Enthusiastically Excellent

I value customer service and enthusiasm with one’s job

I am constantly at coffee shops, restaurants, and books stores with an urgency develop relationships with people and because I am a pastor. Meaning all my work (if I let it) can be done within the confines of our church office building. This is a disadvantage to me unless I make myself leave the office and work off site. Now while I say this, I also want to say that this blog is not about the urgency for me as a pastor to be missional. I LOVE that I am called to that and cherish it. I want to challenged you in your work to do all things with excellence to the glory of God.

I am currently sitting in a coffee shop (I’ll spare you the actual one I am at) and I noticed a few things when I walked in

I was not greeted

There were no smiles on anyone’s faces

The enthusiasm was DEAD. I mean it…DEAD.

Even after I greeted the people behind the bar, there was this awkwardness and thick air, and I may have even heard under their breath “Dude stop asking me how I am doing and order your coffee, this isn’t chatting time!” (Okay I did not hear this, but that’s what it felt like).

Not long ago I was at a restaurant, and the service was horrendous. The place was not busy…our waiter (whom I have had before) didn’t look at me when I ordered. Even when I tried to be engaging, there was no interest. The drinks were barely ever filled back up. I was often forgotten about.

A few months ago I went through a drive through of a smoothie place and was stared at like I had just spit in their face, and all I asked for was a smoothie.

“Griff what’s your point? You’re just complaining about customer service! Big deal, it’s part of life! Sometimes it just sucks!”

My whole points is not to complain (like most of us do) about customer service…my point is this…

“Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God” 2 Corinthians 5:17 and “Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically as something done for the Lord and not for men…” Colossians 3:23.

My immediate response to horrible customer service is always to ask how I can pray, or be a light of joy to them. I will never allow the frustration of terrible service take from my ability to be a light in a dark world. But, I will see the potential for human flourishing. I will tip what I’m required and only stay at 15% and not go up if it’s bad. I will at some level encourage and inspire those who struggle with this …to do all to the glory of God enthusiastically.

Maybe this describes you:

“I’m not actually in my career right now, this job is temporary so why even bother giving my all…

“I Just don’t enjoy what I do, it’s miserable and nobody likes me here, so I don’t like them either…

“I am an introvert with an extroverted job…I shouldn’t be expected to be outgoing and bubbly…”

“It’s just super early in the morning…I am not a morning person!”

“If you only understood my home life…You would know why I am such a grouchy person at work…”

Look I feel you. I don’t always feel like doing certain things either. I have been in student ministry for almost 9 years, and some days I still find myself tired, frustrated, fatigued, and just want my own personal time.

But you know what those two verses don’t give us? An excuse. A reason not to do things with excellence. A way out because our reasoning is more legitimate then someone else’s.

God is not glorified by our laziness and reasons we make to why we don’t do something with enthusiasm and excellence. He is not in support of it.

According to Jon Acuff, “Attitude is a choice.” I agree with that. YOU have the power to choose how you approach what you do daily.

So what do we do? How do our attitudes reflect “Do all to the glory of God” and “Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically” in a biblical way?

  1. Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Don’t worry about anything but in everything, through prayer, petition with thanksgiving…” – Philippians 4:4

Reasons to rejoice:

You’re breathing

You have a job

You have a personality

You have a smile

Be thankful for what you do have. That’s not cliché, that’s a reality you must embrace.

Jesus has given you a new life of peace and joy! If you don’t like your job or are not enjoying certain occupations, share the love of the Jesus with the people that you are around and make the place better!

Rejoicing can change culture.

  1. Do everything without grumbling and arguing” – Philippians 2:14

We are so privileged in our western culture. When our WIFI is broken, we complain. When our food didn’t come out like we wanted, we yell at the waiter or waitress instead of knowing the cooks are backed up with orders. Our perspective should be this: “Thank God you have breath to complain with.” Sometimes we label grumbling and arguing as venting…but keep it real…most of the time it’s gossip, grumbling, or arguing.

Turn grumbling and complaining into joy and laughter.

  1. “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones” – Proverbs 17:22

Enjoy life and don’t allow circumstances to dictate your joys direction. Don’t be dry. Don’t be unfriendly. A joyful hear not only benefits you, but all others around you. Be infectious with joy.

My prayer for you and me, is that we can rejoice, not complain or argue, and consider how joy impacts our souls and others as we move and have our being!

Go out there, and be Enthusiastically Excellent!

Shout Out To My Fellow Pastors

Humility – Blessing others, looking to other’s interests, encouraging others…considering others BETTER than you. I SUCK AT HUMILITY. That’s what I want to do in this blog post. I am not as good as think I am and I want to shout out to those who are better! There are a group of fellas, fellow Pastors who I admire, respect, and love to serve with at Fellowship Church. This is a shout out to them, by letting you know the great qualities of each of them. They are better than me.

Pastor Kirk – Kirk Jones is the type of dude who is unapologetic-ally himself. The authenticity he brings to our staff and to our church is the same guy I know off the stage. What you get from our lead pastor when he preaches is the same guy you get if you are ever in a one on one conversation with him. This dude has massive vision and desires to take us to the next level yearly. If I have a question he’s got an answer. If he sees an issue, he’ll address it on the spot with the truth in love. He has called out my ignorance a few times in a truthful way that more so uplifted me than put me down. If I want honesty, Kirk is the man I want to hear it from. Kirk knows how to communicate truth as a preacher. Though our styles may be different, Kirk has a way to simplistically and profoundly sharpen your mind with the truth of scripture in his own uniqute way. I have served as youth pastor under 4 pastors, and Kirk is my favorite one to listen to as a preacher. Kirk Jones, is always Kirk Jones. He is the most interesting man on the planet, stay “Kirk-y” my friends.

Pastor Brian – Brian Robert has the heart of 10 men. I believe Brian has the biggest heart for people on our staff. This dude is a relentless servant for people and he is a representation of a man who goes the 2nd and sometimes the 3rd mile. Many of our students see him as a father figure type, a guy who has wisdom for a thousand years and the kind of counselor I enjoy learning from. In situations where I might throw a tantrum and show utter frustration, Brian is a guy who demonstrates the patience I crave. Brian is a man’s man, a guy I think all of us should strive to be like. I have loved working with this dude as a partner in ministry, and even more, I have loved learning and growing as a man through seeing him live his life. Brian Robert is your best friend and you don’t even know it!

Pastor Todd – Todd Blount is the smartest man alive! Todd is an incredible communicator and is just an overall sharp dude. Todd looks like he is in his late 20’s with the wisdom of a 60 year old. Todd is a great representation of the Perfect Punctual (Though we all know he is far from perfect) I doubt this dude sins 5 times a day (Again, a lie but that’s how much integrity I see in this dude). Todd is the kind of guy you want on your team. He is listens, gives solid advice, and knows how to stay on top of tasks, family, and ministry. His priorities are to my knowledge never in any kind of chaos, and he always desires to serve the Lord and study the scriptures in both quality and quantity. My dude Todd is a guy you want to listen to and model after when it comes to various aspects of life, but ultimately, his devotion as a disciple to the Word of God. Todd Blount’s memory is so good he has the whole Church’s birthdays memorized!

Pastor Jonathan – Jonathan Ickles is the most animated dude I have ever met. Anybody that knows Jonathan knows they will get a laugh within the first few minutes of knowing him, and if you know him, you just look at him and laugh. Ickles is a guy who just loves life and loves to laugh. I learned when  I was in high school that I HAVE to learn to laugh at myself, and I have always been good at that. Jonathan is a dude who I can actually joke with and get a joke right back. Most of the time I like to set him up to make fun of me just because I want to laugh! Jonathan is the kind of father I want to be. Dude has 5 kids, and makes time for every single one of them in a very unique way. He makes them each feel like they’re the best kid on earth. I want to enjoy life as much as Jonathan Ickles. As a guy who struggles a lot with anxiety, I can always use more laughter and clown myself. He is also my favorite worship pastor. He is better than Christ Tomlin, David Crowder, the guy who leads Hillsong United (whoever that is), and whoever your favorite is, Jonathan Ickles is better. He’s your favorite worship leader’s favorite worship leader. Jonathan Ickles smells like comedy, take a whiff and laugh for 3.5 hours.

I love these Pastors. I have learned so much from them and am blessed to serve on such a great pastoral team. I am the Pastor I am today at Fellowship Church because I work with these dudes. God has blessed every single one of these dudes with gifts and abilities better than mine. I cannot wait to keep learning from them. I pray, you feel the same way! Love Your Pastors!

Are Your Prayers Really Repentant?

“Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish:

Jonah 2:1

Jonah, one of the most beloved children’s stories. As a kid I remember reading books on Jonah. Seeing the pictures of him fleeing away from God’s command to go preach to Nineveh. He’s sitting in wooden boat’s bottom deck with a wicked look on his face as if he really fled from an omnipresent God, with God’s brilliant light shining at the bottom of the deck to show Jonah, “I can’t believe you as a prophet think you can actually outrun me!” God has to laugh right? All of a sudden the sailors are freaking out that there is a storm that is about to rip apart their precious boat and cargo while Jonah is snoozing. “What are you doing? Wake up! Call to your god!” Jonah has a conversation with these pagan sailors about his ethnicity and boldly declaring his faith in the God he worships, “The God of the heavens who made the sea and the dry land.” Reading the rest of Jonah 1 you will see that Jonah has the sailors throw him off the boat (as if he could not do it himself) to stop the madness and a great fish swallows him. Growing up we look at Chapter 2 of Jonah and think it is so incredible that Jonah is in prayer. Once again, the books portray Jonah being in a dome like structure, not a fishes belly I guess for being to graphic. This dude is in muck and gross-ness! He is in the digestive system of a fish, not a dome! But where we get really pumped up, is when Jonah is praying! We shout “Woo! Jonah is about to repent, he is about to get it in with God!” We get inspired and without actually dissecting his prayer we move on. From studying this passage there are 3 things I see in this text that show a very unrepentant prayer. A prayer that kind of looks like some of ours.

First of all, the beauty of this text starts in verse 1, “Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish:” Jonah has rebelled yet this text still says the Lord is his God. Check this: Your salvation and access to God is not determined by how much you obey him, it is only determined by His love for you. This is grace. The gospel is God coming after us. And God has not abandoned Jonah, Jonah has abandoned God. God loves him, and he loves you too. However, look at Jonah’s prayer and compare it to sometimes how we pray. We will see it is not really a prayer of repentance.

Jonah 2:2-9.

2 I called to the Lord in my distress,† and he answered me. I cried out for help from deep inside† Sheol;† you heard my voice.† 3 You threw me into the depths,† into the heart of the seas,† and the current† overcame me. All your breakers and your billows swept over me.† 4 But I said, “I have been banished† from your sight,† yet I will look once more† toward your holy temple.† 5 The water engulfed me up to the neck;†† the watery depths overcame me; seaweed was wrapped around my head.† 6 I sank to the foundations of the mountains,† the earth’s gates shut behind me forever!† Then you raised my life† from the Pit, Lord my God!† 7 As my life was fading away,† I remembered the Lord,† and my prayer came to you,† to your holy temple.† 8 Those who cherish worthless idols† abandon their faithful love,† 9 but as for me, I will sacrifice† to you with a voice of thanksgiving.† I will fulfill† what I have vowed. Salvation† belongs to the Lord.”†

The Essence of Jonah’s Prayer:

  1. Crying out IN Affliction rather than FROM Affection. Vs. 2-3

Sometimes we run to God only in our emergency more than we just want to run to him. Jonah should have already been praying. It took being swallowed up for him to hit his knees. Don’t get me wrong, praying from emergency is better than not praying at all. However, true disciples of The Way will want to go to God always in prayer.

  1. Attributing God as the Cause of Danger rather than our own Rebellion. Vs. 3-7

We need to realize that some of us are in trouble because of our constant disobedience. Our disobedience can drive us to dark places. Jonah kept saying that God threw him in the depths and all his creation overcame him. We can’t always say “Satan is just attacking me right now” when Satan is actually winning! God is sovereign but what gets us into pits of despair isn’t always a trial, it’s  because of our own faults. Yes, God still hears you, and you are never far from God, but God is wanting you to look to Him not to talk about all that you’re In. God wants to uproot your rebellion but he wants a repentant heart.

  1. Superficial Spirituality. Vs. 9.

Superficial spirituality looks and sounds holy and good but it’s not authentic. It focuses on Self . It Prays only in tough circumstances and it excuses ones sins but is quick to talk about others’ sins. Jonah says “Those who cherish worthless idols abandon their faithful love.” Does that describe you? Praying a prayer just to get by? Yelling to God about everything you are in and what’s going on around you rather than saying “God  I have failed because of my utterly sinful heart!” I cannot with good conviction say Jonah is repentant when the only sin he points out is others.

Christian, there is hope for you still like there was still hope for Jonah. Once again, the Lord is still your God! You might be in a pit but you are not dead!  J.D. Greear says, “The real pit is separation from God, not a particular circumstance.” Sometimes we need to evaluate our prayer lives and the hearts behind them. God desires a heart after him! Don’t act Jonah, walk in obedience delighting in the Lord your God.

Don’t Get It Twisted

Do you think you are “good enough”? Have you caught yourself comparing yourself to others? Sometimes we get it twisted when it comes to how good we think we are compared to other people’s “goodness.” We do not have much a measuring stick if we use ourselves as the standard, “For all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God.” When we pray, are we exalting self, or God? Do we acknowledge that we fall short?

Read Luke 18:9-14. Look the Pharisee’s prayer. Luke 18:9-12

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed[a] thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’

The Pharisee is basically saying he is better than everyone else. The Pharisee’s were the religious elite of their day. These dudes were the example for everyone to follow when it came to knowledge and being “spiritually fit.” But what this Pharisee didn’t see, was that he was as sinful everyone else. This Pharisee got it twisted. The Pharisee’s added to God’s law, making it an impossible standard to live up to. The believe themselves to be the standard.

THINK: Do you know all the answers to the bible? Are you known for doing “good things”? Do you thank God you are not like others?

Now read the Tax Collector’s prayer. Luke 18:13-14

13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.

The Tax collectors were huge outcasts of society. Everyone hated these peeps. They stole and stole and stole. Yet look at his posture. He stood far off and could not look towards God. He had a posture of humility. The second thing we see is his desperation: “God be merciful me.” The Tax Collector knew he deserved punishment, but cried out his need for God’s mercy. The third thing we see, is the confession of the tax collector. While the Pharisee thanked God for not being a sinner (which we know is a lie) the tax collector confessed this truth. He was indeed a sinner!

Are you aware that you fail? Are you aware that you are broken and need to be restored? Are you aware that there is nothing on this earth that can save you other than Jesus Christ?

There are some ways we get it twisted and need to repent of.

  1. MY sin is not as bad as THEIR sin. #twisted
  2. I have been saved, so God must forgive me, which gives me freedom to do what I want. #twisted
  3. All sins are equal, so this particular sin is not nearly as condemned. #twisted
  4. I pray every week at church on Sundays. That covers it. #twisted
  5. It is mine and God’s little secret, He’s given me peace about me sleeping with my girlfriend beause we love each other. #twisted
  6. I don’t think God is as harsh about sin as he used to be. I think He is okay with us sinning as long as we love him. #twisted

Never believe any of these lies! Do not allow Satan to deceive you from believing the truth in God’s Word! Sin is not something to toy with!

The beauty of the gospel, is that God through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, has saved us from darkness to live in the light, not to return to darkness. What God says, goes! He is our ultimate authority and loving Father. Don’t get it twisted!

Further Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Romans 3:23; Romans 6:1 Romans 8

 

How Can You Know Your Teenager is Growing in Christ?

Desire to be free

Parents, don’t you love teenagers?? Your teenagers, other people’s teenagers (maybe), you know you love them! Right? I am not a parent, but I have been in youth ministry since I was 18 years old and I have also been a teen. This generation is one of the most unique, most creative yet most distracted generations we have had and my desire to reach them must come in different methods. The gospel however will never be altered, never shaken, and always should be the foundation to every generation. I personally believe that the teenage years are the most pivotal when making a decision to follow Jesus forever.

But, how do you as a parent know if your teenager is actually growing in Christ? I want to give you some ways you can look for this growth with an accumulation of my personal experiences as a teen, from what I have observed as a youth pastor, and parents descriptions to me in what they have also seen in their own teen’s growth.

8 Ways you can know your teenager is Growing in Christ:

  1. Your Teen will Ask Questions about God’s Word – When I was 15 and Christ got a hold of my life, I never hesitated to ask questions about what God revealed to me in His Word. I would walk into my parents room at 11:00 o’clock at night, wake them up, and ask a question. I would get to the church earliest enough on Wednesday nights just to bask in the wisdom of my youth pastor Steve Spence to grow spiritually equipped in the word. Curiosity of  God’s word is a sign of growth. Psalm 119:9 says “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.”
  2. Your Teen will Desire to be a part of the Church at a Certain Capacity – There’s a reason I say CERTAIN capacity. As a youth pastor, it’s hard to say this because this means not every youth will be involved with the youth group. It’s just reality. However this does not mean the Teen is not growing, serving, or loving their church. The Ten Commandments do not say “Thou Shalt not neglect your youth group worship service and groups!” However the scripture does say “Do not neglect the gathering of the saints” in Hebrews chapter 10 verse 24. An involved teen in the church is a teen that has been influenced in the right direction and is seeking to be an influence. Your teen will make being a part of the church more of a priority than anything else.
  3. Your Teen will Display a Different Attitude towards their Siblings – While this statement is nowhere near perfect, there will be some level of maturity and love coming from a brother or sister to their siblings. Growing up, my brother Daniel and I practically hated each other. When we both got older, my senior in high school, we developed an incredible friendship. I was even best man in his wedding. I always talked to him about the gospel and wanted to be there for him when he struggled. Your older son or daughter, even sometimes begrudgingly will love their younger siblings by spending time with them, taking them to their favorite activity with the intention of influencing them towards Jesus. Once again, they will still fight, still annoy each other, and still act like they hate each other sometimes, but that is a sign of sibling tough love rather than a lack of maturity in Christ. Even Jesus got annoyed of His disciples! Jesus called Peter Satan! I have been called Satan by my brother multiple times!
  4. Your Teen will Begin to be more Honest with you (if you make your EAR available) Sometimes teenagers just want an ear. I believe teens don’t think adults or even their parents understand where they are coming from because as adults, we want to spit wisdom or advice without “really listening.” However, I have observed through conversations with teens, they just want their dad or their mom to be an ear! Sons want fatherly advice and daughters want emotional momma support.
  5. Your Teen will Feel Uncomfortable about the Sin they See and Hear at school by Peers – I use to come home upset or even vent to my dad or youth pastor about the things I saw and heard at school. My urge to preach when I was 17 was God birthed but also because I wanted to see a generation of students grow up and not waste their lives. I would weep when a teenager died of being ran over by a truck because he was drunk and fell asleep in the woods (true story). It would break my heart to see guys at school treat girls with disrespect and as objects. THOSE kinds of convictions will be evident in your teen. They will choose “not to conform to the patterns of this world but will be transformed by the renewal of their minds” as Romans 12:2 says. Sins of peers will disrupt a teens soul because they know sin is a waste of time and life. No Christian teen wants to see other teens suffer because of sin choices.
  6. Your Teen will be Convicted about Disobeying You – A teen who is pursuing Jesus and understanding to “Honor their Father and Mother” will show respect and apologize when they have wronged you. I believe that is a way the Holy Spirit intervenes when they have mouth-offed to you for thinking they are right. I have seen it in teens attitudes on Wednesday nights at Youth Group, being disrespectful but then apologizing later because of their defiance. I believe a teen under conviction will show respect and die to their selfish pattern of disobeying you.
  7. Your Teen might start Caring about God’s will for them more than Your Will for them – I have no idea what it’s like to have a son or daughter and want so bad for them to take the direction I feel they should take. No clue! I can only dream and imagine. You may have the perfect-set-trust-funded-scholarship-will for your teen. However, God uses teens in incredible ways, in ways that you may have not prepared for them. I have observed that when a teen catches fire with a passion to pursue Jesus, they will discover an adventure and the only thing that could be in their way…is you. If your teen is talking about going into ministry, starting a non-profit, starting a bible study at their school very early in the morning, switching colleges because they felt the spirit of the Lord legitimately tell them to go where no one else will to share the gospel…support them! It is a good thing to notice your teen caring about God’s will and not wanting anything in their way to obey it. Give your teens direction, help them prepare, but let them go. Trust me, God is up to something in their lives!
  8. Your Teen will Challenge YOUR faith – I want to encourage you parent as well as challenge you. Your whole point as a parent is to equip your family and nurture them to follow Jesus.  If you are being challenged by your teen in your own faith, your teen may just be growing as a leader! One of the most humbling things I have ever heard my pops say to people, knowing how Godly of a man he is, saying “Derek is the spiritual leader of our family.” Are you challenged by your teen’s walk with Christ that it may just be pushing you further into Christ as well? Can you brag on them to others and humbly admit, that your teenager just might be changing your life?

There are most likely more than 8 ways you can know your teens are growing in Christ! However I pray these 8 will get you started in evaluating your teens life as they seek Jesus! Join them in that journey!

Kick It Off: New Year With Purpose 

To Live is _________. How would you fill in the blank? How would you define what your life is if you had a single blank to fill? It has to be something. We all fill it and we make statements “The year 2017 is going to be the year of _______!” 

This is what we choose to fill the blanks with sometimes:

To live is money. (I need More!)

To live is love. (I need Someone!)

To live is pleasure. (I need to feel good!)

To live is…happiness (I need to not feel pain, and everything to go my way.) 

No matter what, we fill in the blanks with how we live. We desire to achieve goals so much but how often do we really live up to the goals we set before ourselves in the new year? Has any of those things been a bust? I read an article not long ago that said 80% of the new year resolution crowd drops off by the second week of February. We even joke about it with our friends and family “Ha well I’ll get it next year!” We brag about goals that we met and fret about the goals we couldn’t attain. 

I pray we don’t take our spiritual walks with Christ as just another “goal” or “resolution” to joke about and talk about in passing. Following Jesus isn’t about attaining a goal, but going a direction. A direction that Christ has already prepared beforehand. A direction that Christ won for us on the cross.

The Apostle Paul fills the blank with this: “For me to live is Christ…” Philippians 1:21

This was a man with not much money. A man who didn’t always feel love, rather torments and pain from the stones thrown at him. A man who at one time in his life took pleasure in destroying Christians and living self-righteously, and now takes pleasure in the name of Jesus. A man who realized happiness was not found in abundance, but in the resurrected Jesus. For Paul, Jesus opened his eyes to a life worth living.

Jesus gave Paul a few things worth emphasizing and inspiring a direction for his life.

  1. A Free Mind 
  2. A Saved Soul 
  3. A Renewed Heart 
  4. A Contained Spirit 

Paul also says  in Philippians 1:22, “But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ.” Paul knows his direction. When he says “To live IS CHRIST”, everything he does sets him a direction for spiritual growth and pursuit of what he can attain. 

What are your spiritual Your Directions to where you can do more fruitful work for Christ?

1. Think about the things above not on the earthly: You don’t need a better fit body, you need a spiritually healthy one. Don’t abandon physical training, but don’t allow vanity to overtake you “For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” 1 Timothy 4:8 (emphasis mine). Don’t dwell on approval from others, God in the heavenlies already approves of you. Don’t fight for accolades on earth for your treasure is in heaven. 

2. Rest in God’s saving Grace: “I’ll rest when I’m dead” isn’t heroic, it’s sin. God wants you to be so secured in His love for you that you you can take a sabbath, and let His peace comfort you. Some of us are so exhausted that we have become numb to it. We won’t let God rule our little world because our strength is in ourselves. But we are frail, and when we actually take time to rest, our souls heal from the world’s demands. Listen, 2017 will be crazy. But hey, just go to bed. Put your electronic friend down (Your cell phone) and hang with your friends or your kids. Realize the world doesn’t need you, it needs a savior. To live is christ means you can rest.

3. Be Still to KNOW God: We struggle to get to Know God because of constant distraction. We think a sermon a week and four songs in a service is us getting to know Him. But you will never get to know Him as much as you can than when it’s you, the Word, the Holy Spirit, and quiet. To live is Christ is to know Him. But you cannot know him if you don’t make a lot of time for him. You read that? A LOT! 2017 doesn’t need to make room for Jesus, YOU DO! Don’t blame time or people or your job for not enough time. You make it happen. KNOW JESUS more than you do anyone this year. 

4. Remain Obedient making your body a slave to Christ: A contained spirit is one controlled by the Holy Spirit. Jesus sets your direction. He sets the way we live in His word. By the power of God’s Spirit within you, you can say no to sin! You can make disciples! You can love your wife more than hunting! You can do a devotional with your family when you make your body a shave to Crist! Teenager you can be the influencer rather than the influenced! REMAIN in Christ “For apart from Him you can do nothing” John 15:5. 

Quit setting goals and then giving up when you fail. Follow the direction Christ has already set for you and flourish from this year to eternity.

“I Got Your Back”

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John 15:13 “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friend.”

The bar is way too low on the standard of friendships in America and even among Christians. In a life where we are “tossed to and fro by the winds”, gospel centered friendship is the most important thing that matters. The Proverbs say “a friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in the time of need.” They also say “There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.” The preacher Solomon, the wisest man of all time says “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer.” According to God’s word, friendship is not something to be taken lightly…AT ALL.

There is a phrase we have all heard before, on the football field, on the hard-wood, in the trenches of war, in a battle for cancer, and it is this: “I got your back!” Those four words are personal, preferable, passion-filled, and demand persistence. As disciples of Jesus we have an obligation to be the greatest friends. We should be marked by Jesus’ words in the book of John, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friend.” Do you read over that verse and view it as just another phrase Jesus said, or something he sincerely commands? If Jesus said this, it is a fact not an opinion. Jesus raises the bar on our lives as disciples. It is a life marked by love, mercy, grace, and protection. What kind of friend are you? What kind of friend do you have? Can you or anyone around you say, “I got your back!”

There are four advantages in friendship we see in Ecclesiastes for when we “lay down our lives” for our friends and say, “I Got Your Back!”

  1. Success in Life – Ecclesiastes 4:9 “Two friends are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.”

Friends help each other win in life. Friends can see things in your life that you may be over looking. Our blind spots become bigger the more we are alone and feel like we can go at life alone. Isolation is a damaging thing, because in those moments we feel we have no one and no fulfillment. Friends are there to encourage you when you are going through a tough time. Friends are there to motivate you when you lack drive. Friends can be better than you at something, and that’s OK because you are better than them at something. Good friends are compatible and competitive. We lay down our lives to discern when, how, and where to meet our friends need. We desire that they win!

2. Shouldering the Load – Ecclesiastes 4:10 – “If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.”

The roads of Palestine back in Solomon’s day were full of pot holes, pits, and were rugged. When you cannot see at night time, without street lights, it was almost stupid to walk at night alone. Shouldering is carrying a burden for someone It is picking up someone when they are knocked down. Laying down your life may look like accountability. Ephesians says “we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ who is the head of his body, the church.” It is helping a brother or sister out when they have fallen. Now, if we need assistance when we physically fall, how much more so do we need a shouldering partner when we are burdened spiritually?

Shouldering guides two things:

  • Purity:
    • Men need men to fight out of temptation. Pornography and affairs are running rampant through Christian men. Getting each other’s back means we fight the world, the devil, and flesh off together!
    • Women need women to spur one another in their contentment in God’s absolute approval of them.
  • Perseverance: We cannot  grow in our faith without community. We persevere when the Church body believes they are family and accountable to one another. The longevity of life is determined by the community we have around us. The body of believers love each other till death.

3. Sustaining with ComfortEcclesiastes 4:11 – “Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone?”

Real friends inconvenience themselves for the sake of others. Our friends need comfort, and laying down our lives will look like giving up your jacket when it’s cold when they are freezing; offering money in support to help foot a bill; offering a place to stay for a person who needs to be around people; allowing them to cry on your shoulder and vent about the struggles they are having; seeing them at their worse and being present anyways. We sustain friendships with comfort.

4. Strengthening during the Battle – Ecclesiastes 4:12 – “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple braided cord is not easily broken”

We all know life is a battle for real, and without friends to have our back when Satan is never sleeping, sin is never ceasing, and temptation is always creeping, we are sure to fail! Solomon knows how much it is important to never walk alone knowing you can be conquered. I’m sure Solomon would have gone back in the times where he failed and wished he would have had someone strengthening him in battle. That is why he calls isolation vanity and meaningless. A battle cannot be won alone! What do you do when your friend texts you at 2:00 am and needs to talk? Where are you when your best friend has lost a loved one and feels absolutely defeated? Even when your friend tells you he or she doesn’t need anyone, while they cry and sniff, do you back down and use that as an excuse or do you show up anyways, proving to them that fighting the battle together is non-negotiable?

Two questions for you to ponder in conclusion:

  1. Who’s back do you have?
  2. Who’s got your back?

Your friendship to someone could be the difference between life and death. And vice versa.