The Importance of Stepping Out Of The Traffic

After sharing some closing thoughts with our staff this past week, one of our newer staff members, Dee Mathis, stopped me and asked: “What’s the one thing you’d say is most important as a staff member?”  She said she’d watched people who served for a long time with joy and impact, and wanted to know what they thought was most important.

I’d just shared a few things at our staff lunch I believed were important for our staff going forward.   I’m stepping down from the role as Lead Pastor this Sunday and am excited to present Chris Hurst to our church as our new Lead Pastor.  (Note: This has been a 5 year process initiated by me and covered with prayer by me and our Board.)

I thought for just a moment as Dee asked this question and said something along the lines of – “Make sure you maintain an authentic relationship with Jesus.”   In the busyness of ministry, don’t get so busy you miss the importance of abiding in and staying vitally connected with Jesus.  (John 15, Luke 10:38-42).  

I think I added, SLOW DOWN, take time to be with Jesus; listen and talk with Him.  One of my favorite verses is Psalm 46:10 in the Message paraphrase which says:  “Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God,  above politics, above everything.”   I’m still learning how to slow down and listen.

Without this kind of connection to Jesus/God we are actually powerless to do anything with eternal significance.   In addition, staying connected to Jesus daily helps us keep our focus on what He said was most important: loving God and loving people as He did.   When you love God and people as Jesus did, you’ll be reminded daily of the purpose of Jesus and be encouraged to live in a way that will inspire people to trust and follow Jesus and grow in their relationship with Him.

These are just a few of my thoughts this morning as I prepare for tomorrow as my last day as Lead Pastor of Grace Fellowship! They don’t just apply to someone serving on a church staff; they apply to anyone who is a follower of Jesus.

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Pharisees and Prostitutes

In Luke 7, there’s an amazing historical account of Jesus visiting with a Pharisee named Simon, and while in Simon’s home a prostitute enters.  She washes Jesus’ feet with her tears & dries them with her hair. She kisses his feet and then anoints them with perfume.

As Luke received this story from eyewitnesses of the resurrection of Jesus he wrote:  In the neighborhood there was an immoral woman of the streets, known to all to be a prostitute. When she heard about Jesus being in Simon’s house, she took an exquisite flask made from alabaster, filled it with the most expensive perfume, went right into the home of the Jewish religious leader, and knelt at the feet of Jesus in front of all the guests. Broken and weeping, she covered his feet with the tears that fell from her face. She kept crying and drying his feet with her long hair. Over and over she kissed Jesus’ feet. Then she opened her flask and anointed his feet with her costly perfume as an act of worship.  Luke 7:37-38 NET

This sounds quite strange to us in our Western culture, but it was common for someone to great a guest with a kiss and wash or offer to have someone wash their feet.

While that’s interesting, what’s more interesting is what Jesus says to the women and to Simon about the event. 

Jesus, knowing the heart of this woman and why she was doing what she did said: (verses 48 & 50) “All your sins are forgiven…Your faith in me has given you life…Now you may leave and walk in the way of peace.”

Jesus, knowing the heart of Simon and others who were gathered explained to them WHY.    She has been forgiven of all her many sins. This is why she has shown me such extravagant love. But those who assume they have very little to be forgiven will love me very little.”  Luke 7:47 NET

I wonder if the reason so many who claim to follow Jesus rarely show such extravagant love for him in the way we serve, give or love others is because we’ve forgotten or never really realized how much we’ve been forgiven?   Talking about sin is not very popular, but until we realize the magnitude of our sin and the extraordinary price paid by Jesus to purchase our forgiveness, I’m afraid we may be missing one of the most significant elements of God’s love.

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We Want The Miracle But…

I was reading Luke 1 recently about the birth of Jesus being foretold to Mary. Luke 1:37-38 says: “For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Note: A bondslave is someone who is willing to give up their own desires and serve the cause of someone else; someone willing to disregard their own interests to be devoted to someone else’s interests.

I keep Luke 1:37 in front of me in my office, but as I read Luke 1:38, Mary’s statement jumped off the page and grabbed my attention. “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Mary knew the potential cost and scandal of something like this in her culture. The Jewish laws could demand that she be stoned to death.  There would all be always be whispers and ridicule.  And what about Joseph; what would he think or do?  There was no guarantee Joseph would remain with her as her husband.

In spite of this, Mary’s declaration was simple and significant.  She had a humble and submissive attitude to God and His Word and was willing to do whatever He asked in order to fulfill His purpose.

In Radical Mentoring we memorized this definition of character by Andy Stanley.  “Character is the will to do what is right, as defined by God, regardless of personal cost.”   We need more followers of Jesus today who are persons of character like Mary.  We may believe nothing is impossible with God and want to see Him do miracles on our behalf, we just don’t want to be a bondslave or servant of God in order to be a part of the miracle.  Maybe that needs to change.

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RESPECT and IDENTITY

I recently did a very informal social media poll asking what are the values you see disappearing in our culture today.  The overwhelming majority of responses included the word RESPECT.   Merriam-Webster defines RESPECT as worthy of high regard, or to esteem.

I’m not surprised by this response.  I see a growing lack of basic respect and civility in our culture, but am troubled because it seems this is also increasing among those of us who claim to follow Jesus.  We are to honor and respect all people because they are made in the image of God and because they are people for whom Jesus died.  We can and should show respect and be civil to people, including those we disagree with.  As followers of Jesus we can do this because God gives us the power and ability to do so (Ephesians 1:19-20, 2 Peter 1:3-4).

I believe far too many of us who follow Jesus are basing our identity on something other than Jesus.  Instead of clothing ourselves with Christ and basing our identity in Him (Gal. 3:27-28) we align more with a political party, race, gender, socio-economic group or personal orientation.  As a result, we fail to surrender to Jesus first and ignore the commands central to our faith that should permeate our lives; love God and love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:34-40).  I understand that none of do this with perfection, but it should be the central trait and direction of our lives.

And for some of us who claim to follow Jesus, we may need to follow the admonition of the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 13:5 where he said: “Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine…”   I believe there are several tests of genuine faith found in the First Epistle of the Apostle John (1 John).  One of those I read this morning in 1 John 2:7-11 where John wrote:

Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”

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I’m Not Retiring

As I have run into people at Grace Youth Sports, or other events and places in our communities, a number of you have told me; “Congratulations on your retirement.”  My reply is usually; “Thank you, but I’m not retiring.”  What follows is an explanation about what I’m doing; so I thought I’d try to clear some of that up in this blog.

On other occasions people have ask several of our staff members: “What are Pastor BJ and Janet going to do after he retires?”  Again, I’m not retiring.

So just what am I doing?   I hope you’ll go back and listen to the Mission and Vision message I shared with our church family on September 6th.  You can find it at http://www.gf.church/watch and look for the message called “WHY GO?”   This was something God put on my heart and we started the process nearly 5 years ago; if you want to know more listen to the Sept. 6 message.    As I said in this message, I’m not retiring, I’m just stepping down from the position as Lead Pastor and will remain on staff for a while to assist Pastor Chris in any way he needs.

In addition, I stated that Janet and I have served here for 17 years, and hope to continue serving actively at Grace for another 17 years (if God allows) even when I’m not on staff.  We will continue to INVITE, SERVE and GIVE faithfully with Chris as our pastor.

On a little deeper level, I don’t believe a person ever retires from ministry; whether called into ministry as a vocation or serves in ministry at their local church.

Hope this helps answer some questions.  Janet and I are excited about the days ahead and can’t wait to see what God has in store for Grace Fellowship!

 

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Launch Sunday at Grace Fellowship – Sept. 20

I’m stoked because we’re launching into the Fall.We’re launching back into Grace Kids.  We’re launching new Grace Student Services.   

RESET is GraceStudents NEW service just for Middle Schoolers (6th-8th graders) Sundays at 11:00am.

FUSION is GraceStudents NEW service for High Schoolers (9th-12th graders) Sundays at 6:00pm.

LAUNCHING NEW SERVICE TIMES ON SEPTEMBER 2oth!       In light of bringing Preschoolers (birth-5yr olds), Children (K-3rd grade), Intermediates (4th-5th grades) and Students (6th-8th grades) back into their environments at Grace on Sunday mornings, we need more time between services to completely sanitize their ministry environments.   Therefore, beginning September 20th we’ll have two services at 9:00am and 11:00am.  We’ll make adjustments to services and space as we experience this new normal, adapt and grow.

As churches across the world are having to hit the reset button because of Covid-19, we’re stoked about new opportunities to meet the needs of our communities because at Grace we are #ForOurCommunities!   In light of this, it’s a great time for you to experience the joy and growth that happens when you serve.   Maybe it’s time for you to LAUNCH into this new normal by making a difference in the lives of children, students and adults by serving at Grace.  You can text the word “serve” to 940-242-2212 or go to http://www.gf.church/serve to get more information and sign-up.  Perhaps the greatest asset we have isn’t our knowledge, but having a heart full of love that moves our hands and feet to serve others!

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TO GO OR NOT TO GO? – Shouldn’t Even Be The Question!

If you’re a parent or grandparent you know that as you care for and feed your kids they continue to grow physically and there are times they experience a growth spurt that seems crazy, but excites you and them.   The only thing that’s not exciting about this kind of growth spurt is having to buy new clothes & shoes every time you turn around or keeping the animals fed (ha)!

I know you care deeply about the physical well-being of your kids and I hope you care even more about their spiritual well-being!   I was a Student Pastor for nearly 15 years and have been serving in full-time ministry for over 38 years.  One thing I know is that your kids need to experience some spiritual growth spurts too and a primary place that happens is at Camp!

Our children’s and student ministries pour into your kids year round.   We consistently encourage your kids to grow in their relationship with Jesus, or take their first step to believe in and receive Jesus as Lord and Savior.    We get excited when your kids/students take any next step in a relationship with Jesus, and I’ve seen most spiritual growth spurts take place at Camp (or on a special weekend emphasis like Rush / Disciple Now).

When your kids/students can get away from the majority of distractions they face daily and focus on Jesus with others, Jesus does something amazing in their lives!  I believe God’s Spirit does something in them that isn’t duplicated in other environments and the kids/students who don’t participate can’t fully understand what they missed.   There’s just no substitute for being part of what God does when a group of kids/students come together and focus on Jesus and what He wants for them.

That’s why TO GO OR NOT TO GO shouldn’t be the question.   It was never really a question in our home.  We wanted our kids/students TO GO regardless of cost and regardless of whether it interfered with their involvement in other things during the summer.

Listen, I got to pray with my oldest son Jeremy as he invited Jesus into his life as a result of a weekend experience that was like camp.  Our daughter Julie made a decision to invite Jesus into her life at CAMP.   As a Student Pastor, I saw 1000’s of kids make lifelong decisions to trust Jesus or take their next step in following Jesus at CAMPS.    So I believe CAMP is one of the greatest investments you can make in the lives of your kids/students!  We believe this so much that we’ll do everything we can to help make CAMP possible for your kids/students if you’re facing obstacles that might prevent them from participating.

If you have specific questions you can always contact our Children’s Pastor Jeremy Rutledge or our Student Pastor Corbin Garner at Grace (940-969-2427) and you can find additonal information at http://www.gf.church/whatshappening

Parents, Grandparents, & Guardians I hope you’ll make CAMP a priority in the life of your kids/students this summer!

Bless you – Pastor BJ

BTW – the photo is an oldie!

 

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HOME LIFE GETTING A LITTLE CRAZY? Part 2

 

 

 

 

Are your kids bored? Are you? There are all kinds of challenges with everyone staying at home so I thought I’d share a few more ideas that came to mind recently about some things you might try to have a little fun. Maybe you can share this post and add some of your own ideas.

SET A NEW GUINNESS BOOK OF WORLD RECORDS.   Use these ideas to see if your kids can break a world record… https://kids.guinnessworldrecords.com/activities/try-this-at-home/

RIGHTNOW MEDIA And A Meal. Pick one of the many videos available for kids on RightNow Media and watch it together before a meal.  During that meal take a few minutes to discuss the theme and ideas of the video and how those may apply in your lives.

WRITE The Elderly.    Do some research or ask around and find some elderly people your kids can write.   Help them write short cards of encouragement to those who are elderly, enclose some photos and let them know you’re praying for them.

Use APP Games That Are Appropriate For Kids.   Find games like Heads Up for Kids or other games designed for kids where they have to guess words, act things out, etc.

Go Outside And Play CATCH.   We went out Sunday afternoon with a couple of our grandkids and played a game called Jackpot.  Make up your own games.  See how many times you can catch a ball, frisbee, etc without dropping it.

LEGOS Contest.   Make up your own Legos Contest using similar Lego objects people have to build in a certain amount of time.

SERVE SOMEONE by Mowing Their Yard.   If there’s someone in your neighborhood who needs help – or an elderly person or couple who could use help – offer to mow their yard and get your kids involved in helping you.

Make Cookies or Cook A Meal Together.   Teach your kids how to prepare a meal or do something fun like making Easter Cookies.

These are just a few ideas to get you thinking about your own creative ways to interact with your family during this time when we’re practicing Social Distancing and are self-quarantined.    You might want to share this post and add your own ideas with it.

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HOME LIFE GETTING A LITTLE CRAZY?

Are your kids bored? Are you? There are all kinds of new challenges with everyone staying at home so I thought I’d share a few ideas that came to mind recently about some things you might try to have a little fun. Maybe you can share this post and add some of your own ideas. I’ll start with a few and then add to them every few days.

POPCORN And A Movie. This may be something you already do, but you could add a new twist to it for fun. We use http://www.pluggedin.com to get information on movies or tv shows to find something appropriate for us, our kids and grandkids. Watch an appropriate movie and spend a few minutes together after the movie talking about the content. What did you think about ________?   What would you do if you were in the same situation as ________?    Did you think _____ was right or wrong in how they responded to _______?   Etc.

PLAY & VIDEO MINUTE TO WIN IT GAMES – you can find websites describing games online.   One of the many I found is https://teachmama.com/minute-win-games-kids-family/   I am not familiar with Amy Mascott who is the author of this site so I’m not recommending her writings, but her minute to win it ideas are good.   Play the games and video them.  If you get a funny or crazy video – share it.

GAME NIGHT CONTEST. When our kids were younger, we loved playing board games. LIFE was our favorite board game for a season. We played it often and kept a running tally of the highest score. Have a contest over the next few weeks or months while we’re all staying at home with a special prize for the person who ends up with the highest score in whatever game you play by a certain date.

PAPER AIRPLANES. Teach your kids how to make a paper airplane. Let them make & decorate their own planes then do some challenges with them inside or outside. Which plane can stay in the air the longest? Which plane can fly the greatest distance?

FRISBEE GOLF.   Set up your own mini-course in your back or front yard with objects to hit and have an ongoing tournament.

SERVE SOMEONE. Let your kids know this is a difficult time for others too. Brainstorm ideas as a family about ways you can serve someone else and then choose one that’s appropriate (in light of COVID-19), and do it.

I’ll add some more ideas over the next few days.  Hopefully, this will spur you to share some of your ideas.

 

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Coronavirus – A Few Reminders

We cannot take lightly the threat of the coronavirus and its impact around the world. For those of us who are Jesus followers, we need to pray diligently for people around the world impacted by this, for our leaders & people in the health industry and for the leaders of countries in other parts of the world to have wisdom & protection too. We also need to practice healthy habits and be wise in these difficult days by allowing our faith to give hope and be an example to many who are fearful.

Here are a few verses you might want to reflect upon daily. I know the context of these passages are a little different, but the principles remain the same.

Rejoice in hope, endure in suffering, persist in prayer.
Romans 12:12

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in him, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:4-8‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
‭‭John‬ ‭14:27‬ ‭NIV‬‬

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. 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. This is good and pleases God our Savior. God wants everyone to be saved and to fully understand the truth.
1 Timothy 2:1-4

For God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.
2 Timothy 1:7

I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In the world you have trouble and suffering, but take courage —I have conquered the world.” John 16:33

So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:15-20

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

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