The Extra Degree: Locusts are Coming  

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One day to the next can make a big difference. Basically any event in history has been different the day before. Someone was still alive or buildings were still standing the day before.

Last year was 2011 and you were a "certain way." As we are into 2012, this is your year to do something different. You can be a different way. You can go from 211-degrees to 212-degrees and allow bubbles to produce due to being at the boiling point. This will produce power and power can accomplish amazing things.

Sunday, we looked at the first couple of chapters of Joel. In those chapters is a descriptions of the coming of locusts. With that said, there is a difference in one day to the next. Here are some applications to choose from to use this week...

  • One Week Before ~ Start praying that God will bring about a change in your perspective of how you can be used.
  • One Day Before ~ As you've been praying for the change, look forward to the change that God will bring about. It may be something tangible, or it may simply be a new outlook on being used by God.
  • Day 1 and Beyond ~ This is the time. This is the start of something special. This is when you will have a change in perspective. This is when God will start to use you in ways that are unlike the day before. Why is this possible, this is because you have a different outlook. As long as that remains, you will see fun things come to your life.
I love being surprised by God. I love being able to use my talents to His glory. I love the "interruptions" in life that bring about a noticeable Spirit-moving through people. The kind of interruptions that bring people my way waiting for me to share my faith with them.

How is God using you? How has He used you this month? Have you noticed anything different about this year? I already have, I hope you have too.

Now it's your turn, what obstacles prevent you from going all in to seeing God's working in your life?

Confidence and Understanding the Problem  

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I remember being dumb enough to think that since I had a little bit of experience in standing in front of a church and talking (aka giving a sermon) that it would help me in preaching school.

Again, my mind was not thinking very maturely at that time. For I soon found out that many of the guys had had experience in pulpit preaching.

Sometimes we tend to be a bit naive about things. When it comes to confidence, sometimes even that can come from a sense of naivety!
That brings us to this week’s quote…
Confidence is the feeling you have before you really understand the problem. - Unknown
Have you ever been there? Had confidence in one area, but really you don't have much confidence. I have taken on some "fatherly" tasks that I have been naive before - simply looking at the directions before reading them!

When it comes to confidence we can have even more because we can all be here for each other. May we be trying to understand the problem so our confidence is not naive!

The Extra Degree: Living With Grace  

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Being different for some people is easy. Easy may not equal positive. Maybe you are not in the "in crowd" and that causes you to be different. Maybe you would be considered a member of the "in crowd" and that is what makes you different. For whatever reason that you are different, you are exactly that, different.

Technically speaking, we are all different. Something about us makes us different than others.

I hope we can learn to be different because of something positive. Spiritually speaking, I hope you can be different by being "yourself" but the yourself is still real with people and able to show them that you are "living with grace."

Sunday we talked about that last phrase. Some may have health issues and must learn to live with it, despite the lifestyle changes. As we learn to live with grace, there are going to be some lifestyle changes we must make. Here are some applications to choose from to use this week...

  • Take of the Offer ~ Grace is offered to you. Grace that comes through Jesus. Are you willing to take of the offer? If not, why not? Don't need it? Don't deserve it? If that isn't your reason and you do take of the offer, are you willing to make the extra degree lifestyle change to be the hands and feet of Jesus on this earth.
  • Reject It ~ Once we take of the offer (above) our old life will have a tendency to want to creep back in. Our body was made a certain way and we like the way it has been made. To be given a new organ, our body will have a tendency to reject it. In the way of a transplant, we will have to take anti-rejection drugs; with a spiritual transplant, we will do the same. In this case, we were comfortable with ungodliness and worldly passions. To rid ourselves of those and replace it with a transplanted life, our spiritual life will reject the new life. May we take the continual dosage of grace to show what our new life entails.
  • Live Now ~ Sometimes a deadline simply means that one can put things off until they reach that critical point in which they cannot wait any longer. That behavior is usually defined as procrastination. I think there are a lot of Christians who are figuratively procrastinating to use their gifts/talents until a day they are "ready" or think they are ready. The peculiar thing is that we are created ready. We all have our talents and we must use those talents to share our faith with them. The time is now to use our gifts and to share the joy that we have through the grace that's been handed to us through the now!
Changes to one's lifestyle after having to live with a condition are generally not easy. So to change our lifestyle as we live with grace may not be that easy for you. But to cause yourself to live longer, we must make those changes. Speaking from the spiritual point of view, to "live longer" we must also make some lifestyle changes. "Just say 'No'" is for more than drugs and alcohol. It also applies how we live with grace and let the previous life know it is not going to rule over us.

Don't Play Small  

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Strengths are found in all of us. We have strengths that are valuable. Some of these may be categorized as a talent, but some are simply just a strength. We also have weaknesses. Some weaknesses should stay as a weakness and focus on our strengths.

When you have a strength, it should be used. It should be exercised. When you use things that are beneficial or a strength of yours, you enjoy doing it and look forward to the next opportunity.

I remember not liking to read as a student in school. The more I was told to read the more I wasn't desiring to do it. It wasn't that I hated it, but just wasn't inclined to do it if I was given "free time."

We tend to settle too often because we feel we must focus on our weaknesses and not our strengths. That brings us to this week's quote...

There is no passion to be found playing small in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living. ~ Nelson Mandela
If you simply continue to settle for less, you are not going to get anymore. What is something you want out of life that hasn't been able to be achieved?

I learned to develop a "you never know" kind of approach to many things in life. When you talk yourself out of something, you never will achieve it. But when you just go for it, because "you never know" then you you'd be amazed at what can come of it.

Go for it!

Now it's your turn...what do you wish you could have not "played small" with in the past?

The Extra Degree: Versus  

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Have you ever been to the eye doctor for an exam? As the doctor is trying to figure out what prescription of lenses are best he will use this contraption with lots of lens types in it. You will go through a series of combinations. During that part of the examination he will ask questions like "1 or 2? 2 or 3? A or B? B or C?" Some combinations will be noticeably different where others will not be that different at all. (on a personal note, I love having the eye exams).

So, it is "A vs. B" or "1 vs. 2"...which one are you going to choose? In lenses it will be the one that you can see better. But which menu item are you going to choose when so many choices look good? Or which choice are you going to choose when it comes to moral versus immoral? Fun versus disciplined? Integrity versus compromise?

There can be some tough choices in life when the concept of "versus" is presented. That concept is what we focused on during our lesson on Sunday. Here are some applications to choose from to use this week...

  • Say "No" ~ Sometimes people can just expect so much out of you that you don't have time anymore for the important things. In those times, saying "no" to people can be a way to go the extra degree. Other times, people can ask or tempt you to do something you know you shouldn't do, so saying "no" may keep you out of a lot of trouble for the future.
  • Chin Lift ~ When life hands you some overwhelming challenges - peers, finances, self-esteem, affairs - it can be hard to pick yourself up and take that next step. Even with that next step you may be just wanting to walk through life with your chin down. Go beyond that and lift the chin. It makes me think of the the song "Tomorrow" in the movie Annie, "just pick up my chin and grin and say, 'Tomorrow, tomorrow, you're only a day away.'" Keep going! Lift the chin!
  • Kill 'em With Kindness ~ Has someone knocked you down a few notches? Was it undeserving? Fight back with kindness. They will most likely hate that, but you will be doing good things after they were doing bad
  • Pray Ahead of Time ~ You never know when you will be faced with an important "versus" decision. So, pray in advance that you will be able to make a good decision, even if you do not know even the capacity it will show itself in.
I wish things could be easy in life and I'm sure you'd agree. Though it is not easy, getting over the hump of the hard decisions will give closure to matters. As you go through life, consider the freedom and joy that will come from going the better way when you are met with a "versus" situation.

Now it's your turn...what "versus" situations have you encountered in the past two weeks? Maybe that you gave in to or you won over?

Friends Call For Your Best  

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How many friends do you have? That may be hard to count or determine. However, if you are on Facebook, you can look at the number of friends that you have. If you look at mine, I am at 284, but even with that number, I don't know how deep the majority of our friendships go. There are also a number of other friends that I have which are not on Facebook, some of which do not even own a computer.

Have I ever had to "unfriend" someone on Facebook? Yes. Sometimes I wish it was that easy in real life but it's not. There are some people who come into your life you just wish you could take out of your life.

We usually think of a friend as someone who knows you a bit deeper than someone else. Someone who would defend you, support you, wouldn't judge you, would talk before tearing you down, etc. As we focus on the idea of our friends, take a look at this week's quote...

The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best. ~ Epictetus

One of the "tests" of friendship comes about when the "chips are down." I have had some people in my life in which I thought they were "friends" but it turned out they were "fair weather" and when things weren't going as smooth between us, our friendship dissolved into an "un-friendship."

Friends are people who will bring about your best. So, who is your friend? Choose wisely!

Now its your turn...have you ever wanted to "unfriend" someone? Why?

The Extra Degree: Tearing Down the House to Get to Jesus  

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There is just something pretty cool about watching a big building be demolished. Whether it comes from implosion or a wrecking ball, I find it fascinating. Maybe it is somewhat of a guy thing, I cannot pinpoint it, but it is still fascinating.

When it comes to a wrecking ball, that big ball coming and knocking out entire areas of a building is cool. You may not think along the same lines as me, and that is OK.

Sunday, we looked at Mark 2:1-12 where Jesus heals a paralytic that has been brought to Jesus as a result of four friends. Thinking about our 212-degree theme for the month, these four men went that extra degree to be able to make a difference in the life of their paralytic friend. They did what they needed to do to take him to Jesus, no matter the obstacles that were in front of them.

Thinking about the text, here are some applications to choose from to use this week...
  • Look for the Opportunity ~ The men approached the place where Jesus was at to realize that it was crowded. It would have been easy for the men to turn around and not want to go through the effort to get their friend to Jesus. They decide to cut a hole in the roof - who would think to alter/destroy someone's house to make sure their friend sees Jesus? Not many, but these men did - that's possibly one of the reasons Jesus says to the man "your sins are forgiven." Who do you have as a friend that you would like to go through the extra effort to make sure they get to Jesus? Think/pray about it...
  • Excitement of the Arrival ~ I can remember one family vacation that we went on when I was around 4-5 years old. We went to our state's amusement park and my family rented a van to take. This was a family van, not a 15-passenger van. I had a blast, as we didn't have a van. I was so excited! The paralytic must have been even more excited to have this opportunity to see Jesus. He was probably going to be able to be healed - because Jesus is the man to do it! With all that type of excitement to see Jesus imagine a friend of yours (or you yourself) getting to see Him, through having their sins forgiven. The Bible speaks of this in Acts 2:38, Romans 6:3-6, for example, to be able to be baptized! Are you ready? Who do you need to take to the crowded house and "tear it open" to make sure your friend "sees" Jesus?
  • Go the Extra Degree ~ Don't let anything stop you to make sure that Jesus is brought into the life of others. You never know who is sin-paralyzed and needing the Savior! Make sure your you make sure they get to Him!
How far will you go? Don't make the thought of taking a person to Jesus or showing them Jesus an unnatural concept. The more natural the approach, the easier it is to talk. Also, don't use the same talk for each person, we're all different. Just make sure He sees them!

Now it's your turn...if you are apprehensive, why are you apprehensive to take your friends to Jesus?

Suggested Resolve for the Year  

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2012 is upon us. Did you resolve to do anything this year? How is that going? Of course, we're only five days into the year, so hopefully you haven't lost any "battles" with your resolve thus far. I didn't make a resolution, just a goal to read through the Bible with a "One Year Bible." It has been going well.

I came across this quote at the end of last year and thought it may be a good "resolve" for some to think about in 2012. It focuses on how to have a happy year and also how to have one for others. With that said, let's look at this week's quote...

A happy New Year! Grant that I
May bring no tear to any eye
When this New Year in time shall end
Let it be said I've played the friend,
Have lived and loved and labored here,
And made of it a happy year.
- Edgar Guest
So often we think about how we can create a New Year's resolution that will benefit ourselves. This poem suggests that when we go about the year let's not just think of ourselves, but think of others.

My "theme" for the year is 212-degrees, which means to go the extra degree to make significant impact on people. What will you do to go to the extra degree?

Now it's your turn...What is difficult about fulfilling this poem?

212 - The Extra Degree  

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What motivates you? Maybe it is certain types of music or movies you've seen. Maybe a regimen of particular activities. We're all motivated by something.

Sometimes I am motivated by the mood. Basically, when I get in the mood (or mode) to do something, I am geared up and ready. Something pushes me to the point when I am on a mission to get something done and not stop till it is finished. Until that point is met, I will generally procrastinate, unfortunately.

212-degrees is the boiling point of water. Up to 211 is just hot water. In 2012 I am challenging people to go that extra degree from 211 to 212. That is what we looked at Sunday in our lesson. Here are some applications to choose from to use this week...
  • Extra for Others ~ Is there someone you see that needs something today*? Maybe a prayer, a laugh, a smile, a hug, a touch of encouragement/assurance, a note/text/e-mail? I know you're busy, but go that extra degree and do something for that person. It may not be a person you even know. (*today is whenever its needed)
  • Extra in Times of Mistreatment ~ It can really stink when you are not being treated the way that you want to be treated. When you are in the middle of not being treated correctly (justified or unjustified) you may have a hard time "turning the other cheek" or letting it roll off your back. It takes me back to Jesus when He was hanging on the cross and "He hurled no insults" nor "any deceit found in His mouth." That is an amazing example of going the extra degree in times of mistreatment.
  • Extra in Your Family ~ Families are probably the people that get to see the real side of you. This oftentimes means they get to see the downfalls. The times when we are upset, short, frustrated, slamming doors, saying "French" words, slamming fists, tantrums...and the list could continue. Some of these times are results of how a family member acts or treats you. This is probably in the biological family most of the time, but it can also hold true for the spiritual family. Try to go beyond all of that this year, go the extra degree and hold out the hand of grace, mercy, or forgiveness.
This month (January 2012) we are being challenged to do the extra things, go from 211 to 212 degrees. Become boiling to produce a power that can impact people's lives for good. Some areas of going the extra degree may not be able to be planned - it may have to be something you mentally plan so you'll be prepared when the time comes.

Now it's your turn...what will you try to do in 2012?