of the time whenever I would exercise the pain would not show up until the following day – after that good night’s sleep.  This was the first and only time I had felt this type of pain only about an hour or two after the activity.  The cause…a piece of rehabilitation equipment called a Biodex.

For anyone who doesn’t know, the type of exercise that creates the soreness is called a negative contraction.  Most contractions in muscles cause the muscle to shorten. A negative contraction is where the muscle is contracted and is actually being forced to lengthen.

When I was being shown how this piece of rehabilitation equipment works, like a dummy, I climbed up on the chair.  The feature I was being shown was that I had to pull back when the device was in one position – then the machine would push out while I was trying to hold it.  Thus, elongating my hamstring muscle group, while contracted. Then, when the leg was straight, I had to kick out.  The machine, then, would pull my leg back.  Thus elongating my quadriceps muscle group.

Doing these about ten times created this unbelievable soreness.  I had a hard time walking up stairs that evening…it was almost unbearable!  That brings us to this week’s quote…

The man who can drive himself further, once the effort gets painful is the one who will win.  ~Roger Bannister
I have been in the midst of fighting through pain, even if I didn’t receive first place when it was all said and done.  However, this type of pain is not always about muscular pain, or the like.  Maybe it is pain to keep going with your job, with being a parent, with being a spouse, to keep going through high school, or to continue with any commitment.

A winner isn’t always defined as a person who comes in first.  A winner can be that in character.  They can be the hero that allows something great to happen.

Fight through the pains in life…and you’ll come out a winner!Share/Bookmark

Doing What Comes Natural  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer

What comes natural to you?  Of course, it would depend on what context one was speaking.  You come upon an emergency where your neighbor’s house is on fire.…what comes natural for you to do?

  • Go on, for you are on a schedule?
  • Stop and see if you can help?
  • Go over to the house, hollering their names to make sure they are alright?
  • Go in to see if you can see anyone?
  • Call 911 before you find out anything, for you just want to help?
  • All of the above?
  • None of the above?

We all have situations in which we will do what comes natural to you.  Each one of us is different.  We all do things differently.  That doesn’t necessarily make us wrong, just different.

What about if that scenario wasn’t as tangibly life threatening?  Then, how’d you react?  Think about this…your neighbor’s soul is about to catch on fire, what will you do?  What comes natural for you?

  • Go on, for you are on a schedule?
  • Stop and see if you can help?
  • Go over to the person, making sure they are alright?
  • Hope someone else is asking them about their soul?
  • Send a “911” prayer before you find out anything, for you just want to help?
  • All of the above?
  • None of the above?

This “natural” thing that you do may not have any helpful effect on them at all.  They may end up “burning” because you didn’t do anything.  However, we all have natural abilities that can help save someone.  In I Peter 4:10-11 we find that Peter is wanting his recipients to do what comes natural to save people.

We all have some type of natural ability or talent that can be used to share Him with others. If you like to eat, then use a meal as a catalyst to share Him.  If you like to text, use that.  If you like to visit personally, use that.  If you like to fix cars, use that.  If you like to write creatively, use that.  If you like to play sports, use that…the list could go on and on and on.

We just need to do what comes naturally to you and do that!

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“You Brood of Vipers!”  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer

What is the worst name or put down you’ve ever been called? I doubt that many, if any, of you have been called a viper, as John the Baptist called the group that came to see him as he was baptizing people in Matthew 3.  One word to describe John, at this point in his life, was BOLD.  Sure, there were people around that the Pharisees and Sadducees wouldn’t have “hurt” him, but what about later…John would have been alone sometime in the future.

When we are in error being put in our place is not pleasant, but hopefully we will take the opportunity to learn from it.  I think that is what was going on in David’s life as Nathan tried to help him out when he told him the illustration about the sheep being stolen in II Samuel 12.

Yesterday, we focused on the phrase “You brood of vipers” that was found in the text.  Here are some applications to choose from to use this week…

  1. Look in Before Looking Out ~ All of us have flaws, so take a good look at your flaws before dismissing someone because of their flaws. Whether you are attempting to distribute general kindness or share Jesus with them.  Also, don’t become caught up in an “outnumbering” contest…in other words, you consider yourself to have “X” amount of flaws, but they have more, in your opinion, so it is OK to judge.
  2. Calm Down Before Clamming Up ~ Being told what you’re being like is not pleasant.  In fact, it can cause us to clam up, so as to not even really “hear” what someone is trying to get us to understand.  If you are confronted with something you don’t find too kind, calm down, examine what what said, why it was said, and see if it was there to help you.
  3. Be Progressive ~ I’ve never been water skiing, but watching it I use this illustration. The water skier is fine as long as he’s moving.  Once he stops, he sinks.  The same can be said of your faith.  As long as you’re growing, you’re moving.  As soon as you stop, you sink.  That doesn’t mean that you have to be changing, just continually doing something to strengthen and/or grow your faith.

It can be easy to just pass off someone saying something negatively to you.  Especially, if you’ve been picked on a lot in your life.  However, there are times when someone who cares about you may say something to you because they care and want you to be better, not to crush your feelings.

Whenever I receive criticism, I have to hear it, take it in, mull it over, self-examine, and see what I can do to best make that change I am asked to make.  I generally do not simply bounce back and say “OK” with an ear-to-ear grin on my face.  How do you generally respond?

Whether you are a part of a “brood of vipers” or some other way to describe it, may you use criticism to improve, when you can.

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Happy Flag Day!  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer

Your flag and my flag,

And how it flies to-day

In your land and my land

And half a world away!

Rose-red and blood-red

The stripes for ever gleam;

Snow-white and soul-white

The good forefathers dream;

Sky-blue and true-blue, with stars to gleam aright

The gloried guidon of the day; a shelter through the night.

- Wilbur D. Nesbit

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Goal Setting  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer in , , ,

If you don’t set a goal you won’t have much to focus on.  That is one of the main reasons for setting goals – to have focus. Without focus one will be going back and forth to one task and then to another, without getting either of them completed.

You could be one that sets goals and accomplishes them pretty easily or you could be one that has several goal setting tasks going on at once.  As important as goal setting is, this week’s quote caused me to think about a logical part of goal setting that I had never considered.  Here is this week’s quote…
The major reason for setting a goal is for what it makes of you to accomplish it. What it makes of you will always be the far greater value than what you get.  ~ Jim Rohn
The journey you experience on your way to accomplishing the goal is going to be more valuable than completing the goal.  That is super logical.  If you think about it and the victories and failures that you experience from point A to point B are going to teach you invaluable lessons.  There are going to be times when a small victory will come quickly and easy.  Where as there will be failures that will be figured out after a lot of groundwork was laid.

I currently have a situation where I have taken apart every possible part and the mechanism still doesn’t seem to work correctly.  I don’t know if the end result will be figuring out the problem or buying a new piece of equipment.  However, part of the value in the project has been being able to learn about the mechanics of the product.

I dare not suggest that anyone avoid setting goals.  One thing I do suggest is that you will look forward to the journey and the value that comes from going from point A to point B.
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Revving Up for Father’s Day  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer

VROOM!  VROOOM! VROOOOOMMM! The sound of the engines revving up before a race. Their engines are really loud so that they can achieve the quick speed in as fast of time as possible.  They fill up the sounds and smells of the racetrack.  A day at the races will bring a lot of enjoyment to many people.

In a couple of weeks, it will be Father’s Day.  It is a day to say “thanks” to our fathers.  A day to show respect to the “man” in our life.

This year, I am using a NASCAR theme as my basis for this year’s Father’s Day Sermon.  It is going to be a lot of fun as I have received “things” to decorate the auditorium with various racing and NASCAR themed things – Checkered flag, Die-cast vehicles, Giveaways, etc.

I was blessed to receive a few things with NASCAR on it and spoke with a couple of actual NASCAR teams.

I am excited to have the building transformed into a racing theme!

I challenge you to “rev up your engines” and invite others for this special “manly” racing day!

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False Light  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer

BZZZT! ZAP! BZZZZZZZZZZT! Goes the bug light in the middle of summer as the night bugs are drawn to it. They may have some intelligence in their little brains, but man has outsmarted them to be drawn to a light!

Have you ever drawn to a “light” just to be zapped? If you haven’t you’re one of the few. I know that I’ve been there. Drawn in, and then BZZT! Oh, the pain of the zapping! How does it feel for you?

As we looked at Matthew 2:1-8 yesterday, we focused on how Herod (the Great) was a false light, just waiting to lure in people to “zap” them. Of course he ultimately wanted to “zap” Jesus…but that didn’t happen.

I found it interesting to focus on Herod and what he was doing in this text. I was interested in him because of thinking how there are “Herods” out there that we may be lured to or “zapped” by, thinking they are a good light. Here are some applications to choose from to use this week…
  1. Evaluate the light ~ Lights can come into our eyes and cloud our judgment or even paralyze us for a moment. As you approach a “light” or a situation, look it over. Look for the safeties or harmful effects it can have on your life.
  2. Don’t Let History Repeat Itself ~ Look at past “zaps” and how they affected your life. Learn from them so that they do not repeat. Share those “zaps” with those who haven’t traveled the roads you’ve traveled. Even if it may seem as if you are talking to no one, they probably are listening more than you think.
  3. Turn to a True Light ~ “God is light” in which we should be looking to for safety. This is always a safe light to run to in life. There is not a falseness found in Him. He will always “leave the light on for you” and not lead you into wreckage
It may seem obvious, looking on this text from the outside, that Herod was up to no good. Plus, the author lets us in on the subject a bit. Occasionally, we may think in instances like these, “I won’t happen to me”. Then, before long, we are right in that exact situation…be careful about self-righteousness!
 
Trying to stay away from “false lights” and avoid getting “zapped”!
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Freeing Your Future  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer in , ,

If you are facing the sun and look back, you will see your shadow.  Your shadow is a representation of you, but it is not you.  Your shadow casts what you may look like, in shape, but it is not representative of the shape of your character.
One can focus so much on what is behind you that you forget about what is in front of you.  If you turn around, after facing the sun, you see that shadow.  You may think it is “you” but only you can be you.  The “you” that you become is based on how you create your now.  That brings us to this week’s quote…

Your past is not your potential. In any hour you can choose to liberate the future.  ~ Marilyn Ferguson
What do you see your future looking like?  What choices can you make to be a catalyst to get you there?
Don’t most of us want a freed future?  Think of the ones who were in England and wanted a better life, so they decided to come to this country.  The English didn’t like it and tried to keep them from being “independent” and free.  However, they didn’t look at the past as a shackle, but rather saw the potential of the future and chose to liberate themselves and their future.
Try not to become so focused on your past that you are not freed for the future!Share/Bookmark