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Let Me Get This Straight…

September 1, 2014

“Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.” (Luke 15:6)

Have you ever had one of those days where everything seems backwards? All of your guesses are wrong and the right answers are exactly the opposite? That’s the way math seemed to me in school. If I was lucky enough to narrow down my choices to only two options, I always seemed to guess wrong. Maybe if I had just made my guess, and then written down the opposite, I would have done better.

Jesus seems this way. You want to be great? Then humble yourself. Want to be first? Then go last. The creator of all came not to be served, but to serve. Makes about as much sense to me at times as math…

In his parable of the lost sheep, Jesus speaks of a person with 100 sheep. 1 gets lost. Know what I would say? “That’s cool. I still have 99 sheep left. One missing sheep is just the cost of doing business.”

Wrong answer. For Jesus leaves the 99 to pursue the 1 lost sheep. And then when he found it, he rejoiced and celebrated!

Let me get this straight. Although Jesus loves and appreciates a church full of his followers, he pursues the one who is not yet his. And when one enemy of God becomes a follower? All of heaven rejoices. Apparently Jesus has as his No. 1 priority the man, woman or child who has yet to turn to him. And he doesn’t sit back and wait for them… he pursues them. He seeks. He knocks. He finds them.

You know where this is headed. If we are truly his disciples, then we must do as he does. And what he does is zealously pursue lost, broken, and distant people who need his love and forgiveness. Even if it means leaving behind 99 folks who are already convinced that he is the One.

Personal Application: Do you struggle with the idea that Jesus expects us to pursue lost folks, rather than merely tending to those already in the family of God? Are you in a relationship with any non-believers?

Family Application: As a family, who are you pursuing? A neighbor? A coach or teacher? Pray as a family for God to identify one person far from him. And then pursue that person with the good news of Jesus.

Written by Clay Barton

What keeps us from actively pursuing people far from God?

 

 

But He is So… Dirty

August 29, 2014

God, I thank you that I am not like other people-robbers, evildoers, adulterers-or even like this tax collector… (Luke 18:11)

Years of working as a lawyer taught me many things. One was how to spot flaws. My highly critical spirit worked great in identifying the weakness of the other side’s argument. Engineers too are really good at identifying potential failures. Those skills are great for lawsuits and building projects… just not people.

Apparently, there really is nothing new under the sun. For thousands of years ago, Jesus talked about people just like me. These guys were board certified at spotting mistakes in others lives. They focused entirely on the rules. And obedience to those rules. They were the Pharisees.

In the name of God, Pharisees spotted, and then separated themselves from, sinners. Liars? Drunks? Lame? Diseased? Such folks as these could never expect a friendly word, or touch, from a Pharisee. A strong rebuke maybe, but never a helping hand.

We do it all too easily. Broken, scarred, and otherwise messed up people might receive a Christ-like “bless his heart” from our mouths, but inwardly we are disgusted at them. Because they are so… dirty. So full of sin. We are really bothered by all of the stains and brokenness.

And they know it.

Pastor and author John Burke wrote that people intuitively pick up on our attitude toward them. If that is true, what does my attitude tell people about what I think of them?

Jesus came to this world to pursue such people. He chased after the lost and broken. He touched lepers. He ate with liars and cheaters and drunks. Not because he was like them. But because he loved them. And he died for them. For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. That’s good stuff! Those aren’t my words, but his… straight from the mouth of Jesus.

Dang. If that is the way Christ sees people far from him, then I must too. But it is so much easier to just sit back and judge them…

Personal Application: Do you have an “us v. them” mentality when it comes to folks far from God? What if our secret disgust at people’s lifestyles really wasn’t much of a secret? 

Family Application: Can you “protect” your family from the world, while at the same time bringing love and joy to those desperately in need?

Written by Clay Barton

During a typical day, am I more like Jesus or a Pharisee?

 

 

How Do You Look?

August 28, 2014

For we are his workmanship… (Ephesians 2:10)

Don’t you hate looking into the mirror some days? Most days? Other than self-obsessed teenagers, I don’t really know anyone who truly enjoys examining themselves in the mirror. For all I see are scars, spots, wrinkles, wear and tear. Who is that guy in the mirror? Is that how I really look to others? How can my wife bear to wake up next to that??

How does Christ see me? He says that I am his workmanship?

Workmanship?  That’s an odd word. In fact, I can’t recall ever using the term… outside of the church context.  Yet if Jesus considers me to be his workmanship, I better understand how he sees me. And you.

Are you ready for this? We are his work of art. His poetry. His one of a kind, never made before nor never made again masterpiece! That’s right, you and I are his unique and spectacular painting. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. We are precious in his sight. That is the way Jesus sees you! And me too.

Notice that Jesus sees us this way, not because of anything we have done, but because of what he has done. In other words, we are not our own masterpiece, but his. For he is the potter. He is the creator. We are his.

But this only applies to Christians, right? Surely Jesus doesn’t see everybody this way. Especially those who seems so far from him, so stained by filth and sins and scars from years worth of bad decisions. Fairness dictates that “those people” are seen differently by Christ, right? Wrong.

Every man, woman and child I come into contact with is made in his very image.  They too are his masterpieces. For the riches of his grace are immeasurable. Our view of ourselves, and others, must change. No longer fall for the lie that you are the sum of all of your bad choices. Likewise, our neighbors, who seem so very far from God, are seen by him as worthy of his love. And mine.

Personal Application: Do you ever see yourself the way that Christ sees you? Or have too many mistakes convinced you that you are beyond his love? The truth of scripture is that you are precious to him. So precious that he died for you. Can you walk in that love today?

Family Application: As your family recaps the last day, ask if anyone looked like a spectacular work of art. Likewise, challenge every family member to try to see others today as Christ sees them.

Written by Clay Barton

Have you ever viewed a person seemingly far from God as actually a precious work of art?

 

Down… Set… HUT!!!

August 27, 2014

7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. – 2Timothy 4:7

In light of college football kicking off this weekend (the first game is actually tonight), I have been thinking about many facets of the sport. Yesterday, we discovered the power behind a team, especially in the Christian life. If you tune into any sports network this week, football is all the buzz and I can’t help but be entranced by the ways that sport propels people to achieve such lofty goals and fuels every day people to achieve greatness.

These words by Paul in 2 Timothy, remind me of successful coaches like John Wooden or Darrell Royal, I am reminded of the powerful the pre-game speeches they gave to their teams in those sweaty locker rooms with nervous athletes. Knute Rockne, a Hall of Fame coach at Notre Dame, delivered a famous speech to, “win one for the Gipper,” and US Men’s Hockey Coach Herb Brooks’ empowering speech before their miraculous gold-medal win over the Soviet Union will forever remain as some of the greatest pre-game motivational speeches of all time.

As Christians, we can revisit the most famous motivational speech ever. Before he ascended into heaven, Jesus Christ left the world with parting words known as The Great Commission. He could have said anything, but he chose to say these words found in Matthew 28:18-20:

18 And Jesus came and said to them [the disciples], “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Wow. Jesus states his credibility as the Ultimate Authority, and then commissions believers to GO. We need to get out of the locker room, get fired up and GO. Go tell others about Him. Go make disciples of all nations. Go teach them about the Trinity. Go and be comforted that He is always with us.

What more could we need in a pep talk? Does this mean that we will not face obstacles? Absolutely not! Hall of Fame coach Vince Lombardi encouraged his team with this quip about trials, “obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off of the goal.” Paul speaks of a special goal in life in Philippians 3:14:

14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

When our goal is the prize at the end of this game of life, the upward call of God, then our focus will be clear. Now, it’s time to GO.

Personal Application:
What things or people in your life may be keeping you on the sidelines?

Home Application:
What are other scriptures you can use to give your family some encouragement before a big “game” or obstacle?

Can you say, “Put me in Coach?”

Today’s devotional written by Travis Hogg.

Teamwork Makes It All Work

August 26, 2014

As a former athlete in school, I still discover more positive attributes that one gains from participating on a team. Whether it is a kicker on a football team or a member of an academic decathlon team, there are so many parallels from team membership and the Christian life from God’s word.

Unity is highlighted in scriptures many times as a method of solidarity, protection and a unified front to showcase God’s love.

And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. -Ecclesiastes 4:12

This scripture in Ecclesiastes is similar to a proverbial saying, like our “Union is strength.”  If one person can make a huge difference for Christ in this world, just think of the impact several Christians bonded together can make.

Second, we should remember that the Jesus, in His prayer just before He went to the cross, emphasized unity among His followers. In John 17:20-23, He prayed,

“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.”

Evidently, the unity for which Jesus prayed was not just an invisible, spiritual unity, but also a unity that the world can see. This visible unity among believers will make the world know that Jesus was sent to earth by the Father and that believers are to be the special evidence of the Father’s love.

Finally, think of the analogy that is used when Paul compares the Body of Christ to parts of the body:

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. – 1 Corinthians 12:27

The different organ systems of the body each serve a specific function. The circulatory system helps the body transport oxygen and nutrients to all parts of the body through the blood. The skeletal system is a set of bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments that provide structure to the body while also protecting other organs. However, if one system is not working properly, the whole body suffers. Just as the body is interdependent, the Church should function similarly. God has blessed each believer with different gifts and talents for serving in the Body. When we are serving to optimal capacity, the Church will function as it should. However, when one member or part of the Body of Christ is not active, the entire Body is affected.

Personal Application: What teams are you currently a member of that are failing because you are not doing the job God intended for you?

Home Application: In your family, what is your role on that team? How can you get involved and serve in the Body of Christ for the world to witness the love of Christ as a unified front?


If God created us to work together, who are my teammates?

Today’s devotional written by Travis Hogg.

Pastor Search Team has been selected!

August 25, 2014

The Nominating Team is excited to announce the completion of the latest stage of our JOURNEY, the selection of our Pastor Search Team.  The names of those who were selected through a church vote and have agreed to serve are…

  • Steve Beatty
  • Sharmon Coleman
  • Melonie Elequin
  • Bill Hayden
  • Steve Prichett
  • Debi Short
  • Linn Strock

 

The following 2 members are alternate members…

  • Simon Garza
  • Dawn Martinez

 

We will present these 9 to the church family this Sunday, August 31, and dedicate them to God in a time of prayer.  Please make it a habit to pray for this team and their important work.

Best Supporting Cast Member

August 25, 2014

9 The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.

I’m not much of a movie guru, but some years, I will catch parts of the annual Academy Awards, otherwise known as the Oscars. It seems that most of the attention is given to the nominees for the leading roles, or best picture. I’ve often thought about those that are nominated for the award for Best Supporting Actor/Actress and how, in my opinion, that seems to be the real award. Sure, the winners of these awards are etched in history as an Oscar-winning actor/actress, but at the time, they often share the limelight with those they support. For example, Vivien Leigh and Hattie McDaniel both won Oscars for their roles in Gone with the Wind, but the characters together strengthened their roles on screen more than they ever would have alone.

 

Yesterday, our church voted on the seven members of the new Pastor Search Team. As a congregation, it is our job to play the supporting roles in this journey to find a new leader for Bannockburn. Those seven will need our prayers, encouragement and support as they meet and represent our church in this journey.  They will spend countless hours seeking the face of God and His desire for Bannockburn.

 

In yesterday’s sermon, Dr. David Smith preached on Samuel’s role in anointing David as the new King of Israel. Samuel took on the supporting role in the selection, and had to let the Lord guide his decision. He had to rely on the real King of Kings to select the King of Israel. It was a decision that no one would have guessed based on standards they each had in mind. However, in the end, we find out that “ruddy and handsome” young shepherd boy was the “man after God’s own heart.”

 

What kind of lofty expectations do we own about this next leader of our church? Have we really trusted God to put the right people on the Pastor Search Team to find the man that God has prepared for our church?

 

Personal application:

How well are you playing the supporting role? What areas of your life do you need to hand over the lead role to the King of Kings?

 

Home Application:

Take a moment to spend time in corporate prayer with your family, praying over the Pastor Search Team.

 

Today’s devotional writer by Travis Hogg.

Is it hunting season?

August 22, 2014

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. 6In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. – Proverbs 3:5-6

Have you ever participated in a scavenger hunt? My father-in-law has a special skill for writing clever clues and organizing a scavenger hunt for several teams.  In a true scavenger hunt, the ultimate destination is often vague, but with each clue you find, a little more of the destination is revealed.  As believers, this life seems to be somewhat of a scavenger hunt with a final destination: Heaven. A good set of tools are essential in a scavenger hunt.  I’m not talking about hammers, nails or wrenches, but a dash of experience, a pinch of common sense and a heap of collaboration from fellow teammates are great tools when searching for clues on a scavenger hunt.

In our lives, God gives us tools to help us find the way to certain spiritual milestones in this journey of life.  Encouraging friends, a supportive body of believers and experience can take you down a path, but without God’s word as a compass, we would surely lose our way.  In Psalm 119:11, the Psalmist writes that, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” I don’t know about you, but I would much rather have a bright lamp leading my way down a dark and uncertain path than attempting to brave it on my own.  I’m reminded of a lyric from a song from Christian music artists, Burlap to Cashmere. They penned a song about the Bible and it’s importance in our daily walk: Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth (B.I.B.L.E). The Word truly is our map from God to travel down this often treacherous, ever surprising and glorious ride of life until we reach our Final Destination.

 

Are you trying to replace the genuine Compass with phonies?

 

Personal Application:

Is your tool belt too crowded with unnecessary tools that you try to use without success? Maybe it’s time to clean out your tool belt with only the necessary tools for the trip.

 

Home Application: Where is your family on the scavenger hunt? Take a moment to write out milestones that your family has reached together.

 

Today’s devotional written by Travis Hogg.

Summertime Blues

August 21, 2014

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. – Galatians 6:9

This is one of my favorite verses. All summer long in the Student Ministry, we have been readying the students to go back to school. You may think that only applies to students, but all of us can get a fresh mindset each day. We have been pouring into students, attending camp, going on mission trips, and serving our community. The goal of all these ministry events is that the students get in the habit during the summer of seeing life through the lens of Christ so that when they get back in the normal routine they apply the same principles.

You may not of attended a camp or mission trip, but you must be ready just the same. If we truly want people to be brought to Christ, we must refresh renew our minds every single morning in prayer, scripture, and time with God.

A Christian’s outlook on life is different. We do not just work or go to school in order to just work or go to school. We are to be influencers in our environments. Everything we do during our normal day should be looked at through the lens of Christ love.

I am guilty of this very same thing. I practice my normal routine every single day. I do the same thing, I talk to the same people, see the same things. It becomes routine that a day will pass on by and I have done nothing with it.  I urge you to look at these opportunities and to leverage the relationships and places you come in contact. Spread a love that is very different from what this world can offer.

My prayer is that the body of Christ, the Church, come alive so that we have an explosion of people coming to Christ just like in the first few chapter of Acts. All because people are beginning to realize who Jesus is, what he did for them, and his love for them.

Personal Application: Think of five people you see on a regular basis that do not know Christ. Begin praying for desperately for them to know Christ and that you may be in the mindset of Christ when you are around them.

Home application: Think of your neighbors around. How can you show the love of Christ by serving them?

This devotional was written by Travis Hogg.

The Full Armor

August 20, 2014

Today, I want to share with you another one of my Trusting God techniques! It’s very simple, but very powerful!  It comes from Ephesians chapter 6.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

So here’s what I do: I actually practice putting on the armor … really! I stand up, I buckle the belt of truth around my waist, I put on the breastplate of righteousness, and I put on the shoes of the gospel of peace. Then I put on the helmet of salvation and take up the shield of faith and the sword of the spirit. Now I’m ready to stand firm!

Check out the rest of the chapter…

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Personal Application: Try putting on the armor of God! Actually act it out. Then ask God to fill you with His Holy Spirit and stand firm!

Home Application: Share this simple, effective technique with your family. You will be amazed at how much it will help all of you.

So powerful and yet so simple…Put On The Armor Of GOD and PRAY!  Will You?

Today’s devotional by Carla Dillard

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