Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Day 17 - Attitude is Everything

Lord Jesus Christ, speak to me.

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. Hebrews 11:8-10

A great theologian once said, “Attitude is everything.” Okay, actually, I believe Andre Aggasi use to say that in his Nikon camera commercials. But I think it’s a great principle. Make sure you read the Scripture above. It’s from the “Faith” chapter of the Bible. I’ve been thinking about a couple of different attitudes with which I can approach everyday – fear or faith. God called Abraham to do some pretty scary things. He wanted him to uproot his family and go somewhere – but didn’t tell him where. Abraham had a nice, settled, comfortable life. But he also believed God. He apparently believed that obeying (believing) God was greater than fearing what might happen if God didn’t come through on His promise.

Being a Christ-follower is a life of faith. I can wake up everyday and worry and fear about what is going to happen. I can fear about what it is going to cost me to follow after God – to go where he sends me. And, if you’ve lived that life of fear (I do occasionally), you know it is no fun. Fear is crippling. Or, we can embrace faith. We can believe God when He says something. Faith is freeing. It’s positive. It’s uplifting. We can get out of bed and face the day head on. We can say, “God has promised. He is going to take care of me. I reject fear and embrace faith.” And then, we jump into the day with hope and a desire to see what God is going to do.

If fear is crippling you, take a step of faith. Look at what God has promised you in His Word. Believe it. Embrace it. Free yourself!

See ya tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Day 16 - I've got a field for sale...

Lord Jesus Christ, speak to me.

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. Matthew 13:44-46

I could be totally wrong here. I’ve just been thinking about the verse above the last couple of days. The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure. Not just any treasure. The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure no one has ever seen or heard of. It is a treasure beyond our wildest imagination. It’s a treasure so valuable, you could never afford it. But there it is. You’ve found this treasure. No one else knows where it is or how to find it. But, you’ve got to find a way to make it yours. You don’t possess it. But you know you’ve got to have it. What do you do? How can you obtain it? It’s nothing you could ever afford. But you would do anything for it. But would you? Are you willing to do whatever it takes to possess this treasure? Will you sell all you have? Will you sacrifice anything to obtain it? What will people think? What will they say when they see you abandoning everything else that once seemed so important? Is the treasure really worth that kind of sacrifice?

Yet how many of us have “sold all he had” to obtain treasure that wasn’t worth it? How many of us have sold our souls for treasure that hasn’t lasted? We’ve sold out to the idea that a relationship will satisfy our souls. We’ve sold out to the idea that wealth will satisfy our souls. We’ve sold out to the idea that some measure of hedonism will satisfy our souls. We’ve put all our eggs in one of these baskets. We’ve sold out. But, we won’t sell out for the one treasure of treasures that will truly satisfy.

Am I making any sense? The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure. It’s a renewed relationship with God. It’s a fresh start. It’s a new life. It’s a life worth living. It’s a life worth selling everything we have to possess.

Have you sold all you have to go and buy that field? Are you still willing to sacrifice any and everything to possess that field? I hope you will. It is absolutely worth it.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Day 15 - Condition One to Answered Prayer

Good morning friends! I hope your week is off to a good start. There is no better way for us to begin each week then to connect with God and others through worship each Sunday morning. I love being in church every Sunday – whether I’m home or away. Anyway…

Let’s hopefully keep our lives moving in the right direction as we connect with the Lord each day by listening to Him through reading His word, talking to Him through prayer, and by being encouraged through our daily devotional.

Let’s pray – Lord Jesus Christ, speak to me.

"If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, you can ask whatever you wish and it will be given to you." John 15:7

Yesterday, the message in church was about the 5 conditions for answered prayers. God gives us these principles that we can apply to our prayer lives to help us be more effective in our prayers.

The first of the five principles is “You must have an honest relationship with God.” Part of having an honest relationship with God is maintaining a constant connection with Him. The verse above speaks of “remaining” in Him, and His word (The Bible) remaining in us. In order to maintain our honest relationship with God, we have to have a regular intake of God’s word (translation – Bible study). In God’s word, we learn more about who God is and how we can honor Him with our lives. The more we know about God and how to live, the more effective our prayer lives will be. We will know how to pray better. I hope you have challenged yourself over this 30 or so day period to have a regular intake of Scripture. I’ve challenged you to read the New Testament through in these 30 days. If that’s too much, challenge yourself to amount of daily reading that you can manage. As you intake His word, pray, "Lord Jesus Christ, speak me." Listen to God as you read His word! And then turn your heart to a time of connecting with God through prayer.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Day 14 - The Twix Man

Good morning faithful devotional readers. Thanks for reading. God bless your time with Him today.

Lord Jesus Christ, speak to me.

“Neither is there any daysman betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon us both.” – Job 9:33 (KJV)
“If only there were someone to arbitrate between us, to lay his hand upon us both.” – Job 9:33 (NIV)

My favorite candy bar is probably a Twix. For me, there is just nothing better than that mixture of caramel and chocolate, with a little cookie added in. I don’t know where they got the name “twix,” but I’m glad they did. Because the word “twix” reminds me of a Scripture verse that I learned when I was in seminary. The verse above, in the King James Version, talks about a “betwixt” man and there is a great lesson to go with it. In context, the Biblical character, Job, is dealing with all the losses he has faced in his life, despite the fact that he was a fairly righteous man. He was suffering a great deal from grief and pain. On top of that, his friends were trying to console him but were basically accusing him of some act of sin for which God must surely be punishing him. Job knew his own heart, and apart from the fact that we are all “sinners,” Job knew his suffering was not normal. In his anguish and grief, he was crying out and longing for someone who could stand between he and God and argue his case. He longed for someone to come between them and close the gap between God and man. He wanted a “betwixt” man. Someone who could lay their hand on both them. Someone who could touch God, and touch man.

Job’s cry is our cry, and a foreshadowing of God’s response. Job saw his need for someone to come between he and God and set things right. We need someone who can come betwixt us and God, and set things right again. We can’t arbitrate for ourselves. If we do, we will lose. We need someone who can touch God and touch us. Someone to come between the two of us and bring us together again. Job saw the need. God saw the need. And He sent His only Son, Jesus, to be the betwixt man. He sent Jesus to be our arbitrator. Jesus stands between us and God and pleads our case based on His righteousness. Jesus died for the sins of the world so that He could stand between His Father and us and plead our case. He is our betwixt man. He is my ‘twix” man. Every time I eat a Twix I am reminded that Jesus died for me and stands between me and God. I hope you’ll be reminded each and every day, whether you eat a Twix or not, that God sent His Son to be your Twix Man.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Day 13 - Guest Blogger - Worship Leader Extraordinaire - Cary

Exodus 15:22-27 (New International Version)

"Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah.) So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, 'What are we to drink?' Then Moses cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. There the LORD made a decree and a law for them, and there he tested them. He said, 'If you listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, who heals you.'
Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near the water."

After the Israelites miraculously crossed the Red Sea, they were led into the desert. How strange that God would lead them from a place of revelation and power to a place of disappointment and dire need. But God wanted to show them that life is a combination of bitter and sweet, triumph and defeat. When the Israelites arrived at Marah, they complained because the water was bitter (Ex. 15:23). After Moses interceded (v.25), God reminded them to keep His commandments (v.26). Then He brought them to the abundance and refreshment of Elim (v.27).

The Lord wanted to teach them that each experience on their journey would reveal their hearts. This test showed they were living by sight and not by faith.
They also learned that God was involved in their daily affairs. He wanted them to know that He not only could part the sea, but He would also supply water for His people. He knew their needs because He planned their way. If you are being led into a wilderness of disappointment and bitterness right now, trust God, for He knows exactly where you are and what you need. As you obey His commands, He will lead you out of the desert and into a place of spiritual abundance, healing, and refreshment.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Day 12 - Guest Blogger- Pastor Tim

The Pursuit of Happyness

My wife and I went to the movies the other night and saw “The Pursuit of Happyness.” (If you have seen the movie you know why that is misspelled) It is a great story of a Father and his desire to make life better for his son. This true story is based on the life of Chris Gardner, a not so good salesman who makes it big as a stock broker. If you have not seen the movie, you should, it is well made and just may challenge you some too.

After watching the movie I started to think about myself and what it means to “Pursue Happiness.” As a Christ-follower we are not supposed to pursue happiness. We are supposed to pursue Joy. Happiness comes and goes. If I have a good day a work, I’m happy. If I get a hole in one, I’m happy. If I get to play with my son, I’m happy. But, if I am running late, I’m not happy. If I get a speeding ticket, I’m not happy. If I get beat by Mike or Matt in ping-pong, I’m not happy.

The problem with happiness is that it is based on what happens to us and often those are things that we cannot control. But Joy is different. James 1:2-4 say that we are to “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” True Joy comes from God. True Joy will not disappear when we have a bad day.

I want to encourage you to find your Joy in God, don’t base it on what happens to you, base it what God has already done for you. That Joy is worth pursuing.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Ninety Minutes in Heaven

I have a terrible habit of starting books and never finishing them. I'm not as disciplined as I liked to be at reading. So, I purchased a short book and have determined to finish it. Remarkably, I only have 13 pages left! The book is called "90 Minutes in Heaven" by Don Piper. I am incredibly curious about what Heaven is going to be like so when I saw this book in the bookstore, I scooped it up and started reading. It's a strange book. It's not the most compelling book I've read, but for some reason, it has really encouraged me. It definitely makes me want to be a better Christian and to share the love God with others. For that reason alone, I recommend it. You might could get it at the library. It's a fairly quick read. Before I forget, the book is basically about a guy who died in a car accident and went to heaven, and then was revived. The book shares his story of 90 minutes in heaven, and then his recovery and how his life has been changed as a result of being in heaven for 90 minutes. It's worth the time to read it.

Day 11 - Developing God's Heart

Lord Jesus Christ, speak to me.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. 2 Corinthians 1:3-7

What are you passionate about? I’m not passionate about many things. I’m not a passionate, emotional guy. I sometimes wish I were more passionate and charismatic and enthusiastic. It’s just not me. And it may be that become more passionate in time. But, in my own, conservative, not very passionate, passionate way (does that make sense), I am passionate about winning, eating chicken wings, and some other not so important things.

But what is God passionate about? What thrills his heart and soul? I’m convinced if there is one thing God is passionate about, it is people. God loves people. He loves you. And me. I think He has more than proved this by sending His Son to take on flesh and bones and to die for the sins of the world. God “looks down” on a lost and hurting world that He cares so much about and did something about. He sent us Jesus to heal us, give us hope and make us new again. Amazing.

But think about your community. There are people all around you. Lost and hurting. Apart from God. And God loves them so much. And He so wants them to experience the new life that only comes from Him. That, to me, is God’s passion. Bringing new life to people. Look at the Scripture verses above. You’ve been lost and hurting in your lifetime as well. Have you experienced new life in Christ? It’s available to you, and your community. Pray for your neighbors. Pray for your community. Pray for a movement of God’s Spirit among us. Pray for lives to be changed. And go out and show others God’s love. Show it, and tell them about it. Invite them to church. Invite them to a Connection group. Have them over to your home. Share your life with them. Share the comfort you have received from God. And maybe one day, they will drop their defenses and let God make them new as well.

Day 10

Good morning everyone! I hope you’re off to a great day. I heard from a couple of people yesterday that they went to read the day 9 devotional on my blog and it wasn’t there!?! I don’t get it! I posted it yesterday morning, and when I checked the blog this morning, there it was! I hope everything is working now!


Let’s pray! Lord Jesus Christ, speak to me!

“I no longer call you servants because a servant doesn’t know his master's business. Instead I have called you friends for everything I've learned from My Father, I've made known unto you. You didn't choose Me, but I chose you to go and bear fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in My name." John 15:15

On this past Sunday morning, we started a new series of messages on prayer. One of the things I really want our church to grow in this year is prayer. So, as our devotional this morning, let’s review the main points from the first message on prayer.

Sunday’s message was on the purposes of prayer. Here are the purposes we talked about:

1) Prayer is dedication
2) Prayer is communication
3) Prayer is supplication
4) Prayer is cooperation

Prayer as dedication shows that we are dependent on God. It shows that our lives our dedicated to depending on Him because we realize how badly we need him. One of the greatest enemies of prayer is our over estimation of our ability to take care of ourselves. Have you humbled yourself before God today and recognized your need to depend on Him today?

Prayer as communication points to the fact that we can communicate with God directly! We don’t have to some other medium to get to Him. He has opened up a direct line of communication with Him through Christ. He calls us friends! We are not simply His servants or slaves! God calls us his friends and wants us to know that we can communicate with Him anytime, anywhere- all the time for that matter!

Prayer as supplication means we can ask God for whatever our hearts desire. God wants to give us what we want! Doesn’t that sound a little too good to be true? But it is! He says multiple times in Scripture that if we reverence Him, living our lives for him, then we can ask Him for what we want and he will answer. The point is not that we can ask for a million dollars and get it. The point is, if our lives are lined up with what God, what we want will line up with His will. And don’t miss the point of bringing any and every request before God! He cares for you and wants to hear from you.

Finally, prayer as cooperation means that we get to work with God on His plan for earth through our prayers. God has limited Himself in such a way that He is saying, “I will not do certain things unless my children believe me for these things by praying ans asking for these things to happen.” I have no idea exactly how these works, but God calls us to pray! And prayer changes things! I don’t have to understand it! I just know that God says I can cooperate with Him in prayer.

Application – Pray. Talk to God. If you’re a Christ-follower, He calls you His friend. Grow your relationship with Him by spending some time talking with Him today.

PS - This message outline on prayer comes from Rick Warren.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Day 9 - Sorry it's so long. I think it's worth it!

As always, let’s start this morning with a simple prayer:

Lord Jesus Christ, speak to me.

For the last seven days I’ve been using the Core Values of The Bridge to guide the devotions. Today I will cover the last of our eight core values. Just as a reminder, these values serve as a guide to our church. When we think about adding programs or ministries or activities to our church, we have to ask ourselves, “Does this keep with our core values?” I hope you share these values and can use them as a guide for your own life.

“Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant…Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” 1 Corinthians 12:1,7

The last of our eight core values is:

Every Member has a Ministry.
We value using spiritual gifts for service.

Have you ever been on a youth trip in a church van? If you have, you likely have many memories! Some great memories, some frustrating memories, and some that smell! I’ve been on a lot of youth trips as a former youth pastor. And inevitably, there was always a problem with the van on every trip. One particular trip, we needed to drive to a location out of state about 6 hours away. About an hour into our trip, one of my fellow youth workers asked, “Do you hear that?” I didn’t here anything. And then, BAM! The back, passenger side tire blew out. Fortunately, with a full van and hauling a loaded trailer, I was able to maintain control of the van and get to the side of the road safely. Now, I know how to change a tire. But every vehicle is unique. I was faced with finding where the jack was located on the van, finding the spare tire, how to remove the spare tire, where does the jack go to lift the van, etc. If it were up to me to have figured out how to do all those things on that van, I would still be a youth pastor because I would never have figured it out. But, enter Kevin. My good friend Kevin. We call him Fleegle – that’s his last name. Kevin was driving another van behind us. He pulls off the road behind us, jumps out of the van and immediately gets to work changing the tire. He knows exactly where everything is located and what to do. BAM. New tire installed. And we’re on the road again. Thank you Jesus! No, really. Thank you Jesus! If it weren’t for Kevin, I’d still be on the side of I-40, looking for that jack.

So what’s with this story? Every member has a ministry. God has shaped us all in a certain way. He has given each of us gifts and abilities to serve Him, each other, and our churches. If I didn’t have Kevin, I was up the creek. But God had Him along on the trip, with Kevin’s particular gifts, to help us along the way. God has equipped you with a particular shape. The Bible says that if you are a Christ-follower you have been endowed with at least one spiritual gift. You also have a heart for certain things, abilities, personality and experiences that make you who you are. And you know what? I'm not you. I don’t have your shape. I’m shaped differently. And there are times when my shape will not be enough (like changing tires) and I’m going to need your help. I need you and you need me. That’s the way God made us. How can we use our shape to serve God, each other, and our church?

Monday, January 22, 2007

Day 8

Lord Jesus Christ, speak to me.

Today's Scripture
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17

The 7th of eight core values at The Bridge is:

God is Honored in Excellence.
We value excellence and integrity in all areas of ministry.

Jesus once told a story about a man who was going away for a journey. Before leaving, he gave a certain amount of “talents” (a talent was a unit of currency worth more than $1000.00) to each of his servants. To one he gave five talents. To another, two talents. To the last, he gave one talent. The story never says that the man ever instructed the servants about what to do with the talents. It only says that he “entrusted” his property to them. The servant with 5 talents put them to work and produce 5 more. The man with two also doubled his talents. But the man with one talent went out and worked really hard and produced 20 talents. No, not really. You know the story. The man with one talent went and hid his talent and it produced nothing. And he was disciplined for not making use of the money he had received. But wouldn’t it be a better story if the man with one talent had gone out and done something amazing with it?

The point is that each of us has been entrusted with many things from God. Time, talents, and treasure. You may be a five “talent” guy or gal. Or maybe you’re just a one talent guy or gal. The point, again, is that you’re talented! (pun intended!) And God wants you to do the best you can with what He has given you. I surely don’t want to hear the rebuke from God that the one talent guy received from his master – “You wicked and lazy servant!” Ouch. God is honored in excellence. However many “talents” you have received from God, put them to use! Reproduce them! Share them. Serve others with them. Help to build God’s kingdom. Work hard at home, school, and work. Do your best. God is worthy of that kind of effort!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Day 7

Happy Sunday Morning to you! If you’re up and spending some time with the Lord this morning I applaud you! I have the hardest time being disciplined on weekends about escaping for some time with God! I pray that God speaks to your heart this morning (or day or evening – whenever you read this!).

Remember to start with prayer:

Lord Jesus Christ, speak to me.

Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. 1 Corinthians 9:19-23

The next of our core values at The Bridge is:

Timeless Message, Relevant Way.
We value relevance without compromising doctrinal soundness.

The good news about God’s Son Jesus dying for the sins of the world that we might believe in Him and receive Him into our life is a message of good news for all the world. Everyone, everywhere ought to have opportunity to hear and respond to this message. This message should never change. But, as our core value states, the way we present that message needs to relevant! Too often, we want to package the Message in the way that suits us best and share it only that way. But every culture, every community, every person is different. We want to share the good news with them, but we should also want to find a way to relate that message in the most relevant way to the hearer. In the Scripture above, the apostle Paul talked about his strategy to present the good news in a relevant way to different audiences.

What about us? Who are we trying to share the good news with? Is our good news only packaged in one way, or are we praying and looking for ways to present the gospel uniquely and with relevance to the people God has placed in our lives??? The good news is the same. We may just need to find new and relevant ways to share this news “for the sake of the gospel, that [we] may share in its blessings.”

PS – How are you doing in reading through the NT? I’m a little behind still, but I’ll do my best to catch up! I love reading Scripture and noticing new things, being remind of old favorites, and realizing how much I’ve got to learn about my great God and Savior!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Day 6

Good morning everyone. Don’t forget to start with prayer:

Lord Jesus Christ, speak to me.

Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself…Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 22:37-39, 28:19-20

The 5th of our 8 core values at The Bridge is:

We value a balance of the five purposes (Evangelism, Worship, Ministry, Fellowship, and Discipleship) and believe that this balance will help create church health.

I have a son. Jackson. He’s two years old. He is almost 3 feet tall and weighs in at about 31 and ½ pounds. I fully expect that in two years from now that Jackson will not be 3 feet, 31pounds. He will grow. We will feed him, he will play, and he will be healthy. And healthy things grow. If he has not grown in 2 years, I’d better be concerned. There must be something wrong with his health.

The same is true in the life of faith. As Christ-followers, God intends for us to grow and mature. And there are certain principles of the faith that will help us grow. If we practice these principles, we should develop in our faith – we will love more, serve more, worshp more, etc. If are no different today than we were 2 years ago, we need to evaluate our spiritual health.

There are at least 5 basic purposes for which God has created us. A healthy balance of development in all these 5 purposes will lead to our own spiritual health and the health of our churches. These 5 purposes are found throughout the Bible. You find them above in Matthew – the great commandments and the great commission. If you want to know more about these purposes, keep reading my blog over the next 25 days. Or get a head start by getting a copy of Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life.

Discover your purpose in life. Get healthy. Grow. If you’re not growing, evaluate. And ask someone you know to be a dedicated follower of Christ how you can grow!

Have a great day!

Day 5

Lord Jesus Christ, speak to me.

They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47

The next of the core values at The Bridge is:

God Created Us for Relationships.
We value families, small groups, and authentic community.

Being a part of a church isn’t like being in a family. It is being in a family. A church is a spiritual family. When you become a Christ-follower, you become a part of God’s forever family. That is what we were made for. We were made by God and for God and to be a part of His forever family. There should not be any lone ranger Christians out there. But all too often, you will here people say, “I love God. I just don’t like the church. There are too many hypocrites there.” What does that sound like in the ears of God? The church is referred to in Scripture as the body and the bride of Christ. So when someone says, “I don’t like church,” that is the same as saying to God, “I love you, but I don’t like your body.” Or, “I love you, but I don’t like your wife.” Can you imagine someone saying that to you? “I love you, but your body repulses me.” Not a very kind thing to say. But that is how we treat God when we reject being in connection with a local church body. God loves the church. And we should too. Is it a perfect place with perfect people? No. But as Rick Warren has said, “If you ever find the perfect church, don’t join it. Because then it won’t be perfect anymore.” (not an exact quote!)

God created us for relationships. He designed us to depend on one another for encouragement and strength. Each of us as Christ-followers has a responsibility to connect ourselves with a local church. And we won’t find the perfect church. But we can use our gifts and talents and abilities to make it a better church. And I want to encourage you, don’t sit around and wait for others connect relationally with you! You take the iniative to build relationships within the church that will foster your spiritual growth and the growth of the ones you connect with. Join a Connection group. Find a prayer partner. Join a ministry team. Relate. God made you for it.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Day 4

Good morning everyone! I pray that this blog for this morning is as good the second time as the first! My first attempt (30 plus minutes of work) was deleted when my blog provider had technical difficulties. I hope “take 2” at this devotional makes sense and actually makes it on my blog!


“Lord Jesus Christ, speak to me.”

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” Matthew 7:24

The third core value at The Bridge is:

Biblical Teaching is for Life-Change.
We value application of Scripture.

I love cats. I’m a cat guy. Nothing against dogs. I like them as well. But I love cats. I especially love big, fat, lazy cats! I love lounging around and having a big, fat furball there with me. We have a cat as a pet now – Daisy. She is incredibly thin. I can’t explain why. She is amply fed and sleeps about 18 hours a day. The other 6 hours she eats and lays around the house. I have not idea why she doesn’t gain weight. Lucky her. Most other animals (and humans for that matter) would gain a lot of weight if they did as little as Daisy. Our bodies are meant to consume and then produce. We consume, then we exercise to offset our intake. If we don’t, our bodies become unhealthy. The same is true in our spiritual lives. God wants us to consume (His Word) but then to do something about it. The Bible is meant for transformation, not just information. Our spiritual fitness is not what it needs to be if we are simply a wealth of Bible knowledge. We don’t teach the Bible at The Bridge in our services or in our Connection Groups simply to create biblically literate membership. The last thing we need is a lot of Bible know-it-alls. God wants us to be Bible do-it-alls! We’ve got to apply what were learning or it does us no good. The scripture tells us, “knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” It’s not how much you know. It’s how much you apply. Should we want to win a Bible trivia contest or love our neighbor?

So how’s your spiritual fitness? Are you attempting live out what you’re learning? The truth is, it’s hard. The Bible is not so easy to apply. Often, the Bible calls us to do things that don’t make sense to us. Other times it calls us to do things we don’t want to do. Love your enemy. Serve. Forgive. Go the extra mile. Turn the other cheek. God knows what He is doing. He is not going to lead us astray. Read God’s word and ask Him, “How does this apply to my life?” What do I need to do as a result of what I learned? Is there a command for me to obey? Is there an example for me to follow? Is there a sin I need to avoid?

As you read through the New Testament this month, keep in mind that the Bible is meant for transformation, not just information. Take a step of faith and do something radical – apply the Bible to your life.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Day 3

Don't forget, as we begin today to pray:

"Lord Jesus Christ speak to me. "

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:1-4

The 2nd of our core values is:

People Matter to God.
We value a community of acceptance, love, and service.

I love this value! People matter to God! And if people matter to God, people ought to matter to me! All people! Everyone God created is valued by Him! He loves us all. We were created by Him and for Him! And if wasn’t enough that He created us, despite the fact that we rebelled against Him, we still matter to Him! He loves us despite our rebellion! Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Our number one priority should be for us to honor God with our lives and bring Him glory. But if we want to please God, we ought to become passionate about what He is passionate about! And God is passionate about people! He loves people so much, He took on flesh and bones and sacrificed Himself to restore us to Himself! God is crazy in love with people!

Are you passionate about people? Honestly, you may not be. But as you get to know God better, you will see His passion for people and will want to develop that passion. God showed His passion for people by sacrificing for them. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, he gave…” For us to follow God’s model of passion for people, we can begin by sacrificing for them. What can we give away to help people get to know God better? Our time? Our talents? Our treasure? Will you pray for those apart from God? Will you sacrifice your free time, vacation time, personal time to build relationships and show people that God loves them?

People matter to God. They don’t need our judgment. They need to see the love of God displayed through our lives. God wants all men (and women) to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. Let’s do our part in loving and sacrificing for a world of people that God loves!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Day 2

“This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life…” - Deuteronomy 30:19-20

Good morning everyone! I hope you rested well! And if you’re not reading this in the morning – Good afternoon or good evening! I hope you’re having a great day.

Yesterday, I wrote about our church's vision to be “outwardly-focused.” We want to guard against our church (or us as individuals) becoming so inwardly-focused that we lose sight of sharing God’s love with the world around us. Over the next several days, we are going to focus on the “core values” that The Bridge attempts to adhere to. These values were developed in some of the earliest meetings of our church as we sought to clarify what we thought ought to be important to us for the lifetime of our church.

Each morning (day or evening) before you sit to read this devotional and talk to God about what you are learning, would you pray this simple prayer?

“Lord Jesus Christ, speak to me.”

The core value that tops our list is:

We exist for God’s glory.
We value having a Christ-centered focus, believing God will honor us only as we honor Him first.

The WESTMINSTER SHORTER CATECHISM answers the question, “What is the chief end of man?” The answer, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” The Bible clearly teaches that we were made by God and for God. God is what life is all about. In His goodness, God has provided us with a lot of other things to enjoy, but our primary purpose in life is to know Him and honor Him with our lives. This is part of what it means to bring Him glory. The verse above from Deuteronomy is one of my favorites. “The Lord is your life…” It has been my experience that so many people miss this point. Too often we want God to be something we add to our life, rather than being our life! Being a Christ-follower is not about a religion. It is not simply about attending a certain number of religious gatherings or holding to a certain list of do’s and don’ts. It is about a relationship. It is about knowing God and realizing that He is what life is all about. He is life.

How about you? How would you describe your connection with God? Is it more like a religion, or is it a relationship? Can we live our lives for God’s glory? Will you glorify Him with a relationship instead of a religious system?

Sunday, January 14, 2007

30 or so days of devotionals - Day 1

So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things. 2 Peter 1:12-15

When the Peter (one of Jesus closest campanions) wrote those words, he wasn't remotely talking about what I am about to write about! But everytime I get repetitive in my teaching, I think back to these words! I am such a slow learner so often! I need to be reminded of the most basic things over and over again before they sink in and become a part of my life. And even then, I often forget the things I've learned again!

So, let me be repetitive. The vision of our church is to be"an outwardly-focused church, constantly adapting its methods to reach this generation and the next. We will partner with others to start new churches." And just a couple of Sundays ago, we looked at a passage of Scripture that gave us some wisdom about being outwardly-focused with our lives and church. It was Colossians 4:2-6 and it gives us 3 bits of advice we can follow to be outwardly-focused.

Bit of wisdom #1 - Talk to God about your community! Colossians 4:2 says to "Devote yourselves to prayer." The number 1 best thing we can do to aid in reaching the outside world with the good news that "God Loves You" is to pray for them. Prayer shows our dependence on God. It shows that we know only the power of God can change a life. Will you talk to God about your community? Who can you pray for? A neighbor? A friend? A relative? A coworker? Will you begin to pray for your community this next 30 days?

Bit of Wisdom #2 - Don't waste your opportunites! That's exactly what Colossians 4:5 say, "Make the most of every opportunity." Remember that "Hot" sign at Krispy Kreme??? Isn't that one of the seven wonders? Who doesn't like to see the "Hot" sign on? And when, God tells us, "don't waste your opportunities," I think he's telling us to be "on." Just like that "Hot" signs brings joy to peoples lives, we want our lives to be "on" and ready to shine the joy that only Christ can bring into their lives. God will give us opportunties everyday that we can shine His light into the lives of others.

Bit of Wisdom #3 - Talk to not-yet-Christ-followers! Colossians 4:6 tells us to let our conversations be "full of grace" and "seasoned with salt." They only way we can do this is to actually have a conversation! God wants us to be building bridges into the lives of others. He wants them to taste the grace that we know and see the change that He has made in us. So begin with a conversation! Get out there and build some relationships! We were made for relationships! Talk to folks and pour yourselves into their lives! Show them what grace is all about!

God loves you and he loves those outside of our "church" walls as well! I hope that we will all continue to grow in our love for our Savior and God and for those He loves - those inside and outside the church!

Pastor Mike

PS - To join me in reading the New Testament through in the next 30 days, you need to read 8-9 chapters a day! And if you don't think you can do that many, how about just starting with 1-2 chapters a day??? And don't forget the nuts and bolts (and washers) of prayer we talked about on Sunday!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Speaking Engagement

Wow! Time really flies when you're having fun! I can't believe it's been over a month since I've written in my blog.


Please know that you are invited to attend a speaking engagement I have later this month. It is with a group called GatheringRaleigh that meets at Crossroads Fellowship in North Raleigh. GatheringRaleigh is primarily for young adults who enjoy progressive Christian worship and relevent teaching. Childcare is provided. This will be my first time at GatheringRaleigh, so I really have no idea what to expect! I love surprises. From what my friend Dave (who organizes the events) tells me, it should be a rockin' good time!