“I Just Can’t Talk To People About Jesus”

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“I just can’t find a way to talk to people about Jesus without seeming pushy or awkward.”

Ever heard that? Ever said that?

Sometimes we make the whole concept of “talking about Jesus” entirely too difficult. Having a Gospel conversation with someone doesn’t mean you have to beat them over the head with the Bible – starting at Genesis and telling the entire story through Revelation.

Talking about Jesus means at some point, we turn the conversation towards Christ, even if it is just for a sentence.  Sometimes it may lead to the conversations opening up to discuss your faith; other times it will just be a quick mention of Christ and then the conversation moves on.

The excuse that it’s really hard and at times awkward to just turn a conversation is not a valid excuse at all. We turn conversations all the time.

For example, you don’t have to talk to me for very long before I will be telling you about my wife and kids or pulling out my phone to show you pictures of them. Am I being pushy? No. I am just passionate about my family. So I take the opportunity to let people know that whenever I see the chance.

Guys, you have your favorite team. You turn conversations toward that team all the time – “Did you see the game last night?” “Did you hear about the big trade?” “Did you hear our third string half-back has an ingrown toenail and is out for two weeks?” – Why? It’s something that you are passionate about. You find joy in talking about it.

Ladies, let’s say you find a great deal on a particular outfit at your favorite store.   I mean you get this thing for a steal because of the in-store discount combined with an online coupon you had and Venus being aligned with Jupiter and all other sorts of things. How long do you wait before you work that in to a conversation with a friend? You can’t wait to tell someone! You are excited about it and you don’t care who knows it!

The truth is, we talk about what we are passionate about. We don’t have to work hard or be manipulative to work those things into our everyday conversations. They just come out of us because they are things that are important to us.

If we are living the type of lives that Christ has called us to live and allowing Him to permeate every area of our life, if He is our true passion, guess what? – He will begin to pop up in our daily conversations.   Many of those mentions of Christ will not be anymore than a sentence long. But some might be. Just see where the conversation takes you

Stop making it so hard on yourself. Just try it. Turn a conversation towards Christ today.

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7 Methods of “Bracketology”

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Today is an awesome day if you are a College Basketball fan – the bracket is set, the teams are seeded, and the contest invitations are suddenly outnumbering “Harlem Shake” video links.

The tournament kicks off in three days; unless you count the “play-in” games, which I don’t (until my team lands in one).  And yes they are play-in games, not the first round.  I refuse to tarnish the splendor that is the first Thursday of The Big Dance by referring to it as the “second round.”  Whether you are a casual watcher or a die-hard fanatic, it is hard not to get caught up “hoop”la that surrounds this special time of year in College Sports.

Millions of people are once again filling out their brackets.  Some do it for fun, some do it for prizes, and some do it for bragging rights.  And then they will sit back to see how their selections play out. As I begin the process of filling out my bracket today, I ponder the many different processes that people employ when making their bracket decisions.  Here are a few systems of selection that I came up with:

“The Seeder”
This person that goes straight down the bracket and picks the highest seeded team in every game.  They have not watched a college basketball game all season.  And they are only filling out a bracket because they can’t say no to peer pressure.

“The Statistician”
This is the guy that knows every detail about every match-up.  Right down to the shoe size of the second string small forward on a random 16 seed team.  He spends way, way, way too much time filling out his bracket.  And then spends even more time telling everyone about the hows and whys of each of his picks.  This is also the guy who will be cursing at the TV and telling everyone how jacked up his bracket is by the second round.

“The Fan”
No matter what the odds, they pick with their heart.  Their selections are based on creating the best case scenario for their team to make it to the Final Four.  And of course, once their team is there, they WILL win it all!

“The Flipper”
This person has no problem figuring out the easy picks.  But if the truth is told, when it comes down to the 7 seed versus a 10 seed or even worse, a 8 versus a 9, they pull out a quarter and let fate decide.

“The Buzzer Beater”
They will fill out a bracket at the last minute; just in the nick of time simply because they don’t want to feel left out.  They will rush through their picks because of the time deadline and they will spend the entire tournament second guessing themselves.  The regret and shame they put themselves through will turn out to be a far worse feeling then having just been left out of the contest in the first place.

“The Old School”
This is the person who hasn’t watched college basketball since 1980; and all their picks are based on the talent level of the teams as they knew them back then.  In some cases this is an okay thing.  In some cases this is a very bad thing.  These are also the only brackets that may contain “write-in” selections.  This is where they remember a team that was really good back-in-the-day and think they should be in the mix now.  So, they just add them to the list.

“The Color Coordinator”
Usually a sister, wife or a mom who decides it would be fun to jump into to your bracket tournament filling out contest thingy.  They make all their selections based on the team that has the prettiest colors or best coordinated uniforms.  And on a side note, these ladies’ brackets more often than not unexplainably finish near the top of the contest if they don’t win the whole thing.

What are some methods you or “a friend” have used?

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Do You Follow Jesus?

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Do you follow Jesus?

The twittersphere has redefined that word:   follow.

Many people in today’s culture have reduced the idea of following Jesus to just that.  We treat our “relationship” with Christ as if He is a Twitter account.  From time to time, He will show up on our life’s feed amongst all the others influences that we “follow.”  We give Him a quick glace as He makes an appearance, sandwiched between our friends and the other cultural icons that we “follow” religiously.

We even take that extra step and intentionally check out His feed by going to Church almost once a week.  And there is always something there that makes us think – not for very long; but think none the less.  On the rare occasion we even re-tweet what He has to say on our life’s feed and for a brief moment we let His truth impact our lives.  But sadly, that too fades away all too quickly as our attention is once again swept away by other influences.

But, hey, at least we’re “following” Jesus.  Right?

Just a reminder about what Jesus said it meant to follow Him:
“And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.'” – Luke 9:23

Following Jesus does not mean that we insert Him into our lives and treat our association with Him like it’s just another hat we wear: I’m a parent, I’m a teacher, I’m a student, I’m a spouse,  I’m a child, I’m a baseball player, I’m a fisherman, I’m a computer programmer… oh, yeah, I’m a Christian too.

Following Christ doesn’t mean we simply add Him to our life.  It means we give up complete  control of our life to Him and He in turn affects every facet of our life: I’m a Christ Follower who is also a parent, I’m a Christ Follower who is also a student, I’m a Christ Follower who is employed as an Accountant, I’m a Christ Follower who enjoys Cheerleading, I’m a Christ Follower… That has to be the driving force of a person that truly follows Christ.

So the question remains … Do you follow Jesus?

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10 Things NOT To Give A Woman for Valentine’s Day (re-post)

(Originally posted 2-13-2012)

Just in the nick of time – because most guys haven’t bought anything yet; in fact, if most guys reading this were honest, this post just reminded you that Valentine’s Day is two days away – I present 10 things NOT to give a woman on Valentine’s Day.

10. A Gym Membership
Guys, even though in your mind you are thinking, “she is always saying she wants to get in shape,” I can promise you that she doesn’t want any help from you in this area on this day.
This also includes any fitness related gifts of any kind, including but not limited to: bathroom scales, running shoes, pilates mat, Biggest Loser cookbook, and diet pills.

9. A Kitchen Appliance Of Any Kind
I would hope this one is self-explanatory. Because, nothing says, “I love you” more than, “Get in the kitchen and whip up a little something.” Right?

8. A Coupon For Public Displays Of Affection
Guys, we think we are being cute and sweet when we make the home-made coupon book that includes cards that say things like “Good for 1 FREE hug”, “Give one kiss get a second one FREE” and “Good for 30 minutes of hand holding in a public place.” But basically you are saying, “Ok, ok, I’ll kiss you, but you need to have your coupon; and you better hope it hasn’t expired.”

7. Any Car Accessory or Maintenance
Fellas, I know cars are important to us. But giving a woman with an oil change and tire rotation on her vehicle for Valentine’s Day just doesn’t scream romance. Ladies, sadly, men are putting forth an effort here. Guys really think they have done something when they stand there and anxiously watch you open ‘The Club: Car Security System’ on February 14. And they will stand there grinning from ear to ear and say, “See, Baby, now no one can steal your car!”

6. Drugstore Chocolates
Let me first clarify that there are acceptable candies to give for Valentine’s Day. But the standard, heart-shaped boxes that the local drugstore unpacks every year in January (most of which have been stored in the warehouse after not selling last year) are unacceptable. The message you are sending here, guys, is “I stopped off to buy some toilet paper and beef jerky and I thought of you.”

5. Tickets To An Event That YOU Wanna Go To
It cannot be denied that ladies love to be taken out for special events. They love for men to plan ahead and buy tickets in advance. That being said, guys don’t be surprised when they react negatively on Valentine’s Day if you present them with season tickets to the monster truck rally. Just because you wanna go see WWE Raw when it comes to a city near you, doesn’t mean she has her heart set on it.

4. A Gag Gift
We think we are hilarious, don’t we guys? Granted, I am all in favor of humor; I love a good joke. But if all you have to give her for Valentine’s is a t-shirt that reads “I’m With Stupid”, Well, then I would have to agree with the shirt. Save the fun for April 1.

3. Pepper Spray
Men think they are offering protection with a gift like this. It is that whole sense of security thing we want to offer. But gentlemen, if this is the only gift you have for her on “the most romantic day of the year,” then the only advice I can offer you is:
– Wash face and eyes with soap and water
– Flush eyes profusely with cold water
– Keep face exposed to fresh air
– Do not bandage the exposed area
– Repeat as needed until inflammation subsides

2. Power Tools Or Home Improvement Tools Of Any Kind
Guys, women are not stupid! When you tell them, “Honey, I love you so much, that I bought you this DEWALT DCK655X 18-Volt XRP Cordless 6 Tool Combo Kit!” they know who you bought it for. Because we all know it is every woman’s dream to have her own Snow Blower or Table Saw given to her on V-Day.

1. Anything in a ring-sized box that is NOT a ring
This is an absolute no no! Something happens to women when they see that velvet 2.5 inch square box. And when they open that box and find cubic zirconium earrings, things are going to go very badly, very quickly! Guys, just be safe and steer clear of any gift even remotely the same size of a ring box unless it is actually a ring. This no, no is especially true for single women. Oh, the horrors!

What are some other gifts NOT to give a woman on Valentine’s Day?

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Need Hope This Christmas? Here It Is?

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When I say the word’s “Christmas Story”, what pops into your head?   A Star?  Bethlehem?  A Manger?  A Red Rider BB Gun?  We all have thoughts about the Christmas Story.  We are constantly reminded during this time of year to remember the true meaning of Christmas.  But, what is the true meaning of the Christmas Story?  Let me suggest to you that the Christmas story began way before that night in Bethlehem; way before Mary and Joseph; all the way back to the beginning of the world.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” we are told in Genesis 1:1.  God created everything.  God created man to live in fellowship with Him.  Man sinned; and the relationship was severed.  There was a huge gap between God and man that man had no hope of bridging.

The entire Old Testament is a story of God choosing to reveal Himself to His people.  God’s Shekinah Glory represented God’s presence with His people.  The word Shekinah, aside from being a fun word to say, simply means a visible manifestation of a divine presence.  The burning bush (Exodus 3:1-15); the cloud of smoke, the pillar of fire (Exodus 13:21-22); Moses atop the mountain (Exodus 31) – all pictures of God’s Glory.

Later, God chose to allow His glory to dwell with His people in the Tabernacle.

Still later, God allowed Solomon to build a temple where God’s Glory dwelt again among His people.

God’s Glory represented God’s presence and His covenant with His people.
God had not given up on them.  God was choosing to reveal Himself to man.

Throughout out the entire Old Testament we see a cycle:
-God has a good relationship with His people.
– God’s people rebel and fall away from Him.
– God’s people fall on hard times.
– God chooses a messenger, a prophet, a judge or a king to lead His people back to Him.
– The relationship is restored.
– And the cycle begins all over again.

But, in Ezekiel chapters 8 & 9, due again to His people’s rebellion,  we are told of God’s Glory leaving the temple; in fact, leaving the face of the earth.  From that point on, God’s Glory wasn’t seen or heard from for over 400 years.  That is a long time.

To put it in perspective, try this, The United States has only been a nation for a little over 230 years.  We are talking 400 years here.

Imagine what people must have been thinking.

50 years go by… No prophets; no Word from God.

100 years pass… no judges; nothing

200 years… not a word; no Glory.  Has He forgotten us?

300 years… despair sets in as people remember stories of The Glory

400 years pass… no Glory.  God must have given up on us.  We are doomed

And then…

“there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.” (Luke 2:8-9)

What shone around them?  THE GLORY!

For the first time in over 400 years, The Glory was seen on the earth.

“the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”” (Luke 2:10-11)

God didn’t forget us!  He came back!  God’s presence once again dwells with man.

And this time it was different.  No smoke or fire, tabernacles or temples; no, this time God chose to dwell with men as man.  He manifested Himself through His Son, Jesus.  So that He could bridge the gap of sin once and for all and provide the way for God to dwell in us as His chosen people; as His Children.

That’s the true meaning of Christmas!  God didn’t leave us in our sin.  He came back to save us.  He came back to dwell with us.  Why?  Because He loves us!

If you need hope this Christmas, there it is.  God made a way for you and for me to become His Children.  It is a story that has been thousands of years in the making;  a story that is still being written.

Merry Christmas!

“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His GLORY, the GLORY of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

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A Confession From An Idol Worshiper

This past weekend, our Church had the privilege to host The Pause Student Conference.  Worship was led by The Dutton Band and our Speaker for the weekend was Jon Randles.  It was a tremendous weekend.  God’s Spirit moved and we saw young people respond to His calling.  But this post is not about the success of a student ministry event.

It was in the third and final large group session on Saturday Night, I was sitting in the back of the room, looking around at students and leaders reflecting on the weekend.  As my thoughts processed, I tuned in and out on the message that was being shared.  And during one of those times of being tuned in and listening, through the words of my friend, Jon Randles, my heart was pierced with conviction.   The Lord spoke to my heart this haunting truth, “Jason, you love your ministry more than you love Me.”  And you know what?  He was right.  Somehow I had reached a point where I loved hanging out and ministering to students more than I loved spending time with Jesus.  I had reached a point where I loved leading out in worship more than I loved my personal worship time with the Savior.

The real truth is, I can spend hours upon hours planning activities, conferences, events, meetings and Bible studies that are designed to minister to students.  But if I am not seeking the face of God while planning those events, there can be no power in that ministry.  I can plan out the best set of worship songs and perform them flawlessly, but if my heart and mind are not focused on my audience of One, there is no power behind that worship.  It’s like clanging gongs and noisy cymbals.  There is no purpose.

In my pursuit of a successful Student Ministry and planning event after event after event I had neglected my pursuit of Christ.  My time in daily prayer and study diminished as my time spent in planning worship services increased.  My ministry had become an idol.  “Anything I put before my God is an idol.”

That night, I laid my idol at the feet of my Savior.  I relinquished ownership of “my ministry” and acknowledged the fact that God is the One who gave me a ministry in the first place.  He owns it.  I have just been given the task of managing it for Him.

I can’t succeed in the work if I’m neglecting The Walk.

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10 Costumes That WILL NOT Get Candy At My House

I have no problem with Trick or Treaters coming by the house on Halloween Night.  But there are a few ground rules if you want to score some candy when ringing my doorbell.

Here are the 10 Costumes that will be denied candy if they show up at my door…


10. Clowns
– I don’t like clowns.  Never have.  Never will.  They scary the living begeebers out of me.  They look right through me and smile as if they have no soul.  Plus they hang out with mimes.

9. Elvis – There was only one King.  I don’t drink the Kool-Aid that says he is still alive.  But I will not allow his legacy to be tarnished by impersonations that do not do him justice.

8. Anyone over the age of 18 dressed up as ANYTHING – There is a fine line between Cute and Creepy.   Don’t get me wrong.  If you are an adult and want to dress up to go to a party or event, that is completely fine.  But taking it door to door panhandling for candy is not acceptable.

7. Justin Bieber – It’s simple.  A.) Any girl dressed up as The Biebs is just way too weird on so many levels.  And  B.) Any guy dressed up as The Biebs is just way too weird on so many levels.

6. The Devil – I’m a Minister, Com’on Man!

5. Any variation of Morphsuit – If you don’t know what these are, after this year, you will.  This full body, lycra shroud covers every part of the body (including the face) in a disturbingly skin tight fashion.  They are just not natural.

4. Hobo – This one, I think, dates back to my own personal childhood experience.  I was a Hobo for like 4 years straight.  The fact that the costume involved me wearing one of my dad’s old suits from the 60’s-70’s and shoe polish on my face also made it a very cheap costume.  Probably one of the reasons it made a repeated appearance for so many years.

3. Zombie – I don’t want to have to be guessing if it is a costume or if the Zombie Apocalypse has actually finally occurred.  Because in the case of the latter, I am in no shape to outrun a Zombie.  And with my body size, let’s face it, I am Zombie’s All-You-Can-Eat Buffet.

2. Any Character from the Twilight Series – There is not a single character in that entire series that doesn’t make me uncomfortable in one way or another.  So my porch is a NO TWILIGHT ZONE!

1. Presidential Candidates – Don’t use Halloween to make a political statement.  If a kid shows up at my door dressed as Obama, I will take all their candy and distribute it evenly out to the rest of the kids who visit that night.  If a kid shows up in a Romney mask, I will take their candy, give it to a few of the kids who seem to have more candy than the rest of the crowd and let those kids decide how to best distribute it.

 

Are there any costumes on your Ban List?

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