Jesus said by our fruit people will know us. If you’re a Christ follower, the fruit of your lips, the fruit of your attitudes, the fruit of your actions & reactions, the fruit of your social media posts all paint a picture to the world of what Christians are like. Sour posts, lips, attitudes, actions and reactions don’t help the cause of Christ. A thought from my time in Matthew 7 this morning. Just saying!
15 years ago this morning I woke up to spend my first morning in Wise County as the Lead Pastor of Grace Fellowship. I was so excited about being a part of this new church! I believed and asked God to do something here that had never been done in a rural setting. I’m still believing & asking Him for this.
I had no idea of the incredible journey God would take us on.
As is my habit, I got up that morning and spent time alone with God praying and reading from His Word. One portion of what I read that morning was from 1 Kings 3 where Solomon asked God for wisdom as the leader of God’s people. The verses that grabbed my heart that morning were these…
7 “Now, O Lord my God, you have made me king instead of my father, David, but I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around. 8 And here I am in the midst of your own chosen people, a nation so great and numerous they cannot be counted! 9 Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?” 1 Kings 3:7-9 NLT
My prayer was similar. Lord, I feel like a little child who doesn’t know how to lead this new work. I’m in desperate need of You. Please give me wisdom and discernment to lead well and to discern between good and evil.
15 years later I’m still reminded that I am like a little child and am totally dependent upon God. As I shared on Sunday, January 20th, there are times I’ve gotten ahead of God; making decisions based on my own thoughts and trying to do things in my own power. Anytime, I’ve done this – I’ve messed things up! I’m still on the journey and still learning how to submit to God and depend on Him. In light of this, if you pray for me, please pray that I’ll have God’s wisdom and discernment and depend on His direction and power in all things.
The photo above is of one of the “prayer cards” that I use in my time alone with God.
On January 26, 2004, I spent my first night in Bridgeport as the new lead pastor of Grace Fellowship. As I reflected on the 6 month journey of faith that brought us here from The Woodlands I sat in the recliner in our the apartment we’d moved into that day and wrote a few words. A photo of that journal sheet is attached. Since it’s difficult to read my writing, here’s a transcript of the journal page.
Jan 26 First Night Bridgeport
How gracious these folks have been to us. They have already shown us an outpouring of love – flowers for Janet at Lyon Elementary today – baskets of goodies at the apart – milk cereal – (words I can’t make out) – unload & set up – whatever we need
Some of the 1st things I read sitting in the recliner tonight Col 1:6 TM Everything finds its purpose in Him. Eph. 1:11 He has his eye on us for glorious living
Lord, I do see a church of over 1000 – hundreds of students radically changed – hundreds of children begging to go back – families saved & restored – marriages put back together – a rural church w/ a regional draw – 100’s are saved & baptized – church with plenty of acreage to have a great multipurpose worship center – children & student building & ample parking for 1000 people – where 1000+ people are connected in small groups.
The past couple of days have been “off the charts” for me. God has encouraged and blessed in so many ways. I learned some key leadership skills at the 95Network One Day Conference yesterday and learned even more today about improving my own leadership with Terry Thompson as we worked through the Flippen Profile (an amazing leadership tool).
As I shared earlier, the icing on the cake last night was getting to take our 95Network Board to Sweetie Pies where we met Jennifer and heard her amazing story of God’s grace (see earlier post on 2nd Best Server in Wise County).
In addition to all this, I just met with Sage Huggins, a young lady who pretty much grew up in Grace and who’s about to graduate from TCU. I was doubly blessed to hear how God has been working in her life at TCU and of her plans to serve Him in missions after graduation.
It’s crazy cool to see and hear the commitment and passion of these young adults for Christ! Thank you Lord for this amazing blessing. The photo above was probably taken around 14 years ago; it’s me, Sage Huggins and her dad Scott Huggins.
I took the 95Network Board to Sweetie Pies last night after our One Day Leadership Conference. We had a great meal and met Jennifer who served us at our table. She introduced herself as the 2nd best waitress (server) in Wise County; there’s a great story behind this, but you’ll have to ask her to share it with you!
Her joy about what Jesus has done in her life was infectious! Her story about how Christ has transformed her life is amazing, and she brought joy, hope and laughter to 5 pastors who had the pleasure of meeting her at Sweetie Pies.
We were blessed and encouraged at the way her testimony about Christ flowed so naturally in her conversation with us. This led to a number of questions and hearing a portion of her story about the life-changing love and grace of God in her life.
We ended up having dessert (not my best choice), but the icing on the cake for all of us was Jennifer’s infectious love for Jesus!
Want to know how to live and love as Jesus did? He gives us a concise description of foundational truths and principles in Matthew 5, shared here in the Amplified version.
3 “Blessed [spiritually prosperous, happy, to be admired] are the poor in spirit [those devoid of spiritual arrogance, those who regard themselves as insignificant], for theirs is the kingdom of heaven [both now and forever].
4 “Blessed [forgiven, refreshed by God’s grace] are those who mourn [over their sins and repent], for they will be comforted [when the burden of sin is lifted].
5 “Blessed [inwardly peaceful, spiritually secure, worthy of respect] are the gentle [the kind-hearted, the sweet-spirited, the self-controlled], for they will inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed [joyful, nourished by God’s goodness] are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness [those who actively seek right standing with God], for they will be [completely] satisfied.
7 “Blessed [content, sheltered by God’s promises] are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
8 “Blessed [anticipating God’s presence, spiritually mature] are the pure in heart [those with integrity, moral courage, and godly character], for they will see God.
9 “Blessed [spiritually calm with life-joy in God’s favor] are the makers and maintainers of peace, for they will [express His character and] be called the sons of God.
10 “Blessed [comforted by inner peace and God’s love] are those who are persecuted for doing that which is morally right, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven [both now and forever].
11 “Blessed [morally courageous and spiritually alive with life-joy in God’s goodness] are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil things against you because of [your association with] Me. 12 Be glad and exceedingly joyful, for your reward in heaven is great [absolutely inexhaustible]; for in this same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
I believe Alabama has built one of the premier football dynasties of all time, but I have to admit I was pulling for Clemson in the National Championship Game Monday night. If for no other reason, I was pulling for them because of what I’ve heard from and seen in Dabo Swinney over the past few years.
Following Clemson’s incredible win in the National Championship on Monday night, I found an number of leadership lessons in the unrehearsed words that flowed from Coach Swinney in his post-game comments.
This is not a direct quote, but he said when you get a group of young people together who believe – who love each other – who sacrifice and are committed to a singular purpose – great things can happen and that’s what you saw tonight.
That’s an amazing axiom for any team; especially those of us who serve on a church team. When a group of people (young & old) will come together and believe in the mission/vision of the church and each other – when they’ll love each other in spite of mistakes – when they’ll sacrifice for the mission and one another – and are committed to a singular purpose (the purpose of Christ) – great things can (and will) happen.
Players and coaches are going to miss assignments and calls; mistakes will take place. However, when we can love as Christ did and face those mistakes with grace, encouragement and accountability and keep our focus on our purpose, amazing things take place. When I know my teammates love me and will sacrifice for me and for the mission, great things take place. When we are committed to the singular purpose of Christ and His kingdom and not our own individual kingdoms, great things take place.
If you’re part of a team – or want to be – evaluate your attitude based on these axioms. Be a part of developing this kind of attitude in your own heart and team, and great things will take place.
LIGHT, our Christmas services at Grace, were an awesome time of celebrating the purpose of Christmas. If you missed it and want to watch, go to gf.church/watch.
As you think about Christmas on this Christmas Eve here are a few verses that might be good to share with your family, or for you to reflect upon.
Approximately 700 years before Jesus was born, God chose the Prophet Isaiah to write the words of this prophecy.
Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14 NLT
The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine. Isaiah 9:2 NLT
This Light was to be the promised Messiah, and Isaiah said of Him:
“For a child is born to us, a son is given to us…And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6 NLT
Jesus who is all these things and more, was born with a purpose.
But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:20-21 NIV
The traditional Christmas story is found in Luke 2.
At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. 2 (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. 4 And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. 5 He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. 7 She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them. 8 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” 15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” 16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them. Luke 2:1-20 NLT
John who was an eyewitness of the life & death, the burial and resurrection of Jesus wrote several of the documents preserved for us in the New Testament.
In him [Jesus] was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:4-5 NIV
Saul who hated the name of Jesus and violently persecuted Christians became a Christian when he had a personal encounter with Jesus after Jesus was raised from the dead. Saul became a new person with a new name, Paul, and wrote much of the New Testament including the letter to the Romans.
We are made right in God’s sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, no matter who we are or what we have done. Romans 3:22 NLT
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 NLT
Sin brought about physical and spiritual death, but spiritual death is the result of rejecting the gift of life through Jesus Christ. I believe Romans 6:23 is speaking about the 2nd death (spiritual death) for those who refuse to put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. The 2nd death is referenced in several places in Revelation – chapters 2, 20 and 21.
Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Revelation 20:14 NIV
The best news about Christmas is this…
If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved. Romans 10:9-10 NLT
Yet to all who did receive him [Jesus], to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. John 1:12 NIV
Jesus said “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 NIV
Merry Christmas – I hope you experience Jesus the LIGHT of the World this Christmas.
Thank you so much for praying for LIGHT (our Christmas services at Grace) over the past couple of weeks. I’m asking you to pray again today as we have three services at 8:30, 10:00 and 11:30am. In my time alone with God on Saturday, I read:
13 I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life. 14 And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. 15 And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for. 1 John 5:13-15
During our 21 Days of Prayer, 1 Timothy 2, was included as a passage to read. Check it out again.
First of all, I ask that you pray for all people. Ask God to bless them and give them what they need. And give thanks. 2 You should pray for rulers and for all who have authority. Pray for these leaders so that we can live quiet and peaceful lives—lives full of devotion to God and respect for him.3 This is good and pleases God our Savior. 4 God wants everyone to be saved and to fully understand the truth.5 There is only one God, and there is only one way that people can reach God. That way is through Christ Jesus, who as a man 6 gave himself to pay for everyone to be free. This is the message that was given to us at just the right time. 1 Timothy 2:1-6
Please continue to pray for people to embrace the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to surrender their lives to Him by believing in Him and receiving Him as Lord and Savior. He’s the only way to God.
Christmas Fun, Jokes and Trivia
Oakham all ye faithful.
Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. Ephesians 6:19-20 NIV
Please refer to Dec. 2-7 for an explanation of ACTS in Prayer if you need it and spend a few moments doing each of these as you begin today…
A = Adoration
C = Confession
T = Thanksgiving
S = Supplication
Please pray for me as I make final preparations to speak about the LIGHT of the world Jesus Christ tonight and tomorrow. Pray that I’ll be able to fearlessly make known the truth of the gospel of Christ. Pray for people who attend LIGHT to respond and trust Christ as Lord and Savior.
Thank you for praying for LIGHT over the past 21 days. I hope you’ll make it your habit to pray for people in our communities who don’t know Jesus (the Light of the World), for Grace & other churches in our communities & for me & our staff as we strive to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.
Thank you & Merry Christmas,
“This is the [remarkable degree of] confidence which we [as believers are entitled to] have before Him: that if we ask anything according to His will, [that is, consistent with His plan and purpose] He hears us.”
1 JOHN 5:14 AMP
Christmas Fun, Jokes, Trivia
One night a Viking named Rudolph the Red was looking out at the sky and said: “It’s going to rain.” His wife asked, “How do you know?” He said: “Because Rudolph the Red knows rain, dear.”