Twisty Life  

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

Define life.

Can it really be defined? Every person has a different vantage point to the scene of life. How they see life and what they've experienced in life is very different from one person to the next. Some have experienced very dark times and some have been sheltered. Some have have grown up paycheck-to-paycheck and some do not know what is like to go without. Some have had no parents and some have had two parents and some have had more than two parents. Some have been educated and some have had little education. Moving multiple times and living in the same area all ones life. The list could continue.

So to ask you to define life would be interesting because your definition would be from your vantage point and that would be much different than mine. But that is what makes life so interesting. Sometimes in life things will seem bad but it will turn out for the good...that brings us to this week's quote...
Life has many twists and turns and sometimes what looks like a very bad day can just be clearing the way for good things to come. ~ J Kim Wright
I really like this quote about life. Life seems to be like one of those toys which will back up and go a different direction when it encounters an obstacle. I'm sure you've seen one. They will keep going and going because there isn't a stationery object that will keep them from going somewhere. It allows the toy to be in control, not the obstacle. There is greater things in the future.

I don't normally put scripture in these writings, but Philippians 1:12** seems to fit with this quote about Paul having some undesired things happen, but they have come out for good.

Friends, you've had a bad day from time to time. I think it is interesting how I can look back at my bad days and sometimes see that those days are camouflaged and turn into being something good. Sometimes there are the good things that I never saw coming...I love those days! I call those situations, surprises."

Look at the days to come with a perspective that the days may not be able to be defined, but good things can come from them.

Enjoy the "twisty life!"

Now it's your turn...what has been twisty in your life that has come out good/positive?

**Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel.
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Who do you work for? Or, if you do not have a job, what consumes your life? What are your priorities or what makes up your daily routine?

We all have something that we "do" in our life. The real question is, what is the overarching reason we do the things we do?

For some that "thing" may be for money, support our family, job security, resume building, or because we have to. There are going to be various reasons, but I want to eliminate all the reasons Christians do things, except for one...that we're called.

For some this approach may come as difficult to understand or really wrap your mind around. The concept basically boils down to thinking that we serve God first and everything else falls under that. Too often we separate working/school/retirement and church/God as two different things. We will "change clothes" as we move from one context to another.

As we think about that, here are some applications to the sermon to choose from to use this week...
  • At the End of the Day, Keep "Him" On ~ It can be easy to want to come home at the end of a work day and change clothes. Our challenge is to keep Jesus on, no matter what. Whether you are at work or ready to change, keep Him on through it all.
  • Revel in Your Calling ~ To partner with God in the Kingdom is simply awesome! I challenge you to think about what you are doing in life, then pointing it all back to the fact that everything falls under Kingdom work. Enjoy teaming up with Him! Look forward to the next thing that comes your way!!! I sure am!
  • Not Dividing ~ It is easy to find events that meet you interests. But once "church" comes into the picture, we want to separate. However, these two areas should be in one, with the spiritual being the trump layer. Think about what you do, but keep it all under the "spiritual." This concept keeps all ideas in check...we're here basically for Him...Enjoy it!
Keep in mind that whatever you do, it should be ran through the "spiritual" filter. Everything is done because we're called, not because the job asks/demands. We look for ways to see God and to serve God. When you look for these, it is amazing what comes your way, each day!

Look for them...they are right there in front of you!

Now it's your turn...what have you been involved in where you "saw God" in or following the instance?
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God Continues to Surprise  

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

A month ago, I wrote an article for the local paper. After it was published, I received a handful of comments from people who told me how much they appreciated the article and topic. As a follow-up to what that article was about, I wanted to share some of my surprises from the month. My aim is not to be boastful, but to continue to foster the vision of the reader to see God in various situations.

To start off, the simple fact that people were willing to let me know they read the article and appreciated it was a surprise enough. It wasn’t the first article in three years of submissions that I had received any comments, but it was probably the greatest amount of compliments. One woman, who will likely read this, surprised me to say something to the effect of “Whenever I look through the paper and see your picture, I know I’m going to enjoy the article.” I was sincerely blown away by that comment. I am thankful to God that I have the platform to write for a wider audience. It is Him who gave me and continues to give me the opening of which to write. I thank those who I heard from this past month.

Probably the biggest surprise came a couple of weeks after the publish date of the previous article. It happened the Sunday of the time change. The day before, a Saturday, I sent out over 300 text messages to people I have in my address book on my phone to remind them to advance their clocks that night. I am kind of odd that way when it comes to holidays, time change, etc. If it is a holiday, some will respond with gratitude and returning the same greeting. This was one such that people basically said thanks. I did receive a couple that didn’t realize it was the day of the time change. The surprise came in the middle of the night after going to bed.

I woke up the next morning to have a message on my phone that read, “I don’t know who you are, but you just saved my life.” I thought, “What? You are in my phone book and a Facebook friend, of course you know me.” But upon further investigation, I noticed a signature the person uses did not match up with the name of my friend. This was someone completely different. Of course, I did not know them, as well.

I responded with a “You’re welcome.” I was left wondering “How did I save their life?” I don’t think it was literal, but when you help someone out with a big favor and it made a significant difference in their life.

Later, I probed a bit deeper. For one, I think that our crossing of paths did not happen by accident. I think that my friend changed her number and this person was assigned this number because God knew we needed to cross paths at one point, which is likely this point. Not only would we cross paths, but I would provide something she needed at that time. Kind of reminds me of a “woman at the well” scenario (John 4).

You see, when people have a need and you are open to being surprised by God, there are going to be times that you don’t even realize you are meeting a need. Nor do you seek out to meet that need, you just go about daily life and God does the rest by His Spirit putting things in place. I was meeting over 300 people’s need to remind to turn their clocks forward. His Spirit put it in place for me to cross paths with someone who I would “save someone’s life” by meeting an anonymous person’s need. That is the beauty of this whole concept!

Since I did meet such a “needed need” in this person’s life, I had an open door to communicate. I continued to foster that communication by inviting her to receive my free texts of encouragement that I send out each Tuesday. They are currently going to over 220 people from Scotland to the west coast of the America. She said she needed encouragement and looked forward to signing up. Also, having this open door, after providing a need, it allowed me to learn more about her faith or, in this case, a lack of faith. These are the types of scenarios I am hoping that will get you excited and cause you to look for the surprises in your life.

There is a bit more to the story, but I hope you get the point about God continually surprises. It is an exciting life to lead where you look forward to an encounter with people you meet rather than dread them. You never know when someone will need something you can provide and seeing it as a surprise which God’s Spirit set in motion!

My e-mail is ichthus_man@hotmail.com and I’d love to hear about your “surprising stories!”
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I am simply fascinated by people who do great things with their life. Those that make significant impacts in their community, school, job, family, church, etc. are things that I never tire of hearing about. How about you?

I tear up so often when it comes to seeing kids perform in music, plays, or other art areas. I am touched by people who are able to touch other people's lives. No matter if you do something significant or help out someone to allow them to do something significant, you still did something significant. That brings us to this week's quote...

Nothing splendid has ever been achieved except by those who dared to believe that something inside them was superior to circumstance. ~ Bruce Barton
We must be willing to be open to doing something splendid. Splendid things do not just happen, generally. Even in the lives of people who had riches, for example, fall into their lap, it was probably because a person born before them did something significant.

So what will you dare to do? What is it that you believe in yourself that you can do which you will seek to achieve?

The circumstances to get you there may not be the easiest, but the sweetness that comes from the victory will be well worth it!

Now it's your turn...What will you dare to do that is "splendid?" I look forward to the stories that follow...
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RESTORE: Engaging the Culture  

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

Think of what your culture is like. How would you describe it? Are those descriptions good, bad, or neutral? Are they simply describing the culture or are they promoting or tearing down the culture in which you live? Is it describing a culture or a subculture in which you live?

Lots of things change in culture. Some changes may enough to create a subculture within the culture. Some changes are simply the culture evolving into something different.

When you see those changes come into your culture, how are you at adapting to them? Does the "previous" outweigh the "present"? In other words, are you standing your ground to make sure you are most comfortable or are you able to adapt?

Sunday we looked at the idea of "engaging the culture" in which we live in order to make our world restored back to the greatness of which God hoped it could be. We, as His body, are called to live it out. But, in order to, live it out, we must be able to engage the culture for best possible impact.

  • Engage the Language ~ There are words that have changed in their meaning and context over the years. This is not new to the "2010s" decade. This has been going on for years. Bread used to mean something you ate, but when I was born it also meant money. Crack used to mean a break in the surface of an object (or could go all the way through) but it also points to a drug. Cell was basically a term in biology, but now will refer to a phone. Turn the channel used to actually mean what it said, but now you hit a button and nothing turns. The list could go on and on. The point is, we must understand where our culture is when it comes to language so that when someone responds to our invitation to come to our house to talk about their faith and they use the word "crib" we'll know what they mean!
  • Engage the Fashion ~ Fashion is also one of those revolving changes in culture. When I was in the upper primary grades the "jean jacket" was coming back in style. My parents wore those when they were teens and I had a hard time believing them. Then a few years later, the "bell bottom" came back. Along the way, tie-dye has been in style again. Shoes have changed, too. I remember when I wanted nothing to do with a "dress up" shoe for everyday, but now I like that type of a shoe to wear with jeans, but now they are "casual" and not "dress up." How about another area of fashion is make-up and hair styles. They have come and gone over time. However, now it is a social norm to have a guy wearing some make-up. How do you feel about that? Or a guy in earrings? Tattoos - another subject. Hair length - another subject. Someone predominately dressed in black clothes, does that bother you? You will be amazed if you will just sit down and talk to the type of people you snub your nose at and you will see they have a "heart" and something worthwhile to share. But we can disengage them and lose out on being effective in sharing our faith.
  • Engage the Challenges ~ When a person is learning something new, they are going to become frustrated and probably have times they will want to talk themselves out of trying to accomplish the task. My son picked up learning to ride a bike without training wheels really quickly. However, there were times he wanted to have them put back on - even after he had actually learned how. He was challenged to be able to get on the bike and start pedaling all by himself. I was there to encourage and foster his learning. When you look at something different in your culture with eyes that you've never looked at the possibilities before, it will come with challenges. The fun part is, it will also come with victories. Work through the challenges and failures to get to the victories. They will come! Anticipate them!
Keep in mind that "engaging" does not mean that you start practicing the things that you find odd. It means that you will take an active role in learning about your culture so that you can have the most impact you can have in order to succeed in being a follower of Jesus.

I can just imagine there were times which Jesus was not wanting to be with certain people, but He knew that in order to be the most effective, He would embrace them. He engaged the Samaritan culture, which is a great example of doing something He wasn't used to, but He did it anyway!

Now it's your turn...What can you do to effectively engage your culture/subculture?
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Gratitude in Life  

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

Appreciation, gratitude, and thankfulness are often things we think about when it comes to Thanksgiving. That is a time of the year when those words are very present in society. Now that we are a few months past November, maybe it is a good time for review. Reviewing will help remind us to be thankful more often.

As we think about having more gratitude or being more thankful, here is this week's quote...
Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. ~ Melody Beattie
When you appreciate life more the problems of life seem to dissipate some. I went through a time when I didn't like my name, but then something clicked and I liked being different. It made the past much better. It brought peace to my present. It also allowed me to greatly appreciate the future. It caused me to look at myself a bit differently and to appreciate that difference.

I know we all go through situations in life where we are challenged to see ourselves as thankful for what has happened. It may not make much sense or bring peace. On top of that, there is not room for a vision.

If you are in that position, I hope there is a time when you can see the quote come to life for you. Even if it is not in the area you are stuck on but in an area in which you are not so stuck. An area that causes you to see a silver lining, which may encourage you to keep going in life.

Now it's your turn...What positives from your life do you see in the quote? Or what challenges?
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If you were to imagine an alternate life than what you are living what would it look like? You'd probably keep your family but possibly choose something that still changes the picture from what it is at the moment. A different house, car, or career may be one of the top choices that you select. Maybe it is something additional to what you have now, be it a vacation home or sports car. Regardless of what it may be, you can imagine it - and may frequently imagine your life differently.

I want us to imagine what a life would look like if more of the people we knew and the place we lived had a life in Christ. Beyond going to church but was able to get excited about the possibilities that came about when we looked at life as being on God's team and joining forces with Him day after day. Being open to the Holy Spirit's working in our lives and taking advantage of the moments which He brings our way to share about Him.

Sunday, we began a series called RESTORE. Taking the concept that we can help take what we "imagine" and turn it into an outcome, trying to restore our world into something better. Here are some applications to choose from to use this week.

  • Imagine ~ Think of what you would like different in your school, neighborhood, home, career, church, family, etc. Then, try to think about what you can do to make it become closer to what you imagine? What vision do you have and how can you carry out that vision to accomplish the task?
  • In the Beginning ~ When something is new it has a shimmer (literal or figurative) that is very appealing. All things are good and fun and interesting. Over time, things tend to lose that shimmer. Sometimes we polish or repair the item(s) to get it back to the way it was in the beginning because "in the beginning" it was good. Similarly, after man messed things up through sin, God found a way to make things all better, and put that plan into motion through Jesus.
  • Reversing Time ~ Time is something you cannot have back. Once it is gone, it cannot come back. Challenges us to take advantage of any time we are given. Though time cannot be taken back and the effects of a mistake cannot always be changed, we can understand that we can be forgiven. Forgiveness is a process of restoration - be it for yourself or toward someone else.
  • Look for the New ~ Upon completion of the restoration there will be something new that comes about. As you imagine what the new will be like, look for that to be showing up at the end of the period. The "new" is imaginable and take advantage of what comes along the way.
"Imagine...the world living as one" is possible. It may not be that probable, but our job is not to make sure it comes true, but to make sure that we do what we can to help accomplish the task.

May you carry out the vision you have to make an area of your world better by utilizing the passion and drive you have.

Now it's your turn...what do you imagine, in your world of influence, that needs to be changed?

Graphics and sermon skeleton are graciously shared through Open Resources and can be found here
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"To Do" List...1) ___ 2) ____ 3)____  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer in , , , , , ,

Do you have a list for the various tasks for today or this week? I do, even though I seldom write them down, but it's still a list. I sometimes simply cannot rest until that list is done. Sometimes the list is what to accomplish before lunch and when it isn't accomplished, I am often distracted through lunch.

Even as I write this, there are things on my list that I have not accomplished for the day. How do you deal with such complications to the day?

As I am a person who does a lot of "list" work, here's a fitting quote for the subject..

Whatever your "To do" list is, throw it away.. Let God give you His list for you. ~ Unknown
Ahhhh...get rid of my list! To some degree that will work. I think there are a lot of things that we must be willing to put into God's hands and not try to accomplish all on our own. Too often we go by a list which can prove to be very limiting.

Maybe today you have something on your list but God has something He'd rather you do with the day. It may come as an interruption or just show up during your day. Keep these in mind as you go through your day. Be prepared for God's list to trump your own list. Make sure you're open to it, too.

Have an ever-open list!

Now it's your turn...when has your list changed?
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