Second Generation Awesome

I met the first generation awesome as a new convert in the 1990’s. She was a frail looking little lady with a heart the size of the State of West Virginia. She was your typical grandmotherly looking woman with a pocket book dangling from her arm. She didn’t wear any bling that I can recall; she just arrived, listened and left. You’d barely notice her at all were it not for the way she pushed people outside their comfort zone with her obedience. The Pastor would at various times make mention of something the church or someone in the community needed. He’d say it in passing, not to act upon it at that time, but that this was something we were going to do. Before he would finish his sentence you’d see a rustling in back right hand corner of the church, and out she’d step with pocket book in tow, fumbling with the clasp. And then you’d hear those awe inspiring words, “Preacher, I’d like to give the first twenty.” If she did it once she did it one hundred times and it would catch the whole congregation off guard! Because she lived in income based housing I knew she wasn’t rich, but she gave in abundance to the needs of others.

She came to mind this morning because I had a meeting with second generation awesome last night. She probably wouldn’t like it if I called her by name but God and I know who she is. Like her mother she would go un-noticed by most, but not because of her style, because she’s got it goin’ on there. But because she’s a gentle soul and a soft spirit. She’s seldom out front but always the first to step up and do something; whatever it is that the Lord lays on her heart. Like her mother she probably pushes people out of their comfort zone because obedience is not a strong suit for most of us. If God tells us to give twenty dollars, we’re counting the bills to makes sure we have enough to spare, maybe only giving fifteen for fear we’ll need lunch money. But the truth is if God tells you to give twenty, you can’t afford not to, and you might want to consider giving thirty just to let God know you’re serious.

Luke 6:38

Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.

“Second Generation Awesome” took the example her mother set before her and applied it not only to finances but to life, and every day she lives with a dangling pocket book in her heart, ready to step out and say “I’d like to give the first twenty.” It may be twenty dollars or twenty minutes but she’s ready to offer herself up for the service of the Lord. Her life is not perfect, she’s not without heartache or concerns, but I believe that because of her gift of generosity God has blessed her.

I didn’t write this today to make you or I feel less than adequate in the giving department. I wrote it because I think we all need a reminder that God’s storehouse doesn’t sit empty. It sits full of things we could give and do for the Lord, but don’t for any number of excuses. And because of that we’re missing out on the blessings of being a new generation of awesome. What’s in your pocketbook?

They didn’t know his name, but they knew his God

1 Samuel 16:16-18 ~  Let our lord now command thy servants, which are before thee, to seek out a man, who is a cunning player on an harp: and it shall come to pass, when the evil spirit from God is upon thee, that he shall play with his hand, and thou shalt be well. And Saul said unto his servants, Provide me now a man that can play well, and bring him to me. Then answered one of the servants, and said, Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, that is cunning in playing, and a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, and prudent in matters, and a comely person, and the Lord is with him.

When Saul fell out of fellowship with God, God allowed an evil spirit to trouble him;I believe it is still the case today when someone who once served God stops serving Him, and begins serving the world again, that God will allow their to be trouble in their soul, an un-rest where there was once rest and peace. He’ll also allow a peace to be felt in the presence of other Christians in their lives to bring to remembrance the peace God once afforded them.

David had obviously made quite the impression on the community as a harpist (the original bluegrasser’s ya know), but not enough to make his name a household word. He was still referred to as “the son of Jesse.” He was known for his music, his mastery in war and life’s circumstances and he was quite the looker. All of that is in those verses, just not with the same adjectives I used to describe him, but its there. And last but not least they say “and the Lord is with him.” It was his secular talent that got him noticed, but it was obvious to everyone he was blessed by God.

What we do outside the church is important, and it’s important that we do it well. If we profess we are Christians, how awesome would it be that when someone described our character and abilities that they followed it with “and the Lord is with them.” They probably won’t. But you better believe that a Christian who does not do their job well will often be referred to as “and they say their a Christian…”

David was first noticed for his abilities, but they also knew that God’s hand was upon him. And who knows how many souls were saved because he drew attention to himself through his talents, but glorified God in the process. So… what are you doing with your talents today? Are you a person who desires God’s heart?

The world may not know your name, but what’s more important is that they know your God.

How to take the hard licks in life

In 1970 Tootsie Roll Industries came up with the classic commercial “How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie roll pop.” You too probably remember the ad where the wise old owl when ask that question only made it to 3, but with a more disciplined audience the answer ended up being 144-252, it varied person to person. That ad came to mind this morning when I read John 1:16 – And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.

I know… strange how my mind works isn’t it?

But I began to wonder when examining that verse a little closer, about what it is that we have all received. I can’t even fathom what “His fullness” looks like; meaning everything that makes up Who Jesus is. Even though we are “made in his likeness” and it is He who dwells within the heart of a believer, Jesus is everything to everyone. I can’t even be who I need to be for any one person. I’ll let you down, quickly. Jesus will not fail you ever. And an even harder concept for me to grasp is “grace for grace”, which means we have received grace, heaped upon grace, piles of it… the fullness of Christ, which is immeasurable.

That thought brought great gratitude to my heart this morning because I need heaps of grace. But when doling out grace, I fear I’d be like Mr. Owl. How many licks does it take to get on my last nerve? Three. And then you’re out. But oh, when I need grace, I’m begging for the endless supply. That is why I don’t understand the concept of John 1:16. You can’t get what you don’t give – heaps of grace. This is a valuable lesson that I’d like to learn and I only know one way to learn it… taking the hard licks in life a little more gracefully.

I wonder if I could see the grace I’ve received stacked up against the grace I’ve been given, what would it look like. Shameful for certain. Christ is set before us as the example and I am without excuse. Lord, I pray that I’ll be quick to give that which I’ve received today. Amen.

2 Peter 3:18 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.

The Boundary Setter

2 Timothy 1:9-11 ~ Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel: Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.

I love scripture that affirms eternity past and future, purpose and position in life. It makes sense of my nonsensical world. Timothy was a young believer and Pastor privileged to be mentored by none other than the great apostle Paul. Paul’s burden for Timothy was apparent in his letters to him, and their mutual respect for another’s genuine faith. He was touched by Timothy’s tender heart, verse 4 says ~ Greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears, that I may be filled with joy;” and as Paul’s time grew short on earth he was grateful to have a comrade on the battlefield in whom he could depend. Paul and Timothy’s faith allowed them to apply the past to the purpose of the present so that their future could be anticipated with promise.

The planning in the past

Before the world began God’s plan was in action and I was in it! I know, it shocks even me that with all of God’s planning and time I wouldn’t have turned out better. But it’s not about me or my abilities (my works) it’s about His own purpose. That’s where it gets foggy for me. I try to impose my disabilities on God’s abilities. God says show up as you are and He will use us where we are, but so often I think there has to be advanced planning. There was….in eternity past God provided the grace we’d need for today. It’s already there before our feet hit the floor in the morning.

The purpose of the present

is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ. Manifest – meaning it’s now made known. I know, I know, if you’re like me you don’t see it often times either. But it’s there in the evidence of Christ at work in your life. I’m amazed at the awesome people that God puts in my life at specific times; those who have just appeared at the right time. Every pivotal experience in my life generally has a new person involved that made it possible. God working through them. But even more amazing than that is when “I’m that person.” I fear that I’m missing the boat of opportunity because I don’t often step up or out when God nudges me for fear of stepping over the bounds. However, who’s bounds am I in fear of stepping over, God’s or mans.

Acts 17:24-27 says “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitiation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:

I love that! The boundaries that God has set were determined from the beginning of time and so long as I continue to search for Him, He’ll continue to direct my paths and place people in my path. I need to stop focusing on the boundaries and spend more time focusing on the boundary setter.

The promise of the future

…who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel: Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.

Christ came to provide eternal life through the light of the Gospel, and He chooses to use vessels like you and I to spread that hope.  If we’ve been saved, we’ve received the appointment; it’s on our schedules whether we want it or not. Someone, somewhere needs to see Christ in you today, their future may depend on it.

The Very First Ministry Created on Earth… are you a part of it?

Genesis 2:15

 And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.

The first ministry on earth. Adam was placed in a location and given the job of taking care of what God had created; and so it continues in the year of our Lord 2014. It seems pretty simplistic, and yet for many it is nowhere on their list of priorities, or if it is, it falls just shy of taking out the trash. They do it because it’s necessary, but not enjoyable.

I don’t for two seconds believe that’s how God intended it. I believe that as Adam tended to creation he did so with joy in his heart and a desire to serve and please the Creator. It should be the same today, but the world gets in the way and we lose focus of His design. We were created to take care of the created… each other.

As a child in the hills of Braxton County, West Virginia, on my Great Grandmother Duffield’s property, we had what we dubbed “The Moss House” in the woods. It was a moss covered piece of ground in the thick woods where we would gather and make “rooms” by moving the moss into different locations. I thought it was an exclusive idea of my group of cousins, only to discover in a conversation with my older sister years later, that they thought it was their idea. Truth be told my mother probably played the same game. Ministry is much the same. We all think we’re creating something new, but the truth of the matter is we’re just tending to what God created. But it’s fun to be creative with it!

So as our ministry team at Victory Baptist Church begins to refocus on “that place in which the Lord placed us in 2014, my desire is to motivate and then move out of the way by meeting with our youth leadership team and ask them

What Did God create us to do in this place in which He placed us?

Below is a 7 point outline using the acronym C.R.E.A.T.E.D. to sum up our role and motivate one another as leaders in the church:

  • Challenge ~ There’s two ways to look at a challenge. It’s a task– The challenge of how far can we go with this ministry, and it’s a trial – There are challenges that we face in the youth ministry, the greater the challenge, the greater God will be glorified. What’s the challenge?
  • Results ~ There nothing like one great accomplishment to give you the desire for another. It’s how we’re made. But in order to have accomplishments there has to be goals set. What are our ministry goals?
  • Enthusiasm ~ If we’re excited about what’s happening, it’s bound to rub off on the rest of the church. What is something you’d get excited about doing? Let’s do it!
  • Attitude ~ It’s your attitude not your aptitude that determines your altitude as someone so cleverly said. What attitudes are helping, and what attitudes are hindering?
    •  Attitudes we deal with in the ministry –
      • Fear (I’m afraid if I do this… this might happen.)
      • Pride (I don’t want to fail in front of people)
      • Doubt (of ability or agility on both ends of the age spectrum) Think Joash who became King at Seven, and Moses who didn’t get called until he was 80. Age is not an excuse for not serving.
  • Transformation – When things get stale, throw a little change in the mix, and we have new motivation. Our church as has had a major game changer this year. We are Pastorless… not leaderless. There have been some great transformations in leadership simply because change happened. What can we do different?
  • Endangered – Telling someone that a critter has become endangered will create a flurry of people coming to that critters rescue. Well, churches are becoming endangered… or at least solid, Bible teaching and preaching churches with leadership with a backbone. Please… come to our rescue and join the fight.
  • Dreams – Leaders are visionaries. Wanting to accomplish something bigger. If you could dream of anything at all, the wildest craziest dream ever for your ministry. What would it be? Let’s do it.

We were created in the image of God with a design by God for our work; we weren’t created to sit idle. So I have to ask the question… What part of the garden did God give you a desire to tend and what ideas did He plant inside of you about it?

The Blossom Gang

I love beginnings! And I “mostly” only like endings because I know once something is completed, something new is beginning. It’s the part in the middle that I have issues with. Genesis 1:11 ~  And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.

And so it was that the summer of 1996 a sapling sprung up in the depth of my soul that I believe God planted long before the baby known as Shari was born to Gene and Violet Hardway in Braxton County, West Virginia. Jeremiah 1:5 says “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” So I believe that God sowed a seed in eternity past that He knew would take root, and I believe the same is true with every human on the face of the planet, although every seed sown does not take root. The anomaly (inconsistency) that some get saved (accept Christ as their Savior) has nothing to do with the seed, or the Sower, but the soil for which it was planted. We are still free willed, God won’t force Himself upon us, at least at this point. There will come a day that everyone shall see Him as He is and know that He is indeed Truth and light. But for now, if men and women choose to stay in a state of denial, it’s their choice, and truthfully their loss.

But that fruit after its kind mentioned in Genesis 1:11 has captured my thoughts this morning. When God formed man He created him in the likeness of Himself (Genesis 1:26), and each child born, generation to generation is born from the same seed sown at Creation. Our lineage began with Adam and progressed over the years, or digressed over the years into a generation of people who many consider themselves independent of God; but whether they confess Him as Lord or not they cannot get rid of that seed in their soul that continues to try to take root, even in stoney soil. As Jesus described in the parable of the sower in Matthew 13:5-6 “Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.

But it’s not always a soil issue entirely. Sometimes it’s the lack of growth in those little saplings. There are some trees in the orchard that have beautiful bloom but that’s where it stops. They go to church (on Sunday morning and other “special services” and they look “churchy” when the go. They have a Christian fish on their car and if anyone asks they’re more than happy to tell them they’re a Christian and that everyone should have a home church. But… they are far too busy to make Sunday evening and Wednesday a priority, and sharing the gospel runs the risk of offending “good people” or even worse offending “bad people.” Then there’s the whole issue of church and state and the state they’re in… but they look pretty. I think I’ll start calling them the blossom gang, all flower… no fruit.

God planted the seed within us and if we allow He will continue to fertilize the crop with the expectation that the fruit He’s already given root to and nurtures Himself will be fruit bearing also – in His likeness.

So my question to myself and you as well is are you a member of the blossom gang, or the Alpha and Omega Orchard? There’s a beginning and an end to everyone’s story…

Say “Da” to God

3 Guys

I love watching the reach of my blog. It fascinates me to think that anyone (outside of family and friends) would read what I write, and yet they do! I love that I’m seeing prophecy played out through me, and with the help of technology the Word of God is going across the earth. Whether or not I ever know those who read my blog face to face on earth doesn’t matter, although it’s cool when I do, but if they are a child of God I’ll meet them face to face in Heaven.

I’ve watched over the past few weeks as Canadians and Ukrainians have vied for position in the list of readership. My sister is a missionary to Canada, so I’m tickled that I too am a missionary of sorts in that land sharing the gospel of Christ from my kitchen table or sofa, in West Virginia, USA. But Ukraine was not on my radar until a few weeks ago and then all of a sudden the number of readers increased. A quick Google search of Ukraine lead me to an article on the website of Eastern European Mission seeking to raise funding for Bibles for Ukraine due to the increase in requests of public schools desiring to teach from it. Yes, I said public schools. The word “Da” is yes in Ukraine. They believe that giving the Bible to their children (saying yes to God) will change the future of their country. Imagine that?

2 Corinthians 1:20 ~ For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.

Faith in God can be summed up in one word, “Yes,” or “Da” if you’re in Ukraine. With that one word you receive all of the promises of God, enough promises to last you through eternity and more than you can ever imagine. God doesn’t ask anything other than for us to say yes to the gift of Salvation through the confession that His Son, Jesus Christ, was born of a virgin, died on the cross, rose again the third day and now intercedes on our behalf when we err in this life. That is far easier for me than believing we “exploded into existence,” especially since the earth and all that is in it bears witness of God, and from a very young child I’ve had pull on my heart toward Him.

If you’re from Ukraine, I’d love to hear how the gospel is making its way into your homes and what Jesus is doing in your life. It’s a shame the progressive nation of the United States digresses away from the Bible in public schools for fear of influencing children, and yet they’re embracing the influence of false religions. It’s not inconceivable that another country could be sending missionaries into our land.

Ukraine, I’m so happy that you are saying “Da” to God. America… the word is yes. Let’s do it and get our nation back on track!

Contact me through the comment box at the top of this page, or email me at talk2shari@gmail.com

It’s good to be here…

There’s a quote that people say when something bad happens in life, ~ “It left a bad taste in my mouth.” The polar opposite of that is found in Psalm 34, when David said in verse 8 “O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.” At the time this was written, David had just fled from Saul. A man called to be King, chosen by God, a servant of servants and yet he finds himself under attack and on the run for no other reason than King Saul’s fear of losing power; which David, though he was entitled to it, had no desire to take. David fled into the enemy territory of Gath, the home of Goliath who he slew. Saul’s fury was so great that David felt safer in the land of the enemy than at home, but he was far from safe.

As a child of God in America, allegedly the “Home of the Free,” there are days I feel somewhat like David. I love my country and the foundation for which we stand, I have respect for authority and no desire to overthrow the government, and yet with the economy in such a state, the attack on the Word of God and the embracing of the vulgarity in society I too want to run into the house of God for refuge. David wasn’t afforded a house of any kind for refuge but rather in the cave Adullam.

I Samuel 22:1-2 ~  David therefore departed thence, and escaped to the cave Adullam: and when his brethren and all his father’s house heard it, they went down thither to him. And every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them: and there were with him about four hundred men.

And in the cave of Adullam, David is joined by four hundred misfits just like him and he is on a strange new training ground preparing him for leadership of Israel, “And it tastes good.”

It tasted good because he “spoke good”

David said in verse one “I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Praise encourages the soul and blesses God, Who, by the way, won’t be out-blessed. Proverbs 28:20a says A faithful man shall abound with blessings…” I fully believe that those men who were in distress, debt and discontent were drawn to David because he encouraged their souls too. If you’re in trouble spiritually or emotionally the last thing you need to do is hook up with a negative Nellie. Find yourself a faithful servant of God who speaks good of “all” circumstances and you’ll find yourself encouraged in the journey.

It tasted good because he “shared good”

Verse 3 ~  O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together. David and that ragtag bunch of men were in that cave under attack and they were having a Worship Service. If it were not for the fellowship of like believers I’d be in trouble; and by like I mean they too have a desire to serve God and are focused on the purpose of God. We encourage one another, we share the goodness of God, not the corruptness of the world. We have negative people within the congregation, but I love on’em and move on. Scripture says magnify the Lord, not Lucifer.

It tasted good because he “sought good”

Verse 10 ~ The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing.

David sought good in his circumstances. He knew God allowed him to be in that place, at the time for a purpose and the same is true with the condition we’re in. (or the Country we’re in). As frustrated as I get with Washington, there is no other place I’d rather be than here. I still have the freedom to worship. God is King and Ruler in my world.

I have a desire to be a greater leader in 2014. I want to encourage the believers and I can think of no better way than to study those who God used. David’s words to his men are word’s I’m taking to heart today and sharing with you:

Verse 11-14 ~ Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord. What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good? Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile. Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.

Speak good (guard your mouth), see good (guard your eyes), do good (Let God guide your work)…. Wise words.

You can’t get there from where you are

Joshua 3:4 ~  Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure: come not near unto it, that ye may know the way by which ye must go: for ye have not passed this way heretofore.

The children of Israel were departing the wilderness. A whole new generation of God’s chosen, their parents and grandparents had murmered against the leadership, questioned God’s design and ended up dying along the way. Now this generation was about to embark on a journey for which they had “not passed this way before.” There’s something both exciting and un-nerving about going to where we’ve never been. It’s like being the Captain of the Starship Enterprise (only without the strange aliens, although strange church members may make up for that). Israel had great leadership in Moses, and were left in the more than capable hands of Joshua. God’s presence was going before them about a ½ mile, possibly that far ahead as to be seen by all who followed and they were about to get what had only been a dream before. But, it was going to take someone stepping outside their comfort zone, and someone willing to follow. That’s what I believe it takes to have a thriving church.

It seems obvious that to get to where you’ve never been, you’d have to travel where you’ve never gone. And yet church folks don’t like to move out of their section of pews, so to ask them to move outside of the church into the community is really pushing buttons that will cause the breaks to squeal. But if we never move outside the church, how will they see Jesus? Jesus’ comfort zone wasn’t inside the building it was going the less traveled way.

He met the woman at the well in a location that Jews did not travel, in the heat of the day when it was not comfortable, and He didn’t take His ministry team along. When they finally arrived at the well, they marveled that Jesus spoke to the Samarian woman, but they dare not ask it aloud. When they asked Jesus if He wanted something to eat He replied in John 4:34 ~ “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.”

The disciples still didn’t get it. So Jesus put it in garden terms Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.

So I have to ask myself this question. Am I on Jesus’ ministry team? Would I have been at the well, or would I have been at the grocery store? Would I have been gathering fruit for the Kingdom, or grub for the King? My stomach just rolled over. I fear I’ve spent much of my ministry in the checkout aisle, while God was waiting for me in the community. God went out before the children of Israel into the Promised Land from the wilderness. Now He was taking them back into the wilderness, so to speak. Not asking them to be a part of it, but to go there to bring new children into the Promised Land.

What are we waiting for? We can’t get “there” from “where you are”. Go!