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Who is your role model for prayer?

September 30, 2014

“He was praying in a certain place, and when He finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” (Luke 11:1)

This verse sets the scene for the Lord to share with his disciples and with us the model prayer.  I grew up learning this prayer as the “Our Father” or the “Lord’s prayer”.  I actually learned it in both Latin and English as a young boy.  For me, it was the first Scripture verses that I ever memorized.  I really enjoy this prayer and as an adult find incredible meaning as I carefully reflect on each verse found in the model prayer.

However, I must admit that it did not teach me how to pray.  It taught me how to recite a prayer but just reciting words is not necessarily learning.  I began to learn how to pray by watching and listening to how others prayed.  Just this last year, I began a study on prayer that made me realize that I could greatly increase my knowledge of prayer by studying the perfect role model; Jesus Christ.

As I read a book about the prayer life of Jesus, I was amazed at how much Jesus taught and role modeled on prayer.  I could not help but ask myself why I have not studied the prayer life of Jesus before to help me mature as a Christian.  My desire has always been to be like Jesus but I found that I was neglecting to examine and learn from Him about how to pray.

All of us learn from role models.  All of us know we need to learn how to improve our prayer life.  Why would we not ask Jesus to teach us just as His disciples did when they recognized the depth and power of His prayer life?

Personal Application:  Reflect on how you learned how to pray?  Reflect on the role models that have influenced your prayer life.  Ask Jesus to teach you to pray.

Home Application:  Discuss with your household how they have learned to pray.  Have they only been taught to pray during meals?  Discuss with them how they might use Jesus as a role model for learning how to pray.

How are you going to pray like Jesus today?

Devotional written by Mike Stevens

How are you going to “prime” your day?

September 29, 2014

“Man must not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”  (Matthew 4:4 HSCB)

Gatorade is an incredible product on the market today.  It has a dominant share among athletes training for their sport.  If you have not noticed, the brand now advertises a G series where you “prime” yourself with one product, help yourself during the game or training with the “perform” product, and then “recover” with another product.  This illustrates the importance of proper nourishment for training your body.

Jesus, in the above verse, states that nourishment for our body does not just come from our physical nature.  This verse is His reply to Satan’s first attempt to tempt Him in the wilderness.  He is repeating a verse from the Old Testament where God’s people were given this same principle.  My paraphrase is that in order to live, I not only need to pay attention to my physical needs, but also my spiritual needs.

This means to me that I need to nourish myself on the “word that comes from the mouth of God.”  The Bible is the word of God and I need to consume His word in order to grow spiritually.  How do we consume His word?  I wonder if we could use Gatorade’s method to help us train spiritually.  What if we “prime” ourselves with a morning reading before we start the day?  What if during the day, we take another dose of scripture to help us “perform”?  And then, after a long day, what if we completed our daily training with a “recover” verse?  Maybe it is the same verse and we nourish ourselves all day long by chewing on the meaning and application to our life of the verse?

 

Personal Application: Reflect on the principle of this verse.  Examine how you are providing nourishment for your spiritual growth.

Home Application: Discuss with your family how important proper nutrition is to their physical growth.  Have someone in your family read this passage.  Discuss with them how each of them will also ensure they get proper nutrition for their spiritual growth.

What Scripture reading are you going to use to “prime” your day?

Devotional written by Mike Stevens

Do we need discipline?

September 26, 2014

“For a command is a lamp, teaching is a light, and corrective discipline is the way to life.”  (Proverbs 6:23 HSCB)

As many sports fans know, the head football coach of the longhorns once again made headlines with another dismissal of one of his football players.  This is the ninth player he has dismissed due to violating his simple rules.  I am a little shocked that this is getting so much attention and it is now rumored that the NFL leaders want to talk to Coach Strong about his system.  Could it be, that with all the regular legal issues those professional athletes are dealing with over the last several years, that someone is finally examining how to correct this behavior?

The Bible has many things to say about how important discipline is to our lives.  This proverb gives us great insight to how important correction is to our life.  Discipline is training.  Proper discipline involves far more than hearing the rules (command).  It involves more than role modeling the rules (teaching).  It also must have training.  Training means that someone watches you live your life and offers correction when you make an error.  They help you by providing the “lamp” and the “light”, but also walk with you to ensure you are following the teaching.

I cannot tell you how much I have learned in my life by having someone lovingly point out to me my mistakes.  I chuckle at reflecting on how often I have learned quicker by making a mistake.  By getting feedback on my performance, whether in a math drill or in a sports drill, I have been able to make corrections to improve and mature.

This especially holds true for our Christian life.  We need to be open to be disciplined.  We need corrective training in our life to mature in Christ.

Personal Application: Reflect on your attitude towards receiving correction.  Do you see it as an opportunity to mature or do you get defensive?  Is the person giving you correction trying to just point out your errors or are they trying to help you improve your walk with Christ?

Home Application: Discuss with your household how they react to correction?  Do they like to have their tests graded?  Do they improve their test results when someone shows them their mistakes?  How does this help them walk with Christ?

How do you feel about receiving discipline?

Devotional written by Mike Stevens

Are you seeking to be healthy?

September 25, 2014

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.”  (Matthew 6:33 HSCB)

Just today I was commenting to a friend about how tired I am due to how complicated and busy my life has been in recent months.  This led to a conversation about my eating and exercise routine.  I recall that I made a comment that a renewed focus on these two physical aspects of my life would help me gain more energy.  Why do I, and maybe many of you, always seem to look to improve my physical health first and not grasp the eternal truth of Matthew 6:33?

I am not bothered by my desire to improve my physical fitness and health.  That is a good desire.  However, I need to ensure that I do not make this my primary focus.  My spiritual health is always more important than my physical health.  It does not mean that I ignore my physical health nor does it imply that I balance the two pursuits.  To me, this verse says that I should seek FIRST the kingdom of God and His righteousness.

Am I pursuing Him first in my life?  This is why I so enjoy finding time with Him first thing in the morning.  This is a guardrail for me to remember that God and my pursuit of His righteousness (His way to live) needs to come first before I can get lost in daily routine.

Personal Application: Reflect on how you are applying this verse to your list of priorities.  How can you maintain a focus of pursuing Him in everything you do?  This should include a pursuit of physical health!

Home Application:  Discuss with your household what should come first in their life?  Read and discuss this verse with them.  Discuss with them how this is evident in their lives.

How are you seeking FIRST His righteousness?

Devotional written by Mike Stevens

So Urgent..Urgent…Emergency

September 24, 2014

yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. – James 4:14

It seems that as I drive around town, there is a new Urgent Care center popping up on every block.  Five years ago, the primary urgent care center was the emergency room at the nearest hospital.  Now, we can travel right up the road and have a quick examination at a nearby Urgent Care facility that could often save us both time and money.  These new medical establishments are fitting for our culture today.  We thrive in a context that embraces instant gratification and the urgency of now.  As much as we do not like to wait on others’ response to an email or text, we often can be less than urgent to respond to God’s call to tell others about him in our lives.

This passage in James highlights the reality of how long this life is compared to eternity.  A vapor of water is even smaller than a drop, and it is so small that it is often hard to even see.  I’ve heard that if we compare a full life here on earth with eternity after life, our lives here on earth are not even a fraction of the period at the end of this sentence, while eternity is represented by the whole sentence.  As humans, we cannot fathom the forever of eternity, but God’s Word is clear that what we do while we are here on this earth directly affects our eternity.

As much as our own choices and actions affect others, our lives and the way we live them for Christ affect the eternity of others.  A few moments of nervousness or awkwardness starting a conversation with someone about God and where we will spend eternity is shorter than a blink of an eye when compared to the result of that conversation on that person’s eternity.  Is it worth risking a few moments of uneasiness to plant a seed that will affect someone else’s eternity? Absolutely yes, with all urgency!

Personal Application: Begin to ponder the urgency that is required to move us to action. Our lives are not promised tomorrow and neither are the people’s around us.

Home Application: As a family, make a plan right now to begin to minister to someone else.

Is there a way we can be urgent in our action without being overbearing to an unbeleiver?

Devotional written by Travis Hogg

Making Him Famous

September 23, 2014

through whom [Jesus Christ] we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, – Romans 1:5

Christian music artist, Matthew West, recently released a song titled, “Do Something.” The song is different than most because it starts out telling a story from his perspective about realistic thoughts and feelings that he has experienced that would go against the “normal” thought process of a believer.  Matthew gets honest with God, and admits that he woke up one day upset with God at all of the evil that seems to be dominating the world today.  He asks God, “why won’t You do something?”.  In the midst of his complaining and questioning, he hears an answer from God, “I did- I created you.”

In the passage from Romans, we read that Jesus Christ has equipped us with grace and leadership so we could live a life of obedience of faith to bring forth His name to all the nations.  When we accept Christ as the leader of our lives, we receive a gift.  He bestows grace and a desire to grow in faith, but with that gift, we are called to live a life of obedience to tell others the Good News.  This gift is not only for our own benefit, but it comes with a charge to give us the spiritual “shoes” we need to GO and tell.

There are many ways that we, as believers, can obey this charge from Christ.  It might mean teaching a growth group or leading a Bible study in your home for your neighbors.  For students, it could mean participating in the annual prayer around the school’s flagpole at the worldwide See You at the Pole event tomorrow.  It might mean surrendering a few years to serve in the Dominican Republic or starting a backyard Bible club in a local park.  God calls us in different ways, but the calling is still the same- We Must GO.   We must not merely stand on the sidelines as spectators any longer, but we have to take an active part in the Game Plan.

Personal Application: Sign your commitment right now to be obedient and go. We have been charged to make His name known throughout the whole earth.

Home Application: Going on mission as a family is an incredible way to learn about each of your family members and become a closer family unit.

Why do you think God has chosen to use us as His vessels to make His name known? What’s keeping you on the sideline?

Devotional written by Travis Hogg

Throwing in the Towel

September 22, 2014

34And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, [Jesus] said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the Gospel’s will save it. – Mark 8:34-35

When I was a child, I remember the youth of our church waving white flags while singing a song about surrender.  I still recall this image and it caused me to think about why they were waving these white flags.  Since the Roman Empire’s pre-eminence in the second century, a white flag raised in battle ceases fire and signifies surrender of those waving the flag.  Often, in life, we crave control.  We love to control our daily schedule, our finances and our relationships with others.  We enter into battles of our life-like sickness, financial trouble, relationship issues and job changes attempting to command control.  After these battles, we are left with burned bridges, scars and hurt.

In Mark 8:34, Jesus urges his closest followers, the disciples to stop fighting their battles of life and surrender to follow Him.   The dictionary defines “surrender” as an agreement to stop fighting or hiding because you know you will not win.  Although surrender is viewed by the world as quitting or giving in, Jesus issues a promise that when we give up our own lives for his sake will be victorious.

The irony of surrendering to God’s will for our lives is true freedom.  In Galatians 5, Paul writes that, “1For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

God desires that we are not enslaved by our own battles. Instead, he wants us to surrender to Him, and he will become the General, or highest-ranking soldier in any army.  I know that fighting my own battles is very taxing in all aspects of my life, and the freedom in Christ is rewarding in all areas of my life.

Yesterday, Pastor Nathan encouraged us to recognize that the first step in reaching those for Christ is surrendering our own agenda to God’s plan.  Committing those five friends to prayer and surrendering your GamePlan to His is where we will truly find the freedom to share our Faith.

Personal Application: Wave the flag of surrender. Keep your eyes on Jesus, the Word of God and there you will find your life, as designed by God.

Home Application: When you are facing a situation as a family that requires action, seek God first. Pray and ask Him to fight the battle for you. By the time you go to take care of the situation, the battle may already be over.

Is there a battle you are facing that you have not given over to Christ?

Devotional written by Travis Hogg

From the Pastor Search Team (September 19, 2014)

September 19, 2014

Dear BBC Family,

Thank you for your continued interest in the search process. We are in the final stretch of establishing the necessary administrative requirements mentioned in previous updates. Following this, we will be communicating the details for gathering your input on the “qualities and attributes” of the pastor (for QUALIFICATIONS and DUTIES of the Pastor, see Bylaws).

In addition, we wanted to share that we are praying throughout the week as a team requesting God to reveal His choice. In this effort, we ask for your consideration in praying for deep spiritual cleansing and fullness of the Holy Spirit for each team member:

Psalm 66:18 “If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.”

 

John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

Finally, thank you for those who have, and continue to commit, in bathing this journey and the team in prayer as we work to complete the task before us. We trust in the scriptural promises of intercessory prayer and continue to feel its influences – that the Lord will be glorified by His collective, believing body.

Should you have any questions, concerns, or encouragements, please feel free to drop us an email at pst@bbcfamily.com.

In Christ,
Pastor Search Team

Lose the Dross

September 19, 2014

1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.2Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

When a metallurgist works on a piece, the tradesman’s aim is to produce a product that is pure.  The process for purifying precious metals involves applying extreme heat to melt the metal.  When the metal is melted, all of the impurities, known as “dross”, surfaces to the top. The metallurgist then skims away the dross so the remainder is pure metal.  Sometimes God puts us through heated battles or situations to clear the dross in our own lives and clear away the trash.

In this passage, Jesus is speaking and equates us to branches on a vine. It is not clear what kind of specific fruit we are to be producing, but what is important is that we are to be producing. Many people point towards Galatians 5 to reveal what fruit we are to be producing, “the Fruit of the Spirit.”

22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

What is clear is that in the areas we are not producing he prunes or cuts away. In the same way that extreme heat is added, God will put us through situations or trials to teach us. We will be challenged to rid ourselves of something in our lives that is blocking us from producing the fruit that God desires.

In my own life, Christ had to take away something from me so that I would be a better Christ follower because of it. My first year of school at the University of Texas I had planned on being in the Longhorn Marching Band. The week before school began was band tryouts. I had attended the seminars over the summer, I had practiced my music, and I made sure to be the best I could be. The morning of the final cuts, I took off toward the band hall on a bicycle. About 10 feet down the road, I hit a rock, tumbling down the paved hill. I was carrying a backpack with various drumsticks and a pair of cymbals under my arms, which of course alerted everyone in the vicinity that someone had gone down. I rush up and ignore the pain while picking up all of my belongings. I get to the school of music and head strait to the restroom to examine the damage. My face was covered in blood, my hands were covered in blood, and the pain-blocking adrenaline had began to wear off. I had a huge gash on my right check and both of my hands were skinned badly. After cleaning up I headed toward the tryout and found it extremely difficult to be a successful drummer with damaged hands. That day I was cut and would not be marching with the Longhorn Band.

I did not realize it then, but later I realized the impact not being in band afforded me. I became very involved with the Baptist Student Ministry where I made a few lifelong friends who would challenge me in my walk with Christ. I now see that the plans I had for my life can be very different from what God plans for my life if I do not have my focus on Jesus.

Personal Application: Examine your life and find where God may need to prune you so that you can be a better follower of Christ.

Home Application: Take a look at your family schedules and see if there is something that is preventing your family from seeking God whole heartedly or maybe there is something you need to replace on your schedule.

Do you think God wants us to know His plan for our life or does He just want us to figure it out as it happens?

Devotional written by Travis Hogg

Genuine Leather

September 18, 2014

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” -1 Samuel 16:7

When I closed my Bible the other day I noticed the small embossed letters on the back that read, “Genuine Leather.” I started to think about our lifestyles as Christians. Are we who we say we are?  In a culture that constantly tosses around phrases like “contains no artificial flavors” or “100% real fruit with no preservatives”, we can catch ourselves second-guessing the veracity of these claims. In our Christian walk, do we make claims that we are real or authentic with a heart that does not mirror the same?

In this passage, Samuel is identifying the next king of Israel and he has the sons of Jesse lined up for inspection.  Samuel hears a word from the Lord that He is not interested in outward skills, appearance or resume.  Instead, it’s the state of the heart that matters.   Some of the “outward” could be disguised as Christian literature, commentaries, or movies when they take the place of the original truth: God’s Word.

I am always up for a refreshing glass of Coca-Cola, branded to be “Classic” soft drink. In the 80s, Coca-Cola decided to change their formula and rebrand their famous soft drink. After it was released, it was met with great distaste. They quickly made the decision (thank you Jesus) to return back to the classic formula. When life gets in the way and our hearts are clouded by  imitation, we need to be reminded to return to the “Real Thing.”  Jesus says in John 14:6 that “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life…” That message is the Real Deal.

Personal Application: Since God already knows and sees our hearts, we need to be completely authentic in our devotion to Him.

Home Application: Take steps to make sure your home is not a church on Sunday only kind of home. Does your Bible gather dust during the week or is it being worn out by sharing the exciting truths within?

If people see the broken me, would they still be interested in the Jesus I follow? How can people know that our outward appearance matches our heart?

Devotional written by Travis Hogg

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