Life Back Then

This was posted by John Mark Hicks this morning on Facebook. I thought it was too good to not share. We get to take a look into the early life of the church!

Letter of Mathetes to Diognetus (probably around 130-150 A.D.)

“Christians are indistinguishable from other people either by nationality, language or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life….With regard to dress, food and manner of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in, whether it is Greek or foreign…And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through…Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country….They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law. Christians love all people….A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their response to insult.”

1 Peter 2:12, “Conduct yourselves honorably among the nations, so that, though they malign you as evildoers, they may see your honorable deeds and glorify God when he comes to judge.”

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From Hacked Email to Changed Lives

Our church email got hacked this morning. Someone pretended to be our secretary, and made it sound like they were stuck in the Philippines and needed money. Needless to say the rest of our morning was full of changing passwords, creating a new email account, answering the unending phone calls of helpful people letting us know they received that email, and rebuilding email lists that the hacker deleted. What a pain!

On the positive side, we were able to create a better email work environment for our church office! We now have all email accounts on the same domain as our website (www.eastsidefamily.church), and we now have access to a number of resources and really awesome tools that we didn’t have with our old email setup. We were able to recreate new, more usable email lists and found a few mistakes we had in the old ones. As of now, our email setup is far better than it has ever been, and none of this would have happened if someone hadn’t hacked into our email! We were able to take a frustrating, bad event, and turn it into something great! (Even though our secretary’s fingers are still tired of retyping all the email lists!)

God often works in a similar way in our lives. All of us have made mistakes, or have failed at some point in our walk with Christ. Some of us lived lives we’re not proud of before we found Jesus. Most people I know are afraid to even talk about their failings. As a dear sister phrased it, we wear our “church face.” We don’t want anyone to know we struggle.

Paul lived a life he wasn’t proud of before he met Jesus. Yet the change in his life was so great that it encouraged others. Paul wrote this about his conversion:

22 …the churches in Christ that are in Judea didn’t know me personally. 23 All they knew was that people were saying, “The one who used to persecute us is now preaching the very faith he tried to destroy!” 24 And they praised God because of me. Galatians 1:22-24 NLT

We often run from our pasts, but our past in conjunction with our changed life can produce a powerful testimony for Christ! The group I Am Second produces tons of inspiring testimony based on changed lives. The testimony of a changed life is powerful. Don’t run from your past…share your testimony!

Decisions…

Why is it so hard to make decisions, let alone good decisions? Most of our time is spent making decisions.

Can I hit the snooze alarm and still make it to work on time?  Can I hit the snooze alarm again and still make it to work on time? Do I need a shower? What do I want to wear?  What will I eat for breakfast?  If I climb back in bed for a few minutes can I still make it to work on time?

It’s one thing to make meaningless decisions that affect virtually no one but yourself, but some decisions are far reaching…life changing…and they can affect hundreds of people. How do we handle those?

Psalm 86

11 Teach me your ways, O Lord,
    that I may live according to your truth!
Grant me purity of heart,
    so that I may honor you.
12 With all my heart I will praise you, O Lord my God.
    I will give glory to your name forever,
13 for your love for me is very great.
    You have rescued me from the depths of death.

When we enter into decisions with a pure heart, seeking the Lord’s guidance, and praise our God no matter the outcome, we can be confident in our decision. My prayer today is for both you and me…that we may honor God with our choices, that we may be rely on God’s wisdom, and be confident of his love and guidance in our lives.

I’ll be teaching Bible class, and preaching in Wheeler, TX this weekend. If you’re anywhere near the panhandle region, come on out and say hi!

Never Gonna Give You Up!

This is the season of Lent. If you are unfamiliar with the season, allow me to explain. Lent is supposed to remind the observer of the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness, where he was also tempted by the devil.

Observers of Lent are encouraged to go without…usually this includes fasting, as well as giving up something you enjoy. A friend of mine has decided to give up coffee.

But not all Christians participate in the observance of Lent. Some choose to give something up, others choose not to participate. But whether you do, or don’t participate there is a lesson to be learned here.

Paul addressed a situation in Rome where some people were observing certain days as holy, and special. Others treated them as just another day.  There was also questions about what foods could be eaten or not. Here’s how Paul handles it.

In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable. Those who worship the Lord on a special day do it to honor him. Those who eat any kind of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who refuse to eat certain foods also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God. – Romans 14:5-6

So to all of you during this season of Lent, whether you choose to observe or not observe, do it in a way that honors the Lord, and honors one another. After all, that’s what Jesus called us to do.

3 Ways To Not Be Overwhelmed

Today has been overwhelming.  This whole week has been overwhelming, actually. It has been a big week at work, yesterday was my birthday, I had a big meeting last night, I have a big weekend ahead of me, and I have to prepare for being away from work Monday.

It is so easy to look at our surroundings, circumstances, goals, workload and quickly become overwhelmed. But that’s just what Satan hopes we do. He wants us focused on the here and now, and not on the eternal. Here’s three quick tips to keep focused and not be overwhelmed.

  1. Trust God –  John 14:1 says “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.”  It’s easy to believe that God is not active in our lives, or that he simply doesn’t exist…especially when we face tough times. But Jesus knew we would face those situations, so he reminds us to believe in God, believe in Him, and to trust that they are in control.
  2. Trust His Promises – 1 Corinthians 10:13 reminds us “You have never been tempted to sin in any different way than other people. God is faithful. He will not allow you to be tempted more than you can take. But when you are tempted, He will make a way for you to keep from falling into sin.”  We’re not told that it will be easy…it won’t. And we are never promised that we won’t fail…because we will. But we have the promise that we are able to withstand the situations we face with God’s help. And that can be an enormous source of comfort.
  3. Trust His Salvation – Acts 4:12 states “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”  When we are tempted to look for a solution to our problems, look no further than Jesus. He is the way, the truth, and the life. He is the author and perfecter of our salvation. When life becomes a challenge, run toward Him!

Pray for God’s guidance in the difficult situations. Look to Him as a source of hope, and encouragement. He is faithful, and will never let you down.

I’ll be preaching this Sunday morning at East Side in Synder, TX. If you’re in the area, come on out and say hi! I’d love to meet you in person. Blessings on you this weekend!

via Daily Prompt: Overwhelming

John Glenn and Jesus

john-glennThe world has lost a giant among men. John Glenn, Astronaut on Mercury 7 and Discovery, U.S. Senator, U.S. Marine, and a Christian, made an indelible impression on human history.

One would guess that such a man, surrounded by science and fame, might lose his way. During his historic return to outer space aboard Discovery in 1998, Glenn gave the following statement that showed his faith in God.

“Looking at the Earth from this vantage point, looking at this kind of creation and to not believe in God, to me, is impossible…To see (Earth) laid out like that only strengthens my beliefs.” – John Glenn, Nov. 1, 1998

Thank you Mr. Glenn for sharing your amazing gifts with us. For teaching us more about the world we live in, and showing us that we can believe in the one yet to come.

I doubt I will ever be able to see the earth and the universe in a way equal to Glenn. But even without that stellar view, we can still arrive at the same conclusion!

We first have to stop and consider how improbable our lives really are. According to this article in the Wall Street Journal the chances of our existence just happening through natural means is infinitesimally small, it should have never happened. And when we realize how improbable the existence of human life is, we should look to a Creator far greater than ourselves. click-here-to-tweet

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. – Genesis 1:1

The prologue to John’s gospel goes into a bit more detail.

In the beginning the Word already existed.
    The Word was with God,
    and the Word was God.
He existed in the beginning with God.
God created everything through him,
    and nothing was created except through him.
The Word gave life to everything that was created,
    and his life brought light to everyone.
The light shines in the darkness,
    and the darkness can never extinguish it.

There’s simply no other way to explain how our universe was created. No theory can explain how something came from nothing. That is, unless you account for our Creator.

God has blessed us with such an amazing creation. He even designed it so that when we explore the magnitude and complexity of our surroundings, it points a huge arrow right back at Him.

19 They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. 20 For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. – Romans 1:19-20

We serve an amazing God. One who created us, surrounded us with a creation that points back to Himself, sent us a Savior to help us when we fail, and continue to provide for our every need.

Today, be proud that God saw fit to create you too! Of all the places, and all the times of history, God saw fit to place you where you are today. John Glenn changed the future of humankind with the life and time he was given. What will you do with today?

The Worst Advice I’ve Ever Heard About Stress

What is it with stress? Why are we so overwhelmed about stress? Did you know that over 30 million Americans are currently on antidepressants?

We are a stressed out society that thrives on the idea of working yourself to death, being miserable, and wearing it as a badge of honor. And we get absolutely nothing for it! (Click to Tweet)

As a high school band director, 16-18 hour days are more common than not during the school year. During marching season, I put in 82 hours a week for three straight weeks.  Yes, you read that correctly.

Just this week I overheard someone at school say “Feeling stressed is how you know you are working hard enough!”

It’s been a rough year for sure, and the holiday season only adds stress. But last night I sat by my Magnavox Astro-Sonic stereo (I inherited from my great aunt), listened to Christmas music, drank apple cider, felt the warmth of the fire in the fireplace, and watched my daughters play in the glow of the Christmas tree, everything seemed right. I took a deep breath, sat back in my chair, and the stress melted away. While relaxing I heard the words of Jesus playing through my head:

Matthew 6:25-34
25 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? 27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

Our lives are so upside down. We spend our days worrying about all kinds of things and neglect our families, our friends, and our Father. Instead, Jesus says focus on the Kingdom, the things that truly matter, and everything else will fall into place. Why do you have so little faith?

Lord, help our unbelief. Help us to trust in you, and to not let the distractions of this world steal the joyful peace that only you can give.

It’s my prayer that we can all rest in Christ, divert our energy and attention into serving Him, and allow everything else to be under the control of God.

Blessings to you and your family!