The Package: Usage  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer

NOTE: This is from a sermon that was supposed to be delivered the end of December (2010), but due to illness I was unable to deliver it at that time.

I was given a gift certificate as a “thank you” for some help I had provided. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find the gift certificate. It could be “hidden” or it could’ve been shredded in a big pile of junk mail when we had a “shredding party.” Either way, at this time, I cannot make use of the gift certificate.

Being given this gift certificate and not making any use of it can be similar to not taking advantage of the gift of Jesus. If I never use that gift certificate, it will be of no value other than hidden value. If I never use the value of what Jesus brings to my life then it is nothing more than hidden value, too.

Sunday, we looked at the last of “The Package” series. This one focused on using the package. When we order a package, wait for its arrival, and unveil it after it is opened, if we do not use the package, it does not do us any good. Our faith can be much the same way, it needs to be used. Here are some "uses” to choose from to use this week…

These are some of the ones that I mentioned on Sunday…

1. When at a service station one can say to someone pumping gas as they hand them a card with church info on it, "I would like to give you something to add fuel to your life.

2. Prayer walking

3. One of the best ways to share your faith is to demonstrate the very things you believe by staying positive and having a good attitude even in the middle of a crisis in your own life.

4. Understand your culture

5. View evangelism as a process rather than an event

6. Finding a person’s spiritual address – where they’re at in their walk
7. List all the lost people you know and pray for them daily.
8. Do not forget to share your testimony and the gospel with the children or grandchildren in your family. This is witnessing, too, and of the most urgent kind.
9. When at a hotel. Write your contact information on it, too.
10. Pray with someone over the phone.
11. Take a plate of home-baked cookies or a pie to a new neighbor. Include a note of welcome to the neighborhood, a New Testament, and church info.
12. Write a letter to your personal physician thanking him for his care. Include an acknowledgment of the Great Physician.
13. When given an assignment that is open-ended to write about, include things that are vital to your faith
14. Reach out to someone who is alone (or seems like they are)
15. Tell someone you’re praying for them, follow up on the area you were praying about
16. If you pray at public meals, ask the server if there is anything you can pray for about them
17. Tell telemarketers that you will give them some of your time if they will give you some of yours to share your faith. Or someone who comes to the door soliciting.
18. When making a list to go to the store, don’t forget to put down “watch for someone I can talk to about Jesus” on there

Making use of the “package” will strengthen our faith and make us more excited to share Him. However, not exercising the usage of the “package” can cause our faith to weaken. Let’s make the most of the gift we’ve been given!

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Encouragement  

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Everyone needs it. Some provide it. Rarely is it overused. I am talking about encouragement.

“Good job”, “Way to go”, “I’m proud of you”, and “You are good at that” are examples of encouragement one might use to make someone else feel good about themselves. After all, that is what encouragement is about.

Growing up, I was one who needed encouragement. I had areas that I wanted to be better at, but I wasn’t. Other areas I did do pretty well in. However, there was something about life that caused me to need encouragement. From this, I began to feel like I was probably the only one who needed the encouragement because most others seemed OK.

Then, I grew up. Still with the cloud of discouragement around me, though it was lifting a bit, I had a hard time encouraging others. I was a young adult and would see someone do a good job at something and it was like pulling my own teeth to get me to say “good job” to them. It felt forced and fake, even though deep down inside I was proud of them. I wanted to have someone say those kinds of things to me, but it wasn’t coming. However, I still felt the urge to say something to others.

I then met my wife, and she was a very positive and uplifting person. She was such an encouragement to me, both verbally and by example. She would pump me up and let my strengths be known. I don’t know what life would have ended up like if it hadn’t been for her. The only downside was, I still felt fake and forced to say something nice to others, but it wasn’t as much as it used to be.

Then, God put me on a path that had some definite out-of-my-element phases to it – ministry. For most, ministry probably seems like a Sunday and Wednesday job, keeping in mind those who call or come by to visit. However, I quickly realized the pains that people go through or are involved in. These pains happen at any given time to any given person. These pains will range from frustrations to interruptions to loss. No matter how painful life is, I quickly found out that people need encouragement.

People need to know that things are going to be OK in the end, even if, in the storm of stress, it doesn’t seem like that is ever going to be the case. They need to have regular “pick-me-ups” so when the storm does come, maybe they’ll remember those words of encouragement.

Even though I was not very comfortable with telling people they did a good job at something, when I myself was waiting for the “good job” but not receiving any encouragement, the job seemed to be tugging at me to do more for others along the framework of encouragement.

One thing I began to realize, very quickly, was no matter if you were the star of a sports program, Valedictorian of your class, or most popular. Somewhere, sometime, would be a time or times when you would need some encouragement.

That is when I began to think about what I could do to encourage others. I began to write a blog that is geared toward encouragement (www.jarrodspencer.info) and send out e-mails of encouragement. A few years ago, I thought about an idea to reach the “non-e-mailers” where I send free texts messages to over one-hundred forty different people, which is focused on encouragement.

I am always looking for new ways to encourage people, individually and as a group. Traditional ways still work well. I have yet to witness someone giving too much encouragement or refusing to accept it. If you have a difficult time giving it out, may you learn to give it out because you know how beneficial it is to others.

Who are you going to encourage next?

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Building Life  

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Ever since I was forced, I mean, required to read “Great Expectations” as a freshman in high school, there was something about it that I related myself to the main character. As I grew up, it seemed that my relation to the story didn’t cease. Part of what I relate to is that the boy, Pip, meets people as he is growing up that influences his life, but then he seems to meet up with them throughout adulthood.

The other day I was talking to my niece, who is in college. I was inquiring where she was playing her college basketball game at. After she told me, I knew a couple of people in that town. As we were visiting, she made the remark “You have all the connections”. Because of my life experiences, it does seem that there are a lot of places in which I know people. Most of which is not my doing, but the “deck” that life handed me.

As you go through life, think about how this quote does apply or has applied to you…

You just don't luck into things as much as you'd like to think you do. You build step by step, whether it's friendships or opportunities.  ~ Barbara Bush

There will be some situations will come about by happenstance. However, most situations will come about because of something you’ve done in the past to help pave the way or build your path to that stop-off.

As you go through life, think about how you are “building life” and help make it a great one!

For my faith-oriented friends…also think about how you can help “build life” for others by laying the path to get them closer to Jesus!

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Meeting Every Day: The Social Media Way  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer

In the early church they met every day and one of the challenges that the 21st Century church has is that time does not allow us to meet every day. We have jobs, activities, etc. that make it very difficult to meet on a daily basis.

However, one of the neat things about the social media is that it does allow for people to interact with each other on a daily basis, if one chooses to do so. Facebook is a very common form of social media. It allows people to be connected and to update what is going on in their life...some on a daily basis.clip_image002

I was not ever all that close with my cousins, but Facebook has allowed me to visit and connect with them. I would have never guessed that it would have happened like it did. I also have connected with past classmates from grade school to college to preaching school, all through this this form of social media. The picture shows a picture form of my friends on Facebook.

So, even though our schedules may prevent us from meeting at a given location on a daily basis, but thanks to social media, we can meet at the location we are at and still be in the same “location” as our friends and Christian family. Though it does not take the place of person-to-person contact, it is still a great way to stay in touch!

 

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Stressed Out: Loss  

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Of all the things I have lost, that were tangible (wallet, keys, etc.) the thing that probably stressed me out the most was losing my computer. Actually it was stolen, not misplaced or set somewhere and taken, but my office was broken into and I lost it, along with a few other things. I thought someone had played a trick on me, initially, but once the reality set in, I was stressed!

That computer had a lot of information on it. I had just downloaded a lot of useful information and it was now all gone. I didn’t know where or to whom it went. I was devastated! (not to mentioned stressed).

However it worked out. Luckily, though it was a relatively new computer, I had a previous one that still had a lot of information on, just not the most recent. So, I was able to pull off some of the information that I needed.

Sunday, we examined our final lesson in our short series called “Stressed Out”, this one focused on “loss”, which could be of any area which one loses something. Here are some applications to choose from to use this week…

  • Weighing the Loss ~ As God provides everything for us, may we take that into account when it comes to losing something. This is especially true of losing things that we had little to no control over, not negligence. God provided in the first place and He’ll provide in the “second place”. Keep Him above what you lose and our perspective will be much better.
  • Moving Forward ~ Sometimes stress just paralyzes you. Some may sulk as a result. Some may sit and drown their stress. May the choice be made that we do not allow stress to be a “rest area” but rather motive to move forward with our life and doing things for Him, while increasing our faith.

Losing things can be very stressful, but how we react to those losses will make all the difference! May we simply use it to glorify Him!

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Tulsa Workshop Class Preview: How House Churches Can Set Us Free  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer

Bob Grigg’s class is sure to be an interesting one…The early disciples knew their message meant a radical departure from the status quo and they went  everywhere  boldly preaching the good news'. It IS the call of every disciple to make disciples and everyone who has a house or an apartment could invite any guest and devote their homes to making disciples around a simple meal where Jesus is not the guest but THE HOST. House churches provide a medium to combat the weary and heavy-laden church with a dynamic for sharing Christ at the DNA level. No church buildings required and no large and highly educated staff required. This will not fit well with our present structure so be prepared to meet resistance.

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Normal: the Unknown People  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer

Susan Boyle and William Hung are a couple of people that a few years ago you would not have had the faintest clue who they were. They were just everyday, normal people. They had jobs, families, and a life that was lost in the crowd.

There are people all over the world that you will not ever know about because they are doing the normal, day-to-day stuff. Some will remain in that normal state and some will do something about that normalcy.

The question is…which side are you going to be?  That brings us to this week’s quote…

The only normal people are the ones you don’t know very well. – Alfred Adler, Psychiatrist

Susan Boyle and William Hung are now famous and most of you probably know them well. However, even if you don’t think about all the people who you do know well. At one point, the vast majority of them were nobody’s. Even Michael Jackson was just a young kid in a group that hardly anyone knew, until…

So, are you going to be normal or not?

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When You’re Good, You’re Good  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer

You need to know something about yourself...you’re good! Over the past several years, I didn’t know that I was good. I would walk in to a conversation hoping some of others’ goodness would wear on me (I don’t think it ever did). I grew up not realizing that I was good. It wasn’t necessarily anything my parents did or did not do, it was probably just a part of growing up.

The problem with that is we may be teens that do not realize we’re good and then we transition into adults that do not change their mindset. They get into “real life” and forget to realize that they are still “good”.

I ran across this quote that pertains to this subject matter and I think it hits home the fact that “when you’re good, you’re good”. The quote is by Roberta Bondi, “Before anything else, above all else, beyond everything else, God loves us. God loves us extravagantly, ridiculously, without limit or condition.”

Texts like Ephesians 2:10 that tells us we are His workmanship and Psalm 139:14 that tells us we are fearfully and wonderfully made, help remind us how good we actually are, in God’s view.

If/when you are going through a time you find yourself not looking very highly at yourself, remember these verses. They are useful in helping us realize that we are good. God loves us so incredibly much that it is practically unfathomable, which is why we need to wrap our minds around the fact that we are “good”

Be encouraged you’re good and when you’re good, you’re good!

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Stressed Out: Instant Gratification  

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“Calgon, take me away!!!” – Remember that phrase?  It was a phrase used for a bath product during the 1980s (at least that is when I remember it, but I think it was older, even). It was advertised to help people who wanted to “get away” from their busy and hectic life by taking a bath, using this product. The commercial would have various stressors shown and the woman would say “Calgon, take me away!” with a connotation it was pleading with the product.

The woman in the advertisement wanted to be taken away from all of this stress very soon. Who wouldn’t? Stress is taxing and not good on the body, so why not have it taken away as soon as possible.

The reality of life is that those stresses are still there, but we aim to get away through immediate, yet temporary means. Sunday, we looked at the third in our four-part series called “Stressed Out” and specifically looked at how wanting something ‘right now’ can cause one to be stressed out.  Here are some applications to choose from to use this week…

  • Adjust Your Time Table ~ When I am traveling (or when someone is coming to see me) I like to know when I will arrive. The quicker to get from point A to point B is what I am shooting for. However, as situations may come up, I may not make it to point B as quickly as I was hoping. So, I can adjust my time table to say I will be arriving at a different time, still arriving. In life we can take on that similar mindset. When something is not getting here as soon as I would like – answered prayer, phone call, mail, etc. I can learn to see that God will take care of it in His time.
  • Take Advantage of the Wait ~ When things are delayed, brainstorm other ways in which you can utilize your time. De-stress yourself by looking at the bright side of the time that is made available to you, in the wait, to do something useful. Send someone a note/text of encouragement, call someone to see how they are doing, take on another useful project, or find something else to do while you wait.
  • Be patient ~ Simply said. Also, understand you cannot always receive what you want and when you want.

Enjoy the time that you are not receiving “instant gratification”…you never know what God is using you for in that time!

 

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Surge Ahead So You Don’t Miss Out  

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I recently took a “test” that determined what my top five strengths are out of thirty-four possibilities. It was a book I was given called “Strengths Finder 2.0”. As I am in ministry, it is not a religious book. I found the top five accurate, in the sense that I can see myself in these strengths.

One of the strengths that came up was “Learner”. I won’t get into the details, but when I read this week’s quote, I went back to this strength to maybe see why this quote “spoke” to me…here it is…

The limit of your present understanding is not the limit of your possibilities.  ~ Guy Finley
If I were to ever have let my present conditions or understanding be the “iron fist” of my life, I know I would not have been able to do some of the things I’ve done. I cannot say that I have never succumbed to that “fist”, which has caused me to miss out on things in life.  I wished I wouldn’t have, so that my life may have been better.

I like to “put myself out there” and see what will happen. If I get a “no” or no response, that is OK, but what if I get a “yes”!  I shoot for “yes” and accept the “no”. But, so I don’t miss out, I surge ahead to see what will happen. May you do the same…expand your possibilities…full-speed ahead!Share/Bookmark

Rest Assure  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer

I recently read that someone had come up with the phrase “Rest Assure” for themselves for 2011. It is simple. It is catchy. It is calming to the Christian.

As I read about her explanation, I thought about the song “It is Well”. To me, that song reminds me to rest assure. To know that there may be storms that come about in life, but “rest assure” that “it is well, with my soul”.

If your soul is even a fraction like mine, you need to know how much God is there with us each day. A few days ago, when I entered my car to soon find out it wouldn’t start, I needed this phrase. The sound the car made was not something I had ever heard. And my “mechanic” brother-in-law was not sure of the sound either. The fact that he didn’t know what it might be would also increase my need to “rest assure”. My sea was “billowing” as car repairs can mount up in dollars in a quick second, I didn’t know what we were going to do.

Luckily, the next morning my brother-in-law was able to work some “coincidental” magic, the car started. It has started ever since then with no repairs made to the vehicle. We had it ran for “codes” and no issues. There are some “could have been” possibilities, but may never know.

Life can be a “Disney vacation” at times and it can be “The Perfect Storm” at others. We probably will tend to lean toward the second movie title to describe life, rather than the first description. We tend to have a life that goes up and down, water splashing over the sides, being tossed back and forth, before coming to a settled point for a while before another storm comes.

When life brings about some wavy times this year...Rest Assure...He’s still here and the calm is coming.

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Stressed Out: Unplanned Situations  

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Your child comes to you to reveal they are going to be a parent (regardless of gender). You get up and go to work to find out it was your last day. You go out to start your car and it doesn’t start. You have a busy day and get a call from a close friend who just lost a spouse and needs to talk.

Just a few examples of unplanned situations. All of which will probably bring about some sort of stress in your life. How do you deal with these situations? Do you stress and try to initially get through it yourself? Do you turn to God initially, eventually, or at all?

Sunday, as we examined our second part of our Stressed Out series, we looked at being stressed in unplanned situations, especially when they can be beyond our control.  Here are some applications to choose from to use this week…

  • Reactions are Natural ~ As the concept is to turn to God, it is not out of the question to have an initial reaction before turning to God. Disappointment, frustration, anxiousness, and anger are possible initial reactions we are going to have. However, hopefully, those are short-lived before turning things over to God.
  • Stress is Heavy ~ If you saw a 50 lb bag of something sitting in your house, you wouldn’t probably be drawn to pick it up to carry it around for the rest of the day. However, “invisible” weight, like stress, can be just as wearing but we generally elect to carry it around. Why is that? Giving your stresses to God (which may take more than once per stressor) allows Him to carry the load for you. Also, asking for help from fellow Christians.
  • Give Regularly ~ Depending on your nature you may have a tendency to give God your situation initially, but then fade out in your giving as the situation unfolds. May we remember to give it to Him more than once. Maybe your situation causes you to confront someone, give that stress to Him as you enter into it, too.

Stresses come all the time. May we learn to lift up the situations to Him!

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The Mission of Life  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer

A few years ago, my wife and I went to a local concert together. It was held at one of the local churches, so to be supportive and hear Christian music I was interested in going. My wife and I like the Contemporary Christian genre of music. This was Southern Gospel and advertised as “Gaither-like” music. I was a bit torn but wanted to be supportive.

I was somewhat excited to go, she was being supportive to me. We seated ourselves and waited for the event to begin. From the very beginning it was dreadful. It just wasn’t the type of genre I was even able to handle. About midway through the first part, I communicated that I wanted to leave at intermission.  She couldn’t have agreed more!

So, at intermission we left and it was great to get out of there! That brings us to this week’s quote…

In order to succeed, life must be a mission not an intermission. ~ Unknown
Intermission is a time of pausing, which means not moving along with the show. If we treated life, as a whole, like one big pause, we’d arrive nowhere. Pausing along the way is good, but to stay “paused” is not good.

Life is in constant motion. Hopefully in a forward direction. A mission has a goal; an intermission does not. A goal shows there is an endpoint to strive toward, not just a point to remain.

Be in motion in a forward direction…keep your eyes on the goal(s) in life. Live life with a mission!Share/Bookmark

Stressed Out: High Expectations  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer

When I was attending the university I was a student athletic trainer (sports therapy). During my first year there (I came in as a junior), the softball coach, who had been there several years was requiring that his players weigh in regularly. So, they had to come in to the Training Room and tell the supervising student trainer their weight. This weight was recorded, and, presumably, compared.

Long story short, two of the coach’s players became anorexic. Not just a bit, but severely anorexic. To the point of noticeably pale skin, passing out multiple times, and going to therapy. I remember witnessing these two females working out, wrapped up in hoodies to burn off extra body weight. Was this coach’s expectations of them too high? Or did the coach make a mistake in judgment trying to create a competitive team?

Sometimes we may view the “ideal” of what God expects of us like these girls viewed their coach’s request. No doubt the girls, more than these two, were under stress to try to maintain a status quo on the softball team. Being expected to do things beyond our presumed abilities will create much stress in our lives, possibly causing us to be “stressed out”. That brings us to what we talked about Sunday in the first of our four-part series. Here are some applications to choose from to use this week…

  • When God “Expects” He Assures ~ Genesis 12:1-3 is not the only place that we can find God providing assurance. There are multiple places that God gives us all the assurance we could possibly need to follow His directions. This section of text we highlighted showed God telling Abram (not yet Abraham) to go to the unknown land. But he follows it up with statements of assurance. Make Abram into a great nation. He and others will be blessed. There will be protection. Also, Abram will be influential. God doesn’t just abandon us when He asks us to do things, even walk through life – He’ll be there!
  • Assurance Doesn’t Mean “Clear Sailing” ~ If you were to pray for something risky and it worked out, you’d probably have an increased faith and appreciation in God. However, if it didn’t work out, would your faith and appreciation descend? In several people it would. If we think that just because something doesn’t work out that it is a result of God “picking on us” or just not in favor of us, we are immature in our thinking. Start looking at any result as positive. God knows if you need it or if there is something better for you in the future. Thinking this way will help take some stress away.
  • Don’t Just Sit There ~ Abram would have never been able to see his “promised land” if he would have remained where he was at. Getting up and heading toward a destination is a key to getting us somewhere in life. Also, to see what God has in store for us, we must move. Moving is key to arriving at a destination.

God’s expectations are not as “high” as we tend to think. Going against what God is asking us can be too energy-expending that we waste the time that could have been spent on doing what God expects of us.

Use less energy and reduce stress by doing what we see as God’s expectations…

Here is a key verse in this lesson…

Give all [my] worries and cares to God, for he cares about [me] (1 Peter 5:7 NLT).

 

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