The life of a Christian or a God-follower has never been easy. From the fall, to Moses trying to rescue his people, to Peter denying Jesus, and the list could go on. There is not a place in the Bible that says following God is every easy. The Bible does say the life of a God-follower does come with benefits but they are not to be confused with an "easy" life.

What has been a challenge for you during your life of following Jesus? We've all had our fair share of challenges. Jesus told His disciples that they would experience some issues in their commitment to following Him.

Sunday, we looked at the last portion of the "directions" Jesus gives to the newly-called Apostles as they go out into the world to help complete the mission. Here are some applications to choose from to use this week...
  • Innocently Shrewd ~ Sometimes Christians can come across as not "with it" and seem naive. There are things in this life that we must be more "with it" to understand how it affects faith and our lives. Keep up with the times by being aware of your culture. Be aware of what is affecting people of this generation. Be smart yet innocent!
  • Pick Your Battles ~ There are two types of killings that can take place - the body and soul. Jesus tells that the one who kills the soul is the one who we must worry about. So keep your body guarded, but keep your soul even more guarded. Many of the "silent killers" to you are affecting your soul, they are the one to worry about!
  • Family, Second; God, First ~ One of Jesus' seemingly harshest words to those who want to follow Him are the words that describe we must love family less. He didn't come to make our commitment "easy" and never made it sound like this lifestyle would be easy. The word "love" in Matthew 10:37 seems to throw people off, rather than seeing the word more as it is. It should be like a "brotherly love" or a friendship type of love. As much as we love family, they are to be second to Jesus and our commitment to Him.
As we go through our rewarding, yet challenging, life as a Christian, may we understand that it is not going to be the easiest. The rewarding part is that we will have some great outcomes in the end. Keep going and look forward to the "mission field" where you can share your faith.

Now it's your turn...what has been a challenging and rewarding part of your life as a Christian?

Go Farther to See Farther  

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

One of my biggest traveling disappointments came when I was really young and we were traveling to Colorado from Kansas. It was the first time to go and I was excited beyond compare to see the mountains. I was old enough to have learned about them in school and just couldn't wait to get a glimpse of the Rocky Mountains.

So, we traveled a little over an hour before we came to the Kansas-Colorado state line. Wouldn't you know it, there were no mountains in sight? Then we traveled another hour, still no mountains. My views of Colorado were not living up to what I had thought! I was disappointed to not be able to see any mountains thus far.

To me, Colorado equaled mountains. Obviously, at this point in my traveling, Colorado wasn't what I thought it was going to be.

As we kept traveling, I saw a faint outline of mountains. From then on I would guess my face was plastered to the window, with awe, awaiting a clearer view of the mountains.

They are magnificent, but I had go a little further until I finally could see them. That brings us to this week's quote...

If you go as far as you can see, you will then see enough to go even farther. ~ John Wooden
Whether you are traveling or going through life, sometimes seeing the end is a bit hidden. You may know you want to arrive at a certain destination, but the effort to make it is not without work.

The good thing is, when you make it a bit down the journey toward a goal you can now see a little farther. When you make it even farther, you will see even farther yet.

As you go through life may you continually be able to see even farther from one day to the next!

Now it's your turn...When has this quote held true in your life?

Overwhelmed is that unpleasant feeling when you see the task before you as greater than the energy or time you have available. There are several places in life which the feeling of being overwhelmed is evident. A few examples might be house cleaning, debt, homework, or deadlines. They all have the potential to cause us to feel overwhelmed.

When you feel overwhelmed you are hardly able to focus your attention on anything else. That which is overwhelming is practically pressed up against your face and you see very little of anything else. Occasionally you will be forced to look around that overwhelming subject to see something else in your life you must focus attention on.

Sunday, we looked at the first part of the charge of Jesus sending out the Apostles. Here are some applications to choose from to use this week...

  • New Adventure ~ Sometimes starting something new can cause us to be really apprehensive. We are reluctant. However, why not make the choice to embrace the opportunity. Meeting someone new or expanding your territory of spiritual influence are great ways to look at the new adventure with positivity.
  • Go ~ With some Christian groups making a negative impression on people to "share their faith" in a cold way, makes some reluctant to talk to others about their own faith. However, making sure we are always willing to "go" to people and when the doors open that we can share our faith then we do so. Don't just keep your faith to yourself, share your kindness, joy, peace, and sinful past when opportunities present themselves!
  • Radars Up ~ I think it is fun to talk about faith with people that are not the same denomination as me. Something to consider is when the relationship or conversation starts to show there is a belief in God, perk up to know you can share your faith. Don't be hesitant to share what you are passionate about. Let someone know you will pray for them or watch their kids or help them when needed. The doors will open, we just need to keep our radars up!
I cannot explain how much I love to find open opportunities to share my faith. I want to let people know that God is there for them. In the middle of a crisis, let's turn to God. That is "pie in the sky" talk for some, but for others it is really comforting. Part of the comfort is knowing someone cares.

As we are "out" may we freely give what we've been freely given!

Now it's your turn...what victories have you experienced when sharing your faith (Not specifically talking about conversions, etc.)?

Legacy...something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past (reference Mirriam-Webster). As a parent, I am often conscience of the fact that what I do with and in front of my children will have a long-term effect on them. I am creating a legacy for how they will operate (act, prioritize, associate, etc.). Whether that is how I treat their mother, how I walk the Christian walk, how I treat others, how I act in public, or how I raise them, there are so many areas which this applies.

I was just thinking that I will often say to people, in person or on the phone, with sincerity, "Have a good day!" Lately I've heard my 4-year old say that to people when we leave. It gives you that warm fuzzy feeling because you know you are showing a positive example to your child.

I think that when we go day to day, as parents, we may forget that compromising on some areas in life may have some detrimental outcomes to our children's future. But think about how some of the same areas of compromise can have detrimental outcomes to our own future. That brings us to this week's quote...

Create the kind of self you will be happy to live with all your life. ~ Foster C. McClellan
If you've ever played Jenga you know that it is inevitable that the tower will fall. You build and build, but sometimes things happen that causes the tower to fall and you start the game over. In life, I think we have a tendency to operate the same way. Each day is a building process, even adding to others' lives. Some days we may "tear down" some others with a choice we made. Then, other days we are building back up. There seems to be a constant building and tearing down. Hopefully, there is more building than tearing down!

As you are building on your own life, you should look to have a day that is creating a legacy, within you, that you are going to be building up most days that the future will be a good one.

I am not talking just about morals, treating others, the Christian walk, but also our physical health is important. Whether it is our diet, exercise, smoking, drugs, alcohol, etc., the future may reflect on how we treated ourselves years prior. One nutrition fact I heard of late, that it takes about 60 minutes of walking to expend a 12 oz. can of soda. So, you can either increase your exercise for the day or decide to cut out that extra and drink water for one meal. That really put it into perspective for me, both from a personal and parenting perspective.

What will the "you" look like in 5, 10, or 30 years? Will you be happy to live with yourself at that time in your life?

Now it's your turn...what choices have you made that caused you to learn from, to change to make your future better?

One of the aspects which I love about the church is the various types of people that make up the church - both globally and locally. It reminds me so much of the variety of the 12 Apostles (even the additional two, later in scripture).

They each had their own personalities, flaws, and strengths. However, they didn't all have the same personality, flaw, or strength. They were unique and different. They made their fair share of mistakes, but Jesus put them together to make a great band of brothers to accomplish a task.

Sunday, we looked at the appointment of the original 12 Apostles. As Jesus appointed them and sent them, we are also being sent out to the world! Here are some applications to choose to use this week...

  • Being Called ~ There have been times in my life that I was called on the telephone which I wish that I hadn't answered. Sometimes those types of calls are being asked to participate in a group/organization. I tend to say yes to these calls, sometimes with regret. There have been times I've regretted saying yes, initially, but found a great reward in the end. I would think that maybe a few of them started into this new commitment and thought "what have I gotten myself in to?" However, if it was like me, I usually enjoy the commitment, in the end.
  • Using the Various ~ God will use you in a great way if you can allow Him to mold you. Too often we start to have some "hardening of the arteries" and lose our pliability. As you are unique, remember that God will use you even when are aren't like "someone else." Too often we can get down on ourselves and think that we are not as useful. Believe me, you are useful! I love Peter's encouragement to his recipients in I Peter 4:10-11 (Read here). It describes how we are different but we can still be of great benefit to the Kingdom!
Think of ways you can be out of your comfort zone to increase the coverage of the Gospel. How can you use your variants of yourself to make a great impact for God?

Now it's your turn...What have you had success in a talent/ability of yours that you thought, at the time, was not really much of a talent/ability?

A Benefit of Failure  

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

Failure is a part of life. No one is going to have a life (from birth to death) without some areas of failure. Also, there will be repeated failures. Not all failures are going to present "giving up." However, they may strain continuing on and facilitate the idea of giving up.

It can be frustrating as a parent when you know your child is capable of achieving something and they are not "seeing it yet." They are failing and want to give up. You see the bigger picture, know their abilities, and try to cause them to make it to the next mountain peak, rather than be sullen in the valley.

One of the few benefits of failing is to learn from it and have a new "tool" to be able to help you through life. That brings us to this week's quote...

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. ~ Samuel Beckett
As I mentioned, it can be difficult for a parent to be able to cause a child to go forth with something that they know the child can accomplish. With that said, don't you think that God, as our heavenly Father, may look at us sometimes and think "You can do this" and we are saying "I just want to quit."

I think we are like that more often than we think. Our challenge is to try to look past the obstacle and see the opportunities. So even if we do fail, we fail better!

Now it's your turn...what have you had success in regarding doing a "do over" and learning so even if you fail, you fail better?

When you see a commercial that is trying to get you to "sponsor a child" you don't simply have 30 seconds of "here's how to order" type of a message. You will first see a child that looks downtrodden and then maybe a few that are looking hungry or sickly. These are all ways to cause you to be moved with compassion in order to invest some of your money in helping this cause.

I am not trying to cause you to not sponsor a child, but rather have you realize that compassion is what moves us toward action. We would not likely give any time to the cause if we didn't see the need for it. In this case the need affects our emotions greatly.

Sunday we looked at a section in Matthew 9:35-38 where Jesus challenges His disciples into looking at the world of opportunity to do good for God. There is a plentiful harvest, but only a few will decide to invest their life in the cause.

As we reflect back, here are some applications to choose from to use this week...

  • Harvest ~ There are tons and tons of possibilities out there for us to see. When I look out into the fields of the plains, I am amazed at how God blesses that field with abundance. I have no idea how much a field will produce, kind of like I have no idea how much of produce will be found in mys service to Him. However, to harvest is one way to find out. "Look" as Jesus said to what is out there - keep your eyes open to the possibilities!
  • Plentiful ~ Sometimes making a list of the possibilities of people in your life will open your eyes to the "plenty" that is available. Occasionally, it will be those you know, but then there are people you do not know (that well). Don't become comfortable just with people you do know, but edge out to the places and people you do not know and see what God will do with that move.
  • Workers ~ "I want to be a worker for the Lord" is a portion of a song that I have sung throughout my life. I first looked at it as a dutiful kind of work, but now, I am excited to be one of God's workers. I hope you are excited as well! I hope you "want" to work for and with Him, not simply work for Him!
  • Few ~ Some people try to "step back" all their life and let someone else do it. They are unwilling to use their talents on a regular basis to serve Him. They may put in their efforts for a class or one-time event, but on a day-to-day basis, they are unwilling. I like I Peter 4:10-11 (NIV) because it basically says that whatever you possess, use it to glorify God. We don't have to learn something new to be effective, just use the talents we already possess and go with it! I love to be surprised how God opens doors for me to use my talents!!!
There are fields upon fields of people wanting to know about a Savior. Will you go to them or let them simply fade away by failing to "harvest" them?

Now it's your turn...what has been an obstacle for you and what has been a success for you in the area of sharing your faith?

"All Men are Created Equal"...  

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

America is truly a great country. There are things about the government that I am not in favor of, but the country itself, is great! I am eternally grateful that I know no other country to really live in other than the grand ol' USA.

I recently had the privilege to travel through the western half of the US and saw some GREAT places! From the arid areas of New Mexico, to the canyons, to the trees, to the hillsides, to the mountains, to the Ocean, to the rock formations - it was all great! I also saw a great man-made attraction in Hoover Dam (built in 1935).

As we celebrated our country yesterday, may this quote also encourage you...

Fourscore and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. ~ Abraham Lincoln
I join several thousand who like Lincoln. He had some great quotes, aside from this portion of a speech. I think we have a lot to continue to pursue in understanding the equality of man.

May this be something we continue to pursue to "get right" in our country as we see generations come and go into the future.

Now it's your turn...what do you see as an obstacle in accomplishing this feat?

Do you God/Jesus/Holy Spirit? In heaven and hell? That Jesus can make your burdens lighter? God will take care of you? He can heal all diseases? He will forgive ALL your sins (aka you are forgivable)? Someone you know wants to know about Christ? He will show you the way? And the list continues...

Do any of those questions start to step on your "faith toes?" They are ones that I have wrestled with in life. Usually, I guess if I'm wrestling with them, someone else will too.

Sunday, we looked at Matthew 9:27-34 as Jesus was healing two blind men. Here are some applications to choose from to use this week...

  • Blindness ~ I think that any disability/flaw can become numb to the senses. In other words, it may cause us pain, but we become more and more comfortable with it. Maybe it is a chronic pain, over/underweight, disorder, scars, diseases, or disabilities. We can become figuratively blind to various areas in life, which can disable us from seeing the open doors around us to share our faith. Ask Jesus to remove that blindness so you can see the possibilities.
  • "Yes, Lord" ~ Not all of life's questions are going to be easy to say "Yes, Lord" when we are posed with the question of "Do you believe I can take care of this?" However, for those hard questions, even if it is answered a bit sheepishly, may we have confidence in Him that He will take care of things and answer, "Yes, Lord."
  • Don't Tell Anyone ~ Don't think about pink elephants. I would guess you started thinking about that or something pink or elephants. Jesus told the recipients of this blessing to not tell anyone and they told everyone. I hope you will take the chances to tell others about what Jesus has done for you. They need to have Him too!!!
I shared that sometimes the cross is like the sleigh bell from The Polar Express. The boy, along with some others, had a difficult time hearing it because they didn't believe. I hope that the cross will be come more "audible" to you as you go through life. Whether you need to believe on the tough issues or the easy ones.

Now it's your turn...what have you struggled in "believing?"