What if your non-churchgoing friends asked you to join them for a few weekends in a given two-week period, doing what they do and going where they go. This would cause you to miss your church times, would you do it?

Some of you may have answered an emphatic "NO" to that question. Then the next question is simply, "Why?" I would guess that a lot of you would answer something like, "It would cause me to miss church", "I wouldn't feel 'right'", or "It would be odd/awkward/uncomfortable."

Here's another thought...what if your church decided to take out everything in its auditorium and replace it with some round tables, with chairs. Additionally, they stopped having regular meeting times and started having opportunities for you to come whenever you wanted to come, on Sundays (for tradition sake). When you did come, you could either sit down at a kiosk and listen to the sermon that was previously recorded or go into a room where, for bigger groups, and watch the sermon on the screen. You would also have your time to visit, maybe sitting around the tables that were set up or in an area that people could stand and visit. You also wouldn't be required to watch a sermon, you could simply come and hang out as long as you wanted. Does that sound appealing?

For most, that sounds like something so wrong and uncomfortable that it is not church at all.

What if I told you that the first scenario may be how some of your friends view an invitation to go to church with you. Does that surprise you? In essence you are asking them to interrupt their weekend plans for one, two or more weekends. They are going to a place they don't understand. Sing songs, do chants, shake hands with people, practice rituals and various other things, of which they are not familiar with and may make them uncomfortable.

I recently watched a video that talked about a churches and discipleship, by Todd Engstrom. It was eye-opening to me and showed me how our "church" gatherings may not be that appealing to others. It doesn't matter if it is a "small group" setting. These still tend to highlight the organizational aspect of religion.

People tend to not like organizational religion. The idea that everything is so formal or planned out, demonstrates how that speaks to me. To stand around and visit with people, similar to what one does when they go to an informal gathering, is "unorganized."

I doubt my church setting "remodel" will take place in my generation, but it may be a key in helping people become more attracted to church because it is more what society is like outside of our formal Sunday and Wednesday church gatherings.

I also find it interesting that Jesus went with others to their community. Zacchaeus, Matthew, and Woman at the Well all were example of Jesus being with them in their community. He didn't drop off his proverbial business card and say "Come and join us on Sunday." If He didn't do that, why do we?

Meeting them on their turf seemed to be less uncomfortable and more impactful. Maybe we could think about a way to use this principle and become more of what Christ would be to the 21st Century.

May we also be more sympathetic toward our non-churchgoing friends when they turn us down for an opportunity to join us for a church gathering.

Now it's your turn...How does this affect your view of your non-churchgoing friends?Share/Bookmark

Taking a Chance - No Regrets  

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There is something about me which I enjoy putting a thought out there and seeing what happens. I am not into sales but I am into wonder. I like to wonder what is going on in a person's life. I like to wonder if they might be interested in talking about a subject. I like to wonder if there is something deeper underneath what they are saying. Therefore, I like to take a chance.

When I was a teenager and interested in dating, I would often be too embarrassed to talk to the girl I liked or have a difficult time even thinking that they might be interested in going out. This would cause me to miss out on the unknown. I did not take the chance that I should have in order to know whether or not they'd be even remotely interested.

It came to a point in my life that I did start to take some chances. I started to develop a sense of confidence that I was going to ask the tough questions, even if it meant things might become a bit sticky or I would simply be rejected. This was not limited to dating but rather in many other areas of my life. With this in mind, here is this week's quote...

No fact of human nature is more characteristic than its willingness to live on a chance. ~ Unknown
It seems that almost every famous person took some type of a chance on something or someone to get where they are in life. Maybe it was thousands of missed shots in basketball, thousands of failed experiments, hundreds of casting calls, or various other attempts in life.

I love to live a life of taking chances. I have had opportunities come my way simply because I took the opportunity to take a chance. If it wasn't for taking some of those chances, I would have missed out.

What is it that you are on the brink of that you need to take a chance on? Or, for the future, keep in mind things that if you take a chance, you will see some great opportunities come your way.

Who knows!? But one thing is for sure, if you don't take the chance you will never know!

Now it's your turn...When has chance been productive for you? Share/Bookmark

A few years ago, I went around a neighborhood asking people about their life. Specifically, I was asking them about their spiritual life. It was interesting and entertaining to do such a thing. People opened up to the "open ended questions" and I enjoyed visiting with them.

There was an interesting couple on my journey that I have never forgotten. They made me laugh inside. As we got around to talking about their spiritual life, I asked them about what church they attend. They told me but it was immediately followed with comments that they didn't really like it that well and they weren't that happy. I probed into their answer and asked them if they would ever consider going somewhere else. They replied with a "no." As the conversation continued, they basically said they were "set" with where they were at and not likely going to change.

What is it about people that they don't want to change? There are lots of reasons and the parameters of the topic will determine the ability of change in a person. We are all different. One of the things I like about life is that it changes. I change. My environment changes. Everything changes.

However, if we would be open to some changes, we'd likely be amazed at what we can do. That brings us to this week's quote...

Your are an unfinished work in progress. One of the good things about life's challenges: You get to find out that you're capable of being far more than you ever thought possible. ~ Karen Salmansohn
As you journey "between the dash" in your life, there are lots of stops along the way. You will change with each stop. They may be minor changes but there will be changes. You are a work in progress and you will change.

The other great thing is that what you are capable of is never quite known until you are presented with a challenge that speaks to that greatness. There are many great things hidden inside all of us that will bring out the best in us, within the realm of that obstacle.

When I was a freshman in high school, I took a typing class. I was lazy and barely made a "C" in the class. Over the years, I have been able to have a lot of experience in typing and am now pretty good and quick in my typing. I was able to rise to the challenge and overcome some of the obstacles.

My favorite challenge to overcome was the fact of what is now known as being "bullied." Living in the moment was not good but God allowed me to move past it and I revel in the fact of trying to encourage others through their challenges.

May you live up to the challenges that come your way. You are an unfinished work. There are great things ahead. Respond to the obstacles with greatness!

Now it's your turn...how has life presented you with challenges which you've been able to overcome? Are you experiencing challenges now that you need to overcome?Share/Bookmark

To initially want to do something different in or with your life is one thing but to go through with it can be a completely different story. We all have our "stories" and they all have their own brick walls in them, located somewhere in your journey. Once you arrive at that wall, the question is, what will you do?

Many times movies portray someone running from someone else and the chase comes to an end at a brick wall. It is now a dead end. What is one to do? Many times the one in the corner is the underdog hero and can find their way out. However, there is the occasional time when that isn't the case, especially if the good guys are not the ones against the brick wall.

As I mentioned earlier, all of us encounter brick walls in life and that brings us to this week's quote...

The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don't want it badly enough. They're there to stop the other people. ~ Randy Pausch
Life's brick walls may not be there to entrap us. I liked how this quote portrayed the brick walls, not as dead ends, but as means to an end. They were almost like doors. We see them as a dead end, nothing to look forward to on the other end. However, if you saw the recent release of "The Lorax" then you know that "Ted" was trying to get on the other side. The other side was there to portray opportunity and a sense of freedom.

The brick wall did not stop him from getting to his opportunity, but it gave an opportunity to find something good.

What brick wall in your future will provide opportunity and not a stoppoing point?

Now it's your turn...when has an obstacle turned into an opportunity?Share/Bookmark

Stuck on a Chapter?  

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Have you ever made a mistake and simply wished you could rewind and start over? If you're like most poeple you definitely have had those moments in your life. Maybe it was something you said. Maybe a semester in school you slacked off on. Or any other mistake...we want them to be rewound and start over.

Some choices we may want to start over but at the same time we haven't reached the point of being willing to start over. We are content to stay at the same place - even if we don't like it, it is not enough of a discomfort to move on.

Examples of this may include addictions, bad relationships, bad jobs, etc. We want to get to the next chapter in our lives, but the obstacles seem to be holding us back. This brings us to this week's quote...

You can't start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading the last one. ~ Unknown
As I pondered the quote, it caused me to think about how often I have been known to re-read the last chapter. Maybe the chapter before that, as well.

When it comes to literal reading, I tend to be a bit slower, especially when I am really trying to comprehend. There have been known times when I would put a book down for a few days to a week and once I returned to the reading, I had to refresh my memory on what was going on in the book. This slows down my momentum in the book and generally causes the book to not be so impactful.

When we remain in a phase of life that would be much better for us to not be in, we are essentially "re-reading the lat chapter."

As you go through life, be aware of what chapter you are on and the obstacles that are preventing you from "reading the next chapter!"

Now it's your turn...what do you need to do in your current situation to "turn the page" and read the next chapter?Share/Bookmark

Who Did You Want to Be?  

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We all have those people in our life that has had a tremendous influence on us. It could have been a parent, sibling, friend, or teacher. Some time, somewhere, there were people who made you excited to be around them. Maybe you wanted to be them.

You may have had someone "on screen" that you felt this way about. You thought their life was your "dream life." They may have emulated what a good life looks like. You might have had times which you imitated some of these people.

Simply put, you wanted to be someone else, for whatever reason. That brings us to this week's quote...

I have always wanted to be somebody, but I see now I should have been more specific. - Lily Tomlin
Who did you want to be? No matter who you "wanted to be" the reality of it is that you are who you are. As Dr. Seuss put it, "There's no one truer than you" as you are a perfect reflection of you.

Being you may not seem great at times but when you get right down to it, it is great. To be a different you just means you must do some things to create a different you. "Wanting" it simply doesn't get it done.

Are you wanting something different for yourself? Be specific and get it done!

Now it's your turn...who did you want to be and why? Share/Bookmark

Adoption is something that I can remember having a negative opinion of as a child. It wasn't because it was learned in the home, but there was something else that seemed to cause it to have negativity attached to it. Maybe it was the fact that it appeared the parents "didn't want" the child.  Maybe there was a sense of pity associated with the situation. I cannot nail it down to any one specific situation.

As I became an adult I discovered something new, fresh, and exciting about adoption. For one, my wife and I went through some trying times as we were wanting to have a child. We had an opportunity for a "shotgun" approach to adopting a bi-racial baby. We were excited and pursued the opportunity. Bottom line is that it didn't work out.

Then, as I had been in ministry a few years, I noticed something about the idea of adoption that I had not realized before. I had been adopted. I had not been adopted by my parents, as they were my biological mom and dad. However, I had been adopted by God. It wasn't because I was not wanted. Rather, it was because I was wanted and loved.

He had adopted me with my tattered past. He had adopted me with my deformities and subpar abilities. He had adopted me when most people would not want me. He had adopted me with such imperfections that made me feel giddy inside. Why, because of His love for me.

The other part of it is that He will adopt you, if you haven't already been adopted into His family!

I came across this video by accident. I won't spoil it for you, but it is amazing the love that is shown by two people to these kids. As I thought it was pretty special, I cannot imagine what it must be like to have my God love me that much more. I cannot imagine the human side of what it would have been like to feel no sense of hope and then receive this blessing of being adopted. So thankful for my adoption!

Now it's your turn...What is your view of adoption after seeing this video or reading this article?

Today Counts - it can change tomorrow  

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You may go through today and not have much to show for it. You may have finished yesterday with a similar endpoint. However, you may have an opportunity today that will change the course of your life, or someone else's life. To you, the decision makes no significant impact, but to someone else it changes their life, significantly.

Today counts, whether we like it or not. It may be tearing up the dirt to be ready for planting, it may be packing it down, establishing a firm foundation, or it could be simply making a decision to do something better in the future. Remember, today counts and this week's quote speaks to that such concept...

What you do today can change the course of your life far into into the future. Today is critical. Today really counts. ~ Ralph S. Marston, Jr.
Today may be the day you decide to quit an unhealthy habit. Today, may be the day you decide to read a book. Today, may be the day you decide you are going to marry the person you've been dating. Today, may be the day you decide you will start something you've been putting off. Today, may be the day that you turn your life over to God. Today, may be the day that you make ____ decision to do something different with your life.

Though there may be many days which, at the end of the day, there is not much to show for it, make today count. Make it a goal to have something to show for everyday that is "today." It could be something as simple as saying "Hello" to someone. Additionally, it may improve your health, as you help to imporove others' health.

It may also mean that you will make today count by doing a long-overdue project. To reap the benefits of that project will greatly impact your future and it will change the course of your life.

So make today count...it can change tomorrow!

Now it's your turn...what will you decide to do today? Or, what have you made a decision about in the past which has changed the course of your life? Share/Bookmark

My life has been filled with procrastination. Some of you can probably relate. If you didn't procrastinate in school, maybe you did with your household chores as a child. Most of the time that we tend to procrastinate or avoid an area in our life is because we view the task/situation much larger than the actual size.

It is similar to the light on a small object will project something quite large a few feet away. Also, depending on the closeness of the light the object will appear much larger. Sometimes life can be much the same way, which brings us to this week's quote...

Stand up to your obstacles and do something about them. You will find that they haven't half the strength you think they have. ~ Norman Vincent Peale
When situations are closer to us, or more present, they appear much bigger. It can be both the positive and the negative things. If success is near then it may give the false appearance that success will always be that big. When, in fact, it is the same size always and we may need to take a step back to see the reality of it.

Maybe it is a certain problem in life, it appears quite large because we are upon it, but if we take a step back or move past it, we see it wasn't as big as we made it out to be.
When I went to see Mt. Rushmore, I was "initially" disappointed. Not in the craftsmanship but in the size. When you see it at ground level, it doesn't appear that Washington has a 12-foot nose. If I were to be right up on the nose, it would appear huge. It is all about the view.

Let us take situations and obstacles for what they are, not necessarily what they appear to be. Maybe you need to take a step back (or a few) to see what is going on and not just what you see.

Obstacles are not gernally as challenging if you see them for what they are and start to do something about them. However, if you don't then you can get a false view of your obstacles and they will appear bigger (and possibly scarier) than they are in reality.

Now it's your turn...what do you need to take a different look at? Share/Bookmark

Most of us have some sort of dream or desire to do something in life. We travel through life reading others' quotes, seeing posters, watching them on TV, or seeing them in movies and we may want to be like them in some way. I would guess that your list is longer than 10 if you started compiling one. As you think of different parameters to determine your desires, your list will grow.

Maybe it is fame - you'd have a certain list. Maybe it is money - another list. Maybe it is a specific talent - another list. Maybe it is appearance - another list. Adding them all together would likely create a decent sized list.

There are only so many people in this world that will be known for something "great" they did. However, there are billions of people who will not be known for the small things they did to make someone's life that much better. That brings us to this week's quote...

Great opportunities to help others seldom come, but small ones surround us every day. ~ Sally Koch
When I started my job at the hospital I went through orientation. One of the things I remember our CEO emphasizing was helping others out, with an unwritten emphasis on "no matter the cost." In other words, we could be late to a meeting to make sure customers were helped out.

Last week I was at the hospital and a lady was noticably lost. She was at the elevator and trying to get back to a classroom she was having a training at. When asked, she said she was looking for the classroom. She had taken a "wrong turn" and was opposite where she should have been. I told her that I would take her to the classroom (another suggestion by our CEO - don't just tell directions, show them). We had a brief but pleasant conversation and connected on several levels. I explained that I was relatively new, so I understood her being lost, as I am still learning the layout.

I like the philosophy of our CEO by showing them where to go, rather than just telling them directions. I like the fact that I doubt I will ever run into that lady again (as she was also from out of town), but I would like to think that if she were asked her impression of that portion of our hospital would be favorable.

Was that a "great" opportunity. By my definition, no it wasn't. To the woman who was lost, it may have been. So it definitely was a small opportunity. I think all people's lives are going to be filled with small opportunities. However, small opportunities can make great differences in the lives of people.

As you go through life, look for the opportunities to make the small differences in people's lives...as it may make a great difference to the people you meet.

Now it's your turn...what small opportunities have you taken advantage of to make a difference in someone's life? Share/Bookmark

One of the things I wish we were not born with would be the ability to be selfish. I consider myself about as bad in this area as the average person. Too often I am thinking of myself in a situation - and the situations vary. Regardless of the variances, it still funnels down to I'm thinking of me. There are likely times when you would have to admit you tend to be like this, also to various degrees.

For some it could be "I want" and they may not receive. For others, it may be a sense of idealism in expecting people to react a certain way. No matter how you spin it the end result comes down to variances of selfishness.

An outcome of selfishness can be "feeling sorry for yourself." When this happens it can entrap us into a sentence we should not have to serve. This brings us to this week's quote...

Feeling sorry for yourself, and your present condition, is not only a waste of energy but the worst habit you could possibly have. ~ Dale Carnegie
During the times I have served the sentence of "feeling sorry for myself," looking back I would easily say that I was wasting my time. Like a millstone tied to someone and dropped into the ocean, to feel sorry for yourself simply drowns your life from being able to accomplish much.

Think back to the moments that you have wasted in feeling sorry for yourself. Someone once said that time is something you cannot get back. That statement is very true. Once we've spent time we cannot make it up, it is spent. Let us spend our time more wisely and not waste it on times like feeling sorry for yourself.

Now it's your turn...what have you learned from wasting time and energy in feeling sorry for yourself?Share/Bookmark

The First Spring Day  

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

Growing up in the midwest has caused me to be used to wind, aridness, and the four seasons. The four seasons are never able to be completely defined by any kind of a time or event. The summer can be unseasonably cool. The winter unseasonably warm. Then there are the sudden snows or tornadoes that come about in spring or fall when they shouldn't be showing up then.

I've grew up knowing that things are not the same from one day to the next in the midwest. Someone once said this about the weather in the midwest, "Stick around, it'll change." That is defintely true! I have seen days recently where it was so hot we turned our air conditioner on in the car and the next day we were turning on our heater. It is just crazy how the weather is so unpredictable where I've grown up. That brings us to this week's quote...

The first day of spring is one thing, and the first spring day is another. ~ Henry Van Dyke
Spring is probably my favorite season. One thing is for sure, there is greatness in every season. However, as I have found truth in this quote, I look forward to the spring day(s)!

I love to be able to spend time outside long into the evening with my children, running with them, laughing with them, getting in the dirt with them, flying kites with them, helping them ride their bike, and the list continues.

March 20th is the first day of spring, but that may not always be the first spring day. That can happen before or after that time. Regardless, whenever that first day comes...enjoy it! When the second spring day comes..do the same. Along with the third, fourth, fifth, etc.

Now it's your turn..what is your favorite season and why? Share/Bookmark

Leap of Faith...It Might Be All You Have  

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During my early high school years I often had to get a ride home after practices from coaches. They drove right by my house and I was at their mercy regarding when they left and how often they stayed before I was able to go home. My only mode of transportation, due to the circumstances was their vehicle.

For most of my married life we have been a "one car" family. We managed to have one vehicle for several years. In that time there were occasions in which I had to ask people for rides to various places. Because this was not a regular occurence it was not a big deal, but I'm glad it was not an issue we encountered too often. That brings us to this week's quote...

Sometimes your only available transportation is a leap of faith
Sometimes in life one must simply "go for it" to get anywhere. Standing around in life does not enable one to get very far in life. If we all simply sat where we were at, we'd never arrive at where we were going.

We used to have a small black Pomeranian puppy that I can recall being scared to go around a bag of trash because it mostly blocked her way from point A to point B. She would be fidgety about wanting to go past the bag, but she wouldn't just go, initially. She "danced around" gearing herself all up to finally go. When she went, she bolted past the linoleum as fast as she could go.

For our dog, it took that leap of faith to get where she needed to go. Without it, she'd stay where she was at. We are much the same. We need to take a "leap of faith" from time to time. Without it, we's be paralyzed to stay where we were. With a leap of faith, we would see doors open and mountains crossed. What is your "closed door" or "mountain" that you need opened or crossed? Take that "leap" and see what awaits you!

Now it's your turn...what are you going to "leap" over or into? Share/Bookmark

Be Honest...With Your Friend  

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One of the things I remember quite clearly when we did our marriage counseling was to be honest when a person asked a question. If you don't expect an honest answer you should ask the question was the message given to the "question asker."

Too often when we are in a situation of advice, we often tend to sugar coat the answer. I see this frequently when a person confides in a cohort about personal problems that involve another party. For example, when someone is the victim of a relationship issue (be it friends, occupational, or marriage/dating, the person who is hearing the information generally takes the side of their friend. In return, they are not only hearing the negative of the other person/party, but they will likely defend their friend.

Keeping these concepts in mind, here is this week's quote...

In giving advice, seek to help, not to please, your friend. ~ Solon
Keep in mind that not every situation is the same. Sometimes a person needs the shoulder to cry on, but there are still other times when the person needs to hear the truth. They need to know that though they were wronged, the other party may have been wronged as well. Whether it was today, yesterday, or sometime in the recent past.

When we are trying to listen to a friend, make sure you are able to see both sides of a situation. Telling your friend they were completely right is not going to help them out in the end. They are going to feel more "right" and fight for that right to be right.

This may also span into communicating to your children. They are not likely the best singers, dancers, artists, or athletes. There are ways to communicate and applaud their efforts without going overboard and making them feel like they should be the next "star" in the field they are aspiring to be involved in. I have found ways to practice this with my kids. This way they do not have a false hope when it comes to their aspirations.

Now it's your turn...how have you handled the idea of honesty when it came to giving advice to a friend/spouse/child, etc.? Share/Bookmark

The power of the mind is extremely powerful when it comes to the body being able to accomplish something. I don't know how many times in my life I have had to change my mental outlook in order to have the physical portion of my body accomplish what it needed to do. Examples of areas in which I had to "push through" were exercise, tasks on my job, or homework. Once the mind was changed then I was able to press on to the goal.

I can remember several nights in preaching school where I would stay up late preparing for an exam. I would use multiple ways of studying to help me remember the subject matter. There have also been nights that I have worked through being tired to accomplish tasks for work. Those tasks were not even "last minute" but simply because I get a lot of ideas at night.

There are also times where I see the end coming up when I have been exercising and will push through to get to the end - to cross the line or hear the timer beep. It was challenging but the end is exhilerating!

When I would cause my mental capacity to be stronger than my physical I knew I could do it! That brings us to this week's quote...

I have always believed that anybody with a little guts and the desire to apply himself can make it, can make anything he wants to make of himself. ~ Willie Shoemaker, Horse Jockey and Trainer
Some days there are going to be times when the physical side is more submissive to the mental side. In other words, it may be easy to push through your fatigue or lack of interest. Where as others are going to be the opposite. You are going to have to have your mental state climb high to become higher than your physical.

Of course, there are other areas that are not simply physical where you must climb high with the mental. Maybe it is an area like forgiveness, that you must work through some obstacles in order to allow yourself to release the weight you're holding on to daily. Another area may be spiritual. You are having lots of doubts in one or more areas of your spiritual belief or state. You are going to have to challenge yourself to work through and find what you need to achieve the belief that you're hoping for.

As you go through life, remember that the mental can be stronger than the other areas of your life. This will allow you to beat the odds when you are trying to accomplish things in life.

Now it's your turn...What areas in your life are you needing the "mental" to rise up so that you can make something of yourself?Share/Bookmark

Playing on God's Team  

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Are you on a team? Have you ever been on a team? From my experiences of being on a team, playing was much more fun than watching. Getting to be "in on the action" seemed to be more rewarding. Having the pressure on myself to do well for the team was what I wanted. Even to this day, I like to be involved in any team I'm on, versus watching others participate.

Unfortunately, when I played some sports in middle school, I sarcastically say that I was a "participant" rather than a "competitor." I was not anything near the "star" of the team, though I greatly enjoyed my time playing and being involved. As I became an adult, I grew more talented in various sports, though I found my niche in other areas, still greatly involved with the team.

With that desire to be involved in any team I'm on, one of the greater teams I enjoy being involved with is God's team. His always wins and anyone who plays on a team, enjoys winning!

With that, I take great joy in participating in God's team and His game plan to save man! It makes me look forward to each encounter I have with people. "How am I going to take this person one step closer to Jesus?" That is a thought I have most of the time. Sometimes, my human weakness gets in the way and I don't always see what I probably need to see in an encounter. However, it does make me look back and ask, "What part did I play with them?"

We have such a great opportunity to go in and be a "hero" to people by giving them the best thing they could ever want...Jesus! I don't care if they already know Jesus, give 'em more! No one ever had too much Jesus!!!

When I read this verse, I like to read it over and over...panning for a little more gold each time...and each time, I always found gold!

"There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men" (I Corinthians 12:6 NIV).
I love asking God to "surprise me" on a regular basis. And, I am amazed what it does for me. I am surprised almost every day! I never know what is going to be around the corner waiting for me to participate in.

I hope  you will take time to think about what part you play on God's team and put your self in the game and go look for the many opportunities that will come your way!

The best part about all of the times I ask God to surprise me...I have the opportunity to play on His team! I am never the star...that will always be Him, but I played a part!!! And it is awesome!

What will the weekend hold? What did your week/weekend entail???Share/Bookmark

Fullness of Jesus - Priest - Hebrews 2:14-18  

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Priests are probably not thought of today as much more than member of clergy tied to a particular denomination. However, in the Old Testament (aka Hebrew Bible) the priests seemed to have one of the busiest jobs. They were offering sacrifices, declaring people clean/unclean, and a host of other responsibilities. The High Priest had a responsibility on the Day of Atonement to enter into the Most Holy Place to make atonement for the whole nation, but first he had to make sure he was "clean" before he could enter.

Priests were very busy, the people were very busy bringing sacrifices to the priests. Jesus came and became both the sacrifice and the sacrificer (priest) for mankind! That is so powerful to me! He wasn't just the perfect person who offered sacrifices for people, he was ALSO the sacrifice! Not only that, He was the sacrifice that sufficed the need for all sins, before and after. His one time offering was all that was needed (Hebrews 9:28, 10:12). That allows us to have such an "easy" life, one which we don't have to offer "tangible" sacrifices for our sins. However, reminds us that we are still to offer ourselves as "living sacrifices" on a daily basis (Romans 12:1-2). As you think about Jesus as wearing the "hat" of priest, here are some applications to take with you...
  1. Say a praise prayer to God for creating such an awesome plan for Jesus to play the part of Priest and be the sacrifice at the same time...so that we could be continually forgiven! (I John 1:7)
  2. Jesus gave/gives us hope when He gave himself up for us "sinners" (Romans 5:8). May it lift your spirits and your walk as you reflect on what it means for Jesus to put aside any selfishness and allowed His perfection to take on the look of imperfection by "bearing our sins" on the cross (I Peter 2:24).
  3. Jesus loves you!
Different "hats" that we wear require different responsibilities and expectations. Examining some of the things that Jesus did makes me appreciate Him all the more. I hope it will do the same for you.

Appreciating Him...

Opening the Window of Opportunity  

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Just recently I was cleaning off my son's bed for the evening so he could go to sleep for the night. As I was doing that, I couldn't help but to think of all the toys he has. In amidst all the toys that he owns, he plays with only a handful of them. Not only that, but it seems that whenever we are at the store he wants more.

Why is it that he seems to not be happy with what he has already? Why does he want more all the time to add to the lot that he already has?

Most of this is simply being human. Some of it we, as his parents, may have taught him, especially since he was the first child. Either way, it can be frustrating to see all that he has and for him to appear to have little appreciation for the things he has already. Part of the humor in having a lot is when you "go through" toys to thin them down, he will see something he hasn't played with for a long time and become excited all over again.

As adults there are times which we are not any different. We like to have more, but being thankful for what we already have is also very important. With that thought, here is this week's quote...

There is no better opportunity to receive more than to be thankful for what you already have. Thanksgiving opens the windows of opportunity for ideas to flow your way. ~ Jim Rohn
There is a lot of energy which comes from a person who is wanting to do more. There is a drive that fuels the person who looks for the next thing to be better than the last. Similarly, when a person is not content with how things are in any area of various life aspects, and tries to get to the next level.

However there is danger in that, as well. Slowing down and being thankful for what you do have may be beneficial, no matter who you are. Allowing yourself to simply reflect on life and enjoy what life has brought you will bring some peace to the soul and provide a world of opportunity for things to come. It will allow you to appreciate what you already have as you "go through" what you already possess or have accomplished and become excited once again.

Take some time to be thankful!

Now it's your turn...what are some thing you're thankful for?

Fullness of Jesus - Prophet - Deuteronomy 18:15-22  

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To use the word prophet in today's society is not common. A person who is said to be a prophet is usually looked at as odd. Usually a prophet is thought of as one who foretells the future; not just one who boldly proclaims a truth. Those who have claimed to be foretelling prophets about the, in the recent past, about the "end of time" have ended up being incorrect, which tells us they were not a prophet at all.

Jesus was not only predicted by prophets, He was a prophet Himself. As we reflect back to yesterday's lesson, here are some things to take with you...
  1. Prediction to Suffer ~ As Jesus was predicted to suffer, and he did, may we see him as encouragement to what we must endure here on earth. Hebrews 12:2 encourages me to look past the pains of our "cross" to the joy that is on the other side.
  2. May we see the fulfillment of the over 300 Old Testament prophecies about Jesus, which come true in the New Testament, as something that helps solidify our faith in Him.
Jesus was Prophet, Priest, and King. There was much responsibility that came from wearing these hats. May we thank Him for taking on each of these as He continues to be our Savior!

Wowed by Him...

I remember when I was interviewing for my ministry job. I was very nervous and wanting everyone to be interested in me. Trying to get a group of people to be impressed by what you bring to the table in a short period of time is very challenging. I remember answering some of the questions and I would likely guess that I tried to answer them the way they wanted to hear them, all in hopes to land a job.

Though my personality was probably not too far from what is really "me" I would likely guess some of the other parts of the weekend was filled with "putting my best foot forward." That first experience taught me some lessons to take to other interview opportunities.

Time taught me some important lessons about showing the "real" me so that people will not be getting anything different than what they see initially. The other part of the challenge in landing a job is getting a feel for the other party and hoping to see the real them.

When you go through life, you should be letting people become attached to the real you so there are no surprises if things progress in the relationship. That brings us to this week's quote...

Don't change so people will like you. Be yourself and the right people will love the real you. ~ Unknown
One thing has definitely been learned from that first time, to show the real me. I have utilized this approach in many areas, including interviews. It has caused me to leave the interview knowing that what "they get" will not be a surprise. They will be hiring the person that they interviewed.

The same goes in life. Sometimes we try to make ourselves appear as someone we are not simply to try to impress. However, this quote challenges us to let people love the real you. This will do more than one positive thing - 1) No surprises, 2) Appreciating what they receive, and 3) develops trust. When we put someone that isn't "us" to others it will likely do the opposite of those three.

Relationships do not need "surprises," lack of appreciation, or a lack of trust. Those can create a rocky relationship, long term.

Let us show the real "you" so people will love that same person!

Now it's your turn...What do people need to see in you to see the "real you" so that they can love the "real you?"

How did God fit in to your day today?

Depending on when, during the day, you read this, God may have already been in it or you haven't thought about that yet. That can be a challenge for us as we start to get ready for the day and plan various tasks. Also, as we look over our calendar and seek to accomplish various things we may become so wrapped up in our schedule that we forget about where God fits in to that schedule.

In those times it is easy to forget about not only including God but the concept of worshiping God seems very foreign. Sunday, we looked at how our life is a life of worship. Worship doesn't begin and end but is continual. Our everyday, menial-thing-life should be including worship to our God. Here are some applications to choose from to use this week...

  • Changing Our View ~ Sometimes our view of worship may be limited to what we've always known. We accompany worship with a time of attending a service at a church building, including all the traditional elements (singing, praying, Lord's Supper, preaching, etc.). But what if we went out of that box and looked at worship as something more? What if it included everything we did...from the menial to the grand? Think of the continual connection you'd have with God!
  • Why 'All the Time'? ~ Our connection to Him should be 'all the time.' He longs for us to connect to Him and in everything we should be desiring to have that connection. My 2 year old daughter sometimes says "Dad, talk to me!" when she wants my attention (usually she is interrupting a conversation between my wife and I). It is kind of funny the way she is wanting to have our attention. It leads me to think that God might be saying "Jarrod, talk to me" as I go throughout my day. Additionally, He wants to be honored for giving us what we've been given...our job, our food, our house, our health, etc. Worship Him all the time!
  • Living the Life ~ It is very rewarding to see worship in a new light. To see Him as the giver of blessings and wanting to appreciate Him for those blessing is the ideal situation to be in. Even in the times that may not "be from Him" but we don't know, I like to still appreciate Him and thank Him. It may be just something like finding my keys, I still say "thanks." Live the life of worship and constant connection to Him!
Worship can have various elements incorporated in it to draw us closer to Him. May we not limit ourselves when it comes to that connection, so we will not be isolated to just one area which we lean on to get us there.

Look to have a life of worship!

Now it's your turn...what surprises you the most or piques your attention the most about having worship being beyond formal gatherings?

Stumbling in Life (...how to deal with it)  

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You have all seen those people who are walking along, minding their own business and bam something in their path causes them to stumble. Then, they look around to see who was watching or blush in embarrassment when they were seen. You may have been one of those "someones." Barring any kind of injury, we keep going on with our journey toward our destination.

We don't aim to stumble but it happens. We don't aim to be embarrassed but it just happens. We don't aim to have something happen in life that is not pleasant but it just happens. What do we do with it as a result...that's your choice. As we think of that, it brings us to this week's quote...

When you stumble...make it part of the dance. ~ Unknown
The times when I have had the unfortunate opportunity to stumble and keep going it can be embarrassing. However, there are other times when I not only stumble once or twice, but the end result is falling. Along with that, it may not always be stumbling, but also slipping can cause problems.

Either way, there are situations that we are going to encounter which may not be the most pleasant, but we will make it through. We may have to "dance" our way through a bit till we get on our feet, but we make it. We may have to admit error or laugh at ourselves a bit, but we make it through. We may fall, on occasion, but we get right back up there and make it through.

The next time you are experiencing a sense of stumbling in life, make it out to be some kind of funny dance and move on with life. Life is too short to worry about the stumbles and falls. They are temporary. May we enjoy the rest of the journey as we go through life.

Now it's your turn...when have you had to dance your way through a stumble?

We all have our ways of becoming closer to God on an individual basis. Some prefer music, some enjoy mediation, others may enjoy the spoken word, and others may become closer through the written word. However, I wonder if you have ever thought about becoming closer to God through confession?

To reconcile difference, admit your wrong, receive forgiveness and be able to release to weight of the wrong can be a great connecter between two parties. To come to God with a matter that needs confession and clean up your heart, will likely cause you to become much closer to Him.

Sunday, we looked at Psalms 130:1-2 where the psalmist is crying out of the depths to God to rescue him. When you are in the depths of your life, are you drawn to appeal to God or try to solve it on your own? The challenge is for us to know that we can come closer to Him, connect to Him, and have a time of worship all through confession. Here are some applications to choose from to use this week...

  • Desperation Brings Humility ~ Oftentimes when we are in a desperate situation, we are likely to release our ego and seek Him. We realize we are not in control and it is God who is in control will help us release what needs to be fixed to the One in control. May we seek to release the things we cannot control to Him!
  • Become Empty ~ Each day we need to release some part of our lives to God. Maybe it is our ego, our fears, our worries, or our control to Him and let Him be the driver of the day. Letting Him fill our void so it will be less of us and more of Him.
  • Clean Your Heart ~ God needs to associate with purity. The blood of Jesus purifies the Christian continually. Is there anything that is clouding your heart and needs to be cleansed? Seek Him!
  • Stay Strong! ~ As Joseph (Genesis 37) had no idea how long he was going to be in the pit that his brothers put him in, he appeared to stay strong to his God and was rewarded. Even when we have no idea how long we are going to remain in a "pit" may we stay strong and see what God is going to do with our life.
Just like two parties becoming closer through heart-to-heart connection, I think we become closer to God in similar ways. Confession allows people to know the inner us, as it lets others see our weaknesses. This can be tough because we don't want to appear as weak in front of anyone. However, know with God, He loves us through it all.

Thankfully, we have a God who is always there for us! Let us become closer to Him as time allows for confession.

Now it's your turn...when have you become closer to someone/God through confession?

Living Up to Challenges  

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I really enjoy the times when I am challenged within a given project. I remember, in ministry, when I was invited to speak at a "Theme Day" for an area congregation. I would speak three times (1 Adult Bible Class, Morning Sermon, and Evening Sermon). The theme they gave me for that day was from ONE verse. This was within my first three years of ministry and they were expecting me to come up with three 20-45 minute talks over one verse? "How is that possible?" I thought. Believe me I did a lot of questioning and wondering about how to accomplish this task.

Thankfully, through prayer and study, I was able to break the verse down into three different parts and focus on those areas in each of the three talks. It was one of the most fun times I had planning something that someone else gave me. It took a lot of time but it was worth it!

Sometimes those are the types of things that are needed for us to see "what we're made of." We need to be challenged and accept the challenge instead of looking for the escape hatch. That is the easy way out in so many situations. This thought brings us to this week's quote...

Find a purpose in life so big it will challenge every capacity to be at your best. ~ David McKay
Are there things that you are seeing in front of you that seem to great? Maybe they are things that are on your "to do" list but you are struggling to know how to approach them. Maybe it is through fear, lack of confidence, lack of motivation, or any number of excuses.

I challenge you to go at what you see as a purpose in life and let the challenges bring out the best in you! When you've completed it (or as you venture through it) you can see how many positives you've experienced along the way!

Wishing you many successes!

Now it's your turn...What successes have you experienced, within this context?

"Create in me a clean heart, O God" (Psalm 51:10), "Rejoice in the Lord, always" (Philippians 4:4), "This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it" (Psalm 118:24), and "Let everything that has breath praise the Lord" (Psalm 150) are all verses that came to mind which bring me closer to Him. These are all fitting at various times in my life but they all are helpful. They connect me closer to Him in some way, shape, or form, and I love that about the Word of God.

It amazes me how the Word of God can be considered irrelevant by many and relevant by many others. I can relate to both sides, as I have gone through stages in my life where I thought there was many places which the Bible was kind of a waste. It wasn't until I saw the greatness of it in my life and relevance in the lives of mankind in which I was able to deeply appreciate what it had to say. I am not only talking about the "favorite" or more "popular" verses but those verses which have hidden gems inside of them.

Sunday, we looked at how we can be brought closer to Him by being able to "delight in the Word." Looking at the Word and reading it can be a time of worship in which we can become in awe and connect with our Creator. Here are some applications to choose from to use this week...

  • Aiming for the Top ~ Looking for something to live up to seems to be something we all start out desiring. In that, it is very helpful to have something that is worth living up to. Something that is perfect, like the Word of God, is a great example of how to aspire to be something great. If it is something mediocre, then we don't have very high to aim! Let's aim high and allow His Word to take us there!
  • Generating Wisdom ~ I've known people that seem to have a wealth of knowledge, both about their area of expertise and about trivial knowledge. There is something special about how the Bible will create a new skill level inside of us. We will have a new sense of knowledge after understanding the Bible (or even certain texts) better. As you take the Bible in its little segments and apply it to your life, may it be something that takes on a new meaning to your life.
  • Bringing About Joy ~ When my kids are pouting and I know that they are not hurt, I will often try to lighten mood by doing something that makes them smile or laugh. It takes their mind off of their problems or pity party for a few minutes to get them to be more joyful. I am in awe of God when He puts before me a verse, person, or situation that brings joy to my life. This causes me to take my mind off of my issue and focus on Him. I am awakened to the greatness of Him.
What are your favorite verses, that bring you joy and closer to Him? What are some of your favorite songs that point you to Him?

We all have various ways and desires that will cause us to be awakened to the concept of worshiping Him. We are all created a bit differently, so we will be attracted to Him differently. Our challenge is simply to delight in the Word and enjoy what it brings to our life!

Now its your turn...what allows you to "delight in the Word?"

Keeping a Calm Center  

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I have seen many-a-people in my day "blow up" over various things. Sometimes it is a coach towards a player or official, sometimes it is a person in a meeting, sometimes it is in a marriage conflict, sometimes it is parent to a child and there are various other situations. For one reason or another the conversation went "south" causing one party to lose their cool.

I cannot say that I am innocent in never losing my "cool" and I've tried to learn from those mistakes to become much more calm, even when I feel stepped on or wrongly accused. It is a discipline and can be tough at times. However, the end is usually beneficial to the one who does not choose to "blow up." With that said, here is this week's quote...

The cyclone derives its powers from a calm center. So does a person. ~ Norman Vincent Peale
When I was in college, there was a roommate discrepancy. What it boiled down to was "truth wins." One roommate was trying to have one story be the right story until he was confronted with the "truth." Upon having the truth put forth, in a calm way, he had no leg to stand on. He had no other choice other than to surrender to the idea he was in the wrong.

All this came about with a calm center. There was much power in that center, similar to how Peale points out the cyclone also has its power. As you go through life, no matter what is happening, try to remember to keep calm and think about how you will respond. Keep that calm center to bring about much power. Even if the power may not win the argument, it will definitely show that there is power in you that is respectable.

Now it's your turn...when have you seen this become true? Whether there wasn't a calm center and had a lack of power or there was a calm center and much power.

Blessed Be Your Name is one of my favorite worship songs. Here are the lyrics to the song. I think that each time I hear/sing this song I am moved closer to God. It causes me to connect to God and appreciate Him so much. I have several songs which I like and draw me closer to Him. You may have a number of songs that move you closer to God. If you are like me, it is fun to hear the songs that you really like and has a deep meaning.

We have the privilege to be able to connect with Him on a regular basis. It doesn't have to be limited to times you are in your church building. It also doesn't have to be limited to songs, but in this lesson we will focus on the medium of song.

Sunday, we looked at Psalm 147 as we began our "Awakening" series. This was fun to reflect on as we think about how we can become closer to God through song and other means. Here are some applications to choose from to use this week...

  • Focus ~ It can be easy to not have focus. We tend to focus on what our eyes see and when we are seeing something else we can lose focus. When it comes to connecting and worshiping God, may we take time to focus beforehand. Focus allows you to concentrate a bit more. If distractions come your way then you may need to consciously put more into the effort of trying to focus. So start to focus and plan where you're going as you seek to connect.
  • Find a Good Song ~ Singing and/or songs seems to help us resonate with our worship to God. You see it used in the Bible as a method of worshiping God after a victory or during a life situation. Through songs there are multiple senses used and that seems to make a difference in our emotional connection. Find a great song or multiple songs and use them to connect with Him.
  • Praise Him ~ Think of all the great things to praise Him for in your life. There are many wonderful things when you think about it. From the minute to the grand. From the forgotten to the just received. May we take time to praise Him for the glorious things He's done in our lives!
I hope you can have some time in the next week to take time to find a way to connect to God. I am not simply talking about finding time to pray or finding time to listen to a song. I am talking about finding time to connect with Him. I hope you have a chance to worship Him on an individual basis. That time may be during a scheduled assembly time at a church, but I hope you have a chance to worship.

If you cannot accomplish it in the next week, keep it on your priority list and try to accomplish this connection at the first chance you get.

I love the opportunity to sing and connect to Him through song and meditation. May you be awakened when given the opportunity!

Now it's your turn...what song(s) do you like that draws you closer to God?

Life: A Thorny Journey?  

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

"Just rip it off quickly!" is the thought that some people take with the removal of band-aids. It may hurt at first, but it is better than going through the slow agonizing pain of removing it slow. Such can be instances in life.

When life seems to be going rough, removing myself or my thoughts from the situation and creating a new direction for my thoughts really seems to help. Even when I still have to deal with the "miserable" situation, adjusting my thoughts still seems to help. It is actually amazing how effective this works. This brings us to this week's quote...

Life is thickly sown with thorns, and I know no other remedy than to pass quickly through them. The longer we dwell on our misfortunes, the greater is their power to harm us. ~ Voltaire
How often have you been one to dwell in a negative situation? Presuming you are no longer in that situation, did that situation compel you or did you seem to sit, mentally, in that situation?

I have noticed in my 5-year-old that he seems to choose to stay miserable. He can sit and whine/wail longer than I would imagine anyone would do that. Part of it is his headstrong attitude but some of it is simply his choice.

I think if we knew how much better life would be if we would get out of a situation, we'd choose that. However, for whatever reason, we choose to stay in the situations and it ends up wasting too much of our life that we cannot get back.

Voltaire had some good thoughts to speak of life as having its misfortunes, yes it will. However, it is better to move through those and get back to a pleasant form of life. It is much better on the other side!

Now it's your turn...when has this quote held true to you?

Where do you find treasures? I am a person who likes to go to auctions and garage sales to look for treasures. On occasion, those treasures will be something I’ve been looking for and other times the treasures will be found in something that is being sold for “next to nothing” and I know it is worth something more. I will go to these venues and look through boxes simply looking for the treasure within. There are probably many of you who are sharing in this search to find those treasures and then there are those of you who are like my wife that want to leave as soon as they don’t see anything worthwhile.

Over the Christmas holiday, I was at my in-law’s house and my father-in-law liked to watch “Storage Wars” on A&E channel. The basic principle of this show is that people will go to abandoned storage units and bid on all the contents in the unit. The storage units are of different size, so there will be different amounts of content in each unit. Also, the participants will have five minutes to look at the unit, without going in or touching any of the content, before the bidding starts.

The bidding ranges from three to four figure prices. Once the person wins the bid, then they will come back and go through the storage unit. Within this time they are looking for any and all things that they can sell which will bring about a profit.

In some storage units there will be obvious “treasures” in furniture and other large items that cannot be confined to a box. Whereas other times people will not be able to see some of the treasures that are in the boxes and they will have to take their chances. Some units will have junk and others will have some great treasures within.

One of the keys to the show is to be bold enough to look within because just looking on the surface is not going to give you the look they need. They must be able to step past the opening and go through all the seen and unseen content that is located within the storage unit. Some are brave enough and some are not. Some will not have the money to compete with others who are bidding on the same unit. Unfortunately, some who may feel the unit is not worth much will “bid up” the unit just to make others pay more.

As we enter into 2013 what treasures are you going to be able to find? At the time of the publication, we do not know what 2013 will hold. As we have not entered into the year it is totally unknown what it will bring for us, individually. We may not know what 2013 will hold but we may also not know what we can bring to 2013. Part of the reason we do not know what we can bring to 2013 is that we have not looked within ourselves to find the treasures.

For some, it is because you have become set in what you have done in life and cannot see the potential that is still within. When you stay where you are, you are guaranteed to not go anywhere. Though that may come across humorously logical, there is much truth to it. If you want to make a difference in someone’s life, you must be involved in someone’s life. If you stay out of their business then you are definitely not going to make any difference in that person’s life.

There have been times in my life that I thought I was quite comfortable where I had come. However, a time came when I wanted to look for what God will bring about each day. I look forward to how I might be able to make a difference or be used by God in each day and with each interaction I have with people. This makes me look forward to so many more things in life. I dread less things and look forward more of what life brings me.

I want to challenge you to stand back as you enter into 2013 and look within yourself to find the treasures that you may not see on the outside. What is it about you that can bring something great to your family, your job, or your community? Don’t let the year slip by without looking for the treasures!Share/Bookmark