Discipleship

Ten Saving and Giving Tips

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Most people want to be generous and help those in need.  The reality is most people do not give much.  Most people also understand that’s it’s important to save money.  The reality is most people don’t save much money either.  So what’s the problem?  Part of it may be understanding the world better.  Also part of it is not having a plan.

Pastor Bob Coy of Calvary Chapel in Ft Lauderdale gave this example of putting the people of the world into perspective.  Let’s look at the world as made up of just 100 people:

  • 70 of them don’t know Jesus. 30 do.
  • 30 are white. 70 are some other color.
  • 51 are women, 49 are men.
  • 80 live in substandard housing, meaning they have no electricity, running water, inside plumbing or a roof over their head.
  • 50 are malnourished. Their food is not satisfying, not enough and doesn’t provide proper nutrition.
  • 70 can’t read.
  • 1 is dying as you read this-a little kid under the age of 10. He’s dying because he can’t get enough to eat.
  • 6 have a significant portion of the world’s wealth.
  • 6 live in the United States.
  • What if you’re the dad of the kid who’s dying of malnourishment?  Wouldn’t you be asking one of the 6 wealthy to share a little for your child? Unfortunately, the answer all too often is: there’s other things to do with our money, new things to buy.

Most Americans spend their money this way:

  • 24% on housing
  • 19% on health care
  • 22% on recreation and personal needs
  • 15% for food
  • 17% for transportation
  • Leaving 3% for other such as giving or saving

Most people want to make a difference but are either too far in debt to be generous or have good intentions but don’t plan in advance to be generous or even to save.

So here are some tips on how you can Save more and Give more:

  1. Save second and Give to God first.  When we give first, then save some we don’t spend money on those unimportant things that we don’t think about.  The fancy coffee, the extra soda, the fast food.
  2. Use an automatic transfer at your bank.  Transfer money out of your checking account into a savings account after every paycheck.  You can also set up automatic giving to your church either through your bank or through your church.
  3. Be consistent.  If you save money every other week for a year it adds up quickly, same goes for giving.  If you give consistently every week and not just when your in church you end up being more generous.
  4. You might want to have multiple savings accounts you transfer money into.  One should be an emergency account, another could be to purchase your next vehicle or other large item and another could be for a down payment on a house.
  5. You might even set up a saving account at a different bank to make it harder to get to and more out of mind.  When you don’t see the money in your checking account or in your wallet you won’t spend it.
  6. When you get a raise or a bonus put that money in savings, give some away or pay off debt.
  7. Pray about saving and giving.  Ask God to give you wisdom with your finances and guidance on how to spend what He has entrusted to you.
  8. When an opportunity to give comes along if you’ve been saving money you can pull from your savings and give and not have to take money out of your budget.
  9. Plan in advance where you want to give each year.  Give to your local church first.  I recommend 10% of your gross income as a target.  Then plan what other non-profits you have a  heart for and what you would like to give to them for the year.  Then plan to use money from savings or budget to give to things that come up that you would like to support like girl scouts, youth group, pizza fund raisers etc.
  10. When you payoff debt add that extra money to your savings and give some away.  Or if you are able to save some money on expenses increase your giving or your saving.

Being generous feels good and helps make the world a better place.  Saving is a healthy practice and helps you to be more generous.  Start today by choosing a couple of these tips and put them into practice.

 

Five Key Spiritual Habits

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We are all busy, there are many things competing for our time and energy.  Leadership can be defined as having influence in someone elses life.  If you have faith in Jesus Christ you are also a spiritual leader, because now you are an ambassador for God.  The influence we have with people, whether it’s at work, home, school or church is often a reflection on what daily habits we have.

Jesus gave us a great example of things we can do to stay focused on the right things and keep the right perspective on life.  It’s easy to drift and be consumed by the day to day activities of life unless we develop these essential habits.  So here are five things we can observe in the life of Jesus that can contribute to our development of faith, character and leadership.

  • Solitude – This is a challenging behavior because it’s countercultural.  It is a rare and often unsettling feeling to stop doing and just be.  Solitude is being completely alone with God away from all human contact for extended periods of time. It is in these times of solitude that we can seek to refill our spiritual fuel tank, hear from God, think clearly and honestly.  It helps us make better decisions, work through grief and pain and strengthen our spirit and resolve.
    • Jesus spent 40 days alone in the desert.
    • Before he chose the 12 disciples he spent the entire night alone praying and thinking.
    • When a close friend John the Baptist was killed he went off in a boat by himself.
    • After a great ministry event of feeding the five thousand he went up into the hills by himself.
  • Prayer – How’s your prayer life?  Prayer is essential for our spiritual and emotional well-being. Regular connection with God through prayer is what sustained Jesus while he was here on earth.  For us as leaders it’s vital to be able to talk with God about anything and everything.  Prayer is the way in which we plug into God’s power, receive God’s comfort and encouragement, vent our frustrations and pain and intercede for other people.  Prayer helps prepare us for the day by focusing on God first.  Praying with people and for people is a powerful leadership principle.  Praying for your spouse, family, friends, co-workers, employees, small group, boss and other leaders is an effective way to lead and love people.  When prayer becomes a habit it becomes part of our DNA and normal way of life.
  • Bible – It’s the greatest resource known to mankind.  It’s more than a how-to manual for life, it’s an intimate love letter written to you from your Heavenly Father.  I’m currently reading through the New Testament in 60 days.  I’m on day 51 and I love it and look forward to it.  There are five practical ways you can cultivate this habit of getting into God’s Word.
    • Hearing God’s Word – That is why it’s important to go to church, to hear God’s Word and messages about how to listen and obey and put it into practice.  You can also listen to the Bible through great Bible Apps like YouVersion.  Have your spouse or friend read the Bible out loud to you, not only will you get into God’s Word it will build that relationship with your spouse or friend.
    • Reading God’s Word – There are so many great translations of the Bible that it’s much easier to read the Bible today.  I use my Bible App on my phone a lot.  There are great reading plans for all parts of the Bible.  Don’t take on too much but be consistent.  Reading the Bible daily or most days will help you lead better, even if you don’t understand everything at first.  Great leaders read a lot and the Bible should be at the top of the list.
    • Study God’s Word – This is more than just reading, this is examining and looking into the meaning and application of God’s Word.  This is great to do with other people in a small group, but we also need times when we dig in on our own.  Using a study Bible is helpful because there are study notes that explain what the Scriptures are saying.
    • Memorize God’s Word – When was the last time you memorized something?  A great way to go deeper in God’s Word is to memorize it.  Every year I lead a group of men and one of the things we do is memorize Scripture together.  Jesus used Scripture to fight against the devil and we can do the same.  When you memorize it you can recall it later when you need courage for the fight.
    • Meditate on God’s Word – Memorizing Scripture puts it into your head, while meditating puts it into your heart.  It’s focusing on a verse or several verses over a period of time.  Writing it down, reading it out loud, emphasizing different words, personalizing it by putting your name in the verse, praying the verse to God.  It’s praying while your focus on that Scripture and asking God to reveal what he wants you to know or do.
  • Trusting God – Jesus completely trusted God with absolutely everything.  In our culture we tend to only rely on or trust ourselves.  Trusting others and God is a struggle for most people.  Pride & fear fuel this lack of trust in our lives.  Many people have also been hurt or let down by important people in their lives so it’s hard to trust again.  Only in our relationship with God can we trust for complete unconditional love.  Because of God’s incredible, never changing love for us He is trustworthy.  When we understand who God is and how much He loves us it changes our perspective on life, ourselves and the world around us.
  • Intimate Community – Jesus had the 12 men that he spent significant time with.  But he also had 3 men that he was even closer and more intimate with.  It was his inner circle, the ones he did life with and passed on the leadership of the church to.  It’s vital for leaders to have soul-filling relationships with people where you can give and receive.  A safe place to share your heart, your struggles and your victories.  We need to be around people that know us well enough to tell us the truth, challenge us, question us and love us.

I hope these are habits that become a normal part of your life.  I encourage you to take small steps toward applying these habits into your daily, weekly and monthly routines.  If you do it will transform your leadership and your relationships.

 

The Heart of God

This past week I spent 6 days working with Hope Reigns doing disaster flood relief in West Virginia.  This is the third trip I have done with Hope Reigns.  They are a division of Eight Days of Hope a non-profit organization that helps communities rebuild after a disaster.

Every morning the volunteers gather and someone shares a message or devotional and we pray together before heading out to the projects.  In the evening after we eat together we have a time of worship and a message and more prayer.

On Monday July 4th I shared a devotional with the volunteers in the morning.  We had been talking about the heart of God and understanding how amazing his heart is.  Here is what I shared:

As I think about the heart of God I have to think about my own heart.  My heart is not perfect like God’s, I have stuff in there that is not good.  Things like anger, greed, envy, lust and pride just to name a few.

Of course Jesus changed everything when it comes to our spirit and our heart.  He made is possible once again to be at one with God.  To be reconciled to Him and a part of God’s family.  God’s heart is for us and His desire is for all to be reconciled to Him.

When we make the decision to have a relationship with Jesus.  When we believe Jesus Christ lived a perfect life, that he took the sins of the world on himself and died on a cross for those sins and then three days later rose from the dead overcoming sin and death, our spirit is changed.  We now have a part of God in us, the Holy Spirit resided in us.  That is when our hearts start to change.

We begin to see the world differently, we see people differently, we have a new perspective on life.  We are no longer slaves to sin because Jesus is now our Master.

Romans 8:26-28 says: “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness.  For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.  And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.  And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them”

So since we have the Holy Spirit with us and for us and in us, we have a great advantage in life.  Over time as we mature in our faith and relationship with Christ.  Our heart changes, those things that were in there begin to become less and less and we have more of the Spirit in us.  In Galatians Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit and below is a listing of those fruits and a definition, the opposite and the counterfeit.

Be filled by the Spirit:

Love

Definition – To serve a person for their good and intrinsic value, not for what the person brings you.

Opposite – Fear: self-protection and abusing people.

Counterfeit – Selfish affection. Rescuing someone but really rescuing self. Attracted not to a person, but to how this person’s love makes you feel about yourself.

– Joy

Definition – Delight in God and his salvation

Opposite – Hopelessness, despair.

Counterfeit – Happiness that come because of the gift, not the giver. Mood swings based on circumstances.

– Peace

Definition – Confidence and rest in the wisdom and sovereignty of God more than your own.

Opposite – Anxiety and worry

Counterfeit – Indifference, apathy, not caring about something. “I don’t care.”

– Patience

Definition – Ability to take trouble (from others or life) without blowing up. To suffer joyfully.

Opposite – Resentment toward God and others.

Counterfeit – Cynicism. Self-righteousness. “This is too small to be bothered about.”

– Kindness

Definition – Practical kindness with vulnerability out of deep inner security.

Opposite – Envy.  Unable to rejoice others joy.

Counterfeit – Manipulative good deeds. “Right hand knowing what left hand is doing.” Self-congratulation and self-righteousness

– Goodness. (Integrity)

Definition – Honesty, transparency. Being the same in one situation as another.

Opposite – Phoniness; hypocrisy.

Counterfeit – Truth without love. “Getting it off the chest” for your sake.

– Faithfulness.

Definition – Loyalty. Courage. To be principle-driven, committed, utterly reliable. True to one’s word.

Opposite – Opportunist. Fair-weather friend.

Counterfeit – Love without truth. Being loyal when you should be willing to confront or challenge.

– gentleness. (humility)

Definition – Self-forgetfulness.

Opposite – Superiority: self-absorbed

Counterfeit – Inferiority: self-absorbed, self-consciousness.

– Self-control

Definition – Ability to choose the important thing over the urgent.

Opposite – A driven, impulsive, uncontrolled person.

Counterfeit – Willpower through pride

So we have the heart of God in us and The Holy Spirit is active every day in our lives.  We have everything we need to live life to the fullest and to deal with anything that comes our way.

Our Identity

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This past Sunday our Lead Pastor Dwight Mason shared a great message about our identity as believers and followers of Jesus Christ.  We are Also Known As Saints – You can watch the full message here – NewPointe Community Church

When you confess with your mouth that Jesus in Lord and you believe in him and put your trust in him you are changed, and become new person spiritually.  At that point God sees you as a Saint.  In part of that message Dwight shared some very helpful info on the fruit of the Spirit.  As we mature into our identity these things should become more evident in our lives.

Be filled by the Spirit:

Love

Definition – To serve a person for their good and intrinsic value, not for what the person brings you.

Opposite – Fear: self-protection and abusing people.

Counterfeit – Selfish affection. Rescuing someone but really rescuing self. Attracted not to a person, but to how this person’s love makes you feel about yourself.

Joy

Definition – Delight in God and his salvation

Opposite – Hopelessness, despair.

Counterfeit – Happiness that come because of the gift, not the giver. Mood swings based on circumstances.

– Peace

Definition – Confidence and rest in the wisdom and sovereignty of God more than your own.

Opposite – Anxiety and worry

Counterfeit – Indifference, apathy, not caring about something. “I don’t care.”

– Patience

Definition – Ability to take trouble (from others or life) without blowing up. To suffer joyfully.

Opposite – Resentment toward God and others.

Counterfeit – Cynicism. Self-righteousness. “This is too small to be bothered about.”

 

– Kindness

Definition – Practical kindness with vulnerability out of deep inner security.

Opposite – Envy. Unable to rejoice other’s joy.

Counterfeit – Manipulative good deeds. “Right hand knowing what left hand is doing.” Self-congratulation and self-righteousness

Goodness. (Integrity)

Definition – Honesty, transparency. Being the same in one situation as another.

Opposite – Phoniness; hypocrisy.

Counterfeit – Truth without love. “Getting it off the chest” for your sake.

Faithfulness.

Definition – Loyalty. Courage. To be principle-driven, committed, utterly reliable. True to one’s word.

Opposite – Opportunist. Fair-weather friend.

Counterfeit – Love without truth. Being loyal when you should be willing to confront or challenge.

gentleness. (humility)

Definition – Self-forgetfulness.

Opposite – Superiority: self-absorbed

Counterfeit – Inferiority: self-absorbed, self-consciousness.

– Self-control

Definition – Ability to choose the important thing over the urgent.

Opposite – A driven, impulsive, uncontrolled person.

Counterfeit – Willpower through pride

God’s Will

What is God’s will for my life?  That’s a question that a lot of people ask including me.  We can question every decision we make and wonder if this is God’s will for my life or not.  Yet as I look at God’s Word this is what I found for God’s will:

  • That none perish but all believe – 1 Timothy 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9
  • That salvation come to the Jews and Gentiles – Ephesians 1:5 & 2:22
  • That we present our bodies to him daily – Romans 12:1-2
  • That we bear much fruit – John 15:8 & Colossians 1:9-12
  • That we pray throughout our lives – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

God’s will is that we believe in Jesus Christ and then He will live in us and work through us.  God is not going to make decisions for us, but he is with us through all the decisions we make, both good and bad.  God is doing the work inside of us, we just need to focus on Jesus Christ, loving him and other people.

Top Ten Proverbs

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Recently I challenged a group of guys I meet with to read through the book of Proverbs and identify their top ten.  We all found that very challenging as there are so many great Proverbs.  So here are my top ten:

  1. Proverbs 3:5,6  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.”
  2. Proverbs 4:23  “Above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.”
  3. Proverbs 11:2  “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”
  4. Proverbs 11:25  “A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.”
  5. Proverbs 12:18  “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
  6. Proverbs 19:11  “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is his glory to overlook an offense.”
  7. Proverbs 19:21  “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”
  8. Proverbs 27:1  “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.
  9. Proverbs 28:13  “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”
  10. Proverbs 27:17  “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

If you can’t read through all the Proverbs take some time over the next several days and read these 10 and ask God to help you understand how they apply to you personally.

 

 

Letter From God

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What if you received a letter with a return address of Christ: The Universe? We may be afraid, concerned, excited or all of the above. In any case I am sure we would be riveted to the text of this letter. We need to be riveted to the text of the letter Christ wrote through John to the church of Laodicea in Rev. 3:14-22.

It is intensely personal and highly relevant to our search for intimacy. It could have been written to us. Near the end of the letter there is a compelling invitation:

“Look at me. I stand at the door. I knock. If you hear me call and open the door, I’ll come right in and sit down to supper with you. Conquerors will sit alongside me at the head table, just as I, having conquered, took the place of honor at the side of my father. That’s my gift to the conquerors! Are your ears awake? Listen. Listen to the Wind Words, the Spirit blowing through the churches.” Revelation 3:20-22 (Msg.)

Although many times we have taken this passage as being about salvation, the context dictates that it’s actually about a relationship with Christ for those who have already come to know Him.

Christ is standing at the door of our hearts, knocking. The metaphor is powerful. It means that Christ is intentionally, aggressively, passionately pursuing us. There are no qualifiers here. He isn’t speaking to a few select people, but to all the Laodiceans: the weak and the strong, the rich and the poor, those with disabilities and those that are forgotten. Christ portrays Himself as intentionally pursuing intimacy with us.

If Christ makes Himself so accessible, why is it that we don’t open the door? There are at least three reasons for our hesitation:

The First Reason: Fear

Though God does pursue us and though Christ is there knocking, some of us may be afraid to open the door. Many of us have longed for intimacy in human relationships-with our father, mother, or someone else- only to find that our hopes for intimacy were not only dashed and broken but that as we made ourselves vulnerable, we were wounded in the process. We are afraid. We just don’t know if we can trust again.

Thomas Keating, in his book INTIMACY WITH GOD, speaks to this problem:

The Christian’s spiritual path is based on a deepening trust in God. It is trust that first allows us to take that initial leap into the dark, to encounter God at deeper levels of ourselves. And it is trust that guides the intimate refashioning of our being, the transformation of our pain, woundedness, and unconscious motivation into the person that God intended us to be.

Because trust is so important, our spiritual journey may be blocked if we carry negative attitudes toward God from early childhood. If we are afraid of God or see God as an angry father-figure, a suspicious policeman, or a harsh judge, it will be hard to develop enthusiasm, or even an interest , in the journey.

We need to pray , “Lord I want to trust You, Help me to trust you. We need to grasp the truth that God will not disappoint us. He will not abuse us. He will not use us. No one who as ever trusted God and moved toward intimacy has ever ultimately been disappointed – ever.

The Second Reason: Self-Sufficiency

Some of us have the same problem that the Laodiceans had. They were neither hot nor cold, but luke-warm. They were rich and had no material needs, so they thought they didn’t need God. They relied on what they consumed from the material world in order to satisfy, sustain, and secure themselves. Many of us don’t think it is so bad to be self-sufficient, it’s not like being self-centered or self-serving. But it is a big issue to God. Christ said to the Laodiceans that though they had all the stuff, comforts, companions, commodities, they were wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.

Wow. God wants us to be rich in the right ways. He wants to fill our lives with truly valuable treasures. He wants us to have His peace, comfort, presence, and power.

The Third Reason: Discontentment

“More. If there is a single word that summarizes American hopes and obsessions, that’s it. More success. More luxuries and gizmos. We live for more-for our next raise, our next house; and the things we already have, however wonderful they are, tend to pale in comparison with the things we might still get.” Laurence Shames

There is that ever-present craving for all that is more, bigger, or better.

He goes on to say this:

“During the past decade, many people came to believe there didn’t have to be a purpose. The mechanism didn’t require it. Consumption kept workers working, which kept the paychecks coming, which kept the people spending, which kept inventors inventing and investors investing, which meant there was more to consume. The system, properly understood, was independent of values and needed no philosophy to prop it up. It was a perfect circle, complete in itself-and empty in the middle.

The Biblical word for satisfaction is the word contentment. We are called to be content with what we have since we have God-and He is fully sufficient. That doesn’t mean we don’t ever want something or that we don’t enjoy a purchase here and there. It means that we are not controlled by the passion to consume. Having Him, we have it all. Anything extra is a bonus.

Paul tells us in Philippians 4:11-13 that he had learned both how to have plenty and how to have little and in both cases to be content. Contentment is not just a reflected in our relationship to things. We can be discontent with our spouse, our job, our place in life, our education, or a long list of other things. Sometimes discontentment can motivate us to righteousness or a zealous commitment to God. This is a healthy kind of discontentment. The kind of discontentment, however, that seeks personal satisfaction and security in “just one more thing, one more experience, one more friendship.” Leads to the emptiness and aloneness.

When we hear Him knocking, it is the trusting, God-sufficient, contented heart that hurries to answer. Opening the door generates the pleasure of experiencing His promise, “I will come right in and have supper with you.”

 

 

 

That Church

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Recently I had a conversation with some people that attend and volunteer at the church that I work at.  As we talked about some of the conversations they had at work and in the community, I heard several times that many of the people they talk to about church say “Oh you go to That Church”.  Now I’m guessing that the comment comes from people that are either already going to a church or grew up in church.  The reason I say that is because people that are familiar with church tend to have a picture of what a church should be like.  I know that I had those same thoughts when I first heard about NewPointe over 17 years ago. I questioned why they did certain things and why they didn’t do certain things.  But then I tried it and was changed forever, my picture of church was wrecked in a good way.

When a church comes along that doesn’t line up with our picture of the church we grew up with or currently attend, we will question the validity of that church.  Most people’s natural tendency is to poke fun or shoot holes in something they don’t understand.

I actually love that people would say you go to “That Church”.  That means that we are getting noticed and people are actually talking about church, maybe in a way that they have not talked before.  It leads to spiritual conversations and gets people thinking.  There is no perfect church, because there are no perfect people.  As a church leader I don’t claim to know it all or have the best way of doing things.  I want to create a place where people can connect with God and other people.

So here are some things I love about That Church, otherwise known as NewPointe Community Church:

  • I love that we accept and love everyone, no matter how they look, act or where they come from.
  • I love that we speak the truth openly and often and also extend grace openly and often.
  • I love that we are trying to be a church that unchurched  people love to attend.
  • I love that we are outward focused, wanting to reach as many people as possible.
  • I love that we try to lead people to take their next step spiritually no matter where they are at spiritually.  So no matter where someone is at with God, we want them to take another step closer.
  • I love that we partner with parents to help children and students grow spiritually.
  • I love that we are a generous church, giving our time, talent and treasure for God’s work.
  • I love that our messages are relevant, real and practical.
  • I love that we focus more on people than on programs.
  • I love that we use technology to reach people more effectively.
  • I love that we have a vision to reach Ohio and beyond with the Good News about Jesus Christ.
  • I love that we are creative and willing to try new and different things to reach and connect with people.
  • I love that we emphasize leadership and taking responsibility for all our relationships.
  • I love that we don’t need to put on a mask when we go to church and can be real.
  • I love that we use music to worship God and that we play it loud.
  • I love that we are willing to serve our community in practical ways to meet the needs of people and local organizations.
  • I love that we are willing to partner with other churches and organizations to make a difference in the world around us.
  • I love that we can laugh in church.
  • I love that we can drink coffee in church.
  • I love that we emphasize connecting in small groups and doing life with others.
  • I love that we deal with conflict directly and speak the truth in love to resolve conflicts.
  • I love that we know we don’t have all the answers and are willing to learn from others.
  • I love that people can come and worship God together from all walks of life.
  • I love my church – That Church!

 

Lessons From Sheep Shearing

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I was watching some video’s on how to shear sheep.  It’s pretty interesting, but I’m not ready to give it a try.  If you want to watch click here. The reason I was watching the video’s is that I had heard that sheep have to be sheared before summer or they could actually die from the heat.  So I started researching this to find out more.

The first time a sheep is sheared it puts up quite a fight and I am sure feels like its in danger.  However once they experience what its like after being sheared they are much more cooperative the next time.  They soon discover that without all that wool it’s much cooler and they don’t get sick as easily.  So the next time they sit quietly while the shearing happens, because they know they are not going to be hurt, but helped.

As I was thinking about that I realized that many of us need to be sheared as well.  We have weaknesses that cause us to fail and struggle and overheat/stress out.  We need to have the layers of sin, bad attitudes, hurts and hang-ups cut away.  But when someone tries to do that we fight and kick and are scared or angry.  You see we can’t shear ourselves, we need the help of other people.  Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”  That is the point of accountability, caring enough about another person to respectfully shear away the layers of life.

If you want to be sheared here are three things that must happen:

  1. Take responsibility and admit your weakness – You are the only one that can decide to change or allow someone to shear you.  It takes humility and self-awareness to take this first step, but without doing this nothing will change.  I believe this is only possible with Gods help, by asking him to reveal the things we need to own and shear, and then asking for the courage to take responsibility.
  2. Raise your expectations for yourself – We talk ourselves into and out of a lot of things.  Over the years we tend to lower our standards and accept things we would not have before.  In 1 Peter 1:13-16 it says this “So roll up your sleeves, put your mind in gear, be totally ready to receive the gift that’s coming when Jesus arrives. Don’t lazily slip back into those old grooves of evil, doing just what you feel like doing. You didn’t know any better then; you do now. As obedient children, let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God’s life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness. God said, ‘I am holy; you be holy.'”  So don’t settle for mediocre, God has a greater purpose and plan for your life.
  3. Find a trusted partner – If you really want to change and be sheared, you will need some trusted friends to help along the way.  Shearing is not a one time thing, it needs to be done over and over again.  It’s the same with us, we need to be held accountable over and over again.  That’s why we all need some people that we can confess too, that we can listen too, that we can talk too.  If you don’t have someone like this in your life start praying and ask God to bring the right people into your life that can be on your shearing team.  Remember after the shearing you will feel so much better, after the confession is great freedom.

The cool thing about this whole process is that when you allow someone else to sharpen you or shear you, you can in turn sharpen and shear them.  That only happens when you you are open and honest.  If you hide your stuff it can’t get sheared.  Happy shearing!

Easter

This time of the year is an exciting time as new life springs up with the warmer weather, at least in Ohio.  Easter is also an exciting time for Christians as we celebrate Jesus Christ.  As we prepare for Easter 2014 I thought I would share some thoughts on the significance of what Jesus did that causes us to be celebrating over 2,000 years later.

  1. Jesus died in our place – This is known as substitution, Jesus subbed in for us.  He took our punishment for us.  The Bible tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:21 “He was made sin for me.” and in 1 Peter 2:24 “He bore my sin in his body on the cross.”  What happened on the cross was personal.  Jesus the perfect, sinless Son of God had your sin put on him.  All the garbage, all the junk and ugliness he assumed it all.
  2. Jesus made us right with God – This is known as justification or in legal terms we were acquitted and found not guilty by God the Judge.  Acts 13:39 says “Through him (Jesus) everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses.”
  3. Jesus made peace with God possible – This is known as reconciliation, which means bringing together two people who have suffered a breakdown in their relationship.  Jesus, by his death on the cross, gave us the opportunity to have our relationship with God healed and renewed.  2 Corinthians 5:19 says “God was in Christ, making peace between our world and himself…God did not hold the world guilty of its sins.  And he gave us this message of peace.”  So Jesus created a new bridge between us and God that had been broken.
  4. Jesus made us a part of God’s family – This is known as adoption, meaning God went through a lot in order to bring us into his family.  He considers us as his own children.  In Romans 8:17 it says “And since we are his children, we will share his treasures-for all God gives to his Son Jesus is now ours too.”
  5. Jesus purchased our salvation with his blood – This is known as redemption, which means being set free.  In 1 Peter 1:18-19 it says this “God paid a ransom to save you from the impossible road to heaven which your fathers tried to take, and the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver, as you very well know. But he paid for you with the precious lifeblood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.”
  6. Jesus satisfied God’s justice – This is known as propitiation which means that Jesus completely satisfied or fulfilled all of God’s righteous demands.  God demands holiness and perfection and Jesus satisfied that demand.  in 1 John 2:2 it says “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for our sins but also for the sins of the whole world.”
  7. Jesus sent our sins away from us – This means forgiveness.  In Colossians 2:13 it says “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins.”  God put all of our sins on Jesus, even though he was innocent and pure.  When our sins are put on him, we never see the guilt of them again.  God’s forgiveness is final and complete.

So there you have it, that is what Jesus Christ did for us.  That is why we celebrate so big during Easter, because all of this is amazing, unbelievable, undeserved and completely free.  Salvation is not by works but by grace, it’s not initiated by us but by God and its not an afterthought with God, it is his eternal plan.