Is Christ #1 in your life today? If not who or what is #1? God doesn't want to settle for #2,3, or 4. He gave you New life. He deserves to be in the top spot. Jesus said this in Luke 14:25-35:
"Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple."
God is love. Jesus teaches to love everyone including our enemies. Therefore Jesus is not teaching us to actually hate those closest to us. He is simply trying to get our attention as he makes an important point. In order to follow Christ we have to do our best to make sure He is #1. Our love for Christ should be so strong that everyone seems like a distant second.
Everyone else can be #2. But that top spot is reserved for Him and Him only. We all struggle with putting God first, but this has to be a goal every day. God is full of Grace and mercy and he will help us. However he asks for an effort.
How do you make God #1 today?
-Start your day off with prayer.
-Read a chapter of the Bible during lunch or other during another time. Try reading a devo or a chapter in the book of James.
-Find moments throughout the day to stop and say a short pray.
-Throw in some worship music on your way to work or to see your friends.
-Look for someone to help today.
-Consult God about your activities for the day. Is this somewhere I should be going? Am I doing anything sinful? I am thinking about what I want to do rather than what God wants me to do? Do I have something planned that will lead to a lot of temptation?
-At the end of the day thank Him for His blessings.
You would be surprised with what God could do with a little effort. Are you willing to make that effort today?
Last Sunday we kicked off our new fall sermon series on family called the Family Survival Kit
. Since God created the idea of family, it only makes sense that he wants to help shape and influence our family relationships. This sermon series is for everyone! Why? Because EVERYONE has a family.
I am VERY excited about this series! I know that I have a lot of room to grow as a husband, father, brother and son. I have been married for almost 10 now and there is still so much I need to learn about relating to my wife. My son will be 2 years old in a month and I realize that I have a lot to learn on how to be a good father. With God's help and wisdom I can improve in not only these, but in all my family relationships. Take this journey with me in the weeks to come!FAMILY SURVIVAL KIT SERIESOctober 21: FAMILY SURVIVAL
Everyone has an imperfect family and that is OK! God has a family plan and we can aim towards his vision for our family. October 28: POWER DOWN
How should we interact with our family members?November 4: OWN YOUR PIECE
How do we deal with family conflict?November 11: LOOK UP
How do we survive difficult family circumstances?November 18: START THE FUTURE
How do we overcome family generational patterns and start new ones?November 25: BE A SPONGE
How to take wisdom from those that have gone before.
SHARE YOUR ADVICE
I need your help for the final sermon. I will be presenting everyday practical tips for family relationships. What is the best advice you have received or given when it comes to family, parental and/or marital life? Please submit that advice below. I will be using some of the advice in that sermon, but the names will be kept private.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28
Between being a dad, husband, pastor and home owner, life is rather busy. Throw in a few sides jobs, graduate school and I find myself weary. I often wonder if I can get everything done and am simply amazed when, by the grace of God, I do fulfill my weekly obligations. Because of my "busyness" I have found that I, at times, am spiritually, physically, emotionally and mentally weary. I have found that by eating better, exercising regularly, spending time in the scriptures and praying daily helps me overcome my weariness. However, even with those smart disciplines I still find myself eventually running out of energy. Many have told me I should quit doing so much and, although that may be true, I am learning that what I really need is a Sabbath day.
The Sabbath was an Old Testament law and ritual that required an individual to work six days a week and then rest completely on the seventh day (Exodus 20:8-9). To disregard the Sabbath was to be in sin. Under the new law of the covenant with Christ we are no longer in sin if we do not follow the Sabbath ritual. However, just because we are no longer are required to fulfill a Sabbath day we can still find value in its principles. Setting aside a day for rest is a smart discipline to have. In the past few months I have gotten sick twice, had to miss a few days at work, and cancel an important training session. During those weeks I did not sleep much and I failed to take a day of rest. It seems to me that if I don't take a Sabbath day during the week then my body will eventually force me to take one anyway. God was getting my attention and I now realize how important this Sabbath principle is for me and my family. I need a day each week where I do absolutely nothing but rest. A day to pray and reflect on my blessings. A day to take a nap in the afternoon. A day to turn my phone off and enjoy my family. A day to take a walk and enjoy the sunshine. A day to open an exciting new book. A day to worship God in the quiet place. What I need is a day to free myself from the burden of life's work related responsibilities. And on my Sabbath day I need to allow God to remove the guilt I have of not doing anything!
Have you been feeling weary? Have you been too busy with life's responsibilities? Maybe what you need is a Sabbath day. Find rest in Jesus our Lord who takes away our burdens and weariness.
My first 30 day health challenge was completed at the end of December. I lost a total of four pounds. I had lost more but Christmas and New Years were very difficult for me to eat healthy. There were too many chocolate chip cookies, Christmas parties, and feasts to resist. My goal for the holidays was eating in moderation but I failed at that. Looking back I really needed a stronger game plan going into the holidays. I knew there was going to be a lot of temptation and I thought I was prepared for it. I however did not rely on God like I had previously done in the weeks leading up the Holidays.
My positive results over 30 days:
-Lost some weight
-I do not have the fast food cravings that I once did.
-I have learned many physical, emotional, and spiritual lessons (see previous blog post).
-I was inspired to build off the new habits I developed. Therefore I am starting another health challenge.
Overall I now believe that eating healthy can be a life style change for me as long I rely on God, make better choices, and use accountability. From my perspective God did a lot in me over those thirty days. Let's continue to see what God can do with another thirty days!
It is day 19 of my 30 day health challenge. This has been a difficult challenge but with prayer and accountability I am seeing results. After 19 days I have lost 7 lbs and I have more energy than before. I have reduced the amount of calories I eat in a day by 700. Plus, I have only eaten fast food once and drank soda a few times. I did notice that the McDonalds I ate (that one time) didn't taste as good as I remember it. This is wonderful thing for me! As far as exercise goes I have recently been limited to only walking. I hurt my right arm, shoulder, and back several weeks ago and am in physical therapy and seeing a chiropractor. Here are three things that I have learned so far in this challenge.
1. Prayer and accountability are crucial. As funny as this may sound, I have had to ask God to help me to not eat that extra slice of pizza. It works! Also, checking in with my friend and accountability partner, Mike has also been a great help. I am encouraged by his effort in the challenge and it reminds me that I am not alone. If Mike can do it, I can too!
2. Our stomachs can be our god (Philippians 3:19). Food can easily become an idol that we worship. I keep asking myself this question, "Do I really need to eat that much?" So many times I find myself wanting to eat more food not because I am hungry but because I desire comfort. When we turn to food to solve our problems, or to make us feel better, we are making food an idol. I don't want food to rule my life.
3. Moderation in all things. Pizza is one of my favorite foods. If I were to remove pizza from my diet I would completely fail. However, under the moderation principle I still eat pizza, but I choose to eat two slices instead of four. It makes all the difference. Moderation is a powerful asset.
I look forward to filling you in after the 30 days are up!
In January 2012 DVCC will be encouraging members to take a thirty day challenge. We will have a web page with descriptions of all the challenges you can take. The point of the 30 day challenge is to see what God can do with thirty days of positive habits. We are going to try to accomplish a beneficial challenge (asking God and others for help along the way) for thirty straight days. Hopefully, after thirty days we will notice a change and perhaps be encouraged to continue our new found habits. We are not wanting to pursue legalism during these challenges. We may struggle at times with the challenge but we can encourage each other to keep on trying with God's help. I started my challenge early because I wanted to try this out before I asked the congregation to do it in January.
For my first challenge I picked a 30 day health challenge. It is as follows:
Challenge Partner: Mike Spitale
a. Exercise everyday (either walk, run, or workout)
b. Avoid most fast food joints
c. Avoid all sodas
d. Eat only one snack a day.
My first day started with some major temptation. I was at the mall and had to find a place to eat for lunch. The healthiest choice I could find was Subway. The problem with Subway is they have amazing chocolate chip cookies. I said a prayer and resisted temptation. My wife was with me so she was able to give me a quick pep talk before ordering my sub. For dinner I went out to a local Mexican joint with a church couple. I wanted to drink a pepsi so bad with my amazing tacos. I told the church couple about my thirty day challenge and they helped me choose water. Accountability really does work! After dinner I was able to spend about 20 minutes working out with Mr. Tony Little (on DVD of course). Once done my wife let me know that she was proud of me. Nothing like some encouraging words. Day one is under the belt!!
This past week DVCC started a ministry at the local Juvenile Detention Center. The center asked us to talk to students about overcoming drugs, alcohol and other addictions. So I put together a team of men who had been able to overcome addictions in their lives with the help of God and others. The four of us prayed before we ventured into the detention center, not exactly sure about what was going to happen. We had an organized lesson plan revolving around the topic of "Honesty." We were trusting that God would do something in our first meeting.
We entered a room of about 15 young men who were between 13-20 years of age. We introduced ourselves to, what seemed like, a tension filled room. We played a game to get the young men to talk and laugh a little. Then afterwards one of our team members began to give his testimony. As he shared the room got quiet. Every ear was listening intently. Our team member didn't hold back as he shared his past defeats with drugs. He was completely honest and real. I looked around and saw the teens nodding their heads as they related to his testimony. The students heard a message about God, hope and victory over addiction.
After the testimony time, we had every intention of following our lesson plan but God had something different in mind. The teenagers began to ask questions and discuss their own stories. We put our lesson plan away and began to listen. For the next 30 minutes the teens discussed their struggles, fears and anxieties about life on the streets. The meeting became a time of confession for them. These young men wanted to talk. They wanted to be heard. They wanted to process their fears. They wanted to feel that someone cared. We ended our time with a group prayer. I asked God to give them hope and direction for their lives both in an out of the detention center.
I learned a lot from that meeting. Our team was there to teach them but we walked away learning just as much or more. In order to give hope to the hopeless you must first be willing to listen. As Christians, we so often want to preach, teach and lecture about solutions and answers to people's problems. However, the Apostle Paul tells us that without love we are nothing (I Corinthians 13). If people don't believe we care for them or love them, our message goes in one hear and out the other. As ministers of hope we must first establish a level of care. We can do that by listening. Listening, without judging or assuming we know what they are going through, lays a foundation of care. When others feel cared for they are more open to receive the good news of Christ.
The next time you are trying to reach out to someone. Don't lecture. Don't tell them what they need to do. Listen. Hear their hearts. Show them that you care. From there, you can share the great message of hope that the Gospel presents to us through Jesus Christ. I can't wait for our next meeting! We will go into the detention center to not only share the Gospel, but to listen to their stories. May God give hope to the hopeless.
Every once in a while I like to push my ball cap to the side and bounce my head to some nice beats while listening to the musical genre of rap. I know you probably don't like rap but if you listened to Lacrae long enough maybe you would. His songs have the kind of beat that make you want to throw yourself to the floor and do the worm like it was 1985. Beyond the heavy bass and funky rhythm you will find powerful lyrics that cause you to really contemplate your relationship with God. Check out these lyrics from Lacrae's song, "More."
"Your goodness. Your mercy. (More!)I'm hungry. I'm thirsty. (More!)
Your love and Your grace. (More!)
I just need a taste. (More!)
Your peace and Your passion. (More!)
Your joy and compassion. (More!)
You got it I need it. (More!) I just gotta have it."
"More" is a passionate plea from a thirsty soul that wants more of God. What is a thirsty soul? A thirsty soul is one that desires more of God. You get to a place where you are so hungry and thirsty for God that you pursue Him with determination. A thirsty soul crys out to God for more of his grace, mercy, and joy. A thirsty soul devours the scriptures in hopes of receiving a revelation from our creator. A thirsty soul simply is not satisfied or content with having just a little piece of God. A thirsty soul craves a new taste of God's holy presence. Overall a thirsty soul is where desperation meats spirituality.
In Psalm 63:1 we hear David describing his thirsty soul. "You, God are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water." David wrote this Psalm while he was in the desert. Despite his body feeling the need for hydration he had a stronger thirst for the very presence of God. His soul wanted and needed more of God down in the depths of his being.
How is your spiritual thirst? Do you have a thirsty soul? If you do keep crying out for more. God is faithful and he will give you more of himself. If your not spiritually thirsty maybe it's time you begin to ask God for a portion of His Spirit. If you can get a small taste of God's amazing presence you will probably find yourself asking for more. Taste and see that the Lord is good!
Do you enjoy buying new clothes? I do. In fact I love shopping for clothes in the clearance section. I enjoy finding a great deal on a pair of pants or a blazer. What if I told you that when it came to clothes, that Christ has the best deal in town?
At DVCC we have been studying the book of Colossians in our latest sermon series. In chapter three Paul tells the church to clothe themselves in godly virtues (compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience). These new clothes are, what I like to call, our resurrection clothes because when we accept Christ we became new creations, raised up from our former life of sin. In that former life we wore grave clothes such as sexual immorality, greed, anger, malice, and slander (Col. 3:5-9). As we submit to Christ he replaces our grave clothes for new resurrection clothes. As we take off our anger we can begin to wear kindness. As we take off lust we can clothe ourselves in love. These resurrection clothes are ours if we choose to wear them daily in Christ.
I have to admit that I am often tempted to put back on the old grave clothes. The problem is that the grave clothes don't fit me very well as a new creation. In Christ anger, lust and greed become out of style. As long as we live they will never come back in style, so there is no reason to keep our grave clothes hanging around our house. Instead, through Christ, we can put on resurrection clothes in order to look more like Christ. These clothes are tailor-made for us as new creations. These garments are what Christ has made and asked us to wear.
I think Paul says it best in 2 Corinthians 5:17. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" As Christians we have a choice. We can continue to put on our old stinky grave clothes that don't fit us anymore. Or we can put on the new resurrection clothes that make us look good because we look more like Christ. Do you want some new clothes? Then get rid of the grave clothes and put on the resurrection clothes. These truly are the best clothing deal in town!