I can remember when Muhammad Ali was on an episode "Diff'rent Strokes." The character Arnold looked up to "The Champ" so much and was mesmerized by his presence. Ali took the time to encourage Arnold and it made a huge impact.

To have Ali make it to the success he aspired to achieve, took some great effort and sacrifice. That brings us to this week's quote...
I hated every minute of training, but I said, "Don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion." ~Muhammad Ali

I can only imagine all the hours and hard work that Cassius Clay (aka Muhammad Ali) went through in his life to become the "Champ." To be able to shoot off his mouth with phrases like "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. His hands can't hit what his eyes can't see. Now you see me, now you don't. George (Foreman) thinks he will, but I know he won't."

Some things in life I have tried but not completed. Other things, I won't quit on. May we continue to pursue things in life by seeing that there may be suffering now, but we can live the rest of our life as a champion!

Now it's your turn...What areas have you seen your hard work pay off?
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Last night we were at my in-laws house and my son, a four-year old, was trying to help out by bringing a table back into the living room but in the meantime, knocked off a removable top. He was going through an opening that was too narrow for the top to fit through and the top just slid off.

After going over to check it out, I simply informed him that it was too narrow. He wasn't at all in trouble for what he was trying to do, but if he went much further, he might have done some damage. As a result, he started sobbing. I picked him up to try to talk to him because I had already informed him that he was not in trouble because he didn't do anything wrong. My thought was that he was embarrassed, but I learned, at bed time (after revisiting the subject) he confessed that he had thought he broke the table and felt bad.

I had failed to communicate about the fact that the top could come off and simply telling him that he wasn't in trouble did not satisfy his guilt. After learning about the table I think he felt better though he did ask why the table top could come off. Which I explained.

That just made me think about how our life may a reflection of trying to do good but end up doing something bad. Sometimes the "bad" part of it is unintentional, similar to Jesus who is intending to heal a man's hand which is shriveled. However, because He chooses to do it on this day, a Sabbath, it brings about a confrontation with the Pharisees. Here are some applications to choose from to use this week's lesson in Matthew 12:9-21...

  • Look ~ Keep on the lookout for ways in which your talents and passions will enable you to do to good for someone else whom you can do "good" to.
  • Be Bold ~ When you are trying to do good to someone else, make sure that you enter into with confidence and boldness. After all, you are doing it for "good" so be confident with that approach.
  • Choose Him Over You ~ It can be easy to give in to outside pressures to do a good thing. Jesus could have stopped, but He chose to lay down and receive a name like them.
As you go about life, may this passage of Scripture inspire you to keep going doing the things that are "good" even when outside influences may curb you from doing hte job. Keep going!

Now it's your turn...when have you had a time when doing good seemed like it was a "bad" choice? Also, any other situation that resembled this verse.
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Looking from Another Direction  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer in , , , , ,

We are made in a way that we tend to default to seeing things the way we see them and that is all. Our perspective on an issue or matter seems to take precedence over every other kind of perspective. We bring our emotions, experience, prejudices, biases, and views to the situation. It is challenging to see things from another point of view. We may try, sometimes succeed, but oftentimes it is too difficult to succeed.

With all that said, it brings us to this week's quote...

Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant? ~ Henry David Thoreau
Imagine what life would be like if all the non-slaves of the 1800s been affected to see life through the eyes of the slaves. Whether they were from the "South" or the "North" to see life from another standpoint might have changed things - including the Civil War.

As you go into the future, may we tuck this little quote in a file somewhere and use it the next time we are pointing the finger at someone or placing our biases upon them.

Now it's your turn...When have you seen this as a success or a failure?
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Twenty-five years ago my first sibling, my sister, had her wedding. I remember the day as being very hot and for a youth not used to wearing a dress coat on a hot day, it was miserable! The wedding was not held in our church...why? because they couldn't play instrumental music in our church building.

For some of you reading this, that reason may not be understandable. However, our family attended a Church of Christ, which is traditionally acappella (no instrumental accompaniment). Of course, this tradition is during our worship service, but some felt it carried over to practically any day of the week, including a wedding. So, my sister had to find another place to hold their wedding.

This tradition was held so tightly that it put our family in a box, for the sake of the wedding. We did, at a Baptist church in town. Have I mentioned it was hot that day?

As Jesus mentioned about the yoke of man's rules and traditions being heavy and His being light, in Matthew 12:1-8 we see one of the places Jesus uses an example to defend the heavy versus light yoke. As the Pharisees are pointing fingers at the disciples of Jesus, they expand the thought of being put in a box regarding the Sabbath. Here are some applications to choose from to use this week...

  • Pointing Fingers ~ It is easy, whether it is in society or the religious world, to look at someone and define them based on yourself. Bullying, as defined today, begins this way. Whether it is about a person's clothing or sexuality, people will treat them a certain way based on where they stand on something. The old adage says that when we point a finger, we have three pointing back to us. As we point, we forget about our faults. May we be thankful for grace that has the potential to excuse our faults as well as others!
  • Keep it Simple ~ When the disciples, in the text, were rubbing their hands together, some called it harvesting. For our modern "combine harvesting" days, that would especially seem ludicrous. However, what if the scene was a combine was cutting to take a row (or less) to give the family some food. Would we then see it as work? Maybe keeping our definitions simple would help. Let's not stretch them out to make them something just to point a finger or place judgments. Compare apples to apples...not Johnny apples to Granny Smith apples!
  • Become Familiar ~ One way to have a more accurate definition of saying if someone is wrong in a matter is to be very familiar with the subject. Too often people who judge Christians are not familiar enough with the Bible. They may think they are, but have chosen to "pick and choose" to defend themselves. "Proof texts" rarely provide the necessary proof, so we need to be aware of using them in our defenses.
Life can be challenging when we are not able to use our talents in accomplishing tasks. That may be in the workplace or in our religious beliefs. There are areas which we have freedoms but are put in a box. Becoming freed from that "box" will allow us to better serve our God through our passions and talents. Plus, we will be excited to serve! Know your parameters, but serve Him with vitality!

Now it's your turn...when have you been placed in a "box?" Also, what was the source for which you were involved?
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Envying Those Who Do  

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

When I was in eighth grade I remember a teammate coming up to me in the middle of basketball season who wanted to quit. He was also wanting me to quit with him. We were not the stars of the team and rarely had any playing time. We were some who went in during the last few seconds of a game, unless we were up by a good margin. I acknowledged the fact that I was more of a "participant" rather than a "competitor." However, I wasn't going to simply quit and as a result, he didn't quit either.

I would be lying if I didn't say that it was the most enjoyable time in my life. Who enjoys going through all the conditioning to simply sit for most of the game? Not being involved in the game tends to be challenging for one's morale. Hence, my teammate's low morale. I was in it to be more "in shape" for track, rather than think I was going to be a basketball star.

Later in life, despite my lack of basketball talent, I found a way to be intimately involved in a successful basketball team. I also naturally became more talented at the sport through physical maturity, even if I didn't officially play. I was involved by being a trainer for the teams and had developed such a passion for it that I was respected. I want you to pay attention to the word "involved" in that last sentence. That is really the key in this week's thought, which brings us to this week's quote...

The few who do are the envy of the many who only watch. ~ Jim Rohn
There have been many days in which I wish I could do what others are doing. I used to umpire and developed a true love for it. Putting on the uniform was something I felt proud of doing. Now, when I watch a game, I watch the umpires more than I watch a baseball/softball game. As I age, I don't think I will ever be able to be umpiring again, but do envy those who do.

Do you have areas in which you envy those who do? What makes it impossible for you to not do what others are doing? If the obstacle is too great, find something else to be great at. If the obstacle is just an excuse, find a way to overcome that obstacle. You will likely enjoy it once you make it to that point.

The longer you stay away from being "in the game" the more you will not enjoy the game. The more you are involved the more you will enjoy.

Go out and find something that you've always wanted to be more involved in!

Now it's your turn...What is it that you envy because you tend to just watch?
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Have you ever had the chance to create something to help solve a problem? It could have been something with more of a massive size or it could be a jig or gadget to make life a bit easier.

I have built a few in my day that were "gadgety" and just did not work too well at all. For some of them, I could make them work, for others they were a flop. Either way, that was OK because it was also fun to exercise my mind.

When things work to help make life easier, they are really fun to watch and see what you "invented." If we don't take advantage of using what was created, we can tend to become very frustrating. As Jesus gives the invitation for people to "come" for help and be able to take the easy route, in Matthew 11:20-30. Here are some applications to choose from to use this week...

  • Repentance ~ When I was growing up repentance was focused on before a person could become a Christian. Among others, Acts 2:38 tells the people to repent before being baptized. I have often left this "action" at that point (prior to baptism). That is not the only time I have repented, but it is not something that I think about much, to be honest. However, I have done a disservice to myself because there are things that I need to repent of, as life continues. What do you need to repent of? An attitude toward someone? A wrongful action?
  • Soften ~ Being hard-hearted can cause one to be resistant. Resisting change in yourself can cause life experiences to be difficult. As you think about the idea of repenting, you must allow yourself to be softened so that you will be open to what is needed to be repented from. Plus, staying soft for God allows you to be moldable as He shapes you into what you may need to become.
  • Come... ~ Without a tangible Jesus, some find such an invitation hard to understand. Coming to Jesus means to become closer and more knowledgeable about Him. Enjoying the mysteriousness of Him by seeing what the Bible says about Him, both in the Old and New Testaments. As this text describes Jesus as an interweaving with God, to be fascinated with the mysteriousness of Jesus means that you are also fascinated with God. The more you know, the more you want to know more. So...come!
  • Take the Rest ~ Some jobs require people to take their vacation. That time off is supposed to be good for employees to get away from work. Jesus wants us to take a break from trying to be perfect; which is what the Law expected. He was wanting those hearers in Matthew 11 to relax from the heaviness of the Israelite leaders and enjoy what He brings to the table in the way of expectation. He wants us to relax and enjoy life, striving to live for God, not for religious leaders (or anyone else). Enjoy some vacation time, maybe permanently, from guilt and appreciate what Christ has done through His voluntary death on the cross. Then, live out your joy so others will be attracted to it.
Life will have its good days. Enjoy those days! Enjoy taking the easy route as you go through life. This route is with Jesus carrying your yoke and, as a result, you will be given the light and easy yoke.

Now it's your turn...what will/do you enjoy most about having your yoke taken away and be able to wear the yoke of Jesus?
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How Do You Define Yourself?  

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

Ordinary...a subjective word. You may even say that you want something out of the ordinary, on occasion. Which may mean food, entertainment, or way to spend your free time. As humans, we tend to become bored and ready to do something different as we go through life. However you define something that is "ordinary" someone else may find it "blah" or "extraordinary."

Knowing that the word is subjective, how would you label yourself? Would it simply be "ordinary?" Would it be "extraordinary?" Think about it while you read this week's quote...

I can’t believe that God put us on this earth to be ordinary.

 ~ Lou Holtz
One of the exciting things for me is to be able to team up with God and get to do some extraordinary things. I may be "ordinary" in some ways, but with God I am extraordinary.

I love to be able to go through each day not knowing what may come my way that my God and I will be able to do that day. There are so many things that I may have the opportunity to do that I have no idea what it will be like. It makes me look forward to the next day and the next hour. What may come as interruptions may be exactly the opportunity I was anticipating.

I don't believe I was put on this earth to be "ordinary" because there are simply so many things that I can do that are "extraordinary."

Now it's your turn...what is extraordinary about you?
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Most of us have someone relatively close to us who has had a significant positive influence on us in life. For some of you, there may be more than one person. When these people come to mind their name is associated with good thoughts. I would guess that your name is on someone's list, as well.

Sunday, we looked at Matthew 11:1-19 where John (the Baptist) is in prison and has some of his own disciples to see Jesus. Within in that text, Jesus seems to give recognition to John for his faith. John's faith is a great example for us to model after. As we think about this, here are some applications to choose from to use this week...

  • Ask Questions ~ Some view the thought of "God" as a "no questions asked" kind of mindset when it comes to their faith in God. Similarly, He is someone who is unapproachable. It is interesting to simply do a search in the Bible of the word "why" and see how many of them are questions toward God. In the book of Job there are questions like this. In Psalm 22 and 42 you see some questions directed toward God. As John's disciples asked if Jesus was "Jesus" then it is OK to ask God questions. I challenge Him myself from time to time.
  • Commitment to Him ~ Jesus compliments John for his commitment to the Way, even while in prison. One of the least enjoyable places to be, prison, didn't cause John's faith to waver. Such a great example for us to remember to let our faith be strong even in the least enjoyable of times.
  • Unswerving ~ Jesus asks a question pertaining to John, "Did they expect to find a reed swayed by the wind." John was a very consistent person when it came to his faith. He was not one who was swaying in the winds of life. Another reason to look up to John for his faith.
  • Comfortable in His Own Skin ~ As John was a trailblazer for Jesus, he also seemed to be comfortable with himself, not caring about what others' thought. There is something to be said for that way of thinking. To exercise our faith with little inhibitions may bring about some great results. I am not talking about making a fool out of ourselves, making ourselves seem hypocritical, or that a relationship with God is all great with no "real." Own your faith and share it!
John the Baptist was a very unique guy and the Bible has portions of his life depicted to show his uniqueness. He was lifted up and recognized for his faith by his cousin, Jesus Christ. As Jesus seemed proud of His cousin, I think He is proud of us when we have a faith that is solid.

As you go through life, may the negative factors that come with your life be as less influential to weaken your faith as possible. Stay strong!

Now it's your turn...what has been a time in your life that either negatively affected your faith or had the potential to do so?
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