12.07.2012

Donna's First Day At Clemson


I am so proud of my bride Donna.  When God calls us to another field of service , she picks up her life and follows as He leads us both. Today she starts her new job at Clemson University as an Administrative Assistant in the Development Office. Thank you God for giving her this opportunity and thank you Donna for following me wherever He leads.  I love you and am so proud of you for the things you have accomplished and more importantly what God is doing through you.  I could not fully achieve God's plan for my life without you.



10 Who can find a capable wife? She is far more precious than jewels. 11 The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will not lack anything good.

What To Do When You Feel God Calling You Into Ministry

A friend contacted me the other day and asked for me to give them advice on what to do if they were feeling God "calling" them into ministry.  The circumstances that bring one to "sense" God's leading into ministry is different for everyone, but the process of seeking clarity is pretty straight forward.  Here are some tidbits I picked up along the way when processing my calling into the ministry that I shared with him.  I changed their names for privacy.

Dear John,

I am excited to hear that you feel God's leading into the ministry. There is no reason to fear this because if God is calling you to serve Him then you will not be fulfilled doing anything else. It has been amazing to see how you and your wife have grown in your faith. Growth like that takes a Godly husband and father. In your quest to find God's will for your life, look at the small things. Ask yourself questions like:

  • "Are there areas in my church where I can serve?.
  • Where does God want me right now?
  • Am I currently serving where He wants?
  • What am I not doing that I believe God wants me to do?
  • What will take the most faith for me to do?"
All of these are great questions and God will answer through His Word, Spirit and other godly people. Your wife will be a big help too. She knows you better than you do. She sees when you are happy and at peace with what God has for you. In my years I have learned that I am ready to move when my wife is. Trust her. She has her own journey with God and He gives her special insight as your help mate.

Finally, talk with your Pastor or another Godly mentor. Pray for God's direction and do not be afraid to act when He gives an opportunity. When you look at Moses, Noah, Abraham etc. God gave them a command with few details. This caused them to depend more on Him during their journey. He does the same with us. Fear is okay if it moves you to action.

Romans 10:15 (HCSB) And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who announce the gospel of good things!

I am praying for you both, let me know if you ever need anything or just want to talk.

God Bless!

James

So what do you think?  What advice would you give this young man?  What would you agree with, add or take away?

11.22.2012

Thanksgiving In Our New Home

Donna and I sat in awe as we prayed with her family in our home in Anderson, SC for Thanksgiving.  It was a realization of a year and a half pray to be closer to family and doing God's work as a Pastor.  I do not deserve these blessing but I am truly grateful. I only wish my folks from Spartanburg could have made it but we will see them soon.  I pray everyone enjoys their families this season and please remember to give thanks to God for all he has done.


More Photos Can Be Found Here

Delivering Thanksgiving Meals with Homeland Park Fire

I was blessed to be able to help the men and women volunteers of Homeland Park Fire Department deliver Thanksgiving Meals to needy people across the south side of Anderson, SC.  For six years now they have taken over on Thanksgiving day for Meals on Wheels and stepped in to help.  They do the same for Christmas as well.  By the end of the day I was blessed more than those people we served.  It was great to see families of the firefighters all work together for this.  It reminded me a lot of how Jesus' church should be as well.  A few hours of service went a long way.  Thanks again for this opportunity and memory.

Follow This Link For More Photos

10.20.2012

The Difference Between Trusting Prayer Over God

I was challenged today in my devotional time with this question, "Have you put your trust in prayer instead of putting it in God?  I have always thought of them as one in the same.  My prayers are directed toward God, therefore I am trusting in God, right?

"The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack."

If I were to go visit a farm with sheep, I would hear their endless bleating that would be nothing short of annoying to me.  The picture here in scripture is that of the Good Shepherd (John 10:11) knowing each sheep's voice and understanding everything they say.  I understand now the challenge of the question I posed earlier.  Prayer is absolutely essential to our Christian walk.  Just as a sheep makes noise for the shepherd, we do the same to God when we pray.  We express ourselves though prayer and He takes care of us as He sees best.  What is "good" for us, is not necessarily comfortable. To simply put faith in the words we say make us religious. To put faith in God yet never pray to Him makes us distant and self-sufficient.

Remember, a great prayer life is due to our great God and that alone.  We do not have to say a perfect prayer, we simply need to share our heart with God.  He alone is our shepherd.  If you have prayed, have faith that He has heard your cry, He knows your heart, and He will act in your best interest in His time.  Prayer makes a difference because of the one true God we pray to.



If you ever want an intense devotional, check out "The Experience: A Devotional and Journal" by Henry and Richard Blackaby.  They constantly stretch and challenge me in my understanding of God's love and will for my life.

10.19.2012

Last Trip To Salt Works For Awhile

Donna and I went for lunch at The Original Salt Works of Wilmington today. I learned early in my time at Pine Valley that this place was a local favorite.  I have had some great meals with some great friends here. This will definitely be on the must go to list when we visit.  If you ever go try the double cheeseburger special or hot dogs. Also, bring cash because that is all they take.


10.14.2012

Where Ever He Leads I Will Go


Today was bitter sweet as I read my resignation letter to Pine Valley Church. I cannot begin to cover all the ways I have seen God move in the lives of myself and others.  God's calling for me to step out of student ministry into the role of Senior Pastor has been a long but definite process.  I look forward to posting more later about this process. For now, please pray for Donna and I as we embark on this new journey together.

My Resignation Letter

To Pastor Chuck Love and our Pine Valley Baptist Church Family,

I have learned very early in life that there is one true God.  As a minister of the gospel I treasure each day I have to serve Him and count it as an honor and privilege.  Through the years I have come to know His presence and leading in greater portions.  2001 was a great year for Donna and I because we felt His leading to Pine Valley Baptist Church.  The almost 12 years have been life changing for us both.  The youth, their families and church family as a whole have left an indelible impression on us.  The same leading that brought us to Pine Valley Baptist Church is moving again.  

Homeland Park Baptist Church in Anderson, SC has called me to be their Senior Pastor beginning in November.  This decision was neither easy nor sudden.  It is with an anxious yet heavy heart that I inform you that as of today (October 14, 2012), I am resigning as the Minister of Students at Pine Valley Baptist church and giving two-weeks notice.  Our final day with you will be on October 28th, 2012.

God has used all of you to prepare me for this calling.  He has confirmed in our hearts that the time to move is now.  Just as God is calling us to Anderson, He will be with you, too.  His ways are not our ways and His way is perfect.

23 Peace to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Grace be with all who have undying love for our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 6:23-24)

Sincerely,


Rev. James Strickland

9.25.2012

Lessons Learned From A Trust Fall

Trust Falls and team exercises are a staples in youth ministry and organizations where a leader wants teach and illustrate trust.  If you are unfamiliar with the concept, one person climbs to a higher height than a group and falls backwards.  A group promises to catch the them when they fall backwards blindly.  I specifically remember one of the many youth groups I took to Awanita Valley that involved a trust fall.  This retreat center had a leadership/low-ropes course that I used with our group to build a "team" concept in the group.  Some of the lessons we learned were:

  • One person's actions impact an entire group
  • Not everyone can or should be a leader even if they are the loudest
  • Most leaps of faith do not make sense
  • Trusting in others is uncomfortable and does not come easy
  • There is peace, love and harmony when trust is proven.
These concepts are still true today in any organization.

Leadership Requires Not Only Trust In What You Teach But Trust In Who You Are Teaching

After all the youth had fell from the platform and experienced that brief moment of "I have no control, I hope they catch me", some of the over eager high school boys said, "Ok, James, now its your turn!".  I thought what are they talking about?  I had already let all the youth go and I assisted in catching each one.  They persisted, "You climb up there and fall, we will catch you!"  Now I am not a physics major but I knew I had over 150 pounds on these guys and even more on the girls.  (Weight x mass x velocity) You get the picture. I could either explain my way out of this or take the opportunity to show that I not only believed in what I was preaching but that I trusted and believed in them.  I am sure God was chuckling at this point.  He definitely has a sense of humor.

I climbed up on the 4 foot pedestal with my back turned to the group. I could hear the guys bracing for the impact and some of the girls thinking "This is crazy" but trusting the guys regardless.  I said my prayers, took a breath and fell backwards.  I experienced a moment for what seemed to be an eternity.  It felt like I was in a state of suspended animation like the Matrix. I could not save myself.  I thought, "What ever happens, happens and I must trust God and this group of daring youth to catch me."  Falling into their arms was such an expression of God's love for me and their love for me.  I learned they were not going to let me get hurt.  That was a milestone in my ministry.  Many of those youth have grown and have their own families now.  I wonder if they ever remember that day where they did something that did not make sense?  Regardless, I will never forget them and the way God spoke to me through them.

Psalm 138:8  The LORD will work out his plans for my life— for your faithful love, O LORD, endures forever. Don’t abandon me, for you made me. 

Still to this day I find myself "Trust Falling" into God's will for my life  Do you? Do you find yourself trusting God when it does not make sense?  Is He calling you out of your comfort zone?  We can make plans but they rarely involve trust, sacrifice and faith.  We usually cater to our strengths but by doing this we only realize how weak we really are. If you want to learn more about God's love, trust Him when it does not make sense.  Remember He will NOT let you go. He will not abandon you and that His plans for your life are fueled by His compassion and love.

9.10.2012

This Seat is Taken

During the 2012 Republican National Convention, Clint Eastwood (Actor) directed his conversation to an empty chair which was to symbolize current President Barack Obama.  


Barak Obama replied via his twitter account with this picture saying "This seat's taken"

I share this not to go on a political rant on either party but to talk for a moment about the "seat" of the President.  Quite arguably the seat behind the desk of the oval office is the most powerful seat in the world.  Whether we agree with the person behind the desk or not, they are in charge. 

I was reminded this morning of an even more important seat.  That seat is the throne of our lives.  Who or what do we let sit in the center of our lives and make the call on what we believe, how we should react or where we should place our devotion?  God tells us plainly in Exodus 20:3 that He is to be in our seat. The center of our lives.  It is saved, made and reserved By Him for Him alone.

Exodus 20:3
"You must not have an other god but me"
(New Living Translation)

When we value things or the approval of others OVER God's will then they become our idol.  When the opinions of friends cause us to ignore and out right violate God's word we give them god-status in our lives.  We give them "The Seat".  If we are not careful we can elevate good people, loved ones, supervisors, church work, etc. over God's will for our lives.  God is a jealous God! He wants, demands and deserves to be number one. When God is first, everything else falls into place. When a car is being built there is only ONE driver's seat. When God created us, He designed the seat of our heart for Himself. Remember that seat is taken!

Who or what is sitting in "the seat" of your life?

8.27.2012

College Students Are Getting Focused on Thursday Nights


I am so thrilled to be a part of our church's new outreach. To see students move from our youth ministry into college is a beautiful thing.  They have a passion for God, their friends and for people to know Him. Moved cannot begin to explain how I feel.  We are part of something that is bigger than any one person.  If you are a college student or college aged, there is a place for you. I hope to see you here! 


Each Week On Thursday Nights Starting September 6 @ 7:00pm


Worship will be led by Psalm 33


[Links]

8.15.2012

Please Pray For These Vandals

I arrived this morning to find someone had vandalized our church van and the doors of our welcome center.  My first thought was anger towards those who had carried out this cowardly act.  I mean really, spray painting an object that does not move or defend itself while no one is looking. God reminded me, that whoever did this was not beyond His love. For me to hold anger against them would have a negative effect on me not them.  I do pray they get caught if for nothing else, us to reach out to them. We have some great church members who have already begun the restoration process for the van and doors.  Those things are the easy fix.  The hard fix will be these vandals being open to God as He reaches out to them. As He pulls them from the influence of the evil one (Satan). Dear Vandal(s), I do not know who you are but God loves you and I am praying for you.

Here are some verses to consider from God himself:

Ephesians 6:10-12 New Living Translation (NLT)
10 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For we[c] are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

Titus 1:15 New Living Translation (NLT)
15 Everything is pure to those whose hearts are pure. But nothing is pure to those who are corrupt and unbelieving, because their minds and consciences are corrupted.

Matthew 5:43-48 New Living Translation (NLT)
43 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’[a] and hate your enemy. 44 But I say, love your enemies![b] Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. 46 If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. 47 If you are kind only to your friends,[c] how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. 48 But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.

What are your thoughts? Comment Below.

7.30.2012

The Blessings of A Thorn



God always knows exactly what I need to hear when I seek Him. Have you found the same to be true in your life?  I know for myself I felt weak this morning, not in strength but in spirit. You may know that feeling too.  The projects, deadlines, opportunities, relationships, lives and dreams we carry with us can be used against us when viewed in our own strength rather than God's.  He reminded me today that I am at my strongest when I am weak.  Here are some insights from this mornings, passage:


2 Corinthians 12:7-10


7 even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. 8 Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. 9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.


As a pastor, I have the awesome privilege of speaking on God's behalf and interacting with people as they walk through life.  I share the good news. When a person truly takes hold of this life changing gospel, their life is radically changed .  It would be easy, (but wrong) to think that my ability had any influence on those decisions.  Paul reminds us in verse 7 that adversity prevents us from becoming proud.  Yes, the blessing of thorn is that it forces us to focus not on our inability to remove it but God's ability to give us the strength to endure.  Each time Paul asked God to remove the thorn from his life God said, "My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness."  You see, thorns bring us to submission knowing that we need God's strength over our own.  Paul takes it one step further by "taking pleasure" in his weakness.


Application:


Nothing touches our lives that God does not allow, whether it be from Him or a result of our actions.  Each hardship forces us to depend on Him over self-reliance.  God has reminded me today that the thorns I carry are there to draw my dependence on Him rather than myself.  I am weak but praise God in Him I am strong.  This was just what I needed today.  If this encouraged you or you have comments I encourage you to leave them here.  Thank you for reading and may God give you strength today.

Inspired by Richard and Henry Blackaby's book entitled, "The Experience: Day by Day with God: A Devotional and Journal".

7.22.2012

Saving Faith


 


What kind of faith gives proof that one is really a Christian and follower of Christ?


Too often we measure ourselves and others spirituality by actions alone. James saw the early church was becoming more enamored with themselves rather than following Christ. If our faith is rooted in anything other than a love for Jesus Christ and the desire to obey Him then our walk becomes plastic and lifeless. Hear James, the half-brother of Jesus share with us his concern and love for those whose focus has shifted from their relationship with Christ to being religious.


Text: James 2:14-26
Pine Valley Baptist Church
July 22, 2012 @ 10:30 am

6.17.2012

Happy Father's Day Dad

Wayne & Connie Strickland (2012)
I am so fortunate to have a father who has loved me from the first day I came into this world. Wayne and Connie Strickland adopted me while I was still in the intensive care unit.  I was born premature and weighed just over four pounds.  He was a truck driver so I remember that when he was home, it was for days at a time. Also, he was gone for days at a time but Mom certainly held her own.  Dad would make sure we had plenty of things to do, whether it be taking weekend getaways to the campground or just going for a ride somewhere, we would spend time together.  I'd like to share a few of my many memories of my time with Dad.


Riding On The Lawnmower: It was so much fun to ride on his lap and "act" like I was steering as he sang "Ole Clementine".  He made mowing look real easy as I found out the first time I was old enough to mow by myself.  It didn't occur to me that you had to go in a pattern.  He was there to fix it.


Campground Living: Dad kept us pretty busy with trips to two different campgrounds.  Fishing was his favorite thing to do.  I treasure now the times we had on the water.  I only wish now there could have been more.  One time the boat motor went out and he got out and pushed the boat for what seemed forever down the bank of the Chesapeake Bay River. That was a great illustration for what he has constiently done for me.  Pushing me when I lose power.  He has always been my hero but that day he seemed to be Superman.  I would always want to play with the campground kids, but sure enough when supper time rolled around, he would ride the campground on his red bike until he found me and got me home.


My Teenage Years: As I said earlier, my dad was a truck driver.  He worked for Mclean Trucking Company. As a child I would love to go with him to the terminal to see those big trucks and if I were lucky be able to climb in one and blow the horn.  When I was thirteen he was transferred to Lyman, SC.  We moved to Spartanburg and grew roots.  Shortly after McLean went under and we were forced with a choice.  God had begun to do great things in my life with church, school, etc.  Instead of going to another trucking company which surely would have meant another move, he took a much smaller job that kept us in Spartanburg. He and my mom sacrificed a lot to keep us there.  I will always be grateful for their sacrifices and love.


Adult Years:  My parents grew much wiser as I grew older. (Actually, I began to understand things more clearer).  I always thought of my dad when I used to drive the big fire trucks. I kind of felt like I was following in his footsteps. There have been times we have lived close to each other but for the last eight years we are 5 hours away.  I miss him and mom so much.  We almost lost him a few years ago to an Aortic Aneurysm. God and Dr. Littlefield both played a part in saving him from that. Being away is hard and I pray everyday for God to watch over them.  I know that they are in God's hand.


My father showed me what it meant to be a man, how to treat a lady and how to keep God first in all I do.  Dad if you are reading this, please know that your boy Jamie loves you and I hope you have a very happy Father's day.


ALSO . . .


Landrum and Gladys Reece
My Father In Law, Landrum Reece has been a hero to me as well.  He has faithfully served the Lord and preached for many years.  He is a constant encourager to me and help as I pastor, too.  Both he and my mother in law were widowed so it was really neat to see how God brought them together.  Actually, he was the pastor that officiated our wedding.  He continues to be a rock for Donna's mother and the entire family.  Happy Father's Day Dad!


Finally,
Don Simpson
I have not had the chance to meet Donna's father because God brought him home when Donna was only 13.  Mr. Simpson, you made and raised two beautiful daughters.  I cannot wait until we meet face to face someday. Donna and I honor you this day as well.

5.26.2012

Taylor Ending On A Good Note

Donna and I had the privilege of attending Taylor York's last concert as a High School student.  The Hoggard Orchestra sounded great!  Also, Taylor was voted "Most Likely To Take Over The World" by his classmates. I couldn't agree more.  Taylor's faith in God and love for family and friends will place him right in the middle of God's will!. We love ya Taylor!


Phillip McLaurin Came To Support His Friend!

5.15.2012

A Tool For Getting Help In Your Ministry

I have a default of doing everything myself.  Many times I justify it by saying, "I don't want to inconvenience someone", "I can do it faster", "I don't want to hear them say no", etc.  After 20 + years of ministry God continues to show me there is only one God and I am not Him. I need to trust Him with everything, especially with the administrative side of ministry.  He has placed some great parents and friends in my life that continually encourage, stretch and challenge me.  During a meeting with the Youth Committee we began talking about needs within the student ministry.  Too many times I will publish and article in a newsletter and think "I've done my part" but unfortunately people don't always read what we write (Gasp)! I have learned that one can post on facebook, twitter, email, text message, send smoke signals, Morse code (You get my point) to only receive minimal responses. There is no substitution for face to face, sign on the dotted line pleas for help.  This tool emerged from that discussion. The Big Ole' Sign Up Sheet


We picked one Sunday to have a Parent Pizza Luncheon with our families.  Members of our Youth Committee went from table to table in the meeting and Sunday School classes to recruit names. The end result was three sheets filled with names of people who wanted to help.  Some of the names were from people we did not even expect.  Next, we sent a follow up letter thanking and confirming them for their commitment. This was a great tool for us and I thought I'd share it with you.  Change it, modify it, and make it work for your organization.  Sometimes the most effective tools are the simple ones.


The Categories:

  • Wednesday Night Snacks - People who would provide a snack for our students on a Wednesday night.  Not a full meal, but something to tide them over.  Many don't eat until they get home after church.  Also, if you have food, students will come :)
  • Host Homes - People who will open their houses for Bible Studies, Small Groups, and Disciple Now Weekends.
  • $ Donations for Scholarship and Minister Needs - I never want money to stand in the way of a child going on a trip.  Many students come from single families and homes that have been hit The bonds and impact those trips have go a long way to integrating them with the group as well as affect them spiritually.  Some people just have the gift if giving.  We want to let them exercise that.  Also, there may be projects like meeting space renovation, tools etc that people may give for.  The budget still must be the main support for the ministry but this gives a leader people to go to at special times, not ever time.
  • Grab Bag: There may be people in your organization that have gifts like carpentry, canning, knitting, etc that could be used for ministry.  I like this because it opens the doors for ways to minister that I wouldn't normally think of.
  • First Call:  For those that want to be contacted first for anything.

LINKS:



5.10.2012

In God's Grip

Today is a big day for my wife Donna.  She was diagnosed with Rhumatoid Arthritis in her early twenties, and yes it is hereditary.  God has been very good to her with great Dr.'s and medicine.  Over years her knuckle has deteriorated to the point it is out of joint due to RA.  (As seen in picture) Dr. Li and his team with Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center are fixing it as I write this.  EVERYONE at this hospital have been so nice, proffesional and prompt.  Yes when an appointment is scheduled for 1:30, they see you at 1:30. 

Anyway, I know we are always in God's hands but it becomes more real when you walk away from a loved one in a hospital bed and know that shortly they will be in surgery.  Our family, friends and church have been so supportive.  We both love and treasure each one.  Our hope is to get her in the truck after the surgery and make it home before the pain meds wear off.  If you have a chance, say a prayer and we will see you on the other side of this.
James

5.09.2012

Biblical Heart Surgery


In case you did not know, YouVersion.com has a great Bible App for Iphone and Android.  While reading from the Life Application Reading Plan I came across this passage.

Psalm 139:23-24 NLT
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

What a bold prayer request of David.  He was giving God free reign to search the very depths of his heart, even the things he had tucked away.  He was totally vulnerable to God's probing.  The great thing here is that God was not exposing these things to be mean or put David on a guilt trip.  He was not being an accuser.  God was being a healer by taking those things which restricted David's heart for Him and removed them.  The end result was a heart that was "cleaner" and dependent on God.

Pointing out David's sin was not enough. When I go to the doctor and he gives me a diagnosis, it has to be followed up with treatment.  David trusted God enough for Him to expose his sin, give him the strength to deal with it and the grace/love to forgive it.  This was open heart surgery at its best.

Having our hearts in God's hands is a secure yet scary place.  I have tried to deal with my sins without God's help and failed miserably.  I join David in this prayer to say, "God you have free reign." Show me the good, bad and ugly and give me the strength to come clean.

Do you have the courage to do the same?


5.07.2012

The Joy of Praying Before A Meal

Oh for us only to be this excited over giving thanks to God for our meals. Chris is an inspiration to me. Check out his singing videos on youtube. They will melt your heart!
Here's a great resources that explains why we say a prayer to God before our meal!


How about you? Does your family pray before meals?  How about when you eat out?

4.22.2012

The Gospel Is Everything

The Gospel Is Everything

April 22, 2012
Morning Sermon from Pine Valley Baptist Church
Rev. James Strickland, Minister to Students

Text: 1 Corinthians 15:1-20
Theme: Our response to the gospel affects and defines EVERYTHING we do!


The Gospel Defined: Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said.4 He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.
1  Corinthians 15:3-4)


A) What Is The Gospel? 1 CORINTHIANS 15:1-4 


B) The Gospel Is Not A Theory, It Has Been Proven 1 Corinthians 15:5-9


C) The Gospel Changes Our Lives - 1 Corinthians 15:5-11


D) The Gospel Secures Our Future 1 Corinthians 15 :20


This sermon was delivered at Pine Valley Baptist Church on April 22, 2012 during Youth Sunday where students led the music, prayer, greetings, ushering etc.  I was so grateful to our Pastor Chuck Love and the church for this opportunity!

4.04.2012

Are You Drunk or Praying


I love when I run across occurrences in the Bible that are funny or dramatic.  This is because so many think the Bible is irrelevant and boring, but I know the contrary to be true.  There is comedy, betrayal, lust, sex, violence, deceit, love, sacrifice, redemption, salvation and more literally through out the entire Bible. So many popular movies, stories and books are ripped off from Biblical accounts. Here is an example of a scene I could really see on any screen today . . .

1 Samuel 1:9-18 (New Living Translation)

9 Once after a sacrificial meal at Shiloh, Hannah got up and went to pray. Eli the priest was sitting at his customary place beside the entrance of the Tabernacle. 10 Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord. 11 And she made this vow: “O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, if you will look upon my sorrow and answer my prayer and give me a son, then I will give him back to you. He will be yours for his entire lifetime, and as a sign that he has been dedicated to the Lord, his hair will never be cut.” 12 As she was praying to the Lord, Eli watched her. 13 Seeing her lips moving but hearing no sound, he thought she had been drinking. 14 “Must you come here drunk?” he demanded. “Throw away your wine!” 15 “Oh no, sir!” she replied. “I haven’t been drinking wine or anything stronger. But I am very discouraged, and I was pouring out my heart to the Lord. 16 Don’t think I am a wicked woman! For I have been praying out of great anguish and sorrow.” 17 “In that case,” Eli said, “go in peace! May the God of Israel grant the request you have asked of him.” 18 “Oh, thank you, sir!” she exclaimed. Then she went back and began to eat again, and she was no longer sad.

Who do you think would be funny to be seen cast in this?

On a serious note, we see the humble beginnings of one of God's greatest prophets Samuel.  God's timing is always right.  Unfortunately we usually only admit that in hindsight.  Hannah could have taken her cries to the family or friends and caused drama but, she took them to God instead who was the one person who could do something about her situation.  She poured her heart out to God and He honored that. If someone decides to get drunk I wouldn't suggest using 'I was praying" as a defense.  However, we should get so lost in our prayers that we lose sight of who is looking at us and concentrate on our creator God who is looking into us!

Hold On





This post spawned from a comment I left to a friend who is going through adversity from critics of his ministry. Here is the comment:


Dear, __________ I know your heart for the Lord. In these times hold true to your biblical convictions. Look for the truth God is showing you through adversity and people. Pray over what they say, look for the truth then chunk the rest. These times help to clarify your vision and passion as well as teach you things about yourself. The battle is to never see those you minister to as the enemy. I've never heard of a fatal sheep attack. (jk) Know that nothing touches us that God does not allow. God knows your heart and intentions. Outlive your critics and learn from the truths they challenge you with. Allow God to make this time in your lfe a win/win situation. I am praying for you. 


The Take Away


These are lessons I've learned in my 20+ years of ministry. I've been very fortunate to have godly friends who help keep me grounded in troubling times as well as mentors who encourage me to hang on, ride the storm out and trust God. Do not get me wrong, I have not mastered the handling of adversity but my experience teaches me that God has been with me every step of the way. I'm reminded of the word of "It Is Well" by Horatio G. Spafford. 


"When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
when sorrows like sea billows roll;
whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul."


The main point thought it may sound cliche' is to hold on through the storms and trust God.  He has not brought you this far to drop you. Hold On!


Here are Scriptures Than Help Me In Times of Adversity In Ministry


Philippians 1:6
And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.


Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.


Exodus 14:14
The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”


Psalm 138

1 I give you thanks, O Lord, with all my heart; I will sing your praises before the gods.
2 I bow before your holy Temple as I worship. I praise your name for your unfailing love and faithfulness; for your promises are backed by all the honor of your name. 3 As soon as I pray, you answer me; you encourage me by giving me strength. 4 Every king in all the earth will thank you, Lord,  for all of them will hear your words. 5 Yes, they will sing about the Lord’s ways, for the glory of the Lord is very great. 6 Though the Lord is great, he cares for the humble, but he keeps his distance from the proud. 7 Though I am surrounded by troubles, you will protect me from the anger of my enemies. You reach out your hand, and the power of your right hand saves me. 8 The Lord will work out his plans for my life— for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever. Don’t abandon me, for you made me.

3.27.2012

Things That Hurt Our Ministries

WYN Network Christmas Party 2011
I consider myself lucky to be in a network of youth pastors in the Wilmington area that meat regularly to encourage and pray for one another.  Each meeting brings a topic of discussion.  On March 27, our topic was:


Things That Hurt Our Student Ministry (Youth Pastors Brain Storming)

  • Poor Leadership
    • Leaders who are good people but not good with students.
    • Leaders the seek your position of leadership
  • Teen Romances (Drama from Teens Dating In The Youth Group)
  • Competitive Churches (Trying To Be Like The Church Down The Street)
  • Church Politics (Stay out of Fights and Quarrels that take away from your mission)
Jonathan Cockrell from Scott's Hill Baptist Church offered these things that hurt our ministry after our time of open discussion.

  1. Operating In Fear
  2. Operating In The Empty
  3. Operating In Spontaneously
  4. Operating Without Accountability
What areas have you seen that hurt your ministry?

If you work with teenagers and live in the Wilmington, NC area, we would love to have you in our network.  Find us on facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/WYNETWORK/

3.22.2012

Don't Take It Personal

Ministry Tip: Don't Take It Personal


Sometimes I wonder how so many people that I and other church staff help seem to forget those moments and either turn on you or run away.  It breaks my heart at times to see teens and families drift away from what God wants for them.  Even after all these years in ministry I am reminded by God's word to not take it personal when people fail you.  They like I am human and imperfect.  It's not about them or me for that matter. It is all about God. When Jesus was on the cross, He was able to say,


"Forgive them they know not what they do" Luke 23:34


As Jesus hung on the cross and stared into the same faces that three days earlier were waving palm branches and praising His name, He was able to not take it personal.  He knew it was not them but the sin within them that was attacking Him.  The same sin that caused his followers to run and hide.  The same sin that His death was about to atone for.  Don't stop loving and serving people because they hurt you, it's not them but the sin within them. It's not about them or ourselves, it's all about  Jesus!

3.20.2012

Why I Blog



No one ever starts a blog with the aspirations of keeping it out of date.  Some of my friend have even decided to stop blogging because they didn't want the pressure of keeping it up.  When I first started my blog I wanted to "be-like" others in my circles that seemed to inspire with every post.  I also, wanted to be able to express myself in ways other than the social media posting related to my ministry and events.  There are a few reasons for my blog absences. 1) There has been nothing to say 2) I have been really busy 3) What I wanted to say would not be beneficial. I see this blog more as a reflection of the overflow of what God is doing in my life and for that reason I will make a better attempt at posting here.  God is my all in all and without Him I would be nothing. He shows me everyday that I shouldn't try to be like everyone else but just focus on what He wants me to be.

Also, I included this picture of our Dog Baxley and I with Donna in Myrtle Beach for our weekend getaway.  He turned 11 yesterday. We treasure every moment God gives us with him.

3.19.2012

A Lesson From My Dog

Each year Baxley our 11 year old lab/beagle goes to the vet for his yearly check up, shots, etc.  The Vet and staff always remark about how active he is for his age. He is beginning to show signs of age as his eyes begin to get cloudy, black fur turns white and fatty tumors start to form on his body.  The vet says this is normal for a dog "his age" so no worries yet. The Vet then made a comment that forced me to tears.  Regarding the subject of Baxley aging, he said, "His body will probably give out before his spirit will".  I pray the same could be said of me.



3.16.2012

Entitlement

Philippians 2:5-7 (New Living Translation) 5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. 6 Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. 7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form.


Dear Heavenly Father, why should I feel like I am entitled to anything when your son Jesus Christ did not.  He chose to humble himself as should I.