Hey Church!!

Hey Church!!

Here’s a few things on my heart for you today!

  1. I am so excited and thankful for what God is doing in our church right now! We get to hear testimonies each week of how God is working in the lives of individuals and entire families! My favorite part of Sunday was watching a married couple walk to the front hand in hand to respond to the invitation to be the hands and feet of Christ! Their boldness and courage inspired me and I can not wait to see what God does with that kind of faith!
  2. I know I’ve said it before but I have to say it again…I really believe this GATA series is going to be HUGE for our church and the Kingdom of God! When we are not only be prompted by God but also begin responding to His prompting with prayers and actions His Kingdom will explode! We are going to have ample opportunity to break out of our fear of man and fear of the awkward moment during this series! IT’S GOING TO BE AMAZING BECAUSE JESUS IS AMAZING!
  3. If you’ve ever thought about bringing an unchurched person to Connection I want to encourage you to take that step of faith even when you don’t feel capable! (Check out this blog on Gideon) The next three messages will be great for someone who is curious to know what God’s church is designed to be and how we become an integral part of His Kingdom!
  4. If you haven’t signed up for the October 1st community outreach please do so soon! We are going to have an incredible time serving folks in the community that day as we have the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Christ in a tangible way! I really believe this is a reflection of the heart of the church! If we can’t get excited about taking care of the poor and hurting then we need to reevaluate what we are doing! I can’t wait to see our church step up to answer this call! YOU ALWAYS DO!
  5. Finally, October 9th is going to be an incredible day of worship and celebration! I’m not giving out details but I will say that if you aren’t planning on being in town that day cancel whatever you are planning and be in the SHS auditorium at 10:45! Please pray with me that God does an incredible work in the hearts and lives of people that day!

I CAN’T WAIT TO CONTINUE THIS GATA SERIES ON SUNDAY! We’ll be diving into Acts 8:5-8! See you then!!

Can’t Get Over This!

Hey Church!!

I want to share a few thoughts with you today that we discussed in the Connect Group I attend.  I CAN NOT get these truths out of my mind! Unlike some songs that get stuck there…like “Don’t Worry Be Happy…du du du du da du da du da du de du” (or something like that! And…yes you are welcome…enjoy singing that the rest of the day!!) I don’t want this section of scripture (which was actually ONE run on sentence in the original Greek) to ever quit playing in my heart and head!

To start let’s all read this…Ephesians 1:1-14.

The first thing I want to point out is who Paul is addressing in this letter. Obviously, it is the Ephesians…but beyond that, verse 1 says, “To the saints in Ephesus…”  Saints? When’s the last time anyone has addressed you as “Saint”? For me I think it was…maybe…um… NEVER!! But Paul is not looking at their behavior or even their morality! He is looking at their identity in Jesus! In Christ our identity goes from sinner to saint! Not of our own merit but because of Him and His righteousness given to us through faith!

Dos…that’s Spanish for 2! I know you’re impressed! Verse 3 says that we have received every spiritual blessing in Christ and the first blessing He list is that we were chosen “before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” And that we were “adopted as his sons (and daughters) through Jesus Christ”! I can’t get over the fact that God chose ME! And that it was His “pleasure” to adopt me into His holy family! Now I am His child, secure as His son, never to be separated from Him again! THAT’S AWESOME!

Third…verse 7 says that “in Him we have redemption through His blood”. Redemption is a word that is probably best understood in regards to slaves. There were times when people would actually purchase a slave from someone with the intent of setting them free. It is much like someone paying a ransom for the release of someone being held captive. What’s amazing is that in verse 7 this is what Paul is telling us we have in Jesus! FREEDOM FROM SIN AND DEATH AND FREEDOM TO KNOW GOD!! When Jesus who was perfect died for those who were imperfect He took our imperfections on Himself and paid a debt we could never pay to God. Our sin left a debt that no amount of good could ever pay back so Jesus became the payment for us! That’s pretty hard to fathom because we don’t see the value in ourselves and others that God sees! If you are in Christ you have been redeemed…SET FREE! And this was done at a great cost…DON’T WASTE IT!

Finally…verse 9 says that “He made known to us the mystery of his will”. This is incredible because we no longer walk in darkness wondering why we exist! God has made it abundantly clear in His Word and especially through Jesus why we are here! We exist to fill the earth with God’s glory! We are here so that the work of God in our lives would point to the magnificence of God and be “for the sake of [His] holy name”! (Check out Ezekiel 36:16-32) What a great and awe inspiring privilege!

We need to understand that the Bible is very clear why all of this is possible. It is because the grace he has “lavished” on us. In short…grace is the love, redemption, forgiveness, and mercy that God gives us through Jesus that we do not deserve! Even shorter…It is God’s unmerited favor! The word translated lavished literally means to give in abundance until it overflows! WOW!

No kidding…I CAN NOT GET OVER THIS!!

Looking forward to Sunday! GATA!!
[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/28664029 w=400&h=200]

GATA Series Promo from Connection Church on Vimeo.

Hey Church!!

Hey Church!!

Just a few thoughts to pass along to you today.  First of all…How AWESOME was Sunday?! I’m so thankful for the way God used Joey to bring clarity to the issue of bitterness! We also don’t want to stop at Sunday morning if some follow-up conversations are needed. If we can help you take your next step in breaking out of the personal prison of bitterness please let us know by contacting the church! Also, we will be putting up Joey’s notes on the website as well as our usual audio and study questions.

Second…It’s time to G.A.T.A!! That means “Get After Them Aggressively” (Get your minds out of the gutter! :) ) The next four weeks we are going to be exploring Acts 8 and how we are called, as the Church, to aggressively pursue those far from God! I am serious when I say that I have never been this excited about a series in the history of our Church! (I know that’s only 2 1/2 years but it’s still true!) Invite someone who doesn’t go to church!

Don’t forget to sign up for the October 1st (That’s a Saturday) outreach. IT IS GOING TO BE INCREDIBLE! We will be doing anything and everything we can in the Statesboro-Bulloch County area to be a tangible expression of the love of Jesus! This is our opportunity to “Get After Them Aggressively” by meeting some real, felt needs in the community!

Finally, I am thankful for all that God did through the Jailbreak series as we looked at mediocrity, fear and insecurity, materialism, condemnation, and bitterness! God’s desire is that we would live free of bondage to anything that keeps us from fully shining His glory to a dark world! We are all on a journey together…none of us have arrived! WE CAN live the life He died for us to live as we walk empowered by the Holy Spirit, driven by a desperation for more of Jesus, and united by a sincere love for one another!

Have a GREAT week!

Step Up Gideon!!

Hey Church!!

I want to share a section of scripture I came across today and what God spoke to my heart concerning us, the Church.  Read Judges 6:1-16. You’ve probably heard the story of Gideon and how he valiantly defeated the entire Midianite army with only 300 men! However, Gideon, like so many Bible heroes, was a much more likely candidate to drift into eternal obscurity than to become a historical legend!

Let’s pick up in Judges 6:11…”The angel of the LORD came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites.”  Two things we need to see in this verse.  The first is just how desperate Gideon and the Israelites really were. The Midianites were oppressing them to the point that they had no crops or animals to sustain them! Everything the enemy found that was useful was taken or destroyed! THE ISRAELITES WERE DESPERATE! God heard their cry and is about to send them a deliverer! The second thing we need to take note of is that Gideon is threshing wheat in a winepress! Little hint…winepresses are for making…WINE! Not for threshing wheat! Wheat was threshed in open air areas where the wind could blow away the chaff to separate it from the wheat. So why was Gideon in the winepress? Simply put, he was hiding from the Midianites and trying to find enough grain to feed himself and his family!

This is the point in which the story actually gets somewhat humorous! While Gideon is hiding out the angel of the Lord appears to Gideon and greets him with, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”  Gideon must have looked around in the winepress to see if anyone else was with him! He had to feel like anything other than a “mighty warrior” as he cowered down in the winepress! But here is the first thing I really want you to take away from this…God doesn’t see you the way you see you or the way others see you! He sees what’s possible when the little you have is combined with the limitless amount He has! In fact the angel tells Gideon to “Go in the strength you have and save Israel” (v. 14). But what strength did Gideon have? Not much! He’s in a winepress threshing wheat! But what God knows, and what we need to remember, is that God doesn’t lack anything in the way of ability or power…all He needs is willing participants!

Most of chapters six and seven detail Gideon’s concern that God wouldn’t be able to use him to make a difference by delivering God’s people. In verse 13 Gideon says, “Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”  Gideon’s problem wasn’t believing what God had done or even what God could do…His problem was believing what God WOULD do! He didn’t realize the miracles he was referring to were done through an unqualified doubter much like himself named Moses! The second thing I really want you to take away is this…you and I will NEVER do the Kingdom work we were created for until we realize that GOD WANTS TO USE US TO EXPAND HIS KINGDOM AND BRING HIM GLORY!  I wonder how many of us never fulfill the Kingdom purpose that God has for us because we, like Gideon, believe that God did it…we just don’t believe He’ll do it! In other words…God did through and for others but I don’t know if He’ll work in my life the way He has in other people!

My advice to you…STEP UP GIDEON! What has God called you to start that is not going to happen if you aren’t obedient? What has God called you to support financially or with your gifts and talents (Don’t tell me you don’t have any…that’s a slap in the face of the ONE who created you!) that will not reach its potential if you don’t support it? Who has God called you to invest in so that they come to know Jesus? Who has God called you to show His unconditional love to? Who has God called you to forgive the way He forgave you? Who has God called you to invite to church and encourage in their faith journey?

STEP UP GIDEON! GO IN THE STRENGTH YOU HAVE AND GOD WILL SUPPLY THE REST!

See you Sunday! Can’t wait!!

What Amazes Me The Most!

Hey Church!!

Just want to share a few thoughts with you that are really on my heart today. To start, I am truly thankful for the opportunity that we have each week to worship together! I DO NOT take it for granted that we get to celebrate Jesus each and every week! When I step back and look at my life there are two realizations that constantly bring me back to a place of praise, thanksgiving, and celebration:

  1. Where God has brought me from…When I think about my life and where I was when God awakened me to His love and grace it is overwhelming! I can honestly say that I didn’t start living until He breathed life into me spiritually! Everyday I pray that God will bring more and more people to himself and awaken their spirits from slumber.
  2. How far I have to go…When I look at the holiness of God and I think about His perfection it shines light onto my imperfection and I realize I am on a never ending journey to become like Jesus! Rather than causing despair because I have so far to go it causes thanksgiving because I know that God began a work in me and will be faithful to complete it! The fact that He chose me…ME…to be used to bring Him glory is absolutely CRAZY because I see my flaws! But God has always delighted in using those who seem the least likely to bring glory to His name!

I am also constantly amazed at the fact that, even flawed as I am, I do not have to walk in condemnation! I want to share the points from Sunday’s message in hopes that a reminder will help us walk in the truth (the truth sets you free) that “It is finished” and we have been set free!

  1. There is a moment of sin…Sin has effected us all and has rendered us all spiritually dead from birth (Psalm 51:5). We are indeed helpless in our sin and death! Remember…a dead person can do nothing for themselves! Because of sin WE DESERVE CONDEMNATION! We will never escape condemnation until we realize it IS what we deserve!
  2. There is the moment of the cross…As we look at the cross we see God’s judgment of sin! Remember…don’t let God’s kindness and patience become and anesthetic for your conscience! God was not slow in punishing sin! The cross was planned before He laid the foundation of the earth! He is not slow in punishing sin…He is merciful to give room for repentance! On the cross we also see what WE DESERVE! We deserve God’s wrath being poured out on us! But instead Jesus took it upon Himself! THAT’S AMAZING! That alone should bring us to our knees!
  3. There is a moment of awakening…Like Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10) there is a moment in which God reveals himself to us. Zacchaeus heard Jesus speak to him, he was awakened to the reality of who Jesus is, and faith and repentance followed! He came to faith, believing that Jesus is who He says He is and trusting Him for salvation, and He came to repentance, a change of mind and heart that happens when God’s Spirit reveals that Jesus is the way and His ways are right (NOTE: Repentance is not an apology! It is when you leave your ways behind to follow God ways!)
  4. There is a moment of freedom…When we come to Christ we are set free from sin and death and are freed to live the life that God desires so that He is glorified! This moment of awakening turns into a lifetime of freedom when we rest in the grace of Christ and settle our hearts on the truth that Jesus took the condemnation that we deserve! In fact, condemnation exist because we won’t rest in the fact that Jesus took what we deserve on the cross! Is it fair? NOT AT ALL! BUT IT IS THE TRUTH! (Next time you want to complain about something not being fair you might want to think about that!!) When Jesus said it is finished He meant it! It WAS NOT a cry of defeat, fatigue, or despair. It was a cry of TRIUMPH!

My prayer for each of you is that you would walk in the truth that it is finished because of what Christ did on the cross and that God would take your life and use it for the praise of His glory!

I’m still Amazed!!

 

Six Things I Learned Through A Challenging Week!

Hey Church!!

Many of you know that on Tuesday of this week my dad had to have his left leg amputated.  He’s battled to try and keep it for 5-years but after 15 or so surgeries we finally ran out of options as infections made it impossible for him to continue with it. To say the least this week has been quite challenging for my dad as well as my family. I would ask you to pray with us that his worst days are behind him and he can move forward with renewed hope and a new life!

The purpose of this post today is to share with you six things that I either learned or was reminded of during this very challenging week. I hope they will encourage you as you face challenges in your own life!

  1. The goodness of God is NOT dependent upon our circumstances! Even through a challenging and difficult time God was there! His goodness and grace overshadowed us and gave peace to us in the midst of difficult circumstances! NEVER let your circumstances determine the character of God or His love for you! His WORD, not the WORLD, defines who He and His love for us!
  2. In the midst of difficult times we still have victory! Tuesday afternoon was the most difficult time this week.  Immediately after the surgery my dad was in the most pain I have ever seen.  The only thing I know to compare it to is a scene from an army movie when someone gets their leg blown off and they are writhing in pain. It was hard to watch him that way knowing there was little I could do but through the process I was strengthened by the FACT that Jesus has GIVEN us victory in the midst of challenges! We are fighting from victory not for victory! (I ripped that off another preacher…I’m sure he won’t mind!! J ) Today I pray that this perspective would change in your life in regards to whatever struggle you are facing! LET ME SAY IT AGAIN…YOU HAVE VICTORY! FIGHT AS THOUGH YOU HAVE ALREADY WON…BECAUSE IF YOU ARE IN CHRIST YOU HAVE!
  3. Prayer is powerful! I am absolutely convinced that prayer is what got us through Tuesday afternoon. Kim Owens, who if you don’t know her is amazing, rallied our staff and prayer warriors (as she does whenever we find out about a prayer request…not just for the pastor! I’m a part of the Body just like you!) and they hit the warpath! I can honestly say I felt it…and my dad did too. Kim text me a couple of hours into this period of severe pain and said, “I believe God will soak him with waves of peace, healing, refreshment and spiritual strength.” Literally seconds before that text my dad had begun to drift in and out of sleep! Prayer is POWERFUL!!
  4. When the church functions as the church there is nothing more beautiful! I can’t describe how amazing God’s church is when it functions as the Body of Christ…Truly being His hands and feet!  When people love people the way Jesus loves people there is nothing more beautiful! Church…THIS IS WHO WE ARE CALLED TO BE! LET US LOVE UNTIL IT HURTS! I PRAY THAT GOD’S LOVE WOULD SO INVADE OUR HEARTS THAT WE, THE CHURCH, WOULD STORM THE GATES OF HELL, THE DARKEST PLACES, WITH THE LIGHT OF GOD’S LOVE!
  5. When the church functions as the church there is nothing more powerful! As we were experiencing our own challenges a dear friend of mine, and a staff member, Don Baldwin was experiencing his own, yet very different set of challenges! Don’s blazer “died” and the cost of repairs was more than he could afford and more than the car was worth! So Don did what He always does and prayed that God would provide a vehicle…one he could afford!  On Thursday we received a call from a couple of our church members who were on the way to our offices with a car for Don that fit nicely into his budget! FREE FITS NICELY INTO EVERYONE’S BUDGET!! They gave him the car and we were able to witness a miracle as the church was being the church! There is TRULY nothing more beautiful OR more POWERFUL than the Spirit of God working through the church!
  6. God still does miracles…He’s waiting on US! Not the other way around! Through the prayers for my dad and the generosity of two believers who have had their hearts changed by the reality of Jesus, I was able to witness miracles this week! What we have to realize is that while God is the source of the miracle, you and I are His conduit! I would ask you today to look at those around you today and ask the question, “Does God want me to be their miracle today?”  Faith precedes a miracle of God! Take a step of faith and let God use you as His conduit to touch someone’s life!

Love Y’all! CAN’T WAIT UNITL SUNDAY!

PRAY…INVEST…INVITE…ENCOURAGE!! IN OTHER WORDS…GET SOMEONE TO CHURCH WITH YOU THIS WEEK!

SEE YOU THEN!!!

3 Things I’m REALLY Excited About!!

Hey Church!!

This morning I want to share 3 things I am REALLY excited about! Here they are:

  1. Hearts Matter – This is going to be an AWESOME one day women’s conference on Saturday, September 17th from 9:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M. in the Statesboro High School Auditorium! The conference will focus on balancing your will, emotions, conscience, and thinking on God’s Word so that you can live your life to it’s fullest potential. Tickets are $10 and are available at the following locations:

– Local Churches/College Ministries
– Daily Grind
– Doodle Bugs
– Christian Book Store
– Online at www.ticketleap.com

Ladies you seriously DO NOT want to miss this!

  1. October 1st Community Service Day – This is going to be an awesome opportunity for us to show the love of Jesus to our community in a tangible way! On Saturday, October 1st we will be doing construction, landscaping, painting, children’s ministry, visiting nursing homes and anything else that we can find to help those in need! You will be able to sign up for the area you would like to serve in beginning on September 11th at the Next Steps table! THIS IS GOING TO BE AN INCREDIBLE DAY!!
  1. Our Next Series – We will be announcing the next series we are doing this Sunday! I’m not revealing too much info today but I will tell you that I am MORE EXCITED about this series than any we’ve EVER done! We’ll be showing the promo for it this Sunday and jumping into it on September 18th! I truly believe this is going to be a huge catalyst for the Kingdom work God wants to do through us!

Remember to PRAY…INVEST…INVITE…ENCOURAGE! The harvest is plentiful God has called us to be the laborers!

Hey Church!!

Hey Church!!

How awesome was God on Sunday? He is FAITHFUL! It was so amazing to see so many people worshiping together! Standing in the front I can hear all of you singing and it is absolutely incredible to join with you in worshiping Jesus! I CAN’T WAIT FOR THIS SUNDAY!

It’s really funny that the first week students were back we talked about the dangers of money and materialism! I kept thinking, “Shouldn’t we be talking about something else?” But I know that was the message God wanted for us on August 28, 2011! Money and materialism are not on the top ten list of favorite things to discuss in church but they are among the most important. Jesus talked about money more than anything else because He knew the power it would have over our lives and that it would be the #1 competitor for our hearts! It’s not the politically correct thing to talk about but who really cares about being politically correct? Jesus didn’t! We shouldn’t either! My heart is that we would allow nothing to come between us and the One who paid it all! Remember…He is the spotless lamb that was slain so that the unclean (That’s You And Me!) could be redeemed! Simply put…He died so we wouldn’t have too! He’s worthy of all that we have! Here are the main points of the message (If you missed it here’s the link to the message. It will be up this afternoon).

Matthew 19:16-30 – The Rich Young Man (Ruler) – Our common misconceptions about God and money:

  1. The Rich Young Man sought God through a task list…Jesus sought a heart change! Jesus doesn’t need our money but He does want our heart! Our tithes and offerings are one-way God keep our heart-strings from becoming attached to our wallet!
  1. The Rich Young Man sought life through many things…Jesus offered life through the One thing that can truly give life…HIMSELF! I’ve said it many times before but I will say it again…You can have everything minus one thing and have nothing or you can have nothing plus one thing and have everything. Pursue Jesus…the giver of LIFE!
  1. The Rich Young Man sought identity through wealth not worship…Jesus wanted to give him His identity! We often look to other things for our identity. This young man wanted an identity…He wanted to be perfect…He didn’t realize Perfection was standing in front of Him and offering the gift of His perfection!
  1. The Rich Young Man sought temporary riches…Jesus offered eternal treasures! If we look at our lives what are we storing up for ourselves? Do we have a temporary view of life or do we want to store up treasure that will last? Treasure that last comes when we invest in God’s Church, evangelism, and taking care of the poor. Having the most stuff doesn’t mean you are the happiest…it just means you’ll have the most people at the reading of your will! YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU!
  1. The Rich Young Man saw giving everything to Jesus as an obligation not an act of worship! Once we have met Jesus we no longer give out of obligation or guilt! We give because of gratitude and to always show God that we trust Him for our provision.  God has always asked us to bring the first to Him (Whether the firstborn (Exodus 13:1,2 and 11-13 or the first fruits Exodus 23:19)

My prayer is that we would be a church that surrenders EVERYTHING to Jesus! That through our finances, talents, and time we would make sure the Bride of Christ…His Church is healthy!

Love y’all! So thankful to serve such an amazing church!

The Greatest Leader

There is no doubt that Jesus is the greatest leader to ever walk the face of the earth! Anyone that can pour their life into a bunch of fishermen and tax collectors (nothing against fishermen and IRS agents! Well maybe IRS agents.) for 3-years, hand them the keys to the Kingdom that’s being established, and see it grow stronger and stronger for 2,000 years is not a good leader but an INCREDIBLE LEADER! I guarantee you that not even Wal-mart or Chic-fil-a will be around in 2,000 years! Don’t panic…you won’t either!

How did Jesus lead so effectively that He was able to transfer the responsibility of furthering the Kingdom of God to 11 dysfunctional men? I believe the answer is found in Matthew 5-10. Obviously, I’m not covering every nuance of these scriptures in this blog but I do want to give a mile high view of what I see happening in these chapters. These chapters show us that in order to be effective in leading others we must do three things:

  1. Teach (Matthew 5-7)
  2. Demonstrate or Model (Matthew 8-9)
  3. Empower – (Matthew 10)

Matthew 5-7 is what is commonly referred to as “The Sermon on the Mount”. It is an accumulation of incredible teachings that Jesus gave to His followers.  It contains teachings about the Kingdom of God and how we should live as children of God’s Kingdom.  It covers topics such as anger, lust, loving your enemies, giving to the needy, storing up treasure in Heaven, the Lord’s prayer and many others.  The Bible says that when He was finished teaching, the crowds were amazed because He taught them as “one who had authority”. (Matthew 7:28,29) Through His teaching Jesus was showing himself to be the Messiah, or “Anointed One”, of God. His disciples, including the twelve, took note and realized there was something truly divine about Jesus!

In Matthew 8-9 Jesus takes this transference of the Kingdom to another level! He begins to demonstrate that He is the Messiah.  He heals the sick, touches lepers, calms storms, cast out demons, makes the lame walk, raises the dead, makes the blind see and the mute speak! It wasn’t enough for Jesus to talk a good game…He demonstrated it! He walked the walk and didn’t just talk the talk!

Finally, in Matthew 10 Jesus empowers His twelve closest disciples to go out and do what they had heard and seen! The Bible tells us that He “gave [the twelve] authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction.” In other words He empowered them to duplicate His teaching and His way of life!  The amazing thing is that this duplication has been happening for nearly 2,000 years! It hasn’t been perfect but it has been unstoppable just as Jesus said it would!

I really want to challenge the Church, those of us who claim to be followers of Christ, that we truly follow His way of life. That we would teach others about the Good News of God’s grace given to us through Jesus! That we would model Kingdom living before others as we demonstrate the love of Christ in our lives! (We’ve confessed one thing and lived another long enough!) And finally, that we would realize that we have been empowered through the Holy Spirit to carry God’s Kingdom forward! Remember…when we are part of the Body of Christ, the Church, we are an unstoppable force! Walk in confidence through the Spirit of God that is within you and proclaim through word and deed all that God has done!

PRAY…INVEST…INVITE…ENCOURAGE!!!

SEE YOU SUNDAY!

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