Storm Calmer: Jesus in the Boat – A Sermon

One of my favorite stories of Jesus’ miracles is the calming of the storm found in Mark 4. This Summer we are walking through the book of Mark with Grace Community Church in a series called Defiance.

Recently I was able to preach on this familiar and powerful passage. Do you need some encouragement in your faith these days? I hope this helps.

What is your favorite miracle story of Jesus?

Father’s Day Inspiration

I realize it’s not a modern song, and the graphics may seem cheesy, perhaps even the song to some, but I raised my boys on this song. Well, I didn’t actually raise them with it, but it did have a huge impact on my heart. Music always speaks to me and this songs lyrics challenged my fathering when I was a young father. This song captured the essence of who I wanted to be as a dad. I could still cry by listening to it today.

What is your greatest desire as a father? Be honest. Are you living a life to reach that desire? Be honest.

This is a great weekend to spend some time evaluating your role as a dad.

Is there a song that challenges you to be a better husband or father?

Happy Father’s Day, BTW!

Scripture Memorization, Week 25

We continue looking at what’s been called “The Roman Road”, a walk through the book of Romans that helps explain the essence of salvation; what it means to be a follower of Christ.

Here is this week’s memory verse:

We’re almost half way through the year! You can catch up simply by typing “Scripture Memorization” in the search bar on this blog‘s home page.

I’d love to hear this isn’t a wasted effort each week. Are you still following along?

A Word to the Men: From Pastor Ron

The last two years have been a season of change in my life. I’ve experienced a change of perspective as we’ve transitioned into being empty nesters and I’ve experienced a change of passion in terms of where I see God wanting me to invest my energies.

At 47 years of age, I have learned enough to know there are things I wish I had known earlier in life. Reflecting on my role as a husband, father, and leader, I realize how much wisdom is necessary to accomplish all that is required of men. In my conversations with other men, I know that many men never received proper instruction and wisdom on what it means to be a man. I have a strong and growing desire to encourage the next generation of men and young leaders to be men of God in their homes, churches and communities.

Recently I felt led to address the younger men of our church with this issue on a Saturday morning. In a simple, two hour gathering, I plan to speak to men candidly and challenge them to live godly lives in all areas of their lives. The premise of the meeting will be to address the men as if I was sitting with one man, helping him discern how to be a godly husband, father, and leader.

If you are in the area, come join us Saturday, June 18 from 8 to 10 AM at St Bethlehem Christian Church. We have advertised this to men age 35 and under. That’s not a magic age and no ID’s will be checked at the door. We are limited in space and want to make sure I’m addressing audiences younger than me. I’m still learning how to be 47!

Young men, be honest: Do you wish someone further down the road in life would speak into your life?

Scripture Memorization, Week 24

This week we continue looking at The Roman Road, as it has been called, a brief walk through the book of Romans, that when combined, can help a person process through what it means to be saved; to be a follower of Christ. If you missed any of these, go back to LAST WEEK and follow back from there.

Here is this week’s memory verse:

What thoughts come to mind when you read this verse?

That Sacred Place…for a Sacred Moment

There is a special moment of worship that happens occasionally where I sense so strongly the presence of God that all the troubles of the world disappear. I don’t have a care in the world except the glory of God. I call it a sacred place…for a sacred moment… It doesn’t last long, but it lasts long enough that it changes me in that moment! It certainly renews my faith and strengthens me for the journey of life. I find myself filled with tears of joy, resolved that God is more real than I imagined, and determined to serve Him more faithfully. I’ve also learned, through experience, that when these times are more frequent, it often leads to God doing something new in my life, challenging me in a new area, giving me a new passion, even bringing me through a time of testing. (Wow, that’s scary to type, but it’s true.)

I’ll be honest, it doesn’t happen often, but it happened several times this week.

It doesn’t seem to be something I can plan. If it were, I’d stay in that place and moment, but I’ve discovered there are a few things that might trigger such a time:

  • Listening to a special song that was meaningful…
  • Studying a favorite passage of Scripture that has impacted my life…
  • Disciplining myself to be totally removed from the chaos of life…
  • Meditating on one thought…of grace…of His love…of His provisions…
  • When I’m sitting at the beach…or looking at a sunset…or the stars…

Have you ever been in that sacred place and sacred moment as I describe? Have you been there lately?

What triggers those moments for you?

The Greatest Asset of a New Leader

I love to surround myself with leaders. Often, when we think of leaders, we consider those with great experience in the field in which he or she is leading. They are the experts, they have experience, they’ve been tested, and they are ready to lead followers. Of course, those are not bad characteristics for a leader, but there is one trait that I look for in a young leader even before knowledge or experience.

Thats because I believe:

A teachable heart trumps expertise

I’d much rather have a developing leader than one who thinks they have all the answers but has stopped learning.

How about you?

What is one trait you think is essential in a new leader?

4 Ways People Play Church

“Pastor Ron, my life is a mess and I don’t know what to do to fix it.”

I received a call from a frantic young man recently. He had made some serious mistakes and now desperately wants to bring the broken pieces together again. I’m not worried about exposing someone’s identity, because that exact scenario is repeated dozens of times in the course of a year. It happens nearly once a week. While I’m no longer shocked anymore at the severity of someone’s struggles, I still am often surprised when I find out who some of the people struggling are in my church. This young man seemed to have everything going for him.

Some of us become good at playing church. You’ve seen it many times. The person on Sunday gives the appearance that everything is fine, but when you really get to know them, you realize that things aren’t always as they appear. I call it “playing church” when we become skilled at pretending everything is okay, but never really allowing the church to be the church. Jesus came for the sick….the broken…and the wounded. (Paraphrase of Mark 2:17) When we are doing that, then we are, in my opinion, at our best as a church.

Here are 4 ways I’ve seen people play church and mask the reality of their life:

Happiness - They put on a false smile so you can’t see the tears they want to shed.

Humor - Some people hide the drama of their life by laughing off the pain. Sometimes the jokester is hiding something inside he or she doesn’t want you to see.

Hiding - Some people in pain take a step back from others for a while. They stop attending. Others find ways to stay busy, over-committing themselves to hide the pain.

HolinessThese people pretend their life is wonderful, that they are making wise decisions, that they are “good little Christians”, but the reality is they’ve made a mess of things and don’t know how to fix them.

One of the keys to a healthy church is continuing to learn how to engage people beyond the smiles of Sunday morning. In our church, this makes our small groups and service opportunities critically important to our overall strategy. We must get people in vital, growing relationships if we really hope to know them and minister to them. 

How does your church do this?

What would you add to my list? How have you seen people mask the reality of their life?

Would you be completely transparent? Which of these have you or are you using to hide who your really are these days? Are you playing church? Why not let the real you be known? Take a chance that those who love Jesus will love you even with your brokenness. That’s what followers of Christ do…because that’s what Christ does!

How to Break God’s Heart

Okay, let me be honest…I’m not sure the title of this post is theologically sound. I don’t know if we can “break God’s heart”. His heart appears fairly strong to me. He carries the weight of the world on His shoulders, so I’m assuming He can handle most anything we throw His way. I did want you to read the post though, and I do think there is an illustration here that is important for us to consider.

Our youngest son Nate was studying in Europe for the summer. (You can read more about his experience HERE.) For the last couple of years, he has attended school 8 hours away, so the distance is not much of an issue, although it is summer and I wish he were home. The problem for me now is the way we ended our instant messaging today. He will not have Internet for the next 5 days, so I’ll not have any correspondance from him for nearly a week.

I realize 5 days is a short time for many. I sometimes only talk to my mother once a week, but I’m new at this empty nesting. Five days seems like forever right now.

But, there’s a bigger issue that came to my mind as I saw those words typed in a chat program. I’m a dad who will miss talking to his son for the next five days…and I’m not even close to being a perfect dad.

How much might God miss talking to me? Do you think God would hate hearing “talk to you in 5 days or so”?

I don’t know that there has ever been a time when I went 5 days without talking to my Heavenly Father, but there have surely been days when I seemingly cut Him out of my day.

Here’s a question I’d love for you to ponder:

If you were having an instant messaging discussion with God, when would you tell Him you two would talk again?

Be completely honest with me: Is prayer one area of your Christian experience that you struggle with the most? Why do you think that is true?

Develop Where You Are

I’ve seen so many potentially great leaders waste opportunities because they wait for the perfect scenario before to develop as a leader…

Here’s a word to those who need to hear it…

You may not enjoy where you are currently in life or work…

You may not yet be in your dream job…

You may not respect the leader you are supposed to follow…

You may not plan to stay in your current work location…

You may not enjoy the people with whom you work…

You may be waiting for the right opportunity before you give your best effort…before you learn all you can…

What a mistake!

There’s no guarantee your next location will be any healthier…

Or that you will like it any more…

It may end up being a worse opportunity…

Remember, the grass is always greener on the other side…

Take advantage of where you are now…

Learn all you can now…

Grow where you are now…

Give your best now…

Develop where you are now…

It will build your character…

It will make you better prepared when you reach the job you love…

And, it’s the right thing to do…

Just curious, do you see yourself in your current position five years from now?

Are you allowing this place to develop you for the next opportunity?