There is no BOLD in obscurity

“‘For I know the plans I have for you’, declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.'” – Jeremiah 29:11

There are three aspects to our self-concept as humans. Since we are not God (thank God!) we often do not know the plans He has for us, much less what would be in our own best interest. The three aspects of self are:

Self-ideal which is our picture for our future.
Self-image which is our present image of self.
Self-worth is our secret reputation we feel about ourselves.

In order to improve our current circumstances we need to take responsibility to ask God for a vision for our life. We cannot control outcomes. Please accept this. But we can ask God to reveal a vision for us to work toward. This is quite simple. Spend time with God asking what He wants for our career, our relationships, where we live, where we play; when we go to Him for every and all things we have an ideal that is from God not from our own ego. Yes, I would like to be a billionaire rock star bombarded by paparazzi and adored by everyone too, but does God want that for your life? If we create our ideals from what we truly believe God is sharing with us, we can go forward with bold faith that no matter how easy or hard it is, it comes from Him and therefore we will succeed at it!

Which brings us to the present self. When we create goals based on God’s design we share them. By verbalizing our goals we can get support, accountability and help from those God has placed in our life. This will then improve our self-image since our present circumstances will be easier to make our ideals reality. This also helps our secret self-worth heal into a more positive image of ourselves. When we can see our worth through God”s eyes, when we create a life that is God-centered it opens the doors to grand possibilities. You don’t need to be a rockstar to make a difference, you just have to have Jesus!

Today, at Evergreen, Pastor Seth Hinrichs shared some of the goals God revealed to him about our church. Message series that get us to the heart of our bad choices. Tangible classes that teach the disciplines so we can teach others about our faith. Hosting round table events for our fellow rural church leaders to collaborate and learn from each other. Launching Evergreen Recovery to further reach the last, the lost and the least and create lasting life change in our community. The list goes on and on!!

THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST IS THE ONLY HOPE FOR THE WORLD. At Evergreen we orbit our personal finances, schedules and talents around the mission of His church.

LET’S BRANG IT CHURCH!!! Fall launch is 7 days away. Invite, bring, give. Not cause of who you are, but because of who He is.

I publicly proclaim bold promises. I do not whisper obscurities in some dark corner. I would not have told the people of Israel to seek me if I could not be found. I, the Lord, speak only what is true and declare only what is right. – Isaiah 45:19

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“And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching. -Titus 2:7

Can a person’s character change? The answer is simple. Yes. But the first thing needed is an honest look at your character. Well, actually…first you need to define character. Character is the inherent complex of attributes that determines a persons moral and ethical actions and reactions; a person of good repute. You need to want to change your actions and reactions to life. You need to see something about your current behavior you don’t like and the desire to be different from the former you outweighs the standard you have been allowing yourself to live. If you are honest with yourself about the need to change, there is hope!

I wanted to be someone that lived with integrity, an unbroken completeness with nothing wanting or simply put, doing what I say I am going to do. This matter of integrity is often practiced when you don’t want anything in return for the favor performed. But I would make choices like this…years ago my sister needed help moving. I said I would help. But when the day came, the excuses came. Well, she is ALWAYS moving, she got HERSELF into this mess. SHE didn’t pack the way I told her it would be easiest. Blame, excuses and justification for NOT doing something you said you would help with. Travel further down this rabbit hole with me a minute. I did help that day. But I did it with such a bitter heart, such a condescending air about me, that the poison emanating from my very presence was so hard on everyone, my help was more a hinderance and I have not been asked to help again. My reputation precedes me, and not in a way I want to be seen. And that day was like 10 years ago! What happens when no one asks you to actually follow through on anything is your character of integrity atrophies like a limb that doesn’t get used and eventually falls off from the rest of the psyche and you know, deep down, you are NOT a morally sound person. How many occasions have you thought or acted like this?

We are constantly making decisions to be morally sound people. Your decision to cut someone off on the freeway out of spite says something about your character. Your decision to tell someone else’s good news is just as gossipy as airing the dirty laundry of another. A dishonest person lacking integrity tries to get away with doing the least amount of work for the most accolades. The book of TITUS is one of the shortest letters Paul wrote but it is packed with great reminders on how to live a life of good character.

Who wouldn’t want a good reputation preceding them? It takes honesty, open-mindedness and willingness to live differently. Real change can happen. Real goals can be accomplished. Real life can be lived.

The Ess[s]ence of Humility

Drawing closer to the face of God is the most important work of a Christian’s life. You absolutely cannot progress toward a deeper relationship with God without Christ and you absolutely cannot progress toward Christ without humility. I used to (dang, still do!) confuse humility with humiliation. Humans often fight being humble with three things and it is these three things that keep us from God. You have to be willing to let go of old attitudes which block humility, three of which are:

LOW SELF ESTEEM- You need to retrain your brain to cut out any negative self-talk. In John 8:44 the Word tells us the devil is the father of lies. God wants you to focus on things that are worthy of praise, not things that are worthy of complaining. Another way to combat negative self-talk and thought is to give yourself daily amounts of self-care. This could mean a walk in the woods, a bike ride with the kids or simply soaking your feet in sudsy hot water. The intention of self-care is to rest in order to hear the word of God.

STATUS-SEEKING- This last weekend, EVERGREEN’S Children’s Pastor, Sara Estenson shared a sermon titled PARENTING FROM THE HEART You become a good parent when you shift the focus off what others do and think and onto what God would have you do in your circumstances.

Then He said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you all-He is the greatest.” -Luke 9:48

Jesus is settling an argument among the disciples as to which one of them would be the greatest. Compare and despair is a phrase common in the rooms of A.A. and is meant to stifle the need to seek approval and status through things not of God. Pastor Sara candidly shared that YOU are a child of God and in order to stay close to the father, you need to TRUST, ABIDE AND SEEK HOLINESS. To seek holiness is not striving to be better than your neighbor, it means to seek God’s wisdom for your life so you can be useful to your neighbor.

SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS- The tendency to justify your actions, excuse your bad behavior is human nature. It is also human nature to, at the core of your soul, understand the wrongness of selfishness. This is why shame, guilt and humiliation comes to define humility to many. Forgiving yourself needs to be at the top of any list of inventory in order to make solid, lasting change. If you cannot forgive yourself, you will not recover from self or develop the deep relationship with God that He, and the core of you, desires. Admit it.

By attending any church who speaks the Gospel, shares Jesus, and studies the Word of God, you can learn to improve on these principles. If you actively practice living your faith, you learn how to balance out positive self-worth while remaining humble.

“My Father Creator, I am now willing that you should have all of me, GOOD and BAD. I pray that you now remove from me every single defect of character which stands in the way of my usefulness to you and my fellows. Grant me strength as I go out to do your bidding. In Jesus Name, Amen.” -Alcoholics Anonymous, pg 76.

ARE YOU WILLING FOR GOD TO HAVE ALL OF YOU?

Elements of a Grapevine

It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are. -E..E. Cummings

Who are you, really? If someone were to ask you this question, how would you answer? Identity tends to get convoluted with tasks and class systems and birth order. We tend to answer the question with an explanation of what our job is, who we are married to, how many kids we have, what habits and recreational activities we indulge in. Mostly we spend time comparing ourselves to one another, perhaps gaining the ability to actually identify with one another, but still…something is not quite right. As christians, we forget the main identifying factor; WHO ARE WE IN CHRIST? What does it mean to be a son or daughter of Christ?

“I am the Vine; you are the branches.” -John 15:5

In order to know our identity, we must look further at what a branch is and how that applies to our life with Christ. Picture a grapevine. A branch is a bit of wood, brought forth from the vine to serve the vine by bearing fruit. Bearing fruit is the job of the branch. It is of the same nature of the vine, made of the same stuff. Plants are mainly carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, so it is safe to say, the branch is a “carbon-copy” of the vine. It has one life and one spirit with it. A branch off a grapevine isn’t a plant on it’s own, dang, if it is cut off from the vine it withers and dies after a few short hours.

As believers, we have the make-up in our very being to be carbon-copies of Christ but only if we stay connected to Him. A believer has one main point in being a branch, to bear fruit, that is our purpose. But we can only bear fruit if we gather strength and nutrients from the Heavenly Vine. Happy is the heart that is surrendered to this idea of purpose. If you can truly grasp the concept of being a branch, of fully understanding that you are one in the same as the Vine but at the same time can only get your strength THROUGH the Vine, then the result is quite simple; ALL YOU NEED TO DO IS BE A BRANCH. NOTHING MORE, NOTHING LESS! This can give us comfort and keep us humble if we grasp our purpose fully.

ARE YOU A BRANCH THAT IS CONNECTED TO THE VINE?

G[u]ardening

Free will is often a double-edged sword. You are made with free will AND God-given talents and abilities. There are temptations all around you, pulling in destructive directions under the guise of self-preservation. Ego allows you to argue with your spouse, rather than humbly admit you don’t have all the answers. Fear permits you to hide behind alcohol or food or numb you through the self-propulsion of over-working instead of intentionally being God-relient. In this parable from Matthew, notice the correlation between us and the two plants that will be harvested.

“The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weed come from?’
‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.
The servant asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
‘No’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvester; first collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn’. – Matthew 13:24-30

The beauty of free will is that when partnered with the grace of God through Jesus, you can turn away from the self-destruction and self-propulsion. The opportunity is in you. Accepting Jesus means you have a brand new day everyday to make better choices and choose between the weeds and the wheat…as long as you follow a few simple guidelines:

Pray.Humble yourself before God and admit YOU don’t have all the answers.

Do. Doing service either at your job or volunteering provides an opportunity to focus on others so you are less-inclined to despair into self-pity.

Rest. No T.V. No radio. No computer. No iPad. No phone. Try it for five minutes and see that God has a word for you.

We all get harvested in the end. Will you be wheat or will you be weed?

Cuz…I love ya!

I wrote this last fall, and am bringing it forward again…see the thing of it is, I am a slow learner,a sheep who needs constant direction, constant prodding to stay on the path. I don’t think I am the only one, in fact I can pretty much guarantee it. Get to the heart of YOU. In order to know yourself you need to spend time with God. Alone. It is that simple. You cannot be effective in your marriage or with your kids or with your job if you do not have quiet time with the one who saved you. If you have already crossed the line of faith then you are being disobedient if you are not hanging with Him on a consistent basis. If you haven’t accepted Jesus into your heart, you need to and I highly encourage you to find a church home. (Mine is awesome, see below!)

We spend a lot of time speculating on the reason we exist. What is my purpose? Why am I here? Why do I have to go through this trial in my life? Instead of ruminating and speculating, why not rev-elate? When an inventor creates something, it is often asked of them, “how and why?” We can learn the hows and whys of our lives if we only think to ask the inventor. Good thing he gave us the perfect instruction manual (in case you didn’t know- I was referring to the bible.)

“It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.” Ephesians 1:11 (msg)

Before I found my way back to God I was clueless, wandering in the desert of too many hopeless thoughts and murdered dreams. Since coming home to Christ through first the 12 steps of recovery and then through my church home at EVERGREEN I have hope, I have knowledge in a savior and I have continued faith that I am worthy and there is much purpose to my life. Being a Christian is kind of like being in the mob- I know too much now to ever go back to my old life.

I forgot this for a moment. For just a moment, I wanted to go back to my old life of not caring for others, not caring about the right choices and practicing self-discipline; I wanted to go back to being a non-believer. Y’know how we romanticize our memories? Yeah, I went there. Luckily, I soon remembered the fear that cramped my life before, paralyzing my potential and the sick thinking that rendered me absolutely useless to my friends, my family and God. Blech. Naw, on second thought, I’ll take the mob of Christianity-I’m in it for life and what a beautiful life it is!

2 Timothy 2:25 “You never know how or when God might sober them up with a change of heart and a turning to the truth.”

I’s on the Prize

It is human nature (or a cultural disease) to either be in denial of disobedience or justify disobedience to suit our own means. Reason: We have not put our faith and trust in God.

Exodus 32-33 show the people beginning to get worried they have not seen Moses in awhile, they don’t know what steps to take and so they take their lives into their own disillusioned hands and force Aaron to create a golden calf to idolize. “you shall have NO other gods before me” this is rule number one…but don’t we put lots of things in front of God every day? Rushing the kids off to school, rushing to work, rushing errands, collapsing in front of the idiot box, with no thought of God’s will for our lives and then we wonder why life is so hard and the bills can’t get paid and our lives have not been fulfilling.

Psalm 24-26 are great reminders of the one who is in charge.

Psalm 24:1 “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him.”

David reminds us to pray throughout the day, with everything, in everything. We are promised prosperity and rescue if we keep our eyes on him with integrity and honesty. When we admit our faults, when we recognize our weakness, only then can we recognize God’s love and his will for our lives and in that we can recognize and live out our true potential.

Come. Come To. Come To Believe.

Come. Come To. Come To Believe.
This is a common phrase in the rooms of 12 step recovery. No matter what your habit or hang-up, be it addiction to alcohol, drugs, spending, sex or food, in order to fully recover and continue to recover on a daily basis you must take these first steps. These steps are essential to not only addicts and those who love them, but for those accepting a christian life.

Come.Even if you have questions, heck…especially if you have questions about God and His word (the bible) and how YOU fit in it, you need to attend a church. I highly recommend my church EVERGREEN COMMUNITY CHURCH, but any church in your area will do. Most churches have websites, do a back ground check on it first if it will make you feel more comfortable. The most important thing for you to remember is This is an awesome step you are taking for yourself, and the most important one to make if you want to change your life.

When I first started attending my church, I did so because it was the only one in town that had a website, I could check them out without even walking through the doors. I liked what I saw, no hell fire or brimstone (whatever that is!) Simply Jesus. That and the Pastor used an episode of ‘The Bachelor’ to illustrate his point. Seriously.

Once you have been attending the same church for a few weeks (and don’t be afraid to shop around, most churches preach the same word, but we all do it a little differently!) It is important for you to feel welcome, for you to be engaged in the service, and for questions to continue in your heart and mind not only on Sundays but throughout your week. The next step is to Come To.

Wake up. When you have been attending the same church for awhile, you will start recognizing God working in your everyday life. You should be talking with Him privately. The more you come to, the more knowledge you will want. The bible is a mirror, the more you gaze into it, the more you will know yourself.

1 Samuel 15:29 Israel’s God-of-Glory doesn’t deceive and he doesn’t dither. He says what he means and means what he says.

Most people when they are intentional about changing, passionate about wanting to get better will naturally gravitate toward Come To Believe. You will find you can trust not only others but yourself, and life’s outcomes. Worries dissipate. Problems get solved. True Joy is found. When you Come To Believe your sense of self becomes stronger because you are seeing your value not as the world values, but your value in Christ.

Exodus 15:2 God is my strength, God is my song, and, yes! God is my salvation. This is the kind of God I have and I’m telling the world!

When you feel the strength of God working through you and in you, when you seek yourself in Christ, you can’t help but want to tell the world, to share what you have been given.

Do you share what you have been given? Or do you need to COME. TO. BELIEVE.

Living with the Word

How Can You Create The Life Designed For You?

Most of us want to live a useful life, a life with purpose. It feels good to be helpful, needed and successful. However the influences we inundate our minds with can be a distraction against the life God designed specific to you. Here are some habits to easily incorporate into daily living to filter out the distractions.

Use All Of Your Senses

1. Use your EARS…our faith is being built when we hear the message in church on the radio or from a bible study. Combating the negative influences in our world can be as simple as listening to sermon podcasts or worship music during your morning or evening commute. When you attend church, clear your mind from distractions and have an open mind about the word your Pastor is teaching you. Anger and resentment block the word of God from entering your heart. Self-pity and worry block our ears from truly hearing. Bring your drama to the cross and see the Word as Truth.

But the seed planted in the good earth represents those who hear the Word, embrace it and produce a harvest beyond their wildest dreams. Mark 4:20

If you are a volunteer or church staff, it is vital to eliminate any distractions so as to allow the word of God to enter the hearts of attenders. Having a clean space, inviting atmosphere, soothing smells, creative teaching tools…creating a complete sensory experience allows easy reception of God’s spirit for the church attender.

2. Use your EYES. The average person forgets 95% of what they hear within 72 hours. We need our eyes. We need to read the bible, we need to look intently and continuing. This means to read and reflect on the bible. The purpose of the bible is to reflect ourselves like a mirror. Do not merely glance but gaze into that mirror and you will see yourself in the pages.

3. Use your HANDS & MOUTH. Research the bible through bible study. You will retain more and remember better by writing down questions and feelings and scriptures and then talking about it with others. Small groups are a great way to study the word to review and remember.

Merely hearing God’s law is a waste of your time if you don’t do what he commands. Doing, not hearing, is what makes the difference with God.

Many people in our culture today think church attendance is enough, that they are fulfilling their role as a Christian simply because they attend church a couple times a month.

Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense? James 2:17

As you plan this weekend, accept my challenge; DO NOT MERELY ATTEND BUT EXPERIENCE!

Need a Place to go? Try Evergreen!

A Christian Mobster

We spend a lot of time speculating on the reason we exist. What is my purpose? Why am I here? Why do I have to go through this trial in my life? What is the point? Instead of ruminating and speculating, why not revelate? When an inventor creates something, it is often asked of them, “how and why?” We can learn the hows and whys of our lives if we only think to ask the inventor. Good thing he gave us the perfect instruction manual (in case you didn’t know- I was referring to the bible.)

“It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.” Ephesians 1:11 (msg)

Before I found my way back to God I was clueless, wandering in the desert of too many hopeless thoughts and murdered dreams. Since coming home to Christ through first the 12 steps of recovery and then through my church home at EVERGREEN I have hope, I have knowledge in a savior and I have continued faith that I am worthy and there is much purpose to my life. Being a Christian is kind of like being in the mob- I know too much now to ever go back to my old life.

I forgot this for a moment. For just a moment, I wanted to go back to my old life of not caring for others, not caring about the right choices and practicing self-discipline; I wanted to go back to being a non-believer. Y’know how we romanticize our memories? Yeah, I went there. Luckily, I soon remembered the fear that cramped my life before, paralyzing my potential and the sick thinking that rendered me absolutely useless to my friends, my family and God. Blech. Naw, on second thought, I’ll take the mob of Christianity-I’m in it for life and what a beautiful life it is!

2 Timothy 2:25 “You never know how or when God might sober them up with a change of heart and a turning to the truth.”