Major Dose of Spiritual Focus Today

It's one of those days when God has showed me that I need a major dose of spiritual focus. Much like the disciples in the boat on the Sea of Galilee when the waves began to over take them. They became more fearful of the storm than having faith in the Savior who was in the boat with them. I'm sure that everyday has "troubles" of it's own but Wednesdays for me seem to be the day when the temptation is greater to focus on waves rather than the ministry.. I cannot speak for other pastors but for me, when I prepare to preach Satan always tries to remind me of my past failures and preset stress in order to paralyze me. Non-Urgent things become seemingly urgent and past failures out weigh blessings. God simply reminded me of a few things today:

1. Look Up!: My help comes from the Lord
  • Psalm 121 - 1 I look up to the mountains — does my help come from there? 2 My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth! 3 He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber. 4 Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps. 5 The Lord himself watches over you! The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade. 6 The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night. 7 The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. 8 The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.
2. Don't Look Around - FEAR MISPLACES FAITH
  • Mark 4:35-41 35 As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” 36 So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). 37 But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water. 38 Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” 39 When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. 40 Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” 41 The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”
3. Don't Look Behind - Stay focused on the Goal
  • Hebrews 12:1-2 1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.[a] Because of the joy[b] awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. 3 Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people;[c] then you won’t become weary and give up. 4 After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.
  • Philippians 3:12-14 12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it,[a] but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
I hear God telling me these things much like coach Franks used to antagonize us linemen while driving the sled all over God's creation.  I am grateful for God's word and His unrelenting belief in me.


God In One Word

If you could describe God in one word, what would it be? This question forces us to take a moment and focus on the greatness of God. Too often we charge headlong through our lives dependent upon God to help us and work things out without taking moments to focus solely on how BIG He really is. When focusing on His awesomeness, our problems become smaller and our sins become blatant. Though this is painful, it is at this point where God can do some truly amazing things in our lives. By us taking ownership of our sins and confessing them, we position our hearts to experience the fullness of all that He is unhindered. Take a few moments to praise God for His awesome works, character and love. If you are looking for a guide, reading Psalm 145 would be a great start. I only know this because it has worked for me.


Love This Commercial of the Runaway Baby

My wife and I love this commercial. I basically posted it here so I can get a quick laugh. That "I gotta pair of roller skates" voice is haunting LOL


Veteran's Day Freebies

I received this email outlining some great deals on or around Veteran's Day this year. They are meant to thank those who protect us and serve our country. These things cannot give back all they have lost, but hopefully will let them know they are appreciated.

The following are for your information; please share with any active duty military or veterans that you know.
  • Applebee's Restaurant - Free dinners to veterans throughout Veterans Day November 11th; selections will be from a new Veterans Day menu.
  • Outback Steakhouse - Free Blooming Onion and beverage.
  • Golden Corral- Free buffet dinner from 5-9 p.m. on Nov. 16 to anyone who has ever served in the U.S. military Staff.
  • Subway is showing its thanks with free six inch subs to all Veterans or Active Duty members. On November 11th
  • On Nov. 7, McCormick Schmick's restaurants will offer a free entree to military veterans for its 12th annual Veteran's Appreciation Event. Menu picks include such seafood items as parmesan crusted tilapia, roasted cedar plank salmon and almond crusted rainbow trout. "Our Veterans Appreciation Event has become a tradition that our restaurants look forward to each year," said Bill Freeman, CEO of McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurants, in a statement. For more information: www.mccormickandschmicks.com
  • Krispy Kreme - One free doughnut of any variety.
  • UNO Chicago Grill- Free entree or individual pizza with an entree or pizza purchase of equal or greater value.
  • Coushatta Casino Resort - The Louisiana casino and resort is offering a free seven-clans lunch or dinner buffet to veterans or active military.
  • MarketPlace Grill Express - Veterans and active-duty military receive free entrees.
  • Masala Wok - The Northern Virginian restaurant is offering a free entree to veterans.
  • Hy-Vee supermarkets - The mid-western supermarket chain is offering a free breakfast to veterans.
  • Abuelo's Mexican Food Restaurants - All veterans and active-duty military receive a free entree.
  • Carolina Burgers & BBQ - In Matthews, NC is offering a free meal to all service members and veterans.
  • Brides Across America - Provides free wedding gowns to qualified military brides.
  • Lowe's & Home Depot - Extra 10% off to active-duty military members, National Guard and reserve members, retirees, honorably discharged veterans and immediate family members.
  • Sam's Club - Over 25,000 Hugo canes will be given away to U.S. veterans in need of mobility assistance. Membership is not required, but supplies are limited, so check with your local store.
  • Amazon.com - Free "Veterans Day Honor" MP3 album download. The album includes 12 songs by The Bands and Ensembles of the U.S. Armed Forces.
  • Cabela's Outdoor Store - Offers their employee discount to all veterans, active-duty military and reserves, law enforcement, fire and EMS personnel Nov. 11-12. Discounts vary from 5% to 50%, depending on the item.
  • Build-a-Bear Workshop - Members of the armed services including the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Reserve Officer Training Corps, will receive a 20% discount Nov. 11-15 on any one transaction at Build-A-Bear Workshop.
  • Dollar General - 10% discount for all veterans, active-duty military, National Guard and reserve and their immediate families.
  • Fashion Bug - 20% off all plus-size and misses clothing purchases with a copy of military ID or spouse's military ID.
  • National parks, forests and monuments - Admission is free to everyone on Veterans Day.
  • Knott's Berry Farm - Free park admission to U.S. armed forces personnel and a guest during Veteran's Month, November 1-26.
  • Colonial Williamsburg - Free admission Nov. 6-11 for active-duty military, guard and reservists, retirees, veterans and their dependents.
  • San Jacinto Museum of History - Free visits to the Observation Deck, theatre, and special exhibit for veterans, active duty military personnel, and their families.
  • Historic Jamestown - Free admission to veterans, current Armed Forces members and their family members.
  • Battleship Cove - Free admission and a special ceremony for veterans, active, duty and reservists.
  • Vicksburg National Military Park - Free admission for all.
  • Birmingham Museum of Art - Free admission to the ticketed event "Life and Liberty" on Nov. 10-11 for veterans and active military.
  • Vulcan Park and Museum- In Birmingham, Alabama is offering discounted admission through November to the park and museum.
  • Greenbay (WI) New Zoo - Free admission to veterans and their families.
  • Central Florida Zoo - Free admission to the Sanford, Florida zoo with proper ID.
  • Strategic Air & Space Museum- Free admission for veterans Nov. 11-14 to the Ashland, Neb. museum.
  • National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum - in Oklahoma City offers free admission to veterans and five guests from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Veterans Day.
  • Natural Elements Spa & Salon - In Chesapeake, Virginia, will provide free services from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. to both active duty and retired military
Anytime Offers:
  • MILITARY DISCOUNTS UPDATE: All these businesses offer military discounts; all you have to do is ask: Restaurants · Arby's · Back Yard Burgers · Burger King · Captain D's · Chick-Fil-A · Cotton Patch Denny's · Dunkin' Donuts · Farmers Boy · IHOP (20 percent discount with military identification) Java CafĂ© · KFC · Long John Silver · Pancho's Mexican Buffet · Pizza Hut · Quizno's · Sizzler, Sonic · Taco Bell · Whataburger
  • AT&T · California Cryobank · Geico · Jiffy Lube · Meineke · Sears Portrait Studio - Travel and Leisure · Blockbuster · Movie theaters · Ripley's attractions and museums · Professional Sports teams
  • Apple Computers · AutoZone · Barnhill's · Bass Pro Shop · Bath and Body Works · Big 10 Tires · The Buckle · Champs Sports · Copeland's Sports · Dell · The Discovery Channel Store · Dress Barn · The Finish Line · Foot Action · Footlocker · Gadzooks · GNC · Goody's · Great Party· Happy Harry's ·Home Depot · Hot Topic · Jockey · Lerner ·Lowe’s · Michael's · NAPA Auto Parts · New York & Company · Pac Sun · Payless Shoes · Play It Again Sports · Pure Beauty · Sally Beauty Supply · Spencer's Gifts · Suncoast · Timberland Outlets · Wilson's Leather
  • Cell Phone Service Discount - All Federal employees are able to get a 15% discount on their personal cell phones by calling their carrier and mentioning the "Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 - Discount to Federal Employees Past and Present." You will need to know the military member's supervisor's name, phone number, and full address, so that his/her military status can be verified. Use the following contact numbers:
    • Cingular - 800-319-6393
    • Sprint - 877-812-1223
    • T-Mobile - 866-646-4688
    • Nextel - 800-639-6111
    • Verizon - 800-865-1825
      • [Source: VA Frederick Service Office Maryland VSO msg. 26 Apr 2010 ++]


Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Central Truth: God grants us glimpses of heaven to encourage us as we continue to grow and serve Him.

Question: What are the +’s and -’s of being satisfied with our walk with God?

For some reason, that old song by THE CLASH, “Should I Stay or Should I Go” came to my mind when preparing for tonight. Many of us here have experienced a glimpse of what heaven will be like. During the DNOW Caswell retreat, many felt the presence of God’s power in their lives. Even those who did not attend can relate to that feeling of knowing God’s presence at a specific time. For example, when someone prays to receive Christ as their personal Savior (Forgiver) and Lord (Leader). Our temptation is to want to “stay” in that “place” for as long as possible. Who could blame us? We as humans are “wired” for worship. Should we stay in that moment or go find what other blessings God has in store for us?
Everyone was built with a God shaped void and a desire to place our affections upon something more powerful than ourselves. As Christians we know that power to be God, anything else is an idol. Non-Christians seek to worship created things rather than the creator. Trees, Earth, Animals, Relationships, Celebrities, Drugs, Alcohol, etc. Some of these things are not bad in and of themselves but when they take the “center piece” of our life, that’s where trouble begins.

While growing up, I have experienced many things that have altered my mood and given me temporary satisfaction, but NOTHING has compared to experiencing a saving, living relationship with Jesus Christ. I have not had a perfect life, but I have learned to never be satisfied with where I am at a specific moment. Satisfaction helps to confirm the ways God is moving in my life but if not dealt with can become the very reason I refuse to grow.

Illustration: I really enjoy driving our truck out on the North End of Carolina Beach. Beyond the fear of getting stuck, I love when I can put the truck in park and know that I have “made it”. Whether I stay in the cab, drop the tailgate and have a meal, or play in the water, I am happy and satisfied to be on the beach. However, if I stay in that place of “Satisfaction” I will eventually get hungry or sun burnt. I know at some point I have to leave to get rest, shelter and nourishment.

We all experience those times of Satisfaction in our walk with God, but the trap is to think we can A) Stay There or B) That all our troubles will go away.
How powerful would God be if He could reach out and touch us through weekends like DNOW Caswell but not give us the strength to handle the problems that brought us there and are waiting for our return?

The danger in being “Satisfied” is never fully becoming who God wants us to be.

Take Tony Hawk For Example:

“I started skating when I was about 10 years old. It was in an alleyway. I picked up my brother's skateboard and stood on it. I started to roll down the alley, and I yelled at my brother asking him how I turn the thing. At the end of the alley, I just jumped off, picked up the board and physically turned it around. That's how it started.” - Tony Hawk, LATimes.com, December 25, 2008

If Tony Hawk would have been satisfied at 10 years old to do that one trick, where would the world of skateboarding be today?

READ Matthew 17:1-13 The Transfiguration

1After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. 4Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah." 5While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!" 6When the disciples heard this, they fell face down to the ground, terrified. 7But Jesus came and touched them. "Get up," he said. "Don't be afraid." 8When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus. 9As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, "Don't tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead." 10The disciples asked him, "Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first? 11Jesus replied, "To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. 12But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands." 13Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.


Jesus predicted His death to the disciples for the first time. These were His followers and friends who knew Him best. Peter’s questioning spirit in Matthew 16:22 proves that even Jesus’ inner cirlce did not fully grasp who He was. I love the way Jesus told Peter, “You are seeing things merely from a human point of view not God’s.” Before we judge Peter for his shallowness, let us look in our own lives and find areas where we struggle between human versus Divine views. Do the things we spend money on build His kingdom or our own? Does our time management show to others that serving Christ is important to us? To Peter, Jesus was not making sense. He did not see what Jesus saw. Do we look at our lives through the lenses of human understanding or Divine? (Proverbs 21:2 / Proverbs 19:21 / Proverbs 3:5-6) Jesus goes on to challenge the disciples and us to evaluate what we are willing to sacrifice to follow Him. He lets them know that suffering will be a part of serving Him (Cross = Death), yet the rewards will be worth more than anything we experience here.

Jesus decides to teach three of his disciples some deeper truths of who He was. They got to see Jesus’ appearance change. What an honor! How could anything compare to that? I grew up watching the Incredible Hulk. If I had the opportunity to see David Banner transform into the Hulk, I would never forget that. Jesus gave them a taste of His divine nature to prove that whatever sacrifice they have or will make, will impact eternity. We may not get invited to unwholesome parties, rejected by the popular, overlooked by the rich or be as bright as the gifted but in the end, the sacrifice we make of His will over our wants will make a difference in our lives and those around us.


During my years in Student Ministry I have logged many miles on church transportation vehicles. I have learned a lot of tricks by taking groups on the road and also where most rest areas are along the interstates in the Carolina's. As Peter suggests building monuments (altars) to Moses, Elijah and Jesus he means well but he’s not thinking it through. What do you think would happen if I told the students, “We have stopped at the best Rest Area in the world? The bathrooms are clean, the vending machines are working and there are plenty of comfortable areas to relax in. I think we should stay here rather than going on to our mission, ski or beach retreat.” They would look at me like I was crazy. The rest area is not the destination we are traveling towards, it is merely a place to rest, restore, and resume.

The greatest trap of student ministry is to base the spiritual depth and effectiveness of its members on events, retreats and trips. If the students are struggling in their walk, lets have a pizza blast. Do the student who always come to Wednesday night need a “get-away”? Lets take them to the mountains. Please listen before you tune me out. Retreats, trips and events are crucial to any ministry, but if we place our hope in them alone for Spiritual growth, they will leave us empty. They are simply vehicles that take the Word of God (Bible) into our lives. They provide an opportunity for us to get away from our normal routine in hopes of seeing God more clearly, but they do not change our hearts and lives, it is Christ, His Word, His Spirit and our obedience that change our lives. To build our Christian walk on anything else will leave us empty as soon as our feet touch the parking lot after a trip.

DNOW Caswell was a true blessing for me as a Youth Pastor, Husband, Friend, and Individual. God spoke clearly to me during the worship sessions. I also saw God working in the lives of our teens. I can identify with Peter when he tells Jesus that he wants to stay and build an altar. However, Caswell was a rest area, not my destination. I as well as my students must get back to the “sacrificial cross carrying life” Jesus asks of us in Matthew 16. He takes the “weight” of the cross but we must still carry it. Even before we returned Sunday, I saw the fight among our students between being the Christian they know God wants them to be vs the Christian they are afraid to be.


Peter, James and John saw the past, present and future of Christianity as a whole in this one moment.

  • Moses - Old Testament: The Law (10 Commandments)
  • Elijah - The Prophets: Foretelling of Jesus Christ The Messiah through prophecies
  • Jesus relates John the Baptist to Elijah because like Elijah proclaimed the coming of the Messiah in the OT, John the Baptist did the same in the NT.
  • Jesus - The Old Testament and Prophecies fulfilled.

Jesus told them not to say anything because he knew they did not fully understand what they saw. During retreats we often see the fullness of God and spend months trying to figure out how to apply what we learn. Let us remember that God still calls us to sacrifice our will for His. At Caswell we have seen a glimpse of what God has for our lives. Let us encourage each other to continue giving our time to read His word, serve His people and share His love to those who need to hear. Will you join me?


  • Read Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.”
  • Go to a room that you are not familiar with and have a friend rearrange furniture or set up an obstacle course. Cut out all the lights and have someone cut them on for one second then back off.
  • Try to walk through the room only remembering that one glance. If you get scared or want some help ask for another quick flick of the light switch. Repeat as needed until you make your way through.
  • Talk with each other about the importance of using retreats like DNOW as a “momentary” light of what God has for your lives. You may not comprehend everything at once, but by walking through the darkness with God’s word as a light you can navigate to where God wants you.


This Will Only Hurt For A Little Bit

We never like hearing someone say "This will only hurt for a little bit!" We would almost rather not to be warned and just let it happen because anticipation of pain makes us tense up. As a friend of mine says, "Get all twisted up!" God has done both with me.  There are seasons in my life where I 'know" through God's Holy Spirit that a "strom" is coming.  I pray, prepare and brace for the lesson I am about to be taught.  At other times, without warning I am overwhelmed with troubles that were at the time unforseen.  Either way, we can be grateful that God is in the middle of our troubles with us.  Nothing touches us that He does not allow. He walks through life with us.  That's a hard concept to master, the "Soverignty of God", especially when tough things happen like health scares, losing loved ones, financial hardships, stress, problems at work and relationships.

To reject the idea that God is not involved in whatever we are going through removes purpose from our pain.  If it is going to hurt when I take a Flu Shot, I am hoping it will keep me from getting sick.  I take the shot with the purpose of being well.  It's no garuntee, but either way it helps me put up with the pain of getting it.  Here are some Bible verses regarding finding purpose through pain in our lives:

2 Corinthians 4:17 (New Living Translation)

For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!

Proverbs 3:5-6 (New Living Translation)

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. 6 Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

Jeremiah 29:11 (New Living Translation)

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.

Here is the nugget I have walked away with .. .

Troubles seek to diminish our faith, God seeks to develop it.

Let's not shy away from God for fear of being hurt but fear of not becoming ALL He has planned for us.

In Him,



I'd Rather Live A Fulfilled Life, Than A Full Life

During a funeral I heard the preacher say . "This person lived a fulfilled life, not just a full one." That statement began to resonate with me as I started to wonder if someone would be able to say that about me after I leave this earth.


Finding Strength In The Morning

Eagles are often seen as a symbol of strength and peace.  Our American heritage includes the likeness of eagles in our monies, flags and statues.  The Bible also uses the eagle analogy to encourage believers to "renew their strength in times of weakness."

Isaiah 40:28-31 (New International Version)

 28 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. 29 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

This passage promises us a few things:

  1. WE CAN FORGET: We take for granted the fact that God is everlasting.  He created us and knows exactly how we are wired. He even knows when we are weak.
  2. HE NEVER GETS TIRED:  There are times when people have drained my energy and to be quite honest I'm sure I've done the same to them.  It's great to know that God never gets tired of me, even amongst my shortcomings.
  3. WE CAN BE STRENGTHENED: I have had those days where it seemed like my strength was being zapped.  You know, a day where you are busy every minute but seem to be accomplishing nothing.  I can remember talking with God and saying, "God, You're going to have to take this from me."  I'm not asking Him to take one great burden but just the stress from everyday things.  There's no great cross to bear, just the daily grind.  Here is what I realized. The days I have where I feel like I accomplish nothing may just be the days where God accomplishes the most through me, quite frankly because I am moved out of the way.  Ironically, I can't take pride in accomplishing tasks when it's done in His strength instead of my own. That's hard for the old ego but great for His kingdom.  I would much rather people experience God's strength through me, rather than me on my own.
  4. FALLING IS PART OF THE PROCESS: Some of my greatest lessons have come at the expense of my pride and convenience.  It is in those weakest moments I feel God's arms supporting me the most.
  5. HOPE IS ALL WE HAVE TO HOLD ON TO:  Hope does not mean that we throw rocks up in the air and "hope" one doesn't hit us on the way back down.  Hope is about trusting that God will do what He says He will do.  What His word (The Bible) promises us.  Much like a surfer that paddles and waits for the right wave, we must position our lives in such a way to "expect" the wave of God's strength to come.  Hope is a verb not a noun.  It requires action and expectation.  God proves Himself to us everyday through hope.

I pray that you will find God's strength today.  God doesn't always take away our problems, but He surely can give us the strength to soar above them.  Peace be with you today and hold on to hope.

Addison Road - Hope Now music video from Jay Rogers on Vimeo.


Is "God and Country" our Golden Calf?

I received this message from a friend that got me thinking.  I thought I'd share it with you:"James, is it me, or am I crazy. I made a comment recently about being concerned about what Glenn Beck is doing. The yoking together of all these religions with Christianity is wrong. All of these religions have their own gods....none of which is JESUS. Other than the Mormon religion of Beck's, all of them are anti-Christian, but then we all know that Mormans are Jesus plus.....Jesus plus Joseph Smith and The Holy Bible plus The book of Mormon. I was watching his show Thursday (yesterday) and he was actually saying that if you do your homework, if you study, and you come to the decision that there is no God...then that is ok for you. It makes me want to spit!! I think it's time Christians stood up for what they know is right!! It's not gonna be popular, but we must do it.


Yes, it is very confusing.  I think the deeper issue is the concept of "God and Country" has become a cult-like religion in itself (meaning worshipping our political forefathers, history, etc. apart from God and Christ). A belief that God looks like a right wing or left wing political figure that is concerned about government and politics while disregarding personal accountability to life a righteous, Holy and obedient life.  From my understanding Glen Beck is a Mormon.  Everyone was shocked that the rally was so unlike his TV persona. My thinking is, this is the other "Persona" that Beck wants to portray. Which one is truly him? Only God knows.  Regardless of how big Glen Beck thinks he is, the Nielsen ratings and market shares of what is being watched will make no difference when he, like all of us, are judged for what we did here on earth. Did we or did we not accept the gift of Jesus' sacrifice for our shortcomings. (John 14:5-7)

The Bible warns us of false prophets.  People will want to hear what "Their" itching ears want to hear.  (2 Timothy 4:2-4) I am reminded of the Golden Calf during the receiving of the 10 commandments (Exodus 32:1-3).  God did not answer in their time frame so they created their own god.  That is because we are wired for "worship" even if it's the wrong things.  In a way, the concept of "God and Country" has become our Golden Calf.  Yes, we do need to stand up in humility with a servants heart to share the true God that so many misrepresent and miscommunicate.   I am reminded of the fact that regardless of what our partisanship is, God places our rulers over us whether they are Christians or not.  They deal God's blessings and judgement upon us.

Colossians 1:16 "for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can't see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him."

God still moves in the heart of His believers and His hand is still upon us.  Be encouraged and continue to spread His real message of the gospel. (Jesus being born of a virgin, living without sin, dying for our sins, and bringing us back into a relationship with God our creator).

The Lord isn’t really being slow about His promise, as some people think. No, He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. (2 Peter 3:9)


The Question Is Not If, but When?

It seems we have "dodged" a bullet here in the coastal region of NC. Some areas of the Outer Banks of NC were hit with strong wind and rain but I did not even see a drop of rain or gust of winds in Wilmington. I am not complaining by any stretch of the imagination. I am very grateful that we were spared. The danger becomes complacency. I, as well as others may not take warnings and forecasts of future hurricanes as seriously. What do we do when the storms we endure are not tropical depressions but trials within our own life?  What do we do when we are in the storms of life that no one could have predicted?  Matthew 5:45 reads,"For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike." Storms do come into our lives and whether we believe in Jesus Christ as the Savior and Lord of our life or not we have to endure them.  As I tell myself often, God causes it to rain on everyone however, He is my umbrella.  Others may say my religion or belief in God is a crutch but to that I respond "Absolutely!"  I spent the first half of my life trying to do things on my own and failing miserably.  I found strength, wisdom and staying power when Christ came into my life.  He did not take away the storms, but I am still standing through His grace. Sometimes even on crutches :)

I guess the thing God has really blown my mind with is the realization that He is truly "with" me whether it be in the darkest corners of my own heart or the mountains of His goodness as He works through and around me.  I'm not sure what the average person thinks it's like to be a pastor (and yes, youth ministers are Pastors too).  Some may think we spend our whole day praying, reading the Bible, and singing hymns.  That Senior Pastor's mow their lawn in a suit, Music Pastors sit around the piano with their family nightly having sing-a-longs like "The Darlings" on Andy Griffith and Youth Pastors spend their free time thinking up crazy games or ways to stay relevant with the cool trends of the day. I apologize for my sarcasm but those things in themselves are not bad yet plastic in comparison to the raw need of fellowship, wisdom and guidance from God I crave on a personal level. Anything we do because we think people expect it of us is empty, religious and ritualistic (Isaiah 64:6).  God knows our hearts and if our obedience, worship and sacrifice is true. No one talks about a pastor's heart that breaks for those who can do better but do not want to, for shots taken at pastors in order to stroke the ego and satisfy their own insecurities, or the constant yearning to make sure they are doing exactly what God has called them to do.  You see, I have been in all of those places.  I have had storms in my life like everyone else.  At the end of the day, some have been false alarms and others have left me wrecked and scarred, yet stronger and wiser.  The following passage has helped me deal with my storms and I pray that it speaks to you today:  Isaiah 43:1-7

1 But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine.
 2 When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. 3 For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I gave Egypt as a ransom for your freedom; I gave Ethiopia[a] and Seba in your place. 4 Others were given in exchange for you. I traded their lives for yours because you are precious to me. You are honored, and I love you. 5 “Do not be afraid, for I am with you. I will gather you and your children from east and west. 6 I will say to the north and south, ‘Bring my sons and daughters back to Israel from the distant corners of the earth. 7 Bring all who claim me as their God, for I have made them for my glory. It was I who created them.

When storms come into our lives, God has promised over and over in His word that He will be with us.  Nothing touches us that God does not allow or equip us for.  God brings us through storms to teach us dependence on Him. Really, would we see a need for God if our lives were perfect?  There have been times where I wanted to leave God and He has proven that He has NEVER left me.  I am stronger (not perfect) from the storms I have endured and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that more will come along.  The question is not if, but when.  I constantly hold on to "When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. 3 For I am the Lord, your God".


God Notices Us

God reminded me this morning that He notices us. Sometimes I lose sight of that fact and it is often assumed on my part. Here are some great reminders for anyone who is seeking to serve God. 1 Thessalonians 5:12-24

As a staff member of a church, I can too often expect other staff members, volunteers, teachers etc. to just do what they always do which is to be faithful to the tasks they accomplish. I truly appreciate and love each one of them, but the challenge is to love and RESPECT them for WHO THEY ARE and not just what they do to carry out the ministry. Also, God has placed great, and sometimes not so great, leaders over me in the past. Whether I always agree or not, there still must be that RESPECT factor, pledge for prayer/support, and an openness to be taught and molded as God directs them. I am thankful everyday for the staff and volunteer leaders God has surrounded me with. This was just a reminder today to not take them for granted.

Pray for the Lord to lead us to those in our pews and chairs that are comfortable to just sit, soak up the teaching and walk away unchanged. They may be the very person we will need to fight the battle with us if they get motivated. Just a reminder, our approach should be out of love for them, not hopes of what they can do for us.

I can remember the first time I jumped off a high-dive. The view from the top of the diving board with my toe knuckles turned white from grabbing on to the edge of the board was scary. I was timid to say the least. I had
friends that encouraged me, (calling me chicken), and I knew that I had great teachers who taught me to swim. The decision was mine to jump or not. Well I did and had a blast! It was fun, but I just needed the "push". Who has God put in our lives to give that "push" to attempt something for God whether it be in their family, career, or church?

We all will be weak at one time or another and we don't need someone to give us a spiritual version of "I Told You So". I envision the picture of the shepherd who carries the wayward lamb on his shoulders. There are times when we don't have the strength to walk, praise God He always brings us the right help at the right time. Who among us is weak?

Some of the toughest spiritual battles I have encountered have been within the walls of a church. I remember someone writing about seeing a bumper sticker that said "Lord Protect Me From Your People". Unfortunately, I can identify with that as most anyone can who has spent time in any church. As I look back though, often those difficult situations always gave a platform for God to work in my life and teach me more about God's love, forgiveness and patience. Just as we are to love and forgive as Jesus did, so are we to show patience. I am so thankful that people have been patient with me.

God showed me that He notices how we are treated but also how we treat others. Verse 24 reads, "God will make this happen for he who calls you is faithful." He was speaking of keeping our soul and body blameless. God is at work in my life and yours. Remember today that He is faithful and has a plan for you. We are not alone. If God has called us to it, then He will see us through it.


Having A Clean Slate

I must admit that when I first came across this passage, I was not excited about the subject.  It wasn't "Chicken Soup For My Soul".  Passages like Psalm 32:1-5 remind me of the saying "This Is Going To Leave A Mark" which is one of the many things I love about the Bible.  No matter how "far" I think I have come, it reminds me on a daily basis of the baggage I carry and the games I try to play with sin.  I like many have tried to live in the area of "sin management".  Do you know what I mean?  Saying things like I can handle it, I deserve it, I see no immediate consequences, God won't mind this one time, it's someone else's' fault, I'm the victim here, etc. (Genesis 3:1-7) Even worse is the carrying of guilt associated with the past mistakes and consequences of  the "falling short" (Romans 3:23) of God's standard.  King David certainly knew the highs and lows of having a relationship with God.  He was "a man after God's own heart" (1 Samuel 13:13-14) yet still had some epic failures. I guess the point I'm trying to make is that no one is perfect in and of themselves.  When I try to "manage" my sin, it's my way of carrying it and dealing with it.  The more I carry it, the less likely I am to give it to God (Confess) and the heavier my burden becomes.  This passage encourages me and hopefully you too.

Psalm 32:1-5

 1 Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! 2 Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt,[b] whose lives are lived in complete honesty! 3 When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. 4 Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat. 5 Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.”      And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.

I find the following truths in my life from this passage:

  1. Living a life of honesty (Clean Slate) before God brings Joy and Freedom (Verses 1 &2)
  2. Living life in a "confessed" state helps me to make better choices, live in a less confused state, love better, and not hate myself so much. (Verse 3)
  3. Trying to hide my sin and run from God leaves me exhausted (verse 4)
  4. Letting Go (Confessing Brings Freedom) I'm reminded of those who have run from the law for many years that say they are happy when they get caught because it means they no longer have to run.
  5. When I stop playing games, my guilt is gone.  I still will have to live with the consequences of sin, but the penalty of that sin has been paid. (Hebrews 2:17) This is NOT a "Get out of Jail Card".  Sin still brings emotional, physical and spiritual baggage that must be dealt with, but it encourages me to know that the "weight" of it is forgiven. (Verse 5)

To anyone who may read this post, let me encourage you experience the joy of confession.  For those who have made the decision to follow God through a relationship with Christ, remember that we are not perfect and these times of confession allow us to "shake the dirt' off of our lives.  As a youth pastor I have seen countless number of kids think they need to get "re-saved" to get that clean slate before God.  Salvation is not what they seek, it's confession.  It's living in a right state with God.  For those who have never prayed to receive Christ as Forgiver and Leader of their life, I pray you do so. Here's how!.

I certainly have not mastered what I posted today, I simply pray that it will encourage you as it does me to remove the things that may stand between myself and God on a daily basis.


Let Go & Let God

Let Go and Let God

Genesis 22:1-19

August 8, 2010
Morning Sermon from Pine Valley Baptist Church
Rev. James Strickland, Minister to Students

Let go and let God is a statement we have all heard, said and even claimed for ourselves. Pop culture drives us to make someone else to take the blame for our shortfalls and give us validation of who we are or what we are worth. If we simply let go and let God we will be OK right?  That phrase can be found nowhere in scripture. There are verses that lend themselves to that but no verse that actually says those words in that context.  This is one of those areas where we try to mesh God's word in the Bible with our skewed cultural worldview.  By looking at Abraham's toughest decision of his life, we can glean insight that can help us with ours.


Day 1 - Be Humble To Win The Prize

“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs." - Matthew 5:3

One of the most important things I have learned about walking into stressful situations is to give a good "Size-Up". In a matter of seconds one must consider what are the real issues at hand, what can be done to mitigate the problem and what can be learned from it for future events. This can be true for family crisis, church work and emergency services. The frustrating thing is that sometimes I tend to "size-Up" myself in ways that well are, how can I say it "Selfish". In recent days there is one verse that has been rocking my world every day. It's found in Philippians 2:3-4.

3 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

The first three words of those verses have been like a two-edged sword that is splitting the two sides of me. (The person I want to be / The person God wants me to be)  Yes it is far easier to "size-up" situations that I encounter rather than addressing those idiosyncrasies in my life that are merely selfishness cloaked in a plastic shell.

Jesus tells us to be poor and realize our need for him.  Poor means "Poor In Spirit" or in layman's terms be HUMBLE.  I am learning that humble does NOT mean let people run over or define me.  It means to think in every situation, how can I help others.  What gain is there in looking out for number one, when we are all called to Love God first and others second.

Today, ask God to show you areas in your life that are rooted in selfishness.  Then ask, "How can I flip this around to put others first?"  This is an exercise I force myself to do every day.  I am far from having it mastered but have seen God working in new ways.  I have seen the blessings in my marriage, ministry, and friendships by doing this. It's a hard process but so worth it.  I have realized that the worst thing that could happen would be to continue in my selfishness and get what I wanted, while missing the blessings of what God wanted for me.


True Faith

A faith that does not change the way I act in my life and towards others is not worth having.  A faith that has no power is not worth living.  A faith that keeps me bound by rules and expectations is not faith at all it is a prison cell.  I want to have a TRUE FAITH.  A faith that makes a difference in my daily life.  A faith that will be there for me when I can  not be there for myself.  A faith in something that is greater than myself.  A faith that helps others.  I faith I am burning to share with others. A faith that will be rewarded.  A faith I will die for. I want to have a TRUE Faith.

James 2:14-26 (New Living Translation)
14 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? 15 Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, 16 and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? 17 So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.
 18 Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.”
 19 You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God.[a] Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. 20 How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?
 21 Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. 23 And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.”[b] He was even called the friend of God.[c] 24 So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone.
 25 Rahab the prostitute is another example. She was shown to be right with God by her actions when she hid those messengers and sent them safely away by a different road. 26 Just as the body is dead without breath,[d] so also faith is dead without good works.

  1. James 2:19 Some manuscripts read that God is one; see Deut 6:4.
  2. James 2:23 Gen 15:6.
  3. James 2:23 See Isa 41:8.
  4. James 2:26 Or without spirit.