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.