Audrey’s baby sister

Thanks to all those who have been praying for our son and daughter in law as they approached the first ultra-sound in their second pregnancy. If you have been keeping up with the events, it was at this point about a year and a half ago that it was determined that the baby they were carrying had a a condition called encepholosis, where part of the brain develops outside the cranial area. And it was at this juncture that Timothy and Daphane were informed that their child would probably never be born and if she did give birth the baby would die soon thereafter.

Well, we all know that didn’t happen. Audrey did have the brain development problem, but was delivered on schedule. There have been a few delays to adjust to but she is growing and developing in an amazing way. If you care to see a few pictures go to September and check out here first birthday pics.

So Timothy and Daphane went today for the first baby pictures of her new pregnancy. Timothy called right after lunch with two pieces of information.

1. The baby is doing fine and developing beautifully and normally. Thanks be to God. They are so relieved.

2. Audrey is going to have a baby sister. It is good that she is. She has so many gorgeous clothes that it would be a shame to not have a sister who could get some more use out of them.

So thanks for your prayers and keep them going.

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Fortify Your Faith

This Sunday, November 30, I will talk about ways to make God’s vision for our life happen. I don’t have time to address all the ways on Sunday so here is a preview.

The Bible says, “Build yourselves up in your most holy faith.” Notice the first two words in that verse – “build” and “yourselves.”  Build means it takes work.  Fortifying your faith is not going to come easily.  You have to work at it.  Then “yourselves” means nobody else is going to do it for you.  If you’re going to fortify your faith it’s up to you.  You have to be the one to decide to do it and commit to do it.

1 Peter 4:2 “Strengthen yourselves so that you will live here on earth doing what God wants not evil things people want.” It is easy to get caught up in doing what everybody else wants you to do in life and in the process you miss out on what God wants you to do.  I’ll make this guarantee – God’s plan for your life is the best plan you’ll ever find.  In fact, what God wants for your life is better than what you even want for your life.  It’s clearly better than what anybody else could want for you.  So if you want to live on earth doing what God wants, you need to fortify your faith.

For God to use you, for you to get in on His plan, you’ve got to grow up.  You’ve got to get stronger.

1 Timothy 4 “Spend your time and energy in the exercise of keeping spiritually fit.”
There is a word in that verse that if I’m completely honest, I hate.  It’s the word “exercise.”

How many of you wake up in the morning thinking, “I get to exercise today!”  You are sick people!  Actually exercise is great and we need both physical exercise and spiritual exercise.  And I do know this about exercise.  I want the most benefit I can get out of every minute I exercise whether it’s physical or spiritual. Here are four habits that will fortify your faith.

The first one is study the Bible.  There’s another word that most of us love.  You come to church and you’ve been told to exercise and study.  It’s like being back in school and you get liver and broccoli on the same plate.  Study and exercise.  But we really do need to study.  And we need to study personally because we can’t depend on somebody else’s study to fortify our faith.  We have to do it on our own.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives.  It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right.  It is God’s way of preparing us in every way fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do.” God’s word is the Get Ready manual for life.  If you want to get ready you’ve got to study God’s word.

The second suggestion is read Christian books.  If you don’t know where to start get in touch with me and I will give you a few suggestions. And there are lots of great Christian books.  Proverbs 19:8 “Do yourself a favor and learn all you can.” You learn a lot more when you read.

Number three suggestion, write out your story.  1 Peter 3:15 says “Always be ready to answer everyone who asks you to explain about the hope that you have.” If you’re going to give them an answer you need to be able to give them your story.  Just like nobody else can study for you, nobody else can tell your story.  Only you can.  That’s because you’re the expert at it.

There are four parts to any story.  Four simple parts.  You talk about what my life was like before I came to Christ, here’s how I realized I needed Christ in my life, here’s how I committed my life to Christ, then the last and the most important part, is what’s my life like now. What my life like after making a commitment to Christ?

One more suggestion.  Be faithful.  Get in a small group and support it.  1 Thessalonians 5:11 says “Encourage one another and build each other up.” I don’t know of much that will fortify your faith like regular contact with your small group.  My wife and I cherish our small group.  Every week we look forward to our small group getting together.  If you’re not in a group you are going to get left behind.

God uses ordinary people, normal people, in spite of our faults, our habits, our hurts, our hang-ups. If God only used perfect people nothing would get done, because there are no perfect people.

You may feel, “God could never use me!”  You’re dead wrong.  You are dead wrong.  God wants to use you.  But you have to get usable.

Come Sunday for the rest of the story.

Invest in the Growth Fund

You might have a little difficulty making sense out of this blog post unless you also listen to the rest of the story. The rest of the story is told on Sunday morning, November 23. If you miss it in person it will be available on our website, relaxedchurch.com under online messages, “Enabling the Vision.” Here is a link to the site but the message won’t be up until after the 23rd.

http://relaxedchurch.com/wmspage.cfm?parm1=57

In the message I address investments that carry with them eternal value. The Bible says you can invest for eternity by using your money for God’s purposes for your life. The investment is proven. It’s secure. It’s risk free. Its guaranteed interest. It yields dividends forever. In times of economic insecurity it is the best investment you can make, hands down. Nothing else compares.

So in addition to the three investments discussed in the message here is a fourth one that is wise to make. Invest in God’s Growth Fund.

God wants us to grow up spiritually.  So He wants you to take some of your money and invest it in yourself.  He wants you to invest it in personal improvement, in personal growth.  The Bible says in 2 Peter 3:18 “Grow in spiritual strength and become better acquainted with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

How do I do that?  How do I invest in the Growth Fund?  By using some of my money to enhance my character. The Bible says this, “The earnings of the godly enhance their lives.  But evil people squander their money on sin.”

There’s a gazillion ways to waste your money instead of using it to grow.  But God says I want you to use some of your money to grow spiritually.  Use some of your money to develop skills.  Use some of your money to educate yourself.  Use some of your money to become a better person, to improve yourself, in every area of your life.  You become a better Christ follower, a better leader, a better speaker, a better prayer, a better person.

Why?  Because that’s what’s going to last.  I hate to tell you this but you’re not taking your car to heaven with you nor house or your couch or your clothes. But you are going to take your character.  What you are.  So God says, use some of your money to invest in something that’s going to heaven. To do so is to store up treasure in heaven.  None of those other things are going.

What we like to do is use our money to invest in comfort.  But God says, “No”, invest in character, because character is what you’re going to have the rest of eternity.  The Bible says in Proverbs 23 “Buy truth and don’t sell it for love or money.  Buy wisdom, buy education, buy insight.”

What does that mean?  It means anytime you use your money to buy a Bible or spiritual book that helps you grow you’ve invested in the Growth Fund.  Anytime you use your money to buy CDs or tapes or something that helps you grow spiritually, you’ve invested in the Growth Fund.  Any time you use some of your money to pay for a seminar or a retreat or a conference that helps you improve your life, any area of your life, you’ve invested in the Growth Fund.  Anytime you use your money to take a class or get an education or anything that makes you more of what God wanted you to be and you develop what God has given you, God says that’s a good use of your money. You are investing in your Growth Fund.  As I said, we like to invest in comfort but God says, “no”, invest in your character.

Isaiah 55:2 says, “Why spend your money on food that doesn’t give you strength and does you no good.  Listen!  I’ll tell you where to get food that’s good for the soul.”  You can spend your money on junk food or soul food.  The Bible and character development are soul food.  They’re going to produce personal growth.

The Bible also says, “It is better, much better, to have wisdom and knowledge than gold or silver.”  Don’t pile up all your wealth just to pile it all up.  Use it.  And one of the ways you can use it is to get wisdom and knowledge, not silver and gold.  Money is a lot like fertilizer.  If you pile it all up it just starts stinking.  But if you spread it around it makes things grow.

God says, use your money for a purpose. I want you to grow.  Invest some of your money to make yourself better, smarter, wiser and a more devoted and skilled person.  When you do that you can make yourself an offering to God.  You can not only give an offering.  The Bible says you can be an offering.  “Take your everyday ordinary life, your sleeping, eating, going to work, walking around life and place it before God as an offering [you become an offering] Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for Him.”  He’s saying you don’t just give an offering.  You make yourself an offering by making yourself a better person.  By investing in the Growth Fund so that God can use you, you become an offering.

Where in the world has Thanksgiving gone?

For weeks and months we saw displays for Halloween, from costumes to candy, from cards to countless decorations. Everywhere we looked for several weeks our eyes were exposed to the trappings of Halloween.
Then, before the Halloween displays could be removed or sold on the 50% off tables Christmas took over. In some stores I have seen Christmas displays for months now. “We don’t want to miss out on those Christmas dollars.” I noticed that Wal-Mart is getting a jump on black Friday, that day right after, what is that other holiday, oh Thanksgiving, by offering black Friday prices on their website three weeks before black Friday even arrives.

But what in the world has happened to that other holiday? The one called Thanksgiving. it has become the forgotten holiday. I don’t recall seeing even one display devoted to thanksgiving. I’m sure they’re out there but I don’t remember seeing any. Maybe it’s because they are so few and far between.

So why in the world have we lost Thanksgiving? I suppose part of the blame lies at the feet of merchandisers. Stores just can’t get enough sales generated from Thanksgiving so they push it to the side in favor of the big dollar holidays, like Halloween and Christmas. Isn’t it a shame how much we allow marketing to dictate values in our life. For some reason we fall right in line with the next merchandising promotion that is shoved in front of us as we frequent stores and businesses.

Another reason why we might be less excited about celebrating Thanksgiving is because it is the unselfish holiday. Halloween is so much about all the fun stuff we get to do in celebrating it and all the “sweets” we get overdosed with. It is pretty much a “get” holiday.

And Christmas has become the same type of celebration. Sure it is suppose to be all about what God gave to us in the person of Jesus, born on Christmas day. But how many really make that the center of their season. It is more about decorations, spending, gifts and parties. And to merchants this is the bread and butter of their entire year. So they promote it with every ounce of energy and ever conceivable means they can find. And we fall right in line with their plans and schemes.

So what ever happened to thanksgiving? I would like to invite you to join me in giving special attention this year to the forgotten holiday. It is forgotten because it is not so much about what we get but what we give. It is all about giving thanks and appreciation and gratitude to the God who is good, gracious and bountiful toward us, even when we don’t deserve it. Even when we lose him in the midst of all the other holiday celebrations and abuses.

Take special time this month to offer thanks to God for his goodness, graciousness and thankfulness. Celebrate Thanksgiving with all your heart.

Be a leader in your family to bring them to the same thanks and appreciation. Take some time to show your thanks to God in a special way that’s out of the box for you. Be unselfish with what the Lord has provided for you by sharing it with someone else.

Let’s refuse to march in line with the climate of our culture. Let’s determine to do everything we can during the month of November, and all year long, for that matter, to be thankful, appreciative, self-giving servants of others. That is the key to true happiness.

Remember The Miracles

The Bible says in 1 Chronicles 16:12 “Remember the miracles He has done, His wonders and His decisions.” What is a miracle? That gets real confusing to people sometimes. Let me give you a real simple definition. I don’t know if it is exactly right but let’s define it this way. A miracle is an event for which the only explanation is God. A miracle is when God gets involved.

So when a baby is born, that’s a miracle. The only explanation for that is God. When someone finds hope, that’s a miracle. When a guy mutes Sports Center to listen to his wife… miracle! The only explanation is God. Would you agree with that, ladies? To be more serious, how about when a dead relationship is brought back to life? God does miracles like this every day.

Sure, we’ve got tough lives. Things don’t always go right we all have struggles and trials to go through but God says don’t just think about the struggles, remember the miracles. You need to hold on to them to live the kind of life I want you to live in this world where it’s not so easy to live sometimes. We’re not in heaven yet so you’ve got to remember the miracles while you’re on this earth. They’ll get you through. They’ll give you the strength that you need.

Why does God do these kinds of things? To show off? No. God doesn’t have to show off. He doesn’t need us to be impressed with Him to feel better about Himself. Aren’t you glad about that? The reason that God does miracles is to show us His character. He does miracles to show us what He’s like. Deuteronomy 7:9 “Remember that the Lord is the only God and that He is faithful.” That’s one of the things the miracles remind us, that He is faithful. He is a God that we can depend on.

Do you know what God’s greatest miracle is? God’s greatest miracle is a changed life. If God has changed your life that is His greatest miracle. Only God can do that. Only when God shows up can that happen.

We’ve got a lot of people that come to our gatherings. And I would love for so many more to join us but I have to tell you from the depths of my heart that it is not about the number of people who attend. The miracle is the fact that God is working to change every one of our lives.

What miracle has God worked in your life? It may be something very small. It doesn’t matter. You know that God did it. Where in your life do you know that God showed up? If you have a difficult time thinking of something how about getting out of the way and let Him do what only He can do?