Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Bridge Anxiety

I personally don't suffer from bridge anxiety but I  know several people that do. They get so nervous when crossing a bridge they start to "freak out" a little. Some people suffer from worse cases than others. My wife has people in her family that will plan their trips to avoid all bridges, at all cost. If they can't avoid them... They just don't go. Extreme, I know.

This seems crazy to anyone that doesn't suffer from it. The truth is all fear is irrational but at the time the one suffering from the fear isn't thinking rationally. My mother-in-law is my favorite person that I know that suffers from this. (Need to score points somehow). Her bridge anxiety is a very mild case. It's not the bridge anxiety that makes her special it's what she does while crossing the bridge that makes her different from the rest.

While crossing the bridge she looks at the person sitting beside her and will say, "Aren't I doing good? Aren't you proud of me?" Crystal and I always get a chuckle out of it but today it triggered a thought which is why I am writing this post.

Bridges are a lot like transitions in life. Whether you like it or not transitions in life will come your way if you are moving forward at all. Sometimes transition can be seen from a long ways off but other times transition sneaks up on you with very little warning. Some are easier to get through and others WAY more difficult. I'm not sure about you but I'm not a big fan of transition or change. Crystal often gives me a hard time about this. If she moves the furniture around a little it takes me weeks to get used to it. I think most of us are like that. It's not that you're against change, it's just that you need time to adjust to the change. Having someone by your side to encourage you during the process makes transition and change so much easier to get through.

That's why church is so important! Most people don't see church as long time help. They see it at a right now remedy. In other words, they only go to church when they are facing transition and once they are through it.... They are gone! My mother-in-law doesn't all of the sudden try to pick someone up off the side of the road to help her cross the bridge. She takes someone with her for the entire journey and when the bridge comes, when the time comes, someone is by her side to encourage her through transition. To help her move forward and make it to the other side.

That's what church is to me. That's what having a pastor in my life is to me. It's having someone by your side in life to encourage you, to push you forward, and to help you overcome everything life may throw at you. Good or Bad!

So, get plugged into a bible believing, Jesus preaching, Holy Ghost filled church and watch how much ground you cover!

Hebrews 10:25 (AMP) "Not forsaking or neglecting to assemble together [as believers], as is the habit of some people, but admonishing (warning, urging, and encouraging) one another, and all the more faithfully as you see the dat approaching.

Trees don't grow if they aren't planted..... What makes you think you're any different?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

I've been challenged by a Woman!

The other day my daughter (6 years old) was telling us about her day at school. It wasn't long into our conversation that she began to tell me about a lady at her school that hadn't felt well. While she was going through the lunch line she noticed that the "lunch lady" wasn't feeling well. My daughter hearing this quickly walked behind the lunch counter, laid hands on the woman and commanded her to be healed in the name of Jesus!! I asked my daughter what the lady said. She said "she just cried and said thank you". This same little girl comes home frustrated because everyone in her school says they know Jesus, she wants to go somewhere and see people get saved! You probably think I'm bragging and you are ABSOLUTELY correct!

Where does a little girl get this kind of courage? Where does she learn to push passed what people think about her. Where does she get such a strong desire to see people touched by the love and power of God?

The answer is simple. If you were to hang around my wife (Crystal Sparks) very long it wouldn't take you long to see the answer to that question answered. I've seen her do this same thing more times than I can count. Every time I'm challenged by her boldness and compassion and think "why didn't I do that?" The other day we had finished ministering at Unleashed (our student ministry) as is our tradition we stopped at Subway to get something to eat. As we were ordering our sandwich's my wife asked the woman behind the counter how her day had been. The lady said she had a good day but had a lot of pain from of an ear ache. After paying out my wife said "can I pray for you?" She laid hands on the lady right there in a Subway line!

It was in that moment that I saw where my daughter had seen courage and compassion exemplified. She had seen her mother reach out to hurting humanity, stop what she was doing and pray right there! Not later! Right there!

This shouldn't be a foreign concept to Christian's. After all that's exactly how Jesus ministered. He was always listening, looking, and reaching out to people everywhere he went. Not just in church but EVERYWHERE.

It's not that I don't care about people and I certainly believe in the healing power of God. Sometimes I just get caught up in my own world and forget to reach out to people that need reaching. I think that's where most of us are at. It's not that we don't care. It's just that we forget to see what God is wanting us to see everywhere we go. That hurting humanity needs to see Gods love, Gods compassion, and Gods mercy reaching out to them through YOU. However that might look. Maybe it's a kind word, maybe it's you stopping and praying for them, or maybe it's just a smile.

The truth is I'm not telling you how to reach out. What I am saying is, take time to listen to what people are saying all around you. They're speaking the problem is we're not listening.

I've been challenged by a woman.... Hopefully you will be to.

Mark 16:15 "Jesus said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation."

Monday, October 17, 2011

How Quickly We Forget

The other day while I was getting ready. My daughter (6 years old) was talking to me. My son (5 years old) had just woken up and made his way into the room that we were in. My son still has to wear a pull up to bed because he still has "accidents" on a fairly regular basis. He is very self conscious of this and tries very hard not to have accidents but on this morning his attempts were unsuccessful. He quickly confessed "Dad.... I got Pee Pee in my pull up" with his head held low. I could tell he was disappointed in himself. Before I could tell him it was alright and that he could try again my daughter spoke up and said "Bubb (that's what they call each other) that is so disgusting! Why can't you just stop peeing in your pull up?"

I quickly corrected the situation by reminding my daughter that it hadn't been that long ago that she was having accidents. And that she shouldn't give her brother a hard time for something she had struggled with not so long ago. She maintained that it was "disgusting" and quickly informed me and my son that a year was "a long, long time ago"!

It was in that moment I began to think about the way most Christians treat people who still have the occasional (or not so occasional) "slip up" or "mess up". We are so quick to point out their flaws and are the first to kick them while they're down. Even though it hasn't been that long ago that we were the ones messing up.

The truth is if everyone reading this were honest with them self.... It probably hasn't been that long ago that you messed up! What am I saying? We are all a work in progress. We all sin. We all make mistakes. Let's not be so quick to kick someone while they're down. Don't act like you are perfect and have everything together. Think back when you were still trying to get your life together. Remember how frustrating it was when you messed up? Remember the guilt you felt after you had sinned? The condemnation that came on you? The feeling of wanting to quit? The point is we don't need to heap more guilt and condemnation on people while they're down. The devil has the condemnation end covered. He doesn't need your help. Let's pick people up when they fall. Let us as Christians be the ones encouraging not the ones condeming. Lets encourage them to keep trying. After all if we can keep them trying..... Then one day they are going to succeed!

Monday, May 30, 2011

I came all this way for this?

I was browsing through my Facebook the other day and saw a post from a senior I know that read; "I can't wait to get out of this town!" This is certainly not the first time I've seen a post like this. Being a youth pastor in a small town I run into post like this nearly every year. Thinking back I can remember having similar feelings. Not just as a senior but at many diffrent stage's throughout my life. And most the time when I arrived at the moment I thought would change everything I found myself thinking.... Now what? What's next?

Don't get me wrong there is nothing wrong with looking forward to your future in a new place. Maybe for you it's not a new town but a new job or maybe a new house. The future is exciting, full of expectancy, and hope as it should be! We all wonder what the future holds and look forward to looking back at our lives and be proud of all we accomplished. I was listening to Bishop T.D. Jakes the other day. He was telling a story of a conversation he had with the late great Oral Roberts. Bishop was telling Oral Roberts how lucky he was. Oral Roberts asked "Why am I lucky? I'm an old man." To which the Bishop replied. "Your lucky cause you know how your story ends".

That's what we want after all isn't it? To look back over our lives and say; "man what a life I lived!" To have no regrets, to be able to say that we took chances and lived our lives to the fullest? That's what I want! I want to leave a legacy! I want to fufill my destiny!

Even though looking to your future is important. In fact the Apostle Paul says in Phillippians 3:13-14 to push towards our future. So what am I saying?

While it is important to look forward to what your future holds. To be excited about all that God has planned for you. To look forward to seeing what's around the next corner. All of that is good and all of that is fine. But if we're not careful we'll become so focused on what's in the next town, the next house, or the next job that we'll miss what's is right here, what's right now!

After all your future isn't made up of moves to diffrent places. It's made up of moments. Moments that you seize, moments you enjoy, moments you will always cherish! Don't get so caught up in what your future holds that you miss out on what's right now.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Facebook Friendships

I had a conversation not to long ago with a friend of mine. He had joined the rest of the world and had gotten a facebook account. Our conversation wasn't about facebook really but was more about the people who were sending him "friend request" on facebook. He was rejecting people's friend request because in his words "I don't know most of these people and the ones that I do know, I don't like"!

You're probably thinking that my friend sounds ridiculous. I know I did. Because most people accept nearly everyone that sends them a friend request, because it is the polite thing to do. After all you can always hide them later on and they will be none the wiser. However the more I got to thinking about it the less crazy I began to think my friend actually was.

I have had the thought for a long time that most people have lost the definition of what "true friendship" is. We've gotten to the place where we call everyone our friend, buddy, mate, our girl, or our bff. But most the time the only time you ever hear from them or the only time they hear from us for that matter is when one of us needs to borrow something or one of us needs a favor. I don't know about you, but for me this can be extremely frustrating. I grew up with parents and grandparents that would do almost anything in the world to help people out, but so often when they needed something in return their "friends" were nowhere to be found. So many of us know exactly how this feels but have come to except it as part of life. When you find a great friend you lock on, consider yourself lucky, and don't let go.

So what is a friend? Websters Dictionary defines it as: One attached to another by affection or esteem, one that is not hostile, an acquaintance or a favored companion.

Sounds to textbook to me. When I think of a friend I think of someone that will drop what they're doing if I need help (as long as it's legal of course). They will talk to me just because, there doesn't always have to be a reason. Someone who will support me, cheer me on, and give me Godly advice even when it's not advice I want to hear. Someone who will encourage me when no one else will. Someone who will laugh, cry, and celebrate life with me. One who will also "yank my chain" (get onto me) when I need it yanked! I could go on and on but for times sake I won't.

I think as Christians it's time for us to step up our game and start taking friendship more seriously. I think Christians should be the best friends out there. To often I've found it to be exactly the opposite. My non-christian friend have been the ones that are the greatest at just being a friend. To me that's sad. Not that non-christians can't be friendly but that Christians should be even better because we have the best example.... Jesus.

So, what does the bible have to say about friendship?

Proverbs 18:24 says "A man that has friends must show himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother".

Matthew 7:16 in NLT says: "You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act".

But more than just what was said. Jesus showed love in everything He did. He was always reaching out and going farther than anyone else. He was going out of His way to help peolpe.

I think that we talk to much about reaching a world with the gospel but often are unwilling to put in the time to become friends with the lost and hurting. To see where they're coming from. To love the unloveable. What would happen if we did? Maybe they would begin to listen to what you have to say. Maybe you wouldn't have to say anything. After all our biggest pulpit is often our actions not our words.

My dad started a church in San Marcos. Moving day came and wouldn't you know it was on a hot August day. We of course had let the church know that we would be moving our stuff and that some help would be greatly appreciated. We arrived but of course no one else ever did. It was hot we were miserable and were both exhausted. Through the exhaustion and sweat my dad said these words that have stuck with me. He said "Son, you know who your friends are and who's really with you on moving day". I found those words ring true. When things get tuff your "friend list" gets shorter and shorter.

I don't want anyone reading this to think the reason for this post is because I'm upset with someone. Trust me I'm not. That isn't the reason I wrote this. It was just something I've been thinking about for a while now. Something that God has challenged me on. I don't want to be someone who calls everyone a friend just because they can do something for me. But I want to be the guy who thinks more about what I can do for them. How can I help them? How can I be there for them? How can I be a better support to them? Even if they never return the favor. If they never offer to help me, ever shouldn't matter to me. Should it? We need to stop focusing on everyone else and start focusing on what God has called us to do. Who God has called us to be. After all maybe it's not all about me at all but more about being who God has called me to be.

So I've decided (with God's help) to be friends with people that need a friend. To try and be a better friend to them than they have or will ever be to me. Except the fact that they aren't perfect nor am I and except their shortcomings. Smile when they don't call back even when they swore said they would.

But I'm also gonna celebrate friends like the one who started this whole thing. The one that takes his friendships so seriously; that he's reluctant on who he sends friend request to and who he excepts as his friend on facebook. Because you know someone like that doesn't just call everyone they meet "friend". I thank God that he has put a few people in my life that take their friendships that seriously. As seriously as I do.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. I pray that God blesses you and surrounds you with great friends, with friends that last a lifetime, and with the ability to be and even better friend to someone else who needs it. Amen:)

Friday, July 30, 2010

Pass the Twinkies!!

You're probably wondering why anyone in their right mind would be writing a blog about Twinkies. No, I don't have an obsession with Twinkies. I don't even like Twinkies and couldn't tell you the last time I had one. It does however have a lot to do with a quote I heard that came from a pulpit not to long ago. It honestly took me by surprise and to be quite honest made me a little bit angry. In fact I couldn't write this for a while because I had to cool down. You're probably wondering what the quote was so, here it is....

"The American church needs another message on grace like a fat kid needs another Twinkie"!

Some of you may be thinking what's the big deal? In fact I've even had friend that heard the comment that thought it was funny. Some that said they could see where the person who said it was coming from. I'm not a super intense guy by nature and I sure don't look for things to get upset about. I'm a preacher, I was raised by a preacher, my sisters a preacher, my wife is a preacher so, I love preachers. In fact I can't remember the last time I got truly upset about a comment made from a pulpit. Maybe it's my interpretation of the comment but what I get out of it is this. That the American church has heard the "grace message" so much that it has become unhealthy. Now you may take away something totally different but I've been thinking about it for a while and that's what I got. I've tried to look at it from every angle I possibly can and that's what I got. I can't spin it any other direction, but if you can good for you.

As I said before, I've been raised around so called"grace preachers" all my life. All my favorite preachers today lean more to the grace side of things. My favorite books in the New Testament were written by the Apostle Paul. A man that preached grace so strongly the religious people thought he was giving people a license to sin. Honestly I believe that is what causes some preachers to make comments like this. We see people sin both in and out of church and think there must be something wrong with the message that is being preached. We better do something or else people will keep sinning. There is nothing wrong with the message of grace. Peoples way of thinking may be wrong but that doesn't mean you need change the message. Like my dad always says, "Last time I checked you didn't need a licence to sin; you've been doing it all your life".

So if we stop preaching grace what do we preach? I know.. Let's preach works!? No? How about... condemnation?
Maybe... We should go back to preaching the Law....

Here is what Paul thinks about it.
Galatians 5:7-12 (New International Version)
7You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? 8That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. 9"A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough." 10I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion will pay the penalty, whoever he may be. 11Brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. 12As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!

Some extremely strong words by a man that wrote 2/3 of the New Testament! Paul had come in and preached the message of grace but religious people came in behind him and tried to put just a little bit of the law back on the church at Galatia. Read the whole chapter this is exactly what Paul is battling. The sad thing is, the same thinking Paul battled way back then we're still having to fight today. It's human nature to want to do something to "earn" the grace of God, but there is nothing you can do to earn it! You can only receive grace and most people have a hard time receiving.

Ephesians 2:8-9 (New International Version)
8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast.

Romans 5:17 (New International Version)
17For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.

Romans 11:5-6 (New International Version)
5So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. 6And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.

Hebrews 4:16 (New International Version)
16Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Romans 5:20 (New International Version)
20The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more,

I could write all day about grace. Which as far as I'm concerned is the gospel of Jesus Christ. God showing His grace to humanity despite all their failures. Now I must say this, any one who reads this and thinks "Yes! I can go live however I want to and still go to heaven". If that's the first thing that pops in your head when you hear about the grace of God. I have some good news for you. You can get saved today! Cause when I think of grace I fall more in love with the One who gave it to me freely! Don't be afraid of grace. When you mess up ask God to forgive you and move on His grace is sufficient. As for me... If grace is a Twinkie... Lord, I'm eating!!!

Sinners prayer:
Thank you for dying on a cross and paying the price for my sins. Come into my heart and forgive me of my sins. I give all I am to you. Be the Lord of my Life.
In Jesus Name, Amen!!

If you prayed this find someone and tell them and find a good bible believing church and plug in!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Camp Dream

Well this is my first time to write a blog so I wouldn't expect much. The reason I'm doing it is because one of my favorite pastors encouraged me to write down my thoughts... He said "even if no one ever reads it; it will help you become a better thinker". So, here we go.

I have been raised in church all my life and from the age of 14 felt like I was called to ministry. At the age of 16 I began leading worship for my church. I was very fulfilled in doing just that... Leading worship! I had always helped out with youth but honestly never took it very serious. I sure didn't feel called to preach (try and get me out of the pulpit now)I was just there to fill a need (something more people in the church should do today, fill a need).

That all changed about 4 years ago at a YFN when God changed everything I thought I knew about the call He had on my life. That is when I got a desire to preach, and a heart to see this generation changed by the power of God! Your probably wondering why I'm saying all this.

I began to think about it, and most of my life altering moments have occurred at camps. Which made me think, "What is it about camps"? We just got back from YFN and it never ceases to amaze me that I can take a bunch of youth on a bus ride and return with a bunch of sold out planet shakers! So, what is it about camp?

I always hear youth pastors talk about the worship and how amazing it was! I hear some talk about the preaching and how inspiring it is! I hear others talk about lights, camera, videos, dramas, and sound systems. All of these things HELP for sure but still there has to be something else. As youth pastors we look at all of this stuff and say "if I had all of this stuff my youth ministry would be huge". Really? I talked to a youth pastor not to long ago who had thought the same thing early in his career as a youth pastor. Now he has video games, arcades, a restaurant, lights, incredible sound, even an indoor basketball court! With all that he looked at me and said "all this stuff is impressive but it doesn't keep them here". Wow! You mean it's not all the stuff? If we look at all "the stuff" we strive for and think that's what determines successful ministry. Then the ministry of Jesus was a complete failure! He didn't have any of that! In ministry we have become so obsessed with all "the stuff" that we've forgotten what it's really about and what it's really all about is simply Jesus! The truth is "the stuff" is an easy out for us. If it's all "the stuff" we don't have then we have something to blame for an unfruitful ministry. The truth is the church is trying to offer teens and even adults for that matter something that is so easily found in the world and that's entertainment.

I heard Frank Damazio say, "the church is always a million dollars short and 10 years behind the world when it comes to entertainment". Don't get me wrong I love lights, big screens, and loud music but I don't think of that plays a huge roll in the success of your ministry. What the church has stopped offering is something that most people will never experience anywhere else besides church and that's the presence of God! I believe if the church would get back to this simple but powerful truth we would see a generation come running back to church and more importantly to Jesus! Don't believe me?

As I said before we just got back from youth camp; it was amazing! We go to Youth for the Nations and as far as I'm concerned there isn't a better camp out there. Amazing worship, powerful preaching, and tons of fun but most of the life changing moments didn't happen during worship, dramas, or preaching at all. The life changing moments happened in the rooms away from all "the stuff" when it was just them alone in the presence of God! I'm convinced that when we begin to offer the presence of God in our churches and in our youth ministries revival will sweep across this nation and our Camp Dream will become reality everyday!!