Set Your Hope

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(S) 1 Peter 1:13  “Therefore, with your minds ready for action, be serious, and set you hope completely on the grace brought to you at the Revelation of Jesus Christ.”

(O) Peter is telling his readers to set their hope only on the grace of Jesus Christ.

(A) Not long ago, the lottery hit over a billion dollars.  The more it increased, the more tickets were sold.  Placing hope in less odds than being struck by lightning twice. Only 3 winning tickets were picked out of the billions sold.  Hopes dashed.  Our hope lies in something not of this world.  Something that cannot be made or bought even with billions of dollars.  It’s only found in the grace of Christ.

(P)  Lord, let me always put my trust and hope in you.

Categories: John Personal, SOAP Bible Study | Leave a comment

Effective Prayer

Anointing(S) James 5:13-14  “Is any among you suffering?  He should pray.  Is anyone cheerful?  He should sing praises.  Is anyone among you sick?  He should call for the elders of the church and they should pray over him after anointing with olive oil in the name of Jesus.”

(O) James suses questions followed by commands as an effective way of exhorting the congregation to prayer and worship. (Holman Study Bible)

(A) The need to pray is real.  It’s not only when we are sick, in turmoil, under attack, about to take a test we haven’t studied for…NO!  We should always be praying!  Offering praise when we are cheerful and happy.  Also understanding that when those times in our life are desperate, call the elders of the church together and have them pray over you and anoint with oil.  There is so much power in this.

(P) God allow me to be bold in my prayers to you.  Let me have steadfast faith and trust in your power, grace and love.  Amen

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That’s a Sin??

(S) James 4:17  “So it is a sin for a person who knows to do what is good and doesn’t do it.”

(A)  Here James is exhorting his readers to do what is right by reminding them if they don’t do what is right when they know the difference…it is a sin.

(O)  I have a good sense of right and wrong.  I know what I should do but there are times due to circumstances that I don’t do it.  It winds up in what I call a gray area.  Here James is saying there is a right and a wrong.  The gray area is a creation of our own and James calls this a sin.

(P)  God help me to always do what is right no matter the circumstance. Amen

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SOAP will not only keep you clean, but will improve your SPIRITUAL Journey

keep-calm-and-use-soap-15I have often had people tell me that it was very non-productive to just grab a Bible and start reading. It is often told to me that it is “boring” to do that. I understand and have felt the same way. However, I believe the Bible is the word of God and it has all the answers to every question that we may ever have. Thus, it deserves our study. So, how do we make that study meaningful? My first suggestion is to try another version of the Bible. I love The New Living Translation and I love “The Message” by Eugene Peterson. Both are written in a way that is common today. We no longer speak the kings English (by the way, neither did Jesus) and it can be confusing to try and discover the meaning of life in a language that we don’t speak.

The other method of Bible reading that I have found to be extremely helpful to me is through journaling. Here is the process that I have begun to use…thanks to Wayne Cordero for introducing this to me.

Step 1 Find the Scripture for the day using a Bible reading plan. A plan such as this allows you to be guided through the Bible in a systematic way. It also encourages us to read the books of the Bible that are our least favorites. If left up to me, I would never leave the Gospel of John, but there is so much value that I would be missing if I only stayed in John or just the New Testament.

Step 2 Read the passages. Read them with an open heart and Jesus will give you the words of encouragement, direction, correction and hope that you need.

Step 3 When you get a life lesson from the Scripture you have read do the following:

1. Write today’s date.
2. Give your lesson a title.
3. Write out your main Scripture. (Scripture)
4. Write what you see in the Scripture (Observation)
5. Write how you will be different today because of what you have just read. (Application)
6. Write out your prayer. (Prayer)

The SOAP model can help you really get into the Bible, but most importantly it can help the Bible get into you. We have been given the greatest resource of all time and all we have to do is take time to read and study it. It will change your life!!

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Wolves Don’t Advertise: 7 Traits of False Teachers

A great article written by Shane Idleman…wolf-in-sheeps-clothing

A false teacher can be anyone in a position of spiritual authority or claiming to be. Wolves don’t often attack wolves, but they do go after sheep. They bring destructive teachings and lies into the church, often, by telling people what they want to hear (cf. Jeremiah 23). They provide layers of truth mixed with error, but even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:15-16b).

“Beware” means to be on alert…to discern what is being said. False teachers take advantage of the fact that many people are not well educated in fundamental biblical truths. To detect a counterfeit, one must first know what the original looks like. It’s impossible to gain a clear picture of absolute truth without going directly to God’s Word. Unless one is firmly grounded in God’s Word and led by His Spirit, one can easily be led astray.

Wolves don’t advertise, instead, they “look” like sheep. False teachers aren’t dressed in red holding a pitchfork. They often look the same as everyone else. They subtly challenge the inerrancy and authority of Scripture, and they add to Salvation…it’s not in Christ alone. Legitimate teachers recognize the deity of Christ. False teachers promote salvation through works and not through faith alone. One must belong to their Society, Institution, or Church in order to be saved. This is a false gospel.

Jesus encourages His followers to be fruit inspectors. I came across a great article from the Gospel Coalition written by Colin Smith entitled, 7 Traits of False Teachers. This precise article identifies the fruit of false teachers. The link is at the bottom for those who want to read Colin’s complete piece. I’m going to spend the next few minutes quoting directly from it. He compares the authentic with the counterfeit from 1 & 2 Peter. Colin wrote…

1. Different Source—Where does their message come from? Peter says, “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1:16). And then he says the false teachers exploit you “with stories they have made up” (2:3). So the true teacher sources what he says from the Bible. The false teacher relies on his own creativity…

2. Different Message—What is the substance of the message? For the true teacher, Jesus Christ is central. “We have everything we need for life and godliness in Him” (1:3). For the false teacher, Jesus is at the margins: “They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them” (2:1). Notice the word secretly. It’s rare for someone in church to openly deny Jesus. Movement away from the centrality of Christ is subtle. The false teacher will speak about how other people can help change your life, but if you listen carefully to what he is saying, you will see that Jesus Christ is not essential to his message.

3. Different Position—In what position will the message leave you? The true Christian “escapes the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” (1:4). Listen to how Peter describes the counterfeit Christian: “They promise…freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity, for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him” (2:19). The true believer is escaping corruption, while the counterfeit believer is mastered by it.

4. Different Character—What kind of people does the message produce? The true believer pursues goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love (1:5). The counterfeit Christian is marked by arrogance and slander (2:10). They are “experts in greed” and “their eyes are full of adultery” (2:14)…

5. Different Appeal—Why should you listen to the message? The true teacher appeals to Scripture. “We have the word of the prophets made more certain and you will do well to pay attention to it” (1:19). God has spoken, and the true teacher appeals to his Word. The false teacher makes a rather different appeal: “By appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error” (2:18).

6. Different Fruit—What result does the message have in people’s lives? The true believer is effective and productive in his or her knowledge of Jesus Christ (1:8). The counterfeit is “like a spring without water” (2:17). This is an extraordinary picture! They promise much but produce little.

7. Different End—Where does the message ultimately lead you? Here we find the most disturbing contrast of all. The true believer will receive “a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1:11). The false believer will experience “swift destruction” (2:1). “Their condemnation has long been hanging over them and their destruction has not been sleeping” (2:3). Jesus tells us that there will be many who have been involved in ministry in his name, to whom he will say, “Depart from me; I never knew you” (Matthew 7:21).

7 Traits of False Teachers by Colin Smith

Colin makes some great points, and it begs the question to pastors, “If people are not changing and growing closer to God, are we challenging them…or are we catering to what they want to hear?”

Wolves don’t advertise, but God does. He offers hope and salvation: “Call on Me. I will never leave nor forsake you…call on Me and I will heal your past and redeem your future…call on Me and you will be saved” (cf.;Deuteronomy 31:6; Ezekiel 34:16; Joel 2:32). You can trust God’s marketing plan.

Shane Idleman is the founder and lead pastor of Westside Christian Fellowship in Lancaster, California, just North of Los Angeles. He just released his 7th book, Desperate for More of God. Shane’s sermons, articles, books, and radio program can all be found at http://www.wcfav.org.. Follow him on Facebook.

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Another Question re: Homosexuality

Question:  Will you perform same-sex marriages?

I can assure you I will not marry another man nor woman.  I also will not marry an adulterer who does not recognize his/her sin and has through the power of the Holy Spirit overcome it. I also will not marry someone I know who is an abuser. When I do marriage counseling, there are basically three questions that will be answered by the end of the counseling: 1. Is she going to still marry him 2. Is he still going to marry her and 3. Am I still going to marry them. As pastors, we are held to a higher standard. One that’s even higher than the supreme court…God’s judgement. James 3:1 says, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, since you know that we will be judged more severely.” I believe that.

I also believe as Shane Idleman wrote much more eloquently than I could, “A false teacher can be anyone in a position of spiritual authority or claiming to be. Wolves don’t often attack wolves, but they do go after sheep. They bring destructive teachings and lies into the church, often, by telling people what they want to hear (cf. Jeremiah 23). They provide layers of truth mixed with error, but even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:15-16b).

Also, if the day comes where I am required by the United Methodist Church to perform these marriages, the sound you will be hearing will be my feet leaving the UM Church.

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Question about Homosexuality

I received this question from a friend of mine and I wanted to post my answer:  The Bishop he is referring to is the statement from the Bishop of the Kentucky Conference.

“Not looking for an argument, but what were Jesus’ thoughts on the matter (not what is says in Leviticus/Deuteronomy, not what Paul says, but Jesus himself)? I respect you, john, but would like some red-lettered perspective from anyone, including you if you’d like, to support this Bishop’s statement.”

My Answer:  Good question. While he does not address homosexuality, neither does he address honoring your father and mother (one of the big 10). He does say that I have not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. That is in red. He did call adultery a sin in union with what is said in the OT ( Exodus 20:14 and Proverbs 5:18-23). He called out the woman caught in adultery and said go and sin no more. Homosexuality is called a sin in both the Old and the New Testaments and so I believe the best course to take is that one Jesus took with the woman. In essence, I love you and do not condemn you…now go and sin no more. The reality of this debate comes down to a simple question…Is homosexuality a sin. Our Book of Faith (the Bible) is very clear on this. We may not like it but it is a sin and I can’t/won’t change my view on that. It does not become a non-sin just because the Supreme Court decision. It’s still a sin, just like murder, adultery, not honoring your father and mother. And I believe sin is anything that creates distance between humanity and the Father. We must take inventory in our own lives to determine the sin in our lives that is keeping us from the Father. If my sin is adultery, my saying it’s not a sin but a lifestyle or by saying “this is the way God created me” is nothing but a lie of Satan (whose goal is to keep distance between us and the Father). Please understand *****, this is much more than a decision by the Court. This is spiritual. It’s spiritual warfare over the relationship between humanity and God. Satan is the great liar and getting the world to buy into the myth that sin is not a sin is a pretty good accomplishment.

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Jonathan Cahn Warning Against Legalizing Marriage

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How To Kill The American Church by Peter Heck

Tear down that cross and toss it in the wood chipper because the American church is toast. So goes conventional wisdom after recent revelations from the Pew Research Center, which found that in just seven years, the percentage of Christians in the United States dropped nearly eight points.

The news was met with glee from liberal publications such as Salon, where writing under the breathtakingly clever headline, “Ding Dong the Church is Dead,” author Patricia Miller gloated that the benefits from the decline of Christianity would be, “huge.” No doubt the scores of natural disaster victims around the globe who have profited from all of the atheist relief trucks rolling in would agree.

Far more annoying than the juvenile taunts of journalists were the suggestions that poured in from Christian thinkers as to how to right the ship, or Ark if you prefer.

The most common refrain echoed repeatedly in both religious and mainstream media was that the church needed to become culturally “relevant” to survive. For some, that term merely implies ministers in jeans and fog machines. I have my own preferences in that regard, but they are just that – preferences. My serious objection is reserved for those who intend the cry for “relevance” in a substantive rather than superficial manner. These are the voices calling to deliberately neuter the confrontational truth of Christianity to compromise with the spirit of the age.

Take the recent Washington Post op-ed by Rachel Held Evans. Evans pinpoints what she sees as the real problem when she chastises Christianity for being too “judgmental” and “exclusive.” In other words, she yearns for a church more open-minded and inclusive of alternative ideas, beliefs and lifestyles.

I suppose there is merit to what she is saying if the sole purpose of the church is to fill seats on Sunday mornings. If the mission of the church is nothing more than a relentless ambition to “affirm” everyone from all walks of life, then her counsel is spot on.

After all, speaking the exclusivity of Christ – that whole “no man comes to the Father except by me” thing – or preaching repentance will not make anyone feel affirmed. Everyone can see how painfully un-hip such a message is in contemporary American society.

In fact, churches committed to that outdated way of thinking might be accused of acting like some prudish carpenter of antiquity whose obsessive devotion to unpopular notions of right and wrong, good and evil, consigned him to the outskirts of society rather than the mainstream, to preaching from hillsides rather than from behind gold-crusted lecterns.

It’s curious, isn’t it? Somehow American Christians convinced themselves that becoming more like Jesus of Nazareth would make them more attractive to the world; but the exact opposite is true. After all, why would they treat us any different than they treated him? Confusing that reality has the American church all kinds of backwards. If the world adores us for the words we speak, it is not because those words are loving and good. It is because they are cowardly and compromising. And that’s the real problem we face in our churches.

I admit that I don’t have the credentials of many weighing in on the unfolding collapse of American Christianity. But I humbly submit that if the church wants to stop the bleeding, it should stop worrying about the praise of men and instead seek the applause of heaven. How is that done?

In a recent seminar I gave to Christian high school seniors about to head to college, I asked them to name five figures from Scripture that God used in a powerful way. Their list included Noah, Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist and Jesus. Question for the American church: how relevant to their respective cultures were those guys?

Noah was a laughingstock, Moses was exiled and hated, Elijah had a bounty on his head, John the Baptist lost his head, and Jesus lost a popularity contest with a despised murderer named Barabbas – all because each was committed to speaking a truth that no one in their time wanted to hear.

True Christianity is confrontational. It is an open and courageous rebellion being conducted deep within enemy-occupied territory. It is counter-cultural, not culturally relevant. It alone recognizes that there is no love without truth.

If Christ’s church dies in the United States, it’s only because it committed suicide on the altar of relevance.

Heck is a speaker, author and teacher who hosts a weekly radio broadcast on WIBC. Follow him @peterheck or email peter@peterheck.com.

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Flint Hill: Breaking Down Racial Barriers

On a Wednesday evening In the late spring of 2013, I visited Flint Hill UMC for the first time as the pastor who would be taking the reigns of leadership for this church.  The current pastor Dee Dowdy showed me the facilities, sanctuary, my future office yet all of that paled in comparison to the tutoring ministry I witnessed happening.  There were rooms of youth who were being tutored by teenagers, young adults and the elders of the church.  This in itself is a great thing however, what pushed it over the top for me was the fact that I saw African-American children being tutored by older white people within a church that is well over 150 years old.  Sadly, this doesn’t happen much in ministry.  I was blown away.  Not only were the members tutoring, they were encouraging, patting them on the back, hugging them, giving them high fives and showing them genuine love.  I was amazed to tears.

When I arrived at Flint Hill, I found this effort to break down the racial barriers was not just limited to the Wednesday night tutoring but had even infiltrated to our Sunday morning worship.  A place where whites and blacks come together as the body of Christ with the common goal of worshiping God.  We now have an average of 13 African-Americans worshipping on any given Sunday morning.  That’s 10% of our worshipping congregation!  We’ve had 3 African-Americans join the membership of the church in the last 3 months and one who serves on the Administrative Board as a member at large (by the way, she was voted in unanimously by the Lay Leadership Team, Admin Board, and Charge Conference.) WAIT, this isn’t supposed to happen in a 150 year old church is it????  Yes, it is supposed to be happening and as Christians we should be ashamed that it is not happening more.

Many people have asked me what is the root of this success and believe it or not…it’s pretty simple.  My answer is that it is the power of the Holy Spirit coupled along with the Flint Hill Congregation’s level of spiritual maturity.  They get it when we read Jesus saying, “Love the Lord with all your heart, mind, and soul and love your neighbor as yourself.”  They understand that our neighbor is not divided by race, ethnic or financial means.  They understand that we are all a part of the body of Christ and we cannot love God without loving our neighbor.  Do we all agree?  No.  Do we all see things the same way? No. Do we have differences of opinions?  Yes.  But we do have one thing in common and that is our desire to draw closer to God in our spiritual journey.

Flint Hill seeks unity within the body of Christ.  Being united in our love for God is where the secret lies and the understanding that division is not the will of God within His Church.  We are all brothers and sisters in Christ and heirs to the most high God.  It’s very easy to allow all the things we see on the news to divide us.  Ferguson and New York are prime examples of how quickly division can spread and how dangerous it is when it does occur.  Especially when religious leaders, local churches, clergy, and denominations assist in fanning the flames of division.  We as leaders in Christ Church should be the ones bringing about unity in all instances where division has the opportunity to creep in and if we don’t, I believe we will have to account for our actions.  If division divides communities against themselves, we can only sit back and watch what it can and is doing to churches.

Categories: Faith Journey, Flint Hill UMC, John Personal | 2 Comments

Withholding Apportionments in Disagreement with the Church

WHYWEGIVEPPT-CRUTCHFIELDI recently read an article regarding Mt. Bethel UMC (One of the largest UM churches in Georgia and east of the Mississippi River) in Marietta, GA withholding their apportionment giving because of their disagreement with the United Methodist lack of response to Bishop and Pastors breaking their ordination vows and flagrantly violating the Book of Discipline.  You can read one of the articles by clicking here.

I certainly understand their feelings as I have many of those same feelings myself.  I am very disappointed in the response or really non-response of the Church in this regard and as disappointed in the joint resolution that was recently passed in regards to Bishop Talberts disregard for church law and order according to the Book of Discipline.  This resolution has no chance of uniting our church but in reality creates further division.  Now the shouts of a split within the UM Church are louder than ever and it is understandable.  When there are no consequences to blatant disregard of the vows we take as ordained clergy and the Book of Discipline, it is easy to understand the position of Mt. Bethel and the frustration of many clergy and local churches.  I agree, I’m disappointed and I’m ashamed of the lack of action of our church leaders.

However, I do not believe that withholding apportionments is the right course of action.  I will even go as far as putting it on the same level as the actions of Bishop Talbert and other UM Clergy who have officiated at homosexual weddings.  As ordained clergy, we have a “fourfold ministry of Word, Sacrament, Order, and Service and thus serve in the local church in witness and service of Christ’s love and justice.  Elders are authorized to preach and teach the world, to provide pastoral care and counsel, to administer the sacraments, and to order the life of the church for service in mission and ministry as pastors, superintendents and bishops” (Book of Discipline 2012 Paragraph 340).  Paragraph 340 goes on to say that clergy are “To administer the provisions of the Discipline and To model and promote faithful financial stewardship and to encourage giving as a spiritual discipline by teaching the biblical principals of giving.”

No place in Scripture have I found where we instructed to withhold our giving because we don’t like what was happening in the church.  Withholding giving is an expression that our tithes/offerings/apportionments are going to the church “to keep the lights on.”  We should be teaching that our tithes/offerings/apportionments are our gifts/sacrifices to God.  If we have a Kingdom understanding of giving, then by withholding our apportionments/tithes we are withholding from God not from the church.  In our giving (whether to the local church or the general church), we must trust that God is using our gifts to further His Kingdom.  If those who receive the offerings don’t fulfill God’s will…that’s something they will have to answer to God.  That’s not a answer that I desire to give and neither is the one in response to the question as to why I withheld God’s offering because I disagreed with the churches position on an issue.

2 weeks ago, I had to refuse to re-baptize a youth because he had been “Christened” as an infant. It was a tough decision.  There was a large youth group who along with the young man  had an incredible experience and wanted to make this very public profession.  Deep inside I understood his desire.  He didn’t remember his infant baptism, he had not been taught that baptism is God’s work and not ours, and that once we had been adopted into the family of Christ we are never “kicked” out.  I wanted more than anything to re-baptize that young man, but it went against what I believe as a Methodist.  Some may say, you should have gone ahead…what would it have hurt?  It would have hurt my integrity as a clergy.  It would have hurt my character as a man. Most important it would have hurt my witness as a disciple of Jesus Christ.  In the same section of the Discipline on Unauthorized Conduct (Paragraph 341) that states, “Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches” the very next line states, “No pastor shall re-baptize.” I cannot be true to myself or to God by willingly breaking my vow.

It does us no good to fight brokenness with brokenness.  Remember the old saying, “Two wrongs don’t make a right?”  That saying is true.  There are other ways of expressing our disappointment and making a stand for what we perceive to be right but it must not cause a lack of integrity, character or our witness.

God Bless,

John

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Flint Hill Tutoring OUTREACH

My tutoring student Jamarcus. He improved so much in math that he received a certificate of accomplishment from his school!! Flint Hill Church and the congregation rocks having a free tutoring program for our community! This is outreach!

My tutoring student Jamarcus. He improved so much in math that he received a certificate of accomplishment from his school!! Flint Hill Church and the congregation rocks having a free tutoring program for our community! This is outreach!

The mission statement for the North Alabama Conference of the UM Church is very simple, direct and can be summed up in 3 words: Discover, Develop, and Deploy. Yet, a very needed question to go along with that is “How do we accomplish this?” I think that is a fair question and one I continually ask the congregation of Flint Hill UMC. Fortunately, it is a question the congregation is willing to wrestle with and seek to answer.

One of the ways that Flint Hill has answer this question is through our tutoring program. This program was started under my predecessor Rev. Dee Dowdy but has been embraced, led, and maintained by the congregation. Each Wednesday night during the school year, Flint Hill offers FREE tutoring to any student in our community. We have students from all over Alexander City and the incredible part of this is that 90% of those being tutoring are not otherwise affiliated with Flint Hill! I’m also proud to say that through the tutoring program we are reaching across demographic and racial lines. The tutoring program averages 35 students and approximately 28 are African-American!!

When I first visited Flint Hill as the incoming pastor, it was on tutoring night. I was amazed to see young African-Americans being helped by many of our older members. It’s rare to find a 164-year-old church that is so willing to step out of its comfort zone and reach out to a totally different demographic yet Flint Hill has done just that. Many have asked me how this is possible and I point to the congregation’s spiritual maturity. They get IT! They have a mentality that it’s not about us, it’s about the Kingdom of God and they have a willingness to get outside the box and love others as we have been called to do.

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Behold 2015: Our 30th Year!!

What’s it like for well over 700 youth to sing, dance and worship…LOUD and AMAZING. Over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, Behold Ministries held their 30th annual retreat and it was awesome.

Behold was honored to have Bishop Wallace-Padgett in attendance to witness first hand this ministry. In response to thank you e-mail to her in which the weekend was recapped she responded by stating, “It sounds a lot like discover, develop and deploy to me.” That is certainly the case and has been the goal of Behold for the past 30 years.

This years theme was Roots and derived from Jeremiah 17:7-8. The goal year after year has been to first and foremost share the Gospel and life saving message of Jesus Christ. Behold acknowledges that we have brokenness in our lives brought on by sin and that we can only be made whole through the grace of Jesus Christ. It was such a spiritual night when over 100 youth made a first time profession of faith in Christ. Young lives changed by discovering the love and grace through Jesus Christ.

The Behold team spends time with the youth praying with them and sharing how to develop “Holy Habits” that they can take home with them so that they might continue to develop their root system. First and foremost, they are encouraged to share with their youth pastor, pastor, and parents the decision they made and to seek their mentorship and help in the habits of Scripture study (both private and corporate), journaling, prayer, worship, and service. What we don’t want is for this weekend to be a one-time mountain top experience and then they fall back into their old life once back to their normal routines.

One of the highlights of the weekend is the Senior High Closing where all the high school seniors are invited to create a circle. They are then reminded that this is their last Behold as a camper and the years they have come as a camper, everything about Behold has been directed at serving them. They are then invited to return to Behold as a SWAT Team member (SWAT stands for Servants With A Testimony and is the small group breakout sessions). 100% of our SWAT Team are former Behold campers with the vast majority being college students. This year there were 65 SWAT Team members deployed to give of their time, energy and money to serve the campers.

On Sunday night’s worship service, there is a 3-part altar call for those who are professing Christ for the first time, those who are re-committing their life to Christ and those who feel a call to ministry. This year there were 25 youth who recognized their call to some sort of ministry. Their interest ranged from mission work, youth ministry, music ministry, to pastoral ministry. The fields are ripe for harvest and God is actively calling these students to be the hands and feet of Christ. These twenty-five are acknowledging and answering that call by saying “Here I am, Lord. Deploy me.”

The Behold planning team began planning for 2016 during the middle of the 2015 retreat and we will continue throughout the year. We expect BIG things in 2016 because we serve a BIG God. We hope to see you there and you can keep up with the latest info at our Facebook page beholdministries

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Why I Chose to Participate

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Last weekend, I experienced a first in my life and that was participating in the First Annual Bar-B-Q competition at the Sun Festival. It was an amazing, fun time and I had a blast. I was overjoyed with the camaraderie and the community that was felt at this event. It was awesome to see people from all walks of life coming together and having a good time. Everyone from children to adults, bikers to preachers, cowboys to bankers and churchgoers to non-churchgoers all gathered in the same area enjoying each other’s friendliness and hospitality. It was truly a sight to behold and I can’t wait until next year.

Since this weekend, I’ve been asked by a person whom I did not know, “Why would you, a preacher, participate and even hang a sign from your church?” My response was, “Why wouldn’t I?”  After some conversation, I discovered that this person didn’t think it was right to have a church participating where there was alcohol allowed. I’m okay with that and don’t fault individuals for making that decision, however, I would like to write about why I thought it was important for me to be there and our church represented.

It was important for me to be there because I believe that’s where Jesus would have been. He was and would be now in the middle of the greedy people, homosexuals, those who drink too much and the wrongdoers. These are the very people for whom the Church exist. I’m currently reading “Deep and Wide” by Andy Stanley and he writes, “Who is the church for? How good do you have to be? Which sins if any disqualify a person? Can the church welcome sinners? How about unrepentant sinners? How much baggage does a person have to leave at the door before being admitted? Can a person participate in church if he or she is still working things out?” These are all questions each local church must answer or at least be bold enough to ask.

As I reflect on these questions, I’m reminded of the hymn “Just As I Am,” especially the 3rd and 4th verses:

Just as I am, though tossed about

            with many a conflict, many a doubt,

            fightings and fears within, without,

            O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

            Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;

            sight, riches, healing of the mind,

            yea, all I need in thee to find,

            O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

 This helps me to remember the church is for all sinners and the mandate given by Christ to “Go into the world and make disciples.” We can no longer wait for them to come to us or possibly stumble into our churches on a Sunday morning. The harvest is ripe and the time is now for all Christians to go out and share the grace that has been so freely shared with us. “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.” And that’s why I chose to participate in a tail-gate cook-off that allowed alcohol.

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Mission Possible (Grounded Radio Show)

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Friendships (Grounded Radio Show)

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Check Out Pastor John’s Youtube Channel

Go and check out the new Youtube Channel that features Pastor John’s radio show “Grounded.”  Be sure to subscribe to the channel so you never miss an episode.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCb533yM7V50YienE4cuAz4Q

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Facing Giants (Grounded Radio Show

Pastor John talks about the giants we all face in life ways we can stand up and defeat those giants.

 

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Blood Red Moon tonight!

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According to NBC (Click Here to read article) tonight will be a “blood red moon.”  There are a couple of interesting things to think about with this event:

  • It’s beginning on Passover (The Jewish holiday and the occasion which Jesus arrived in Jerusalem for the last week of his life.)
  • Revelation 6:12, “Then I saw Him open the sixth seal.  A violent earthquake occurred; the sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair; the entire moon became like blood.
  • This is the first of 4 lunar eclipse’s during the next two years: Oct 8, April 4, Sept 28.  “The last time four total lunar eclipses occurred in a row – called a tetrad – was in 2003-2004, and there will be seven more this century,”according to Plilly.com (Read the entire article by clicking here)

First let me start off by saying I don’t believe this is a sign of the coming apocalypse.  Here’s why:

  • Revelation doesn’t speak of a red moon until the opening of the 6th Seal.  Prior to this we will see great famines, wars, plagues which will kill over 1/4 of the worlds population including death by the “wild animals of the earth.” Rev 6:8
  • Most importantly, the Bible states that no one knows the time.

However, I think it’s very interesting that God gives us a view of what a blood red moon looks like and when we read Rev. 6:12, we can easily relate to it.  

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$400,000 Camel Doesn’t Pass the Common Sense Test

As I have said very often, “Common sense is now a super power and a gift that very few possess.”  It’s an interesting experiment and one that can lead your blood pressure to rise but take a look around and you will see those who are supposed to be pretty smart people making decisions that fail to pass the Common Sense Test!  Here’s an example:

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“The State Department plans to spend $400,000 in taxpayer dollars to purchase a camel statue for the new American embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan.  The sculpture by artist John Baldessari depicts a fiberglass camel staring into the eye of an oversized needle in play on a passage from the New Testament about the difficulty the wealthy have in entering heaven, BuzzFeed reported.”

Fox News reports, “The department came under scrutiny in December after commissioning a $1 million sculpture to be installed at new building at the American embassy in London in 2017. The purchase was defended as a “good use” of the agency’s resources.”

Last Year, The Washington Times reported “that department spent about $180,000 on alcohol in September and $400,000 in all of 2012, three times the $118,000 spent in 2008.” Records obtained by the paper showed that alcohol spending went up at American diplomatic posts around the world. The purchases included nearly $16,000 for bourbon and whiskey in Moscow, and more than $22,000 for wine in Tokyo.”

For full disclosure:  I’m not a math wiz, I haven’t taken a Dave Ramsey course, and my wife controls the checkbook in our house and I get an allowance just like the kids.  Yet, with all my lack of financial training and expertise, I am at a loss to find any common sense in this.  Here’s how I look at it:

1.  Our national debt is 17.5 Trillion.  In 2008 (just six short years ago) it was 10 Trillion.  Our debt has almost doubled in 6 years!

2.  Our debt increases 2.73 billion each day.

3.  That means that each person in the US owes $55,130.32 or each household is responsible for $142,787!

I know up against 17.5 trillion $400,000 for a camel sounds like a good deal (I’m joking).  Where is the common sense?  Where is the one person who says, “I don’t think this is a good idea!”  I’ve got this visual image in my mind of a group of people sitting around a table and one person says, “Hey, I’ve got an idea!!  Let’s get a camel and put it outside the embassy!”  Person 2 “Sounds like a great idea, how much will it cost?”  Person 1 “We can get it today and today only, if we are one of the next 5 callers for only $400,000 to the American tax payer!!  Person 2: “Great, hurry up and call!  We’ll send the check!”

Okay, how does this relate to me?  Ordinary couple who has a combined $20,000 in credit card debt and they come to me as their pastor and say, “We’re getting married and have our wedding and honeymoon planned for only $12,000.  My response as their pastor is going to try and talk some sense into them.  Who is the common sense person speaking to the people making decisions in the State Department?  When does someone from the Executive branch say, “Whoa, this doesn’t make any sense.”  Where’s the leadership?  Where’s the responsible one.  Isn’t there anyone who can make the point, “We’re cutting our military and at the same time also buying a $400,00 statue of a camel? This doesn’t make sense!”

And we wonder why we are in the financial shape we are in…sad.

Categories: John Personal, John's Rant (opinion), Leadership | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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