When We Aspire To Greatness

Can you imagine being one of the twelve Jesus chose to be His first disciples?  Prior to the resurrection none of them fully understood what was coming and what to expect.  I’m sure some of them felt like the rest of the Jews, believing the Messiah would establish some form of physical Kingdom on the earth.

You learn that two of your friends in the group have (with the help of their mother of all people) petitioned Jesus to allow them to sit at His right and His left when He establishes His Kingdom.  Like many of us today they were vying for power, authority, control, prestige, titles or to rule.

In my time alone with God this morning, I read Matthew 20:20-28 which includes this story and Jesus’ response.  The most significant things I took away from it were that God determines our position in His Kingdom, and the best place to be to discover what He wants is to follow Christ’s example.

Jesus said: “Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave.”  Jesus said you must be like me: I did not come to be served, but to serve and give my life as a ransom for many.

He didn’t rebuke a desire for greatness, but redefined it: greatness is serving others just like I do.  Or as Paul wrote in Philippians 2:5: “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.”

I wish I could say I’ve arrived, but I haven’t.  Too often I consider my own interests instead of in humility looking for ways to leverage my position to serve and help others.   I hope you do aspire to greatness in whatever you do, but in that journey and/or when you arrive, I hope you’ll leverage your influence to serve others as Christ did.

For all of us who follow Christ it’s a choice and an important part of our spiritual growth. I hope we’re all making progress.  Having the same attitude as Christ should be our desire and we should strive to be intentional in applying that mindset with our choices daily. In all of our relationships let’s choose to treat people as Christ did and ask (as Andy Stanley has said): “What does love require of me?”

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42 YEARS OF MARRIAGE

WOW – It’s hard to believe I’ve been married to this beauty for 42 years. This photo was taken when we were first dating; I’m shocked she went out with me again after seeing the oversized bow tie!

Janet and I have had an incredibly blessed 42 years and we’ve gone through tragedy in our family like everyone else. The one thing that’s helped us is our common commitment to Christ, one another and our family.

We are as different as can be, but also have some similar loves! A few of the things we love: each other, Jesus, our kids, our grandkids, our families, our church family, serving in our church, our friends, serving people, traveling, going to sporting events, and playing games with family and friends.

One of Janet’s greatest joys is loving on and serving our kids and grandkids! She’s an amazing wife, mother and Nonni. She’s played such an important role in raising our children to love Christ and His church, and to demonstrate love for other people.

Even though we’ve been together 42 years, I’m still learning and choosing to love and serve her. One of the most significant things I learned in my Radical Mentoring groups the past two years is that my primary responsibility is to love her like Christ loves me (and loves His church). Her response and actions don’t determine how I respond; I’m to love her like this no matter what. How am I doing with this? I guess you’d have to ask her, but I’m better with it now than I was before. I intend to love her this way for the rest of our lives.

In my time alone with God this morning, I was reading in Matthew 18 on what Jesus said to the Pharisees about divorce. One thing rang clear; Jesus said Moses permitted divorce because of the hardness of people’s hearts. This is not a commentary on divorce. Some of our best friends and best ministry leaders in our church have gone through the pain of a divorce. Janet and I went through a tough time about 20 years into our marriage and I’m grateful we made it through that time. It was the result of my hard-heartedness; I drifted from a close relationship with God and her. Jesus was speaking specifically to the Pharisees in Matthew 18, but I believe a heart that is hardened toward God will always end up being hardened toward others which makes it easier to excuse behavior. For me to love Janet like Christ loves the church means I have to love Jesus and maintain a close relationship with Him where I choose to apply what He says.

As I was thinking about this and what it means to love Janet like Christ loves the church, I reflected upon Galatians 5; especially verses 22-23. As I choose to submit to Christ and love Him, I’ll see an amazing work take place in my life that allows me to love Janet as I want to and should. I’ll demonstrate love in ways that make sense to her (that usually means time together and serving her in some way). I’ll do all I can to help her experience the things that bring her joy. I’ll do my part to make our home and marriage one that’s filled with peace. I will intentionally choose to be patient with her especially as our differences play out in our marriage. I will be kind to her in words, actions and attitudes; putting her needs before my own. I will be good to her and I choose to be faithful to her no matter what. I also choose to be faithful to the Lord which impacts all of this. I will strive to be gentle with her and treat her with understanding, and I will demonstrate self-control in our relationship.

Again; how am I doing? You’d have to ask her. Yes, I fail. Yes, I choose to be selfish and self-centered at times. However, the commitment I’ve made to her and to Christ is to love her like Christ loves me and His church – no matter what. How she responds isn’t my responsibility; my responsibility is to love her like this.

Anyhow, I love you Janet. Happy 42nd Anniversary Sweetheart!

Here’s a more recent photo showing a portion of our legacy and our greatest loves.

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AmazonSmile Makes Us Smile

If you use Amazon for any of your shopping as I do, you can be a blessing to God’s Kingdom and our church by doing something that doesn’t cost you a penny and will only take a few minutes of your time.

AmazonSmile donates a percentage of everything you buy to a charity of your choice. I’d ask you to choose Grace Fellowship Church of Wise County Inc as your designated charity. Every penny given helps us accomplish the purpose and mission God has give us as a church!

When you’re shopping Amazon all you have to do is login to smile.amazon.com instead of amazon.com and a percentage of the cost of anything you order will be donated to Grace (or the charity you choose). You must login (just as you’d do with your normal login at Amazon.com) to smile.amazon.com for any donations to be made to your charity.

For more information on Amazon Smile click on this link: https://smile.amazon.com/gp/chpf/about/ref=smi_aas_redirect?ie=UTF8&pd_rd_r=f24c9df4-f0e1-4469-91b6-e6896102f165&pd_rd_w=HqD5i&pd_rd_wg=JLY9Q&qid=1562859158&ref_=sxts_snpl_3_1_9d10ba21-3c04-4345-882a-4a90d597a505

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Anger Danger & Disunity

God will never lead you to do something contrary to the truth of Scripture, and the overriding principle of the New Testament Scripture when you’re wronged or hurt is to go to the person(s) involved in order to seek reconciliation, forgiveness and restoration of the relationship. It doesn’t matter what happened, this is what you must do unless you choose to ignore what Scripture teaches when you’re wronged or perceive you are wronged. By the way, I’ve found that many times the hurts we incur are unintentional, but even when they’re intentional we still need to follow the New Testament teaching.

Please note: I’m not saying this is a blanket concept that covers everything that happens, but rather I’m speaking of normal relationship conflicts and hurts. When someone sins against you by seriously hurting you or they commit a crime against you there still needs to be forgiveness, but I realize trust may never be restored and I’m not suggesting the relationship needs to be restored. There should be consequences and restitution for crimes committed against you or those you love. There again, I’m not talking about those situations in this blog; I’m speaking of normal relational conflicts.

I’ve known a number of people who have been “in a bad place” spiritually, emotionally or physically and then respond to situations where they feel hurt in unwise ways. I’ve been guilty of this personally and it doesn’t honor Christ.

If you’re a follower of Christ and you respond to a hurt or wrong without going directly to the person(s) who offended you, you violate the desire and directive of Jesus found in Matthew 18:15-17. I realize we don’t practice “church discipline” much anymore, but I also know if most people would practice Matthew 18:15, and Matthew 18:16 when necessary, most problems and hurts could be remedied.

When we respond to a hurt with anger, we end up hurting ourselves and those around us. James 1:19-20 Msg says: Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear. God’s righteousness doesn’t grow from human anger.   It hurts you and others because being right with God never grows from our anger, and when I’m not in right relationship with God I make unwise decisions. Ephesians 4:26-27 TLB states: If you are angry, don’t sin by nursing your grudge. Don’t let the sun go down with you still angry—get over it quickly; for when you are angry, you give a mighty foothold to the devil.

I believe that forgiveness much be immediate and given over and over, but rebuilding trust often takes time. Keep in mind that scripture repeats this principle over and over; “forgive as God has forgiven you”.

The restoration of relationships is critical in the church because Satan’s strategy against God’s church is to create hurt, distrust and disunity. As Paul Billheimer says in his classic Love Covers: disunity in the church is Satan’s master strategy, and Billheimer states the sin of disunity has probably caused more souls to be lost than all other sins combined.

Almost every church in the New Testament must have struggled with this issue because it’s addressed in most of Paul’s letters. Check out a few of these passages: a) Romans 12:9-21, b) 1 Corinthians 1:10, c) Ephesians 4, d) Philippians 2:1-5, e) Colossians 3:1-17. In 1 Corinthians 1:10, Paul appealed to the Christians at this church to live in harmony with each other and to be of one mind and purpose so there’d be no divisions in the church. He didn’t make the appeal on his own authority, but by the authority of the Lord Jesus!

Speaking of Jesus, His prayer as recorded in John 17 is a clear a picture of what He desires for us as His followers. He prays for us to be ONE just like He and His Father are ONE. He prays that we’ll live in unity so the world will be drawn to Him. When we put aside our differences and hurts and work together by loving and serving one another and others, we can move forward to accomplish His purpose in the world.

Some simple things you can do are: a) pray for the unity of your church, b) protect the unity of your church by being a unifier, and c) preserve the unity of your church by encouraging others to do the right thing (Mt. 18:15) when they experience problems.

If you’re interested in hearing a little more on this topic, I’d encourage you to watch The Invisible War Part 5 from 2 weeks ago at Grace Fellowship. You can find this message under the Watch Previous Messages at http://gf.church/messages

God Bless You.

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Warfare, Relationships & Forgiveness

We had a great time in our Facebook Live Event with Dr. Ed Laymance last night as we dealt with Spiritual Warfare, or as Dr. Ed said “Spiritual Intrusion.”  I learned a lot personally & will go back to see him privately to talk through some of the things he shared that impacted me.  One of those things I want to talk with him about is related to the diagram he used that helped me see how the enemy builds spiritual strongholds in our lives, and how we can tear them down.  If you missed it, I hope you’ll find some time to watch it on the Grace Fellowship Facebook page; it’s long but very eye-opening. You can get free downloads & further helps from Dr. Laymance at http://Impactcounseling.com

One thing I realized is that I had a long-term relationship I needed to make right because I left the relationship and never told the person involved why.   Yeah – I was that guy.  I contacted them this morning and they were so grateful to know the reason and told me it meant a great deal to them for me to let them know. The break wasn’t over any offense or hurt and I don’t have room to explain; it was more of a business/friendship type relationship. However, I realized that when I leave a relationship (like this one) and don’t tell the person why I left, that opens a side door to the powers of darkness & those spiritual powers of darkness will exploit the situation in the other person, in me and sometimes in those we know. It’s not usually something we do intentionally, but I don’t think most of us realize how much this can be used against us and others in this spiritual war.  When there’s an offense or hurt involved it becomes even more ripe for the enemy to exploit because those involved need to have opportunity to ask for forgiveness or give it. Forgiveness is huge in shutting down the intrusions of the powers of darkness.   Forgiveness doesn’t mean trust or the relationship is always restored, but failure to deal with the hurt as Jesus outlined, opens the door for the enemy to intrude in the lives of those involved & in the lives of others.     BTW – When there’s an offense, we need to do what Jesus said in Mt. 18:15-18 and it starts by going to the person(s) involved privately.

Last night helped me see even more clearly how all of this is linked to this Invisible War we’re all engaged in.  Hope this provides some food for thought and is a reminder of how important it is to choose a life of humility and obedience to Christ, and do our part in forgiving and offering forgiveness in our relationships.  As Dr. Ed said last night – regardless of how the other parties respond, “forgiveness is for my benefit.”

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What God Says About Me

When we make a decision to believe and receive Christ as Lord and Savior, we become a brand new person.  Christ is in us and we are in Christ.

Colossians 1:27 NLT says:  For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory.

2 Corinthians 5:17-18 Ph says: For if a man is in Christ he becomes a new person altogether—the past is finished and gone, everything has become fresh and new. All this is God’s doing, for he has reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ; and he has made us agents of the reconciliation.

A great article on what it means to be in Christ can be found at: http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-stupendous-reality-of-being-in-christ-jesus

When we put our faith & trust in Christ; believing and receiving Him, we become a child of God with all the benefits of being in His forever family. Our true identity is found in who we are in Christ and in what God says about us in His Word.

In fact, God sees me and you as VALUED.  Value is usually determined by who owns something and what someone is willing to pay for it.  Several years ago someone paid $130K for a 52 Topps Mickey Mantle baseball card because they valued it that much.

When it comes to how much God VALUES you, think about this:

“You have been bought and paid for by Christ, so you belong to him…”     1 Corinthians 7:23 TLB

If ownership and price equal value, remember God paid for you with the life of His own Son so you could become a part of His family forever.  God says you’re infinitely valuable to Me.

You have a position (or standing) with God because you are “in Christ”.  He lives in and through you.  As a result of our POSITION IN CHRIST…

WE ARE FORGIVEN: Ephesians 1:7, Colossians 1:13-14

WE ARE ACCEPTED:  John 1:12, John 15:15, Romans 5:1, 1 Corinthians 6:20, Ephesians 1:1 & 2:18, Colossians 1:14

WE ARE SECURE:  Romans 8:1-2 & 8:39, Philippians 1:6 & 3:20, 2 Timothy 1:7, Hebrews 4:16, 1 John 5:11-13 & 5:18

WE ARE SIGNIFICANT:  2 Corinthians 5:18 & 6:1, Philippians 4:13, John 15:1-5 & 5:16, Ephesians  2:10 & 3:12, Matthew 5:13-14

Here are a couple of other resources that may help you if you want to understand your identity and position in Christ more clearly.

The book: Identity by Eric Geiger

The book: Lifetime Guarantee by Bill Gillham

The book: Who I Am In Christ by Neil T. Anderson

Here’s another link that you might find helpful on this topic: https://www.cru.org/train-and-grow/spiritual-growth/core-christian-beliefs/the-believers-position-in-christ.html

God bless you,

BJ

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Putting On The Full Armor of God – Marc Moore

This Sunday we continue our series on The Invisible War. Several years ago we did a video with my buddy Marc Moore about his daily routine which includes a symbolic way of putting on God’s Armor.

I know it’s a little old, but we found it while looking through resources for this series and even though we won’t use it this Sunday, I thought some of you might enjoy it as we prepare for Sunday.

Here’s a link to the video: https://vimeo.com/343473229

God Bless,
Pastor BJ

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It’s Not What We Eat

In my time alone with God this morning I read Matthew 15:10-11 NIV10 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. 11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”

When you read that, what do you think Jesus was saying?

In essence, He was telling His Jewish listeners who were wrapped up in tradition and ritual that it’s not what (or how) you eat that defiles you.  They had all kinds of rules about washing their hands before they ate and making sure they only ate the right foods.  Washing your hands (not their rules) is still a good idea, and their approved food list was based on the Law from the Old Testament and the many laws they added to it.

To “defile” means to make you unclean or polluted toward God. I’m well aware that good nutrition is a key to physical well-being and I’m once again striving to eat clean.   Jesus isn’t talking about nutrition; He’s making a point that it’s the things coming out of your heart which make you unclean, not the things you eat. What’s in your heart will eventually come out in your words and actions.

We’re in a series on Spiritual Warfare right now, and I promise you our enemy constantly targets our heart, mind and emotions.  He tempts us with attitudes of the heart and mind that are eventually seen in our words and actions.   He loves to get us to hold on to things like pride, envy, bitterness, jealousy, anger, lust, greed, and hatred.   Satan will tempt us to hold onto unforgiveness or think it’s ok to say we forgive but refuse to attempt to reconcile a relationship which both lead to unclean hearts according to the New Testament.

Our enemy will also try and get us to believe that if we look good to people most of the time, then we’re ok.  When Samuel was charged with selecting a King for Israel, God made it quite clear that it’s not how we appear to others that matters.  1 Samuel 16:7 NIVstates: But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

In Matthew 15:10-11, Jesus was telling His Jewish listeners that what’s in your heart is far more important than what or how you eat (or even how you may appear to most people).   The same is true today, so the most important thing we can do is a regular heart check. This past Sunday, as Pastor Chris preached, God’s Spirit spoke to my heart about an issue of pride within in me. I’m so glad the Holy Spirit pointed it out; I confessed it immediately and have a placed a passage of Scripture and some notes to myself in my office to help guard my heart against this element of pride I didn’t realize was in my heart.

If you struggle with heart issues take them to Jesus honestly.  A good book that can help you deal with some enemies of the heart is titled with the same words:  Enemies of the Heart by Andy Stanley.

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Starting Well & Finishing Well

It usually takes a lot of faith to try or start something new; it also takes sustained faith to see it through and finish well.  

I was reading the account of Jesus walking on the water in Matthew 14 yesterday, and took note of Peter’s incredible request and faith.   “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.”  Jesus told Peter to come to Him.  As Peter begin to walk on the water toward Jesus, he took his eyes off Jesus, focused on his circumstances, wavered in his faith and began to sink.  I’ve always thought about the fact that there were eleven other guys in the boat who didn’t have the faith Peter demonstrated; his faith to do something that seemed impossible was amazing.  He started well, but didn’t finish well in this situation.  However, he did do one thing well as he was sinking; he cried out “Lord, save me!” 

Peter is still one of my favorites in the New Testament; his faith story is worth studying as he had a number of ups and downs including the fact that he denied knowing Jesus just before the crucifixion.  Jesus’ meeting with Peter on the shore of the sea of Galilee after Peter’s denials and Jesus’ resurrection was an incredible meeting of grace and truth.  In the end, Peter did finish well and became one of the most courageous followers of Christ of the 1st Century who was martyred for his faith.  He not only started well – he finished well.

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Happy 16th Grace Fellowship!

My heart was humbled, hopeful and filled with joy this morning as 50 men gathered to pray at our monthly Men’s Prayer Breakfast at Grace Fellowship on the 16th anniversary of the beginning of Grace.    16 years ago, on Sunday morning, June 8, 2003, the Grace Fellowship family came together to worship Jesus in the Bridgeport High School commons.   HAPPY 16TH BIRTHDAY GRACE!   I’m blown away by what God has done as we’ve seen thousands of lives changed.  I’m grateful for those who went before us in prayer, sacrifice and faith to make Grace a reality, and for those who continue to do so. Thank you for being faithful to our mission to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. Thank you for INVITING, CONNECTING, GROWING, and GOING.  It is an incredible blessing to get to serve God with the Grace Fellowship Family at this “Miracle in the Cow Pasture.”

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