We are currently going through the book of Mark at FBCMJ and not only do I love the lessons learned from this book, but I really enjoy the way Mark writes with succinct purpose. However, I can’t help but wonder how he could have really described what was occurring in verse 56.
“And wherever he went--into villages, towns or countryside--they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed.” Mark 6:56
If that were to happen today, I think I can see the scene from Seinfeld when George Kastanza is knocking senior citizens and children out of the way to run out of an apartment because the smoke detector is going off! Would people be knocking one another out of the way to get to Jesus for their healing? Or would they be helping one another to make it happen for everyone.
Though Mark does not describe the scene as chaotic, I’m just not sure if that is what we would see now! I like to use these types of thoughts as self-reflection when I can. Would I be knocking other people over or out of the way to get to Jesus for my healing or even the healing of a loved one I was taking to Him? Or would I be helping all to find ways to just get close enough to touch just the hem of His clothing for healing? I would hope I would be in the latter category, I hope we would all be in the latter category.
Isn’t it that way with knowing Jesus also? Do we have a selfish approach in knowing and appreciating what Jesus has done for us? Or are we trying to share the good news of what Jesus can do for all? Just imagine If we could all truly grasp the concept of simply reaching out just to touch the hem.
In Hot Pursuit!
As a child growing up, this was a popular phrase used in police chase scenes that usually involved a sports car or muscle car with a “well-intentioned” driver, a bumbling law enforcement officer and a whole lot of cars getting smashed! These scenes may be fun to watch, but are certainly not reality.
But, as I think of this term from a different perspective, what are we really in hot pursuit of?
To prove that our opinion or solution is the right one?! or...
To make all believe the way we believe...or...
The next thing that will make us happy??
I saw a quote that made me laugh today, “I’m not arguing, I’m just trying to tell you all the reasons I’m right!” I feel we are culturally falling into the trap of pursuing our “rightness” for our own gain. This type of pursuit is birthed in the flesh and most always ends in selfish interests being pursued.
We may not always think of actively “pursuing Jesus'' because we know that through the Holy Spirit, He is with us always. But, that is exactly what the term “seeking” is directing us to do! Throughout the Bible, over and over again, the Word of God encourages us to seek Him. Not to just sit back and see how things go, but to earnestly seek Christ.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33
These verses indicate that seeking Jesus--the pursuit of Him--is an active process and one that involves a constant personal choice. What are you in pursuit of at the moment? Being right? Secular checklists? Or are you seeking Jesus with all your heart?
Be in hot pursuit of Jesus!
Even in the crazy times we currently live--today, November 11th, Veterans Day--still resonates deep in our hearts. It’s a day we have the opportunity to honor those that have honored others over themselves. To honor those that choose to serve our country and put it all on the line to ensure the very freedoms and liberties we enjoy today, are protected and preserved.
Throughout the life of our country, men and women have chosen and are still choosing to potentially put themselves in harm's way to protect our way of life. This can never be overlooked or forgotten. They literally guard the gate for our freedom every second of every day. So as we salute them today and thank them for their service, let’s also take a moment to acknowledge and appreciate the blessing we have to live in this country. The country that still, in the middle of our current turmoil, serves as a light to the world.
May all of us continue to focus on the truth of God’s Word and how we can best help our fellow man, not tear them down as the world would have us.
God Bless our Veterans and may God Bless the United States of America!
I heard a radio personality recently pose the question:
Do circumstances determine how you see God? Or does your relationship with God determine how you see your circumstances?
I think it is a very thought-provoking question. The circumstances of our lives--the struggles we face on a daily basis or sometimes even the lack of struggle, can ultimately cloud or confuse our relationship with our Heavenly Father.
The “Why God?” questions or “When God?” questions or “...fill in the blank” God questions can overwhelm us with almost a sense of entitlement for answers or understanding that we want “right now.” On the flip side of that, if everything seems to be going the way we hoped, are we still focusing on our efforts to have an ongoing trust relationship with Jesus Christ?
As we work to strengthen and deepen our relationship with God, the mindset shifts from questioning - to trusting. The circumstances, concerns, and questions we have don’t necessarily leave us, but the trust that our Lord wants the best for us, provides the very comfort and peace we need to overcome our situation.
A couple of verses that always bring this sense of trust to me as it relates to God and my circumstances are:
“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 hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9
We will always face challenging circumstances in our lives. Even the simple daily challenges can seem overwhelming at times. But, do we ultimately allow these to skew our perspective on how we view God? Or, do we allow our relationship with Jesus Christ to help us navigate our circumstances with a perspective of hope and trust?
It truly is our choice, so choose wisely!
I remember being asked this question before by a Pastor in a sermon. I have thought about this question a lot over the years and I think I’ve come to really understand what he was asking. If humility, true humility, is in essence Jesus Christ, then humility is certainly about sacrificing one’s own needs, wants and desires for those you love and care for.
So, yes, humility can certainly be a painful and difficult process, even though the pain may be internally felt or perceived. However, in this reality, if it is true humility, is not the “felt pain” showing a lack of humility? Unless our humility is like that of Christ in that we are literally being put to death on a cross, most of our daily acts of humility are simply removing our own wants and desires and inserting others ahead of our own. Therefore, if we feel pain for this, aren’t we then longing for something we “wished” we would have had, hence replacing humility with covetousness?
These are hard subjects to grasp, but I think it’s something that we all struggle with from time to time. Andrew Murray authored one of my favorite books simply titled, Humility. The book has many wonderful nuggets of wisdom, but here is one:
“It is in our relationships to one another, in our treatment of one another, that the true lowliness of mind and the humility of heart are to be seen. Our humility before God has no value unless it prepares us to reveal the humility of Jesus to our fellowmen.”
These are simply Biblical mandates--
“By love serve one another.” Galatians 5:13
“Therefore...walk...with all lowliness and meekness, with long suffering, forbearing one another in love.” Ephesians 4:1-2
And again in Colossians, “Put on...mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long suffering, forbearing one another, and forgiving one another,...even as Christ forgave you.” (Colossians 3:12-13)
You all know me and often I use songs to reinforce my point. Well, as the late Mac Davis said,
“Oh, Lord, it’s hard to be humble!” Well, yes, it is! It’s not supposed to be easy. Sacrifice of self is never going to be easy. But, Jesus, our ultimate benchmark of humility, has taught us that humility is not possible without love. “Honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:10b)
Keep loving out there!
Recently, I was reminded of something that happened in my childhood. It was a beautiful summer day, and I was having a blast riding my bicycle! I spent many happy days with that activity, but I was careful to avoid a particular street in our neighborhood. Why? A big dog lived on that street and that dog would go after anyone or anything that passed by! That dog already had a reputation since it had already bitten a child. I kept my distance!! Well, as I was riding down my street and turning into my driveway, I suddenly heard rushing feet and fear spring up inside me. From two houses away on a side street, the dog saw me and was barreling down upon me…teeth bared, growling and ready to attack. About that time, I suddenly saw my dad running past me, yelling and armed with a screwdriver! The dog turned and ran for its life. Dad chased it all the way to where it lived and had some very stern words with the owner. He risked attack on himself for me. I hadn’t even realized dad was outside and knew what was happening! My dad was my protector. I have another protector who is constantly with me…my Heavenly Father. God is my protector day and night! God has surrounded me, even when I am not aware! God will take on everyone and everything for me! Why? Because God loves me that much!!
“The Lord will keep you from all harm - He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” Psalm 121:7-8
“Great is our Lord and mighty in power; His understanding has no limit.” Psalm 147:5
As I look around, I am continually amazed at God’s “in the moment” timing. If you are like me, planning can be everything, the difference between success or failure, acceptance or denial, a moment of learning or a total flop. Even the best laid plans and efforts can get derailed in a blink of an eye. Frustration can build because plans are not playing out as I think they should either in manner or timing or in some instances both. My comfort comes from the fact that the mighty God I serve understands all things, at all times, without any limitations. Try as I might, my understanding will always have limitations. God’s understanding has NO LIMITS! Let’s work and rest in that fundamental truth. God ‘s got this!!
Amanda Van Vactor
After watching a very difficult, and in my humble opinion, discouraging debate, I did the only thing I knew to do that offers us any kind of “real” hope. I turned to the word of God and was reminded that for centuries, men have chased after other men’s views or promises of hope--all to be abysmal failures.
However, the hope we have in Christ will not only transcend our current woes, but our everlasting lives. God’s word not only promises us hope, but proves it time and time again. But make no mistake, we are told that in this life we WILL have troubles, but to take heart, because Jesus has overcome the world on OUR behalf!
As the world continues to spin in a very contentious, divided, and secular direction, we must not only cling to scripture for hope with all our might, but impress upon our children these very important promises. Not to seek hope by the promise of any man, but to know that the Creator God loves them and offers a real and personal hope.
“My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:2
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13
“The Lord delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love.” Psalm 147:11
I could go on and on with these beautiful and reassuring words, but especially today, I just want to be an encouragement as to where we should always seek our true hope!
Many probably think of the guitar riff permanently drilled into their mind of Aerosmith playing and singing this song, but I want to speak of this phrase in other terms.
How many times have you said or even heard said, “I just wish God would tell me what to do!” Probably all of us at some point in time have at least thought of this question. The reality of the answer, however, is shockingly simple--He does!
I received wise counsel in my early adult life that said, “Don’t pray for a specific answer, pray for God’s direction, wisdom, and peace.” This was a crucial lesson to learn because our lives and the choices we make are not typically simple answers, i.e. should I take this job, do we need to move, how much shall we contribute towards retirement…
Our life decisions, even daily ones, are often complex and multi-level issues that we shouldn’t simply ask God to reveal the best choice. Our relationship with Him and how closely we walk in that relationship every day is crucial to understanding God’s direction and His wisdom in our lives. I love the way it is put in Isaiah 30:21, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, this is the way; walk in it.”
This simply tells us that as we are moving forward and making decisions, the Lord IS directing us on how we should move through His “voice” of discernment and peace. It is said in another way in John 10:27, “My sheep (believers) listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”
God never leaves us or forsakes us. If we truly want to Walk this Way, we just need to make sure we are walking His Way. Are you following? Are you listening?
Growing up I had a coach that was renowned for using the old quote, “success is 90% preparation and 10% perspiration.” While we have all heard this many times, I remember hearing this as a young athlete and thinking what does he really mean by this? Is he saying that it’s more about practice than the game? Or I don’t have to try as hard if I’m prepared? Or that it is just simply easier to succeed if we are prepared?
Well, many years later I still often hear my coaches gravely voice saying, “Thompson, 90/10!!”
I can honestly say I’ve used this quote in my life and discussions with my own teams of athletes and faculty teams. I have come to appreciate the simple wisdom and truth from such an old quote. Even Abraham Lincoln reportedly said “If I had 6 hours to cut down a tree, I would spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Preparation is definitely vital for success.
I believe the key understanding is that it’s not that hard work and perspiration are not needed, it’s the fact that if they are not tied to careful and prayerful planning, then they are just sweat.
But, like so many things, these simple little nuggets of wisdom are derived from scripture. Jesus taught us the importance of preparation and planning in Luke 14:
Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the
cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is
not able to finish it, everyone who sees it ill ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to
build and was not able to finish.’ Luke 14:28-30
He went on to say in verse 31, “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another
king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to
oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand?”
These words from Jesus console me, especially in our current situation. As we continue to wait on finalizing with insurance companies and FEMA and builders and contractors and architects-- we are VERY BUSY preparing! And as we are preparing, we are laying the foundation through our faith and obedience in Jesus Christ that will insure the continued “success” of MJCA in all that we do.
Thank you for your continued support and as the plans grow, we will need more and more of your help to plan with us in various areas of need. Let’s keep sharpening the axe and look forward with great anticipation to the amazing plans God has for us!
"God always prepares you for what He has prepared for you!" - Pastor Phillip Dunn
There’s a saying I’ve heard many times before, “A man with one watch knows what time it is; a man with two is never quite sure.” While this is supposed to prompt you to think about a deeper meaning, it is simply using a Biblical precept and truth, “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” James 1:8
In a world with no shortage of opinions or people to offer them, Christians and Christian schools are called to focus on the truth of scripture in all things and use the Bible as our ultimate lens to view the world around us. This does not mean we are neutral--quite the contrary.
We are told in James 1:17 that the Lord “..does not change like shifting shadows”.
All truth is God’s truth and is timeless. It is not swayed based on a political party or trending media. Thanks be to God for His steadfast love and grace over us and our opportunity, through Jesus Christ, to know Him personally and possess the lens of truth and the ability to know “what time it is” in our lives.
I walk and drive our campus every single day in prayer and hope and one simple and obvious thought remains steadfast in my mind--we are under construction! I did say it was obvious, but also much deeper than bricks and mortar, and cones and construction tape. So, I have actually adopted the theme of “Under Construction” for this school year. Seems appropriate don’t you think?
Soon we will begin to see almost all parts of our campus under construction. My hope is that this will allow the Lord to speak to our hearts and minds and remind us that we are ALL under construction every day. We serve a God that loves us so much that He teaches us that we are made new in His eyes.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17
I don’t say this lightly, because while a tornado is forcing a new and updated face lift to our campus, a plan was already underway for a much needed new sanctuary/auditorium for First Baptist Church. Now, the kickoff for both the rebuild and the new build is almost upon us. A happenstance in timing--I don’t think so. The Lord has used this church to impact the greater community of Mt. Juliet for over a 100 years and for over 40 years through Christian Education at MJCA! It is extremely apparent that God has even bigger plans for this campus and our community.
“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” Ephesians 2:10
And lastly, even in the times that it appears there may not be much going on at the surface, there is often MUCH going on behind the scenes--or moreso, in our hearts.
“Be confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus! Phil 1:6
Isn’t it good to know that the good work Christ began in each of us will be carried on by Him to completion?
It’s easy to picture our students as under construction, but just as important for us to remember is that we are a ALL Under Construction!
I can’t wait to see all of the amazing things God has in store for our school and campus, and I am truly thankful for each and every one of you!
In His Service (and definitely Under Construction…),