Monday, September 7, 2015

The Prodigal Son

Here's a brief set of notes from 9/6/15's message about the Parable of the Prodigal Son:

  • The prodigal son basically said "I wish you were dead" to his father.
  • Rich to broke
  • Broke to in desperate need
  • Lived among pigs --> the unclean of unclean animals
  • Finally comes to his senses and realizes what he did to his father
  • Goes home
  • Father forgives without needing any explanation
    • He was on the lookout for his son all along
  • Given what he didn't deserve
    • Clothes
    • Restored in the family (given a ring on his hand)
    • Party thrown in his honor

Here's the "take away" from the whole story:

This is really a story about God and us, not just a father and his son.

  • God is always waiting for us to come back to Him, despite what we have done in the past
1) God has me in a season for a reason, and its for my good.
2) There's a struggle in every season.
3) Learn from every season, under God's direction.
4) Share God's love with those around you, because you know where you've been and where you've been brought to.

I know this is just a summary of my notes from a talk with the youth, but it's a good reminder for us all and hopefully this is a call for us all to Live life Differently

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Entitled? Because of what???

Why do people act like the world "owes" them something, just for being alive? It's such a crazy world to even begin with a thought like that, much less live like we are entitled to everything. Just a little while ago, I had a conversation with a friend about this very idea that is happening more and more in our American culture. My question is this:

Where in the world, did gratitude go? 

What happened to being thankful for the things that we have, instead of just looking for the next best thing to "fill a void" in our life?

It's saddens me, to think that we approach the Lord with the same kind of disrespect . . .that we show to people all around us. Let me make this very clear. We are NOT ENTITLED to anything. Period. End of Story.  It is only because of Christ, that we are allowed the opportunity to approach the throne of God, the Father. This attitude of, "God has to give us this, or that" makes me sick to think about. I realize that we may not say this directly, but we sure do act like it.

I say this so that we can all realize this . . .God is the creator, sustainer, and Lord of everything on this planet. HE OWES US NOTHING! In fact, if we call ourselves Christ followers, We owe him EVERYTHING!

Who of us died for the sins of the world?

Who of us rose from the grave and whipped death's tail?

Next time we think we are owed anything, I pray that we remember our place and who we are really in debt to - Jesus Christ, the one who died for every time we mess up.

It's crazy that the picture below represents so much of America right now.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

All things bright and beautiful

     It's funny how something as simple as a photograph can catch someone's eye. It can capture a moment in time, and allow us to cherish it forever.

     Recently, I have taken up the hobby of photography, and I would have to say that I enjoy every aspect of it. Making sure that every detail is just perfect before I press click on the shutter. I think that this can translate into many areas of our lives, 

     Now, the great thing about a picture is that it reveals so much more than we would have thought about a particular moment. It can bring back memories, flooding into a person's mind - or it can make the world seem as though it has stopped spinning, even for the most brief of moments. I tell you about this, not to share the fact that I recently bought a new camera, to explore my hobby further . . . but to tell you a little bit about why I love the message of photography (at least the message to me). To me, photography is expressing the many things that God sees daily, in all of us. There is drama, passion, funny moments, sad times, devastating events, laughter, slow times, fast days, and in the midst of it all . . . it's gone, as fast as you can snap your fingers. If we miss it, then we miss it . . .but really, I think it is a conviction from the heart of God, that we all might slow down and enjoy the small things in life - every simple detail.

     You know, in Genesis it talks about how God created the heavens and the Earth. He put so much detail, even into the smallest things, that we might see Him and know His love for us. He created a masterpiece that we could stare at, every single day that we are here on this wonderful planet. He loved us that much, to put the effort into the smallest of things that we might enjoy it, and praise Him with how we live. 

     I was talking to my best friend about this, just the other day and my conversation with him wasn't too much different. I was doing my best to encourage him in being strong at his particular workplace, amidst all the issues going on, but at the same time (and i truly believe it is a good word for all of us), we need to do the small things correctly. It says in the New Testament, that "if we are entrusted with little and we do well with it, then we will be entrusted with much" (paraphrased). 

I say all of this to tell you a few things I have learned about photography, and life (as it may be):

1) Slow down - If you're running a thousand miles an hour, then you'll miss the best opportunities to laugh with people, talk about good times, and enjoy the friendships that God has given to you. You can only put the puzzle of life together one piece at a time, so don't try to sprint ahead with both hands flaring . . .take your time and make sure things are done right.

2) Enjoy the details - Life only happens once, and you might as well soak it up while it's here.

3) Smile - Nobody really likes to be around someone that's grumpy or sad all of the time.

4) Don't be afraid to tell the truth - In reality, life's too short to do anything short of being honest, period.


5) Praise the Lord for all He has given for you - Kind of self-explanatory, but it's exactly like my grandmother taught me . . ."it's always better for you to use manners, because you don't look as dumb as the other people that don't."

In all reality, this list should be done in the exact reverse of what I typed it up to be, but I'll leave the ordering up to you. If you read this far, you're probably smart enough to figure out the rest.

God bless my friends . . . 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Step into the Ring, Every Day is a Fight

Sometimes life just sucks. Plain and simple. I can totally relate to this, because as I sit at my desk typing this . . .my heart is in constant turmoil over the events of the last month or so. Way too much to put into words, but I guess this will be my best attempt at anything - so here it goes . . .

Pain in our personal lives is awful to go through, and it seems that when we are in the midst of that pain, we are completely alienated; alone in the world, separated from everyone and everything that we once loved and found joy in. It's ironic that when we are hurting so badly, that we feel that no one else could understand what we are going through. How little we really understand about suffering, pain, and affliction.

It was for our very souls that Christ came and died. It was a cruel, and heartless way that He was tortured and killed for all of our mess-ups - all of our faults. He bore the wrath of God upon His very shoulders, and never "called it quits" just because it was an incredibly difficult and painful journey to death. He could have taken the way out, just like everybody else around Him. He could have chose to get off with only minor charges against Him, if He only did what everyone else wanted Him to and gave into the peer pressure that surrounded Him daily. But He didn't.

The point is . . .despite how bad it seems that my life sucks, I've got it easy. So here I sit, in the middle of my "pile of ashes" like Job. There is a difference though, I will choose to praise God, the Father, through all of my hurt. He is much larger than my problems, and worthy of my praise. Besides, I wouldn't have anybody else in my corner, fighting for me, right now.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

In Case You Missed It . . .

Here's what I had the pleasure of preaching on Sunday morning - a big "Thank You!" to the Big Man upstairs. This is only a general outline of what I talked about, because God has His own agenda when I speak.

One Heart
1 Corinthians 12:12-31
     Many parts make up one body, but as the saying goes, "You are only as strong as your weakest link." My question to you is what is our weakest link? (I showed the audience a big chain, donated from one of our deacons) I don't wanna sound too harsh, but sometimes to really finish that statement . . .we have to take a good, hard look in the mirror; Me included.
     The thing about this whole "unity" thing is that we cannot be divided - not on creed, distinction, age, prejudice, intentions, and most importantly mission. Now what is our mission? (Listed in stair-step form, starting with the first step here.)

  1. Believing in Christ (Acts 16:31) 
    • Worship --> Loving God with our heart(s), NOT just our words.
     This is the process of understanding Christ, and what He has done for us! Matthew 22:37

      2. Growing in Christ (2 Timothy 3:16)
    • Small Group(s) --> Learning, Relating, Ministry in Group(s), Outreach, Growth, Caring, Praying, Fellowship, Discipleship
     This is the part of belonging to a group larger than yourself, because we CANNOT "do the Christian thing" on our own. We MUST belong to a gropu of believers that will encourage us, have faith in us, lift us up in prayer and accountability, as well as correct us when we are doing things that are not so good for us. We all long to belong to something, so this is the next step where we must become involved in the lives of others to really grasp our faith, take hold of it, own it, and live it out in our daily lives.  Matthew 22:38     Matthew 28:20

     I asked, "Who here do you know well enough to ask them really personal questions, like: How are you doing this week in your spiritual growth? How can I pray for you, specifically? How is your struggle with ___________ going?" "Seriously, take a look around right now and answer that question for yourself." "If Jesus saw it as a priority to say as His last words, 'As you are going, make Disciples . . .' then we have to take that commandment seriously, and get involved in the lives of believers sitting around us."

      3. Sharing Christ (Acts 1:8)
    • Evangelism/Missions --> Reaching the Lost 
     It's not that people aren't hearing the Gospel enough, but that the people that have never heard about Jesus at all- they are the ones that aren't even getting to hear about Him . . .because of the way that WE act! We are spreading the "Good News" to the pople that have heard about it for years, and years . . .AND YEARS!
     This is when I described a hogs' wallow, or a muddy pit in which hogs wallow around in a mixture of their own filth, mud, and water. I asked, "If we are supposed to be 'filling our cup' with the Good News - or the Living Water - of Jesus Christ, but we were really filling it with the mud and filth from our own lives (just like a hogs' wallow) . . .who would want anything to do with us? It's like we are asking them to drink from the same cup of mud that we drink from in our own lives. We are filling this cup with mud and filth, and saying 'Go ahead, take a big swig of that good stuff!' Like really? Who would want anything to do with a church like that?"

      4. Serving Christ (Matthew 25:40)
    • Serving Others --> Bringing glory to God & Using our Gifts! 
1 Peter 4:10-11      1 Corinthians 12:4-7     Galatians 5:13
     This is the practical, hands-on approach to the Gospel; Going out, meeting the needs of people with our time, talents, effort, and good, "old-fashioned" hard work. It is so crucial in the day that we live in, that we reach out as the hands and feet of Jesus, going into the places that we have not been before- especially when it comes to our own town of St. Clair. We must not only be hearers of the Word, but doers of the Word! There is nothing more frustrating than when a "Christian" says something, and acts completely different than what they just said

"It really breaks my heart when people act like this, and profane the name of God by what they do in the public eye(s). People are looking for a reason to discredit Christ, and to never look upon the cross. We have to be more than this!"

      5. Becoming more like Christ (John 8:12)
    • The ultimate example of sacrifice, service, love, and grace.
     If we really understood what He has done for us, we would never argue about useless junk, waste our time on things that don't matter, and we would spend every moment making sure more and more people understood His free gift, started growing in His likeness, and started sharing their faith with others.

Now there is flip side to this topic of Unity . . . 

Chaos & Division
  1. Me-Centered Attitudes
    • Selfishness abounds
      2. Stagnant or Negative Growth
    • Having little to do or share with others. No connection to a growing body of Believers. No time for "feelings" or deep issues.
    • "Why grow to be like Christ, when everybody likes 'Me' just the way 'I am?'"
      3. "Hoarding All the Brownies" (Mentality)
    •  Everybody learns to share in Kindergarten, but these type of "Christians" don't share to save their lives . . .or anybody else's for that matter.
    • "These people are so consumed with keeping it all to themselves, that they end up looking like a small child that has wrapped his/her arms around a giant pan of brownies - trying to keep the goodness to themselves."
      4. Pew-Sittin' Preacher(s) 
    •  They care more about "their pew/seat" in church than going out and showing the love of Christ to others around them. They are usually characterized by a few behaviors:
      • NO smiling allowed!
      • They usually have an opinion about what the church"should be doing"
      • Bad attitudes
      • Little involvement in church activities/events
     We then proceeded to list a host of reasons that people wouldn't have anything to do with a church/local body of believers, as well as listing sins that people don't want anything to have to do with.
     After we listed these things, I turned back around and said, "If we don't want anything to do with this kind of stuff . . .but we have them as a part of our own lives we are . . ." (And I wrote this in big letters across the front of our list) "FRAUDS!" WE ARE FRAUDS & LIARS IF WE DO THIS STUFF!" 
"We can NOT spend out time acting like something other than what we say we are. Our words and actions MUST match."

I proceed to tell the group that I didn't know what the Lord was saying to their heart(s), but I do know that "We don't need to forget what we've heard here today, and I've got a little something for each of you that want a physical reminder that we are all in this together."

As I pulled out a large popcorn tin, then I had them all try to guess what was in the tin.  When I opened it, and pulled out a small army man, I explained that: "Just like a member of an army is just one of many soldiers, and any soldier that thinks he can win a war all by himself is pretty delusional about his job. There are no Rambo(s) in a body of believers, except for Jesus, and we all have to learn that we must trust and depend on each other more and more."

. . . .and this is what we talked about on Sunday.

Monday, February 7, 2011


     As the snow is melting and Puxatony Phil declares that spring is not very far away . . .We too, as a church, are about to enter a season of growth. What comes to mind, when I think about growth, is the passage of Psalms 1, in particular about hw the Lord blesses this man’s faithfulness:

“Blessed is the man who walks not int he counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.”

    Sometimes we get too caught up in wanting to grow, when the Lord may know that we are not ready. Each plant grows according to its own season, and its own biological clock – so is the life of the church.

     I believe growth is a good thing, and it shows that the Lord is blessing the faith of His people. It can also be a bad thing, when we focus too much on the numerical amount of growth instead of discipleship growth that Jesus calls us to. If we focus on the wrong things, our roots will be shallow and susceptible to the wailing of the winds. But a tree firmly planted along the streams (or closely meshed with God’s Word) . . .that’s when the Lord will allow us to prosper. 

     So continue to seek the Lord’s counsel in all things, and to dive deeply into His Word daily.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Messengers with a clear purpose

The other night, as I looked up at the stars in the sky, I noticed a light that was moving – and I realized that it was a satellite. I was thinking about what the primary function of a satellite really is . . .to relay the message of it’s sender across the world.
            In today’s techno-crazy world, we often forget about the usefulness of satellites, but I want to bring something into perspective here. Our lives as followers of Christ are EXACTLY like the mission of a satellite. Christ has given us a message to relay to the rest of the world. He didn’t say “send this message if you feel like it.” A satellite does everything asked of it, and more – because it is following the instructions of it’s operator – in this case it is Jesus that is our operator.
            As followers of Christ, we are to get HIS message out to the nations of the world, just like a satellite.
1 Thessalonians 2, verse 4 makes this point very clear when it says:

“. . .just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.”
          The message is clear. We MUST share HIS message with those that do not believe; otherwise we are not completing our mission in this world. It’s not our job to change hearts, because Jesus takes care of that – it’s our job to get the word out.