“WHO’S WATCHING ?”

Philippians 4:9, “Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing.”

whos looking

        Sometimes when our youngest daughter Kendall is sitting beside me on the couch I will notice that she begins to imitate me. Before long I will start to make funny faces, and it turns into a big game for us to where we both end up laughing like crazy. I love these precious moments in time, because I know it won’t be long before she is grown and not sitting beside me that much any longer. Yet, once the game is over it is always a vivid reminder of how much my actions and behavior count when it comes to other people in this life.

I want my life to be a testimony to my wife, my children, and all that are around me that I am a follower of Jesus Christ. I have found that both my words, and my actions count big time when it comes to me being a follower of Christ and trying to lead people to Him as well.

Paul, in this verse, as he was writing to the Philippians was not boasting about himself or even his behavior. If we read, in context Paul’s writings we know that as a follower of Christ he wanted to point people to Jesus. In this verse 9 of Philippians 4 he does show us though how important our lifestyle, words and actions are. He said to these people, “The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things”. Paul knew he was fully committed to Jesus, and following Jesus with the help of Jesus. He knew that God was helping Him and leading Him. He was again, fully 100% committed to Christ. Since this was the case, he said practice these things. These were the things they learned from Paul as he was following Christ. These were the things they received from Paul as he was following Christ. These were the things they heard from Paul as he was following Christ. These were the things they saw Paul do as he was following Christ.

We’ve all heard the saying, “Practice what you preach” (Source unknown). Well, these are good words for us to take in, because if we are going to claim we know Christ, we had better follow Him. If we say we know Him, and yet we live a different way, we are liars. We take the chance of being a stumbling block to someone coming to know Jesus because we say one thing and live another.

So, let’s be careful. We know we are not going to live perfectly, but let us strive, with the help of God, to live Christ-honoring lives today.

Sincerely,

Pastor Bryan

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“Helping Hands”

HELPING HANDS

 

Proverbs 23:22 “Listen to your father who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old.”

 

This verse reminds of how important parents are, and that we should never forget that fact. It can become so easy through the busy routine of life to forget that. Most of us don’t do it intentionally. It’s just one of those things that can happen so easily. In fact, one preacher said this about kids and their parents. “When kids are young they IDOLIZE their parents. When they hit the early teen years, they DESPISE their parents, and when they become young adults they UTILIZE their parents.”. (Source unkown). How true is that?

 

Like any other kid, I went through those same stages. When I was young, I loved being around my parents and thought they hung the moon. As I entered the teenage years I thought I knew more than they did. Yet, as a young adult and especially after getting married and starting a family I realized they were pretty stinking smart! It gives me hope. Rachel and I have three kids: 16, 13, and 4. Two are in the despise stage, and one is still in the idolize stage. So, about the time our first two transition into the utilize stage our third child will move into that awesome “despise” stage . But, knowing the middle stage is the toughest and having hope for the third stage is good…I think LOL.

 

I’ve said all that to say at 42 years old I have a deep respect and love for my parents. I am grateful that God gave me such great parents, and I love them both so much. I loved them through my terrible teen years, and I just did a really poor job of showing it. ( like most teens ).

 

Now my parents are in their early 70’s, and my mom has dementia. She’s most likely in the latter stage of the disease which causes a lot of problems. My dad is an absolute hero, and does an awesome job taking care of her. I got a call this morning that she was in the floor and he wasn’t able to get her up on his own. So, once I got the call I turned my car around, called my boss, and headed straight to my parents to help my dad. It’s sad when you see your mom in that condition, but it was my privilege to get to help my very own mom up and back on her feet. You see, my mom is not in her right mind anymore because of this terrible disease called dementia. Most of the time she doesn’t know who we are, and sometimes her actions don’t reflect who my mom truly was before the disease took over her brain.

 

Both of my parents have always put my sister and me before them in everything. They have sacrificed for us. They have put their own ambitions and desires on hold so many times to make sure they were doing what was best for their children and family. Yes, they were doing what good parents do, but these were conscious decisions they made out of sacrificial love for their family.

 

And this verse Proverbs 23:22 is a stark reminder to me about treasuring the parents I have no matter the physical or mental condition they may end up in. I listen to my dad because he wise from many years of experience, and he loves me. Since I know he loves me, and he’s wise I am wise to listen to him. I do not despise my mother even in the midst of this terrible disease that has taken over her mind and body. She gave birth to me, fed me, cared for me, changed my diaper as a baby, and picked me up every time I fell.

 

Now, in those times when she falls down, as her son, it’s my privilege to pick up the mom who was always there to pick me up. Let us cherish the parents God gives us, because life moves pretty fast.

 

Sincerely,

Pastor Bryan

“Catch My Drift?”

Hebrews 2:1, “For this reason we must pay much closer attention to [a]what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it.”

Drifting

         There are two major parts of this verse that really stick out to me. “We must pay much closer attention”, and “so that we do not drift away” are those two things that stick out like a sore thumb to me. God’s word is telling us that we need to pay attention to the things we have heard in His word so that we do not drift away.

Think about how easy drifting really is. It takes no effort at all to drift. Just by doing nothing you can drift away. Yes, it’s that easy. Some of us struggle with daydreaming. Some of us just struggle with paying attention no matter what is in or not in our day. Some people get sleepy after lunch and begin to drift away from the work they are supposed to be doing. I remember as a kid in school it didn’t take much for me to “drift away”.

The same thing is true for us in our spiritual lives. Miss a Sunday at church, and the next one will be a little easier. Have you been trying to read the entire Bible through this year? Miss a day, or take the weekend off and see how hard it is to get back started on your routine Monday morning. Have you been battling with a particular stronghold in your life? If you’re not relentless about seeking God and His help to overcome it, drifting away from seeking the goal to overcome that stronghold will be very easy.

It’s important that we pay MUCH CLOSER ATTENTION to what’s important. God, His word, and our obedience to His word is of the utmost importance. We have to pay close attention to our obedience and disobedience to Him if we are going to become the men and women God is wanting to make us.

Dave Ramsey has talked for many years about living a debt free life. He uses the example of running like a gazelle. A gazelle can run in bursts up to 60mph at a time. That’s intense! We need that intensity when it comes to pursuing a growing relationship with our Savior Jesus Christ. That intensity on God, and on His word is what we are like when we are PAYING MUCH CLOSER ATTENTION to God and His word.

Today, may our prayer be, “Lord help me to pay very close attention to the work You’re doing in and around my life. Help me to see where you are at work and help me to get involved. ( Like Henry Blackaby used to say.). Help me to be focused, and not to drift. Please give me that intensity in my life. Amen.”.

Blessings,

Pastor Bryan

“The Clear Truth about Fuzzy Living”

focus

Colossians 3:2, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”

         Here we are at the end of August, and quickly approaching September. Yesterday morning when I went outside to get in my vehicle I noticed something very unusual for August in the Mid-South area. The weather was cool with a slight breeze. It felt GREAT! Again, this was unusual weather for our area this time of year, but it felt like autumn which is my favorite time of year.

Autumn is my favorite time of year for many reasons, but one of those reasons is that I love to deer hunt. I love other types of hunting, but hunting deer is one of those hobbies that I really enjoy. Every year there are certain things that have to be done before going deer hunting for the first time of the season, and some of those things have to be repeated each time I go hunting. One of the things that ALWAYS has to be done every time I get in my deer stand is that I have to check the focus on my scope. The focus on my rifle scope is a major factor in whether a hunt will be a success or a failure. If the focus is set right then it’s more likely that my shot will be right on target where I need it to be. If the scope is not focused correctly, I may shoot to high, too low, or even to the side of my target. However, it’s not just about where I shoot, but it’s about being able to view my target with clarity. I believe that being able to keep your eye on the target with a clear view is so important for the hunt, but it’s even vastly more important when we’re talking about our journey in this life with Jesus Christ our Lord.

Paul writes in Colossians 3:2, “Set your minds on things above, not earthly things.” As a way to charge us ( Christ followers ) to make sure our focus is right. There are so many points that can be brought out about this verse, but I would like to draw your attention to three things today.

You see, when we set our minds and affections on things above it changes everything. It changes our past, our present, and our future focus. Our focus becomes clear and we are able to see as God desires us to see, and have vision for what God is calling us to do.

#1. The right focus changes yesterday for you and me. It’s easy for us to become slaves to our failures of yesterday which can hinder our growth today. Maybe there was a sin you have struggled with and yesterday you stumbled with that sin. Maybe last week was a really bad week for you socially and because of what went on depression has crept in. Maybe the other day you were unkind to someone and it’s been eating at you every since. Maybe there’s something in your life that only God and yourself know you’re hanging on to but you need to let it go. ( And you know it ). The truth is God’s word tells us in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”. But if you’re focus is not right you are going to miss the blessing and the peace that a verse like 1 John 1:9 brings to the follower of Christ.  When our focus is right we don’t become slaves to yesterdays failures.

#2. The right focus changes today for you and me. Every new day we are given an opportunity to remain on this earth is an opportunity to live and serve the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The truth is though, how much of our day is spent doing that? I know, you have to go to work right? Of course, but when is the last time you showed Christ to your co-workers? When is the last time you got off work, picked up the rest of your family and did a local ministry in your own community? You see, when our focus is clear we begin to see that each day is 24 hours long, minus responsibilities that we have, plus opportunities within those responsibilities to live for Christ and show His love. However, if our focus is fuzzy we’re likely to do what Paul said not to do and have our focus on earthly things: troubles, heartaches, bills, stresses, sports and the list goes on. Don’t get me wrong please. Those things are not all bad in themselves, but we miss Gospel centered opportunities when our focus is not right. We miss seeing Jesus in the middle of the work day if our focus isn’t clear. Today has many opportunities for us spiritually speaking if our focus is right.

#3. The right focus changes tomorrow for you and me. When our focus is right we are going to set our affections and love on things above, and not on this earth. That changes everything about tomorrow and the days ahead. A great example is to just look around us at the world we are living in. If you listen to the news, read the papers, or scroll online it will not take you long to find a whole lot of bad things going on around the world. You will find it in our country too. If our focus is not clear it will be easy for us to get down on the future to the point where we begin to think there is no hope. For the Christian there is always hope! There is always a far better outlook than what we see in this world. The Christ follower has a future home in Heaven with Jesus. The Christ follower has a new body to look forward to. That body will not hold any sickness, or have any defects which will hinder him/her in any way. The believer has yet to experience the very best riches and inheritance that God has for him/her. In other words, we can say without hesitation that God has saved the best for last for those who know Christ. To have this outlook, and to know this will change everything about how you view tomorrow. It should also change how you live today.

Focus is more important that we realize. Can you see where you have been, where you are, and where you are going? Driving down an old country road on a foggy night is a lot more difficult than driving the same road on a sunny clear day. Living in victory is much easier when you are focused on what God has done, what God is doing, what God has waiting. So, get some spiritual Visine from the word of God and set your mind and affections on things ABOVE.

Blessings,

Pastor Bryan

“Racial Problems – Satan’s Work, Not God’s”

racism

John 3:16, “16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

         Recently, even this week, the news media has been highlighting the racial divide that is so prevalent in the United States today. It almost seems contradictory to have “divide” and “United” in the same sentence. This blog post today is not to get into a he said / she said, or who’s right / who’s wrong argument or to go into the great details of history. In fact, to the English junkies out there this may drive you crazy because I’m just going to throw down some things that we need to be reminded of today. My basis for these reminders is based on God’s word, and I will point us to John 3:16 ( stated above ).

First – We need to remember that all men, women, boys and girls are created equal. The Bible teaches and tells us that we are created in the image of God. That means we are equally created. Yes, some may have different abilities, talents, and gifts. We are different in our God-created uniqueness, but we are all created equal as far as God goes, and that trumps everyone else’s opinion.

Second – Being equal means we are ALL sinners. Regardless of your opinion God says that we are all sinners and have come short of His standards. Romans 3:23. So, if anyone out there has the notion of somehow they may be better ( or even worse ) than someone else based on skin color, socio-economic status, ability or any other thing, remember you are born a sinner. Everyone is. Remember, we are created equal.

Third – Being equal means we have the same great need. We are created equal. We are equally a sinner just like everyone else; therefore, we all have the same great need. That need is JESUS! I need Jesus, you need Jesus, and there’s no one out there that doesn’t need Jesus. (See, I told you grammar junkie I was going to test you J LOL ). So, if we ever get to the point where we think someone needs Jesus more than ourselves we have become deceived and are not thinking clearly.

Fourth – God made it possible, in His great love, that ANYONE can become a Christ-follower. Look at John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that whosoever..” Look at it. Think about it. Immerse yourself in that for just a moment. God didn’t say you had to be a certain race, at a certain economic status, have a certain gift or ability, or even act a particular way. God says that He loves His created people – humans. He loves people so much that He sent Jesus, His Son, to live on this earth, die on a cross, and raised Him up again to live forever so that we, through Him ( Jesus ), could have eternal life. The truth is God only sees two types of people, and so should we – saved & lost. That’s it! I have brothers and sisters in Christ who are white, black, Asian, Spanish, and the list goes on and on. I have lost people in my life that are white, black, Asian, Spanish and again, the list goes on and on. Inside, their blood is red that pumps through their bodies. They have a heart, a set of lungs, kidneys and all the same organs that are inside my body. They may not look like me, but neither does my very own sister – Christy. Praise God – she’s beautiful and doesn’t look like me J .

Here’s the POINT – At the foot of the cross at Calvary where Jesus died we are all the same. We are all sinners. Romans 3:23. We all have the same need – Jesus who brings forgiveness. Romans 6:23. God loves us all – His creation. Romans 5:8. And everyone has the opportunity to receive Christ. Romans  10:9-10.  So, let’s strive to see people through the lense of Scripture, and not through the media.

Last POINT to remember – We will do good to spend more time in God’s word than watching the news on any form of media. To be fair and accurate there are some really good journalists and reporters out there. Just like preachers and police – the one’s that get highlighted the most are the ones who have failed in their representation of their position. So, I want to thank those journalists who work hard to report truth. But the truth is no matter how you look at it we will do ourselves a great service and justice to pay more attention to God’s word and see people in light of it rather than paying attention and putting all our eggs in the basket of the media. Watching the media is likely to make you upset, but God’s word will point you to loving people no matter the situation. Besides, keep in mind, all this stuff including the media will be gone one day, but God’s word will live forever.

Blessings,

Pastor Bryan

Are You Alert?

1 Corinthians 16:13, “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.”

Lion

         About two weeks ago it was extremely hot where we live. In fact, that Saturday the temperature was around 110 degrees, and the heat index was even higher. I was working outside ( at my own pace ) doing some yard work that desperately needed to be done. I paced myself which meant taking frequent breaks. During one of the breaks I found myself playing fetch with our dog Rocky. He’s a big lab that thinks he’s the size of a small terrier. Rocky is normally on high alert and knows when a stranger enters our property line. He’s friendly, but his bark will let certainly let us know something is going on or someone has arrived. After playing fetch and some other games with him in the intense heat, Rocky was anything but on high alert. After drinking some water, he laid down, tongue hanging out, and appearing as if he didn’t want to move at all. Rocky had a lot of fun playing games, but at that moment he was no good to me as a guard dog.

This short little episode in Rocky’s life made me think a lot about our lives as Christians. Paul, was telling God’s people that they needed to be alert. I need to be alert, you need to be alert. If we are interested in serving God, and living faithfully to Him, we have no choice but to be alert!

I think often we are so easily distracted by habits, hobbies, and just “doing life” that we let our guard down. We get lazy on the things that matter because we use all of our energy and attention-span on things that really have no eternal value. So, here are a few QUICK things to keep in mind today as you focus on your relationship with Jesus.

  1. BE ON ALERT – Paul told us to be on alert because our enemy, the devil is running all over this earth seeking God’s followers out, and trying to mess up their lives. Sometimes it’s something like a “little white-lie” that we have told that allows Satan to eat at us and tell us we’re no good, and we stink at following God. Other times it may be something like an extra-marital relationship that has gotten out of hand and destroyed a family. God is for you Christian! Satan is NOT! Therefore, please BE ON ALERT!
  2. STAND FIRM IN THE FAITH – You know, it’s hard to stand on ground that you never walk on. Have you walked through the Word of God today? Are you waiting to spend time with God? Don’t wait. The best way to stand firm in the faith is to stand on the word of God. Study it, pray over it, ask God about it, and obey it – the word of God.
  3. ACT LIKE MEN – Yes. This statement does apply to you ladies too. Paul was simply saying, act like men, not like children who don’t know any better. Work through God’s word to become more mature in your faith. Don’t listen to every spirit that you hear. Make sure that you test any spirit you hear by God’s word. Parents guide children. Parents are to be adults and to act like adults. If you saw a child leading a parent in important matters you would wonder what was wrong with the parent. This would be backwards. So, don’t act like children who have not matured, but act like men who know to do right.
  4. And lastly, BE STRONG – The more time you spend with God, and in His word, the stronger you will be. God did not save you, forgive you, and give you new life for you to leave weak, disobedient, and malnourished. He saved you because He has things prepared for you to do. He gives you purpose and meaning in this life. The life you have RIGHT NOW. Be strong!

So, if you’re a child of God, it’s time to be strong in your faith, stand up for Jesus, and live for Him TODAY! Be on alert, because you have an enemy that will not be happy that you want to serve God. But be encouraged, because God ( who lives in you Christian ) is far greater than Satan. God is for you, and for you living victorious in Him.

Blessings,

Pastor Bryan

“Encouraged by a Patriarch”

PROVERBS 11 30

Proverbs 11:30, “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, And he who is wise wins souls.”

       Yesterday after lunch, I took a church member with me to go do some visitation. I had the name and address to a man who I was going to see with the purpose of sharing the Gospel and inviting to church. The story is not long, because the man was not home, or at least no one would come to the door after many attempts. I left my card and information and yes, as Arnold Schwarzeneger would say, “I’ll be back!”.

       Yet, the story didn’t end there either. There was another man who’s been on my heart that I had never met. This man and his wife have been communicating with me for right at 2 years now through letters and post cards. They have been sending financial gifts to support the church I get to serve at, and they have been a real blessing to me as we have developed a great prayer life for each others’ family. I spoke to his wife this past week, and got permission to go visit him because he is in a nursing home for a few more days while recovering from a pretty bad illness. Yesterday, we got to meet face to face for the first time, but it was so neat because we have been praying for each other for 2 years now.

       Yesterday, I witnessed a man who is probably 70 years old that was just as excited about sharing the Gospel with people as anyone I have ever met in my life. It was refreshing to see, and to hear how he has been sharing the Gospel in that nursing home to anyone who will listen. He shared how a long line of people in his family know the Lord, and that his grandchild who just turned 12 received Christ about 2 months ago. Why? Because there is one in their family who is faithful to always share, and doesn’t give up.

       What an encouragement. Let’s not give up. Keep working to win souls, for the writer of Proverbs says, “he who is wise wins souls.”.

Pastor Bryan