Tag Archives: Jesus

Fellowship: the core of a local church

Fellowship hall, fellowship time, fellowship church, fellowship app, academic fellowship, fellowship college, right hand of fellowship ….

Just what is Fellowship?IMG_1634

With the help of the Wycliffe Bible Dictionary and Merriam Webster I would define fellowship as:

  • Joining in membership with a local church
  • Communion together at the Lord’s Supper 
  • Giving of tithes and offerings
  • Ministering to the saints
  • Suffering together

 


Join in membership with a local church [Hebrews 10:24-25]

First let me qualify that my look at fellowship is only from the view of a church member. With that in mind, I think everyone needs to join a local church to enjoy the fellowship of a church. Thom Rainer outlined very well what it means to be a church member in his great little book I Am A Church Member. Thom says a healthy church member will:

  • Be a functioning church member

By studying God’s word, praying, eating, serving, sacrificing, giving, sharing, and ministering with other church members.

  • Seek unity in my church
  • Not let my church be about my preferences and desires
  • Pray for my church leaders
  • Lead my family to be healthy church members
  • Treasure church membership as a gift

 

Communion together at the Lord’s Supper [1Corinthians 10:16-17]

To take the Lord’s Supper you need to have professed faith in Jesus. So for those who take the supper together; we are saying to one another that we have accepted the same gift of life eternal through the sacrifice of Jesus, have given our life to the service of Jesus, and are together in observing the sacrifice He made for me.

 

Giving of tithes and offerings [2Corinthians 9:6-15]

God says we should give generously. The Old Testament gave the guideline 10% of our first fruits (earnings) are to be given back to Him. The New Testament says to be a generous cheerful giver. Does that mean only 10% – no I say 10% is only a starting point. Give to make God pleased, as much and as often as you can.

 

Ministering to the saints [Hebrews 6:10-12]

Who else in this world will come to the aide of Christians – only other Christians. It is our duty to love and help our fellow brothers and sisters. We need to minister to Christians by listening to them, helping them financially, mentally and spiritually, and praying for them.

We should be ministering not only to the other members in our church, but should be lifting up other churches. There again – who will help a failing church … only another church. We should also be ministering to the missionaries who go and who live to spread the Gospel in places other than their local community.

 

Suffering together [Philippians 3:7-11]

Are we going to suffer here on earth – you bet. Jesus suffered … why would we avoid such? When we suffer we need fellow Christians surrounding us to listen and guide. When you are the one suffering you know it makes things easier if we have a friend to share the burden with. Our burdens range from being uncomfortable all the way to the point of death.

Where should we come along and share a burden with a friend – whenever you feel led that they need support. I don’t know about you, but the problem I have with that is that I need to be more in tune with God to be able to listen when He says go and suffer with someone.

Part of praying to God is to listen, and by listening I can be directed to go suffer with someone.

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This Ain’t Heaven

Man life sure can be tough some times.

Amen?

Amen (I’ll go ahead and credit you that one).

Just recently I have spoken with friends and relatives who have been through tough times:

cancer, job loss, marital infidelity, death of a loved one, friend whose parent is sick, job cut back, lay off, loss of trust from a friend, family corruption, drugs, alcohol, disease, unwanted pregnancy, heart problems, broken bones, mower won’t start, car wreck, and the list could just go on…

Some people have asked me and I could tell some were thinking it but just did not ask – why does God let bad things happen?  Some will even ask – why does God let bad things happen to good people?

I submit there is a simple answer that is hard for some to believe or even accept.IMG_5262

In Genesis 2 God told Adam and Eve to work and watch over the garden of Eden, but not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  In Genesis 3 we see their disobedience and followed the advice of satan by eating the forbidden fruit.  And we assume sin entered earth then.  But the more difficult question if you think about it is this – where did that serpent come from?  How did satan get to the middle of the garden that God made to tempt humans?  If satan had not tempted, then maybe humans would not have sinned and we would be in a much better place.  Maybe so.

But the fact of the matter, is that God did create all things – even satan himself.  Now why on earth would God do that?  And even more so why did He allow him here on earth?

I think the answer to many of the questions I have asked here can be answered by three words.

   This ain’t Heaven.

In Heaven there is no sin.  There is no pain.  There is no death!  There are no wasps, snakes, hornets or skunks.  There are no jobs, and our only desire will be God!  Man that is heaven!

But this earth just ain’t Heaven.  Do you see?  Do you agree?  Here on our 3rd rock from our sun we have a lot of things that make us uncomfortable.  And they will always be here on earth.  We do however, have a comforter here who is the Holy Spirit.  He will guide us and help us in our daily walk – while we inhabit this earthly vessel we call a body.  But one day this body will expire for all of us.

And when it does – we will all end up in one of two places.       Heaven or Hell         That choice is ours to make while we are still living and breathing in this earthly vessel.

Top Five Takeaways from the 2014 Cross Train Sports Camp

For the past three years, the last week of June has been designated as the week for Cross Train Sports Camp at Gibbs High School in Corryton, TN.2014 Cross Train Sports Camp Group

Each night of the week children ages K – 8 are invited to learn more about their sport and hear about the love of Jesus!

Campers are treated to excellent coaching from the top coach of each sport at the high school level for football, basketball, cheerleading, softball, baseball, soccer and volleyball.  Head coaches, coaches and players from each of these sports are represented to show these younger kids drills and motivation to reach the next level.

The camp starts each night a 6:30 and ends with a huddle time in the gym where the kids hear about the theme and Bible verse for the week.  Each night a speaker will share their experiences with life and Jesus – sometimes they are famous, and sometimes they just want to pour into kids.

I have been a part of the conception and leadership team for the camp each year.  For me this camp is so special because of how it was birthed, who it serves, who serves in it, and because I was saved as an 18 year old boy at FCA camp in Maryville, TN.  Camp is just special to me.

I love serving the kids and our community through the camp, and want to share five positive takeaways from this year’s camp.

  1. 21 Salvations recorded this year.  This is the reason we have sports camp – to see children saved.  Now did each one of these understand what they were doing – probably not.  We are in the process with following up with parents, but even if they did not understand today – they are on the right track in their minds to fully understand what true repentance and salvation looks like.
  2. Praying with warriors.  Man we have some awesome prayer warriors show up for Sports Camp, and I love to see God working in their lives.  They build me up and give me encouragement.
  3. Loving on children.  It is so good just to love on kids who will let you.  All too early kids put up their shields like they don’t need anybody, but it is so good to get those who will let you love on them.  Some of these kids are love starved, so loving on them in the name of Jesus is so impactful.
  4. Serving with friends.  I grew up in this community.  I know a lot of people here, and it just blesses my heart to serve our Jesus with friends outside the walls of our church.
  5. Strengthening our community.  I don’t know of any other event that will strengthen our family like coming together, serving each other and our God.  It builds the community in very deep ways that will pay dividends for years to come in ways we may never even see.

 

Who I am – my personal testimony

Recently one Sunday morning at church I was asked by a friend to give my testimony that night during our evening service.  I am always glad to share the assurance I have in Jesus and how God is working in my life, so of course I agreed.  I also had a few other things on my mind that I wanted to share with the church, so I asked our pastor what direction I should go with my talk.  He said to just tell why you are the way you are.  Well I think I know what he meant, but it really got me to thinking how I got to be the way I am.  Those who know me know that I am a bit different.  But then again – so is everybody else I know!

So how did I get to be the way I am?  The accounts that follow will provide some insight…

John collage2

I was raised in a Christian home, and my family was in church on a regular basis.  I grew up in a Methodist church, went through the Confirmation class at 12 years old, and at the end of the class we prayed to receive Christ into our hearts.  Was I saved at that time – I am not certain.  But I do know that when I was 18 years old  I went to FCA Camp in Maryville, TN and I knew God was working in my heart that weekend.  I also knew I could not give a certain answer of where I would go if I was to die that day of May 5th of 1984.  Through the message given by Rev. Jerry Upton, the Holy Spirit convicted  me that I did not have a personal relationship with Jesus, and I responded by coming forward during one of the services and knelt down at the altar to asked Jesus into my heart.  I knew then in my heart for certain that I had: repented of my sins, told Jesus I believed He died on a cross and was raised on the third day as a sacrifice to cover my sins, I asked Him to save me, and told Jesus I would follow Him with my life.

I have in no way lived a perfect or sinless life since then, but know in my heart that I can always ask God for forgiveness and it is granted.  And I know that because that night I received salvation, and by the assurance in His Word, that I will be forgiven of things I do (sin) that disappoint Him.

Now it was not long after I accepted Jesus into my heart that I realized satan was really tempting me in a lot of different ways that I had not experienced before.  I went to college and the US Army facing attacks from satan, and I hate to say it but he won a lot of those battles.  I remember carrying my little green Gideon Bible in my cargo pants every day I was in the Army uniform, but I did not make reading it a part of my daily life.  I was a worldly Christian giving way to Jesus and the world at the same time.  So of course I experienced failures and disappointments as I tried to follow Jesus.

My wife was the catalyst to bring me to a closer walk with Jesus.  I knew in my heart that Jesus connected us for her to be my mate and to bring me closer to Him.  I saw in her something I wanted more of in my life – an active growing personal relationship with Jesus.  I am delighted to say that since our wedding I have been on a slow path of growing closer to Him!

As I grow older my faith increases through the trials I continually face and how I am able to handle them.  You have to know that satan will not leave you alone if you are trying to live for Jesus.  I am slowly becoming more obedient to Jesus by daily denying satan and the attacks he sends.  I am not always successful, but slowly getting better as I grow in my faith.  I know I will never live a sinless life until I leave this body in the grave and enter into my eternal home in Heaven!

I am amazed and humbled by the way God has used me over the years.  I have enjoyed serving Him in many leadership roles such as a youth minister and Sunday School director.  He has molded me through the daily trials as a leader, husband and father.  I have been fortunate to lead individuals to receive Jesus as their Savior  in Guatemala, during camps and Bible Schools, even by phone with my cousin in Ohio.

Jesus has led me on so many adventures, and they all started with a single step of obedience of saying yes  –    I will follow You and I will go where You send!

Mary pondered these things in her heart: the art of pondering

And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”  And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest,

And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.”  So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.  When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child.  And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds.  But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.  The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.

Luke 2:7-20 (NASB)

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is that part in verse 19 where it said that Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.

What did it mean for her to ponder in her heart?

Ponder means to consider.  It means to take what you know, and consider what might be.

Pondering

So what do you think Mary may have pondered in her heart?

I think she pondered the fact that God had spoke to her and that she would no doubt hear Him again.  God had been silent in the Bible for 400 years until the arrival of Jesus.  So the God of the universe had spoke to Mary, gave her a baby, and now these shepherds were witnesses to the authenticity.  I think she just pondered what would be next.  Where would these events take her life next?  Who else would come to visit the baby and how did they know of Him?  Would there be a different way of raising this God child?  She had no idea what would be next, but I think her mind would race with expectations.

I think she pondered on the fact that the birth of our Savior was real.  The witness of the shepherds certainly provided a much needed witness.  She had no doubt heard the reading of the scripture about the promise of the Savior.  She had to have known He would come, but now realizing that those promises were fulfilled in her.  If those parts of the scripture were now confirmed, how much more of the scripture she knew must have totally new meaning.  It was not just tradition and religion, but now it was real!  He was REAL!

I also think she certainly pondered on what the future of Jesus would hold.  With what she knew from the scripture, she knew what was told to her by the angel, and she also knew what had happened with Elizabeth and Zacharia’s son John.  She knew that His life would be much different than any of the other children she knew.  Would they someday live in a different lifestyle?  What would God do with Him?  What exactly would become of this son of hers?  What would be required of him?

What a wonder as Mary pondered and treasured all those things in her heart.

May this Christmas allow you the time to ponder what wonder Jesus holds for your your life!

Christmas lessons from the shepherds

And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”  And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest,

And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.”  So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.  When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child.  And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds.  But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.  The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.

Luke 2:7-20 (NASB)

Flock by night

The Shepherds

During Christmas time I like to read the story given to us in the Gospel of Luke.  He tells of the story giving a highlight to the shepherds who were watching over their flock at night.  We are not told how many there were, but I picture three to five shepherds of sheep.

I noticed the shepherds did three things during this event that I believe would do us all well to follow.

First we see that when the angel appeared they were afraid.  Can you blame them?!?  Here are these shepherds doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing when an angel appears with the glory of the Lord shining, and of course they have never seen this their life!  I can imagine how they probably wanted to run for their lives.  But the angel spoke and said to not be afraid – good news was to follow.  What a tense moment they had to have experienced as they decided in their minds to stay still and listen to the angel.

We see next that the shepherds did in fact stay still and listen to what the angel had to say.  These are startled shepherds and I am sure that the details of what was being said had to be hard for them to remember in their state of uncertainty.  I think the angel waited long enough for them to gain composure and listen intently.  We are not told, but I have my thoughts.

Then after the angel had told them the good news of the Savior’s birth, they were obedient.  They got up and went in search of this baby in Bethlehem.  Notice they did not get their affairs in order, but the went just as they were told.

Two lessons from the Shepherds

I think there are two lesson we can learn from the actions of these untrained shepherds.

We all become afraid at times.  Some people do not like to admit this emotion, but we all have times we fear for our health, finances, death, family or future.  Some people fear these kind of situations on a constant unhealthy basis and some of us just fear them quietly in our heads.  I think the key is to recognize the emotion and determine it’s source.

Then like the shepherds we should take these fears and let the glory of the Lord shine on them.  For us that simply would look like committing it to prayer.  Ask God just what I need to do with this fear.  Is there truth in the sources of the emotion?

Once we consult and hear from God, then we need to follow the example of these shepherds and take action.  Take positive action just as God lays out for you.  Don’t add your thoughts to it, but be obedient to the Lord.

I think if we follow these two steps from a time of fear, then we also would be blessed by our actions.  The shepherds were blessed beyond measure by being a witness to Mary about the message they heard from the angel about the baby Jesus.  Then they were one of the first on this planet to lay eyes on God who had come in the form of a human to be it’s Savior!  Wow – how they were blessed!

My thanksgivings

Thanksgiving table

It should go without saying that I am thankful, but then again sometimes it should go with saying that I am thankful and just what I am thankful for.  I find it healthy to verbalize these things and to give thanks to God for the rich blessings He has given me.

So today I made a short list of some of the things I am thankful for:

First off I am thankful for my Savior Jesus who came to this earth as a man, lived a perfect life as an example for me, and then sacrificed His life for my salvation.

To be able to see the variety of God’s wonderful creation and all the beautiful places I have been fortunate enough to visit.Guatemala volcano

To be able to tell my family “I love you” to their face, and be so open to them.  Also for the great family that surrounds me.

Friends who are truly friends no matter what, and will be there for me under any circumstance.  I count just a few people in the world with this description.  I also love it when I can call one of these guys up after a long break from seeing each other and start off cutting up like we just spoke yesterday.

The special friends who showed me what it was like to follow Jesus at an early age, and those who still do it today.

Those people who tell me they are thankful for me.

The mistakes I have made – now that they are behind me.  I have learned so much from them and they have formed me to be the man I am today.

The gifts and talents God has blessed me with and the times I am fortunate enough to use them.

I hope you will take some time today to give thanks for the blessings in your life as well.

Happy Thanksgiving yall!