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  

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

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